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Starvation leads to an opportunity to create a connection with a poisoner

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The Ache of Hunger

Postby Oresnya Cacao on January 19th, 2019, 11:11 pm

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The Ache of Hunger
Winter the 85th, 518 AV

Hunger.

It was the one thing that connected all living things. The want to feast. The primal urge to consume. It was the basest of all instincts. In the end, all creatures could be broken down to this. There were other things that people in their infinite faith in humanity thought placed them above the animals and other races. Things like righteousness, love, family. The list went on and on, but when push came to shove, those things dissolved, fell by the wayside. When pain began to rip through one’s belly as if the body wanted to digest itself, when weakness began to overpower reason, none of it mattered. No morality, no emotion, no institution or tradition lasted. Some claimed to be above it. Those who stuck to that died, and their morals ended up lost and forgotten.

Oresnya refused to be forgotten, but she was near that state of hunger now. The rationing hadn’t been kind on the Dek early in the season, and now the Chiet found themselves facing it too. Three days ago was the last time Oresnya had had anything to eat, and that meal had been meager at best. Some shriveled tuber and the few crusts of bread had hardly been enough to do anything more than spark and set flame to her hunger. Since then, the venom glands in her cheeks had ached for something to pour themselves into. This morning though, enough food was scrounged up for the Chiet to enjoy a meal. Half a small loaf had been given to Oresnya. So little…

And yet, so much. Enough. Enough to drive the hungriest to want it. Enough to cause them to fight for it.

The ache in her ribs. The ache in her left hand. They were evidence of that, almost enough to outdo the ache in her cheeks.

Before Oresnya had found out that enough food was available for the Chiet to eat, she had heard of a man named Leo. If she was to believe all she had heard of him, he was a poisoner but not for the sake of poisoning things. Rather, he crafted poisons only so he could create their cures. As a Symenestra, Oresnya lived a life dictated by venom. Without it, her kind did not eat, but with it, mothers did not survive. Oresnya could think of no better use for her hunger than to give this Inarta a sample of that venom, a chance to cure it. Her loaf of bread was going to be her reward to herself afterward.

But a group of three hungry Dek had seen her walking through the halls of Mt. Skyinarta. The loaf was hardly enough for one person, definitely not enough for three, but that didn’t matter. It was food, and they were hungry. Everyone knew that the Dek did not take from anyone, but hunger didn’t care about standing. There was no caste system for instinct, only those who survived and those who did not. There were two women, scrawny with a mad glint in their eyes. The last was a hulking man, at least for an Inarta, with a dumb look on his face. Mental instability was the reason the three were Dek. That much was apparent.

Before they attacked her, Oresnya wondered if that was why they had banded together. They were broken in similar ways. No one saw them as normal, so they became each other’s family. That, or they had seen the advantage of searching for food together. Strength in numbers. Oresnya wished she had her family right now.

Not that Symenestra were above the call of hunger. In the few times starvation had affected Kalinor, Oresnya had seen brothers turn on each other over food. Family was not supposed to harm family. Blood had a sanctity to it, but there was an honesty to venom. Venom was impartial. Food, Symenestra, prey, expecting mothers, family. It didn’t matter. It wounded just the same.

When the three Dek came at Oresnya, her feral side showed itself. Immediately, her back found a wall, not letting any of them get behind her, and she bared her teeth, showing off her canines. Hunger and fear had combined to extend them to their full length, and when the three saw this, they had shrunk back for a moment. Hunger was what hunger was though, and they put aside their fear for the prospect of food. All three advanced together, like a pack of wolves feigning attacks to search for a weakness in her defense. Aggression was not in their or Oresnya’s usual nature, so all four had hesitated.

Finally, the big man made a move. It was nothing overwhelming or elegant. He had just strode forward, his arms held out to grab her, but Oresnya had been ready for him and, holding her bread in her right hand, lashed the hard, black nails of her left across his face, drawing blood as she did. That had startled him, but he had bowled forward and wrapped his arms around her, squeezing tight so she could not escape. There had been a sad desperation in his eyes. He hadn’t wanted to hurt her but continued to hold tight even when she balled her hand into a fist a punched it into his ribs.

It hurt her worse than it hurt him. Symenestra bones were not strong, and his bones, three-quarters starved as he was, were just beneath the surface of his skin. Oresnya had heard something crack before the two women had joined in, one grabbing at the loaf while the other beat against her ribs to help speed the process along. Knowing she would not win and that this could quickly become deadly for her, Oresnya relented and gave up the bread before her wounds could get any worse. She had wanted more than anything to bite one of them, sinking a hefty dose of venom into them to set to work, but she knew that would have only brought her more harm than good, Deks or not.

Somewhat disoriented by the fight, it took Oresnya quite some time to follow the directions she had been given, but eventually, she found herself at the door to Leo’s Laboratory. Raising her hand to knock, she stopped when she saw that it was already turning purple. Wincing, she used her other hand. She was glad she had used her left hand to strike her assailant. Oresnya wasn’t sure if she would’ve been able to work without her right hand. It would be manageable without her left.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Her stomach growled, and her ribs, her hand, and her venom glands ached in unison.
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Oresnya Cacao
The sanctity of blood. The honesty of venom.
 
Posts: 100
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The Ache of Hunger

Postby Oresnya Cacao on March 7th, 2019, 3:06 pm

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A voice answered sharply, muffled by being much deeper in the shop, “Come in.”

Doing as she was bid, Oresnya stepped through the door and felt let down by the name the shop had been given. This was hardly a laboratory. She had seen novice poisoners in Kalinor with more equipment than this humble place offered. It was little more than a meager shop with some shelving and a counter at which to conduct business and a solitary door leading to who knew where.

The sound of shuffling feet leading up to the door heralded the man who gave the shop its namesake, and Oresnya waited for him to emerge. She had been warned about his face, but even with the warning, she was not prepared. They had said it was scarred. What they had not said was that half of it was missing. The eyelid of the left side was gone completely, leaving the eye exposed, and it had suffered for it. The sclera was bloodshot. Bone lay nearly exposed under the scar tissue over his left cheek. She kept her face still and stoic, so as not to insult him.

He took one look at her clothing and shook his head. “Not the Dek I ordered.”

Leo began to turn away but took a second glance her way. Whatever it was he saw there caused him to stop and look again. His eyes, rather his eye brightened. It was impossible to tell if the left side of his face was conveying any emotion whatsoever. Stopping, he wandered around the table at which he did his dealings and took in the sight of her. “I had heard we had a symenestra. I was going to send for you eventually, but imagine my luck. You show up unbidden.”

That’s when he saw the bruising of her left hand. He shook his head. “I don’t know what you heard, Widow, but I am not the person to come to when you have ailments. I won’t be able to take care of that bruising. That’s the job of the Infirmary.”

It was Oresnya’s turn to shake her head. “I didn’t come to have this looked at. In fact, I got this on my way here.”

Leo’s eye narrowed. “Who did that to you? What for?”

Oresnya shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here, because I heard you were a poisoner.”

Leo’s eye narrowed further, and his head shook again. “To call me a poisoner is like calling a doctor a disease. I craft antidotes, not poison. The only purpose for a poison in these walls is to find a cure for it.”

Oresnya nodded. “That’s what I had heard. So I brought you a poison, one that no one’s managed to cure so far. They told me you were the best.”

That was a lie. No one had told her anything regarding his skill, but flattery never hurt. Playing to people’s egos often was the greatest motivator. In that aspect, pride was powerful.

The look Leo gave her said he suspected she was being conniving, but his pride forced him to continue on. “Tell me about this poison. Show it to me.”

Gesturing to herself, Oresnya smiled. “I’m the poison.”

Tipping her head back and thinking of food, she felt the fangs in her upper jaw extend ready to sink their venom into something, anything, so she could eat. She looked back to Leo and ran her tongue over one canine at a time, feeling her tongue begin to tingle as a single drop of the venom leaked out of the tip of the fang.

Unimpressed, the poisoner turned toward his back room, bent on returning to whatever work he’d been engrossed in before her interruption. “I’ve had Symenestra in before. One just before the Endal executed him for trying to kidnap one of our young women. The venom your kind produce is interesting, but I’ve worked with it before.”

Oresnya wasn’t about to be pushed aside so easily. “A fresh fed Symenestra, sure, but…”

She left her sentence hanging intentionally, letting Leo’s mind fill in whatever details it could imagine. He froze, halfway through the door. Turning back toward her, he searched her eyes for any hint of deceit. On this particular matter, Oresnya had none and kept her gaze resolutely fixed on his one good eye.

Leo stepped back into the front room of his shop and let the door swing closed behind him. “Explain.”

Oresnya couldn’t help but feel a little victorious, and despite her best efforts to conceal it, it showed on her face. Burying that as best as she could, she gave him the information he wanted, the thing he didn’t know he had needed. “Symenestra venom can digest food well enough for a Symenestra who’s eaten recently, but it hardly makes for an effective venom. But the hungrier a Symenestra gets, the more desperate the body gets for a meal. The glands work harder, creating a more potent venom. When a Symenestra is nearly starved is when it is at its most dangerous. At that point, its bite becomes more than just a way to digest. It becomes a way to kill.”

“I’ve heard stories,” Leo admitted, “but I’ve never seen it in action. Tell me what your venom can do when you are near starvation.”

Oresnya shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never been there and used it before.”

“But you’re volunteering yourself for starvation?”

“The food rationing already did that for me.”

Leo smiled, and Oresnya shivered. The motion for the mangled remnants of his face was an unnerving one, scar tissue attempting to stretch but meeting resistance being what it was. He looked her up and down several times, evaluating her for some sort of potential.

“You don’t look starved. How long has it been? Since you’ve eaten, I mean?”

At the increasing discussion of food, Oresnya felt the glands in her cheeks ache even more and the familiar tingle of her venom against her tongue arose again. “Three days,” she admitted. “I had a meal I meant to break my fast with. I was bringing it with me as a reward to myself for giving this venom.”

“But the meal was stolen from you. That’s how you got that bruise on your hand and your cracked ribs, isn’t it?”

Oresnya looked down at her ribcage but found it completely covered as it always was. Confusion must have shown in her eyes when she looked back up to Leo.

“Are you wondering how I know about the ribs?” He nodded, already sure that’s what the look was about. “Your breathing. It’s too shallow. The deep breaths hurt you. My eyes still work, Widow. They can see that you haven’t dared to look at the left side of my face. You might as well look. I know it’s there, and it isn’t changing. Come. Step into the laboratory with me.”
User avatar
Oresnya Cacao
The sanctity of blood. The honesty of venom.
 
Posts: 100
Words: 127395
Joined roleplay: July 3rd, 2018, 3:38 am
Race: Symenestra
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Medals: 2
Featured Character (1) Mizahar Grader (1)


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