Completed Water of the Womb

Thread 1 of the Gratitude Challenge

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Syka is a new settlement of primarily humans on the east coast of Falyndar opposite of Riverfall on The Suvan Sea. [Syka Codex]

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Water of the Womb

Postby Ines on November 27th, 2019, 6:28 am


Fall 33rd 519AV


Ines had always been drawn to Indigo, but rarely did they have time to speak. Her demeanor and voice were familiar comforts to the Kelvic, and not many else could speak Myrian. The few times they did interact, the witch learned that she had lived in the Maw long before the settlement, and from then on she knew that this half-blooded Myrian would be the best teacher to learn the lay of the land and the denizens within it.

Her devotion to the Ashta, elephants reminiscent of the Tskanna whose cycle of life and death were the originator of her Phylonura mark, felt lacking. Not to the Ashta, but to the Goddess herself. Strange machinations and fogs of wild djed were plaguing the region. Ines was here and, without outside help, was unable to venture far enough into the tropical forest to do anything about it, whether to learn, analyze, or uproot whatever strange forces lied in the tangled vines beyond the line where jungle met the sand. She had to learn what was going wrong so that she could cut off the corruption at its source, and for that, she needed to learn how to survive on her own. She had approached Indigo with this request, though it took some time to realize that the gilded, six-armed woman was the Myrian she sought. To be fair, Ines's own form was now much taller and much more purple. Adeliz recognized her first, after comparing Ines's memories and looking at the shape of her face and style of hair rather than a normal Indigo in this time of abnormal.

Indigo packed lightly but efficiently. Tents weren't useful in the jungle as they were on the beach, but a bedroll and tarp had their uses. Ines brought her hammock, whistle, and bundles of tinder, too, as well as several pouches of Myrian salts. The witch also brought her machete, just as Indigo brought her machete and her bow. The half-blood insisted they didn't need much else, as the land would provide plentiful shelter and food. Ines knew this to be true. Anyone raised in the jungle knew that it was Caiyha's land, more so than anywhere else. The bat thought of Caiyha as her mother more than anyone else, Myri and her true birth mother trailing behind. Like any mother, Caiyha rewarded and punished her children as she saw fit.

As the duo, (or trio, really), ventured into the jungle, they were immediately suffused with the life of it. The witch was not well-traveled in the slightest, but she couldn't imagine there was anywhere else in Mizahar that contained the multitudes of vibrancy that Falyndar had. Ines had never been out of shape, her life-long work made sure of it, but the feeling of the tropics took her breath away. Adeliz, too, never got enough of the first half-bell after crossing the threshold from the open, breezy beaches and into the sheer, immediate density of the rainforest.

Indigo tapped Ines with one of her free arms to get her attention, drawing her from her lost thoughts. "Do you see where we're going?" She asked the question not for her benefit. She hadn't been paying attention to their route, but that wasn't what the half-Myrian was asking about, either. The bat focused on their surroundings, now with purpose. Adeliz, like a whisper in her ear, pointed out the trail of disturbed plants and muddy footprints.

"We're following the game trail." She replied. Indigo nodded, crouching down near a set of paw prints, freshly pressed into the earth. The one paw was the size of her hand. "Do you know what animal left this?" The ranger asked, another test. Just one print was comprised of five parts - four fingerpads and one paw pad. The paw pad was heart-shaped, though smushed and organic-looking. The toes arched around the paw, the second one sticking furthest out. Without the presence of the points of the claw points, the witch could only assume it was a cat. The print was much different than the ones left by Myrian tigers around Taloba. Tiger prints were more symmetrical than these.

"Big cat paw, but not a tiger." Ines said. They both stood up, Indigo leading them along the game trail. She had an interesting advantage in the jungle with her transformation because she could both cut their way with the machete, hold the bow, and still have multiple hands free for carrying and gesturing. Her control over the six arms was fluid and natural, evidence that she time practicing. The half-blood didn't want to waste the use of four extra limbs.

"It's a leopard. Hiding, somewhere. Maybe even watching us from the trees. He is camouflaged too well for me to find out." She stopped to sit on the massive root of a tree ancient enough to reach the canopy, and the bat joined her. They alternated one of their waterskins between them, sipping on the water to replace that which had been lost in sweat. It had been nearly two bells, and they covered only a mile. The humidity made it seem like three.
Last edited by Ines on December 2nd, 2019, 3:37 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Water of the Womb

Postby Ines on November 27th, 2019, 6:31 am

wc: 660


They resumed the trip, the game trail joining into a just slightly larger path. This new path was much more downhill than the previous one, too, but it was still more convenient than the tiny, near indistinguishable path they had been following before. Indigo commented that this one had likely been created by capybaras or tapirs, while the previous seemed to be unsued and growing back in.

Small monkeys, parrots, and even butterflies had started clustering near the pair since they had come deeper into the jungle. Ever curious about witches in their domain, their chattering, chirps, and fantastical colors only served to make thick forest around them overflow with life. Ines glanced between the animals they passed as she kept her bearing on their surroundings, and when she did meet their eyes, she could see that they were as curious of her as she was of them.

They came up to a stream, careening around the underbrush. The game trail ended here, too, but Indigo began leading them up the stream. "It likely begins in the flooding Syka river, but with any luck, we'll come across something better," said Indigo.

They went downstream, using the water as their road. It was also downhill, but now it was slippery, and they had to move more slowly to avoid falling. Ines thought that it was still faster than traversing the understory face on. It was also beginning to get dark. The dense foliage made Syna's reign seem much shorter than usual. Indigo kept them going down the stream until she found a suitable spot to set up their hammocks. The criteria for a "suitable spot" was less about what was on the ground, and more about the strength and size of the trees, especially since the spot she had found was steep. Any hammock that came loose would end up with a long tumble instead of a long sleep. Indigo pushed and leaned on the trees to make sure that there were no hidden weaknesses, while Ines asked them for permission.

The first tree was tall, topped with broad, tiered leaves because despite its size it still did not reach the canopy. The witch touched the tree, feeling the whorls and ridges and soft moss, and asked for its assistance. It was granted, but it, in turn, warned her of the fire ant colony that lived next to the stream inside of a large, rotting stump. She gave the tree thanks and moved to ask the next tree in the copse. It was shorter, fatter, home to a wayward strangler fig that crawled up its trunk in hopes of reaching the sunlight. Ines again asked the tree for permission to hang their beds. Even in Nura, it felt as if it were gasping for air - so tightly did the vines wrap around it - but it insisted that it would allow the hammocks. Just for the night. The third tree had a slightly rough texture, and in spots, the outer bark was stripped away. From those came the subtle, spicy smell of cinnamon. This tree granted permission, too, and seemed exceptionally proud of its stability.

"There are fire ants near the stream, in that big stump." Ines pointed out the short ways off where the nest was purported to lie. "If we just avoid that, we should be fine."

Indigo chuckled. "Did the trees tell you that? What a gift you have." She pulled the two hammocks from her pack and began tying them up. The woman was able to tie up the start of both hammocks to the tall tree at the same time, and Ines was still in awe of how useful all those arms could be. The bat tied her hammock onto the cinnamon tree, and Indigo took the other. Next out of the bag were two tarps, meant to hang at opposing angles to keep the frequent rainfall from hitting them as they slept.
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Water of the Womb

Postby Ines on November 27th, 2019, 6:34 am

wc: 621


The witch was not an adept climber, but she was able to climb and stay a few feet up and assist Indigo as she tied the tarps. Her new, temporary body was much stronger and much better suited to hiking in the jungle, just as Indigo's was. Her small, Kelvic body had many of its own advantages in the climate, but being naturally stronger had its benefits, too.

With the nightfall came many bugs, too, and by now they had sweated off most of the insect repellent. Indigo took out the waterproof jar and smudged the balm inside around her body, including the wrists and elbows of every one of her arms, her neck and behind the ears. She even pulled her pants out of her boots and applied ointment to her knees and upper calf. "You don't need to put the balm on your whole body, just the places that the biting insects love. Bug repellant won't save you from fire ants, but it can save you from mosquitos." She passed the jar to the witch, who mimicked the other woman's method, smearing the balm on and massaging it into her exposed fleshy bits.

It was too dark now to do much else than rest. Another comfort that her new body brought, alongside constant companionship and bigger muscles, was a special set of eyelids that let her see infravision. She had infravision as a vampire bat, but that was not through her eyes as it was through sensitive parts of her nose. She could see the form of Indigo in the hammock nearby, much brighter in comparison to the rest of the jungle. The witch felt so comfortable here, comfortable in the danger and closeness, comfortable in the hot, wet, and loud.

"You know what it's like to not belong, don't you?" The kelvic asked, her voice barely loud enough to reach over the sounds of the night-time insects. Indigo still heard, and she laughed, hard enough to snort.

"Ines. Except for this very season, for all of my 19 years, I have been a half-breed between two races who kill each other on sight. I have never belonged." She paused. "But tell me, why are you asking this? What's on your mind?"

Ines was quiet for nearly a chime. "I'm wondering if I ever really belonged, with my family. You know, I was born in the Ivory Tusk clan. My mother was an elephant. She towered over everyone, and she commanded so much attention and respect because she could speak to our charges. She was celebrated, and everyone hoped for someone just like her. But I was born. I was small, and I was a pest. Vampire bats can make people and animals sick. Their bites can lead to infections. After my family saw me shift, they asked my mother what she had done to be cursed with me." Not that she could have chosen what her daughter was born as, any more than Ines chose to transform into an Akalak. "I grew up too quickly to befriend any of the other Myrians. There wasn't a lot of Kelvics in my clan, either. I'm only three years old, and I spent most of it taking care of the ashta and tskannas. In the middle of the night, I've seen vampire bats feed in groups on the same tskanna. And I thought, why wasn't I one of them? Why have I had a family that does not like me? Maybe they like it when I look like a person, but they never liked when I shifted, and when I had urges to feed. I wished I could be like the other bats and not have to worry about these things."
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Water of the Womb

Postby Ines on November 27th, 2019, 6:35 am

wc: 496


Indigo exhaled, rolling over in her hammock to face Ines. "Neither of us belonged there. But we belong here. Caiyha marked you for a reason. Not your mother, not the others in your clan. A family does not have to be by blood. Sometimes the bonds we purposefully forge with each other are the strongest."

"She could've marked anyone else." Ines sniffled, her face wet with tears and her voice straining in an attempt to hide her crying.

"What do you mean?" asked Indigo. Ines could hear the strain in her voice, too.

"When a tskanna is pregnant, and near to giving birth, she often likes to travel into a secluded area. She likes her privacy. You know what a tskanna looks like - they're the biggest animals in Falyndar. But still, my clan is tasked with protecting them, and so a contingent of us will follow her. The first time I was allowed to travel with them, to travel with her, she went much farther than any of them before. We crossed the entirety of the jungle, from Taloba to the grave of giants. Where they go to die." Another sniffle came as the kelvic tried to maintain her composure. She could still relive the night before she was marked in perfect clarity. "The whole time, I knew what was going to happen. I didn't trust myself. But I knew. Someone was going to die. That's why they go to the grave."

"Did the tskanna die?" asked Indigo, her curiosity piqued.

"The night we arrived in the graveyard, she traveled from our camp. It is safe and flat there, and we could see her, and we let her go. But something was wrong, I could feel it, and I went out to see her. I thought that she looked like she needed comfort or something. She gave birth to twins that night. I could see that one of them was too small, with legs twisted the wrong way, and she decided he had to die. She killed him and then fed the surviving calf only feet away. All of this was done in a field surrounded by the bones of their own ancestors. I fell asleep in the grass, and in the morning I met Caiyha." There was no use in hiding her tears - the bat was sobbing.

"This was not an accident. Caiyha did not happen upon you - she chose you. Can't you see? She pulled you there, she tested you, and you passed." said Indigo. Indigo was not Caiyha, and Ines wondered if she even knew what she was talking about.

"Why? Why did she choose to push me even further from my family?"
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Water of the Womb

Postby Ines on November 27th, 2019, 6:36 am

wc: 336


"She didn't push you away from your family, Ines. She gifted you with a new one. Not many get a gift like this. She not only gifted you a family, but she also gifted you the power to protect it." Indigo reached one arm over to Ines and clasped the witch's hand in her own. "This family is as deadly as she is beautiful. She is your charge, and she respects you. The leopard in the trees might see me as a threat, a toy, or even his next meal. But you? He sees you as his sister, his protector. We can never know why a goddess does something, but to me, this is clear. You needed a family, and Caiyha provided." She squeezed the witch's hand. "From the insects to the elephants, and from the trees that top the canopies to the moss that grows on its trunk - they love you. You will never be alone. The jungle would never let you be alone. Your family is all around you! The mosquitos are your cousins now. The sawmill ashta are your children. Caiyha is your mother. And Adeliz, however long she lasts with you, is your sister."

Ines knew that she was speaking from her heart, but she was scared of believing her. The bat had always been self-assured, even when no one else understood her. She had managed to be her own best friend, even when she so deeply desired a connection with anyone. She had the biggest connection one could ever find - with the living world around her - and she was still unsatisfied. Since she had transformed into an Akalak the haunting pain left by her lack of a bondmate had lessened, but she almost feared to return back to her normal form. The idea of losing Adeliz was too much to bear.

"You're part of my family, too." She whispered after a long time lost in thought, but Indigo's hand had gone limp and the bat knew she was already asleep.

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Water of the Womb

Postby Ines on December 3rd, 2019, 8:36 am

Ines
Experience
Skill XP Earned
Climbing 1
Endurance 1
Land Navigation 2
Observation 4
Philosophy 2
Rhetoric 2
Socialization 3
Wilderness Survival 4
Lores
Lore Earned
Wilderness Survival - Spotting a Game Trail
Wilderness Survival - Identifying a Tiger Print
Wilderness Survival - Identifying a Leopard Print
Wilderness Survival - Hanging Tarps at Opposing Angles to Protect From Rain
Wilderness Survival - Applying Insect Repellent
Phylonura - Asking Trees for Permission for Use
Phylonura - Asking Trees About Nearby Hazards
Land Navigation - Following a Game Trail
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Ines
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Posts: 194
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