cam

𝕝𝕦𝕟𝕒 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕜𝕪 𝕗𝕠𝕣𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣
Original poster
DONATING MEMBER
Invitation Status
  1. Looking for partners
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. One post per day
  3. 1-3 posts per week
Online Availability
Tuesdays through Saturdays, some Sundays and Mondays, US Eastern time
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Female
Genres
Fantasy, magical, horror, fandom, romance, yuri, cyberpunk, fandom, urban fantasy, high school, historical fantasy.

grassland.jpg
suyin-art-small.jpg

An old man straightened at the edge of a field, and shielded his eyes from the morning sun. In the pale halo, a rider approached. The silhouette was slender and unfamiliar. His weathered thumb twitched reflexively. Nobody ever approached from the east, as Turan stretched beyond with scorching sands that swallowed travelers and entire cities alike.

He wasn't the first to notice, either. Villagers stopped their toil and followed his gaze, where the silhouette continued to sway, and some retreated into the shade of the mudbrick homes that sparsely dotted the landscape. For a frozen moment, he thought to join them, but the rider did not charge, and his curiosity swelled, driving his feet almost automatically though the town center towards the stranger.

For all his wildest expectations, however, he found himself momentarily unable to comprehend the sight that greeted him, even as the steed was close enough to touch, and the strange armor and silks of its rider nearly surrounded him as they passed unbothered. A woman? With features he could barely describe. His many years meant he knew of the Khitan people from the far East, but his mind struggled even as realization began to set in. Tales and hearsay had formed a different idea in his head about a civilization he would never see, but could think of no other, as she was neither Turan nor Hyrkanian.

"Traveler," he called out, but she did not respond. With her back to him, he could see that her hair, blacker than the night, was long and pinned up loosely with two slivers of wood. To his continued surprise, he saw a sword across her back, sheathed in an ornate scabbard, and two others appeared to be crossed together in the saddlebag draped over her mount's hindquarters. The weapons were slender, with a grace and meticulous craftsmanship in their hilts that seemed too fine to be made from human hands.

"Warrior?" he then asked, and the woman turned her head. In profile, her features were broad and slight, with little sharpness except for her chin. He had heard that the Khitans had a complexion that appeared as parchment, but she instead seemed carved out of ivory, and he found himself unable to guess at her age. "From where do you hail?"

"Far from here," she answered, voice tinged with the dialect of somebody who spoke languages unheard of in this part of the world.

"Khitai? You're from Khitai, aren't you? From beyond Hyrkania and the Great Wall?"

She did not respond, and he hurried alongside her, again shielding his eyes as he turned his gaze upward to see her more closely. A golden pauldron on her right shoulder gleamed in the sun, held in place by leather straps that crossed her body. It seemed to be the only piece of metal armor that she wore, even as she clearly appeared ready for battle. Form-fitting red and white layers, almost like a robe or dress, cascaded down to her feet, with a leather bodice cinching it together at her diminutive waist. And still he struggled to liken it to anything remotely familiar, except for perhaps the desert silks of Sygian sorcerers from the south.

His curiosity continued to drive him, even as they began to leave the village behind.

"What do you seek in these lands?" he persisted. He turned his eyes down the road, which wound back and forth across paltry, wind-beaten plains, where crops barely found footing in the rocky soil. "You ride toward dangerous places."

"A blade."

"Aye, you seek Cimmeria, then? Their swordsmanship and metallurgy is known."

"I seek a Cimmerian."

"Cimmeria is many, many weeks from here. Few could make that journey, even with a caravan. A solo rider will surely meet their unsavory end, even before reaching those frozen lands!"

"I seek a Cimmerian, not Cimmeria. I go to Aquilonia."

"A Cimmerian in Aquilonia?" he asked, stopping short. The rider continued on her way, while a strange feeling of gloom welled up inside him. Without fully knowing why, he felt a stinging sensation behind his eyes. "The only Cimmerian in Aquilonia is King Conan, and a blade - the Atlantean Sword - well, only he can claim to wield it."

"The time has come for it to pass to more worthy hands," the woman responded, slowly and deliberately, as she focused on translating her thoughts to foreign tongue. She withdrew an ornate fan from within her robes and snapped it open. Already the heat of these forsaken lands was settling in, and she waved it curtly in front of her face. "Conan the Cimmerian was a thief before he was a king, and as he stole that blade from the tomb of a great ruler, so too shall I take it from his."

For Suyin, there could be no other outcome. The temple sages had gazed into the scented vapours and saw the coming age of fire and blood, where Aquilonia would fall to Pictish hordes while the Great Wall of Khitai held strong, and the blade she sought would survive the end of yet another civilization, to carve even greater legend.
Top: "Grassland", by Bigball Gao on ArtStation, borrowed here to portray Zamora countryside.
Top Middle: "浮尘", by xiaosu Chen on ArtStation, borrowed here to portray Suyin.
This story is set in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age near the end of Conan's rule as king, drawing inspiration from the original stories, the 1982 film "Conan the Barbarian", various printed comics, and the series of Conan video games by Funcom. Also deriving some inspiration from other weird fiction of the era, westerns, and various Wuxia films - particularly Jen Yu's journey with the Green Destiny in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". I am writing solo for my own creative exercise, but would love to hear feedback from anyone, or potentially even link up with partners to make an RP out of this.
hyboria.gif
 
Last edited:

cam

𝕝𝕦𝕟𝕒 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕜𝕪 𝕗𝕠𝕣𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣
Original poster
DONATING MEMBER
Invitation Status
  1. Looking for partners
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. One post per day
  3. 1-3 posts per week
Online Availability
Tuesdays through Saturdays, some Sundays and Mondays, US Eastern time
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Female
Genres
Fantasy, magical, horror, fandom, romance, yuri, cyberpunk, fandom, urban fantasy, high school, historical fantasy.
In grand and distant Khitai, Death is depicted as a woman, and will answer any question put to her by a man with courage enough to ask.

Suyin found that few men bore courage in the ways they so often boasted, and that their only asking at death's door was for a mercy they hadn't earned.

She considered this with a detached sort of mirth, and reflected on other things she knew, as the monotonous countryside ran together. Sand gave way to stone, stone gave way to parched fields, and soon the mountain ridge that divided Zamora from Corinthia could be seen in a nearly uninterrupted jagged line across the far horizon.

By now she was upon the halfway point of her journey, and already she had felled a number of challengers along the way. Not far from her home province of Ruo Gen, a man had cried for help from within the jaws of a great gator, only to attack her as she drew near, showing the beast to be a taxidermied fake. In the Hyrkanian port city of Khoraf, an entire tavern's clientele descended upon her in drunken fervor, and for fun she used her still-sheathed blade to knock them each unconscious with rapid blows about their heads. Directly across the sea, where the ship docked in Aghrapur and she intended to start on the Road of Kings all the way to Aquilonia, the piratical comrades of those drunken fools she'd left behind demanded retribution, but by then she had lost all patience for play.

Suyin wondered what these men might've thought - if indeed they were capable of such feats - if they knew she hadn't always been a warrior, at least not in the martial sense. Though not nobility, she had an easy upbringing in a family of some status, and endeavored to be a physician, spending most of her days with scrolls clutched in her arms, moving from shelves to desk and back again as each day faded and censers swung perfumed smoke from the vaulted ceilings of temple libraries. But increasingly stranger and more fascinating texts drew her mind elsewhere, and curiosity led her to many sleepless nights researching any materials she could obtain about Khitan generals and the strange lands of Hyboria beyond the wall. This knowledge eventually stoked the flames of adolescence, and she sought martial training when she came of age. In campaigns away from home, she served as a frontline battle-medic, and sought the ways of the sorcerers and shaman in bamboo jungles where mist lingered eternally.

But no knowledge tempted her more greatly than mastery of the blade, and no knowledge challenged her more. But despite, or perhaps because of her inclination to study, what initially felt impossible became second nature, and she treated injury with one hand while causing it with the other.

The mountain range in the distance was nearer, now, showing a cold and unfeeling face, capped with snow. The road had managed to bypass the Kezankian mountain range at the eastern border of Zamora, but here it seemed determined to run headlong into sheer wall. From her current vantage point, Suyin was unable to perceive whether the road climbed upward or found passage between, but she didn't care. Nothing would stop her from reaching that palace in Tarantia.

She thought of the battle she would find at the end of her journey. Under different circumstances, a Cimmerian and a Khitan would likely have much to discuss. In her studies, she had found many similarities in culture and philosophy. Both had a reverence for the dead, making peace with the ultimate fate that comes to all. Both built grand necropolises, where tombs were sacred places, and ritual demanded that burials be accompanied with all the trappings and artifacts one was expected to carry into the afterlife. Both cultures forged themselves in the flames of hardship, where life was short and brutal for most, and both emerged as strong as iron in search of great battle.

And no Cimmerian was made of stronger iron than Conan, undefeated despite throwing himself wildly at increasingly mad odds. But those stories were from ages past, and some whispered of an ill-fitted crown atop a troubled brow.

"I have no interest in crowns," she said aloud in response to her own thoughts. It was believed among the bear shaman that sometimes words had great power when uttered, and speaking them granted affirmation and made it so. She had seen one such shaman rise from a crouching position in a bamboo clearing, a whirlwind of fallen leaves surrounding him, with a great ursine shape silhouetted behind him as he whispered names of forest spirits. "I shall rule destiny itself."

In shrouded and mighty Khitai, Death is a woman, and will answer any question put to her by a man with courage enough to ask. But now she had a rare question of her own;

What is the riddle of steel?
 
Last edited:

cam

𝕝𝕦𝕟𝕒 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕜𝕪 𝕗𝕠𝕣𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕣
Original poster
DONATING MEMBER
Invitation Status
  1. Looking for partners
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. One post per day
  3. 1-3 posts per week
Online Availability
Tuesdays through Saturdays, some Sundays and Mondays, US Eastern time
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Female
Genres
Fantasy, magical, horror, fandom, romance, yuri, cyberpunk, fandom, urban fantasy, high school, historical fantasy.
Suyin slowed in the shadow of the looming mountain. A small caravan lay overturned on the trail ahead. Its shredded silk canopy blew lazily in the rippling heat, with the shafts of arrows embedded at odd angles in the splintered wood. She watched this still scene with stoic caution, breath held in her chest, but no other movement presented itself. There came only the screech of distant beetles and the flowing snap and flutter of her battle dress in the dry wind.

She dropped silently from her saddle, trailing a comforting hand along the darkly dappled hide of her mount as she made her way to the scattered wreckage. As her viewpoint shifted, she saw streaks of emptied supply boxes, overturned food baskets, a shattered wagon wheel with spokes splayed outward, and the heavy body of a horse slumped in the dirt. But Suyin stopped short when suddenly an outstretched pair of armored legs were visible behind the cart, and a labored, hacking cough signaled that someone yet lived.

"Are you a healer?" asked the man. His voice wasn't particularly hopeful. His left arm was crossed to his right shoulder, where an arrow was embedded deep near the crook of his neck. He could hardly turn his head, instead turning his eyes up to the woman, showing resolution in place of fear. His quilted gambeson was stained darkly with dirt and blood, and made a wet sound beneath his flattened palm. Suyin knew he was beyond saving at this point.

"I used to be," she replied.

"Then I suppose I used to be among the living," he chortled, painfully. "Come to finish the job?"

"If you say the words, I will grant you death."

He almost shook his head, but instead closed his eyes and laughed again. He weakly raised up his free hand and dropped it back to the ground, as if to motion to the futility of his situation. "Death is already here. Why bloody that fancy blade of yours?"

"It is no stranger to blood."

"Truly," he said, and it was unclear if he was questioning or agreeing. "You are a long way from Khitai."

Suyin didn't answer, and didn't move to brush away the loose strands of black hair that whipped around her face.

"My home is in Khoraja, a day's ride south from here, but it may as well be as far away as yours. We had hoped to circle around Koth rather than travel through it, me and my travel companions, but were set upon by Shemite bandits anyway. I fought as well as I could, but their arrow disabled my sword arm, and their lances struck true."

"Companions?"

"Aye. Another soldier, like me, and a freed slave girl and her boy. My lord bid their safe passage from Corinthia, but I have failed in my appointed task. I dread to think of their fate."

Suyin looked to the dirt beneath the man, her gaze following from where he sat to where a shortsword lay some distance away. Picking it up, she sensed the man's sharp inhalation of breath, and for a moment their eyes locked as neither knew what the other intended to do. A vulture cried in the distance.

"A warrior should die with blade in hand," she finally said, and turned the weapon around to lower its handle into his open fingers. He gripped it thankfully with his slowly draining strength, the flat side of the sword now crossing his lap.

"You know much of warriors?"

"I know much of many things, Khorajan."

"Then you know that many have died on this Road of Kings, just as I am about to. The fates of many nations were decided from end to end of this accursed strip."

"I am weary of kings," she said, thinking of one in particular. She unconsciously looked westward, and her unexpected companion mused at her mission.

"Perhaps. But Hyboria would fall without leadership," he warned, carefully. "These are savage lands, with savage people. How quickly we fall to our baser instincts. But truly, deep down, we long to be ruled over. We give purpose to fealty. Do you know of these things?"

Suyin shifted. She thought of the time a maiden in silks and satin once pulled Suyin's hands together around her throat, asking the girl from Khitai to grip as she wished.

The look on the man's face must have meant he'd seen the answer in her eyes, and his head rolled forward to his chest. He sat like this for a moment, quiet, dying, before weakly presenting his last question. "A healer turned to a warrior? What inspires this duality?"

"We in Khitai believe in balance, in ourselves, and in all things - the heavens, the earth, and the underworld aligned, so that our spirits may pass through each when our time comes. As yours does now."

The soldier's hand slipped from around the arrow and fell to his lap, gauntlet clanging against his sword, and Suyin found herself above yet another lifeless form. She watched with curiosity, seemingly forever, until finally she rejoined her steed and alighted atop the saddle.

"Peace in death, Khorajan," she offered as she passed, remembering herself from a different time.
 
Last edited: