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[ Spring 1st 520 AV ]

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

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Postby Maore on March 18th, 2020, 3:34 am

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SPRING 1 520 AV


Maore’s arrival into spring was without fanfare. Long since past the ability to shift with the seasons, she had maintained the form of her spring ‘seeming’ for as long as living memory and had stagnated. She no longer celebrated the day of her return from the sea--if she’d even remembered the date she would have still refused to acknowledge it. She couldn’t even remember the season but with her special brand of contempt for the first of the year, being the season when she’d finally given up on Syna, assured her that it was in spring that she’d pulled herself out of the sea and onto a bed of black rock far, far away.

She was awakened by the daily shifting into her divine seeming, roused from a dreamless sleep by the persistent ache of her damaged horn and the little tingle of change that heralded her misfortune. She roused slowly thereafter; the other slave sharing the cluttered room with her was still asleep, though not for much longer, and Maore had no desire to hasten her awakening and subjecting herself to the ceaseless chattering of a gossipy little human.

For a long time, Maore stared at the ceiling of the shared bedroom, discomforted by the lack of stars as usual since her arrival in Ravok but capable of pretending to be able to see them, if even only for a moment. She could pretend the shuttered windows rattling in the breeze was but the gentle creak of a wagon or the whisper of tall grass. She could pretend her bed was on the ground, a layer away from the earth, not perched upstairs in the household of an affluent family.

Maore could pretend a lot of things and convince herself that these things were still possible. She was a consummate liar in this regard but the only thing being fooled was herself--and not even very well; Maore was a realist at heart, a bit of a nihilist in development, and she knew she was deceiving herself. Maybe. Sometimes the lies were convincing enough that she could fool herself into a moment of peace.

“Up, up, up!” Banging at the door roused Maore’s companion from her rest and the ethaefal exhaled her irritation in a soft, breathy hiss. She sat up as the other did and grimaced a ‘good morning’, unwilling to waste her voice on such a silly little thing. Whoever was banging at the door moved on and Maore waved a pale hand at her sister-slave, indicating she could relieve herself first. For Maore’s part, she simply went about changing out of her clothes knowing that the need to relieve her own bladder would be forgotten in short order. In this body, so long as she refrained from actual food, she had no human needs to satisfy nor relieve, and that was simply something she could lord over all of her fellow slaves when they succumbed to the base instincts of their fragile selves.

When the other was done, Maore had already run a comb through her hair and braided it around the remaining whole horn: out of sight, out of mind, and it couldn’t be pulled on by greedy little child hands if it didn’t dangle down her back so temptingly.

Maore made a silent gesture with her hand, a Pavi motion that enthused about what the day might bring. Unfortunately it was a sentiment that her slave-sister didn’t understand and shame on Maore for convincing herself otherwise when the girl sometimes got the gist out of other sign language. She rolled her wrist instead, a dismissive flick of her hand, and left the room as the girl went about preparing for the day herself.

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It wasn’t long after beginning her morning routine of fixing bedding that Ennoia found her. He spoke out to announce his arrival and the ethaefal finished her folding before facing him, like he’d taught her to. Although she hated to do it, she also inclined her head respectfully.

“I have had clothing brought to your room for today,” he said as she straightened up, examining his nails with an air of confidence that he’d failed to share with her during their long days in her black cell. “Change and then meet me downstairs.” He paused. She blinked at him. With a smile he fluttered his hand. “Go.”

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It must have been about ten chimes later that Maore was ready and waiting for her keeper at the front door of his family estate. She was not the only slave in attendance; it seemed that some of Ennoia’s siblings and cousins had their personal slaves dressed in clothing fit to be seen in and she smoothly joined the group of them, idling among their meaningless, unintelligible chatter. She didn’t try to participate knowing that their dialogue was beyond her comprehension, but she did try to catch what she could from the sidelines, something that did turn out to be a useless venture, as Ennoia arrived soon after with a few of the people Maore recognized as his siblings and she stepped forward to join him.

“Good, you’re here,” Ennoia said when she arrived at his side. He fixed the leather gauntlet on his right arm and fussed over the collar of his shirt. “Get me my overcoat, Ciraaci.”

Maore did immediately, finding his among the few still hanging at the door and bringing it to her master. She took his gestures to indicate she ought to help him into it and, with great patience befitting her once devoutly received role as a scion of Syna, Maore draped his coat over his shoulders and helped his arms into the sleeves. He did up the buttons on his own and she donned the cloak that he’d had left in her room.

Then, they were off.

The trip was fairly silent for Maore; Ennoia was chattering with his siblings about something far, far beyond her ability to care and she was taken by drinking in the sight of Ravok on the first day of a new year. There was a lot going on here that she had never seen before among the citizens.

First of all, they weren’t the only group from the Nitrozian household headed in this direction, and Maore’s sister-slave she shared a room with wasn’t the only slave she recognized from their home. Secondly, there were many more humans headed towards the tallest building in the centre of the city, faces from around the Merchant’s Ring that Maore had seen before once or twice while out with her keeper or on an errand on his behalf.

“Ennoia,” Maore whispered when there was a break in his conversation, using the sound of her own voice to ignore the way the canals sounded under their feet as they crossed a bridge. If she pretended her heart wasn’t thrumming like a hummingbird’s wings, she could pretend she wasn’t stuck on a floating collection of flotsam. Ennoia tilted his head to indicate she had his attention. “What is this? Where are we going?” As taught, she didn’t gesture while she used her Pavi, keeping her hands tight in the cloth of her cloak, bunching it at her waist to muffle the instinct to do so.

“Worship,” Ennoia answered. The word was in Common and she had to step closer to catch it properly. “Today is Rhysol’s day.” He then looked away, dismissing Maore and returning to his conversation. Maore stepped a respectful distance from him, looking away thoughtfully as she digested the words. She had no context for what ‘worship’ might mean but she did understand that if it had to do with Rhysol then it was important and it made sense why there would be people gathering for this in a city that actively revered the god.

They continued on their way towards the city centre and the looming Temple of the Black Sun.

Maore wouldn't deny the eager light in her heart to see what ‘worship’ might mean when it came to the God of Lies.

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Blackout.

Postby Caspian on March 20th, 2020, 12:32 am

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    It’s not entirely clear what brings him here.

    Caspian says that to himself, turns the words over syllable by syllable in his mind and sees the statement to its conclusion, even as he knows that it’s not entirely true.

    First sin of the year, then - but do lies only count against you if you say them out loud? And could they further be forgiven if it’s a pulling of a hood over one’s own eyes?

    He hasn’t slept yet. Given the circumstances, it’s none of the usual signs of his reprehensible vagrancy - it’s the first day of the year, and as universal custom dictates, last night he and enough of the city had held its breath until the chimes struck twelve.

    And he had gone on holding, long after the last of his fellow revelers had filed themselves away, until the sun rose and the black waters of the lake gleamed with warmth anew.

    Going east is something he avoids now if he can help it. The problem with living on the most westerly rim of Ravok’s Docks is that for the most part there’s nowhere to go but east, and despite his pacings up and down the longitudinal avenues in resistance, with the wind at his back he finds himself nonetheless in proximity to the city center.

    The flask in his pocket has long since dripped empty. There had been a stranger last night, emerged from what had at certain points been whole flocks, into which he’d been temporarily adopted. All it had taken was a smile from him at the viable stranger, a leaning in and a soft murmur, and reciprocation was readily given. Through that someone’s arm he’d consented to hooking his own, and between the two of them the flask had proved a pittance. Uncharacteristically, though, he had not taken the lion’s share. Hadn’t really wanted to drink to begin with, finding anything proffered to him and his own reserves either too biting, too cloying, too much made for someone who isn’t derailed by something as amorphous as a symbolic cardinal direction.

    A few ticks past the eleventh bell he had made himself amenable enough to follow that certain someone through a marble-laced foyer, up a gilded spiral of stairs and into a room that most likely had been neatly tucked and pressed by hired hands, and certainly not its inhabitant’s. When they were through, the magical suit of clothing transfigured into something else entirely when he slipped back in, and despite the stranger’s honeyed supplications that quickly turned into lobbied jilts, he’d exited before the observation of the twelfth and final bell of the occasion.

    It wasn’t their fault. They had been jovial enough, and rather handsome as one can be under celebration and lamplight, and generous with their wallet and their affectations. One couldn’t have wanted more from a spontaneous companion, and the holiday had teemed with the overabundance of bells and whistles to which he’s always been drawn. Yet a lethargy had hung about him, an abandonment of spirit that had caused him to sullenly and silently abandon the genuine camaraderie of Thancerell, Saticath, and even his sister at the beginning of the evening - the very same dampening that had led him to fall in with a stranger in the first place, as if they might shock some life back into him, or prove a potent distraction - and it’s the very one that had him treading alone through the grimmest hours, over cobbled bridge and splintered dock, all the way to the Temple, the city’s pulse.

    There’s a series of rites scheduled to be performed throughout the day. When he arrived he’d come right in the middle of one, and not being in possession of energy sufficient enough to interact with anyone taking note of his interruption, he’d waited outside and tried to smoke. It hadn’t gone well - whatever had kept him from enjoying the liquor and array of other additive enhancements had taken its corruptive effect on tobacco, and for the duration he had waited feebly with his pipe in hand, fully packed, watching the embers die where they lay.

    Then the rite had ended, and he’d dipped in and taken a seat on one of the pews in the very front row.

    Here he’s stayed, through more rites than he could register, with forehead pressed against the wooden pew and knees bent upon the hassock.

    Were Rohka still in Ravok, they might have come here together. In place of the stranger whose name he hadn’t devoted much energy into learning nor keeping, it might have been her, last night to be added to one of their shared many. Things would have been easy, liquor swilling like syrup rather than sickness, laughter and loveliness lording above all. In the morning he would have held her, eyes shut and lingering without effort, and when he repossessed his magical suit it surely would have turned into hues more brilliant and pavoned than the innocuous patchwork smattering of slate and gray it’s deemed is all he deserves now.

    And he certainly would have washed the remnants of the previous night from him, and not traipsed about without end as he’s done in actuality. Were he to raise his face from his cradled arms, he’s sure they must be streaked with remnants of kohl and gold.

    They would have rummaged a breakfast together, maybe, or so he sees when he shuts his eyes - ventured out into the morning hand in hand to see the new world for themselves. And she would have suggested coming here, so devout she had been in the whole of his knowing her. She put him to shame in her observation of the city’s religious rituals, in their extension and their application, all without inflicting shame, and in spending time with her he had wanted to see in Rhysol exactly what she could. He had not known a heart could be so open - had certainly not considered the candidacy of his own. Further to that could not have predicted the infliction upon it that her departure from Ravok had been.

    Last night one of his newly minted acquaintances had dallied and danced about in an ivory frock that fluttered and flicked - and the material hadn’t exactly been the same as the ethereal gown Rohka had worn to their escapade on the summer barge but it had been close enough, which is to say it had been far too much.

    No one’s asked him to leave. He isn’t bothering anyone, after all. And he doesn’t know what he’s waiting for - only that he feels, suddenly, so very tired, and in a roundabout way this is as close as they’ll ever be.
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    Postby Maore on March 21st, 2020, 6:42 am

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    Ennoia had them participate in the first series of rituals, citing Maore’s lack of social standards as a handicap to their revelry. She’d mostly been a bystander to their worship; they loudly proclaimed their love for their god, their protector as she understood their words, and they succumbed to humble prayer when called onto it. This was not a means of worship that Maore was familiar with.

    Her worship of her gods, from fickle Syna to steadfast Dira--and even Rhysol on occasion, when needs entailed his name must be invoked--, she’d sacrificed for them, paying blood for acknowledgement and promises for aid. The gods didn’t answer and they were never truly expected to. It was generally understood among the horseclans that they had to earn the attention of their deities by emulating their desires upon the world. A nasty little part of Maore wondered if Rhysol, a god of cunning and selfish desires, appreciated such loud devotion. He must, but this was something she’d expect more for Syna, who loved to be loudly praised whether or not it was genuine nor justified.

    Maore had to shake her head to diffuse the fog of absolute spite that hung over the thought of her summertime goddess. Theirs was a relationship long since devolved, their promises to one another as fleeting as the weather could be, their hearts given away to others and unlikely to ever align again. Maore didn’t miss Syna. She didn’t miss her in the same way that she didn’t miss the Sea of Grass, the Cicerones, the black Watchtower on Black Rock, the sound of her wives’ tittering and her husband’s proud, boisterous laughter, like she didn’t miss any of her friends--

    Maore didn’t miss Syna. She didn’t love Syna. She didn’t reminisce fondly of the paradise of the Goldenlands when she was capable of remembering it. She didn’t mourn the loss of true peace. Maore was an adult now, grown up out of her ‘childling’ years on Black Rock when she’d been naive and thought she might yet come back home to the goddess. She banished the thought, tossed out the name of the goddess, and knuckled under her eyes to ward away the stinging of angry tears threatening to fall. Maore was an adult. She wouldn’t cry over gods that didn’t care about her--gods that might never have.

    When she’d smothered the bitter anger under a blanket of nothing, Maore lowered her hands and folded them into her lap, interlacing her fingers together in another one of her white-knuckled grips. The desire to scratch her arms and chase away the lingering reminder of Syna’s long lasting love was a harder impulse to drown, but she managed to with a long, patient breath and a smooth furrowing of her brow.

    In the end, Maore thought that this worship was preferable to the alternative. Of the two gods with a presence in Ravok at this time, Rhysol wherever he lived whether it be in the air, the sea, or the people and Syna as a bright sliver of light in the sky, Maore would rather proclaim her affections for the God of Lies than the Goddess of Joy.

    See, Syna? Maore could be fickle, too.

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    Maore was barely cognizant of the rites she was encouraged to undergo. With Ennoia’s curled fist at the small of her back, threatening something without a name should she add shame to his name, she provided what she could. Maore knelt, uncomfortable with the position over a hassock, folded her hands like she was supplicating the more aloof, nameless deities for their aid, and swore promises of devotion to yet another god who would have likely put his back to her should she ever really need him.

    Was this worship? Did this curry favour? Were her lies of devotion appealing? Did he see her now, in his temple and under the eye of h e r who led them through their supplications, and recognize her conflicted spirit? Did he even feel it under all the other meaningless lies spat in his name throughout the world? Did this matter?

    There came a point where Ennoia left her side and offered himself before that cruel woman. Maore had to look away rather than see h e r lay her white hands upon the shoulders of the man who held her chains. The ethaefal was ever haunted by those hands laid on her own skin. She never wanted to be touched again.

    In looking away, Maore saw him.

    Among a throng of people who watched with grave expectation, he had bowed his head and diverted his gaze, like she had. He didn’t seem as affluent as a few of his fellows on the pew with him and that might have first caught her eye. He’d dressed somberly for the occasion as if he’d come to attend a funeral rather than the rites of zealots.

    What a thing to be, thought the ethaefal as Ennoia said his words to Rhysol’s priestess. To mourn a day on which your neighbours celebrated.

    And then Ennoia was back, his hand drifting along the high curve of her temple before gripping the horn just above and tilting her head forward, back to the priestess and the rest of what was to come. Maore obeyed, of course. She didn’t want their hands on her ever again.

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    Blackout.

    Postby Caspian on March 23rd, 2020, 7:51 pm

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      There’s a melody of unusual levity in the Ravokian canon that he’s always favored, if only for its being different from the rest of the dirges. When it starts up, his recognition is immediate, as the opening chords happen to be the pitches to which he tunes the first three strings on his violin. Played in ascending fifths, it’s a harmonic declaration of affability and even triumph - again, a funny departure from the rest of the mood usually invoked here.

      Once he’d asked Rohka about it. The words were something he hadn’t paid very much attention to before, as one could feel confident they encompassed the thematic bullet points of nationalism, heraldry, origination and intent, as any liturgical composition might, tweaked as appropriate for the deity of chaos overlooking their city.

      Her answer, admittedly, had gone a bit over his head. Theology, or so he feels, is only exercised properly when one has a foundation upon which to rest - and his is a smattering of eavesdrops and observations, as reinforced by his living here for two-now-going-on-three years, entirely neglected before that by having been raised in Sunberth, and further conflicted from the start by being born in a snowy, faraway land long abandoned by its Goddess.

      There’s a point at which everyone’s meant to stand and file to the front for a tactile blessing from the presiding priestess. Somewhere to his right he can sense the devotee beside him, pressing him without making contact, but her hovering insistent enough to feel palpable. Blearily, he raises his face towards her, too far past caring about propriety to conceal his open scowl.

      It’s excessively lax of him, but he’s not entirely sure how many other people there are in the Temple, and of that population who he ought to be wary of. Okay-but-what-do-you-really-see? is a game Taalviel’s made him play for well over a decade - game a term employed loosely here; far more of an imperative- and he’s relied, for the duration of the morning, on the assumption that the holiday in tandem with his solemn surroundings mean that nothing out of the ordinary will happen. She’d chastise him immediately, Taalviel, for willingly and perhaps fatally visibly letting his guard down, but -

      And here he sighs audibly at the woman beside him who’s hell bent on contributing her own demonstration of the current phase of genuflection, her well-feathered and coiled fascinator practically quivering under the strain.

      She wrinkles her nose.

      He yawns widely and rolls his neck. And he might have proceeded to another pointlessly impudent display if not for the gaggle of other artful dames in their row, each sporting an equally trepidatiously tall topknot, who lean forward to scowl at him in a rainbow flush.

      So he doesn’t win this one, and his consolation prize is that he has to walk past the Shard and the altar, upon which he had once stood beside Rohka, under Rhysol’s impenetrable eye.

      Can he catch up on the game now, as he faces the whole of the congregation on his way back to his seat?

      He might have done so, if only out of habit, and in obeisance to his relatively recent personal admittance that perhaps with some things, the darker but pragmatic ones, Taalviel did have a point - but what really derails him is the sight of a woman some rows back, who -

      He squints.

      Is that -

      A horn?

      The woman behind him is pressing again, if only with her impatient eyes. He realizes he’s unintentionally stopped moving, causing a stoppage in the line for everyone behind him. Though more on the despondent end of things this morning, he’s some wits about him enough to feel a smidge embarrassed, and as he quickly shuffles back to the spot he’s staked out for himself, he turns the image he’s just seen over in his mind.

      A new sort of hat, maybe? Just another fascinator, asymmetrically clipped?

      Unable to resist, he steals a look over his shoulder, and -

      No, it does certainly look like a horn, even from this modest distance, and very genuinely epidermally attached.

      And that’s not something one sees every day, especially not somewhere like Ravok.

      When the service is over, he feels most certainly that he’s had enough, or at least that he might finally be able to stomach the smoke he’s been craving, but frustratingly unable to sustain. He doesn’t move swiftly enough, still bogged down from a prolonged exhaustion that’s catching quick, and is forced to plod in the thick of the pack filing for the exit.

      Someone bumps him - equally likely, in his increasingly feeble coordination, he rammed his own hip into one of the pews - and he goes down sprawling. A woman exclaims sharply after him, and distantly he registers that he’d accidentally snatched at the hem of her skirts as he crash-landed to the floor.
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      Blackout.

      Postby Maore on April 7th, 2021, 8:16 pm

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      It's when he turns to the congregation that he catches Maore's eye again. She had the distinct feeling that he was befuddled by her appearance during his brief, ill-timed pause. A snort, a half smile, Ennoia's guiding hand locked on the root of her intact horn, she'd forgotten the man again and affixed her gaze onto the scenes playing out before them.

      Had she already wondered at the bizarre worship given to gods in wood and stone cities? She was sure that Riverfall, perhaps even Kenash where lived sour-breath heathens in the sickly bog, had their temples and effigies. Black Rock had its watchtower, the black spire that pierced the sky, but when she'd left there had been no places to worship there--as far as she remembered, anyway. Despite the purity of this form, the delicately crafted structure of its features, the divine radiance of captured sunlight, it lacked an eternal memory from which to parse information with any surety. She thought that Black Rock had no formal places to pray to the gods and so it must not.

      "Time to move," Ennoia's hot breath fanned the side of Maore's face, startling her out of reverie. She was up and fluttering her hands over her dress to make sure she was presentable among the upper echelon of Ravok society he'd chosen to parade her out in front if. Ethaefal were indeed a rarity and he was fortunate to get his hands on one. "Wait for me at the door, I will find you."

      He pushed her along with the trickle of people still leaving the pews to face one of his relatives, she wasn't quite sure the relation--humans bred like rats where the conditions were right--and made for the door. Ahead of her by a few people was that man again. She wasn't likely to notice strange people day to day like this but he'd seemed uniquely interested in her appearance in a way many others weren't; a few of these people had already enjoyed the pleasure of touching her face and horn and she was a bit of a novelty to them, only a little more interesting than a fancily fluffed up dog. No, he must not have seen her before, must not know she walked among his people in a city precariously floating above the lake. Was he going to gawk at her, too? Maore steeled herself for the inevitable fawning and watched him go down in spectacular fashion just a moment later.

      She stopped and folded a hand to her chest, jaded eyes lighting up in surprise and traitorous amusement, before moving forward to help him back up.

      Her hands were cool and pale as they grasped for his arms and urged him to release the skirts of the woman he'd all but gone down on, muttering apologies in atrocious Common to soothe the woman's irate snarling. Maore had no idea what was being said, whether she was being threatened or he was being scolded, but she saw a scene and felt like she had to clean up after it. The phantom pain of being struck by a cane in the shin and hands kept her mind focused. If Ennoia came back and saw the mess he'd hurt her again--

      And then he was back, his fingers closing around her upper arm as she straightened upright, hopefully carrying the clumsy man with her. She released him then, drawing back into herself and waiting for Ennoia to say something to them, either one of them. The ethaefal took the moment to give the man a cursory once-over. Had he taken anything from the woman currently standing off to the side with a face red like a cherry and her skirts awkwardly fixed? She didn't think so... but she wouldn't have said anything about it anyway. Perhaps it was the nasty spirit of spite but she kind of hoped something would go just a little bit badly for someone. In the temple of Rhysol, it might even be funny.


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      Blackout.

      Postby Caspian on April 9th, 2021, 12:23 am

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        Were Caspian any more alert, he might have protested being touched by anyone at this moment, whether to help or to harm. So it’s with all the uselessness of a ragdoll that he allows himself to be hauled to his feet. Any apology he might have presented to the woman he’d accidentally grabbed withers before it can even begin when he comes face to face with what he is certain, for at least a few ticks, must be a hallucination.

        The woman who’d helped him up is iridescent, fractally opalescent, like someone had taken fresh snowfall from his homeland of Avanthal, plucked the nightly auroras from the sky and woven them together into a tapestry – no, into chainmail, living and breathing and rippling with unearthly grace beside him.

        Looking at her – he forgets the spikes of pain in his knees from where he’d struck the floor, the burn on his palms from where the unfortunate bystander had wrenched her jeweled, netted skirts away. Even forgets, for a moment, the chill of exhaustion draped across his skin, the headache that’s threatened for hours to burst his skull. Just for a hair’s breadth – he is new and whole again, and the body that seems at once so brittle and so heavy is a burden he doesn’t have to bear.

        “Sorry,” he says to the pale, beautiful stranger instead of the woman he’d accosted, who he’s dimly aware has turned up her nose and decided to move on. “Sorry, I – “ Voice hoarse from a long night of misuse and an even longer morning of not being used at all, the words die in his throat. Were he of any sounder mind, he would have bit this back – but instead blurts out, “What are you? And –“ His eyes light on the damaged horn, flick to the other, then back again. “ – are you alright? Does that hurt? Sorry, I –“

        If he’s hallucinating – he’s going to make the best of it. Running from it – he thinks wildly and with no real basis – would be worse. And they’d always warned him, hadn’t they (they?), that all the drugs and drink and staying out well past Leth’s light would catch up with him eventually, would chip away at him like a shattering windowpane, and try as you might to piece glass back together the cracks yet remain for all to see and –

        Only then does he notice the man who’s appeared, his grip on the woman who – now that he’s breathing and blinking and reconsidering the touch that had raised him from the floor – is decidedly not an exhaustion and chemical overload induced dream, but a living being, and likely not human.

        The matter of the broken horn becomes, in that case, all the more a pressing concern.

        And he had thought himself out of place here, in his gray-upon-gray, the even grayer bags under his eyes, but she –

        She has no business here at all.

        And he means it in the best way.

        “Can I help you?” he says to the man he doesn’t know. The man had made his presence known and is presently staring him down with a force that on a normal day would have had Caspian immediately shoving his hands into his pockets, ducking his head, and slinking off. It hadn’t been missed, the way the stranger had swanned, had swarmed, had placed himself in his direct line of sight as if Rhysol himself had charted his path for him. As he’s here to prove a point.

        And this version of Caspian, on the first day of the new year – he hasn’t got a point to prove, but he’s also feeling terribly like he’s got nothing to lose.
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        Caspian
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        Blackout.

        Postby Maore on April 9th, 2021, 3:29 am

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        Maore opened her mouth to respond to him, to answer his rambling with a question of her own, hands already folding into signs of confusion, bemusement, wariness, ending at alarm when the man who held her chains wrapped his hand around her arm and established, in her mind at least, that he owned her.

        Ethaefal couldn't retain permanent marks given their bodies when they returned to Mizahar; Maore's nighttime facade wore the designs of her lifestyle freely but her daytime self could not even retain the slave brand that denoted her life as in the hands of another. What she wore was a collar, like a dog befit with the name of her keeper and his house to boot.

        Ennoia, fingers loosening upon the ethaefal who restrained herself from stepping back from the suddenly claustrophobic feeling of being in his presence, smiled warmly at the unknown man now that he'd assured himself that she hadn't been trying to communicate without his leave. Not that she could, of course; Maore was next to useless when speaking to people she deemed 'foreign', non-Drykas who could neither speak Pavi nor use their hand sign, and Caspian looked about as much the part of Drykas as Ennoia did.

        "Oh, this?" Ennoia forewent introductions for a moment to reach up and tug on the remnant of Maore's horn, dragging her head towards him despite the flinch. The pressure immediately hit her with an obnoxious headache growing from the point of injury. She recoiled when he released her, eyes smarting at the unexpected burst of pain, and forced herself to straighten to her full height rather than quail under assumed punishment. They were in public, an echo of Ennoia's voice whispered in the back of her mind. "No, it's an old injury I'm afraid. Poor thing ran afoul of Ravok and had it removed by Amaeli," a gesture back towards the altar where the Druvin had been. The name triggered a reaction from Maore, a stiffening of her back and a furtive glance back the way they came.

        Ennoia let the calm grow pregnant with meaning as he held Maore in his presence like a spiritual chain to its terrified dog and took in the sad sight of Caspian before him--and then he smiled again and offered his hand in greeting like they were old friends, wholly intending to pull the man into an embrace as warm as dawn on a sheet of fresh snow. Maore watched through her jaded green eyes, head still aching from the pressure put on her damaged horn, hands folding into her skirts to stop them from fluttering in agitated motions. Ennoia hadn't yet broken her of her signing but she'd learned to rein it in a little when he was right there next to her.

        "I hope you didn't take too much of a beating in the fall," Ennoia said once he'd done his gently invasive greeting, stepping back to crowd into Maore's space and keep her fixed to his side. Caspian was more than welcome to have waved him off from the gesture; Ennoia would have laughed and taken it with the sort of grace that leaves his slaves expecting to be hit... not that he would in public, of course. Nitrozian were well known for treating their slaves like family, or in this case pets, and he'd not want to ruin the image. "She's one of the Deplorables," here he'd leaned in as if sharing a secret, like the trickle of people still leaving couldn't hear and guffaw in acknowledgement; many, if not all, had been in the city during those wonderful dark times almost two years ago. "And she's mine."


        614, The Purge

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        Maore
        the void behind my teeth.
         
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        Blackout.

        Postby Caspian on Yesterday, 12:48 pm

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          Caspian notices the name inscribed on the Ethaefel’s neck just as the person of said namesake is holding out a hand to him. But though he sees the letters, recognizes them for what they are – the syllables themselves don’t form into any real coherence until he’s being pulled into a full-on embrace. The man’s cologne, the finely spun weave of his clothing, the great likelihood that he’s both taken a shower and eaten a proper meal in the last 24 hours –

          The man is so much more than him, in every way – would probably still be the case, even on a day Caspian isn’t strung out down to the marrow.

          And the ethereal woman bound at his side – even she can hold her head high, while Caspian can barely seem to keep his own vertebrae strung in a straight line.

          He doesn’t push back – he couldn’t manage, even if he tried. The man reeks of someone who’s used to getting his way, who believes that what he wants matters, who touches things at will because there’s no one to stop him. It’s with great mental strain, coupled with how petchingly self-satisfied the man seems to be when he finally lets Caspian go, as if the act had been its own blessing, a precious benediction, that he pieces together the letters and the words and the city where they’re standing and –

          He shouldn’t be surprised to run into a Nitrozian.

          They’re about as difficult to find as barnacles on the bottom of a ship’s hull.

          Two words come to him when Ennoia describes the woman, as if she isn’t there.

          One is a quiet whisper in Shiber that he barely remembers, couldn’t pronounce correctly even if his tongue didn’t feel like lead.

          The other is in Vani, ringing far clearer, with a melodic resonance that threatens to escape him, would poison the very air he breathes if he dares utter it out loud.

          That word in Common is Ethaefel – and though he’s never seen one in the flesh before, only heard of them through the hushed tales his Benshira-raised mother would croon to him to pass the time, and the rolling ballads his Vantha father would hum out in Snowsong Hold – he knows the woman with the broken horn must be one. Because she certainly isn’t a Dhani or an Akalak.

          For a moment he’s almost afraid, in his morning of recklessness, that he had spoken the Vani word out loud – and how quick would a viper like a Nitrozian be to snap up a bounty for a Vantha head? – but Ennoia’s still regarding him with that patronizing fondness. That conspiratorial gleam that regards the Ethaefel with about as much respect as furniture.

          Loathing rises in him. A touch of it must show on his face, rise about the exhaustion that would otherwise hold him still and gray.

          “That’s funny – I once heard someone talk about my mother that way. Right before she bit his balls off,” he says, all the strength he can muster keeping his voice light and blithe. As if he means for that to be taken as a joke – as if he and the Nitrozian are friends. She's mine - "And is he yours? I'm Caspian, by the way," he adds, as if he hasn't done damage enough.

          The Purge – when had that happened? Certainly after he had come to Ravok in 514. Back then, escaping from Sunberth had been all that mattered – and he had done so, thrown himself headfirst into a foreign city teeming with wealth and beauty and style. It had been easy, those first few years, to take things for what they were – what they seemed to be at the surface, sheathed in so many layers glitter and damask and obsidian light. Slavery existed in Sunberth – but that wasn’t saying much, in a city so ungoverned. Effectively anything exists there. He had taken slaves as a fact of life; his Kelvic mother, after all, had been one. But after a few years in Ravok, the draconian decrees of the Purge – it was as if the dominos were falling, the curtain finally pulled back, and he realized that what he had always considered a sorry misfortune was instead, in Ravok, a systematic machine.

          Slavery, now, is something he finds terribly hard to stomach.

          He looks to the woman who had made him forget Rohka for a moment – made him forget, though they’re standing in his temple, even Rhysol. Both feel like a betrayal, though he can’t decide which is worse – but he had gone gladly into that forgetting, taken it as a balm, a momentary reprieve from the thoughts that had hounded him into his present sorry state here.

          All that looking, and with the Nitrozian between them, capable of doing nothing more.
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          Blackout.

          Postby Maore on Yesterday, 5:08 pm

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          Even incapable of understanding Maore hung onto Ennoia's words as conditioned to do so, watching him now that she was certain the Druvin that had done this to her wasn't about to come bearing down on her again with a knife in hand to take the other horn. The phantom pain of its removal sobered her hatred of men into a quiet discomfort and a slight inclination into her owner's presence. As if he could save her. As if he wouldn't just throw her to the wolves to prove that he was the only person she could rely on not to lay his hands on her with intention of causing pain.

          Maore could not tell the difference between hating and trusting Ennoia and she relied on him to keep her afloat. She couldn't swim, after all.

          Ennoia himself seemed delighted by Caspian's responses even with his slave playing the role of confused and ignorant statue at his side. He was not ignorant to the 'joke' being told but it fell remarkably flat when his slave, who didn't speak near enough common to even realize it was a joke without the requisite hand sign, failed to respond.

          "Laugh and shake your head," he instructed Maore who had frowned again, furrowing her marble brow when only Ennoia chuckled at Caspian's 'bit in the balls' remark. His Pavi rolled painfully off his tongue but Maore had learned not to flinch and be reminded that he was still, despite the language, not Drykas.

          She did as told though, her lips turning up in a smile and eyes creasing in amusement, shaking her head to mean that she didn't understand... though that would be lost in translation too.

          "Poor thing doesn't speak a word of Common," Ennoia patted her arm and she leaned into the contact unintentionally. He was mollified by her obedience and allowed her whatever comfort she gleaned from his lording. In her case she'd felt suddenly claustrophobic, as if she were caged again and under the eyes of handlers and guards where her only safe light in the dark was the man at her side and his damned candle and smiles and promises of safety. "But we do our best."

          "Ennoia," he then said to introduce himself. "Ennoia Nitrozian. And Ciraaci." The ethaefal returned her full attention to them at the sound of her last name, her eyes flashing with discontent that he hadn't yet acknowledged the change, but she smiled again because that's what she'd been conditioned to do.

          Passing his slave his gloves, Maore turned to put them onto his hands automatically. The man didn't even look at her but smiled at Caspian as if to lord his wealth and family name over the other, as if to compare the remnants of Caspian's night with kohl and glitter smattered face with his own groomed countenance. He was a man accustomed to being given anything he wanted and he knew he was better than everyone else for the right. Class divide might not exist among the free Ravok citizens but his name still meant something... considering it was plastered in the bill of sale in many businesses.

          "It's been a pleasure to meet you, Caspian," Ennoia said when Maore had dropped his hands, letting them stew in the uncomfortable silence together. The flash of her gnosis on the palm of her hand was masked only by the dark fabric of Ennoia's gloves, but hidden with practice and shame at being identified. "I'm sure we will meet again."

          Maore, who flinched at an unexpected grab at her wrist, offered one last fleeting smile to the more fortunate of their two unfortunate souls. It lacked warmth and compassion, lacked care and concern, because she ultimately did not trust nor like humans even when Ennoia had forced her to accept him. She misread his stare to be one of desire, perhaps one of disgust if she lingered over it too long, and it burned a bright flame in her chest to never let her chains change hands again.

          Maore trusted Ennoia and as they left Caspian behind, joining the small Nitrozian party outside of the Temple, the phantom pain of her severed horn reminded her that she preferred this form of slavery to what she'd had before.


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