Pathways and Anchors

Pathways and Anchors

Postby Rance » Wed Aug 19, 2015 4:01 pm

They stand in the upper hallway of the Broken Dagger, elbow-to-elbow, staring down at the cast-iron handle of the portal two doors down from theirs. Smoke from the wall-sconces hovers in the air, a stagnant, iron-colored vapor that saturates clothes and clogs the nostrils with the ghosts of long-burnt wax. It's night; it's late, long after the dull glow of distant Myrkentown begins to fade where it can be seen along the horizon out the tavern's windows. Most of the patrons in the Broken Dagger sleep, snore, or entangle themselves in drunken communion with one another.

But a highwaywoman and a seamstress stand statuesque in front of that door, and the husky Jerno reaches out to alight her few remaining fingers on the back of Ailova's wrist.

"I know you don't trust her quite yet," she whispers. "Neither do I. But she's a means to an end, and I trust you to — to bend to your instincts if you think that her aims and her objectives don't agree with ours, Ailova. If her designs," the girl clarifies, "seem dangerous." She spares a traveling glance to the basket-handled blade belted at Ailova Smith's side. Rarely does Gloria Wynsee put her trust in steel. But that steel, it's never aimed wrong, not even when the hands behind it beg for a drink to quiet their tremors.

Gloria's fingers fall down to cling to the worn and tattered patchwork skirts she wears. Her fingers are greased with filthy sweat. She swallows as though choking down a whole mouthful of earth.

Then, her dark face upturned, she drums her scabbed knuckles along the door.

"Menna Ressa," Gloria hisses at a crack in the wood. "Do you stir?"
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby highawaywoman » Thu Aug 20, 2015 8:32 am

Eyes scanned the expanse of oak in front of them, memorizing the lines in the door - the scratches and scars from patrons past and present that'd made their home inside the room. Some temporary, some for longer. Despite the wish to focus on task at hand, jaded green eyes wandered to the door to the right of the room they stood in front of - the room she'd just recently shared with another. Someone other than her unlikely roommate and closest companion, Gloria.

"Och, hmm?" That very girl touched her wrist, bringing her wandering mind to the present. But she's a means to an end, and I trust you to — to bend to your instincts if you think that her aims and her objectives don't agree with ours, Ailova.

A means to an end. A shared dream that would taken them cognizant and into a world where Gloria's babe lived. Lived and would be brought back. Into the waking world.

"I dinnae think she willa pooison us. Nae withoou' good reason, tha' is." The bandit whispered back, winking in the smoky light of the upstairs. Nae, it twas doubtful the Northerner would poison them. She struck Ailova as a lonely sort, mayhap due to the odd quest she'd been bestowed. Or, it was in part to the master she served that she persisted in cloaking in secret. As of yet? AIlova didn't distrust her - but Myrken was known to change alliances quicker than a hoor changed her lovers.

Whispers were quieted as the determined young mother rapped on the door and whispered against the hard surface. "Menna Ressa, Do you stir?"

Dear Gloria. While being faced with overwhelming circumstance - the young Jerno did what she did best. Adapted and overcame.
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Korressa » Thu Aug 20, 2015 10:11 am

Someone does indeed stir on the other side of the door. The Dagger’s creaking floorboards, for those with trained ears, can pinpoint the exact distance and direction feet move to cross them. On the other side, the side inside the room, the floorboards whisper directions over the sound of momentary shuffling and scuffling, and the solid snap of a trunk lid falling shut under its own weight.

There, in one corner, she is. And now, three more groans from the boards below, and she stands before the door. After a moment, the winking candlelight disappears from the keyhole under the door’s cast iron handle. There’s a soft thunk, as the tumblers roll, but blessedly no shrieking of hinges as the door gives way to the interior. She had expected them to come sooner or later, but not trusting the sense of direction or propriety of other Dagger patrons… well. Not everyone is so polite as the girl now rapping.

The door doesn’t inch open or crack apart for a cautious head to peek out—she heard and recognised the voices, even if she couldn’t make out the words.

“Ailova, Gloria,” says the tall woman in a hushed voice, moving out of the way even as she swings the door wide, “Please. Come in out of the hall.”

A low lamp glows from a hook, and second dark, thick candle burns with a faintly floral scent, in the centre of a pan of water. Between the two flickering flames, the room is decently lit. One wouldn’t want to do needlework by so sparse a light, but it’s well enough to avoid tripping over the minimal furnishings of the room.
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Rance » Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:26 pm

I dinnae think she willa pooison us. Nae withoou' good reason, tha' is.

A turn of her head. A faint, brown-toothed smile. She whispers:

"So she'll just have to hope that her poison strikes more quickly than your swor—"

The door opens. Gloria, with her single hand bundled in the soot-stained kirtle of her skirts, sweeps a leg back and into a bend that helps her dip forward into a greeting courtesy.

The tall woman's invitation is received silently, and willingly. Gloria steps in first; with Ailova at her side, the girl's usual demeanor is emboldened and intensified, affording her a crisp, almost political proclivity for directness and acuity. Her skirts and their multiple layers whisk across the complaining floor. Her heels seem to strike all the same spots that Korressa's had. Her added weight — barrel-like and broad-shouldered, tallish and husky as she is — draws louder complaints from the sensitive flooring. The nails creak. The wood moans. She stands in the center of the room and glances between the lamp and the candle suspended in the pan of water.

"Did we wake you," she asks, then immediately answers: "I'm sorry if — if we woke you."

Her fingertips massage a series of wrinkles in the hip of her dress. She dashes her gaze toward Ailova in that brief, communicative counterfeit of words — Do you see anything peculiar here? — before she grins to Korressa. There was nothing truly indicting about the woman. By all accounts, the room seemed spartan and drab, a traveler's abode scarcely given the trappings of longevity: comforts had been spared, and nothing about the room makes it any more Ressa's than anyone else's.

"I have what you asked of me. At least in part."

A pause.

"Have you made it," the girl asks. "The mixture?"

Dreams, Ailova had said, are sometimes a necessary evil. So, too, was simplicity.
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby highawaywoman » Tue Aug 25, 2015 4:00 am

Thankfully, Ailova spied no trinkets or baubles that'd given her hint that it was a room that housed one who practiced dark arts. Pale-green eyes met Gloria's and there was a nod accompanied with a slight grin. Nothing looks too out of place.

Honestly, the only thing that looked out of place was the tall northerner who graced the room. She was friendly enough though, with her own smile and welcoming swing of the door. The room smelled pleasant, whereas Gloria and Ailova's smelled of whiskey and sweat.

The young Jerno wasted no time with pleasantries, quickly cutting to the meat of their visit. "Have you made it? The mixture?"

The highwaywoman barely suppressed her smile, a flash of golden teeth as she looked from Ressa to her close friend. Stubborn, loyal, and fixated. Three facets of her many faceted friend. Gloria would do this thing. Despite Ailova's hesitance about purposefully entering the dreamscape - she'd do so for her friend. Though she may regret it later.

"Neverra 'ad much use fer a tincture 'o pu' me 'o sleep." The bandit stepped aside and hung back near the door. Herbalists and their tinctures were a step above apothecaries, but a bottle of whiskey had always been her first choice for medicinal uses.

A potion that would enable them to share a dream. Purposefully. Simple, aye?
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Korressa » Tue Aug 25, 2015 4:18 am

Like any other room in the inn—two narrow beds with their blankets neatly folded and tucked in. Two heavy trunks with locks for travellers to stow their possessions. A table beneath the window, upon which the candle and its pan of water sit. Amidst the simple furnishings, only half the room has any sign of having been lived in, and even that is fairly minimal. Beneath the shadow of one bed, a pair of boots sits. On the pegs worked into the wall above the trunk, a cloak, a sleeveless robe, and a vest all hang. Beside the pan of water, there is a small pile of tidily folded paper. Each square is no larger than a silver coin and the colour of old lace.

But a lone oddity stands at the priestess' back, half-hidden by the corner's embrace and the tall woman's shadow. There leans a long-handled object with a curved, narrow head sheathed in embossed leather. The weapon (for that is what it is, and only a child would mistake it for something like a walking stick) would be useless in such close quarters. So there it stands—silent and hooded like a falcon on its roost. The doves are safe, even in the same room, with that hood over its sharp beak.

"No, no. Never apologise. I am a late stayer," she tells Gloria, and then closes the door on the outside world. The key stays in the lock, but she does not twist it home. These women do not trust her—and to a degree, neither does she trust them. Who would go willingly into a dream, especially one so blasphemous? But. If there is a babe involved?

"I have made the mixtures, but—" isn't there always one of those? "—I wish to speak to you both first."
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Rance » Wed Aug 26, 2015 3:20 pm

"Then speak," Gloria says, not unpolitely. "I assure you, Ailova's likely the most reasonable out of the two of us." For her friend, there's a quirk of her lips, a half-attempted smile that she smothers for fear of shattering the professionalism of the moment. "She's here as — as my most trusted friend; she's willing to embark on a fool's errand with me, and for that, I'm endlessly grateful.

"I would be dead many times over if — if not for her, Menna Ressa."

Gloria's eyes linger for some time on the lifeless garments hanging from the pegs above the trunk. She wanders closer to them, her nose high and inquisitive, her lone hand — clenched into a fist — resting in the small of her back. She admires the vestments' careful sewing and their near-reverent appreciation for the spacing and placement of each stitch. In her limited experience, only two categories of garments merit such meticulous care: those of royals, whose unspent war-funds are exhausted on stunning fineries; those, too, of spiritual leaders and clergy, whose dishevelement is an affront to the gods to which they bend a knee.

She girl reaches out and hooks her forefinger along the dangling hem. "They're remarkable," she says, and smiles around the nubs of her teeth. What did a smudged girl with patch-ridden skirts really know about seamwork? Her black-smeared fingertips seem hesitant to part from the sleeveless robes. But when they do, her attention snaps back to the conversation at hand.

What could the woman care to talk to them about, regarding the tincture?

"With all due respect, I don't see how it would be much different than — than a bit of whiskey, except for the taste."
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby highawaywoman » Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:18 am

It was hard to suppress her smile at Gloria's assurances that she was the most reasonable out of the two of them. In some circumstances, it was assured that she was far more reasonable than the Jerno girl. At others? Especially, if there was heavy imbibing of whiskey involved? Gloria would have been the more reasonable.

Her friend stepped forward to lightly touch the garments that hung resolutely in the lit room, fingers tracing fabric as she remarked on their capable stitching. While Ailova could make a stitch when pressed, she'd often seen to sending garments out for repair rather than wasting her free time in stitching.

It was the taller woman's question that made her look away from Gloria and the clothing, steadying her gaze with a nip from the flask she kept in her frockcoat. When items were prefaced with questions, good things rarely came to pass.

"Alriogh' then. Speak yer piece, if'n ye mus'. Bu' barrin' blindness o' death? I dooub' verra much ye will see us change oour coourse o' actions."
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Korressa » Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:44 am

"They are tormented by my amateur stitches and deserve better," Korressa says without false modesty, but does not curb the younger woman's explorations of the clothing. It is a truth and a flaw, perhaps one that proves her even more human than the munching of an apple or sunburn on her nose. She lowers herself to sit on the edge of one bed, as unthreatening as she possibly can be, with hands on knees before her.

A priestess, a hermit, a woman should live by her accomplishments, even if they are poor ones. And royalty does not do their own mending. While the base of the garments is fine twill and expertly constructed, they do show their age and long wear—the blacks here and there are faded and mismatched, the purples have gone slightly blotchy with the sun's fading, and the indelicate patchwork and mending is far from the same quality as the original work. Just like the clothes Gloria had appraised with jealous eyes and honest criticism when they first met.

Blades better fit her long fingers' grip than a needle.

A blade like the one leaned in the corner, an arms' length from where Gloria examines the garments, or the smaller ones hidden in the trunk at her very feet. Even Dayva's familiar reins find a clumsy grip by comparison to cold steel—but would they see that in lean forearms and blunted nails? Would they know to look for the signs?

"It is less the mixture I am concerned with than the dreams the pair of you hunt. The thing in the dreams that you seek." She picks up the thread both Ailova and Gloria offer, gives it a tug, and slowly unravels the tapestry bit by bit. Instead of pulling an image apart, it reveals one hidden between disorderly wefts, mislaid thoughts.

With a deep breath, she considers what she should say next, and which string to yank free. How to say what must be said in a way that won't result in a knife at her throat, and a mob with fiery torches chasing her out of town? Ailova doesn't trust magic or witches—would she trust in a pious woman who wears the moon around her neck like a personal millstone?

"I believe," she says, emphasising the word with care, "that you are why I am here. Not just to give you herbs to call on dreams, but to help you. I was told to seek, but not what. Or where. And I have been led here."

To you. The words hang unsaid in the air, and she pauses momentarily to press her lips into a thin line, then lets blue eyes slide to the clothes on their pegs. Insubstantial things of cotton, but her armaments all the same, forged of faith and devotion.

A better armour than belief you cannot find in dreams.

"You have no reason to allow me," she continues, watching the cotton sway in the aftermath of Gloria's inspection, with only earnestness and her own disarmed state to vouch for her, "But I wish to offer you what I help I can."
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Rance » Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:40 pm

...to help you. I was told to seek, but not what.

Korressa sits, prim and poised, on the bed. She looks all at once out of place and perfectly comfortable. She's tall and pale, a totem, the very North molded and shaped into a human, and wholly the seamstress' opposite. Around women like the brigand, whose loyalty shines like a beacon in fog, and now this potioner, whose convictions and honesty are as foolish as they are nearly prophetic, Gloria Wynsee feels all that she lacks clawing just underneath her skin. Gloria's not like them; she's not like them.

"I'm relieved to hear you say it," the girl responds, smoothing her wrinkled skirts before sitting on the bed opposite Korressa. Her underskirts stick out like a ragged tongue from beneath the lip of her tattered hems. She lifts a boot, turns it, examines it. The heel flaps and flops, its hobnails abused into uselessness. "We'd be grateful for the help, truly, Menna Korressa. And while I've never prescribed to beliefs of fate, I believe nonetheless.

"The Nameless provide. They've provided you. I'll owe you my — my very insignificant life, if you assist Ailova and me in retrieving my—" her breath catches; her lone hand wrings the life out of her skirts, "—daughter. I'm relieved to hear you say it, that you're so willing," Gloria repeats, before she opens the flap of her hip-sized satchel and retrieves a small, crumbling handful of familiar relics.

Broken, rotted, white-specked pieces of wood. Lumps of bark and splinter-ridden chunks from the chopping-stump out behind the Broken Dagger.

"Trusting," she says, almost with apology, "is difficult in Myrken Wood. Just as you believe you were sent here to aid us, I want to believe you weren't sent to hinder us. The mixture need to be precise: it needs to drive us to a quick, dreamful sleep; it needs to keep us there long enough to — to complete our work. But as with anything so exact, your potion could be faulty, ineffective—"

A glance to Ailova. The seamstress' lips betray nothing. Her face, however, twitches almost imperceptibly. Ailova knows her well enough; the brigand's seen the younger woman in the throes of emotions both happy and desolate. They've shared drinks and hours and secrets. They've bolstered one another. Saved one another. And what's come of it, of the remarkable sisterhood they've fabricated, is this silent penchant for speech-that-is-not-speech, an occasional glance that says a thousand things without saying anything at all. I want to be sure it's not poison.

"You'll drink the mixture tonight, Korressa, before we do. And we'll drink, too. We'll dream together on — on the outskirts of the Golden City. A rehearsal."

She kicks her boot free.

"Did you bring your bit of the stump, Ailova?"
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby highawaywoman » Sat Aug 29, 2015 4:37 am

While Ailova was known to whisper a prayer at different moments of duress, she really prescribed to no religion, nor belief in faceless deities that ruled from the heavens. All of it was horse shite. A way for men to place control upon others. Aye, whatever dwelled above and wreaked havoc below? Cared very little for the brigand and she it. The two women discussed fate, fortune, and whatever turns that brought them together - but, Ailova's mind wandered. Life was a series of mismatched accidents. A differing view from the other two.

Highwaywoman and once seamstress locked eyes, their unspoken words loud enough for the two of them to hear. It was wise - if they had the Northerner try the potion first, it was an assurance it wasn't some type of poison. Ailova's chin tipped upward, glancing to the door as an after-thought. This was dabbling in the supernatural. A close friend, fellow bandit, once warned her, 'Ye'll live loong, if'n ye stay away froom witches, devils, and anythin' that dinnae coome naturally.' Such advice had to be set aside for now, if only to help her dearest friend.

One more sip was taken from the flask with the wooden cork; a small sip. Elias was right, the brew was not only strong but pure and a little went far to calm the tremors and her mind. Fine! She was ready. The flask was tucked away and in exchange a hunk of the same wood from the disseminated stump appeared in her hand.

"Aye. A strange enoough to'em, bu' I 'ave i'." Her free hand slipped into the inner pocket of her frockcoat, fingers running over a smooth wooden coin. Dreams wouldn't kill. She hadn't died yet. And hopefully, this would prove the same result.
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Korressa » Sat Aug 29, 2015 5:16 am

Ambushed in her own quarters!

Eyebrows raise at Gloria's declarations. Not because of her acceptance of the offer of help, or even because of her lack of trust, but because of the immediacy of this test she proposes. And that is Gloria in her nutshell brown skin—she demands the eventual become immediate, even from a stranger, because there is much at stake.

And if this test does well, there's everything at stake, isn't there? A daughter.

"I did not—" could not! "—anticipate you would wish to begin immediately," she says, but all the same reaches towards the table with one long-fingered hand. She retrieves three of the small slips of paper from the haphazard stack on the table and offers two to Ailova, as the horsewoman still lingers on her feet. The third she taps against her knee. The priestess makes no remarks about the reason for their quest, or what Gloria believes of her role in things.

"We will need cups to mix in, and wine," she informs the pair, her consent to their test implicit in the statement. Those large blue eye examine the blonde brigand's shivering fingers and the liquor used to steady them in nips and sips. Ever so slightly, her lips quirk at one corner.

"Should I expect you brought those as well as that punky bit of wood?"
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Rance » Sat Aug 29, 2015 6:29 am

Ah. There; it shows itself. The Korressa under Korressa's skin, wearing muted audacity in the face of the two women who came to visit. The trust that connects them is already weak and fragile — and this is the moment in which they'd discover if the potion-maker was charlatan or obstacle, a clever confidence-woman or a genuine asset. No, Gloria understands. There are demands being made of the potioner, expectations of immediacy and perfection. With her boots peeled off her feet and her stockings of filthy white and bleeding blue stripes hanging off her ankles like shed skin, the girl stands and reaches forward—

—to place upon the bed beside Korressa a hand-sized hunk of wood pried away by a knife.

"Now is as fine a moment as any, Menna. Perhaps your mixture works," the dark-faced girl reasons behind a broken smile, "and you fulfill your purpose. Or perhaps we discover that we're not truly the reason you're meant to be here, should it not suit our needs. But let us waste no more of — of each other's time. A confirmation of truth is worth the expedition, is it not?"

Skirts whip and snap around her ankles as she stands and makes her way toward the door. She unlatches it, draws it open, and flags down a tired-eyed hall-servant for Derry Red, if you please, and — and a stack of cups, leather or bone, for a private toast, at'chemso, at'chemso. Wary eyes follow the exchange of parchment-bits between the Northerner and the brigand. She asks no questions of the contents, or what they could be for, but the tap-tap-tapping of paper against Korressa's knee reminds her of the slowly-fading novelty of time before them—

Beside her friend, shoulder-close, Gloria turns her cheek and whispers for Ailova alone:

"You can say the word and refrain from this, if you want. I'll neither judge," Gloria says, "nor hold it over your head. You've never been anything to me but — but loyal and reliable. Should this work, I — I may very well—" A trembling breath interrupts her murmur. She's afraid; she's hesitant to continue. "I may very well ask of you things I cannot do on my own, or make demands no friend should ever expect of another. I know what you think regarding the occult, regarding the unknown."

The hard stone of her face gentles. Her fingertips cradle Ailova's elbow.

"You can say no. I'll understand."
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby highawaywoman » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:27 am

Shite! The reluctant bandit hadn't planned on dreaming so soon. Soon, aye. Gloria's determination to be set upon this path was rock-solid. Like a dark bay's hooves on a dry summer day. Unbreaking. Immune to cracks. A slightly shaking hand accepted the two slips of paper, not bothering to garner a look at the contents. It was pretty plain that what was inside was the aid to their sleeping. A powder. Nae a potion.

Her dear friend set off to the door, hastily cracking it and hailing a passing maid and whispering the order for Derry Red. Feckin' Woine! Worse than taking the sleeping draught, was the liquid she'd have to drink in order to consume it. Wine was for hoors and nobs. And aye, Gloria did enjoy a glass of red, but that girl could also appreciate an amber ale or dram of whiskey.

"A confirmation of truth is worth the expedition, is it not?" It was those words that ran repeatedly through her wayward mind as Gloria leaned forward to whisper in hushed tones for her alone.

Gah. As if backing out of this was even an option. Gloria, who mended her wounds and had become the closest friend the highwaywoman had ever known. Nae, there was no dismissing herself from this venture or the one that was about to come in the future. This course was set and Ailova would ride the pattern with precision.

"Dinnae fash yerself, dear friend. I shall do this fer ye and fer tha' wee babe ye loove soo much. I havenae been maim'd froom a dream ye'." The same hand that had accepted the slips of parchment went to cover Gloria's, "I do this fer ye - fer true friendship means 'elpin' anooth'r. Despoite discomfor', despoite fear. I loove ye loike a sist'r and I am o' 'appy 'o aid ye in this."

The maid knocked softly at the door. Ailova opened it without a backward glass, accepting the three tankards of wine and exchanging them for coin. Long fingers cradled the vessels, as a booted foot shut the door behind her, "Alroigh', ladies. Shall we drink?"
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Re: Pathways and Anchors

Postby Korressa » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:57 am

"The mixture will work," she answers, still tapping the folded square with that slow, steady rhythm. Perhaps there is a purpose to the motion, for it to be so oft repeated. "Whether we end up in the same place, I cannot predict, but the recipe has never failed to bring dream-filled sleep. And if we do not meet one another in your Golden City, then..." The priestess lets the words trail away with a shrug, the implication being the same as what Gloria stated in a more straight forward fashion—that if they do not join in a shared dream, then perhaps her search does indeed lie down another path.

That road has brought her this far, however, and she will continue to walk it with firm strides until it takes her off a cliff.

As the pair discuss whatever-it-is-they-discuss with whispers and quiet confidences, Korressa examines the chunk of wood the Jernoan girl has placed beside her. The tapping stops as a result, and she turns the wood over a few times as if it's the most fascinating object she has ever seen. Half-rotted from rain and wind, if left to dry a while, it would make wonderful kindling, she thinks. Korressa considers it for some time, the grain and warped, bent edges—even examines the curious dark smudges left by Gloria's sweaty palms. And when the wine arrives at the door—a drink for hoors and nobs and clergymen—she levers herself upright on feet that are already bare of stockings and boots. In bed she may not have already been, but perhaps not long for the waking world after all.

"We shall drink," she confirms. It would be wine that the woman uses, since the tall pale stranger has always declined generous Ailova's offers of drams and murky bottles. At least it isn't tea?

"If I could trust the water here, I would have requested that, but," the priesstess shrugs, and In an easy motion, she returns Gloria's totem, then takes one of the leather cups for herself. "That wood you may keep in your pockets or palms. The anchors I spoke of are not sacrifices or the like, only memories by which to guide you home should the mixture cast you adrift."

With careful teeth, she pulls back one of the folded edges of the paper packet, and squeezes it into a new fold with a deft pinch. Just like that, she tips the mixture onto the wine's surface. All its comprising elements there float, and she holds it out for the other two to examine, waiting for them to do likewise before she drinks.
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