Sands of Chiaroscuro

Transcripts! Second of Many!

The midday sun continues burning, unrelenting, as the trio make their way to the palatial gates of the Sesus manor; by dragonblood standards, it was a fortress, utilitarian in design and with little spent on excess; wide buttressed walls, manned with small station towers that guards watched down from, alert in the presence of near-gods. The ornate orichalcum bars of the gate wove an intricate pattern of warning and beauty, the form of two armored women in battle the image they formed when looked at from a distance, the Sesus name written in sungold runes down the center line, along both ‘doors’ of the gate. Within, a thin path made little fuss or preamble to the main building of the manor, through which guards can be seen, stationed almost every foot along the distance, while above the rooftops, guardian creatures of stone and mortar prowled in their unending vigil. Trees, not just palm, but other varieties, seemed to bloom like weeds, however, on the left-view, where some distance from the barracks-looking house, a large pool of water sits in the shade of the fruits of nature. Other than the guards, slaves, and servants, however, there is no sign of any other exalts.

Sesus Evaja smiled, making light banter as they walked, though through her talk, she seemed to lose track of whether or not Morning had been there with them, laughing at occasion without explaining the story completely. Rolling her eyes in mockery of one of house Tepet’s elders, she continues to talk.

”... and then he looked all stern at me and called out: ‘Evaja! If you don’t give that back to the monks right this second, I’ll get up there and make you!’. And I-” Laughing again, she paused. “I looked down at him and called ‘Get up here? I heard you can’t even get up for your courtesans!’”

Once again, she seems to be caught with laughter.

Early Morning smiles at her jokes though still on her guard, so she isn’t given to the amount of laughter that Evaja is. “So what was it that you wanted to talk about then?”

Evaja seems to snap back, sighing as she does “Yeah, oh yeah. Almost forgot.” Leading the trio to the garden, she hastens to make the slaves put in work; bring food, wine, water, fans, candies… Only a minute later, however, she sits back against a large, well muscled slave, who immediately sees to the massage her shoulders seemed to demand.

“Now then; please! Relax! The talk.” She takes a deep breath.

“You were in the river, and it started to go out of control; frothing, churning, spinning, and so forth. And suddenly, you could breathe, and the water seemed to know what you were feeling. It seemed to want to do what you were feeling, but it faded after a while?”

“Somewhat, though it wasn’t a river, it was the harbor.” Early Morning looks a bit uncomfortable at this.

Eveja nods, waving a hand in the air blithely.

“A daiklaive is still a sword. So, you were in the harbor. That feeling… have you been able to get it again?”

Early Morning shakes her head in negative.

Scrunching up her face, she nods.

“Right. Off!” Shooing the slave away from behind her, she leans forward to look at her properly. “What happened was as natural for our kind as walking is to a horse. That was the eruption of power that says that you are one of us. An exalt of the water dragon!” Concentrating without losing her train of thought, her caste mark begins to glimmer once again, the elemental sign of wood.

“This is our heritage. Our birthright. It is what says that you are a soul destined for perfection, no matter how far from the nest you may have fallen.”

Early Morning still looks a bit lost and confused. “But why me? All I want is to be left alone.”

“Well, that might be what you need in the end, but no-one will let you if you just act like a mortal. Power means having what you need to protect what you want. Stop that!” She swatted harshly at a slave nearby, though the reason was not apparent, though the slave bowed appropriately.

“As I was saying. Being left alone is quite appropriate… and perfectly understandable. Take the privacy of this garden, for example. Pristine.”

As she gestures around the lake, the irony of her statement seems to miss her completely – the dozen or so slaves tending to it seem intent to stay hidden from view, but are definitely present.

M’krrrl growls again, unimpressed.

Early Morning is unimpressed as well, as she is with most gaudy things like pillows with sequins. “Was that all that you wanted to talk to me about then?” She thought Evaja was friendly enough but the class distinctions were really getting in the way, plus the surroundings and Evaja’s attitude was rather grating on her, though she tried not to let it show. Not that she had anything against slavery, but having that many probably explained the spoiled attitude Evaja had, probably took her years to tie her boots, having slaves about to do it for her…

The dragon-blood frowns, looking chastised at the question. “Of course not, but I’ve been prattling. I lose track of business sometimes. Simple. If you want to be left alone, you need to use your power. Hmm, no – you need to LEARN to use your power. Otherwise, you’ll just end up a prize plaything to someone like Broken Wheel. Or that horrid Tepet man.” She visibly shudders.

“I swear, he is as close to a Yozi as any living being should be.” Crossing her fingers, she gestures for a ward of safety; M’krrrl looks around furtively at the suggestion of their name.

“We can teach you, and it would be for very small obligations. You share our blood; it’s only natural that you should spend your training with those who should have been your family.”

“How so? I’ve been alone as long as I can remember and what sort of obligations are you talking about?”

“Well… like what happened out there in the boneyards. Where the anathema were playing with people’s minds. Obviously, you’re no renowned warrior, and no offense, but you don’t look like you’ll ever be. But hiding is your specialty. And we can enhance that.”

She sighs, smiling sadly at Morning. “But no matter where you run to, you won’t be able to hide from your exaltation. No-one can. And I know how unfair that is. Believe me. But there’s nothing you, or I, can do to change that it’s happened. All you can do is pick which road you think hurts the least.”

She stands up, servants quickly busying to collect her drinks and food.

“After all, I can say that from experience. Not too bad for a Snake Gang thug, hmm?”

Early Morning raises a eyebrow, “Really now?”

“I’m sorry but it seems that you’re so removed from that lifestyle in temperament that I just can’t see it.” She cocks her head to the side.

She grins, shaking her head in amusement.

“I’ve had a couple of centuries to get used to something different. I used to be like him.” Hiking her thumb over her shoulder at M’krrrl, she looks more serious.

“Though without the strange body shaping, obviously. Mostly just broke legs and looked angry. All the time. Then one day, I went through what you did… it will change what you do for your life.

But I’ve already talked your ear off, I think.” Clapping her hands, she begins to walk to the gate, servants following.

“I’d give you food, or clothing, but I don’t want to tie you down with obligations, or feeling of debt, or whatever else, unless you’re willing to take it on. I won’t force it on you. And I’ll leave word with the guards that you are expected if you want to come back to ask about anything.” Stopping at the gate, she bows, very formally, and begins to speak in very quiet tones.

“Good luck out there. I remember how tough it was.”

Early Morning nods at her and smiles, making her way out, “I’ll think on what you told me. Thank you for the offer, I’ll come to you if there’s anything I’m wondering about.” She beckons M’krrrl to follow her, smiling at him, “Come on M’krrrl, lets have those naps while it’s still hot out, this isn’t weather we really should be out in, too much sun.”

Early Morning smiles at M’krrrl following behind her as she takes a longer windy way back to the ‘safehouse’ just in case there would be others following her. She didn’t quite trust that dragon-blooded girl and she’d gotten away without even giving her name. Though with M’krrrl being here she couldn’t evade, she’d bore them to tears with her conduct instead.

Making her way to a nearby merchant, Early Morning buys a small cheap spool of rough but sturdy thread, moving onto another to make further purchases since she doesn’t want herself to stay in their memories with a large purchase.

From merchant to merchant, she winds her way about, buying items such as another light outfit made out of very plain canvas, a cloth bag with straps, a clay bowl, a piece of cloth, a small knife that’s more utilitarian than any sort of weapon one that’s been made extremely thin by repeated sharpenings, the only thing that isn’t the cheapest that she can buy is a hand axe in good repair that seems almost new besides a bit of use about the blade, and a leather bag to hold water in, which she fills.

After meandering like this for a while and the amount of coins down her front lessened by quite a few they find themselves at the safehouse once more, Morning sitting down and mending the clothing that had been torn by Tepet before taking the large piece of cloth that she had bought and lying it down on the ground, bunching the softer possessions she had in a bundle about the harder, sharp pins, needles, coins, clips, and poor jewelry that she had found the previous day in the harbor. Making a pillow of sorts of that she actually lies down to go to sleep rather than sleeping while sitting up. Glancing over at M’krrrl and asking partially rhetorically, “So what do you think of this whole mess that’s happened?”

She adjusts the ‘pillow’ slightly to make her head more comfortable.

“Lllgghh gGh’rrrgh m’rrrk lllrrrgh r’m’Krrr’ghl.” M’krrrl nods sagely, as though having stated a universal truth, then reaching into it’s armor, begins to rummage around for something.

Outside, the temperature drops swiftly, deep shadows flicking over the holes in the roof and walls, and the faint sound of what would apparently be thunder cracks in the distance. Outside, a swift wind begins to gather. Looking up at Morning as though the weather change outside was nothing abnormal, he begins to pull some of the still-marked canvass rolls from within his ‘skin’; as the front plate of his ‘body’ sits open, it is obvious that nothing is within. A hollow expanse big enough for her to crawl into and hide as a small ball.

Early Morning blinks at this before smiling again at him. “I don’t care what that girl called you, that is really cool armor.” at the temperature plummet she shivers slightly curling her knees to her chest and tucking her arms in between after flipping up the cloth that she is lying on so that it covers her partially even though it really isn’t meant to be padding or a blanket.

M’krrrl seems to go quiet at that, even as the sound of rain begins to spread from the roof, the sudden storm catching the town off-guard enough that the hotter metals exposed seem to instantly flash up with steam – a popping sizzle that would be more familiar to students of sorcery and alchemy than a township. Nonetheless, cool, fat raindrops begin to slip through the larger gaps, one hitting the loose bottle in the corner with a ringing “plunk”. Outside, the neighborhood seems intent on exploring this new sensation of weather.

Moving the bowl out from inside her ‘pillow’ Early Morning pushes it towards the closest source of water falling down from the roof that is currently in a state of disrepair. She continues to completely ignore the rich hammock at the other side of the room, even if it were meant for her the fabrics are far too nice for anyone with her layer of dirt to touch, let alone sleep in. Scrunching up further she manages to pull the cloth that she is lying in and under up to her chin, though she still shivers slightly in spite of this, she’s slept in worse conditions before, and is used to the discomfort.

The rain continues to fall, with a crack of lightning sparking the room in a sudden flash of light that in it’s absence, points out how dark it’s become. Very swiftly, the clouds had thickened, and in the ‘natural’ light of the building, it begins to become as dark as night. M’krrrl growls faintly, looking at the doorway, then up at the roof, before sighing again – despite his inability to make softer noises, the sigh seems… resigned. After a few moments rummaging again, he begins to flick some flint chips together, sparking in the same color as the flashes above, before setting a nearby candle to light, the glow filling the room suddenly in contrast.

Over the steady “tink” of the bottle, and “plip” of the slowly-filling bowl, the guards sound various horns, coordinating themselves towards the ‘boneyards’ to the north.

It takes a second for Early Morning’s eyes to adjust to the light. She smiles again slightly thankful for the ‘nightlight’ especially since that nasty earth dragon-blooded had taken her on the little trip through the ground before trying to drown her. Closing her eyes she tries to hold as much heat to herself as she possibly can.

Despite all other available trinkets and tricks, M’krrrl sighs, unable to provide better heat, and in turn, he sits, watching in silence, as the ‘night’ rolls through; as for the next few hours at least, things seem to be quiet.

In the relative quiet Early Morning manages to drift off into a slumber.

In time to come, Early Morning would probably wonder more which it was that woke her.

The prevailing sound in the night (?) air seemed to be screaming. The guards at the boneyards, horns shrilling over the cries of battle, and mayhem in the streets. Outside the doorway, a woman’s distinct cry of abject terror pierces the darkness. More disturbingly, it cuts short, followed by a heavy, breathless ‘thump’ to the wet clay below her. Crashing in the nearby buildings, as rioting seemed to be taking place, or pillaging. Something heavy landed near the building; the ground shaking enough that a whole slat of roof gave way inwards, the stone and clay above dropping like literal bricks to the building’s interior, before M’krrrl’s form was suddenly over her, leaning over to cover her body as the masonry found it’s rightful place around his body, as well as on top of it.

High above, however, in the sudden rain and darkness, the lightning crossing the sky silhouettes a massive shape, hundreds of yards long and roughly in the shape of a deformed man, albeit gigantic. Thousands of writhing, crawling arms, legs, gaping mouths, and stitched-together torsos form it’s flesh, maggots the size of men crawling through the mass, dropping fatally to the street below. A foot the size of a bus, crushing the house alongside the ‘safehouse’, while just outside the ruin of her wall, corpses seem to litter the street.

The rain, unceasing, has now changed as well. No longer the fat ‘plump’ rain, it stings on her exposed flesh; cold, sharp, and fast, carried on a chill wind moaning with malice. And above the city, the clouds are as thick as night itself, formed into the shape of a skull.

Death had come to Chiaroscuro.

Eyes wide Early Morning lets out a small, fearful whimpering noise, though she slowly gathers her bedding/blanket and slips it into her pack which had been serving as a pillow as she doesn’t take her eyes off of the giant… thing. “M’krrrl? I’d say we’d better move deeper into the city…” she says softly in a near whisper, her voice shaking slightly.

M’krrrl, growling as he shook off the weight of the roof, looked slowly up to follow her gaze. His growling stopped, and his form seemed to pause as well, not moving at all, before he speaks quietly.

“Rgg’k.” His tone seemed relatively insulting.

As the giant moved, maggots continued to fall, splashing, rather than slamming, onto the buildings and clay streets, the gore rising the height of splashes from depth-charges, throwing debris into the air. The maggots, however, seemed to be following it’s path, as the necromantic thing stepped without noticing them over, towards the northern district. Horns and screams suddenly silenced as a gruesome foot trod purposefully to the guards there.

M’krrrl, standing, looked at her, and began to make pace for a nearby main road, keeping pace with what he had seen her run before.

Early Morning dashes after him, easily shouldering her small amount of worldly possessions onto her back as she partially climbs over the debris in the safehouse. Ignoring the rain for now and how it’s plastered her hair to the scarred side of her face, having come out of it’s ponytail partially due to tossing a bit in her sleep earlier. The rain not soaking into the leather that she was wearing, and not having much luck with the cloth bag, the low quality making it somewhat nonabsorbant.

As she made haste along the roadside, the street suddenly lit up with thousands of colored glows; the giant beset as though adorned with multi-colored lights, climbing up along it in a swathe of consumption, dead flesh falling like peel from an apple across it’s form. The dragonblood, eager as always to the defense of ‘their’ holding in Chiaroscuro.

Ahead of her, however, M’krrrl slows, coming to a halt and growling at the same time at something out of sight.

Still getting away from the giant monster, even though it might be getting it’s ass kicked, Early Morning slows as she comes up behind M’krrrl, her hand slowly extracting the axe that she’d bought earlier from her pack, peering around M’krrrl’s bulk, “What is it? What’s wrong M’krrrl?”

“Ghssshts” His voice rhasps as he tries to pronounce the word, though it’s intention seems clear enough almost instantly. Ahead of the pair, pale, transparent forms of misshapen men, women, and children, begin to gather; their eyes glistening red with hate-filled hunger, forming a mob from the downpour. Behind her, the lights of the dragon-blooded seemed to flicker – some fading, others flaring, and still others suddenly shut out like a broken globe. In a flash of lightning, M’krrrl’s armor seemed to glow, though the flare passed quickly.

Ahead of them, one of the men begins to call out, a hollow, metallic tone to his voice.

“Girrrl? You’re very kind to bring us… lunch.”

Early Morning, keeping her hand on the comforting weight of her axe, reaches out and tugs M’krrrl backwards, to the fighting, a much better assurance of survival than the mob of ghosts in front of them now. “Sorry, you’re out of luck there,” she replies to the ghost before breaking into a run back the way they came if M’krrrl gets the idea.

With a wailing, the horde begins to race after her, swooping over the road with the hunger of the unquieted dead. M’krrrl, not as fast on his feet as Early Morning, gives a roar as the wave of spirits hits him, though from the splashing bursts of pale, glowing fluid that erupted suddenly around him, he seemed far from defenseless for a wyld mutant.

Ahead of her, the street was broken with rubble, corpses, water, and the broken shells of high-altitude maggots, making the run difficult to maintain. On the plus side, the ghosts seemed to have no better luck, with several being toppled by debris beneath their feet. Ahead of her, the giant continued to flail in raging agony, the lights of the dragon’s children like fireflies, several swooping around it to harass it from every angle, including the air itself. The lights of the fight give more than enough to see by, even without the flashes of violent tempest above.

Ahead of her, to the side, a cluster of people seem to run, cloaked heavily against the weather. Four adults, one child, and a pair of jade-armored guards as escort.

She looks back a split second as M’krrrl is overcome, calling out his name worriedly, though somewhat comforted that it seems he may be able to take care of himself, it would be harder for him to do so and protect her at the same time. Meanwhile she dashes forward, amongst the debris littering the street, at times using her axe to help her scale various obsticals before continuing on. Should she reach the little group that is running, she would make to bypass them, warning, “Ghosts. Behind. Run FASTER.” Not bothering to look to see who they are as she passes.

As she approached, one of the two dragonblood turned to face her, a vicious, ragged scar running the length of his face, from chin to ear, and blurred in a fan-shape of bloodclots across to his bloodshot eye. In the light, she could see his eye widen at her being there.

“You!” Tepet Rhalkim reached to the hilt of his greatmace, Slaughter’s Son, as he dropped to a crouch, ready for battle. The other dragonblood, looking back, began to usher the group forward, as the small anathema cursed about their discovery. With a sudden motion, all but one of the figures remove their cloak, the light of their animas burning with the light of the sun in the storm’s wrath; making haste forward with abandon, essence fueling superhuman leaps of speed towards the boneyards. At the sight, a number of the dragon-blooded break from the undead thing, racing to stop the solar from whatever plans they had mustered.

Tepet looked, suddenly, past the girl, his eyes staying wide as he sees the mass of ghosts at the ready, their progress paused by the painfully bright light.

“Dragon’s shit!” he cries, both gallantly and courageously, as he turns to start running towards the battle as well, ignoring her completely.

Early Morning quickly considers things, in front of her was Solar, pissed off dragon-bloods, and more dead things, behind her was that nasty earth dragon-blooded, lots of dead things. She strafes to the side then, headed for an alley, or a debris pile that is high enough to get up on a roof, from there she would continue that direction, clambering over more obsticals than those in the streetbut that might be a good thing as it seems that it slows the ghosts and whatnot down as well. Plus she had lots of experience running and climbing, after all she didn’t particularly care for getting beat up by guards.

Darting into the alley between two yet unruined buildings, something chiseled into the ground would catch her eye. The groove of the boundary that Grandmother Bright, patron of the city, had carved to lay salt into as a blessing to keep the people strong. Along it, sigils had been pasted, in a mixture of what looks like fresh blood, yet it stayed clearly drawn despite the cover of the rain. In the street, the dragon-blooded runs past not long after, two ghosts on his back as he cries out in a mixture of pain and rage, the horde following only feet behind him and closing. As soon as the horrid hunt had passed… the street lay silent, glinting with the flaring of dozens of colored lights.

Early Morning kneels down, she doesn’t know much about all the mystical crap that sorcerers and the like use but anything that in some way messes with the boundary isn’t good at all. As there is no one about she takes the cloth she had been sleeping in earlier and attempts to clean the blood off, something was preventing the protection from helping, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a friggin’ army of ghosts coming from the direction that was inside the city. She rubs at the blood trying to make the boundary nice and shiny again.

As she pours effort into the cleansing, the lights of the battle grow dimmer, as by and large, the colored lights seem (hopefully) to be drowned out by the sunlight-glow. Try as she might, however, the mark does not budge.

In the distance, a clear voice cries out – the vibrant chord of the charismatic man from the night of debauchery. On supernatural currents, his tone carries through the city, echoing from the far wall as clearly as if she was standing by it.

“Chiaroscuro! Lift your eyes, and be freed!”

With a violent flash like smokepowder being lit, the mark of blood boils, burning away instantly, leaving a foul-odored stench in the air. Above, the lightning crashes paled, and spread, as the sky itself seemed to suddenly be at war, the clouds boiling with furious passion. And from the gaps between then, pure sunlight began to pour through, slicing into the darkness with painful brightness.

Down the road further, the ghosts of the horde screamed in agonizing despair, disappearing into the netherworld, their wails accompanied by the horrid groaning, and crashing, of the giant corpse mountain. As the devastation seemed to pause, however, there is suddenly a cry that pierces through the fracas; having heard the shouting of the guard before, Early Morning would be used to the sound of battle being nowhere nearly as fluent as this.

“The anathema! Stop them!”

Early Morning shoves her ‘bedroll’ back into her pack, what she’d been working on done for her it seems, Looking back the way she came she ascertains the angle of direction of where she’d last seen M’krrrl, let the dragon-blooded fight the solars, seems like the mess was already cleaned up by them anyway. She starts carefully making her way to where M’krrrl was last seen, slower than her headlong

Far back, lit by a slice of daylight across the rubble, M’krrrl lies on the street, motionless, face-down. Several feet from him, an arm lies, bloodlessly removed from his body. No-one at this time seems interested in him, with the anathema fleeing the dragon-blooded as though they had already picked a route to escape by, though in the distance, she could hear a number of angry cries coming from the city center. The last of the storm, dramatic as it had been, dissipates without sound, boiling back to where it had come, and leaving the normal Chiaroscuro sunlight of the afternoon.

Early Morning dashes up to M’krrrl, “M’krrrl! C’mon M’krrrl get up!” taking the arm that is still attached to his body she attempts to shift him to his back so that she can get a better look at him.

His hollow armor still felt cool, and wet, some water still pooled inside it, but as she called, the same armor seemed to stir, lifting itself, the plates moving of their own accord to close together of their own accord. Springing to life, the severed arm twitches, then springs once more up to the joint, closing instantly into a flush seal, the dents moving and flowing back into alignment. Looking around, M’krrrl growls, bending to collect some of the less damaged items that had been stored within his cavity.

Early morning gives him a relieved impromptu hug, then kicks him hard approximately where his shin should be, “Dammit! Don’t worry me like that! You almost made me think that you were dead lying there!” She gives him another quick hug then does her best to look mad at him, crossing her arms and huffing.

M’krrrl pauses, looking up at her with a snort, then reaching out, he runs one hand over her shoulder, his head held apologetically. Looking back to where the safe-house had been, he growls in annoyance, looking back at her as though hoping for some form of decision.

She gives a weak smile, “Don’t worry, we can go there and find out the damage then do our best to repair it. It may wind up a little smaller from lack of materials but I wouldn’t be too surprised that there’d be plenty of building materials and such just lying about around the place, ours wasn’t the only place wreaked after all, and it wasn’t completely smushed either.” she waves at him to follow her back to the house, “We’d better get going on it before like minded persons decide to raid our building like we’re going to do theirs for materials.” After all, bricks, pieces of wood, etc, all looked about the same and didn’t have anyone’s name on them. There was also the fact that a lot of the residents of that area weren’t in any position to object, possibly smushed themselves.

Shaking his head, M’krrrl gives a saddened sound, and gestures for her to come back.

She blinks at this and comes back to him, “What is it M’krrrl?”

Making the same saddened noise, he reaches up to her face, tracing one cool finger across her forehead, then using it to gesture towards the boneyards, making a gruff noise as he points to the dragon-blooded still dealing with the guards there.

“Er… You have a point, best find someplace to be to let that all blow over if that’s the point you were trying to make?” Early Morning looks at him somewhat confused, reaching up and patting him so that maybe he wouldn’t make those sad noises?

Sighing again, he nods, pulling a fallen length of leather cloak from some rubble, and offering it to her before he starts to walk into the city further, grumbling as he does.

She smiles at him and accepts the cloak, brushing off the leather before putting it on, the sun after all wasn’t that good for you. She follows M’krrrl into the city, wondering since the ghosts had come from that direction, how the state of it was compared to the border regions she’d just come from? Was Raven alright?

The trip through the streets was unbroken, though the sore scale of destruction seemed apparent. From the damage, and survivors talking, the story seemed to unfold. The ghosts had rampaged from the boneyards through the guards who had been unprepared for the scale of the attack. Something had kept Grandmother Bright’s hand, however, and the salt to line the border did not survive the rain, and the ghosts, eager for souls to replenish that which they lost, had decimated an entire stretch of the city, leaving hundreds more to bury. Closer to the center, near the trader’s district, the ghosts had stopped, and headed further in, checked headlong by the dragon-blooded, who were then delayed from attacking the gigantic corpse creation. They had run to it already fresh from battle, leaving the score that had chased Early Morning, and then leaping to attack it, even as it grew in strength from the dead crushed into it’s body. Then, the solar arrived, and in one motion cleared the storm, and decimated the corpse, before disappearing as quickly as the rains.

Raven’s house, near the trade district, is untouched as the pair approach, though M’krrrl seems discontented, sniffing the air aggressively, before growling softly.

“What’s wrong M’krrrl?” So far her staying low hadn’t yielded the relaxation that she needed to distress, finding herself now to be on the alert most of the time with a small case of the jitters.

M’krrrl, cautious himself, pulled to the alley alongside Raven’s store. From the window, no sound emanates, but the shape of the deathknight, in his blackened armor of bone and soulsteel, looms through it, as he stares in frustration out into the street, looking right at the massive form of M’krrrl, then at her, before turning back into the premises. From within, an angry voice shouts for a time, the sound rich in vibration. The solar’s leader.

Early Morning blinks, then whispers to M’krrrl, “Maybe we should come back later…” Biting her lip nervously she continues, “Let’s find some other place to hang about till everything settles again…”

Nodding, M’krrrl moves back out into the street, keeping between her and the doorway, until the building is out of sight once more, when he followed her, instead.

Looking back at her, M’krrrl tilts his head in curiosity, pointing to himself at her question.

“Mrrgh?”

Shaking his head, he grumbles again, then stops his amble, and looks out at the cooling sky, as the sun begins to set.

“Rrgh’krrrl mrrrghlgh’k.”

“Yes you. And I still can’t understand what you say most of the time.” she looks with annoyance at the sky, “We’d best stay away from the edge of the city for the time being, at least till we’re sure they’ve gotten things mopped up. Be better to rebuild by day as well.” she glances at him, “Do you know of anywhere to go? Since the house is messed and Raven apparently has none too friendly company, I don’t know where to spend the night, tho…” she smirks a bit nastily, “I could see if my former employer has any of my things from before, including wages…” She chuckles a bit as she imagines her practically spineless boss dealing with the authorities, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

M’krrrl seems to think, rubbing his elbow in a way he seemed to from time to time when troubled. Looking back at her, he grumbles again, this time drawing a few disturbed-looking stares from passers-by.

“Rgh’ghm?” He pantomimes his hands together, flapping his fingers like wings.

She blinks and shakes her head, “Don’t know what you’re trying to say there, sorry.” She smiles at him, “Ehh.. might as well not visit my old boss, it’d be mean and pathetic to see a grown man blubber because of the after effects of the guard questioning him. Fun though!”

Nodding, he falls silent again, no longer seeming to take offense, or dismay, from her lack of understanding, and instead looking back where they had come from. Looking at her again, he runs his hands over his arms, shivering lightly, then pointing at her.

“Hmm?”

Reaching out, he pulls the cloak a little tighter around her, then lets it loosen again.

She smiles and shakes her head, “I’ve been cold before, though it would be best if we found someplace warmer to tuck in for the night. Let’s see… Are there any bake shops or forges nearby? They usually keep a fire going in their ovens and if we hunker down next to that wall, we should be right cozy till dawn.” She grinned, this time she wouldn’t have to compete with the other street brats, especially those too stupid and selfish to realize that keeping others away from your space there kept you colder since it was warmer to curl up like a group of puppies than defend your territory against interlopers. She was now bigger than most of them after all, and M’krrrl was bigger than her.

Thinking for a while, M’krrrl partially leads, partially follows her through the streets to a bakehouse, near the teahouse that had been so prominent so many game sessions ago. As both he and Early Morning made their way to the building across from the Open Rose, the doors opened with Rhalkim stepping out, confident as usual despite the daggers his eyes threw back into the place. Looking at the street belligerently, he stops when he sees Morning, and M’krrrl, his body tensing in annoyance.

Early Morning tenses in turn with a bit of annoyance as well, but also with a good deal of fear and caution. Reaching to M’krrrl’s arm, she tugs him a bit away from the earth dragon-blooded, starting to head in that opposing direction herself, hoping that pretending that he isn’t there is enough to have him ignore her.

Tepet Rhalkim, his face twisting into a sneer worthy of the most vile death knight, reaches with a lash of his strong hand to her shoulder, calling out as he does.

“You! I warned you what would happen if I saw you again!” Fresh, scabrous scars run on his neck and shoulders, his visible skin on his hands, and his face, matching the look of hundreds of sharp, ghostly fingers.

With a small ‘Eep!’ Early Morning tries to duck away from his hand, if she’s successful, she tugs at M’krrrl’s arm to indicate that he should follow before dashing off once more. A small part of her mind however recalling his retreat previously in the day from the ghosts, some of them practically riding on him as he runs away, and that part of her mind is snickering.

Slow from his injuries and exhaustion from the night before, Rhalkim clutches at the air, reaching for his daiklaive as she moves aside. A second later, he grimaces hard, his face scrunching in pain as he doubles over. “Noo! I… argh!”

Early Morning continues leaving him be, not wanting to hang about the angry, mean, crazy Dragonblooded who had tried to kill her on a lark once. She drags M’krrrl behind her, wanting to get away from him so that she doesn’t get in a fight with the nasty person.

M’krrrl follows obediently, growling over his shoulder at the dragonblood who obviously causes Morning distress. As the night falls, she would find that the bakery wall is occupied by all forms of urchins – from the ‘innocent bait’ to the ‘heavy bully’. Universally, they take one look at the ‘adult’ and her ‘monster’, and begin to inch away quickly, some more intimidated children scampering away before trouble comes.

“Pfft. Stay where you are brats, just scoot over and make room. You’re not the only ones wanting to stay warm tonight.” Early Morning sighs and leans back against a recently vacated point in the wall big enough for herself and M’krrrl, patting the portion next to her for him to come and sit against the hot wall. Intentionally looking like she’s ignoring the other urchins, a well used tactic that the more friendly tolerant older ones use to show that they aren’t going to prey on the rest of them.

The kids do indeed scurry aside, taking posts further along the wall, and crowding up on each other, glancing worriedly at the giant armored man, and then leaving room for the both of you. M’krrrl moves, however, to the opposite wall, and standing like a guardian statue (legs aside and still), he waits, as though patiently watchful.

Early Morning raises an eyebrow, “You don’t want to share the heat then? If not the brats can have it.” She shrugs at him smiling. Tilting to head to the side with an inquisitive look she asks, “Do you sleep at all M’krrrl?”

M’krrrl looks over at Morning, shaking his head slowly, before returning back to his original position. Unlike before, where he had been relatively… human, at the hut, he seems now to be much more mechanical. Standing, absolutely still, and silent.

One of the children leans against Morning, and snuggles closer to her, tighter.

Morning shrugs again. Doing something that she had seen other teens and adults do when chilly without real blankets she herds various urchins about her till her legs are covered by some using them as pillows, leaning against them and having one snuggled on either side of her shoulders. Cozy now due to the heat coming off the stoves on the other side of the wall and the flea ridden urchins keeping the cool night air off the rest of her, her pack crushed against her lower back so that if it was shifted by someone trying to take something she would wake, and her hand resting on the axe at her side, giving one more sleepy smile to M’krrrl she falls asleep.

The only two disturbances that night are pretty common, though with strange outcomes.

First, there is a rough calling of orders from both ends of the alleyway.

“Go on, lads! Just herd them into the nets, and they’ll be clean and marked for sale by to-”

“What on the Isles is that thing?” – This one was followed by M’krrrl growling aggressively.

“Screw that for a joke, boss. I’m not gon’na try taking that on. It’s huge!”

“When the hell did those brats get themselves a golem?”

Before too long, the voices retreat, without even coming into view.

The other disturbance, that night, is something silent that brings her from her drowsiness without noise. A presence, dark and malicious, but begrudgingly respectful. Jagane says: Early Morning, not moving much opens her eyes and tilts her head forward, to peer into the gloom to assess whatever was there. This having been a long day including the false night that had happened during the storm, she’s still a bit sleepy and foggy headed, especially being warm and covered with flea infested street brats.

Leaning over Morning, a pale, willowy figure dressed in the robes of an immaculate priest looks over her, at the children around the pile. Four massive, birdlike wings sprout from it’s back, the androgynous form giving no clue to it’s gender. Looking at the girl with annoyance beneath it’s porcelain mask, it seems to project sound to her, sound with no words, but clear meaning.

“Are these your charges, exalted one? Or am I free to do my duty without interruption?” The sound is sharp, grating, and carries on it the sensation of sand being rubbed on laminated steel; rasping and rough, despite being faint.

Neither M’krrrl, nor the children, seem aware of whatever this interloper is.

Early Morning’s eyes narrow. This being’s ‘duty’ didn’t sit right with her the way that it sounded. And she sure as hell didn’t want anything to happen like waking up again snuggled to a pack of corpses or the like. “They are for now.” She really didn’t like the way this thing sounded either. “Why don’t you just move on, we’re all perfectly content here?” She really wanted to get back to sleeping. Stupid dragon-blooded… Stupid exaltation…. No one wanting to #$%*ing leave her alone….

“By your wish, exalted one. I will pick another for the plague, then.” Without pausing, the being began to slip from view, walking on the spot but not moving forward, instead fading until no longer in existence.

Beside her, someone stirred lightly, and rolled over. “Mine. You can’t…” The mumble is faint.

M’krrrl shifted his head slightly, looking down at her, and tilting his head. Quietly, he rumbles.

“Rgggh K’ghh?”

Early Morning sighs, absentmindedly patting the kid that rolled over. “It’s nothing M’krrrl, just another stupid person not wanting to leave me alone because they’re stupid. I’m going back to sleep.” She closes her eyes again and tries to do just that, muttering about stupid invisible gratey things.

As Morning light begins to hit Early Morning, she would find that she is not only stiff from the position she was in, but also sore from where her bag was digging into her flesh. The night air seems to still be in the shadows, however, and there is a solid chill that doesn’t seem willing to budge. Above her, there is a bit of noise as children begin to rouse with the predawn.

Early Morning stays still, not wanting to disturb those that are lying on her and wanting to be in as much warmth as possible right then, after all being stiff and sore can be taken care of by stretching and moving about, if she got cold she’d be cold till the sun actually warmed things up. So she stays put, simply relaxing.

As the children begin to pile off in their own mindset, a couple come over to M’krrrl, their caution gone in the light of his impromptu – and passive defense against the slavers the night before. M’krrrl, as he becomes the subject of that scrutiny, looks down pointedly at the younglings, before growling out loudly.

“Rrrrghhh!”

The children inspecting him scurry away quickly.

Early Morning grins, “You did that on purpose!” and laughs. “Hope you weren’t too bored.”

(DAY4 sorry this is another bit that MSN ate, The Thrice Exalted Lord of Glass and Copper Shows up on his chariot, starts spouting off and to get him to shut up so that he doesn’t freak out the street brats so she won’t be surrounded by both a yelling god and a bunch of screaming munchkins, she goes with him to his temple.)

The god seems to step forth with gusto, pressing a hand to both her and her companion’s shoulders, essence flowing to give an impression of unavoidable motion to the minds of both, speaking as he did so. “Come! Come! Your destiny awaits you, child! Hurry!”

Early Morning blinks as she’s pushed forward unresisting, things being to hectic through her head even without the added influence of the essence. “Er… Alright….” she agrees, her expression very much one of ‘deer caught in headlights’.

Striding them both to the doors of the temple, he gives no sign of the effortless motion expressed to make both doors swing inwardly with a flourish, the entire area awash with color and light, several very surprised-looking monks and priests looking with a variety of expressions from awe to outright irritation on their faces. Pushing her bodily to the altar, Telgac releases her shoulder as they approach a balding man of apparently sixty years of age, who looks down at the girl with a moderately confused expression.

“Your humble mightiness of craftsmanship…” the priest begins to ask, looking Morning over. “May I be excused for the question of why you have brought this girl to me?”

Morning, even though she hasn’t resisted being herded about like a camel, is none the less not very happy about it, her shoulder that he releases are stiff, and the hair on the back of her neck is standing up a bit, not that one can tell from the mass of it which has once more fallen forward to cover her face. She did not like others noticing her, especially large groups of strangers with possible social power from their standing in life. She makes quite the contrast to the temple, filthy, and obviously flea ridden as with the amount that she’d picked up from the street brats, it is clearly visible as one or two are upset by some motion and do a little jump, possibly to burrow in her impenetrable mass of black course hair. She peers up through her hair at the god behind her, waiting for his answer as well, before glancing to M’krrl to see if the giant is as tense with the situation as she is. If you’re going to be uncomfortable, it’s far more comforting to have those you know uncomfortable as well, justifies it in a way.

The creature does indeed seem irritated at the current situation, giving a quiet growl at everything in the local vicinity; an action that seems to both disturb and outright frighten the acolytes nearby to it. The god, however, booms with a voice used to having orders obeyed.

“This, father of my flock, is the one I had been seeking, with the powers that do not yet belong! It is your role to protect and hide her, to teach her in the ways of the Dragons, and to equip her for the role that the Maidens have bidden her. Do this, and be blessed!”

The priest simply blinks, before asking simply in return.

“But, almighty lord of beautiful creations, if you wished us to hide her… perhaps a less… ostentatious… display would have been better for bringing her here?”

Early Morning turns to the priest, there is a bit of strain in her voice that tells of her trying very very hard to not say nasty things in regards to the god, “Less of a display would have been nice. It would have been very very nice….” she twitches a bit in irritation, that had to be about the worst way to hide her that she could have thought of, though she suspected that this god also lacked the ability to lower his voice…. Her poor ears were getting a workout.

Pausing for only a moment, the god seems less at a loss than taking time to breathe, before pressing forwards, his ample volume projecting enough to rattle the windows beyond the older man.

“Do not question the orders of the one who begat your crafts! You are dust to me, and it is in my mercy that you shall be given talents to perform your works! Go! Do as I command! This girl is to be trained in the powers she has inherited, lest the houses of the city take advantage of her! Thus, I have spoken!” – By now, the noise from the commotion has drawn a pair of onlookers from the street, probably sticking their heads in to see why someone seems to be shouting at the priests within. Without pause, however, the older man, now clearly flustered, gives an apologetic and somewhat embarrassed look to the urchin, bustling her into the folds of his robe, and then hefting with a slight limp towards a door on the eastern wall, not noticing himself that the construct following her begins to pace, even as the god turns to regard the two looking from the street.

The priest speaks, but is unfortunately drowned out by the reverberating strains of

“You! Do you come seeking the power and glory that is given to those who craft of glass and copper? Tremble! For the might of the dragons smiles on this place, and the seas shall boil with my constructions!”

Thankfully, the door before Morning is opened quickly, leading to a soundproofed corridor beyond, reducing the near-deafening monologue to a muffled murmur of what distinctly sounds like obscenities.

Early Morning looks a bit wild-eyed, finally failing her temperance roll, her hands having been clasped over her ears tightly as she asks in incredulous horror, “Is he incapable of speaking without shouting?!”

“Err… I’m afraid not. Not since the work he did with crafting bells for the Temple of the Dragons in Nertweist. Uh… I think introductions are in order, m’girl. I am Jarok, High Priest to the Thrice-Exalted Lord of Glass and Copper, may the heavens glow with praise for His works. He… seemed interested in you?”

She spares a dirty look back at the door, “Maybe if he had someone who’s job was to pinch him each time he went over a certain volume he’d get back to normal volumes.” Turning back to the priest she looks apologetic but utterly unrepentant at her remarks, she didn’t like being at the center of attention nor having been so close to someone who apparently screamed all the time. “I’m Early Morning and just about all sundry seems interested in me since I apparently exalted and became a water aspected dragonblood.” she seems less than thrilled over this, “I really wish people wouldn’t make such a fuss…”

The priest looks both disappointed and apologetic.

“I am sorry. I didn’t think he would… show so much frivolity for the favor of a lost egg. But His will be seen to without delay. Do you care for a bath? You certainly seem to be able to use one, and… considering how you look, I would assume the offer of a warm bed and regular feed wouldn’t go astray?”

She sighs then smiles gratefully, “Thank you, it would be much appreciated, I don’t normally sleep on the streets if I can help it, but the place where I and my friend were staying got a bit… damaged during the storm. We were very close to the salt wall…” She looks back with a somewhat worried expression, “Do you think my friend, M’krrl will be alright out there? He doesn’t much like attention either despite the natural attention that his stature brings…”

The priest hesitates a moment, looking back at the door he had inadvertently closed on it. Stepping back, he cracks the door open a tad to look through, no sign of M’krrl being obvious on the other side. The door, however, does allow the deity to boom through into the hallway with the echoes of:

”... why it is time to show these upstarts that stained glass is no different to my own creation, colored glass! Make them kneel before me, and prove to them that no-one can escape my superiority!”

Early Morning automatically has her hands clasped over her ears again, a somewhat pained look on her face

Closing the door quickly, he looks up at her with a thin smile.

“I’m sure your friend seems capable of looking after… himself? And the time we spend looking means time spent, uh, ‘detracting’ from the speech My Lord is giving those with the benefit of hearing. Come, bathing, then feeding. I won’t be giving fleas a free meal.” As he speaks, Jarok waves his hands to ‘herd’ her further down the corridor.

She lets herself be herded, throwing back a worried glance towards the door where she had left M’krrl but for a few moments before he had disappeared, Hoping that he was alright, undeafened, and not getting into trouble. She made a promise to herself to go looking for him when she had the chance. She turns back to the corridor taking note of the route that they are taking. “If you say so…”

Herding her quickly to the communal baths, the priest unceremoniously begins to pull at her clothing, almost as though undressing a child, and fussing at her as one would throughout.

“How did you get mud in there of all places? No matter…” His manner doesn’t imply molestation; she would have had ample opportunity to see those sorts of people at work, preying on the orphans. In the room with her (and empty besides them), his attitude would be very strongly akin to Raven’s, especially when something happened to douse or coat an orphan in something foul.

Somewhat comforted by this manner she complies with him and replies to his various remarks, “It’s not my fault! I was clean yesterday, but something dead crushed the place we were staying at, then I had to run from ghosts and get rained on! And I couldn’t stay with my other friend because she had company over so I had to sleep outside next to the bakery to keep warm with the other street brats!”

“Ah, I see. Hurry up and get clean, then. I’ll tell Brother Marrth that he has to feed you. Buttercorn and needra pie something good for your pallet?” He smiles, creases forming as he playfully swats at her butt, turning to head out. Needra are massive beasts, not normally used for butchering, since they are some of the rare creatures that the noble house of Cynis, and the guild, use for making opium; the beasts eat the flowers en-masse, the opium produced by their digestive tracts automatically, and they are usually tended to by droves of slaves each. The other reason for their normal exemption from the dinner plate is their “robust” (read, excessively strong) flavor and rather heavy toughness; almost akin to blood-drenched leather in texture.

At the offer of food Early Morning grins and nods enthusiastically, and at the swat she shakes her fist at him in a playful manner before getting to work scrubbing herself down more thoroughly. She looks somewhat unhappy at the state of her clothing however, this outfit was new, she just got it yesterday, granted it wasn’t anything fancy or particularly special but it was hers. Frowning she takes the leather into her hands and begins to clean it the best as she can.

The bathwater is both warm, and scented, though it doesn’t completely mask the odor of garlic, mint, and lavender given to the soap in a disastrously competing fashion. Nonetheless, the odor does seem rather repulsive to the fleas in her hair; one would leap to her arm, before elsewhere in an apparent bid to escape. (OOC: actual method of ridding of fleas; those three oils in combination are like flea tear-gas)

Not taking too long, the garment would mirror her own state of cleanliness, and being still whole as well, she would soon be rather presentable, despite the tangle across her face when she lets her hair back down.

She sighs at the state of her hair but shrugs it off, she was used to it being completely unmanageable, though she does her best to twist out the excess water. Moving to the door, the outfit still slightly wet and her boots squelchy she opens it cautiously before sticking her head out of it.

Jarok would be on his way back about now, looking surprised that she had readied herself so quickly.

“Aha! So, you’re not only a child of a water dragon, but also the daughter of an experienced laundress and marathon bath-diver?” He laughs, heading back on his heels up the corridor again.

“No matter; follow if you are unabashed, or wait. I will get you some robes to wear; they’re not pretty, but they are warm at night!”

She ducks her head at the comment on her speed a bit, looking slightly embarrassed, “I’ll follow, robes sound nice, I have had my fill of cold nights.”

Heading down the corridor, he leads her to a small chamber about twice the size of a cupboard, a single raised bed the only feature, with a small wicker chest underneath, that he opens to pull out an oversized camel-hair tunic from. Offering it to her, he gestures to the bed.

“Here’s where we can put you up for now, if you like? There are other rooms if you have need for a different one, but we can spare this one for now, I think! The pie will be ready soon; it’s being baked as we speak. Oh! And there’s parsnips for the side dish.” Smiling again, he squeezes his way past her to leave her some form of privacy if possible.

She takes the tunic from him, managing to get out a, “thank you!” before he leaves, turning to the small room she smiles, putting her pack under the bed before flopping down on it, trying to straighten her thoughts.

The bed is solid, and rather uncomfortable, unfortunately. That being said, it beats any form of ground short of comfortable, slightly cool loam. The lack of windows also seems to be a feature, since this way, the noonday sun won’t reach in for the scorching of her skin.

Her sleep would be shallow, and despite her normal attitude to the subject, moderately sexual, though the subject causing her ‘delight’ seems to elude her on the sudden wakefulness that comes with a sharp knocking on her door.

“Early Morning? It’s me, Jarok! Your pie is ready!”

She cracks her eyes open, stretching her arms and sitting up before scooting off the bed and opening the door, smiling at the priest. “Thank you! Um… is there anything that I can do to help about? I don’t feel right getting food and such for free…” Early Morning really didn’t like feeling indebted, though sometimes, as with Raven, that couldn’t be helped, she’d probably feel indebted to Raven for the rest of her life for supporting her when she’d needed it.

The priest starts to make his way in, carrying a platter as he does, and after entering stops at the foot of her bed.

“Yes, there will be, actually, but you don’t need to feel as though you’re imposing. His Lordship gave the command to house you, and we are but his adoring servants.” He smiles with a note of sarcasm to his voice, but it doesn’t seem born of bitterness insomuch as possibly the lack of warning from his deity for her arrival. Putting the platter down, he steps back out again, giving the girl her space.

“Enjoy, and then we’ll have you come to the training hall. I have no idea what we’re meant to be ‘training’ you for, so I think we’ll just have to cover a bunch of things and see what you become good at.

She nods, picking up the platter before asking, “Err…. Where is the training hall?”

“It’s at the end of the hallway away from the central chamber!”

She nods again, “Thank you.” before digging into the food in front of her.

The food is as promised. Tough meat with a heavy flavor, though the ‘buttercorn’ seems to be sweetcorn or maize with a naturally “well-buttered” sort of taste to it, going well. Soon enough, her meal would be a memory, the empty plate it’s only reminder, other than a pleasant taste in her mouth still from it.

Putting the tray down neatly, she walks out the door and heads to the end of the hallway away from the central chamber, sticking her head in and surveying the room.

The training hall is a large, vaulted room, flush with a reed-mat styled floor covering, and with walls made of a mixture of copper beams and oaken pillars, with a fluted skylight letting the sunlight reflect in without it’s normal intensity; outside of view, a series of copper pipes actually filter the light through to here, at almost half it’s normal intensity. A variety of instruments line the walls, clearly from a variety of fighting styles, mostly seeming to favor staves and poleaxes.

In the center of the room, Jarok stands near two other priests, one an extremely rotund man with the flushed-dark skin of the far western jungle-folk, the other much smaller, and old to the impression of near-death, hobbling on what appears to be arthritic legs. Seeing Morning’s head come around the corner, Jarok beams, waving at her.

“Come, come! I’d like you to meet the other two masters who will be trying to learn what it is you can do. I will handle your basic training; exercise, athletics, dance, swimming, and so forth. This is Master Kalthok;” At this, he gestures to the old man next to him, who gives her a partial scowl. “Kalthok handles social studies, the learned arts, and the mysteries of the arcane. Though no Heptagramist, his lessons will cover more than you had prior. And this-” His monologue is interrupted as the large man steps forward, bowing to her. His voice is incredibly deep; resonating at the same pitch one would expect from a sub-woofer. Or from a still-living Barry White.

“I am Master Brojii.”

She hesitantly comes into the room and bows to them, “I’m Early Morning.” she introduces herself and looks to Jarok for more instruction as to what will be going on.

Brojii continues as she responds, bowing again as he inters.

“I will be teaching you kung fu.”

Jarok smiles at her reassuringly, speaking as the large man finishes.

“You don’t need to fear. Your lessons will be first to measure your abilities, then decide where your training should extend to. For now, I think some simple exercises will suffice.”

She nods, “Then shall we get started?”

Jarok nods, clapping his hands together, and waving a hand from one end of the room to another, calling to her.

“Simple first. Back and forth; one wall to the other, as a run.”

Early Morning, still hesitant with her new circumstance takes off running to the side of the room to her left.

Leaping from her place on the floor, she begins to rapidly move across the room, the reed mat helping her stride easily as she makes her way to the opposite wall. As she is about to reach it, however, her stomach lurches lightly, the hiccup strong enough to make one leg buckle.

She bites her lip and tries to recover.

As she reaches the wall, it’s more as a tumble than a sprint, her body bouncing from the wall in an illustration of accidental motion. The three masters watching the display pause in embarrassment for her.

Early Morning steadies herself, clenching her eyes shut in her own embarrassment before attempting to go to the other wall hopefully without further mishap.

Her leg lightly twisted from the mishap, she staggers her way to the other wall, taking about as much time as she would have normally. Calling out as she reaches it, Jarok motions for her to stop.

“Morning! Please. You don’t have to keep going. We’ll start you on something else, perhaps better for your… history.”

She sighs, very obviously embarrassed and disappointed in herself. “Alright.”

Motioning for her to make her way over, the large man steps over on his own.

“This will be a simple test. Take swings at me, plesse.” His accent flattens the “ease” sound at the end.

She nods, doing so.

Swinging at him openly, her fists would fly through the air to actually slap against the dark man’s stomach, before he knocks the strikes aside.

“Well done! Seems we know whatta do with you!” Beaming, he chuckles, stepping back.

“Now then. Show you know how to defend, plesse.”

Stepping back from his simple assault, his hands move down in open-palmed strikes, doing nothing more than simply slapping against her skin before he pulls back.

“There. Now, have you used a weppon before?”

“Only a bit, a whip and a hand axe in the past.” The whip had been used on the resident camel, primarily to keep it from biting things, people, etc, the last one that had ridden it had not been told this, the camel as a result biting off the middle three fingers of a dragonblood and then spitting them out in his face before trying to take another chunk out of his arm. The hand axe had been mainly used as a versatile tool primarily, weapon secondary.

“At the same time?” He doesn’t sound hopeful, only curious.

Beating on her for a while, the large man eventually finishes his ‘instructions’, stepping back with a nod to her, respectfully.

“There. Now, recuperate.”

Wincing and nodding, Early Morning sits down and starts stretching, it would do no good for her muscles to seize up because of injury however mild that they would if she rested them.

Waiting, the last master, the old man, watches with a tilted head and a disapproving expression on his features. As she works, he snaps at her.

“The third spoon on a table is meant for what?”

She looks up, puzzlement on her face, “Eating with?”

Frowning, he continues his sharp questioning.

“And the constellation with the most numerous stars?”

“Er… The claws of Exturag?” she hesitantly answers. Zenithas says: He humphs, looking at her with somewhat less disappointment, before snapping again.

“And the product of nineteen and four, multiplied, then squared, divided by twenty-three?”

“251.13” she answers with little hesitation.

His eyes snap up in surprise, looking at the girl with substantially more respect.

“Interesting. Why would there be trouble in the idea of making a trade route from Gem to Thorns?”

“Because Thorns is infested with the dead and the guild would probably do something nasty to you, so you’d probably end up not only with your workers strung up, not even the ropes would be left after their bodies are made off with and eaten?” She lifts her eyebrows.

He nods, looking at Jarok again with amusement in his voice.

“No class, but she knows business well. Not completely stupid.”

Early Morning sighs at his remarks and makes a comment under her breath about delusional people thinking that street rats had access to formal education.

“And I thought ‘street rats’ were good with moving around?” He snaps back at her almost unheard whisper, shooting her a dark look.

Jarok, nodding, looks at Morning with what starts with a pleasant expression, until the byplay begins, where it then becomes a disturbed grimace.

“Ah. I… hope you can get along with your new student, Kalthok. You said it yourself, she has a good business mind.”

Early Morning gets a sulking look on her face, making a mental note not to mutter any more things around the monk with more hearing than he should have in this temple. She sighs. “What now?”

Jarok looks quickly between you, before giving a bow.

“I will leave the both of you to get acquainted, and take Brojii to ensure that the other priests will be aware of the changes. Come, Brojii!” Taking the large man by the arm, he begins to lead him from the room, not giving Kalthok time to react.

The old man frowns, one eye creasing in as he attempts unsuccessfully to raise the other eyebrow, before turning to you, as the pair of priests talk quickly.

“Why are we nut staying to-?” The large man begins.

“If they don’t kill each other in the next ten minutes, then they’ll make an excellent pair. Besides, Kalthok could use a relatively sturdy student who can’t run away!”

Early Morning’s eyes widen in undisguised incredulity, and looks to the bad tempered monk quizzically.

Kalthok’s expression has frozen as he obviously had heard the comment as well, his expression a twisted form, one eye still closed somewhat, his mouth caught open as he was about to start talking when they spoke.

“Err… What’s all that about?” she ventures tentatively.

“Nothing. They are teasing.” Grimacing, he looks about at the equipment, before sighing.

“Come. We need you to have a desk to study at. I assume you can write?”

She looks somewhat embarrassed, “Barely, I can spell just fine, but my penmanship is barely legible.”

Hmphing again, he nods, gesturing the same way that the prior priests had headed.

“Then we go to the library. I will start with the basics, and I will loan you my desk until Jarok shows you how to make one of your own.”

She nods and gets up to follow.

Leading her to the library, Kalthok gestures to a desk close to the floor, a single pillow the seat for it, with a variety of small linen sheets placed on frames on top of it. Taking a moment to gather some soluble inks, he also places a much larger sheet on the desk top.

“Take a seat” he says as he finishes his work, the large sheet dominating the tabletop. “You will be practicing on this frame, when you have done for the day, or there is no room left, you will give it to me for appraisal, then clean it of ink.”

She hesitantly sits down neatly, “Alright, what shall I be practicing writing down then?” she asks.

“Let us begin with the basics…” And, with that, he begins to give her a basic ‘alphabet’ lesson. Unlike English, and more like Chinese, the word form is less dependent on a set phonetic alphabet, but more a diagrammatic glyph style of writing.

Early Morning pays attention to the lesson though most of the material is already known, the problem with her writing is that she wants to do it fast, which with an unpracticed hand makes it even sloppier than it is wont to be, and she writes infinitely small ‘to save material’.

He works on that, giving small criticisms as soon as he can see that she knows what she is doing.

“Slow down! The ink will not dry before the brush has finished moving! Be careful, and do not make the words unintelligible! If you cannot read it, then the entire space your blobs take is wasted!”

She slows down and does things more carefully, though this takes much longer since her muscle memory for writing is near nonexistent.

He is patient, as long as she does things as he says, and he would continue her doing her work until dinner begins to arrive.

She continues to do her work as he instructs her, though her writing is still painfully small.

After a time, a loud gong echoes through the halls, and Kalthok stops his lesson, looking to the door.

“I will be back. That’s the call for worship. Unless you’re coming as well, you tend to cleaning the sheet, then head for dinner. You did better than I thought you could, though you still seem to be leaving notes for mice and flies to read.”

She nods, “I’ll clean the sheet then.” And sets to work to do so.

Leaving her be, Kalthok heads from the chamber, looking somewhat more solemn as he does.

The linen is surprisingly easy to clean, and doesn’t take long before it is blank, and wet, and hanging at the provided rack to dry again for the next day’s practice. From elsewhere in the temple, a strong scent of curry wafts.

Early Morning carefully follows the scent, attempting to find out it’s location, and make a more complete map of the place in her head.

The local geography is fairly simple; a long, straight corridor bisected by two perpendicular corridors. The long passage is the one connecting to personal rooms about the size of monk’s cells, and the cross-sections seem to lead to places like the kitchens, baths, and so forth.

She continues to follow the smell of the curry.

The kitchen is fairly easy to trace down; within it, a large single table sits, in a square in the center of the room, an assortment of plates layered on it haphazardly around. Outside of that, numerous seating cushions adorn the floor – obviously intended for sitting on while holding the plate in your lap. The dish for tonight seems relatively normal, though spicy.

Early Morning has the grace enough to wait until it’s indicated that is is right for her to help herself, not wanting to be presumptuous.

It is about fifteen minutes before the priests enter, taking plates and seating themselves in what seems to be a fairly casual social occasion. A number of younger priests and priestesses also come in, most seeming like fairly generic craftsmen, wearing aprons and even crafting equipment over their plain robes. Soon, there is a group of people eating, with several plates to spare.

She takes one of the open seats as well as a small amount of the food from the communal serving plate.

As one of the younger craftsmen sits near her, he looks her up and down, grinning boyishly.

“Hey! I’m Fading Blast. Take it you work with copper, huh?”

“I mean, you didn’t show to the glassblowing today…”

She shakes her head. causing her nearly uncontrollable hair to fall into her face before pushing it back again, “No, I just came here today, I was in lessons with Kalthok to attempt to turn my chicken scratches into something more resembling writing.”

He frowns, then widens his eyes when he hears about her tutor, drawing back as though she was somehow infected or on fire.

“Gah! Kalth-” His eyes widen further, and he pauses, then whispering hoarsely.

“Kalthok!? You have the Slaughterer teaching you to write? Who are you? You don’t look like a cannibal!”

Early Morning gives him a look which clearly shows that she clearly knows nothing in regards to her new tutor’s reputation, “I don’t really know what you’re going on about, sure he’s a bit off-putting, but he’s fairly straightforward in teaching, as I said I just came here today.” She looks somewhat confused, “What’s this about cannibals?”

Fading Blast looks around furtively, before leaning in over his plate to whisper to her again.

“Kalthok the Slaughterer was the most infamous of a gang of cannibals who set up shop outside the city years ago. Legend has it that he was not only a spellcaster, but promised to the demon lords of Malfeas as a captain for when he died! He would rally the cannibals into attacking anything in sight, caravans, the city walls, the guard, even the dragon-blooded, and every time, his skill with tactics and magic would get his band fresh corpses to leave with. He also used to have his men and women kill the cannibal who had the least kills by the end of the month, to encourage them to have no weakness. That went on for almost a DECADE!” Pausing for breath, he then continues almost straight away with barely a moment between.

“And then, one day, he disappeared. The cannibals stopped raiding as well, but their leader, Kalthok the Vile, slaughterer of the young and despoiler of all that is holy? Not a sign of him. Then the DAY that the cannibal leader disappeared, suddenly we get a new tutor. Kalthok. The old man who’s with us now. And he’s been here for nearly thirty years.”

Early Morning has been eating through his recital of history, swallowing another biteful she blinks, “I’m sure it’s just coincidence even if it isn’t it still doesn’t have any impact on what I should be studying, a teacher is a teacher, and their personal past imagined or not is their own affair.” She shrugs and takes another bite.

The boy looks at her strangely, as though she had just sprouted a tentacle from her forehead, before turning to face another student, talking normally as though she had never existed.

Shrugging the boy’s dismissal off she continues to eat her meal.

The meat is succulent and tender, and the sauce flavorsome and spicy, together with the mixture of yams and rice, all in all it covers the bases for being a good feed.

She quickly finishes the small portion she had set for herself and gets up to retrace her steps to the place where she had been learning how to write legibly earlier.

Comments

42osiris

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.