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Old Jan 14th, 2024, 12:19 PM
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Chapter 1: “We are more than a city…”

Akarsuku: A Profile (MoldyNolds)
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Akarsuku will die this day.

Truth be told, the city has been dying a slow death for centuries. It just so happens that today is her final death rattle. First-hand records of Akarsuku in her glory days have been lost to the ages. The event that caused her people to retreat into the sewers and catacombs, and then to dig even deeper has been lost to the ages. Second and third-hand accounts are exceedingly rare, fiercely guarded and preserved by the Athenaeum. Specific details differ between sources, but by all accounts Akarsuku was once a sprawling metropolis. A shining city of progress, learning, and equality. No one was denied the right to live a comfortable, fulfilling life. No one toiled endlessly under someone else's control. The prosperity of one was the prosperity of all.

The city of Akarsuku will, finally, die this day. But her people, the Cinyusu, will have a chance to thrive once more.




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The underground city is a complete hodgepodge. A main thoroughfare of cobblestone could give way to alleys of chiseled, smoothed granite just as easily as rubble-strewn hardpack. That same thoroughfare's ceiling could allow for dozens of feet of clearance. Or just enough headspace for a tall person to walk upright. Or open up completely into a cavernous open-air subterrane. More than likely it will do all three as it meanders through various districts and neighborhoods. Civil engineering was a luxury tossed aside in the wake of necessity as people burrowed deeper and deeper.

But, whether or not the city's layout and construction is objectively confusing or inefficient, her citizens don't mind. Quite the opposite; its myriad of haphazardly laid out caves, caverns, and halls are quite charming. The blend of natural cavern excavation and technical architecture have become ingrained into Cinyusu culture. If confronted with a city (or even a single neighborhood) that appeared uniform in style and design a Cinyusu may very well experience a vague sense of unease or anxiety.

Everyone who produces something that other people need have either converted the front of their home into a small boutique or invested in a cart and hauls their goods to the Degishmeh; a central square used for trading and shopping. Bartering is the most common form of commerce, although coinage does exist. While metal ores are exceedingly rare, gem deposits are minted into small, faceted beads called para and are used as payment mostly by the wealthy. Weapons, armor, furniture, and other structural materials are crafted from bone and chitin. Threads farmed from domesticated silk worms make up much of Akarsuku's clothing.

Today is a day much like any other. For a society with a declining population its scant few hundred citizens generate enough activity for a city twice its size. People bustle about amid the constant glow of a thousand-thousand candles keeping the underground in a perpetual state of twilight. Everyone has business to attend to. Everyone is a vital link in the chain that keeps Akarsuku from tumbling into oblivion. Harvesters dart between patches of wild fungi, tending flushes of mushrooms and filling their packs when the fruit is ripe for picking. Inedible varieties are taken to the pulpers for papyrus. Waterbearers emerge from the deepest natural caverns, their carts heavy with sloshing barrels from the aquifers. They are usually flanked by vermin sweepers, tasked with keeping the less-traveled roads free of dangerous pests such as giant centipedes, violet fungi, and the occasional troglodyte. Crafters set up their workspaces for the day, waiting for deliveries of their chosen medium from the haulers. Surface scouts are rarely seen, both because their numbers are few and because they spend most of their waking hours amid the old ruins, peering out into the endless expanse of blazing sun and sand for threats to their civilization.

The sights, smells, and sounds all add to the clamor and vibrancy. Roasting bug flesh and mushroom caps, seasoned heavily with natural salt deposits. Incense fashioned from pungent succulents and roots hangs heavy over abodes that offer occult services. Conversations of work details and morning greetings pepper the avenues, echoing softly off the solid rock. Further into the caverns the eternal *clank* of pickaxe against stone can be heard as tunnels stretch ever onward into Gallaht's surface. The damp and the dark keep Akarsuku at a rather pleasant temperature; the blazing sun and sand unable to penetrate this deep.

But underneath all the tumult and the commotion, perceptive citizens can feel the tension. The underlying anxiety that intrudes on everyone's thoughts. Every day Akarsuku dies a little bit more. Every day we lose a little bit more ground than we gain. We live a life of attrition. Have lived it for generations. But we stand firm in the face of our eroding city. We are vigilant. We have hope. Because we have no choice.
A Day Like Any Other (cottontailwind)
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Jinro the Baubler
Sixty three... sixty four...

For living underground, no one thought of travel in terms of height. It was less of a defining characteristic and more of an abstract concept. He may as well have been climbing into the afterlife. Or the heavens.

Seventy. Seventy one...

When was the last time he had to count so high...? No wonder the little ones hated learning maths. Nothing good ever came from anything that needed counting this high.

One hundred and six... One hundred and... seven? Or was this one hundred and six...

Jinro the Baubler, widow-husband of Hujan the Sweeper, son-in-law of Orune the Papermaker, climbed ever-upwards on the great Column. The Column was a giant, spiral staircase carved from an ancient, monumental stalagmite. It was the singular passage connecting Akarsuku to the surface ruins above, though for most, it was a mere landmark. A compass for all within the Atreum to always know its center. And for all his heaving and lack of breath, it may as well have been an entirely uncarved cliff face.

He'd climbed the Column high enough that Akarsuku now sprawled below him. This was all within the Atreum: the central and largest cavern of Akarsuku, housing the Column and the Degishmeh and the palace and so many abodes, dotted with candles and humming with chatter and the occasional song. With the numbers of the Cinyusu so dwindled, most had relocated to the Atreum to remain closer together. Jinro could see the home of Shemo the Weaver. And over there, still with last night's candles burning, was Hocameh the Mixer. They were probably getting ready to clean their steeping muslins by this hour. Jinro could see everything from the Column!

Was this how surfacefolk lived? Always looking down below at everything all at once? It was truly a marvel... until his gaze neared the base of the Column, and Jinro realized just how far up he was. The thought of falling - the slightest slip or tumble - sent numbing shivers down the tips of his fingers. Please... he prayed. If they could not pray away the earthquakes that plagued Akarsuku, at the very least he could pray for the quakes to wait until he'd finished his climb. Jinro continued upwards, albeit clutching at the center of the Column.

The eternal night sky that was the unlit ceiling of the Atreum gave way to more stone. It may as well have been a normal stairwell. He held his lantern up with one hand and clutched the walls with the other. Eventually, he emerged from the stair well into a basement. The basement of the surface ruins. It was... a rather unsuspecting room. With its dust and happenstance rubble, it may as well have been his own basement. Not any grand ritual chamber that he'd have expected as the entryway to a generations-old underground hidden city.

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Jinro sat himself and his lantern down at the top of the stairs, jingling his various painted trinkets as he groaned to shift his weight. He was becoming just like his mother-in-law, Orune. Aging. But he supposed he should be grateful for the opportunity to see the surface world, despite the circumstances.

After waiting long enough to catch his breath... he continued to wait. Isn't this where Batu the Scout said to meet? Surely a scout would know the way to the Column. Unless Batu wasn't lost... Images of sandsharks and dehydration flooded Jinro's mind. "Batu? Batu!" He called into the stonework corridors disappearing into the ruins.

There was a shuffling in a distant corridor. Jinro gripped his lantern and raised from the floor, though only into a crouch. He couldn't tell which was worse: some terrible surface elemental that could subdue Cinyusu scouts, or having to flee down the Column. He may as well be stuck...

And then Batu stepped into Jinro's lantern light. Batu raised an eyebrow and smiled at the older man's panic. "You would make a terrible sentry." Jinro sighed, shaking his head and clutching at his chest, then burst into a laugh. "Come along," Batu beckoned. He was probably half Jinro's age, but already an experienced scout. "This is your first time, yes? I'll show you the parapets, where we watch the horizon. You've never seen a world further than you can see, have you?"

Jinro was taken even more upwards, though more crumbling stairwells and passageways. They chattered along the way, exchanging news of Jinro's latest carved bangle for Darvaan, and the incessant wish that a baubler could be more useful to their peoples, and the inveitable reassurance that tending the home he shared with Orune was as honorable as anything. They chattered at the size of the botherlizard that Cressane found beneath Bugweed's abode, and of the delicious kuskus that it made once cooked properly, and of how Demercu always knew just how to spice it. They exchanged suspicions about how it may have been seasoned with a sweet berry juice instead of soaked rockroot seeds. Batu chuckled. "You're lucky, Jinro! You must have eaten well all the time. Before Hujan left the scouts for the sweepers, she never would have been able to hunt botherlizards. Sandshark is too bitter for my taste. " Batu paused, having heard his own words. "Ah, Jinro, I apologize."

"Don't be. To hear Hujan's name, especially from a friend, is always a source of joy." Jinro smiled and they went on their way.

He wasn't lying. To hear his late wife's name did bring joy. A gentle heartache, too. But also joy.

"We have arrived," Batu said, stopping at a simple wooden door. Light poured out from its edges and from between its planks. Heat emanated here more than the past several hallways. Batu smiled wide, knowingly. He must have been used to showing the Cinyusu their first look at the surface world. "Are you ready?"

Batu opened the ramshackle door and gestured Jinro through.

The world fell away. A lifetime of ground and walls and ceiling merging into one. A lifetime of dusk, lit by countless candles and glowing moss. All of it simply... went away. The earth was made of gold. There was a sky and it was a lake of blue. It went on forever. As far as an eternity. It was so bright. It could have burned away his very eyes. And even more... the wind!

"Easy! Easy..." Batu appeared and gripped at Jinro's arm, holding him steady. They'd emerged onto the fractured walkways above most of the surface ruins, looking out over desert in all directions. Batu chuckled at the speechlessness. Finally, the older man spoke.

"You... you see this every day?"

"Most days."

"The etchings don't do it justice..."

"No. They really don't." The two sat in awe of Gallaht above until Batu spoke again. "Orune sounded worried when she asked that you be able to see the surface. May I ask... why?"

Jinro's awe turned to something more sunken as he remembered why he'd come up here. It was a different sort of silence. "Orune has been... agitated. The oldest among us have always had a sense when things are not as they should be. Don't snicker, Batu. You are young yet. You must believe them when they say these things. Her eyesight has nearly faded, you know. Orune writes just as well because she knows paper better than her own bones. She needed... she asked if I would look at the surface world with fresh eyes and describe to her what it was like, seeing it for the first time." He chortled. "I must admit, I want to doubt these ominous feelings she has, but only because I'd hate to think if she were ri-"

A flittering, clicking sound came from below. Some sort of bug wing, flying suddenly and then stopping. It came from somewhere in the ruins. Jinro pulled himself to his feet and backpeddaled... until Batu raised his hand to stop him. The young scout lifted his chin to the sky and peeled his lips, then from his own mouth, echoed that chittering, bug-wing sound. It was another scout. They were signalling to one another. Of course it made sense - there were others out here. Jinro didn't know why he assumed they were alone in a place as vast and forever as the surface, despite seeing no one.

A chitter call returned from below, in several small bursts of different lengths. The scouts were speaking in code. But why not just call out to one another in words...? The answer came soon enough. Batu whipped to his flank, peering into the roiling dunes in the distance with much focus. Jinro tried to follow the scout's gaze... but there was only sand. Sand in mounds, sand cast upward by the wind, and the blue of the sky... "There. Do you see it?" Batu whispered. He crouched to peek from behind a half-crumbled wall and motioned for Jinro to do the same. "Right there..." he pointed. Squinting, Jinro thought he could make out the sand blowing in a funny way, very far away. Then a glint. Metal. Something holding metal was moving. Moving towards them.

"A sandshark?"

"No... People."

"People?!" Jinro murmured in disbelief. "But outsiders have not stepped foot on the surface ruins above Akarsuku in generations..." Orune's words flowed through him, though he said them more for himself than for Batu.

"Jinro. Return to Akarsuku. Wait with Orune." Batu spoke without turning to face the aging baubler. Then he glanced over. "It is surely nothing. It is not unheard of for sandsharks wander near the ruins. They mistake the occasional shift of rubble through the sand as a meal. Surely this will be no different." Batu smiled. "Akarsuku has not survived for generations because we are taught to be reckless. Can you recall the way back to the Column?"

They didn't exchange the same pleasantries upon their departure. Jinro's return to the city below was less exciting, though just as out of breath. It was a long journey back, down the ruins interior, through the unsuspecting basement, and down the Atreum Column. Stepping sandaled feet off of the last Column step, onto the solid, reassuring rock of Akarsuku's floor was nice. Though heaving, he sighed. A weight fell off of him then. He was home. He was-

A rumble echoed from Akarsuku's outskirts, somehow both gentle and ferocious at the same time. An earthquake. The first one today. It grew louder and louder - not only in the shifting earth, but also in the rattle of jars and doors and everything that made Akarsuku home. So much that Jinro felt as if the city were trying to throw him from his feet. He clung to the Column steps until the shaking faded... the quakes hadn't been this bad before. The ambient chatter from through the Degishmeh had ceased. The sometimes-lilting ouds had quieted. There was a cry in the distance. Jinro almost headed that way, expecting someone to have fallen or some shattered clayware to have cut someone, but his mother was all he could think of. He instead hurried through the Atreum, directly towards his home with Orune: the Athenaeum.

He was only several steps forward when shouting erupted from the distance. Jinro's pace quickened.

Someone raced past him, nearly toppling him over. What was happening...?

Then a new sound.

BONG.

BONG.

BONG.

It was as deep and resounding as this most recent earthquake, soft at the edges and entirely deafening, echoing all throughout the Atreum. The Nameless Chimes. Great cyllinders of etched and tarnished brass, larger than any of their homes, kept at the Ebe Palace. They were only to be rung in a time of great crisis, signalling the Cinyusu peoples to flee from Akarsuku into the outlying tunnels.

... Was he really hearing this? Could this really be happening? No one had heard the portentous, dooming sounds of the Nameless Chimes in their lifetime. Not in any text and not in any tale, Orune had told him. There were no records of them ever being rung. They were only told to them as children. A sort of boogeyman, to keep young ones in line...

BONG.

BONG.

BONG.

Another scream in the distance. There was a great crash as the rooftop of the boiling house, barely visible on the far side of the Atreum, collapsed inwards. More shouting. Several people ran past - Jinro recognized one of them. "Mrs. Bujherbo! Wait! What is...?" But she was already gone.

What was happening...? For all the uncertainty, there was one thought he held onto. "Nene...!" Jinro hoistened his robes and ran for home. The sound of his many baubles and jewelry jingling went unheard against the rumbling earth and growing panic.
OOCWelcome to Age of Desolation: Gallaht! The first few posts will have guided prompts for the PCs as we settle into our characters, setting, and some of the new mechanics. After several posts you can expect to this quasi-tutorial to complete, and then the world, your goals, and the mechanics will open up.

For your first, introductory game post, place your PC anywhere they would normally be within Akarsuku. Share with us a sort of "slice of life" for your character, that leads right up to the increasingly heavy earthquakes, and when the near-mythical Nameless Chimes ring for the first time in hundreds of years, signalling for the evacuation of Akarsuku.

In our next GM post, we'll jump into action. Your PC may very well not be with other PCs depending on their day-to-day life, but rest assured, we'll link you up. Of course don't hesitate to ask any questions at all (and don't feel like you have to write as much as the GM post - just your normal posting length is lovely ), otherwise take your PC out for a test spin and set the stage for them!
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Last edited by cottontailwind; Jan 14th, 2024 at 12:30 PM.
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Old Jan 15th, 2024, 09:22 AM
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Arin Danash, Sandborn Druid
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Original Illustration by Soberana Art

He'd fallen asleep the night before with one word on his mind: Tomorrow. It was as much a prayer as it was a promise. The ball of discontent had been growing within him for years, but every time he considered embracing it and effecting a new path for himself, he'd retreated. Back into his innate duties as one of the dwindling number of Sandborn scouts protecting Akarsuku from the surface dangers. Back to his sworn dedication to his mentor Cannis, who he loathed to disappoint. Back to the comfort of the familiar with the Sandborn, the only family he'd ever known. But with every passing day he understood that ball of sparking unease more. This was not where he wanted to be. This is not who he wanted to be.

Yet he'd always found reasons to stay. He'd tell himself he'd carve a new path tomorrow, but tomorrow would never come. It couldn't. Today's tomorrow was tomorrow's today. Tomorrow was a mirage glistening on a distant horizon, full of insubstantial promise.

Last night, he'd promised Tomorrow, but he woke this morn with a new thought in his mind.

Today.

-----

Arin Danash sat up from his bedroll while the light was still waiting to come out. He reached up to scratch at his right ear and with the methodical quiet of routine, he flicked away the grains of loose sand that came loose. The earlobe had been gone for months, but the helix was disappearing fast, eroding in the wind. He centred himself with a deep breath, shifting to sit on the loose earth beside his bedroll, crossing his legs and leaning forward to place his palms against the earth. He felt its disquiet - it was always so uncertain these days. Much like him on every other day but today where he brimmed with resolve.

He inhaled the cool pre-dawn air with the druidic rite of reformation on his lips, gathered a handful of loose sand and sprinkled it on the top of his head. He winced as he felt his body grate against itself as the desert wind reshaped him as it did the sands of the great dunes. Raising his hand to his ear again, he felt it reformed as he could best remember it. To be shaped by the desert itself was a Sandborn gift and now - today - he was ready to turn away from it.

Arin lifted to his feet and slowly made his way out of the nook of the surface ruins where he made his bunk. His eyes strained in the dark, adjusting to the low-burning primordial flames lit by the more experienced Sandborn druids to guard them through the night while keeping them unseen from the lurking dangers.

Was he really ready to turn away from this? A face flashed through his thoughts - the woman with whom he'd shared his sparse nights of recreation in the city below. His fingers through her silver hair. Her coloured scarf wrapped around his neck. His words of parting - not fleeting, but final. His stomach ached with the memory, but he steeled his resolve. He'd said what needed to be said. Done what needed to be done. There was no future with the future-seer, just as there was no future for him here among the Sandborn. This fringe life on the bulwark was not his desire, and today was the day that he'd tell Cannis.

The light of the druidflame illuminated him as he approached the nearest watchperson. Yalle was one of the youngest of the scouts and at 13, among the last of the Sandborn to join their ranks. There numbers were shrinking as an already rare gift had become rarer with the dwindling birthrate below. Arin tried not to think about the fact that he intended to reduce their number further. Voluntarily, at that. Instead, he tapped her on the shoulder and offered a wide grin to get her attention.

She turned to see Arin, her quick smile evidencing their shared rapport. Standing shy of 6ft, Arin appeared as a lean, narrow-faced man in his late twenties. His short brown hair and beard framed a gentle face marked by a striking nose that led to the two welcoming pools of of his soft brown eyes. In his simple night gear, the druidic mark of warding tattooed on his chest was visible as the extremities of its lightning-burst design crackled halfway up his neck. A small fulgurite pendant hung on a leather strap over the centre of the tattoo as though it were an archdruid within a ritual circle.

Returning Yalle's smile, Arin's hands darted in a quick series of gestures, a silent sign language developed by the Sandborn for when subtlety was preferred over their shrill whistled code intended to be heard through howling winds. His gestures danced, "Cannis back from the city yet?" The girl answered in the negative with a shake of the head and a slice of two fingers. Arin returned, "A trade for you, then? You take my patrol this morning and I'll do the water run to Marán and pick up Canna from her paramour on the way."

The girl raised an eyebrow and Arin shrugged with another quick gesture, "Fine, Yalle. You drive a hard bargain. I'll bring back fresh aish for you too." A quick exchange of agreement later, and Arin returned to gather his things for the descent down the Column. It was customary for the scouts of the surface to keep all of their belongings on them at all times, even when descending into the relative safety of the city. Supplies were sparse to begin with - one couldn't afford to be without their gear. Hoisting the straps of the heavy gourd water-carrier over his shoulder, he departed for Akarsuku itself.

-----

Arin savoured his descent down the Column, taking in the sights of the city he hoped to truly call home one day soon. He thought about finding an apprenticeship, perhaps with one of the local glassblowers in the Degishmeh. He considered the ease with which he might find socialising with the cityfolk friends he'd made during his brief recreational sojourns every few weeks. He looked across the neighbourhoods of scattered structures - which might be his home? The fantasy felt on the cusp of reality.

As he neared the base of the Column, he stepped to the outer, exposed edge of the stairway as the jangling steps of the baubler Jinro hugged the inside wall of the column. He racked his brain - he remembered the scouts mentioning something about one of the city-dwellers intending to make the climb in the coming days. But the baubler? Arin didn't know the ins-and-outs of city politics to know his connection to the Papermaker, but wouldn't have thought much of it anyway. "Take it easy between around the fiftieth step from the top," he called to Jinro as they passed by each other, "The last quake brought some cracks through it, and it's tough work convincing the masons to make the climb." He sensed the beat of trepidation from the city-dweller and added, assuringly, "Oh, it's mostly cosmetic damage, don't worry. And seeing the sky is worth a little risk - it's a good day for doing something different. Climb safe, friend."

The two men continued on their ways, Arin reaching the city street with sweat on his brow and a smile on his face. Yes - today was a day that would be different.


Arin Danash, Sandborn Druid - Level 1 Statblock
 
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Arin Danash in Age of Desolation: Gallaht | Maghrim Oroz in West Marches

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Old Jan 15th, 2024, 04:29 PM
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Wishkamon Wishkamon is offline
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Tristam
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‘DUN-du-du-DUN-du-du-DUN-du-du-DUN’

He softly spoke the beat of the drum as his heels kicked up the age old dust from the ground of the cavern. The routine, though unfinished, had already sunk into his bones, and he performed the moves without any thought other than the rhythm and the music that would eventually accompany it. A flash of flames left his fingertips as naturally as if it were an extension of his arm, and the fire streaked across the dimly lit cave, illuminating the painstakingly illustrated walls with a warm bright light. The flicker of the fire seemed to give life to the paintings; movement to the legs of the figures and momentum to the iconographic swirls and lines that had been a part of their artistic tradition longer than anyone could fathom.

The crowd would gasp then, he was sure of it. As the music swelled they would feel it like he could feel it bursting from his chest; their history.
The song, the movement, the painting- they were all part of the same ancient whole. Information too important to be lost, imbibed in to folklaw to be handed down from generation to generation.

At first the rehearsing dancer did not notice the rumble of the earth, not until he took a great leap and found the ground to be in a different place than he was expecting. He stumbled but caught himself, then realised what was happening and followed the original motion to the ground, crumpling like a tossed jacket that had missed the hook. He lay flat on the stone with his chest heaving as he rode out the seismic activity glumly. They were coming more and more often.

No less than two weeks ago an earthquake had destroyed access to one of his galleries. No, not just any gallery; the first one. The fist cave he had painted- the first place he had played his traditional square tambourine type instrument adufeand sung with a shaking voice in front of an audience. That had been the place where he had decided his life's path, and now it was gone. The thought brought tears to his eyes and he let them fall freely. Despite assurances that the entrance would be excavated, Tristam had his doubts. They didn't understand how important it was.

The earth once again came to rest, but the dancer did not get up. He lay on the cave floor, feeling its deep chill fighting its way past his hot skin and into his bones.

This new gallery was much closer to the main hub of Akarsuku and therefore much safer, but In its own way that was incredibly sad too. This had been someone’s home once, but the declining population meant it was one of the many caves that were in excess of need.

He told himself that it was all the more reason to finish this painting and perfect his performance. The stories needed to be documented, and gods knew that the community needed the moral, but his heart felt heavy, and it was a long while before he sat up, now shivering from the cold.

Tristam didn't wipe the trails of the tears from his cheeks. He was, after all, an architect of emotion, and he could channel it just as easily as he could let it consume him. Perhaps he would run the second act again in costume. It was a dirge written after a great battle and it would suit his mournful mood.
Tristam had borrowed his father’s rapier and an old set of leather armour which were laying by his bedroll for this act, and he made his way over to them.

The dancer had been living alone in the gallery for a few weeks now, cutting himself off from outside influence to focus on his art. Only the backup if you could call those heavy footed hoofers dancersdancers and the other that one wasn’t so much of a stretch, but they were still mostly inferior to his own skillsmusicians came from time to time to rehearse. That got him thinking as he dressed- hopefully Mellia had been practising her pirouettes because he was getting sick of shouting at her...

Just then another quake began, and although this time around he found it more irritating than upsetting, it’s ferocity soon unbalanced him.

Tristam sat down on his bed roll and waited for it to pass, but it did not.

And then there came another sound, an accompaniment to primal grumble of the rock, both hauntingly beautiful and bone chillingly frightening at the same time.

The Chimes.

How often he had heard or read stories about them, but he had honestly never expected to actually hear them. If there had been rumour of something amiss lately he had not paid heed, so absorbed in his own work, and so the confusion was almost paralysing.
At first he did nothing, just stared at the rumbling cavern around him. Then he began to pick out panicked shouting from the world beyond the curtained entrance way and it suddenly became real.

Tristam bundled what he could into his backpack and staggered out into the trembling throughway. He didin’t even glance back at his paintings, or the beloved instruments he could not carry, because he simply couldn’t perceive the idea that he might never see them again. Instead the rising hysteria of self preservation enveloped him entirely as he stepped out of his little world and among his fearful kin.

”W-What’s happening?!” he shouted to the nearest person as he joined the panicking rabble of people, and was instantly swept away in the rush.


Tristam, Lvl 1 Bard
OOC- Hooray! Looking forward to playing with you all!


 
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Last edited by Wishkamon; Jan 16th, 2024 at 09:02 AM.
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Old Jan 16th, 2024, 05:16 PM
DazeyBlasts DazeyBlasts is offline
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Idallya the Witch

Idallya awakens, as she often does, with a splitting headache and an aching stomach; but such is the life of one who prefers mead to wine. Beside her is an effeminate young man who’s name she does not recall, fast asleep and still wrapped in her silks. She awakens him just long enough to reclaim her clothes, and then he retreats once more into his drunken slumber.

Wet the Akarsuka air this morning, soft the laughter of children, thick the smell of incense and roasted meat, slow the footsteps of Idallya the Witch as she strolls serenely through the market. Her silvery hair is no long akimbo, but straight and polished, flowing like liquid moonlight. Her palid face, only an hour ago appearing sallow and hungover, now vibrant and full. Her thin grey saree seems to flutter just slightly more than should be possible in the still caverns, her white slippers disturbing just slightly less dust than they should.

Most of the shop owners recognize her, and those she does business with even nod politely. Venthia, the small green woman who makes mushroom frill soup, is her first stop. Idallya fills her bowl with the surprisingly potent hangover cure, and no money is exchanged; Idallya’s mother has blessed the birth of each of Venthia’s children, and now Idallya blesses the birth of her grandchildren. Next is Simron, a cheerful baubler with a magnificent mustache, who often goes to the surface to find his wares. This time he has found a strikingly vibrant red sediment, which immediately catches Idallya’s eye; she knows she can take it to Zrnzar up the street and have it turned into lipstick in exchange for a section of the pigment. The price is too high however, and, unable to come to a deal, Idallya moves on, resolving to get the sediment later.

The children are less welcoming. Something about Idallya’s serene, mysterious stride, or perhaps an unseen aura, causes the laughing kids to grow more silent at her approach. The roving bands of playful youth scatter as politely as possible at her approach, though she cannot help but notice one who doesn’t.

A young girl, with pale green skin and slightly webbed fingers, dressed in the slightly-more-worn-than-acceptable wool that marks her as lower-class, simply stares at Idallya with unblinking silver eyes. Eyes the exact same silver as Idallya’s, as it happens. Idallya cocks her head curiously at the girl, trying to approximate her age; too young, she decides, to be her mother’s. The girl, for her part, just stares observantly back.

Idallya smiles knowingly, and turns to move on, perhaps considering a new incense, when she hears the chimes.

Despite the chimes never having rung before, Idallya knows instinctively to run. Perhaps a deep ancestral memory springing to her mind, or perhaps a sense of deja vu, forces her to begin sprinting towards the child. In a flash the child is under her slender arm, already slowing the hungover witch, as the ground begins to move beneath their feet.

Idallya barely has time to swipe the beautiful red sediment before following the crush of the crowd to cover.




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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 04:47 AM
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Zharan Akar'Dune, Level 1 Sandborn Talent
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Zharan Akar'Dune, Sandborn Scout of Akarsuku

IC Post Title

Zharan Akar’Dune had lost much in his life so far... reflecting on matters had become a habitual start to his early risings, and dutifully told that he should try to distract himself with more practical matters. He took the suggestion seriously, and was applying his Talents to melting the sand around him, gathering the molten silica and granite to form a ball-like form, all the while absently twirling his lightning glass dagger through the air. No one said he had to idly distract himself... it required a great deal of concentration to manipulate all three objects at once...

Reflecting, Zharan acknowledged he'd lost much in his life... but also seemed to gain quite a bit as well. He remembered sitting atop a stoop similar to this one, looking out at the hot desert sand, the scintillating atmosphere of super-heated air molecules exciting themselves with Gallaht's scorching radiant rays as they rapidly crossed the open dunes, rock, and surviving flora and fauna, until the first rays of dawn bathed both himself are Arin as young boys, Scouts in training, sandborn by happenstance or fate. Back then the sight was glorious enough, the endless blue sky, the rolling golden dunes... endless beyond measure. At least, beyond a day's journey...

Zharan recalled his youth with Arin, Cannis, and Arad. From A to Z, Arad would say, that's the list of trouble we'd get ourselves into. An involuntary, but pleasant smile crossed Zharan's lips as his father's words came to mind, spoken in chiding tones, but with a twinkle in his eye Zharan now recognized as experience through naughty deeds.


Now, however, Zharan saw the sunrise much differently... nearly impossible to explain. When describing the sight to Orune, hoping to document the Talents Zharan had experienced after... after the incident... Zharan's best attempt at describing came in the form of referencing some of Orune's prized, supremely pressed parchment: thin enough it could be seen through, to etch or copy other tomes or found scripture. Zharan described several layers of the same drawing, stacked atop each other so they are visible simultaneously... but out of sync. As though one would simultaneously experience the event once, then again, then again, perhaps several times. It was maddening at first to feel as though you were constantly in a state of slowed experience than everyone else.

However, it was Orune that pointed out a flaw in Zharan's thinking, and hypothesized her own experimentation to confirm: Zharan was not witnessing the repeated experience of something that had happened... he was in-fact experiencing something that was YET to happen. When Zharan assumed the initial incident was the temporal present... it was actually the last incident that was the temporal present, and he was experiencing a reverse echo of things yet to come to pass.

With this knowledge, Zharan quickly began to test and experiment with these Talents, manifesting in the absence of Arad... in memory of him, perhaps. Zharan had never shown any magical aptitude, something that left him as a bit of an outcast amongst the sandborn, for even the weakest child chosen had some magical affinity. Zharan was skilled, and adept at surviving amongst the dunes, perhaps his only method of keeping up with the others, but Arad believed in his abilities to carry him through, and endeavoured to teach the adopted boy how to survive in this harsh landscape with the Dragon-gifted abilities he possessed. It worked... to an extent. So when his Talent emerged, a title Orune had given his abilities, it was without the guidance or advice from Arad.

So Zharan learned what he could, researching everything he could find, and it wasn't a lot to be very honest. Sitting atop the stoop, Zharan experienced the fascinating phenomenon playing out in front of his eyes, where the stars he could see were pulsing with light at certain intervals, that became amplified with the overlay of every so slightly delayed symphonies of color to illustrate the chaos he was seeing in the night's sky... it was gorgeous... and yes he was the only one who experienced it in all of Akarsuku. He'd once described to Tristam what he thought he'd seen, and the artist just looked suspiciously at him as though he'd eating some wrong mushrooms from Venthia's stalls.

Still... perhaps one day he'd manage to master this glassblowing craft to represent, in artistic work, what he saw in this most gorgeous of worlds, Gallaht. Thinking he'd get to his post before the sun fully rose, he leapt from the position above down to the landing below, where the entrance into the underground basement and Akarsuku below. His vision hadn't fully adjusted to his current temporal experience, and he actually saw Arin approaching the door through his altered vision. With almost silent steps, and holding his breath completely, Zharan stepped around the corner, and narrowly missed Arin as he approached the door, hoisting the straps of his heavy gourd water-carrier over his shoulder.

It was childish, and Zharan knew it. It'd been about ten years now since they fought it out... Zharan definitely said some things he regretted... but he also scared himself beyond reason. He was young, and looking to lash out at anyone who could be held responsible for Arad's death, especially if it didn't have to be his own failing as a son, as a scout, as an adopted sandborn. It took a long time for Zharan to understand that perhaps... perhaps it wasn't anyone's fault. Perhaps it was fate, at last, catching up to everyone. Zharan would always get after Arin, the guy would always talk about what he'd be doing tomorrow, big plans for tomorrow, tomorrow is going to be a day of reckoning, loving, celebrating. Well... maybe Zharan would finally talk to the man tomorrow.

Yeah... tomorrow.




Standing at the parapets, Zharan looked out onto the desert surrounding the entrance to Akarsuku. He glanced over to his left and saw Yalle standing watch, and raised an eyebrow at the young girl. Grabbing her attention, Zharan made the signs:

Why are you here, you took last night shift?

She signed back that Arin was getting her aish from below. Zharan rolled his eyes and pointed to the desert:

I could get you fresh aish from below too, why him?

She stuck out her chin and signed back that Arin had bigger muscles, and slept with the rest of them like a normal Scout, but that he acted like a Gargoyle and only makes an appearance when it suited him.

Zharan just stared at the girl, and signed back to her:

You're too clever for Arin, you should be with someone who offers a more stimulating conve-

Zharan heard chirping... like bugs in the morning sun, but it was the Scouts spread throughout the area. Batu was entertaining Orune's son-in-law, Jinro, and had asked all of the Scouts to take up positions to give the man's first sky-view some privacy. But this wasn't part of the plan, and Zharan was hearing the distinct echoing sound of Pteracant... a location, a distance... something in the buzz and clicks. Zharan was looking to source the sound, what he heard of the direction, and he spotted the glint, the confused look of Yalle wondering what Zharan was doing, not hearing the Pteracant yet...

Zharan placed his hands on top of each other, holding the palms out towards the glint, creating a triangle using his fingers and irised it shut, glancing through the hole between his hands to help focus on the far distance, the glint coming again, but an echo at this point...

"No... people...."

"People?!"

Zharan felt pressure in his head now, and broke the iris of his hands, the chirping was temporally present now, Yalle reacted, a surprised and shocked look turned towards Zharan, but the sandborn Scout couldn't deal with that at the moment, the ringing, the echoing in his head, the memory of his father, Arad, stabbed in the gut repeatedly with a knife... his hand reaching behind his back and grasping the hilt of the dagger he withdrew from his father...

Then: BoooooOOOOOONG... BoooooOOOOOONG... BoooooOOOOOONG

Zharan knew the sound... he'd never heard it, but he knew what it meant... and he was lost in his chronopathy spiral of tragedy...

Screaming... yelling, the sound of the shaking earth, the glint sending sharp pangs of nausea through his body, he could feel the blood running down his nose...

Silvery white hair flowing behind a scarlet river, the flash of steel across the cavernous blackness, a lion uncertain it is a lion or a sheep, the wounded bird healed and yet unable to fly, the weeping faith of the people of fate, and the Wyrm of Gallaht's Storms!

More screaming... a slap... sharp pain... wake up... wake UP...

"WAKE UP!"

Zharan felt Yalle slap him across the cheek, and the sandborn Scout's eyes blazed into focus and saw the young 13 year old girl bringing him to his senses. "Yalle, I'm sorry... I... " The 13 year old shook her head and sandsigned Forget it. Batu needs you.

Without further delay, Zharan places a reassuring hand on Yalle's shoulder, and wipes his nose clean of blood as he runs at a dead-sprint toward's Batu. On route, he feels the earth shaking, violently, almost non-stop, and dives into the soft ground of the sand around the entrance to his beloved city. After a few moments of "sand-swimming" he emerges next to Batu and nods to the man. As he does so... the bonging finally caught up to his vision... the Nameless Chimes were ringing.... and foreigners were approaching. "Perhaps we should let Aramis know that his guests have arrived..."

Zharan clutched at the dagger at the small of his back... the handle letting him know the knife he sought... the knife he'd been waiting ten years to return to its owner... perhaps today was the day he'd get the chance.



OOC
Hit Points: 9/9 | d6Hit Dice: 1/1 | AC: Hardy Armor (4) + 2 + 1016 | Speed: 30 feet | Manifestation DC: 15 | Strain: 0/5 | Manifestation Die: d4
Proficiency Bonus: +2 | Initiative: +4 | Passive Skills: Perception (12) | Investigation (15) | Insight (12)
Ability Scores & Saving Throws: +1 | +1STR 13 | +2 | +2DEX 14 | +3 | +5CON 16 | +5 | +7INT 20 | +2 | +2WIS 14 | +1 | +1CHA 13
Skill Proficiencies: insight (+4) | investigation (+7) | history (+7) | nature (+7) | perception (+4) | stealth (+4) | survival (+4)
Light Armor, clubs, daggers, light crossbows, quarterstaffs, slings, spears, Glassblower's toolsOther Proficiencies | Draconic (common), Pteracant, SandsignLanguages

Turn Actions
Action ---
Bonus Action ---
Movement ---
Concentration N/A
Body Strain 0
Mind Strain 0
Soul Strain 0
Current Total Strain 0/5
Current HP 9/9
Summary ---



 



 
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 06:54 PM
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Marán the water bearer
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Marán in Akarsuku
The sound of small bells and chimes made of glass filled one of the passages leading to the Atreum, as Marán slowly pulled his wagon, carrying ceramic vessels of various sizes, all of them filled to the brim with cool water from the well. The sound was soft but distinct, signaling the new work-rest cycle and alarming people to the water bearer’s presence. Normally, the denizens of Akarsuku would appear at the doors of their houses and shops and signal to him, so that he could approach and provide them with water according to their needs - to drink, cook, boil, wash themselves or their clothes, and clean their pots and plates.

This time, however, the call of the bells and chimes attached to Marán’s wagon remained unanswered. The water bearer knew that it was still too early for Akarsuku to wake up. The whole city still slept, or at least that was the appearance that it gave. Marán smiled and closed his eyes, picturing his fellow Cinyusu in their beds, their bodies calm and unmoving, their arms wrapped protectively around their loved ones - a spouse, a child, a sibling. He really cherished these moments of perfect calmness, knowing that they would all too soon be followed by laughter, speech, song, and music, voices gossiping, bartering, arguing, discussing. He too would be a part of it, his voice joining those of the others.

But not yet. For a few moments the whole of Akarsuku was his and his alone.

He opened his eyes and took another look. The cavern was vast, almost too large for Marán’s mind to encompass, full of smaller caves, chambers, passages, and tunnels dug in the rock. For centuries it had served as the home of the Cinyusu and would no doubt continue to do so for many, many years. The smile on his lips widened. He loved this city so much. He loved his people. He loved his work.

Nothing remains unchanging. Nothing lives forever. Be prepared.

The memory of her words made the water bearer shiver. The cold didn’t come from without, for the temperature inside that gigantic honeycomb of stone was constant and altogether pleasant. It came from within. The water bearer placed his hand on his forehead and started massaging it gently, trying to remember. She whispered to him every night, but once he regained full consciousness her words dissipated like mist. Snippets were all he could remember, sometimes not even that.

The moment forever ruined, Marán started pulling his cart anew, the noise of the chimes unable to bring back that feeling of perfect contentment. No matter, he reasoned, I am being expected anyway.

This wasn’t entirely true. It was he who had decided that he would make his special visit at this early hour. He knew that the young family was probably not sleeping anyway.

Stopping in front of a curtain of small pearls of clay and glass that marked the entrance to one of Akarsuku’s private homes and after swallowing the small leaves of breeki he had been chewing, Marán gently disturbed it with his hand, making the beads sing. Even before they had a chance to come to rest on their own, the swinging chains of multicolored pearls were swept aside by a muscular arm.

A face appeared in the darkness, skin stretched taut, an army of rebellious hairs covering what had once been a cleanly shaven face, eyes sunken and tinged with red. Marán smiled and bowed his head before the man standing at the house’s entrance, before picking up a large jar full of water from the wagon.

"I bring water, clean, cool, and plentiful. May I enter to share its blessings with all those who reside inside?"

The young man blinked, momentarily uncertain about how to respond. Thankfully, habit soon took over, relieving his weary mind from yet another burden, yet another duty.

"I welcome you with open arms", he responded mechanically, blurting out the traditional answer to the water bearer’s offer and stepping aside to allow him to come inside, "this time and always."

The water sloshed inside the jar as the water bearer moved and Marán had the distinct impression that she was chuckling - or perhaps weeping? He couldn’t be certain. Placing the large jar on the floor, Marán turned to look at the owner of the house, his eyes full of compassion.

"Have you been able to rest even a little, Niviro?"

Niviro shook his head.

"She has been crying the whole time. Darvaan has been blessed with plentiful milk, but nothing seems to offer the little one comfort. We are at a loss."

Marán gently placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder, his face marked by genuine concern.

"Something troubles the little one, makes her restless even in the arms of those who love her the most. Have you asked Imewa to take a look at her?"

"Of course. She found the little one perfectly healthy." The young man sighed. "I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad…"

Niviro regretted the words as soon as he uttered them and immediately made the sign that was supposed to ward him and his family against evil, licking the tip of his forefinger and forming an upside-down triangle of his forehead. Had he not been so exhausted, he would never have even contemplated such a thing. It was over ten work-rest cycles since he had managed to sleep for more than a couple of hours and his work was demanding. No one of the other diggers had voiced any complaints yet, but it was only a matter of time before their frustration surpassed their patience and understanding.

"Doubt not for a single moment that the little one is a blessing, Niviro", Marán said with conviction, never raising his voice. "You and your wife have given Akarsuku the greatest of gifts and all of us are immensely grateful for it."

The young man raised his head and the faintest of lights could be seen in his eyes. Pride. Gratitude. Hope.

The water bearer nodded, pleased that his words could lift some of the weight Niviro had to carry.

"The water I have brought you today is special. It has the power to clear the mind and calm the heart."

He had to travel for hours to visit one of the oldest wells in the outskirts of the city, unused for many years, but Marán hoped that it would make a difference. It was the well he had fallen inside as a child, the place where he had first met her.

"Heat it up until you can feel the warmth spreading all over your body when you submerge your hand in it, but not so much that the skin will turn red. Fill with it a font and cover the little one with a large cloth made from wool-like substance, won from a special kind of mushroomshathar. Gently pour water over her limbs, back, chest, and finally over her head and allow her to get used to the water and the heat before fully placing her inside. I give you my word that she will sleep better today. You as well."

A smile chased away the weariness that covered Niviro’s face like a mourning veil.

"Thank you, Marán! I pray you are right about this."

The water bearer nodded, smiling. He was right. She had told him so.

"May I see her?"

Niviro grinned and beckoned Marán to follow him as he silently led him to the small room that served as the family’s bedchamber. The room was shrouded in deep shadows, lit only by a small oil lamp made of clay. Darvaan lay in bed, holding her little daughter in her arms. Even though the newborn had finally fallen asleep, something seemed to worry her, for she restlessly moved her scrawny arms and legs, crying for a few moments and then stopping again.

Despite her exhaustion, Darvaan raised her free hand to greet the water bearer. Something on her arm caught the light, glistening brilliantly, and Marán realized that this was the bangle Jinro the Baubler had carved, the one Niviro gifted to his wife when their daughter was born. Even in the poor light, Jinro’s expertise was obvious, the patterns he had carved so intricate as to instantly catch the eye and then refuse to let it go again.

Marán placed a finger upon his lips, urging the sleepless mother to remain silent, and slowly approached the baby, careful not to make any noise that could wake her. The newborn was tiny, her head easily fitting inside the water bearer’s palm, her skin as wrinkled as Orune’s and with an angry reddish tint. Every few moments she grimaced as if she had been given something sour to eat and raised her miniature fists rebelliously, threatening the word. It seemed that the baby girl still hadn’t accepted the fact that she had to live outside her mother’s womb.

Tiny, wrinkled, and angry, the baby was the most beautiful thing Marán had ever seen.

Taking a glass flask out of the pocket of his blue robe, Marán unstoppered it and sprinkled a few drops of the clear liquid onto the baby’s head.

"Cleanse, nourish, protect. Cleanse, nourish, protect..."

He repeated this phrase several times, holding his hand protectively over the child, until the baby finally appeared to calm down, the involuntary movements of her arms and legs now less frequent and severe. Darvaan looked at him with gratitude and Marán smiled back at her.

"Everything will be fine", he whispered. "Get some sleep."

******

"Are you comfortable, Mrs. Bollari? Do you need another pillow?"

The old woman shook her head and mumbled something unintelligible. At one hundred and seventeen years of age, she had to watch her teeth abandon her one by one, losing the last one three years ago. This made understanding her speech almost impossible.

Marán sat next to her on the couch and showed her a small stone with a milky blue color. Niviro had informed him that it was an aquamarine gem. She had called it a “water soul”.

"Niviro and Darvaan gave it to me for taking care of their little one", he explained, not without pride.

Mrs. Bollari said something and the water bearer nodded in agreement, more guessing than actually deciphering what the woman had said.

"Yes, the stone is special. They are very kind to have given me such a precious gift. I will cherish it forever."

Putting it back in his pocket, Marán gently took the woman’s hands in his. Her skin was dry and as hard as boiled leather, but he caressed it fondly. He found that the old woman’s hands were like maps, detailing the long path of her life. There was nothing shameful about having such hands. On the contrary, reaching such a great age was a rare blessing.

"Would you like me to brew you your favorite tea, Mrs. Bollari? I think it would do you good, give you strength. What do you say?"

The woman squeezed his hands with all the strength she still had, which was surprising for one of her age, until Marán recalled that she had been a carrier in her youth, one of the strongest persons in Akarsuku. Some things even time could not fully erase.

The water bearer returned her toothless smile.

"I’ll be sure to add some syrup, just like you like it."

Waiting for Mrs. Bollari to ease her grip, Marán gently extracted his hands from hers and after making certain that her shawl covered both of her shoulders, headed to the kitchen. The room was barely able to accomodate a single person, but it was all the elderly woman needed. She had never had children of her own and all her close relatives had passed away. Now she relied upon the good will of the community. Thankfully, both the water bearer and several of her neighbors made certain that she would spend her final years in comfort.

With confident moves, Marán poured the water he had only a few hours ago drawn from the well inside a kettle and carefully placed it over the fire.

Death is a part of life. For cities as it is for people. Accept it.

Marán frowned. What did she mean? Of course, he had accepted death. He had accepted it long, long ago. Everyone born would eventually die. Was the Lady of Mists foreseeing Mrs. Bollari’s demise? But what did she mean when she talked about cities?

The kettle started whistling, but Marán paid it no attention. His ears weren’t even listening to the shrill noise it made, trying to place the other, much more commanding noise that echoed in the Atreum like the last beats of a living heart.


BONG.

BONG.

BONG.


No, it couldn’t be! The Nameless Chimes? Was Akarsuku… dying?


BONG.

BONG.

BONG.


The sound was relentlessly repeated, until all doubts had vanished and all that remained behind was fear.

Exiting the kitchen despite the protests of the kettle, Marán ran back to Mrs. Bollari. The woman looked at him with eyes that appeared huge and full of panic.

"Worry not, I am not leaving you here alone", the water bearer stated with more confidence than he felt. How would he get this old woman who could barely walk to climb the many narrow steps of the Column? It was impossible!

His hand reached instinctively for the gem in his pocket and he wrapped his fingers around its irregular facets. The wave of despair passed and he started thinking rationally again.

"I am getting help. I will be right back", he promised Mrs. Bollari, his voice unusually loud, perhaps in order to be heard over the commotion that reigned outside the elderly woman’s house.

He thought he knew what to expect. He believed himself able to picture the chaos of an evacuation of the city.

He was wrong.

Only when he parted the curtain of beads separating Mrs. Bollari’s house from the street, the familiar from the unexpected, did Marán truly come face to face with the reality of Akarsuku’s demise. Dozens of people, young, old, men, women, rich, and poor, were running towards the Column, screaming, crying, gesticulating wildly, trying to save all they could from their former lives. Mrs. Bujherbo ran in front of him, knocking down a jar from his wagon in her panic. The jar shattered into dozens of pieces, the water pouring out of it like blood from a wound.

Tears filled Marán’s eyes, but he blinked them away. There was no time to mourn. He had to help Mrs. Bollari.

Suddenly, he spotted a familiar figure in the crowd, a man who was heading away from the Column, not towards it.

"Arin! ARIN!", Marán shouted, his voice sounding raw and unfamiliar even to his own ears. Taking off his blue robe, he waved it over his head like a banner to get the young Sandborn’s attention.

"Arin, please, I need your help! We must get Mrs. Bollari out of here!"



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Old Jan 21st, 2024, 04:50 AM
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It was another quiet day in the abode of Akarsuku's eldest and most skilled healer. It wasn't long ago, a year or two at most, that Mama Zhe's home was one of the liveliest in the neighborhood. There were always visitors, conjured ailments meant to give excuses so that children and grandchildren who had been midwifed into this world by Mama Zhe could bring her provisions and fresh baubles. These visits Mama Zhe received with great equanimity, with many of the gifts being forwarded to the ill and injured who also frequented her doorstop. Mama Zhe the Healer was fabulously skilled, descended as she was from a long line of medicine folk that some claimed could trace their lineage all the way back to the earliest records of the city's founding.

But now her house stood quiet.

Iwema knelt, gathering a fresh bowl of water to bring to Mama Zhe's room. She had caught sight of her reflection in the surface of the clear water and could not help but look into her reflection. The face which looked back at her had finally lost all the roundness of her adolescent years. Her hair, full and coiled and shining with the pleasant smelling oils and tinctures of her own brewing, fell about her shoulder and the mantle of dark feathers that sprouted there.

In another moment, another context, she might have taken pleasure in the luster of her brown skin or the grace of her long limbs. But the eyes that looked back at her from the water were sad and lonely. They were afraid.

Mama Zhe was dying. As surely as the most eternal desert pine wilts, the old woman had begun to fade. Slowly at first, but soon enough she was bowed and brought to her bed to never rise again unassisted. It seemed a lifetime of good deeds, of bringing care to the ill and relief to the wounded, had bought her a gentle walk into death.

The room where Mama Zhe rested was briefly illuminated as Iwema pushed aside the curtain that hung across the entryway to enter.

"Child," Mama Zhe said, stirring slightly under her sheets. She looked so slight, so thin under the woven fabrics that it brought a fresh pang to Iwema's heart. Her voice was rasping and quiet. But peaceful. "I am well. Go tend to those who need your talents."

"No one has come, Mama Zhe," Iwema answered evenly, though her face was hot with shame and guilt as she knelt by the small fire. And anger at having those feelings at all. Why should she feel guilty that the sick of the Cinyusu would rather stay away and suffer rather than be touched by her healing hands?

"They will come, child. Once they open their eyes and you open your arms to them." She sounded so sure, always. Iwema didn't even have to bite back the acid response that might have come when she was younger. It would not due to tire out Mama Zhe with useless talk. Instead she maintained a resigned silence and sprinkled a fistful of herbs into the now boiling water. Queen's sorrel to ease the airways and encourage easeful breathing. Butterflyburr for deeper rest. And wormparsley, that gave the steam a pleasant scent as it rose and filled the room.

Mama Zhe took a deep breath and sighed with relief and gratitude.

"Child..." Iwema went to her side, sitting beside the woman who fixed her with a gaze that more and more seemed to see beyond the stone of the walls around them. She turned a frail hand open on the bed, waiting for Iwema to slide her larger palm into hers. "Do not be afraid, Iwema. These are your people. When the time comes, they will-"

It was usually Iwema who sensed things first. It was another of her gift's, Mama Zhe would say. Her feathers were sensitive and could feel it seemed shifts in the very air.

But it was Mama Zhe who gasped first, her hand squeezing the younger woman's with an iron grip that defied her years. Iwema's head snapped up and she jumped to her feet. "Mama-! "

BOOooong...BOoooooong...BOooooog...

The Nameless Chimes. But how? Why? Iwema looked down at Mama Zhe in terror. She could not leave this woman, but could she carry her in her fragile state? Without missing a beat the old healer clung more tightly to her wrist, looked up and whispered "Go..."



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Old Jan 21st, 2024, 11:56 PM
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Arin Danash, Sandborn Druid
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Original Illustration by Soberana Art

The Degishmeh hummed with morning activity. While the marketplace would grow more bustling over the coming hours, it burbled still in these early hours. The smell of fresh breads like the promised aish somersaulted through the air, mingling with the enticing earthy tones from the spicers' stall. Among the shopkeepers who took advantage of the early risers, citizens of Cinyusu mingled in the meandering maze of streets. Arin moved through it like a dream. The kind of fantasy you urge your mind to return to when you laid your head to rest, but that only snuck into being when you least expected it as if to bless you with a pleasant surprise. There was something about the Degimesh that had always felt... unreal.

The Sandborn were a community, yes. There was a closeness between them all, for they knew they would need to rely on each other every day. While the denizens of the village itself had to rely on each other too, there was something so liberating about passing by other Cinyusu and knowing their name, their role, perhaps a few choice facts but little else. Mystery in the ordinary, and it was most prevalent here in the central market where traffic flowed in and out in a constant stream of everyday change.

As Arin continued through the streets, he lingered at stalls and storefronts that caught his eye. He studied the glassblower's latest creations - glistening beads coloured with the red minerals of the earth. They were so vibrant, like beads of blood. A part of him recoiled, a distant memory tempering his appreciation of the artistry. The recollection was fleeting - he was younger and the yet-younger-again Zharan was already taller than him. The pair debated which colour of crafted glass would be more impressive in wooing the handsome mason's apprentice who'd caught Arin's eye. Zharan had bemoaned that the apprentice would be far more impressed with trinkets from the surface, inherently imbued with the allure of the frontier. Arin had disagreed - the craft of the Cinyusu was no less alluring because it had been crafted by the people of Akarsuku. They'd bantered. They'd bartered. It had taken longer than they'd planned - the city didn't always keep to the strict schedule of the Sandborn.

Drops of blood, like beads scattered on the sand. That had been the last day he and Zharan had wandered this marketplace together, nearly a decade ago.

Arin exchanged pleasantries with the glassblower and continued on his way, the memory fading into bustle of the growing crowd. He absorbed the noise - a comforting din. As of today - yes, today - he'd trade the howling winds for a new cacophony, here among the people he'd spent his whole life being trained to protect from the physical and social periphery. All the Sandborn scouts had their contacts here - friends, allies, lovers - but they were never really of Akarsuku the same way as those who had spent their whole life below the surface in this city. He was ready to be a part of the city.

He turned a corner and halted so rapidly that the unfilled water-gourd nearly slipped from his shoulder. A short distance ahead, close enough to catch conversation, Simron hawked his wares with all the enthusiasm and inefficacy of a scout's first time setting aside a training weapon for the real thing. The baubler was no match for the wit of his customer. Her ethereal white hair always stood out among the dusty colours of the rock and torchlight that set the city's warm tones. He listened to Idallya dance her way around Simron's overpriced offers, the lilt of her voice as enticing as it had always been. He wanted to approach, speak to her...

What could be said that you didn't already say to her? He shook his head, and turned away, careful to hold the gourd tightly to prevent its clattering drawing her attention. He hoped he'd find time to talk to Idallya again, but perhaps not the conversation she might want to have right now. It takes time for the wind to smooth over the rough edges of raggedly-hewn stone.

Besides, he had enough hard conversations ahead of him today. His mentor Cannis and her lover often took their rest in one of the more secluded neigbourhoods of the city and it would take him some time to get there. At least it would afford them a long walk back to the Column for Arin to tell her of his intention to leave his duties as a scout. In rare cases, children inducted as Sandborn failed to grasp the natural powers of the earth or lacked the aptitude required for the scouts' challenging work. There had been only two such instances in Arin's lifetime, and these children returned to the city below well before the druidic rites struck the Ward onto their chest. But for a fully-fledged member of the community to choose to leave... To Arin's knowledge, it was unprecedented.

So yes... This would be a difficult conversation.

As he moved towards his destination, a warm grin curled across Arin's wide mouth as he heard the clinking chimes of the water-bearers' carts on a nearby road. Of course - this was one of Marán's routes to deliver freshly drawn water to those unable to collect their share from the stalls in the Degishmeh. His posture straightened as he walked, bolstered by his recollection of his friend's encouragement to seek a path of his own choosing. He recalled Marán had made some sort of analogy about water flowing uphill - it was fuzzy in his memory now, but had made epiphanic sense at the time. It was part of what had rung the bell and started Arin's final push to embracing Today over Tomorrow.

BOOOOONG... BOOOOOONG... BOOOOONG...

Arin's blood turned to ice in his veins, the dread pouring through him. He'd felt the earth's grinding disagreement below his feet this morning, but it had not felt much different than the stone's arguments of weeks and months past. Why were the Chimes ringing now?

But this was no time for questions. The Sandborn had been preparing for this in the hopes it would never come, as had the other protectors and guardians throughout the community. He knew what he had to do and his pace quickened, dashing through the streets towards the last echoes of a water-bearer's chimes. If Marán, or any of his fellow bearers, were nearby then they were bringing gifts to the housebound, the injured, the infirm, the vulnerable. The earth did not discriminate in its fury - they would not be spared from whatever was to come.

Wheeling into the street and spotting the cart, the chimes nearly drowned out Marán's voice as he called to Arin for aid. Arin wasted no energy in a verbal response, though locked eyes with his dear friend in an assuring glance of determination. He followed Marán into the Bollari home and dropped to one knee as he approached the elder. "It's time for us to go, Mrs. Bollari. I'll need to carry you. Is that okay?"

All the while... BOOOOONG... BOOOOOONG... BOOOOONG...



Arin Danash, Sandborn Druid - Level 1 Statblock
 
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Old Jan 22nd, 2024, 02:30 AM
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A Day Unlike Every Other (MoldyNolds)If the developing earthquakes had set the Cinyusu on edge, then the Nameless Chimes tossed them definitively over it with casual indifference.

"No... no, no, noooooo..."

It started with a lone voice; a single, mournful wail that echoed clearly across the Degishmeh in the silence between the heavy BONGs. It was soon joined by another. A child burst into tears. Someone cried out for "Sazzorath!", whoever that was. Then, all at once a wave of voices crashed over the booming chimes. It rolled around the thunderous quakes.

A melodic chorus of fear and despair to accompany the harmonious chimes and quakes. It was a symphony of fate. An opera of ruin. Beautiful and tragic.

Some simply stopped in shock. In the middle of the street they stared into the middle distance as if direction would appear before them out of thin air. Others... many others... took flight. Crowds of Cinyusu ebbed in a singular direction as their fight-or-flight instincts told them exactly what they needed to do:

Run. Run to the escape tunnel.

Under the dynasty's palace, very near to the Column's wide base, one of the very first excavations when Akarsuku retreated underground centuries ago was a long tunnel. It snaked Eastward for many, many miles, often intruding through other, natural caverns under Gallaht's surface but always, unerringly, moving away from the city. No one living remembered exactly where it exited. Or rather, if anyone did know then they were very good at keeping secrets. But everyone knew where it started, and they knew this was the time to use it.

If the citizens of Akarsuku feared for their lives, as well they should, then at least they wore it well. Amid the desperation there was very little cruelty. People knocked to the ground were aided by those closest to them. Carts and stands left unattended were (mostly) unspoiled, and when they were it was done quickly and quietly. This event was unprecedented, but they had a direction. They had a purpose.

Then a new wave of shouts rose above the din. Those left staring into nothing now had something drawing their attention. And, just like that, fate revealed to the Cinyusu that things can always get worse.

"Up there... on the Column!"

"It's the scouts. But..."

"Who else is up there?"

left-aligned image
Far above, at the top of the Column, figures were spotted. Hundreds of feet overhead, they were small as ants to those on the ground but still, they were not terribly hard to identify for a perceptive Cinyusu. A few dozen scouts crowded together on the winding steps that ran round the exterior of the Column. They were bunched together, staying abnormally close in a tight-knit group. And beyond them, emerging from the ruins above were more figures. Scaled figures...

Dragonkin were a familiar sight to Akarsuku. Many of its citizens exhibited reptilian features in some form or fashion, whether partially or completely across their bodies. But this force... and they were unquestionably a force, were wholly dragonkin. This is narrated from the unique perspective of the Cinyusu, who enjoy an incredibly diverse culture and range of physical charactersitics. These dragonkin are not, in fact, exact copies of each other.Almost like copies or doppelgangers, they were all extremely similar in appearance and garb. And they were all heavily armed. The Cinyusu scouts were fighting an extremely dangerous retreat down the perilous stairwell.

And they were losing.

Every so often a tiny, distant scout took a fatal blow and tumbled from the Column, plummeting through open air and disappearing behind the buildings of the Degishmeh. If they screamed then it was lost to the din of the chaos ringing in everyone's ears. Then some of the dragonkin followed suit, dropping from the stair. Except these invaders were not falling, but flying! Wings unfurled from their backs and they circled overhead, dozens spreading out all across the cavern. And they were descending fast. Within a few breaths they landed amongst the fleeing Cinyusu in ones and twos. The dragonkin were surrounded by crowds of Cinyusu on all sides, but their intense aggression was more than enough to drive people away. Brandishing bone cleavers, wickedly-thorned clubs, and obsidian-tipped crossbows, these dragonkin were no longer facing off against scouts, but unarmed civilians!

The controlled chaos of the fleeing Cinyusu burst in those few breaths. Screams of abject terror pierced through the cacophony as people turned from their path and bolted in all directions before the menacing violence of the invaders! Purpose-driven fear shattered, crumbling into utter pandemonium. Amid the turmoil a number of Cinyusu souls were presented with choices. Whether granted by fate, a greater intelligence, or mere entropy, these choices were theirs and theirs alone...
Zharan the Sandborn (cottontailwind)
 

Imewa the Healer (cottontailwind)
 

Arin Danash (MoldyNolds)
 

Marán the water carrier (MoldyNolds)
 

Idallya the Witch (MoldyNolds)
 

Tristam the Artiste (cottontailwind)
 

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Old Jan 24th, 2024, 02:15 AM
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Zharan Akar'Dune, Level 1 Sandborn Talent
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Zharan Akar'Dune, Sandborn Scout of Akarsuku

Tough Calls…

Zharan made a jest out of bitterness at first, but it quickly faded when the numbers were presenting themselves before the Scouts of Akarsuku. .

The sandborn scouts of Akarsuku were an organization of individuals who had unique skills amongst the populace of the Cinyusu. From what Orune had shared and Zharan had read, part of it was selective traits based on genealogy, but also acquired skills through training and guidance of experienced mentors. One thing shared in common by them all was a talent for magic… all except Zharan that is.

Perhaps unique amongst all the Sandborn, Zharan was incapable of performing even the simplest of cantrips. When he was young, and desperate to feel as though he belonged, Arad made a point of flicking his surprisingly strong middle finger against Zharan’s forehead, prompting the young duneling to rub at his sore temple. Arad didn’t care if Zharan could cast a simple cantrip, or was fated to control the heavens themselves and make it pour rain upon all the dunes of Gallaht: if he could plan, strategize, and execute the plan, then he could do far more than any one individual's power. Arad saw that within Zharan, and the young sandborn proved to be an adept student at such matters.

Thus, the situation crystallized in his mind, and perhaps was dawning on Batu as well when Yalle was calling out to him. Zharan understood... when one is coming to grips with losing a home they've only ever known, and it was an indefensible task, priorities needed to be re-arranged, dreams had to be clarified, and the things that were important needed to be stated.

Akarsuku was important.

The Cinyusu were more important.

If Batu didn't do it, Zharan would have. Yalle was sent to warn the leaders of their nation... which meant she'd be with people who needed to be protected, and thus saved herself. One of the youngest of the Sandborn... their culture would survive.

Zharan looked to Batu with complete understanding at the task before them, and was already building on a rubric to slow the enemy's advance. Perhaps if they could lead some sandsharks to harry the enemy, their weaker or slower members. The noise they were kicking up was already going to draw-

Zharan looked up a moment before the call came... fliers...

Air domination... it was not a common occurrence. Yes there was airborne creatures that harried their scouts, but it mattered little if the scouts could gang-up on the creature. This was different, as the dragonkin were not mere beasts: they were strategic, and cunning. Air superiority meant any hope of slowing the enemy's advance became non-existent.

Running up the stairs now, the rubric was already shifting in Zharan's mind. The East Wing held a number of scouts, if Batu could go and rally them, head down to the city right away, perhaps they could gather up their forces while Zharan could head to the Southern-

"Zharan, you take the east wing! Gather the scouts there and return to Akarsuku! I'll go to the south-". Zharan whipped his head around in shock. No... no Batu should be the one to gather their forces. He was the senior. Zharan should be the-

The dragonkin reacted immediately, and were it not for Zharan's own Talent, he may have been smoked by the lightning bolt.

Dodging out of the way, he saw Batu draw his blade and give the Sandborn orders. Clear, and to the point. Zharan 1st Order Talent Power listed below... glimpsed Batu's immediate future, and shut his eyes lightly. Lifting up a hand, he pulled in the air with his power, and a bead loose from Batu's hair flew into Zharan's hand. The two exchanged a look and a nod, and Zharan hurried away.




At the crossroads, Zharan looked at both Vermillion and Osprene. Served with both, Zharan may have faced indecision if not for a single task he had given himself...

Akarsuku would fall... but the Cinyusu, could live.

To make that work, they'd need leaders... they'd need creative thought... they'd need abilities which could counter what their enemies brought to the table.

Vermillion was an extremely talented force to be reckoned with, Hestin's apprentice before coming here to them. He was appreciated, thoughtful…

Running forward about 20 feet, Zharan reached out and 1st Order Talent Power listed below... glimpsed what Vermillion was going to face, and left the suggestion of what was going to come. He held out his hand, and one of the beads from Vermillion's poncho landed in Zharan's hand. With a sharp intake of breath, swallowing the regret and pain he'd deal with if he survived, Zharan sprinted in the opposite direction towards Osprene.

Osprene was experienced, she was ranking, she had the skills of a Djinn-heir which might be the only counter to what they currently faced, and certainly would be the biggest scouting boon for what they faced leaving to the escape tunnels, let alone increasing their maneuverability at this time. Her skills were in rarer-company than what Vermillion could offer right now... and it killed Zharan inside to make that call... gripping the bead from his outfit along with Batu's.

Placing both in his Para-pouch, he watched the arc of the Dragonkin's blade, could see that it would miss Osprene, but that's not what was important at this time. He could see where the slice from upper-right to lower left passed closely by a pouch the creature held at its belt. Coinage, trophies, the pouch itself. All of it was going to be used if Zharan could snatch the prize.

With a little pressure of his Talent, the Dragonkin's blade over-swung, catching the Dragonkin off-guard, "Now, push him!Cvvzzzz Tchk!" was all that he could say out of warning, and
Dice Attack roll DC14:
1d20+7sch14 (3)+7 Total = 10
Dice Adventurer's edge:
1d6sch4 1 (natural 1)  
flicked the blade a little further to slice at the leather tong keeping the pouch attached to the Dragonkin's belt.

Zharan cursed under his breath as the Dragonkin instead stabbed itself in the gut, and when Zharan tried to reach forward to grab the pouch, the creature was stabbed and kicked over the edge by Osprene.

Watching as the Dragonkin fell off the ledge, Zharan quickly grabbed a bead from each of the fallen Scouts, and added it to his own pouch, and grabbed a hold of Osprene's shoulder to prevent her from moving to Vermillion's aid, and locked eyes with the woman, We must gather whatever other scouts are here, Vermillion will hold off two of the dragonkind for a time, Batu is battling another. Hurry!signing quickly with Sandsign and grabbed her hand to continue to the Eastern Wing, searching for anyone else he knew existed before he'd drag Osprene to the city below and work on being the rear-guard for the exodus that was about to happen. All the while, he was trying to ignore the screaming his chronopathy was revealing to him, as he knew the dragonkin would be discovering Vermillion soon...




OOC
Hit Points: 9/9 | d6Hit Dice: 1/1 | AC: Hardy Armor (4) + 2 + 1016 | Speed: 30 feet | Manifestation DC: 15 | Strain: 0/5 | Manifestation Die: d4
Proficiency Bonus: +2 | Initiative: +4 | Passive Skills: Perception (12) | Investigation (15) | Insight (12)
Ability Scores & Saving Throws: +1 | +1STR 13 | +2 | +2DEX 14 | +3 | +5CON 16 | +5 | +7INT 20 | +2 | +2WIS 14 | +1 | +1CHA 13
Skill Proficiencies: insight (+4) | investigation (+7) | history (+7) | nature (+7) | perception (+4) | stealth (+4) | survival (+4)
Light Armor, clubs, daggers, light crossbows, quarterstaffs, slings, spears, Glassblower's toolsOther Proficiencies | Draconic (common), Pteracant, SandsignLanguages

Turn Actions
Action Roll attack roll to gain Dragonkin pouch.
Bonus Action ---
Movement ---
Concentration N/A
Body Strain 0
Mind Strain 0
Soul Strain 0
Current Total Strain 0/5
Current HP 9/9
Summary Use of Glimpse and Invisible Force throughout to gather "mementos" from fallen comrades. Will use Adventurer's edge to try and get the item from Dragonkin. I'm helping Osprene.



 



 
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Old Jan 24th, 2024, 07:13 PM
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Marán the water bearer
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Marán in Akarsuku
Marán’s world was coming crashing down all around him… literally. The earth groaned like it had never done before, constantly shifting and shaking as if in terrible pain. Chasms opened like gaping maws, swallowing the homes of the Cinyusu and those unfortunate who couldn’t find it in their hearts to abandon them. Pillars of stone that had been standing for centuries were toppled like cups made from clay and boulders the size of doklaan broke loose from the roof of the Atreum, crushing everything the people of Akarsuku held dear - their possessions, their traditions, their future.

What was even worse were the strong emotions that flooded the vast cavern - fear, shock, incomprehension, heartbreak, desperation. Marán could taste each one of them as easily as he could tell apart the water drawn from the many different wells of the city, each emotion possessing a unique bitterness that no amount of mushroom winejilqa could wash away. And behind these emotions were the people who had given birth to them. The water bearer knew these people, for he had spent years sitting next to them, listening to their many problems that now seemed like distant memories, faint and insubstantial before the crushing reality of the destruction they were currently experiencing.

The only pillar that remained strong even in the face of such a calamity was Arin, and Marán was incredibly thankful for it. Arin was a Sandborn, a scout and defender of Akarsuku, a man of integrity and duty. There were a thousand places where he would have been needed, where he could have made a difference, but he was here, rushing to the aid of his friend. The two didn’t exchange any words, for no words could describe what they were experiencing, both on the outside and the inside. Besides, there was no need for words, not when their eyes had a language of their own.

Thank you, Marán’s gaze said loud enough for his gratitude to turn into something warm and palpable.

We’ll help her to safety, don’t worry, Arin’s eyes seemed to reply, strengthening the water bearer’s heart with their determination.

As the Sandborn dropped to one knee and offered to carry the old woman to the relative safety of the tunnel that led from Akarsuku to the outside world, Marán busied himself with gathering some of the supplies that Mrs. Bollari and they would need during their journey. A water bearer always carried along his satchel and Marán’s had enough space in it for a few necessities. His hands worked automatically, selecting some things and carefully placing them inside his satchel, while leaving behind others that were deemed too unimportant, large or heavy. As if one could so easily keep or discard the habits and memories that made up one’s life…

Having finished this thankless task, Marán rushed to the door, sweeping aside the beaded curtain that served as a door in what could very well be the last time. The beads protested loudly, but the water bearer paid them no attention, standing frozen just before the entrance to Mrs. Bollari’s house.

They were calling to him, the souls of the dead.

Marán was no stranger to death. On the contrary, he had pledged himself to guiding the dead and supporting the living and he took his duty very seriously. Up to this point, however, the passing of one of the Cinyusu had been something unique and memorable, an event that brought together the whole city in sorrow, one that was documented in the archives with great precision and talked about for many, many work-rest cycles. The members of one family grieved, while the rest comforted them, reminding them of the rich and fulfilling lives the departed had lived.

Things were different now. Death was no longer the exception. It was the rule. So many voices spoke to Marán simultaneously that his ears hurt, unable to process the whispers, the shouts and the moans . There were those who had lost their lives to the earthquake and those whose lives had been cut short by the dragonkin invaders. All of them vied for his attention, asked for his help, begged, cried, threatened. How could a single boatman ferry a whole city?

Marán tried nonetheless, opening himself up to the spirits, welcoming them to his and her embrace. The souls immediately surrounded him, dancing around him like glowing motes of dust. One did more than that, passing through his chest and making a nest for itself inside his heart. A second one soon followed and then another and another and another. The water bearer gasped in pain and opened his eyes, which now resembled milky white opals. It was too much. Marán collects two wayward soulsHe could not carry so many of them. He wasn't ready.

Startled, he looked around him. Within a few moments, Marán is able to see the ethereal planethe world had been transformed. The stone structures had been replaced by mist, the earth beneath his feet by shadows and all the deafening noise of the dying city by muffled sounds that seemed to be coming from very far away. And between the mist and the shadows and the whispers were the dead, staring at him, waiting for him to… do what?

The water bearer forcefully rubbed his eyes, hoping that he could in this way restore the world to its proper state, terrible though it was.

When he opened them again, he was greeted by a vision of hope. Niviro and Darvaan were running towards him, holding hands, the little one safely in the embrace of her mother.

They have survived. They will survive!, Marán thought, just before witnessing the crowd of screaming Cinyusu forming a wedge of panicked bodies between the two, tearing man and wife apart and carrying them away, each in a different direction.

The water bearer rushed to their aid, but suddenly stopped after only a few steps. He couldn’t abandon Arin and Mrs. Bollari! The old woman would never make it without both of them looking after her. Niviro and Darvaan were young and strong and the little one was with the woman who had brought her to the world. They would be alright even without his help.

He hoped. He wished. He prayed.

Biting his lips to keep himself from screaming in frustration, Marán turned around and met Arin’s gaze.

Let’s go. I am as ready as I am ever going to be.



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Old Jan 25th, 2024, 07:07 AM
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It was a moment that seemed to stretch on and on, engraving itself into her mind with painful clarity. The shaking earth beneath their feet. The sweet smelling steam that filled the lungs and left a pleasant taste on the tongue. Mama Zhe holding tightly to Imewa's wrist, her expression one of strange peace. She did not feel like her body was her own, so surreal was it to leave her teacher, her guardian behind in that moment. But it was what she had to do, what Mama Zhe taught her and expected of her. Something was handed to her in that moment, from mother to daughter, and she was commanded to carry it forth.

Imewa allowed herself to collapse for one second, holding the old woman's papery hand to her forehead and letting out a silent, wracking sob. She felt Mama Zhe's other hand stroke gently through her tight curls and she looked up to see the elder healer looking kindly, but firmly into her eyes. This time it was a command, mouthed and then a proud smile.

"Go..."

She did not remember leaving the room, stumbling as if her body was not her own. Only rushing towards the door, reaching her materials that were ready, but unpacked by the doorstep. "Foul or fair, what ailments shall be shared?" she said, beseeching the wisdom of her flesh, running two fingers over a closed left eye. A simple charm she remembered from past and used when she needed to focus. Then she took a deep breath,
Dice Medicine w/ Guidance:
1d20+5 (6)+5 Total = 11
1d4t 4 Running Total = 15
grabbed what she could and ran outside...

..Into chaos. There were screams coming from all around and structures that were collapsing from the quaking of the earth. Her feathers shivered and she looked up, towards the Column. There were small, flying shapes above descending rapidly towards the city and her instincts told her they were not friendly, but what was to be feared.

A quick look around and she took in as much as she could. Odd Wijaksana the Candlemaker seemed to be franticly searching for her companion, and though Imewa actually liked the woman, but she was young and had a better chance of surviving on her own than the other person Imewa spied, who surely perished if abandoned.

Old Bekumah, lost and frail and desperately adrift in a sea of panicking bodies. He was nearly Mama Zhe's age-mate, but was not ready to transition as she was. It broke Imewa's heart to see him so panicked, overlooked and near helpless. The young healer's apprentice swept forward, grabbing his fortune teller's bits and bobbles from the ground and shoving them into her own pack, as well as the torn pack he carried.

"Ach...ach, come Old Bekumah, I am here," Imewa said, making quick noises of comfort and admonishment as Mama Zhe would have with particularly stubborn patient. She carried Mama Zhe's wisdom with her, at least a seed of it. But Old Bekumah had no protégé and Mama Zhe believed in his art, his gift, though most did not. The Cinyusu would need all the wisdom it possessed if it was to survive this. Whatever this was... "We must leave now! I have your things, but we are not safe here. Come..." She bent, tall as she was, and placed a firm but assistive hand on the old man's back and guided him to the safest place she could think of.


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Last edited by Vislands; Jan 25th, 2024 at 07:11 AM.
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Old Jan 25th, 2024, 05:39 PM
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Arin Danash, Sandborn Druid
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Original Illustration by Soberana Art

Mrs Bollari creaked a nod of consent to be carried and Arin quickly prepared to lift her from her bed. She might have become waifishly thin like old papyrus in her advanced years, but a body was still a body and it wouldn't help to strain his muscles at the first moments of this ordeal. Gently, he guided her arms to loop around his shoulder and neck. "I'll need you to hold on as tight as you can, Mrs Bollari. You don't let go, I won't let go, and we'll get out of this together." With a suppressed grunt of exertion, he hoisted the elder into his arms. Built of ropey, practical muscle, the Sandborn had to be strong enough to cart supplies to and from the city below, but also across great swathes of the hot sand above. He could move quickly if he needed, and past the point of weariness if it came to it. A complaint from the groaning earth roared again. They had to get moving.

Arin turned to Marán, watching the water-carrier fill his satchel with essentials for their ward. He scanned the small cottage himself for anything they'd missed. He saw no sign of the wheeled chairs that some of citizens of the Cinyusu made use of. He wouldn't have put it past Mrs Bollari to have refused to take one. From everything he knew about her, she was as stubborn as she was long-lived and if her legs still worked, she was going to make use of them as much as she could. No matter now - the bulk of a chair would perhaps slow their evacuation further, and Mrs Bollari's mobility on the other side of the escape was a question for when they got there. The two men clocked each other again and nodded simultaneously. Time to go.

Marán held back the beaded curtain of the doorway as Arin slipped out into the growing chaos of the streets. Taking a quick moment to confirm his bearings within the neighbourhood's labyrinthine alleys, he looked to his friend to help guide the way. Marán walked these avenues daily and while Arin knew the paths and streets, he could navigate the surface ruins more confidently than he could pick a path through the living city below. Would he ever be able to become familiar with these streets now? The intrusive selfish thought fled as quickly as it had arrived in his mind. There were greater concerns here.

Arin glanced up towards the Column and glimpsed the skirmish on the stairs. He stifled a gasp as the shadow of a body plummeted from the side, a scout pushed into the open air by the assailants. He squinted into the distance, trying to make out the shape of the foes. Squatter than most Cinyusu, and tailed by the looks of it. He could make out little else at this distance, but he needn't strain his sight. The danger was here in the city streets with them.

He saw them in 18 on the Perception Checkvibrant detail. Three of the blue-scaled, winged dragonkin - more drake than person than any Cinyusu Arin had met before - tore into the crowd in a flood of violence. Red glass beads shattered and leaked upon the stone and sand underfoot. Arin felt the clack of his clubs at his side with every step. He should be doing what his brothers and sisters on the Column and in the Surface Ruins were invariably doing. Fighting back this horde. But the ragged breath of Mrs Bollari brushed across the jolting druidic tattoo that climbed partway up his neck. The Sandborn protected Akarsuku and its people - he was still doing that. He couldn't help everyone.

A flash of light momentarily blinded him as Hastrin appeared as if from the ether, drawing on wells of magic far beyond Arin's knowledge. Idallya had always spoken of him with reverence, and he knew of the mage's reputation readily but they'd only met a handful of times in passing. In these few seconds, though, he made an impression that would be impossible to forget. Skilled, powerful, capable. But still mortal. An obsidian blade slashed into the wizard's side, staining his cloak with dark blood and for a moment. It was not a fatal wound, but as the old man staggered, it might be enough to provide the invaders the upper hand.

His instincts kicked in, trained over the entirety of his life to prepare him for dangers and disasters like this. In his mind's eye, he saw the action he'd take. He'd pass Mrs Bollari to Marán's care for a moment. He'd draw his clubs. They would howl an eerie echo accompaniment to the still-sounding Nameless Chimes. He'd strike the dragonkin unawares. He'd aid Hastrin such that he could continue to protect the community too. Anyone brave and skilled enough in combat was an asset. The Cinyusu could not afford to lose someone like Hastrin.

But as Arin turned to call to Marán, he saw his friend stock-still in the doorway of Mrs Bollari's home. "Marán? Marán!" Arin's voice, loud even when he whispered, boomed out but was still little more than a drop in the cacophonous ocean of chaos. "Can you keep Mrs Boll..." He petered off as he closed the short distance to the water-carrier to see something altogether alien. Faint light drifted around Marán like burning dust and his eyes looked as though they'd rolled back to show only whites. But no... he still looked out towards Arin and Mrs Bollari, but through them? Past them? Beyond them? A milky gaze.

Arin glanced over his shoulder to see the dragonkin closing towards Hastrin. He didn't have time. "Marán! What's going on? I need you here!" the Whisperer of the Howling Winds shouted, but the Water-Carrier didn't seem to hear. Not him, at least. Somewhere in the distance, a babe's cry that snapped Marán out of his stupor. He pushed past Arin, racing several steps ahead before pausing and turning back. His eyes once more showed the colours of his irises and spoke with a glance. Yes, they needed to go. But Arin hesitated a moment, still processing what he'd seen affect his friend in the doorway, unable to understand it.

He glanced back up the street to where he'd seen Hastrin and the dragonkin and saw... nothing. Perhaps he'd fought them off and rushed out of sight down another street towards the next pack of dragonkin. Or maybe it had gone the other way. Arin cursed the circumstance and moreso cursed his choices in retrospect. He should have called out to Hastrin, at least a What a Healing Word might have been...word of support. But he'd already rushed to Mrs Bollari's side and he couldn't have risked drawing the dragonkin's attention to her. Or Marán, given that strange pause in the doorway.

As the water-carrier beckoned them forward, leading the way to the evacuation tunnel, Arin broke the silence of their sympatico communication. If his friend was afflicted, hurt, confused, he needed to make sure he was okay. But he also needed to know that he was leading them the right direction through the twisting streets. "Is everything...? Your eyes went white back there."



Arin Danash, Sandborn Druid - Level 1 Statblock
 
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  #14  
Old Jan 26th, 2024, 07:13 PM
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Tristam
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He was lost completely in the crowd, his shoeless feet falling silently amongst the rhythmless rumble of a thousand others. It carried him like a river carries a fallen leaf, and he made no effort to resist. What else would he do but move with his people in their frantic dance of desperation?

It felt chaotic, but at the same time it was oddly harmonious, an unrehearsed sea of people moving as one, with one purpose. However as the conglomeration got closer to the base of the Column, things started to fall apart, both figuratively and literally. The relative conformity of the flow of people shattered, as if the river were breaking against an outcrop of rocks.

Another earthquake hindered the wavering flow of people, and there was a collective scream as a building to their left succumbed to the relentless shaking of the earth. The mycelium timber splintered, then crumbled in on itself, kicking up a huge wave of dust that filled the eyes and lungs of the fleeing Cinyusu. To the right, Ms Fox’s restaurant creaked and groaned before it was violently cleaved in two by the hungry earth. The chaos was enough to disrupt the stream completely.

The flock mentality which had allowed Tristam to ride along without faculty dissolved as people chose their divided routes among the smaller streets and alleyways. The young performer blinked and looked around for what felt like the first time since leaving his gallery.

In the sky of the Atreum, odd, bat-like shapes were pirouetting downward towards the crumbling city, menacing flashes of metal glinting in the hazy light. He could barely make sense of what he was seeing, and before he could process it, something else caught his attention; A moment of joy. A family, freshly reunited in the disorder.

Their emotion captivated him. An island of hope amongst the ocean of fear, that is, until he realised they were hastily debating two terrible choices.

”Maybe we can wait out the quakes in the house.” the wife suggested, ”They can’t last forever, can they?”

”No, my love, we must head for the Column.”

He wanted to help them get to safety, tell them about the sinister figures descending from the tower, but when he spoke his usual eloquence was as grated by the panic as his dry throat was by the dust. “The tunnel.” he said, “We have to go to the old tunnel…” He felt small, smaller even than the tiny boy who clutched at his father’s leg desperately.

The man shook his head, not even looking in Tristam’s direction. He was still drinking in the presence of his wife and children like a parched man at a spring “The quakes will have cut them off by now. The Column is our only chance.”

This caused the dancer to look up again. Indeed the pillar still stood, though parts of its spiralling staircase were looking worse for wear. What’s worse was that the bat-like creatures swarming in from its summit were much closer now. He was able to make them out now, though it was still difficult for him to believe what he was seeing. Blue dragonkin -armed to the teeth; some were already wet with scout blood. A group of them folded their wings and dropped like stones into the neighbouring streets.

“The Column is compromised, we have to try the tunnels!” He called again to the family, but they were already hurrying away from him; perhaps towards the mysterious assailants. “No…” he muttered weakly, but there was nothing more he could do. He turned to look ahead again, trying to pick out the quickest route. What if they were right? What if the tunnel had already collapsed with all the seismic activity? It didn’t bear thinking about.

Just then he caught a glimpse of motion in the sundered restaurant to his right. The owner, Akowa Fox was clambering precariously over the depthless void of the sinkhole. She was reaching for a satchel, snagged on a splintered beam.

“Ms Fox!” he shouted, “What are you doing, leave it!” Everyone knew that if the Nameless Chimes sounded, one should leave their belongings behind… Ok, Sure, he had his own backpack full of frivolous items slung on his shoulder, but that hardly seemed comparable to what Akowa was doing. Once again his voice, usually so powerful, seemed to fall on deaf ears. What could possibly be worth risking her life for in that bag?

And she wasn’t the only one dicing with disaster. In a narrow alleyway beside the crumbled building, he caught sight of an Ebe Court handmaiden baiting one of the dragonkin to follow her. Her colourful insults were enough to draw the attention of a group of them.

Tristam muttered a swear word of his own as the invaders turned in their direction. They were all muscle and claw, and their weapons told a grim story of violent and painful death.

They moved towards Dala menacingly, and Tristam urged his legs to start moving despite an uncharacteristic weakness in his toned muscles. The thought of trying to help the handmaiden didn’t even cross his mind. He was not a fighter by any stretch of the word, and he just needed to put as much distance between himself and those claws as possible.

“Leave it, they are coming!” He tried one last time to Akowa, hesitating as he passed her, but the stubborn hostess just grit her teeth and took another step out over the blackness of the sinkhole.
What more could he do?
He was about to start running again when he remembered. He pulled his fist to his chest, clenching his whole body inward before extending his arm quickly, unfurling like a fern towards the sun. He reached out with a deliberate intention of movement that flowed from his chest to the tips of his fingers and then beyond. What looked little more than a quick extension of his arm was truly a summoning of the ancient arcana that surrounded them, a motion that connected him to his ancestors through his movement.

Mage HandAn ethereal blue hand, as delicate and well manicured as his own, shot out over the void and grabbed the satchel, manoeuvring it past the groping restaurateur and back to relatively solid ground. He didn't wait to see it reunited with his owner, he just started moving again and hoped she would join him by his side momentarily. A little distance back he heard a high pitched woman's scream, and although he didn’t dare to look back, his vivid imagination painted the picture for him. He felt a helpless pang of guilt in the pit of his stomach. If he’d had time to grab Ms Fox’s bag, surely he could have thought of something to do to help the Handmaiden, whoever she was.

But it was done now. Damai and the family faded from his mind as he made his way towards the tunnel, though he would not know until he tried to sleep, that they would be burned into his subconscious for many years to come.


Tristam, Lvl 1 Bard
OOC- Hooray!

 


OOCrolled a (12) to persuade the family

Used Mage Hand to retrieve Akowa's bag
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  #15  
Old Jan 30th, 2024, 10:08 PM
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The Heroes Gather (cottontailwind)
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Shahezadah Parvannah,
Child of the Blessed Ebe Dynasty

But where was there to go? In such an unexpected chaos, it almost didn't matter where. Just go! But once they'd seen enough of the same danger in front of them as there was behind them, they'd have to make a choice as to what forward would look like. It wouldn't be enough to simply run.

Each Cinyusu learned of the Nameless Chimes when they were young. But only when they were young. Some dark fairy tale or boogeyman to teach the wisdom of their elders. To keep them from wandering above ground? To keep them from any cave network deemed "forbidden"? Several of such forbidden caves were said to be a safe escape during crisis. But which ones? The cave behind the boiler house that was sealed due to quakes collapsing its floors? The cave splitting from the Ebe Palace sealed due to dangerous mold? The cave beyond the doklaan stables?

It was quite by chance that several figures, with the most happenstance of acquaintanceships, vied against the chaos in a similar direction. They went towards the northern-most edge of the Atrium's irregular borders: the Orrery Hollow. The great rock chamber once housed a great orrery - a device of metal and glass designed to calculate planes and skies and all things well beyond their little underground world - but after Akarsuku saw its last Starseer generations ago, the orrery fell into disrepair. After long enough, most of its metals had been salvaged for more immediate needs. A few pieces of framework were all that remained to suggest the shape and motions it would had at its pinnacle.

The entryway to the Hollow was no greater than a hallway, some twenty paces away from the long-empty dyeing workshop, and next to it, several clay and mushroom-fiber houses that'd been similarly abandoned in the city's diminishing. What wasn't commonly known was that on the far side of the Orrery Hollow, the cave tunnel continued. It continued for miles.

The figures that sought an escape this way came from different directions but each of them were greeted by the same person: Shahezadah is the Cinyusu term for a princess descended from other princesses, who may later become Hanim, or an empress-queen. Cinyusu princes and kings were titled Shahezadu without differentiation.Shahezadah Parvannah Ebe, a daughter of the blessed Ebe Dynasty, and here, a guide to safely receive all who came into this corner of Akarsuku. Nowhere were the other members of her royal family, nor any of the courtiers or peacekeepers of the underground palace. She appeared alone.

Tristam
 

Arin and Marán
 

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Zharan
 


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Jinro the Baubler
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Shahezadah Parvannah
"Shahezadah... Is it safe to go ahead? Or is it safe to remain?" Jinro spoke from behind her, fidgeting with some tarnished pin or corner of his sleeve. But there was no fear in his voice. His words were calm... if a bit sunken. The baubler approached Shahezadah Parvannah just outside of Orrery Hollow. Most of the survivors that came this way were still inside the cave, but several had emerged behind Jinro: Imewa the healer, Marán the waterbearer, Tristan the artiste, and Arin and Zharan the sandborn scouts. Hadn't they met one another before? Perhaps in passing. Perhaps they'd heard their names before, though certainly in some circumstance far more mundane than this. Before them and facing away, Shahezadah Parvannah she stood still, staring into the now-ruins of her home. Their home. But there was no more movement among the avenues. No more stragglers seeking an escape.

A quiet had come over all of Akarsuku. But the dragonkin were still rampant throughout the city. After shouts and cries and magical blasts and earthquakes... the quiet was somehow worse.

"Yes," Parvannah replied without turning away from her dying city. "Wait too long and the survivors already gathered here will be found. Wait not long enough and for any others who may arrive, we risk abandoning them to... all of this." The shahezadah spoke rhetorically; what she said was obvious, yet she was still stuck in the same decision. "I said goodbye to my mother. Perhaps forever. To my father and each of my siblings. All in order to lead our peoples away from the only home we have ever known." Indeed, upon hearing news of surface invaders and in seeing the worsened earthquakes, the Ebe Dynasty did choose to ring the Nameless Chimes and evacuate the city. What most didn't know what that in order to do so, several members of the royal family left the others - their mother, their daughter, their sisters and siblings, their father - in order to receive their peoples across the various cave networks that lead to the surface. They divided and would each lead a separate group of Cinyusu into the surface wastes. "We chose this," Parvannah said, thinking aloud, "We chose to leave. It is the right choice. We should wait as long as we can. But how does one stop waiting?"

"... I do not know." Parvannah did not really expect Jinro to have an answer to the question. There was a brief quiet. "But if Orune were here... she would say that Akarsuku herself will let you know when it is ready. Ready for you to let it go."

"Yes, but-"

There was a sudden loud ringing, cutting into their senses from even so far away, as Hastrin summoned the last great swell of his magical energy and detonated the Column at its crown. A final effort to seal the Atrium and all of Akarsuku from any more threats from above.

If they were anywhere close by, it would have been an odd thing to see court advisor who usually spoke with little more than a crinkled nose and perfect poise take to combat, slinging spells and whipping around to always face his flank. But this final spell was perhaps too effective: the shattering blast not only caved in the passage from the Column into the ruins' basements. It sent a great splinter down the Column, racing down to its root like a drop of water along a cave wall.

The Column cracked. Then it split. Then, shard by shard, it crumbled. The earth began to shake again. Dust kicked up and around and began to swallow the remains of Akarsuku.

The Column had fallen.

"... We go," was all Parvannah said. When she finally turned around, something in her voice recovered. "We leave the Akarsuku we know for the unknown of the surface." They returned to Orrery Hollow, then all together, deeper into the caves.
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