Closed [Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Sometimes territory isn't physical but sometimes its completely mental.

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While Sylira is by far the most civilized region of Mizahar, countless surprises and encounters await the traveler in its rural wilderness. Called the Wildlands, Syliran's wilderness is comprised of gradual rolling hills in the south that become deep wilderness in the north. Ruins abound throughout the wildlands, and only the well-marked roads are safe.

[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Kelski on July 5th, 2019, 3:49 am

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2nd Day of Summer, 519 A.V.


The land was hers.

It was an incredible feeling, Kelski thought, as she looked out from the outcrop she stood on near the western edge of The Empyreal Demesne. It seemed like a fancy name, but she loved its meaning and seemed suitable for a Kelvic Sea Eagle. The point she wanted to name after her own kind stretched out before her as she watched the sun rise on the second day in this amazing place. Her companions had managed to make it through the night without incident. The Pavilion was up, though not as organized as it should be with all their significant supplies stowed where living space should be.

Later on they’d find some way to stow the rest of it elsewhere, someplace still defensible, but freeing up the living space they needed to have while they were building. For right now, it wasn’t about comfort though. It was about security and the food stores and staples needed to be secured. It seemed such a daunting task, but Kelski considered The Midnight Gem and Barn her children, and they needed appropriate homes to reside in before she set them loose on the world again. Barn would become a dock and boat house… not something that housed animals. Kelski would birth a new Architectrix for that purpose unless The Gem wanted to contain the animals within as well. The Arch had already made the case for it, and she’d listened well and promised she’d consider the options.

There was so much to do, so much to see, and the Kelvic sighed thinking of the weight of the responsibility of it all. What was she really doing here? Just a few short seasons ago she was wearing a collar and doing the bidding of a spoiled unmotivated gluttonous son of the Sun’s Birth gang. But now she was free. And this was her choice. She could have stayed in Sunberth and slowly rotted away with the rest of the city, or she could have flown the decay and found someplace better to nest.

Kelski took a deep breath, gave herself a shake, and closed her eyes to the wind that tossed her ombre hair about her shoulders as if it were a living thing. The Sea Eagle knew she should get busy, but she was enjoying watching the sun rise far too much.

She was about to start her work for the day when she was joined by another quiet stoic presence. The blonde man had made his way up the trail to her position and stood beside her watching the color bleed into the sky alongside her. He said nothing. Kelski hadn’t known him long, but he had seemed quiet as if not quite sure what to say to her or not willing to break the silences she often pulled about her like an intangible cloak.

The Sea Eagle offered him a smile. “I’m still surprised you came with us. I’m glad you did, but the world out here looks so much bigger than it did in that city. Sunberth often reminds me of some giant monstrous corpse decaying along the shore and her citizens the beetles crawling about her dead flesh consuming her from within. I wouldn’t wait to leave. I can breathe here. Do you feel the promise on the wind?” Kelski asked, looking down and over to the east, surveying the land Vasin had cleared and their little camp. It was just a beginning, but they had already accomplished so much.

For some reason, she didn’t want silence between the two of them now that the sky was fully light. “I was going to walk the twenty acres. I was going to see what predator sign I could find and see if I could ferret out what resources were here. I know we can grow food here, raise livestock, and support ourselves. I think we can even make a great profit doing other things. Gilthas says Sylira is rife with artifacts and things that hold a whisper of the past; things of power. I would like to find some of them, figure out how they were made, and recapture some of the magic the past lost. That will take work too. But Vasin wants to explore. And my gemcutting will help tremendously. We could build a business here, and a very good life if we decide too. All of us. I can’t do it alone. I’ve learned from my time in Sunberth that one person can’t stand alone and stand strong. But a group… a group can do amazing things.” Kelski said, turning to study Dess’ expression at what she said.

He always looked so serene; so impassive. His half smile and sedate calm demeanor didn’t fool her. She always felt like she was in the presence of another predator, perhaps a big cat like Ebon or Alexander though he certainly wasn’t a Kelvic like they were. He moved like one though, with deliberate ease and practiced laziness. But at the same time, he worked hard, and she hadn’t heard a single complaint from him the previous day. The Sea Eagle hadn’t known him long enough to understand him at all. She sensed no malice from him, but then again, there was no benevolence either.

Kelski had a million questions but she was smart and shrewd. Dess would not volunteer anything to her before he was ready to. She knew that without a shadow of a doubt. And she bet he was every bit as smart and calculating as she was. But why was he here? Why had he come with them? Kelski had freed him and made it a point to say he could do what he wanted. Dess was under no obligation to stay with The Midnight Gem people or even with her.

The Kelvic reached up and impatiently gathered her wayward hair to the nape of her neck and twisted it into a quick knot. She glanced around, noting it was light enough to get going. “Would you like to join me?” She asked instead of asking all the other questions that were in her eyes. It gave her some satisfaction that his long hair was being tangled by the wind up here just as much as hers had been. He seemed unmoved by it though, as if he paid it no mind because it had no importance.

Kelski was intrigued and quietly waited for his answer.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Dessarian on July 8th, 2019, 2:37 pm

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His morning had begun, as it always did, with quiet. In silence, he performed a smooth kata that stretched his lean muscles, bringing blood coursing into limbs stiffened after the previous day's labors. The unhurried, conscious focus on each individual muscle and their tendons helped to quicken his mind as well, laying to rest unsettling dreams.

Finally, soft syllables tumbled from his lips, and his awareness of Djed awakened. With practiced discipline, the empowering substance was gathered in his core. Then, with more effort, the Djed was guided through his body., up to each shoulder, down the arm to pool in a fist as it closed. A time or two, the willful substance lagged and began to slip from his control, and with a firm mental grasp, Dess reined it in again. Over to the other arm, and down each leg, until the effort of his Flux ceased and the djed dispersed.

After a long draught of water from his skin, Dess dressed sought out Kelski. He finally spotted the Kelvic perched atop some rocks, peering out. With an unrushed stride, the man made his way in her direction, up a barely-visible path to the outcropping. The dark-haired woman held his attention as he drew closer. Few things caused the warrior to marvel. Kelski had managed that feat.

For three years, Dess had refused to believe she was dead. He had no real reason to assume she lived, other than sheer strength of will. Some may have commended him on such mental strength. But the truth was, he knew to accept her as dead would nearly destroy him. His only hope was that she had been enslaved, and at least alive. He could free her as such, buy her or kill her master. He had only needed to find her.

And he did. He never expected to find her free and prospering. Ember had delivered the family's precious magic to her, and the K'etir in her blood took to it. Even more, Dess never expected that the Kelvic would have to buy him as a slave to save his life. Dess owed Kelski his life for that alone.

The Damazar halted beside the Sea Eagle without a word, unwilling to break the beauty of the moment. Kelski offered a smile, and the man returned a small one in greeting. Her voice broke their silence.

"Sunberth is a shithole." He remarked, his slight smile flinching. He hated the place, a cesspool of chaos that had seen Kelski abused and he nearly killed. The only memories he cared to keep of the place were those that marked the beginning of their friendship. But he didn't come with Kelski to flee the city, he came because after losing her as a child, he would not let her go again. The Kelvic had no idea of the torment he suffered after her disappearance, and how desperately he and her brother sought her after.

"Someone has to keep an eye on you, Kelskanisha."
He added teasingly, an answer that revealed virtually nothing of true intent. He had released her from her family's promise, it seemed hardly fair, or possible, to compel Kelski to bond with or wed him. She was in all ways her own person, and had earned the right of free will. But she was still Kelski, the child he loved, the woman of promise. As a Damazar and his best friend's sister, Dess was bound to protect Kelski and her magic, but he truly followed the Sea Eagle because, in some small way, he still saw her as his. What became of their friendship was now up to them. His smile flattened to a more pensive set. "Yes, there is promise here." Dess stated, turning to look at her. "You have given it to many of us." And to each of her companions, that promise was different.

The others. Dess had watched them. Those he met at the Midnight Gem he had come to trust, Ebon the Lion, Mosa, Mercy, even Gils. Those who joined them from Sunberth he did not know as well, but they seemed determined to make good on the promise to help the Empyreal Demesne prosper. Time would tell.

At Kelski's invitation, Dess nodded, the stock still stature of the man finally shifting. His head swiveled to take in the rugged landscape around him, the blonde mop atop his head tugged by the breeze. With their supplies stowed and a basic camp established, it was critical to survey the land.

Another small smile graced his lips as the Kelvic spoke of Sylira. The Lethafal was right, of course. Sylira held many mysteries and secrets. Little did the Kelvic know that the homes of their families were some of them. Kelski's interest in power and lost magic betrayed her K'etir blood.

"We can prosper here, with hard work." He replied. "Luck and a wink from the gods wouldn't hurt." While he was familiar with the wilderness around the Damazar and K'etir hidden homes, he would not assume the lands around the Empyreal Demense did not hold the unexpected. "Yes, let's take a look around. I would like to find the most accessible ways into and out of the territory. If we do find evidence of predators, or worse, finding good locations for manned posts or magical defenses will help. And chances are we'll find more resources. The less we rely on Zeltiva the better." Dess offered, holding Kelski's silvered gaze for a moment.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Kelski on July 10th, 2019, 3:06 am

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Kelski glanced at Dess when he said her full name. She had only read it once on a letter from her older brother. She’d never actually heard the full length of it said out loud, at least not past being an infant in someone’s arms. The Kelvic studied him a moment, letting the sound of it echo around in her mind, and smiled slightly. It wasn’t as awkward as she thought it would be.

“There is promise in anything we do…. and hope.” She said simply. Kelski inwardly cursed, wondering when she’d become such an optimist. But it was true, what he said, about Sunberth being a shithole. And she was glad to get out from underneath its stench. The move in and of itself was a sort of freedom, and now that she wasn’t in the shadow of the city, hope came in abundance. Kelski wanted to make sure she left all the bad things behind.

She didn’t want Dess to know how many things in Sunberth scared her and how badly she never wanted to see them again. He’d glimpsed a taste of it, that night they’d met. But he was gravely wounded and she had been driven beyond terror. The Kelvic hoped it was just a half-realized scene in his mind and not a firm hard memory that left an impression of who she was on his memory. Kelski could only imagine what that impression had been… terrorized weak broken with the stench of her own urine all over her.

The woman shuttered a moment, like a bird reorganizing and resettling her feathers, as she shook herself free of those thoughts.

If she had her way, no one would ever see her like that again. Here that was possible. This place was a new start, and every day she had a chance to make an impression on everyone and work hard. Even now she felt she’d stood still too long and had the urge to move. She actually wanted to fly. Kelski scouted every morning above Sunberth, checking out the city and noting changes and restless crowds. But Dess had legs so she respected that fact and kept her own. After all, she had invited him to join her and he’d agreed.

The Kelvic liked his company, she decided, because once she reminded herself she wasn’t alone. It truthfully was easy to forget she was in his company because Dess stood so still so often and seemed to have an aura of such quiet serenity around him. He also hadn’t yet tended to fill the silence between them with awkward like others tended to do. Kelski wasn’t a woman of a lot of words, especially with strangers.

“The Gods favor those who favor themselves.” She said softly, flashing him a bit of teeth that was less of a smile and more of a grimace. He was no marked of Akajia, nor Semele or Xhyvas. She would know. But did he have other marks? The Kelvic wasn’t sure and wasn’t about to ask. She’d watch instead, seeing if he gave any hints to where his faith lay. It could be a conversation for later, perhaps around the fire at night, when they wore tired bodies but their minds were still sharp.

Kelski nodded to his words. “That is a good idea.” She said, taking a moment to pull a small hatchet from her belt. She found a sapling slimmer than her wrist but still as strong and cut it for herself. Her motions with the axe were awkward and skill-less, as if she weren’t used to using it. Then silently she found another sappling slightly bigger and cut it for him, offering him the walking stick. Kelski had the grace of an Eagle, but that was with wings. In her human form, she was more awkward, especially scrambling around the wilderness. She put the small hatchet back on her belt and glanced down the beach.

“Maybe walk to Gilthas’ ruins on the west side towards Zeltiva, work inland, seeing if we can find an easy route out, and then cut back and see what we can see inland before heading east? I truthfully don’t know how to not get lost out here, but I have some gear to help.” She said, pulling what looked like a big roll of Ebon’s bandaging from her backpack. It looked like it had been dipped in bright red dye which would stand out in the forest. “If we get too lost, I can always take to the air and get a bearing on where we are based on the bay.” Kelski said thoughtfully, restowing the bandage, then set off down the beach if Dess had no argument.

Her stride was brisk, as if she was no stranger to the beach, and when she saw he could keep up without pain, the Kelvic took up a light jog until they managed to make it down the beach to where Gilthas said he’d like to settle. The trip had been eighteen days, and whether they liked it or not the ship had at least kept them all settled in one place long enough to heal old wounds. The beach had shorebirds and signs of seals. The waves were minimal because of the presence of the bay rather than the direct wave contact. The wind still created waves, but they were of the gentler short. They lightly jogged pasted rockier portions that Kelski paused at, bent, and pointed out clam vents with a smile. “Food. Clams and fish are some of my favorites.” She simply said, before continuing onward.

The whole trip she did that, offering little bits of herself, asking nothing of him and just enjoying his companionship on their little trip of discovery.

Then, as she’d suggested, they turned inland at Gilthas’ ruins, finding a way up through sea grass to the forest. Kelski used a dagger that didn’t seem to exist from the small of her back to hack off hunks of the bright red bandage she’d shown him before. There was literally nothing at the small of her back, but when she reached for it, a black slim lethal looking weapon manifested from a sheath tucked here. She tied the liberated strips of crimson cloth on their pathway, as if marking their trail. Kelski hung them carefully, so they were visible from both the trail in - and if they had to retrace their tracks - out.

She looked at everything, curious at the world, and willing to investigate the land. Kelski approached the world with delight, on guard, yet not guarded to the environment but rather open to it. There was a joy being out in the wilds, one that didn't put her at odds with it.

When the first entered the woods, all sound had ceased, as if the woods were watching them. But the further in they traveled, especially since they kept mostly quiet, the birdsong returned. Small chipmunks and large fluffy squirrels chattered at them. Insects buzzed around and once they grew deeper into the woods, it was soon apparent the woods weren’t silent at all, but full of sound and life.

“This place feels good. The trees feel alive, but not menacing. I don’t feel unwelcome here.” Kelski said softly, looking around and pointing out the trails, though there was no need. “There is life everywhere. If these creatures can live here and thrive, so can we. But I want to make sure we don’t disturb them too much. This place feels alive, very healthy. I don’t want to change that.” She didn’t have to say it… but she knew he’d understand. This was different than Sunberth.

On their way in, they crossed path after path of animal sign – some virtual roads through the woods where elk traveled in pass. At each worn path, Kelski would stop and examine the ground. She was no tracker, but she was learning to look for prints and read them.

The trails varied, some being huge and others being small and delicate. On the smaller trails, the prefect prints of smaller deer and sometimes cats in the soft stirred up dirt. Mostly there was deciduous trees, big conifers, and occasional openings that held small ground plants like cranberry and salal. There were big disks of soft scat the size of Kelski’s head. When she teased it apart, she saw the remains of berries and all kinds of undigested plants. Glancing at Dess, Kelski raised an eyebrow. “Bear?” She asked, glancing nervously around. She shook her head, scanned the area, and glanced at Dess.

“I love the sea. I’m glad to have found a place next to it. There’s so much food here. I keep seeing summer berries and keep watching what the animals are eating. I think we can have a variety of things here to survive on.” She asked, tracking up and down the west edge of the acreage. When she had a good feel for the area, she turned to Dess.

“Before we head east, how do you know what’s a way in or out of the territory? Are those elk trails a good indicator or do we look for something else?” Kelski asked curiously, eyeing her surroundings, now that they were out of the clearing where they’d found bear scat and were deeper into the woods.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Dessarian on July 16th, 2019, 3:04 pm

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Dess found delight in watching Kelski as they explored. He had only known the woman as a child, a squirming bright-eyed infant that was never satisfied at being still, who was fond of tangling her tiny fingers in his hair and yanking on it with a giggle. As a woman, Kelski was not so different as she encountered the world, eager to move about, to dig in and experience life. It was a trait he had seen in other K'etir Kelvics, including Ember. It was the consequence of the short span between birth and adulthood, in which they have only a few years to encounter the world before reaching maturity. That fact only made Kelski's success even more incredible.

Much like he, The Sea Eagle was a woman of few words, and those she spoke she did so with intention. In some ways, this made getting to know one another more difficult. But there was something powerful, a camaraderie that seemed to strengthen in the quiet moments they spent together, without the pressure to speak. There was no awkwardness when he was with Kelski.

The morning was fresh, the wilds alive around them. Kelsi seemed at home, the breeze from the bay tugging at her dark hair as she moved easily along the beach. The Damazar relished every small revelation that uncovered more of the silver-eyed Kelvic's nature. They were small notions, things that caught her eye as they walked, or small, seemingly insignificant comments she made along the way. While his companion saw the exploration of their new territory as the adventure, for Dess it was discovering more about Kelski that intrigued him.

He and Kal and found what was lost. Granted, Dess was not with Kelski in the manner he had been promised, or had planned. But fate had made a way, so that Ember and Dess could be with Kelski, and hopefully her brother Kal would join them soon. It was not only Dess's faithfulness to his best friend that kept Dess at the Kelvic's side, but his own loyalty to her. She had saved his life. As he healed under her care, Dess had caught Kelski's contagious ambition, and wholeheartedly sailed with her and her friends to build a new home.

Dess matched Kelski's jogging strides along the beach, though she moved much more gracefully across the sand than he. If felt good to stretch out his body as he lengthened his strides to catch up with the Kelvic. His healing was near complete, his muscles regaining strength. They paused to examine some clam vents in the sand, and Dess prodded them lightly with the walking stick she had crafted for him. He smiled as Kelski pointed them out. Of course the sea eagle would favor fish and shellfish!

When they altered their course to turn into the woods, Dess was in more familiar landscape. His home, and Kelski's birthplace, were in the Wildlands, and he knew a little about moving through the forests of Sylira. They crossed plenty of animal trails, which meant game for food. Dess was not a hunter, though he suspected some of their companions were, or could learn enough to take down or trap some quarry. Certainly Kelski was, being a born predator.

As the sounds of wildlife returned, the denizens of the wood satisfied that the intruders were not dangerous, Kelski expressed her sentiment about the forest around them. Dess nodded, leaning on his walking stick. "Yes, this is a place for thriving. It is much like home." It felt like home. The K'etir and Damazars prospered in their veiled towers in part because they did not impose themselves on the forest around them around them, but coexisted within it.

The discovery of bear scat did not worry Dess, but encouraged him. "Bear is a good sign. She eats what we would be able to eat, meaning there is plentiful food to get by on." They explored the border of their claim. It would be the boundary across which they could explore the deeper Wildlands. But Dess also considered the approach of potential danger. He expected nothing significant at first, but as the guild grew in power and influence, it could certainly garner enemies.

His mind walked back across the stretch of forest they had surveyed. His blue eyes met the silvery gaze of the Kelvic before both looked out again to the forest. "Most creatures, and people, move like water...following the path of least resistance. While individuals or small groups could follow smaller game trails, large game trails, like that elk path, would definitely be one way in and out, especially for a larger group. Streams and rivers would also be another preferred path. Not so much on the water, but along the banks. Game trails and waterways provide less obstructed passage and a route to follow. Denser forest, or areas where rocks have cropped up, would deter most."

Dess nodded, as if agreeing with himself.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Kelski on July 17th, 2019, 4:42 am

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Kelski nodded to what Dess said, surveying the world around them. “The forest stretches inland a bit and the drainage comes from the south down to the bay. I didn’t see any major rivers, but there were streams a plenty in the area. I see what you say about how animals and people move like water. I never thought about that before, but it is very true. I saw that in the market in Sunberth. But I think people would have it harder here than there. Deer are fleet and can jump over things and around things that stop people in their tracks.” She said softly, angling inward and still pausing to tie up her ribbons so they could retrace their steps if it became necessary.

She liked the fact they weren’t sticking on any normal trails, but were in fact weaving around, crossing things and more squaring off the land instead of moving with it. It was a human thing to do, but it was what was best for their scouting. If they stuck to animal trails, they would go the easiest routes and perhaps miss things. They had been walking quite a big longer, perhaps ten or twenty chimes, before Kelski spoke again.

“Dess, I have something to ask you.” Kelski said quietly. She knew things about him, little things, but only because Darvin had let things slide the day the ghost had followed them back to The Gem where it then could not pass Anja’s wards.

“There are going to be many people with us here. Some of them like Mercy and Ebon are not good fighters. I do not know why you were in the Blood Pits… but… he… the dead man… said you were a good fighter. And he knew you… or at least knew of you. I was wondering… maybe… if you would be willing to teach the people here how to fight or at least help them be stronger.” Kelski said, taking a moment to jump up on a fallen tree – one that had been huge – and walking across its surface lightly using it to traverse past some heavy underbrush more easily than she would have fighting her way through what looked to be thick shrubs. They came upon a small marsh that had cattails and the crocking of frogs. The marsh was in fact a pond, and was seemingly created by the backup of a stream that had been blocked into a pond. A splash from further out in the water had Kelski smiling.

Image“Turtles.” She said, her sharp eye catching what had leaped off another fallen log in the center. “They were sunning on the wood.” She gestured to the rippling water. “Not good eating, but sometimes one can’t be picky on one’s food.” A row of sticks traversed the wet area further up and seemed to be well maintained. Further away, across the expanse of water, was a dome of sticks that looked almost like an odd little house sticking out of the water. The Sea Eagle studied it a while as if she were standing right in front of it, before she moved to the dam.

Kelski paused in front of it curiously tilting her head back and forth. “It looks like something blocked the water with sticks here.” She said, gesturing to the stream that spilled out of the wooden stick dam and headed off back into the woods. She tentatively stuck a foot onto the structure, found it surprisingly strong, and then crossed it noting how the structure actually caused a real diversity in the environment. It was then she saw the grove of aspen and hemlock on the far side, most of which around the margins of the pond were chewed off just short of the ground. “It’s like tiny people cut them down!” She exclaimed in delight and crossed the dam to examine the area closer. It was a neat place, actually, and flowers bloomed in the opening under the sky that the fallen trees had created.

Kelski twirled around in delight, taking it all in, and then hung a ribbon at both sides of the dam to mark they had crossed there. She’d never seen beaver in her life and had no idea that was what had caused the pond, but she still loved the area immediately. She let the atmosphere soak into her a moment before she continued on with what she’d been saying moments before.

“We could also use someone…. someone who knows more about keeping everyone safe to be in charge of that.” She said thoughtfully, moving back into the woods and reluctantly away from the pond. “I think you should consider being that person.” She added, not pressuring him but gently suggesting. “I don’t know a lot about you. But I know with me, I feel better having work…. something that helps define who I am.” She said thoughtfully, gifting him with another tidbit of her personality.

“I don’t know much about you or even who exactly you are. Names are just names and some of the things you and Ember speak of seem more like a story to me than reality. This is my new reality. And I’m glad you are here. I’m going to try and find something for everyone to be in charge of." She said, knowing some people would be better than others at certain jobs. “Mercy will be growing food. Vasin would be exploring. I’m going to be re-opening my jewelry business and trading with the svefra. Ebon would work on a healing place for us all. He might be able to make things to trade as well. There are supplies we can’t grow – flour, sugar, those kinds of things. “ Mosa wasn’t going to be doing anything but supervising. The ancient woman deserved the rest being here would bring. She’d been living on the streets of Sunberth when Kelski found her, a survivor or Denval’s fall.

“Would that make you happy? At least as long as you are going to be here?” She asked, really wrapping two questions into one statement instead of grilling him mercilessly. It was her way of asking if he was going to stay. And it was her way of asking him what he actually wanted to do. Did he want to take a role of leadership? Did he want something to be in charge of?

Kelski kept walking, hanging her ribbons, and noting the terrain. She’d pause now and again, the latest pause before a huge dead tree that was partially hollowed out. It buzzed with activity though, for bees had moved into its interior and the Kelvic was fascinated. She’d brought bees with her as well, though she didn’t know how to care for them. Maybe the wild bees would teach her. It was one of the things she’d quietly set off to the side. She fed them through a small dripping jar that held sugar water to sustain the colonies until she could get them set up. She hadn’t mentioned it to many people because most people were afraid of bugs. But Kelski loved the honey, and it might be another thing they could trade or another thing that would get them through the winter.

“I remember you holding me as a child.” She said abruptly, eyes still on the bee tree. “Not much else… just big strong hands holding me, the smell of them – of you - and the softness of your hair. I liked to touch it because it felt different than the blankets, I was wrapped in.” She volunteered suddenly. “That sounds terrible… telling someone you remember them by smell and the feel of their hands holding you and their hair in your fingers.” She all but muttered, uncertain if he would believe her. Most children didn’t remember things from when they were little. Though, for Kelski, it hadn’t been that long ago. The Kelvic didn’t look at him. She didn’t want to ruin the moment by perhaps seeing something in his face she didn’t want to see. She was curious about Dess. That was all. And she wanted to know more.

Without waiting for him to answer, she turned from the tree – only making a mental note of its location – and started off again. She was zig zagging in an easterly direction through the woods, scouting at what she considered the back portion of her territory. The land was diverse. They could easily make riding trails through all of it to the various features they’d found. There were trees, deep forest, open meadows, streams they had to cross, and even rock outcroppings and things that would be considered part of the mountains behind them. Kelski even spotted what she thought might be a good place to find more flint.

What they didn’t find was signs of other people…. until they did. Kelski walked out of thick brush, into a small clearing, and almost stepped on a still warm campfire. There was no camp, just a circle of stones and coals nestled in the ash, put to bed until night or cold fell upon the world again. She paused, staring at the fire as if it were out of place, and then turned slowly to look around. There was nothing and no sign of anyone in the area. She glanced at Dess, not sure what to make of it.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Dessarian on July 17th, 2019, 4:53 pm

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The scouting expedition with Kelski was welcomed after the long journey on the crowded ship. His lungs filled with the rich forest air, heavy with the humid scent of foliage. They had traversed several types of landscape already, across beach, marram grass and into the forest. All of it was their home now. It was the perfect opposite of all that was Sunberth. But Dess realized it was going to be hard to start from scratch in building their home, and to even survive until they were established. He could not help but be amused as he listened to his own thoughts, how he already considered himself part of the Demesne.

Dess watched as Kelski tied another ribbon to a tree. They spoke of moving through the woods, how obstacles hindered some creatures, while others could overcome them. The man smiled softly to himself as he watched the Kelvic blaze the trail before them. The truth was that fallen trees, gorges, rocks, water... Kelski could rise above them all on strong wings. She could do so even as they spoke, even as Dess tugged his sleeve free of the thorns of a bush they passed. Yet she thought not of her own ease and comfort, but of Dess and those souls that followed a dream into the wilderness.

The tone of his companion's voice changed, a softer, quieter voice that suggested a more personal turn to the conversation. Kelski had not pressed Dess with many personal questions. The basics of truth were revealed in Sunberth, by Ember and Dess himself. She knew of the relationships between them, why he had come to find her. But Dess did not feel it was his place to divulge the history of her family, and his. That was her brother's right to do. Though, even the reserved Dess was finding it difficult to hold the secrets. Not when he was looking right into those silver-gray eyes. Perhaps he could feed her a bit, from time to time. The more time he spent with Kelski, the less savory it was to keep secrets from her.

Dess climbed atop the fallen tree to follow Kelski along its length. At the mention of Darvin, the images of that night in Sunberth crossed his mind's eye, when Kelski appeared in the slave market. That woman was stricken with terror, nearly out of her mind in fear. She stank as Darvin's revenant literally scared the piss out of her. Fate was twisted, and in her darkest moment, she was driven precisely to where he was caged. That was the first and only chance Dess had of meeting the lost Kelskanisha. Dess knew he was a dead man already, if he even lived to reach the Zith. He remembered thinking, if he could only speak life into the frightened Kelvic, a last act of care for the one he should have been protecting, his death would not be in vain. That place seemed a world away. As he watched the lively Kelvic traipse along the fallen log, Dess remembered not to elevate her unfairly to a pedestal. Kelski was an amazing woman, but she was human and animal, both which felt fear and uncertainty.

He was happy to hear her request, to hear there was a need he was suited to meet. The turtles' appearance offered a tangent as his eyes followed Kelski's slender finger, indicating the ripples left behind from the reptiles' escape. "I have had turtle soup in Syliras, it is actually quite good." He noted. They just needed to learn out to prepare the creatures to eat.

Then, he replied to her question. "Yes, I would be happy to help teach the others." Dess had already thought of Mercy and Mosa, who would be particularly vulnerable. "Half of defending yourself is knowing how to think." Dess tested the marshy edge of the pond with his stick, then noted the dam backing up the stream. He had heard of beaver dams, had seen the pointed stumps of beaver-downed trees, and have even seen one in his youth. But he wanted to watch Kelski marvel at the structure before revealing its creators.

Dess crossed the dam, a bit easier so that his weight would not damage it. Passing beyond the dam pond, Kelski continued to speak. Her suggestion of roles made him think. He already had a position, he had work. Helping her brother for one, but also whatever his family tasked him with, or what would aid the K'etir. In a moment of honesty with himself, Dess struggled with the conflict. He had thought his role was to help Kalistan find Kelski, and bring her home. But Dess knew that would not be. The Kelvic was her own person with her own ambitions. She knew nothing of what she would have been had she not been kidnapped.

That was his dilemma. Dess wanted to be with Kelski, to be part of what was being built. But he had duties, solemn duties to the families. The matter was pushed back and shut away. For the moment, he was doing his duty, to watch over Kelski until her brother arrived. And he would do all that he could to help Kelski with her plans.

"I don't do idle time." Dess replied with a grin. "Yes, I would like to be that person. I can't be part of something and not have a role. Maybe its that I need to have a hand it what will affect me." He shared. Dess knew Kelski was not an idle person either. If he had learned anything in his time with her, it was that she lived every moment with intention. She continued to share her thoughts, and Dess moved up to walk beside her.

Her words confirmed the fact that the Demesne was the only world she wanted. Whatever she came from, where Ember and Dess had come from, was past, folklore. Dess knew it to be true. "I am happy, Kelski, this place makes me happy." It was true, there was a tranquility that transcended the dangers and challenges they faced. He was also happy to spend time with the Kelvic K'etir.

Dess stood back a bit as Kelski examined the dead tree and its buzzing inhabitants. He respected bees and understood their benefit. But he didn't like them buzzing around him. With all he knew about the martial arts, he had nothing that could effectively vanquish the agile bee. Kelski again began to share thoughts as she examined the log. The sudden sharing of a memory was unexpected, and his azure gaze fixed on the sea eagle. A warm smile touched his lips, fondly recalling the same memories. He wanted to speak, to share his memories of that time, but the Kelvic was off, snaking through the trees. The moment passed as they turned their attention to surveying the land and its resources.

The fire in the clearing changed Dess' demeanor drastically. The easy, unhurried manners became poised alertness. There was still a tendril of smoke lifting weakly from the campfire. His hand gripped the walking stick as his eyes scanned the clearing. But the fire was old and all signs of inhabitants vanished. The makers of the fire were gone. His gaze finally met Kelski's, only a hint of concern in his clear eyes.

"Trappers or hunters perhaps, from Zeltiva." Dess postulated, offering the innocuous explanation first, though his posture suggested the potential for more menacing explanations, such as bandits in hiding. "But we should keep our eyes open for the source, and move more inconspicuously."

It had only been a few chimes since Kelski had asked him to look after everyone's safety. The fact was, he was raised to protect, to keep the K'etir and their magic safe. It was the natural set of his mind, and it kicked it at the sign of others in the woods. Dess didn't over react to the presence of the fire, but his brain worked through possibilities. The most concerning thought was that some malevolent soul might follow their marker ribbons back. But Kelski's markers only lead to the edge of the forest, far west of their pavilion.

With a small smile, he gestured to the edge of the clearing with his head. "Let's keep moving." To assure Kelski he was not worried, he took up the Kelvic's earlier musings. "The memories of holding you are some of my fondest." He began, his voice notably lower than before. "You were so small, and fragile. Your eyes made me melt." He admitted with a soft laugh as he paused by a sapling. He pulled off a leaf and bent up the stem, then rolled the leaf between his palms. "Even as I held you in my hands, I sensed the potential in you, Kelski." He offered, holding out the crushed leaf in his hand for her to smell. "Sassafras, it makes a good tea."
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Kelski on July 18th, 2019, 5:01 am

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Kelski nodded at his words, about how he wanted a hand in things. She’d suspected as much, not because she knew him but because she knew herself and that’s what she would have wanted in his place. “I think they would be happy to have a teacher.” She said in response. “I know I would.” She added, before being distracted by the dam.

She was glad he was happy. That was a relief. He didn’t show much emotion so she couldn’t have guessed that truth. If anything, she would have said he was pensive, watchful, and waiting for something though she couldn’t figure out what.

Dess seemed deep in thought. She wondered if her words had spurred something in him or if he was just showing her pieces of himself like she’d been trying to share herself with him. Kelski wasn’t good at making friends. She always had people around her, but the truth was that she wasn’t really close to many of them. There were things Dess didn’t know about her, inadequacies she tried hard to conceal, and things he’d probably judge her for if he knew the truth of. It was the same sort of thing she concealed from Anja, Duncan, and even Crylon. Maybe some of them suspected, but for the most part the Kelvic worked hard, tried to provide safety to others, and just wanted to survive.

It wasn’t a lofty goal, but it was one she thought about as she toed at the fire, not convinced at all it was trappers or hunters from Zeltiva. Such men didn’t leave clean places behind. They were messy, uncaring, and this clearing was open, clean, and bright. The only tell-tale sign another had been here was the fire and it was almost as if it was left on purpose. Kelski couldn’t understand the mystery of it but nodded when Dess suggested they keep moving.

She smiled at his words, then reached out a hand to take the Sassafras he offered.

At first, she was confused because as she touched the plant, something bit into her neck sharply. It stung like crazy and her brain was addled for a moment thinking the plant Dess offered stung her. She lost her grip on it as her vision swam. She took a step forward, then one back away from him thinking in the moment he was the cause of her sudden and acute confusion.

But there was a sound she couldn’t identify, one that was close to her ear and she saw the dart lodge in his neck as well. It was feathered with a long needle that looked like it was made from a reed of some sort. Kelski’s eyes went wide and her hand went to her own throat where she felt an identical dart lodged in her skin. She grabbed at it, yanking it out, as she went to her knees unable to stand any further. Her last conscious thought as she hit the ground was how stupid she’d been, focusing on the blond man whose name she couldn’t remember at the moment, instead of what was around her. She felt her body crumple, her head thunking against the soft loam of the ground where she blinked awkwardly as she fought not to loose consciousness.

It was a battle that was hard lost. Eventually, against her will, her eyes drifted closed and she lost all conscious thought.

Dess would have an equal amount of trouble, with the dart losing itself deeply in the side of his neck, designed to bring down game far larger than he was. He would remain awake longer, but not by much, and recover faster than most… blinking back awake only to find himself laying on his side, his hands bound behind him and tethered to his ankles which were also bound.

Kelski was still out cold. Her smaller form bound in a similar fashion, but not perhaps used to the intense poisons and substance training the Damazar family tended to put their sons through. She was lying a few feet away, her breathing even, and her hands equally bound. Dess would find himself well able to roll and sit up on his knees as if bowing before someone. And there was indeed someone there.

Dressed in a ghillie suit, a figure stood before him, wielding a spear in one hand and a blow gun in another. Sex, race, and age were something the suit did not allow for. Nor were any features visible. Even the hands, which were free of gloves but overhung with vegetation were painted a deep green that camouflaged them from true identification. The form walked to Kelski, brushed back the hair on her head to reveal her face, then chuckled.

The voice was muffled, gruff, as if concealed as it spoke. “I mistakenly thought you were the one to watch, being male and young and strong. But she’s dripping with magic, more than I’ve seen in a long time. You are just coiled power and restrained violence. Had I not been something of a world traveler, I would not have recognized the combination. But a Damazar and a K’etir out in the world together attract attention.” The voice said, buried somewhere in the carefully designed suit.

“And here I thought you all gone from the world. After the events of the end of last season when you all supposedly ended up dead, I would have given it even odds that I’d never set eyes on one of you again. But the K’etir have no young women and the Damazar’s most promising son has been missing. Dare I think this is the missing K’etir Kelvic of those years ago and you are Dessarian Damazar?” The voice asked curiously, a hint of amusement threaded in their words.

“I came out here to escape your endless feuds and mindless plays of power. And while I have nothing against your two families, I dislike your enemies with a passion. I would have thought when news got out about the bloodbath, the rest of you would have gone deep into hiding… so deep they never could find you. And yet here you are… two of the lost found again. Your enemies were furious they missed you in the massacre, son. They are going to be less than enthusiastic if you turn up alive and with a lost K’etir daughter.” The grumble leaned higher, almost as if it was female though a sort of feminine that suffered from a life of drinking and smoking.

“So, start talking, Demazar. Why are you out here in my territory and why was a ship unloading on the sand two days ago?” The figure said, running a hand up and down the spear as if it were just a matter of twitching and it would move around and skewer him. “And don’t worry about your companion. She’ll be okay. I just gave her an extra dose of my elk downer. She’ll stay good and quiet a long time. Mages aren’t the best sort to bring down with darts. The problem is eventually they wake up. And then things get serious.” The voice rumbled. “Start talking… and don’t leave anything out.” It advised.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Dessarian on July 19th, 2019, 1:23 pm

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Dess watched Kelski, anxious to see her reaction to the aromatic leaf. He believed she would appreciate the fragrance. He might even gather some leaves to dry to make tea. But as she reached for the leaf, the faintest tap could be heard against her skin. Dess saw the Kelvic's brows furrow, her gaze glassing over. The leaf fell from her hand.

He felt the sting, a moment after he spotted the dart lodged in Kelski's neck. Shyke. The poison worked quickly, even as he strained to keep a grasp on consciousness. Dess realized he had already failed in protecting Kelski. His hand reached for the Kelvic, falling short of her as they staggered, then he watched her collapse. Dess fell to his knees, willing himself to resist even when he knew it was pointless. He tried to find the shooter with blurring eyes, a moment later he forgot what he was looking for. Soft forest floor met his face, gritted teeth relaxed and his field of vision tunneled until it went black.

After his eyes fluttered open, it took a moment for Dess's groggy brain to orient his perception. Cool forest floor against his side, body in an awkward position. He didn't struggle. He could guess by his posture that he was bound. A subtle pull on his wrists and ankles proved him right. Petch.

Then he saw Kelski, bound as he next to him. A wave of anger welled up at the sight of her unconscious and helpless. Dess's immediate concern was for her. But he saw her chest rise and fall in a deep, steady cycle. She was alive and appeared unharmed. The Damazar's hands balled up into fists until the knuckles turned white. He wanted to kill whoever did it to her. Wysar, grant me wisdom and focus. Dess didn't know if gods read minds or had to hear words, but he wasn't going to speak a syllable until he saw their attacker.

Rolling fluidly to his knees, Dess sensed the tension of the rope between his wrists and ankles. An effective means to hobble a prisoner. Once settled on his knees, his muscles relaxed, his nerves on triggers to react if necessary. Dess took a deep breath, clearing his mind so that he could effectively assess their situation, and their assailant. Survival and escape would rely on understanding their circumstances. The Damazar's eyes lifted. Finally, he could see the attacker. For a tick, he thought it some strange creature he had not known before. But a moment of study revealed its curious hide to be a garment perfectly designed for forest camouflage. The myriad of earth and foliage colored strips hanging from it made any form of identification impossible. But whatever it was, it was no mere trapper or hunter. What had concerned him about the campfire proved to be true. That those who left it could be malevolent.

The garments, the blowgun and powerful tranquilizer suggested a hunter, albeit a master at it, but also something more dangerous seemed to linger on the mysterious being. Piercing blue eyes, narrowed with reined rage, watched the stranger approach Kelski and reach to touch her. Dess reacted with a flinch, but knew he could do nothing, though a low growl rumbled in his throat. He could try to call on the Djed within him to engorge his arms, and perhaps he could snap the ropes around his wrists. But he suspected the trained attacker would have the spear at his throat in a breath.

Then it spoke. Even the voice defied identity. But words could be telling, even beyond their content. So Dess listened carefully to garner knowledge of their captor. What he heard was unexpected and soon became alarming. He tried to sort the confusing and vexing monologue. How did it know who they were? What did it mean that they were all gone, and bloodbath? Suddenly, the world he had almost forgotten in the excitement of the new adventure spilled out before him like the entrails of a gutted elk. Kelski didn't seem to hear any of it. It was not how he would want her to learn about her history.

The stranger claimed no love for he and Kelski's families, and the Damazar sensed the possibility that they could be handed over to their foes. But it seemed the enemies of the K'etir-Damazars may have been shared by the stranger. It was a glimmer of hope. Dess understood that the enemy of one's enemies could be a friend, or at least a convenient ally. Dess again gathered his composure as the captor began his inquiry.

"You prove that you are not an enemy, and I will convince her not to kill you when she wakes up." Dess reproved the captor, though he had no idea if Kelski, or he, could kill the person. He held his tongue a moment more, calculating the consequences of telling and not telling the truth. It had seen the boat, it knew they were there. "Homesteading. A new start. A harmless lot of misfits finding a corner of the world to make their own." Dess explained, casting his gaze at what he supposed was the location of the stranger's eyes. "How do you know us..our families?" Dess hoped for a glimpse of the stranger's identity.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Kelski on July 23rd, 2019, 3:12 am

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A long-suffering sigh escaped the creature. “When I said ‘start talking’ I didn’t mean start questioning me. The arrogance of your kind – even trussed up and defeated – astounds me. Unless I missed something like a third or forth member to your sweet little stroll in the woods, I suggest you do exactly as I say.” It said, its voice rasping. The more it spoke, however, the more it did sound female. It was the way it moved, the way it spoke, almost like a mother chastising a child and not a father punishing one.

“Now, son, I’ve been threatened by your kind for two or three times longer than you’ve been alive. So far none of those making threats have managed to follow through with their words. And truth be told, I have outlived most of them anyhow. Throwing threats around gets you dead. And threatening me, on top of that, with a laid flat Kelvic is just a sorry thing. You hiding behind skirts now?” The figure asked. It didn’t actually dwell on its question though.

“I have nothing to prove to you. That I’m out here to get away from the Damazars, K’etirs and Drusts of the world is enough. Now… answer my questions. Who are you? Who is she? And was I anywhere close to the truth? Do you know about the Drust attack? They struck in broad daylight and no one was left alive. Or so they thought….” The figure chuckled slightly, as if the thought of the two before her still alive amused her somehow. “They razed your fortresses to the ground. Some said it was an inside job. But you were away, weren’t you? Chasing that one?” A camouflaged booted toe nudged Kelski’s prone form.

“Where did you find her? I would have heard word of her if it was common knowledge. By the Chavena, I would have heard of you kicking about too if you were anywhere important. Where have you been hanging out? Sunberth maybe? Only place you could have hid was some sweaty armpit of the world like there. And now you say your homesteading? Starting new? Son, you can’t lay down your weapons in this war your families have been waging. It’s a fight until everyone is dead type thing. And if she’s who I think she is, if the Drust get ahold of her, the fates will not be kind. She’ll be in a cage popping little Drusts for the rest of her life to strengthen their weakened bloodlines. The same would be said for you too. They’d do no better by you, having you rut their worthess daughters and sire children on them to raise in their poisoned philosophy.” The creature shook its head and seemed to study Dess intently a few moments.

“The Wilderness – for all that it is supposed to be empty of people – is feeling really crowded.” The figure finally said. “You’ll bring the war straight here if word gets out where you are.” It warned ominously, then waited for Dess to actually start talking. Not asking questions of it, of course, but to start telling it everything he knew.

In the meantime, the toe to Kelski’s side was enough to jar her back towards consciousness. Her head was spinning and she was in imminent danger of vomiting. It wasn’t actually a new sensation for her. Darvin had tested batch after batch of drugs on her, making her either ill or high respectively. What was new was the feeling of her hands bound behind her back and the soft loam of the forest cushioning her cheek. She could hear voices in the background, but they weren’t making much sense. Dess’ soft voice wasn’t excited, angry, or worried… so it kept Kelski calm. The stranger’s voice was raspy, like he was old, and Kelski sniffed the air but all she could smell was the mud beneath the loam she lay on. Her booted foot twitched, causing the rope to her wrists to pull taught and yank at her hands slightly. It was a confusing sensation and rather than focusing on the voices and what was going on, she tried to figure out why her feet and hands were connected somehow.

The figure before Dess cleared its throat impatiently. “I’m not getting any younger, son.” It said, almost impatiently.
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[Empyreal Demesne] Scouting New Territory (Dess)

Postby Dessarian on July 23rd, 2019, 12:18 pm

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Pride was a two-edged sword. It gave one confidence to face challenges, it was the manifestation of self-identity and worth. But pride could also be a set of blinders. How many had fallen, stumbling over their own arrogance that robbed them of sense and caution? Dess breathed deeply, allowing his indignation to be expelled as he exhaled. The situation demanded his focused attention and tuned discernment. Not only his life was at stake, but more importantly, Kelski's.

The stranger was female, or effeminate at the least. The way the hips moved as weight was shifted from one foot to the other, the grace of motion. The voice betrayed gender as well in quality as more words were spoken. But there was also the curious terms used in conversation. The hunter called him son. Whether male or female, it suggested an almost patronly, or matronly nature. And for all its questioning, the captor was revealing as much as it sought revelation. Dess tried not to offer a response as the name Drust was spoken. But an alarm sent a frozen sensation along his spine. They were wretched enemies, jealous and conniving. And the again inferred massacre set his pulse to race. What was it saying, had the Drust truly taken such a bold action against the Two Houses?

Dess decided it was no use trying to intimidate or deceive the stranger. Neither seemed to have an effect. The concealed assailant already knew more about Dess and Kelski's family than most in all of Mizahar. While the danger it posed was real, the Damazar noted a lack of malice. If he was truthful in his answers, perhaps the stranger would explain what had happened to his family and his home.

"I am Dess Damazar, she is Kelskanisha K'etir." That much Dess assumed the stranger already knew. "I have been seeking her since her disappearance as a child. Yes. I found her in Sunberth. She desired to leave the city and some painful history behind her and make a new home. That is why we are here. As you surely know, it is my role to protect her."

Mention of Ember and Kalistan were withheld for the moment, to protect them. Dess wondered if his friend had fallen at the hand of the Drust as well. His eyes finally left the veiled interrogator to look at Kelski as she awoke. He did not wish for her to hear about what might have happened to their families, not yet, so he did not ask the question he ached to ask. Instead his low, calm voice spoke to her.

"Don't worry, everything is alright." He tried to put every ounce of reassurance in his words to Kelski. The reactions of a Kelvic to restraint and danger were often unpredictable. Even as intelligent and grounded as the Sea Eagle was, Dess could not guarantee Kelski would not have a violent reaction that may lead to her harm.

"I can assure you, neither of us are interested in challenging you. We only wish to establish our home in peace. And we certainly do not want to attract the attention of the Drust. I have a feeling that is a sentiment we all share here. I have told you who we are. May we know you are?" Dess' tone had remained calm and conciliatory, but not weak or submissive. His angle turned to determine if the captor could in fact become an ally.
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