Started by Brokkr, July 18, 2021, 11:53:41 AM

As we wait around, here is a story sort of in the vein of the old Coming Soon... stories.  We'll be putting sections of the story up every day or so.  Hopefully they will give some context to events, especially if you were not intimately involved in some recent events.

This stuff isn't presented here so you can use it IG.  Some of this stuff there would be no way to really know about IG, currently.

Year 61

The young girl, only six, trailed behind her mother as they trod the dusty street back from the meeting. The shadow of the man behind her overlay her own, a man with a grim visage and even more grim disposition.  She had already, in her own short life, seen him end the lives of two men and a woman in different incidents. Consequently, she felt as safe as she ever did in the public parts of the Outpost with him looming behind her.

The small group turned off the street, her mother producing a key to an innocuous doorway and quickly letting them into a room away from the glare of Suk-Krath, the dust and various smells carried by Whira. More importantly, they were away from the populace the girl never spoke around, having been schooled that she did not yet understand what was important to not speak about that might be overheard.

As her mother closed and locked the door, with just the three of them the girl knew it was safe to speak.  "Do you think the man on the salt flats is dead, mama?" said the slender child, so different from her mother save for her grey eyes.

Yaraya turned her body to face her daughter, her entire attention focused on the small child in front of her.  Deserving of such attention as few were, not only because of the blood tie, but because while others might think the girl odd, Yaraya knew from experience that not fully focusing would put herself at a disadvantage. "He is dangerous,  powerful and reports say he was not found.  We should not assume he is," said the woman, built of hard, brutish muscle.

"He left his own to die.  He has knowledge and power.  Useful, but not trustworthy," said the child.  Her mother could only nod her head in agreement, wondering how it was that this is what her daughter took from the meeting of the most influential in the Outpost, listening as she sat at the edge of the room.

Yaraya shared a glance with the man, who pushed in two certain places on a wall until there was a click.  Opening the hidden door, she took a glow crystal from a pouch, shaking it a couple of times before the three descended into the depths that were still, irregardless of what happened above, Archives territory.

At the first intersection the grown-ups continued on straight, while the girl reached out a hand to a corner, watching them turn a corner and the darkness slowly consume what little light the crystal threw into the corridor as they moved further and further away.  She did not mind.  These underground places were her true home, more than the crowded streets above.  She did not need light to navigate them, merely an outstretched hand.  And her sense of certain things, each with their own flavor, down in this crypt of dead artifacts of ancient times.  She moved into the gloom, a silent but familiar presence to those that spent their days in this place.

Her mother slid a key, one of the rare ones made of some metal, perhaps bronze, into the keyhole of the vault door.  The girl, now eight, had never been inside the chamber behind the locked door.  But it was a familiar presence, the space behind it one of the better ones to navigate the darkness by.

"Few ever get to come in here.  What we need is in a box marked with the Sirihish word for copper," Yaraya said, pushing the door open.  The girl trailed into the room, the flavors of the presences she used to navigate sharper as she was able to move closer to the objects which littered the shelves and chests in the vault.  As she had long ago come to expect, she could tell which of the things here she could sense, but gave it little thought as she began to gaze over the shelves and the various boxes on them.  Most were marked in Cavilish, but a few had writing in other languages.  She had ceased her language lessons last month with the wizened old man who spoke and wrote all the languages known to the Archives.  He was a man used to lording his knowledge over other members of the group.  A man now frustrated and envious of her progress, who told her that all she could do now to get better was read all the books she could find.

Her mother trailed fingers over a few objects as she looked over the room, clearly not looking for a word she would not recognize.  Yaraya's fingertips stopped on a red clay bowl, glazed with a swirling of different colors.  One of the things the girl used to navigate was within, its flavor very old.
The sound of a clay lid being removed, that slight scratching noise as one old, hard piece of clay rubbed on another, could be heard almost precisely the same time the girl found the box she was looking for.  She opened up the box and retrieved the small nugget within from among the contents, then closed it and pushed it back into place.

"I found it, mama," the girl said, as she turned away from the shelves, nugget in hand.  Her mother's attention was on the amulet the adult held in her hand. A lopsided polished stone with a hole through the top, through which a rawhide strip, much newer than the stone but still long dried into hardness, it did not look like much but the girl could feel it moving with that extra sense of hers.

Smiling as she reached out a hand for the nugget, the woman with short cut, drab sandy-brown hair said, "Do you want to see something strange?"  At a nod from her daughter, Yaraya reached out and lowered the amulet over the girl's head.  The entire thing was too big for her, the stone suspended at navel level, but the girl gasped in surprise as the stone settled into place.

Colors had leapt into being, where none had been before.  Wonderful, chaotic, detailed mosaics of color, where before there had only been the sense of something, a flavor of this or that. She could see what she had before only felt and it was glorious!

The mother felt a rare moment of joy as an enormous smile spread over the girl's face, a rare thing quickly overshadowed by a unique event for this girl, a true squeal of joy as she spun on one foot, making two complete circles as she took the room in.  Yaraya also felt amazement, that this would trigger such joy without the moment of terrible fear at what she was seeing, like when she herself had first been allowed to wear the thing, so many years ago.  Of course she had been older, so perhaps it was just because she had been more sensible than this odd girl.

As for the girl, the world suddenly made a lot more sense.  Except..that.  That space of wall, right there.  She could sense it.  She could not see it.  She was intrigued.  It overpowered even the wonder she was feeling, this puzzle, as learning always did.

Her mother looked on in sudden confusion as the brightness was suddenly gone from the girl's face, replaced by the look of utter concentration she was well familiar with.  The confusion was heightened as the girl walked to a section of bare wall, her gaze intent upon it.

The girl reached out to touch where the feeling was, on the wall.  As she touched the old stone wall, color bled into her sight.  A complex snarling of colors, it wasn't quite right.  Those strands should be there.  Those here.  The puzzle grew more in focus as the girl's concentration on it became utter.  Her force of will on what should be, rather than what was. And then she saw it.  It was simple, really.  The tying of these colors to specific locations, she even knew what it meant.

And the girl used her finger to write upon the ancient wall, in an ancient language spoken openly now only by servants of two who had lived centuries, "Old Kings die."

The mother was surprised, and yet not, at a small compartment opening in the wall.  Not something she knew was there.  Likely something none of the Archives had ever known was there.

The girl's ten-year-old slender face was impassive as she regarded the rotund, black-bearded man in her room.  "Those are my things.  Do not touch them," she said, as his hand was halfway to an intricately-carved pymlithe box on a dresser, beside her bed.  Her own room, lit only by the glow the man carried, was one of the privileges afforded to the daughter of someone in Yaraya's position, and everyone in the Archives knew how jealously that privilege was guarded by this slight girl.

The irritation on the face of the man who considered himself the better, the adult, was as familiar as the jealousy and greed writ large in his eyes.  He was, truthfully, not really one of the Archives, despite having lived in their space for the last year.  After a year of trying with elementalists known to Yaraya within the Archives, the girl's mother had succeeded in finding a mage of a different sort and persuaded him to train her daughter in return for access to some of the things in the Archives possession.  If he had truly been Archives, she would not have let him open the box.

From the first, he insisted that she call him Master, and would only call her Apprentice. It did not take long to realize that he considered himself above the others that inhabited the dark, hidden places in the Outpost. Nor long to know he was greedy and with enough of an ego to think that someday he would be able to simply take all the knowledge he saw in their spaces.  Fortunately for the Archives, and somewhat unfortunately for the girl, he was incompetent.  Master of a mere seven magicks, he was useful to her in learning the basics of the energy that must be used, the words, components and calling.  And, of course, the seven spells.  But beyond that he had ceased being useful to her half a year ago.  Knowledge since then she had to dig from dusty tomes and old accounts and experimentation, combining the knowledge with her experience of her own unique sense as she learned things like how to tell from the flavor of something whether it came from elementalism, sorcery, or powers even older.  If he had been useful still, she would not have let him open the box.

"I see you have warded the box," he said as his hand stopped, almost touching it, superiority conveyed by the tone, "which you will teach me how you did, later.  You no doubt see I have the magick that calls on vivadu in place.  Nothing like your little ward can hurt me."

It was true.  Her own mother had tried to open the box a few weeks prior, the tiny sparks that burnt her fingers a warning that her daughter considered the contents of the box private.

His fingers touched the box, and the sparks flew to touch them.  And suddenly grew, consuming the magick her "Master" had placed upon himself and growing stronger from it, due to the way in which she changed the magick once it was set in minor ways.  The sparks were suddenly streams of fire that encircled the man in a spiral and then sunk into his flesh.  Screaming, the man fell dead to the floor, the first and last who would consider themselves her "Master".

She could sense several things in his pockets and pouches.  Minor things.  Yet being Kuraci the lessons of the waste had not been neglected to be drilled into her, so she started digging through the dead man's belongings.  After all, she always did admire his finely tooled boots, they would make a nice gift for the grim man.

The willowy twelve-year-old girl had grown, her face slendering as her transition from girl to woman began.  Still, anyone looking would think she was out of place among the others in the room, most of whom were working to free the roots of a tree that extended down into the stone of the floor.
Working with frantic intensity, they did not seem to be getting anywhere in their task, with no progress other than some chipped stone from around the roots and some chipped tools from where they attempted to sever the roots themselves.

This tree was critical to her mother's plans.  It was clear from the old texts that it provided some sort of protection for the Outpost.  The Archives would need some sort of protection, when they left it.  But now, after little success, they were running out of time.

The girl, for her part, had spent the entire time staring at the glorious thing.  Certainly the physical manifestation was fairly ugly, truly.  But the combination of her own sense and the detect magick spell let her gaze on the true, infinite majesty of the thing.  Still, the others were not going to be able to complete the task.  As at most times, her presence was accepted among those of the Archives, with few paying attention to the odd girl as she stepped up to the tree and extended one hand, to lay against its trunk.

And then she narrowed her focus, her concentration going to the magick and its details and wondrous complexity.  And she began.

Far outside the Known, the head atop the chitinous exoskeleton snapped to one side to gaze in the direction of the faraway Outpost.  It must be the one who had been opening the places he had stashed things.  The one who had opened the vault he thought none other that himself could find, much less open, just recently.  The vault containing details of ancient spells, such as the one only in use by the northern sorcerer and his brother, the old man in the south, and himself, to his knowledge.

He had felt it, in a brief moment of clarity and mental joining.  The tree was destroyed now, unable to be linked to more than one sorcerer as the other had tried to do.  His link to the Outpost was destroyed with it, no longer able to sense, regardless of distance, what secret places were opened and where the inhabitants were and all the other things.  But that was not what amazed him.  He had almost been expecting it, after the vault was opened.

It was during that brief instant of mental joining as the other tried to link to the Tree that was already linked to him, that he could feel the other's sudden amazement, not at the explosion, but at the nature of one specific protection the Tree had been powering.  What it had been keeping at bay.  And their amazement became his, as the other rewove the protection, binding it to the roots that still survived.  It would be weak for a brief period, but protection that had taken him much time to prepare and put in place was redone in nearly an instant, on the fly.

He had no idea how it was done.  There were few that this one did not ever want to ever encounter, not again.  There was something, something they had he did not.  He did not know what it was.  And it scared him.  His Master.  The one from the Southern city.  And now this one.

He turned, and began to head in the direction away from the Outpost, the same direction he had headed, in general, for a very long time.  The clutch followed.

Protected from the explosion by the same magick her "Master" thought would protect him, the girl looked over the other survivors, picking themselves up with stunned slowness, not yet aware of wounds. "We need to leave now.  Something truly dangerous is coming," she said, and as she noticed the nature of the pieces of wood scattering the area, "Gather all the pieces you can, especially the large ones."

While mostly this odd girl and her activity was ignored, when she spoke, the people of the Archives knew even in times like these to jump to obey.

The girl could tell her mother was worried, as the wagon bounced over the old road which had not known repairs in King's Ages.  She could tell her mother was worried, and planning, now that the protection the older woman had hoped for was not going to be in place.  Her mother ever thought about preserving the Archives, the knowledge and people, and those goals are what the daughter was raised with, and accepted.  Their plans would now need to change to succeed in those goals.

"We can go to the old keep in the forest.  We will be secure there," said the girl, thinking in reality about the things she could perhaps do there.

"Yes, but we would lose most of our people getting there.  What would kill those seeking to get to us if we were there would kill us getting there," said her mother, quietly.

"Find the man from the salt flats," the girl simply said, in reply.

I hope you had as much fun reading my story "Daughter" as I did writing it.