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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

One Quite Ordinary Step, Really (Edreina)

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on July 10th, 2014, 10:56 pm

55th Day of Summer, 514AV
The Docks
11th Bell

There should have been music, he thought. That was always the impression you got from The Stories. The Hero, arriving after a long and fraught voyage upon strange, teeming shores; accompanied by a rousing choir of voices and instruments. Something to commemorate it; etch in stone the momentous and unique event unfolding.

But since when had The Stories ever got it right?

Nate smiled to himself and breathed in that heady mix of fresh air and sea salt as the Fanris cut through the waves, fair winds and expertly-carved hull sending it fast towards the pier. Or one of them, anyway.

The big Sunberthian held tight to a rope ladder leading up to the main mast, even after a sizeable chunk of the season at sea. Sea legs weren't so easily grown, especially when you were a "land-strider" for as long as he'd been. But now he could at least stand on the prow and not want to blow chunks onto the dolphins frollicking in the surf around them.

That's that... I-word, isn't it? Live in a port, sleep less than a league from the docks, work there for years, even speak Fratava... but y'know sod all about swimming, boats, sailing and get sick on anything bigger than a row boat.


He said the words in Fratava carefully, as if savoring the mercurial, flowing flavor of them. Another phrase learned, and he smiled at that feeling. His knowledge of the Svefra language had improved over the last two-dozen days had certainly improved, despite there being only a couple on the Fanris. But he'd listened, watched, pieced things together, queried a time or two...

Good practice for what is to come.

Ah, and wasn't that a sobering thought? The triumphant little smile died on his unshaven face and Nate saw the future lengthen and widen before his eyes. It was... humbling. It made him feel puny, faced with the mounting vagaries of all he would have to absorb. Was his brain even big enough? For an awful moment he thought of it as some sponge, clotted and soaked with so much information that the excess would just run out of his ears.

Probably not that dramatic... not the simple stuff, anyway.

"Simple stuff". That was already what he was calling the trade he would learn in addition to... well, the complicated stuff. Djed. Magic. Wyrd. So much to do, but atop it all, he still shook his head that he, a Sunberthian through-and-through, was actually going to embrace djed. The fact alone was stark, but the possibilities? They mesmerized him. He had seen what Edreina could craft with her will, her djed and the strange art she called "Morphing". A thousand childhood memories about being a fish, a bat, a bear, a lion, a dog, they all came to his mind... and now he could do it!

But not that alone, anyway. That was one half of this grand and looming adventure: the other was the comparatively mundane fact that, well, he still had to make a living. Nate didn't know what gold a man could make with Morphing, but he was willing to bet being a blacksmith or a merchant had far nicer odds.

"You see them, strider?"

The fair-haired Svefra spoke his own tongue as they neared the docks. Nate was always impressed at how smoothly and quietly the younger man could move, even on the swaying platform of a ship's deck. After finding out Nate knew a smattering of his language, the grinning kid had been happy to confound him by speaking nothing but that... and unsubtle as the lesson had been, Nate had learned. Sort of.

"Yes." He said with his eyes still on the mass of wood and cloth and sprawling activity on the docks. "I see."

"Not that. Them."

Nate had to frown before he understood the subtle difference in his ears, but the Svefra was already pointing to "them". Twin blocks of stone rose, towering from the waves as if their foundations were deep under them and buried in the earth. One black as pitch, the other spotless white. Nate squinted and saw symbols unknowable and unreckonable etched into them, but who could have carved such immutable idols?

"What... what is?"

"Gifts from the Sea Father," the Svefra said, switching to Common, accented lilting and amused. He clapped Nate on the shoulder and nodded to them as the Fanris strove between them both, every Svefra on board bowing as they did. "We just don't know what they do, yet. But we believe he favors Zeltiva because of them."

"How do you know their gifts?"

"What else could they be?"

"... big stones?"

The Svefra blinked a few times as if Nate had just recited astrophysics... then burst into laughter that exposed a half-dozen glinting gold teeth. His hair shook with his head, beads and coral clicking and clanking in the midst of his dreadlocks.

"You land-striders! You say such things!"

Nate just rolled his eyes and cast one more look at the Obelisks. He didn't feel any different for them passing; as far as he could see, there had been no change. No rumblings of djed in his body or keening of... what were they called? Otani? Nothing but cackling gulls and whooshing waves and...

"We nearly there."

"Yes. Close to pier. Must get your things."
The Svefra rolled his eyes, now, clapping Nate on the shoulder again. "Be good when you gone. I can speak like normal again. Not like child."

"I still not hear much you say."

"Maybe that is for best-"

Nate swung out with his arm and the Svefra danced away, lithe and nimble as a monkey where Nate lumbered like a blind bull. The kid was a fair brawler, from what Nate had seen, but his sheer size should have helped... on land, at least. On the Fanris, though, the boy had all the advantages, and what did it matter how hard you could hit when you couldn't close the gap? Nate scowled his way and lurched down towards the stairs below deck.

"One day I walk better on sea. Then we see who laugh."

"I laugh still, land-strider,"
the boy said with the careless confidence of youth, "But now, must work."

He clambered up the rope ladder like he was walking on solid ground, leaving Nate below to mutter under his breath... and look beyond him.

To the rows of warehouses and factories with their neatly-thatched or tiled roofs. Wagons and carts of all sizes, bearing more goods and products than Nate had words in his head for. All of them obscured and shadowed by sea-going constructions, from little fishing boats crewed by father and son to vast galleys that whole work gangs had to sweat and curse for a day to unload.

Ahead of them all, the battered peak of the Cerulean Pier thrust out into the bay like a nigh-shattered spear tip. Nate could see the ravages of a mighty, vicious storm on it... perhaps that same one that had ripped through Sunberth in Spring the last year. Now the supports were splinters in many places, the walkway fallen through into the water, buildings gone... but at their head, by some god's favor or daemon's joke, the two statues remained.

Laviku and Eyris. Sea and Knowledge. Without them, Zeltiva would be just another dot on the map. But with them...

"Well, boy," Nate mumbled to himself "You coulda' picked worse places to land."

Then he caught sight of her. Not on the prow, as he had been, but Nate though that could be some sign of... whatever she had endured. Edreina had poked her head out of her scared little shell over the voyage, that had been plain to see. On the waves again, with fellow Svefra to talk with, putting leagues and leagues between herself and the two cities she had suffered so much in... it helped her. But she still could not bring herself to plant her soul and her flesh so plainly in the open.

Now she stood at the side, gazing at the oncoming port. Nate walked over, hesitantly, like a newborn, ready to shoot her a half-hearted glare if she smirked at his decided lack of sea legs.

"Time to get ready, Mistress Edreina."

Still that same title, and still that same note of subdued amusement whenever he said to to her.

Last edited by Nathaniel Ankah on July 13th, 2014, 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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One Quite Ordinary Step, Really (Edreina)

Postby Edreina on July 19th, 2014, 4:40 am

Mood Music :

The wind tousled and tugged at Edreina's hair, whipping it into a frenzy of activity and life. Her blue eyes, however, were still noticeably cold as she looked out over the roiling waters of Zeltiva's bay. One bat of her eyelashes, though, and it was gone. Her eyes went from cold to simply still. There was something beautiful about the sea, something comforting. It was like a familiar blanket to a frightened child. This particular child of Laviku and Yahal felt she had grown out of a need for its comfort and was doing her best to find comfort within herself for it was the one thing that would exist until the end of her days. Well. Herself and her gods. Each morning, she whispered a prayer to them, thanking them for her continued existence and for each whisper of hope that danced through her.

Each day they grew faintly stronger, and so did she.

"I'm already ready," the redhead answered with a roll of her eyes as Nate staggered over, kicking her still all but empty rucksack as it lay hunched at her bare feet.

During her time on the sea, Edreina had changed substantially from the woman Nate had first met. There was a renewed luster to her flame colored hair, and to her very being. The hair at the nape of her neck had been braided one day by the youngest daughter of the pod's Liao and fastened with a pale violet sea shell. Upon asking what had inspired the girl to do such a thing, Edreina's heart had been touched by the words of a child.

"You're really beautiful, but you hide it. You hide yourself. This braid hides, too... But that doesn't make it any less beautiful."

Since then, she had done her best to begin opening up to people again, to trying to let them in. Her kin had come most easily, though none still new the story behind the scars on her body nor the cuffs on her limbs and about her throat. She laughed with them and shared in their stories, but no more. She had grown fond of Nate, in that time, but no more familiar, they were nearly strangers simply sharing a ship.

More than her demeanor had changed, her body had. Plentiful food had brought softness back into her body though her cheekbones were still far more defined than before and swimming each night had started the return of her muscles and her abilities. In the first days of their voyage, Edreina had been tempted to go about without a shirt, as the other women did, but an ache for familiarity had returned her to binding her chest with less effect than before. It had been an easy trade, a wrap of linen for her shirt. Her pants, however, had become a problem. More accurately, the problem lay beneath her pants. In days past, she had worn short linen breeches on ships, leaving her thighs exposed. No longer able to comfortably do that, she had opted to roll up her breeches to just above her knees.

Rolling her shoulders, Edreina flicked her hair from her face, turning into the wind as she eyed the fast approaching city. It had not changed in the time she had been gone, nearly a year, now. Perhaps more? Hells. In any case, some part of her had expected that it would change in time, as she had. But, cities were far different from people. If anything, it looked cleaner, now, with remnants of the coup's destruction largely cleared from the docks, at least.

"Where will you go, once we arrive?" She asked, more to fill time than out of true curiosity. Though he did not dare admit it, Edreina could not allow herself to grow close to Nate for all that he represented. He was a savage from an urban jungle, troubled by the loss of a woman Edreina had never known. There was too much familiarity in his pale green eyes for her liking. Befriending him would help her return to the woman she had been before Sahova, not the woman she wished to be, now. He had shown the urge to protect her, something she could no longer allow. He would not always be there, so she could never allow herself to even vaguely rely upon his protection.
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One Quite Ordinary Step, Really (Edreina)

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on July 19th, 2014, 6:56 am

"Where will you go, once we arrive?"

Nate steadied himself on the railing before answering, not trusting his bubbling guts to say a word before he had some kind of balance. But the sight of the city calmed him more than a strong drink would. For days that had skirted the shore, curved around that horn of land below Sunberth, empty and forbidding ocean unto the edge of the world on the other side of the ship. But sand and grass and plains and forests beyond them had always tempted them, drifting by until...

Until the city emerged from the morning fog. A swell of lights that glowed dimly en masse and them became distinct when Syna rose. Out of old, familiar instinct, Nate laid a hand on the hilt of his mace-

Or nearly did. It hovered a tick and then lowered to the railing. Gods, that was going to be... an adjustment, but Edreina had told him that Zeltiva was not a place that approved of brawlers, thugs, killers and wanton merchants of violence like him. Knowledge. Hard work. Trade skills and professions.

Nate had to have that explained to him carefully, and only partially because it amused him to see her get flustered when she realized he was having her on. Sunberth was... well, it was more than just the opposite of all that. It was the antithesis. Where Zeltiva was a balm to a world still rolling with chaos and the darkness of ignorance, Sunberth revelled in being an open wound, red and angry. The people it bred were the same and now Nate...

What are you now? A traitor? A refugee? A simple traveller? All of the above?

"The University." He said, taking some strength just from saying the words. "Like we talked about."

And oh, how they had talked. Older and certainly more blooded than the young Svefra was, Nate had yet sat like a child before her stories of the wide world. Tales of floating cities crafted from hundreds of ships lashed together... a shining city of knights and nobles... riding with a warrior - just like she had defined for him that damned first day - in a mercenary troop... fighting monsters and demons and mages... and Zeltiva.

City of ships and scrolls, as she's once memorably described it. The University was the finest in the world, and it catered to scholarly pursuits, the skills of tradesmen... and djed.

Nate's eyes flared at the thoughts of that. The mercurial energies of life itself, Sunberth's greatest and perhaps only taboo... and he would learn of them, too.

He looked to his side and saw the tension on the woman's face. It was a cousin to his own but of a different kind. Edreina was so well-traveled in his novice eyes. She had been around the world and back again and... lost so much. Gained much in wisdom, perhaps, but it had cost her almost everything. Now she was to plow on again, on her own, billow her sails and point her prow to the horizon.

The big man clapped her gently on the shoulder until her eyes found his own. He made his own the green rocks of certainty she needed to see.

"To new starts, eh? I'd toast us but-" A swell slammed under the boat and the deck lurched, taking Nate, his lunch and his healthy complexion with it. "But... given the circum... excuse me..."

To travel the world and drink in an ocean of memories... was that not a fine way to spend one's life?

Yes, but I'd rather do it without puking on the dolphins.


He didn't even remember the step, when he thought on it later. He was too busy gawking and rubbernecking and trying to take everything in at once and keep hold of all his gear, too.

Woe to the man who sneers at having "seen everything": the multiverse takes that as a challenge.

It seemed like all of Mizahar had crowded onto the pier for a quick visit. Akalaks that made even the six-and-a-half-foot-tall Nate feel small, proudly marching through the crowd like multi-colored giants. Black-eyed Chaktawe, swaddled in desert clothes even in the humidity. Humans of every coloring, marking, profession, weaving around each other in an incomprehensible ballet.

Spindly, furtive Symenestra, encased in suits of armor more like tight clothes, moving fast when they saw and opening, afraid to even touch the sprawl of movement. Eypharians bearing more arms Nate had limbs, often using two or more while the others cleared pedestrians from their way. A flash, here and there, of yellow eyes slashed down the middle, Dhani in their human form seeming to slither even on two feet.

The hint, just occasionally, of the deathly, deceased palor of a Nuit, hidden under robes but given away by the jerking, unsure movements. Nate even saw a pair of Myrians prowling the other way, hair flowing down their backs, bones prodded through their ears, weapons worn openly, handles clenched as if they expected battle to be imminent (which, being Myrians, they were).

And that was just the people.

A chaotic mess of noise roared at Nate as he wandered down the gangplank onto the pier. Huge nets of still-squirming, flapping fish were hoisted from fishing boats into waiting carts. Nate's jaw dropped as Syna struck the underside of one such load, casting multifaceted explosions of brilliant light flying over all they touched.

Caged beasts from the world over were being pushed and carried and hoisted. Goats, sheep, cattle, deer, tigers, jaguars, monkeys, parrots, macaws, lizards, snakes, a biologist's most fevered dream come true. Nate felt drunk on everything. All that he had seen, even in the maelstrom of Sunberth, and he had barely scratched the surface.

But given the size of the Docks, he was realizing this was not surprising to anyone else. The entirety of the piers in Sunberth would have covered... maybe a third of the vast sprawl of industry that was the Zeltiva Docks. Not including buildings. It seemed like there were more people on the Docks now - working and straining - than in the whole of The Berth, and Nate couldn't help but shake his head.

They have all this, and still have time to run the biggest teaching hall in the world.

Remembering himself, Nate started to make his way in earnest to the... wait, which direction was the land? Ah... that had to be it.

Beyond the stout roofs of the warehouses, mills, factories, tenements and stables, the new arrival could make out spires stroking the clouds. Some tall and thin, others shorter and broader, but all of them speaking of age and venerability. Not the marks of a castle, Nate thought idly, pitted and dotted with hard edges, but more... a bastion of a different sort.

Nate grimaced briefly, contemplating that. Hmm. Not bad. Best remember it for later.

Two chimes and a few questions in receptive ears later, Veraline Kendrick heard the door to her busy office vibrate from a handful of sharp raps. The sharp-featured female glanced up from the latest manifest - some ship called the "Fanris", delivered by carrying pigeon - and called out: "Enter!"

Nate did so, and took up most of the door. For years Vera had been eyeballing thousands, perhaps even millions of visitors to her city and the docks she was responsible for; she'd learned to size men up quickly.

So she saw the bulk and the solid jaw; the hard eyes and the mace and kukri worn openly. Were they the only ones he carried? She doubted it. Like most others, it seemed like all the traveler carried was hoist over his back in a massive traveling bergen, easily over a hundred pounds. And in addition to that...

Something big and black and glad to be off that fucking ship panted at her.

"Nathaniel Ankah, ma'am... and this is Jorka."

Sunberth. Wonderful.

"I was told that you'd be able to point me in the direction of the University?"

"What business have you there?"

Nate frowned minutely and snorted as if the question were obvious. But the way his tone trembled just a touch as he answered told that he'd understood her reason for asking.

"I want to learn, of course."

No. To you, it's "of course". She just sees a man from The Berth strapped with weapons and with a beast at his side.

"Huh. You came a long way to find a teacher, friend."

"I heard it was the best in the world. I have coin to pay for it, too."

Nate nearly winced. Little too much weight on the "too", as if he were responding to being challenged... which could then easily insult this woman by implying she had been challenging him. But if Vera was annoyed, she covered it well. Instead, one sculpted eyebrow flicked up her forehead and she set down the manifest to regard Nate carefully.

"A Sunberth boy, happy to pay for something?"

"It has been known."

"Not in Sunberth, or so I hear."

"We're not in Sunberth, and that much I know."

A flash of white teeth, Vera showing off just how little she'd aged in all those decades. Nearly fifty years on the old girl, and there was still more emphasis on "girl" than "old". She nodded and stood, walking around her desk to the door.

"Well said, Nathaniel Ankah... and Jorka. You see the towers?"

"The University, yes?"

"Indeed. Now..." She gestured for him to step back and moved out under Syna, shading her eyes with one hand as her other pointed. "You see the main street, right there?"


"Follow it, and you'll come to a crossroads. On your west is West Street, and on your right is-"

"East Street?"

"Good guess," Vera said with a quick glare. Nate had to fight himself not to smile. "And keep it as a mental exercise, hmm? Lot of rough lads like you come to grief in East Street."

Nate filed that away carefully without taking it too seriously. Sunberth may have not had the laudable, glorious history that places such as Syliras and Riverfall had, but one thing was for sure: they bred survivors like nowhere else. East Street might be bad, but Nathaniel Ankah had beat "bad" before he'd even turned double-digits.

But that's not why you're here. Remember that.

"I'll do that."

"Hmm... well, anyway, keep going straight forward and turn left at the big statue, called Priskil's Spire. The University will be waiting for you. The entrance hall, anyway. Go in there, you'll find what you need."

"Thank you, mistress."

He started fiddling with his purse and before Nate got the chance a firm, tanned hand folded around his own. He looked up and amused, smiling eyes looked up at him.

"Just doing my job, lad. Stay out of trouble, get you an education, give us back some of what you learn here. Then we'll call it even, aye?"

"Sounds good to me, love." Nate grinned back and couldn't resist showing off, words coming out a little garbled but good enough to draw a surprised blink from Vera: "Fair winds."

Decades. Around sea, and ships, and sailors, and Svefra. Fluent? Vera mumbled Fratava in her bloody sleep. "Calm waves. Good luck."

"Thank you."

Veraline watched the big man march away with the hefty hound trotting at his heels, bore down by all he owned and all he needed. He paused only once, tapping a willowy redhead on the shoulder and then walking away with her at his side.

The old Customs officer smiled warily. Ah, his woman? That reassured her. Men with such attachments were less likely to get themselves in trouble and thus plant themselves in several concentric rings of the hells.

Her eyes flickered a little nervously at the sight of that big, ugly mace, wondering just how dangerous that man could be with it... but something made her smile again, and the fear was forgotten.

Boy has a drive, methinks, to do more than just crack skulls. Here's hoping to the Sea Father that I'm not wrong.

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One Quite Ordinary Step, Really (Edreina)

Postby Edreina on July 24th, 2014, 2:38 am

"The University... Like we talked about."

Had they truly spoken about it in such detail? She remembered sharing a few basic accounts of her journeys with him and had, indeed, mentioned Zeltiva and it's infamous University. Was he really so interested that it stuck out above all else? Did he not care to see the Anchorage or... Well Syliras was likely not top on a native Sunberthian's list of places to visit. Then again, by the same logic, a place of learning would not have been very high, either. Many sides to each human coin, many faces and many-

The Svefra's arm whipped up reflexively to swat away Nate's hand on her shoulder, breath sharpening for an instant before she shook her mind clear. Time had passed and still she was unable to rein in the fear that threatened to consume her each time anyone laid their hands upon her, even in so friendly a gesture. Flashes and memories of moments she had worked so hard to forget always fought their way to the forefront.

As soon as the fit had passed, contrition caused her light eyes to waver faintly before she met his. It was obvious that she regretted her actions but had no more control over them than Jorka did wagging her tail when happy.

Whatever Nate had been prepared to say was lost to the sea as he was overcome with yet another wave of seasickness. It had abated, for a time, when they had been in open water and the ocean's movements gentler and more regular; even the weakest land-strider's stomach could grow used to it. But, now that they had reentered the choppy waters of a port, where ships were always coming and going and creating different ripple patterns that clashed and joined to create even more intense waves, he had been reduced to a puddle of vomit and bone-less legs.

Poor thing. That was the one of only a few things Edreina would never find any envy in herself for.

It was strange, really, how readily the two companions parted once the ship was docked. For all the time they had spent together, familiar or not, they should have at least felt the urge to say goodbye.

Instead, Edreina watched in silence as Nate stepped from the tossing deck to the swaying dock. The part of her mind that never found time for silence mulled over the symbolism in so simple an action. He was stepping from a wild and oft violent life over which he had little control to one that would be calm and structured enough for him to truly grow and flourish. Gone was a world of outright murder and unrelenting odds; here, in Zeltiva, where Nate planned to study magic, madness and death could come from within through even the most simple carelessness.

An eternity in Sunberth could hardly prepare him for what he faced, now. Her lips trembled as she mouthed a prayer and a blessing, begging the gods to guide him as he sought light and peace and hope and meaning in his new home. He deserved that much.

After a quick goodbye with her Svefra kin, going so far, even, to kneel and tightly hug the Lia's smallest daughter, Edreina began her descent down the gangplank.




The warrior, the harlot, and the master. Three very different men whom she owed very different debts. In a short while, she would have to seek out each and face them in turn. Questions would be raised and there was much she would have to answer to. Part of her doubted that she had the strength to speak more than a few words on the last seasons. The rest knew that Yahal would guide her as she sought a renewed purpose and that each answer would suit the duty it had been tasked to.

Freedom before the leaves begin to fall.

It had been promised to her and delivered. Part of her life, now, would forever be dedicated to the debt owed to Yahal. Yet another debt, but this one was gleefully accepted. He had saved her life and her soul, the very least she could do for those around her was offer them the same healing light.

At the thought of healing, Edreina remembered that she had hoped to see a healer during her time in Zeltiva, knowing that some of the very best would be there, teaching at the University. After a tick, she turned on her heel and set a course for the University.

Seeking the three could wait until later; matters of the past always came before duties of the present. First, she would have herself seen and examined by a healer in order to gauge the effects of her time in Sahova.
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