Closed Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Strange smells are abound in Alvadas, and sometimes curiosity can't be helped...

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Considered one of the most mysterious cities in Mizahar, Alvadas is called The City of Illusions. It is the home of Ionu and the notorious Inverted. This city sits on one of the main crossroads through The Region of Kalea.

Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Asterope on November 6th, 2017, 1:06 am

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32nd/Autumn/517

Aster had thought that perhaps the strange smells had been a one-time trick of the city, but apparently she was wrong. When she'd woken up that morning with Navi practically on top of her, instead of getting a faceful of the smell of dog, she'd spent several quizzical moments trying to figure out where the smell of roses was coming from.

Navi herself seemed unhappy with the state of things, pawing at her nose and sneezing periodically, so Aster took mercy on the poor mutt and left her at the inn when she left for the day. The various confusing smells made her feel disoriented; more than one normally felt in Alvadas, at any rate.

She passed a street vendor who was selling tea, and wrinkled her nose at the overwhelming scent of rotting cheese that wafted from the cart, casting the man running it a sympathetic look. Some businesses would be luckier than others when it came to this particular trick, it seemed.

Aster almost tripped over a cobblestone that stood abruptly and began scuttling across the street on spindly legs like some sort of crab, barely managing to skirt it. She was still adjusting to the city's constant bombardment of illusions, and being distracted certainly wasn't helping her.

Suddenly, a scent stronger than any others she'd come across drifted by her, and she paused, inhaling deeply. Her brow furrowed as she tried to place it; it was faintly sweet yet smoky all at once, with something almost like a spice to it.
Tobacco, maybe?Aster thought, glancing around. But it seemed too sweet for that, growing sweeter by the second in fact, like some sort of honey-based candy, and the smell was only getting stronger.

Aster cast her gaze around for the source, but found nothing obvious. Intrigued and curious, she took a few tentative steps, breathing deeply, and followed the smell as best as she could. She lost it every so often, when she went too far in one direction or when something else overpowered it, but managed to find it again.

She followed it towards a narrow side alley which was blanketed in thick clouds with a positively torrential downpour coming from them. Aster grimaced, but there was little that could dissuade her when something had caught her interest. The rain smelled sharply of fresh mint and pine as she ducked into the alley, and was...surprisingly pleasantly warm. Her dress was soaked in seconds, clinging to her skin, and she scraped her wet hair into a bun so it didn't stick to her face, making her way through as quickly as possible.

She was positively dripping wet by the time she came out on the other side, but it was still early afternoon, and the sun was shining bright in the sky. The warmth on her skin promised her that she would dry off soon enough. Squeezing water out of her bun and wringing out her skirt as best as she could, she set off once again, absentmindedly wiping water from her face.

The stone street turned to dirt, and she recognized the gravel path that appeared beneath her feet as she walked; the smell was leading her to the Garden of No Return, it seemed. Too busy wondering what in the hedge maze could possibly be causing such a strong scent, Aster wasn't paying attention to where she was going, and promptly found herself bumping into someone she hadn't seen.


"Sorry," She apologized right away, taking a step back, embarrassment clear in her face. She'd bumped into a man, fairly taller than herself with hair just bordering on being long. Just then she caught a strong whiff of the smell again, and looking to the man she'd bumped into, blurted out, "Do you smell that?"

Word Count: 630

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Last edited by Asterope on November 6th, 2017, 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Roland Eir on November 6th, 2017, 12:24 pm

It wasn't over. Roland knew the moment he took his first breath. Ionu's strange joke had continued, at least for one more day. Pulling his head off the desk in front of him, he choked back tears at the sharp scent of onions and garlic that plagued the wood of his desk. Not pleasant. With no curtains on the window he'd gotten in the habit of waking with the sun. Today, that meant he was coasting on four hours. Groaning, he stood and rubbed the back of his neck. Another petching late night. The candle on his desk had burned down to a stump, no longer filling the air with the scent of old leather. His book lay open on the desk, open to where he'd been reading the night before. Or trying to anyway.

The book snapped shut with a clap, and Roland left it there. He needed air, and maybe some breakfast. He grabbed his jacket, stepped into his shoes, and took the stairs down two at a town. "Morning Georgia," he offered to the innkeep. Without waiting for a reply he was out on the street. The crisp morning air was brightened by the autumn sun. Breathing deeply, he took in the cacophony of smells that made up a city street. Even on a normal day it could be overwhelming. On a day like today…

With hands stuffed in his pockets, he walked down the streets. Alternating between taking deep breaths and hiding his nose in his collar, he did his best to enjoy the good smells and ignore the bad. A textile salesman hawking linens that smelled like lemons. A wheelwright sat outside his work, complaining that his tools smelled so strongly of wet dog he couldn't do his job. A woman played the flute, and the music actually smelled of peppermint.

Roland skirted around the crowd that had formed, already over this most recent trick of Ionu's. He'd come to the city at the start of the season expecting wonders beyond his wildest dreams. Some crazy god playing haywire with nose wasn't quite what he had in mind. He rubbed his tired eyes and started the search for breakfast. Most of the shops selling food were having a rough time of it, but he eventually found a man who sold him a loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese that smelled of lavender soap and poached eggs, respectively.

"Well Ionu, you've ruined breakfast," Roland muttered, raising a chunk of bread as a toast to his unseen host. The food tasted as it should, but the misaligned smells threw his mind for a loop as he ate. Could this morning get any worse? he wondered silently. As it turned out, it could get better: his body came to a sudden halt as something new blew in on the wind.

What was that? It smelled like… like the end of hard day's travel, when you sat around the campfire and warmed your tired bones. It smelled like falling asleep and waking up refreshed. It smelled like the best parts of his childhood.

And just like that it was gone, carried away on the breeze. Oh no, that wouldn't do. Roland kicked into gear, pushing past people on the street with his head craned high. Struggling to smell it again over the multitude of odors assaulting his senses, it wasn't until he had given up that he caught it again. Sweet, like the start of spring. Sniffing at the air like a bloodhound, he followed the scent. Up one street and down the other, through allies that curved sideways, and over bridges that crossed streets he'd already walked, he followed the smell until he found himself at the edge of a row of green.

"Huh." He'd found this place on the first day in the city, though it had been behind a low wall before. How strange that he'd returned, it was rare that he found the same place twice just wandering around. What was this weird garden? Large bushes, trimmed and maintained to form walls and passages, stretched out into the distance. His feet crunched on the gravel walkway as he approached, awestruck.

It was beautiful, if a little unsettling. The last time he'd seen such green had been the sea of grass, and his misadventures there made him pause. But the smell was definitely coming from within…

At that moment, he was struck from behind. Spinning on his heels he found himself face to face with a woman who couldn't be much younger than himself. Roland blinked, his tongue suddenly tied. She was an unnatural beauty, her rich auburn hair tucked up on her head behind her… horns. He swallowed. An Ethaefall. He'd met only one other, and still did not know much of their kind.

She spoke before he did and for a few ticks Roland could only nod. Finally he mustered his words, saying carefully "Aye, I think so." He looked down the path into the welcoming mouth of the maze. "I think it's coming from in there…"

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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Asterope on November 6th, 2017, 3:14 pm

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Aster was just about ready to start fidgeting beneath the man's slightly bewildered gaze when he finally spoke. The tenseness in her shoulders melted away, and she nodded, satisfied that she wasn't the only one who had smelled...well, whatever it was.

She peered around him to follow his gaze down the path towards the hedge maze.
"I think you're right," she agreed with a thoughtful hum. As if to prove them right and to tempt them closer, a faint breeze blew the smell by them once more, but it was shifting again. Aster was struck with the sweet but bitter-tinged scent of herbs, mingled with something purely floral. It reminded her intensely of Nara, and she found a pang of homesickness hitting her. How strange it was to feel homesick for two unique places, two homes, and ones so wildly different at that.

"It keeps changing," Aster murmured with a small frown, more to herself than anything, brows furrowed as she chewed her lower lip in thought. Well, she had entered the maze before and made it out; surely she could do it again. Starting forward, she turned to the man and tipped her head to the side inquisitively.

"Are you coming, then?" She had no idea if he had followed the scent as she had or not; perhaps he just happened to be there at the same time as her. But coincidences were so rare in Alvadas, she felt sure that he must be even a little bit curious about the strange smell. She waited a few patient moments for his response before continuing down the gravel path; whether he wanted to accompany her or not, she was determined to find the source of the smell.

Aster glanced back one more time to see if he was following, amber eyes bright in the sunlight, before stepping into the shade of the maze. It was as if the air itself grew quieter inside, muffling all outside noise, her breathing seeming strangely loud in the unnatural quiet. She was still close enough to the entrance that it had yet to disappear; one last chance to give up, and to turn and flee. She knew that if she turned her back to take a few more steps, it would be gone when she looked again.

Despite that, Aster felt no fear. She'd grown comfortable with the city's illusions even though she hadn't been there long. They were predictable in their randomness, their insanity a source of stability in and of itself. Always changing, never settling, not much unlike herself. Perhaps that was what allowed her to adapt to the city so well and so quickly, or perhaps it was the fact that she was so young still and hadn't had a chance to truly establish the rules of how the world worked.

Either way, she found herself without fear when it came to turning her back on the entrance. The illusions themselves that lay within, however, could very well be a different story; something she'd learned the hard way some time ago, but she shook off the unpleasant thought.

It seemed the man had decided to follow her into the maze after all, and once they had stepped further in and the entrance had disappeared into a wall of hedge as she knew it would, Aster flashed him a brief but genuinely delighted smile. The smell still lingered faintly, teasing them, enticing in such a manner as to coax them further into the maze.
"My name is Aster, by the way," she offered to the man. Seeing as they were now trapped in the maze together, for who knew how long, and searching for the same thing, an introduction seemed appropriate.

Word Count: 619


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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Roland Eir on November 6th, 2017, 6:29 pm

"Are you coming then?" Roland didn't answer. The garden felt strange and foreboding to him. Nothing in Alvadas was what it seemed. This maze of bushes would be no different. He almost shook his head, but then he caught another trace of that scent. It pleased and taunted his senses, denying explanation. What could smell so strongly that he had caught it halfway across the city? Was that an illusion too? Roland swallowed, troubled with indecision. Eventually the young Ethaefal grew tired of waiting and started without him.

Would he let her go alone? Maybe she knew better than him. Maybe he was being silly. Maybe a maze was just a maze. The walls wound their way to his right and left, impenetrable save the entrance ahead. It splayed open, welcoming, but narrowed as the path continued.

He told himself he had to go, that it would be wrong to let her go alone. Deep down he knew he was just as curious as she. She was already a few yards into the maze when he finally started walking. "Alright, yeah, I'm coming." He passed the first row of hedges and a chill went down his spine. Telling himself it was just the sudden array of new smells the garden presented, or the horns on his companion's head, he shrugged off that feeling of dread. What is wrong with me?

Jogging to catch up, his feet crunched loudly on the gravel pathway. Inside the maze, all sounds from the city outside disappeared. A hush fell over them interrupted only by their breaths and their footsteps. Roland glanced behind, worried but not unsurprised to see that the entrance was gone. "My name is Aster, by the way."

"Roland," he replied, still looking backward. The importance of the introduction was lost on him. "So I take it you know the way out of here, right? Once we find whatever it is we're looking for." Walking next to her, he had trouble keeping his eyes off the perfectly smooth, golden protrusions on the sides of her head. The last Ethaefal he'd met had horns more like an animal's, but hers were unnaturally curved and shiny. Biting back the questions on his tongue, he forced his attention on the maze instead.

The leaves were trim, properly kept, as if someone came out every morning and sheared them. Like a sheep, he mused. Between the leaves vines wove themselves in and out of the bush, dotted with flowers, thorns, berries, everything he could imagine. The path itself branched constantly: new paths jutted off at odd angles and curves, leading deeper and deeper into the maze. He quickly gave up on trying to remember what turns they were making. Knowing Alvadas it didn't matter. It seems the illusory confusion that ruled the streets held sway here as well. Roland shook his head in disapproval.

The Newcomer's Tonic he'd been forced—violently—to take had just worn off a couple days ago and he was still getting used to walking the city without it. Now he almost wished he had some more. The maze seemed to close in on him, and whenever he turned around any landmark's they'd passed had disappeared. His companion seemed much more comfortable, and he happily let her lead the way. Whatever they were smelling, she seemed to have a better sense of direction for it. To him it was a constant thing, and almost overpowering now that they were within the maze.

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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Asterope on November 11th, 2017, 5:42 am

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Aster noticed the way the man, Roland according to his introduction, kept peering behind himself. When he asked if she knew the way out, turning to face her once more, Aster couldn't help but blink in surprise, her dark brows raising slightly. It seemed that the man was even newer to Alvadas than she was, if he thought that.
"Well, no. I don't think the maze is ever the same twice; nobody really ever knows where the exit is. The best way to tell where you're going though is to pay attention to the plants; those usually stay the same." That was a valuable lesson she'd learned the first time she entered the maze.

She didn't fail to notice the way Roland's gaze kept straying to the horns that swept back from her temples, but she didn't mind in the slightest; in fact, if anything, she seemed to preen slightly under the attention, straightening her neck and lifting her chin ever so slightly. Sunlight flashed off of the golden curves of her horns and splaying glimmering reflections on the leaves of the hedges surrounding them.
"It's not too hard to get out if you're careful, though." Aster added after a long pause, clearly an afterthought when she noticed how uneasy the man seemed.

Despite keeping most of her attention on the stranger that walked beside her, Aster kept a keen eye out for any particularly strange looking plants or herbs that she could recognize so that she would know what way they came. The scent wavered, sometimes barely noticeable, other times overpowering; Aster followed it as best as she could, though it required some backtracking every so often.


"Are you new to Alvadas, then?" Aster questioned her companion, making note of a thin, silvery tree whose branches were heavy with a strange blue fruit, not dissimilar to apples in appearance. The smell that wafted off of it was sharp and sour, though that probably what it actually smelled like, given the illusions going on. She gave him a moment to responding before questioning slightly further. "How do you like the city?" He seemed slightly put off by the maze, but that didn't necessarily mean anything, and she didn't want to make any assumptions.

She paused as they reached another branch in the path, inhaling deeply as she peered down both pathways, but they seemed identical. She could have sworn she heard something down the right path, faint and musical in nature, so after a brief hesitation she set off down that one. She wondered what the scent could truly be, and if it was worth the trouble they were going through. The city and its patron deity tended to deal in absolutes; chances were, it would either be something incredibly dull and mundane, or something extraordinary. There was rarely an in-between.

The path seemed to dip downward slightly as they walked, getting increasingly steep until it was clear they were indeed walking down an incline; despite that, the hedges remained level on either side of them. The shadows seemed to deepen around them, and faintly, Aster heard the sound again. She glanced to Roland to see if he had heard it as well, slowing her pace slightly. Something about the increasingly shadowy path was giving her a feeling of unease herself, but judging by the strength of the scent in the air, now heady like spiced wine, they were going in the right direction.

Aster inhaled, squaring her shoulders and setting her jaw. She'd experienced the darker side of the city's illusions, and while that hardly meant she was unafraid (if anything, she was more afraid of what she might encounter), she still pressed on. It seemed too late to turn back, and even if it wasn't she was too stubborn to do it without being in immediate and obvious danger. In an attempt to keep the mood light, she spoke to Roland again.
"So what are you doing in Alvadas?"

Word Count: 661

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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Roland Eir on November 12th, 2017, 7:23 pm

So the maze was just like the rest of the city. "That's what I was afraid of, Roland said with a sigh. The note about the plants was interesting. He payed more attention to the vibrant greenery around him, but botany wasn't his forte. Much more at home navigating a city center, Roland's eyes picked up little difference between one flower and another. Pretty colors were nice, but his life was defined by shades of gray.

"It's not too hard to get out if you're careful, though."

"I hope so. I mean, that's good." Roland was realizing suddenly that he would be forced to rely on the Ethaefall in here. Aster seemed innocent enough, possibly even naive by Roland's standards, but people could fool you. Even the kindest stranger could be patting your back one tick and slitting your throat the next. Her smiles and noble airs did nothing to set the man at ease. The maze grew even more claustrophobic as his anxieties crept up on him.

"Are you new to Alvadas, then?"

The questions set off warning bells in Roland's mind, but he did his best to quiet his paranoia. Just pretend it's a normal conversation. She's not an alien creature, she's a normal girl and this is a normal garden and she's asking normal questions. "It's that obvious, huh?" He forced a smile. "I arrived here a few days after Fall started. Still getting used to the... everything. But I do like it, even with its strangeness. Better people than I'm accustomed to. What about you?" he asked, remembering his niceties. Have you lived here a while?" She was experienced with the garden, at least more than he was. Maybe it was just her horns, but it made sense to Roland that she would live in the City of Illusions.

They reached the dip in the path and Roland swallowed. The heightening hedges felt more like prison walls than ever before as they walked deep into the shadows underneath. The glittering sound of chimes echoed briefly in the air. His mouth dropped open as if to frame a question, but he didn't say anything. The scent was stronger than ever. How long had they been walking? Were they almost there? The hair on Roland's neck stood on end and he had the distinct feeling of being watched. "This is... bad, right? I'm not the only one feeling this." He looked at his companion, making out her troubled form in the shadows. She had the look of someone determined to face the darkness ahead. Oh shyke. Roland wasn't above being the sensible one, but he wouldn't be getting out of here without her. It wasn't time to run, not yet.

He turned ahead and tried to match her stance. He didn't wear confidence well. "So what are you doing in Alvadas?" Roland released a pent up breath, welcoming the distraction.

"I'm an acrobat. I was making small change in Syliras until I heard the arts were more respected here in Alvadas. So how could I resist? Even as a novice I make as much on the streets here as some acrobats make on stages in Syliras." The lie was well-rehearsed, and fell off Roland's tongue with ease. He was an acrobat, but that had been a necessary change in the City of Illusions. Truthfully he'd come to the city in search of magical training, not understanding the nature of the Illusions that gave the city its title. Disappointed but low on money, he'd decided to make a go of it here until he could get back on his feet.

They rounded a corner in the maze, coming to a long stretch lined with massive flowering plants. The rounded petals seemed to thrive in the shadows from the taller hedges, growing as long as Roland's arms in some places. But as soon as they stepped a few yards onto the path they were sucked into the hedges. With as series of pops they folded into bulbs and disappeared into the greenery. Nearly screaming, Roland jumped almost a foot into the air in his surprise. As he settled back down he could swear he heard laughter filtering through the bushes.

Biting back a shattering series of expletives, the man shook his head. Ionu, you are a real bastard, aren't you? Instead of blaspheming, he asked "So, you think we're nearly there? 'Cause I think I've had about as much of this place as I can take."

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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Asterope on November 15th, 2017, 1:40 am

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"What about you? Have you lived here a while?"
Aster glanced over to the man, caught slightly off guard by the question. Did it seem that way? A part of her took it as a compliment; she was somewhat proud that a stranger would assume she was from Alvadas. While living among the Drykas had appealed to her for all the constant moving, it wasn't quite the same as the ever-shifting nature of Alvadas that had drawn her in so absolutely.

"I haven't been here much longer than you, actually. I arrived mid-summer." She left it simply at that, and silence reigned for awhile longer until Roland finally spoke up about the increasing dread settling in the atmosphere.

"This is... bad, right? I'm not the only one feeling this." Aster glanced to him sidelong, out of the corner of her eye; he looked about as apprehensive over the whole situation as she felt.

"No," she admitted, "it's not just you." She kept walking though; if he decided he'd had enough and wanted to turn back she couldn't particularly blame her. Perhaps it was her youth and naivety that made her so stubborn, but either way she kept walking. She would keep walking even if Roland turned back, foolish a decision as it would likely be. Luckily for her, the man seemed as if he was going to stay; for the moment being, in any case.

He answered her question about what he was doing in the city easily, seemingly glad to be focused on her and their conversation instead of the maze, if the sigh he pushed out was anything to go by. Far too naive to catch such a well-practiced lie, Aster just nodded, letting out a hum of interest.
"An acrobat? Must be an interesting way to make a living. I suppose there's never a dull moment."

They turned a sharp corner, and Aster let out a quiet sound that was almost a gasp but not quite, staring in awe at the rows of positively enormous flowers. The plants lined the hedges from bottom to top, drooping over them. The scent they filled the air with wasn't floral, but rather the overpowering smell of horses and hay, as if they had just entered a stable. The scent was nostalgic to Aster, one she had learned to love during her time among the Drykas.

They took a few steps down the path when suddenly the petals of the flowers all twisted in one simultaneous motion, a deafening rustling sound breaking the quiet as they snapped shut and disappeared into the hedges. Aster flinched, taking a stumbling step back and letting out a small squeak of surprise at the sudden movement, while beside her Roland jumped.

After a long moment when nothing else happened, Aster forced out a nervous laugh; the place truly had both of them on edge, it seemed.
"So, you think we're nearly there? 'Cause I think I've had about as much of this place as I can take."

Aster nodded her agreement, beginning to walk again at a slightly more tentative pace. "I hope so. I can't imagine it's much farther now." As if the maze had heard them, the next corner they turned opened up into a small clearing. At the center sat an intricate stone fountain with the statue of a weeping woman on top, the water dripping from her eyes in a steady stream. A few benches surrounded it, and as they entered the area, the source of the increasingly overpowering sweet smell became clear.

Beside the fountain lay the body of a man, face down in the grass. Even from where she stood, Aster could almost certainly tell it was a corpse from the rigidness and pallor of the skin. One of her hands flew to her mouth in surprise even as she brushed past Roland to approach the corpse. Crouching beside the body, she pressed two fingers to its neck to confirm her suspicion, and received no pulse. The skin was icy cold to the touch, sending a shiver through Aster; judging by the power of the smell, and she had never been more thankful for one of the city's illusions, it had been at least some time since the man had died.

Aster sat back on her heels, her gaze raking over the body, looking for any obvious injuries that could have caused the man's death. She doubted he had starved to death; the maze offered plenty of fruits and vegetables along its paths, and he hardly seemed malnourished. She glanced back to Roland, her expression deceptively calm despite the shock she still felt running through her; even though the man was dead, she had entered the same mode she did when she was working on a patient.


"Come help me turn him over, please," she addressed him, and if there was a slight hitch in her voice then she didn't acknowledge it. If Roland agreed, she would wait for him to come help; otherwise, she was carefully slide her palms beneath the corpse and attempt to roll it over herself. Either way, it took a surprising amount of effort; more than she thought it would, and a small grunt escaped her as she pushed with her shoulders until the dead man finally rolled over.

Wide, glassy eyes stared upwards. Aster swallowed, a shiver coursing down her spine and spreading through her body at the blank, lifeless stare. She closed the man's eyes; she wanted to say something, to some deity or another, but she couldn't seem to find the words, so instead she said nothing.

It wasn't difficult to see what had caused the man's death now that he lay on his back; dried blood stained the front of his shirt, and the fabric was torn in several places in the chest, revealing stab wounds beneath the man's clothing. Aster went very still, retracting her hands from the lifeless body; he'd been murdered. She glanced to Roland with wide eyes, at a loss as to what to do.

Word Count: 1,009


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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Roland Eir on November 15th, 2017, 4:59 am

There was something terrible in chasing down a wonderful scent and finding horror. The still form by the fountain oozed a saccharine sweet smell that stung at his nose. Roland waited back as Asterope approached the corpse, happy to let her dirty her hands. She may know better, but Roland was suddenly very worried that the man had starved to death here in the maze. The numbing hand of fear tapped its fingers on his heart, threatening to take hold, but he pushed it back. Relax. Just because he couldn't get out doesn't mean we won't. Maybe he didn't know what Aster did, about the flowers.

"Come help me turn him over, please."

"Yeah, sure." Creeping forward into the clearing, he suddenly missed the shadows of the maze. Thick autumn clouds had rolled over the sun but he still felt exposed as he kneeled next to the fountain. Together they pushed the man over onto his back. The scent became cloying as the bloody wounds were exposed to the open air. Roland scrambled back, his hand flying up to cover his throat. Murder. He knew the shape of those wounds well. "Petching, shyke-filled hells," Roland swore, loudly. His face had become white as a sheet at the sight of the open eyes staring, staring out into nothing. Roland hated to imagine what those eyes had seen last.

Both hands were shaking as he stood. His eyes flitted around to the foliage around them. Nothing. He fought his panic back down. Aster closed the dead man's eyes, thankfully. But the body remained. Roland began to pace as she looked up at him helplessly. His eyes bored past hers, roaming the corpse with macabre curiosity.

His jacket was rich in material and color, and well-tailored to his frame. From the wrinkles around his face Roland would place him in his late forties, but he had the body of a man who stayed active. His face was cleanly shaven save sideburns that curled up at the ends, lightly peppered with grey. His eyes... well nevermind those. Roland shook his head as he paced. What did you do with a corpse? Well shyke, in Sunberth he'd probably just check the pockets and keep walking. But this wasn't Sunberth. Alvadas was civilized.

Roland ceased his walking, his arms extended in an exasperated shrug. "Should we... take him to the guards? Bring them here? This city has guards, right?" He'd heard of the Womiyu, but he still didn't understand what the different branches did.

Why was this happening? If the illusions were from Ionu, and the scent had drawn them here, what was the Trickster God's game? Taking a deep breath, Roland gathered his thoughts. He hadn't killed anyone. The murderer was long gone. They were safe, for the moment at least. And if Roland had anything to do with it, they would stay safe. Unfortunately, he had a history with dead bodies. There was always one surefire solution in times like this. Gathering his thoughts, he walked over to the fountain and sat at the edge.

"Aster," he said gently. "Maybe we should just... leave him here." He didn't expect it to be a popular opinion. "We don't know him, he doesn't know us. We don't have any obligation to do anything." In expectation of her disapproval he wouldn't meet her eyes. This is the way things are, he reassured himself. There was no point in sticking their noses in where they didn't belong. As far as Roland was concerned, someone had gotten away with murder.

Word Count: 593
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Roland Eir
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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Asterope on November 16th, 2017, 5:09 am

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Roland paced for a few moments, and Aster watched him; her expression was unreadable as she tried to process her emotions, save for the troubled furrow in her brow. It was probably only minutes but it felt like an eternity before Roland finally stopped and came over to help her roll the body onto its back.

He recoiled instantly upon seeing the stab wounds, reacting more violently than Aster; perhaps she was simply stunned.
"Should we... take him to the guards? Bring them here? This city has guards, right?" She tore her gaze from the body, forcing herself to look at Roland.

"What?" It took a moment for her to process what he had said. "Guards? I don't...I don't think so." At least, none that she had ever seen. She remembered something about...the word Speakers came to mind, but she'd only ever heard of them when she first arrived at the city, and even then briefly. She tried to recall what she'd been told, but nothing she had heard or seen so far had prepared her for finding a body, and a victim of murder no less.

Aster's eyes followed Roland as he sat on the edge of the fountain; the scenery hadn't changed, and the atmosphere was unsettlingly calm for what was happening. The water in the fountain continued to gurgle quietly, a cool breeze blowing through the shadowy clearing. After a long moment she stood from beside the body, but she didn't sit. She felt too anxious for that, an uncomfortable prickling running along her arms and legs.

Her head whipped around to Roland when he spoke, though, and his words seemed to snap her out of her daze.
"How could you say that?" Her voice was heated, a mixture of shock and upset at the man's suggestion. Her golden eyes narrowed fiercely on him despite the fact that he was looking away, refusing to face her. Anger surged through her at the cowardice of it, but was cooled swiftly by the doubt that followed at its heels. What were they going to do, carry a long dead body back with them as they tried to find their way out of the maze? And even if they did, where would they take it?

Tense silence reigned over the clearing as Aster folded her arms tightly over her chest, dropping her gaze from Roland to stare at the grass beneath her feet.
"I don't think we can do anything with the body," she finally admitted quietly, her shoulders slumping in defeat. The words stung on their way out; it seemed the deep-seated desire to help that she had honed over the years extended to even those that were no longer alive. But despite that and despite all her stubbornness, there were times when she had to admit defeat. It seemed this might be one of them.

A small white flower swayed in the breeze by her feet. She bent to pluck it with gentle fingers, twirling the stem. She raised her gaze to glance around the rest of the clearing, and inhaled deeply. Her jaw set with a familiar resolve, her eyes hardening.
"We should do something, though." She moved past Roland to the opposite end of the clearing, bending to pick the wildflowers that grew among the bushes.

"We can't just leave it like this." She had experienced people she knew dying out in the Sea of Grass; it was rare to retrieve the bodies, and she knew not firsthand but from watching those around her grieve how much that could hurt. She knew how much pain simply not knowing could cause. She spoke as she worked, not looking behind her.

Once satisfied with the bundle of flowers she had collected, she returned to the corpse. She had nothing to tie them together with, nor any knowledge of how to braid flowers together, so she simply tucked the bundle into the crook of the body's arm. It wasn't much, but it gave her some sense of peace to know that she had done something, hadn't simply left the man there unnamed and forgotten to rot.


"We should see if anybody knew him. If he had family or even friends. They deserve to know." She looked to Roland as she dusted her palms off on her dress; she honestly had her doubts about whether or not he would agree to that, especially given his earlier suggestion. Regardless of whether he offered his help or not, she would do it on her own.

A search like that would normally be difficult, let alone in a city like Alvadas where maps were useless and everything was constantly moving, but she had already made up her mind. Aster stared at Roland, some of the fierceness back in her gaze, as if daring him to protest or voice how ludicrous of a challenge that was.

A deep part of her was also angry that someone out in Alvadas was going to get away with murder; that someone had taken another's life and would simply continue on their way without any repercussions. Perhaps it would let the man's soul rest easier as well if the killer was brought to justice, but if finding his next of kin was challenging, finding his murderer would be nigh impossible.

Suddenly Asterope went very still, backtracking her own thoughts.
Soul. "Actually," she said, slowly, as her mind made the connection, "I think I might know someone who could help." Where doubt and uncertainty had plagued her moments before, sudden excitement coursed through her at the prospect of actually being able to do something, of at least having a starting point whether or not it was actually useful.

Word Count: 949


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Asterope
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Follow Your Nose (Roland)

Postby Roland Eir on November 17th, 2017, 10:34 am

This was no time to feel ashamed, even if it burned its marks upon his face. He would never be proud of his upbringing or the city he was from, but he could at least survive with the lessons he'd learned. Keep yourself out of other people's business, and leave the dead well enough alone. His hand returned to his neck, a superstitious gesture he'd picked up as a child in Sunberth. If you were covering your throat, no one could cut it. Continuing to avoid her gaze, he rose back to his feet.

The garden was so peaceful around them, as if it didn't know what had taken place within its walls. The gurgling of the fountain sounded uncomfortably loud against the silence of this place. Not even the breeze could be heard as it caressed the greenery surrounding them. Roland waited for Aster to keep chiding him, but instead she gave a soft assent: the body couldn't be moved. Roland nodded, still unable to look at her. "We should do something, though."

"What could we do?" Roland asked, a little more forcefully than he intended. "He's long gone."

"We can't just leave it like this." That's exactly what they could do! It was, in fact, the easiest course available to them! She walked past him with a somber determination in her eyes and started collecting flowers from the garden.

"What good are flowers to the dead?" Roland demanded. He shuffled on his feet, unable to keep still. That feeling was back, like something was watching them from the garden. Though it was still day, the chill of night descended on the breeze, cutting through his jacket like paper. Asterope seemed not to feel it. Her horns dipped up and down with her head as stood to her feet and brought the bundle of fresh wildflowers to the corpse. "They're very pretty. I'm sure he'll love them."

"We should see if anybody knew him. If he had family or even friends. They deserve to know." Roland shook his head in frustration, but then a poisonous thought popped in his head.

If we're going to waste our time with this guy, fine. But not for free. He walked over to where she knelt by the body. "That's easier said than done. But if you really want to know who this man was..." He began patting the body down, his fingers probing the corpse's pockets. "There's no better way... than to check his pockets. There!" Roland pulled a handkerchief free of the inside jacket pocket. Holding it up for her to inspect, he simultaneously pulled free the man's coin purse at his side. "Look at this," Roland said, choking on the words. As he slipped the coins into his own pockets while he displayed the handkerchief. Misdirection, a distraction to keep her from noticing his theft but it may have proved more useful than he intended. Though it was stained with blood the initials R.M. were clearly visible.

The sight of the dried, crusted red on the fabric in his hands made him sick to his stomach. Or maybe it was that he had just robbed a corpse. Self-loathing warred inside with self-righteousness. A dead man didn't need money any more than he needed flowers, and from the look of him he'd been no stranger to wealth. It was well that he should share, even after he was gone. The argument didn't sit well with Roland. It felt like the sort of thing his father would have said.

Aster looked deep in thought, though Roland couldn't be sure she hadn't noticed his pilfering. He waited for her reply, his teeth grinding in anxiety. Whatever their next move, he felt certain that he was being dragged deeper into this murder than he'd ever meant to go. "Actually," she said finally. "I think I might know someone who could help."

"Well, thank the gods for that." Roland breathed, laying the handkerchief back on the body. "Who?" Whoever it was, he would be more than happy to pass this burden on to them.

Word Count: 682
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Roland Eir
The Reluctant Thief
 
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