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  #256  
Old Aug 10th, 2021, 09:06 PM
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with Professor Elidyr"Thank you for the advise professor. Hytak has been a most excellent example for me. Perhaps I overstated the severity of the thesis, but one of the things I have picked up from both instruction in the philosophy class as well as from Hytak is that Heroes may be bold, or subtle, or strong, or clever, but the vast majority of them have strongly held beliefs. When writing, I wished to ensure that a strongly held belief was not just held, but expressed."

Looking down at his hands when Professor Elidyr commented on his writing, Kin'ta acknowledged "Zerazad helped me translate some of the word-phrases that do not translate well, and I asked Mira for help with some of the grammar. I am much better receptively at the common tongue, but expressively it lacks the force of Infernal."

Kin'ta
It was a party. Kin'ta ate relatively sparingly, watching the festivities for a while before walking over to Marcus and whispering something into his ear.

Kin'ta watched the dancing for a time thinking to himself My time in the Hex and in the Stonetree have conditioned me well enough to be able to do that. Standing from his chair, the tall Tiefling walks over to Zerazad and mimicking what he had seen others do, inclined his head. "If it would please you, I ask for the honor of this dance"

A little later Kin'ta approaches Mira and extends a hand as he had seen others do sometimes. "If I may be so bold as to ask for your company?"

 
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  #257  
Old Aug 10th, 2021, 10:54 PM
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Minya Wainraith
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The young elven blooded woman sits at her table, comfortably alone for the moment. A glass of passable wine keeps her company. For the festival she'd broken out one of the two fine dresses she'd managed to pack off from home despite auntie Cypher's draconian measures. She'd been a warrior, scholar, poet, and at times it seemed scullery maid over the last few nights. Tonight she could hopefully just relax and be a young lady.

The trimester from hell had beaten down so many of the students, but for Minya it had seemed to bring her to life. She had no special resistance to the fatigues of the long days or the pains of training, especially in the Hex. What she had was a voracious appetite to see all these new things. The new ideas and experiences, literally worlds away from the every-day sameness that her life had been. On the one hand, she still feels as though someone had made a mistake to call her here, but on the other hand she was going to make the most of the opportunity until they realized it.

Too it had helped to take her mind off the horror of her Trial. Of having someone he'd broken bread and laughed with literally die in her arms... Well, driving herself, or more accurately being driven, to exhaustion had helped her sleep at night. The worst had been those first few nights after their arrival, before their training had properly begun. Back when she had no structured activity to tire her out, and time to think at night.

After the first few sleepless nights, Minya had pushed her reservations aside and spoken to Mistress Sequoia. Minya's upbringing had left her with views on the gods that seemed to be fairly at odds with pretty much everyone else she'd spoken to. Or maybe it was that the gods of her world that were different. Perhaps a little of both.

Fortunately Sequoia hadn't said a word about gods, and instead spoken about grief and how to process it. It had helped, but Minya's heart was still troubled. In part she was troubled at how easily the death of their class-mates, and in some cases students, had been forgotten. Was life so cheap to these people? There were people like that back home, but they certainly weren't called heroes.

Minya had kept largely to herself during the trimester. Focused on her own endeavors and interests. It had paid off. Weapons and motions that had seemed awkward when training half-heartedly with Rhys now moved freely. New skills and knowledge. Even the magic of music now came to her. A bard! Redgrove would be proud. It wasn't much compared to what all the others back home could do, but it was hers and hers alone.

The festival made her think of the Demon's Moon End festival that happened at home, right around the same time of the season. A celebration of their freedoms hard won from the fiends that once ruled Aheka, as well as the bonds of friendship and family. The Clerics of Laftiil would be passing out their masks to be discarded at the end of the celebration.
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  #258  
Old Aug 11th, 2021, 01:23 PM
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Marcus
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The night was upon them. Marcus had been hearing about the gravitonimagimeter all week from Thaz, and now he'd see the theory in practice. He'd been fascinated by the device the first few times he'd heard the goblin describe it, but by the tenth time, he almost wished she'd hunt him to make the talking stop. Maybe this is a new torment of hers. The boy wondered as the goblin went on about crystalic harmonic convergence.

He scanned the banquet hall looking for the best grub while also hoping to find those cheating jerks from the combat trial. He was hoping for crestfallen faces of defeat, but he knew they'd be the same snooty jerks as ever. You don't get your nose that far in the clouds by thinking you can make mistakes.

Marcus paused for a moment, wondering if he'd judged them wrong. Miro's chat had him questioning a lot of his preconceived notions. He shook the thought from his head. Saying cold things behind closed doors is much different than kidnapping people and tossing them in a cave! He reassured himself as he snagged a drink from a passing tray. It wasn't the time for thinking anyway. Now it was time to party!

He'd grown a lot since he'd first arrived here. He'd put on not only muscle but skill and not an insignificant amount of pride. He'd stood up to Veranda after all. He swaggered around confidently before his eyes settled on Minya. His body locked up, and he couldn't look away. I thought I'd found them all! His inner monologue went shaky. Get it together, Marcus! He chided himself and forced an awkward wave in the elf's direction before bolting, spilling his drink in the process.

Kin'ta found him moments later, giving him the jolt he needed to regain his composure. Marcus looked from side to side conspiratorially and whispered back to the boy.



His advice delivered, he scanned the crowd for L. He'd not seen his construct buddy for weeks, and he wondered about the wisdom of making a bet with the construct. I wonder if I could get him to talk if he lost the bet? The possibilities were endless, and he didn't want to waste his shot at something big. He continued to wander the banquette, wondering who he should challenge and how juicy the stakes would be.




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  #259  
Old Aug 11th, 2021, 07:20 PM
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Goio
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At least the festival was at night. Goio always felt more... what was the word? Uh... well, he just always felt more at night. It was kind of nice that everyone else had begun to crane their necks upwards as the evening went on, peering at where the moon would appear. At the stars. At the deepening night sky itself. That's what Goio did all the time. It kind of made him feel like... like he could just be one of the crowd. Which was difficult, considering he was a nearly seven foot tall limpy-lumbering gargoyle.

With horns bent backwards, and a series of stalagmite spines protruding from the back of his head and down his neck, Goio was certainly... distinct. Great, stone-chiseled wings were folded back behind him - as much as he could, anyways - after learning the hard way that living around this many people meant more things his wings could smash into and knock over. (He still avoided the art studios when he could, which was a shame...) All of him that was visible outside his ornamental purple-and-white robes, from his blade-edged claws to his ever-present grimace (he was just carved that way), looked like it was roughly hewn from a single great chunk of rock. Like he might just crumble into craggy bits every time he moved. But that's just what his A clan of gargoyles is called a wing.wing of gargoyles looked like.

And right now, Goio looked like he was standing awkwardly in the center of an aisle between tables, holding a particularly large bowl of red and yellow berries. Snacks he'd somehow managed to procure before the rest of the feast was set out in full. Little did he know that it was actually a serving bowl meant to feed an entire group. Goio was going to take his snack and find a nice isolated corner to sit behind. Alone. Like usual. But on this night, the night of the festival, something froze him in his tracks...

"The Festival of the Silver Moon is about honoring those who... we've lost...?" The gargoyle thought to himself, still in everyone's way. He pictured those moments when his teammates had... perished. Feeling so stuck in his own skin. He pictured when he and the others - Alojz and Minya and Opal - had to hide from that terrible monster as it ate their poor, cursed goat. Loud. Sloppy. Chomping. Goio just felt so... helpless. "Paula... James...." They'd been nice to Goio. Just that they were happy enough to be themselves around him - and not even stare or anything - made Goio feel just a little bit more... normal. They were exactly the kind of people he'd imagined when he first got his invitation to Hero Academy. "They wouldn't want me to sit alone, after we were all teammates together. Is that a way to honor them?"

But who would Goio sit with? Who could he talk to? He couldn't just go sit with strangers. What if they gawked at how one of his legs tended to drag behind him? What if they stared at his horns? What if they thought he was weird?

There! It's Minya! Sitting at a table with lots of empty seats. But ever since the trials, whenever Goio spotted one of his teammates, he was reminded of that same feeling of helplessness. (Which was especially difficult, considering he and Alojz were bunkmates.) Maybe he'd just go back to the cathedral gardens...

No. This is the Silver Moon Festival. Paula and James wouldn't let him sit alone if they were still here. They'd want him to sit with their team.

... but his legs wouldn't move. They were (20' base land movement due to Oracle Curse: Lame.)not-moving more than usual. Goio just stood there, holding an inexplicably large bowl of berries, staring at the nearby empty seats while others stared at him in turn.

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"!"

Goio had an idea! The towering gargoyle took a deep breath, stood up straight, and closed his eyes. Like beams of moonlight cutting through fog and parting cloud, he Goio casts Command on himself!summoned up a power from deep within himself... "Greet!" He commanded himself. Before he knew what was happening, he'd marched forward the several paces to Minya and blurt-shouted: "HELLOGREETINGS."

Once Goio realized what'd happened, he froze up again. The granite texture of his cheeks flushed with specks of blue and silver. After another prolonged moment, Goio just sat down quietly at the drow's table with his bowl of berries. His seat creeeeak-ed.

...

"Don't talk about teammates dying. Don't talk about teammates dying. Don't talk about teammates dying."

...

"Is this what it's like to be a part of a group?"

...

That's when the pressure of speech overwhelmed him. In his low, rumble-gravel voice: "... I think I should have written my hero philosophy about the Silver Moon Festival, since the moon is kind of like a star. Sort of. I mean I guess it's not." His gaze had been wafting from table to passersby to his arms to the floor. Anywhere but forward. "Maybe it's best that I didn't write about the festival. Instead I wrote about how, like, being a hero is kind of like being a star in someone else's night sky, since, you know, sometimes you can be a light for others but maybe it doesn't seem like a lot of light, or whatever, and you never know what saving someone looks like or how important little acts of everyday heroism might be, I guess..." The novice spellcaster fell quiet once he realized he'd started nervous-rambling. The gargoyle tried to sink into himself. Make himself littler. Unseen. But concentrating his weight into a smaller area just made his seat CR-EEEEAK even louder. Conspicuously. Another blush.

"... sorry. I didn't see anyone else I recognized here. I'm not really great at, like, talking to people, I guess, like you are,” he said meekly. ”You always seem At least, Goio equates sociability with confidenceso sure of yourself, like it comes naturally. You probably already knew what your hero philosophy was, even before the assignment."

Goio's gaze meandered upwards to Minya, indicating that all his talk about their recent essay was actually meant to be a question about her own hero philosophy. "What'd you write about?"

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  #260  
Old Aug 12th, 2021, 01:26 AM
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Zerazad
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Mira thought long about what her roommate had told her about everyone's own perspectives and experiences. That might have been one of the nicest things she'd ever told Mira! And although she had noticed how Zerazad's attitude had changed, the genie still exuded power and confidence.

I wish I can be like her.

And then there was her essay. 'Taming the flames of passion: the line between fervor and tranquility.' To Mira, Zerazad seemed to be made of similar material as her mentor, Berudha-sempai. They probably won't get along at all, but surely Berudha-sempai would be pleased with someone as talented as Zerazad.

Only if I was like her.

The image of Zerazad in Mira's mind soon overlapped with the image of her sister, Adelina.

Mira shook her head. This is what Zerazad just lectured me on. Snap out of it!

She had made this far, hadn't she? And apparently her sister either didn't get the invitation or chose not to come, probably the latter, but that meant she was free from being directly compared with her on everything. Ever since coming here, she had learned so much about everything, about things she had never even dreamt of. And there were a lot more to learn. I just have to move on at my own pace. With my own experiences, and my own perspectives.


The Silver Moon Harvest FestivalMira was fascinated to learn about the "Silver Moon". Moon had always been regarded as sacred source of power for a lot of shapeshifters, but a moon that defies its natural phase? It almost felt rebellious, and exciting, and it made Mira blush at the thought. She had NEVER even thought about anything rebellious in her life, and it felt strange to feel excited about.

The young fox folk was dressed in silky dark gray dress with golden embellishments, contrasting her crimson fur and accentuating her golden eyes. She still hadn't perfected her human form to hide her fluffy ears and the tail, but it sort of had become her trademark at this point so she had stopped trying. Her ears twitched before she heard Kin'ta ask for a dance. Mira was surprised, but being used to attending various dance parties and balls, automatically gave a shy smile and curtsied in acceptance.

Her body remembered the hours of dance and posture lessons, so it was more like a muscle memory for her. But of course she was very much out of practice, and she had not anticipated to be asked for a dance, which made her nervious. The combination of the two made her body move very stiffly and without grace, even though she went through the steps flawlessly. When Mira had realized this she began to panic, then she noticed Kin'ta also moving stiffly, which made her burst into a fit giggles.

"Hee..heehee..I'm..I'm sorry. I'm sorry! It's just that we probably look like a pair of robots dancing right now." Mira whipsered as she tried hard to hold her laughter. "Thank you for asking me for a dance, though. That was nice of you." She added, her eyes tearing up a little, perhaps from holding in her giggles, or perhaps because she was that touched.

After the dance concluded, she looked around before turning to ask Kin'ta, "Um..do you know about the bets that we can make on the Silver Moon? Like, how do we place bets, and do we have to bet coins? I don't have a lot of coins.."


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  #261  
Old Aug 12th, 2021, 02:33 AM
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Minya Wainraith
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The tall coltish Drow-touched adolescent muses on the odd similarities to the Demon's Moon End and this Silver Moon Harvest Festival. Similar, but not really the same. It's probably just a harvest festival thing more than anything. The harvest would certainly be a thing for most people to celebrate before the coming of winter.

Her thoughts are interrupted when she notices a young man, a boy it seems, waving at her with an odd strained look on his face. She's about to wave back when he bolts, splashing his drink to the ground in his haste, leaving Minya stunned and confused.
What? I... What?
She rummages through her memories for what she could have done to provoke such a reaction. He was a first year like her, but she couldn't for the life of her remember his name. She'd seen him... On the Hex for sure, and maybe around here and there. Perhaps he was attracted to her, had tried to start an interaction, and lost his nerve?
Maybe she should go find him an-
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goio
"HELLOGREETINGS"
It is then Minya's turn to spill her drink as her pod-mate's abruptly shouted greeting startles her out of her thoughts. Minya yanks herself back off the chair with a startled noise as the spilled wine threatens to ruin one of her only two good dresses as it dribbles off the edge of the table. The dress while very fine of material and manufacture and fitted so well it had obviously been tailored to her specifically, is of muted tones and lacking in froofery or embellishment.
She does wear some jewelry, fine silver earrings set with green gems, silver and onyx rings, and a very This amulet is made of an unknown substance, looking something like flawed quartz or crazed glass, but weighing far less. It's wondrously tough, and feels kind of like smooth ceramic in texture. The amulet has a jet back spider emblem on it with no details.interesting amulet
With a small sigh she responds to the gargoyle.
"Hello Goio."
She takes her napkin and blots the few drops that had collected on her dress and mops up what little was still on the table. Fortunately she hadn't taken a large glass, and drunk most of it already anyways.

Once that's done she sits back down beside her podmate. Minya had taken well enough to her more bizarre roommates. In her homeland there were humans, drow, dragons, some living constructs, and trolls. That was just about it for intelligent mortal races in Aheka, and humans by far outnumbered everything else. Once she was certain that Dio wasn't some Evil outsider like a demon or devilfiend, she'd grouped him in with all the other weird and wonderful new creatures populating the universe like halflings and centaurs and orcs and moved on with it.

She listens to Goio's thoughts on the recently submitted essay politely, pausing for a moment to process them.
"That's... actually kind of poetical Goio." She smiles. "I like it.”
“I'm sure we're going to have more philosophy classes, so you should save it for later."

When Goio comments on her already knowing her Hero Philosphy Minya looks distinctly uncomfortable.
"Sort of... I uhh, back home I know a bunch of people that are called heroes, but it's... Different? Different, maybe harder, when it's you, not them, you're supposed to talk about. Not theoretical, but then again... Uhh. When you don't have distance between you and what you're talking about? I'm not sure how to put it.”

“I kept my essay simple."
At least at first glance. "Being a hero is helping people. Doing the greatest good for the most people, especially when it's hard. Everything else is just details."
Different people had different strengths when it came to how they could help. Sometimes what constituted “help” or “good” was hard to agree on, or might not be obvious, but everything she was learning suggested that it's a big complicated messy chaotic universe. Getting caught up in those details was pointless if you let that get you away from the basic tenant of helping people.
Minya had briefly considered submitting an essay that consisted of HELP PEOPLE but suspected that, despite being amusingly cheeky, it wasn't half as clever as it seemed in her head.

That Goio thought Minya was sure of herself amused the young lady to no end.
If only you knew.
But she didn't say anything, not wanting to embarrass the big buy worse than he was already. But maybe... Maybe she could put a little bit of that philosophy into practice right now.
"So Goio. Everything's a skill. My mom used to say that. You can't expect to be good at something you never do, right? So you start out bad at a skill, and work your way up from there. I'm OK, not great but OK, at talking to people because I talked to a lot of people back home. If you want to get better at talking to people, you should talk to more people. I know it's not easy, and I'm not saying you should jump right into the deep end, but if you look at it like 'yea, obviously I'm not good at this' and go from there, it might not seem so hard."

 
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  #262  
Old Aug 12th, 2021, 06:49 AM
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The Silver Moon Harvest FestivalResponding to Miras comments about robots, Kin'ta "Until I started working in the stone tree, I had never seen a robot. I'm going to blame the fact that I'm dancing with the prettiest girl in the room." Kin'ta said the last with a devilish grin that only Tieflings can pull off. Kin'ta doesn't mention that this is only the second or third time he has ever danced.

Upon mention of the bets, Kin'ta completely missed a step, and looked over Mira's shoulder for a moment searching for Marcus. "I came here with no coins, and haven't really had a way to earn them. I had heard some of the more senior students talking about the bets, but noted that if we make guesses based on the phase we could both be wrong... and what happens then?" Realizing that he was starting to ramble, the the dark skinned Tiefling simply blurted out "If the moon is less beautiful than you, you should go on a date with me."

A wild look of panic crosses Kin'ta's face as he fully comprehends what he just said. So. Now I've done it. I hope it doesn't become a scene. Stumbling the footwork of the dance out of awkwardness he finally stops trying and simply stands there, eyes glued to Mira's golden eyes as he waits for either a counter proposal or a slap to the face.
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  #263  
Old Aug 13th, 2021, 08:09 PM
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Festivals and Friends
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Despite his size and his shoulders, Alojz did not lumber. Nor did he really take notice of eyes, or nods, or sneers. At least when they were directed his way. He did notice them when directed at other 'first years', Minya, Goio, Mira, Kin'ta for instance. These he tolerated little and even though there was nothing he could do about them directly, at least without significant complications, he routinely put his bulk between those looks and his friends. He knew they could hear and see them also, but they'd see and hear them less when he stood in the way. If needed, he'd blanket the loudness of them with his own words and jokes, smiles and laughter.

He is tall. Only Goio and a few others stand near or above him. His voice is easy, smooth deep water. Something weird upon his boyish lips and struggling stubble. He slides next to Goio and, before adept can flinch, he puts an arm around the gargoyle's shoulders.

"Brother," he says, looking at Goio with a kind lopsided smile. "You've found the table with the most beautiful at the festival," he adds nodding to Minya.

Alojz remembers hiding with Goio. He remembers picking up James' body after and carrying it out. He remembers holding it together just long enough to be alone and bury his face in his hands. The whole time doubting his spirit, his courage, his meaning. And shuddering as his failing of them fell into his heart. He stuck close to those he counted as friends since then in case anything else went awry. Heroism was simple for him. He disagreed with the lecture in some ways. Sure, one needed to think of consequences and see a bigger picture, but allowing it to restrain one's actions was folly inside him. Defending of those in need and the morals in one's soul shouldn't be stuttered by such thoughts as what if and secondary consequences. There would always be what ifs and secondary consequences. Letting those thoughts beggar one morals to the point of inaction was just what the mean and dangerous wanted. What complacency needed. And what depravity bet upon. Too many consequences. One more mean and dangerous and depraved waiting in the wings. So why do anything?

Because it was right.

Blinking, his mind in more places than it should be, Alojz shook his head in self admonishment.

"Apologies," he said to everyone while giving Goio a healthy squeeze. "I forget myself. Minya, you look lovely. And Goio, my fine gentlemen of a friend. You look well enough for a few steps and'a dance with Minya and I yes?"

To others, it may seem that Alojz is joking. That his words have hidden barbs or teasing. But they do not. They fall from his lips with honest warmth and friendship. He smiles at them and releases Goio to stand, his face open and without a shred of arrogance in it.

"The moon will be here soon enough. And an upside-down crescent I wagger. So why don't we three twirl about the grass a bit and give the upperclassmen something to sneer at. Then we'll find the fools, make our bets, and take all the things they covet."

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Last edited by GeneT; Aug 13th, 2021 at 08:23 PM.
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  #264  
Old Aug 14th, 2021, 01:58 AM
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Minya Wainraith
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Minya just rolls her eyes at Alojz when the big ork comments about “the most beautiful at the festival.”
The young woman had never been good at taking compliments, even when they weren't as blatantly false as this one. Even Minya had to admit she was pretty, beautiful on a good day maybe, but she'd never been the most anything at anything. Except maybe the most mediocre at being average.

The truth is Minya had never put any particular emphasis on her appearance. She rarely wore much in the way of makeup, and her nice dresses and jewelry were because she liked how they looked, not because she liked how they made her look. Striving to be the prettiest had always seemed so empty to her, even if it hadn't been leagues out of reach with people like her mother, auntie Didina, or Queen Mayve around. Yet half the women around were always trying.

Admittedly being the prettiest in the room is hard work, and the competition fierce. And auntie Didina could wield her beauty like a skilled swordswoman to great effect when she wanted to. Maybe it would be better to say that it was empty if your beauty was all you had. Or better yet, all you were valued for. Yes, that sounded better.

Minya let's Alojz finish his spiel
"Al, I'm sore all over from not only El'Tanya's last visit, but Minya's mentor. Someone minya always seems annoyed with.Sharim's latest sparring session too. I haven't had a chance to catch up on sleep since this trimester started. And well-" her face falls slightly. "I just don't feel like dancing right now. I just kinda want to relax, eat, drink, and be glad that I made it through the trimester without flunking out or quitting, and nobody else I know died. Maybe later. If someone charms their way into it."
It would probably take someone pretty charming though.

 
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Old Aug 14th, 2021, 09:58 AM
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Alojz blows breath out his tusks when Minya declines. He sees the roll of her shoulders and figures she's settled, but he wasn't bound to give up so easily. If he were honest, which he usually is, he was just as tired, just as beat, and just as amazed he'd made it this far. But, he didn't do it alone. He couldn't have. So he tries again, putting his best crooked smile on his lips while laying a hand on Goio's shoulder before sitting back down at the table.

"I wouldn't have survived without you two," he starts. "So when you're ready to take a stroll, or maybe dance, or just stand about swaying our bums in the direction of the upperclassman, I'll be here. Goio too. 'Till then, we can just drink and eat and be. And if you still don't wanna dance with me and Goio, then I'll just have ta dance with Goio all by myself. Eventually. Which would be fine. He's taller than I am and I can place my wee head on his shoulder while we twirl about clutching at his better parts. Which are many. And varied."

There is a fair amount of smile in Alojz voice, but much more of another feeling. He doesn't take his eyes off Minya for one second. They are softer than they should be peeking out from behind his tusks. And warmer than most ever get to see.

"Whatever we do," he adds looking from Minya to Goio and back. "I'll be content. How's that for Charming Lady Wainraith?"

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Old Aug 15th, 2021, 02:13 AM
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OpalThe Frost Demon slowly slips through the crowds, taking great care to avoid getting her hands or feet stepped upon. It didn't help that several of the party-goers were already tipsy or downright drunk. White, chitinous skin and sparkling antlers like crystals help mark Opal out against the crowd, but as short as she is, and hobbling around on three limbs does not help keep her within "normal" humanoids' line of sight. To make up for this, her long white, hairless tail sticks straight up like a flagpole, occasionally waggling with nervousness.

Opal's other crystal-clawed hand is wrapped around the edge of a tray which she has precariously balanced on her back. It is absolutely stockpiled with a wide array of morsels... in fact, the pile consists of a tiny morsel of every kind of food and snack Opal could find at the buffet tables. There was no reason not to try everything, after all...

From her position so low to the ground, Opal cannot even see the dining tables, let alone anyone she knows... except Goio. Bless that strange, strange rock-creature. The way he moved and talked was unnerving at first, with how sudden and erratic he could be, but once Opal had gotten accustomed to his eccentricities she found them comforting. She wasn't the strangest creature at the Academy, and unlike Goio she had the luxury of being small enough to escape notice most of the time.

Not tonight, unfortunately. Opal's keen ears pick up the whispering, and although she does not need to looks she can practically sense when someone is looking at her. It is a skill born from being prey for most of her life, and perhaps a little overactive and paranoid... but it doesn't matter. Opal feels like the only eyes that are not currently on her are the ones attached to those about to drunkenly step on her. Of all the words whispered behind her back, "cursed" hurts the most. It brings back such terrible memories. "Cursed" is what Opal's tribe had called her when the exiled her. "Cursed" is what they called her when they began to slaughter the planar voyagers, and drove her back into the caves...

The Academy was supposed to be a safer place... better in every way. Why did it have to remind her so much of home?


...It still is better in most ways. Goio is one of those ways, as are the other classmates with him, Minya and Alojz. They were kind to Opal, even though she was a coward. And they were "cursed" just like her. "Misery loves company" as one of the humans had told Opal. The food was better, too, Opal thinks as she places the tray on the table. Even if she was an outcast, she wasn't alone. And even if she was cursed, she wasn't hungry. And even if she was a coward, she wasn't dead... not like Pau-

"Ah! Opal please sit with, yes?" Unlike most, Opal does actually wait for permission before setting the tray on top of the table (which takes some amount of effort, given her posture) and climbing onto a seat. She crouches rather than sits, her knees poking above the tabletop, with her tail wrapped around her neck like a loose scarf. The top of the tail still softly twitches and flicks from time to time, but Opal keeps the tail close to her body, lest it drape to the ground and get stepped on. She remembered the first time that had happened at the Academy. A great, hulking goliath with hefty boots had trod on Opal's tail, crushing it so thoroughly that her body felt as if the end had been removed entirely. Of course, it had only left one hell of a bruise, but it felt like it had been mangled, like Paula's corps-

Opal shakes her head violently, trying to dislodge the bad memories from her head, then takes a bite of her food, not particularly caring what her somatic outburst looked like to the others at the table. The first bite is disgusting, something orange and sour and runny... Opal appreciates every second that she gets to try it. The discomfort produced by its foul, alien taste is a small price to pay for an interesting - and entirely safe - experience. Other students talked of being adventurers; The food at the Academy was all the adventure Opal needed to be happy. No nonsense about fighting cursed creatures. No sparring with El'Tanya-Sensei... or in Opal's case, fleeing. Oh, yes, Opal had sparked a particular ire from the sensei. She had yet to actually duel El'Tanya, unlike the other students. Each time, Opal had simply fled, terrified of the Sensei's prowess. It didn't matter that the boken was made of wood, or that El'Tanya had left the weakest and least skilled students with little more than slight bruises and injured egos... Opal couldn't face her. The realization that El'Tanya could kill Opal, in an instant, with no way for Opal to defend herself, left her utterly horrified. The Sensei was like a boogeyman, as terrible as any monster from the caves of Zcerneboch, save for a willingness to refrain from cruelty.

But cowards live. Cowards survive. Like when the ape came charging in, and the goat had chased after her and everyone else. Opal ran and hid. Opal lived. She had been fast enough... she had been good enough at hiding to slip away and let the monsters chase her own teammates. She had crawled back to Paula's mangled, pulverized body and remembered how she barely looked like a Fetchling anymore, her were limbs twisted like that.


Opal wonders, for the first time this evening, if any of the others at the table know that she wouldn't have fought with them, if they had tried to do anything other than run? If they knew she would have let them die just like Paula while she ran and hid on her own? Opal certainly hopes not...


Having caught the tail-end of the trio's discussion on philosophy, Opal feels relieved that the conversation has moved on. She has a very distinct idea of what a hero is, and required no time to conjure it up. She had known, from the moment the assignment had been given. A hero is a person that grants something too valuable to be priced, too meaningful to be repaid... and expects nothing in return. Like the voyagers had saved Opal's life by bringing her away from Zcerneboch. Of course she could never pay them... she was living like an animal, with no possessions to her name and no skills to boast of. They did it anyways, knowing it meant everything to Opal. That was a hero to Opal... they were heroes to Opal. Her problem had never been defining a hero. Her problem was that she wasn't one. The sight of Paula's body, burned permanently and torturously in Opal's mind, was a constant reminder of that. Cowards survive... cowards can't be heroes.

Opal shakes her head violently a second time. She had come to the table to eat, and to listen to the others, but she found herself tuning out and being pulled back into her own thoughts again and again. It was pointless. Opal couldn't change the past, and she couldn't change herself. She could enjoy a plethora of food, kind company, and a lovely night sky. And... there was one bit of conversation that - now that she had heard it brought up - Opal was dying to know, and not only because it would firmly lead conversation away from all the things that bother her.


"Question... what is 'dancing'?" Opal's face doesn't suggest she is joking as she looks up inquisitively at Alojz and Minya. The former had mentioned swaying... twirling... Opal looks out at the field of dancers from her perch on a picnic bench and cries out as the eureka moment hits her. "AH! This is dancing!" She had seen this before... she thought it was some strange form of "hugging" or a mating ritual that certain species brazenly performed. So it was entertainment all along?! Opal looks back at the others, now a little bashful as she realizes she had only just figured out another piece of "common knowledge." "Sorry, sorry... Opal thought strange two-people-hugging-close was mating ritual... never wanted to ask and embarrass... aha..."
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  #267  
Old Aug 15th, 2021, 02:04 PM
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GoioWhen Goio saw that his Read: using Command on himself to push past his own shynessmagically-enhanced approach had caused Minya's drink to spill, his gemtone eyes nearly bulged. "Uh- I... Sorry, ah- I didn't... Uh, sorry... Is that real wine?" The gargoyle nervously looked over either shoulder, assuming alcohol wasn't allowed and suddenly fearing what would happen if he was the reason that Minya was caught with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minya View Post
"... I uhh, back home I know a bunch of people that are called heroes, but it's... Different? Different, maybe harder, when it's you, not them, you're supposed to talk about. Not theoretical, but then again... Uhh. When you don't have distance between you and what you're talking about? I'm not sure how to put it.”"
But Goio knew exactly what Minya was trying to say. He was used to watching the world from afar. From atop ruined cathedrals. From around corners at the Academy. Being so close to everything was... well, it was just so much sometimes.

... like being right in the middle of a festival.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minya View Post
"“I kept my essay simple." At least at first glance. "Being a hero is helping people. Doing the greatest good for the most people, especially when it's hard. Everything else is just details."
"Oh, wow. That's really really smart. Like doing good when you see it just because it needs doing?"

He tried to play along like he understood, but he didn't. It just sounded so obvious when Minya talked about it. Goio chalked it up to the drow having a much deeper understanding of heroes and heroism than himself. When she went on to recommend that acceptance of one's struggles with a skill can be a natural part of trying to overcome them, Goio nodded. After a while of thinking of the idea and staring quietly into his serving bowl of berries, Goio finally said: "Hey, ah, Minya...? I just wanted to say, I guess, uh... thank-"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alojz View Post
He slides next to Goio and, before adept can flinch, he puts an arm around the gargoyle's shoulders.

"Brother," he says, looking at Goio with a kind lopsided smile. "You've found the table with the most beautiful at the festival," he adds nodding to Minya.
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But Goio did indeed flinch. Even though he'd grown accustomed to the natural affection of Alojz's approaches - an arm around a shoulder or a pat on the back - it always managed to startle the stone-skinned adept. Just a part of their dynamic. In truth, Goio was glad they'd been paired as bunkmates. Not just because there was a natural comfort around the orc's sense of asuredness, like the once-cattle drover would make sure everything turned out okay in the end. And not just because Goio secretly appreciated the occasional push out of his comfort zones, even if he didn't know how to put that appreciation to words. But because - just maybe - Goio might be able to get a better understanding of To Goio, this is both being able to: 1) take action during combat and emergencies, as well as; 2) what Goio thinks it is to have confidence in one's self.what made brave people so brave by being around Alojz. Maybe Goio could figure out how to become a little more brave by being around Alojz.

Except at the orc's compliment to Minya, the gargoyle's eyes nearly bulged out again. Maybe not that brave and maybe not that quickly. In an attempt to distract himself from the moment, Goio brought his viciously-edged claws to the bowl of berries, neatly plucked a single red orb from the pile, and with viciously-edged teeth, munched on it ever-so-slowly.

Then Alojz turned his compliments to Goio, and... asked him to dance with them?! Goio had barely made it this far, just to sit at the table with them! He tried to shrink in place once more. To continue distracting himself from the exchanges going on, he grabbed an entire handful of berries and ate them all at once.

At least Minya was able to quash the idea of dancing. Goio started to give a sigh of relief (through his nostrils, since he was still noisily chewing), until...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alojz View Post
"I wouldn't have survived without you two," he starts. "So when you're ready to take a stroll, or maybe dance, or just stand about swaying our bums in the direction of the upperclassman, I'll be here. Goio too. 'Till then, we can just drink and eat and be. And if you still don't wanna dance with me and Goio, then I'll just have ta dance with Goio all by myself. Eventually. Which would be fine. He's taller than I am and I can place my wee head on his shoulder while we twirl about clutching at his better parts. Which are many. And varied."
Goio's cheeks flushed igneous. Oh, if only the sun would come out and he could turn to stone like the gargoyles of old! By now he was stuffing heaping handful after heaping handful of the red and yellow berries into his mouth, eyes bulging wide but staring forward at no one at all. His nervous-eating had escalated into full blown panic-scarfing, and not only were the SCROMFs and SHLOOPs of his open-mouth chomping making just as much noise as the orc and drow were talking, but the berry juice had begun to fly in every direction, dribbling from his mouth like a fresh kill, staining into his own robes and claws.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Opal View Post
"Ah! Opal please sit with, yes?"
"YEAH." Goio managed despite his mouth being full. "Opal please sit," he motioned at their table. Nevermind that her arrival was great timing - Goio found a natural kinship with the frost fiend. She wasn't like the other demons he'd heard about. Just like he wasn't like a lot of the monsters that he'd started reading about. Even more, Opal's chitinous skin reminded Goio of the rocky ridges of his own kind's skin. And her eyes looked just like gems, just like the elder gargoyles of his own wing. And Opal even walked on three or four limbs at a time, which wasn't something he knew gargoyles to do, but it still reminded Goio of how other people sometimes thought he walked funny, for having one leg that didn't always move like others' legs.

By the looks of Opal's tray, she also seemed to love food just about as much as Goio did. "Are they handing out more food already? All Goio found were- I mean, all I found were these moorberries, but I didn't think they grew outside of the gravevines where I grew up... Is that a spiny mango?! Oh, do they have aileron greens, too?! Can I try some of those...?" It was a natural enough escape to get lost the new foods that Opal had found, though when she asked her question about dancing, Goio fell quiet again and retreated back into his own bowl of berries.

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  #268  
Old Aug 15th, 2021, 06:33 PM
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The Silver Moon Harvest Festival
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Mira blinked, looking at the tiefling in front of her, blinked again, and looked around. He kept saying things like 'prettiest' and 'beautiful', he surely meant her roommate, Zerazad, right? But, where was Zerazad?

Mira's golden eyes met Kin'ta's again as she realized what he had just asked her. Her, not Zerazad. In an instant, her pale face turned beet red and she opened her mouth to respond a few times but failing to make any sound.

It was when she reached the peak of her panic, when her body and mind remembered the life she left behind. In her social circle, it was quite normal for other boys to ask her for a dance and give compliments with sugared but empty words, even though their eyes had been on Adelina most of the times. It was because Mirabelle was the elder sister, it was only polite to ask her to dance first, and praise her until they felt like they have done the polite thing and move on to the younger sister. It flustered Mira nonetheless, but she had managed to learn to hide her emotions and accept the words with more polite words.

But Kin'ta didn't have to be polite. Was he just being nice? That's probably it. He's such a nice person. He even helped Zerazad, didn't he?

So many thoughts rushed through the kitsune's mind, but she finally managed to give a smile, even though her cheeks were still pink. "You are only teasing me, what kind of bet is that? Of course the moon will be more beautiful than me, that's not even fair." Mira let out a chuckle and placed a hand on Kin'ta's arm, positioninig it so he can naturally lead her. "We should go see what others are betting with. Let's go back to the table. Shall we?"


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Old Aug 15th, 2021, 07:14 PM
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Slightly earlier
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goio
"Uh, sorry... Is that real wine?"
"Don't worry about it, and uhhh yes, it's real wine. Is that it a problem where you're from?"
At least where Minya came from it wasn't a problem. Sure you didn't let children get dung-faced if you weren't a jerk, but a glass or two of wine wasn't going to hurt anyone. Besides, she wasn't really a “child” anymore. Well... Mostly.


now
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alojz
"How's that for Charming Lady Wainraith?"
Minya wrinkles her nose.
"Complete honesty? I've heard better. I'm not going to be swaying my bum at anyone, let alone upperclassmen I couldn't care less about, and nobody's going to be clutching at my “better parts.” Not tonight anyway."
Alojz seemed like a nice enough guy, but she wasn't much in the mood for romance at the moment, and she barely knew him. Why did it always have to be like that? Why couldn't males just treat a girl like a person first, without the whole “potential kissy kissy target” getting in the way. Maybe the Phaerans were right.

It didn't help that his teasing was causing poor Goio to panic and start a juice spraying berry buffet. As reddish droplets, much the same color as wine begin hitting her dress and white hair, Minya master's a groan. Her dress was going to look a fright no matter what she did and have to take it to be- wait! Prestidigitation! SHE can magically clean her own dress herself now! That realization alone was almost worth the last three months.

She's about to put a hand on the gargoyle's arm to try and get him to slow down when Opal's arrival fortunately saves them from any further embarrassment. Minya happily gestures the frost fiend towards another empty chair.
"Dancing can sort of be part of a mating ritual, or it can be just fun. It depends on a bunch of stuff. The number of people involved, the music, the type of event it is. You can usually tell by the social cues, if you can pick up on them."
If only Alojz could pick up on them.
"If you wanted to learn more about that sort stuff, I think you'd talk to Professor Djervish. With this many people from all over the universe, I bet they get lots of folks that need a little help with basic stuff."

Now then, back to the plan
Before Goio can get too wrapped up in food Minya waves a hand to get his attention.
"So Goio, about learning skills.
If you want to get better at talking to people, the festival is a pretty good place to get a little bit of practice in. There are plenty of first year students around that we have a lot in common with. Lots of people are relaxed and full of good food (and maybe a little wine).
If you'd like to give it a try you can pick someone and I can go up to them and say, “My friend Goio isn't good at talking with people, but wants to get better. Do you mind talking with him for a little bit?” If things don't go well, we can just come back here or move on to someone else.
What do you think?"

 
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  #270  
Old Aug 15th, 2021, 08:43 PM
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Cursed and Fists
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A slight southeast breeze meandered through the festival. On it was the smell of wine and food, and the sounds of laughing and story-telling. There were other things less festive carried by the breeze, but Alozj ignored them. He didn't really want to get into a fight with anyone even though that had not happened in a long time.

A 'cursed' his size was an open challenge to others who wished to strut their martial egos. It had happened enough times that eventually he couldn't ignore it any longer as the taunting grew bolder and the taunters grew less martial. That's the curious thing that happens when you ignore taunting and challenges and outright bullying. First, it's done by those with the strength of arms to put you to the test. And then it degrades until eventually non-martial upperclassmen are emboldened to strut. Those who didn't even know how to swing a punch let alone a sword or possibly a stick.

Until you choose not to ignore them any longer. You might think things can't get worse when you stick up for yourself and your mates. But it always can.

Cedric Lightbringer will make a bruise of your body. Not because you weren't right but because you used too much force when far less would have been sufficient. And because you waited too long to do it in the first place and then compensated for inaction in a dangerous way. Alojz didn't need to put down a big third-year known for her bruising mentality and combat mastery to make his point.

Rowan Elidyrwill will lecture you as you stand in her office on the philosophy of self and balance for hour after hour. When she needs a break, you'll stay there standing. You'll stand there all night long, miss three meals, and have the shakes as she begins again the next morning, starting with the idea that there is no Mind at all and the Self is just a bunch of Behavior created by the physical workings of the body. That consciousness is a construct.

Then stumbling back to your pod in the deepest night, hungry, exhausted and beaten, you'll find yourself frozen midstep suddenly in the presence of The Whisperer. Long silent minutes thinking your dead, dead, dead, as you stand three lengths of man from It in a black hallway. What was said? You're apt to remember someday. Or it'll come in a sweaty nightmare.

After that, well, after that you accept every challenge that comes. You answer every and any slight. You attend to any and every mean look. You spare the foolish without harming them. Eventually the foolish learn. But those with strength, those wanting just to span their egos? They don't stop. Not for a while anyway. You start limping, coughing up blood, wincing from broken ribs and fingers, have your nose reset in the infirmary five times. It gets bad enough that you begin failing Martial Tests and Religion. And then, suddenly, it stops. You don't really know why. It's not that they want to stop beating you. No, their eyes tell you that they do want to beat you. That now they really do. But, something, someone, has put a stop to it.

You have no idea who. And Why is not a question that can be rightly answered. But there is a rumor of seven upperclassmen all admitted to the infirmary on a single day. They stay for three days and emerge in casts and bandages and stitches. They won't look at you except with hot eyes because you're still cursed.

But the challenges stop. And you don't fail Martial Test from fatigue and injury or Religion because of other things.

Mis-interpretations
Quote:
Minya wrinkles her nose.

"Complete honesty? I've heard better. I'm not going to be swaying my bum at anyone, let alone upperclassmen I couldn't care less about, and nobody's going to be clutching at my “better parts.” Not tonight anyway."
Alojz catches Minya's wrinkle and her mood. He's not sure how he did it really. What he said exactly or how he said it for Minya to take his light-hearted attempt to get his pod-mate out and about to the idea that someone, perhaps himself, wanted to clutch at anything. But, he wasn't one to let anything simmer without clarification at least.

"You misunderstand I think," Alojz says to Minya, reaching out one hand to curl a finger around Opal's tray and help the fiend slide it onto the table and take a seat. He smiled at Opal as she settled. It reached all the way to his ears as usual. "Which is probably expected, I guess. Guys are fools most the time. But, I was just tryin ta get Goio up and moving. Nothing more. I wouldn't think of treating you any less, well, any less than any other person."

Goio and Alojz had been pod-mates from the start and Alojz knew he was pushing his friend. It was the nature of their present relationship. Alojz would recommend something simple or outlandish, depending on who's point of view one took, and Goio would have varying degrees of reluctance. It went this way, back and forth, for the whole semester. The fact the Goio was sitting at the table with Minya was itself a triumph and fantastic. And, weirdly, there was some sort of Trust between them that developed in this back and forth game they played. But at present, Alojz could tell Goio was near bursting, at least when it came to talk of dancing or other communions. And perhaps Goio could use a different hand. Not necessarily softer, just different.

Quote:
If you want to get better at talking to people, the festival is a pretty good place to get a little bit of practice in. There are plenty of first year students around that we have a lot in common with. Lots of people are relaxed and full of good food (and maybe a little wine).
If you'd like to give it a try you can pick someone and I can go up to them and say, “My friend Goio isn't good at talking with people, but wants to get better. Do you mind talking with him for a little bit?” If things don't go well, we can just come back here or move on to someone else.
Alojz looks from Minya to Goio and shrugs. His pod-mate looked about at his limit for social interaction and Alojz eases Goio's bowl of fruit into the middle to slow down his eating and have him start breathing again.

"That sounds like fun. What'ya say Goio."

Alojz scratches his forehead. He honestly didn't know how this would go so he pretends disinterest turning to Opal only to spit out berries when she equates dancing to mating.

"If only it were that simple," he says as his laugh tapers off to a small rumble in his chest. "But it can be fun nonetheless. Dancing I mean. Would you like to try," he asks the fiend. "You're almost as small as my sister was when I taught her to dance. She'd stand on my feet while I made the steps. She was a better counter than I am. So, she used to keep me in line," Alojz adds before the memory of it makes him pretend he has something in his throat and he turns to cough a little before returning his eyes to Opal. His smile is smaller than usual and not so bright.

His sister had always been a better counter than him. And then, she wasn't.
__________________
Running: Kasja:5E | Fensal:Starfinder | Dauhvít Hálfviti:MorkBorg | Demyani:5E
The forceps of our minds are clumsy things that crush the truth a little in the course of taking hold of it.

Last edited by GeneT; Aug 15th, 2021 at 09:43 PM.
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