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Pene Michaels

The Worrisome Pearl

0 · 710 views · located in Aires

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

Description

Pene Michaels ( Peh-nay )

"Please be careful..."


Gender: Female
Affinity: June/Pearl Stone
Age: 22
Origination: Earth




Belongings
Pene has three pearl stud earrings that her mother gave to her on her 20th birthday. She's always loved the creamy color and wispy inside. She has one in her left ear and two in her right.

Ethnicity
Hawaiin
Image


Image
Physical description
A Caramel skinned female with bronze eyes and thick, dark, and curly hair


Personality/Bio
Pene Michaels is a worry-wort. When she was old enough to run, talk, and do half decent barrel rolls she would always worry for her parents even when they would be perfectly fine. In Elementary and Middle school she received reward after reward for being "The Most Caring", "The Most Helpful", and more things along those lines. Pene couldn't help herself. A shoe was always untied, a branch was always there, a ball was always moving too fast, and children's scissors can still cut! Heading into High-School, Pene truly learned to give the proper attention to that tickling/tingling feeling in her shoulders. In doing so, she removed a lot of self-adorned stress from her life and even brought on a bit more happiness. Some of her friends can attest that she saved them from big spills more than once. Pene is a strong-headed, Motherly, and problem solving young woman who likes to avoid dreaming about her future children. Just thinking about what they could get into makes her stressed.

Image


Likes & Dislikes

Dislikes
  • Dangerous Situations
  • The Dark
  • Daredevils

Likes
  • Peace & Quiet
  • Animals & Wildlife
  • People who are practical

Natural Abilities:
Sixth-Sense
  • Pene is greatly in tune with her Subconscious and can pick up on small and subtle body languages, changes in the wind, or speech patterns. When something is happening, she's often a step away with her eyes simply taking in the scene or audio. If the time comes, she'll get a ticklish/tingling feeling in her shoulders. It's not a good feeling..
Optimism
  • Being so worried all the time used to bring Pene massive amounts of stress; so much that she would socially shut down and ghost through the rest of the day's events. When she entered high-school she had to learn the skill of being grossly Optimistic. "Everything's fine! Everything's fine!" Dad knows how to drive in the rain.. he's been doing it for 40 years..!

So begins...

Pene Michaels's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Pene Michaels
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Bing. Bong.. Next Stop 112th s treet..

Throats cleared, feet shuffled, "Excuse me.."s were murmured. Brief cases were picked up, Bodies slid past one another, butts planted into thinly cushioned seats, and after there was the low buzz of music slipping out of headphones. A comfortable silence that was disturbed by the hum of the train station.

Please stand clear of the closing doors please.. Bing. Bong..

Doors slid closed moments before the train whirred and lurched forward into a crawl that gradually increased into a smooth run.

In the middle, of the front end, of the 18th train car was a pair of double back to back seats. A girl with smooth caramel colored skin and dark hair that was pulled into a bulb of bouncy and hydrated curls, looked up at the LED sign that smoothly displayed the upcoming destination. Her bronze eyes watched the words enter from the left side, slide across, and disappear to the right on a loop. She watched it rotate about 3 times before she puffed her cheeks and let out a soft and silent wind of air through her lips.

Pene Michaels was on her way to Central Park for her "every-other-day-routine". Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. It was a routine that her mother, her job, and her close friends applauded. The people of New York City didn't enjoy it so much, but it brought her a peace of mind and comfort. Sitting up from her slouched over position, she hugged the big black bag that was sitting in her lap. The item was about the size of her torso and seemed to contain something that filled it completely. Not only did she hug it a little closer to give her tired shoulder a bit of work, but she hugged it because the people of New York were greedy and slick. A big bag like hers looked like a million dollars and she looked like a naive investor.
A few minutes went by and Pene allowed herself to close her eyes while sitting in her seat. The train made her slim figure sway and shudder as it navigated the quickly deteriorating tunnels. There was a new delay everyday. If only she weren't so afraid to ride a bike in the city...

Bing. Bong.. Arriving at 112th street..

Pene sat up and gently fixed her t-shirt; which was crinkled from hugging her bag for 40 minutes. The shirt was plain except for a gold, rounded tip star that was smack in the middle. The way the star was designed was familiar to millions and earned her a lot of smiles, thumbs up, or kind pointed fingers. It was the star that represented the hit Cartoon show, "Steven Universe". Somehow, while traversing the fan pages, she'd discovered a link to ordering white versions of Steven's t-shirt. It was a lucky find and her favorite shirt. Coupled with this was burgundy converse and a pair of baby blue jeans, a little faded at the joints, with thin rips on the thighs. After another minute of sitting, Pene Michaels stands up while carefully sliding her bag onto her shoulders by the straps and adjusting the pulleys to her liking. Many others rise after her in anticipation of their stop. 112th Street .

*****


"I swear that lady is going to have to get off of her phone because that coffee was way too fresh.." Pene mumbled to herself about the world's micro-micro-problems, a habit of hers to cope with her extreme and constant worried thoughts. Talking always made people feel less stressed. But no one was around so she mumbled it to herself. While shaking her head, her hands comfortably holding the tops of the bag straps, the sections closer to her shoulders, Pene finally ended her long walk from the busy train station to the significantly less populated Central Park.
She took a deep inhale and enjoyed the one source of clean air in the city. She closed her eyes. She relaxed. She relished in the fact that no one was around throwing frisbees, playing with dogs, riding bikes, or ripping and running around, or..-

"Okay. Pen." She suddenly broke her silence, a little curtly. She often had to stop her thoughts right where they were and out loud. Just thinking the words didn't do much because one could argue with themselves forever in their head. Starting up her walk again, but with a more relaxed stride, she made her way from the South-Western entrance and to a spot that was closer to the Middle-East entrance. Pene took off her backpack with a grateful sigh and found a patch of grass to set it down on while rolling her shoulders. She was in an open space with some shrubs and a few benches. She liked the spot a lot, and had taken it as her own on these special "every-other-day-routine"s. Out from her bag, Pene pulled out a set of bowls. They were massive in size but all the same, so they sat inside of each other. Relaxed, she took each one out and set it up a few paces away from herself. She then reached in her bag and pulled out the thing that was giving it so much shape.

A half filled bag of Cat Food.

With a small huff, she went to the two bowls and slowly, steadily, began pouring the food. She made sure it was slow so that each pellet hitting the metal item made that signature tingling sound. As she went about, she called. "Come now kitties! Psss Pssss! Come on Kittiiies! Pssss! Pssss!" she called again and again until her intended crowd started streaming towards her from every direction. They mewled, cried, and rubbed against her legs as they crowded the two bowls she was filling. Each halfway. Her crowd came in a myriad of cat colors. Grey, Orange, Brown, Blue, White, Black, Calico, Stripped, Patchy, Boots, Long hair, Fluffy tails. There were many and they were all settling down to eat.

Once Pene finished filling the bowls, she rolled up the bag of Cat Food and put it back into her backpack, it was significantly smaller. She then picked up the bag and retreated to a nearby bench, smiling to herself as she watched the hungry cats eat themselves silly. This is what she did every other day of the week at the same time everyday. It was what warmed her heart and made her comfortable. Tipping her head, she watched as more of her regulars came running along with their quick little cat feet and kindly slid into place where they could.

Pene humphed in content.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor
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#, as written by Linnea
Softly, gently. Summer sunsets filled the city with a warm glow. In the distance the ocean glimmered. Intoxicating smells of barbecues and bonfires swirled in everyone's minds. Tourists packed up their things and left the beaches. Traffic filled the streets and restaurants relished in new customers hungry from swimming and surfing. Such was the way of ocean towns. Summer brought promise of income. It was a time of new beginnings. Of joy and relaxation. For Angela Taylor, that would have to wait a while.

For the pretty blonde, summer meant cheer camp. One week of workouts, stunting, tumbling and bonding with her teammates. Hardly anything relaxing about that. The previous year, she had been so nervous that she had completely forgotten most of her socks. Thankfully it was Jessica to the rescue. Her best friend had packed extra just in case of such an event. Angela wasn't about to let that happen again. As much as she appreciated Jessica, Angela knew she couldn't rely on the brunette forever. She had to be able to take care of herself at some point. Here Angela was. Nineteen already and major still undeclared. It would be nice if things could just stay the way they were. If she could keep relying on her friend, just a little longer.

That's why this year's cheer camp was special. It was to take place in New York. Since many of the people on her cheer team had never been there before, many had decided to arrive early and spend a few days exploring the city. Jessica included. For all Angela knew, it could be their last vacation together.

Angela looked at the shadows cast by the setting sun. Her room was a mess. Clothes strewn about, shoes piled by her bed, makeup cluttering the vanity. Even her suitcase was bulging from all of its contents. By her window, the family dog dozed off on a mound of old t-shirts. Angela knew she had to clean up but the pent up excitement left her checking her social media accounts every few seconds to look for more details about the trip. As she browsed, Angela was interrupted.

“Angela! Have you finished packing yet?” A voice called out to her.

Angela turned around to see her mother walk into the room. Around her neck was a cloth tape measure. A few pins stuck into it. Angela still thought it odd, as she could easily recall the time when her mother was a proper businesswoman. Back when sewing and designing clothes was just a hobby.

“Yeah. I double checked everything, too, so I'm all good!” Angela grinned and got up.

“I hope you didn't forget to pack hair ties! It's going to be hot in New York." Her mother said.

“Well duh. I make everything hot.” Angela flipped her hair and posed. She fluttered her long eyelashes, but not enough so that her bright blue eyes were left unseen for too long. Her free hand rested on her jutting out hip and she managed to make a kissing sound before going into a giggle fit.

“Don't I know it! I wonder where you get it from...” Her mother ran her fingers through her own hair and laughed. “Be safe, hun. I know you can protect yourself but I do worry.”

“I'll be fine. It's like, the jet lag will be the worst. Besides, I've got Jess and the gals! If we can throw each other in the air, I’m sure we can get rid of some muggers or whatever!”

“Alright, alright. I just wanted to make sure. You'd better get some sleep soon. It's going to be a long trip. Sammy! Come on, baby!” Angela's mother whistled and the golden lab got up. He yawned wide and quickly paced over to her. The two left and Angela stared out her window. Would the sunset be different in New York?

As it turned out, the sunset was a little different in New York. Angela couldn't put her finger on it but it had it's own flavor. It was a little scary for something as ever present and reliable as a sunset to change so easily. After a long flight and a busy hotel check in, Angela had really hoped for the sunset filling the crowded hotel room to be more familiar. As she gazed out the window at a sky lit only by buildings she felt a strange sense of loss.

The next day, it was just as hot as expected. Angela was grateful she had decided to go with her denim shorts instead of her jeans. Not only did they show off her long toned legs, but they went well with her cute white blouse and beige sandals. Thank god she sealed her makeup, because otherwise she would worry the sweat would melt it off. As for the topaz pendant, that went without saying. She wore it wherever and whenever she could. Though it had to remain off for cheer practice it was a constant in every other part of her life. It changed many times over the years, adorning whatever it could attach to. Necklace chains were frequent, but Angela had decided on using a choker for now.

The girls toured the city excitedly at first, sticking together like a flock of birds. Photos were taken and uploaded online. As morning turned to afternoon they began to split apart to each do their own thing. Angela was no different. She loved being in a group, sure. In fact, she felt most comfortable when she was around others. There were certain times, though, when she had to be on her own. The moment she saw that odd little shop with crystals and incense decorating the window display she knew she had to go alone.

Angela wasn't keen on letting others know about her interest in the occult. Though she had many occult related objects she kept them hidden from friends and family alike. The only time she would ever bring up the subject was during Halloween or a party that needed a bit of extra spooky fun. Around others, she treated the subject like haunted mazes or horror movies. Just a bit of excitement and scares. When she was alone, though, she was far more serious. Her tarot deck was worn out from use and her Ouija board was a beloved object. She kept scented candles on her dresser and books on the occult stuffed away in her closet. Though she was interested in the occult in general, it was the paranormal that Angela focused on. She lost count of how many ghost hunting shows she'd watched.

Angela looked around the little shop curiously. It looked cheap but smelled fantastic. She guessed that it would be around much longer. The nice smells of the incense didn't make up for the obvious fact that this wasn't a shop that appealed to many people. Occult stores were often like that. They would appear one day and disappear the next. The variety of odd items fascinating Angela. Before she knew it, it was already getting late. Quickly, she purchased a small tarot deck that fit neatly into her purse. She didn't really need another deck, but this one was so tiny and cute that she just couldn't help herself. The clerk thanked her and she was on her way.

Another sunset. Angela took a quick picture of it with her phone before focusing on the map in her other hand. The girls were supposed to meet up in Central Park. No one wanted to be alone at night. That, and no one wanted to miss out on the chance to see the sun set there. Angela texted her location to them. It seemed like an alright enough place to meet.

Suddenly, a tiny bit of pain. Map in hand, she gently touched her topaz pendant. It emanated some sort of heat. Did the sun warm it up? Angela wrinkled her nose. She wasn't about to take it off just because it stung a little. Besides, she'd faced far worse injuries.

She sat down on a nearby bench and took a couple pictures of the scenes unfolding before her. A gathering of cats, a girl in a tree. Was this normal for New York? Angela sent the pictures to her group chat in the meantime. It'd be a little while before they showed up. She would have taken a picture of the girl filming herself, but she was fairly certain that that woman was famous somewhere. She did look familiar, and Angela didn't want to get sued.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor
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The whole earth had been swallowed fully.

Well, Xabier felt it, so it had to be true. There were so many uncertainties in the world, yet one thing felt absolutely certain - that a person could be in one of the highest populated places on Earth, and yet feel so utterly alone.

All around him were the shadows of millions of bodies passing him by.

It was quite hot out. 30 degrees? 35? He couldn't tell. The sweat had started to form on his forehead.

His phone started to ring in his pocket. He had bought a cheap disposable, drug dealer mobile as soon as he knew he was going to the U.S.
There was no point of spending a fortune on phone bills as he had planned to be going home after a few weeks along with - well, it didn't really matter now, did it?

He plopped himself onto a bench. A couple of French tourists got up, disgruntled by his appearance.

He could hear them talking about him as they stood up.

He hadn't studied French at 17 for nothing.

The younger of the two girls were giggling, a reaction he was used to, but the elder girl didn't seem impressed.

He must look exactly how he felt.

(Like shit.)

Looking at the caller id, he pondered picking up.

Maybe she was calling to apologise. To tell him that she loved him after all.

….

He let it ring out.

The silence afterwards made him desperately want to redial the number.

And yet still, this empty, lonely feeling, sitting alone on a bench in Central Park, was ten times better than being anywhere near her right now.

"Il a l'air d'être ivre….. Mais si tu pense qu'il est mignon, demands lui son numéro."*

"Ah non~ Je suis trop nerveuse.."

He sighed aloud. "J'en ai ral le cul."

"Tu me gonfles, dégage!"

The one who had made eyes at him looking shocked and then hurt. She had wide eyes and was decent looking. His mate Paolo would've been all over her. He felt suddenly ashamed.
He was acting like a total d***head.

The shame didn't last too long when he felt a splash hit him.

The older girl had emptied the contents of her water bottle over his head. The plastic bottle hitting his feet.

"Va te faire foutre, connard!" She spat, grabbing her friend/sister and walking away.

He thought three things:

1. At least he had cooled down a little. Blessing in disguise.
2. She had thrown her bottle at him so technically she was the bad person in this situation.
3. He had proved to himself why he had to be alone.

He really needed a drink.

He heard a deep chuckle beside him. Some hobo had plopped down on the ground beside the bench.

"Tough luck, hombre. They may look it, but chicks aren't that easy nowadays."

Xabier just looked at him, biting back his tongue.

"I dunno man, for me it seems like the opposite." He said, switching into Spanish.

The man just kept laughing and then took a swig out of his flask. Xabier got off the bench and sat with him.

"If you scrubbed up a little, you might get some… or maybe not…" The homeless man looked him up and down. "Me, however, I get ALL the ladies. Here have a drink, you look like you need one."

Xabier accepted the drink, fully aware that he might catch some disease or get aids or something. Still, he hadn't drunk in what seemed like months.

It took several more swigs until he had started just completely revealing his story to this homeless man.

---------------------------------------------------------------

"Sometimes absence makes people forget what's important, she'll come around."

Xabier just stared at the lake, his hands gripping his phone.

Afterwards, the homeless man started to tell him his own story. His name was Miguel and he had been screwed over when his wife got ill and he went into deep debt paying for her medication. It turned out that since the crash, he had lost all of his savings and ended up on the streets after his wife died and the banks took his house.

Listening to him made Xabier sober up immediately.
As dreadful as he had been feeling, Miguel's story had made him feel less pathetic by a little.

"I am sorry, man." He took another swig and passed the nearly empty container back to Miguel.

Miguel took it off of him and a soft smile graced his face and for one short moment, he saw the person behind the dirty clothes and dishevelled appearance.

"At least I'm good with the ladies, my man."

They both laughed at this and Xabier took out some sandwiches from his bag.
They were all mushed and warm, but neither of them was exactly in the place to complain. Miguel ate both of them while Xabier drank the remnants of the booze.



Across the way, he could see a girl hanging by her leg in a tree...

Okay, he was a little drunk, and it didn't help that he had gone to a pub before arriving in Central Park.

He was tempted to go over to help her, but he saw some chick feeding a ton of cats right near her.

Disgusting, he thought, there was no way in hell that he was going over to fight those cats for some random person.

That cat lady could help her. Or that blonde chick on her phone.

He was somehow still brimming with anger, but it had simmered down a little. The booze had settled him down. He didn't need it, but he liked it.

All was good…. Well, as good as it could be with some chick recording him and Miguel.

...tan hermosa! So, no more walking for us but check these two out, I guess they're comfy there?"

"Qué chingados!" Miguel spat.

Xabier recognised her in the dim of his hazy mind. That chick was famous with the girls back home. Most girls followed her (and the likes of her) on their social media and tried to be like her.

He was going to ignore her when he remembered something.

Val might be watching… and he was drunk...

The thought spiked his brain with steroids.

"OY! Stop recording us!" His anger had flared up again, getting up and walking straight towards her.

He had to stop her recording him.




*translated as following;

Girl 1: "He looks like a drunk, but if you think he is cute, ask for his number."
Girl 2: "Ah no, I'm too nervous."
Xabier: "I'm so f***ing fed up. You are pissing me off, get lost!"
Girl 1 throws drink at him.
Girl 1: "Go f*** yourself, asshole"

Pardon the french lol

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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Roisín O'Connor

"Eeuugh"

That was almost a word. The hangover, it seemed, was getting better.

Roisín O’Connor contemplated life as she lay face down in what she prayed was her own bed. Her head was trying to burst, her stomach seemed to be brewing fresh vomit and her tongue felt at least two or three sizes bigger than it should have been. And her face felt warm and heavy.

"Bleeeaagrh..." she muttered, in an almost conversational tone to the mattress. Despite her current condition, Roisín smiled mentally. She knew today would be a good day. After all, three facts lay firmly in her throbbing mind. Firstly her innate defenses against ethanol had not only allowed her to win the drinking contest, but were quickly working away, getting the alcohol out of her system. Secondly, she had finally figured out the subway system as evidenced by her getting home (she hoped). New city, new venture, new opportunities for stories. After all wasn’t New York supposed to be the city of dreams? Such things were always too good to be true, but Roisín was always drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Finally, and of all things, most importantly, she had avoided paying for any of the many, many drinks she had consumed the night previously.

Rosín inhaled deeply and instantly regretted it as her stomach protested. The duvet-filled stench of whiskey lay heavy in the air, mixed with the sharp tang of vomit and at the very least, four other unpleasant smells which she did not want to identify. Steeling herself, she cracked one eye open. Then, puzzled, the other. She wondered stoically if this time she had actually, literally drunk herself blind. Her vision was... beige. Slowly, realisation dawned upon her and she reached toward her face and removed the covers that were stuck to her sweaty face.

MISTAKE! Daylight flooded intrusively into her milky green eyes and spurned to sudden action, she rolled and threw her arm up to shield herself from the sun. "Christ!” She hissed, and pushed herself into a sitting position. Glancing around, it did seem thankfully, that she had made it back to her Air BnB apartment, alone, and by all that was good she had remember to plug her phone in last night/this morning. Reaching for her phone she had several snapchats from friends all around the world and from home. It was the one’s from home that she watched over and over until her body felt ready to move. Pulling off last night’s jumpsuit Roisín very ungracefully crawled to the bathroom and tumbled into the shower.

As she sat under running water Roisín decided that it would be a waste to let the day go on without seeing at least one of New York’s famous attractions. Though the thought of being in a big city or subway with people pressed up against her right now made her gag involuntarily and she wanted to be somewhere green. Central Park, wasn’t that supposed to be close by? Drying herself off and putting on her jeans, green tank top and a light white cardigan, Roisín googled the direction to the park. With luck it was only a 15min walk away.

With that Roisín pulled on her runners, plaited her wet hair threw her backpack over her shoulder and made her way to the park, pausing only to dip into a coffee shop to buy a hot chocolate and again to vomit, almost daintily into an alley way, and to readjust her ruby bracelet to over her cardigan and off her skin as it seemed to have absorbed some of the sun’s heat. Before long she found herself amongst the grass, sure the place wasn’t as grand as Dublin’s Phoenix Park, but it could serve as a home away from home for now. What she did love instantly was the variety of people who were walking around, people were sitting in trees, homeless men ate sandwiches, animals were being fed. Her mind began to fill with possible stories for all of them as she sat cross legged onto the grass and pulled out a notebook and pen and began to furiously write. She hadn’t even finished a page when she heard:

"OY! Stop recording us!"

Roisín’s head snapped up as she saw a rather dishevelled looking man marching towards the girl with her phone. The man, in Roisín’s eyes looked a little crazed, were these the crazy Americans her mother had warned her about? She wasn’t about to go tackle the man but she did pull out her phone ready to phone the Gardaí - urgh what was their name over here?- That’s right, ready to get the cops. “Hey mate! Calm the hell down!” she shouted toward him but keeping her distance, phone ready in hand to press call.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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“I have to be somewhere near camp right?” The young woman pondered. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sight of a blurry streak of black zipping across the green grass. Turning towards the disturbance, she realized that it was a black cat, bowing at the feet of a woman surrounded by many other cats. Like… a lot of cats. Tallyho didn’t hate them or anything, but the abnormal amount of felines in the area was cause for feeling just a little unsettled. But not to worry, her concern was validated completely when the screaming started.

"OY! Stop recording us!"
“Calm the hell down!”


Tallyho sunk further into her seat on the tree as an angry man began trudging toward a woman who wasn’t wearing many clothes and seemed to be talking, not to another person, but to a shiny rectangular slab. A third woman began to shout in the distance, lifting her slab up to the man as a threat. Tallyho didn’t know what these things were, but from the looks of it she was unarmed. Eager to leave, she began to scoot out of the tree, ready to take a little fall if that meant getting away from… whatever those weapons were.

"Never seen New York?"

Startled, the blonde paused instantly. And with a furrowed brow she turned her head slowly toward the voice, eventually meeting the eyes of a man with a stained jacket and an unknown beverage. New York? Where was that? What was that? The worry that she had cynically suppressed earlier was beginning to flare up. She knew the continent of Solace very well and she’d never heard of New York. What if she was on another continent? She hadn’t gotten a chance to respond before the man offered to help her out of the tree.

Tallyho appraised him. She wasn’t going to lie, he did look a little weasely, like he would con her out of a first born child, and as a Sun person she knew a con man when she saw one. But when she looked back up at the screaming trio, the fifteen hundred cats in the background and then back at him, she decided that she could spare any future offspring tomorrow if she was going to be awarded an opportunity to get back home today.

“Yeah,” she said crisply, her eyes trained on the chaos behind him. Again she was about to commit, but then a girl, one who Tallyho noticed had flashed her slab at her earlier, also approached the tree. Tallyho looked her over once, checking to see if she had that… that thing that was in her hand put away. Once Tallyho felt that it was all clear, she glanced back at the group yelling, hoping that they wouldn’t come over. “Just… Get me away from all of that.” She mumbled to herself, probably loud enough for the two to hear her if they listened closely enough. If they didn’t, well they might have been in for a surprise because she didn’t waste any time thrusting herself off the edge, half-way hoping that someone would help her break the fall.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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It is common knowledge that Hales is an unforgiving country of ice and silence. Any Airesian boy and girl could tell you that. Nothing grows there, the people are as cold as their homeland, and their cities are fortresses made of iron that no one may enter or leave without permission from the leader of the military.

All of this has been an irrefutable truth ever since Callum the Wanderer, one of Aires’ greatest historians, had written an account of his visit to Hales, beginning with the enchanting line, “Hales is a country of night, as dark and cold and inhospitable as the ice that threatens to consume it.” Poetic, foreboding, and, above all else, fictional.

Callum had never actually visited Hales. He’d refused to go past the border after slipping on a patch of ice and bruising his rump, so he had instead relied on the irate grumblings of some ex-patriots from Hales to cobble together the image of the country that most Airesians imagine today.

This opinion of Hales was, frankly, unfair. The first settlers of Hales hadn’t been idiots. Perhaps a little crazy, but not idiots. Beyond the frigid tundra at its borders, beyond the foreboding icy slopes that foreign poets so love for their apparent symbolism, there is green, however little, for the rural inhabitants to grow what they can and raise the sturdy, robust cattle and other animals that make up a good portion of the Hales diet. Beyond those areas are the cities of Hales, thriving places full of oil, machinery, and, alright, a little iron. Each place is alive with the sounds of people, of crackling fire fighting off the bitter chill, of machinery whirring, and of factories belching.

Don’t misunderstand, however. A good portion of Hales is quite icy and silent.

“This is bullshit.”

At least whenever there are no people the ruin it.
Consider this last bastion of humanity, an old stone outpost far from the nearest city and even a good trek away from the nearest farm. Here ice and rocks are starting to intermingle to suggest the beginning of dramatic and icy slopes that rose further in the distance, and a thick, packed layer of snow covers the ground. It was a dark and bitterly cold night, dark clouds hanging overhead blocking the moon and stars’ attempts to cast their feeble glow. The only light came from the outpost, firelight flickering through small cracks around the door and windows.

Inside the outpost were four men, three lounging around the fire pit at the center of the room, swigging a jug of Hales’ notorious Pyre Water*.

*Pyre Water is made from the root of the Pyre plant, which, surprising absolutely nobody, was as spicy as the name suggested. A normal person could perhaps take a shot of it before running off to fill their mouth with snow, but the people of Hales were a bit heartier than that. Either that or they’d built up a sort of evolutionary resistance against it over the years. Regardless, they swigged where others would have screamed “Oh, Goddess, it tastes like burning!”

“Absolute bullshit,” one man continued. His name was Yuri, and he was the youngest in the group, still scrawny and knobby-kneed but with a big mouth to compensate. Yuri wrapped a thick woolen blanket around himself, taking another swig. “Why in the name of the Goddess were we the ones that got suckered into this wild goose chase?”

“Not suckered into. Ordered,” corrected another man as he took the jug from Yuri’s hands. His name was Gregory, a lazy but affable man who had reached as far in the ranks of Hales’ military as he cared to. “And who knows? Maybe there’s some truth to it after all.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?” Yuri scoffed.

“Maybe not, but I do know there’s a lot worse things we could be doing than drinking around a fire,” said Gregory with a warm laugh.

“It’s not the worst outpost I’ve ever slept in, anyways. Even the wind’s stopped blowing through the cracks since we’ve gotten here. It’s almost cozy.”

“You have Steinsson to thank for that,” said Ivan, the third man in the circle and by far the oldest in the group. He stroked his gray, unkempt beard and nodded to the last man in the room who was currently hunched over like a gargoyle, staring steadily out of the room’s only windows. He hadn’t moved in at least an hour. “I’ve heard the wind always seems to cooperate when he’s here. It’s probably too scared to show up.” The three men’s laughter petered off as soon as it began when they became aware that Steinsson was not, in fact, staring out the window anymore. He was gazing directly at them, gray eyes as cold as the night air.

“What did you say?”

The words weren’t necessarily a threat, but his deep, raspy voice and the sharp, serious look that was permanently settled on his face certainly seemed to imply one.

The three men tensed. None of them had worked with Dorian Steinsson before, and, if they were honest, it had never exactly been on their bucket lists. Even among other soldiers he had a certain notoriety, known for his ruthless efficiency and extreme dedication to his homeland. It didn’t help that he gave off the same vibes as a wolf on the prowl, all lean and hungry for his next prey.

“Nothing, Steinsson. Sorry. Just joking around,” Ivan quickly amended before the three men hastily turned back to their conversation and, more importantly, their jug of Pyre Water. Yuri glanced at Steinsson out of the corner of his eye and shivered. He looked even angrier than before. Had he heard them? What on Aires could he be thinking?

What Dorian was thinking was that, honestly, he felt a bit left out. It seemed like he was always missing out on something, and no one ever seemed inclined to fill him in. Maybe it was just one of those things that you had to hear the first time, or maybe it had been a dirty joke that they’d been too embarrassed to repeat. That would at least explain the discomfort on their faces.

He sat up slowly, straightening out as he worked out a kink threatening to develop in his neck. Usually he could hold position better, but this was his third consecutive week of field assignments, camped out in the boonies day and night with only the other soldiers on assignment with him changing. He would say that the sights changed too as he moved from camp to camp, outpost to outpost, but if you’ve seen one snowy desert or icy hill, you’ve seen them all.

One could always tell just how long Dorian had been out on assignment from the beard developing on his usually clean-shaven face and the way that his black hair had begun to outgrow the military cut it was usually shaped into. He looked a bit wild, but out here there was no one to impress and, more importantly, a severe lack of mirrors.

Dorian’s gaze flickered back to the window for a moment. It was an unusually dark night, and even with the help of the flickering fire inside he could barely see four feet in front of the outpost. That didn’t stop him from remaining in position, however, although he allowed his mind to wander towards the conversation that had picked up again among his team members.

“I’m not sure what could cause all that damage,” Gregory said, leaning back on the floor. “Did you hear about the bodies? Absolutely disgusting.”

“It was a bear, probably. Or a wolf. Maybe a pack of them,” said Ivan, finally taking his own pull from the jug. “Probably starving and desperate. People are just getting spooked. Things like that happen this time of year. It’s because the nights are so long. It’s easier to believe in scary stories when it stays so dark.”

“What was that scream they talked about, then?” Gregory asked, more out of amusement than any desire to start a real argument. “They said it was still ringing in their ears a day later, you know.”

“Definitely not a fucking Cyclopean,” Yuri grumbled. “But what can you expect from ass-backwards farmers? Most of them grew up with that fairytale bullshit. It’s rotted their brains. Makes them see and hear Month Warriors and monsters everywhere. Fucking embarrassing.”

Ivan glared at him. “My wife’s from a farming family, so I’d watch my mouth if I were you.”

“Well, if I were you, I’d-“ None of them ever found out what Yuri would do, although it did promise to be something quite creative given his penchant for artistically turning foul words even fouler, because a single sound rang out in the night.

The thing about sound out in Hales’ uninhabited region is that it wasn’t swallowed by the silence; it was amplified by it. Even a whispered conversation seemed to carry on for miles, and this noise was no whisper. It was a screech, blood-curdling and as painful to hear as nails scraping down a chalkboard. There was something primal at work here, forcing the men to drop to the floor and cover their ears instinctually as if it was the most natural reaction in the world, until the last of the scream had faded away into the night.

“What the fuck,” Yuri breathed, the first of the three around the fire to recover, as he shakily sat up, clutching at his heart. It was silent outside again, but this time uncomfortably so. They knew they weren’t alone.

“Should… Should we go check?” Gregory asked in a tremulous voice that clearly expressed what he’d prefer the answer to be.

“You want to go out and see whatever that was, be my guest. I…” Ivan trailed off. He couldn’t even bring himself to sit up, still huddled over and trying to calm his nerves.

A humming, electrical sound sparked in the room. The three men jerked around to see Dorian already slipping on his thick wool gloves and pulling on his hat, the light of his artificial torch (“Science, Dorian!” His uncle had exclaimed while presenting it, waving it around like a crazy person or, to an Earthling, like someone at a rave) slowly growing in strength as it warmed up.

“Steinsson, what in the name of the Goddess do you think you’re doing?” barked Ivan. He didn’t get up to stop him, however. “You want to go out there with whatever made that noise?”

“My mission is to take care of whatever that is,” Dorian said simply, pulling out his sword and picking up the torch with his other hand. It might have been wiser to wait for day, but who knows where it may have gotten to by then. He opened the door, and the wind suddenly began to pick up, biting and bitterly cold as it swept into the room, making the fire flicker.

“What if it’s… it’s not. I mean-” Yuri couldn’t bring himself to say it.

Dorian paused, considering for a moment.

“I’ll kill it,” He said firmly and shut the door behind him. No one moved to stop him.

~*~*~*~*~


Even bundled up as he was in the thick gray, fur-trimmed uniform of the Hales military, the frigid night air managed to seep into Dorian’s bones, nipping at the exposed flesh of his face. He ignored it as best he could, hunching his shoulders against the wind as he followed the steadily growing beam of his torch in the direction the scream had come from. The way the snow crunched underneath his boots and the noisy hum of the torch did wonders to stave off the eerie silence.

Dorian was scared. Of course he was. If you’d asked him, he would have easily admitted it. It was the most natural thing in the world to be scared right now. Fortunately for Hales and unfortunately for Dorian’s own well-being, fear had never been much of a deterrent for him. There were worse things than being scared to Dorian, like disobeying direct orders.

Whatever this thing was, it had been terrorizing small farming communities on the edges of the Hales Empire, which, as his commanding officer had assured him, could not and would not be tolerated. Dorian was inclined to agree. It was the duty of the Hales military to look after and protect its populace.

And maybe, just maybe, it was a bear. Well, a bear with a nightmarish voice, but Dorian could deal with bears and wolves. He had in the past. Those were simple, living creatures. You killed them if they tried to kill you. Just like people. Simple.

He was far from the encampment now, so far that the firelight dancing in the window was only barely visible, a soft, beckoning glow. He pressed onwards into the night.

What happened next occurred in less than a minute’s time. Something was suddenly behind him. Dorian could hear the quick steps skittering on the snow. That sound was his only warning before something was on his back, pushing him bodily down onto the snow and rocks beneath him. It was pure instinct that drove him to roll to the side as he fell, narrowly avoiding a long, sinister black claw longer than his own forearm that pierced the ground right where his head should have been.

Dorian never stopped moving, struggling to his feet and dodging to the side again as the creature reared up, screeching once more as the light of the torch finally encompassed it. Black scales glittered in the artificial light. The creature was at least two feet taller than him, but thin and dragon-like its features*. Its teeth were bared into a snarl, long fangs sharp and glistening with black saliva. It was a familiar face, the face he’d seen in nightmares as a child and in those morbid occult books his grandmother tried to insist were for children too. A Cyclopean.

*It should be noted that a Cyclopean actually more closely resembles a lizard. Dorian, however, has never been quite sure what a lizard was, even though he’d read about them in the Hales comedic classic “Callum the Wanderer”. Dragons, at least, he’d seen in paintings.

The creature lunged for him suddenly, and, in his haste to get out of the way, the torch slipped from Dorian’s hands, light fading with a sad little whine when it hit the snow until there was only darkness left behind. Dorian blinked rapidly, trying to let his eyes adjust as he scrambled backwards, away from the creature. The Cyclopean was so close now that he could see its glittering outline vividly even in the dark night, and with it came shadowy claws darting forward, talons grasping and slicing at its prey.
He gripped his sword with both hands and parried against the claws as well as he could. Sharp claws still managed to catch at him as the monster advanced, tearing clothing and finally catching his right arm, slicing into the flesh. His arm was burning, and Dorian could already feel the hot blood rising, soaking his sleeve.

It had never been in Dorian’s nature to give up. Well, maybe it had been once, but years in the military academy had beaten that trait out of him. His feet dug into the packed snow, and he swung his sword towards the Cyclopean’s side, putting all of his weight into the movement. The resulting clash sounded like a thick pane of glass breaking. The Cyclopean stumbled forward, alive but wounded. Dorian moved back, preparing his next move when quite suddenly he realized that there was no more Earth behind him.
It could have been a tunnel, a cave, or even an old spot where someone had once drilled for oil. Whatever it was, it had been covered only with snow until he took that step. He was falling backwards, and the Cyclopean was falling with him.

That was, according to Dorian when he would later recount this story, when things got weird. When asked why the Cyclopean wasn’t the weird part, he would simply tell you that he could handle something trying to kill him, even if that something was a fictional monster. Fighting something trying to kill you just made sense, after all.

The fall seemed to take an eternity, and the Cyclopean above him kept fading in and out of sight. One moment it was above him, the next somewhere to the side, and then just gone. It was letting out that blood-curdling scream, for all the world a wounded, frightened animal. He didn’t have time to worry about it, however, because the world around him was rapidly changing, starting with pure darkness, then a sea of stars glittering around him with strange, amorphous blobs moving in his peripheral, followed by a veritable kaleidoscope of bright colors and shapes. All the while, something was burning under his shirt, right where his aquamarine pendant should be. The heat was hot enough to blister skin, but it kept him present, kept him grounded as he continued to fall. Then he stopped.

It wasn’t that he hit the ground. There was no thud, no actual impact. He had simply stopped falling and could now feel something solid beneath him. It was soil, loose around him, surrounding him like a shallow grave. Dorian flailed for a moment before his sword thrust through the loose dirt above him, and he scrambled out of the earth, dragging himself out of the hole and crawling a short ways away. Dorian attempted to open his eyes as he staggered to his feet, but it was too bright. When had the sun risen? And, he realized as all of his senses started to come back online, why was it so hot?

He was broiling beneath his heavy layers, a humidity unlike anything he’d ever experienced weighing heavily on him. It was like the saunas dotted around Kora, only worse because there was no way normal weather should feel like this. He stopped for a moment, catching his breath, before hesitantly attempting to open his eyes one more. It still hurt, but he pushed through the initial bright flash and finally got a look at the world around him.

It was green. Vividly, painfully green with other dramatic and bright colors added in. He’d never seen plants so bright and so many trees with bare bases, not a needle in sight. There were people here too, but they looked so strange, their clothing something embarrassingly otherworldly, holding strange devices, yelling, and was that someone at the center of a herd of cats? And there, there on the horizon. What was that? It looked like a giant shiny metal tower, glittering and gleaming with glass and other metals woven in. There wasn’t just one, however. He could see more clearly now. The skyline was dominated by great metal towers.

Where in the Goddess’s name was he? The best case scenario was that he was dreaming. The worst case… Well, the worst case scenario was that the Cyclopean would suddenly appear behind him, climbing out of the same hole and bleeding black ooze everywhere from a wound on its left side, knock his sword from his hands while he was distracted, and then his sword would fly approximately fifteen feet from his person over towards a strange group of people around a tree.

This was, of course, exactly what happened.

Dorian let out a frustrated snarl and quickly pulled out his field knife from the confines of his coat. It wasn’t exactly what he’d prefer to use to fight a nine-foot nightmare realized, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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Pene Michaels Sat on her hands while she watched her colorful little babies feast and be kind to each-other. Week after week of shooing them away when they tried to hit or snap at one another taught that them violence meant no food and no food meant begging for scraps. In New York, stray cats begging for scraps didn't bode well. So in the end, being kind and sharing was their best bet.

While watching the felines, she shifted around to free her hands from under her butt and instead reached them up to gently rub her earlobes. Her earrings were warming up like mad! Making a face, one of confusion, Pene looked around to make sure she wasn't sitting in the sunlight. "Huh.." Then, just as she was sliding her gaze back over to her patrons, a commotion started a little ways across the grassy field between a woman in work-out clothes with long brown hair, and a man in plain looking clothes. The female was stepping back while the male advanced forward, his movements and voice agitated. Pene frowned at the sight, before frowning deeper and cringing as a third female joined the scene. "Oh New York.. Why can't your people be kind to one another..?" She mumbled to herself.

With a slow and disappointed shake of her head, Pene turned her gaze elsewhere, wondering what else was going on in Central Park along with hopes that the scene she'd just witnessed was an isolated incident and the negative vibes weren't spreading through the area. As she looked around, she had to do a double take at what looked to be a girl stuck in a tree, a man at the base of the tree who was dressed improperly for the day's weather, and then another female jogging over to help. Worriedly, she bit her lip and started to make a move to get up and head over to the trio. Hundreds of bad endings were flying through her head the longer she stared. And then she nearly jumped out of her skin as the girl in the tree executed a complete trust fall. "In the name of all that is heavenly!!!" Pene screeched as she abandoned her slow and cautious approach for a full run.

And just as she started to run, the tingling and tickling in her shoulders flared up. "Oh please be alright..!" She worried to herself as she tried to close the distance between her and the small group. But her shoulders were alerting her to a new danger. A danger that made her stomach drop upon seeing it and nearly made the heat coming from her earrings unbearable. In the middle of the open space, not too far from her, a man dressed like he came straight from an Eskimo village seemed to appear out of thin air and lying on his back. And before he could get up, some Xeno-morph looking fellow appeared behind him and immediately began going for the kill.
Pene's shoulders and earlobes were ablaze "Holy fucking salad dressing!!" She gasped, putting on an additional burst of speed. Now she wasn't just heading for the trio to check on them, she was running to them for safety in numbers. When she reached them, her eyes were wide and she wasn't afraid to stand close.

"One, what the hell is that!?!!" She jabbed her finger towards the Game of Thrones scene taking place
"And two, are you okay?!" She panted, looking down at The Girl from the Tree.
Pene then squat down before they could even begin to answer, almost hyperventilating "Holy shit so many things are happening right now.. Keep cool Pene.. Oh my god.." She put her hands over her face, quickly whispering to herself but harshly. With the way she was positioned and breathing, if she stood up too fast, she was going to make herself pass out.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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Roísin had felt very brave under normal circumstances.

Her phone felt like the ultimate weapon against the dishevelled angry man advancing towards the pretty woman who was filming. In fact, she could have described herself as one of the Fianna* themselves and probably would once she recounted the story of how she stood against a 7ft snarling drunk who had without cause attacked an innocent young girl, it was she Roísin O'Connor who had not flinched as she stood tall against the evils of New York! She felt the creep of a smile appear on her face as she imagined telling her tale to whoever was buying her drinks tonight.

The smirk didn't last long however, as she felt a sharp burn on her wrist and she looked down to see her ruby bracelet had burned a red mark into her skin. Forgetting all about the commotion in front of her in favour of current pain Roísin tugged at the clasp of the bracelet only managing to hurt her fingertips in the process. Grabbing the chain she attempted yanking the bracelet off her arm, but the trinket was too small to go over her hand. The damn thing wouldn't come off! Bloody American sun! It had never heated like this before. She cursed heavily her circumstance as she looked up to see if she could enquire for help when her eyes caught a rather stranger sight.

A man, heavily clothed and covered in dirt was standing looking rather puzzled around the park. Suddenly the heat on her arm didn't seem so bad when she thought of how hot he must be and how the hell was he managing to hold onto such a big sword? Roísin was about to make a quip when she saw a what she could only describe as a monstrous hand reach out of the loose soil beside him. Her mouth moved to shout at him but apparently she had reached her bravery quota for the day. Air escaped lungs not allowing her to form sounds as giant scaled thing emerged from the earth. She, for a brief second, entertained the idea that this was theatre, a prank, maybe a reality T.V show. However she couldn't seem to move. A sense of foreboding had cloaked itself over her. Was this what they meant when you were frozen in fear? RUN! she thought trying to catch her breath. Tar seemed to be oozing out of it's side as it looked at it's prey who seemed distracted by the sky.RUN! her mind screamed as the tall lizard brought it's clawed hand down and knocked the hefty sword away from it's game. Fear turned quickly into frustration as he pulled a much, much smaller knife from his clothing as she finally found her words.

Oh for God's sake! RUN YOU IDIOT!!! she roared. Roísin couldn't seem to take her own advice in spite of herself. Her feet seemed planted to the ground as she clutched her phone hard. All she could feel and hear was her heart pumping in her chest and the sense that maybe she'd been wrong about the day being a good one. Roísin had felt brave, but these were hardly normal circumstances.

*The Fianna are a band of warriors from Irish Myth.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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As he approached the girl, he noticed subconsciously that everyone near had become agitated.

Some red haired chick (probably Irish or Scottish) started yelling at him.

Xabier considered stopping. He understood that it wasn't the way to do things, but he was so sick and tired of doing everything the right way.

The right way got him nowhere.

The universe favours the confident and the outgoing, his mother had told him when he was younger.

So he was going to stop this spoiled little princess ruining any last chance he had with-

BANG

The whole world was upside down, or at least that's how he felt.

He must have been drugged.

That was the only thing that could explain the weirdness all around him.

First with the cat lady, the girl in the tree and a legit drug dealing looking dude.

Then with a famous chick recording him on the worst day of his life, and an annoying girl getting in his way.

Now with a warrior dude fighting a gigantic costumed monster....

The warrior had lost his sword and was standing there like a chicken in a cage ready to be made into dinner.

Xabier looked around him, ignoring the ginger's contributions, and wondered if he walked into some sort of intense, choreographed New York outdoor play.

That or he was totally tripping balls.

If the latter was true, maybe it meant that everything that had happened to him had all been a drug fuelled daydream.

Everything would be fine and she would call him.

Suddenly, as if on cue, his phone started to ring again.

Her caller id.

-Y si el viento hoy sopla a tu favor
Yo no te guardare rencor
-

Franco de Vita's voice crooned from the block phone.

Shit, he thought, she has seen the live-stream.

Snapping the smartphone out of the model's hand, he focused it on himself.

"Live stream is over for today." He spoke in Spanish into the camera lens and flashed one of his more charming smiles.
He wrapped an arm around the girl's shoulder, placed his head near hers and without looking at her expression he finished the livestream.
"Thanks for watching."

Once he was sure that it was over, he turned to the girl, quickly releasing her from his light grasp.

"See, that wasn't so hard."

-Claro que se perder
No sera la primera vez
-

Maybe it was the alcohol or the drugs or just the day itself, but Xabier felt a sudden and irresistible urge to throw the phone...

He was going to regret everything in the morning, he knew that for a fact.

So without a second thought, the smartphone was flying out of his grasp and hit the man in the scary creature costume.

It landed near its feet, bouncing off of its left thigh.

The creature turned its head and screeched an unearthly sound.

A real shiver of fear went down his back.

What. The. Fuck.

-Hoy te vas tu, mañana me iré yo
Seré un buen perdedor
-

Xabier focused in on the costume...
It looked too realistic and the level of fear of those around him had just hit him in full force.

What the hell did Miguel put in that drink?

Speaking of Miguel, the homeless man had stumbled off somewhere...

"Oh for God's sake! RUN YOU IDIOT!!!"
The ginger girl was screaming and she looked so frightened, Xabier just wanted her to stop yelling. It wasn't helping his head.

His other hand gripped his still ringing phone. His opal ring was burning into his hand.

He knew that he would probably soil himself from fear any second now.

And yet, he had a level of fool's courage in him. He was still so angry at everything and everyone, and yet, not angry at all. Tripping balls or not, Xabier wasn't going to let that thing hurt anyone.

The creature had turned back towards the strange warrior dude when the now empty flask made impact with its head.

Finally, he raised the ringing brick he called a phone. Xabier got ready to aim.

-El mundo no cambiara
Alguien sin duda hoy ocupe tu lugar.
-

The creature was now heading towards him and the two girls.

Grabbing the ginger girl with his free arm, he pushed her behind him and the impending attack and he looked at the instagram model with wide eyes. Get behind me too, he asked her with his eyes, forgive me for throwing your phone and run.

"Well, you two ladies should probably run right about now." He said and then to the creature, "OY! BESA MI CULO, PUTO!"






He was going to die today, as long as that thing went down with him.





 

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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The day kept getting stranger. First he helped out the gal stuck in a tree and then some mysterious stranger popped out of nowhere with a knife. While the knife itself did not make the situation strange, after all muggers in New York were as common as bees in a hive, it was how he was dressed. Ignoring the fact that it was too warm a day to wear anything heavier than a hoodie, the man looked like he had just got back from the Russian tundra. It also looked like something from Game of Thrones, like he on his way for a Night's Watch convention. However, it was nothing a strange as what caught Ron's eye a moment afterwards.

What stood near the man was a large creature, resembling what could only be described as a monster from some old movie. It was devoid of all humanistic features, even a face that could show the slightest bit of humanity. It was covered in small, black scales that looked dull and invested in parasites. To top it all off, the claws and teeth looked like something out of a nightmare. As it began to attack others around the park, he realized that there was no reason for unarmed people to be harmed. He then pulled out his pistol from his jacket.

With the creature now staring at them, Ron aimed his pistol and shot it in the chest. While it screamed out in pain, to his surprise it did not drop. So he darted away from the girls 10 feet away and unloaded two more rounds into the creature. It howled as the shots landed, yet he could not tell if it was damaged or not as it was all but alien to him. It made a full on charge at him, swinging it's claws at his head. While Rod dodged the claw, he did not notice the tail that slashed at him the second afterward, leaving a gash in his side. As Ron fell on the ground he shot at the creature's knees, hopefully crippling it. At that moment all he could feel was his gash, dire fear, and a strange burning on his ring finger.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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The fall to the ground was quick and a little awkward—she could tell by the look on the face of the girl who had broken half of her fall. As Tallyho gathered her bearings and looked toward the two strangers to offer them a brief thank you, another voice, loud and frantic, rang out.

“Holy fucking salad dressing!” A woman with dark curls came bounding toward their group, easing dangerously close to knocking into them. Tallyho recognized her as the cat woman and she didn’t seem particularly OK. In fact, it was amusing that when the woman was asking Tallyho if she was OK, she herself looked like she could pass out any second. Tallyho didn’t have much time to respond when she heard a dull and heavy thud nearby. Her gaze met a well-hammered sword, sharp, intricate and highly reflective. It obviously belonged to somebody who was a somebody.

”RUN YOU IDIOT!!!”

Tallyho glanced up to see who she assumed to be the sword’s owner, pursed and ready for battle. If you asked her, he was the most normally dressed individual in this area if you discounted the fact that he was a bit off-season. He looked strong and a little intense…What kind of warrior was able to disarm him so effectively? It was only after she heard a blood curdling screech that she actually saw it.

This was something out of her Baba’s sickest bedtime stories, a legend that most people mocked by the time they were old enough to ride horses by themselves. A figure whose likeness she shuddered at in picture books. The creature who stole her way in fever dreams. And now it was here in the flesh, ready to rip her apart like a tender piece of chicken. Tallyho felt the ringing in her ears as she searched her brain for some piece of logic that could debunk this experience. Surely this was a dream? When would she wake up?

A loud boom rang in the air. It felt like Tallyho’s left ear had exploded. Gasping in shock, she buckled down into the grass with her hands covering her ears. From the ground she watched in horror as the man who had helped her out of the tree began pointing a foreign object in the direction of the cyclopean, producing the same loud pop that startled her so. As he moved farther away, Tallyho had time to, once again, gather her bearings and probe her brain for everything she had ever learned at bed time—any piece of information that could kill this cross-cultural boogeyman. Besides, nothing anyone did seemed to have much of an impact.

The ringing in her ears continued and the sounds became more distant. She quickly dipped her head between her knees, hoping to delay what was on track to become a full-fledged fainting spell. She peeked out from behind her waterfall of hair to see the other blonde picking up the warrior’s lost sword. Tallyho couldn’t hear her words too clearly but she seemed to be offering it back to him.

“The head,” Tallyho huffed under her breath, finally conjuring an end to this nightmare. She fought her way upright, throwing her head back in exhaustion. This whole situation was stressful and downright disrespectful. It had to stop.

“TAKE THE HEAD!” She called much louder, hoping the warrior would take the sword and then her advice. She rolled back over, holding back the impulse to pass out completely. Baba’s folk stories always ended with the head and then a pile of black jewels (onyx shards), that shimmered brightly in the place where the cyclopean once stood.

As she slipped further into her spell she hoped that she wouldn’t wake up dead, or at least that she would wake up soon enough to get the hell out of town.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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Yelling. Gunshots. Snarls and Roars. The feeling of pure fear in the air.

It was complete chaos! If the scene were set in a village and everyone in the park were villagers, Pene was so sure that they'd all be running and screaming with their arms waving through the air about now.

Earlier, Pene had run over to the group of three and had immediately continued freaking out, as she had started on her sprint over already.

Now she was slowly standing up because if she continued to hyperventilate while bent over like she was then she would pass out at the first quick movement. Passing out in a situation like this could mean her death and Pene was very keen on surviving. As she stood up, she had to take very slow breaths and force herself to look around and assess what was going on and what would be the best course of action.

What she saw had her almost freaking out again while her shoulders were driving her mad with the tingling running through them.
Everyone was being a bloody daredevil.

One guy threw a phone.
The man, who was standing beside them just a second ago, was shooting!
And some stupid girl was standing there and kindly calling to the overdressed warrior and trying to hand him his sword back.

Pene grabbed her hair and made a sound of distress. This was nothing like the movies. Usually when New Yorkers were attacked by monsters no one even had to mention the idea of running and trampling anything that tried to stop them. The one thing that brought her a bit of relief was seeing that girl with the long hair book it and vault over a nearby fence and out of sight. She fanned her heated face "Oh thank god. At least someone's thinking..!" She said to herself while turning and looking for someone that was out of danger and would be easiest to convince to run.

The person she found was the girl from the tree. She wasn't screaming, shooting, throwing things, or standing there and calling to the monster to come and eat her. In fact, she looked just as freaked out as Pene felt. So, Pene reached out, took her hand whether she would like it or not and looked into her eyes. "We have to hide okay? Running from predators like that only makes them target you so we have to hide..!" She implored the girl to understand and even started to move in a direction that would lead them away from the scene. Pene wanted to get out of here and she wanted to get out fast. She was even thinking about following that girl from earlier so that they could hide wherever she was.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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If Dorian had been concerned about fighting a legendary monster with just a basic knife (which, as a relatively sensible person who was already injured, he absolutely was), there was some modicum of relief for him within the following four minutes. People were screaming the moment the Cyclopean arrived, something Dorian could hardly fault them for after a moment of adjusting to their language. The words were mostly in Common, stained with accents he couldn't quite put his finger on (not surprising given that his encounters with foreigners were few and far between, even in Kora. Those that he'd actually interacted with were more keen to practice their own grasp of his language than to let him practice theirs, as was the way of foreign diplomats eager to impress), and he was momentarily grateful for his mother's insistence on teaching him more than just the language of Hales. Well, grateful until he realized the initial gems of knowledge being throw his way were simply to run.

That was all well and good for them, Dorian supposed, but turning your back on a nine-foot nightmare that seemed relatively eager to rip out your spine simply wasn't in the cards for this soldier. He dropped into a more appropriate defensive stance, adjusting his grip on his knife. No, there was no running away. The name of the game was survival, and, as the Cyclopean lashed its tail feverishly from side-to-side and jerkily began to thrust forward a menacing claw already glistening scarlet with Dorian's blood, Dorian was reminded that one of the most important elements of survival was luck.

Take for instance the flying flask that thunked the Cyclopean solidly on the head as it began to advance. It hadn't hurt the creature, merely surprising it (and Dorian) as both man and beast turned to the man who'd thrown it, staggering with heroic, drunken bravado. He reminded Dorian a bit of the men who clogged the warm taverns of Hales after too much Pyre Water, eager to pick a fight and prove himself that night's King of the Drunks*.

*It should be noted that the King (and occasionally Queen) of the Drunks was an actual title in Hales. There was an appropriately silly crown and everything, customized for each tavern. Dorian's favorite had always been a simple band of iron with little spikes on top, making it both classy and dangerous is the King decided to start head butting people.

This was Dorian's chance, he realized, to go for his sword. He began to move without much hesitation, backpedalling towards the tree it had landed near, never taking his eyes off of the Cyclopean. It only took him a moment to regret that decision because a violent percussive force was suddenly whirling past his head towards the monster, a raucous explosion of sound even deafening the continued screams around him. He dropped to the ground more as instinct than as a conscious thought, rolling out of the way as he searched for the other threat.

It was a man near the tree, holding what Dorian was horrified to see was a smaller, shinier version of Hales' newest weapon, still a closely guarded secret even among its military. Dorian had seen it before as a distinct privilege, had held the hand cannon (a working title) in his grip, had felt the power in his hands as he tested it for his uncle, and that was the only thing he knew to compare it to. How in the Goddess' name did he have something like that? Was there a rat infesting the Hales' science division, selling out state secrets to wherever he was? Or perhaps it was an expatriate, working with the brightest minds in the rest of Aires to arm other countries with superior weapons.

Dorian didn't have much more time to have his patriotic crisis because the Cyclopean began loping towards the shooter, infuriated more than wounded by each shot. That, indeed, was odd, and, as Dorian army-crawled further on, he began to realize that mere wounds wouldn't finish off a creature like this. It was like an automaton, a being that would keep moving, keep fighting until it was no longer able, regardless of wounds and the odds against it*. What was he meant to do?

*When later recounting the moment, Dorian would feel an odd sort of kinship with the cyclopean at that description, which he decided to never dwell upon again because that was just depressing.

"TAKE THE HEAD!” The cry came loud and clear from a blonde girl curled into herself, trembling in what Dorian felt was a very sensible way for what was happening, even as another girl made to move her from her position. The head. That was right. That was the appropriate way to do it. It was always the head in his grandmother's stories, always the neck that needed to be chopped through to kill a Cyclopean quickly. There were other ways to do it, but this was the way of the human hero, not one of the glistening Month Warriors with their spectacular powers and weapons.

There was that luck again, personifying itself in blonde women today apparently as another girl, shaking in what he could only assume was adrenaline and terror, offered his sword to him.

"Hi, hey, um soldier boy! You, you uh, dropped this!" she stammered, and he was already moving towards her, lifting the sword from her hands in a sharp, controlled movement as he simultaneously tucked his knife away. There was no time to thank her or the other girl before he was facing the beast again as it bore down on the shooter only yards away. Its back was to Dorian, which, as many people and animals had learned over the years, was exactly the wrong place to be.

He was moving swiftly, unhindered by the familiar blade and the pumping adrenaline masking the ache of his arm. He could feel the necklace under his shirt pulsate with his heart beat, now warm and grounding instead of burning. He didn't bother to cry out when he moved (screaming at enemies was typically frowned upon in a sneak attack), instead swinging his sword with a quiet precision at the Cyclopean's neck. The first blow didn't cut through the scales completely, stopping halfway. The second nearly had it as the Cyclopean let out its last screech. The third, however, finished the job, the head toppling to the ground in a dramatic, but surprisingly clean fashion. There was no spurt of blood, no slow ooze from the stump of its neck as the body toppled over soon after. Instead, the body seemed to glisten in the sun, glitter like a thousand jewels before shattering into onyx shards.

Dorian stood above the mound for a moment, breathing hard and resisting the urge to smash through the stones again with his sword just for good measure. Instead he knelt down and grabbed a handful of them in a gloved hand. A good trophy, perhaps, or at least something to deliver back to Hales as evidence.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Mal Mayfair Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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Tallyho heard a soft echo in her ear, the voice of the young woman who looked so panicked before. She was grabbing Tallyho’s hand, tugging firmly to lead her away. The blonde offered a low grunt, thick and unladylike, as all the weight in her waif body seemed to sink to her hips, holding her heavy in the grass like a stone at the bottom of a river or like a paper weight.

“I can’t…” she slurred drearily. “I need water.”

Tallyho Abel had a very firm idea of what her threshold was for giving up, and sometimes it wasn’t very high. Finessing herself out of the tree was enough for the day, with this fainting spell coming up it didn’t look like running was in the books for her. Even as the girl tugged at her arm, she half way fought to keep put. If she ran in this condition, she’d only pass out and hold the girl back in a vulnerable space.

She was so out of it that she didn’t even get the satisfaction out of watching someone take her advice. She didn’t hear the curdling hack of the warrior’s sword in the cyclopean’s neck, or the tingle of small onyx shards raining on the width of his blade.

What she did notice was a soft rumble in the ground. She begrudgingly attempted to sit up again, hoping that the quaking she felt was a figment of her own nausea. And yet, there was a shake. She could tell by the way that the trees wavered and the leaves rustled. She let in a sharp breath, throwing one hand over to brush the other girl’s leg—a non-verbal gesture that essentially said, “Not today Satan,” if there were such a figure in Airesian lore.

She turned her eyes to the horizon, everything around them just seemed to keep going. The metal machines that roamed the roads continued to move, undisturbed by the disturbance under the earth. And the people that she could see far beyond the confines of this small corner of greenspace were the same way. But the trees—they were shaking.

And then there was a light, a growing dome that seemed to creep from between the tall buildings in the horizon, and toward the lawn where this slain creature lay scattered. It was slow at first, but as the blinding spectacle came closer it seemed to come faster, and the earthquake more intense. With the light came a fantastic gust of wind that licked back Tallyho’s hair in a sudden woosh.

Tallyho, if she wasn’t already dreaming, was going to die today. The wall of light wasn’t stopping. And as it hurdled toward her and the other girl, the wind felt increasingly suffocating. She always knew that if she was going to die young, it was going to be on her own terms. But now, she supposed, that she was too young to know everything. Blinded, she closed her eyes, held her breath, and let the wall of energy crash into her very being.


What came next was like experiencing death while still being very alive, at least from Tallyho’s perspective. It wasn’t that she was reviewing every memory that encompassed her life, or watching her body from high up, cursing herself to get up. It was a different kind of ethereal removal, a feeling that she was floating in the center of nothing and everything. She was floating in this nothingness for eternity, incubated and healed of all that ailed her only moments before. The dizziness, nausea, and heaviness in her heart was spooned from her body and spilled far away.

Another light flickered in the distance, but it was nothing like the frightening wall of energy that brought her here. It was warmer, sparser, like a single laser pointing to the center of the universe. It grew, but slowly.

Tallyho no longer felt like she was floating. Something cold pressed against her soles, and the pull of gravity felt gradually more apparent. Below her feet, a sprinkling of small white balls of light, almost like stars in a night sky, dotted a path running toward the light.

Beneath the transparent path of stars, a murky body of water was churning as if it wavered in a storm. And then she looked up, catching a glimpse of a flock of twelve large birds. They, glided above her gracefully, a mass exodus of white underbellies toward the warmth of the light. Their bellies were soft and round and their gentle coos rang throughout the space. Before her she saw the path of light. But what was behind her? She turned around to see a wide gaping vortex of blue and black.

And as if on cue, it was like the houselights came on in the theatre. It wasn’t that the darkness was gone, but gradually the blonde was able to make out the forms of the other people around her. There weren’t many, she actually recognized most of them: The girl who tried to help her, the warrior, and other blonde, the man with the loud machine, the fighting trio. And there were even a couple who Tallyho hadn’t really noticed before. She wondered if they saw all that she had seen and felt everything she felt. Could they see her as well as she could see them? The answers to all of these questions were more likely than not going to be yes. She took a step forward. Physically she felt great. It was like she never jumped out of the tree or was on the verge of throwing up. She wondered if those who had been wounded felt similar effects. She wondered if they also felt an inexplicable pressure to make a decision.

“I think,” she began, pausing briefly to behold the way that her voice reverberated throughout the space. “That I’m going to go that way...”

She pointed toward the softer light that was moving ever closer. That’s the direction in which the twelve birds flew and the warped vortex on the other end of the path didn’t seem particularly inviting. In any normal situation Tallyho would have questioned the logistics of such an experience. But something about this made her want to act based on her most primal instincts.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Mal Mayfair Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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Roísin O Connor


As panic took hold of Roísin’s body she could feel all her muscles lock with tension, her stomach revisiting that nauseous feeling from this morning, her vision blurry with hot tears, her lungs burning with the desire for more than the shallow breaths she was taking, her ears could only hear the distant shouts of others, a few loud bangs and her heart beating furiously in her chest. For a moment she felt as if her ribs would shatter and break. She was vaguely aware of a man stepping in front of her but she could not make out his face nor the words he said, her eyes were focused on the 9 ft tall creature only a few feet away from her. It screamed, she tried to scream but nothing would come out of her mouth. She could almost imagine how she looked, as people around moved quickly and decidedly as merely a frightened woman. Hunched over, paler than usual, with a white knuckle grip on her phone Roísin had heard of the fight or flight response before, in fact she spoke about it often when she described her heroes and their stories and had always thought that she would be a fighter-considering how many arguments she got into. But never did she expect that she would freeze.

The shattering of the creature broke the spell over her in the same why the monster broke into a hundred shining black pieces. Roísin was overcome with gratefulness that it was gone and fell to her knees and slowing she began to get her senses and emotions other than fear back. Though what also washed over her was shame and guilt that she had done little but be a screaming girl in the background. She cursed herself, having always loudly condemned female characters in stories that did nothing while a man saved them. And a mystery man to top it off, her eyes flickered to Dorian while she rubbed away her tears who was inspecting the onyx shards and her heart began to beat a little faster for her would be rescuer, it didn’t matter in that moment that the strangely clothed man had probable been trying to save himself, he had saved her by proxy. And Roísin was grateful. Reaching out with her right hand she grabbed one of the glittering pieces and stuffed it in her bag- no doubt when she calmed and told a story about this later she’d want some evidence it actually happened. She then became aware of a cramp in her left hand, where she still clung onto her phone. Needing some comfort of home Roísin dialled the number of her mother, not really caring what time it was back in Ireland.

“Dia duit mo ghrá” [Hello my love] her mother answered into the receiver.
Roísin almost started to cry once more, with relief she felt completely safe while listening to her mothers voice.
“Dia duit mo chroí” [Hello my heart] she replied. “Ní bheidh tú buille faoi thuairim cad a tharla sa lá atá inniu. A ollphéist agus fear...” [You’ll never guess what happened today. There was a monster and a man...].

Upon saying the words monster and man Roísin’s eyes looked at the pile of jewels and at Dorian who looked...bright? She trailed off from her mother as she squinted at the warrior man, it wasn’t he who bright but a brightness coming towards them, the ground beneath her started to quake as adrenaline and fear revisited her as quickly as they had come before.


“Buíochas le Dia! Uimh! Níl, níl mé ag iarraidh go bás.” [Oh my god! No! No, no I don’t want to die] she almost whispered into the speaker of the phone. It seemed like even if she ran it would do no good. She watched helplessly as she saw others collide with the dome of light. It would be her next. “Is breá liom tú” [I love you]. That was the last thing Roísin said to her mother and as she could hear her mother screaming her name the light came upon her in a rush and she was swept up in a hale of wind and then. Silence.

If death felt like this, this disconnection, this nothingness yet she could still feel her body but almost as if it was far away. Almost like the place between awake and sleeping when you know you are in a dream. It wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t so bad to be dead. After what seemed like an eternity and also seconds Roísin became aware of other around her. As she lay still on the floor she leaned to see a blonde girl already walking towards a very inviting path. Roísin wanted to follow this woman, her own body was light and calm, no longer filled with anxiety and last night’s bad decisions. As she got to her feet she heard a thud, her phone clamored to the ground. And as clear as day see could see the words “Máthair [mother] Disconnected."

Cold tears slid down Roísin's cheeks as she reached for the phone and stared at the screen. Her mind was telling her to walk away, to move towards the light but she found herself trying to call her mother back only to hear the long, lonely beeps of a connection not being able to get through. Her face scrunched up as she tried again, and again, silently sobbing a little harder with each failed attempt. "I...I can't get through ah, I, I can't get in touch with my mother" she said quietly, defeatedly, hoping that this was a dream.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yasmin De La Rosa Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Mal Mayfair Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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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: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Mal Mayfair Character Portrait: Willow Elaine Stryder Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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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: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Mal Mayfair Character Portrait: Willow Elaine Stryder Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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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: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Haru Sinwood Character Portrait: Ron Muller Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Mal Mayfair Character Portrait: Willow Elaine Stryder Character Portrait: Roisín O'Connor
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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

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Character Portrait: Pene Michaels
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Speech! Talking! A voice! No matter how rough.. But it was something to distract her frayed nerves!

When Dorian spoke to her, Pene faltered her step a little and flashed a hopeful yet tiny smile at him. Her shoulders relaxed slightly and she soaked up his words. His accent was incredibly thick, and the feeling of amusement from him struggling to find the words to talk came to her but was swiftly stored in the back of her mind while her fear and unneasiness dominated the forefront.

He was telling her to not be afraid. But urgency filled his voice and then he seemed to be trying to tell her to hurry along. Hugging herself, she paused her step to turn and look at him. He was uneasy too, and reading his eyes revealed to Pene that he truly wanted her to keep going. After staring at him for a few breaths she gave a short nod. Then she turned and started at a jog towards the light. The closer she drew to it, the more she hyperventilated. It was terrifying until she was tumbling through an almost calming void.

* * *


Pene sat in her chosen room, one that occupied the middle of the hall and seemed to be just as generic as the rest of them. She sat on the edge of a cot that was much less comfortable than what she was used to and gripped her new set of clothes in her hands. Her clothes were stained with grass and crop, the foot-ends of her jeans were wet, and her curls were spilling out of her, previously, neatly packed bun in some sort of crazed escape. Her eyes stared almost blankly, except for being widened with a bit of shock, at the wooden floors of the space. She had her knees hugged against eachother and was gently twisting her shoe onto the floor. It was an absent minded action and did nothing to soothe her. Pene's mind was wheeling, turning, flipping, deadpanning, and trying to process what in heaven's name was going on. It had taken a bit more than usual, but now she was finally at the point where she could handle no more and would socially shut down until she could.

Now Pene would be on the brink of tears at any personal question, or maybe drop down to her knees and refuse to move, like a spoiled child, if another event tried to happen. Quietly, and with one hand, she reached up to her head and closed her eyes while she pulled loose the two scrunchies that held her bun together. The shape of the bun held until she would slide her fingers into her hair and ruffle her dark brown tresses. The hair was glossy and moist and mildly she worried how she was going to keep it that way since she had none of her gels, creams and sprays. It fell below her jawline some in a mess of whips, loose noodles, and loops. To self soothe, she began to find the knots in her hair with a finger and slowly unbind them with gently tugs and minimal finger combing.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel 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.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Steinsson Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Angela Taylor Character Portrait: Kris Li Character Portrait: Willow Elaine Stryder
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Kris watched as the others entered the pillar of light, one by one disappearing as they tell forwards into the shining column. He looked beneath him at the path of pure starlight backlit by a rush of crashing waves and then behind him where the stars seemed to stretch for eternity. There was no way back...only forward. Determined, he dive headfirst into the light. It felt like he was falling forever spinning and turning endlessly, but he was not afraid and the sick feeling that normally possesses you when you fall never came. But his landing was fast approaching. He began to spin at breathtaking speeds, closing his eyes. When he opened them, he was lying face down on a field of grass. The scent filled his nose as he pushed himself up to a seated position. He had no idea where he was, where they all were, but, after listening to what the men had to say, he was persuaded that they were safe, at least for the moment.

He stood. He had several questions, however, all that could wait until he had a bath and a hot meal and, possibly some sleep as well. He didn't know why, but he was already exhausted as if he had been on a terribly long journey, and so he followed the man inside, going upstairs to the first room on the left and claiming the bed closest to the door so that, in event that he needed to leave he'd be close to an exit. When someone came in, leaving clothes and a towel, he gratefully accepted, leaving the room and going to the washhouse. Upon entering, a man had drawn a bath and was testing the water's temperature.

"These are for you and your companions."

"Thank you."

"If you need anything else, all you need do is let me know."

With that he went back to maintaining the temperatures of other tubs. Kris quickly undressed and slipped into the tub, the warm water instantly relaxing him. He let out a deep exhale as he descended into the water. He was slightly uncomfortable as he was rather exposed, but after a moment of relaxation, he finished his bath quickly, ensuring he covered himself with his towel as he stepped out and dried off. His clothes were somewhat quaint looking as if they were from a different century. A pair of rather tight brown trousers and a billowy white shirt with a low v-cut in the front and a long lace winding through, barely keeping it closed. After he dressed he stated into the tub at his reflection. His hair he had dried, but it was still slightly damp when he exited. He surveyed the land around him: miles and miles of wheat. These people's existences seemed so quaint, so bleak, yet they seemed so happy, so content. He lingered about outside, enjoying the weather, waiting for dinner to be served or someone to speak to him.

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Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels
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Pene had leaned back against the wall that her chosen bed was pushed up against and had busied herself with the calming ritual that was pulling a lock of hair close to her face, finding a few tresses that were wavy instead of curly, and wrapping them around and around her finger until they bounced into the shape she wanted when she released the hair. The coffee skinned girl did this quietly and methodically, her eyes half closed as if she were ready to sleep.

Well with all she'd been through today, she deserved a hard sleep, a foot massage, and cucumbers over her eyes.

Pene glanced over to the empty hallway where she could hear feet ascending the stairs and coming closer to her chosen room.
Well.. this is a farm.. maybe theym have cucumbers here.. She idled in her head as the footsteps drew closer. Maybe it's one of the house maids coming to ask if I'm gonna wash my ass or not. Her thoughts made her crack a smile and a short and low hum of amusement.

That smile vanished from her lips as a naked.. boy.. No.. Man, (Whoever his father was, he had blessed him with a very impressive gift.. down there..) came strolling into her room with a towel on his head and his eyes cast up to the ceiling.

Red, not pink, hot embarassment at seeing a stranger in his purest, stained and heated her face. Her eyes widened and words stuck in her throat like a burger without a drink. Pene's fingers stilled in her hair and her breaths quickened as she watched him toss his towel and pull on the male underwear from the pile of neat clothes on the unoccupied bed across from her.

Well. Not so vacant anymore I guess with how comfortable he's looking.

But not so comfortable, while she took the liberty of looking him up an down, (Why not? His was an attractive and naked male specimen showing off for, seemingly, all to see. No sense wasting an opportunity when it was swin- standing in front of her.) She could see the tension in his shoulders, the tightness of his back, and his quick and scanning eyes. And those eyes finally found her, a frozen and blushing schoolgirl pressed against the wall next to her bed with a lock of her hair wrapped around her finger.

He smiled, as if he knew what he did.
She gave him a slight and skeptical squint of her eyes, her thick eyebrows falling a fraction.
Then he came closer and told her his name while reaching out his hand.

"Xabier Sanchez. I feel like I've met you before."

Pene licked her lips and fought to find her voice and mobility, while hoping they both could ignore the heat on her face. "U-Uhm.. Pene.. Pene Michaels." She slipped her hand into his so she could gently squeeze and shake it. Pene was pronounced Pen-aye But she didn't like when people drug out the last half. She preferred them say it smooth and quick. As if they were saying Penny.

"Do you always walk around naked in the homes of people you don't know?" She could say that because they all were warped here. She barely knew him.

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Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels
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Xabier plopped down on the bed beside her.

Pene. Like the pasta. He was going to laugh, but he remembered the amount of slack he had gotten from his classmates over his name back before he became friends with everyone.

His name was common enough where he was fun, but the spelling had singled him out as being from a family that were proudly Basque. Sometimes he wished that his mother had called him Xavier of Javier, or a Spanish name like his brother Samuel.

But as fast as it was a problem it was over and he didn't much care for changing his name.

He leaned forward and fixed a piece of her hair that was sticking up.

"Well I suppose I have to pay my way..."
He had a sudden flashforward. This was all an elaborate sex trafficking operation. The old lady with the scar was the pimp.
Hmm that was one way to deal with the situation. If Haru or whatever his name was, is the pimp, then Xabier is screwed.

"If we get to know each other then we won't be strangers and I can walk around as naked as I want."

He smiled again. This time completely honest and playful. His English was pretty bad and his accent had thickened up considerably. Xabier hoped he was pronouncing her name right.

"The best relationships usually start naked anyway."

If she was in on this scheme he would weed it out of her and if she wasn't, he would include her in his plans of escape.

"So, why don't we go exploring, Pene? And you can tell me a little bit about yourself."

He gestured to the door, hopping up away from the bed.

God, he needed a drink.

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Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Pene Michaels
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Pene cleared her throat and sat up as Xabier took a seat beside her. A bit nervously, her eyes darted around the room while her mind whirled with escape scenarios if he tried to do anything to her.
She was always on guard.

As he made himself comfortable, she stuck out her legs so that her feet hung off of the bed. She then tucked her folded hands between her thighs and inhaled. Even though she was sitting there in a casual manner and exuded a picture of slight awkwardness as this unknown male sat beside her and made himself comfortable, inside Pene was still frazzled and exhausted.

In a corner of her mind that handled her emotional and social breakdowns, a small voice was telling her to focus on this Xabier and whatever he wanted to talk about or do. As long as she was comfortable of course. The voice coo'd to her, telling her that she needed tunnel vision on something casual and to ignore the dire situation she was in. Although being housed, clothed, bathed, and soon to be fed wasn't dire, the events leading up to the current scene didn't give Pene a comfortable landing.
So, Pene mentally inhaled and exhaled, and quietly did the same in real time as she tuned her ears to Xabier and let herself unwind in his chatter.

Quietly she listened to him, turning her head slightly to look at him sometimes, mainly glancing at him from the corner of her eye, or lifting the sides of her mouth in a gentle smile.

Guh.. He's such a flirt.. But it seems like that's just the way he is.. I'll just sidestep his innuendos and bedroom eyes while talking to him.. She planned in her head.

Blinking, she looked at him and furrowed her brows. "Exploring..? You think we're allowed to just walk around and poke our noses in things..?" her last statement was posed as a timid question. Her voice held no exotic accent, only a light American one. Her family came to America a long time ago and her first language was English. She spoke to her Nana in her native tongue sometimes but that was all.

"I mean I guess we could.. As long as I'm not the only one getting in trouble. Would you mind if I pinned it all on you if and when we get caught..?" She smiled some, poking at humor and enjoying the refreshing feel it gave to the dark cloud looming over her psyche.