Heart of a Wick [Memory, Closed]

Fishing villages, mining towns, and the mineral-rich border with the Kingdom of Anaxas are highlights of the Western Erg.
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Faizra pezre Taci
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Fri Jul 05, 2019 6:35 pm

Early Afternoon, 21 Roalis, 2713
A Village on the Turga
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The village known as big-tree-in-the-river’s-bend was large only by comparison with its neighbors, a trading post for those small communities of humans and wicks who made their living on this stretch of the Turga. The village wasn’t so small even in its worst days, large enough to have a few sleeping places and food stalls that emerged at night, lit by standing lanterns and candles under the stretching starry sky. On market day the place swelled in size, expanding outwards like a puffing frog to something that nearly resembled busy.

The Turga wound through the desert of Mugroba like a vein, spilling precious lifeblood into dry cracked earth. Here was no exception, with thick green banks lining the river on both sides, rushes and reeds thriving despite the odds. One small tributary linked up with it at the bend, but the tree which had given the place its name still dominated the landscape, very nearly the only thing taller than human height for miles around. It was only a few minutes walk out of what might generously have been called marshland to a spot where the earth was flat and cracked from the heat, and even those scrublands were pleasant compared to the desert that awaited beyond.

But here at big-tree-in-the-river’s-bend there was life. The market which had begun at dawn was winding down now in the early afternoon, as the sun drew high overhead and the shady spots receded. The market sprawled over land and river both, extending without pause onto the rafts tied to half-rotted wooden piers in the water, and one could step from land to river almost without even realizing it.

The Turga was thick and frothy today, streaming dark blue capped with white above and below the bend, and suddenly smooth and cool and deep where the tree’s roots sank into the water, swirling with hidden movement between the surface. In the early morning cool mists had risen off it, frogs chirped and fish splashed up to snatch at bugs; now, as the sun baked overhead, it was all quiet, biding its time.

The world of the river was white and blue and green and brown, all sucked faintly dry in the midday sun. Against that the stalls were a riot of colors; not goods, although earlier those had been plentiful enough, lentils and onions and carrots and chickens and even precious spices displayed, fabrics and googles too, even precious kofi, but rather the bright fabrics draped over crates and rafts alike, all possible colors under the sun making a strange and wonderful tapestry on the river’s edge.

For those who made their living on the shores of the Turga, this market was their connection with the world beyond, their once-weekly chance to buy whatever they themselves couldn’t grow or fish up. News trickled up and down the river even faster than the goods did, and now with much of the important trading done, villagers and merchants alike sat in the patches of shade beneath the tree and gossiped as fresh caught fish crackled over open fires, wrapped in thick wet leaves, the smell steaming out into the hot air.

Mugrobi, mostly, and human, mostly, but not entirely either. This market was one of those spots where the humans dwelling along the river’s edge mixed their lives with the wicks who lived on its floating settlements, the two comfortable and easy in their intermingling, at least for the most part.

Today, at least, for Faizra, it was very easy. She had come with her Da at dawn for the market - a big girl, now, it was her responsibility to help him load and paddle the raft, to set up the goods, to guide anyone who needed it to their spot, to run and fetch change or carry goods off somewhere. Now with the winding down of trade she was released from her duties, and rushed off to play with the other bochi. Like most of them she was utterly un-self-conscious, wearing a brightly colored piece of fabric more wrapped than sewn about her, draped over her shoulders and tied at the waist, revealing strong legs and bare feet. Though twelve, as a wick she was shorter than some of the others, but no less strong and not remotely reluctant.

She and the village’s and traders’ bochi played a game involving a puffed up goat’s bladder, kicking it back and forth, with sudden mysterious involvement of hands that seemed to be able to occur at any moment with no apparent explanation. At no time could any outsiders discern why the children suddenly burst into cheers or groans, but there seemed to be strict rules and clear winners and losers nonetheless.

Someone hit the thing too hard, and it soared through the air to land in the tree. There was a burst of loud chatter, and Faizra called something and took off, scaling the tree with effortless swiftness, arms and legs moving as one as she climbed. She swatted at the ball wedged in a distant branch, and it tumbled tree and rolled into the midst of a few of the mercenaries camped in big-tree-in-the-river’s-bend; they were distinctive in that they were the only non-Mugrobi around, at least today. The kids playing, the older ones, were nonchalant about it, having seen the like at many such market days before, although for many of the younger ones the sight was exciting or frightening, depending on their temperament.

Faizra, never afraid, half-climbed down and half dropped from the tree, landing in a low effortless crouch on the ground, and made her way towards the group of men without pause. Her shaved bare head glistened in the hot sun, her glittering gold earrings and the wrap of the fabric over her front the only things to mark her as a girl.

“Epaemo, t’ ball, ye chen?” Faizra stopped a few feet from the edge of the group, hands turned up and extended forward, the soft flutter of her glamour enough to nudge at their attention.

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Oisin Ocasta
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Sat Jul 06, 2019 5:07 pm

21st of Roalis, 2713
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If Oisin Ocasta had needed to describe himself in a word, today he would have chosen: content.

There was something magical about this part of Mugroba, in the figurative sense rather than the literal. To describe it as simple would have seemed both insulting and inaccurate: there was an intricate complexity to life here, but one that felt built upon layer by layer, like oils on a canvas rather than the harsh printed lines of the life in Anaxas he had long ago left behind and by now scarcely remembered. For Oisin, nothing captured that sense quite as clearly as the slice of life he had experienced here at big-tree-in-the-river's-bend. The settlement functioned on wisdom and memory, every facet perfected by experience into exactly what survival demanded it be. Even the name had a practical simplicity to it, no pretence or poetry wasted on a desire to be less literal.

From his vantage, Oisin had watched with fascination as the market came together by muscle memory, everything falling perfectly into place exactly as it should, and must. It was not a dance, nor anything so elegant or contrived: it was an unruly, vibrant chaos that crystalised its way towards balance and order, a flock or shoal or herd or swarm somehow knowing by instinct how to behave both as individuals and as one. It may not have felt that way up close, but from this distance, removed from the world he observed as he always was, Oisin couldn't help but be struck by the beauty of it.

Soothing as the organised chaos was to his oft-chaotic mind, that was almost the least magical part of it. Mugroba was a harsh, unforgiving place, where life existed upon a razor's edge. The traditions, the culture, the lessons learned from harsh experience, they were not merely the comforts or resistance to change that Oisin had experienced elsewhere in the world. Those traditions were how you survived. They were what you did, because those who did not were no longer around to pass along their bad habits. There was a grimness to realising that the intricate song of big-tree-in-the-river's-bend was what kept people alive, what ensured that food and supplies made it from the hands that made them to the mouths that needed them. It was not the market of merchants and profiteers that Oisin knew from Anaxas, or the bigger cities. This was not a flourish of civilization or society, it was breathing, an act so fundamental and so essential to the survival of all that it simply happened, seemingly without a thought.

Yet none of that was evident, none of it laboured upon. The breath of the market carried shouts, and songs, and laughter. The colours, the conversations, the joy and jubilation, it seemed to wrap around everyone like a welcome embrace, one that it almost felt painful not to be a part of. Yet it was a pain that by necessity, Oisin endured, and not merely because his pale skin was as out of place as a teacup in an alehouse. The locals here had been tolerant of the mercenaries' presence, a brief reprieve on their trek from outpost to outpost across the wastes; welcoming, even. But even Mugrobi hospitality had its limits, and the mercenaries had been careful not to push their luck: and so they loitered, away from the thick of the crowd, cloistered on the outskirts like livestock too unsanitary to be kept closer to home.

In fairness, some of them had begun to smell like the inside of a kenser's erse. With any luck, once the market had finished winding down, his comrades would do them all a favour and take advantage of a quick dip in the Turga.

Oisin's brow furrowed as he watched the villagers' makeshift ball tumble its way into the zone of exclusion that surrounded the other mercenaries, and into the hands of the most problematic member of the group. He had removed himself from them, too, and not purely for the sake of his nostrils. Perhaps it was because they were older, more jaded, or just a pack of fetid erseholes, but they most certainly were not as enamoured with the showcase of Mugrobi tradition that Oisin had been so intently watching. Quite the opposite, in fact. There was a certain level of ambient bigotry and intolerance that one had to live with as a mercenary, especially in Mugroba: it wasn't exactly a line of work that readily attracted those with open minds and social graces, and the local populace was often about as pleased to see them as they would have been to see a Quiet Wolf gnawing on their leg - which was to say, not very. But while the Mugrobi aversion to outsiders was perhaps rooted in politics - there were soldiers from the Anaxi Armed Forces garrisoned in Mugroba after all, and it was hard to imagine anyone was particularly fond of that level of foreign meddling - the reciprocation from the mercenaries had no such excuse, and having grown up on the receiving end of similar as a Wick among Humans, there was only so much Oisin could listen to before it became a potential threat to his comrades' survival. For their sake, and for his, he'd found somewhere peacefully out of earshot to make himself comfortable.

The young Mugrobi walking towards the mercenary with hands outstretched didn't know that story, however, and Oisin had no desire to sit there and watch the narrative bring itself to one of a hundred dangerous and unpleasant conclusions. Instead, he began to tell a story of his own, whispered in Monite and breathed into the Mugrobi air. He whispered a story of a pack of stray, mangy hounds lurking on the edge of the village. He whispered about the Spinewolf among them, the Huthah with it's breath that reeked of bitterness and bile. He whispered of how the Huthah had gripped the villager's prize in its maw, how it had snarled and drooled as the villager wandered unknowingly within reach of its jaws.

He whispered of how the prize, in defiance of its captor and adoration of the villager, leapt from the Huthah's grip and struck the beast on the muzzle, before making a break towards safety. A few yards away, the mona gleefully played their part, plucking the ball from the mercenary's grip at Oisin's narrative behest, and hurled it squarely into the ersehole's face, the recoil carrying it tumbling in Oisin's direction, the mercenary stunned and silenced in its wake.

"Get a grip, Vex," Oisin offered disparagingly as he advanced, scooping up the ball effortlessly. A few strides and he managed to impose himself between the villager and the mercenaries, stepping in to overrule Vex's unwise urges to continue trying to handle the situation. His voice lowered as he extended the ball towards the collecting villager, wincing as his tried - with only moderate success - to fumble together some approximation of Mugrobi that he'd managed to pick up over the past years.

"Epa'ma, u dzeqad, uh -" He waved a hand vaguely in Vex's direction. "- tsiw e i uwu evuwas?"
Last edited by Oisin Ocasta on Sat Jul 06, 2019 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1238
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Faizra pezre Taci
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Sat Jul 06, 2019 5:43 pm

Early Afternoon, 21 Roalis, 2713
A Village on the Turga
The inventive mix of Estuan and Tek coming from the big muscular human holding the ball washed over Faizra like so much water. She tilted her head to the side, easily able to pretend she understood less than she did, marking some of the more creative words and less offensive combinations for her own later use. As long as her Da and all the rest didn’t hear she thought some of them would amuse her cousins; she’d never been called half of those things before.

Some of the children from the game were edging closer, muttering amongst themselves on the edge of their dusty makeshift court, forming little clumps and clusters; village kids here, traders’ kids there, one or two other wicks in their own little group.

In the not-so-distant shade, one of the merchants who had covered his raft with a brightly colored cloth and was now trading gossip rose, stepping forward into the sun. He too gleamed, his upper body bare and muscular, tanned to a dark deep brown by the sun, close to black. Strong arms crossed over his chest, but there was almost no expression on his face as he watched Faizra and the tall ugly man with his matted yellow beard.

Faizra glanced towards him, comfortable and secure in the knowledge of her da, and grinned.

The big man with the beard snorted and extended the ball towards her.

Faizra reached for it as blithely as if she didn’t hear him telling his companions to watch this.

He snatched it back at the last moment, leaving the little wick flailing.

Faizra shifted. The little aura of her glamour pulsed around her, collecting, and what she might have done then would never be known - because as if entirely of its own accord, the ball leapt backwards into the mercenary’s ugly face, bounced off his small sharp nose, and rolled off to the side.

The group of kids burst into laughter.

A second pale mercenary scooped it up and approached, putting himself between Faizra and the cursing man with the beard. Faizra was laughing too, leaning sideways to peer around the new man. She looked up wide-eyed at him when he spoke, frowning a little as she tried to puzzle out what he meant. He could tell she understood when her eyes lit up and she giggled.

“Your Mugrobi is terrible,” Faizra told him happily in accented but easily understandable Estuan. Her glamour fluttered cheerfully at the edge of his in a way that would feel very much like a handshake, a sort of recognizable pattern that seemed to be calling from the same from his own. “Mujo mujo ma!” She snatched the ball from his hands and fled back towards the other children, calling something noisy in Mugrobi.

There was a loud burst of cheering, and the game resumed as easily as if it had never ended, some complex system of moves and scores flawlessly back in place. Traders and villagers and wicks mingled back together again, as freely as if they had never separated.

In the distance, Faizra’s da made his slow way back to the shade, the villagers muttering quietly amidst themselves, more than a few long looks leveled at the merchants.

The sun crept through its zenith, hot and baking, but beneath the tree there was fish, free to the market-goers and brought by a few men to the mercenaries - for a price. At first the woman had gone, but some things in this place were not for sale, and some of the mercenaries had been slow to learn that.

Before long the market was winding down to nothing; last sales were made as the shadows began to lengthen again, slowly creeping over the dusty ground. The worst
of the heat broke, and almost as one the traders were moving, storing goods back on their rafts and beginning to pack up.

The long game had broken for a hastily devoured lunch and then resumed. One by one the kids of the traders broke off, and Faizra was no exception, calling good bye and waving as she ran light-footed back towards her Da. He laughed and gestured her to their boat, where Faizra shuffled the cloth away and began to pack up their boxes, tying down what remained with sturdy ropes.

A nearby boat took off, rocked once against theirs, and a crate of onions tumbled into the river, drifting rapidly away.

Faizra let loose one of her inventive new curses. She checked, quickly, that her Da was busy with some final business, and stripped off her colorful wrap without hesitation, dropping it onto the boat. She wore a breastband and loincloth beneath, although it was perhaps a toss-up how much her young body really needed, the little girl more child than woman still.

With the same ease with which she had scaled the tree and braved the mercenaries, Faizra dived smoothly off the boat and swam after the crate, like a fish as she glided through the water.

Against the distant shore, something stirred - a great brown thing like a log that began to move, and cut through the water towards the young wick, beady eyes above a long snout aimed towards her.

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Oisin Ocasta
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Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:14 pm

21st of Roalis, 2713
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Not as terrible as his manners.

It was something that happened to Oisin a lot: his mind would come up with some pithy remark or quippy comeback, but he never got the chance to use it, because either something else happened in the meantime to distract him, or the words didn't occur to him until minutes or hours later, usually while he was in the middle of relieving himself. More than once, he'd entertained the notion of writing such things and thoughts down, perhaps for later use, but once again the notion was entirely expelled from his mind, this time by the brushing contact of the young Mugrobi girl's glamour against his own. It was so unabashed, so carefree, and it left Oisin stunned and conflicted.

Being a Wick wasn't exactly something you could hide, no matter how much life in Anaxas might make you want to. Even Humans were capable of noticing a glamour, and once they did, they never let you forget it. Sometimes they did though, for brief fleeting moments: it was why Oisin so habitually kept his distance, enough separation between himself and those around so that none would need to suffer the reminder of what he was. In his youth, he'd thought his lifestyle was to blame. Surely, it was the people around him who were the problem, miserable and unhappy, and using him as a convenient way to flush some of that from their system. When the mercenaries had come, the fact that he'd been a Wick had seemed like a boon. It was the cause of their interest, the reason they wanted him around. Quickly though, that had faded, and things had settled back into familiar patterns. But it was different, they insisted, and he insisted to himself. He was their Wick, and that, apparently, changed things. Changed things for them, at least, but not for Oisin. He never got to forget that he wasn't quite one of them: but then, none of them were quite one of anyone, all outcasts and strays, strangers in a strange land. That was the lie that he told himself again and again: they were all different, and that was what made them the same.

In a single moment, some child with a ball made of animal guts, had undone all of those lies with barely a word.

Oisin watched the remainder of the game from a new vantage, silently contemplating the Mugrobi at play. He told himself he was studying the game, trying to understand the rules and mechanics, but it was a lie his heart wasn't in. The truth was that Oisin was watching the people, children as poor or poorer than he'd once been, playing and laughing without a care in the world. Oisin couldn't pick out the Wicks from the Humans, and if the children themselves were able, they didn't seem to care. For the purposes of the game, and perhaps beyond, none of that seemed to matter. Not fleeting moments either, not brief instances of reprieve: the game stretched on and on, bypassing meals, outlasting the market and the sun. His vigil wasn't static, he moved from place to place, going about his business, maintaining his respectful distance, but his eyes and his mind remained on the game. Gone was the reverence and wide-eyed admiration of earlier, a different feeling taking its place. Envy was an ugly emotion, but it twisted in his gut like a coil of thorns just the same.

By the time the market slowly began to drift away, fragment by fragment, Oisin's mind was thoroughly distracted, his attention everywhere except where it was supposed to be. He barely noticed when the ball strayed away from the game in his direction once again: only the approach of one of the players at the edge of his peripheral vision keyed his attention to the object a few feet away. Dutifully he reached for it, sparing the young boy a few extra yards of effort and running. For an instant, his eyes scanned the remaining players, trying to pick out the young Witch he'd encountered before: not that he'd likely recognise her after their mere seconds of encounter, but still. His brow furrowed as he tossed the goat's bladder into the approaching boy's expectant arms. She must have gone; he must have missed her. He found that bothersome, though he couldn't quite fathom why. Someone who'd glimpsed that he wasn't like the other pale-skins, perhaps, a distinction that the other Mugrobi didn't need or want to make.

The sound of something in the water deepened Oisin's frown. The ambience of boats breaking away from the market edge had blurred into the background, enough that this new something sounded different. As always, the sinking feeling that his mercenaries were somehow responsible quickly settled into place, and a few discreet jogging strides brought him a little closer to the river's edge. A glimmer of hope had him wishing one of the local women had reached their limit with Vex's lecherous tongue, and had slugged him one, depositing the Hoxian unceremoniously in the water. Alas, no such luck: just a stray box, and a stray Mugrobi off to retrieve it. Something that happened all the time, no doubt, given how no one seemed to be paying particular attention to the -

What little colour Oisin possessed quickly drained from his features, as his eyes focused on the familiar shadowed shape moving just on the cusp of the Turga's surface. He didn't know the local name for the creatures, but the Sergeant called them River Snacks: in that either they became your snack, or you became theirs. It wasn't the most unpleasant thing Oisin had found himself eating during his time in Mugroba, but it hadn't exactly been pleasant either: and for a former urchin like Oisin, that was an especially damning critique. Oisin's dietary preferences were hardly relevant now, however: it was the Snack's that were a more pressing concern.

"Hey, uh, is that -" was all Oisin managed to utter before the person whose attention he'd attempted to attract had walked away without a second thought. Oisin grabbed frantically at words that might have better luck, sampling from every scrap of language he knew, but with no success. No matter the words, no matter the shrugged off attempts to grasp someone by the arm, the people of big-tree-in-the-river's-bend had apparently hit their limit for suffering the mercenary among them.

"Oh, sack it," Oisin hissed under his breath, fumbling with the clasp on his cloak and depositing it with anything else readily removable on the bank of the river, before wading awkwardly into the shallows. "Don't mind me, just trying to save one of your clocking children from the death lizard in the river."

Oisin advanced until the river began to advance past his knees, the water sloshing unpleasantly against the inside of his thighs. His booted feet struggled for purchase on the slick stones beneath them, the river's current tugging at his ankles, trying to rip his legs from under him and drag him further into the river's depths. Oisin was long past realising the stupidity of this course of action, but he was already too far along to turn back now, and in some rare cases the only escape from idiocy was to push on through. "Hey!" he yelled, splashing at the water either side of him, willing to accept the attention of whatever or whoever he managed to attract. His foot slipped slightly on one of the river stones, but he managed to maintain his balance; crouching awkwardly, he reached down for it, grabbed hold, and hurled the makeshift projectile in the creature's direction. "Havakda, you ugly bastard!"

In Oisin's mind, he had seen things going a certain way. Most creatures were averse to loud noises, large splashes, and things being hurled in their general direction. In the version of the story that Oisin had hoped to tell, the rock landed in the water mere feet away from the beast, enough to startle it, delay it, and perhaps even drive it off: or, at the very least, drag plenty of eyes in that particular direction, so someone who actually knew what they were doing could get involved. Whether by sheer fluke, however, or mischief of the mona, the stone instead managed to impact the river creature directly, a glancing blow across its flank. The noise it unleashed, a deep, guttural, rattling snarl, chilled Oisin to the very depths of his soul. A splash of a tail, and the creature changed course, eyes and nostrils looming above the water like a shark fin as it carved a path straight towards Oisin.
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Faizra pezre Taci
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Sun Jul 07, 2019 1:52 am

Mid Afternoon, 21 Roalis, 2713
A Village on the Turga
The creature shifted direction in an effortless moment, smooth long body writhing without visible effort through the water. It must have been swimming, but it moved impossibly fast, with no sense of movement beneath the water but for the long tail lashing back and forth. One moment it had been halfway across the river - the next it was aimed straight for him and nearly on top of him already.

The currents of the Turga were swift and deep, and the stones on the bottom long since worn smooth beneath Oisin’s feet, threatening a nasty fall with each shift of his weight, let alone any attempts to actually step backwards.

As far as any frantic glances backward could tell, none of the busy merchants and villagers seemed to have even noticed his frantic yelling, let alone the knobby brown body winding through the river towards him. It was long - well over ten feet, and its snout was beginning to creep open, revealing sharp wicked teeth. Even from a distance Oisin would swear he could smell the reek of rotting flesh, maybe animal - maybe human.

But perhaps such monsters were just a fact of life on the river bed; perhaps no one there cared about one child more or less swimming in the dark blue waters, or one foolish light-skinned mercenary, knee-deep as the currents tried to rip his feet out from under him and facing down the beast.

Oisin would feel the brush of a glamour first; this one was steady and strong, especially for a wick, heavy with the comfortable ease of confidence and experience. A large hand clasped the back of his shirt, holding tight.

“Keep your feet,” said a low voice in lightly accented Estuan, easy enough to understand.

The wick behind him began to chant in monite, a confident easy spell that talked to the mona as friends, called on them for a simple spell that would be no trouble at all, gratitude, pleasure and confidence mingling amidst the words of the spell. The request itself was for a massive swell of water, that the river itself rise up and force the creature back, which he portrayed as a clever trick to turn the thing’s home against it, inviting the mona to be in on the joke of it.

The water pulled towards them, rising to Oisin’s waist - and then sucked abruptly out like a tide. The wick’s strong hand was enough to hold Oisin steady, and the enormous wave rushed out and squarely through the river monster. The creature spun back in the suddenly churning water, turning and winding its way back away from the village, back to where the waters made sense.

The hand bracing Oisin let go, and the man let loose a loud, piercing whistle.

Faizra was wholly focused on the dancing crate; she had been swimming towards it with single-minded focus, trying her best to catch it as the current dragged it along, without spilling any more of its precious cargo. The river and its currents were enough to fight against; the box bobbed on the top of it, but she needed to fight the secret streams below as well, and they threatened to pull her this way and that.

Faizra was oblivious to the drama of the river monster; never once did she look up to see the thing coming towards her. She might have been oblivious to the sudden wave that rocked her - but that it rocked the crate as well, threatening to spill the onions into the river.

Faizra lunged forward in a powerful stroke and caught the thing, wet hands holding tight, catching one stray onion and depositing it back inside. She clung to it for a moment, looking up and back at the man and the mercenary standing on the bank only at the whistle.

Faizra hooked one arm through the crate and began to tow it back with her, swimming steadily towards the two men on the shore. She moved faster now, even swimming against the current, even with her awkward burden, small powerful body working all together to obey the summons.

The wick chuckled. He was of a height with Oisin, well-muscled. Oisin might have guessed him at least five years older, although there were no lines on his dark skin. “Swims like a fish, doesn’t she?” The warm pride was obvious in his voice. With how close he stood to Oisin, Oisin couldn’t help but be aware of his glamour, that same confident strength still radiating from it, but there was no deliberate contact, no sense of intrusion.

“That is twice, my friend,” the wick added, one strong hand clasping Oisin’s arm. “I owe you a debt of thanks.”

Faizra emerged from the deeper water, navigating the slippery stones on foot with enviable ease, hefting the crate up out of the water and clutching it in her arms.

The man stepped forward, scowling at her with arms crossed over his chest. Even someone who spoke little in the way of Tek could tell he was lecturing her, and from his gestures it was clearly something to do with the river.

Faizra scowled back, jerked the crate up, and argued vigorously, her young bright voice utterly without the faintest trace of fear.

Her da laughed aloud, clasped her to him, and shoved her off towards the boat. Faizra was grinning broadly as she made to go.

Another whistle, this one softer, and Faizra stopped, and turned back to the mercenary.

“Mujo mujo ma,” Faizra said, then paused, and added in her clumsier Estuan. “Thank you for my life,” she grinned at him again, her glamour nudging at his with a friendly sort of shove, and she scrambled off towards the dock and boat.

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Oisin Ocasta
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Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:36 pm

21st of Roalis, 2713
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Thank you for my life: and then she was off, scampering away as if she didn't have a care in the world. Maybe it was youth. Maybe it was naïveté. Maybe it was some sort of reckless childhood bravado. Whatever it was, it had her rebounding as if she was unphased and indestructable, and Oisin couldn't help wishing he was anywhere near so resilient.

Currently, Oisin was anything but unphased. His thoughts were as chaotic as the Turga's waters had become, battering at his consciousness like the currents that had tried to unmoor him, and the wave that had struck the river beast and sent it on its way. Oisin's mind was flooded with questions, the most pressing of which was: how? Not how had the girl's father done it: he'd heard the words the man had uttered, the Monite conversation that compelled the Turga herself to come to their aid. The mechanics were within Oisin's comprehension, but the scope? Oisin could never have imagined such an application, never conceived that such things could be done - not by a Wick, it at least, not by a Wick like Oisin. But then, whose story was that: his own, or the one that the Galdori told?

Growing up in Old Rose Harbor, Oisin had always known he was inferior. It was something that society told him every day, an unspoken fact of life that was woven into every encounter and every experience. It was something he couldn't help but internalise: the more times it was told, the more inherently it was believed, and the more dissuaded Oisin became from testing that inferiority for himself. After all, if his potential for magic was negligable, if that was an unassailable fact, then why question it? Why challenge it? It simply was where it was. Leave the magic to the real mages, to those worthy of Brunnhold, and all the power and education that came with it.

The only thing that had ever managed to crack Oisin's certainty about his own inferior limitations was his ability to heal: but somehow, that was different. It didn't matter that a Galdor's magic would be vastly superior to his own in that regard, because the people Oisin helped and healed did not have access to such things. A quick fix by Wick hands was as good as it got for the poor in Old Rose Harbor, and Oisin had embraced it, pushing himself to find the full extent of that capacity, for their sake rather than his. It was a best of a bad situation mentality that drove him, and it was only ever in one regard. His other magics, those conformed to the accepted inferiority that had been conditioned into him since birth.

Yet, by pure chance, here he was beside a complete stranger whose ability stretched far beyond what Oisin had been taught to believe was possible. He had felt it, the strength and confidence in his glamour, and heart the effortless ease with which his conversation had tumbled forth. Perhaps the two of them were just instances of rare exception. Perhaps, just like a Galdori finding their particular magical niche, a Wick too could find a regard in which to excel. Perhaps if Oisin had spent his life living on and beside the Turga, he too might have such an effortless relationship with the mona of the river. Perhaps there was still truth to the facts of life that were printed upon Oisin's bones. Yet, those truths had never mentioned this, never so much as hinted at the possibility, never allowed room for such notions to fit inside Oisin's imagination. If these truths had been kept from him, deliberately excluded from his knowledge, then what else did the world not want Oisin to know?

Oisin looked at him, his mystery man, tall and imposing, a physique like carved stone, yet warm and protective like a benevolent god. He thought of how safe he had felt amid those moments of terror, feeling the man's hand and his field there to support him, knowing for a brief moment what it felt like to not be standing alone. As the man offered his gratitude, the deep musical sound washing over him like the first glimpses of dawn, Oisin felt something weaken his knees and a heat rise to his face, and neither the river nor the sun was to blame.

The girl provided a welcome distraction from her father, though not nearly as much of one as Oisin might have liked. Worse, her hurried thanks and eager disappearence filled Oisin with the realisation that before long, the girl and her father would be gone, as would the last remnants of the market, and Oisin would find himself alone in a crowd once more, the outcast among outcasts. The notion ripped a cavity in his chest. It had lasted mere minutes, this feeling of not being unwanted, and he could not bare the thought of his reprieve being over so soon. Yet, what could he do? What could he say? The words of the girl and her father - the value they placed on his intervention, the credit they gave him for her life - had washed over Oisin as undeserved pleasantries, and the thought of leveraging them never even remotely occurred. If it had, he might have tried to collect on the debt of thanks in some way. But it was a notion that Oisin could not have conceived of, just as the notion of not acting as he had acted could not exist inside his mind. Instead he took a step forward, his voice tumbling from him with a strange urgency.

"My name is Oisin." However he had wanted to sound - confident, collected, or otherwise - his voice emerged at the near opposite, strangely quiet, almost regretful, as if he was sorry to even trouble anyone to hear it. "Oisin Ocasta. I'm from Anaxas. I grew up in the city. I -."

His voice cracked, his eyes straying to the mercenary encampment, and then to a barge slowly drifting off into the distance. For the briefest moment, he entertained a guilty notion. What if he ran? What if he leapt onto one of these barges and let the river sweep him away, stayed among these people and their captivating lives, lived beneath the Mugrobi sun until it began to burn away the distinctions between them? He'd run from Old Rose Harbor after all, taken up with the mercenaries in the hopes of finding a better life. Perhaps that was just the kind of person he was, the kind who ran away when things were too much to bear. Perhaps it was all one journey, the mercenaries merely the means that delivered him here, to where he was supposed to be. But he had already felt it, already experienced it, the way that the villagers and traders had looked at him this entire day. Whatever misplaced heroism had been ascribed to him in the moment, that would fade before long, and things would return to how they were meant to be. That was his fate, and something he was resigned to: being an outsider, no matter where he went.

But not yet, his heart begged at him, clinging tightly to the momentary reprieve. It was a reality that he would have to return to eventually, but please, if only this delusion could last for a few moments longer?

"I've never known anyone like you. Like any of you. I -" His mind found it, an honest lie to latch onto, a narrative to tell that sailed close enough to true waters for Oisin to feel comfortable offering it. "I wasted the day watching from a distance. I would be honoured to learn more before the opportunity sails away, if you have the time."
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Faizra pezre Taci
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Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:50 pm

Mid Afternoon, 21 Roalis, 2713
A Village on the Turga
“Ibo pez Kato,” the wick replied, smiling at Oisin, filling in the silence that had fallen on them when the pale-skinned mercenary’s voice cracked. “Ma'ralio, Oisin Ocasta of t’ cities of Anaxas. In Estuan, I would say good to meet you.” He grinned now. The word in Mugrobi had flowed, with that odd lyrical quality that seemed to make the language like a song; even in Estuan, as well as he spoke it, there was a faint hint of lilting music to his voice there too.

Ibo waited for Oisin to find his voice. The river around them was settling back into stillness, all traces of the wave he and the mona had summoned together disappearing. In a few moments not even ripples would remain, the river claiming its smoothness back without hesitation. The hot sun beat down on the false stillness unyieldingly; standing in the water, Oisin could see the smoothness of it for the lie it was, could feel the powerful currents that writhed beneath tugging this way and that at his pants and boots, still sopping wet.

Faizra was back at their boat now, crouching in the long length of it. Her hands busily tied the errant onions into place where they should have been all along, securing them to the wet depths of the boat. Her skin dried quickly in the hot sun, her breastband and loincloth too; unlike Oisin’s heavy wet clothing, what she and the rest of the Mugrobi wore was simple and light. Even Ibo’s light linen pants - the only thing he wore - were already drying where they clung wet to his thighs.

Ibo raised an eyebrow at Oisin’s request. “Come,” He said, gently. “Out of the river,” he extended a broad strong hand, crossed with calluses and rope marks, scarred here and there, waiting for Oisin to take it. Without the slightest hesitation, Ibo would clasp the younger man’s hand and help him keep his balance as they emerged from the water to the banks, away from the deep currents and slippery rocks. Like his daughter, Ibo wore no shoes, but the cuffs of his linen pants were turned up and neatly hemmed.

Before long they were on the bank once more. Ibo stayed in the hot sun, although Oisin’s heavy clothing needed time to dry, especially with him still wearing it.

“We cannot stay,” Ibo said gently, almost regretfully. He turned his head, shading his eyes to look at his boat, his daughter busily tying down additional crates, her dark head gleaming in the sun.

Ibo looked back at Oisin, his dark eyes meeting the mercenary’s lighter ones, holding them for a moment. Gently, for the first time, his glamour pressed against Oisin’s, asking some kind of intangible question. It wasn’t the same effortless mingling Faizra had engaged in, but it was a communication nonetheless, as if Ibo was asking what kind of man he was, this foreign wick - whether he could be trusted, as if he were searching for the answer in Oisin’s aura.

“But,” Ibo said, after a moment, grinning again, as if Oisin had passed whatever test it was he had devised. “If you are not needed here tonight,” he raised an eyebrow, “then come up the river wit’ us f’r a pina manna while. We are not alone, none ‘f us.” He offered Oisin his hand again, holding it out and open. His aura mimicked the motion, somehow, like a handshake of its own, waiting for Oisin’s response.

If Oisin accepted, Ibo would clasp his hand again, a warm and gentle squeeze, then let go, and lead him along the ramshackle docks, navigating the half-rotten wood With enviable ease. He stopped in front of the boat, grinning down at his daughter.

“Far’ye?” Ibo asked.

“Benny,” Faizra grinned, rising, hands settling on small hips. She chattered something else in Tek as she turned, as evenly balanced in the boat as on land, and froze wide-eyed at the sight of Oisin behind Ibo.

“Oisin Ocasta,” Ibo said with a grin. “This boch’s Faizra pezre Taci. Nanabo, Oisin’s t’come for dinner.”

Faizra’s eyebrows raised. “Will gitgka like ‘t?” She asked, peering around Ibo to look at Oisin.

“Y’ let me worry ‘bout her,” Ibo dropped into the boat, turning to offer Oisin a hand again, if he needed it to descend the foot or two to the low, sloped, wet floor of the boat. “Y’ need more lessons on manners, nanabo?”

Faizra made a face at her Da. “Ne!” She grinned at Oisin and offered her hand as well, much smaller than her father’s but surprisingly strong, with calluses of its own already, her small glamour fluttering warmly about her father’s and reaching to brush Oisin’s again as well. “Junta, Oisin Ocasta!”

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Oisin Ocasta
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Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:59 pm

21st of Roalis, 2713
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It was an offer Oisin couldn't have refused even if he'd tried: and the sheer welcoming warmth that Ibo pez Kato radiated made Oisin certain that he did not want to. He grasped the offered hand with as much reciprocal strength and firmness as he could, feeling like a frail palid child by comparison to the lion of a man that stood before him.

Oisin's eyes strayed to the mercenary encampment, considering Ibo's words. Was he needed tonight? Was he ever needed? Would they even notice that he was gone? For the moment, Oisin didn't care. Not with those words lingering in his thoughts, words it almost felt like he'd been waiting an entire lifetime to hear. We are not alone. None of us.

"If there's one thing life has taught me, it's never to turn down the offer of a meal."

He tried his best to smile, but knew that none of his efforts could ever match the radiant warmth that spread across Ibo pez Kato's features whenever he smiled. He remained silent - respectfully so, he hoped - as he was led across the docks, lingering as close as he could to the edge of Ibo's glamour without it seeming as if he was crowding the man. He remained at the same respectful distance as the man and his daughter spoke, trying to take in what little details he could, trying to dredge up the strands of information that had already been provided to him over his time here in Mugroba. He knew that pez and pezre connected a child to a parent; so Ibo's father was Kato, and Faizra's mother was Taci. And gitgka, that was grandmother?

Hopping down onto the raft without assistance - he'd considered it, and the prospect of holding hands with Ibo again was more appealing than he'd cared to admit; but as the pallid outsider, he needed to show at least some moderate ability and competence - he tried not to eavesdrop too badly: this proved to be a mistake as the sound of his name grasped his attention, his eyes blinking for a moment as his mind reset before responding. Junta. That was a greeting, right?

"Hesta, Faizra pezre Taci," trying his best to reply in kind without repeating back the exact same words. He felt himself floating: not in a physical sense, but floating within the context of this moment, adrift from purpose or function. A sinking feeling settled in, a sensation of unwarranted praise, that being here at all was undeserved. These were the moments when Oisin slipped away, deliberately faded from notice, found himself a quiet corner to hide in and experience the moment from a safe distance. A quick glance around the raft made it clear that there would be no such place to hide.

"What do you call them?" he heard himself asking. His eyes had strayed to the far bank, brief anxious moment spent confirming that the beast had no kin currently lying in wait. The question was directed at Faizra more than her father: somehow, directing such a naive inquiry to a child felt more appropriate than asking the same of her father. Realising the vagueness of what he had asked, he gestured off towards the water with a hand, peppering his words with the occasional Tek alternative, in the hopes that it might help him be understood. True, Ibo and Faizra seemed to have no issue understanding and speaking Estuan thus far, but still: Oisin felt an awkwardness in his gut at not even trying to reciprocate. "The water lizard. A natt I know calls them Snacks - yats? - but I do not think that is the proper name."

His inclination was to stop there, to assume that those words were enough, but he had been invited to dinner, and doubted his usual silence would go over well. "We do not have beasts like that where I am from." His eyes narrowed slightly, as he considered the validity of his words. "Not in the rivers, at least."
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Faizra pezre Taci
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Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:34 pm

Mid Afternoon, 21 Roalis, 2713
A Village on the Turga
Faizra squinted at Oisin for a moment, and then let out a laugh, happy and fluttering. “Ne benny yats, them,” she grinned, broadly, shaking her little head. “Laoso eating, f’ you got anythin’ else.” She made a demonstrative face of disgust, sticking her tongue out.

“D’ they live on land there?” Faizra asked Oisin, interested in his offhand comment. “They ent so bad on land, b’ still fast.” She grinned with that same childish lack of fear, bright and easy. Behind it, strong and proud, was the utter confidence that she could outrun whatever river monsters came her way and that her Da would always be there if she couldn’t.

“We call ‘em maja’wa,” Faizra added. “But y’ can call ‘em,” she rattled off a long phrase in distinctive Tek, grinning with mischief in her eyes now.

Ibo roared with laughter, his hands busy with the coil of rope and sturdy knots that lashed the canoe to the old worn down pier. “Better t’ say maja’wa,” he chuckled, “less y’ mean to call ‘em sharp-toothed river shitters.”

“Well they ent gon’ to go on land!” Faizra said, grinning with self-satisfied pride; her face, her whole body, had utterly lit up at the sound of her father’s laughter, and it would be obvious to Oisin that she had meant to make him laugh.

Ibo, still chuckling, shook his head and untied the last of the rope, coiling it smooth around his arm and dropping it into the canoe.

There were four rows of benches along it, one at the very back where Ibo stood, two in the middle, and one at the front; Faizra scrambled past Oisin to the front bench, nudging one of the boxes that rested along the bottom with a bare foot as if to check how secure it was. The bottom of the thing was deep, the sides high and sloped, rough and uneven but sturdy nonetheless. It looked strong; not fancy, not new, but worn and well-cared for, a beloved tool. Once she reached the front, Faizra sat easy and strong on the bench there, what looked like a hand-carved wooden paddle comfortable and familiar in her hands.

Ibo let out a sharp whistle, glancing back over his shoulder at the shade of the tree. “Sana'hulali!” He called, one long arm stretching in an easy wave.


There was a loud burst of yelling, mostly from a group of children beneath the tree. Faizra leapt to her feet, waving the paddle furiously, and yelled back; there was no anger in any of it, the lilting lovely Mugrobi oddly sonorous even when shouted by children. There was another burst of shouting back, and Faizra grinned proudly, turning back to look at Oisin.


“They’re -“ Faizra faltered, scratched her head, easily managing the heavy paddle with just one, and substituted a phrase in Tek.

Ibo snorted. “Sore losers,” he said.


“Ne!” Faizra protested. “I said -“

“I know what ye said,” Ibo chuckled again. His own paddle pushed firmly against the dock, and then Faizra was sitting again, her own digging deeply into the water.

The two moved together in flawless easy motion; Faizra was inches shorter and smaller than her father, but she put every bit she had into the even strokes. Ibo was as calm and easy at paddling as he had been at casting, exuding a sort of effortless confidence as they navigated up the river, away from the village. Sitting between the two wicks on either end the canoe, with it nearly twenty feet long, Oisin would be just out of range of their fields; if he sat on the back bench, though, he would just barely be able to feel the occasional brush of Ibo's when the man bent forward for some stroke or maneuver, a warm, comforting sort of push against Oisin's own.

The trip across the smooth stretch of water outside of big-tree-in-the-river’s-bend was easy enough, but then the Turga was fast and strong beneath them, powerful white waves sloping at the side of the small canoe. Neither Ibo nor Faizra seemed remotely bothered by them, and in fact the boat didn’t so much as rock, Ibo’s steady hands navigating them through the small stretch of rapids.

And then they were through, and within a few moments, big-tree-in-the-river’s-bend was gone and out of sight. The water eased, the rapids smoothing to nothing, and the river was wide and smooth and mostly flat, with smaller trees and river weeds lining it on either side. Here and there it split apart before them, and again came back together. The sun shone down strong and powerful, glinting off weeds and fish beneath the deep blue surface. It was its own world, on the river, nothing like the land.

Ibo looked at Oisin. “Y’ can take off yer wet things, f’ y’ like. Sun’ll dry ‘em faster that way.” He kept paddling, the smooth strong muscles in his bare stomach and arms flexing lightly with each stroke. Faizra hadn’t bothered to put her cloth wrap back on, easy and comfortable in her breastband and loin cloth, and she reached down and scooped up a handful of water nearly without breaking her stroke, pouring the cupped handful on her head, the glistening drops sliding down her body. From the sound behind Oisin, Ibo was doing the same.

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Oisin Ocasta
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Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:09 pm

21st of Roalis, 2713
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Oisin's mind fumbled as it tried to decipher the scatterings of Mugrobi and Tek, scanning through his memories as if he were flipping through pages in a book. His exposure to both languages was fragmented, a few words here, a few phrases there, things figured out from context when people spoke a little too freely, a little too certain that there was no one in earshot that could understand. It said a lot about Oisin's linguistic education that the last word of Faizra's maja’wa description was easier to understand than the words preceeding it: insults and profanities were usually the words Oisin heard more often than anything else, typically directed either at himself or his fellow mercenaries.

Speaking of mercenaries: Oisin actually cracked a smile and loosed a small chuckle as Faizra's punchline landed. It was the same kind of joke that the mercs would have told, and coming from a child, there was roughly the same amount of intelligence behind it, too. From her reaction, Faizra seemed to consider this the absolute pinnacle of humour, and so Oisin leaned into it, choosing not to reflexively fight against the solicited smile. "Everything has to shit somewhere, I suppose," Oisin offered quietly, not quite a conspiratorial whisper, but close enough.

Oisin's feelings of awkward inutility didn't fade as the raft began to move off into the river. Unpleasant as the mercenaries could be at times, at least their expectations of him, and instructions for him, were usually clear. It would have been Vex here, relishing in the laziness of having nothing to do, while Oisin made himself useful with one of the oars. But with Ibo and Faizra, that clarity of expectation was nowhere to be found. Should he search around for an oar of his own, contribute to the efforts of propelling the raft along, or would that be an overstep, an intrusion into the unspoken coordination between father and daughter? Had he not been here, the two of them would have paddled the raft together without question, so did his presence really make that much of a difference? Perhaps not, but the idea of a young girl doing the work while Oisin sat back and did nothing felt somehow wrong; felt too Galdori for his tastes.

And then Ibo gave Oisin something to do, and Oisin immediately wished he hadn't. It was sound advice: sitting around in wet clothes wasn't exactly a pleasant experience, and Oisin wasn't exactly enjoying the humidity that was beginning to trap itself beneath his various layers. By comparison to Ibo and his daughter, even stripped down to his base layers Oisin would probably still seem overdressed. The suggestion to remove his clothes in that voice wasn't exactly unwelcome either, even if the presence of Faizra quite rapidly derailed and potential wanderings his mind might try to disappear down. Still, it was an awkward reluctance that Oisin began to peel off layer after layer, the process revealing the uncomfortably onion-white skin that lay beneath. Oisin poked in self-disgust at the transitions from oak brown to birch white on his arms and thighs, the strange bands around his knees that had been left exposed, the twilight above his elbow where the shadow of his clothing exposed his skin to the sunlight only some of the time.

For a moment, he contemplated the kind of reception he might receive if he decided to visit one of the tumble huts his fellow mercenaries frequented, looking for a little night time company. Hysterics, most likely, at the naked Anaxi the sun had chosen to mark with the stripes of an obscure wild animal. Oisin had always regarded his fellow mercenaries' fondness for removing their shirts at any opportunity with a certain distain and dismay; perhaps now he had stumbled across the unspoken wisdom behind it.

Clothes spread out across the vacant bench, Oisin shuffled even more awkwardly, feeling exposed and on display in naught but his skivvies. Ibo and Faizra seemed unphased, too focused on the task at hand to pay any mind to the majority-naked Anaxi: but somehow the silence made things worse, and Oisin grasped around in futility for something to say.

"They make quite good jerky, actually."

Apparently his grasping for words had reached all the way back to minutes before. "The maja'wa, I mean. They taste pretty awkful however you cook them, but once they're dried out and smoked, the meat is actually quite lean and high in protein. Quite good for travel rations."

He offered a small shrug, aimed mostly in Faizra's direction, wondering if the correlation between child humour and mercenary humour was a one-off fluke, or more of a general rule. "That's why my boss calls them Snacks: either you eat them, or they eat you."
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