Solo Hunting the Past

Aster goes on a hunt for answers.

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

Hunting the Past

Postby Asterope on May 23rd, 2021, 6:25 pm

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8th of spring, 521 AV

Aster needed to learn more about Zith. She was determined to try and dig up what information she could on her newest mortal seeming, and starting with the race seemed like the best option. She supposed she could always try and meet up with Nightblood again; but she wanted an outsider's perspective. She supposed calling it an unbiased perspective wouldn't be right, since just about every race were extremely biased against the winged beings; but she doubted the reliability of information she might get from Nightblood.

Besides, the Zith woman was already extremely baffled by her; asking questions about things that should be obvious to any Zith would just make that worse, and Aster didn't particularly feel like trying to have that conversation. Who knows how it would go; she remembered the sting of claws across her cheek vividly. No, Nightblood probably wasn't the best person to ask.

But if not Nightblood, then who? She didn't know of anyone who specifically knew about Zith. Aster had spent the morning mulling it over; if Nightblood frequented the outskirts of Sunberth, and assuming she lived with other Zith, then there must be at least some Zith presence on the outer edges of Sunberth. Which meant whoever lived or spent long periods of time away from the city would probably have a higher chance of having seen or interacted with them in-person.

Abruptly, Sunberth's graveyard keeper came to mind. He was a strange, surly man, intimidating to be sure; but Aster had previously had a few run-ins with the man, and while he was perhaps a bit scary, he didn't seem all that bad. He certainly spent a lot of his time around the Dust Bed, which conveniently, wasn't far from where the dovecote was located either. Perhaps it was worth paying him a visit to ask a few questions.

She didn't need to know enough to write a detailed history of the Zith; she just wanted to know what they were really like to people outside of their own. Her interaction with Nightblood had been strange, to say the least, but not necessarily dangerous or aggressive. Aster was fairly sure it was due to the fact that Nightblood had taken her for one of her own. What if she hadn't appeared as a Zith that night? How would things have gone?

Aster waited for early evening before she left for Sunberth. It wasn't quite late enough for her to shift yet, which made her a bit nervous; she very rarely dared to venture back into Sunberth before nightfall, with Alard still looking for her. But the Dust Bed was far outside the city, the dovecote was nearby, and night would be coming soon enough. She was getting too impatient to wait, and she was worried it might be harder to find Jebediah come night.

Stepping out of the dovecote and onto the rocky, grassy hills, Aster inhaled the smell of the sea and began her walk down towards the Dust Bed; she avoided the Ridge, where the more intricate crypts lay, instead heading for where she'd found him the one time she had come by with a body. It didn't take long to find him; the shifting sound of a shovel breaking dirt reached her ears, and Aster followed it.

Jebediah was finishing burying a body, shoveling the last few piles of dirt back on top of the grave. He glanced up hearing her approach, and grunted at her. "What d'you want?" He asked, then frowned, straightening up slightly to squint at her, eyeing her horns, glittering a gentle lavender and jade in the burning light of the setting sun. "Hang on a tick, I feel like I know you."

"We've met once or twice," Aster acknowledged. Jebediah continued to squint at her for a long moment, then grunted again, turning back to his work.

"No matter. What are you doin' here? Can't you see I'm busy." His tone was irritated as he resumed his shoveling, the muscles of his broad back flexing visibly even beneath his shirt. Intimidating indeed; Aster knew he was capable of hefting more than just dirt and bodies.

Word count: 691
Last edited by Asterope on May 23rd, 2021, 6:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Hunting the Past

Postby Asterope on May 23rd, 2021, 6:27 pm

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"This might be a bit strange," she admitted, "But I had some questions about something, and I have no idea who to ask. I thought maybe you might know, since you spend a lot of time out here, away from the city."

Jebediah was glancing at her warily now, though he didn't stop his work. Aster continued, "Have you ever had any run-ins with Zith? I was just curious about what they're really like. I've heard some stories, but I've never known for sure."

Now he was looking at her like she was insane. Aster stood, waiting patiently, as he turned away from her to finish burying the body, his furrowed brow a clear sign that he was thinking. He finished heaving the last pile of dirt onto the grave, driving the shovel into the ground, and then turned to face her.

"Why do you want to know?"

"I'm just curious, is all." Aster shrugged, then hesitated before adding, "I thought I saw one flying overhead around here a few nights ago. It surprised me, and I realized I didn't actually know much about them." A half-truth; Aster held her breath without realizing it as Jebediah narrowed his eyes at her, and then finally grunted, looking away. She exhaled her breath quietly, relaxing.

"Two of them, actually. No idea what they were doing. I heard them screaming and yelling, think they were fighting at one point. Hard to tell, they were way up and over the hills, not down around here."

Aster did her best to keep her expression neutral. If Jeb noticed anything strange, he didn't say anything. "I mean, there's really not much to tell, girl. They're wild, savage creatures. They come out at night mostly. They like hunting just about anything, but especially humans, and they're known for playing with their food. They keep slaves sometimes from what I hear, but I don't know how they go about it, since they ain't exactly civilized. I've heard they even kill each other for sport and fun."

Without even realizing it, Aster reached her hand up to her cheek, the one that would certainly have scars on it in her own Zith form. She chewed her lower lip, brow furrowed as she mulled over Jeb's words. What he said sounded in line with what little she remembered hearing about Zith prior, and it didn't contradict any of her interactions with Nightblood, either. They sounded more like wild animals than any type of humanoid person, and it made Aster uneasy, knowing she could turn into one of them.

Sure, she was still herself; but wearing the body of such an animalistic killer was a strange concept. And if prior knowledge was anything to go by, the Zith woman she turned into had actually been real and alive at some point in time. Aster wondered how much blood those hands had spilled.

"Is that all?" Jebediah's voice cut through her thoughts; he looked both perplexed and exasperated. Aster blinked at him, nodding.

"Oh, uh, yes. I suppose that's really all I can ask for. Thank you, sorry to have bothered you." Aster said, polite yet distracted.

"All you really need to know about those things is to stay away from them." Jeb shrugged. "Now if that's all..."

Aster nodded again, waving goodbye, and left Jebediah to his graveyard. The information he had given her was minimal, somehow both more and less helpful than she had anticipated. Perhaps she needed to speak with Nightblood after all, though she didn't know where to even begin.

Word count: 592
Total: 1,283
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Hunting the Past

Postby Asterope on May 24th, 2021, 2:31 am

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Nightfall found Aster lingering around the dovecote, bat-like wings wrapped around herself as her sharp eyes kept a keen watch on the night sky. That was something else she had noticed about this form that was useful; the darkness didn't seem quite so dark, and her vision seemed to cut through it fairly easily. She wasn't sure if Nightblood would show up; it wasn't as if they had agreed upon meeting time, they'd just sort of agreed it might be nice to meet again.

Her cheek and side were still sore. A bit of gentle washing and a few nights worth of ageing the wounds had moved them well along in the early stages of the healing process; they hadn't been quite so bad that she had felt the need to go get stitches. But they still hurt, and they would take some time to heal properly. And they would almost definitely leave scars in the shape of claw marks.

If Nightblood did show up, Aster hoped she wouldn't insist on flying or fighting practice again. She was much too sore for that, and she had other priorities tonight.

She wasn't sure how long she sat around for; she was slipping into a half-doze when a chilling shriek pierced the night air. Aster jerked upright from her half-laying position on the ground, blinking blearily and looking around. The heavy flapping of wings reached her, and a moment later, Nightblood landed in a crouch in front of her. "Back again," she said, with a sharp grin.

"Hi," Aster said, standing up and brushing herself off.

"Fly again tonight? Practice dive landing," Nightblood snickered, and Aster shook her head hastily.

"Not tonight. I'm still sore, and I actually had some questions for you."

Nightblood heaved a sigh, scowling. "Talk boring. What questions?"

"What is it like living with Zith?" Aster asked, cautiously, mindful of her wording. "I...wasn't raised with other Zith." It wasn't a lie, and it was an explanation for her strangeness, at least in the eyes of Nightblood.

To her surprise, Nightblood made a face. "Hate it," she declared. "Don't like others my age. Try to tell me what to do. They're boring. But, that is me. Others not quite agree."

Aster blinked at her curiously. So Nightblood was also an outcast of a sort among her...their kind. Maybe that was why she was so interested in Aster. "What is it like? In general," Aster added. Nightblood seemed perplexed. "Like, what do you do?"

Nightblood shrugged. "Sleep, hunt, eat, fight. Try to find fun."

Aster bit back a sigh; she knew that asking Nightblood wasn't going to be very helpful, but she was hoping for something a bit more than that. "Do you hunt...humans, a lot? You mentioned wanting my help to hunt." Aster tried to keep her voice casual, but she picked at her fingers nervously as she asked.

Nightblood hummed thoughtfully. "Only sometimes. Can be hard. But, much more fun, and tasty meat." Her grin seemed sharper than usual, a hungry, sadistic edge to it. "Usually need a group. Many humans are good with weapons."

Without warning, the Zith woman pushed into Aster's personal space, peering up at her face curiously. Aster leaned away, alarmed, but Nightblood grabbed her chin and tilted her head this way and that. "Come," she said abruptly, stepping back. "Want to show you something. Not far, but farther to walk, since you cannot fly."

Nightblood turned and began striding towards the wilderness that surrounded the area. Aster hesitated, then swallowed hard. She was still inexperienced, but her ordeal alone in the forest had taught her some things, and Nightblood lived out there in the wilderness; surely she could guide them. Touching Navi's tooth at her neck briefly, Aster followed.

Word count: 626
Total: 1,909
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Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
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Hunting the Past

Postby Asterope on May 24th, 2021, 2:32 am

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The two Zith women walked through the forest for some time; Nightblood chatted on and off, often complaining about how she had to walk. She pressed Aster with questions about the outside world, and Aster did her best to answer them. Eventually, they came across a cave. Nightblood ducked into it, beckoning for Aster to follow. Hesitantly, Aster also ducked into the cave. Even with her sharp vision, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust.

"Brought you here for a reason," Nightblood said, walking slightly deeper into the cave; it didn't seem to go very far. "Looking at you, I did not notice last time, too busy with flying and fighting. But you look...very like my mother. It is strange. So, I wanted to show you."

"Small family tradition," Nightblood explained, as Aster approached. Getting closer, she could see tally marks scratched into the wall somewhat haphazardly. Each set of tally marks had a handprint stamped into the cave wall beside them, seemingly in blood, and some had rough, crude handwriting below them declaring what Aster assumed were names. "Amount of humans and human-like we have hunted and killed. To show off, see who is best."

Aster felt a pit in her stomach as she looked at the dozens of tally marks scratched into the cave wall, each one representing a life. Her mouth and throat suddenly felt very dry. "This one is mine," Nightblood declared proudly, fitting her palm against a handprint with three tally marks beside it.

Below her tally marks, at some point, she seemed to have carved her name into the stone as best as she could. Aster supposed not all Zith knew Common, let alone how to write, which is why not all of the tally mark sets had names.

Aster nodded mutely, and peered at the handprints scattered across the wall, a dawning sense of horror rising in her. Nightblood had said she looked like her mother, and then brought her along to show her this family tradition. Did she think Aster was a relative of hers somehow? Could she be related to the Zith? The tally marks seemed to go back several generations, though Aster had no idea how long Zith lived.

Approaching the wall, Aster reached up and set her palm against one of the handprints, but her fingers stretched well over those on the handprint. She tried the next one over, but that one was too large, the palm wider than hers.

Nightblood watched curiously as Aster walked the length of the cave, trying each handprint one by one. She was starting to feel relieved as she approached the end of the cave, thinking her idea had just been ridiculous; and then as she approached the last few handprints, Aster put her hand up against the rough cave wall, and went still. Her palm slotted perfectly into the space that the handprint filled, her fingers lining up and fingertips at the perfect height.

Word count: 494
Total: 2,403
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The sun will rise, and we will try again
User avatar
Asterope
A light that never goes out
 
Posts: 648
Words: 655110
Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
Location: The Outpost (Sunberth)
Race: Ethaefal
Character sheet
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Journal
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Medals: 5
Featured Thread (1) Mizahar Grader (1)
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Hunting the Past

Postby Asterope on May 24th, 2021, 2:40 am

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No. That wasn't possible. How was that possible? It couldn't be. Aster frantically adjusted her hand, reaching up to peer more closely, stretching her fingers out and shifting her palm; but it was a perfect fit. Ripping her hand away from the wall, Aster turned her gaze to the tally marks next to the handprint, and her stomach heaved. She counted them out once, twice, three times to make sure she had the number right; twenty. Twenty human or humanoid lives taken by...her? The person whose body she was wearing?

Her gaze dropped down; scratched out below the tally marks, this set seemed to have a name engraved into the cave well. The etching was worn, rough to begin with and having eroded slightly with time, clearly one of the much older sets. Perhaps one of the first. Squinting, Aster blew some dust out of the carvings, brushing dirt away with her fingers, tracing over the letters. They were messy and clumsy, and it took her a moment of squinting and thinking to decipher them. 'Tragedy', the name seemed to read. The letters were all lowercase, the 'e' backwards and the 'g' half-missing its tail, but that seemed to be what was spelled.

Tragedy. Aster swallowed hard, stepping back from the wall. Nightblood was still watching her curiously. "What did you find?" She asked, and Aster tore her eyes away from Tragedy's kill count and handprint.

"What? Nothing," she said, perhaps slightly too quickly. "Uh, nothing. I was just...admiring it. That one has a lot of...kills." The words were hard to get out, choking her as she said them, and while Nightblood still eyed her suspiciously, she seemed to accept the answer.

"Not your name? Or family name?" She pressed, and Aster shook her head hastily.

"No," Aster said, turning her back on the various markings.

"Too bad. Thought maybe because you look so much like mother, you might be family. Still, maybe one day you can make your own counting." Nightblood grinned, seemingly entirely unaware of Aster's sudden drastic shift in mood; or perhaps she simply didn't care.

"Maybe," Aster mumbled, following the Zith out of the cave. The walk back seemed even longer, Aster tuning out most of what Nightblood was saying.

"You don't listen," the Zith accused her, at one point, as they neared the edge of the forest.

"Sorry. I'm not feeling well," Aster said, and Nightblood snorted.

"Bad excuse. Weak. But, you are not normal Zith. Not used to it, I guess. Would be no fun to break you so soon. So, rest. Come back soon, we fly again, or maybe fight. For now, I go hunt." Nightblood nodded curtly at her, and in a heavy flapping of wings, she was gone into the night sky.

Aster didn't watch her go this time. Wrapping her arms around herself, Aster lowered her head, walking back up the rocky hills to where the dovecote waited to take her back to the Outpost. She didn't know what to do with the information that she had learned tonight; didn't know how to feel about it.

It was a lot to take in, that was certain; right now, all she wanted to do was go curl up in bed and take a nice, long, dreamless nap. Ideally, she wanted to forget the implications of what she'd learned, but she knew that wasn't going to happen anytime soon.

Her hands, clean as they were and pressed tightly against her sides, felt sticky and warm, as if stained in blood that she hadn't quite managed to wash off and that had instead seeped into her skin.

Word count: 604
Total: 3,007
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The sun will rise, and we will try again
User avatar
Asterope
A light that never goes out
 
Posts: 648
Words: 655110
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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