Hunted

The farms and houses of Shim, a single inn known as the Red Chalice, and an old manor on a hill overlooking it all to the north.
Locked
User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:05 am

The "us" declared Saruna outsider, alone. It reminded her quite pointedly of them who'd dropped away from her. Her children gone, her husband and parents dead, and her cousins reduced to polite acquaintances she knew as well as any stranger. The family of her mother had traded down across the Great Scar, though only to the large coastal city she couldn't remember the name of. The foreign quality of tales from the place had fascinated her once, so she knew of the desert there, though as he'd said she'd never heard of his people. Though his exotic appearance might once have inspired her to pepper him with questions about his home the part of her that was tired, and lonely and wholly human outweighed it with her petty jealousy.

"You'll be wanting to go back then?" She asked out of politeness. The question was better than feeling angry with him in silence.
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

User avatar
Ran Azshmatha
Citizen
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:58 am
Name: Ran Azshmatha
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Ran Azshmatha » Sat Dec 17, 2011 7:31 am

"Go back?"

Saruna's question stopped Ran dead in his tracks. Truth be told, Ran had long ago given up on returning to his homeland. That longing, impossible, was too much to hold on to; his youthful passion was greater than could be withstood. But things were different now. Yet, how? It would cost a great deal of bishani. Even more, as he would have to take caution when traveling through the Empire's territory. He'd have to go around the settlements that would remember a foreigner like him, would have to move slow. And even then, it had been so long! Would he be remembered? And loved? Perhaps not. The alchemist looked solemnly past Saruna at the thing which is called indecision, and it reflected back to Saruna.

"Yes," Ran said, somewhat uncertain. Homesickness demanded him return, yet there was still a part of him which hesitated. "But I can't, not now. It would take a lot of bishani to take me home."

Ran wanted to speak a little moreof his story with Saruna. The dryness of his mouth stopped him and instead compelled him to say, "should we not search for the herbalist, Saruna? I thirst, and I'd like to see the town."

User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:37 pm

A thought occurred to Saruna. It was an awful thought that took her back to a night when Derin had cornered Gustel with a candle in hand and tension in the air. She did not want to pay it heed, but it curled tendrils deep within her consciousness and would not let her go. She was tired. She was feeling petty. She was human.

"Perhaps I could find some work for you, yes?"

Her clandestine meeting of a few days ago that felt like so much longer surfaced in her mind.

"I am thinking I will pay for a meal for the both of us at the Inn, first. I am most terribly exhausted, Ran. I apologize for these old bones. Would you be a dear and help me up?"
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

User avatar
Ran Azshmatha
Citizen
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:58 am
Name: Ran Azshmatha
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Ran Azshmatha » Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:04 am

"Yes, of course." Ran was touched by Saruna's sudden display of trust and agreed. He owed a lot to this woman. He was also more than a little surprised at the sudden transformation that occurred in the old woman; it was subtle, but the alchemist was observant. She was more focused. Her will thus directed, coupled with the alchemist's gratitude towards her, the man gently helped the woman to her feet.

Ran checked around for his knife. His hunger made him impatient, but by habit he was cautious. He had to be for so long, that it was now rare for the alchemist to let his guard down. He spotted his last remaining bag of bishani, and found his knife with its sheathe laying neatly nearby. The leather belt from which the sheathe hung was dirty and beat-up, but still functional. Since he had to move carefully in regard to his wound, it took him some time to slip the belt around his torso. That being done, he faced Saruna.

"Saruna, can I borrow a cloak?"

User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:02 pm

Lukol had been a rough man, having taken to a country life rather well. He had scoffed at the idea of cloaks and coats, and so all Saruna had to offer Ran was one of her own -- the least feminine she could find. It would not replace a man's cloak, having been woven from soft wool and dyed a dark blue. It was cut for a petite woman's shoulders, but it would do in a pinch.

Saruna eyed Ran uncertainly as she offered it to him, clutching one of her shawls about her shoulders. "I will make you a new cloak," she said, apology in her voice.
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

User avatar
Ran Azshmatha
Citizen
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:58 am
Name: Ran Azshmatha
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Ran Azshmatha » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:37 am

Ran took the cloak from her and pulled it over his shoulders. It was soft and a little tight, and the color stood out--especially contrasted with his darker skin and flax-yellow hair. His expression displayed the same uncertainty found in Saruna's face. But what surprised him more was her offer to make one for him. He momentarily and reflexively considered declining her offer out of guilt, but held his tongue. He didn't quite get Saruna yet and he wanted to wait and see.

As for the cloak, it covered his dagger, his wounded body, and its careful, guarded movements. It would do, but he thought to himself that he would buy one as soon as he could, once they were in the town. For now, his hunger and curiosity got the better of Ran, and prompted him to urge, "I'm ready."

He waited to follow Saruna out into the town.
Last edited by Ran Azshmatha on Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:41 am

Saruna took them out at a slow pace, walking the too familiar path that had been beaten from the shoes of her family and their neighbors as they moved to the same destination over the years. There was a different way to get to the Inn than to the well, skipping over the market as well. They passed small homes, built from sod, brick and very occasionally stone. Wood for a home was expensive, and not many were experienced with it when it came to building. Wood was largely considered a fuel in Shim and Marn both.

There were a few shops in Shim, though stalls were less expensive and thus more common. They walked around the outskirts of the market, and though Saruna could make a guess from the direction of Ran's attention that he might be quite interested in it, she didn't slow. She was tired, thirsty and hungry, and the Inn was her determined choice of destination.

She ordered the slow simmered stew that was always on hand, and saw Orin at the bar but no Rosemary. Indeed, there was not a one barmaid that she recognized, and it seemed almost understaffed. She was disappointed, but not altogether surprised.

When they had both their fill, and Saruna felt heartened by both the time spent off her feet and the fullness of her belly -- though her instinct was to immediately head home for a nap -- she took them to the market.

It was not much when compared to the bustle of Marn, and Saruna had seen much larger from her girlhood, but there were shopkeepers and merchants aplenty. Some of them were seasonal, bringing trade from Eyropa and Tian Xia both, but those had thinned as the years wore on, so the locals greatly outnumbered them. The day was yet new, not yet bringing the bustle and crowding most usually seen in the market as people bought or traded for their daily meals or weekly amounts of staple food.

Saruna stopped walking forward in the wide space, haphazardly scattered with crudely homemade benches, awnings and professionally made displays all, the vast majority designed to be taken to safety at night. She was not sure where Ran wanted to go, and so looked at him with the intent to trail his interest.
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

User avatar
Ran Azshmatha
Citizen
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:58 am
Name: Ran Azshmatha
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Ran Azshmatha » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:06 am

Ran for his part had followed silently, making only small, inconsequential comments and even that in sparse occasions. The winter morning at Shim was beautiful, and he let this beauty and the hunger leave him in a state of suppressed peace. There was something profoundly comforting in being hungry with a meal secured. This kind of hunger was an occasion for future celebration, and the reaffirmation of all that was good about being near other human beings, one that is sorely needed in the face of the despicable deeds daily brought forth by the human race. The hard dirt road the young man and the old woman traveled on seemed solid and good, given a cheery sort of life from the morning moisture clinging on despite the stern gaze of the late-morn sun. Ran was in the midst of the ecstasy granted to those men who have died, are born again, die a second time, and miraculously, without explanation, find himself born a third time.

He attracted a fair bit of gazes from the people they encountered, but Ran had his hood pulled tight around his face. His hair, shoulder-length and wavy, gave him away as a foreign element; his hair was yellow, yet it did not shine. A flat, earth-hued, slightly coarse mane, it attracted attention to the alchemist and said to all who stared 'look here, here is something that is unusual; at first glance, it seems familiar, yet that is its clever trick to hide its difference.'

Yet, Ran was far from the eastern-most border of the Eyropan Empire. This was middle-country, that transitory place between the East and the West. Though there were no others of Southern descent here, Ran noticed a fair bit of variety among the faces he passed. Shim was a town built on top of a trade route. Trade brings with it diversity, and this diversity is, without needing consent or even awareness, generally accepted by those who feed themselves through trade.

Once at the inn, he ate quietly, and like Saruna, found himself renewed from the food and the rest. He hardly felt the stinging pull of the wound anymore.

Ran followed Saruna to the market place, until the old woman stopped, and that peculiar phenomenon which betakes one who relinquishes her will to passivity passed through Saruna. The young man, having confirmed this to himself, set about studying the crowd and the stores which stood before him.

It was not as crowded as the big city markets, and even for its size, Shim's market was small. Ran, having graduated from an isolated, nomadic existence to be exposed to both the largest and the remotest of cities and villages, found Shim's market to be a comfortable middle-ground. There was some variety, and he mused, quality, yet it was not the colossal, overbearing presence as the market could be when it became large enough. Conveniently, Ran early found a vendor who offered him a simple, woolen cloak, colored tan and large enough to cover his entire body comfortably, for a reasonable price. In the same store, Ran bought some thin leather thongs and a large leather bag which had a single strap attached to it. He made his way to a discreet corner and quickly swapped out Saruna's blue cloak for the tan one.

Ran then led them around the market, until he found what he was looking for. It was a small outdoor stove, a simple portable furnace where one could make a small fire, and place a small pot over. The pot was about the size of a child's head. It was light and sturdy, and Ran spent a high price for them. He placed both items in the bag he had purchased and then slung the bag across his body, taking care not to disturb the wound on his abdomen.

At a third store, the alchemist purchased a flint and a piece of steel to strike the flint against. He spent the last of his bishani on colored beads of bone, six of them, about the size of his thumb and a sizeable hole running through each of them. This last item was bought from a traveling merchant set up at a wooden table. Ran picked them out personally, and with great care, from a stocky barrel which the merchants had filled with bits of colored jewelry made of bone. The merchants had come from the East. The beads were made from the bones of elephants, the merchant explained. He proudly displayed the more expensive items, carved from the tusks, on a locked display case. The merchant and his exotic wares seemed out of place in such a small town, but the merchant was smart. The tusk-formed items attracted a crowd through its exotic beauty. It was too expensive to possess, and the small-time buyers of Shim instead satiated their curious desire by purchasing the much cheaper, bone products.

As for Ran, he had decided he liked the merchant and his clever display. And the beads had holes in them, just the right size for the leather thongs.

It had taken just over an hour. Ran turned to Saruna.

"I'm done, Saruna."

It was his turn to become passive, as he waited the old woman's lead.

User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:24 pm

Saruna had glared at the old bug Pars from behind Ran's shoulder. She wasn't willing to interrupt Ran's adult purchase making like a fussy hen, but she would dare the salesman to cut Ran a bad deal. She knew well enough what such a piece of work cost to make, and though she considered the price he'd paid to be yet too high she didn't utter protest. It was his money to spend, not hers, and he had not asked her to do his shopping for him.

Saruna watched the rest of his purchases in much the same manner, glaring at merchants behind his back and smiling at him between stalls. She'd repossessed her blue cloak, and had draped it over her arm. Though she might have put the thing on, she found herself overly warm. As she'd aged she'd begun to have warm spells that struck without rhyme or reason, and though she had cold spells too she found that more often than not she was uncomfortably warm, and so stuck to light shawls.

The path by the well was the longer way back to her home, but she took it anyway. She was curious about where Rekkan had gone off too, and was answered well enough when they stopped to find her bucket, half full of water and left all alone. She pivoted, looking to see if the young man yet loitered nearby, perhaps stopped by someone else in need midway through the pulling. He was not. He was gone, disappeared as surely as her husband, and that was cause enough for the lines around her mouth to deepen.

A deep, telling sigh pushed its way out of her, and she stooped to pick up the bucket. She hadn't the energy to fill it full. Her mind had been made up about what to do with Ran, and she looked sideways at him. "Let us drop off your purchases, and I shall take you to Marn."
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

User avatar
Ran Azshmatha
Citizen
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:58 am
Name: Ran Azshmatha
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Ran Azshmatha » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:54 pm

Ran was perplexed and a little annoyed at the unexplained disappearance of the herbalist, especially considering that the services he paid for would remain unadministered, at least for now. But the herbalist had helped enough, Ran supposed. It wasn't enough to put down his spirits, and at any rate, he was quite preoccupied right now with his purchases. On further reflection, they were not mere purchases, and meant quite a bit more to him than upon first glance. The cloak, the outer-soul of a traveling man. It was his bed, pillow, his rag and his armor, it hid and protected, cleaned and kept clean. The pot and the stove, the flint and the steel, tools for his alchemy and his tie to his homeland, and the primary skill by which Ran planned to make himself useful.

Toward the leather thong and the beads, Ran had special purpose. Once back at Saruna's home, he put his purchase aside, then sat for a moment. It took a few moments of thought and tinkering, but soon Ran's hands were weaving together the beads and the thong with practiced ease. He gathered the left-half of his hair and pinched it behind his ear, then tied in the beaded strip of leather until he had a single, simple braid falling behind his left ear. That being done, he turned to Saruna with curious passivity. The woman had something on her mind, and just as well. Ran wanted some time to think about his future--a strange and empowering concept--and he was content to let Saruna lead for the day.

User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Sat Dec 24, 2011 7:09 pm

Saruna took them through the forest along the path to Marn. There was a curious bit of wreckage there, but Saruna gave it a wide berth. There were always strange rumors about the forest, and it could never be considered wise to pause for any reason along the path. Why they hadn't posted guards to walk it was yet another reason for Saruna to consider the government evil, especially when so many disappeared within the forest, or had unnatural encounters along the path.

Sweat trickled down her back. She was nervous. She took them down through the poorer districts, a little less and more confident to traverse the streets with Ran at her back. Different reasons to cringe. She didn't expect to see Cal, where she was taking him, but trouble of another kind. She'd been stopped on the way back from her meeting with Cal, a few days ago. Her questions had been noticed, and she'd been told to go to a certain establishment, if it could be called that, the next time she was in the area.

The entrance was in the back of a two story building, a low key alehouse that did not advertise its presence, but did not hide it either. It was a start for Saruna, a first link to her goals. She picked a table for them, and sat down, and slid a many times folded sheaf of papers across the table to Ran.

The establishment was tipped onto the better side of clean, just as it was carefully kept on the proper part of the law. The lighting was low, all the better to hide what imperfections there were, and those patrons who were there were of the quiet variety. Saruna could tell by the keen eyes of the staff that brawls did not happen within the place, whatever it was called. It was a place for talking, and relative safety. It was also a front; it tolerated gentle discontentment, no more.

"Read that," she said, nodding at the papers. It was a copy of Vitiable Paragon, a newspaper that no good citizen of Marn would be caught reading. It was a start.
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

User avatar
Ran Azshmatha
Citizen
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:58 am
Name: Ran Azshmatha
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Ran Azshmatha » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:29 pm

Ran followed Saruna quietly, curiously looking around everything but looking directly at nothing. The city was modestly sized, large enough to get lost in but dwarfed in comparison to the capital cities of Eyropa. He studied the people but not in great detail, the architecture but not in great detail, in all observations the impression preceded rigorous study.

The impression he got as the pair approached their destination was this: surprise that someone like Saruna would venture to a place such as they were heading.

Ran sat down, ordered nothing, and began to read the pamphlet passed in front of him. As he read, Saruna, had she been watching, would have seen the following sequence play about the southerner's face. Uncertainty, followed by curiousity, and then a careful face whose impressions Ran made an effort to conceal. He read quietly without saying a word, and did not wander his gaze until he had finished reading the first article and had browsed the subsequent ones.

Once finished, Ran closed the pamphlet, slowly and very deliberatly, and laid it down on the table between him and Saruna. His eyes remained on the pamphlet, downcast. He sat still, a vision of composure.

In his head, Ran was thinking furiously. Putting the pieces together, he saw just the corner of something which the alchemist used to predict the rest of the landscape which was revealing itself before him. There was an urge to back away, the beginning of fear and danger.

Ran raised his eyes slowly, and locked them with Saruna's. It was a different man who had stared, downcast at the pamphlet, from the one who looked up at Saruna. There was fear, but it was a mere shadow; uncertainty without edge; sombre with acceptance and readiness for whatever may happen next.

In truth, his mind had been made up once he acknowldged that he owed his life to Saruna. That was nearly the sum total of his calculations. He waited quietly on Saruna.

User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:57 am

Life took its toll. That was laughably obvious to anyone who had outgrown their childhood. More than knowing it, Saruna felt it as she looked down at her fingers, studying them rather than Ran as she waited quietly for him to consider what she'd given him. The wrinkles that were graven into her fingers assured her that she was not the same young and powerless woman who had first moved to the area, full of hope and naivete. No, much had happened since then. She had earned the qualities that would see her through her disgruntlement.

Ran was silent down to the way he breathed. The only sound beyond the occasional hushed clinking of glass, or footsteps from waitstaff, was the rustle of the paper Ran held. When that noise died, Saruna knew he had finished reading it, and absorbing all it entailed. The silence itself was telling. He had not reacted audibly, either with rejection or acceptance, and maybe it was that which caused the lifting of her chin. Her eyes rose to his, and they stared at each other.

Nervousness bloomed in her stomach, like and unlike that which had afflicted her in Cal's presence. This was more than about finding someone to work with her, this was about finding a partner. An ally. She had been in his company for a few days, but she did not know him. He did not know her. He was a stranger to her and the city both, and that made him far, far more trustworthy than any other she might have talked to daily during all the years she'd lived in Shim. Marn had eyes and ears everywhere.

Saruna flinched when Ran did not drop his gaze after the first few seconds that stretched into longer and harder moments of time. Cal might have caused her fright for her life, but what she felt for Ran at that moment was something deeper. She met the challenge with her own quiet courage.

"I will not live forever. Before I die, I would like to set certain wrongs right. I will not coerce you or cause you grief enough for you to feel obligated to relieve yourself of any debt to me. I am old, and I am alone. There are none I can trust with what I feel is my last duty to self and family."

She could have said more. There was much more within her, but at the last moment all of it broke and burst apart within her. All she had left was her poise and uplifted chin, and the honesty within her as she looked into Ran's eyes.
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

User avatar
Ran Azshmatha
Citizen
Posts: 113
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:58 am
Name: Ran Azshmatha
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Ran Azshmatha » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:37 pm

The moment revealed itself to Ran, where having come stumbling back from a precipitous fall, he found himself at the edge of another. He already knew what he would say, but the suddenness of the step he was about to take, and the mysteries of its consequences worked to make him hesitate. Now was the time to pull back.

Back to where? Back out to the forest--and the thought immediately threatened the alchemist with memories of blood and fear. He left that place very quickly, without looking back. Back to Saruna's home? To her village, to force a dishonorable ignorance upon himself? He left there, too, without regret. There was just one place to go, and it was his weakness that led him there, and it was his virtue which made him rise to this occasion.

"I owe you my life, Saruna. I will help in what way I can."

He paused, began to ask a question, hesitated, then decided he had the right to ask.

"Tell me what this is about."

User avatar
Saruna
Staff
Posts: 1959
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:08 pm
Name: Saruna Rischett
Race: Human

Re: Hunted

Post by Saruna » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:54 pm

Saruna almost told him to forget about all of it. She had expected from him a firm yes, or a firm no. The wavering indecision that tipped her way was not what she had wanted. It made her feel manipulative, brutish; that thick, squirming feeling she'd first felt when Derin had accosted Gustel. But then she hadn't put a stop to it, and at present it formed a pattern. She didn't tell him to forget it. She kept her misgivings to herself.

The explanation she gave to Ran was halting, but firm, and picked up speed as she found her groove with the telling of old history and bad memory. Saruna explained about her father, and the chain reaction that had seemed no more than bad luck at the time. The horrible prisons beneath the justice hall, how one went in but not out and no one knew what happened to the people who disappeared but nasty rumors prevailed. How the government was corrupt, with paid citizen informants, so you never knew who was innocent and who was waiting to sell you out. She told him how the innocents suffered, and how there had to be a better way.

When finished, Saruna leaned back in her chair. She'd gotten flushed with the telling, and intent. It was somehow invigorating to lay out her woes before a stranger, and be indignant over perceived injustice. She liked the feeling.

Beyond Saruna where she wasn't looking, the barkeep was watching them both: silent and forboding.
#biologicallyconscientious||Characters and threads.

Locked