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Haru Sinwood

The Guardian of February

0 · 906 views · located in Aires

a character in “Birthstone Spirits: The Revival”, as played by birthstone_spirits

Description

Haru Sinwood, age unknown, Guardian of February


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Fast Facts
*A heavy smoker
*Napoleon complex; sensitive about his height
*Intense, prideful and a very hard worker. Sometimes to the point of taking unrealistic measures.
*Has problems keeping significant others
*Likes to be a leader.

The Warmonger
“The Red Commander” is a familiar name in some history books. It embodies a distant, but cryptic memory of a Hales military commander who rose through the ranks quickly at a young age and showed so little mercy on the battlefield that he might have single-handedly contributed to much of the nation’s hostile stereotypes.

No one alive today could accurately recount how the red commander looked or how he was as a person, if he rose through the ranks fairly or not, or he even if he ever made himself vulnerable enough to love. But the legacy of intensity and militancy he was known for in his mortal life certainly stuck in the afterlife.

When the original month warriors roamed the land, the newly cursed soul of Haru Sinwood (or The Red One himself) was divinely charged with protecting the Warrior of February, a woman who, in his opinion, had melee skills that even the most ruthless of military personnel could admire. Haru was very serious about seeing that the warriors completed their jobs thoroughly, especially since his right to die was at stake. Hundreds of years later not much has changed.

After losing the great battle, the sting that the former commander felt from failing such a self-defining mission (especially since battle was what he excelled at) caused him to withdraw from most other guardians. He spent generations travelling through Aires, earning his riches only to gamble them away, and finding and losing love and friendships time and time again.

The first warriors were extremely impressive. They honed their powers quickly and worked as a team. But a few centuries and many fake deaths later, the strict guardian may have his work cut out for him. After all, he knows from experience that the human race has a tendency resist destiny. For better or worse.

So begins...

Haru Sinwood's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Angela Taylor
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A week ago Tallyho would have said that she was indifferent toward the idea of death. It wasn’t that she thought that life on the other side would be a bed of roses, it’s just that she decided that there wasn’t much to look forward to. Especially so after her 16th birthday, the year when she learned that girls like her weren’t allowed to live their lives and do what they wanted. That a girl was raised to clean and cook and bed whichever loser a council of old welted fruits chose for her. That she had to sing hard, dance harder, or, if she was talentless like Tallyho, work admissions for a performance she’s heard a million times. And yet, the girl here in this space of everything and nothing yearned to hear that performance again.

Tallyho, though she’d always been a relatively independent young woman, was somewhat relieved to see that she wasn’t going to be walking into the light alone. Although she hesitated when one girl started crying and another went over to help her. The blonde stopped to look at them, now unsure of her choice. The girls were huddled over their small rectangular slabs, swiping their pale fingers against its shiny, glowing surface. She would have taken that time to finally ask what those contraptions were had she not noticed the change in the waves below them. The water seemed restless and she could feel the faint tapping of deep vibrations from the star path at her feet.

“I really think we should go,” she said louder than before. She blurted this out uncomfortably, offended by the sound of her own voice and the way it ground against the acoustics of the space. Although to be fair, her voice sounds much lovelier than she thinks it does. She halfway hoped that the warrior would follow her advice again and get the rest of them to budge. Sometimes all it took for a woman to be heard was the cooperation of a man who, in recounting his choice, would say that it was his idea all along. That’s how that half of the human race worked.

The blonde flinched, sucking air through her teeth as a cold wave of water billowed up on the path and took a lick at her feet. More waves seemed to follow suit. The water was rising and it didn’t seem like they had much time to meander in the void any longer. It was now or never.

Tallyho glanced pleadingly at the group. “Now,” she huffed before turning on the balls of her feet and making a sprint toward the light. The warmth enveloped her and she performed what felt like a nosedive into the sun.

--

There were birds chirping and Tallyho basked in the warmth that settled on her back. She was lying face down and could feel the texture of dry grass pressing onto her cheek. Her pink lips curled into a half smile but her eyes were still shut. She knew it was all a dream, but didn’t care much to know that she wasn’t in her tent, only that she felt alive. She felt a sudden jut in her side from a hard metal object. It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was the kind of sensation that made you scream “OW” just because you were shocked and not because you were actually in pain. She recoiled, gasping for air as her eyes bugged out and she floundered in the opposite direction of the probe.

Bleary-eyed, she made out the image of a red-faced older man with thick grey tufts in his salt and pepper hair. He wore a white cotton shirt, dirty and untucked from thin brown trousers reminiscent of potato sacks. In his hands was the long garden hoe that he used to wake her up, jabbing her in the side like she was a tiny spud fresh from the dirt. She was lying in a field of wheat, which made Tallyho wonder why he didn’t wield a sickle. She fixated her jaw to scream but could only let out a winded wimper-huff.

The man, unbothered looked out into the distance and called out.

“Mary, get th’ boss. It looks like ther’re a lot of em!”

A lot of them? Surely he didn’t mean the others from the strange dream? Tallyho began her scramble backwards, attempting to work her way into standing upright. The man looked back at her, noticing her discomfort. His voice was stern and intimidating.

“Now look here girl. I don’t know what you and yer friends were stealing from this farm but yer gonna have to answer to the big guy now.”

The big guy? Friends??

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“Don’t play dumb, girl!” his voice rose dramatically.

“I’m not playing anything.” She replied sternly.


“What’s going on out here?” a voice from the distance implored. Tallyho couldn’t see the voice’s owner over the wheat, but it sounded finer, not fancy but any means, but much smoother than the voice of the man in front of her. Younger too.

“We’ve got thieves!” The older man howled.

Tallyho hoisted herself onto her feet and the man posed to stop her as if she were about to make a run for it. She turned toward the other voice.

Before her was a grand old house. The wood was old but she could tell that the building had antiquity rather than rats. Around her was an expanse of land, cultivated into rows and rows of crops and wheat. Around her stood other people she hadn’t seen before, many of whom were men of varying looks and ages who wielded gardening tools. They seemed to be looking down at the ground in front of them. Tallyho wondered if they waking up those others? They couldn’t be here right?

“Oh right, I was expecting guests.”

Tallyho looked back over at the house where she saw a young man taking a huff of a cigar that seemed far too rich for this backdrop. He wasn’t overly extravagant, his pants looked like they were made of a nicer material, but he wore a plain white button down (similar to those of many of the men in the field). The only difference was that his shirt was clean. His hair, a tuft of brilliant auburn, was slicked back with a mannish care—groomed, but not too meticulous. His gray eyes scanned the field and when they landed on Tallyho she grew rigid. He didn’t seem particularly amused or bothered by her reaction, in all honesty he seemed a bit deadpan, like he’d done and seen all of this before.

He popped the cigar out of his mouth and let out a huff of smoke. He put it out in an ash tray presented to him in a timely fashion by a woman with the mark of a big scar on her face. It looked old and well worn, like she’d gotten it years ago. When she caught Tallyho staring she rolled her eyes and smirked, causing the blonde to glance away.

Once everyone woke up the young man spoke again. “Dinner’s almost ready and I’m sure you all have a lot of questions. Let’s get you cleaned up and settled and we can chat maybe?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Angela Taylor
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Willow had awoken this afternoon to a slight burning on her neck as the emerald choker she wore grew hotter she sat up quickly and looked around. After a few seconds the burning stopped, Willow looked in the mirror her blue eyes slowly adjusting to her dark apartment as she found her clock it was pretty late in the day and she had a paper to work on. With a low sigh she stood up and grabbed her brush running it through her mated red hair quickly before throwing on a black t-shirt and a pair of black leggings.

She left her apartment and had made it halfway down the hall before she remembered to grab her backpack 'Ah! why can't i ever remember my stuff?' she asked herself internally as she face-palmed quickly before shouldering the large galaxy colored backpack. Now finally at her door she looked out at central park 'Might as well take a walk since i already slept away the day, stupid all nighters... .' she thought before running across the street quickly a tinge of pain coming from hr throat as the choker grew hot once again igniting a fear in her as she remembered the last time that had happened and how she woke up in the middle of the woods next to a half eaten rabbit, Willow shuddered as she shook the thoughts from her mind and looked out at the park the scent of grass filling her nose. Willow felt immediately at ease surrounded by grass and trees and let out a content sigh closing her eyes to listen, only to hear a loud commotion, her head wiped to the east and suddenly her choker was a sun on her neck. Blackness, all around her was darkness, Willow felt like she was floating in her own mind and she was " Shit! Not again..." she said to herself her voice clearly afraid of the darkness.

Willow's body had frozen for a moment as her eyes shifted to an emerald green and her lips parted in a confident smile as the earth took her over one bit at a time. This was not Willow in the earthly sense as she had been, for the second time, awakened to her powers allowing the great earth spirits to take over and use her body as she lie dormant in her mind though the spirits could hear her they didn't much care for the girls wishes. Earth Willow broke into an inhumanly fast sprint her black sneakers barely touching the well kept grass as she went "Yes, freedom at last!" she said loudly to herself. It had been less than a minute when she reached the commotion that was a battle with a cyclonean. Earth Willow smirked at the death of the vulgar creature and noticed the trees were shaking as the world around her suddenly became silent and the pillar of light that led back to the spirits home world opened, she saw a couple humans go forth into the pillar and felt as though she was forgetting something before she shook her head " I'm going home." she said with a cocky grin and ran full speed into the pillar ignoring the others as she plunged into the pillar like a child into a warm bath. Light, all around her was light.

Willow had awoken from the darkness to be surrounded by light, her hands felt grass below her and she took in the scents around her suddenly she heard voices and sat up with a start.

“Mary, get th’ boss. It looks like ther’re a lot of em!”

“Now look here girl. I don’t know what you and yer friends were stealing from this farm but yer gonna have to answer to the big guy now.”

The big guy? Friends??

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“Don’t play dumb, girl!” his voice rose dramatically.

“I’m not playing anything.” She replied sternly.

“What’s going on out here?” a voice from the distance implored.

“We’ve got thieves!” The older man howled.

“Oh right, I was expecting guests.”


“Dinner’s almost ready and I’m sure you all have a lot of questions. Let’s get you cleaned up and settled and we can chat maybe?”

Willow stared at the man in complete confusion as she stood up looking at the field around her as a panic built in her slightly her eyes rested on the very large house that must have been the well dressed mans. She walked closer to a blonde girl who had been the source of one of the voices earlier than she looked to the man with a calm face and asked with a slight sharpness, 'Where in the hell are we? And how did we get here?" she added a slight flirty smile at the end without actually noticing she had done so. Her choker had gone cold now and she felt as if she had forgotten something important as the spirit inside became as unaware as she was to her powers and the world she had now entered leaving only a faint remembrance of what it had to do, protect.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Angela Taylor
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Dorian fought the urge to sink down to his knees in the grass- and it had to be grass although it was so lush and vibrant- and simply breathe for a moment. He’d probably been awake for nearing twenty-two hours at this point, and he’d just fought what was most likely the most interesting battle of his life thus far. All he wanted to do was have a seat, maybe drink a bit of water, and then figure out what in Her Fury was going on.

He refrained, however. It was a matter of dignity as a soldier not to show weakness in front of strangers, especially when representing Hales. Also the strange others had begun converging on the area where he stood, whooping and chattering loudly in a bizarre mix of Common and some things entirely foreign to him or pocketing shards of the shattered Cyclopean like so many curious little baubles, which, alright, sort of weird.

He’d heard of people collecting the supposed relics of Month Warriors* to display, but never of Cyclopeans. Okay, yes, he’d taken up the shards first, but he had fought the thing and had to take a victor’s prize, and it seemed relevant to get something like this back home where people might like to know that a creature that shattered into onyx shards was stalking the tundra. He’d never expected to be a trendsetter, and these strangers seemed like they were more inclined towards such morbid things as collectables, even after said creature had attempted to slaughter a few of them.

*He’d seen one such relic at a little church his grandmother had taken him to. The main draw had been the favorite left shoe of June for pilgrims, placed on a dais for pilgrims to worship. Dorian had never quite understood why it had been June’s favorite left shoe rather than shoe overall, but he’d been too afraid to ask given that his grandmother was in one of her “religious fervors”.

He frowned a little or, to be more precise, his permanent scowl lost even more of its pleasantness as he wandered away from these flippant strangers, already more concerned about his wound than their magpie-like tendencies. His arm had begun to ache as the adrenaline wore off, even if the jagged wound was now only bleeding sluggishly. It was at least a clean cut, Dorian realized as he tore at the hole in his jacket, then shirt sleeve, exposing the wound to his sight. No dirt, not deep enough to really butcher the muscles, no obvious signs of poison or immediate infection because who knew where those claws had been? He would live, Dorian decided as he pulled out a scarf from his pack* and began to dress the wound. Probably.

*Most Hales soldiers carry around scarves in order to wrap them around their faces in the event of a snow storm or to ward off frost-bite. Dorian’s was oddly patterned, lop-sided and just plain ugly, the victim of one of his mother’s first attempts to knit something. He knew he’d have to work very hard to put on a sad face when he explained to his mother why he’d had to throw it away.

If Dorian hadn’t been quite so tired or quite so wounded, perhaps he would have taken a moment instead to try to adjust to his new surroundings. Maybe he would have spotted the cars still trundling by in late afternoon traffic. Maybe he would have admired the skyscrapers dominating the skyline a little more, beacons of man’s ingenuity. However, he did not, and, really, it was just as well because he wasn’t exactly going to get a chance to go sight-seeing.

He felt the rumble before he saw it, the tremor not violent but still enough to set his nerves on edge. The trees were swaying, the wind picking up into a violent fervor as it whipped around him with sharp gusts and gales, and the ground beneath his feet began churning wildly before light was suddenly arcing over the horizon, racing to engulf them all. Dorian dropped into a sturdy, defensive stance, the only thing he had a chance to do before the light had swallowed him up.

His only thought, drifting or perhaps flying or maybe even staying completely still in the void was something akin to “here we go again”. Did these things happen to other people because Dorian was starting to think that it was just him. At least this sudden bizarre trip through space didn’t include a Cyclopean appearing in flashes around him like a demented firefly or like what he imagined a firefly to be. There was none of the panic of last time, none of the fear and anger. Just frustration linked with exhaustion and a certain surrender as his entirety began to shift with the environment around him. He wasn’t used to it, but at least he had a better idea of what to expect than last time.

He waited patiently as the world began to grow clear again, something solid appearing under his feet. It was already an improvement from bursting out of the ground like a hare wriggling out of its burrow. What he’d mistaken for the sea of stars lay underfoot, now revealed as a solid path of the Heavens, glittering as if a beacon over a murky lake, urging him to follow it to the warm, dull light ahead. It wasn’t very frightening, Dorian thought, if only because he had only the swirling dark vortex behind him and the rough waters below to compare it to. Honestly, it seemed downright inviting.

It took a moment for Dorian to realize that he wasn’t alone in this strange abyss. He could see those who had made their appearances during the fight and some he’d not managed to catch sight of in the midst of everything around him on the path. Many clutched little rectangles that lit their faces with an eerie, unnatural glow. The most normally dressed blonde seemed confident enough to approach the light by herself, not defiant or curious but resigned to their only option. One of the girls began to cry before his sword-profferer moved to her side with soothing words. Or at least probably soothing words. She was speaking quietly and waving about one of those rectangles, and Dorian strained to understand as he tried to knock some of the mental dust off of his knowledge of Common.

He began to move too, closer to the back as he took in his surroundings. One of the girls- the girl with the cats and curlier hair than he’d ever seen- had gravitated to his side, close but not quite too close.

"I just really need someone to relate to right now so.. I am really really scared.."

It took him a moment to understand her, especially as she was murmuring, but he caught the gist of it. While Dorian had never been particularly good as comforting people, something that he’d come to accept long ago as a fact of life, but he could relate. He leafed through his mental dictionary of Common, trying to come up with a coherent sentence.

“No fear.” He tried. Ineloquent, but he was sure it made some sort of point, even if it wasn’t what he wanted to say.

But the water was rising now, becoming more and more violent as it sought to overtake the path of stars. The people were moving slowly or not moving at all. Maybe there was a reason to fear after all?

“I really think we should go.”

It was the blonde woman again, already so near to the light as she glanced back at those still lingering, worried for them perhaps or just sensing the awe still instilled in everyone and not being completely terrible.

Dorian cottoned on rather quickly. The waves were more violent now, and some people had yet to really get moving. He, not being a complete bastard (regardless of what those who fought him said) turned to the few still around him at the back, particularly the cat girl still by his side and the woman most concerned with her rectangle who was wearing far fewer clothes than Dorian could quite fathom, battling his words, rusty with misuse.

“Us go.”

No, that wasn’t right.

“We go now.”

Almost, but not quite.

“No fear, yes?”

Fine. Good enough. He’d worry about modifiers and grammar and sentence structure later when there wasn’t a threat hovering over his head. The language was blossoming again on his tongue, weighted down with the Koran accent in the Hales region* and the flipping through the mental pages of his Common dictionary. It was coming easier, at least.

*The Hales accent is something that sounds like an odd mix between Russian and Swiss. The closer to Kora you’re from, the more Russian the accent, giving city-folks a harsher appearance vocally than those who dwell in villages.
And he was moving now, jogging than running as the waves began to wet the path before he too threw himself into the light.

Dorian awoke on his back, sunlight nearly blinding him. The world had changed again, and now he was surrounded by a field of what he thought was wheat, golden crops reaching skyward and completely masking the rest of his view. He struggled to his feet wearily, wondering where on Aires he could be now. Not Hales, clearly. Apparently that would be too convenient.

A cry of pain, or at least shock, cut through the air, and he stood a little quicker as argument quickly followed. He could pick out some of the others now, gazing above the grain. It was the blonde woman again, facing down a farmer of some sort, howling about thieves and arguing with her. Dorian, for lack of any other option, trudged from his landing-spot cradling his injured arm, moving forward just as a red-haired man entered the fray.

He was dressed plainly, but the cigar dangling from his lips spoke of something more wealthy than the old man grumbling before him. The entire image was made even more aristocratic by the proffered ashtray, held up by a woman with a scarred, smirking face.

“Dinner’s almost ready and I’m sure you all have a lot of questions. Let’s get you cleaned up and settled and we can chat maybe?”

Those were the first words Dorian really caught, and they were automatically the only words that mattered. He hadn’t eaten in a while, and while his stomach did not let out a well-timed growl, he began to feel the ache. Besides, the offer of getting cleaned up and maybe some sort of answers was not to be passed up.

One girl didn’t seem keen to wait, already demanding answers with an odd smile. Dorian bit back a sigh before stepping a little closer, gesturing to his arm. He didn’t like being needy, but, well, he did need.

“And bandage too, please?” Ah, that sounded about right. It was still a bit stiff, but the language was coming back to him a bit.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Angela Taylor
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The woman with the scar retreated into the house with the man’s half-smoked cigar crumpled at the bottom of a delicate porcelain dish. She handled the saucer with a rough familiarity. The man shifted on his weight, wincing a bit at the small flirty smile that punctuated the red head girl’s coarse disregard of his suggestion to ask questions later. He placed his hands behind his back and stood straight, a pose reminiscent of a high military official with far too much influence.

“My name is Haru, this is my farm,” he began. His voice was crisp and clear, every sentence he spoke held an air of old authority and legitimacy, something that didn’t match his youthful appearance. He spoke like an old king but looked like a fun-loving prince. “You’re in a very faraway place from where this chaos began. But I truly believe that these questions are best answered sitting down.”

The young man perked up to an interruption from an unfamiliar voice with a very familiar accent.

“And bandage too, please?”

Haru tilted his chip up and appraised the warrior through hooded eyes. “Yes,” he said calmly. “I’m sure some of you need bandaging too.” He turned to the men in the field, who had since set their tools in the high grass. “Scout out the injured and take them to the back to have their wounds cleaned and tended to.” They immediately obeyed, scanning the group for open wounds so that they could help hoist them up and escort them to the infirmary for a quick patch.

“For the rest of you, please, come in. We have plenty of bed space.” Haru stepped to the side, clearing a path for the ragtag group. The woman with the scar came out of the house and back onto the porch. She nodded approvingly at the group, encouraging them to step forward.

Tallyho, being so close to the front of the group, felt obliged to step forward first. She looked around, paranoid that if she moved too slowly two men would grab her arms and hoist her up the stairs. She moved carefully, making it to the porch without any further “assistance.”

She wasn’t drawn to the porch in the same way that she was drawn to the light. Back in that space, she unquestionably trusted that what she was about to do was the right thing. This time, such certainty was foreign to her. She didn’t go into the house because it felt like a safe haven, but rather because there was nothing left for her to do. She scanned the area for other forms of civilization: There were miles of wheat fields, a few scattered wooden houses (most likely reserved for the farm hands) a mountain range to the north, and a wide expanse of sky. If she declined this offer not only would she be at a loss for free food, but she might even be left to die with a group of people whose sense of self-preservation told them to do everything to a cyclopean but the one thing that would kill it.

The woman held the door open for Tallyho and all who happened to follow. She shimmied toward the front of the group and cleared her throat for their attention.

“We have three guest rooms in this house with 4 beds in each. You may take whichever room you like,” she turned to hike the stairs and lead them to their rooms. As Tallyho followed, she mulled over the math in her head and how many people had landed in the field. A bed for everyone? This farm seemed very prepared to receive them and it was a little off-putting.

The woman led them down a narrow hallway and gestured toward the three doors. “Choose any room you like, I will be bringing you fresh clothes. You might want to visit one of the bath houses nearby before dinner. They are separated by gender. To find them go downstairs and toward the back of the house. There will be two sheds—left for ladies, right for men.”

Without much of a goodbye the woman turned to leave.

Without thinking, Tallyho retreated into the room at the very end of the hall. The room was quite simple: Wooden floors and walls with a pair of parallel narrow beds on each side of the room. The blonde claimed one of the beds near the window and dug her knees into the mattress, which was packed with sheep’s wool. She’d never really had a bed that wasn’t a cluster of blankets on the floor of a tent or in the back of a wagon. She rubbed the fabric of the sheets between her fingers then glanced out of the window at the expanse of wheat.

Tallyho wasn’t sure what was going on, but she needed to make sure that she didn’t die tonight, especially after surviving the cyclopean. Being killed by anything less than that monstrosity would be a shame. It didn’t take long for the woman to come back into her room with a bundle of folded clothes. She slapped them down onto each bed haphazardly, only pausing to differentiate men’s trousers from women’s dresses, depending on who occupied the other beds. Tallyho gathered the dress into her arms. It was no more special than the dress she already wore: light and airy, perfect for the heat of a Solace summer. She could move around in it, which was a plus if Tallyho had to make any mad dashes.

Still without shoes, she gathered the new dress to her bosom and headed straight for the bath house.

She took a deep breath as she entered the shed. The air was thick and moist and hard to breathe through. She was greeted by an older woman, who sat next of a large cauldron of boiling water and another filled with chunks of ice in water. Upon seeing the blonde enter, she reached for a wooden bucket and dunked it into the boiling water before hobbling over to one of 4 separated stalls. She dumped the water into the small wooden tub and repeated the process (mixing the boiling water with the ice water) until the tub was filled up at an acceptable temperature. As she did so, she made small talk:

“Ye lot are very lucky to have this man taking care of ye,” she hummed in her thick common. “I was near m’sixties when m’son died. The only person taking care of me.”

The woman dumped another bucket.

“I came ‘ere and he let me in, gave me food and shelter… Something to do with m’time!” She looked at her bucket and laughed, her lungs sounded like they were full of cobwebs.

“When ye don’t have nowhere to go ye come ‘ere… He don’t care where ye been and where ye going. As long as you pull yer weight and don’t cause no trouble ye have a home here till you get back on yer feet.”


Tallyho replayed this woman’s statements as she sat in her bath stable. She curled into herself with her legs pulled up to her chest. Her knees looked like small crescent moons above the water. Why was she here, in this space for people with nowhere to go? She drafted questions in her head, planning to bring them to the attention of her host over what would hopefully be a very heavy dinner.

She finished her bath and draped herself in her new cotton dress. Later, she sat on a bench nearby a pump well next to the bath houses. She sat alone, attempting to smooth out wrinkles in a dress that was a little large and certainly wasn’t tailored for her figure. Her damp blonde hair curled and clung to her doe-like face.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Willow Elaine Stryder
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It was like a movie plot.

Prodding at the blonde girl was an old man. Xabier could sense his impatience even in the distance.
With great effort, he propped himself up on the grass with his shoulders.

This was not New York City.

Some red headed man with a cigar strolled over towards them saying something about guests...and...dinner..?
Xabier's English wasn't perfect but he could swear that the man was offering the group food.. He seemed friendly, but in a way that was too good to be true.

He looked around him, one by one he recognised several people from his drugged dreams. It was all really weird. They were all around the same age and were decently attractive. It was as if they were getting ready for some GAP ad. That, or they had all been drugged and were being trafficked as sex slaves. Or as test experiments.
He had watched plenty of crime tv shows where conventionally attractive youths were coerced and drugged and kidnapped until being murdered.
Xabier didn't really want to be a sex slave or a test experiment so he prayed that they were chosen as "models."

The blonde girl was dressed similar-ish to these farmers. She had been the one that had loudly insisted that they follow her to this place.... She's a honeypot, he suddenly realised. A cutie to get them to trust this ginger guy. It was the only logical explanation.... Okay, he considered it again, not really logical, but still...

Some random ginger lady who had been lying in the field with them was already all up in the friendly man's space. Pouring on the charm. Either she was very stupid or incredibly intelligent, only time would tell.

He laughed when the man, now known as Haru, just ignored her advances. Xabier shrugged at her. Good try, chica.

The woman with the scar on her face mentioned that there were 3 bedrooms with 4 beds each and separate bathhouses for men and women.
It all seemed a bit too planned for his comfort, but his head was pounding and he could smell himself so strongly. It wasn't exactly pleasant. It would be nice to wash up...

That's it. He decided to go get washed immediately. It was on a complete whim. The bathhouse on the right, right? He walked inside and it appeared completely empty.
With a bit of effort he filled up the bath with warm water.

He pulled off his hoodie and then his shirt. They were covered in dirt and sweat stains.

Piece by piece he stripped off his clothing and the feeling was cathartic. The water steamed up and he could feel the hangover fade slightly.

Xabier used the rag near the bath to scrub his skin raw. The skin on the sides of his arms becoming poppy red under his hands. The crappy mobile phone he had brought with him was by the side, its screen still frozen on her name.

Once he was done he was going to change back into his clothes and maybe make a run for it, but he must've splashed some water while washing because they were now sopping wet.

Sighing, Xabier now knew that he was far too stupid to escape. He might as well go into one of the bedrooms.



Wrapping the towel around his waist, he strolled out of the men's bathhouse completely brazen in his near full nudity. Wet clothes in one hand, mobile phone in the other.

He spotted the blonde (probable honeypot) girl, and nodded his head in acknowledgement as he strolled past.

"Hola."


Walking up the stairs and down the hallway he could hear droplets of water falling from his hair onto the floorboards behind him.
Removing the towel from his waist he used it to wipe up the mess and then dry his hair as he walked naked. Nobody seemed to be watching him, but at this stage he hardly cared.

Veneering into the nearest guest bedroom, his eyes were still trained on the ceiling.
He couldn't see any cameras or obvious signs of being recorded but he couldn't be sure. His paranoia had spiked considerably. Ever since he walked into the building he had made a conscious decision to map out routes of escape.

The room appeared to be empty on first glance so he closed the door behind him, whipped the towel over his shoulder and pulled on the (hopefully clean) male underwear left laying on a free bed.

The towel felt soft as he used it to dry his wet hair. There was something weird going on here. Any second now he might be dragged out of the building and harmed. He had to find some clothes and get out quick.

He turned his head to see a young lady sitting on one of the other beds.

Well, shit.

"Sorry about that." He was smiling now, a bit micheviously. "I should have checked the room first."

Slowly, Xabier pulled his newly acquired trousers up and then buttoned up the shirt. He was perfectly fine with nudity, but chicks were usually pretty weird about it. The girl in question was all curled up, her hands fiddling with her lovely albeit messy hair. Probably thinking that he was some sort of creep.

He walked over and held out his hand for her to shake.

"Xabier Sanchez."
He didn't know if he could trust her yet, so he was going to have to pour on the charm.
"What's your name? I feel like I've met you before." It wasn't a lie. She looked like she had been in Central Park.

He smiled.

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Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood
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#, as written by Linnea
As the summer sun beat down on Angela's face, she slowly opened her eyes. She could see golden grass poking at her skin and tangling in her hair. Nearby, the others from the park lie down as she did. Her head was spinning, her body aching. Where was she? How did she get here? For the first time, she began to question her own sanity and the situation at hand.

It started at the park with that monster. Was that even real? The fear sure was. So was the sense of relief when it fell. The sword she had briefly held had felt real. The girl she caught was real. Why, she was right over there. An old man's voice boomed and echoed in Angela's ears. He sounded just as surprised as she was.

What had happened to the bridge of stars? The pillar of light? Had they fallen? Drowned? Teleported? Or was that some sort of drug trip? She'd seen enough crime dramas to know it was possible. But if she had been drugged then why was she here? Maybe the group had escaped. It'd explain the confused farmer and their appearance in the fields. If that was the case, however, then why was there a young man claiming they were his guests?

Angela quickly checked her phone. It took a moment to turn on, but was still charged. No bars, however. No wifi. Nothing helpful. She turned it off again. People could still track her GPS if it was off, right?

She would have loved to ask the young man all of the questions swirling through her mind, but it was rather obvious that wasn't happening any time soon. So she followed. To be safe, she stuck close to the young man who had beheaded the beast from the park. If they really were in danger then he was their best bet at survival. Besides, the wheat had scratched at her skin quite a bit. She wasn't horribly injured, but a bandage wouldn't hurt.

"Hey, Sword Dude..." Angela whispered to the monster slayer. "What's going on here?"

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Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood
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When the red-head spoke, something in the atmosphere changed, even if only a few could feel it. It was the Word of Authority, a general speaking to his hapless men too frightened or too untrained to possess true obedience. Dorian involuntarily stood up even straighter, a Pavlovian response to the sound of a superior officer, even one unknown and unidentified, only his wound stopping him from falling into a proper military stance. This man wasn’t ordinary, Dorian realized. Something important was going to happen here, and it was going to involve him.

Dorian allowed himself to be led away with promises of bandages, answers, food, and a change of clothes. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice at this point given that he had no idea where he was or how he got here. The girl from earlier, the blonde in the strange clothes not the practical one who’d remembered the old way to kill a Cyclopean, was motioned along as well, decorated with little cuts from the fields of wheat.

Dorian took a moment to observe his surroundings. It wasn’t a tropical country, he knew that. Although the heat was still ever-present, such a sharp contrast to the wintry night he’d stumbled out of, it didn’t match the stories his mother used to tell him. She was born in Hales but claimed her real place of birth was the sea, a fisherman’s daughter who was allowed, by virtue of being an only family her father had, to go with him on his longer journeys. The tropics, she’d said one night when she’d had a little too much pyre water to drink, was all bold, vibrant colors with bold smells and tastes. The heat was like fire licking at your skin, the sun attempting to melt you to your very bones but also warming you to your core.

This was milder, he decided, and placed the country as Solace or Constance or maybe even the Rose Kingdom, whatever the land he’d been thrown into so briefly before wasn’t. That would make sense with the fields and the house’s unique architecture looming above them.

As the man led them towards the back of the house, around the outside and past what they would later know to be bathhouses and other fields of wheat leading towards far off mountains and a bright, blue horizon, the girl next to him spoke, whispered, really, for only Dorian to hear.

The word sword he knew (as anyone who learns a foreign language cottons on to words that speak to them and their interests), but the next word was incomprehensible. Common slang, perhaps, or maybe just not a word he’d managed to retain. Well, he should nip that nonsense in the bud. Dorian wasn’t terribly fond of people calling him things he couldn’t understand because that generally meant they were calling him something he wouldn’t like.

“My name is Dorian.” Each word was clipped, precise in his ancient memorization of Common 101. It came off as a little haughty, honestly, although perhaps that was the accent still swaddling each word. The second part of her question was harder to answer because he wasn’t quite sure what was happening himself, and how could he easily articulate his own confusion? Luckily their escorts had chosen that moment to come abruptly to a halt in front of a small, understated door at the back of the house, giving him a bit more time to mentally run through a proper response.

One turned to look at them, revealing a nearly toothless mouth as he spoke.

“Doc’s in there. Get yourselves patched up and don’t take too much of her time, y’hear? Some of us have work to do.” With a scoff practiced by the elderly of every generation at the sight of a lazy young person (i.e. every young person in their minds), the farmer tottered off followed by his companion.

Dorian glanced at the girl next to him before shrugging.

“We enter, yes?” And, with that, he opened the door.

The room they entered was clearly a veterinarian’s clinic, the tools of the trade old but pristinely clean and decorating nearly every service. A few hand-drawn diagrams of cows and horses and chickens decorated the wooden walls not already covered by cabinets and shelves filled with medicines and herbs. In the furthest corner of the room away from them was what appeared to be a space haphazardly put together for humans, an afterthought in an otherwise well thought out room.

Two mismatched stools, a desk, and an old padded chair were crammed into that space along with a woman. She could have been anywhere between forty and sixty, a woman prematurely aged with labor but still sharp enough to retain a strange semblance of youth. She was tall and skinny, gray hair pulled back into a severe bun and dressed all in black.

“What on Aires happened to you?” Her voice was sharp, but Dorian could hear the accent underlying it. There. A glimmer of hope. “No matter. You, boy. Sit next to me.” She gestured to the stool closest to the desk before turning her fierce gaze on Angela. “Girl, you wait there.” She pointed to the other stool, situated furthest from the corner doctor’s office, which still wasn’t that far away at all.

Dorian sat down as indicated and, after a brief order from the veterinarian turned human doctor, obediently shed his coat, then jacket, then shirt until he only had on his under-shirt, something like a tank-top that exposed part of the map of scars scrawled across his upper body. The Cyclopean wound was not the first to mar his skin and would certainly not be the last. The woman began patching him right away, cleaning the wound thoroughly before slathering it with salve. As she worked, she spoke, although it was more like carrying on her internal dialogue externally for her captive audience’s benefit.

“After this I will take you to your rooms and then to the baths. You stink of sweat and fear, both of you. They don’t tell me we’re to be having guests, but I can see the way that make preparations. He runs a good house, but he’s so secretive. Bah, we all have our faults.” She rambled, the last part mostly to herself. She moved efficiently and had finished knotting the layered bandage before handing Dorian some extra bandages and shooing him off of his stool.

“Do not get it wet. The salve will be plenty if you do not get it wet today.” She cocked her head to one side, staring at him appraisingly. “You take it well, boy. Like a soldier.”

Dorian began to speak then, briefly, and no doubt to Angela it was like a flurry of strange words, something foreign and guttural and strange. But the woman understood, eyes widening a fraction before responding in kind. The following conversation was brief, and afterwards the woman turned to Angela, gesturing for her to take Dorian’s place.

If Angela did so, the old woman began to clean her wounds, her touch more delicate than she seems capable of. After that, the same salve she used on Dorian, smelling strongly of lemongrass and mint or something like them, was slathered on her little cuts, and bandages were wrapped around them with the same orders as well as a guarantee that she could take the bandages off in the morning.

Regardless of the future of Angela’s wounds, the following conversation did occur:

“The boy asks that you be patient with his words. Your language is his second, and he understands it well but he’s not too good at speaking it,” the doctor explained.

She paused to listen to something Dorian said and cracked an almost-smile.

“Yes. But he is getting better as he hears more of it, he assures us both.”

Dorian nodded, gathering up his things where they had been discarded but not putting all of them back on. They were wet with snow and sweat, and the congealed blood decorated the sleeves of each layer wasn’t terribly appealing. He did put on his shirt, however. It wasn’t respectful to be so undressed in a room full of women he wasn’t related to.

It wasn’t the need to explain himself or because he particularly cared if she thought him rude that spurred Dorian to have the old woman explain. He simply had realized that he was likely going to be stuck with this group until he could find passage back to Hales, and it was always best to have at least one person know what’s going on.

“Your answer,” Dorian said, finally speaking a language Angela could understand. “I am not certain. This is strange… for me. We wait. We do not have a choice. Before the meal, we rest, we bathe, and we prepare. No fear.” That was clearly becoming one of his favorite phrases in Common for its simplicity and apparent effectiveness.

He saw no reason to keep his voice down as Angela had before. The old woman was automatically one of the most trustworthy people here by virtue of her own Hales heritage, etched in her voice as well as the structure and lines of her face.

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Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Willow Elaine Stryder
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Willow listened to the man, Haru, with a weary look in her eyes she regretted her overtly anxious questioning and nodded at him her mind making a mental note to apologize later as well as to watch her tongue around this man who carried so much authority. She looked to the woman with the scar when she spoke and nodded, she watched the blonde step forward first than a few others go about their decisions she watched closely than decided to pick a room if this was a trap she couldn't see a good way out as the terrain was unfamiliar to her, and would surely be unsafe for her and even with her backpack of supplies she wouldn't last more than a few days in the strange land. Willow walked into the house and slipped off her shoes by the door tucking them as close to the corner as possible before heading up the stairs she could hear a few conversations as she neared the top of the stairs, when she walked to a door she opened it slowly to see the blonde girl who was dressed like the others and spoke softly " I am sorry if i was rude earlier, I didn't mean to cut off your conversation."



Willow walked to a bed with a clean white dress and smirked at it ' At least it seems light enough to allow us to run..' she thought as she picked it up and ran her fingers along the soft fabric with a childlike glimmer to her eyes.Quickly she set her bag down by the bed. She picked the dress up again and lifted it to her nose inhaling the scent of the fabric as she thought about the layout of the room planning her escape if it came to that, while she did so she thought about the odd preparation of rooms in this new land. With a shake of her head she pushed away the odd way being in this new place made her feel as though she was rooted to the ground, yet as though her movements had become swifter, quieter. She stayed facing away from the blonde girl as she slipped her shirt off and pulled the dress over her bit larger frame, though not fat she was a bit bigger than she would have liked in areas and was relieved the moment her body was covered again. She than slipped off her leggings from underneath the dress and folded her clothes before putting them in her bag before sitting on her bed and closing her eyes letting the feelings this new place brought out within her wash over her finally as she calmed down.



Willow felt as though she had something she should do, but couldn't think of what it was as her chokers emerald called to her hand and she rubbed the gem between her fingers lightly as though to comfort her as well as the gem that was now cradled between her small fingers and her eyes opened slowly they took on a slight green tint as she seemed to stare at the floor as though lost in thought.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Willow Elaine Stryder Character Portrait: Kris Li
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There hadn’t been much time for Tallyho to learn the secret of the young man’s hair. Almost as quickly as she’d asked him, she heard the creak and slam of the flimsy back door swinging out and into the wall. And then, the loud and hallow clank of a cowbell.

“Dinner! Dinner for our guests,” the woman with the scarred face called, nodding in Tallyho’s direction between her ringing. The dinner bell was clutched tight her small pale hands. Tallyho glanced at the young man before reluctantly rising to walk, and carefully bounced her knuckles against the thin walls of the bathhouse—something that she thought would be a helpful gesture just in case the brunette couldn’t hear the incessant noise from her cooling bath.

The blonde slid her hands through her hair as she mounted the stairs of the porch, twisting her it into bun. It sat high, a imperfect sun preparing to set on the crown of her head. She shuffled into the house as the woman held the door open, once those from the back yard were inside, she moved to gather folks from other parts of the house, but not without gesturing toward the intimate dinner setup wedged in a room not much bigger than the large wooden table that occupied it.

It was a simple theme that Tallyho had begun to notice. For a place that looked so grand on the outside, the farm’s owner—Haru—seemed to have a taste for the rustic. No room was doted over—no fine décor or accents. Every room seemed to have exactly what it needed, no more no less. But she wasn’t sure what it said of the man’s character.

Tallyho was the first in the dining room and for a moment she began to wonder if the others—the redheaded girl with the flirty smile, the warrior who killed the beast, the brunette in the tub—had run off without her. From the way the redhead seemed to survey the room for their exits, it seemed to Tallyho that everybody was looking for an out. They were all wild dogs trapped and ready to chew their own arms off.

It hadn’t taken more than fifteen minutes for a couple of maids to move the food onto the table. There was enough food, Tallyho thought, to constitute a small feast. The table was populated with cauldrons and dishes of rolls, roasted potatoes, glazed chicken, vegetable stew and Banya, a dish from solace that bakes sweet corn, bread, eggs, cream and sugar together to make a dessert casserole. Tallyho had a particular fondness for the dish, and made it her business to reach for it as soon as it came to the table. She pulled the bowl close, scooping a large glop of the delicacy onto her dish.

The maid sucked her teeth at her audacity to eat before her host even arrived. The older woman itched to chastise her, but held her tongue when Haru entered the room. If you weren’t looking you might have missed him— he moved into a seat at the head of the table with a cool calm. When Tallyho glanced up at him with her body hunched over her plate and her arm swung around it’s circumference like a prisoner protecting his food from thieves, he offered a slight smirk.

“Please do eat,” he hummed. “We have plenty of time to chat.”

Tallyho, not wanting to strike up a conversation with him alone dove back into her food, continuing to eat if only because she was nervous. She would continue to eat until everyone reached the table, and by the time he’d given them the same “eat now, talk later spiel” the petite sungirl was stuffed. But instead of looking at Haru, or even taking another serving, she chose to stare at everyone else’s plates as they would scoop and scrape the food into their mouths.

Haru let them eat for a while, eventually breaking the silence by asking the maids to leave.

“I wanted to let you eat first before getting into all of this… It’s been a surreal day for all of you I’m sure.” He spoke slowly. One could tell that though his voice wasn’t especially warm, he was trying to sound comforting.

“I will try to answer all of your questions to the best of my ability, but I ask that you let me explain a few things uninterrupted. That monster you saw today, the one that wounded a couple of you, was nothing short of an oddity. Most of you have not seen or read anything about its likeness, and in all truth it wasn’t supposed to be there to begin with. However, I’m sorry to say that it isn’t the weirdest thing you would have learned about today.

You’re not on earth anymore. Today you are in Aires, and I wish that I could tell you it’s as simple as “being on another planet,” but it’s a little more complicated than that. Aires is nothing like earth. It doesn’t run on the same fabric of time or development. It has none of the modern technologies most of you are familiar with. It’s a different line of reality with a different set of magic and physics, and the path of stars you walked across earlier today was the only bridge between these two worlds.

While Aires is very different from Earth on a fundamental level, what you all witnessed back there wasn’t normal for your world or mine. These monsters have been appearing in small numbers across our planet, and it seems as though they’ve been infiltrating yours from time to time as well. These monsters, cyclopean we call them, are the reason you are here at this table today.

They haven’t been seen in hundreds of years, and that was because we had a full line of defense against them, working to protect this reality and the next. At the top of this defense was an elite group called the Month Warriors—a group of demigods with special powers that were activated by gemstones the Goddess gave them. They were created to attack the issue at its source—to murder the king of the cyclopean. However, after a long campaign, they failed their mission and were cursed. They put the king to rest temporarily, but each of their souls were subsequently sucked from their bodies and into the birthstone jewelry they wore. These gems, over time, were scattered across reality. And ironically, you lot (many of whom aren’t from Aires) possess them. They are lodged into your necklaces and bracelets and rings from your grandfathers, and fate brought them to you.

There’s a prophecy that says that the stones will find kindred souls to finish the work that they started… and as much as I’d like to tell you that you can simply give them away and walk away from this, I need to be frank. You are the next Month Warriors. The powers they possess can only be unlocked by the right person and no one else—someone who can wear the burden of saving all forms of humanity against a common evil. I’m sure you felt your stones burning, and no it wasn’t the summer sun. It was the spirit in your gem telling you that you are chosen and that you are not alone. That the people you are meant to embark on this journey with all happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had been told that fate would bring you to me sometime soon, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. I don’t know why any of you are chosen, in fact if I had the choice I would ask for a more robust group of fighters… But you are who you are.”

Haru exhaled quietly. He realized how ridiculous this all sounded, but if he was being fair to himself there was no other way for him to get such a complex explanation for “here’s why you’re at my dinner table” across in a simpler way.

“Okay… Now you can ask questions.”

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Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller
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Just as Ron finished dressing himself with a clean shirt, shouting signaling dinnertime began. When entering the inside of the house, Ron seated himself 2 seats down from the head of the table, as it was traditionally meant for the host. They served the typical food, that being vegetables, bread and meat. Ron used proper table manners, bringing the napkin to his lap and making sure to cut with his right hand and use his fork in his left, eating only one bite at a time. In his house he was taught that first impressions meant everything, so he was not about to let bad manners hurt that. He ate until he was nearly full, but not quite. If he were to make an escape that night, it would be imperative that he is unencumbered. After finishing his meal, their host began to speak.

Never in his life had Ron had to sit through the ramblings of a mad man. Their host went on a spiel about monsters and prophecies, claiming that they were "Month Warriors". The name made him smirk. It sounded like a name given to the protagonists of a YA novel. This man was conning them and he would not have any of it. He cleared his throat before speaking.

"What kind con is this?" He began. "Are you trying to get us to give you something or are you just starting some kind of cult? If your claim about us being these demigods are really true then prove it. Use your magic! Turn invisible or shoot a fireball out of your hands. If you can then you might be telling truth. Otherwise I'm not drinking any of your Kool-Aid!" There was no way Ron was going to stick around with a bunch of quacks, he only hoped that the others saw this con artist for what he was.

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Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller
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Prove himself? Well Haru didn’t want it to come to that. Especially at the dinner table. Nonetheless the young man (Ron was it? He was still placing their faces to the collection of names he was given days before this encounter) had a valid response. Haru raised his hands in a soft shrug as she he pushed his chair away from the table. He didn’t want to make too much of a mess and felt particularly bad about doing this since they were eating too. But what had to be done had to be done. He snapped his fingers and the woman with a scar came rushing through with a dagger in her hands. Without any hesitation she took a handful of Haru’s hair and drew her arm back with the dagger pressed firmly to his throat. It was deep and unmistakable slice, one that would spell a grave for any man and a hefty price for his assassin.

As a thick line of blood spilled from Haru’s neck and onto his own lap he never lost eye contact with Ron. And right as the last of it spilled to a last tinkle on his shirt and his body should have dropped to the ground, Haru readjusted himself.
“Well that stung a bit...” He turned to the woman with a scar and nodded her off before she left the room an came back with a cloth to clean the blood from the floor around him.

“Sorry you had to see that. My magic isn’t the pretty kind, not like yours. I should reintroduce myself, my name is Haru Sinwood and I’m what they call a guardian. There are twelve of us, we are immortal, and we were all there to protect and assist the original group of warriors. I cannot die unless my mission is completed, and my mission is to protect and assist you in this journey just as I did for them. I hope I didn’t upturn any stomachs…”

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Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller
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Tallyho bit back a gasp as the woman left the room with her knife as quickly as she came. She blinked hard as she appraised the redhead— drawing a line from the blood on his shirt, to his wound, to her plate and back again, but never making direct eye contact with him as he bounced back from his own maiming, apologizing for how much he had most definitely upset her stomach. He treated the display like he’d only passed gas in public.

She glanced at the young man who had challenged him, curious as to what his response would be. Surely he didn’t think that Haru was an ordinary man? And while Tallyho couldn’t confirm that all he had told them was true, she definitely understood that, from this encounter, they weren’t dealing with an unremarkable person.

He called her a Month Warrior, a reincarnation of a legend that made the bread and butter of her childhood. The blonde remembered the weekly lessons where she’d recite their elements, homelands and battles in unison with her peers. The teachers always told them that the reason Sun People roamed the earth was to honor the belief that soil cannot be owned by man, and to celebrate the international roots of the gemstone demigods who were born and molded from different tribes and traditions.

She also remembered the nights with full moons, where the caravan would perform dances reenacting the final fight. They’d tell the story through the strong, bounding leaps from the male dancers and effortless, floating twirls from the women. By the night’s end, the dancers would have charismatically demonstrated what it’s like to watch centuries pass from the inside of a diamond.

But at each performance, she became more and more skeptical about its meaning. To her, these traditions were outdated and foolish, especially as she watched the world around her living in freedom, owning land and living for themselves with no obligation toward a greater group. But what an ironic turn of events it would be if she were to actually become a part of her ancestors’ wildest dreams? That she would finally gain independence from one identity in exchange for her undying allegiance to another?

It felt like forever as all of these things passed through her head, all the while her eyes were glued to the blood-soaked towel slopping across the floor. She soon began to feel like she had eaten far too much. A wisp of air escaped her lips as she hoisted herself up from her chair clumsily. She almost fell as she stood and the chair tumbled onto its side as she abruptly trudged out of the room. She could be found outside lurching and vomiting over the front porch.

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Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller
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Tallyho bit back a gasp as the woman left the room with her knife as quickly as she came. She blinked hard as she appraised the redhead— drawing a line from the blood on his shirt, to his wound, to her plate and back again. But she never made direct eye contact with him as he bounced back from his own maiming, apologizing for how much he had most definitely upset her stomach. He treated the display like passed gas in public.

She glanced at the young man who challenged him, curious as to what his response would be. Surely he didn’t think that Haru was an ordinary man by this point? And while Tallyho couldn’t confirm that all he had told them was true, she definitely understood that, from this encounter, they weren’t dealing with an unremarkable person.

He called her a Month Warrior, a reincarnation of a legend that made the bread and butter of her childhood. The blonde remembered weekly lessons where she’d recite their elements, homelands and battles in unison with her peers. The teachers always told them that the reason Sun People roamed the earth was to honor the belief that soil cannot be owned by man, and to celebrate the international roots of the gemstone demigods who were born and molded from different tribes and traditions.

She also remembered the full moon revivals where the caravan would perform dances reenacting the final fight. They’d tell the story through the strong, bounding leaps from the male dancers and effortless, floating twirls from the women. By the night’s end, the dancers would have charismatically demonstrated what it’s like to watch centuries pass from the inside of a diamond.

But after each performance, she became more and more skeptical about its meaning. To her, these traditions were outdated and foolish, especially when she could see the world around her living in freedom, owning land and living for themselves with no strings attached. But what an ironic turn of events it would be if she, a heathen of sorts, were to actually become a part of her ancestors’ wildest dreams? That she would finally gain independence from one identity in exchange for her undying allegiance to another?

It felt like forever as all of these things went through her head, all the while her eyes were glued to the blood-soaked towel slopping across the floor. She was becoming overwhelmed by the deep coppery smell and soon began to feel like she had eaten far too much. A wisp of air escaped her lips as she hoisted herself up from her chair clumsily. She tripped over herself as she stood, and the chair tumbled onto its side before she abruptly trudged out of the room. She could be found outside lurching and vomiting over the front porch.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Calliope Alexander
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Haru pressed his mouth into a thin line as one girl brushed past him to barf on the porch, and another girl stifled her drink down out of fright. Apparently that wasn’t the best approach he could have taken to prove his authenticity. His misguided efforts were punctuated by the horror of a straggler who missed his entire spiel.

”Where are we? And how do we get back?”

Haru slowly ground his molars together, a stress-related habit he started to notice a lifetime ago. Obviously he had his work cut out for him: Most of them weren’t fighters and some of them, from first appearances at least, didn’t seem like team players. This slow and steady approach wasn’t really his thing and in retrospect he wasn’t sure why he tried it in the first place. He couldn’t get a read on how the others felt about this cutthroat scene, but if witnessing him survive what should have been a life-ending injury wasn’t enough to get them to believe in at least a bit of magic, then he didn’t see any point in testing out any more elaborate ways to get them up to par with what was happening. If handling them with kid-gloves and scare tactics wouldn’t work, he was left with being as painfully honest as possible.

He glanced at his partner in theatrics who had just finished lopping up the last of his blood from the floor.

“I suppose I was never good at making people feel good about less than ideal situations,” he hummed with a slightly glum smirk. “Could you check on the one outside? See if she’s in good shape to come back in with us?”

The woman with the scar nodded and left the room immediately. As she exited, the redhead hoisted himself up from his chair and turned to the new young woman. He wiped his hand on his cloth napkin and extended it for her to take.

“I’m sorry you missed dinner. I’ll be sure to have them bring you something before you turn in for the night,” he said. He felt sympathy for them, he really did. Waking up with a completely different life’s purpose and being bound to that position by destiny was a taxing realization for him too.

“I hope that you will give me time to explain your situation.”

-x-


Tallyho drew back from the railing as the woman with the scar tapped her back. She had a surprisingly calm reaction to the sudden physical contact, and silently looked at the woman who in turn looked at her longingly.

“I know what you’re thinking,” the woman said, accompanying the words with a soothing back rub. “But Haru… You have to trust him. All of us here who work on this farm, we had nowhere to go.”

Tallyho caught her eyes dancing along the woman’s long, brown scar and turned her eyes away, embarrassed by her own curiosity.

“We were all deplorable: A score of outcasts, sinners, prostitutes and drunks before we came to this farm. The world, not even our own families had anything to do with us. None of us had purpose in the way we lived and no one was willing to help us find it. But when deplorables like me come to this farm, suddenly we get a break—a break from a world who casts a judging eye and ever looks back. He doesn’t care where we came from, only that we are willing to live past it and become better before it’s too late. And I think he does this because he knows what it’s like to make mistakes and never be forgiven.”

Tallyho didn’t look back at the woman but her breathing evened out, and after a few moments she spoke.

“You believe in all that stuff? The Old Thought? The Goddess and the Month Warriors?”

The woman smirked as she pushed a dark hair out of her face.

“I don’t believe in one God. I have many. They are in the trees, they are in the fire… But I do believe in humans. And I believe an honest man when I see one.”

-x-


When Tallyho entered the room again, Haru released a sharp breath. Third time was the charm.

“Let me try this again… I realize how this all sounds, trust me. And if I didn’t have to be here doing this, I wouldn’t be. But this is Aires. You are not on earth anymore. You are not ordinary people. You were brought here to defend, not just this world, but your loved ones just a reality away. You are chosen—and each of you wield extraordinary capabilities that I’d be happy to delve into later.”

Haru glanced at Tallyho, who was still reeling from her gastric episode. He’d need to give them a taste of it if he had any hope of convincing them.

“You are Tallyho Abel, you were born on February 17th, and you received this amethyst necklace from your Baba as a birthday present when you turned fifteen. You can control the lightning and electrical currents… Angela Taylor, November 2nd, you like tarot cards and other… interesting things. But that’s fitting because with your topaz you can communicate with and manipulate the energy of the dead.”

Haru went on and on like this, introducing each person in the room, telling them a bit about themselves and rounding it off with their special power. He did this for everyone until he got to himself.

“And again, my name is Haru Sinwood. I don’t know my exact birthday anymore but I know that I was born in the summer years and years ago. I am one of twelve men and women sworn to protect and prepare you for the fight to come. I was once an important person in this world… A military official from an old, cold country called Hales. They called me The Red Commander. I was cruel back then, and when I died I was punished to this… in between state. Alive and not alive… I guess in some of your religions you might call this purgatory? My spirit was not allowed to pass to its final resting place, and so…” He gestured to the fresh wound on his neck. “I cannot die. Not yet… I cannot die until I complete my mission. And so here I’ve been, roaming and waiting for you. And now here I am.”

He took a long look around the room. If this didn’t help then he wasn’t sure what else he could do. He took a step back, opening the door to whichever party felt the need to leave.

“I can’t prove much more at this point. I want you to be able to go home to your families. But this cannot be done until your purpose is fulfilled, and I don’t have the power to make it so. Only the Goddess. But if you do not trust me, and you want to take your chances out there alone… Well you are adults and I cannot stop you. Please, walk through this door and do not look back. I can only warn that you are safer together as a team than alone. Nothing out there is like anything most of you have ever experienced.

But if you do trust me then great. I will get you settled and take care of you. I will take you to the mountains to get proper training because in a world like this you need to know how to defend yourself. Most importantly, I will help you unlock your powers. And the sooner we win the war, the sooner you get home.”

And with that Haru was officially tapped out. If they chose to leave so be it. He only hoped that he’d be able to work with what he had even if the team wasn’t complete.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller
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Blood poured out onto the table in a seemingly endless stream. The man he had challenged, Haru, had just slit his throat. What was surprising was not that he had slit his throat, but that he still lived. The act itself did not stun him, as oil fields were riddled with accidents much more horrid then simply bleeding out. Explosions, burning, and suffocation were commonplace in the North Dakotan oil fields. Suddenly it dawned upon him. He really was in a new world, with old technology and old rules. A period that just so happen to be part of the time frame that he had studied in college. And his father said that he would never find any use with a history major with a pre-modern emphasis. Jokes on you dad! He thought to himself as he began to grin and laugh uncontrollably.

After calming down, Ron finally spoke. "I now see your point. You aren't a normal person and this is definitely not Earth. If I am an important warrior like you claim and you want me to work with you, then you have to meet my demands. I have no want to return to my home, where I'm only another generic cog in the machine. Here I could make a difference and be remembered. So with that, you will have to meet these demands or else I will find work somewhere else.

Firstly, I want to be paid a great deal of gold or silver. For all intents and purposes, I am a mercenary, not a volunteer. As such I expect to be paid accordingly. Second, I will need reading material for our journey. Maps and books detailing the politics and culture of this world would be perfect. Third, I will need a great deal of sulfur, charcoal, saltpeter and bronze at out destination so that I may craft my new weapons. Lastly I will ask for a request at a future time. These terms are nonnegotiable."

He paused for a moment before remembering one last detail. "By the way, what exactly is my power?" Ron asked.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Calliope Alexander Character Portrait: Ron Muller
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The reactions around the room were telling enough. One girl fled the room to go wretch outside, perhaps spurred on by the gore or the iron scent thick in the room. Angela took his advice with a shiver, mumbling what sounded like a plea to ducks* under her breath. Then there was another woman who entered the room, another Earthling from what Dorian could tell, who was greeted with all of the violence and none of the context. He found himself rather concerned with the prospective Month Warriors around him.

*At least he thought she was. Dorian, while rather good at picking out Common words, was not equally competent in Common slang or swears. Therefore, even though he though the context was maybe a little weird, he assumed Angela’s people just had some sort of affinity for waterfowl while in distress. Aliens, am I right?

Dorian sipped his own wine as she demanded another variation of what had already been explained. If the atmosphere had been any different and Dorian practically anyone else, he would have laughed from the way exasperation was radiating off of Haru in waves. The other man was clearly a professional people-wrangler, however. He pulled himself together and treated them to another round of “who, what, when, where, and why” as the scarred woman was sent off to retrieve the girl who’d made her escape.

By the time he had finished with the basics once more(maybe not for the last time as Dorian noticed that there were still less than twelve people gathered around the table) and the girl had returned, Haru was ready to begin his final pitch to the group, more tired and less idealistic than when he’d begun. And it was in that explanation, mixed with very necessary introductions, that a few things clicked.

For one, Dorian realized where he’d heard Haru’s name before. The Red Commander was sitting before him, a bit shorter and scrawnier than the history books would have the people of Hales imagine but him nevertheless. Although the man glossed over his accolades and history, Dorian knew. The story had been ingrained in his mind, the military tactics analyzed from countless angles, the biography researched, and, of course, his fatal flaw examined to within an inch of its life.

It was like a Romanian had met Vlad Tepes or, in a more positive comparison, someone from around the area of Carthage gazing upon Hannibal. Eerily historical, incredibly amazing, and perhaps a little disappointing (which was more Hales’ speculative scholars’ s faults than Haru’s own).

He also realized that this really would be easier if he had been stuck on Earth rather than still on Aires. While he and Tallyho* could feasibly leave, find their ways home with some trials and tribulations, these Earthlings were stuck at the mercy of being strangers in a strange land. If any of them chose to leave on their own, they’d have to be complete idiots or, if he was being charitable, temporarily insane.

*It was fortunate Haru had just taken care of introductions when he did. Dorian had been maybe thirty seconds away from mentally dubbing Tallyho “the vomiting blonde” to differentiate her from the other women in the group. Now she was Tallyho, the other Airesian, which was a much better title in the grand scheme of things.

Or terribly greedy, as it turned out. The man from earlier, the one Dorian had decided that he disliked from the moment he saw Ron shooting so haphazardly in Central Park, was speaking again after a brief and rather troubling laughing fit. Dorian didn’t recognize every word he used, and cultural differences were springing up quickly leading to questions. Among them:

Why would he want something as silly and decorative as gold and silver?
Why would a man whose life and, as Haru had hinted, own planet were at stake decide to play pretend mercenary?
Why, in the name of the Goddess, was he trying to construct a hand-cannon*?
And why did things have to be so terribly ironic? A wannabe war lord (anyone stocking up on jewels and hoping to bring new weapons to a foreign land could be little else) who had the powers of a healer**, not a fighter.

*Dorian, while no genius, knew those ingredients by heart. This was mostly because his uncle had spent the duration of the hand-canon’s invention process speaking of nothing else to the extent where Dorian was reasonably certain that even he could make one with the proper tools.

**Even as he recalled that little tidbit, he could practically hear his grandmother’s gloating. “Oh, my! Who would have thought? My lessons weren’t so useless after all, little Dor. Your Baba’s ramblings about month warriors are not so boring now.”

Dorian wasn’t about to try to reason with someone so painfully self-important (which was good because Dorian’s reasoning tactics tended to involve threats of or actual physical violence). In a continuance of the world’s great irony, Ron’s selfish demands actually helped Haru more than anything in this regard. Ron’s laundry list of demands allowed Dorian to brush aside his own qualms about magic jewels, month warriors, and prophecies in order to embrace the side that was “I’m not with that guy” or “Please don’t let an immortal historical figure think I’m poor enough of a soldier to agree with [b]that guy[/]”.

He turned to Haru and, perhaps just to finish this endless cycle of demands and explanations, spoke in Common for everyone to understand.

“I go, no cost. It is most good interest for Hales. Protects world and home.” He nodded his head sharply, reaffirming his stance. After all, if they were really month warriors, it would do Hales a good deal of good to have one of their own represented among the group.

“And I can carry burden of two. I and the Braghlnucht’s*. It is not bad deal.” He indicated Ron with an almost cheerful tilt of his head in the other man’s direction. He had no issues with shouldering the burden of two if it meant less muss and fuss over Ron’s non-negotiable terms. The sooner this was settled, after all, the sooner they could begin. More importantly, the sooner they began, the sooner Dorian could go home.

*This is the closest approximation of the actual word to ever be written. In Halesian, Braghlnucht is a word so foul that it has no Common equivalent. Even hardened soldiers and criminals would flinch at the word, the ghostly taste of the soap that their mothers and grandmothers cleaned their mouths out with for even beginning to say the word still haunting them. Apparently Dorian was not fond of people who attempted to profit from dire situations, or perhaps he just didn’t like the look of Ron’s face. Or both.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller
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Surely Ron (that was his name, right?) was a mad man? He had to be. His demands seemed less plausible to Tallyho than the fact that she was just told that she had elemental super powers. She wondered how he could ask so much for a role that’s supposed to be so sanctified. If she only learned one thing from being raised in a manic cult of Old Thought fanatics, it was that the legend of the month warriors was motivated by salvaging the good of humanity and not acquiring gold. And to be honest, while Haru seemed well to do, the blonde doubted that he could produce everything Ron wanted. And to top it all off, none of them, save for the warrior now known as Dorian, could even introduce themselves as a mercenary without being laughed out of the nearest tavern. Being the no-talent tent attendant that she was, Tallyho could smell a lack of skill, competence and experience in a subject a day’s travel away. Every mercenary she's ever seen was a big, burly hunk of muscle that expressed himself with the sheer force of his knuckles and the sharpness of his steel. Not his words! Ron didn't look nearly as strong. Ron was no mercenary.


As he went on with his terms, Tallyho shifted her attention to Haru who was watching the young man patiently. She studied his face and the way his eyes were peppered with hints of disbelief and amusement. She’d catch his mouth tremble, stifling back a smirk or a chuckle. And by the time Ron wrapped up his verbal contract, the warrior from Hales had written his antics off publicly. At least she wasn’t the only one who thought demanding gold was overkill.


-x-



Haru let the reactions run their course, though he raised his eyebrows at “Braghlnucht.” The redhead hadn’t heard that word in ages and it really took him back. He glanced at Ron, halfway expecting him to jump up and punch Dorian in the throat (at least that’s what Haru would have done), but he remembered that most of the earthlings wouldn’t have a grasp on what that meant. Finally, Haru took his chance to step back in. He cleared his throat and began his gentle dissent.


Admittedly, he couldn’t process Ron’s demands simply because he was still stuck on the man calling himself a “mercenary.” Never in the past few centuries had he wanted to crawl into his crypt more than he did at that moment. This group was going to be very difficult and the January warrior’s tone deaf demands were all the proof he needed. Haru had been away from the sand table for so long that he wasn’t sure if he still had the fire to reel them in and get them prepared enough to stay alive in this world. And at this rate, he was starting to worry that he’d lose at least two of them in the first month. Most aggravatingly, he wondered when the other guardians would stop what they’re doing and come join the party. He lucked out with technically being the guardian of February(Tallyho), but Goddess bless the immortal soul pledged to this guy.


"I respect that you know how to conduct your business and make your terms. But I'm afraid this isn't a deal that you'll have much control over,” Haru hummed. “In fact, I don’t have the resources to give you such an extravagant wealth of metal. Let alone all twelve of you. However, I will be seeing to it that you learn about Aires and do your fair share of reading. There are also some weapons waiting for you up in the mountains where you’ll be training for the next few seasons. They are very special weapons that belonged to the previous month warriors. Though I suspect you’ll have a learning curve. Too bad the only thing I can provide you with is food, shelter, protection and my undying loyalty (literally),” he sighed sarcastically before settling back into his serious tone.

"Unfortunately I cannot give you all that you’d like. But my offer still stands. You are free to leave, though you'll be at a severe disadvantage. You'll need the protection and support of your fellow warriors more than you think…But it’s your choice. By the way, you have the healing power. Remind me to loan you my copy of Scrapes to Scabs, it was a groundbreaking book, you know? Anyway, for those of you who are committed, I need you up and on the porch at the break of dawn. We will be heading up to our new home for the next few months. Get plenty of rest, and I hope to see you all there… ”


-x-


The last time Tallyho Abel fell asleep, she sunk into her blankets and woke up in a tree. It sounds romantic (or actually not really), but when the moment is mostly associated with the snarling jaws of a monster she didn’t even know existed, the romance kind of starts to lop off like flesh from a corpse. On this day, however, she woke up to Aires: Soft light from a dusty window, a bed head like a fuzzy halo, sore legs and a wafting smell promising her stomach breakfast.
She pulled herself upright, eyes trained on the crisp white sheets hugging her lap, and wondered if she was ever going to see her caravan again or hear her mother sing. She also wondered why she wasn’t as sad about this uncertainty of seeing her family as she thought she was going to be.

-x-


Pull. Loose. Pull. Loose.

When Haru smokes, he likes to pretend that he is The Red Commander again. He imagines that he’s leading his archers in his famous “Red Rain” technique where he corners his enemies and orders his archers to pluck their arrows high into the sky in unison. When gravity takes effect the arrows spiral downwards, raining down on his victims at the bottom of the mountain.

Pull. Loose. Pull. Loose.

He took a long, deep inhale of his cigar as he waited for the warriors to come outside. He asked the hands to greet them with a packed, home cooked meal—biscuits and venison gravy. And he asked another hand to round up a couple of horses and a hay cart big enough to fit the whole group. They were going up the mountain to meet Ryou, another guardian who spent the better part of his eternity training people to fight. These days he has a place up in northern Solace, a secluded academy that takes only a handful of students at a time. Haru hoped that the academy would be a good start in discipline.

Tallyho came outside clutching her sack of biscuits and gravy tightly.

“Ah, so at least there’s one of you,” he said dryly as she approached. “Hop on in the cart and get a good seat. The ride is going to be a day or two. But don’t worry I have extra food packed back there. Don’t eat it all at once.”