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10 Fledgling


About rokubiraijuu

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    a blanket fort, probably

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  1. "Oh, him." The servant looks from one to the other — a motley group of people — and frowns with sympathy. "I'm sorry, he's not here anymore. I can let you all in, if you'd like, though he was taken away about a week ago, and the room's been cleaned since." Fishing out a ring of keys, the servant unlocks the door, easing it open and lighting some of the candles before heading in and drawing up the curtains. "See? I'll go get something for... um, her." As the servant leaves the room again, Chin nervously steps inside, both apprehensive and curious about these human dwellings. She stands near the doorway, glancing around, otherwise keeping to herself. The room is sparse, simply standard quarters within the castle — what one might expect a handmaid or a guardsman to live in, perhaps. It was better off than a simple servant's quarters by sheer fact that it was a private room, but nothing lavish. As the servant had said, it looked like it had been cleaned recently, and whatever trace of someone living here, however briefly, had been removed. The sheets are smooth, the pillows replaced, the desktop and walls bare. "Was this man important to both of you?" Chin asks the others after a moment. ----- A pause lingers in the air a few moments after Fallon finishes talking. "Intriguing..." Caim muses, one hand on his chin. "You don't usually get scholars coming around interested in things like that. You're a specialist of Druidic magic, I take it?" He looks at the tome in Fallon's hands — just a Flux tome, but he appeared knowledgeable of brands outside of that as well. "That's uncommon." Many mages who looked into chaos magic tended to find that school of study crude, citing that the focus on dismantling and countering specific compounds or types of weaponry went against the pure-hearted and unbiased pursuit of knowledge that scholars should stand for. But here this man is. Not only a Foen-educated scholar, but one with ample battlefield experience too, if the eyepatch is any indication. Something tells Caim that he's no mere academic, raised among a brood of like-minded students in a traditional academy. "I'll need you to be a little more specific if I can help you, I'm afraid. What are these 'subsets' you want accounted for?"
  2. "..." He opens his mouth to answer, then flounders a bit and closes it, fidgeting more. How to be honest without bringing more shame than he'd already shouldered? How much could he tell her? There's no easy answer, and he reflects that he had been a stronger man, once upon a time. "There are things that simply can't be forgiven," he answers quietly. "I would only bring misfortune." He turns around, quickly tightening the reins and fastening in the saddle around Bradwr's stomach. He's grateful that the shadows of evening obscure his face somewhat as he starts leading the horse out of the stables. "I am sorry. The easier this is, the better."
  3. If there's something wrong... Again, Ferdiad doesn't meet her eyes, holding the untightened reins loosely in one hand. With Justine here, his chances of disappearing quietly are gone. The panic of being cornered fills him slowly but steadily, like the water level incrementally rising in a sealed chamber. He begins to fidget. "I'm... perhaps it's me who needed the fresh air, then," he half-jokes emptily. "—I'm sorry, Justine. I simply... I don't believe I can stay here." It spills out of him almost unintentionally, and he grits his jaw to keep from trembling. He hadn't wanted this to be a conversation; he hadn't wanted someone to come upon him, try and stop him, try and comfort him. The cleaner this separation, the better, he thought.
  4. The soft jingling of the bridle as he loops it over Bradwr's head and ears obscures the sound of approaching footsteps, and he almost jumps when he hears his name. Spinning around, he blinks in alarm before realizing it's just Justine's outline emerging from the shadows of the stable's overhang. "Justine... —er..." Mink? No, that's Lenore. Mi... he gives up. He can't find it in himself to search through his memory, and he's suddenly very tired. Even so, his eyes dart left and right briefly, searching for anyone who might be nearby to overhear her having said his name, though it's unlikely at this hour. When she asks if he's all right, he drops his gaze. Is it so obvious? "I'm... just taking Bradwr out for some air. He... He may need it after such a battle." He tries to summon his usual smile, but it's a momentous effort, and his attempts at a light tone sound flat even to his own ears.
  5. Where has he ended up now...? Daylight has begun to sink further and further in the sky, and the sun's last warm glow hovers just above the edge of the land by the time he becomes aware of it again, bathing the grassy surroundings in soft shadows. The sloping hill beneath his feet, the pungent, earthen smell of meadows and hay... he lifts his head and looks to the right, finding that the stocky outline of the royal stables are at once familiar and ghostly in the twilight. Stables make him think of Bradwr, and he sluggishly searches his memory before recalling that he had left him with Lysander after the battle, in the throne room... it's been some time since then, hasn't it? He wonders where they'd put him. Perhaps... It's the thought that maybe they had stabled him here that makes him move again, and the thoughts come to him in a steady stream: does he have a place here? Ceda would never accept him if he were to show his face. His name would bring shame to Virtuous and ruin their chances. No matter how he ran, he couldn't escape it... kingslayer. The words of the other guardsmen who had condemned him then... he had been so righteous then, sworn he would prove them wrong... "Bradwr?" His voice is quiet and hollow as he approaches the familiar white steed. So they had moved him here after all. He runs a gauntleted hand through his mane and the gelding just blinks at him in recognition. Always so calm. "How do you do it, Bradwr?" He receives no response, of course. "... It may be time again, my friend." A trembling frown twists his face and he can't even meet the horse's eyes as he reaches for the bridle hung up on the nearby wall as though in surrender. "A coward's act, but at the least I would not see Kane's face at the end, like I saw hers."
  6. This time Chin softly gasps at Rhian's sudden outburst, watching as the armored woman rounds on her companion with vehemence. Her feathers plaster to her skinny frame as she watches, both as Rhian stalks off to the stairway and at Ceridwen's stunned expression. The bird doesn't know what to think. These people say that they had killed the General, and they seem to have truly meant it when they said they'd set her free... yet the mention of a man's description is enough to have caused such discord. "... Okay. Follow me," she says quietly, proceeding up the steps. Chin squints as the dirty low light of the dungeons blossoms into the well-lit interior of the castle's floor level, waiting a moment for her eyes to adjust. The difference in air quality is enormous; it no longer feels wet, sticky, and thick with the stench of decay. She takes a few steps, then looks down at herself, holding her arms out with a troubled expression. Apparently suddenly self-conscious about her wretched appearance, she hugs her arms around herself again a bit, as though the shredded feathers will help to conceal her. It doesn't take long; it seems Chin's memory is good enough, though she does have to pause and think for a bit at some junctures. Eventually, they come to a hall of what seem to be guest rooms, and she counts a couple of doors before pausing beside one. "I remember this is where he stayed. I didn't see or talk to him much myself, but..." She tries to door, only to find it locked, which seems to surprise her. "Oh..." "Excuse me, you're... are you the Allied Guard?" a voice from behind them pipes up gently, and Chin again shrinks back just slightly against the wall, even though the one who addressed them looks only a little older than her, dressed in a servant's uniform. "Um... are you looking for someone?" ----- "Me?" The man suddenly looks chagrined. "Oh, n-no, no... after the war, my family... well, it hasn't been the best of times, you know? Not the worst of times, no, others have it much worse, but, well, I never really was able to see that dream through. Is it true that the volcano's lava is blue colored over there? I've always wondered— er, well, that must seem like such a silly question to you. Okay!" Caim claps his hands together as he comes to an area of the deeper stacks where the shelves open up to a small quiet area. Another smaller chandelier illuminates several desks, tables, and reclining sofas. In the center of the space is a small statue of Kranach Rugner, the founder and first Emperor of Caliss. Off to both sides are more shelves with books that look older than the ones they've passed so far. "So what kind of research are you doing? You said something about... being able to do more with magic than we do now?"
  7. "In the chest," is Yoriie's simple response to Bakudai's inquiry about the tea leaves. In the rudimentary shack he'd called home for years, a makeshift crate of sorts had been magically warded against deterioration from the elements. Within this were the contents that needed long-term keeping, the periodically harvested tea leaves being one of them. Yoriie didn't have much of a taste for it, so it was often his shikigami who made the most use of it, but he didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, something about the smell seemed to repel him slightly. As the venison cooked slowly, he has nothing left to do but observe the crowd. Ivoh'to knew by now that he was free to lick the rest of the unused carcass clean at his own leisure, and oftentimes afterwards Yoriie would drag the skeleton back into the surrounding woods after harvesting whatever bones he might need for tool-making. Ivoh'to had made himself comfortable on Nil, Bakudai would prepare tea, Lord Yama and Kietasenshi were discussing combat, Megumi's easy flow of movement was an art form to watch, and Fuefuki had perched himself on a branch to scold them all. His gaze travels from one youkai to the next, then down to a distant spot on the grassy ground. An air of ease comes over him and his shoulders seem to relax, even as he shoots Ivoh'to a glare for his remark — a look that the feline was used to by now. After a moment, he walks over to Megumi, drawing one of his tachi into his hand. Without disturbing her form, he lightly taps the point of his blade to the end of hers. "This might be more than practice soon."
  8. "Master Greyson is...?" Chin pauses mid-stride for a moment in the middle of the corridor leading back to the stairs, looking stricken. Then her feathers flatten again, and she bites her lip before shaking her head. "It is a good thing the General is dead... a very good thing..." She doesn't say anything more, seeming to be mulling over this sobering fact, at least until the approach of another person draws her attention back to the present. She instinctively shrinks back at first, but then looks between all of them upon realizing that the young man is with them. "... This human you are looking for... was he somebody important to you?" she asks them. To devote so much energy, and for them to have such reactions to even just hearing about him, she can only assume such. ----- "Marsilia Grandchampion," the woman replies, looking directly at Fallon. She states her name fearlessly, but in an edged tone that seems to say 'I dare you to say something about it.' Fortunately ( or maybe not ), what tension there might have been is broken by Caim's sudden outburst. "Chaos magic! Marsilia, he says chaos magic!" The exuberance is a complete inversion from his sullenness of moments earlier. "So you really are a scholar! Incredible. You know, there are so many posers who think they're impressive, slinging spells around, and they still call it dark and light magic. Hah! Finally, someone educated." He doesn't even notice Marsilia subtly rolling her eyes. "And you've been to Foen...!" He nods, deeply approving. "Come, I'd be happy to take you through our collection and show you anything you would like to see. Oh, you're going to need these, though." He reaches into a drawer and produces a pouch, from which he pulls out a pair of light-weight gloves reinforced with magic to prevent any skin oils or substances of any kind from leaving residue on surfaces, and practically herds Fallon towards the stacks as Marsilia takes the chance to return to the others. "I have to admit — and I mean no offense, really — but I had doubted how impressive the Allied Guard," he makes quote marks with his fingers in the air, "was going to be when they announced it. But with a Foen scholar who knows his terminology in their ranks, my faith is a little more restored. I have to say, for someone who studied in Foen, you seem..." He looks him over peckishly, "... rather normal! Not that there's anything wrong with Foen, but, you know."
  9. Something imperceptible and intangible changes about Yoriie when he looks down to see Ivoh'to rubbing against Nil's leg. Even though the cloaked youkai doesn't respond, and even though nothing about the onmyoji's expression or posture change, there's something softer in his gesture as he slices off a fatty piece of the deer's hindquarter and passes it down to the feline before returning to quartering the meat with broad, firm strokes of his tachi. Lord Yama's approach and Kietasenshi's remark brook no further response either; he seems to be thoroughly accustomed to the former's comings and goings and the later's pervasive exasperation. Instead, he simply moves to set up a fire and arrange the meat to cook. Within moments, the pungent smell of roast begins to waft through the clearing.
  10. "... You can call me Chin," she replies. "It's what the others called me." She begins to head back through the dungeons with them, looking now with concern at Ceridwen. "Yes, I can try taking you to the room he used. I don't know what the General might have done, though." As they walk, now and then Chin looks at the cells, and though she doesn't seem particularly surprised by any of their contents, she becomes notably morose each time they pass by an abandoned corpse. After a couple of minutes, she speaks up again. "You talked about seeing the other laguz... are they— how were they?" Her eyes widen slightly. "If you killed the General, you didn't..."
  11. "Took him captive...?" She looks at Fallon quizzically for a few seconds before slowly continuing: "you mean... Greyson? He's been Scarleticia's steward his whole life. Grew up here. Lots of people joke he's older than the castle itself." She huffs with amusement. "If there was some blow-up before Milich decided to feed him to the spores this morning, I wouldn't know. But it's just as likely that he just decided he felt like killing him for no reason. Pretty erratic son of a bitch. Greyson was the laguz' overseer, but to tell the truth he's probably the only reason more of them weren't dead. Lots of us liked him, except Milich of course. He didn't like anyone who didn't think he made the sun rise. Which was just about everyone, but he had it out for Greyson in particular." She shakes her head. "I'm afraid if you're looking for Scarleticia secrets, then you know you're out of luck with Greyson dead. As for magic." Looking back over her shoulder, she calls out: "Caim! Can you come over here?" Still slumped in the chair, the older man sluggishly looks up, irritated at being disturbed. But he reluctantly makes his way over, still watching Fallon like he might pull out a knife any moment. "What is it now?" "What about magic did you want to know, Mr... you go by something other than 'scholar'?"
  12. "..." Yoriie glances sidelong at Kietasenshi posturing off to the side with a dour look, not particularly fond of the implication that he simply sets out and collects shikigami as if it's a pastime. He has no intentions of winning shikigami through conquests of any kind. A quiet, undisturbed life in these forests was all he had sought after... He makes no other move to address the scene though, even as the swordsman spirit openly taunts Ivoh'to. Methodically cleaning the skinning knife with a skin of water, he tucks it back beneath the pelt around his waist before looking up at Nil's silent approach. "Do you want something?" His neutral tone doesn't particularly invite company, but it isn't aggressive, either.
  13. PROLOGUE : Warnings in Frost Mid Autumn "This place is changing, and it's not the season." They're the first words out of Yoriie today, and probably within the last cycle of the sun as a whole. He drops the freshly killed deer carcass slung over his shoulder onto the large tree stump in the middle of the clearing, a clean cut that had severed its windpipe the sole indication of its death. From the holder at his waist, he takes out a knife and sets to slitting open the deer's belly from throat all the way down, warm blood flowing and staining into the old wood as he guts the animal with practiced deliberation. It's too early in the year for the forests to have grown this cold. The leaves have not begun to thoroughly brown, but already Yoriie has brought out the thicker pelts, and temperatures have dropped enough that, some mornings, he awakens to find trails of thin, spidery frost lacing the grass outside. It's unnatural, and it's been encroaching deeper into the woods with the passing months until it's finally reached the nested haven where the boy has dwelt for many years. To the ordinary people of the land, the change would be just that: a strange phenomena this year; an unlucky early winter. But the onmyoji and youkai would turn their senses to a different source: there is something heavy about the snow that has already begun to cover the outer edges of the forest, a distinct feeling of oppression that has seeped between the trees and wound its way around branches and boulders, filling the air with an invisible miasma. Nether force is that which chokes out growth and distorts life into a warped image of itself, evil that corrupts the soul, and though this is the first time Yoriie has ever felt it, his instincts and old teachings identify it clearly enough. Unhappy with the disturbance of the outside world on his sanctuary, Yoriie frowns more deeply as he finishes removing the guts and turns the carcass around to begin skinning it. "..." Something is wrong in this forest.
  14. The woman seems somewhat impressed by Fallon's assertion of killing Milich himself, eyebrows lifting slightly into her hairline. "A passageway...?" Then they furrow again in bewilderment, but she decides not to think on it too long, apparently easily accepting that there are things about this castle that have become long-forgotten secrets. She shakes her head with sober understanding. "It's the battlefield; it's to be expected." Still, she sounds grim about it, and there's a dour pause afterwards before she looks back up at him. "Those laguz you mentioned... I can't say I'm surprised they took an opportunity to get out of here. The General had Greyson killed this morning, though; that's probably the old steward you're talking about. I doubt they knew about that." She lets out another sigh; this is a lot to take in. "Right, well with Milich dead, they've got no reason to stick around anymore... Runes help them if they're going to try and make a life for themselves out there." Dropping the axe now to let it rest against her leg, she crosses her arms and nods. "You've answered all my questions. So what did you come in here wanting to know, Mr. Scholar?" ----- The girl looks perplexed at Ceridwen's sudden change in demeanor, but guesses from it that this was in fact who they'd been looking for. Then Rhian's sharp demand catches her off guard and she visibly starts, plumage puffing out in alarm. It takes several seconds before she calms down just a little, though a touch of nervousness remains in her eyes as she glances between them again, a little apprehensive now of saying the wrong thing. "I... I think so," she replies in a quiet twitter to Rhian's question, taking another few unsure steps towards the cell doorway. Once in the corridor, she pauses and looks around, seemingly just taking in the idea of finally being out of there, of being able to walk on her own, of the open path that was now her future. "If I remember, he was only in these dungeons for a little bit. After that, he was brought up and put into a room to stay. It was a lot nicer than even the ones we stayed in, so maybe he did have some 'important status'. I don't know why the General kept him alive. The others said that he wanted to make some kind of show out of him, make him fight us and let his soldiers cast 'bets', but I don't know what those are. I was... I was put down here after that, so I don't know what happened to him, or if he's still here." ----- Having just finished getting the man-eating spores sorted out and put somewhere they wouldn't at least be an immediate threat, and wrapping up a conversation with Verden, Johanna has pulled up a chair to a small table off to the side of the throne room, looking even more tired than she was. She's found some parchment and writing implements and has set about drafting a report to the Captain when Kerr approaches. "Oh, I'm glad you asked." She thinks for a moment, running through a list of things in her head. "I'd like you to go check on Rhian and Ceridwen. I don't think they would have trouble, but... the situation with the captive Commander is one where I would be much more confident if someone else was with them. They should be searching the dungeons."
  15. The girl looks levelly at Rhian first before shaking her head. "But I will be careful. The General... he already cut the most dangerous feathers." She self-consciously extends her arms a little ways away from her skinny body to show the patchy, torn plumage. "Those kill with one touch." She hugs her arms back around herself to protect against the cold, furrowing her brow as she thinks about something apparently deeply. "You are both humans.... but you don't want to take me captive?" We could let you free, if that's what you want. "Free..." She tries this word on her tongue, slowly and with awe. The very thought appears to fill her with emotion, as her existing plumage suddenly flattens fully against her skin, making her look even thinner than she already was. Her mouth moves as though to say something else, and then tears begin to drip down her stunned face. She sags back against the grimy wall, gasping soft, hiccuping breaths for a few seconds before swallowing. When she suddenly realizes what's happening, she utters a quiet twitter before lifting her hands to wipe at her eyes, wincing slightly at the discomfort. "I'm sorry... I- I never thought... I never..." It takes her another little while, but finally she manages to compose herself again. Gingerly, she pushes herself to her feet, though it takes her a couple tries. It's clear from her unsteady legs that she hasn't stood up in quite some time, and it's another several seconds before she can let go of the wall and take a shaky step. Reaching down, she picks up something that had been hidden behind her: it's a slender bow, though the way she holds it suggests that it is more of a comfort item and she doesn't know how to use it much. "I'll- I'll tell you whatever I can, if you're telling the truth." "A human prisoner...? The General doesn't have many of those." She thinks hard, trying to fit anyone to the vague description Ceridwen provides. "I don't really understand what you mean by 'important status'. There- There was one human I know that the General didn't just kill. He looked... old? I don't know how humans age. Older than most. Younger than Master Greyson, but not a fledgling. His hair was red and coarse... like yours," she says, glancing to Rhian. "And he had a kind of... fatherly look to him. I remember that because it reminded me of Master Greyson. Is that who you are looking for? If not, I can't think of any others." ----- At Fallon's justification, the woman gives Caim a look as if to say 'as I said', which only makes him scowl deeper. They, along with the rest of the small crowd who are still quiet, mostly looking to Caim and the woman for judgment, listen to the rest of what Fallon has to say. At the end, the man simply sinks into the chair behind the desk with a slump, looking rather shell-shocked and muttering something to himself. Only snippets are audible: "... General's... known this pointless war... going to do...?" The woman looks at him for a little bit, as if to make sure he's going to be okay, before returning her attention to Fallon with a grave sigh. "The Allied Guard. Hm." She thinks about this long and hard for a few seconds. "... I understand. We should have seen something like this coming as soon as Milich started his rampage on the Knights. What a goddamn shame, though..." "Where's daddy!?" One of the children, who had apparently been holding in her distress through sheer fear, suddenly bursts into tears. Immediately, the woman and several of the older children rush to quiet and calm her down. After a brief fuss, the toddler is passed off into the arms of a maid who looks to be her mother, and the woman turns back to Fallon, coming out from behind the desk and hefting her axe onto her shoulder with another sigh. "Sorry about that. And sorry to demand so many questions, but, when you say the castle's been taken, The General's dead, then? What about the rest of his men? ... What I'm saying is, how bad is it out there?"
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