Closed Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Zhol joins Khara on her search for new hunting grounds. (Seasonal Open Event)

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The westernmost tip of Kalea, Wind Reach is home to an amazing group of people and their giant eagle mounts. [Lore]

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 5th, 2015, 5:59 am

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Being flown to Thunder Bay was one thing: beginning your journey high in the Sanikas Valley and watching it spread out beneath you, watching the mountains retreat on either side and then fade away as the river below weaved and wound it's way through undulating grasslands until it burst it's way into the sea; that was impressive enough. This journey though had been something else. They had flown higher than mountains; Jensen had casually explained to them the invisible updrafts of air as the wind crashed into the rocky slopes below and was deflected upwards, and the heat that rose from even the dormant volcanoes to make the air turbulent. Jensen and Cetan had navigated through them with effortless ease; a stab of envy had rushed through him, realising that he would never have that kind of instinctive bond between rider and beast, neither Wind Eagle or Strider.

Then they had swept low, racing their way down another valley, one that Jensen had explained was frequented by the hunters. Zhol didn't question it; he knew how irritating it could be for a passenger to question the route that a rider had chosen, and a few minutes later he received his answer. Ground gave way to beach, and then sea, and their path had swung out into a broad arc, Cetan granting them a breathtaking view of Kalea as they chased alongside the coast, low enough to feel the spray of the sea at times, before swerving sharply back towards land to dive up another valley as fast as Cetan's wings could carry them.

Zhol was utterly lost; he didn't care. This was Kalea. This was the unforgiving wilderness he had spent seasons traversing across. There it was, rolling away beneath him, days of travel reduced to mere chimes.

When they had landed; when Jensen and Cetan had deposited them on the ground once again, and bid their temporary farewells, Zhol was devastated to see them go. The ground had never felt so firm beneath his feet; the air had never felt so oppressively heavy and still. Today was a rarity, he knew that. This trip might be the only time he had the opportunity to experience such things, especially with so gracious an eagle and rider. It was an experience he should be cherishing, taking the time to dwell upon and truly appreciate; and yet, to his mind, fifteenth bell tomorrow could not come soon enough.

He squinted at Syna. They were still on the western coast of Kalea, which meant that the sun would set towards the foot of the valley just as it did back in Wind Reach; that came as a small relief. Time would be far harder to judge if Syna had disappeared behind the mountains already. Fifteenth bell. He repeated that in his mind; when Syna is half-way between noon and the horizon. That gave them most of a day in each direction, and a night of survival in the valley between.

His eyes fell to their surroundings, a short way from one of the patches of woodland that sprawled across the banks of this valley's river. He wondered if it had a name already, or if he and Khara might have the opportunity to name it; that thought was relegated to the back of his mind, to be contemplated when they stopped to eat or sleep, not in the midsts of an important task for the city. They were here to reconnoiter for fresh herds that the Endals would return to hunt later, sparing the beasts closer to the city and allowing their populations to reassert themselves. Flying over the grasslands lower in the valley, they had already witnessed a few clusters of animals; Khara and Zhol were not needed for that, such things could - and had been - easily spotted from the air. They were here to search the woodlands, and the higher reaches of the valley where eagles would find it harder to fly low, and Endal eyes would struggle to spot potential prey beneath them.

Zhol couldn't help a small smile; and couldn't help wondering if this was how Khara felt all the time. This was useful. This task had an undeniable benefit to the city. This wasn't training animals that the Inarta couldn't care less about; he was helping Wind Reach by searching for food. No wonder Khara found such satisfaction and fulfilment in this; it was a good feeling, to not be essentially useless for a change.

"What am we first doing?" he asked; it was their ongoing half-spoken agreement that, while Khara spoke Common when they were together as friends and more, when Zhol encroached upon her work it was he who made the effort, doing his best to speak and understand Nari so that Khara did not have to waste thought or effort on translating her words. Zhol over-reached, trying to offer the same kind of reassurance and support that he would in Common through the medium of broken, simplistic Nari. "I am do instructions of yours. You am the octopus."

Zhol's eyes widened in panic. "In charge!" he blurted out, cheeks turning pink at the mistaken word. "You am the in charge."
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 5th, 2015, 5:51 pm

Every Inarta grew up dreaming of becoming an Endal, anyone who said otherwise was lying, but it was a life that Khara had fully realized was entirely out of her grasp and she had come to terms with that. Part of that involved abolishing even wishing for such a thing to happen, something that Khara was mostly successful with; it wasn't that she didn't have aspirations, but striving to become an Avora was enough for her, or so she thought.

That concept was challenged every single time she was granted the honor of joining an Endal for a flight. The feel of the wind rushing past her, of the ground speeding away under her, of the view of Skyinarta and the rest of Kalea from above; those were cherished moments and brought upon a hunger in her that she wished desperately would be quiet. Becoming an Avora was something she may have been actually able to accomplish if she was diligent and managed to find willing tutors, but becoming an Endal? That only happened one way and Khara knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was far beneath the notice of the Wind Eagles.

She had felt her very soul cry out in protest as they had landed, as her feet and thoughts had to once more become grounded. Watching Jensen and Cetan fly off once more left her with an ache she could scarcely ascribe words to. A wistful sigh left as Khara allowed herself just a moment more of daydreaming before all thoughts of her ever becoming an Endal were once more properly stowed away in the deepest corner of her mind.

It was somewhat embarrassing to find that Zhol's broken Nari had better results in dragging her back to reality than her own self discipline did. The truth was, though, that it hardly mattered what did the trick so long as something did. There wasn't time to let her thoughts wander on such fancies, they had work to do; she had work to do.

An uncomfortable twist of emotion came as Zhol stated that she was in charge, even if it did follow hotly on the heels of one of his more amusing mistakes with her language. Khara used it as a perfect excuse to look away and get a better feel for their surroundings. Her equipment slipped from her shoulder and Khara crouched down as she set it upon the ground to ease small task she had; it was the one thing she silently cursed herself for. The backpack was practically overstuffed with things she could potentially need, but the one item she actually wanted was of course near the bottom. Next time, Sparrow, try to keep the important stuff up near the top.

Thankfully Khara didn't have to remove everything to find what she wanted: The small bundle of linen that had become her somewhat unusual go-to item when scouting. Another look was given to where they had been dropped off; no, she didn't know enough to consider this a safe place, even if she hadn't seen any immediate dangers as they flew overhead. Blue it is then, Khara decided as she pulled one of the pieces of fabric free from the others and tucked the bundle back into her pack before closing it and returned the weight to her shoulders. A small nearby tree was chosen to be the subject of the small adornment and Khara gave the piece of fabric a few extra tugs to tighten it near where the branch met the trunk to ensure it was fully secured.

Satisfied with at least one thing accomplished, even if just a small one, Khara turned back towards Zhol as she moved her bow from her shoulder to rest at the ready in her left hand. "Well, finding that river we saw is probably the first step, then we will have an easy thing to follow to keep from getting lost. It's probably a good place to start searching for signs of any local wildlife too, everything needs water after all. " She shrugged a shoulder before continuing. "Once we find it we can easily veer off to one side, maybe the other if we can find a safe place to cross. As long as we can hear the river we can always find it again."

Her expression remained fairly neutral as she had spoken, but there were small hints of flinches that crossed her features every time her tone shifted from suggesting to something that even remotely came close to authoritative. Though even that felt wrong to her, Khara knew she didn't need to speak to Zhol as she might have with a hunter she was leading, but some habits were simply too hard to break.

Without further ado she quickly stepped past him, though reached out at the last moment to let the fingertips of her empty hand brush lightly against Zhol's arm. It didn't have the same effect as it would have if he hadn't been wearing a coat, but hopefully he would understand regardless. An apologetic smile was cast back at him before Khara turned away and began heading towards the line of trees.

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 5th, 2015, 6:52 pm

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There was a word, probably, for what Zhol felt every time Khara did this - every rare instance where she asserted authority over him. Granted, that authority was often precarious, often hesitant, often followed almost immediately with some sort of panicked apology; Zhol wished it wasn't. He wished it happened more. He wished that this strange feeling, as if his soul was detaching from the inside of his body to squirm eagerly in his stomach, was anything but rare. He loved it and was embarrassed by it in equal measure; he only wished he knew the name, so that he could find a way to describe to Khara how she made him feel.

The touch of her hand made it worse; he had to summon all his self control to stop himself from ensnaring her hand, spinning her around to face him, and kissing her with all the passion and desire and aching that had been brewing inside him since the moment they'd left their room. As he dutifully followed the path that Khara led, he silently cursed himself for having missed so many opportunities before now. He should have kissed her before they'd entered the Endal's room. He should have kissed her as they'd boarded the Wind Eagle. He should have kissed her the second they landed, to tide him over for however many hours it would take before he got another chance. Maybe the Endal would have rolled his eyes at it. Maybe Khara would have been embarrassed. Those facts did nothing to abate the want in Zhol's stomach.

He glanced up towards the sky, careful not to let his attention dwell on Syna too long. Is this what it's like for you? he wondered, not entirely sure if it was a thought or a prayer. Is this how it feels to spend so much of your existence on opposite sides of the horizon to the one you love?

Zhol pushed those thoughts and sentiments aside and buried them deep, casting his attention instead on their surroundings. Someone had told him once that valleys were carved through mountains by rivers, but it was something that he had never quite been able to understand. Valleys were so broad, and yet the river supposedly responsible only ever seemed to be a small trail weaving it's way down the very centre. How was such a thing possible? Had the river once been as high as the mountains and as broad as the whole valley? If so, where had all the water gone? It was a confusing mystery, something that Zhol had never really needed to consider back in Cyphrus. There, if you told him that a river had carved it's way down through the grass, and created the banks and depressions that rivers always flowed in, that he could understand; that he could fathom. Entire valleys, though? It seemed more like the work of gods than the work of nature, and such things were far beyond the scope of his comprehension.

Zhol fumbled with his pocket, plucking out his sighting lens, flipping it open so that he could scan the distant tree lines and mountainous slopes for signs of something. A misplaced step while his eyes were otherwise occupied reminded him of how ill-suited he was to this endeavour, and how almost completely clueless he was. That brought a little colour to his cheeks as he tried to fumble out a question.

"I am what should be look for?"
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 5th, 2015, 7:47 pm

Each step that Khara took as they headed into the valley was carefully chosen as she crossed the unfamiliar terrain. It wasn't that the ground was all that different from the land surrounding Wind Reach, but there were places near home she almost felt that she could walk through with her eyes closed and know where each large rock, dip in the ground, or soft patch of soil lay in wait for the unsuspecting traveler. It was the exact opposite here, every moment was something new, no matter how familiar it seemed on the surface. She idly wondered if there were areas or places in Kalea that would present her with something truly new, something entirely unexpected, but the thought had to be cast aside at the realization that if such a place did exist, she probably would never see it.

She frowned slightly at Zhol's question, even if it was a good one. There were so many ways to answer; maybe they were just looking for similar signs to the ones that she had been searching for when Zhol last accompanied her, or perhaps just some fresh prints or scat would do the trick. Neither of those seemed like enough to her, though. No Endal was going to come and hunt in an area that Khara had only seen a few signs in. This situation was all too similar to the moose she had once tracked, no one would see the value in going to actually hunt the petching thing until she had confirmed it was out there and had seen it with her own eyes. They would have to find a herd at the very least for this ordeal to be considered a success. Thankfully, groups of animals tended to leave far more messes in their wake than a lone creature.

"It's hard to say," Khara began. "It could be anything, really. Ideally we'll actually see an elk or a deer and we can follow it and it would hopefully lead us back to the rest of the herd but nothing is ever really that simple."

The frown persisted as she realized her answer wasn't exactly helpful. Khara came to a stop near one of the trees they passed and looked it over. She took a smaller branch between her fingers and after a moment of hesitation bent it so it snapped just a bit but mostly remained attached to the rest.

"Thinks like this, only smaller, are a good thing to look for. Most animals don't really seem to care if they brush up against things as they walk along, some might even do it on purpose, but it tends to damage things as they go by." She offered a small shrug at the lack of firm explanation. "They usually go along with trails, though, or are nearby. We can also look for branches and limbs that have had all the new growth from spring stripped off. The new needles or leaves are softer and I guess they taste better since they are usually the first things that seem to be eaten."

Khara sighed and looked down, watching as the toe of her boot made a small indentation into the ground underneath. "Sorry, I am not so good with explaining. I would not make a good teacher, I think. I know what I look for, but telling others is harder."

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 6th, 2015, 8:17 am

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Zhol's heart sank when she spoke that way; the speed with which she could twist a situation into a reason to disparage herself. He wanted to unleash a flurry of protests, to gaze into her eyes and state in no uncertain terms that she was wrong, to do everything in his power to convince her that she was wrong; but he had promised he wouldn't, or at least, he had promised that he would set personal things aside and focus on the important task at hand, and he owed it to her to keep that.

"Perhaps I am just a poor student," he countered simply, thinking it would be enough, but realising as the words tumbled from his mouth that it was too vulnerable - too tempting - to protests from Khara. He frowned slightly as he mustered clarification. "If you were teaching me properly, I would have been a Yasi for many years, I would speak Nari fluently, and I would already know many of the things that I currently do not. Teaching an outsider is not easy and -" His voice faltered; this was straying too close to breaking his promise. "- the fact that you are willing to try makes you better than most."

Quickly, his mind fumbled around for some tangent, some question to ask or statement to make that could steer the conversation back towards where it should be. Zhol took the opportunity to raise the sighting lens to his eye, and sweep his gaze across the valley once again. Having never done this before, he had no idea how easy to spot the elk and deer Khara had mentioned would be. Part of his mind whispered that an animal large enough to eat - especially a group of them - should be relatively easy to spot; they were brown after all, and the grass in the valley was green. But then if such things were easy, then surely Wind Reach would not need so many scouts and hunters to find them. He thought back to the Sea of Grass, to Endrykas moving from place to place; he remembered how his mother or Lillah would point out animals in the distance, that Zhol would struggle - and sometimes only pretend - to see. Perhaps these Kalean creatures were equally skilled at going unnoticed by the unobservant.

"We am much likely to see lonely elk or many elk?"
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 7th, 2015, 1:44 am

She always did her best to stifle any reactions to Zhol's mistakes with Nari, but for some reason the way h had phrased the question struck her and a small giggle escaped despite her attempt to stop it with the back of her hand pressed against her lips. Lonely elk or many elk; it sounded like a piece of some sort of yasihood rhyme.

"Both, maybe?" She offered with a shrug as they began to walk again. "I know they travel in herds, but if this is near their Summer grounds, they might not exactly be on the move right now, so they may wander away from the herd for food or water; you know, becoming comfortable with their home for a season or two. I think deer are the same way, but I'm not sure."

Khara paused speaking only for a second as she came upon a tangled mess of tree roots in their path, her smaller frame made simply walking over it not entirely possible as so a few quick hopped steps were taken to scale and then drop down from the small obstacle. "I'm not really sure what we'll see, to be honest," she admitted before casting a quick glance back towards Zhol. "I think once we get closer to the river we'll walk to try and be a bit more quiet, though. Don't want to scare them away before we ever see them, you know?"

She listened between her somewhat idle rambles and among the sound of their footsteps and various bird chatter for the dull roar of the river, it hadn't looked huge from above, but Khara still figured they would hear it long before they saw it from their current perspective. Her eyes continued to scan the ground in front of them, looking for signs of frequently traveled paths or anything else that could begin to indicate the sort of game the hunters would be most interested in knowing was out here.

"Not just yet, though," Khara continued, worried that she had inadvertently told Zhol to not speak to her. "And not entirely. Just a little less, more if we actually find any fresh signs."

A deep breath was taken of the fresh air and Khara smirked as they came across a small tree that had fallen along the same route they had already been walking. She slowed her pace until she was close enough to it to take the step up onto it and let her mischievous grin spread wider as the added bit of height put her more on level with Zhol. With her arms outstretched for balance she walked along the length of the tree, though almost pouted once it ended and she had to drop back down to the ground properly.

"When we get close, though, you can use your..." Her voice trailed and she motioned at the sighting lens in his hand. She hadn't ever made use of such a tool, though knew vaguely what it was for, the name of the item though was a total loss. "Seeing ...scope?" Khara tried in common, not even sure if a word in Nari existed for such a thing; there must have been though if he had purchased it in the Market.

"But if we have a clear enough view, you can look ahead to see if there are any good places to cross, or maybe a bend or similar where the water is slower moving and something would have to walk through mud to get to it." The little fun she had with balancing along the tree had given time for Zhol to fall into step next to her, something Khara figured was much better than either of them actually leading the other. "The mud and the near ground is good to hold prints. Maybe we will be lucky."

Surprisingly Khara saw water far before she heard the river, though it was only a small offshoot at first. It looked like the branches of a tree where the water flowed across he ground, thin at the tips where it vanished into earth and rock before sprawling back ever thicker. They followed the small creek and finally Khara could hear the murmurs and babbles of the more full source of water that flowed through the valley. When they came upon it, Khara couldn't help but watch the almost gentle way it flowed across it's stony bed. For the lifeblood of a valley it didn't appear very large, too big too cross and perhaps deep enough in places for pools to form that might have had fish, but nothing like what they had seen overhead.

Her eyes swept upriver, noting the way the terrain seemed to incline quite dramatically in steps and slopes before she lost sight of it among the trees that clustered along it's shore. With a smile that spoke of her refusal to alter plans she looked back to Zhol. "Well, No one ever said this would be easy."

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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 7th, 2015, 2:18 am

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There were times when Zhol wished that Khara was less adorable. There were times he wished she didn't lapse into childlike innocence, balancing on trees, scrambling over things, finding joy in what was to Zhol's mind so ordinary and mundane. There was nothing wrong with what she did - what she did was perfect - but sometimes he wished she didn't all the same. It was distracting, falling in love with her all over again, so much and so often.

He'd fought the urge to help her over the tangle of roots, which he'd managed to sidestep with a few easy strides and a little bit of a hop up onto a lump of ground. He'd fought the urge to hold her hand as she'd balanced her way along the fallen tree. He'd fought the urge to put his arm around her as he'd drawn alongside; to squeeze her against him as she'd struggled to name his sighting lens; to thank her with a kiss for finding ways that he could feel part of this beyond just carrying extra supplies. It was a hard fight, a struggle, and it made him glad that despite his wants and cravings this wasn't every day. Yes, the prospect of spending every waking moment with her was far too tempting for him to ever decline the chance if it was offered; but having to spend those moments like this, keeping his hands and his affection to himself, sounded like a cruel torture if it went on for too long.

Instead, he focused on what Khara said, the knowledge she imparted, and tried his best to fumble and jumble it together with things he knew and had seen to try and find an extra use for himself. She'd mentioned curves in the river - or at least, he thought she had; his Nari comprehension was still patchy in places - and thought about what they'd seen as they'd soared over the valley. There had been more bends and weaves towards the coast, where the valley had been broader and flatter; the river had been wider there too, and it was the same in the Sanikas Valley as well - perhaps that was just how rivers and valleys were, though he had never paid enough attention to really notice that before now. Bends and mud though, that was something he could look for: those were big and obvious enough for even his feeble wilderness skills to spot.

Bringing his sighting lens to his eye, he slowly began to follow the river upstream with his gaze, noting where the littler streams tumbled their way into the main river. It was far straighter up here, more of a sway from side to side than the twists and turns that were downstream. It was less smooth too - an odd way to describe it maybe, but it was the only manner he could think of - with rocks protruding here and there, giving the water things to amble around and splash over. It reminded Zhol of Khara in a way: it wasn't a raging and determined torrent; it made it's way playfully down the valley, taking the time to enjoy the journey.

"Up there," he said, breaking his personal rule about trying to speak Nari while at work with Khara, but only because he didn't know where to even start clunking together the words to describe what he was seeing. "On the opposite bank, up by that cluster of trees? The river bends around and disappears out of sight behind them, and it looks like there's a bit of a -" Was there a technical term for that, the kind of muddy, sandy, rocky patch that lined the inside edge of the river's gentle curve, creating a little barrier between the tangle of grasses and undergrowth that covered the rest of the valley? "- beach type thingy."

The words sounded stupid, but it was the most technical-sounding thing he could concoct on short notice. He passed the sighting lens to Khara, a little unsure hesitance creeping into his voice. "Is that the sort of thing you meant?"
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 7th, 2015, 4:46 am

Khara squinted in the direction Zhol was looking towards, knowing full well her unaided eyes wouldn't exactly see what he was, but the attempt felt necessary regardless. Once she allowed herself to admit it was useless, however, she slowly began to let her view wander back down the river to where they stood, trying to find what may have been the easiest path to follow to get to where he spoke of.

"Beach type thingy?" She asked with an impish smile, hoping that despite her accent he would catch the teasing tone she tried to use. "I think you can say it that way." A gentle nudge of her arm against his followed before all Khara could do for a moment or two was search his eyes for something, though she wasn't entirely sure what.

It was hard to stop smiling and Khara didn't know if that was good or bad. Truth was she felt more at peace than she had in a long while. She knew Zhol had a great deal to do with that, but it wasn't that simple. It was him, it was here, it was the sounds of the flowing river, it was the constant birdsong that floated in the air accented by various chirps and buzzing of whatever insects gathered around the water's edge. Wind Reach and it's warrens would always be home to her, but here, The Unforgiving, as apt as it's name always was, this was truly where she belonged; in the wilds that Caiyha ruled with Syna ever watchful overhead. That particular thought struck her as a bit sudden and strange, did those two goddesses really hold so much sway over her? It was true she rarely prayed to anyone else. A thought for another time, perhaps.

She finally tore her eyes away from Zhol and waited for him to begin walking with her in the direction he had found the turn in the river. It was harder going so close to the banks; rocks littered the area and the ground couldn't quite seem to make up it's mind between soft soil or sand, patches of reedy grass, or the soft squish underfoot of something that couldn't quite yet count as mud. On occasion it seemed to transform entirely to hard packed earth or maybe larger rock just under a thin layer of dirt, Khara couldn't quite tell but it made for precarious going as she couldn't seem to quite get a good feel for the terrain under her feet. The fact they were headed at a steady incline did little to help and she found herself trying to keep to the larger rocks or other debris left by the side of the river, hopping from one to another in small leaps or bounced steps. She was probably exerting herself more than was necessary, but it seemed her only option to keep up with Zhol's longer strides; even if his steps were as unsure as hers at times.

"Did you come across many places like this when you traveled?" The question didn't have time to fully formulate in her head before it came chirping out. Her startled awareness of her forwardness caused a misstep that sent her foot sliding off of a rock she had stepped on. It was with a bit of luck and quicker reflexes than Khara expected she would have that saved her from twisting her ankle as both feet met a soft patch of earth. "I only... It is just... you do not talk about it so much, but it seems as if you have spent almost as much time in The Unforgiving as me if I think about it and how time is."

She waited and listened for Zhol to answer if he chose, but only in keeping her own voice still, they continued onwards and Khara kept in mind what he had said earlier: the opposite bank. They would have to find a place to cross and she continually was on the look for such an opportunity. It didn't take long for one to present itself; a small patch of slightly more turbulent water dragged her attention to a small shelf of rock that seemed to have built up, forming a small dam of sorts, though not a very good one. The scout wouldn't have described it as a rapid or anything like that, the water still far too calm for such a thing to seem correct, but the outcropping of rocks was slightly higher than the water than continued after it passed beyond their meager barrier and the water churned a bit beneath them. Most importantly though it seemed a suitable bridge of sorts for their use.

Khara crouched down, setting her bow gently aside to balance atop a larger stone as she slipped her backpack from her shoulders once more. Another strip of blue linen was removed and she cast a glance to Zhol, making him fully aware she wasn't ignoring him or anything he had wanted to say. She waited a tick or two before her amber gaze shifted to the trees on the side of the river they were on before looking across to the opposite bank as Khara tried to decide where was best to place the small fabric marker. She would be looking for them on the return trip, a way of making their path back to where Endal Jensen had said to meet him on the morrow easier; the direction they would be coming from made the most sense in that regard, it would wait until they crossed then.

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Khara
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Zhol on April 10th, 2015, 12:46 am

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Zhol wished she hadn't asked that: not that question; not at that moment; not while his balance was so precarious on such uneven terrain. He wished she hadn't, because the question brushed against something painful, like accidentally putting weight on a twisted ankle: an initial stab of discomfort, the irresistible urge to recoil away, and then an ache that lingered, the injury glaring at you until you understood the need to avoid agitating it again.

For Zhol, the worst part wasn't the pain of the memories; it was the discomfort, the fact that he felt any reluctance to tell Khara anything about himself. It wasn't that he didn't want her to know: his genuine desire to have no secrets from her hadn't abated in the slightest. But there was Khara knowing everything, and there was him having to tell Khara everything, and those were two very different things. He'd heard stories about Leth aiding people in moving thoughts from their mind into those of others, and Zhol wished there were a way to do that; wished there were a way for Khara to know everything without him having to fumble for the right words, having to relive moments he'd rather not until the memory was rubbed raw.

Most of all though, that part of his life existed in a strange bubble within his mind. The journey from Alvadas to Wind Reach had taken so long, and it had changed him dramatically: the boy who had been sent away from Endrykas was very different to the man who had arrived at the Sanikas Gates the better part of a year later. To Zhol's mind, that journey was one singular transition, one transformative crucible that he had passed through, day after arduous day blurring together, save for the few spikes of memory that dug into his mind like thorns, only hurting if he was foolish enough to try and shift them loose.

"Similar," he answered, loitering one-footed atop a conveniently flat rock, letting his mind and body assert a little balance and stability before he resumed his efforts to progress along the river's bank. A breath was carefully taken to abate the slight nervousness that had been bothering him; while it was nice to walk beside Khara, rather than trailing along behind her, her dainty legs left him feeling as if he needed to move slowly forward, and every time he inadvertently drew ahead he became flustered, all too aware that while he may have spent countless days in the Unforgiving two years and more beforehand, not a single one of them had been spent without someone there to guide the way; he didn't have the faintest clue of where the blazes they were going, or what a safe place to cross looked like. What was wrong with here, for example, aside from the fact that they'd be shin-deep in water? The river wasn't exactly moving quickly, and he'd splashed eagerly through water like this while making mischief with his sister back in Cyphrus; were sodden boots a worrisome problem in Kalea? Because of the cold, perhaps?

"Most of my journey was through the heart of Kalea," he explained, compelled by obligation more than anything else, "The valleys we travelled through flowed into lakes; we were never really close enough to the coast to see a valley as wide as this one flowing into the sea."

When Khara stopped to rummage through her pack, Zhol welcomed the wave of relief with open arms, more than willing to take the opportunity to stand still until Khara was ready to lead the way again.

"By the spring though," he continued, with a little less reluctance and a little more momentum, "We'd reached the land bridge that separates this part of the Unforgiving from the rest of Kalea. There was a valley a little like this one, somewhere -"

He stopped, glancing back down the river and squinting at Syna to get his bearings. They had travelled west from Wind Reach to get to the sea, and Syna rose in the east; so if they were heading away from the sea and towards Syna that meant upstream was east, and so anything south of Skyinarta was off to his left...

Zhol picked a vague direction, and pointed. "- over there. We made camp, enjoyed a little walking that wasn't entirely buried in snow." He breathed out a half-hearted laugh, his voice softening as his attention drifted off into the past. "That was the first time I saw a wind eagle. One of the patrols must have spotted us. They didn't come down to check on us, though; just stayed up in the air, watching us struggle on for the next few days."
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Zhol
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Undiscovered Country (Part 1)

Postby Khara on April 11th, 2015, 6:22 pm

Khara looked off in the vague direction that Zhol had gestured to, almost thankful for a reason not to watch him in that moment. The few flickering glances she had cast his way had been more than enough to watch the way his expression had changed and the reluctance in his tone as he began to speak was easily heard. It didn't take much to realize Zhol was remembering things that maybe he rather not and Khara couldn't deny the sudden rush of guilt for asking. The last thing that Zhol said stayed with her as her eyes searched the empty skies, the word struggle painting a bleak picture in her mind.

As her backpack was once more put in place and her bow retrieved from where she had set it down and slung back over her shoulder to free up her hands a bit, Khara's attention shifted briefly to the rocky buildup that would be their makeshift bridge. Her fingertips wound around the piece of linen in her right hand and a quick glance was cast downward, just long enough for the blue to enter her vision. Something was lurking on the tip of her tongue, and while Khara was sure Zhol knew it, it begged to be spoken regardless.

"You know that if I ask you something you do not want to answer, you do not have to say anything, right?" Her eyes rose from the ground to meet his for only an instant before looking away again. "I want to know more about you, about all you have done and seen, but if you do not want to say a thing, you don't have to. I don't want to make you."

She tried to sound as sincere about the statement as she felt she was. Zhol was always careful to not push her to do anything she may not have wanted to, every action was thought out with deliberate care and consideration. If there was only one thing Khara could do to repay him for the effort, it was to return the kindness.

A loud exhale left her, an attempt to push away any awkwardness that wanted to creep in following what she had said. Thankfully the babbling of the river against the rocks and the constant chorus of life around them kept things from becoming too still. Khara returned her gaze to Zhol, a genuine smile forming and she only hoped that whatever he saw reflected in her eyes was nothing short than the overwhelming adoration she had that was begrudgingly being kept in it's place for the time.

Best get a move on, Sparrow. Her mind helpfully nudged, drawing her focus back to the river, albeit reluctantly. Conversations like this were good to have, Khara supposed, but they could also wait until nightfall when they had nothing else to do but talk before trying to get some rest.

She looked to the other side of the river again before trying to follow the path she was going to take across the stones to where she currently stood. There were definitely going to be a few tricky places, but nothing that was entirely life threatening on the surface. A wet boot and bryda leg wouldn't be pleasant, but so long as the weather didn't dramatically shift before the evening when she could dry everything out by a fire, it would just be uncomfortable rather than actually hazardous. Still, she didn't intend to let it happen.

Another quick breath escaped before she looked to Zhol one last time before crossing. "Wish me luck," she said jokingly. "Just remember to take your time and try to choose your footing well, I'll let you know if I come across any looser rocks that should be avoided, okay? Just... be ready to pick me out of the river if I really petch up."

She actually managed a small laugh at that and one last nervous breath left her lungs before Khara turned back and stepped up onto the first rock. Each step was taken carefully, as lightly as possible while still remaining steady. The way was chosen across, keeping to dryer rocks as much as possible, resting at ones big enough that both her feet could easily fit on. There was only one moment, a little over halfway across, where she thought her joke was going to become an unfortunate sodden reality as the rock under her boot shifted and she felt her heart and breath stop before she quickly surged forward and took a few stumbled and fleeting steps across a few other smaller stones to the next larger one. Thankfully only one of them was poorly chosen but the resulting splash didn't do more than wet her boot a bit, the leather keeping the water away from her skin thankfully.

A few deep relieved breaths were snatched before Khara looked over her shoulder and pointed accusingly at the stone that had caused the stumble. "The darker one right there. It looks solid but it's probably balanced on top of a smaller one underneath. Tricky thing..." Another laugh left her, sounding breathless and not entirely as amused as she wanted. It couldn't really be blamed, though, her heart was still pounding loudly and the strange rush she felt was something Khara could only think of as a result of the sudden fear that she was about to end up in the river.

The low whistle that left her sounded strange to her ears and the moment of agitation dissolved as she realized it was the sort of thing her mother used to do when danger, no matter how big or small, had narrowly been avoided, even if it was just part of telling a story. The thought was calming, but not in a relaxing manner, more in that it instilled a quiet determination to continue onward within her that had her quickly resuming the small journey across the stones to the other bank.

Finally her feet touched the sand and mud of the opposite side and Khara quickly scampered to the tree she had been eying earlier. The piece of blue fabric that she had been clutching was unraveled from around her fingers before she looped it around a branch, keeping the location of the knot closer to the body of the tree rather than on the end of the chosen branch. She hoped it would stay better there and would have less chance of getting tugged loose by wind or an animal passing by. One last firm tug was given to the knot and then each side of the ribbon to ensure it would stay in place until she came back for it.

With the small task accomplished, Khara looked back to the river to see how Zhol was faring at the crossing. Hopefully he was near the same side she was and they could quickly be on their way and head upstream towards the bend he had spotted.

"Nari" | "Common" | "Pavi"
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Khara
Lost Little Sparrow
 
Posts: 739
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