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 February 8th, 2021, 8:18 pm

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45 Winter 520


There are okay days. There are better ones.

And then there are the ones he doesn’t see coming.

Though he hadn’t exactly repented that day Shiress decided to confront him about his recent behavior, it nevertheless had some manifest effect. At the very least he’s been holding up his end of the bargain, keeping himself to himself and his comings and goings out of sight, and beyond reproach. Though he resents the idea that he’s made any personal changes simply because someone had expressed the opinion that he ought to – for one, logistically speaking, it’s a lot easier to stealth in and out of the front door when he’s sober. Sober-er, with a hard side of ish. The end result is that Shiress to some extent got exactly what she wanted, Taalviel has quit harping, and he moves like a wraith in and out of the domicile. He hasn’t got a kind word for anyone, but he hasn’t got an unkind one either.

But today – perhaps it’s the culmination of sleeping a bit better, eating a few meals with some actual degree of interest, not spending hours with his head hovering over a toilet, and most importantly, successfully avoiding all spats, arguments, and even tiffs with the women of the house – but he gets out of bed looking marginally better. Feeling a touch steadier. Not perfect, but certainly more substantial than he has in months. As if his magical suit knows it, or somehow in its mysterious machinations it’s aware of exactly how much more of a push he needs – but it turns into something rather new that morning.

As is his custom – and, very begrudgingly yes, it’s a whole lot more feasible when his head’s on straight – he slinks down the two flights of stairs in Shiress’ parents’ cottage. Partly visibly through the kitchen doorway, Shiress stands by the sink with her back to him, an heirloom apron that might be older than he is tied around her waist, Ian in her arms. He’s a whisper out the front door. He doubts she notices him – but if she does, she very wisely doesn’t confront, which is just as well.

Out on the cobblestone path he steps, sleek black brogues shining in the sun. The light bounds so differently here – he’s never lived in a valley, never been so cradled, and it’s as if the sun tumbled down the Zastoska Mountains, bounding back and forth between granite and bay, like a firefly caught beneath a bell jar. Despite all the port traffic, the air is –

He inhales the brisk morning air, exhales sharply.

The ice in Avanthal had a clarifying, cleansing effect, but drawing deep breaths there was asking for a dagger to the lung. But Zeltivan air, dare he say it –

It’s just right.

So there is, after all, one thing he does like about living here.

Just one?

The morose thought, his usual way of winding, hangs about him in the same mist he had just reveled in. He tries to shove it aside. After all, his magical suit has gone and turned itself the loveliest sapphire blue. Surface area-wise, it’s not the most extravagant thing it’s ever morphed into – but it’s a marvel with its clean, razor-sharp lines, the apex of a winter wave with silver trim. The jacket’s close-cut, with dramatic tails and a vent up the back. When he turns it flows with him; when he dips it flutters. He catches his reflection in a shop window and –

It’s the first time in a long time he doesn’t immediately shrink back. The most he’s felt like himself, whatever that is, in a very long while.

But confronting the fact, that momentary victory itself, is what wilts him.

The mountains encircling the city suddenly feel less like a bower, more like a ditch into which he’s stumbled, and he’ll never climb out. He imagines trying to run up the sides, like an ant caught in the bath, only to inevitably slide back down. And the ant in the bath – it always drowns.

But it’s good, being alone. Isn’t it? When he’s alone, there’s no one to argue with. No one to remember who he used to be, to then hold that against him because who he is now is a whole lot sorrier, wears his suits like costumes instead of holy armor.

He avoids glimpsing himself in the next shop window he passes. He doesn’t have any particular plan today except to drum up business, and as foolish as he suddenly feels in bright, inky blue, it does help when he’s making new contacts if he resembles an upstanding citizen.

It’s tempting to default to his usual haunts. East Street, that is. But he knows that if he enters East Street he’s most certainly going to exit high, and while that is an ever-tempting offer, he kind of likes this thing he has going, where everyone in his life, especially Shiress, isn’t glaring daggers.

He heads down streets he’s less familiar with. His usual clientele, at least the ones that get on with him the easiest, tend to be middle-class housewives, evidently too busy to do any private investigating on their own. He knows the look – new frock, painted nails, perhaps a bouffant and hat. Might have equally scrubbed children or a miniature dog – who certainly gets fed better than he does – in tow. In the right neighborhoods there are plenty of them; then, from the grand pool, is the exercise of determining which one has that certain crease in her brow that suggests she might have something on her mind, towards which he might be of some use.

It’s not so different from how he’d swan around in Ravok. Though they dress a little different back there – a bit more gilded, for some reason more scarves, and for a while there was that fad with striped breeches and stacked bracelets that he himself didn’t really get behind, but it was awfully entertaining to watch everyone try.

Funny, the fripperies with which he used to predominately occupy his time.

It’s while he’s thinking of Ravok that he spots her. And he almost misses her, because that’s how deeply his mind leaves him now, how vividly he daydreams, flies him far away from Zeltiva and right into Ravokian lantern light.

But it’s her, unmistakably her, she who had once held him in a candled, haze-thick shop and told him what the cards could See.

She who had appeared like a bursting bloom one summer night on a Lark barge, had swayed with him in a sea of enemies, had confronted a dark god of Chaos and run headfirst into the unknown.

Through it all she had held her head high.

He’d never met anyone quite like her – doesn’t think he ever will.

“Rohka?" he calls, daring to believe his eyes. "Rohka!”
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Last edited by Caspian on February 10th, 2021, 7:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Rohka on February 10th, 2021, 7:19 am

She slowly blinked, then rubbed the tiredness out of her stare. A delicate hand brushed away the stray strands of dark hair groomed messily to the side in a fishtail braid.

Who is that?

“Caspian,” she whispered, acknowledging the space within. Those unmistakable deep green eyes, so full in its flash of home that it strikes the briefest moment of fear in the instance that her gaze met his.

If he caught it at all, she wouldn’t be sure. Her mind immediately filled with memories, which was a good sign.

You remember him. What did you want from him?

They’d parted ways, back then. Or more accurately, she left him in the middle of a party where they were talking about slaves and motherly reasonings. She arrived there with… what was his name? Ron? A Lark. One of Lelia’s targets, and most probably a set-up to help the sybil get in with the crowd. Not that she ever wanted that. Growing up by the Lakeshore was far more grounding than the lives those families lived. Besides, none of that life was what she wanted for herself. She was tired of it, frankly bored with it, though she wondered if it was maybe because she didn’t understand it enough. The parties, the politics, the pretending, the petching price of privacy… it was all too much.

The grace of it all was Rhysol. Knowing that he kept the peace was all she ever really needed. Knowing that her faith in him would be enough and always enough, she never doubted her choices. Her choice to step away from the man who now was surely wondering why she was here in Zeltiva as well… that choice was in full trust of her God’s ways.

Since that day, Rohka was focused solely on herself and her journey, as she felt she was meant to, in the first place. She’d barely had time—nor made time, for that matter—to have a real conversation with the soul behind those eyes. Or at least, she realized that she barely knew much about him. Whether she thought of him at all was not a question she could answer, simply because her mind was so utterly preoccupied with getting here in the first place.

Why here? Of all places?

She felt an odd sense of anger welling up inside of her. It was those two godsdamned orbs of light in his eyes, receiving and giving, that she fleetingly believed would be able to hold her need to just know… utterly and entirely. Without questions, without hesitations, with purpose, flourish, and a healthy dash of fun. Are such needs too much to fulfill? She closed her eyes and shook her head, a smirk beginning to form, its shade tinged with guilt.

Rohka resolved to keep things light and social, as usual, until questioned.

With the days having blended together at the Healing Centre, often filled with the darkness of what felt like an eternity of madness, seeing Caspian at this point in her life made her begin to realize that nothing in life could truly ever be random. On this day in particular, this 45th day of winter, the day she decided that a long walk by herself was needed. Healthy, even. To help clear her head of a list of worries---past, present, and future ones.

All while escaping doctor’s orders, that is.

In her hand was the leather journal that Markham gave her. Rohka was grateful for it. He was long gone now, she was sure, venturing off in the waters again. What bothered her the most was the way he left without any real sense of when he’d return. The sybil wanted to learn as much as she could from him. She knew it was selfish of her to just want to learn everything from him. Despite everything he’d already told her, and all the questions he answered, the sybil still had the feeling that she wasn’t giving him enough in return. She wondered if she even really needed to. It was his choice to give to her, wasn’t it? From the medallion when they first met, to the bracelet that allowed her to see it all again… and Gods, the journey here itself… he’d done it all.

And for what? She remembered it was his job. The work he was paid for. A traveller, a navigator, a Page of Cups.

The intimate messenger.

Rohka slowly continued to move forward in the direction she’d been idly going, the smile picking up its size and her tail absentmindedly swishing in time with her movements. In the distance, she sensed the flutter of wings, an entire flock picking up speed and taking off, up high into the sky. The sybil was momentarily distracted, looking up at the native fowl of a city surrounded by the heights of land.

Walking out here, in the open, brought into her the most profound sense of gratitude for the novelty and beauty of it all. Spending the time to treasure the moments on her own, without worry, without hurry… it was a luxury afforded by her inner instability. The Ravokian woman wore nothing but plain, beige cotton clothes underneath a simple cloak that covered her in full. Borrowed clothes from the centre, save for her old, dark cloak that Markham returned to her. She was not at all surprised that the young man presently in her eyesight was dressed so handsomely. She’d come to expect it, and barely gave a second thought to her own form of presence. Closing their distance on the uneven path, she waved with her free hand. It was an almost timid gesture, like a poorly feigned dismissiveness, entirely for the sake of holding back any overwhelm of unwelcome affection.

“Hey Cas,” she said, casually, as if it had been mere days instead of more than a year and a half of not seeing each other. “What are you doing here?”
Last edited by Rohka on March 25th, 2021, 10:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Caspian on February 10th, 2021, 6:05 pm

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How devastating would it have been if she didn’t recognize him?

If she had turned out to be someone else entirely, a stranger he’s just accosted?

It wouldn’t be the first time.

The illusion, the wanting – over the many months since they had last been together, it had been a potent force. From the corner of his eye he had seen her in the maze of streets of Ravok, caught the ends of her skirts whipping around the tight corners of the canals, found himself arrested by pairs of dark brown eyes peering at him from behind a masquerade. Glimpsed her on the many ships he’d taken here, in the form of other women with a hint of the same elegant profile, that particular way of cradling their lithe limbs against themselves in the wind. He had tried not to stare; tried, and failed. But looking too closely only dispelled the apparition. He learned to live on glances alone.

It takes him aback, how immediately and frankly she addresses him. As if they’d only seen each other just last night, and she’d run out to the shops for their morning bread.

Can she tell how wrung out he is now? How strung out, dried out, how these days it’s like he can do little else but crawl back into his shell, if he only hadn’t wrecked it by his own hand? The pristine suit is his exoskeleton, the only thing keeping him upright. He can’t tell if it’s truly making him look better than he feels, or if it’s only a distraction from the haggard form it houses. If the great disparity between the dark circles under his eyes and the brisk brightness of his clothing only serve to point out the fragility of the former.

Looking for you, he almost says – because it’s true, has always been true in some deep undercurrent of his heart.

Had he been of less sound mind – had this day been even a week prior – he might have blurted it out.

But instead he replies, “Fishing. You know how it is with me.” He immediately feels foolish. Have they been apart so long that she might take him literally? He gestures awkwardly at the air between them. “New city means I need new clients. Unfortunately any reputation I had in Ravok doesn’t carry over. I’m more of a private investigator now. And are you, ah - ?” Her eyes –

He makes the mistake of looking too deeply in them and flushes. It strikes him, suddenly, how much of him she can see, with no smoke or music, laughter or danger to fill the gaps.

How many times had he envisioned this moment? And why does none of it seem to be going to plan?

“Can I buy you a drink?” The question is reflexive, entirely habitual, and rather ridiculous given that it’s mid-morning. Perhaps entirely too revealing. “Well – a coffee, maybe, or a tea? There’s a place on the next block, and maybe you and I could – I mean, if you aren’t busy – “

He knows very well he hasn’t answered the question.

He doesn’t even know where to begin.

The dark tail sways hypnotically behind her, as if it remembers him, nodding in greeting. The gleaming scales are a stark contrast to the beige robes she’s wrapped in.

And that’s odd, he thinks – not the sort of thing he’s seen her wear before. It’s perfunctory, almost light-less. Seems rather… borrowed. He glances around.

“Are you – ah – “ He hates how he’s stuttering. “Are you staying somewhere nearby? And what in the world are you doing here, if you don’t mind my asking?”

If she’s amenable to it, he offers her his arm and leads her to the cafe.
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Rohka on February 15th, 2021, 9:55 pm

“Walking,” she said, answering his last question. The simplest answer for what she was doing. The sybil said it with a hint of a smile as she brought her journal up to hug it, close to her chest.

’You know how it is with me.’ Hearing him, his voice, in the tone and quality that he expressed himself to her in this moment, made her feel at ease. It wasn’t as if she agreed with him. It felt next to impossible to figure out exactly ‘how it is’ with him, just from casual conversation. She then wondered what exactly he’d be fishing for, though she quickly assumed that it was perhaps for more information, similar to all that he’d spilled—both literally and otherwise—on the day they met with the party of Larks. If her assumptions were correct… she was surprised. Would he really come so far for something so related to work? She glanced around, checking to see if there was anyone else with him. The sybil remembered, that first day, the day he’d been called by someone at the door to the Mystic Eye.

Was he truly here all alone right now?

She could notice the space within herself staying quiet… listening and learning while assessing the character that stood before her.

Rohka took another step towards him before she paused, standing there, about two feet apart from him. A wind tousled through the strands of hair that framed her face. She ignored it, watching him, scanning his features. He did indeed look worn down, almost like the patients she’d seen at the centre who were required by orders to take the medicines, the potions, and the herbal concoctions that were meant to help ease their pains and suffering. She went through a lot of that herself, and began to wonder if he could see it all on her face as well. Rohka managed to check herself in a mirror before leaving the centre. She remembered her momentary disappointment in not having any kohl around her eyes and rouge on her cheeks. Rohka’s face was bare, and it probably made her seem younger than she truly was. It bothered her to remember that feeling. The sense of carelessness and naivety in her own appearance. She still chose to get out that day though, frustrated over her self-imposed limitations.

As if standing in the midst of ice, her entire body felt cold, and the sybil visibly shivered as she glanced off to the side.

She decided to answer. Without looking at him.

Mustering up her strength and the performance of her trade skill, Rohka spoke up.

“I’ve been walking on this path for the last bell, actually,” she said, staring off into the distance, forcibly putting on a gentle smile. “Maybe more, I don’t know, I’ve kind of lost track of time. Just getting some air, really. Maybe some water, if I walk far enough to the shore. Didn’t really plan too much for this particular outing, but I did want to go to the theatre that the patients were telling me about. All those stories they were excited about watching over and over again, I really wanted to see one of them for myself. Apparently the actors are great this year, and I’ve honestly been so stuck inside for so long that I haven’t really considered seeing it all for myself. So naturally, knowing me, I guess, it was only a matter of time before I disobeyed any sense of the rules that the doctors had for me,” she said, one hand brandishing about aimlessly for unconscious dramatic effect as she admitted to her faults.

“Do you want to come see it with me?” she asked, looking down at the ground now, her thin arms back to holding her journal tightly. She looked off to the other side this time, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear while pushing down any sense of nervousness as she stood in front of him. She knew she didn’t directly answer him on whether she was staying ‘nearby’. She also hadn’t forgotten that he asked her if he could buy her a drink. The sybil worked at the Malt House enough to understand the line.

Anything involving the process of imbibing was never really her forte.

“By ‘it’, I mean the theatre,” she said, correcting herself. “I think the place you’re talking about is next to it. This is my first time out in a while, so—“ she paused, catching herself admitting more, yet again.

Rohka finally looked up at him, feeling herself flush this time. The blood coming up into her cheeks being the first sense of warmth she felt since the cold spell, moments ago.

“I don’t know the title of the play they’re putting on today,” she said, speaking directly to him now. “But I’m betting there’s something about fish and kelp in it,” she said, smiling in actuality, perhaps the first time since seeing him that she allowed herself to feel an ounce of joy.

“I brought some mizas with me, in case we need a ticket,” said Rohka, looking down again. She noticed immediately that she said ‘we’ as if she just figured he’d want to join her.

The sybil stood there. Any answer from him, any question, she would meet in earnest.

And if he decided to walk with her… she would let him lead the way.
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Caspian on February 16th, 2021, 2:12 pm

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It’s not lost on him, her looking down and away. He doesn’t blame her. He’s spent the last two seasons feeling precisely like dirt, very often less than it, and the cobblestones at their feet are likely a better view. But when she turns her eyes back to him –

There it is again, the same sidereal, all-encompassing gaze that had once snared him in a fortune teller’s shop.

“Yes,” he says immediately, in response to her invitation to the theater. In all honesty, she might have asked him to compare paint samples or watch her file paperwork, and his answer would have been the same. Self-consciously, he wonders if he answered perhaps too readily, too school-boyishly, far too eagerly, and the stuttering, staticky heat that had prickled up his system in his nervousness flares anew. “Yeah, yes – that’s a capital idea. And don’t worry about the mizas, please – I’d like to say I spent some percentage of this year’s salary on something more valuable than kelp beer.” A bashful grin overtakes him before he can suppress it, and arm in arm they head for the theater.

The line to the box office is blessedly short. Not as many attendees for a matinee, he supposes. Though had the queue stretched around the block, he wouldn’t have minded, so wholly content he is to have her by his side again. It seems both the easiest and the most natural thing to be so near to her – and that’s what gets him. Not just the odds of their running into each other again, which are frighteningly astronomical – it’s that he feels so buoyantly at ease with her, so like an old self that he had thought long dead, despite not knowing what might come next. Given his line of work, the pragmatic roughness of his mercenarial upbringing, not being able to see two steps ahead – or as many as three or four, if you’re Taalviel – is not a position to relish being in. But with Rohka –

It’s dizzyingly dangerous, but with her, he’s always felt he just wants to see what happens. That being in her orbit for as long as she’ll allow him is enough. It’s a long trust fall, one that when it comes to her, he readily casts himself into.

“I’ve got it,” he insists when they get to the cashier, and tickets and playbills in hand, they file in.

The stage is a modest but handsome one, the scaffolding curved over it like a bower, decorated with kelp fronds sewn out of silk and shells likely gathered from the bay itself. There are three sections to the seating, and they find their places in the third row, smack dab in the middle, with an excellent view of the stage.

Despite being a matinee, the seats gradually fill over the minutes that follow, and in the midst of the warm hum of chatter around him, beneath the open air and near-noon sun –

It’s just not fraught, this situation. It isn’t life and death. It doesn’t involve knives and blood and secrets and oaths to take to the grave. He’s a bit nervous, sure, and he steals glances at Rohka and the journal she’s been clutching in her arms even as the buzz hushes and the play begins, wondering what’s on her mind, hoping it’s not so far from his own – but it’s a not a bad rush. A different one from what he’s used to. Dare he say it – a much healthier one.

He eases back in his seat, wondering if the people around him feel even an inkling of the way he does. They certainly don’t have anything like the companion by his side.

The play itself, Delmaria, is a captivating, colorful one, the skill of the actors enough to pull his attention away from Rohka and immerse him in the proceedings. Delmaria is a demi-goddess of the sea, once a year emerging onto land to pace up and down the shore, lingering for a day before retreating back into the waters. The protagonist of the story is a young man who lives in a crumbling cottage on a cliff by the sea, who first sees her as a child, emerging from the mist. For years he watches her, eagerly waiting for her return, and finally as an adult he strikes up the courage to meet her when she rises again. They don’t share the same language, and when she speaks someone in the theater orchestra glosses over wind chimes, or strikes a bell, its frequency light and pervasive, its presence hanging in the audience long after it passes. Delmaria and the protagonist find a way to communicate nonetheless, and over the years their partings range from sorrowful, to optimistic, to ruefulness and joy. The protagonist only lives for tomorrow, the next moment he can be with her again – until he meets a human woman in his seaside town, who, unknown to him, has watched and loved him from afar for as long as he’s looked for Delmaria.

The male protagonist changes as he ages, but Delmaria remains just as he found her, immune to time, strife, hunger, war. In the end he realizes he can’t sustain himself this way – that to deny himself the full potential of his growth is a death of its own. The play closes with the protagonist taking the hand of the human woman, with Delmaria watching over, eventually disappearing with one last wave’s crash.

There’s no intermission, a succinct 90 minutes or less, and when the actors take their final bow Caspian feels as if he’s been submerged in the sea itself and is breaking the surface, into a blindingly bright new world.

“That was – “ They remain in their seats for a few moments, people filing out around them. “That was incredible.” He turns to Rohka, unable, again, to help the smile spreading across his face. “And the costumes, and the music, and – petch, what did you think?”

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Wisp in Winter

Postby Rohka on March 1st, 2021, 1:52 am

“Oh, I—" she began, a bit flustered. Truth be told, she thought it was marvellous. There were so many details that she just didn’t want to miss. Enraptured by the colours, enthralled by the music, her heart being able to flutter again, after … how long? There were moments where she took a glance at her companion. Caspian never caught her gaze, but she peeked enough times to see the sparkles of emotions tugging strings in his aura, the brief feeling of a breeze in her djed letting her know that he was possibly, in actuality, pulling some meaningful beauty and appreciation for the spectacle occurring before their eyes.

There was a true sense of comfort, here, watching this, together. She could only assume it was because he was here. After all this time? It was unfathomable to her. The chance of seeing him, the chance of being alive, really, this far in her own journey. She wondered if he’d gone through anything on his own journey over here. The thought came to her mind when the protagonist announced his departure to his obsession. It was exactly the kind of story she was hearing from the other patients at the centre, full of stunning vibrancy and characters that pulled you right inside the tale. She felt their pain, their joy, the immense desperation, and the final acceptance of their fate.

Rohka smiled. “Thank you,” she said, softly. “It was a such a dream to watch. I didn’t know if Delmaria was alive in the end, though. We see her disappear, right? A part of me thinks the woman that he chooses in the end was almost like a kindred spirit of the sea, maybe? Gods,” she said, pausing. “Made me hungry.” Rohka let herself laugh as she stood up, holding her journal by her chest. The young Calico had been aware of her attire that day, and realized she was woefully underdressed for the theatre, but was at a point in her life where she figured she would care very little of what anyone in society really thought of her. Especially in a city where she had zero reputation. This was her fresh start, essentially.

The play said as much.

“Let me get us some cooked fish and kelp. My treat. At the place you mentioned?” asked Rohka, slowly walking towards the exit.

It wouldn’t take long for them to enter the quaint traveller’s inn that they called ‘World’s End Grotto’. If they shared any conversation at all on the way to the inn, it would’ve most likely been as surface level as Rohka could possibly make it. Some pleasantries, some comments on the aesthetics of the play, or probably even just listening intently to Caspian’s expression of thoughts as well.

However, it would be the moments of comfortable silence that she would enjoy the most. It was so new for her, not needing to be a bundle of butterflies, fluttering her wings of social performance. Instead, she treasured being able to see, feel, hear, and walk along on the path, together. It was splendid.

The sybil only wondered if he felt the same at all.

“Hi there, can we order two dishes of smoked fish, pickled kelp, and cheese please?” asked Rohka to the first barmaid she saw after reading the menu written on the board outside. Just seeing the word ‘cheese’ made her start to salivate with delight.

As they walked in, the sybil pulled back her hood that she’d absentmindedly put up when they left the theatre, to keep the sun out of her eyes. The barmaid directed her to a free spot at the long tables and benches where she quickly sat, surprisingly grateful that there were no chairs. The sybil sat tall, back straight, a comfortable smile on her lips as her dark tail swished behind her before settling to rest on the ground.

“It’s warm in here,” she said, undoing the tie of her cloak. She set the journal that she’d been clutching in her arms, right next to her on the bench, then gently folded her cloak around it as she continued to speak.

“Must be all the candlelit lanterns. It’s nice. My first time here. Have you explored the city at all, since you came here, Cas? Well, actually, if you don’t mind me asking, when exactly did you arrive? I just can’t believe you’re really here, I never thought I would meet anyone I knew from Ravok in a place like this. It’s so far, you know? But you did say you came for work, I guess. How’s that going?”

Rohka’s face was as pink as a peony now, realizing she’d asked probably far too many questions at once while staring right at him. A nervous hand came up to graze her cheek and brow before taking a sip from the mug of water that a barmaid left for the both of them.

Caspian would now be able to notice that she wore a cord around her neck, the weight of a stone pulling it taut at the end.

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Wisp in Winter

Postby Caspian on March 2nd, 2021, 1:48 pm

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“I think my favorite part was – well, aside from all of it – did you notice they kept decaying the set for his house, year after year? It was falling apart around him, but he never seemed to notice. Or maybe he did, but he thought it was worth bearing instead of moving to another house in town, because he wanted to be closer to Delmaria. And that year that storm hit, and she came out of the waves with all the cymbals crashing and you can’t tell if she caused it, but – he was never afraid of her. He was never angry. It was like – he knew what she was, and her nature, and he loved her for it without wanting to change her.” Caspian realizes, as they walk to the World’s End Grotto, that he’s been talking animatedly for quite some time. He casts a self-conscious glance towards Rohka, but she’s got her hood up, and it’s hard for him to gauge her reaction. But she responds in kind, and he bites his lip to keep from so obviously smiling.

He slides onto the bench opposite her at the inn. The room is indeed warm, as she says – but it’s a comforting feeling, filled with the buzz of other patrons, the merry bustling of the bartenders and waiters. As Rohka pulls her hood back, the glimmer of her eyes catches his breath in his throat, and he realizes he’s staring for perhaps a beat too long after her line of questions.

“I’ve done a fair bit of wandering around, yes,” he replies. “Got here at the end of summer. Zeltiva is…” He pauses. Even now, he hasn’t really made up his mind. “…well, it’s not Ravok, is it?” It comes out a little more downtrodden than he’d intended. A touch sardonic, a whole lot worn out. “All this, being here – it was all sort of an accident. Maybe accident isn’t the right word. But I just never thought I’d – “

Can he tell her the truth?

The dark tail swishes beneath the candlelight. And she’s looking at him so attentively, and for so long he’s kept the whole mess of the past year to himself. The wall he’s built around himself – facing her, it had never stood much of a chance.

“Did you know the Calderas? Back in Ravok? Elias Caldera, the Ebonstryfe?” he says, feeling something in him crack. “I was at the Caldera Manor with… a friend. Shiress Underhill. She was carrying Elias’ child, and she was already so far along and – it all happened so quickly. I still don’t know what little war they were waging, but one of the Larks sent an assassin after Shiress. I was up in her room playing petching dress up and suddenly Shiress screams and she’s bleeding out in the doorway, and – “ There goes his breath again. He can’t seem to find it. “One thing led to another. Another friend and I took Shiress to a safe house, but someone attacked us, and I – “

He can still feel the weight of the twisted cloth in his hands, how it had burned not during, but after, so wound up and floated had he been from the drugs the assailant had fed him. The body had jerked and thrashed, and his grip had not faltered. And then it had lain so perfectly still.

“I did what I had to do,” he says finally. “And so – we ran. Shiress is from Zeltiva, and we’ve been staying at her parents’ cottage ever since. Me, my sister Taalviel, our friend Ambrosia, Shiress – and her son, Ian Caldera. I think you were right, you know. About my fortune. I stayed in Ravok a while longer, as you predicted. And so much of me is still there now.”

The barmaid returns now with their order. Face flushing with all he’s just said, he busies himself with unfolding his napkin and fiddling with his fork.

“The business for my stepfather that you caught me in, at the Lark party, is… concluded.” He forces his tone towards lightness, but comes up short, the strain in his voice from his story still hanging in the air. “Now I’m up to business as usual, which mostly amounts to investigating on the behalf of spouses worried about infidelity.” As a matter of punctuation, he tries the kelp, a bit of fish. “But what about you? When did you get here?” However much she wants to reveal, he’ll listen.

It’s at this point – tearing his eyes away from the tail, flicking in and out of the shadows as if it were made from it – that he notices the cord and stone around her neck.

“That’s new,” he says, as blithely as he can manage, nodding towards it. “Any chance it has anything to do with your journal?”
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Rohka on March 26th, 2021, 3:57 am

Hearing Caspian talk, just truly listening to the tone of his voice, the inflections, even the resonance… a part of her was enraptured with paying attention to it as he talked about the play. She felt the animation and she couldn’t bring herself to admit how happy it made her feel to hear him go on about his favourite part. It was a part that she’d been curious about as well, especially the gradual decay.

Was he obsessed or in love? Was he admiring her or needing her? The actor’s script walked a fine line, and it was almost as if he spoke to Delmaria with such hidden anguish, every time. The man surely cared enough to get close, but it was never enough to understand the depth of her plight. How could he not have at least tried to seek the answers to her domain? As demi-goddess of the sea, it was clear that she couldn’t part with the waters, yet she yearned to experience life by the shore, on his land, by his side, connecting to his soul in communication beyond words.

The man was mortal and she, it seemed, was not. The play only went into her backstory briefly. Rumoured to be born of a pairing between Caiyha and a seaman, Delmaria awoke as a fully formed adult inside a giant seashell at the bottom of the ocean. She took on the responsibility of guiding the journeys of various schools of fish, wanting to ensure that they never get lost on their way.

Rohka wondered if she should just share the thought that came to mind: was the protagonist the one who caused Delmaria to bring on that storm?

She could only imagine the frustration that the demi-goddess hid behind her sweet gestures and gentle strolls. The actress seemed to barely hint at the feeling through her eyes. And Gods, the last scene of her letting go, releasing her memory of him… it was beautiful. Rohka could see what the patients meant now. This troupe was made of near masters of their craft.

The sybil then realized that she’d held her tongue, which was something that bothered her to realize about herself. Usually, Rohka had zero problems with expressing her truth, her opinions, her general patterns of conversation. Yet here, after listening to Caspian, the only thing she deigned to respond with was:

“Yes, never afraid of her. It’s painfully funny, the things human nature decides to do with life,” she said, referring to the protagonist’s mortal role. “Taking the hand of a woman who loved him. Beautifully tragic in a way, too. Think they’ll continue the story next season?” she asked him, not really expecting an answer. It probably made more sense for her to be the one to know the answer, out of the two them. Rohka continued to walk along the path with him in gratitude.

His first question at the table of the World’s End Grotto made her pause, the gratitude turning into utter shock.

”Did you know the Calderas?”

“Elias Caldera, the Ebonstryfe?”

“Shiress Underhill. She was carrying Elias’ child…”


A child… a child? With a ‘stryfer? Rohka's brows knitted together so tightly at the mention of two names that she remembered. How strange, this coincidence. Caspian couldn’t have known that she’d met them both, if however briefly. What in the world was tying their lives together like this?

When he spoke of an ‘assassin’, Rohka turned visibly pale.

”Another friend and I took Shiress to a safe house, but someone attacked us, and I - “

The silence was ice. She waited, patiently, not moving a muscle, letting him close the sentence the way he needed to, in whatever way would allow him to release the frigid air that hung between them.

”I did what I had to do,” he said, at last.

At this, Rohka realized that she’d been holding her breath. She slowly let herself breathe out, listening to the rest of what he shared with her. It was so much. He sounded like he’d been through far more than he probably bargained for… or maybe it was all exactly as he’d wanted it. He chose to run, he chose to stay with his friend, his sister, and his business. Despite whatever may have happened, whatever he could’ve done…

At his question to her, Rohka gently cleared her throat, scratching the back of her hand before taking another bite of fish to give herself a bit of time to think through how to answer. She then looked at him, swallowing the morsel before relaying what she remembered.

“Oh Gods, they’re both driving me insane, to be totally honest,” she began, referring to the necklace and the journal. “Hard to say exactly when I got here… Beginning of Fall, probably. Woke up in the Healing Centre. I’m pretty sure I’m not waging any wars, but I guess I did run too, in a way. I think I’m running towards something rather than away from something, though,” she said, rather vaguely. “Did I tell you about Lelia? The Konti Divinist? I was working for her at the Mystic Eye. I guess you could say that I’m here to take care of some things for her and her business. Still figuring out exactly what it is and how to do it. Part of it has to do with a ring she gave me, but I—”

She quickly jumped subjects. “Wait, why would the Larks send an assassin?” A slight fear crept up along the back of her neck, sending her tail into a bit of a dizzy. She shut her eyes for a moment, pushing away the fear as best she could, choosing to focus on something other than the potential of being chased by someone who would want her dead, for whatever reason.

Rohka drifted to a memory instead. “I remember the name Shiress, I think she was a partner of mine at the Mystic Eye, back in Ravok. It might’ve been someone different though. I don’t remember her last name,” she said, curious about the family relation, having been privy to some of the Lark’s dealings within Ravokian culture. “And Elias too. We met at a shop in the Plaza of Dark Delights. The only place to find a crowbar, at the time.” She gave Caspian a quick shrug, a small smile on her lips before recalling the business he spoke about.

“Investigating infidelity sounds heartbreaking to me,” she said, looking back down to her meal. She took another bite. There was a certain sweetness in the fish, she couldn’t figure out what kind of ingredient they added. She kept her gaze down, pleased with the preparation as she continued to mull over what Caspian said. “Though I guess there could be a certain objectiveness to it. Have you ever experienced infidelity yourself?” she asked, rather directly.
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Caspian on March 29th, 2021, 12:58 pm

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It’s a reflex, a tic that despite its being for self-preservation perhaps betrays too much of himself – but Rohka’s reaction to his admission of the assassin, the tail following her with frenetic quicksilver fright, has him quickly scanning the room. He resists the urge to look too obviously over his shoulder – reminds himself, belatedly, that they’re in Zeltiva now. The whole situation is a matter of binary – they are here for the simple fact that there are no Larks.

It’s all a story now, one he knows by heart. This far from the dark city on the lake, the dangers he had been through seem almost unreal. That’s self-preservation, again – must be, because he can get caught up in the memory of Shiress’ blood spilling across the floor all day if he lets himself. To tie himself so tightly to a ghost – he had done that for nearly a year. It’s not living at all.

“I don’t know,” Caspian admits when she asks about the Larks’ motives. Despite all his speculation, that’s the simple truth. “I guess that’s what happens when you get caught up with a Stryfer. And a Caldera, at that.” The question reminds him of the powerlessness he had felt – still feels, now, like a pawn getting swept up in the skirmishes between greater pieces on the board.

More coincidence upon coincidence when Rohka mentions that she knew Shiress and the Caldera in her own right. How many square miles had Ravok been? Bounded on all sides by water, he supposes that despite his palatial perception of the city, it may not have been very big at all. But it still seems to defy the odds, that they should be so connected, that a web had been woven between them long before they had even met – those strings tightening until he had run into her by chance at the Mystic Eye.

At the mentioning of the establishment, something tugs at Caspian’s attention. He glances down at his right cuff, which he’d been folding back as a matter of habit as she spoke. To fold the cuff, he’d had to unbutton it first from his wrists – and that’s when he notices, for the first time, golden embroidery around one of the buttonholes.

In the unmistakable shape of an eye, similar to the logo that had been hanging above the fortune teller’s shop.

Stunned, he looks up at Rohka, back at the eye emblazoned on his wrist.

The magical suit –

Had it somehow known he’d find the sybil again today, set off a beacon, marked him as indelibly hers?

The question about infidelity has him laughing wryly, diverting him from an act of magic that in the past he might have considered impossible.

“I’ve dealt with my fair share of it,” he says. It doesn’t embarrass him to admit it. They’re just more stories that seem, from this distance, to have happened to someone else. “Something about me when I was younger – I think I rather invited it. Though never intentionally. I had a bad habit of getting tangled up with people who weren’t very good for me, who either saw me as a spot of amusement for the moment, or their way into my stepfather’s good graces. Joke’s on them, though. He never saw me as worth the grain it took to feed me, so the idea of me vouching for anyone didn’t count for much.” He paused for a moment to take another bite, chewing thoughtfully before continuing, “It was hard, at the time. Sometimes even devastating. But I think in some cases, it was my fault.” The words feel heavier in his mouth now, somehow more real, reminding him, bodily, that those memories are in fact his own. That his past self may not be such a stranger after all. “I misunderstood those relationships, who I was to them, how they saw me. I wanted them to be more than what they were. Did they lie to me, or did I just lie to myself?” He takes another bite, sets his fork back down. “That was a long time ago, though. It’s silly in retrospect, considering all the decisions I made when I was a teenager, all the way through 20 and then some. I haven’t been in a relationship since where infidelity might be at stake. I just learned to curb my expectations, I guess.” He aims for jovial; finds himself a touch too grim.

But it is what it is.

“What about you?” he asks. “I can’t imagine you were more embarrassing than I was as a teenager. I mean – are you seeing someone now, or –?”

The question comes out before he can bite it back.

The golden eye on his cuff peers up at him, impassable, unblinking, as if it knows very well what he hopes her answer will be.
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Wisp in Winter

Postby Rohka on April 8th, 2021, 1:38 am

Rohka smiled. It was a simple one, carrying no amount of ill will.

He asked her that question with full attention. Fork down, eyes on her. With a slow blink, Rohka gently shook her head from side to side in answer, the smile now getting plastery as she peeled her gaze away from his. A hand absentmindedly went to the side of her face as she turned her head slightly, tucking the hair behind her left ear, revealing the plainness of her pale neck.

It was hard to hold the disguised emotions. She did her best, looking around at the other patrons, seeing their laughter, their seriousness, their civil behaviour. She hoped that by looking at other people, something about their posturing could be mimicked. At the very least, it would be distraction enough away from her own thoughts on his question…

‘Seeing’ someone… what did that really even mean? What did it entail? Rohka could see anyone, couldn’t she? A person in front of her eyes, for as long as she has the ability of perception through her pupils… she would be able to see them.

No?

She wasn’t sure what to assume.

“It’s complicated," said Rohka, looking back at him. She attempted to match his tone, one that felt to her to be full of a maturity and self-awareness that she was beginning to respect... but her own voice came out with more nervousness than she'd anticipated.

"I’ve never been fully committed to anyone in a way where, as you put it, infidelity is,” she paused. “…at stake. Been in the Healing Centre for all of Fall, really.”

Rohka took another bite and released the amount of strain she was holding in her smile. She chewed, letting a bit of silence fill the air as she gathered the strength to continue to chat openly.

“I was at the Healing Centre for several reasons, one of which includes the fact that I did a ritual for a child who turned out to be possessed by the ghost of a man who wants to ensure security for my past self. Through marrying me.” Rohka didn’t skip a beat as she prattled on, hoping the detail wouldn’t be pricked at too soon.

“So really, I don’t know what it means to see someone, other than the obvious. With work, I saw people all the time. That was my job, to be able to see them. To see for them, with them… through them. It’s almost like seeing someone is a skill, to me.

“Like if I was to think back, like you did, about relationships of the past and how you wondered whether people lied to you or if you lied to yourself… I remember asking myself similar things. All I can really say is that I learned to see them to some extent. Never enough to —” she paused again. It was hard to figure out how to end that sentence that slipped out. The sybil sighed, looking back up at him. She remembered a bit of her mother’s knowing glance.

“Well, it was never enough for my family to except them as their own,” said Rohka with the slightest chuckle. It was funny to her now, knowing that she was so far away from her parents and her sister. She was reminded, just then, that she would need to send a letter to the Calicos in Ravok as soon as possible, now that she was in the final stages of what the doctors said her recovery entailed. She would need to update them on her progress.

Which wasn’t very much.

“The Calicos are pretty particular, you could say. Lumber has become such a primary source of their prominence, but that wasn’t always the case. A part of why I’m here in Zeltiva is because I need to find out more information about my grandfather’s whereabouts. My father’s father. He was part of the Iceglaze family, in Avanthal. Do you know that city? I’ve never been there, I hear that it’s so far north, and with Morwen gone for so long and the Vantha being killed off,” she paused again, wondering if she was saying too much. Rohka glanced around quickly.

The sybil lowered her voice, realizing that they weren’t at all in a private space.

“Anyways, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m learning to take one step at a time.” Rohka took a moment to let that settle before asking a question that came to mind.

“Have you seen the Healing Centre by the way? I’ve spent so much time there now, but it’s hardly a place where I feel like I’m living life. I’ll be figuring out a means to provide for myself again. It would be a dream to run a business of my own, just like —”

And that’s when she notices the golden eye.

Rohka stares at it. Recalling her memories of the establishment, of Lelia, of the smoke, the baubles, the books, the crystals, the doors, the walls, the floors… the call… towards that sense of knowing.

The sybil’s voice trailed off as she unconsciously pointed to his cuff.
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