Hidden 12 days ago Post by Chris488
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North West of Hiyal, the City of Intrigue
The 6th of Gamman, 4655ia

She had followed the river north, remaining close to the only known source of water in the nearby land for as far as the eyes could see.
She had needed to refill her canteen multiple times as the blazing heat seemed to sear her skin even beneath the protection of her flowing garb that billowed gently in the warm breeze, and she had now become drenched in her own sweat along with the dried dust that clinged to her while the wind blew blinding dust into the air all around.

She had hoped to encounter other travelers along the river, but so far she had been alone along its length for two days now.
She could survive such a trial, but loneliness and the constant struggles were wearing away at her like the mighty mountain slowly eroding with the cruel and merciless touch of time.

Traveling by night had proven impossible as well, it was simply too cold and she had needed to set camp and start a fire to prevent herself from freezing to death, so it seemed.

---
Edge of the Northern Forest
The 9th of Gamman, 4655ia

On the third day she had reached the forest, and found that the trials of the wilderness were truly only just beginning. The river came to an end in a way that defied logic, and brought despair crashing down on her harder than the powerful strikes of the fiery sun down upon the Great Anvil of the south.

She watched with fury in her heart as the water arose from a large hole in the earth, like blood pouring forth from a fatal wound. Why was water ignoring the pull of the earth and flying upward? Why was she being punished for crimes she had not committed, especially when she was trying to find the honorable path.

Even the stones near the edge of the cavity were levitating a little off the ground; undeniable evidence of the presence of magic and elementals. Perhaps she should pray to the divine, and they would intervene on her behalf...

She was a potent wielder of the sacred magic blessed by the Goddess of the Moon, Selan the Beautiful. Her deity would not abandon her now in her moment of need... ha, she would have to hold onto her faith, hence she offered a short prayer to the divine seeking their guidance and expressing her eternal gratitude, though she did not know whether or not the bells were tolling then back in the heart of civilization.

Her spell-markings, the sigils of her power, glowed softly and a strange sensation spread throughout her body, from her inner core to her outer limbs. She could not quite describe the feeling, but it reminded her that she was not weak and she could provide for herself with her magic and knowledge.

She did not wish to stray from the water, but with her spells, she could conjure more water and meals to fend off hunger and thirst. She could find what she was searching for, and overcome this crucible to prove she was worthy of being redeemed.

With one last glance down the dark pit while listening to the sweet song of the rushing river beside her, she sighs and begins walking with renewed vigor and resolve, uncertain of what may await deeper in the forest. She only hoped she found her objective soon.

---
Deep in the Northern Forest
The 12th of Gamman, 4655ia

Even beneath the shade of the trees, the dry wind scorched her throat and choked her mercilessly. The light of the sun only pierced the dense foliage in gentle columns that illuminated the area, but still blinded her sensitive eyes all the same.

She deeply longed for the few comforts of home; a soft bed, food and drink, and the lack of hostile threats that openly wanted to murder her. She loathed the aggressive presence of insects and beast that attacked with stinger and fang as opposed to the lies and poisons her family was so fond of.

Embarrassment began burning in her cheeks, a different heat compared to that of the environment's dangerous and temperamental temperature. A swelling of shame within her as she recalled the teasing mockery of the nomads she had encountered a week ago.

They had said she would die in the forest because she was soft and foolish, born in a city filled with self-indulgant men and women that care too much for material pleasures and nonsensical traditions. She had ironically laughed and agreed with much of what they had said, having known the truth of city life herself.

Now she was dying, lost in this accursed forest because she really was a fool who could not survive without the comforts of civilization. Each step was agonizing, as she had been walking for three days without rest.

She had not eaten, barely drank, and couldn't stop to trance lest she was attacked by horrible swarms of flesh devouring bugs, or a large creature that could impale her upon its claws or crush her with its mandibles. She barely survived the encounter with a giant stingtail after stumbling upon the small pool that she had thought was a gift from the gods, only to discover she was not alone and had to run for her life.

She couldn't even rely on her magic, her spell-marks had lost their glow and she needed to rest to recover her magic... which was easier said than done when every time she set up camp, she was attacked and forced to flee. There were even subtle attacks that claimed much of her supplies, and now she had very little of possessions... most importantly, no food or water.

She had sought aid, and perhaps death would be her way to freedom. She could see her Lady upon the moon, and enjoy peace and tranquility among the celestials. All of her strength had waned, and she was exhausted, even walking was becoming too much.

---
The Heart of the Forest
The 13th of Gamman, 4655ia

With a heavy thud, she collapsed onto the rough ground, that bit and burrowed into her flesh. She couldn't tell if she was bleeding, if the earth were drinking her blood desperate for any moisture. How the hells was there a forest in this blighted land? Why were they standing over her like towering monsters, leering and japing... so cruel.

She lifted her arm, attempting to push herself up, or crawl away from the trees that were tormenting her. She couldn't cry, the tears were all dried up and her eyes hurt too much to function properly it seemed... Finally darkness claimed her, and all was quiet and cold.

Hidden 10 days ago Post by Necroes
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Ajax wandered through the forest, looking for his next meal. The previous day he had managed to hunt down a large boar, and had decided to put most of it in the smoke house to cure. While he had left himself enough meat for that day, the curing would not be complete for another full day at least, so he needed something else for dinner that night. Assuming he were lucky, he might even find something large enough to be breakfast the next morning.

Thoughts of various large birds floated through his mind, as he had not had white meat in some time. Running headlong through the forest, he would bolt from dark corner to thick bush, always looking out for signs of enemies. Moving through the dense foliage and jumping over various gaps and hazards, it would be quite difficult for almost anything to follow him. Even as his thoughts drifted to which herbs he would use with his meal, his training kept him alert and on the move.

As he rushed along, something caught his eye, bringing him to an abrupt halt. Through the trees he spotted a black bear, making its way towards something. From how it was moving, Ajax could assume it was stalking some manner of prey. Taking advantage of its distraction, he took careful aim and let fly with two arrows. With little issues, both projectiles found their marks, sinking deep into the bear's side and ending its life.

Moving up to claim his prize, he eagerly licked his lips as he walked through the trees. First he would take back his arrows, not wishing to waste them, before remembering the bear had had a target. Looking over-expecting to find some dead deer-he saw a woman, laying on the ground. At first he was unsure if anything could be done, as the woman's black skin made him think she were dead. However, when taking a closer look, he realized that this was an elven woman. Having seen for himself what happened at the end of an elf's life, he knew she must yet live, and rushed to her side.

Rolling her onto her back, he quickly went about trying his best to wake her up. Though he traveled very lightly-wearing only a pair of tight leather pants and a large, fur cloak that left his chest exposed-he did carry a water skin and a small pouch with a few pieces of dried fruit. Once it seemed she were waking up, he would eagerly offer what little he had to her, the roughly six pounds of food a small snack to his mind.

"Here. Eat." His words were short and precise, with a voice not unlike that of a young boy. The language he spoke was elven, without the slightest trace of an accent. "I have more. Back at my camp. Finish this food while I gather supplies. We can leave after."

With that, he would stand. Turning to face the bear, he'd pull a long knife from under the cloak, walking towards the dead animal with intent. Over the course of the next half hour, he would skin and field dress the animal, harvesting from it every piece of edible meat. Most of the organs would be left behind, with select choices-such as the liver-being picked out on purpose to be taken along with thick cuts of meat. In total, he estimated roughly a hundred pounds of meat, with maybe ten or so more in chunks of fat. Wrapped up in the bear's own hide, he would casually toss it all over his shoulders. Looking at the girl, covered from head to toe in bear blood, he would smile and start walking back with the intent for her to follow.
Hidden 6 days ago Post by Chris488
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The Heart of the Forest
The 13th of Gamman, 4655ia

It was strange, she vaguely recalled the withering sensation of wilting parched and alone among the trees, feeling her brittle bones and desiccated flesh crash upon the dry ground... but afterwards, it had felt as though she were sinking into dark water slowly consuming her.

Sorrow washed over Sariel as she considered how meaningless her short life had been in the end, dying in the northern forest seeking a hermit that may have passed away so ages ago. How could she believe in such a foolish tale, or that she would ever find a wise warrior that could offer her salvation.

Shame burned in her heart, but the fires of embarrassment were quickly quenched by the fact that she was drowning, or experiencing something akin to it. The dark water had swallowed her body, and she couldn't move her limbs, powerless as she plunged into the deep depths.

The passage of time seemed distorted; her thoughts were both painfully lucid and languid, but also accelerated and incomprehensible... she attempted to calm herself and embrace patience, but warred with the other half of her mind that panicked and writhed in despair.

Then Sariel surged upwards into a blinding light that blazed with radiant fury where she forgot all that had happened in the timeless abyss.


---

She stirred, though everything hurt and her eyes were sealed shut. The sounds of movement alerted her that she was not alone, quiet steps and the shifting of fabric. That was when she realized she could not feel the familiar sensation of her veil upon her face.

She had no magic, no strength, and could not see, but she refused to surrender while she was still alive for that would be a waste of the gift the gods and goddesses had given her. She must fight!

Her head lulled to the side...

Strong hands shook her gently, then lifted her head. She could hear his voice, but no words were spoken, only the sounds of his breath which she felt upon her skin. With what little effort she could call upon, her eyes began to open.

Sariel saw a young goblin beside her, watching her closely and attempting to help her wake. He was muscular, but with lean features and an otherworldly grace that she had not expected to see in a goblin of all things. He seemed more akin to an elf, a small and strangely green elf, which was a disturbing thought.

He had seen that she had woken, and then gave her a dried fruit from a pouch along with sharing his waterskin. Kindness from a boy in the wilderness was another surprise, but she gladly took what he offered her, the food and drink worth more than any great treasure at the moment.

He seemed hesitant to touch her further after she opened her eyes, which she was grateful, and then he spoke. He was speaking the Elvish tongue, which irked her, but either she was imagining his words, or he had lived among elves that were willing to teach him the secret arts of their language, which seemed a great crime in her mind.

He was evidently not an elf, his voice did not convey the magic of her people, but she could not understand how he knew such sacred knowledge unless... an elf in the wilderness taught him. She also noted that she spoke in a very archaic manner, as if he was older than her which she highly doubt!

He placed the sustenance in her hands, and then walked towards a corpse she had perceived through the scent of blood and beast nearby. He left her to begin scavenging, which was expected of a savage, she supposed.

Without another thought, she began trying to eat what he gave her, struggling to lift her arm to her mouth, and ignoring the voice in her mind that insisted she act with dignity, Sariel had rolled to her side and curled in herself. It wasn't much more efficient, but if her hand couldn't bring the fruits to her, then her mouth would come to the fruits.

She had somehow brought the water to her lips and almost choked as cool liquid poured down her throat. The waterskin slipped from her grasp, and she limply retrieved that accursed vessel. More and more, she was able to devour a bit of what the goblin had given her, like she was a starved animal that had stumbled upon an untouched carcass after starving for days... that last bit actually was unfortunately true, what a fool she was in the end.

She barely listened as her company carved into the bear, hoping that he didn't look at her and see her in this disgraceful state. She would have been beaten and chastised by her family if they had seen her now. Executed or imprisoned if such was seen by the eyes of commoners, for the image of grace and beauty along with reputation was the primary concern for many among her family.

She hid her face behind her veil once more, as was proper in civilization, and she did not want to risk invoking the temptations upon her feral company. She did not know this goblin, and could not be certain he would adhere to the teachings of the Weaver.

Sariel did not track the time as it passed, but the goblin boy had hacked the slain beast and harvested from it all of the flesh from its bones. He was using the creature's pelt as a sack to hold all of his gathered meat, and bloody smiled at her! The feral child began walking away, and she remembered that he had mentioned a camp.

With weak arms and legs, she stood unsteady like a tower ready to topple at any moment. She had regained a little of her strength, but she prayed that she may finally be able to rest in peace soon when they reached wherever this she was being led to.


"What is your name, and why do you speak Elvish?" She asked with a raspy voice that hurt her to hear. She had been beautiful singer with a melodious voice back in Hiyal before her dreadful departure, but now she sounded like a old hag from the desert croaking out curses upon the innocent and unprotected.

"Ajax." One word, with little inflection, and a lack of any additional components or eponyms. It was a very rude way to introduce oneself, but Sariel did not think that proper etiquette was taught among barbarians that lived in the wilderness.

"I have always spoken Elvish." He continued, speaking in a manner that she could not ascertain whether it irked her... or merely intrigued her. Most certainly the former, she decided, however she also required his aid so she thought it would be for the best she remain reticent regarding her thoughts.

She simply needed to trance, to rest and restore her spent magical energy. The spell-marks on her body were still dull, and the dark elf could not recall a time in her life when she been without spells for such a long period. She felt more exposed and vulnerable unable to call upon her magic.

She struggled to keep pace with him, her advantage of longer legs proving to be worth little as he swiftly continued onward. He was kind enough to walk slow, but then would occasionally disappear swiftly akin to a scout, and then return after a brief absence. When he came back, she had more questions.


"You are the first goblin I have seen that speaks and understands subjective Elvish, as opposed to the abstract Elvish others learn to speak when adapting the language of my people. Only an elf could impart this knowledge, who taught you, Ajax?"

Other races would seek to impose meaning upon the world by having language that describes the first songs written by the Weaver and familiarizing themselves with patterns and cycles in a single direction, but her people had learned how to refract the nature of words and meaning and observe the world of language from a myriad of perspectives.

Sariel had hoped that perhaps it was the woman she sought that had shared the secrets of the Elvish language with the goblin. Such an act was truly absurd and possibly heretical, but if it suggested that she was on the precipice of completing her quest. She was so close, and soon she could rest.


"I have spoken Elvish for as long as he could remember speaking. I never knew there was another of speaking it." He replied, without choking on words and gasping for breath like she had when she spoke. She was not fond of the fact that she was evidently slowing him down, a burden upon him.

A moment of silence passes until she then realizes she had yet to introduce herself, and further shame began to swell within her. She was grateful that her veil hid her reddened cheeks, her head was swimming in the sweltering heat. "I am Sariel Min Selan."

She attempted to bow before him, but bent and swayed too quickly, stumbling and almost falling down on the ground. She catches herself, and internally sighs at her pathetic display. "You have my gratitude for saving my life... thank you." How lackluster her gratitude must have seemed, perhaps she could find a way to redeem herself for such dishonor.

"I am happy to help. My master taught me to help those in need." He said as they continued onward. Sariel noticed that he butchered her native tongue with the incorporation of what others had called the Common Tongue. How strange, why would he refer to his master as such, she wondered to herself.

"Is your master back at your camp?" She refrained from speaking the Common Tongue, such a disgusting word would not pass her lips unless she had no other choice. She could not discern his reaction as he walked ahead of her, but his voice remained the same.

"My master left with the wind. Nearly seven seasons ago." Ajax said calmly.

Another quiet period passes where she could not properly articulate her thoughts, or grasp an understanding of the strange individual guiding her. His words were disheartening, especially if his master was the one she was seeking. Would this venture have been in vain, a worthless journey into the wilderness that nearly killed her?

"Do you know an elf that may have lived in this place once, a warrior monk who would have been called the Broken Blade of the Elder Wood, if you have heard of such before." Desperation wallowed in her voice, unwelcome, but she could not conceal her growing despair. All seemed to be lost at this point, and she quietly prayed while she awaited the goblin's answer.

"I have never heard that name before. My master was an elf though." The goblin replied, and Sariel wondered whether she was being taunted or if he was a fool. She then realized she was having a conversation with a goblin that lived in the wilds, and had forgotten such. His use of Elvish had distracted her, and she hadn't spoken with another person in so long that she was acting delirious.

"Was your master the only elf you know? Were there other elves in the forest?" She asked.

"You ask many questions. Have you eaten the food I gave you?" Ajax questioned back, a sharp focus in his large eyes as he gazed at her. Sariel wondered if she had misjudged the intelligence of the goblin; while he may lack etiquette (she wondered what her excuse was) he seemed wise and aware unlike any savage or barbarian she had imagined when she was told tales of the people of the wilds.

She returned the pouch of dried fruit and the empty waterskin he had provided, then watched as he ate much of the remaining contents of the pouch casually with his hands and body stained with the blood of the beast he was carrying over his shoulder.

They were near his camp now.
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Ajax walked with the strangely colored elf girl, who never seemed to finish talking. At times, he had been forced to dart away from her, to scare off some potential predator with quick movements that signified he had seen them. He would then return, and she would go back to talking. While it made things more difficult than they needed to be, the little goblin was actually somewhat enjoying the conversation, as he had not had anyone else to talk to for quite a while.

After quite a while of walking, the trees would finally part and they would begin trudging over a discernable dirt path. Literal centuries of his master walking that trail to and from her camp had formed it into a decent enough walkway, if not a thin one. Once they had walked down the path for about ten minutes or so, though, the woods would all begin to turn to shoots of bamboo, thick and tall. Not long after, the tall, green stalks would part, and they would find themselves at his camp.

"We're here," is all he would say, speaking in elven, as he wandered towards a large fire pit. There was not much to the camp, at least in terms of comfort. A small shack off to one side had smoke coming from it, marking it as his place for curing meat. The fire pit he approached was easily big enough to cook a fully grown boar over, evidenced by the bones of one yet to be cleared from the roasting spit above.

Off to one side, there was a small lean-to, which seemed to house the goblin's bedding and most of his belongings. A brief glance inside would show he owned very little, all of which seemed like it could have been made by hand. The only exception was a wet stone, which appeared strangely thin. Held in a custom, wooden tool, the design was quite old but practical enough to still be in common use. Any the elven girl would have seen, though, would have held a stone at least ten times as thick. His seemed like it was one hard push away from snapping in half.

Apart from that, the camp held only one unique feature. Set off to one side was a clearing, that seemingly had no purpose. There were some small plants that looked to have once been cultivated surrounding it, though they had since overgrown. In the middle, though, was a single, very large, stone slab. Made entirely of marble, with black veins running through the pearly white stone, it was perfectly level with the ground around it. Spread across it, in an almost imperceptibly thin layer, was a trace of dust that formed the silhouette of a tall, elven woman. Nothing else marred the surface.
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