What can be lost but never found again?

childhood friends meet again in a dream

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Herein lies the realm of dreams, where dreamers who are scattered all over the world in the physical can come together in the mysterious world of dreams. Remember, unless one is a Dreamwalker, there is no control over dreams. Ever. Anything can happen, and by threading a dream, you are subject to whomever can walk dreams and the whims of Storytellers.

What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Madeira Craven on November 25th, 2018, 11:49 pm

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It was late, and Madeira was tired. That unexpected letter from little Leavou had left her strangely off balance. In her mind the woman was still a child, a poor girl with a wildness about her, who could not read or write but could throw a stone as far as any boy. She had been everything Madeira was not, frail, serious, wisp of a creature that she had been. Madeira had admired and looked up to the older girl, and even after all these years that name still inspired that kind of childish awe.

She stood in front of the fireplace in her bedroom, warming her hands against the chill of a haunted house, wanting nothing but sleep yet unable to sit still. Old memories had been resurfacing since she had read that name, some good, some bad, and all things she had thought long forgotten. Her childhood had not been sweet, but Leavou had been a shining spot in it. As much as it confused her she missed the girl, though she knew nothing about the woman who called herself Lani Stranger.

There was only thee bells left in the midnight rest. She should sleep, but she wouldn't be able to here.

From her closet dense with velvet and silk she found her heavy fur cloak, and from her pocket she surfaced with a ring of keys. She chose a silver one, with cracks of star fire across its surface and a bow made of pearls shaped like a human skull. She paused in the middle of the room, finding that calm space she needed, before twisting the key in the empty air and stepping through a silver door into her secret cemetery.

The loamy smell of dark earth greeted her as she stepped into her little sanctuary. A gentle wind was whispering through the scattering of trees along its edge, but the stone, gem, wood and bone tombstones were quiet in the dark night. She settled into the impossibly soft grass at the base of what she considered her tombstone, a profoundly ancient thing made from the bone of a mighty creature, worn with time and made strange by the inscription she couldn't read. Madeira pulled her heavy cloak over herself like a blanket, already drifting off in the blessed sanctity of this ancient place.

The last thing she saw as her eyes drifted shut were the stars burning bright in the open sky, and the silvery face of Leth, hanging impossibly close and watching over her as she slipped into her dreams.

----------------------------------------------------


The sun was shining in the City of Illusions. The twisting streets were laid bare to it, rejoicing in the heat and light. A few of the cobblestone, perhaps not happy to observe from the ground, had taken flight to see the city so full of light from up above. Flowers too, though they could grow no wings, were growing up and up, their petals fanning out like the fronds of a palm tree. There was no hurry in the people that wove between them on the ground. There never was. What would come would come, and they'd get there when they get there. The citizens strolled and chatted in the bright, bastardized garb of a dozen different cultures.

Madeira, a sad, fish-eyed little girl in a prim white dress, was kneeling in the middle of the street. She didn't look at the wonders around her, and the bright, cheery atmosphere stayed well back from the tight stress that rolled between her skinny shoulders. In a square of bare muddy ground, left behind by a cobble stone that had taken wing, the six year old was building a castle. It would be a great castle, she had decided. Big and tall, with towers of sticks and a moat of rainwater. It would be protected and safe and so grand even Aunt Madara would be jealous. And Madeira had saved three perfect red leaves in her pockets to make flags that would fly high from the battlements, so everyone would know it was her castle. Because if it was her castle she got to rule. That was how castles worked.

She had built it up, packing mud together to make a thick, sticky base with witch to build. Yet as soon as it was starting to come together, as soon as her little hands were starting to pull shape and structure from the mud, and her mind was turning to those perfect red leaves in her pocket, disaster would strike. First it was an older man, who used her body as a crutch to steady himself in his clumsiness. Madeira had to crush her own work to save herself from falling face first into the mud under his heavy weight. Then there was a little boy playing in another patch of dirt, who saw the little girl building her castle and thought it might soon be even better than his. He ran over and kicked it down, splattering her dress and sneering when she cried.

Her third attempt she guarded jealously, snapping at anyone who came close. She slapped the mud together, her turrets growing lopsided and her moat crooked as she rushed to build before the next disaster struck. An older boy with spiraling tattoos and dark eyes watched from his stoop, where he was crouched sucking juice from stolen black plums. Disliking how close she was to his staked territory, but unable to get close, he would suck the plum pits clean and throw them at her castle. With dark juice on his laughing lips he called her names and announced he had stolen the plums from her own backyard, right from under her stupid nose. He was throwing the stones she had given him, he said, shouldn't she have watched the trees more closely?

Madeira's lip trembled, but she wouldn't cry again. She would build and build and build, and when she had her castle, she would rule.

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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Lani Stranger on November 26th, 2018, 12:38 am

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At some point Lani had been staring up at the air shaft in her room, watching Leth’s reflection cast looming shadows across her room. Her brain had been alive with the wonder of language, curiosity for an old friend, and the heartache of home. But at some point the shadows in her room began to move and swirl around her, encompassing the mixed blood in a dark embrace of night. The shadows took on color and grew bright, and she found herself staring up at a strange hairy green trunk of what should have been a tree but was instead a flower. The girl thought it too tall to be a flower, but it wasn’t as if she was used to anything less. The world around her felt more tangible than a dream, but fleeting and whimsical in a sense that she only got from one place.

Someone shrieked, and a chorus of laughter flew up after the jarring noise, and Lani snapped her head to the side to watch the happenings in her home town. Two thick black braids bounded on her back, and she was reminded of how she wore them as a child. Every morning before disappearing off to some unknown place, R’yse wound bind her hair back on her head, and tap her nose to remind her to come home before Leth had risen that day. And this familiar sensation, of her mother’s care and reminder did not feel like the hollow impact of a dream, it did not trigger the ache of nostalgia in her chest, but instead it seemed as if it was an everyday thing to the little Chaktawe girl. She was eight now and she wanted to tell her mother she could do it herself, but she liked the caring touch of the Konti too much to nurture her own pride by sharing such information.

Black eyes fell across the large blue man that she recognized from somewhere and yet didn’t know his face from any other, and she watched him walk past. He smiled at her, and she stuck her tongue back at him, she didn’t like it when adults smiled at her. She forgot where she was headed, perhaps to the wall, but the streets did not point her in that direction today. As a child she felt as if she was on top of the world, balancing on the uneven wall that separated the illusory city she loved from the wilderness that both thrilled and terrified her. Of course the old Konti had chastised her every time she heard of various going-ons at the wall, but the eight year old didn’t care. She was alive wasn’t she?

The cobbled streets were giving way to shoots of rhubarb that sprouted up from the crevices. Only it didn’t look like the naturally growing stalk, but as if someone had washed it and placed it there in just begging to be picked up. But once the ebony-eyed girl had selected her first stock, the little sticks changed to carrots. Curious to see if they would change again, she bounded forward and plucked the white root from where it balanced between the cobbles, and saw that merely three feet away a sweet potato now balanced on one end, washed and ready. She was collecting as many roots as she could, making a game to see if she could change them back to rhubarb or even celery, when she noticed a little white thing in her path. This dress was no root.

Whoever this child was looked like an aged woman stuck in a little girl’s dress. Of course her pale skin was smooth and her sky eyes clear as the fog, but she was frowning and crouching over her art in a far too protective stance to be mere play. There was mud all over her pretty white dress. Leavou stood behind her, one hand in her pant pockets, the other with a bundle of roots tucked under her arm, and a curious set to her brow. She watched the strange building form and grow, groomed by little angry fingers in the puddle that seemed too small and too big at the same time. And that is when she saw the projectile attack breaking the castles barriers. Whoever this small ghost-girl was did not appreciate that her architecture was under assault from the older boy.

Leavou could see him now, sitting leisurely, with ink in his skin and amusement in his smirk. He was older than even her, but he wasn’t an adult. She grew irritated that he was interrupting her show, and she reached down into the wreckage that the missile had done to the castle wall, plucking the thing from the sand. She examined it for merely a tick, deciding if it was hard enough to cause any serious damage, and disappointed it wasn’t.

She called to the boy with a sharp whistle meant for a dog, but it managed to catch his attention anyway. With no more word spared towards him, she pulled her arm back and launched the seed back towards him. With the experience of throwing stones at the shop signs that hung from polls, she overhanded the seed directly to the center of his forehead, with the hopes that his head was spin, like the signs did if you hit them hard enough. Much to Leavou’s disappointment his head did not spin, merely bumped into an exaggerated expression of shock. A small satisfied smirk rested on her russet lips now, and she plucked a root from her arm as if it was a threatening weapon as well, except it wasn’t. The roots she had been collecting from the street turned to uprooted stones that resembled vegetables in her hand, which was as much to be expected when one tried to remove an illusion from where it chose to be.

The boy stood, probably to say something, but she paid him no mind, turning back to the castle she had been inspired to defend. It wasn’t the prettiest thing, with a lopsided tower and a moat that was too thin to fend of attacker. Won’t defend your own castle? She asked the girl, extending a carrot-shaped stone to the pale little thing. Otherwise you will just have to keep redoing it, won’t you? She shook the stone beckoning the girl to take it.

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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Madeira Craven on November 28th, 2018, 4:54 am

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Her eyes were as black as polished jet. That was Madeira's first thought as she turned to regard her saviour, this girl who threw plum pits in the streets. She was skinny, but not in the way Madeira was. She was thin as a wire and just as strong, with arms made for climbing and legs for running. Thick black hair was braided down her back, and her skin shone like a copper miza. Yet nothing about her held as much interest as her black, black eyes. They stared back at her, hard and liquid and shining.

Perhaps some small part of her waking mind broke through as she looked upon this strange, savage little girl. I know you, it seemed to say. I know you.

The boy had staggered to his feet, a nice shiny bump on his tattooed forehead and his mouth full of curses in some guttural jungle tongue. She knew him too. How did she know him? In her dreaming state the only words she could conjure to name him was wrath's son, and she knew he was just as dangerous as he looked. Myrian, the curse eater, bone breaker, she looked at him and shuddered.

"Betrayer! Matricide! You don't belong here anymore! You don't belong anywhere anymore!" He was howling at his attacker, plums raining from the pockets of his coat as he worked himself into a terrible anger. Spittle dripped onto his chest, dyed purple with the juice of the heavy fruit. The finger he pointed at the twin braided girl was full of accusations and judgment.

"I can't defend it, I'm not big enough", Madeira explained softly, wiping a spot of mud off her face with the back of her hand and leaving a bigger smear behind. "But you're big. You're not scared of him. Defend my castle for me, and I'll build it for you too."

She took the stone carrot from the girl's gilded hand. There were little cracks riddled across its surface, like the tiny desert you find in the bottom of dried puddles. She worked her fingernail underneath and chipped the stone away. A pale maggot, fat and wriggling and nearly transparent in the sunlight, fell out of the hollow stone and shrivelled in the sun. As its wet, slimy skin began to split two papery wings burst from the body, and from the grotesque little thing a fuzzy white moth danced away.

Sniffing with her unshed tears the little girl pulled back her arm and threw the stone at the Myrian boy. Though she aimed for his head the projectile hit him low in the stomach. Stone shards exploded off of him, and there was a great fluttering noise, like every book in the world simultaneously turning its page, and a rain of moths erupted into the air. For a moment all she could see was wings and moth dust before the bugs scattered into the sky. And when they cleared there was no sign of the boy at all, just a few plums rolling lazily between the mortar of the cobblestones.

Madeira looked down at her crooked little castle, its walls smashed with the fruit stones and twisted by her sloppy architecture, and it was just a castle of mud and sticks. She didn't want to keep rebuilding, like the older girl said. She wanted something unmovable, unbreakable. What good was such a fragile castle?

The little girl climbed to her feet, trying to brush the worst of the dirt off her long skirt. From her pocket she presented the older girl with one of her precious red leaves, as payment for the carrot.

"My name is Madeira", she said, all pale, protuberant eyes and sad little mouth. "What's yours?"

She calls herself Stranger, some waking part of herself whispered.

"What a lonely name."

Or a strong one.

"Do you want to play?" Madeira smiled uncertainly, scrapping mud off her hands with her fingernails. Maybe the mean boys wouldn't pick on her if she had this bold girl beside her.

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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Lani Stranger on November 30th, 2018, 3:35 am

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See? You don’t have to be strong, just daring. Leavou countered, watching the effects of the girl’s hit. His words rang in her ears. Matricide. There was a painful familiarity that the sun-kissed child couldn’t fathom. Still the world shifted and tugged around her, as if turning under bed covers in discomfort. She was still the same care-free kid with pockets with holes, shirts that were too big, and no shoes, unable to recognize what the word was or what it meant. She found herself looking down at the sky-eyed child again a bright red leaf being stuff into her open palm. She half expected it to wriggle and fly away like everything else in this imaginary reality, but it felt strong and steady, harder than a leaf, but just as bendable and tangible as one. Leavou didn’t think about the action, but tucked the leaf into her braid, as if that would be safer than the pocket with the hole. Whatever phantom pain the word had caused was now being replaced with the warmth and familiarity of a name she had never heard before, but remembered fondly. Madeira.

Leavou, Leavou Stranger. The russet skinned girl grinned, naming herself with the stolen name from her childhood, and the lack of identity she clung to as an adult, and not realizing she had done so. The stone she had been holding clattered to the ground, but instead of making noise, they twinkled on the cobble, writhed and then exploded into black butterflies, dispersing across the area surrounding the girls before dissipating in the wind like ash blown from a hearth. Leavou didn’t immediately answer the girl, but took her muddy hand and turned her toward the end of the street, where she could see the famed wall, which looked different no matter where you came from. It was the half-Chaktawe’s favorite place to play, climbing up the stones, or wood, or gate, and balance on its high, or low perch and watch the city before her. She had never actually seen a building move, but it was fun to try and catch them in the act. She thought of it as peek-a-boo with the God of illusion, only Ionu never went easy on her. Leavou wanted to introduce this girl to the game, so she extended one scrawny finger towards the now stony wall that rose up above the cottages just below it. As if she had the power to do so, the crowd dispersed where she pointed, offering the children a rare and straight shot to the wall. You have to build up there, where no one can touch you.

And then she was running, still clutching the Madeira’s little pale fingers, keeping her new friend beside her. They moved slowly, and even though Madeira was much smaller than she, at the same pace. The cobble before them shifted into a grassy scape, with little blue flowers appearing beside them, getting caught in her bare toes, and feeling like Morwen’s kiss atop them. The cottages flickered out of existence, and before them lay the long expanse of trees that skirted the lower Kalean foothills, and for a tick Leavou thought they were lost, that they had burst from the city and this was what reality looked like outside of Ionu’s dome of protection. But just as quickly as the world had changed around them, they were back, standing in front of the large wall, which was now tinted a warm mossy green, although nothing but dead vines clung to it.

She was not familiar with the stone here, but she could see an easy enough path up, and so she turned to look down at the white-clad girl. I’ll boost you up, and then you just jump. She said, dropping the girl’s hand and then folding her own palms together to create a platform, then bent to offer it to Madeira.

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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Madeira Craven on December 8th, 2018, 4:37 am

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The wall loomed large before the girls. It marked the edge of Ionu's influence Madeira's little world.

You have to build up there, her new friend said, where no one can touch you.

The little blonde girl might have been afraid to play in this dangerous and forbidden place, but Leavou's hand was warm in hers, and it made her brave.

"Okay", she said, and truly smiled for the first time since she set to building her castles. There was something hungry in the curve of it, and the glisten of her teeth. In the corner of her mouth was a black hole where a baby tooth had fallen out. "I'll build us something big and strong."

Then they began to run. And for a moment the little fish-eyed girl was just as wild as the dark Leavou. The city melted away, and a grassy field extended endlessly before them at the skirts of the great Kalean mountains. The older girl might think they were lost, but Madeira never strayed her goal. Build where no one can touch you, she told herself, her eyes trained high on the tall peaks that ringed her world.

Soon the city was back, as it was wont to do. The grass turned to cobble beneath her slippered feet, and out of the endless green the buildings sprouted like so many weeds. The wall was tallest of all, reaching well above the smoking chimneys of the little cottages. It crawled with dead grey vines and the nodding heads of wilting roses, but underneath it was the warm green of fresh spring.

I’ll boost you up, Leavou said, dropping to her knee with knitted hands, and then you just jump.

Just jump? The little girl leaned back to see the whole of the wall. Leavou might be able to climb it. She was strong, with calloused feet and long arms and a heart made for adventure. But Madeira? She was a creature bred for service and groomed for study. She belonged on the ground.

Her lip worried between her teeth, and she scratched nervously at the first of the thin scars that marked her wrists. She had to be brave. She couldn't look like a little baby in front of Leavou! The need to keep up with this thin whip of a child was strong in her. She wanted to have that adventurous heart too.

Steeling herself, Madeira put her little slippered foot in the girl's brown hands.

"Don't let me fall", she warned. Then with a huff she pushed off her hands and launched into the air. Up and up she went, way past where logic would dictate she'd fall. Her white, mud-stained dress floated about her as she crested the impossibly stretched arc, and she landed lightly on top of the green wall. As her heels hit the ground air sucked into her lungs with an excited gasp to see what was beyond the wall. She had visited the port and its surrounding ramshackle town a handful of times, but she had never seen it like this. Its patchwork of colour was laid out before her like a vast blanket, dotted with people no bigger than dolls. Beyond it the sea looked endless, and as smooth and shiny as a marble.

"Is this what it feel like to be Ionu?" she wondered aloud as she turned to regard the city behind her. She could see the temple from here, and the Bazaar and the Mercy. It was a little toy town and she was above it all, bigger than all of them. Cobblestone butterflies were bending the stalks of the giant flowers, a desert was being created in a neighborhood of pavilions and sand huts, and far in the distance the Emerald Pool was bubbling up into a great geyser. She wanted to look down on her kingdom and explore all of it, but she wouldn't do it without her friend.

Her laugh was a scream of excitement. "Leavou!" She called down from her perch. "Leavou, come see! I'll catch you." She wiggled to her belly and stretched her tiny arms down towards the ground far below. And though she was small and weak there was nothing but confidence in her voice. She would catch her, of course she would. That girl helped her climb to the top, it was only fair that she return the favor.
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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Lani Stranger on December 25th, 2018, 7:06 pm

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Leavou grinned at the excitement that filled the six year old. She was not used to playing with others and generally did not feel shame in finding the same amount of joy as someone younger than herself, and was quick to begin scaling the wall as well. Leavou remembered having more trouble than the mossy green stone currently gave her, and she found it was like pulling oneself by something underwater, with almost no effort on her part. It was when she neared the top, reaching up for the smooth little pale hands of her new friend Madeira that she was able to let go and practically float to the flat top of the wall, standing as they did. Instead of looking towards the city, the child turned to the wild, always fascinated with its complexity and plainness, but today Ionu had warped her perception, showing nothing but vast roiling waves of black water before her. Perhaps they had actually climbed the part of the wall that was near the ocean? The thought made the child feel ill and she didn’t know why so she turned back to her friend and the safety of the unpredictable city before them.

Without warning she skipped a few steps forward, still clutching tightly to the girl’s hand. She rarely got others to come up to the wall with her, and she overly excited to show her all the things. Look! The Library! Leavou’s gilded finger protruded forward to point out the geyser of the Emerald Pool, and the intricate architecture of the Library that nested by it. The building was ringed with full size coral that seemed to need no water to thrive and survive under the glint of Syna’s light. Leavou scanned the layout of the city, looking for the Temple, only to find the library had sprouted up in a different spot, now shaded by huts that seemed to be built to the proportion of a giant rather than any of the normal sized humans who inhabited the city. Look there it is again! I don’t ever see them move, you have to tell me if you see them move.

Then, without warning, Leavou dropped the girl’s hand. She shoved her arms out into the girl’s chest pushing her back a step but not nearly enough to lose her footing, and then quickly wrapped each long arm around her shoulders so that Madeira lurched but was still caught in Leavou’s grip. Save your life! She laughed, no matter how much she liked a new person, the little mixed blood was unable to help her terrible jokes from being played. Once she was confident the girl was not actually going to fall, the half-Eypharian skittered out of the way, bending back into a cartwheel to avoid the six year old’s grasp and giggling. She didn’t see any negative affect of such a prank, and fully anticipated a chase down the wall.
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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Madeira Craven on January 5th, 2019, 9:09 pm

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Madeira's little hand was clutched tightly in Leavou's to steady herself on the wall and the edge of the world. She watched the older girl point out the landmarks with the kind of childish excitement her peers would show when explaining their seashell collections or favorite dolls. But this bold girl was unlike the rest- the whole city was her toybox, and she wanted to show it to her.

Viewed from above it was even more clear it was the kind of city that would make a cartographer weep. Madeira couldn't see the buildings move anymore than Leavou could, they simply rearranged themselves in the space between blinks. The cobbled streets were crooked and winding, impractical, some of it underwater or covered in fur or flowers, and sometimes seemed to lead to more than one place. She could almost see Ionu's wicked smile in the impossible madness of it all.

Suddenly Leavou dropped her grip, and Madeira felt the calloused little hands planted on her chest with little shove that sent her stumbling. Her big protuberant eyes became even more so, and her mouth opened with a shriek that never got past her lips before the older girl's arms wrapped securely around her shoulders.

Saved your life!, she declared, laughing in her ear as Madeira squirmed in her arms.

"That was unchivalrously done!", she muffled from a mouth full of linen and shoulder. She didn't quite understand what that meant, but had heard it often from her fathers mouth when he spoke to her cousins, and it sounded impressively lordly.

Little fist were reaching up to pound at her fleshy prison, but the older girl was already skipping away and bending into a daring cartwheel on the two feet of crumbly litchen-spotted wall. The black-eyed girl was flashing a smile Madeira expected Ionu would have; wicked and strange. Anger made her brave, and the indignant little girl soon gave chase.

They ran across the top of the wall together, and anger dissolved almost immediately into shouts of savage pleasure as Madeira chased her illusive prey. The girl always danced just out of her reach, her strong legs outclassing her playmate's at every step, but she didn't give up. People from below looked up to hear so much girlish laugher from above their heads, and some whooped and cheered them on.

"I'll get you!" Madeira laughed, watching the bounce of the black braid down the girl's back, her little hands reaching, grasping for her. "I'll get you!"

The dream began to pull apart then, like clay in a child's hands, and rearranged it slammed back together. And suddenly it wasn't hands Madeira was reaching towards her friend, but teeth. Four paws drummed against the stone instead of feet. A stiff brush of hackles sprouted from sloped shoulders and slaver dripped from her teeth and the hyena laughed and laughed and laughed.

I'll get you!, she cheered in a voice that was half madness and half pain. I'll get you I'll get you I'll get you I'll get you!

A bound, a leap, and her jaws closed around a narrow thigh. The taste of blood and leather and violence was on her tongue as she rode her down. The wall was too narrow for the tangle of beat and girl, and suddenly the two were falling. Down and down they went endlessly, in a that strange way of dreams and Alvadas. While around them the dream shuddered, rearranged, and the memory reasserted itself over it. When Madeira hit the ground she was small and human and scared.

The wind rushed out of her in a guff of spit and steam, but the grass beneath her was much more forgiving than the cobblestones would have been. She was told never to cry. A Craven doesn't cry. But she was still a little girl and she couldn't help the wash of tears as she sucked in breath after noisy breath. The silvery underside of beech trees loomed above her, rattling gently in the wind, and beneath that sound was the trickle of a tiny waterfall that emptied into a pretty bright green pool.

"Leavou?" Madeira sniffled, scrubbing at her eyes with the sleeve of her dirty white dress as she turned over and looked for her friend. "Leavou? I'm sorry! I didn't mean it. Lets play something else. We can... we can go exploring. We can try and find the Underground, or see the puppet show..." She sucked back her tears and whimpered to a stop. Where were they? There was something so strange about that pool.
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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Lani Stranger on January 9th, 2019, 3:14 am

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The cheery breathless giggles of the girls behind her told Leavou that her play had worked, and that she would not be losing her friend so quickly by such a brash action. Instead she found fun in running across the stones of the wall. Within a few bounds the wall beneath her changed and the cobbled texture beneath her feet gave way to the rough scratching of bark. They were not climbing a tree, but it seemed as if the wall had been formed of branches that Caiyha had woven together as they grew, creating a natural wall of branches that held no leaves and seemed to stem from nowhere in particular. Her padded soles had little issue with the new texture and the wall began to slant down. Leavou found herself using her arms for leverage as well as her feet, climbing across the twisting branches in the manner of the Jamoura and with such an ease as she had never truly had at such a skill. She was forgetting that she did not actually want to leave her new friend behind and so she turned her head to see the small six year old keeping pace with her longer stride. Again the wall changed beneath her, the rich black volcanic rock of the Reach taking form beneath her, and Leavou was running again. The porous soft stone that housed the bird-worshipers took form underneath her as they ran, and the wall narrowed, sloping up and then down again like the rocky ridges that she climbed on outside the volcano. Again the child glanced back to her companion enjoying the chase, but was beginning to tire.

Without warning the large russet feathers of the Reach’s beloved monsters clouded her vision. She could not see anything beyond the white and red of the dire eagle behind her, large yellow eyes boring into her soul. She could not read the minds of the bird of prey that chased her now, not as he could hers at least, but she could read his intent. With one sweep of its massive wings the thing was on top of her. Lani was a complete adult for a mere few ticks, screaming as her feet giving way with panic to the volcanic rock beneath her, and she could see the massive claws, reaching for her face. One mere talon was the size of her face, and although she put her arms up to fend off the attack, it did absolutely nothing against the monster of this size. Evek stop! She shouted the monster’s name and just as she did, the sky above her seemed to clear, returning to its shining blue accented by the greying clouds that shifted lazily through it, and then that too was falling away. Or she was just falling down, with no sign of the eagle above her.

No pain resounded in Leavou’s chest when her hips and shoulders collided with the grass beneath, but something reminded her it should hurt. She should have lost her breath and had trouble walking afterwards, if she remembered correctly. But no such sensations added to the child’s perception, and so she sat up, black eyes scanning immediately around her to find the blonde child she had been running with, hearing her name being called. Here I am. I’m right here, Madeira.

Leavou turned to her knees and pushed herself up from the ground, stepping over to the shorter child, agreeing with her offer to play something else. The puppet show is boring. Leavou spoke confidently for someone who had never actually seen the performance. The wild child had never been a fan of sitting still, and the idea of doing so in order to watch someone else have fun did not seem pleasing. A pure black gaze flitted across their surroundings, curious whose garden they had fallen into when her ears picked up on the babble of water speaking to the rocks it ran down. The strange green-blue pool that the water tumbled into found its way into Lani’s gaze and pulled the child forward. Almost worried, she reached blindly for Madeira’s hand, waving her own russet fingers in the air before they caught on the warm flesh of her friend, twining themselves across the smaller palm and holding on as if it would anchor herself on the solid land below her. A single step at a time, the mixed child walked towards the pond as if she didn’t have another choice but to try for a closer look, pulling her new friend beside her. The pool was eerily still at the end where they stood, despite the falling water which should have sent ripples to lap at the edge before them.

I don’t think we should be here. The ominous whisper fell from Leavou’s mouth, in her voice, but she didn’t feel as if she had said it herself, rather simply heard it from somewhere nearby. Still, she could not quite drag her eyes away to check where her voice had come from. Maybe the puppet show is a good idea…

I would stay away from there, children. The crumbling voice of an elderly woman interrupted the silence that surrounded the pond. Leavou’s head snapped to the side, the odd accented voice grabbing her attention. Instead of an old bent over human as Leavou expected, she saw a nearly ghosty white figure. She was old, but did not seem to age in the way that human’s did, translucent grey-ish skin clinging to her boney cheeks, and thin white hair splayed across her skinny shoulders. Piercing red eyes bore into the children, judging their expressions and seemingly reading their minds as they hovered beside the pond. Fragile grey fingers curled over a walking cane that seemed to keep herself straight, but as Leavou took in the creature before her, she realized that there were impossibly long black nails that curled even further across the handle of the cane. The woman wore silver slippers that left room for her toes, where the extremely long black nails curled up and out as well in a seemingly impractical way. She had no name for such a creature, but instead of fearing the strange woman, Leavou found an overwhelming curiosity to touch the papery skin and see if it would crumble under her finger tips. Still when the old woman hobbled forward, stepping into the speckled light that shone through the birch trees, Leavou started back.

What are you?/i] The brash child asked, producing a clatter of cackling from the spider-like woman.

[i]Perhaps you should be asking where you are, rather than who I am.
The woman continued hobbling forward, and Leavou was confused enough to stand still until the an old clawed hand landed on Madeira’s shoulder, pulling the six year old a few steps away from the pond, and ultimately Leavou with her.

I didn’t ask who you are, I asked what you are. Lani corrected the old creature, not one to pay adults too much respect, and not happy with the avoiding answer to her question. Leavou stepped behind Madeira, placing one hand on each of the little girl’s shoulders and pulled her back an extra step, eyeing the oddly clawed hands with suspicion.
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What can be lost but never found again?

Postby Madeira Craven on January 15th, 2019, 11:56 pm

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Madeira scrambled to stand as Leavou stepped over her and closer to the ominous pool. The older girl was stalking forward almost cautiously, her brazen nature evaporating in the face of this strange mystery. When her hand reached back to enclose Madeira's cold pale hand in her calloused brown, she gripped her new friend tight. A feeling of ominous presence was flickering in the corners of her mind, and the wind in the trees almost sounded like whispers. Madeira grit her teeth and followed the older girl.

Just when Leavou conceded that yes, maybe the puppet show would be a better idea, a voice to their right shattered through their hushed voices. An old woman stood to the side of the gleaming pool, watching them as if she had been there the whole time. Her veined, greying skin was lined with the weight of years, the knuckles of her hands around the cane were bony and thin, but the years did not dim the harsh red glare of her eyes. They seemed to cut straight through them, like she was watching the thoughts in their mind rather than the words on their lips. When she started forward, balancing on her cane, both girls stepped back.

What are you?, Leavou demanded of the adult in a way Madeira never could. The woman laughed like a clacking of bones and laid a black tipped claw on her shoulder. The girls skin immediately erupted into gooseflesh as the woman's impossibly sharp nails scrapped against her dress as she pushed her back from the pool.

[i]Perhaps you should be asking where you are, rather than who I am", the woman rasped, her eyes impassive and cold even when the impudent little Leavou angrily corrected her. Madeira felt the warmth of Leavou's hands on her shoulders again, ready to steer her away from the old woman. But for the first time the little Craven shook her off.

"She's Symenestra, I think" Madeira broached uncertainly, turning her head to the girl behind her without looking away from the old woman. All she knew about the creatures came from half remembered books and the very rare sighting of more human-looking examples of their kind on the streets. Their reputation was crawling with blood and poison, and the Symenestra Speaker called The Seamstress did not help their violent image. But Madeira was a lady, and an Avalad besides. Race mattered very little but courtesy always did. The girl dropped into a quick curtsey and she smiled shyly for the woman, standing meekly but unmoving in her way.

"Sorry, ma'am", she apologized sweetly. "We don't mean to be somewhere we shouldn't be. But why do you want us to leave? Is there something in the water? Please tell us. We can keep a secret, promise."

The old woman was watching her very soul with those red eyes, and Leavou's behind her. But Madeira withstood it, her own face, still red from tears and little scrapes from her landing, composed with a kind of polite willfulness. Honey catches more flies than vinegar, and that mysterious pool was something that woman seemed to know a great deal about. I

The woman cackled, hobbling closer. The shuffle of her feet and the beat of her cane lost in the thick grass and moss that carpeted the clearing. Madeira refused to flinch, even as the clawed hand pinched a cheek between its boney knuckles and pulled cruelly.

"Foolish little children", she laughed. "Has nobody told you about Verlyna and her Emerald Pond?"
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