Solo The First Move

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The Diamond of Kalea is located on Kalea's extreme west coast and called as such because its completely made of a crystalline substance called Skyglass. Home of the Alvina of the Stars, cultural mecca of knowledge seekers, and rife with Ethaefal, this remote city shimmers with its own unique light.

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The First Move

Postby Madeira Craven on May 21st, 2020, 10:39 pm

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90th of Spring, 520
Madeira patted down the heavy skirt over her hips and smoothed the fraying edged of her coiled braid as she paused just outside her classroom door. It was a necessary little ritual for her, like clasping ones hands before entering a temple. It was something she did without conscious thought anymore. There was nothing more important to the social climber than a good presentation. Impeccable was the name of the game here. This was the Dusk's tower, but it was her classroom, and she had to be a dignified ruler here.

Spooks peaked out from behind her skirt, his pointed ears swiveling on his armored head. "Sounds like kids", he spoke for the first time since leaving the house as he listened to the chatter from behind the door.

"That's because they are kids", Madeira confirmed. "One of the novice teachers is sick, so I'm filling in." Typically she taught the Alumni class, which consisted of Dusks and potential teachers. It was rare that she was sent novices, though she stepped in for remedial lessons from time to time. Usually as a punishment the other teachers inflicted on underachieving students.

She was aware she had a reputation among the students of the prestigious Tower. They said she was the best Spiritist Lhavit had ever seen, they also said she was the most brutal teacher the Tower had ever hired. She taught the same way she was raised, collected and stern, where perfection was required and cuts and bruises and the occasional possession fueled dissociative episode were all part of the process. She didn't mind. In truth she liked the infamy. If one didn't scare people at least a little bit, what was the point?

Judging herself to be suitably flawless, Madeira threw open the door and breezed into the room, smiling like encroaching doom.

But her grand entrance was thrown somewhat, as she almost walked straight into what she saw as a wall of flowers. The smell hit her first, the heady scent of roses and fresh cut stalks, before her eyes were assaulted by a sea of bloody red blooms. They were on her desk, lined against the walls, on the bookcase and every windowsill. Roses in full bloom, with bright red petals and glossy thorns, in ceramic pots and expensive glass vases. In the middle of the veritable jungle a classroom full of nervous rich teenagers just out of the Alluvion Academy and poor twenty somethings who had passed Dusk's enigmatic proving process immediately simmered down into hushed silence.

"Good morning, class!" Madeira sang sweetly, catching herself after missing a beat. "Does anybody know what... this... is about?" she motioned vaguely over the choking floral arrangement with a flick of her glittering glove.

The class devolved into glances and shrugged shoulders, some seemed to miss the question entirely as the enormous cat creature prowled in behind her. Until one young woman at the back piped up. "There's a note on the desk!"

Sure enough, folded on the desk was a creamy white card with Madeira Minervea Craven in bold red ink on the front. Flipping it open, it read one last dance in hard, spiked cursive. It wasn't signed.

"Is it from your boyfriend?" that same bold girl piped up from the back. And from the corner of her eye she saw smirking glances thrown around the room.

"None of your business", Madeira tucked the note away into the pocket of her skirt. It was a romantic gesture of some sort, she assumed. Since her participation in the Hearts Festival it was hard to miss the significance of red flowers. And she knew who she wanted the flowers to be from, but... Thoughts of the masked stranger flitted briefly through her mind. The way they danced, she was sure she felt something between them, no matter how vehemently her mind was telling her otherwise.

Shaking off the feeling, she turned on the class, her skirt whipping around her legs. "Books out! Today we're going to talk about what it means to be a Spiritist."

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The First Move

Postby Madeira Craven on May 21st, 2020, 10:41 pm

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Nearly a bell into the lesson the sweet scent of the roses hadn't dissipated. Madeira stood at the chalkboard, a pointer stick whipping around the scrawled notes and a brutalized nub of chalk clenched in one hand. As sweet as the gesture with the flowers were, that infuriating smell was giving her a headache. It was like they were making the air in the room heavier, like it had her head between its palms and was slowly crushing it.

Wiping a bead of sweat from her hairline, she squinted at the class. "There are three different types of undead, the natural, the man made and the divine. To be a proper Spiritist you must not only know to identify them, but deal with them. Give me an example of a natural undead." She whipped her pointer at a young man in the first row. He couldn't be older than seventeen, and looked startled to be called upon.

"Um, um, ghosts?" he stuttered, leaning back in his chair like the pointer was about to leap up and bite him. On the nearest windowsill Spooks chuckled sleepily.

Timidness was not becoming of a Spiritist, she inwardly griped. Why was this boy even here if he couldn't show a smidgen of confidence? The thought surfaced in pieces, like the little bubbles in champagne.

"Correct. Unatural?"

"N-Nuit!"

"Divine."

Here the boy's overstressed mind stuttered to a halt. She could see the wheels turning as he groped desperately for an answer beneath her glowering gaze. A rational part of her deep down was admonishing her; he was just a novice, after all. But something dark and heavy was eclipsing it. Why was he here if he couldn't answer this simple question? His family probably wanted him to attend for the prestige of it. Likely he had no interest in the magic... Another thought snuck up behind it, giving another, viler reason. Before the though could even fully form she shut it down, shocked with herself.

"Yukmen", the boy finally burbled, and she could see in his eyes that he already knew he was wrong.

Madeira put her hands on her hips and sighed through her nose. "Listen close", she addressed the whole class, her pale eyes flicking to each face in turn, lingering a little too long as they made eye contact. Why did she have to explain this? Maybe they were playing dumb. She thought she could see a flicker of mirth behind their eyes, as if they got a kick out of making their substitute teacher waste her time.

"It is your responsibility to know every facet of death. You are the bridge, the medium, between the living and the dead. That does not mean just interacting with ghosts. That means knowing how a Nuit works, it means facing off against a Returned, it means looking a murderous spirit in the eye and Lying with a sincerity that would shame a priest."

An escaped tendril of hair was in her eye. She brushed it away, running both hand irritatedly over her hair and merely making things worse. Why did her collar feel so tight? She could feel the questioning gaze of her students crawling over her like bugs.

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Madeira Craven
long may she reign
 
Posts: 1601
Words: 1402855
Joined roleplay: October 11th, 2016, 7:45 pm
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The First Move

Postby Madeira Craven on May 21st, 2020, 10:42 pm

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"Do you think I'm joking?" she snarled. "You are Lhavit's next batch of schemers and liars and backstabbers. You have to be. Because if you let your guard down they'll petch you up right back, and..." A hitch snatched the word in her throat, and wetness began to collect in the corners of her eyes. To her horror, she realized she was about to cry. Madeira didn't cry. A Craven doesn't cry! What the petch was wrong with her? It was them, wasn't it. The little shykes were working her up just to humiliate her. They were laughing in their heads, she could tell by the looks they kept shooting each other, like they were all in on the same joke.

Did they know that Lhavit's best Spiritist had let a ghost betray her seasons ago? Did they know Jomi had gotten the drop on her, and left her floundering in the dirt with the rest of them when he left her? Her mind was tumbling further and further away from her, spinning out of control as she angry wiped away the tears "You think you're better than that, don't you? Do you have some sort of grand aspiration of being the kind and benevolent friend to ghost's everywhere? Grow up. If you try to be some sparkling embodiment of virtue they'll eat you alive." They can see how dirty her hands are, and they are disgusted. Under their collective stares she bristled like a cat. They are not better than her. Deep down they were all liars and cheats, she was sure of it.

But then why did it feel like judgment to stand in front of them? She felt naked, like they were peeling back all her carefully cultivated layers of confidence and class and invulnerability to see the ugly, soiled, scared little thing she was beneath.

Now even Spooks had raised his head and was staring at her with his unreadable yellow eyes. Wait, if she looked deep enough she could almost see a spark of something in there. Was that pity? A sudden spark of fury lit everything ablaze. How dare they look at her like that! Who were they to judge her! She was the pinnacle of spiritual might, a credit to her name! How dare they treat her like a broken little girl!

"Get out!" she roared, her hands slamming down on her desk in closed fists, her eyes red and wild. "You pretenders, you mightier-than-though little petchers! Out!"

A sea of white, scared faces stood and stumbled out like water from a floodgate. Pushing and jostling each other aside, they fought to not be the last one in the classroom with her while still taking pains to give their mad teacher as wide a berth as possible. A flurry of feet thundered collectively down the stairs as they exploded into chatter and started running the moment they were out of sight. Someone shut the door gently behind them, like the noise might set Madeira off like a bomb.

Over by the window Spooks was standing on all fours, plated back arched protectively, his stare unbroken.

"What the petch is wrong with you?" he hissed.

"Why, you want to laugh too?", Madeira wheeled on him, her fists raised protectively. "Go ahead! Go tell Aldgare what I've done! Tell Infinity! Tell petching Rotsam! You're all the same. You don't think I'm worth it. You sell me out the first chance you get!"

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Madeira Craven
long may she reign
 
Posts: 1601
Words: 1402855
Joined roleplay: October 11th, 2016, 7:45 pm
Race: Human
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Medals: 10
Featured Contributor (1) Featured Thread (2)
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The First Move

Postby Madeira Craven on May 21st, 2020, 10:42 pm

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"Madeira? I heard yelling, are you-" Madeira's blood went cold as a familiar voice drifted hesitantly into the room. The door clicked open and Chiona Dusk stepped inside. Madeira saw the gambit of emotions cross her face upon seeing the disheveled, weeping Spiritist and the flower choked room surrounding her. Bewilderment, shock, confusion, and... "What the hai is that?" she gasped, and she wasn't looking at Madeira, or the hissing beast on the windowsill, or even the room full of flowers. She was staring at a single bouquet of flowers directly behind Madeira, and her face was white.

A sudden, horribly sharp bloom of understanding hit Madeira like a shot of whiskey. At once she twisted around and snatched up the ceramic pot behind her, throwing it at the ground with force. Petals and jagged pieces of ceramic exploded across the classroom floor, and something hidden inside was sent skittering across the hardwood.

Chiona's hands clasped over her mouth as a strangled scream worked its way out of her throat. Madeira caught an impression of the long, bucktoothed skull of some sort of small animal wrapped in fraying strands of black hair and foul, stained leather before she descended on the thing with the heaviest book in reach. Thorns and shards sliced through her dress and legs beneath as the threw herself onto the ground and smashed the thing to pieces with brutal force.

The pressure in her head lifted immediately as the thing cracked to undistinguishable pieces, and the Spiritist gasped for breath like she was surfacing from a nightmare. The itching, nervous paranoia lingered in her bones only a tick longer before that too lifted from her tense shoulders. Madeira unspooled like a cut wire, dizzy and leaning against the legs of a desk.

"Gods, Madeira! Are you okay?!" Chiona was on her in a tick, arms wrapped protectively around her back, holding her to her chest. She knew a maledicted fetish when she saw one, and Madeira could feel the woman's heart pounding in her chest, probably reliving her own memory of being cursed.

"I'm okay now. Everything's fine." But everything was not fine. Thirty students had just been set loose into Lhavit with stories of the mad, unstable mage lurking in the top of their Tower. The reputation she had so prided herself on, had worked so hard to maintain, was about to take a serious, devastating blow. She pushed a sweaty lock of hair out of her eyes and sagged into the woman's embrace, burning and exhausted. What had she done? If only she had a better handle on Auristics, she could have...

Above her Chiona was talking in a low voice, stroking Madeira's hair as she studied the room around them, no doubt using her masterful hold on the visual magic to check for more fetishes hidden where the novice couldn't see. "What kind of dirty trick was that? Is this a sick prank, or another mage-hating stunt? Oh Mads, lets get you out of here. We'll get someone to clean these wretched things away. Come on. Whatever sick game this person thinks they're playing, we'll find them."

Game. The word shot electric through the Spiritist's chest.

As Chiona helped her to her feet Madeira dug around in her pocket and opened the note that had been left on her desk. One last dance, she read again, the words burning themselves into her mind. A prickle of feeling worked its way through the Cordas mark on the bed of her tongue, and under her hands she could feel the rough palms of Rotsam the Curse Eater clumsily steering her around the street in an off tempo dance.

The game had already started, and her partner had just made his first move.

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User avatar
Madeira Craven
long may she reign
 
Posts: 1601
Words: 1402855
Joined roleplay: October 11th, 2016, 7:45 pm
Race: Human
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Journal
Plotnotes
Medals: 10
Featured Contributor (1) Featured Thread (2)
Mizahar Grader (1) Overlored (1)
Donor (1) One Thousand Posts! (1)
One Million Words! (1) Lhavit Seasonal Challenge (1)
2018 Mizahar NaNo Winner (1)


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