Open [Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Tazrae takes a break to do a little maintenance at the shrine.

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

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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Tazrae on September 3rd, 2020, 2:58 am

Timestamp: 10th of Fall, 520 A.V.
Location: Kihala's Shrine


Life was slower in Syka. Tazrae still had responsibilities and duties that kept her busy. However, she had extra time often and with the mark under her left wrist, she felt like she needed to be one of the people that took care of the shrine. To that end, she often packed up day-old bread for the fish, a small garden spade and gloves, and an instrument or two so she could spend some time at Kihala's Shrine.

The Innkeeper had almost developed a routine in coming here every few days. She'd spend time weeding the flowers, pulling out grass from the flower beds, and trying to tame down all sorts of things that tried to spring up. Sometimes, if someone donated a flower to her - for she often took lovely flowers in the form of plants complete with rootballs in on trade for a meal or two here and there - that she already had, she'd bring it here and plant it at the shrine.

That meant slowly, over time, the shrine was growing. Uta had handled the long clinging vines and flowers that made up Kihala's hair, but Taz tried to maintain the flower beds on the ground... clearing out what wasn't wanted and encouraging that which was. Luckily it was Syka, and the light morning rain and evening rain often refreshed the growth without the need for watering. It wouldn't have mattered anyhow. Duncan, the blind Reimancer that tended the pools had built this place, channeling a small stream into the stone pools and gemfish ponds. The water always flowed here and had taken on - at least in the upper pond - something of a mystical quality.

Tazrae steered quite clear of it, not wanting what it promised, at least not at this point in her life. But it made for a ready supply of water if something got parched or needed extra care. And frankly, watering with the mystical stuff tended to encourage flowers and sprouting. It was a side effect those that tended the gardens utilized.

And Taz, being marked by Rhaus, hummed herself a little tune as she knelt in the flowers, pulling out the overenthusiastic grass and weeds. She was careful, plucking only that which she was sure wasn't baby flowers. And as she did so, she sang, a soft sweet song about life.

"To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion,
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages,
with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully,
to all bravely await occasions,
hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden
and unconscious grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony."


And once she got done with her self-appointed task, she'd sit a while in the small seating area and perhaps munch on one of the cookies she'd brought in a bag full of cookies for whoever stopped by. Then she'd play some mandolin... for she practiced daily. Then she'd spend some time writing in her journal... just secret thoughts and fears... secret wishes and desires. It would be a good day, of that she was certain. And she had a few bells before she had to be back and start dinner for her guests.
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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Puk on September 3rd, 2020, 8:20 pm



Puk woke up early in the bed in the bungalow he was renting. The people here had been so warm and welcoming and accommodating for him. He looked around his barely furnished, temporary home. It was so big and lonely here. He had grown up sharing a tent or hut with Grau constantly. It was so empty here. But still, he was grateful. He'd been told that he would owe 100 golden mizas at the end of the season. He still wasn't entirely sure if he could get that many in time. But he'd find a way. Grau didn't raise him to be lazy, after all.

He lumbered heavily out of bed. He turned around and quickly began making the bed, making the sheets as tight as possible. Grau had made him do such things in her home, and he'd been told cleanliness was a must here as well. He didn't want to make anyone angry. He grabbed his necklace, the gift from the woman who had guided him here, putting it on. He didn't wear anything else. He didn't own any clothes, nor did he see the point in them. If he was hot, he'd swim. If bugs bothered him, he'd roll in the mud. He didn't know when else he might need clothes, and it wasn't a habit that Grau had fostered in him. She had always said she liked seeing him all natural. Whatever that meant.

Puk stepped out of the bungalow, seeing Syna beginning her rise over the ocean. He walked down to the shallows, where he scrubbed himself down with sand before rinsing off. He then went off, first to the south, to find some of the coconuts to eat. He was a Tskana after all, and had a large appetite in which to fill.

And once it was filled, he was walking back through Syka, having been told he needed to explore, to get to know people here. Grau had told him to never meet someone without a gift to give, so in both of his hands, he carried an unopened coconut each. He didn't get lost very often. He knew that if he walked toward sunrise, or away from sunset, he could reach the coast. And from there he could eventually find his bungalow. He made his way northward through town. He saw several men, but refused to look at them nor acknowledge them. He moved past them as quickly as he could. They were evil after all, that's what Grau had said. That's why Myrian men were smaller and inferior to Myrian women.

He stood near some woman, holding his coconuts, waiting to be acknowledged. Some were busy and wandered off. Others looked at him strangely before leaving him alone. He shrugged. They didn't wish to speak to him, and he had been taught to never speak first to a woman. As he continued along the path, he saw the pools where fish would swim. A statue to Kihala was built there, with pretty flowers for hair. It was a really pleasant spot to sit.

He walked through the shrine, being careful to not damage anything with his large footsteps. He'd passed by here a few times and always saw someone here working on the plants, and he wouldn't want them to get upset. There was an instrument of some sort, being strummed on by a woman nearby. The music was pleasant and calming, as was her presence. Puk moved over to the stone seats for watching the fish, choosing the one that was closest to where the woman was playing. He looked over at her, before setting a coconut between him and her. And he waited, sitting patiently, not speaking, watching the little fishes swim about.

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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Tazrae on September 4th, 2020, 1:25 am

She eyed the man carefully, watching him as she strummed the mandolin, a song forming on the edge of her mind. It changed when she saw him approach, its voice more of carefully measured power - footsteps watched among delicate flowers. Then the music reflected what she saw as an offering set between them. Tazrae knew it was a coconut. She'd seen quite a few of them since she'd come to Syka. She'd seen naked men too. They weren't shy here like they were in Riverfall. The oppressive heat might have something to do with it, and indeed the man had a healthy sheen of sweat about him as if he did indeed feel the heat.

He had warm brown skin and a mop of corkscrew curls. The sight made her smile slightly because if there was something in the world to relate too it was unruly curly hair. Dark eyes framed a heavy brow. All of him was heavy. The man was enormous, but he moved with a deliberate grace she could almost relate to animals. He didn't say anything or interrupt her playing, so she assumed that maybe he was simply here to listen. She wasn't that good with the mandolin yet, as it was something she'd just taken up since coming to Syka. She knew simple tunes - children's songs and things she made up - that mimicked nature or followed her random thoughts.

Syka was a place of no hurry. She'd weeded the Shrine and only had the old bread left to feed the gemfish with and her trip to the Shrine would be complete. She would say her thanks to Kihala and The Stone Guardians as well, then finish her day at home. But first... she decided, she wanted to meet this newcommer.

So she finished her playful practice on the instrument, set it carefully aside, and reached for the cookies she'd brought along with her. She folded the edge of the burlap bag back, revealing the round treats, and reached over and set them alongside the coconut on the man's side. "Cookies... only shortbread today, but I still love them for their plainness. Have some of you are hungry... or all of them. I brought them to share." She said softly, then tapped the coconut.

"It's a lovely coconut, but I have no idea how to get to the hairy brown nut inside. Could you show me?" She asked, stroking the item he'd left like an offering. "I'm Tazrae. People call me Taz. I manage the Inn just south of the Bungalows." She added, then gestured at the shrine. "And sometimes help weed the flowers here when I have spare time." She added, smiling.

Her accent was straight Rivarian. She was no doubt from across the sea in the distant city James often visited to get supplies for Syka. "I'm pretty new to the city. This is my second season. Are you... Myrian?" She asked, hesitating because she wasn't sure. He had the look of a Myrian, but she'd heard the males were small folk. This man was not small. She ran her eyes across him again, noting his features and his muscles. He was as big as an Akalak, truth be told. But she nodded to his hair when her eyes roamed back up to his head. "We have something in common, you know. That curly hair. If you ever need something like a type of soap to help tame it, let me know. Mine gets so frizzy... but I've perfected fairly good recipes over time. I'll share with you if your hair decides it has a life of its own one of these days." The woman said, offering him a smile. She loved her curls, she just loved them more when they did what she wanted them to do and weren't going every direction but falling softly.

Her attempts at making shampoo and soap were going well. She was utterly unskilled, but Juli had gotten James to grab some recipe books and Taz had soon learned that while she knew nothing of the skill, she could follow a good recipe if she just thought of it as just another dish to cook.

"Do you live around here?" She asked softly, her eyes curious and friendly.
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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Puk on September 5th, 2020, 8:14 pm



Puk found himself swaying to her music as he watched the fish. Anyone with a sharp eye and good ear could tell he was swaying off-rhythm, but Puk was enjoying himself. And when the music ended, he looked in the woman's general direction, though not at her face, not at her eyes. Never at the eyes. She set a bag of something, something called 'cookies' next to his coconut. He'd never had one of these cookies before. But despite her words, he still didn't yet move for them, though he kept glancing at them.

At least until she clearly accepted his gift of a coconut. When she did that, he first focused on listening to everything she said. After all, he would not interrupt her. He looked around them both, seeing the statue, the fish ponds, the carefully managed flowers. "Yes, I can show you." He wasn't sure how to say the next part respectfully to this woman. He began to stammer, looking down at his hands now, "M-m-maybe we can open it somewhere else? I don't want to hurt this place and I only know one way to open it."

Then he flinched, remembering that he was supposed to give his name when others do. "I-I-I'm sorry. My name is Puk." Then he stopped to think for a moment, "People call me Puk." He didn't know what an inn was, but he had already asked one question, "I don't know what to do yet."

He found himself enjoying the way she spoke. It was much less aggressive and harsh than how the Myrians of Taloba would speak to him. He only now reached out curiously, grabbing one of the cookies. It was a strange feeling, hard and... hard. He wasn't sure if he'd ever felt anything remotely similar to it. He brought it up to his nose, sniffing at it, taking long, deep whiffs. He held it up before his eyes, studying it intensely. It didn't look like food. But she had given it to him in case he was hungry, so it must be food. Though it could be a trick. Grau would trick him into eating stuff he shouldn't, she called it training him to survive in the wilderness. And made him thank her for it.

He opened his mouth wide, his lips pulled back to show his large teeth. He gingerly set the cookie whole in his mouth, and then closed his mouth. As it sat on his tongue, it tasted just a hint of sweet. The texture was strange too. Then he chomped on it with his big, back molars, and it crumbled loudly! His eyes were wide at this, having not expected it. He continued to chew, finding great pleasure in the crunching sound. It was less sweet than the fruit he normally ate, but he found that to be delightful. It was perfect. And when it was a big pile of mush in his mouth, he swallowed it, smiling.

And she started speaking again, confusing him for a Myrian. Once more, he waited for her to finish speaking entirely, listening all the while, staring at her hands, her legs, anything to focus on that wasn't her face where her eyes were. "Thank you for cookie. I am not Myrian, I didn't earn that. I am new too. I was left here at the beginning of the season. I'm not allowed to go home." His eyes drifted dangerously up her form, to see the curly hair she spoke about. He did his best to turn his face and eyes so he could only see her hair while avoiding her face. Her words confused him a bit, but he did his best to speak in return. "My hair is tame, I promise. All of me is. I was well trained."

He then pointed in the general direction of the Bungalows. "I live there, on beach in... hut. I've never lived in one before. I've never lived alone before." He then leaned over, tentatively reaching for another cookie. She had said he could have them all, but again, Grau used to say things like that, only to get angry when he'd eat all of the food. So he moved slow, to give her time to chide him if she needed to do so.

He chewed on the cookie, again relishing the entire experience of it. As he did, he felt an intense curiosity about this woman. She was so different from Grau. "I really like your curls. They are like vines when Syna rises." Crumbs were falling down his front, but Puk brushed them off into the fish pond. He saw the fish darting after them and smiled. He grabbed another cookie, breaking off a piece and crushing it, so he could feed the fishes some more. They seemed to like it as much as he did. "Your music is really nice too. It made me happy."

He kept dancing around his curiosity of her, trying to not be impolite to a superior but as all Kelvics are curious, eventually it was a battle he lost. Breaking down, he asked a personal question. "Where did you come from, Tazrae?" His body language instantly shifted, trying to make himself smaller, hunching a bit defensively, as he expected to be hit and admonished for not minding his own business. Grau enjoyed him complimenting her, but did not tolerate him asking her things about herself.

As he waited, he was thinking about the coconut. He knew he could stomp on it while in his Tskana form and break it easily. But he had never tried to break it open in this form. He'd never needed to. And then, most unlike him, he blurted out, not thinking about if he might be interrupting her, "We can use a rock to open it!" He was looking at her now, right in the eyes, smiling at his discovery. He saw curiosity and friendliness in her eyes, and for a long moment, he was comforted.

And then he remembered himself, and immediately looked away, back down to his now empty hands in his lap. He'd done something bad, for sure. There was no defensive hunching over. Just the sagging shoulders of the defeated, as he waited for his punishment.
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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Tazrae on September 7th, 2020, 12:27 am

Tazrae sat next to one of the gentlest souls she decided she’d yet met here in Syka. He was a complex mixture of shy and humble, but he reminded her a lot of a child who had been hit so many times that he expected it. She’d seen that before in a neighbor boy who lived near the Inn she used to run with her parents in Riverfall. The boy had taken food from her, for she often slipped him a cinnamon roll for he was too thin, and would flinch if she moved to fast or spoke to hashly. He had mysterious bruising and once had even sported a black eye. But when he looked perfectly normal, there was still a mannerism with him that stood out. Puk had the same mannerism.

She smiled when he agreed to show her how to open the coconut. “Of course… anywhere you’d like.” She added, then stooped to pick up the coconut and made as if she were going to follow him. “I’m done here… we could go now.” She added, smiling at him.

“I like your name. Puk is a good one. You can call me Taz if you want. It’s the shorter version of my full name but I like it just as much as Tazrae… then we’d both have short names.” She said, wanting to draw ties between them even now. It pleased her that he was eating her cookies. She made them to pass out after all.

“Where is home? Why aren’t you allowed to go there?” She asked carefully, noting the answers to his other questions. He claimed his hair was tame, and she hid her smile over that statement. His hair definitely wasn’t tame. If it was, then she was completely bald. She thought with a chuckle. And she immediately learned he lived in a bungalow. She puzzled over how he said he was well trained. It was something a slave would say, not something a person who owned their own life would say.

She wanted to ask him if he liked living alone, but the conversation was already moving on. He complimented her and she smiled slightly, a shy flush darkening her cheeks. First her curls then her music. “Thank you… I like yours too.” She wondered if he made any music… to sing or play an instrument. She hoped so. Tazrae would love to have someone else to play with… maybe even get a Syka band together. Tazrae shouldered her pack and cased her mandolin sliding it over her shoulder as well. She left the cookies in his capable hands headed southeast towards the beach.

“I’m glad it made you happy. Do you sing or play?” She asked, urging him to follow her towards the beach, a more open area to open the coconut like he requested. They walked together, the Kihala shrine lying above swing beach to the side of the commons. They would have to cut through part of The Commons.

“I come from Riverfall. My family had an Inn there before my father died suddenly. My mother fell into debt managing the Inn poorly and contracted herself as a … Nakivak for the Akalak.” She said softly. “My mother wanted me to join her in Service, but I declined. I wanted to make my own way in the world, and not be dependent upon others. So James was a friend of my fathers… the captain who sails The Veronica.. .and he invited me to come open an Inn here. That was last season. Randal built it for me and I’m paying it back. Its only a small humble place, but its mine and I can easily pay it off in a year or so.” She said softly, offering him a smile.

When he said they could open the coconut with a rock, Tazrae smiled. “Really? That’d be great!” She said, holding up the coconut and offering it to him. “Can you show me?” She asked, gesturing at an odd assortment of rocks decorating both The Commons and the beach, scattered about. “Is that not your usual way?” She asked, wondering why his idea seemed to strike him and be something new.

The Commons were all but deserted and the beach was the same way. It wasn’t hot out either, but the weather was mild and a gentle wind blew. Palms waved higher up and seagrass danced. It was a beautiful day, the Innkeeper decided, as Tazrae walked with Puk. She felt like a child standing next to Puk, offering him the coconut. She smiled at the visual image it gave her. She’d never would have guessed that a year ago looking forward she’d be here and now, standing before a huge naked mane and offering him a coconut. The vision made her smile.

“You know… in Riverfall I was expected to be this certain person. People put all kinds of limitations on me for being human and not being Akalak. I rebelled against that. I didn’t want to be what people wanted me to be. They wanted me to have babies for them and to only be of use for what my womb could give them. I hated that. When I came here… it was different.” She said softly, the offered coconut outstretched in her hands forgotten. “When I came here, I could be anything I wanted to be. I could be anyone I wanted too.” She said softly, then smiled up at him. “Its like that for everyone, Puk. You can start a life here. I don’t know who left you here or why… but they did a good thing for you.” She insisted, then shook the coconut a bit.

“Take it! Show me!” She said with a laugh… shaking her head and wondering why she was offering this stranger such strange advice. "And then tell me where you came from.... fair is fair. I told you, you should tell me." She added in with a laugh.
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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Puk on September 7th, 2020, 3:58 am



But the strike never came, and Puk looked over just to be sure. And all he saw was her radiant smile and lovely curls. Grau never smiled at him. And for the moment, he felt safe, he could feel, he knew, absolutely knew, that Taz would not hit him. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he did. Gut instinct perhaps. She had said she was done here and was preparing to leave. And she was inviting him to come with.

And of course he would go with. Normally he would only be going with because she had said to do so. But now, now he also wanted to go with her. He pulled his feet from the fish pond, being careful to not kick any of the fish on the way out, and slowly stood up. He crouched down, grabbing the bag of cookies, and stood up. He cradled the bag carefully against his chest, as gently as if he were carrying a baby bird.

Puk nodded at her smiling, "Thank you, Taz. I like your name too." He did like the shorter version of the name, and that it was like his own in that regard. He shifted uneasily at her asking about his home. He thought about the question, he really thought about it, wanting to answer it as best he could. He didn't have a home anymore. Was that what she wanted to know? Why had he called it home anyways? It was all so confusing to him.

"I said home, I meant Taloba. But... my home there is gone, and I'm not allowed to go back. I have no home."

It was weird to say it out loud. His home had been the tents, the huts, shared with Grae. And he was somehow both sad, and not, at no longer having that home. It was all so confusing to him, and that confusion would be plain upon his face. And soon, the pair were walking, together. "I don't know how to sing or play."

He walked closely behind her. Not too close, to not make her uncomfortable. Unconsciously, leftover training mandated by Grau, he was always keeping himself closer to whichever side of the path was closer to the more wild side of the jungle. That way, should he need to get in the way of anything that attacked, he could do so as quickly as possible. He listened intently as she spoke about Riverfall, but his eyes were always scanning the jungle around them. As they passed people, he looked them over. If they were women, he made no change in his behavior, but if they were men, he shifted in their direction, just in case.

She used a lot of words he wasn't familiar with. There was that word again, "inn". He had heard of Riverfall, some town where the men were 'almost' as strong and tough as Myrian women. But still evil. So evil that they only made more men, never more women. More confusing words. Nakivak. Akalak. As he listened though, he was quick to learn, from the tone of her voice and the meanings of the words he did know that the inn was some sort of building that belonged to her. And that Nakivak was not something good.

And now she was so eager to see him open the coconut with a rock. He was excited in her excitement too, feeling the safety of her presence, of her complete lack of threat or punishment. As she continued to speak, he quickly realized that Akalak was the name of the men from Riverfall. She could be whatever she wanted to be. Not what others wanted her to be. That made Puk think, and as he did, his lips pursed slightly and his forehead creased in concentration. Grau had always wanted him to be a strong fighter. To fight whoever, whatever she wanted. But Puk didn't want that. He didn't like to fight. He didn't want to fight. And in a bare whisper, as he looked down at her smile, "I don't know what I want," and for some reason, that thought made him smile too.

And he reached out with his massive hand, gingerly plucking the coconut she offered up to him excitedly. Her excitement was infectious and he was smiling broadly in return. In exchange, he offered the bag of cookies back to her, and he began to look for a good rock. A rock as flat and as big as his foot, because that was how he knew to open coconuts. He would step on them. His first day in Syka, he ate so many coconuts this way. Gorged himself. And as he looked, he spoke, letting the words come easy from him, not attempting to censor them.

"I am from Taloba. I was raised by Grau of the Changing Moon Clan." He didn't use the word mother. She never let him use that word to describe her. "I was born there. Grau and I lived on the edges of where her clan lived, closer to the jungle. She taught me how to survive out in the wild, how to protect her from dangers. She taught me to how to carry creatures she killed, to lift things for her. She taught me to..." He paused. "She taught me to fight." He bent down finding a good rock, exactly the kind he was looking for. "I don't like fighting."

He set down the coconut on a rock nearby, and heaved out the rock that he found, leaving a big depression of disturbed sand. It was large, and he grunted a bit as he lifted it up to his chest. He remembered all the times Grau made him fight. Fight against her. Fight against other animals that she'd injured. He raised the stone up over his head, his muscles bulging. He remembered the time that she tried to make him fight against the Tskana. He remembered how scared he was, scared for the Tskana. He remembered being so angry at being told to fight her. Tears were flowing down his cheeks now. And he scrunched his eyes shut as he slammed the rock down on the coconut, splitting it into two halves, as the milk splattered everywhere.

He tossed the rock aside as he knelt there, sobbing. He could remember the feel of Grae's body beneath his feet. He could remember the way the Myrians all looked at him like he was a monster. He could remember the fear of being cast out of Taloba, lost and scared. He looked up at Taz, still blubbering, "I don't like fighting." He grabbed the two halves of the coconut, standing up fully, offering them to her, "I don't want to be a fighter."

He wasn't sure why he was saying this. But he could feel the need to say it. Maybe it was all this talk about being something else. At being whatever it was he wanted to be. He still didn't know what he wished to be, but he knew he didn't want to be what Grau wanted from him. He didn't want to be a monster. He wiped away his messy face on the inside of his bicep, "I am happy you are what you want. I was brought here by a woman, a Myrian from my home. She is from the Ivory Tusk clan. She guided me to Syka when I was lost and scared. She is a kind woman. And you are too, Taz."

Then he remembered something just now, speaking about the woman who guided him. Something he'd entirely forgotten. He was so used to Grau knowing what he was, that he forgot that people don't just know him. He stepped back away from Taz, "I want to show you something. Please don't be afraid, you are always safe with me."

And when he stepped back far enough, he took off his necklace with the sigil of the Ivory Tusk clan, setting it gently in the sand. He looked all around his immediate person, making sure there was no one and nothing around him. And then he shifted into his natural form. The twenty foot tall Tskana appeared before Taz, with his six tusks, the top most two being as long as Taz was tall. His trunk dangled loosely, sniffing about now that he could smell better. His wide ears flapped about lazily as he looked down at her. He made no motion to step toward her. He simply stood there and watched her.

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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Tazrae on September 11th, 2020, 4:31 am

Tazrae smiled at him when he agreed to join her. He seemed to think about her question as they walked together and that had her wondering what was so difficult about her question. His answer, though, brought her almost up short. She hesitated in her walk a moment, and looked at him. Then she shook her head. “Home isn’t a place, necessarily Puk, it’s a feeling. Like being happy or feeling safe. Syka’s a good place to find that feeling… to build a place you can call home. And you can make that place any way you want. There is no limit, no restrictions. Come with me. I’d like to show you my home to help explain to you what I mean.” She added, reaching out to rest her hand on his forearm a moment and give it a gentle squeeze. “We can walk down the beach if you like. It’s a pretty stroll.” She added.

When he confessed that he didn’t play or sing, she simply nodded. “You don’t have to do either to enjoy good music, but I can teach you if you’d like to learn.” She said. “I think anyone can sing, and you look like someone who would do good on drums. Drums aren’t that hard to learn. Do you know why? We each have a heart – every one of us – and it beats inside our chests. We already set our life to that heartbeat. A drumbeat is no different.” She said with a smile, stopping a moment to lean over and lift a blooming flower along the path they were taking. Tazrae took a moment to admire it, noting its location, and then moved on.

But first… she wanted to see him open a coconut. It was one battle here in Syka she’d fought and lost time and time again. It took her bells to get one open, and she knew there was a better way. Maybe Puk knew that way.

But at his whisper, she pulled up short. She looked up at him, catching his gaze – which was a rare thing for he did not look directly in people’s eyes – and reached out to take his hand for a moment... the one not holding the cookies like a little bird. “It’s okay if you don’t know what you want, Puk. You will know it when you see it or feel it. Everyone in life has to try a lot of things to understand what’s just right for them. You have a lot of time. And here you have a lot of space. Take that time to try new things, look around, decide what you like and what you don’t like. Every person here, Puk, has a choice. This settlement, as I understand it, started to build a new way of doing things. It’s a pretty good system too. Contribute, be necessary, and everyone matters.” Tazrae added, then released his hand, stepping back and giving him space.

She handed him the coconut… here was as good of a place as any. She took the cookies back, plucked one out of the bag, and began to nibble on it.

Tazrae tilted her head, feeling like this moment was important somehow as Puk started to speak. She nodded as he gave her where he was from and who he was raised by. She nodded at his explanation, but stilled seeing all the emotion cross his face. Tears welled up in his eyes and spilled over to run down his cheeks. Tazrae froze, uncertain, and still listening closely. She could almost see the wounds inside him by the timbre of his voice. His words tumbled out like a sharp blade lancing his own wounds. She watched him bring the rock down, split the coconut neatly, and then as if he wasn’t allowed to keep crying, rose and picked up the coconut halves – handing them to her. She took them bewildered a moment, and started to speak, but then he continued his story and she slowly closed her lips and listened. He told her how he got here, then reiterated that she was safe with him.

What was she not supposed to be afraid of? He was taking off is necklace. The big dark-skinned man dissolved into a swirl of colored lights which expanded and reformed, growing larger and larger until a giant supersized version of the ashta stood before her. He had six tusks, and stood there proudly twitching his tail. At first, Tazrae was shocked. She hadn’t expected this, but then again she hadn’t exactly realized he was Kelvic.

She’d seen Kelvics in Riverfall, but by and large the ones there were little dogs, squirrels, even deer. Tazrae hadn’t seen any big predator Kelvics nor any ones nearly Puk’s size. They might have been there, in human form, but she’d never seen them in their animal forms.

The Innkeeper studied Puk, tilted her head to slowly to one side and the other, as she studied the animal. She then carefully set down the bag she had, the backpack, and rested the two halves of the coconut on it. Then she walked forward, up to him, and reached out to touch his soft trunk. She laughed as she had to tilt her head so far up to meet his gaze.

“You are beautiful. And so tall! What do you need all these tusks for? Your skin looks rough but its warm and smooth.” She said, running her hand over a small portion of the skin of his trunk, and smiled. Then she reached out to hug one of his legs. Her laughter was even brighter. “I’ve seen trees smaller than your legs! I can’t even reach all the way around them.” She added, then ducked under him – just because she could – and popped out on the other side.

“You are so tall you could wade out into the sea a long way and still be out of the water.” She said softly. Then her eyes widened. “I want to build a dock off the beach of my Inn. I bet you could help me with that without really even breaking a sweat because I need wood from the Sawmill and someone to drive in pilings! Would you be interested in helping me? I’d trade your time for meals and any time you needed a soft place to sleep. The Inn has extra large beds which would hold you nicely. I designed them for Akalaks.” She added. “Do you want to see?” She said, reaching around to gently touch one of his tusks.

Tazrae was a very tactile person. The young bard touched everything she examined, looking with her eyes, hands, even her hearing. She experienced Puk this way too, gently touching him, listening to the way his ears gently slapped against his neck and shoulders, hearing his breathing and his great heartbeat. She smiled, backing away finally as she retrieved her things and shouldered her pack.

“Come on. I’ll show you my Inn and let you think it over to see if you want to make a trade.” She added, not minding if he stayed in his giant ashta form – she knew no word for his species – or fine if he changed back into human. She simply started off northward up the beach, one arm holding the coconuts and cookies, the other arm beckoning him invitingly with a ‘come on’ gesture.

She didn’t mention his tears. Tazrae wouldn’t bring it up. But instead, she’d walk with him up the beach and start talking about her own life. “My Inn is called The Protea. I named it after the flowers that bloom all over the jungle. Flowers are one of my favorite things here in Syka. I provide a place for travelors to stay that don’t have a home here. They can rent rooms for the night or even for a while… days, seasons. The appeal to an Inn is that the Innkeepers provide meals – breakfast and dinner usually – to anyone who needs food. I liked being an Innkeeper, that’s why I started mine here. And I love cooking and taking care of people. Its perfect work for me. But since I do a lot of cooking, I have to do a lot of foraging and hunting for the larder. I walk down to the Commons’ every day and set out lobster and crab pots off the dock to catch the animals for our meals. It would be really handy for me to have my own dock to throw my pots off of and to tie up a little boat too. I want to learn to sail too, so I can see more of the coastline.” She added as they walked.

They passed Mathias’ place and moved up the coast until finally her Inn was visible set back from the beach a bit but still visible above the sand. If Puk was still in his animal form, she’d politely suggest he take his human form again, so she could give him a tour.

“Out there… that’s where I want the dock. Six pilings to anchor it too… a set on shore and four out into the water. I don’t think the water even comes up to your knees in your animal form and you are strong enough I bet to carry the logs down from the mill and drive them into the soil. If you could do that for me… I can build all the rest of it. Throw in maybe another load of lumber brought from the mill – I’ll pay for all the building materials – and I’ll give you ten times to stay here anytime you want too that I have an open room… and in addition to that, you can drop by for food any time without charge no limit.” She added, smiling.

“A person your size has to love to eat. I love to cook. I sense the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” She said, then lead him up the path from the beach to the Inn. The Inn itself was a long L shaped building that faced the sea. The long part of the L had a full-length deck with tables, chairs, and a big fireplace with a scattering of chairs around it.

If he changed into his human form, she’d lead him onto the deck and point out each room. The Inn was beautifully decorated. Flowers grew everywhere, climbing deck railings and sprouting as little trees that would grow up and provide shade. There were also strange places on stakes that were as high as a man could stand. The plates held seeds and scraps of bread or even the rinds from melons. “There’s four rooms on this end, two on the other. The middle part is a kitchen and indoor gathering area. You are welcome here any time, and if you bring firewood or fresh meat I would be overjoyed. I spent all my time chopping wood for the fireplaces or gathering driftwood off the beach. I’d rather spend that time cooking.” She said, smiling sheepishly.

He could see the inside of the rooms from the deck. The ‘windows’ were large and had no glass to allow for breezes to cool them. Shutters lined either side of the windows, ready to be shut in the case of storms. The deck was covered from the common rain showers that hit morning and night.

There were little touches everywhere… gathered shells, beautiful stones, twisted pieces of driftwood and found bits. They were tastefully placed here and there on tables or resting next to the hearth stone if they were bigger conch shells. Tazrae loved details, and that showed in her home.

A half-grown but still huge puppy met them both on the deck. One could tell he was going to be enormous when he got to be his full sized. White, splattered with black spots, the pup was overeager to say hi to Tazrae. She laughed, bent down, and scratched his ears. “Puk, this is Creature… I call him Creech for short. He’s the guardian-in-training of this place. He’s an Imperial Watcher, a type of guardian dog.” She said, smiling as she scratched the dogs ears. “James got him for me in Riverfall.” She added, then gestured around.

“What do you think? Are you hungry? I have leftovers from lunch or if you want some dinner, I can get a head start on it and make you something.” She added. There was just something about Puk that made her want to take care of him, to provide a safe place for him to just breath and figure some things out in his life. Maybe her Inn could help him a little that way.
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Tazrae
A warm welcome in paradise awaits you.
 
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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Puk on September 12th, 2020, 9:26 pm



Puk instantly relaxed the moment her hand touched his trunk. She wasn't the least bit afraid of him, and he wasn't at all afraid of her. He knew he was tall, something he really enjoyed being, but he'd never once been called beautiful. And then she hugged him. This was the first time he'd ever been hugged as well. And instinct kicked in, and his trunk followed Taz to lightly embrace her as she embraced him. It just felt right.

He could sense her walking beneath him, so he made sure to not move, always careful and cautious. As she spoke, he could feel excitement welling up within him. She had a job needing done, one that he could do! The idea of having a job was still new to him, but people with jobs help other people. And so, while he was employed at the Saw Mill, he would do work for her too. He didn't even have to think about setting it up or talking to his boss or any of that nonsense. Puk knew he would help her build this dock, whatever that was. That was his job.

He continued to enjoy her hands on his body as she explored him. It wasn't at all like when Grau would occasionally wash him, which was only before heading to an event that she couldn't isolate him from. He remembered the rough bristled brushes. They didn't hurt him with his thick skin, except around his ears and eyes, but he did not enjoy them at all. She was too rough, and would berate him for being so dirty.

When she offered to show him to her Inn, he knew his answer as he shifted back, a soft smile on his face as he looked at her. "Yes, please. I will help build you a dock. But I don't know anything about building, I'm just good at being strong and big." And working for meals and a room sounded nice. He still didn't really grasp the point of money, and he wasn't sure that he really even wanted to understand it. He already had accepted this trade of theirs in his mind. Why bother that with counting and shiny things?

He grabbed his necklace, slipping it back on, and held out his arms to help carry things on their journey to her inn. As she spoke, he occasionally added in a question of his own, though having waited for her to finish speaking first. He enjoyed how much she talked, so that he didn't have to as much. "What does the protea flower look like? I know some flowers for safe to eat plants, but I don't know their names."

And in his listening, he was able to figure out what a dock was. Though he didn't know how to build it, but he had seen other docks here in Syka. And it seemed that Taz needed to hunt and forage too, like most people here, and in Taloba, it seemed. He found it odd that she could hunt and yet still be nice. The Myrians prided themselves as hunters and they were anything but nice.

And once they arrived at her inn, he looked on in wonder. It was truly beautiful, sitting perfectly before the sea. He listened as she spoke about the dock and he realized he wouldn't have to build. That was good, a relief off his shoulders. As she finished her offer, "Yes. I will help with that." This was only the second deal he'd ever made, the first being to work at the Saw Mill for money.

At the mention of food, "I can spend the whole day eating. It's my favorite thing." He enjoyed the tour, though he still didn't understand why people liked having so many types of rooms. Why not do everything in one room? Or just outside for that matter. And he made sure to remember to bring firewood whenever he stopped by. He didn't eat meat and didn't know how to hunt so he wouldn't be doing that. Puk especially liked seeing the little shells, especially the twisty ones. He was constantly stopping to stoop down and look really close at them, though made sure to never touch them. They weren't his, after all.

As they stepped back outside, they were greeted by a dog named Creature. Puk stiffened a bit at the sight. He shifted a bit to stand away from it, eyeing it suspiciously. Grau had liked to bring dogs to chase him, 'to help him learn to survive better.' But it seemed the dog was hers and she cared for it, so his defensive nature didn't emerge.

She offered him food. He didn't know what leftovers meant, so he hesitated, unsure of how to respond. "Yes, I am hungry. I would like dinner." He didn't offer to help her cook because he tried that once with Grau and he burned the food. She yelled at him for weeks over that and never let him try again. Cooking was something that women did, because they were stronger and smarter like that. He was too dumb to figure it out, as Grau made sure to reinforce.

But there was something he did want to do, now that he was here. He pointed out to the beach, "Can I go out there? I won't be long, and I won't make a mess." He didn't say why he wanted to go out to the water, but if she allowed him, he'd thank her, and immediately head that way, though in a bit of a roundabout way so as to not have to get close to Creature.

As he approached the water, he kept his eyes open and searching. He stayed in his human form because he had a strong suspicion Creature would chase him and bark like dogs do if he did. And he didn't want to ruin the atmosphere with all that barking. As he went, he picked up every piece of driftwood he could find, be it small so as to use as kindling or proper sized woods. He held the kindling in one ham sized fist, while the same arm was used to cradle the larger pieces. He wandered way up and down the beach, gathering wood, losing track of time. He had been trained to gather firewood, and he was never allowed to return without a full load.

And so, it was a bit later, when Puk came loping back up the beach toward the Inn, a full chest of wood in his arms, with a single item sitting on top that stood out. He set the pile down gently on the sand next to the stairs to the deck. He looked down at the large brown and white conch shell he'd found. It wasn't a rare shell by any means, but Puk had liked it. He left it there on the pile with the firewood. As he moved toward the steps, he made sure to knock the sand off of his feet before entering the Inn.

Plenty of people were here now, eating and talking. It was a small community, so likely nearly everyone had heard of Puk by now after his ten days in Syka, but still, there was some staring that made him uncomfortable. He stood there, arms at his side, not sure really what to do. He could see everyone sitting at tables, and so he guessed that was what he was supposed to do. But all the tables were taken, and so a difficult choice presented itself to him.

No one else was standing, so he definitely needed to sit at a table. It was clearly expected. He didn't really know anyone here either. So he walked up to the closest table that had a chair, with a couple there, an Akalak man and a woman who seemed human. Nervously, in a quiet voice, "Can I sit here?"

There was some shift, something intangible but perceptible, in the Akalak's eyes. His facial features instantly showed his anger and disgust, at this large, naked man daring to try and join his table. Unbeknownst to Puk, this Akalak had a tendency to let his darker brother out more often than not. Puk was already backing away from the table in fear as the dark blue man began to stand, his hand reaching for the dagger on his hip. But his companion, the woman with hair so bright it was as white as the Syka sands, reached out, stopping the man's hand. "Sit down, my love."

She then looked up at Puk, smiling, and he could see she wasn't quite human. There were... flappy things on her neck. "I'm afraid we wouldn't be very good company for you, but thank you for asking nicely. Maybe you would like to sit with our children over there?" Puk looked at where she was pointing, seeing a small blue boy and a girl that looked just like her mother. He nodded, "Thank you."

Puk then walked to the neighboring table where the children were, meekly uttering out a hello. The children had seen the entire scene, and watched him sit at their table. The little girl stuck out her hand, "Hi! I'm Niva'lana! This is my brother Tork'lana. It's nice to meet you!" Puk gingerly reached across the table, shaking her tiny hand with his giant fist, being extra careful. The girl was positively beaming at his presence. The boy on the other hand was just staring at him.

Puk answered in kind, "I am Puk. Thank you for letting me sit here." He paused for a moment before he remembered he had forgotten something. "It's nice to meet you too."

The girl went on a long babble then, telling Puk all about how their family was taking a vacation here. How sometimes they lived in Riverfall, which had the biggest and bestest waterfall in the whole world. Other times they lived on Mura, the prettiest of all the islands, and obviously it was the best one because women were in charge there. The food had not yet arrived for this family, but Puk enjoyed listening to this excitable little girl speak.

Then the boy spoke. "How did you get so big?"

Puk looked over at him, "I am just like this."

The boy reached out, punching Puk in the bicep, and the large man flinched. It didn't really hurt, but still, Puk didn't like it. "I meant your muscles. I train every day with my father." The boy then flexed, clearly showing off how strong he was, even in this juvenile form. Puk shrugged, shrinking away from the boy a bit, "I carry heavy things."

The boy nodded, "Yeah, you look strong, but not very fast. A bit lumpy. I bet if you tried you could be a really great fighter. My dad is a great warrior and one day I will be too!"

Puk muttered out some words he'd spoken earlier in the day, "I don't like fighting."

The boy looked back at him, now confused, perturbed, and a little bit insulted. "But you're so big! You could be the best! You could crush skulls with one hand! Break arms and legs! Rip the wings off of a Zith!" All of this was making Puk a bit nauseated. He didn't like to think about that sort of thing, at all. Then the girl spoke, her voice sharp and snapping.

"Tork'lana, stop that right now. You're upsetting him. He said he didn't like it. Behave. Now."

The boy shot his sister a look of daggers, but didn't challenge her. The girl turned to Puk, "So what do you like to eat? I like fish the most! And cake!"

Puk smiled at her, thankful for her intervention. "I like fruit. And cookies."

The girl's eyes lit up. "I like cookies too! What kind are your favorites?"

Puk thought back to what Taz had called them. "Shortbread. What are your favorites?" Puk hadn't realized there were other cookies but was quick to gather that fact.

She beamed, "Hmm.. This week I think chocolate and macadamia nuts!"

Puk smiled back politely, not knowing that one. The girl then went on a long explanation about all the different kinds of cookies she had had and when, where, why, and how she liked them. And Puk was once again able to relax as he listened to her.
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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Tazrae on September 13th, 2020, 1:21 am

Tazrae grinned at Puk when he asked her what a Protea looked like. “Like these….” She said, pointing out the flowers that grew all around the Inn. She had more than just the Protea. She had Blood Flower, Trumpet Vine, Canna, Taro, Sweet Potato, Cassia, Salvia, Blanket Flowers, Amaryllis, Elephant Ears, Spider Plants, Yucca, Begonia, Jade Plants, Powder Puff Trees, Rose Grapes, Anthurium, Bird of Paradise, Ficus, Peace Lilies, Crota, Aloe Vera, Philodendron, Orchids, Palms, and Violets. She knew the name of every one of them and lovingly introduced him to the different varieties as they passed by. “I trade for them, you see. There are people that go out into the jungle safely and when they come across a beautiful blooming flower, they often dig the plant up – roots and all – and carefully bring it back here to me. I try to keep them alive and in exchange I feed the people that bring the plants. That’s how I got so many so fast. The Inn has only been built a single season…. Summer.” She added, smiling at him again. Tazrae spent a great deal of time smiling, laughing, and making light of things. The Innkeeper had a generally joyful personality that seemed unmarred by any of the sort of experiences Puk had not enjoyed.

Tazrae gave him a hug again when he said he’d help her build the dock. “Don’t worry! You don’t have to do any building… I’ll just need you to carry wood out and pound those pilings in. And we can look at the main dock to see how it was done.. and practice with smaller poles before you wade out and do it for real.” She said, already planning ahead. She had to make her loan payment, but after that she had money left over for wood – Taz was sure of it. And a dock would bring more customers and help her forage.

Puk seemed to understand the need.

“Will you tell me more about your necklace? I can tell its special to you.” She asked as they headed up the steps and onto the Inn’s deck proper. She said as a way to distract him from Creech. She could tell he was wary of dogs, but she had no idea if he understood Creech was just a baby and incapable of violence at his age. He’d grow fast and be a good protector, but he’d accept who she accepted.

“Dinner it is then!” She said after listening to what he had to say about the necklace and giving him choices for food. “I’ll get started on it. Relax anywhere or roam if you want. Look into any of the rooms that don’t have a woven wreath of flowers drapped on the doorknob. Those rooms are occupied. Or… go down to the beach. Puk, you can go anywhere you want too here. No need to ask permission.” She said, gesturing to the beach. “It’s just as much your beach as mine.” She said firmly, then slipped on an apron and began to stir up her fire. It had hot banked coals, so it didn’t take much to get going.

Meeting a new friend… that meant something special for dinner. Tazrae decided she’d finally barbeque the pork ribs she’d been saving and slather them in a sweet sauce that was tangy made from tomatoes, seasoning, and full of minced pineapple and mango. She pulled the bundle – an enormous bunch – out of the icebox and unwrapped them from their waxed burlap storage.

She glanced out the wide-open walls to see Puk down on the beach gathering wood. It was a thoughtful gesture. She would need to go out and get some later, but perhaps no longer. The man could carry far more in one trip than she could get in perhaps two or three. Smiling, she pulled out her ingredients and began to make the sauce, chopping tomatoes, dicing onions, and throwing it all in a pot to cook overheat. She added salt and pepper, pulled out a pineapple and began to slice it so she could get to the meat, and then peeled a mango. Those two fruit were diced into almost a salsa before they went into the pan. She added two mild peppers for a bit of heat and tasted the mixture. She added salt and pepper, then let the whole mixture come to a boil. She added broth she’d made the day before and had stored in the icebox.

Then she took out the pork chop racks and began to hack it up. She had twenty three chops once she got done cutting the meat, so she figured everyone could get fed. Once the sauce was done – she’d brought the fire up in temperature while she was cooking the sauce – she was ready to start a fire on the big open grill on the deck and start the chops to slowly roasting. She dunked each chop in the sauce, then carefully put them over the fire with the rack high enough that they would cook slowly but the sauce would get a nice grip on the meat. She’d come back periodically to baste them in between mixing up cornbread.

She liked cornbread. It went a long way to feeding people and was twenty chimes or less to make. Tazrae pulled out yellow cornmeal, flour, sugar, a small tin of baking powder, salt, eggs, oil and her precious pitcher of milk. Then she got out pie plates – the easiest way to bake the bread – and buttered each and every one of them. She had room for six in her oven, so she made sure she had that many ready to go. Then she put six cups of cornmeal in a large bowl, added six more cups of flour. A cup and a half of sugar went in, then three tablespoons of baking powder. She liberally salted the mixture and then went ahead and stirred it all up. Slowly, she added six cups of milk and broke six eggs into the mixture.

She beat the thick batter until she panted, then kept beating it until it mixed well and was sticky. Then she evenly divided the mixture into the six pie pans. She tapped them down and slipped them into the over, noting how long 12 chimes would be.

Then she checked the pork chops, turning them, and basting them in the sauce. They were cooking nicely and on par to finish about the same time the cornbread did. Tazrae’s stomach already growled over the meat. It would be a good meal. Once the chops were seen too, she went back into the kitchen to slice up a bunch of fruit and start a huge tray that had a matching bowl she filled with salad greens.

Then she pulled out a large serving dish that had assorted nuts, dried berries, and shredded cheese to add to one of the empty slots in the serving dish. She set the tables, even laid places in individual chairs, on side boards and laid out the tray with the salad fixings on the main table. She had several dressings she pulled out of the ice box to add to the table in case people wanted to dress their salads.

When Puk brought back the wood, Tazrae thanked him profusely. He was saving her a lot of time that she didn’t have with guests in the Inn.

And by the time Puk returned, she was pulling the cornbread out of the oven with a thick towel, laying them out side by side and cutting the bread into pie slices. She laid one out with a serving triangle wedge, and left the others in the kitchen cooling. She’d bring more out as the slices in the pie plate got eaten up.

“Dinner’s ready!” She called, heading back to the grill to pile up the chops on a platter, reserving a few that were done by raising the grill space even higher on its tripod and leaving them in ‘warming’ mode for those guests that weren’t around.

She fixed Puk a large plate with a bowl of salad to go with it, but explained to him he had to dress his own salad and put what he wanted on it when she laid the bowl down. She had set aside sliced fruit for him along with three of the chops. And when she went back to get her own plate, she made sure he understood he could go back and get more if he was still hungry. “If those chops don’t fill you up, go and get more… there’s plenty.” She said, going back to make herself a big salad, take a wedge of cornbread (adding a little bit of butter to it from a pot she set out next to the bread) and finally spearing a chop for herself. She set her plate down on a side table by a set of two chairs, and watched as Puk talked to children.

She only nibbled off her plate, often rising to see to someone’s needs – fetching them a drink, giving them silverware, and adding extra cotton napkins to the table where the kids were sitting. She didn’t like that Puk had approached the Akalak’s table first and the man was borderline rude to Puk, but Tazrae was raised among Akalak and was taught to defer to them… in all things even the things that she didn’t agree with or like. Puk didn’t look too upset by the man’s actions, so Tazrae let it go, more willing to pick better battles than ones involving others that weren’t upset.

As time passed, she’d grow bolder but for now, she needed to build a good reputation for the Inn among the Akalak. They were the closest city and the one that would generate the most revenue for tourism in Syka. But as a young woman who barely escaped being a Nakivak and one that never dated, she wasn’t at a place in her life where she would argue with the man or set him straight on his treatment of other guests or visitors.

Someday though… someday she’d have more courage. Tazrae knew it was something she needed to work on and get stronger in. She thought perhaps Puk had one of the same problems she did. Maybe, just maybe, together they could work on it. And for now, as long as he was entertained by the children, she didn’t mind eating alone and watching over the group.

She smiled as the kids plied Puk with questions and he answered them, even adding questions of his own to theirs. Taz heard the comment about the chocolate and macadamia nuts and smiled. Those had been last night’s desert. Tonight, she had brownies she’d made from this morning. Taz was rather disappointed that none of the guests struck up a conversation with her, but she knew most people felt conversations with strangers at meals were intrusive.

Creech lay at her feet, staring at Puk curiously and occasionally sniffing at the air. Tazrae wondered what it was like to be able to change into another form, one bigger and stronger than anything she’d seen before. She suspected Puk could go out into the jungle without fear. That was something to be envied.

But before she could think too long, she rose, made her rounds again, helped refill the children’s plates and got them more juice, water or tea. Wine was extra at the meals, and only the Akalak splurged for it, not treating his lady which upset Taz a bit. But she poured for the man, saying nothing, and playing hostess. She brought out more cornbread and then refilled the shredded cheese for the salads.

Once people started getting full and pushing plates aside, Tazrae began to gather them up and take them back to the kitchen where she ran a big sink full of water to begin washing the plates and silverware. She used the pump head to fill a pot of water and put it over the still-hot stove to heat it for washing. Once heated, the water would be poured into the sink and soap added to the pile of dishes therein. Then she’d use old fashioned elbow grease to get everything clean. Meanwhile she took trips back and forth from the deck and gathering area putting the leftover food away and cleaning up.

When everyone had dispersed besides Puk, Taz finally sat down and blew out a breath in a seat near him. “Did you like it? I have no idea what you like to eat.” She added, glad she hadn’t offered the guests dessert today. She’d set out some treats later in the evening for those that were lingering around and not wanting to sleep. Tazrae had long since banked the fire and the temperature outside was near perfect for clothing or shedding it. So she kicked back, relieved herself of her sandals, and propped her feet up on one of the tables.

“I love all kinds of light….” She started out, not looking at Puk but just talking to fill the quiet. “I think the light I love the best is the starlight. Do you know how beautiful it is here after dark, when Syna sets and the stars start winking into existence? It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen especially when the wind dies down and the sea quiets. I feel like I can hear them singing…” She said softly, then glanced at Puk.

“I would really like to know what kinds of things you love too. I’ll share more of mine or maybe even sing you a song or play something for you’d if you’d like.” She said quietly, reaching out to point slowly at first one star then another that started winking into being twinkling. “The same ones always come out first… I don’t know their names, but someday I will find out.” She said, in a voice that was more musing than determined.
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Tazrae
A warm welcome in paradise awaits you.
 
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[Kihala's Shrine] Musical Weeding & Mandolin Fish Feeding

Postby Puk on September 13th, 2020, 2:57 am



Puk made sure to remember that he didn't need to ask permission for exploring the beaches. He had found some comfort in the big, wide openness of them. He wasn't knocking things down or stepping on them out on the beach. It was big enough just for him. He also made sure to remember that she liked flowers, with the roots. Another thing he could do. Puk found himself liking that he could do things for people. He did have a lot of time, after all. And he liked when they smiled at him.

In reply to her question about his necklace, "The woman who brought me here to Syka from Taloba after.. they made me leave. She gave this to me. It's a symbol of the Ivory Tusk clan in Taloba. That clan raises Tskana, so many of them. I was never allowed to talk to anyone from that clan. But this woman defended me when the elders were arguing over what to do with me after..." but he couldn't finish the statement. He still felt deep, unbearable shame and grief for what he'd done. "Some wanted me to be killed or enslaved. But she got them to agree to make me leave instead. And so I left. And I was lost, scared. And she, with one of the Tskana, led me to here. She never spoke to me, I don't know why. But one day, I woke up, and I was here and she was gone, leaving just the necklace behind."

What Puk didn't know was that the woman had also gone into Syka, paid for and otherwise made arrangements so that people would help him earn a home, belongings, and a role in the society here.

After Puk had returned from his wood gathering, he smiled at her thanking him. Puk's face lit up as he saw the salad, and listened intently as she explained how it worked. Puk had no idea what to choose to dress with his salad, so he put everything on it. His spot at the table included a large, well dressed salad, large servings of fruit, cornbread, and the three chops she'd given him. Now that the food was here, Puk didn't speak. He only listened. Grau would often speak loudly and boisterously, spraying food everywhere. Food Puk would have to clean up. So he chose to not make a mess himself while eating.

And he liked listening.

Puk quickly ate all of his salad and fruit. He devoured the cornbread, something he'd never had before, and he got more of it. But when he came to the pork chop, he was wary. At the table, the young Akalak child had seen Puk's big servings and got equal to match, turning it into a competition that Puk was entirely unaware of. Puk stabbed at the pork chop with his fork, lifting it up in front of his eyes. He knew it was meat. He sniffed at it. He wrinkled his nose. It just smelled weird. Wrong.

But he had to be polite, and wasting food was bad. So Puk slowly, tore off large chunks. He chewed them forever, not because they were poorly cooked or anything of the sort, but because he wasn't used to something so dense as meat. He swallowed every bite, but didn't enjoy any of it. He was about to get up to clean his dishes, and those at his table, when Taz beat him to the punch, grabbing it and scurrying away. Puk couldn't not help, so as she was going back and forth, he was stacking plates and silverware to make it easier for her. He even gave one of the pork chop bones he found to Creature, albeit from a safe distance with a hefty toss.

And soon it was just the two of them, and she asked him for his opinion. "The salad was really delicious. I put everything on it. The fruit was really good too. Usually eat that the most. But the cornbread was the best part. I've never had that before. I liked it a lot." Then he paused, because he didn't want to make her feel bad. But he didn't know how to lie and he didn't want to not tell her things. "I don't like meat."

And he liked that she liked stars too. "When I lived in Taloba, we lived deep in the jungle. Everything we did was around a campfire. The campfire was the heart of everything there. I wasn't allowed to sit around the fire if others were around. Only when it was me and Grau." He paused, "So when I was by myself, I'd find somewhere to sit so I could see the stars. There were always so many of them. So stars can't be lonely. And so I wasn't alone if I could see them."

His smile strengthened a bit. "I moved my bed so I could see the stars out the window."

He looked up at the star she pointed to, wondering what its name was. He didn't know any of their names either, nor did he know that stars had names. That only reaffirmed his stance that one couldn't be lonely with the stars. His brow furrowed deeply as he tried to think about what he loved. He'd never been asked that before.

"I love... fruit. I love..." He was clearly struggling to put words to what he felt. He really wanted to answer her question. He knew things that Grau had loved. But he didn't love those things. "I love butterflies. One time I got lost and fell asleep under a tree. And when I woke up, I was covered trunk to tail in butterflies, of all colors."

Then he looked out at the ocean, "I love how I feel small here."

And she had offered up more about her to him. She had given him a few options. He already knew several things she loved. Shells, rocks, firewood, meat, Creature, her inn, flowers, stars. So many things she loved. "Can... you teach me how to sing?" He was looking a bit sheepish having asked that, "If stars sing, I want to learn how to sing too."

And he remembered her earlier statements about drums and the bold instinct that Taz seemed to draw out of him appeared again. He moved his chair close to him and he gently grasped her hand and he placed it against his chest. He wanted her to hear and feel his heartbeat, the drum of his life, loud, powerful, and calm. "I don't have a drum, but I will make music with this for now. If that's okay."

And now he'd decided he would get a drum. It was the first thing he'd wanted to get for himself. And that set him to thinking that he could spend his money from the saw mill on that. And for an axe so he could chop up trees so Taz could have more firewood. But the drum first. He wanted to make music, and to make it with her.

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