Wisp in Winter

Ravokians reunite. [ROHKA]

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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

Wisp in Winter

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

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Is there anything in his life that isn’t complicated?

He thinks back, really stops and gives it breadth and consideration. He hopes very much it might be the case, that there’s something, anything about or around him that exists for the sake of itself, without being compounded by caveat and stipulation and mortification.

The answer comes to him with the clarity of a silver bell.

It’s in watching her speak that he knows – in the delicate curvature of the cupid’s bow of her lips, the shift of her hair across her shoulders, the elegant sweep of her neck. Her features have always held such harmony for him, come together in rosy chorus, that even the sterility and asceticism he assumes of the Healing Center couldn’t altogether wither it.

The mention of the possessed child – she rolls on as if it’s happenstance, perfectly quotidian, the instinctive shiver that goes up his spine immediately tempered by the fact that she relates the story in a way that makes it sound like potential caper and hijinks, instead of negotiating with the mysteries of the dead. And everything she tells him directly thereafter – he forgets the tavern around them, for a moment, as he realizes they have more in common that he’d initially assumed. Forgets to breathe for a tick when that commonality goes as far back as the frozen tundra to the north.

One of the tavern staff pause by their table. The words don’t immediately register – but he reacts instinctively, giving her a perfectly polite smile, assures her they’re doing quite alright. No one’s heard Rohka’s admission of Vantha blood; no one but Caspian, and she had deemed him worth her trust, enough to utter out loud words that would warrant a death sentence if picked up by the wrong ears.

“I –“ Another one of the barkeeps brushes past. The words die in his throat, his caution on the topic at a hair’s trigger. But he needs her to know – to show her he can go the same distance that she’s willing to. Because the truth has sat and calcified in him for years and rather than lie dormant, had beat at him from the inside out. And against all odds - he's found, maybe, someone who might feel the same. “I was born in Avanthal,” he says as softly as he can, just enough for her to catch his words, once he’s sure that anyone in their immediate vicinity is engrossed elsewhere or turned away. “I know I look sort of… Benshira, but – Snowsong Hold.”

He casts another furtive look around, searching for any sign of outrage, of disgust – but there’s none of it. It’s just him and Rohka, in a space all of their own.

And Rohka –

Heart hammering in his chest, he realizes with full gravity what he’s just confessed. Tears his eyes from the other patrons and casts them back at the person sitting opposite him at the table. He’d done it because he’d felt safe enough to do so with her, but – he’s not the psychic here. He can’t see the future, for good or for ill. He holds his breath, waits for her answer.

And in his anxiety, clumsily tries to pave the way forward. “I’ve never been to the Healing Center, no,” he stammers. Resents himself for it and grits the next one back. “I know what you mean, about being stagnant. Trapped in limbo. I think – it’s a great idea, a place of your own. A fortune teller’s shop, you mean? I don’t know how many are in Zeltiva, what the competition might be like. Though – I’ve been in the Outpost recently, through the Dovecote. Seems like anyone from all over the continent could set up whatever they liked there. Potential customer base would be - well, as good as infinite."

If she’s been here for all of Fall, they might have met sooner. But the golden eye on his wrist says otherwise – that this is the time, the very hour they were meant to, that any sooner would not have come to any meaningful end.

“This suit’s magic,” he says as she points at the embroidered eye. Not that he’d really been afraid this might be the case, but he’s glad he isn’t just imagining it, that she can see it too, that the emblem on his wrist is a frighteningly clear one, and he isn’t just, say, looking up at the clouds and wishfully convincing himself they’re taking any real shape. “Wonderfully magic,” he goes on, because that’s the kind of thing he can openly share here. “So all those really… loud suits you’ve seen me in, it creates them, even the shoes, and I have no idea what it’s going to turn into before I put it on. But it knows, somehow, exactly what’s right for me that day, before the day even begins.” He lets the weight of the statement hang between them – considerably lighter than saying he’s got half-Vantha blood. Nearly everything is easier in comparison. “So!” he goes on, “Contrary to popular assumption, I don’t actually have an overblown closet bursting with silk and satin. Good thing, I think. Would have been a lot harder to run from Ravok otherwise.”
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Rohka on May 16th, 2021, 10:25 am

He was born in Avanthal.

Would he have known her family? Did he know anything about the Iceglaze? The selfishness of her questions wouldn’t dawn on her at all, and instead, she blinked back at him unable to hold the surprise away from showing up all over her features. She hadn’t expected him to admit something like that, not to her, not at all. She wasn’t even sure why she admitted anything to him in the first place.

The sybil found herself questioning herself again, interrogating herself on why in the world she trusted him with information that could certainly get herself and her family killed. Was it something about her illness? Something that was making her so loose-lipped? Rohka could never admit that she’d always been this reckless with her words. She’d been someone who thought of herself as being pristine at keeping mum, quiet, secrets locked away in the drawers of her mind whenever her partners told her anything with regards to the readings they requested.

Was that ever really the case though? Had she been good at keeping quiet?

Rohka watched the man before her speak up once more, relating to her, validating her idea, as simple and vague and frankly plucked out of thin air as it was. Could she ever really bring it to life?

If wishing upon a falling star made dreams come true, Rohka wondered then, what it was that the star was going through as she fell, to give herself the ability to grant such grand miracles. Life for the sybil had been fairly simple and good under Rhysol’s protection of course… and yet, Rohka still held her dreams in mind. Magic was never her forte, and hearing Caspian speak of the suit only widened the already surprised eyes that continued to watch him closely, carefully, for any signs of desired flight. At what point would he want to leave this table? Would someone call for him again?

How many questions would he let her ask?

Let alone answer.

“Yes, I mean—“ she paused, checking her plate. The fish was gone. Consumed. Probably too quickly.

Rohka let out a bit of a chuckle. “I hear you. Contrary to how I might look, I do respect the ways of silk and satin. Ravok being what it was, of course. When I left though, I didn’t take very much with me. But the man who helped me get here was kind enough to store away what little I own for myself with my earnings from The Mystic Eye.” The sybil paused again, looking back out at the patrons of the World’s End Grotto. A sigh left her lips unconsciously before she moved her hands to the mug of water, picking it up, taking a sip.

“Starting a fortune teller’s shop would be lovely I think,” she said, still avoiding his gaze. “I haven’t checked out enough of the city to understand what a competition would look like, to be honest.”

Rohka had spent really most of herself and her time that season in recovery. It was hard for her, sometimes, to remember the past with clarity, despite the techniques and tools she’d been given… magic or otherwise.

She looked back at him, a nervousness creeping up in her once again, the origins of which she could barely fathom. Her hand twitched as she brought the mug down and studied him further. He seemed tired, yes. Worn down, somehow. And yet that same spark, that light behind the way he spoke, and that… assuredness. Why he had it, she did not know. Clearly the suit did, though.

“I—“ she caught herself staring at him as if she wanted to pull out the life from his being and it scared her for the briefest moment. She looked down then, unable to face his gaze as she spoke.

“I know you didn’t have to tell me what you told me, by the way,” she said, softly, her voice attempting to soothe in its feathered tone. “So, thanks for trusting me, I guess. I really want to ask you more about that, but I don’t know if this is the right place for…”

Her flittering mind went straight to something else he’d said.

“Oh,” she looked up at him. “The Outpost? Infinite…” Rohka scratched her neck as she tried to figure out exactly what she was asking.

“I don’t know the Outpost. Why did you go there?”
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Caspian on May 16th, 2021, 1:47 pm

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At the mentioning of a man who helped her leave Ravok, Caspian can’t help but wonder precisely who he is – his age, what he looks like, what he does for a living, whether all of that either in separate or in sum are perhaps greater than himself. It would be nosy to ask, though, wouldn’t it? He’s already betrayed so much of his feelings to her, and while many parts of him would happily do more, there is always the chance that he’s misread everything they’ve been through so far, and she might reveal that everything he’s felt about her and them are entirely of his own imagination.

There’s also the very real possibility that said man is something like an elderly uncle, which would make prying even more embarrassing.

“You can ask me whatever you like,” he says, and despite himself, he feels his spine lose some of its tension, its rigidity. Because she had taken the truth he had presented to her, and though surprised – who wouldn’t be? – it didn’t seem to have made her think any differently of him. At the very least, their new shared knowledge doesn’t appear to have drowned out everything that’s been between them before. “But you’re right. Perhaps not here. Another time.” The suggestion that they’ll see each other after this afternoon hangs between them, and he can’t help the smile that crosses his face at the thought, which had come so –

Naturally.

“As for the Outpost…” The tavern staff who’d been tending to them swings by, takes up their now empty plates with a smile. Returns swiftly with the bill, tastefully folded over and placed directly between the two of them. Instinctively, he moves to take out his wallet, remembers that Rohka had offered to pay, and thanks her instead. “Ah, I was there on a job. My employer at the time had a niece set up with an arranged marriage. The niece, understandably, wasn’t terribly excited with the idea, and had run off. I ended up tracking her to the Outpost – turns out the niece was already in a relationship with a nice young lady there, an apprentice at a glassblower’s shop. The niece had several bits of glass jewelry stashed in her room, and it was overwhelming at first, walking into the Outpost – I mean, it’s like a slice of every part of the map is there – but there was a distinct craftsman’s signature on each piece. So I followed my nose, as they say.”

Without the plates and the cutlery between them –

Her hands aren’t so far from his own.

But would it be too much, if he tried to close that distance, even for a moment?

He taps his fingers idly on the tabletop instead.

“My employer never asked me to drag the niece back, at least not outright. Just figure out where she’d gone. When I’m working, it’s best to treat it like work, not get too wrapped up in how or why or motive or who’s the guilty party. But when I met the girl – I dunno. It seemed barbaric to force her to do something she clearly didn’t want to do. So I split the difference. I did tell my employer the girl was in the Outpost – but I gave the girl a very generous head start. No idea what came of it. I suppose I’m curious enough to check.” He remembers something, suddenly, about the excursion. “I ran into a rather odd kid there. His name was Moritz. A Kelvic, though I never quite figured out what sort, but give it a couple years and I’m pretty sure he could snap me in half. He was great company, and I learned a thing or two about Xyna that day. Also, he mentioned his mother was a spiritist? Not my area, but it sounded fascinating. And a lot more useful than what I do, which is a whole load of sitting and watching and waiting.” He snorts. “But you – I think you could do it, if you wanted to. Make a name and domain for yourself. Another home, of sorts. That’s also not really my area, but what would the overhead be, do you think? You’d need to get furniture, I suppose. Supplies of… some kind, I’m sure. Then there’s the rent for the shop itself. I could take you sometime, if you were interested? The way of getting there is another funny bit of magic."

She had done so much just as an apprentice at the Mystic Eye. It’s a surge of a feeling in him now, that were she to put her mind to it, she could become all that and more with her own establishment.

“It feels like both ages ago and somehow just yesterday that you read my fortune,” he continues. “Do fortunes… change? I admit I’m curious to know what you might See in me now, given all that’s happened to me since then. Where I might go, or who I might be, if all that is drastically different than what you divined before.”
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Rohka on May 23rd, 2021, 2:42 pm

“Change is constant, Cas. Any fortune is subject to change. The secret is that most people have a path they tend to follow, a path that is destined for them to fulfill. But that very path has twists, turns, forks, hills, valleys, all kinds of opportunities for someone to experience something different as they travel to wherever they choose to go. I tend to see a reading as a way for you to get a glimpse into exactly what you have the power to change, if you so choose. I can only imagine the will that it would take to hold the reigns on your fate,” she said, with a flourish of her hand and a sparkle of joy in her slightly sullen eyes.

Rohka began to think about her own will, in that very moment. It had taken so much of her strength to simply choose to get out of the Centre that day. Thanks the Gods, too, for the absolutely miraculous means by which they’d brought Caspian back into her life. Here was a man she’d never felt more comfortable speaking to, and a man who seemed to understand her dreams, and even some part of her past.

What did he see in her? Why spend so much time with her, and offer to spend more?

What did he truly want from her?

“So yes,” said Rohka, pulling the change of mizas from her pocket and placing it into the hands of the woman she’d waved over, just then. “I really think I can, too. In fact, I think I will. I absolutely will. I know that I’m so new at running something of my own, but I’m so willing to give it my best. It’s time that I start supporting myself while I’m here to find what I need for my family. And for Lelia. And,” she said, pausing. She couldn’t bring herself to talk about the bloodstone yet. It didn’t feel right.

Instead, she picked up on the question he’d asked.

“Gods, I need to talk to someone about the basics of all this. Do you know where we could go to ask about starting a business in this place you call The Outpost? If yes, or if you think it would be easy enough to find, I’d love to check it out.”

Rohka began to unfold her cloak, bringing her journal up and placing it on the table as she began to put the dark fabric around her shoulders, gently. It would be easier to see the frailty and trembling of her arms as she moved and talked.

“I’m curious, though. Why couldn’t the girl just tell her—was it an aunt? Uncle? In any case, what was preventing her from speaking openly with her family about her disinterest in marriage? I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve spoken with my mother about these things,” she said, tying the string around her neck. “I’m sure she would have a more level-headed perspective on this. Was the niece’s family doing any sort of business, if I may ask? Strange that they would set something up without thorough investigation. Poor girl. A jewelry maker, eh?”

Rohka took a couple ticks to become aware of what she was implying. Did she really think this niece that Caspian tracked down was a woman who was only after a life of luxury? The sybil shook her head slightly. “Oh, who am I to judge? Not like I know anything substantial about what it takes to commit to someone,” she said, chuckling grimly.

Her cheeks flushed red right then, realizing what she’d said. Petch, she thought, a fear creeping into her mind. What would he think of the time they were spending together? Caspian was…

…well, he was free. Wasn’t he?

Her cheeks stayed red as she forced a smile and brought her hands to cup her face. “Gods, I know I kind of skipped over the part about why I’m healing.” She could feel tears beginning to well up in her eyes at that point. It was hard for her to guess at Caspian’s intentions while holding the knowledge of Krishveth’s intentions so strongly in her heart.

“Can we just,” said Rohka, bringing her head down, avoiding his gaze, picking up her journal, hugging it close to her chest. “Trust that I’m taking care of it? Please?” Asked Rohka, slightly sniffling. She wiped away a tear before it escaped and began to breathe deeply, getting a hold of herself.

“Maybe tell me more about Xyna to get my mind off of it?” she asked, doing her version of changing the subject, as it were. “Kelvics tend to talk about the strangest things, depending on their animal form, and I enjoy it very much. I can only imagine the things that the Kelvic learned, having a Spiritist for a mother. Do you know if they frequent the Outpost?” asked Rohka, wondering if perhaps the mother knew a thing or two about past lives and the kind of healing that Rohka was going through.

It was worth a trip. The sybil didn’t need her cards to be sure of it.

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Wisp in Winter

Postby Caspian on May 31st, 2021, 7:25 pm

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“They live for coin at the Outpost,” Caspian says. “The holding of it, trading of it, and especially the generation of more. I’m sure anyone there would be happy to tell you the ins and outs, get you through the less glamorous bits of getting the necessary paperwork filed. In any case, I think it would great if you had a chance to scope out the place. Get a real feel for it, for what might be possible.”

As Rohka rises and gathers her belongings, so does he. The question she asks about the betrothed girl is a fair one; but like all things, being at the center of something as opposed to just looking in are two very different places to be. “I was warned she was rather headstrong, so I imagine the girl did say something about not wanting to be married to some sop she barely knew,” he replies. “But I also imagine her parents told her they didn’t give a drip what she thought. On top of that, I think there had been generations of pressure, and her two older siblings had already been paired off. Her family and the intended groom’s both have something to do with freight and shipbuilding here, so I think the match would have brought several lucrative contracts, but – ah, that’s all in the past now, and the girl’s long gone. I mean, I hope.”

And he finds, despite his personal policy of staying hands off when it comes to his work, that he truly does mean it.

Caught up in the memory of the Outpost’s wind-strewn sands, the flagstones baking beneath his feet, he’s not prepared for Rohka’s admission about relationships, doesn’t know quite what to do when her expression seizes in an undeniable flush.

“I can’t say I know much about commitment either,” the words tumble from him before he can stop them, “but I think I’m finally in a place where I’d like to find out.”

And here’s his turn to furiously redden.

That feeling retracts immediately when she curls protectively around her journal, and he sees her face crumple. A wave of guilt comes over him, for having asked too many questions, for perhaps prodding at the very wrong ones – and he simply nods at her next question, his chest tightening when she makes the telltale gesture of wiping at her eye.

To keep himself from fiddling emptily with his hands, he shoves them into his pockets and follows her out onto the road.

The air is pleasantly brisk in comparison to the heady mix of the tavern. As if she had been enlivened by the change of scenery too, he notices the shift when she switches tacks, back to the topic of Moritz. Which is an easy one for Caspian to latch onto, and means, hopefully, that he hadn’t just caused their meeting to end on a low note.

“All sorts come to the Outpost,” he says, eager to amuse her, to put any unpleasantness behind them. “I’m sure there are loads of Kelvics, and now that I’m not in a rush, suppose I may notice more?” He leads her towards the Dovecote, belatedly realizes how predictable and familiar the turns have become. Though no one they pass is paying any particular attention to them, the undertone he drops to is a precaution that costs him nothing. “Made me wonder if I might see Vantha there too. They’re very strict about the rules there, keeping the violence to a minimum. It’s all about creating a safe place of secure exchange, you see. So – I mean, I hope hunting after a Vantha bounty isn’t something they’d allow.”

When he finds the Dovecote again, he feels incredibly relieved. This happens every time he comes here, born of a sudden spike in anxiety, that perhaps he’s just dreamed the arid marketplace all along. But it stands before them just as it always has, and as if there’s a higher power out there trying to assuage him, someone exits with a load of wrapped merchandise that could only have been purchased from the mysterious bazaar. And even without the considerable mountain of purchases, their sunburn spelled it all.

“Hey,” he says to her softly. Takes her by the hand. Remembers when they had stood in the temple in Ravok, beneath the eyes of chaos incarnate, and he had held her then. “I... am having a really, really good day.” And he hopes she is too. “Ready?”

He holds his breath, and for a while, they leave Zeltiva far behind.
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