Solo Hunted

Nowhere's safe.

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A lawless town of anarchists, built on the ruins of an ancient mining city. [Lore]

Hunted

Postby Asterope on March 1st, 2021, 4:49 am

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13th of winter, 520 AV

Imogen had mentioned off-hand once or twice that she technically stayed at the Sunset Quarter Orphanage. She'd expressed her dislike for it, but it was somewhere safe to stay when she didn't feel like risking the streets. Aster had never actually been there before, but she'd entered Sunberth just as the sun was setting, having chosen her human-Kelvic mortal seeming, pink hair tied back and hood up. She had checked Imogen's secret spot first, but the crumbling, overgrown house had been empty, and by the time Aster was leaving, the sky was darkening.

Not feeling like risking wandering Sunberth's streets at night, she'd decided instead to head to the Orphanage to see if Imogen was there instead. She missed the girl sorely, perhaps surprisingly so, and now that she had become slightly more at ease risking forays into the city, she wanted to see her.

She kept her cloak tucked around her, hand on the whip she had taken to keeping coiled on her hip even though she hardly knew how to use it, and moved with purpose, head high and shoulders back. But every shadow made her tense, and her crimson eyes flickered around nervously.

Still, she managed to make it to what she could only assume was the Orphanage relatively unbothered. Aster reached up, lowering her hood and approaching the door tentatively. Before she could knock on the door, however, something slammed into her from behind, pitching her forward and knocking the breath out of her, nearly sending her to her knees.

Two arms wound around her waist for a brief moment before the weight on her back retreated suddenly. Turning around, Imogen stood before her, looking almost shy. She hadn't seen Aster much of late, but the form she was wearing was so distinct that Aster wasn't surprised she'd recognized her; it only took seeing her pink-haired figure once to burn it into one's memory.

"Imogen," she scolded, gently, as her hammering heart slowed in her chest. "You scared me half to death." At that, the girl flashed a guilty grin, looking only somewhat apologetic.

"Sorry. I got excited when I saw you."

Aster's expression softened. She hadn't actually been upset, though perhaps she had been slightly annoyed; she figured Imogen should know better than to sneak up on people in Sunberth like that, but she couldn't stay even a little bit irritated at that. She scanned the young girl up and down, noting the dirt staining her cheek and what looked like a semi-fresh bruise under one eye. Without thinking, she reached a hand out and rubbed her thumb over the spot of dirt.

Imogen made a face and batted her hand away, causing Aster to smile slightly. "Getting into plenty of trouble?" Aster teased, as Imogen grabbed her hand, tugging her away from the Orphanage.

"Me? Get in trouble?" Imogen stared back at her with wide honey-brown eyes, and Aster couldn't help but roll her own eyes.
Last edited by Asterope on April 22nd, 2021, 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Asterope
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Hunted

Postby Asterope on April 22nd, 2021, 6:05 pm

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"Where are we going? It's late, we shouldn't be wandering around." Asterope frowned.

"Just over here," Imogen tugged her towards a large tree in the courtyard that spanned the front of the Orphanage where they stood, the girl plopping herself down unceremoniously at the base of the tree. "It's late enough that nobody's really out playing. It's probably dinner soon, anyway."

Aster sat down more gracefully than the young girl, carefully spreading her cloak around her as she lowered to the ground and tucked her legs beneath her. "Shouldn't you be there for dinner?"

Imogen made a face, sticking out her tongue. "Yeah, I guess," she grumbled after a moment. "But I wanted to talk with you first. You don't come visit often enough."

Aster felt a twinge of guilt. Neither of them had many people they could rely on, and they'd latched onto each other surprisingly quickly. "I know. I'm sorry. It's just...not very safe for me to come visit, especially during the day."

Imogen's small face turned somber, and she scratched lines into the dirt with her fingernail. "Yeah, I know. I heard the dumb jerk who used to own you is looking for you."

Aster felt her blood chill and drain from her face. She had known, on some level, that Alard wouldn't give her up quietly; it was why she didn't feel safe visiting Sunberth in any form he would recognize. But to hear confirmation that he was out hunting for her was...terrifying, if she was going to be honest with herself.

"You didn't know?" Imogen's voice broke through her thoughts, the child looking at her with furrowed brows. Aster exhaled a shaky breath, smiling what she hoped was reassuringly at Imogen. She doubted her success by the skeptical look on the girl's face.

"Not for sure," Aster admitted. "I assumed he would, but...no, I didn't know for sure."

Imogen frowned, then leaned over to bump her shoulder against Aster's. "I'm sure it'll be fine. It's not like he'd recognize you like this," she pointed at Aster's distinct, bright hair, and the Eth chuckled quietly, though her frayed nerves made the sound strained.

The two sat in silence for a long, comfortable moment, before muffled shouting could be heard drifting from the windows of the Orphanage. Imogen sighed. "I should probably go if I want to get any dinner," she said, standing up and brushing off her pants.

"It was good to see you, Imogen. I'll try to come visit more often," Aster said, and Imogen pursed her lips thoughtfully.

"Only if it won't put you in danger. Pinkie promise," she demanded, holding her hand out with all of her fingers curled in, except for her pinkie which stuck out. Aster stared at her hand in confusion. She'd minded the children of the Stormgrass pavilion on occasion, but she wasn't familiar with this rite in particular. Perhaps it wasn't even just a thing that children did and she was just uninformed.

Imogen sighed heavily. "Pinkie promise," she repeated, as if Aster was stupid for not knowing, and she might have been offended if Imogen's exasperation wasn't so amusing. "It's a serious promise. You hook pinkies and shake, and if someone breaks the promise, then you get to break their pinkie."
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Hunted

Postby Asterope on April 22nd, 2021, 6:06 pm

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"What?" Aster blinked, staring at her incredulously. Her eyes narrowed. "There's no way that's true," she accused Imogen, but the girl shook her head.

"I'm serious! That's why you don't break pinkie promises. They're serious." Imogen seemed serious, in any case. Aster stared at her skeptically. She was the one on the hook if she broke the promise, but she doubted Imogen's ability to break her finger. Then again, most Sunberth children were still tougher than she was...

"Alright," Aster finally said, copying Imogen's hand gesture. "Pinkie promise." Imogen looked pleased, and hooked her pinkie around Aster's, shaking their hands up and down once.

"Get back safe, I'll see you soon!" Imogen grinned at Aster and then turned to jog back to the Orphanage. Aster stood up, brushing her knees off and watching her until she disappeared inside. As she stood there watching Imogen leave, Aster heard footsteps behind her. Before she could turn, one of her arms was twisted behind her back in a tight grip. She cried out in surprise, leaning back slightly on instinct to alleviate the pressure in her shoulder.

The grip on her arm was vice-like, digging into her skin hard enough that Aster could swear she felt her bones creak under the pressure; it would certainly leave some nasty finger-shaped bruises. "What do you want with the girl?" A female voice spoke calmly from behind her.

Aster grit her teeth; she was worried if she struggled away from her assailant, she would pop her shoulder out of its socket, and a dislocated shoulder wasn't high on the list of things she was keen to deal with at the moment. Confusion filled her at the stranger's question.

"I...what? Imogen? Nothing! I just came to see her and make sure she was doing okay," Aster's voice came out through clenched teeth. She flung her head back, aiming for a nose or even a chin or forehead, but there was only empty space behind her head.

"Why?" The stranger demanded, seemingly unphased.

"Because I care about her?" Who was this person, and why was she asking these questions? "I mean, she's a child, so I hesitate to say we're friends in the usual sense, but I suppose it's the closest thing I can think of. What do you want with me?" There was silence, and then the pressure on her arm suddenly released. Aster inhaled sharply, stumbling forward a step and spinning around as her hand reached for her whip.

A short, stocky woman stood in front of her, arms folded over her chest, one seemingly made of stone. Isur, the word immediately popped into Aster's head, making her think of Crylon. That would explain why the grip on her arm had been so strong.

"Name's Jillene Ironside," the woman said, and she eyed Aster, suspicion still in her eyes. "I run the Orphanage. And I take the safety of the children in my care very seriously."
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Asterope
A light that never goes out
 
Posts: 632
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Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
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Hunted

Postby Asterope on April 22nd, 2021, 6:08 pm

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Aster slowly moved her hand away from her whip, flexing the arm that Jillene had been holding and wriggling her fingers to make sure nothing was damaged, wincing slightly. The questions she'd been asked suddenly made a lot more sense.

"Well, I suppose I can't fault you for your reaction then, especially in this city. I'm glad Imogen and the other children have someone like you looking after them." For a brief moment, Aster could swear a smirk curved the Isur woman's mouth. "My name is Asterope. And I promise, I have no intention of hurting Imogen."

Jillene stared at her hard, her white eyes piercing, and silence hung heavy in the air until finally she grunted and nodded, relaxing her posture slightly. "Alright. I believe you. I better not find out you're lying to me, though. Were you thinking of adopting her?"

Adopt? Aster blinked, staring at Jillene. The thought had never really crossed her mind. "I...no, not right now. I don't think I'm in a very good place to be taking care of a child." That was certainly true, for numerous reasons. Jillene made a humming noise. "Why do you even ask?"

Jillene shrugged. "Kid seems to like you, and Imogen can be a tough nut to crack. It'd be nice to see her go home with someone who cares about her and who she actually likes." Aster raised an eyebrow; how long had Jillene been watching them? "But I respect that you know you're not fit to care for a kid right now. If that ever changes, feel free to come talk to me."

Aster nodded mutely, still surprised. "I won't jump you if I see you hanging around again, either. Sorry about that." Jillene smirked at her, and Aster got the feeling that she wasn't quite that sorry.

"You have to keep the children safe. I can understand that," Aster acknowledged. "But I would appreciate it if you didn't do that again, so thank you."

The Isur woman nodded. "I should get back inside. Dinner's always a hassle. Have a safe walk home, Asterope."

Aster inclined her head, watching Jillene stride back towards the Orphanage. It was well past evening at this point, the sky dark above her, and Aster stood for a moment watching the lights in the Orphanage window, shadowy figures occasionally moving past them. Of course she felt maternal about Imogen, and she cared for her and wanted to see her safe and happy...but adoption? Her, raising a child? She could hardly take care of herself!

Letting out a sigh, Aster turned and began to walk back the way she'd came. There was also the thought of Alard weighing on her mind; the knowledge that he was certainly looking for her sent a shiver up her spine, and she couldn't help but glance over her shoulder. What would he do if he found her? She didn't want to think about it; she couldn't let that happen.

Still...Aster toyed with the idea of trying to track down Alard herself, before he could find her. She had more than one form that he wasn't familiar with. If she could find him, see what he was up to...play hunter instead of the hunted.

But it was risky; who knew where he would be? She would have to go prowling around Sunberth at night; not to mention, one of his frequent haunts was a tavern that catered exclusively to the Sun's Birth.

It was a bold idea. Too bold for her, if she was being honest. She was always the prey between the two of them, always the one being hunted; she was the one who walked swiftly and peered over her shoulder, heart thumping with the fear that Alard would be lurking around any corner, ready to snatch her back into his possession. She hated that even now she was still afraid of him, afraid of what he might do to her.

Would she ever feel safe? Be safe? Not as long as she was in Sunberth and Alard lived, she knew that much. Aster ran her tongue over her top lip nervously, flexing her fingers, tapping her seaglass nails against her palm, aware of the weight of the whip coiled on her hip.

Fighting didn't come naturally to her, though she had plenty of tools at her disposal. But if she ever wanted to flip the roles, if she wanted to be the one to hunt him down, make him afraid, then she was going to have to learn to use them.
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The sun will rise, and we will try again
User avatar
Asterope
A light that never goes out
 
Posts: 632
Words: 639035
Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
Location: The Outpost (Sunberth)
Race: Ethaefal
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Journal
Plotnotes
Medals: 5
Featured Thread (1) Mizahar Grader (1)
Overlored (1) Alvadas Seasonal Challenge (1)
Power Fork (1)


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