The sun rose on the day, shining on the city known as Opes- the human capital city. Within the city walls, the west half was known as the Residential area- this is where people lived. Further south in the same area were the slums. The homeless lived here, supported only by those who have enough generosity to give them coin. To the north were the rich nobles, with extravagant and flamboyant houses, trying to outdo each other. The southeastern part of Opes was the Business place, where craftsmen sell their goods. And lastly, in the northeast was the castle, where the current king of the human empire- Artemisius- resided.
“I take it preparations have been taken care of?” Artemisius asked.
“Yes sir, it should be ready within the month.” Responded one of his messengers.
“Good. This is the three-hundredth anniversary of this tournament, we need it to be better than ever before.”
“Yes, and we estimate a record number of people will arrive to watch- nearly three thousand, from what I hear. Not to mention those planning on signing up.”
“With numbers like that, we'll most definitely need to move it to outside the city. The eastern ruins are still unoccupied, correct?”
“I believe so, sir. Yes.”
“Make it so that the tournament will be held there. We cannot hold three thousand more
people within these walls, it would be chaos.”
“Of course, sir, I shall see to it right away.”
The messenger exited the room and left the king to his own thoughts. The old ruins… I sure hope nobody makes a fuss about what happened so long ago… We cant even be sure it really happened… but I suppose there will always be the few who believe in those old stories no matter what.
Two weeks later…
The king looked over the east wall and smiled. The three-hundredth annual Ketto Tournament was about to begin. It was still two days away, but people were pouring in from the portals in the business district, of every race. This year's tournament was sure to be one to remember. The king was only worried about the old stories of the ruins from so long ago. Most people had likely forgotten by now, but fears about the incident of old were sure to worry some.
Artemisius turned back from the wall with renewed hope about the occasion. The only thing he truly had to worry about was the fact that the ruins were about two miles from the city. He smiled, and made his way back to the castle. All that I can do now is wait.
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
Puella Magi Madoka Magicka is an awesome, feel-good, cutesy anime. You should watch it!
Tressel slithered ahead on the path, grinning at the way the breeze played over her face. She twisted to look over her shoulder, holding her hat on her head to make sure it didn't blow away. "Hurry up, Morgen!"
He ambled along the trail, new cane helping him get along. He wasn't able to hunt much anymore, or go out in the woods even, but his age didn't stop him from rushing through life with exuberance. Recently, Tress had been seeing him more as a grandfather than as the father figure he'd used to be.
News had come in recently about the grand Tournament, being held by the King in the Capital. Of course, the young men and many of the young women were excited by this, taking some of their savings for the travel tax and gathering together. It couldn't have come at a better time, as the storing of crops and meats was over for the winter, and there wasn't much work left to do.
They'd gone ahead, traveling together. Tress had gotten an invitation to join them, but she'd decided to stay with Morgen along the way. He'd decided he might as well bring some of his business, furs from home, and Tress hadn't wanted to leave him to hobble the whole way alone, carrying his pack of pelts. They were almost to the town with the portal to the capital, and she could tell he was enjoying the journey.
And there it was. A small city, but still so much bigger than the town she was used to. It had walls, for goodness sake. Big tall walls, and spires that peeked up from behind. The closer they got, the bigger it seemed.
Small satchel hanging on her side, with her ever-present chain coiled on the other, and large backpack of furs over her shoulders, she really should have felt tired. But her tail was strong, her mind was alert, and she was excited. Anticipation, seeing new people, new places, new things. She'd saved up somewhat over the past couple years, but Morgen insisted on paying her way as well. So she had what little money she'd earned in her special blouse pockets (she didn't wear pants, after all), ready to be spent on some particularly nice or helpful item.
She wasn't actually sure what to think about the tournament, but she was rather excited. It was hard not to be, from the attitudes of the others. A contest, a battle to see who was the most skilled. What wasn't there to be eager for? Perhaps she'd even find another Naga or two.
And then they were there, at the gates of the city. There were people inside, milling around, setting up shops and engaging in conversations. Children squealed and chased each other over the cobblestones, and horses pulled wagons of wares. There were dwarves, short and stocky, laughing deep, and tall elven women standing at the stalls. She even saw what looked like a person with wings instead of arms, gesturing wildly about something or other.
But she didn't see a single other Naga. No tails, no scales. Tress was a little disappointed.
Morgen came up behind and put his arm on her shoulder. "This is a small city. Don't worry if they aren't here. Come, little miss, let's go find the Portal."
They wandered through the city, Tressel following behind. She drew a couple odd looks, but nobody seemed hostile, only surprised. Some were more interested with her missing arm than her other half. A few children made a game of jumping over her tail until their parents reprimanded them. Morgen asked a few of the vendors where they might find the portal, and they were pointed toward the middle of the town.
And then there it was. A framed arch, white marble on the cobblestone, centered in the middle of a square. An armored guard sat in front of it with a bored look on his face and a small box on a table set beside him. Even as she watched, an elf walked up to the portal and dropped a pair of golden coins in the box, receiving a wave from the guard to continue on. One step, and he vanished into the large glowing doorway.
"You go first, Tress." Morgen pulled out two coins from his small leather purse, curling her fingers around them. "It's quite the experience, and I'll be right behind you."
She nodded, holding the coins determinedly. Slithering up to the guard, she gently tossed the coins in the box. The man gave her a tired smile and a wave, his gaze curious over her arm and her scales.
Taking a deep breath, Tress glided forward into the glowing, watery light.
Darkness flooded in from the poles of Qrin’s eyes. Blinded by those wonderful eye-lids which had so long protected his species’ vision from stray flecks of sand, Qrin felt a slight release of tension. His brain, curling around itself and constricting blood flow, unfurled, and he was suddenly calm again. He had eliminated an input, and the stress which he felt had been halved. Or is it so.
Perhaps that brain of his had not reacted to the lack of sight with a period of relaxation, but had instead decided to do something more sinister. Had he triggered a moment of silent yokan, or had he stopped one?
An object knocked Qrin on the shoulder, forcing him to stabilize himself again. To do so, he opened his eyes. The market around him was bustling with activity, and whoever had knocked him on the shoulder had long since disappeared into the crowds of shoppers and citizens. With a gruff utterance of ‘harumph’, Qrin set himself to walk once again. His staff supported him, and its advancement cleared for him a path through the turbulent sea ahead. For now, Harenam was real enough for him to be knocked to its dusty streets - therefore, he would do his best to avoid that, and complete that necessary task of browsing and purchasing food and supplies.
Qrin rarely travelled to the new cities, the metropolises where old traditions and safeties had been abandoned, where silence had all but died. The excessive strain on his senses was dangerous, but on occasion, it had to be endured. Now was just one such occasion, as he had found himself atop a ridge not two kilometres from the city by pure accident, and had been in dire need of new supplies. The city had been his only option.
For Qrin, it was easy to overcome the undesirable for the sake of the necessary. Perhaps it was his nature as a Ztaari, or perhaps his life in the harsh desert had eroded his weakness and left this invincible stone. Maybe his inability to distinguish between the real and effective and the fake yet horrifying was what allowed him to live without considering how real or fake his life was. Perchance the ancestral pain of his visions had dulled his reactions.
Somehow, Qrin survived.
He marched through the streets, pretending to be a normal bug on a normal bug-like walk. He pulled himself forward with the resistance of his staff, and he clicked his mandibles when the time seemed right. A bug without presence would attract more attention than a bug without purpose. He gazed at merchandise, only half-heartedly inspecting it. He cared too little for what he bought that he would likely stop on a whim and purchase without contemplation for price, value, or quality.
Some, the odd fools who wallow in corners and write tales of wild beasts, might wonder how Qrin, a Ztaari wanderer with not a penny to his name, would afford such goods. Thankfully, many vendors still used that ancient tradition of bartering, and Qrin had much to barter: news, stones, relics of ancient temples, the fangs of the bug beasts, the doshrakh. Qrin was rich in obscurity and wildness. Many merchants prized the Ztaari wanderers, for they offered such valuable prizes for such small prices. After all, a Ztaari wanderer had no need for most things. Qrin, especially, cared not for the values of materialistic items which he could not ascertain were real.
Thus, having wandered the streets for quite some time in a chaos of noise and sound and motion, Qrin was nearly set to buy his items when, in the vacuum which he always found in his path, he saw a small stand, erected in the centre of the pathway. Having left the stream of pedestrians quite by accident, the old Ztaari was immediately noticed by a human male.
Now, Qrin was old, and he had little care for or attention to pay society, but even he still remembered the day he had first seen those portals which had wrought unity across all of civilization. He had been sure that day that no mind of his could imagine such strange creations. The humans, to some degree, reminded him of that portal, but they did not give him any such clarity, for they were aliens here, and they disrupted the norm, the believable. They made the world unreal, and they made Qrin confused and morose again.
“You there, old bug, you look mighty and wise. Tell me your tale, and I’ll tell you something of mine,” the human invoked a rhythmic, applauding tone as he approached Qrin and let the hullaballoo around them fade into an inconsequential hiss.
Qrin looked at the man, and he chose not to respond. He did not speak often, perhaps not once in the past few months, and he saw no reason to speak now, to such a strange human with such useless requests. The Ztaari began to walk away.
“Wait, wait! Fine, I’ll tell you now. I come from Opes, that pearly jewel of the human empire, where all mortal power is derived. I come to tell you of a great competition - and of your chance to participate in it.” The man was a salesman, clearly. He was also of higher-blood; not a weak peasant or an aged magi. Another of his ilk worked to win over other, far younger Ztaari on the other side of their tiny stadium in the middle of this street.
And yet, Qrin still found himself unconvinced. What competition could he want? What prize could he value?
“You will travel through the portal to a great stadium, and there, you will fight a vigorous fight. You are a warrior, I can tell; how else could you have survived so long in such a harsh world? I have been sent by Judith Baraches to seek out the strongest Ztaari warriors, to fight as her champions in the tournament. I think I have found them, no?” The man said a lot, and much of it was meaningless, but it became clear to Qrin what was spoken of: a tournament of fighting, and a trip through that portal. Could I find the truth in this twisted game? Anything new, anything different, that could be a new figment of his fractured mind, or it could be a gateway to reality. Qrin stopped and pondered these possibilities.
The sky filled Iris's view, an endless expanse of blue specked with fluffy white clouds. It almost seemed to stretch off into infinity, stopped only by the ground as it rushed to meet it at the horizon. It was this that drifted by Iris's view as she lay atop the caravan as it moved lazily along the road. It was quite serene, Iris liked to sit on the caravan's roof when she wanted some peace and quiet. But her peace did not last long.
"Iris!" came a yell.
"What is it?" she groaned.
"Can you see the city from up there?"
The person who was calling was Clay, an annoyingly stubborn dwarven man who couldn't care less about the journey and only cared for the destination. If Clay had his way they would cut the journey out completely and somehow magically teleport from place to place. Unfortunately for him, none of the merchants in the caravan could make that happen and they had bene unable to find a portal in the cities they had visited along the way.
"You asked me that only fifteen minutes ago, Clay" Iris complained, she then sat up and looked around, "But actually, I can. We're nearly there I think."
Ahead of the caravans lay the city of Opes, that human's capital. They had heard news that a tournament was being held there, and as soon as they heard that they changed their plans and set off for Opes. The tournament would undoubtedly attract all sort of people who wish to see the tournament or to even participate in it. That made it a prime location to set up their stalls.
Iris moved to the edge of the caravan's roof, sat for a moment with her feet hanging over the edge and climbed inside. A few moments later she was on the ground walking next to Clay. He was a sturdily built man, shorter than Iris but built like an ox. He had a long brown beard with a few flecks of grey, it was his pride and joy. Clay didn't like heights, unlike Iris who loved heights. They walked along, the silence only broken by the rhythmic sounds on the horses hooves as the pulled the caravans.
After a while the caravan had made its way through the gates and into what Iris believed to be the business sector. Some of the merchants, like Clay, were already setting up their stalls. Others, like Iris, had decided that business can wait until tomorrow and wanted to see what this city had to offer and to go see the tournament. Iris gathered up her quiver as well as her arrows and bow and put them inside the quiver.
"I'm going to check out the tournament" She said to the other merchants in her group.
A few of them didn't respond, others seemed to want to look around other parts of the city and some wanted to start business now. She didn't expect many of them to want to join her. Some of them would rather stand by their stalls and try to convince passersby to buy the trinkets that they had on sale. This group included Clay. So just as a curious elven woman stopped by Clay's stand the T'Kal left. She moved through the crowds of people eventually finding her way out of the market. This was a big city, would she be able to find her way around? Well, she was persistent. She would find the place where the tournament was being held.
Qrin’s mind was not entirely present as he agreed to the tournament, but to be fair, it was never entirely there, nor entirely away. His endless contemplation, the wracking of his brain, the failing of his resolve - all had worn down his sharpness, though his instincts kept him alert and present and dangerous. Why did Qrin agree to the tournament? For no reason he could explain.
However, Theo Lewis did not require an explanation. He was a salesman, and he would be paid, no matter why his clients agreed to fight for his employer. As he guided Qrin to the portal, he took note of the awe and the absence in this old wanderer. He and his partner, Zerus Tommen, whom he had no more than a weak professional relationship with, had gathered a few individuals, and he hoped that they would all be suitable, yet somehow, he felt that this old Ztaari who reeked of wisdom, experience, and sand, would be the one to best them all. Theo had something of an eye for talent and truth - he was an expert gambler and a very lucky man by all accounts. Tonight, his bets were placed on the old wanderer who had given his name as “Qrin T’kali, spirit of deserts and wanderer of skies.”
As Qrin approached the portal, his mind was adrift. He had not slept in some days, and he was more empty and abysmal than usual. He stepped forward. The man who had recruited him passed two coins to the gate-guard, and Qrin felt a tacit, metaphysical push towards the whirling magic in front of him. Obediently, he stepped into the storm.
Theo Lewis thought he might have heard a scream, but it was a scream which permeated the universe, not the air; there was no sound to this scream, only a silent perception.
I have lost the world! Qrin thought, fighting. He had been jolted awake. He had been flung out. He was gone and he was back and he was dead. Nothing was real, and everything was, and he hated it all, and he loved it all. Any remnants of certainty about his existence and presence were abolished by this crazed flight through something imperceptible.
And then it was done, and Qrin would never be the same.
He had long been broken, but he had come to live with this failure. Now he was distraught again, and likely he would never be fixed in a thousand years.
Ki'than admired the human city. It took much planning and engineering skill to create walls so long to house the city. Ki'than was sure that, if he put his mind to it, he could probably do the same. However, engineering didn't interest him. The young Ztaari wandered a short while, making his way to the east gate. He knew that the Ketto Tournament was being held in the ruins outside the city. He also knew that it was two days away, but he decided to put his name in the brackets now and not forget to do it later.
He noticed a new stall set up near the gate, bearing a sign that read "Ketto Sign-up" in the common tongue. Ki'than approached, and inquired as to how he could sign up. "This is a bit boring, but i'm required to read you the rules first before you sign up, alright?" Replied the human woman sitting behind the desk. Ki'than nodded, not particularly caring one way or the other.
"Well, first, killing is strictly prohibited. All fights last until one person is unconscious or gives up the fight by throwing their weapon to the ground, away from them. Second, each person may only bring one weapon into the ring. And thirdly, if the fight lasts too long, the king himself will call for a halt and judge who did better overall. Breaking the first or second rule will end in disqualification, and if the first rule is broken, you will serve time in jail, or be executed."
Ki'than nodded, and understood all of the rules. He was given a small piece of parchment, and was told to write his name, race, and the one weapon he would use. He did as instructed, and wrote that he would use a short-sword as his one weapon. He was then given a small coin made of copper, with a symbol on it, similar to a flower, but it only had the petals on it. Ki'than was told that the coin was what he would need to prove he was in the tournament.
"And one last thing." The woman said. "Arrive at the ruins the night before the tournament, you will be given a meal and lodging. Sign-ups will still be open until the first round begins, but it's the king's way of making this tournament a little more festive." Ki'than nodded and thanked the woman, before leaving the stall. He examined the coin further, but found nothing remarkable about it other than the pattern on it. The Ztaari stuffed it in his pocket and saved it for later.
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
Puella Magi Madoka Magicka is an awesome, feel-good, cutesy anime. You should watch it!
The few brief moments through the portal felt like ages, ages of light and speed and a feeling of... of change. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling, Tressel actually almost enjoyed it. It felt like shedding an old skin, of waking up after a long winter to find the world changed and different.
But she was still glad when it was over, and she found herself slithering out into a different city. She would have tumbled to the ground if she'd had feet instead of a tail, but instead the disorientation simply made her hold her head and lurch to the side, eyes dilated and face scrunched up in a small grimace. The feeling passed, and she was able to really inspect this new place.
The first thing she actually noticed was that the cobblestone beneath was now smooth and clean, more refined than the rough streets of the city below. She could feel the difference under her scales, and it told a lot.
The city matched the streets. Huge. Smooth. Cleaner. She was in the middle of a central area, with a fountain in the middle, but it was hard to see anything with the crowds. Because the people where everywhere, dwarf and elf and human and bug alike. The conversations that reached her ears were lilting and rough and snippets all the same, filled with a multitude of different laughing and yelling and chuckling voices. It was rather overwhelming, especially given how instant the transition had been.
But Tress found that she liked it. It was chaos, but she was a part of it.
Morgen appeared beside her shoulder, having followed through the portal. "Lot of other folks here for the tournament, aren't there?"
She grinned at him, sharp teeth showing. "All the better to sell your wares with, Morgen! I can see many people here who would be more than pleased to wear your furs when winter comes again!"
He chuckled at that. "First, we need to find a place to set up shop. Perhaps I'll take the furs, while you go see about getting into the tournament? You'll find me on the market side of the city once you're done, which is southeast. Think you can do that?"
"Of course. Southeast, I'll remember that." She shook her satchel slightly. "Perhaps I'll find something of worth on the way as well. Thank you, Morgen!" She slipped the heavy backpack off her shoulders and handed it to him, turning to slither off and start searching, before hesitating. Spinning back, she gave him a quick hug and a smile.
And then it was time to go. All she'd known was the comfort of town and friends and family for the past years of her life, raised first by her mother and her own kind, and then raised by Morgen and the townspeople. Now she was going to be alone again, but instead of solitary and living in the woods, she would be surrounded, surrounded by thousands of people.
She was excited.
Now, there had to be a place to learn about the tournament somewhere. Perhaps a stand or a stall, or a bulletin for news somewhere. Morgen had taught her to read the common language, so that would be no barrier.
No other Naga--yet, she reminded herself--but there were plenty of other people around to ask. Finding the first person who didn't seem to be talking with anyone else at the moment (a dwarf with a short white beard) she asked him where she might find information about the tournament. He simply gave her a half smile, half sigh and pointed down the street.
There, at the end, was a large sign above a stand that read "Ketto Sign-ups" There were a handful of people lined up in front of it, and as she watched, a bug-man, Ztaari, if she remembered correctly, stepped away, holding something in his(or her?) hand.
She didn't exactly want to sign up, but maybe she could ask him about it. After all, who better to know the details of a tournament than someone who was in it? So she slithered toward him and raised her hand. "Excuse me! Might I ask you some questions?"
"Hm?" Ki'than responded, turning around. He saw a naga woman behind him. She had asked about the tournament. "Well, its likely a bracket of fights. Each person gets one weapon, and it's won either by knockout or forfeit. Oh, and you can't kill. Though, i don't think you should bother, what with your arm." Ki'than added. Someone without a second arm, even in a one-weapon duel, would be disadvantaged by not being able to keep their balance as well as others.
She slithered to a stop, curling her tail up and out of the way of passerby. Swallowing the little surge of annoyance at her arm, she replied, "Oh, I wasn't planning on joining. Probably. I just wanted to know if there was any special ticket or token needed to get in and watch, and where to go."
"Oh, yeah, if you sign up, you need a coin from the stall that proves you're in the brackets." Ki'than replied. "As for watching, just head east in two days. It's being held at the old ruins."
"Old ruins, to the east. Thank you." She turned a bit to slither away, then looked back. "Do I really look like I couldn't take care of myself in a fight?" She was genuinely wondering, from the perspective of a stranger, how she looked. All the people in town ignored her missing arm, and old children expressed any interest, though they were mostly just amazed.
"Well, not entierly. Even if you don't bear a shield or a second weapon, you're sure to have trouble keeping balance, since, well..." He gestured to the arm.
Hmm. She muttered a bit, half to herself and half out loud. "What if I wasn't fighting with my arms?" Absentmindly, she felt for the chain at her side. She'd kept it, through the years. She'd practiced with it as well.
"Anyway. Thank you again, sir." She slithered slowly away, still thinking.
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
Puella Magi Madoka Magicka is an awesome, feel-good, cutesy anime. You should watch it!
Chris meandered through the cobbles, knocking shoulders with all kinds of people who seemed indifferent to his presence. Then again, he was being fairly indifferent to theirs. It evened out. He didn't much like it in Opes, he'd come once before and decided he wasn't coming back. Nobody wanted a mercenary in a place like this. They had their elite guards, their elite elite guards. Even slayers. No, he did his work in the villages. They didn't have slayers, most of the time. Not that they were stealing his work (often), they tended to be dealing with the larger threats. But some people had to be heroes, flaunting their shining armour and insignias. Made him sick, to be honest, but that was how it was. Most of the time the villages were great though. He went and cleared out a goblin camp, got payed, and went off to the next place. It wasn't a bad life. The cities though, the cities were terrible. Nobody in a city wants a 20 year old mercenary. They want the best of the best. No, that wasn't quite right. They wanted titles.
But today Chris pushed all of that aside for the tournament. He was a bit short on coin and needed to update his internal skill meter. He'd taken a portal from a smaller city, one he only went to for work every now and then - it was a mixed bag. It had been his first time through a portal and he'd heard wildly varying stories about the experience. It hadn't bothered him, he'd just walked on through. Now he was in this hellhole and he was looking to sign his name in blood. He found the stall. Ink would do. He read the rules carefully, making 110% sure that he couldn't expect to be killed playing gladiator (he honestly didn't put it past the nobles, but even he could accept that perhaps he was a bit too jaded at that point). He signed the form Christopher Erin Marc, took his coin and turned away. He felt his stomach growl, remembering he'd not eaten in a while. Then that would be his next job.
When Qrin finally signed his name and joined the tournament, he was of a much clearer mind. The journey through the portal had shaken his foundations; the dust had fallen from his ancient mind, and he now did what he had planned to do before with a purpose. Before he had agreed to sign for the tournament simply because it was something different. Now, though, he signed for the tournament because it was an experience to jolt him from the serenity of the desert, and to return him, briefly, to the wiles of society, where perhaps he might forget for an instant his all-enveloping problem.
As he answered the questions of the woman behind the counter, he spoke with an old, hoarse voice. He had spent a long time in the desert, so his interactions with others were pure and rough, like rocks which had been eroded for years without a human to sculpt them. His voice was something which he had lost and regained; he spoke differently now, that wild, guttural ‘click click’ which was an ancient attribute of the Ztaari marking each word. He was an alien who had grown lost and then, upon returning home, had set out for a foreign land.
The woman behind the counter was professional, but she knew not what to make of this old bug. Only the gleam in the eyes of the agent who had brought this group of contestants through the portal convinced the woman that the old Ztaari could have any hope for survival. He sees a hidden truth, she mused, and inspected the man’s mannerisms, carefully orchestrated so that he appeared rich and respectable no matter his actual standing.
When Qrin left the stand with his small, odd pin, he did not know where to go. There were many people bustling about in the streets around him. He looked back and saw that man who had recruited him glancing quickly away, turning to the next Ztaari who he had brought to fight for this Judith Baraches. Wizened by years of survival, Qrin could see that this one was weak and young and overfed; he would have very little knowledge of how to fight and how to live. Qrin mused that he, the next recruit, would be dead soon, but that after all, he would die anyways - or perhaps, he would never have been alive. Was he but a figment of the old Ztaari’s mind? In that case, was it not that with the death of this young recruit, a portion of Qrin himself would also die?
It was all too much to consider, and the harrowing call of a Dwarven merchant brought him out from his self-induced slumber and confusion. He marched slowly and officiously with his staff foreboding his presence. The Dwarf waited until he was closer to launch his spiel.
“So, you’re here for the tournament, huh?” the Dwarf began, a chipper pattern to his amiable voice as he weaved his way into a sales pitch.
“Yes - I have come for the tournament,” Qrin replied, slow and deep. He barely moved his eyes from the face of the stout, bearded man.
“Eh, so it is, so it is. Well, if you’re looking for anything for the tournament, I’ve got it for you here - weapons, ribbons, food.” The Dwarf waved his hand over a variety of goods. Then, with a sly expression and a glint of his eyes, clearly a trained and practised action for the purpose of winning customers, he continued: “And if you’re looking for some potions, I might know where to find those too,” he confessed, conspiratorially.
Qrin was interested in none of these goods. For weaponry he had his staff; for ribbons, he would wear what was given to him; for food, he would eat what he found, or he would not eat at all; and potions would be no good for an old, frail body such as his, especially one so used to acting without them.
No, Qrin would be fine. He would fight, and perhaps he would win, or perhaps he would die. Nevertheless, he would not care. What importance could he place upon this tournament when its results were so unimportant?
Tressel made her way back towards the southeast part of the city, the marketplace, emotions she hadn't had before bubbling just a bit below the surface. Trouble keeping balance? She never fell over. It was almost impossible to trip or stagger when you didn't technically walk to get anywhere.
The market was bustling, but it wasn't all too hard for Tress to find Morgen. She rose up a couple feet on her tail to see over the crowd, and spotted the familiar backpack of furs that he was carrying. She called out, "Morgen!" and he turned back to see her, smiling then beckoning.
She dropped back down, slithering through the crowd to meet up with him. He'd found a stall, a place to set up and sell, so she took the backpack and started spreading out the furs and pelts. They worked in silence for a bit, until Morgen spoke up.
"What's bothering you, Tress?" He took the fur out of her hand and hung it up on a nail.
She sighed. "I know you've told me to not be ashamed of my arm. It wasn't my fault, and all."
"Aye," he agreed.
"But someone just told me I shouldn't bother entering the tournament, because I wouldn't be able to fight properly, I'd be off balance. I hadn't even asked about joining the tournament, and he simply assumed it, from looking at me."
"I know you've never seen me as useless, Morgen. But what about other people? Do they really think I'll never be as good as someone who has two arms?" She pulled a small rabbit pelt out, setting it on the counter.
Morgen didn't answer right away, and they continued setting up. Finally, he spoke what was on his mind. "You want to join the tourney, don't you?"
Tressel wasn't surprised at how quickly he'd pinpointed her own emotions. She simply nodded.
With a sigh, he leaned down on the counter. "Well, I don't see much of a reason for you not to. Perhaps you'll gain an extra scar or two for your troubles. But I want you to remember a few things." He looked her in the eye. "For those who truly see you as disabled, winning or losing won't make a difference. It takes more than that to change their minds."
She nodded along with him, but in her head she couldn't see how that could be true. If she won out over warriors, even missing a limb, who could doubt her strength?
"Second, I have a rule for you. You must join every battle with a smile, and respect your opponent always. I think you hardly need reminding why. Third... The only reason I'm letting you do this is because there is a very strict no killing rule." He gave her a little grin. "And I don't want you to hurt anyone too bad."
She laughed, reaching over to hug him tight. "Thank you, Morgen! I'll remember, don't worry!"
"Now go." He ushered her away. "We're almost done here, and I can take care of the shop on my own."
- - - - - - - - - -
"I would like to join the tournament!" Tressel proclaimed to the woman in the stall.
She gave Tress an apathetic look. "Okay. So, this is a bit boring, but I'm required to read you the rules first before you sign up."
Tressel nodded her way through the rules. "No killing, one weapon, and don't take too long, got it." She hestitated. "Is there a limit on what weapon it is? I was planning on using my chain--" She patted the shining links that hung off her belt. "--as it's the only thing I have real experience with."
The lady glanced at it. "Should be fine. Long as you only bring in one link."
Tressel blinked, before realizing it was a joke and laughing, a bit late. "Right, right. Thank you!" She took the little parchment and signed her name (Tressel Hifwood), race (Naga), and weapon (Hooked chain), then accepting the little token she needed as a ticket in. "Ruins, the night before, got it."
She slithered away for the next person in line, looking over the coin. The design was flowery, and she liked that. Despite enjoying the city, the forest was much more familiar.
Now all that was left was to wait for the night before the tournament, and make sure to arrive on time.
Theo Lewis sighed and, slipping yet another charming grin to woman behind the counter, signed off on the last of his various recruits. The number of Ztaari without the ability to read or write was astounding, and quite frankly disturbing. He wondered how those uncivilized bugs had ever managed to survive the ancient skirmishes with this level of barbarity.
Knowing that he might need to reacquaint himself with this woman if she requested payment for her complacency with his simple forgeries, Theo smiled and gave his most pleasant farewell. Judith Baraches, of course, would prefer not to become involved in such squabbles, so Theo would deal with this himself, and perhaps hope for reimbursement later. If any of this paid off, of course, he would not need to worry about reimbursement - all his fees would be paid for by a hefty bonus, skimmed off the top of the victor’s prize.
Warily, Theo gathered together most of his recruits. Zerus amassed the remaining few, and at last they were all together in a single part of the bustling street. Theo spotted an empty crate, and to give himself better projection he stood on top.
“Alright, I’m quite glad that that’s over with. I assume that all of you remember what you were told at the stand: be present at the ruins the night before the tournament, bring only one weapon, and do not lose that pin. If you break any of those commandments, Madame Baraches will not be paying for your trip home,” Theo explained. His eyes landed on Qrin and stayed put for a moment, wondering again why this old Ztaari radiated an aura of skill and talent alongside his mysterious presence.
His silence began to be too long, and Theo spoke again.
“That said, you are all free to go as you please. You will find my associate and I at the ruins when you arrive.”
At the back of the group, Qrin had listened, to a degree. He bowed silently and slightly, then waddled off slowly as the crowd around him dispersed. The Dwarven merchant from before paid him no mind when he walked by again; real customers had since arrived, and were inquiring about an iron mace. In his solemn, noiseless inspection of the street, Qrin did not sense the eyes inspecting his own cloaked back.
Having no knowledge of the layout of the city, Iris had managed to get near to where the sign-up stall was using sheer persistence. She only once stopped to ask for directions from a rather chatty guard. Not only had they directed her towards the stall, they also gave recommendations on where to eat, apparently there was an inn on the way there thatthat made a fantastic bowl of vegetable stew.
"Is that the sign-up stall?" she asked herself.
Past a group of people was the sign-up stall if the sign was to be believed. She walked past several people who might be here to join the tournament. Iris was considering entering herself, she had talked about it at length on their trip to the city. Some of her fellow merchants in the convoy encouraged her and others were more wary. Nevertheless, Iris knew that she wouldn't have a chance at winning if she didn't participate. And that meant that she wouldn't get the prize.
With a bit of nervous energy filling each step, Iris strode up to the counter after a woman in armour left. Before Iris had a chance to speak, the woman standing behind the counter dipped the pen in the inkwell and laid some parchment down in front of her.
"I'm here to sign up for the tournament" Iris said.
"Write your name here, race here and which weapon you will be using here" came the voice of the stall attendant.
Iris took the pen and began to scratch her details down on the parchment. In careful, practiced handwriting she wrote down her name, that she was a T'Kal and that her weapon of choice was a bow and arrow. The attendant continued speaking as Iris wrote.
"There are a few rules that you must follow. First of all, you may not kill your opponent. The match ends when one combatant is knocked unconscious or yields. Secondly, each participant may get one weapon only. Your bow should be fine, just limit the number of arrows you bring. Lastly, if a match goes on for too long the king will call for it to cease and the winner will be judged. Do you understand all these rules?"
"Yes" Iris said as she handed the pen back to the attendant, "I have a quick question though, where is the tournament held?"
"Good. The tournament is held in the ruins to the east, you must go there the night before the tournament. You will be given lodging and food. Here is your token, it symbolises that you are now a competitor."
Iris took the coin from the attendant and examined it in her palm as she walked away from the stall. It had a design reminiscent of petals on its face. She slipped it into her bag. Now all that was left was the question of what to do until the tournament started? She could head back to the market to where her friends were. Or, she could investigate those ruins where the tournament was going to be. She wandered away from the stall, her mind full of thoughts of the upcoming tournament.
Tressel had tucked the token away and was thinking about heading back to the market, when the next person to walk up to the stall caught her eye--and for good reason. He was decked out in full plate, the massive metal slabs layered over his back and shoulders, offering perfect protection from almost every side. And the sword... the sword was enormous, strapped to his side, yet Tressel could hardly see how he toted it around without having to constantly apologize for hitting knees and shins with the tip.
Half despairing, half awed, Tress realized she may very well have signed up simply to lose. Sure, she might not be a useless one armed girl who could barely hold her own, but she was nowhere near the level of competence that this knightly figure exuded. And this was hardly likely to be the only person dressed up like this, either. She glanced down at her own meager cloth blouse. Between that and the straw hat, she had hardly any protection at all. Though perhaps her scales would deflect a blow or two, they weren't exactly made for armed combat.
Of course, when the man turned around and revealed he was actually a woman, that came as a bit of a surprise as well. Not that it should have, but she was rather tall.
Judging by the easy way she walked, Tressel doubted the armor would slow her all too much. If they got paired up in the tournament--which Tressel hoped they didn't--she would need to rely on some other weakness to beat the intimidating lady. Which got her to thinking, somewhat. Maybe she could beat her, if she relied on her chain. That armor looked like it had plenty of places for a hook to latch on, for one.
As the woman walked away from the stall, Tressel put those thoughts aside for later. She would have to get used to thinking through some strategies on the fly, but now was not that time. Instead, she placed a warm look on her face, repeating the words Morgen had told her 'Enter every battle with a smile,' and slithered forward. "Hi! Are you entering the tournament too, then? I must say, I'm thoroughly impressed."
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
The Wyrm Watches. The Wyrm knows. The Wyrm reads. The Wyrm Animates too! Check me out at the WyrmWorks Channel on Youtube!
You should join Brazil on the Total War Minecraft server - 18.104.22.168:43841! Includes many Minecraft Forum members including myself, Selene011, Genius_idiot, Gamelord, and more!
The rough accent was a surprise to Tressel as well, as she had rather expected a nobler sounding tone. But it was close to how Morgen spoke, and that put her much more at ease, the smile on her face becoming a bit more genuine. Tressel herself would never give up the clear speech she had learned from her parents before they died, but she would always recognize the voices of other commoners with kindness.
"New, is it?" That actually made sense, and was a bit relieving. Maybe she didn't have as much experienced as she looked, so Tressel wasn't quite alone. Still, she hardly doubted that someone would spend so much on armor unless they knew how to use it. "Yes, you do strike quite the strong figure, I was a bit discouraged at first glance, in fact." Respect your opponent, no need to hold back that information.
Nisha lay her hand flat in the air and dipped it either way, the universal gesture of 'ehh, sort of', or something to that effect. Then moved to lightly tap the insignia displayed on her shoulderplate, turning her head slightly to look at it herself.
"Had suits like this'un for years, learning to use it properly, ya' know. This here is the new part," She replied, a proud smile on her face as she looked over the marking. It was only when the Naga mentioned being discouraged that she focused on the serpentine woman again, remembering what she had said before to start their friendly conversation. She was in the tournament? Her eyes were drawn to the stump where one of the Naga's arms should have been, a distinct familiarity passing through her mind as she took in the sight, reminding her of some of the senior Slayers she had met back at the guild. The constant fighting against Monsters rarely failed to leave scars. A sharp solemness struck Nisha at the thought, passing almost as quickly as it appeared and, just like that, she was smiling and focused on the Naga again. "You're fightin' too ya' said? Only ever seen a Naga fight the once, bloody crazy that lad was, near put poor Icarus in the dirt during practice!"
The woman pointed to the small insignia on her breastplate, and Tressel peered at it for a moment. It seemed almost familiar, but not like she'd seen it before, more like she simply should know what it was. But she didn't quite remember why.
She looked back at the woman, still thinking about the mark. "Oh, yes, I'm willing to try my, hem, hand at an official match with others." Nothing to be ashamed of. Still strong without it. "I've put in some practice, and while I don't expect to win, I do expect to do my best." She was tempted to ask more about the Naga, but that sounded like a rather long story, and the insigna was a more immediate matter. "Sorry, I really feel like I should know what that marking means, but I don't quite remember. It was quite a long trip here, so I'm not well brushed up on factions or ranks in this part of the country... or much of anywhere, really."
Nisha couldn't help herself, letting out a snort of laughter at the Naga's casual mention of her missing arm. Perhaps it wasn't especially funny but the redhead had a weakness for such things, ever since Huntsman Kerrig's classes (whom had a taste for making jokes and puns about his missing hand) she couldn't help but think of what he might say in such a situation. Even the bad ones, 'I'd offer a hand but I'm a little short', 'you seem like a handy person', the list could go on. Best not go crazy with that right now though, she didn't even know the Naga's name.
Thus, it was a good thing she then brought up Nisha's insignia, for the woman was visibly surprised by what the Naga had to say about it. Rather, surprised by her lack of recognition. It wiped away any poor jokes she'd been considering and, while her first instinct was to blurt something out, she successfully held off for just long enough to think about it. The Slayers may have been famous, but she guessed there were still some who didn't know who they were... Or maybe they just didn't recognize them at first glance? They were hardly as numerous as soldiers.
"Can't fault ya' for that, forgot not a lotta folk see this thing as much as me," She laughed, rubbing the back of her head a little awkwardly. "This here is the insignia of the Slayers. That tickle a bell or two? Ya' know, stabbing big beasties and... Nah, that's 'bout it really."
Tressel's eyes widened. "Oh goodness, a Slayer? Morgen's told me all about you! I remember the insigna now, he's described it to me before. Never was very good with a pen though, so words were all I saw it with." She couldn't help asking a few more questions, because while Morgen might have been in awe of the Slayers, most of his stories portrayed them as anonymous heroes, strong and fierce, almost myths. Yet, here was one standing right here in front of her!
"Have you ever taken on a monster? How much training have you gone through to be prepared?"
Gods above, that was a turn. Now that the Naga knew the order behind the insignia she was quick to fire off questions, catching Nisha by surprise. She hadn't had the mark long, so this was the first time she'd been questioned like this. It was a bit surreal. Luckily her questions were simple ones, albeit both touched upon slightly sour patches for the young warrior who, recovering from her surprise, cleared her throat.
"Ouch, right for the jugular huh?" She laughed off her soured feelings easily enough. "Nah, it's good. Thing is, see," She spared a quick look around, satisfied nobody was listening in, and leaned in enough to lower her voice a few notches. "I'm freshfaced, haven't gotten any assignments. Worst thing I've fought? My teachers, but lemme tell ya', they're scarier than a lotta Monsters you'll find out there." She leaned back and cleared her throat again. "Don't go spreadin' that 'round town, got appearances to keep up, ya' know?"
Nodding to herself Nisha took a second to think, almost forgetting the second question. "Training though, that's bloody fierce. Took me eight years to get this!" She tapped the insignia again. Obviously it meant a lot to her. "I got the theory down straight though. Walkin' enk- ency- encylop- seven hells! Walkin' BOOK of Monster knowledge, right here." She added on, almost as an afterthought. "Sparred aplenty though, don'tcha think I won't give ya' a run for ya' gold!"
Tressel hadn't thought she'd be edging so close to a line, but the lady didn't seem all too enthused to answer. "Oh, sorry, I didn't meant to be so... direct. Eight years of training? Honestly," She hesitated, then decided that she might as well make up a bit for being blunt, "Honestly, I don't think I'd be strong enough to do what you're planning on doing. I'd probably turn right around and run. So I'm very, very grateful that you're helping the world be rid of those creatures." A snakelike, scaly face loomed in her mind, wreathed in flames, and she frowned deeply. "Heaven knows they deserve it."
She cleared her throat, shaking the image out of her head. "Anyway, I'm very glad to meet you." She reached out for a handshake, proffering her palm up. "My name is Tressel."
Nisha waved off the apology, simply sparing the snake-woman a carefree grin. "Nah, nah, don't mind me, just gettin' a bit testy waitin' for my chance. Direct works fine, too many folk who don't say what they mean in the world," She said, tossing aside the slightly troubled conversation like it hadn't happened. The Naga, though, once more surprised her with reassurance, claiming that in her place she would probably run the other way. Despite herself Nisha couldn't help but feel red in the face from the undeserved praise, rubbing the back of her head and looking away. "C'mon now, those words ain't for someone who ain't done anythin' yet. Save it for when I live up to the name, yeah?"
She looked back to find an outstretched hand, a beat passing before she reached out and grasped it. "Nisha. Good to make a friend before we start pokin' each other, ay?" She laughed, then leaned in to whisper to the newly named Tressel. "And jus' between friends, if ya' get up against another Slayer in the tourny, they're fresher than I am." She winked.
Tressel shook Nisha's gauntleted hand, trying to shake firmly. Still, fingers enveloped in steel were rather hard to squeeze. But she grinned at the woman's good nature. "I'm positive you'll get a chance soon. I look forward to seeing you at the tourney, Nisha, and at the ruins beforehand." A new friend already. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go find Morgen and help him keep shop. He's doubtless flooded with people who want a quality pelt."
"Aye, and you Tressel. Trassel? Trasy? Tress. That'll do." Nisha nodded to herself, the nickname already solidifying in her head as their hands fell. Somewhere behind the Naga, just in the redhead's line of sight, a pair of old humans confusedly fished a hunk of half-eaten beef from their pot. Snickering none too subtly at the looks on their faces, the young Slayer agreed this was a good time for their conversation to be done. "Think I'ma get gone too, trouble to make, Monsters to beat, business as usual ay?" And thus they took their leave of one another.
The humdrum of busy city streets is an overpowering sensation to any who dare enter Opes, and occasionally even to those who never dare leave. For Qrin, the stimuli flew at him in waves, forcing him to occasionally stop his march and lean against a building to regain composure. This was not a place where he felt that he belonged, but whether that was because it was a place which did not, in fact, exist elsewhere than in his mind, or because it was simply so alien a location compared to his desert, he could not tell.
The city seemed real. It was not more crowded than Harenam, grandest city of the sands, but it was more expansive, and therefore, Qrin felt more lost, even as he saw the walls to show him his boundaries. However, what were these boundaries if not self-imposed regulations against his physical form? Who had imposed them? Why did they still stand - why had they stood at first? Were these walls symbolic of an oppression, or a protection, offered by a benevolent or a devious force? Everything rose too many questions, and Qrin knew that with every step he grew closer to another collapse, another short moment in which he would struggle to regain energy and composure.
The city was large enough and diverse enough that his presence was not often noted, even when he was collapsed against a wall, struggling to breathe and survive. He was an odd creature, certainly, but when all that existed was remarkable, was anything truly going to be remarked upon? The point of individualism is often to be noticed, to be distinct, to be better than the rest. Unfortunately, in a city with so many unique and exotic individuals, all that would be extraordinary in a smaller community was simply another oddity in a background of white noise. Shouts, screams, and glimpses of rushing figures in darkened alleyways were observed but not investigated. The brain can only do so much.
For Qrin, his brain was already doing too much. He walked with a feverish intensity, yearning to get somewhere, but he never found the time to decide where he wanted or needed to go. He marched more and more quickly, and soon found himself leading a charge of pedestrians, inspired subconsciously by his vigour and actions, as they bustled through the streets, forcing the entire atmosphere of the city to change and grow faster. Qrin despaired. This change brought countless consequences. Few noticed it immediately, but somehow, Qrin did. He noticed it and he forced himself out, but even as he left, the haste lived on, and he saw that what he had done had changed this world, briefly. Did that suggest that this world was real, if he could affect it so drastically? Or did it suggest that it was fake, if he could mould it so easily? If it was a world of his own mind, would it be forced to follow the laws of realism, or would it always yearn to follow the laws of Qrin, those which had made it?
Hendi must have been somewhere close, as I heard him moving bushes and trees around looking for food. Wasn't quite sure which, or exactly what's he was doing, but I wasn't focusing on him then, was I?
I ducked to the left quickly, and quickly searched the air with my hands for where the motion came from. I knew I only had seconds, and I only had a vague idea of where it was from.
I caught the arm!
It was interesting how much you could tell about someone from their arm. The tissue was soft, and I felt - and, for that matter, smelled - the oils on the elf's body. This was very clearly a female around my age.
Then again, I already knew that.
Smiling to myself, I put this arm on my shoulder and whipped my body in a fashion as to flip the foe. She hit the ground with a soft thud on the forest floor - really, much greater then the wooden floors school taught me that the T'kal used - and I quickly got in a stance on top of her as to make the rest of this fight rather easy. My legs where to her sides, I was incredibly low on her, and my hands had grabbed her wrists and were pressing them against her neck.
I heard my soft voice that I was told would sober any maniac speak to her in elven rather jokingly.
"Manen's i, Inya?" (How's that, Inya?")
Her voice replied, rather high for her age, and yet, as per usual with us elves, still soothing.
"Mára, mal tye failed ana metal-"(Good, but you failed to remember-)
I heard it before I felt it - her legs quickly moved to my back as she shoved me off, and then she quickly used my sudden weakness to place me in a chokehold, arms around my neck and legs around my waist, pulling me back in a violent manner that was near inescapable. After struggling for a few seconds, I tapped her and sighed.
"Ni'm vamme going ana n-turo ana palp-tien." (I'm not going to be able to beat them.)
I could hear her shifting into a sitting position across from me as I did the same, the leaves under us making sounds similar to that of my mother's cooking. She laughed at my statement, and then changed her tongue.
"You need to practice common."
I sighed again.
"I really need to practice fighting, not common."
I could hear her shifting closer to me, as she placed an arm on my shoulder. Her words came out lovingly, as if trying to sooth a young one.
"Hey, I've fought you for a long time. I know you're style, and we both were trained in the same arts. We can't garuntee they were also trained, can we? Let alone that I'm not underestimating you, and they will. Trust your sister in this, okay? You know that, even if you lose, you're inspiring so many people?"
i moved her arm back to her lap, chuckling.
"You're right. I have to do this."
I stood knowingly.
"Hendi! Here boy!"
He came quickly, snapping several twigs and leaves, betraying his ever-growing size. He brushed up against me, forcing himself into my arm in an attempt to get me to pet him. He always was so soft - I don't know how I groomed him so well. He nearly forced me over with his weight.
Inya's tone told me she was smiling.
"Plus, your biggest fan is coming along!"
I gave her as much of a distasteful stare as a blind person could as she laughed at her pun.
As me and Hendi traveled, you could vaguely tell how close we where. It went from the sounds of grass, something I was familiar with, to the sounds of some metallic or brick-based substance, to the sounds of people overwhelming any attempt for me to try to tell what we were traveling on. I traveled in somberly, hoping that I would go in unnoticed and get a chance to find some quiet.
Turns out a bear attracts a crowd, as I heard plenty of tiny footsteps gathering around Hendi.
I could tell from their voices that they were children, which, as someone trying to inspire the masses, I liked - but not when I heard dozens of voices harassing me about me and my bear. Their excited voices spilled over each other, barely giving me time to answer the questions, let alone hear them.
"Why are you gray?"
"What's up with your ears?"
"You have a BEAR!?"
"Why are your eyes so weird?"
"Are you here for the tournament?"
Getting to the tournament might take a little longer then I initially thought.
Ki'than left the stall after he signed up and made his way to an inn nearby. He had planned on coming to this tournament in advance, so he had saved up a large amount of money for this trip. He rented a room from the innkeeper, and said he'd be back later that night to sleep. The sun's position told Ki'than that it was mid-afternoon in the city. He had nothing better to do, so he browsed the markets near the center of town to occupy his thoughts for awhile.
He was on his way back to the inn when he saw a bear. A bear with a black coat. Ki'than had read about bears, but had never heard of one with black fur. More notable was the fact that an Elf- a Severed Elf was riding that bear. It was certainly a unique sight for anyone. Ki'than also observed that the Severed was surrounded by young children bombarding him with questions. The Ztaari decided to approached.
"Hey, kids! Stop crowding him. How do you think he's going to get anywhere if you stand right next to him?" The children payed no heed to him. Ki'than got a little frustrated, but he had encountered young children before. Simple commands hardly ever worked. You needed to appeal to their emotions. To get them away from or to stop them from doing something, fear usually worked. "Don't you know bears are ferocious? They'll eat you right up if you don't stop bugging them!" The children responded this time with frightened shrieks and scattered back to their parents.
"There you go. Travelling should be a bit easier for you now." The Ztaari extended his hand. "My name's Ki'than."
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
Puella Magi Madoka Magicka is an awesome, feel-good, cutesy anime. You should watch it!
Growing slightly more stressed at the continued noise, I was at first exasperated when I heard another voice, until I noticed what it was saying. This voice was a unique one - an accent I didn't quite recognize, nor a personality. Interested, I turned my ear towards this newcomer, listening to it's attempts to scatter the kids. Eventually, he hit the mark, and the kids scattered. I chuckled slightly at his comment, keeping my ear to him out of respect.
My voice came out of my mouth in a slightly amused manner, yet still somber and slow.
"Ki'than? Hmm. That name is rather interesting. You're not a human, are you? Or elf for that manner?"
He chuckled, already knowing the answer to that question.
"My name is Morniësse. Pleased to meet you."
He paused for a second, then decided he needed further help from this newcomer.
"Do you happen to know where I can sign up for the tournament?"
Ki'than felt a little offended when the elf, named Morniesse, didn't return his handshake. He then made a sarcastic remark about Ki'than clearly not being human or elf. Then he asked for directions to the tournament sign-ups. "Oh sure, it's that way." Ki'than replied, pointing in the direction. He also spat out that phrase with a small amount of bitterness.
Morniësse's eyes furrowed, hearing sudden bitterness in the mans voice. His comment wasn't very helpful either.
"Excuse me Sir, have I offended you somehow? I'm quite sorry."
After a second of thinking, Morniësse slowly got off his bear, his blindness becoming apparent as he felt the ground with his hands before he rolled into the ground. He slowly stood up, a hand on Hendi to help guide him. He then walked towards Ki'than with one hand forward, searching for the man.
His voice came out rather defeated, as if he absolutely hated asking for help.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but...could you please walk me there?"
Ki'than felt a pang of guilt as he soon realized that Morniesse was blind. The elf fumbled to stand up, and then searched for Ki'than with his arm. He then asked the ztaari to guide him to the tournament's sign-ups. "I must apoligize first." Ki'than replied. "You didn't return my handshake, and i didn't know you were blind until just now. But why would you be signing up for the tournament?" Ki'than then began towards the sign-up stall, going slowly for the severed elf. "Your blindness, no offense, would put you at a signifigant disadvantage." Though Ki'than may have come off as arrogant and insulting, he was purely curious, and meant no ill to the man.
The man's reason for frustration was soon realized - he thought I was rude, without realizing I am blind. Knowing how this would be treated in my culture, and knowing my blindness wasn't an obvious one, I sympathized with this man and his curiosities. The Ki'than moved slowly, trying to help me. I greatly hoped I wasn't being mislead - although my bear was following me. His footsteps were just loud enough to hear over the crowd.
After realizing the question asked of him, I smiled, and chuckled slightly.
"It would, wouldn't it? I can't use a weapon. I can't see my foe to defend myself."
This wasn't stated sarcastically, but more of jokingly.
"But, to put it simply...I want to inspire people. Let alone winning or losing, I just want to show people anything is possible."
I chuckled again.
"And you'd be surprised what years of practice can accomplish."
The elf had replied by saying he wanted to inspire people, and that his practice is what would help him accomplish this. "But what is better? Skill honed over years? Or innate, undenyable advatages?" Ki'than had thought about this question when he was younger, and on his own, he determined that if skill was equal, he who had more advantages over the other would be more likely to be victorious. But Ki'than also thought about if skill was not equal- how far could each advantage you had get you? It was a question he couldn't answer quite yet, and he had hoped on figuring it out through this tournament. Skill or advantages- which was more important?
Ki'than snapped back into reality as he realized that they had made it to the stall. "Here, there's nobody in line. The woman here will tell you the rules and how to sign up. You'll receive a coin, make sure you don't lose it." Ki'than set the man's hand on the desk and bid him farewell.
The man made an interesting comment about skill vs advantages, then grew quiet. Instead of trying to refute the comment in any way, I grew silent myself as I thought about what Ki'than had said. What could I really accomplish by doing this? Was this a mistake? Would any of my family even come?
Before my thoughts had any really time to grow into worries, my hand was placed on the desk and my ally bided me farewell. I turned back and waved at the man, and returned to the desk, bear brushing against me.
No, I had something to prove. I couldn't just sit and do nothing - I have to join the tournament.
The woman at the bar's voice came out and surprised me, as I was lost in my self-inspiring thoughts.
"Can I help you, sir?"
I nearly fell over in surprise, and I was lucky that my bear was in the way.
Out! I must get out! Qrin thought, and he pushed back through the rushing crowd in the middle of the street. Many were affected by his interruption of their flow, but none really noticed him; their minds focused on the goal, not the journey, and in this case, that was good, for Qrin managed to get across the street without confrontation. As well, somehow, he managed to stay upright amidst the crowd which pushed against him. This was a testament to his often practised skill: walking.
Then, Qrin reached the other side of the street. Were one to ask that infamous question as to why the Ztaari chose to cross the road in this particular instance, one would not receive a very satisfying answer from Qrin, for he did not know why he had crossed the road. He certainly knew nothing of what was on either side; in finding a place of refuge and serenity, he might have, for all his prescience, fared just as well on the side he had left as the one at which he had arrived. He was guided not by his own awareness, but by something deeper, perhaps something which wielded a might power to control his fate. Perhaps a…
But Qrin did cross, and upon crossing, quickly found a building to enter. The building was unremarkable, and the door was easily opened, but upon entering, Qrin was pleasantly surprised. The sounds of the exterior were quickly and unexpectedly muffled; the sun, too, did not intrude, and Qrin found a retreat from overstimulation in this darkness. Torches lit the walls, and various people sat alone on the floor, their eyes closed and their presence dimmed. An Elven female approached, and Qrin inspected her as part of his surroundings. In the fire-lit darkness, her skin took on a nearly human shade, as did her light hair. The hair was some white or blonde, naturally, but in this atmosphere it appeared definitively as the latter.
“Welcome to this place of serenity. If you come seeking refuge, I will gladly guide you to a place which might suit you.” The Elf greeted him with a calm, quiet voice. Qrin nodded - what she spoke of was what he sought.
The Elf brought him to a place at the back of the room, where she instructed him to sit and relax. There were no other patrons for a meter in any direction. Qrin placed his staff against the wall, and sat as he was told. His guide instructed him to close his eyes. He would have done so without her instruction. His eyes closed, Qrin relaxed.
Deep within himself, Qrin searched for peace and serenity. He could still hear the faint echoes of the streets; he blocked them out. He tunnelled deeper and deeper and deeper still, until he had found some hollow pit of abysmal presence, a place within nothingness. The paradox of his discovery was the only nonsensical existence he could understand. Always, he dealt with too much to know, and too little known. But in the place within nothing, there was nothing to be known, and so he knew everything.
There were so many places that he had thought himself to be - too many visions that he had been forced to see - but this was the one place which he could understand. It was the least real of all, but it was the most tangible to him.