Ruins of Pathfinder: The Mysterium Compact (Mythic) (Inactive)

Game Master Robert Brookes

“Nothing is yet in its true form.”

                                      -C.S. Lewis
 
Current Location: Ancient Ossuary


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                          Ruins of Pathfinder
     T H E   M Y S T E R I U M   C O M P A C T
                       Prologue I - The Twin
 
 
 
 

"Valeaforadan!" A sudden crack of electricity flows in an arc through the air, striking the metal rod at the end of the stone corridor. The charge dissipates through the engraved iron, flickers down through the floor and becomes unseen. The young woman thirty feet away curls her fingers towards her palm, a static charge still tingling in her fingertips. She turns to look up at her instructor, a stern looking half-elven man with copper-colored hair whose true demeanor is betrayed by an easy smile.

The girl's pride and happiness seems infectious.
 
 
 
 
 
       << Akrabahadran, the College of Shadows | Some Time Ago... >> 
 
 
 
 
 
"Excellent work," he praises, stepping over to lay a hand on her small shoulder. "But you still need to work on your defensive form," comes a moment after, and the instructor places his hands on the girl's wrists, drawing her hands closer to her chest. "Like this," he explains, glancing down at her before looking to the lightning rod. "Don't leave yourself so open, an attacker would put a sword right between your ribs while you're distracted trying to pick a target. Always be ready to deflect an incoming attack."

"Thank you, Master Arnon." The young woman offers a small, weary smile and looks down at her palms as Master Arnon leans away. Eventually, she looks up from her hands to the long, stone corridor and to the lightning rod sticking up from the engraved rings of eldritch writing on the floor. Arnon can tell a question is brewing before she turns to ask it. "Master?"

Arnon crosses his arms and lets his head tilts to the side, regarding the greem-eyed girl looking up at him. One brow raises, a wordless agreement to hear her question. The girl shifts her feet awkwardly, then wrings her hands together and furrows her brows. "Hokuto?" Arnon urges her to speak up, offering a reassuring smile.

"Will I have to fight?" The question causes Arnon to tense up and avert his eyes to the floor for just long enough that Hokuto can tell he's uninterested in answering her honestly. They both know the futility in that.

"We live in dangerous times," is Arnon's vague answer, "I hope none of my students are forced into battle, but ours is a world of conflicts great and small. You've been blessed with a gift that can be used however you wish. But, at its core, the gift you've been given is one that would find use in warfare. People will seek to exploit that."

Hokuto's teeth worry at her lower hip, and the girl crosses her arms and looks back to the lightning rod. "Will Seishi have to fight?" Arnon makes a noise in the back of his throat at that question, stepping beside Hokuto and ruffling a hand through her short, messy hair.

"That will be her choice," Arnon explains softly, "and yours. But right now all you have to worry about is hitting that target, and keeping your stance guarded." Arnon's hand sweeps down to cup Hokuto's cheek and his head shakes slowly, smile a bit more wry than it was a moment ago.

"Is this about what happened to Liasha?" Arnon's question is delivered carefully, delicately, the way in which grief is uncomfortably handled in its rawest form. Hokuto's expression scrunches up and her brows furrow, eyes watering up as she looks down to the floor. Arnon hates himself for even bringing it up, but her reaction shows necessity in his inquisition.

Moving his hand to one shoulder, Arnon guides Hokuto away from the practice floor and towards a wood and stone bench near the door. She sits, reluctantly, hands on her knees and shoulders slouched forward, head bowed and bangs hiding her eyes. Arnon takes a knee in front of her, quiet for a moment after hearing the tiniest of sobs escape his student.

Bringing a hand to her chin, Arnon tilts her chin up so that she's lookig at him and not the floor between her sandled feet. "Everyone misses Liasha," comes with the unmasked grief like that of a parent trying to cope with the loss of a child. "She was the best and brightest of us all, and-- Hokuto-- it was an accident, what happened to her." Arnon's thumb brushes a streak of tears across her cheek.

Hokuto nods once, but the noise in the back of her throat that she makes indicates that she doesn't entirely believe him. Arnon isn't sure he believes himself either. "As a teacher here, I'm the one who is ultimately responsible for the well-being of the students. The Headmaster had the diviners look into what happened, and..." and he knows a technical explanation of what happened isn't reaching her. Instead, Arnon leans in and draws Hokuto into an embrace, letting her head come to rest on his shoulder. Small arms reciprocate the gesture, and she just cries into the coarse fabric of his robe, fingers curling desperately tight to the same material.

Resting a reassuring hand at the back of her head, Arnon stares at the wall behind Hokuto, but his mind is further away than that. "Liasha wouldn't want you to fall apart," are words that escape Arnon's mouth with awkward cadence restraining difficult emotions. Hokuto nods a few times, sucking back a wet sob before pulling her head away from his shoulder, drying her eyes with the long, white sleeves of her robe.

Arnon brushes Hokuto's hair from her brow, then slowly rises to stand up straight, offering a hand out for his student. "She'd want you to graduate," is a firm reminder of where she is, "she'd want you to show everyone how much you've learned, and remember how much she wanted all of you to succeed."

Once she's collected herself and calmed fitful breaths, Hokuto looks up to the offered hand and the stylized eye tattoo on the back of the palm. Her lips curl up into a faint smile, a weary and damaged one, before taking the far larger hand in hers and getting up off of the bench. She knows Arnor is right, knows what she has to do to prove it.

"Okay," Hokuto offers with a whisper of confidence, turning to look back at the lightning rod. After a moment of staring at the target, Hokuto cupping her hands together she and draws them close to her chest. Arnon takes a step back as tiny bolts of electricity begin gathering between the young girl's fingers, larger bolts arcing between her palms. Hokuto draws in a slow, contemplative breath and clasps her palms together, a buzzing electrical noise reverberating through her bones. All her anger has a direction.

"Valeaforadan!"

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                            Ruins of Pathfinder
     T H E   M Y S T E R I U M   C O M P A C T
                       Prologue II - The Locksmith
 
 
 
 

"It's green today," and the words of that observation echo through the hall as if being repeated in whispered voices by a half dozen others. Far below vaulted stone ceilings painted with a mural of the night's sky, two robed men in the green and black attire of Akrabahadran stare upwards to the scintillating sphere of jade-colored light hovering there. "I've never seen that shade..." There's a sense of hushed marvel in Arnon's tone as he regards that hue. Around the sphere of light, two concentric rings; one of mithral and one of adamantine spin in opposite directions, each engraved with mathematical symbols and writing in an ancient language foreign to Arnon's eyes. Below the sphere, a towering statue of a robed man holds two hands aloft, outstretched to the sphere of light, as if carrying it aloft. On the breast of his robe, the sigil of an eye with three crowns above and wings spread out to the side is proudly displayed.

"The color bodes well for us," the other, much older man states to Arnon. He is taller, thinner and with grayer hair and more wrinkled flesh. "We should look upon this day as a fortunate one," the old man intones, turning to face Arnon. "The ever-vigilant eye of Aroden is upon us."
 
 
 
 
 
       << Akrabahadran, the College of Shadows | Desnus 16th, 4655 >> 
 
 
 
 
 
"How are you adapting to your new role?" The old man folds his hands behind his back and begins walking again, his pace allow to allow Arnon to catch up. The young half-elf clears his throat and looks up to that pale green orb, then back down.

"It's-- not as easy as I'd imagined, Exarch." Doubt hangs in Arnon's expression as his eyes avert to the floor, hands clasped in front of himself as he walks. "I feel more alone now than I ever did as an atelis. But, I suppose that's to be expected. It's just-- " Arnon glances up at the old man, noticing that he has been observing him carefully the whole time, those steely gray eyes always assessing and evaluating. "I understand the sacrifice we make as dáskalos..."

"Good," the exarch cuts him off, one gray brow rising as if to challenge Arnon to continue. The half-elf decides best not to, offering a nod of agreement to his superior. "We have long endeavored at this academy to place the importance of sacrifice in a position of prominence. The atelis all learn that lesson, as must we as dáskalos in guiding them down their myriad paths. We begin, and end here, Arnon." Stopping his circuit of the room, the exarch raises his hand to motion towards the sphere. "You are a compassionate man, capable of great empathy and understanding. You will make a fine dáskalos, of this I was certain the day you first came within these walls."

Arnon managed a nervous smile at that, glancing to the statue before looking back to the exarch. "Perhaps one day even a fine exarch," was meant as a light-hearted jest, but the old man before Arnon finds no humor or camaraderie in those words. Instead, he narrows his eyes and downturns the corners of his mouth into a creased frown that accentuates the depth of wrinkles in his old face.

"Don't be absurd."

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                            Ruins of Pathfinder
     T H E   M Y S T E R I U M   C O M P A C T
                       Prologue III - The Bear
 
 
 
 

 
A scream fills the air, a mournful wail of disbelief and horror that accompanies unthinkable pain and violence. Fingers are wrapped tightly around the handle of a needle-like dagger, the six inch length of the blade currently swirling in the gore-filled eye socket of a young blonde woman. She carves out her own eye much as she had the last one, fluid pink and red streaked staining her cheeks and green robe. A child cowers at her feet, wide-eyed and spattered with her blood.
 
 
 
 
 
       << Westcrown, Cheliax | Arodus 1st, 4606 >> 
 
 
 
 
 
"No!" Comes a cry from the wings of the cathedral, followed by the clattering noise of plate armor and chain. The now blind priestess is tackled to the floor by a heavily armored man, her dagger wrenched from her hand and flung aside, skittering to a stop by the nearby child's feet. "Stop this madness!" The dark-haired knight exclaims, wrestling with the thrashing priestess, restraining her wrists to the blood-soaked tile floor.

She continues to wail, her back arching and legs kicking, fingers curling against her palms so hard her nails pierce the flesh there. Teeth saw through her tongue serving to muffle her scream if only for a moment. The paladin astride her is transfixed in horror, his eyes as wide as the sigil of an open eye on his tabard.

The young boy nearby fetches the bloodied knife from the floor, hands trembling. He watches the priestess writhe on the floor, spitting blood from her lips and bubbles of spit, momentary curses spat out alongside the mess. "What is going on?" The knight demands, flashing an accusing look to the tallow-haired child who watches the scene unfold. While the priestess' screaming is profound, she is not the only one wailing within the cathedral. Other voices from within -- and without -- are joined in a choir of agony and horror.

The boy has no words, and no time to find them before a brick smashes through a tall stained-glass window depicting the Last Azlanti, Aroden. The tall panes of glass shatter, cascading to the floor in a riotous crash, revealing the burning cityscape outside and the silhouettes of men and woman clashing in the streets.

"She... she said she saw..." the boy murmurs, and when the knight is momentarily distracted by his mumbling the priestess throws him off in a fit of blind madness, hurling herself towards the now open window. She throws herself on the jagged glass jutting up like gnarled teeth from the bottom of the window frame, dragging her body along them in order to disembowel herself.

Her screams are choked and strangled, she collapses onto her side on the floor, clutching the unspooled organs now coiling down towards her ankles. She screams, eyeless, on the floor in unimaginable grief until she can scream no more. Once she is silent and motionless, the paladin knelt nearby to her is paralyzed in horror. Not a fear like he would dispel through faith, but a simple horror in revelation of the truth. Not a compulsion, but a choice. I cannot act.

The child holding the knife looks askance to him, and the bloodied blade clatters from his palm to the floor. The noise shakes the paladin from his torpor, only to see the deed the boy already succeeded at. Two deep red lines drawn from wrist to elbow on his arms.

"No!" The paladin screamed in breathless disbelief.

The madness knew no limits.

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In the depths of a crumbling, ancient cathedral the sole source of light burns dim. A single candle sheds flickering light across damp stone walls. Rivulets of water trickle down through cracks in the walls and rain falls through rifts in the ceiling where wooden beams resemble the broken ribs of a skeletal corpse. A haze of twilight infiltrates the ruins through the openings in the roof, the murky light of dusk or dawn set against a starless night's sky.

A shattered statue looms over that lone candle. The statue's face has been smashed away, reduced to bits of rubble at its sandaled feet. Two jagged stumps are all that remains of uplifted arms. Above the statue, a whirling cloud of shadowy forms orbit one another like some sort of macabre orrery. Whispering, jibbering, screaming and crying these spirits swirl and flow like clouds on a windy day, their tormented visages flashing across the spherical surface before being consumed by another twisted apparition's appearance.

One phantom breaks free of the sphere, shrieking in terror and agony as it rockets around the ruined ceiling, passing through walls with an inky splash of ethereal smoke before emerging once more in the tower. It spins, twists and dives through the air, impacting the floor as if it were a solid entity. The spirit whirls around like a black tornado, then takes on the form of a skeletal face made of shadowy smoke, eyes wide and jaws agape in a pained scream.

"Sshh," whispers a sibilant voice from the darkness. Hooves click on stone, echoing in the ruined tower and signaling the arrival of another entity. Gray flesh rotten in places resembles a hunched male figure as tall as a house, long fingers ending in hooked bird-like talons, a lashing tail with barbed tip, and an eviscerated abdomen filled with writhing snakes. Its shoulders bristle with black feathers, forming an inky mantle below its horrifying head; a skull of a stag with hollow eye sockets crowned with huge black antlers that taper to sword-like points. A pair of skeletal, bat-like wings fan out behind it.

The creature approaches the phantom, taking one knee and offering out a taloned hand -- palm up. "Come, my child," it intones in a rasping voice as a strange sigil of blues and reds burns to life on its fleshless brow.

"Come and see."
  
 
 
 
 
 

                           Ruins of Pathfinder
     T H E   M Y S T E R I U M   C O M P A C T
               Book I: The Ghost of Winter's Past
                Chapter I: A Shadow on the Wall

 
 
 

 
For some, the journey had taken a year.

Rumbling across the dusty flatlands of southern Rahadoum, a long wagon drawn by four gray horses is but a speck on the vast expanse of badlands that stretches from one end of the horizon to the other. A cloud of dust rises from the cracked earth below, drifting through the air until eddies and currents of wind disperse it. On the outside of the wagon, four iron-framed lanterns hang, each containing a blue candle burning with a cobalt-hued light. Atop the carrige, the driver -- a wizened old man with a hunched back and a wide-brimmed hat -- stares ahead to the trackless desert beyond. His scraggly beard is caked with dust, hawkish features a little rounded and softened by weight, though the severity of his hooked nose remains undiminished.

The wagon's windows are drawn with blue velvet curtains that block out the light of the Rahadoumi wastes and keep the bitterly cold air whipping across the desert out. Overhead, the muted sky is a hazy gray with hints of blue, the sun appearing like a faded gold medallion that has lost its once radiant luster. Below dust-darkened skies, the wagon travels onward with its precious cargo.

Within the spacious wagon, nine children have been gathered from the far-flung corners of the world. Long have they been traveling, from Garuna to Avistan, from Tian-Xia and back again. One by one they have been gathered by the leader of this journey, a teacher and a shepherd by her own definition -- Hokuto Ichihara.

Seated at the front of the wagon's interior space on a plush bench seat, Hokuto looks like a porcelain doll brought to life. Ink black hair flows down past her shoulders, over the crisp lines of a black kimono glittering with flecks of metallic fibers in the dark cloth that glitter like starlight. Her right eye is a blind, milky-white while the other a ring of jade green. Upon her brow is painted a brand; some gemetric symbol looking like a styluzed, inverted torus.

Hokuto is the one who is responsible for bringing these children here, traveling for a year across the Inner Sea and beyond to recruit this handful of young people for a specific purpose and a specific destiny; to attend the College of Shadows, Akrabahadran. They have been told as much time and again, watching other prospective students recruited from seemingly random locations. Hokuto's only roadmap has ever been an ancient and faded deck of Harrow cards, consulted at every turn in their journey.

Within the blue velvet walls of this wagon, Hokuto looks over the gathered students with an appraising stare. Ever since arriving in Rahadoum from the Inner Sea, the promise that the journey was "almost over" felt somewhat hollow. The road south has been a long one and traveling conditions cramped. Two days now they have had to stop for the night and sleep in a pavillion tent while the howling wind and coyotes of the desert wail in the night beyond. Hokuto has been an ever-vigilant source of protection in this time, watching over her children like a mother hen. Not once have they seen her sleep, not once have they seen her flinch. She has been a much-needed pillar of stability for them all.

Now, the promises have come again. They are almost there, though the flat and featureless expanse of wastes glimpsed out brief partings of the velvet curtains has done little to give credence to this claim. Eager to keep the children's minds off of the arduous journey and how far they are from their homes, Hokuto has removed that deck of old Harrow cards from a voluminous sleeve.

"Again," she intones, shuffling the cards with a riffling of paper between fingers, "the Harrow is not a game, a toy, or a trick. But it is also not the definitive article on events." Her hands work over the cards, turning the deck, packing them against one another, shuffling them with practiced motions. "The events detailed within are illustrative, and -- ultimately -- can be changed."

"This reading represents a question, one I pose for now..." implying future readings could come from questions of the students' devising. "Who are you?" Hokuto's mismatched eyes scan over the group of youthful faces in front of her, one red-accented brow raised ever so slightly in question.

"The first card I draw represents the whole of the question. It is illustrative of the entire journey from beginning to end, from front to back. This card represents the answer."

Slapped down on the low-set table in front of her bench, the card first displayed is one showing a crowded stage with many colorfully dressed figures performing pantomime. Empty seats fill back from the stage, with a sole silhouette seated among them. Printed on the cardstock is a caligraphed title:

THE THEATER

Hokuto's brows furrow, silence hangs over her, and she looks briefly from the card to the students, then pushes it to the side of the table with two fingers. "The Theater is illustrative of true prophecy, an art forgotten in the Age of Lost Omens. Prophecy told in truth, in accuracy and in certainty. The details are laid out like the arrangement of actors and sets on a stage... but the ending, perhaps, can be improvosation. What you see, is what will come without your intercession. The Prophet is the audience," she intones, motioning to herself, "the prophecy is the act," she motions to the table, "and you are the directors."

Then, drawing another card, Hokuto keeps it pinched between two fingers for a moment. "We begin," she explains in a hushed voice, "in the past."

The first card is slapped down from the top of the deck, laid out beside the indicator card. It depicts a winged figure in regal pose, arms spread and sword held fast in one hand, a long brass trumpet raised in the other, sounding a clarion call. The caligraphy on the card reads:

THE TRUMPET

Reclining in her seat, Hokuto crosses one leg over the other, dangling a wooden sandal off of the end of her foot lazily. "In the past," she explains with a wave of one hand back in the direction the wagon has already been, "was a figure of importance who faced insurmountable odds throughout his life. Victory or nothing, this card represents. It is a struggle by which all is won or lost at the hands of great powers."

Next, Hokuto motions to the Harrow deck in her lap, and the next card floats lazily off of the top and drifts through the air before coming to rest below the last. The card shows a lithe figure captured in a moment of graceful motions, an elegant dance frozen in time. The card displays its title in caligraphed text below the colorful art:

THE DANCE

Hokuto laces her fingers together, then slowly draws them apart as she speaks. "The Dance, a card representing cosmic balance. In our narrative, it represents a balance that -- if disrupted -- brings devastation and calamity. A precarious balance of power that if shifted just right, could speak ruin for us all." Hokuto's expression loses some of its persistent humor.

Once more she motions with a wave of her hand and lifts a card eerily out of the deck by unseen force. The card laid below the last depicts a wise forest owl with wide, alert eyes perched on a branch. In one taloned foot, it clutches a large sewing needle with a deadly fine point. Below the card is written:

THE OWL

"But the balance represented by the Dance was not to last," Hokuto implies, "for nature has its own designs, and that which is created can be destroyed. The powerful figure from the past and the balance he maintained crumbled in the face of the harshness of reality. All he had done, undone, and every thread that bound his acts together unraveled."

Sitting forward, Hokuto draws the next card with her hand instead of with magic. "This," she motions with the unrevealed card at the others, "is what has come before. Now, we take a look at where we are and will soon be." The new card is laid out next to the Trumpet, beginning a new column. Its colorful art shows a screaming figure tangled in mighty vines bristling with great thorns. Below this grim depiction is the card's name:

THE TANGLED BRIAR

"The memory of this fallen figure from the past endangers the present. His legacy threatens to unleash calamity and disaster, while a pervasive influence spreads all around us..." Even as she speaks, there's a look of worry that Hokuto is trying to hide. The cards have taken a dark turn, one apparently unexpected. "Old evils stir, once slumbering... now waking."

Hesitant to draw the next card, Hokuto looks up to the children and furrows her brows. She seems like she might stop, but instead takes a deep breath and lays out the next card. A lone figure sits on a throne, surrounded by the luminous spirits of the fallen that continue to haunt him. The card draws another look of surprise from the fortune-teller, and its title is both mysterious and evocative:

THE SURVIVOR

"An ordeal is coming," Hokuto warns with a tone of seriousness replacing what is typically whimsy. She searches the card with a studious eye, looking for further signs or portents that never come. "It is a trial by which many will perish," she nearly whispers, a brief look of understanding flashing across her face. "But from this darkest hour, hope springs eternal. An opportunity for rebirth comes from this tragedy, and something thought lost forever... returns to light the way."

With barely a pause, Hokuto slaps the next card on the table. She seems as though she is reading mroe for herself now than the children, drawn into the oracular prophecy of the Harrow cards deeper and deeper with each draw from the deck. What she lays out next is gruesome, a card depicting a gray haired woman with a feathered crown holding aloft a severed head dripping with blood. In her other hand she holds plump grapes, a placation or offering made in the name of the card's title:

THE BETRAYAL

Hokuto tenses, looking at the card as if it said something to her. She opens her mouth to speak, reconsiders, and then never lets her eyes off of the card once she begins speaking.

"There exists a figure responsible for the events shown in these cards," Hokuto explains, her knowledge inferred from the meaning of the cards. "A perpetrator orchestrating events, this time of approaching loss and tragedy," as if the world had not yet seen enough. "It wears a fair face, one of kindness and generosity, masking a cruelty and malign will behind a smile."

Looking to the children, Hokuto draws another card and holds it in her hand. Her expression is tense, and she actively tries to hide her concern behind a kinder expression. "What comes next is not set in stone," Hokuto warns, "the future is impermanent, ephemeral, and capable of change. Consider these next cards..." she hesitates, searching for the best words to use. "Consider them a map."

The next card she lays down shows a clear sky ringed with clouds. A figure has his hands held up towards the heavens above, a smile spread across his face. It is an expression of freedom, of joy, and of hope. At the bottom of the card, its title holds that theme with an air of mystique:

THE BIG SKY

Hokuto's expression nearly matches that of the figure on the card; one of relief. "But for all the torment to come, for all the danger inherent in our lives, there is a conclusion. There is hope. An end to slavery, imprisonment and suffering, an end to the darkness that threatens us; a time to shake off that which has oppressed us, to rise again... a new beginning."

Less worried, Hokuto wrings her hands together and draws another card. Though as she lays it down on the table below The Big Sky, her expression hardens again and that worry returns. It depicts a throne viewed from the side, encrusted with vegetation and long since abandoned. Kneeling in front of it, a lone figure has his head bowed in mourning, eyes shut and expression solemn. It is titled:

THE EMPTY THRONE

The sigh that escapes from Hokuto is one of frustration; of course it can't be easy she all but says. "We come full circle. To achieve this future offered to us, the past must be consulted." The first three cards are motioned to. "Those who have come before and perished will serve as lessons and guides for us along the way, from their loss we will find inspiration and guidance. That their deaths were not in vain becomes our responsibility."

Gradually, as the reading has gone on, Hokuto has used more personal words to describe the events. Words like "ours," "your," and "we," add a certain level of intimacy to the cards fortune telling, implying a personal connection to the events foretold.

"Finally, that brings us to the conclusion." Hokuto draws the last card of the reading, laying it down on the table. In the card, a mighty two-headed giant lays on its back, felled not by sword or bow but by what appears to be laughter. A small figure stands before the giant's mountainout form, arms spread and hands splayed, as if just having delivered a punchline to the card's title:

THE JOKE

Curiosity dawns on Hokuto when she sees this card appear. Her posture straightens and she draws her teeth across her bottom lip. "In the end, there will be an obstacle that cannot be overcome with strength of arms alone. Only through trickery, cunning, and artifice can victory be assured. You must keep your spirits high," and Hokuto seems to be straining to accomplish that very task. Gesturing to the cards as a whole, Hokuto seems to imply that the reading is complete. However, one final note is left unsaid, one bit of interpretation of the cards unspoken. The Joke is a card misaligned, skewing its interpretation.

The Joke, Hokuto has failed to inform, is on them.
 
 
 
 
   << Somewhere in Southern Rahadoum | Late Afternoon | Cool, Windy | Wealday, Desnus 6th, 4715 AR >>
 
  

___________________
Welcome to the Mysterium Compact!
 
You may now post in the gameplay thread. Your characters are presently in a spacious Varisian traveling wagon, lavishly appointed with lush blue silks and velvet furnishings, for the final leg of what has been a long journey. For at least two months and up to a year, you have been traveling with Hokuto across Golarion to gather students for the College of Shadows, Akrabahadran.
 
Her journey began across Tian-Xia, departed from Goka and came to Garund, then ventured north into Avistan and back into Garund at Rahadoum. Travel was by wagon and sailing ship, always through the safest route (though not always the shortest.) Feel free to determine based on that chronology how long you have been traveling with Hokuto and the other prospective students. Introduce yourselves with description for the other players.
  
Feel free to interact with one another and Hokuto, as well as the one NPC student included with you, Ilesea, a halfling child with snow white hair and green eyes who dresses in traditional Tian attire, taken from servitude at a tea house on Xielan Island just off the coast of Goka. She is humble, soft-spoken and so far had difficulty opening up to others. I will post again as players do.
  
If you have any questions on specific details, feel free to ask in the discussion thread!


Male Ifrit Commoner/1

He wonders if she's still alive. The thought passes through his mind at least once a day since he left her in Thuvia. That was a while ago, before they crossed to the northern lands for a while, before coming back here. Avistan as he remembered it was a cold place to be, so for the most part he kept bundled up.

At the moment, while Hokuto was lecturing on giving a reading, and everyone else was paying attention in more or less the same fashion, Alanar was sticking his head out of the wagon, watching one of the swinging iron lanterns and its lovely cobalt flame. It was probably the result of the glass that gave its coloring, but he pondered if he could make flames like that. Not in the wagon, however - he'd been given a stern lecture about setting important things on fire.

A cold breeze blew by, and the ifrit shivered, pulling himself back in and shutting the window. He rubbed his arms to try and warm up, catching the end of Hokuto's Harrowing. He listens now that he lacks any distractions, though his eyes constantly wander and look for something new.

He'd really like to learn that trick she does with the cards - he showed her his trick one cold night in the north when the firewood was damp and there was trouble lighting it. After that, she'd told him that he needed to understand to keep a respectable distance away from anyone who might catch fire when he did it.

Alanar leans back against the wall under the window, the curly black hair on his head always smouldering, always making himself and his surroundings smell like burnt incense. Brass colored fingers played with the shiny scraps woven into his belt, and feet clad in worn down shoes tapped idly on the wagon floor. The amber-eyed boy grinned, before asking the same question he's asked every day for months, testing the patience of the rest of the children.

"Are we there yet?"


Alyona sits quietly on one of the plush cushions of the wagon. She had listened attentively to Hokuto's reading. Her and Hokuto could be paired dolls, representing light and dark. Alyona's skin is perfectly smooth white porcelain, brushed with the faintest hint of rosy tinge in her cheeks. Her long, platinum blonde curls bob slightly with the rocking motion of the carriage. Her full pink lips are pursed into a pout as she stares wide eyed at Hokuto. Great! More death, doom, gloom and betrayal. Just what I f$!&ing need. I've been stuck in this damned wagon for months with these peasants and foreigners! It's really just unacceptable. A few simple teleport spells would have made all this unnecessary. What kind of professor at a magical college can't teleport? After a couple moments of frowning, she visibly smooths her expression.

Alyona stares around the interior of the wagon at the other children with her huge blue eyes, her face now an emotionless mask, giving nothing away. I wonder which one of them will be the strongest? Which one will oppose me? Which one of the boys will make the best tool? If any of the boys look back at her, she smiles coquettishly at them.


Male Human Commoner 1

Trapped between Ilesea, quiet as ever, and Alanar's lower half, which protruded as the ifrit peered out the window, Aldon found his patience beginning to dwindle. The day had been spent in listless daydreaming, with the occasional glance outwards to the desolate but impressive landscape. The temperature and clouds of dust were less enjoyable, though they certainly added to the feeling that they had simply driven off the face of the earth and were now meandering in a world completely composed of endless wasteland.

While Aldon still held out hope that Hokuto's assurances of being "almost there" were not fabricated simply to stave off complaints, it had been a long time traveling on both road and sea. He hoped to reach his new home before the feelings of being an insurmountable distance from Lastwall, feelings that had already begun to set in, became firmly cemented. A distraction would be welcome. Admittedly, Aldon hadn't been traveling as long as some, and the wagon was very comfortable, but the homesickness preyed upon him nonetheless.

The only interruption to his retrospection was the reading, and what an interruption it was. The emotions Hokuto displayed came thick and fast, and were not always well hidden. It was surprising to see her so affected. Personally, Aldon didn't set much (or anything at all) in the Harrow, but it being the cause of such agitation didn't seem reasonable. The predictions, were they to be believed, certainly seemed noteworthy, but they were only cards. Aldon didn't wish to doubt his benefactor, but how these cards gave anyone insight into anything he hadn't yet discovered.

Perhaps thankfully, Alanar chose the end of their dire warnings and hopeful tidings to plop back into his seat and ask his question. Aldon looks sideways at him, exhaling loudly through his nose.

"I dunno, are we? You're the expert, being the last of us out there. Did you see anything other than dirt? I'd be glad to hear if you did. Would certainly help to keep my spirits high." Aldon shoots a glance toward Hokuto as he says this.

He turns fully towards the woman, running a hand through his blond hair, which only serves to perpetuate its gravity-defying style. "I'm glad that that's only illustrative. At least illustrations can be erased."


Male Ifrit Commoner/1

"I wasn't looking where we were," Alanar replies in his usual manner, his accent sharp but lyrical in Taldane."I was looking at the lantern. Blue flames are pretty. They aren't bright, though."

The ifrit boy glances over at Alyona, recalling where they picked her up - not his favorite place. Far too cold. Why was it always so cold up in the north? Then again, he'd spent quite a few chilly nights in the desert. More than a few, actually. He leaned forward, amber eyes glinting at her as he smiled back.

"Pure gold is terrible for making jewelry," He suddenly spoke up to her. "It's too soft, too heavy, and too easily malformed. That's why instead we have gold alloys. Instead of the..." He pauses, muttering something in Kelish before returning to Taldane, "24 carat pure gold, you smelt it with another metal for both a stronger material and a different coloration. Yellow gold is the most desired for being the purest at 22 carat. My master, he preferred red gold, an 18 carat metal for his jewelry. Cheaper and less difficult to make from yellow."

He leans forward, really looking at the girl's golden locks, staring at them for a moment before continuing. "Your hair would be 14 carat just by the coloration. The cheapest it could be made and still be called gold. Though it's really fourteen parts gold to ten parts of what else alloys it, in this case silver and copper, and a small amount of...of..." He snaps his fingers several times before remembering and pointing at her. "Zincum! Or was it seng...no, zincum, from calamite. That's what my master told me."

There's a short bit of silence from him before he speaks again. "I could make you a necklace. Except I have no tools. It is harder to make jewelry with no tools. Or materials. You wouldn't have any gold on you, would you? Not your hair, though, that's not what I mean..."

Alanar trails off, looking back at Hokuto. "When we get there, will there be tools? Maybe I can scrape up some silver from a rubbish pile - did that a lot in Osirion...most of that place is desert, so everybody there lives by the rivers. I was on a boat there once with my sister..." The ifrit stops there, before sitting back down properly.

"Ah...right. I forgot the whole 'stop saying everything on your mind' thing again. Sorry." He gives Ilesea a look, noting her hair. "White gold, 18 carat. Sorry, stopping with the talking."


Male Human Commoner 1

Once upon a time--not that long ago, in fact--Erik might have scoffed at the idea of fortune telling. He might have sneered something along the lines of Yeah, I'll read the future in the cards, right. 'You are gullible and will soon be parted with your money'. These days, though...

These days, things have changed, and Erik isn't quite as cynical as he used to be.

A year ago, he was spending his nights sleeping in a corner where the roofs of two abandoned buildings met in Westcrown, huddled under a pile of rags and fervently hoping that rats wouldn't find him and eat his face while he was sleeping.

Then he was stuck in a prison cell, waiting for his captors to get around to dealing with him.

Today he's riding in a wagon lined with velvet and silk. He's not chained to a wall, and he's wearing warm clothes that haven't been gnawed on by rats, and he's not hungry.

Compared to that, the idea of someone using cards to magically read the future... maybe it isn't really that hard to believe. Besides... Hokuto certainly seems to believe in it, doesn't she? Erik, not being a wizard or a seer or a prophet or anything like that himself, is willing to trust her judgement on the matter. At least for now.

So he listens silently as she shuffles the cards, and his gaze flickers around the wagon, surreptitiously studying his fellow passengers--his fellow students. Can I trust them? Which of them can I trust? How far?

Alanar's staring out the window at something; Alyona's looking annoyed. Ilesea's quiet, as usual.

He shifts his gaze back to the reading just in time to see the last card turn. The Joke? All this about dire omens and betrayals, and it ends with a JOKE? Hokuto doesn't seem to be laughing, though.
Grimacing dourly, Erik resumes studying the others... Alyona seems to have had the same idea. She catches his gaze and smiles at him; Erik quickly looks away, annoyed at being caught.

Thankfully, Alanar chooses that moment to ask his question--the same question he's been asking for the past two months. Erik snickers at Aldon's answer--he was about to say something similar.

Then Alanar starts talking about gold, and Erik mentally groans. Not at the other boy's rambling lecture on gold and alloys and jewelry, but at his comment on the color of Alyona's hair.

Oh, right. Yeah, I'm sure she's gonna take that well, he sighs inwardly.

He settles into his seat, drawing his knees up to his chest and closing his eyes. It's been a long... how long has it been, anyway? I lost track after the first couple of weeks... He briefly considers asking Hokuto, then decides against it--it doesn't really matter. This is a lot better than being stuck in a jail cell... but all the same, Erik hopes that Hokuto's assurances of the journey being almost over are truth.


Male Human (Chelaxian) Commoner 1

Tak tak tak.

Stands on the Spiral idly taps at the two long talons tied to his left hand. They sit beside the three working fingers as prosthetics, bound to the fur wrap hiding those which were long ago fused to his palm in a childhood game. They match, in width, scars that travel from crown on down back of him, under the collar of his travel-garb.

Tak tak tak.

He scans the contents of the wagon with nearly two brown eyes, the right seeming off balance with the placement of a fly-sized speck of dead white. The wagon contained the strangest assortment of tshamek children he has yet to encounter, and their alien and varied ways do them no favors. He snickers.

"Tshamek kit tshamektet," he mutters. Who is he to call them outsiders? The whole world is alien now, and he is but one alien in it. And he should be paying attention.

These harrow cards seem to have none of the finesse, the requisite intuition, that the bones do. He had seen the bones read daily in his youth, worked with Reads Marrow to pry their secrets loose and divine fate as the Mother of Souls would have it done. The harrow cards seem like a novice’s tool, having their meanings painted on them, as though their dealer couldn’t make sense of prophecy without tidy descriptions.

Yet it is prophecy, and it is sacred. He tunes out the shuffling of the children and absorbs Hokutoishihara’s words with the gravity befitting them. Dark portents, it seems, but portents in these times have been colored black for as long as he can remember, since he was a child, since he was a babe. Since the time before his life. They would be blacker still, no doubt, after his passing. He tries to glean similar meanings from the bones bound at his wrists and throat, but without casting they are nearly worthless at the art.

Tak tak tak.

The children chatter at each other as children do. Frivolous, childhood musings, as it should be. Stands on the Spiral holds his tongue, as he has been doing for most of this long journey south. He stays guarded, once again passing his eyes over the objects in the carriage which he could use to defend himself if their games turn on him. He closes his eyes and meditates on the sounds around him, waiting for the sound of the carriageman’s call, for the creak of the breaks, for the stop that will get him out of this frozen, wind-blasted wasteland.

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Of the children, the one named Ilesea is the smallest and most fragile looking. Barely two feet tall, she is the size of a toddler and yet has the physical frame of a girl in her early teens. Sprite-like and diminutive, this young girl's halfling heritage is betrayed by her slightly pointed ears and subtly larger hands and feet. Swathed in silk and linen robes the color of silver and rubies, she looks overdressed compared to the likes of Erik and the wordless Shoanti boy.

"必須是什麼??" Ilesea speaks Tian in a tiny voice, as if to not offend those near her by speaking. Her hands wring together, shoulders hunch forward and brows raise in worry as she regards the spread of cards Hokuto has laid out before them all. Hokuto's reaction is a muted smile and a rise of one shoulder in a half-hearted shrug.

"That's up to you," is perhaps more responsibility than Ilesea was hoping for, but that reinforcement of the future being impermanent is reassuring, even if only just. "You should be more worried that Alanar paid you a compliment and you didn't respond," Hokuto teasingly chides the halfling.

Ilesea's eyes grow saucer-wide at the realization, and she turns with an apologetic expression dawning on her face towards Alanar. "I-- I apologize, Sir." Her Taldan is spoken well, like a native speaker, though the formalities seem stilted among peers. "I-- my hair is-- I--" stammering to find the right way to appreciate the unusual comment Alanar had made, Ilesea's flustering elicits playful laughter from Hokuto, and the fortune-teller covers her mouth with one sleeve draped hand to try and stifle the giggling.

___________

Tian:
Must it be?


Alanar the Firehearted wrote:

He leans forward, really looking at the girl's golden locks, staring at them for a moment before continuing. "Your hair would be 14 carat just by the coloration. The cheapest it could be made and still be called gold. Though it's really fourteen parts gold to ten parts of what else alloys it, in this case silver and copper, and a small amount of...of..." He snaps his fingers several times before remembering and pointing at her. "Zincum! Or was it seng...no, zincum, from calamite. That's what my master told me."

There's a short bit of silence from him before he speaks again. "I could make you a necklace. Except I have no tools. It is harder to make jewelry with no tools. Or materials. You wouldn't have any gold on you, would you? Not your hair, though, that's not what I mean..."

Alanar trails off, looking back at Hokuto. "When we get there, will there be tools? Maybe I can...

"Vhat are you babbling about?" Alyona raises one eyebrow at the ifrit boy. Her Irriseni accent is subtle, yet still discernible. Her tone is icy and condescending. "I know wery vell vhat my hair looks like." She raises her chin, sneering haughtily at the Katepeshi orphan. The sheer nerve of that peasant! He can't even sit in his damned chair, hanging out the window like a dog. He dares address me like he is my equal. Commenting unsolicited on my appearance no less!

Alyona has been mostly silent with the other children during the more than two month journey. She is very obsequious towards Hokuto, but she has mostly treated the others like servants, or lower class strangers she'd rather avoid. This has been especially true for the boys, even more so if they don't fawn over her. The other girls she has observed carefully, without engaging them on any level beyond small talk. Most of her time in the carriage has been spent sitting in a perfect repose, with a look of mildly annoyed boredom on her face. Such is her beauty that even the sight of her sitting there, listlessly, would be worthy of a master painter's portrait. It is the beauty of winter, of an ice sculpture, the frozen waterfall. There is no warmth, but the immutable smoothness of her shape draws the eye, despite the inherent danger of the cold.


Female Human Commoner 1

’S okay. Not like I would've guessed it either.” A laugh accentuates the light pat on the back Ilesea receives, a much taller girl leaning forward next to her. Anlessa had been getting more and more restless in the last few days – already excitable and eager, the slow progression of the caravan’s travels was only building that up more and more. She flashes a playful, teasing smile towards Alanar, and shrugs.

Hands gripping the edge of her seat, the young black haired human gives another look over the rest of her travelling companions. Quirking an eyebrow at Alyona, the girl shakes her hair and sighs. “An’ I don’t know ‘wery vell’ what you said,” she responds, giggling. “Wasin’ t’ understandin’ through all that, it’s not easy!” It’s not the first time since her arrival she’s made fun of the Irriseni girl’s accent. Lighthearted jabbing, for the most part, considering her way of talking wasn't always easy to understand either.

Come on, nicen up,” she continues more seriously. Her interest in the card reading Hokuto had done had already faded, swept up now in the conversation that littered the caravan car. Sliding a bit more comfortably into her seat, she smiles again. “Bestin’ not t’ kill each other before we even get there, eh?” Hands folded into her lap, a glance given up towards Hokuto. She wants to ask about the card reading again, but she can’t quite find the words, a look of deliberation crossing her face, brow stitched tight as she thinks. The way she reminds her of Lianrix should make it easier to talk to the older woman, but that doesn't quite seem to be the case, for whatever reason.

Ah, whatever! Anlessa lets out a long sigh. “Any chance of stretchin’ an’ movin’ outside a’ the wagon? Legs’re gettin’ stiff...” she inquires, restless as she stares up at the ceiling. She’s been enjoying the trip, but she’s never liked being cooped up in caravans for too long. At least this one was a rather spacious place to be.

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At Anlessa's question, Hokuto raises one red-accented brow and then purses her lips in thought. "I suppose," she reluctantly agrees. "We will need to stop shortly while I... get us access to the school grounds." Folding her hands in her lap, Hokuto glances towards one curtained window.

"When we make that stop, you can get out and stretch. Just..." Hokuto's brows furrow and she looks down to the cards briefly. "Don't wander. Crowley," she motions in the direction of the carriage driver, "and I will both need to handle the matter of our entrance to the college grounds, so it will be up to you to act responsibly."

Tilting her head to the side, Hokuto exhales a soft sigh and hides her concern behind a smile. "But, we're not ther eyet,' is both a belated and cheeky answer to Alanar's earlier question.


Male Human Commoner 1

Erik opens one eye and peers wryly at Anlessa. "Is that the pot I hear, callin' the kettle black?" he asks teasingly, his lips lifting into a jaunty grin as he says it. "Not killin' each other is somethin' I can get behind, though; let's at least wait 'til we see about this school we signed up for." His grin widens, his eyes gleaming with merriment for a moment.

Then his gaze darts over to Hokuto. "Kinda curious how you two are gonna 'get us access', though. Is there a secret handshake you have to know to get in?" He's grinning again, but his eyes are keen and thoughtful.


Male Human (Chelaxian) Commoner 1

I forgot to add the translation of Stands on the Spiral's comment to himself, which anyone may have overheard. It was in Shoanti, if anyone speaks that:

Shoanti:
"(I am a) stranger in a strange land,"


Male Ifrit Commoner/1

"Why are you sorry? You did nothing," Alanar tells her, looking over her attire again. He appreciated the coloring, the red a shade more pure than his dusty vest. Considering her size, the stitching seemed finely done. He was always looking at things shiny and valuable, the appreciation for fine goods embedded by his upbringing.

"White gold, silver, and rubies...you would make a fine brooch. Or perhaps a necklace. Not a ring, it wouldn't look good," He states again in his strange fashion, muttering again in Kelish before Hokuto's answers stirs him out of his thoughts.

"Oh. Maybe tomorrow then...may I set a fire when we stop? Or are we out of wood to burn?" The ifrit had a bad habit of throwing more fuel onto the campfires than was strictly necessary. He'd gotten better about it, but was still wasteful. He caught Anlessa's smile, grinning back at her and showing off the pearly white teeth in his mouth.

He's aware that he rubs certain parties the wrong way - trying to fix that always ended up just making it worse, it seemed. No one seemed to share his love of jewelry or fire, and he flitted from other interests as swiftly as wind changed directions in a storm. So he's glad for the few who can deal with his...eccentricities. Even if he is afraid to tell them certain things.


Male Fey-touched (Idyllkin) half-elf Commoner 1

When Grottleburr and the nuglubs had first dumped Taeo out of their sack and into the pallid world last night, he was aghast. He recognized this world from the stories the phookas and gremlins would tease him with: this was the place his parents came from, where dreary humans did dreary things and then died. "I KNOW THIS IS A PRANK, GROTTLEBURR!", he hollered. "I'm not fooled!"...though as the night wore on nothing seemed funny at all about this. And Grottleburr had never been much of a joker...

Hokuto woke Taeo this morning as he lay curled up sleeping, nestled into the desert sand to stave off the chilly air as best he could. When she said she was here to take Taeo to a school, he went along. This human’s presence was no coincidence...but was it part of Grottleburr’s plan? Or did she have a plan of her own? He was riveted with curiosity but if there was anything he’d learned growing up in the First World it was never to expect a straight answer from a straight question, so rather than ask anything yet he chose to study her for now.

When Taeo was brought onto the wagon this morning, he was a sight to see: skin and hair the color of honey and moss green pupils in his big eyes. He’s dressed in loose, blousy sky-blue clothes with gold stitching...and a dozen miniature, crocheted octopi and squid sewn on as though clinging to his back, belly, arms, and legs. He has an almost feral look of fear about him at first as he cocks his head and stares at the other kids in the wagon. He seems as though he’s about to say something once, and then again, but nothing comes out. On full overload, he curls up on the floorboards and tries to reassure himself. OK Taeo, these are just humans. Nothing to be scared of. Not scary. Not bogeymen. Not Lurkers in Light. Not grimstalkers. Just humans...

The thing that draws him out is Hokuto’s reading. Clues! Mystery! Yes, this is how I’m going to find out what's really going on here. He gets up off the floor without brushing himself off, and squeezes himself in between Alyona and Deriku, leaning unselfconsciously into them to get a closer look at the cards. He feels himself utterly swept up, out of the frightening mundanity of the wagon ride and these humans who all looked so much like one another, and into something that he can relate to: a dreamlike narrative of dangers and adventure. He feels himself dancing on a cliff, as the trumpet sounds. He falls down the cliffside as the owl surprises him from behind, landing in the briars. He finds himself running across a great plain under a big sky, searching for the queen, only to find her throne abandoned. And of course he hears the cackling laughter of the phooka, fauns, and gremlins. When the reading is over, his disposition has suddenly shifted a bit. While he can’t say he understands what it means, the dark dreamlike mystery makes him feel more at home than he has since the nuglubs stuffed him in their sack and dumped him here.


Alyona looks to Taeo next to her, the alien boy had been very quiet since he joined them the previous day. He had been jostling her about during the reading, his crocheted sea creatures squishing against her arms and shoulders. She reaches out and grabs one of the octopi now, squeezing it lightly, then giggling. "Vhat are you, strange boy? I hawe newer seen your like before."


Male Fey-touched (Idyllkin) half-elf Commoner 1

Taeo turns to face the pretty girl to his left. Happy to see her playfully tugging one of his octopi, he grins a broad mischievous grin and announces, ”I am a Taeo Oneshape, King Of The Gremlins!” Taeo holds his arms out high to his sides, shaking them dramatically, and an ugly, puffy, blue head improbably supported atop a tiny body drops onto Alyona's lap and then rolls clumsily onto the floor of the wagon.

Taeo turns to the mite, holds out his tankard of lukewarm water and says, ”Θερμαινόμενη πικάντικο κρασί! Και χορεύει για τον άνθρωπο!” pointing at Alyona. The mite rolls it’s puffy blue eyes but complies: waving it’s hand over the tankard and then doing a quick dance and bow to Alyona. Six seconds later it disappears in a puff of boggish smoke. Taeo takes a slug from the tankard and then offers it to Alyona, who sees that the water has been changed to hot spiced wine (or at least given it’s flavor, color, and temperature...the texture is still more like water).

"And who are you?" he grins, clearly pleased with himself. His accent (now that he's not intentionally speaking in a dramatic voice) has a subtle sing-song quality that's hard to place, though one who's encountered the fey somewhere might find it somewhat reminiscent.

_______________

Summon Nature’s Ally II (SLA)
number of mites: 1d3 ⇒ 1

Aklo:
Hot spiced wine! And dance for the human!


Alyona looks alarmed as a mite tumbles into her lap, reeling back in momentary terror. Once she sees the creature is under control she sits back down and watches it quizzically as it performs its magic and jig. She takes the offered tankard with a smile. "I am Alyona Elvanna, a Jadwiga princess of Irrisen." Alyona raises the tankard to her lips and sips the liquid, grinning further when she tastes the spiced wine. Reminds me of home. Almost like what father used to make for me on those cold winter mornings.

"You told me who you are, but vhat are you?"


Male Human (Chelaxian) Commoner 1

Stands on the Spiral regards Taeo’s summoning with a moment of surprise followed by exasperation. Children. He turns in his seat, slightly away from the newest stranger, to wave a hand over the harrow cards still laid out before him.

”Hokutoishihara,” he says, ”What purpose pictures? Why not... fkef’h yik?” He sets his bad hand under his right arm, using the one unburned to tap the various bones strung around his neck as an example of what knuckle bones are.

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Hokuto is reminded of something she'd heard from someone else's childhood, the strained groan of parents dealing with a flock of children. That very same groan escapes Hokuto as she lifts one hand to rub the heel of her palm against her temple. Slouching forward, she drapes her arms across her knees and offers a look down at the miniscule [imite[/i] that was just conjured into her wagon. One brow raises, and thankfully the creature's time is limited to a mere few seconds before it departs in a whuff of rainbow-colored lights. The sigh of relief from Hokuto comes with a faint crook of appreciation at the corner of her mouth -- amusement -- but only just.

"No more conjurations," Hokuto flatly states before addressing the myriad other questions lobbed at her by a carriage full of children. "Not until you're asked to by an instructor." One finger raised in chastising brandishing, Hokuto looks ill-suited to the part of a disciplinarian, vainly trying to hide her smirk.

"No fires," comes next, and that finger motions towards Alanar. "The lantern flames are heatless blackfire, a type of flame and light invisible to creatures relying on darkvision to see. The sun may well set before we reach Akrabahadran, and there are things that prowl these wastes that could eat out wagon whole if they were attracted to the firelight."

Flicking an errant lock of hair away from her brow, Hokuto leans against the padded back of her bench, glancing down to the Harrow cards, and then Deriku. "Pictures can tell a story," she explains, "the name and placement of the cards alone is illustrative, even the suit of the card holds an inferred meaning," and at that she motions to the shield, star, book, and other emblems on the corners and sides of the cards. "But the pictures too hold an interpretation. The severed head and grapes of The Betrayal can change its meaning depending on the narrative of the other cards around it. Some symbols carry from card to card... the knife of The Betrayal is also seen in a card that is not on this table, the Inquisitor. It can imply relation, or at the very least correlation."

Arching one brow, Hokuto looks the Shoanti boy up and down, then offers a mild smile. "Nothing is ever exactly as it appears on the surface."

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All the while, Ilesea sits in humbled and awkward silence. Pale eyes stare up at Alanar off and on, but fail to ever follow through with conversation on his assessment of her colors and attire. It's the appearance and disappearance of the mite that interests her most, nose wrinkled and brows furrowed. Hokuto notices the fascination she displays, then looks across the other students for a moment. Wistfulness replaces her restrained amusement, an expression of distant longing that she becomes momentarily trapped in the way moths can be to a candle's flame. Luckily for Hokuto, her memories are not as self-destructive. Not all of them.


Male Fey-touched (Idyllkin) half-elf Commoner 1

Princess? Did she just say “princess” cuz I said “king”? It kind of sounded like she’s a real one.

Taeo keeps an eye on Hokuto for her reaction when he “introduces” himself to Alyona and catches the smirk, but can’t tell what’s behind it. Riddle, prank, or quest, whatever brought me here, she’s got some clues. How do I find them? When she shakes her finger at Taeo he nods to show he understands.

Facing Alyona but trying to keep Hokuto in view, he says ”What am I? I think I’m partly one of you -- human and elf -- at least that’s what I’m told my parents were. That's what makes me a oneshape, like you.” His voice at first is slow and seems uncertain, almost like he’s trying to remember a childhood tale, but then gains assurity again as he says, ”But happily when I refused to eat my vegetables I was carried away by nuglubs and so I grew up in Thousandbreaths, ruled by the Queen of Forgotten Time, Nyrissa, the Count’s Last Mistress. That makes me fey too. Mostly.”

Again he glances at Hokuto (as casually as he can manage) to see how she reacts and in particular if she reacts to the mention of Nyrissa. Does she serve Nyrissa too? Is that why Grottleburr brought me to her?

Then turning back th Alyona, ”Your turn. What is Irissen? And what’s a Jadwiga? Is it like a Jinkin or a Pugwampi?”


Male Human (Chelaxian) Commoner 1

Stands on the Spiral’s brow furrows at Hokutoishihara’s description. ”No,” he explains. ”When Stands on the Spiral throws the bones, meaning comes from here,” he draws the outline of an eye on the center of his forehead, ”And from Pharasma, Fate Knower. What purpose pictures if already have meaning? Where is prophecy if soul of the thing made stone, solid, with lines and color?”

He smirks in distaste of his Taldane words, freshly learned on his short journey. He takes a moment to gather his thoughts before sighing, lifting his hands beseechingly to say ”Why so much... kaawilikiisaha’miitek, not just see with heart the omens Pharasma shows?”

He raises a hopeful eyebrow to Hokutoishihara, hoping to see understanding of his poorly translated thoughts.

_______________

Shoanti:
specificity


A half-elf? He's much different from the few I've seen before. Alyona looks genuinely puzzled as she further examines Taeo. "I'we newer heard of Thousandbreatts. This is strange. Is it on Golarion? Vhat is a 'oneshape'?" she asks, before answering his question. "Irrisen is a nation, far far to the north from here, across the Inner Sea and all of Awistan," Alyona smiles. It seems she is pleased to be away from home. After a second her expression sours and she glances briefly at Hokuto. She knows what I did back in Whitethrone. I will never escape that place. She looks back to Taeo before continuing, "The Jadwiga are the human descendants of Baba Yaga, Queen of all Vitches. Surely you have heard of her? Vone of her daughters is always queen. Ve, her female descendants, rule Irrisen vith her. Every hundred years Baba Yaga returns to choose a new daughter to rule. Vell...That vas until two years ago. My grandmother declared herself the immortal god queen of the vitches, and great grandma never came back. So I guess she's had 102 years on the throne. Mom's basically running things while grandma's off doing vhatever it is demigods do." Suddenly realizing that she's beginning to spill her life story, Alyona stops talking and blushes. What are you doing? You can't trust this boy, you don't even know him. She begins fidgeting with her gown, looking down at her fingers.


Male Fey-touched (Idyllkin) half-elf Commoner 1

Taeo looks genuinely surprised by the question, shaking his head. "In Golarion? Oh, no! Thousandbreaths is in the First World. You've never even heard of it? I guess we're both far from home then." He pauses, distracted by his own distance from the world he knows, then shakes himself out of it and smiles again. "Oneshape is what everyone used to call me. The phookas started it -- Siobhadhg I think it was, at first, but then all of them -- teasing me because I couldn’t even turn into one single other thing. Pretty soon it just became part of my name, and even though it started as a tease I like it because I like them and they’re right it is part of what makes me a little different even if I do also really wish I could shapechange too." Then, again with a look of realization, "Only I guess everyone out here is a oneshape."

"You're Baba Yaga's granddaughter...yes, sure I've heard of her. Once when I was following the Witchmarket I saw an antlered man with red robes and legs like a satyr. Cheklitre, my tutor, said he was one of the Witch Queen's Riders. I remember him. He bought a scabbard for his scimitar there, and I remember because I wanted a scabbard like that too but the seller said it cost the childhood desires of seven young men and I thought that price was much too steep and Cheklitre agreed but the Red Rider just paid it with a laugh. Anyway, Cheklitre told me about her, and her riders. That’s cool that she’s your great-great."

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Hokuto's smile to Deriku's comment is one that might be seen as smug by others, those that don't know her well. The children gathered here count as much, but they've come to understand at least a part of her inner self, such as it is. "Harrow originated from the bones, you know." There's a quick gesture towards the knucklebones the Shoanti boy wears, then down to the cards. "It's hard to explain the similarities without knowing how to fully interpret the cards, but maybe in time -- if you're interested -- you could learn. But there's more than just paper and ink in these cards, what's up here," Hokuto taps her brow much as Deriku did, "is in each of them."

Lifting up a folded portion of her kimono's collar, Hokuto reveals a sapphire and silver butterfly brooch she'd concealed while the caravan was in the city. "Desna," Hokuto explains, "guides my interpretations; both in the Harrow, and elsewheres." With that revealed, Hokuto looks as though she's come into a small realization that would be best served told to all the children.

"Most of you might have noticed the lack of religious symbols and temples in Rahadoum. This is a country with no religion, where it has been outlawed by the government of the Kingdom of Man. I know some of you come from religious backgrounds, have faith all your own..." Hokuto touches her butterfly brooch. "You will not find that stifled at Akrabahadran. Out headmaster -- the Exarch -- is a man of great faith, and... that we are an institution of religious origin, is one of many reasons why we are a secret."

Hoping that the notion would be comforting, Hokuto manages an anxious smile. "You will be free to explore faiths -- some of which you may never even have heard of -- within our walls. Or, continue the traditions of your forehearers."


Male Fey-touched (Idyllkin) half-elf Commoner 1

Taeo overhears the Shoanti refer to himself as “Stands on the Spiral” and turns toward him. ”Stands on the Spiral is a great name. What spiral? Who named you?”


Human Commoner 1, HP: 6/6, AC: 15/15/10, SV: 0/5/-1, INIT: +2, CMB: +0, CMD: 15, ATT: None, PERC: +3

Shen Hua sits unmoving, quietly observing the other children in the cart. After a year on road and sea, she has mastered feigning attention while quietly meditating. Bright robes fan out on the floor where she sits, every bend and fold perfectly arranged, as perfect as her hair in its bun and the white powder on her face.

The Tian girl still doesn't know what to make of the others, unable to reconcile their social standing with her own. The pale blonde is obviously a peer, but the others are much harder to judge. Despite seeming like peasants, she is aware that not all cultures show the status of their leaders by clothing and speech patterns, as does hers. Best to observe until we arrive and we truly learn who we are traveling with.

A stretch will be nice and would definitely relieve the ache in her knees from the hard boards of the cart. Where she could initially feel each knot in the wood, they had long since gone numb. She envied the other children in many ways, both those of high and low birth, not the least for their freedom. What must it be like to say what you wanted, to run and gawk at new sights and sounds, or to even speak your mind directly to an adult, and a teacher at that?

Irrelevant, that's what it was. Irrelevant. She could wonder what it would be like all she liked but it would not change who she was, who her parents were, or where she came from.

Once again the young Tian girl withdrew into her shell, all thoughts of the just bearable heat, the jarring of the cart and her numb knees forgotten as she dreamed...of dragons.


Male Human Commoner 1

The mite's appearance causes a small jump and a look of surprise from Aldon. He had known the new kid was weird, but summoning little blue men was a bit beyond that. His appearance only exacerbated this, but having been travelling with Alanar for many months, it didn't affect him overmuch. At least he seemed distracted enough with Alyona and their discussion. Aldon didn't much fancy having to meet any other strange creatures the kid might pull from somewhere. A phooka, whatever that might be, sounded both amusing and mildly intimidating.

Aldon looks over to and grins lazily at Alanar as Hokuto mentions the wagon-swallowing horrors that lay in wait for foolish trespassers such as themselves. "Gah, and the fire gets vetoed! It's too bad, at least it might've warmed us up a bit. The wind out there is blowing something fierce. I guess getting eaten before we ever arrive would be a plain tragedy, though."

He glances interestedly at Hokuto's brooch, and then down at his feet. While his own religious ties were rather shaky, he did not wish to give them up. They lived in dark times, and the gods were powerful allies and benevolent patrons. To have to hide any prayers he might wish to offer would be something he would find disturbing. As for these unheard-of faiths, well, he just hoped they weren't introduced too strongly. He didn't much aspire to being a cult member.


Female Human Commoner 1

"She's making 'erself sound so important, an' yet here she is with us." Anlessa grins at Alyona, before looking over at Taeo with curiosity. "A fey? Lianrix used to tell me about those types. Crafty ones, word says. Though I guess tricks are out the question," she notes, glancing over at Hokuto, "bein' for the best of us all, I'm sure." Hands on knees, she leans forward like she's going to listen to the banter between Alyona and Taeo, but quickly becomes disinterested as she flops backwards in her seat with a thump.

"Geez. Outta m' class, I've ended up. I can only imagine how you lot did end up here," she says, a finger tapping against her chin as she thinks. She hadn't really heard much, only having been among the others a shorter time than most, and her attention often fleeting. She stares up at the ceiling again, relishing the thought of stretching her legs rather soon.


Male Human Commoner 1

Erik's attention is quite thoroughly distracted from his (half-rhetorical) question as the most recent member of their little band comes out of his shell...and even moreso by the appearance--and disappearance--of the blue... thing.

He spends the next few moments trying to figure out if that actually happened, before deciding that yes, it probably had; the others' reactions affirm that.

He shrugs, a nearly unconscious gesture of helpless acceptance. Why not? Again he sits and listens as the others speak.

Alyona and Taeo speak of their origins, and isn't that interesting. Erik scowls a bit... and in the back of his mind, he hears a low voice speak up. She's descended from a 'God Queen of Witches', and if you believe what he's saying--and at this point, why not--he's not even from this world. Pretty impressive. How about you, Erik? Have any good stories about the old days? that voice chuckles. Shut up, you, Erik shoots back; the voice chuckles again, but mercifully falls silent.

Hokuto, meanwhile, is talking about the College--Akrabahadran, a name which Erik still stumbles over. Huh. Wonder why they set up in a country where religion's outlawed? he muses... but after a moment, he gives another mental shrug. If Hokuto has the right of it--and she's given him no reason so far to suspect she doesn't, quite the opposite, in fact--they'll be there soon enough, and he can find out more about the place then. 'Sides, it can't be worse than Westcrown, he thinks to himself.

Again his attention shifts back to the others, watching and listening with interest. He grins at Anlessa's comment. "Ha, I was thinkin' the same thing. 'Course... it doesn't really matter that much where we've been. We're all headin' to the same place," he says, his grin widening.


Male Human (Chelaxian) Commoner 1

“My cousins knew the swallowtail, Hokutoishihara, she is revered.”

Stands on the Spiral nods solemnly, if reservedly, at the harrow cards. To Hokutoishihara, he says “Will learn, please. Stands on the Spiral’s fkef’h, bones, came from the sacred dead, lost in the snow, will need new omens.”

Turning to the child feyling beside him, he regards Taeo studiously for a long moment. “To the Spiral we all go when Death buys us. It is Pharasma’s to guard, Her place. Stands on the Spiral was given by Reads Marrow, long trials, and ritual,” he covers his blemished eye with the talon-fingers of his left hand, “Near death again, again, see life again, again. Still breathe.”

He nods, then shakes his head. “Name means more. Taldane, Shoanti, still new. Netaawigaabawbiimiskobii`igan, this is Stands on the Spiral, some.” He raises his hands to the side as though to say, That is who I am.

_______________

Shoanti:
Knows How to Stand on the Spiral


Male Ifrit Commoner/1

Alanar seems disappointed when he learns more about the flames burning in the lantern. "Fire without heat is like dancing without music..." He ruminates, glancing back down at Ilesea, noting that the halfling girl was quite interested in Taeo's trick.

"Oh, yes, you are the new one. Speaking as well. You need introductions?" The Katapesh native asked, gesturing to the group. "I was third - or fourth, if you count Hokuto as one. But let us say third. Before me, there was Shen," He held a hand out to her, "And Ilesea. They are from Tien. It is very far away from here."

"Then there was...who was it?" He scratches his head through the curly black hair, the scent of burnt incense getting stronger from it. "Lastwall...yes, Aldon! From there...the really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really cold place. 14 carat yellow gold with sapphires is from there," He directs Taeo's attention back to Alyona.

"We went back south then, through Varisia! Where we picked up him, يقف على دوامة," He speaks of the Shoanti's name in Kelish, "And in Korvosa, Anlessa joined us. Then in Cheliax, we picked up Erik...and now you're here, so welcome! بوركت!" The ifrit finishes the very short and dirty introductions, before his attention wanders yet again, this time on Hokuto's butterfly brooch.

"Ten half carat sapphires, sterling silver, intricate craftsmanship...my sister, she would offer you only 120 gold pieces to start, but you could haggle her up to 200, and she would still be able to turn it for a profit." He stated, pausing again as those gears in his mind shifted, leaning back and looking at Ilesea again. "Shouldn't you have jewels? You, and you," He points to Shen Hua, "And you," at Alyona. "...you too," He states to Anlessa. "My sister says every woman needs jewelry. I will make you some - but first I need tools. And materials."


Female Human Commoner 1

Unable to hold back a snort and a laugh, Anlessa shakes her heat at Alanar. "Jewelry? Wishin' could afford something, but nothin' doin'. Not sure why I'd have any even beyond that." She offers a small shrug again, looking down at the floor of the cart. "It gets in the way. It's big an' gaudy and weighs too much." She pauses a beat, crossing her arms as she sits back up. "Stole away most a' the time anyway. Too often, even. Not really the best a' ideas t' me."

"Gotten the name right, at least," she continues, waving off the previous subject with one hand as she leans over to Taeo, offering a hand. "Pleased t' be meeting you, all proper like an' all," she says. "Better settle in on gettin' to know everyone while y' can."

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Hokuto demures when the topic of her brooch comes up, gently laying a hand on it before leaning to the side and lounging across the bench like a lazy cat about to lie down for a nap. Instead, she's content to rest her cheek on her palm and watch the soon-to-be students get to know one another. Among them, Ilesea seems much like Shenhua; ill-suited to the raucous conversational nature of their western counterparts.

"說出來." Hokuto offers to Ilesea, eliciting a look from the tiny halfling. "他們比他們似乎更為重要." That urging is followed by a gentle nod in the direction of the other children. Ilesea purses her lips in thought, wrings her hands together and leans forward with her pale eyes directed over at Alanon.

"I cannot afford such things," is the halfling's answer to Alanon's inquiry of jewelry. Though as she says that, her hand comes up to a few green glass beads woven into the right side of her hair. "These are just as beautful, though, because-- " she considers how familiarly she is speaing with the Ifrif, and bites down on her bottom lip in pensive manner.

Clearing her throat, Ilesea looks down at her lap and smiles faintly. "It is kind of you to say that I am deserving of such finery."

Having been watching the exchange, Hokuto huffs out a tiny sigh that blows an errant lock of hair from her face; Well, it's a start, the gesture all but says aloud.

___________

Tien:

"Speak up." "They matter more than you know."

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As the children talk amongst each other and hokuto watches them socialize, the gravity of the trip itself and its significance may be lost on the youths. The world is not the thing it once was, not the open road that all of Desna's children could freely traverse. The borders were more stark now, yet the divisions between sanctuary and slaughterhouse not as clear. Tian-Xia was a nightmare to traverse safely, always wondering if the oni of the Five Storms or inquisitors of the Jade Emperor would find the caravan. Never once did Hokuto display fear in her mismatched eyes; betray the trust of the wards she was taking.

The ship travel from Tian-Xia to Thuvia was through waters fraught with piracy and supernatural storms. The blockade around Absalom alone difficult to find a way through, and the harrowing sea of abandoned ships of vagrants and refugees littering the coasts of Kortos sobering to those who knew it as it once was. Thuvia was a respite, but even then cities were packed to overflowing with Kelish and Osiriani refugees. Disease and discord was rampant, and few could recall a time when there was a morning frost instead of dew.

Traveling to Taldor was equally as Harrowing an experience, needing to pass through two Chelish naval blockades just to get near Oppara, and even then docking directly at the capitol was impossible, and the vessel was forced to go up the coast to find safe harbor. From there, cutting up the interior of Avistan was lonely, across mostly untraveled roads under no guard or watch, merely one Tian fortune-teller and her venerable wagon driver.

Arriving in Lastwall was being on the front lines of a war. Armies of the Whispering Tyrant were everywhere, wraiths haunted the forests and packs of ravenous ghouls wandered the plains in equal measure to brigades of knights ready to engage them. Yet somehow the lone wagon slipped past these threats and made its way into fortress-cities manned by crusaders and kings to retrieve a single boy.

From there Irrisen was unlike anything else, and the lone road now buried in snow was under heavy watch from warg-mounted snow goblin riders, to packs of winter wolves that peered out with their icy eyes from the frozen treelines. Even the birds seemed to watch the wagon with suspicion. But nothing prepared those who had been along for the journey for the spectacle of Whitethrone, a sprawling city locked in perpetual winter with the looming spires of a great palace, majestic clock tower overlooking a frozen lake, and a forest of winter majesty growing up from the center of the city faster than the city guard could try to chop it down.

The children had been brought to a derelict church in Whitethrone for their stay, kept in the care of "Briars of the Everbloom" as they called themselves. Not once were they allowed the leave the church, not once were they permitted to even look out a window. For the Briars warned the children that the mirror men watched everything, and would steal their very souls were they to meet their own gaze in their reflective faces.

Perhaps it was superstition, perhaps it was a joke from Hokuto, they'll never truly know. But the blue-eyed girl that Hokuto pick up that day knows the truth of Irrisen's streets, of the rule of fear there, and the tyranny of the Jadwiga and their mirror men.

To think that these children in that wagon were able to come and go from Irrisen is mind-boggling. But that they would then cross west through the Lands of the Linnorm Kings across hundreds of miles of trackless tundra to fine a dying child amidst a field of ruined bodies and dead giants. That even after this discovery, even after seeing the disaster wrought by what laid to the south, Hokuto would have them drive straight into the heart of what was once Varisia, but had become the resurgent empire of Xin-Shalast was all but unthinkable to an adult. The giant-led armies of Karzoug the Claimer were everywhere, his servants and slaves ruled the towns and villages they passed. Yet, they entered in one side and emerged through the other, unscathed.

In the "free" city of Korvosa they would skirt the attention of Queen Ileosa Arabasti and dodge the dangers of her Gray Maidens that patroled the city streets searching for Shalasti sympathizers. An orphaned girl found in those filthy streets would be their sole reason for going, and all too leisurely they would depart by ship to war-torn Cheliax and the besieged city of Westcrown. While the children were forced to stay aboard the ship, they could hear the sounds of constant battle in Westcrown, of insurgencies fighting for the Council of Thieves, of Hellknights, of Thrune-loyal soldiers. Only the shining statue of Aroden stood unblemished over the war-torn ruins.

Only Hokuto and a single boy emerged from them.

An adult would listen to that story of how these children were gathered and scoff in disbelief. But it is the boundless wonder of youth that makes this story possible, the limitless imagination and innocence in which the world is seen. To them, it is not predestined to be impossible -- they did it.

Reality, is all a matter of perception, they say.


Male Ifrit Commoner/1

"My sister, she would say that jewelry need not be expensive but exquisite," The ifrit comments, glancing at the halfling's beads woven into her hair, appraising them. "I have an eye for this. I know what I will make you all. You, I will fashion a bracelet," He promises Ilesea, before looking over at Shen Hua, grinning in his wildfire fashion. "For Shen, a hairpin comb. Anlessa, a pair of earrings - you will not lose them if they are in your ears! Alyona, I will make a necklace - 14 carat yellow gold, like her."

He pauses, before glancing over at all of the boys in the wagon. "Everyone else gets rings. Rings are jewelry that transcends gender. They will commemorate our meeting, yes?" He seems quite excited about the prospect of being able to perform his craft, rubbing one of the bits of brass woven into his belt. "But first, I will need tools. And materials. No need for a heat source, as I am one."

Indeed, the temperature around the Katapeshi was usually ten degrees warmer than the rest of the environment. In an enclosed space like the wagon it was a minor boon of his elemental nature. In the desert as a refugee, it had probably kept the last of his family alive before being brought here.

"...I should pray to Sarenae in the morning," He comments with a wistful smile. "It has been a while."


Male Fey-touched (Idyllkin) half-elf Commoner 1

Responding to multiple threads at once. In game, these are presumably not happening in precisely this order/spacing, and there's room for one interaction to go off in it's own direction. Oh, and I’m having a *lot* of fun with this game so far!

Deriku Stands on the Spiral wrote:

Turning to the child feyling beside him, he regards Taeo studiously for a long moment. “To the Spiral we all go when Death buys us. It is Pharasma’s to guard, Her place. Stands on the Spiral was given by Reads Marrow, long trials, and ritual,” he covers his blemished eye with the talon-fingers of his left hand, “Near death again, again, see life again, again. Still breathe.”

He nods, then shakes his head. “Name means more. Taldane, Shoanti, still new. Netaawigaabawbiimiskobii`igan, this is Stands on the Spiral, some.” He raises his hands to the side as though to say, That is who I am.

"Ooooo!" Taeo shudders as the Shoanti speaks. "He Who Has Death In His Very Name. Bold! If I were to have a name other than the ones I’ve been given so far, I might prefer Naps In Sunny Clover...but of course we don’t usually get to choose, do we? Have you seen people die? Real deaths? I’ve seen lots of fey deaths, but they’re really just for fun and games. They always come back. Being able to die is another thing the gremlins and phooka always tease me about. It seems so dramatic. Final.

Alanar the Firehearted wrote:
"Oh, yes, you are the new one. Speaking as well. You need introductions?" The Katapesh native asked, gesturing to the group.

Taeo follows Alanar’s gaze trying to keep track of all the humans -- and the littlest, is she a halfling? If Grottleburr doesn’t come back for me soon (and I’m starting to think that’s unlikely) I’d best get much better at telling the difference between humans. Alanar is easy enough to distinguish though: it looks like the tips of his hair just got dipped in hot coals. Without thinking, he reaches out to touch it quickly, checking to see if it’s hot. ”And how about you? Is your name Speaks With Carrots? Or Help I'm On Fire?”

Anlessa Kowan wrote:
"Gotten the name right, at least," she continues, waving off the previous subject with one hand as she leans over to Taeo, offering a hand. "Pleased t' be meeting you, all proper like an' all," she says. "Better settle in on gettin' to know everyone while y' can."

Taeo, sticks a forefinger and thumb into a squid on his belly, turning it into a fingerpuppet. In a squeeky voice (speaking from the corner of his mouth, trying and failing to throw his voice) Taeo says, ”Oh, yaas. Proper-like an’ all. I’m the proper one in the family, I’m ahfraid. Squidopher Squalishous the Thiiiihrd. Chahrmed to meet you, chaaarhmd.” The squid does it’s best to extend a crocheted tentacle to shake, and then gestures up at Taeo’s head. ”This here is my trusty steed, Taeo. Most impropah one, ‘im.” at which point Taeo can’t maintain it anymore and starts to giggle at his own joke.


Human Commoner 1, HP: 6/6, AC: 15/15/10, SV: 0/5/-1, INIT: +2, CMB: +0, CMD: 15, ATT: None, PERC: +3

Shen Hua stirs from her daydream at the mention of her name.

"A comb would be much appreciated, friend Alanar. I lost mine in the place called Lastwall, not realizing it had come loose until after we were out of the city. By then, of course, it was too late to go back."

Speaking to Hakuto, she says quietly, 考慮已向麻煩你,我知道,他們是重要的。不過,這是很難的,結識新朋友,當一個人不知道他們的立場。我會盡我所能。

Tian:
"Considering the trouble you have undertaken, I know that they are important. Still, it is hard, meeting new people, when one does not know where they stand. I will do my best."

Deciding it's easiest to reach out to one of her countrymen as a start, Shen Hua decides to sit beside Ilesea after they stop to stretch their legs, afraid that she would not be able to rise in this small space with numb legs.


Male Human Commoner 1

Erik watches the going-ons around him keenly, snickering quietly at Taeo's antics with the crocheted squid, but it's Alanar's words that really catch his attention. Erik peers at the bronze-skinned youth for a moment, as if he's not quite sure if he's being made fun of or not.

Alanar has been talking quite a lot about metals, yes, and has implied skills with making jewelry... but somehow Erik still finds the notion somewhat startling. "Eh? You're talkin' about makin' a ring... for me?" he says, sounding dubious. "You serious?"


Anelessa Kowan wrote:

"She's making 'erself sound so important, an' yet here she is with us." Anlessa grins at Alyona, before looking over at Taeo with curiosity. "A fey? Lianrix used to tell me about those types. Crafty ones, word says. Though I guess tricks are out the question," she notes, glancing over at Hokuto, "bein' for the best of us all, I'm sure." Hands on knees, she leans forward like she's going to listen to the banter between Alyona and Taeo, but quickly becomes disinterested as she flops backwards in her seat with a thump.

"Geez. Outta m' class, I've ended up. I can only imagine how you lot did end up here," she says, a finger tapping against her chin as she thinks. She hadn't really heard much, only having been among the others a shorter time than most, and her attention often fleeting. She stares up at the ceiling again, relishing the thought of stretching her legs rather soon.

Alyona glares daggers at Anelessa as she implies that they are somehow equals because they happen to be in the same geographical location. "I am important," she hisses quietly, and you are but a motherless street b$*!#. You will pay for that insult. When you least expect it. She smooths her expression again as the conversation moves on rapidly around her.

Alanar wrote:
"Shouldn't you have jewels? You, and you," He points to Shen Hua, "And you," at Alyona. "...you too," He states to Anlessa. "My sister says every woman needs jewelry. I will make you some - but first I need tools. And materials."

"I left home rather quickly, so I left my jewelry there. Ve vould hawe needed another vagon to carry it anyvay." Alyona sighs, remembering the finery of the palace. Not everything was bad in Whitethrone. In fact, she misses everything but the people. She'd never been away from home for so long as this trip before. It is bitter sweet, to be sure. Refocusing her gaze on Alanar she says, "If you insist on being a rube, and continuing to comment unsolicited on your better's appearance, you may as vell get it correct. An alloy of half silwer and half pale yellow gold matches my hair almost perfectly. I had such a tiara back in Vhitethrone. If you vish to craft me another, I will accept it as apology for your rudeness."

Taeo wrote:
Taeo, sticks a forefinger and thumb into a squid on his belly, turning it into a fingerpuppet. In a squeeky voice (speaking from the corner of his mouth, trying and failing to throw his voice) Taeo says, ”Oh, yaas. Proper-like an’ all. I’m the proper one in the family, I’m ahfraid. Squidopher Squalishous the Thiiiihrd. Chahrmed to meet you, chaaarhmd.” The squid does it’s best to extend a crocheted tentacle to shake, and then gestures up at Taeo’s head. ”This here is my trusty steed, Taeo. Most impropah one, ‘im.” at which point Taeo can’t maintain it anymore and starts to giggle at his own joke.

Again, the conversation moves on, almost too rapidly for Alyona to fully follow. The confusion of accents and languages isn't helping. When Taeo does his impromptu puppet show, Alyona claps and giggles. Her laughter is just as beautiful as the rest of her, a a high pitched tinkling reminiscent of a wind chime. "You are so funny, gremlin boy. I like you. Can you do any more tricks for us?"

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Hokuto's expression turns impish at Shenhua's comment, and the older Minkan woman shifts how she's sitting, leaning on her opposite side in order to be angled more in the direction of Shenhua. "你是同齡人," she explains rather matter-of-factly. "大家可能,尚未實現,但你。你等於一個另一個,你應該想到被視為和對待彼此的方法"

Smiling a little more earnestly, Hokuto glances at the others, then looks back to Shenhua. "將有更多的主教說,一旦你到達,但Akrabahadran...你都是一樣的. 特殊," she clarifies, "但是,同樣的."

________________

Tian:

"You're peers,"

"Not all of you may realize that yet, but you are. You're equals to one-another, you should expect to be treated as such and treat each other that way."

"The Exarch will have more to say on that once you all arrive, but at Akrabahadran... you're all the same. Special,"

"but, the same."


Male Fey-touched (Idyllkin) half-elf Commoner 1
Alyona Elvanna wrote:
Alyona glares daggers at Anelessa as she implies that they are somehow equals because they happen to be in the same geographical location. "I am important," she hisses quietly,

Taeo's eyes widen and he looks briefly askance at Alyona when she hisses at Anelessa. Wow, there's a storm inside of her. I guess she really is a princess. But moments later she's smiling and bantering playful again. He notes it, but passion and intensity are more familiar than frightening to a boy raised amongst Satyrs and Nymphs, not far outside the court of Queen Nyrissa.

Alyona wrote:
When Taeo does his impromptu puppet show, Alyona claps and giggles. Her laughter is just as beautiful as the rest of her, a a high pitched tinkling reminiscent of a wind chime. "You are so funny, gremlin boy. I like you. Can you do any more tricks for us?"

Her delight in his playful mischief warms his cheeks. Maybe humans aren't as dreary as I've been told.

He puts on the most mysterious expression he can find and says in a dramatic tone "Just you wait, Princess of the Jadwampi! Tricks when you least expect them!" His playful grin stretches clear across his face.

Then, distracted by Shenhua and Hokuto talking in a language he heard earlier today but otherwise hadn't heard before he asks, "What's that language? Is it another of the human tongues?" and what secrets are they passing? That I can't ask of course.


Male Human (Chelaxian) Commoner 1

”Seen seven tens and six cousins die in battle, all the Skoan-Quah in Stands on the Spiral’s tribe. Seen more than ten tens of cousins and tshameks die in cold, in sickness and said the Last Words over them. Giants, goblins, dead in tens, tens, and tens. This is the emiinakhaaiviiv’muwhenaa, land of the dying, child,” he explains calmly, “All that live will die. Is certain. One Shape, Stands on Spiral, Princess and Hokutoishihara. Not final, after death is the Spiral, the River of Souls. Then reward, or punishment.”

“Or service,” he adds thoughtfully. “Little know fey. Your land without dying, seem poisonous to the soul. When even the weak live without dying, where strength come from? Stands on the Spiral has seen Death many times and many more. Will see death again, many times and more.”

He takes a moment to measure the reaction of the feyling before changing the subject back to names, “In the Quah, you do choose the adult name, but not the words. Choose it with actions, with big lessons. Not until adult you are given the adult name. If Quah shaman pick well, name is the strong weapon.”


Male Ifrit Commoner/1
Quote:
Taeo follows Alanar’s gaze trying to keep track of all the humans -- and the littlest, is she a halfling? If Grottleburr doesn’t come back for me soon (and I’m starting to think that’s unlikely) I’d best get much better at telling the difference between humans. Alanar is easy enough to distinguish though: it looks like the tips of his hair just got dipped in hot coals. Without thinking, he reaches out to touch it quickly, checking to see if it’s hot. ”And how about you? Is your name Speaks With Carrots? Or Help I'm On Fire?”

"Alanar." The reply is simple to Taeo, and he'll find that when he draws his hand back, it is covered in sweet smelling soot, the same scent that had permeated the wagon since the ifrit had been picked up in Thuvia. "My sister, she calls me قلب النار, 'Fireheart'. But only her."

Quote:

Shen Hua stirs from her daydream at the mention of her name.

"A comb would be much appreciated, friend Alanar. I lost mine in the place called Lastwall, not realizing it had come loose until after we were out of the city. By then, of course, it was too late to go back."

"...That's right, you had one before..." Alanar vaguely recalls, since it looked rather nice. "I must make a better one. And a bracelet for Ilesea..." He looks at the halfling girl, seated between him and Shen Hua. They were the first three, but this was the first time he could recall they sat so closely together.

"What kind of bracelet would you like?" He asked her, glancing at her eyes. "...Jade, yes. It would have to be jade, to match your eyes..."

Quote:

Erik watches the going-ons around him keenly, snickering quietly at Taeo's antics with the crocheted squid, but it's Alanar's words that really catch his attention. Erik peers at the bronze-skinned youth for a moment, as if he's not quite sure if he's being made fun of or not.

Alanar has been talking quite a lot about metals, yes, and has implied skills with making jewelry... but somehow Erik still finds the notion somewhat startling. "Eh? You're talkin' about makin' a ring... for me?" he says, sounding dubious. "You serious?"

"No, I am Alanar," He replies to Erik. "I met a Sirius once, I think. He sold my sister bad spices - we didn't know because he'd layered a good batch on top of them. She promised never to buy spices again." He glances down at the Chelaxian's hand, examining his fingers for a moment and sizing them up.

Quote:
"I left home rather quickly, so I left my jewelry there. Ve vould hawe needed another vagon to carry it anyvay." Alyona sighs, remembering the finery of the palace. Not everything was bad in Whitethrone. In fact, she misses everything but the people. She'd never been away from home for so long as this trip before. It is bitter sweet, to be sure. Refocusing her gaze on Alanar she says, "If you insist on being a rube, and continuing to comment unsolicited on your better's appearance, you may as vell get it correct. An alloy of half silwer and half pale yellow gold matches my hair almost perfectly. I had such a tiara back in Vhitethrone. If you vish to craft me another, I will accept it as apology for your rudeness."

"Ah, so you want something made of electrum, then," Alanar speaks up with a smile, looking at Alyona. "Necklace would be better, though. A tiara the same color as your hair would blend into it and not stand out at all. Necklace, it will contrast with your skin and draw more attention," He assured her, still smiling before looking at Hokuto.

"I will have time to craft at Akrabahadran, yes?" He asked, wondering if she would want something made for herself as well.

Lantern Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4

"Tien," Hokuto answers Taeo, "you'll have plenty of opportunity to study foreign languages at the College, we have a diverse library of linguistic studies, and -- as it turns out -- I am the instructor of languages." Cracking a mild smile at that, Hokuto glances over to Alanar who had a similar inquiry.

"Extracurricular activities will have plenty of time and availability. We have an extensive smithing wing to the College you will all be able to utilize, and our Master of Crafts -- Danos Thir -- will instruct you all to different degrees, depending on where your interests lie." That assertion elicits a look from Ilesea, brows raised and fleeting smile blossoming from a nervous frown.


Male Human Commoner 1

Erik stares at Alanar for a moment... then abruptly, he laughs. "Alanar... right. My mistake; I'll try not to let it happen again." He's grinning brightly as he says it, but after a moment it fades into a thoughtful look. "Heh. Can't say as I ever had a ring of my own. Picked 'em up from time to time on a good day, but... not the sort of thing you wanted to keep around, y'know?"

He blinks, clearing his throat and glancing around nervously for a moment before his grin resurfaces. "Heh. I reckon you mean what you say, though..." He pauses a moment, considering. "So... thanks."

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