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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Changing forms isn't just like slipping on a different cloak. A moth sees the world much differently than a human... ultraviolet light, scent particles on the breeze, even the vague but unerring sense of the planet's magnetic field all color his world so thoroughly that it's like he's floating through a whirling, luminous realm. Luna's blessing helped him make sense of it all at first, but now it's second nature to Skymoth as he flits through the air, trying not to let the rush distract him.

    He sees humans, below. Small from a distance, impossibly large up close. They smell like sweat and salt and tar, ship-smells. One of the women smells like cold dirt and old blood, and his feathery antennae twitch in instinctive distaste. The masked man, on the other hand, smells like the soot of offerings, and the fabric of his clothes isn't quite like anything Skymoth has seen before. His companion, the tattooed Tya, smells even more like a ship than the rest of them, as if it's baked into their flesh and bone. Deciding to indulge his curiosity, Skymoth follows those two, drifting lazily on air currents several yards overhead, almost invisible against the bright sky.
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  2. - Top - End - #32
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    MonkGirl

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Brown Leaf smiled and took Kelam's hand. "Naw, Nyrebi. Yer jes' askin' good questions. An' t' answer 'em, I'll tell you 'bout the temple on the way. First though, I want some proper food. We'll need t' head t' the Street of Palms eventually t' reach the Fane, but food there gets pricey pretty quick. I reckon if we head 'round the base 'a the mountain, we'll be able t' find someplace what don't usually serve tourists, an we kin git the real stuff."

    She led her companion down the gangplank, and a thought struck her. "Oh yea, best t' let me do the orderin'. 'Fraid we won't be findin' any pork-buns in this area, an' most foreigners think Harborhead food is...well...spicy. That noodle dish we got in Chiaroscuro was tasty, but it ain't the same kinda spice. It's...damn, it's hard to describe. You'll see."

    Walking through the back-streets was much the same as Leaf remembered it. They strolled down alleyways formed by the high walls of rich estates, shaded by the spreading boughs of wide-leafed trees. Thin tough stalks of yellow grass peeked defiantly between the red-brown cobbles of the street, catching on their clothes and springing back into place as they passed. Above them, birds both wild and domestic pets flitted and chirped, squawked and flapped. Occasionally, a door would open and a servant would emerge, pushing a cart or carrying a bag. Invariably, Leaf would greet them like an old friend, clapping them on the back and exchanging a quick word. No, she had never met them, but it was good to see them nonetheless. Along the way, she talked.

    "So the Fane is Alhat's main temple. I know you heard'a him. Now the temple itself is open t' the public most days, it's where his guards and his brides live, an it's where ol' Resplendent Ibis, his high priest, works. I don't expect there's anythin' goin' on today. We're past the Ascending Earth festival days, an' none'a the five tribes got a major calendar event so soon after the festivals end. So far as the baths go, they're open t' the public an have soap an' oil on-hand, but we'll have t' go inta the temple an' pay our respects t' the god's alter afterwards. I figure we kin do our exercises on the temple grounds after, near one'a the flame alters. They never stop burnin' y'know?"

    Suddenly, she stopped at an intersection, sniffing the air. A scent lead her down the right-hand path, slightly away from the mountain that held up the Fane. Emerging into a somewhat wider street, she identified the source of the smell. A small store-front, very clean but with peeling paint, advertising itself as a Shayanti eatery. "Oh, oooooh, okay. This is what I been lookin' for."

    Spoiler: OOC & Rolls
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    Once more establishing a fact about how things work at the Fane of Upswept Horns. Most of this is from the House of the Bull God, but some details are new for the purpose of the game. No Excellency this time, just Int + Lore + stunt. Don't think I can apply Leaf's specialty here, as this is very much not Immaculate in nature, but it does feel like something she would know.

    (4d10)[3][2][3][1](9)
    (4d10)[5][4][6][4](19)
    Sorry for making things complicated!
    -Me

  3. - Top - End - #33
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    Ascension's Avatar

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    "I'm not afraid of spice," Kelam says with a smile. "Food grown in shadowlands all has a faint taste of rot, no matter how fresh it is, you just can't avoid it, but Ebon Siaka was determined to drown it out with spice, no matter what it took. One time this death cultist was visiting us as an emissary from the Bishop, and he-"

    She starts laughing before she even gets close to the punchline, but her laughter abruptly cuts short. Her time in service to the Bodhisattva of Dark Waters wasn't entirely made up of pain and suffering, but it feels wrong, unclean to remember the happy moments. It feels shameful to celebrate anything from that phase of her life.

    "...but never mind that,"
    she mumbles. "This is your homeland, let's talk about you."

    Some of her good humor returns as she focuses her attention on Leaf, though a shadow of guilt lingers in her eyes.

    "What does Ahlat mean to you?"
    she asks, genuinely curious. "I know you were raised Immaculate, but did he still feel closer than other gods? You hear tales in Wu-Jian of people who have met the gods of standing water there - everyone's cousin or aunt or fishmonger has seen one - but they aren't... they aren't fond of people like I've heard Ahlat is toward Harborhead. I... wonder what that's like."

    Her smile is more wistful this time, more fragile.

    "Maybe you can tell me over lunch?"
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  4. - Top - End - #34
    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Following the Captain from street to wandering street, Tuoni quickly despaired at seeing whatever trail they're following. Maybe it was the hustle and bustle of Harborhead - the grasses growing everywhere tugged at his clothing like tiny hands and the birds flitted about his face like bright-colored giant gnats, pulling his attention every which way but forward - or maybe they were just that much a better tracker than he was. When she finally admitted defeat, he tried not to show it but the tired, sweaty shaman felt relieved.

    He nods at her suggestion. "I agree, though I'm not overly-blessed with funds. We will have to walk out into the poorer neighborhoods."

  5. - Top - End - #35
    Orc in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    “That’s no problem. We passed a place that might-“

    The hair on the back of their neck rose, and Slang grew tense. Glancing about the streets, they couldn’t discern who it could be.

    Slang bent their head closer to Tuoni and whispered. “I think someone is tailing us. Follow my lead.”

    As they shove Tuoni suddenly down a side street, the Tya glanced about once again trying to find whoever is tailing the two of them.

    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    Rolling Perception 3+ Awareness 3+ Stunt 2 for a dice pool of 11

    (11d10)[2][7][9][10][3][9][3][4][6][3][6](62)

    Slang might be a little paranoid, they are going to activate Guardian Fog Approach for three motes.

    Dexterity 4+ Stealth 5 +Stunt 2= 11

    Spoiler: stealth roll
    Show
    (11d10)[1][4][9][1][5][10][3][5][6][9][3](56)


    Tuoni gets to add half of Slang’s successes (rounded up) and Slang’s stunt bonus as dice to his own stealth roll thanks to the charm.
    "In every walk in with nature one receives far more than he seeks." -John Muir

  6. - Top - End - #36
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    MonkGirl

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Brown Leaf smiled and led Kelam towards the shop-front. "Sure I can, but don't think yer off the hook. If'n you got any good memories, I wanna hear 'bout 'em. 'Specially if'n they're 'bout the food you like. Ikntvis is teachin' me some ship-board recipes, but I wanna learn at least one dish from everywhere we visit on this-here quest. If you like somethin' speak up. Speakin' a which..."

    She pushed aside the red cotton door-curtain and took a second to bask in the heady aroma of onions, chilies and tomatoes frying in peanut oil. Heaven. The interior was sweltering, so she guided Kelam to a set of padded mats near the doorway, hoping a breeze would pick up. Like any good Shayanti establishment, the floor was dirt, but firmly packed and swept clean, with thick cushions and rugs in place for customers to sit upon. She placed an order for a light lunch, groundnut soup, yellow pumpkin and plantain fufu. While they waited, she realized that she was rocking back and forth on her mat in excitement, and turned back to conversation.

    "So far's I'm concerned, Alhat is a problem, but one nobody's gonna solve easy. 'Member how back in Champoor errybody were all bent outta shape over Tenepeshu? How they worried what killin' her would mean? Alhat's been 'round a lot longer'n her in his job, an' does it better too. The differences don't end there. He's made hisself integral in a way few other gods can say. If Tenepeshu were t' vanish inta elsewhere today, tomorrow there'd be a fight fer who gits her job, an' then that god would jes start throwin' their weight 'round same as she did. Alhat...nobody could replace him. Since we reached the South we been in his country, t' one degree or another. Errybody keeps him on their minds, from the Delzhan t' the Jackal Tribes t' Gem. His favor is genuine, as is his displeasure. He don't need t' cheat his followers, 'cause they kin feel his reach."

    She paused to cough and drink a sip of tea, which had been steeping since they ordered. "Ahh, there we go. So yea, Alhat's a big deal in a way few gods are, an folks know how t' reach him. If'n you want his favor, offer a cow. If'n yer tribe wants his favor, offer a hundred. If'n you wanna unnerstand the big bull hisself, come t' Kirighast an' visit the temple, perhaps you'll get t' see one'a his attendants or borrow a tassel from 'is lordly kilt...I guess...I respect him."

    She took another pensive sip, looking down into the clear liquid of her cup and the swirling particles of aromatic leaf within it. "He asks a lot'a folk, but he's fair. That's more'n you kin expect from most gods, in my experience. From what I hear he's also the life of the party, so that's another thing the Order has again' him."

    She gave Kelam a sardonic smile. "Whatta ya think? Still wanna go see his temple?"
    Sorry for making things complicated!
    -Me

  7. - Top - End - #37
    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Tuoni follows Slang's lead, ducking his head and twisting into the alley with nimble grace. Of course, all the grace in the world wasn't going to help a white-masked man in foreign garb hide in the busy streets of Khirghast, but maybe in the shadowed alleyway and with Slang's help he could hide from there invisible pursuer for a few short moments. They would have to make the most of it.

    Spoiler: Rolls
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    Stealth - (11d10)[7][7][10][7][9][7][6][3][4][3][6](69)

  8. - Top - End - #38
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    "Can you have good memories of bad people?" Kelam muses, with a melancholy smile.

    'Or good memories of being a bad person?' she thinks, and the silent addendum chills her blood.

    She turns her attention to the food as a distraction. She finds the plantain fufu somewhat lacking in isolation, but once she grasps how the starch is meant to be eaten with the soup (which is as spicy as promised, but wonderfully rich and creamy), the meal comes alive.

    "This is good!"
    she enthuses, happy to find herself enjoying the tastes of her girlfriend's homeland.

    Between the warm, spicy soup filling her belly and the sweltering confines of the little restaurant, however, her armor is turning into an oven. As sweat plasters her bangs to her forehead, she finds herself wishing that she'd been willing to relax her vigilance enough to wear lighter clothing ashore. If there's any bright side to her suffering, however, it's that the embarrassment of public bathing has begun to sound significantly less unpleasant than spending any more time swimming in her own sweat.

    "Well as long as he doesn't think he can party with us,"
    Kelam says, laughing, "Let's go see that temple."

    ~ ~ ~

    The worshippers' trails up Borosintaba, the Bull's Mountain, are long and meandering, but not steep, and Leaf and Kelam both have remarkable endurance. Sweat still beads on Kelam's brow simply from the heat, but the climb itself is not taxing. The path taken by the couple is a lesser-used one, and it reaches the summit some distance from the bathing pools at the temple's main entrance, so they chat amiably as they travel around the Fane's outer ring of eternal flames and the ceremonial gardens which fill the space between the blazing pillars. As the entrance draws in sight, however, they encounter an unexpected crowd...

    Brown Leaf's accounting of the Fane's general functioning, and of Kirighast's festivals, both the approved holidays of the Immaculate calendar and its traditional, local celebrations, was not wrong. Her memory is nearly flawless, and she is well acquainted with the rhythms of Harborhead's life.

    Memories of the past, however, are poor tutors in the matter of current events.

    The hundred spouts of the ritual bathing fountains of the Fane of the Upswept Horns are in use at the moment. All of them. A young woman in the prime of her life stands under each stream, cleansing herself with sober efficiency. Each of the Five Peoples is well-represented among their number, and they are not organized along tribal lines, but intermingled. In skin-tone, hair, height, even in build they vary greatly, but all of their bodies, whether long and lean, short and stocky, or somewhere in-between, are uniformly well-muscled, and they are further unified by their steely focus and their sense of shared purpose.

    The Brides of Ahlat prepare for holy war.

    A loose human cordon of temple acolytes stand outside the bathing area, warning off other visitors. Surprisingly, a few Immaculate novices are mixed in amongst their number, their eyes very carefully averted from the exposed flesh of the god-loving heretics preparing to enter Ahlat's temple. One seizes on Leaf and Kelam's arrival as a welcome diversion from whatever images may be filling his thoughts and strides nearer.

    Leaf knows him. Not well... all the novice monks she knew well have departed from this world... but she met him when she visited Kirighast's monastery. He was a novice then, too, with little enough promise that his lack of advancement in the intervening period isn't shocking. She knew him by the rather elaborately ignominious temple name "Rooster-in-Flight." He's Izhalvi, given to the temple after his father lost everything short of his own freedom to a cattle raid.

    "You cannot visit the Fane today," Rooster says with the confidence of borrowed authority, "Preparations are being made to confront the..."

    His prepared speech trails off, and his eyes shift away from Kelam, whose obvious foreignness initially drew his attention, to focus in on Brown Leaf.

    "...wait, do I know you?"
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  9. - Top - End - #39
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Skymoth is surprised by the sudden evasive action, but it doesn't stall him for long. Relying on smell instead of sight, he tracks the traces of sea salt through the air, fluttering down at chest level and nimbly dodging anyone who gets in his way. With a bit of luck, he'll find them before they get away.

    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    Perception 5 + Awareness 3 + Stunt 2 + Excellency 5
    (15d10)[7][10][6][5][1][5][9][8][6][2][1][7][6][10][4](87)
    Avatar by araveugnitsuga.

  10. - Top - End - #40
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    MonkGirl

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    "Rooster. Mela's eyes upon you." Brown Leaf's greeting was automatic, though genuine. She placed her left fist into her right hand, holding the gesture at chest level, and bowed at the waist. Any initiate worth their incense would return the gesture at once.

    "Brown Leaf, late of the interior mendicant ministry. You last saw me when I was an initiate under Zhuchi Thousand Grains, of house Peleps. That was jes over a decade ago, an I been itinerant fer a lotta that time."

    She looked him over, then glanced past at the eye-catching sight. She looked back to Rooster-in-Flight with a meaningful glance. "So, what seems t' be the issue t'day? The Tokitari managed t' convince Alhat t' lend 'em his entorage fer a raid on the Varang? Or is it jes' laundry day on the fane an' ya'll are here t' keep sun-mad tourists from makin' a scene?"
    Sorry for making things complicated!
    -Me

  11. - Top - End - #41
    Orc in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Slang couldn't spot anyone following them down the smaller street, but they did spot the moth fluttering towards them. One that looked quite similar to the ones that partook in drinking blood from freshly inked tattoos or biting into the tender flesh next to new tattoos.

    "Kak!"

    The Tya jumped back from the wandering moth. Hands waved about to keep the flying insect away.

    "Er, sorry." Slang glanced sheepishly at at Tuoni with a weak crooked smile on their lips. "I, eh, don't like moths very much."

    The Captain looked around once more to see if anyone stood out in the crowds, face flushed from embarrassment. As the moth ventured closer to them, Slang flinched away.

    "Em. False alarm, I think. Let's get you some new clothes."

    Slang quickly walked towards the shop that they had seen earlier in the day. Their posture stiff, either from mottephobia or embarrassment.
    "In every walk in with nature one receives far more than he seeks." -John Muir

  12. - Top - End - #42
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Skymoth:

    Wait... he didn't notice it before, from a distance, but this close, Skymoth feels like he knows the Tya from somewhere. They remind him of...

    They remind him of...

    "I, eh, don't like moths very much."

    They remind him of a total jackass!

    Quote Originally Posted by Memories?
    The image that fills Skymoth's mind isn't the Tya's face... except it is, in the same way that sometimes in his dreams Skymoth is someone else, not himself as he is now, or as he was before Luna came to him, but someone else... and yet still himself. The face he sees in his mind's eye is still that of a Westerner, but with a ridiculous teal goatee and an infuriatingly smug smile. It's a punchable face, so eminently punchable...

    ...and yet Skymoth suddenly remembers what happened when he(?) tried to punch it. The man bent over backward in an impossibly fluid arc, faster than Skymoth(?) could blink, faster than Skymoth's(?) fist, which met only empty air. And then that eminently punchable face popped back up into Skymoth's(?) line of sight, and that stupid teal moustache twitched, and he said

    "Sorry, old chap! Better luck next time!"


    And as Skymoth remembers(?) those words, they echo and multiply within the small confines of his moth head.

    -that grinning face pulling ahead at the last moment in a footrace-

    "Sorry, old chap! Better luck next time!"

    -that face smiling back at him from the door as the goatee'd man left with the cutest boy at the party-

    "Sorry, old chap! Better luck next time!"

    -sparring, Skymoth's(?) sword biting through thin air again and again until an unseen blow lays him out on his back, and that face smirking down at him-

    "Sorry, old chap! Better luck next time!"

    Again and again, a lifetime's worth of humiliations echoing like faded memories.
    And now, after all that, they're... back? And they shaved? And they became a Tya? And they don't like moths very much?

    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    Solar boooooooond~

    Brown Leaf:

    Rooster eagerly dips in an answering bow and comes up grinning from ear to ear.

    "Brown Leaf! By the Dragons!" he, um, crows. "You're following Yujiro's example now?"

    He runs a hand over his bare scalp and looks meaningfully at Leaf's hair. The Yujiro he refers to was a legendary ascetic monk of the Shogunate era who gave away his razor in the course of relieving himself of all his earthly possessions and never shaved again from that day forward.

    "It's funny timing, you showing up just now. Zhuchi Thousand Grains, he was the old abbot of the Fountainhead shrine in Sand's Edge Valley, wasn't he? You know that monastery's been destroyed, don't you?"

    He waves a hand in the direction of the bathing Brides without looking.

    "That's actually what all this is about, sort of. We've finally found common cause! One single, solitary thing the abbot and Resplendent Ibis and the satrap and the Leopard can all agree on. And that's Sand's Edge."

    He frowns.

    "I'm sorry, this might be hard for you to hear, but while you've been traveling... with Fountainhead fallen and Thousand Grains away... Sand's Edge has fallen into heresy."

    He tips his head slightly to indicate the Brides and the Fane beyond as he adds, "The kind even they can recognize. In fact, the herdsmen were the first to notice signs of trouble. Maybe a year ago, weird rash of tiger attacks against guarded herds of cattle. And the news has only gotten worse since then."

    He drops his voice to a whisper and leans closer to Leaf.

    "The latest is that they've got a prophet now. I heard some of the older monks talking about it a couple days ago."
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  13. - Top - End - #43
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Brown Leaf's back stiffened, her fists clenched. She tried to keep her voice level, though she had no idea if she succeeded or not.

    "What...what do you know about this...prophet? They local? Some outsider? What did they do that's got errybody so riled up?...What has happened t' my old home?" She switched to Low Realm for Kelam's benefit, but even in her second language she could not hide the steel in her voice, nor did she wish to. "An if you can't tell me the answers I'm lookin' fer...Who. Can?"

    Spoiler: OOC & Rolls
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    Brown Leaf is making an intimidation attempt here, less to make Rooster-in-Flight scared of her, and more to make him realize that it's in everyone's interest for Leaf to get her answers. Basically 'I'm not mad at you, but depending on what you tell me, things will get bad.'
    Charisma + Presence + Stunt + Tiger's Dread Symmetry
    (3d10)[6][5][4](15)
    (3d10)[7][9][9](25)
    (3d10)[1][6][4](11)
    Tiger's Dread Symmetry re-rolls:
    (3d10)[5][3][2](10)
    Last edited by Sticks; 2019-04-18 at 08:42 AM.
    Sorry for making things complicated!
    -Me

  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Kelam lays a hand on Brown Leaf's shoulder, a gesture of comfort, but also of restraint. She doesn't have much context, having been unable to follow Leaf's conversation with the monk in Flametongue, but she's seldom seen Leaf so upset. Her body language is plainly affectionate, but, fortunately for his perception of Leaf as a fellow monk, Rooster's a bit distracted at the moment.

    "I don't know for sure!" he yelps, then he adds, more quietly, "The rumor is that he's maybe Anathema, could be promoting Anathema-worship, but it's unconfirmed. This isn't officially a Wyld Hunt. It's an unusually well-armed investigatory expedition. If you want to know more than that... You could try asking the senior monks. Or you could try to get it from their sources, but I don't know who that would be. Maybe there are some merchants or nomads in town who've passed through Sand's Edge recently, or maybe they have... spies? Scouts? I really can't say."

    He shrugs helplessly.

    "This is all over my head."
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  15. - Top - End - #45
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Brown Leaf sighed in exasperation. "Fine. I thank ya fer your information, Rooster. Paisap's strength." She left it at that, and left him at that.

    Striding back down the terraced steps, she looked out at the expanse of the city. They were on the wrong side of the mountain, but she knew the far side would let her see to Kirighast's other peak, and the Satrap's palace there. The senior monks would be at the Immaculate temple, but she doubted she'd have much luck with them. Rooster was still an Acolyte for a reason. It was normal for mortals to remain at the rank their whole lives, but after more than a decade in the order, his lowly assignments spoke to his abilities. Senior leaders in the order would likely be able to tell she had not been living as the tenants instructed, beyond her freshly-covered scalp. She would be asked to account for herself, for her whereabouts and activities for the past decade. Under normal circumstances she might have gotten away with vague musings about walking Creation, but now her parish was under scrutiny. If Rooster told anybody she was around, she would be tracked down and summoned. If she refused, she would be a fugitive. Rooster would tell, he was guileless and honest...heh, kind of like her. She briefly wondered if that was true for all monks, or just honest peasant kids from Harborhead who became monks.

    "Kelam...I think I need t' leave the city...tonight. We need t' find Wic an' have him fly me out. I won't ask ya or any'a the others t' come with me..."

    She turned and looked her girlfriend in the face, her eyes were bright with unshed tears. "But it'd mean so much if'n ya did."
    Sorry for making things complicated!
    -Me

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    "Leaf... my pearl..." Kelam stops walking and faces Leaf, placing her hands on her girlfriend's shoulders.

    "You won't let me face my troubles alone... What makes you think I'd let you run off into the night by yourself, like this?"


    She pulls Leaf into a tight hug.

    "Let me in on this, Leaf. Tell me what's gone wrong, and let me help you fix it."


    She sniffs as tears prick at her own eyes and her breath hitches in a near-sob, but in the next moment her eyes are watering for an entirely different reason.

    "...as we're skipping town, though,"
    she says, pulling back from the embrace just enough to let Leaf see her face, "could we still skip through that bath on the way? I think you were right about how badly we need it."
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Brown Leaf laughed, she couldn't help it. "Okay, you're right. Let's get that bath in. An' I should really tell you what's goin' on. We should let the others know too. I get the feeling Wic will show up once all the bathin' is done, an' we kin fill the rest'a them in then. Fer now though..."

    She took a deep breath, let it out, and explained as best she could.

    "Them brides up there, that is, the women bathing'r called the 'Brides of Alhat' they're Harborhead's elite army, they're gettin' ready fer battle. The monk back there, Rooster-in-Flight, yea, I know, stupid name. He was tellin' me that somethin's happenin' in my home valley. Folk there've been gettin' attention out here, which lemmie tell you ain't never happened before. Hell, everythin' south'a the veldt could'a dropped inta the Wyld an' nobody in Kirighast woulda noticed 'less some big muckety-muck's cattle went with it. Anyway, the Immaculates an' the Cult of Alhat, even the Leopard Seat are all hyped up t' run out there an' put down some kinda 'prophet' what's stirrin' my folk up. He says it's 'nathema related too. Now I know, it's probably me, or some fool figured he'd try an' make me some kinda holy figure, or..."

    She paused mid-sentence and mid-stride, stopping so suddenly Kelam almost bumped into her.

    "It's a long shot...but it could be Wind. All we know is he came t' Harborhead. He had a few weeks lead on us at least t' begin with, that's enough time t' get there an' start stirrin' things up. If he knew what questions t' ask, he'd probably'a heard that was the last place another 'nathema were heard from. Trail woulda been cold but..."

    She whirled around and clutched Kelam's arms, jumping slightly with excitement. "We might be on the right trail! If'n it's Wind, we gotta bring the others!" She saw the look on Kelam's face and drew back sheepishly. "Oh, heh, right, bath. C'mon, it's this way."
    Sorry for making things complicated!
    -Me

  18. - Top - End - #48
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    Tuoni follows right on Slang's heels, mask tracing the moth as it winged away. There had been moths like that back home, in the northern forests - they'd traveled in great flocks thousands-strong, stopping to sup on the blood and sweat of anyone nearby. They gathered so thick, after some time in the sauna could wear them as a coat so thick you could stand in a blizzard and not realize it was snowing. The memory brought a chill to his bones; that many legs moving over his body had been a little too much, even for him, and he'd had to dive into the freezing lake to get them off.

    The daub hut they ducked into wasn't really a shop, or even a temporary stall - it was a house, or it had been. The roof was long gone, as evinced by the thin plume of smoke rising from inside, and the mud wall facing the street had collapsed a generation ago. All that protected the privacy of the current inhabitants was a tattered and frayed length of muslin that still showed the sun-bleached hints of old tribal patters. A pair of youths holding long reeds played at swordfighting outside; the elder had a wide grin on his face as he thrashed the younger but both stopped to eye the newcomers warily as they approached. Tuoni had chosen this place for two reasons - well, three counting price. The first was their choice in decoration - wind chimes dangled from every available surface, each and every one carved from white bones. At a glance he could see oxen and fish and bird and human all strung together like a madman's prayer, and their soft tones and raucous clacking filled the street with mirth. The second, well - 'tribal pattern' or no, he knew the pattern woven into the muslin in the same way he knew the language of the Solars of old.

    'Shelter'

    So he ducked through the sheet, and as he approached the old woman curled up in the corner and weaving as she minded supper he squatted, and made his offering - lemongrass, peppercorns, some other spices he didn't recognize from the Remora's galley.

    "Elder." He said, dipping his head in acknowledgement. "May we join you?"
    Last edited by pfm1995; 2019-04-18 at 11:02 PM.

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Tuoni, Slang, Skymoth:

    The old woman's eyes flick upward from her work, and she assesses the stranger with no evident surprise or fear, despite his blank mask, foreign aspect, and slurring voice.

    "'May we'..." she echoes. "Clearly you've identified the right question. I am an old woman, defended by a wall made of cloth and children for guards. Had you asked 'Can we?' the answer would have been obvious."

    She sets aside her weaving to reach out and take a couple stalks of lemongrass, quickly and efficiently dicing them with a simple trade knife of Realm manufacture.

    "Few outsiders stop to consider 'may' or 'can' in Kirighast. At best they ask 'What price?'"

    She scoops up the diced lemongrass with the flat of her blade and drops it into the pot of stew bubbling at her side.

    "I wonder, since you've offered me the privilege, if you would respect my 'no.'"

    Her eyes seek the face behind Tuoni's mask.

    "Are you genuinely asking a question, or are you merely trying to salve your conscience as you take?"

    But she looks away and she smiles, releasing the tension of her challenge. She uses the point of the trade knife to indicate a pair of threadbare rugs spread on the smooth dirt floor of her ruined hut.

    "Come, sit. You may at least tell me why you have come."

    Skymoth:
    Spoiler
    Show
    From the patterning of her muslin 'door,' the fish bones incorporated into her wind chimes, the cowrie shell charms at her right wrist and ankle, the color of her skin and her close-cropped hair, Skymoth can recognize that the elder woman is Krantiri, of the coastal tribes, and likely a healer.

    Spoiler: OOC
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    Again, for anything more, there's Lore rolls.
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  20. - Top - End - #50
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Slang was confused to why Tuoni entered what seemed to be a home when the shop that the Tya had in mind was just a little bit further down the road but followed his lead. They bowed their head in greeting as Tuoni spoke, and when the woman asked why they had stepped into her hut, Slang glanced over to Tuoni with a raised eyebrow.

    Yes, why?

    The cowrie shell charms did pique the sailor’s curiosity, but Slang decided to remain quiet until Tuoni was finished with his business.
    "In every walk in with nature one receives far more than he seeks." -John Muir

  21. - Top - End - #51
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    Skymoth's antennae vibrate with indignation at the insults thrown against him! It's like people think that they can just say anything they like about animals just because they can't understand... absolutely unforgivable. It reminded him of... reminded him...

    "Sorry, old chap! Better luck next time!"

    Unfamiliar memories well up in Skymoth's mind. It's not the first time it's happened, but it may be the most vivid one yet. He's vaguely aware that it's some sort of past-life memory, although the specific mechanics of the thing are beyond him. Perhaps the rational thing would be to dismiss the thought and not hold it against this new incarnation... but Skymoth is already irritated. Doesn't like moths, eh? Well then...

    A few moments after the masked man and the Tya enter the healer's hut, the curtain rustles again as Skymoth steps inside. Two very startled youths stare at him from behind, wondering how they missed the man's approach; it's as though he came out of nowhere at all.

    In his true form he's short, just over five and a half feet, but he has flawless black skin and the lithe corded muscles of a runner. His eyes are bright and mischievous, like a beam of moonlight frozen in amber, and his hair hangs a few inches from his head in bushy spiraled curls. A skirt comes down perhaps half the length of his thighs, a white-and-red cloak gives him a bit of protection from the sun, and a pair of sandals protect his feet, but he's obviously not self-conscious about bare skin, and his chest and stomach look practically sculpted. A gleaming metal shield is secured to his back over the cloak with a leather strap, and he carries a spear in one hand, using it like a walking stick. He flashes the old woman a smile just shy of dazzling, but it turns down a notch -- still charming, but with a wryness attached -- when he looks at Slang and Tuoni.

    "Hey, granny! These foreigners aren't bothering you, are they?"

    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    Making a quick instill check to get on the healer's good side. 5 appearance +2 presence +2 stunt. Influence might apply in some ambiguous way if she recognizes Skymoth.

    (9d10)[8][1][10][5][1][1][7][6][8](47)
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    Slang started at the sudden appearance of this stranger at the door, their left hand reflexively moving towards where their seven-section staff is stowed on their person.

    Was he the one following them? How didn’t I notice him?! Probably too distracted by that moth. I hate moths.

    “She invited us to sit, and if she wished us to leave, I’m not one to overstay my welcome,” the Tya grumbled indignantly at the muscled man.

    Slang eyed him suspiciously.

    “Were you the one I sensed tailing us?”

    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    Read Intentions; Slang really wants to know if Skymoth was following them, so they can figure out how in Sol's name they didn't notice him.
    (6d10)[6][1][10][9][9][7](42)
    "In every walk in with nature one receives far more than he seeks." -John Muir

  23. - Top - End - #53
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    The old woman smiles affectionately at Skymoth before turning her attention back to her guests. Her eyes probe Tuoni, assessing the stranger's stance, his unusual dress, his formless mask.

    "They have earned my curiosity, son," she tells Skymoth. "And, as guests, a bit of stew. But it remains to be seen if they merit anything more."

    At Slang's suspicion that Skymoth may have been following them, she smiles again, evincing some pleasure at the foreigner's discomfort.

    "Now, now, it's good to keep an eye on strangers. And I would venture that you two are the strangest who've passed through this part of city in quite some time."

    She turns back to Tuoni, her eyes hardening.

    "I do not recognize your face. If you have come seeking kinship, your feet have led you astray. You are far from the land of your ancestors, and their gods."

    Slang:
    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    Skymoth's Guile is as unimpressive as Ivory Knife's was godlike, so you've succeeded; I can leave it to Eurus to tell you what Slang gets out of it, though they're likely to pick up on his antagonism, at least.
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    Brown Leaf and Kelam:

    The public bathhouse on the Street of Palms is an antique structure, predating even Blood on the Horn's unification of the Five Peoples. Its roof, a dome formed of bricks placed in stepped concentric tiers, rises higher than any of the trees shading the walk, reaching as high as the outer wall of the Old City itself at its summit. All of the columned archways along its walls were once open, but the Realm's own standards of bathing etiquette have seen them filled with newer walls, leaving only narrow, high windows to admit sunlight. A single entrance remains open to visitors, its wooden doors richly adorned with bas-relief carving. The mythological images carved there all feature a bare-breasted woman with clouds of steam issuing from her lips. The sequential pictures depict how she came to bless mankind with the rejuvenating steam of her breath.

    Stepping inside the bathhouse, Exalted visitors are struck by more than the heat and humidity of the air. There is raw power in the bath, Essence charging its atmosphere. The Essence flow is contained within the structure, but not fully tamed, more demesne than manse. Dynastic observers have attributed this to the "untrained" geomancy of its "primitive" builders, but the strength of local opposition every time a satrap or visiting worthy has suggested "correcting" its "fault" suggests that its form is already suited to its purpose.

    The stone sculptural detailing within the bath's lobby is older than its carved wooden door. The steam-breathing goddess has shorter, plumper proportions in the stone sculpture than she does on the wood, and her hair is braided rather than loose. Some of the interior sculpture also takes on a yonic dimension, depicting waters emerging from her nethers rather than steam rising from her breath. Yet other panels of stone sculpture depict a man of divine stature alongside her, but in every such instance his face and head have been carefully chiseled away.

    Spoiler: OOC
    Show
    You could put some clues together suggesting who the male divinity might be with a Perception + Investigation roll, if anyone wants to take a crack at it.

    A wooden desk of fairly recent construction stands near the entrance, and from behind it a solicitous man - Shayanti, but wearing Realm-style dress, with his cheeks un-scarred - greets Leaf and Kelam.

    "You are most welcome, honored guests!"

    Though he speaks in the plural, his eyes focus on Kelam - the apparent Islander, wearing armor and carrying an artifact-quality sword - over Leaf.

    "Is this your first time visiting the baths? Our services are a free gift of our lady, Wafting Sweetness, blessed be her name, but the Mother of Steam and we, her humble servants, are ever appreciative of prayers and offerings."

    His smile is bright and expectant, but he doesn't let the invitation to provide compensation linger in the air too long.

    "You should be aware, our baths are heated by fully natural springs, and they are currently experiencing an excess of Fire essence. As such, you may find the hot bath warmer than you might have anticipated, and the cool bath may seem tepid."

    He smiles again and looks to Kelam.

    "Although if that is not to your liking, Ragara Plenira has authorized us to extend access to her store of ice on credit, if you care to do the paperwork."

    When the somewhat bewildered swordswoman fails to answer, he moves on from the sales pitch without any evident rancor.

    "Lady Sweetness has blessed with extensive springs here; we are able to offer men's, women's, and mixed bathing."

    He gestures toward each of the three entrances as he says this; they are semi-concealed behind sculptural panels at the far end of the lobby, the women's to the left, behind a panel of Wafting Sweetness herself, the men's to the right, behind a panel of the partly effaced male divinity, and the mixed bath in the center, behind a a panel of the godly couple arm-in-arm.

    "Attendants will accept your clothing, provide you with towels, and anoint you with oil."

    While Kelam had resigned herself to the necessity of bathing, the thought of handing her armor... and presumably her weapon... over to a stranger makes her blanch.

    "Wait a moment,"
    she says to Leaf, grasping for some excuse to delay the nigh-inevitable, "Tuoni was interested in the baths too, wasn't he? Should we wait for him? And... oh!"

    She drops her voice and adds, more quietly, "And he said there's an excess of Fire essence here. Before we enter the baths, should we work on those mental exercises you were talking about?"

    Wic:

    After long exposure to the Mists of Eventide, Wirric Stanton experiences one of two things when he lies down at night: Without the Mists his sleep is restless, plagued by inchoate, formless nightmares. With the Mists he experiences a pleasant, numbing haze, any images within it subservient to his own will. He has not had a natural dream in years.

    But in the timeless space between his disappearance from the deck of the Remora and his reappearance whither the Sun wills, as he slumbers in the folds of his own anima, neither the fog of nightmare nor the haze of the Mists embraces him.

    In that liminal nonexistence, dream finds him at last.

    It arrives as a soft, questing voice.

    "F-father? Is that... you?"
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    Good idea.” Brown Leaf matched her partner’s quiet tone.

    Thanks fer the information, brother. We’ll be back before too long. Jes’ wanted t’ make sure we knew where th’ place was, an’ that y’all was open. Even if’n ya’ll were shut, it’d be worth it t’ look at the buildin’. I reckon it’s mid ol’ kingdom, pre-imperial make, with lady Sweetness an...” she waved her hand past the defaced male figure noncommittally. “Well, she’s done justice, certainly.

    Without waiting for his reply, Leaf gave the attendant a bow in the Realm style, took Kelam by the arm and retreated across the Street of Palms. She had not wasted that moment of idle banter. Her new experiences with construction had given her an appreciation for good work, and she knew well the Order’s methods of suppressing the Hundred Gods Heresy. If she had to guess, the faceless man was...

    Spoiler
    Show
    Making a Perception+Lore roll to figure out ‘who dat’. Gonna apply a 4-die excellency to this, and I figure as this is likely an Immaculate job, Leaf’s specialty should apply.

    Perception+Lore+Specialty+Excellency(4)
    (3d10)[5][6][6](17)
    (3d10)[8][8][3](19)
    (3d10)[8][8][3](19)
    (3d10)[8][2][5](15)
    Sorry for making things complicated!
    -Me

  26. - Top - End - #56
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Tuoni inclines his head, almost chuckling despite himself. Far from his ancestors and his gods he may be, but old folks were the same Creation over. Always with the word-play - it's what comes of spending so much time sitting by yourself.

    It's also a game he could play, and he gratefully took a seat on the dirt floor. "You are an old woman," he acknowledged, "but you are protected by more than warded weaves and brave boys. The lessons I learned at the feet of my ancestors, and my gods, took strong root. I am a guest in your house, and my friend here can attest to what that means. Your 'No' would be more than law." He took the proffered soup with thanks, and plucked his reed straw from his sleeve and began slurping appreciatively. To the newcomer he spared a glance, and then a second one at that shining shield on his back.

    "You asked why I am here, but you've asked two questions with one. My purpose," Tuoni said, enunciating now that his admiration for the soup had been made clear, "is to find a new set of clothes. I am being boiled alive in this heat. As for why I am here? This..." He waved a hand about his head. "It reminded me of home, even if it is not. Simple, well loved, with chimes to guide loved ones living and dead home. And the weave on the door - your hands are skilled, but more than that you still know something of the old tongues. Such things matter - or at least they should."

    He paused to think for a moment, then nodded, satisfied with his answer. "My time of journeying is far from over - I would be honored if you would weave something for me."

  27. - Top - End - #57
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    Skymoth listens to the masked man and the sailor, pondering. There's no guile in his features; when Slang calls him out on following the pair, he just flashes an unashamed grin and holds up his hands like a youth caught in the cookie jar. Slang's suspicious glare is almost comforting, a reasonable response to the situation. It also makes him feel like he successfully needled the Tya, which is a nice ego boost considering that the echoes of that purple bearded incarnation's words are still stinging his ears.

    When Tuoni makes his request, Skymoth's expression turns dubious. He smoothly drops into a squat next to the shaman, so close that he can feel the heat radiating off the other man -- personal space is no more a concern for Skymoth than modesty -- and looks him over.

    "...I'm surprised you haven't keeled over already. That mask can't be helping your air supply."

    His tone isn't malicious. If anything, Skymoth is actually a bit concerned for the man, now that he's paying attention. Ahlat's balls, he looks pale, and sunstroke is nothing to laugh at. And if he's granny's guest, it wouldn't look good for him to pass out in the street. Skymoth strokes his chin thoughtfully.

    "I can find you a parasol, perhaps..."
    Last edited by Eurus; 2019-04-24 at 08:08 AM.
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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Slang sighed, "I wouldn't disagree with either statement, elder. We do make a strange pair." Slang nodded their thanks as they accepted a bowl from the woman.

    Skymoth's grin was the only confirmation they needed. "Don't know how I didn't see you though."

    As the broad-shouldered man squatted down to get a closer look at Tuoni, the feeling that alerted Slang of their tail had morphed. Skymoth was familiar, but they couldn't pinpoint why. The two hadn't met before today, but the thought continued to pester Slang.

    Wait. Qhispe and Brown Leaf's bond... That would mean... Kak. This man was the moth.

    Why did he have to be a moth?!
    "In every walk in with nature one receives far more than he seeks." -John Muir

  29. - Top - End - #59
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    Peace.

    That's all Wirric ever wanted, really. Not glory, not honor, not even acceptance, as sweet as the allure of such can be. Peace trumps them all. To simply be-but-not, existing outside of the world and all within it has left the sorcerer calm in a way few other things have ever managed. All the worries of the search, his Circle and their mission just slip away.

    Which is why the voice takes him aback. The voice he'd heard but once before, but could never forget.

    "Yes. Yes, I'm here." the sorcerer murmurs, gently. He can't even quite believe this at first. He wants to, but such a truth is difficult to accept. After all this time, to have her voice echo in his ear... it's temptation sweet and pure as a smiling face, but few know the perils of temptation better than Wirric Stanton. When faced with something you want to believe, doubt all the harder.

    And yet, his suspicions fade away into the emptiness of it all. They're wrong. This is her. His daughter. Life born of death, reaching out across the hidden folds of Elsewhere and beyond. Wic's heart can't help but sing at it all. "You're... all right?" Only half a question, half hope and prayer. She still lives, blessed be the Sun, but how has she fared since they parted ways? What has her life been like, set into this world alone and unguided, with the forces of Whitewall at her back? What must these years have done to her?

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    Default Re: The Lotus Blossoms! - Volume II

    Brown Leaf:

    Kelam leans heavily against the wall at the mouth of an alleyway on the other side of the Street of Palms and breathes out a weary sigh.

    "I'm sorry I'm so scattered today, Leaf,"
    she apologizes, "and I'm sorry about... circumstances. I know this isn't the homecoming you were hoping for."

    A whisper from the depths of her mind invites her to blame herself further for the day going awry, but she fights it back. Instead she looks back across the way, to the bathhouse dedicated to Wafting Sweetness.

    "And I know you meant well inviting us all to the baths. I can't speak for the others, but it's just... a lot for me."


    Indeed, she has a host of half-formed motivations lurking behind that 'a lot.' At the forefront are he risk and pain of parting, even for a little while, from her Mourning Blade and her sensei's armor, as well as... as well as... well, she never thought this would be how she and Leaf would... she wanted it to be something personal and private when they first...

    ...but she can't say any of that out loud, it's too much, it's too close to her heart, so instead she says:

    "Back home my family always made do with just a bucket of seawater and a scrub brush,"
    and she tries to play it off with a chuckle.

    Spoiler: Lore Result
    Show
    As Leaf thinks back, she remembers that this particular act of damnatio memoriae is not, in fact, the work of the Immaculate Order. According to Immaculate records, Wafting Sweetness was once venerated alongside none other than Ahlat, Southern God of War and Cattle. There was a falling out between the gods, and their cults, shortly before the Realm's first contact with the Five Peoples. Where Ahlat went on to become likely the single most prominent and powerful Southern god, Wafting Sweetness is only remembered in places like this bathhouse, where her holy steam vents continue to bless her remaining worshippers.

    Immaculate records are either incomplete or evasive on the subject of the reason for the rift between the two gods, but given the way Ahlat was depicted in the now-effaced sculpture... how close the divine couple once was, at least in the eyes of Sweetness's cult... it seems personal.

    Tuoni, Slang, Skymoth:

    Tuoni's mention of 'the old tongues' catches the elder off guard. A flash of surprise breaks through her composed, carefully skeptical demeanor. It's only visible for a moment, however, before her own mask of self-control reasserts itself.

    "If you understood that, you know that it didn't say 'seamstress,'" she ripostes, with a derisive snort. "It's true that people come to me for protection, but rarely from the weather."

    She carefully turns back from her stew pot to the work of her loom. She closes her eyes and begins passing the shuttle through the warp with quick, assured movements.

    She mutters as she works, "If you feared a curse... if your children were ill... if you needed to propitiate... your great-great-grandmother... or a dolphin spirit... you might be in the right place. But the last thing I need... is for foreigners to think... I've gone into business... as a tailor."

    New patterns, however, are taking shape in the fabric. Patterns that speak, if one can comprehend them. Not Old Realm, nor Flametongue, or at least not the traditional way of writing either language, but something ancient and personal, passed through countless generations of Krantiri weavers...

    Spoiler: Ancient Tongue Understanding
    Show
    Recall that Ancient Tongue Understanding shuts off Tuoni's comprehension of modern language as long as it's active. If he goes there, though, he may read:
    Spoiler: The Elder's Weaving
    Show
    IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THIS YOU OWE ME AN EXPLANATION

    Wic:

    "I think... 'all' right is a bit much to ask."


    The girl's soft, plaintive voice strikes with enough force to tilt Wic's whole world off its axis-

    -wait, no, that would be the ice floe.

    The crunch of breaking ice, the lapping waters of a hungry sea, and, of course, the tilting of the thin sheet below Wic's feet make him aware that his dream self stands on the splintering edge of the White Sea.

    "I am alive. I think I might not be able to die any more..."


    Wic can identify the direction of the voice now; she's behind him. Turning carefully, he lays eyes on her for the first time since his... no, since their Exaltation. Her face is the same, her child's face, her cheeks just as cold and wan as it was when he watched the life ebb out of her... and her eyes just as haunted as they when life first stole back in. Her mussed hair, so blonde that it's nearly white, is also right out of Wic's memories of that fateful night.

    The body, however, the body huddled underneath her formless cloak... it seems all wrong. She seems bigger and bulkier than she was in life, and also... misshapen? Her pose and her attire largely hide the truth of it, but his mind cannot process the irregular bumps of shoulders, elbows, and knees as equating to any properly proportioned human form.

    "Not dying takes everybody by surprise... at least the first time..."


    A sudden wave sets the ice floes bobbing, and Wic sees that she is on a different chunk of ice than he. A sliver of open water appears between their ice rafts. The Liminal... his 'daughter'... seems unperturbed by the oceanic movement. Her eyes stare out, unfocused.

    "But it's getting harder to... hold my self together."


    Another wave perturbs the liquid world, and Wic and his daughter drift further apart. She blinks, and her eyes turn to Wic, finally coming into focus.

    "Where have you been, father?" she asks. "I could always feel your presence at first, but then it got so far away... I couldn't be sure if it was there or if I was just imagining..."
    Braga avatar by Luci!

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