Footsteps in the Sand

Description: Tag: Isidore

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    11 Posts    114 marks
Footsteps in the Sand
« on: January 15, 2019, 02:10:48 AM »
The sun was blinding.

That was Jin-ae's first impression. After the terror and the screaming and the ropes. The bodies pressed together liked packed fish. The stench of sweat. Of human mess. Different than horses, a part of herself thought. The part that was painfully detached. The part that planned decades of study. Of frugality. Of carefully scheduled absences. The part that had burned bitter and bright and demanded she scream Look, mother, see what I can become! despite their differences in jewels. The part that had crowed in triumph at the look on her mother's face when she'd presented her framed certificate of passage to her mother, in front of their family.

How long ago had that been? How long ago had she been so proud of her achievements?

And now?

What were they? A piece of paper? The ability to say, "I am learned"? What would she have done? How different would she be, in this moment, if she had not passed the Exams?

Sometimes, Jin-ae hated herself. In the past it had been for her jewels, the gap between herself and her mother that meant she had failed a test she didn't know she was taking. Now, she hated herself for her goals.

If she had not wanted to leave, she would not be here. Probably.

But she was here. Standing on the dock, bound, squinting against the sun, hating herself for every decision that had brought her here. Little mercies, she thought. The sun was shining when it could be raining. The air was fresh and clean off the ocean, rather than the stifling, trapped air of the boat. She could stand, wonder of wonders, rather than sit tucked against whatever girl she'd been next to on the trip over.

Little mercies. It had been something her mother had said. For harsh winters. Dry summers. Foals born at unfavorable times. Little mercies. Like the tender workings of the Darkness would save her from the people who had taken her. When those same hands pushed her from the boat, one link in a chain of women on a dock. Waiting.

Standing in the sun, burning, the climate humid and thick rather than thin and dry, like she was used to. How strange, to think of her own air as 'thin'. But the island climate, for that's what it had to be, weighed heavy on her shoulders. She felt like an overripe fruit, skin ready to split beneath the weight of it.

She tried to take in what she could. The buildings, the somewhat distant sounds of people. The ocean, below and behind. All the little snifflings of girls to the left and right of her. The directions from her captors, all in Common, accented differently but not indecipherable. There was no greater desire in her heart than to turn and leap into the sea, but it wouldn't do any good. Just make her wet, and probably lashed or bound with Craft, and then where would she be? Marked, remarkable for her difference in a situation where she felt it better to be one of many, rather than an individual.

Chin up. She thought, breathing deeply despite the scents around her. No So woman would face any kind of indignity without poise or a plan. While Jin-ae had one, the other was building, and best to let it stew while she had the chance. She squared her shoulders, made herself look uninterested, average. Pulled a thread of Compulsion to look past me, please, look past me, don't see me, I'm not here. Because So women were resourceful. So women were strong, versatile, adaptable.

Then again, no So woman would have left her homestead and turned her nose up at her Darkness given position, but it wasn't like she could change that now. Standing, tired and sore and dirty, on a dock who knew where, Jin-ae vowed instead to get a handle on her situation and act when she had the facts.

Which were looking more and more like she had been lined up to be bought, but there was still hope. Little mercies. She prayed, watching the docks. Maybe she could buy time, pretending Not to Be Here. Maybe there was some hope.
@Jones

Isidore Nazaire

    Sapphire to Ebon-gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Raider Captain
    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    159 Posts    969 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2019, 03:57:39 PM »
Slave sorting. It was the sort of work Isidore knew should have made him feel remorseful. Self disgusted even. But he enjoyed the challenge too much. Deciding who would be best for what jobs. Dock lined with bodies that trembled or stood tall. Fear, anger, confusion, submission- a wave of raw emotion. You never knew who would crumble when you stopped in front of them. Or who would stand tall. Always so shocked to discover what they were willing to do to survive. Not Isidore, he knew exactly how hard to push, but the slaves were often shocked with themselves. Some prepared to bend right over. Others ready to fight- why not when they felt like they’d already lost everything?

That was the first step. To move them away from that brink of self destruction. Offer a sliver of hope to calm them down. Make them think smart instead of rash. Smiling to himself he watched them line up from the wide doorway of the warehouse. Pulled out from the hold of a small ship one by one. The raid had gone as well as premeditated murder could go. A decent haul, mostly slaves. Isidore had not sailed home with the ships of course. Preferring to spend that time in Little Terreille with Charis. With the Ebon-gray Wind he was still back a day before the boats.

”One drink from the bottle then pass it to the person beside you.” Isidore told them once the group had settled. Some cried at the sight of him. Tall, dark man with the Ebon-gray hanging from his neck. A few had already been crying. He handed an overflowing waterskin to the first person in line. Then stepped back again to view them all as a group. None jumped out at him, visually. This was a good catch, though, all long-lived. Worth ten times as much because they were an investment that lasted generations.

Unless they wound up in Pruul. Where everyone was worth the salt load they could carry and not a cent more. Life expectancy was a flat number in the mines no matter what your race. ”There are three options for you all to consider. The salt mines, these islands, and my personal service.”

He spoke flatly, just loud enough to be heard over the criers. If they got too loud, or someone threatened to interrupt he silenced them with a raised finger. ”I need not explain the first. You all know it is a very painful death sentence. I cannot promise you anything, should you be sold to others. You become their property to do with as they will but in general slaves are treated well as long as they behave. On my properties, however, you will be treated humanely. Assigned work suited to your skills and provided for. Hard work and usefulness both appreciated and rewarded.”

One of the women went down on her knees. She had been crying since he first stepped up. A glance told him it was relief that made her limbs tremble. She had been very convinced they were all doomed to die. ”Give her more water.” He told one of his raiders. Walking to the far side of the line he prepared to finish his short speech. ”You are all blessed to come here. These islands are a holy place, found on no map and unspoken of by the mainland heathens since the time of Witch. Embrace your new life. It is only as bad as you allow it to seem.”

Starting with a burly but squat young man he worked from one end of the line to the other. A short routine that told him most of what he needed to know. Some he marked for outside sales. Most of the men would go to his fields. None of the women sparked an interest, but he kept two because they were spouses to the men. Separating them would only cause strife. And happy slaves were quiet slaves.

He was near the end when his eyes slid passed one of the women. Feet stopping short to keep from skipping her completely. It made him smirk, the finely woven compulsion spell. Standing over her he started the routine once again. But he already knew he would keep her. ”Open your mouth. Show me your teeth.” He held her jaw gently. Sharp brown eyes ready to peer in her mouth. Ill slaves were costly. She was very young, though, not quite grown out of childhood. And young typically meant healthy. He pressed her barriers, which were like glass to his Offering. Surface thoughts bubbling up. It was her psyche he wanted to taste. Jewels, caste, virginity. The things that determined if a woman was an investment or a liability. ”This one is for the house.” He told the man behind him, words scribbled on a ledger while Isidore traced her neck with a thumb. Leaving the clinging craft of a potent tracking spell in its wake. He had not asked her to convince him to keep her as he had those before.

He hoped it made her nervous. If only because she was small and pretty. None of the others had been labeled for his house, either. He watched her a moment before they escorted her away. Looking to see if she was more frightened or intrigued. When he had finished the sorting he rewarded his raiders. Wealthy enough to pay them up front for their share of the forthcoming sales.

They had tucked the slave girl in the smallest sitting room his estate had. Isidore came in with a plate of fruits and set it on the side table before pouring himself onto the sofa. ”What is your name, girl?”

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

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Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2019, 01:53:38 AM »
Versatile. Adaptable. Strong. She repeated the words over and over in her head, sounding like her mother even while her lungs shivered with each breath. She couldn't let the seeping fear of her peers get to her. She would not.

A man came out of a warehouse, and the crowd teemed. Shifted and settled like a herd when a predator came to the treeline. But the dock was less an open field and more a quarry, and the herd was backed against the stone. They couldn't go anywhere. A waterskin moved in front of him. It reached Jin-ae before he started speaking, but his words hit them all at once, and she had to work to keep from choking when she drank.

The salt mines. Even in her little village stories of the Pruulian mines had flown. Quiet as cat's feet, whispered between students and out of earshot of staunch parents. People worked like animals in conditions that brought everyone to their knees eventually. They said the only equalizer in the realms was that desert -- jewels and caste and race meant nothing when beaten against the sand.

But there were other options, apparently. If she had a choice, if there was any choice, she'd try to weigh them accordingly. There wasn't enough to go one to run a true risk-reward scenario, these islands versus personal service. Her mind raced anyway. The obvious desire would be service, rather a familiar face holding the leash than an unknown, and the man made a point of mentioning humane treatment. Which meant it was common knowledge if not common practice that other people on the island treated their slaves inhumanely. It didn't matter if this man assigned duties based on them being left or right handed and gave them pillows where others had none, that word would weigh heavily on all of them.

She ignored the woman who fell. Bit the inside of her cheek instead, fought the little tremors that were working up her spine. Even at a distance the man radiated power. An Ebon-grey, darker than anything she'd seen or felt at home. It was so much heavier than the air, than the pressure of her brothers' Sapphires. Like an ocean where she had barely encountered a lake.

Almost missed the end of his speech. Blessed. A holy place. Only part of it stuck, wedged into the curve of her ribs. Only as bad as you allow it to seem. She would make it better. She would build something, find some way home, make her way, somehow. She would not be crushed by the tide of this place.

Jin-ae'd closed her eyes for only a moment, trying to breathe against the enormity of the situation, when that same Ebon-grey pressure was suddenly very present, closer than she'd thought he'd be in so short a time. Her eyes snapped open.

He towered over her. Of course he did. Easily a head taller, she jerked when his fingers came up to hold her jaw. It didn't matter that the pressure was minimal, it wasn't as though it would take that much for him to turn her into nothing. The depth of him made her shoulders tense. She opened her mouth thoughtlessly, some small part flickering over the image of a hand holding open the mouth of a snake. But she had no venom, and biting would be pointless. She'd be dead before the action was done.

The pressure against her barriers shouldn't have been a surprise. It made her shiver, muscles pulled tighter. Had she brought too much attention to herself, wanting not to be seen? Had it not been strong enough? The familiar flicker of bitterness at her own incapabilities was smothered by unyeilding logic. There was no standard of measurement against an Ebon-grey, how would she ever know what would work? Could she ask him? Would he answer truthfully? What limitations lay between them now, slave and master?

Three words had never carried so much weight for her before. 'For the house' felt like a brand, a band of iron around her throat. Resting against the same place his thumb traced, springing goosebumps on her skin from scalp to shoulder blades. Nerves, the edges of fear she couldn't let grow, curiosity right behind. So many questions, that hungry itch in her, wondering wondering wondering. Wanting to dig into him and ask and feeling she'd likely lose a hand for the attempt.

They took her away, more of the man's help, maybe. Men bigger than her. They led her through a compound, a display even when the man wasn't there. Did he own the place, the Ebon-gray? He must. He was the darkest of them. No one on the boat had been dark, not like that, not above Opal. Not even the men who'd left her in a small, tasteful sitting room. Who would argue with him? If he didn't run the place there was little doubt that whoever did wouldn't last long. She found it impossible to believe there was a Black running around, and of all the psychic scents in the house none overrode his.

She'd started to peer around the room a little, taking in the decor, when he appeared. It was worse, sitting and watching him walk in, looking no more ridiculous for the tray in his hand than he had coming out of the warehouse to a crowd of shaking, frightened, fresh slaves. She felt even smaller, on his couch, in his house. Small and awkward, made worse when he eased himself onto the other sofa with a grace that would have made her mother jealous.

And the first thing he asked for was her name. She could answer however she wanted, be anyone, if she could be convincing enough. Surely he knew that.

But he could pull the truth out of her without breaking a sweat or lifting a finger, and she knew that. "Jin-ae So." Poise, dignity, integrity. Pillars of her mother's teaching, and oh, what she'd think to know how her daughter leaned on them now. Impertinent girl. Her mother had said. And she didn't bite her tongue on what came out next, even though it was softened, demure with curiosity. "And yours?"

Isidore Nazaire

    Sapphire to Ebon-gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Raider Captain
    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    159 Posts    969 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2019, 05:49:19 PM »
Cold melon squares and citrus were piled on a platter by his housekeeper Rochelle. Her withered old forehead pecked with a kiss before he slipped into the room where his newest acquisition waited. A blur of questions and worry hung over the girl like a silk sheet. Thin enough to be seen through but clearly there. She had set aside a measure of the anxiety she’d brimmed with by the dock’s before Isidore finished his business and turned to more pleasurable pursuits.

He offered her nothing but his gaze to start. Letting a full minute tick by into infinity before broaching a proper introduction. She answered the question promptly. A pretty name for a pretty girl. Simple to say too. Easy for his accent while still exotically flavored. ”Jin-ae.” Isidore repeated, trying it on his lips, which twitched up into a grin at one corner. There was something there, in the swirl of emotion behind her barriers. He was curious, but it was best to distract them before peering in. Even if he didn’t require passing barriers to do it.

”Captain Isidore Nazaire.” He told her, one eyebrow rising slowly at her question. She was trying. Very hard. Poor girl. Looking for footing and holding herself together. He leaned back in his seat, resting an ankle on his knee. ”You have many questions. I have time now, to answer a few. But you will eat, while we talk.” He cocked his head to the platter beside him. Intent clear. She would eat, but she would come to him for it.

Sometimes they refused, the women. It was frightening to be alone in a room with a man they didn’t know. They didn’t know, either, that he didn’t need to drug their food or drink to make them pliant. So he forgave them, very graciously, and gave them permission to reassure themselves. ”You may test it with probes. It is just fruit though. Easy on the stomach and hydrating after a long trip.” The other slaves were receiving similar treatment. Hustled into the barracks for showers, clothing, and a cool meal. ”Come. Eat. You’ll feel a little better.”

Never quite herself again. That was impossible when someone owned your freedom. She seemed clever, this Jin-ae. He thought she might adapt well with some patience and a bit of work. And Isidore really did enjoy a project.

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    11 Posts    114 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2019, 11:31:11 PM »
The way he said her name made her shoulders hitch. Put a tightness in her chest she didn't know how to translate.

But he answered back, when he didn't have to. Captain Isidore Nazaire. Position as well as name. Meaning the whole title was important. What did it translate to? Captain of what? The guard? Were there courts here, like she knew courts? And did he want her to say it back? So many letters in foreign positions, so different from Dhemlanese names. She tried it in her mind, sounding it out. Debated how her own accent might affect it. Decided not to. It didn't seem like something he needed back.

Her eyes went from his face, his lounge against the couch, to the tray he'd brought in with him. Fruits, some of which she recognized. Some looked messy, and her attention flickered down her hands, folded and pressed above her knees. Unclean. And debasing. Eating like an animal. He'd said will eat, though, and that had been deliberate. If she wanted answers, she'd eat, and to eat she had to move.

And Darkness was she hungry. Thirsty, too, after travel. She looked between him ad the fruit again, weighing her options. There really wasn't much of a choice, was there? Either sit in silence, staring at fruit, learning nothing, or give in, breach the little comfort she had in a table and space between them, get answers, and eat.

She stood, trying for poise, brushing her palms against her thighs. Walked carefully around the table, as cautiously far from him as she could get, and perched at the edge of the cushion. Turned mostly toward him, she picked up a cube of some melon, avoiding the citrus. There was little dignity in juices running down ones hand. Eyes flickering again from his face to the fruit, she kept her eyes on his chin and probed the cube anyway. She doubted she could insult him by doing something he offered.

But now, faced with his compromise, she didn't know where to begin. Why me, where is this place, what do you want of me? Too simple, not playing the game right. She bit the inside of her lip, thinking. Who knew how many questions he'd allow? But... In for a mark. "How honest will your answers be?" She asked, not looking up from his chin. She slipped the cube into her mouth, sighing through her nose at the sweetness. Little mercies.

Isidore Nazaire

    Sapphire to Ebon-gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Raider Captain
    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    159 Posts    969 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2019, 05:07:20 PM »
Lips drawn in over his teeth Isidore tried not to form too many rushed opinions about the girl. The dance of questions behind her barriers was both amusing and quite telling. Flickers of bounding emotion in her eyes as she tried to figure out what to do with the information she had asked for. Making a mountain from a molehill. Mouth stretching into a smirk he let it sit. Pleased by his choice to keep her already; Jin-ae was observant, and cautious. Those were good things. She was afraid to misstep. He wondered if her drive not to disappoint was innate, learned, or a reaction to fear?

Nearly the same amount of deliberation went into the food. Isidore sank deeper against the cushions. Content to wait out whatever mental gymnastics brought her to the right conclusion. Because he didn’t doubt she would eventually do as instructed. He gave her time. Grinning under her furtive glances and smiling when she finally came around. ”Good girl.” He breathed. Delicate probes extended, barely touching at all, just to see if the praise pleased or intimated. Arm stretching out across the back of the seat he returned to his natural volume to add, ”We’ll get you cleaned up soon, too. For now just enjoy the snack.”

Once she had taken her first bite he reached across her with the arm not drapped on the seat. Selecting a small kumquat from the plate and popping the entire fruit into his mouth before sitting back again. Jin-ae sat a sort of indecisive angst for a moment. He peered at her barriers again. Watched another flurry of questions rush by. Not the questions, precisely, but the feelings behind each. Building another mountain from a single grain of sand.

When the question finally came he turned towards her and spoke in a lower tone. Conspiratorial, almost playful. ”Clever question.” He made a small show of considering his answer. Since she had such astute attention to detail it seemed fair. And fun. Licking the corner of his mouth he glanced at the ceiling briefly then dropped his gaze to her face again. ”It will depend on your questions. Some things must be secret, to know them is a danger and I would rather not risk your life for the sake of knowledge that changes nothing. I will not lie or purposefully mislead you. My answers will be as truthful as is safe.” In time she would learn of Eulalie. His relation to her, and that he served as a confident to matters of state. The same secrets that had driven Salome from his home.

”Now,” He scooted marginally closer, speaking the same secretive tones. Hand leaving his knee to touch the tip of her nose before falling away again. You are trying to hard, young witch.” How young, he wondered. Was she a woman or was she a girl? ”Relax. There’s not going to be a test after. We’re just getting to know one another you and I.”

There were a dozen more questions on the tip of her tongue. He had seen them flickering behind her barriers. Tipping the set of her eyebrows as she considered which to ask. He found her amusing, and her hair was like black silk. He was tempted to weave his fingers in the locks but there was no reason to force her to face her subjugation yet. He was charming, and not unattractive. Time would make her receptive to advances if he was gentle with her now. ”I was very impressed with your compulsion spell. An interesting skill for a witch. You’re craftwork is almost seamless.”

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    11 Posts    114 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2019, 10:14:07 PM »
Good girl. It inspired that same tightness to twist inside her. Intimidation, curiosity, that edge of fear she couldn't smother away. She felt like a mouse being played with by a mountain cat. She bit the inside of the cheek farthest from him, and willed herself to be composed.

His arm across the settee felt like an invasion, and she fought the dual desires to flinch and to bare her teeth. She wanted to be clean, and if he was willing to provide she wouldn't bar her own way.

Of course then he reached across her and she stiffened, little threads of composure fraying, drawn tight enough to string a bow. She missed what he grabbed, only seeing that he ate it whole. Not a cat, a snake.

A snake that liked to tease. Jin-ae didn't feel particularly clever - she was here, captured - but at least it felt like a modicum of respect. He hadn't hit her for her audacity, after all, as her mother would've. But maybe he wasn't the type. Watching him lean in, eyes moving from chin to cheek, listening to what he said - maybe, if she misstepped, he would have someone else remove her. Safety was so malleable, after all. Sometimes people were killed just because, weather or not they were valuable. Surely someone as powerful as himself had enemies - all the histories and dramas made it seem so, at least. At least he thought her clever, a little.

She flinched back out of her thoughts at the tap against her nose. Shock, followed by a flash of irritation. Trying too hard? Young? How patronizing. There was every possibility that she'd been around twice as long as him. And she'd been captured! She didn't know the rules, how best to keep her head, anything. She bit her tongue instead of snipping. There wouldn't be a test after, this was a test. Sitting the Exams was nothing compared to being caged on this cough.

Getting to know each other. She was 'old enough' not to be naive about what that could mean. What men like him and the danger his proximity presented to her, never mind his jewels. Darkness, that made the ungainly knot in her writhe.

"Thank you," she said, trying to gain space between them in increments. Almost prickled like a thorn beneath her ribs, but she smashed that too. Ebon-gray, she reminded herself. Of course he'd have been able to sense it. Another melon square found its way to her fingers, and then, wanting to play it safe, she picked up another. She wanted answers, after all. "What does serving your house entail?" And, more selfishly, to feed her curiosity, "How is it interesting?" The compulsion spells had always been more for the horses, and she'd used them in conjunction with the weaving, but they'd never been something anyone had thought strange for her to know. She popped a cube into her mouth, eyes skimming his hairline. She'd have to come up with something clever, next.

Isidore Nazaire

    Sapphire to Ebon-gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Raider Captain
    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    159 Posts    969 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2019, 02:03:58 AM »
Gaze flicking sideways Isidore bit his tongue. Tempted to tell her that snakes struck only when provoked. It wasn’t their fault clumsy humans didn’t always see the warnings. He didn’t want her to know though, that he suffered an excess of barrier accessibility. Not yet. Too much too soon would frighten her and they’d never be friends. The pillar of his power was the loyalty he inspired in his staff. Owned and hired alike.

It wasn’t very hard. You just had to treat people like people. Make them feel like they had choices, even if you were silently guiding them to pick those that suited your own needs best. A dash of compulsion never hurt anyone. Root it in deeply, or subtly and they would never know. Freedom was an illusion, after all. Everyone was bound to something- or someone. In a few days one of them would make an escape attempt. Every fresh intake did. Even after being warned by those that had settled in already. Then they could watch as Isidore bargained for light punishment from the Temple. Watch as he was refused and the runaway was whipped to death- or so near it that a quick end was the only mercy healers could provide. That usually convinced the rest that staying was safer than trying to go.

Hopefully Jin-ae would not be the one. It didn’t seem overtly in her nature. She fought him not at all. Sassed only in the center of her mind where she didn’t know he could feel it. Indignation that most would call righteous. But Isidore had grown up the son of a slaver, who was the son of a slaver, who was the son of a slaver- so on and so forth. Arguments in favor of his business were well versed, and a large portion of his heart really believed them. There would always be slaves and masters. He was a fair one, a kind one. That was the best he could do.

And he didn’t go around forcing them into bed either. Not technically. His eyes rolled at her opinion of his word choice. They were just getting to know one another! How else was he supposed to find work suited to her skill? She wasn’t entirely wrong, of course. If opportunity and desire aligned he fucked them. Cute little witches especially. Living on the islands was like living in a small town. She would find that out for herself. It got boring. As a warlord prince it was in his nature to want to chase. A bit of a challenge was good for his spirit. Compulsion spells were only cheating if they found out. Most of the time they were to satisfied afterward to care how it had happened.

”You’re welcome.” He told her sweetly. Chuckling at her dissatisfaction at the craft being less than perfect. All good signs that she would take well to positive reinforcement. A bit of training would make her a worthwhile investment. ”You deserve the compliment. It worked for several seconds. Which is saying a lot. I’m very adept at spotting them.” There was a shred of something in her hair. Grass or paper or thread. It made his fingers itch to pull it free. He shifted but didn’t touch. Taking back the space she’d tried to inch between them. ”I’ll teach you how to make them flawless.” Not impervious, to him, but absolutely effective to most people. All of the people he would need her to use them against.

Glancing at her fingers on the plate he raised one eyebrow curiously. Two? Then it made sense. A smile flashing his teeth. He stopped her hand with a finger before she could swallow the second cube. ”You don’t have to eat one for every question. You just need to eat so you don’t pass out from dehydration.”

He sat back again, to let her breath and eat. Holding his ankle and crossing it over his knee again. ”We will see. Service depends on what skills you have, and how they can be useful. In the house just means I recognize you’re good for more than picking fruit and working my sugar cane crops.” The second question was harder to answer. Not really. Just harder not to insult her with an answer. ”It’s unexpected. You see a witch and you assume she’s learned in one of the easier to study castes. Healing or hearthcraft. Unexpected is good. Especially for compulsion. Makes it harder to notice.”

More effective too.

Reaching again he selected a sliver of orange this time. Biting half and licking the juice from his lips. Leaving her time to ask more. But he took a turn before venturing to answer anything else. ”What else are you good at. Or interested in learning?”

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    11 Posts    114 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2019, 07:50:48 PM »
Jin-ae was running out of couch. In a minute she'd be forced into sliding to the floor or over the arm of the seat, neither of which would work well for her.

Which meant sticking it out, and not giving up the fraction of the seat she was taking up when the man - Isidore. Were all the names of these people going to be so different? - edged closer. At least he was polite. Maybe it was a Warlord Prince trait to ignore propriety and personal space. But they weren't meeting as equals, either, and no matter how cordial he was she had to remember that.

It would be ridiculous to say 'thank you' again. The certainty of his words though, the promise of training, made the fingers of the hand not holding fruit tap against her thigh. Flawless. The last time she'd been flawless it'd been her archery, an obligation she'd enjoyed but an obligation none the less. Not a passion. His statement still gave her pause. That - what? Who used compulsion spells on a man? And who would try against someone wearing an Ebon-gray? In what situations was he spotting them? Twists and twists again.

Good to find that the food wasn't a game, at least, even if he had to get so close for it to come out. He had a very expressive mouth. Her jaw twitched, attention diving to the swoop of his shoulder instead. She breathed out when his finger and the rest of him left her space. Able to chew in peace while a framework began to build in her mind. Slavery and land trade, and presumably a lot of it, if the number of slaves she'd seen marked for fieldwork from her group was any indication.

Jin-ae wondered at the women who lived here, wherever here was, if compulsion was uncommon. Maybe they didn't treat their animals the same? But that didn't align with what he'd said earlier. Someone was clearly using them if Captain Nazaire was finding them, and how often would he be out observing the sheep, if there were sheep? But... the fabric against her thigh curled into her fingers. Best not dive into it now.

"Mending flesh can be particularly difficult." More to herself than to him. She hadn't had a head for healing Craft, much to her mother's frustration. As fascinating as she'd found it it hadn't clicked the same way weaving had, and her mother wouldn't entertain learning something like Diagnostic Sight when she so readily fumbled her brews. It'd been safer to focus on other pursuits. "Having no caste can make it easier to expand a skill set." That had been a particularly recurring line of reassurance when her psychic scent hadn't changed even to dip toward hearthwitch. She'd been very proud of herself for that one, as young as she'd been when her mother had realized she wouldn't change.

What are you interested in learning?

She almost crushed the most recent piece of fruit she'd taken, slipping it into her mouth quickly to keep from looking like some kind of graceless fool. Everything. Longing twisted through her, a rush of memories threading by; scrolls and books against her fingers, the early years of studying by lamp light in the stables before she'd gotten old enough to leave the house, learning of other Craft types that could be taught beyond caste lines if you were diligent. The surge of vicious satisfaction at her mother's face when she'd held the framed certificate in hand. Everything everything everything.

Be reasonable, she hissed to herself, a remarkable impression of her mother. Manage your expectations. She would tear herself in half before the day was done if she kept having to battle her own emotions. She had to be careful. Answer his question too, remember that she'd been asked something at all. Swallowing delicately, mentally trying to tie her emotions up in a bow and shove them way deep down, she replied, "My focus was on spell weaving, calming spells, and compulsion. I'm best at weaving. And..." there was so much Craft she didn't know that it made her teeth ache. What would she want to learn, if she had to pick? Give options, and maybe more would come later. Something useful. And that wouldn't offend, considering the differences in their status. "Masking, or probes, have interested me." And if there wasn't a way to be taught maybe he would at least allow her books on things like antidote craft and healing.

Isidore Nazaire

    Sapphire to Ebon-gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Raider Captain
    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    159 Posts    969 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2019, 01:07:54 AM »
Once she had slid to the limits of the seat Isidore stopped. A slip of air between their legs, not quite touching but so close he could feel the warmth of her skin. His body turned towards hers while they chatted. He could have loomed. Or pulled her over into his lap if he were that sort of man. By caste and Jewel it was his right. But he did not. He only cracked open the interest she had stirred in him with her clever craftwork.

Even without his own talent for reading people he could tell that Jin-ae was intrigued. It seemed he was right in aiming for her insecurities and praising her accomplishments. Offering her the opportunity to grow, to learn more and to be better. ”My caste makes it impossible to learn, but all the more appreciative of a skillful healer.” He agreed. Warlord Princes were, as a general rule, failures at healing. They had strong emotions that tainted the work, and were better suited to sundering flesh than suturing it.

”That is a real advantage. Without a caste to call you in any particular direction you can learn from a broader pool of craft.” What part of the pool did his little witch want to dip her toes into? ”Particularly if you have centuries to do it in. How old are you, Jin-ae?” A numerical answer would do him no good. But it was a good starting point to getting the information that mattered.

The air sweetened with the juice of a firmly held melon. The piece dampening Jin-ae’s lips as she slid it into her mouth. Isidore could feel the buzz of interest and anxiety his question set along her skin. So she was a scholar. Good. That would make her very easy to satisfy. Books were easy to come by, and learning could be done at home or in the temple. Places where he had friends to make sure she didn’t go getting herself involved in any trouble. ”No rush.” He encouraged softly while she raced her own ambition to settle on an answer.

Answers, really. While Jin-ae debated herself he started to formulate plans. How to put to use what she knew while giving opportunity for growth. There were a few places in his operations and ventures that could benefit from just the careful judgment and detail oriented nature she displayed. Adding in the skill she knew, and hoped to learn, he could see her excelling in several roles. For now he decided to set her apart from the rest, that way she would appreciate his approval all the more. And be willing to work harder to keep herself from the grunt work in the fields. ”An excellent place to start. We’ll arrange a tutor, and I’ll make time to do a lesson every week or so, as my schedule permits. Not in the masking, though, I’m horrendous at that.”

He watched her eat a little longer. Waiting to see if she had more questions or if she was done for the time being.

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    11 Posts    114 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2019, 01:53:13 AM »
It eased something in her that he didn't say something despairing, even though she wasn't sure if he was just humoring her. He was being far too agreeable, in her opinion, and it was a strange feeling. There were limitations, of course, to not being a born Healer or Black Widow, but that'd never stopped people before, and she wasn't going to let it stop her either.

"One hundred eight," she replied, curious. Was it difficult to tell how old she was? She guessed it had to be, although it wasn't as though she could tell how old he was, either, or if he were some long lived mix. She'd assumed he hadn't been, by looks, but it really wasn't as though she had a frame of reference in the first place. Did she seem older? Or, Darkness forbid, younger? She cursed herself internally for waylaying her mother's attempts at arranging her Virgin Night for as long as she had. Doubtless it was some kind of anomaly here to find a lady with her Offering but without that particular ceremony under her belt. She'd been so greedy about the little control she'd had and trying to expand it that she hadn't thought about what putting it off had meant. "How old are you?"

Hopefully that wasn't something that would endanger her. It would give her some grasp on what the people here aged like, after all, if Captain Nazaire was someone powerful and respected. A people tended not to bend to outsiders so willingly that they had large houses and multiple businesses, after all.

It took considerable effort to let the air out of her lungs as a regular breath and not in a rush, pleased that he hadn't taken her request at masking as an attempt at hiding. She knew herself well enough to know she was terribly easy to read unless she knew the person she was attempting to hide from well, and it had been something she'd been looking forward to when she'd left home.

The excitement that bloomed in her - a tutor! lessons! - was quickly snuffed out as the weight of those words sank in. Every week or so. As his schedule permitted. Because it wasn't like she'd suddenly found employment, or applied to a court and been picked. She'd been stolen, and he owned her. Her time wasn't her own. She didn't even belong to herself, now. She belonged to him, and it was only some strange form of courtesy, or something else, that had her in his house, eating his food. She'd let herself be lulled by it, even as she'd told herself to be diligent, and she was acting like an idiot, like the lessons would be a gift and not a trap. Ridiculous girl.

And, like so many tiny cracks in so much ice, the little things that Jin-ae had been tripping over mentally and shoving aside finally came to a head. Her chest tingled and her throat tightened. She hadn't been cold since before they docked, but there was a chill to her now that made her lungs ache. It was unconscious, drawing straight like she was sitting in front of her mother, waiting for punishment. The hand not sticky with fruit pressed flat against her thigh, and she resisted the urge to bow her chin and lower her eyes further. Chihye had always wanted her to be poised, perfect. Jin-ae hadn't wanted that, but she had wanted something better, dreamed of somewhere else.

She hadn't stumbled into a dream, though, because there wasn't a way she could escape or go home. Her time was no longer her own. At least, she thought bitterly, she was very unlikely to cry. It hadn't been well received by her mother, and had been trained quickly out of both her and her siblings.

"What will I do in the interim?" she asked, rather than I can't ever leave, can I?, no matter how much she wanted him to say she could. She wasn't stupid. Slaves were slaves until their masters decided otherwise. She would just have to hope that, somewhere along the line, she could find a place to be alone and breathe. If there were tears then, well, at least no one would know.

Isidore Nazaire

    Sapphire to Ebon-gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Raider Captain
    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    159 Posts    969 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2019, 03:10:17 PM »
Finger brushing over his bottom lip thoughtfully Isidore tried to align the age she gave and her young face. If he had not known her race and been made to guess he would have said twenty. Mostly because that would make her the age of majority. And while he didn’t mind underage, he didn’t like treading on the line between woman and child too much.

Isidore just couldn’t figure it out. If she was more one or the other. Her psyche screamed virgin at that primal edge in his own spirit which meant his body thought her body looked old enough to cinch up that open risk. He could pry and see if she wore her Offering yet, but that would leave her rattled for basically no benefit. After a second of quiet he decided to just ask. ”Does that lean more towards adult or adolescent?” Might as well make things as clear as they could get. If she was more equivalent to a sixteen or seventeen year old he needed to know before he got up any ideas he couldn’t easily put down.

”I am twenty-three. Which some say is too young to be in my position but I earned it so here we are.” Smiling lightly he settled deeper into the couch cushions. Eyes gauging her reaction to the number, wondering if it seemed as outrageous to her as the one she had given did to him. Culture shock was the fancy word the black widows and healers used to describe slaves who couldn’t integrate. Some just went mad with the changes. Never learned to accept their fate.

It seemed Jin-ae was still grappling with the reality. Almost elated before she wilted again. At least he had learned she was eager to pick up knew skills. And both easy, and convenient to please. How much better could it get than a slave that was happy to be educated, and whose education would only increase her usefulness? Well, she was pretty too, that did make it quite a bit better. For him.

Jin-ae was going through a mental shift. For a second he worried she would cry. He did hate when they cried. How did you comfort someone you had a such a tricky relationship with? She held herself together, though, which pleased him. ”Chin up. Good girl. I know it’s frightening, but no one here wants to hurt you.” He did not promise she would not be hurt. Because only a measure of that was within his power. If she did something stupid, like tried to escape, then there would be no protecting her from the lash.

”Well, as I said, there will be a tutor. Probably two or three days a week. Once they have a measure of your current skill we’ll figure out a job that lets you work on expanding them. You’re free to study in the evenings. You can work in the slave’s infirmary during the day until then. Calming spells and weaving will be useful there.” She didn’t have to learn healing craft if it was difficult. Warming blankets for the ill, putting a little calm in fresh bandages, meeting some of his long term slaves who were here alive and happy after a decade… it would be good for everyone involved.

Giving her knee a squeeze he stood up without warning. ”Bring the plate if you’re still eating. Your room is ready.” Rochelle had slipped it along a thread. Concern tinting her tone that he would put a slave on the same floor he lived on with his wives. Salome’s absence made the house quiet, though, and he thought Tait could use someone to commiserate. But more importantly he didn’t like the idea of someone he was showing favor towards being far from his protection. ”These are the residential quarters, and people will wonder why I’ve put you here.” He warned once they had made their way up the broad staircase in the center of his house.

”Downstairs is safe during the day, but we don’t close it up at night. It’s just too hot. And I would rather not have a virgin sleeping in such an open space.” The staircase split the floor into two wings. He pointed down one but lead her down the opposite. ”My room is that way, my wife Tait is across the hall. Salome is my other wife, we usually share a room but she’s away on business.” The business of annoying the absolute shit out of him.

The second door was for Jin-ae. ”There’s just sitting and weaving rooms down that wing other than that. The end of this hall has a library you’re free to use. You don’t have a private bath, but I can pull a tub in if you’re feeling shy.” He came into the room, fingers walking across the top of a small wooden dresser. Years and years before he had been born in this room. The stain of labor pains washed out by Rochelle’s hands. He couldn’t imagine, cleaning up your own daughter’s blood to watch someone steal her child. She had stayed though, bless her beautiful heart. Stayed and cared for Isidore more purely than anyone else in his life had ever bothered to do. ”Bigger than I thought.” He said idly before stuffing his hands in his pockets and turning to Jin-ae to see if she liked the space. Or had more questions. She hadn’t asked any of the usual ‘why me, when can I go home, where am I?’ lines he had expected.

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    11 Posts    114 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2019, 01:46:57 AM »
"I am an adult," she replied, slightly miffed. She'd been a baby late in her mother's life, the gap between her and her closest brother large even by long lived standards. "I have my Offering," and she was tempted to bring it out and present it as proof. But that was dangerous, especially here, and Jin-ae was almost too used to not having it on her person by now. Too much time with it kept in her cabinet to be comfortable with a chain around her neck. Especially a literal one, now.

She blinked rapidly at his proclamation, taken aback. "Twenty-three?" Twenty-three! And with a  title like Captain and a house large enough to require servants. She had been only a few years out from her offering at Twenty-three. Darkness.

His words kept her from lingering too long on her own gloom. Hurt. That wasn't something she'd considered. But people could harm without leaving physical marks. Home had been worse in some ways. Her mother hadn't had to lift a hand to cut, master of the well placed words sharp as knives. At least she wouldn't have to hide her books anymore. Here she needed to learn her new boundaries, find out who would bend and on what, and what wasn't allowed. Where would her new barn be?

But first she had to make herself valuable. Needed. Necessary. And that meant bending too. She'd been planning around her family for years, how hard would it be to plan around this man and his rules?

She listened as he outlined her life, focusing on the details of the now. A good building had good foundation, and she needed her feet. The infirmary. Jin-ae had dealt with plenty of animals who'd been ill or injured, but never people. "Who else works there?" She asked, looking away. How many people would she share space with there, who would be watching, what were their jewels, castes, ages? So many little things that piled up into a person that might 'harm' her. But Captain Nazaire represented almost her opposite, and he hadn't hurt her, or threatened her. Yet.

The touch to her knee made her flinch, but she stood to follow after him, inferring that it wasn't an option to stay behind. She spun quickly back to slide the tray onto her hand, anchoring it to one hand with Craft to keep her other hand free.

Following Captain Nazaire down the hall, taking in the different architecture, the decorations - it was like stepping into a picture, so dramatically different than what she knew. Houses in Dhemlan, at least in Anahi, weren't built anywhere near close. What was the weather like, on the island, that a house could be built so? How often was it treated for damage, or had to have maintenance done?

She was so caught up in the widows and the draperies and imagining how one built such a ceiling that she almost lost her footing when she began to ascend the stairs -- stairs! -- that swept up to a second floor. It made sense, of course, as she stared up at him. But sense didn't stop the heat from rising in her cheeks, or her eyes from dropping to the step before her and trying to will herself through it without Craft.

And her, in the residential area. With his wives. Wives! Jin-ae had never heard of a place where they married more than once, and Captain Nazaire had two wives at twenty-three. Even with one removed from the house Jin-ae wasn't keen on the idea of infringing on 'Tait's' space.

"Surely no one would enter your house without your permission." Certainly not for me. Who would risk even the vaguely negative attention of an Ebon-gray for a slave, even a foreign one, no matter her virgin status? There had to be other women on the island for Isidore to have two wives. No matter the angle, that wasn't a prospect with a high enough reward to warrant the peril. "Why place someone so close if it inspires gossip?"

She glanced back at the hall he gestured down even as they turned away, wondering when she'd run into 'Tait'. Maybe she was out frequently too, but more likely to return, unlike 'Salome'. Her ears and her heart caught on 'library', and she peered down the hall a beat before following him through the door he'd opened. Later, she promised herself, mind already whirling away. Maybe she'd even pick up weaving, see what exactly weaving a spell into an item while it was being made was like.

Big. Bigger and nicer than she would have expected, if she had expectations. Her eyes ran over the furniture - dresser, bed, curtains, pillows, desk - drinking in the space. "A tub is fine," she murmured, setting the tray gently on the nearest surface. It already looked like something good, bookshelves erecting themselves in her minds eye. End tables with cabinets. Lanterns and charms to hang at the windows. Space, enough to keep up her hand to hand, and even though she didn't think he'd allow her a weapon, she couldn't help but ask, "Do you have an archery range?" She could fly blunted arrows if she had to, and maybe her first mending project could be an arm guard.

Isidore Nazaire

    Sapphire to Ebon-gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Raider Captain
    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    159 Posts    969 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2019, 07:29:31 PM »
Information was what Jin-ae needed to feel stable, to get back some of her security. That pleased Isidore. Not just because it was an easy motivation to understand, and an even easier one to satisfy. No. Later, when they were good friends he and Jin-ae, he would know just how to set her off kilter when she didn’t stay between the lines. Once she had a routine, she would want to stick to it. That would make the task of keeping her easier for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren someday too. So he told her what little he knew about the infirmary. ”I keep a free-woman from the city on staff.” It was important to give back to the community. Create wealth for others as well as yourself lest your fortune breed resentment. ” She sometimes brings a young girl with her. I don’t know the nature of their relationship. Sometimes a very important healer from the Temple comes to ask if any of the boys wish to join Mother Priestess’s guard. That should be about it as far as regular workers.” He answered.
If she had more questions about the work detail she left them behind in the sitting room. Food brought along, and nearly spilled, as she missed the first step on the stair. It made have seemed almost a manufactured moment. Isidore reached out to catch her so swiftly he might have guessed she would stumble. It was even the sort of thing he would do to impress a woman- slip her up with a trick of craft just to save her from a fall. But this once he was innocent. Blessed with the reflexes and alertness of his caste and position. A trained hunter always ready to react. One hand rested on her lower back the rest of the way up the staircase. The other stabilized the tray then brushed her wrist before retreating. ”Careful, Miss So.”

”To protect you.” It slowly came together that she was not a woman who had been required to protect herself very much. While she was observant she didn’t use that knowledge to grow her suspicions or fan the flames of her fear. He let her take in the change of scenery a moment. Then he answered her question and her comment more fully. ”My family has been in the slave trade for centuries. I’m sure you can imagine the enemies that sort of business brings on a man. It also means that there are people here from across both realms and every walk of life. I can’t speak for the nature of the people you’ll live side by side with here. Some could be very dangerous men. Or men so angry they would hurt others just because it’s the only way they can lash out. You’re safer here, there’s plenty of gossip about me either way. You’ll just have to deal with a few jealous maids I’m afraid.”

He enjoyed watching her take it all in. The house was beautiful. Older than Jin-ae even, built by an ancestor Isidore didn’t know the name of. Updated every new generation to suit the young master’s tastes. Isidore had not done much to change it from the family home he had grown to manhood in. Though Salome’s decorative touches were everywhere. Even here in this room where fresh curtains and bedspreads he had never seen before gave the old wallpaper a fresh look.

In the room he sat at the desk. Pulling paper from a drawer and a stick of graphite out of his cabinet. In a series of short squares he made a rough map of the house and brief descriptions of important rooms in a short, tidy script. Behind him Jin-ae had decided a bath would be satisfactory. He swept one in, much as he had done to show off for Tait on her first day in the house. Out of a nearby room and into the free space of this one. It had fat claw feet and was made of metal. The first boy with a bucket arrived just as he finished up his map.

Rising up from the seat he left it there for her to review at her own discretion. Taking up at her side to watch a row of four youngsters handing off buckets until the tub was filled. Jin-ae surprised him then. A bold question that he took was a good sign she was already finding her new home comfortable. ”Not an official one. Tomorrow I’ll take you out and show you where I practice.” He grabbed her hips to turn her towards him, taking her measure with a skilled eye. ”Longbow? Do you have it with you or will you need one?” He had some from his youth that would work for a girl her size.

Jin-ae So

    Yellow to Summer-sky
  • witch
  • Played By: kayndred

    Ile de Paon Kaeleer
    11 Posts    114 marks
Re: Footsteps in the Sand
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2019, 03:36:04 AM »
Captain Nazaire didn't seem all that concerned with her personal space, so Jin-ae would have to be concerned for both of them. First on the couch, then his hand on her back while they ascended the stairs. Surely the heat from her face would never fade, and she was glad to ignore it.

She started to pull his monologue apart before he was even finished. Centuries. Enemies - business rivals, likely. And slaves from all corners, upset or otherwise. Unsurprising then, that he had gossip about him; there'd been gossip about her, too, when she'd started showing up for exam prep like a spirit from the mist. Two wives and now a slave not yet through her Virgin Night, all on the same floor. It definitely didn't dampen the embers of rumors that would no doubt sprout.

Then he startled her further by calling in a tub right then, while he was busy with something else. She hadn't meant it that one would be good immediately, but there wasn't any stopping it. Soon there was another body - a boy to fill the tub, and then three more. More faces to learn, more members of a staff she was apparently joining.

Hands on her hips, spinning her, and Jin-ae was a heartbeat into a snarl, tempted to curl her hands toward claws before she smothered it out of herself. No back talk. No contact if she could help it, nothing initiated by her at least. No snapping at someone when they touched her, especially not Captain Nazaire. Slave, she chanted to herself.

"I have this," she said, straining not to squeak, and put her palms flat face up in the space between them so she could call in her bow. Unstrung it created an almost perfect C shape; strung it would just about match the length of her torso. She'd packed one other bow, but the composite had been her favorite. And was the easiest to hold, being in two pieces. "And another, but neither are 'long'. It's not what you're referring to, I imagine." She'd lost her pack when she'd been taken, but her real valuables had been in her cabinet. What few pieces of jewelry she had, her bows and quivers, her jewels. Probably a few marks and her ceremonial outfits, but otherwise most of her day to day stuff had been lost.

"I can shoot and," oh, Darkness, what would she call it? "fight with a bladed staff. Or my hands. My mother was thorough." Very traditional, but at least it hadn't been terribly to Jin-ae's detriment. It looked like those skills would be more marks for her here, now. Both weapons were good for mounted combat, and that would be something to keep in mind, also. Would it help to explain she'd been trained to shoot from horse-back? Would she be allowed horse riding? Were there even horses? "Are there mounts here?"

She'd liked riding, when it hadn't been an obligation. Now it probably would never be again. Especially if the island didn't have horses.
 

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