Solo Do No Harm

But take no shit, either.

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

Do No Harm

Postby Asterope on November 10th, 2021, 3:48 pm

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8th of autumn, 521 AV

"No offense, Asterope, but I wouldn't have pegged you for a woman who knows her way around the wilderness," Jala commented, from where she was kneeling in the grass. Aster knelt not far from her. The two had entered the forest together, just paste the fringe of it, to look for herbs to restock Jala's supplies. Asterope had offered to go with her for safety, and perhaps somewhat selfishly in hopes of learning a bit more from the woman. "You don't need to get the roots out, by the way. Just as much of the stalk as possible. Everything above ground is useful, but I'll be drying or otherwise preserving these."

Aster made a hum of affirmation, then hesitated before responding to Jala's original comment. "Oh, well...you would be right," she admitted, with a small and somewhat sheepish laugh, looking up from where she was digging her fingers into the ground. Jala often worked with the local brothels, and she had explained to Aster that she was running low on delaviv; Aster had never heard of it, but childbirth wasn't exactly her specialty. According to Jala, though, the flowers could be used not only to ease childbirth, but also to help flush mild poisons from the body. Though supposedly it bloomed in late summer, the autumn season was still warm with the approach of winter still lacking, and they had managed to find a few patches of the herb.

"What do you mean?" Jala seemed caught off-guard, and Aster glanced down at the necklace that dangled below her, having slipped out from beneath her shirt while she was kneeling and digging into the dirt. Aster was quiet for a moment, digging out the stalk of the flowers as much as possible before tugging it out of the ground, depositing it into the basket beside her that Jala had lent her for their outing.

Aster was almost certain that Jala knew or at least was familiar with malediction. The woman's tent was covered in bone decorations, and Aster had on occasion spotted some with carvings. Not to mention she had gifted Aster a cat skull, and she had spotted Jala looking at her necklace more than once. But the topic of magic was still a dangerous one to bring up in Sunberth. But even if she was wrong, Jala was a sort of exception to the general population in attitude to begin with; the brothel workers and many of the street children adored her, but anyone else seemed to shun her, if not actively dislike her. Surely Jala was safe, and Aster considered her a friend, at this point. She had to be able to trust some people, even in a city like Sunberth.

Jala hadn't pressed further, but Aster could feel her intense gaze on her back as the two women continued to work. Finally, with a sigh, Aster sat back on her heels, brushing her hands off and then raising the chain around her neck. The tooth gleamed dully in the afternoon sunlight that filtered in through the trees. Being in Sunberth during the day always made Aster nervous, with Alard supposedly still on the hunt for her; but he never ventured into Tent City or the forests without exceptionally good reason. Aster supposed his pride was good for something.

"Animals won't harm me when I wear this," Aster explained. Jala's gaze focused on the carved tooth that dangled from the chain Aster held up, and a slight grin curved her mouth. Aster felt the tension ease out of her immediately.

"Did you make it yourself?" Jala asked, leaning in slightly for a better look, but being respectful enough not to touch it.

"No. I hardly know how it works, really," the Ethaefal admitted, tucking the necklace back beneath her shirt when Jala was done looking. "Do you...do you do stuff like this? With all the bones you have around your place."

Jala glanced up at Aster's face, and shrugged slightly. "I dabble. Perhaps sometime I might show you, explain it to you a bit more in-depth. It's good to know what one meddles with, especially when it comes to..." Jala motioned with her hand, the word 'magic' hanging unspoken in the air. Even alone in the fringes of the forest, far outside of town, it was instinct not to speak the word for one's own safety.

Nodding in understanding, Aster turned back to the flowers poking up out of the dirt. "I would appreciate that, if you ever have the time," Aster said, her voice sincere. She had come to learn that Jala was a fairly wise woman, and rather knowledgeable in many of the subjects that interested Aster. She was always appreciative that the older woman took the time to teach her anything. Besides, learning something more concrete about the magic that had plagued her for seasons would be interesting and potentially useful.

Word Count: 820
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Do No Harm

Postby Asterope on November 10th, 2021, 5:08 pm

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The two made a detour on their walk back when Jala spotted more herbs that could aid her pregnant clientele; Aster was stooped, and per Jala's instructions, plucking small golden flowers from tall stalks and carefully tugging pale green leaves from stems, the white fuzz on the underside tickling her fingers as Jala helped, explaining as they worked.

"This is literally called midwife miracle. I don't know if there's another name for it, it's all I've ever known it by," Jala explained. "It's much more common than delaviv but also not quite as useful. It can help with discomfort during pregnancy, things like nausea and such, but it does little to actually help with birthing. Still, pregnancy is uncomfortable enough as it is. Any relief I can offer is good in my books."

Aster examined the pale, fuzzy leaf she had just plucked before depositing it into her basket. "Do you need this stuff often? Or is it more common for the women at brothels to not want to keep their pregnancies?" Aster remembered the shock of helping Jala at a brothel within the city, of one of the women working there so desperate to be rid of her unborn child that in an attempt to rid herself of the unwanted pregnancy, she had hurt herself so severely that she had died. Aster hadn't known the woman, but thinking about it still made her chest feel heavy with grief.

Children had always been a blessing among the Drykas; she'd never realized people thought of them differently until then. She had never given it much thought, really; she had no interest in children of her own (at least that's what she tried to tell herself, though she couldn't help but think of Imogen at the orphanage), and she had no idea if she could even have them, given her unique circumstances of coming into creation. She couldn't imagine how desperate the woman must have been to go to such drastic measures; but at the same time Aster understood, after living in Sunberth for as long as she had. Raising a child here was far from the life of raising a child among the Drykas.

"It's...a mixed bag," Jala sighed. "Many of the women choose to terminate their pregnancies. It's hard raising a child in Sunberth, especially working at a brothel. Some want to, but are scared. The herbs and medicines I use are generally safe, but nothing is without risk. Still, even those that end up choosing that option are pregnant for at least some time, and you would be surprised how quickly it can impact your body. It's good to be able to help relieve some of the side effects," Jala said, plucking a few leaves deftly and dropping them into her own basket.

Aster was quiet as they finished harvesting the flowers and began walking back, contemplative. They exited the forest, beginning to make their way back towards Tent City. The sun was beginning its descent by then, the day easing into late afternoon as she and Jala approached the fringes of Tent City. She didn't hear the footsteps approaching behind them, and by the time Jala did, it was too late. "Watch out," cried Jala, sharply, spinning around just as Aster felt an arm lock around her throat.

Panic seized in Aster's chest. Had Alard found her? But the man behind her spoke with a higher-pitched voice than Alard, one unfamiliar to her as he raised a dagger towards Jala. "Stay there, cutwife," the man snapped. He sounded almost nervous. "I'm not here for you." The panic rekindled; did he work for Alard? Was he a member of the Sun's Birth? "I just want your friend here's gold, and I'll let you both go."

Gold? Aster frowned. She never brought more than a handful of gold with her to Sunberth, she wasn't stupid. And she was always mindful to avoid wearing anything particularly fancy, or her fine (and magical) woolen cloak. What had given this man the impression that she had money? Perhaps it was just her overall appearance; after all, Ethaefal weren't exactly common. "I don't have any gold," Aster said, attempting to sound calmer than she felt as the man's arm tightened around her neck. She had dropped her basket, her hands clutching at the man's arm as it tightened, her breath rasping slightly in her throat.

"Don't lie to me," the man said, but he sounded uncertain. Jala raised her hands, her basket resting in the crook of her elbow as she stepped forward.

"Please, what gold do you think an ex-slave living in Tent City would have? Are you that desperate, or just stupid?" Jala snapped. Aster hoped the minor lie about her living conditions would help convince the man that she had nothing to give him. Jala took a few steps closer, and the man jerked the dagger in her direction threateningly. Aster took the opportunity; with the man distracted by Jala, she stomped hard on his foot, and he grunted in surprise, his arm loosening around her neck.

Asterope ducked down out of his grip, spinning around to face him. The man grunted, and Aster could hear ringing in her ears, vaguely aware of Jala's shout when the man lunged at her, his dagger flashing in the late afternoon sunlight. Move, a voice in her head screeched, her lessons with Nightblood coming back to her as Aster moved on instinct, throwing herself to the side. It was clumsy, and she stumbled, having to throw her arms out to keep her balance. She flexed her fingers, felt her claws lengthen. The man turned towards her again, still holding the dagger out towards her.

Word Count: 951
Total: 1,771
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Asterope
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Posts: 632
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Joined roleplay: August 16th, 2017, 11:11 pm
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Do No Harm

Postby Asterope on November 10th, 2021, 5:10 pm

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Something sharp and angry snapped in Aster's chest. She was so tired of the fear; the man slashed at her with the dagger again, and she stepped back, throwing an arm up. Aster felt a faint sting as the tip of the dagger slashed across her forearm. Remembering what Nightblood had taught her, the aggressive tactics of the Zith woman, remembering her own feral instincts that had stirred in her nocturnal, winged form, feeling the anger bubbling in her chest...Aster inhaled deeply and lunged forward, lashing out.

She felt her claws connect with something soft but solid and warm. She wasn't holding back, wasn't glancing blows or being mindful of a sparring partner; on pure instinct, driven by the anger of her and her friend being attacked, the anger of never feeling safe in this stupid, gods-forsaken city, Aster arced her clawed hand across the man's chest. She had the advantage of surprise; the man hadn't thought she'd had a weapon, had been expecting typical unarmed combat, or perhaps for her to run. He hadn't expected the ethereal, horned woman to lash at his chest with a suddenly claw-tipped hand like some sort of feral animal, her golden eyes practically glowing as she bared her teeth.

Even Jala, who had been calling out to Aster, was silent. The man stared at her with wide eyes; Aster stared back, and stepped away in surprise when he slumped to his knees with a groan. The heat coursing through her veins cooled abruptly, her anger dissipating in a snap as the reality of what she'd just done settled on her shoulders. Aster glanced down at her hand in shock, matte sea glass pink claws dripping crimson. Not long ago, she would have been horrified. Disgusted with herself. Revulsion would have made her want to puke. But while she was still stunned and vaguely nauseous, more than anything Aster felt the weight of resignation settling in her chest.

She never wanted to hurt people. Well, except maybe for Alard. And the Doctor. Okay, sometimes she wanted to hurt people, but only truly abhorrent people who were hurting others. And there, that was the crux of the matter, wasn't it? Her time in Sunberth had changed her, and her not too long ago stint in the wilderness had given her a new perspective on life, on herself. There were people she wanted to hurt, whom she knew deserved it, and while she didn't take joy from those thoughts, but she had learned to accept them. And she had learned to accept that sometimes, self-defense also meant hurting others. Softness had to have an end, an edge; if it didn't, then it was useless.

She still didn't like it; it made her feel far too...human, in a dirty way, the same way she felt when anger flared up in her. But she was human in so many ways now, whether she liked it or not. Sometimes she thought maybe she was more human than divine now. Besides, so many gods and goddesses so often grew angry, hurt people, hurt each other...wasn't anger, wasn't violence, divine in their own ways, too?

Jala grabbed her wrist, wresting her from her thoughts. Aster blinked at the woman, who was leaning in, concern written across her face. "Are you alright, Asterope? What did you do, what was that?"

Aster exhaled, flexing her fingers, her claws retracting until they were nothing more than normal, if slightly strangely coloured nails. "It's...hard to explain. I'm fine." The cut on her arm stung, and she could feel blood dripping down her wrist, but she didn't think it was severe. The man seemed far more injured than she was. "How is he?"

"What?" Jala looked from Aster to the man laying groaning on the ground, bewildered. "Gods above, who cares, Asterope. He tried to rob you, and he was certainly willing to kill you to do so. I know you don't like fighting, but it's necessary, sometimes."

"I know that." Aster's words came slightly too sharp, catching them both off-guard as Jala released her wrist. "I know," Aster repeated, more softly, brushing past Jala to crouch beside the man.

Word Count: 694
Total: 2,465
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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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Do No Harm

Postby Asterope on November 10th, 2021, 5:11 pm

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"There's a saying I have," Jala said, standing behind Aster, picking up her long forgotten basket. "Do no harm, but take no shit. You shouldn't go out of your way to hurt people, but you don't let them hurt you, either. Or others, for that matter."

Aster was silent as she rolled the man onto his back. He groaned, shoving at Aster weakly. "Don't kill me, please," he rasped, "I'm sorry." Up close, Aster could see he barely had stubble covering his jaw. He was more of a teenager still than an adult. Aster closed her eyes for a moment, clenching her jaw. She hated this city. Hated what it made people become. She thought of Imogen, how the child had stolen from her the first time they'd met, wondered when her luck would run out and someone wouldn't take shit from her. When she would end up laying in the dirt, bleeding from her chest.

"I'm not going to kill you," she said, her voice soft as she opened her eyes again, looking down at the man. He only nodded at her slowly, and Aster realized he looked particularly pale as she glanced over to examine his wounds. The claw marks across his chest were narrow but deep. Luck had been on her side, and Aster had gotten a solid hit against him, with his chest open from his previous swing and the unexpected nature of her attack. She was almost surprised by how deep; had she really done that with her own...claws?

They looked like nasty swipes from a dagger. Aster knew her claws were sharp, but hadn't realized the extent of the damage they could do. She'd never swung full-force with the intent to actually hurt someone. It was almost as if she did have five tiny daggers strapped to the ends of her fingers, and the realization was unsettling.

"That's a good saying. But when do you cross that line, Jala? When does 'do no shit'," the swear seemed out of place from the soft-spoken, graceful Ethaefal, despite her show of violence mere moments earlier, "circle back around into doing harm?" She looked up at Jala, and the woman was silent, frowning. "I defended myself. But now he's hurt, and vulnerable. And I can help him. What would it mean if I left him here for dead, let him bleed out?" The man whimpered at Aster's words.

"He would have killed you," Jala said, her brow furrowed. Aster was silent for a long moment. There was a difference between the people who would kill her for entertainment, for nothing more than cruelty's sake, and those that would do it in a desperate bid for their own survival. Wasn't there? Aster was still angry with the man, of course; but the thought of leaving him to bleed into the dirt from wounds caused by her own hand until the life left him, that made her well and truly nauseous.

She could accept some of the hard truths that Sunberth had taught her, some of the necessary violence and cruelty; this was not one of them. This went beyond it. There was still a necessary place for kindness, for helping, for saving others. "I have to help him," Aster said, standing. Getting the man back would be a struggle, Aster realized, even though he was thin, bordering on skeletal from lack of food.

Jala let out a frustrated sigh, rubbing a hand over her face. "Let me help, then. Gods, you're stubborn. Those horns are for more than show, thick-skulled like a goat," Jala muttered to herself as she helped Aster hoist the man to his feet, one of his arms over each of their shoulders. "I'm glad to see you're ready to defend yourself when necessary now, but your kindness is still going to get you killed, Asterope," Jala spoke as they began walking, their pace slowed by the man hanging between them, his feet dragging on the ground as he moaned in pain.

"I would rather my kindness get me killed than lose my compassion to this city," Asterope said, honestly. Jala glanced over at her; she had nothing to say to that, so the two women walked in silence. Aster hoped the man would be able to hold on until they at least reached Jala's hut; he was losing a not insignificant amount of blood, and his groans were becoming fainter. She pushed down the twinge of guilt, reminding herself that she had been defending herself, that he hadn't hesitated to lunge at her with his dagger and could have, would have, easily killed her if she hadn't acted as she did. If he could make it to Jala's hut, hopefully they would be able to save him.

Word Count: 793
Total: 3,258
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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
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Do No Harm

Postby Asterope on November 10th, 2021, 7:03 pm

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"This way," Jala said, when they entered her hut, steering them towards a cot in the corner. She and Aster carefully lay the man down on it, Aster wincing slightly, out of breath. Her back and arms were sore from helping to carry the man, but it was the least of her concern at the moment; Jala dropped their baskets in the corner, and was already moving through her hut, collecting things and directing Aster. "The bottle on that shelf, second from the left. Bandages are in the chest, so are needles and line for stitches."

Aster moved just as quickly, following Jala's orders without question. The woman had more experience than her, and they were in her house; she knew where everything was, so Aster had no problem deferring to her. The two women fell into tandem easily, moving around each other as they collected the needed equipment before returning to the man on the cot.

Aster crouched by the man, using the scalpel she'd collected to cut the man's shirt open, away from the claw marks on his chest. "Here, clean them while I put together a jile poultice to put over the stitches." Jala handed Aster clean rags and a bottle of clear liquid that smelled strongly of powerful alcohol, too strong to drink properly but more than strong enough to clean wounds. Aster was more than familiar with the smell.

Wetting the rags, Aster carefully dabbed at the slashes in the man's chest, soothing him as he bucked weakly at the no doubt intense burning pain in his chest. Once the wounds were clean, Aster passed her hand over them, her palm glowing for a moment. Jala watched curiously from where she was boiling the jile berries in a small pot as the blood leaking from the wounds slowed, then stopped after a moment. They were still open and raw, desperately in need of stitches, but the bleeding had stopped almost completely after Aster aged the wounds.

She had considered doing it earlier, but the walk would have only reopened the wounds, and she wouldn't have been able to do it a second time. Jala spoke up. "Was that...?" Again, the word 'magic' hung heavy and unspoken in the air. Aster shook her head.

"Just...something my kind can do," she said, as she picked up the needle, sterilizing it with a wipe of one of the alcohol-wet rags, grabbing the thread-like material and sliding it through the needle's eye, looping it and tying it tight. She realized absently that she didn't actually know what the material used for stitches was; it wasn't just normal sewing thread, she knew that much. Perhaps something to ask Jala later.

"You know how to do stitches?" Jala asked, and Asterope nodded. She had learned in Alvadas.

"I can do basic ones, anyway, where you just feed the suture through back and forth," Aster said. She knew vaguely that other types of stitches existed, but she didn't know the specifics.

"That's a continuous stitch," Jala nodded. "It should be fine here, the wounds are narrow and fairly clean, and it's not exactly a good time to teach you other techniques."

It had been awhile since Aster had done a procedure as serious as this; she hadn't yet applied for work in the Outpost, and she didn't tend to have the sorts of materials necessary on her person in Sunberth. Inhaling deeply to calm herself, Aster steadied her breath and leaned over the man. Jala returned with another bottle and dripped a few drops of what Aster could only assume was something to relieve the pain into his mouth. Carefully, Aster pierced the skin at the edge of one of the wounds with the needle, dragging it across and through the other side, keeping her hands as steady as she could.

Word Count: 639
Total: 3,897
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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
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Do No Harm

Postby Asterope on November 10th, 2021, 7:04 pm

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Jala turned to fetch more thread and another needle, moving to kneel on the man's other side. "He's unconscious. We can work from the outside in, meet in the middle," Jala said, beginning to stitch a claw mark on the other side of his chest, her hands more sure and quick than Aster's. In the time it took Aster to finish sewing the wound she was working on, Jala was halfway done with a second, leaving only one more to be stitched.

"Why don't you get that poultice ready?" Jala suggested, gently. "It's good to be sure in your work but in this case I think faster is better. There's some vyfox leaves you can add to it as well, over there."

Aster nodded; she felt vaguely ashamed, but she made sure the sutures were tied off tightly and securely before setting the needle aside and standing to go remove the pot of jile berries from the fire. Aster drained the berries into a mortar with some of the liquid, grabbing the pestle and quickly mushing them into a paste, steam wafting from the stone bowl. Grabbing the pitcher of lukewarm water Jala had used to boil the berries, Aster splashes a bit more in to help the cooling process, waving her hand over the bowl.

The mixture seemed too watery, so Aster carefully drained out some of the excess liquid before adding the vyfox leaves to the mixture and mashing it again. Hopefully the jile would keep the now-closed wounds clean, and the vyfox would help ward off infection. Once the mixture was cooled, she returned to Jala, who was finished with the sutures.

She carefully spread the mixture over the sutured wounds, taking the bandages Jala handed her and winding them around the man's chest; it required some work from the both of them to sit him up enough to wrap the bandages fully around him, but they managed, and Aster tied the bandages off carefully before they lay him back down.

"You know your stuff fairly well," Jala said, sitting back on her heels. The man still seemed pale; he had lost a fair amount of blood. But he was breathing steadily, if slightly shallowly, and Aster was beginning to suspect the worst of the initial wounds had simply been pain and shock. Still, he had been in rough shape, and it made Aster feel slightly better that they had dealt with his wounds to the best of their ability. Only time would tell how the healing process went.

"Thank you. And thank you for helping, Jala," Aster said, softly. Jala let out a sigh.

"I would hate to see this place take what's important from you, Asterope. You're a ray of sunlight here. There's a reason Imogen took such a liking to you. People like you are a rarity here and it would be a shame for you to get sucked into the muck like everything else," Jala said, with a wry grin as she looked at the Ethaefal. "Now, come on. Let's get your arm cleaned up."

Aster glanced down in surprise; she had completely forgotten about the dagger cut along her forearm. It wasn't nearly as deep as the man's wounds, though it was still oozing blood. Without complaint, Aster let Jala sit her on a chair and clean and bandage the wound. "I think we could both use a cup of tea after that, too," Jala said, and Aster nodded her agreement. The two sat at Jala's table quietly, sipping their tea, reflecting on the events of the afternoon as the sun sank lower into the sky, simply enjoying each other's company.

Word Count: 609
Total: 4,506
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The sun will rise, and we will try again
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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
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Medals: 5
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