No Longer Alone
Hazel Talvathar

Age: 37 | Height: 4ft (121cm) | Race: Fae | Nationality: Natural
Level: - Strg: 2 - Dext: 3 - Endr: 9 - Luck: 21
Played by: Nat Offline
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#1
The old, browning journal pages whisper quietly as I flick through, viewing the fine drawings written in ink upon them. The complex odour of decaying paper teases my nostrils. It's one I love dearly, awakening a tide of memories, like Old Mother, many lessons she’d shared with me, and the countless adventures through The Greatwood I’ve embarked on alone. Each picture I glance over represents one such occasion, all of the creatures I’ve encountered, and a wordy caption beneath describes in brilliant depth every detail the previous could not: the weather, time of day, sounds, or taste on the wind.

Even I am impressed.

The entry is found rather quickly, though I feel compelled to count down the remaining pages.

I turn gently back to the twenty-first when I finish. A smile weakens the stiff mask of my concentration and I’m suddenly aware of the tension in my neck. Green eyes glance up briefly to match the tangible image to my record.

Before me stands an enormous redwood (in truth, there are many). Snow moss, of course, is snow moss, but it appears to lie thickest at this tree.

The padded tip of my otherwise bony index finger drags a downward path along the paper, following the sketched line of a dissimilar larch tree until its base vanishes beneath a blanket of snow moss (I have struggled, a little, to depict it). The bottom third of the page makes up for this, however. Along with a thorough description, I read quickly about the arrival of a porcupine and how the creature had sprawled stomach down upon the moss, fleeing only when I'd stepped from cover to understand the attraction for myself.

The feeling of astonishment returns easily as I recall the instant my sweaty palm caressed the  strange plant for the first time and suddenly I’m grinning, cheeks flushed red with the same  heat; today, I wasn’t nearly so naive.

There’s no sign of that porcupine now, or any other animal for that matter. Hair prickles down both of my arms and I feel suddenly cold. Wildwood has grown eerily quiet all the while my thoughts were distracted and I fall from those with a start. My thighs feel weary beneath the awkward weight of my torso, the right more so than the left, and I lean heavily against the fork in the thin, old branch that’s my aide.

The shadows grow long around me. It is late in the afternoon.

I’ve been out the whole day and Mother will worry when I don’t return home before dark.
Magic and physical force are welcome. No maiming or killing without permission.
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Lily Balfour
Entertainer
Age: 26 | Height: 5'9'' | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 14 - Dext: 19 - Endr: 18 - Luck: 10
Played by: Astor Offline
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#2
Lily
Ignorant, perhaps, or blissfully, willfully unaware, the young woman traipsing down the current path in the Greatwood has no thought for what - or who - she might encounter in the late afternoon. Only that it is sunny and hot in the patches between the trees and everything seems, well, quite lovely. Leaves create a dappled pattern on her pale skin and flaming hair as she strolls boldly through the woods, a faint tune on her lips.

Bits and pieces of the old drinking song come wordless and light - signaling her approach in a non-threatening way. Lily is bold and brave, but she knows naught of violence other than to keep a man’s wandering hands off her and perhaps, to deter a pickpocket.

She has, though, potentially drifted too far into the interior. Unintentionally. A few trees away from Hazel, the Outlander stops and narrows her eyes at her surroundings. Teeth nibble at her lower lip in a worried fashion as she turns in a slow circle, trying to figure out if she’s going the right way - if there even is a right way. Eventually a soft sigh and “Well, fuck…” can be heard as Lily begins to talk to herself and try and reason the way back out.
women are like tricks by sleight of hand
which, to admire, we should not understand
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Hazel Talvathar

Age: 37 | Height: 4ft (121cm) | Race: Fae | Nationality: Natural
Level: - Strg: 2 - Dext: 3 - Endr: 9 - Luck: 21
Played by: Nat Offline
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Posts: 38
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#3
We are right to fear them. The Outlanders…

She said so.

Old Mother told me that the Old Gods abhor them. That The Hollowed Grounds is because of them; a consequence of the cataclysm that saw them appear. The Spire Demon.

I don’t like them either.

She said that the dome was meant to contain them and the corruption their arrival will introduce; that they are savages who will poison our forest and infiltrate our society like termites.

The idea frightens me.

Savages

Apparently, they have brought with them strange gods of their own. Probably equally immoral, intent on devouring Caido for whatever profit they see fit. Like my family, and all other Fae, I have sworn to protect The Greatwood.

Old Mother told me that Delah has an army rallied and that her scouts patrol both day and night. I have seen her soldiers, the Outlanders should be fearful. I like the War Chief. Perhaps in another life, if my body wasn’t crippled, I might have joined her ranks and fought among her elite. As it stands, I’m not useful for anything.

Except detail.

My fingers wrap tightly across the top of my leather bag. It rubs against the odd, hobbling motion of my body, weighed down by the books buried inside.

Old Mother said there is use for someone with book skills like mine…

I pause suddenly, heat returning to my cheeks as I tip one hidden ear to the breeze (though stale and slow it is). I can hear a voice, the appearance of which isn’t initially shocking, but socialisation isn’t my forte; there is something else too which starts a chilled shiver down my spine. Carefully I begin to scan the vegetation with narrowed, wary eyes, wishing I had the capability of crouching down, to hide.  

The voice I can hear seems feminine and attractive, merely a hum without the fracture of words. It should be Fae, but suspicion burns my nerves and I wonder whether I should ignore the other and continue home, like certainly Mother would prefer. My body hangs weakly, caught in the limbo-land of my indecision.

“Well Fuck…”

Deep beneath the awning of cloak, this shadowed face turns. My conscience won’t let me abandon them, though every other inch of me screams in protest. Every other inch of me is right too, I know it.

“Can... I aid?” I return foolishly, voice choked by the simmer of uncertainty; I cannot help it. With eyes clenched and my breath held tight, I wait, wishing that perhaps it had been the whistle of a bird all along.
Magic and physical force are welcome. No maiming or killing without permission.
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Lily Balfour
Entertainer
Age: 26 | Height: 5'9'' | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 14 - Dext: 19 - Endr: 18 - Luck: 10
Played by: Astor Offline
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#4
Lily
A softer, lighter voice - perhaps that of a child - interrupts her self-directed, pep-talk of a monologue. Lily freezes, except for her head, which whips around in a swish of flaiming hair, to try and find the source of said voice. Her first thought is that a child shouldn’t be out in the woods alone, completely forgetting that Fae exist. Her second thought is how would a child be able to help her? Shouldn’t she be the one helping them?  

What she sees isn’t too convincing.

A cloaked figure, hunched over a walking cane. Small in stature, which reminds her of Jiao, though any immediately distinguishing features are hidden. A whirlwind of her home world’s images come to mind, too; of beggar children in the streets, relying on the charity of others to keep them alive. She gave when she was flush and hoped they managed to keep it all. But to be crippled… ah, it was one of her worst nightmares. Her imagination takes it to the extremes and theatrics make her think her life would be over.

While the entertainer is doubtful, she is also openly curious. Lily’s eyes light up with a gentle wonder. “Ah, yes…” she says as she crouches down to make herself more level with the smaller Hazel. “if you… can?” comes more tentatively, knowing that it is probably rude and assuming, but the Outlander then quickly follows it with a visible wince, hating the words as soon as they tumble out of her mouth.

“Sorry. Yes. Please,” rush out after them, trying to repair whatever damage she may have caused. .
women are like tricks by sleight of hand
which, to admire, we should not understand
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Hazel Talvathar

Age: 37 | Height: 4ft (121cm) | Race: Fae | Nationality: Natural
Level: - Strg: 2 - Dext: 3 - Endr: 9 - Luck: 21
Played by: Nat Offline
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Posts: 38
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#5
There is movement to my right, a flare of firelight between the familiar hues of green and brown, and my pupils pin upon it, leading my face to turn in the same direction. A giant stands there, almost double my size, and I find for a long time that I cannot look away; stunned, paralysed. My thoughts have fallen still and this body hangs in limbo with the weight of a corpse. I feel as though I might fall - but the stick is pressed firmly int the palm of my sweating hand. All I can hear is the strong warning throb of blood pulsing in my ears.

I want desperately to run.

Or for The Greatwood to swallow me.

The monstrosity answers, clearly not a bird. I can feel heat now pooling in my cheeks, boiling, like water in Mother’s kettle over the fire. The warmth of the day only exacerbates my discomfort and fear begins to build a barrier between us. My mind comes to life suddenly, tone as sharp as a knife, urging me and I jolt: move! It’s time to leave. One foot slides backwards and my hips begin to twist, but the words which float on through the thicket compel a higher moral within me to linger.

Confusion is a fog that descends quickly. I examine the stranger warily without speaking, unwilling to put myself any nearer (she could close the gap, probably in one stride). Green eyes, like my own, gaze back, softening maybe, before the entire image shrinks down to a height my brain can comprehend. Still fear writhes like a cut snake between my ears; perhaps that is how I miss the clumsy insult she delivers…

I fasten my teeth around my loose-cannon tongue (it has done enough harm already), and lurk beneath the dimming overhang of the hood, exaggerating my natural slouch to entice it forward further. Likewise, my free hand gathers around the open hems by my chest to clutch them together tightly: what do you need?... I don’t ask.
Magic and physical force are welcome. No maiming or killing without permission.
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Lily Balfour
Entertainer
Age: 26 | Height: 5'9'' | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 14 - Dext: 19 - Endr: 18 - Luck: 10
Played by: Astor Offline
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#6
Lily
Let’s be honest here: Lily has very little experience with children and has no desire to ever be a mother. As a servant, she might have gotten away with one of them, but it wasn’t likely to be both. She grew up with her Lady, who was the youngest of the Lord’s children. She wasn’t a nursemaid, she was a companion, and as a result, her life was not her own. She didn’t have any male-female relationships. There was only her Lady’s needs. Lily’s didn’t matter.

As an entertainer, well, let’s just say she did exactly what she wanted to, satisfied her needs, was very careful with certain activities and took her precautions seriously.

That never made her any less awkward around children.

What she does recognize is the furtive movement of fear, that clutching, clenching indication that all is not well within the other. So instead of crouching, the redhead decides it might be safer to sit down. She slides to her butt and cross her legs in front of her, hands in full view, like Hazel is some kind of wild thing, and she has to make herself as non-threatening as possible.

“Please,” she says again. “I promise I’m just lost.” Like some stupid Outlander would be, Lily thinks to herself derisively, though her face shows nothing more than a calm, patient half-smile and gentle eyes.
women are like tricks by sleight of hand
which, to admire, we should not understand
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Hazel Talvathar

Age: 37 | Height: 4ft (121cm) | Race: Fae | Nationality: Natural
Level: - Strg: 2 - Dext: 3 - Endr: 9 - Luck: 21
Played by: Nat Offline
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Posts: 38
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#7
“Just lost,” the ivory human repeats, appealing for help with a level of sincerity present in her voice that I feel I can hardly deny; neither can I ignore the stew of confusion, fear and curiosity as it continues to toss and turn in my belly. Though I feel altogether apprehensive about this, my first not-Fae encounter, there is an element of excitement pouring through my veins as well: what would Old Mother do?

The other is sitting down, a deliberately low and non-threatening stance which serves as intended to boost a little of my young-hearted confidence. Of course we’ve been warned, nay, educated, to behave with much reserve in the face of these intruders, and though for a while I am mindful of my oath to The Greatwood and my people, cracks soon begin to show in my guard.

I respond in a quiet, rather shy voice, “you are in The Wildwood.” This forest is wily and clever, turning interlopers in a circle and spitting them out at the very place they’d begun; I feel sure that she, too, will be exited soon enough. “Home of the Fae,” I tack on after a moment longer. A minor suggestion (or reminder), that this stunning wilderness is not up for claim.

For the moment I daren’t step any closer. Though she rests courteously, and still her palms sit exposed, there is unshakable suspicion lingering in my mind; it has been burnt into me. “The way out will find you soon, I am sure…” My tongue falls again motionless against my pearly teeth, gripped tightly by uncertainty as I wait for the stranger’s next move.
Magic and physical force are welcome. No maiming or killing without permission.
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Lily Balfour
Entertainer
Age: 26 | Height: 5'9'' | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 14 - Dext: 19 - Endr: 18 - Luck: 10
Played by: Astor Offline
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Posts: 191
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#8
Lily
Well. At least the girl isn’t scared of her - that is, not scared enough to run away. She cracks a small smile and nods. “Right. The Wildwood.” Which Lily knew, but wasn’t about to let on that she knew that. Best to simply stay pleasantly ignorant.

“You’re Fae, yeah?” she asks gently, curiosity no longer able to be hidden. The redhead’s locks fall to one side, as her hands come back to prop her head up, elbows on her knees. It is the only move she makes. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think exploring would be rude.” There are path, after all. There is no fence, or wall, or gate to go through. And truly, Lily isn’t capable of harming much of anything (for all that she’s gotten much stronger with a life of daily work), so she often thinks of the things she does as harmless.

“I would leave but it hasn’t kicked me out yet…” She shrugs. It probably doesn’t mean anything and the forest will get around to shifting her out eventually. Lily isn’t the exception to the rule. But for now? Now she considers herself safe. Even if Hazel doesn’t.
women are like tricks by sleight of hand
which, to admire, we should not understand
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Hazel Talvathar

Age: 37 | Height: 4ft (121cm) | Race: Fae | Nationality: Natural
Level: - Strg: 2 - Dext: 3 - Endr: 9 - Luck: 21
Played by: Nat Offline
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Posts: 38
MP:
#9
In these moments, unable to flee to any real effect, lest still more I reveal the extent of my handicap, I wish for the wisdom of Old Mother; skin scribbled with a lifetime’s learning, she would have known the best way to overcome this queer situation. Without better guidance, my eyes ascend beneath their dimming cover, the whole young face they're set into does, and the thick fabric hood slides back part-way along the mess of my tethered auburn hair.

The not-Fae’s smile, though small, seems warm, and friendly enough.

I can’t help but wonder what it is about the Outlanders (and Naturals like her, the same), that the Fae despise so. Educated through earlier decades to believe that they are poisonous, greedy, willing to walk over whatever obstacle lies between them (even Fae), and the object of their interest (knowledge? material?), my imagination has formed a far more grotesque identity.

”Yes,” I murmur, a sliver of humbleness returning to the part-muted tone, and though I try, it’s a struggle to find any trace of the monster this one should, by all respects, be. A timid smile is returned as the other further promotes her amicable posture.

My own small face tilts slightly at the suggestion of unintended rudeness.

“The Greatwood is home,” I begin, pausing though to filter for words that might better relay my meaning. “I mean… Fae aren’t fond of uninvited guests.” Again a quiet smile, pleased with the less accusatory choice of words, and in a show of mutual clemency, I soften the lines of tension through my frame.

Before I attempt to guide her direction, my  own curiosity bubbles to the surface. “What lead you here?”
Magic and physical force are welcome. No maiming or killing without permission.
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Lily Balfour
Entertainer
Age: 26 | Height: 5'9'' | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 14 - Dext: 19 - Endr: 18 - Luck: 10
Played by: Astor Offline
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Posts: 191
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#10
Lily
Lily, too, might wonder what is about them that the Fae hate. She can understand their want - nay, need - to keep their home to themselves, to keep their neighbors out. That’s what fences are for, aren’t they? But to fear them? That seems more like a measure of control, to keep boundaries firmly drawn, to keep a start line drawn between us and them. It’s easier to fight something that is alien and ‘other,’ and that’s the way it’s always been.

Whatever it is the redhead’s said, it seems to relax the girl, which makes Lily quite glad. It’s unusual to see one so young so on edge. And Hazel’s question isn’t so hard, it’s just that it brings her knowledge that the Fae don’t want them there in direct conflict with her want to explore. With the way life is in the barren grounds, the twisted way of the land. The forest seemed like heaven in comparison to the Settlement. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Hollowed Grounds, but they’re hellish on a hot summer’s day. Everything just bakes in the sun. The Greatwood… seemed like a much welcome respite.”

Her head drops, apology in her voice after being called an uninvited guest. “And it reminded me of the forests of my home, far away from here.” The beautiful, vast forests of the Shenandoah Valley, in Virginia.
women are like tricks by sleight of hand
which, to admire, we should not understand
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