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Not all prayers go unanswered.

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

Signs and offerings

Postby Milo Murrell on June 18th, 2021, 11:15 am

Signs and offerings
20th of Summer 521AV

Milo sat alone atop a rocky slope and looked out over Matthew's bay. The water below was like a vale brush stroke set in the light see-through tones of a watercolor, a stage for the sun to dance on. From up here the city looked deceptively small, half-hidden between the greenery, but magnificent nonetheless. It puzzled him how a place like this could exist outside of Rhysol's grace. The people here didn't just ignore the benevolent god, they rejected him and all those who followed him. And so he'd come here, a little ways outside of the city on the border between civilization and wilderness where none could see him pray.

It hadn't taken him long to find the little sanctuary, it was close enough to the Underhill cottage that he could make a quick return without raising suspicions, yet far enough away that he would have some forewarning should anyone come looking for him. So far his only company had been two ants that crawled up his bare ankles, tickling his skin below the crumple off his rolled-up trousers. In his lap lay the small offering he had managed to scavenge from the kitchen: a candle, a small jug of milk, a handful of table salt, and some thyme from the garden.

It wasn’t much of an offering, just what he thought he could without raising suspicions. Sighing, he traced the soft wax of the candle with a stubby finger, checked once more over his shoulder to be certain he was alone, then lit the candle with the flint and steel he’d brought and placed it in front of a small pile of rocks he’d gathered.

When he had laid out his meagre offering, he sat down on his knees, closed his eyes and directed his mind toward Rhysol. Ghostly memories stirred. He remembered the smell of burned incense, the soft murmuring of prayer, the flickering light of a hundred candles all burning in honor of Ravok’s god. His god. His sad pile of rocks was a poor replacement for the beautiful shrines in Ravok, and his prayer a soft, meek muttering compared to the hum and buzz of a thousand voices joined in worship. He missed his mother, and his father too, even if he wasn’t his real father, even if the man hated him now.

He prayed for selfish things too. Prayed that he might return to Ravok, prayed for guidance, promised that he would try to save his aunt and grandparents, and even his little cousin from their misguided ways, prayed to be less lonely, prayed for a sign. More and more his mind turned toward Ravok, toward the friends he missed and might never see again. Something started to burn behind his eyes.

For the longest time, the heavens remained silent and only the tickly ants and a gentle breeze coming over the hillside kept him company.

Then he heard it. A snap, like twigs being crushed underfoot. It sounded close. His eyes shot open and he turned to look over his shoulder. A tall figure loomed in the distance, half-hidden behind the thicket, and Milo hoped he hadn’t been spotted while he dried his eyes with his sleeve.
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Milo Murrell
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Signs and offerings

Postby Respen Enpetor on June 25th, 2021, 5:28 am

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20th of Summer, 521 AV

"Who can say where a story really begins or ends?"

Those were the words that opened An Account of the Circumnavigation of Mizahar, a book that, according to Respen, contained adventure, wisdom, and… loose pages. Or, at least, his copy certainly did.

Respen had been on the way to a favorite spot of his when the heavy summer winds of Zeltiva took the well-worn pages of his book with them, tossing and scattering them around. He scrambled up a rocky slope to follow them, his breastplate clanking around on his shoulders. This was the last sort of thing he needed to be wearing it for, but the gentle smiles of his parents came to mind every time he felt it rub against his shoulders.

"Stupid… pages… escaping…" he grumbled as he followed the pages up the slope, his long blond braid flowing behind, before it occurred to him that he should be quieter. His mother had always warned him that any place outside the city was dangerous. So, he steeled himself, tightening his breastplate and lightening his steps, hoping that he, despite his tall stature and large weight, could preserve some semblance of a cover.

Eventually, he finally caught up to a few pages and snatched them up from the ground, shoving them haphazardly into the book he carried.

He wasn't a bookbinder, though- or even all that practical, so within moments the pages he captured managed to elude his poorly thought out placement of them once more.

He followed them further up the rocky slope where eventually the winds died down and he saw a page of his book flutter gently to the ground.

Respen gave a bemused smile as he picked up the page and found himself at the destination he had intended to reach all along. Zeltiva always surprised him with its good will and benign ways.

It was his hideout. The place he went to get away from it all and let himself be soothed by the vast view of Matthew's bay. Where the turmoil of his mind could be at ease like the waters below and the troubles of the decision before him seemed so far away. This was his home away from home; well, at this point, it was his home away from his other home away from home. He hadn't gotten used to living alone yet and still found himself wandering to his parents' home where he grew up when he wasn't paying enough attention to his feet.

Here, he could be at peace and contemplate his books and studies.

As he moved to enter the clearing, he came to a sudden stop in the thicket. For the first time, there was someone else there.

There, in the space where he'd learned to think about thinking, where the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake became his mission, there was a stranger. The boy looked to only be a few years younger than him, but Respen hardly took in his appearance as the boy's actions concerned him much more.

He took in the strange prayers and meager offerings and quickly understood that this was one of the people his parents spoke of with disdain. A worshipper of Rhysol. His parents despised the Defiler and those who followed him, and, as members of the Wave Guard, were required and willing to punish them.

But was he?

What would a member of the Wave Guard do?

Respen hesitated. Though he was still getting used to the bulk of his body he'd built in retaliation to taunts from his peers, he could probably spring out of the thicket without too much delay and land a punch on the boy's face. That would make his parents proud.

What would a scholar do?

Respen massaged his temples. He needed to go about this systematically.

Logically the boy had to know that what he was doing could get him killed. He had to have gone through the city to get up the rocky slope and if he'd even so much as whispered a prayer, the consequences would have been brutal. That meant the boy was either an idiot or so devoted to Rhysol that he was willing to risk everything to offer a quick prayer. Could Respen respect that?

Ethically the boy wasn't old enough to understand the implications of praying to such a vile god. He was probably just following in his mentor's footsteps. And besides, killing a child - if Respen could physically even manage that - was wrong no matter what.

And there was something else. Respen noticed the boy was crying.

Suddenly he was 13 again and he remembered being in the same place as the boy, shedding tears over the taunts he had received for his long braid and his inability to make friends.

He shook his head until the memory faded and played with the braid resting on his shoulder, thinking.

So where does that leave me?

Respen took a deep breath to still his rapidly beating heart.

What would Respen do?

He stepped out of the thicket, snapping twigs and making a noise plenty loud enough to alert the boy of his presence. He offered a simple smile.

This is such a bad idea, what am I doing? My parents will kill me if this kid doesn't do it first…

"I'm not gonna fight you," he said, holding up his hands. "Even though I've been told to. You know, I used to be really scared of people like you. I thought you'd look more… I don't know, evil, I guess. But lately I've been thinking a lot about the stuff I've been told. And I'm thinking some of it might not be true, you know? Anyways, I guess the point is-"

Respen paused to wipe his sweaty hand on his pants and extended it to the boy, surprised at himself for the torrent of words.

Guess being alone all the time even gets a quiet guy ready to socialize.

"My name is Respen. Nice to meet you. And I'm pretty sure you already know you shouldn't be praying for Rhysol anywhere near Zeltiva," he said with a strained grin, hoping that his display of kindness wouldn't be met with a dagger to his throat.

Yup. I'm officially the dumbest Zeltivan.
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