Realm of Terreille => Raej => Lys => Topic started by: Audun Dahl on October 19, 2020, 03:11:03 AM

Title: Traveling Too
Post by: Audun Dahl on October 19, 2020, 03:11:03 AM
Audun's job had only gotten weirder since the 'Event'. It was something she'd had to take mostly on faith, those first few days after it happened. She'd had some unsettling dreams but could never remember them, and, stationed in Hjerte after submitting her most recent assessment, she wasn't actively looking for things that were wrong.

Then she'd come to in the Maintenance Bureau's barracks after a dream that vanished the moment she opened her eyes, and everyone had been in a tizzy. Every Blackwidow in the building had been called into the office of the director, while couriers ran at speed into and out of the bustling halls. Her peerage, those who's skills lay in assessment and preservation, gathered in drifts in the yards and windows, waiting for some kind of update. Those who had reached out with curious psychic touches to their mentors had been quickly rebuffed, the sense of urgency only heightening the longer the silence held.

When the news broke, it wasn't what Audun had been expecting.

Power, pure Craft, had come across the Askavi border in a wave that flattened trees. What had the entire Bureau buzzing wasn't the impressively renovated forest, however, but the influx of reports of changes in Raej's foundation webs. Already letters and psychic communications were bouncing across District and Province borders, all funneling toward Lys and the current Court residence. That the Winds had apparently been ripped apart was secondary: the cornerstone of Raej's peaceable trading, tourism, and immigration had been touched in a way no one could understand. And that had everyone scrambling.

Which was how Audun found herself sent out on a long assignment. Her mentor, who commanded several teams in addition to a dozen assessment contractors, had sent all but the newest and the currently occupied into the field. To all corners they went, working their way from town to town, village to village. Checking every foundation web, reinforcing where they thought necessary, cataloging every detail. She found her artistic abilities greatly increasing, at least those pertaining to mapping web structures. More and more of her reports were returning with preserved sketches of webs, describing as best she could the difference in the feel of them when there wasn't any physical change.

It meant, too, that each stay was longer. She'd left Hjerte with a one-man wagon and a mule, supplies enough to see her through several weeks, and a map of stops with good markets. Those provisions had lasted the trek out to Skygge's joint border with Dena Nehele and Askavi, almost as far as Murm Hontum, only because she was spending almost a full week at each settlement, every web given hours of consideration. Take as much time as you need, her mentor had said, more serious and solemn than Audun had ever seen her. We need to know everything we can, and if that means a week in a hamlet looking over every single web they have, then so be it. But don't dally, either. We must move quickly, and you have a lot of ground to cover.

Ultimately she'd circle back to Hjerte along the River Walk, but what that meant now was that she'd crossed into Lys with Askavi at her right, several weeks behind her and even more before. Between towns the forest was quiet, hushed in a way that had her nerves twanging with tension. She'd encountered the carpet of trees and turned away from it, instructed that different contractors were already scouring the wood. The change couldn't be seen from where she was on the road but it didn't change that she knew it was there, a specter in her peripheral.

That tension was what had her stopping dead in the middle of the road, ears straining, breathing deep. Something was... off. A sound, a smell, a particularly misplaced bird noise. Her mule showed no signs of disturbance, and instead had the gall to look back at her with one dismissive brown eye, jostling the bit in her mouth to express her distaste. Grit, as a travel companion, wasn't terribly fond of stopping in places where there wasn't cover readily available, and Audun took a moment to frown at her before scanning back out into the trees. There wasn't anyone on the road, at least not on the bend she was on, but her sight was limited by the relatively dense branches to either side of the path. There was a network of Nissi footpaths that ran higgly-piggly over and beside the roads, but Audun didn't travel them and didn't quite know what to look for if she wasn't on top of one.

Senses still straining, she clicked her tongue and the reins, and Grit gave a huff at starting on again. "Hush, you," she chided, straining in her seat as though the angle might grant her the ability to see around corners, "I'm the one who'll have to save your hide if we get attacked, not the other way around."
Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Koa Red-eye on October 21, 2020, 05:42:34 PM

Koa frowned. Then frowned harder. Face creasing around his lips and chin. He sagged in the seat of his wagon, frustration turning to dejection. The trail had gone crooked. He couldn't tell if it was day or night with the way the light filtered through the trees. So broken up he couldn't judge which direction it was coming from.

Or which direction he was going.

"We missed the turn." He decided out loud. His mules flicked ears at him, but didn't agree one way or another. They were more focused forward, dragging him along around a bend he wasn't too sure about. The trees pressed in tight and made everything feel too small, including his skin. A branch tried to swipe his eye from his face, forcing him to duck away.

He'd already nearly lost one. He wasn't interested in losing the other. Hunching down, he pressed his elbows between his knees. The mules murmured, ears flopping forward and feet picking up. Chin tipping upward, Koa squinted. What was there? Nothing to fear by the way they acted. Excited like. "Ssst?" He asked, just as they rounded a sharp turn and came nose to nose with another wagon. Smaller and pulled by one mule.

"Oh." He said stupidly, staring.

Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Audun Dahl on October 21, 2020, 11:29:31 PM
She had not been expecting to come face to face - or mule to mule, as it were - with someone else on the road. To be fair, she hadn't actually seen vary many people outside the boundaries of their homes in general, everyone caught in clusters worrying over things they could feel and not see.

Well, Audun was seeing and feeling what had had her hackles up, and the what was a who. A man with his own mule set and wagon. A man who felt strangely... home-like.

This, coming from a stranger, caught wide-eyed from the opposite end of a back-road, wasn't something that sat well with her. The state of the world had everyone in odd sorts, and Audun didn't think herself above that, but she couldn't account for the weirdness of an unknown someone in the forest.

"Hello," she called, gathering her composure to lift a hand in brisk wave. It was her 'sorry for showing up at your door at this odd hour, I'm friendly, you've been expecting me' voice. She tried to soften out the surprise and whatever obvious caution that had crept into her face. "I'm sorry, I can't imagine you have much room." Not that she did, either, but she could at least get off the turn. One mule and a smaller wagon would be easier to move than his pair, if she had to guess. Flicking a quick glance backward, she eyed the road, judging the distance between her and the closest stretch of shoulder not choked in grass.

Eyes back on her company, she said, "It'll take a bit, but I can back up, let you pass." She'd have to unhitch Grit and push the cart backward with Craft, but a careful application of physical shields beneath the wheels would make sliding it easier. Faster. Get her back on her way and ease the unsettling familiarity of the man.

At the same time, she couldn't quite convince herself to look away from him, and it wasn't fear that stayed her. She knew she hadn't met him before, but couldn't shake the sense of recognition that kept her in her seat. The urge to move Grit closer was waylaid only by the knowledge that it could make navigating with their carts even more difficult. "I'm Audun," came belatedly, unable to shake the curiosity in her voice.
Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Koa Red-eye on October 24, 2020, 06:02:02 AM

Koa was rather surprised at the eager way the mules approached the other. Their two noses hemming it its one as they exchanged breaths in huffs and whiffs. It was easier for him to watch the animals, peering down the alley between their necks to watch the exchange, than to meet the woman's eyes.

"Lady." He returned in greeting, voice almost swallowed in the space between them. Koa cleared his throat and breathed deeply. He had come across many people on the road. There was no need for him to turn into a mass of hysteria just because this instance was so sudden. The close quarters meant nothing. Truth, she had more to fear than he, being a woman unescorted in the center of a deep dark wood.

"Shoulda taken the wider road." He admitted. But this way was quicker. And quieter. The roads seemed more menacing lately. Mother of Darkness, the whole world seemed upside down and upset since whatever had happened. Whatever. People whispered about it, as if it were in the room to listen. No name for it. Just missing Winds and a sense of wrongness. A flurry of activity where he was used to little.

It made him stand out too much. A man traveling about with no real purpose.

Koa twisted in his seat, looking backward, but there was nothing to see except the path vanishing into the bend of trees. "I don't remember what was back. Let me help." He could guide her mule. His would follow. One trying to nip her own in a display of dominance. "Stop that." He warned, sliding down from his cart. All his probes and sensing tucked in. Might be rude to try reading a lady in the middle of nowhere. Koa wasn't sure.

But he thought she had that smell about her. One he didn't need to part barriers to recognize. A wild musk.

"Koa, is mine." He left the Red-eye part out. People figured that out on their own. He wedged his fingers between noses, and then his shoulders. "Make room now." Stubborn damn mules.

Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Audun Dahl on October 27, 2020, 03:23:32 AM
She hadn't considered she might be the more forward of the two of them, but the more the man talked the stronger the feeling grew. He seemed as reluctant as she to bridge the gap, at at least as cautious, even if their reasoning was different.

"It's straight enough that way," she reaffirmed, tilting her head behind her as she watched him descend. Civility and curiosity restrained the caution in her, and she slid from the wagon on the in-road side, allowing for the change in distance even as her instincts strained in too many directions. The hair on her nape stood on end, and she kept him in the corner of her eye as she patted Grit's flank to alert her to her presence. There wasn't enough room between her and the hitch to kick easily, and she seemed calm enough as she investigated the man - Koa - and his team.

But Audun needed the reassurance, and didn't want to take any chances of making a fool over herself and spooking her mount.

She unhitched the wagon, resting the hook of the chain on the crossbar to keep it from irritating Grit, and laid narrow shields beneath the wheels. The wagon itself was still fairly heavy, weighed down with her things, but there was less resistance as it began to ease slowly backward.

"She's as like to find your treats as to take a finger," she advised, one hand on the side of the wagon and one on it's foot plank while she extended the shielding little by little. Fingers pressing into the wood grain to grip without making it look too obvious that she was grabbing it out of tension. Slow, small steps as it moved back. "Are you out here for work? Seems to be the only reason anyone's leaving lately; work and running messages." Perhaps he was a courier; there were enough of them about now that Audun had used the excuse herself when she'd faced contact on the road she didn't particularly care for. Darkness, but she couldn't get a read on herself enough to suss out what her instincts were saying. Koa, at least, didn't appear to have any ill intentions. Yet.

Unless he was planning on snatching her mule, which. She'd like to see him try, for the comedy of it.
Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Koa Red-eye on November 21, 2020, 06:40:15 AM

The closer he got, the more Koa was sure. Even over the stink of mule that surrounded him, he could smell it. Two stubborn heads at his back, and one at his front, he wedged the curious, nipping beasts apart. His woolen cloak was left with slobber and pinch marks where they lipped and nipped at him since they couldn't each other. Koa didn't mind. His skin was tougher than they thought.

"As with all mules." He informed her. Donkeys were worse. He'd had one when he'd been younger. Smaller. Riding around in a little single cart so he could learn the feel of it. The mules had more sense, and height. And bit less often, thank the Darkness. "I am." Surely she fell into the message running category. The thought made Koa's lips pinch, broad hands helping her with her wagon once he'd slithered form between the mules.

Women were just as capable of other work. He should know, he'd been saved by a very capable woman himself.

"Thinking I might give up and just go home." Koa heaved from one side, careful not to lift higher or push harder than Audun. His eyes meeting hers over the tongue of the wagon. Did she recognize him for what he was? Both of them the same sort of secret beast traveling the wilds? Not everyone knew, or understood. He'd learned that in his travels.

Going out to find fledglings had made him invariably good at picking out other Angnuk. "Everyone is nervous." What need did she have to fear? Her woman body might be vulnerable but her bear would be ferocious. The females were always big and terrifying.

Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Audun Dahl on November 22, 2020, 04:47:33 PM
All her nerves were in tune when Koa came upon the other side of the wagon and began to help push, and Audun felt that her attempts at fleeting glances in his direction were both obvious and at once impossible to stop. He felt - familiar almost, and it had been decades and decades since Audun had stumbled home and found a family changed and yet the same. Her mother had known, in that intimate way mothers simply knew things, and her siblings had shown her how to recognize it.

But how did one ask? Do you, perhaps, turn into a large carnivore? Are you, sometimes, a bear? It felt like madness. A lightning storm over taking her on the road would cause her less stress.

"Many have," she confirmed. Many had tucked in tight to their hamlets and their boroughs and begun to pray more fervently than they had since the time of Witch, if the elders were to be believed. "The roads are often clearer now, at least. I'm keen to see my journey end." Even though that promised several weeks if not months of travel, depending on the pockets of civilization that she ran into and what their problems were.

"Where do you see your journey end?" Perhaps this could pave the way to... some kind of confirmation. She would never lay the claim that she came from a creche of bear-people, but messages were often hidden in the layers of words. If she were wrong, then nothing would come of it. If she were right, maybe the damn prickling across her back would settle. "Are you returning to family, or to trade?" The wagon gave a little creak as it slid along, and Audun reminded herself not to bombard him with questions. He'd hopefully be less likely to throw up a wall if she skirted the matter.
Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Koa Red-eye on December 12, 2020, 05:32:11 AM

"Is it a long one?" Koa let her let and politely pretended not to notice. He had a feeling he knew why she did. Quick furtive glances when she thought he was not looking. Gaze lingering when their eyes met in conversation or mutual work. Muscles straining as they heaved the cart out of the way.

It still nagged at him, the idea of her traversing the territory with no escort. That he knew she was more than well protected by her bear did nothing to put to sleep the worry. Or the fact that he knew a dozen women of a strong and independent bent.

The wagon creaked and rocked between then, slowly shifting toward the turn out. Koa was careful not to press to hard and make the work uneven. "I live near the border in a small village." A place she would have been comfortable in. Welcome in. What was her home life like, he wondered. She did not seem the country type. "Both? I feel they are one and the same." Koa added after thinking on the answer a moment.

They were family. And they all worked together to help preserve their people. Would she understand? Did she do the same? "We are a sort of orphanage, for foundlings who need extra help." He hinted, gaze steady across the wagon as they wedged onto the side of the path.

Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Audun Dahl on January 09, 2021, 09:52:48 PM
"It can be," and would be, this time. Unless something sprang up that had her mentor summoning her back early, which. Was just as likely as not, at this point. She wouldn't put it past the world to throw something else confusing and obnoxious in their path.

In comparison, Koa was a straightforward curiosity. Audun knew better how to deal with people shaped questions than invisible, nebulous things like 'where are the winds?' and 'where did that power come from?' She hadn't been able to use them at all, anyway, there wasn't much change on her end.

But maybe this was a good change, the Darkness dropping a familiar stranger in her path. There were often strangers on the road, after all, and while most of them were of the 'tip your hat and pass by' type, there were always those who were memorable for their rudeness. Those individuals tended to easily outshine the strangers who were unique in their kindness -- rarely was there an individual who was both kind and interesting, and Audun was beginning to think Koa was one of those.

His statement caught her, sparked a laugh that made her avert her gaze to the wagon wheels. "They are often, I agree. I think of my work when I rest and of rest when I work." She hoped he hadn't thought her dismissive, as she hadn't meant to laugh, but it was something she'd felt herself. She was at once most at home in her work, but she liked the familiarity of her dorm in the Bureau's barracks, of her peers who lived around her, the regular trundle of bureaucracy and paperwork filing. Until it got too stifling, at least.

The next moment her breath stuck, the edges of her smile catching on her mouth. It sounded - it sounded like he worked for her mother. How often had she called her home a place for those who needed 'extra help' or 'different attention'? Always so careful to keep their truth hidden, their second shape a secret.

They had never discussed what to do if she ran into someone who she thought was a member of their - blood? Kind? Audun didn't even know her true father, beyond that he was likely Raejian himself and less likely Nissi, although who could say if bear craft would overwhelm horned craft. The desire to blurt out her suspicions barked against her teeth, and she clenched her jaw against it instead.

Carefully, carefully. Her mother would advocate caution, and Audun was inclined to agree. There were better ways to bridge the gap. "Really?" her interest, at least, was genuine, even if she felt she sounded strained while navigating her own words. "I was raised in a similar manner. My mother attends to children who require a more flexible education." Swallowing, she bit back her instinctive fear, hoping the thread of vulnerability would not be cut. "There are often unexpected shifts in their, our, learning."
Title: Re: Traveling Too
Post by: Koa Red-eye on January 17, 2021, 06:58:21 AM

Her laugh was pleasant, making Koa smile, though he hadn't meant to be funny. He was so often unamusing, he did not mind being found so, even on accident. "Ha." Koa nodded. He understood this, just as he understood journey's becoming long ones, be it by purpose or mishap. "That is a good way of putting it." It made him think though. Did any of them every truly rest?

If he did not journey, he helped with the care of the land, and the children. Webs were always being wove. Prayers uttered. Truthfully, the days he spent in the wagon were probably his most restful.

Koa watched her. Thoughtful, and quietly attentive, as he dropped hints in their banter. Feeling her out as they dropped traces and shifted the wagon. Both of them strong. Stronger, maybe, than they should be. Yes. She was surely a powerful bear. And there, there was a tell tale. Her lips pinched a little at the corners, and a furtiveness came into her gaze.

"Truly." He promised her solemnly. The wagon was nearly settled now. They would have room to pass each other and continue on their separate ways. Koa was not yet ready to go, however. "We understand each other, then. See?" He smiled, manner passive and open. Did she see? Could she smell the bear inside of him? "A quiet place is most helpful, we have found. It settles all those frightening changes children go through. Or young women." It came later for them.

Larger. Fiercer. The elders spoke of that being the reason why they were so dangerous. Koa did not think it mattered why, just that they were. An unfortunate thing for those not prepared.