Flashback [Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

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Built into the cliffs overlooking the Suvan Sea, Riverfall resides on the edge of grasslands of Cyphrus where the Bluevein River plunges off the plain and cascades down to the inland sea below. Home of the Akalak, Riverfall is a self-supporting city populated by devoted warriors. [Riverfall Codex]

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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Asen on April 8th, 2015, 1:35 am

Spring 52nd
512 AV


The afterimages of the Djed storm still filled Asen's mind. For the four bells the city was cooped up underground, her father had whispered soothing words to her and her mother. While she didn't understand them due to fear and the tricky sounds of snake-tongue, it kept her from having a breakdown.

When the storm subsided, she'd refused to come out. Her father was forced to carry the lanky girl from the caves. She'd regretted looking up. Everything seemed destroyed, ruined. The birds mutated by the wild Djed had terrified her. She remained inside as much as she possibly could.

The horrible things that crawled from the pool at the end of the waterfall... They were seared into her eyelids. She didn't even want to glance in the general direction of the filthy water.

For weeks she kept to herself, staying inside and away from danger. Now she'd plucked up enough courage to venture into the sunlight. She was pale, paler than usual, and unsteady on her feet. There were plenty of things that had been rebuilt, but as far as she knew, the Akalak were still cleaning the pool.

The Zith numbers had increased, too. Asen had to put her trust in the Akalak who defended the city, and she did. She felt protected enough to roam the streets in a daze, her feet carrying her around the city in routes they had walked many times before. She found herself at the lava flow -- Valkalah's Tears -- where she'd visited with her parents several times as a child and adolescent.

Asen sat a few paces from the edge of the flow, down by the water's edge, and stretched her legs out in front of her. Her eyes were unfocused and her mind wandered. It was a good place to think, and there weren't many people in the area to bother her.

She wouldn't mind a conversation, though.

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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Aren on April 11th, 2015, 12:29 am

"They say it leads to our ancient home, now sunk beneath the waves..." Aren wandered the city after the storm a bit, seeing the devastation, the chaos it left behind. It was frightening how fragile it all was, he thought.

The notion that a single storm could do all this did nothing to ease the apprehension he felt for the recklessness with which his people treated the precious few Akalak that were born every year. To send boys out to risk their lives in a hunt against the most fearsome predator in the Sea of Grass... What madness; as if there were so many of them. As if they could afford to allow even one to die a needless death.

"We should be rebuilding our numbers, not putting the few children born to us in harm's way so that they can prove themselves..." Aren thought, this idea always having been a point of contention between him and his family. Traditions, his father would say, have to be respected. They make us strong, he would preach, as they did you. So what if a dozen boys had to die so that another dozen could call themselves men? So what if children had to watch their friends die being torn to pieces by monstrous beaks? It was all for the sake of tradition... for the sake of some supposed notion of strength. Bah. The very thought disgusted him.

Aren's musings were not meant for anyone in particular, but his brother could not help give him a reply. "Oh, yes, you would have us all be weaklings incapable of defending ourselves, let alone an entire city." Seros said, more out of a desire to mock his sibling than out of any actual agreement with the way that things were currently done in Riverfall.

Though he almost rose to the bait, Aren knew that his darker Other was merely trying to entertain himself in one of the few ways he could, by annoying him. He wasn't going to give his brother the satisfaction, and instead merely eyed the back of the head which sat before him, "...if you believe that sort of thing." Smiling, the Akalak looked down, expecting an impeding neck turn from the young girl he had directed his words at.

For a second, the azure warrior's mind idly wondered if she had been taken for a wife by one of his fellow countrymen, and if that was the reason she found herself in Riverfall. She looked very young, from what he could tell with the limited amount of information his eyes provided. Almost too young, some might say, but then again, he understood that he wasn't very adept at being able to discern the ages of non-Akalaks.
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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Asen on April 11th, 2015, 3:20 am



Asen's head whipped around, curls bouncing about wildly. Her heart had given a heavy, sick whump when the person -- who had appeared suddenly, no less -- spoke. One hand was pressed against the ground, fingers splayed. The other was half-raised, ready to be thrown out to block an attack from a mutated bird or some other monster than had been produced during the storm.

Instead, it was an Akalak. What other race bore the same jewel skin tones? None, to her knowledge. The half-Dhani breathed a sigh of relief, lowering her arm. She shifted her position so she was parallel to the water and tilted her head upwards to peer at the tall blue man.

"Yeah, so I've 'eard," she replied, a brief smile crossing her face. It appeared and disappeared in an instant, the flash of teeth almost a baring of fangs. The blonde looked him up and down, pursing her lips slightly.

He was tall, and if she stood up she guessed he'd be a little less than a foot taller than she. Light blue skin, fairly muscular... His eyes, though, were golden. Strikingly so, they stood out from the rest of him. The girl had stared half a moment too long.

Asen grunted as she stood, brushing off her trousers. She stuck out a hand, gaze fixed on the giant's face. "Sessaschenaasen, that's my name. If it's too much of a mouthful for you, Asen will do. 'S what most people call me, anyways. Kinda 'ard to say my full name every time," she said with a chuckle. "Who're you?"

It was impolite to continue speaking to someone without knowing their name. Of course, this was an Akalak she was speaking to. From what she observed, all they really wanted to do was bed women and make more Akalaks. Probably an inaccurate observation, though. She'd see how this one acted now and make her judgements later.

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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Aren on April 12th, 2015, 4:58 am

Aren took his new acquaintance's hand and, for a moment, pondered as to whether he should kiss it. She might expect such a gesture, depending on who she was, and not to offer it might have been considered an insult. The way she spoke, however, made the Akalak realize that this was probably not the case. Sensing the offense might come if he was overly aristocratic in his mannerism, he shook her proffered hand as he would any man's, if a little more gently.

"Ses-" The Akalak grimaced, knowing that his tongue was certainly going to have trouble getting around the girl's name. Fortunately, she seemed to be accustomed to the difficulties inherent in pronouncing the elaborate appellation her parents had seemingly cursed her with, and soon provided an abbreviated version. "Pleased to meet you, Asen." He smiled, obviously relieved that she had been quick to offer him a less complicated designation.

"I'm Aren. Aren... Anazasz," The towering azure warrior promptly relayed his own name, but the hesitation at the mention of his surname was obvious. The idea that he shared a tangible link with his father felt anathema at this point, angry as he still was at the words they had exchanged.

Knowing that no good could come from dwelling on his inability to change the opinion of a man that was as intransigent as the marble face of a statue, Aren pushed the memory of the encounter to the back of his mind. It wouldn't do to give the obstinate mule the satisfaction of depriving him of enjoying the attention he was receiving from the blue eyed blonde afore him.

Yeah, he had caught her gaze lingering overlong, but the Akalak certainly didn't mind. If anything, it felt quite refreshing to feel some appreciation coming from someone, anyone, at this particular point in time. It might not be his mind or his ideas she was appreciating, but he'd take it.

"So, how did the storm treat you and your family?" Aren queried, having heard the same question being exchanged so often lately that it now seemed almost rude not to ask it. His eyes discreetly glossed over Asen's body and face, though, even as he did so. It was a natural warrior instinct, or so he told himself, to evaluate the combat potential of another person upon first meeting them; as for the face, he was still trying to discern her age. Sixteen? Seventeen? She seemed a little tall to be so young, but who knew with humans. One of them could be half his size as a grown man, while another could be almost as tall as any Akalak while still barely more than a boy.
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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Asen on April 12th, 2015, 6:33 am



Asen nearly scoffed at the Akalak's handshake. Did he think her some frail maiden, a girl too easily broken like a fragile piece of glass? She was the opposite. She could take hits without crying about it, without snapping in two like a dry twig. Of course, it probably had something to do with her narrow frame and her gender. She sought to remedy that view of herself, gripping the stranger's hand with a strength she herself found surprising, feeling the surge of annoyance ebb within.

The half-Dhani withdrew her hand from his, placing it on her hip. He, like all others that were not of her father's race, had difficulty working his way around her full name. His features had shifted into that of mild irritation. There were far too many sibilant sounds for anyone who hadn't been introduced to Snake-Tongue beforehand.

"Please to meet you too, Aren," she replied. He seemed alright so far, but if she remembered correctly there was a darker side to them. Perhaps it was a lighter side, depending on the Akalak? In all of her fifty-three years in Riverfall, she'd only picked up bits and pieces of the race. She had no interest in becoming a wife, let alone a mother. It wasn't like her father was going to pressure her into either. He knew better. Her mother was getting too old to bother with their bellicose daughter, so she was left mostly to her own devices.

Asen narrowed her eyes at the man towering before her, placing her other hand on her hip. She stood with her legs apart, trying to make herself look bigger in the face of a potential opponent. One could never be too careful, especially when he seemed to be sizing her up. She puffed out her chest just a bit in an attempt to be slightly more intimidating than she really was. She was pretty thin, after all. Not exactly the most fearsome creature to exist.

At the mention of the storm, however, her veil of arrogance fell. Her features crumpled as the images of the aftermath exploded in her mind. Her shoulders slumped, gaze leaving the golden-eyed man's face. She brought her feet together and looked towards the water again.

"It was alright, I s'pose. We survived, yeah? Just me an' Mum an' Da. Da worked us through it, talkin' to us in 'is mother tongue," she said, giving him a shortened version of what she experienced. She'd also left out the part where her father actually had to carry her out of the caves.

"An' what about you, eh? You got parents 'ere? Siblings, maybe? How'd they manage, are they alright?" she questioned, attempting to direct the conversation onto the subject of him and his blue-skinned self instead of the half-Dhani.

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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Aren on April 14th, 2015, 6:59 am

Asen's rather unladylike handshake nearly brought a smile to the Akalak's lips, but he suspected this might be unwise. Her forceful grip seemed to suggest that he had been correct in assuming she wouldn't appreciate an overly formal greeting, and the girl's subsequent mannerisms appeared to confirm his diagnosis. In fact, Asen's circumspect eyes and altered posture told the warrior that perhaps even his slightly dialed down handshake might not have been received without irritation, for which Aren could not help but blame himself. He had read the girl correctly, yet his own bias had kept him from acting appropriately. She was thin, and fragile looking, and had a feminine shape and he couldn't help but treating her more gently than he would a man which found himself in a similar position.

Asen would have had every right to feel insulted, but luckily she didn't seem to be, beyond having the urge to make herself look bigger. It didn't work very well, and Aren almost wanted to laugh at the attempt, but he wouldn't dare. Was she a warrior, or want to be one, at least? She definitively didn't strike the Akalak as the stay at home and knit quilts type, but simultaneously did not seem to possess the physique typically associated with a fighter or a fighter in training.

The girl's reaction to Aren's question felt incongruous with her answer, her body language suggesting that there might be more to the story, or to her experience of the event. Perhaps it was a matter of trying to be brave while remembering a moment when you were frightened, or maybe she simply did not want to remember it at all; he couldn't blame her, as fierce as the storm had been.

"They're fine," The giant said curtly, in reply to her asking after his family. He didn't mean for it to come off like he didn't care for the question -which was probably how it had inadvertently sounded- but Aren simply did not have the intention, nor the desire, to speak about the matter. His blood boiled just picturing his father's face, and he didn't want the thought of the man darkening his mood.

Realizing he was probably being rude, however, the Akalak softened his answer by offering a polite smile to show that she had given no offense. "Tell me, have you had martial training?" He added, eager to get off the subject of his family.

Ironically, it had been Aren's father that had taught him to fight, but these were some of his most precious memories from childhood. It was strange, to fondly remember a time when the man had basically spent half the day beating his own son to a pulp with his bare hands, but the Trial had taught him what suffering truly was. As a boy, he could never have imagined the fear that would seep into his heart on that day, but he was grateful for the training that kept him alive. When he got older, however, he simply couldn't understand how his people justified the continuation of this insane tradition. This created a schism in how Aren thought of his old man. On the one hand, there was the brilliant man that had shown him how to be strong. On the other, there was the stubborn mule that had forced his son to bear witness to the death of his own friends for what seemed like no good reason at all. It was hard to reconcile these two facets of the same person, so he had not even bothered. To Aren, the man who had taught him how to fight was gone, replaced by the ignorant savage that now resided in their home.

"If..." The Akalak's eyes gave Asen a wary look, "...I may ask." He still wasn't sure what to make of her, and he certainly wasn't entirely confident in being able to predict her response to any given question. For all he knew, she might take umbrage at his inability to tell whether or not she had some experience with combat.
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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Asen on April 15th, 2015, 3:40 am



She almost though Aren would laugh at her. Laugh at her! She wasn't some child, trying to be an adult! Asen was a grown woman (sort of) and she deserved respect! Her jaw clenched and her eyes narrowed slightly, giving the Akalak a disapproving look and another inspection.

He was clearly mature, if the height and musculature were anything to go by. His short answer, probably meant to be quick and to the point like hers, came off as irritated. It was probably unwise to mention family again. Evidently he had a few unpleasant experiences with them.

The blue giant's face had hardened with the answer as well. Not only were the experiences unpleasant, they were also bad enough to affect him just thinking about it. However, a polite smile -- really though, it was forced -- appeared. The blonde raised an eyebrow. Now he was just trying to be nice.

"Martial? Trainin'? Please. The last thing Da would put me through would be trainin'. He can 'ardly keep a 'old on me as it is. He en't about to make me go to some fightin' facility to try an' better myself," she told Aren. The half-Dhani folded her arms across her flat chest, thumbing the ring on her right hand.

A thought slipped across her mind and she peered up at the Akalak hesitantly. "Martial en't the marryin' thing, is it? 'Cause I en't gonna marry anyone. Don't get any ideas now, big man," she said, squinting in her best attempt at intimidation. It most likely came off as amusing or comical.

Asen flexed the muscles in her hands, tightening them into fists and then splaying the fingers across her undefined biceps. Her knuckles were calloused from being bashed against walls and pathways, trying to get a hit in while receiving blows herself. Some were from her father as well, holding up swatches of burlap sacks and telling her to punch the rough fabric as hard as she could and for as long as she could -- which was usually until her hands bled.

"'Course you've 'ad some combat trainin' yourself, yeah? Nobody gets those kinds o' muscles without gettin' into a few fights an' workin' out, leastways not to my knowledge," she murmured, half to herself and half to Aren.

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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Aren on April 16th, 2015, 9:23 am

Although the girl denied having any training, Aren's keen eyes noticed that, as she stretched her hands out, they were not free of the tell tale signs of a fighter. There were very few activities that could account for the state of her knuckles, but perhaps she simply did not consider however she got them training, in the same manner that Aren did. He decided not to press the issue, though, as she did not seem like she was being anything but sincere.

"No. It's not the marrying thing." The Akalak offered a restrained chuckle, "And don't worry. I have no intention of marrying anyone, either," He added with a smile, trying to reassure Asen that his motives were entirely innocent.

"Aye. You could say I've spent my whole life training," Aren mused, his voice softening as if he was remembering something long since past. There seemed to be neither pride nor arrogance in the statement, only a statement of fact he had long since learned to accept. Perhaps acceptance was too strong a word, however, for what was truly nothing more than forlorn resignation to a lifestyle that had been drilled into his head practically since he could walk.

"How long have you been in Riverfall?" The Akalak queried, wondering just how much Asen knew about his people. She wasn't here to marry, apparently, so what had brought her to the city? Her parents, he guessed, if the way the girl talked about her family was any indication of her relationship with them.

"You never learn, do you?" Seros' grim visage appeared in Aren's mind like a sudden and unpleasant memory. It was strange to think of your greatest enemy as possessing your own face with only a more sinister expression and an altered voice to mark the change, but even after a century it was a difficult notion to wrap one's head around.

"What are you on about now?" Aren asked, but silence was his only reply, as they both knew exactly what the darker Other was talking about. The Akalak had a... history, and it felt like it always repeated itself, sooner or later. Maybe it was time, or merely circumstances, but it seemed like he didn't tend to know people for very long; a fact which Seros loved reminding him of.
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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Asen on April 17th, 2015, 3:07 am



Asen mentally breathed a sigh of relief. Thank Siku it en't the marryin' thing. That'd be awkward. Is there even trainin' for that kinda stuff? Probably for birthin' a baby, she thought to herself. Her mind wandered briefly, wondering about the ins and outs of childbirth.

She was brought back to reality as Aren kept talking. He seemed almost distant, half lost in a memory. Evidently training was important to him, very important. Of course, he was an Akalak. She was sure their whole lives revolved around training and petching, to put it simply.

The half-Dhani stood so that her weight rested on one leg, placing a hand on the narrow jut of her hip. "How long 'ave I been 'ere? Lessee, it's 512, yeah? So that would be..." she pursed her lips, gaze drifting away from the Akalak and up towards the sky.

"Fifty-four years, come summer," she told him. The blonde scratched the back of her head, trying to confirm the number.

"Yeah, fifty-four years. I was born 'ere, 'course. Kinda surprisin' I en't seen you before, yeah? Ah, well," said the girl with a chuckle. When she refocused on Aren she noticed that he seemed distant again, but not like before when he looked to be remembering something.

"Hey," she said, taking a step forwards and snapping her fingers in the blue giant's face, "You alright? Is there somethin' goin' on inside that big ol' head o' yours? 'Cause it sure seems like it. Anythin' you feel you should, I'unno, share?" she asked.

It could be any number of things. It could be a bad memory, possibly of a dead wife or child if he was a husband or father. It might've been the reason he wasn't interested in marrying, although he gave off the feeling of being young -- at least for an Akalak. Another feeling underneath the youth, however, conflicted that. She couldn't pinpoint it, though. She wasn't that good.

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[Valkalah's Tears] Two Souls and a Half-Dhani (Aren)

Postby Aren on April 23rd, 2015, 5:53 am

Aren's attention swiftly redirected itself entirely on Asen when she revealed her age. The Akalak's response was a raised eyebrow and a somewhat surprised look on his face. He understood that he wasn't particularly adept at gauging how human lifespans worked, but he also knew he wasn't so horrible at it that he would mistake someone who had seen almost half the years he had for a teenager. The girl did not strike him as a liar, though, and who would lie about this anyway?

"I probably left around the time you were born," The giant offered, consciously forcing himself to accept the possibility that Asen was as old as she claimed. "And I came back not that long ago. Not that I'm planning on staying."

Asen's prodding questions evoked a look of pensive thought on the Akalak's face, and it was obvious that he was thinking on whether to talk about the matter or not. She was a stranger, after all; they may have known each other's name, but that was basically all they knew about one another.

"Family's hard sometimes, isn't it?" Aren suddenly blurted out after a deep breath, smiling sheepishly. He didn't really know why he had just said that, but perhaps it was because he imagined that perhaps Asen could sympathize. The way she talked about her own father didn't exactly echo how the Akalak felt about his, but he could tell that she could probably remember a moment or two when she felt like strangling him with his bare hands. Maybe that was just him, though.

"I spent the sum total of your life staying away from mine, and fifty years of absence didn't really seem to make it any better. The warrior's shrugging shoulders, which seemed to suggest a certain acceptance of this state of affairs, were betrayed by the rueful smile which unwittingly decorated his face. Aren was practiced at hiding the regrets of his past, of which there were many, so the slip didn't last for more than an instant before it was replaced with a less revealing expression. "I've always found talking about the subject to be a pointless endeavor, though," The Akalak mentioned, this being his way of trying to change the topic of conversation. "I'd rather talk about you, if you don't mind.

Inclining his head towards his new acquaintance, Aren's mouth opened for a brief instant before he thought better of whatever he was going to say and it shut again. Eventually he seemed to revise his statement and sound once again emanated from his throat, "You look very youthful, for someone in her fifties. In fact, I don't think I've ever met a human being that age that looks as young as you do." From his inflexion, one might have thought there was a question in there, but the Akalak knew better than to outright ask. His mother had made sure of that much, at least.
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