Ritual of Reconciliation

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Murasaki_Sama, Jul 22, 2013.

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  1. I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
    I would be pure, for there are those who care;
    I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
    I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

    The cries of pain and victory filled the Arena, muffled by the sound of a rapidly beating heart, as Lavanya faced off against her third opponent of the morning. The joy of combat filled her body with exultation as she swung her kwan dao at the unprotected neck of her sparring partner. His eyes widened in fear of the live blade, just as Lavanya pulled her strike. The curved steel head of the kwan dao hovering a quarter of an inch from the pulsing vein of his neck, Lavanya's opponent made the sign of surrender.

    Lavanya snapped to a rest position, her weapon now held by her side. She was covered from head to toe in thin silk, comfortable enough for the winters of Atanwan, although unsuited to heat found later in the year. Only her eyes were visible, gleaming with a smile no one else could see.

    As her sparring partner brushed himself off and started talking about taking another shot at the female warrior, perhaps when he was less tired, Lavanya looked around her. Warriors from all nations filled the packed dirt circular area at the center of a giant stadium, training and sparring with each other. Faintly, visible only to those who looked hard enough, the square outline of the dueling floor was visible. During official bouts, it would almost fifteen feet into the air, to the height of the stadium wall.

    Since her arrival in the famous city of Atanwan, nearly a full year ago, Lavanya had made a habit of sparring with the men and women who filled the Arena each day. It did not matter to her their station, the nation of their birth, or their weapon of choice. It was the only time she half-forgot that she was far from home. Unfortunately, today, she could not stay long.

    There were rumors that another of the Reconciled would arrive soon, perhaps even on the afternoon tide. After waving goodbye to the men who had practiced with her that morning, Lavanya walked toward the Northern Gate, which could be used only by residence of the palace. There was a hidden path beyond it, which went straight to the back gate. When she entered the large antechamber that marked the Gate, she bypassed both of the doors in the ground. One led to the armory, and the other to a small bathing chamber for those wishing to clean off after practice.

    Had she been at home, she might have used those rooms for their intended purpose. Here, however, so far from the people she knew she could trust, Lavanya kept her weapons, family heirlooms made of priceless dragon bone and blue steel, with her at all times. She also rarely showed her skin to the other warriors, unsure as to what reaction her Lowani marks might illicit.

    Alone she walked the path beyond the Northern Gate, striding confidently close to the edge of the cliff as she passed the Heart of Tears and neared the first palace wall. It was like entering a tunnel, she thought as she stepped beneath the 100 meters (300 feet) thick wall. Then she could see sunlight again, the shadows long ahead of her, as the sun had not yet reached the zenith of the sky. As she continued on her way, she glanced to her left, where the stables, and beyond them the guard baracks, stood proudly defiant with only one line of defense between them and the outside world. A second wall, this one only 50 meters (150 feet) thick, met her just beyond the stables. Once passed that wall, she entered the corridor, a kill zone used as a last line of defense for the palace complex. Gates along the walls, all built after the Great War, led to private mansions of the ten nations and their Reconciled.

    For some strange reason, the Pohoni mansion was the farthest from the Arena. Rather than weave through the low walls and decorative gardens of the inner palace Lavanya followed the corridor around the back, and up the western side of the complex. When she finally reached the mansion, she went straight up to the top floor, the fifth, and from there to the roof. She looked out over the Northern Sea, hoping in vain yet again to catch a glimpse of her homeland. Instead, she spotted the sails of approaching ships, which would have to circle around the island to the port, one of which carried a familiar banner.

    News, she thought, the first since leaving Pohoni. And such strange timing, coming as it did so close to the Ceremony of Investiture. Her family had seen no reason to contact her in nearly a year, and now they sent news? To quell the pain of homesickness, Lavanya looked instead at the other sails, wondering what land had sent them forth and to what purpose.

    I will exchange a city for a sunset,
    The tramp of legions for the wind's wild cry;
    And all the braggart thrust of steel triumphant
    For one far summit, blue against the sky.
  2. Oujin

    They were almost there. He could feel it in the way the sea breeze brought the sound of the shore gulls as it blew gently across his ears. Still, he did not look up. He could hear the wooden clack clack of blades as Julius sparred with Satoshi some ways down the deck, or rather as Satoshi schooled Julius in the proper way to handle a Bokken, but Oujin remained where his was. Currently he was seated cross-legged on top of a crate directly in front of the main mast, spinning an onyx ring around the first finger of his right hand. It seemed so long ago now, months even, yet at the same time he felt like everything had happened only that morning.

    It had been a bright and sunny day some weeks earlier. The morning he’d been scheduled to leave the palace, and Yamashiro, and travel to the port of Misuto where his ship was waiting to take him, a reconciled, on the journey to Atanwan. He had already bid goodbye his brother and nieces (the youngest still in diapers), and was on his way to find the rest of his family, when he discovered his sister Izumi in the garden set up with her easel and water colors. She was as poised and graceful as any young lady of fourteen could be. Her long sleeves held back with one hand while she held the brush delicately with the other. At first he thought she was painting the out of season irises, but one look at the canvas and he knew that was wrong.

    “And which new work will grace our halls this time, Chickadee?” he asked coming to stand behind her. Nearly Fifteen years her junior Oujin was more then a little protective of his sister and he felt that it was this separation that might hurt him the most.

    “A map of the world.” She stated turning with a smile. “It’s not done yet, and I don’t even know if it’s right, but I’ve been putting together all the stories the merchants have told me about the places they’ve been, looking at their charts even, and I think this is what it might look like. Well, mostly. The only thing anyone really knows about Pohoni is the terrain they’ve seen from the boarders, and I’m told Barrenshore is mostly unexplored, but still . . .” the lack of information was not enough to phase his sister and Oujin was unable to do anything but smile in return. “When it’s done,” she continued, “I’ll send it to you and you can ask the people you meet if it’s accurate and then write me back about what needs to be changed. You will write to me won’t you?”

    “Whenever I have anything interesting to say, Chickadee.” He promised.

    Her face fell, “that won’t be enough, you never say very much to begin with and–”

    He cut her off by leaning forward and pressing a kiss to her paint smudged cheek. “I promise I will write every other week whether there is anything of interest to report or not.”

    “That’ll do,” she agreed, but Oujin had already become distracted by something else. In the far corner of the garden stood his stepmother, eyes dark, face drawn, motioning him forward. Oujin gave his sister’s shoulder a quick squeeze and then followed.

    There was no need to ask where they were going as Kazumi led the way across the wood floors and through the halls of the main house towards her husband’s bedchamber. Some weeks ago Oujin’s father Yashiro, the Nyuusen Mikoto Hogosha of Reinkuni, had fallen ill. It had been along time coming, his health had been deteriorating for years, but this last bout had left him unable to move from the bed for several weeks. The healers said he was recovering, but they also said it was only a matter of time. As he reached the door his father pushed himself up against some pillows and motioned Oujin forward. There was a soft click as his stepmother closed the door, leaving them alone in the room.

    “I’m sorry my son,” his father croaked voice hoarse from bouts of endless coughing, “I do not want you to leave this way, but by the time you will be allowed to return I may be gone, and so now we must say goodbye.” Oujin drew so close to the bed he was nearly sitting on it even as the older man grabbed his hands. “It is a pity your brother has no sons.”

    “My nieces . . .”

    “Are three very sweet, beautiful girls, and I love them dearly, but they are not sons. They can not inherit.” Yashiro sighed, “Now we must leave it up to fate. Kaoru may still have a son, perhaps fortune will smile and you will marry someone able to conceive a male heir, and Izumi may still marry well. It could still end well for us. Yet I will not be there to see It.” He patted Oujin’s hand almost comfortingly and then removed a ring and slipped it over Oujin’s first finger. It was his signet. Carved from a single piece of Onyx, its upper face had been engraved with the symbol of Reinkuni. Three single drops of rain falling onto the petals of an almond blossom. “I want you to have this,” he stated. “This fate, it is not what I wanted for my son, not what I wanted for any of my children, but it must be done, and I want you to know how grateful I am for all you are about to do. My prayers will be with you as you travel to this strange land to live among strange people. May the Creator shelter you on your journey.”

    There had been more to the conversation, much more, but it was the ring Oujin couldn’t get out of his mind. It was the royal signet. By all rights it should be passed to his brother along with the throne. Was it some kind of omen? Some sort of token meant to guarantee his return before his father died? He hoped so. He wanted the promise of going home some day, another chance to see that man again. But for now, all he could do was sit on the crate and mull things over for a while. All to soon it’d be time to set his feet and face his fate like a man.

    “Oujin? OUJIN!” a voice called practically shouting in his ear. Oujin calmly looked up to find Julius standing in front of him, blond hair looking wind blown and panting slightly, as Satoshi carefully put the Bokken away. “Did you hear me? We’re at Atanwan. The Captain says we can disembark.”
    #2 Falcon, Jul 23, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  3. Kazdan

    Kazdan reeked of musk and perfume as he emerged from the sleeping quarters of The Estrose, a barque-type ship that was the personal escort of Esterian Grand Magistrate Valan Myr. On this journey, however, Kazdan was its guest of honor. He walked up the steps onto the deck and basked in the sunlight, his strut one of a man who had just completed another conquest. High overhead, the three masts held the sails at full sail, the ocean wind whipping against the clothes of the men on deck.

    As usual, Kazdan's childhood friend Javeter was waiting with his back leaning against the rail of the ship, a mug of ale in each hand to celebrate Kazdan's carnal victory. Jav outstretched his left arm, handing one mug to Kazdan, although the rocking of the ship caused some of the foam to froth over and down the sides of the glass. Kaz took a deep swig of the ale and leaned against the rail as well, facing out into the ocean. A content sigh escaped his lips as he swallowed the ale.

    "You know Kaz, if you keep bedding the barmaids at this rate, pretty soon there won't be any females left on the ship. You might have to start chasing men." Javeter quipped.

    Kaz, caught drinking during the joke, chuckled into his mug and quickly pulled it away to prevent laughing into the liquid. He lifted his left hand to his lips and wiped away the ale with his thumb.

    "Nah. We should arrive at Atanwan within a day or so. Besides, you know I'm not averse to recycling!"

    The pair shared a laugh and a clink of their mugs as they continued to drink on the deck. They spent a few moments in silence admiring the ocean horizon and taking in the smell of the sea breeze before Kazdan looked over at his friend. "I'm glad you're coming along, brother. The trip wouldn't be the same without you."

    "Are you kidding?" Javeter shot back. "Kazdan Myr settling down and getting married? I'd have to personally witness the adventures coming to an end before I'd believe it."

    Kazdan grimaced jokingly at the mention of marriage, scoffing and shaking his head. "Jav, you know that I can't settle down. The marriage is just a formality. It's not the end-"

    "--it's just the beginning?" Jav cut in, completing his friend's thought.

    Kaz light brown eyes stared off into space, squinting as if to more clearly see the image he was envisioning. "Can you imagine? Vekking Atanwan. The center of the world! The taverns, the food, the women..." his voice trailed off in thought and imagination before he continued, "Jav, I love women too much to just love woman." A faint smile tugged at the corners of his lips.

    Just over the horizon, they could begin to see the Atanwan archipelago. It was only a matter of time before they finally arrived.
  4. Mystisa Kahiya
    It was a special day for the Kahiya household but nobody was celebrating. The large expanse of greenery visible through the window was a shade darker as gloomy clouds painted the blue sky grey. The mansion was quiet save for the constant tap, tap of servants' footsteps scurrying to finish their chores in the first hour of the morn.

    At the second floor, east wing was a room polished with fine furniture yet unglamorous still. Mystisa sat looking at her reflection on her dressing table. Her mother Hylom stood behind her, brushing her always tangled hair.

    Hylom had dismissed Spia and took over the brushing, something the wife of the Most Honorable in Asiluppe has not done in a long time. So long that Mystisa considered this an honor.

    Both women were quiet. No words could describe the emotions each felt; both just knew and it was enough. Instead, the mother brushed her daughter's hair for as long as she could and the daughter looked away from the mirror as soon as tears fell down her mother's cheeks.

    A knock on the door.

    Spia appeared and addressed Hylom, "Asalla, the Anakka's things are packed and ready. The Tandae believes...it is time and wishes to see his Anakka before she goes."

    On her way to her father, Mystisa slipped through her little brother's room who was still sound asleep. As usual his sheets were all over the place but his sleeping figure was calm and his face was almost angel-like when she crept in.

    She whispered in her brother's ear. "My sweet Samok, I shall miss you the most." She slipped a sealed letter on his bedside table before she kissed her little brother goodbye.

    "The Captain assured me the Maebelis will take you to Atanwan in five days at most, three in fine weather. Spia will come with you of course. I don't want our Anakka Kahiya to be lost in that metropolis all by herself. Stay away from men who won't do you any good. You better write to me---"

    "I know, Papa. I know. You've told me this a thousand times already," Mystisa smiled at her father who had walked her to her carriage at the mansion gates with Spia invisibly behind them. Again, this was something the Most Honorable Tandae Kahiya hasn't done in a long time.

    "I'll be fine, Papa. You've taught me everything I need to know for my fate," Mystisa assured him once again.

    The Tandae only heaved a great, tired sigh. The carriage was upon them and he can't help but feel protective against the vehicle that was to whisk his only daughter away so soon. "I wish I could come with you in this dire moment but the Council..."

    "Oh please, Papa," she teased. "I know you just want to captain the fastest ship in Asiluppe."

    Laughing, "Aye, that too. That, too." The Tandae's eyes suddenly filled with bittersweet thoughts. "But I want to be with you most of all. Just one last time..."

    Once again, Mystisa avoided his father's face as she did with her mother earlier. The Tandae scooped his daughter into a hug which she welcomed. He kissed her hair gently.

    "No matter what happens, you will always be a Kahiya."

    These were Tandae Kahiya's last words to her before she climbed into her carriage with Spia and left for a journey to Atanwan.

  5. [​IMG]
    Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

    One morning, not quite two weeks before the new year, Van woke up excited. While this was not necessarily an unusual thing, for many things excited the cheerfully studious young man, today was different. Messenger sloops, small ships fast enough to cross the oceans in days, instead of weeks, had descended on the island from all ten nations, announcing the departure day and likely arrival time of their Reconciled. Everything the scholar had done in the last few years would be as nothing compared to what would come next.

    His knowledge of the culture of other nations, of their protocols, values and moral standards, his language skills, all would more than come in handy. And in return for his service, he thought pleasantly, perhaps he would be able to learn still more of the other nations, facts gleamed from the entourage each Reconciled was likely to bring with them. Or perhaps he might even speak to one of the Reconciled directly, hopefully one that wasn’t as brusque and unresponsive as the half-hermitic warrior princess who had arrived on Atanwan a full ten months ahead of schedule.​

    Oh well, surely the others would be more willing to talk of their homelands. Smiling as his excitement grew, Van quickly tossed on loose white pants, tied at the ankles, and a sleeveless white vest. With a few strange exceptions, everyone in Atanwan tried to wear white as much as possible. It was just too damn hot to do anything else. Because white was, to Van, not cheerful enough, he added a large bright blue belt, which hung down on either side of his legs, pressing the thin cloth down. A scarf of the same color was wrapped around part of his head, leaving clumps of white hair showing, in a half-hazard and hardly formal turban.​

    Then he made his way up from the Third Tier, where his family lived quite comfortably in a small house near the western wall, to the First Tier where he worked. On the way, he greeted many people by name, and even stopped to chat with a few. It seemed he knew half the shopkeepers and rickshaw drivers in the upper tiers, and every single member of the city and palace guard.​

    When he finally reached the inner palace, and made his way to the structure farthest back from the main gate, a modest mansion where the Steward lived and worked, he was just barely on time. While he loved his job, he generally enjoyed his time out of the office far more. No one would be surprised that he arrived just before the start of the day, and left as soon after as he could, if not sooner.​

    “Good morning, Malik, Crom.” He said, greeting other assistants to Lady Claudia. Technically, her First Assistants ran their own staff, assisting her by reducing her work load, while her Second Assistants acted as more direct aids, providing her with information and running important errands. The Third and Fourth Assistants were little more than glorified clerks, constantly managing the mountain of paperwork that an office as important as the Lady Steward’s produced in a given day.​

    At his desk Van organized the papers he was to present to Lady Claudia, making sure they were clean and free of rips, creases or stains. Once he was satisfied, he knocked on the door to her office, and waited for her permission to enter.​

    “Lady Claudia, I have the report on Alendresian celebrations and festivities that you wanted.” He laid the neat pile on her desk. He liked to think that the papers he gave her were not only informative but fun to read. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” When he wasn’t working on a specific project for the Steward, he spent his time reading up on the ten nations, specifically in regards to how their Reconciled might expect to be treated during the next year. He’d compiled quite a folder on the subject, one he knew several other assistants referred to when needed. Today, though, he wanted to do something more.​

    A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak.
    #5 Murasaki_Sama, Jul 28, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 1, 2013
  6. Claudia

    Claudia was knee deep in paperwork, well maybe not literally, but she had been in her office for several hours already, several hours prior to the time at which she normally would have even considered going in. Any other year and her work load would have been much more manageable. However, this was the year of reconciliation, arguably the year of one of the most important duties her office was required to perform.

    Descending on the city of Atanwan would be the ten reconciled, representatives from the ten nations around the globe. Each had their own needs, their own expectations, their own customs. Each would need things taken care of individually, and yet it was also her job to see to it that they all did things together as well. It was her job to see that no representative was to annoyed, or insulted, or angered by another. It was her job to see to it that those who were required by treaty to marry attempted to get along with each other, or at least were polite enough to each other that their respective countries felt the treaty was being honored. So much to do and so little time to do it in.

    She made a few notes in the margins of her notebook on the reconciled from Winterhaul based on the latest communications. Now there was an unexpected headache. There were several things that were going to have to change in order to accommodate that one. Heaving a sigh and not bothering to look up from her notes Claudia reached out a hand to scratch Rafi behind the ears, but the orange tabby had disappeared from his perch on the corner of her desk. She didn't even have to look far as the next sound she heard was that of her teacup cracking as it was knocked off the opposite desk corner and onto the rug that had been placed beneath her chair. Fortunately the cup was empty.

    “NO! bad cat!” she snapped as the animal in question then attempted to perform a similar action with her inkstand. She had just managed to shove the feline off the desk and onto the floor when there was a soft knock at the door.

    “Enter.” She called and a moment later Van, her assistant of foreign affairs, stepped into the room.

    “Lady Claudia, I have the report on Alendresian celebrations and festivities that you wanted.” The man said as he laid the neat pile on her desk on top of a similar folder about Reinkuni. There was a muffled meow and Claudia had the distinct impression that her attention mongering cat was currently trying to wind his way around Van’s ankles. What was it with cats and pestering people who made it clear they didn't like them? “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Van asked.

    Claudia groaned and rubbed her temples. “We've got Reconciled scheduled to come in today.” She said, “Reinkuni’s ship has already been seen on the horizon. And the reconciled from both Asiluppe and Ester are due to arrive as well. Would you mind taking an escort down to the port to greet them? Take whomever you need, just as long as they’re not the type to screw this up. And Van,” she stated returning to her paperwork, “don’t forget to take the horses. The Reinkunians were very insistent on that.”

    Seconds later her attention was focused on her notes again. Someone was going to have to do a walk through of the Winterhaul mansion and ensure that at the requested changes had been made. If only Adler hadn't been so keen to give up his throne. Claudia sighed. She’d have Malik do it.
    #6 Falcon, Jul 29, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2013
  7. [​IMG]
    Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

    Van smiled down at the cat as it wound through his legs, masterfully withholding a sneeze. When Lady Claudia actually gave him the responsibility of greeting the arriving Reconciled, he couldn’t stop the large grin that split his face. Ester was arriving today! Of course, so were Reinkuni and Asiluppe.

    “It would be my honor, my lady!” Van enjoined enthusiastically as she finished giving him his orders. Even the presence of horses wouldn’t dampen his mood. After all, no one said he had to handle the beasts himself. Unfortunately, as if thoughts alone could finish what the rangy cat at his feet had started, Van began to sneeze. It was just three small sneezes, so quick in succession he could not even breath between them. “I’ll just go,” two more sneezes, “Do that then,” and one more.

    Shaking his head to dispel any further sneezes, Van wished the Steward a good day, and half skipped out of the her office - more to avoid stepping on her cat than as an expression of his excitement. Once he was in the clear, and his sneezing had passed (after four more lightly spaced sneezes), Van looked around the large office where the assistants worked.

    The First and Second Assistants all had duties of their own, and could hardly be spared to greet a few dignitaries, no matter how important they might be. To greet the Reconciled with a Third Assistant or lower would be a grave insult, and so they too could not be sent. A single sneeze, minutes after the last had cleared, caught him unaware, and brought to him the problem of the horses.

    Smiling broadly, excited pleasure at a worthy challenge and a chance to learn new things adding bounce to his step, Van made his way out of the Steward’s Mansion, and toward the large stables between two of the inner palace walls. On the way he passed a first lieutenant who just happened to an old friend of his brother Johan, growing up, as the guard had, just next door to the Fehray family.

    “Servius!” Van called. “Are you busy today?”

    The blond haired man shook his head. “No.” His eyes narrowed when he noticed the unholy glee his simple reply incited in Van’s eyes. “Why?” He asked suspiciously, well aware that the older scholar was not above dragging him into some trouble.

    As Van explained his errand for the Lady Steward, especially the need for the horses for the Reinkuni Reconciled, Servius’s frown did not abate. Trust cheerful Van to get him involved with pomp and politics. “Fine, fine. I’ll send a runner to the port stable to prepare a few drawn rickshaws.” He agreed, mentioning one of several stables the palace maintained on lower levels, to speed travel from the port to the highest tier. If the horses did not need to go up and down the lift, people could move faster. “And I’ll go down with the special Reinkuni mounts myself.”

    Van expressed his gratitude before Servius stomped away grumbling good-naturedly. Then he went to gather the group that would meet the Reconciled. One First Lieutenant, ten Palace Guardsmen, three Scholars (each natives of Atanwan who had taken to studying the three nations in question), and a higher ranked servant or two from each of the three mansions, should more than honor the Reconciled, who would, after all, be bringing their own entourages. Yes, after a lengthy sea voyage, and with the oppressive heat of Atanwan, even in winter, a nice quiet reception was just what the Reconciled needed.

    It helped that there was a late morning tide that day, so that by the time the ships had docked the heat would be climbing to the highest point of the day. If Van’s plan worked, the Reconciled would arrive at the palace just after everyone quieted down for the afternoon siesta. That would give them time to settle in and rest before a more fitting welcome could be arranged.


    By the time Van arrived at the port, one of the ships had already docked, and the other two were not far behind. He gaily stepped up, bracketed by First Lieutenant Servius Themistocles and a Stable Master who managed the port stable.

    The entire sixth pier had been bracketed off for the ships of the Reconciled, and so there was no milling mass of dock workers, sailors and hopeful traders clogging the wooden street. Consequently, the entire greeting party, all even twenty of them, were clearly visible in their stark white and bright colors, usual attire the the Atanwanese. Behind them stood three medium sized horse drawn rickshaws, and a good two dozen human propelled versions. There were also a few individual horses, some for the guards, and the rest in case any Reconciled wanted to ride, which Van thought unlikely given the sun glare and the heat. Even in winter Atanwan was unbearable to those used to the temperate far north and far south, or so he mother had always told him.

    Sailors from the ships called out greeting as they recognized Van, who made it a point to be on good terms with everyone he met, especially sailors and ship captains. Van returned the greetings with more reserve than his wont, as he saw the Reconciled making the way down the gangplank to the pier. The scholar turned civil servant drew in a deep breath, a smile momentarily absent from his face, as he took in the enormity of what was about to happen. The first Reconciled was about to be welcomed to Atanwan (the lady from Pohoni non-withstanding, for her arrival had been so quiet and so early).

    “Greetings,” Van said as his smile resurfaced, “From the Lady Steward Claudia, who sends her regrets that she could not meet you in person, and from the people of Atanwan. I am Second Assistant of Foreign Affairs to the Lady Steward, Scholar Van, Sor En Hamid, Fehray. Be welcome to Atanwan.” He smiled broadly, pleased that he had managed to get out the formal introduction part out without laughing, for he felt excitement bubbling up within him, demanding some kind of release. He quickly introduced the other main members of the greeting party, such as Servius, as well as the scholar and head servant chosen for this Reconciled.

    “Transport has been arranged for you and your entourage, to take you to the Palace. Your luggage will follow in good time.” For once knowing half the rickshaw pullers in the city helped, as Van had enlisted a near fleet of the men and their carriages. “If you wish, you can be conveyed there in all good speed. I understand your trip may have been a long and tiring one. Or,” And he gave the Reconciled a slight conspiratorial smirk, “You may choose to wait until the other Reconciled have landed, to travel in convoy. I would be honored to act as your guide during the trip.”

    Van gave a small bow. “Please let me know how best I can serve you, Reconciled.” He could not maintain his poise for long, for he quickly looked up at the waiting dignitary, a friendly grin on his face as if he was asking the Reconciled how he did with the formal greeting.

    A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak.
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  8. Mystisa Kahiya
    Daylight glittered through the only glass window of the cabin. The warm, golden tones littered on parts of the room where a vanity table and a small wooden closet laid bare and empty on the right side and a made up canopied bed stood on the other.

    Mystisa's shadow stretched as far as the closed cabin door from where she sat, next to an open window directly opposite. Her elegant silhouette on the window frame was as still as a portrait.
    She faced the open sea but her thoughts were clearly elsewhere. In this moment of anxiety, she had allowed herself the freedom to bite her nails. Jumbled images crowded her mind as advice and random information from tutors and her own parents echoed here and there until...

    My heart, her hand automatically moved to her chest. I could feel my heart. What was once a quiet little muscle now paced loudly in her chest. Never had she felt this nervous before. Rather than fear, she marveled at this rare emotion and allowed herself to absorb its intensity.

    Suddenly, she caught her own reflection above the vanity table and focused on her image. Half lit by sunlight; half covered in shadows. Soon I will be a bride. Then, a wife. Then, a mother. I shall have to savor these moments of...purity...while it's still so.

    "Aya! Anakka!" Mystisa jumped at Spia's voice. She must have been so lost in thought that she hadn't heard her Bantae open the door. "You're hair's all tangled up again."

    Mystisa instinctively brushed her fingers through her hair and to her dismay felt it stiff and tangled from the playful sea breeze. She also felt little dabs of sea-salt on her cheeks which sprinkled on her while she peered through the window.

    "There's no time to fix it now," Spia hurriedly said. "The captain— "

    Right on cue, Captain Dehilo appeared on the cabin door. "Anakka Kahiya, we have finally secured the Maebilis to the Atanwan dock. Your things are also taken care of." Humbly, he added, "It would be an honor to walk you from the Maebilis down to Atanwan soil."

    Mystisa nodded at the gesture and took the captain's arm. "It will be my pleasure, dear Captain. I guess it is time for me to see what lies ahead." She usually spent the three-day trip on the deck but as soon as Atanwan was visible in the horizon, she had burrowed herself inside her cabin.

    The captain lead Mystisa from the cabin halls to the main deck with Spia following behind. "I have spoken to a blonde gentleman who will take you to the Palace of Pearls and has assured me of your safety. Servius is his name. But you will talk to another man of higher rank yet still an assistant," groaning, "Atanwans have a queer way of doing things."

    Mystisa shielded her eyes from the sun's glare for only a moment. From the main deck, she could see the crew scurrying about with Asiluppean cargo for the local merchants. On the starboard side was a huge wooden ramp that lead down to the stoned pier of Atanwan where soldiers and learned men in Atanwan colors lined behind a man of obvious import. She noticed a trail of rickshaws and horses further behind, too many for her own luggage.

    Are the other Reconciled here as well? Immediately, her hand raced on her wild, yet stiff hair and groaned.

    Pushing away the thought, she lifted her eyes to marvel at the foreign architecture hazily visible in the distance. Even now, it all still struck her as strange despite having laid eyes on the same view four other times before this.

    The crew immediately cleared the gangplank as the Captain lead the Anakka further. "Me and my crew shall stay in Atanwan in two weeks, Anakka. You are welcome to stay at my villa if the need arises. Spia will know where to find it."

    "You have been a generous host and trustworthy captain. I thank you for taking me here safely." At this, she bowed deeply to Captain Dehilo before they parted. The poor Asiluppean was caught unaware and bowed furiously at the Anakka. "It is my honor, Anakka Kahiya," he blushed and cautiously left her at the company of the Atanwan representatives whom he talked to earlier.

    Mystisa faced the important man she had seen earlier. He stood tall and proud, but she baffled at the man's slightly reddened nose in contrast to the Atanwan heat. He said:

    “Greetings from the Lady Steward Claudia, who sends her regrets that she could not meet you in person, and from the people of Atanwan. I am Second Assistant of Foreign Affairs to the Lady Steward, Scholar Van, Sor En Hamid, Fehray. Be welcome to Atanwan.”

    Yes, the captain did mention I was to speak to an assistant. Mystisa ransacked her brain for any memory on how to address an Atanwan assistant and settled for, "Greetings...sir," and a deep bow which Spia simply imitated.

    Van quickly introduced the other main members of the greeting party, such as Servius, as well as the scholar and head servant chosen for this Reconciled. “Transport has been arranged for you and your entourage, to take you to the Palace. Your luggage will follow in good time. If you wish, you can be conveyed there in all good speed. I understand your trip may have been a long and tiring one. Or,” He gave the Reconciled a slight conspiratorial smirk, “You may choose to wait until the other Reconciled have landed, to travel in convoy. I would be honored to act as your guide during the trip.” Van gave a small bow. “Please let me know how best I can serve you, Reconciled.”

    Mystisa immediately turned to Spia for support, her hand once again found itself in her tangles. To see the other Reconciled? Now? Am I ready? Spia sensed her Anakka's distress yet she bowed, "Anakka, I shall see to your luggage's safety," and walked towards the rickshaw with her things towed in, leaving her Anakka alone to fend for herself. Mystisa swore she saw her Bantae smile wickedly.

    Horrified at her friend's idea of a joke, she stammered at Van, "Y-yes, I shall wait for the others," and added, "But I would love to have a cup of tea if you please."
  9. Julius
    Julius watched Oujin for a moment a worried frown crossing his face, disappearing before the other man could see it. Yet, as quite and broody as Oujin had been during the voyage his tan face was clear now. Julius took a step back as Oujin settled the onyx ring he’d been toying with firmly on his finger and rose from his seat on the crate to his feet in one fluid motion. “Everything is ready?” he asked.

    Julius nodded, “all our belongings are stacked by the gangplank ready to be unloaded directly into whatever it is that will be provided to convey them to the Palace. Satoshi says he’ll oversee their transport. Aya’s indicated that she and Ari would prefer to journey with the baggage as well. She says the pace will be slower, easier in her advanced years. She’s also agreed to handle Rex.” Oujin nodded and Julius couldn’t help but feel a bit smug at his solution for transporting the German Shepherd. Rex was his dog really. After Oujin had saved his life in the mountains Julius had been given into the care of the then newly retired captain of the guard and his wife Aya. It had probably been to allow them the chance to determine if he was a threat, but when Julius had rescued Rex, then only a few weeks old, from drowning in the rising river they had graciously agreed to allow him to raise and keep the pup. He had made a point of training Rex to obey the moment a command was given, but that didn’t stop the dog from vocalizing his opinion about any person he didn’t like, which was most people he was unfamiliar with. Far better to give him into Aya’s care for the remainder of the day, then run the risk of some catastrophe.

    Oujin nodded, “I suppose we’d better go then.” He stretched, and tucking his thumbs into his belt the older man squared his shoulders and walked off towards the gangplank where he began giving some last minute instructions to Ari. It was strange, really. Julius was the taller of the two by several inches, yet there was a certain grace about Oujin that made him just a little bit afraid of the man. True, he had once seen Oujin disarm a man with a move meant only to unsheathe a katana, but that had little to do with the square shouldered posture Oujin usually assumed. For all that he was a stone-faced fellow, in expression at least, the man seemed to wear a cloak of authority wherever he went.

    Shrugging Julius followed him to stand near the top of the gangplank. He could see a crowd of what looked to be an escort waiting for them down the pier, but it also looked as though there were two other ships that had made it in ahead of them. They bore the flags of Ester and Asiluppe if he wasn’t mistaken. The occupant of the Asiluppe ship and already disembarked and it looked as if some of the party was now moving towards them.

    Julius scratched at the scar that ran the length of the left side of his face as he watched them. This heat was unbearable. “Even my home isn’t this hot.” He muttered. Oujin, however, showed very little sign of even feeling the high temperature, though Julius knew he had too. There was the telltale sheen of sweat across the other man’s face, yet he remained expressionless. It must be one of those Aikidoka tricks the man had spent his life training to learn. Ari and Satoshi were the same. It made Julius feel at least a little bit better to see that Aya had soaked her scarf in a bucket of water before wrapping it about her head, and was now fanning her self vigorously with what looked like a bit of accordion folded parchment.

    “Shall we go then?” Oujin asked him as he approached, “Shall I release my fate to the wind and see how the dice fall, as you like to say?” with a wry grin he began to lead the way down the gangplank.

    “Well, if things don’t work out you can always take a mistress.” Julius laughed slapping Oujin’s shoulder as his foot hit the first boards of the dock as the leader of the Atanwan entourage moved to greet them.

    “We are in mixed company.” Oujin replied in his own tongue, the language his people called kunigo or the language of the country. “You dishonor yourself.”

    It was then Julius realized his own comment had been in the trade tongue. Easily audible for anyone close enough to hear. Flushing slightly he moved away. “Perhaps I’ll just go see if they have any reasonable mounts among the horses.”
  10. Kazdan Myr

    "Young Magistrate Kazdan?" an assistant’s voice called from outside Kazdan’s sleeping quarters aboard The Estrose, followed by two firm knocks against the ornately decorated wooden doors of the room. Ordinarily the room was designated for The Honorable Grand Magistrate Valan Myr himself, and by tradition, even Kazdan should not be sleeping in it; had he followed appropriate customs and protocol, the room should have been left unoccupied. That would have been a waste of a perfectly fine space though, so Kazdan did the crew "a favor" by staying in the Magistrate’s Quarters. "Young Magistrate, are you in there?" Three more quick raps against the door followed.

    The gold-plated handle of one of the doors turned as it was opened from the inside and slowly began to creak open. The assistant, clearly in a hurry, began speaking the moment the door started to move. "Your Grace, we have arrived and set anchor in the Port of Atanwan. There is a convoy waiting. We must hurry if we are to—" the assistant paused when he realized the person opening the door was not, in fact, Kazdan. In the doorway stood a lithe, attractive brunette, almost completely naked save for a bed sheet wrapped around her upper torso and draping to the floor. Marek, the assistant, recognized her as having fetched him a glass of wine at the bar aboard the ship several days prior.

    Marek, whose duty it was to ensure that all things were in order, immediately averted his gaze, his face flushing several different shades of red. Not only was he embarrassed upon seeing the barmaid, but he was confused and angry that Kazdan would so brazenly disrespect the honor of the Magistrate’s Quarters. What was he thinking, bringing a woman into a bed which wasn’t his, moments before the ceremony that would begin the Ritual of Reconciliation? "Ex-excuse me. Is Kazdan inside? There is a convoy waiting and we must be on schedule." He dropped Kazdan’s formal title out of both frustration and convenience.

    "Koss, Marek," Kazdan’s voice cursed from further inside the chambers, "Calm down." He pulled the door open, fully clothed (much to Marek’s surprise). He was dressed in light teal cloth pants with a loose white linen shirt; a light beige hide vest adorned his shirt, more for style and decoration than for warmth. "I’m all set," Kazdan assured, before turning his head to the lovely half-naked barmaid standing beside him. He laid a light kiss on her cheek as his hand gently squeezed her... other cheeks. "Lyssa, you’ve been great. Feel free to stay here in the chambers on the trip back to Ester. Regardless whether Marek here tells you otherwise."

    Marek’s jaw dropped open as he tried to speak in protest of Kazdan’s outrageous proposition, but he was shocked into speechlessness and couldn’t formulate a sentence. Lyssa smirked and shot the assistant a knowing, self-assured gaze as he turned to follow Kazdan, who was already walking down the hall.

    As they emerged onto the upper deck, they were joined by an entourage of guards, assistants, handmaidens, and of course, Javeter, who soon was walking beside Kazdan as though he was of equal importance as the son of the Grand Magistrate. Jav, who had been waiting, was already breaking a sweat from the heat. He muttered under his breath as they began to walk down the gangplank, "Vekk, it’s hot here."

    Kaz, ever the optimist, snickered and cast a mischievous sideways glance at his friend. "Not to worry, brother. Remember, women wear less clothing in warmer weather!" He exclaimed, not caring who might hear him – much to the dismay of several assistants, who grimaced and winced at the volume of the inappropriate remark. Javeter, on the other hand, found it hilarious.

    “Greetings from the Lady Steward Claudia, who sends her regrets that she could not meet you in person, and from the people of Atanwan. I am Second Assistant of Foreign Affairs to the Lady Steward, Scholar Van, Sor En Hamid, Fehray. Be welcome to Atanwan.”

    Kazdan had to lift his hand to shield his eyes from the sun. Van, while understandably dressed in white clothing, seemed to reflect the sunlight in an alarming way that Kazdan had never previously experienced. He quipped, "Van, I’m not sure if you are reflecting the sun or if the sun reflects you." Suddenly remembering his manners, Kazdan gave a somewhat informal bow before motioning towards Javeter at his side. "I am Kazdan, son of Grand Magistrate Valan Myr. This is my heterosexual life-partner, Javeter Tannen. He’s much more fortunate than I – as he will not be getting Reconciled!" Javeter, who seemed to have a much clearer grasp on the gravity of the situation than Kazdan, merely gave a sheepish, embarrassed half-wave. Or maybe he was just being shy.

    Kaz beckoned for his crew to follow. "Come now. No sense waiting here in the summer heat for the others to arrive." He paused momentarily, then laughed as he caught his mistake. "Vekk," he cursed. "It’s still the middle of winter! Van, how do the Atanwanese survive this heat? It’s intolerable. I certainly hope our living quarters will be cooler." Walking ahead on his own without his formal escort, he shot a couple winks at some of the females in the welcome party before climbing into the carriage. "What are we waiting for?" He shouted out to Van. "Let’s go!"
  11. [​IMG]
    Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

    The first Reconciled he met was the young woman from Asiluppe, Mystisa Kahiya if he remembered correctly. She seemed uncertain in the formal setting, and so he continued to smile to put her at ease. However, when she asked him for tea, his smile faltered for a brief second. Tea. Van remembered tea from his trips abroad; it was a hot drink, made from boiled water and plant leaves. In Atanwan, all drinks were served chilled (at least for those who could afford to import ice). Where, Van wondered in semi-panic, could he find tea?​

    “Ah, my most gracious apologies, Reconciled, but I am afraid that tea is not available along the pier.” There, that solved one problem. “I will arrange for chilled juice, if you would prefer that instead.” Once he had seen to her needs, and set Lady Kahiya up in the shade, near the transports, Van moved quickly to greet the next Reconciled, a representative from Reinkuni.​

    Quickly, as the man walked down the plank, he reviewed what he knew. Prince Akinshino Oujin was a warrior, and had made a point to arrange for the transfer of his horses ahead of time. It was those very horses who waited to carry him and his entourage to the Palace. To Van, all this implied was that this prince would require due respect and formality, and would not be pleased with anything less.​

    So, while Van used the same greeting, almost word perfect, as he had used with Lady Kahiya, he did so without the self-effacing grin, the conspiratorial smirk, the extra glimpse upward. He even ignored the comment, inappropriate though it was, of the prince’s companion. Princes, something Atanwan had not had in centuries, acted very differently from other kinds of nobility, Van had learned.​

    Of course, rather than offer the prince a chance to wait to greet the other Reconciled, Van merely told him that his transport had been arranged as planned, and that the servant, the scholar and one of the guards would be honored to act as his guide to the palace. Van also added that, should the prince require anything, he was not to hesitate to ask Van for assistance, as that was what he was after all, an assistant. It was the closest Van could come to making a joke without actually making a joke, which would not be proper.​

    Having safely greeted two of the Reconciled, Van moved on to the third and last Reconciled of the morning. Of course, Van’s intense interest in Ester, and his desire to visit there at some point in his life, unduly influenced his expectations regarding this dignitary. The smile on his face when he began his welcome speech was absolutely fantastic, mirroring his mood. He was happy and excited right up until Kazdan Myr started to speak.​

    Not only was Van unable to finish greeting Mister Myr, he was absolutely flummoxed by the man’s comments. Reflecting the sun? What? Things grew worse as Kazdan introduced his friend, and used such an odd turn of phrase to do it. A smile half sliding from his face, Van looked back and forth between the two, trying to decide what would be the polite, respectful way to handle this.​

    “I’m uh…” What was he supposed to say? This wasn’t part of his training. He only the proper forms. “…Honored to mee-"

    Kazdan Myr continued as if Van wasn’t even there, complaining about the heat, and mistakenly assuming it was summer. As it was edging toward the early afternoon now, Van understood this problem. Even as a long time resident of Atanwan, he did not enjoy the afternoons. “Well, about that, actually -" Once again, Van didn’t get a chance to finish what he was saying. Kazdan had already moved on, toward the waiting rickshaws and the two entourages gathered there.​

    A half sigh-half smile escaped Van as he turned to follow. “Right this way, Reconciled. There are rickshaws to take us to the palace.” Van added as he pointed toward the human drawn rickshaws. Let the Lady Kahiya and the Prince Akishino use the horse drawn rickshaws. No doubt Mister Myr would benefit from seeing the entire city reflecting the sun.​

    Realizing that this was a poor thing for him to think, Van corrected himself. He was going to be polite, as was his duty. And then he was going to go take a long nap and enjoy the cool of the Library. He showed Kazdan Myr to a horse drawn rickshaw, a different one from what Lady Kahiya was taking, and made sure that Prince Akishino had use of whatever mount he wanted. Then he divided up the scholars and servants to act as guides, and made his way to a human drawn rickshaw, away from the horses and the sneezing fit they would undoubtedly incite.​

    A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak.
    • Love Love x 2
  12. [​IMG]

    The sun rose higher in the sky, casting filtered rays of light through half open curtains of the room of one Saori Avalon, hitting the golden hues of the walls and filling the room with gold. The room's occupant lay sprawled across a makeshift bed of cushions and pillows, sheets interlaced between his limbs as his world of dreams began to fade, reality rushing to meet him. Bright blue orbs slowly fluttered open to glare softly at the intruding light, willing it to shrivel away and leave him in the shadows of sleep once more. It stayed, defiant, and Saori resigned himself to wake. Slowly his limbs untangled themselves from the knots woven around them, the young man eventually coming to his feet, swaying gently as his head buzzed. A glance out the window told him it must be nearing the afternoon hours.

    A small twitch rippled through him as slender hands rose up his back, moving around to his chest as another body pressed against him. Full lips placed a gentle kiss against his skin, before a face came to rest on his shoulder. "Have you always been such a late sleeper?" The voice was soft, a sleepy lisp slurring its words. A small smile crossed the young man's lips, turning to face the woman who must have shared his room with him last night. Or, he assumed she had, considering the familiarity she was sharing with him. Taking a moment, Saori looked over the features of the woman's face. She was older than him by quite a bit, small wrinkles forming at the corners of her eyes and lips. Her eyes, once deep brown and vibrant, had lightened and greyed dull with age. Yet, she still radiated beauty.

    She must have seen a lack of recognition in his face, as her smile fell slightly, a knowing expression of a woman who knows she's been used. One who had been used before. Her arms retracted from him, a flush of colour rising to her cheeks as she quickly began to gather up her clothes from the floor, covering herself as best as she could. Saori politely adverted his eyes away from her as she went about her work, waiting for the telling sound of the door being shut behind her retreating form. Sighing softly, he made his way to the washing chambers to rid himself of the stench of sweat and stale Velhim. He must have blacked out again. He still hadn't quite managed to get the amount right, it seemed. This was a disappointment, but he still had a good supply. He'd be able to try again.
    • Love Love x 2
  13. Mystisa Kahiya
    It took all of Mystisa to stop herself from slapping her forehead for stupidity. How could I forget? This is Atanwan. Tea isn't as commonn here as in Asiluppe. Not an hour had passed and already she was making a lot of mistakes. Mother will not approve... but Mother isn't here, is she? The Anakka gulped her juice and let the cool drink wash away her unnerving train of thought.

    Mystisa politely nodded at the scholar and servant who sat with her inside the rickshaw. They were to be her guide, one said, as they left the port for the Palace where the Reconciled will stay. Her company was lively pair, pointing at the Atanwan places of note through the open window. The Anakka nodded and smiled and exclaimed at the right moments but it was difficult for her to concentrate.

    For one, she had already taken the same tour many years ago during one of her Father's Atanwan trips. Admittedly, she recalled her first tour vaguely and many things had probably changed during the years. This left for the second and real reason why she couldn't concentrate: her glimpses of the other Reconciled. Her mind's eye kept going back to port where she observed the arrival of the nobles from Reinkuni and Ester. How different they both were! And how they both were from me! She couldn't help but wonder, will we all mesh together? The Reinkuni prince reminded her of her honorable Father (she has yet to decide whether this was a good or bad thing) while the magistrate from Ester was unbelievably loud and...unruly.

    "...Anakka? Anakka?" her guides eyed her with concern. "Is something the matter?"

    Mystisa was quite surprised to have found herself pouting from thinking about Ester's Reconciled. "I am fine. The trip must have taken a toll on me." She was quick to point at some random building they passed. "What is that?"

    The guides continued their tour but after a while, it became clear to them that the polite Anakka had little interest except for the Library of Anox-Emon and the Great University. The voices inside the rickshaw soon faded into silence until the Palace of Pearls came into view.
    • Thank Thank x 1
  14. Oujin

    Oujin heard the comments made by the other reconciled, he had serious doubts that there were any who had not. The man certainly spoke as if he hardly cared who heard a word he said. A dangerous practice even in the best of circumstances. Yet these were not the best of circumstances. Here they were in a strange land on another country’s soil. Whatever the man’s opinions of the situation, whatever he had been told, whatever he believed, there were certain remarks that should always be kept to one’s self. Kazdan Myr had managed to make a successful first impression on Oujin. The man was a womanizing lout with little capability of considering either his situation, or those people around him whose good opinion he might one day need.

    There were certain remarks that should always be kept to one’s self, so Oujin said nothing. He simply moved towards the waiting horses, his horses, and Julius who was standing there with a wide smirk plastered across his face obviously trying to laugh. “You know," Julius started, “I kind of like that guy!”

    I do not.” Oujin didn’t need to say another word. He had brought the other man along with him for a reason, and they both knew it. Julius would do his job, whether anyone asked him to do it or not. Julius simply sighed in resignation, muttered something about Oujin being too reserved for his own good, and handed him the reigns of his preferred mount. A large buckskin gelding with four black feet, Julius had found his own roan. Without an ounce of wasted movement Oujin swung up into the saddle. It was then he saw the Reconciled from Asiluppe being handed into a nearby rickshaw by a servant.

    Light! She was little more than a child! All right so she was a young woman in her late teens, but still, he had to have ten years on her at least.

    “My lord, Mikoto-Niban?” a voice pulled him from his musings back into reality and he turned his head towards the scholar who had been assigned as his guide. “If you and your companion would care to follow me, sir, I will lead you to the Palace of Pearls and answer any questions you may have on the way.”

    “You can answer one question for me right now,” Julius quipped as they fell in line with the others. “Where can we procure some lighter cloths? I’m well aware that this is only winter, but I’m afraid our party is already wearing the lightest garments we own.”

    “Oh,” the scholar’s eyes widened slightly, but a grin, no doubt at being able to be helpful, quickly spread across the intellectual’s face, “yes, the clothier’s Guild would be more than happy to create suitable garments for all your party. I can have a message sent to them as soon as we reach the palace. Here in Atanwan we prefer wear white as you can see.” There certainly was an abundance of the color. Most of the people Oujin could see seemed to be wearing it ,often with bits of something brighter thrown in. A red scarf here, a blue sash there. “But as it is my understanding that the Aikidoka do not wear white, I will instruct them to bring you any pale colors they have to choose from. I’m sure there will be something you find suitable. A pale grey perhaps?” Oujin nodded. His Kosode this morning was exactly the shade the scholar described, and he had made the mistake of wearing a navy outer layer. It was a mistake, the heat he felt was only growing as the day lengthened. He would admit that freely if anyone were to ask him, but no one did.

    “Well you have done your research,” Julius laughed. “As a general rule the people of Reinkuni wear whatever colors they like, but in the four years I’ve lived there I have only ever seen an Aikidoda wear the color on two occasions. Once was the man’s wedding and he had accented the color with red. The second was a funeral and the warrior in question was the one being buried.”

    The rest of the journey to the palace was like that. The scholar talked, and Julius asked questions or gave answers. It was amazing the gift the man had with people. Not only could he seemingly read perfect strangers like an open book, but he could charm conversation out of a statue.

    Oujin didn’t mind. Julius’s chatter allowed him to make the whole journey to the Palace of Pearls without saying a single word.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Aldrich Vonstrogen

    One Day Earlier:

    The sun glinted gold off the rolling surface of the ocean as the yellow-orange ball of fire began its decent toward the western horizon. The sight would make a good subject for a painting if one were incline to that sort of thing. The way the light played off the topaz blue surface here at the equator of the world was quite inspiring and would grant a masterpiece to artists everywhere. Aldrich Vonstrogen was not inspired. Aldrich Vonstrogen was not an artist. Aldrich Vonstrogen was the Prince of Wind, heir Adjacent to the Obsidian Throne. Aldrich Vonstrogn had been played for a fool.​

    Aldrich had spent the last four years elevating his family to the height of power in Winterhual only to be tricked into being called for Reconciliation. It might as well of been an exile. He had no time to cement his families power and as the driving political force in his family him being sent away for a year was the most disastrous things that could of happened. That the old king Deitrich Adler was a sly master of the Game of Winds was a well known fact, but to think he could of so calmly and decisively removed Aldrich from play was hard to believe, even now with the event just over a week past. Aldrich just hoped his father could keep his whits abouthim. “With me gone the Adler's with have the Throne back inside the year!” Aldrich slammed his fist down on the ship's railing to punctuate the thought and eliciting a creek from the sturdy wood. He would have the last laugh though, once this year was through he would be back in Winterhual, back in Drechston, reclaiming the power he had worked so hard for.​

    For now Aldrich would have to settle for what little power he could gain in Atanwan, perhaps if he went about this correctly, got the favor of key players in other countries, he would return to Winterhual on better footing than he'd left. It would be a large and complex task courting power form so many different cultures. His first move he held in his left hand. A scroll addressed the strewed of Atanwan. The scroll contained a list of demands; Namely, the removal of any allusion to the Adler family from the Winterhual palace, including the tapestry he had heard had been hung in the front hall on the ten year anniversary of their rule, as well as a request for Reinkuni silk bedding. Well... perhaps request was too mild a word but at the same time demand was far too blunt of one. Now that his ship was within a days travel of Atanwan he would send the scroll out by bird. When he arrived on the marrow the reaction and the state of the task's completion would tell him much of what he need to know to get started here. He had one year to ensure that all that he had worked for would not be lost, and Aldrich intended to make the most of it.​

    “Jerome?” Aldrich questioned the air as he turned form the railing and the 'splendid' view. The man, never one to stray far, appeared at his arm in moments. “Send this,” he said as he slapped the scroll into Jerome's waiting hand, “And then meet me in my quarters, we have more plans to make”​
  16. I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
    I would be pure, for there are those who care;
    I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
    I would be brave, for there is much to dare.


    Lavanya stepped naked from the large cold pool which dominated part of the ground floor of the Pohoni mansion. While others slept through the heat, Lavanya lounged in cool water, swimming and soaking to her hearts content. As she was reaching for the short white robe that would cover her until she returned to the top floor and her suite, one of her servants rushed in and bowed. “Honored Lowani,” The old woman sputtered, “An Exalted Voice of Einar is requesting your presence at once!”

    So, Lavanya thought as she languidly pulled on and tied her robe, they has sent her mother’s brother. He was a garrulous and unpleasant old man, given to rambling stories about wars that never happened save only in his own mind. Of her many and numerous relatives, Lavanya disliked the Einar Voice the most.

    She took her time walking up the stairs to her rooms, her bare foot padding softly across the smooth wood; replaced frequently to avoid rotting and molding from the intense heat and high humidity of the island city. She entered her rooms, quite prepared to ignore the Voice until she had dressed and taken in a small snack of cool, fresh fruit.

    In fact, she was halfway to her clothes press when a deep voice, amused and not quivering with age, spoke up from her study, which was piled high with scrolls and books. “I never pictured you for a scholar, Lava.” A chuckled followed, as out of her study a man walked. He was taller than her by several inches, but had the same dark brown hair. On his face was a small mark, swirling black near his eyes and half down his cheek. “Now, I -"

    But it was too late. Lavanya, who started running the moment his voice was heard, jumped on him, her arms wrapping around his neck and shoulders to give him a bear of a hug. “Kavi!” She cried joyously as her hug was returned without hesitation.

    When she had pulled back, and could look at him, she smiled broadly. “A Voice already?” She taunted him, to which he replied with a shrug. The loneliness of living in foreign land, with barbarians who she was, by law and customs, forbidden to befriend in any serious way, and the pain of being so far from home, and family, and a people she understood, lifted from Lavanya with the appearance of her favorite brother.

    Before their conversation could digress into the bemused and excited interchange of inane news common to family reunions, even in Pohoni, Kavi Einar stepped back and bowed. “This Voice brings word from the Enlightened High Lady, honor to her house.”

    Lavanya’s smile fell, and her good mood evaporated like the still morning hush on a feast day. “Honor to Einar.” She replied, the only reply needed for such news. Her brother pulled out a wooden message tube, intricately carved with swirls and knots similar to the black markings on both their bodies. Lavanya pressed just the right knots, twisted slightly and pulled the tube open. A soft water linen paper fell out, which she unrolled and read.

    For a long time, she said nothing. There was a stiff set to her shoulders, and her face was the dead set blank of a person who could not express what they were feeling. Then she bowed, the motion somehow more fluid than her brother’s had been. “I hear and obey.” Again, it was the only reply that was called for.

    As she straightened, she smiled again, although there was a lack of joy, and a sense of restraint in her eyes. “Are you staying long, Kavi?”

    “I am afraid not,” Her brother replied with a wistful smile, one Lavanya knew referenced the heat he disliked so, having lived in the mountain monasteries for so long. “I sail on the evening tide.”

    “So soon?” Surely their mother didn’t have a Voice of Einar acting as simple messenger, even for such a message? There were dozens of Einars who could be trusted to carry messages back and forth between Pohoni and Atanwan.

    “I am here with your new staff, actually.” Kavi continued, as he knew his sister would never ask why he had come. Even a Lowani did not question a Voice.

    “Oh, no. No. I do not require a staff.” Lavanya protested. For ten months, she had lived quite comfortably with only the support of an old married couple, willing exiles from their homeland.

    “You are Lowani, daughter of the Enlightened, and the chosen Reconciled. You must have a fitting staff; the other houses demand it.” At the mention of the other houses, Lavanya realized who her staff was to be. Each house required representation at any event as important as the Reconciliation, so younger sons and daughters, or close cousins, from each of the seven houses would be sent to act as “staff”, while actual servants from the other castes did all the work.

    “Come, I will introduce you.” Kavi, who as a brother had failed entirely to notice Lavanya’s lack of dress, was halfway to the door when he realized she wasn’t following him. In true soldier fashion, she was getting dressed in a hurry, and when he looked back she was already mostly there. Since it was still mid-afternoon, and the heat wouldn’t break for some time, she dressed simply, in shear black combat pants, which tied at the ankle, and an equally thin and loose white shirt.

    In the greeting room of her suite, reached by the public central stairway, stood seven Markless nobles of Pohoni. They stepped forward one by one as Kavi named them. Most were young, early to mid-twenties, of an age to become friends and confidants of Lowani Lavanya. One, however, was bent with age, his dark skin wrinkled as it clung to his bulbous frame. The man’s arms and legs were spindly, looking barely strong enough to move, yet his middle was fully round and firm, the belly of a man who ate well. He came first.

    “Shar Tarquin, a scholar of other nations, who once served the Reconciled of Imarin, five decades in our past.” Of course, Lavanya thought as she gave him a respectful greeting, they would send an elderly Tarquin, lest she grow to close to one of that House, who stood as near rival to her own. As scholars, no family beat the Tarquin.

    Next came a male Hirune and a female Hepugan, chosen to serve as body servants. Both were skilled, as a tailor and jewelry respectfully. Those from the Houses Ahanys, Pelesa and Imarin had, apparently, chosen to follow the cult of Einar, and become warriors of the Fury rank. They would serve as bodyguards and training companions to Lavanya, who was herself a well known warrior among her people. That left the Einar, a distant cousin Lava vaguely remembered, who would serve as her head of staff and personal aid. With them came twenty more servants, to ease the load of the two elderly ones.

    To each person Lavanya offered a special greeting, unique to the individual and based on their family, accomplishments, and chosen profession. When she was done offering salutations, she dismissed each and every one of them, including her younger cousin, until only her brother was left.

    But there was little time for him to linger, for the sun already neared the sea, far out on the horizon. "Do you have any messages for home?" He asked.

    "No." She had nothing to say to her family, and no friends to speak of. A tense silence grew between them as Lavanya once again grew stiff at the mention of home.

    "Honor to your House, Lowani of Einar." Kavi said by way of greeting, a respectful sadness about him as he bowed.

    "Honor to Einar." Lavanya returned, once more making the simple reply more graceful and fluid than her brother could ever manage. Shaking his head ruefully, he walked down the central staircase. Lavanya did not watch him go, turning away to stare out toward home instead.

    I will exchange a city for a sunset,
    The tramp of legions for the wind's wild cry;
    And all the braggart thrust of steel triumphant
    For one far summit, blue against the sky.
  17. Tanderin

    News of being chosen for Reconciliation didn't surprise Tanderin. Not in the least. After all, his family sequestered him in the University since the time he was old enough to leave the palace. His life had been devoted to studies, however boring that had been. So when his family didn't even send for him, only sent their messenger with a letter to him, he wasn't upset. Seems he wasn't going to be the next Archivist after all.

    The letter contained all of the important dates he needed to know, such as when the ceremony would be taking place, and when his ship would be leaving. Telspeth was in the center of the small nation of Alendres, and getting to one of the coastal ports wouldn't take too long, or so he hoped. However, due to the time it would take to travel, it didn't leave him long to pack. With a quiet curse, Tanderin crumpled the letter and threw it back at the messenger before turning and rushing back into the chambers of the University.

    He packed light, taking only one case for a few outfits (mostly breeches and shirts, and one of his more formal outfits), and one more case for his feather collection and a few empty sketch books he'd had one of his teachers compile for him, and his pencils and charcoal. He was kind of glad to be leaving his home country--being somewhere else gave him an opportunity to learn more than he would have here, even though the University had been the hub of all knowledge in Alendres. And besides, there are different birds in different parts of the world--who knows what he'd get the chance to see out there!


    Tanderin had no real entourage. He had no childhood friends, no newer friends, no servants bound to wait on him hand and foot. The ride from the University to the port was traveled by him and one guard--offered by the University, no less. The boat ride, he knew, would be taken by him and no more than the crew and captain. It was going to be a boring one, he was sure. A few days at sea with no one to really talk to but himself and the captain. Being the prince had its perks. Everyone treated him with respect, though he didn't really see the point.


    So after two..or was it three.. days had passed at sea, Tanderin was sitting on the deck with his back against the wall of the cabins. He was staring blankly ahead, out at the rolling waves and the clouds. A sketch book was open in his lap to a blank page, a pencil held loosely in his fingers. It seemed he had been drawing, though something brought his attention away from that endeavor rather quickly. Probably boredom. Some of the crew wondered if he had fallen asleep with his eyes open, because he'd been sitting there for nearly an hour just like that and hadn't moved.

    "Your Highness?" one of the crewmembers asked nervously, approaching the seated man.

    Tanderin's eyes moved to regard the man, then he blinked. "Oh, yes? Hello. Am I in the way? Should I move?"

    The crewman shook his head, still looking terribly awkward. "No, sir! I was just checking on you. You'd been sitting there for over an hour, haven't moved a muscle..."

    "Oh, is that right?" The scholar sighed, then stretched his back and arms. Oh. Must've been right, he was so terribly stiff. He stood with some difficulty, stretching more once he was upright. "Gracious! Yes, thank you for snapping me out of my thoughts. I think I will stretch my legs a bit and get something to eat. Care for anything?"

    "Oh, no, sir. The captain'd have my hide if she saw me eating before mess time."

    And with that, the crewmate went back to his duties, leaving Tanderin to get food on his own. It was awfully boring on this ship. And so the prince went to the lower deck, to the mess 'hall', and snacked on some fruit that had been stocked up for the journey.

    "Shouldn't be more than a few hours before we reach Atanwan. I sure hope I don't lose my mind before then," he sniffed to himself, peeling a bit of skin from his fruit with a fingernail. He imagined what it would be like there, wondering if he was ready for it. It was a great responsibility, being Reconciled, but it was better than being the Archivist.

    "I hear it's hot there. You gonna be ready when we get there?"

    Tanderin turned his head to find the source of the rough, yet feminine voice. The ship's captain, a hardy but not displeasing woman was standing in the doorway. The only thing that set her apart from the rest of the crew was the hat she wore--simple, kept the sun out of her eyes. No one else wore hats out here. "I think so. I didn't pack too much. If it gets cold, I have a coat. If it's too hot, I'll... improvise."

    The captain laughed as she took a seat next to the Prince. "Well, Atanwan's islands have been spotted on the horizon, and the wind's being kind to us today... So we should be there before it gets dark--or too dark, really."

    The prince finished his fruit and licked his fingers clean of juices. "Joy of joys."
    #17 SurpySoup, Aug 9, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2013
  18. Mystisa Kahiya

    19 of Toban

    Samok, my little comet,

    By the time you read this letter, Captain Dehilo's eagle will have arrived in father's study and assure everyone that all is well in my welcome here in Atanwan.

    My voyage in Maebilis was peaceful--- the sort of peace you wouldn't have enjoyed. If I know you well (which I do), you would have spent the three days badgering the captain with an imaginative mutiny and tinkering with the navigation equipment so we'd all be lost at sea. You'd like that, wouldn't you? And then I'll end up missing the Reconciliation ceremony and the upcoming war would be your fault. So don't you sulk at father for not letting you come along (I know you too well to do so).

    The Atanwan welcome I received was also rather quiet and rushed. There were soldiers and some scholars and servants to act as our guides in a small tour towards the Palace of Pearls where I'm staying. The soldiers here are quite queer. Their uniforms are so spotlessly white, you wonder if these men have ever trained in a battlefield! It's not just the soldiers either. The whole city is clad in absolute white that you would have to shield your eyes from the glare!

    I now live in the Asiluppean estate inside the Palace of Pearls. The mansion sweetly reminds me of our Kahiyan home. Although smaller than our own house, it could still accept about ten to fifteen guests a night. Blackroot trees were imported from home to dress this two-storey house, keeping the rooms cool against the country's heat. Soarstika, the old housekeeper, claims she can call the wind.

    I discovered one of father's secrets earlier. There's a staircase in the east wing which father forbids me to use during our previous visits here. What I first thought as stairs leading to the basement was actually a majestic underground pool of running water cupped in Blackroot. Soarstika was thoughtful enough to sprinkle sea salt and lime on the surface. Tonight was the most soothing bath I've ever had. You must ask mother to build us one back home. Then, when I come back, we can play pirates in actual Blackroot waters.

    I've caught a glimpse of two other Reconciled: Reinkuni and Ester. We arrived at port nearly the same time. There's nothing much to say really as we weren't given a chance to talk. The Reinkuni prince reminds me of father but probably less gentle. The Ester Reconciled is quite a character; father would disapprove of him. I'll tell you more as soon as I can.

    I will have to sleep now. Spia has convinced me to find pearls in this Palace of Pearls tomorrow. I don't think it'll be a fruitful search though. Of course, it wouldn't be fun without your mischief but I'll do my best to keep myself happy as should you, my little comet. I hope my letters will encourage you to start reading. In my goodbye letter, I've used simple words but now I'm determined to include more and more grown-up words for you to learn.

    Be well,
    Mystisa Kahiya

    The Anakka sealed the letter with a kiss and the Asiluppean emblem, a wave on the shore, before she blew away her lantern. In warm darkness, she wondered if Soarstika kept eagles in the mansion before sleep befell her with impossible dreams of Reinkuni pirates and Esterian warriors.
    #18 Neohmi, Aug 11, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2013
  19. Claudia

    Claudia stood in the entrance hall of the Winterhaulian mansion and breathed a sigh of relief. They had done it. She and Caius had called in every favor anyone had ever owed them, had pulled every string they could, and had use every shred of influence either of their guilds held in order to pull it off, but they had done it. Claudia was sure now, as she looked around the hall, that she never would have managed without her husband’s help, but manage they had, and now she could only hope that the reconciled would be pleased with what they had accomplished with his home of the next year. Aldrich Vonstrogen was not a man she wished to cross, and Aldrich Vonstrogen had very expensive taste.

    She had wondered briefly if the man knew what he was asking when she had received the message in the early hours of the previous morning. Now she knew he knew exactly what he had asked for. She had originally thought it would be easy to remove every shred of evidence of the Adler family from the Winterhaul mansion, until she received Malik’s report. It seemed the former king of Winterhaul, Dietrich Adler, was a man obsessed with his own power. Even the table linens had born the family crest. But removing all reference of Adler was not going to be enough for Aldrich Vonstrogen. His missive had been clear. He wanted them replaced. If not with his own family crest, which would require a great deal of time she didn't have, his house colors would be sufficient. The Adler family colors which had filled the mansion had been reasonable enough, pale blue and brown, easy to obtain and relatively affordable. The Vonstrogen colors were purple and true orange. Expensive colors to own, even in small amounts. It had taken every shred of her influence to obtain replacement linens, curtains, towels, rugs, and even pillows in the appropriate colors. What had not been available in either purple or orange had been replaced with white. She hoped that would be acceptable.

    That left one more thing, the Reinkunian silk bedding. Unable to find such a luxurious item in the city she had originally ordered the bedding to be replaced with the highest thread count cotton available in Atanwan, but she still hoped to obtain the requested silk sheets. To do so might go a long way towards establishing good relations with the new ruling family of Winterhaul. Claudia sighed as she looked over her shoulder out the open door towards the Reinkuni mansion. It was very early still, the sun barely over the horizon, but she could see movement which meant that some of the household were up. Second Prince Akishino Oujin was by all reports a reasonable man, and his arrival coincided with the retirement of the Reinkunian ambassador. She had been told that the Second Prince of Reinkuni was supposed to take the place of the ambassador until either the end of the reconciliation or a new ambassador was appointed. Depending on how the reconciliation went he might even decide to remain in the post permanently. Surly if she approached him as an ambassador and not as a reconciled he might be willing to at least listen to her request. She needed to pay a visit to all the Reconciled anyway.


    The sun had barely been up a couple of hours by the time Oujin made his way back to his home of the next year. He had grabbed Satoshi and gone to the arena while the air was still crisp with the cool of night knowing that to practice in the heat of a winter Atanwanian day, which was the equivalent of the height of summer in Reinkuni, would be unwise. Now he returned to his mansion.

    It was a large rectangular, three storied, tiered building with a slight protruding wing over the front entrance. The third floor housed the staff rooms, although Reinkuni employed mostly Atanwanian help who had their own homes and families, while the middle floor housed a large number of suites for the more prestigious residence. A suite included not only both a large sitting room and bedchamber, but a reasonably large dressing room as well. Both the upper floors had a large open area over the entranceway that looked down upon the floors below. Everything was done in the style of his homeland, though the materials were Atanwanian. A slightly different texture to the wood here, a different pattern to the tile there. Originally it had been said that is was because the Atanwan materials were made to withstand the heat and humidity far longer than anything Reinkuni could provide, but Oujin knew there was another reason. Everything was done in the style of his homeland to encourage comfort and familiarity with the place, to help him feel at home. Yet everything was just foreign enough to remind him that he was not in Reinkuni, that this was a strange land with strange ways.

    As impressive as the upper stories had been it was the ground floor that had taken Oujin’s breath away upon his first entrance into the mansion. Though it housed the kitchen, dining area, library, reception room, and a small music room, the Reinkunian mansion’s crowning glories were its ballroom and main entrance hall. Painted in rich golden yellows and trimmed in golden hued wood, with the ceiling left open to the floors above, all the light that poured in from the front windows was allowed to bounce off the walls and fill the room with brilliant light no matter the time of day. The front hall’s tile was in a similar hue to the walls and down its length was a long shallow pool with a fountain at its center. The pool was not meant for swimming, though Oujin had heard a number of humorous stories about drunken party guests falling in. Rather the main pool was filled with a number of fish and aquatic plant life while the fountain’s main basin was shaped into an almond flower with three jets spurting up into the air only to have the water rain back down into the flower’s petals. The Symbol of Reinkuni.

    The ballroom was equally magnificent, though Oujin did not believe he would ever have an occasion to use it. He was not his Aunt Momoka. The previous reconciled of Reinkuni had been highly spirited and thrown a number of exciting parties which had furnished a number of the drunken guests and the stories of their falling into the fountain.

    At the moment it was neither the ballroom nor the fountain he desired to see, but the bathhouse which was attached to the rear right corner of the main building via a large deck that ran around the entire perimeter. Both he and Satoshi were covered in sweat, and quite possibly a number of welts and light bruises, from the morning’s training session. At the moment he wanted nothing more the a good soak and a fresh set of cloths. He didn’t make it far though.

    No sooner had he mounted the steps at the main entrance and turned to walk the length of the deck towards the back house then Julius met him with a large beaming smile across his scarred face. “The Lady Claudia Al’Ryan sends word that she would like to visit you.” He smirked, “when shall I tell her is a good time? She seemed rather urgent in her request.”

    Urgent? Oujin frowned. Urgent would imply that it was not a simple visit welcoming him to Atanwan as his guide from the docks had implied might happen once he’d had a proper amount of time to settle in. “Tell her that I can be ready to talk in about an hour.” He answered. So much for his leisurely soak.
  20. [​IMG]
    Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

    Fog crept in from the sea near dawn, blanketed the city of Atanwan in mist. Their five and four were clearly visible, but the dock was closed until the mist cleared completely. During his usual morning jaunt through the city, on his circuitous route toward the Palace, Van noticed the usual gripes about no morning trade, half a day wasted without work, and superstitious nonsense about the gods of a dozen people. While he understood why the city felt the need to moan the delay caused by the fog, for many made their living on the trade and fishing carried out before the afternoon heat sent the city scurrying to rest, he actually felt good about today’s weather.​

    With all incoming ships delayed, Van had time to go about his morning business without feeling like he should rush. It also gave the Lady Claudia longer to satisfy the demands of Prince Aldrich, whose message had arrived rather unexpectedly the day before. He could collect Servius before the younger man found other duties, and a small unit of guardsmen. He also managed to get more scholars to greet today’s Reconciled, although he failed to collect house servants, since they were all busy in the Winterhual mansion.​

    When he finally reached the dock, with the usual collection of horse and human drawn rickshaws, it was some three hours after dawn, and the ships waiting in the cove had just begun to sail further in. There was a good solid four to five hours before the heat of the day became unbearable, plenty of time to collect the Reconciled and return to the palace.​

    When the first of the Reconciled scheduled to arrive that morning stepped off his ship, Van stepped forward and repeated much the same greeting he had given the day before. “Greetings from the Lady Steward Claudia, who sends her regrets that she could not you in person, and from the people of Atanwan. May you always sail on joyous tides.” For some reason, he felt the need to add a common Atanwan well-wishing, perhaps to break the monotone that was quickly overtaking his speech. “I am Van Fehrey, Sor Em Hamid of my family, and the Second Assistant of Foreign Affairs to the Lady Steward. If you require anything during your stay, please feel free to approach me.”

    He turned and pointed toward the gathering of rickshaws. Servius stepped forward to escort the Reconciled at least that far. “Transport has been arranged for you and your entourage. You will be conveyed to the palace in all good speed, and well before siesta.” He hoped today went better than yesterday.​

    A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak.
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