Mountain Shadows

Description:

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    12 Posts    0 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
    9 Posts    0 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
    12 Posts    0 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
    9 Posts    0 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.

Syral Moon-son

    Green to Gray
  • Warlord Prince
  • Played By: Jones

    Moon King
    Glacia Kaeleer
    12 Posts    0 marks
Re: Mountain Shadows
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2020, 06:10:12 PM »
”Nor I.” Syral’s agreement was unnecessarily firm. Pride in the way of his people strengthening the unvoiced claim that their way was the best way to live. His agreement didn’t stop there either, ”Their lifestyle and ours are two different worlds.” He said with a shake of the head. Not that he had any real experience with city life. It had been nearly a century since he had entered one, and even then it had been to negotiate peace against intrusion. All that he had seen and heard in the time since made him certain in that knowledge, though. ”For our sake, I hope they find a way to make it sustainable- or someplace more forgiving to live. Outside influence has only served to weaken the tribes it touches. The less we have to absorb the better.” He had watched the effects of incursion his entire life. Witnessed the fall of strong peoples to foreign illness or else grow too so reliant on trade luxuries they forgot how to provide themselves the necessities. He knew all too well the price of tolerance. A cost that seemed sharper there in the company of all the remaining tribes.

Tribes that ebbed and flowed around them as the pair stood in the center of an unmarked path. Syral was unperturbed by the mild curiosity it seemed to stir in others. He was too curious all on his own to care what was on their mind. Besides, he couldn’t solve the mystery for them until he had solved it to his own satisfaction. Valeska, of course, was the mystery. The hard facade she clung to slipped a little with a face sweetening grin as she ribbed at him. His own smirk was wide as he swept her with a sidelong look. ”Experience tends to make most things more enjoyable.” He said with waggling eyebrows. ”Nothing wrong with having a favorite ‘engagement’ to get the blood moving, either. Especially if it’s the sort where there are no losers, just those that finish first, and those that take a little longer.” He licked the growing smile from his lips and when that didn’t work, he tried to it away with the thumb and forefinger of a broad hand.

He could have left the topic right there. Firmly in flirtatious territory without crossing any lines. But he didn’t. ”Let me know if that blood of yours needs getting up, and I’ll be happy to help.”

An act that would go smoother without interruptions. No matter what kind of wrestling they did. Which brought his mind around to who might be accompanying her on the trip. On asking he found the answer gave him mixed emotions. Alone inclined him to believe she had free time to spare. It also suggested her dependents wouldn’t have been eager to plop themselves in the middle of the tribes’ meet. Nuki youngsters usually clamored for the chance to meet new and exciting people, and test their skills or show them off. He had lived ‘that age’ several times with children of his own, however, so gave her a sympathetic nod of the head. It opened a point of the conversation that might give him more insight into who Valeska was, however. ”A little rebellion is good for them in the long run, though annoying to deal with in the present. My oldest daughter drove me mad trying to prove herself a woman. In the end she married off young, and that settled her down. She did well for herself.” Somewhere in the mix of faces were great-grandchildren descended from her line. ”I had a son much the same. He grew out of it too.” He didn’t try to hide the suggestion in his word choices that those children were no longer living. It was a strange thing to father a child and raise it from birth to old age. A bittersweet parting no man’s heart could really be ready for. But his tears had salted the earth already, and the truth didn’t sadden him anymore. Time, as promised, had healed the wounds.


Instead he offered Valeska small favors. The too useful to be imposing sort. ”If they miss you, then bring them too. We have room.” Or room could be made to get her closer. ”What were you off to do before I stopped you? There’s some dancing I want to watch, and I’d like your company if you’re not busy.” Idony would probably be in the middle of it. At least he hoped so. She needed a man, even if she insisted otherwise. Syral didn’t usually do any of the dancing himself, but he enjoyed watching. He wanted to see if anyone would recognize Valeska as the day wore on, too. To see her mix and mingle until she was comfortable in the place her soul belonged.

But the day had other plans.

Syral noticed the silence first. The low hum of conversation around them clipped short. Then he felt it too. A strain on the Winds that made his head turn up towards the mountain as if he could physically see them. ”Strange.” He had time to whisper before the earth tossed violently under their feet. From the depths of his power Syral summoned up the Gray. A wash of it reaching out to stabilize wooden pavilions across the meet. A shield thrown around the circle of tents where mothers and babies had collected among his tribe. His vision was blurred by the movement. Like being on the sea in bad weather. He ducked low to keep his feet steady and put a bracing hand on Valeska’s hip. ”Not again.” He groaned as the Winds twanged in agony and flung out of reach once more. A hundred years was not long enough between that gut wrenching feeling. The shaking stopped, for a few moments, but the rattles that followed were shorter and easier to walk through. Which Syral fully intended to do. People buzzed in furious swarms. Bodies in motion to find those they cared for. Some of the tents had collapsed, and he couldn’t see any of the market stalls anymore. The whip of his Gray spread flat into a beacon at the heart of the field his people occupied. Guiding them home for a head count.

”How’s that for blood stirring?” He asked Valeska, ”I’m going to see if everyone in the stalls made it out. Coming?”

Valeska Spearfang

    Summer-sky to Green
  • hearthwitch
  • Played By:

    hunter
    Glacia Kaeleer
    9 Posts    0 marks
Re: Mountain Shadows
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2020, 08:33:41 PM »

 
One eyebrow fought an upward arch at his vehemence. Maybe it was her own dual life, a foot on the ice and a foot below, that made her view the lines between city and Nukti as more transient. Different, foreign, but one no better than the other. Val's life had been water and ice for so long that the walls between people felt silly. The best life, in her opinion, was below the water.

Because isolation does so much good, she thought, and found herself unsure of the emotion behind it. Bitter or longing? Wary or hungry? Too much a messy knot to dig into in the middle of a conversation like the one they were having, if ever. Another thought packed away like old clothes. 

Clothes Val wouldn't mind disappearing into at Syral's look, hoping the relative chill of the air would disguise whatever heat rose up to her cheeks. At least she hadn't completely misstepped, although she wasn't sure his response really needed to be so... wiggly. Valeska, at least, would not roll her eyes. But she made no such promises about not tucking her chin and wishing the snow would just swallow her whole. She could do it herself even, just pass through the ground and hide. Glancing up at him, she found no solace in the hand he had over his mouth, because his next words surely turned her ears red.

"Darkness," she mumbled, choked by audacity as much as her own flustered heart, "how do the women of your tribe look you in the eye when they know you say such things?" Because surely this couldn't be the first time he'd come up with something so. So. Ugh.

Curiosity and speculation tempered her ruffled nerves, allowing distance, reprieve, and Val tilted her head while she turned over that new information. There was an air of old grief to him, and she wondered at it. Illness or a casualty of the ice? Injury in the youth was been common, if not insurmountable, but could be fatal if not treated with due care. And there were deaths during childbirth, or complications with a babe. She wondered if there were any little ones running around to cling to Syral's knee.

A short bark of laughter pulled her away from her thoughts, startling her with its force. "Oh no, I don't think they miss me. Not any farther than they could throw me, I'm sure." She wiped her eyes, trailing chuckles at the idea of Selka admitting to something like missing her. "Perhaps their mothers will allow themselves a respite next time, when they see me return well rested." Maybe they could invest in illusion webs to disguise them as Nukti, and she could teach them some of the traditions involved in their gathering. Stranger things had happened, after all. 

More comfortably warmed by her laughter than her nerves, she tilted her head at the mention of his intended destination. "I think I could find time for dancing." That was a memory untainted, hours spent learning the steps to their dances from her parents, laughing with her brother, her mother's gentle hands. Would the motions be different? Or would her feet be able to find their rhythm even under the snow drifts of time?

A question unlikely to find an answer when the world fell to its sudden hush, as though everyone was straining to hear something from far across the ice. Syral's voice was lost to her as the pressure built, her eyes following his toward the peaks. Then a ripple below them that had her knees bending as she gripped the snow with her Green while the Gray rippled past, a weight that left her snarling, teeth sharp. A knife to her non-dominant hand while she gripped Syral's shoulder. Senses out to bolster the sliding snow below the closest shields that sprang up, so often forgotten in the first wave of action. It felt like a miss-struck chord between her ears, so she closed her eyes and spread the anchor of her Green from her feet to Syral's while the shaking settled into aftershocks and the rolling in her stomach felt less a threat.

Already the crowd was moving, and Valeska let her grip fall away from Syral, Green retreating to the soles of her own boots.

Good that they weren't here for this, she thought, even as her eyes turned unerringly toward her coast. But that was something for later, even as it ached at her. She would - she would get back to them, quickly. Finish her business and be done.

Attention snapping back, bow string tight with rising adrenaline, she nodded. "I would have been fine with dancing."



It was what she imagined her village had been like, before her return, before they were gone. People shouting instructions, lifting tents, pulling shocked people from the snow. She plunged a hand into folds and pulled a coughing boy from the white, then spent the next several minutes sinking waist deep and searching drifts with Craft for small hands and small bodies.

She lost track of Syral, half her normal height and focused on the ground as she was. She was only a handful of minutes into raising submerged tents, the feeling of chaos not quite faded to one of hectic order, when a shout went up, and Valeska's eyes once more went upward. This time, however, there was something to see.

Dark against the sun and the blue of the sky, she didn't recognize the shape immediately. Sails fluttering raggedly in the wind, the faintest outline of a forward arch - an skyship, from one of the cities, slicing more quickly through the the air than she had ever seen. It hiccuped and veered, but despite whatever attempts were being made to correct it, its course didn't change.

The only things between it and the ground were her people, and she was moving with them before her thoughts could catch up. Stumbling as she levered herself from the snow, then running, sprinting as she reached for the depth of her Green. *Syral!* She was probably one of many yelling at him between minds, but she had no other name to call and the adrenaline in her blood was roaring.

Her shield joined the dozen others snapped up in haste over the tents, the people, in the ship's path. Arched high to try and redirect it, force it out to the empty snowfield beyond while she spread her Green thin beneath the crowd she could reach, bracing. The mass of Craft hummed around her, eyes up as it grew monstrous above them --

-- and then screeching, jagged against the mottled barriers. Lighter shields beyond her strained and cracked, broke, bodies falling in pain and unconsciousness. Bodies launched from the ship as it skidded over them. Breath hissed through her teeth, she reached out for the wrist of her neighbor - familiar, Grey, relief - and squeezed, jaw and grip only easing when the ship cleared them.

The disbursement of her shield ached. Her vision flecked with spots at the corners. Her ears rang. She watched as the ship, sliding on its side, shot through the snow, white sprays fanning in its wake. A broken mast trailed it, hooked into some hidden groove and swung it round, driving the prow down against the ground until it gave a heaving crack, snapping sharply. It stopped half-buried, dirty snow and bodies spread in its wake.

"There may be survivors," she said, looking up at Syral. Her heart was thundering, and she felt wound tight, like she was in the middle of the hunt in her sealskin. Even with the strain on her Green, enough that already she already felt hunger gnawing at her, she wanted to race across the ice, to pass through the ship's walls and find the living. "But things here are not settled either." Syral could decide where he would stand, but Valeska would be going. And she wanted to be out there, in the middle of it, selfishly quieting her mind. 
 

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