Life Given, Life Earned (Peregrine x Lady Alainn)

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Peregrine, Oct 15, 2015.

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    It is common knowledge to all that the world once used to be
    more than isolated peaks above a sea of fog.


    Once, everyone lived on a world as flat as a pebble to skip
    across the pond. But one day the sky went dark, hidden behind
    an impenetrable layer of clouds. And with the arrival of darkness
    came the arrival of demons. The people fought desperately for
    their lives, but could do nothing to stop the rising number of demons,
    desperate for human blood.


    It was then that the gods, in their infinite mercy, gathered the
    people together and lifted up the ground underneath them. The
    gods lifted the people so high that the ground upon which they
    stood broke through the darkness of the clouds, and emerged
    once more into the light. The demons, unable to face the purifying
    radiance of the sun, were unable to follow.


    For a time people and god lived in harmony, before the gods
    retreated from this world, settling into a higher domain where they
    could watch over the world, and pass down their divine will to
    those blessed enough to hear their voice.


    Or so it is believed.

    But one thief is about to learn very different when she wakens
    one of the ancient gods from his death-like slumber.


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    "It is not the duty of the gods to care for us.
    We are lesser creatures, while their strength and might knows no bounds.
    Yet, out of the goodness of their hearts, the gods chose to save us, to lift us out of the mist and bring us into salvation, when they could have left us to die."

    "We must always remember to show our gratitude towards the gods.
    They have already saved us from certain disaster once, and now it is our job to prove to them that they made the right choice, that their power was not wasted in aiding us.
    We do not beg the gods. We do not expect them to fix our problems for us, if we cannot fix them ourselves."

    "But for all their might, the gods are not above caring.
    We can feel their presence every day.
    When our moment of desperate need finds us, we can bend to our knees in honest supplication, and the grace of the gods that exists in all of us will be strengthened by our honest devotion.
    By their divine will, we can find the courage to overcome our own problems, to rise above the trails of our everyday lives, and be purer and stronger for it."

    "We thank the gods every day for our lives. Now, we seek to prove their faith in us."




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  2. Fire streaked across the evening sky, chasing the sun under the horizon with a myriad of colours. Brilliant oranges meshed with watermelon pink while slivers of gold highlighted the bumpy, purple clouds hovering covetously overhead. Each hue swirled perfectly into the next as if someone had taken a bucket of hot waxes and sloshed its contents all across the expanse before they'd had time to mix it properly. Many a foolish soul attempted to capture such a display like tonight's with embroidery threads or gloppy oils. Nothing ever came close, of course.

    However, even the sky in all its glory could not compare to the majesty of the city below. High atop Mt. Aldrig, pale obsidian pillars and rooftops blazed from the touch of the fire that lit up the heavens. The stone streets glittered more like a river of gold as they spilled down from the central temple at the summit and pooled against the short, squat walls surrounding the city simply known as The Haven. It was decent-sized with three main levels spreading over the mountain top and far too many people who took more delight in themselves than the beauty that surrounded them every day. But to at least one person, The Haven at this time of day was more precious than all the jewels in the world.

    Perched in the bell tower of the town hall, the scrawny-legged, freckle-faced teenager soaked in the stunning view with a bright-eyed eagerness. The town hall afforded the perfect seat for the heavenly light show, it being important enough to sit just below the courtyard and massive, pillared temple dedicated to the patron god Aldrig and just above the rest of the glowing rooftops. Nym always preferred sunset to sunrise among the spires and steeples of the capital city of the Quintopolis; the same way she preferred the term "rogue" to "thief" come to think of it. "Thief" gave a very cut and dry picture of what she did for a living, but "rogue" had an air of mystery about it. Intrigue. It elicited little shivers that made her hair stand on end on the back of her neck. Rogue. Nym the Rogue. Nym the Magnanimous Rogue.

    Whatever that meant. She didn't know, but she liked the sound of it. Magnanimous. Just the way it bounced on her lips when she whispered it made her chest swell. It was also the way she described sunsets in The Haven. No other word ever seemed big enough to do it any justice. Magnanimous.

    A commotion in the streets below perked an ear and wrested her attention away from her beauty. People zipped and circled round like tiny ants swarming their hill. Two carts collided, resulting in a traffic jam as the merchants ran helter-skelter after their escaping merchandise. Crash! Another cart overturned in its owner's attempt to avoid trampling one of the first merchants. Boxes and crates smashed open as they hit the street. Shouts echoed up to her perch and a sweet aroma wafted up after them.

    Nym breathed in deeply and licked her lips. "Sticky buns!" Before she knew it, her feet were scrambling and she'd climbed halfway down the bell tower to "help." Oh gods, she hadn't smelled sticky buns in years! Ever since... ever since... something had happened to honey. It went extinct or something. Or... What made honey? Bears? No. Bees? Yes, that's right. Bees. Did they go extinct? No matter, she was going to get herself one. Or two. Possibly four, or as many as she could reasonably stuff down her baggy tunic and trousers without getting caught. They'd make a great festival snack for later. Something to munch on while watching the fire-boomer show tonight.

    ---

    As the temple guards moved from their posts inside to surround the perimeter, one lone shadow dove from pillar to pillar in the opposite direction. Nym clutched the lumps in her burlap tunic close to her chest and tiptoed the final distance into the inner sanctuary of the god Aldrig's temple. In the centre of the circular building stood an enormous statue of a fierce-looking dragon. His head almost reached the vaulted obsidian ceiling and cocked back as if he constantly contemplated striking his viewers for the heck of it. His body coiled under the massive head: half to support it and half to protect it. All in all, Aldrig was a pretty impressive figure. It was no wonder, then, that he should be called the God of Power.

    He also happened to be Nym's best friend.

    Red carpets marked the boundary between god and worshipers, but the girl paid them no nevermind and walked right on past them to climb up onto the platform. She liked to think that the statue was always happy to see her and she'd stopped asking permission to visit him a couple years ago. Gold braziers hung suspended from the ceiling around the dragon's head. Usually they were lit and blazing something fierce once the sun set. However, this week was a holy week with lots of feasts and fire-boomers every night. They closed down the temple completely for the god to enjoy his festival in peace.

    The god and one red-headed little rogue, that is.

    "Well, Driggy, looks like it's a quiet night tonight. Relatively speaking, you know, because the fire-boomers are gonna go off at any moment. At least we got the place to ourselves for a little while though, eh? No guards poking their noses around or priests milling about." Nym stopped next to one of the large coils to pat it affectionately before hoisting herself up onto it. With a practiced grace, she immediately jumped up to her feet and crossed the first set of scales to grab onto a limb. "Say, what did you do to get yourself a five-day-long festival anyway, Driggy? Not that I mind, you know. It's nice having this place to myself. I bet no one else ever even thinks about having supper on your head while they watch the boomers. Such a shame, though, really. It's the ...perfect ...place."

    Her monologue paused briefly to make way for a few grunts as she shimmied up the dragon's trunk and scrambled onto the thick skull. "Too bad you can't see them; they set them up like this in the square just for you. But maybe you don't like fire-boomers. That's okay, I'll like them for the both of us. You can just sit here and look scary. Oh, and maybe you can keep the guards from feeling like they have to peek in here until after the show's done. You don't have to worry about me, if I wanted to take something from here I would have done it long ago. Err... actually, come to think of it, weren't there ten candelabras last... Oh well, nothing to bother you with! Nope! No sirree!

    "Oh! Hey! Look at what I found today, Drig!"

    Nym plopped down between his eyes on her rump and rummaged in her tunic for the first of the sticky buns. They'd made a proper mess inside her shirt, smearing their sticky juices all down her fresh, pale skin and sticking to the burlap. The fuzz and dust from the streets went unnoticed by the girl as she held the bun aloft triumphantly between her thumb and forefinger:

    "Ta-da! Sticky buns! Know how I got them? There was a big crash on Main Street earlier this evening. A wagon of cheese wheels rammed right into some poor guy's cart with chickens. Was a heck of a mess! And then to top it all off, some other guy didn't stop in time and spilled his lovely sticky buns all over the street. We haven't had sticky buns in a long, long, long time, you know. No honey. Can't have sticky buns without honey! Wonder where this guy got it from."

    Biting into the soft flesh, her brown eyes popped open and she hurriedly yanked it from between her teeth. "Tha' no' uney!" Nym exclaimed around her mouthful. She swallowed and inspected the delectable more closely. It looked like honey. It smelled like she remembered honey smelling like. She licked it. Nope. Not honey! More like some kind of golden sugar syrup with a bitter aftertaste.

    "Here, Driggy, what do you think of it?" Nym lowered herself down his snout and stuffed the remainder of the bun into his leering jaws.
     
    #2 Lady Alainn, Oct 16, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016
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  3. The first time he felt the small creature crawling along his back, it was sufficient to momentarily wake him from his slumber, simply from the anomaly. Aldrig knew that the people had built a temple around him, had taken this "statue" of the god Aldrig as the god's divine favor over this island, and, eventually, on the surrounding four islands as well, and had turned it into a thriving metropolis. He had watched in momentary peeks as the temple had grown about him, and then the city had grown down the hill, turning into a place of unrivaled beauty and power. He had long since crown used to the people around him, to curious children reaching out a tentative finger to touch a claw or scale, in hopes of having some sort of internal communication with the God of Power. No longer did such things bother him, or even register upon his consciousness in the darkness of the stone.

    But no one had ever climbed on him before. Perhaps it was out of respect for his presence, or out of fear of some form of divine retribution, but no one had ever done more than lightly brush him in reverent contact. For a moment when he felt feet upon his back he had longed to shake, to dislodge the human who dared to do something so impetuous. But, no, it wasn't worth it. It wasn't as though such contact could do any real harm to him. Waking up enough to shake and dislodge her, though, that could do some real harm. Potentially irreversible harm.

    The second time he barely woke enough to note the climber's return. By the third time Aldrig didn't even stir. It had become rote.

    Rote, that was, until something was suddenly shoved into his mouth. Something that shattered the paralysis around where the strange, sticky substance coating the lump of bread touched him. His tongue flicked out, curling around the stickiness. He felt a shiver pass through him as he swallowed it. This... this was it. The climber had just shoved the cure he so desperately needed into his mouth. His heart, so long confined to a petrified sleep, a sleep that allowed a century to pass with every beat, shuddered back to life.

    He had been the last of the gods to flee this poisoned earth. It had been his responsibility as the God of Power, as one of the two dominant forces within the entire pantheon. It had been his duty to repeatedly rip open the portal through which the others would be able to flee, flee to a land that had not developed a toxin that slowly turned the very blood in their veins to fire, and stripped them of the power that kept them alive. Felicity had been the first to go. None had questioned it. When it had been down to just him and Gottam, for perhaps the first time in their entire existence of rivalry, Aldrig had set that aside and pushed the stubborn god through the portal. It only seemed right. In that moment, they had both known it. Their rivalry had finally ended. Sometimes there were things that could only be accomplished by the strength of an individual, but it only had meaning if it was done for the good of the group. Who would have guessed that all those eons of conflict would have all been rendered meaningless in a single moment?

    He had prepared to follow, tried to draw up the power from within himself for one last act of power, and had, in that moment, for the first time ever, failed in his own domain. The power had been beyond his reach. The toxin had eaten too far into his system, driven deeper and faster by his use of such powerful magic. He would not be able to follow his compatriots. His family.

    For one split instant, Aldrig had considered giving up. It had only lasted for a moment. Instead, there, on that mountaintop where he had gotten the rest of the gods to safety, Aldrig reached inside himself for one last taste of power, to turn his flesh and heart to stone, to enter into a sleep that could last an eon, and could keep the toxin from spreading further. He had told himself he would wait, wait for the cure to arrive, no matter how long it took. It might not be in the world now, but it would be someday.

    In his sleep, he had almost forgotten what he was waiting for. It didn't matter. He knew when it arrived. He needed more.

    In an instant the magic that had held him to stone fled his form. Dark grey stone was replaced by red scales fringed with gold, purple wings ribbed by blue, and shining yellow horns and belly. His head dropped, sending the climber falling, but long before she could reach the ground Aldrig snapped her up, along with everything she carried. He was greeted, quite unexpectedly, not by a hand or foot in his mouth, but by a writhing, terrified ball of fur. So, not a human then, but some sort of werecreature. It didn't matter. She wasn't what he wanted anyways. A streak of red fur and a pile of dirty clothes were expelled onto the floor, while the remainder of the buns, and more importantly the sticky substance that coated them, were swallowed. His heart beat stronger. The power that had long remained far, far beyond his grasp in a humiliating display of weakness rushed back to him.

    Aldrig took one glorious moment to stretch languidly, working out the kinks and knots of several millennia of stone stupor. And then he was moving forward, crashing through the opening of the sanctuary that had so long contained him in a shower of obsidian stone. His wings filled the entire courtyard for just one moment, before a hurricane of air crashed through the contained space as his wings snapped down, lifting his form up into the air, to vanish as nothing more than a dot in the sky.
     
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  4. Of all the things she expected-- for being a rogue, one always expects the unexpected-- Aldrig actually answering her was not one of them. Driggy rumbled beneath her. Sakes alive! Not wanting to be in such a compromising position any longer than necessary, she righted herself on the gigantic snout which was quickly losing its roughness and sat up on her knees. What the heck was going on? Her mind leaped to the most logical conclusion: Hallucinogens! They'd put poison in the syrup! Nym flopped onto her back and gripped her throat, ready for the gagging to start. Or the eye rolling, or the throat constricting, or the swelling tongue thing. Even a nice "Bleeeck!" would do very nicely for death by poison. But no. The vision of the stone dragon shedding itself didn't waver and instead of the poison reacting internally, it caused an earthquake.

    Nym could swear the dragon's head snapped down, causing her to lose her balance and tumble down the now red, scaly snout. She was falling, she knew she was falling, but the dragon's head didn't seem to get any farther away. Then it dawned on her. His jaws were closing in on her. Darn these hallucinogens! 'Jump, jump, jump!' her instincts screamed at her. "Oh! Right!" Death would have to wait until she was in a much safer place. Nym grabbed onto a shiny bone tooth and propelled herself towards the closest brazier hanging from the ceiling...

    Darkness encased her instead. Darkness and dryness and terrifyingly sharp, gnashing teeth. Scared out of her wits, the rogue curled into herself in her last mode of defense. Hands shrank into black little paws, red fur pushed through pale flesh and covered bony elbows, more fur protruded from her rear in a long, fluffy tail to hug around her torso. With any luck, she'd be small enough to smoosh between his fangs or under his tongue and not be swallowed whole into the acidic pits of his stomach. Her eyes squished tight as she waited for the inevitable. Was this death? Was this the end!?! Oh, what a pathetically short life she'd lived! No statues erected in her honour, no tales celebrating her devious, sneaky cunningness. Who'd even know she'd even existed?

    Thankfully, the dragon had no intention of eating the little fox. The sticky buns, yes, for some reason. But the furball and her bulky clothes didn't make it onto the menu. Before she could bemoan her short life any longer, the werefox found herself deposited onto the cold floor of the temple. An amber eye peeped open. Her clothes landed not too far away in a dusty pile of ancient stone and brittle dragon scales. The ground shook once more as the dragon lurched forward and shut went the little eye again, waiting for the heavy print of the dragon to squish her into oblivion.

    Could she die yet?

    Wait.

    The pounding footsteps sailed past her and the first of the fire-boomers exploded in the night sky as the dark shape shot high above the screaming crowd. Oh gods, they had an escaped god! What would she tell the head priest? Nothing. This was just a bad dream. A very, very bad dream. It didn't even have proper sticky buns in it. Nym sank down onto her haunches and covered her snout with her paws, willing the world to just fade away until this nightmare was over or death by poison claimed her first.
     
    #4 Lady Alainn, Oct 17, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016
  5. The beat of his wings echoed across the night sky in a thunderous roar to match the booming of the exploding lightworks in the sky. It was a rush of pure ecstasy to feel the air once more, to feel the strength of his body, to be able to look inside himself and see the unbridled vigor of his power, beautiful and uncorrupted by any blight. Now that Aldrig had found the cure, this world no longer held any threat to him. This world of deep, fog-filled valleys of shadow, and the high mountain peaks where humanity dwelt was his playground once more. It was even possible that he could bring the others back.

    The others... The strength of his wingbeats did not falter, but some of the enthusiasm fled from his heart. It had been several thousand years since that fateful day when he had transported them safely from this world. He wondered what they had thought, when he did not follow along shortly behind them. He wondered if they now thought him dead, destroyed by the blight, having given his own life to allow them to escape. In a way he had died. In that instant when he had realized that he no longer had the power to draw forth that other world and pull himself to it his domain, the very essence of his being, had been lost to him. If that was not death, what was?

    He wondered if Thesus had mourned his passing. She had always been so fiery, so determined. He wondered if she, if any of them, had tried to open a portal of their own, to reach out and draw him to them. A part of him hoped they would have tried, even though it was impossible. A part of him hoped they hadn't. So many of them had never faced a situation they couldn't overcome through their power. Just like him. He did not want to have to imagine sweet Felicity or the free spirit of Lalita getting crushed by the knowledge that their own domain had failed them. Aldrig knew that suffering, and he would rather believe that none of them would have to face that darkness of utter uncertainty. That darkness had nearly killed him. When he had first seen that void he had nearly given up, had nearly allowed the toxin to consume his power and drag him into oblivion. He had only overcome it because he was strong. He had always been strong. He did not know if the others would have been able to overcome it.

    He wondered what had happened to Verdini. That ruffled, puppy-dog like God of Change had always been there for Aldrig, and Aldrig had always been there for him. It had more often been the latter than the former, there were very few times Aldrig had any true need for anyone, but that did not change the fact that Verdini had always been there with a smile or a joke to lift some of the weight from his shoulders. He wondered if Verdini had been able to embrace his domain, to change with the situation and let Aldrig go, or if his domain had failed him too.

    It was almost painful to think such things. In that instant, Aldrig's thoughts flitted back to the climber. Verdini would have liked her. They were, in a way, two peas in a pod. It was so easy to imagine her as the bright-eyed young boy, climbing up onto his back and shoving the cure into his mouth. The thought lifted his heart a little bit. It was time to return to his fellows. Whatever had happened to them, it was time to face it.

    He wondered what had happened to the climber. He had left in such a hurry, desperate to be freed from that space, that he had not even bothered to thank her. It was rather inconsiderate of him, considering the fact that she had brought his cure right to him, intentionally or not. Once again, his thoughts flitted to Verdini, and the feel of soft fur in his mouth. She truly was one of his children. So much time had passed since that moment when Aldrig had saved his friends. One more human lifetime would make no difference. That little climber had given him back his life, had given him back his power. He should repay her in kind.

    In the darkness of an infinite sky Aldrig slowed, hovering in the air with heavy beats. He reached to the inside-space where all his power dwelt and grabbed a small piece of it, carefully shaping and molding it to his purpose. His eyes began to glow as his vision was drawn back to the climber...
     
  6. Dagor was the first to see the dragon emerge from the temple.

    Lightworks had long ceased to astound the aged Oracle-- the magic behind them juvenile compared to the power he housed deep within his being-- and so he found himself periodically turning around to gaze at the magnificent temple. At the home of his patron god and, in a sense, employer. For tens of years he and his three sisters kept watch over the sacred texts of the ancients: pouring over them, memorizing them, deducing the secrets locked deep inside their stories and deeds. The Four Oracles did nothing but ingest, inhale, and immerse themselves in that which would please the gods. Daily, Dagor, Ada, Bryne, and Ceris gathered in tiny closets rank with incense and bitter herbs to commune with Aldrig. It was only in those entranced stupors that the mighty god met and imparted to them a fraction of his wisdom and desires. They were the gateway between the peoples and their Benefactor. They alone held the answers, the power, and the prestigious title of Oracle. The Peoples' Salvation. The Walking Will of the Gods. They were, in most senses of the word, gods themselves.

    One can imagine, then, the horror that raced down Dagor's spine when the hulking shape broke through the obsidian balusters of the temple. Never before had such a spectacle occurred at the festival dedicated to the dragon god! What could it mean? Was it THE god incarnate? Or a simple dragon? A premonition of what was to come? Or a memory of the past? But Dagor did not have time to contemplate what the sign of the dragon could mean or what it was doing here, gracing the festival with its presence. All he knew was that the superstitious people surrounding him would take such a thing as an evil omen. They would question the validity of the Oracles.

    He could not let them see.

    As the stone pillars disintegrated in the wake of the dragon, the echoes carried down the obsidian steps to turn the other million heads in the audience. But before their eyes could adjust from the illuminated central courtyard to the darkened slope of the temple courtyard, Dagor raised a hand and, summoning a gust of magic energy from his core, spoke fire into being. Barrels of waiting lightworks exploded in flames: from the left, the right, the left, two from the right. Squeals and shrieks of excitement and amazement rose up from the captive audience as lo and behold, a shadow of a dragon taking flight leaped from the temple steps and soared high into the air! They applauded! They laughed! They remarked among themselves how very impressive the light show was this year!

    Dagor's hand quietly slipped back into his robes. Three pairs of eyes settled on him and he met them each in turn before nodding his head in the direction of the temple. Without rousing suspicion, the Oracles slipped through the throngs and made their way up the great stone steps.

    ---

    Nym sat quivering for a good moment longer than she really should have. Her head still reeled from trying to make sense of it all. It felt all lop-sided, too. Every time she tried to lift her head up from her paws, it wobbled to the left until her furry cheek smooshed against the hard, smooth floor. Thunk! Or to the right. Thunk! And Aldrig forbid if she attempted to shake it all away! Her brain sloshed around in the most frightful manner, making the world spin around her.

    This was the most magnanimous affair.

    Somebody ought to have made a maxim about feeding sleeping dragons. Then she would have known better than to share her sticky buns! Ah! Her beautiful sticky buns! All gone. Never to be seen again. The little fox rogue already forgot the disappointing aftertaste. They had been her sticky buns. Her honey-coated deliciousness! Driggy had no business snatching them all up like that. Who knew a statue could be such a big fan of honey, anyway? And what on earth had possessed the statue to become real? Whatever was in that honey syrup. And that something was still currently rumbling around in her tummy.

    Oh boy.

    Was she turning into stone?

    Maybe that's why she couldn't get up.

    What on earth would the Oracles do with a stone fox? She'd hardly take the place of the massive dragon. No child would stare in awe at her tiny little form and scoot forward one step at a time to stroke her toe on a dare. They'd probably sit on her. Use her for a step stool. Or worse! Colour on her with paints. Maybe years from now some little thief would come scurrying in with those sticky buns and smash one against her mouth. Then she would crackle and come to life with a horrid mustache etched onto her adorable snout! She shrieked-- a gurgling, strangled yelp-- and patted her nose with her paws to assure herself nothing like that had transpired.

    'Twas then she heard the voices.

    ---

    "But is it a blessing or a curse?" Ada mused, her keen grey eyes roving over bits of broken column.

    Ceris frowned. "Nothing like this has ever happened before." The three females paused to wonder at a leaning obsidian baluster. The middle had been crushed in, most probably by one of the dragon's wings. Dagor pressed on into the temple, reaching out his hand once more to light the closest torch mounted on one of the inside columns. He stopped short and gasped.

    "What is it?" chimed his sisters. But they too halted upon entering.
    "Oh my god," Bryne breathed at last.

    ---

    Something clicked within Nym's head, switching off her melodramatic tendencies in favour of clear, logical reasoning. She had to get out of here before she was seen! Picking herself up off the ground, the fox made a mad dash for her clothes, snatching them up in her jowels in one fell swoop. Well, they weren't technically her clothes. The last time she'd transformed, she'd been forced to abandon... but those technically hadn't been hers either. In fact, Nym couldn't remember the last time she'd worn something actually belonging to her.

    Backing up towards the safety of the pillars, Nym tugged the pilfered clothes out of sight seconds before the Oracles broke upon the scene. She dropped the clothes in a pile and crawled into the over-sized tunic. In moments, the rogue transformed once more, shoving spindly arms through armholes and standing to hike up her trousers. Before she could fully orient herself, though, two pairs of hands seized her upper arms.

    "Lemme go! Lemme go!" Nym screeched and kicked blindly as they dragged her out and into the dim light of the torch.

    "Got someone here, m'lord!" called out the temple guard on the left. "They was sneaking around the pillars just now."

    Instantly, four sets of eyes bore down on the little redhead. Nym could just make out the frowns etched above each chin. She kicked again and struggled within the vise-like grasp. Hells! Why didn't she check the area before morphing? Sloppy, stupid Nym! "I ain't done nothing!" the rogue protested. This time, the guards forced her onto her knees to keep her feet from flying every which way. One hand released its grip to sink into her short hair and yank her head up.

    "Where's the statue?" the heavy-set Ada demanded, bending over to thrust her prickly chin into the werefox's face.

    "I don't know nothing!" Nym insisted, pulling back as far as she could to get away from the Oracle. The guard tugged her hair. Nym tilted her head back and shot him a dirty glare. "Ouch! Cut that out!"

    "What are you doing here, child?" Bryne asked a bit more pleasantly.

    "Just passing through. On the way to the festival," Nym lied. "I ain't done nothing, now lemme go!"

    Dagor closed his eyes for a moment, as if listening intently for a whispered word. Or sniffing, as it turned out to be. "Child, you've been here many times before, haven't you? Your prints are rank in this place."

    Chills raced down Nym's spine, eliciting a cold sweat. Oh gods, oh no! Could the Oracle see everything she'd done/taken in this place?

    "I can feel the radiance of the dragon hot on your skin," he continued, eyes still firmly closed. "Candles? No, candlestick. And... a sticky bun. You were the last to touch the dragon."

    "Where is the statue?!" Ada repeated. "What did you do with Aldrig's statue?!"

    "I ATE IT!!!"
     
    #6 Lady Alainn, Oct 22, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
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  7. The last thing he expected to see was her surrounded on all sides by people, pinned firmly to the ground, head wrenched back like someone was about to go for her jugular. His eyes glowed brighter, and the conversation bloomed before his ears. "Where is the statue? What did you do with Aldrig's statue!?"

    Oh dear. It hadn't occurred to him that his statue might be important, although he probably would have reached that conclusion if he had thought about it. His statue had been the center of that grand temple, and hundreds of thousands of people had come to brush past him. Of course, no one knew that statue had actually been their god, trapped in a self-imposed paralysis until the cure found its way to him. No mortal would ever think about such a thing. The gods weren't beings who became ill, and they certainly weren't so down-to-earth as to actually ever touch the earth. He remembered that much from before the blight.

    It was a good thing he had decided to check in when he did. Much longer, and the little climber probably would have gotten herself hurt. The guards looked ready to start breaking bones, and that was nothing compared to the face of the woman who was practically spitting on the climber in fury. Well, if this wasn't a situation from which she could extract herself, Aldrig would simply have to do it for her. His power had returned to him in its entirety, and while his will might be a bit weak after being so long neglected it was certainly nothing that would stop him from dealing with a few little humans. The mighty form of the dragon seemed to fold in on itself, gracefully compressing down until all that was left was the form of a man, standing in midair. He was solidly built, undoubtedly tall, with tan skin and flowing black hair that almost seemed to be more fire than fiber in the way it floated around his head in the high air. His hands were shoved into the pockets of neat, dark clothes, cut to fit his form but without any obvious style. He remained there for but a moment, cool, dark eyes surveying the ground far below him, before his form seemed to turn incorporeal for an instant before vanishing from sight.

    He reappeared at the door to the temple. Or, rather, what had been the door. Now all that remained was a gaping hole in the wall, and blocks of obsidian scattered about everywhere. He really had made quite the mess. He'd have to remember to clean that up before he left. And put another statue in place. This place had sheltered him well for nearly three millennia, and it would be a shame to leave it in such a state of ruin. Right now wasn't the moment to worry about that, though. His little climber was in need of some assistance, and it would be poor repayment for him to let her get hurt after she had been so kind as to bring him his cure, on purpose or not.

    He stepped into the full light from the torch, and a nearby guard yelped in surprise, swinging a spear his way. Aldrig didn't even blink, but did come to a halt. Something in his posture made it remarkably clear that he had come to a stop at this location because he had wanted to, and not because there was a little piece of metal and wood leveled at his chest. His eyes swept the room, cold and haughty. He had a feeling that these four people were supposed to be powerful, important people. As far as people went. Therefore, his words were directed to them.

    "Thank you for taking care of my fox," he said, voice low and rich. "But you can release her now." There was no question that his words were not a request, but an order.
     
  8. The Oracles did not have a chance to figure out how the girl could have eaten the statue, if she'd actually eaten the statue, or what could have possibly possessed her to even think of trying it. And good thing, too, for it was such a perplexing matter they had no clue how to go about asking her questions without feeling absolutely ridiculous. People just don't eat statues. Especially enormous statues depicting gods that are under constant guard. Nym sat back on her heels as much as she could while dangling between the two guards as the Oracles retreated in a huddle. The rogue couldn't help but beam with pride over her cleverness and offered the guards looming over her a cheeky, smug grin. How very quick and clever she was to stump them so!

    Of course, her confession had been blurted in a moment of blind panic with no intention of being crafty at all. What else could she have possibly shouted about with images of golden, syrupy sticky buns still dancing around her head? Stupid Driggy, taking all her hard-earned buns like that. Outside in the courtyard, a fire-boomer sizzled and shrieked into the night sky-- much like a dragon, Nym thought to herself, with a long, green tail. It popped, crackled, exploded, and bathed the crowds beneath it in a sickly green cast. She wondered what the statue-turned-real was up to now. Probably sitting on a rooftop perch watching the fire-boomers and licking his claws of the last crumbs while she sat here practically chained in irons for minding her own business. Some kind of god-statue he wa--

    Suddenly, a hand broke through her inner musings and clamped onto her forehead. Nym started and let out a yelp as Dagor's face came into focus with Ada's prickly chin not far behind.

    "Black sorcery!" Dagor declared. "She bewitched the dragon, I can see it in her eyes!"

    Ada thrust a beefy finger into the rogue's nose, "Quick! Bind her hands!"

    Ceris wrung her hands at this turn of events, her willowy form weaving back and forth from Dagor's side to Ada's. "She's just a child, be gentle with her. She's only a child!"

    "Child or not, she should be taken to the dungeons!" Ada retorted.

    More ordering and shouting ensued, but all poor Nym was aware of was the rough way the guards slammed her face into the ground and jerked her arms back behind her as she screamed bloody murder.

    And this was the scene the dark gentleman entered upon.

    The precise moment his mouth opened, the flurry of activity ceased as if they'd all been caked with the frosty breath of an ice dragon. Even Nym stopped her protesting, a lusty yell catching and strangling in her vocal chords, and raised her head to stare at the man. Slowly, the four Oracles turned around and every eye was now upon the stranger.

    Ada was, as usual, the first to find her voice. "Fox?" she echoed blankly.
     
    #8 Lady Alainn, Oct 26, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2015
  9. His arms folded across his chest. His foot tapped once. Impatient. Briefly one arm unfolded from its place of rest to lift an imperious finger which was pointing... directly at Nym.

    "Yes. My fox." Aldrig's patience was rapidly wearing thin. "Release her. Now."

    Still the Oracles hesitated. The three women pressed closer together, forming into something of a huddle. "He must be the sorcerer behind this," Bryne whispered.

    Ceris nodded. "The child is merely a runner."

    Ada's face suddenly transformed into a fearsome glower, and she pointed her finger back at the man in black. "ARREST H--" Adred's face darkened ferociously, but before the woman could complete her words the lone man's hand flashed out, firmly muffling the remainder of the sentence. One hand pressed firmly against the woman's shoulder, he dropped to one knee, dragging his sister down along with him.

    "My siblings," he said, calm but firm. "We are in the presence of an avatar of the Mighty One." Bryne and Ceris, trusting their brother's words completely, gasped in surprise and dropped to the floor as well.

    For his part, Adred had already grown tired of this game. He snapped his fingers, and the guards holding Nym jumped back in surprise, letting out yelps of pain and shaking their hand as though to dislodge a bug that had just bit them. Nym, obviously, was untouched.

    "Thank you," Adred said, although there was nothing grateful in his tone. It was far more like a parent rebuking a child, reminding them that they should have obeyed without question a lot sooner.
     
  10. Everything happened way too quickly for Nym to fully trust what was going on. Her head bobbed and nodded, following each passing remark from Oracle to Oracle to Dark-Stranger-Who-Looked-Way-Too-Creepy to Oracle back to Creepy Stranger again. He looked... almost familiar in a way, but completely foreign to her at the same time. Who the heck was he and why did he want her? His fox? How'd he know about that? Nym was nothing but guarded in regards to her secret other identity. And why did he seem to think he owned her? She'd never seen the bloke before in her entire life! Besides, who'd want to help an ol' street urchin like herself?

    But before she could even ponder that one out in her noggin, things took off in a most unexpected direction. Down bowed the Oracles in a prestigious reverence. Up jumped the guards in a state of frenzy and shock, leaving the little rogue quite free to scram! It seemed like, if she could rightly believe her eyes, it was just at a finger snap of the dark gent, too! Just like that, eh?

    Well, now she knew she didn't like him one bit! Some kind of sorcerer he must be, though ol' Dagor had called him an avatar of Driggy. She doubted that one muchly, and even if it were true, it only made her trust him less. No doubt he wanted her for some nefarious purpose! Nym scrambled to her feet the second the guards let go, a large, red splotch across her cheek and temple from where her head had been smashed into the floor by their rough hands. She took one look at the creepy stranger before high-tailing it out of there for the nearest pillar.

    The guards couldn't much catch her with their limbs all flying about and neither could the Oracles with their heads bowed so low. They'd be stuck like that until the dark gent told 'em they could stand back up! Nym laughed at them all in her head with naught but a gleeful grin smeared from ear to ear to betray her. In moments her arms wrapped around the bulk of an obsidian baluster. Her bare toes gripped the slick surface and she shimmied herself up towards the rafters. Up and out, that was the best way of things she always found. No one in this city could climb like she could, no sirree!

    But she hadn't climbed up very far when the most peculiar scent wafted by her nostrils. Her nose twitched. She paused her ascent to sneeze and it hit her again. Was that... was that the scent of sticky buns? She sniffed again, her sense of smell not quite equal to that of her foxy snout but still far superior to an average human's. Sticky buns! Startled, wide eyes blinked and shot back to the dark man below. Slowly, things began to make a sort of sense in her head.

    Driggy?

    No, no it couldn't be! He'd been a dragon!

    Her hold on the pillar weakened, and with no more than a quiet "Oomph!" she plummeted to the ground and landed smack! on her bottom.
     
  11. "Nice of you to return so promptly," Aldrig said softly to Nym, a faint trace of laughter entering into his voice. The words seemed directed to her, very personally, and with the confusion of clattering armor as the guards worked their way back to their feet, the sound of the explosions outside, and the hissing of a whispered conversation between the oracles on the floor, it was highly probable that no one but Nym heard his words. Then, without further word or glance, Aldrig's attention turned away from Nym and back to the room at large.

    "Thank you for your... cooperation." Something in his tone implied that this word might have been a little generous. "I will be sure to repair all the damage and make you a new statue before I leave." Other than those words, he ignored the people on the floor and the guards, who seemed torn between a desire to throw themselves at Aldrig to avenge their wounds and terror at the fact that their leaders (who were starting to look very irritated with the whole affair) were kneeling with their heads to the floor. A couple of them dropped to their knees as well, not knowing what else to do, while others slowly back away.

    Aldrig cared little for their reactions, but rather beckoned Nym over and turned to go. However, before he could even take two steps, the male who was kneeling on the floor, who at least had the sense to recognize a portion of his power without Aldrig being forced to reveal it, shot to his feet, crying out. "WAIT!"

    Aldrig paused, turning back to face the man. There was the faintest traces of a scowl on his lips, and one eyebrow was lifted slightly in irritation. The man immediately reconsidered his attitude, and bobbed his head slightly, "Please... my lord." The words seemed to cost him rather a lot, and Aldrig's lips quirked slightly in amusement. He had forgotten how entertaining people could be, especially when they were in the presence of someone much stronger than them. "Why has Lord Aldrig sent you? He gave us no warning that such an event would occur, or we would have better prepared for your arrival."

    A brief look of surprise crossed Aldrig's face for a moment, before it was muffled behind a mask of indifference. It did not surprise him that these people did not recognize him as their god. That was only to be expected, and had frequently occurred when Aldrig had appeared in front of people, before the blight had forced him to enter into a state of petrification. No, what surprised him was that these people were acting as though they expected Aldrig, expected him, to actually speak to them. He laughed slightly, a deep, full sound that echoed around the room. "Give warning? Why would he?"

    Around the room, the guards stirred in surprise. Dagor stiffened, and a red flush of fury crept up his neck. "We are Aldrig's loyal servants, his tools on earth," the Oracle professed boldly. "His voice guides us in matters of leading this holy Quintopolis, dedicated to his name."

    "His voice guides you," Aldrig repeated, voice stained with amusement. "Is that so?"

    "It is." Ada said stiffly, having risen from the floor along with her two sisters to stand by her brother's side.

    This time Aldrig laughed in earnest. "Then, as you say," he said, sounding like an adult placating a child. "I have neither the desire nor the time to correct you of your delusions."

    Now not only Dagor but all of the Oracles were turning red in the face from contained fury. Ada, in particular, seemed only an instant away from exploding, but all of them could feel the sudden pressure in the room as Aldrig's expression transformed into a glower, daring them to move against him. The few guards that dared to look up from the floor and met either Aldrig's or one of the Oracle's eyes dropped their head back to the floor immediately, in sudden fear for their life.

    "Come," he said to Nym. "It is time to leave this place." Once more he turned to leave, and no one, Oracle or guard, dared try and stop him. Around his head, his hair flared out, before transforming into glowing obsidian. The broken railing began to fix itself as the wall in front of them pulled itself back together. In the middle of the room the ground began to heave, and Ceris, along with a number of guards, was forced to throw herself out of the way to avoid the body of the stone dragon that was growing in the middle of the floor. By the time Aldrig made it to the door, the entire place looked exactly as it had before he had awoken, down to the smallest trace of detail on the dragon's snout. His hair softened, before cascading back down around his shoulders.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  12. Besides the jarring her tailbone took-- which would undoubtedly turn into a lovely shade of purple in a day or two by the feel of it-- Nym hopped to her feet relatively unhurt, only a good bit shaken. Something about the dark gent's tone and the way he made it seem like he knew her inside and out gave her the shivers. Only one person had ever gotten that close to her, and he'd been a statue. But this guy had an air of power and authority about him which put the Oracles to shame, and a feat like that was pert near impossible. In fact, she wasn't so sure she'd fallen down the pillar on her own right. He'd probably done something with those magic fingers of his to flick her off like a pesky little bug! Nym didn't know just how much power he had, but she felt fairly confident he could squish her like a bug just as easily.

    She shivered again. Gosh darn it all, what was she still doing here? The Driggy imposter had everyone in rapt attention. She should be running before somebody noticed her again! It wasn't like her feet had been glued... Nym picked up one foot, wiggled it around, and then switched it out for the other. Both worked just fine. Okay then. It wasn't like her feet had been glued down to keep her here!

    Dagor's heated words rose above her thoughts, echoing throughout the many-pillared chamber, "... voice guides us in ... holy Quintopolis ... his name."

    Fire-boomers wailed and crashed against the night sky, momentarily lighting up the temple and the faces within it with each pop and sizzle. Boy, did Dagor look like he'd eaten a goat! And the dark gent, he just stood there completely cool and unaffected. Smooth. Maybe a bit amused? Oh dear. Nym slunk around the column out of sight of the little group huddled inside.

    Brown eyes darted this way and that, taking in each shadowy escape down the temple mount. She could make a mad dash for the crowds out front and hope to get lost in them. Or off to her right on the other side of the courtyard loomed the magnificent houses belonging to the Oracles and the temple priests. The third one in had an alley running by it, and if she scrambled up onto the crates that always sat behind it to get to the roof of the building behind, it'd be a clean run back to the town hall's clock tower. Then she'd truly be safe! After a nice snooze, when all of this blew over and proved to be a nightmare, she could head back to the temple and see that nothing changed.

    The voice spoke directly at her again, though the man stood a good few yards in front of her, eliciting a rupture of chills and pricklies down her neck and spine. Yes, yes! Time to go, before a certain someone started pointing fingers in her direction! Nym dropped to her knees and tucked her head to make herself as small as possible. She didn't need to see where she was going, the little rogue knew this city and all of its quirks like the back of her hand.

    But before she could lunge for the ring of columns lining the outside of the temple, the whole ground started shaking as the broken pillar next to her groaned and straightened itself up! "Eeep!" Nym scrambled to her feet once more to get out of the way of the hailstorm of debris whirling past her towards the damaged entrance. The entire temple seemed to pull itself together in a matter of seconds, a second earthquake rocking the epicenter as a statue as equally magnanimous as the first broke through the temple floor to replace Driggy.

    Her jaw dropped, her limbs hung limply by her side. In the middle of it all walked the Driggy-ness with almost a cloud of glinting obsidian about his head, straight towards her. The Oracles may have thought she'd been a part of a sorcerer's scheme all along, but the fox-girl knew the man smelling like sticky buns had come picking on her to start one. And there was nothing she could do about it.

    "Gods above," she murmured, still completely dumbfounded to know she was saying anything at all, "how'd you pull a stunt like that?"
     
  13. As Aldrig stepped out of the temple, he sighed slightly. There was no doubt, now that they were away from his presence, that "sense" would soon be returning to those four who were, most likely, the current leaders of this temple. Soon enough, they would come up with reasons to doubt what had just happened, reasons to proclaim that he was an impostor, a villain. They would reassert their control over the Quintopolis, as they had called it, and reaffirm their divine connection with the heavenly Aldrig. Perhaps most ironic was the fact that they would likely discredit their own god in the process.

    Once, he would have found it highly amusing, and would have likely tampered with the whole process. This was not the first time that people had decided to push their own importance and, in doing so, distance themselves from their real god, while raising an image of a false version of one of the true gods. During the time before the blight, he and the other gods had always punished those who had taken it too far. It was odd to see how such a thing now allowed those who simply proclaimed their power to rule unchallenged, simply from the fact that the god did not smite them down.

    Not that Aldrig intended to do any smiting. At this point, he was ready to simply go see what had happened to his family. Once, of course, he paid his debt to the little fox. He turned to glance at her, wide eyed and gape jawed, as she spoke. She reminded him so much of Verdini it was almost impossible to bear. He had looked at Aldrig like that sometimes. Minus the distrust, of course.

    Now that he no longer needed to keep the Oracles and guards under his control, the presence of power faded from around him. The unearthly glow left his eyes, and the faint static that had filled his hair faded completely, leaving nothing but a straight, glossy black mane that nearly touched the middle of his back. He smiled at her, and the trace of amusement never left his grin. But, rather than the mocking amusement he had directed at the oracles, this was a warm amusement at a friend who hadn't quite gotten the joke yet. In that moment, it might have been almost possible to mistake him for some street entertainer in formal costume.

    "You too?" Aldrig asked, the corners of his eyes wrinkled in good humor. "I would have thought you, at the very least, would have recognized me, after all the time you spent sitting on my head. Or perhaps I need to swallow you again before you'll remember me?" He chuckled slightly, before holding his hand out in front of her. A point of light began to float in front of him, while the air was drawn towards the point. A sticky bun formed in his hand a moment later.

    "I believe I owe you one of these?" he asked, offering the bun to Nym. If anything, the god seemed even more amused now than he had only a moment before. "Hopefully the real honey will make up for the fact that I stole your first ones."




    Back in the temple, Aldrig's prediction was coming true with near alarming rapidity. Dagor pulled himself huffily to his feet, before staring after the figures that had vanished through the doorway. Every basic instinct inside of him screamed at what that man had been, but his conscious mind dismissed it. No. Impossible. He and his sisters were Aldrig's chosen, fated to rule over this city. They had heard his divine voice, and had ruled this city for him. There was no way that the things that monster had said were true. He was but a demon, trying to whisper corrupting words and destroy everything they had built.

    Of course. That was it.

    Dagor straightened his back momentarily, before turning to his sisters, who had likewise brought themselves back to their feet and were gathered together into a group. He met Ada's eyes for a brief moment, before bowing in front of his sisters. "Please, sisters of mine, forgive me for my mistake."

    Bryne hurried forward, rapidly pulling Dagor up from his bow. "Dagor!" she proclaimed. "What is the meaning of this?"

    Dagor quickly straightened concealing his grimace. He had experienced more than enough bowing for today, but this was necessary. He had to fix this immediately. "Forgive me, for I misguided you. In the haste of the moment, I thought that creature that stood before us an avatar of Aldrig."

    "You mean he wasn't?" Ceris asked.

    "No. His power might have felt like our Divine Master, but his words betrayed him. That was no avatar of the divine, but a demon, a monster of the mist risen to destroy our city and feast in the chaos."

    Bryne gasped. Ada met Dagor's eyes, before glancing at the guards. The men and women who had scattered around the room as the temple had been restored now stood, gathered together in huddles, watching the Oracles speak.

    "Of course," Ada replied, her nostrils flaring in fury. She turned to face the room at large, and, in particular, the guards. The most important thing at the moment was making sure that word of this incident did not spread beyond this room. There were already too many witnesses. "Even now, witness how the demon's corruption begins to spread. Observe how our once faithful guards look at us, like we were the monsters. Us, who have led this city in eternal faith to Aldrig's wishes. Us, who have never wished ill will upon any. Only a few words from that possessed monster of the mist, and already they begin to doubt us. O, merciful Aldrig, grant these poor men the power to see through the corruption that has clouded their vision, and do not judge them too harshly for their mistake."

    The guards had frozen, eyes wide. Many were bowing now. More flung themselves upon the floor, reciting one of the holy litanies, begging for strength. None saw Ada's brief smile as she stepped forward. "Nay, my children, rise. All is forgiven."

    "All is forgiven," Dagor, Ceris, and Bryne repeated in the background.

    "It grants me great joy," Ada began, lifting one of the nearby guards to her feet. "To see that the monster's power is not so great that honest words of the faithful could not shatter his dark spell. I am so sorry, my children, that in your loyal duty to this temple and to the Great God Aldrig that you became exposed to such a heinous curse that could so beguile the mind. The efforts of myself and my siblings has helped in lifting the curse, but still I sense that it lingers on within your minds."

    At this moment, Dagor stepped forward, drawing his two other sisters with him. "Do not fear, sons and daughters. Your loyalty to Aldrig will grant you the power to continue to resist this curse, no matter how insidiously it may try to wind into your mind. However, you must act with great care. There is no telling how easily this curse may now spread. It is possible that the seed, once planted, no longer needs the planter's tending to spread noxious weeds of unfaithful thought over this city. It is possible, nay probable, that even speaking of this event to others could pass this curse on, for such is the guile and great power of the monsters of the mist."

    Bryne's face was ashen, but there was no quaver in her voice when she finally spoke, only deep concern. "We were here to grant you absolution, but were you to accidentally curse one of your own comrades when a priest of Aldrig was not there to intervene and restore his or her faith... Were that curse to then spread further from that one slip of the tongue." Bryne's face, already ghostly, turned a whiter shade of pale. "Oh, I fear what would come of our poor city!"

    "We shan't say a word, my lady," one of the guards swore. The others quickly murmured their assent.

    "Thank you for your faith." Dagor said. "My sisters and I must now retreat to the Hall of Communion. We shall consult with Aldrig, and gain His guidance in how to approach this matter. Remain vigilant, faithful, and keep eye on your thoughts, lest the curse start to spread again. Should you begin to sense the traces of its return, find a priest and have yourself once more purified. May his power grant you the strength to overcome this dark trial."

    "May his power grant us strength," the guards repeated, as Dagor, Ada, Bryne, and Ceris turned and left the room.
     
    #13 Peregrine, Nov 11, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2016
    • Like Like x 1
  14. As the strange man's aura dwindled into something a bit more manageable to comprehend, the trance which had settled over the little rogue also melted away to leave her un-foggied and in full possession of her faculties. Nym's jaw snapped shut and she rubbed her eyes vigorously to remove the remaining effects of the stupor. He was still looking at her. His gaze burned away at her hairline as she hid behind her fists, though not with impatience like with the Oracles, but with laughter. As if he found her thoroughly amusing and was about to scratch her behind her ears.

    If gods did things like that. Nym didn't know, she'd never actually met a god before. She'd always thought them too terrifying to stop and romp around with a lesser being for the heck of it. Just like the dark gent had been not moments before. He'd cowed Oracles and set the temple to rights after Driggy destroyed it. He certainly acted like she imagined a god back there. Yet here he was, smelling like sticky buns and chuckling beguilingly at her.

    She risked a peek above her knuckles.

    Wexing whiskers, he was laughing at her!

    Like she imagined Driggy might after one of her jokes.

    Maybe, just maybe, the dark gent and Driggy the dragon really were one and the same. His eyes had lost their stern intensity and instead turned upon her with the ease of familiarity. They looked like the dragon statue's eyes did sometimes. And the most convincing proof of all? Deep down inside, Nym knew she knew him. With that recognition, her whole body relaxed in one collective sigh. Fine. If he played buddy-buddy with her, she'd play buddy-buddy right back.

    "Oh sure, scare the poor fox half to death and then expect her to go waltzing off through daisy fields with you the next minute!" she retorted, shoving her hands under her armpits with a scowl. Gosh, it felt good to give him a good talking to for the trouble he put her through! All of the fright, confusion, and bundled up nerves welled up from her belly and spewed out in an excited lecture:

    "Last time I saw you, you were a dragon. A draaaaaaaagon! And not just any dragon, but a stone one. A statue. Something that isn't supposed to suddenly crack open and wreck havoc on an ancient temple because he got a taste of a fake sticky bun. And then, to top it off, I got eaten by this stone dragon and I was all worried about poisons and turning into stone and just when I thought I knew what the heck was going on, some guy jumps me and kneads me into the ground while the four most prominent people of the Quintopolis decide on whether or not they need to behead me or lock me up for a good twenty years! Plus, you ATE all my sticky buns without even saying thank--- Oh!"

    Her flow of words abruptly stopped as she fixated on Driggy's glowing palm. It shimmered, grew, and finally materialized into the most perfectly shaped sticky bun she'd ever seen in her entire life.

    "Oh!"

    Honey! Was that real honey? She closed her eyes and took a good, long whiff. Honey...

    Nym slowly opened her eyes and realized she'd bent almost double with her chin resting against Driggy's hand, her nose practically buried in the golden deliciousness settled on his palm. She'd seen illusionist food before and knew better than to take it at face value, no matter how convincing it appeared. It could look like the real thing, smell like the real thing, feel like the real thing, taste like the real thing, but once it slipped past the mouth and into the tummy it had no more substance than the air around it. Why? Because that's exactly what magic food was: a glorified chunk of air with special effects. This one, however, made her drool.

    Gods could make real things out of thin air, right?

    She poked it, going cross-eyed to keep the bun in focus. It sprang back just like a sticky bun should.

    "Oh!" Nym exclaimed a third time. Her tongue snaked out to lick her lips. "Real honey, you say?"

    Driggy did owe her a sticky bun, and if anyone could make real food from nothing, a god could! Besides, her stomach rumbled in anticipation for the treat. That settled it. Nym swooped upon the unsuspecting sticky bun like a vulture bent upon its unmoving prey, stuffing as much pastry into her mouth as her jaws would allow. Oh, how heavenly! Oh, such divinity in one tasty little morsel! Oh, the yumminess! Oh... Wait, hadn't she just scolded a god for not having manners?

    Swallowing half of her mouthful, one cheek bulging, Nym managed a muffled, "'ank 'ou!" Another swallow to clear the rest of it. "You're magnanimous!"
     
    • Love Love x 1
  15. While before only a half smile had played his way across his lips, now Aldrig broke out into a full smile as he watched the way the sticky bun seemed to physically draw Nym forward. Doubtless the fox would have decided that she was being teased if she could have seen his expression, but she seemed far too busy with the bun to have any concern for what he was doing. For the moment, he was just as glad that she had been distracted from her previous line of conversation. Aldrig would certainly tell his little climber the debt he owed to her, but, if at all possible, he would rather not have to do it while he was still in close proximity to the Temple. The whole place fairly hummed with magic to those attuned to its presence, and some of it was undoubtedly meant to watch and record what was taking place. This was information that Aldrig would rather not have spread far, if at all possible. More because it would likely put Nym in danger than because such information would be inconvenient to him, though.

    Once the bun was out of his hand and halfway secured within Nym's mouth, Aldrig nodded. "You are welcome. Now, perhaps we could leave this place and go somewhere else? I'm quite done with this temple, nice as it is."

    If there was one thing Aldrig could say for sure, it was that he wouldn't miss this place. It was, as he had said, a nice enough place, but Aldrig figured anyone had the right to get tired of somewhere if they had spent a couple dozen centuries trapped there. If it wasn't for the fact that he had no particular desire to make a mess of a city that had harbored him for so long, Aldrig might have destroyed the place, simply for the pleasure of finally seeing something else put here.
     
  16. Nym threw him an incredulous look. "You want to go somewhere else? At the start of the millinal... mellanial... millon... melinal... biggest festival in a thousand years?"

    Was he joking? He must be. Sticking her fingers in her mouth one by one, she sucked off the excess honey and rubbed her hands dry on her tunic. It crinkled funny and stuck to her stomach where the fake honey had oozed down earlier. She definitely needed a bath later tonight. But not now! She had feasting to do and presents to collect from unsuspecting carts! Her heart pitter-pattered in anticipation of all the lovely little things she would collect tonight. Already the fire-boomer show drew its last breath, exhaling the remaining dazzlers and poppers in huge puffs of smoke and explosions. It was time for the other festivities to start!

    "Aren't you even just a liiiiittle bit curious what they do to celebrate you... you... doing something so magnanimous they have to party for a week? No other god has a festival like this one. People come from all over the world sometimes, not just the Quintopolis! And this year is especially big since it's the mill... mall.... really important anniversary. I bet even some priests from Gottam's temple decided to get in on it this year! Then again, no other god saved the world or invented chocolate or whatever it was like you did. You deserve a bit of attention because of that, I guess. "

    Hopping down a few of the steps, Nym pirouetted and sprang over the last set before turning back to study the man dressed in black. Her head tilted to one side, then the other in contemplation. "You really are the god, right? I'm not still hallucinating or something from the sticky bun imposter? Oh boy! Maybe I am! Maybe I fell asleep or got bewitched or something and I'm still snuggled on top of the dragon statue and I just think all this is happening to me. Hmmm.... but it sure felt real with those guards. My face still feels a little numb in places..." the girl paused to rub at her jaw and grimaced. It felt terribly sore. Too sore for a dream.

    Driggy did have a good point about staying too long in one spot. It wasn't the best idea hanging around on the temple steps waiting for the Oracles to come back out and decide to arrest her after all. A hiding place would be good, especially one that the guards wouldn't think of if they searched for them. Right now they stuck out like a sore thumb, two lone figures outside the temple on a hill. The courtyard before them also lay bereft of life apart from the line of used fire-boomers smoking across the outside boundary. Just below the fire-boomers were the stairs down into the main street and in the main street and beyond was a flood of heads all bobbing this way and that as they dispersed after the light show.

    Within that crowd, one little rogue and her strange companion could get lost and blend in until the raucous up at the temple settled down. At least until the Oracles forgot about the scrawny teen in rags who'd eaten the statue. That settled it. They must disappear into the festival-goers! She wanted to go and it was their safest option. For now. Nym grabbed his hand with both of her freshly cleaned, greedy little paws and tugged him towards the crowded square like a dog anxious to go for its walk when its owner hasn't quite finished reading the announcements pinned to the town hall door.

    "Come on, let's go! It's the perfect time to show up! Everybody's been hoping you'd make some grand appearance for years and years and years and years and you're finally here! Why else would you pop out of your statue today of all days, hmm? So many things I can show you! There's going to be more sticky buns and mini fire-boomers you can set off yourself without magic and painted masks and painted faces and dragon wings made out of this really soft, silky rose petal stuff and sourdough twisty things and so many beads and jewelry that sparkle like the sun!

    "Follow me!"

    After one last tug, Nym let go of his hand and bounded eagerly across the stone slabs towards the populated area down below.
     
  17. Well, it wasn't exactly the "away" Aldrig had wanted, but it was at least "away" from this particular part of the temple. Which was an improvement over the last couple millennium, so, making progress at least. He had no idea what the people were celebrating. Probably something he hadn't even been involved in, all things considered. He wasn't aware of today being a particularly important day, other than the fact that he had been released. He decided, in that moment, to simply take it as a celebration of that.

    It was only as Nym was scurrying away that Aldrig realized he hadn't even learned his little climber's name. She obviously knew his, everyone did. Perhaps she simply assumed that he knew everyone's name in the world. It would seem in line with her rather frivolous mentality, to believe that a god knew everything, all the time. Of course, if he wanted to, he could find out her name. It was the nature of his domain. But it seemed rather rude to do such an invasive thing to the little climber, especially when she seemed so innocent. Street-wise, sure, but still innocent. How else could she chatter so cheerfully to him after such an experience, and make such enthusiastic expressions?

    It was quite endearing, honestly. Aldrig had never taken much time to interact with mortals, as it quickly became boring to be surrounded by people who were always staring at you in awe-struck admiration, but he found himself already feeling a little bit of attachment to this climber, outside of the debt he owed her. She was carefree in a kind of way that was rare to see anymore, ad everything she did reminded him of a young child. It was simultaneously adorable and charming, a combination that very few mortals would have been able to achieve.

    So instead of questioning her antics, as he doubtless would have done had it been Verdini acting in such a puppy-like manner, Aldrig simply smiled his amusement, tucked his hands into the pockets of his dark suit. "Alright. Show me what this fest is all about."

    Despite the fact that he did not seem to be rushing, in fact, he barely seemed to be moving at more than a leisurely stroll, he still managed to keep pace with Nym's darting pace. In fact, anyone paying close enough attention would have been able to note the way his feet seemed to practically slide across the ground, as though something as trivial as friction had no bearing against him.

    Of course, had Nym been expecting to hide among the crowd, she was soon to find herself sorely disappointed. Indeed, the people at the edge of the crowd found themselves unconsciously parting to allow the god entry to the busy crowd, fitting neatly into the little spaces between their neighbors. People behind those people turned to stare at Aldrig, whispering their confusion to nearby friends, who in turn shook their heads. They didn't recognize the dark stranger either. Whispers turned to murmurs, and people even further away turned their heads to try and catch what all the commotion was about. The little bubble of space grew into a full ring. Eyes followed Aldrig, but none seemed to dare to make eye contact. The fact that Aldrig didn't react to the behavior, as he was obviously used to it, only seemed to fuel the curious voices.

    Who was that man?
     
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  18. Booths lined the main street and crammed into the alleyways. Large tents of brightly coloured cloths boasted everything from handmade toys, to festival lanterns, to exotic woodworking, to good luck charms to hang over doorways to protect from demons. Other booths had more substantial set-ups with thick, wooden beams and roughly constructed counters with fancy cloth runners covering them to appear more like miniature shops than their faire tent relatives. Nym paused before one of the toy tents to stare in awe at the marvelous display. Wooden dragons hung from twine along the top pole of the entryway. Their bodies were made up of nine segments to allow the creatures to bend and slither in the wind. Some of them even blew "fire" from their gaping jaws! But there was no way she could ever afford something as wonderful as those, and the longer she stood there, the harder it became to resist the temptation to snitch one and run. She couldn't afford to be any more high-profile and she already was!

    Reluctantly, Nym moved on to the next tent. This one and its next-door neighbour had an odd assortment of trifles and fancies: dragon kites, pinwheels, ribboned hoops 'n' sticks, and little felt puppets in the shapes of the gods that hung from the corner posts. It made her grin to see the little black figure with even longer black hair which was undoubtedly meant to be Aldrig.

    Then her nose picked up the aromas of slow-roasting boar, sweet popped corn, and the unmistakably fruity smell of fresh-baked pies. Her mouth watered and her stomach growled. Food! Off she skittered, darting here and there as people meandered in and out of her way, leaving holes just big enough for her to slip through. It didn't take long for her to find the epicenter of the delicious smells. And so many different kinds of deliciousness there were! Sausages, pastries, pies, turkey legs, salted twisty dough treats, sugared apples, roasted pork, oranges, glistening grapes, and of course, the fake sticky buns.

    Nym halted, clasping her hands to her chest in delight as she closed her eyes and sniffed in deeply. Ah! So many wonderful things to snitch! What a feast! Just a bite here and there, just some pickings from the corners that no one would notice, that's all she'd help herself to. Well, that's all she really could help herself to considering she'd spent her last farthing on a loaf of bread yesterday to last her through the week. Though she was a rogue, Nym still had morals. No pick-pocketing on Sundays or festival days, no matter how temptingly unguarded people left their money bags. She crept closer to the booth boasting the turkey legs, the lanterns hanging from the corner posts barely catching her in its shadows. No one would miss the small little guy sitting so innocently in picking reach, would they? Her fingers stole towards the steaming turkey leg, her eyes fastened on the woman who was helpfully distracting the merchant with a rather large purchase. Nym waited until his back turned fully away from her to fetch a basket to put the legs in before letting her fingers close around the drumstick...

    "Can I help you, little Missy?"

    Nym jumped as the merchant looked over his shoulder in her direction, the captive leg in her possession in plain view for all to see. Oh, for the love of the gods! What had happened to her cover? Then she realized the two men who'd been towering over her examining the drumsticks had moved aside and the large woman pressing against her elbow was there no longer. Even the woman with her basket of turkey legs had moved quickly out of the way, her eyes staring intently at something just over Nym's shoulder. Something, or someone. And she had a pretty good idea of who that might be. Tilting her head up, Nym could just make out the dark gent silhouetted in the glow of the lantern light. Her eyes trailed down the carefree form and glanced around to see that he'd managed to free up a good three or four foot radius around them despite the crowd and several townspeople had their hands to their mouths, whispering to each other as they looked on.

    Oh, great. Spoil sport. How the hells were they supposed to blend in if he went around spreading his godliness everywhere? And she still had a drumstick in her hand with a very patient vendor holding his hand out for coin. Nym widened her eyes at Driggy and shrunk into her shoulders to make herself appear as young as possible before waving the turkey leg in his face. "Can I have one, Daddy? Pleeeeaaaase?" She blinked innocently up at him and waited.

    If he was going to make her pinching impossible, he could bloody well pay for it. He was a god after all, right?
     
    #18 Lady Alainn, Dec 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2016
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  19. In that moment, Aldrig briefly mused over the fact that a more suitable nickname for Nym than 'the climber' might be 'the eternally hungry one'. Hadn't he just given her a sticky bun? Then again, he didn't really know all that much about the appetites of humans. If this place was anything to go by, it seemed that they needed to eat every few steps. There had been at least one, usually several more, food vendors in sight every step of the way through this maze of humanity.

    He wished that she would have thought to just ask him for one, rather than having to go and take it from someone else and then expect him to... what? He had no idea what either Nym or the man who was now gazing at him expectantly wanted from him. Yet he knew that something was required, and he would have to offer the correct thing if he

    With a mental sigh, Aldrig quickly reached for his power. He had no desire to be so invasive, but it was becoming more and more apparent that he no longer understood the world. If he hoped to participate in it rather than simply observing it, he was going to have to learn its unspoken rules and expectations. The only way to do that at the present moment, was to take the information from the people around him.

    There were no visual indicators of his power in that moment. Thought was not something that could be seen, or heard, or felt. But it was something that could be perceived. It was the prickling on the back of your neck that told you someone was watching, or the tingling that ran down your spine when you realized someone was lying to you. Several people in the surrounding area shivered slightly, while others rubbed the back of their neck. Many of the people who had paused to linger in the area began to move again, uncertain why they were suddenly so uncomfortable. Aldrig's power silently absorbed all that thought, synthesizing it into something useful, before passing back the information that would be the most useful for this current situation. Most significant among that information was the concept of currency and bartering. At least bartering wasn't completely foreign. People had always bartered, except in the past it had been with actual goods, instead of small scraps of metal.

    "Alright," Aldrig agreed, patting Nym briefly on the head before ruffling her hair. If she was going to act like a child, he was going to enjoy treating her like one. He turned towards the vendor, reaching into his pocket to "withdraw" some coins, even as the little iron cylinders materialized in his hand. "I trust this will suffice?" Aldrig asked, proffering the five coins.

    Along with information on currency, he had also gained one other useful piece of information; the vendor's expected prices for his wares. Of course, it fluctuated. That was the nature of bartering. But he still had expectations, and, most importantly, he knew when his own demands were ridiculous.

    "No, sir," the vendor protested, albeit very politely. "At least seven. I can't accept any less and still be able to make a profit."

    Aldrig's eyebrow lifted slightly, and the vendor started to quail. "It's just a drumstick," Aldrig scolded. "Don't take me for a fool."

    The vendor's eyes quickly darted to the side. "R-right you are, sir," he stuttered. "Five'll do just fine."

    Aldrig passed over the coin, before grabbing Nym by the shoulder and politely, but forcefully, steering her away from the stall. "Try to avoid putting me in situations like that," he informed her, voice a little harder than his usual melodic droll. "I paid you back your sticky bun because you were owed it, but I don't like having to materialize things."

    Of course, five little pieces of iron were hardly worth complaining over, but he got the impression that Nym would start asking him to materialize cities if he didn't nip that bud before it bloomed.
     
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  20. "Hey!" Nym squeaked.

    The turkey leg swung dangerously between thumb and forefinger as Aldrig's decisive maneuver interrupted its fated journey. His stern hand upon her shoulder propelled her headlong into the remaining crowd that had not been frightened away by the earlier prickles on their necks, but that wasn't the worst of it. Oh no, not the worst of it at all. He lectured her, like she'd just been a naughty child! He was trying to blame this little mishap all on her? The nerve! If he hadn't been so bloody obvious to begin with, she wouldn't have had to draw attention to the fact that her little fingers somehow found a turkey leg between them. How the heck was she to eat if he wouldn't let her sneak things and he refused to pay for it?

    Nym really was out of luck during The Haven's grand festival week. Normally, the entire metropolis economy centered solely around bartering materials. Joe the farmer worked his back off all day so he could exchange a basket of produce for a hunk of pork from Thaddeus the butcher. Festus the innkeeper traded a bed and washbasin for oddities and exotics from his patrons, and in turn, gave them to the temple priests for his allotment of fine wines from their vineyards. And Nym's part in the grand scheme of things was to wash dishes or beat rugs for anybody for a decent bite of potatoes and cabbage.

    However, that nice little system did not work during festival week. Not when the tradesmen switched over to the new bits of metal Ada instated a few years back to help travellers, well, travel greater distances to take part in the festivities. It made it handy for them, sure. They could exchange their goods and services for coin before they left their homes and not worry about spoiling cabbages or pimply potatoes. It made it handier for the tradesmen here, too, by bringing in a lot more wealth into the great temple city. Just this past year those coins had paid the masons to lay proper tile mosaics in the temple courtyard and reimbursed the metalsmith for the continual need of gilded candelabras for the inner sanctuary. Indeed, Dagor still praised his sister's wisdom and foresight, calling it the best idea of the century. But no matter how splendid they made Driggy's resting place, it did not make it handy for the little fox-girl and her way of life, so she despised the system with every fiber of her being.

    In fact, it was most likely the reason she got into sneaking things in the first place. Those blasted coins.

    That wasn't here nor there, though. Well, technically it was still here because Driggy's brows were still furrowing at her and it was still there because she could still see the rest of the gleaming turkey legs on the butcher's table, but it wasn't the point that needed addressing now. No, that happened to be those first few words out of his royalness's mouth: "Try to avoid putting me in situations like that." Ooooo, how they grated on her nerves!

    Crossing her arms over her chest, Nym tilted her head back and stared right back at him. [The turkey leg was momentarily forgotten, but still clenched in her hand looking very much like a greasy club] "Putting you in situations like that?" she shot back. "If you weren't going around puttin' on airs, I wouldn'ta been caught to begin with! That was all you. I mean, look at your record so far! You've just been de-statuified and all that-- thanks to me, by the way-- and you've already got the oracles all riled up, the priests in a hub-bub, the temple guards all confused, and townspeople so wary of you, you might as well be spoutin' fire. Keeping people a dragon's elbow away from you isn't exactly what I call blending in. If you're afraid to be a human and act like it, you can kindly go your own way and stop drawin' attention to me. It's not like I asked you to keep following me, is it? So you let me do what I do best--" she paused to wave the drumstick as a little reminder-- "so's I can get my food for the week and you practice on brushing up people's elbows if you want to stick around. Deal?"

    On further reflection, Nym probably should have had more respect for the great man looming so disapprovingly over her, or at least a little more tact. She was, after all, running around with arguably the most powerful god in the pantheon. But after befriending the much more fierce-looking dragon and "taming" that beast, the dark gent beside her really wasn't that intimidating. For all his obsidian hair and recreating destroyed temples, he had nothing on his alter-ego.

    ---

    Ceris shifted her weight off of her knees to the back of her heels as quietly as possible to avoid disrupting the others' meditations. The strange events of this most glorious evening continued to trouble her heart, refusing to let her be as satisfied as her sisters with Dagor's assessment of what had transpired. Try as she might, the Oracle could not lose her mind in the intoxicating aroma wafting from the grate of incense in the middle of the inner sanctum. Directly in front of her, Dagor sat cross-legged over the grate, his shawl pulled up and draped over his bald head to trap as many fumes as possible under the hood. Ada was off to the left, kneeling in a similar position as Ceris, and off to the right was Ceris' twin, Bryne. The three of them formed a perfect triangle around their brother, their moaning and soft recitations supposedly ushering him before the presence of the great and mighty Aldrig.

    'But what if he isn't there?'

    She tried to push that nagging thought away, but still it pestered her. What if the man truly had been an avatar of the god? Or perhaps a powerful seer who had a strong connection to their lord. He hadn't felt like a demon. Not that Ceris had ever felt the presence of a demon before, but she was fairly certain a demon wouldn't feel like that. Dagor, of course, had descended into the fog to confront a demon and gain enlightenment and favour from Aldrig before accepting the role of First Oracle, so he would know. She should trust his judgment. But she couldn't.

    Sparks erupted angrily from the embers, making Dagor sputter and cough.

    Ceris's heart raced, capped, then gradually eased back to a normal rate. It was clear her uneasiness was not facilitating the cleansing meditation. If she stayed here longer, there was a chance Dagor might sense her doubts! Fresh air, maybe fresh air would help return her focus. Murmuring a parting prayer, she rocked to her feet and slipped her hands inside the sleeves of her robe to steal silently away. She desperately needed time to think.
     
    #20 Lady Alainn, Jan 7, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016
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