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[P]  Roads to the heart

Offline Asa May 16 2020, 8:35 PM
#1
  • Dorsum
  • Age: 27
  • Gender: Female
  • Race: Human
  • Rank: Knight
  • Total Posts: 19
  • Played by: Day
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The ruins were a grand place, if terrible, frightening — endless. Their steps echoed. A sliver of light still filtered in from overhead, but other than that it was dark as pitch. Asa held a lantern, as did all of them. She’d her spear strapped to her back and her shield readied, strapped to an arm. She didn’t know what might be hiding in here, but knew that there must be something, for a place as labyrinthine as this was bound to hold some unpleasant surprises.

Valkon was relegated to the entrance. Though he was more slender than a horse for sure, more flexible and much more independent, he was still large and unsuited to the loose footing, the thin corridors or the climbing they may have had to do. It didn’t feel good, leaving him behind. Valkon had been with her through thick and thin. He had believed and bonded with her back in Giruvaga when it had felt like no one else had, and she had seen the glint of worry in his eyes as she’d turned back to glance at him, just as they descended into the ruins’ darkness.

On the flipside — she’d a job. And not merely a delivery job. This was right up her alley. An escort, something important, meant for protection. The scholars hadn’t liked the look of her, she knew. They had wanted someone tough looking, no doubt with scarred face and broad shoulders. Asa looked a girl, slim and slight. She knew how to fend for herself, of course…but it often took a long time to prove herself.

Her direct employer, on the other hand, had taken her skill at face value.

Truthfully, Zhiraj looked more intimidating than Asa did. She was very tall and she’d a severe look to her. Asa walked beside her, alert for sounds. Deeper they went, yet there was naught but the sound of dripping water or the scuttling of little feet. Mice, most likely.

The scholars had begun to whisper among themselves in idle chatter. She glanced behind them, then up at Zhiraj’s face, wondering if she should break the silence. “Should have asked this before…” she began, with a nervous laugh. Indeed, Asa had asked little questions about the expedition, so eager was she to take the job. (A rookie mistake.) “Ah, what are we looking for exactly?”
Offline Zhiraj May 17 2020, 5:25 PM
#2
  • Dorsum
  • Age: 62
  • Gender: Female
  • Race: Dire
  • Rank: Commoner
  • Total Posts: 4
  • Played by: G
160 Mana · View All Items?
The ruins were a place that should have been home, that could’ve been such a place for the dire, once upon a time. Those days were long gone though, only the bitter memory of what could have been lingered here. To tell the truth, Zhiraj would have been perfectly content to never again step foot in this wretched place. But as it stood, there was more to learn of the area, and the atrocities and the history that stretched into the past were both worth examining. Which was in part why they were here.

Frankly, any skepticism she’d had on the abilities of the younger woman she’d hired to serve as protector for this excursion had long since been dismissed. Sometimes, a chance was all that was called for. How else were the younger generations to learn, if not through DOING? And equally as useful, she sought to humble her own students in this regard. Appearances deceived, and they ought to look farther than what the surface portrayed. So it was with almost no misgivings that she’d hired Asa. If they ran into trouble, between the two of them she was sure they'd have it handled.

That did not stop the glance she gave the human woman having that same stern cast. At this point, it was the default and she did not much care for trying to soften it. Steely and a solid grey, the shadows cast in heavy bands of grey and black across her face don’t exactly help that strict expression. Both hands clasped about the cane she used to graph the mild inclines and rocky outcrops that could trip her up without warning and she came to an abrupt halt with the butt of the stick set firmly into the dirt. “It seems I’ve been remiss in telling you what it is you ought to know, then.”

The others trickle to a halt at the signs of the eldest among them coming to a standstill, content to follow her lead, well briefed on her expectations regarding them sticking close on this expedition. Her face has not softened any, but there is a hint of something encouraging in the milky grey eyes as she favoured Asa with another measuring glance. “There is much and more to be learned from our history. Not only recent, but the distant past as well. On this trip specifically, we’re looking to study the ruins as they were used in the ancient past, although everyone here has their own aims and interests. I know at least one of my number wants to retrieve some of the things left behind after the Dire purges, and there is still quite a lot of work to be done in paying proper respect to the dead here.” Which explained the heavy cart and oxen that had accompanied them, at the very least. Here, the dire paused, gaze still fixed on the young protector. What it was she waited for was a mystery though. Questions or objections, perhaps?
Offline Asa May 27 2020, 10:27 AM
#3
  • Dorsum
  • Age: 27
  • Gender: Female
  • Race: Human
  • Rank: Knight
  • Total Posts: 19
  • Played by: Day
130 Mana · View All Items?
She’s left wondering if that had been an insensitive question. Dire purges. Before her time, but fresh wounds still. She can’t help but look down and away as Zhiraj answers. She can’t imagine being a part of such bloody history…she thinks if their bodies still lay down here, withering…and, of course, her mind naturally wanders to ghosts. Asa had no experience fighting spirits. She’s not sure her halberd or her short sword were any good against them. “‘Course. Excuse the question, miss. I’d not been taught much history, much less where the dire are concerned.” Zhiraj looks at her still. Asa feels her cheeks flush. “Aah, it wasn’t right.”

What happened, she meant. Those words of hers would do no good to the dire now, hollow and empty, without promise. But at least she can do her part as far as this group was concerned. Asa looks up, at the cavern roof, and around; the architecture was distinctly unique than what she’d seen before. There was something exotic about things not made from human hands. The pillars looked sturdy still. How long would they stand, with no one to tend to them? “Afraid I won’t know value when I see it,” she said. “I’ll watch for critters instead, aye?”

Luckily, she had prepared enough to examine rumors of Porthcrawl and what might still be lurking there. Rife with danger the rumors claimed. Monsters weren’t the half of it. In fact, most were so fire-shy they might scatter the minute she waved her torch. Mostly the threat was in the decaying infrastructure; the rotting bridges; the loose footholds; heavy things dropping from the ceiling. And…bugs. Bugs of unusual size. Asa shuddered to think of them.

She relayed as much to Zhiraj. “Mostly we’ve just to watch our step.” They were on solid ground now, the path leading down to the depths. That might change of course. “Bridges are risky business, so I’ve heard. And the drops — endless. Accidents claim most of the lives here.” She pauses to think. “But…there are all sorts of things. I can hardly know what’s true or not. Suppose squatters are plausible. Bandits even. And there are dark-loving monsters aplenty in Gil’ead. Bet they’d love a nice cranny in here.”
Offline Zhiraj May 29 2020, 12:20 PM
#4
  • Dorsum
  • Age: 62
  • Gender: Female
  • Race: Dire
  • Rank: Commoner
  • Total Posts: 4
  • Played by: G
160 Mana · View All Items?
Zhiraj is in motion in an instant at the ashamed glance, the retreat one that spurred her into action. That wouldn’t do, not by any stretch of the imagination. One hand is set on the younger human’s shoulder in a firm but gentle pat, a mournful but genuine smile one that followed as soon Asa looked back at her. “One should never be sorry for a question. It speaks well of you that you want to know, and just because people have been remiss in being honest before, doesn’t mean you ought to be the whipping child for them.” If and when the day of reckoning for what had been done to the dire came, it would be on the heads of the ones who had done it, not those who’d inherited their mantle. The children were their future, not their past. Only fools sought to poison the next generation for what their parents had done.

If nothing else, Zhiraj is unfailingly, unflinchingly honest. Asa wanting to know spoke better of her than most that preferred to turn their head and blind their eyes to the truths that surrounded them. It was the best way to endear herself to the aging dire and there was a warm look in her still stern face as she looked up into the architecture around them. “While you have a job to do that you cannot ignore, I would be happy to tell you what you’d like to know about the ruins. One should always take the chances that the gods see fit to have sent your way. The value is all around us, if you stop to look.” One hand gestured up into the taller ceilings as she stepped forward again, the cane with it’s simple light at the end in her other, a constant echoing tap in the depths.

She was entirely silent once Asa gave her evaluation of the ruins, though. She’d been a fool to hire a guide and then ignore her, and Asa had done her homework. Delightfully competent in that regard. She’d made the right choice this day. “I might ask you to watch my step for me, then. These eyes no longer do as well as I wish they would. I can read well enough, and light makes everything obvious, but as you may have noticed-” And here her voice turned rather dry and pointed, the closest the regal dire got to making a joke. “- It’s rather dark in here. I am getting rather old for journeys like these.” It was true, despite the steely spine and her upright posture. Those who couldn't see had no true business treading treacherous grounds like these.

That tired observation is directly refuted by the way she sighed once the small group filtered forward into a wider room, soft and nostalgic for what could have been. Here the ceilings reached high, grandiose pillars marking its length in a beautiful precise design. Murals made from melted glass tile paint both of the lengthy walls, fading into the dark before their eyes. The pillars have been transformed since the dire purges, commemorations of their fallen brethren marked into the bases of the pillars. Names and in a few rare cases, faces carved out of the aged rock. Here, none could take the memories from them. “Here is one of the stops we needed to make most. Walk with me a moment?” She held out her arm and waited patiently for Asa to take it, cane set against the nearest wall for the moment.

“Do you wish to learn more about the ruins and the history most would like to forget? If so, you should start with what you do know.” Not a command, but close. Zhiraj was not an easy taskmaster.
Offline Asa Jun 29 2020, 9:02 PM
#5
  • Dorsum
  • Age: 27
  • Gender: Female
  • Race: Human
  • Rank: Knight
  • Total Posts: 19
  • Played by: Day
130 Mana · View All Items?
Asa can confidently say that there were not many employers like Zhiraj. She’d a stern yet gentle voice. She sense there is a warmth to it, like a deliberate mentor. She can’t help but smile at her, even if Zhiraj cannot see it well, for her words fill her with confidence and she is grateful for it. “Of course,” she responds. “Every step you take if need be!”

They come into a wide room held by sturdy pillars. Asa turns all about to take it in. She had never quite seen dire architecture; she’d gamble that not many had. There weren’t many modern civilizations built by them now, scattered as they were, the only one being the island Kho’gate, hostile to visitors. She imagined this room to be a grand place before it was abandoned; it is so large that the opposite wall is swallowed by a veil of darkness, making it seem as if it went on forever. She watches as Zhiraj’s escort start to investigate in full, hurrying to make etchings of the faces and names engraved in the stone. Asa, still holding her torch, crouches down to look at one herself. The writing was like claw-marks, she thought. She takes a moment to wonder what it must have been like, writing a loved one’s name in the stone as they ponder all that they’d lost and will lose, not knowing the scope, not yet, of the genocide that would tear through them.

Zhiraj calls her to attention then. She offers her arm; after a moment’s hesitation Asa takes it.

As she supports Zhiraj’s weight, she hums in thought. “Well. I know some. We don’t look back on history much in Giruvaga. But my mother liked to tell tales. Some of them, true ones.” Some fantastical, too; it was to these Asa owed all of her naivete and ambition. The image of the knight-errant was all she had built herself after. “I know the dire grew sick.”

There were some blanks in the story. “Hmm, they were given human form to survive the sickness. But — the Mad King grew angry. I don’t suppose you know why. I had always thought it was because he was mad; no one’s given me any better reason,” she went on. “So he set out to destroy them.”

This was where the eximius came into play. It was odd that they had not existed a mere forty-odd years ago. To Asa they might as well have always been there. “I think it’s quite sad the destruction one terrible madman can engineer.”