Of Sinners and Saints (IC - Still Accepting)

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  1. Tessa Du'Mont

    The granary was decidedly grim.

    Tessa sat on the edge of the loft, her feet swinging impatiently as she searched the dimly-lit building for inspiration. The walls were lined with tear-like deposits of limescale and rust that looked like bony white fingers in the glow of her candle. The building was square and squat, divided into cell-like recesses used for storing crops during the winter months. However, considering winter only lasted two months and every family in the village harvested more than enough during the year to survive on their own, the building was left unused. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, Tessa thought wistfully, half-turning to face her makeshift workspace.

    The floor was littered with a variety of tools and pieces of parchment. She grabbed one and looked at the carefully-drawn sketch she had started just this morning. This one in particular was a schematic for a tree-tap, which she could use to harvest the heavy, pliable sap from the trees surrounding Saint-Malo. She had months of preparation and testing ahead of her, but she believed she could make a tough, malleable material from the sap that would revolutionize Saint-Malo’s current agricultural practices. “No, not now,” Tessa said firmly, resisting the familiar tug of curiosity that could get her lost for hours at a time.

    She put the parchment down and turned back to the diary in her lap. She considered her final words carefully, eventually settling for “Inda-nur has fallen, and nothing will ever be the same.” Having done this, Tessa hastily snuffed the candle, packed up her things and descended the ladder to the ground floor. She moved dangerously quick through the crumbling building, stepping over fallen rafters and sharp, vague objects that looked like they might have been chairs in a former life.

    She exited through a patch of wall that had fallen years ago, her eyes adjusting to the pink-and-purple glow of the setting sun. “Fuck all,” Tessa murmured angrily and set off at a run through the ramshackle town. Once the sun had fully set, the Council would be finished with their pre-meeting Rituals and no one else would be permitted in the meeting.

    Tessa streamed through Saint-Malo, trying not to let the horrible sights slow her. The fall of Inda-nur had caused immeasurable damage to the small town. Inda-nur had fallen no more than a few miles away, and the resulting shocks had toppled more than half the village. Homes and businesses were destroyed, turned to nothing more than piles of wood and stone. Tessa passed by a man and his children picking through the wreckage of their home, no doubt looking in vain for the body of their wife and mother. Beyond the family Tessa saw the remains of their crop fields, reduced to a bubbling swamp of mud and broken earth, and it took all her strength not to turn around and help them.

    Tessa’s guilt clung to her like shackles, slowing her run to a shambling jog. She felt in no small part responsible for the current crisis facing Saint-Malo. After-all, it was Tessa that had introduced the clay irrigation system to the town. For hundreds of years the crops of Saint-Malo had flourished on the back-breaking labor of its inhabitants, however Tessa was not content with this. Instead of the archaic system the town was content to use - trapping rain water during the rain cycle in large drums and manually watering the crops, Tessa had devised an ingenious system of underground piping that connected to the rain-catchers. The pipes were connected to large clay pots buried under the ground and punched with holes that slowly fed water into the surrounding earth. Despite the initial hesitation, and complete abhorrence from the Council, Saint-Malo had eventually embraced her ideas with unbridled enthusiasm.

    And what had that gotten them? The force of Inda-nur’s fall had rattled the earth like a plaything, destroying the clay piping and drowning most of Saint-Malo’s crops. Not only were homes destroyed and family members lost, but winter was fast approaching and the town had no crops to harvest. The suffering would continue for months to come.

    With these heavy thoughts in tow, Tessa arrived at the Council Hall. The Council Hall was a simple brown building made of hardened mud and reinforced (per Tessa’s recommendation) with stone. The building was large and circular, with a domed roof that made it look like a mound of dirt. Tessa could hear the rhythmic voices of the Council leading the attendees in Ritual within.

    The sun began to dip out of sight over the horizon, and with heart thumping in her ears, Tessa slipped inside.
  2. The earth shakes, as nobody really had a word for something that they’d never experienced, came as an unwelcomed shock to the people of Firyae. The shakes were violent, causing the land beneath them to shake and crackle, knocking the villagers off their feet. Trees fell, as did structures made from the wood of these trees. Marbleize’s eyes darted around in panic, she yelped as she was knocked out of the way of a falling stall, which snapped and broke upon impact with the ground. Hazel eyes wide, she looked at her mother who had a firm grip on her, keeping her in place and trying not to let her be harmed.

    The screams of near bloody murder penetrated the air even after the shakes had stopped. People were shouting, yelling for loved ones as Cara sat back, allowing her child to sit up. Questions of what happened were the most common thing on everyone’s lips as they looked around, searching for people in the rubble. Marbleize, searching for the smallest bit of light in this situation, looked to the sky, hoping that Inda-nur’s presence would give her some solace. Only… “It’s gone…” Her tone was hollow, disbelieving. “B-But it’s still summertime… It-It’s gone…”

    “Marbleize, what are you talking about?” Cara asked, looking around. Marbleize didn’t respond, she only pointed, shakily getting to her feet. Cara’s eyes followed her daughter’s finger, to a place in the sky. The only thing she saw were clouds. Confused, she looked back to her daughter.

    “It’s gone!” She yelled louder, “Inda-nur is gone!” After this had been said, those digging through the rubble for family members, those injured and unharmed came towards her, a small crowd began gathering around them, all looking for answers that only Marbleize seemed to be bringing about. “I-It must’ve fell out of the sky and caused the earth shakes!”

    “Impossible.” A man said, stepping forward. “You’re just as crazy as your father, girl. Inda-nur didn’t fall out of the sky, when the clouds clear that stupid thing will still be up there.” The crowd’s eyes all went to that familiar spot in the sky where they knew Inda-nur rested. A few minutes passed, the sun shining and clouds rolling away. All eyes seemed to widen when it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

    “She’s not crazy, see! See! It’s gone, you stupid man!” An old woman laughed, “Inda-nur has fallen out of the sky!” She entered the crowd, dancing around, “The end is nigh and you’re all the cause of it. You may be far from the capital, but greed is never far from your hearts!”

    “You’re crazy too, old hag!” He said, pointing menacingly at her. “Inda-nur didn’t fall out of the sky! Just go to Saint-Malo, I’m sure they can explain why this happened!”

    “Oh? You really think so?” The old woman laughed, prancing over to Marbleize. “Well alright, let’s make a deal then, shall we?” The woman wrapped her arm around Marbleize’s shoulders, making the girl hunch down. The tan-skinned girl looked to her mother who stared back, a blank look on her face. “You can go down to Saint-Malo and see what’s happened. If what that stupid man says was true, then you return within two days. If it is not however, true and Inda-nur has fallen, then you don’t. Isn’t that simple?”

    “Wh-What?” Marbleize ripped herself from the woman’s grip. “Th-That’s crazy! Why would I do that?”

    “Actually, I think that’s a good idea, Kalaneh.” The man said, making Marbleize flinch at the name. “Go down to Saint-Malo and see what’s happened.”

    “M-Mana?” Marbleize looked to her mother as the crowd agreed with the old woman and the man.

    An hour later, Marbleize found herself standing outside of her village, packed with belongings. She stared back at her mother who was the only one left standing at the limits. “E-Even if Inda-nur has fallen, come back, okay? I don’t care if you have to sneak in.” She said. “I-I’m sorry I can’t go with you, but you already know—“

    “You have an obligation as a healer, I know.” Marbleize nodded. “Okay, see you later, Mana.” Marbleize sighed, turning around and looked at the path. From where she stood, she couldn’t see Saint-Malo and her heart thrummed with anticipation. Even if Inda-nur hadn’t fallen, nothing would be the same. With that, Marbleize set off towards Saint-Malo.
  3. A small cloud of dust rose off the ground, a rock springing forth from it. A rock propelled by the tan boot belonging to a young man. A young man who had recently fell on hard times. His backpack was basically empty, only filled with his own belongings (an extra set of clothes, some food and other necessities) and a quickly diminishing bag of coin. That made him one of the poorest merchants in the land in his opinion. Not that it was at all his fault. A man couldn't sell to people who had nothing, no matter how skilled he was.

    Unfortunately it seemed that spice was not that high in demand. Except for salt that is, used to save some of the bird meat people procured in spring from rotting or adding flavor to a certain dish that might otherwise be bland. Regrettably salt traded at a very low price, so was never worth the weight to carry around on foot. He traded in the more peculiar herbs and spices. These included cinnamon, saffron and even savory, the types of spices that would usually be sold to the more lavish folk of the land, typically the aristocracy in Roubaix. The men and women who hardly ever do anything exerting yet had everything. They were too picky to deal with common persons like him though. They preferred the well off, silk clothed, potbellied men that sat on comfortable pillows all day and traded for gold whereas he traded for coppers and the odd silver.

    With a sigh and a readjustment of the light backpack on his broad shoulders, Eric browsed the horizon, blue eyes gliding over it. The day had been quiet after the tremendous ruckus of the morning. The path empty except for one man, screaming and running past Eric. The man looked like any farmer in the area, although he seemed especially dirty, with a few streaks of red on him. The man had yelled something about Inda-nur, but Eric was unable to get another response from him and wasn't planning on running after a madman.

    He continued on the curling and twisting trail, that led to small town in the distance. He recalled the name to be Saint-something-or-another, though he wasn't really sure. He hadn't travelled this way in a long while, but something had told him that he had to. Perhaps he was just imagining it, perhaps it was the thundering noise or the strange quaking of the earth that prompted it, but he had set off that morning, now quite a few hours ago, after kicking sand onto the small campfire, believing that things would be brighter and better soon.

    His hopes seemed to dissipate like the clouds in the sky as the day dragged on. He saw too many strange things. Parts where the ground seemed cracked open and trees with their roots reaching into the sky like fingers. The clouds that first obscured his view of the magnificent sky city disappeared and left an empty spot in the sky. It was a city he often enjoyed viewing as a child when traveling with his father, yet now it was gone. As far as he knew it only disappeared in the summer, but winter was at the doorstep and the sky was vacant.

    The town soon drew closer and what lay before the man, shocked him deeply. Eric had never seen such chaos. Or at least the aftermath of chaos. Cursing his luck, he tugged his boots free from the muddy ground, trudging forth. The land was soaked, the crops the people tended destroyed. The town itself wasn't in a much better state as far as he could tell. Buildings were leveled, stalls were in shambles and their wares broken. A few townspeople were rummaging through the wreckage, dejected faces searching for belongings or family. He could only guess the man earlier was from here, his eyes flicking to the clear sky.

    'Did Inda-nur cause this?' his mind raced. His backpack felt like it held stones all of a sudden and he knew that there would be no money made here. His business would be destroyed just like this town.
  4. Adrien Brodeur

    Adrien hadn’t taken part in Ritual since he had left Saint-Malo as a child, and so he was surprised to find how ridiculous the whole thing seemed to him now. The Council Hall was comprised of a single, large room and featured rows of curved benches for the attendees that faced towards the center of the room. The eight councilmen sat at two semi-circular desks in the center, separated by a raised dais reserved for the speaker. The platform was currently inhabited by Councilman Lyon, a spindly man with long salt-and-pepper hair drawn into a ponytail behind his back. He wore a deep blue robe and spoke from a leather-bound book in a low and monotonous voice. In his other hand he held a circular candelabrum comprised of eight candles of various heights.

    He spoke of the history of Saint-Malo, how it was believed that Saintonge was once huge and sprawled across the entire surface of the planet. It was said that a man from Saint-Malo had traveled the world, and saw horrible things. He returned to Saint-Malo after many years and warned that the world was dangerous and corrupt, and that a great reckoning was coming to save Saintonge. It is then said that the world was consumed by storms and much of the earth was drawn back into the raging oceans, save what remained of Saintonge today.

    It was a story Adrien had early countless times as a child, and it was as silly now as it was then.

    The rest of the Council sat at the desks surrounding the platform, humming a brooding melody that changed with the ebb and flow of Councilman Lyon’s story. Adrien wondered, and not for the first time, what the significance of it all was. He imagined that even the Councilmen themselves didn’t know.

    It was during Councilman Lyon’s closing lines that the chamber was interrupted by a woman clamoring to find a seat near the main entrance. Adrien recognized her immediately and let out a small, wry grin. “Tessy, you haven’t changed…” From the look on her face, it wasn’t the entrance she had intended, and she held up a hand in apology as she took a seat next to her mother.

    Councilman Lyon continued the final verse of the story without pause, although his eyes remained fixed on Tessa. It was difficult to tell in the flickering glow of the candles, but Adrien thought he saw something dangerous in that stare. Adrien flicked his eyes back towards Tessa. She was not pretty in the typical sense. Adrien had spent many years in Roubaix during his days as a cadet in the army – and those women were pretty. Full hair, large chests and all the right proportions – with enough time and money to fix anything that sagged out of place. Tessa was beautiful in the way that an old church was beautiful – built simple but strong. Built to last. Her dark brown hair was pulled into a messy bun, revealing a plain face that was impossible to read. She was tall and far too muscular for a woman, no doubt due to her incessant tinkering and years of tending the family crops. She wore a simple brown smock and tan leggings in the functional style adopted by many of the smaller villages.

    “As you know,” a new, booming voice pulled Adrien’s eyes away from Tessa and back towards the center dais. It was Councilman Thibault, a man whose deep, confident voice belied his diminutive stature. He was not a physically imposing man – pale and gnomish, with a crooked, gap-toothed smile, but on the stage he seemed larger, more intimidating. “Inda-nur, against all rhyme and reason, has fallen.” The crowd responded with a mixture of agitated yells and weary sighs – yes, we know this, look at what is left of my house, they seemed say. “We know you are struggling, we all are, but that is why you must remain strong. The Council has already sent word to Roubaix for aid – builders to repair your homes, food to feed your families…”

    “When has Roubaix ever given two shits about us?” A man stood up from the crowd, and those around him gasped in shock. It was not appropriate to address the crowd unless you were on the center platform. “And how do we know they will even respond? What if they never send aid?” This prompted a flurry of hushed, nervous whispers.

    “Mind your –“ Councilman Lyons jumped out of his seat, his face flush with anger.

    Thibault quickly rose a hand to silence the crowd, and Lyons, and pointed towards the man who had spoken. “Join me, Alucar.” He motioned towards the platform and the man nervously obliged. “If Roubaix doesn’t respond, then we will seek aid from the other villages. Firyae is but an hour away, and there are others…”

    “That are no doubt facing their own disasters,” Alucar countered, turning away from Thibault to address the crowd. “It could be months before we get help, and we have no food. We need an answer now… You!” He jammed a finger angrily towards the crowd. No, not towards the crowd, but towards Tessa. “This is your fault, Tessa Du’Mont. We listened to you, against the advice of the Council, and now my family will starve. What have you to say for yourself?”

    “Calm yourself, Alucar. This is not a trial-“

    “Perhaps it should be,” Councilman Lyons shouted from his seat, and several of the other councilmen nodded in agreement. Adrien recalled that Tessa had been a thorn in the side of the Council since she was a child, always challenging their tiresome traditions. He imagined that it had only grown worse over the years.

    Tessa stood, and for a moment he saw something raw and vulnerable in her eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared, replaced by the steely, determined look she wore so well. “I don’t have the answers for you,” she began, and this was met with shouts of discontent. “I don’t have the answers, but I will soon. I’ve already begun testing a new material for our irrigation systems…”

    “We don’t need any more of your –“

    “You’re asking the wrong questions,” Tessa interrupted, and she walked towards the center dais. “We are in trouble, and part of that is my fault, but there are bigger questions that need to be answered.” This piqued the interest of the crowd. “Why did Inda-nur fall? How did it get in the sky in the first place? Where does it go?”

    “This is crazy,” Alucar shouted angrily, “Our homes and businesses are destroyed, people have been killed, and you’re worried about Inda-nur?” The crowd murmured agreement, and Adrien cringed. The people of Saint-Malo were a simple lot, concerned only with living long and peaceful lives in the company of friends and family. It was one of the reasons Adrien had left when he did. Tessa would not appeal to them with these big, unanswerable questions.

    “But what if there are people there? What if they are hurt?” This was met with outright laughter from the Council and several people in the crowd. “We must go to Inda-nur at once and –“

    “This foolishness has gone on long enough!” Councilman Lyons barked. “Tessa, see yourself out. We have no need of your blasphemy here, not when there are real problems to solve.”

    Tessa looked out into the crowd, and found no sympathy there. She looked imploringly to her grandfather, Councilman Du’Mont, but he remained as quiet and stoic as ever. “Fine… then…” Tessa blushed deeply and quickly made for the exit. Once she had left, Alucar took his seat and the Council began reassuring the crowd again – help would come, all would be fine. Unable to stand the drabble, Adrien quietly got up from his seat and slipped outside.

    He found Tessa pacing outside, her hands balled into angry fists at her side. She looked up at Adrien, and her mouth dropped, then clamped shut angrily. “Adrien…”

    “Tessa – not now. I’ll go to Inda-nur with you. We leave tomorrow at first light.”
  5. Since arriving when the sun was higher in the sky, she’d been wandering around for maybe a good few hours now. The place was, for lack of a better term, devastated. The murmurs of the people who were searching through the rubble clued her in. Inda-nur had indeed fallen. The shock of finally being right about something nearly knocked her off of her feet. Marbleize rested against the broken wall of a home.

    “Gods…” She mumbled, “I…” She looked back the way she came and remembered seeing the devastation from a distance. Broken homes and places of business were visible and large, indescribable chunk of land was seen in the distance. And now seeing it up close made things even worse. She didn’t dare speak a word to anyone as she walked around. She didn’t want to disturb the people who seemed lost and forlorn, knowing that her help wouldn’t be warranted. However, the further she walked, the more she could hear the chanting.

    Some kind of town ritual was going on. This would be the perfect time to return, wouldn’t it? Marbleize thought back to the old woman’s words. Two days. If she came back after two days surely then she could prove that Inda-nur had fallen, right? “No, that wouldn’t work.” Too absorbed in her thoughts, Marbleize walked straight into a clay wall and toppled over it with a short scream. It seemed as if nobody noticed and Marbleize stayed there for a moment, thinking. Hand to her chin, she turned to get more comfortable and let her legs dangle over the broken half wall.

    If she went back, claiming that Inda-nur had fallen without any proof, she’d be labelled the same way her father was and would be banished from the village. She knew her mother wouldn’t be able to handle that. She had to bring them back from their place on the outskirts of the town. Under no circumstances could she let her mother be ridiculed and sentenced to being regarded as a bad healer, because her mother was a good healer. And she deserved better than a reputation given to her by her husband and now her daughter. Her father wouldn't allow it and neither would she, so what could she do?

    “I got it!” She snapped her fingers, raising her legs in the air, “I’ll just… I’ll go to Inda-nur and bring something back! That way they’ll believe me!” The wall cracked, breaking and falling backwards as she fell down further the remnants of the wall. Another yelp escaped her mouth and Marbleize just laid there for a moment, legs still over the piece of the wall still standing, a new question on her mind. She didn't even seem to mind the fact that her head and back were throbbing from the initial fall. “Now how am I to go about getting there?”

    The plan was simple, go to Inda-nur and prove that she was right, but Marbleize wasn’t exactly good at much of anything besides fighting, even though she didn’t need to use it. A useless skill she was taught by her father and couldn’t practice with anyone. It wasn't something learned by many in their area and as such, there was no need for it. On the other hand, she could always barter with the food she had, which was enough to last her more than a week or so, if divided up it could last them a few days, especially since there was barely any food with everything so watered down and flooded in this area. Passersby heard the strange sound of a girl talking to herself but decided it best to leave well-enough alone, after all, they had bigger problems.
  6. The backpack sat atop a boulder, not a large one, but one of fair size, watching its owner. It had been placed there, out of the reach of the dirt and moisture that could likely damage it, when Eric had decided enough was enough. He was tired of watching the same few solemn faces pass him, pacing up and down, bending now and again to push rubble out of the way or tug at a piece of cloth that was pinched between walls. Most of them were young people or mothers and fathers that tended a child. The others, so he heard in passing, were gathered at the town hall, a building that was significantly reinforced to withstand the worst of the tremors, to discuss the happenings of the day. Apparently they decided there, the best steps of recovering what they'd lost. So for a moment he watched the wooden double doors of the hall, perplexed at his options. He had always been a traveler so never got the chance to take part in such things. Finally with a sigh he had placed the backpack, deciding to wait for the meeting to adjourn.

    He approached a boy, maybe 13 of age, with what he assumed was a little sister clinging to his browned shirt. Their eyes were puffy, an obvious sign of crying, but the tears seemed to have dried by now. They seemed not to notice Eric at first, not until he was crouching beside them, imploring where their parents were. They stated that their mother was inside the building whilst their father had passed two winters previous. The boy, named Elias, was now the man of the house and was to care for his sister till his mother was finished. Eric offered help to clear the space where their home had stood and was soon employed by many of the other people, because of his apparent vigor.

    Roseton, the town he frequented most often, wasn't much like this one, though he assumed the cause was the varying distances from the capital. Roseton had sturdier houses, mostly of stone with flat roofs. It was also more structured in a way, since the streets were set out in straight lines and at square angles. Not at all like this one, though he could have be mistaken since the condition of Saint-Malo certainly made it difficult to judge it. It could have been a spectacular place, and to the citizens it likely was.

    Nevertheless Eric did not allow his services to be gained freely. As he danced from one man to another or to a woman or child to aid them, he prodded for information. Information on what had happened mostly received shrugs as answers, but more specific questions informed him that Inda-nur was indeed the cause of the catastrophe. At least indirectly since it wasn't likely to have been a pre-emptive strike on those below. He found Inda-nur had just suddenly gave up and dropped from the sky, piercing the ground beneath it like a needle. No warning and no strikes of thunder to show displeasure from the gods. It just... fell. The people here knew no more than that, other than speculation, which was why a meeting had been called. He would likely be able to talk with someone with actual knowledge when the leaders of the town came out.

    As if by some curious coincidence the doors of the Hall opened, allowing first a woman and then a man to exit. They seemed of the same age to his blue eyes, but then again he was never good at guessing ages. They did not appear to be siblings. Eric wiped the beads of sweat that started to gather on his brow, watching the two. Words seemed to float his way on a non-existent airstream.

    "Going to Inda-nur?" the prospect made his mouth hang somewhat open, astonishment clear on his face. He was so busy trying to find out what happened the thought hadn't even crossed his mind. The daunting thought of not being able to make money in this place was gone from his mind since he started gathering info, but a seed had planted itself now. He could be one of the first people to visit this marvelous city. It could have gold, maybe relics that he'd of course re-use since they may not be owned. His lips met each other, and curled into a smile.

    "Excuse me!" his hand was in the sky, waving back and forth. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but did I hear correctly?" He crossed a beam that lay in his way, patted his hands clean, to the best of his ability, and reached it out in the common greeting he was accustomed to. "We'll be setting off to the mysterious city in the morn'?" It was quite a direct way of insisting that he would join the two, whether they liked it or not, but he truly meant it in no ill way.
  7. Tessa Du’Mont

    Tessa sat next to Adrien, her arms crossed tightly in front of her chest and her unflinching gaze aimed towards the road that wound into the horizon before them. The pair was situated at the forefront of a large wooden carriage which rattled irritably along the uneven ground, made moreseo by the large fissures that had appeared in the earth in the wake of Inda-nur’s fall. The large cracks, some requiring the small caravan to turn around and circumvent the damage, made the going slow, much to Tessa’s chagrin. While she was eager to see what had befallen the magnificent Inda-nur, her present impatience was driven by the need to get away from Adrien.

    He had attempted to make small-talk at the onset of the trip, but Tessa had rebuffed him with silence and an icy glare and he said no more. She would have preferred he not come at all, however she realized that she could not do this alone. Listening to the sounds of Adrien’s labored breaths as he pedaled the large carriage along, a grueling task given the state of the roads, even Tessa had to admit his help was invaluable.

    Tessa stole a glance at the man next to her. He sat upright in the seat, bent forward slightly as his legs pumped vigorously. He seemed comfortable piloting the cumbersome vehicle, and indeed he should, for he had helped Tessa design the carriage when they were children. Of course the fruit of their childish imaginations hadn’t been fully realized until Tessa built the carriage many years later, after Adrien had left Saint-Malo.

    “I can see Inda-nur ahead, we should be there within the hour,” Adrien twisted around and called to the two passengers, purposefully avoiding Tessa.

    Tessa followed his gaze to the two travelers, a pair Adrien had recruited to assist them on the trip. Adrien had enlisted a third as well, although the strange man had chosen to travel by foot and left early this morning to meet them at the Inda-nur.

    Tessa had spoken to the pair only briefly this morning, prior to leaving, but she believed their names were Marbleize and Eric. They had both volunteered their altruistic services eagerly, although Tessa sensed that they both had their own reasons for coming. One of them had the look and demeanor of a traveling salesman, although she had never seen a salesman with such few wares for trade. She imagined that he had come along to snag a few relics from the great city before the government, or looters, whichever arrived first, came and picked the city dry. The other was much harder to read – she held herself comfortably, with a poise that suggested she had been trained in combat at some point. Adrien seemed to regard her with a similar confusion. Tessa could only guess at her motivations.

    “We’ll be there soon – are you excited?” Adrien spoke again, this time to Tessa. Apparently he hadn’t given up. Persistent as ever, Tessa thought dryly, before turning away from him to stare at the bushes that lined the road in irregular intervals. “You can’t ignore me forever, Tessy,” he pushed further. She held her silence. “If you don’t talk to me, I’ll be forced to recite Ritual for you…” She could hear the playful edge to his voice and she could imagine the childish grin on his face. She pushed the image of him out of her mind. With no response forthcoming, he cleared his throat and began to recount Ritual in a surprisingly good impression of Councilman Lyons.

    “What do you want from me, Adrien?” Tessa interjected, masking her amusement with an angry, biting tone.

    “I want you to talk to me, Tessy.”

    “Don’t call me that.”

    “Okay, okay, fine,” He raised his hands disarmingly and twisted to face Tessa, his legs continuing to pedal the carriage forward. “Somehow I didn’t think our reunion would be like this…”

    “What did you expect, Adrien? That I would run to you with open arms and thank you for abandoning me?” Tessa turned to face him as well, although her expression was anything but disarming. Adrien flinched under that withering glare, which seemed to give fuel to her anger. “We made a promise, do you remember that? We made a promise to always protect Saint-Malo… and to make it better. It was our responsibility, and you ran off at the first chance, for what? Join The Guard to play dress-up and pretend like you were actually making a difference?” Tessa knew she should stop, that she was going too far, but she had finally found an outlet for all of her guilt and anger and it felt too good to stop. “On second thought, thank you for your service, Adrien. How else would all the asses in Roubaix stay clean if you weren’t there to wipe them?” Her anger having run its course, Tessa leaned back in her seat, feeling suddenly exhausted.

    Adrien began to speak several times, however each time he held himself. Instead he pedaled the remainder of the trip in silence, until Inda-nur rose up before them, or at least part of Inda-nur.

    “Oh.. my…” Tessa breathed, her exhaustion and residual anger suddenly replaced by awe. The ground was punctured by gigantic shards of white stone, which looked to be pieces of the city that had broken off from the impact. They were still at least a mile away from the impact site, and yet the huge stones littered the ground all around them, for as far as any of them could see. Adrien was able to navigate the carriage through the debris until the glistening white walls of Inda-nur were visible in the distance, however it eventually became impossible to move any further.

    “Looks like we’ll have to continue the rest of the way on foot,” Adrien called to no one in particular, and hopped out the driver’s seat. His shirt was drenched in sweat and he staggered dangerously with his first few steps, his legs struggling to support his muscular frame. The two passengers looked concerned, but he waved them off with a shake of his hand. “I’ll be fine, the legs just need a good stretch.”

    Tessa reached to the back and grabbed her bag, filled with food and medical supplies in case there were people in need of help. Once everyone had gathered their things, Tessa turned to face the group. “When we get to Inda-nur, we should split in two groups to cover as much of the city as possible. If there are people that need help, we need to find them. Marbleize, you can come with me, and Eric you can go with Adrien.” Watch your steps on the walk over, there are stones everywhere… and most importantly, watch eachother’s backs. As beautiful as it looks, we know nothing about Inda-nur. We have no idea what we’ll find there.”

    With that said, Tessa spun around and began picking her away through the massive maze of boulders.
  8. Marbleize was excited. She’d finally found a good group of people to travel with. They seemed nice enough. One of the two males that were there introduced himself as Adrien and the other, she wasn’t too completely sure of his name, as by the time he’d gotten around to saying it, she was already preoccupied with watching the other female. She seemed to be a little irritated. Marbleize decided it was best that she didn’t even start with this “Tessa” girl. She didn’t seem like the type that would warm up to them quickly, if at all. Although Marbleize couldn’t bring herself to really care, even though she knew she should. After all, they were all headed to the same place and would, no doubt, end up seeing each other quite often.

    Marbleize instead looked at the other person who was accompanying them. No doubt he was a salesmen of some sort. Though she’d wondered why he was even here. By the looks of it, he didn’t have much that anyone would want. Maybe he’d come this far to try and settle down and work for the rest of his life. Though it must’ve been freeing to travel anywhere you wanted, not seeing the same people every day that sounded like the life. Marbleize let a small smile grace her features as they rode along the road. This was a strange contraption. A pedaled cart. Instead of the usual cart where you had to up it yourself, this boy, Adrien was riding it—or better yet, a word they’d apparently come up with—"driving" it around.

    Marbleize looked back at Adrien, nodding as she looked out the window. She could hear them bickering now, Marbleize’s eyes slid over to the other boy in the carriage with her. He certainly looked dirty. Maybe that was the downside to being a traveler. There was no telling when you could have a bath and by the looks of his wares, there was no telling when you would eat either. But luckily, Marbleize had enough food to go around. She flinched at Tessa’s tone. This girl was certainly holding no bars against Adrien and while she understood someone leaving—abandoning you to try and find something better—that probably wasn’t better, she just couldn’t help but feel bad for Adrien.

    Everything between the two of them was so unclear and in all honesty, Marbleize wasn’t that interested. She just hoped they could keep it together while they were at Inda-nur. Finally, they had arrived. Marbleize stepped out of the carriage, her face lit up in wonder. “W-Wow… Even broken, it’s still beautiful…” She whispered, clutching the strap of her bag. She looked over at Adrien who seemed to be worse for wear, although he brushed it off. She frowned, if he said he was alright then she wouldn’t push it.

    As Tessa spoke, Marbleize was a little surprised. Especially when Tessa didn’t wait. The brunette turned towards the two males, “Uh, here.” She quickly dug into her bag, pulling out a large loaf of bread, “J-Just in case you need more… and we get separated before we get there. W-Wait! M-Miss Tessa!?” Marbleize called after the other girl, following her into the wreckage of boulders bigger than she’d ever seen.
  9. It wasn’t often that Eric had a chance to kick back and relax, whilst still being able to cover a distance. It was an odd contraption indeed, this carriage with a pedal system. And yet it seemed so simple now that he’d seen it, he couldn’t believe none of the more important cities or towns in Saintonge had them. ‘Just goes to show that there are gems even in places one rarely expects to find them,’ he thought as he watched the scenery speed by. As far as he could recall, though it had been a while since he had been in Roubaix, they still generally used palanquins as transportation. Obviously only to those who could afford it and he couldn’t remember one that had more than two persons aboard. This carriage on the other hand already carried four people and their baggage.

    Nevertheless, it still had room for improvements. ‘Cushions chief among them,’ Eric cringed as his ass hit the wood once again after a wheel snagged a fissure. His marvel of the invention dissipated like mist before the sun. The trip was uneventful and the company could’ve been better, considering the two he had correctly guessed weren’t siblings, seemed to only be able to argue. Then again if someone were to ask his opinion he would swear it was only the woman that wanted to argue. Not unlike a few females he knew. Always either quiet as a mouse or hollering at the top of their lungs if they didn’t get things their way.

    He sighed audibly as he watched the ever passing fields. His back was facing the two in front and he was trying his darnedest to not listen to the escalating conversation. Instead he turned his attention to the girl sharing the back of the carriage with him. A hazel eyed girl, one that he didn’t think was part of Saint-Malo. The town seemed small enough for everyone there to at least know each other in some way or another, but the two that exited the town hall didn’t seem to know this one. Marbleize if his memory didn’t fail him. She
    also didn’t seem as heartbroken as the other inhabitants. He wasn’t quite sure why she’d joined them. Perhaps it was just mere curiosity.

    The squabbling two in front were named Adrien and Tessa. He had just assumed they were going to Inda-nur on some village business. He hadn’t pressed any further, since he was happy enough to just be given an accompanying party. “The more the merrier,” his father use to say.

    The road seemed to get worse and worse, as they zigzagged between alabaster spires. Rubble of the fallen city was scattered across the ground. Not long after they came across the spikes penetrating the earth the vehicle came to a stop. A quick look around confirmed that the path was now too unsteady to continue on.

    The pedalling seemed to take quite a toll, if Adrien’s staggering was anything to go by. He was a proud man though, waving off any assistance. A few moments and a preach, for lack of a better word, later, the four were picking careful footing across the terrain. The loaf of bread was tucked away in Eric’s pack, he took it since he decided his was the emptiest of the group and he wasn’t the sort to turn away free food. So on they went, the girl leading whilst he and Adrien followed.

    “She’s quite demanding, eh?” He said more than asked, voice low enough to be heard only by the other man but not a whisper. Inda-nur was drawing near and the sun wasn’t even at its peak yet. The breeze that had followed the group as they set of the morning was now being amplified by some of the debris. Whistling as it passed round corners. The walk was quiet most of the way. Uneventful like the ride preceding it.

    Eric didn’t know why he expected it to be different than the way it was. Surely he should be used to the slight boredom of the open road when traveling. Somehow this was different though. Not exactly boredom, but some manifestation of it. Perhaps it was just the stifling silence, interrupted only by the crunch of their boots on soil. Finally Eric decided that the only way to remedy the feeling he had was to remedy the silence.

    It started with a hum, flowed into a whistle. The whistle turned into a light song. It was a song called “The Dancing Dame”. One that was popular in the majority of inns and taverns he had visited from time to time. He wasn’t sure if his comrades knew it or even if they liked it, but his baritone voice continued to fill the air. It only stopped when they entered the bit off shadow cast by the huge, white outer wall of Inda-nur. A wall filled with cracks like black veins. It had a few tears further along; he noticed and chips where parts had split from it. Likely the shards filling the landscape.

    He couldn’t see any real hole through it though. The wall seemed far too thick. A cloud covered the sun as they looked upon the structure.
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