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Alchemy & Enchantments; ILFA reboot, Oru & Elena
Topic Started: Dec 4 2017, 08:07 PM (107 Views)
Oru
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Sol
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The Well at City Center

It is remembered as a dark time in history. There were Warlords battling each other over petty squabbles or remote drifts of land; Bigger, stronger fiefdoms consumed smaller ones, only to be thwarted by the clever schemes of another warlord. In these times, whole Kingdoms were ransacked, castles and fortresses were toppled in singular fateful evenings, and fields burned. Entire forests were leveled to craft the machines of war.

The valleys were the worst - acres of prime battlefield, and none of it wasted. Even in the mountains the echo of blade on shield, shrieks of pain and clamor of thousands of hooves could be heard.

Even in Saenal, The jewel of the Southern Peaks, the people heard the cries of war and feared for the tromp of approaching boots on their soil. For the Lord and Lady of Saenal preferred to be left out of many things that happened in the flat lands and valleys below their mountains, especially war. They were content with what they had been given and worked to maintain, and had no need or desire for conflict with other forces on the map.

She was a beautiful land, Saenal. Nestled in treacherous mountain passes, hidden away by the lush mountain foliage; part jungle, part rocky landscape. They were a land of free-thinkers, philosophers and inventors! They crafted ways to make it easier to get down the mountain passes, draw water for their crops & build stunning towers! They invented clockwork mechanisms with the tiniest of components that could do the most amazing things! The Lord and Lady were said to have an entire stable full of clockwork horses that behaved just like real horses, but were laced with gold and silver!

But, as mentioned, they liked their privacy and steered clear of outside interraction. It was this seclusion gave them many years of peace and prosperity.

Unfortunately, it was eventually this prosperity that brought Saenal crumbling down. You see, their main exports were fine gems, gold, silver, and Iron, all mined from deep within their beloved mountains. (For regardless of how much they wished to remain apart, some things were just unattainable without trade.) Some more rare items made their way to the valleys as well - namely the rarest of them all, an alchemical metal said to be mined from the border between earth and the Underworld - Blood Silver. It was both beautiful and dangerous, like darkened silver that sparkled with the faintest traces of red in firelight. And oh, did it have such magical potential!

Posted ImageThe Western Ridge Passage

On the very rare occasions that Saenal had visitors (for it was treacherous to travel through these mountain passes,) The Lord and Lady were actually quite generous in their hospitality. One time, the son of one of the great Warlords came in peace to escape the treacherous tyranny of his own family. He stayed for many moons there, and the Lord and Lady became quite fond of him. Eventually, they decided to bestow upon him a very rare gift - an amulet of sorts, crafted of Blood Sliver and holding within it a solitary Sapphire. it was said to bring good fortune upon the wearer.

(Another thing, somewhat less known, was that the Lord and Lady both dabbled (well, practiced heavily) the arcane arts. It had run in the families of Saenal for generations, and many believe that this was the true reason for their seclusion. But ah, your guess is as good as mine.)

When the warlord's son returned home, his father saw the amulet and became green with envy - and greed. He wanted all that Saenal had to offer and would not take no for an answer. Risking his own life, and losing it in the process, the warlord's son managed to send warning to the mountain kingdom of his father's treachery - but not soon enough.

Saenal was not prepared for a war. Their clockwork creatures and gadgets were hearty, but they were not enough. Their magic was strong, but only a few even deigned to study destructive forms of it. So there was only one thing left to the Lord and Lady of Saenel. Ultimately, knowing they could not save all of their people, they were determined to do two things: the first, was to save their infant daughter, and the second was to prevent the warlord from getting his hands on their magical Blood Silver.

The Warlord attacked, and a bloody battle ensued as the Lord and Lady rushed with their daughter to the far end of the mountain pass, to a stone Guards House. Only one of their most trusted retainers could follow them - One one their Lieutenants, a man named Gale.

Within the cramped confines of the guard house the Lord and Lady wove their magic, the sounds of battle drawing ever closer. Lieutenant Gale prowled about the outside of the guard house like a great cat hunting his prey, blade drawn and keeping his eye out for anyone who would dare to come too close - for he was the most fabled warrior in all the kingdom, an outsider from the flat-lands who had sought peace.

As the spell built to a climax, the warlord's forces arrived, and before they could even engage the scant protection outside the guardhouse, one of the Warlords' archers let a shaft fly. It was a miraculous shot, a one-in-a-million shot, the exact reason the archer was with the warlord at all. The arrow sailed in the air, through tree branches, into the narrow sliver of window, and it slew the Lady of Saenel before the spell could be completed.

Now, with magic, and alchemy, and especially Blood Silver, details are everything. What the Lord saw as vile tragedy, the spell merely saw as welcome components. The Lady, it had seemed, gave her life for this working. And the spell assumed, naturally, that the Lord would do the same.

These things so very quickly get out of hand.

So the spell took effect - in such strange ways. It was immediate, forceful, and no one quite knows what happened after that, except that the Warlord's forces were simply gone, the warlord included, and as were the rest of any surviving residents of Saenel.

From that day forward, no warlord attempted to invade the mountain country, for fear of the Warlord's Curse (For that was what it was called.) Eventually the squabbles died out, and the land slowly forgot that Saenel was even there.

But what residents remain still prowl the darkened mountain jungles, two whole decades & some change later.

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The Border Guard House

Lieutenant Gale prowled through the vacant town for the twentieth time that day. He had this irritating click every time he moved his left hind leg, and the only one who could fix it was no where to be seen. When he reached the town center - overgrown with lush jungle mosses, pouring from the center well, like a cauldron bubbling over - he sat down on his iron haunches and twitched his silver-lined ears. His Emerald eyes - literally - gazed about the square, looking for any hints of her passage. He was a cat - a large one, clockwork entirely. "Odine! Odine, where are you?" He called, a hollow, metallic reverberation echoed through the space.

Something moved from the shadows and Lieutenant Gale pivoted his head to look. A glinting silvery thing darted from the underbrush and stopped before him. This clockwork beast was not like him - it acted like any other mouse would. Well, any trained mouse would. It could not speak, but only because real mice could could not speak. It hopped up and down, spun in circles and then sped off again.

The Lieutenant got back up, and the clicking ensued. "At least there's some way to find you out there." He grumbled irritably.

The strange beast followed the mouse through town.

---

Odine liked to tinker.

There was very little else to do here, other then climb, jump, hide, build, clean, read, dance around, speak to her friends, learn about plants and things from the surviving books....

Well alright, tinkering was one of her favorite things to do.

She was sitting indian style in one of the old wine cellars of the fortress. Her skirts were cinched up so she didn't trip on them, and bundled just above her knees with leather ties. She wore a pair of patchy stockings and a hand-me-down pair of soldier's boots that were a size too big. (Stuffed with cloth and they fit fine!) Her bodice was of the old style with faded embroidery that glinted half-remembered gold in the sun, and was in patterns of dragonflies and stars. It was mostly purple, though spots were faded to brown. She had a patched and faded undershirt beneath it with the collar open and the sleeves rolled up to her elbows.

She had a pair of artificers gloves on up to her elbows too, a soft doe leather and even after all this time they were in perfect shape. In fact, a lot of things around here were still in great shape.

Like this clockwork house cat, for example.

She had a pair of alchemist' goggles on - which were many-layered glasses that could switch and click into and out of place with shaded glass - and her pale grey eyes looked brown past all the layers of tinted glass.

She carefully held the cat in her lap, and using a pair of tiny tongs, she gently fitted some amethysts into the cat's eyes.

She enjoyed making her own friends. Well - the ones she had she didn't make, but she could maintain them! It was nice to be helpful, and needed. And to be a princess. She liked that too. Not that she really knew what THAT meant.

She puffed a strand of shock white hair out of her face. Most of it was done up in a braid, but the front bits always got in the way.

Just as she finished with the cat's eyes, The Lieutenant's voice caught her ear. SIGH "COMING!" She tapped the house cat on the nose and made sure it was comfortable. "I'll come back for you."

Odine hopped to her feet and stretched out her shoulders before she clamored like a squirrel up through the hole that had collapsed into this part of the cellar. Once she reached daylight she took a deep breath and smiled. Another glorious day!

"Morning, Princess." A clacking to her left and she turned with a smile.

"Good morning, Archer." She addressed the Blood Silver and black iron raven perched on a branch nearby. "Do you know where Lieutenant Gale is?"

It flapped its wings with a well-oiled shhhink-ing noise. It extended its very detailed 'feathery' neck in one direction. "That-a-way, My lady." His eyes were rubies.

Odine smiled and bowed playfully at him before darting off through the brush. Twenty-something years old and as much energy as a ten year old, she leaped and bounded over a few fallen trunks and some sections of collapsed wall.

Archer watched her go. As she bounced off and away, he remembered yet again the trajectory of his arrow as it sailed through the air. "Kill the King!" the Warlord had said. "I want him dead!" And Archer's only silent defiance was letting his arrow fly to another target - the one who was standing perfectly still and watching only, hands outstretched as if in prayer... He didn't know it was the Lady of Saenal; he was a poor lowland orphan, he'd never seen them before!

He hadn't known she was doing magic too. He hadn't known anything about anything. He thought maybe the mumbling Lord doing obvious magic right next to her would have the chance to finish, and kill the warlord, and free him from this ridiculous war....

But oh, how the best intentions go horribly wrong.

Now Gale blamed him for their plight, and his punishment was to live like this among his so-called 'enemies'. It didn't help that Gale had never told Odine what he did. Archer had dropped hints - like the name, that was a big one. He assumed that the fact that Gale loathed him was a big hint too...

But Odine was simply too sweet and too trusting to doubt his nature. And he had grown too fond of her to say anything to make her hate him

So instead of bemoaning his past, worrying about his sister (Who was very likely dead and buried by NOW) and cursing the warlord's name in vain, Archer decided it would just be a better existence if he took it upon himself to keep an eye on the pale little princess. He could fly, after all, and in life he had been an excellent tracker.

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Wine Cellar Passages

((And This is Odine - Just pretend she's dressed as earlier and smiling a little bigger and there you have it! Still working on finging pictures for my clockwork friends.))
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Edited by Oru, Dec 4 2017, 08:18 PM.
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Elena
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Click click click

It was dark, and something was moving in the darkness. Something cold, and metal, and hungry. Nate was alone with that clicking noise, turning this way and that, struggling to find the source of it.

"Claire?" He asked, realizing that his adopted sister was nowhere to be found. The only response was more of the mechanical clicking. Somewhere in the distance, there was a light like a sapphire star. It twinkled faintly, and then- without warning- grew so bright as to fill Nate's vision with blue light.

He awoke with a start.

He was laying on his side in camp, and Claire was laid flat on her back next to him, a looking glass pressed to her eye. She was turning it this way and that, gazing curiously up at the stars. Her sapphire pendant hung down the side of her neck to rest in the grass beside her head. She looked almost as though she'd fallen that way and decided to stay there.

Nate wouldn't put it past her. "Shouldn't you be asleep?" He asked gruffly, before sitting up to stretch. Claire lowered the glass from her eye and smiled brightly at him, yellow curls surrounding her face like a halo. Nate wasn't sure how she kept it looking so bright, as often as she laid about in the dirt.

"We couldn't ever see stars like this from home, Nate. I just wanted to chart a couple. Come look at this." She sat up and patted the ground beside her. Nate scooted over obediently and took the device from her hands. Clair pointed up to a small section of the sky and traced a line between the stars with her finger.

"Doesn't that look like a cat?"

Nate stared for a long time, before finding a similar shape. "Looks more like a bear to me."

"Don't be silly. It's a big cat. Now look here." She moved the glass with one hand and pointed with the other. Nate followed the motion. "There's a bird, there. See the wings?"

This one, of course, looked more like a squiggly line than anything. Nate wasn't sure how long Claire must have looked at it to get that idea. But he didn't want to argue, so he made a vague noise of agreement.

"How long have you been up?" He asked, lowering the glass. Claire shrugged. From the bags under her eyes, though, he had a feeling that it had been most of the night.

The horizon was already starting to turn pink with sunrise. "Well, if you aren't going to go back to sleep, we might as well get moving. The sooner we find whatever you're looking for, the sooner we can go home."

---

Claire and Nate spent a great deal of the morning climbing. The dense vegetation only slowed their progress, but for some reason Claire insisted that they reach the top of the mountain.

It had started a month ago. Claire was having dreams, dreams so bad that she refused to go to sleep whenever she could avoid it. No matter what they tried, she wasn't getting better. The doctors in town hadn't had any idea what was wrong with her.

Finally, she'd divulged to Nate that something was drawing her away from town. She couched it in words like "knowledge" and "adventure," but there was a determination in her eyes that told him she was looking for something specific- even if she didn't know what it was.

And for some reason she was convinced it was at the top of this stupid mountain. The whole place made Nate uneasy. He felt like most of his energy was spent making sure they weren't set upon by wild beasts, then making sure that Claire didn't kill herself eating something that she shouldn't or falling into a ditch. What energy he had left was spent climbing. He was so tired.

So the quicker they got to the top of this bloody mountain, the quicker he could go home.

"Does this look like a road to you?" Claire asked some time in the afternoon. She'd gotten ahead of him and was kicking at a bit of moss on the path. It had grown into a series of crossing lines, and even Nate had to admit that it looked suspiciously like the outline of bricks.

He crouched down to investigate, but it all just looked like dirt to him. "It's just moss," he told her with a shrug. "I think we're almost to the top, though."
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Oru
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Odine caught up with Lieutenant Gale outside of the former City limits. Although, strictly speaking, she kept no secrets from her guardian, she still liked to have some places she could go to have some privacy. Some of the collapsed tunnels served well for make-shift field-workshops and hide-aways when she was feeling particularly lost.

Odine tended to feel that way sometimes. Every once in a while she would wander about the city and imagine what the people had been like, and if they would like her. She was the princess here, and she liked to imagine herself like a benevolent ruler from one of her books... but how would she ever know?

Gale never told her anything. And she pondered this, once again, as she fixed the hitch in Gale's left hind leg. (He was too rough on himself, always patrolling these ruins. Even she was careful, knowing full well from experience that some of these structures weren't really up to snuff anymore.)

"It isn't too bad. I'll have you fixed up in no time." Odine smiled, patting Gale affectionately on the spine.

Gale harumphed. "I probably twisted it the other day."

He was quiet. Odine knew they didn't feel pain like she did. It was quite possible he HAD twisted it and not noticed until the noise popped up. Lucky for them, she was getting quite good at repairs.

With her artificing goggles down, and a smooth gold panel off to the side to expose the inside of Gale's left hind leg, Odine pulled her gloves taut before diving in with her tiny tools to investigate. A tweak here, and a tightening of this spring, with a dash of oil to keep him loose, and she was done.

"There you go." Odine murmured.

Without even watching him as he rose and took a lap to test, Odine stared off into the woods. From where she had chosen to sit and fix him, she could see the domed and buttressed roofs of this part of town, dotting the thick green foliage. And past that, the sky opened and then jagged peaks past that, and who knows what else.

"Gale?" Odine took off her goggles and closed them up, stuffing them securely into her skirt pocket.

Gale slicked solidly to her side and peered out over the view with her. "Yes, Odine?"

She sighed. A wisp of her hair tickled her nose, so she blew it away with a puff of air. "DO you think.... do you think we can leave soon?"

Gale was silent. "Odine, we cannot leave. You remember what happened. The last time."

Odine looked down at her lap, peeling off the artificer's gloves. She remembered. She shivered at the thought. "Well...
We can't be cursed forever, can we?"


Gale nodded. "No, Odine. Not forever."
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Elena
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Road or no road, the path did seem to get easier to climb. Claire scrambled forward over the crumbling stones, Nate following at a cautious pace. Soon, small stones turned to great boulders, and the steep incline leveled. Nathaniel caught up to Claire's side and caught her hand firmly in his own.

"Don't go too far ahead," he scolded. The area was making him uncomfortable. Each shadow looked like a great panther in the red dawn. Claire didn't respond other than to grip his hand back and continue tugging him along. Her eyes were fixed on a point in front of them- on something Nate could not see.

As the path continued to wind up the mountain side, her tugging grew more urgent. He thought his arm would be pulled from its socket when she finally stopped, breathing hard. Her bright blue eyes were wide. He squinted at her curiously and then turned to look at whatever she must be looking at.

Just more mossy boulders. Huge, square, crumbling boulders. With doorways and windows and little steps. Claire's hand was clutching his so tightly his fingers popped.

"I knew it." She breathed, so quietly that Nate barely caught it.

Nate didn't want to admit that she had been right about something being on top of this mountain. She hadn't known what it was, but she'd insisted that they would know it when they found it, and here they were.

"It's just ruins," he said after a long silence. Claire dropped his hand and ran to the nearest crumbling house.

"I knew it!" She squealed, delightedly poking her head into the ruined mass of stone. "And look at the road! It was definitely a road!" She ran back to Nate and clutched his shoulders in her hands. "Nate it's a road!"

"Uh-"

"Let's go. Come on!" And then she grabbed him by the elbow and dragged him along behind her. He tried to protest- this whole place was giving him a horrible sinking feeling, but he couldn't figure out why. But she wasn't giving him any time to think and the buildings were getting closer and closer together as they ran.

She seemed to have a destination in mind. Without warning, they were rounding a corner at a fork in the road. If he didn't know better, he'd be sure that she knew where she was going.

Claire was laughing, and tears shone in her bright eyes as they ran. All Nate could do was follow.
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Oru
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Archer prefered not to be around the great grumpy cat if he could help it. When Odine went to repair his leg, he took wing to the skies and made a lazy lap of the center of town before diving down to the outskirts to rest.

Everything was the same. That pot on it's side, the moss hanging out over the windowsil there, the echo of laughter -

Oh Gods.

Archer tilted his head, stilling to eerie statuesque motionless as he strained to hear the sound again. There. Another. There was another laugh, a happy sound. Perhaps it was Odine?

No. No, that was not the princess' laugh. That was another laugh. Down by the Southern end and the jagged path.

Archer took flight and let out a ringing metallic caw.

Odine heard the signal. She got to her feet to stretch, instantly dismissing the darkness of the former conversation. "Well. We're burning daylight! I want to go explore the south end."

Gale snorted. "...I wish you would stay away from that bird." He hissed. His relationship with Archer was no mystery, but he wouldn't tell her exactly why he felt so harshly for her friend. Odine shrugged.

"And I wish yo uwould be easier on yourself." She quirked a sassy white eyebrow and skipped down the path. "Anyway, that's the sound for something shiny," She lied, "I'll be back to the palace before dark!"

And Odine was off like a rocket.

That was Archer's signal for VERY interesting.

To say she was excited was an under statement.

Meanwhile, Archer took a post on the far end of a square the interlopers were headed towards. His shinging wings settled noisily, and he stilled again to statue status as he watched for sight of the intruders.

Intruders; perhaps saviors! Hope blossomed tentatively in his mechanical breast.
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Elena
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Claire had never run so fast in her life, even with Nate gripping her hand so tightly and trying to slow her. He was already gasping for breath, clutching at a stitch in his side. He felt as though his lungs might explode, and he skidded to a halt- releasing his side to grasp Claire's arm with both hands and hold her fast. She stopped, to his relief, but was leaning against his grip, waiting to be released.

"Claire, hold on," he scolded. His voice was more gruff than usual, and he coughed into his shoulder. Clarise straightened up and stopped pulling, unable to tear her eyes away from their surroundings. Why, this was practically a city! There were so many buildings- some of them looked almost untouched by the passage of time- while others fell in crumbling ruins.

The place was so still. With her free hand she pushed her blonde curls from her face and wiped the sweat from her jaw. Nathaniel groaned and went back to massaging the stitch in his side, doubled over and breathing hard. They must have scared off the wildlife, Claire thought. Nature had reclaimed this place long ago. Except for that one strange bird-

"Oooah!" She exclaimed, causing Nate to jump. He groaned again.

"What now?" He demanded grumpily, looking up to follow her eyes to the large raven that sat perched on one of the nearby buildings. Wait, was that a raven? He squinted against the morning sunlight and shook his head, attempting to banish what he assumed was a strange vision.

"It's just a statue," he said finally, and released Claire when he was sure she wouldn't go running up to it. She absently massaged her wrist and took several strides forward.

"Doesn't it look alive?" She asked curiously, glancing over her shoulder back at Nate. "Everything else here is so mossy." She smiled.

Nate did not smile, and shrugged. "I guess." The strange statue didn't seem to fit in with its surroundings at all- and it all felt like a bad omen. The whole place made the hairs on his neck prickle up. He rubbed absently at them and fell into stride behind Claire once more.

Danger! Danger! his mind whispered to him. He clenched his jaw and gazed around the path cautiously. His eyes continued to pull back towards that metal bird, though.
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Oru
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Archer saw them now, breathless in the Fineal Square. They definitely must have gotten here from that ramshackle mountain trail - but he could have sworn the likelihood of anyone finding their way up was less than possible.

But here they were. And he was feeling a bit foolish for letting out that excited cawing signal to Odine - there was a fellow in this odd pairing, that did have a weapon - although as Archer watched, he was having trouble figuring out if this woman was mad and he was her keeper, or if she was mad and the fellow was her captor... or maybe he was her bodyguard? Certainly someone for whom which it was appropriate to place a hand on her arm in such a gruff manner.

Without thinking, he ruffled his metallic feather in contemplation, and his head tilted and slightly swiveled to one side as the odd, golden haired woman watched. The lightest of ringing glanced off of his bladed feathers and echoed into the empty city at his taloned feet, no doubt drifting to the ears of those odd strangers.

Meanwhile, Odine skipped down along the trail. She was careful to remain calm while she knew Gale could see her, stopping here and there to examine something she passed. No doubt she was genuinely interested in those minor curiosities, but she couldn't focus on them.

When the white-haired princess turned a corner and made it about one ruined city block, and she was certain Gale was off doing whatever it was that the stoic, strict mechanical cat did, she took off at a run.

Goodness! It must be something truly interesting! Most of their signals were chirped in trills, or sets of short caws, but this one had been one long excited noise, and as far as Odine knew that was not assigned to anything specific! (It certainly wasn't their signal for danger, that one was all sorts of ruckus. besides, Gale would have recognized it.)

Hundreds of possibilities darted through her mind as she sprinted down the overgrown lanes and through jungle-like gardens behind empty homes. If she passed inside to get to the street, she greeted the inhabitants that she couldn't see with a happy 'good day' before dashing on. If she saw a pot overturned she would quickly right it and carry on.

By the time she was close enough to stop and look about for Archer, her white hair was in unruly wisps about her fair face, and roses blossomed in her cheeks. Her hitched skirts were at least clear of most forrest debris by now, even if they were still smudged with the dirt from the wine-cellar passage she had crawled into that morning.

She checked her pockets to be sure her glasses hadn't fallen out, nor her gloves, and then she cupped her hands around her mouth and let out a short burst of trilling whistles.

Odine did so like her secret codes.[/i]
Edited by Oru, Feb 5 2018, 06:36 AM.
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Elena
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"It moved!" Claire exclaimed loudly. Nate ran into her back at her abrupt stop and nearly sent her flying. His hand caught her waist and steadied her.

"What?" He said, and looked back at the bird again. "It's just the light," he dismissed. Claire, blushing, pushed his hand away.

"No really! It moved! It's watching me!" She brushed at the spot on her waist where his hand had touched her before shooting an arm into the sky and waving at the strange statue. "Hello!" She called out to it, before clicking her tongue several times. "Come here!" She looked down and began fishing in the satchel at her hip. "I think I've got some bread in here..." She muttered.

Nate looked to be at his wits end. This was it, Claire had finally lost it. He shook his head as Claire ducked down to dig around in her bag, and looked out along the path ahead of them.

There was someone else there.

His hand found the hilt of his sword before he even thought about it, and his other hand found Claire's arm again. He pulled her close, looking almost possessive.

"Hey!" She protested, but Nate ignored her, drawing his blade and squinting against the sunlight that shone off of the new figure's white hair.

The hair belonged to a girl, he realized, but did not relax his stance. She was pretty, too. Possibly the prettiest girl he'd ever seen. Was she a vision? Some kind of witch. He pulled Claire a little closer. Clarise was blushing furiously, and tried very hard to look over her shoulder. "What is it, Nate? What's happening?"

"Who are you?" He demanded, as though the strange white-haired girl were the intruder here. "What do you want?"

[[Sorry I couldn't remember how far away she was so I skipped some steps. Lemme know if you want me to fix.]]
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[[Aw no, this is perfectly fine!]]

Archer heard Odine's trilling call, and for once was stumped as to an immediate response. In a thoughtless sort of panic he contemplated in rapid-fire succession his options for a return call: 1. tell her it's dangerous and to go away, which would most likely lead to her concern over him and thus her inevitable approach anyway. 2. Signal that it was in fact nothing and that she should return, which MAY make her suspicious of the first call and thus lure her to his side to inquire about the false alarm. 3. Make absolutely no response and hope she called again before continuing her search for him...

He was so consumed with these options he didn't seem to notice Clarise's desperate waving and offer of food - in fact he looked more like a statue now, deep in hysterical thought, than he had before.

Odine, however, was impatient. Especially since she had just run ALL this way to avoid Gale, in the hopes of seeing something interesting! Not only that, but perhaps that trill had been Archer calling for help in a panic! Maybe he had... Oh I dunno, gotten into a fight with a bigger, nasty bird and his wing was injured, and that was the call he gave as he plummeted from the sky?

Her over active imagination was never left unattended.

So, Odine trotted onward, really having no idea where Archer could be, but peering up at buildings and ledges in case she could spot his metallic glimmer there.

This brought her right out in the open, and she jumped nearly out of her skin when she heard a man's voice say, "Hey! Who are you? What do you want?"

Archer ruffled in anger. He leaped clear off the roof, his weight and magic dropping him through the air, and he made a pass at the man with the sword, cawing indignantly.

He made no move o touch him or his weapon - in fact he was well out f reach, unknowing of the effect of a blade on his metal body, and the damage it might do.

Odine gasped, a hand flying to her mouth as she started to approach with hands out. "Oh! Oh dear, stop! Archer, stop it!"

The Raven made his one pass and then banked up and to another roof-top, looming threateningly over the newcomers with bristled, metal knives for feathers. He tsked but that was all.

Odine didn't get too far before realizing the man had a sword; then she stopped. She balled one hand into her skirts and then raised the other at the elbow, wiggled her fingers at the strangers and smiled with surprising shyness.

"....Hello?"

OHMIGOSH PEOPLE! Oh my goodness, real, really real people, with hair and eyes and skin and travelly clothes and a sword, and packs, and... and... and dirt like me and ... OH MY GOSH! One of them's even a boy! Well, a Man! Must be, he has a sword!

An excited squeal echoed in her head without her control as her face turned steadily rosey in the cheeks.
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Claire started at the sound of the bird cawing, Nate's arm tightened around her shoulders. Her face was pressed firmly against his chest and she could look nowhere but directly to their side. The bird passed in clear view, the gust from his great metal wings sending her blonde curls into a frenzied dance. It suddenly felt as though she'd swallowed a hot coal.

That bird was metal. It had sparkling red stones where its eyes should have been. As curious as it made her, it was also far too wrong to not be frightening. She stared for a long time where the bird had been, and only came back to her senses when she heard the voice of a woman say a timid "hello."

Nate did an impressive job of ignoring the bird. If this new woman were a witch, then it would be her familiar, and stopping her would be the only way to stop it. This was only confirmed when it obeyed her order to land.

He clenched his jaw and prepared himself to toss Claire aside and approach for combat, but the girl's wiggling fingers and timid voice caught him more off guard than anything else. His grip on Claire's shoulders loosened ever so slightly. "What-" he started.

Claire shoved him off of her and spun around to look at whoever he was talking to.

"Oh!" She exclaimed at the sight of the girl. She was dressed in strange clothes, Claire thought. They appeared to be common, if unique, but she'd never seen a woman with such bright white hair. The girl did not seem to match her garb at all.

"Claire get down!" Nate barked, but Claire just tapped the hand he used to brandish his sword and shook her head.

"Don't be rude," she scolded with a glance over her shoulder. Nate smouldered, and Claire turned back to face the newcomer. She took a couple of steps forward before giving the woman a curtsy.

"Hello to you!" She greeted. This was no warrior! Her chest felt very warm, and she rubbed absently at the pedant that hung under her dress. "I'm sorry about him. He's very cautious." She smiled in what she hope was an endearing way, but frankly looked quite mad. Her face was still red from running, and her curly blonde hair was in a state of disarray.

Her eyes kept shifting away from the other woman to land on the metal bird.
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Oh Gosh, they're right here, and they're talking to me, and look, he's brandishing a sword! With real muscles! Ach.

Odine dropped her eyes to her toes, where she spotted her dirty leather booths, and tried quickly to tap off some of the grime on the cobbles. At the sounds of the ensuing brief squabble, she looked back up at them, a wisp of white hair sliding over one eye and tickling her nose.

She puffed it out of her face instinctively, and offered another shy smile to the wild woman before her.

My goodness, she seems so.... so wild! Perhaps they live in the forrests below? Among the trees, sort of like the druid from my storybook! Although.... he doesn't look much like a druid. She glanced briefly back at the rather distressed looking man before taking a hesitant, nerous step closer to the wild-haired blonde with the hysterical smile.

"Oh -" She coroaked. She delicately cleared the nerves out of her froggy throat and continued, embarrassed, and thus even more rosy. "Oh, I should apologize, I must have startled you, but, you understand, I'm not accustomed to seeing.
Any. Um...."
She laughed, a brief, nervous sound that made her swallow anxiously. "And Archer can be imposing, black and red as he is, so... I am sorry for startling you. And you, Sir."

She hooked the still errant wisp of hair behind her ear and tilted to get a glance at the man, offering her apology to him as she did so. When all was said, she rocked back on her heels, both hands now curled in the bunch of her skirt. Realizing she was doing it she hastily smoothed those sections out and patted them down with a forced modicum of dignity.

Archer fidgeted in his attempt not to chuckle. His wings shinged softly over the square.
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Nate, still cautious, lowered his sword to hang at his side. As alarming as this entire exchange was, he couldn't help but feel silly brandishing a weapon at two women having a seemingly pleasant conversation.

He swallowed hard when the woman met his eyes and apologized. It was hard to keep his guard up, which just made him even more uneasy. There was something strange about her, and he wasn't sure if he liked it.

Nate didn't like much of anything.

Claire, though, liked it very much. She took several long strides towards the other girl and stuck out a hand. "No need to apologize! We're just exploring. I'm Clarise!" She used her other hand to smooth her hair out of her face. Her smile relaxed into a more natural expression.

Nate took a couple of jogging steps after her, and caught her hand before the strange woman's fingers could touch it. He jerked it back down to Claire's side. The blonde rolled her eyes and gestured at the man with her free hand.

"This is Nathaniel. He's not dangerous."

Nate bristled but didn't say anything. The muscles in his jaw were visible as he clenched his teeth. He seemed to be staring at Odine, but he was having trouble meeting her eyes.
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Odine felt absolutely giddy - at first. Her name was Clarise, and she wanted to shake hands! With her! Odine's eyes widened at the casual gesture of greeting, and her hesitation was what prevented the exchange from rightfully occurring. Just as she finally had the mind to mirror the explorer, Nathaniel brought Clarise's hand back down with surprising force.

Odine's hand lingered out there, and her blank, excited expression fell just as her hand did, back to her own side. "Oh. I see. Exploring! I do quite a bit of that myself, there's so much to see! It... Its very nice to meet you both." She looked anywhere but at Nathaniel - the way he was looking/not looking at her was making her uncomfortable...

But no! These were her guests now! She couldn't just sit there and mope, she had GUESTS! And proper hosts would... would...

"My name is Odine!" She blurted as an afterthought. "I... Are you hungry? Thirsty maybe?
The way you came is rather treacherous."


Archer let out a warning caw, and flapped his wings, the metal chiming eerily from his perch across the square. Before he could say something - which he was of half a mind to do, regardless of the presence of strangers - Odine waved a hand impatiently at him. Unfortunately, his brief interruption only seemed to bring her senses back to her.

"Shush! They've obviously been doing a lot of travelling! What kind of hosts would we be if we didn't invite them home?"

Archer cussed. It was brief, and abrupt, and could easily have been missed - but he saw the glint in the girl's grey eyes. She'd already made up her mind. It would be pointless to talk to her - bu that man had a sword.

Damnit. There was only one thing he could do - and that was to warn Gale. He'd just blame Archer if he didn't get a heads up anyway.

With one last persistent caw, Archer lifted from the rooftop and took to the skies.

Odine chewed her lip in brief worry before offering another smile to the strangers. Clarise and Nathaniel.
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Claire beamed at Odine's greeting. Explorers indeed! And now they'd met a fellow traveler. Nate didn't think that the girl looked like much of an explorer. She was seemingly unarmed, and didn't have any bags with her. Comparatively he and Claire looked like pack mules.

He opened his mouth to reject the woman's offer of hospitality, but was interrupted by the shing-shinging of the metal bird.

Right. The bird was made of metal. He pulled Claire to stand a bit behind him and ripped his gaze from the strange woman to land on the cursed statue. "I don't think-"

"Home?" Claire exclaimed at the same time as Archer swore, poking her head around Nate's shoulder eagerly. "I am quite thirsty, and Nate is always hungry. We don't want to impose but since you're offering...!" As though in answer, Nate's stomach grumbled plaintively. He didn't seem to notice, fixated as he was on that strange bird. At the creature's metallic caw, Nate almost stumbled back into Claire.

"So you live here, then?" Claire asked, pushing Nathaniel to the side. He shook his head and turned to face his friend, blocking the view of her from Odine with his back.

"This place isn't right," he whispered gruffly. "We can't stay here. Birds aren't made of metal and women don't have white hair."

Claire narrowed her eyes and pouted her lip. "We can stay for lunch, at least! This is what we came here for!" She put in some effort to whisper, but was far too excited to manage it well. "Come on, don't let this have all been for nothing."

Nate's gaze flickered from one of her eyes to the other. She didn't blink. Everything inside of him was telling him that they needed to leave. Things here weren't right.

But there were such deep bags under her eyes. She hadn't slept properly in months. And something was drawing her here. If they left now, she might never sleep again. What would that do to her?

Slowly, he released his grip on her wrist. "Fine. Just for lunch."

"Hooray!" Claire wrapped her arms around his neck for a brief embrace before returning to face Odine. "I'm sorry, that was rude, wasn't it? He's just cautious."

"Please stop speaking for me," Nate interjected. Claire ignored him.

"Do you really live here?" Claire clasped her hands in front of her and gazed at the ruined buildings around them. It didn't really seem like a livable place.
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Odine shifted her weight from foot to foot anxiously as the two strangers - Nathaniel and Clarise - made their exchange. The white-haired princess could see it as admirable that he was so protective of... his sister? But honestly, there was no real danger about Odine. At least, she certainly didn't think so. She certainly wasn't an enormous metal cat or a sharp-winged bird.

Odine hadn't realized that she was pulling her breath in slowly to hold it until Clarise gave Nathaniel a hug. At that point, she let it whoosh out, accompanied by a smile of relief. "Oh it's no trouble at all! Really! And don't apologize, really, I... I suppose it might be unusual to meet someone new whilst exploring in the woods, so..."

She plainly didn't believe that. All of her stories told her otherwise.

The princess swept her hands down and turned to gesture from whence she came. "I live rather close by! But I like to think of all of Saenel as my home. Where are you from? Lowlands? Nearby Mountains?" She was just as enthusiastic at Clarise, as was evident by the singing energy of her voice. Oh there were thousands of other questions she wanted to ask, but regrettably, one of the surviving books in the library was one of good graces and etiquette, which she had read at length about a thousand times and thus could not ignore.

Odine kept casting curious and only midly cautious glances towards Nathaniel. She was certain he wouldn't hurt her, especially not if she and Clarise were on good terms. And as long as Clarise was willing to be friends, oh Goodness, then of COURSE Odine would be friends!

She felt a rush of excitement bubble up just underneath her words; she could show them the gardens! And the marketplace! And the Kitchens! The beehives! The workshop! The Library! Everything, she could show them everything! OH goodness, lunch! She could have bread, she made some yesterday....

And her thoughts trailed on as Archer winged towards the slinking catlike figure patrolling across town.
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Saenel... Hearing the name of the place didn't give Nathaniel any comfort. If anything, it was like a shock down his spine telling him that he needed to leave straight away. He'd already decided to stay, though. It was as though something else were pushing him away- something other pushing against his mind willing him away.

No, that was silly. He was letting his paranoia get to him again.

"We're from Havenshire," he volunteered slowly. Claire nodded eagerly.

"It's not far," she chimed. "Just a couple of weeks west of here. Down in a valley." Claire took several quick steps forward to stand in front of Odine and reached her hand out once more to shake. "It's nice to meet you, Odine. Please lead the way."

Nate rubbed at the back of his neck uncomfortably, and dropped his other hand from the hilt of his sword. He didn't feel as though he had any choice but to follow the pair of them. As he fell into step behind them, his eyes scanned the skies above for the return of that metal monster.
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Upon being offered a second chance at he handshake, Odine eagerly completed the gesture with a healthy and somewhat embarrassing vigor. Once it was complete, she dropped Clarise's hand and gestured in a grand, onward sort of way, beginning their perusal through Saenel.

"I've never heard of Havenshire! Is it a big place? Like a city? Does it have tall towers?"

She bounced from foot to foot with excitement, and had at least the foresight to wait for a response before asking more questions. "Do you have a King? Is he fair and just? How about KNights, do you have those? Or festivals?"

Odine was excited, but had not forgotten what her winged-friend was about to do; He was going to get Gale, and Gale was going to ruin it with his pessimism and dourness. So, she thought maybe if she could get as many questions answered as she could, she would have more fuel to argue with her metal-cat-friend. Also, the more questions she asked now, the less disappointed she would be if they got scared away by Gale - for at least they would have had a real conversation before then!
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Claire was hardly a step behind Odine as the princess began to lead her to the ruins. Her fingers itched to withdraw her sketchbook and record every symbol they passed, but she resisted.

"It's quite small," Nate answered. Clarise had opened her mouth to answer but was continuing to get distracted by their surroundings. "The only tower is the bell tower on the orphanage."

"We grew up there!" Claire volunteered before going back to observing their surroundings. There was an interesting building that looked as though it had once been a church. When she paused, debating to go and investigate, Nate bumped into her back and shoved her back along behind Odine.

"I suppose there is a king," Nathaniel said with a shrug as Claire pouted at him. "Keep moving."

"He doesn't have much to do with us, though. We're a little border shire," Claire said wistfully.

"That means no festivals. We aren't exactly a hub of trade," Nate's eyes scanned the sky again.

"What about you, Odine? Where are all of the people? Do you have festivals?" Claire skipped up a couple of steps to fall in stride next to the white haired girl.

"How long is this walk going to take?" Nate followed up, rudely.
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Odine skipped confidently along the cobblestone roads. The stones, all laid out in swirls and patterns among the rocks placed there, were rather well kept, despite the age. Grass and weeds sprout up from time to time but there are few places to trip.

As they pass the building and Clarise Pauses, Odine interjects with some trivia. "That is the House of the Rising Sun! It was a chapel for silent thought and spiritual healing. They would host meals for the poor in the winter and pageant plays in the spring. Gale says they were too quiet, but nice in a riteous sort of way." She straightened and saluted in her own immitation of Gale's soldierly sternness before continuing on.

Odine cast a quick look around to get her bearings of the place, and turns down a wide avenue. It must have been a major thoroughfare in it's hayday, marked by boxy, miniature towers every block or so. "Oh. Well it's daytime, they aren't out. Um. Oh, well, I mean it's just me and Archer and Gale." She winces.

Quick, Change the subject! "I've read about festivals Saenel used to throw! One in the spring when the runoff water runs the fastest, and one in the Summer after the mOuntain Lillies finally bloom... OH And one in the dead of winter to celebrate the longest night!" She beams over at them.

Unphased by the evident lack of people in this once, obviously prosperous city.

"You were raised in an orphanage? Does... Does that mean you are orphans?" She turns and her eyes are wide and sad. She chews on the corner of her bottom lip, and the look turns from sad to apologetic.
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