Completed Stirring News

In which the Soleran family decides to leave...despite having just arrived.

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

Stirring News

Postby Oleander Soleran on April 22nd, 2017, 7:58 pm

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40. Spring 517
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The letter was a crumpled mess in Hortense’s fist, though it had been in that condition before she found it. She had washed the bedsheets that morning, all three of them, and the underlying blankets too, as was her habit. Out of her father’s blanket came, fluttering, this letter. She had picked it up from the ground with some surprise – why would he tuck it away like a bandit hiding a treasure map? There were no secrets in this family, that was one of Rendan’s own rules. The children had been caught trying to keep one, once or twice, when they were younger. Their father had found out about each of them, and he had not been happy about it. If Rendan felt the need to keep something hidden, Hortense knew, it must be something important and either a large surprise or terribly dreadful. She would have questioned him about it if she had seen a letter laying around, but this was different. This one, he had deliberately hidden, and that was against his principles. Hortense felt that it was only fair that she opened the letter now to see what the secrecy was about. Perhaps a lover? She did not wish to imagine her father’s relationships in detail, but if there was someone, it would not feel right to her. Her mother was out there, somewhere.

She smelled the letter. No, this was too plain. A woman would have scented it. Or maybe the perfume had long since fled, she could not tell. She opened the letter, read it, gasped and with a tremor shaking her hands, read it again. Then, she went to find her brother.

The moment Oleander felt his sister approaching, he knew something was wrong. It was a twin thing – when one’s emotions became especially strong, the other often somehow just knew – not what, and not necessarily whether it was a good or a bad thing, just that something was moving them.

He looked up from the book he’d been occupied ith – nothing fanciful, merely a notebook in which he attempted to draw and document local leaf shapes, grasping the quill too tightly to steady his wobbly, impractised hand – even before she stormed through the door. He bit back any “what’s wrong”s and “are you allright”s, his sister was not the type to keep news that moved her to herself for long and did not take lightly to interruptions of her thought train.

“It’s from mother”, she blurted out, waving the note excitedly.

This made Oleander put his writing utensils aside. “So she’s alive.” Hortense gave him the letter and his eyes flew over it as fast as he could decipher the words. His mother’s hand was tiny and it was hard to tell the “n”s, “m”s and “w”s apart, as all of them were small and rounded. “She’s in Syliras”, he noted.

“How do you know they never travelled? There are birds everywhere.”

Oleander shook his head. “How would she know we’ve moved here? Nobody in the outpost would’ve gotten a letter wrongly sent there, picked it up and returned one. Most people there can’t even read. At least she’s been there, and someone must’ve told her where we’ve gone.”

“Or father could have written her before we left”, Hortense mused.

“If he even knew where he’d reach her. This sounded like someone was hunting her down. She was probably on the constant move before hiding.”

“He also wouldn’t hide it from us, would he?”, his sister said, dismissing her own idea. She sat down on the bench next to Oleander. “We need to find her.”

“Find her?” Oleander shot up. “Are you out of your mind? She’s in Syliras, Hortense, if this letter is real! We’re in Zeltiva.”

“We can take a caravan back”, his sister insisted and reached for his hand to pull him back. “We’ve been here for almost half a year. You still have not tried to get into the University, Oleander. How important can this truly be to you?”

Admittedly, Hortense had a point. It was not only the financial aspect that kept Oleander from signing up. It was also the fear of being denied, paired with respect and intimidation. These people were scholars, he was a villager. They’d laugh at him or turn up their noses and snort, like that apothecary had. But Hortense knew these things, and still she utilized them as an argument to serve her point, deliberately hurting her brother to have her will.

A few years ago, he might have stormed out to find a quiet spot and sulk. Now, she stared at his sister with sorrowful eyes. “I know. We need to talk to father about it.”
Last edited by Oleander Soleran on July 12th, 2017, 3:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Stirring News

Postby Oleander Soleran on June 23rd, 2017, 5:21 pm

It was noon by the time Rendan returned home for his break, and he found his children in the kitchen, sweaty-handed and with no lunch prepared.

“Have we run out of oats?”, he asked with some worry. Their stocks were eternally low this season and they struggled for every next bag of wheat or oatmeal or potatoes.

“That’s not it”, Hortense clarified, taking the word when Oleander was avoiding it. This was her battle much more than it was his, and he was glad to let her take up the arms that were her words, clear and precise and hitting true, while he kept his own thoughts hidden. Silently, he pulled a chair and gestured for his father to take a seat.

Rendan complied, looking expectantly at his daughter, waiting for her to clarify. Hortense took a breath that doubled as a chance to gather her thoughts and a dramatic pause, then she pulled the letter from her skirt. Rendan gasped audibly, not even attempting to hide his shock. “How did you find this?”

“Just spring-cleaning”, Hortense replied matter-of-factly, but she would not be side-tracked. “How I found it does not matter, father. Why did you hide it?”

“So you read it, too”, Rendan said, and it was no question. The last glimmer of hope vanished from his eyes. “So you know who it’s from, and what she asked of me.”

“Why did you hide it?”, she repeated, impatience swinging in a voice that was usually so much calmer.

“I was afraid of what you might think”, Rendan admitted, resting his elbows on the table like a lost little boy and hiding his face in his hands. Through gritted fingers, he mumbled: “Of what you might plan. I wanted to keep the harm from you, and the…memories. They must have muddled in your minds by now, maybe they’ve been glorified by the light of the past. But your mother was no saint.”

Is no saint”, Hortense corrected icily, “And I’d rather judge that myself, thank you very much.”

All that Oleander remembered of his mother was a flicker of light hair and her scent. Those were fond memories to him, they evoked a feeling of home, but that was what a “mother” felt like to anyone, he supposed. He did not really know her, nor who she had been when they were children. He knew his father’s bitterness, his silence on the topic, he knew Hortense’s curiosity. Himself, he had never longed for more than a few fond memories, and now he was afraid of what blackness they might uncover if they dug into their parents’ past to spoil these memories.

“I met your mother in the market”, Rendan said, and his shoulders sagged as he let go, “at work. She had a stall next to mine, selling herbs, but I would never have noticed her if it hadn’t been so painfully obvious that she had not the slightest idea what she was doing.” Despite himself, he smiled at the thought. “Don’t get me wrong, she knew her plants, you’ve got that from her, Oleander. But she was no good at selling things. Her advertising was a little…off.”

“How so?”, Hortense asked. Rendan almost looked like he had been waiting for someone to ask that question.

“Parsley and thyme,
make for a good rhyme,
they work as a tea,
that will make you pee;
be careful, it takes but a chime.

Basil and nettle,
a brew in your kettle,
a spice for your dinner,
makes your blood run thinner,
use leaves, but don’t use the petal.

If your wife gives you grief,
you consider to leave,
get her catnip and ginger,
for it isn’t an injure,
it’s cramps, but with herbs, they’ll be brief.”


Oleander tried to look serious, but a giggle broke through. Then he laughed, loud enough for Hortense to stare at him dismissively. “So she rhymed, what’s wrong with that?”

“Have you listened to those rhymes? They’re plant learning nursery rhymes. Not a good marketing strategy.”

“And badly crafted”, Rendan added while Oleander wiped a tear from his eye. “Long story short: People did not buy it.”

Hortense, who had enjoyed the rhymes, looked half ashamed and half bewildered, but she remained silent for once.

“She could barter, though. I took pity and went to buy some spice at the end of that day, but I went home with three different potted plants, at least five ways to flavour a dish of porridge and a bouquet of flowers instead. And without half the money I’d made. She was there the next day, and the one after that. Always selling her things. Always obnoxiously loud and unintentionally hilarious from time to time, even when I tried to teach her.”
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Stirring News

Postby Oleander Soleran on June 24th, 2017, 2:09 pm

“So I suppose you fell for one another”, Oleander said. “Isn’t that a little cheesy?”

“Probably”, Rendan admitted, “but at the time, it felt right. For a long time, I did not question what had brought her to Syliras, or why she was having such difficulty fitting into her job. She learnt, eventually, and we joined our crafts. She produced, I sold. I talked, and she smiled that beautiful smile…” He paused for a moment. “That smile that made people believe in her. It was a full success. We moved in together, but she was reluctant to marry me. I asked what was bothering her, what was keeping her, but she said I had done nothing wrong, she simply was not ready. And I believed it, and waited. Nothing changed over two years, and we settled into our lifestyle. Then…you happened. Estrella was pregnant with twins, and she still did not want to marry me. I grew suspicious, naturally. Was there another man? Perhaps you weren’t my children after all?

But then you were born, and as you grew and shed your baby fat, similarities became obvious. You most definitely are my children. But Estrella changed, and if she had been silent about her past before, she was positively secretive now, even a little paranoid. She tensed when it was too silent, flinched at footsteps, ducked into hallways. Whenever I asked what was wrong, her mouth pressed into a tight line. She did not sleep much, was gone more often than she was there, kept missing from work. I had to juggle two small children and a business almost on my own. When I saw her, we argued. I was angry, you see? I loved her, and I wanted to help her, but she did not trust me with her secrets. Still, I would never have left her.

One evening, I found her beaten and bleeding. She instructed me on how to make a poultice and apply it to her wounds, and finally, I learnt her secret. She was an information broker for some criminal ring, and Syliras had been but a station for her. She was in trouble from two sides – the party she’d been spying on, and then, the group she had belonged to. She had abandoned her post to live with me and you, but her past was catching up on her.

There were a thousand accusations I wanted to make, but I did not. I told her we would find a way, and she nodded with tears in her eyes. I mistook them for a sign of relief, when in reality, they must have been sorrowful resolve. The next morning, she was gone.

That was the last I ever heard of her, until this letter. I’ve made my peace, and after all these years, meeting her would be tearing open a nasty scar that I’m happy has healed. I’ve changed, but it seems like she has not. I do not wish to see her again.”


A web of silence spread through the room, prying the words from the siblings’ tongues as their story sank in.
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Stirring News

Postby Oleander Soleran on June 29th, 2017, 5:39 pm

Finally, Oleander spoke up. His voice sounded numb to his own ears, swallowed by the blankets freshly placed on the beds and choked by the lump in his throat. “A liar, a traitor and a criminal”, he said, “and our mother.”

Hortense woke from her stupefied stasis and nodded. Thoughts flickered behind her eyes, flashes of realization as she pieced together her memories. Oleander had his tolm, but he did not know what Hortense remembered of their mother. Then she looked up, glanced quickly at her brother and finally transfixed her gaze on her father. “It changes nothing.”

“For me”, Rendan countered, “it changed everything. Why, do you think, did you never have a stepmother? Why did we move from Syliras, and then from Mithryn? Why did I spend all day at work from the day that you could look after yourselves?
I was alone; afraid that what had happened once might happen again, unwilling to let our family suffer more. A little paranoid, perhaps, I was half convinced that the fire in our fields was connected to Estrella somehow. And I was providing for three, all by myself.”


“I understand that, father”, Hortense said, “but we still need to find her. Right, Oleander?”

“I can’t judge her before I meet her”, he agreed. Internally, he was not sure whether he wanted to judge or meet anyone, but agreeing with Hortense was the natural thing for him to do after the conversation they had had earlier. “Can we change your mind about seeking her out?”

“No”, Rendan stated short and clearly. “I’ve worked long and hard to put her in my past. We’re doing fine. And for all I know, this could be some sort of trap.”

“That doesn’t make any sense", Hortense disagreed, crossing her arms as she walked across the room and back multiple times, thinking. “They were looking for her, you were never a target. And if that letter is genuine…”

“It is.”

“Then I won’t be able to sleep another night without wondering what we might have found.”

“I won’t…”

“You needn’t, father. We’ll go alone.” Two heads turned around at Oleander and even Hortense seemed surprised. “We need to go”, he explained, “and you can’t.”

“You’re only children…”

“No, father”, Hortense interrupted, recovering, look at us.”

Silence again, except for the scratching of Rendan’s chair over the floor as he pushed it back. He took slow steps, until he stood face to face with his daughter. Oleander was a little taller than his father was, and when Rendan’s gaze passed Hortense to rest on his son instead, he had to look up. Their eyes met for a long moment, and without words, all was said.

When Rendan sat back down, he seemed to have aged. Perhaps it was the brokenness around him, the sound of shattered dreams that lingered between them. All of a sudden, Oleander could not leave fast enough. He stormed outside with Hortense on his heel, releasing a lung of stale are and breathing a fresh sea wind blowing in from the docks. He felt anxious and released.

“He’s actually letting us go”, Hortense said, and Oleander realized that she had half expected him to say “no”. She was relieved, and she was sad. Wordlessly, he enclosed his sister in his arms and hugged her. For once, he was the sibling that stayed strong.

“What do we do now?”

“We find a caravan”, Oleander decided, and for the first time in a long while, he took the lead.
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Stirring News

Postby Oleander Soleran on July 1st, 2017, 10:58 am

“’morrow”, the man mouthed around whatever ill-smelling substance he was chewing. “Last ‘un this season taking passengers ‘long. Twas planned long-term, ‘fore all that Morwen-shyke.” He spat on the ground. The saliva, Oleander noted, was extraordinarily yellow. Whether the colour was the result of lacking mouth hygiene or a direct effect of his snack was hard to tell, probably both.

“Tomorrow? Impossible!, Hortense exclaimed, taking a step back from the fellow and his odour.

“Stay then, little missy”, he said, and a grin exposed his lack of front teeth. “Might find a spot for ya in my home, but ya gotta get rid of yer boy.” He accompanied his words with a meaningful nod at Oleander.

Hortense whirled around and dragged her brother along, not deigning to respond. The man stared at her backside until they had turned a corner.

“Oleander, there’s no way we can prepare for this kind of journey within a day – and on our own!”

“Father-“

“He won’t help us.”

“Are you sure? He’s not happy to let us go, but he knows we have a right to. And he’ll want us to be safe.”

They passed a row of sand-coloured, wind-worn houses. An old woman leaned out of her window with child-like curiosity, but the twins payed her no mind. They headed homewards, to break the news and figure out a plan.

- - -


Rendan was not there when they returned. They did not know whether he had gone back to work or just needed a quiet moment to himself. Hortense set a kettle over the fire while Oleander picked out herbs for the tea. Rosebuds for taste, and bee-balm. Nothing soothing. Today, they needed the excitement, the quick thinking, and they had to cope with their fear.

“Supplies”, Oleander said over the wheezing of heating water, “dry meat and hard cheese and jerky. Some bread for the first days, before it goes dry. Salt, if we can get any. A set of water skins. Another set of daggers, just in case.” Neither of them were proficient at wielding any sort of weapon, but Oleander felt safer if he had something to potentially stab at people…things…with.

“Tents”, Hortense added as she took the kettle from the hearth and Oleander drizzled in the herbs, “and mounts if we can find some. It will be hard to gather money for the necessities; I doubt we can afford our own wagon.”

Oleander shook his head. “We can manage for what we ned most, but there’ll be nothing left. We’ll neeed to find work immediately upon arriving in Syliras.” Their own savings from sewing and gardening would be gone by then. He placed a clean piece of cloth over two mugs and let the tea filter through. Hortense liked her tea with a drop of honey, but there was none to be had, not in these dire times. He handed one mug to his sister and smelled the steam rising from his own. Flowery, fresh and familiar. Liquid heaven.

They sat in quiet contemplation for a while, both listing their funds in their heads, trying to remember the merchants with the kindest eyes, those where they would get most for their money.

Their concentration was disrupted when the door opened and Rendan returned. He did not look happy, but neither has broken as they had feared. He took a third mug from their cupboard and poured himself the remaining tea, stronger now from the extended brewing time. He sat with his children and pulled a heavy purse from his pocket, straining with its content. “The money I got for the house”, he explained as he shoved it across the table. “It’s not much since I had no time to negotiate a better price, but it’s yours.”

“You sold the house?”, Hortense asked in disbelief, too flabbergasted to even wonder how he had done it on such short notice, with no good market for anything.

“I can’t stand the thought of living here without you. It’s too large…too quiet. Full of new memories, and old ones. There’s a flat above the store that I can have for a small fee. And you’ll need money, for the journey and as a start.”

“Are you sure?”, Oleander asked, peaking into the bag. So many, shiny coins. “At least keep enough to last you a year.”

“I’m keeping enough for a season”, Rendan corrected, “without you two to feed, I’ll be swimming in money soon enough.” The smile he attempted was pitiful and crooked. “500 mizas. Use them well.”

Oleander nodded. “We will.” 500 mizas – not nilos – Rendan had already exchanged them. Money for a house. Money for a journey, money for a new life. “Thank you, father. For everything.” He hugged Rendan tightly, and the tears glistening in his eyes were honest.
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Stirring News

Postby Rufio on August 18th, 2017, 11:32 am

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G R A D E



xp

Observation +4
Socialization +2
Rhetoric +2
Leadership +1
Cooking +1
Organization +1


lores

Estrella’s hidden letter to Rendan
Hortense: Perceptive, wilful & direct
Oleander: Memories of his mother
The tale of Estrella & Rendan’s love
Estrella: Criminal spy
Cooking: Parsley & thyme tea
Cooking: Use nettle & basil leaves to flavour food
Herbalism: Nettle & basil leaves thin the blood
Herbalism: Catnip & ginger soothes cramps
Nursery rhymes do not make good marketing tools
Rendan: Protecive & caring of his children
Cooking: Rosebud & bee-balm tea
Hortense: Likes honey in tea
Saying goodbye to Rendan


rewards
Cashing in housing for 500GM


notes
Wonderfully written thread, thoroughly enjoyable to read (I love sappy!), and those little nursery rhymes were great!


  
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