Solo Dancing to the Beat of Your Drum

There's a party at the Slag Heap, and it's time to let go.

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A lawless town of anarchists, built on the ruins of an ancient mining city. [Lore]

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Dancing to the Beat of Your Drum

Postby Asterope on April 7th, 2019, 1:00 am

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1st of spring, 519 AV

"Where are we going?" Aster asked, brows furrowed in confusion as Alard finished doing up the buttons on the nicest, cleanest shirt he owned. He'd returned to the apartment that afternoon with a new dress for Aster, and the commands to get changed and ready to go.

The dress wasn't exactly nice; it was obviously cheap. But it was cleaner than any of the ragged clothes she still owned. It was a deep crimson in colour, with a plunging neckline and short sleeves; while it had been embarrassingly short when Aster first put it on, the cotton had more give now that the sun had set and she had shifted into her smaller and slighter mortal form, dropping the hem to just above her knees.

All things considered, it was quite pretty. At Alard's recommendation (which she knew was just a nicely worded order), she'd also tied her hair up to 'show off her neck'. Show off her collar was more apt, but Aster kept silent about it.

"It's a celebration. To bring in the new year, and in honour of Olsten the Giant," Alard grunted, fixing his shirt collar, then strapping on his weapons. One could never be too safe in Sunberth, even when attending a celebration, it seemed.

He strode over to Aster, gripping her chin and raising her head, turning it side to side as he inspected her. Aster clenched her jaw, face flushing; she felt like a prized pet, a show animal. Judging by the pleased smirk on Alard's face and his next words, that's exactly what she was. "There, you clean up nicely. I don't want you too on display all the time, people get jealous so easily. But I think I can afford to show you off at a party, after all the money I spent on you."

Asterope said nothing, jerking her head back when Alard released her jaw and rubbing her fingers over her face where he had gripped her. "Who's Olsten the Giant?" She asked, to shift the topic, as Alard turned to lead the way from the apartment.

"Gods, girl. How do you not know that?" Alard looked at her incredulously; Aster simply shrugged, keeping her head down and following close to him as they left the barracks.

He made a 'tsk' sound, shaking his head. "I forget you aren't from here, sometimes. I suppose those outside of the city wouldn't really know our history. Long ago, this city was ruled by mages." Alard sneered as he said the word, turning his head to spit into the street.

He had mentioned Sunberth's disgust with and hatred of magic before; perhaps this was an explanation as to why. "They enslaved us, tortured us, killed us. Treated us like filth. Olsten the Giant was the one who was brave enough to stand up to it. He helped kill the dirty mage that ruled over us, and freed us from the grasp of magic. He lost his life in the process, but without him, nothing would have changed. Since then, any fool stupid enough to associate himself with magic is killed. We don't need or want any more of that kind of filth."

Asterope nodded silently when Alard finished speaking and glanced over to her; she supposed she could understand the city's hatred of magic, though it still seemed extreme. Alard interrupted her musings, nudging her. "We're almost there," he said, motioning towards smoke in the distance.

They hadn't walked very far; clearly their destination was close to the barracks, though it was past the edge of what could be considered the city. The smoke became more prominent as they approached, visible even in the dim light of the evening. Aster had noticed it before, but never asked.

The closer they got, the more prominent the smell became, as well. Aster wrinkled her nose, reaching up to cover her face, coughing slightly. Alard glanced over and laughed. "That's the Slag Heap, sunshine. You'll get used to it soon enough."

Asterope grimaced; the smell was strong and rancid, and acrid from smoke on top of it; it burned her throat and nose, and made her eyes water. She could see a large fire, growing brighter as they approached; there was a huge crowd of people, as well.

The noise finally reached her ears as they reached the outer limit of the light from the giant smoldering fire, people laughing and talking, shouting and just generally having a good time. A large effigy stood a ways from the heap, with some people seeming to put the finishing touches on it.

"Oh good, we're not too late," Alard spoke beside her, having to almost shout to be heard as they entered the crowd. There seemed to be two distinct ones, though both were equally rowdy, loud, and drunk. The ones closer to the effigy and heap seemed to be mostly talking, relaxing and enjoying drinks or drugs, while the ones more towards the outskirts were dancing and generally just running wild.

"Looks like the Bolt Hole's set up shop here for the night, too," Alard grunted, approvingly. "Now you know it's a party." Somewhere further away, though it was still somehow strong and almost deafening, a drumbeat started up.

Word Count: 873
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Asterope
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Dancing to the Beat of Your Drum

Postby Asterope on April 7th, 2019, 2:49 am

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The drumbeat was solid and steady, loud enough to drown out the crowds; Aster could feel it thrumming through the ground, up through the soles of her shoes and into her body, almost rattling her bones. It was a simple beat at first, building speed, before it exploded into music.

A complex and energetic beat sounded through the crowd, causing cheers to erupt as more people began to dance. "Are you all ready?" Someone shouted from by the effigy; another wave of cheering was roused from the crowd. Craning her head, Aster could see a group of men standing nearby, all holding lit torches.

They began a countdown from five; everyone around her joined in, counting to the beat of the drum. Even Alard beside her cupped his hands around his mouth and began to shout along. When the crowd shouted 'one', the men by the effigy put their torches to it. Flames licked at the wooden structure greedily, quickly consuming and climbing higher and higher; the fire roared strong and bright, rivaling the slag heap not far from it.

Raucous cheering drowned out even the drums for a moment, before slowly dying down. Alard let out a laugh, grinning as he turned to Aster. "Come on, then. Let's have some fun, sunshine."

Aster didn't have time to protest as he dragged her into the crowd. He made his way to a small set-up that mimicked a counter; Aster realized the wooden board balanced on two barrels was serving as a bar. Alard leaned in, speaking to the makeshift bartender briefly before hanging over some coins. A moment later, he turned back to Aster with two drinks.

"I bothered to bring you, you might as well have fun. Loosen up a bit," Alard shoved one of the drinks at Aster. She took it, some of the liquid sloshing over the rim of the glass and onto her hand. "Go on," he ordered, motioning with a jerk of his chin. "Drink up." He smirked before downing his own drink.

Asterope hesitated, then after a moment, took a deep sip of the drink. It was surprisingly smooth and sweet, tasting vaguely of vanilla. Alard grinned at the surprise on her face, motioning for her to knock it back as he had his own drink. Inhaling deeply, Aster chugged the drink until the glass was empty.

"That'a girl," Alard grinned, taking the glass and setting them both back down. Next thing Aster knew, he was grabbing her wrist and dragging her into the dancing crowd.

The drink, despite its smoothness and surprisingly pleasant and sweet taste, was strong. Aster wasn't a big drinker, and had little to no tolerance; she could already feel the warmth of the alcohol settling in her stomach and spreading through her limbs, making her head feel light and vaguely fuzzy.

Alard spun her around, and Asterope whirled clumsily, bumping into others in the crowd. Despite herself, she found a smile on her mouth as Alard then yanked her close. She could feel the drumbeat thrumming through her body, vibrating her bones and deep in her chest, almost stronger than her own heartbeat.

Alard danced, pulling her closer to him. Aster stumbled, hesitating, her first reaction to try and pull away. But after a long pause, swaying on her feet, she gave in to the infectious drumbeat and the joy of the crowd around her. It was a strange pull that she couldn't quite place, but she couldn't ignore it. Certainly the alcohol already rushing through her veins didn't hurt, either.

So she danced along, not entirely sure what she was doing, but moving her body vaguely with the solid beat drumming in the background, bouncing on her feet. Alard seemed pleased, giving her wrist a squeeze as they danced. But it wasn't him Aster was focusing on, it was the rhythm and noise around her. Nearby, she heard melodic feminine laughter, and she saw a glimpse of red hair as a woman danced through the crowd, strumming a stringed instrument.

Word Count: 672
Total: 1,545
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Asterope
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Dancing to the Beat of Your Drum

Postby Asterope on April 7th, 2019, 6:45 am

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A wave of what she could only describe as euphoria washed over Aster as the woman danced out of sight, and she found herself giggling as she spun again, swaying her hips and raising her arms above her head as she danced with reckless abandon, hair flying around her head and glowing orange as it reflected the light from the fires.

It was the lightest and most carefree she'd felt in a long time; nothing seemed to matter anymore, and truly, she could barely be bothered to think outside of the then and there, her thoughts reduced to the noise of the crowd and the incessant drumming. It was almost as if all of her worries and troubles had been locked into a little box for the moment, leaving her weightless; it certainly wasn't of her own volition, but Aster wasn't about to complain.

Alard leaned down to speak into her ear, though he still had to shout to be heard. "I'm going to get another drink. Stay here." Aster nodded, and Alard scanned the area for a moment, but nobody was paying them any mind; they were too busy in their own personal bubbles, drunk and high and equally swept up by the rhythm of the music. The joy truly was infectious, spreading like wildfire through person to person in the crowd.

With a satisfied nod, Alard tapped her waist and then disappeared into the crowd, heading back towards the makeshift bar. Aster watched him go, but didn't stop dancing; she raised her arms above her head, jumping around and laughing. On her own, she felt even more free, even able to ignore the weight of the collar around her neck.

Someone grabbed her hand, pulling her in for a spin, and Aster giggled, for once not alarmed or fearful. The woman who had grabbed her hand giggled along with her, grabbing her other hand, and Aster danced happily with her until the woman was grabbed by another partner. It wasn't long before someone else grabbed Aster's hand again, a man this time, and she went willingly, dancing among the crowd.

Gradually, she found herself near the slag heap, where a few logs had been set up as makeshift benches. She was breathless and her feet were beginning to ache, though she barely noticed, and sweat gleamed on her bare arms and neck. The area was mostly deserted, most people busy dancing or otherwise socializing, but Asterope decided to take the moment to sit and catch her breath.

Slipping out of the crowd, she made her way over to an empty log and dropped down onto it, tucking her legs beneath her. It was hot so close to the slag heap, but out of the crowd she could breathe slightly more easily, and a bit of a breeze ruffled her hair, dancing around her and cooling the sweat on her skin.

Aster let out a long exhale as her breathing and pulse calmed, though a pleasant buzz still ran through her; she still found herself tapping her fingers to the pounding drumbeat, as well, and she was smiling to herself. There was an almost unnatural quality of fun to the party, an intense atmosphere of loose pleasure, with none of the fear, or the anger, or the bloodshed that she was used to seeing and feeling in the city.

It was a bit strange if she thought on it too much, especially since she herself wasn't particularly one for parties, and it made her head ache, so she brushed it aside. She could think about it later. It wasn't all that important, anyway. All that really mattered in that moment was that she felt free, and she was having fun, two things she'd almost forgotten the feelings of.

Word Count: 629
Total: 2,174
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Asterope
But I flicker from time to time
 
Posts: 323
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Dancing to the Beat of Your Drum

Postby Asterope on April 18th, 2019, 7:20 pm

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Sitting by the slag heap, despite the unpleasant smell and the smoke from the smoldering fire, Aster inhaled deeply, finally catching her breath. Out of the corner of her eye, something caught her attention, gleaming as it reflected the light of the flickering flames.

Asterope leaned over, peering down; resting by her feet was the small bone she had been carrying with her since Alvadas. She frowned at it. Had it fallen out of her pocket when she sat down? It must have. Reaching down, she picked it up between careful fingers, brushing the dirt off it and turning it back and forth. The off-white of the bone gleamed dully, the symbol etched into it staring up at her mockingly.

She had no proof, of course; but she had a deep, instinctual gut feeling that the little innocuous bone was to blame for much of her misfortune. Things began to go downhill not long after she found it; she remembered the word the snake woman had used as well, malediction. A type of magic. Instinctively, her fingers went to the hollow of her throat, where Navi's tooth rested, the carved symbol flush against her skin.

She didn't know the details of it, but she could only assume magic could be used for both good and bad purposes and intents. Every time she had tried to lose or thought she had lost the bone, (sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose) it had somehow reappeared to her soon after.

A part of Aster was glad; she was strangely possessive of it. Another part of her was frustrated. Even if it was her own imagination, she wanted to be rid of the thing. She turned it over in her hands again, rubbing her thumb over the smooth yet porous surface.

The slag heap crackled suddenly, startling Aster and causing her to jerk her head up as something within the molten heap shifted, causing a burst of sparks and flames. Glancing back down, Aster rose to her feet to rejoin the party, but paused, her hand midway into the small pocket of her dress.

Her gaze flickered back to the slag heap, then down to the bone in her hand. She stood there for a long moment, wrestling with herself; but her thoughts were interrupted by footsteps.

Asterope snapped her head up, and saw another redheaded woman of similar height to her approaching. She held a stringed instrument, and her face was glistening with sweat, her hair wild and a grin on her face. "Hello," she chirped, her voice friendly.

"Mind if I join you? I just need a quick second to rest and catch my breath. Even doing this for a living, it gets tiring dancing around all the time," she laughed, the sound bubbling freely from her chest as she dropped down onto one of the logs.

Aster wasn't sure what to say, so she nodded. "Of course. I saw you, earlier," the Eth said after a moment. "You play very well."

The woman laughed again, seeming genuinely amused. "Thank you, I'm glad you think so." Aster nodded again, and smiled at the woman, relaxing. She hadn't realized it until then, but examining and mulling over what to do with the bone had made her tense. She could feel the anxiety that had coiled tightly in her stomach loosening as the woman peered up at her.

"Are you having fun?" She asked Aster, and the Eth nodded without even thinking about it.

"More than I've had in a long time," she admitted, feeling open despite the woman being a complete stranger. "Maybe ever."

The other woman seemed pleased. "Good." She jumped up to her feet again, shaking out her hair and giving a strum of her instrument, startling Asterope somewhat and making her laugh.

"My name is Desre. I run the Bolt Hole with my brother. We're always moving, but try and come by again some time, yeah?" Desre grinned at Aster, reaching out to touch her arm briefly. "It's good to let go sometimes." Her gaze pointedly dropped to Aster's hand, still curled around the bone and tucked into her pocket.

Then with another bright smile and a chipper farewell, she whirled around and danced back into the crowd, strumming her instrument again. Aster watched her go, perplexed but also amused. Let go. She glanced down to her pocket. There was no way Desre could have known the details, but Aster supposed it was obvious enough that she was struggling with something to anybody who would have seen her.

She hesitated, then inhaled deeply. Squeezing her eyes shut and without thinking it over anymore, she spun on her heel, yanking her hand out of her pocket and throwing the bone onto the slag heap.

Word Count: 793
Total: 2,967
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If there's a light at the end, it's just the sun in your eyes
User avatar
Asterope
But I flicker from time to time
 
Posts: 323
Words: 287183
Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
Location: Sunberth
Race: Ethaefal
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Dancing to the Beat of Your Drum

Postby Asterope on April 20th, 2019, 1:18 am

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Sparks flew from where the bone hit the heap, and the flames licked at the new addition greedily. Asterope watched it sink into the heap slightly; it seemed to resist at first, but after a few moments the bone began to char. As it did, the flames around it shot up in a burst; the colour flickered for a moment, from the natural orange to a sickly blue.

The colour faded as quickly as it had appeared, and the flames died down back to normal. Aster watched the bone slowly char and blacken; she expected to feel something change or shift, but it didn't. The only difference was the relief that settled on her.

She stood watching the fire until a hand gripped her arm roughly, jerking her away and turning her. Aster blinked at the sudden shift in brightness, staring up at Alard, who was frowning down at her.

"I told you to stay," he said, his voice low and harsh, fingers tight where they dug into Aster's skin. She knew the grip would leave finger-shaped bruises on her arm.

"It was too busy," she said, glancing back over her shoulder one last time before looking back at Alard. "Everyone was moving, I couldn't stay in the same spot." That wasn't exactly a lie, though she hadn't tried to fight it. In fact, she'd embraced it.

"I came over here to catch my breath and wait for you." Another half-truth; Aster knew she should be nervous, scared even, as Alard frowned down at her, but she wasn't.

After a moment, Alard grunted and relaxed his grip on her, sliding his hand down her arm to circle his fingers around her wrist instead. "Fine," he said, shortly, relaxing slightly. It was difficult to stay mad in such an environment; the drumbeat had changed to something a little bit slower, the tempo not as upbeat as it had been, prompting for people to dance closer with their partners. But it was still as vibrant and bone-deep as ever.

"Come on, then." Alard grinned suddenly, his gaze locking with hers. In the glowing light of the fire, Aster could see that his pupils were blown wide; had he taken drugs? It wouldn't surprise her.

Asterope closed her eyes for a moment, allowing herself to fall back into the pounding rhythm of the drums, letting the noise takeover her again. She nodded when she opened her eyes again a moment later, and Alard tugged her back into the crowd to dance some more as the night wore on, and the effigy in honour of Olsten the Giant burned down to cinders and ash.

Word Count: 440
Total: 3,407
Image

If there's a light at the end, it's just the sun in your eyes
User avatar
Asterope
But I flicker from time to time
 
Posts: 323
Words: 287183
Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
Location: Sunberth
Race: Ethaefal
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Journal
Plotnotes
Medals: 5
Featured Thread (1) Mizahar Grader (1)
Overlored (1) Alvadas Seasonal Challenge (1)
Power Fork (1)


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