(Seasonal Event) Like Stone Lions
for Amalia
Seiji Okura
Musician

Age: 25 | Height: 5'7" | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 10 - Dext: 25 - Endr: 12 - Luck: 10
Played by: kae Offline
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#1
More dreams. Fragments of a larger whole: the sound of surf, the singing of gulls — their voices like the rusty hinges of old doors. He awoke some time earlier with the smell of salt in his lungs, the ghost of a melody in his head. The time pattern was familiar. Seiji spent most of the morning trying to catch it once more until he realized he'd been keeping time to the same beat on that night in the woods. The night he first arrived.

He doesn't know what any of it means, but he knows it is important. More and more, he finds himself escaping even the sleepy bustle of the settlement to seek out wild places, quiet places, places where he might find whatever he so desperately needs. Today, he has done the same. A handful of small apples in his pocket, the last traces of the phantom music in his head, he set out just after his realization. Sometime shortly after, he found a small grove of trees.

These are somehow different from the dense, clutching boughs of the wood. The air between them smells sweeter despite the bitter cold. The light — even of a pale winter sun — shines brighter between the leafless branches. Seiji walked among them for a time, humming softly to himself, feet crunching in the snow, before yet more snow began to fall: a peppering of flakes in his dark hair, across his shoulders. Sitting on the ground held no appeal, especially not with the flakes threatening to cover him.

So, now Seiji finds himself up in the branches. No difficult feat — just some quick use of his long, nimble limbs. He sits with his back against the smooth bark of a twisting trunk, his legs draped across a sturdy branch, and watches the snow fall. All the while, he hums to himself, working through the bit of melody he can recall, building on it, changing his mind. He does this for a long time, his fingertips and his toes going numb with cold, his outward senses oblivious to the world. At some point, his humming changes to whistling, though the difference isn’t quite conscious. He isn’t conscious, either, of the two luxere who have appeared under his tree, digging in the snow for grass and lifting their head to prick their ears, alternatively.
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
JYOTI - Mythical - Starwhale (Humpback)
Played by: charks Offline
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#2
Amalia
He is not the only one drawn to the symphony of this place. She feels it, too- a constant pulse, a steady pull, the thrum of something close to beauty and freedom, so rarely seen in their dying cage. While the world decays the Glade survives, stubborn and insolent in the shadow of the spire. It thrives, grows, blooms, and rails against the darkness which threatens like velvet to wrap them in its sinful embrace, caress their faces and press into their throats, a sinful suffocation disguised as life.

Thus is the mood, the pensive thoughts, which ushers her from the stifling settlement and into the sanctuary of the Glade. Snowfall silences ambient noise: Deepfrost is a lonely time, and the girl's footfalls are her only companion as she marches through the snow. She wishes she were barefoot, yearns to feel grass beneath her feet- but the snow is heavy, even here, and she weighs herself down with boot and cloak, less nymph than wraith, her breath a halo in the cold winter light. Heavy, she feels heavy, worn out and weary of the oppressive dark.

Drawing beneath the evergreen trees, Amalia exhales a wistful sigh, shaking her head as though to clear it of the cobwebs and musings that weigh on her so. Luxere prints litter the ground, heart-shaped clefts pressed into the snow: the girl yearns to see another, to have their light expel her own inner dark. She recalls bittersweetly the wounded buck, and the antlers of red which now sit in her shop. Is he safe? Is he well? Is he, at last, not alone?

Reaching a clearing Amalia stops, drawing still and silent at a scene which now unfolds. Two of the creatures have gathered round a tree, drawn by a whistle she can just barely hear. Birdsong, she thinks, not having noticed the lanky musician in the boughs above. She is too preoccupied by the radiant deer, too entranced and enamored and hopeful of respite. "Hello, friends," the girl greets, her alto voice quiet and comforting as she inches forward, a hand outstretched. "I met one of your brothers. He had red antlers." Do they know him? Do they even understand? One of the luxere turns toward the girl, huffing and sniffing at the cautious approach. Amalia is nearly upon them now, the docile deer relatively unfazed. Their silent acceptance soothes her somewhat, easing the loneliness which aches in her heart. She reaches a hand to caress one behind the ears. "It's hard, being different. Being alone. I hope you'll look after him, hmm? Keep him company in the Long Night? All he wants is to be loved."
Seiji Okura
Musician

Age: 25 | Height: 5'7" | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 10 - Dext: 25 - Endr: 12 - Luck: 10
Played by: kae Offline
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#3
Somewhere, dimly, Seiji is aware of the approaching footsteps. The presence of another person doesn't quite register, though, until her voice pierces the sacred quiet. Then he blinks down, the music dying on his lips. He had been close, he thinks. Close, but not there. He feels no resentment for the stranger. Only a weary acceptance. A mild curiosity. He does not recognize her. Not hooded and cloaked as she is, but neither does he recognize the sound of her voice, so gently given. In silence, Seiji peers down, listening to the quiet conversation between woman and animal.

Red antlers, he thinks. That sounds like an omen. Maybe a bad one. He is too unfamiliar with this land to be sure, but the image it conjures in his mind is not a pretty one. Nonetheless, the woman's voice is soft. Kindly, even. And the question she poses the two normal luxere brings a faint smile to Seiji's lips. Now he wants to say something, but fears he might startle her. Better to wait and see if she notices him? But probably not. Then she might suspect him of eavesdropping.

Silently, Seiji swings both legs over to one side of the branch and pulls himself upright so he can more easily peer down at her. "That is a kind wish," he says, his own voice soft. "I hope they take it to heart."
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
JYOTI - Mythical - Starwhale (Humpback)
Played by: charks Offline
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#4
Amalia
The luxere are a patient audience, their heads tilting curiously until her voice falls silent and they return to their foraging, digging through the snow. Do they hear her? Do they care? She likes to think they do; they are kind creatures, or they must be to guard the Settlement year after year. It is not their fault the red one was different and afraid.

She hopes he is not alone anymore.

Lost in her musings and the quiet company of the deer, Amalia does not notice the man - not until he speaks. His voice breaks through from the boughs above, and though it is gentle it startles the girl. She looks up sharply, her sudden movement surprising the luxere who dart away a body length, their bodies taut and wound and ready to spring, for they are wild things at heart, despite their docile natures. Perhaps she is a little wild, too: unaccustomed to interruption, interaction, hopelessly curious and endlessly afraid.

Her sharp face is an open mask as she stares at the boy embraced by boughs, embarrassed and defensive all at once. "I do, too," she says at last. "Nobody should be alone during the Long Night."

Except me, she thinks but does not say aloud.
Seiji Okura
Musician

Age: 25 | Height: 5'7" | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 10 - Dext: 25 - Endr: 12 - Luck: 10
Played by: kae Offline
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Posts: 149
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#5
For an instant, she mirrors the luxere: bright and poised to flee. Exactly what Seiji hoped to avoid. Inwardly, he winces. Outwardly, he is calm, his dark eyes following the movements of all below him with measured acceptance. Then the woman speaks, and her voice is kind. Perhaps she forgives him.

Smiling, Seiji nods. “I have never seen it before,” he answers, “but it sounds very dangerous.” He glances up at the deer then, their breaths pluming around them in wary silver clouds, and whistles another fragmented verse. And another, glancing at the stranger, wondering if she might join in. She seems to know about the luxere. They would probably like it better if there were some song to accompany the lonely notes.

When he falls silent, Seiji slides gracefully down to another branch, his movements slow and measured. “What happened to him?” he asks, tilting his head. “The red deer?”
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
JYOTI - Mythical - Starwhale (Humpback)
Played by: charks Offline
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Posts: 1,971
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#6
Amalia
The man is a picture of placidity, apparently unruffled by her appearance beneath his tree. Is he mocking her? She cannot be sure: it does not seem likely, but his smile worries and unsettles the girl, makes her wonder if he has taken the warnings to heed.  "It is." Her own tone is heavy with somber gravity, an earnest honesty. There are too many Outlanders here this year, unaware and ignorant; Amalia fears for them all, and can only pray they know enough to fear for themselves. The world seems tame now, blanketed in snow and caught in lingering twilight, but cruelty lurks beneath the surface, a darkness as familiar as breathing to those raised behind the magnetic walls. There is no escaping, nowhere to run. All they can do is prepare, and survive. She thinks these things, but does not say them, her eyes falling back on the luxere as she worries her lower lip.

Fortunately, the silence does not last for long. A melody breaks her moody discontent; blinking, Amalia turns back to the stranger, drawn to the sudden whistled notes. It is a song she does not recognize from a place she does not know, and yet as the man continues to create a symphony the girl feels nearly compelled to hum along. Leaning on the trunk of his tree she hums a handful of alto notes, finding the melody and catching time, much to the interest of the surrounding deer. It is a strangely comfortable thing, an intimacy of a sort. She hopes it will compel the luxere to look at him fondly. He will need all the help he can get.

Scratching a luxere between its crown, she does not look up as the man descends. "I don't know." A note of sadness mars her face; she frowns again, thoughtful, remembering the night. "He had red antlers. I think it scared the others." Different. Confused. Alone. Again, the girl's heart aches for the creature, and she wonders where he has gone. The gift of the antlers sits in her shop. Perhaps she will take one for Rae, in the spring.

"I pulled off his antlers, and he ran away. I hope he found his herd. It is hard to be alone."
Seiji Okura
Musician

Age: 25 | Height: 5'7" | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 10 - Dext: 25 - Endr: 12 - Luck: 10
Played by: kae Offline
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Posts: 149
MP:
#7
It is hard to be alone. Seiji tilts his head slightly, considering the woman. She carries a somberness about her. As if a silent weight sits heavy on her shoulders. Has he ever known anything like this? What he sees of it from his vantage point above her is foreign, and he cannot imagine it. But he feels for her, for whatever caused her to startle so badly upon hearing his voice. Carefully, he continues to descend, until his feet drop into the snow beside her.

“I am glad you helped him, then,” Seiji says. “It is hard to be alone. Now, I think… it is also dangerous.” He smiles at the deer, and carefully reaches out to stroke a furred neck. They seem even more wary of him than of some of the others, though perhaps they are simply unused to his scent. His every move around them is deliberate, a careful bid to gain their trust.

“Longnight is coming soon,” Seiji says, his tone becoming grave. “I have never seen it before, so I worry a little. But I am going to the Rathskeller with some others.” Still he stumbles a little on the name of the bar, a word unlike any he is accustomed to. “Do you have a place to stay?” Seiji asks her. Could that be why she seems so fearful? Because she has no one to help her through the coming dark?
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
JYOTI - Mythical - Starwhale (Humpback)
Played by: charks Offline
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Posts: 1,971
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#8
Amalia
She blooms beneath his affirmation; she cannot help herself. It should not require validation, her act of simple kindness, and yet the girl craves this praise, this reassurance that she has done good. It is a shortcoming, a fault, a reflection in the deep well of insecurity which delves down into her soul, bottomless and crushing, an open mouth with gnashing teeth to swallow any hope of adequacy. But for now the beast is satiated by this praise. It shifts and stills within her stomach, and the girl is able to slightly relax, narrow shoulders dropping some of the tension held within.

That the luxere seem to warm to him soothes the girl further. One hand still clenched in a reindeer's pelt, Amalia half-turns to the man, her dark eyes serious behind a curtain of golden hair. "You are right to worry," is all she says, an ominous warning but in truth the greatest she can give. How can they prepare, the Outlanders, the lost? They have never seen the Long Night, never tasted its horror like sulfur on their tongue. The lands they come from are bright and open, free and clear and beautiful and safe- or so she imagines, at least. "I do," she answers his follow up question, a little brighter now, color in her cheeks. It is the first year in many she will not be alone for Long Night, and though she tells herself it is nothing more than a favor, a fair exchange for food, the girl cannot help but hope that it also means they might be friends.

She turns to the man all at once, her dark eyes glittering with a sudden hunger. "What is it like, the place you're from?" Her face is warm and shy, her smile hesitant and hopeful. "Do you miss it?" Do you think you could be happy, here?
Seiji Okura
Musician

Age: 25 | Height: 5'7" | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 10 - Dext: 25 - Endr: 12 - Luck: 10
Played by: kae Offline
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Posts: 149
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#9
Suddenly, her face is alive with curiosity. A little less self-posessed, and Seiji might have stepped back. But he feels safe for now, and calm enough that the glance he gives her betrays only a very mild surprise. He smiles, though sorrow darkens his eyes. “I don’t know,” he says, shaking his head. “I remember a few pieces of things. The water, sometimes music… But that is all.” He does not tell her the memories taste sweet, filled with color this dismal place lacks. He does not tell her of the longing even those jagged pieces evoke. Regret a needle in his ribs.

Instead, he says, “It is hard to miss a place I don’t know much about. But… I think I was happy.” His gaze falls from her face, then, back to the kind eyes of the luxere, ever curious. Ever wary. He understands it, that expression. Wanting to help but fearful of the danger dripping from every facet of this place.

“Do you miss your home?” he wonders, assuming she is an Outlander like himself. It makes sense, given her question.
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
JYOTI - Mythical - Starwhale (Humpback)
Played by: charks Offline
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Posts: 1,971
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#10
Amalia
He does not remember what his home is like- and her heart aches as she considers this, though whether with sympathy or envy remains unclear. To forget where one came from, the fibers and strands that weave the tapestry which makes the history of who they are... it is a cruel sort of freedom, Amalia thinks, a rare chance to rebirth oneself, free of both the good and ill, the memories they carry like millstones around their necks. She is weighed down by hers: they drag through the earth at her feet, curving her spine like that of an old woman, biting and gnawing deep in her bones.

And yet would she give them up, her memories, the pieces which make her who she is? The good and the bad, the cruel and the kind, the bitter and the sweet, the love and the loss?

She does not know. She is glad, then, she does not have to choose.

A solemn nod, an empathetic gaze; she feels wistful on his behalf, yearning for a thing she has never known. "It was yours," she says in quiet response, her dark eyes searching his face for some meaning within, answers to the multitude of questions she still yearns to ask. She thinks she understands, but how can she, in truth, child that she is, born into this place? She knows what it is to lose, but not to lose everything. She still has her home, after all.

Her fingers weave deeper into the luxere's fur, spinning idly at the gentle beast's longer tufts of hair. "I... no," she answers hesitantly, no longer meeting his eyes. A sense of guilt overwhelms at her: who is she to speak of mourning, when she still has never lost the world? "I was born here- in Caido. I have never left." She shrugs, a sharp motion beneath the layers of furs.
Seiji Okura
Musician

Age: 25 | Height: 5'7" | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 10 - Dext: 25 - Endr: 12 - Luck: 10
Played by: kae Offline
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Posts: 149
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#11
She is quiet, this woman. But when she does speak, Seiji feels she understands. It was yours. Indeed. His expression is sober, but not sorrowful, as he answers with a shallow nod. He explains no more, though her searching eyes ask delicately for more. She does not push, so he does not offer. Seiji knows this, if he knows nothing else: he loves his home. His home it shall ever be, no matter how long he spends in Caido. He would not do that place the disservice of remembering wrongly. Maybe he will tell her some time in the future, when he can look back on it with clarity.

She is, so far as Seiji can remember, the first person he has met who claims to be native. His brows lift with surprise, lips parting slightly. It should not be so surprising, really. He ought to ask her — a thousand questions. So many things he’s wondered the past few days, so many things he needs to know before darkness falls…

“Most people I have met were not from here,” he explains, his smile embarrassed. “Not the ones I spoke to for a good amount of time, at least. My name is Seiji,” he adds, and gives her the shallowest of little bows. “It is nice to meet you. Do you live near here?”
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
JYOTI - Mythical - Starwhale (Humpback)
Played by: charks Offline
Change author:
Posts: 1,971
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#12
Amalia
The surprise which flushes across his face is a gentle reminder of her loneliness, her place as other in the place she was born, lost without a mooring amongst a sea of strangers. She recoils at it, slightly, withdrawing further into herself, retreating back behind the line of us and them, Natural and Outlander. Something in her face hardens, guards against his smile. He with his memories of a home long lost is not one of Amalia's kind, whatever kind that is. He is an outlier, an interloper, a book of stories in a foreign tongue for which she lacks the key.

Amalia smiles as he gives his name, softening slightly, but even that is distant, unsure. Seiji.  She likes it. "Amalia," she responds quietly, the syllables rolling quietly off her tongue. Should she bow as well? Uncertain, she tries it, the movement less graceful than his but enough to elicit a self-conscious chuckle as she immediately regrets the choice. Her head tilts in response to his question, and she shakes it quickly, indicating her dissent. "I live in the Settlement. I have... a shop."

She regards him for a moment, this cast out Outlander, lost within her world. "Do you?" she asks curiously, "Have somewhere to live?" Part of her wonders if he hopes to leave, if he has already made plans for his escape. Does he know that they are caged birds here, doomed to exist within a prison made by the sins of forefathers long since dead? If she who knows nothing but the bubble yearns for freedom, what must they feel, the newly entrapped?
Seiji Okura
Musician

Age: 25 | Height: 5'7" | Race: Accepted | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 2 - Strg: 10 - Dext: 25 - Endr: 12 - Luck: 10
Played by: kae Offline
Change author:
Posts: 149
MP:
#13
Amalia. Seiji nods, laughing along quietly as she mimics his gesture. Though she may feel clumsy, he appreciates the gesture. And though his laughter is kindly, he sees her features close just slightly, and lets it die in his throat. Is she offended? Or is it something else? He sensed anxiety in her before. Maybe she worries about something else?

“I am staying with a friend,” Seiji says with a nod. “Though I plan to spend Longnight at Rathskeller. It should be safer there.” He hopes. Everything beyond this moment is an unknown, a question shrouded in darkness. Waiting. Just waiting for him to come upon it.

Because she still seems the slightest uneasy, he decides to ask. “Are you cold? We have been out here a long time. I can walk with you to the settlement, if you like.” He pauses a moment, then a brief smile flashes across his features, an attempt to quiet any worry she might have about inconveniencing him. “I am a little cold. I’m still not used to this weather.”
Amalia Chandrakant
the Shield of Safrin
Hand of the Queen / Baker
Portal Guardian
Age: 22 | Height: 5'6 | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Natural
Level: 12 - Strg: 34 - Dext: 34 - Endr: 35 - Luck: 34
JYOTI - Mythical - Starwhale (Humpback)
Played by: charks Offline
Change author:
Posts: 1,971
MP:
#14
Amalia
He laughs in response to her clumsy motion, but it is good-natured, , merry, and she eases against it. He cannot know how hard she is trying, how the desires to reach out and to recoil are war within her mind. She nods, again, as he mentions the Rathskeller, and wonders if the friend is Rexanna, the woman from the board. Probably not- there are so many Outlanders now, it seems foolish to believe they all know each other, have already built a community in her home. And yet it feels that way, sometimes.

A twinge of envy. He already has friends.

Us and them. You can never belong.

She pushes the thought away, but cannot banish it.

It surprises her when he brings up the weather, the piercing chill which pervades the season, gnawing and gnashing at sinew and bone. Yes, she nods again, she is cold. "It feels as though I have never not been cold," Amalia answers wryly, tucking her arms against her chest for defense. The offer to return is unexpected but not unwelcome, though she turns to the luxere first, reaching out one last time to stroke the beast. "You'll protect the Rathskeller this year, hmm? Look after our new friend?" She does not look at Seiji as she straightens, but a flush rises up her cheeks. Our new friend.

A hopeful, hopeless slip.

Amalia starts along the path, expecting him to fall in step. "I can give you some rolls and tea," she offers as they walk, looking sidelong at Seiji. "When we get back. Or... To take with you." Another shrug, but it's accompanied by a smile. She is trying. It feels good.


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