Solo An Echo of Life

Aster's curious about the Temple of the Unknown.

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

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An Echo of Life

Postby Asterope on September 1st, 2019, 1:12 am

55th of summer, 519 AV

Aster didn't mind the heat; the humidity, however, was a different story. The fog that had rolled into the city early on in the season had been talked about as strange, but there was hope that it would at least cool the air down a little bit.

Perhaps it had, but if so, it was unnoticeable behind the humidity that it brought with it. Aster hated the way it clung to her whenever she was outside; breathing felt as if it was being done through a damp cloth on especially bad days, and while she didn't usually sweat much, there was a constant, pervasive sense of dampness that just wouldn't leave her alone. Not even the sun setting seemed to help. It was unpleasant, to say the least.

She suspected the strange weather might have something to do with the recent lack of winter, but without knowing too much about weather patterns herself, it was hard to say. Still, she hoped that the next winter would be different; as much as she hated the cold, the continuous lack of the season was eerie at best and disastrous at worst; unbidden, her mind drifted back to Alvadas, when the swarm of insects had descended upon the city. It made her shudder to even remember.

Regardless, there was nothing Asterope could do about it except try to stay dry, so she returned her wandering attention back to the current situation. Alard had needed to meet with someone at the Pig's Foot Tavern, and after her stunt early last season, he'd been keeping her close. Granted, he'd slowly been relaxing, seeming to think that Aster had learnt her lesson.

Only time would tell if that was true or not.

Quietly, Aster sat, sipping at the mug of ale Alard had ordered for and wrinkling her nose at the taste. She wasn't fond of ale to begin with, and what she was drinking wasn't exactly the best quality one could find. Setting the still full mug back down on the table, she pushed it away with her fingertips, leaning back in her chair.

Across the table, Alard and the other man were leaning in close to each other, speaking in hushed tones, voices drowned out by the ruckus of the tavern even sitting just across from her. Aster strained to listen, trying not to seem obvious, but Alard caught her eye and scowled at her.

Aster glanced away quickly, flushing slightly. Whatever they were talking about, it seemed heated, and she wasn't keen on having Alard turn his irritation on her. Seeing that she wasn't drinking her ale, Alard leaned over to swipe the mug with a grunt, sloshing pale liquid over the sides. He took a deep drink before continuing his conversation.

Aster frowned slightly, but said nothing, instead turning her gaze on her surroundings, eyes roving over the rowdy patrons of the Pig's Foot and taking them in, looking for something entertaining to watch to pass the time.

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An Echo of Life

Postby Asterope on November 12th, 2019, 2:21 am

"You're petching nuts if you think I'm going in there," Alard swore, and Aster watched him sit back heavily in his chair out of the corner of her eye. Going in where? She eyed Alard curiously, then quickly averted her gaze back to her surroundings when he turned to look at her with a scowl.

Straining to listen, she could just barely make out the other man's response as their voices lowered again. "...wants someone to do it, and he suggested you specifically..."

Across the tavern, two men were having an arm wrestling competition, grunting and shouting; they'd drawn a decent crowd, and Aster watched as the two men struggled until one finally pushed his opponent's hand onto the table with such force there was an audible thud and crack. Aster winced as the loser howled in pain, prompting jeering and laughter.

That was a fractured bone, if not a broken one. What was it with people in Sunberth, that they enjoyed hurting each other so much for entertainment? Or was it humans in general, and she'd just been blind to it until now? Was it every race, and she just hadn't seen enough? The questions gnawed at her, and she jumped when Alard's hand suddenly fell heavily on her shoulder, jerking her from her thoughts.

"Come on," he said, voice brisk and gruff; his face was thunderous, mouth twisted into a scowl. Clearly, judging by his expression, he hadn't won the argument; Aster wondered he was being forced to go.

"We're going." His grip on her shoulder only tightened, and Aster rose to her feet uncertainly, stumbling forward as he steered her roughly by the shoulder towards the door; she bit her tongue on the automatic exclamation of indignation, instead frowning at the floor as she allowed Alard to push her out the front door of the Pig's Foot.

To her surprise, instead of heading back the way they had come, Alard lead her across the street towards the group of buildings on the other side, guiding her down a side street. Aster's nerves jumped automatically, but she swallowed hard; she was with Alard, so she was safe.

Safer than if she was alone, anyway. Rising from the center of the buildings around them ahead was an ancient dilapidated building; it was familiar. She'd come across it once before, in one of her dangerous and curiosity fueled solo outings within the city, but she hadn't had the courage to enter.

Still, if the way Alard was taking them was any indication, that's exactly where they were heading. Why was he taking her with him? "What is that place?" Aster ventured to ask after a moment, risking the question despite not being spoken to; there was nobody around, after all, and the desire to know was burning.

Alard shot her a look, clearly annoyed, but answered after a few moments. "The Temple of the Unknown. Probably the oldest building in the city. People say there's all kinds of treasure to be had in there, but the damn place is also cursed. It's not worth it."

Cursed? Aster opened her mouth to probe further, but the look Alard gave her silenced her, and neither of them spoke further until they arrived at the steps leading up to the building. Strangely, the same as the last time, Aster could feel...something coming from the building. A strange sense of calm, as out of place as the building itself within the heart of Sunberth. Alard, if anything, only seemed more antsy.

Aster had so many questions; what were they doing there? Why was he so nervous? Was the building really cursed? She had to physically bite her tongue to keep them from spilling out, her fingers fidgeting with the hem of her shirt as she waited for Alard to do or say something. Finally, with a grunt and a long, frustrated sigh, he did.

"Some petching idiot stole a shyke ton of gold from our sergeant, thought he could get away with it. Last people saw of him, he was holing himself up here, probably figured we'd be too busy pissing ourselves to go in here looking for him," Alard spat, shifting his weight uncomfortably. Aster wanted to ask if that was true, because Alard seemed nervous at the very least, but she didn't fancy being slapped.

"And someone thought it was a bright idea to send me to take care of the petching moron," he finished, having begun to pace. Aster nodded slowly, her brow furrowed. She still didn't understand why she was there, though.

"You," Alard said, as if reading her mind as he abruptly stopped and straightened up, "are here to be my lookout." Aster's eyebrows shot upwards, and she looked at him incredulously.

"Lookout?" She parroted, and he nodded, seeming satisfied with himself.

"Well, of course. I can't have him sneaking up behind me while I look around, and that petcher in the tavern was too much of a coward to come with me himself," Alard scoffed, and the sudden realization hit Aster like a particularly crushing wave from the sea. Alard was afraid.

She could have laughed; in fact, she wanted to, so badly. You're the coward here, she thought, and it was with bitter glee, a petty delight filling her to know that Alard was scared, and he was dragging her along because he didn't want to enter the temple alone.

Well. She didn't mind. She was more curious than scared, and if it would allow her to satiate that curiosity, then what did she care? Still biting her tongue to keep from laughing in his face, knowing how poorly that would go, Aster nodded again. It was a struggle to even keep a smirk off her mouth.

"Right, of course. That makes sense," she said instead, and Alard smirked, the picture of arrogance, like a cock preening its feathers. He's a cock alright, Aster thought, surprising even herself with the thought. She wasn't usually one for swearing or vulgarity, even in her mind, but damn it all if it wasn't true. He looked so prideful, as if he had come up with a brilliant idea, as if he was some sort of brave hero doing this of his own volition, rather than a scared man bringing along a slave as his backup.

"Of course it makes sense. Now, let's get going. Might as well get this over with," Alard huffed, then faltered as he turned to face the building. Swallowing hard, he nodded, flexing his fingers as his hand rested on the hilt of his longsword. "Right," he said, and clenching his jaw as if bracing himself, he marched up the steps.

Aster followed him into the temple, the doors creaking and then slamming shut with an ominously loud thud behind them, plunging them into darkness even in the late afternoon sunlight.

Word Count: 1,147
Total: 1,643
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Asterope
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An Echo of Life

Postby Asterope on November 12th, 2019, 3:01 am

Alard fumbled with something ahead of her, swearing under his breath. Finally, he pulled something out; as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Aster could barely make out his form. "Here, hold this," he grunted, thrusting his hand out towards her and dropping something into her grasp before she could even properly grab it.

Fumbling with it for a moment, Aster just barely managed to not drop the object, realizing it was a lantern. She frowned in the darkness; he could at least be a little more careful, if she had dropped that, they'd be out of luck for a light source. Not to mention she'd probably get blamed for it.

There was some more rustling as Alard leaned in to light the lantern, and Aster squinted at the sudden light as it was lit, casting bouncing shadows off the walls and highlighting Alard's face so close to her own. Blinking, she peered around as Alard took the lantern back from her. She could see streams of light trickling in further down the hall; some of the ground floor windows seemed to be boarded up or too filthy to let any light in, but others were either broken or somewhat cleaner, it seemed.

Still, the lantern was good to have. Alard raised his arm, shedding the light in a larger circle around them. Inside, that strange sense of calmness seemed even stronger; Aster could feel it washing over, and she wondered what it was. It didn't really bother her, truth be told, though it made her curious and alert to anything that seemed out of the ordinary. Alard, on the other hand, seemed to be getting more and more uncomfortable by the second.

"Let's get this over with," he muttered, starting off down the hall in the direction where there was more visible light shining in from outside. Well, Aster couldn't say she really blamed him for that. She followed behind him, peering around at the dusty walls and cobweb covered ceilings; the wooden walls were rotting away in most places, paint chipped and peeling to the point of nonexistence. The occasional bit of graffiti covered the walls, sometimes paint or ink but more commonly misspelled words and clumsy symbols carved by a blade of some sort.

Most of the doors that lined the halls were long since broken, hanging open on rusted hinges or laying on the floor leaving a completely empty doorframe. Alard shone the lantern into those rooms, scanning them briefly, before moving on. One door at the end of the hall, however, was shut.

Alard tried the doorknob, grunting when it didn't turn. He motioned with annoyance for Aster to stand back, handing her the lantern; she took it silently, raising it to light the area more clearly as Alard took a step back then lunged forward, slamming his shoulder against the wood. It creaked, the wood groaning and bending under Alard's weight, but it stayed put.

With a scowl and another grunt, Alard repeated the motion, stumbling with a surprised shout as the door suddenly splintered and gave way, flying forward off its hinges and hitting the ground with an echoing bang and a huge cloud of dust. Aster cringed at the sudden cacophony of loud noises that decimated the thick and rather peaceful silence of the temple, watching Alard stumble forward and just barely managing to right himself before he hit the floor.

Clearing his throat, he straightened up, brushing off his shirt as he looked around the room, holding his hand out for the lantern again. Aster rolled her eyes and silently handed it back to him, entering the room after him and coughing at the dust that still filled the air, slowly settling.

Word Count: 621
Total: 2,264
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An Echo of Life

Postby Asterope on November 19th, 2019, 5:53 pm

The room was relatively bare; anything useful from it had been taken long ago. It seemed to have been some sort of office, judging from the desk centered towards the back of the room, still littered with pieces of parchment that had long since molded or begun to crumble to dust. Alard swept the lantern around, scowling as he kicked through debris; the room was otherwise empty.

"Useless," Alard muttered, and Aster stepped back to let him push by her. She lingered in the room for a moment, peering around curiously, but backed out when Alard barked her name with one last glance over her shoulder.

There were stairways at the end of the hallway; the wooden ones that lead upwards were rotting and splintered in places, while a sturdier set of stone stairs lead downwards. Alard surveyed the two with pursed lips; the thick layer of dust coating both sets of steps seemed undisturbed, as if nobody had been there in years.

"I'm starting to think we're here on a wild petching goose chase," Alard muttered, drumming the fingers of his free hand on his thigh. He eyed the wooden staircase warily, but seemed to look at the stone stairs leading downwards with even more trepidation.

"Let's check upstairs first," he finally spoke, and Aster was somehow unsurprised. She was curious about the downstairs; the darkness seemed thick, and while it was nerve wracking, it almost seemed to call to her. She could almost feel a cool breeze stirring around her ankles.

Alard was already agonizingly slowly inching up the staircase; he tested the bottom step with his foot before putting any weight on it, standing close to the wall. "Try not to step in the center," he said over his shoulder. "There's less support there."

Aster nodded, watching him creep carefully up the stairs, giving him a headstart before she began to follow. The wood of the stairs creaked and groaned beneath her feet, but they made it up mostly unscathed; there was a moment where Aster's heart leaped from her chest into her throat as she stepped in the wrong spot, rotting wood splintering and giving way beneath her foot, but she managed to catch herself on the wall and keep going.

They both breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the top, glad that ordeal was over. But then again, they would have to get back down; not to mention, the temple seemed to span more than a mere two floors. Aster sincerely hoped they found the person that Alard was looking for on this floor; as curious as she was, she didn't want to traverse any more deathtrap stairs.

Alard lead the way down the hall; it didn't take long for them to find the first signs of life aside from themselves within the temple. Poking his head into a room, Alard pointed out the far corner; nestled between the wall and a ransacked dresser was a cot. "It looks pretty dusty, though," Aster pointed out. "Are you sure it's his?"

She flinched back slightly when he scowled at her. "I'm going to take a closer look. You go check the next room, this is taking too damn long, I don't want to spend all petching day in here. Gives me the creeps," Alard muttered, more to himself than to Aster as he moved into the room.

The temple was a little bit eerie, sure, but the air of calm that pervaded the space within its walls was soothing. Still, Aster didn't argue. The second floor was better lit than the first, less of the windows boarded up, but the dimness of the hallway was still disconcerting after the warm glow of the lantern. Giving her eyes a moment to adjust, Aster hurried down towards the next room.

It had double doors, one hanging off the hinges, the other laying on the floor, covered in a thick layer of dust; Aster stepped carefully over the door and into the room. It was larger than most of the other rooms they'd been in, and had a few benches scattered around. The window at the back was large and mostly broken, but some of the remaining shards of glass, coated in cobwebs as they were, looked to hold some tinge of colour.

A prayer room of some sort? The stained glass must have once been beautiful. Aster couldn't help but wonder to what god or goddess the room, if not the whole temple, was once dedicated to. Sweeping her gaze around, something in the back corner of the room caught her eye; something covered up by what seemed to be a blanket of some sort. Cautiously, Aster approached, the wooden floor creaking beneath her feet. The floors on the second floor at least seemed significantly more intact than the stairs had been, but the sound still made her pause and adjust her steps.

Word Count: 817
Total: 3,081
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Asterope
A light that never goes out
 
Posts: 505
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An Echo of Life

Postby Asterope on November 24th, 2019, 2:53 am

She held her breath, and the floor groaned softly beneath her as it settled, then was silent; a beat passed, then another, and the floor remained intact beneath her feet, with no sign that it was planning to give way. Releasing her breath, Aster continued forward, cautiously approaching the corner and the shrouded silhouette.

Reaching out, Aster cautiously caught a fold of the thick, dusty blanket between her fingers, and tugged it gently. It resisted at first, but another gentle yet firm tug sent it sliding to the floor. Aster squeaked in surprise at what it revealed as it pooled on the floor, taking a step back out of reflex.

The skeletal remains of a human sat curled up in the corner, legs tucked to its chest and arms curled around itself. The body was almost entirely bones; Aster couldn't say how long it might have been there, but certainly it was awhile. The clothes that drooped off the remains were tattered and moth-eaten, and its hollow, sunken holes for eyes stared forward with an empty gaze.

"There's nothing to be afraid of, you know."

The voice was soft and gentle, but so unexpected that Aster did scream, only barely managing to stifle the sound by slapping a hand over her mouth as she whipped around. Nobody was there.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. Down here." The voice came again, from the direction of the corpse, sounding very low down. Aster's gaze swung around the room once more before dropping, where she blinked, stunned, at the small statuette that stood between her and the corpse, her hand falling back to her side.

She opened her mouth, shocked and unsure what to say, and what came out was, "I wasn't afraid." She sounded defensive, and Aster cleared her throat, dropping into a crouch to better see the small figurine that was talking to her.

"You seemed afraid. It's okay if you were," came the gentle reply. Up close, Aster could see that the statue was of a woman, with long red hair and bright blue eyes, and a pair of curling horns extending from her head.

"I wasn't," Aster said, more firmly this time. "Dead people don't scare me. I just wasn't expecting there to be a body underneath there."

The answer seemed to satisfy the statue, because she nodded wisely, and finally Aster's brain caught up with her and she blurted out, incredulously, "You're a statue." Her cheeks reddened slightly then; for surely, she was speaking to a statue, and maybe she had gone insane but the figurine also seemed perfectly sentient, and was she being rude? She had no idea what the etiquette for this sort of situation was.

The statue let out a quiet, chiming laugh. "I am a statue. My name is Kihala, and I am the Goddess of Life." Aster's mouth opened and she stared, stunned, before the statue continued. "Well, not quite. I am her only in part. I was made a long, long time ago, and given part of her essence."

That was slightly less intimidating information, but still a lot to take in nonetheless; Aster nodded, but her head was spinning. A goddess? Well, not quite a goddess, but her image, and made with some of her power? The statue, Kihala, watched with a patient smile as Aster mulled over the information.

"What are you doing here?" Aster finally asked, glancing around the room again. A dusty room in an abandoned temple in the middle of Sunberth, keeping a corpse company, hardly seemed like a fitting place for the goddess of life; even for a mere imitation of her.

"This was my companion," Kihala said, looking over her shoulder to the corpse in the corner, her stone hair rippling gently. "He was very ill, and wished to die somewhere quiet and peaceful, and I would not abandon him in his last hours. But since then, I have been unable to leave, for truly I know not whom I could find who would welcome me in a city such as this. Besides, it is very peaceful here, and I do enjoy that. Though I admit I have missed the presence of living beings; even the mice and rats hardly dare to tread here, it seems."

Aster nodded; the building was almost eerily devoid of any signs of life; perhaps that was what made it feel so peaceful. "And what of you, child of Syna?" Kihala interrupted her thoughts with her gentle voice. "What are you doing here? Looting for treasure?" There was no reprimand in her voice, but the glint in her painted blue eyes told Aster that it could be given depending on her answer, though somehow she doubted it would be harsh.

"No. My...the man who owns me is here looking for someone who stole money from their gang." Aster, explained.

"Owns you?" A delicate frown curved the statue's mouth, and Kihala peered more closely at Aster, giving a sad click of her tongue. "Deplorable. These gangs and their politics. I'm sorry you have to endure that," Kihala sighed, and moved with surprising gracefulness for a stone statuette to reach up and press a small hand to the back of Aster's own.

The smooth stone palm of the statue was surprisingly warm, as if she was truly living flesh and blood. The touch seemed to drive reality home into Aster's mind again as she realized that she well and truly was not dreaming or hallucinating, and that the little statue of Kihala was real. Aster could only nod at the comforting words, still at a loss.

Word Count: 937
Total: 4,018
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An Echo of Life

Postby Asterope on November 24th, 2019, 3:36 am

Suddenly, Kihala smiled up at her. "Let me join you," she said. "I can be your companion. I can help you through the difficult times. And I can teach you more about Kihala. The real Kihala, not just myself."

Aster sat back on her heels, looking down at the statuette in surprise. "Me? Why me?" Surely there was someone better out there for the statue to accompany; but then again, it had clearly been a very long time since anybody at all had passed through here.

"Because I want to. I enjoy the peace here, but I'm tired of being surrounded by silence and death. It's not becoming of me, I don't think. And I like you." She smiled at Aster.

"You've just met me. You don't even know my name," Aster pointed out, but she found herself smiling back, something genuine as a warmth blossomed in her chest, a fondness and delight that she hadn't felt for some time spreading through her.

"Well, what's your name then?" Kihala prompted gently, and Aster suddenly felt very silly. It was rude of her to not have given it already, wasn't it?

"Asterope," she said, somewhat sheepishly. Something about the little statuette reminded her of a mother, and it was a strange feeling indeed to have from a tiny figurine.

"Well then, Asterope. Take me with you, please." It was a request and a demand all in one, gentle but firm. Motherly, indeed.

"You'll have to stay hidden most of the time," Aster warned her, even as she extended out a hand for Kihala to step onto her palm delicately; grasping her didn't feel right at all, so Aster held her hand up to her shoulder, where Kihala stepped onto it and sat primly, adjusting her stone skirts. "I'm not really supposed to have...things. And nobody here is fond of magic or anything like it. If Alard found you he'd have a fit and then probably try to smash you or something."

Aster frowned at the mere thought, her hand coming up to her shoulder protectively. Kihala laughed quietly in her ear. "Not to worry, dearest. We will be mindful."

We. The statue had only been in her company a scarce few chimes, and already Aster felt less alone. There was someone with her, someone on her side. It was comforting. Suddenly, the sound of footsteps sounded in the hall outside.

"Alard, is that him? Your slave master?" Kihala asked, the frown evident in her voice, and Aster nodded.

With a gentle and reassuring touch of her tiny hand to Aster's cheek, Kihala whispered, "You better put me away, then. I'll be quiet and still, don't you worry. Just like a statue," and the giggle that followed was quiet by audible. Aster nodded and reached up for her again, carefully depositing Kihala into a pocket in her cloak, and straightened up just as Alard came into view.

"What are you doing in there? Did you find anything?" He called, voice clearly irritated. Aster brushed her hands off on her pants, turning to face him.

"A body. It's old, though, mostly bones. I don't think it's who you're looking for. There's nothing on him," Aster spoke, crossing back over to the entrance of the room with one last glance back towards the bony corpse.

Alard grunted, stepping back to give her room as she stepped across the wooden door laying across the threshold. "Petch it all," he muttered, scowling. "I'm not going up any more of these damned stairs and breaking my neck over this idiot. We'll check the rest of this floor, and if he's not here we'll go back down and check the downstairs. If we can't find him after that, I'll just have to say he's moved on or wasn't here."

He continued to grumble to himself as he turned abruptly, leading Aster down the hall to check the rest of the rooms. Perhaps predictably, they found nothing; Alard was clearly not pleased as they approached the staircase again. Going down was slightly easier than coming up had been; Aster was already familiar with the process, and she could more clearly see which steps were rotting before she stepped on them.

They managed to make it back down to the ground floor without incident, both of them releasing held breaths when their feet were once again on mostly solid flooring. "Alright then," Alard grumbled. "Lower floor it is."

He didn't seem at all pleased as he approached the stone stairs leading down into darkness; a stale breeze seemed to drift up from the shadows, and perhaps it was just Aster's imagination, but as Alard slowly descended the first few steps, even the lantern seemed dimmer, as if its light was being swallowed up by the darkness surrounding it.

She swallowed, trepidation and excitement swimming in her stomach, and followed closely behind Alard, not wanting to lose any of the light from his lantern. Their steps echoed loudly on the stone as they descended into the darkness; Aster slipped a hand into her pocket almost without thinking, and felt a small squeeze on one of her fingers in reassurance as they finally reached the bottom of the staircase.

Word Count: 867
Total: 4,885
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Asterope
A light that never goes out
 
Posts: 505
Words: 516144
Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
Location: The Outpost (Sunberth)
Race: Ethaefal
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An Echo of Life

Postby Asterope on April 1st, 2020, 4:28 pm

Alard raised the lantern, sweeping it back and forth and squinting into the darkness. The air was thick with dust and silence in the basement, cold air trapped between stone walls. Muttering, Alard grabbed a torch off the wall. It took a few tries, but after a moment he was able to use the flame from the lantern to light the torch, which sputtered to life.

It wasn't as strong as the lantern, and the flames danced and flickered in a way that made Aster think they would go out at any second. He shoved the torch towards Asterope, motioning for her to take it. "Come on," he said, voice irritated as he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, but Aster already knew there was fear beneath it.

Silently, she took the torch, holding it up and following Alard as he began walking down the hallway in front of them, his heavy footsteps echoing around them, yet somehow muffled, as if the darkness was dampening the sounds they were making. The basement had less rooms; it seemed more full of twisting corridors than anything.

They came across an iron door, and Alard pushed it open with some effort, grunting. The rusted hinges creaked, the screech ear-splitting, causing Aster to cringe. Somewhere further down the hallway, she could have sworn she heard footsteps. Calling out to Alard, she moved towards the sound, torch raised in front of her. But when she looked behind her, Alard hadn't followed her, and she couldn't see anything that would have caused the noise.

Suddenly realizing that she had potentially chased after a rogue Sun's Birth member on her own, Aster backed up, turning to go the way she had come. She hadn't gone far, but already the dark stone hallways looked unfamiliar. Had she somehow taken a wrong turn?

Just as she was beginning to doubt herself and to consider turning back, Aster walked into a wall. She bounced off it as the breath rushed out of her, catching herself on the stone wall beside her and barely keeping from tripping over her own feet, managing to keep hold of her torch.

Staring ahead at where she had just walked into something, Aster was greeted with the darkness of a continuing hallway and...perhaps she was imaging it, but just a flicker of something, not quite light.

Frowning, Aster reached her free hand out, palm forward, and took slow steps down the hall. She shuffled along a few steps before her palm suddenly made contact with something solid, and the air seemed to ripple slightly with the faintest sheen of iridescence. Aster pushed harder with her palm against what looked like thin air, and the passage in front of her rippled again, a full square of colour that blocked off the entire hallway shimmering into view for a brief moment.

What was going on? Glancing around, Aster still saw no sign of Alard, so she slipped her hand into her pocket. "Kihala," she murmured. "Do you have any idea what this is?" She felt the little statuette step into her hand, and carefully withdrew the tiny not quite goddess from her pocket.

"What is it?" Kihala asked, blinking as she adjusted to the dim light of the torch, looking around.

"This," Aster said; depositing the statue onto her shoulder again, Aster pressed her palm against the invisible barrier, watching it shimmer faintly. Kihala made a quiet noise of understanding.

"It's a shield. Here, let me." Kihala carefully slipped down off of Asterope's shoulder, along her arm and to her outstretched hand, and reached out to touch the barrier herself. It shimmered again as her stone fingers touched it. "Interesting," she murmured to herself.

"What's a shield?" Aster asked, frowning.

"Shielding is a type of magic," Kihala explained, as she maneuvered back up to the Eth's shoulder. "It's used to keep certain things out. Whatever the caster wants, really, as long as they have the right materials. This seems to be keeping anything alive out, since it won't even let me through. Or maybe it's more specific. You can do layers too."

Aster stared at the now empty space in front of her where the shield had been shimmering before. "Magic?" She repeated, startled. In Sunberth? She'd never really been exposed to much magic up close and personal before, barring the few encounters she'd had with malediction.

Shielding; keeping things out, protecting things. That was interesting. And undoubtedly useful. Aster wondered why the shield was here, and why it was keeping out seemingly everybody. What was it hiding? What secrets was it protecting?

Kihala nodded. "I know a little bit of it myself, but not much," the statuette admitted, and Aster glanced down at her.

"Really?" She asked, surprised, and Kihala nodded. The next words out of Aster's mouth were eager and curious, blurted without thought. "Could you teach me?"

It was Kihala's turn to look surprised. "I suppose I could try. I don't know much, but it's not overly difficult once you get the basic concept down. Of course, now probably isn't the best time," she pointed out, gently. "Just...in general. But yes, if you want to learn and can find a safe time to do so, I'd be happy to teach you."

Aster nodded, staring at where the invisible shield was. "Thank you," she said, but before she could say anything else, she heard muffled yelling and the sounds of a scuffle from the way she'd come.

Hastily but carefully returning Kihala to her pocket, she broke into a jog, going back down the hallway she'd just come down; she was cautious of running too fast, not wanting the flame of her torch to sputter out. It didn't take her long to find the source of the noise.

Alard was wrestling with another man; the lantern lay discarded a few feet away, miraculously not broken, but the light gone out. Aster stood, her dim torch casting flickering light on the scene, and watched; it wasn't like she could do anything even if she wanted to.

The other man must have gotten the drop on Alard, because his weapon wasn't drawn. The two struggled, tussling on the floor, and Alard managed to knock the other man's head against the wall hard. He did it again, then again, making Aster cringe, and the other man slumped to the floor, blood smeared across his forehead. Alard hauled himself to his feet, panting.

"Is he...?" Aster asked, carefully stepping closer.

"Petch if I know," Alard muttered, wincing as he bent to pick up his lantern. He already had a bruise forming on his cheek; blood trickled from his nose, and he was rubbing the back of his head. Aster turned, crouching by the limp form of the other man, and pressed two fingers against his neck, leaning in to listen for breathing.

The faintest whisper of breath ghosted across her face, and she wrinkled her nose at the smell, just as her fingers found a faint pulse as well. "He's alive," she said, standing up and handing Alard her torch as he reached for it, using it to relight his lantern.

Alard grunted. "Shame," he muttered. Blowing out the torch, he handed the lantern off to Aster as he searched around for something before coming up with a length of rope. He bound the unconscious man's wrists behind his back, tearing a piece of cloth off the man's shirt and stuffing it into his mouth before grunting as he dragged the prone form up and over his shoulder.

"Petchin' shyke, he's heavy," Alard grunted, staggering a few steps forward. "C'mon, hurry up. Let's get out of here, I don't want to carry this idiot longer than I have to."

Slipping past Alard, Aster held the lantern up and lead the way back towards the stairs; at least, she thought it was back towards the stairs. There were a few wrong turns, but eventually they made it, making their way back up to the first floor and towards the front doors of the temple.

Alard let out a loud breath when they finally stepped outside, and Aster blew out the lantern. "Finally," he muttered, shuddering as he glanced back over his free shoulder. "Better be petchin' worth all the trouble," he muttered to himself, and they began the walk back to the barracks; Aster cast one last lingering look to the temple herself before following, reaching her hand into her pocket and feeling the reassuring gentle touch of a tiny, warm stone hand.
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The sun will rise, and we will try again
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Asterope
A light that never goes out
 
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Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
Location: The Outpost (Sunberth)
Race: Ethaefal
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