Mateja: Revolution

Mateja: Revolution

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Colonists from across the ocean have come to Mateja for a new opportunity at life. What they didn't realize was that the land was already populated by magic-wielding tribesmen. When a common enemy threatens all, will they be able to band together?

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Curtsive are listed as curators, giving them final say over any conflict & the ability to clean up mistakes.

Introduction

Note: This roleplay is by invitation only. Please do not submit characters unless you have been asked to do so. Thank you.



Plato...


The name inspires both fear and hope for those who hear it. A new, developing planet, whose inhabitants are both grotesque, wonderful, and painfully plain. Tribes dot the vast wilderlands, new and hopeful colonies spring up in the flatlands, branched from blossoming societies who've already taken root.

Less favorable societies also take root on such a planet of diverse culture. Those without faces, who wish to control and dominate, integrate those different than them into their society, or abolish them completely.

For the most part, these people are happy residing to themselves, but what will happen when the peaceful inhabitants of Mateja are threatened by a group motivated by the need for land?

Mateja

A new, uncharted country that is as wild as it is beautiful. Here there is freedom from oppression, government, and any previous influence of polite society. While some who wish to escape from oppressive leaders might find this to be a dream come true, they do not realize that the land is already rich with its own culture, abounding in magic and a people with a culture so colorful that it threatens the existence of any opposing counterculture that may try to leave influence.



Tribes

Ugnis Tribe
Tribe of Fire

Vanduo Tribe
Tribe of Water

Žemė Tribe
Tribe of Earth

Oro Tribe
Tribe of Air

Other various tribes exist throughout the land of Mateja. Many of them are mixed in their talents, but the above mentioned are the hubs of their specialization. Ugnis Tribe lives to the South, sandwiched between the deserts and the sea. Vanduo Tribe is to the Northeast, and borders the coastline. Žemė tribe is between Ugnis and Vanduo, off to the west. Oro Tribe has never been physically seen, and is said to exist in the clouds.

The tribes are united by their power. Rivalries exist, but it is more playful than competetive, and especially in the light of this new threat, the tribes have found more reason to unite than ever before.

Mateja Colonies

The people who live in Mateja's colonies are new and blossoming, their elders still having seen immigration from where they originally resided. Still, they kept closed minds and held firm in their beliefs. Upon finding themselves on Mateja, they had come across the natives there. The natives who they feared, as their ways had gone against the traditional colony ways, and the tribes had gone so far as to introduce magic into their lives. That said, the tension between the two had risen greatly.

The hierarchy within the colonies is a poorly held democracy. There are the rich and the drastically poor, and barely anyone resides in the middle.

What they must remember, in the end, is that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend".

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Browse All » 6 Settings to roleplay in

Seirras Mountain Range

Seirras Mountain Range by RolePlayGateway

Extending all along the southern border, the Seirras peaks divide the land between the grasslands to the north and the desert to the south. The Capron Desert eventually dissolves into the sea, and it is beneath these mountains that the Ugnis Tribe resides

Skye Island

Skye Island by RolePlayGateway

The City in the Clouds, accessed only by riding wyvern-like reptiles. It is a towering land mass floating on a giant cumulonimbus cloud. The settlement is a giant spiral. The people have carved their homes from stone, even as it floats in the sky.

Plato

Plato by FizzGig

The planet on which Mateja resides.

Blakestown

Blakestown by RolePlayGateway

The main colony of Mateja, largest in population, and greatest in financial diversity.

The Forest of Whispers

The Forest of Whispers by RolePlayGateway

A quiet wood, filled with towering oaks and evergreen trees. Many a creature live here, as well as the Vanduo tribe, who frequent the tedious border between the colony's Wall and the rest of the wilderness.

Sausas Vandenynas

Sausas Vandenynas by RolePlayGateway

The Dry Ocean: A sea of tall, sun-withered grass that seems to stretch on for miles. It continues south, towards the Seirras Mountain Range, where rolling foothills meld into the treacherous peaks.

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

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn

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Forest of Whispers
October 7th, Evening


Adrien had spent a few days after Radimus' speech stuck within his home, wracked with fear of the townspeople's vindictive stares, scared of what Xander, Elleanore, Patsy, and Cavis thought of him, then. After some days of seclusion, he'd drawn himself out of his home, if only for small duties. As he'd expected, he'd met the persecuting gazes of nearly all, but after days, he learned to ignore them. The guards still didn't let him beyond the walls, and he was met with a hasty shove if he'd approached.

Then he'd withdrawn himself into his house again. Radimus had run out of callous words to speak to him, and that was certainly a blessing.

Every day, however, after Elleanore had long since been gone, he'd visit her mother's grave. He didn't know why. Perhaps it was the white flowers that still yet bloomed. He'd bring paper and quill to write a letter of his own to his mother, whose own letters had been growing short.

The graveyard was a peaceful place, if he didn't think about what laid underneath them. The trees which normally bore healthy green leaves were shaken bare, and casted a creeping, veiny shadow over the yard. The townspeople's whispers and shouts didn't reach the gravyard, and if they had, they soon dissolved into nothings as they went along their way. A thin blanket of snow and frost covered the area, though it hadn't bothered him by then.

Adrien had written his letter to his mother for the day; they'd been coming more frequently to her, as he'd nothing else to do, and if he'd found solace in anything, it was surely that. So he stood to leave, but hesitated as he passed the bare trees.

Suddenly, a ball of snow plopped in front of him. In any other moment, it would have gone unnoticed, if not for the second ball of snow that landed directly on top of Adrien's head.

Adrien's hands flew up to knock the snow off of his head, and his letter clattered to the ground. Quickly, he picked it up and shoved it inside of his jacket, before looking around. To his surprise, there were no children about, only graves. His eyes flitted upwards, while his stepped beyond the shade of the frosted tree.

Another plop of snow landed right on his upturned face.

Aja was perched on the wall, crouched as she gazed down at him. A cowl was wrapped around her face, but there was no mistaking who it was. She waved to him, holding a finger to her lips before turning to grab a thick, long length of rope.

It was dropped over the edge, and the girl disappeared from sight.

Adrien's eyes, after they'd been wiped of snow, landed on the rope. His heart thudded, and he glanced around, before quickly latching his hands onto it. Even if it hadn't seemed like a fantastic idea, the concept of being able to go beyond the wall appealed to him like no other. Thoughts of the forest beyond overwhelmed him. He began to scale the wall, though it's surface was sleek and frost, and it was no easy task.

A few times, his boots gave underneath him, and he'd struggled to hold his place. Not before long, though, he was peering over the edge of the stony walls that kept him imprisoned for so long.

"Adrien," she whispered, though her voice carried in the quiet evening. She was holding the rope, part of it looped around the branch of a tree she was standing in, and held tight in her hands. Upon seeing him come to the top, she released the rope and walked out to him, standing on one branch and holding to another above her to keep her balance.

She held out a hand to him.

"Pull up the rope then step over to me."

Adrien mounted the wall and quickly ravelled the rope he'd come up upon. He passed his wrist through it, wearing it on his shoulder, before his hand clasped Ajani's. Ever slowly, he stood up, and placed a foot on the branch Ajani had stood on. He slowly looked to her, fear lacing his eyes.

"This doesn't seem like such'a good idea, now."

They were a dangerous height above the floor.

"I won't let you fall." she replied. "Don't look down." She took a step back, encouraging him to come closer.

"To me, Adrien."

His other hand firmly clasped the other side of Ajani's wrist, and he had quickly brought his other foot onto the branch. It croaked underneath their weight. When he'd found that he wasn't falling, however, his eyes unstuck from his feet and came to Ajani's eyes again.

"This is going t'kill me."

"If you keep talking like that, it might." she warned, taking another step back. "Reach up. Grab the branch above." They were both close to the trunk. "You can do this."

It was either that, or go back down into the town, and she knew that he didn't want to do that.

He slowly let go of Ajani's hand, and held his arms to his side, as if to balance himself. His eyes fixated themselves on Ajani's, awkwardly, but he was heeding her warning not to look down. One hand slowly raised to grasp the branch, and when his fingers met bark, the other grasped the branch above as well.

"I think this's just about th'worst time'a th'year t'go tree climbing, Ajani." He breathed, his words quivering. Still, he looked to her for advice, while his arms were hoisted above his head.

"I know you aren't complaining." she teased, easing back and encouraging him forward. "We can always go back, of course."

He'll get used to it, she told herself. She would make sure he was as comfortable climbing trees as he was walking on the ground.

Adrien grinned, a challenging grin.

"Tch. If y'd have me, I'd live in your tribe instead'a this shoddy town. Lets'ave at it, then? If I fall, y'damn well better catch me." His eyes fell to the ground for a second, before whipping back upwards. "Following you."

She tossed him a smile.

Turning, she released the upper bow and easily walked back, her balance second nature. Once she reached the trunk, she lowered herself to sit, before tentatively reaching with her foot for another nearby branch that sat lower.

"Just watch for ice." she told him as she turned back to wait.

Adrien, however, used to branch above him to keep himself from falling. When he reached the trunk, he let go of the branch above and slowly lowered himself as Aja had. His boot slipped out from under him, however, and he'd only nearly wrapped his arms around the icey branch to catch himself. Shaky breaths rattled from his chest.

His foot felt for the branch underneath; the one Ajani had been waiting on, and he slowly released himself to rest on it. When his hands were free, he hugged the trunk.

"If I die, take th'letter out of my pocket, n'mail it t'my mum for me."

But she'd already made her way to the branch. In fact, she was making it look far easier than it probably was. Moving swiftly from one branch to the other, she finally came to a distance where she felt safe to jump, and so she did, landing in a crouch, then rolling onto her back so she could look up at him.

"Not so bad!" she said, only slightly raising her voice.

Adrien let his arms release from the trunk, and slowly stepped onto the branch behind him. His eyes caught sight of Ajani, who had swiftly made it from branch to branch. The thought unnerved him. He looked to the ground.

Then he transitioned to the next branch. He was moving at a slightly faster speed. His feet tok him from branch to branch, until he slipped, yet again. His feet came out from under him, and he tumbled to the snowy ground below. Thankfully, it'd been just a bit higher from what Ajani had descended from.

He laid on his side in the snow, groaning from the aches that falling had brought him.

She sat up, moving to her hands and knees and crawling over to where he lay. She lay down next to him, smiling the whole while as she rested her head on her arms like a pillow.

"See?" she said. "Now you've fallen. You won't be so afraid next time." The look softened as she, too, rolled to her side,and looked up at the wall. "You're free for a little while."

"M'not so sure that's how falling works." he groaned. He wiped his eyes, which were blinded by the snow. When he beheld the wall in front of him, he couldn't help but ecstatically smile. "Free for a little while. Hell of an effort t'get out, though. Blakes feels like a prison now, and th'only reason they haven't put me in jail is 'cause I'm Radimus' boy."

He rolled onto his back, and stared up at the trees he'd descended from. One of them merrily dropped a pile of snow on his face. He shot up, spat out, and wiped his face.

"I'm guessing y'don't want t'meander around here, then?"

"Not even a little bit."

She balled up a wad of snow, launched it into his face, and then burst to her feet, sprinting off into the woods with a wide smile spreading across her face. He was free. They had hours. She didn't have a single idea what they were going to do, but at the moment, it didn't matter. She'd been so worried for him, constantly watching out, listening for news that something might have happened.

But nothing had. She'd rescued him. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Skidding to a stop as her horse came into view, she eagerly threw herself up onto its back, looking back to wait for Adrien to catch up.

"Come on!" she called, knowing that the woods would swallow her voice now.

Adrien's face had sorely reddened by the amount of snow that had been dropped in his face, by then. Again, he wiped the snow with a red hand and climbed to his feet. His hands firmly tied the scarf around his neck, before he'd took off right after Ajani. When he'd reached her, he placed a hand on the horse and bent over, obviously out of breath.

For a moment he recovered, and then hauled himself onto the horse as well.

"Where're we going?"

"You've never been outside the wall except to hunt," she told him. "And I don't know that you went that far to begin with." a smile began to spread across her face.

"So we're going to go a bit farther this time. Hang on tight."

She drove her heels into the horse's flank, leaning forward as the animal burst into flight, its hooves kicking up a flurry of snow as they began to fly through the trees. Aja didn't guide the horse with touch so much as thought, her fingertips pressed against the animal's neck as they moved. The animal's canter was fluid and comfortable. It practically glided across the ground, carrying its passengers as though they were riding a cloud.

On either side, dark trees stood like frozen sentinels, each of them snow-laden and quiet. The forest was asleep, but for the shadows that errupted all around them from the flickering moonlight.

Adrien's hands laced around Aja's waist as they glided across the frosted and snow-covered grasses. At times, he'd resisted reaching out to touch the dark trees and their stony appearences. He hadn't come to these woods in a while, and he'd certainly never ventured that far. The vapor of their breaths left behind a trail like dissipating smoke, which lingered only momentarily, before leaving the forest to it's slumber again.

Too soon, the trees began to space out, until they disappeared altogether, leaving nothing but a vast expanse of snow-laden ground. Overhead, the sky stretched like a glittering dome, millions of stars pricking through and giving the landscape a heavenly haze. In the distance, the sound of moving water could be heard, a glittering black river lacing its way through the valley.

His eyes flitted upwards, though through the bitter cold, he'd trouble keeping them open. When he couldn't behold the night stars above, his eyes traced the winter blankets, and his ears, the black rivers which cascaded and sloshed.

Still, Aja didn't slow. Now, more than ever, it felt as though they were truly flying.

It was late after they started when Adrien spoke up. He nearly shouted, for the wind that glided past their ears made it difficult to hear eachother.

"What about th'wildlings? Are they out this far?"

"No!" she called back, leaning a little so she could turn to put her lips at his ear.

"They hunt in the day. Even still, they're not going to bother us. Not while I'm here." She pulled her face away, looking down towards the ground, where the horse was kicking up snow. Her eyes widened suddenly.

"Adrien watch!" she said, pointing towards the ground. What looked like, at first, the wind kicking up sloughs of loose, powdery snow, occasionally shaped itself into the form of...people...all in the wild turns of a dance. Aja finally reigned in, smiling so wide she knew her cheeks would be sore.

All around them, in gentle spurts, were those same, strange figures, disappearing from sight as soon as they were noticed.

"The solstice is coming." she whispered, the sound nearly deafening after the roar of the wind in their ears.

"So the sprites are coming to celebrate."

"Is that magic?" Adrien asked, his eyes focused on the dancing, snow people. They scared him, at first. Then, the fear subsided, and a slight smirk played to his face. Then, an incredulous grin. "That's amazing. S'like nothing I've seen. If Blakestown saw these..."

He shook his head. "They'dn't be able t'think it was witchery!" He yelled, trying to raise his voice over the wind.

"Sprites?"

"Spirits." she clarified, her brow furrowing as she looked out across the field of snow. She dismounted, smiling to herself as the bursts of snow periodically tossed themselves her way. She held out her hand, palm facing forward, watching as a sprite formed to briefly touch themselves to her fingertips.

"Come on Adrien! They don't hurt you." she explained.

The horse simply stood, its teeth rolling together amiably.

Adrien dismounted the horse as well. The bitter cold that overtook the both of them was combatted by the friendliness of the spirits, who threw their bundles of snow his way as well. He instinctively jerked back, and placed himself between the horse and Aja.

"Spirits? Like... Dead people?" He asked. Slowly and cautiously, he withdrew from his hiding place. "What d'they do, then?"

"You know...I don't know who they are." Aja mused, glancing back over her shoulder to look his way. "We're all so interconnected...I don't know if I'm looking at an ancestor or a reflection of myself." As she turned forward, a burst of snow swatted her in the face.

Puffing out a breath, she dusted the snow off of her face and smiled. "They're not very helpful in letting us know either." As she continued to walk, one sprite came at her from the side, and she quickly pivotted on her left leg, swatting clean through what could have been the sprite's torso with her right.

"They play." she said as she came to stand on both feet again. "I come here to spar."

"Dunno if you n'I have th'same definition of play, but -"

A block of snow splashed against Adrien's face as well. Both hands raised to wipe the frozen water out of his eyes. His still-swollen nose, cheeks, and lips were a blood red. He took a moment to tie his scarf tightly around his face.

"Getting a little tired'a snow being in m'eyes." He mused, though a slight smirk had come to his lips. The forms shaped themselves in the snow like waves when they'd come to him, only forming like humans when they'd come closer to him. He jerked back when another had come, and swatted his hand through it's form.

It scattered, and fell formlessly back into the snow beneath his feet.

"How'd y'find these guys? Aren't you afraid'a what, uh... Y'might find? If y'keep exploring like this?"

She'd taken a knee, smoothing her hand over the fine white snow. "I've lived here my whole life. Motina's been teaching me Mateja's secrets since I was old enough to understand who she was." She glanced back over her shoulder at him.

"There's very little I need to be afraid of here." She looked around, murmuring something under her breath. The wind slowed, finally stilling, and the sprites calmed. Everything became quiet.

"There's more power here than your people realize." she told him. "But it isn't hostile. Not in the slightest. Not unless we decide to use it that way."

"I hope y'won't have to." Adrien said, his voice calming. "Maybe y'can show me th'things Motina showed you. If that'd be alright. If they're all anything like this."

He smiled to Ajani.

"It seems like th'only place where anyone's afraid of anything is Blakestown. I want t'calm it, but I'm nothing but a boy. A man, even. And no one's been looking at me th'same way since Radimus gave his speech. Xander, maybe, and Cavis, but Ellie..."

His smile faltered.

She held out her hand, showing him the infinity symbol that was painted to her palm. "You have everything you need here," she explained. "I'll just have to teach you how to ... see. Really see. And when your family learns to see, too, they'll understand."

She stood, walking over to him and grasping his right hand, turning it over so she could lay her right palm flat over his. "We're connected. All of us. You'll be able to do everything I can do, and the sooner the colonists realize this...the sooner they realize that we're not as evil as they seem to think," she met his eyes.

"We'll have a chance."

"Th'colonists won't listen t'me anymore. Radimus made it so they won't listen t'you. Xander doesn't want involved with'it. Elleanore doesn't want involved with'it. I don't know that we do, Ajani. No one's speaking for you, er, us. No one that anyone'll listen to."

Adrien lowered his eyes to their hands. Although his eyes were sad, but he'd repeated the same scenario in his head so many times that his words came off apathetically.

"I don't know that we do have a chance, but I s'pose I've got nothing else left t'fight for anyway."

She shoved him.

It was light, not intended to hurt, but to wake him up to what he was saying. "I know I didn't hear you imply that you're giving up. This was never meant to be an easy task. We're trying to change the minds of two very different groups of people." She tilted her head to one side, reaching up to pull the cowl away from her neck. The skin was bruised in a ring, scapped in places where the whip had lanced her skin open.

"I'm fighting, because I don't want this to get worse than it already is. People are going to die, Adrien, if we don't do something."

"I'm not giving up. I'm not going t'lose more good things than I already have. If I've a chance of making them better then I'm for it, 'cause they're at their worst now. If things continue like they are in Blakestown..." Adrien faltered, then smiled. "Y'might have t'make me a hut back at your village."

His eyes fell onto the bruise around her neck. He couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt when she'd shown it to him. He never had the chance to apologize about how things had gone down beforehand.

"I'm sorry for that. I didn't expect Radimus t'know. I didn't expect him t'alert th'town, and I didn't expect him t'shove you'n'me under th'bus. I couldn't protect you like you'd protected me at th'village. If there was any way I could make it up t'you, I'd do it."

"Let me push you around a few times and we might have an accord." she said, lifting her shoulders in a shrug as she sighed. "It certainly didn't happen the way any of us were planning, but..." she paused to look around the clearing.

"I'm sure an opportunity will arise that'll let us show the colonists what we're truly like. I don't know what, or when...but Motina's told me to be ready when it comes."

She chuckled, then. "Speaking of." Turning around and jogging back to the horse, she pulled out not one bow, but two, and a quiver of arrows that had been slipped into a saddle-bag. She passed one over to him, then took up her own.

"You said you could shoot." she told him, a small smile forming.

"Now you can show me. You want to learn what Motina's taught me? Tonight's your first lesson."

In the distance, a whirlwind of snow blew to and fro, until a pile hand formed in a half-circle. She knocked an arrow, loosed it, and watched as it plowed into the center.

Adrien looked to the arrow and bow he'd been handed, and his shoulders shrugged in a laugh. "I can shoot. Guns. Your folk use wooden instruments. We stopped manufacturing bows n'crossbows back when we started making metal shooters, Ajani."

It was nothing but an excuse. Adrien looked to the bow, almost in confusion. He'd no idea how to work it, so he looked to Ajani for assistance. She hit the pile of snow that'd formed, almost flawlessly. So, he held the bow, attempting to mimic her posture. He put the arrow to the string, and then let it fly.

A whole foot.

"See, now this isn't fair."

Her lip twitched.

"You're not pulling back far enough, see," she explained, grabbing the arrow he'd dropped and coming up behind him, she encouraged him to take his position, before she lined up her hand beneath his on the bow, her opposite arm coming around behind him.

"You have the strength. Pull back as far as you can, hold steady, and then release." The close proximity didn't bother her, even though she was essentially tucked up next to his torso.

Adrien kept the arrow between his middle and ring finger, and then pulled it back with the string. It was difficult. Far more difficult than pointing and pulling a trigger. Ajani was right, though, even though his strength had diminished the last few weeks, it was still there.

He relaxed for a moment, and pulled the arrow back again. An odd smile twitched at his lips, before he'd released the arrow.

It flew farther that time, though certainly missed the mark.

"Looks like y've got competition," He said, turning his head to the side to look at the girl behind him. "After this, I'm teaching y'how t'use a gun."

She wrinkled her nose.

"Maybe."

They spent hours practicing, working with the bows until Adrien could shoot as far as the target she'd created. He had picked it up pretty quickly, which pleased her, though it was obvious they had a long way to go. After the long session, she was surprised to see that her fingertips were raw, and she felt tired.

It was a good kind of tired, though. Satisfying. She picked up snow between her hands, rubbing the cold over her sore fingertips. "You did really well." she told him, looking up to meet his eyes.

"Work on your strength and balance. Key to handling such a prestigious, wood-made weapon." She gave him a teasing smile.

"Do you want to go home?"

Adrien was happy to be done. After hours, his arms ached with every motion. He certainly didn't show Ajani up as his pride had made him expect to. Finally, when Ajani had seemed satisfied, he released a breath of relief, and wiped the sweat off his brow.

"I think I'd have to, right about now. 'Lest someone think something. Radimus' got me on tight lock, y'know."

Home. It wasn't a word that soothed him anymore. Not then. His expression contorted from disgust, before it resolved to a quick faux smile. "And I s'pose that you've got t'head back too. Don't want t'worry th'tribe any more than you already have, hm?"

"They don't." she said with a mild shrug. "So long as I'm away from Blakestown, they have no reason to worry." She took up the bows and arrows, walking over and slipping them into the pack on the back of the horse.

"When do you want to come back out?" she asked, turning to look at him. Then, her expression faltered just a little.

"...if you want to, that is."

"Well, y've got t'show me around, don't you? Got t'learn what Motina's taught you. If I'm not coming back, how's that s'posed t'happen?" Adrien replied, with a reassuring smile. "'Ow about two days? Let m'muscles rest a bit before y'put me to any more manual labor."

"Shall I push you into the saddle?" she asked, tilting her head to one side before reaching for his wrist and tugging him along to the horse. She climbed on first, helped him up, and set the animal off to a comfortable canter as they moved into the woods. All too soon, the wall began to rise up in front of them, like a looming warning. She looked to the top, reining the animal in as she pondered what to do.

She glanced to a towering oak, just off to her left, and dismounted to make her way over to it.

Coming to the base of the trunk, she smoothed her palms over the rough bark, her brow furrowing in concentration as she leaned closer, pressing her ear to the tree for just a moment. Murmuring softly, she turned her face to rest her forehead against the bark, palms pressing more firmly into the wood.

Then, silently, the tree began to bend towards the wall, not like it was falling...but like it was made of something softer than wood.

Adrien stayed with the horse, and curiously looked on to Ajani. When the tree began to bend to the wall, he grinned and laughed, perhaps in astonishment. Slowly and cautiously, he came to the oak tree, and hitched his fingers in a crease in the bark. Before he'd ascended, however, he looked to Ajani.

"When we're on our next course, can y'teach me how t'do that?" He asked, humor still lacing his face. "Thanks for th'easy climb. I'll rope it back down. Y'can get out of here, don't want guards seeing you, anyway."

With a last look toward Ajani and a rope over his shoulder, Adrien began to scale the wall that lead him back into Blakestown.

The setting changes from The Forest of Whispers to Plato

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Xander Roan

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#, as written by FizzGig
Blakestown
October 14th, Evening


It had been roughly a week since Adrien had started his escapades out beyond the wall. Xander and Ellie had taken care not only to avoid him, but to avoid each other. For Xander, it was possibly the worst couple of weeks that he'd ever experienced. Both of his closest friends wanted nothing to do with him, and if he were perfectly honest with himself, he wasn't sure that he'd know what to do or say if the time came. He spent most of his time these days in the stables when Adrien wasn't there, doing what needed to be done and then leaving as soon as he could. He couldn't even enjoy it anymore, which was totally ridiculous.

He'd come out the night before, unable to sleep, and deciding that the best thing to do would be to just walk around until he was too cold or too tired to do anything else. After coming upon the stables, he noticed something rather odd.

Someone had been climbing down the wall.

He'd ducked behind bales of frosted hay, watching as Adrien came across the snow-laden ground, looking every which way before disappearing into his house.

So, tonight, Xander sat and waited for Adrien to show up. He knew that he would. It was only a matter of time.

As he'd done other times, Adrien scaled down the wall. He ravelled the rope, and then threw it back over the wall. A strange tactic, if he'd been going alone. When his feet touched snow-laden ground, he placed his palms on the wall, looked about, and then backed away from the wall. As per usual, he'd looked about, before starting off.

But he stopped by the lumbering old tree, this time. The one that, in the springs and summers, provided a cool shade, in a contrast to the humid, warm air. It was bare, now, and in the moonlight, it had no shadow. It's thick bark bore the dimensionality of thin paper.

Adrien moved passed it, after running his hand over the rough bark. He took slowly toward his home, but it would be quite a walk from the graveyard.

He came into sight as soon as Adrien drew close enough to hear him. Xander's arms were crossed, his brow furrowed in concern as he looked from Adrien to the wall and back.

"Dree..." he started, coming to that awful moment where he didn't really have any idea of what to say. "It's a bit late."

"Yeah. T'is. Shan't you be sleeping, Xander?" Adrien asked, his brows furrowing to Xander's sudden appearence. He'd quickly moved past the other boy, seemingly intent on retiring, and seemingly intent on certainly not speaking to Xander. Not out of spite; their relationship had slowly repaired itself over time, though it certainly wasn't what it usually was.

"That's what I plan on doing." He said, as he passed.

Xander reached out to snag Adrien by the arm, his grip gentle, but firm. He didn't look at him as he spoke.

"Ye've been goin over the wall." It wasn't a question, but a statement. He looked back over his shoulder to the other. "Not gunna rat you out, if that's watcher thinkin. I think what Radimus is doin' to yah is downright shit." He let go of Adrien's arm, letting his own fall to his side. "What're you doin' over there?"

Adrien spun around when Xander gripped his arm, and withdrew his sleeve.

"I know y'know I've been going over th'wall. 'Else y'wouldn'ta camped out n'popped out at me like that. I figure y'wouldn't tell." The boy raised his arms, in a half-shrug. "M'not allowed beyond th'wall, and I miss th'fresh air."

"Mhm, and is the fresh air gunna throw that rope back to yah when you go over again tomorrow night?" Xander said, lifting a brow.

Adrien stared at Xander for a moment, before crossing his own arms.

"N'why y'wanna know, you said?"

"Is it that girl? Aja?" Xander asked, his expression softening. "Yer goin' to visit her?" He hesitated a moment.

"Y'know that Radimus'll sooner kill her if he finds out."

"Radimus won't be seeing'er. It's not like she's hoisting over t'Blakestown with me. N'Radimus' threatened t'break m'legs if I don't stop being rowdy, but I'd sooner break his than he break mine."

It was an answer enough, though Adrien opened his mouth again. "I'm hoisting over t'see th'tribe. N'the area. N'everything, really. Kind of opens your eyes, when y'move past th'forest." He smiled as he spoke. "N'I know I seem like a lunatic for doing it, but it's better than being cooped up in this chicken pen of a shyte town."

Xander considered that, quietly thinking over what Adrien had said.

"Y'know, I saw the tribe. I saw how worried they were for Ajani...and they didn't seem teh mind me too much. I knew I believed yah before all the shyte happened a few weeks back...but after seeing them...I could understand them too. Aja made sure I could..." He looked back to his friend.

"I want teh help. However I can. If you'll let me."

"Nay. No, Xander. I already put Ellie in danger. I can't put you in danger, too. N'..." Adrien swallowed, and raised his scarf. He looked down to the floor, then up to Xander's eyes. "Y'should stop avoiding Elleanore like y'do. Just'ave it normal, will you?"

His hand raised, and patted Xander on the shoulder. He began to turn away. "Don't think I could stand y'getting hurt, no matter how much I don't like y'right now."

A slight smirk came to his lips, before it disappeared again.

"I'm a big boy," Xander said with a broad smile. "Can handle m'self. Besides, ye've got me all curious about the tribals now. Yer hoggin them all for yerself."

He hooked his arm around Adrien's throat and dragged him into the snow. "I still like yeh Dree. Missed talkin to yah." he grunted, putting his knee on the other boy's chest. "And like it or not, I'm sick to death of the way things are goin' around here. I'd like teh change it."

"Only thing y'missed is trying t'toss me around!" Adrien shouted, though for once in a long while, it wasn't out of anger. His hands wrapped around Xander's knee, andhe pushed himself forward, intent on dropping the other boy into the snow. For a moment, things settled.

"S'pose y'did conk assassin-man over th'head, but that was just luck, innit? But, hell, Xander. Y'don't wanna risk your life over this shyte. Wasn't it you who was hollering about leaving Ellie here all alone?" he teased.

Xander's cheeks flamed, but he flopped into the snow amiably, and laid there. "S'pose I did. But I know yah didn' do those things on purpose. Didn' do anything, in fact." He sighed heavily.

"M'done silent treating yah, Dree. Dun need a girl of any kind to break us up y'know? Hell maybe we could get Ellie to go with us too." His lips were pressed into a thin line. "Couldn't hurt to get her away from all of this too."

Sitting back on his knees, he reached to brush the snow out of his hair. After a second, he fixed Adrien with a firm stare. "Another thing, too. M'parents are shit, majority of this town and the way they act towards people like Ajani is horrid. Why not try to risk my safety if it means bringin' about ... peace. At least a state of business where people aren't sittin' around hatin' each other?"

"If anything, I'd like t'get her - Ellie - out of this place, if assman's threatening'er like he is. He's not done anything yet, but..." Adrien looked toward Xander, his brow furrowing. "I know who he is. 'E carried Ellie's bags home, looked straight at me. 'E's th'one who tipped off Radimus about Ajani being in town."

For a long while, he drew in a breath. His eyes met Xander's, then drew away from them. He looked toward the bare tree in the distance.

"I s'pose y'have a point." He said. He leaned forward, placed his elbows on his knees, and his head on his hands. "Could use someone who actually has a voice around'ere."

Then, he shook his head and looked to Xander again.

"Y'sure?"

"Nah. I'm gunna flake on yah righ' when things get tough." He winked, stretching his arms over his head before emitting a heavy sigh. "I think yeh have more supporters than y'think though, Dree. Nobody'll say anything to you, but I know you at least have a friend in Cavis, and in Patsy."

He gave a slight smirk at the mention of the old nurse. "But, at any rate, I'll be with yeh through the thick of it, mate. S'wat friends are for."

"Alright, but..." Adrien sighed. "Tap out when things get too tough for y', aye? Don't want y'breaking your wee bones." He smiled again, then swatted Xander on the shoulder. "I been sneaking out to practice, y'know. Notice any change?" He flexed. "Y'won't have t'sneak out, but I don't think Ajani would mind th'support. Hell, th'tribe."

"I'm going back t'morrow, then. You up for it?"

Xander squeezed his bicep, before emitting a terribly effeminate giggle.

"Gods, Dree. You know I am. Anythin' specific I should bring with me?" He looked back towards the wall. "Perhaps a pair of wings?"

He frowned.

"Well, y'ain't th'one barred from leaving, but I s'pose it'd still look suspicious."

He paused, then looked to Xander, a big grin ever-present in his face.

"Nay, but y'ever climb a rope? Hope y've not got sweaty hands. S'a big fall."

"I'll pull you with me." Xander said, giving the young man a look. He moved to stand, offering out a hand to help the other up. "So ye've been training then? Aja fights? Is she any good?"

"Well, y'wanna see? I'm sure she'd happily oblige. Loves sparring about, that one." Adrien said, grinning.

"Then, tomorrow. Night. Y'might want t'just say y'threw your ring ball over th'wall t'get over, this time. We'll start using th'rope before things get suspicious. Right now, I think Radimus may be getting a little suspicious, if'e gives a damn."

He looked behind him, to the road that'd lead him home.

"Say we retire?"

"Sure thing." the young man replied, stretching languidly before beginning to make his way back to the stables.

"Sleep well, Dree. I'll kick your arse in front of Aja. So prepare yourself."

The setting changes from Plato to Seirras Mountain Range

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Junea Vrass

0.00 INK

#, as written by FizzGig
Seirras Mountain Range
September 11, Early morning


The Sausas Vandenynas extended behind the search party in an endless carpet of tall grasses. It stretched far, beyond their field of vision, eventually fading into blackness that was so complete it would be disconcerting to someone who wasn't familiar with it. Ahead of them, the rolling foothills of the Seirras mountain range rose and fell, their peaks stained with with moonlight, like the salted, frothy crests of the ocean's waves. They would have to stay here, until they were met with the welcoming party. Traveling into the land of the Ugnis without invitation was a good way to get into trouble.

In spite of being a family, who all shared the same Mother, each tribe had their dignity, and their pride. Their territory was an important thing, and like anyone's private home, no one was to intrude upon it without them first knowing. They had sent hawks ahead as warning, but since the Ugnis lived beneath the ground much of the time, it was likely that the messages went unread. As it were, the group had decided to camp for the night, nestled against the feet of the mountains.

Kysa, the only woman in a group of a dozen men, was sitting off to one side, leaving them to talk amongst themselves. She had a few thin boughs in one hand, her carving knife in the other, and she was working on making arrow tips. Sitting at her side was an assortment of bags, things she'd been carrying ever since coming on this trip. They contained herbs and roots, medicinal supplies and bandages made from cotton cloth. Fortunately for their group, she'd not had any need of using the supplies on the men she traveled with. Unfortunately, the people she had hoped to find, to help in case they were injured, were not where they were supposed to be.

The homesteads that had been reported empty were indeed just that. Nothing had been taken. The people were the only thing missing, and the grasses, the plants, everything that had grown around the land had shriveled up and died. At first, it had looked like the land had been burned, but when Kysa went to take a look at it, it didn't smell or taste charred. In fact, it was just bitter, like something had poisoned the ground.

They'd found a half-dozen other homesteads in the same condition, each find a greater disappointment than the one before. With nothing left to do except go back, it had ultimately been the group's decision to check with the other tribes before returning, to see if anyone might have an idea of what was going on. This had lead to the trek to the Ugnis tribe.

Her hand drifted to the satchels, fingertips feeling the worn leather and woven cloth. Her father, Vanduo's Medicine Man, had hand-made each of these bags, soaking them in animal fat and curing them to make sure they were water-proof. She could still smell the scent of his oils on the fabric.

Turning her eyes skyward, she observed the stars, looking finally towards the moon, and wondered how long it would be before the Ugnis tribe would come out to see them.

All the party had eventually turned their eyes to the stars and moons at one point. They lingered, some grew antsy, and some grew angry. Others slept until they had been awakened to move again. Junea stayed to his own, though he was no means alone. The frustrated and curious had come to him for advice and enlightenment on the situation. He was, after all, the highest point of authority that they had to look to. When the moon reached high above them, however, he grew anxious and restless. He'd abandoned his station, and left to find a more secluded place.

But there weren't many secluded places. Not in Sausas Vandenynas. Instead, he kept to secluded people. His eyes flitted over the agitated, the sleeping, and the calm, before resting on a familiar face. Junea came to Kysa, and promptly sat himself down.

"We may be here for a matter of days, or a matter of seconds." Junea said. "Patience is a virtue that everyone seems to lack, here. May I help you craft? Sitting behind the tall grass gives less of a chance to be bothered."

His hands lazily rested over his legs. One shoulder seemed to stiffen more than the other, the arm attached sat closer to his body.

"Unless you don't wish for me to, Kysa."

He smiled.

Rather than look away from her work, she shifted the grip on the knife, handing over a few boughs and laying them against his thigh. When her hands returned to her work, she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, her smile mirroring his.

"Do you grow weary with them, Junea?" she asked, her voice barely above the volume of a whisper. Before this trip, she had yet to take the time to get to know the stoic second in command. Communicating with him on a different level had been pleasant, to say the least. She liked Junea, and not just because he'd brought her herbs on more than one desperate occasion.

Secluded amongst the tall grasses, the wind danced above them, causing the shafts to filter between them, almost like a curtain.

"I would be hypocritical if I said I am weary, wouldn't I?" He asked. "Lets leave it up to guesswork."

His hands grabbed the boughs, and he began to work with them. Though one of his arms seemed to move less deftly than the other, he crafted the arrows with relative grace, and certain speed. His eyes fixated on his work as he spoke, however.

"Do you grow weary with them? I imagine, being the only woman, and lending yourself to herbal work..." He seemed to shrug. "They may not think much of you, but your work here is fundamental."

"I am nothing but the pinnacle of patience." she told him matter-of-factly, glancing sideways as her expression became unreadable. "And the day that I put stock in what a man thinks of woman's work is the same day I joyfully swallow hemlock."

She glanced at his arrow.

"The angle's uneven."

Junea looked down to his hands. With a tilt of his finger, he evened the angle. The snide smirk disappeared from his face, and it was replaced by a bemused smirk. It was only then that he looked to her.

"I was not done with it yet."

Then, he continued his work. He continued speaking, just as well.

"And what do you think of man's work? You've practiced it. Most of the children of the tribe do, regardless of gender. But..." He twirled the finished arrow between his fingers. "Most of the women resign to different work."

It was almost a question.

"Most, but not all. Think of your Ajani." She looked sideways towards Junea, studying the lines of his face before she looked back to her arrow. "I think men's work is just as easily a woman's work, but I wouldn't be able to prove that to you without some sort of a demonstration."

She idly smirked.

"And I would not want to embarrass you in front of your men."

"Ajani is certainly a strong case against it." Junea agreed, undoubtedly. Before then, he hadn't displayed anything past a smirk, but upon speaking about Ajani, he grinned for a moment, before the emotion dissipated. "I am very proud of her."

A long lapse of time passed, before Junea spoke again. Contempt filled his voice.

"It would only be frowned upon for me to fight a woman in such a way and win."

"Yet they'd laugh if I won." she reminded him gently, her smile growing.

Junea rolled his eyes and opened his mouth, and kept his gaze to the tall grasses aside them. The ones that acted as a curtain, and kept them from view of the irritated rescue team. "It's a lose-lose, but for your and my embarrassment's sake, I will assume the former and keep us both from looking incompetant."

There was a slight pause, and her voice came in a whisper. "Junea."

Something had changed about her tone.

Junea's eyes lowered to the ground.

"I'm simply kidding. If I were to judge by the former competance, I have no doubt that you, as a woman, may possess the ability to down me. There were instances where Ajani had done just as much. Of course, the operative word is may."

"Junea." Her tone came a little sharper this time, and when the young man finally turned to look, he saw that the pair of them were not alone.

"Welcome, brothers." Said the cloth-swathed figure, a black-steel blade laying gently against Kysa's collar bone.

"What brings you so far from the forest?"

"I would be more inclined to speak if my hand was not forced; if you would lay your weapon, it would be far easier to cooperate." Junea said, his voice darkening. "We only come to bring knowledge about the other tribes, and peace."

"Pay the same respect."

With exaggerated emphasis, the other figure traced the tip of the knife against Kysa's collar bone, before pulling his knife away and stepping back. "What news?" he said, glancing down to Kysa. The woman's expression was blank, but it was clear by the quick rise and fall of her chest that she was disconcerted.

A few other figures had melded from the shadows, causing the entire group to rise as a unit. Kysa stood on her own, her lips pressed into a thin line.

"Sheathe your blades and take us to Ugnis' leader, and we will happily deliver it." Junea replied, sharply. He raised his hands, in a manner of good faith, and not once did his hands touch his blades. He, however, pressed his tongue against his teeth and ordered a sharp, loud whistle, that would call the rest of the rescue team to attention.

"Have our relationships been so damaged that you must affront us with metal?"

"We've heard tale of many a kind of man walking the dry ocean at night." the man replied, eyeing Kysa shamelessly before returning his attention to Junea. "Those who walk sightless, black figures swatched in shadow, more wildlings than you could begin to count..." He set the blade against his teeth.

"You learn to be careful. So what is it that you need? An audience? Ignio would not take kindly to an entire squadron of armed men coming into his fortress. You may bring yourself and one other." He smiled at Kysa.

"I suggest her."

"Your suggestions mean nothing if she does not wish to come." Junea dully replied. His hand extended, fingers out, and he gestured for Kysa to stay back. "As of now, I am second in command to the Vanduo tribe. I will not have you demanding the presence of those who bear disgust at yours."

Then, he raised his arms, as if in a shrug. "We do not want an audience. I do not want an audience. My objective is not to entertain; but to warn. Not of our offence, as I said. We bring peace. But of another."

Junea smirked, then. One of contempt. "What will it be? Will you let me choose who I wish to bring, or do you want to forfeit a knowledge that may serve a far greater purpose than you could amount to because of a disgusting whimsy?"

"Choose as you like." the man said with a shrug. "It is of no concern to me. The remainder of your escorts will stay here with my men. I hope you understand. Desperate times."

"I'll go." Kysa spoke up, looking to Junea, and then to the other. There was no room for argument. The Ugnis tribesmen shared a laugh.

"Your women are so forward. It's something we'll never understand." the first man said with a wide, feral smile.

Junea raised a brow. Sharply, he raised his hand, and the tribesmen behind him quieted.

He withdrew a blade from his side, and with a quickness, it was flipped open and put to the Ugnis' abdomen. "Be vulgar and I will return the favor. Be peaceful, and keep your hands to yourself, and we will not have a problem."

Then, the knife had come to his pocket again. The Vanduo tribesmen grew quiet. The second-in-command looked back to Kysa, almost annoyedly, before nodding her on. He stepped backward to whisper to her, "Do not feel the need to prove yourself."

The woman merely eyed him, and said nothing.

Finally, Junea looked to his escort.

"We will be off, then. Lead us."

The man nodded, turning to quickly walk back through the foothills. With him at the front, and two others bringing up the rear, it was beginning to feel more like a prison march rather than a pass to see the leader of the Ugnis tribe.

Kysa shifted, murmuring to Junea in a low voice.

"I wished to stay with you," she told him quietly. "Besides, I might catch something you would have missed otherwise." Despite her uneasiness, she smiled at him briefly before looking forward.

Junea's face had remained stoic the moment he whistled for the attention of the tribe. His brow permanently furrowed, and his eyes kept on his Ugnis escort. Still yet, he whispered, "Then do keep your eyes open. There is something about this man..."

He breathed, suddenly. Audibly.

"But a man's actions do not represent his people. At the same time, do not be biased."

She chuckled, but fell silent. The walk towards the tunnels was a convoluted mess of weaving in between hills and small valleys. As dark as it was, it surprised her how easily the others could move. Yet, they lived in near-darkness their whole lives didn't they? The night time would not bother them in the least.

There were two more standing guard at the entrance to the underground, a great, gaping hole that seemed to drop into nowhere. Kysa hesitated a moment, but moved forward as she was bid.

"Care to let me hold your hand?" the man up front turned back to look at her. She ignored him.

Without stopping to recupperate, the two were coralled into the tunnel, which was surprisingly smooth. It sloped steeply, but if they kept their wits about them, they would make it down without problems.

It wasn't until they got to roughly a hundred yards from the entrance that the soft glow of firelight filtered towards the pair. Kysa's eyes squinted.

One of their guard moved forward, snatching the fire from the wall and holding it alloft. Quite suddenly, dozens of other torches burst into flame, lighting the entire, massive tunnel.

"Welcome to Tribe Ugnis," the first man said, as the tunnel opened up into a vast cavern lit by a myriad of torches. It seemed to spiral, several levels built into the walls, and all around men and boys were hard at work, digging or practicing with their magic, or simply tucking themselves into bed.

But there were no women.

Kysa gently touched Junea's hand, as if to communicate this.

When Junea's eyes finally met the dull torchlight, he was relieved. Blue eyes traced over the area, and when Kysa's gentle touch made him come to the realization of what was so obviously off, those blue eyes flickered with concern. His eyes fixated on those who worked, those who practiced their magic, and those who idled about. His stomach twisted.

Perhaps their women were elsewhere.

The man tried to keep his eyes from trailing to Kysa. He tried not to raise the awareness of his suspicion, and a nod forward indicated that the woman he was accompanied by should do the same.

"I thank you for the welcome." Junea said, "You'll be directing us to Ignio, now."

It was not a question, but a statement.

"Of course!" The one to the front said. "Indeed, come with us. We'll bring you directly to the audience chamber."

As they passed, Kysa could feel the eyes of men on her from all different directions. If it just so happened that she managed to look their way, they'd glance off, but not without a secretive smile appearing on their faces. It unnerved her, but she kept looking forward, pretending that it didn't bother her.

They came to a stone set of stairs, ones that brought them to the deeper parts of the giant cavern. A warm yellow glow came from all around, the source of the light being the river of lava that flowed all around the outskirts. There were no children. Young men and adult men.

The pair at their backs pressed closer, before one suddenly seized Kysa by the shoulders, upsetting her balance, but gripping her tight to keep from falling. She looked stricken, her eyes wide as the other men burst into laughter.

"Watcher step!" one guffawed.

Junea gritted his teeth, before he'd stepped back to stay between the guards behind them and Kysa. He raised a hand so one couldn't come to his side, but past that, he'd shown no more aggression. "Their ways have changed." He harshly whispered. "If I had known, you would not have been asked to come."

His shoulders were tense, and his fists were balled at his sides. It wouldn't be wise to lash out. They would see Ignis, and then they would leave.

She was struggling to calm her breathing, but she nodded her agreement anyway, keeping her eyes forward and her expression stoic as they finally reached the ground level. Up ahead, a vast archway loomed before them, bidding entry to the vast space. The dome overhead was so high they could barely make it out, and shadows flickered against the towering walls, like so many insects crawling within their terrarian refuge.

As they were encouraged forward, the audience chamber was shown to be well-lit with fire light, as well as the glow of lava that encircled the entire room. At the center, a hole laying in the ground, a shaft that glowed with the same orange light.

No women. Only men were in the room, and when Kysa was seen, many of them smiled.

And there sat Ignio, on his chair of stone. He could not contain his grin. At first, he chuckled. Then, his shoulders began to spasm is fits of laughter. He leaned forward, clutching the chair of stone, and rubbing at the tears that formed in his eyes. Along with him, his men began to laugh as well, until they had all eventually quieted. Junea sat stoic throughout this, though his eyes seemed to shake, and his fists turned white.

"I'm sorry." He said, waving a hand. Ravelled upon his fingers were obsidian-black stone; the same kind that seemed to lace around the entire structure. "No one has visited us in so long." Ignio raised the hand to his face. "And never did we expect it in such a manner. I have to question if you're honestly attempting to raise a query with me."

A smile remained ever-persistent on his face. He bore the same white, filmed eyes that the rest of his tribe had. His hair had been haphazardly tied back into charcoal dreads, which singed at the end.

"And at such short notice."

"Your tribe does not exactly make it easy to communicate." Junea quickly retorted.

"We're here regarding the disappearances of several outlying settlers out in the Saunas," Kysa spoke up. It was eerie, how silent everyone became. Keeping her breathing under control, she lifted her voice again, "We do not suspect any of our own people, but we were wondering if you might have noticed any strange happenings lately."

"Entire homesteads have been depleted." Junea added. "People taken from their homes, without traces left of them. Garments were left at the wheel. Animals remained unskinned. Growth... Plant growth has dissipated, as if it's been poisoned. Of course, we do not expect the same circumstances here. You, after all, do not have plant life." His arms raised again, and he gestured to all of the room. "Except for ember flowers."

"Have you noticed any of your settlements disappearing? Just people? I imagine it would be quite hard for one of your denizens to simply disappear into the night."

"Have you borne children?" Ignio suddenly asked. It couldn't be known who he was focusing on, but it was certainly obvious. The man cocked his head to the side in honest curiosity; a stark change from the amusement he'd displayed earlier.

Junea looked incredulously between Kysa and Ignio.

His men stood at attention, though their faces bore the same disgusting curiosity.

If not for the darkness, it would have been obvious that her face was colored with a blush.

"What kind of mockery is this?" she accused. "What could that possibly have to d--"

A man came from behind, forcing himself between Kysa and Junea so abruptly that the woman stumbled to the side. Someone caught her about the waist, pinning her arm behind her back and pushing her forward, closer to that pit that stood in the center of the auditorium.

Three others rushed to bar Junea should he try to interrupt.

"He asked you a question." the man hissed into her ear. She tried to lean back, feeling the heat against her face.

"I...I was a mother." she began.

Junea impulsively shot toward the guards that seized Kysa, unsheathing the knife from his side. He was pushed back, and caught himself before he could fall. He whipped around to look at Ignio, bearing wild eyes.

"We come bearing peace, and you ask these meaningless questions! This woman, as of now, is acting of third-in-command of the Vanduo tribe. Happen that you assault us, you will lose our support and the support of our allying tribes. I warn you." Junea instantly threatened.

His statements seemed to fall on deaf ears. Ignio's head tilted, to see the spectacle that laid behind Junea. One of the three guards moved to shove the man into a stone structure, upon noting their leader's interest.

"Counts." Ignio started. "Still counts. I wonder the circumstances."

A polearm from one of the guards pointed at Junea's chest when he began to move further. However, upon Kysa's compliance, the guard who'd held her over the pit stepped backward. Perhaps, in sign of good faith that she were to continue further.

"No, however." The leader started again, perhaps interrupting what the woman was about to say. A smile appeared on his face again. "We haven't had any disappearences."

"It's good to hear." Kysa said, forcing herself to remain calm. "We ask that you keep an eye out then, just be wary. We don't want anyone else to get hurt."

She took a step back.

"And now...we'll leave your company. We do thank you for the...hospitality." She looked to Junea, unnerved that the men were still watching her, and smiling.

"No," the first man said, that knife of his coming out and laying pointedly against her shoulder.

"You won't."

Ignio stood from his chair, smiling like all the rest, and paced towards Kysa. "I have a theory!" he announced, spreading his arms wide and inclining his head. "As to why the tribesmen of other groups are being taken...and not ours!"

She could feel the knife trail against her skin, errupting a shiver of goosebumps. She turned her face away, but Ignio came forward, seizing her jaw in his hand and forcing her to look his way.

"Because Motina is weak. And she does not love her children the way she says she does."

"And what do you propose we do elsewise, if we aren't leaving?" Junea questioned. His voice remained calm as well, even though his heart thudded against his chest, and his eyes contracted. Still yet, the guard kept the pointed pole at Junea's chest. His hands were raised, though he had a knife in one.

When he lowered to put it down, a sharp pain in the chest halted his movements.

"And if Motina is weak," He started, his chest rattling in between words. "Who do you suppose is strong?"

Ignio grinned.

"Matteo. Mama"

"Mama." The men in attendance echoed.

"Mama has provided for us these past fifteen years." Ignio continued, looking back towards Junea. "We've had no want nor need of any other woman, and no harm has come to us. We thrive with her, so long as we give her what she asks for." He then looked back to Kysa.

The woman stumbled back, right into the arms of the man with the knife. She struggled, briefly, until that kiss of steel touched her throat.

"Where are the other women and children?!" she suddenly cried.

As the echoes of her question faded, Ignio simply watched, before looking to the pit, where fire bloomed in liquid form.

"To Mama." he said, his voice rough, but not with grief...with lust.

"Let us go forth and spread the news, then. Of her generosity. If Matteo has kept you sustained, for 15 years. Or, let us warn them of what may come if they follow such a weak guardian." Junea said, his eyes fixated on Kysa, and his brows furrowed with worry. His body was stiffened with fear.

"Or," He proposed. "Let her."

The man's eyes flashed back to Ignio.

Kysa had closed her eyes, her chin tucked to her chest as her brow furrowed in intense concentration. Ignio took note of this, but it didn't seem to bother him.

"Mama wishes to know what the children of the forest taste like." he said with a sudden laugh. The others echoed, a heinous sound that filled the room, right up until the heavy rumble overhead caught their attention.

"The volcano?" one murmured. "Can't be," said another. "It lies dormant."

Suddenly, two wide cracks split overhead, directly over the rivers of lava that looped the room. Just as suddenly, a torrent of subterranean water fell from the fissures, hitting the lava with a deafening hiss as clouds of steam suddenly filled the room.

Kysa threw her elbow back into the man's face, shoving him away before moving to a clearer spot.

"JUNEA!" she cried.

Junea shoved himself backwards into the stone structure, which was thankfully not rooted into the ground. It slid, only slightly, but it'd given him enough leverage to knock the pole away from the guard's arm, slide under it, and shove his own blade into the other man's abdomen. He pulled backward, and fought to ungrasp the injured guard's hands from his shawl. Steam began to cloud the vision of those in the room, and that's when the Vanduo second-in-command shoved the injured guard away from him, and made for Kysa.

"Up the stairwell. From where we came. Motina, aide us." He breathed, almost inaudibly. His hand latched around the woman's wrist, and his other hand had firmly placed the knife in her hand. He closed her fingers around it, before starting toward the direction they'd come.

A steady glow began to emmenate from the entrance of the chamber, not yellow from the flame, but a pure, blue-white. Kysa gripped Junea's forearm before pointing, as the distinct shape of the familiar bob cat appeared before them. The Ugnis backed away, blinded by the intensity of the light, but Kysa was called forward, along with Junea.

The bobcat waited only a moment before turning to run. The pair were encouraged to sprint after her, using the light as a shield as a multitude of Ugnis warriers cowered against the walls. Up the stairs they went, through darkness and soot, and on into that god-forsaken tunnel that had become ablaze with Motina's guiding light.

Dawn had come, causing the outside Ugnis guards to vanish, but as Junea and Kysa stumbled to the surface, it became clear what had transpired.

All of the men they had come with, every last one, had been burned to death.

When Junea had come to the surface, and the distinct smell of charred and burned flesh wafted to his nose, he'd halted in his steps. A dull, dark smoke rose from where the tall grass had covered his team's position. Without waiting for Kysa, he had sprinted toward them, tall grass stinging against his face like the barbs of insects.

And when he'd come across the charred bodies of his friends, Junea's stoic expression relieved itself. His feet collapsed from underneath him, and he'd felt a sickness come up his throat. The man's legs struggled to move forward, and with every knee he'd drawn closer to his deceased brethren, a resounding crunch had come from the burnt stalks underfoot.

His hand interlaced with Illia's hand. It was rough, and chalky to the touch. A faint crack had resounded against the silence of their settlement.

He buried his head into the grass, and murmured prayers in Motina's name.

She followed after more slowly, her eyes welling, spilling over with tears as she made her way towards the group of bodies that had once been men she served, and served with. Slowly, and without a word, she came up behind Junea, kneeling at his side and embracing his shoulders from behind, a choked sob cutting off her breath.

Motina watched, silent, and mournful, but her words touched them both the same way.

We cannot linger...

"Make the day come faster, Motina. We must." Junea breathed, tears welling at his eyes as well. His chest rattled, and his entire body shook. Pain wracked his entire body. He found himself unable to move, and his hand still stayed within the charred one of his friend. "This is my fault. I was supposed to protect them. They were burned. Every one of them. How could I not see the Ugnis' motives?"

"Motina, make the day come faster." He pleaded.

Kysa gripped Junea's shoulders, trying to comfort him as well as herself. When he looked to Motina, she did as well, her expression pained beyond reason.

Motina merely bowed her head.

It was permission enough. They were allowed to grieve.

Junea's hands lifted, and he placed them over Kysa's. His hands gripped hers tightly, and his head still lowered into the grass.

It would take only minutes for him to heed Motina's warning, though those minutes passed like hours. Finally, Junea could withdraw himself from the hand of his own. Wearily, and with a look undescribable upon his face, he stood again.

Then, a hand still interlaced with Kysa's, he began toward Motina.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn Character Portrait: Xander Roan

0.00 INK

#, as written by FizzGig
Forest of Whispers
October 15, Night


She was lying on her side in the snow, her arm pillowing her head. More snow fell in soft drifts from the darkened sky, but the ethereal glow of Motina's presence gave the clearing a faint blue hue. Aja gazed across at the big cat, her brow knit together as she idly traced patterns in the snow between them. Motina was lying on her belly, gazing back at Aja with an intense, focussed look to her eyes.

Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?

"I think so." Aja replied, her lips pursed. It had been a warning, one she'd been receiving for a long time. This time, though, it seemed as if Motina was more serious than she had been before. Licking her lips she sat up, dusting snow from her cloak before she began to idly scoop snowballs into her palms.

You're doing well, you know. I'm very proud of you.

Aja smiled, glancing to Motina before looking back down at the snowballs. "I'm doing what you asked. That's all."

The big cat stood, padding forward to drag a warm, rough tongue over Aja's cheek. It's more than that. But no need to discuss it now, your trainees are arriving.

Aja's brow perked. "Trainees?"

She looked towards the entrance to the clearing, hearing the faint sound of hoof steps coming from within the darkened treeline. With a grin, she scooped up her snowballs and raced across the clearing, the sprites tossing their bodies her way as she came to a skidding stop on her knees, launching snowballs towards the horse as it finally came into view.

The horse was white as the snow beneath them, and it raced and skidded to a stop the moment that a snowball had hit it. It gave a defying whinny, before laying down. One of the riders on top of the beast huffed and stood up, only to be met with a snowball to the neck. He haphazardly threw himself off the horse, before gloved hands reached to pack snow up and send it at the assaultee; Aja. Snowy figures danced around her; something that'd surely raise a brow to his riding partner.

But, first, he raised his hand and waved to the girl. Then, he reached back to tug Xander along.

"C'mon, Sandy. Don't wet yourself, eh? We're here. Ajani'll explain it t'you."

"Yeh don't have teh pull me like tha'!" Xander hollared, flailing as he went sliding sideways into the snow. Aja threw another snow-ball, crying out with laughter when Adrien's projectile smacked her full in the face.

Overhead, stars and faraway planets dotted the vast, black ceiling above them. Their moon hovered close to them. It was a lumbering, celestial giant. Never in Blakestown were the stars as bright as they were out there. The contrast between them was the contrast of light and dark.

Adrien raised a hand, then, to block another incoming snowball.

"Come on then!" she called to the pair, sitting back on her heels and waiting for them to show their faces. "Xander! Welcome to the Forest of Whispers!"

"I'm feelin' welcome!" he called back, shaking the snow out of his hair. He looked around a bit nervously, but he didn't seem to be too bothered. After all, Adrien trusted the girl, and no real harm had come to him, had it? He looked out behind her, at the figures who were much more easy to see due to the steadily falling snow. Transparent visages, people dancing. They were all over the clearing.

His eyes widened.

"They're sprites! Forest spirits. Come on, they won't harm you." Aja said, standing and turning around to jog back to the horse.

Xander looked to Adrien.

"What kind of trick is this?" he breathed. The scene was ethereal, with the winter sprites dancing, and the girl who was just as mysteriously beautiful walking among them like she somehow belonged there. "I feel like I'm dreaming."

"Y'aren't dreaming. This is what y'get when y'wonder past the walls. I guess y'never really get used to it, 'cause I feel like I'm dreaming too." He said, with a chuckle. He opened his arms and walked backwards from Xander, as if introducing the clearing to the boy. "'Ey though, watch out, will y'? They won't hurt you, but they'll certainly knock y'down!"

As he'd said so, one of the forest spirits came to throw itself at Xander.

"EY STOP!"

The soft 'pft' of snow slapping against skin echoed towards Adrien. Xander lay on the ground, a deep frown on his face, before the boy scrambled to his feet and dusted the snow off. "What was that for? I'm jes sittin here mindin my own--"

Another sprite threw itself at him, but he deftly smacked it with the back of his hand, and it dissolved with the faintest sound of laughter.

Xander scrambled back, running for Adrien while he looked all around the pair. Aja was standing off at a distance, laying out a few long staffs that were evidently meant for sparring purposes. Xander watched her a second, his brow knitting.

"She really is teachin' yeh t'fight. A girl." He looked pointedly at Adrien.

Adrien scoffed at Xander. Then, he grabbed the back of his jacket and playfully pushed the boy in the direction of Aja. "Y'spar with'er. Then y'ask me why a girl is teaching me t'fight. Go on!" He pushed Xander again, before running ahead to Ajani and picking up one of the staffs. When Xander would approach him, he's toss the weapon to the man, but not before tapping Ajani on the shoulder.

"I just want t'see how he fairs. Don't kill'm."

Aja glanced back at Adrien, smiling secretively before looking to Xander and lifting her hand in a wave. "Good to see you again, Xander!" she said, taking up her own staff and letting her cloak fall from her shoulders. She wore a kind of cotton tunic, tucked into the top hem of her brown slacks. Soft-leather boots barely made a sound as she stepped towards him.

Xander fumbled with the staff a moment, confused as to what to do with it. "Yeh fight with sticks?"

"A staff." Aja calmly corrected. "And yes. We're using a handful of different tools, but today's is the staff."

Xander looked unsure. "Dunno how I feel about hitting a gi--"

Aja had passed the staff around behind her, before lowering into a crouch and swinging the staff out to catch Xander in the heels. With a yelp, the young man fell flat on his back, knocking the breath clean from his lungs.

"I insist!" Aja said cheerfully. Xander scrambled back to his feet, a bit out of breath, but looking more determined than before. He swung for Aja's shoulder, but she brought that staff up, ducking sideways and knocking his staff away from herself.

"Don't throw your weight around." she told him. Xander didn't seem to listen. He began a series of unorganized blows, ones that were easy for Aja to block or dodge. Finally, she spun the staff in both hands, pivoting closer to Xander before smacking the hand that held his staff. He yelped, dropping it into the snow, and staggering a step back when the end of the staff Aja held came up under his chin.

She smiled again.

"Not a bad start."

"D'y'wanna ask me about why I'm being trained by a lady now, Sandy?" Adrien asked loudly, before jogging over to their position and grinning madly. In his hand, he held a staff as well. He used it to lower Ajani's. "The way you're fighting, y'might get a bit bloody n'bruised before y'actually start learning anything. Hope y'don't mind explaining t'the townspeople why 've got that nice purple round, aye?" He teased, and poked the boy in the chest himself.

"Y'might want t'start with the snowmen, though. Y'think, Aja?" He asked. Behind them still, figures frolicked and danced in the form of the snow underneath them. "Or me."

"Let him dance," Aja said, taking her staff and running it down the length of his. "I'd like to spar with you, if that's alright."

Xander was eyeing the both of them, and he looked like he was ready to say something inappropriate. Just as his mouth opened, though, a sprite slammed into him, nearly knocking him sideways. Aja laughed.

"Just hit them with the staff! They'll dissipate, I promise. Try not to use so much energy when you swing it around."

"Y'don't have to hit'm hard, Xander. Just keep swinging at'm. Y'think y'd think to turn around, by now!" Adrien said, with a laugh himself. Then, he looked to Ajani, and a slight smirk had come upon his face. "Well, if y'promise not to beat my ass."

His staff met the floor, and he'd waited for Ajani to make the first move. His eyes trailed to Xander, if only for a moment.

"Look at me."

And the moment he did, she was stepping forward, aiming the staff in an abrupt thrust forward for his chest. Xander, in the meantime, had taken to swinging at the sprites, letting out a sharp cry when one of them dissolved just as they said it would. They regrouped, attacking him at once, leaving him to flail about before he finally threw the staff off to the side and just started throwing his arms around.

Adrien's staff rotated as he looked back and stepped back. He knocked the staff away from his chest, and it laid across his arm, as if it were an extension. Then, he released and swung it around, aiming to hit Ajani in the side with the staff.

Xander, however, was on his own. With the two of them enthralled in their sparring, various srites still attacked the man, though the ones he'd hit dissolved into piles of harmless snow.

She parried the blow, pushing the staff away before swinging in close for his opposite side.

"You're getting faster," she told him, nodding with approval. "Learning quickly!"

Adrien yelped as the staff had hit his side, and staggered before catching himself. Meanwhile, his staff swept under Aja's and brought it in an arc motion over his head, before it landed on his other side. Then, he made a Jab for Aja's own stomach, similar to the one she'd given him when they'd first started.

While he fought, he yelled, "Xander! Not dying over there, yeah?"

That time, Adrien didn't look.

She caught the blow in her abdomen, huffing a breath before lowering into a crouch and spinning the staff out for Adrien's ankles. Xander, in the meantime, was getting a better handle on his form. He was street-brawling, but it was definitely working for him.

"These powder beasties don't know what's commin to them!" he called back, grinning like mad.

Adrien's foot lifted, but he hadn't lifted the other one in time enough for the staff not to catch it. It was swept under his foot, and soon, his entire body came along with him. His arm spread out to catch his head, before he'd collapsed into the packed snow. For a moment, he grumbled in pain.

"He's doing better than I am." Adrien said, dully. For a moment, he relaxed, as if giving up the fight. Whether she'd pointed her stick at him or not, though, he'd clutched onto the pole with a firm grip and swept it at her feet as well.

She was nearly gloating in her victory, up until the point where his pole suddenly snaked out, catching her ankles and sending her collapsing to her back. Her breath left her in a rush, and she stared at the sky, breathing a bit labored from the impact.

Then she laughed, tapping his abdomen with the end of her staff.

"You got in a hit and knocked me to the floor." she told him, turning her head sideways to look at him. "I'd say it was a pretty good session."

"Getting good, am I? S'pose I may have t'beat you, next time?" Adrien asked. Then, he rolled to his stomach and pushed himself up to his feet. He left the pole on the ground, and looked to Xander, then went to help the boy. He'd come up to the group that seemed to still be throwing themselves at Xander, before swatting a palm through one of the snow spirits and reaching in to tug Xander away.

"Hey! Almost good enough t'rough me up!" He yelled, and pulled the boy into a headlock. Then, he tumbled backward, intending on bringing his friend to the ground.

Xander made a sound like a choked snarl, flailing his arms as both of the boys tumbled to the ground. Aja bit her lip, watching the pair in amusement as Xander rolled, trying to sit on Adrien's chest. "Aha!" he cried as he attempted to pin Adrien's arms.

"Yer a wee pancake beneath my arse." he stated proudly.

Adrien's wrists pivoted enough to grasp Xander's, and he'd shoved a knee straight between Xander's unmentionables, before his arm shot up to the boy's pit and shoved him sideways. They rolled like a barrel, and the tables turned. Instead of trying to pin Xander's arms, though, he began to shovel the snow underneath onto his face.

"What y'say about pancakes? I'm more like a cinderblock on a stick now, innit?" He teased.

Xander was unable to speak. His face had turned bright red, his body rigid with Adrien's strike. As they rolled, he could barely get a breath in before Adrien was burying him in snow. Aja watched in amusement, before lifting a hand, turning it in closer to herself, and making a flicking motion.

A wave of snow suddenly surged, rolling over the boys and burying them fully.

The sounds of Adrien spitting out snow and flailing arms was heard beneath the snow before a dirty mop of brown-blonde hair peaked from above it and scrambled out from underneath it. He'd made no attempt to grab Xander, and forced back the attempt to bring Ajani into the snow with them.

Instead, he dusted himself off.

"Sorry for the dirty shot, Sandy. You alive under there?"

Xander's fist rocketed out of the snow and connected with Adrien's jaw.

"Jes fine, Dree!" he crooned as he scrambled to the surface.

Aja meandered closer, before plopping down into the snow next to wear Adrien was sprawled.

Adrien's jaw let out a loud smack, before he sorely rubbed it. Instead of taking his place next to Aja, he'd slid over and flopped his body onto Xander's, perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to subdue his brawling friend.

"Don't mind us, Ajani!" He said, perhaps a bit louder than necessary. "When I was a little smaller, Xander'd found he'd owed me 20 bucks for taking care of a horse'e'd forgotten. I just wail on'm every day that he doesn't pay it back. Like a mob serta thing!"

"You both look ridiculous." Aja noted mildly, kicking snow in their direction as she watched Xander simply go limp. Aja stood, taking up her staff and meandering over to the sprites, who had started to toss themselves one way and another.

She paused, before swinging her arm out and taking one sprite in the torso. In that same motion, she brought her leg up as she spun, taking out two in one kick before completing the turn. It was almost like a dance, the way she moved so easily.

"So what do you think?" she asked, referring to Xander. The man said nothing, just lay there.

"I hadn't killed him there, had I?" Adrien asked, his head turning to look to Xander. "Just knocked the breath out ofh him. He thinks it's fantastic." The boy was sitting on the other boy's stomach. He pivoted his torso, and gave a light smack to Xander's face.

"Can tell by the stoic, dead-like expression on his face."

Aja laughed, before she sprung from her position, wrapping an arm around Adrien's neck and another around his waist before she pulled him back, her chin at his shoulder as they leaned.

"The way you fight is different." she noted with a soft grunt. "The way I see animals play..."

"Don't need to hold me back! I wasn't intent on killing him! Playing possum isn't going to get you very far, Xander, y'tried it with me too many times." said Adrien, as he staggered back with Aja's grip.

"Yeah, well... We don't train or anything. Not with staffs or knives. We're not in the military."

She managed to switch their positions, getting him into the snow while she half-leaned over his body. Xander had lifted his head, and was looking on in amusement. Aja's brow furrowed as she looked at Adrien, her hair hanging over her shoulders and brushing against his chest.

"No, that isn't it. This kind of play reminds me of coupling."

Xander choked on his own breath.

Adrien blushed mildly. The red hue that hinted his cheeks because of the snow had hid it.

"It isn't!" He cried, defensively as ever. He rolled into her arm, and if it gave leeway, out from under her, before climbing to his feet. "Couples don't wrestle, anyway. Ladies aren't supposed to fight."

He faltered.

"In Blakestown, I mean."

She aimed a kick for his ankles.

"They should! Those dresses are so cumbersome! Women were not made to simply be dressed up so they're nice to look at."

"Sure is a benefit though," Xander muttered, before getting a snowball to the face.

A yelp came from Adrien, as he'd struggled to keep his footing. Ultimately, he ended up in the snow again. The hitting he'd gotten from Xander began to bruise his jaw, which he idley sat in the snow once he'd come upon it. "Ladies aren't even supposed to show their ankles, Ajani. Teaching them t'fight would be a leap."

A thought came to his mind, and he suddenly chuckled. Ellie, wielding a weapon, fighting. And without cause to the others, he rolled on his back and began to chuckle some more. His eyes met the moon above, whose position hung dangerous.

"Dree allays giggles when he thinks of the couplings." Xander said knowingly.

Ajani was watching the other young man for a moment, before she pulled in a deep breath and turned to look at the sky. It was beautiful tonight. In her eyes, every night had its own unique kind of loveliness. Tonight was special though, because she could enjoy it with others whom she considered to be friends.

"It's good to see you smile." She noted absent-mindedly. Xander, quick as ever, laughed aloud.

"I'm always smilin', miss."

Adrien threw his arms forward, and in turn, put himself into a sitting position. He looked up to Xander, an expression on his face that almost seemed dumb with curiosity. "So then, you'll be joining us - me n'Ajani - from now on? Maybe learn to fight like you're not a first-year school student." He said, a grin encroaching on the lower part of his face.

"Thinking mayhaps it's about time to get back. Want to do it before the sun rises, y'know, and cleaning up horse dung isn't going to be so easy if you're tired as all getout, Sandy."

Xander chuckled. "Aye mate, this is more fun than sitting mopin' around in town all day." He got to his feet, dusting the snow from his breeches before stretching his arms over his head. "I'll get you yet, Miss Aja. Just you wait."

Ajani was smiling, but something had changed about her expression. She was a bit more somber than she had been before, for seemingly no reason at all. She glanced to Adrien briefly.

"Can I speak to you alone for a moment?"

"Xander, go kick up the horse. Be over in a mite."

Adrien nodded to Ajani then, before waiting for Xander to leave.

"What's what, then?"

"I was talking to Motina, before you and Xander came." she said, keeping her voice low as she gently wrapped her arms around her waist. She seemed troubled. "She's giving me the impression that something awful has happened, but I can't get any kind of direction as to where the danger is coming from, or how soon we can expect it. She's only encouraging us to be ready."

She looked away from him for a moment. "I thought the immediate threat was towards us, the Vanduo tribesmen...but she insists that those who are truly in danger...are you. The colonists." Her lips were pursed, brow furrowed with concern.

"And the walls won't keep you safe."

Adrien furrowed his brow. His eyes slightly shifted to Xander, before they came to rest on the snow in front of his boots. Those boots shifted and sideswept the snow as the boy in them considered Ajani's warning. "I can't do anything about that, Ajani." He suddenly said, and his eyes met hers.

"I'm not Illiam. Or Radimus. People don't listen t'me anymore. I guess what's coming's just going t'come, whether we like it or not, unless Motina suggests some sort of alternative."

"She'll provide a way." Ajani said it firmly, fully convinced. "She won't just allow us to sit and wait for danger. Something will happen."

There was something else she wasn't saying, like she didn't know how to say it in the first place. But she wasn't looking at Adrien, and her hands were pressing tightly into her forearms.

"Something like what?" Adrien asked. "The way you're speaking tells me you're convinced, but the way you're looking down tells me you're not." He said, an unsureness still tinting his face.

"I know we will be given a reason to trust each other, our groups of people, but the fear that I have, the feeling that I'm getting...is that the threat is familiar. It concerns me."

She met his eyes. "Just be watchful. I think, whatever happens, this is going to come from someone we trust."

Adrien gave a reassuring smile, and his hand met Ajani's shoulder. "Always am. If it'll set your mind right, I'll keep a club by my bed."

It was supposed to be reassuring, but perhaps it wasn't. Regardless of whether Ajani felt comforted, distraught, or otherwise, the boy turned and looked to Xander, to whom of which he raised a hand. Not before he turned his head, though, and nodded at Ajani.

"We'll be fine."

was the last thing he said, before departing for Xander and the horse.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Junea Vrass

0.00 INK

Seirras Mountain Range
September 14, Late evening


Night had begun to settle, the last tendrils of sunlight disappearing behind the mountains. All around them, the grass stalks bent and swayed in the gentle breeze that carried from the north. While it was cool, the cold didn't cause Kysa any kind of discomfort as she moved through the grass, her eyes on the ground, making sure she didn't move so fast that she might tug at the rope that bound her and Junea at the waist. It was so easy to get lost here. You absolutely had to keep close to a companion if you had one, lest you lose one another in the dizzyingly large dry ocean.

She felt weary, emotionally spent, all to the point that she felt she was too tired to continue. She said nothing of it though. She did not wish to burden Junea with her complaints. While she was hurting, she knew that he certainly was too. Perhaps more so.

It wasn't until she stumbled that she realized she probably just needed to quit and rest. Straightening, she glanced back to Junea, as if for further instruction. They'd walked for days now, with few rest periods, all the more eager to make it back home to inform the tribe of what had happened. Now, though, she was simply too tired to continue.

Junea's eyes kept forward, and he kept his legs moving as long as he possibly could. It was very rarely that he actually looked to Kysa. Perhaps his feelings were in shame. He had certainly blamed himself for the incident. When Kysa stumbled, though, Junea looked to her, as if for further instruction, before he'd quickly nodded and came close enough to her for the both of them to be able to sit down and see eachother, and for the rope between them to loosen. On his person, he looked for anything that could serve as a blanket or something of the sort, but all of his possessions had been burned along with his brothers.

"We need not go out past the Vanduo village." He said, almost breathed. He didn't show his weariness through his stance, but it certainly came through his voice. "We will send others in our place to bear the news, and tell them to tread away from the Ugnis tribe."

"What will Ajani say?" Kysa wondered, taking in a shuddering breath before lying down on the ground. It was cold. She was cold. And it showed in the delicate tremor of her shoulders as she curled her arms towards her chest, pillowing the side of her head with her hands. She was gazing at Junea through the stalks of tall grass, watching as he disappeared, then reappeared.

"What could we do? Why haven't we heard of this before?"

They were questions she did not expect an answer to. Another gust of wind blew harder than before, suddenly frigid. She guarded herself, drawing her knees up and lying still. When had the nights become so cold?

"I am not sure what she'll say." Junea admitted. "We did not know of the Ugnis tribe because they were seclusive. It was never a necessity to visit them, and it was always a hassle. I cannot remember much of my last trip there, although I do remember one thing." Junea's shoulders heaved in a sigh. "There were women. And we should have visited them more often. Perhaps then this would not've happened."

Then, he fell backwards, into the unforgiving grasses of the dry desert. His eyes met the sky, and his shoulders spasmed when the bitter wind had come over them. His fingers laced together, before he'd ultimately opened his mouth to speak. "We will need to sleep close. Conserve body heat. Sierras is unforgivingly cold near the solstice times." he said, from the ground. "A fire would only burn the bush around us, or attract attention."

She regarded him a moment, weighing her options, before she shifted to a crouch, shuffling over to where he lay, and lay down next to him. Their skin didn't quite touch, and at the moment, she was content with that, up until the moment another strong gust barreled over them, causing her to shy up against his chest, her eyes wide as she stiffly curled against his side.

"I don't know that I could sleep." she said softly.

"After such exhausting days, I can't imagine that I will have any trouble." Junea replied. He'd resisted the urge to roll over, grab some of that unforgiving dry sea grass and try to get the heat off of it. Both of their bodies radiated heat, though, and it was surely sufficient enough. His breaths, before drifting into slumber, were long and exaggerated. They raised his chest, before it caved in again.

Those breaths seemed to grow shorter and shorter, before returning to a normal pace. That was when the eyes underneath Junea's lids began to flicker and he, himself, fell asleep.

For a little while, Kysa lay next to him, shivering from the cold that licked at her skin. Envying for a few moments the ease with which he'd fallen to sleep, she closed her eyes, forcing herself to think on other things, even as images of fire, of figures burning, danced across her mind's eye.

When she opened them again, the moon had shifted, and the wind had died down, leaving the grass standing tall, bending only slightly to accomodate the two figures who lay together. Junea was still sleeping soundly, his features relaxed in his rest. She sat up on her elbow, her shoulders stiff from lying in her curled position, and took a look around.

A steady glow had begun to reach out to her through the grass stalks. She sat up more fully, her brow knitting together as she squinted her eyes, attempting to gaze past the foliage in order to find the source behind it. It didn't take long to figure out that Motina was beckoning to her.

Fumbling with the ropes at her waist, she untied them quickly, quietly rising to her feet and stepping away from Junea, keeping a note of where he was, and what direction she was walking away from him. North-northeast, she thought, taking slow steps, and parting the grass with her hands.

Motina lead her further and further away, the paces growing longer, time extending, until she found a place where, oddly enough, the grass had begun to wither and die.

It reminded her of the blackened earth they'd found at the homesteads. She knelt, running her hand over the surface of the ground, and grimacing when it felt dry and grainy, not at all like the softer, sandier dirt that rooted the grasses.

Rising, she stepped out a few paces into the dead patch, looking around for Motina's aura. It was nowhere to be found.

That was when the ground shifted. Like wood breaking beneath her wait, the ground suddenly crumbled away, elliciting a sharp cry of surprise as the earth swallowed her up, and plunged her into darkness.

Kysa's scream elicited the heavy eyes of Junea to open, and drearily regard his surroundings. They were bathed in moonlight still, even though the moon had shifted it's position. When those dreary eyes had come to eralization that he was not in a dream, not back home with Ajani or Scout or Nanuk, they'd snapped open, and looked to the sound of her voice. Where grass seemed treaded upon is where she'd gone, and the rope that was tied between them had been either severed or untied, and he wasn't one who could tell, as the other end laid concealed amongn the high grasses.

He rushed to his feet, the ground underneath him making an audible crunch as he'd done so, and whipped toward the sound of her screaming. It had mattered not if he yelled back to her, as if there had been anyone around, their cover certainly had already been blown. "Kysa!" He yelled, and his feet carried him so. "Where are you? Where have you gone?" He yelled again, into the night.

The man's eyes stayed upward while his feet carried him forward, and his hand clasped around his mouth to yell. "Kys-" He started again, before the same darkness that engulfed Kysa had engulfed him too. He only uttered a sharp breath in of anticipation, and braced himself to hit the ground.

The rope came with him.

The impact was surprisingly soft, the loamy earth having the feel of well-tilled soil. There was no way to tell how far he had fallen, or how large the space was that he'd fallen into. It was black as night, with only a thin shaft of moonlight igniting the immediate area with its silver glow.

"Junea!" Kysa gasped from the darkness, and her voice seemed to echo into distant places. She came to him, her pale skin lighting white in the moon's beams, and her brow was furrowed with worry. "Are you alright?!"

Junea quickly rolled onto his back, the moonlight illuminating his face as he'd rolled into the thin shaft that penetrated the barren ground above. For a moment, he groaned, and his other hand met the shoulder that'd taken the impact, before he'd crawled to his feet and grasped Kysa's arm. He held it up to the light, as if there were a perverse fear that it wasn't actually her.

"Are you?" He finally asked.

She nodded weakly, her eyes flickering to his hand before turning away from him.

Then, he looked to the beam of light that illuminated such a small portion of the tunnel. "What is this?"

"I don't know," she responded in a murmur, gently removing her arm from his grip and taking a few steps away, into the darkness. Suddenly, a tongue of orange flame bloomed in her palm, lighting up the area around her, and revealing a massive earthen tunnel that extended to darkness behind them, and on to a solid dirt wall ahead. Her eyes were wide, the flame suspended over her palm flickering strange shadows against the walls.

"There isn't a creature in all of Mateja that can make a hovel this size..." she breathed.

Junea's eyes had snapped to the fire that Kysa formed in her hands. For a moment, his brow twitched, in confusion. There weren't many of the water tribe who could conjure such a thing. Regardless, though, he pried his eyes away from the flame, and set them on the vastness of the tunnel of which they'd fallen. Then, he looked up.

"It is best that we get back to ground. Finish our rest. We will send our replacements to this location when we get back to the tribe."

The suggestion was immediate, and encroached upon the lines of 'suggestion' and 'demand'.

"How will we reach it?"

The flame extinguished, and she walked back over to where Junea stood.

"Can you lift me?" she asked, looking to him. "Let me take the rope and I can help pull you up." When she put her hand on his shoulder, it was pleasantly warm. Her eyes glanced towards the hole.

"I'd just need to stand on your shoulders for a moment." she said.

Junea's lips pulled into a tight line, but he nodded nonetheless. It would certainly be easier than her lifting he. Almost immediately, the man bent to a knee. When Kysa was to step upon them, he lifted his body and his shoulders, though one of them seemed weaker, and slacked a little bit. If she didn't have a good grip, she may have slipped, if not for that he put his hands over her ankles when she'd boarded.

Her balance was relatively precise. She wasted little time reaching for the lip of the hole, grabbing at stalks of grass before bodily pulling herself up. The rope she held tight in her hand, her legs swinging briefly before she managed to drag herself up and onto high ground. Then, she turned about, digging in her heels and wrapping the rope around her forearm a few times.

"Come on Junea!" she called down.

"I've got you, try to jump!"

Junea glanced upwards, to the rope, before he'd crouched and jumped to grab it. Both his hands had a firm grip on the dangling object, and since Kysa's forearms were strong enough, he quickly pulled himself to the lip of the hole they'd fallen through. Thankfully, the lip hadn't caved under his weight. For a moment, his hands grasped for stalks of grass to lighten the pressure on his companion's forearms, before they seemed to backtack.

A hiss came from his mouth, and his eyes widened. For a moment, he'd glanced down as if he'd been bitten by something. He'd know in a moment, though, when he had swung his leg over the edge.

But his leg didn't meet the lip of the hole. Instead, his hip went to swing it over and abruptly was pulled back, as if someone were holding his foot. When it'd jerked in such a fashion, he released a yelp of pain. One hand impulsively went down to meet his leg, while the other struggled to hang on.

A yell from beneath had signified what was to come. It wasn't a yell from Junea, or Kysa, but another person. Gravely, he looked into her eyes, and she returned his gaze with a fearful look of her own.

"Run. Back to the place where we slept, and hide."

Just after, Junea's other hand slipped, and he fell again into the same darkness that they'd met beforehand. When he'd met the ground, his cries ceased as if they were being stifled.

Kysa, try as she might, was unable to keep him up. Fighting against whatever was pulling him in, she ended up loosening the earth that kept her from falling into the hole, and as a result, she once again felt the ground open up beneath her.

This time, however, arms were there to catch her when she fell. And those arms weren't the welcoming ones of Junea. No, in the darkness, she couldn't see, but the rancid breath of the one who'd welcomed her into the darkness. Soon enough, he shoved her to the ground and unlatched something from his pocket. From the darkness that covered the tunnel, though, it couldn't be said what.

Suddenly, a voice from the same man rang out. "Kill him!" It said. "Take her back to Ignio and Mama!"

The silhouetted face tipped it's chin sideways, before it'd stepped back into the moonlight. Dark gray, almost charcoal-like skin had graced the face of the man, and his eyes sheened with a film of blindness.

Another two had appeared to restrain Kysa, while the one who'd hit the moonlight suddenly dipped his head to the right and melded with the darkness. A pained yell echoed through the tunnel, though it couldn't be adamant who'd it belonged to.

"Junea!" Kysa managed a stifled cry. Her hands had braced some of the fall as the first man shoved her to the ground, but the other two were quickly approaching. If she was restrained, she wouldn't have a chance.

So as soon as one drew close, she pivoted onto her side, swinging a kick out for the nearest one's leg, her hand igniting into flame, briefly illuminating the scene as she grabbed for the man who restrained her, attempting to burn his face.

"Get away!" she cried.

The man's utterances of pain seemed so animalistic that it was a surprise they had even belonged to a human being. He stumbled backward onto the ground, holding his face. They had all dealt with fire, the Ugnis, and their skin was like leather, but leather burned. The rank smell of flesh seemed to waft into the area. The other man seemed bothered not by the anguish his companion had been in, and quickly went to sweep an arrow-pointed shaft with a rope toward Kysa. In the split second it'd come at her, she might've noticed that it had already been tinted by deep scarlet blood.

And the same colored blood seemed to seep at Kysa's feet, the trail still coming from the darkness that her flame hadn't reached. Finally, Junea's voice had come from the darkness. It was hoarse, and even difficult to understand. "Kysa!" He yelled. "Get up, run, and get help." He breathed, weakly.

Still yet, the sounds of motion and fighting came from the darkness.

"Don't be a fool!" she shouted back, rolling quickly to one side and grimacing as the spearhead drove into the dirt where her shoulder had been. She landed a kick for the nearest Ugnis' chest, before she pushed herself to her feet and took a good step back, both of her hands ignited into flame.

"Junea!" she cried. "To me!"

She was ready when they came for her, fighting them the way an expert warrior might. With the flames encircling her palms, it made her attacks that much more deadly. They were going to survive this. They absolutely had to.

The survival of their own tribe depended on it.

The Ugnis had jabbed so fiercely that when his weapon hadn't stuck into Kysa, it jammed into the wall behind her. He struggled to pull it out, and when his chest had sent a crack through the dimly lit hovel, he stumbled backward and fell into the dirt behind him. He laid next to his companion, who steadily breathed, but nurtured a newly blind face. He grasped his fellow tribe member, and began to drag him off into the darkness, ever slowly.

The dense sound of a palm against skin had resounded through the dirt walls on the other Vanduo's side, however. Junea had shot away from his aggressor, and into the visible light of Kysa's flames. His leg gave out from underneath him and he stumbled, sending him to the floor. The flickering light of the flames had extended to show the bleeding body of the Ugnis that Junea had managed to fight off before stumbling toward his fellow tribe member.

The only other Ugnis left standing had been the one who'd come behind Junea, but calls of other tribesmen echoed in the near distance.

Kysa was breathing hard, the flames extinguishing as she shifted sideways to grab Junea's arm and pull him close. "Don't leave my side," she instructed, pulling them back againts the wall of dirt. She still held tightly to him, leaning back against the earthen surface and closing her eyes in concentration.

The ground began to tremble faintly, vibrations increasing in intensity as dirt clods and stone fell from the ceiling. In the distance, surprised, frightened shouting could be heard.

Junea had clutched the fabric of Kysa's shirt in the near-darkness. His head dug into the wall behind her, and his other hand rubbed the bruise that laid around his throat. Surely enough, he was on knee, for the other leg's flesh had been ripped from it's place.

The man that had remained, the Ugnis who fought toward Kysa and Junea, gave a surprised yell before a large rock had fallen to nearly crush his foot. He staggered back with a yelp, before drawing backwards into the cavern.

The dull roar signified the collapse of the tunnel, the gust of air and dirt rushing towards the pair. Kysa changed positions, pinning Junea to the wall and doing her best to surround him, to guard him as the dirt came barreling closer.

The sound filled her ears, causing her to grimace before suddenly, in a breathless moment, all noise stopped. Behind them, a gentle ledge sloped upwards towards the pre-dawn sky.

Kysa glanced to Junea, smiling weakly, before her knees gave out and she found herself collapsing sideways.

Junea's arms reached out to Kysa, catching her before she could hit the rough of the ground. His hands then reached above him, to the dirt wall. They met metal. Metal attached to rope. In good measure, he pulled the Ugnis weapon out and it jerked him backwards, but he'd soon meet Kysa again. "Almost day." He breathed. "Only a little further. Come. Can you come?"

His eyes paranoidly shifted between Kysa and the darkness, and the hand he wasn't using to shepherd his companion white-knuckled around the weapon.

Her breathing was ragged, as if she'd run for miles without stopping. Gritting her teeth, the woman got her hands beneath her, easing herself to a standing position, and closing her eyes as a rush of dizziness suddenly overcame her.

"Go ahead." she managed, taking slow, deep breaths. "I'll catch up. That took more energy than I thought it would..."

He looked at the collapsed tunnel behind them. If Ugnis were to come, they'd have a very hard time. But what was the point of him leaving her there? Would Motina save them this time? Did they need help?

Junea cautiously climbed up to surface-level via the ramp that Kysa had made, but he was no more able to run than she was. When he'd gotten up there, the dirt and grime that'd gotten into the wound on his leg caused him to stop. He looked to the skies, that of which hung in a teal-purple twilight, and threatened to peek a morning sun over soon.

But it didn't look like help was around.

"I can help you up," Junea finally rasped. He slid down again, half-way, and lurched a hand toward his companion. "We must leave eventually."

Kysa looked about ready to reply, before a high, keening bugle interrupted her. Her eyes widened as she angled her face skyward. "Junea," she managed. "Go back, quickly! Oro comes!"

She pointed, just in time, as a massive, transparent mass flew over the mouth of the hole, dangerously close to the ground. The faint rumble indicated that it had landed not far away, but out of sight due to the lip of earth that stood high over their heads.

Junea turned quickly. He was not a stranger to that bugling sound, and mostly, the beasts who bore it did not fly alone. His hands grasped broken stalks and burned dirt as he haphazardly pulled his way to the top of the lip. Speaking anything had caused him a surmountable amount of pain, but that didn't keep the man from rasping the tribe's name.

"Oro! Mums reikia pagalbos!"

"I can see that!" Came the returned cry. The man dismounted from the large, physical mass that seemed to move and shift like a thunderhead. As the creature elongated, wings unfolding from its torso, the transparent wyvern began to slowly move closer to Junea, a gentle rumble moving through it as it lowered its serpentine head, eyes blinking like black coals in its massive face. At full height, it could easily outstand two men, and the length was easily twice that much. The man who rode it bore similar appearance to Junea, except his clothing was light, close-fitting, and a pair of glass-framed goggles sat fixed to his forehead, to block out the wind as he flew.

"That cut in the land extends for miles back to the mountains!" he explained as he came closer, breaking into a jog. "Caiphus and I were patrolling close by when we heard the noise. Are you alone?"

He searched the area in disbelief, as if he didn't understand why Junea would be on his own.

"No," He started. He was on his side, due to the rather prominent wound on his leg. Quickly, he gestured to the lip and cave-in that was to the side of him. "One other woman survived. She is down there. The rest of our team was murdered by the Ugnis."

"I will explain further when we are both safe." He added, a certain urgency to his voice.

The man regarded Junea with a look of disbelief written all over his face. He seemed to be in a small state of shock. "Ugnis, but..."

The sounds of Kysa struggling to get to the lip of the cave-in caught his attention, and he immediately jogged over to the edge, glancing down before jumping in to offer Kysa a hand. As he vanished from sight, a second, massive wyvern went flying overhead, landing in the same spot that the first had touched down.

It wasn't long before the first figure emerged with Kysa held delicately in his arms. And the woman, who looked too tired to keep her head up, was resting her cheek against his chest, eyes closed in her exhaustion.

"Name's Trystan." he called to Junea, as Caiphus came forward with his hands planted on his hips. The pair looked very similar, as though related. Brothers, perhaps. Caiphus, whose eyes and hair were darker than Trystan's, glanced over Kysa before looking to Junea.

"Traveling alone?" he querried. "Foolish, in these parts. Did you know of the tunnel that caved in?"

"We were fighting to get back to our tribe, after the rest of our team had been murdered. Do not call us foolish." Junea said, an amount of serpentry to his voice. "... Murdered by the Ugnis. The Ugnis, who are building a tunnel toward the colonist's settlement. They tried to kill us as well. Motina's grace saved us both, but the others were not so lucky. The Ugnis no longer heed Motina."

He reached up and grasped Trystan's garment, to pull himself up. Uneasily, he looked between Kysa and Trystan. The tunnel had caved in, and it was of Kysa's doing, but...

"We were lucky that it had collapsed."

"But how?" Wondered Caiphus. "It's a massive structure, and anyone with a mastery of the elements would not have dug so shallow that the surface would collapse. He looked from Junea to Trystan, who had begun to carry Kysa away from the others, towards a wyvern that stood ready for flight.

Caiphus watched them go, and looked back to Junea with a brow raised.

"Was it you?"

Junea's eyes narrowed toward Caiphus.

"No."

At that moment, he rubbed his neck and bore a feigned expression of pain. Where he rubbed, there was a ring of bruised purple. Then, he looked to Caiphus' wyvern.

"May we go?"

Trystan had already stepped onto his wyvern's back, with Kysa still tucked close to his torso. Her dark hair had come undone , spilling about her shoulders, and giving the illusion that it was a child that Trystan carried with him, and not a grown woman. Caiphus turned to watch as the wyvern spread its massive, transparent wings, before glancing back to Junea and offering out an arm.

"Yes. Daylight comes." he said, seeming to ponder something as he guided the man towards his own mount.

"The woman was weakened severely. Could it be that she was the one responsible for the tunnel collapse?" he asked of the other.

Relentless and curious, a folly of youth, it seemed.

"Ask her yourself, when you see to it that we are both better. I am sure she will be able to supply you with an answer better than I will." Junea hissed again. He clasped Caiphus' arm, and pulled himself onto the wyvern with the other Oro tribesman. "Let us be off. You can ask your questions later. We both have had enough for the matter of a few days. A sanctuary is what we both need."

There was no argument after that. Once the pair had mounted the wyvern, the massive creature extended its leathery wings, clawing at empty air with the membranous extensions as it pulled its body and the passengers into the air. Caiphus adjusted his goggles over his eyes, before turning back to instruct Junea to be careful. Random particles of dust and dirt could blind a man at the speeds they traveled.

As they aimed into the sunrise, the land opened up before them, a sprawling myriad of color. Sanctuary waited for them. Answers, perhaps.

Or more questions.

The setting changes from Seirras Mountain Range to Blakestown

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls

0.00 INK

#, as written by FizzGig
Blakestown
November 4th, Evening


The fever had started with one or two. Then, like vines, it crept to others, it's number exponentially growing. At first, it started with the older ones; those who were able to go out into the world, fare seas, and contract the virus. Then, it spread to the more innocent. The younger ones, whose immune systems weren't fully equipped to handle the overlooming threat of the sickness. When those affected had fell ill with headaches, fever, and flushed skin, it was of no doubt to any colonist that had traveled the lands that a wave of Velvet Fever had swept over Blakestown, and the frightening realization came with another; the colonists had no cure.

The streets grew bleak. Less children galloped across the stony pathways, more shops had been closed. Those who wandered amongst the streets kept their head down and their mouth covered, and bore such an unsurmountable expression of worry on their brows. It had become a dull, scary time for the once-flourishing city. Sickness bore no bias to caste or race, and if there was one thing that united the community, it was certainly that they were all effected by the fever one way or another.

The nurse's station had been overwhelmed with the sick. Those that were lucky enough to have isolated rooms were urged to keep their sickly there, and not to maintain contact with the unfortunate souls. It kept the same way for days upon days, with people coming and going, maintaining cautious stares and cautious distances. Some kept to wearing masks. Patsy certainly had. On the 4th, when a healthy Adrien Rune had come knocking on the door to the station. He was one of the busier boys, who kept themself to delivering wet rags, food, and water to those who couldn't make it themselves. One of the busier boys who preyed on luck not to contract the fever, and Adrien was surely pushing his luck.

His sleeves were rolled up, and his arms bore a definition that they hadn't only a few weeks back. His mouth was uncovered. In his hand, he held a bucket of water, which he dropped by the doorway. Sweat lined his brow. If that boy was going to contract the fever, by god, he would take it in stride.

"Patsy! How is it looking? I need a new rag for Radimus." He said, calling attention the already busy nurse.

She poked her head out from around the corner, her face wrapped in a damp cloth. "Y'know where the buckets are, lad. But listen, Adrien..."

She called him over to her, waving her thick hand and then grasping him by the shoulder firmly when he came close enough.

"Miss Rawls is sick here, and she hasn't stop talking about yeh since she came down with the fever. Now, you're gunna go tell her that all is forgiven, and let her have some rest, or I'm gunna beat it into yeh." She leveled a glare at him.

"Understand, lad?"

Adrien's chin wrinkled when Patsy took him by the shoulders. His eyes passed the large nurse, and laid on the door in the back. His chest heaved in a sigh. One that said that he'll do what he's told, but he might not like it. The boy sat down his supplies and moved past the nurse. "I'll do it." He said, in a half-grumble.

When he approached the door, though, he couldn't help but feel an uncomfortable welling in his chest. The symptoms had been all too familiar to him, and every time he'd seen them in another, a grainy picture of flushed cheeks and sick, green eyes came to the front of his mind. Of his mother, whose dainty ringlets had become worn from the many times she tossed and turned in her bed. It was vague, and his youth had caused her face to become nothing more than a blur in his own mind, but the image still resonated. He still recognized it.

So, he gave a knock on the infirmary door before cautiously entering in.

"Elleanore?" He asked.

An indistinct, but soft moan echoed from within the room. The sound of cloth shifting against cloth came to his ears, a voice finally making its way through the door.

"Adrien..."

She looked ill, her cheeks sunken, pale but flushed with the fever. Her hair was damp, curls flat from lying against the pillow, and she seemed to have a hard time holding still.

"I...I'm sorry."

"Hey," Adrien started. He jogged to where Ellie's bed had been, and knelt to it. For a moment, he seemed hesitant, but after seeing her condition, he took her hand in his own and held another over it. "Don't be sorry t'me."

He breathed. A loud, breathy sigh. "Don't be sorry at all. I was angry. Shouldn't be what you're thinking about right now."

A slight turn came to his mouth. It was forced, and there was certainly nothing to smile at, but if there was anything that was reassuring, it was that.

"Where's Cavis? How's he?"

"He worries." Her hand that gripped his was cold, and clammy. She swallowed thick, closing her eyes and taking a deep, shuddering breath. "Patsy says I'm very sick."

She hesitantly met his eyes again. "You'll forgive me, won't you Adrien? Please, I'm so sorry..."

A tear slipped down her cheek. "And I'm afraid."

"All's forgiven, Ellie. Don't go making your will yet, though. Patsy doesn't know anything about Velvet Fever. You shouldn't be afraid." Adrien said, convinced of his own words. His hand groomed hers as they spoke, and his chin sunk into the bedding that she'd laid on.

"M'mother. She's stuck it out all th'way until now. You don't worry about anything, Ellie."

She was still holding tight to his hand, her other one coming up to rest against her mouth. "You might get sick." she said softly, as if just realizing it, trying to withdraw her hand from him.

"Please, I don't want you to get sick. Check on my father and make sure he's alright? I don't want him to worry, and Xander..." she hesitated, her breathing shaky. "I don't want him to see me this way. Tell him I'm alright?"

Adrien let Elleanore withdraw her hand, but he didn't seem too worried about the sickness.

"Stop worrying about me, Elle. I'm just fine. You worry about you right now. I won't forgive you until you do that, hm?" He said, a slight smile coming to his face. It seemed out of place, what with tired eyes and a sweaty brow. "I'll check on Cavis, and Xander. I think Xander would like t'see you though. Talk to you. Make you feel a bit better, because love, you look like hell, and y'know the boy doesn't count on you for your looks."

"I'd even fetch him for you, if you'd let me. Cavis too, if you'd like."

She shook her head.

"Please, no. I just want to rest right now." She sighed, letting her eyes fall closed. "Thank you, Adrien. I just, I hope..."

But she'd drifted off to sleep before the rest of the words came.

"Okay, Ellie. Sorry." Adrien rasped. A guilt took over him. That he shouldn't have treated Ellie the way he had. That he shouldn't have even been hesitant when coming into her room. He bit his lip, and let his hands slack to his knees.

Patsy was standing at the door, watching the whole thing, and when she saw that Ellie had fallen asleep, she came forward to touch Adrien on the shoulder. "Lad," she breathed, calling his attention and making sure he turned to look at her.

"Listen, there's not much I can do for these people. We're wasting supplies trying teh keep fevers down, but no way to fight the illness itself. Yer not gunna hear it from yer father or Illiam, but we need help." she drilled her eyes into his.

"And I'm thinkin them tribals are the only ones who can, now."

"I don't know, Pats. What makes you think they've got a cure better than we do? I... mean. They helped me." He said, unsure of whether the nurse had heard of it or not. "But fixing a leg is mighty different than curing a plague."

"What else can we do?" Patsy asked, her voice soft.

"Least we can do is just ask. If not, then that's that, but if they do..." she sighed. "Well, I suppose we can jest hope they can forgive us for what's gone on."

"N'how do you suspect I get there? I'm not allowed to leave. You going to give me a waiver? Hell, I was trapped in Blakes because I was talking to the tribals. You don't think that'd upset my father and everyone else more?" Adrien questioned. His voice didn't carry a tone of spite, but rather of honest worry.

"As if that's caused you a problem before." Patsy said with a lifted brow. "The guards are sick, Adrien. If you go now, then you needn't worry for nuthin."

Adrien looked toward his palms, which kneaded together.

"I guess... I don't think anyone would try t'stop me. Radimus is sick as a dog. Should y'tell the villagers before I leave...?"

"You should go. I'll do the explainin while yer gone." Patsy said, patting his shoulder and guiding him towards the door.

"Quickly, b'fore yeh lose yer nerve, lad."

"Alright. I'll go. Wish me luck, Pat. I'll be checking on Xander when I get back, but Radimus still needs tending to, and I've not checked on Cavis." Adrien squeezed Patsy's wrist, before letting go.

"I'll be off, then." He repeated, before heading out the door.

The horse's stable wasn't far from there, and the streets were clean of people. At first, Adrien started off walking, before he'd ended up in a jog. When he finally found himself at the stables, the horses seemed distraught. They stamped in their places. Perhaps it was due to the absence of their owners, or the absence of those who rode them. He made his way toward a tempered, brown-maned beauty.

And that's when he mounted it. The path through the gates was one he hadn't taken in quite a while. The lone guard that stood at the door seemed fettered and bothered, and hadn't given a second glance to the exiting man on horseback. The horse carried him far and fast, perhaps a little too eager in itself to get out of the stables that held it. The two went kicking through the snow that laid a soft blanket on the ground, and the sogged dirt underneath. After they'd left the gates of Blakestown, Adrien and his steed carried quickly through the Forest of Whispers.

The weather was curious. It snowed lghtly, and forced him to keep his head down, though the branches that dangerously stuck out on his path had forced him to do the same anyhow. What little animal life that was there audibly skittered away at their presence in the woods, though never had those woods been as disturbed as the day the treaty had been cast down. That day was no exception.

Eventually, he'd come to the same entrance that Ajani had brought him when he was wounded, where he knew guards perched in the treetops and on the grounds.

That's where he stopped. To be greeted, and not to be taken as a threat. His eyes trailed upwards, then down, and he waited anxiously to be let in.

"You ride as if death chases you!" a voice called from the trees. One of the guards, and his tone was in good humor.

"Did a forest sprite frighten you, young man?"

His and another voice joined in the laughter, but it was a good signal for Adrien to continue.

Back at the village, everything was continuing as normal. Men and women took care of their households, and chiildren ran around, either helping their parents or playing with one another. At Adrien's arrival, more than a few lifted their hands in greeting, smiling to him, asking after his welfare.

Ajani was not anywhere to be found.

Adrien's worried glance toward the guards told a story that perhaps, death had been chasing him. He dismounted his horse and tied the beast to a tree, before running into the village. The happy faces of the children and the workings of the men and women only reminded him of the urgency of the situation. He nodded at those who waved at him, but nothing more.

And he made his way to where he'd been taken care of. The pathway was familiar to him. He ascended the small amount of steps and brushed away the fabric that obscured the medicine hut from the rest of the tribe. Then, he entered, and stared to the man inside with an expression unreadable.

"Our city is in trouble. Where is Ajani?"

The elderly man looked up from his work, his wrinkled brow knitting as he held up his weathered hand.

"In Consule, young man. Why the urgency?" His nose drew in deep, audible breaths, dry lips parting with wonder, as if he'd received his answer that way.

"The colonists are afflicted with illness?"

"Velvet Fever. It's sweeping over the town like a plague. We..." Adrien stopped to regain his breath. "We never had a cure. We were hoping you..."

He swallowed his words. After all the abuse from the colonists, he couldn't expect Ajani, or the medicine man, to want to help. Still, the expression on his face regaled a sort of universal anguish.

"We were hoping you would help us."

A somewhat peaceful smile came over the man's face, as if a revelation had occurred to him.

"I'm certain Ajani will be more than happy to speak with you. Fear not. Her heart has always been soft for you and your people." He rose from his seat. "Rest here, though. Take cleansing breaths."

The elderly man rose, and began to shuffle towards the door of the tent.

Adrien almost seemed bothered by the man's peaceful state. He stood up, and grasped for the fabric of the medicine man's shirt, to halt him in his steps. "Where is Ajani doing Consule?" He asked, though plea laced his syllables.

"I can't wait for this. I'm sorry."

The man staggered a bit, but he didn't seem bothered by Adrien's urgency. "To the north, there's a lake not far from here. She's at the edge of i-" The man was suddenly interrupted by the flurry of feet, which took the concerned boy through the Vanduo village. He passed the children and at a point, collided with a man, but it hadn't stopped him from reaching his destination. The thought that, if the tribals could help, and if they would help, had become increasingly overwhelming to him. The reminder that Ajani had been in charge only made matters more pressing.

So he passed through the village, and moved through the trees. It wasn't long before he'd found the lake, whose borders were surrounded by those ever-familiar imposing wooden goliaths.

There was a heaviness in the air, like a great weight was pressing upon his shoulders. It slowed his gait, caused him to pause in his steps as the lake became clear, extending like a black mirror to the distance shore.

Snow covered the ground, right to the bank, but the air had yet to cool enough to freeze the surface of the water. Yet, roughly fifteen feet off shore, a single figure stood on the surface of the water, like it was solid ground. Her back was to Adrien, silver-blonde hair hanging like a curtain down her back. Her hands were suppliant, palms facing the sky, and she was absolutely still.

Something like iron was clasped to her wrists, with a saphire stone set into the metal. They glowed faintly, with the same sort of aura that Motina emitted.

Something about the scene was enchantingly sacred. Even the snow sprites lay still.

Adrien was a stark contrast to such a peaceful place, even though when he'd entered, he seemed to quiet. He took in the serene sight, but the words rising in his chest were intent on interrupting it. His footsteps crunched leaves underfoot, and dispersed the eerie stillness that was ever-present by the frozen lake. "Ajani." He rasped, his voice filling the area.

"We need help."

"I know."

She turned her head sideways, looking off towards the east. Her eyes, from what he could see, were glowing the same, strange blue as the stones on her wrist. She closed them briefly, taking in a deep breath before turning to face him fully. Her steps were slow, but deliberate. When at last she reached the shore, her bare feet found the snow, and that strange glow faded.

With a heavy sigh, her shoulders relaxed, and she seemed to shrink before him, as if weary from the experience.

Hiding the tremble in her hand, she picked up the skirt of the white gown she wore, and ascended the bank towards him.

"How many are sick?"

"If we don't hurry - if you don't have a cure, then, everyone will be. I don't know, though. Th'streets are empty. My father... My wi - ... Elleanore. I haven't visited Xander, n'I haven't seen Cavis. Patsy's fine, but she's taking care of the sick. Can you?" Adrien asked, rather promptly.

"I thought Elleanore would be fine... My mother was fine, after getting th'fever. But she - Ellie - doesn't look good. Not at all. Patsy thinks she's dying. Radimus is sick as a dog. Others are staying in their homes, hoping it passes. I don't know what t'do, and by god, I hope you do." he continued.

She turned suddenly, reaching to take his face into her hands, before bringing it down and rather abruptly, but gently, brushing her lips against his forehead.

"Stop." she told him, sternly meeting his eyes before letting him go and turning to walk quickly up the rest of the hill. Leaving Adrien behind, she made her way back into the village, assembling those there with a sharp whistle.

"Brothers and sisters," she called, her voice keening above the din of the village. It silenced almost immediately. "Innocent people have become subject to vile illness, and they do not have the resources to take care of themselves. I'm asking every able woman and child to come with me to Blakestown to take care of their sick. The men will stay behind to guard Tribe Vanduo."

An uneasy murmur ran through the crowd.

"What of Motina?" Came a man's cry. Her eyes shifted to the one who had shouted.

"I would not have brought it to you without consulting her first." she answered honestly.

Eventually, Adrien had come up the hill as well. It had taken a long while, and his strides became steps, but he joined Ajani before realizing that he was subject to the stares of the entire village. A red tint highlighted his features.

He cleared his voice. "None of you will be hurt. Those with ill intent are too weak to do anything, and even those with strength wouldn't put the health of Blakestown at risk over a squabble with the tribes."

"A squabble is putting it mildly," someone retorted, not unkindly. Ajani reached back to gently grasp Adrien's hand.

"Motina has spoken to me, and she has never been wrong before. We are to help these colonists. I'm not forcing any of you to come with me, but I will go regardless of whomever else may come."

A quiet had stolen over the village as they gazed towards their leader.

"I'll go!" A little voice cried. Siska came forward, with three of his friends, and they were all dressed in the white of the healer's cloth. Siska rushed over to throw his arms about Adrien's waist.

"I'll go." A young woman came forward, no older than Ajani, and two more followed.

Not long after, seven women, and five children stood before her, each of them wearing the same smile of contentment that the Healer had worn. And it was he who came out finally, with a white cowl wrapped around his aged head.

"I wouldn't be true to my profession if I didn't extend a hand to all of Motina's children." he said, tossing Adrien a wink. Ajani looked to the young man.

"Motina provides." she breathed softly.

Adrien cautiously brought his hand to Siska's back, before rubbing it and offering an incredulous smile down to the youth. "Thank you. This means that you know how to treat it, right?"

His eyes suddenly came to Ajani again, his smile faltering a bit. Uncertainty came to the syllables of his voice, yet again. "I don't know that you have enough horses to carry this many people. I don't even know that you can cure our people. Blakestown is a large city, Ajani."

She shook her head, her expression unreadable, before she turned to the children, kneeling down to speak with them.

"You know what herbs we need, for the red illness. Go gather them quickly."

Nodding eagerly, the small gaggle of smiling children rushed off for the woods. The other women had already set about gathering supplies. Herbs, food, linens and other supplies were packed into leather satchels, before being carried over to the horses that awaited. Ajani merely oversaw everything, watching as the old Healer himself went back to his hut to get his things.

"We'll be able to help them." she reassured Adrien, looking to him after a little while. "Please trust that we can."

"How long will it take until you're ready?" asked Adrien, after he'd seen the children skitter off toward the woods and out of view. He had no problem looking to Ajani when he spoke again, and his features studied her own. "Tomorrow? Th'next?"

It wasn't a snide overstimation. It was a hopeful guess.

"Tonight." she said with a firm nod. "We'll walk through the night, on into the morning. You may ride ahead, if you wish, to speak of our coming." she searched his eyes.

Her own reflected a deep-seated worry, but not for the situation at hand. It was for something else entirely.

"Is that alright?"

"Fine." Adrien said. "Perfect. Thank you, Ajani. Thanks. I'm going to ride there, then. I'll keep you guys safe - if I don't, Patsy will. Promise. I'll keep this one."

He backtracked, and almost tripped, before giving Ajani a last glance and turning to find his place again, and the horse he'd mounted before. When he'd gotten to the beast, he quickly threw himself on, and headed back off into the forest.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls Character Portrait: Xander Roan

0.00 INK

#, as written by FizzGig
Blakestown
November 5, Morning


The morning dawned unusually cold. Whether it was the snow, or the gloomy atmosphere of the town, it was difficult to say. The sun was painfully bright as it rose over the tops of the mountains, shining down on the layers of snow that glittered like freshly-cut gemstones. Patsy had the windows of the town hall cracked, to let in a fresh exchange of air and to provide the ill within with some respite from their fevers. It did little to help. Adrien's lonely return hadn't helped much either, even with his promise that the tribals would soon be on their way to assist. The night had come, and gone, and no one had shown. Wary anticipation of their arrival grew to a palpable extent, with the town divided between hope and fear of what was to come. Those who had been affected, but not gotten sick themselves, were eager to find a solution to the problem, even if it meant calling on the help of witch-craft wielding tribals. Yet, there were still others who held to the old ways, greeting the thought of tribal assistance with little more than a turned-up nose, and muttered curses.

Patsy was exchanging water, dumping the old, dirty water out back, and preparing to fill it up with clean water to boil, when she heard a cry come from the top of the wall.

"They're coming!" the watchman cried loudly.

Men and women, those who were healthy (and it was a poor few) began to gather at the front gate, watching as a dozen and a half figures emerged from the trees, clad all in white, and carrying with them burlap sacks bursting with supplies.

At the head was Ajani, her head free of a hood. Silver-blonde hair glinted like starlight in the rising sun, and she kept her eyes forward, on the gate, her expression stern as she clasped the hands of the children around her. Upon coming within ten feet of the wall, the company halted, regarding those on the other side.

"People of Blakestown," Ajani addressed those who stood before her. "Tribe Vanduo has come to help heal you of the sickness that has taken hold. We bring medicine, and healers, and food, but no weapons. There is no reason to fear. There are only women and children and an old man among us."

"Where is Illiam? Radimus?" the people whispered among themselves. "Sick." Others replied. "How should we know to trust them? Who sent for them?"

"CLEAR A PATH!" Patsy hollared, barreling through those assembled, and immediately opening the gate. She looked over the women who stood, waiting patiently for instruction, and smiled to them.

"Thank you for coming to help us." she said. "Please."

And the gate was opened wide.

Ajani could feel the stares of the colonists as she lead her people through. Even still, she nodded her greeting, encouraging the others to do the same. Silent protest was written on many of their faces, but the majority looked eager, relieved, hopeful to have someone else who might solve the riddle this illness had caused.

Ajani addressed Patsy, refusing to look around for Adrien. That would come later.

"Where are the sick?"

"Along this way, lass. Too many to count."

And the Vanduo healers came, like angels from the forest, to set about healing Blakestown from the fever that had taken it.

"They weren't here to hurt us in the beginning, n'they aren't here to hurt us now."

Adrien's reply was late, but he came to the front of the crowd to greet the Vanduo. It wasn't so much as a greeting as it was reassuring himself that they weren't going to be attacked. The crowd seemed worried enough to be sated at their presence, and those women and children who bore the same characteristics as some of the colonists seemed nothing more than peaceful and cooperative.

The townspeople had begun to listen to him, although slowly. He'd taken it upon himself to visit those who were sick beforehand, and lend aide. They had begun to see that perhaps, he wasn't a horrid traitor. He could only hope that their trust extended to him enough not to attack those he'd brought in to help. It seemed that way as they entered, and just a little weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.

"W'as all th'meanin'a this, boy? Y'told us they were comin'. What makes y'think they can help more than we can?" A man said, taking Adrien by the arm.

"Y'could hit the sick with pebbles and it'd be helping more than we are right now, Porter." The boy replied. The man let go of his arm, and Adrien ran to meet Patsy. He looked to Ajani, with a hopeful smile. "Patsy. Say y'lead someone to Elleanore quick, and I'll go check on Cavis and Xander?"

"I'll stay with Ellie," Aja insisted, offering a quick smile to Adrien. She turned back to look at the other women.

"After me," she instructed, and they went as a group towards the town hall. Upon disocvering the number of people who had been taken with illness, Ajani quickly broke the women into smaller groups, assigning children to work with them, and they moved about, finding someone to care for, and kneeling at their sides to begin the ardurous process of giving them back their health.

Patsy lead Ajani back to the room that Ellie was staying in, and upon seeing the girl, feverish and restless, Aja immediately turned to grab another cloth, making her way to the young woman and laying it over her brow.

Then, oddly enough, Aja simply took her hand, closed her eyes, and began to murmur softly under her breath.

Adrien, however, had taken a different route. He had to check on Xander, who had been tending to his own father for the last few days. The illness hadn't caught Adrien, but he wasn't so sure about Xander. After Ajani had smiled and shoved off to help Ellie, he took down the stony path, and most of the rest of the villagers had dispersed. Though, some followed the tribal women and children. Some, out of curiosity. Some, with offers to help. Some urged the tribals to come to their own homes, tend to their own children, their own family.

Eventually, Adrien's feet had taken him to Xander's house. It wasn't the best looking thing in the village, and even though it'd been newly crafted, it seemed worn. It wasn't long before he'd ascended the porch, and slammed a hand on the door a few times.

"Xander? Y'in there?" He asked.

The door swung inward, and the smell that emerged was the same kind of smell that seemed to permeate the entire village. Illness. Decay. Neglect.

Inside the living room, Xander's mother sat rocking slowly back and forth, staring at the floor, her hands nervously wringing in her lap as they so often did. She didn't look up as Adrien entered, and she didn't seem to acknowledge that he even existed.

"It's so quiet." she murmured, her eyes closing.

"So peaceful."

"Mz. Roan?" Adrien asked. Cautiously, he approached her, before taking a seat next to the woman. He raised a hand, drew it back at first, and then placed it on her back. "We've found a cure for th'fever. The tribals are helping us. Can help your husband, now. Are you sick, Mz. Roan?" He asked. "If you are, it's nothing to worry about now."

She didn't acknowledge his touch, simply continued to rock in her chair.

"Sleeping. They're both sleeping. It's so quiet."

Beyond, the bedroom she and her husband had shared at one point was ajar, and Xander's father's figure was prominent beneath the single white sheet that covered him up to his chest.

His chest... wasn't moving.

Adrien's brow quirked.

"Alright, Mz. Roan. I'm going t'check on them, okay? Sit tight. Holler if you need help. I'm just going to be - " He pointed down the hallway that lead to Xander and Mr. Roan's rooms. " - Right down there."

Slowly, he stood, and made way for the rooms. At first, he slowly opened the door to Xander's room, only to see that he was sleeping soundly. His chest was rising and dropping. Maybe he'd bother his friend later. It had been a long day, but he'd sure as hell be happy to hear that help arrived.

So Adrien pushed open the door to Mr. Roan's room. At first, he regarded the man with a passive glance. He'd known help had arrived. Everything would be alright. Roan had looked paler than usual, though, and that stringent crease that always seemed to be in the middle of his brow had eased. Mr. Roan didn't stir. Slowly, he walked toward the man, and pressed a pair of fingers to his neck.

When he'd found out that the man wasn't breathing - wasn't stirring - that the man didn't have a heartbeat, he recoiled back in surprise. He had never seen anyone pass from the fever. Perhaps it was the first, and perhaps it was too late. Perhaps his help hadn't come soon enough. The thought alone made him shiver, and withdraw from the room. It was the reason why Xander's mother had been so shaken.

He moved across the hall, to Xander's room. Abruptly, he entered, and he'd taken the boy by the shoulder.

"Xander. Wake up."

Xander startled, his hand snapping up to snatch firmly around Adrien's forearm.

Bleary, his eyes bright with fever, the young man shook his head before letting his upper body fall back against the mattress.

"Scared the shit outta me, Dree." he muttered.

"You're sick, Xander." Adrien said. He knew that help arrived, and it wouldn't last, but... No smile had come to his face. "Th'tribals came. They've got a cure. You'll be fine."

His lips pulled together, as if he was restraining himself from saying something. At the very least, though, he'd wanted a smile from his friend before he relayed the news.

"Well, that's all well and good." Xander muttered, throwing his arm over his head. "Mum's alrigh'? I didn't get a chance t'see her before I passed out on the bed."

He looked like he was getting ready to stand.

"Nae, sit down - lay down, Xander. You're sick."

His head lowered, and stared at the ground. His hands wrung together, in the same guilty fashion that Mz. Roan's hands had. "Your father passed away." He said. "Your mum doesn't look too good, but she's not sick."

Xander let his arm fall down to his side, and he stared up at his friend.

"Yer shittin' me."

He looked wan.

Adrien didn't meet Xander's eyes.

"He's still in there. In'is room. I'm sorry, Xander."

Xander, without waiting, got himself up out of bed, pushing Adrien to the side and stumbling into the room. He ignored his mother, throwing open the door,and staring at the still, unmoving chest of his father's body.

"I'll be damned." he muttered, slumping against the doorframe.

"The sonofabitch is finally dead."

Adrien quickly followed after Xander, and stopped in the doorway. His chest twisted with guilt, and not long after, he stepped away, urging Xander to do the same. "You're sick, Xander. Lay down. 'Ll have one of the ladies come treat you, and when you're well, y'can talk to your mum. Sound right?"

Xander remained silent for a long moment.

"Yeh, sure."

But he didn't go to his room. He decided to go outside instead.

"Xander!" Adrien cried, his shoulders slumping as the boy left. "Y'don't need to get yourself sicker than you already are." He said, his words turning into murmurs as the boy left his company. After a few moments, he'd gone running after his friend, stopping him by the arm. "Lay down. Will you? Even at my house, if y'want. Just lay down. Last thing I want is having t'drag you somewhere. I understand you've got to be upset about your father, but --"

"But nothin', Dree." Xander whirled and shoved the man away. "He's dead. I'm not fuckin layin in that house with his body rotting two rooms away. I'd rather freeze." he hissed.

"Then come t'my house!" Adrien begged, his brow furrowing in concern. He staggered backwards, but hadn't retaliated past that. "Radimus isn't dead! I'm not letting you sleep on a bench somewhere. Y'wouldn't even make it there, Xander. You're sick as a dog."

Tears.

Xander never thought he'd cry over the old bastard, but there it was, real salt tears that stung worse than any beating he'd ever gotten. He put his hands on his knees, growling loudly in his own agonized frustration.

"Goddammit!" he shouted angrily, standing fully, and staggering with the sudden shift in his weight. A woman had seen him, one of the tribals, and was rushing across the snow towards the pair. Xander caught sight of her, his brow knitting comically.

"An angel?" he muttered.

Adrien gave a pitiful smile to the approaching tribal woman, and steadied Xander with a hand behind his back. "Y'd like to get treated by one?" he asked, eager to change the topic. When the girl had reached them both, he nodded toward her. "He's sick. 'D like if you could take him to Radimus' house. Say Xander'll lead you?"

He looked between Xander and the girl, though his gaze ended pointedly on Xander. "I'll keep your mother company while you're gone. Make sure she's okay. Y'keep an eye on Radimus for me. He's not looking too good. Don't kill him."

"I'll try not to."

Xander accepted the offered shoulder of the young woman, who began to lead him in the direction of the town hall. Obviously, she didn't know where Adrien's home was, at this point. She was simply going to where the medicine was.

Meanwhile, Ajani was hard at work, a pile of herbs resting near her left hand on an old wooden stool that Patsy had brought over for her. She was crushing them in a bowl in her lap, adding water occasionally, watching as the paste she made turned a deep, watery green. Ellie was sleeping rather peacefully, no longer tossing and turning, and her face had lost that terrible flush.

"Just a little water at a time." she told Patsy. Other women around them were doing the same thing for their own patients. "You don't want to make them drink too much fluid. It'll make them sick. Just a couple swallows."

When the concoction was finished, Ajani rested a hand on Ellie's arm, pleased to feel that her skin was not feverishly warm, but cool. No longer shivering, the girl was covered in a thin layer of moisture.

In a matter of hours, Ajani had broken Ellie's fever.

The girl woke up, taking in a deep breath before turning to look at the woman at her side. Aja passed over the cup. Ellie, after glancing into it, lifted a brow and asked, "What's this for?"

"It purges the infection." Aja told her. "Just drink. It'll taste like a strong tea."

Ellie looked doubtful, but she did as she was bid, her brow wrinkling a little as she brought the cup to her lips, and drank deeply of the medicine Ajani had made. Afterwards, she handed the cup back, and lay down.

"Wasn't too bad." she murmured, heaving another deep sigh. Aja smiled, and rose to stand. Patsy stood too.

"She already looks better, just after a few hours." The older woman marveled, shaking her head in disbelief. She reached for Ajani, pulling her into a tight embrace that caught the other woman off-guard. "Thank yeh. After everything that's happened...yer still inclined to help us."

Ajani's eyes closed, and she returned the embrace.

Perhaps this was what Motina had intended from the beginning. Could the relationships be healing? Might they find peace?

Choosing not to linger on that, Aja pulled back, smiling encouragingly at Patsy before bending to gather up her supplies. "It'll take a day or so for her to be completely well. She needs to rest, drink and eat as much as she can tolerate. She needs her strength back."

Other women were hard at work all around her as she made her way to the front of the town hall. She needed to find Adrien, to tell him that Ellie would be okay.

But as she broke out into the cold morning air, a single man barred her way. Frozen, she stared at his face, remembering those eyes, the copper curls. He was smiling at her.

"Cute trick." he murmured, low enough so only she could hear. "Clever way to get inside, but I'm warning you. For your sake, you shouldn't rest alone. Bad things happen to girls who think they're untouchable." He chuckled, rubbing at his neck.

"You look well, at the very least. For someone who nearly died."

Aja didn't stay for any more. She brushed past him, ignoring his laughter as she all but ran down the snowy street towards Adrien's home.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn Character Portrait: Radimus Rune

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Blakestown
November 7th, Late Evening


For the first time in weeks, Blakestown was celebrating.

It was a modest celebration, of course, considering the majority of the people were still lying abed, recovering from illness and exhausted from the healing process. But that was just it. They were healing, and at an incredible rate, too. When word of the tribals' success got out, people came to town hall to request that the women in white come visit their homes, to heal their children and their loved ones. Slowly but surely, the women traveled from house to house, spending a few hours in each, and educating the families on how to continue taking care of the sick while they recovered.

Those who were well had started a bonfire in the town square, and tables had been set up for the distribution of food. Children from Tribe Vanduo and the colonist children were tumbling together in the snow, playfully tossing bits of it back and forth, and racing between the houses. One Vanduo woman, and another colonist were watching over them all, amiably talking to one another. People were mingling peacefully, and there was a pleasant air hovering over the gathering.

Ajani did her best not to stumble as she emerged from the last house that day. She saw the fire, smelled the food, but oddly enough, didn't feel hunger. Not yet. Perhaps later. She made her way back to the town hall at a measured pace, intending to ask Patsy where more of the sick lay.

After Adrien had tended to some of the sick on his own, he'd come to his house. Radimus was still sick in bed, grumbling and complaining about this or other. How the tribals shouldn't be there. That it was a ploy. Most of the village seemed to disagree, then, and when the boy told his father of the celebrations, he was met with a quick scoff. In the very back of his mind, Adrien hadn't wanted Radimus to heal. He much preferred the man idle.

But it was a horrible thought. Radimus was still his father. After he'd resolved himself from the busy work of helping the villagers and the healers, he had come to help his own father. Though it would assumably be the first thing the boy should've done, Radimus denied his help, and worked against him. He requested a specific healer. The first times he had, Adrien dismissed him, and ignored the weak attempts to stop his work. Finally, when his father had raised his voice and dumped his bucket, Adrien seemed to comply.

So he made way for the town hall. He hadn't mingled with those he'd wanted to in days. Everyone was busy in one way or another, or sick in bed. He waited with Patsy for the arrival of Ajani, though the jolly nurse seemed to be ignorant of his presence, there. It wasn't she who he'd wanted to speak with.

Her entrance was quiet, eyes downcast as she focussed on not tripping over her own feet. When she came into the warmth of the hall, she lifted her eyes to the opposite end, one hand coming up to idly rub at her temple as she crossed the room to meet the pair.

Dark circles were under her eyes, but she managed a smile for them.

"There are more," she noted, glancing from Adrien to Patsy. "Where?"

Before Patsy could get a word in, Adrien started. He uncrossed his arms, and bore a worried frown for the girl. "M'father - Radimus - won't let me treat him, Ajani. He's asking for you. If you'd like, I could just put the old man out and treat him whether he likes it or not, but so far, he's spat out the medicine and discarded the rags. He's acting senile."

He drew a breath in, and spoke again. "You look like hell, though. I think it best you sleep. I'll get him t'comply. Now that I think about it... Nevermind, Ajani."

She held up a hand. "I'm alright, really. We need to get your father well." She stepped around them, not caring to glance back, before picking up a satchel of fresh supplies.

She turned back, taking Adrien by the hand, and leading him out of the hall.

"After this, then, Ajani. Y'need rest." He insisted. "You're wonderful for doing this - you are - but like you said, we're all human. Last thing we need is for you t'pass out doing something, isn't it?"

They both carried themselves to Adrien's house. It was unkempt. Radimus had neglected to take care of it the moment the altercations with the tribals started. With his recent illness, it had only gotten worse. When Adrien had put a hand on the door to open way for the two of them, it conjured dust.

It opened them up to the living room, where Radimus lay on the couch. He insisted not to move - he hadn't the lamplight for reading in his own room. Even then, he refused to make it up the stairs. When the pair of healers entered, though, a slight smirk came to his face.

"Pleasure to see this one again. I just wanted to know if it was true; if you even dared come into our city after what happened. But it's good to know you're winning the favors of our people."

"You have to be quiet if you want to be treated. Talking only makes you sicker, father."

"Probably the swine that introduced Velvet fever to Blakestown in the first place. You think it a coincidence that it swept over us after she'd left? They carry different diseases than us."

Very faintly, Ajani flushed.

"I can see where you get your charm, Adrien." she said, the smallest hint of a smile curving the corner of her mouth. Releasing his hand, she walked over to Radimus' bedside, hovering over him a moment before reaching to lay a hand on his forearm. Hot, with the lightest hint of a tremor.

"What I have will break the fever." she told him, her expression calm. "If you don't let me do what I need to do, you will die, Radimus Rune."

"I know I will. But this won't gain me favor of your people, miz Ajani. The townspeople can laugh and celebrate all they'd like to. I know that you're swine, and they will as well, in time."

Adrien moved to stand behind the couch. By then, Radimus' ramblings were meager and ineffective. "Quiet, father." He said, to which the man returned a grumble.

"Well, I suppose I have to continue on my promise. I'll let you treat me."

Aja took a deep breath, taking up her position at the man's side. With the herbs sitting in a pile in her lap, she took her hands, resting one on his shoulder, and the other over his heart. Inclining her head, she closed her eyes and began to softly murmur.

Radimus' breathing began to slow as he relaxed. It wasn't long before she pulled her hands back, and began to mix the paste.

"He looks no different than the last time I saw him." she said quietly, glancing to Radimus' face. She was referring to the Treaty day. Her brow knit.

"Then, I didn't think I'd ever be able to come to this place with a lack of murderous intent. Motina softened my heart, and I'm glad she did." She glanced to Adrien, then back to the sick man on the bed.

"I'm sorry for how I treated you, that first day we met."

"I don't think murdering my father would help our relations any." Adrien added, though his tone wasn't at all serious. "I've considered it a few times."

By then, Radimus had closed his eyes. Wearily, he opened them, and pointedly aimed them to the figure above. "Your incompetance is no fault of my own." he murmured. "How is the other man? Not... the bigger tribal man. He's very dead. We all know that. The one I shot..." He started to trail. "Didn't look too good. I wonder if he died. I suppose my aim wasn't well enough."

Adrien's eyes flitted up to Ajani's, and his brow furrowed apologetically.

"Junea fights as well as any warrior." Aja said softly, continuing to mix the paste. "He holds no ill will, either."

Presenting the drink to Radimus, she encouraged him to drink. "It will clean the illness from you." she explained. Her voice seemed softer than before.

"That one man found me, the other day. Hard as I try, I haven't been able to rest." She admitted, squeezing her eyes shut a moment.

"He's a competant man." Radimus added.

At that point, Adrien recoiled. His hands released the couch, and his expression contorted into disgust. The boy looked between Ajani and his father. "You know him?" He questioned.

Radimus did nothing but murmur. His eyes struggled to stay open. Like a zombie, he'd done whatever he was guided to, and drank the mixture Ajani had presented to him. Afterwards, he smiled. "That's a shame. That he didn't die. I aimed for the wrong person."

"Radimus. You know him?"

Ajani was quiet, unable to trust herself to speak. She knew that Radimus had lied, but she didn't know that he knew the assassin they spoke with.

Her heart hammered in her chest, a light flush coloring her cheeks. That, and Radimus' obvious threat bothered her.

"He's asleep." she said softly.

Adrien withdrew from the couch and backed to the wall. His demeanor had changed. He hadn't taken his father seriously, then. He was just a mumbling, senile man who'd seen too much. His hands rubbed his face, and he looked to Ajani.

"We'll... Can you send someone on one of our ships?" He asked, taking himself away from the thought of the assassin. "To my mother."

Her brow knit. "Your mother? Why?"

She was on her feet now, unsteadily, but standing nonetheless. "I mean, of course..."

She swayed, teetering dangerously before she gripped a nearby chair.

"Goodness..."

The boy came from the wall, and gripped Ajani's shoulders.

"Ajani. Y'need to sleep, before you start resting whether you like it or not. Xander's in my bedroom, but you can sleep in Radimus'. You've got bags under your eyes bigger than dinner plates."

He drew in a breath, before his shoulders seemed to relax. It was a gesture made, if only to reassure her. "I'll make sure no one comes in. Gets t'you. You won't have anything to worry about. The other ladies can take care of the sick, and if you'd like, you can get back to it. In the morning."

She looked unsure, her eyes reflecting an obvious discomfort at the thought.

"You dont have to do that." she replied, but she made no effort to resist him.

"'Course I don't have to." Adrien said. He'd taken her by the hand, and led her to Radimus' bedroom. It was quaint, to say the least, but the pictures that hung on the wall work a stark contrast. It was kempt, except for the dust that clinged to the furniture and corners of the walls. There was one bed, nothing much more.

"I'll sit out there, with Radimus. Any noise, and I'll come running, hear?"

She put a hand to the side of her face, quietly studying the room he'd shown her. A light shiver ran down her spine, and it was difficult to say whether or not it was from discomfort, or the cold. But, she knew from the way Adrien was looking at her now that he wasn't going to back down no matter what she said, or how convincingly she said it.

So, she gave him a small nod, licking at her lower lip before entering the room. She didn't bother to close the door, simply walked to the bed and sat down on the edge. Her shoulders slumped forward.

"I must seem foolish." she murmured. "To be behaving this way. It's a wonder I can take care of your people when I hardly know how to take care of myself."

She rubbed at her eyes.

"Anyone would be the same." Adrien said. "He's in th'town. I'm not going t'tell you otherwise. But he won't be in this house. Promise y'that. Know my promises don't mean much, after the first time, but I promise I won't let anything happen t'you again."

He stood in the doorway.

"Going to be able to sleep, you think?"

"No way to tell." she replied, looking towards the window. She seemed hesitant to lie down. Her eyes closed tiredly, before she turned to look at Adrien.

"Tell me about your mother?" she asked. There was an uncertainty to her tone, as if she wasn't sure Adrien would be eager to talk about it, or humor her at the very least.

Adrien smiled.

"She's got Velvet. Same thing in the town. I can't say I wasn't a little bit ... It sounds bad, but I s'pose I got a little hopeful, when Velvet came up in the town, and we'd found a cure for it. You guys."

He moved from the doorway and sat on the bed next to her. "I was hoping that we could send someone t'help her. Velvet's the only reason she wasn't able t'come over with us. They didn't want her spreading the disease t'the new colonies."

The hopeful smirk that lit up his face extended to his eyes, wrinkling them. "She still writes me letters. Could show one t'you, if you want. It was a long time ago that we'd left without her, though. Back when I was a baby."

Her smile was soft. "Yes, please."

She thought about getting up to follow him, but knew that it would only end in her looking ridiculous, stumbling around from how tired she was. "Whenever I asked Papa about my mother, he told me that Motina had adopted me very early on. He said it made me special."

She smiled fondly. "He would have liked you, Adrien. I wish you could have met him."

"Me too, Ajani." Adrien said. He placed a hand over hers, if only for a quick moment. "Maybe, once m'mum is treated, you'll be able to meet her. If they let'er overseas."

Then, he stood up. The boy made his way through the doorway, almost in a jog, and passed the resting Radimus to go upstairs. Quietly, he slipped into his own room, which bore the resting figure of Xander. On his desk laid a pile of papers, to which Adrien sifted through. He pulled one of the letters off the top file, and quietly slipped out of the room again.

When he rejoined Ajani, he was smiling down at the letter in his hands.

"Do y'... Want me to read it? Do you want to read it? S'one of my favorites."

She looked almost embarrassed.

"I can try to read it. I haven't tried to do that yet with your language. I'm not sure how much Motina's allowed me to understand."

She gently took the paper from his hands, holding it between her fingers, and decided ultimately to read it aloud.

"My son," she began. "With each breath I take, I think of you. I wonder at how you grow, each and every day, into the man I know I can be proud of. I wonder, my precious Adrien, if you think of me as well. In those moments, my wish is that you see me in health, awaiting my chance to cross those vast oceans to rejoin my family. Do not think of my illness. Do not dwell on hopelessness. Cling to the magic that allows children to believe in their dreams. Never let that go.

"Forgive me for not being there, to watch as you take your first steps, or to marvel with you as you learn about the new world you now call home. Know that I am with you, no matter the distance, and that I am proud of who you are becoming.

"I love you."

A tear plopped against the worn page, and Aja, with a start, sat up straighter, and handed it back to Adrien quickly. "I'm so sorry." she murmured, hastily wiping at her eyes.

"That was beautiful."

Adrien's eyes fell to his hands as Ajani read the letter. Only when he looked up, and she was done, did he realize that she was crying. Still, a smile lit up his face. For once, it wasn't due to a tragedy, or a death. He took the letter back, and delicately folded it in half, before shaking his head. "It's seen some use. Don't think a little water'll hurt it none."

He laughed, for a moment.

"Lovely lady. From what I remember, n'what she tells me. Can't think of why she married a man like Radimus. Maybe leaving'er is what made him so bitter. If I were older when it happened, sure as hell would've made me a little bitter. I s'pose that's what keeps me from whacking him over the head with one'a those books he reads."

Two dimples grew on his face, and the corners of his mouth turned downward a little. "Miss'er, I do. But I think... Sending over one of your healers, and fixing her, I'd be able t'see her again. You would too."

"I would go myself." she told him, and there was the hint of a promise there. "If it wasn't for my responsibilities here. I can ask, of course, to see if someone might be willing to go."

She frowned, then, rather suddenly too.

"But I don't know that Mateja is safe for your mother. Or anyone. Not right now."

Adrien's frown deepened. He pressed a palm to his eye and tilted his head upwards, before looking to Aja and speaking again.

"Maybe she won't come back, then. 'D just like t'know she's safe and healthy."

He took a breath in, and stood up. Then, he moved to the doorway, and looked back to the girl. "I should let y'sleep. Don't need t'keep you up with this silly thing," The letter had been lifted up, then dropped. "Can't imagine how tired you are. Tell you, though. If you hadn't come here... I don't know what we would've done. Can't thank you enough. We can't thank you enough. Sleep well on that, not about th'bad things."

She tentatively pulled up her legs, smiling tiredly in return to his praise, and modestly waved him off. "It's nothing." And her smile grew.

"But I knew Motina would provide a way, somehow. Perhaps it is the illness that will bring us all together." She could hope.

Glancing towards the pillow, she cautiously lowered herself flat, her figure curling as she relaxed, still gazing towards the window. She seemed to be whispering something under her breath.

The words of the letter.

Then, unaware of Adrien, her eyes drifted closed, and her breathing slowed. Quietly, the boy exited the room, and delicately shut the door behind him.

It seemed that she was finally able to fall asleep.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn Character Portrait: Illiam Ormond Character Portrait: The Harbinger

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Blakestown
November 8th, Early morning


The morning had come slowly, and of the bodies that rested in Radimus' household, Adrien was the first one to stir and rise. The healthiest of the bunch, whether it be to his amount of sleep, or his curious lack of the Velvet Fever that had been thoroughly subsiding the last days. He awoke in the living room, having eventually drifted to slumber in the only remaining place of rest in the house; an upright recliner. He awoke with a startle, though the dreams that posessed him the night before were hazy, at best, to the boy.

Quickly, he drew himself up and made for the room which Ajani slept in. Light pierced the curtains, and they certainly were a harsh mistress to his eyes. But, it was validation enough that morning had come, and no doubt would the tribal woman be cross with him if he hadn't asked her to wake as well, with how studious she'd been in treating the colonists.

So he'd cautiously approached the girl and rustled her by the arm. "Aja - Ajani, wake up. S'morning." He said.

It took more than usual to get the girl to rouse. Her exhaustion had been so thorough that she hadn't moved from the original position she had lay down in. But, steadily, her eyes opened, a distinct, clear blue in the light of the morning. She sighed, shifting to roll to her back as she lifted her hands to run them over her face. Her fingertips stopped just underneath her eyes, and she turned to gaze at Adrien.

"So soon." she said, shaking her head before struggling to sit upright. "Mn. Everyone's alright? People should be waking now. Walking..."

From the moment she slept to the moment she woke, she had thought of nothing but the people she could be helping.

"People are waking, alright. Stirring right up out of their beds and taking to the streets, with what you guys have been doing for us." Adrien stopped for a moment, then smiled. "I heard a rumor about Illiam - er... Governor Ormond, the other day. He was talking about having an official celebration once everyone is well and healthy. Food in the plaza. And honoring the Vanduo at it, too. It'd be like a holiday. Don't know what they'd name it."

"But, people are getting better, Aja. It's been more good than it's been bad, with you being here, you know. I wouldn't blame you if you told me to get out, and went right back to sleeping. No one else would, either."

Her attention had been won the moment he mentioned Illiam's name.

"Governor Ormond is like your chieftain, yes?" she asked, her eyes boring into his.

"Yeah. He's pretty high up there. I guess we get used to calling him Illiam, 'cause every time someone meets him, he insists it. People say he doesn't really have the backbone to be a good leader - not since the treaty - but he takes care of Blakestown like we're Anabelle and Josie Ormond." He said, nodding.

She was up rather abruptly, one hand lifting to smooth through her hair. "I need to see him. As soon as possible. Now, even!"

She didn't say why, simply that she needed to go. She turned abruptly to Adrien. "Can we? Do we have time?"

"Everyone has time since Velvet hit. He's probably up in his house. Got two little girls to take care of, and one of them had the fever." Adrien said, his dullness probably due to the morning.

"I can take you there, I guess. I usually try look nice before I hit the streets, but I guess no one is looking that great. Why's it so important?"

She was pacing restlessly, from one side of the room to the other. "I need to apologize to him. As soon as I can."

She came up to stand in front of him. "I can go myself. It isn't a bother, really. I just..." She looked almost nervous.

"I just need to."

"Alright, alright." Adrien said, standing up with the woman. His fingers raised to his eyes, which vehemently rubbed at the morning crust that had accumulated there. "He's not going to disappear, you know. It's only morning."

He moved to the door, to open it for Ajani. Meanwhile, Radimus stirred in the living room, and groaned incoherencies. "We're off." Adrien said to the man, who soon rolled over to face the back of the couch and rest again.

When he'd gotten to the door, he'd pulled Radimus' coat off it's hanger, and tossed it to the girl. He took his own and wrapped it around his shoulders. Then, he held the door open.

"After you."

There was someone she was trying to avoid, but it was hard to go explaining that to Adrien, especially now. She'd awoken with a certain clarity of mind, and she didn't want to let go of that any time soon. "Quickly," she said, slinging the coat around her shoulders and jogging off into the snow.

All around, people were finally starting to come out of their homes. They smiled and laughed, waving to one another and marveling over how quickly the illness had subsided with the help of the tribals. There was an air of peace, one that was nearly palpable. The air felt lighter, here. But Ajani couldn't stop now to enjoy it with them. Not yet.

She didn't stop until they came to the foot of Illiam's home, and it was with a certain eagerness that she came to the front door and knocked.

Shouts of laughter and reassurances had come from beyond the door of the regal-esque home. The pitter-patter of tiny feet and the stomps of larger ones had grown closer to the door, until the mahogany slab was opened, if only to reveal a raven-haired young lady, whose eyes swept over Ajani with a certain recognition.

"Oh!" She started. "I remember you! None of us are sick anymore, though." She said, almost haughtily. Her voice had the certain charismatic strength of a child proud of their accomplishments.

"That's not the same girl as earlier," came another woman's voice. A slender hand had taken the door and opened it further, to reveal a woman of darker skin, and even darker hair. She smiled at Ajani, and then to the boy who'd taken place behind her. Her other hand held the underside of her stomach. She gave a warm smile to them both. "Illiam, dear? You have visitors."

"I do, I always do." Came the voice of Illiam, who, in his hand, held another young girl. Younger than the one who'd opened the door. "Ana, oh, move, will you?" He asked, and the very same girl squeezed between the two and disappeared into a room beyond. When Illiam's eyes had come up to meet Ajani's, however, a certain paleness had stricken his face. He handed off the child to his wife, and then closed the door to which only he and they could converse.

But he didn't speak a word. Instead, his lower lip quivered into his top, and he fought with what to say.

Her eyes swept over the family, wonder in her gaze as she took in the sight of the beautiful children. Her heart was hammering in her chest, but she still managed to smile, looking between all of them with a certain eagerness to her expression.

Then, when Illiam appeared, she felt like she would stop breathing.

"Illiam." she began, an incredible wash of emotions sweeping over her. "I wondered if I could speak with you privately?" She didn't look back to Adrien. She couldn't afford to, then.

"I suppose," Illiam started, his voice grave. "I should not subject my family to this."

He hesitated to step into the bitter cold. He looked behind him, to where the two couldn't see, and grasped the hand of his wife, before closing the door momentarily.

Adrien looked to Ajani, his brow furrowed. "You don't have to apologize, you know. Not to him. He wasn't the one who's had'is father shot." The boy said, ignorant as to why Ajani had seemed so distraught. Before he could continue, the door had been opened again, and Illiam stepped out to greet the both of them in Winter clothes. His eyes fell on Adrien, who had gone to take a step back.

"Should I leave y'two be?" Adrien asked. "Y'wouldn't mind at all if I'd gone in and played with Josie again, would you, Illiam?"

Ajani hesitated, looking towards Adrien before she gave a quiet nod. "We won't be too long," she murmured, shrugging out of Radimus' coat and handing it back to Adrien. She looked to Illiam, her expression meek, before quietly making her way down the stairs.

Adrien nodded, and ducked inside Illiam's house. He'd gone to Josie, who was held by Illiam's wife. The small child grasped his finger, and he laughed, before the door had been shut, and Ajani and the Governor had been left together.

"I'm sorry to pull you away from your family." she said to him when they had come a distance away from the house. There were people around, and some of them glanced their way as they passed. "I just..." Her brow furrowed as she heaved a very great sigh.

"Many things happened that day." she murmured, not looking at him. "There were things said and done that were unforgiveable. On both sides." She momentarily looked to his face.

"But, as the leader of my people, and their representative...I wanted to come to you especially, because, plainly...I wish to apologize."

Illiam regarded the girl's words with a certain timid quietness, and his eyes had kept to the ground, until Ajani had uttered the last syllable of her apology. Then, he'd looked up to her, his eyes flashing with mild surprise. "Oh..." He murmured, and suddenly took Ajani by the shoulders.

His next words came like a flurry of pent-up practiced speeches and apologetic pleas. "I'd wished to apologize too, you know. But, you were gone. And through all of it, I'd wanted to let you know - that I didn't condone your father being killed. I had no play in it. On behalf of me -" He stammered. "I mean - our... Blakestown. I'm apologizing as well. Never did I hold any ill will toward your people, and it hadn't only been the death of your father, that day. I can't imagine what it was like. I thought he and peace had died, but..."

Suddenly, he came to a realization. That, perhaps, he had been getting a bit too excited. The man's cheeks still bore a deathly paleness. He withdrew, releasing Ajani. "You've been good at restoring that. I... haven't been, so much."

There were tears in her eyes, even as she listened to his heart-felt apology. There was some anger, certainly, but she had to school herself to direct it elsewhere. This man had not been responsible. She remembered the look on his face when the bullet had pierced her father's heart.

"I should never have threatened you the way I did." she breathed. "It was dishonoring to my father's memory, and a disgrace to what my people had set out to accomplish. I can only hope that what has happened in these last few days can at least repair some of the damage our ignorance has caused."

She said 'our' with some emphasis.

"I wish to maintain this peace, as best we can. It's so very important, Illiam. We're going to need each other." She glanced away, trying to keep her thoughts in order. "I fear a destruction is coming. If we do not stand together, then we're all going to suffer for it."

Back at Illiam's home, the front door nearly bent with the slamming of a fist against its surface.

"Illiam!" A certain red-headed man said, loudly. "I insist you open up!"

Finally, a smile had crossed the man's face, though it was meek. "I don't know what sort of destruction you're talking about, but even without, I can't help but agree. There is no way for us to reside here for so long without coming to terms on something, is there?"

With the faint call of his name, Illiam glanced to where his home rested. A chill had gone up his spine, though he watched from a distance what was to transpire. The mahogany door had opened up, with the small face of Anabelle Ormond peeking beyond. In her hand was Adrien's, who had to bend over to accomodate the child's grasp.

"My daddy isn't home right now, he's -"

The girl was cut off by Adrien, whose eyes had met their copper-curled visitor's. "Out. He's out. Anabelle, I think Josie's crying." He said, rather plainly, and shooed the girl off. He stepped outside, nearly pushing the larger fellow away from the door. Though his voice seemed firm, when it softened and faded, it quivered with slight fear. "He's not here. Neither's she." He added, though 'she' had been rather ambiguous.

His eyes nearly flitted in their direction, before landing up on the visitor's again.

The man grit his teeth in frustration, glancing to the side, before pausing to look...really look.

"Not a problem." he all but growled, turning abruptly and jogging down the stairs, across the lawn, and down the road towards Illiam and Ajani.

Aja was holding her breath, and her shoulders went stiff when she saw that the one man she feared most in this town came, practically running for them.

Her face had gone unusually pale, but she maintained her composure even as the Assassin approached. He glowered at her, a wicked look that was filled with obvious animosity. "I would have thought you'd be a bit more cautious, Illiam." he insisted.

"Lest you catch that awful fever."

Illiam had glanced to the man, almost passively, but it was certainly a ruse. Inside, the man had shaken him to the very core as well. "Cain," He started. "I was just going to direct this young lady to the nurse's hovel. She seemed lost, and, well, I consider myself a good Samaritan."

Adrien followed close behind Cain, and joined the group as Illiam finished speaking. "I... need a pail for Radimus, so I don't think it'd be wrong I come with you all."

"If you've a matter for me, well, can you bring it up later? I'm a busy man." Illiam continued.

"She knows damned well where the hovel is." Cain suddenly snarled, taking a threatening step closer to Ajani. She stood frozen, simply boring her eyes into those of the man who had, on more than one occasion, tried to take her life.

"She's been sneaking into the village," Cain accused, pointing a hand visciously at her. She flinched. "Scouting us out, and here you go, letting the whole lot of them into the town without so much as a hesitation. It's foolish. You are foolish."

He looked disgusted, stepping back and nearly shoving Adrien to get him out of his way. "Well, I won't be fooled. There are those of us who will be happy to see these people gone."

He shook his head, looking between the group of them before turning and stalking back towards the village. Aja didn't say a word for a long while.

Then, "Should we get the pail, Adrien?" she asked, her voice soft.

Adrien balled a fist.

"Radimus doesn't need a pail. I swear, if he knows that man -"

"Isn't something you should be involved, or concerned with, Adrien. Politics between the tribes and colonies is a dangerous thing, and you're lucky to have had Radimus' status protecting you." Illiam said, his voice full of scorn. Though, it seemed stricken, and almost fearful at points. "Consider yourself lucky."

For a while, the silence between the three of them grew, before the Governor had spoken again.

"You children should be off."

"Thank you for speaking with me." Ajani said quickly, before turning to walk off down the road. Ironically enough, it was away from the town hall... in the opposite direction that Assassin had gone in. She didn't pause to see if Adrien was following, but surely enough, the boy had worriedly stalked after her.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn Character Portrait: The Harbinger Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls Character Portrait: Xander Roan

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#, as written by FizzGig
Blakestown
November 11th, Early evening


The day had been overcast, though the festivities below were a far contrast to the skies above. By then, most of the villagers had come to good health, and even a few had taken to aiding the tribals with those who weren't. The casualties were very few and far between, with only Cameron Roan and Joesephus Rake, the latter of which was old and already on his way anyhow.

But, in the square that day, people locked arms and sang merry tunes, whether they belonged to the Vanduo, the colonies, or otherwise. On the sidelines of the square laid tables upon tables of food and drink, to which people added to and took from as the day gradually went on.

Those who didn't keep so well to the tribals' presence were advised to stay in their homes, and so they had. Some, even with their fear, took to the square as well, and stayed on the sidelines to watch the festivities. The jolliness of the day was certainly contagious.

Among the crowd was Adrien, who had stayed to the food. While the music and dancing was enticing, it asked for a trait that the boy certainly hadn't picked up along the way. Xander was mingling in the crowd as well, and no doubt would the boy be near to perfectly healthy, then. He was accompanied by Elleanore, whose health had been fixed just the same. Radimus had chosen to stay at his house that day, though no doubt did the chattering and melodies of the townsfolk pierce the walls that he'd hidden behind.

The tribals had added their own delicacies, with cooked fowl and vegetables, roots and berries that blended to create a uniquely exquisite taste. Many of the girls sat and mingled with the colonists who had gathered to enjoy the festivities, since the majority of them were wed, with children of their own. They did not seek out partners in dance. The children were playing with one another, chasing each other through the square and tumbling into the snow. Aja, who had gone back to the camp and returned after a day's much needed rest, was standing more on the sidelines, watching the dancing with a comically concentrated look on her face.

Just then, the music ended, and a different tune picked up. The group of dancers broke off into pairs, spinning and whirling around and between one another. There was much laughter, too, as people struggled to keep up with partners who were either too fast or too slow.

"You seem very interested, Ajani." A voice said, just behind her. She turned, finding Elleanore's father standing there with a gentle smile on his face. He held out his hand.

"May I show you?"

Aja paused, her brows lifted, before a great big grin broke out on her face. She took his hand, allowing him to lead her to where the others were dancing, and then, quite suddenly, he was sweeping her away. At first, she was clinging to him, but then the movements became easier to follow, and she was dancing along, unable to help the grin that had fixed itself to her face.

Adrien's eyes couldn't help but wander to the tribal leader who'd made it all happen, and how she was merrily dancing with Elleanore's father. He grinned and covered his mouth, before a snowball had hit him on the side, and he stumbled. When he looked to his aggressor, he'd seen that it was the small, blond-headed tribal boy from before, Siska. A grin came to his face, and he'd bent over to pack snow and throw it back.

But, before he could, the boy had come running at him, and grabbed him by the palm of his hand. He slowly began to drag Adrien to the square, where people had been locking arms and going on their merry way. "I'm not a kid, you know," He said, in the Vanduo's language. "I can dance too! Just like everyone else!"

Adrien began to protest, but before he'd known, he was locking elbows with the child and dancing in circles. Interestingly enough, Siska had kept a better beat than the boy years older than him. Soon enough, though, everyone had began to split partners, and it'd be then that Adrien would notice that the younger boy had brought the pair next to Cavis and Ajani.

Siska held an expectant hand up to Cavis, and Adrien looked to the dignified tribe leader, chuckling at the events that had just transpired. Almost hesitantly, he held a hand to the girl.

Cavis pulled Ajani to a stop, one arm behind the young woman's shoulders as he gave a rather comical bow to Siska. The pair whisked away, and Aja met Adrien's eyes, her eyes bright and cheeks flushed, before clasping his hand and stepping up close. The tempo of the music did not allow the pair a moment to pause, and in the same moment they were dancing along with the rest.

She kept up, at the very least. It was nice not to be tripping over her own feet the second time around. Smiling the whole time, and clinging to him as they moved, she couldn't help but wonder at the situation. Months ago, when she'd first met Adrien, she'd been freezing, heart broken, and holding a knife against him.

Now?

"Didn't I tell you that she'd find a way?" she said to him in Vanduo's tongue. She gave his hand a squeeze.

"Look at us now. I feel ridiculous, but I'm happy. We're happy."

"We're not all convinced yet, only most of us," Adrien said, humorously. He had been struggling to keep up with the tempo, but he'd danced and kept all the same. With a small chuckle, he began again. "It looks as if neither of us have ever danced in our lives."

A considerable amount of comfortable silence between the two grew, the vacant space being filled with the melodies that the bard had conveyed.

"I hope it stays this way." he said then, his voice flatter. "It's amazing how everyone's changed."

And that was certain. Those who were protesting the tribals, calling them horrid names and fixing for their burning, had now locked arms with them. They had brought them into their city, and the best of all was that they were welcome in their city.

Weeks earlier, he had been outcasted for bringing one in. Now there were many. Months ago, he had seen the tribal woman caught in a bear trap, and he couldn't imagine the way things would've been if he hadn't helped her. If she hadn't helped him, just as well.

As the song came to a close, people slowed to a stop, and Aja hesitated for only a moment before she embraced Adrien.

"Thank you." she told him, smiling before pulling away. "For everything."

"Mind if I cut in?"

The voice startled her. Turning about, she saw Cain standing with his hand outstretched to her, a pleasant smile on his face. His eyes were on hers, never once looking to Adrien.

"Lets not make a scene, little Princess. Come dance with me."

Adrien took a sharp breath in, and paused only momentarily, for the shoulder of another townsperson had met his.

"He won't do anything." The boy suddenly said, knowing full well he couldn't interject without a few pointed glances from the people around him. Suddenly, his hand had been grasped by another's, and a pair of townsfolk fit themselves in-between the three.

Aja hesitated, but reached to put her hand in Cain's. He gripped it gently, but firmly, pulling her in and taking her by the waist before leading her off into another dance. He chuckled, leaning to whisper in her ear.

"Smile."

She tried, but it only came out as a wan upturn of the corners of her mouth. She took a deep, shaky breath, attempting to relax even though she could feel the man's breath on her cheek. It was disconcerting, like playing with a dangerous animal.

"I just wanted to give you fair warning," he murmured. She looked around pretending as if he wasn't speaking.

"There's a lot going on now. It's kind that you took your time to come out and heal our sick, but we don't have need of you anymore. Do you understand?"

She closed her eyes. "Illiam doesn't seem to think so."

"Illiam is a fool." he replied smoothly, his hand giving hers a painful squeeze. She struggled not to flinch. "As it is, we're here to help him make decisions. This is one of them. You and your people will return to the tribe in the woods and never come back."

She was staring, the smile fading. She dared a look at the man's face, and he was gazing down at her with another one of his smiles on his face.

"If you do," he said, matter of factly, "I'll kill Adrien."

She stumbled, but it hardly mattered. The song had come to an end. He released her, stepping back and offering her a bow, to which she simply nodded.

"Choice is yours, Princess." he noted before slipping his hands into his pockets and walking off, whistling merrily.

The townspeople began to disperse then, cleaning off tables and beginning to amble back to their homes. Aja tried to help as best she could, but she felt so conflicted, and behaved in such a distracted manner that it was getting harder for her to concentrate.

"Ajani!" Xander called, meandering over to her with Ellie in tow. "Grab Adrien. We're gunna go on an adventure."

He popped up on his tip-toes, waving a hand towards the lad he could apparently see. "DREE!"

Adrien hustled over to the three. After leaving Ajani's hand, he'd taken himself away from the crowd to the sidelines again, to worriedly watch the goings-on of what was happening between the townspeople. He'd only gotten a few glimpses of Ajani and Cain, and even then, they looked as if they were dancing like any other pair. He was dangerously eager to ask what had happened, but Xander and Elleanore were far too close to ask her about such a thing anyhow.

So he looked to Ajani, gravely, then to the other two, with a forced smile.

"Lets go, then. Ajani?"

She nodded, smiling for him, even if it was a strained one, at best. She took a steady breath, watching as Xander and Ellie lead the way, walking arm in arm. Studying them for a moment, she glanced to Adrien, before walking up and slipping her arm in his too.

She'd have to keep her peace for now. She didn't want to risk anything, especially not if Adrien's life hung in the balance.

The setting changes from Blakestown to Skye Island

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Junea Vrass

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Skye Island
September 15, Early morning


It seemed as though they'd flown for hours. They rode in gentle, steady circles, rising on a tower of warm air that pushed the wyverns steadily higher and higher. The ground fell away, landmarks becoming miniscule until they disappeared from sight altogether, curtains of clouds obstructing their view.

Kysa remained quiet for the majority of the ride, her figure tucked against Trystan's chest as he held her securely in the saddle. As they continued to rise, they became enveloped in walls of grey and white, the moisture so thick on the air that it began to gather on their skin, dampening their hair and condensing on the scales of the wyverns they rode. The air was thicker here, making it difficult to breathe for a short time as they moved to break through the surface.

And when they did...

Glorious sunrise bathed them as they broke through the base of the clouds, opening up to them an ocean of white cotton that extended from horizon to horizon. The sky was blue up here, the air crisp and cold. Kysa shivered, and Trystan seemed to smile at her response.

"There it is!" he hollared, pointing towards what could have been a massive cumulonimbus cloud. Instead, upon closer inspection, the rivvulets and ridges turned out to be the edges of cut stone, as bleached white as the clouds surrounding it.

Skye Island.

Kysa managed to open her eyes long enough to get a good view of the floating island. She stirred, nearly smiling as they began to close in. It really was beautiful.

The island was shaped like a large beehive, open in many areas to let the sun in. Large glassed in windows made it possible for things to grow on the inside, providing food for the Oro tribe that lived there. Kysa remembered vaguely that the island was a network of passages and cavernous rooms, with people living closer to the center of the large structure.

The riders closed in, moving towards a long, narrow outcropping of stone that served as a landing pad for the draconic creatures. Kysa's landed first, followed closely by the one Junea rode on. Almost as soon as they landed, Trystan hopped off the monster, holding his arms out for Kysa to dismount.

Waiting at the end of the runway was a group of tribals dressed all in white, the visage nearly blinding in the light of the morning sun.

"Greetings!" A tall, elegant woman called to them. She patiently waited for them to make their way closer.

"And what brings these unexpected visitors? Vanduo tribe? Where is your leader?" Her sharp, blue eyes flickered to Junea, white-blonde hair reminiscent of Ajani's fair locks.

Junea had dismounted the animal, though slowly and carefully. It was only until he'd gotten off the animal, and leaned in the beast with an arm, that he turned his eyes to the fair-haired Oro woman. He had given a curt half-nod. "I am Junea Vrass, and my partner is Kysa. We are both of the Vanduo tribe, initially a part of a rescue and relay team composed to warn the other tribes of what was happening on the homesteads."

He took a sharp breath in, and stepped away from the beast with a blatant stagger. The man was unkempt, and at the very least, looked injured. A purple ring had laid around his neck where he'd been strangled, and his leg had still remained untreated.

"The Ugnis killed the rest of the team. I am afraid to say that they have left Motina's grace. We had not expected to come to Skye Island so early, but your youth had picked us up in a time of injury and need, after being attacked by the Ugnis."

The tribals who stood looked distinctly uncomfortable by his accusations. The woman at the head came forward then, her gaze flickering over Kysa, as Trystan carried her in his arms.

"Your accusations are grave." she noted, her eyes finding Junea's. "This is not the place to discuss such things. Come with us, allow us to help you heal and then we can talk in more detail about the atrocities of which you speak."

"We haven't much time." Kysa suddenly spoke, her voice stronger than she'd intended. "We can't rest for long!"

The Oro woman regarded her with a nearly patronizing smile. "Give us one night then, and we'll decide what to do once the two of you have rested."

She turned, gesturing for the rest of them to follow, and the procession was lead into the heart of the island, where stone walls rose high on either side, lit by mirrors that reflected light all around them. It was glorious, really. Beautiful in its own right, but for whatever reason, Kysa felt uncomfortable, like she was too far removed from the place she called home.

"I can walk." she told Trystan, insisting that he help her down.

He obliged, and she steadied herself on his arm before moving back to walk alongside Junea. She wasn't ready for much besides walking, but the Oro didn't seem to be pressed for a fast pace anyway.

"How are you holding up?" she asked him quietly, offering an arm if he wanted it.

Junea had taken her offer, and walked with the aide of Kysa. He quieted his voice when he'd spoken to the girl, though made no attempt to keep his words hushed from the Oro around them. "Tired. Don't be so impatient. We'll not make much of ourselves if we try to rush the things around us. I cannot imagine the Oro are any too pleased with our appearence, and by the looks of it, they are just as suspicious of us as we were of the Ugnis. It's best we don't push them, rest as much as possible, relay what we need to, and leave."

His eyes seemed to keep away from the woman he walked with, and rather, to the woman that led them both deeper into Skye Island. "Even if the matters seem urgent." He added, though quieter that time.

But the man was bluffing, to say the least. He'd wanted nothing more than to barge in to see the tribe leader, relay what had happened, and leave. For his own and Kysa's sake, however, Junea had insisted that they both rest in lieu to their injuries.

"Thank you for the hospitality," he suddenly added, raising his voice to those around him. "There isn't anything we need more."

The hallway they went into opened up into a cavern, several hundreds of feet high. The structure was filled with the gentle hum of activity, and all around, mirrors reflected light in hundreds of directions. Plants grew in the stones as well, trees filled with blossoms, bushes and flowers of all kinds reaching into the lip of the cavern.

Kysa looked up and around, even as they were lead towards higher levels, towards the outside.

A woman approached Kysa, holding out a hand.

"We'll take you to where you can be taken care of properly." she said, glancing to Junea once before meeting Kysa's eyes. Kysa seemed hesitant to leave Junea's side, and, as a result, looked to him for any kind of a hint.

He looked almost alarmed.

"After what had happened, I suspect you can understand why I wouldn't want to leave Kysa's side. I am sure you can offer us care in the same place, can't you?"

The woman looked at him in surprise. "Is she your wife?"

"Last time we seperated from members of our tribe, they were savagely burned alive. I don't believe this woman has to be my wife for seperating to be of concern, unless for some reason, you protest to otherwise." he retorted.

Kysa cut in. "Please, separating us would cause more harm than good. It would be wonderful if you could accommodate us."

The woman's surprised look melted to one of horror. "That's...dreadful. Goodness, the two of you have been through a plight. Of course you can stay together..." She shook her head, indicating for the pair to follow her. They were lead into an open area, warm from the sun, with pools of heated rain-water gathered and ready for the pair to be cleansed. There were women everywhere, all dressed in white. Healers.

"Come here," one woman took Kysa by the arm, leading her behind a rice-paper screen, to the pool closest to the edge. Junea, in turn, was lead to a pool further back, where he was instructed to undress.

"The water has healing properties. The woman who had guided them said. "Meant to re-energize. You can stay here as long as you deem necessary, and we'll be just outside if you need us for anything." With that, the room cleared, leaving Kysa and Junea alone behind their respective screens.

The woman sighed, sitting down at the edge of the pool, but hesitant to undress.

"I hate being so wary," she said, her voice echoing even though she was speaking just barely above a whisper.

"You shouldn't. Not here. Skye Island is a sanctuary, and they seem to not be under the same influence that the Ugnis were, and given its place, it's doubtful they ever will be touched by the darkness that was on land."

Once the women had all left the area, he had given a wistful sigh. The man was less hesitant to step into the waters, as the pain that'd come from having been attacked hadn't come off his mind since he stepped off the beast that took them there.

"Though I can understand. I'm weary as well. If I could simply go back to Vanduo, I would. I wonder what is of Ajani, and the tribe..."

There was a silence.

"I don't know if I could forgive myself, happen something have happened to them as well."

"Ajani will keep them safe." Kysa replied, finally shying out of her clothing and slipping beneath the surface of the warm water. She tried, and failed, not to audibly sigh in relief.

"Motina walks with her every day. I don't know that I've met someone so closely knit. She's still a child, to be sure, but she has that hope... a hope we all need."

The water sucked the ache out of her limbs, lulling her into a sense of calm as she gazed at the polished ceiling. "You've been so good to her." she finally managed, her eyes drifting closed. "You're part of the reason why she is the leader she is."

"And you?" Junea asked, turning his head to glance sideways at the curtain that seperated them. "You speak kindly of her. For some in the tribe, even though they may follow her judgement, they don't trust it. But, she's maturing."

"I believe Motina has helped her further than I did. I can't expect any more. As you said, she walks with her, every day." he continued.

The water seemed to capture him further, and deeper did he sink, letting it flow just below his chin and over the purpled ring on his neck. He cupped the water in his hands and brought it to his facem and just as well, rubbed his palms into his eyes. They begged for rest, and the Oro woman's suggestion of a night's rest had seemed all the more appealing, once he'd settled down.

She washed her skin, leaning back to dip her long hair into the water, before running her fingers through to wash it of the dirt and grime that clung to her. When she had finished, she glanced around for the clothing she was meant to put on, since her other clothes were dirty from travel. A white robe, much like what the Healers wore, waited for her.

Still damp, she stepped out of the water and slipped on the light cloth, before walking away from the edge of the pool and standing, looking out over the ocean of clouds.

"If I'd been born here, I can't imagine ever wanting to leave this place." she said quietly. "I miss home, though."

"I do too."

Upon hearing the woman step out of the water, he had dipped himself under and stepped out, though hesitantly. He'd donned the garb that the healers had left behind for him, as well as wrapped his leg with the bandages they'd left. Still yet, he had grabbed the weapons he still had with him, and took the coarse shawl that he'd worn there. The rest he left behind, and finally took to Kysa's side. "We should go, then, if you are ready to. To speak to the leader, if they let us."

Kysa's brow knit.

"I wonder if they are ready to hear what we have to say." she contemplated, running her fingers through her long, dark hair. She turned to gaze at Junea, reaching to gently touch the bruised skin of his neck. "Would you rather I keep my peace?" she asked. She wasn't up for doing too much talking anyway.

Before he could answer, however, one of the women appeared at the head of the room, smiling when she saw them standing together.

"Auris is ready to have an audience if you two would be so kind." she said, her radiance nearly causing Kysa to look away. She glanced to Junea.

"Come along then!" the woman encouraged, turning about and beginning to lead them from the room.

"I cannot stop you from speaking, but if you've something rash to say, it is best to bite your tongue for when they aren't questioning what we're trying to tell them." Junea said, making no effort to keep the Oro woman from hearing them.

He took a step forward, and found that the pain of his leg had been stifled. Without requesting the assistance of the other Vanduo, he followed the woman.

For whatever reason, Kysa's face flushed, but she kept her head down and nodded stiffly, stepping after the other woman with Junea walking at her side.

Once again, they were lead through the cavernouse hall, across the marble floors where people mingled about in much the same was as the Ugnis tribe had. Here, though, there was light, and warmth, and beauty, and women and children and families.

Kysa was comforted, but only for a short time. The pair were brought into a magnificent room, open to the air, where mirrors and polished glass and stone glittered all around them. A woman was seated on a chair of stone, flanked by two men, and all of them wore white. Her hair was dark as night, eyes equally dark, but her smile was warm as she gestured for the pair to come forward.

"Brother, sister," she rose to greet them, embracing Kysa before turning to do the same to Junea.

"You bring ill tidings, I've been warned. Come sit, look out over the world and tell me what you have seen."

Junea breathed out, almost shakily, as he embraced the woman. She had been the first in quite a while that hadn't turned an aggressive or wan eye to them both, past the healers, who had only quickly fled the room when they'd entered. He sat where she'd gestured to, and gave a slight, hopeful smile to Kysa.

"Auris," he said. "Thank you for seeing us."

For a moment, the man gazed out into the clouds that surrounded them. He wondered what it may have been like if he'd been born here. Would he like to stay?

But that wasn't anything he could think about, then. Almost immediately, he looked back to Auris, his eyebrows pulling inward.

"I've told it enough times that I'm tired of the details. Homesteads of our tribes have gone missing. When we had gone to the Ugnis to warn them, we had found that they'd abandoned Motina and her grace. They took the lives of the rest of our team, and they had taken the lives of all their own women as well."

Silence fell after he'd delivered his statement. The woman watched them, sitting back on her throne and gazing at the pair. Kysa was watching the other, her face pinched in the same concerned manner that Junea's was.

"What of the tunnel?" she asked. "There's a great, cavernous rift that leads for miles back to the mountains. Something collapsed it. Who? Do you know?"

Then, and only then, did Kysa look away to gaze out over the clouds.

"Is it of more concern than the events that had transpired with the Ugnis?" Junea asked, his head tilting and his eyes narrowing. For a moment, he glanced at Kysa, as if he'd expected her to speak then, but had only seen that she'd turned her head. He looked back to the woman who sat upon the throne.

"I have questions about that myself, though I'm not one who can answer you yours."

"The tunnel ties in with the events of Ugnis tribe. Where it was leading to, perhaps, or the purpose behind it. I only wanted to make sure it wasn't Ugnis themselves who destroyed it before we could figure out its true purpose." She was watching Kysa carefully.

"Have you nothing to say?"

Kysa glanced back with a soft smile. "Respectfully, no. Junea has stated our case quite plainly."

Auris nodded thoughtfully. "So, Ugnis has abandoned Motina, and they've slain their women and children." her nose wrinkled as she shook her head. "At least we know they will not survive very long."

"Ignio claimed they have unnaturally long lives." Kysa said, "According to this spirit they claim to serve, one called Mama."

A murmur ran through those who had gathered, but Kysa pressed on, "I don't know if his claims are true, but if they are..." she sighed, looking away. "We may have a severe problem on our hands."

Junea watched Kysa as she had spoken, and though he hadn't shown it on his face, he was a little less trepid when he'd found the words she'd spoken weren't irrational in the least. It was then that he had taken off where she'd left, not allowing Auris to get a word in between them.

"A problem that, if we were to address it, we would need more than the strength of the Vanduo." he added. "If there is a chance that we could save them from the darkness they're introducing to themselves, and keep them from setting to accomplish what they'd planned to, it would be best not to let them sit and hope they'll die over time."

He swallowed, and tilted his head to Auris, finally going silent then.

"What is it they plan?" Auris asked, standing and coming around to sit on Kysa's other side. She seemed to be observing her rather earnestly. Kysa turned to watch Auris with a somewhat wary intensity.

"I believe they wish to destroy the colonists." she said quietly. "I believe that's what the tunnel was for."

Auris nodded, then breathed, "So you destroyed it."

Kysa's jaw clenched, but she nodded. Auris seemed fascinated. "So, a water tribal can move massive amounts of earth? When do we ever see that happening?"

The other woman seemed uncomfortable, but she kept her back straight, and her shoulders squared. "Junea's said that it isn't important to speculate on such things." she reitterated. "We simply wanted to inform you so that we can all be prepared should it come down to a more violent conclusion."

She glanced sideways to Junea.

"Is that everything then?"

"We hadn't planned to come to Skye Island so early, but it was in your kindness and the Ugnis' hostility that we had to." he said, turning his eyes downward. "There's nothing more we can tell you."

"Well, we will take all of this into consideration." Auris said solemnly, before reaching to take Kysa by the hand and hoist her to her feet. "How is the young Ajani? Ive not seen her since her coming into womanhood, and now she's leading Vanduo on her own?" she looked between Junea and Kysa. "There must be much faith in her if it was so easy to leave her on her own."

"She's more than capable." Kysa said defensively. "She's young, but her heart is in the right place."

"With Motina." Auris said with a smile. "She's talented too, the only other that I've heard of who can manipulate all of the elements. She must have had a teacher, certainly." She gave Kysa a questioning look.

And again, Kysa was stubbornly silent.

"It was only tradition that Ajani had come into leadership, with the fall of her father, and she the next in line." Junea added, almost defensively, when he'd seen the discomfort that Auris' questions had put Kysa through. He couldn't help but wonder the same about the woman, but it was her decision to tell, not Auris'. "But, as Kysa said, I cannot think of a more capable leader of the Vanduo. No doubt will she amount to great achievements."

He gave a weary sigh, suddenly, and brought his hand to his neck, where he vacantly rubbed. "It will be nice to have a bed to sleep on, after the travel and plight we've been through."

Auris' eyes flickered towards Junea, and she smiled again.

"Of course. You two will be welcomed as honored guests. The ladies will take you back to where you can rest, and you have free reign to move about the island if you so choose."

Kysa glanced to Junea, her expression unreadable before they were encouraged to follow the women out. Kysa seemed content, more relaxed now that she wasn't under Auris' prying eyes. "I could sleep for days." she noted mildly, to no one in particular, before glancing to Junea.

"I know what you were doing, too." she said under her breath. No one seemed to notice. "Thank you."

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't curious myself, but it's not their decision for you to talk about it." Junea said, at just the same volume as she. Then, he looked to the ladies that were supposed to escort the two of them to their quarters. He nodded, and began to walk toward them, looking back to see if the other Vanduo had been following as such.

She did, smiling the whole while. It was no effort for them to make their way back to where their chambers would be. In reality, it was very close to where they had bathed. Taking their previous considerations to heart, the women lead them to a single room, with two mats for sleeping. Kysa nodded her thanks to their escorts, before walking over to the mat she'd effectively claimed for herself. Lying down, she let her body sink into the soft sheets, her eyes on the glossy ceiling once again.

"No one's thought to ask, you know." she told him after the door had been closed behind them.

"Nobody seemed to think that I was more than the medicine woman."

"I hadn't thought you were more than a medicine woman." he admitted, and made his way to the unclaimed mat. He made no effort to gracefully lay down, and happily collapsed onto the bed beneath him.

"My opinion has changed. You're, perhaps, a better fighter than I am. About your influence with magic..." he seemed to hesitate. "I'll leave you to telling me about that, if and when the time comes."

With his hands crossed over his stomach, the tiredness that had overtaken him beforehand took a firm grip on him then, and he steadily but surely began to drift to sleep.

"In the morning, though," he murmured, and fell victim to the late night.

The setting changes from Skye Island to Blakestown

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune Character Portrait: Aja Thorn Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls Character Portrait: Xander Roan

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Blakestown
November 11th, Night


Tonight wasn't a night for altercations. Tonight, people were celebrating being healthy, happy and whole. Even if there were those who were still suspicious of the Vanduo's presence in Blakestown, those who had accepted the tribals into their fold far outnumbered the rest.

So when the small group of young people approached the gate leading to the outside, they were permitted to pass, including Adrien, after the guards had given them a fair word of warning. Ellie was on Xander's arm, and Aja walked with her hand loosely gripping Adrien's forearm. Behind them, the gates closed with an iron clang, and above, the twin moons were beginning to split with the approach of the winter solstice.

Aja glanced upward, her brow furrowed in thought, while Ellie described in vivid detail how much she adored the evening.

"I mean, I wasn't entirely sure about how everything would turn out, but once Ajani saw me and I started feeling better, my hopes were immediately restored." She chirped, her cheeks flushed from the chill. Xander, at her side, merely looked on in amusement.

"Did you enjoy yourself Ajani? You and Adrien seemed to dance pretty well, and Adrien doesn't dance!"

"He hobbles like a cripple." Xander said with a grin. "With two left feet."

"I had fun." Ajani supplemented, glancing to Adrien. "I think his feet are fine."

"Y'll be hobbling like a cripple once I make you one, Sandy," he warned, though dully and humorously. He, too, looked up to the twin moons, before glancing between the group, and smiling toward Xander and Elleanore.

"I'm glad you're better, Ell. I really am. And..." Adrien glanced toward Xander, and his smile seemed to fall more than it rose, at that point. Suddenly, he looked toward Ajani, almost as if attempting to move onto something else.

"Thanks for helping Radimus, Aja. Even though he's a right prick."

Ajani smiled back, but it wasn't as enthusiastic as she would have originally expressed. "He's your father." she told him, lightly shrugging her shoulders. "I would have wanted the same done for my own."

The wall disappeared as the four walked further into the woods. There didn't seem to be any anxiety out here now, not since the colonists had obviously taken in the tribals and accepted their presence. Coming to a small clearing in the midst of a copse of trees, Ajani stepped away from Adrien, releasing his arm and walking to the center of that small patch of snow-laden ground. Her brow furrowed as she concentrated, her arms held close to her chest as she looked around her for a moment, then, with a sudden sweep of her arms, frigid gusts of wind came swooping in, dusting the snow away until nothing but cold earth remained.

Xander, who looked a bit disheveled after the small demonstration, glanced to Ellie, who could do little more than stare about herself in confusion. She didn't seem to be making the connection.

"Adrien can you help me find some branches?" Aja called, waving him towards her. Xander stepped forward, as if meaning to help, but the woman stopped him.

"We'll be back. Stay here with Ellie."

"For a fire?" Adrien unceremoniously replied, as if the association of tribals and magic hadn't really come as new news to him now. His feet carried him toward Ajani, though when he'd reached her, he gave a smile back to Xander. "Y'can't carry lumber anyway, Xander. Only us brawny men can. A log'd crush your lanky bones!"

Then, he looked to the girl he'd followed. "Though maybe just Xander and I should've gone?" he added, almost teasingly.

Aja glanced away momentarily. "If that's how you would prefer it." She seemed to miss the joke, gazing at Adrien curiously, as if she didn't understand why he was saying as much. She shook her head, lifting a hand to her brow.

"Or I can just go on my own."

Adrien's smile faltered, and he set a flat hand on Ajani's shoulder. "I was kidding, Aja. We best leave those two together alone anyway." he said, and nodded toward the deeper forest. His hand fell to his side. "Y'seem edgey, if any. Something messing with you?" he asked.

She nodded, seeing no need for any kind of pretense. "Just, earlier..." she began, walking ahead of him and coming to the base of a tree. Stepping close to the trunk, she lay her hand against the bark, turning her eyes away and pausing for a moment.

A 'crack' resonated above them, and a thicker branch came crashing down, landing softly in the snow not a few feet from where Aja was standing.

"Cain threatened you. He said if I came back..." she hesitated, shaking her head before she looked back to Adrien.

"We need to tell Ellie what's going on."

"If'e threatened me, don't worry about me, because I can damn well take care of myself." Adrien started, rather suddenly and defensively. Then, his brow softened, and his lips pulled into a thin white line. He glanced backwards - to where Xander and Elleanore were waiting for them both. "About the threat he made against her?" he asked. "Or everything?"

Almost hesitantly, he'd hauled the thicker branch over his shoulder, and looked to Ajani for an answer. He thought, that perhaps if she hadn't known, there would be less things to worry about. He could only imagine it peculiar why they would've come out so far anyhow, and the Vanduo leader certainly supplied an answer.

"Everything."

She walked over to stand near him, glancing to his face before looking away. "She deserves to know. If Cain plans on holding on to any of his threats, then she isn't going to be safe." Her eyes went past him, towards the distant woods, and the town that lay beyond that wall. "Where we're at, right now, is good. But I don't know how long it's going to last, or what forces are at work to destroy what we've tried to build."

With a sigh, and a short laugh, she smiled at Adrien, but it was reserved. "I just want all of us to be prepared for the worst, should it happen."

"My father still thinks ill of the tribes. Like helping us was a ploy, so you could be closer. The man is going senile, and he isn't even old enough yet. He's still yet to tell me about the red-haired man." he said, with an expression that starkly contrasted the girl's. "What good would come of telling her if we're not doing anything about it?"

With a long sigh, he glanced toward where she had. He wondered, if he could overlook the tops of the trees, if their wall would still be in view. "I know where he lives - but I'm not killing a man if I can help it. So what are we to do?"

"I won't come back after tonight." she said. "I need to make sure the tribe is doing well, and then there's the matter of Junea..." her voice trailed off, expression suddenly falling to one of worry. "He's yet to come back, and I may have to go out to look for him myself."

So much worry. It was weighing her down at the shoulders. "I've been so distracted that I've nearly forgotten everything else that's been happening."

"Junea?" Adrien asked, his eyebrows pulling tight at the name. He hadn't heard it before. "Is that a good idea? Looking for him yourself? And what about the Vanduo? They depend on you. I know that much, and I've not been there but twice."

He bore the same look as Ajani. "Don't take on what you can't handle. We wouldn't be... heartbroken if you hadn't come back or tried to help us repair the relations between mine and your people. That can wait as long as Illiam can make it. If you need to take care of your tribe, then..." His stomach churned as he spoke, and he hadn't particularly believed the words that he was saying to the girl.

She looked unsure, her lips pursing tight as she crossed her arms over her chest. Continue to come back? Or leave? Which would cause fewer problems for her friends, the people she'd come to care about?

Gritting her teeth, she stared at the ground as the wind stirred powerfully, shaking the snow from the branches around them. "I don't know what I should do anymore. That man frightens me, and I know you can take care of yourself, but I don't know that I could forgive myself if something happened to you...or Ellie or the others."

She searched his eyes. "I want to keep my distance, but leaving wouldn't work either. Not when we're making so much progress."

He pivoted to look at her, and furrowed a brow. "What if... we were to bring Elleanore to the Vanduo? She'd be safe there, if Cain kept on his promise about me getting in the way of things. I wouldn't, still, but I don't need a babysitter. If anything, I could stay somewhere else and that hound wouldn't be able to catch a whiff of me. Blakestown is big; bigger than you've seen. Our walls go on for miles."

"I don't want to abandon this - what we're doing. Not entirely. If it comes down to it, we can just move the people he's threatening, Elleanore and I."

She looked away with a sigh.

"It could work." she murmured. "It's definitely a better choice than just...leaving." She didn't know why she'd even suggested it in the first place. Closing her eyes, she ran her hand over her face before letting her arm drop to her side. Her eyes rolled skyward.

"I'm sorry." she said finally. "I'm letting fear drive my decision-making. I think I'm more tired than I originally thought."

Embarrassed at herself, she started to walk back towards the others. Adrien started off with her, and like he'd promised to Xander and Elleanore, his hands reached for sticks along the way, while his shoulder ached with the heavy wood that Ajani had disjointed from the tree.

They made it back to camp - it wasn't so far away. And, when they had, Adrien happily dropped the lumber into a pile. He moved stones around it, to keep the flames, then looked to his tribal partner as his stomach twisted again, a little afraid of relaying the news to Elleanore, which the three other kids had already known about. Before she could reply to his look, however, he sat himself by the pile of lumber and spoke.

"Can I do the honors? I've been practicing."

Ajani smiled, coming down to sit next to him. Adrien and Ellie crowded around curiously. "Please do." she encouraged, propping her chin in her hand so she could watch.

Adrien had eagerly thrusted both hands forward, palms out, toward the pile of broken sticks and lumber. For a moment, he closed his eyes, and his forehead kneaded with concentration. After a few moments of silence, he opened his eyes again, and looked embarrasedly toward xander and Ellie, then Ajani.

He drew a breath in again, and without closing his eyes, raised his hand to face the firewood again. the boy stared at the pile of wood, and if only for a moment, his vision begun to vignette.

But before that could happen, a spark suddenly rose from the middle of the pit, and caught the fire alight. It was a small fire, and certainly not as impressive as Ajani's magical charades, but the grin on his face that he happily showed to everyone gave the impression that he was rather impressed with himself.

Aja was pleased, just as pleased as Adrien was. She reached to grip his shoulder, squeezing it encouragingly as a soft laugh left her. Ellie and Xander were both staring with widened eyes.

"You can do magic too, Dree?" the young man asked. Ellie, who was standing close to Xander, came to kneel down next to Ajani, her blue eyes wide with wonder as she watched the small flame grow.

"I thought only the tribals could do that." she said, looking past Ajani towards Adrien. Aja, to say the least, looked more than a little proud.

"We all have it in us. This power." she explained, reaching for Adrien's hand and drawing it closer to herself so she could study the veins in the back of his hand. "It's only a matter of learning how to reach it."

She glanced up to Adrien's eyes, unable to help her smile. "How does it feel?"

"Warm." Adrien said, with a grin far wider than Ajani's. It was obvious. He was proud. He'd taken on the same skill that the tribals had, and at the very least, he was coming to a nice start. After trying to turn the corners of his mouth down for a little while, he glanced to Ajani, and the reason why they were here became evident to him again. His proud smile dropped as quickly as it fell, and he gave another wistful sigh.

"S'pose y'two don't know why we came out here to talk?" he asked.

Ellie's eyes widened in curiosity, and Xander came down to sit on her other side. He looked at Adrien with slightly narrowed eyes, as if he suspected what the other might start saying. Aja let go of Adrien's hand and turned to look at the other young woman.

"What do you know about the first time we tried to have our peace treaty signed?" she asked.

"Now, wait a minute," Xander said quickly. "I thought we agreed we weren't gunna talk too much abou' this..."

Ajani looked to Adrien quickly, her brow furrowed.

"It's fine, Xander. Sh'needs to know if she's involved. And she is." Adrien retorted, and gave a quick nod to Ajani before Xander could say anything more.

So, Aja launched into a synopsis of everything that had happened that day, including how she met Adrien, how they'd continued to meet, how she'd come to the town and encountered the man who was responsible for killing her father.

And how that same man had threatened her life in order to keep Adrien from going to see Ajani.

Ellie' eyes were wide, her hands clenched tightly in her lap. Xander looked as if he'd swallowed a lemon. "I don't understand." the young woman said. "What...why doesn't he want you to see her? What does he have against the tribals?"

"What did any of us have against 'em, except stories and some shitty religious reasons." Xander offered. Aja looked from one to the next.

"All we want, Ellie, is to coexist peacefully." she said gently. "We need to learn to rely on one another, and come together as one group of people, and not two." She reached for Ellie's hand and grasped it firmly.

"But that might mean that I'll need to take you to my home to keep you safe, at some point in the future. The last thing any of us wants is for someone to get hurt."

"Sometime soon, Ellie." Adrien corrected. "Do you remember, if any, the man with red hair who helped you carry your things? That was him. His name is Cain. He's a dangerous man, and I don't know if you could stay in Blakestown while we carry on trying to help us coexist without something happening t'you. It sounds selfish to put it that way, but something needs t'happen," he said. "He threatened me. I'm going to move, too."

"What's the urgency?" Ellie's eyes couldn't get any wider.

"Something else is coming." Ajani said, her tone low, and her eyes dark with foreboding. "I don't know what, but I do know that if we can't work together, it's going to destroy both Blakestown and my tribe." She shook her head slowly. "I can't let that happen, to either of us. My father might have suspected it before he di-"

Her throat got thick, but she cleared it quickly, taking a moment to compose herself.

"I think he knew what was coming, and for whatever reason, Radimus, Cain, and a few others are convinced that our cooperation cannot happen."

Even Xander was surprised.

"So, it's like...some big bad is comin' teh get us?"

Aja's throat was thick when she spoke again.

"It's already gotten some of us." she said, her voice quavering. "My people...who live in the homesteads out in the plains...they've gone missing, and I sent a team to go find them, weeks ago. They've yet to return."

Adrien looked to Ajani suddenly, as if the information that she relayed had come as some surprise to him. To him, they felt familiar. His brow unfurrowed soon enough, though, and he gave a deep sigh. He had hoped the dreams he had - the evil she'd spoken of - was just gut feelings and nightmarish dreams. But, their people disappearing? "We don't wander out that far," he said, as if rooting out the possibility that his own could've done it.

Then, he looked to Elleanore again.

"Would you be willing t'go with the Vanduo? They'll keep you safe - from Cain. And... Xander can come to the tribe as well, if he wants to visit you, but I don't think he's in any danger. He's got the mark."

He looked to the faint symbol on his hand. He'd noticed it on Xander before.

"Now?" Ellie tensed, leaning closer to Xander as the other put his arm around her shoulders.

"Soon." Ajani clarified, her lips pursing as she took in a deep breath through her nose. "We'll tell your father, so he won't worry. We just need to keep you and Adrien away from Cain and the others."

Ellie's breathing was faster, but she nodded. "I trust you, all of you. I wish there was more I could do to help."

To the surprise of everyone, Ajani smiled, leaning to cup Ellie behind the head and alighting a kiss on her brow. She rose quickly.

"Best if I went back home," she told the other three. "The rest will come soon, but there are things I need to see to."

Adrien nodded, and gave a light smile toward the two girls. "You be off, then." he said, though suddenly stopped, and lightly took Ajani by the wrist. "But, don't be afraid to come back. I'll move, and I'll take care of myself. Cain won't get to me. I promise."

Then, he let go, and looked to Xander and Elleanore. "I'll be moving from Radimus' house, anyway. I don't know to where yet - and he can't know either. You're going to have to go without an extra farmhand for some time, Sandy."

"I'll come back." she reassured him, before turning and walking into the woods. She glanced one last time back towards the three as they gathered around the fire, smiling tiredly before disappearing into the trees.

Xander watched her go, his brow knit with concern before Adrien's words caught his attention. "Where yeh gunna be, Dree? Or will Ajani be the only one t'know."

Ellie held tight to Xander's hand, watching Adrien quietly.

"Ajani's gone." Adrien noted, dully. He looked to the ground for a moment. The fire he'd made was rasping and dying. Briefly, he shook his head.

"I don't know... I've not explored the city enough t'know. But, I'll tell you when I find out. So, if Ajani comes, you can tell her. I don't think I'm going to stay around the square, though."

He brought a hand to the back of his head and itched at it, seemingly distraught at the lack of an idea.

"I don't know."

"We'll help you figure something out." Xander said. "I mean y'can always stick close to my place if y'need."

"We have a cellar, too." Ellie offered. "It's warm, even during this time of year." Her lips pursed slightly. "It's an idea, anyway. In case you can't find any other options. Father wouldn't mind. I know he wouldn't."

"He'll want to help." Xander seconded, offering a half-smile. He looked back towards the woods.

"So, what's goin' on with Aja? Girl's usually smilin. She just seems...down."

"She's worried about'er tribe. And us; me and Ellie. She's got a lot to take care of; her entire people, and then she's got t'manage relations with us while trying not to get anyone killed." he said, giving a worried look in the direction that the girl had ran off to.

"I don't know about staying with you folk. I mean... Cain knows y'two the best as who I'd go to. Happen I get found, I don't want something t'happen to Cavis, or you, Xander, or your mom."

Seemingly troubled, he put his face in his hands, and rubbed at his temples.

Xander hesitated a moment.

"So...why not go follow her now?" he suggested.

Adrien furrowed his brow for a moment, before standing up abruptly. "That's... something I hadn't considered, I guess. Y'take Ellie to town safe, hear? And you know where th'tribe is, if something happens. If something happens, you tell me."

He looked upon the two that were left with concern, before pivoting and abruptly disappearing into the trees that Ajani had stalked into beforehand.

Xander and Elleanore watched as he disappeared, before Xander went and stomped out the fire. He gave Ellie one last look before reaching for her hand and tugging her along back to the village.

Ajani, in the meantime, had let her succumb somewhat to the emotional pressure that had been weighing her down for the last few days. Sure, she'd rested well enough and she had done some good things for the colonists. Her father would have been proud, and certainly Motina would be pleased...

...but what of her people? What of Junea and the search team? What of those she had left behind at Tribe Vanduo? Could she possibly take on the mantle of caring for all of these people? Spear-heading the effort to make sure that the colonists and the tribals got along? How could she do all of that when she couldn't find out what had happened to her own brothers?

She didn't feel like a leader, just then. She felt woefully inadequate, frightened like a child, and terribly lonely.

So she walked until the tears blurred her vision, and she was forced to stop. Wiping her eyes did little to help, since more tears came, so she turned and sat herself down at the base of a tree, curling up and resting her forehead, briefly, on her knees.

She didn't know how long she sat there. Time seemed to be of no consequence.

Adrien followed suit, though aimlessly. He'd been to the Vanduo village enough to know where it was, but suddenly, wandering haphazardly through the woods hadn't seemed like such a bright idea after all. Not if he couldn't find Ajani. So, he pushed past bushes and dodged trees, until he'd seen the upset path that another had taken just before him.

He tracked it, until he'd come across Ajani again, whose start was not so far from his. It was only when he'd realized that she was on the floor and against a tree that he stopped, and approached cautiously. At first, he was concerned to her health, but then, it was evident he'd caught the girl in emotional turmoil.

The boy almost recoiled.

"Sorry," he said, immediately. "I thought I'd stay at the village - too - for now. Didn't know..."

She spun around, flying to her feet and nearly stumbling in the process as she struggled to right herself. She stared at him, taking a few deep breaths before planting a hand on her hip and using the other to push her hair back away from her face. Still flushed, but obviously startled out of her emotional breakdown, she merely shook her head, muttering something in abrupt Vanduo and then nodding.

"Yes, yes of course. I don't know why I didn't think to invite you back."

"I can just... go back to Blakes, if it'll help. I didn't know it was that bad. 'M'sorry, Aja," he said again, lowering his eyes, and taking no heed to her words. He pivoted to return to the trees again.

"Adrien!" she called suddenly, perhaps a little more desperately than she intended. She was mid-step, as if she intended to follow after him.

He'd been startled by her call, though, and abruptly turned back to face her. His face bore that of guilt and his shoulders tenseness. Part of him didn't want to turn back to her, and part of him had. Still, he waited wordlessly for her to speak.

"I need your help." she said, her eyes flooding. Angrily, she wiped them away with the sleeve of her dress. "I just... need you with me. I need your friendship, your presence is a comfort to me, and whenever you're around I feel like, on some small scale, that I'm capable of accomplishing what I've set out to do." She gripped her hands tightly in front of her.

"My motivations are purely selfish, but it's the honest truth. I won't make you come if you don't want to."

"I want to. I think I'd be safer there; Cain doesn't know where the tribe is, and I wouldn't have to stay at Xander's or Cavis' and endanger them. And..." he drew a breath in, and held it, for an amount of time. "I guess I feel the same way. When Radimus had kept me behind the walls, and Xander and Elleanore hadn't been talking to me," He hesitated, and then gave a forced shrug. "I was ready to give up everything I worked for."

Then, he smiled coyly, and took toward the girl, still cautious in his pursuits. "I'll come. I want to. As long as you stop crying. I don't feel too welcome when you do that."

Ajani rolled her eyes, turning and scooping up a wad of snow before lobbing it at his face.

"Whatever you say, Dree." she said with a small smile.

He was lucky enough to duck it, and then stuff his hands in his pockets and walk tribe-ward. He jutted out a tongue.

"Well, lets go, then? I'm sure your tribe misses me."

View All »Arcs

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Welcome home, Promethean. Here, you can manage your universe.

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Arcs are bundles of posts from any location, allowing you to easily capture sub-plots which might be spread out across multiple locations.

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Add Setting » 6 Settings for your players to play in

Settings are the backdrop for the characters in your universe, giving meaning and context to their existence. By creating a number of well-written locations, you can organize your universe into areas and regions.

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While not required, locations can be organized onto a map. More information soon!

Seirras Mountain Range

Seirras Mountain Range by RolePlayGateway

Extending all along the southern border, the Seirras peaks divide the land between the grasslands to the north and the desert to the south. The Capron Desert eventually dissolves into the sea, and it is beneath these mountains that the Ugnis Tribe resides

Skye Island

Skye Island by RolePlayGateway

The City in the Clouds, accessed only by riding wyvern-like reptiles. It is a towering land mass floating on a giant cumulonimbus cloud. The settlement is a giant spiral. The people have carved their homes from stone, even as it floats in the sky.

Plato

Plato by FizzGig

The planet on which Mateja resides.

Blakestown

Blakestown by RolePlayGateway

The main colony of Mateja, largest in population, and greatest in financial diversity.

The Forest of Whispers

The Forest of Whispers by RolePlayGateway

A quiet wood, filled with towering oaks and evergreen trees. Many a creature live here, as well as the Vanduo tribe, who frequent the tedious border between the colony's Wall and the rest of the wilderness.

Sausas Vandenynas

Sausas Vandenynas by RolePlayGateway

The Dry Ocean: A sea of tall, sun-withered grass that seems to stretch on for miles. It continues south, towards the Seirras Mountain Range, where rolling foothills meld into the treacherous peaks.

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View All » Add Character » 8 Characters to follow in this universe

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune
Character Portrait: Aja Thorn
Character Portrait: Illiam Ormond
Character Portrait: The Harbinger
Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls
Character Portrait: Radimus Rune
Character Portrait: Junea Vrass
Character Portrait: Xander Roan

Newest

Character Portrait: Xander Roan
Xander Roan

"Y'know I gotcher back, Dree."

Character Portrait: Junea Vrass
Junea Vrass

"For the tribe."

Character Portrait: Radimus Rune
Radimus Rune

"Do not act so smug about the disappearence of my son. He is your friend as well. If we weren't in the company of a lady, I'd grab you by the -"

Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls
Elleanore Rawls

Head in the clouds, nose in a book.

Character Portrait: The Harbinger
The Harbinger

Always who you think he's not, and never who you think he is.

Character Portrait: Illiam Ormond
Illiam Ormond

"You children should be off."

Character Portrait: Aja Thorn
Aja Thorn

The Winter Rose

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune
Adrien Rune

"If I die, take th'letter out of my pocket, n'mail it t'my mum for me."

Trending

Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls
Elleanore Rawls

Head in the clouds, nose in a book.

Character Portrait: Aja Thorn
Aja Thorn

The Winter Rose

Character Portrait: The Harbinger
The Harbinger

Always who you think he's not, and never who you think he is.

Character Portrait: Junea Vrass
Junea Vrass

"For the tribe."

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune
Adrien Rune

"If I die, take th'letter out of my pocket, n'mail it t'my mum for me."

Character Portrait: Illiam Ormond
Illiam Ormond

"You children should be off."

Character Portrait: Xander Roan
Xander Roan

"Y'know I gotcher back, Dree."

Character Portrait: Radimus Rune
Radimus Rune

"Do not act so smug about the disappearence of my son. He is your friend as well. If we weren't in the company of a lady, I'd grab you by the -"

Most Followed

Character Portrait: Junea Vrass
Junea Vrass

"For the tribe."

Character Portrait: Adrien Rune
Adrien Rune

"If I die, take th'letter out of my pocket, n'mail it t'my mum for me."

Character Portrait: Illiam Ormond
Illiam Ormond

"You children should be off."

Character Portrait: Aja Thorn
Aja Thorn

The Winter Rose

Character Portrait: The Harbinger
The Harbinger

Always who you think he's not, and never who you think he is.

Character Portrait: Elleanore Rawls
Elleanore Rawls

Head in the clouds, nose in a book.

Character Portrait: Xander Roan
Xander Roan

"Y'know I gotcher back, Dree."

Character Portrait: Radimus Rune
Radimus Rune

"Do not act so smug about the disappearence of my son. He is your friend as well. If we weren't in the company of a lady, I'd grab you by the -"


View All » Places

Seirras Mountain Range

Seirras Mountain Range by RolePlayGateway

Extending all along the southern border, the Seirras peaks divide the land between the grasslands to the north and the desert to the south. The Capron Desert eventually dissolves into the sea, and it is beneath these mountains that the Ugnis Tribe resides

Skye Island

Skye Island by RolePlayGateway

The City in the Clouds, accessed only by riding wyvern-like reptiles. It is a towering land mass floating on a giant cumulonimbus cloud. The settlement is a giant spiral. The people have carved their homes from stone, even as it floats in the sky.

Plato

Plato by FizzGig

The planet on which Mateja resides.

Blakestown

Blakestown by RolePlayGateway

The main colony of Mateja, largest in population, and greatest in financial diversity.

The Forest of Whispers

The Forest of Whispers by RolePlayGateway

A quiet wood, filled with towering oaks and evergreen trees. Many a creature live here, as well as the Vanduo tribe, who frequent the tedious border between the colony's Wall and the rest of the wilderness.

Sausas Vandenynas

Sausas Vandenynas by RolePlayGateway

The Dry Ocean: A sea of tall, sun-withered grass that seems to stretch on for miles. It continues south, towards the Seirras Mountain Range, where rolling foothills meld into the treacherous peaks.

Blakestown

Plato Blakestown Owner: RolePlayGateway

The main colony of Mateja, largest in population, and greatest in financial diversity.

Skye Island

Plato Skye Island Owner: RolePlayGateway

The City in the Clouds, accessed only by riding wyvern-like reptiles. It is a towering land mass floating on a giant cumulonimbus cloud. The settlement is a giant spiral. The people have carved their homes from stone, even as it floats in the sky.

Seirras Mountain Range

Plato Seirras Mountain Range Owner: RolePlayGateway

Extending all along the southern border, the Seirras peaks divide the land between the grasslands to the north and the desert to the south. The Capron Desert eventually dissolves into the sea, and it is beneath these mountains that the Ugnis Tribe resides

The Forest of Whispers

Plato The Forest of Whispers Owner: RolePlayGateway

A quiet wood, filled with towering oaks and evergreen trees. Many a creature live here, as well as the Vanduo tribe, who frequent the tedious border between the colony's Wall and the rest of the wilderness.

Plato

The planet on which Mateja resides.

Sausas Vandenynas

Plato Sausas Vandenynas Owner: RolePlayGateway

The Dry Ocean: A sea of tall, sun-withered grass that seems to stretch on for miles. It continues south, towards the Seirras Mountain Range, where rolling foothills meld into the treacherous peaks.

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Re: Mateja: Revolution

Ahh. Thanks, Richter.

Re: Mateja: Revolution

The first truly interesting RP I've seen for awhile, and its invitation only. :(

Have fun!

Mateja: Revolution

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