Mountain Shadows

Description:

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    11 Posts    419 marks
Mountain Shadows
« on: September 12, 2019, 10:55:20 AM »
A silver morning cut through a light cover of clouds. Spring was not yet in the crisp air. The blooming of wheat and grass in the central plains told a different story, however. That was where the promise of warmer temperatures and fruitful crops was whispered. Between grass shoots. In the hollows between tree roots. It made the young men restless, and the young women even more so. When? When would they meet with the other tribes? Their blood was ready for celebration, heat, and an excuse to be themselves to excess.

Smiling to himself Syral helped his people bind up their houses for carrying on wagons instead of sleds. Then lead them west and south to the cradle of the mountains where the twelve tribes came to sing ancient songs. And dance timeless dances of every kind. Winter had been kind to his tribe despite their enemies soiling the waters. They were strong bodied, and impressive in number. The least city touched of the Nukti as a whole. Tradition nearly forgotten by others preserved in their crafters hands. It made Syral proud to see his old women passing skill down to their granddaughters. Just as proud as bringing in the largest hunt of the first night.

They painted their bodies in the colors of sunset and the feathers of fierce birds. Thousands of voices rose up in song. A hundred fires were danced around. Matches were made. And babies too, he was sure. Syral was too busy minding his sisters to delve over much in the wildness of the first night. For a little while the packs joined up to run as one, and howling at the full moon before they feasted. His eyes searched every pocket of shadow, though. Scanned the faces in the crowd with mild expectation.

On the second day she was there. She might have been all along, his attention too torn to be entirely accurate. Late or early, he didn’t care. It amused him too much to find her there at all. Hovering between tribes. As if she were not sure where to mingle. Syral sat outside of his tent with a few old women of the tribe. They gossiped about skills and good genetics as the keystones to marriage while he played the role of romantic. Every year was different. Sometimes he argued for preserving their culture while they safeguarded the right to happiness. This year he defended love matches while they argued for choosing with the head instead of the heart. The conversation dropped as he spotted the face he had hoped to see. ”Valeska,” He called to her with a short raise of his hand. Voice strong over the soft conversations around them but not quite a yell.


”We’ll think more on it,” He said to the old woman, who were quiet in that smirking way of old women that saw more into an instant than they should. ”let them enjoy the flirting for now.” Leaving them to their sideways glances and snickering he waded around clusters of families and friends. Mind turning from one task to the next. They had survived bad marriage pacts before. Why worry before the vows were made? Besides, the tribe meet was good for more than spouse finding. Many came to trade, or learn. Things he assumed a woman with several dependents would be interested in. More interested than she would be in marriage proposals, anyway. As a chief he knew the rites and tricks to getting the best deals. And if he was careful in offering her that advice, he might convince her to stay long enough to accept a different sort of proposal too. ”Enjoying yourself yet?” He asked as their paths finally converged. 


@kayndred

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
  • hearthwitch
  • Played By:

    hunter
    Glacia Kaeleer
    8 Posts    122 marks
Re: Mountain Shadows
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2019, 10:59:10 PM »
For hours Valeska's rage and disgust and desire warred within her. A mess, tumultuous, she stalked from the water to her home, snarling and flashing black eyes at anyone who got too close, mind whirling over the request - the order - that weighed down her chest.

On the one hand, the forever-memory of her brother's scent, cold flesh trapped in the snow. His body, too light in her arms as she'd carried him home. Her mother's tears.

On the other, every dance and song and story, every breath of tradition. Of a laws that hadn't changed despite the shifting tides and waning moons, of a unity of people that Val was still part of, tenuous as it was.

The consequences for her actions could be monumentous. Traitor. War-bringer. Because that would be what she was, if she failed in any way. Bring a wrath of people down upon a group that she held allegiance to by kinship, if not by blood. But what was stronger, then? If it got out who - or what - she was, it could be a stain on all of them. There would be consequences, repercussions, that would ripple beyond her.

Ivanhoe's empty eyes haunted her thoughts as much as the taste of her own conflict.

I will try. If there is an opportunity.

The ghost of her mother hung over her, sad eyes and phantom frowns. Already guilt ate at her. There was something so wrong about the idea. Val was no stranger to death, either by tooth or by hand, but.

But.

If there's opportunity, take it.

Valeska packed, left but several of her nets and her bows and her traps, and spent the night before her trek in the water. Alone, in the sea, surrounded by the cold dark void, she pretended she was once again alone. Some things were so much easier, before.


She'd forgotten the noise of a group who were happy. Darkness, she wasn't used to this many people in general, never mind the sheer volume of sound they made. She'd packed for comfort and made her way slowly, and still she came upon them as they congregated, and for a while she lost herself in something she hadn't known as an adult. Stilted, her tent pitched alone and a little away from others, it was a kind handed neighbor who guided her in making paints, another in how to weave her family's tokens into her hair, withdrawn from the depths of her cabinet with care.

Her steps were stilted. The dances hurt in a way that her mind shied from. She ate silently at a different neighbor's fire, smile thin and uncertain, and turned in early. When sleep failed to take her, framed by the softness of her mother's frown, she listened to them sing long into the night.

The following morning was little better. She rose stiff, washing herself of any lingering paint, but her hands wouldn't obey her to par her hair back down to its simplicity. The weave remained, and her calloused fingers lingered over a length of leather and beads she could just faintly remember her mother putting together, smiling. Not a strong enough memory to keep in the wood, but a feeling. An ache, beside her heart.

Crisp air greeted her, and she banished the thought from her mind. She had a tent to look for, a sign of her target, and it would be... good, to mingle. To build bridges, perhaps, and lessen some of the weight of her position at home, of her guilt here.

She circled the hunters and their wares, engaging in conversation more about knives and fish hooks and spear shafts, evading those that asked after her people. Let them imagine, with their speculative eyes and dismissive minds, their kind hearts, why Valeska appeared alone. No outright lies, just misdirection. She had practice at building the shadow of a distant people even before Syral and that ox hunt. She was good at this, she reminded herself. There was nothing she could not do that she set her mind to. Look how long she had survived.

Hadn't she?

His voice came to her over the susurrus, caught wandering between people, spiraling in her mind. She watched him approach in clipped moments, far in one, in front of her the next. His question passed through her, caught blinking up at him while it registered. "Yes," she said at last, looking away, past the crowd, toward something not full of people she didn't know how to interact with. "There are more people than I remember." From what little she could remember. It could have been larger when she was a child, and she wouldn't know. There seemed to be no memories in her mind, locked away by the humming anxiety the crowd inspired and her refusal to contemplate her mission in the light. "And yourself?" Let him talk, and pull her mind elsewhere.

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    11 Posts    419 marks
Re: Mountain Shadows
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2019, 12:09:20 PM »
Distraction surrounded them in the form of ten dozen voices chatting softly in the sunshine. It creased the pretty set of Valeska's brow and made her lips draw tight as if she were ready to frown at them all. Syral waited patiently for her focus to narrow onto him, or appeared to wait patiently at least. His question hovered for a span that threatened to turn awkward before she wet her lips and answered. Thoughts following the trail her tongue tip left Syral nodded rather stupidly at her remark. He knew the reason, but it took longer than usual for it to travel from brain to mouth. ”Times are getting hard in the cities. People are drawn back to the memory of simpler lives on the plains. They come to get a taste of it, or to be adopted into tribes once their minds are made up.” He didn’t leave open the possibility that many would go back to their city afterward, because he didn’t understand those types of people. They were nothing more than gawking onlookers to him.

He sensed that it was important to keep the conversation flowing or else she would disappear off into the shifting bodies gathered there. Experience had taught him that when the breaths between sentences grew too heavy, people tended to fill the silence up with thoughts. Thoughts that tended to frighten them off. Why shouldn’t they? Syral had a potency of emotion that others rarely understood. He was like a tidal wave on unprepared shores. Every expression honed by the combined depths off his caste, position, and Jewels. It made the greetings of passersby fleeting and shallow. Afraid to intrude, and more afraid of becoming the object of his steady attention.

Valeska, he noted, was greeted only in consequence to being in his company. No one seemed to recognize her, and she appeared to be alone. He gave himself the benefit of the doubt and pretended that aloneness- and not his presence- was the root of her clear discomfort in the crowd. “I enjoy gatherings as much as the next man. They were certainly a better time when I was a younger man, though,” he admitted, “responsibility has dampened some of the fun. And my competitive nature doesn’t make it an opportunity for relaxing.” Not in a place or among so many people who wanted to compete. The very core of a Tribes Meet was to prove your tribe the strongest there. The best to trade with, to ally among, to marry into. That all started with the tribe having strong leaders.

“No dependents on your apron strings today?” He asked, flashing a grin. He took a few tentative steps away to see if he could turn their encounter into a walk. “Have they already made their way to the trading circle? I hear there were candies being handed out earlier.” His suspicions on her ‘dependents’ couldn’t be outright confirmed yet. Hints in their previous conversation and the direction she had headed towards ‘home’ made him assume the worst. It was no secret that the thieving seal clan had someone experienced in the terrain and lifestyle helping them survive. Syral worried that a woman like Valeska was a prime target for their manipulations. Smart, skilled, and lonely. She was one of them, but not from any tribe or offshoot village he knew of, and that detachment could make someone with a tribal soul seek connection in dangerous ways. He worried, but that was all he could. Worry and try to steer her towards safety when opportunity provided. “Did you set your tent with a tribe?” He asked, carefully to sound genial instead of prying. “There will be games tonight, and you could play in our group if you wanted. Fresh fish, hot cocoa, and good stories.”

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
  • hearthwitch
  • Played By:

    hunter
    Glacia Kaeleer
    8 Posts    122 marks
Re: Mountain Shadows
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2019, 11:19:15 PM »
Eyes up, watching him watch the crowd. She breathed deep, wanting to keep her unease to herself, and looked away instead. But her eyes would lock onto one person in the mass and follow them until they were out of sight, and then repeat. The quick passage of their voices just made it feel more and more like she was trying to spot a weakness, an escape or an easy target. Eyes back to Syral, and the little nerves that came with.

Not so different than Selka's people, then, although the question of adoption was one Valeska could not easily answer. Had she adopted them, to the cold and the ice, the frigid waters and the blank snowfields? Or had they adopted her, into the life of a rookery, the role of provider and, recently, assassin.

Her jaw tightened at the thought. So much of it chafed - her people, her beliefs, her freedoms. But weighed against her own hunger, the satisfaction of a wolf pelt fresh in her hands? Heavy, the hand that holds the dagger, she thought bitterly, turning almost physically from the knot of it all. Back to the conversation at hand, to the present. The day time was not for anything more than walking the land, she reminded herself. Anything else and she might return to her tent and wait out the festivities without ever leaving again.

"I can't imagine living in a city," she confided. She had never been in one, either, although she had seen the wall that circled their closest neighbor. The farmers and homesteads beyond were where she found her trade, more often than not. "But I can imagine that many of them find they cannot live here. How different it must be," two peoples rubbing shoulders on a land that felt borderless. "I wonder if they think of it as two separate worlds."

The people passed around them as a river, the number of greetings and speculative looks rising the longer they were still. Valeska had had her fair share alone, a single soul moving between groups, but the hum of foreign attention felt greater as they stayed unmoving. She tilted her head consideringly. Perhaps they fell to Syral, instead. He was taller, after all, and easier to see. Doubtless he was no strange face here, either, bearing, skill, and jewels all too striking not to remember. He carried a weight. But the more strangers smiled at him the greater her curiosity grew, a welcome respite from sleeping thorns within. Looking at him, a recognizable face, friendly even, was... nice. Steadying.

The smile that brushed the corners of her mouth was not all sympathy for his woes, although Valeska still wasn't sure how well she pulled off 'gentle teasing'. "I am sure that it's not what you bring to the competition, but what others do not." One eyebrow ticked up, mock-considering. "There is something to be said for getting one's blood up with the right engagement. I much prefer testing my mettle against those who's experience will allow for the acceptance of a graceful loss." Although there had been little opportunity of late to really fight with anyone, in sealskin or on land. No use in wearing out the rookery any more than they already were, fishing and trapping and tracking at a somewhat acceptable level.

A huff of a laugh escaped her nose, amused at their mirrored thoughts. She would have to bring something back for them, and candies were something they might think lost with their far-away home. Candies and trinkets, and good blankets, she decided, following Syral as he began to walk. "They are home, of late. Intent on proving their independence of me. They are that age." Well, Geirr, at least, and some of the  youth who followed. Some of the elder group took unkindly to her direction, but obeyed nonetheless. They were adamant of their independence, and felt there was nothing to prove. The others were caught in the middle.

His offer almost made her trip, hating the words at the same time as acceptance rose within her. The Darkness had laid her path in him. Syral was more centrally stationed than she, there was little doubt that she would be able to locate the tent of her target, so close to the activity. "I'm with the smaller bands," she pointed, her own tent far into the fringes. "My neighbors are mixed. I don't think they will miss me if I joined you tonight." And, hopefully, Syral wouldn't miss her in the morning, when the deed was done.
 

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