Attic Salt

Madeira loses it. Now it's up to Jomi to play the part.

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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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Attic Salt

Postby Madeira Craven on March 6th, 2018, 6:16 am

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21st of Spring, 518


There was a word for this feeling, Madeira knew. There was a word for this feeling of confusion and helplessness that was rooted in a very physical problem. It was a complicated word, but not a big word. But what was it...

She had only been in Riverfall for one day. Just enough time to stumble into the Labor Office, find a nice room, and a nice Akalak to take them there. Then the fear of the creeping shadows forced them to wait inside until morning. Now on this new day Madeira was on a mission while Syna was still high. She kissed Allister’s forehead, Ssanya’s lips, Emma’s hair, and Raj between the ears, then marched off into this massive new city on the hunt for a job at the local Spiritist’s shop.

But along the way something had changed. Her habit of turning left at every corner (a habit that she’d superstitiously carried from childhood) just lead her back to where she was. Though of course it would, she had reasoned. This city didn’t work in the way she was used to. So had changed her strategy to one left, then one right. And while that seemed to do the trick just fine, her legs were on fire from walking up and down what felt like a thousand staircases, and she still had not run into the Spiritism shop.

Now she stood in the middle of a busy street, causing some angry grumbling as people were forced to move around her. This feeling that something was wrong, terribly, terribly wrong, had been following her since she landed. She couldn’t shake it. And she was sure that if she could just express it, she would be able to deal with it.

Her pale eyes roamed the people around her, and the buildings around them, seeing nothing in particular; just a palette of tasteful colours, men and women in functional, modern clothes, and square buildings of white stone. It all looked so similar, all over the city.

"Oh", the Madeira spoke, clicking her fingers with sudden realization. "That's it, I'm lost."

What a strange thing to be. She'd never been lost before. In Alvadas there was no such concept, since the city was constantly rearranging itself. It was simply a matter of walking until you stumbled upon what you were looking for. But not here.

Madeira brought one hand to her forehead and pressed the heel of her hand hard over her eye, trying to smother the twinge of an impending headache.

In Riverfall the buildings were rooted to the ground. The city hung over the side of a cliff and lazed into the water, and every morning your house would be right where you left it the night before. And people navigated by... by what, memory? How did people get around?

Madeira ground her hand harder into her eye.

By maps! They had maps here. She had been so excited to receive one at the city gates. She'd had never seen a city map before.

Her hands were thick and clumsy as she dug deep into the pockets of her dress. Finally she emerged with a folded bit of paper, which she spread open in her shaking hands. Then she squinted at it, as if hoping the mess of lines and colour would leap out of the page and explain themselves to her. When that failed, she looked for the nearest sign, and saw a shop calling itself Bastani Bakery to her left. She made note of the name, and looked for it in the meticulous writing on the map. Once that was found, she looked to the ink that ran beside the labelled square that must represent a road. She poked the spot and smiled.

"There I am! Hello."

Wow, that sounded mad, she realized, and giggled to herself.

So that was where she was, but where was she going? With effort she found a square labelled ‘High Spirits’. So, that was where she wanted to be, and there was where she was, so to get from one to the other...

The concept of the city existing in a definable, concrete way outside her field of vision was so unbelievably foreign. She squinted at the map, lowered it, looked up and down the street, then squinted at the map again. Her mind was twisting itself into uncomfortable shapes just to consider the idea that she had to find an entire building. You had to find lost buttons and misplaced keys. You did not misplace a six-hundred square foot shop.

But no, that wasn’t right. The building was exactly where it was suppose to be. It wasn’t lost, she was lost.

The throbbing behind her eye was changing. The pain was moving into a static hum that was reaching from her eyes to the hollows of her ears with a kind of soulless white noise. She shook her head like a dog trying to clear itself of water and tried to focus.

“I’ve been misplaced”, she said experimentally. It sounded strange on her tongue. “I’ve been misplaced!” she said a little louder, putting some force and confidence behind it. The Konti woman who was swerving to avoid her walked a little faster, throwing a confused glance over her shoulder.

Misplaced by whom she couldn’t fathom and didn’t try. It was not important. The fact of the matter was that she was lost and must make an effort to be found.

Her legs were feeling shaky, so she sat where she stood in the middle of the street, her dress spread out around her. Turning the map over in her hands she aligned the blue bit with the port, having discovered last season that blue on a map meant water. Was every mapmaker in the world under the same delusion that water was blue? She chuckled at the absurdity of it. The sound came out a bit more strained than she expected.

So if the blue faced the ocean, the green faced the plains, then this was a top-down view, she reasoned. This must be what a bird sees, if birds saw only in clean lines and colour. She closed her eyes and imagined herself as one of those noisy costal birds flying over the city. She breathed deep, then looked down at the map and tried to see it from the prospective it showed.

And for one horrible tick she saw the entire city laid out before her. The same white washed stone, the same paths, the same cobble, the same sensibly dressed people. She saw it as it was, and as it would be tomorrow and the day after that. A mind that had never encountered predictability smashed headlong into the idea of assumption, and something very important broke under the pressure.

The very notion of time stuttered. She saw an eternity of immovable stone and the enormity of it pressed down on her. She knew what was around that corner, and the next one. Her mind looked forward for the first time and saw the future before it happened. What some people called expectation, she called clairvoyance. The hum of static in her head turned into a roar.

“Miss, are you okay?”

A pair of enormous leather boots stood in her peripheral vision, and she realized her hands had turned white and curled into fists that crushed the map between them. She looked up slowly at the owner of the boots, feeling immensely heavy. Sturdy britches came into view, followed by a doublet, and then a pair of yellow eyes set like stars in a face so dark it was nearly black. The young Akalak was standing an awkward distance away, with his hands first folded in front of him, then behind him, then shoved into his pockets when he couldn’t figure out what to do with them.

Madeira’s training kicked in automatically, and she gave him her best polite smile. Though the effect was somewhat lessened when she was having trouble breathing. She had just opened her mouth to say something casually dismissive when her overtaxed heart gave a great lurch of fear and confusion, and she burst into tears.

Through a glaze of salt and water she saw the Akalak first stand there in complete bewilderment of this uniquely feminine show of fragility. Then with a face set like he was going to war he knelt in front of her with his hands hovering, unsure wether to touch her.

“There there…” he mumbled, completely mortified and out of his depth as he patted the air several centimetres above her shoulder.

The pressure in Madeira's head was building into a crescendo that she wasn’t sure she would survive. She was rooted to the spot, tethered by panic and crushed by her crisis. In her mind she was screaming for Allister, but he wouldn’t find her before she fell apart. So she did something desperate.

The bed of her nail shattered as she bit her thumb. And with the gory mess she painted a sixteen point star on the cobblestone.

“What are you-!“ the young Akalak was looking at the ground between them, shocked. Madeira wasn’t listening. Her left hand was pressed into the star, and on her third finger a black ring glittered evilly in the sunlight. Her mind was reaching for the soulmist inside, feeding it the power of her living soul. She forced it to resonate, making it search for the ghost it belong to half a continent away. And once she felt it, she latched onto him. With a force powered by desperation she dragged the ghost across the thousands of kilometres separating them, and invoked him by name:

“Jomi, help me!”
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Attic Salt

Postby Jomi on March 11th, 2018, 7:01 am

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"Okay, now hold it still."

"But I don't-"

"Shush."

The young boy fidgeted nervously, disturbing the ever growing pile of goose down that floated lazily about the room like a bizarre snowglobe. The blonde haired blue eyed child was about twelve or thirteen with a boyish handsomeness marred only by the cannon sized hole in his chest.

The boy was one of the many ghostly servants that inhabited the Craven manor, a low ranking labourer used to deliver letters to the Craven family and their associates. He had been thrilled when the servant of a master Spiritist had requested help with a task for his Mistress, but now the eager boy was feeling the sting of regret.

He was crouched on the edge of a luxurious four post bed, tendrils of soulmist holding open a hole in the mattress that had been clumsily cut along the seams.

"Sir" the boy stammered, clearly uncomfortable. "I still don't understand why we're doing this."

Jomi didn't answer immediately, his brows were knit together in concentration as he stared unblinkingly at his hands. Gathering his mists to him he focused on condensing his mist on the tops of his palms. Creating a solid barrier in his cupped hands as he shovelled another handful of gravel from the makeshift linen sack in front of him into the open mattress.

With Madeira and Allister off in Riverfall with Emma there was no one left to supervise the unruly ghost and manage his impulsiveness. So the bored and sleepless ghost had spent the last several days discreetly carrying the gravel from the Craven mansions courtyard and into Madeira's room a handful at a time. Slowly replacing the soft fluffy down in the mattress with rock shards.

"I already told you. This is a surprise for when Ms.Craven returns."

"Filling her mattress with rocks?"

"Yes, it's a new fad with the high class poofs. Its called a-cute-puncture I think." Jomi glanced up at the child with a wide toothy grin. "She'll love it."

No sooner had the words left his mouth when he felt a familiar unsettling pull emanating from his core.

"NO, DON"T YOU PET-"

Tiny rocks scattered on the floor as Jomi abruptly vanished, leaving the ghostly boy holding the cut fabric in stunned silence.

................

"-CHING DARE."

All at once the dark, gloomy hall of the Craven manor was replaced with a clear endless blue sky and dusty white buildings.

After the shock of invocation Jomi instinctively searched for something familiar to orientate himself. His rapidly scanning eyes recognized the massive Akalaks and scaled Konti that crowded the street, having dealt with them many times on the docks of Kenesh. But having so many in one place means...

"This...is Riverfall. I'm...."

Jomi glanced down and his eyes settled on his Mistress bent over the invoction circle, crying and chewing on her hands with an Akalak looming over her.

Animalistic fight or flight instincts kicked in, smothering the anger and confusion at having been summoned to another region. Jomi knew of the the seemingly bi-polar nature of the Akalaks and their penchant for forcing unwilling women into slavery and assumed the worst.

Without a sound or warning Jomi blinked into Madeira and tackled her soul, knocking the fragile woman’s soul aside and filling the space with his presence. He weaved himself into her muscles and filled her bones, the spiritist possession trained body relented easily to the invader.

After a tick of jerking spasms, Madeira's body stilled for a moment. Only for her to abruptly turn on her heels as she bolted back down the street she came.

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Attic Salt

Postby Madeira Craven on March 22nd, 2018, 4:45 am

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It happened so fast the Akalak wasn't quiet sure what he saw. There was some sort of blood ritual and a ghost and suddenly the crying woman was have a seizure. By the time the shock rocked him back in his crouch and onto his ass, the woman had recovered and was on her feet. Then in a tick and a flap of skirts, the woman ran away.

"Oh no. Wait. Stop." he called halfheartedly for the benefit of the people watching. Yet secretly he took this as the gift it was. Now this weirdness was someone else's problem. Him and his brother, in the privacy of their mind, vowed that next time they came across a hysterical woman they'd step back and let a man tougher then themselves handle it.

Madeira was halfway down the street, running at a pace that set fire to her tired legs, when she got herself together enough to reassert herself in her body. She slammed her astral body through her physical body, aligning herself and reestablishing control. But the abrupt change in operator threw off her body's rhythm, and her steps stuttered. With a choked gasp of panic she pitched sideways and fell straight through a meter-wide gap between buildings.

The Spiritist landed hard on her shoulder and her breath ejected from her body in a cloud of air and spittle. She sat up, gasping for breath, and pulled herself deeper into the narrow alley. There was something to be said for the sanctity of small spaces. With her back against one rough Syna-warmed building and her feet braced against the other, she anchored her perception to the ground and let it exist nowhere but between those two walls. Syna shone down at a slant as the day passed its zenith, and a cooling shadow from the opposite building fell over her eyes. The people passing on the street became numbing background noise as she struggled to master herself.

Madeira dragged Jomi forward in her mind, letting him exist beside her soul as a partner rather than either one being dominant. She felt him pool behind her eyes and the bed of her tongue as she looked at the rings she twisted endlessly around her fingers, and spoke in a mumble of a voice no louder than a whisper. If she opened her mouth any wider she feared she might start screaming and never stop.

"I'm lost. I'm lost. Oh gods, Jomi. I'm trying to find- to find the Spiritist shop and I'm lost."

Between their closely aligned souls she was flinging thoughts at him she couldn't put into words: the feeling that the city was waiting, holding its breath. Her creeping paranoia as she waited for something that would never come. How mind-bending it was to see the world laid out in clean, straight lines and rules. Alvadas, her home, had never felt so far away.

"I need help. Jomi, I need your help. Just until I can make sense of it. If you could take me to High Spirits I'd be... so grateful. I just. I can't, it's too much. I need... I need..."

In the alley, as Madeira focused doggedly on nothing but the spaces between her fingers, something began to move. It was a slow movement, languid and predatory. A creeping shadow began to move up the wall, though there was nothing to cast it.
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Madeira Craven
long may she reign
 
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