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  #46  
Old Sep 19th, 2020, 10:24 AM
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Larkspur fieldThe adventurers do not budge. Vasili, the representative of The Law, does not stop the scene. The people do not push forward. Sylvia remonstrates them: this is your doing, either through action or inaction. Something must be fixed.

A few townsfolk hang their heads. A few cover their faces and weep. A few in the back slip away into the woods. But as a people, they witness. There are a few moments of horrid choking and sputtering, but soon enough, it is over. Seeing the deed done, and justice (such as it is) served, Sasha reiterates the lesson: you could have stopped this, but the time wasn't now. It was then, when these women needed you. Be better. Disgusted with the scene, and perhaps themself, Sasha vanishes.

The trailing edge of the nighttime clouds passes beyond the moon. Its cool light bathes the field, and the rusalka look up. It is midnight, and their task is complete. The four spirits gather together and look briefly at the remaining adventurers: the stone warrior, the crone, and the light bard. Their eyes are not thankful; what happened here is the bare minumum of what is Right. And yet, it was more than they expected, and it was more they found in life. They acknowledge the help. They acknowledge allies.

Slowly, the spirits dissolve. Their watery undeath dissipates and spreads out, and soon there is no sign of the Lost Women; there is only a mist that hangs over the field, glistening in the moonlight. The field is quiet, and the townsfolk begin to turn and return to their homes. As they leave, the mist shifts, and it follows them. It leaves the field, it hangs over the path, and eventually settles over Degorod. The travelling mist unsettles some of the walkers, but there does not appear to be any ill effects.

As the people enter their homes and close their doors, the mist settles. The droplets collect, seeping into the thatched roofs. It absorbs into the wicks of the abandoned harvest festival lanterns. It soaks into the weathered wooden benches of the town square.

It is breathed in.

The task is done. Vasili walks slowly with the group back to town, trailing the mob, to ensure that the night's events are truly over. The Constable offers the chairs and floor of his house for the night - The Flying Pestle, where the adventurers are staying, is a 20 minute ride in the dark.
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  #47  
Old Sep 21st, 2020, 11:07 AM
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Reflections
Sasha did not return to the inn that night, and didn't stay for pay, reward, thanks, or scorn. Rumors told of a furious, golden-haired elf leaving the village with a rucksack over his shoulder - a heat coming off of him like a sweltering summer's day. Surely, the people gossiped, that can't be that Sasha fellow, who so coldly threw Boris into certain death, could it? Never again did Degorod see Sasha, nor any other folk like him. In this world, Ljósálfar were exceedingly rare - and the one nearby had no desire to return to that town; at least not until a generation or two had past.

Sasha learned a few valuable lesson over the course of this adventure. Firstly, he learned about a community's unwillingness to address their own flaws. In the coming years, he'd reflect that his own society on another world was not too different in this way (after all, had they not exiled him simply for stealing the heart of their prince?). His perspective on his return trip home changed. Where once he sought to get back in their good graces, to beg to return, to give them the benefit of the doubt. Now he thought to return and show them the error in their ways. It was the more painful route; but one that had to be done - so no other young, starry-eyed Ljósálfar were excommunicated for the supposed sin of love.

Secondly, he learned about the differences in people. Sometimes what was good for the goose was not so good for the gander, and perhaps not for the other animals either. Some kinds of change came naturally and quickly to Ljósálfar, but not to humans, and not to more elder spirits that followed an older set of laws than either of them.

Finally, he learned something about the ways people are cruel to one another. Not just actively, but passively - when they allow bad things to happen. Perhaps he didn't just learn of it, really, but became completely aware of what he'd too ignored before. In his travels thereafter, there came times were he'd be at a tavern, and he'd witness a man get handsy or rowdy. Sasha would be the first to step in and intervene, even as an outsider.


Sasha's Epilogue

The harvest passed, as did the winter, and many more seasons thereafter. Over the course of years, he went on more adventures where he'd make discoveries, slay monsters, solve mysteries, and meet new people. Sasha was always driven by the need to find home once more. That didn't mean there wasn't time to slow down and enjoy life on Midgar, though.

Nearly a decade after the events that took place in Degorod, Sasha discovered spring again, and it was a good, long joyous one. Since slaying the wraith that haunted the Shevchenko family's castle; Sasha and the Baron Andrei Shevchenko had grown quite close.

One morning, Sasha sat at the balcony of the Baron's quarters, brushing out his hair, which had grown long with playful golden curls and waves. A crown of daffodils sprouted magically among his bangs. He gazed out at the hills, and saw a precession of horsemen come over the mount, his Andrei leading the formation. Sasha's spirits rose like the wings of a bird, and he raised his hand high and waved at the incoming Baron and his knights.

They returned from a meeting with the Boyar that shared their border, and carried good news for Sasha - rumors of a faerie circle that lead to another world... maybe a way back home for him... the path to bring justice to Alfheim.

Would he march back to Alfheim like he'd always planned, or stay in this happy place just a little longer?

Well... that's a story, for another time.
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  #48  
Old Sep 24th, 2020, 12:08 AM
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Dagrún Vanadisdotr
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Dagrún scoffed at the mewling complaints of the gathered masses. She thumped the butt of her staff. ”Feh! Do ye need see this, ye ask?” she sneered as she turned and spat upon the ground. ”None hold ye here. Ye May stay or go as ye please. But be mindful: ‘twas turnin’ yuir backs on such … unpleasantness, pretending that naught existed where ye knew well enough ‘twas rot in yuir roots, ‘twas that what brought this trouble upon ye in the first place.

“The Alfling Sasha calls this yuir punishment, but there be none as will force it down yuir gullets. Rather, I should call it a lesson. Choose to learn from yuir mistakes or ignore them and see the same events repeat theirselves.”


The old crone turned let her withering gaze sweep over the assembled rabble. The scorn in her eyes was nearly palpable. ”Ye ask what place have we, a pack of outsiders, to speak to ye thusly? I may not live amongst ye, but surely I am no stranger to ye neither. We were called upon to find who it was brought death to this village and so we have, but we also tell ye why such darkness came to be. We speak the troth ye’ve willfully blinded yuirselves to, and for that ye needed an outsider. Seeing the rot that eats away at the heart o’ Derogod, glad I be to call meself an outsider too.”

Gripping her gnarled ashwood staff, the old druid turned her back upon the townsfolk and began her slow and measured departure. ”I’ve spake my piece,” she murmured to no one in particular, ”Make of it what ye will.”

***

As Sasha stormed off and the others wandered off to go their separate ways, the Witch of the White Wood’s slow and deliberate steps fell in beside those of the ex-constable. They trudged on in silence for a time, until they reached Vasili’s doorstep. The ancient druid accepted the offer of hospitality with a curt nod and shuffled inside to lower herself into a chair by the fire. She wordlessly took the steaming cup of tea that was brought to her, though the look in her eyes suggested she required something stronger to accompany it.

The silence grew to border on discomfort as the agéd seeress continued to stare wordlessly into the fire, peering at patterns only she could discern. One by one, Vasili’s family retired to their respective beds, until only the ex-constable and his wizened guest remained. Vasili had just drawn in breath to excuse himself, when Dagrún broke the silence herself.

”How long have I known ye, Vasili Lavr Zakharovich?” She asked abruptly, her eyes never leaving the dancing flames in the hearth. ”Ye needn’t answer, lad. Nearly all yuir life it’s been, for I recall playing midwife to yuir cousin’s birth when ye were naught but a babe yuirself. Nearly all yuir life … a drop in the ocean … and yet, ye did think ye could mislead me, eh?”

Vasili began to protest, but the old beldam raised her hand swiftly, and the man caught his tongue. ”When spoke we at the inn up the road, ye conjured up a face o’ shock at the mention of a water spirit. And yet, enough o’ yuir folk here made mention of Rusalka Week. Ye can nae bring me to believe their kind was unknown to ye, when they’ve a special place on Derogod’s calendar. An ex-constable ye may be, but yuir instincts can nae have dulled that much, lad.”

The old crone finally turned away from the fire to lock eyes with Vasili’s, the flames somehow still reflecting in her steel-grey gaze. ”Ye knew full well what ye were dealing with, didnae ye? I’d wager ye knew the fates of these women as well. Ye did nae call on outsiders to root out the true cause here, Vasili Lavr Zakharovich - else ye’d have told us all ye knew at the outset. Nae, ye called on outsiders as we’d be the ones not t’know troth already. Ye hoped we’d find some other scapegoat and allow the folk her to turn their blind eyes as they’ve always done.”

The old woman sighed as she slowly lowered her teacup to the table and rose to her feet once more. ”I hope that the folk of Derogod do learn to change their ways, but based on what I've born witness to, ‘tis hope without faith that it shall come to pass.”

She took a few measured steps toward the door before stopping one final time. ”If yuir folk change naught and find themselves in such trouble again, call not upon Dagrún Vanadisdotr; she shall nae answer.”

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  #49  
Old Sep 27th, 2020, 02:21 AM
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Sylvia stayed for a time with her temporary adventuring companions, spending a little extra with Dagrun, and there was a sense between them of old friends parting ways again.

Night fell, and when morning came, Sylvia had dug up her lockbox and began storing her gear in it once more; her sword, unbloodied but still sharp; her shield, with no fresh nicks; her greaves and bracers. She paused and put in a few gifts that her briefly met adventuring companions had left her; keepsakes.

Usually the town's stone guardian didn't keep such things; her duty was to the town as a whole, not any individual. But perhaps the stone woman decided it was time for a change in how she saw them.

When it came time, she felt the return of the Grey; the place where thoughts flowed faster and slower at the same time, that state of inanimate stillness where she would wait for her vow to be fulfilled once more. And her vow was stronger than the stone that was her flesh; it had the patience of a mountain.

And so, she stood in her usual spot, and after a moment, all was still once more. Those in living memory had heard her speak and knew her judgement, and hopefully would not have need of her again. Eventually she would once again become a legend, but for now, she savored these quiet moments - that could be months, years, even decades, depending on how time passed in the Grey - where their memory was fresh and they treated her with a little more warmth and humanity.

If they treated her that way, maybe they would treat each other that way as well.
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Last edited by Charlotte; Sep 27th, 2020 at 02:21 AM.
  #50  
Old Mar 14th, 2021, 10:48 PM
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Losing His Shine.That final evening at Vasilli’s was etched into Carew’s mind for a long time. There was something about it that made him uneasy with himself and it took him years to discover what that was. He had been feigning sleep on the couch when Dagrun had made her pronouncements. (In retrospect, he realized that she almost certainly knew this, which embarrassed him somewhat despite the fact that they never saw each other again.)

What gnawed on him was the fact that it was unequivocally true that these spirits had a proper demand for justice but that he had been so blind to it for so long. At times he felt himself a bit jealous of them for how boldly they were able to ask for what was rightfully theirs. But then he felt shameful about it, for he knew they had suffered so much already. But still, there was something…

The realization came slowly over time, a piece here, a piece there. From the distance of a few months he was able to look back at those days at the Flying Pestle both when he had fled for his life and when he had come back to help. There was something almost hollow about it, his relationship to Vasilli, at least in comparison to what he had seen with the spirits. Someone else might have used the word transactional to describe it, but that was not a word that Carew viewed as problematic, at least not at that point in time.

A few months more and a blowup between Lord Mateescu and a group of his vassals making unreasonable demands for a day of rest left Carew with a similar feeling about things. Was this a pattern? He tried not to think about it much, because doing so troubled him and he preferred not to be troubled. He pushed the thoughts aside and went about with his business.

It was another year before he finally realized what it was. He was polishing his coin: the one he had gotten all those years ago as a child. The thing that had perked his interest in Baldr and eventually led him to serve in those courts. There was a spot of grey along the edge of the coin that wouldn’t clean away no matter how hard he rubbed it. He spent an hour on it only to notice that it had gotten even larger instead of smaller. And then he realized what it was: the inside of the coin. The gold was only on the surface, what was inside was something else altogether. He tossed it across the room in frustration.

Now he couldn’t keep those troubling thoughts at bay any longer. That coin had represented so much to him: all he had given up, all he had put himself through to learn, all he had served in the temple of Baldr. But somehow thoughts of Vasilli and Lord Mateescu came into this as well. The troubled feelings he had now were the same as with them, except more intense to the point he couldn’t avoid them a moment longer. It was all connected.

He was that gold coin: hollow on the inside but knew how to shine for the right person. For Baldr. For Vasilli. For Lord Mateescu. For whoever had the means to pass along to him more gilded bits to clothe himself in to attract further attention of the next Lord, to get more gilded bits, and on to the next and the next the cycle repeated itself. But there was no meaning to it. There was no meaning because the core was empty. He’d thrown it away all those years ago to board that boat and sail off in pursuit of something shiny.


Five years later Carew is back in his homeland: kind of. He left behind the shiny jacket and finery. He kept but one thing: the bandore. It did not need a case. But it did need a story to tell, for the only ones he had were lies. It took him awhile to find his people. His family was still there, but they knew little more than he did. In fact they were disappointed he had returned, they had been so proud of all his accomplishments under the empire. It takes a long time to even figure out what he is looking for but he knows he will find it somewhere at home. It is the voice of the elders, the few who still know the old tongue. They teach him why the bandore was sacred and what songs to play upon it. They teach him the old tongue and the ways. But they won’t let him share what he has learned with others until every last bit of gold that plates his tongue has been polished away. And then he joins them as they share their knowledge with the others. He joins them as they look in sadness from a distance while the children as foolish as Carew had been marvel at the wonders that the imperialists bring on their visits. He is sad each time one of them is not any wiser than he had been. But he knows there is hope they might discover themselves later. And he is finally happy for being free.
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Last edited by goatmeal; Mar 14th, 2021 at 10:49 PM.
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