Closed A Cold Welcome

Oresnya arrives at the Sanikas Gates and finds her kind is not warmly welcomed (Solstice)

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The westernmost tip of Kalea, Wind Reach is home to an amazing group of people and their giant eagle mounts. [Lore]

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A Cold Welcome

Postby Oresnya Cacao on December 26th, 2018, 3:54 am


A Cold Welcome
Winter the 6th, 518AV

To the bone. Oresnya had never understood that phrase. There was so much between the skin and the bones that it was impossible to have anything go ‘to the bone.’ Unless one was cut to the bone. But she had never believed in over exaggerations, such as when someone had told her they’d been soaked to the bone stuck out in a rain storm. It was ridiculous. Or so she had thought. Her faith in her own opinion was quickly fading.

For seven days, she’d been stuck in this weather. For four of those, the storm had been so vicious Oresnya could make no head way no matter how hard she tried, so she had hunkered down, trying to keep herself free of the rain, an impossibility in Zulrav’s rage. Half a day in, the coat she had traveled with became meaningless. If it had any bones, it was soaked to them. The only thing it was doing now was trapping water up against her and weighing her down, but Oresnya refused to discard it. If the weather stopped and she could get the coat dried out, it would give her some respite for the next storm.

Her backpack had suffered the same fate, and all of its contents were soggy, including the little food she had managed to save in her week apart from the sailors who had brought her safely this far. That was the one blessing this rain had given her. Her food had turned to mush, making it easier for her delicate stomach to digest. Perhaps that was a blessing from Zulrav. Perhaps Viratas looked kindly on the purpose for her travel. Perhaps it meant nothing, and it simply was the way it was. Not knowing, Oresnya settled for thanking all of them, then none of them.

The thought of food made her hungry, and reaching to the bottom of her pack, she found she was at the end of her supply. Desperate for a bite to eat, Oresnya scraped what she could off the clothes that it had been mashed into and put it into her mouth, sucking each finger clean for enough of a morsel to keep her going. Hunger was an excellent motivator, so when the storm had broken somewhat two days prior, Oresnya had taken the chance to make it the rest of the way to Wind Reach.

The path up the Sanikas Road had not been kind on her. The smooth stones of the stairs were difficult to keep any traction on with as soaked as they were. It had been left to her uncovered hands to keep her grip on stairs as she half-walked, half-crawled up them. Tiny hooks, too small for the naked eye to see, had reached out from the skin on her hands and bonded to the stone at her will, keeping her from falling whenever her feet slipped, but the constant strain on them over a day of climbing left her skin feeling raw.

Finally, though, she found herself taking the last of the stairs and looking at the end of the roadway that led to the Sanikas Gates. There in front of her was a narrow hallway carved into the side of the mountain. At first, it didn’t occur to her that this was the culmination of a year of travel, that this was the end of her journey to her sister’s home town, that Oresnya was now going to be able to bring back part of her sister’s legacy. No. The only thing that registered was that there was a hallway in front of her, and that meant shelter.

Especially in the light stifled by the storm, the hallway was dark, but Oresnya’s Symenestra eyes didn’t need the light to see. Before she even stepped into the hallway, she could pick out the finer details. There were stone columns and, beside one of them, a simple metal chain with a beautifully crafted, colored glass handle.

Pull the handle, if you want to enter Wind Reach. That’s what Oresnya’s sister Yora had told her when she had talked about her home city as if the two of them would travel to see it together one day. Pull the handle and be ready to run. Don’t expect a warm welcome. You might not be killed on sight, since you’re a woman, but your kind is not welcome in Wind Reach.

Oresnya was too tired to run. All she could do was hope that the guard at the gate, a man named Val if her memory of Yora’s stories served right, would show her kindness and grant her passage. There was an immediate difference in temperature as she stepped into the sheltered mouth of the Gates. It felt familiar, like the Woven Gates of Kalinor, and for a moment, she smiled as thoughts of her home and her family flooded her and brought with it the strength of hope.

As soon as she was out of the rain, she slid the pack off her back and removed her coat. It did little good as everything beneath it was soaked as well, but it felt slightly warmer without it on. Maybe that was just hope doing what it always did. Maybe there was some warmth emanating from within the mountain itself. Either way, Oresnya was glad for it. She hadn’t stopped shivering for the past six and a half days. She didn’t stop shivering now, but there was hope that the shivering would end.

And so she stood at Wind Reach’s Gates, a pathetic, sodden mess. The clothes beneath the coat were soaked through as well. Her hair, normally done up neatly or at the very least contained, was drenched and clung to her skin or hung free in large clumps. She was pitiful looking, and she knew it. She hoped she looked as pitiful as she had meant to appear, because there was no hiding what she was. The ashen skin, the gray veins that ran beneath it, the cobweb-colored hair, the thick black nails. It all betrayed her as Symenestra.

Reaching for the chain, she gave it one swift pull and tried to stop her endless shivering as she waited for someone to respond to the harmony of the bells that rang. She gave up on her dedication to the thought that being soaked to the bone was an impossibility. She was. It would take her a week to shiver away the cold that had saturated her.

But something else had saturated her too. Hope. She dared not let it show in her eyes though. No smile rose to her lips. She needed to be let in, and she doubted a confident, well-fed Symenestra would look the part of the kind of visitor the Inarta would want in their city.

So she waited. And shivered. And hoped. Soaked to the bone.
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A Cold Welcome

Postby Solstice on January 5th, 2019, 5:19 pm

The torrent of heavy rains had washed away all life outside the city. The mountain was cold, wet, and aside from the sound of rain striking stone, utterly silent. Somewhere in the distance, an eagle cried. As if in answer, the rain gently lessened until it was only a thin drizzle thudding against the dirt and stone outside the soaked Sanikas Gate.

The pull of the handle heralded a symphony of bells that sang their melody to the sodden road, music cutting a slice out of the white noise of the rainfall. As the song of bells faded, for a moment there was only silence. Then a voice pierced through the silence.

“My goodness. Do we really have a visitor today?” The sound of shuffling feet against stone could be heard and the door leading past the gate smoothly slide open. The gatekeeper, Valtrrik Imsun, stared at Oresnya for a moment of stunned silence. Val manned his station regardless of weather, time of the day, or season. But the storm had brought only silence for it's duration, and the old Endal had been fighting boredom in his time alone. The prospect of a visitor was an enticing one. But as Val looked upon the new visitor, his heart sank in his chest. Not for his sake, or for the people of his city, but for that of this pale white stranger. It was hard to think of this waterlogged girl as any sort of threat, regardless of her race. But duty to Wind Reach always came first.

Imsun? Val called out silently. The Endal's Wind Eagle was always in the back of his mind somewhere. Imsun was warm, safe, and dry back in the aeries, but Val felt his friend stir awake as he called to the bird.

Hm? Imsun answered groggily, struggling to shake the sleep off of him. Much like Val, the Wind Eagle spent a lot of time deep asleep. Age had taken its toll on both of them.

We may have a situation here, Val told his friend, and felt the eagle snap to attention. It's hard to imagine this poor thing is a threat, but we must be careful. Do let Koyl and Astrid know would you? The Tavin should know of our guest's arrival. And they should let the Valintar know before our guest enters the city. I would hate for her to receive too harsh of a welcome...well more so than can be expected.

It will be done, Imsun replied instantly. Already Val's friend was stirring in his nest, sleep falling off of him in the wake of possible danger to the city. Age was no deterrent when Wind Reach was threatened, and the giant white bird would do whatever needed to be done. Keep her there for the moment, Imsun suggested. See if you can find out why she's here. Imsun was much like Val when it came to strangers. Travel had caused both bird and Endal to have more of an open mind than most residents of the city. Both would like to believe that this Symmenstra was not here with bad intent.

Val focused back on the stranger, allowing his eagle's presence to gradually fade from his mind. The smile he gave the stranger had a hint of melancholy to it. “Do you speak Common?” Val asked her. “I'm afraid that your people's language is not among my specialities.” Val sighed, and forced a smile. “I'm very sorry,” the man said. “But I'm afraid you're about to receive a harsh welcome. Come join me in this room back here, and tell me about yourself. What is your name? What brings you to Wind Reach?”

Assuming that Oresnya followed, Val would lead her to a small cozy room attached to the gate. Within, a pot sat above a small coal fire on a stone table, filling the room with a comfortable warmth. The room was filled to the brim with books and scrolls to pass long hours. “Hopefully the warmth will get some of the wet off of you,” Val said, easing himself onto a stone bench. “Now dear, please tell about yourself.” Beyond the gates and deep within the city, Wind Reach was stirring itself to action.
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A Cold Welcome

Postby Oresnya Cacao on January 12th, 2019, 7:34 pm


There was the sound of footsteps, and shortly after, a man emerged who could be none other than Val the gatekeeper with all the descriptions Yora had given her. The mustache gave it away. Expecting him to say something, Oresnya waited, shivering unproductively, her body not warming for her as she did.

And she waited. Val’s face fell the moment he saw her, but he didn’t speak. While his eyes stayed on her, his mind seemed to wander, and he was gone for a chime. Doubts began to surface in Oresnya. She shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t have come. Yora was right. There would be no warm welcome, but any welcome whatsoever would have been better than this. Nothing. Fear, swift and sudden, smothered her hope, if only for a moment, and told her this man would save the rest of Wind Reach the trouble by killing her before she could enter. Part of her wanted to run, that deepest, most feral part, primal and instinctual, but her body was shivering too much for her to stir it to action.

Her fear was proven wrong when Val’s focus slipped slowly back to her until whatever he had thought about seemed far gone. A smile came next, but there was no joy to it. It tried to be welcoming, tried to be a comfort. In the end, though, it couldn’t be those things, because it held a knowledge of what the immediate future held for her. Instead, it embraced its sadness and became what it was, an apology. And for the first time since her feet had left the deck of The Bonnie Dot, Oresnya felt she had a friend. Not a friend but an ally, someone who understood and pitied her.

“Do you speak Common? I’m afraid that your people’s language is not among my specialties.”

Oresnya was glad the question came in Common. Her Nari was stumbling and broken at best, but respecting the city she was trying to enter and its people and traditions, she did her best to answer him with his own language. “Yes, sir, I speak.”

Oresnya couldn’t explain it, but the man seemed crushed. There had been the brightest spark in his eyes when he had answered the chiming bells, but the moment he had seen her, it left. He tried a different smile this time, urging it to be something new, but his words emphasized the apology in his first smile. “I’m very sorry. But I’m afraid you’re about to receive a harsh welcome.”

He invited her inside with questions following, and she followed him into a cozy room with books aplenty strewn about. Every footstep of hers squelched across the stone floor, and her pack and coat dripped a trail behind her. A small discomfort rose in her throat as she realized she was making a mess of his humble home, but Val didn’t seem fussed by the water.

“Hopefully the warmth will get some of the wet off of you.”

Out of, not off, Oresnya reminded herself. She was soaked to the bone, and that would not dissipate easily.

“Now, dear. Please tell me about yourself.”

Oresnya set her pack down and gathered her thoughts while she forcibly tried to keep herself from shivering. Deceit had always been the Symenestra race’s greatest weapon. With it, they achieved the survival of their race, even when all odds seemed set against them. Their fragile frames ought to have made them prime for extinction, but instead, they had built a thriving colony, one important in the trade of all of Mizahar as no finer silk existed. But Oresnya’s web, her family, had been different. In the end, Oresnya decided to go with honesty. After all, that had been part of what had drawn Yora in and eventually caused her to love her new family. Her efforts to stop her shivering didn’t work, so she began her story with her teeth chattering, the Common tongue spilling off her own in her thick Symenos accent that gave the words a lulling quality. “I’m Oresnya of the Cacao web. As I’m sure you can see, I’m from Kalinor, the city beneath Kalea, a city of caverns much like this one. At least, so I’ve been told.”

Val had made himself comfortable on a bench and seemed to be waiting for Oresnya to go on, so she did, stepping closer to the coal fire and extending her long fingers out toward its warmth. “I’ve come here for the sake of my family.” Oresnya hoped that the concept was familiar enough to Val that he understood its importance. From what Yora had told Oresnya, no one in Wind Reach would understand the importance of family to the degree that the Symenestra did. Still, if the concept was there, she could get him to believe in her need to be here.

“I had a sister who used to live here, and it’s for her sake that I came. She spoke of the wonders of her home, of the beauty of the glassworks of the Inarta, of the seemingly endless caverns, the way the wind assaulted you if you stepped out of the mountain. She said I’d be greeted by a man, by Val Imsun, by you. Her description was perfect, so I can only hope her descriptions of the rest of Wind Reach are as accurate. There is something she forgot to mention about you though. Your eyes. She wasn’t the kind to miss such striking details.” The Inartan eyes that watched her were heavy and burdened, the kind of eyes that knew much, maybe too much, but Oresnya didn’t wish to say anything insulting to the gatekeeper. Figuring it better to not mention that and blaming herself partly for bringing out that feeling in him, she shook her head and smiled. “Sorry. You wanted my story.”

She winced and flexed her fingers in the heat of the fire as the feeling began to creep back into them with a needle-like sensation. “I’ve been traveling nearly a full year now to get here. I came, because my sister Yora used to live here, and I didn’t want her to end up forgotten by Wind Reach, by the city she called home. Yora was-”

Something dawned on her. “No. No, no, no, no, no.” Oresnya didn’t know why it had taken her this long to think of it, but only now did it occur to her. Her pack was soaked through, and her copy of the Viratassa written in Yora’s hand, the only thing she had left of her sister, was lying inside. She tore her backpack open, breaking an eyelet for its lacing in her haste to get to the thing she treasured most. Pulling the book in its special wrappings out of the waterlogged pack, she quickly threw the covering aside and set the book down on the table close to the fire. It felt damp in her hands, but her hands were not dry themselves.

Flipping open the cover, she saw that the water had made it in. Though the pages were not soaked, the water had found the ink and made it bleed, smudging the words. The writing was still legible, but Yora’s unique penmanship was gone. No one would be able to recognize her hand, not from this. Whatever hope had accompanied her through the doors to Wind Reach fell like a stone in her gut, and Oresnya felt sick. Thumbing through several more pages, she found the same bleeding of the ink there, but the deeper she made it into the tome, the less and less of it there was. Finally, a dozen and a half pages in, the pages were clear, and Yora’s flowing calligraphy remained unmarred.

Oresnya sighed. “It’s safe.”

Through several more deep sighs, she blinked back the tears that were threatening. There was no need for them, but with her nerves as raw as they were, it was everything she could do to hold them back.
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