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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on October 2nd, 2018, 10:32 pm

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Fall 22nd, 518
18th Bell
Baroque Bay, Dead Man’s Swagger

Anja was becoming intimately familiar with the locations surrounding Baroque Bay, and wondered now if his presence was becoming accepted by the sailors and beggers and cutpurses who lived and worked in the area. The Midnight Gem was in the area, of course, so Anja found himself frequently nearby looking for Maisa, who would often vanish to go feed on the long grass surrounding Kelski’s home and business. Tall Johnny’s Casino was also here, although Anja hadn't seen reason to visit there since he had helped Meriann with her departure. So considering his familiarity with the area, Anja found himself a bit surprised to learn that the Northmost dock of the area was rather famously haunted. The Spiritist would have thought he would have realized it by now, but Jeb had been the one to tell him.

Anja had hardly taken more than a few steps into the area when death’s lament hit him like a wall. Anja tensed in place atop of Maisa’s back, and the mare, ever sensitive to her companion, froze midstep. Anja studied the layers cast across the place with a detached fascination. The dirge here had a different melody to it than the rest of the city. It was desperate, lonely. Sad. The people who had died here hadn't done so in violence. They had not been murdered, or died from illness, or hunger.

Suicide. The final act of the truly desperate with no other way out. How frustrated must these ghosts be to have chosen death as a release, but found no way to move onwards to their next life? To the Eiyon, it was reprehensible that these poor souls still lingered here. A matter that required dramatic correction. Jeb, apparently, agreed. Anja had been warned however, of the possibility of there being ghosts here that he was not capable of dealing with. He would be cautious not to anger them. But surely there was at least one poor soul here that the Eiyon would be able to aid towards release.

Coming back to himself, Anja gently nudged Maisa with his heels back into a trot towards the docks. She tossed her head slightly as she moved forward. Her gaze was questioning. What exactly was it that Anja had felt?

Anja made several gestures to his companion in Pavi, coupled with a few careful words. “This place is very haunted,” Anja told his friend. He mixed the words with the hand symbols for danger, to further illustrate his point. Maisa pinned her ears and snorted, but plodded forward without complaint. Anja thought, not for the first time, that he was very fortunate to have a horse who showed no fear of the dead.

Though Anja could sense the presence of ghosts all around him, none of them chose to reveal themselves for the time being. The murky waters of the bay had a sickly tint to them, and Anja could feel the pulse of the dead dredged in the waters below. No corpses poked their heads out of the water...at least not yet. But for now there was no sight of them. Anja dismounted from Maisa’s back, and moved forward onto the dock using his own two feet. Maisa, ever the faithful guard, stood at the end of the dock and stared into the distance. It was quiet. Very quiet. Anja touched the bottles of soulmist wrapped in his sash, the string of ghostbeads he had brought for this occasion, and the hilt of his bastard sword. A faint smile tugged at the man’s lips.

“I don't suppose anyone here would be interested in having a chat?” the Eiyon called out to the dark and imposing waves lapping against the docks.

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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Kailani on October 4th, 2018, 3:56 am

It had been nearly ten days since Kailani came to port in Baroque Bay, and it was nearly ten days that she had resisted going to the pier known as Dead Man’s Swagger. But she could resist no longer, not even with her sailor’s superstition; the allure of such a tragic and supposedly haunted place was far too strong for her to ignore. The Svefra’s adventurous heart was hard to contain, even in the face of potential danger-for who in their right mind would actively seek out a place called “Dead Man’s Swagger?” She may come to regret her impulse later, but she would deal with it then. If she was stuck in Sunberth, she had every intention of exploring it. Especially the places so close to where she slept at night.

That evening after she had completed her work for the day, instead of heading back to the Cherry Bay pier where she had taken up temporary residence, she found herself turning her tiller toward Dead Man’s Swagger. The air around her was palpably thicker the closer she came, a heaviness weighing on her chest like nothing she’d ever felt before. Was this the presence of the dead that so many claimed to linger here? I’ll just take a peek, she told herself firmly, heart in her throat as she honed in on the dock. She slowed the vessel as she drew in closer. I won’t even stop. I’ll just look, and my curiosity will be plenty satisfied.

What she saw as she closed in, however, only piqued her curiosity more. And not only was her curiosity piqued-upon seeing another person standing on the dock (and was that a horse?), the Svefra felt more than a pique of concern, as well. Wasn’t this pier famous for its string of suicides? Well, looks like I’ll be stopping, after all… she thought as she pulled her casinor up alongside the dock, throwing a rope around one of the pilings and hauling herself in. A quick knot held her in place as she hopped up from the boat and onto the dock itself.

“I’d be interested in having a chat,” Kailani called out gently to the man standing near the edge of the pier, holding her hands out to show she came in peace. “Unless you were only interested in speaking to the dead, in which case, I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

Her quick smile gave the jest to her words as she cautiously approached. The Svefra kept her movements slow and unthreatening, careful not to alarm her unexpected companion. She stopped her advance several feet away and offered another smile, this one a little sweeter and longer-lived. “I apologize for my interruption; I wasn’t aware I would have company.” The look she gave him was equal parts apologetic and concerned as she continued, “Are you…are you all right?”

The question she asked was subtle but clear, or at least she hoped so. She had no way of knowing who this stranger was, nor of his purpose in coming here. Sunberth may have been cruel, but temper or no, Kailani was not. She showed only concern for her fellow human being, and hoped beyond hope that he was not here to take his own life. Then again, in a city like this, riddled with such violence…who knew what might have driven someone to such lengths? A victim of the harsh way of life Sunberth was known for, or perhaps even an aggressor himself? In that moment, the blue-eyed seafarer didn’t know and didn’t particularly care. She wanted only to help.


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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on October 6th, 2018, 10:42 pm

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The swish of seawater parting in the wake of a boat popped the bubble of unsettling silence that filled the pier, though it did not pierce the unease that permeated the area. Anja turned his head as a voice called out to him; a decidedly very alive voice without the telltale unearthly warble found in the voices of the dead. The man’s eyes met those of a young woman as she hopped over the edge of a boat and onto the dock. She was a decidedly healthy looking individual, and Anja couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at the woman’s outstretched hands. This woman, Anja decided, had not been in Sunberth for very long. No long time Berther moved towards a stranger unarmed, and looking to not provoke. Anja scanned the woman briefly to reassure himself that this wasn't some sort of ploy to put a knife in his gut, then offered the woman a smile in return for hers.

“I was expecting only the dead to be here,” Anja said lightly. “But a third breathing body doesn’t disappoint.”

Maisa let out a loud snort and locked eyes with the woman. “Easy,” Anja called to Maisa in Pavi. He smiled at the woman gently. “Forgive my friend. She is very protective of me.” Maisa kept her eyes locked on the woman but, for now, made no moves to charge.

The concern in the woman’s voice was startling for multiple reasons, but a moment's contemplation provided an obvious answer for the woman’s actions. A kindly chuckle made its way out of the spiritist’s mouth. “I’m not planning on flinging myself off of the docks if that’s your concern. My name is Anja Nightwatcher. I’m a Spiritist. I track ghosts and attempt to lay them to rest.” Anja inclined his head towards Maisa. “And this is Maisa. My strider companion. We are here examining the area, to hopefully put some of these uneasy souls to rest. This area is very haunted, and I suspect not very safe. You might be better off taking your vessel elsewhere.”

Just as Kailani didn't know Anja’s purpose here until this moment, Anja was likewise puzzled by this woman’s appearance. The area was rather infamously haunted, and even if the reputation of this place didn't repel, than the ghastly atmosphere would. Likewise, this pretty young woman did not have a thrall of death on her. She was not here to plunge herself into these corpse riddled waters anymore than Anja was.

As Anja studied her, the woman’s striking blue eyes caught the man’s attention. Ah. A blue eyed maiden, on board a boat? “You’re a Sverfra, aren't you?” Anja asked.

“Hello,” he said in Fratava, wincing a bit at the accent that was far more Drykas than Sverfra, remembering half-serious lectures from his wife. “Nice to meet you.” The speech and hand gestures of Fratava were broken in the ways of a person who was only barely familiar with the language. Anja hadn't learned the language well even when his wife was alive, and his fluency had dropped to a pitiable level.
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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Kailani on October 9th, 2018, 3:01 am

The Svefra turned to the horse with a cautious nod when the man spoke to her, a somewhat nervous smile playing around the corners of her lips. “No need for forgiveness,” Kailani replied, cerulean gaze wide with fascination as she looked the gorgeous creature over with an assessing eye. The seafarer was far more used to the creatures of the water, and had only seen a horse in the flesh on a few rare occasions. They truly were beautiful animals, even if they were furred instead of scaled. “She is only doing her job.” Nonetheless, she moved no closer, careful to show the mare she was no threat. She meant no harm to her master.

Kailani released a breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding when the man who identified himself as Anja chuckled and reassured her he wasn’t there to kill himself. Relief soon turned to intense curiosity and even a sense of awe as he revealed both his profession and his reason for coming to Dead Man’s Swagger. A Spiritist? A man who laid ghosts to rest? What a concept!

When she’d first closed in on the pier, she’d been frightened and unsure of her rather rash impulse to come, but now she was ecstatic she had. She had about a million questions she wanted to ask this enigmatic stranger, the inquiries bubbling on her tongue as she looked between him and the water beyond. How did he lay them to rest? Where did they go? Why did they stay in the first place? She held the questions at bay for the time being, however, not wishing to inundate her unexpected companion.

At Anja’s warnings for her safety, she nearly scoffed. Kailani had never exactly been one to shy away from danger, especially in a case like this. Besides, it wasn’t the dead she feared, not in Sunberth. The living posed far more of a threat, at least in her experience, and she wasn’t about to flee from this encounter. “I honestly had not intended to stop,” she admitted with a sheepish grin before gesturing to him and Maisa. “But when I saw you here, I…I guess I got worried.” A blush briefly tinged her cheeks a coralline shade of pink. “A foolish decision, perhaps, but it would seem Sunberth has not yet managed to harden my heart. And look, I’m still here. Looks like I chose all right this time.” Her blush faded as she flashed another smile, looking between him at the pale mare behind them.

The woman’s smile turned more genuine at Anja’s halting attempt to speak in Fratava, her heart warming as she gazed at him with renewed appreciation. It was clear he didn’t speak the language well, but it was the effort that counted, a thoughtful effort that Kailani deeply appreciated. Lively aquatic eyes scanned over the well-shaped planes of the man’s exotic and very appealing face, as she switched smoothly from Common to her mother tongue, “Aye, I am Svefra, and you are…Drykas, yes?” His unique appearance and the presence of his horse called to mind the intriguing race she’d come across only a handful of times before, those times she’d come to port in more mixed cities.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Anja Nightwatcher.” She smiled as she glanced over at his mare. “And you, Maisa.” The seafarer turned back to Anja with a laugh. “My name is Kailani Crestwidow, and I most certainly do not speak with spirits. I am naught but a common sailor who’s been cast a little bit astray.” Her words were slow and carefully enunciated to aid in his comprehension before she switched back to Common. “I also speak Common well enough, if you have too much trouble. I am happy to help you practice Fratava, though, if that’s what you prefer.”

Her friendly expression turned to something a bit shier, gesturing back toward the ominous waters around them. “You said you were here to help lay some of these souls to rest, yes? Do you…do you mind if I watch?” Another blush colored her cheeks before quickly fading away. “Of course, if I’d be nothing more than a distraction, I’m happy to go, I just…I’ve never known anyone who had such a skill. Such things were only stories told in superstitious undertones where I grew up.”


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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on October 18th, 2018, 6:39 pm

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The Sverfra eyed Maisa with obvious caution and hesitation, which sat well with Anja. It made him think that this young woman was not foolish, which was good for her own sake. Fools did not live long in Sunberth. A smile rose to Anja’s face as the woman indicated that Maisa was only doing her job. “A job she has specificslly chosen for herself,” he chuckled. “But yes, I suppose so.” Maisa snorted and shook her head, but Anja could see the way the mare’s shoulders relaxed slightly, as if she were giving the young woman the fraction of a benefit of doubt.

Anja saw a shadow pass over the woman’s face at his concern for her safety and forced himself to hold back a laugh. It was far too much like his wife, who had always become fiercely indignant at any concern over her safety, and had been far more likely to ride into a storm than away from it. Was that fearlessness a trait all Sverfra shared, or just one Anja had happened to observe in the both of them? Honestly, the Drykas had no idea, but he still had to fight a smile at the reminder. When that shadow fell, only to be replaced by a sheepish expression and an explanation, Anja’s expression softened. “Your concern is touching,” Anja told the woman. “But as I’ve explained, unnecessary, if appreciated. I’m here to do a job.”

The woman’s switch from Common to the rapid-fire syllables of Fratava left Anja’s head spinning, but with her slowing down her speech and enunciating clearly Anja was at least able to catch the gist of what the woman was saying. “Kailani then,” Anja said, this time in common. “I’m afraid I am very out of practice with Fratava, so I think it’s best that we speak in Common. That is a kind offer though. I may take you up on it at a later date.”

As Kailani gestured to to water surrounding them, Anja followed her gaze. The ocean lapped gently at the pier, cloudy and nearly completely opacque in its murkiness. He turned his head back to her, an eyebrow raised curiously. “Are you interested in ghosts, Kailani? Or just a thrill seeker?” He sighed and glanced back at the waters. “I won't send you away. You can stay if you like but...I hope you have a strong stomach. This work isn't very pretty.”

As if on cue, a few bubbles rose to the surface of the water. The Eiyon felt a flash of something cold, just beyond the surface of the water. Anja sighed, and reached for his bastard sword that was wrapped tight in his gold sash. Anja drew the weapon out from within it, holding it in his right hand. “You might want to take a few steps back,” Anja advised. The man poked his sword into the water, and after less than a foot felt his sword push against something soft. Carefully, the man hooked his sword into it and pulled it towards the surface. It was a human corpse, long since drowned. The skin had become very soft and swollen, and soft tissue of the eyes and the nose were missing. A pungent odor wafted off of the corpse, though Anja had smelled much worse in bodies that decayed on dry land in humid climates. As it was, the water concealed much of the smell, particularly that which still lingered beyond the surface of the water.

“This one has been dead for a while now. Three weeks perhaps?” Anja was speaking more to himself than to Kailani or Maisa, but both had the benefit of his words. The spiritist shook his head slowly and gently pushed the corpse back into the water, but it still bobbed partially above the surface, boyancy keeping it afloat. “I’m not sure what possesses people to kill themselves here,” Anja said. “But I can tell you for sure that underneath these waters, there’s sealife that feasts on these corpses and thrives. That’s often how this sort of thing goes. Death, then life. Life then death. An endless cycle.”

Anja shot Kailani a wry look. “Are you disturbed yet?” His glance went back to the waters surrounding them. “It is odd we haven't had any visitors yet… I can feel them all around here, they just don't wish to be seen yet. Perhaps they’re evaluating us still?”
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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Kailani on October 24th, 2018, 1:39 am

Are you interested in ghosts, Kailani? Or just a thrill seeker? Kailani laughed softly at the question. “Perhaps a bit of both, Anja. Perhaps a bit of both.” Her mirth sobered as he continued to speak, however, offering a nod to show she understood. If he expected her to freak out or run away, he’d be sorely disappointed. His work might not be pretty, but it was utterly riveting. And the Svefra’s stomach was stronger than most.

When he drew his blade to pull the corpse in closer, the golden-haired woman looked on in detached fascination. Kailani had lived her entire life on the sea; it wasn’t as if she’d never seen a water-logged corpse before. In fact, she’d helped create a few of them. Her face showed no sign of disgust or horror, only a mild distaste at the faint smell of decay the breeze managed to waft up her nose. “I’m not disturbed,” she answered quietly as she moved in closer, covering her nose and crouching down to get a better look. “As you said yourself, death is part of life. I didn’t know this man, so seeing his body means little to me.”

A slim shoulder lifted in a shrug before she straightened to face Anja again. “I don’t know what makes people kill themselves here, either, but even I can feel the pall over this place. The hair stood on the back of my neck nearly as soon as I entered the harbor. Everything about this pier screams, ‘Go away!’ to every one of my senses, but at the same time, it’s so darkly alluring.” Chills ran across her skin as she gazed out over the gloomy waters, the sound of the waves splashing against the pilings muted and almost mournful—as if even the water itself knew what transpired there. “Perhaps, them that came before…perhaps they’re lonely. Maybe they call other lonely souls to join them.” It was a romantic notion, if nothing else. Who knew the real explanation? It was good as any other, she supposed.

Sudden motion from the corner of her eye captured Kailani’s attention, the woman turning to seek its source. She gasped at what she saw, eyes as wide as saucers. “I wouldn’t speak so soon,” she whispered, gently grasping Anja’s sleeve and pointing. “Look there. What’s that?"

Shimmering, translucent light emerged from the water in a slow upward spiral before stopping to hover over the surface of the bay. Kailani’s heart thudded against her ribs as she took a step closer, gaze narrowed as she fought to make out the details of what she was seeing. A ghost? Or some sort of light anomaly? Gods knew she’d seen many a strange thing upon the waves, but rarely in calm waters like these.

Creepingly slow, the ghost—or whatever it was—moved in closer, stopping periodically as if it to examine them. Kailani took a few steps back as it closed in on the pier. For all her bravado and professed fearlessness, she was still a woman out of her element, and this was…outside of the norm, to say the least. The closer it came, the more she could resolve its shape: human in form, though the features were blurred and hazy. It finally came to a stop a few yards out, as if it was hesitant to get too close.

What appeared to be its head tilted to the side as it seemed to stare at them, silent and utterly motionless. “Should we…should we call to it?” Kailani murmured to Anja, stumbling over her words with her gaze transfixed on the specter. “Can it hurt us?”


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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on October 27th, 2018, 8:17 pm

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Kailani’s fascination with the waterlogged body reassured Anja. He hadn't exactly expected her to run screaming in terror, but the curiosity and lack of disgust was something that Anja didn't see very often when corpses were under examination, particularly those found in water where the moisture caused decay in such a grotesque form. There were prettier ways for bodies to go. Anja preferred the ways of burial among the Drykas; bodies left out in the open for the wildlife to consume. Decay was rare there. If he weren’t so accustomed to being among death in all forms he might be disgusted himself.

Kailani reiterated Anja’s observation. He crouched down beside her, pondering the man’s bloated features with unwavering eyes, his coat sleeve over his nose being the only reminder of the abnormality of this examination.

“It’s just an empty vessel now,” Anja mused. “Like an empty bottle. Nothing left inside, nothing left to worry over. I always find it so peculiar how attached people become to their bodies, and the bodies of their loved ones. There are such extravagant funeral arrangements in certain cultures. Embalming, burial, crypts. We all wind up the same in the end so it seems so redundant.”

When Kailani straightened, Anja followed her in suit. “That chill you feel is the presence of death. It may be calling to the ghosts here, which would explain their gathering but it doesn't explain why they choose to kill themselves here.” A small smile played across the Spiritist’s face as Kailani mentioned how alluring the sensation was. “You might make a good Spiritist,” he told her with a chuckle. “Most people run away when they feel like this. I personally am drawn to places like this.

“Do you know what a gnosis is?” The sudden question might have come across as peculiar, but Anja had a sense that more information about himself might help Kailani to understand him better. If she did not know, Anja would explain. If she did, Anja would continue with his explanation. “I am marked by the goddess of death, Dira,” Anja explained. Anja showed Kailani his palm, where the raised image of a jet black scythe rested on the skin. “The mark gives me an added attunement to death. Places like this make me feel comfortable, not wary.”

Anja nodded slightly at Kailani’s guess towards the reason so many had drowned themselves here. “I have not heard of such a thing happening before, but that does not mean it's not possible,” he said thoughtfully. “Souls already prepared for death being called to a place where many others have also taken their lives. Yes. It sounds possible.”

At the light tug of her hand against his sleeve and her quiet utterance of warning, Anja turned his eyes towards the still waters. A haunting, lonely lullaby hummed from underneath the waves, sung in a voice and tone that only the Eiyon could hear. The song grew louder as the flickering figure emerged from the depths. Around them, the air grew cool. Hairs on the backs of necks raised.

A splash suddenly echoed through the tense silence pervaded only by the lapping of the waves against the dock. Anja’s eyes found the end of the pier, where a solitary man stood, gazing at the waves. He had tired eyes; eyes that spoke of decades of hardship and exhaustion and with no end in sight. Calloused hands gripped tightly into fists. An untamed rats nest of curly brown hair flicked with silver threads belonging to a man twice his age. Swollen red eyes, shuddering, gasping breaths. A man at his end, with no place left to go. Anja watched in silence as the figure clenched his fists and stepped off the edge of the pier and vanished into the waves below.

Then, as one, dozens of figures appeared. Their distinctions were as numerous as the starry sky. A blonde haired girl, no more than twelve, stepped off the edge. Blood ran down one side of her face. Tattered strips of clothing barely clung to her as the water swallowed her whole. This time, a man. Old and hard, but finished all the same. Cold resigned eyes that showed no fear. The water took him too. Anja watched as these figures became a swarm, plunging themselves into the depths, one after another until it was possible to track them all. All around Anja, a dirge swelled until it was deafening. And then, as the last person plunged beneath the calm water, there was silence.

Kailani would see none of this. She might notice Anja’s attention wavering from the figure rising from the waves, and falling to the end of the empty pier. Perhaps she would see the tension in the man’s jaw, and the look of melancholy that fell across his features, followed by a moment of silence and closed eyes. Eventually, Anja’s attention returned to the figure, meandering it's way across the water.

As Kailani stepped back from the ghostly figure, Anja lay a reassuring hand against her shoulder. “He’s already seen us,” Anja told her gently. “There’s no reason not to.”

'Can it hurt us?’

“Yes,” said Anja. “But I have the means to defend us. I would rather talk if he wishes to.”

Anja faced the figure in a straightforward fashion. As he spoke, his tone was firm but kind.

“My name is Anja Nightwatcher. My friend here is Kailani. You have no reason to fear us, friend. We’re not here to harm you. Come closer. Perhaps you can tell us your story.”

The figure hesitated. At this distance, Anja could see its features flashing rapidly, between confusion suspicion and curiosity. It flickered, once twice, but did not respond.

“Might I have your name?” Anja tried again.

“Name…” A cool voice floated across the waves, bringing a chill in its wake. “I had a name once.” The voice sounded uncertain, as if it wasn't sure if it's statement was true or not.

“Do you remember?” Anja asked him.

“Not sure,” said the voice. “Sometimes it’s hard to think.”

“Come sit with us for a while,” Anja suggested. “Perhaps we can help you remember.”

The figure hesitated once more, then drew closer. Around them, the air drew tight and cold but Anja felt no malice.
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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Kailani on October 29th, 2018, 7:31 pm

“We give our dead back to Laviku,” Kailani remarked as Anja commented on the extravagant rituals surrounding death in other cultures. There was a pang in her heart as she recalled the day of her mother’s funeral, Karigan’s shrouded form splashing into the water below. “We wrap the bodies in linens and weights, and toss them back to the sea.” She looked back at him, adding thoughtfully, “I think there’s comfort in ritual…a way to give closure in a time of grief and loss.” Her shoulder lifted in a shrug, a small smile flitting over her features. “But I agree. Complicated funerary rites and embalming practices seem pointless in the end. I’d rather my body serve some sort of purpose after death…even if it is feeding the creatures of the deep. It’s only natural, like you said.”

You might make a good Spiritist. The Svefra’s knee jerk reaction was a scoff and a shake of her head. “Me? I’m just a simple sailor, Anja. Such powers are surely not meant for the likes of me.” But why shouldn’t they be? she thought to herself as she looked at him with a new light in her deep blue eyes. Kailani was sure he meant it as a casual, offhand remark, nothing more, but what if he didn’t? She had always been fascinated by spirits and ghosts, the woman drawn in by such occurrences, where others might pull away. Perhaps this encounter at Dead Man’s Swagger hadn’t been coincidence, after all. Since she’d arrived in Sunberth, she’d felt the tides of fate at work, though she knew not in what direction they pointed her. All she knew was that change was coming. Perhaps this was where it had been leading all along? She shoved those thoughts aside. There would be time enough later to think on such things.

When Anja showed her the mark on his palm, she gently took hold of his hand, angling it so she might see it better. “Yes, I know what a gnosis is,” Kailani murmured as he explained his mark of Dira—no wonder he felt no discomfort on this pier. Dropping his hand, she rolled up her sleeve to show the ever-changing pearlescent waves of her own Oceanus mark. “Most of the Svefra are marked at birth by Laviku. Those who aren’t…well…they don’t often last long within our society.” Her bleak look was quickly wiped away by a smile as she went on to explain, “Just as your mark gives you comfort with death, mine gives me comfort with water. When I’m on land for too long, I feel…wrong. Out of place. But when I’m on the ocean, it’s as if a whole new sense has opened up to me.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the spirit’s arrival, Kailani frozen in place as the specter drew closer. A detached part of her mind noticed Anja’s attention shifting, but stored it away for later—she only had eyes for the ethereal figure hovering above the bay. When it finally spoke, she felt a chill in her bones, his otherworldly voice freezing her to the core.

Kailani looked between Anja and the incoming spirit as they spoke, shivering as the ghost drew in closer. The air around them seemed to drop nearly ten degrees, the Svefra’s breath leaving her lips in a fog. She drew her cloak tighter around her quivering form, grateful for its fur-trimmed warmth.

The ghost stopped at the edge of the pier and regarded them both, Kailani examining their new companion with a mixture of mild anxiety and utter fascination. Now that the spirit was closer, she could make him out to be male, somewhere in his thirties, with a slim build. Ghostly eyes stared into hers, the Svefra transfixed on those shifting orbs.

“Friends?” the phantom broke the silence in that same cool voice, uncertainty clear in both its tone and posture.

“Yes, we’re friends,” Kailani replied gently, her voice small but mercifully steady. “We won’t hurt you. Do you know where you are?”

“No.” He punctuated his statement with a shake of his shimmering head, but then seemed to reconsider. “Wait…yes? I lived here. I…I think I lived here.” His features were clouded with confusion, semi-opaque eyebrows drawing together as he tried to remember. “Bay. Broke…Broke Bay. Broken Bay?”

The Svefra offered an encouraging smile, taking a step closer, though not so close as to startle him away. “Almost. Baroque Bay! In Sunberth. Were you a sailor?”

“Sailor…Sail…boat. Sailboat. Baroque Bay…” the ghost strung the words together with that same disoriented air of confusion, his form flickering for a moment as he tried to make sense of her question. “Bay sailor…no. No, I wasn’t a sailor, but I know sailors. Knew sailors. Sold sailors?” He looked at them helplessly; it was clear he hadn’t spoken with anyone amongst the living in a long time. “Sold to sailors. Boats. I remember boats.”

Sold to sailors? Kailani frowned at his puzzle of an answer, head cocked to the side. It sounded like jibberish, but surely there was something to it. “Sold to sailors?” she repeated, looking first to Anja, then back to the ghost. “Were you sold to sailors? Or did you sell things to sailors?”

He opened his mouth as if to answer, then shook his head, frustrated. “I don’t know.” He looked thoughtful for a moment, opened his mouth again, then clamped it shut and shook his head once more. “Market…I don’t know! I can’t remember!”

Kailani glanced at Anja again, her own face just as helpless as the spirit’s. “Is this common?” she whispered. Was it trauma that kept him from remembering? Or did living memory simply deteriorate after death?


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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on November 2nd, 2018, 10:41 pm

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Anja was sure he had heard Sverfra rites of death from Syla at some point or another. He had remembered thinking that it was not so different from what the Drykas did. “My people lay out the bodies of the dead for the Sea of Grass to consume,” Anja told Kailani. “Everything is returned from where it came. An endless cycle.”

Kailani's sharp reaction to his observation on her potential as a Spiritist caused the Eiyon to raise an intrigued eyebrow. “One does not need to have miraculous abilities to be a Spiritist, Kailani. It is the only magic I have seen in Sunberth that is not actively hated, so practicing it will not bring mobs upon your head. Spiritism is what we call a World Magic. You draw the djed, the essence of magic, from the world around you and you use it to create things that allow you to interact with ghosts. Anyone can learn it. And seeing how haunted Sunberth is, I think everyone should know at least a little so they can protect themselves.” Anja smiled at Kailani gently. “Just think about it. I would be happy to teach you if you're interested.”

When Kailani examined Anja's gnosis and showed him her own, a light of recognition flashed in his eyes. “Ah, yes,” he said suddenly. “Oceanus. I remember.” Anja touched the mark on her arm gently, and nodded. “My wife was Sverfra. She always mourned her lack of a mark. I had never seen one until now.” After a moment, Anja pulled his hand away and his indigo gaze met those of Kailani's sea blue. “She was more of the storm than the sea, I think. Well suited to being a Drykas. She rode a strider the way the Sverfra ride waves and was more often riding towards a storm than away from it. Maybe with more time she would have worn Zulrav's mark.” Anja's gaze had grown pensive, but the expression cleared as the ghost drew his attention.

The Spiritist watched Kailani as emotions played across her face, fascination, curiosity, and worry. Anja kept a reassuring hand on the woman's shoulder as she spoke to the ghost. He found himself inordinately pleased at the way Kailani spoke to the ghost. She was reasonable, calming, and kind. Panic could make ghosts behave unpredictably, and despite her unease she spoke in a relaxed way that came across as reassuring.

Anja let Kailani lead the conversation, listening intently to the broken pieces of speech, places, and memories that the dead fellow was able to piece together. ‘Sold to sailors’. Anja had an idea on what this man's lot might have been.

“Sometimes,” Anja whispered back to Kailani. “They can lose their memories from the trauma of death, just like men do when they suffer from a terrible event. It's a way of protecting themselves.” Anja frowned as he looked at the ghost, and said in an even lower voice. “We must be very careful here. If we dig too deep, we might uncover something that he is not ready to face. But if we don't dig at all, then we will have no way of knowing the regrets that bind him here or how to move him on to the next life.”

Anja could see the anguish on the ghost's face as he struggled with his blank memory, and Anja spoke to him in a soothing voice. “Don't force it, friend,” he said kindly. “If you pull at your memories like that they'll just dig in, like barnacles on a pier. We need to ease them out gently.”

The ghost seemed uncertain, but after a moment he nodded. His ghastly visage showed a conflicted expression, but at least for the moment he seemed to be settling down.

“Do you mind coming a bit closer?” Anja asked him. The ghost hesitated, then took several steps forward. Quietly, Anja observed his ethereal form. The man was dressed in little more than rags. His body was skeletal, so thin was he. He had been at death's door before he had drowned himself in the dark waters. Water dripped from his pale form, vanishing as it struck the pier at his feet. His cheeks were sunken, and his lips had a tint of blue to them.

“The Slave's Market is not too terribly far from here,” Anja said to Kailani underneath his breath. Though Anja had meant for only Kailani to hear him, the ghost's eyes flew open with recognition, his words carrying in the close proximity. “Slave? Slave!” the ghost gasped. “I! I was---!” Suddenly, the ghost was gone. But that mournful song that only the Eioyn could hear was growing louder, and Anja threw an arm out in front of Kailani as a sudden blast of cold radiated out from where he had stood a moment before. Anja heard a loud whinny of warning from Maisa just as he heard a creak from underneath them.

“Back!” Anja said. The man seized Kailani's arm and dragged her several steps backwards just as a board was torn from underneath where they had been standing a moment before and flung out into the water with a loud splash.

“I am not a slave any longer!” roared the Ghost's voice from all around them.
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A Tale of Drowned Men (Kailani)

Postby Kailani on November 4th, 2018, 7:18 pm

Just think about it. I would be happy to teach you if you're interested. Kailani returned his gentle smile with a shy one of her own. She thought she might take him up on that offer, if only for the chance to see this intriguing man again. Many of her encounters with the denizens of Sunberth had been less than pleasant, but Anja seemed a different sort entirely. In spite of his rather morbid profession, he exuded an aura of peace, of kindness. It was refreshing, especially in a place of such violence. She would seek out his company, if only for that comfort alone. The fact that he was so striking only added to his appeal. “I’ll keep it in mind,” she murmured in response, flashing another smile.

When Anja touched the raised mark of her gnosis, he would surely notice the way it shifted and moved—so unlike other more stationary marks. It almost seemed to be filled with a swirling fluid, one that could be altered by a simple tap of the flesh. “I can’t imagine the trials she must have faced,” Kailani replied sympathetically to the man’s musings on his wife as she let her sleeve fall back into place. “Life on a Svefra ship is nearly impossible without Oceanus.”

She neglected to add that many Svefra infants without Laviku’s mark were tossed into the sea, same as those born without the trademark blue eyes. They were not seen as true Svefra if they did not bear Laviku’s favor, and therefore regarded as useless. Kailani had heard of mothers leaving their pods rather than hand their babies over, but it was not common. While she loved her people and deeply revered many of their traditions, even she could admit some of their customs were utterly barbaric. She could only be thankful she’d never had to worry about such a thing.

The Svefra woman watched the change come over Anja’s face as he spoke of his wife, his use of the past tense making clear her fate. Was that why he found such comfort in death, what had led him down this path? Was it a way to stay close to her? She rode a strider the way the Svefra ride waves and was more often riding towards a storm than away from it. She sounded like just the sort of woman Kailani would have loved to meet. “She and I have that in common, I think,” Kai replied with half a smile. “A life lived in caution is no life at all, that’s what I’ve always said. A man might live a hundred years, but with no danger, has he ever truly lived?”

Her philosophical theories would be left for another time, her attention soon utterly absorbed by their spectral guest. Kailani took strength from the bolstering hand on her shoulder, listening to the spirit’s answers with increasing perplexion. However, Anja’s explanation of the dead man’s disjointed answers made perfect sense. If he’d lived a harsh life, it would make sense that he didn’t want to remember it.

Suddenly, the ghost’s demeanor shifted. At the sound of the word “slave,” it was as if he became a different entity altogether. Kailani hardly had time to react as Anja dragged her backwards, a sharp cry of surprise parting her lips. When the board they’d been standing on was ripped from the dock, her face paled. She watched it fly into the water with wide blue eyes, shivering as that booming voice filled the air.

“Well, this took a turn,” she muttered as she cleared her throat, clinging tightly to the arm that had saved her. Her pulse raced, heart pounding a fierce rhythm in her chest. How did one fight something that no longer lived? Perhaps they didn’t have to fight. Maybe it would still see reason. Oceanic eyes darted back and forth as they sought the ghost’s location, but could find nothing. Of course it would disappear.

“Please, stop!” she cried out, beseeching whatever humanity was left to the spirit. “You’re not a slave any more, you’re right! We don’t want to make you one!” Squaring her shoulders in spite of her fear, she stepped away from Anja’s protective stance with hands outspread. “Please, we’re here to help you! We want to make sure you’re never enslaved again!”

Another board flew out of the dock in response, Kailani reflexively jumping away. The hunk of wood missed her by only inches, a frown marring her brow. “Just listen to us,” she cajoled, keeping a wary eye on the dock itself. “We’re here to help free you from your pain! Isn’t that what you want?”

NaNo WC: 777


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