((OOC: Spots are still open! Look here! ))
It was always at night when I could hear their screams, could smell smoke where none still existed. I ever hear the sound of bodies being pulled into the streets, of rod striking bare flesh, and the children, dear god the children…
-From the last writings of ZaezLiN
They once were called the People of Hevyn, that shining city of everlasting beauty and grace. It is only fitting that they have fallen so far, so fast. These people, Engels they are called now, are lower than cattle, for at least cattle know their place. Give them some land to live on, and they strive to make it better than their superiors. Put them to work in your fields and they seek to bring to you the largest of fruits. It is despicable that we have to suffer them as we have. One day, one day…
-From the published journal of Lord Arafet Va Daitan, 9th Earl of the Aerthan Prefecture Daisuken
Chapter 1 –Endings-
The village of Stane lay shrouded in mist, as it did most mornings in the early months of fall, when the days were warm but the nights cool. Several lights were beginning to appear in windows, shining wearily through the fog like disembodied eyes blearily peering into the weakening night. Soon the town would awaken, some to work and some to school, and still others to survey the damage that would surely be present. There was damage on most mornings, only a fire or broken windows if they were lucky; a missing neighbor if they were not.
The town itself wasn’t a large one, but neither was it small by most standards. It housed five hundred Engels in single family homes, the homes being one or two room wooden structures, depending on the size of the family inhabiting it. Some of course were larger, but those were usually among the first to be burned down by angry Aerthans, usually teens that sneak onto the settlement for entertainment.
It was arranged in a circular pattern, with a village ‘green’ in its center, where sat a small building that served as the village council. Fanning out from that central point were first shops, then houses, spaced out far enough so that if one went up in flames it would not endanger the entire village. Along the outskirts of the village proper sat the large schoolhouse, an Aerth endorsed building, so safe from vandals, a small healing house, stables, and barracks which housed anywhere from ten to fifteen Aerth soldiers, and no more than three rangers at a time. Other buildings were scattered throughout the forest along the main road that led from Stane to the Golden Highway, the road that overlapped Stane’s dirt road and which lead to the city, Dane Prefecture.
Forests only covered three-fourths of the land surrounding Stane, the other percentage being made up of countryside, land that had been cleared of trees, burned, and then replanted by the Engels to secure a place in which their cattle could graze.
It was in this pre-dawn light that Ren found himself walking along the main road through the town, past dark homes and lighted shops, the smell of breakfast cooking and bakers baking hanging low and appealing in the morning air. In his left hand hung strap, and from the short strap a wooden box, which when opened would release its own tantalizing fragrance no doubt, but that would have to wait for lunch.
His steps were light, though with the dew heavy on the land he had little worry of dust rising at his feet to coat the bottom of his dark brown pants. Even so, it was a habit of his to walk with as little notice of his passing as was possible, for you never knew who was waiting for any excuse to put you in your place.
He let his right hand swing at his side, every so often brushing against the hilt of one of his goads, strapped against his right hip and tied around his thigh with a leather thong. It was two feet in length, square with a flat top, stamped on that surface with the seal of the local Lord, showing that it was an approved tool and not an illegal weapon. Its twin rested on his left side, for you never knew which hand would be free when it came time to fend off a wolf, or worse.
A door opened up the street to his right and a tall, lithe woman stepped into the open doorway, leaning against it slightly with a hand on one hip. She smiled at him as he began to pass, then threw something towards his head, which he promptly snapped from the air, the smell of freshly baked muffin wafting around him.
“Bet you skipped breakfast this morning, ne, Ren?” she said, grinning and straightening, arms crossed beneath small breasts. She was one of the local bakers, had been since she was ten years old, and almost always managed to catch him on his way to the fields, ready with a muffin or biscuit, intent on single-handedly fattening him up to be presentable for a bride.
“Ah, yeah,” he said, taking a bite and smiling in pleasure as exotic flavors melted into his mouth. He never knew what to expect, but he was never disappointed. “You know me all too well,” he laughed and waved the hand holding his breakfast as he passed her shop, with her standing there, shaking her head and smiling.
“Some maiden is going to wrap you in a wreath one day, AhlRen!” she called out, then stepped back into her shop and closed the door.
He smiled and finished off the muffin, going so far as to lick his fingers and pick any crumbs off his tan shirt that may have gotten stuck in the material. As he neared the edge of town his mood soured, for lingering on the air was the smell of smoke, and there just on the outskirts of the village, facing the flatlands where the cattle waited, lay the smoldering ruins of a home. A woman stood near the edge of the ashes, a small child held in her arms, an older boy at her side with fists clenched and a tear-streaked face.
Another home burned, another life to start over, another husband and father lost.
Last edited by Jace; 01-10-2012 at 06:56 AM.
Reyna stood in front of her immediate superior's desk, waiting for him to speak. She was now regretting stopping in, she was required to check in on a regular basis, and could have waited at least another day but had decided to just get it over with. Lieutenant Colonel Smith was giving Reyna one of his classic looks, a look of disgust mingled with boredom. She still found his name rather amusing, for a man named Smith he was rather lacking in the muscle department.
"I have no idea why you're smiling Captain Lanakila, but it's annoying."
Reyna pursed her lips in a grim line in response to the sentence that Smith had snapped at her. The sun wasn't even up and she'd already landed herself in his bad graces. Mentally shaking her head at herself for provoking the angry little man she resolved to look immovable.
"Since you seem to be in a good mood I'll let you go check out this report."
Smith tossed a sheet of paper across his desk and waited while she read it. Reyna stopped herself from grimacing, it was a report that a group of aerthans had crossed into the territory and seemed to be making their way towards the Engel Village of Stane with "ill intent". Smith loved sending her out on these assignments. He always managed to hold onto the information just long enough for the humans to get away, and then make her deal with the aftermath of their "ill intent". Reyna remained poised as she returned the sheet of paper to the desk. Smith studied her for a moment, hoping to catch her showing any sign of anger or disgust so he could accuse her of being bias. The silence lengthened but Smith never got what he was hoping for. Annoyed, Smith reached into a drawer and then practically threw the mail bag at Reyna.
"Investigate that, then deliver these by hand as you continue on your patrol. Dismissed."
Reyna saluted Smith and then quickly turned on her heel and exited the Ranger Outpost. Stopping on the porch a moment, Reyna pulled her hat down tight before stepping off into the thick mist that covered the ground. The world was just starting to lighten, but the sun was not yet visible on the horizon.
A large shape loomed in the mist, and Reyna approached it with a smile.
That foul man give you a crap job again?
A large red head turned and regarded her with a curious look in it's big brown eyes.
Aye Eomer, but why even ask? If Smith had his way I'd be something stuck to the bottom of his shoe.
The chestnut stallion snorted in response and stood still while she secured the bag of mail to her saddle. Once mounted Reyna straightened her coat and then directed the big horse towards the village of Stane. Stane wasn't far from the outpost, which made it all the worse that so much bad made it's way past the outpost towards the town.
Reyna did her best to relax into the saddle as the stallions big canter strides ate up the ground. Eomer had been born on adoptive parent's farm six years ago. They bred and raised the painted horses that had made the journey from the kingdom of Hevyn with all the horse warriors that had escaped. Upon the birth of the stallion, Reyna was sent a message to visit home quickly. When she arrived Rosie and Ryder showed her the newborn colt with glowing smiles.
"Look Reyna! It's a sign, he was born to protect you!"
Rosie had pointed at the colt's chest, there as if painted on was a white marking in the shape of an eagle's feather, an exact match to the pendant around her neck. Once weaned the colt followed Reyna everywhere, learning by watching the mare she worked with then. Once the stallion had become old enough he became her mount while on duty. Huge, gleaming coppery red with white legs, a white star and snip and the white eagle feather on his chest he was very intimidating when he wanted to be.
Now as they cantered along the marking on his chest was covered by a heavy duty breast collar attached to the saddle and girth. Eomer slowed his pace slightly and flared his nostrils as they got closer to the village.
Smoke, coming from straight ahead, no burning flesh however.
Reyna drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, she hated this. The tears, the anger and the devastation from whomever had just lost their home. The anger was almost always transferred to her, as if she'd done the deed herself. No one bothered to ask her how she felt, they just assumed she would side with the gang of aerthans that had committed the crime. So she'd stand silent and let them vent their hurt on her, sometimes she never even got to speak. She longed to scream back at these people, tell them she knew how they felt, and that she was on their side. However she never did, she stayed silent or spoke very little, it would only endanger them more if she said too much.
The sight of smoldering ruins, and the people that had once lived there pulled Reyna from her thoughts. Eomer slowed to a walk as they came near, halting ten feet away from the crying woman holding her child and the angry boy next to her. Reyna halted the stallion and then slid to the ground, eyes taking in everything around her.
Last edited by .rosilin; 12-10-2011 at 08:27 PM.
-->Need help or questions answered in regards to RPing? PM me! I'm more then glad to help!<--
Ren slowed as he came abreast of the burned ruins, his light blue eyes taking in the totality of the destruction bestowed upon the place. It was such a common thing that not many people even bothered to stop, unless they were close friends or extended family, mainly just to offer condolences. He was about to pass as well, for he didn't know the family well, when the look on the boy’s face brought him up short. He knew it all too well, the barely concealed and controlled anger that threatened to burst forth any second.
His feet turned of their own accord and he found himself striding toward the remnants of a family, at the same time noticing others approaching, the most noteworthy one being one of the few Engel rangers. He hastened his steps to reach them first, immediately going to one knee before the boy, a hand on his shoulder.
In a low but fierce whisper he said, “Hold it in, Alax, you must hold it in!”
For the first time his mother looked down at her son, taking notice of his posture, the rigidity of his back and the tightness of his face. She also felt that pulling in the air, something yanking on the very essence of her soul, and knew, for the Lost Gods she knew.
Ren’s hand on the boy’s shoulder tightened until the pain must be unbearable. Sweat popped out on the child’s forehead, upper lip, and a tremble passed through his slight frame. The heaviness in the air lessened, his body lost most of its tension. He let his grip on the shoulder loosen as well, and stood up as the ranger came into view, one of the local blacksmiths not far behind.
Reyna noted that another person had arrived but then stopped in her tracks, feet widening into a bracing stance. Her attention focused as she could feel the fibers of filament shifting and tensing as they were pulled by the child in front of her. Golden eyes focused on the boy and the man now holding on to him. She studied them both and waited, hands loose at her sides showing a calmness beyond her years. Reyna noted when the mother had turned her attention to her son and it was but a few heartbeats later that the tension began to ease. Knowing the boy was calming she began to walk closer again, but still careful not to crowd the small group of people.
The silence was getting to her, someone needed to say something. No one even seemed to look at her with the exception of the child in the woman's arms. It had his or her's luminous eyes fixated on her green coat, curious and not old enough yet to understand what was going on. Reyna cleared her throat before speaking, knowing it would shift everyone's attention to her.
"I'm sorry for you loss mistress. Would you please tell me what happened?"
Did you seriously just ask that? I would think it's obvious.
Reyna twitched an eyebrow at the proud voice that echoed in her mind. She didn't bother to look, but she knew there was now a large falcon circling the air above her. His golden eyes would be fixed on the scene below.
Well Derek, glad you decided to show this morning. Not the best time to announce yourself however. And you know damned well that I have to say that, it's procedure.
I had things to deal with this morning and you didn't need me. As for procedure, well I shouldn't have to tell you how I feel about that.
Reyna didn't even flinch as the large bird swooped down and landed on her left shoulder as if to punctuate the ending of his thought. He rustled his feathers a moment and then cocked his head to the side, studying the kneeling man with great intensity. The hawks golden eyes seemed to bore into the man, as if delving for information.
Last edited by .rosilin; 12-11-2011 at 07:22 AM.
Ren calmed his face, felt life returning to somewhat numb portions of his body where it had been tugged at by the young boy. He realized then that the father must have either been taken or killed because he had either a soldier gene, or that of a Mentalist. Judging by the boy’s reaction though, he would have to wager a soldier.
As the ranger spoke to the woman, and then the blacksmith to the mother, Ren took a step back. He wasn’t involved in this; he had done his part to avert a catastrophe that surely would have occurred if the boy had continued to pull filaments from those surrounding him. Either way they would all be dead, or he would.
Now though, he knew that steps would be taken to try and get the remaining family members out of Stane and to a new settlement before the definitive truth of her husband’s heritage was found out, and they returned for the children.
His eyes met those of the rangers, his narrowing as they studied her, then they relaxed and shifted to Adrian, one of the blacksmiths in the settlement. He wanted to say something to hasten his departure, but nothing would due in light of the situation they found themselves standing before.
Reyna waited while the young smith spoke and didn't flinch when the blue eyed man fixed his gaze on hers. Eventually the mother managed to speak, describing the incident with tear-filled words. It was the story she had heard many times before. Dark night, smell of smoke, figures waiting outside for the family to flee their home as it became engulfed in flames. Her husband trying to fight the group of masked aerthans, desperate to distract them so his family could flee.
Reyna listened, not bothering to take notes. As usual there was no real way to identify the attackers, and it would most likely only be a matter of time till someone discovered the body of the missing husband. She didn't say it out loud, but the odds were he was already dead. Most engels were fiercesome, but no one faired well in such an uneven battle.
As she finished her tale the woman broke down into complete sobs, the infant in her arms starting to become distressed by it's mother's tears.
"I'll see what I can find for tracks mam. Mayhaps we will get lucky and find that they forgot something."
The woman stopped her sobbing and snapped her gaze to Reyna, sadness beginning to be replaced with anger.
"Tracks? That's all you'll look for?! I want my husband back! If you'd done your job to begin with they would've never even come close to the village! You and your dirty rangers never seem to stop these bastards before they do harm!"
Reyna stood firm and let the woman's angry words flow around her like water around a rock. She did her best not to take it personally. The grieving woman had a point, but Reyna could only do so much on her own. Not all her fellow rangers were bad. There was even a handful of aerthans that genuinely seemed to care, but they were a minority.
"I don't want your help Ranger! My children and I will manage on our own without your dirty aerthan loving help. Begone from my land, I want nothing to do with you."
The last words were said with great venom, almost being spat at her. Reyna didn't argue, she didn't even defend herself, just put a finger to the brim of her hat, nodded goodbye and proceeded to return to her horse. With shoulders squared and a backbone of steel she settled herself in the saddle and urged her horse to a walk, casting eyes to the ground to search for tracks.
Derek you know the drill, see what you can find.
The falcon launched himself from her shoulder and took to the air with great ease, eyes searching the world ahead for any trace of what had happened the night before.
Ren hung his head slightly as the outburst of angry words poured over them, adding flames to the fires that still smoldered around the ruined home. That the husband had fought back, and no aerthan bodies were present, it would mean that he wasn’t a Soldier or Fist, but rumors would be started, people would come forth and claim assault days before he was killed. The son, the baby, they would be next.
As the ranger and the blacksmith left, the woman turned to him, her red eyes and tear-stained cheek accusing in their hatred. He should have simply walked away, but looking down at the boy he could see himself on that long ago morning. Instead he looked back to the woman, met her glaring gaze, and spoke softly.
“You should leave this place,” he said in his low voice.
“What?” she replied, startled and surprised that no words of comfort were forthcoming.
“Leave this place, this settlement, tonight. You know it will not stop here.” His lightly glowing eyes travelled from her gaze to the child, then the boy and back to the mother once more. “You know.”
She looked as though more harsh words would be brought to the surface, but suddenly her shoulders sagged and her will to fight was extinguished. Her head nodded, and as he turned away from them and began walking to his waiting herd, she said softly, “I know.”
Reyna had stopped searching. What little tracks she had found ended with tire tracks heading out of the reservation and towards one of the numerous aerthan cities. Even if she managed to follow them, they had half a day's headstart and would be long gone. The policing force in the city would deny anything she said and she'd be punished for bothering them.
Anger simmered under the surface of Reyna's thoughts. Years past she had managed to actually catch a group of aerthans before they were able to kill their kidnapped prey. She'd lept into the situation like a avenging god, pinning aerthan's to the ground with arrows and then maiming any with her sword who did not surrender. The engel she'd saved had called for the blood of his attackers, and Reyna had wanted to grant him his wish, she truly did. But she knew that if she killed any of them not only would she be dismissed from the rangers but her family would be hunted. Instead she restrained all the aerthans and started them on a march for the nearest ranger outpost. Once they were out of sight she'd doctored the injured engel the best she could while explaining that her family would be killed if she had answered his request. It was one of the few times that she wasn't treated badly, the engel had understood, mirroring the sadness she held in her own eyes. They both grieved for the helplessness of their people, the fact that defending oneself as much helped as it hurt. The aerthans looked for any excuse to slaughter the engels, and Reyna would be damned if she provided any.
Stop dwelling on the past, we've work to do.
Reyna shook her head, as if to clear it and fixed her eyes on the hawk overhead.
You know what to do. Find Ryder, tell him to get the ball rolling, it'll have to be tonight.
The hawk sent her a mental nod and quickly left the area on his mission. Ryder lived in a tiny village in the woods at the foot of the mountains. Few settled there as it was hard to get supplies and the creatures of the forest were almost as dangerous as the aerthans.
Reyna checked the bag of mail as she trotted along. Almost everything was for the village of Stane, most of it being more pamphlets for the school. She smirked, why the aerthan officials kept sending the damn things she had no idea, as they usually ended up in the fireplace instead of being read.
"Peaceful living: an Engels guide to following the peace of Aerthan Law, huh."
With a snort of contempt she dropped the pamphlet back in the bag and let Eomer pick his path to the village.
The sun was truly beginning its ascent as Ren walked the familiar path through the empty fields, knee-length grass swaying toward him slightly as the wind began to pick up. On that same wind came the soft lowing of the cattle grazing just over the next hill. He topped the rise and paused to look at the land stretched out below him. Gently rolling hills gaze way to flat land as the ground descended into open pasture land, green and yellow grass making patchwork patterns with dots of animals here and there to break up the monotony. It was beautiful, to him, which struck him as strange that it could actually belong to the Engel people, and not yet seized by the Aerthans.
He left the beaten path and made his way through the grass to the first knot of animals, coming upon them as silent as the wind and inspecting each with a practiced eye and careful touch. Satisfied with their condition he moved on to the next, parting the waves of tall weeds as water around a rock. After a few steps however, his feet crunched on something.
He bent down and picked up a large fragment of a bottle, one the local Aerthan House used to store their liquor in prior to serving. Looking around, he found the remnants from at least ten bottles scattered about. His suspicions proved correct when he traveled a hundred yards due east and found another place in the ground where the land was punctured by two-inch long incisions, crisscrossed and one atop another.
She soared among the winds as they lovingly brushed gentle fingers across the land, tickling smiles from the trees even as the monoliths bent to show homage to the strong breeze. Birds took flight to follow her, dancing and weaving in and out of her currents as they flew northward, crying soft encouragement to the young girl as she glided among them. Her laugh was like music, causing animals they passed to pause, look up, and smile in approval, for her flight was right, was perfect.
For hundreds of league she and her companions flew, the ground and miles passing below in a blur, and then faster. A thousand, no, more, blinked past her form as the wind picked sped even faster, leaving behind flat land, passing through mountains, across rivers, and toward something in the distance. It was dark, it shone, it was death and yet lived.
The birds fell silent, then began to shrill loudly as a new beast joined them, coming from the inky black clouds that now painted the sky overhead. It was long, sinewy, with large dark wings that covered them all. Kahli looked up into baleful bright yellow eyes, a mouth that opened to display rows upon rows of teeth, all hooking towards its throat.
“Kahli!” on of the birds cried.
“Kahli, it’s time to get up!” said another, its voice pleading.
“Kahli, if you don’t get up this instant you’ll be late for school, and then it’s a cold water bath for you,” said the biggest bird, and then she was awake, sitting up in bed so suddenly that her mother jumped backwards. Her lithe body slumped forward and her eyes closed again.
“Ne… I’m up, mother.” Her voice was soft and still wrapped in sleep, but once awake her mother knew she could trust her to remain so.
“Good! Now, get up, get dressed, and go find Adrian to see if he has any work for you to do today after school, my little blacksmith.” She bent down and kissed the girl’s forehead, smoothing the black-violet hair away from her slightly red face.
Ten minutes later found Kahli leaving her house, wearing a knee-length brown skirt, a cream colored shirt buttoned to just below her throat, calf high socks and brown leather boots. Under one arm she carried the only book she would need for school, and strapped to her back rested her Sythe, for the most part hidden under her waist-long hair, left hanging.
She was to be a blacksmith when her maturity came about, and so had to work for other blacksmiths in the village in order to learn and perfect her trade. Following her mother’s order, she walked to where Adrian kept his shop and wandered in.
Ryder Lanakila unbent from tending the hoof in front of him, a young engel stood holding the cow and watching him with a mixture of awe and fear. Standing at seven feet tall with black hair that was grey at the temples, Ryder wore brown pants with suspenders over an off white linen shirt and brown leather boots. His muscled arms were crossed as he contemplated what course of action he would take to address the cow's injury.
His thoughts however were interrupted as a curvy woman rounded the corner of the barn, arms full with a basket hooked over her arm, a pitcher in one hand and two mugs in the other. She wore a full skirt of green homespun and a white blouse, her red hair was twisted up into a bun on top of her head and a smile lit her face as she caught sight of her husband. Ryder quickly returned his gaze to the boy and spoke to him.
"She should be fine lad, just a nail in the hoof. I've pulled it out but there is a chance of infection. Clean the wound with warm water three times a day and at night pack it with plantain leaves."
The lad gave a nervous nod and then quickly encouraged the cow to follow him back to the road. Ryder and Rosie lived outside the town of Cargel in a small house on the border of the woods. Most people avoided the woods, but the Lanakila family thrived in them. Few aerthans dared come so close to the woods that bordered the mountains, as they were dangerous.
"Take a sit dear, I've brought your midday meal."
Ryder kissed his wife's cheek and sat down on the packed dirt to eat with her. The meal was simple but filling, and once again he thanked the gods he'd managed to marry such a capable wife. He'd met her while treating her father's horses in an aerthan territory. They'd fallen for each other instantly. Then despite the protests and anger from their families they had married. Rosie's father had disowned her, and Ryder's parents had almost done the same as they did not approve of the diluting of Lanakila blood. After they married Ryder had moved them to a far away reservation so they could start fresh. Rosie was tall for a human and so some people tended to believe she was a hybrid, and they let people think what they wanted. They had managed to scratch out a happy life till an aerthan raiding party had burned down their house killing their first two children in the process. Determined to keep his family safe Ryder moved them to their current location, and ever since they had lived as peacefully as possible.
As they finished their meal a hawk cried in the distance. Both froze and searched the sky, eventually their gaze found what they sought, a falcon flying in their direction. Rosie quickly packed everything in her basket and brought it back to the house. Ryder stood and waited until the bird neared, then he raised an arm for Derek to land.
Mother, child and infant. Outside of Stane. Burned house, husband gone.
Ryder focused intently on the hawk, gears turning in his mind as he began to plan.
I am to tell you it has to be tonight.
Ryder nodded and offered the hawk the piece of ham he'd been saving. Derek accepted the offering and then lept from his perch and took to the sky, in moments he was out of sight.
Ryder turned and entered the barn, he'd have much to do before nightfall.
Reyna kept her eyes forward as she and Eomer neared the school. The horse walked quietly down the main street and didn't even flick an ear at the various people who whispered and pointed at the engel ranger. Occasionally someone would hiss "blood traitor" or "aerthan lover" as they made their way, but most stayed silent and wary. Reyna's golden eyes were ice cold, as was her expression. A youth on his way to school picked up a rock and hurled it at her, watching with satisfaction as it headed straight for her face. His glee was quickly replaced with fear as her hand flashed up and caught the rock millimeters from her face, then golden eyes turned to him. Terrified the boy bolted for a side alley, all his bravado long gone.
Pulling up in front of the school, Reyna unstrapped the bag of pamphlets and tossed them onto the porch of the schoolhouse. A dull thud echoed through the still air as the bag landed. A young school teacher scurried out the front door and picked up the bag before quickly retreating back inside, never even looking at the ranger or thanking her. Unsurprised Reyna turned the stallion around, and began to ride back out the way she came, the morning sunlight reflecting off her ranger's badge and her captain's star.
After entering the blacksmith's shop, and speaking with the Smith, Adrian, Kahli finally said got to what was on her mind, what with the fire the night before and all.
“Aye, that you did lass. Best not to speak of it, the man is gone,” the blacksmith said quietly as he moved around the counter to stand beside the girl, eyes gazing out of the single pane of glass that served as a window. Kahli nodded, understanding the meaning behind his words. With the husband, and likely father, gone, that meant worse was to come unless the family vanished.
“Ne, Adrian,” she said softly, face turning toward him, studying his profile as he watched the world outside pass by. “Do you ever wish it could be… different?”
“Different? What do you mean?” He turned to face her, eyebrows drawn down, visage questioning. The girl shrugged uncomfortably, her bright, feverish gaze locked onto his.
“Different,” she whispered, then turned to look out the window.
“Lass,” Adrian said softly, yet emphatically. “Things are the way they be, and you cannot be thinkin’ of change. I’ve seen what that thinkin’ can lead to, and it’s naught but sorrow and pain.”
For a moment the young girl stiffened, thinking how alike the Smith sounded to her brother, a descendent of a true Fist, yet a Shepard in heart and soul. Suddenly she pushed off the counter and landed with a soft squelch of her leather boots creasing to take in her slight weight. Her right hand reached behind her to check her Sythe and found it still secure in its bindings.
“No worries Master Adrian! I’ve too much to do to be thinking of changing things. I’ll be back once school is out!” With that she was off through the door and down the street before the man could think to say another word. He shook his head, looked over his shop, and set about stoking the forge and laying out the various stock he would need over the next few hours. He would have to keep an eye on the girl, that was for certain.
The midmorning sun soon gave way to noon as the glowing orb reached its apex, bathing the field and bale of hay Ren sat on in brilliant, harsh light. At his side sat his lunch, still packed within its case, and on the other side another case, this one open. What had been tucked away inside of it he held to his mouth, blowing softly against the various cut reeds lashed together by a tight leather cord. The sound it produced was light, but melodious and soothing to the animals grazing in his vicinity.
Along the river we once sang
Crystal waters did flow those days
Where sparrows wing wont to fly
Mothers’ cries in Hevyn lied
Home from war
From battle far gone
Hevyn’s sons in river grazing
Home forever, forever
Mountain call and trees to bow
Home forever, home for now
Though he had never heard the words spoken aloud, the words rang in his head even as the song permeated the air. He knew it for what it was, a battle song of his people long dead, though for victory or mourning he was unsure. Sighing, he took the instrument from his lips and tilted his head back against the straw, eyes closed as the golden rays fell down upon him in waves of painful light.
Reyna had been letting Eomer pick their path from the village, in no real rush to get anywhere. Trying to empty her mind, Reyna focuses on the creak of oiled leather and steady beat of bare hooves striking ground. The warmth of the sun seeps through the fibers of her wool coat, taking the chill out of her spine. Despite her efforts, her mind will not empty. Instead the images of the villager's hateful faces play across her mind's eye. A cold fury licks at the edges of her heart, burning and stinging like flames. Some day she will be treated with the respect she deserves. Some day she will no longer have to hide her true feelings in order to protect her family. Some day she will be allowed to fight the injustice by the light of day.
A gentle breeze tugs at the brim of her hat, and carries the lingering scent of burning wood. The reminder of the woman's anger towards her is all it takes to push her over the edge. The need to escape, to be free, overwhelms her. Eomer responds to her cues and launches into a gallop, hooves sending chunks of turf flying. Reyna lets the wind wash away her hurt and anger, leaving only a cold numbness in her cheeks behind. She lets the stallion gallop on until her hands stop shaking and her heart beats steady. Only then does she let him return to a slower pace, and let reality come crashing back into place.
Notes of music tickle Eomer's ears, and he turns his head in order to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. Noticing her horse's interest, Reyna lets the stallion choose their new path. They continue on into a large field where livestock graze. Reyna hears the music and can't help but be curious as to it's source. She lets Eomer keep going, hoping to find the source of the music before it stops.
The mood in the village was somber to say the least as Kahli made her way from the Smith to the schoolhouse. Men and women walked with hunched shoulders, heads lowered and steps slow. The smell of char permeated the air and soaked into the souls of those around her, bringing them just that much lower than the day before. She side-stepped a man walking with a bundle of firewood on his back, knowing that if she hadn’t he would have likely walked over her.
Angry, violet eyes surveyed the street before her as she came abreast of the one-roomed school. Here the smell was lighter, but still it hung like a cloud clinging and invading everything. She longed to strike out at her own people, to –force- them to fight back. They wouldn’t though; every scrap of resistance had been beaten out of them, generation by generation.
She entered, nodded to the single teacher, and sat at her scarred table. The pamphlet before her was giving a single glance and dismissed, covered by her book as she set it down and opened it to the pages listed on the study-board. In four hours she would be free.
Ren sat up as the faint sound of hooves against hard earth drifted in among the lowing of the cattle. Given the night’s events and his remote location, it was only natural that his right hand would set down against the handle of a goad, resting on the bale of hay to his right, the one on his left hip still fastened in place. His grip didn’t close though, for if it was a ranger or Aerthan soldier, to be seen holding the tool even in the semblance of holding a weapon, it could mean his life, and that of his family.
Shortly after the music ceased Reyna and Eomer came in sight of a flock of livestock surrounding a man sitting on a bale of hay. Reyna recognizes the dark haired shepherd as one of the men from the smoking ruin earlier that morning. Her gold eyes take note of his hand holding steady over his goad and the careful care he has taken not to grab at it aggressively. Some of her Aerthan counterparts would happily take any excuse to confront an engel, even though it was only reasonable to want to protect yourself after an attack on your people.
Not wanting to seem threatening, Reyna raises a gloved hand to tug the brim on the front of her hat in greeting. She stays relaxed in the saddle and lets Eomer come closer to the shepherd, having him stop about ten feet away.
Ren’s eyes narrowed ever-so-slightly as the ranger came into view, almost strolling through the pasture on her horse as though she came upon a shepherd in this way at least once a morning. He recognized her at once of course, he could never forget a face, and a spike of curiosity ran about his spine, causing his head to cock a bit and a questioning tone enter his voice.
“Hello, Ranger. How may I be of service? Did the… bandits… pass this way in or out of the village?”
He knew the answer to his own question of course, because he quite literally knew the way each blade of bent sour-grass lay in his fields, and none of them had been trampled by a human foot. His hand, slowly of course, left the vicinity of his goad as he sat up straighter, sure to show the respect that the Aerthans expected given to their soldiers, Rangers included.
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