NATION

PASSWORD

The Place at the End of the Trail [Sklerdras Only]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Ishvalite Caliphate
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 6
Founded: May 20, 2022
Authoritarian Democracy

The Place at the End of the Trail [Sklerdras Only]

Postby Ishvalite Caliphate » Sun Jul 03, 2022 2:23 pm

This RP will be using the DP system. If anyone is unfamiliar with this, it's a nifty little system which is designed to allow character based roleplays to make enduring and beloved characters and provide them a framework in which to act!
  • The Rulebook can be found here
  • The Character Sheet template can be found here It is recommended that this be copied over to your own Google Docs file and filled out there!
  • Any questions or concerns at all, please feel free to get in touch!
  • My thanks to Romae in perpetuum for their RP system.

  • Sklerdras Project members only. If you think you'd like to be a part of the project (and you aren't already!) feel free to express you interest to our World Admin team, or you can join our discord here.
  • There are no quality restraints on this RP. One liners are permitted, particularly in cases of dialogue. With that said, please feel free to describe and customise your posts as much as you want. Ideally, one liners will be limited.
  • If you have any ideas for the RP please knock yourself out. That being said I do have an actual story/plot in mind so if you want to clear things with me first that would be great but at the end of the day this is your RP. Have fun!

As the more eagle eyed of you may have noticed (and those who skipped the rules) there is a little Roll20 inspired map attached depicting the ground floor of the inn. Yes there is more and exploration will be rewarded! Note that there isn't really movement limitations or turn order or things to that effect (should this ever be done in the future that may change) so if you want your character to move anywhere just mention it in the post and I'll move them about! If you want to designate your own colour for your character just let me know. The current character table can be found here:



Character NameColourPlayerLink to Character Sheet
Xenios███N/AN/A
Tiraz bir Tis███Ishvalite Caliphatehere
Inazuma Kenji███Kuminouchi Shogunatehere





The sun blazed down on the parched road with the force of a mighty host battering down the gates of a beleaguered city, weapons gleaming and bloodlust in their eyes, hammering again and again against splintering timber eager for whatever plunder lies within.
Even the term road was somewhat ambiguous, it was little more than a dirt trail pocked with the odd fissure and crack. If it saw more than the occasional shepherd or mayhap a roaming goat in a year, that would no doubt have been considered a frightful excess by the locals. Assuming there were any, of course, there was nothing anywhere for what seemed like miles around.
An expanse of sun-caked savanna that went on and on and on far beyond the site of mortal men. Just an all-encompassing, oppressive nothing.

Imagine the peculiarity, then, of a lone figure on horseback who was gradually making its way along the derelict trail.
The horse itself was clearly a fine mount, despite the indignities of the bridle and saddle. Chestnut brown and dappled white with a long midnight black mane that cascaded down an elegant neck. Though said neck was bent low, the chestnut hide coated with dust and filth and stalwart flanks heaving heavier than they should be for such a well-bred beast. Dread thirst had truly begun to extract its toll on the creature.
Its rider looked to be in better shape, protected as they were from the worst of the heat by their loose-fitting beige robes and headwraps. Only their eyes were truly visible, pricks of luminescent scarlet fixed firmly on the near distance. Perhaps too determinedly, for the dead silence of the landscape was soon shattered by a high-pitched scream as the mare's fetlock became trapped in a hitherto unnoticed pit. The beast’s momentum twisted the joint painfully and it quickly gave out with an eyewatering snap.
The robed rider could barely throw themselves clear as the once proud mount collapsed into a writhing pile of horseflesh and shrieks, throwing up a thick cloud of dust and dirt. Coughing, the rider steadily got to their feet brushing themselves down as best they could, winces of pain indicating exactly where they had fallen.

Staggering over to the fallen mare, whose shrieks had now died down to a mewling whimper somehow even more offensive to the ears, the rider appraised the damage done. Even a cursory glance to the mangled fetlock though soon spelled out any possibility of continuing and so the rider- with some difficulty- knelt beside the creature, stroking its dark mane gently with one hand while the other reached into their voluminous robes. Murmuring soft words of comfort, the rider’s hand shot out with a dull flash as a curved dagger drove deep into the animal’s throat.
The beast thrashed wildly as the blade tore across its gullet and blood gushed out into the trail, staining the parched surface a deep red. Such effort was short-lived, however, and soon the thrashing stopped; the once-fine specimen breathing it’s last.
The rider remained there on their knees for a heartbeat or two before sighing deeply and removing their face covering. Thus revealed, the figure was shown to be a fairly young man with a close-cropped dark beard and a small scar on his nose. He examined the faltering blood flow from the carcass’ neck before thrusting his hand into the gaping wound. The man then raised his blood-drenched fingers to his exposed forehead, whispering a dirge-like chant as he did, and slowly began running his middle and index down his lean face, down past his closed eyes and all the way to his bearded chin, leaving lines of gore as they travelled.

With this done, the rider began the arduous task of unstrapping the mare’s saddlebags and, hoisting them over his shoulder with a grimace, he continued down the trail.

Hours passed and the rider continued to walk, the vicious sun only now starting to climb down from its apex in the crystalline sky.
The twin trails of blood that marred his face had long since clotted and cracked in the heat, much like his lips which had become covered with spittle and flecks of white. He knew he was in trouble; sweat had stopped running down his brow, having hardened into crusted scales, and his heartbeat was beginning to thump louder and louder in his chest.
Any true son or daughter of the Iberizad knew to recognize the signs of dehydration long before it would get to this stage. To the rider’s dismay, however, his waterskins had burst when his mount had collapsed and- despite having long ago been taught the ways of finding it- he could find no water in this barren place. Just nothing, nothing, and the trail.

More time passed and the rider could sense that his was running out. His arms felt like they were turning to lead, and it was getting harder and harder to put one moccasined foot in front of the other.
Soon, the man’s right leg finally gave out sending him sprawling to the ground in a cloud of thick dust, much as his mare had done hours before. The irony was not lost on the rider, who could only lament that there was no one to give him the mercy he had gifted the animal. He once again reached into his robe, clasping the handle of his dagger determinedly and prepared for Them.

Then he saw it.
Seemingly emerging from the dust itself, the rider could suddenly see a large wooden structure that was totally out of place in the surrounding expanse but only a few mere meters away. It looked…raggedly? Like a mélange of different buildings that had mean mashed together by a bored child, standing at least three stories tall. The rider couldn’t make out much in his current state but could clearly see a conical tower rising from the back end and by the entrance.
An animal trough.
The rational part of the rider’s mind told him that this had to be a lie. Some twisted illusion conjured from half-baked remembrances brought on by thirst. Such things were known to happen in the Great Desert, tricks played on the faithful by vengeful spirits or so claimed the village Sarda.
But he didn’t care.
Unable to get back to his feet, the rider soon found himself crawling towards the miraculous building, dragging himself forward with what remained of his strength. Unbeknownst to him, the rider had resumed his chanting as the dust stung his eyes and assaulted his throat. That didn’t matter, though, all that did was even the scantest hope of survival.
He dragged and dragged and dragged, ignoring the tearing of his own robes and his own bleeding and broken fingernails, until he could see the rusted metal trough before him. With the last of his reserves, the rider launched himself towards it praying to The Two that he hadn’t been deceived.
He felt the water before he saw it, warm and turgid, but nonetheless better than the sweetest honey or richest wine. A smile on his face, the rider let the blackness take him.

-----

The next thing he knew he was slowly coming to in a thick and comfortable chair and for a moment the rider wondered if he had moved on to the Kerenzian Halls? For a moment he was elated that The Lord of the Cosmos had considered his death a pious one, a notion that was quickly disabused when he remembered where he had last been.
Whatever remaining notions that this was indeed the afterlife, however, fled like a Atelab beast before hounds when the rider noticed the beaming figure standing above him.
“Good, you’re awake!”
The rider’s hands went automatically to the armrests to propel himself up, but the movement sent a sharp pain through his right side, and he found himself sinking into the chair once more.
“Ah, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The figure said still smiling. “You were in quite the state when I found you. Damn near drowned in the trough, absolutely covered in bruises.”
His blurred vision gradually starting to clear, the rider took a good look at his erstwhile savior. He was male and quite a tall one at that, reaching nearly six feet in height. He was lanky rather than big, however, but had a little bit of a paunch. His features, though, were somewhat of a mystery; the strange man had hair as dark as any Kersi or Birthar but his dark hazel eyes marked him as a alien to the Iberizad. Despite that, however, his Kersian was flawless with barely a hint of an accent.
The rider must’ve been staring for too long, however, because the tall man’s smile wavered slightly.
“Oh, don’t worry, you have nothing to fear. Here.” Reaching towards a wider chair to the side, the tall man produced a curved object wrapped in cloth and handed it over gingerly. The rider was puzzled for a second before recognizing what it was. Hands trembling somewhat, he removed the bindings revealing a curved tulwar.
“I found it a few meters away from you, it seemed important.” The tall man’s grin resumed. “Returned as found, we’re all friends here.”
Grasping the hilt, the rider edged the blade from its scabbard and quickly examined the markings above the cross guard. Breathing a silent sigh of relief, he re-sheathed the blade and nodded.
“You have my thanks for saving me, stranger.” The rider’s voice was little more than a croak, and his throat burned like it has been sliced with a thousand tiny daggers, but he could still make himself understood. “So you do not think me rude or my people ignorant of the Sacral laws of Hospitality, I offer you my name as well.” He moved to stand but a fresh wave of pain made him reconsider, settling instead for sitting up. “I am Tiraz bir Tis of the Bithar.” Tiraz raised his middle and index fingers to his forehead, but this time extended his arm outwards. “The blessings of The Two Who Are One be upon you for your kindness.”
The tall man accepted the blessing with a nod. “Hospitality, yes, interesting. Then you may call me Xenios, Tiraz bir Tis, and I bid you welcome to our humble little establishment. With a hint of flair Xenios gestured to their surroundings. “Is there anything you’d like to drink?”




Tiraz gains the Injured Impairment:
Either as a result of a fight or some form of accident, this character has suffered some forms of damage enough, at least, to impair their physical abilities.(-5) to all Fitness checks and (-10) to all Dexterity checks.

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Last edited by Ishvalite Caliphate on Wed Jul 27, 2022 9:40 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Kuminouchi Shogunate
Political Columnist
 
Posts: 5
Founded: Jun 04, 2022
Iron Fist Consumerists

Inazuma Kenji

Postby Kuminouchi Shogunate » Fri Jul 08, 2022 6:59 pm

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Inazuma Kenji, a samurai under Lord Hokichi, fails to protect his master in a battle with Kuma Yoritomo (the now Shogun) and is outcast as a ronin. He delivers Lord Hokichi’s daughter, the Lady Yoko, to the safety of a Shinto temple. A temple priest tells him the spirits are calling him to redeem himself and he must travel East, towards the rising sun. After weeks of travel across the wilderness, Kenji finally encounters a peaceful, nomadic band of goat herders in the desert along the periphery of the Ishval Caliphate. He stays with the band for some time until a group of Bidar raiders enters the camp. Kenji kills four of the raiders but his actions only alienate him from the nomads and he is asked to leave, suggested he make his way to the capital city of Kemefer. He leaves the group and sets out across more desert until he finds himself at the Place at the End of the Trail.




Ronin. “Why didn’t you save my father?”

These two phrases threatened to haunt Inazuma Kenji for the rest of his life. Tired, dirty and hungry, the wayward warrior rode across the wilderness on a midnight black steed, Yoru. The horse was in no better condition than the rider but both ambled forward, uncertain of the future. For days now they had traveled, only with each other as company, the two phrases repeating themselves like mantras in Kenji’s head. He replayed the fateful scene in his head a thousand times.

Ronin. “Why didn’t you save my father?”

The Inazuma family were a minor noble land-holding family of the larger Yagi clan. At a young age, Kenji, the third of four brothers, had been pledged to the daimyo, Lord Yagi Hokichi, and trained as a samurai warrior, tied to the fate of the land and his master. Lord Hokichi was a fair and mild-mannered noble who was regarded as a father-figure for all who served his household. Kenji was proud of his station and took his vows seriously, taking to heart the bushido code of honor of the warrior. For years he served and protected his daimyo, who grew increasingly worried at the growing power of a rival daimyo, Kuma Yoritomo.

When the spring thaw came earlier this fateful year, it was clear Yoritomo was making preparations to attack and subdue the Yagi. Lord Hokichi, though well into the back-end of his years, decided to lead his troops of noble warriors and meet Yoritomo in the field, hoping to save his fortified home town from the ravishment of a siege.


The place they met was a stretch of flat grassland called Azami Glen, bounded on one side by thick woods and the other by the narrow Azami river, a tributary of the mighty Kushiro River which it connected with further downstream. There had been a light rain the previous two days and the ground was already soft. On the morning of battle, the ominous skies were dark with rain clouds but no water had yet fallen. The Kuma charged straight at their position, beige banners waving from their backs. For a long while, the defenses and obstacles placed in the field hampered their progress and forced them to break formation and after a long melee, Kenji believed the Kuma’s defeat was at hand. He himself had remained on his mount in the second line behind the footmen, cutting down any of the Kuma fighters who managed to break through.

Then the clouds broke and a steady rain fell upon the scene of unfolding carnage. Kenji’s visibility narrowed and Yoru began having trouble keeping her footing on the muddy terrain. Suddenly, he heard yells of ‘Protect the Master!’. He spun in his saddle and could just make out, across the field, a line of Kuma bowmen who had emerged at the tree line of the woods and were letting lose volleys of barbed arrows into the Yagi back ranks. As Kenji looked on, the bowmen retreated, dissolving into the trees just as Kuma cavalry sallied past them into the field, cutting a path of death towards Lord Hokichi and his guard.

In a desperate bid to save his master, Kenji charged his steed down along the banks of the river, which was slowly engorging with the fresh rainwater. But as Kenji reigned to bring Yoru to bank hard to the right, the mighty steed lost its footing and foundered, falling into the reeds and thick mud along the riverbank, Kenji going down beneath. Yoru struggled to rise but found no purchase in the saturated soil. Kenji seemed unharmed but his right leg remained pinned under Yoru’s flank, the rest of his body laying in the mud and surrounded by tall reeds. He was immobilized but fortunately, the soft ground did not allow the weight of Yoru to break his leg.

Kenji tried desperately to pull himself free while Yoru thrashed about. From among the reeds, and through the rain, he observed Lord Hokichi riding towards him, a distressed look on his face. Suddenly, Lord Hokichi winced in pain and fell to the wet ground, about 50 meters away. Kenji could see an arrow shaft protruding from his back above his left shoulder. On the ground, Lord Hokichi spied Kenji through the reeds and shouted over the drumming of the rain on the ground, “Save Yoko!”, before turning to meet his assailants.

Save Yoko? Kenji thought. His daughter? Why not his sons who were here in the field? Unless….and the realization hit Kenji, sending a shiver down his spine. In another desperate attempt, Kenji was able to finally pull his leg free, but not before he saw his master surrounded on all sides by Kuma samurai warriors. Kenji froze in place, uncertain what to do. He was then completely paralyzed at the sight of Kuma Yoritomo himself. The Kuma daimyo, who many expected would soon be named Shogun by the Emperor, helped Lord Hokichi rise to his knees. The feared warrior said something softly to Hokichi, close to his ear, and Hokichi nodded to Yoritomo, removed his helmet and lowered his head serenely, tilting his body slightly forward. Kenji watched in horror as Yoritomo unsheathed his deadly katana, held it for a moment over the back of the neck of his noble foe, then in one swift motion swung the glistening metal over his head in a great arc and back down, cutting cleanly through the neck of Kenji’s sworn master. Kenji felt time stand still as he tried to process the view of his beloved lord’s severed head laying in the mud, the body falling alongside it with the last spurts of blood running out of the stump of its neck.

His heart would not beat. His lungs would not breath. The only thing his body wanted to do was to vomit. His master was dead. He watched it happen. He did nothing. He could not save him. He did not die trying. It was a disgrace.

Almost as if the heavens themselves were crying in angry anguish, the steady rain intensified into a loud, blinding deluge, cracks of thunder booming overhead. Kenji suddenly became aware of his present state and realized the river would soon swell and drown him. Flash floods were commonplace in the fertile Kushiro valley. He grabbed the reigns of Yoru and helped pull the beast up. He waded across the rising waters to the far side, knowing it would soon be impassable by any pursuers and then mounted Yoru and as fast as he dare drive the horse, tried to make his way back to the village fort of the Yagi.

He arrived nearly two hours later, the storm having abated enough he could make better time that he expected. As he arrived, drenched and forlorn, Lord Hokichi’s wife, an elderly uncle, some retainers and his young daughter of seventeen or eighteen years, Lady Yoko, rushed out of the manor house to meet him but in an instant knew the news was ill. Kenji didn’t even dismount but spoke from the saddle, as if it a stupor, and recounted the events of the lost battle, and the death of the noble daimyo.

The group all let out mournful howls of despair, but it was Yoko who was particularly vocal. She stepped towards Kenji and glared at him reproachfully, shouting at him between angry sobs. “Why didn’t you save him?”. The words from this young, frail girl hurt him more than any enemy’s blade cutting into his heart could possibly have. “You were supposed to protect him!” she continued, screaming and crying. “Why didn’t you die with him!?” and then the final blow that crippled Kenji’s already crushed spirit, “You are nothing but a filthy ronin now!”

Hokichi’s widow finally stepped forward to quiet and calm the girl. She looked up at Kenji with wet eyes. “What now?”

The sudden sense of practicality brought Kenji out of his fog. Yes, what happens now?

“The Kuma will come as soon as they find a way to cross the river. They will come and complete their conquest.” Suddenly Kenji remembered the last words of his master, the last orders to a faithful servant when he could still call himself a samurai. Ronin he was now, but maybe not before he completed his final task. One last noble act before he ended himself.

“Before he fell, the master ordered me to take Lady Yoko to safety” he said feebly.

Yoko glared at him with amazed contempt. “I will sooner drown myself in the river that to go anywhere with you!”

But the widow spun her daughter around and said to her in a stern, authoritative voice. “No, Yoko, you must flee. If the Kuma catch you….I don’t know what your fate would be, but it would either be bondage or death at its best. You must go, now, take shelter with your cousin, and keep the memory of your father and the Yagi alive!”

Reluctantly, Yoko nodded, for family honor always trumps personal grievances for Sunokawa nobles. Kenji pulled her up behind him, Yoru snorting in annoyance, and they rode the rest of the day and into the night. They traveled in silence, with Kenji’s thoughts preying on him.

Ronin. “Why didn’t you save my father?”




The next day, they arrived at a Shinto temple retreat for pilgrims, tucked away in the wooded hills further up the valley, far from the unfolding violence. Yoko’s cousin was a senior priest at the complex and took them in without question, listening to their tales with serene detachment.

“The ages of man are always transitory. This too shall pass.” Is all he cared to comment on the matter.

Yoko was taken to a hospitality house in the temple complex where female acolytes tended to her, leaving Kenji and the priest alone together. After a long spell of silence, Kenji looked at the robed man and asked if there was a sacred spot where he could perform his final act; seppuku, ritual suicide, his only chance now for an honorable death.

The priest was about to point to a grove but paused. He said he had a doubt and wanted to consult the spirits. He led Kenji to a shrine in the main temple building, lit incense, hummed some mantras and performed some other rituals before settling in front of a brazier of sacred smoke, peering at the mysterious forms taking shape in the pungent cloud.

He turned to Kenji and stated matter-of-factly, “The spirits say you are not ready to join them. Your own kami that watches over you says there is more to do before you leave this world. You must remain and find the path to recover your honor.”

Kenji was taken aback but would not argue with the holy man, the kannushi, “What am I to do, then?”

“I don’t know. The spirits say you are to travel towards the rising sun. You will journey far, beyond the bounds of the world to the heart of Lord Taiyo (the sun) himself in his splendid palace. But remember, your honor is not so much in what you do, but how you do it, how you conduct yourself.”

Hai” replied Kenji respectfully.

Kenji could only sleep that night out of sheer exhaustion. The next day, refreshed in body but still weary in mind, he packed up his gear and some food provided by the priests, saddled Yoru and prepared to leave. He saw Yoko looking at him from a window in the hospitality house, her countenance of contempt for him had softened into a forlorn, lost look of emptiness. He made no gesture towards her but vowed if there was anything he could do for the daughter of his master, he would.

Ronin. “Why didn’t you save my father?”


That was four days ago, and he had crossed many miles in the meantime, setting out each day towards the rising sun, pausing at midday to rest, then continuing until nightfall traveling opposite the setting sun. The land was rich and abundant, hearty woods, untilled grasslands with fertile soil, stony hills baring granite and marble faces waiting to be quarried. Game was plentiful and Kenji snared rabbits, fished trout, gathered berries and roots and even downed a fawn once with his bow. He occasionally encountered signs of other inhabitants, a cold campfire, discarded stone and crude metal tools and other signs of the barbarians that wandered the wilderness. If they were aware of his presence passing through, they kept their distance, which was just fine for the lonesome ronin. The solitude was his therapy.

As he continued to travel East and the days turned to weeks, to his surprise, a mountain chain had appeared on the far horizon, a range unknown to anyone in Sunokawa, as far as he knew. He wondered if that would be his destination but when he eventually arrived and explored the area around the peaks, he again saw nothing noteworthy, nothing that would hint at a destiny to be claimed. At one point, he tethered Yoru and climbed up to a peak where the unmistakable signs of iron ore jutted from the cliffs. For the better part of an hour, he sat atop the windy peak, resting, chewing on a mix of hazelnuts and some wild fruits he had collected. It was just past noon and with the sun at his back, Kenji looked out to the East, trying to spot some feature, some clue that might guide him. He looked down to the base of the mountain he had ascended and let his eyes trace forward across the landscape as he slowly lifted his head. Some light woods near a stream at the mountain base, then some slight grassy hills, then flat shrubland further out and near the limits of his vision, he could not tell. A vast, empty brown expanse seemed to wait him. He seriously wondered if it was not perhaps the very end of the world he could gleam.

As Kenji continued to ride East, the climate changed dramatically. It became increasingly warmer and drier. He had long since stopped wearing his armor, securing the different parts to the outside of his saddle pack, and simply rode in kimono and the outer kamishimo. In time, he even removed the upper vest with its exaggerated shoulders in place of his hooded riding cloak, to help resist the scorching sun. As he passed into the shrubland, he became aware this was not terrain he knew. Water became scarcer, the ground sandier and the heat oppressive. His skin itched with the dryness of the air. Surely, he thought, he was truly nearing the realm of Lord Taiyo, the great sun disk. As the days drew on, he traveled longer into the night and in the pre-dawn and less in the heat of the day. Eventually there was only rock and sand and odd spiky plants. Clouds were rare and fleeting. It never rained. The land he found himself in seemed more and more a cursed land, abandoned by the kami that gave life and energy to the earth.

The ground eventually gave way to slight undulations that became rises, that became crags and crevices, rocky outcropping springing up and hardy bushes began to appear. He sensed water must be near. He was unsure in what direction he might find the precious liquid but Yoru seemed to pick up the scent and began moving at a brisker pace. Kenji let her follow her nose.

Eventually, he came across a small oasis, a small pool of water in the shadow of a rock face where underground water must be being forced to the surface under some pressure or force. Lichens and mosses grew on the shaded moist rocks, but the sunny end was still clear of any plant life. Kenji dismounted and drank deeply from the pool alongside Yoru. Refreshed, he filled his water bags and rested next to the silent spring, broken only by the sound of windblown sand and pebbles scraping against rock.

Kenji suddenly became alert. The sound of scraping sand was becoming too regular, too patterned. It was starting to sound like footsteps! He leaped to his feet and grabbed his scabbard, ready to defend himself. Suddenly, a man appeared coming from around the rock, holding the tether of a mule following behind. The man was dressed in a loose-fitting light-colored cloak of a strange, fibrous material Kenji could not identify. He removed a scarf that had been wrapped around his head to reveal a wrinkled face with a modestly long black and grey beard. His eyes were a deep purple which Kenji found a bit disturbing. Upon seeing Kenji, the man stopped in his tracks but did not make any threatening moves. Indeed, he seemed to be unarmed. Eventually the man continued down to the water and without ever taking his eyes of Kenji, he scooped a handful of water to his bearded mouth, then began filling a clay jug he took down from the mule. As strange as the man was to Kenji, he imagined he himself appeared just as strange.

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence but the stranger eventually broke it by offering Kenji a drink from the jug, apparently it was a gesture of friendship. Kenji gave a slight bow and took a small draw on the jug. He wanted to offer something back but it made no sense to return water for water. He thought for a moment then went to his pack and took out some dried meat he had prepared a ways back and offered it to the stranger. The man cautiously took it, touched his forehead in thanks and tore off a piece in his teeth.

The native man then spoke and the sound of this voice startled Kenji, making odd sounds he had never heard before. But clearly it was intelligible and meant something. Finally, the man touched his own chest with his palm and said “Heydar”. Ah, that sound must be his name! Kenji thought. The wayward ronin then did the same, touching his chest and uttering, “Kenji”. The bearded man smiled and made a motion Kenji understood as wanting him to follow him. Was this what the kami called for him for? To meet a poor man in the barren sand? With no better options to pursue, Kenji decided to trust the kami and follow this strange man called Heydar.




Weeks passed and Kenji slowly learned the rudiments of the language and the customs of Heydar’s people. They were desert nomads, moving their communal goat herd between various watering holes throughout the year. At first Kenji thought them a rather simple, uncultured people but soon learned they had a rich culture, vibrant traditions and that he was, in fact, at the very periphery of a vast empire and civilization, although that was very hard to believe for Kenji when he looked over the endless tracts of empty desert sprawling all around him. He heard them repeatedly speak of a 'Caliph', although he was uncertain if that was their word for the land, a place, a leader or something else. It seemed important, though.

The language came slowly to Kenji, starting with basic, tangible nouns like bowl, sand, horse, etc. Then demonstrable action words like sitting, running, eating and riding. But the way these people talked, the way they combined words and made subtle changes depending on the tense or number, it was hard to comprehend. Still, with patience and practice, Kenji began to become somewhat fluent in what he would learn was a peculiar desert dialect of Kersian.

He was also exposed to some of their religious practices. There were no shrines or temples or priests to be seen, so he wondered how they honored and communed with the kami. Instead, oddly, at fairly regular intervals it seemed, the group would gather out in the open sand and repeat some sort of rehearsed recitations. Sometimes one of the elders would bring out a leather-bound stack of pages to read from. Kenji was particularly amazed at this way of collecting written pages, being instead used to the scrolls used in Sunokawa. Once he asked one of the elders about this bound stack and what it meant. The elder looked at him compassionately and said it was a ‘book’ and part of the Sacred Doctrine. A word Kenji could not conceptualize but seemed to be something like a written bushido, but more expansive. He marveled at the markings inside. It seemed these people used just a couple dozen symbols arranged in endless combinations to represent different ideas. ‘Words’. So different from the logograms of his own written language.

Upon seeing his interest, the elder once asked him if he knew about The Two. The two? Kenji asked. The two what? The elder tried to explain but not only did the words not make sense, but the concept he was trying to convey was utterly unintelligible to Kenji. In the end, the kindly old man gave up and said, ‘someday, you will learn about The Two who are One. But today is not that day and I am not a good teacher. You should seek a ‘sardi’.’ A what? Never mind, said the man.

Life was quiet and Kenji felt welcomed and helped out as much as he could. Tending to goats and other menial chores would have been far beneath his station, except that Kenji knew he deserved no better.

Ronin. “Why didn’t you save my father?”

He tried to avoid talking about his past and his shame but would answer truthfully when he did. He trusted these people and wanted them to trust him.
One late afternoon, after the tribe had returned from the sand prayers and were preparing for the evening activities, a young woman ran screaming through the cluster of tents and make-shift workshops.

“They’re coming! They found us!” she yelled and the people fell into a panic. Kenji looked in the direction she had come from and could make out five riders galloping towards them.

Kenji quickly located Heydar and asked what was going on. “They are the Bithar” Heydar replied solemnly. “Or rather, a band of outcasts from the Bithar. The Bithar at least have some principles. These bandits have none. They stalk us and raid us for what meager possessions we have. Sometimes they do worse.”

“So you fight them?” asked Kenji, and felt his warrior blood begin to flow hot in his veins.

“There is no fighting the Bithar” Heydar replied with an air of defeat.

Kenji looked at Heydar as if he never knew him, a look of disbelief on his face. Wordlessly, Kenji marched briskly back to his tent.

A short while later the five riders swooped into the camp, whooping and making war cries and they galloped around the tents, knocking over cooking pots and collapsing some tents. Goats near the camp scattered in all directions. The people hurried about but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. The Bithar outlaws dismounted and began moving amongst the camp, frightening the people with menacing stares, looking into pots and crates for anything of value, tasting stews that had not yet been trampled and pushing over the young men, daring them to fight back. One of the bandits then grabbed Heydar’s daughter out of the crowd, saying “I’m going to have some fun with this one!”

The girl screamed and Heydar stepped towards her protectively but was blocked by another thug. Suddenly all five of the Bidar raiders stopped and stared in shock. Kenji had emerged from his tent, donned in his samurai armor, demon-masked kabuto helmet covering his head. The sight of the surreal garb, its colors and foreign textures, cast a pall of wonder and fear on the Bidar troublemakers.

“It’s a Djinn!” one of them shouted, stumbling backwards. The rest were not so convinced but had no idea what they were looking at.

They stood speechless, not knowing how they should react as Kenji approached with deliberate footsteps. Too late. As Kenji moved into range of the first of them, his hand made a lightening motion to the hilt of his razor-sharp katana. Striking from the scabbard, the blade whooshed through the neck of the first of the Bidar outlaws, blood spraying like a fount from the nearly severed neck. Before the body even hit the ground, Kenji had completed the follow-through of the strike, stepped towards the second thug and before the man could react, plunged his sword into the Bidar’s chest, rupturing his heart, an uncommon use of the katana which is not designed for stabbing motions but most effective when the opportunity presents itself.

At that point the other three began to realize they were, quite unexpectedly, under attack, and began reacting. The next brought a short sword to bear but was quickly overtaken by Kenji’s skillful cuts and strikes and was eviscerated across his gut. The fourth Bidar released his hold on Heydar’s daughter and was able to draw an elegant, wide scimitar, taking a defensive crouch. Clearly this one was more skilled, perhaps the leader of the bunch. Kenji took a moment to size him up, peering at the Bidar fighter through the eyeholes of his demon mask. The foe tried to remain calm and fearless but was clearly unnerved at the sight of the armored force from a world beyond. As Kenji hoped, the Bidar could only overcome his growing fear by charging forward, making deft cutting strikes Kenji had to exert some skill to parry and deflect. After the Bidar attacked with a few strikes and paused to consider his next blow, Kenji seized the initiative, pushing the Bidar back with his own forceful blows. The Bidar began to lose footing and Kenji moved in closer, pushing him more off balance until he got the opening he wanted, slashing the desert raider across the chest, then a back blow to the neck, and the bandit collapsed dead at his feet. The fifth Bidar, the one who called him Djinn, had by this time retreated and was mounting his horse. Kenji charged forward and swung, nicking the rider in the right thigh, but the Bidar was able to gallop off into the desert, one hand covering his wound.

Heaving and elated and his triumph, Kenji looked about him, expecting to see relief and gratitude among the tribe. What he saw has horror and fear staring back at him. He did not understand. The helmet, he thought. He removed his kabuto but that did little to reassure the people. They quietly began cleaning up the fallen tents and cookware but kept a wide berth of Kenji. When he tried to help pick up a toppled pot or raise a fallen tent, the people moved away from him. A feeling of reproach swept over Kenji and reminded him of the shame he bore and what he was.

Ronin. “Why didn’t you save my father?”

Finally, Heydar found him and cautiously approached. “What have you done, my friend?” he asked softly and solemnly.

“I…I just….I defend the camp. I protect from enemies. It what I do…it all I know to do.” He replied in his broken Kersian dialect.

Heydar sighed compassionately. He looked at his daughter, the young woman clinging tight to her mother’s side though she was a head taller. “Yeah, I guess that’s right. And I thank you for that and praise The Two. But….I think you better be going at first light. You see, desert life is harsh. The people here just accept certain things. These raiders only come upon us a couple times a year, wreck havoc and then disappear for months. Now the people are fearful of their vengeance. We need to move camp now before that Bidar returns with more friends and that’s a good opportunity for you to go and find what it is you cannot find here.”

Any amount of elation Kenji had felt had now evaporated and turned to dejection. “Where I go? What else lie beyond the end of Earth, where I am now?”

Heydar smiled with amusement. “You think this is the end? You think this is all there is to the great Caliphate?” Kenji had heard that word before but still did not understand what it could mean.

Heydar continued, “Someone like you….I think maybe you should find your way to Kemefer.”

“Who is that? Is he one of the two?” Kenji asked in his thick accent

Heydar’s amused face diminished on what was borderline sacrilege and he took a more serious tone. “No, it’s a city, the capital city. There are those there who can teach you more about who we are”

“It is far?”

“Very far. It is a very long journey, through some of the worst terrain you have seen yet. See that bluff over there, nearly on the horizon? On the other side is a small refuge house. There is a trail there, barely traceable, that will lead you towards the Iberizad valley and eventually, to Kemefer. There are rest establishments along the way, if you can cross the distances between them without dying first. Try to get to them and don’t pass them up. The first one is close to this end of the trail.”

“What it is called?”

Heydar just shrugged. “Don’t think it has a name. We just call it the Place at the End of the Trail.”


The next day Kenji bade farewell to his desert friend, although the others went out of their way to avoid him. Heydar wanted to pay him for his actions protecting the camp but the bushido code would not allow him to accept payment if he was not specifically hired by or sworn to the payer. His was an act of honor, voluntarily protecting the weak, and to accept payment would be a dishonor. Instead, he traded some Sunokawa gemstones for fungible coins of the realm Heydar had tucked away somewhere.

The journey was long, although this time he had a particular destination, an end point, to motivate him. Late morning he stopped at the last rocky outcropping where shade could be had before the long stretch of open desert between himself and the bluff. At nightfall, he gingerly made the trek across, remarking to himself how much it cooled down at night. The nearly full moon provided ample light for Yuro to tread at a reasonable pace safely across the open land. They made the bluffs by noon the next day and stopped to rest, both rider and steed tired from the night crossing.

Later that afternoon, they set out again. As they crossed the bluffs, Kenji began to notice ominous birds circling overhead. Scavengers, although he did not recognize the kind exactly. Did they know something he didn’t? Was he in trouble and not aware? He tried to ignore the birds and get his bearing. Ah, there, down the slope about two kilometers away, some structure of sorts. He descended on Yoru and observed a small, crudely built stone structure with an open doorway. Ah, that must be the refuge. From here, he could see, maybe another kilometer away, another, larger structure. The roadside inn! Normally a two day journey would not tax him so much. But in this heat, in this dry air, he felt like he had been traveling for a week. The inn would be a welcome relief. And it was clear the trail began there, or rather ended, depending on one’s perspective. As he approached, he noticed the birds overhead weren’t circling over him; they were diving down to compete with each other over the carcass of some recently fallen beast further down the trail. It was too far to see exactly what but apparently the air was foul as Yoru turned her nose up and whinnied nervously.

“Whoa, girl” Kenji soothed her. This was not a good omen at all. Still, his choice was the inn or the empty refuge at the bluff. So, with some trepidation, he dismounted and tied Yoru’s reigns on the hitching post by a water-filled trough, at which she immediately began lapping up the precious liquid. Kenji paused to appraise the dusty wooden building, unpolished and with no attempt apparently made at décor…or any sense of aesthetics. It rose to three stories in some places, like a much out of place tower at the back, and seemed to be partitioned into sections that originally had nothing to do with each other. He wondered if this was typical of the architecture to be found here. What exactly was Heydar’s standard for a civilized society? And why would the spirits call him here? He noted to himself to make a makeshift shrine as soon as he could and seek guidance from his kami guide.

Dressed in his kamishimo over his kimono and with his katana and its shorter companion blade, a wakizashi, in their sheaths at his side, Kenji mounted the few steps up to a cracked wooden door that was slightly ajar. He cautiously opened the portal and stepped in, immediately feeling the relief of the coolness inside, provided by the shade and stone slab floor. The odor of simmering stew hung in the air, coming from a backroom. It was not a large establishment but could comfortably accommodate half a dozen visitors or so. Kenji took in his surroundings, the furnishing all exotic and strange. The feel for the décor was…harsh, he would put it, and badly misaligned. The energies in the room seemed out of harmony. The tables were too high and the sitting devices looked wholly uncomfortable. Nonetheless, that was not of his primary concern. Aside from himself, he spied a badly bruised and injured man reclining in a cushioned seat near a fireplace. The stranger seemed only half-conscious, but Kenji sensed the white robed man was keenly aware of his presence. He looked like a serious type, perhaps a noble, perhaps a warrior, like himself, certainly not a commoner, by Kenji’s judgement. Maybe a scribe? But what scribe wielded a blade like the one the man was holding across his lap?

After a moment, Kenji’s attention turned next to a tall, paunchy man pouring a beverage from a pitcher at a wooden bar directly across the room from him. The man looked up at Kenji and beamed a welcoming smile.

“Ah, hello and welcome! My, we don’t see many of your kind here…or any, really. I’m not from these parts myself, so you shouldn’t feel too out of place. My name is Xenios, and I am the proprietor of this fine establishment.”

“Chen-ous?” Kenji replied back, finding it difficult to sound the phonemes of the bartender’s name.

“Uh, no, Xenios”

“Cha-in-ooos”

“No, Xen-i-os”

“Chan-ai-os”

“XEN-I-OS”

“SHAN-EE-UUUS”

“Just call me Tim”

“Tim”

“Yes” and the barkeep seemed to be relieved to have that over. “May I ask what you are called?”

“My name, Inazuma Kenji” the Sunokawan newcomer uttered but the pronunciation of his name left Xenios unsure.

“Come again?”

“I called, Kenji” he stated, and made a respectful bow.

“My pleasure, Kenji. Why don’t you have a seat over on the sofa there and I’ll pour you a house special.


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Ishvalite Caliphate
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 6
Founded: May 20, 2022
Authoritarian Democracy

Postby Ishvalite Caliphate » Tue Jul 26, 2022 3:27 pm

Even with eyes half closed and despite the throbbing pains in his head, Tiraz’s sharp senses alerted him to the arrival of a new guest to this bizarre place, long before the stranger made themselves known.
The familiar shifting of the sands, the methodical patter of a shod horse and even something as small as a disturbed rock were enough to inform the Bithar that the trail had not been quite as deserted as he had believed.
That or he had been here for much longer than he has assumed. A disturbing thought, and one Tiraz put aside for now- there would be time for such things later.
His host, this Xenios, seemed to have noticed something as well for, after offering Tiraz a half smile, he moved to take up position next to the bar and reached for a wooden pitcher of some kind.
Tactically keeping his eyes shut and a firm grip on his tulwar Tiraz tried to give the impression of a wounded man barely conscious, an impression that was regrettably far closer to the truth than he would have liked.

The sun-bleached door creaked open, and the arrival crossed the threshold purposefully before being engaged in conversation with the unusual barman. Peeking through closed lids, Tiraz took the opportunity to appraise the strange man. They were clearly an outlander. Their sallow skin and narrow eyes alluding to a heritage far beyond the Iberizad, likely even further than the Mighty Alzird desert itself.
Thinking back to his early schooling at the temple Tiraz recalled lessons of the Shol-huni; mighty horse-warriors- who were said to have ridden down and conquered the Vends during the reign of the Dynasts. This stranger appeared to share a few characteristics with the horse lords who often skirmished with the Bithar Clans of the Northern Alzird but was dressed far more exotically than any nomad Tiraz had ever seen depicted.
What quickly drew the Bithar’s attention, however, were the two swords strapped to his waist: one short and one long. Even a superficial glance was enough to determine that they were both well maintained, more so than the stranger’s bulky robes which were showing signs of sun-damage and general wear.
Despite this the man carried himself with the airs of a warrior, and a proficient one at that. Tiraz’s trained eye recognised the fluidity of movement and innate confidence that could only be borne from skill at arms, regrettable since the Bithar did not consider himself in a state to match this warrior if events were to turn violent.

He did not have long to consider his options, however, as Xenios gestured the stranger towards his place by the fire- giving Tiraz a sly wink as he did so. What followed could almost be considered amusing if it were not so bizarre.
The man proceeded to the wide chair offered by the barman and, with a quick but noticeable glance to Tiraz, made to sit down but…couldn’t.
The stranger lowered himself with a deliberate slowness, but the unexpected clattering of his swords quickly caused him to straighten. He attempted to move them out of the way, but this only served to tangle them more, and a man who had moved with such smoothness mere seconds ago was reduced to a series of awkward crouches and bends before finally giving up, plucking the seat of the chair up and placing it on the nape of the bear skin in front of the fire.
With a more practiced motion he sat crossed legged on the seat, like an acolyte at lessons, and rested his hands on his hips- looking directly at Tiraz.

The two sat quietly for a few moments eyeing each other up as if opponents about to enter a sparring ring. Tiraz found himself quite perturbed by the newcomer’s actions, he was simply looking straight at him- a set of dull dark eyes locked with his own- apparently content to remain in silence.
Was this a game? A foreign test of endurance? Dominance? The Bithar’s hand tightened noticeably on his blade. Unless…
The words of his master echoed in the back of his mind, could this be it? So soon? It would be an extraordinary stroke of luck, or perhaps even something else. Trusting himself to Them, Tiraz made the first move.

“Twin blessings upon you stranger.” He nodded curtly, the abrupt movement sending ripples of pain through his beleaguered head, and he was unable to stop himself wincing. Tiraz’s voice was still hoary from dehydration and the dry air but the effort of speaking was starting to get easier.
The stranger looked surprised that he had spoken, but promptly bowed from the waste up, an unfamiliar movement to Tiraz to say the least.
“You honour me with your kindness.” He replied, his Kersi was accented but understandable- it was clear that he had spent some time in the Iberizad. Conflict briefly flashed on the foreigner’s face, though whatever internal debate he was having was soon resolved. “If I may intrude? You seem injured. Do you require assistance?”
Tiraz was taken aback by this. All of a sudden, the other man’s posture seemed less combative and more…uneasy. Understandable, this place was far from normal for him as well. Running another quick appraisal of himself, Tiraz snorted.
“I thank you, but unless you are of Shizara I fear I may be beyond your assistance.” The Shizara Devotery likely didn’t have a presence for days travel in any direction. The desert had always belonged to Suzalin first and foremost. “They Will Provide.” Tiraz finished firmly, though he felt his sword hand twitch with the assertion.
“If I may ask you one thing stranger?” He said, eager to change the subject.
Hai, yes?”
“Why are you sat on the floor?”

The stranger’s smooth brow creased somewhat, the query itself apparently posing some sort of contradiction. He looked at the, now seatless, chair beside him apprehensively, as if it were from the Kerenzian Halls themselves.
"These....things.... you sit on. I am not accustomed to them. Strange devices. Very uncomfortable. And they take up too much space. These are.... normal...for this land?"
The question triggered an unexpected flash of resentment in Tiraz that he struggled to repress. The chair he was in was plush, luxurious even; stuffed with some unknown substance that folded round his battered body with a gentle softness hitherto unknown to him. It was not this that bothered him, it was how well he was seeming to adjust to and accept this…comfort.
“I have seen similar, in the great cities, but rarely so…soft.” His scarlet eyes narrowed to pinpricks, and he fought the urge to grind his teeth. “It is not the way of the Bithar.”

On hearing that last word the cross-legged man visibly tensed up, staring into Tiraz’s eyes with a new intensity. He went perfectly still, his breathing slowing considerably as he considered his next words carefully.
"You are Bithar.” His voice was little more than a whisper. “Do you raid the nomads who herd the goats in this area?"
Unfortunately, the new terseness of the conversation was lost of Tiraz who at that point was assailed with agony, spikes of pain hammered directly into his brain and sides. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Xenios frown and redouble his efforts behind the bar.
“I have had no instructions to raid.” He said truthfully, behind clenched teeth. “Nor was I aware of any of The People nearby.” Had there been, his blade alone would have been enough to requisition whatever he might have required from the Faithful of the Alzird.
The silence returned as the stranger judged the Bithar’s words and as the waves of discomfort finally began to subside.
“Why do you ask?” Tiraz eventually asked, curious as to the connection between a foreign warrior and some local pastoralists.
He did not receive a totally straight answer and in hindsight that was not too remarkable.
"To attack the weak and the defenceless is a dishonourable act, worthy of death.” He began with a firm conviction. “I have been told the Bidar are a principled, disciplined people...but that some stray from the noble path."
As soon as it appeared, though, his conviction seemed to fail the warrior as he sagged somewhat, his foreign features adopting a haunted mien.
"But the ways of this land are strange to me. I have not met true Bidar. You are true Bidar? You follow a, bushido, a, um, a code of honour?"

Tiraz felt his pulse quicken and his back straighten as a sudden surge of pride filled him, the pain of his wounds temporarily forgotten as he mustered his answer.
"To be a true warrior of the Bithar, a Bithdukar, you must face the Trail of Sun and Sand and blood yourself in battle. We serve Them, we follow Doctrine, and we draw steel for our Caliph."
No. This man had not met Bithdukar, masters of the spear and the true sons and daughters of Birdaz. Warriors, true warriors all who…
An unconscious glimpse of his blade took the wind out of Tiraz like a punch to the gut. A reminder.
His was not to follow the path of his forebears, whoever they might have been, his was a higher calling, a holy calling. Saying a silent petition of thanks to the Twined Lord for humility, Tiraz slumped back.
“But I am no Bithdukar.” He continued at last. “This joy was denied me...long ago. But The Two Provide, always and in all things and I have purpose.”
The pain returned with the force of a sledgehammer and Tiraz battled it back as best he could, showing nothing but a tautness of the eyes. The stranger said nothing, studying the Bithar and digesting his words in stillness.

When he was able Tiraz, at last, spoke up.
“I once again find myself offending the Sacral Laws, stranger.”
With immense difficult and mustering what he could of his strength, Tiraz staggered to his feet, his legs shaking like a new-born lamb. For a moment it looked as if he would collapse, but with sheer force of will he remained standing. Looking down on the seated foreigner, he raised the two fingers to his forehead had extended them outwards.
"I am Tiraz bir Tis, and I am blessed to be a Musarid of Suzalin."
He was yet unsure as to the nature of this man, nor how he related to his task, but he must be here for a reason, and it was for Tiraz to determine what that was.
If the stranger was shocked by this sudden explosion of effort from the Bithar he offered no sign of it, merely standing himself with a single graceful move.
“And I am Inazuma Kenji.” Kenji bowed slightly but offered no elaboration. The two stood at a roughly even height and as they looked at each other an understanding seemed to have been reached, even if trust had not quite yet been established.

After just a minute or two of standing, Tiraz felt quite ready to collapse and would have if the steadying arm of Xenios had not shot out from nowhere to guide him back into his seat.
“Glad to see you two have made yourselves…comfortable.” He announced with a smile, though this faded a little when he noticed what Kenji had done to his cushion. In his other hand he carried a small silver platter with two decorative, if totally mismatching, goblets placed upon it.
Placing the platter between them, he turned it smartly until the drinks were facing their intended recipient. Tiraz’s was wide rimmed, almost big enough to be held in both hands, but shallow. The metal itself was a dull pewter but engraved with silver writings in an utterly foreign language.
“Something a little special for you there Tiraz bir Tis of the Bithar. My great-grandmother used to swear by it, that and beating servants but, alas.” He flashed a set of even teeth. “We only have the wine.”
Before Tiraz could interject, Xenios raised his hands jovially. “No no, the first round is on the house. We insist.”

Nodding his thanks Tiraz raised the goblet, examining the white liquor within. Not willing to risk violating more of the Sacral Laws, he took a cautious sip. A warm sensation filled his mouth as the liquid cascaded down his throat and filled his core. To his shock a tingling sensation ran down his extremities, dulling the throbs and stabs of pain almost to the point of non-existence.
Eager for more, he swallowed a large gulp breathing an audible sigh of relief as whatever agent this drink was concocted from soothed his damaged limbs and calmed his troubled head.
This truly was an interesting place, here are the end of the trail.


Tiraz loses the Injured Impairment and gains the Treated Wounds Impairment instead:
This character has received some effective treatment to their injuries, although not healed yet they are well on the road to recovery(+5) to all Dexterity checks.

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Last edited by Ishvalite Caliphate on Wed Jul 27, 2022 9:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Alylnor
Civil Servant
 
Posts: 10
Founded: Feb 17, 2020
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Alylnor » Tue Jul 26, 2022 4:58 pm



The Vathi are a seafaring race, and their navy is the most powerful in the world. The individual ships that make up the fleets are superb examples of Vathi craftsmanship. Each ship is made by artisan shipwrights that have studied their art for decades. The resulting vessels are sleek, agile and fast, yet incredibly durable and strong, able to withstand the most terrible of storms and hideous amounts of battle damage. They are crewed by sailors who are no less skilled or dedicated than the craftsmen that built them and protected by contingents of the Sea Guard, as adept at fighting at sea as they are on land.

However no vessel that has been made or will ever be made is truly invincible. After departing Yvresse on a supply run, the Wingilot was lost at sea and never heard from again.

Thallan coughed up his lungs on a beach and rose up from the sands like a zombie from the grave. Nothing remained of the Wingilot, pieces of the ship were shattered up and down the coastline for miles on end. There were sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Thallan believed he must have washed up on the east coast of Aldmeris, well known for its deserts. He silently whispered a prayer of thanks to Lianthorn, Lord of the Deep, for saving his life. He stumbled over to a less fortunate comrade faced down into the sands and turned the corpse over. The sailor never had a chance, drowning before even washing up on the beach. Thallan ripped a piece of clothing off him carefully so as to not disturb the sacred silver comb still decorating the long white hair. He said his goodbyes to a lost comrade and covered his head, protecting himself from the sand. He savaged a Sea Guard spear on the beach and departed towards the dunes hoping to find some sort of civilization. All he could think of was returning to the comfort of his home.

It was only some hours later that Thallan realized something was deeply wrong. He had paid attention to the sun for sometime now but it seemed to be setting in the completely wrong direction. He thought it over a thousand times but nothing would matter if he couldn't survive.

Luckily, the gods had blessed him and he found an oasis. A herd of native sheep seemed to be drinking from the water which presented a great opportunity for food and water. He stumbled down to the oasis. Of course the herd took off as soon as they noticed the wandering soul, leaving the oasis in a cloud of sand. However Thallan was fortunate because fish occupied the waters of the oasis. He used the spear to impale the fish, drank and sat in the shade of a tree resting for the days ahead.

Late into the next morning he slept but suddenly he heard a voice, a very familiar one. He awakes but the sun's ray fills out eyes ; however figures appear to stand out among the light. Thinking himself delusional he lifts his hand to cover the sun and squints his eyes.

"By Asuryan!" He shouts. Many humanoids surround the oasis, caring for their horses and mules or enjoying the bounties of the water. This shout draws the attention of everyone near by. One of the figures rushes over from his horse and greets Thallan.

"Blessings upon you friend! We thought you dead. You do not look like your from around here. Here." The man kneels and holds out a bottle. But Thallan does not move or speak.

"I understand. Perhaps this will make you more at ease." The man said as he pulls his scarf from his head, revealing the iconic pointed ears, the slander figure and the long hair. There was no doubt, the person before him was a Vathi. Numerous thoughts flowed through Thallan's mind before he realized that he was still awkwardly gawking at the stranger.

"Thallan, Sea Guard of the now wrecked Wingilot. There is a lot to talk about."

"There is plenty of time to talk but please allow me to introduce ourselves. I'm Almer." Thallan was introduced to many members of the nomad group. Many were Vathi like him but there were also a few human members of the group.

"You must come from Aldmeris? I don't even remember it I was sent off here before I could speak? My crimes I do not know. Perhaps I am a bastard." Almer explained. "Some of us are exiles, some have never seen Aldmeris. We live a nomadic lifestyle trading or living off oases like this one among the lands of the Caliph. A distant king whose influence is weak this far from their capital."

"I thought I wrecked in Aldmeris but it seems I’m much further than I had hoped. Is there any chance of returning home?"

Almer sighed with a sense of hopelessness. "Sadly I'm clueless as to how one may make such a trip back but come with us, it is far right now but eventually we will pass by a lonely inn on the path. Perhaps those inside will know a way home."




Many days go by in the sun baked land of the Caliph as the caravan travels between oases. Thallan learnt much about the group members and their stories. All his life he has only known Aldmeris, such a land was entirely foreign to him. He also learnt about the language of the land. It was a truly eye opening experience. Days turned into weeks but eventually the inn appeared over the horizon. An out of place odd looking building alone among the sands. The group gave Thallan a horse with some supplies out of a sense of comradeship and they exchanged well wishes.

"If you ever return to Aldmeris and meet our king, please tell him about the loyal subjects surviving the Caliph's lands."

"I promise. May Asuryan bless your travels." The caravan departs down the path and Thallan watches for a few minutes as the group disappears below the horizon. He ties the horse in the tiny stables by one already there and steps up to the door. As he pushes the door open and walks through he pulls out his desert scarf and reveals his unique Vathi features. He cautiously observes the surroundings. An unfamiliar style of architecture makes up the building and there were a few humans talking among themselves. It is not long before he is intrigued by a animal head on the wall, staring at them in wonder.

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Venediya
Political Columnist
 
Posts: 5
Founded: Mar 30, 2022
Corporate Bordello

Postby Venediya » Sat Aug 06, 2022 3:20 am

In the Year of Creation, 9,145
A man rode a long a dry road, caked with dust. Lonely shrubs stood out against the blue sky, driven to a brown state by the sun’s rays. The landscape as mentioned before, was barren. Sparse. Winds swept sand and dust up from the great deserts of the south and carried it with it. The little grains of sand like tiny mites ate away at the landscape, until nothing but barren, low hills remained. This was on the edges of the great desert. The great periphery that stretched for thousands of versts. Here the sun was as much an enemy as it was a friend higher north. It was difficult to perform rites to the undying sun, it burned too bright.

But now, turn the attention to the rider. Covered by a long steppe cloak, face hidden behind a veil; the whole ensemble a dirt-brown color, grimy from days of road. He sat on a majestic horse. A true specimen, a white and brown mare with a star on the forehead. A good sign. Favored by the god. The horse was well packed. A saddle, fashioned of fine horse leather. Stirrups. Packs, pockets, little bags. Everything had it’s assigned place. On the man’s back, was a composite bow, a steppe man’s best friend. Packs on his horse’s back were full. Water – essence of life. Books – essence of the mind. Food. Ropes. Firewood. Tent. Anything a man would need on a long solitary journey through the worst terrain that god could come up with. Small game hung next to the packs, drying in the sun.

From beneath the veil, narrow slit eyes seemed to watch the desert carefully, yet were unfocused. As if the man took the whole view in at once, rather than stare at one particular point and shift his gaze when the picture had burned into his mind. He sang to himself. A coarse song, deep and sorrowful. A lament for his home, weeks away.

The man stopped and looked up at the sun. Slowly, he unsaddled his horse, and knelt at the side of the road, eyes raised up to the sun and closed, basking in its glow. Much hotter than back home. He pulled a small sun disk necklace from his neck, and grasped the small gold disk firmly in his hand. His lips began to move, chanting a prayer familiar from childhood.

‘Derviz, the glorious sun in the sky, light brining fire, one true god of heavens, give me strength on my great journey. Light my way for all eternity. Let your light bask the orb and all who walk on it. Let your benevolence shine on every man’s soul. May I never stray from the path of truth. May I never falter in my ways. May your wisdom reflect on me, so that in the sunset of my time I approach the wisdom of the great men. In the name of Derviz, the glorious undying sun and the universal truth, so shall it be.’

As he finished his prayer, and lowered his gaze, a phantom apparition appeared before him. A windswept inn. Like a mirage floating in from the other side, its very existence a blur of time and desert heat.
‘A sign from the god.’ – the man thought. He took his horse by the bridles and led it forth. Forth to the strange and ethereal mirage before him.

The horse refused. It neighed and dug its hooves into the caked dirt of the road. Sweat poured down the travelers back as he tried to drag the unruly animal forth.

“What is the matter with you beast, surely you, a chosen of heaven would not reject a blessing given by the lord himself. Unless…”

The man’s voice trailed off as realization poured over him. And the sweat that previously ate at his eyes and ran down his back turned cold. Along with the blood in his veins. As if a breath of frost had at the very instant turned a scorching summer day, into the fiercest northern night.

“Of course. What a fool I was. To confuse the divine gifts of Derviz, with the foul tricks of Fargar! He, the ruler of the place of men with no honor! Or was it the work of Vekhna, the lady of treachery, friend of the thief in the night and the robber in the darkest forest. Oh, yes for these tricks are known to me foul witch! With Derviz as my witness, I will not falter on my path. No matter how you tempt me, foul masters of evil, I shall retain my way. For no trick can take from me the eternal hunt in the heavens and make my spirit horse slow in outrunning the foul demon band! *”

He clasped the sun disk again in his hand, and said a quick prayer to ward off the demons. With a fierce determination, he willed the horse to the trough and tied it to a post. Full of resolve, he approached the door to the strange inn and knocked. Hard. Hard enough for the demons in the underworld and the ‘angels’ in the land of eternal hunt to hear.



*In our brothers’ steppe school of Dervizism, in which the journey to the afterlife is not represented by a boat sailing across the great river, with the truth in a man’s life being the sail and the falsehoods the hole in the bottom of the boat; instead in the steppe school, the person who is facing the final test must escape from a band of demons chasing him, and only a sufficiently honest and virtuous man will be light enough to allow the spirit horse to overtake the band and take him to the land of the eternal hunt. In our city school, the boat takes the man into the land of eternal peace, where he is free to farm or trade without fear of anything, where crops grow large, and game is plentiful; where white cities made of truth themselves tower in the distance. From Meditations on the Sacred Sun by Framar L. N. Khanoboyev

Last edited by Venediya on Sat Aug 06, 2022 8:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.


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