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Lady Takanuva

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  1. IC- Raika Raika's figure faded into perception alongside Mitsuri as they walked into camp. In response to Ahri's summons, they turned to look at him… …and saw the smoke. Their whole body started shaking. The smell of burnt wood and… other things burning… flared in their memory. Calm down. It's not here. Those ******s on Hanaloi are probably feeling toasty, though. Raika felt even sicker. How can you say that? There's people there, everyday people. Not just royals and high-ups. There's always collateral. … fine. You have a point. There was silence for a moment, then Ahri's probably got people there, huh? Yes. Almost definitely.. …******. You think he's going to drag us all along there? I don't know, ghost. Probably not, from what we've seen. But we've been wrong before. Don't remind me. Raika took a deep breath. They focused on the sound of waves and smell of seaspray. They centered themself as best they could. In public ideatalk, they spoke: :Understood.: They turned to the milling refugees. They looked for those who needed the most help, and helped them climb aboard the most completed rafts. ooc: @Keeper of Kraata, @The UltimoScorp, @ARROW404, @Click
  2. IC: Raika They nodded. :Take all the time you need. I'll watch your back.: There was a pause as they turned to step away. To give her some space. :I… don't know what you were to each other. But… if you want to trust me… then you don't have to suffer this alone.: With that, Raika faded from perception. Mitsuri would know she was not alone, but the exact reason would escape her grasp unless she thought hard about it. It was the best Raika could do. Abandoning her in the midst of danger was unthinkable. They… wouldn't lose another. OOC: @Click
  3. IC: Raika At Mitsuri's words, Raika visibly stiffened. Their hands, half-unconsciously, crept back toward their blades. They had no idea how things would proceed, and did not wish to be caught off guard. :I see.: they said, shakiness in their words despite their best efforts. :And… how would you react if that was the case?: OOC: @Click
  4. IC- Raika The tiny menti looked at Mitsuri, slightly surprised. :Yes. I thought you saw that.: They looked down at the piece of protodermis in their hand. :Like you said then: just everyday stuff, right? We've got to… move on…: Liar. They had to be strong. Or as strong as they could manage. Mitsuri was hurting, the most they could do was not add to it. You could give her a hug. Even a hand on the shoulder! Raika almost started shaking. Touching… contact… they still were not used to it. Yuna was… big on it. But were they? And would Mitsuri respond any other way than batting them back with her stave? They stood,wondering what they should do. Hiding their emotions, as always, behind mirrored crystal. OOC: @Click
  5. IC: Raika The comment hit like a blade to the heartlight. why are you here Raika fought back a shiver as shame welled within them. Just everyday problems, they told themself. They couldn't bring themself to look at Mitsuri. Instead, they reached into their scarf. They found the pocket sewn inside of it and carefully, delicately, removed something. It was a shard of gray metal, barely a palm's width in length. Its edges had been blunted by years of sitting in fabric, but nonetheless it seemed something odd to carry so close to one's neck. Collapsing over the kakama's bloodied shards, sobbing into the dirt that there wasn't even a body to bury. Had they carried her away? She was just an adolescent, what did they do to her… It was a solid minute before they spoke. .:...bring something with you. That way they're never far. You can let the place go… after a while.:. Liar. .:...and…:. They paused longer this time, cheeks flushed magenta with shame. .:...and I'm here because you went off alone and we're… I'm… I'm not…:. They were shaking. Trying not to cry. Everyday problems. Just everyday. Look how strong Mitsuri is being. Why can't that be me? .:...I won't let them get you.:.. Raika's hands tightened on the grips of their daggers. It was the only way to stop the shaking. They still couldn't meet her eyes. OOC: @Click
  6. IC: Raika Mitsuri slipped away, almost unnoticed. Raika's strength, both physical and mental, had been returning over the course of that day. They were nowhere near as strong as Ahri. Or even Yuna, for all her years of hauling massive nets and sawing at ship's timbers. But the lithe, muaka-like certainty had re-entered their movements. So when they saw Mitsuri disappear into the treeline, they imperceptibly followed. Not out of nosiness, but rather a sense of duty. Unless you want to lose them, you'll need to be able to fight for them when the time comes. If something happened to Mitsuri, Raika would be there to make sure she did not face it alone. Raika found the area familiar. When they saw the hut that Mitsuri had stopped before, they thought they understood. Perhaps she had left something there. Something important- Then they saw her freeze, and something in the motion cut through to their heart. They unconsciously grasped at the pocket hidden in their scarf. At the shard of kanohi within. Suddenly, a part of them was back in the mountain village, searching in vain for the closest friend they had ever known. The strongest light in their life. Shifting back into perception, out of respect, they stepped forward until they were side-by-side with Mitsuri. .:What can I do…:. they asked softly, looking at what they were increasingly convinced was a tomb before them. ooc: @Click, @Keeper of Kraata, @ARROW404, @The UltimoScorp
  7. IC: Raika Raika barely remembered making it back to camp. Their world was one of red haze and muffled voices. Bones aching, they dragged themself beneath some chaparral scrub and were immediately, finally, unconscious. They had anticipated horrid, lucid nightmares like the last couple days. But instead, they found their nostrils filling with the salt tang of sea air. Looking around, they realized they were in a room with walls of polished glass. Turning around, they saw a large ridged lens rotating in a pool of silver around what appeared to be a truly massive lightstone. They blinked, and looked out the curved window again. The scene was off, like a bad memory, but the coast was familiar enough. It was the Lighthouse. The trapdoor down was exactly where they had remembered it, the staircase glowed with a light slightly more purple than the lightstones had cast in reality. As they descended, the smell of cooked fish and boiling spiced seaweed broth met their nose. Their stomach growled loudly as they slipped out the bottom of the stairwell. They triggered their Volitak and slipped beneath perception so that the old lighthouse keeper wouldn't see them- A woman, one who had never been at the lighthouse in real life, stood at the stove. Her willowy figure was covered by a traveling jacket dripping with dew. As Raika stared, they heard a voice enter their mind. .:Come on out, little ghost. You're not fooling anyone.:. Raika started at the voice. As the figure turned, their suspicions were suddenly confirmed. The figure wore indigo and gold armor over a curvy frame. Their chest was large enough, Raika noted with mixed emotions, to well fill out the breastplate she wore. The Volitak, separated from the armor by a thick, tattered red scarf, was just as polished as the one Raika themself wore. The eyes beneath glowed intensely as she set down two bowls of hot pot on the table. Raika dropped the cloak. It was silly to try and hide from the Wraith, after all. They ate their soup in silence. Raika lamented that they could smell the soup far more acutely than taste it here. They looked across the table at the woman opposite. Voices in your head. The writings Raika had learned their talents from had warned about the potential side effects of dissociation. It was a crucial part of making oneself unknowable. You had to shift the very concept of yourself into a different plane of comprehension. But to make it work, a …bit of yourself… had to stay behind. An anchor. Sometimes that part might start to feel like a whole separate person. You just had to ignore the voices. But… Take any sentient being. Place them alone, perhaps more alone than anybody had ever been. Able to see, but never interact. A ghost. You take any companionship you get in a time like that. Raika broke the silence. .:This is new.:. The Wraith looked up. .:Perhaps. We did have quite the shock the other day.:. Raika stared at the mushroom and hotroot floating amongst the green seaweed in their broth. .:The barrier that Mitsuri mentioned…:. .:...was me, yes.:. The Wraith shifted in their seat to look more directly at Raika. It was like being pinned to their chair. .:I think we'll need to discuss… boundaries… if you're letting others in now.:. There was a longer pause. .:So what happens now?:. Raika asked. .:A good question.:. The Wraith stood, and walked over. .:You've lost the will to defend yourself. I… haven't. And the thing with these new friends? Unless you want to lose them, you'll need to be able to fight for them when the time comes.:. Raika felt their heart racing. .:I… I can't. Not after-:. .:You slew a monster breaking women's minds to make them her toys. Yes, one of them was blamed, but by all accounts she got the equivalent of a slap on the wrist and was told to not let the sun set on her there. She's probably better off now, even.:. Raika felt tears flowing in tiny rivers down their cheeks. The Wraith paused. She looked uncertain, but hesitantly reached a hand out and caressed the side of Raika's kanohi. .:If it's too much… you don't have to do it alone. I can take over for a while.:. Raika shook their head violently. The Wraith almost snatchhed her hand back, looking… hurt? Guilt flooded Raika. .:N-n-no. I… I just… they're my friends. I can't…:. The Wraith relaxed. .:You can't abandon them.:. Raika looked up, tears beaded on the inside of their kanohi. They reached out a cloth-wrapped hand. .:Together?:. The tall warrior's eyes softened. They reached out their own bare arm. .:Together.:. Sunlight cut through the leaves of the shrub Raika was beneath. Shaking their head, they slowly rose to their feet. Every part of their body was stiff, but the horrible deathlike ache had gone from them. It had to have been more than twelve hours. The ship was a hive of activity. Dashi and Datsue alike worked tirelessly helping to construct a fleet of seaworthy vessels. Raika's eyes gleamed behind their mask. The memories of the lighthouse had warmed old memories long buried. Boat repair. A night when Ryuji had been so achingly exhausted he had left his little skiff half-finished while he slept. Come morning, it had been fully repaired, tarred and caulked. He had smiled and thanked the ghost he believed haunted his home. From behind the corner of the keeper's hut, a fifteen-year old Raika had beamed with hidden pride at their work. At the Oki coastline, many attributed the things they felt or saw to heat and exhaustion. A ringti who needed to pause for breath looked up to see the pitch filling she had been laboring over had been melted in and screed smooth as glass. Boards were cut, rope caulk shoved deep, barnacles scraped off and holes filled with wooden plugs. Those collapsing from exhaustion felt as if there was somebody holding them up, but could not place the face. One figure, his green eyes matching a faint glow beneath the shoulders of his robe, thought for a moment he had seen a pair of magenta eyes looking straight at him. He remembered an old legend his grandmother had once told him. Spirits who wandered unseen across the mountains her ancestors had called home. "Raika," he breathed, and the eyes had suddenly never been. He shook his head, unsure where the thought had come from. OOC: Timeskip time! Take us as far as you need @Keeper of Kraata, @The UltimoScorp, @ARROW404, @Click
  8. OOC: i am delighted to have had the chance to work on this with @The UltimoScorp! IC: Yuna Koizumi and Raika - Oki forest: Rain pelted my mask, clung to my body and clothes as I ran, as I hoped against hope that no one would follow me. I should have known better, and hearing footsteps behind me sent my mind and body racing even harder, but it was glancing back and seeing that it was Raika following that made my heart drop into my stomach. They'd want to know why I was running and I'd have to tell them and they'd all crawl in my head and find out just how wrong I was. Tears, hot and angry sprang unbidden to my eyes and I turned my attention back to where I was going- I tripped over a raised root, falling hard into the forest floor. My body, exhausted and running on nothing but adrenaline, refused to get up, to do anything but shake and cry and lay there uselessly. "Please don't…" I whimpered into the soil as the rain continued to pour down around me. Raika came to a stop, losing their own footing and needing to stabilize themself on a tree branch. Their tiny chest was rising and falling rapidly, their scarf and arm wrappings soaked through with mud and water. Don't? Don't what? Raika wondered, looking at their friend. They gritted their teeth under their rain-speckled mask. They had no idea if this was going to work, but they felt this wasn't the time to shove their way into Yuna's mind. The experience clearly already distressed her before, and here she was on the verge of panic. Raika slowly walked over, as one might approach a spooked animal. They squatted onto their haunches, in Yuna's line of sight. With their right hand, they made a pointing gesture followed by facing their hand palm-inward, middle and index fingers extended. Are you okay? Through the haze of mud and tears on the visor of my mask, I saw Raika come into view, saw them kneel down and gesture at me, but I couldn't make out what it was clearly. I tried to sit up, but my body stubbornly refused. "I-I can't…. I can't, I'm sorry…." Heat flared across Raika's face beneath the mask. Their cheeks and chest burned with shame and frustration. Old memories, old taunts. They came flooding in, clouding things, making tears prick the corners of their eyes. She'd have to know sometime. Right? Raika pounded their fist against their thigh in frustration, until the spot was so tender they couldn't bring themself to again. It didn't do much, but it cleared out enough space in their head. Raising their right hand once again, they pointed to the mouth area of their kanohi's visor. They then lifted their chin slightly, pointing to their throat. They then used their hand to pantomime a mouth moving. Then they made a slashing motion across their throat. It wasn't really signal sign, but they hoped it conveyed the message well. Can't speak. They paused for a moment, then put both their fists side-by-side, as though grasping a handful of straws. They then angled their hands apart, as though snapping the imaginary bundle. Broken. They then pointed at themself. They were shaking now, wishing they could just slip away and avoid the comments to come. Blinking away tears, I couldn't help but to give a little laugh. They couldn't speak aloud and I couldn't hear Ideatalk. What a pair we made. "I-I'm…..broken, too." I tried again to get up, and to my surprise I was able to at least get my face out of the mud. It wasn't upright, but it was a start, at least. "I…. I never…." Those tears came back, threatening to overwhelm me if I didn't- "I'm wrong, I don't know what's wrong with me but I'm broken and wrong and I'm scared and I don't know what to do and I'm sorry!" If the truth had to come out….. maybe it was better it come from me, at least…? Raika felt like they had been slapped when they heard laughter. Like something was being pulled out from inside of them. They fell backwards into the mud. The next words out of Yuna's mouth did nothing to hhelp their panic. No, no, they'd called themself broken and now Yuna was saying it too what had they done they had messed up they knew they shouldn't have… Raika began slowly fading into the background, the response all but unconcious. I'm sorry. That snapped them out of the spiral. What? Why was Yuna apologizing? Had Raika not been the one who had to physically hurt her to communicate at all? Yuna at least wasn't a monster. She was kind, and compassionate, and Raika was… Raika was nothing. They were a burden at best and Yuna shouldn't need to… she… shouldn't feel… Raika scrabbled forward towards Yuna, reached to help pull her up… but paused, their hands shaking violently an inch from her arm. They couldn't bring themself to touch her, were scared that if they did they'd hurt her somehow too. Their hands…. They were so close I could feel the faint heat from them on my skin and something in my ached for them to just…. To just touch me. I screwed my eyes shut and it all came out of me. "I'm a broken Menti who can't do anything, all I can do is this weird water stuff I can't ideatalk or make a soulsword or Willhammer anything or Mindarm anything or make Sighteye illusions all I can do is control water and I don't know why or how and whenever I tell anyone they just…. leave or…or make me leave and I'm scared because I don't want you to leave I don't want to be alone anymore I'm sorry I'm so sorry I lied please just don't leave me alone again….!" Please just hold me! Alone. Raika wanted to wrap their arms around Yuna. But they were terrified. All of this… what they were feeling… it was so much. They seized Yuna's hand and clutched it to their chest. They held her hand there, close. They felt almost giddy. Short of dragging Ahri from the waves, this… this was the first time they'd touched another person in nearly a decade. And… it was Yuna. Yuna, so kind, so gentle, so surprisingly like them yet so much a better person. Reaching out to Raika. Not knowing they were not worth her time. Before Yuna could change her mind, Raika had their arms wrapped around Yuna's own trapped limb. They held her arm like a child clinging to a pillow, tears streaming down their face and chest spasming with hoarse sobs. So surprised by the move I was, that I nearly flinched right out of Raika's grasp. A grasp that was soft and warm and- And they were crying? Why? Why were they clinging to me like they had just poured out their darkest secrets? Why…? Slowly, and with much effort, I pulled myself upright, confusion clear on my mask. "R-Raika…? Why are…. Why are you crying?" Almost instantly I felt guilty for even asking since they couldn't respond. My free hand shakily stretched forward, wanting to cup their face, but settling on their slight shoulder instead. "L-look I know it's not… ideal b-but you can do that…. That Willhammer thing to talk to me. It's okay." My heart skipped a beat at the thought that they might reach further and find how I felt- No, no I can't…. They would never…. They couldn't possibly…. But…. What if….? Raika began to open a connection, but paused. Yuna was hurting now, and they knew how uncomfortable the experience was to her. Raika sat up, still clutching Yuna's hand in both of theirs. They pointed to Yuna, then to themself. They then grasped Yuna's hand tighter and held it to where their scarf lay across their breastplate. Beneath which their heartlight flashed unsteadily. They paused for a moment. Then, this time with all the delicate care their frayed mind could muster, they slipped their thoughts into Yuna's own. .:I am crying because I am not good like you, but I think I understand. Never felt like I belonged. Not… not with the males. Not with… I… A-and my voice… n-no way for a Firstborn to act.:. Yuna heard a slightly bitter laugh in her head. What were they saying? Like Mitsuri had said: their problems were normal. Small. How dare they compare them to what Yuna had been through. I felt their words, although this time it was softer somehow. Less of a pressing and more of an easing into my own thoughts. The words themselves were far more impactful. Good like me? The males? First… wait wait wait what did that mean, was Raika…. Were they…? "You're….?" The question died on my lips, a wave of shame washing over me. Whatever Raika had been before I met them was none of my business, and all that really mattered was who they were now. And who they were now was… well I didn't know, really, but I felt safe around them. I scooted closer and pulled them into a hug, unsure of what to say but knowing I wanted to comfort Raika in some fashion. Raika held her close, shaking. .:I… I can't even decide which. I'm… I… y-you…:. They paused, then with a shudder they mustered up their focus to continue the exceeding care this process was taking. .:I'm… not normal. I'm not skilled like Ahri. Or disciplined like Mitsuri. Or… I… I've just… it's just been me. Alone. For maybe ten years… maybe more…:. A lie, technically. There had been the Lighthouse, but that was different. That was theirs. .:I… you… you're so kind. You always push and try so hard and… you aren't a freak any more than I am. You don't freeze up, you don't panic, you don't distrust everyone around you… or maybe you do. I don't know. I… I don't… I…:. Their concentration unraveled, and Raika lapsed back into mental silence as they huddled close against Yuna. Their cheeks were burning. Because of the emotion of the moment, but also because this was Yuna and Yuna was holding her close and… The infatuation Raika had been feeling for the last days of travel wove in with the feeling of connection they were feeling now. They didn't know why or how yet. But they knew that they were going to savor every moment of this closeness in case it never came again. "I don't know about not panicking, I did just run off because Yoka saw me do water things, after all…" I shook my head, "Look, I don't know what I am, but I do know that you and Ahri and the others are…. All I have. I don't want to let you go." My words were punctuated by a squeeze. "And um…. D-don't take this the wrong way but I think I might….like you?" Wow hey look at me go I'm getting everything out in the open here hahahahaha Zataka take me now. Raika's head was swimming. Their cheeks were burning magenta so brightly now they were positive it could be seen through their visor. It's not just me? It's… I'm… she's… If they'd tried to ideatalk to Yuna at that time, it would have been like a hammer against her mind. So instead, Raika just hugged Yuna as tight as her arms could manage, nodding furiously while their heartlight strobed in their chest. They held me tighter, and I swore I felt their mask warm. My heartlight was nearly beating out of my chest, but in a much different way than before. It felt like someone had stuck a swim bladder in my chest and filled it with hot air. Hey I'm a fisherwoman don't get on me about my weird analogies. Point being… They agreed. They…. Felt the same way? About someone like me? Absolutely insane. But in a time like now, what wasn't insane to believe? Just a few days ago Zataka herself had unleashed horrible monsters across our home and people got in ships to flee across the ocean. Everything was different now, and who was to say that my silly Saihoko feelings couldn't be returned by the Menti I had them for? So I didn't say anything either, just…. Held them. Held this moment. Raika wanted to stay in this moment forever. They hadn't… they'd never been held like this. Hadn't been this close to another Dasaka in so long, emotionally or physically. But at the same time, something in the back of their mind kept screaming that those serpents are here. We need to go. Get to safety. There will be time enough later. No good waiting here if you and Yuna die. Not wanting to let go, Raika gave an extra-strong squeeze before shifting to face Yuna. Reluctantly removing their hands, they started to sign a message. They quickly thought better of it. Bringing their hands to their mask, they steepled them together and pressed the heels to their mask. They then opened their fingers into four petals, mimicking the faceplates on the serpents that now wandered the island. They then pointed at Yuna and themself, then back the way they had come. We need to get back. Those serpents might be out here. Right. Speaking of those monsters. I nodded, slowly and shakily standing. I was still exhausted from…. Well from everything. Even so, I held out a hand to Raika. After wiping the mud off of my face… and then my hands. What, no it's not just an excuse to hold their hand how dare you accuse me of such things! "I should…. Probably explain to the others why I ran off, huh?" Raika shyly took her hand and stood. As they did, they felt suddenly dizzy and nearly blacked out. Staggering a little, they collapsed against Yuna for a moment. I guess three hours wasn't enough sleep after three days. Straightening themself as best they could, Raika shakily grabbed their remaining dagger and held it at their side. They looked up to Yuna (they always looked up to her, she could do so many things. Not just combat, but practical too. She was so amazing and she was here holding Raika's hand. She was holding their hand. Would she keep holding it? Would… would this be the norm now?)... Tears of mixed emotion and exhaustion stung the corners of their eyes as they shakily pointed forward with the amber crystal blade. The message was clear enough: Onward! They pressed against me again for a moment as they stood, and that warm tightness in my chest came back. The rain had stopped, too. A genuine grin slipped into my face, and the two of us, this strange, exhausted pair, began making our way back out of the forest. Together. And I didn't let go of their hand the whole way.
  9. This was a jam between Click and myself! This was a blast to work on, as always~♡ IC: Oki shoreline Raika paused at this. They looked into Mitsuri's eyes. .:I understand,:. They said. Then… They opened their mind to Mitsuri. Not breaking that almost painful eye contact. An act of trust. The hardest thing they had ever done. It took all their strength to not collapse into a shaking mess Mitsuri’s own one-eyed gaze wavered, struggling to remain present as Raika stared at her face. She took a breath and squeezed Raika’s hand tighter as she pushed into the Menti’s mind. As promised, the frigid wall that had repelled every attempt to see their thoughts had melted away, and as such Mitsuri was instantly caught up in an even stronger hurricane of anxiety and fear. But she was ready for it this time, quickly finding a way to ride that anxiety as she read the feelings and memories that fueled it. The emotions were like chords of music, or waves of water, or grains of crystal that sang as they passed. The feeling of a constant war with feelings of comfort shattered against her as the sound of the desire to remain hidden, unobserved, safe. A shifting sense of self, a desire for a fluidity of presentation. Fear. That was the loudest note in the chorus. It rang out, its sour taste in every note and shard. Fear of trusting these new people after almost a decade of isolation. Fear of the feelings of closeness. Fear of loss. Fear of a draw to Yuna, to trust the freely given comfort that Mitsuri would immediately recognize as her own. Distrust, this one tied to Ahri. There was a crimson link to that one. It led to something… Suddenly something else. A barrier. Not the cold wall of a mental ward. Something foreign. Mutsuri was inside of Raika's mind. But she was not alone there… A single droplet struck Raika's shoulder. Then another. And another. Their concentration was lost as they shook rain from their visor. And with that, the links, the grains, the waves, the chords, they all slipped away from Mitsuri’s grasp before she could reach their ends. She fought to push her way back in, but she only met the familiar cold wall of Raika’s mind once more. Mitsuri opened her eye, glaring at Raika with an exasperated but understanding disproval. .:You didn’t let me in.:. she sighed over their link. .:We’ll just have to work on it.:. For a moment, something was readable on what little was visible of Raika's face through their visor. In a tightening of the eyes, a shift of the head. The comment had stung. .:What are you talking about,:. Raika said, looking briefly back into Mitsuri's gaze before shifting away. .:I let you in. I'm not a trained Menti like you, it's all or nothing. Why would you say something like that. What do you want from me? Really? Was free reign of my mind not enough? What more did you want to see?:. The hurt had calcified into anger. Raika had bared their soul and was being accused of deception. Had she not liked what she'd seen? Had Mitsuri expected some stronger will than what Raika had to offer? Mitsuri was taken back by Raika’s sudden fire and genuine hurt. Perhaps it was time for a gentler approach. She tried to smile and shrug it off. .:Raika… you said what was in your head… well, that it would make us want to hurt you. What I saw in there, it was normal, surface level stuff!:. Raika forced themself to take a deep breath. Their whole body was shaking with emotion. Vulnerability. They felt like they were struggling to stay in control. Like they were grasping onto consciousness, somehow. But as the panic began to break they were able to reply. .:N-normal?:. they asked, looking into Mitsuri's eyes briefly once again. .: What you saw in there… that was normal?:. .:Hey, everyone is afraid of getting too close. That’s just trust, you have to accept that you might get hurt. And I promise, I won’t tell Yuna.:. Mitsuri tried to wink and grin, but with half her face covered it didn’t look like much. .:I wasn't controlling what you saw:. they stated. .:I just let you in. I… I never got training in shielding my mind. What I learned I figured out myself.:. A pause, then: .:...I wouldn't have let you see the part about Yuna if I'd…:. As they were speaking, their eyes trailed back to the shore. Yuna was sprinting off towards the treeline. The rain was denser there, as if she was running into the heart of the storm. Mitsuri’s next question died on her lips as something forced its way through their connection. As if manifesting into reality from darkness itself, she could see the silhouette of something rearing above her, pinning her down. A hideous serpent, clad in scarlet metal armor. Scarlet that shone with the sickly sheen of an oil slick. Its faceplate opening, acidic venom dripping from its maw as raw terror flowed like ice through her veins. Of a blade stabbing upwards. Again and again. And again. Again and again until the thing collapsed, until it could never hurt me again. Until we were safe. Until… As the connection stretched and finally broke, Mitsuri found herself on the ground, tears streaming down her face as she struggled to catch her breath. Her eye darted across the shoreline, looking for the one who had endured that memory. “Raika!” Raika was already sprinting down towards the shoreline. Their lithe body and long steps cut a gold and indigo streak as they launched themself after Yuna. She couldn't be there alone. Those things would get her. They'd… they'd… Raika's pulse was pounding harder than they'd ever felt before as fear of loss gripped them unexpectedly. They cursed that they couldn't call out to her. They couldn't signal. All they could do, as rain soaked their scarf and beaded across their kanohi, was run. OOC: @Keeper of Kraata, @The UltimoScorp, @ARROW404
  10. IC: Behind her visor, Carol shifted her eyes in what might seem an odd pattern to an outside observer. It was a technique she had been trained with to deprogram the negative thought patterns and to regain some control. She went from feeling like she was teetering on the edge of a cliff face to standing there, looking down. Her heartbeat slowed a little, and she was able to compose a response. "Nothing beyond the basic: this is my first real mission after ten years on ice. I could run a thousand sims and still be caught off guard by the real thing. Just worried some of my old reflexes might be dull, ma'am." That was accurate enough, even if it was not the entire truth. But saying that she was scared of her old nickname proving true on this mission, that she'd lose her teammates the same way she had on Longinus… that would get her pulled off of the team for sure. Spartans didn't get hangups, just results. Especially Spartan-IIIs. She still was one, despite what the records now reflected. Rather than admitting they'd shoved a broken Spartan in cryo for a solid decade, they'd altered her records to pass her off as a Spartan-IV recruit. The ages matched, and Carol had always been more… human… than a good few of the other recruits. Close enough at least to pass as a soldier who'd chosen the upgrades. But Cassie was Alpha. Cassie knew the truth. And, more than anybody else, it was Cassie Carol was scared of disappointing. It was possible only she would know this wasn't her first mission as a Spartan. And she would weigh her mistakes more heavily as a result. Carol stood up. The Mjolnir felt so much different than her old SPI armor. It moved like an extension of her body. It had taken weeks to unlearn the overcompensation for the SPI's laggy assistance and to adjust to how fluid the generation two assistance algorithms were. Her mind cast back to the figure attending to them with a trauma kit. Their mirrored black Mjolnir so different from her ashen SPI armor. Undamaged after a full assault, while theirs were tattered from plasma droplets and shrapnel flechettes. Her teammates here would be better armed. They'd probably all come out looking as shiny as those Spartans had, all those years ago. But fear doesn't like to be set aside. It still writhes and coils just below the surface, waiting for a chink in the armor. But Carol was a Spartan, after all. She'd make sure that chink was as hard to find as possible. The fear might coil around her after the mission, squeeze shivers and tears from her already exhausted body. But now she had to be strong. Had to keep them all safe. That was her job. She would be as much of a ghost as she felt among the group, sliding along unseen beside them. But she'd keep them safe. She walked over to Cassie, and stood to attention. "Ma'am," she said, presenting herself for inspection like she had so many times as of late. @The UltimoScorp
  11. [Meant ti be a correction. Disregard.]
  12. IC: Carol-A215 Carol paused her singing when she saw the status light. The message came through loud and clear, and she adjusted her own transmitter before responding. She flicked over a green status before replying with a confident "Yes ma'am." Cassie a team leader. She supposed time did things like that. The gung-ho explosives aficionado had never been a good fit to the sneak and stalk lifestyle of Alpha company. But it seemed she'd landed soundly on her feet with this position. And, even if that face was now, shockingly, older than her own it was good to know she'd have somwthing close to a friend at her back. Cassie lying, armor shredded by shrapnel from a plasma burst igniting one of her rockets. She shook her head for a microsecond before catching herself. Nobody not gifted with spartan-time would have noticed. Cassie falling to a Kig-Yar's well-aimed laser carbine shot, her yellow armor blistering and running like quicksilver. Would she be ok? This was her first mission since… Since. She looked at her right arm. Flexed the fingers of her mechanical limb. Weeks of practice at the firing range had gotten her response time and aim back to where they had been before. Even so, it was thus far untested. Like her. "Ma'am…" she amended, after a short eternity of contemplation. "I must admit to some anxiety regarding the coming mission. I worry my current skillset and state may prove insufficient to ensure no casualties on this deployment. Nonetheless, I promise to ensure such doubts do not impact my performance. Ma'am." Her ODST-esque helmet faced towards Cassie. The armor techs called it Firefall. It had a mean look to it, big and angry. It felt almost at odds with the almost curvy silhouette the rest of Carol's armor had. And while it was impossible to read expression through the mirrored sapphire lens, Carol put on her war face. "Am I still cleared to go on the mission, ma'am?"
  13. IC: Check. A small figure sat in the corner of the hangar. It had been there for hours. Its deep violet blended surprisingly well with the shadows surrounding it. Magazine: Check. Its blue visor was mirrored, its expression indiscernible as it focused on the object lain out on a sheet of spare plating rested on its legs. Magazine slide: Check. Spartan Carol-A215 set the magnum to her side, beside her Gadulo-pattern needle rifle. It had already been checked over. its Subanese crystal canister lay beside it, not to be loaded until she arrived at the mission objective. The volatile crystal was safer stored until needed. It was a ritual before every mission. Check. Re-check. Nothing could go wrong if all of her equipment was fully functional. And if something beyond her control happened… well, she'd have the best chance possible of making sure her teammates were safe. "Check," she spoke aloud. The sound would not pass the face of her helmet. "All systems nominal" came a voice in her ear. "Thrusters operational, plating repairs completed as of 0200 hours. Shield capacitors primed and ready for engagement. Active camouflage module diagnostic shows one hundred percent predicted functionality with modified plating." "Thank you, Apogee," Carol responded. They called her Jinx. Or… they used to, at least. Things would sometimes just… go wrong on missions she was sent on. Sometimes horribly. If she was fated to be a bad luck charm, though… well, she'd best make sure her teammates weren't the ones who were feeling the pinch when things broke bad. Emotional state:... Carol wasn't shaking. Spartans didn't shake. They especially didn't shake with anxiety. With fear of seeing the new faces walk in. Fear of seeing those faces buried in the mud or staring, blankly, up into nothing. Spartans also never cried. But Carol did. The tears were small and few, more nerves than anything. And rather than eroding, they strengthened her resolve. She slotted her spare ammo onto her armor, clipped her magnum and rifle to her hip and back respectively. Looked out across the room. Spartans didn't sing, that people ever spoke of. Carol's voice echoed in her helmet as she trailed out a soft melody half-remembered from her early childhood. It always calmed her down.
  14. Name: Spartan Carol-A215, AKA Spartan Jinx. Current alias Carol Blake. Species: Augmented human (Spartan-III) Gender: female (she/her) Age: 28 (biologically) Personality: Carol-A215 is an oddity among the Spartan-III Alpha Company recruits. Seeing recruitment as a way to escape an abusive foster system, Carol continued to push herself forward, never backing down even when terrified of the outcome. As a result, she is far more mild-mannered than many other Spartan-IIIs, often seen asnquiet and withdrawn by others. This could not be farther from the truth. Carol enjoys company, just on her own terms. As a result of her usual isolation, Carol spends a majority of her time reading any literature she can get her hands on. That could be a digitization of a classical novel, pulp literature, or even webfiction if it catches her interest. She is highly adaptable and uses unusual tactics to compensate for her shortcomings, excelling as a camoflauged sniper and infiltrations agent. That being said, sue to her reputation as a 'jinx' due to sutuations regularly going wrong tangental to the missions she is deployed on, she has some degree of anxiety ensuring her equipment is 100 per cent operational before any deployment. The one way in which Carol could be said to express the more usual Spartan-III gung-ho attitude is in regards to orbital insertion. Fear of the initial jump from training led her to repeat parachuting as part of training over and over, to face her fear. Fear eventually gave way to confodence, then infatuation. Carol has even gone to lengths to have her armor modified to survive orbital insertion. She has some discomfort on ships, due to past trauma. And she has a chronic fear of losing teammates stemming back to two of her most disastrous deployments which earned her nickname as "Spartan Jinx." Well aware Spartans never "retire," Carol nevertheless oftem comments that she one day wants to open a bookstore on a quiet colony planet. Biography: Carol Blake was born during the later stages of the human-covenant war, on the colony world Chorous. Her parents were drafted by the UNSC and both reported KIA. At the age of five Carol entered the local foster system, where she remained until her covert recruitment by the Spartan-III program at the age of seven. Later investigation based on information given by Carol implies this was to escape inhumane treatment by the orphanage in which she had been placed, but further data has been sealed. Carol was trained as part of Alpha company, and was among fifty recruits headhunted to receive additional ODST training due to their tenacity under pressure. She developed a strong admiration for her teacher, holding her as an aspirational figure. Carol has been deployed a number of times during her tenure, but two of her deployments are of particular note. On her first deployment the UNSC battleship Solidarity experienced a misalignment in its Shaw-Fujikawa slipspace drive and re-entered realspace below a Covenant supercarrier as it fired its glassing laser. An astronomically unlikely occurance, Carol's life was only saved due to her hiding out in an airlock on what happened to be the far side of the craft. She depressurized slowly enough that her SPI armor's vacuum seals held, and was able to jettison herself toward a mostly operational Pelican dropship. She hid out there for three days, before UNSC after-action scouts located and recovered her. Her final deployment was via orbital insertion as part of a covering force for Spartan-II infiltration and capture of crucial Covenant fleet codes during Operation Longinus. However, the information proved to be a decoy and the dropped Spartans encountered heavy Covenant resistance. Carol narrowly escaoed death when an injured teammate blocked a plasma mortar from destroying her, though this encounter cost her right arm. Utilizing battlefield stimulants and her still-functioning SPI armor, Carol managed to direct a small group of fifteen survivors into guerilla tactics. Five of this group survived until the Spartan-II fireteam provided cover and extraction, the first indication any of the III's had of their existence. ONI placed her on ice following this mission, and she was only recently thawed out a whole decade later. To cover this up, and to hide any potential links to the Spartan-III program, Carol has been issued the alias Carol Anderson. Her official record states she is a Marine trained in orbital insertion, who distinguished herself running covert infiltration via orbital drop on targets of interest, and was put forth as part of the Spartan-IV program. Appearance: Carol is slighter in build than many Spartans, though still far stronger than an unmodified human. At 6'6", Carol is remarkably short for a Spartan despite still fitting within acceptable program parameters. Her curvier figure makes her distinct even in armorz though she spends most of her time lurking in shadow, so few tend to notice. Her hair is short with long fringes that are pulled back while her helmet is on. Her black hair is often dyed various colors, and is currently a soft jade green. Her almond-shaped eyes are Payne's gray, but have an almost violet reflection to them due to the effects of chemicals used to alter the eye's function in low-light scenarios. Her skin is olive. Equipment: Armor: Spartan Carol's armor is both an echo of the past and a leading note of what is to come. Carol's Mjolnir resembles a suit of Gen-1 Mk. V-B armor with a helmet and pauldrons reminiscent of ODST drop armor and a pair of built-in jump jets. These accessories were developed as a part of Project Firefall, and her armor is acting as a field testbed for the technology. The plating is dark violet, with red and white accents. The techsuit utilizes a more advanced iteration of the Gen 1 nanocrystalline synthetic musculature, in addition to containing backup shield reinforcements and a more advanced gel layer. The profile is built in reminiscence of the Mark V-B Mjolnir armor series. Its outer plating has been brought to the Mark-III standard, with more robust shielding and a faster recovery time. In terms of armor upgrades: the suit is equipped with a set of Hermese-3 jump maneuvering jets which allow short bursts of propulsion for EVA maneuvering or even shirt in-atmosphere jumps. It is of note that these are less powerful than a standard jump pack and cannot enable sustained flight. The suit's upgrade port is usually fitted with an active camoflauge upgrade. Suit AI: Ancillary systems are monitored and managed by the simple "dumb" AI construct nicknamed "Apogee" in reference to its ability to rapidly calculate landing trajectories in the event of extra-vehicular orbital insertion to protect the suit's occupant to the best level possible. Weaponry: Carol carries a Galduo-Pattern Needle Rifle for sniping purposes, finding it more versatile than a standard UNSC sniper rifle. The rifle has the phrase For Reach delicately and precisely burnt into the side of its casing. For a sidearm, she carries a standard Misriah Armory M6H Magnum sidearm. Prosthesis: Carol's right arm has been replaced with a standard permanent-mount mechanical prosthesis built into her Mjolnir armor. Additional equipment: Carol carries a tacpad to interface with her AI, though often uses it in her free time for various purposes within UNSC allotments. Skills: Sniper: Give Carol any ranged weapon and she will find her mark. Countless hours and cases of ammo at the training range have led to Carol having an almost preternatural eye for distances and air currents. This has led to the occasional joke due to her Cherokee ancestry, but seeing as she has one of the highest proficiencies with ranged weaponry among alpha company, they are never very loud jokes. Stealth: Before her outfitment with Mjolnir, years being deployed in Semi-Powered Infiltration Armor have taught Carol how to become a ghost. Known to rely on her active camoflauge unit far more than her shields, Carol becomes a silent spectre covering her teammates on any deployment. Orbital insertion: Short of fully-trained ODSTs, Carol is one of the most experienced and enthusiastic Dpartans ever to dip their toes into the world of the Helljumpers. With close to a dozen drops on record, she has experience being dropped i to ****** and learning how to adapt when she gets there. Flaws: Carol was diagnosed with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following Operation Longinus, and was put on leave while her burns were treated via in-situ tissue cloning and a cybernetic limb was fitted. Following this, Carol has worked to hone her abilities and become a more effective support to her teammates. Despite her outwardly positive attitude, she grapples with anxiety over each new teammate and has been known to be extremely critical of her own mission performance. However, she can be hesitant to make deep personal bonds due to fear of losing the ones she cares about. Not being especially open about these insecurities, those who use the nickname "Jinx" for her, often in an affectionate manner, are not aware that the nickname, to her, carries a vivid mark of shame and feeling of needing to be better. When pushed outside of her comfort of arm's reach, a silent assassin or spy, and forced to fight for her life… Carol fights. She fights recklessly. She fights with an almost berserker panic that leaves her shaking after mission, absolutely terrified of what kind of monsters might live inside of her. But she has to stay alive. She has to keep fighting, because as longa s she is in the field it is her responsibility, her duty, to make sure everyone else gets home safely. Carol also likes falling. A bit much, one might say. One might even call this a small obsession of hers. While a very specific vice, it could nevertheless lead her to be a bit more reckless about where and when she is dropping when weighing against the thrill of freefall.
  15. IC: Raika Several emotions grappled for space in Raika's mind. Their immediate response was to brush off the help. But when they tried to form a response to this end, it was as if they couldn't get the words out. Add to this that a growing part of them wanted some peace and clarity of mind. For things to feel simple and straightforward. But there was a very real danger if Mitsuri found out their identity as The Wraith, let alone the information Raika was carrying in their mind from years of espionage. Add to all this that three hours isn't really that much sleep, especially when one hasn't slept in three days. Wakefulness is either a fevered half-dream or a rictus of wired, anxious hyperclarity with the fragility of fine crystal. Raika was solidly set in the second of these camps, the smells and sounds of their nightmares still echoing in their memory. As such, their response managed the twin achievement of being both blunt and potentially condemning. .:To be honest, I could absolutely use some clarity. However: the only place I can call my own in this world is inside of my head, and I don't like sharing the secrets I have there.:. They chuckled through ideatalk. .:Also, I'd have to make sure I can trust you. I have a pretty good feeling that if you knew what was in my head, you'd want to kill me.:. Cold terror slowly flowed into Raika's veins as they processed what they had just said. They'd shown cards that had been clutched to their chest most of their life, to a willhammer far more trained than they themself. They glanced anxiously at her, wondering what would happen now that the kavinika was out of the pen. OOC: @Click @Keeper of Kraata @The UltimoScorp
  16. IC: Kestrel the Vagabond Ah, sand blight. I know a few legends, both what Father passed onto me as well as some from my admittedly limited research. Zesk don't normally look at the sky. It saddens me sometimes. What legends died out with the minds of my kindred? What stories would have been written in my bones, if not for the cruel robbery of time and intellectual degeneration? For a moment, something washed across the glowing eyes beneath the cloak. Like a ripple in a curtain, the eyes clouded slightly. As though, for a moment, they were looking into an entirely different world. Then the moment was gone, and the vagabond was staring into Kehla's eyes with an unexpected intensity. "Kestrel wishes she knew more." Her voice was quieter now. Its manic edge was dulled, just enough that her voice lost its ability to carry. What remained had been laced with an inexplicable melancholy. "So much lost. So, so much. Kestrel wishes she knew. But Kestrel has no stories. Agori never tell to madlings. Skrall would kill Kestrel. But Glatorian…" Kestrel's eyes were boring into Kehla's now. Not a lunatic stare, or the leadup to some sort of episode. It was as though the veneer of madness had been pushed thin, so thin as to be almost invisible. "Every night. Every night, Kestrel watches the stars. She charts them. Keeps their dances recorded. But stories… "Stories she has precious few of. Find Kestrel tonight, Ashen one. Find her, and watch the stars with her. Bring her stories, yes? She will have offers in return. On her spirit, she will." OOC: @Nato G
  17. IC: Raika The wiry dasaka stepped forward, casting their eyes across the hull. While by no means seaworthy, the ship seemed to be in remarkably good condition. They turned to Yuna, who they knew at least had some experience with sailing craft. .:So, what needs to be done? And how can I help? I may not have any of your experie-:. They paused, and resisted the urge to smack themself in the forehead. Yuna was deaf to their voice. They'd known that the day before, having to layer their words with the force of a psionic attack to drill them through. But practical, day-to-day communication? That seemed out of the question for now. They'd need to devise some way to speak more efficiently (and in less of a violating way) to the pretty Dasaka. It would be impractical to be fully unable to speak to a crewmate on a long voyage, let alone a friend. Ahri was exhausted from using his mindarm abilities to lift the ship. After a slight pause, Raika passed him her flask and then strode purposefully toward Mitsuri. They were a little reluctant, given what had happened the day before. But they at least knew that they could trust the fellow Willhammer. If She'd seen anything in Raika's mind, they would likely have woken up lashed to a tree rather than asleep beneath it. And she was the only one not shaking from exhaustion after raising the wooden carcass before them. .:Good day,:. they spoke, forcing themself to meet Mitsuri's gaze. .:I was hoping you could tell me if I had missed anything important. And if not, what I could do to help with the repairs of this watercraft. It sounds like we'll have no shortage of hands, but still.:. A pause, then, .:...I cannot ask Yuna directly, and Ahri is in no position to answer any questions at the moment.:. OOC: @Click @Keeper of Kraata @The UltimoScorp
  18. IC: Kestrel the Vagabond Oh, the carvings. The carvings! I've scored so many star charts on this old home of mine, I'm surprised nobody asked sooner. Perhaps there is a chance to curry favor with an actual prime Glatorian here! Or at the very least, to trade for some of my charts or works. There are worse things than currying favor with the greatest surgeons in the desert. The amber glints within the figure's hood seemed to sparkle like the moons at sunset. "Ahhhh… the carvings. Ashes saw Kestrel's pretty engravings." The hunchbacked agori giggled to itself madly. "Does Ashes ever look up? Up, up, at ribbons and fireflies and streamers all flyabout, hehe?" Suddenly, a hand shot out from beneath the cloak. It clamped over the Glatorian's own, its grip surprisingly sturdy. The three fingertips were like dull ebony, the hand itself felt like it was covered in a strange, plastic substance. The mad little eyes twinkled brighter beneath the hood. "Does it ever count the fireflies, Ashes? Does it listen to their stories? Does it even know they have them, Ashes?" There was another feeling there, too. As though something was pressed between the trader's hand and the Glatorian's own. Not a weapon. But something thin and crumpled. And still, those beady eyes gazed into Kehla's own. As if watching how she would respond. This whole exchange was played out hidden from the others on the street. The only indication that others would have would be from the madling's cackling, or the Glatorian's own reaction. OOC: @Nato G
  19. IC: Kestrel the Vagabond A knock at the door. The tiny latticework of crystal shards, angled by a hole in a star chart near the door, reveals a face in ash grey armor. The details are picked out in purple. Fate has brought a rare encounter to the door, it seems. For a moment, I allow a genuine smile to warm my face. The top half of the door swung inward, and pinpricks of orange light glowed from the depths of a hood wreathed in shards of bone and metal. A twisted wooden staff, hung with many baubles as well as a hanging Thornax shell that sloshed with each movement, bore the apparent madling's weight. "Oooh, what has Kestrel today? It is ashen, is it not? Oooh, yes it is! Ash and sunsets, and a warrior's chain and scythe. Or is it a chain and scythe of warriors? Eheheheheheheheheheheheh!" The hunched figure's hooded face stretched out over the small counter. "What bring ashen to Kestrel's cart, hmmmm? Surely not bladeses, oh no. Unless ashes is planning surprise for a lucky friend, eh? Eheheheh!" The figure shifted slightly, the shards of metal and amber crystal hanging from its hood sparkling enough that they drew attention away from the face sunk deep in the fabric. It looked up at the Glatorian before it, meeting her gaze ever so briefly. In that moment, it seemed that there were two amber glints that stood out from the rest. Almost as bright as its eyes, but in the wrong place. And those eyes, as they met the Glatorian's own, seemed for an instant to hold a keenness at odds with the barely coherent words the figure spoke. "Tell Kestrel, ashen one. Why has it come to Kestrel's hut? What does its minds and its heart want of Kestrel, hmmm? What does it seek, truly?" OOC: @Nato G
  20. IC: Kestrel the vagabond Tournaments often bring large swathes of people. Prime real estate for a trader with useful wares. Especially one who has a supply of daggers and bone swords. Weapons break, after all. Though with this many fighters in town, I'd best pray that my own do not… The streets of Tajun were already bustling. While the grand tournament was still some time away, the populis of the city were already making their preparations. Most prominent was the increase in market stalls. From full wooden stands to tarpaulins suspended above mats of merchandise. Wares from food to fangs, blades to baskets and swords to serpent's venom (it will cure what ails you, sir. On me honor it shall!). The sound of metal grinding on flagstone caused some agori to look up in surprise. A glatorian-sized treadbike haphazardly armored in scraps of bone and plate was snaking its way through the streets. In front of it, with two guide ropes strapped over their wizened shoulders, was a figure swaddled in sun-bleached fabric. Behind it was a caravan wrapped in the same homespun. It was an old wanderer's trick: the fabric kept the sun from directly hitting the sides of the dwelling, and could even be unwrapped and erected as a shade structure in calm weather. When a suitable streetcorner had been found, the hooded agori began making fast. Wood blocks wedged the cart wheels in place. The ramshackle bike was secreted behind the caravan. And, finally, a large flap of fabric on the side was pushed up and away with a pair of long wooden poles. It revealed a two-step doorway with a shelf in the middle. A small set of wooden stairs was dragged into place, covered in strange glyphs and patterns. All this time, the hunched silhouette in the robe was babbling to itself. "Settings up, settings up. Tourney comes and Kestrel comes. Move longpole and longpole, set blockses. Ooooh, yess! Many good wares, good, good wares for good, good peoples yes! Make it like so, so home doesn't runaway bye, hehe!" The agori's hunched back almost seemed to twitch slightly as they climbed laboriously through the side door, and shut it tight behind them. The babbling was silenced by wood as two phosphorescent lamps glowed next to a string of dried thornax hanging next to the hut's door. A sign on the front read, in haphazard agori: kestrils wears nock for servis rare Goods! All for yours! Kestrel the vagabond had come to Tajun. OOC: Kestrel is open for interaction.
  21. Name: Kestrel Species: Zesk Tribe: solitary Gender: female Appearance: Kestrel usually walks hunched beneath a tattered cloak covered in symbols from deep cave ruins. She leans on a staff of twisted wood adirned with bone and metal fragments. Beneath this disguise, however, lies a sturdy physique and the lithe body of a trained fighter. While not a contender for the ring, the desert is no place for an agori who cannot hold their own. Their body is adorned with jewelry crafted from scrap. Their wrist bangles and tail piercing are brass, while her earrings are gold, a gift from her mysterious past. Her foreclaws are filed down, but her footclaws are still razor-sharp. Equipment: Kestrel lives within and works out of a wheeled hut pulled behind an ancient sand bike. The bike itself is disguised to look ramshackle, but is in fact in surprisingly good condirion and capable of high speeds when uncoupled from its load. The hut is usually covered in tattered tarps and cured animal hides. Beneath this layer are hundreds upon hundreds of carefully carved star charts. For weapons, kestrel has several. Her stave is lighter than it appears, and its bangles make for a dangerous flail-head when deployed as a tool of war. At her back she cardies a pair of bone daggers. The blades are infused with a temporary paralytic and sedative coctail made from plant extracts. Her final weapon is her stinger tail. Its barb is razor-sharp, and capable of both deflecting a sword strike and delivering a load of potent neurotoxic zesk venom. For defense, the zesk wears a breastplate of scavenged metal. Kestrel's greatest asset is her extensive knowledge of the desert. The fungi ahe occasionally sells hint at access to water, and the scrap to some secret location or locations. But those who would seek to find this information through threat or deceit may find that the desert is a large, large place with many quiet spots to rot away. Personality: Kestrel shows others exactly what they expect to see. She speaks in a contrived pidgin around most agori and glatorians. But to those she trusts, her speach is quick and erudite. In short, you could describe the almost stereotypical "mad trader" guise she wears as a disguise. Kestrel is naturally curious, and delights in any new knowledge she may be offered. She keeps a hidden library of rare manuscripts in her hut for perusal or reference. She transcribes useful data to add to this collection. She has eve been known to, on rare occasion, trade entire volumes for suitably valuable materials or services. The defining factor in how Kestrel will treat somebody is how they treat her. Those who meet her with respect will receive it in turn. Those who approach with arrogance will find out just how unhelpful a mad agori can be when she wants to. History: Everyone knew to respect the few travelling merchants who occasionally braved the sands and Bara Magna nights to bring strange, exotic (for each settlement) goods to sell at market. Everyone also knew that Zesk were mindless, soulless pests better left dead than alive. But what some knew, or bought knowledge of, or found out, was that what everyone knew wasn't always correct. Or, at the very least, accurate. What if you could take one away. Give them a proper start. Show them there was more to life than the scrabble. Some years ago, in Tesara, there had been an agori who, many would say, was mad. And, in a way he was. He spent his evenings staring at the stars, mapping them as if they weren't always in the same place each time that year. He catalogued different types of sand, sometimes by color, and wrote down what he learned. When they found out what he was keeping in his house, they'd burned it to the ground. They'd stoned the poor man to death, and drove the... thing... back into the desert. But they were too late. Another fire had already been kindled, brighter and more dangerous than any village blaze. But some had remembered. Some had stopped the small, pathetic creature from being killed itself. And brought it water when they found it huddled in a nearby cave. Some even brought food. And one, mad in the right direction this time, brought her a scroll. People saw what they expected in the merchant. They saw a small figure, swaddled in homespun robes hanging with carved bone jewelry. A rickety vehicle, not even agori sized, she probably could barely operate it, dragged a cart hanging with tattered fabrics and more bone and carved scrap metal decor. They saw exactly what they expected to see, and so she never worried them more than what they knew to expect when talking to a mad desert savage who had been taught Agori. What many knew was that the Zesk had a name. Kestrel. What a rare few knew was that Kestrel was curious. In that strange, determined way of people to whom knowledge was a rare gift. And while she would barter for water, herbs, and useful mechanical scrap, she also bartered in knowledge. If you offered her something she did not know, she would smile that strange little smile of hers, and bring you something special. Maybe a fossil she had found and polished of some strange, ancient creature like if a coin had come to life. Or how to fix an ancient battle vehicle that had not run in decades. Or would teach you how to gear down a vehicle's engine so it moved more slowly but towed far more with less wear. That was when they realized all the scrap tacked onto her desert tread bike covered a well-cared-for and smooth-running machine (you couldn't afford breakdowns in a desert, after all). What three people knew was that, if you fed and cared for a Zesk who had nowhere else to go anymore, you got rare treasures and good food once or twice a year, which could be sold or held tight in this clawing world where luxury was rarely ever a consideration. What only Kestrel knew was that, if you spoke to everyone in the way they expected and looked like what they wanted to see, they accepted (or at least tolerated) you more easily. She also knew about why her vehicle never needed new power. It was a secret she had stolen, and would take to her grave. There was only so much you would share with those who destroyed your home and family for the crime of not belonging. And she alone also knew that painted beneath the fabric of her cart was every star in the night sky. Weaknesses: -Solitary. Kestrel has no true alleigences, no clan or village to call her own. She has kept others far enough away that they will never hurt her again. One looking to gain her alleigence will have an uphill battle before them. -Your Kind. Zesk are not welcome in many places. Kestrel faces opposition feom those who see her as simple vermin rather than a thinking being. -Bad Reputation. Kestrel's illusory reputation as a mad trader can sometimes undermine the genuinely useful knowledge or warnings she offers to others.
  22. IC: Raika The small Menti opened their eyes. Sunlight, golden and soft, washed across their face. Stretching, they climbed out of bed and wrapped themself in a simple lavender yukata. Tying the sash clumsily, they pushed the door to their room open. They dashed down the hallway into the kitchen… This was not the kitchen. It was the weathered and pungent insides of the village's tanning hut. Lance butts pounded on the house's door. The sunlight, butter yellow, now flickered and was accompanied by choking smoke and unspeakable burning smells. A single figure braced the door, a glimmering shield of psionic force laid flat against it. The figure turned toward the robed dasaka and called out desperately, "Reiun! Run! Run and don't look back. Run, I'll find you. I'll find you-" Reiun knew what would happen next. A blade punched through the door, blazing with psionic force. They could never recall if the blade had actually speared their dearest friend, the wail had been hers after all. But it always was in The Dream. They ran. They turned, and in cowardly fear sprinted towards the hut's rear door. Towards escape… But when they turned around, the room was gone. They were back in the forest where the serpent had nearly overcome them. The serpent lay before them. Dead. Multiple semi-melted gashes in its armored hide oozed sizzling green-black ichor. There was a sound from behind them. It was as familiar as their own heartbeat. It was the sound of sandstone scraping against crystal. As they turned, they realized their daggers were not strapped at their waist. They were still wearing their lavender yukata, hem now catching on weeds and brambles. Seated cross-legged behind them was a figure. It wore gold and azure armor. A tattered red scarf was wrapped around its neck. Its gaze was fixed on the slender, delicately curved protocrystal dagger it was carefully honing with its whetstone. A flask of water and a strip of greyed but clean linen lay to one side. The figure looked up, its eyes glimmering behind its mask. Like the eyes of a Muaka through a midnight forest. "Best wake up, little Menti," it spoke, its voice like silk across a stiletto's blade. "Plenty enough demons in the waking world." Raika sat bolt upright, gasping. Their heartlight strobed frantically as panic slowly released its hold on their body. Scrabbling onto hands and knees, they dragged their mask from their face and let out several ragged, gagging coughs. Had they any food in their stomach it would have poured onto the ground. As it was, their throat and mouth burned with the acrid taint of bile. Still shaking slightly, Raika forced themself to calm down. Slowly, the room around them came into focus. Surprisingly, for the first time in several days they also felt their heartlight beginning to slow as they calmed down. After a minute or so, the wiry menti lowered themself into a sitting position. Taking a flask from their scavenged satchel, they used a sparingly small swig to rinse the bile from their mouth. After spitting this on the ground they forced themself to take a longer swig to quell the burning in their throat. Calm now. Take stock. Judging from the sun, it seemed they had slept somewhere between three to five hours. Enough that their mind was no longer spinning, or their bones aching feverishly anymore. They looked around their chaparral surroundings. They had been laid down on a bed of soft, silvery leaved plants that smelled very slightly of sage as they warmed in the sun. They idly lifted their mask and, more carefully, placed it once more over their face. Relief, and the usual intoxicating buzz of warmth and confidence from this action, was enough to banish the final demons of her bad dreams. Looking towards the shore, Raika saw their other party members working to repair a ruined seafaring vessel. They bit their lip contemplatively. Well… They had sought out traveling partners in the remaining panic of the serpent's attack. At that time the fear had felt like a living thing, slowly tightening its claws around her throat. Now, they were thinking much more clearly. And realized just how dangerous their situation had become. Karzahni. Ahri, he's heard my voice before. If he remembers… well, he has one of my swords and my staff. I'll have to… …what? Kill him? No, never again. Never. He… he trusts me. Maybe… everything's gone to blazes anyway. Maybe the old alliances won't matter. And besides, they chuckled to themself, who would suspect a spindly little thing like me to be the Wraith? Raika strapped their dagger back to their waist, and slung their pack over one shoulder as they stood up. Pausing a moment to scrape some sand over where they had spit, the tiny menti made their way to the group by the shore. Stepping quietly next to Ahri, they spoke as calmly as they could: .:Good afternoon, Ahri. Are things going well?:. OOC: Still massaging past names, sorry for any inconsistency. @Keeper of Kraata @The UltimoScorp @Click
  23. IC: Karoru, an introduction The large Menti felt her cheeks color slightly at this, and tried not to look at Skyra for reaction. When Azusai staggered, Karoru reached out a steadying hand. Resting on the small navigator's shoulder it looked like an oversized pauldron of crystal. She looked to her new captain, well-meaning determination bright in her eyes. "Captain, I think she will be an asset. Between her navigation and Skyra's ability to scout from the air with Destiny, there's no reason the Ironclad Fowadi ever be lost at sea. We could sail here to Kentoku, or possibly another island entirely if given a proper map." OOC: Sorry for the wait, @Krayzikk @Snelly @otter @sunflower @Click
  24. IC: Raika The exhausted menti stared back as… Mitsuri, that… that was it… gently cupped the side of her Volitak. Once more, she felt the calmness seeping into her mind. Not as aggressively this time. In that moment, half-delirious with exhaustion as the serpent's mental poison was finally driven away, she was back home. Her mother standing over her many years ago. "Ryouta, sweetheart. Rest your head now." And then the anxiety and stress of the day would fade away. Just like this. Half in the past, half in the present, Raika turned her head and pressed in against the hand. Then, for the first time in three days now, she fell into a deep, restful sleep. OOC: @The UltimoScorp@Keeper of Kraata@ARROW404 @Click
  25. IC: Raika The anticipated scorned looks and jeers… did not come. Raika waited for them to descend as they always had done, but… it seemed this group had more on their minds than simple mockery. Relief flooded the menti. No… more than relief. As if her panic had been staving off the exhaustion, all the strength left Raika's body as if the marrow had been sucked from her bones. The past sleepless days caught up with her, demanding payment with interest. Her vision swam, and she had the vague sense of the ground rocking beneath her as she slumped to the ground like a boneless fish. Shakily, she tried to drag herself to her feet, but her vision swam before her and she staggered backward, tripping over an upturned flagstone and folding like ricepaper. .:skoay:. they tried to speak, .:'mfine. 'cn wakl. 'mfine…:. They could hardly rally the strength to send coherent ideatalk. Blearily, they tried to look at… what was her name? Newcomer. All… so blurry… …had she intended… had… Raika couldn't have reached for her dagger if another Tuurahk had been breathing down her mask. The tiny, battered warrior had no choice but to lay there, crumpled, unable to utter even a coherent plea for help. OOC: @The UltimoScorp@Keeper of Kraata@ARROW404 @Click
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