Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:39 am
That was the first word that her mind had conjured upon seeing the clustered rooftops of Myrkentown from the dusty, pitted road that connected it to Foggy Bottom. Not humble or modest, as the sturdy stone wall was anything but. Not inauspicious or grim, for birdsong filled the air and the sun shone cheerfully down upon the fields of farmland that hugged the settlement on all sides. Yet at the same time, it was hardly merry or quaint judging by the weathered expressions of passerby as she neared the gates, complex histories written in the hard lines and tired eyes of the Myrken folk.
Unfortunate served, although she could not say why, and that single word filled her with a vague sense of foreboding as she neared the gate.
The guards did not challenge her as she entered, sparing her little more than a glance despite the foreign cut of her dark clothing and the lantern that hung, lit, from her right arm despite it being the middle of the day. There was no flash of recognition when their gazes passed over her ensemble, no reverence, no aversion. They simply carried on with their day once she was deemed less of a threat than a curiosity, something they had no time to wonder after. She chided herself for the twinge of annoyance that stirred in her breast when they disregarded her, reminding herself that she should be grateful for the lack of adversity she had thus far encountered.
Because it would arrive in due time. There was no doubt of that.
She knew next to nothing about the One True Faith beyond the smattering of condemning words that it had earned in Dornant. Beyond the petty gossip and speculation regarding its finer points, Elrin knew one thing above all else: it was heresy, and it was damning the souls of good, simple men and women to an eternity spent alone in the darkness. She also understood, from what she had been told in Edirne and Foggy Bottom during the relatively brief journey from the coast of New Dauntless, that it went largely unchallenged, and as a result played an integral role in the lives of the Amasynian citizenry, much the same as the Illuminated Faith in her homeland. This fact only deepened her appreciation for the task that had been set before her by the pontiff.
But before she could set to saving others, she needed to secure lodging, somewhere to lay her head after weeks of travel by sea and road. She was loathe to rent out a room in one of the taverns and inns that played host to vices that ate away at the soul--gambling, drink, lechery-- but she had few other venues available to her. She refused to seek any form of shelter provided by the One True Faith, and she admitted with some reluctance that the likelihood of a benevolent family welcoming a stranger into their home was slim at best. She wanted nothing more than a private space that would be her sanctuary in the heart of this foreign land, somewhere to collect her thoughts and prepare for the trials to come.
"O Goddess, if you would but offer me a sign, that I might do your work." she murmured, touching the fingers of one hand to her heart as she scanned the streets filled with people going about their business, paying no mind to the woman in the black habit. "Would that I were not so blind to your designs."
The flame of her lantern licked lazily at the air, silent in response to her supplication. If a kind soul would step forward and do its part, the fire chose not speak for them at that moment.
Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:26 am
Nails, to fix the leaking roof. Butter, to replenish the kitchen stock. An axe, to replace the one that shattered. Otzi went down his checklist again, assured he did not have to make any more stops. Rarely one to leave the Fireside Inn, he did not enjoy the bustle of Myrkentown. Too many people, each with their own agenda. Never know what these people have planned or where they're going. People didn't deserve his trust until they proved themselves true, or more preferably loyal. He kept to himself and seemed to prefer hermitage over anything else in the world.
Most whispers about town knew him as that; a paranoid hermit living on the edge of town offering a bed to those too strapped for coin to afford one. Like a phantom, he'd come into the marketplace once every week for odds and ends and make his leave as quickly as he came. Gossip spread about him when he first came to Myrkentown, but shortly after hiring two of the townsfolk to staff his quaint lodging, people became less wary of the oddity that lived just a stone's throw away into the woods.
Still, he wasn't known to be the friendly sort. Never really gave but a nod or quick smile to anyone addressing him or saying hello. That's why it was so odd when he walked right up to the foreigner in town and offered her a room at the Fireside Inn. At least it was to those witnesses to this act, but to the hermit himself, this was him making the first move in an elaborate game of life and death.
The second he laid eyes on her, a jolt of nervous energies shot itself from the base of his spine to his legs and arms. His fight or flight reflexes were kicking in, yet he did not know what to do. One of the faith, specifically one of his faith from Dornant, was something he never expected to see again in his life. He swore he traveled far enough, hid himself long enough. Unless, they did follow. Unless they finally found him now, after all these years, adorned in a disguise reminding him of home and what he left behind; as well as what awaited him. Otzi dropped his bags and turned the corner of a building, hand covering his mouth to prevent him from making any shriek. His conscious shot back through time to fourteen years ago. He needed to stay in the moment, figure out what to do, but all he could think about was the blade making its way from one side of his throat to another. Then of his wife Nosanna; heavily pregnant and screaming and helpless with a knife pointed to her throat as unseen hands dragged him away, his own warm blood pouring onto his chest. He remembered the sensation of choking and gasping for air that wouldn't come, and the soft lights of the city street at night fading before him. Then all of a sudden, he was back in Myrkentown here and now, with a hand grasping his neck from underneath his maroon scarf which covered the long ugly scar. He coughed, a reaffirmation that he was still breathing, and let out a sigh. Concentrate, Otzi. This woman. She is too far from home, he thought to himself. And I am not ready to die again.
He fixed his scarf and straightened the leather cap on his head, assured of what he must do. If she is what he believed, he must keep an eye on her. Somewhere within reach, so he knew her every move. Perhaps she needs a room to stay? He turned back from the corner and approached her, cramming his fears beneath a welcoming smile.
"Lady Illuminatrix," He removed his cap and bowed his head before her, making a bent gesture he had not taken in a very long time; yet one he used to make all the time in front of clergymen and women back home. He spoke through shaken breath, "I have not seen one of your faith in quite some time. It does my heart well to see... the goddess extend herself into far away lands such as these. How... may I be of service to you and the church?"
Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:35 am
It was the nervous energy that trickled between the gaps in his smile that she recognized first, a familiarity bred in the streets of Fonte that had fostered her understanding of the hierarchy she enforced. For some, being met with the sort of deference that bordered on submission in public would swell a chest to bursting with prideful arrogance, but for Elrin, it merely reminded her of her duty to tend the flock that sought her out.
His recognition of her lantern and the title associated with it, however, gave her considerable pause. Eyes the color of frozen ponds appraised the top of his bowed head, momentarily bereft of the hat that he clutched and peppered with the first subtle streaks of gray. The articles of his clothing, each having long and storied lives by the looks of them, hung loosely from his lean frame and clashed with the crimson scarf that was wound tightly about his throat, both ends tucked shyly beneath his collar. Her gaze lingered on the garish accessory for an uncomfortably long moment that threatened to grow until the weight of it crushed him.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw--felt-- the lantern pulse, a curl of flame slithering violently skyward before the fire was calm once more.
Praise be the hand that guides me.
"'tis good to hear the sounds of home in your voice, my child." she said finally, softly, commenting on the buried accent that revealed his origin on the Arpaesian continent. "'twas my fear that it would be some time afore they reached my ears once again."
Her tone was velvet, effortlessly maternal, matched by the gentle touch of fingertips to his chin that were unnaturally warm, though not uncomfortably so; it was akin to the feel of river-smoothed stones that had spent the day basking in sunlight. She tilted his head up, finding tired eyes that she openly searched. She did not hold his jaw or otherwise physically prevent him from looking away, but her gaze was at once so calm yet intense that only a fool--or someone very confident--would attempt to do so.
"No sooner do I ask Goddess for a sign than you appear before me like a good spirit." She paused, letting the physical contact between them momentarily speak for itself. Then, fluidly, she withdrew the hand, lacing the fingers of both together in front of her, the lantern hanging idly at her knees. "I am most fortunate indeed. As are the people of Myrken, now that the light of Lumisté has crossed the sea to reach them."
She smiled tiredly at him, then, the tension evaporating like steam. "Know you any place that one might find a peaceful night's rest? There is much to be done, but I am dreadfully weary at this moment."
Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:19 am
Offering her residence meant putting himself directly in danger. It was a risk Otzi knew he had to make. This woman was the real deal. From her accent to the way she carries herself, and the unmistakable lantern of the Illuminatrix. People don't just show up from a thousand mile journey without serious intentions. He was unsure if she had recognized him yet; his shaven face, tied back hair, and fourteen years of age formed his face distinctly different. So long as he hid the scar, she would not know.
"My own abode," Otzi started, "The fireside Inn. I built it myself not long after arriving here. It shall surely suffice as your base of operations as you see to your matters in town; and of course it shall be reassuring to see a mission walls rise in Myrken." He grabbed his errand bags under one arm and held another forward in front of them.
"Allow me to lead the way. Oh, how rude of me," Otzi held his free hand towards hers in greeting. "My name is Nostemur."
That was the name of his son, or what he and his wife agreed on if he were a boy. If he were born. Before he could ponder on those thoughts, he reeled his mind back to the present so it could not fantasize the family that could have been. This was no time to to remember the past, only to secure the present.
Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:11 am
She did not believe in coincidence. Such was within the purview of fools and the faithless, and her vocation did not allow her to entertain such ignorant concepts.
But she did believe in fate, or rather the grand orchestrations of the divine and other forces beyond her ken, and it brought her immense comfort at times, consternation at others. She was blessed, truly, in that the light of the lantern, her tangible connection to Goddess, shone brightly upon the path that she was meant to walk and dispelled the murk that encouraged missteps in others. As she watched the other fiddle with his bags and work to school his nervous demeanor, she found herself wondering what solace could be found in stumbling blindly through the night, and more importantly, what role he was intended to play. What role he was already playing.
"Nostemur." The syllables were framed by rosebud lips as they slipped across her tongue slowly, thoughtfully. The name clearly belonged to the Old Speech of Jernich, South of Dornant and removed from her own culture by both time and natural barriers, and thus the meaning escaped her. And yet, a whisper of pain threaded the word together, though she couldn't say why. She glanced instead at the proffered hand he thrust towards her, eyeing it curiously before taking it gently between both of her own, folding graceful fingers around the weathered skin. "I am Sister Elrin, of Mershe. Simply 'Sister', if you prefer."
The hand was released, silken fingers caressing his knuckles as they withdrew, a parting kiss of sorts. They traveled the short distance to the bundle in his arms that was held between them, sliding along the length of the exposed ax handle that peeked boldly out of a burlap sack and grasping it firmly, pulling it free. The head flashed dully as it was revealed, the flat sides angling together until they met at a viciously sharp edge that could split firewood with ease.
"'tis quite the burden you carry." she said, her statement at odds with how little the ax's weight seemed to register in her hand. Another smile, artfully sincere. "Allow me to shoulder some of it as we walk. 'tis the least I can do for one so generous, and the first of many steps to repay your kindness."
Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:05 am
The last guest had checked out of the Fireside Inn that morning, leaving the hotel silent save for the crackling of a fireplace in the center of the commons surrounded by three hand-crafted chairs. Hammond put another log onto the withering ashes and sat back down to sulk in his seat that was clearly too large for him. Across from him sat his sister Delia, looking equally as sunken into depression. They were anxious. Otzi never was gone this long before, it was unlike him to keep them waiting. When he left for the market, it was usually their opportunity to go play in the woods or sneak out a treat from the icebox, but neither could seem to bring themselves to it, despite the warm summer afternoon. Hammond sat up from his chair and made his way back to the window where he, as usual, waited for him to get back.
"Maybe he's leaving us for good this time, like mom and dad did" Delia proposed. Her brother broke his concentration from the view to look back towards his sister, sitting in front of the flames which were starting to catch life again. "Wouldn't that be just like an adult?"
Hammond turned around, "Don't be ridiculous. He isn't like them. He's probably just caught up with something."
Delia stood up from the wooden chair and began imitating Otzi's strange accent, "Hammond, did you pluck those chickens yet? Delia, have the beds been made?" She made her way across the room to lean against the reception counter. "Face it, he took us from Shady Groves just to put us to work. He doesn't even want us to call him dad. You don't think that's weird?"
He shrugged, "I mean, sure, but who cares? He got us out of that awful place, don't tell me you'd rather be bossed around by Madam Orrey. She was the worst."
"At least she was upfront about it," Delia turned on her heel and headed into the kitchen. "The sooner you realize Otzi is just another adult looking to take advantage of us, the smarter you'll be. And Gods know you need all the smarts you can get."
The sounds of the icebox being rummaged for snacks was the indication that Hammond needed to know his sister was done talking to him. He shook his head and turned back around towards the window and down the slope of the hill to see two people on the trail. It couldn't be Otzi. He travels alone. Hammond turned back around to sit at the fire, joined only seconds later by Delia who was eating a slice of smoked ham. He put his hand on his cheek and let out a sigh as he watched the dancing lights before him. Delia smirked.
"I'll bet the old man is belly up in a ditch somewhere. Probably a highwayman who thought he wasn't worth the time," She proposed.
"Stop that", He interrupted.
"Maybe it was a cut-purse in town, lead him down an alley and opened up his neck" she said, mouth full of ham.
"Shut up" He spat at her, getting up from his chair.
"He'd deserve it, at least, for locking us up here so far from town. He's not better than the old witch at Shady Grove."
Hammond stormed over to the entrance of the Fireside and gripped at the door handle, "I'm going for a walk!" he shouted as he ripped the door open to find Otzi starring back at him, alongside a woman donned entirely in black, wielding a wood-chopper's axe like a child. She smiled at him gently.
"Not just yet, boy. Take these bags to the kitchen. And Delia, get something ready for dinner, I need to... wash up." Otzi darted past the two of them, unloading his luggage and bolting away from the woman. The two confused children stared back at the woman, almost expecting an answer. It may not have been noticed by Hammond, but Delia could see it on Otzi's face. He was terrified. She'd never seen him like that. Interesting, to say the least.
Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:22 am
She had followed Nostemur as he wove his way towards the South gate and across the bridge that spanned the East Mavoiir to the Southbank Common, which was markedly less boisterous than the streets of the walled settlement behind them. He said little as they walked, a bundle of tension dressed in practical clothing, only breaking the silence every few minutes to ask brief, inconsequential questions: how did she fare at sea? Had the church sent her and her alone? Was she partial to creamed potatoes, or should he prepare something with more substance for supper?
Her responses were brief, little more than polite dead-ends to any potential conversations they might have had along the way: well enough, for the time being, and that would be more than enough, thank you. Shards of sunlight danced in neat lines across the glassy surface of the Silver Lake far to their right, drawing her attention to what she assumed was the Broken Dagger, one of the more irreputable establishments that she had learned of in Foggy Bottom. Behind the tavern lurked the forest, a tangle of oaks and hickories that seemed to loom over the South bank like some great beast, crouched in waiting as it leered at the town across the water. It made her uneasy in a way that she didn't fully comprehend, and that wariness picked at the corner of her mind like a cloud of gnats, practically intangible were it not for darting whines and ghosting bites.
She flexed her fingers around the hilt of the ax, her grip having grown tighter in her momentary distraction to the point of white knuckles. The tool changed hands as her fingers danced in the air by her hip, enjoying a much-needed stretch, and she caught her companion glancing discreetly back at her--or at least, at the object she was holding. A nervous little man, to be sure. It hardly surprised her that he made his home outside the walls of the community. Though why he would ever prefer the company of those tall, dark trees to other living creatures was ultimately beyond her.
But in the next few minutes, she gained a somewhat better understanding of that particular sentiment. He turned from the road down a packed dirt path, nearly hidden save for a modest sign upon which was painted "The Fireside Inn" nailed to the trunk of a stalwart tree, one branch hanging overhead like a leafy archway. It was, indeed, nothing more than a forest trail, and it did not aspire to be anything more than that, although it was blissfully devoid of jutting roots and loose stones that were quick to turn ankles. The canopy they found themselves beneath dappled the path with flecks of light that swam like an foamy tide back and forth across the woodland carpet, stroking the mounds of wildflowers, grasses and weeds that blanketed every square inch of their surroundings.
There is a wild beauty to this place, she thought, locking eyes with a grazing doe not twenty paces away. It stared back at the her from behind shy lashes, its urge to bolt betrayed by a flitting tail, but it nonetheless stood its ground as it assessed the two of them. She was very much reminded of the man who walked in front of her, guiding her down the trail.
"I cannot imagine many people would prefer such seclusion to the comforts of civilization." It was not intended as a cruel or nettling remark; it was a voice given to the notions of her homeland. Dornant viewed the wilderness as a long-time foe that it battled for dominance of the land, as a bounty of resources to be harvested and repurposed as fuel for the ever-growing machine the nation had become, feeding its people and its research. She had been infinitely puzzled by a landscape painting that hung in the lobby of a seaside inn in New Dauntless when she had first arrived to the Amysinian Province, thinking it crude and uninspired, nature itself plagiarized in oil paints. The innkeeper had laughed at her expression, claiming that such subject matter was more popular than ever in the region, which only lent to her perception of how queer foreign minds could be.
She almost retracted the statement when they reached a clearing roughly a half-mile into the forest that opened into a hilly meadow, atop which sat one of the most charming structures she had ever laid eyes on. The Fireside Inn, as he had called it, was a glorified cabin, a house of stacked logs sealed carefully with mud-colored clay to insulate the interior. It did nothing to impose on the walls of the forest that pressed in on the edges of the clearing, and looked right at home in the heart of the wood.
The meadow was quiet as they approached, the sounds of birdsong filtering across the spacious area from unseen sources. Nostemur opened a chest-high gate which connected a fence that looked sturdy enough to withstand the elements and was tall enough to serve as a deterrent to wildlife, although the simple crosswise pattern the slats were arranged in would do next-to-nothing to bar a person's way. Inside the fence, the dirt path gave way to staggered paving stones, which in turn led to split logs that were roughly four feet long and arranged face-up every foot or so, serving as steps up the incline of the hill. She counted eleven in all as they climbed and absently wondered where the last remaining half had ended up as she drank in what other pleasantries were on display: a fat rain barrel placed beneath a lip of the roof with coiling tendrils of ivy clinging to its base, the full-to-bursting hanging flower beds affixed to the front windows whose plank shutters were thrown wide to greet the day, the muted cluck and fuss of hens behind the building.
As they drew near the front door, the sounds of an argument reached her ears. The sounds of one youth pestering another, and she blinked.
She had not considered children.
The front door swung open abruptly, almost violently, and they were met with a face that was filled with equal parts surprise and relief. The boy simply stood where he was, holding the door open, the appearance of a stranger giving him pause. Nostemur brushed quickly past him, putting distance between himself and his guest and vanishing beyond a doorway further inside. She watched him go, noting the way he discarded his belongings along the way as if they were weighing him down, impeding his flight. Her attention caught on the girl, perhaps younger than the boy, who peered back at her from the fire pit in the center of the room with a mixture of curiosity and distrust, something she was accustomed to seeing stare out at her from the gutters of Fonte.
"Hello." she said simply, adopting the pleasant smile she wore when handing out loaves to beggars. A distant, vacant, but technically pleasant smile, diminished by the presence of a burning lantern hanging from one hand, the ax held in the other. Two pairs of cautious eyes stared her down, and she cleared her throat. "You have a lovely home. I am most grateful that your father has allowed me to stay."
Not knowing what else to say, she made a show of bending gracefully at the waist to lay the ax blade-down against the wall just inside the door, straightening with her hands clasped before her, eyes roving across the interior of the cabin.
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