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Another Year, Another Dance.

Fri Dec 21, 2018 6:05 pm

As it usually was this time of the year, the air was sharp with the sting of the cold. There was little snow here underneath the deep boughs of the old Sanctuary, but the nighttime air still had it's bite. This mattered little to the lithe figure, bound as it was beneath layers of skin and animal furs.

After some time, he would glance upwards towards the trees. Towards what was beyond them. He could not see the stars, but he knew of their placement in the sky above, and as he had done for millennia, he waited in silence. He prayed to himself, in silence.

He stood this way for an hour or so, taking in the quiet of the night. In particular, Vanidor enjoyed the way the lanterns illuminated the small space. The bluish grey-green of the faerie lights were comforting after the long year. The way the light caught against the old stone made him consider the previous year. As well as the countless ones before.

Had it been a mistake to pay such little heed to the world that surrounded the Wood? Would it behoove him to poke his neck back out into the Province that bore the name of his sanctuary? Truly, it had been a mistake to get so involved in the past. It had not been his duty to do so. But at times, he missed that. The thoughts of the past brought a sigh to his lips once again.

This was a thing he reflected upon, standing there amidst the quiet chill, until it was time to prepare himself for the ritual. Shoulders rolled upwards as arms came from underneath the heavy wraps. Gloves were removed, and so then was the cloak. He folded both before setting them down upon the cold ground. Next came that ancient weapon of his, slender blade and bejeweled hilt. This too was placed upon the earth. He took a breath, stretching his fingers, then sighed. There was a time, once, when he would have had help here.

But, that was in another age. Another time. And so, he would start at the neck. Quickly he undid the laces enough to tug the garment up over his head. The thinner one he wore under the first shirt went with it. Both saw a quick fold and placement. Boots next, then socks. Finally he hooked his thumbs into the sides of his breeks and tugged them down. A shiver rolled through his body, and a sharp exhale of breath followed that. Gods above, the air seemed chiller this year.

In any case. He folded this as well, then set the pants inside the cloak. Hopefully that would maintain some heat. Another shiver, and then he stretched his whole body upwards to the sky. He knew the moment was close.

Then, outwards into the circle of stones that had stood for centuries. They had been there before his kind had found this place. Before he had been born. Surely, they would be there long after he had departed, whenever he decided to move beyond. Still. Another breath drawn in. Deep and welling, such that his chest puffed slightly with the action. Then a slow, steady exhale...

One foot slid forward through the frozen grass, the next raising to flow ahead. Softly his voice rang out into the quiet, breaking it for the first time in several hours. The tone was soft at first, slowly rising as his steps became faster. Faster. Vanidor stepped through the motions of his ritual. A prayer for the season that was and wish for the one that was to come.

Slide. Step.

Twirl. Slide


As he had done for years, the elf Danced for Myrken and the Wood. For the people. For himself.

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Sat Dec 22, 2018 9:12 am

A high, solitary giggle, brittle as glass on this chill night, drifted from the far side of the circle.

She hadn't meant to, and it gave the game away immediately, but she could have no more held it in than stopped breathing.

She'd crept out of her den to investigate the intruder, expecting a late-season tultharian hunter. This late in the year and cold as it had been, she was inclined to let them alone if they were not doing anything too egregious. Tultharian got as hungry as she did in the winter, and she wasn't going to let one starve over a scrawny rabbit. But some of them were careless. As the winter dragged on and fresh meat grew scant, they covered the Woods with a web of wires, then forgot where most of them were. By the time spring came, the melting snow would draw away from a passle of creatures snared and abandoned, half-thawed or gnawed to bone, their pelts and meat spoiled. A waste.

But to the stone circle she did not go. When she first began to explore the Woods, she had found the place almost immediately and just as quickly decided to leave it be. One foot across the threshold raised that formless buzzing in her chest: not your place, not your business. Certainly not tultharian business, but if they managed to get this far without notice and were stupid enough to cross the barrier, they deserved whatever became of them within. And if they made it out unscathed...well, then they would have her to deal with on the way back

But this one was not tultharian. And clearly he was not hunting anything save perhaps frostbite.

She giggled again, then gave up and stepped out, tall and shadow-skinned by moonlight, bulky under mismatched layers with her red cloak thrown atop them. Her scarf wound around her lower face, black eyes twinkling above its edge, and her hair and ears were stuffed under a squirrel cap. Only her cold hands were bare upon her hunting bow, the arrow nocked but resting.

Even still she stepped to the circle's edge and no further--not even near enough to let the moon cast her shadow over the boundary--straight to his stack of folded clothes. She turned them over casually with a foot, nodded...then stepped hard and possessively down on the heap, claiming it for her own.

The snow-damped stillness made her voice bright and cruelly cheerful, ringing without echoing. "Even the gods don't want to see your tackle when it's shriveled like a snail, you know."

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Sat Dec 22, 2018 2:58 pm

The elf heard the titter of laughter and continued upon his pace. Not yet done with the ritual. Not yet done with his prayer to his own gods. He continued, even as the laughter came forth once again.

Now then, he stepped forth and opened his eyes. No words to pass his lips, only a wry smile that flashed across his pallid features. Instead, he raised a slender arm and presented his hand to the woman. Still, he had not finished his ritual, but had slowed instead to make this offer.

The blue-green glow illuminated him cleanly. The smile remained, putting an enigmatic stain upon his face. She had the choice to join him in his circle, continue to ogle, or take his garments and gear.

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Sun Dec 23, 2018 5:58 am

Snow creaked softly underfoot as her weight shifted. The shifting sea-light transformed the red cloak to a rusty violet-brown, her skin to cadaverous grey. The scarf concealed expression, but one brow lifted in skepticism at the proffered hand and her eyes crinkled merrily at their corners. The eyes were full black, corner to corner, making it impossible to determine where her gaze fell or even if she could see anything at all.

In fact, she'd started from his face and made her way down, appraising as she went (with a generous allowance for the cold once she got below the navel), then worked her way up again before deciding whatever was on offer was certainly not worth stripping naked at midwinter without there be a fire near at hand. May his gods bless him for his devotion, for she certainly would not.

Behind her scarf, she grinned and cheerfully shook her head hard enough to make her outer layers stir. No pity, no mercy, though it was a bit of a disappointment.

Swiftly, matter-of-factly, the arrow unnocked and spun in a neat circle between her cold fingers before dropping back into its quiver. The bow slapped across her shoulders. She stooped in the snow and scooped up the bundle of cloak and trousers.

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Sun Dec 23, 2018 9:23 am

He smiled yet again at her reaction, then slowly twisted as his feet stepped out the last bit of the ritual pacing. He had meant to go through it again, for it was a calming thing. A companion would have been nice as well. It had been almost a decade since another had paced the steps with him.

His voice, when he spoke, was a clear and deep baritone. There was almost a musical quality to it.

"Leaving already, Darai? And we have so recently been introduced." Up he stepped, the elf silent upon his bare feet. She stooped, and he was there, close. His toes curled into the trailing edge of his fuzzy cloak. She had the better part of the bundle, but he had caught the slightest bit of it. Truth be told, he didn't care about the garments. There were more a short step away in the hidden refuge of his Sanctuary. And nudity among his people had never been a taboo as it had become with the humans that peopled the wood.

No. The blade was the only thing in that pile worth keeping, if only for the memories of the past attached to them.
"If you so need the garments..." He glanced over the woman once again, one blonde eyebrow arching upon his pale features. "Feel free to them, please. I made the cloak two decades ago, and can made another. The blade though, I would ask you to not depart with that."

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Sun Dec 23, 2018 2:55 pm

“And how do I know these are even yours, hm?” She matched his gaze as she spoke, her own eyes narrowed and arrogant while she clutched the bundle tighter to her chest until she found a rigid outline folded inside the fabric. Her fingers traced the shape down to the pommel. “There might be some poor madman running about the Woods in his skin, for all I know. Is your name sewn into them anywhere? Tell me what it is and I’ll check.”

She flipped down the cloak’s collar and pretended to take a peek inside. It was a good thing she was wearing the scarf over her smile.

Shifting the bundle under her elbow, she raised a shoulder in an indifferent shrug before drawing herself up to full height, broad shoulders squared with authority. “As the Warden of Lost Properties, I shall have to take these in evidence. You may file a claim at the guardhouse in Myrkentown. Of course,” she added, far too casually, “I have been known to take a bribe. We Wardens are terribly corrupt.”

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Sun Dec 23, 2018 5:48 pm

"Hmhm. My name is etched into the silveron that circles the throat of the scabbard." He said with continued amusement. This time of the year always brought around the most interesting experiences. He had, apparently, missed much whilst away from the world. His fingers motioned towards the weapon that hid amidst the layers of cloth and furs. And then she mentioned the township, and the guardhouse there. He laughed at this.

"So, the Constabulary has grown then? Does Lentham still walk the land, aiming to keep it safe?" Another motion of his hand here, where there was a break in the undergrowth and a barely visible path. One would wonder if it had been there previously. He would move past her, feet pressing into the cold earth. "If you are amenable to such a... I have a meal cooking beyond the path there, at my home. The cold may not bother me over much, but that does not mean I wish to maintain this chill forever."

Indeed, now that he was closer to the break in the undergrowth, the passage seemed clearer. He did not bother assuming any sort of authority of his own.
"I am Vanidor. Former councilor and guardian of Myrken Wood. I have fresh ale as well."

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:59 pm

"Lentham?" Her brow furrowed beneath the brim of the cap as she tried to put the name to a face. "Ah. You have fallen out of touch, haven't you?" Her voice became more sober, even gentle. "I hate that you should have to learn of it this way, but Lentham was untimely turned into a hawthorn bush by a wicked fairy. He's planted outside the gatehouse even now. But we have hope," she went more cheerfully. "We keep him watered and his soil turned and put a cover over him in the cold, in case he might someday be restored. No shrubbery is more beloved."

Gracefully she stepped aside for him, folding her own cloak around her hand to whisk the hem out of his way. While her hand was tucked inside, she slipped the hand into an inner pocket, removed it to brush a snowflake from her eyebrow, then hoisted the bundle of clothes more securely against her ribs. Her gaze dropped to his backside, which was where it naturally went in these situations (that these situations might occur more often to her than to other women never crossed her mind). Might have given it a friendly smack were not both hands occupied.

The path was of more concern; she had not noticed it before. Then again, this wasn't a place she frequented. Its appearance, seemingly at his own whim, should have made it more threatening than it was: if it only appeared at his will, it could disappear just as easily. Watching him as he moved further away, she made a fast decision born of sheer confidence. The Woods were of no fear for her; she had seen them bend before her when she called. She would not rightly call these Woods her friend, but she had shown them courtesy and they, in turn, had kept their own stern courtesy with her. It was as much as she could ask of them. Finally she shrugged in concession. "I've eaten already. But I supposed a decent ale is a fair trade for trousers."

She started after him. "For your sake, I hope your camp is not too far." Her grin flashed vulpine beneath the scarf. "As for me, I hope it's over every hill in the kingdom."

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:13 pm

He was unsure if the swathed woman was jesting or not, but for his reference, either way it could be true. Before his seclusion, he had seen many a strange occurrence in this place. The strange fruit of chaos had often found root in the fertile soil of the province. It had long been a headache, and he had more than welcomed the change when the first men had come to the 'Wood to attempt to tame it. Not that they had. Myrken was just too wild. With that thought in mind, he said a prayer to himself over that stalwart Constable.

He would make a glance backward over his shoulder before starting down the path. Truth to tell, it wasn't a lengthy journey. Or it was, perhaps. The exact magics behind the Sanctuary were not all his to know. He should have allowed the youth, Glenn, more time in the archives beneath his dwelling. Perhaps he could have sussed out some arcane knowledge. Vanidor himself, had no time for it. He knew what he knew, and how to manipulate what needed to be, to maintain his watch. And the Light knew, that was more than enough.

"A fitting end, perhaps. At least someone will appreciate him properly." Another pause, continuing to eye the woman over his shoulder. Then a rolling, perhaps the barest of shivers.

"I suppose you shall enjoy the show then, for a generous span of moments." He gave her a smile that worked it's way up his features, slightly crinkling the corners of his eyes. Then he would finally look away, starting on down the trail that led away from the standing stones. His stride was lengthy, owing to long, fine legs. Not as sound as well, as befitting a creature such as he. Despite being shoe-less, his feet never touched a branch or stone. "Do I just call you 'Dara', or have you a name I should be using instead. It shall be hard to properly welcome you to my home otherwise."

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:53 pm

"You have already given me a name," the woman replied. "I am Darai. Brilliant luck, to hit it on the first strike. Not many can boast such archery."

She, too, was long-legged, loping easily over the frost-roughed and uneven forest floor. Her bowstrap creaked softly under the sway of her shoulders, and the hem of her long cloak made a wet brushing noise as it swept the grey snow, but her body itself made little sound: only her breath, and the wisps of fog that fluttered the scarf across her mouth when she exhaled. Her head cocked aside as they went, taking note of the slope of the trail and the landmarks. Then back to his back, eyes narrowing slightly like a cat's.

"Besides, is it quite safe to let you have my name?" From her rich, rolling tone, she was clearly teasing him. Fully-clad and armed, with his arms and his own clothing tucked safe under her arm, she was feeling cocky and silly, confident and at full advantage. "Are you spiriting me away under the hills, never to be seen more in these realms? Or will you return me in a hundred years, untouched, to find all those in Myrken dead and gone and myself quite forgotten?" The sense of time distorting and contracting as they walked, passed over her like clouds across the moon: fading in and out but ultimately changing her not a whit. She could enjoy the interplay of time and distance when she had nothing to do with it. "I could live with all that, save perhaps the 'untouched' part. Is your home in the Wood itself?"

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Mon Dec 24, 2018 3:15 pm

"A fair point, that. You never know what us denizens of the Wood can be up too. With a proper name one could perhaps do anything. One never knows." He glanced backwards once again, giving her a frank in return. A short laugh, then his attention slid back to the path. He figured it wasn't too much further.

"Perhaps not untouched. Hah. And certainly not in centuries. Perhaps only a decade? Two at most." He laughed again at this, raising an arm to trail it through a sheaf of branches. The leaves rustled with the action, and in short order another breach in the forest appeared. He paused here, the turned fully toward the woman.

Beyond him, in the break of foliage, was a similar blue-green glow from the circle. It was shaded some, but bright enough to be noticeable. It cast him in a rather fun light.

"Well then, Darai. Welcome to my Sanctuary. All are welcome, as long as they pledge to do no harm. Some say that all wishes can come true within the boughs." He laughed slightly, then extended his hand once more. "Do not worry, though. Unlike the circle, you do not have to take off your clothes to enjoy it."

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Mon Dec 24, 2018 3:59 pm

Her eyes flared like sparks in a forge, golden and giddy. "Soothly? All wishes?" Eagerly she plunged forward, swerving around him.

Even properly invited, she could not shake the electric tingling underfoot. The buzzing forbidden feeling traveled clear through her bootsoles, up to the back of tongue, and coated her teeth as if she had bitten into an unripe persimmon. She grimaced without meaning to, nose wrinkling.

Hand propped on her hip, she looked about the place with intense, curious quiet, blinking hard and repeatedly at the odd blue-green lights. Was this, then, how the Others lived? It was pretty enough, though the light made it seem chillier than it was--the light, or perhaps the quiet, the lack of people.

She hooked a finger under the scarf and drew it down to scratch her chin in contemplation, as if she were already imagining how the place might look with curtains and a fresh coat of whitewash, before announcing aloud to the space above the boughs, "I wish you had a black pudding hanging off the end of your nose."

A brisk turn on her heel under brought her back around to face him full on. Her face was broad and heart-shaped, an elongated dimple in one cheek and a tiny cleft in the stubborn chin--a pretty face, the face of a young woman, too exaggerated in its proportions to be mistaken for human, and now crumbled in a scowl of disappointment as she studied him. "Hm. It doesn't appear to have worked."

At the same moment, she brushed off her grey fur cap to give her scalp a rough shaking that sent her carefully coiled braid tumbling over one shoulder. The red-gold hair burned like a bed of banked embers, blazing its own color in defiance of both darkness and the watery blue-green elf-light. She winced as she tipped her head and tried to pinch some feeling back into the ice-cold tips of her tapered ears.

The mock scowl smoothed away. The vast black eyes, innocent and empty as a doe's, took on gravity as they met his. She nodded once in acquiescence. "I am your guest. I do no harm that is not visited to me first. I take nothing that is not offered."

She let the moment's gravity linger just long enough to feel unbearably solemn, before her face split into a grin.

Gathering the bundle of clothes to her chest, she suddenly flung them at him with both hands, crying out "Catch!" a moment too late as shirt, trousers, belt, cloak, all unfolded themselves and tumbled.

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Mon Dec 24, 2018 6:05 pm

As she stepped past him and looked upon the place he called home, Vanidor would observe her reaction to the place. Many saw it differently. Some really did see a place where dreams could come true, though he never really understood why. Others a simple place for rest and respite. Others, even, a place to hide from their failures and troubles. Not all would tell, some told too much. He wondered if she would. But before that. The scene.

It was a broad place, a clearing that could only exist because of mystical mean. The chill of the winter's solstice hung quietly upon the place, but beyond that, the air did not hold the same cold to it. It was as if the very trees gave their warmth in order to keep the place... comfortable. It was not truly warm, but one did not need heavy garments in order to ward away the night. And everywhere there were lanterns that gave off that phosphorescent glow. Not quite soothing, but also not all together unsettling. It truly did suit the golden haired elf.

Beyond the entrance there sat four low buildings. Three of them seemed unused, and a fourth with smoke curling from a chimney sat invitingly close by. A fifth structure sat a little further into the space, with wide columns on the lower level, a second floor that was made of smaller ones, and then a third floor that was open to the elements. One could even see the spray of starlight across the darkened sky. There were other out buildings even further, but these seemed to be the main set of structures.

Vanidor would have been amused at her thought of considering this place, and him perhaps, as some sort of Other-folk. They existed for certain. He would have guessed that some of them had a hand in the creation of this place. But he, himself? Surely there was magic to the elf, but not in that way. The elf would certain laugh at her first wish and request, almost wishing himself that he could have made that happen. Oh, a pudding surely could be made... Just not with such alacrity.

Then she became serious. He titled an eyebrow as she made her pronouncement, that slight smile crossing his faded features once again. He actually had a response to her words, but then! This! His eyes widened slightly at the tossing of clothing and gear. Boots came and flopped, as did gloves and breeks. A cloak floated slightly longer in the air than one would have expected, were this not such a strange place. It was a chaotic flurry of nonsense.

Out of this he laughed, grabbing onto the only thing that really did matter in that whole pile. His hand and snagged around the slender scabbard, just below a silver band set into the old and darkened leather. A golden hilt rode above that, with a brilliant sapphire set into the pommel stone. It glimmered briefly as it came back into contact with him. Even moreso, the elf seemed to become more than he was. The muscles of that arm trembled slightly. Then came another throaty laugh.

"T'chaa. A hellion you are. Ha! Thank you for returning this, and whilst I cannot offer a proper pudding from off my nose... I do offer all that my home can provide. Even a warm bath, if such you desire. Ha. But more importantly, you said you did fancy an ale? That, I can get for you quicker, Darai Scamp." Again, a laugh, and with a quick bend he'd pluck the cloak up from the forest floor. The rest of the clothing he could gather later.

Towards that fourth structure he pointed, righting the garment to eventually put o're his shoulders. Finally setting his eyes of grey-green upon the woman once again. They almost matched the lantern light.
"So. Was that one decade, or two? We can negotiate everything else o're a cup and a bowl of soup."

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:58 am

"Oh...one decade, two. Just remember I have a horse that's going to want tending in the morning." She flexed her fingers, shook them, then cupped them to her face to huff a warm breath upon them. To her amusement, the fog of her breath had thinned. "I will take the ale, though, and good neighbor to you. Or mulled wine, if it's to offer."

Again her hand stretched out to swim her fingers through nothingness, feeling for the strings of power that held this place together, feeling for...and her eyebrow again quirked upward, bemused. She had no word for the sense she wanted. Not glamourie. The old, true fayerie, such as there had been in the First Days. No, not quite that, either. There were places back home where fayerie lay so pungent, you could squeeze a handful of earth and it would run out like juice. Whatever this was, it wasn't that. Or perhaps her prideful stubbornness ran too deep to ever conceded that fayerie might exist outside her own people.

When she turned back to him, she was quieter, a little confused. "Is this your winter camp, then?"

If he knew what she meant, he knew; if he did not, then that was some sort of answer, too. She knew already, though. This had a rooted-to-the-ground feeling. It was too solid and well-maintained to be a camp. It was a proper village, such as the tultharian kept: like Myrken in miniature, grown and tended here like a garden. The little light of hope, trailed by a shadow of inevitable disappointment, showed in her face.

Another question lay behind that one, too big to bring it out at once: where are the others?

Re: Another Year, Another Dance.

Tue Dec 25, 2018 6:01 am

"I do not wander to various. Hm. Courts, if that is your question. Too much trouble. This place, though, has been my home for..." How does one say that he had walked this earth when the world was young? Before other races had come to plant their flags and barrow dens. He considered it. He might not be one of those she may have considered him to be, but he was an oddity. He laughed to himself. ".. quite some time, before the province was structured under the Amasynian Kings."

Here then, he will pause besides the door to what must be his own cabin. A low structure, much like the others, that sat backed up to a slight hill. Hand dropped to lower the latch, bare foot pushing the thing open. As light (real firelight, this, not the blue-green glow) spilled out, one could see a series of runes etched into the frame. More graced the surface of the door itself. A motion of his arm, allowing her to enter first.

Ruddy light came from the fireplace, and from a set of lantern'd candles hanging from the beams. A pair of barrels sat besides the door, with a beaten copper kylix atop each. A hinged lit allowed access to the liquid with, whatever they contained. He would go to serve her. The rest of the space was sparse. A soup of some sort bubbled besides the fire. A series of small chests along another wall. A door leading to another room at the back. What looked like an over-large cat bed sat beside that door as well.

"Forgive the emptiness of the place. In the summer, when the 'Wood is more inviting, there are more guests. Not many care to traverse the winter chill to come visit. Even the tressym have wandered off." Then the bowl was dipped into the barrel he had chosen, coming up with a splash of cool, sweet liquid. He rose it to her in both hands, much like an offering.
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