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Ley



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Mon Feb 12, 2018 8:07 pm
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Lumi says...



Ley


Image


I. The Land
    a. Mor Daihe, a deciduous-forested land ruled by the monarchy of Queen Divain. A rather isolated land, the government has long-left chiefdom to the officers of its small villages. All things considered, Mor Daihe is popular for those looking to escape, as the government refuses to extridite, nor prosecute pirates in her waters. Due to this, the coasts are renowned for their hardy, dangerous harbors.
    b. Metihv, a mountainous land whose gems are widely traded, from whom most good iron derives, and whose power is shattered among a dozen or so kingdoms fighting for control. The kings (most often former merchants), often called the Diamond Lords, reside in their mountainside palaces, sabotage their neighbors' mines, and hire mercernary armies from Kah Amir.
    c. Kah Amir, a desert land separated by mountains to Metihv to the east, and Dorom to the north. Known for its many skilled tradesmen and hunters, Kah Amir is a rich land, despite lacking agricultural prowess. Operated by a senate of tradesmen and commonfolk known as the Hightower, one would be hard-pressed to find unrest in Kah Amir--unless looking in the shadows of alleyways, or the scars of the land from wars of attrition.
    d. Dorom, a long-frozen land of little resource and prosperity. The peoples of Dorom were once conquerors dwelling in the long-gone nations among Metihv; however, upon the Third Great War, the Empire of Dorom was eliminated, and the then-refugees fled to the northwestern wastelands where they discovered a treasure that trumped that of plentiful food or trade: Aubrium--a fuel that rebuilt their empire and advanced their technology beyond that of any other nation. In the common era, Dorom is to be feared and hated, as their empire knows only to steal what they lack. Controlled by the iron fist of Cazar Ibrahm XI, the Imperial nation now turns its focus on the invasion of their northern neighbor, Elocues.
    e. Elocues, meaning "peaceful," was once adjoined to the supercontinent of Aseon; however, due to a great sundering along Ley Line Rabanonne, the nation became an independent entity, spanning the entirety of the new continent, Ibelle. Over the centuries, Rabanonne has been consumed and filled by seawater, though a grand canyon remains between Aseon and Ibelle, leading to the technological revolution in Elocues, the birth of airships and automobiles in the east, and the common use of electricity, though these things are scarce outside of Elocues.

_________________________________________________


II. Ley Lines & Mythos
___a. Skyley
_____i. Ever-shifting and as unpredictable as clouds themselves, Skyley surrounds the Earth and carries mana on the breeze. It is for this reason that wind may soothe and assuage pain.
_____ii. Skyley contributes to magicks that call upon wind, fog, lightning, and thunder. However, as with all ley-based mana in the realm of Gondawan, the manifested ley-mana is useless without a conduit in the hands of the medium.
___b. Geoley
_____i. Sturdy and predictable, Geoley is known as the easiest of the manas to wield; however, unlike the other Ley Lines, due to their static nature, distance from a Geoley Line will diminish one's affluence and prowess, though upon drawing from an immediate Geoley Line, unbridled power may be released.
_____ii. Geoley contributes to magicks that manifest in earthen powers, druidic spells, natural attunement, and communal being with the planet. There have been historical accounts of Geoley overlapping with that which produces pyretic magicks, though these accounts are rare.
___c. Sealey
_____i. As the ocean sways, so must the medium attuned to Sealey. These magicks require an inner purpose, but as the sea itself, not tranquility. The most emotional of known Ley Lines, Sealey flows through rivers, evaporates into clouds, and returns to Earth in a cycle of mana. As such, the manifest is at its strongest when in a place of emotional conduit.
_____ii. Sealey attributes to magicks of water, vapor, ice, and mist. Historically, more uses have come of Sealey than all others due to its versatility.
___d. Solar Ley
_____i. The most volatile and destructive of Ley Lines, yet that which scholars believe birthed life in the primordial moors. This has, of recent, been contested by religious leaders and minor clergy alike as the forgotten mana source of the gods was exhibited. These Ley Lines rise with the sun and wane with the moon; however, the presence of Solar Ley Lines remains, giving rise to the theory that a secondary source fuels spells that merely lose potency during the night.
_____ii. Solar Ley manifests through combustion mana and the presence of fire. This power has oft been abolished from society, but the need for its raw power in times of conflict ever-resolves its shunning. The Solar Ley Lines themselves are invaluable to plantlife upon the Earth, and though Druids draw primarily from the Earth itself, a portion of their power manifests from each of the Leys--particularly Solar.
___e. Holy Ley
_____i. Nothing is known regarding this Ley but one man's appearance in the Sixth Great War twelve years ago, which brought an immediate calamity upon the Imperial Army occupying Northwestern Metihv. Before the man could be heralded, he vanished, and no further displays of this "God-Like Energy" has been recorded since.
_____ii. Religious Scholars believe that the Man of Intervention was, himself, a god, and several sects of the Orthodox Church revere him as a medium of prayer.
_____iii. It has been theorized that Holy Ley, however or from wherever it comes, is the provisioner of mana sourced for healing and battling with the Light, as Paladins are wont to do. Others argue that Paladian Light is a form of Solar Ley that merely adapts to a phenomenon dubbed Lunar Ley during nights.

___________________________________________________


III. Cast of Characters
___a. Tulsa Marshall (@Lumi)
___b. Talia Marshall (@soundofmind)
___c. Ilia Karzdahn (@Omnom)
___d. Romulus Fuhren (@Ventomology)
___e. Phoebe Kanaris (@TheSilverFox)

launches February 20th

I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon


I am the property of Rydia, please return me to her ship.





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Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:25 pm
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Lumi says...



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Tulsa Marshall turned a sharp corner about the wooded path; his horse galloped on, but wavered unsteadily to the side to regroup its footing. Behind him, the other racers encroached.

"Might 's well give'r up, Marshall! We're not out of this race yet!"

Tulsa turned his head forward and gripped the saddle with both hands, sweeping his legs over the side of the horse and dragging his boots through the tilled soil. Behind him, small splatters of dirt rising from the ground spooked his competitors' steeds into slowing, allowing him a greater distance. He rounded one final corner, downed a hill, and tore the finish line with his hands raised high!

The festival ringmaster joined him to the side and shouted into his metal cone to make his voice louder and louder: "ANOTHER WIN FOR TEAM TALIA, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! LET'S HAVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR ALL OUR LADIES TODAY!"

Tulsa hopped away from the horse and pulled off his helmet, striding to his sister on the stage, though he kept to the earth below. "That's--" Huff, huff, "four wins for our team today, sis! We're tied with Annabel Banks and her little brother."

"You're not pushing yourself too hard, are youuuuuuu?"

He let out a hard, laborious breath and shook his head, slinging beads of sweat to the grass blades underfoot. "The last event is the bachelor auction, so. You hold onto your sashes, baby sis--hold onto all of 'em--and I'll go grab," wheeze, "a bath." He grinned. "I think Mr. Hannes even loaned Lila some of his cologne so I'd smell super good for whoever wins me!"

Talia blushed, admiring how happy he seemed. Tulsa had been working for her court alone for the Ladies' Day festival all week, and when Lila had come by, she'd told her that Tulsa hadn't slept well lately; something about bad dreams. But still, the smile imposed. She wasn't even particularly sure why Tulsa had offered himself for the Bachelor Auction since, after all, he wasn't a bachelor. But did that speak to his care for Talia? It was all in good fun, after all.

___________________________


Lila licked her thumb, smudging the final stroke of red paint on an archer's canvas into a flawless blend. From up on the hill where their house was (almost fully) built, she spied Tulsa trudging up the path, stretching and yawning.

Laughing to herself, she called after him: "Don't tell me a horse got the best of you, dear. Dear? Does that work for us?"

"It really just makes me hungry, honestly."

"That doesn't mean much when everything makes you hungry, Tulsa." She met him at their door and dotted his nose with a kiss. He grinned, braced her by the waist, and returned the affection with a tease-of-a-kiss on the edge of her lips. It was a move that had always driven her wild, and he'd learned it in the early days of their relationship.

"What if," he thought aloud in a freely deep and wide tone, "we never call one another the same pet name twice?"

"Sounds like a challenge, my filthy woodsman."

"Challenge on, my sweet lil' dewdrop."

He would definitely lose the challenge, being so far under Lila's education, and, just...her general knowledge. It was something about her Tulsa had admired since they were children. His father's word was that she was the one who taught him math for his exams before working in the quarry, and test-prepped him before working for the Sheriff's office.

He practically owed her everything, and wanted to give her all the things.

"Should I turn on the gas for a bath, Tulsa? I wasn't kidding about you being filthy."

"I can get it," he said as they walked into their open-air home.

"That's not the point, though," Lila demanded, arms crossed. "Ever since we started prepping for Talia's play in the festival, you haven't taken a break, and you've hardly slept." She tugged at one of the buttons on his riding coat until it came loose. "Just relax. For me. If only for an hour."

His heart skipped a small beat, and he closed his eyes when her hand gingerly took his own. Tulsa smiled. "I can do an hour."

___________________________


"Okay bro, so remember our sweet, sweet strategy."

Tulsa grimaced as he adjusted his suit in the mirror, allowing another man to talk over him.

"Basically, while we're counting on you to be the choice of meat at the auction, your pal Morgan has a sure-fire contingency plan."

Tulsa eyed Morgan with curiosity. Still not speaking, he wondered if his submission was stroking the other man's ego.

"How much of your payday hasn't been spent on the wedding yet?"

He closed his eyes, disgusted thinking about money. "Three."

"Three gold?!"

"Three hundred gold. It's for our honeymoon to visit Saint Shina's Bay."

"That's more than I make in half a year!"

"You shoulda chosen a job that's more work and less snoring in the woods while deer eat your kernels." Tulsa tied his bowtie and sighed.

"Give just twenty of those bad boys to me and I'll ensure you win the auction for Talia."

The sigh went on. "Morgan," a yawn, "if I were so desperate to win, I'd just have Lila bid on me. I want to win this fair and square."

Morgan buttoned up his own vest and raised his nose. "Well, T-man, if you are so hellbent on being your typical nooOOoooble self, I will just have to be a better stud than you for the ladies."

"Fine," Tulsa concluded.

"Fine?! My man! This auction and dinner is the last shot at getting Talia the crown before she's too old for it!"

"And that's fine."

"You don't want your sis to get the city's blessing to marry for actual love instead of being arranged like half the folks our age?"

"We're not exactly rich folks, Morgan. People marry for love every day." Tulsa smiled. "I know I am."

Morgan pursed his lips. "What does your old man think of that?"

Tulsa turned to view Morgan fully, grinning. "He's paying for the beer!"
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon


I am the property of Rydia, please return me to her ship.





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Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:06 pm
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soundofmind says...



Talia Marshall stifled a giggle as she looked at the familiar dolls put out every year of their governmental leaders - all on lower tiers than the Queen, of course, who sat atop the leveled pyramid display in all her layers of dress and her veiled glory. It was both amusing but intriguing to see, as it was essentially, an work of art. The doll maker seemed to have outdone himself this year, with more detailed plush dolls than ever before. Each one was an accurate caricature in their own right, but the only one Talia really cared about was the doll of her father, Sheriff Marcus Marshall.

With a playful smirk, she slowly pointed her finger out and booped doll Sheriff's nose. Her father, standing behind her, shook his head.

Talia booped the nose again, finally unable to hold back her laughter at the ridiculous exaggeration of the size of the nose in comparison to her dad's actual nose. Sure, the Marshall men had larger noses, but this was just ridiculous.

Picking up the doll, she held its face up beside her own, looking at their dad.

"Looks like I got my nose from mom," she giggled.

Her father chuckled. "Put the doll down, Talia," he said as he snatched it from her hands and placed it back on the display. "You're not supposed to touch them."

Talia just twirled around, looking back at their dad over her shoulder with a big smile. "You're just mad that they nailed your likeness."

"I'm not mad at all." Her dad smiled back, coming up beside her and holding her hand. "But maybe a little bit now because you keep teasing," he said with a boop on her nose.

Talia stuck out her tongue, to which her dad responded with a shove in her shoulder. She shoved back, ending the back and forth as they walked in step together to the main stage. The crowds began to congest around the platform, waiting for the final announcement of the winner of the festival. Standing on the stage, was her brother, among all of the other champions of the young women. And as the MC walked to the front of the stage, Talia took in a deep breath. The drums rolled, and the announcer held the crowd in suspense.

The announcer raised up a hand, drawing silence from the murmuring crowd, and finally spoke out in a voice that, somehow, without any enhancement, managed to project across the crowd.

"After a honorable show of gusto from all of the participants in today's competitions, the time has come to announce the final winner of the Little Queen's Day Festival!"

Another pause, and patter of drums.

"Everyone, please congratulate: Penelope and Leo Thatcher!"

There was a roar of applause, and cheers from the crowd. Some of those said cheers from Talia, as she watched Penelope run onto the stage to Leo. Sure, there was a little tinge of disappointment at not hearing her and Tulsa's name, especially in light of how hard he worked and competed - but she was just happy that she got to spend this time with him. She knew that her relationship would change, even if just a little bit, when him and Lila officially transitioned into married life after the wedding and honeymoon. Things would be different once Tulsa started his own family.

So for the time being she was just content to run up to Tulsa as he came off the stage and tackle him with a hug. With big smiles, he grabbed her and spun her around, with her dress fluttering around until she was back on her feet.

"You did wonderfully, brother," she congratulated him, squeezing him once more.

Lila came up out of the crowd with Marcus following behind, and Lila and Talia traded places in hugging.

"It's a shame we didn't win though." Tulsa shrugged.

"Eh, well you know how they always rig these competitions," Marcus said, bear-hugging Tulsa and slapping him on the back.

Tulsa laughed. "Pff, don't tell me that."

Lila, slipping her arm into Tulsa's, exchanged congrats with just a glance. "Well, how about we all celebrate our not-victory at our house this evening? We can have my famed fresh bread," she said with a wink to Talia.

Talia nearly salivated just at the thought of bread (her favorite food). She nodded eagerly. "Yes, I would love that!"

"Yes, that's a wonderful idea, honey bun," Tulsa agreed.

"Perfect, pumpkin," Lila said with a sly smile. "Then we ought to head home and get started on it."

Talia nodded again. "Yes! Alright! We'll see you later then I guess, but! First, one more hug!" She giddily hopped forward and squeezed Tulsa tightly one more time before pulling away and walking away with her father. But just for extra measure, she waved back as well.

"I love you Tulsa!"

"I love you too Talia!"

She only walked a few steps before her father turned to her, grinning.

Talia tilted her head curiously to the side. "What is it?"

He squatted down a little and gestured to his shoulders. "My girl deserves a piggy ride back home for her should've-been-a-victory."

Talia shook her head but hopped up onto his back with a big smile. As he heaved her up, she leaned forward a little and held his head. "Hey, I love you too, Papa."

"And I love you."

___________________________


Sitting out on the porch, Talia plucked away at her lute, letting the happiness from the festival fuel her playing, which resulted in a joyful tune. With adept fingers she began picking out a small melody, and her focus brought her into a small slouch over her instrument.

After establishing the melody line, she began to hum over it, using her voice as an instrument of "ooo's" before she began to sing words.



She finished with one final flourish of fingerpicking, but when she went to strum the final chord, she felt the thinnest string snap beneath her fingers - which stung a little.

"Ow!" She exclaimed with a shake of her hand, before sucking on the stinging finger.

Her father entered the doorway, leaning on the frame. "I liked that one. You come up with that just now?"

Talia nodded, still holding her finger in her mouth.

"You should probably run by the shop to get a new string. I think you've finally burned through our supply of replacements."

Talia nodded again, finally letting her finger free. "I could stop there on the way to Tulsa's."

Marcus motioned with a hand for her to get up. "Sounds good to me. You better get going now, Tali. It'll be suppertime before you know it."

Talia stood up, patting her skirt before she hopped down the porch steps. "Alright, I'll see you in a bit, Papa!"

___________________________


Talia entered the shop with her wounded lute cradled in her arms. The shopkeep looked up at her from the corner of the shop, where he was polishing the arc of a beautiful wooden harp he was working on. Pushing his spectacles up his nose, he recognized Talia and a warm smile met his face, pushing up two rosy cheeks.

"Ah, Talia! What brings you this time?"

Talia held up her lute. "Just a broken string this time. I don't have any more spares."

The shopkeep got up from his stool and wiped his hands on a rag before walking over to a shelf on the back wall lined with little drawers. "Well it's good to hear you're taking good care of your lute otherwise. You were much more clumsy with it as a little girl."

Talia pouted just a tad. "I tried my best! You don't have to keep teasing me for that one time..."

"Playing while dancing is a learned skill," the shopkeep chuckled.

Talia sighed, her shoulders slouching as she walked forward and set her lute on the work desk.

"Well I'm much better at it now than when I was eight."

"Hmm, yes, I would hope so," the shopkeep mumbled as he repeatedly opened several drawers, but failed to find what he was looking for. Finally admitting to himself that what he was looking for wasn't there, he turned around with his hand on his chin. "Hmm.." he snapped at the back door. "Coleman!" He called. "Are there any strings back there? For a lute."

Shuffling was heard in the back room, and a youthful voice replied. "Uhh... let's seeeeee." Silence, then more shuffling. "Aha! Yes!"

The sucessful Coleman paraded out of the back room with a box of shiny strings in hand, and as soon as he did, Talia's heart stopped.

He was gorgeous.

All of the blood in Talia's face rushed to her cheeks as she stared at the dark, chiseled man and his milky brown eyes. Worried that she was staring and her immediate infatuation was as obvious as she felt, she averted her eyes to the ground and twiddled with her hands nervously. Coleman walked over to the shopkeep and set the box on the desk by the lute, looking at it, then Talia, curiously.

"You broke a string, yeah?" He asked.

Talia, trying her best not to look flustered, nodded. "Yeah! Just the one. I play a lot."

Coleman smiled, searching through the box for the right string. "I can string it up for you real quick," he said, looking to the shopkeep, receiving a brief nod of approval before proceeding to remove the broken string. "So how long have you been playing?"

Talia watched as he replaced the string with steady hands. "Oh, well, I mean, I've been playing since I was just a little girl. Since I can remember, really. Sounds like I popped out of the womb with a lute in hand, haha, but I know it's not exactly like that. But you get the idea."

Coleman nodded as he began twisting the machine head to tighten the string. "That's amazing. I'm sure you must play very well." He trimmed the excess string before handing it to her. "So, what's your name?"

Talia gingerly took the lute from his hands. "Talia Marshall. You?"

"Theodore Coleman. You can call me Theo."

Talia smiled up at him as she tightened the string more to tune it. "Mmm. That's a nice name," she hummed, wishing she could come up with something better to say than that.

"So... what about a song? Could I hear you play a little?" Theo asked.

Talia stared back at him, wide-eyed. "U-um, you mean, like, n-now?" She asked, her whole face flushing again as she smiled bashfully. "I... I mean, I can't - I have to get to my brother's soon, but - m-maybe later."

A little too hurriedly, she pulled the silver pieces out of her pocket and set them on the desk, turning around and hastening towards the door. But before she closed the door behind her, she stopped to wave goodbye.

"It was nice to meet you Theo! I hope to see you again!"

___________________________


Talia skipped up to her brother's house, still carrying her lute. A quick knock on the door beckoned Tulsa, who answered promptly.

"I swear on my life, Tails, you are always early!" Brother pulled the door back and motioned for her to enter.

Talia came in with a hop still in her step. "Well, I was in the area, you know! Thought I'd stop by."

"Of course, of course...make yourself at home. We decided to cook up some venison Morgan gave us last week, and it's almost done on my--" he elbowed Talia on the arm a couple of times, "--self-made grill."

"Oi," whined Lila from the kitchen, "is he still on about that grill? Feel free to break it down, love!"

Talia laughed, wagging her finger at her brother. "You know, Lila is the only grill you should be on about."

Both fiances groaned in unison before horse hooves were heard coming up the hill to the house. "Oh no, dad's here and we're not ready yet." Tulsa swiped his forehead of sweat and took off to the bath to wash his face. From there, Talia heard his gurgled voice: "TAIWS GET YASELF CWEAN!" Talia stifled a giggle, remembering how papa had always scolded Tulsa about his dirty face and hands at dinnertime--even as a grown man. She slowly entered the kitchen in a sweet stride, placing her lute on the table in her spot.

"Lila May, may I?"

Taking bread out of their kiln, Lila smiled and nodded at her. "Only if you promise to help me pretend the venison is wonderful."

Talia snorted. "Deal."

Within minutes, everyone was at the table, and there was rowdy chatter between them all covering everything there was to cover: the bread, work at the sheriff's office, patients at the clinic, and most rowdy of all--Talia's consolation prize--her offer of an apprenticeship at Jonathas Redmane's School of Performing Arts.

"Y'know," Papa said, "I heard the old man at the Carpenter's Shop got his apprentice a spot at Redmane's, too. Don't remember his name, though."

Tulsa, chewing with all his strength on deer meat, looked over to Talia. "It'sh Theo, right sis? The apprentice woodworker?"

Talia found herself blushing again, despite herself. "Oh! Yeah, yes... it's Theo."

He and Lila exchanged looks across the table before Tulsa nudged Talia's foot with his boot. "I've heard from a lady or two that he's quite the chaaaarmer...♫"

Talia seemed to shrink into herself with a smile she couldn't hide. "He... he is very nice to look at," she mumbled as she began to poke at her food with her fork. "He seems nice too."

Tulsa puffed out his chest and grinned, rubbing his clenched fist in his left palm. "So maybe I should go see how 'nice' this guy is tomorrow! Hehe!"

Talia began to shake her head back and forth. "Nooo! Don't doooo that!" She whined.

Daddy winked as he took a swig of ale. "Don't worry, girlie. I have a feeling your brother'll find himself a lil' too busy to go by the old Carpenter's place tomorrow!"

"What's happening tomorrow?"

Tulsa sighed and put his hands behind his head. "Pops and I get the pleasure of going around town and cleaning up the folks who had too much fun at the festival's afterparty." He leaned in close to Talia to whisper: "I'm thinking of taking a shovel and wheelbarrow..."

Talia thought about this, and then back on the festival. "So the winner this year got some money and a trip to Crucibein to meet the queen herself, which...I think is really, really extra."

Brother crossed his arms in thought. "That...is a lot of the town's money going to a single person." He grinned, flirty hearts practically forming in his eyes. "Lila, what'd you win the year you entered?"

Lila smiled back at her fiance. "That's a tough question, Sweet Tea...there were a hundred silver pieces...my apprenticeship at the clinic...and this silly boy who insisted he would marry me one day."

Tulsa grinned proudly. "Sounds like a smart boy to me."

Lila reached across the table and smushed a dab of apple butter on Tulsa's cheek, and they both laughed.

Talia smiled to herself at the exchange. "You two should really just get married already."

"Well, we're working on it!" Tulsa said with a wink to Lila.

"Weddings take a lot of planning and a lot of work," Lila reminded her.

"And the honeymoon too," Talia added.

"Speaking of honeymoons," father slipped in. "What're you most looking forward to, Lila?"

Lila gave Marcus a look and let out a small sigh. "Well, while I can't answer that- I will definitely be excited to see the statue of Saint Shina in the Ley Courts. With my power over healing waters, I've found myself having dreams of the fountain there..." she framed her face with her chin in her hands. "It's funny. It feels a bit like destiny whenever I think of it." She looked over to her fiance and a big smile grew. "That, and there's no one I'd rather see it with than Tulsa."

Talia let out a loud: "AWWWWWWW!" While Marcus just chuckled.

"I'm so happy you guys are getting married," Talia added. "You guys are so cute together, and I love that I'm gonna get to have you as my sister in law," she said with a nod of her head towards Lila.

"Well I'm happy to be a part of the family," Lila said with a smile.

"And we're all happy to have you in it." Marcus lifted his glass for a cheer, and there was clinking of glasses. He looked over to the heart-eyed Tulsa still looking at Lila. "And I'm sure Tulsa's the happiest of all!"

Then they all took a drink and laughed.
I am a super duper pooper! : )





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Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:15 pm
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Ventomology says...



Romulus wanted to dig himself into a hole and stay there for the next twenty years. He tried very hard not to look that way, since being rich and noble meant he had to be stoic and perfect and take every slight with elegance, but he felt his cheeks go hot and was sure he was red as a lightweight who'd been in a tavern since noon.

His two servants stood on either side of him, hands pressed to their mouths, giggling and pretending that they were definitely not giggling at him.

"Floods of diamonds," wheezed Friedrich from Romulus's left. "And I thought you were well-versed in earth magick!"

From Rom's right, Gunter broke into yet another peel of laughter. "Hero of the Hammer and Master of Metals indeed!"

"It's not like I came up with those titles," Romulus grumbled. He raised a gloved hand to his front and swiped at the splatter of mud on his chest plate. Polishing it clean would take forever. "Besides, magick for smithing is more premeditated. Getting splashed is hardly-

"Excuses, excuses." Friedrich threw an arm around Romulus's shoulders. Unluckily, he was tall and spindly enough to do so, even when Romulus was in full jousting attire. It was nice when he needed help getting his house colors on over his armor, but otherwise, he wished Friedrich was as short as Gunter, who always had to settle for pats on the back.

"Exactly," Gunter continued. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself for letting this happen."

It was just dirt, really. Gunter and Friedrich were only being dramatic. Romulus made a few more swipes across his chest plate and shot his servants stern glares. "Enough of that. We need to keep moving."

"Imagine meeting all your possible intendeds with that great spot over your chest," Gunter mused. He stepped forwards, not quite looking at where he put his feet, and tugged on the reigns of the horse to urge her into a follow.

Friedrich bounded after with a chuckle, and Romulus trudged after them with a great sigh.

"Don't you think all the sand would buff his armor for him?" Friedrich wondered aloud.

Romulus wouldn't even be in armor when he met all the eligible young ladies of Kah Amir. He'd be in fancy dress clothes, probably bought right there in the desert, sewn to look like some absurd combination of both Metihv and Amirian fashion. But Gunter and Friedrich deserved their fun; they could hardly be so casual at home or in Kah Amir.

The trio continued through the forest, Gunter and Friedrich making all sorts of noise "to scare off bears, of course," and Romulus tried not to sigh in exasperation at every joke, even those made at his own expense. Eventually though, the servants noticed him sighing anyways, which got them onto singing, which frankly was worse than the joking.

Gunter sounded like a church chorus boy gone scratchy, and Friedrich sounded like a goose. Or a moose. Or both. And they sang horrible sea shanties about squid and whirlpools and naked people, which had Romulus's stomach turning. He hardly fancied any of the three subjects.

"Can't you two sing something a little more... respectable?" he tried, stepping over a rock in the path. "A ballad or something?"

"We're hardly bards," replied Friedrich. "Though we could do a drinking song? How do you feel about the one with the mountain of gold and the silver princess?"

Gunter made a noise of approval. "We could do harmonies with that one."

"As long as the silver princess doesn't wind up unclothed," Romulus grumbled.

So the two servants started up again, and that was precisely the moment when everything went wrong.

An arrow sliced past Romulus's nose, almost making him go crosseyed as he glanced at it, and then something metal clanged against his backplate. It was a light something, not even enough for Romulus to really feel it, but he surged forward anyway, armor clanking, and grabbed for the shield on top of the horse's packs. "On your guard!" he bellowed, and then he shoved the shield onto one arm and raised it above his and his servants' heads.

Friedrich cussed and drew his shortsword, and Gunter slid his own bow from his shoulders.

"Visuals on any of them?" Gunter asked.

"Not yet," Friedrich replied.

Romulus peeked out from the shield. "We have at least one archer from the east and another from the north, but I can't see them." Another bit of metal clanged, and Romulus felt the shield tilt a little.

"Seas of gold, I hope these aren't mercenaries," Friedrich hissed. "We're definitely not equipped for that."

"So much for attempting to slip through unnoticed." Gunter peeked under Romulus's raised arm and notched an arrow. "I think I see someone incoming."

Romulus held his free arm out. "Hold fire until we can see them clearly." Then, with as much grace as he could muster in his armor, he reached backwards and grasped for the axe strapped to the top of the horse's packs.

What came out of the shadows was not quite what the trio expected. They figured, "oh, we've been attacked by at least two archers, so probably whoever comes out at us will be a close-range fighter aiming right for us." Instead, they found themselves staring at a giant pack of wares strapped to someone's back as this mysterious someone carefully backpedalled towards the group.

Friedrich sneezed. Loudly. Wonderful.

The mystery person whipped around, and all three men nearly jumped out of their skins.

The red hair was odd, first and foremost. Hair in Metihv ran the whole gamut from black to blonde to white, but no one had red hair. The stranger was tall enough that Romulus guessed she'd hit his chin, which made her taller than Romulus's older sister--really the only girl he'd spent enough time with to judge on height--and she held a saber in each hand.

Upon closer inspection, only one of those was metal. The other seemed to be made entirely of ice.

"Were you guys being attacked too?" the stranger said, beaming.

Thank the earth and her bounty. Romulus did not think himself capable of taking out someone who used the Sealey. He lifted the shield a little higher and gestured towards himself and his party. "Would you like to join us here?"

"I mean, I think I took care of most of them. Though maybe there are some left." She did, at least, take a step closer. Her giant pack wobbled a bit.

"I am somewhat averse to risk-taking behaviors," Romulus admitted. "Though if you're certain the threat is gone..."

The stranger looked him up and down, and he swore she giggled at him. "I can see the risk-averse thing. Really though, I think we'll all be fine. I took out at least five people."

"Oohh... yes." Gunter sounded so uncertain that Romulus wished he just hadn't spoken at all. "You probably did get most of them." She might not have. Mercenaries travelled in groups much larger than five, especially when going after people like Romulus.

"Unless"-- and here the stranger raised an eyebrow --"you have reason to believe we're still in danger?"

Well, if this strange woman was so sure, then maybe it really was just bandits, and not mercenaries out to gut Romhilde of House Fuhren's heir and younger brother. That would be convenient.

"No reason," Romulus said, trying to sound like he believed it. "Did you get a look at any of them?"

The stranger brightened. "Oh! Yeah, I did. I beat up a number of guys already? All blacks and dark colors. I kind of wanted to ask where he got the dyes. Took their weapons too. Very nice metal."

Oh. Romulus grimaced, glancing back at the trees warily. Thank you, strange woman, he thought, for dashing my hopes. Even if she had beat up several of the opponents. "Perhaps you really ought to come under here with us," he tried.

"I mean, I could," she replied, leaning forward and looking terribly earnest, "but I really think-

An arrow whizzed through the air and ripped into her backpack, cutting the fabric with a loud skkt.

"Nevermind." She came forward and ducked under Romulus's shield, turning so that her backpack acted as a second wall. Hopefully no one shot the horse, because that was wall number three, and it was easier to defend two openings than three.

Friedrich shuffled about, looking put-out about having a second swordsman in their midst, and peered over Romulus's shoulder at the woman. "So, stranger. What can you tell us about the party attacking us all?"

Another arrow clanged against the shield.

"Well-dressed," the woman relayed, "and well-armed. They have real nice stuff. It's very high quality, all Dorom metals with Kah-Amir craftsmanship. Not that forged goods in Metihv aren't good. It's really just quality of metal versus quality of magic, you know? Oh, and also quality of adornment."

"We were thinking numbers and positions," Gunter said.

"Oh." She thought for a moment. "I have no idea then. Usually, people just attack me and I attack back."

The stranger was too lightly armed to get away with that. She must have relied heavily on her magic.

"Perhaps we should split up," Romulus suggested. "Friedrich, you and Gunter stay here and see if you can't set up the magic for sensing our enemies. Gunter, keep him safe. I will accompany our new friend and draw fire away from you both."

"Oh, do I get to protect you?" the stranger asked, face brightening. "How exciting! Though I am curious to know why you think our attackers would go after you specifically. Why not go after the two more lightly armed-

"Just come on," Romulus interrupted. He looked to his servants for confirmation, and then nudged the woman to walk with him. "They can handle themselves. Friedrich is a blessing with air magicks, when he's trying."

"Oh, that's good. Why do you want me to come with you though? You're the best protected of all of us. I hardly need to keep you safe while we draw the bandits." For emphasis, she knocked on one of his pauldrons.

As Romulus stepped off the path and into a particularly thick grove of trees, he frowned at the woman. "I will protect us both. You get to attack. I assume Friedrich will send something along the wind soon enough."

"Ah, nice plan. By the way, I never did catch your name. You should tell me! Maybe if we ever meet again I'll cut you a good deal on something."

Best not say his full name. "Rom is fine." An arrow hit the center of his back and bounced off with a metallic ring. Whoever these mercenaries were, they had horrible aim.

"Is that with an 'N' or an 'M'?"

Another arrow. When would the mercenaries just send their close-range combatants?

"M," Romulus replied. Then he heard someone cuss very loudly, from Friedrich and Gunter's direction, and suddenly more things went wrong.

Arrows rained upon him, clattering against his armor like a torrent of raindrops and occasionally sticking into the woman's pack. A pair of figures materialized in front from behind a tree, one of whom was practically coated in throwing knives while the other wore armor almost as heavy as Romulus's. He almost didn't want to turn around, for fear of finding still more enemies to fight. The woman shifted a little closer to him, so she fit more wholly under his still-raised shield, and tapped his armor.

"Just stay like that. I got this." She took a breath in, closed her eyes, and then breathed out, long and cold and slow.

And right before Romulus's eyes, the forest froze.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled





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TheSilverFox says...



Pheobe Kanaris blew frost over the forest, covering the trees and people in front of her in a thin sheet of ice.

Was the outside world always this exciting? In Kah Amir, you had to be looking for violence to find it, and there was a good chance the council would send some paid mercenaries after you. However, she'd just barely stepped into the forest, and she was already fighting some impeccably dressed enemies. On the bright side, with the quality of their armor and weapons, she wouldn't worry about going broke anytime soon.

Her lungs gasping for air, she finally shut her mouth and stood up, taking a couple deep breaths as she sheated her swords. That was draining - she hadn't used that much magic since she'd had to fight that drunk guy at a bar two nights ago as part of a bet (she'd won). Her shoulders sagged slightly, causing the oversized pack on her back to tilt fowards. Pressing on her heels, she leaned back a tad; the pack righted itself.

The nice man with the shield - Rom, wasn't it? - grabbed her arm. "It might not be safe," he hissed.

Pheobe laughed and shook out of his grip. She took a step on the icy ground, which crunched under her feet. "Maybe?" she said, reaching for the man covered in knives and tapping at the ice that coated his face. The man glared at her finger, but barely moved. "Eh, these guys are pretty frozen."

It was a shame, too. She'd have to chip off the ice if she wanted to get to their gorgeous knives or chestplates, and she wasn't sure if she could do that without breaking off a limb or two. Besides, it'd take too long, and she really had places she wanted to be. Pheobe had to wave off the dollar signs floating in front of her. Hopefully she'd find even more profit elsewhere, preferrably in a non-dangerous way.

Cupping a hand over her ear, Pheobe listened intently. Beyond the chirping of the birds, the trickling of some nearby stream (great if she got thirsty later), and a cold wind gently blowing through the trees, she couldn't hear anything else. "That's probably it for the bandits?" she said, turning back to face Romulus. "These guys'll get out sooner or later, but we'll be long gone by then."

Romulus hid further behind his shield, eyes darting to and fro. "They have been a crafty bunch," he said. "I would not put anything past them."

"Oh please," said Pheobe, with a dismissive wave of her hand. "You're a walking suit of armor. What's the problem?"

"You heard that swearing, I presume." Romulus raised a few inches, still scanning his surroundings. "I fear that Gunter and Friedrich may be in danger."

Pheobe shrugged. "Guess we shouldn't have left them." Swiveling around, she walked between the two frozen figures, tapping the ice over their faces with her fingers. "But hey, I've got places to be, and I'm pretty sure you three can handle it. Unless you want to buy anything?"

"Stay here!" Romulus shouted as she left. "You have no idea what could still be in this forest."

Using the ice as a miniature skating rink, she coasted between the trees, wrapping her arm around a trunk to spin in a circle. "Do you think you're a prince or something?" she called back. "I'm totally, one hundred percent fine. Hope to see you around sometime! My offer's still on the table!"

He shouted some other things, but she stopped paying attention. Pack swaying side to side, she escaped the ice and stepped onto the boring grass. Pheobe struck off in the general direction of where she believed the path was. Being lost didn't much concern her; she'd find the right way eventually. In case she didn't, she had some bread in her pack, and she could get some water from the nearby stream.

Of course, she didn't have much of a plan in the first place. Pheobe didn't care much for plans; they always changed. She figured she'd wander around for a bit, get her bearings on the forest and whatever was beyond, and then work her way to riches. In particular, there was some trade market in the country of Mor Daihe that she'd heard great things about. She wondered if it'd be her base of operations. Finding her dad was also a priority, though she didn't have a clue where to start. It was a wide world, after all.

For now, she could enjoy the scenery. Pheobe had never been in a forest before; if it wasn't for a childhood picturebook or the word of the people she'd passed, she wouldn't have recognized one. Kah Amir, her lifelong homeland, was a kingdom of deserts. She was pleased to find the forest was even better than she'd been told. It was like a large oasis without any of that irritating sand, stretching as far as the eye could see (which, given the trees, wasn't too far). Life bounded or crawled through every nook and cranny. The sun rained light down softly, impeded by the shadows of thousands of trees and bushes. Pheobe could even hear faint rumbling in the distance - a waterfall, she thought.

The sights and sounds and smells were almost enough to make her sing, were it not for the Sealey she'd used earlier. The only inconvenience was that her pack sometimes caught on the edge of branches, snapping them off when she pushed forward. Hence, the longer she walked, the more it looked like she'd created a poor excuse for camoflauge.

Fortunately, it wasn't long before she walked on the dirt road again. To her dismay, it was even more dull than the grass, and an eyesore compared to the forest. Why did they even keep it? The part of her not distracted by the bluebirds or crisp scents of fall wondered if Rom was okay. He was adorable. Paranoid, but adorable. The rest of her wondered why that rumbling was growing louder.

As if on cue, the clunk of a suit of armor came from down the path. Turning her head lightly, Pheobe could see just beyond the edge of her pack to catch a glimpse of the familiar outline of Rom. He was running towards her, shield raised.

She waved. "Something the matter?" she called, noticing his speed. For someone wearing thirty or forty pounds of high-quality armor, he could move. That had to be a strain on him.

He pointed frantically to one direction. Though he was still too far away for her to hear him, she got his message, craning her head just in time for an arrow to go zooming past her head.

Whoops, she thought as she spotted an archer's bow poking through a bush, Guess I didn't get rid of them all.

Instantly, she swiveled away from the archer and sat down, her pack keeping her safe. Reaching into her scabbards, she yanked out her ice blade. Thank goodness Sealey relied on emotions. Calling on the wave of euphoria that had carried her through the forest, she watch the sword reshape itself, extending into a javelin with a sharp edge. Despite how it weakened her throwing arm, it was simplicity itself to jump up, turn around, and fling the javelin into the bush. The bow fell on the ground.

She immediately reached for it. From its appearance, the bow appeared to be made of Mor Daihe wood, famed for its resilience and value. She expected nothing less from these bandits. However, before she could get close, Rom halted in front of her, raising his shield to deflect the couple arrows flying right towards them. They deflected harmlessly away.

"Are you insane?" said Rom, raising his poleaxe and charging in the direction where the other archers were. He jumped as an arrow embedded itself on the ground.

Elated that she could make more of a profit after all, Pheobe followed, forming another ice sword in her hand. "It's fine," she said, dodging the knife that flew at her chest. She smashed her partly-completed blade against the man that manifested from behind a tree; he immediately crumpled to the ground. Sighing in annoyance, Pheobe started making yet another, watching it grow on her palm. "I just didn't see them coming, is all."

"I saw these fools come after you," Rom said, swinging his poleaxe behind a tree to catch one of the archers, who screamed and also collapsed. "And, with Gunter and Friedrich both injured by one of these pests, I had to chase after you to save you."

"Save me?" Pheobe laughed. One of the bandits rushed towards her, sword raised. Still laughing, Pheobe sidestepped, slashing at the bandit's back as they passed by. The bandit ran into a nearby tree and fell backwards, their sword embedding in the ground.

When she pulled her head up, she saw an arrow flying towards the spot between her eyes. She barely started moving before Rom extended an arm, his shield at his hand. The arrow splintered against the shield, spraying pieces back in the archer's direction.

Pheobe dived onto the grass, rolling her way behind a nearby bush. Or, she would've, if the weight of the pack didn't cause her to topple onto her side. She'd forgotten how hard the backpack was to lug around in a fight. "Yeah, this isn't a very safe forest," she said.

"Is that so?" said Rom. Stepping forward, he hurled his poleaxe onto the ground. After a gurgling scream from the second archer, the battlefield finally fell silent.

Sweat dripped down Pheobe's face as she wormed her way out of the pack's straps and stood up. Her arms quivered, her lungs burned, and her hands felt clammy. That didn't stop her from heading over to the nearest bandit and crouching, peering at their garments for anything noteworthy. "Wherever you're going, are you going through any more forests?"

"Not now, I should hope," said Rom, wiping the edge of his bloodstained poleaxe against the grass.

"Well then," Pheobe said, rising up and reaching out a hand to Rom. "I guess I'll stay with you guys after all. I - wait, you - need all the help you can get."

Rom hesitated for a few seconds, then tentatively shook Pheobe's hand.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.





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Ventomology says...



Romulus led the woman back through the forest, to the spot where he had left his men, keenly aware of how loudly his armor clanked. Perhaps he ought to have forgone the full suit and just worn the chest and back plates for travelling.

"You know," he grunted, looking over his shoulder to make sure she was keeping up. Of course she was. The woman wore no metal armor. "I never did catch your name."

"Oh! It's Phoebe Kanaris." She hauled herself up a particularly tall step and beamed. "And are you just Rom or Rom-something-or-other?"

"Just Rom," he told her. Regardless of her help with the mercenaries, Romulus saw no reason to tell more people about his identity than necessary.

Phoebe hummed. "Are you a famous bard or prize fighter? You must have a family name otherwise." Then she gasped and laid a hand on Romulus's shoulder. "Unless you're an orphan! Gosh, I'm really sorry about that. You could always pick your own family name."

Romulus took in a breath, about to point out some rather good reasons why he likely wasn't an orphan when Phoebe worked it out herself.

"Ah, but you have such nice armor on. I bet you're filthy rich."

Filthy rich did not even begin to describe the situation. Of course, a merchant hardly needed to know that, and especially not a merchant perfectly capable of freezing Romulus in place. "It was a heavy investment," he said, side-stepping the truth and a rock in the path. And the suit really had been an investment--but of his time and craft, not money.

"It does make sense to properly protect yourself, I suppose," Phoebe agreed. She quickened her step to walk backwards in front of Romulus and leaned over to inspect the metal plates. "I like the designs. Very painterly, very intricate. You should point me to the smith. That's a partnership I'd like to have."

Phoebe peppered Romulus with questions all the way back to Gunter and Friedrich, and Romulus tried his best to circumlocute his way around all of them. Phoebe managed to pry out of him his intent to make safe passage to Kah Amir and also that the smith who made his armor was a private man.

This was not a lie. Romulus was private.

"Shame," Phoebe said, huffing as she lowered her backpack onto the ground. "Your armor is just so pretty. It's got that Methiv magic and Kah Amir craft all in one." Then she squatted and offered a shoulder for Gunter to lean on.

Despite the blood still trickling from his left arm and thigh, Gunter smirked at Romulus. Whether it was because he had the rare opportunity to get cozy with a girl or because Phoebe was lavishing praise on Romulus's smithing skills, he could not tell.

Friedrich was rather worse for wear. As Romulus stripped the horse of its packs and piled them atop Phoebe's things, he kept a close eye on his man's constant wincing and the tentative way he pressed his hands into his lower back. He had an arrowhead sticking into one shoulder, not yet pulled out, so he would not bleed as much.

"Your legs are fine?" Romulus asked. "You can sit on the horse until we make it to town?"

"I'm still standing."

"Horses jostle." Romulus frowned. "You know this."

"I refuse to let you carry me."

And with Phoebe present, Romulus could hardly order his men around. He settled for a stern, disappointed frown and offered a hand for Friedrich to swing up onto the horse. Generally, Friedrich was tall enough he did not need help, but the man was injured.

Once Romulus gathered up all the belongings into his arms, the group set off once more, back to the town from which the men had set off that morning. They plodded through the forest at a snail's pace, or, since Romulus was feeling darkly poetic, as slowly as rock moved through the subsurface. Trees drifted by in a blur, all looking vaguely the same, and Phoebe's chatter filled the quiet.

Romulus could not decide if he preferred drinking songs or the talk. Both came with their ups and downs.

"What were you all headed to Kah Amir for?" Phoebe asked, smiling as the path opened onto the bank of a stream. Naturally, she would be more comfortable with water in view.

Gunter wheezed a laugh. "Business partnership."

"I'm a Kah Amir businessman!"

Romulus cast about for a polite way to imply that Phoebe's business was a little too small scale. "We're representing a rather large group," he told her, "just doing the negotiations."

"Oh, well that's no fun. How are you planning to get to Kah Amir after this?"

From atop the horse, Friedrich coughed. "We're not-

"I'll be taking a ship on my own," Romulus replied. He adjusted his grip on the packs. "I believe I can sail around the continent relatively safely."

Gunter dragged his feet, ready to object, and Phoebe reacted by tugging him further onto her back and picking up the pace.

"Tired?" she asked him.

Sending Romulus a glare, Gunter moved his feet again. "No, but thank you."

"Rom," Friedrich supplied, "you really shouldn't do this on your own."

"I will travel by sea, and that is final. You can meet me in Kah Amir when you've both recovered." He turned to Phoebe and tried to smile. "And where are you off to?"

She blinked, clearly aware of the tension, but not ready to do anything about it. "I was thinking of heading to Mor Daihe. I've been selling wares in Kah Amir for so long, but I had a brilliant thought one day, that maybe I'd make more money going between countries and selling stuff that's 'exotic' to the locals." She beamed and let Gunter drop off her shoulder a bit, which made him grit his teeth. "Smart, right?"

"Er, yes," Romulus said.

"Plus, Ma never would tell me about my father, you know? And I figured that if I could never find him travelling around the desert for years, then maybe I'd have better luck outside."

The desert was a large place; Romulus wouldn't count on that. But he kept his mouth closed and hummed. "Perhaps we might sail together," he offered, "since Gunter and Friedrich do not want me travelling alone."

"Oh that sounds like fun!" Phoebe turned to Gunter and grinned. "I promise I'll take care of your friend for you. He'll be in top condition when you meet back up. We can sail through the Rabanonne! It'll be so exciting."

At the mention of the strait, Friedrich perked up a little. "Oh, you'll be safe there, at least. The landley are massive." He tried to lean over to give Romulus a stern look. "I still don't like this, you know. How are you supposed to make it to Kah Amir when you're useless outside of navigation and being a human shield?"

"He's a very good human shield," Phoebe piped up. "Most are too self-sacrificing to be reusable."

Be diplomatic, Romulus told himself. He ignored the jabs and kept plodding on. The town could only be a half-hour away now. The sun floated at a harsh angle, not ready to set but still far away from noon, and the shadows of the forest were dark against the glittering stream and sunny banks.

"Remember to take your armor off when you're on ships," Friedrich continued. "I don't want you sinking to the bottom of the ocean because you-

"I think our new friend will keep me from harm in the water. Besides, a longer journey means more opportunities to make a name for myself."

Gunter laughed again. "You and your reputation! Fine. Go to Mor Daihe. Fight fiends. Sow wild oats-

"I will not!"

"Friedrich and I will meet back up with you in the Hightower's City. Try not to keep us waiting too long."

It was decided then. The group rounded a bend in the stream, and the wooden fence surrounding the nearby town popped up a ways down the path, just barely visible against the line of shops behind it.

"I'm not sure how long you planned on staying in Mor Daihe, Phoebe," Romulus said, "but if you'd like to sell along the southern Metihv coast as well, I would welcome your company for that leg of the journey." Having a friend with water magic around while travelling the ocean was always smart.

"I'd like that too! Now, let's go find a doctor for these two."
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled





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TheSilverFox says...



Pheobe Kanaris had made it.

Water gently washed onto the thin beach separating Bay Rose and the city of the same name. Towering orange and red canyons soared overhead, trapping the stone city and nearly enclosing the bay. The only access points were a small gap in the bay, through which a constant stream of ships passed, and the narrow canyon paths leading into the city.

Phoebe had long dreamed to be here. Bay Rose had made itself a prosperous trading city by virtue of not aligning with any of the lords in Metihv. It helped that it was unconquerable, and so the only truly reliable link between the Sea of Blades and Eastern Metihv; all others were, of course, closely monitored by the capricious lords. Granted, it was also home to a good amount of violence and bloodshed, thanks to those same lords squabbling for access to trade. It was still a shame she wouldn't be here long, even if she was traveling to even more amazing places.

In the meantime, though, she was poking at a large rectangular rock carved out of the nearby canyon walls and set next to the docks.

"Dare I ask?" said Rom as he approached. Phoebe glanced at him. He'd swapped out his suit of armor for some Methiv fineries - a green coat with silver buttons, a dark leather belt with a golden belt buckle, brown trousers, polished black shoes. Rom had kept his chestplate and backplate, a decision that had caught Phoebe’s attention. Not only was he rich and didn’t answer her questions, he was also paranoid. Maybe that was why he was so cranky these days. It couldn’t have been her “endless parade of questions,” as he put it.

“Is this actual ley?” Phoebe said in awe, looking up toward the top of the pillar. She focused on the many white and red-colored pebbles scattered across the rock.

Rom tapped the sign stuck into the rock. “According to this, yes,” he said. “Trapped in the earth. On that note, Rabannone happens to be a Geoley Line, so-”

Phoebe placed her hands on the stone, pressed her face against it, and licked it. She pulled back and made a face.

“And that was your first thought,” Rom said as Phoebe pushed past him, falling down on her knees and cupping the bay water in her hands. “Of course it was.”

“That didn’t taste like ley at all,” said Phoebe, spitting out the water and drying her mouth. “Just salt.” She looked up to see Rom stepping onto the dock; he was watching a few men haul his many bags onto the oversized ship that they would sail on.

“What did you think it would taste like?” he said. A moment later, “That was a rhetorical question.”

Phoebe stood up, brushing the sand off of her clothes. They were already dirty from days of traveling, but she thought it’d be a bad idea not to put some effort to cleaning them up. After all, she was about to step onto what she guessed was a ship for the rich – massive sails, what appeared to be several large cabins below deck, and a prow with an ornamental, oversized stone sword attached. A steady stream of well-dressed passengers were already heading onboard, accompanied by servants and suitcases. Some of them gave her strange glances as she stepped onto the dock and stood beside Rom, especially after she grabbed her oversized pack and put it on.

“Like magic,” Phoebe said, pulling her hair back. “Why wouldn’t it?” She’d never learned what the word rhetorical meant, and she wasn’t about to.

A man onboard the vessel blew a high-pitched whistle. Phoebe cupped her hands over her ears until the noise subsided, ignoring Rom’s response in the process.

“We had better get onboard,” Rom said, stepping out of the way of a man with extremely pale skin, slicked-back hair, and a black business suit. “We have a long journey ahead of us.”

“Hooray!” said Phoebe, pulling on the straps against her shoulders. The pack leaned back, causing her to nearly topple over.

Rom groaned. “Very long indeed.”



******



Rabannone was, by all accounts, beautiful.

The ship navigated its way through the endless array of jagged rocks and rough rapids that had once made Rabannone almost impassable. Before, of course, the canyon had filled with enough water that a good crew, adept with Sealey, could make the voyage.

The walls themselves were somehow even higher than they had been in Bay Rose. In the day or two’s travel between the two locations, Phoebe had watched them grow in size, casting wide shadows over this well-traveled route. Now it was hard to tell where they ended and the sky began, particularly in the spray that the rocks and ship kicked up. At least the rainbows added to the mystique and wonder of the place.

However, Phoebe’s sense of awe had waned. She felt that one could only be in the canyon for so long before everything looked the same. Another beautiful view past that turn, another rockslide that had smashed a boat around that bend, and so on. Being stuck in the confines of the ship didn’t help. She hated small spaces, since there was so little room to run around and explore and make a good profit. Nothing like the infinite width of the ocean, even if there weren’t many customers to be had, or the desert full of travelers that she had spent her childhood in. Understandably, Phoebe looked forward to seeing the Red Tide Sea up ahead.

At the moment, she was busy leaning against the deck of the ship, flinging streams of water against the canyon walls. Pieces of rock crumbled and crashed into the canyon’s river, occasionally breaking apart jagged stones protruding from the depths. It was something that she had seen the crew doing a few hours ago, though they had focused on clearing out obstacles at the water’s surface in front of them, not the walls of the canyon behind the ship.

Out of the corner of her eye, Phoebe saw someone else walk up beside her and place their hands on the side of the railing. “Having fun, I see?” they said, their voice obviously masculine.

“Meh,” Phoebe said, watching a particularly large rock splash into the river. The ship gently rocked side to side for a couple seconds as the shockwave of the impact hit it. “It passes the time.” She glanced at the stranger, only to find the pale man that she’d seen when she’d boarded the ship in the first place. “Bored too?”

The man shook his head. “Interested,” he said. “It seems like you’re good with Sealey.”

Phoebe shrugged, stretching out her fingers and pulling a ball of water out of the river. She turned slightly, keeping one eye on the man. “Mom always said I had the talent,” she said, pushing her hands out in the direction of a rock protruding from the canyon walls. The ball shot towards it, colliding and knocking it off. “’Cause it relies on emotions, you know? Or something like that. And, I kind of hate this place.”

The man gave a broad smile. Phoebe was familiar with a salesman’s grin – the appearance of being genuine, but hiding a snicker. It made her a bit wary, but there wasn’t anything he was planning on selling her, was there? She was fine. “Would you like to make things more interesting?” he said, pulling a notebook and pen out from his pocket. “I’d be happy to make a bet.”

“Sure!” Phoebe said, grinning as she turned around to face the man. “That’d be great! What kind of stakes are we talking about here?”

Tapping the pen against the notebook, the man scanned the canyon walls. His pensive expression turned cheery as he nodded and pointed ahead of the ship. Phoebe followed his finger to catch sight of a huge outcropping of rock jutting into the air enough to cast shadows over the ship’s masts. A bit bigger and closer than she would’ve liked, but she was confident she could smash it to pieces without breaking anything important. “Bring that down,” the man said, “and I’ll give you a fine gift. Don’t, and you’ll have to give me five pieces of silver.”

It wasn’t exactly the fairest arrangement, since he didn’t seem like he was going to specify what his end of the bargain was. However, Phoebe thought that she had nothing else to do, and it wasn’t a big amount of cash at stake, so she might as well give it a try. “Deal!” she said, immediately leaning over the railing and repeating what she’d done before, but creating a larger sphere of water this time. It strained the muscles of her fingers and arms, causing them to burn in pain as she, like before, hurled the ball at the outcropping.

Unlike before, the outcropping shattered into two pieces. One of them was blown back, shooting well ahead of the ship. The one larger and closer to the ship, however, fell in the direction of the vessel, hurtling down the high walls of the canyon. Phoebe gasped. Focusing on the river again, she created two smaller balls of water and desperately threw them at the falling stone. They both soared over the rock. Curse her speed and panic.

By the time she had a third prepared, she saw Rom walking up the steps of the floor beneath. One second, he was on the deck. Another, he was looking down at the shadow growing below his feet. Another, he was staring up at the oncoming rock. And then, with one fluid motion and a word that sounded vaguely like a curse, he stretched his arms towards one side of the canyon and moved them in the direction of the other.

A slab of stone shot out from the canyon and smashed into the falling stone, sending it flying away from the ship.

Phoebe watched the whole scene, mouth agape. After a few seconds, the man laughed. “Looks like I’ve found someone else interesting,” he said. Turning to face Phoebe, he tapped her on the arm to get her attention. “You’ve won. I didn’t quite see that coming. Well done! Name’s Emmett, by the way.”

“Phoebe,” she said when she finally noticed and heard him. He swiveled around and started to walk towards Rom. A few of Emmett’s steps later, she remembered something. “What about the bet?”

“I’ve already given you the gift,” Emmett called, not bothering to look behind him. “It should make things more interesting.”

Looking down at her hands, Phoebe didn’t notice anything in particular. They hadn’t changed color, or grown in size, or burst into flames, or something interesting. Yet, they felt odd.

She wasn’t sure why, but she felt stronger.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.





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soundofmind says...



Talia walked up to the church, hugging her lute to her chest. This apprenticeship was everything she'd ever hoped for. This was her way in. This was her foot in the door to having a career in music, to being a bard, to doing what she loved with her life. This was better than any monetary prize she could've gotten at the festival, and better than any amount of hugs she could've gotten from her dad after (that wasn't to say he was a bag hugger, just that this was... well, very important).

With one part nervousness and two parts eagerness, she stepped up the stairs to the door and made her way in. She passed through the main foyer and opened the doors to the chapel, full of several rows of pews with a piano and an organ at the end of the room, situated on the stage. It was there at the piano that she saw her instructor, Jonathas Redmane, playing a beautiful melody while other students filed in alongside her, situating themselves in the pews at the front. Not wanting to be pushed to the back, she hurried to the front row, sitting beside another girl who looked just as excited and anxious as she was.

"Hi there!" She introduced herself. "I'm Talia Marshall. I play the lute." She lifted it up. "As you can see, haha."

The girl smiled. "I'm Yara Lang! My main instrument is piano."

"Nice! I love piano," Talia smiled back. "You from here?"

"Oh, no, I'm not from this village. I'm from Keton."

Talia's eyes widened. "Oh wow, so you traveled over here then, just for school?"

Yara nodded. "That's right!"

Talia kept smiling. (She honestly didn't know if she could stop at this point. She was very excited.) She and the other students kept making small talk as the rest of the students came in, and Talia was happy that the class felt pretty full, numbering to about twenty people of an incredible range of ages. As Redmane's song came to a close, she eagerly waited for him to speak. But then someone caught her eye in the crowd, and she did a double take.

It was Theo.

Talia almost wanted to groan at the perfect coincidence of him ALSO being in her class, but she only looked away quickly, trying to hide the seemingly automatic flush in her cheeks. As Redmane began to talk, she immersed herself in the lesson, only occasionally remembering that Theo was present and hearing the teasing voice of her brother in her head. But Redmane's voice soon won over completely.

"To translate music from that which is in your head into that which presents on your instruments, you must be utterly and completely in sync with your loves, your passions, your soul!"

Talia grabbed onto every word. She had to be in sync with her passions, her loves, her soul. She had to be in tune with her emotions, introspective, and self aware enough to put those things into music, into song.

"The soul of music cannot be studied with philosophy, and this is not a Phrontistery. This world grows colder and more unfeeling by the day, and is it not our responsibility to bring soul back?"

YES! Yes it was! And Talia was going to be a part of that - the revolution of the soul. She was going to make a difference by bringing her songs into the world. She was going to reach people. Her music was going to reach people.

_______________________


Tulsa had his boots tucked under the front door, back on the floor as he pulled himself up by his abdomen, arms crossed over his chest. As he counted up to 200, sweat dripped from his face and pecs. Lila clapped from behind him, lounging on the sofa with tea in her hand. "Tulsa-bear, if you build any more muscle, there won't be any room for our love."

"And here," he sighed, "I thought I'd just carry you through our threshold with one hand." Standing, he grinned to her. "In fact, I've been looking forward to it."

She walked to him, placed a hand on his bare chest, and kissed him with the softness of spring dandelions. "What do you think of Talia's first day of the Bardery Academy?"

He grinned devilishly. "Well, I'm sure she'll love it more now that Theo is there."

"Wait..."

"I convinced Redmane to take on another student!"

"Talia will kill you!"

"Talia will love me," he whispered with a smirk.

"Oh! Speaking of Redmane, I also talked to him!"

"Should I be jealous?"

"Always, but not about this. He agreed to lend us the larger church for the wedding! We can invite more of my family!"

"..."

"..."

"You secretly hate me, don't you?"

_______________________

At the end of the lecture, Redmane assigned duet pieces, pairing students off one by one. Talia was quietly hoping she'd get paired off with Yara, since she'd always wanted to play a real duet with a pianist, and she and Yara seemed to hit it off pretty well. But then the best and the worst thing happened.

She got paired with Theo.

Talia tried to hide how flustered she was. There was no WAY this was all a coincidence! She didn't know Theo was going to Redmane's school! Wouldn't she have know beforehand? Wouldn't it have come up in their conversations before? This had to be-

"Oh! Talia, hey!" Theo walked up to her, handing her her copy of the sheet music.

Talia stuttered. "O-oh yeah! Hey there Theo!" She looked at the music, keeping her eyes off of him. The song had singing. They would be singing together. Oh gods. She just realized. If she didn't like his singing voice... that would instantly kill the crush. Was that shallow to think? She didn't know him all that well yet, after all...

"I guess I'll finally get to hear you play after all!" Theo said with a smile as he too, began looking over the sheet music.

"Yeah! Yes. Uh. Wow though, I didn't know you got into the school too!" Talia said, trying not to be awkward, but realizing she probably sounded like it. "W-when did that happen?"

Theo beamed. "You know what, it's a really cool story actually! It was really last minute but Redmane came to me himself! I'm honestly still in shock."

"Oh wow! And uh, and you play the-?" she looked at the sheet music. The answer was right there.

"The harp."

"Yeah, the harp."

"So! I suppose we should get to practicing, then?" She asked, pointing to an unclaimed corner where they could practice.

Theo nodded. "Let's get to it."

_______________________



They'd been stopping and starting through the song for a while as they began to memorize their parts, but after about an hour of focused hard work, they'd gotten the basics down and were beginning to play around more with the dynamics and emotion. And Talia was buried in it - the song. The song. But she was quietly very pleased to hear Theo's beautiful tenor come in and harmonize with her soprano. It made her heart flutter and her soul sigh. Even if this was a set up, she could hardly be mad anymore.

As they came to the end of the song for the upteenth time, Redmane's silent, observing presence behind them made her jump when she finally noticed him.

"Oh! Mr. Redmane! Do you have any feedback?" She asked, eager to hear how she could improve (knowing she definitely could). But instead she was surprised by his answer.

"I was just thinking that your playing and singing was altogether quite lovely," he commented with a small smile. "Would you two be willing to play that song at the orientation ceremony?"

Talia's heart stopped. Theo looked speechless as well.

"Of course, Mr. Redmane!" Talia replied, with a few seconds delay. "We would be honored!"

Theo nodded eagerly in agreement, causing Redmane's grin to widen.

"Well, then I look forward to hearing it again," Redmane said, bowing his head and leaving the two alone to practice, as he went to listen to other students. Meanwhile, Talia and Theo both exchanged bright-eyed looks, and leaned in towards each other to whisper in excitement.

"We're going to be playing at the orientation ceremony!" Theo beamed.

"And most importantly, he likes our playing!!!!" Talia beamed back.
I am a super duper pooper! : )








AND DON'T FORGET IT'S HYDRATE OR DIEDRATE
— zaminami