Phoenix Rising

Discussion in 'ONE ON ONES IN CHARACTER' started by keloryn, Aug 11, 2016.

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    Twelve-foot high anthropods, the Vlaipods are an intimidating picture on the landscape, but are mostly harmless if you leave them alone. They travel in small familial groups, usually made up of six or seven members, and move slowly over long distances on their skinny legs. Their diet consists mostly of desert beetles and other small flying instincts they can draw in with the steam vents on their backs. The moisture from the steam vents attracts small insects and once a piece of prey is close, the Vlaipods begin to spray vaporized toxins, stunning their prey and allowing them to consume the unfortunate bug. The toxins are incredibly lethal to humans as well, though Vlaipods will not pursue people and are genuinely disinterested in humans moving up and around them. They may look clunky and slow, but the Vlaipods are capable of running to evade predators when required. As a result of the toxin build up in their bodies, their meat is toxic and inedible by humans and most other animals. They have no practical use to human civilization.



    A lean and muscular mammal built for strength and speed, the Jydlox has widely and successfully been domesticated alongside the common dog. Though bigger than known dog breeds, weighing in between three hundred and four hundred pounds, the Jydlox are known for being great companion animals, though they almost always bond with only one person. Historically used as work animals, used for pulling equipment and hauling, the Jydlox's primary role is one of leisure, sport, and entertainment. Jydlox races are incredibly popular, as are Jydlox strength and endurance contests. They are wildly accepted in human cities, though wild populations are still quite common and successful. Their primary territory is in the western section of the Kilerth Desert, where they reign supreme as one of the top predators. They come in a plethora of colours, though tan, brown, grey, and white are most common.



    The winners of evolution, the Craissets have no known predators (except themselves, as they are known to be conditional cannibals). Though small, standing only three to four feet high, the Craissets' four rows of razor sharp and ragged teeth, muscular hind legs, and chemical detecting eyes that make them the king of the reptiles. Though blind and deaf, the Craissets seek out prey with their chemical seeking pair of eyes that can sense and locate a prey's chemical signals. Their powerful legs and thickly padded feet allow them to navigate the desert without worry. Their blindness has led them to been known to run into trees and rocks though. Their meat is riddled with dangerous bacteria and should not be consumed by humans.



    The Crolt, a relative of big cats, is a fierce runner that can sprint across a flat desert in record speed. They are small animals, weighing in at about one hundred pounds, and often hunt small game like lizards, hares, and birds. They are the natural prey to Craissets and rely on their speed alone to evade predators. They have two sets of front limbs, a traditional pair for movement and a secondary pair they use for cradling their young until they are old enough to run on their own. Crolt meat is lean and packed with protein and is as common as beef on the dinner table. Though Crolts are quite common in the wild, many Crolt farms have begun to crop up in the city to mass-produce meat.



    Despite their rather terrifying appearance and intimidating size of nearly four hundred pounds, Bleshags are mostly harmless and are entirely herbivorous. They disguise themselves from predators by allowing moss and fungi to grow symbiotically all across their body, providing the plants with warm, aqueous pores on their skin for growth and protection. As such, they live exclusively in the Sarton Swamps and can be used for human consumption, though their meat is often overly chewy, dry, and earthy in taste, as such, they are mostly left unhunted by humans. They are solitary animals and come together only once every five years to breed and produce large broods, often ranging from fifty to one-hundred eggs in one season.



    A small, winged hunter that resides throughout the Sarton Swamps and Frozen North, Blinknos are about the size of a bobcat and survive almost exclusively by scavenging. They are shy creatures and are not generally aggressive and once roamed all of Ormaia, including a subspecies that survived in the desert, but because their eggs, young hatchlings, and feathers are considered delicacies and prizes possessions, they have been hunted to near extinction and wild populations were driven north for survival. They live in mated pairs, producing clutches of two to three offspring a season. Ancient stories have spoken of people taming and riding Blinknos, but whether that is just a fairy-tale or truth has been undecided. If it is truth, the art of taming Blinknos is lost to history.



    Noble beasts thought to bring good luck and fortune, Saions were hunted to near extinction for their gorgeous pelts and racks. Small pockets of populations still live throughout the Sarton Swamps and the North. They are shy creatures and completely herbivorous like their cousins the common Deer. Their meat is highly sought after and considered a delicacy, but most are unable to afford it on a regular basis. Unlike Deer, both females and males possess horns with dozen of branches, often weighing upwards of fifty to sixty pounds. As such, Saions are large beasts with powerful back and shoulder muscles. They look as though they should get tangled up in vines and branches more than they do, but they're pretty dainty creatures usually. Extremely prone to dehydration because of the heaviness of their pelts, Saions can be used to hunt down water sources as their keen sense of smell can smell a body of water from ten to twenty miles away.



    At nearly four-hundred pounds, the silent, stealthy Skelker in a true winner of evolution. Completely blind and hairless, Skelkers reside mostly in dark spaces-- caves, burrows, and heavily forested areas and are entirely nocturnal. They hunt with expert-like precision and very, very rarely miss prey they stalk. They're hairless and their skin is coated in a protective slime that prevents damage from the sun and weather and protects them from infestations like mites and fleas. Their horrendously sharp teeth and claws make them deadly killers and their saliva is tinted with a toxin that temporarily stuns and incapacitates their prey. They are not picky eaters either and will hunt anything from deer to humans to even other fierce predators, like the Crolt. Their bodies are so sensitive, they can pick up tremors from footfalls and smell an animal from over fifteen miles away. Lore has nicknamed the 'Hell Child'... and for good reason. Their thick muscle and skin shields them from even most modern-day weapons, and it often takes more than one bullet to fell one of these creatures.




    A large spit of mostly desert, Ormaia isn't really much of anything exciting to look at. It's borders are cuffed with treacherous mountains to the East and frigid tundras to the North, while the rest is smattered in endless stretches of sand, more sand, and incredibly dangerous creatures. Known to be overwhelmingly dry and humid, the kingdom of Ormaia stays afloat financially by pumping out huge amounts of oil and natural gas from deep reservoirs below the deserts, but the kingdom is far from wealthy. Hydrationally starved, the people of Ormaia scramble for water and food and struggle everyday to survive the harsh conditions. Remnant of past colonization attempts litter the kingdom with ruins. Cities are far and few in between, though almost none exist in the heart of the Kilerth desert. The capital city of Theta is a pulse of life in an otherwise dreary kingdom and is known for being at the cutting edge of technological advancement, while the rest of the kingdom seems to be left in the dust... metaphorically and literally.



    The capital city and the heartbeat of the Ormaia Kingdom, Theta is the hub of most political, scientific, and cultural movements. At the cutting edge of science, technology, and research, Theta is a megalopolis that hosts hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of citizens. Skyscrapers are piled on top of each other and soar hundreds of feet into the sky, often blocking out sunlight to the streets sprawling out in a chaotic mess below. A heavy plume of smog pollution hangs over the city and the neon lights never turn off, but there is always something happening. From the wild party districts to the equally crazy university towns, Theta has a borough for all interests, but crime rates tend to be high and police tend to be violent. Citizens of Theta are diverse and often come from all over Ormaia, as well as from different kingdoms to seek new opportunities like work, education, and other. There is a little bit for everyone in this big city and don't even try and see it all... you'll never be able to.


    Kilerth Desert

    Though dry and arid, Kilerth Desert is anything but barren. The wildlife that dwells here is rough and tumble, able to resist the blazing dry heat of the day and the frigid, bitter cold of night. Water is sparse, with rain falling only two or three times a year, but many large animals make the desert their home. The heart of the desert is mostly unoccupied by humans, as it is too harsh for them, though mysterious old ruins of an ancient civilization spear the soul of the deserts, but they were lost to history and what remains of them is slowly being lost to the sand. Creatures in the desert are big and predatory in nature, and though many (like the Jydlox and the Crolt) have been domesticated for human use. Trade routes through the desert exist with small outposts dotting the paths connecting cities throughout the kingdom, but it is advised travelers traverse Kilerth in groups with trained professionals. Transportation through the desert is done commonly by both animal, like horse and Jydlox, or by motor transportation.


    Lingmell Ruins

    At the heart of the Kilerth Desert lies a mysterious shamble of ancient ruins that have been there for "as long as anyone can remember." Their origins and history is lost to the time and sand, though many urban adventurers have attempted to explore the ruins and piece together their history. Many theories exist about the Lingmell, and other, ruins in Ormaia but not solidified proof has ever risen. Where ever the ancient people had gone, and where ever they had come from is something of a mystery but scientists and archaeologists have ascribed the ruins of possessing technology and building structure beyond the time of their creation, further baffling historians while more spiritual individuals have claimed to feel 'mystic powers' coming from the ruins. While no one is confident on where the ruins divined from, one thing is for sure: they possess an awful lot of secrets.


    Sarton Swamps

    A thin cuff that ultimately divides the desert from the Frozen North, the Sarton Swamps are something of an anomaly in the landscape. Cool and wet, as all moisture-heavy clouds are pushed through that strip by the mountains, Sarton Swamps in flush with greenery. Though only several hundred square miles in size, it hosts the biggest diversity of wildlife in all of Ormaia. Known for being particularly treacherous, no towns or cities exist within its borders, despite the increased fertility of the soil. Most of the swampy bodies of water are brimming with dangerous and poisonous predators, making the enticement of fresh water not even worth it. Several trails exist through the Sarton Swamps and connect Theta to the Frozen North, though they are not often used. As a result of their implicit danger, there are many species of plants and animals in the Sarton Swamps that are simply unknown and unidentified.


    Frozen North

    Littered with ruins and painted entirely in greyscale, the Frozen North is about as inviting as its name sounds. Dangerous rocky cliff faces soar up in all directions, creating a maze of narrow, icy, and dark passages. It is dark most of the year, the sun barely rising at all, and when it does, the sun seems to reflect it away. There is no warmth, no comfort, and little in the way of human life. Historically, the frozen north was used to bring in fresh water from snow and glaciers into the desert cities in the south, but routine accidents involving avalanches, crumbling rocks, and exposure left teams of workers dead, operations in the Frozen North were suspended. The Frozen North exists at a balmy minus fifty Celsius all year around and the Ormaia government strongly discourages people from attempting to explore.


    Cave of Orilon

    Hidden right below the noses of the people of Ormaia, the Cave of Orilon has yet to truly be discovered for the wonders it possesses. Thought to be merely an outcropping in the rock, the caves possess a delightful secret in its subterranean caverns. Hidden several dozen yards into the caverns is a magnificent stretch of fresh, pure water, and that is better than gold when you're living in a desert. The caves are thriving with life-- luminescent mushrooms as tall as a building, fish as long as a car... handfuls of the most magnificent creatures one could ever hope to meet in their lifetime, yet they are all tucked away just waiting to be discovered.


    #1 keloryn, Aug 11, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
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  2. The road so far: Two young kids, a pettish looter and a scrap dealer with a score to settle and an adoptive cat, head out into the desert in search of parts. They find stuff. They find water. Read it here.​

    It was a cave mouth of impenetrable blackness and as he stepped in, he watched his shadow dissolve into the surrounding darkness. It was unusual—such darkness. Even at night, it never felt so completely consuming as it did in the cave because the blaring hot sun didn’t often leave anything but a few pockets of shadows here and there. The coolness of it was remarkable, enough that condensation began to form on the rocks. Arkadi placed his hands against the stones, feeling the unusual slickness of moisture gathering between them.

    The cavern looked like it could worm several miles into the mountain with its general ovoid shape, the walls below the ridge smoothly curved to the floor as if it had been carved out. The walls above arched another hundred feet up to giant stalactites and bat roosts. His skin prickled with delight as his body temperature began to plummet now that he was out of the sun. “I wonder what’s back there,” he admitted, staring out into the forest of stalactites, “Ya reckon anything is back there?” His assumption had been that if the cave felt this nice to him, it was bound to have felt this nice to someone else… maybe someone had used it as a refuge and had left behind things worth scavenging.

    Truthfully, Arkadi didn’t know, but his curiosity sated his hunger and got the best of him and before he could even realize what he was doing, his fumbling steps were leading him deeper into the cave until Riva disappeared in silhouette and the light of the cave’s entrance was nothing but a pinprick of light. Deeper in the cave, the only sound that met his straining ears was his own footsteps as he stumbled across the unforgiving rocky floor, occasionally bumping his shin or knee against a taller rock formation with a ‘thud.’ His boot splashed and it caused him pause, looking down as he came across what appeared to be a frigid pool of stagnant water.

    It wasn’t deep, just a little puddle collecting in the crevice of the cave, but it caused him to hastily drop down to his knees and dive his fingers below the surface. The water splashed between his fingers and pulled the dirt away from his skin. Glancing up ahead (though it a moot point, it wouldn’t have been more dark had his eyeballs been removed from his head), he squinted and inhaled sharply before holding his breath. There, the soft sounds of moving water became a mere suggestion over the silence.

    “Hey, Riva? You may wanna come look at this.”
    #2 keloryn, Aug 12, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
  3. “Rule one of scavenging,” Riva said more or less to herself as she watched Ark make his way through the cavern, “don’t just dive head first into a location you haven’t scoped out. Good advice, Riva. I’ll listen to it next time. Oh, will you Ark? How kind.” Her murmurings were all in jest and soon as he faded out of sight into the darkness, Riva started after him with their haul over her shoulder. She had never seen this cavern before, but the sand kicked up some interesting things when it was billowing as hard as it was the other day. It was damp, an unusual feeling to Riva’s constantly sun dried skin, but not unwelcome. On the contrary, it felt wonderful and eased her deeper and deeper in to the cave.

    It wasn’t until she heard her name called did Riva speed up.

    “Ark?” she called out, trying to figure out where he went in the darkness. She bumbled a bit, the sound of water dripping caught her attention more than anything. There slight splashes underfoot and when she finally caught up to the sound of Ark’s voice, she silenced herself and listened carefully. Was that — water? Actual legitimate moving water? Rita’s eyes had adapted to the darkness just a bit more and she started to move ahead, the puddles underfoot growing just slightly deeper the further she went. There wasn’t anything to use for a torch, but she fumbled for a moment through belt to find the flashlight she kept with her — just in case. she wished with every fibre of her being that the batteries weren’t dead and when she flicked the switch, she let out a small yes as the bulb flickered on. It wasn’t a huge flashlight, but it illuminated the area just enough and she motioned for Ark to follow her deeper.

    The water just got louder and louder.

    Riva ducked underneath the rocks protruding from the ceiling, and suddenly, she saw a faint blueish glow from the shrinking space in front of them, “What is that —“ Riva started but when she stepped through the opening, her jaw dropped. They had heard the water, but she never imagined this — a brilliant stretch of water, a small waterfall pouring out into the mouth of it. The walls were lined with giant luminescent mushrooms that put her small flashlight to shame so she tossed it back in her bag. Immediately, Riva ran to the edge of the water and dropped to her knees. Her hands plunged under the water and it was just as cool to the touch as she had hoped, pulling the sand from her skin.

    She cupped her hands and brought a bit to her mouth, drinking the contents down and reveling in the way they eased her tired insides. “Ark,” she breathed out, for the first time in her life at a loss for words, “It’s fresh water. Real fresh water.”

    “What — what the hell is this place?”
  4. Arkadi was never one for safety. Maybe his line of profession didn’t involve diving out of the way to avoid being eaten by Crolts or Craissets, but he had never been known for particularly doing much to ensure his safety, either. Caves like that could hold all sorts of creepy, crawly, human-eating beings, like Skelkers, but he proceeded on without hesitation. Riva’s light flooded from behind him, painting the cavern walls in deep, long stretches of ever-moving shadows, but he didn’t worry about the creepiness the little flashlight gave the tight space because he was too busy following his ears.

    The sound of water grew and as they had drawn nearer, the noise had increased steadily until they were only a few hundred feet away. The small cavern had opened up considerably and he stopped, looking down. Quickly the cave descended for an unforeseen distance and Arkadi kicked a small pebble over the side, listening to it tumble down before finally hitting the ground below with a ‘thud.’ There was water tumbling down the cave wall in a series of mini-waterfalls. The water tinkled in a laughing sort of way and he could imagine that this was the sort of place faeries might live. The rocks were slippery as he stepped across the stream at the bottom of the falls, his feet light and balanced as he hopped to the other side.

    The plume of water vapour that hung over the huge pool dampened him to a point of being as wet as he would have been in a rainstorm. His hair clung to the sides of his head and around his faces, but no matter how wet he became, it could not dampen his spirit. He could only stand in awe.

    “I have—I have no idea,” he replied after a beat of silence, sitting down on the smooth rocks and pulling off his sand laden boots before dipping his feet into the cool stream. He had never seen so much water in his life before—at least not all in one place like this. It was a strange place—a place where life was full and death felt afar. There were suddenly no worries he could feel, no rules other than those he would govern, no pain other than the grief he placed upon his own shoulders—and there was none of that, either. The cave was wonders beyond his comprehension, wilderness waiting to be explored. It was a damn dreamland, it was, and Arkadi was convinced he was amid a dream.

    The colors of a thousand saris swirled down the pool as the large mushrooms—some looking to be twenty, thirty, forty feet tall—bioluminesced in the most wonderful shades of green, blue, purple, and yellow. “We have… we have to tell someone about this right? This could change everything about Ormaia. This could make everyone’s lives so much better.” But he didn’t want to leave… not yet. Right then, all he wanted to do was dunk his feet in.

    He cupped some water from the pool and doused it along the back of his neck with a contented sigh. “So, this must be your biggest cache to date, ye?”
    #4 keloryn, Sep 4, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2016
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  5. I have no idea.

    Riva just stared off at the incredible view before them. It was dream-like, a place so abstractly beautiful that she could only believe it was all in her mind. She’d had dreams like this before — everyone had. As a poor girl growing up in Ormaia, she had never seen so much water before and she never thought she would. When her family would be suffering, looking for any way to get their hands on water, she would have terrible fever dreams of a world made of only water. A place where all they had to do was go up to the edge of the river and cup their hands, but the water never ran out. Her father was not injured in those dreams, his left side functioned and his face was not marred by the scars of his injuries. Her mother was happy, her brother Jay would splash happily in the shallow end.

    He was always a baby in those dreams, always a baby in her mind.

    But this was the closest she had ever come to living that dream — her breath caught in her throat as she glanced up at the luminescent mushrooms and felt the dampness of the air begin to wet her skin. In one fluid motion, she pulled off her boots and set the bag down, leaving her clad only in her cloth pants and midriff shirt, her sienna skin catching the glow as she walked not one, two, three steps but instead fell into a bit of a jog until she could drive into the deeper end of the water. They’d had to work with water her whole life — the jugs of water rationed out not just for drinking but bathing as well and with four people in her family, Riva had to work with what they had. Never before had she felt this, the rush of cool, running water drenching her entire body and slicking back her hair as she came up for air.

    It felt euphoric.

    At Ark’s mention, she waded over into shallow water closer to where he sat on the rocks and looked up at him, the mushrooms setting his skin a-glow. “My biggest catch?” she laughed, “We wouldn't have come in here if it weren’t for the sand. More like a wonderful accident.”

    “And who would we even tell? Who would listen to us?” Riva asked, her brown eyes finding his, “I think you’re right — this could change everything. This could help so many people. I could tell Gabriel and the others, but…this is something the government needs to know about. Water can’t be a secret anymore, there are too many people dying because of it.”

    “Do you think they’ll believe us? Maybe you, but I’m just a lowly scavenger.”
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  6. “I dunnae,” he replied, watching as Riva sunk below the water’s surface before beginning to make her way towards him. She moved like a water serpent: effortlessly, a trail of liquid light forming little water eddies trailing behind her like some sort of veil. “Accident or no, it’s still a big find. Everything is but accident, right? It’s accident ya found those trucks, really. Life is just some big accident… or maybe lotsa small little accidents all day, every day.”

    Hard to grapple with thoughts like that, going back to the age old argument: did people really control their fate or was a destiny already spread out before them? Did anyone really have choices? Were things destined to happen all along? Arkadi was no spiritual man and he spent no time pondering such philosophical thoughts so the moment those questions entered his mind, they dripped straight out again and disappeared down the river the spilled from the retention pond and raced into the darkness.

    “I wonder where it’s all goin’ though. The water, I mean,” he motioned with his chin towards the river as it disappeared deeper and deeper still into the cave. It must have been some kind of enclosed, recycling system, he thought to himself quietly. Certainly if it exited somewhere, people would have found it, so he could only rationalize that the water was just going through a finite loop an infinite number of times. Idly, he scratched a hand through his hair and slicked back the brunette strands that were dyed black with moisture and shadow. His nose crinkled immediately at her mention. He hated the government—it was a stifling thing, but he saw the importance of it all the same.

    With a sigh, his eyes wandered back to her. “I guess you’re right,” he agreed, “I can talk to someone. Got an uncle workin’ at some pencil-pushin’ desk job. Hard ta say if anyone will believe us, but we should try,” he said with a shrug. People deserved to take part in what was given to them by the Earth. It would have been easy to hoard this delightful source for themselves, for their friends and families, but Arkadi was not that type of person and he knew Riva wasn’t either. They were givers… people who gave a little too much a little too often because it was just in their natures. ‘Doormats’ his grandpop would have called them, but Arkadi usually preferred the term ‘zealously generous.’

    “But let’s just enjoy this a while longer, aye? You n’ me? Just an hour or two.” He slipped his light tunic over his head and pooled it on one of the rocks before slipping deeper into the water himself until he was entirely submerged. “Terrible thing this though. Probably infested with some kinda flesh-eatin’ bacteria. We ain’t gunna see our way outta this cave,” he teased with a laugh, splashing a spray of water in Riva’s direction.
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  7. “I suppose I did all but stumble into your shop all those years ago,” Riva admitted as she watched him rid himself of his tunic and submerge himself in the water, “Certainly an accident, but a pretty good one at that.”

    The two of them had just sort of worked. Ark never asked too many questions, Riva brought him first pick of her hauls, and they were both generous to damned fault. It was an interesting dynamic, one where Riva never felt like her business was being taken advantage of, but it made her feel like she was scavenging for a purpose — like he would always find something useful in her hauls because that’s who he was. Riva kept to herself a lot outside of work, usually spending most of her time ensuring that her family and others like it were cared for, but she would have gone as far to call Ark a friend.

    Everyone else she knew needed things from her — Gabriel, the others working to get water to the poor — but Ark and Riva were symbiotic. They just benefitted from one another.

    “Hey!” Riva called out as he splashed her. She cupped her hand and immediately sent a spray of water right back at him with a warm, echoing laugh, “Wouldn’t be too bad of a fate though, would it? This place is like something out of a dream. I still can’t believe it’s real, been here all this time right under our noses and no one knew.”

    Riva floated up onto her back and looked up at the top of the cave where she giant mushrooms stretched and vines wrapped around whatever they could manage to hold onto. The water was crystal clear below her, but when she felt the water shift underneath, she moved quickly and looked down, expecting some terrifying creature but instead incredible fish swam a few yards down, not even bothered by the two humans who had trespassed in their home. “Ark, look,” Riva breathed out, “Have you ever seen a fish so colorful in your life?”

    Riva had actually never seen a fish before — at least, not in person. It was not something that people in the poorer districts were gifted to eat, and even in the upper-class district they kept the fish to themselves, if they could find it. Riva pushed her hair back and pulled it out of the bun it constantly was in. She could count the number of times her hair was ever down, but she let it fall out into long, dark locks that slicked back in the water. The coolness just eased every single muscle in her body.
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  8. "I ain't never seen a fish before, Riva," he replied, not having flinched when she sprayed him with water. Instead, he seemed to welcome it. His eyes closed but he smiled into the dousing. He had never really been able to do something so delightful as splashing water on his face before, but now he was soaking in a cool pool of the stuff. The bouancy of his body made him feel weightless as the blood in his veins ran with a divine prickle of cold.

    Goose bumps were foreign to him, so when a shiver hit his spine, all he could do was sigh with relaxation. A million sighs for every second he spent in the cave and out of the sun. Shame it would have to come to an end, but Arkadi was not a selfish man aside from the few extra minutes he was indulging himself with. "I wonder how deep it goes. I wonder what's back there," his eyes turned to the darkness but he couldn't make out much. Even the luminescence of the fungus faded into darkness, and the anonymity of the cave was returned several yards down stream. "We can't count our blessins' until we know what's down there but that sounds like a job for the government." Arkadi would tell Omarian officials of what they had found, but like hell was he risking life and limb to investigate the cave to its entirety. They could get lost or hurt. Hell, Omaria was wrought with dangerous creatures and who was he to think the cave would be any different? Immediately, his nose crinkles back as he reached for the slick rocks and pulled himself out of the water.

    Ashore, he slicked his hair back and wrung the excess moisture from his trousers as best as he could before plopping down on one of the larger boulders.

    The excess sand that was years thick on his skin had been washed away, revealing the handsome tan skin below. In fact, he couldn't help but rub his fingers together in the wonder of having them entirely grit free. Never had he imagined skin could be so impossibly soft. "Seems weird though, don't it? This bein' here all this time n' no one knowin' about it." Maybe Arkadi was a bit weary (again, his father usually used words like 'paranoid', but Arkadi digressed). "Just weird is all, I guess."

    Mostly because nothing remarkable ever happened to people like Arkadi. Or, rather, Arkadi never sought out anything remarkable. He grew up a normal childhood, doing normal things, got a normal job, and did slightly less than normal inventions, but nothing that lent itself to anything remarkable at all. This felt so off script, he wasn't sure what all to make of it besides just dunking his feet back in the water and shrugging lamely.

    "I guess when we get back, we can go see ol' uncle n' his pencils."
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  9. “Well, considering I’m particularly fond of living,” Riva mentioned as she followed him out of the water, “I’ll let myself be content with wondering and not risking my life to find out.” There were terrifying creatures in Ormaia. Plenty were beautiful and kind creatures, ones that could not be bothered by the likes of humans, but she had learned about Skelkers at a young age and this seemed like prime picking grounds for them. Perhaps not here in the light, but deeper into the cave where Ark was gesturing? Absolutely.

    Stepping out of the water, Riva brought her hands up to squeeze some of the water from her hair, flipping it over to shake out a bit. It was uncharacteristically long, honestly. Riva was not a girl of glamorous means, but she certainly did take after her beautiful mother, and at a young age she had scolded Riva for not taking better care of her long hair. It was the only reason she kept it, to please her mother — that is. Twisting it back up into a bun atop her head, Riva tied it off and moved to wring out some of the water from her cotton pants. They did not retain much, as there was not much fabric, but she felt a bit drier. Her skin was silky smooth, a feeling she was not familiar with considering everyone lived under a constant layer of sand and she, in particular, never had much in the way of bathing as a child.

    “I wonder if it’s been discovered before,” Riva mused at Ark’s weary comments, “but the only people who come out this far are scavengers. Any number of things can happen on the way back to the city from here. That, or maybe the government doesn’t have time to listen to the likes of the little people. That wouldn't surprise me one damn bit.”

    “But we should probably head out soon, last thing I want is to discover that there’s a Skelker living in that deep dark unknown you keep talking about, or Craissets trying to take shelter in the mouth of the cave,” Riva slipped her boots back on but felt herself ripe with a new energy. It seemed that the water had significantly lifted her spirits and eased the burden from her shoulders for a moment. “I’m just saying — if we were drawn here, I don’t doubt that other creatures will be too.”

    “It is remarkable though,” Riva exhaled, taking a look around again and not believing that it could be real, right before them, “Every last bit of it.”

    “I promise most days scavenging is boring as watching paint dry,” she laughed, “but today — this is something special. This could change everything.”
    • Love Love x 1
  10. Arkadi, like most people, had never known anything like this before. He knew only the cracks that grew deep in the barren, parched soil like a wizened old face, baked hard, no more hospitable to the delicate seeds than a scorched rock. Should the four horsemen pass through their lives, the hooves of their magnificent steeds would surely make no impressions on the ground. The clatter of their hooves would echo around the desperate landscape like music calling the people to their final rest. But this cave? The cave was a miracle, of that Arkadi was certain.

    Religion had always been a difficult thing for him to grapple with. There were moments in his life that seemed so impossible had some greater being not been playing a role, yet it was hard to continue believing that any greater diety had any goodness in them if they continued to allow such ongoing, continual suffering. But how could it be, then, that they found this place? What few plants existed were cacti or wilted and weak, the edges of their blade-like leaves yellowed where they should be green and hanging close to the ground. In the cave, the plants grew tall and mighty. They looked healthy, bountiful, and if Arkadi knew anything about herbology, he would have tried to figure out which were edible because he was starving.

    A hand came to rest up on his stomach at the thought. All that faith and discovering made him really want some lunch.

    “I s’pose you’re right,” he agreed, glancing to the mouth of the gave that was a perfect egg shape and not dotted with any signs creature activity, but Riva had a point. Once high noon passed and the sand grew to be a little less scorching, the creatures would be more comfortable and able to move about again. For now, they were probably already tucked away in their hiding places for what little shade they could manage. He rose to his feet but not first without taking one more generous gulp from the stream and filling his canteen up to the brim. They had discovered it after all, so he didn’t feel bad taking a little bit extra.

    “Could change everythin’,” he agreed, “Dependin’ how much water is ‘ere. Don’t be too ahead of yourself though. Just ‘cause everything is different, doesn’t mean anything is damn gunna change. We both know most of it is gunna go straight to the wells of the wealthy but…” what else could they do? Arkadi had a strong patriotic allegiance to not going to jail, and hiding water like this would be hugely illegal. Turning it over to the government seemed like a less than ideal option, but it was the only option he could think of that wouldn’t end with them in shackles.

    He wasn’t any Harriet Tubman and this wasn’t any underground railroad for hydration.

    “Well, let’s go make ‘istory, least I'll be clean for my newspaper photo.”
    • Love Love x 1
  11. “You’re probably right,” Riva mused, taking another look at the water after she filled her own canteen and set it in her bag for later. She could make an extra run to her parents’ house, Papa could use it. “But if there’s enough, who knows what could happen. The wealthy aren't going to have anyone to work for them if the poor all die of dehydration like they have been. Something has to give eventually, maybe this can be it.”

    Riva was never really optimistic but that water, that sanctuary, could not just be hoarded by the wealthy. After all, it was found by a middle-class boy and a poor girl, surely they could not expect anyone to stay quiet about it. Riva did not even want to think of the repercussions if Gabriel and the others found out the government had a water supply like this and none of it was trickling down to the lower classes. That would be the straw that broke the Jydlox’s back. Riva never wanted trouble, she never wanted to be in the middle of anything, but she would do anything to protect her family and ensure their well being.

    “Anyway, won’t know unless we try,” Riva chuckled as she gathered her things. Her eyes caught his appearance as he quipped about a newspaper photo, “You can be the new face of water in Ormaia. All the ladies will flock to you.” It was a warm jest that was met with laughter as she heaved her bag over her shoulder. The sooner they did this, the better. There were some people who didn't have a week for the government to process what they wanted to do. The government needed to know now, whether Riva trusted them or not. They were supposed to work for the people, right? And surely, this would benefit all the people of Ormaia.

    “C’mon, last one out of this cake is Skelker food,” Riva smirked before scampering off through the cave and back towards the beating desert sun. It was hotter than she remembered outside and the sun immediately pulled all the moisture from her skin, but she felt cooled down enough to make the trek back. The sun had dried her enough that the same did not stick because of wetness. Instead it gathered like it normally did, in her hair on her clothing, but she could not be bothered by it. It was actually a pretty pleasant walk back to the city. They stopped off at his workshop first to dump off her haul, and then the two started to make their way up towards one of the government buildings towards the upper class.

    “You’re gonna have to lead,” Riva mentioned with a bit of a chuckle, “I don’t know anything about being up here. I’m much more adept in alleyways than cobblestone streets.”
    • Love Love x 1
  12. “All the ladies, aye? ‘Bout damn time,” he said back over his shoulder with a mischievous grin and a chuckle as he slung his bag over his shoulder and set out towards the mouth of the cave, finding his feet feeling heavier than before. Sure, he felt rejuvenated and more hydrated than he ever had in years, but it was hard to maintain that sort of enthusiasm when he was pulling himself away from the water. It was like walking away from the magic carpet and setting out on foot, even though one could fly. He knew they had to share their discovery, but that didn’t make it any easier to walk away, either.

    At Riva’s teasing, Arkadi broke into a jog though it only lasted for a few strides. Once he was back out in the sun, he slowed immediately. It felt like all the water he had just swallowed down was evaporating straight out of his gut and already he could feel the sticky gritiness of sand gathering in his nostrils and lungs. Heat licked at his tanned faces and coiled around his limbs like a great hot-blooded serpent. The ground smoldered and sent up a disorienting haze to a point where even sweating was no good.

    They stopped by his shop to dump off their belongings and Arkadi was glad for the moment of shade. He sipped his water before departing again, locking up his workshop before taking the lead. “Yea, yea, follow me,” he remarked, already beginning to lead the way. The sparse outskirts where Arkadi’s shop was set up quickly dissolved into a heavily cemented city. The inner city grew out of the cracked sidewalk like the jagged gap-toothed grin of an old junkie. The only splash of color in the grime came from lurid graffiti and the brightness of the hover cars zooming past them on the streets. The whole city was threaded in lights. There was a sense of indecent exposure in the city and he felt himself almost in physical contact with the contagious stench of the city.

    In the air, hundreds of feet high, buildings soared but not as individuals. Instead, buildings looked as though they had physically been built on top of one another, like some kind of life-size game of Tetris. Boutiques and shops lined the sidewalk with slogans stenciled to the glass fronts in fashionable off-white. They weren’t entirely out of place though. The poor and homeless still wandered the street, practically invisible to the wealthiest. It was like two different cities all sort of met in one place, mashed together: the poor and the thriving.

    “This way,” Arkadi grabbed Riva’s elbow and tugged her down one of the many streets, following the familiar path.

    The office was painted grey and it had only one floor-to-ceiling window, which faced the main road. On top of the set of revolving doors on the front read ‘Theta City Hall’ in crisp gold letters. He stepped up to the front desk, explained who he was here to see, and showed his identification card. With a quick call, the receptionist waved them to the elevators.

    “Mr. Costellanos says he can see you.”

    “Thanks!” Again, Arkadi took Riva’s elbows and dragged her towards the lift.
    • Love Love x 1
  13. Riva just let herself be tugged along. She had been in those streets before, mostly just accumulating resources and slipping by market tables that had one or two extra pieces of fruit fall to the ground in the bustle of the city. Riva wasn’t exactly wanted by any form of law enforcement, per say, but she was certainly a part of a group that was of particular interest to the government. It was why she never really stayed too long or hung out around the stations or city hall. Gabriel was a wanted man — for a great many reasons — but people like Riva were just pawns in a larger game. That being said, Riva did not needlessly put herself at risk especially when her family counted on her so entirely to provide for them.

    Food, water, anything they needed she would and could get. Her brother Jay often told her he would help out, but she used to work alone. Before today, that is, to protect them. Things in Theta went to hell real damn fast without warning. Riva was fast, strong and cunning enough to protect herself but that could not be said for everyone.

    “What a gentleman,” Riva joked as Ark tugged her elbow to and fro, leading her into City Hall where the receptionist gave Riva a bit of a look before accepting Ark’s identification. “Thanks!” Riva called back as Ark wasted no time pulling her towards the transparent free standing elevator. Everything just looked put together, clean lines and minimalist decor. The air in here was cooler, out of the sun, but Riva became unnaturally aware of how much sand was caked in every crevice.

    She had never even been to town hall. The ration distribution was done by district and each had a specific checkpoint that could be monitored by security. One gallon for each family, a half gallon per person. It was easier to survive on your own with those rations, but for Riva’s family of four, a gallon was hardly enough. It was a way of trying to maintain population in Theta, as well, as they had become disgustingly overpopulated in the last decade. Jay had been an accident, and there were a lot of families who would have abandoned that child in the desert for a chance at survival, but not her parents.

    Her father was alive, so she knew he managed to drink some water, but never in her life had she seen it. At meals, he always passed it to them and never himself. It was possible to get more rations, though, if you had a family member in the government or were of an upperclass household. Many times in the poorest parts of Theta, like where Riva came from, they did not even bring full gallons of water, instead it was just the leftovers of what they could manage to bring. That was why Riva started scavenging in the first place — water was always available for a steep price if you didn't mind the underbelly of the city.

    “I hope your uncle can help,” Riva stretched her arms over her head as they waited for the elevator to climb impossibly high, “I’ve never been to city hall before.”
    • Love Love x 1
  14. Arkadi hated elevators. They just felt unnatural.

    He’d ridden an elevator a couple of times in the Justice Building, but he usually took the stairs. He knew that Riva probably wouldn’t want to climb how many dozen flights, so he opted to put aside his discomfort, swallow his petty fears, and put himself into the damn life. The elevator had white marble half walls that transitioned quickly into glass so one could see the entire trip up, a blue carpet, a silver handrail, and no buttons. Stepping into the elevator, the doors closed and the programming from the front desk sent them to the floor they wanted to go.

    It shot up with enough speed to cause Arkadi’s stomach to lurch towards his feet, causing his lips to curl back against his teeth and he swallowed down a bubble of nausea threatening to jump straight out of his gut. Thankfully, the joy ride lasted only a few seconds before the little box slid to a stop, dinged, and the doors slid open. The lift dumped them into a single, narrow hallways, marble floors lined with luxury wood doors. The entire building was the result of years of hard labor on the backs of swarthy, Bandatali-speaking impoverished workers. At the height of its sumptuousness, it was the jewel of the city; the place of important government officials. Even now, several years old, its pertinence and grandeur endured, but the formality of the building was both frivolous and well receded, so the childish endevours of those who worked in the building could be fulfilled and they could continue to be free to squander away their paychecks on seventeen credit coffees and twenty-two credit blueberry muffins while wearing their polished loafers.

    Arkadi had never felt so subconscious about his hair before in his life and once he had released Riva’s elbow, he subconsciously reached to swat some of the fallow brunette locks away from his forehead. Good thing they had that bath in the cave, he thought, because at least he knew he didn’t smell too bad.

    Rounding the corner and leading her down an impossible maze of halls and doors, Arkadi finally came to stop in front of one. The placard to the right-hand side read ‘14021 – Costellanos’ and Arkadi gave it a small knock. With a buzz, the door clicked off its locked and mechanically moved open with a small stutter.

    The man sitting behind the desk looked a lot like Arkadi, but his face was as grey as the marble floor. Maybe there had been a person in that shell once, but Arkadi couldn’t even remember how far back he’d back to rewind time to find it. He was older, probably in his late thirties, though he looked well into his forties from the slicks of grey shooting back from his temples and the nestle of wrinkles formed at the corners of his eyes. It was hard to remember him as a kid, someone with all the hope in the world, eager for a future yet to unfold. Once, Arkadi had wanted to be just like him—now he could hardly look at the man across from him without grimacing.

    “Arkadi!” he grinned a little and stood, stepping around the desk to greet his nephew.

    “Hi, Jonah,” Arkadi responded with brightness in his voice, the two giving each other a friendly, warm smack on the shoulder. “Jonah, this is my friend Riva. Riva, this is my uncle Jonah.”

    Jonah acknowledged Riva with a polite nod and a half-smile. Not rude, but not particularly warm, either. “So, what brings you two all the way out here?”

    “Well…” Arkadi began, “We sort of found somethin’ amazing.”
    • Love Love x 1
  15. Riva did not want to interfere with the conversation. She knew who she was in the grand scheme of things — no more than a street rat. People that looked like her — their darker skin from labor jobs out in the sun dark features — were not often rich or successful. She was not wearing clothes appropriate for anything other than being out in the desert for most of the day and his uncle’s eyes gave her a once over. First her face, then her bare midriff and then down to her worn shoes. It was not hard to know who Riva was to Theta. She was nearly invisible in here. The two spoke and Riva stood off to the side, just listening until she was spoken to.

    He did not give her a greeting so much as it was a slight smile of acknowledgement.

    Ark managed to begin explaining it and she watched as Jonah’s eyes grew wide, hanging on his every word. Good. It was about damn time someone listened to the little guy. Riva tried not to hold every government official to the same standard, but she did have some preconceived notions that she could not help. After all, if anyone in the government really cared about the little guy, there would be change and there wasn’t. There wasn’t a damn bit of change in the last decade, but one could only hope.

    Maybe this would change everything.

    “Where?” he asked and Riva stepped in to the conversation, though not intrusively.

    “About eight miles east of the outskirts of town, just past Crest. They’ll have to move quickly, I think the sandstorm may have kicked up the mouth of the cave, no telling what will happen once another one picks up. The water is about a quarter mile deep into the cave, but there’s no telling what lives in there. We did not see anything, but it’s entirely possible that there are some nocturnal creatures living in there and I’m sure the Craissets have found some shade there, too. Ain’t no telling what’ll be there now.”

    “But what is there?” Riva shrugged, “A whole ton of water that nobody’s gotten their hands on.”
    • Love Love x 1
  16. If Arkadi was good at three things they would be, in order: inventing, storytelling, and getting himself in (then subsequently out) of trouble.

    There was just something impossibly irresistible when Arkadi was telling a story—like he knew exactly what to say and just how to say it to make the story both seem wildly impossible, yet somehow believable. Telling the story to his uncle seemed to be no different. Arkadi was excited and his hands moved deliberately, but joyously. For a second, he seemed to forget about everything else except the absolutely vital task of conveying information from his mind to his uncle. Jonah seemed skeptical at first but never had any reason to doubt his nephew.

    Everyone knew it went against Arkadi’s nature to deceive. He was honest to a fault and if anyone wanted to describe him, it’d be the first thing that’d pop into their mind, just over his inclination of welding shit to other shit and making mostly useless inventions. His honesty wasn’t always flattering, but his words never blew hot air up anyone’s skirt so when he gave compliments… he meant them. Jonah sat back and rubbed a hand across his well-manicured chin that was painted with a thin layer of stuble—just enough to be handsome and clean looking.

    “I wish I could say you’re both lying, honestly,” Jonah finally concluded after his question had been answered, “And while I don’t know a damn thing about you, I can say Arkadi has never said a word of a lie to me in all his life.”

    “And I’m not lying now—“ Arkadi interjected.

    “And I can only assume you’re not lying now,” Jonah agreed, flashing his much younger nephew a hesitant, but ultimately accepting, look. “I’ll have to report this find to my superiors and if I find out this is some kind of elaborate prank or…”

    Arkadi tsked and shook his head, “I’d never come into the city for no prank!” he argued, almost sounding offended that his word was being doubted, “Waste a my time… pranking.”

    Jonah purred lowly in responses, “Yes, I suppose you are right there,” he agreed, “But if you make me look like a fool when I report this to my superiors, know that I will…”

    Now it was time for Arkadi to look a little dangerous, his lip curling back with subtle annoyance. “We are not trying to fool you,” he declared, “If you’d rather not, we can go to someone else.”

    “Alright, alright—no, no, I believe you. Just… just don’t tell anyone else about this right now, okay? Give me a few days. I’ll need to report this to my superiors and they’ll need to investigate the validity. Last thing we need is all of Theta rushing to one cave. Can you two keep it a secret?”

    Arkadi didn’t like secrets. He knew the universe didn’t believe in keeping secrets for long, but he understood the point his uncle was trying to make. Finding out about water could lead to all sorts of trouble—including people rushing the cave, hurting each other, trampling each other… He eventually convinced himself to go along with it knowing that it wasn’t really a secret if everyone found out about it eventually. “I think so. Riva?”
    • Love Love x 1
  17. Riva had never seen Ark like that. For a brief moment, he had curled his lip back almost dangerously at his Uncle’s doubt and she wondered where that came from. Ark had never been anything but incredibly pleasant to her and always gave her far more than she deserved. Money for her hauls, food when he could share, and conversation when no one else would spare her a passing glance — but for the first time she wondered if he had it in him to be fierce. Not violent or aggressive, but to stand for what he believed in no matter what shit people threw at him. Riva liked being proven wrong in instances like this and she watched with quiet amusement as he stood his ground against his uncle.

    Good for him, fuck the government.

    Then the conversation turned to her and her eyes grew a bit wider at what exactly they were asking her to do. Lie? Omit the truth with her most trusted friends and from her family? She felt terrible about it but she also knew that the government followed protocol and it would take them a few days to get everything sorted out. What she was worried about — more than anything — was the government finding the water, taking it and then keeping it from the people who needed it most. If the lower class died out, there would be far less to deal with, Riva knew that. Some of the officials that patrolled the poorer districts said that every so often when they caught someone stealing — you don't deserve to exist — they would murmur before beating some innocent man or killing a guilty one. But it went unnoticed in the upper society because who cared about someone who looked like Riva?

    Not a damn fucking soul.

    “I can, if it means the water gets back to the people like it should,” Riva answered finally, knowing it wasn't exactly what they were looking for but she would not be moved. This was not something that could be hidden from the common man, they needed it most, and the government had to see that by now. She did not want people harming each other to get to such a resource but she also knew there were a lot of families who would die off without that extra bit of water and Riva was not about to stand for that. She was no rebellion leader, but hell if she would let innocent people suffer at the hand of such a corrupt government.

    “We came to you because it was the right thing to do,” Riva added, “Don’t let us down.”
    • Love Love x 1
  18. The right thing to do… but was it really?

    Arkadi let his hands fall back down to his sides, looking past his uncle and out the window that turned him from man in to a half-silhouetted being. Light poured in and baked the glass. A thin film of sand coated it, giving the world a red tint, but he knew someone would be up to wash the windows at some point that week. Every week, the windows were dusted so the men and woman who worked in that building could have a clear view of the city that was below them. For what felt like eternity, the city stretched out in front of them—growing and tangling like vines and trees in a rain forest. Metal, steel, cement… all piled on top of one another without a wisp of green in-between, except for the artificial green on the Hora Cola billboard advertisements.

    Truthfully, Arkadi didn’t even really know what the right thing was to do. They had gone to official authorities because it seemed right, but he knew they wouldn’t really know until much later. However the next few days played out would determine whether they really had done the right thing, or not. Naturally, there hearts had been in good places… like Arkadi’s almost always was. He was giving and generous to a fault, which was probably what separated him from his uncle standing just a few feet away. Jonah was a ruthless man—keen, smart, business-minded and Arkadi was wishing he could say he didn’t regret their decision to come… but now he was… just a little bit.

    Like the first blossom of a sore throat at the start of a cold. Small, barely noticeable, but just a tickle.

    “The water, if it exists,” he clarified, “Will be rationed to everyone.” He flashed a smile, veneers as white as the driven snow that were so perfectly straight and handsomely shaped that it was impossible his smile had been God-given. It was just enough to make Arkadi self-conscious enough to bring his lips together without even realizing he had done so.

    “And don’t worry. It’ll be just a day… maybe two,” he said as he stepped around the desk, “Just so we can pull together the needed resources to put together a plan of attack, if you will. How best to extract and distribute the water… hell, to test if it’s even safe to drink.” A greediness was swallowing him, but he was hiding it well below a devilishly straight face and a hint of smile, “The only reason I’m asking for you to keep it a secret is for everyone’s safety. People will riot and hurt each other, kill each other, to get in that cave if they knew. I don’t think either of you want that. I don’t want that.”

    “Anyways,” Arkadi interjected, shaking his head, “I guess the sooner we go, the sooner you can get to work.” He just wanted to get out. He was feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, out-of-place. He had done what he said he was going to do and now he was very much ready to go back to his little shop on the fringe of the city and let someone else take care of it.
    • Love Love x 1
  19. Riva hated every moment of it. She did not trust the government, she did not trust much of anyone really, but she resigned herself to being complacent. While she did not attend much school growing up, Riva was a smart girl, street smart, and she knew exactly what getting in the government’s way meant. It meant smaller rations, it meant lack of medical care for her ailing father, and it meant putting her own neck on the line and pulling the one source of income and food from her parents home and throwing her in jail. Riva’s family could not afford her getting caught up in anything and while she still worked for Gabriel and his little crew, she was never dumb enough to let herself get caught.

    Big jobs were not her concern. Those were for the guys who had something to prove, who could risk their life and not care who it affected in the long run. That wasn’t Riva and that would never be Riva.

    So she held her tongue. More than anything, Riva just wanted a better life for the people in Theta. This water? It could help so many and the government had a chance here to do something they had yet to — be fair. So with her father’s optimism stewing in her chest, Riva let it be. She let the burden fall to the shoulder’s of Ark’s uncle even though she had seen that smile a million times before. The greedy kind of smile officials in Theta had. Each and every one of them.

    “A day or two,” Riva reaffirmed before turning to Ark who seemed more than ready to leave. “You’re right, let’s go.” Riva led the way out of the office and back to the elevator where they took it down to the bottom floor and right back out into the oppressive Ormaia sun.

    “I wish I felt better about this,” she admitted quietly before turning to him and shrugging, “but we did what we said we were gonna do. What do you say we head back to your shop, get that stuff sorted out, and I can get out of your hair? It’s been a long day.”
    • Love Love x 1
  20. “Not sure there was much else we coulda done,” Arkadi concluded.

    After all, what else could they do? They could have kept it a secret—kept it for themselves, but that was greedy and he couldn’t feel right doing that. They could have only told the impoverished people—but again, that was greedy and immoral. What if they had gotten caught? Had the government ever caught wind that they had known about a water cache and didn’t report it, they’d be stewing in serious trouble. Legal trouble, that was, and no amount of legal advice would ever see them out of prison for something like that. He didn’t feel good about the conversation they had just had, but he believed, without a doubt, that they had done what was right.

    Even if it felt wrong.

    They had come forth with information and put themselves out of legal complications. Now, they could only both hope that some good came from the discovery. Dusting off his hands like he was dusting off a feeling of disgust, Arkadi returned back on to the sidewalk of the central drag and glanced up at the sky. He squinted slightly, his eyes darkening as they tried to blink away the intensity of the late afternoon light. Sweat quickly returned to his brow, causing him to reach up to swipe it away with the hem of his shirt.

    “Yea, sure,” he agreed, “Let’s head back n’ figure everythin’ out.” Though she wasn’t, and really hadn’t ever been, tangled up in his hair—metaphorically or otherwise. Still, he couldn’t deny his exhaustion and his overwhelming desire to lay down and rest for a few hours. He was hungry, too, and who wouldn’t be after so much hiking around in the Ormaian desert. Setting out, Arkadi walked mostly in silence as he contemplated the meeting he had just had with his uncle. Like her, he was uneasy, though he couldn’t truly say why. His uncle had always been a sort of seedy character but he had never felt uncomfortable around the man. Now though, he couldn’t shake the feeling of discomfort, no matter how many times he wiped his hands on his trousers.

    The walk wasn’t bad and a half hour later, Arkadi was fumbling with his keys and sliding open the lock. The shade was welcoming against his skin as he stepped inside and sighed out with comfort, letting his bag slide off his shoulders and hit the cement ground where ever it managed to fall. “Alright, so aside from a whole cave a water, what else did we manage to find, eh?”
    • Love Love x 1