Closed Intersection (Baelin)

Kelski goes to find food while waiting for news of her brother.

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Intersection (Baelin)

Postby Kelski on January 19th, 2020, 11:30 pm

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Kelski remained aware of where Baelin was looking, what was drawing his attention, and what seemed to be in the realm of his interests. “Pretty aren’t they? I have no idea how they make some of this pottery.” Kelski absently commented and slowed, giving Baelin a chance to look around at the pottery. “I think this whole bazaar is filled with Masters or at least people close to it.” She checked her map along with the numbers on it and a circled spot that seemed to be indicating where her ‘lot’ might be. It was the same map the man at the dovecote handed everyone… a simple parchment of reed rolled after having been silkscreened with a basic inked map of The Outpost. Kelski’s was already worn, as if she’d unrolled and rolled it up a million times in her recent wanderings.

They walked together, in the general direction of the lot, until Baelin spoke. Kelski locked her heels in and stopped then, turning to study him. It wasn’t an interruption if the crowd, for many people milled around shopping, and others wove through the shoppers in a general migratory manner, on missions for the acquisition of specific goods or services.

She watched his face for a moment, trying to read what he was actually saying. “So, you don’t actually know if he hurt her or they loved each other?” Kelski said, her question was a simple one. “Because, no, one isn’t a good thing, but the other is beautiful and precious. And if you sprung from such a love, then you should count yourself lucky because odds are they wanted and needed you.” She said simply, resuming her walk and glancing at him occasionally, as if trying to understand him better. “Maybe as a Kelvic, I can’t understand. But I’ve honestly never cared much for what blood flows through what veins. I’ve seen pure humans that had less value than steaming dung in the street. And I have a lot of friends that have mixed blood that I wouldn’t trade a hundred purebreds for. I also know Dhani… really good men. I know Dhani that would lay down their lives for their friends and those they hold dear. I have close friends who are thus and I’d take an arrow for them and have.” Kelski admitted. “They are wonderful people, strong and proud, who have had to deal with a lot of shit because of Myrians and Humans… when all they really want is what the rest of us want. A life of freedom and happiness earned through hard work.” Kelski said, looking thoughtful.

“Stupid humans force us all into carefully labeled boxes. You are this or you are that. It’s all steaming dung in the street, Baelin. We are all individuals and beautiful in our uniqueness. The Svefra hated me because I have silver eyes. Humans hate me because I don’t look human enough. I don’t want to fit in with either of them. I don’t respect them. I’d rather define my own worth by my actions than let them cast doubt upon my value because I don’t fit their ideas of normal. So, what if I like to grow talons and feathers and don’t mind snacking on their eyes? I find them boring, dull, and without a single glimmer of anything that makes them unique.” She added, then glanced at him one more time.

“Your eyes are beautiful, by the way. I wouldn’t have given you the time of day if you would have had normal eyes. I don’t much care for human men. But that you have other blood in you, Dhani blood it seems, is a redeeming quality to me… though my opinion shouldn’t mean anything to you. Only your opinion should count.” Kelski added, unrolling her map to glance at it one more time. Then she gestured down a side row and they altered direction a bit, following the map once more. Baelin paused at another display of pottery, checking out an ornate cup. She noted his twitch, how he wanted to scratch, and tilted her head wanting to ask him about it. Instead, she started with something far safer as she started walking again.

“What kinds of things do you know how to make as a blacksmith? What drew you to the profession?” She added, then almost forgot she had promised him a tidbit about herself in exchange for one about him. “I’m a Sea Eagle Kelvic. I love nothing more than the ocean, hunting fat salmon, and living in the fringe between the sea and the land. I think there’s nothing better in the world than a pair of wings, but again I’m wholly biased.” She said, offering him a grin. “There’s your tidbit. Now answer me about your work. I’m curious. I know a bit of metalsmithing myself, but only fine stuff… in regards to jewelry.” She added, watching him thoughtfully.

The Kelvic lead him onward. They were getting really close to the wall now and once they hit it, Kelski stopped at a row of shops looking for numbers or anything she could relate to in terms of what the lot was the Bazaar Master had said was up for lease or sale. Finally, after pacing back and forth between a few shops, she found small stone bricks above each shop with a number on it. Reading the numbers, she smiled confidently and turned northward along the western wall, counting out numbers until they reached an empty storefront with an elegantly carved wooden door. She tried the door, found it unlocked and pushed it open to walk into the vacant space. It was bigger than the man had said. She’d guessed about eight hundred square feet. There were counters already in place, lovely large windows, and a back room area that looked to have a restroom, a place to take a break, and a door that opened into a courtyard that had Riads entrances off it. The shop also had a vault, which was important to Kelski and she prowled the space with interest, looking into cupboards and under displays, seeing what was really there and what was for sale.

“They will charge a miza a square foot, so I was hoping for something smaller, but these wall shops are hard to come by.” She added, looking at Baelin. “What do you think?” She added, wanting his honest opinion. The shop had no forge so she could not work Jewelcrafting here… but she had a nice one at home already. “Would you like to see the Riad he told me about too? Its behind the shop with the entrance in that courtyard… all the Riads are built into the walls. They are like… I don’t know how to equate them… townhouses mainly? I don’t think Sunberth has townhouses… but Syliras does though I haven’t been there to see what they are like.

Kelski wanted another tidbit from Baelin. If she was going to go swimming with him, she wanted to know more about him. “What is your favorite color?” She asked abruptly, curious. “I don’t have one. I love all colors. I think I fall in love with a new color every day. I love silver though. It is my favorite metal.” Kelski added, offering him one in return.

If Baelin was ready, she’d seen enough. The shop was well located and it would add tremendously to her sales. She just needed to rent it, figure out who wanted to stay a great deal of time at The Outpost, and then find a place for them to live unless they wanted to come home each night after they locked up. A Riad was good to have if she could get one. It would provide a bolt hole for the entirety of The Meraki and some place to escape the Empyreal Demesne if there was ever a need to do so.

“Want to go see the Riad?” She asked quietly, checking her map again. On the back, someone had sketched a quick route from the shop to the Riad that was available that the person she talked to thought she might be interested in. Kelski waited for Baelin to answer her. After they toured the Riad, she’d see about finding the bath and taking a swim.
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They laugh at me because I am different.
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Intersection (Baelin)

Postby Baelin Holt on January 26th, 2020, 12:14 am

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Loved each other? Baelin sneered at the idea; he couldn’t even imagine it. Wanted and needed him? Baelin would laugh if he wasn’t so bitter about just how untrue that was. While what Kelski said was kind and beautiful, Baelin knew she had to be wrong. But he held his tongue. She resumed walking, and Baelin trailed a half-step behind.

Kelski spoke of humans with less value than “steaming dung in the street,” and―even with the bitterness still thick―Baelin couldn’t help but smirk. And sure, what you did with Kihala’s gift was what determined the kind of person you were. But Baelin couldn’t imagine a Dhani doing anything good. The snakes had no redeemable qualities. They were all a bunch of―really good men!? Baelin’s steps faltered for a moment before he recovered.

Kelski knew some Dhani men, and she apparently thought that they were just swell. Baelin sneered. As far as he was concerned, the snakes were all a bunch of sadistic monsters. Lay down their lives for those they held dear? Was that even possible?

She kept going―blaming Myrians and Humans for the hardships Dhani experienced―and Baelin gritted his teeth. His whole life, he’d understood all the worst of him to be Dhani. And to even imagine that Dhani wasn’t rotten to its core… Baelin couldn’t do it.

A small voice in the back of his head suggested that his premise might be wrong, but Baelin brushed the thought aside. He couldn’t be wrong. Not about this.

Baelin kept his thoughts to himself―there was no sense in arguing. He was bad at arguing. And Kelski’s discussion slipped into her own difficulties with humans pigeonholing her for her aberrant looks. Baelin’s blunt fury ebbed, empathy replacing it.

So what if I grow talons and feathers? Baelin inhaled―sharp and quick―when he realized what that must mean. Kelski could soar. Her wings stretched, wind streaming under them... Not just something imagined, but real. Longing surged within him, pulling forth the image of a bird soaring through the mist of Black Rock, wings almost ethereal. Baelin softened, sinking into the calm memory.

And then was knocked right out of it with her next words: Your eyes are beautiful, by the way. His flinch was instant and ingrained. But then Kelski went on, and Baelin realized with bewilderment that she meant it. He twisted to get a good look at her, trying to find the deception. But he couldn’t. How anyone could find his petched up eyes beautiful… If only his opinion should count, then her own opinion would be blatantly wrong.

Baelin gave a jerky shake of his head. But she moved the conversation along and asked about what he made as a blacksmith. About what drew him to the craft. Baelin sucked in a deep breath, grateful for the out.

“In Sssylirasss”―he powered through the necessary sibilance best he could―“I did armor.” Baelin inhaled slowly, chewed on his next words, then said, “Now, I work more with the knife and dagger.” Some of which he would get to forge from scratch, and plenty more of which were brought in as scavenged blades, ready to be refurbished and resold. No one could fault the Knight’s Armory of wasting steel. And how he got into blacksmithing? Baelin smiled, small and soft. “My uncle taught me,” he said quietly, “I grew up with it.”

Surprising him again, Kelski told him she was a sea eagle. She wasn’t just any bird, but one that soared above the sea. It was almost painful how badly he wished to genuinely know what that felt like. Nothing better in the world than a pair of wings. He could only imagine, and his imagination was undoubtedly paltry in comparison.

When she asked for more, Baelin started to say, “Black―” And then he ground to a halt and frowned, unsure how to actually finish that thought. Switching gears, Baelin tried to tell her something specific. “I liked making armor. The part at the end, when you sssmooth it out? I liked that. Relaxing.” You could lose yourself in the tedium of planishing. Gentle strike after gentle strike, all done with the single purpose of trying to make the nearly finished armor’s surface as smooth as possible. “Like a reward at the end.”

But the demand for steel armor in Sunberth was significantly less than it had been in Syliras. Baelin supposed he should have expected that; there was no Knighthood here, after all. But still. He missed it. And since everyone he worked with were all better armorers than Baelin himself was, whatever demand they did get at the Knight’s Armory was handled by Karos and Lawrence. Baelin sighed, fully recognizing that he wouldn’t get a chance to work on it again. Not unless he opened his own shop.

“I want to have my own forge one day,” he admitted. Then winced. He was fully aware that he knew next to nothing about running a business. If he was particularly clever, he might ask the business owner walking next to him for advice. But Baelin couldn’t even begin to think of what he should ask.

Kelski periodically checked her map as they walked, and Baelin couldn’t help but wonder where the petch she’d gotten it. Was that something he could have found right at the dovecote’s entrance? Baelin supposed he would never know. He’d been so focused on seeming like he knew where he was and that he belonged there, that Baelin would have never thought to stop and ask.

Despite her map, they reached a section where even she seemed confused. Pacing between a row of shops, Kelski referred back to her map, up to the shops, back down to the map, again to the shops. Moving once again with confidence, Kelski counted her way to a specific, empty shop. Baelin watched her as she stepped up to the door, and figured that this had to be the place she’d talked about earlier. The location where she hoped to expand her jewelry business.

Kelski pushed the door open and disappeared inside. Baelin hesitated, but shook off his momentary misgivings and followed her in.

Inside, the space stretched out before them. Elegant and well designed, Baelin could only marvel at how nice it was. Well-lit, welcoming, and spacious. Baelin could imagine it with people milling about inside, stopping as they perused the jewelry, and Kelski’s presence as warm and inviting to them as it’d been to Baelin.

A miza a square foot, she explained. Baelin tried not to wince; it was likely worth the cost. And he told her as much. “It will be good here, I think.” He jerked his chin in the direction of the door, back to where people were still passing by outside, “Lot of traffic.” And with a sweep of his hand, he added, “And here could be inviting.” When she asked if he wanted to see the Riad, he cocked his head. Townhouses? Baelin shrugged. Honestly, she didn’t even have to ask at this point. Following her around like some kind of overgrown duckling had so far proven to be a far better plan than anything else he could think of. Baelin pulled his shoulders back again, reminding himself that he could at least look useful.

What’s your favorite color, she asked. Baelin frowned, initially thinking she was talking about the place’s color palette. But then she went on to say she loved all colors, with a special fondness for silver.

Baelin frowned in thought, not sure if he even had a favorite color. Whereas Kelski didn’t because she loved so many, Baelin was on the opposite end: he tended to feel uncomfortable in places that were exploding with color. He always felt out of place. Like a dark stain on something brilliant and full of life. He was tempted to say silver as well; a steel piece right after it’d been polished was one of his favorite things. But…no, he did have a color he loved seeing, didn’t he? “When iron iss hot enough to work with, that…dull red?” Baelin nodded to himself, pleased with his answer. Yes, that was it. The first stages of cherry red, right when the steel became more malleable. That was a color he enjoyed working with.

Kelski asked again if he wanted to see the Riad, and this time he nodded. No vague shrugging; he could communicate, after all. Mostly. Baelin made to exit the shop before he remembered that he had no idea where anything was. He glanced back to Kelski, and down to her map. He was going to have to get himself one of those.

Considering how well she’d been carrying the weight of their conversation, Baelin felt obligated to try and ask…something. Anything. Baelin frowned, milling through the different things he could ask and rejecting them all for being too nosy. In the end, he asked the only thing he thought he could. “Why jewelry?”

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Baelin Holt
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Intersection (Baelin)

Postby Kelski on February 6th, 2020, 2:08 am

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Time with Baelin wasn’t… easy. Kelski couldn’t have made a definitive answer as to why or why not, but he made things… extra hard for some reason. He wasn’t comfortable in the crowds, that much was for sure, and he was even skeptical of the things she said. She could see it clearly, the denial in his eyes when she spoke of half his heritage and in his reaction of almost anger when she complimented his eyes. As she walked and talked, she’d suddenly had enough.

Enough.

Turning, she shoved him up against a wall… not forcefully, but firmly. Getting his full attention, even though the size difference between them was laughable with him being far larger. Kelski was pure muscle, though her move wasn’t something he couldn’t have countered easily. “You are being incredibly stupid if someone tells you something – from their experiences – and you refuse to believe it. I know Dhani. I am good friends with Dhani. And they are good males. They are proud, fierce, strong, and have endured terrible hardships at the hands of Humans and Myrians. I can see your expression… you disbelieve. But I see your distaste and you are wrong. You are so wrong, Baelin. That strength you enjoy? That’s from the Dhani. Those sharp senses you probably don’t even realize you have you get from them. They taste everything so incredibly well. I bet you don’t even realize you can sip a drink and with a single drop of that drink’s liquid probably tell if its poison or if its ingredients had gone bad before it was brewed. Your Dhani heritage is something to be proud of. Their young so very often don’t survive… and they are often killed. And then there is the saltwater Dhani… solitary, but utter survivors. They are called Iyvess. They’ve been hiding forever, even from their own people until they are just legend. I know one of those too. He jumped into a battle with really bad odds to save a stranger just because that stranger was someone I wanted to care about.” Kelski said, shaking her head and carefully stepping back giving him room.

She released him then, kept walking, and gave Baelin the choice to keep following or not…. with only a side-long glance as if to try and catch the emotion on his face. Then she began to speak again, slowly at first, as if what just happened hadn’t happened. There was something about her now, something that wasn’t perhaps obvious before. Her mannerisms were inhuman – completely and utterly – that of an apex predator… and while she wasn’t treating him like he was exactly an equal, she was giving him respect as if he could be.

“Armor and weapons-making is always a good profession.” She said as if she hadn’t just shoved him. “There will always be a need. I also like those that make nails and fasteners, farm implements, and tools. You’d be surprised how much more often a nail comes in handy than a dagger, especially where I live out in the wilderness.” She said with reverence. There was a tone to her voice, one that bespoke whimsy. “It would be nice if someday we could live in a world that didn’t require protection against weapons or the weapons themselves….” She said softly, took a deep breath, then shook her head as if the thought was just whimsey. “But I do enjoy my daggers.” She said, caressing the bandolier of daggers across her chest for a moment then turned to look at him as they continued walking.

“You grew up knowing family.” She said, also with a bit of reverence in her voice… as if it was something she’d longed or but never dreamed of. “I hope you appreciate that.” She added though she shook her head, wondering suddenly if he grew up with the wrong family. “Human, I suspect though, not your Dhani family… “ She added, taking a moment to wonder how different Baelin would have grown up had he been part of a nest.

The conversation moved on. “I think all of us Craftsman are like that. We love holding something we’ve made in our hands… finishing that final piece. I like making something beautiful in an ugly world.” She added softly, nodding.

“Everyone should have their own place… their own business. Why make Amour for someone else’s profit when you can make it or yourself. It took me a long time to understand my own value and that someone like me… coming from nothing… could run a business. If you ever want help starting your own forge, I’d be glad to lend a hand… if for no other reason than to see someone else rise up from the ranks of the masses. You look like you have nothing but your skills. That’s actually all you need to get started.” She added, not mentioning that he needed the drive to do so, want to be better or more secure than he was now.

They toured the shop. It was big enough – far bigger than she even needed actually. But there was room to grow, and that was important. This was a backup if the Meraki failed. Kelski didn’t think they’d fail. She didn’t want them to fail, but this place could also be a place to put another toehold in the wealth of the guild. Their home was still under construction, still molding itself into what it would be. This place would be something different, though in many ways something less. Her children weren’t here, the Architectrix that surrounded and filled her life.

“I know that color. It’s beautiful.” She said, offering him a smile now. “I work with metal as well, in Jewelcrafting. Small metals in small quantities. But I’ve heated and smelted and its indeed a lovely color.” She took one last look at the map, then turned and offered it to him. “They give them out without charge at the dovecote we arrived through,” Kelski said, having noticed him eyeing the map a time or two. She’d seen the pathway through the back door of the shop which opened up into a private courtyard to the Riad that was attached. There was a separate entrance to the Riad as well, one that was accessible through an alley beyond the shop.

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Kelski walked in, did a slow turn, and whistled low in her throat – birdlike. The place was beautiful. It was a tiled two-story courtyard, not expansive, but just cozy enough with a small pool and fountain that filled the space with the sound of running water. It was open to the sky above the pool and had covered areas that were framed with arches that encircled the courtyard in a large rectangular direction. There were green spaces – flower beds that held trees and blooming vines that grew up and expanded across the railed second story which was framed with similar arches. The Kelvic moved to the pool, squatted, and dipped a hand in the water tinted jade because its tiles were jade. Then she paced the courtyard, slipped under the arches, and started exploring the rooms. It had terraces and gardens surrounding the courtyard, which opened into a large kitchen, a dining room, a living room, and ultimately six bedrooms. There was a shower room, a room for bathing, and each set of bedrooms shared a bathroom that comprised of a toilet and sinks with room to groom and freshen up. Stairs lead to the roof which turned out to be another sort of garden that held potted plants and trees of all sorts and furniture for lounging around and relaxing.

The place was a paradise. Expensive paradise, but paradise nonetheless.

“Imagine living here, at least part-time…. it would be so relaxing.” Kelski said, having explored the rooms, peeking into the sleeping chambers, the living room, and even opening cupboards in the kitchen.

“What do you think? I bet you could even lease a small forge here and get started as well. There’s enough customer base.” She added, looking over the roof of the Riad and out onto the market itself. She wanted to strip off her clothing, taste the skies and see what lay around The Outpost before she made commitments. But she could tell she already loved the place, the little shop, and even the woefully overpriced and opulent Riad. Would Dess like it? What would Djinn say? Would Crylon turn up his nose at the thought of all the water in the courtyard?

She smiled slightly, wondering how long she had to decide. The Symenestra that had given her the directions and price quotes had said they’d been vacant a while. And while he hadn’t gone into a big history about it, she thought everything looked very new to her.

“It’s a lot to think about. What next? Where do you want to go see on the map? I’ve seen what I needed too.” She said thoughtfully, willing to explore further with him since he’d generously accompanied her.
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They laugh at me because I am different.
I laugh at them because they are all the same.


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Kelski
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Intersection (Baelin)

Postby Baelin Holt on February 9th, 2020, 9:32 pm

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She moved fast. One moment, Baelin trailed a half-step behind. And in the next, he had his back to the wall and an already fading throb in his shoulder. His thoughts were slow to catch up and―for a startled tick―Baelin just stared at her. Kelski had him pinned against the wall. Both alarm and excitement warred for dominance as his gaze trailed down her arm, taking in its firm tone with a new appreciation.

And then she spoke. And any excitement Baelin may have felt was stripped away in an instant. Baelin grimaced. He didn’t need Kelski to tell him he was stupid; he knew that already. But she went on… about the Dhani again. Baelin’s grimace shifted and a muscle in the side of his face twitched. He just didn’t understand how anyone could―

That strength you enjoy? That’s from the Dhani.

No, he wanted to snap, a lifelong, knee-jerk denial. But she went on, steamrolling ahead about…senses? Taste? Baelin’s grimace slowly fell slack. Because while he’d always been “big for his age” growing up, at no point in time had he ever stopped to think that there might be other things… No, that couldn’t be right. Kelski continued, something about saltwater Dhani, but Baelin only heard the rest with half an ear. His thoughts were thoroughly snagged on her accusation. She couldn’t be right. If she were right, then he would have realized it by now. Wouldn’t he? She had to be wrong.

Kelski released him, and Baelin―after a brief hesitation―found himself trailing after her. He didn’t know why, but the more she talked, the more compelled he felt to follow. Something about her… It was like she was in control of her environment. Like there was nothing here that she couldn’t handle. And―regardless of whether she had meant to or not―Kelski had him ensnared.

She resumed her earlier conversation. Weapons-making, general blacksmithing, living in a world without a need for weapons or armor: all things Baelin could wholeheartedly agree with. But―despite it being the kind of conversation he’d usually be thrilled to have―Baelin could barely focus on it.

…you probably don’t even realize you have…

That just couldn’t be right.

“You grew up knowing family.” Her almost reverent tone pulled him out of his thoughts. Baelin glanced at her, worry flitting across his expression before he smoothed it back down. By her own admission, she’d had a very different childhood than he’d had. Baelin had indeed been fortunate: his aunt and uncle had given him a job he loved and a safe home to grow up in, and his parents had done their best with a child they hadn’t wanted. He’d been lucky.

Baelin hoped her brother would be okay. That she’d get the family she wanted. That it’d be a good one.

Belatedly, Baelin realized Kelski was talking again. She spoke of craftsmen and making beautiful things, and Baelin nodded as she spoke. He couldn’t agree more; there was nothing quite like finishing that last step. But his thoughts kept trying to drag him back under―loud and intrusive―and his nostrils flared as he tried and failed to ignore them.

A soft, half-forgotten melody intermingled with the rest, and this…Baelin didn’t dare try to brush it aside. It was an old memory―so faded that he could barely recall it. The vague remembrance of a comforting, melodic hum. Blonde hair framing a blurred face. And his mother’s diligent work to find and remove scales.

Gods, why was he thinking so much? Pulling in a deep breath, Baelin held it and tried to count to ten. He made it to six.

Kelski went on, expressing support he hadn’t been expecting for his dream of owning his own business. Baelin exhaled―long and measured―and then pulled in another deep breath, slower this time. “If you ever want help starting your own forge,” she said, “I’d be glad to lend a hand.”

Exhale. It was a generous offer. One he certainly hadn’t earned. Inhale. Did she say that all he’d need were his skills? Well…even if that were true... Hold. One. Two. Three. There was still so much more for him to learn. He wouldn’t even know where to start. Exhale. Which, he supposed, was exactly what she was offering.

He was still thinking too much. Baelin grimaced and jerked his head to the side. Kelski mentioned the shade of red he liked, right when the iron was hot enough to work with. Recognizing the opportunity to distract his mind, Baelin grasped onto the image like a lifeline. He tried to picture it: hovering over an anvil with a bar of iron red-hot in his tongs, scale flaking from its surface as he struck it with his hammer. Baelin focused in on the mental image of scales forming as the metal cooled, and flaking with each hammer strike. And he breathed―in, hold, out.

With so much of his focus on his haphazard attempt to quiet his mind, it took Baelin a tick to recognize the outstretched map for the offering it was. He hesitated. Baelin didn’t really want to deprive her of the map; he imagined she was a good deal better at reading it than he was. But with the moment dragging awkwardly long, Baelin gave a tight smile and reached to accept it. He took a quick glance at it and frowned, not at all knowing where they were with relation to the drawn lines.

Deciding that he’d need a solid chunk of time alone with the map if he wanted to have any chance at deciphering it, Baelin gave a nod of thanks and then lowered the sheet down to his side. He’d look at it later.

Kelski stepped out through a door and Baelin followed. The space that opened before them, however, had Baelin slowing down. There was another fountain, the soft trickle of its water permeating the quiet space. Ornate archways and mosaics encircled the courtyard, beautiful and elaborate, without breaking into ostentatious. Yet despite the grandeur, there was no one else here. It felt both intimate and secluded; separate from the bustle of stalls and sellers. To have a courtyard like this…and to have it so accessible. Xyna’s gift, indeed.

Baelin watched as Kelski skimmed the fountain and circled through the archways. It was as if she was scoping out a new territory. And―as he watched―Baelin felt some of the tension ease out of his shoulders. Because while he might not feel like he was even remotely in control at the moment, at least someone here was.

She disappeared past one of the archways and slipped into the attached building. Baelin didn’t immediately follow. He could use a moment to himself; his thoughts were still fighting him. Stepping close to the small pool, Baelin dropped to a crouch and stared at the water’s surface. It was just shy of still, with small, gentle ripples coming towards the pool’s edge. Baelin didn’t dare dip his fingers in―they were dirty, and everything here was so clean. He tried to keep clean, he really did, but there was always that little bit extra he could never cleanse himself of. Not without a long soak. If he were to dip his fingers in, then see a film of soot float into the clear pool, he didn’t think he’d forgive himself.

You are being incredibly stupid. Baelin winced, Kelski’s words still sharp. She wasn’t wrong―not about him being stupid. Time and again, he’d been proven just how slow he was. But this time around, he really couldn’t see how he was wrong. The things she said about Dhani…they didn’t add up with what he knew. Dhani were bad. He knew that. He knew it just as surely as he knew that badly quenched steel will crack.

...and you refuse to believe it. He scrubbed at his face, angry for reasons he didn’t understand. Hissing under his breath, Baelin rose to stand. He wasn’t doing himself any good here alone. And by now, Kelski had probably moved on to better things. Things that would hopefully drag Baelin’s thoughts away from whatever this infuriating spiral was. He slipped through the archway she had disappeared into, and had to once again stop to admire the place.

There was so much greenery here… It never failed to surprise Baelin just how many types of plants could be kept in personal gardens. Few plants had grown back in Black Rock. People truly took it for granted. Baelin skimmed his fingertips across the forked, fragile leaves of a small plant, and breathed in deep. This place smelt fresh. Alive.

Those sharp senses― Baelin pulled sharply back from the plant and turned to go inside. Kelski was exploring rooms. Just how many of them were there? Baelin counted as he caught up to her and fell into step: one…three…a kitchen…another bedroom. And it went on. Wealth didn’t even begin to describe it. Baelin shot a sideways glance at Kelski, wondering just who exactly he was with. He couldn’t imagine ever being able to afford a place like this.

“Imagine living here,” she said. Baelin huffed in humor. There was just no way. “You could even lease a small forge here.” Before he could stop himself, Baelin imagined it. His very own forge. His own space and his own work…

He shook his head a moment later. He couldn’t afford this. Not a chance.

And then she asked about the map. Where he wanted to go. Baelin had a brief moment of panic before he shoved it back down. Because while he might not trust himself to read this map, he at least could remember what Kelski had said earlier. Something about a bathing place, right when they left the square. And there was no such thing as too many baths. If Baelin could get away with spending bells every day just soaking in warm water, he would. “The bath,” he told her, firm in his decision. If there was actually a public bath here, then he wanted to know about it. With how ornate and elegant everything here seemed to be, he couldn’t even begin to imagine how nice a bathing place might be.

Baelin held the map back out to Kelski in case she needed it, and then gestured for her to lead the way. He wasn’t about to pretend that he knew where he was going. Or stand there for chimes just to try and fail to figure out where the petch they were on this map.

With filth set deep into his skin, Baelin wasn’t at all surprised when one of the bath’s employees first guided him to a small, individual bathing pool. He didn’t even hesitate. As soon as the employee―Gracie, if he remembered her introduction right―brought him to the first bathing pool, Baelin yanked his shirt off and was practically hopping out of his boots in his enthusiasm to get in. Gods, he loved getting clean.

In his haste, he forgot that he was with someone. Baelin froze with his undergarments half-off, one leg out and the other raised as he slipped the last of his clothes off. Sylirans had been uncomfortable around each other naked, going so far as to have separate rooms for men and women to disrobe in at their hot spring. Baelin had always thought it was silly, but he at least tried to fit in with other cities’ cultures. What was the right sense of propriety here? Could he strip and no one would mind―like swimming in the Suvan with Mala―or would he get in trouble for this?

Baelin glanced to the employee first, and Gracie waved for him to continue. Breathing a little easier, Baelin finished disrobing and slipped into the pool, groaning low in his throat as water enveloped him. Wasting no time, Baelin began scratching at his arms, working to scrape free soot.

“Here,” Gracie reached over with a cloth and held it out for him, “You can use this.”

Ducking his head, Baelin accepted the cloth and restarted his scrub down with a bit less fervor. He glanced up as he worked, seeking out Kelski. Baelin cocked his head to the side, a silent question. Was this alright?
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Baelin Holt
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Intersection (Baelin)

Postby Kelski on February 15th, 2020, 6:04 pm

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“Go head. Take it. I can get another at the Dovecote and I’ve gotten this one pretty much memorized.” She said, gently pushing the map into his hands. “And as for the forge, Baelin, you just have to be smart about money or get someone to help you with it. That person is called an investor. They can loan you the money to get started. Because think of it. If you have a forge, you can make good money… money enough to pay back the initial investor with a bit of interest… that’s what the investor helps you for. Say they loaned you a thousand gold to purchase a forge space and equipment. You – over time – pay them back the initial investment of a thousand gold plus say ten percent… so you owe them a hundred gold over the thousand you loaned them… a good forge can easily make that in a season or two depending on how hard you wanted to work and the deal with the investor or investors… and you’d be debt free and bringing in good solid money in no time. That’s how I started my first jewelry business. Then… over time as you saved your coin… you could first rent a room here, then perhaps buy a small apartment, then sell that apartment and buy a Riad and live in a beautiful place all earned by your own hand.” She added, carefully explaining the process to him.

“That’s how so many businesses get started. You just need to know the right people, make the right contacts, and get on a set path. And you need seed funding. So many of us just wander… we have goals that don’t do us any favors…. Like goals of hurting people that hurt us or goals of righting wrongs. But the truth is if you can get independent financially you can have so many many more goals, and one of those goals could be helping other people get started. If you have money, Baelin, coin you earned by your own hand, you can literally move mountains. Do you understand me?” She asked, smiling at him as they walked.

She hoped it would plant some ideas in his head. She hoped it would get him thinking bigger, dreaming for the future, maybe wanting to do something other than work for someone in Sunberth. His shop didn’t have to be here. It could be there. He’d always have business… but he’d never be safe. Not really. Sunberth destroyed the people who lived there… slowly, surely, like poison laced water that was laced just lightly enough to slowly destroy their insides over time… and not hurt them all at once.

They toured the shop, Riad, and then headed for the Spa. Kelski had seen it on the way around one of her many trips touring the Outpost so she’d nodded and lead the way. She didn’t need the map and told him to keep it. Once they entered, Kelski dug into her coin pouch and noted the prices listed. She automatically paid for both of them, handing the woman three gold rimmed mizas and six silver rimmed mizas to cover the bath and pool use. She indicated she might want other services later, but they could arrange them at a later time.

Then she didn’t even give Baelin a glance as she slipped out of her clothing and put it in a small cube designed to hold it… and slide into another of the individual baths to start scrubbing. Gracie spent most of her time with Baelin, because Kelski dug into her bath like a ravenous mouse into a pile of seeds. She used the items provided and scrubbed until her skin was clean – a pink hue now that the white had been roughly used – and had only needed Gracie when she went to wash out the ombre black to white tipped hair that she’d had captured in a slowly failing braid down her back.

When they were both clean, they were welcomed to the larger pool. Swim robes or trunks were provided if folks needed them, but nudity was accepted and encouraged. It cut the spa’s laundry down considerably. Since it was only midday, there was just another person there, leaning against a pillar on the far side of the pool drinking tea with their eyes closed. The elderly male ignored them completely.

Kelski opted to wear only her skin and was happily paddling around the big pool in no time. She explored its length and breadth until she found a nice spot with a cool breeze coming directly from outside through some ornate vents cut into the stone of the chamber. It was immediately obvious to Baelin she had no hang ups on clothing and cared not one bit if he was dressed or not. She didn’t appear threatened by his skin nor his company and in fact seemed rather comfortable with him. She even made a trip out of the pool to retrieve a mug of tea for both of them. She opted for the iced variety and waited until Baelin settled by the edge to hand him a drink then settle in by him to sip her own.

“It feels amazing being clean and I love the water, but I admit to being guilty for being here, relaxing, while my brother lays prone in a healer’s care. I should be there… only they didn’t want me returning until dusk. I think I was hovering and making them nervous. I can feed him then – if I can get him to swallow anything – and stay the night with him. This feels like a last-ditch effort… a last chance to help him. I don’t know how it will work out.” She fussed quietly. Worry lined her body, at war with the relaxing environment.

She took a deep breath, a sip of the ice-cold refreshing tea, and leaned back in the water. The pale-skinned woman with black lips took a long sideways look at Baelin and asked quietly. “What about you? What do you worry about?” She asked, reaching up and gently toying with a piercing she had in her left ear. The woman was pierced quite a few places… some of the jewelry glittering with gems, some of it just simply made.

“Do you have any piercings? I’ll make you some jewelry for them if you’d like.” She offered suddenly, thinking the Half Dhani would look good with some bling. She set the tea down, hooked her elbows behind her on the lid of the pool, and stretched her legs out kicking gently. Her toenails were as long and black as her fingernails, most likely due to her Kelvic nature. She had a toe ring on her second longest toe on her right foot. She played like a human, but still, her look was that of a fierce predator. A smile played across her face, telling him the worry was melting off… the steam and hot water doing its job.
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They laugh at me because I am different.
I laugh at them because they are all the same.


Painted Sky Jewelry (The Wildlands) | Crossroads Jewelry (The Outpost)
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Kelski
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Intersection (Baelin)

Postby Baelin Holt on February 24th, 2020, 3:30 am

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As Baelin scrubbed clean, he let his thoughts drift to Kelski's crash course on investors. He had given it every iota of attention he'd been able to muster, but - even still - he was half-convinced he'd misheard all of it. It had never even occurred to him that someone would be willing to just give him money. How do they make sure you pay it back? Baelin had to guess with daggers. Sunberth did like its daggers.

But even then, if someone did lend him money... What had her estimate been? A season or two to pay it back, if his forge was good? His knee-jerk reaction was Impossible!, he could never be that good.

If you have money, she'd said, you can literally move mountains.

Baelin's knee-jerk denial was fast and definitive, but he did his best to pull back from his own negativity. Because while Baelin may have a hard time wrapping his head around Kelski's claims, she had said it with such conviction. He had to think that she knew what she was talking about.

Finished washing himself clean of work and Sunberth, Baelin breathed a sigh of relief. Gods it felt good to be clean.

It was only once he was finished that he realized he'd never actually paid. Baelin froze - midway through picking up his belongings from where he'd stripped them off - and turned to Gracie. "How much?"

But she only smiled and said, "You've already been paid for. Go on and put your things away. And please do enjoy the tea and food platter." With another warm smile, Gracie waved him on.

Baelin moved; less because he'd actually processed what she said and more in reaction to being shooed. What did she mean, already paid for? He glanced over his shoulder to where Gracie was helping Kelski with her long, exotic hair and finally realized what she'd meant. Kelski had paid for him.

If the tips of his ears were burning, it was because it was so steamy in here. Flushed was the word. Not blushed. Definitely not blushed.

He slipped his belongings into a cubby - ignoring the instinct to keep it with him lest it all be gone when he return - and tried to figure out why the petch he was feeling so off-footed for something as simple as Kelski paying for his bath. It wasn't like... He'd... Wait. Had anyone else ever bought him something since he'd left home? He didn't think so. Not even something as simple as a bath. Maybe this was why Firenze had been so willing to talk to him. He'd done the same for her: paid for her bath without even thinking about it.

Resolutely ignoring any possible-maybe-flush, Baelin turned on his heel and made for the pool. He cast a glance at the robes - available for modesty, he presumed - and then back to Kelski.

She seemed comfortable without clothes. And - belatedly - Baelin registered that it wasn't just her arms that were toned. Definition lined her body, all the way from the slope of her shoulders to the swell of her hips and the clear strength in her legs. Without even realizing what he was doing, Baelin reflexively flexed. He felt soft in comparison. He should work out more.

Shaking off the insecurity, Baelin dragged his thoughts back to the issue at hand. If Kelski was comfortable, then perhaps he needn't bother. He could just stretch out and enjoy a full-body soak. Baelin scanned the spa, but besides himself and Kelski, there was only one other guest. And the older man seemed utterly uninterested in them. Tension bleeding out of his shoulders, Baelin forwent the towel and instead stepped into the pool.

Sinking into heated water never failed to lose it's appeal. And as he lowered - not stopping until his chin dipped past the surface - Baelin let himself forget. There was no stranger nearby. No foreign place that he still knew so little about. There wasn't even a newly acquainted jeweler. Just Baelin, the warm soak of the water, and steam. He inhaled deep, the steam a welcome cleanser, helping him clear that last bit of his palette that always felt ashen.

Kelski had said he'd smelt of Sunberth. Was that what it was? That "slag breath?" Baelin inhaled another deep breath, chasing the clean pull of steam.

A small splash pulled his awareness back, and Baelin opened his eyes to see Kelski exploring the pool. Just as she'd explored the store's space, the Riad, and the courtyard between, here too she seemed to survey all the space available to her. A small smile softened Baelin's hard lines. There was something about having another person take ownership of the space around them; it helped ease more tension out of his spine. Baelin tilted his head back and breathed deep, enjoying the reprieve.

Another splash dragged his focus back to Kelski. She had risen from the pool to go get a drink, and Baelin suddenly realized that he ought to take advantage of the spa's teas as well. Rising to join her, Baelin froze halfway up when he saw that she was hadn't stipped at getting her own. She was getting him a tea as well.

He definitely wasn't blushing. That'd be absolutely absurd. Just a little bit of pampering shouldn't have him this affected; he was just embarrassing himself now.

It was the heat. Purely the heat. Setting his jaw, Baelin gestured for the hot tea, and then ducked his head in thanks when she returned with it. Kelski settled in next to him, completely comfortable in her skin. And - despite himself - Baelin found himself relaxing back into the her company.

Leaning his head back, Baelin let his eyes slip shut as she began to talk. But something about her tone had him cracking an eye open. He could sense a "but" coming. When it did, Baelin frowned.

If what she'd said earlier was true, then there was nothing more Kelski could do for her brother. She'd already gone above and beyond, keeping his body alive and bringing it to the best healers she could find. Baelin turned to really look at her, and saw the lines of worry etched there.

He winced. Because - as much as he'd like to ease that worry - he didn't think there was anything he could say or do to really help. She was likely right: this was her last-ditch effort. And saying something along the lines of Dira would take care of him was probably a bad idea. Baelin scratched long rows in his leg, trying and failing to think of something to say.

Luckily for him, Kelski seemed no more interested in sinking into that well of doubt than he was. After a deep breath and sip of tea, she turned to him and seemed to try and redirect her thoughts. Away from her brother's plight - which Baelin was glad for - but onto an open question of whatever it is that Baelin might worry about. He winced.

Well. It was better this than watching Kelski sink into guilt. Baelin chewed on the question for a moment, then admitted, "I fear I fail at being an Eiyon." He scratched his leg, leaving a wake of red lines. It didn't matter how devote he was if he couldn't deliver. He had to be better.

Kelski shifted, toying with an earring, and - almost as if it was an afterthought - asked if he had any piercings. Baelin shook his head, but couldn't keep his thoughts from turning to Mala. She had loved jewelry. With her pod spending most of its time around Black Rock, she'd been limited to jewelry of mostly bone and shells. And Baelin could only imagine how thrilled Mala would be if she had the chance to get her hands on Kelski's jewelry. "I had a friend," he shared, "In a pod. Would have loved your work."

The memory of the last time he'd seen Mala invaded the thought and Baelin inhaled sharply. Her firstborn, Mala had claimed. With careful, measured breaths, Baelin tried to keep the reflexive fear at bay. A small spike of pain, and he jerked his hand away from his leg, utterly unaware that he'd been scratching. With a wince, Baelin picked up his tea and took a deep sip.

It was his turn to try and distract his thoughts. Baelin spout out the first thing he could think of: "What'sss it like to fly?"

Focusing on the mental image of a soaring bird had always been a tried and true tactic for him. Already, Baelin could feel the bite of helpless fear begin to ease. A bird in flight, it's wings outstretched and tips fanned as it circled overhead in slow circles. But. It felt a little different now. The well-used mental image took on a new flavor as Baelin realized what he'd just asked. Kelski could fly. He could imagine it: Kelski taking to the air and scouting out her area, just as she'd done with the pool, but now with the advantage of seeing so much farther than Baelin could ever fathom.

Baelin tried to school his expression into a blank mask, not wanting his new acquaintance to see just how badly he longed to do the same. To just... To launch into the air, trapped by nothing. Baelin shook his head and forced down the fantasy, trying to ground himself back into reality.

Absentmindedly, he took a sip of his tea with one hand and scratched his thigh with the other. His fingernail caught on a ridge, and immediately Baelin snapped his attention to it. Out. He wanted it out. He'd get it out.

But Baelin could all too easily remember how Kelski had stopped his hand earlier. And if she hadn't liked the sratching, then he couldn't imagine she'd be a fan of scale-picking. But...out! Moving as surreptitiously as he could manage, Baelin curled his finger and tried to catch the scale's growing tip.
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