Tormented Souls (Peregrine x Tinder)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Peregrine, Mar 16, 2015.

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  1. "They are keeping it from you!"

    The screams of the clanless echoed around the marketplace, loud enough to be obvious even over the sound of the merchants and their patrons. He crouched in the corner, green lion's mane grown ragged and wild. For a moment he panted heavily, as though the shout had cost him dearly, before he opened his mouth to cry an obscure warning once more, that was just as inevitably to be ignored. The people in the market did their best to ignore him, despite his attempts to garner their attention. As long as he stayed in his corner it wasn't all that hard of a task. But when he got up, began to try and tug at the coats of the people around him, they fled before him or turned aggressive and pushed and shoved him back into his corner.

    In a world where no person could guarantee where they would be spending the night, or what possessions they would have except for those things they kept on themselves, there were very few things taken for granted. But one thing that all people knew was that the clanless were mad. Whatever it was about being adrift in this shifting world without the support of a clan that caused it, it was as close to a guarantee as the people of this world could find.

    The only people who were considered even crazier than the clanless were those who would willingly allow themselves to be led somewhere by the clanless. After all, everyone knew that was the quickest way to die. Unless, of course, you had nothing to fear from death.

    When the distant shout first reached his ears Marek came to a sudden halt, the feathers on his back riffling, thus forcing his companion to come to a stop as well. Miroslav turned around, his irritation obvious despite the fact that his milky eyes were covered in a white cloth. The place they had been trying to get to for a good chunk of the morning, the place that had vanished from right in front of them three times now as the tiles had shifted before they could reach it, was once more within reach. Marek didn't care. That place meant nothing to him, and the fact that both his and Miroslav's combined will had not been enough to bring them to the place said something in and of itself.

    "Come on," Marek said, expression and posture making it clear that he would brook no argument. He had always believed that finding the source of any disturbance that was near enough to draw his attention was a worthwhile endeavor, wherever that might lead him. It had been a practice that had served him well over the course of his long life, because as often as not it was his own distant will that had brought him to the location. Marek turned away down a random street, listening for another shout, and Miroslav fell into step behind him, moth's antennae vibrating.

    The streets were simple, hard packed dirt, following along the cracks between the tiles. More than once in the past some confident individual, usually from the Cerebral or the Temporal, would come in and try and lay down a material to pave the streets and allow for easier travel. It never worked, because the shifting of the tiles would cause the road to bend and straighten continuously, and no material that had yet been found could tolerate that kind of change without breaking itself. Many people chose to make up for it on the tiles, with intricate stone and wood houses and neatly tended yards. Each of the clans had their own unique flair that they would add to the tiles, not to mention the bright colors and intricate symbols that would also mark their possession. It had a combined effect to make the street a riot of color, with no rhyme or reason because no house could be built to compliment it’s ever changing neighbors.

    Marek's bet quickly paid off. Even though the shout came from a different direction every time it came, it also got steadily louder and louder as they wound their way through the narrow streets, their goal clearly held in their minds. Never once did the sound vanish completely, and after only about five minutes, compared to the hours they had spent trying to get to their previous destination, the brightly colored fabric of a multi-clan market came into view. Miroslav and Marek quickly stepped onto the cobblestone market tile before it could disappear, slipping in among the mingling people.

    Even in a multi-clan market, the different clans still separated, with very little mingling. The Synergist, as per usual in most multi-clan markets, had the largest representation, covering a good third of the tile in the honey yellow that was their color, each stall also marked with the runic teardrop that represented their clan. As a matter of fact, the only one of the major clans that wasn't represented was the forest green of the Cerebral. Even Miroslav's former clan, the Dominant, was represented, although their pastel blue canopy only graced two stalls.

    "They are keeping secrets, and they'll let you all die before letting you have them! All of you!"

    Marek smiled. This sounded promising. It had been so long since he had found a new lead to pursue. Hopefully this one would end better.

    Marek's form was not the most physically intimidating on the tile, that honor belonged to the muscle bound hulk with curving bulls horns that was selling fresh vegetables under a wine red banner, and was glowering at everyone who dared shop at the similar stand just across the way, that only difference being its earthy orange canopy. Nonetheless, the crowd still parted for the red-haired man, unconsciously separating for his quiet power. Miroslav clung close behind him, riding in the wake of his passage before the crowd could fill back in.

    They found the screaming man on the far side of the market, hiding behind a yellow cart stocked to the brim with dates and other dried fruit. The shopkeeper glared at the clanless man, as it was clear his antics had driven away all his customers. Indeed, the moment Marek drew close the clanless lunged at him, halting scant inches from a collision.

    "Listen!" he bellowed. "Listen to me!"

    "Alright," Marek agreed calmly, not stepping back from the man even though his smell was more than enough to drive anyone away.

    Marek's response seemed to take the clanless by surprise. He stumbled back, panting heavily. His tongue lolled out of his mouth like a dog, revealing once sharp teeth that seemed to have been ground to nothing more than nubs. The shopkeeper watched this interaction with some surprise.

    "Come?" the clanless asked curiously. Marek nodded, and the shopkeeper's surprise quickly turned to disgust, mixed with a pinch of relief that the madman would finally be leaving, and some customers might return. The clanless turned, quickly scampering off the tile and into another narrow street, with Marek and Miroslav following closely behind.

    It was uncertain what exactly the clanless was looking for, because he came to a halt on a street corner that seemed identical to countless others they had passed. Marek did not question it, and once more stepped up to the green-maned man, waiting for him to speak. The clanless, though, only grabbed at the small stone amulet around his chest, clearly broken and carrying nothing but his own personal symbol, rather than the house and clan symbol that would normally accompany the personal symbol of the non-exiled. He shoved it into his mouth, biting down with a harsh grating sound that caused Marek to wince. At least now he knew what had happened to the man's teeth.

    "They're liars."

    "Who is?"

    But the clanless seemed to have forgotten what he was saying. The street shifted, sending the tile with a simple yellow house to somewhere else within the city, while, just further down the block, a rich green house came into being. The clanless tugged at his hair, whining faintly, before turning and racing away. Miroslav raised an eyebrow. Marek's only response was to sigh and shrug his shoulders. They chased after.

    He finally came to a halt on seemingly another random corner, panting heavily. At the very least, the clanless' strange actions confirmed this was not a trap to lead two unusually friendly strangers to their death.

    "Easy," Marek said softly, like he was talking to some angry stray. "Tell us what you have to say."

    The clanless looked around furtively, before he began to babble. "They tried to keep me away, but I was too clever for them. Oh, yes, far too clever. They didn't want me to know but I found out anyways."

    "What did you find?"

    "Pages!" The clanless laughed maniacally. "Pages and pages of pages, covered in scribbles. I didn't think much of it, didn't think it was important, but when they found out I knew they got rid of poor Goren. Then I knew it was important."

    "Who got rid of you?"

    "Them! The meanie sheanie greenies."

    Marek's brow bent in confusion, before things suddenly clicked. It wasn't a coincidence that the clanless had gone to one of only a few multi-clan markets that represented every clan but the Cerebral. Nor was it a coincidence that he had fled as soon as a Cerebral house had appeared on the street. The clanless was utterly terrified of them, and there was only one good explanation for why. That was the clan he had been a part of before his exile.

    "Pages?" Marek asked, trying to prompt the man further. Why would the Cerebrals care about protecting pages?

    "Pages and pages and pages. Covered in tiny little lines all over, but no words. No words. Just little inkwells and lines and lines."

    Inkwells? The clanless was speaking gibberish. Marek sighed in frustration. "This was an utter waste of time," he muttered, turning away indignantly.

    "No! Everyone must know." The clanless lunged for Marek, clearly intending to grab him and force him to listen. Marek whirled, slashing wildly with the sharp horns on the outside of his forearm, causing the clanless to fall back or risk being cut open. He whimpered, before turning and scurrying away, head bent low.

    "Come on," Marek muttered. "Let's get out of here."

    They walked in silence for many minutes, winding absentmindedly through the streets with no real destination in mind. Marek came to a halt again as he rounded another corner, seeing a well in the center of the street. It was a simple place, containing nothing but several buckets, a few benches to allow people to sit and talk during hot weather, and the pump well itself. He sat down on one of the benches before turning and pumping up some water into a shallow wood bucket. He dumped the freezing water over his head, soaking the simple brown tunic he wore and causing it to plaster to his chest. Marek had hoped the shock would relieve his sense of disappointment. By this point Marek should have gotten used to failure, but he and Miroslav had been drifting for so long now that Marek would have sworn that clanless should have guided him to a new lead, a new possibility. Instead, all he had done was babble about lines and inkwells.

    "Oh." Now that he knew it, the answer was so obvious. The clanless hadn't meant inkwells but ink wells, or rather, drawings of wells on paper. And wells and lines could only mean one thing.

    "They kept the maps."
    #1 Peregrine, Mar 16, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
  2. The marketplace was loud; too loud for Miroslav’s liking. All the yelling, grumbling and fits of laughter acted as little beestings to his temper as he stalked behind Marek, acting as his silent shadow. It was all he could do to keep up with the man. They were off on another wild goose chase it seemed, going from one dead lead to the next. The blasted house they’d been after all morning hadn’t even been more than an idle rumor pasted around in the alleyways, but that did nothing to deter Marek. Now it seemed some new bit of information drew his attention. No doubt it would be another dead end just like the others before had, but there was no stopping Marek once he’d chosen a destination. If only that destination could have been somewhere with fewer people.

    Crowds never ceased to confound Miroslav. They were all so noisy; it left his ears hurting and him stumbling around with little to no sense of where he was going. The only thing that could guide him in times like these was the presence of Marek, which served to only irritate him more. Such reliance was a sign of weakness he preferred not to show, not that there was much he could do about it. There were too many voices in the air for his ears to endure and too many vibrations for him to make any sense of where he was walking. It was similar to being enveloped in a thick fog, or so he had been told by Hana once long ago. All that he could gather from amidst the chaos was that they were currently getting closer to the voice that had initially drawn Marek, which meant its owner was their target. At least this walk would be easier than their earlier battle with the house. He kept his will focused on Marek, too disoriented in the crowd to do much else. He feared taking his concentration off of his companion might result in him being left behind and that was the last thing he wished to experience today.

    As soon as they arrived at the man, Miroslav regretted the good time they’d made. This man was screaming at the top on his lungs, which made Miroslav cringe. Matters were made only worse by his stench, which assaulted Miroslav’s nose and churned his stomach. He brought his hand to his nose, hoping to breathe without choking on the vile air coming off of him. At least the crowd had backed off from the man, but that was the only relief Miroslav found. He listened to the exchange between the man and Marek, groaning to himself when the man asked Marek to follow. They went with, of course; Marek was never one to turn down a lead. It didn’t matter that the creature could be leading them into a trap. For once, Miroslav complained less of the recklessness though. Following the man led them far from the market, freeing both Miroslav’s sense of hearing and his “vision.” Once again, he was fully aware of his surroundings, which brought him a great deal of comfort. Even the man’s stench seemed more tolerable now that he could feel the walls around him once more.

    They stopped and Marek probed the man for answers, but received none before he took off without warning. They chased him down. Miroslav was grateful the man had chosen to run here and not back in the market. If they’d been focused to run there, he had no doubt he would have lost Marek in the crowd. When they found him once more, the interrogation continued, though Miroslav had half-a-mind to leave the pitiful thing there and just move one. This man was clearly insane. There would be no information for them with him.

    From what Miroslav could pick up from the madman’s ramblings, it seemed he believed some great monster was after him, though Miroslav knew not what it was. The descriptions he gave were vague and did not match any sort of people or creature he could think of. Eventually Marek realized the futility of the venture and they were off again, now lacking a destination completely. Miroslav was almost tempted to say he’d known the man had nothing all along, but thought better of it. There was no need to provoke Marek if he could avoid it.

    They stopped in an open space, going to a well and pausing for a rest which Miroslav was grateful for. They’d been walking since early that morning and it was good to rest, even if only for a few moments. He sat down at the other end of the bench, leaning forward on his knees. There was silence between them for the time being, which suited him just fine. It gave him time to recover from the overstimulation of that marketplace.

    When Marek spoke again, Miroslav sighed, “What are you on about now? Don’t tell me you mean to look into whatever that fool was screeching about.” He feared he knew the answer to his own question. If there were even an ounce of truth to what that man had been going on about, Marek would want to search it out. Miroslav was no in the mood for another ridiculous hunt today. “What would be the point of following after the musings of a madman?” he grumbled as he stood once more and lifted his arm to wipe some perspiration off his forehead. Pages and ink scribblings the man had gone on about. Miroslav had never had a use for such things. They sounded like those silly books the Cerebrals treasured. A load of nonsense if anyone asked him.

    He turned to the side to speak more or less directly to Marek, “Even if his crazed speak had any wisdom in it, it was more than likely mere coincidence. He hardly seemed like a trustworthy man. I suggest we save ourselves the trouble of following yet another uncertain lead and continue searching for something with more promise. At least we will not be as likely to waste our time or our lives.” He feared his logic was lost on his companion, but he’d said his peace. It was the only card he had to play. The final decision was Marek’s, whether Miroslav liked the idea or not. He could only hope his companion would heed his warnings for once.
  3. At first his friend’s complaints meant little to Marek, but as Miroslav continued he found himself becoming more and more frustrating with the gripings of the former Dominant. Therefore, when Miroslav finally fell silent, Marek burst out into furious, albeit quiet, tirade.

    “Something. With more. Promise?” Marek spat, his voice hardening into something rarely directed at the blind man. “Please, tell me O’ Master Miroslav, what exactly that is. Tell me, in all your infinite wisdom about the way this world works, what we could possibly try that I have not already done that has more ‘promise’.” Marek knew that this fury was not necessary, that in the end Miroslav would have gone along with whatever he decided to do, if simply because he had no choice. But Marek had grown tired of Miroslav’s griping. Was it justified? Undoubtedly. But that did not mean that Marek had to put up with it. It was time for Miroslav to move on.

    “Do you remember what I told you the very first time we met? When you too were nothing but a madman, crazed by a desire for revenge that you could not execute? I told you this was not going to be some grand adventure. I told you it was going to end in misery. And what did you tell me? ‘Anything is better than this.’

    Once, even a short while ago, Marek would have tried to reason with Miroslav. He would have explained his thoughts, what he knew, or at least guessed, that the rambling madman was talking about, and he would have continued to reason and cajole until Miroslav was ready to attempt the quest, however improbable. But now there was no patience left in Marek. “Well, here we are. Tragedy has once more struck this impossible quest of mine. I warned you not to join. You chose to ignore me. Now you are stuck, Karlel proved exactly how stuck only a short while ago, and you have no choice. You gave away that right.”

    “Listen or not, that is your prerogative. Either way, shut the fuck up.”
  4. Miroslav found himself at a loss. He was not surprised that Marek had rejected his advice as he usually did whenever it came to his mad quest, but rather that he had been so fierce in his rejection. It seemed his companion was as close to the end of his patience as Miroslav was. It wasn’t like him to waste words on anyone, not even those he traveled with. Of course his points were valid ones. Miroslav knew there was little point in telling him not to follow a lead. They’d gone on less in the past, but the problem was that every one of those leads had ended with them fighting for their lives and occasionally coming very close to losing them. The world was not a safe place and it was not uncommon for people to end up dead if they wandered too far from civilization, but for Marek none of that mattered. He was different from ordinary people and death held little meaning for him.

    Miroslav, on the other hand, was perfectly ordinary outside of his ability to control will. If he was stabbed or crushed or ripped apart like a wounded animal in a den of lions that was the end and he was not eager to meet death. There were still a few goals that held him back which Marek was kind enough to point out. He had tried to avoid thinking about them, especially after what had happened to Karlel. Those goals had become seemingly unreachable as of late and their elusiveness did nothing to ease his mood. They were a constant in the back of his mind, always ready to fly forward in a moment of solitude. One could only meditate at the impossible for so long before seeking solace in something else. Unfortunately for him, he had chosen to find peace in yet another impossibility leaving his mind with no peace outside of the thin film of reason he clung to.

    He sighed and walked a few paces from Marek though he kept his will trained on him. He had no intention of leaving, even so he swore he could feel invisible eyes on him. The world always seemed to grow hostile if he ever began to wander from Marek’s side, at least it had felt that way ever since the incident. It was impossible to tell whether this was all in his mind or if there really was something waiting to strike. In the end it didn’t matter, he only needed the space for a few moments. It was obvious Marek would not be reasonable today which meant that it was Miroslav who would have to bend his will once again. In the very least he wanted to know what was happening now. Stumbling around in the dark was not something he cared for.

    Without turning back, he asked, “Where are we going then?” His question was meant to both get more information on this new development and to show his reluctant submission. He didn’t like the idea, but he was done fighting with Marek for one day. He was too tired for it, both mentally and physically. Better to just get on with things and see what happened. At least it would distract him from all the other problems that had been cropping up.
  5. “Oh, so you are going to listen now?” All the same, Miroslav’s submission seemed to ease some of the tension radiating off Marek. He relaxed a little bit, settling back against the well and tracing absentminded fingers over the stone.

    Marek had been there when the wells were first being installed as the only semi-permanent fixtures in a world that constantly shifted and bent. Back then it had seemed like the ultimate feat, finding a way to tap into the underground water that was always present just below the shifting surface of the world, but also always dangerously out of reach. It had eased one of the many burdens of a world that was still trying to figure out how to inhabit a land that never stayed in the same place indefinitely. Now the wells were just a part of life. Even Marek had grown used to their existence, had come to take them for granted and forget their significance. But, once upon a time, so many years ago that even Marek had long since stopped bothering to count, the people of the young Cerebral clan had found a way underground. Then it had only meant water. Eventually it had become a potential hope, another possibility, but by that point the way underground had already been forgotten. Marek had looked, hoped, always kept an eye out for even the slightest hint of a way to get underground, but eventually he had been forced to set the idea aside as a weak hope.

    Now, though, things were different. The words of the mad clanless were more than just a false hope, twisted to fit the facts. They had to be. There was nothing else that made sense.

    “We are going to the library of the Cerebrals,” Marek said.

    He could practically see the reaction his words had caused in the blind man. All the same, Miroslav reigned in the bout of emotion. Both of them knew that it wouldn’t do any good. Whatever argument Miroslav presented, Marek would either deny or flat out ignore it, and it would only lead to greater frustration in the immortal man, which would in turn be put back on Miroslav himself.

    When he was sure his reaction was in check, Miroslav asked, quite simply, “Why?”

    For a moment Marek tensed, but he could not deny his long-time partner an explanation when he was, willingly or not, going along with Marek’s decision. “Once, a long time ago, the Cerebrals found a way to get underground. They used it to build the wells. I thought that information was lost, but I think the Cerebrals kept the records stored away.”

    “And what makes you so sure that clanless wasn’t just a deranged lunatic?”

    “Because his words made sense.” Miroslav raised a skeptical eyebrow, and Marek glowered. The expression had little impact on the blind man, even though he could undoubtedly sense Marek’s frustration. “Just because you don’t get it doesn’t mean the connection isn’t there. The clanless was talking about pages, and he said that when he found them, “they” threw him out. He was desperately afraid of “them”, and wanted to avoid “them” at all costs, but he also wanted to tell people about how “they” were liars and were dangerous. So he went to a marketplace that had every clan except the Cerebrals. He was talking to us, but he fled as soon as a house with their green trim appeared. Even his name, Goren, speaks of the Cerebrals. So the Cerebrals have pages with lines that aren’t writing, and these pages have ink wells, drawings of wells, on them.” Marek gestured expressively.
  6. Books; wonderful. The only things Miroslav cared less about than those hunks of wood pulp was the useless ink smeared on them. Unfortunately it seemed these drawings had Marek rather excited. Whatever logic Miroslav brought into the mix now would be as good as a drop of rain on a wildfire. What would getting a drawing of wells accomplish anyway? They would have a piece of paper, no closer to any sort of progress than before. What could a paper tell them that walking to the individual wells could not? They had been build eons ago to get to the water and some sort of technology kept them connected no matter how the world shifted. Miroslav didn’t need a paper to tell him the obvious and neither did Marek, which only meant that whatever he hoped to accomplish with the paper was mostly like incredibly dangerous and likely involved the underground. He sighed, rubbing his temples to keep the smart remarks that came to his mind from being voiced. Neither of them needed that at moment, even if Miroslav felt that airing his complaints would give him momentary relief. Marek was in no mood for it today and in the end Miroslav was subject to his will, as much as that fact drove him insane.

    “Do you have a plan to get these pages?” he asked, resignation taking away the fire in his voice and replacing it with the usual grumbling. He stepped back towards Marek and sat on the bench, resting while he had the chance, “The Cerebrals guard their books like rabid dogs guard their kills. I doubt they’ll let us walk in and take them.”

    What was even better was according to his explanation, the Cerebrals had already thrown out one of their own for something involving these very pages. Acquiring them would mean going directly against one of the most powerful clans in the land. They had run into resistance in the past, but Miroslav had never seen Marek take on anyone as powerful as the Cerebrals. Even as desperate as he was, surely he couldn’t believe he would be able to force them to give him what he wanted.

    Miroslav bit back his frustration, his mind wandering back to a time when everyone listened to what he had to say. He’d been important then, the greatest hope his clan had. There hadn’t been a single person who would dare oppose him. Now it felt as though the only thing he was good for was added will support, a glorified battery with legs to follow Marek. There was so little use in making suggests to the man that Miroslav would have been better off being mute. Most days it felt as though the only reason he spoke at all was keep himself sane and even that reason was being to wear thin.

    Either way his thoughts and feelings didn’t matter, and complaining to himself did nothing to keep the two of them from dying in this attempt. There was little he could offer in terms of planning for this. He knew only the basics about the Cerebrals, and even less than that about their papers and libraries. All he could hope to be on this journey was a fool along for the ride as usual.
    #6 Tinder, May 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
  7. Marek too tried to bite back his frustration, although he was not quite as successful in the attempt as Miroslav. He recognized the blind man’s agreement for what it was. Submission. That did not make Marek any more pleased at the idea of having to drag a reluctant man along with him for the next leg of this impossible journey of his.

    “We are perhaps two of the greatest will users to ever live. We certainly are by far the strongest at the moment. A way will present itself.” It was not much of a plan, but it was not all that different from the way that Marek usually operated. His days of making plans that he actually followed through were so long gone as to be completely forgotten. He had, after all, tried so many things that he had simply run out of plans.

    For the most part, having no plan had worked out. It wasn’t as though failure really had a cost. Miroslav was simply one more in a long list of people who had followed him, and he too would inevitably fall some day. It did not really matter when. And there would be someone to replace him. There was no true failure for Marek. Which was probably a good thing, because he was no closer to finding his answer now than he had been when he had first started looking, in an age long since lost even to the Cerebrals.

    “Do you want to sit here, and continue to gripe and grumble, or shall we get going? I don’t think the main Cerebral library is anywhere near here right now. It isn’t going to be a short journey.”
  8. Miroslav couldn’t begin to say how sick he was of just waiting for a way to present itself, but Marek had never done differently. The man was a reckless fool who would have died long ago if it were possible. That was what this world did to idiots like that. Well not all of them. Miroslav was still alive after all and considering his past choices he was really in no position to criticize others.

    The only thing to do now was what he always did when Marek threatened to get them killed again; put his head down and fight as hard as he could to see the next day. There were worse fates than ghosting in Marek’s shadow. He was insane and reckless, but for the most part he protected those he traveled with. Miroslav would probably have died ages ago had he not joined up with Marek, or so he chose to believe. And he’d seen Marek pull off seemingly impossible feats before, perhaps he would do it again. Who was Miroslav trying to fool? Convincing himself there was hope at the moment was futile and a waste of his energy.

    He stood up and crossed his arms over his chest, “Very well, let’s be off. The sooner we leave, the sooner we get this over with.” Off to the useless collection of paper and ink, guarded by their jealous lovers. It sounded like one of those ridiculous stories he’d listen to as a child, only stupider. And those silly tales had taken place in a time when the world was unmoving as if they weren’t unbelievable enough on their own.

    He only hoped the trip took less time than their previous quest. They hadn’t even gotten to their previous destination before switching targets. Perhaps Marek would change his mind again before they found the library. There had to be more hopeless leads for them to try following. Miroslav was careful to keep his irritation from showing and instead focused his attention on getting them to the library.
  9. Collaboratively written

    If there was one thing that everyone knew, it was that traveling in a world where nothing ever stayed in the same place for very long took a lot more luck than it did skill. As Marek and Miroslav began to walk again, settling into a comfortable pace with Marek just slightly in front, they began to encounter people again. For most of the people who wandered this shifting world, it was obvious that the level of need an individual possessed could then be used to guide the shifting, or perhaps one's own progress through the shifting tiles, and reach a desired destination. It was hardly an easy way to travel, but at least it gave some assurances that a person could impact their fate. Or reach a well or food market if they were in desperate need. Only the Cerebrals denied this, professing a belief that the movement truly was random, and that there was nothing that a person could do to affect the movement.

    Marek had never really liked the Cerebrals. To him they were fools, interested in nothing other than what could be seen or felt. He did not deny that they had their uses, but interacting with those who lived and breathed the Cerebral beliefs was a lot like trying to drag a rock along with him. Not only did they have a tendency to slow him down, but their complete certainty that the tiles did not move according to the Will of the people actually caused them to act in a similar manner, and interfered with Marek's own attempts to influence where they were going.

    Evening was drawing near and the people around Marek and Miroslav had begun their nightly ritual of looking for shelter. The crowds divided into pockets of color as the various clans clustered together. Several men in the deep red of the Devoted ran down the street shouting something at each other about missing the evening devotionals drawing the attention a few of the Provident who sat on the edge of the way sharing their evening meal. A large clump of royal purple could be seen in the middle as the heavy laden Temporal made their way down the center of the street, chatting and laughing as they went.

    The only people who might be more foolish than the Cerebral were the Temporal, who still clung to outdated principles of ownership and possession in a world that had long since forgotten then time it was still. The Temporal alone considered themselves right to own things that they could not carry around with them, and they spent more time trying to get back to these things than they did actually with them. The rest of the clans had the sense to understand that they could only truly own what they could keep on them, and that was very little. The other clans roamed from clan-controlled house to house, sleeping in a different bed every night as the tiles shifted underneath them, rarely seeing the same people within a given week unless they traveled together. In some ways, it could be very lonely. Yet people always had their clan, and their clan would always offer support to its members. And in that way, the only people who were truly alone were the clanless.

    It was always easy to tell the clanless apart. They were marked out by the way they dressed, by the way they carried themselves, by the way they moved, and by the way they acted when others drew near. People avoided the few clanless in the streets like they carried disease. Most of them were quite mad, and many were dangerous in that madness. Whoever they had been before, it was rare for them to have been good people, else their clans would not have kept them. Some of the clanless joined together, forming gang-like clans that did their best to look out for each other. Many scrounged, doing their best to survive on the pittance they could earn for their labor.

    There was a swarm of clanless around one of the stands in a Synergist market, where a kind looking lady with curling horns and a long mane of hair was handing out a few loaves of bread that had not sold during the day. The Synergist were one of the only clans who made an effort to care for the clanless, and would oftentimes offer them a place of shelter for the night if it was clear that they were not dangerous or deranged. Miroslav and Marek had taken shelter in their homes many a night without cost much to Miroslav's disgust.

    Most of the clans, except perhaps the Dominant, would be willing to take in a cleanly dressed clanless who had food to offer for dinner that night. Many a time, the people wouldn't even realize that the quiet, polite Marek and Miroslav weren't of their clan unless they had reason to look for the amulet that marked a person's identity. Few people ever took off their amulets, even the clanless. It was a familiar presence from birth until death, tied to a person, although the Cerebral's refused to believe it, by a chain of unbreakable will that would always bring it back if it was lost. There were many who came to believe that their very individuality was actually stored inside the amulet, and the act of breaking it was sometimes what drove people over the edge to madness.

    Marek was probably the only person in the world who did not carry an amulet. Even Miroslav still kept his, even though it was tucked away in a back pocket where no one would see it. Both of them, however, wore a leather cord around their necks, tucked below the shirt so that people could just catch a glimpse. It was a type of invisibility that allowed them entry to many places they wouldn't normally be allowed to go, as most people were content to assume the access badge they needed was tucked underneath their clothes.

    The streets continued to empty out as night approached.The streets became dull as the bright colors of the clans left, leaving only the dull colors of the buildings. Tonight there were no signs of the familiar Synergist teardrop that would welcome the clanless in for the night. Miroslav and Marek made their way through the deserted streets seeing only a few clanless like themselves and a lost Temporal still on his desperate quest for 'home.' The darkness had set in when shelter finally appeared for them in the form of an abandoned building. There were very, very few tiles that were not owned by one clan or another. Those that weren't either contained the abandoned buildings of things once owned by a clan and abandoned for one reason or another, or the cost of clearing out the clanless from the tiles, who would fight to defend the little they had that they could actually stay in without interruption. These walls were brick with no distinguishing markings, though it looked like it had been clan made. Time and the elements had likely removed the distinguishing markings that once gave a clan claim to the structure. Several holes had formed in the walls, some due to exposure to the elements while a few appeared to have been made by the people who'd stayed in there before. Seeing no other place to stay, they made their way toward the crumbling building.

    Sleeping on those tiles could be just as dangerous as sleeping out on the streets. While there was usually some pittance of food to be shared, there was also the risk that the place would be invaded by one of the clanless gangs, who would surround the place and demand whatever the people there had as payment for staying on "their" tile. When it became clear that Marek and Miroslav had nothing to offer, the two danced from day to day, earning or taking what they needed and starting fresh the next day, they oftentimes wanted to take some other toll from the two of them. More than one fight had been started and ended in a bloody mess that way.

    They entered the building through the wide doorway on the side of the building. Piles of rubble filled most of the building save for a small clear space on the far wall. There a small fire burned with five people sitting around it. Only one looked up when they entered, a large man sitting closest to the first. His eyes were bird-like, narrowing on the two for a moment before nodding, a signal for them to proceed into the building. Evidently the only requirements to enter were a lack of identification.

    The two came forward, Miroslav keeping close to Marek until they came to the fire and sat. The quiet of the night made it nearly impossible for Miroslav to sense anything, leaving him just as helpless as he felt in the market earlier. The man gestured toward the fire again, indicating the meager gathering that these clanless had brought together for dinner which had been thrown in a dirty pot with a little water. A few cracked bowls sat near the fire, likely a set older than the building itself. Marek claimed a bowl for himself, tossed a couple old turnips into the pot that he'd swiped from the market earlier that day, and settled back after he'd taken his share. Miroslav remained where he was, unable to locate the pot, but far too proud to ark Marek for help getting his food. After a few minutes, a woman from across the fire came forward, pouring some of the remaining stew into a bowl and offering it to Miroslav. When he didn't response, she pushed the bowl into his hand and moved back across the fire, tail curling around her legs and she pulled herself into a ball.

    Miroslav hadn't realized someone had stood to help him until she'd already retreated. He felt a small flash of gratitude as he began to eat, thankful that it had been a stranger for once instead of Marek. There were times when his despedancy on the man tormented Miroslav, mostly because Marek refused to let him forget about his dependency. The woman said nothing to him however, choosing instead to simply let the act of kindness be. Just like Hana. It had been awhile since he'd thought about those days. He'd joined Marek alone, but not long after others had come to his side and before Miroslav had even realized it, there had been three others follow Marek with him. Nights had been full of sound then, though Miroslave hadn't minded the noise. It filled in the empty space for him, giving him a sense of security as the sounds of their companions bounced off their area around them. The sounds of the night always kept him mildly aware of his surrounding, but not enough to function without help. It had been easier to forget what he'd lost then. Easier to believe that following Marek wasn't a mistake.

    On the far side of the fire, Marek's thoughts had taken a similar turn, albeit for completely different reasons. He scratched idly at the horn in the middle of his forehead as his thoughts drifted back to other times he had sat around a fire with a group of people, back when Thazel, Karlel, and Hana had still been alive. They had often settled alone at a separate fire, where the fanged and clawed Thazel would have no one to snap at who would actually take offense. They would sit in comfortable silence for a little while, before Karlel would ruffle his downy feathers and blink his giant, yellow eyes, and sing soft, sweet songs to the fire in his silvery tenor. Most of them were the various religious hymns he had learned throughout his life, although occasionally he would sing funny little songs they had picked up along their journey. Hana would curl up in a soft, furry little bundle, her head resting against one of their shoulders, silken black hair cascading into her lap as she brushed it with her fingers, and giant ears twitching in time to Karlel's song. They would sit like that, listening to the fire and the sounds of the shifting world, as the light in the crystalline sky dimmed to near blackness, before finally drifting off to sleep.

    That peaceful, easy camaraderie was long lost now, and for a moment he missed it. But there had been other moments like that in his past, moments that he had long forgotten, the names and faces and voices vanishing into the tides. There would be others, and soon enough Hana and Thazel and Karlel and Miroslav would be forgotten too.
  10. Collaborative Post

    By the time the fire had turned to nothing but embers, the permeating glow from the crystal sky had already well passed its darkest point. Neither Marek nor Mirsolav were the first to rise from slumber, although both of them quickly followed when the camp began to move. It had been far from a comfortable night, for the slabs of stone that had once made up the smooth floor had cracked from the movement of the shifting tiles, and without maintenance the cracks had heaved and bucked into sharp edges and uneven lumps. Vines had climbed over the thick walls, and after enough time the faint purchases they created would expand, and the wall would collapse, leaving nothing but rubble. At that point, when it was no longer useful to the clanless, one of the clans might move in and rebuild the place. After all, no one liked looking out their window to see a pile of rubble.

    As light returned to the sky above, the clanless scattered from the building. Now that the danger of the night was past they would return to the dark corners of civilzation to see if they could find another meal for the coming day. The scuffling as the clanless left the building was what woke Miroslav, filling the empty space from the previous night with sound. The antennae on his forehead twitched as he sat up, stretching his arms to relieve the aches he had acquired during the night. Across the fire, he heard the familar sound of the spines on Marek's arms scraping against the tiles, signaling that he was awake as well and it was time to travel again. Miroslav got to his feet and followed behind Marek, leaving the last of the clanless to scurry away.

    As was only normal, the street onto which they stepped out beared no resemblance to the place they had been last night. Both Marek and Miroslav had spent a quiet hour before falling asleep in meditation, tapping into their unique ways of manipulating will.

    For Marek it felt like a reaching. He was, perhaps, the only person in the world who knew with absolute certainty that there was a will that had shaped the world. After all, it had once been his. A part of him still believed that will was still his, even though it had so long been separated from his conscousness. That was why it felt like a reaching. He was trying to reach out to his will, to connect to it once more and have it act in accordance with his own desires. Once it had been so easy. Now he had no idea whether or not the feeling of connection to something that had once been so familiar was just a product of his imagination. He did his best to avoid thinking of exactly how separate he had become from his will, even though everything he did was in an effort to recconnect himself to those mising pieces. He was no longer certain that if he stood next to several other people, and those other people wanted the same thing but he wanted something different, that his will would respond to his desire.

    When Miroslav meditated at night to bring them closer to their destination, it was like he was gathering up his soul and using it to push through the hazy layer of chaos that constantly shifted their world. He would combat the random forces and establish a connection to his destination, forging a straight path to it. On a good day, that was precisely what happened. They would walk for a while and then find their destination waiting for them. The trouble was his will was not working in an empty space. Hundreds of others twisted the his straight path to suit their own needs, forcing him to go through the people as well as the will of the world itself. It was not an easy task, but the act of manipulating will had always come easily to him. Miroslav took comfort in his ability to manipulate will. It was one of the few remants that remained from his life before he began to travel with Marek and the only skill that he had found useful in their travels. Even the frustrating times were a joy compared to the rest of his existence.

    Of course, neither of them had a way of knowing whether their attempts had succeeded until they acutally arrived at their destination, and only then if they arrived in a reasonable length of time. They had spent far, far more time wandering than they had actually at a desired location, and in some ways the act of wandering had become just as important as the destination. Since the deaths of the three people who had once traveled with them, the silence of travel seemed to hang heavily over them. It was much easier to look at their surroundings than to actually think about what they might say to one another without Hana's happy chatter to fill the in-between spaces.

    Marek was the only person still living who had seen a world that was not constantly in motion, and that meant he was the only person who could truly appreciate the exotic nature of a world where nothing ever stayed in the same place for very long. But even by this point it had become nearly normal for him to look across the way, and see the sweet, honey colored house that was directly in front of his nose be replaced by a massive struture trimmed with blue, and a person walking out and heading off down the street without even glancing at what was around them.

    The morning sun rose high in the sky as Marek and Miroslav continued on their way. The ruins where they had slept disappeared as the tile it occupied was pulled away and replaced by a market square filled with an assortment of booths carrying everything from fresh vegetables to reams of cloth. The people browsing didn't bothering looking to see their new surroundings. Most failed to even notice that the change had occured at all. Before Miroslav had joined Marek, he knew he'd been just like them. The only time the shifting tiles mattered to him were when he was attempting to manipulate them. Even now he only paid attention to keep himself from losing Marek. He was unable to grasp the world that Marek had described to him when they had first met. A world where nothing changed and everything was where it had been the day before made no sense. How could a world like that go on? Will was the lifeblood of this world; it kept everything moving so that people could reach their destinations. It was already difficult to move the world as it was, but to move a stationary world seemed impossible. Miroslave kept his thoughts from wandering to the topic as often as he could. A world without movement could not grow or challenge its inhabitance. There was no telling what would happen if Marek ever actually retrieved his will, but Miroslav prayed it would not lock the world into place. That would be too different and Miroslav was growing tired of different.

    Marek and Miroslav had tried many dfferent techniques to get themselves to places they wanted to go. Once they had sat in the same streetcorner for an entire week, silently meditating to see if they could draw a place to them rather than having to walk and draw it that way. In the end it had worked, although Marek had earned another week of frustrated silence from Miroslav for that particularly boring stunt, but they had both solidly agreed that, for whatever reason, it was easier to find the place they were going if they were actively seeking it out.

    For the first time since Thazel had died, Marek and Miroslav had a proper goal that wasn't simple survival, finding a little bit of food, money, and shelter. This meant they had the increased challenge of holding their destination within their mind, and also trying to will themselves to find a secondary destination, a place that would allow them safe shelter for the night. They had slept on the open streets many times, but they were restless nights without the protection of any walls.

    What made it even more difficult was that everyone in the world used the same architecture style. Everything was built around solid, utilitarian models, with straight corners and square floorplans. Oftentimes the only difference between the clan houses was the color of the trim, although no one had ever appreciated it when Marek pointed out this similarity, and he had long since stopped trying. What that meant now was that, along with holding the general image of the house, Marek and Miroslav had to make sure it wasn't just any house, but a house with honey yellow trim and shutters, with a friendly swirling symbol shaped like a tear drop.

    Most of the day was dedicated to marching, forging on toward the library. It was not until the the light of the crystal sky above began to fade that Marek and Miroslav turned their attention elsewhere. Their goals shifted as the situation did and the library became second on the priority list while shelter took it place at the top. Marek kept an eye out for the distinct honey colored trim that promised them safe habor while Miroslav trugged along behind him. The day had been long and both desired the santuary that the Synergist house would provide them. Sleeping in abandon buildings rarely brought restful nights or decent meals.

    The crowd of people seeking shelter gathered around them as their walked, recreating the rainbow from the previous evening. The people gathered with their clanmates and walked until a home with their clan's symbol on it appeared. The many different wills clashed in the air, muddling everyone's paths. Even with their combined strength, Marek and Miroslav found their way frequently disrupted by the others seeking shelther. Simple buildings colored with red and blue and even green frequently appeared as did the more extravagent homes trimmed with rich purple, but there was no sign of a Synergist house. It was beginning to look like they would be spending another night sleeping in ruins.

    The roads were nearly emptied when Marek finally spoted one of the honey trimmed buildings. It appeared in the distance, replacing one of the Temporal homes. The windows were still lit by fires from within and the door stood open, inviting any who stumbled across it to enter. Marek and Miroslav made their way to the building and walked in.
  11. Collaborative Post

    Marek had been inside a house dedicated to every major clan, and had also taken shelter with hundreds of clans that had never received acknowledgement from the main six. The Synergist was not his absolute favorite, but they came close.

    It wasn't just because of the nature of the house, which was filled with bright colors and warm lights in every corner, and also filled to the brim with random, pretty pieces that people would leave behind for the enjoyment of the next residents, but because of the people themselves. This was the only big clan that didn't even bother to check people's identification when they entered, as long as they remained courteous and polite.

    The woman who came to the door at Marek's polite knock smiled at the sight of them. She was a pretty enough thing for an elderly woman, short and stocky with five white fox tails instead of hair and wrinkles highlighting every laugh line on her face Briefly her eyes flashed over their disheveled clothes, which didn't even contain a hint of the honey yellow trim that most people who formally belonged to the Synergists wore, but when Marek proffered a nice loaf of bread and a small basket of berries she stepped aside, more than willing to let them into the house.

    The woman spirited away with bread and berries, through the small front foyer of the house, through the hallway that split off in two directions to create two different living rooms, past the stairs leading up to the second floor and the sleeping quarters, and into a fine kitchen with a fresh fire in the hearth and the rich smell of cooking tomatoes and pasta. White tails bouncing, the woman walked over to a cold storage, pulling out a glass of fresh, heavy cream and a whisk. Her familiarity with the kitchen was not a surprise, as a glance at her apron was enough to reveal that she was the matron of this house, an individual who had reached an age where working out in the world was no longer appropriate, and who had settled into the house to care for those who did work every day, and would need a well-tended place to come home to that night. It was rare for Matrons or Patrons to ever leave their property unless another had come to take over for them. After all, it was highly probable that the house would disappear right before their eyes, and the chances of them getting back to it that night were quite slim. For that reason, almost every clan house had a small space, or a larger one depending on the nature of the tile, in the front of the house to give the caretaker a place to rest outside the house and socialize with passers-by.

    "Go on," she said, waving the whisk in the general direction of the right common room, which also seemed to double as dining hall. "Go out and say hello to everyone else, and tell them that there will be whipped cream and berries for desert tonight. I'm sure that will earn you a very warm welcome."

    Miroslav nodded curtly to the Matron before pulling Marek away from the tantalizing smell of food that would be the first meal they had that day.

    The house was a simple box shape like most of the buildings constructed by the clans, with a couple protrusions to accommodate the foyer in the front, kitchen in the back, and bay windows on both the lower and upper floors. The walls, like the rest in the house, were the trademark honey yellow of the clan, slightly muted so as not to weary the eyes. Furniture was scattered throughout the house, a mixture of worn out chairs and new cushions in a variety of oranges and yellows. It was obvious that most of the items in the house had been donated by whomever had wandered in over the course of many evenings. Shelves lines the walls in the living areas, each one holding a mixture of items from all corners of the world. Some were simple trinkets, carvings of animals or polished stones in a variety of colors. Other items were of a more personal nature such as small paintings of people likely left by their loved ones after their deaths. A number of books lined the shelves, though it was nothing like what would be found in one of the homes of the Cerebral. These books were only there for pleasure's sake, to entertain those passing through.

    The people in the common room were very friendly, and, just as the cook had promised, were more than enthusiastic to hear about the treat they would be getting for dinner that night. A pretty young woman covered in scales and with wide, golden eyes, grabbed Marek by the elbow, pulling him over to one of the couches that circled the dining table and setting him down next to her. She began to talk quickly and enthusiastically, somehow reminding Marek of Hana, even though the two bore no physical similarities.

    On more than one occasion someone in the Synergists had offered to fill out the recommendation paper that was all Marek needed to join the clan. Every time he had turned it down. Sometimes his reasons weren't clear, even to himself. There was no doubt that being clanless was a much harder life. Many people refused to deal with the clanless, simply on principle, fearing the reason they had been forcibly evicted from their own people. Those who were willing to speak to the unfortunate would charge double or even triple for their goods, driving the clanless to steal, which in turn increased the enmity between clanless and merchants. It was an unpleasant, hateful position. Most of the clanless who remained sane after their expulsion, and who weren't already somehow insane before, were quick to join up with the Synergists, taking shelter in their companionship, even though they did not truly believe in their mission. And yet Marek had always refused.

    Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Marek believed that, whatever the task was that would ultimately reunite his mind with his scattered will was something that could not be done if he belonged to a clan. Oh, there were times he had nearly convinced himself otherwise, even one time where he had shared his secret with a clanless and she had nearly convinced him that the mission of the Synergists was a symbolic representation of his own attempts to gather his scattered will, and when all the people of the world were once more whole under the honey yellow banner, his will would become whole as well. Yet, somehow, something had always arisen that would convince him that joining the Synergists, or any other clan for that matter, was not the answer.

    When Marek was snagged Miroslav made his way to the side of the room, preferring to keep to himself than interact with the people. He had never been much of a people person, but the Synergists he found to be particularly grating. Once they began a conversation they never stopped talking. Miroslav remembered his first night in one of their homes. Unlike his own people who would hold quiet conversations or focus on their own meditations in the evening, they spent the whole night chattering away like a flock of angry birds. Even when Miroslav went out of his way to ignore them they insisted on trying to engage him in conversation. He'd found the best way to keep them at bay was to immediately find a corner and meditate. It seemed even though their clan lacked an in-depth understanding of will, they understood what meditation was enough to avoid him once he began. Or perhaps it was the scowl that he wore to discourage them.

    It didn't take long for dinner to be ready, but in that time six other Synergists arrived from the street. When one of them showed up, a hefty, well muscled man with long arms and hair as yellow as the Synergist color, a woman sitting at the table squealed in delight and threw herself into the man's arms, kissing him passionately on the lips. They muttered sweet platitudes about the Will bringing them together this night, and they were quick to wander off, undoubtedly to ask the Matron if they could have one of the private rooms for that night. They returned to the living room a short while later, grinning happily at each other, and sat back down, his large arm wrapped around her thin shoulders.

    Dinner was served only a few minutes later. The Matron came into the room, grabbing the large man and dragging him reluctantly away from the embrace of his woman. It was clear why, though, when he came back out, carrying two giant bowls, one filled with soft, cooked noodles, the other with hot, rich tomato sauce. Those two bowls were quickly joined by another bowl filled with salad, a plate of corn, several cut loaves of bread, the basket of berries, and a small bowl of whipped cream. Everyone moved in eagerly and set about eating, barely giving the Matron time to sit down and grab a plate herself before it seemed half of the food was already missing. They smiled fondly at her, one person who had grabbed three halves of corn even passed one over to her.

    That was another thing Marek liked better about the Synergists. Of all the clans, their dinners were the most informal, and the most fun. This was especially true in comparison to the Devoted, who would often spend so long on prayers that the food would grow cold before anyone was allowed to eat. The Provident where the only ones who came close to the friendly enthusiasm of the Synergist, who sounded more like a family than a group of strangers whenever they gathered. In many respects, they were. None of them seemed to notice or care that Marek and Miroslav did not join into the conversation, and when purposefully engaged would only offer enough to satisfy the situation before returning to silence. Most of them seemed more than willing to accept that the clanless had some reason to be quiet, and tried to compensate for this by giving both of them an extra helping of the whipped cream, even though it meant the rest of them would have less.

    By the time dinner was over there was hardly a scrap of food left on the table. The Matron had judged the appetite of this group well. Everyone, except perhaps a reed-thin man with an impossibly round belly, seemed to have eaten enough to bring them all to a state of lassitude. Comfortable silence fell over the table as the Matron brought out a bottle of wine, giving everyone a splash in a small glass, but still emptying the bottle. Shortly after that everyone gathered together the plates and dishes, leaving them to the Matron to clean. No one felt guilty about leaving her the work, it was simply the custom. During her youth she had done the same thing, and many of those in the room would repay the favor in their elder years as they worked as a Matron or Patron in another house. A couple of people chose to stay and aid her, noting the lack of the usual second or third caretaker, and not wanting to leave her awake late into the dark cycle with the dishes as her only company.

    Both Marek and Miroslav were granted a bed on the right side of the house, which was the men's quarters. The beds were narrow, just wide enough to contain Marek's broad shoulders, but thy were soft and comfortable, with a flat but full pillow to cradle the head and soft sheets to fend away the inevitable chill of the night. Compared to their quarters last night, this place was practically a dream. Marek stayed awake just long enough to make sure that his few personal belongings were secure before stripping out of his dirty clothes and going on to sleep. He would wake to the surprise of finding them freshly laundered and neatly folded at the foot of his bed.
  12. Morning came all too quickly. Once the light had returned to the sky, the people within the house began to move. Miroslav stirred in his bed, yawning lightly as he sat up. He felt around on the floor for the clothing he’d dropped there the night before and found them folded. He picked them up and noted the lack of grime under his fingertips. It seemed the Matron had taken the time last night to wash everyone’s clothing. While Miroslav preferred the quiet of the wilderness to the Synergists’ chatter, he had to admit there were a few benefits to staying in their homes. He slipped the clean clothes on, taking a moment to appreciate the feel of the cloth. A hand fell on his shoulder as Marek’s voice sounded next to him, “Let’s go.”

    The two made their way through the house to the dining area once more. A bowl of fruit and fresh bread had been set out for the inhabitance of the house to fill their bellies with before they left to get on with their days. Marek picked up an apple and passed it to Miroslav before claiming a piece for himself. They sat at the table as they ate in silence. A few others joined them, though the conversations were significantly toned down. The excitement of the previous night was replaced by a wholesome peace as everyone prepared for their days. Even Miroslav found the interaction enjoyable, though his expression remained unchanged from the previous night.

    Once they’d had their fill, Marek and Miroslav headed out of the house back onto the road. In moments the comfort that they had felt that night disappeared as they returned to their world of uncertainty. Without exchanging a word, they continued on their way, refocusing their attention on the library. The streets around them slowly began to fill as people came out from their shelters into the morning light. Most were off to find work for the day, others simply wandered like Marek and Miroslav. As they walked, Miroslav could feel the wills clashing around them. It filled the air around them, forcing Miroslav to push his own will all the harder to find a path through the jumbled mess. His will aligned with Marek’s as they walked single file through the people. Miroslav allowed himself to walk without “seeing,” trusting that Marek would alert him of any change in their route.

    The day wore on until the sky was at its brightest. Many turned from their activities to seek out a meal, whether by finding a nearby clan home or foraging in the marketplace. As usual, however, Marek and Miroslav marched on. Any diversion from their course while there was light in the sky was unacceptable. It was time lost that would most likely end with either them stealing a hard loaf of bread or threatening death to get an entire meal. Miroslav had seen Marek resort to both in the past.

    Miroslav stomach growled with at the thought of food. The last night had spoiled him with the bounty of food. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind, but it came rushing back when the strong smell of a nearby baker brushed past his nose. His footsteps faltered as he stopped to enjoy the aroma. It reminded him of mornings among his clan when he woken to freshly made flatbreads that were served to him before his morning studies began. Part of him yearned for it; the simple taste of home.

    He began to walk again, but ran into a wall a few paces forward. The voices of the market lit up the space before him, informing his vision of the stone wall that had appeared ahead. That was odd. Why had Marek not said anything? Miroslav began to feel around, using the loud market to locate what was around him. There were people, but none felt like Marek. These will users were too weak to him. Seeing no other alternative, he called out, “Marek?”
    There was no answer.

    His heart began to beat faster. “Marek?!”

    People turned, but did nothing to help him. All they saw was a blind clanless having a fit in their market. No one responded and Marek’s presence did not appear. He choked as the realization of his situation hit him. He’d been separated from Marek. His limbs began to shake as he forced them to move forward, examining the situation. He’d been behind him, but a tile must have moved when he stopped to smell the bakery. All he had to do was focus on Marek and before long he would find him. Miroslav had been able to find people in the past, before this life, he could do it now.

    He began to walk, taking every step as though an invisible force was trying to crush him. Sounds of ripping and screams flashed through his mind, recalling the last person he’d known who left Marek. The shaking in his limbs double, but he fought to keep moving, balling his fists to bring a sense of clarity. He could do this, just had to focus.

    Something or one bumped into him, sending him back a few steps into another. “Watch it, scum!” Hands grabbed his shirt and threw him to the side onto the ground. He scrambled to his feet and was shoved again by unknown hands. He moved away toward the edge of the road, knocking shoulders with at least two others on the way. Once he found a wall, he put his hand to it. He would follow the wall to keep out of the way. There were eyes on him as he walked, hostile eyes, all waiting for the moment to strike. Had to focus, keep focus on Marek. He never meant to leave.

    He bumbled around blindly for what seemed like hours, his focus shifting before the hostile force behind him and the will to find Marek. His body would not stop shaking, no matter how he pushed the fear aside. The excess noise of the populated areas dimmed his vision, leaving him to wander without a clear path before him. He tripped and fell several times, once or twice into people he hadn’t seen coming. They all yell and pushed back, taking offense to the intrusion of their personal space.

    Miroslav kept moving, dread increasing with every step. Where was Marek? Had he even noticed that Miroslav was not with him? Did he care? There was no reason for Marek to believe him alive, considering what they knew from past experience. He could abandoned Miroslav to his fate, leaving him to die alone. Frustration crept into his mind. He hated this sad dependence, the need to live off another. Where he truly brave, he’d leave now and find his clan. Perhaps this was a sign to act. He stopped back the wall, taking a breather before he continued on. No, he could not go back to that life just yet. Vengeance and Justice still debated the course of his actions. Though it left a bitter taste in his mouth, he had to find Marek.
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