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[IC Thread] The World of Ash

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Jasmine flinched when Matthias suddenly pinned the wolf to the ground, taking a step back more reflexively than consciously. When it appeared that the wolf was not harmed and Matthias was simply affirming command, she relaxed and nodded in response to the man's words. As he guided the white-clad man to his room, the bard glanced at the wolf and lightly folded her arms across her chest, beginning to feel the cold air that slipped into the inn. "Well... I don't know if you can understand me but, I believe you know enough to respond to humans."


She suddenly felt a bit awkward and, in an attempt to hide that fact, fixed the balance of her bag on her shoulder before heading towards her room. It was down the left hallway and towards the end. Trusting Matthias' words, she believed the wolf would follow her without much prompting. Still, she couldn't resist a glance back over her shoulder to see if he was. The wolf was following just fine, a few feet behind, and seemingly as excited as a moment ago when Matthias released him. It was a wonder, trying to think of what might be running through the creature's mind.


Once at her room, she unlocked the door and headed in, waiting for the large canine to enter before shutting the door. She settled her bag onto the bed and rested her flute case on the floor beside the small side table. Looking up, she listened as the wooden structure creaked from the force of the blizzard outside. A small frown formed on her face as she glanced down at her bag, suppressing a shudder at the thought of the intense cold. Jasmine pulled her coat on, moving her bag to the floor and against her flute case.


The knocking drew her attention and she opened the door, finding Matthias in a thicker set of clothing with his belongs in hand. She was about to offer her help in carrying something to lighten his load a bit but she guessed he would refuse. After all, he simply had to take two steps and could set his things down. So, she kept her question unasked and, instead, shut the door behind him. Already, Matthias was making himself comfortable on the floor near the door, offering his wolf companion to sleep beside her for extra warmth. Jasmine declined, leaving the creature near the man for his benefit.


Leaning down slightly, she clicked off the small lamp [[at least, I think there's a lamp]] and climbed into the old bed. Out of habit, she quickly braided her hair in the gloom before setting her glasses on the side table and resting her head on the pillow. Within moments, her eyes slid shut and she fell into the waiting arms of sleep.

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Matthias paused as the stranger explained himself. The compliment felt confused coming from someone he knew so little about who volunteered even less. Was it a compliment, honestly, or not? In truth Matthias wasn't inclined to believe the man to be insincere, then again, he was tired of socializing for the night. He could have had a lengthy conversation, explaining in detail why a "wild man" such as himself, had such an extensive vocabulary, especially considering his lack of and dislike for social interaction. The explanation would have involved his mother and her focus on his education, his father and the connections the man had kept up with the rest of anyone who knew anything in depth throughout the farming community from whence he had come. Then of course the question as to why such social skills hadn't been lost over the years would have arisen. Then would have followed an explanation of the fact that Matthias spoke to Rip constantly as if he could understand him completely. They would talk about day to day events and even philosophical ideas, though it was a one way conversation. It was a way to pass the long days and cold nights. But all of this was more than Matthias either was inclined to or had the energy to explain to the man. These thoughts passed through his mind as the man finished speaking and he simply replied with a nod, leaving the room and exchanging 'goodnights' with the man before venturing down the hallway to Jasmine's room.


She opened upon his knock and Matthias was glad to see that Rip, while excited, hadn't done anything noticeably wrong and Jasmine wore an expression of welcome not distress. Matthias nodded in greeting and after she refused to sleep with Rip, which was understandable, it took some getting used to and to the average person it probably wouldn't have been an appealing offer to begin with, Matthias simply didn't want her to get cold. In a few minutes she was lying down and her breathing lengthened, she was asleep.


Matthias lay awake with Rip for a few minutes, considering everything that had happened that day. The new environment, the new people. His thoughts drifted idly to the injured woman he'd seen earlier and he mumbled a silent prayer for her rapid healing, wondering in his mind who she was and if she had received his gift. Some might find it odd that he gifted his earnings to one stranger and his time to another, but in his mind it was very simple. He had extra that he wasn't using and didn't need, and people had happened into his path who could use his excess more than he, giving it away was just natural.


Matthias laid an arm across Rip's neck, scratching around the collar, one of the few ways that Rip actually enjoyed being touched. "We're leaving as soon as the blizzard is over, until then I will let you make friends, maybe I'll even give it a try... but everything is short in this life for you and I, even living is short, so don't expect anything more to come of it..." Oddly enough, Matthias found that he was lecturing himself against false hopes more than he was Rip. He sighed, rolling onto his side and hugging himself up to Rip, the combination of his furs and their combined body heat quickly brought his body to a comfortable sleeping temperature and he allowed himself to fall from the conscious realm... he was asleep.

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(( Bump. I'm going to force RP forward if there's no activity by Tuesday or so. Sorry for the wait, guys, the only two characters still "up" right now are Packgoater's and LadyNatasha's. ))

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((Alright, Arctic. I think we've all been hanging around and waiting for LN to make her post but she hasn't posted anything on the site since the 18th.))

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((My apologies. TG break was more hectic than I expected. Such absences as this one won't occur again without notice. If Pack has nothing to add, we can move on. Pack, I'm assuming slightly to speed things along. Post if you have any changes I should make and I'll edit accordingly.))


Rune chose to completely ignore his brother's presence and the other conversations going on around him for the rest of the time he was down there. Instead he focused on the stranger before him. Like most people the stranger didn't seem to like Rune initially. It was no surprise to Rune; not only was his stance rather aggressive and sly, but his voice was no more inviting. As a child, he had often been blamed for things missing or broken, because he looked like the one to do it. It had taken him years to realize that his general portrait was what caused such extra caution from strangers, and more than once he had used it to his advantage. Today, however, that was not the case; his brother's presence and actions were agitating Rune, as was the sudden call of the inn-keeper ordering everyone to their homes. Rune sighed; he had just been preparing to examine the wound. However, he figured it was probably best to perform any surgeries in a more private setting anyway.


A cleric he had called himself, mostly because it fit who he was overall better than 'doctor'. It fit who he was at heart along with his score of abilities, in a rather twisted way. But he had no doubt in his abilities; he knew what he knew, and he didn't know what he didn't know. There was no gray for him when it came to learning anything medical. If he set his mind to learning it, he would. If he didn't, he wouldn't learn it at all. The very few things that he couldn't do but knew of were things that no one he had ever met could do, but could only tell him of. That said, there were many things he had yet to learn because he'd never heard of a way to learn them, not with the money and equipment and time he had. This frustrated him, but such was the way of life.


As the inn began to clear, Rune cast a glance at his patient. He wasn't surprised to see a look of worry cross the stranger's face. Rune himself was a bit uneasy, but he couldn't turn the man down now. Anyway, Matthias and his wolf were going to be in the room right across from him. If anything went wrong, he was sure a shout would bring them swiftly to his aid. That was one (perhaps the only) positive side of traveling with a big wolf.


"I never been in a place like this before. I've a horse outside and I don't know what to do with it. I don't know where they go. I live far away from people. Alone. Where do I go?"


Rune blinked, more surprised than he figured he ought to be though his face didn't show it. His mind attempted to piece together all the statements the stranger had just made so he could give the quickest logical response possible and get on to more important things, like the actual healing. He didn't care where the man came from. He simply didn't want to be haunted by the man's ghost should he fail to treat the man. Then suddenly the stranger offered him the raw meat he had offered the inn-keeper earlier. Rune stared at it with a blank expression.


"Take this. It's the only thing I have to give you. I can get more easily enough." Rune shrugged and took it without hesitation; he wouldn't take a man's honor by not accepting such a large offer. In Rune's eyes, this man had just offered all he had as a sign of gratefulness for something Rune hadn't even done. It would be shameful to reject the offer, shameful for both Rune and the stranger.


"Please. Help me."


Rune chewed on his top lip a moment, assessing the man's arm again. "Alright. Follow me," he said. He glanced once more at Matthias--still talking to the bard? And now the other fellow had joined the conversation--before trudging up the stairs of the inn. "You may as well stay in my place for the night," he stated, motioning for the man to follow. "I'll treat your wound upstairs."


I'll just leave my things in Matthias' room. That way, the stranger can't steal them if he has any second thoughts.


He opened the door to the small room and immediately began preparing it; he put all of his things to the side except for his medical equipment, most of which was on his trench coat. Some was in the small backpack he had. He lay out the equipment in an orderly fashion on a piece of deer-hide, and then he put a long fur on the ground for his patient to sit on. Then, when the stranger was ready, Rune examined the wound. He talked through what he was doing. As he spoke, his voice was very monotone and automatic. His eyes were cold and calculating, although nothing seemed to surprise him about the injury. As he cleaned it he explained that it was infected, and that it was a good thing the man had come when he did. Rune then began to bandage it up. Throughout the whole ordeal, he didn't once ask the man who he was, where he was from, or how he had obtained the wound. Normally he would ask the third question for the sake of treating the wound, but whether because of his tiredness or some other reason, he forgot.


Only when he was completely done treating the stranger did he ask questions, but first he gave answers.


"If you gave your horse to someone involved with the inn, I'm sure he's fine. No one can steal it tonight unless they butcher it, because no one can get out of town. You might have to pay for any feed or bedding they give him..." remembering the stranger had no coin, Rune quickly added, "but it's not that expensive. I can pay for that." He furrowed his brows thoughtfully. "You... I understand you live alone, but you seem quite unprepared to come into town. Are you going to be able to find your way back?"

Because I'm sure Matthias would just LOVE to detour from his regular hunting rhythms to help a random stranger who came unprepared and half-crazed with desperation and confusion into a town for the first time in probably his entire life. Well not quite crazed. Reminds me of Matthias, actually. Rune couldn't help but crookedly smile at the thought of Matthias' response. He'd no doubt take that pretty bard right into the woods and to her little house was it out there, but a strange man that his brother treated for a wound? Far be it from Matthias to help such a person. Speaking of which...


As he awaited the stranger's answer, Rune poked his head out of his room... just in time to see Matthias packing up his things and giving his room over to a stranger. Rune closed his door quickly, then allowed himself to head-bang against the wall before turning and smiling at his patient. "Well. I guess we'll both be staying here tonight. Please, don't... don't touch any of the equipment there."


Rune made sure his things were moved to a single corner. He then wordlessly put his trench coat and a few other small furs he had in a corner of the room near the door. "You can sleep on the bed tonight," he said tiredly. What Rune was doing was foolish. He knew this, too; Matthias was sleeping who-knows-where and Rune was going to sleep in the same inn room as someone he barely knew, and all of Rune's supplies and equipment would be in that same room. Rune had a crossbow, but the man could easily have a dagger. But Rune had his reasons for not changing his way, rooted deep in his past and his personality. Still, he placed his things right next to him. He gave the stranger a final tired smile. "If I don't awaken before you tomorrow, wake me so I can check on the wound."


With that, Rune burrowed in the furs he had set near the door. He was asleep in minutes.

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((Nah, looks fine. Sorry this is really short, but I really don't have much time. D:))


The other man took the meat and Jed nodded to him, knowing that this meant that he would be accepted as a patient. Finally someone was willing to help, and this help meant that Jed could get back home quicker. He wondered what the other man could do for the cut; Jed couldn't really remember what his father did to the cuts he sometimes got, but he assumed it had to with a bandage or some such thing, though this was a far larger cut than he had ever obtained in the past, and far redder as well. As the cleric chewed on his lip thoughtfully, likely deciding whether he could help Jed with his whole lodging situation, he finally consented and walked up the stairs into the inn. After just a slight hesitation, Jed followed the cleric, slowly plodding up the stairs. He was grateful to this man, and felt as if he owed the man something, though he wasn't sure what he could give. Somehow Jed doubted that a piece of meat paid for medical service and lodging, or even one or the other. After all, the look the bartender downstairs had given him was not exactly promising in that regard, and Jed wondered how someone was supposed to pay for things in this place.


The room that the cleric had rented was small, and had a variety of things in it, some of which the cleric moved to the side, and some of which he rested on a deer hide. Jed was wary of the materials; he hadn't ever seen anything like them before, for his father had never had to treat anything too serious and besides, his father really wasn't a good healer himself. There wasn't much concern about health, quite honestly, at least so long as you could function remotely well. That was the only reason Jed had started to look for help in the first place; he wasn't able to throw a spear as well because of his would, and it had become too painful for him to just brush off.


Though he did appreciate that the man was talking to him, Jed didn't really pay attention to the man's words. Instead, he was off looking at everything in the room, which were all sorts of interesting things he'd never seen before. In comparison, he found his own items rather primitive and drab; even his father's daggers seemed dull in comparison to the other things in the room. The oddest thing was the bed. Jed knew what they were, but as for sleeping on one? No, he'd never really slept on one and the prospect of doing so made him uneasy. What if he fell off? It was rather high up off of the ground, but that would have to do; the man had already offered it to him, and Jed was not about to turn down this show of kindness. The question that was asked of him, however, was striking. How did he get back to his place from here? Jed had no clue. He tried to think of how, but came up with nothing. Perhaps he'd wander across someone, perhaps not. All he knew was that he would end up getting home to his daughter, for if he was going to survive this, which by pure chance it seemed he would be, than surely he was meant to return to her.


Jed pulled at his fur coat and dragged it off of his woolen shirt, which had a rather foul odor, for he had no other shirt to wear. He pulled out his sleeping bag and rested it on top of the bed and then pulled off the outer pants he wore over his woolen ones. His mittens were dropped to the floor and shoved to the side as well as any other 'valuables' he possessed. The other man's things looked nice, and for a moment Jed considered stealing them and running off, but the fact that this man had been the only nice one to him stopped Jed. With an almost ashamed look on his face, he crawled inside his sleeping bag. He could not steal from the cleric, for though his things were nice, the cleric had done a good thing; he had helped Jed get back home to his daughter, and to steal something from him would be wrong, even by Jed's standards. No, just falling asleep would be much better. Of course, there rose another problem. Jed's sleep habits were anything but satisfactory, and undoubtedly he'd end up staying up for a good portion of the night just as he did at home. Except at home he was more comfortable than he was here. He was with a stranger right now, trapped in a room. Though Jed always slept with one eye open, he was sure that tonight he'd be especially awake.


Perhaps it was because of the bed he slept on or perhaps it was just because he was tired after all of this, but Jed did not sleep with one eye open. He fell asleep quickly and went into the first deep sleep he'd had for a long, long time.

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The cold winter evening only intensified as darkness enveloped the land. The people of Winterbury pulled shutters closed, locked their doors, lit their fireplaces and sat in silence as the tempest slowly moved in to shroud, surround and bury the small town. Shortly after nightfall, when most were asleep, the night guard arrived from the city bunker. Each one was dressed even more warmly than usual and carried a firearm. They made rounds through the streets, lighting various braziers and torches placed around the pathways. A dull glow was now cast over the weather-worn buildings of the village, flickering with each gust of wind, much like the flames that created them.


It was perhaps three hours after nightfall that lightning and thunder joined in to the fray, the fearsome things bringing with them an assault of hail and sleet. The snowfall increased, flakes blown to and fro by twisting, torrential winds; it threatened to bury the city, and promised a cold awakening to those locked away in the many homes and shops. The combination of the many sensations brought by the blizzard were enough to make any man caught outside miserable. The sounds of whipping winds, thumping hail and the clash of lightning and thunder formed an orchestra of power that promised to awaken and reawaken all but the heaviest of sleepers. Above, the swirling clouds moved quickly and vehemently in spirals as they dragged over the sky, illuminated by the lightning only occasionally.


By two in the morning, most doorways had been blocked in by snow, and the night guard had already begun shoveling it away. Those that were not tending to the shovels and to the relighting of torches stood atop the walls, which creaked and groaned as they blocked the brunt of the wind. The guards, however, were time and time again pushed nearly to the point of falling, having neither the weight nor the strength to stand up to the zephyr. It was a miserable sight in a miserable night.


At perhaps three hours before morning, an almost deafeningly, blindingly loud and bright explosion lit the sky, shaking the Earth and bringing to mind the detonation of a bomb. It almost assuredly awoke the entire city. It was but a lightning strike, though a large one, with many smaller arcs of electricity spreading out, dancing along the undersides of the clouds and dissipating chaotically in to the air. The rumbling lasted nearly a dozen seconds before things returned to the norm. For the remainder of the night, the only sounds were that of hail, sleet, thunder and snow tapering off in to nothing as the storm finally passed.




It was bright. Well, relatively, you see - it was never "bright", but it was brighter this time. The clouds were thin and allowed more light to be shone down by a hidden sun. The temperature betrayed the relatively sunny atmosphere, however, as the blizzard had delivered a drop of perhaps ten degrees Centigrade, reaching to far below zero.


Winterbury, having been buried by winter, stood with smoke rising from the many chimneys. Windows were tentatively opened in the early morning light, and people were just now waking up. The night guard, who had indefatigably braved the storm, were now exhausted and struggling to finish shoveling snow away from the many doorsteps. As more and more entrances were freed, more and more citizens joined the efforts to unbury the city.


The lobby of the Throne had minimal activity compared to the night before. Roughly a quarter of the number of patrons of yesterday were there now. Interesting, aside from three or four men sitting at the bar or at tables, the remainder were grouped together off in one corner. If one were to pay any attention to the group of about twelve, they might notice that a man sitting on the edge of a table was talking to them excitedly, though at any large distance it was impossible to hear what he was talking about. Occasionally, someone in the crowd might say something back, and a handful of the other townspeople around them would laugh, which clearly upset the excited storyteller.


Judging by his clothing, he was a scavenger, and one too poor to live in Winterbury for any reasonable amount of time. He most likely arrived this morning.

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The night had been miserable. If there was one thing Rune hated more than snow, it was lightning. The first few hours had been fine, but then the storm had hit. Rune had cursed it, which only seemed to make things worse. Every time the lightning woke him, he would immediately expect to see the stranger leaning over him with a knife to his throat. That was never the case, though. Rune never actually moved from his fur cocoon (covering even his head, with only his face barely out so that he could breathe fresh air), for he feared if he gave in to the horrid delusions that raced through his mind and sat up, he might start sweating. Sweating could be deadly during a blizzard, even if indoors.


Some time later there was a blast so loud, so great, that Rune was sure his heart skipped a beat. He was already awake fortunately, but when the great blast came he began to shake. Image after image repeated itself, zooming closer and farther from his face and through his mind. Their faces were all distorted too, and Rune felt himself choking. The blast... something about it was unnatural. That was what he kept telling himself; someone had caused it, or something had caused it. Someone else was alive besides him, he was sure of it. For the first time in a long time, he wished to hear Matthias' voice... no, not just Matthias, anyone really. Someone had to be alive.


He wasn't quite scared... not mentally, at least. He reasoned that his body was reacting in the fear that his mind wanted to encompass--that and the emotions that came with the memories. There were hundreds of medical terms he could place on it, but he couldn't decide which to say. He was mostly just surprised, tired and annoyed. This had happened so many times before. Still, perhaps there was fear; he had never felt so alone when it had happened. He just knew he was alone, very alone. He wished the stranger would scream or groan or even knife him, anything to bring life to Rune's unmoving body.


He wasn't sure how long he lay there, fighting what threatened to drive him over the edge he had so carefully crafted a barrier around. His hunting knives--he had three fair ones of different sizes--were far away from him, on the other side of the room. Good. He had his crossbow in his hand, but that was different.


"Xerostomia," he finally decided. So he did have a voice; that was comforting. "I need... water." The morning would come, and such a thing wouldn't occur for a few weeks at least. Certainly not so vividly. Rune cursed his weakness once more before closing his eyes and getting a few hours of rest.





He awoke shortly before the sun rose. Against his normal better judgment, he didn't check on the stranger or his things; he only wanted out of the room for a while. He had slept near the door, so he quickly slipped into his fur trench coat and stumbled out of the room. Fortunately he had quite a bit of his smaller supplies on the trench coat, so there wasn't much the stranger could take that could be hidden easily. Rune didn't look back, but closed the door quietly. He plodded down the stairs. Seeing him come down, one might think he hadn't slept at all and was ready to murder someone because of that. However, there weren't many people to think that, and the keeper didn't seem much more awake.

"Water, please," Rune said. He lay two tin coins on the counter before navigating to a table. "Water doesn't cost anything if you get the snow yourself," the gruff man behind the counter said. Rune shook his head. "Keep the change. I just need a little." The man shrugged and disappeared for a minute. Rune yawned and stretched, finally waking up. If anyone came down at this time, he basically ignored them. He was deep in thought.


Somewhere along the way he dozed off, but was only half asleep; he was reasonably aware of people entering the Throne. It was a bout of laughter that snapped him to consciousness. His eyes immediately found the group that was laughing. It looked like they had cornered some fellow... no, the man was sitting on a table, talking excitedly. He didn't look very happy though.


Curious, Rune stood and stretched, returned the tin cup that had held his water, then meandered over to the table to listen. The man was poor, a regular scavenger by the look of him. Rune was quite interested to hear what he was saying, as it wasn't every day that someone had something to say... especially around Matthias.

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"...an' the wolf came outta the trees aff'er me!" The man exclaimed. "Been chasin' me fer, oh, I reckon about two mile now, finkin' he's gonna take me down. Well, 'e can't see a damn thing in the blizzard, an' neither can I."


"Persistent thing, isn't he? Where are the rest of them at this point?" A woman asked.


"Oh, righ'. I danno what 'appened to 'em. Got los' in the chaos, I'd imagine. Couldn't see five feet in front 'a me, and neider could they." The poor man nodded, pausing for a few moments to think, scratching his scruffy chin. "Any case, me hatchet's long gone and burr'ied in some poor larker's head. Ain't got nuffin' ta fight the wolf with, so I gotta keep runnin', yeah? Scariest moment of me life."


"Must not be the adventurous sort, then," a gruff man mumbled. A couple people murmured in agreement and the storyteller shot them a gaze.


"This point, legs ar' burnin', feet ar' achin' an' I'm yearnin' fer a cup of hot drink. I 'ear a howl from behind me. Surprises me so much I let out a cough, yeah? Biggest mistake o' the night right there. Howlin' turns ta' growlin' and I take off runnin', stumblin' o'er meself in the snow. Been out there fer about nine hours now, danno' how I'm alive, but hey."


The man paused to let out a little coughing fit. He was most certainly sick, and if his little tale was true there was every reason to be. He cleared his throat and slammed his fist in to his chest a couple times, letting out one more cough.


"Jaysis. Arright. Anyway. I'm alive an' the wolf is jus' about upon me. I turn an' figure I'll strangle 'im to death, yeah? I turn, an' out of the snowstorm this big 'ol wolf betch jumps out. At this point ahm figurin' her pack were actually her kids, an' she blames me fer' her losin' sight of 'em in the storm. Anyway, girl comes crashin' out of the snow, teeth bared, claws a-swingin', jaw gnashin', an' in a fit o' luck I catch her by the throat and manage ta' wrestle her offa me--" He dropped his voice and leaned forward. "Oh, fergot to mention. She did tackle me to the ground there, figured that was a given, ah well,"


He cleared his throat and continued, his voice a very little bit raspy. "But befur' I'm up on me feet, well, I swa'er. The Lord himself come down ta' earth just ta' save me sorry arse. I'm on all fours tryn'a stand up on me feet, but the she-wolf's up and just about ta' pounce me an' send me on me final journey."


The man paused here and his expression took on a bit of a more serious tone. He cleared his throat and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his leather-padded knees. "And then God's holy fire reign down on the Earth. A flash of glorious thunder come 'round right above me an' cast angelic light all around. I'm at a loss fer' words. All seemed to happen in a blink o' an eye. A wave o' force descend down and knock my straight on to my arse and shove the she wolf aside, sendin' her tumblin' down a snowy embankment and out of sight. Now, needless ta' say, I'm shocked an' out of me element now. Takes me a minute to right meself, feels like I jus' got gored by a bull moose."


He cleared his throat once more and reached over, taking a green metal mug with a gloved hand and taking a long drink. He lets out a satisfied 'ah' and, surprisingly, nobody speaks, something he's seeming to wait for.


"But once I right meself," he points a finger straight up, "I look right up' ta thank the Lord... and I see his wrath. A ball of fire emergin' from the clouds above, great and fast, sailin' through the air at 'a million miles an 'our. Bright enough ta' be seen through the snow, through tha' sleet, through tha' hail. Well, I sit there dumbfounded and watch this great thing as it flies out toward tha' city. Can't really see the buildin's, you know, but once the ball o' flame get close, I see the reflections in the windows. Disappears amongst the buildings, it does, with a flash of light. I say me prayers an' stand up an' take off runnin', and what do ya know, I find this slice o' heaven not two hours later."


The man leans back and grins. "I'm a blessed man."


A moment of silence passed, and then the entire crowd seemed to jump out at him with questions, comments, and a bunch of 'now-hold-on-a-minutes'. The corner was suddenly much more noisy than before, enough to elicit looks from the men at the counter and the bartender. The storyteller blinked confusedly and leaned back, unsure how to respond to the assault of vocalization.

Edited by Arctic

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Matthias slept well that night, the wind was howling, the boards creaking, none of it bothered him, it was natural, like a lullaby sung by nature herself. Someone apparently stepped on one of her toes while she was vocalizing a high note because suddenly a peal of thunder like the sound of a thousand cannons and the force of a minor earthquake, shakes the building and the insides of everyone inside it and likely anyone for a mile or two. That was when Matthias woke up along with Rip, and he assumed, as his groggy mind was set into blazing action by the sudden kick of adrenaline, that the whole town must have all jumped out of their beds as well. Matthias smiled, waiting for the chorus of echoes to end.


Rip, fur standing on end and making him appear at least twice his size, pressed his body against Matthias' chest and didn't stop whining until the chorus had ceased, though he did seem to take some comfort in the fact that Matthias didn't seem phased by the noise. In truth, lightning was not all that scary, at least in Matthias' mind. You couldn't outrun it, you couldn't see it coming, it either hit you or it didn't and if it didn't then there was nothing to worry about, and if it was going to hit you... well there was nothing you could do about it so you might as well enjoy the show, at least that was his reckoning.


"Go back to sleep, both of you," He idly commented to Rip and Jasmine who was no doubt also awake, "some angel just accidentally dropped a glass and it broke is all." Matthias forcefully pulled Rip back down from his standing position. The wolf whined still but eventually lay still and seemed to be making an effort to fall asleep. Admittedly Matthias was a very light sleeper, however, he had the unique ability to seem to be able to fall asleep whenever he wanted, regardless of what was going on around him. Find a spot to rest and boom, pass out, it was one of the only reasons he could tolerate visiting a town at all, it didn't affect his sleep much. Rip of course was another matter, the poor wolf awoke to every strange sound or stray bark of a dog. The wolf would get very ornery and snappish if they stayed more than two nights.






The door to the front of the Inn opened and shut for the first time that morning. Matthias' eyes snapped open, it was time to wake up. Quietly he crawled to his hands and knees and then to his feet, nudging Rip to wake him as well. It didn't appear that Jasmine had been awakened but then he couldn't really tell in the dark and decided to leave her sleep if she was still asleep. Matthias rubbed his numb hands in Rip's fur until they were warm again. He packed up his gear and strapped the bag shut, leaving the room quietly and heading downstairs. Fortunately there weren't as many people as there had been last night, that was to be expected. Matthias had no difficulty finding an empty table near the wall and tying rip up to a knife again.


Matthias wasn't surprised to see Rune up as well, sipping a cup of water and staring off into space. Matthias considered going over to him and interrupting his thoughts, but in all honesty there was nothing to say, well, except for the obvious 'when are we leaving' that is.


Another man was sitting two tables over, and unfortunately attracting a crowd, Matthias had half a mind to move to the back again when the man's story caught his attention. He'd been out in the blizzard, idiot, being chased by wolves, careless, and running for his life, foolish, and had managed to lose his only weapon, unlucky... Matthias immediately decided that this man was not worth his time, he would have zoned out like his kid brother until the man mentioned the fireball falling from the sky...


Maybe an angel did drop the dishes... he mused. Then he sat, ignoring everything else for a few minutes while he thought. Fireball... heat... in the city... scavengers.... animals... attraction.... raiders... lurkers.... wolf pack...


If it was something real that landed in the city and it was on fire, that meant a lot of things. It meant sustained heat, at least for a while, and that would draw every reptile within a few miles along with tons of other animals who would be curious both about the light and the heat. No doubt dozens of scavengers would be on their way there to see what damage had been done to the city and what new treasure troves had been opened by whatever this thing was. Raiders would be less of a problem, even though they were so drawn they usually weren't excellent hunters, the lizards would keep them thinking twice about venturing out in the open.


All those people, animals, hunters and prey, so many. Matthias could feel his blood heat up at the thought. The entire thing was a delicious thought, hunters hunting hunters, and prey to abound. People hunting animals, animals hunting people, people hunting people, animals hunting animals, and the lure of treasure. It would be a glorious thing to watch, a game, entertainment. The chance to observe many hunters in action all at once, and perhaps even to participate, to gather more hunting equipment from the bodies of those who didn't survive. If nothing else it would be unique and interesting to watch, even if that's all that Matthias chose to do. Now he had something to say, and therefore didn't mind coming up behind his brother and ruffling his hair like he used to when they were much younger. He supposed that Rune probably hated it as much as Rip hated being pet... so why do it? Matthias supposed it was the same reason he did it to Rip, to she he was in charge, he was after all, at least in his mind, so long as his brother chose to stay with him.


"Let's go watch once the calm hits. I want to see all the people and the animals if there's really something hot that fell from the sky into the city. I'd prefer to just watch, but if there's a group forming to check it out, made up of good sorts of people not raiders and ruffians, then I'm not opposed to joining them if you're curious too, won't promise I'll behave though." Before Rune could respond, Matthias added, "and I'm sure lots of people will get hurt and be in need of your skills, could be a nice opportunity to get some more of those weird things you collect." And by weird things, Matthias was referring to Rune's tools, his surgical instruments and so forth, things that Matthias simply referred to as "those weird things you have," since they had no real names that he cared to remember.

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Sleep had been a difficult thing to keep and Jasmine found herself waking a few times during the night. Whenever she did, she simply laid in bed and focused her gaze on whatever was in her line of sight. She wouldn't move or shift position and remained as she was when she had woken. The bard would listen to the rhythm of Matthias's breathing and that of his wolf companion. Once her eyelids were heavy enough, she would fall back asleep until the next instant she woke.


When a loud sound echoed through the sky outside, the bard sat up abruptly and glanced towards the covered window. Suddenly Matthias's voice drifted in the dusty, cold air. Jasmine glanced over at him, noting his comment about an angel probably breaking a glass. She waited until he had laid back down, listening to his breathing and deciding that he was fast to fall asleep again. The wolf had been whining and she wondered if the creature was fearful of the unknown bang.


Eventually, her eyelids grew heavy again and she finally laid back down, rolling onto her side. She dreamt briefly after that, though she didn't recall much passed warm air and bright sunlight. When she woke again, it was to the stirring morning. She heard wood creak and rubbed her eyes, catching Matthias slip out the door. Sitting up, she placed her glasses on the bridge of her nose and contemplated the state of her braid. Finding it was decent enough, she left her hair as it was and headed out into the lobby after locking the room.


In the lobby area, Jasmine spotted the small crowd surrounding a man sitting on a table in the corner. Choosing to ignore them for the time being, she briefly examined the handful of individuals that inhabited the inn. She attempted to create background stories based on what she thought they might have been through. Some came off as the only child raised by a parent or two and out seeking some kind of adventure, something different from their everyday lives. Others seemed more like siblings trying to find their own shadow and attempting to step out of their older sibling's footsteps. Of course, none of these ideas were expected to even be remotely close to the truth; it was simply a small pass-time that the bard chose to entertain.


Something said from the man on the table caught her attention and she glanced over, listening with mild interest. He was mentioning something about a mass of light and heat falling into the city. This brought a slight frown to her lips and she grew disinterested as the man stated he was blessed because God had supposedly saved him. She was fine with his beliefs and she didn't have much of a reaction to what he stated other than tuning him out.

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((Random question - but what time zones are you guys in? I'm GMT))


Indigo was up long before the dawn. The night had been wracked and fierce, like a stuck machine, unsure whether to explode or just die out. Unsurprisingly, her sleep had left her tossing and turning, each plume of lightning rushing to the ground. Would they ever be able to harness that power? She wondered, pondering a use for this destructive element. She'd lain there 'till the dawn, considering this notion of using destruction for the good – but to harness the power would be hard and take up large amounts of space which would then tie her down. Not good.


Sighing, she pulled the layers of fur off her, and stretched her arms upwards as she yawned. Feeling the stiffness of the night in my muscles, she did a variety of quick stretches and was relieved to feel the slight ache in her muscles that showed she'd used them. Now for the house. Unfastening the curtains, she tucked them away in the metal chest that lay below. Strolling over to the fire, she scraped the few splinters of charcoal back into the fuel-bucket. Nothing could be wasted.

Picking her newly aired furs up from the floor, she wrapped herself in them, until she was shrouded in the coarse dark fur. It never felt right when she took it off, like she was peeling off her skin. Not for the first time she cursed humanity for its lack of fur. Armour and fur was what most of the creatures had, and humans were doomed. One way or another.


Grabbing her black bag, she slipped it over her shoulder, and strode towards the door. The blizzard seemed to have died down, and she could bet a deer carcass that the pubs would be crowded with trapped traders ready to give her a great price for her wares. She hoped.


Walking out into the street, she realised almost to her dismay that the shovelling was not yet complete. Yesterday's fall still fresh in her mind, she trod carefully around the edge of the roads, securing each foot before moving the next. The snow was still fresh as the brown mould of footsteps had not yet spread too far, and the street appeared deserted, although the waft of smoke drifted from the surrounding areas. Wasn't too surprising, this was the residential area. The workers would have long left, and those with the luxury of not working would stay inside if they had any sense.


Her energy spiked into the brisk pace she walked at, slowing only on a patch of snow she thought looks suspiciously deep, or an icy area where she skirted the edges. Walking – so treacherous, yet necessary. Bit like life really. She'd reached the main street now, and just peeking into view was her final destination – The Throne. Much as she hated the run down old building for the noise and bustle it brought, it was essential for trading yet despite her frequent visits she had yet to be accustomed to it. Her breathing sped up as she set her jaw into the grim façade of a trader – showing no weakness, no flexibility. She could trade, maybe not as well as those with silver tongues, but as long as she had the right goods then it wouldn't be hard. She'd long known the drill, trade scraps into money, money into food. A little profit got lost in the way, true, but it ensured trading supplies would always be successful.


Pushing open the door, she steeled herself then entered the crowded room. The majority of people would probably be traders or travellers, although a crowd had gathered around a man in the corner, who was talking animatedly about some kind of adventure. Doubt flicked through her eyes as she surveyed him – what was his purpose of telling this story? Would he be selling mementoes, trying to drum up trade, or just enjoying attention? She discarded the last thought – who would like attention? He had the place's full attention, so she walked over and leant against the wall, watching him carefully. Was he a conman? Either way, she wouldn't get any trade with this distraction, so she decided to stay and appreciate the warmth. What else could she do?

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Rune listened to the poor scavenger with something between fascination and confusion. He was less interested in the story (in his mind he was already dumbing-down the details to a more realistic scale, certain the man was far-exaggerating his tale) and more interested in the wolf part at first. From what he had learned from Matthias' strange companion and the way Matthias told his own tale, he tried to determine if the storyteller could be telling the truth at all. He hadn't really noticed if Matthias' wolf (he couldn't remember its name for the life of him... was it Pit? Something like that) had ever shown such destructive tendencies towards any creature, human or not. He had heard of wolves attacking people and had heard Matthias' tale of how he obtained his own wolf, but he hadn't ever seen wolves up close himself. Well, wild wolves. Not that he cared too much if that part of the story was true or not; it was just nice to be around people for a change, not drawing attention but not particularly avoiding it. Rune was now one of many faces, faces that would probably never see those around them again if they didn't live in Winterbury. For one day the faces were joined in a group to listen to one man speak, one man who was, for a few minutes of that day, more than just a face. But then he would return to the mundane existence of one of many. That was what life was made of; faces.


Rune raised a brow when the man began to change subject in his story.


"A flash of glorious thunder come 'round right above me an' cast angelic light all around..."


Rune shuddered suddenly as he remembered the explosion-like lightning that had erupted the night before. He listened with new interest. Could it be the same...? It must be. So it wasn't lightning, I knew it wasn't natural. But a ball of fire? Rune's mother had told tales of all kinds of bright spots of fire in the air somewhere above the foggy sky, 'stars' as they were known, but even her tales were not from things she had seen herself; they were passed down from person to person. She had mentioned wishing upon falling stars...


Switching to a more profit-focused file in his mind, Rune wondered if some sort of technology had somehow been activated and caused such a sight. He doubted the poor man would make up such a tale; why choose a blast of fire? Surely lightning of great size would have sufficed. He must have at least thought what he was seeing was fire, and heading in a focused direction towards the city, too...


Rune gasped and almost jumped when his hair was suddenly assaulted by a not-too-gentle hand. Recognizing his brother's momentum, he twisted his body and pushed the hand away with his own right hand. He gave Matthias a slightly annoyed look and his frown deepened when he saw the hunger in Matthias' eyes. He knew that look, and he inwardly sighed. It wasn't such a bad idea, really, but the way Matthias viewed it was what troubled Rune; it was all a game.


"Let's go watch once the calm hits. I want to see all the people and the animals if there's really something hot that fell from the sky into the city."


"Sure, watching is fun," Rune said in a monotone voice.


People were just the pawns in the game; predictable from a distance, unpredictable up close. Empty faces... even moreso to Matthias, Rune thought, for surely the man viewed them as nothing more or less than his next target or avoidance. It was a simple yet brutal way to view the world, Rune mused, but not unusually brutal. It reminded Rune of the bard Matthias had spoken to earlier, and he couldn't help but wonder what kind of animalistic thoughts Matthias had towards her. He set this aside in preference to think of his brother as at least half-decent. After all, when it came down to grindstones, Rune had to admit Matthias had a well-established system of justice.


"I'd prefer to just watch, but if there's a group forming to check it out, made up of good sorts of people not raiders and ruffians, then I'm not opposed to joining them if you're curious too, won't promise I'll behave though. And I'm sure lots of people will get hurt and be in need of your skills, could be a nice opportunity to get some more of those weird things you collect."


Yes, because the purpose of being a doctor is to hope people get hurt more often so I can collect more toys and money. I just love it when people kill each other over things like--wait, did he just mention joining a group? Rune's expression went from boredly-annoyed to quite surprised. He quickly let it fade, however, as if his surprise would change Matthias' mind. He couldn't remember the last time Matthias had suggested joining a group for more than just information purposes. Rune shrugged, moving a ways away from the poor scavenger and his crowd.


"Sure, if we just happen to run into any decent people in this city, I wouldn't mind joining them to hunt down a giant ball of fire that could or could not exist. Oh, or are we just hunting the people who believe this tale and call themselves hunters? I'm sure you'd find that very entertaining, and I'd find it profitable." His words were serious, not sarcastic, and not bitter either. In fact, he smiled. "Interested in forming a temporary 'pack,' are we? I suppose I am curious. I can't remember anything like this ever happening before. Oh, and by the way, we might be stuck with someone for a while anyway... seems like what you'd consider a 'decent' person, as he didn't kill me last night or run away with my things. My patient; he seems to have stumbled upon Winterbury out of luck, blessing, fortune, fate. His expression when I asked seemed to indicate he has no idea how to get back to where he came from. Doesn't matter much, as he lives alone and has next to nothing." Rune shrugged. "I'd like to leave him in the city, but he does about as well in cities as you do, and he has no coin. It might be best to just drop him off at the next smaller village or traveling group we come by. He's survived thus far, he must be useful somehow."


Rune didn't expect Matthias to like the idea, but he didn't think it fair to leave his patient at Winterbury. Rune's time-formed reflex was to not care; let the man wander. They'd never see him again and never have to know what happened to him. But his natural personality time and time again overcame that reflex. Besides, too many people thought that way and what happened when they entertained their thoughts... the result always hurt so many, like a chain reaction. Rune had sworn not to become like that, even if the world was only a mass of faces. Every one of them had a story, after all. Speaking of stories...


Rune flexed his jaw thoughtfully. "Maybe the lady bard would like to join our little expedition, hmm? Or isn't she the adventurous type? We could pay her I suppose. But. If she does come along, you have to promise to behave at least half the time." Rune gazed at the bard as he spoke. She had entered some time ago, although he wasn't sure when. His lip twitched slightly in a smile as he put together the puzzle of the previous night. Still gazing at the bard but speaking to Matthias, "Did... did you stay in her room last night?"


He decided not to ask who Matthias had let stay in his room. The question he had asked was innocently humorous; Rune could only imagine how strange it would be for the bard to have a man and a wolf at her feet (of course Matthias wouldn't sleep on a bed; the wolf couldn't comfortably fit), and he wondered out of what kindness of her heart or strange situational convincing she would decide to allow such a thing.


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Matthias could tell that his brother was originally sarcastic, then surprised, then curious as he suspected he would be. Rune was odd, he thought odd things, and he did so often. Matthias could see the thoughts in Rune's head, strange, distorted images that seemed to make the world a more complicated place. It was curious that the two of them tolerated one another so much. But in the end Matthias didn't think Rune was a fool, simply different, perhaps overly burdened with strange thoughts, but smart and reasonable once he was done with his strange thoughts and spoke his mind at least.


"A pack, no." Matthias replied, "people don't understand a pack, and I don't want to have to explain it to them." Matthias continued to listen about the patient Rune had acquired. He didn't comment, somethings were his brother's business and he would refrain from imposing his views over such things. It wouldn't be a big deal, especially if more people would be coming anyways. End of ends, the patient owed Rune, so if he was a good sort he would be useful at least that far.


"Maybe she would, I'll leave that to you to ask since you're better at those things." Normally Matthias would absolutely not have Rune speak for him. He had a habit of making it clear that he would do his own talking, he wasn't dumb, he just preferred a life of little to no social interaction with others humans. His brother was admittedly better at such things, but Matthias never asked Rune for his help and very rarely accepted it in such circumstances unless they were very important. Apparently he must be including this in the important category, though he wasn't particularly sure why. Perhaps, he mused, it was because she had demonstrated her life and her music, now he wanted to show her his music, the music and dance that was hunting. The thought itself was nonsensical, but to Matthias it seemed perfectly reasonable, he just wasn't sure how to put it into words or express it as such, therefore he opted to allow Rune to do the talking.


Besides, it was good to have Rune speak to people that Matthias had spoken with earlier, he had discovered this as a general rule over the last few months. People tended not to get as angry with him, or chase him, or throw him out, or start fights, when Rune spoke to them. Rune was correct in saying that he always found himself apologizing for, explaining away, or otherwise interpreting on Matthias' behalf. In that respect he was very useful to have around. See, Matthias knew when he angered someone, or saddened them, or said something wrong, the problem was he had no idea what to do about it to fix it, Rune was good at that in a weird sort of way. Maybe it would be best if he spoke to the bard woman. Besides... then he'd stop asking dumb questions to Matthias and ask them to her instead.


"Yes I did," Matthias responded, answering it as though that was all that his brother was asking or implying, which, to him, it was.


It was then that Matthias saw another woman in the Throne that caught his eye which normally no one did. It took him a split second of observing her to realize why his mind had picked her out, she was the same woman he had seen on his way to Winterbury, the one who had been limping and to whom he had attempted to give away his excess. It would be interesting to find out if he had been right in all his assumptions about her based on the few minutes he followed her on her way back. It was also on his mind as to whether or not she received his gift. Still, Matthias was not too keen on going over and engaging her in conversation. Another approach, however, had already crossed his mind.


He allowed a knife to slid out of his sleeve and into his hand as he took a piece of leather out of his pocket. It was rough leather, something that had to be chewed on or constantly pummeled to be made soft and useful in clothing repair. Matthias kept many of these in his pockets, chewing them was a pastime of his and Rip enjoyed it too, though he had to take them away from the wolf after a bit or the beast would just eat them completely. Usually Rip was given a day or two depending on how tough the leather was, then Matthias would chew on it for a few days as well and give Rip another piece. This one, however, had yet to be chewed into at all. Matthias lay the piece down on the table and carefully cut his mark into the leather as he had done a hundred times before. Then, taking it in hand and assuming his conversation with his brother was at an end, he strode over to where the woman was leaning against the wall, waiting for something by the look of her, and stopped about three feet away. He held out the marked leather to her and let it drop to the floor, then he turned without a word and went right back to his table with Rip and sat down, watching the woman's reaction from under his wolf-head/skin cloak (see picture in description).


What the woman did would tell him a lot, if she had received his gift, if she was interested in talking, if she was here to meet someone or to trade, it might even tell her if she was a loner or... well as Rune would say... normal.

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Rune had nodded once in response to Matthias' comment about the pack. He had been joking with his wording anyway, and as usual it was kind of funny when Matthias took him seriously. But he never said anything about it, not any more; he had come to realize that trying to explain some aspects of humor to Matthias was pointless and time-consuming in ways it really shouldn't have been. So, Rune enjoyed his own humor by himself. That humor, however, was short-lived when Matthias next spoke.


"Maybe she would, I'll leave that to you to ask since you're better at those things."

Rune stared at Matthias, trying to read his brother's face. Rune never was really good at reading Matthias and he knew Matthias was good at reading everyone, but that never bothered Rune as he seldom cared what Matthias was thinking and figured if it was important, Matthias would make it known. After all, his brother was strange but was not the back-stabbing type. He was more often brutally honest than ever hiding anything.


Rune wondered for a moment if Matthias had made the bard angry and wanted Rune to apologize for him. But no, it didn't seem that way. Rune glanced again at the bard, then back to Matthias. He really wasn't sure if this was Matthias' try at sarcasm (did he really NOT want the bard to go with?) or not. Yet Matthias stated without contempt or worry that he had stayed in her room, so... so Matthias was serious. And the fact that he hadn't disagreed with the idea of inviting her meant he had basically told Rune to invite her... which meant he really did want her to go with, and Rune had to at least ask.


Rune sighed. He began to turn away to approach the bard, but a sudden movement from Matthias caught his eye; the sliding of a knife from sleeve to hand. Rune shifted his head back so he could watch his brother, slightly alarmed. Somewhere in his mind he was keenly aware that he had left his own knives upstairs with the man he had doctored, but that wasn't important to him at the moment. He watched Matthias' actions for a few moments before deciding it was just another weird attempt at some sort of expression towards some person. Not wanting to get involved, Rune turned back towards the bard. Now he attempted to not look as deathly intent as he usually did. He walked towards her.


"Hello," he greeted, dipping his head slightly and meeting her eye. "Your playing is quite unique, thank you for playing this morning and last night. My name is Rune, I travel with Matthias there." He nodded his head towards Matthias, who had gone to sit down at a table (but looked strangely... tense?). He paused a moment. "I hope he and his companion didn't cause you any trouble last night. He's very talented in his trade, but we don't visit cities often... neither of them enjoy crowds." He allowed a small smile to touch his mouth. Rune wasn't a face-reader like Matthias, but he was quite used to seeing various negative reactions from people whenever he mentioned that he traveled with his brother (which he seldom did, except if apologizing for something involving brother or wolf or both). Whether or not the bard reacted negatively would hopefully tell Rune whether or not Matthias had been serious about wanting her to travel with them.

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Lost in her own thoughts, Indigo blurred out the dim chatter that surrounded her. Something about a giant wolf, a ball or light…same old junk. Like selling snow – no profit and a total time waster. Humans, so…strange? Greedy? Desperate? Who knew. For a second she imagined being the only person in the world – No, that wouldn't work. How would she get food? Food. Trade. Which this guy was stopping. Her stare narrowed to an almost glare subconsciously, targeted at the man.

A gleam of light shocked her out of the reverie. Someone had drawn a weapon.

Indigo had seen muggings before, and was yet to become the victim of one – but she pressed herself closer to the wall in an attempt to blend into the shadows. Scanning the room, the realisation dawned that the nearest exit was on the other side- if she was the target she'd never make it. He could easily beat her in close combat…could she dodge? Casting aside the thoughts when she saw the blade's target press against leather, Indigo mentally slapped herself. She couldn't afford to become paranoid. Just being around people…didn't rub right.


It was almost a relief to see that she wasn't the only worried person. A man slightly behind him shared the worried eyes – did they know each other? They were standing close, too close to be just a coincidence. Idle chatter? A wolf. There was a wolf. He had a wolf with him. A wolf. There was a wolf in the bar. A wolf. On a harness. A tamed wolf. With a guy. With a knife. A wolf. Suddenly the situation became a lot more intimidating. The wolf's harness – would it hold? Could the man restrain a wolf? Could anyone? The worried man hadn't done anything, so would it be ok to just stand here? Her mind wrestled with the thought of running, but there was no gain from fleeing.


He came towards her now, the leather he had been carving outstretched. What was it? Some kind of engraving? She couldn't see it from here. He was closer now, closer, closer, until he stopped and dropped it. What a waste. The thought bubbled up before she'd even condidered reasons – that was a strange thing to do with a piece of good leather. Then she recognised the ensign. It was the W – this was the man who'd gifted the sweets. Did she owe him something now?


Stooping down slightly, she picked up the scrap of cloth. The man had moved to a table now, his wolf closely behind. Well trained. Striding towards him, she moved closer to the table then without asking sat down on the other side. Placing the leather on the centre able, she downcast her eyes slightly – direct always made her feel uncomfortable - and spoke. "You dropped this. And, thanks."


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Dark shapes had filled Jed's dreams. The figures slowly lumbered towards him, but he gained no distance between he and them, even as he ran all he could. Several of them carried clubs in one hand, but all of them had at least one hand that reached towards him, their hands grabbing wildly for him. He did not have to see them to know what they were, for their barely-audible mumbles were familiar to him; he had gone over the noise plenty of times in his head, and even his daydreams were always disrupted by them. And suddenly, in front of him, he saw his daughter. Behind him the dark figures grew ever closer, plodding steadily forward, and in last effort, Jed expended all of his energy and threw himself towards his daughter, his own hands grasping for her as the dark hands did him. The moment his hands came around her in an embrace, her own body shuddered and became a liquid black just as those behind them. Jed merely let himself fall to the ground, defeated, as she brought her face close and started to bite him. He struggled and scrambled up, but the others were around him now, and he could do nothing but try and push against them as he felt his strength ebb. The figures became a sea of darkness that flooded around him, slowly closing in on him as he thrashed in its thick inky water. And just as he was about to be overcome, he felt himself drift into consciousness.


Jed's chest heaved and as he lifted a hand to his face he found it was damp with sweat. Crawling out of the sleeping bag that trapped him, he sat at the edge of the bed and struggled to calm himself down. It was just a dream, that was all that it was. But he knew that he had to get out, to run to his daughter. If only he knew how, if only he knew where he lived or how to get there. Rubbing his thumb against the bridge of his nose, he tried to remember anything significant around his house, but found he couldn't. There was nothing particularly important around his house, for he rarely left it for long, and certainly hadn't been this far from it in a long time. What could he do now? He would just have to try and talk to the man who had helped him before, for perhaps he would know something of the surrounding area. And somewhere in him, he knew that there was part of him that was glad he didn't know how to get back, but Jed pushed that part down. He couldn't let himself abandon his daughter like this.


Standing up, he pulled his outer layer of pants on and turned to roll his sleeping bag up. Over his coat, Jed strapped his belt on and attached his four daggers to that. Because he wasn't outside, he didn't bother to pull his mask over his face and instead of going on his pale bony hands, his mittens were attached to his belt. Pulling his black rubber boots onto his feet, Jed opened the room's door and stepped down the stairs. With relief, he noticed there was not as much to overwhelm him as there had been before, for it was nowhere near as busy as it had been last night. His cold eyes scanned the area, and he rested them on the cleric whom had treated him yesterday. He couldn't ask the cleric to take him to his daughter, for any man would kill her, and there was no way he could let anyone do that to her. At the same time, he couldn't not ask for help, for if he didn't he would be leaving her in a room with no way to get out. No way to even have a chance at survival. She would die either way, so how did he make the choice of which way it was to be done? Did he dare look her in the eye as a man slaughtered her, or did he let her perish with the thought of her father leaving her and promising to come back?


If only there was someone he could talk to about his problems, but even though there was a variety of people in the lobby, Jed found himself completely alone. None knew who he was, what he had been through, or what he needed. This was his punishment, to be left surrounded by others but unable to do anything. Just like his dream, really. He was surrounded by figures and had no visible way out. He was not as courageous as he had been at first; he had fought against the figures, had run from them even though he knew they would catch up, but in the end, he gave up and submitted to his daughter. He could only last for so long, and he had finally found his end point. He had to choose one or the other. And that little part of him, the part that had felt relief before, was just barely tipping the scale toward moving on.


The cleric was now by a woman, and Jed realized that it was the same woman whom had told him where he might be able to get some medical attention yesterday. Walking hesitantly toward the both of them, he kept his head low, which in turn accentuated his short stature, and his shoulders slightly forward. Though the woman had given him some useful information, he did not know her, and his eyes locked on her with an animal-like intensity. "G'morning," he muttered, his voice hoarse, and quickly cut to the chase, "I'm much debted for what you did. If there is anythin' I could do for you, just ask and it'll be done." His lips pressed firmly together in a frown, and he nodded to the cleric with a clear finality in mind. In Jed's mind, he specifically meant the finality of a person, for that would be the easiest duty for him to carry out. He'd have no nightmares about ending the life of someone, though it was sometimes a valuable service to others, as Jed knew from his days in the small group where he met his wife. Some people had a hard time actually taking the action out themselves, for they separated humans from animals. But Jed? Jed clumped them all together. It was the same to kill them. The same action was carried out and people faded away in the same sense than animals did. There was no difference doing it, so long as one did not separate their prey into different categories.


Because this was in his mind at the moment, Jed's fingers had quickly gone to his daggers, and they traced their edges thoughtfully until he realized a cleric would not likely be one to ask for someone's demise. With that, his hands retracted quickly from the blades and he instead knitted them together. Jed sniffed and pulled his attention toward the floor, averting his gaze from the cleric. He was unsure about these people from the city, for he didn't know if it was an accepted and commonplace thing to bring about the deaths of others, or if it was a horrific act greatly looked down upon. Either way, it was a necessary thing sometimes, so Jed hoped that people realized that and did not look upon him with disgust and horror. If they did, his life would very quickly become difficult.

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Matthias watched as the woman picked up the leather and walked over to him. Immediately he was angry, furious in fact, with himself. Her gait and manner told him that he had scared her. She could have been an omega coming up to an alpha after having done something wrong, the way she walked over to his table and sat down, not making eye contact. Did she expect him to harm her, or someone to? Was that normal in her life, to be harmed or in fear of being hurt? The thought of someone living like that, under that kind of mindset made Matthias' blood boil, but he let the anger go, it had no place here, it certainly wouldn't help. He remembered being that way, when he was younger, not self sufficient, beat up on occasion, always worried about doing something wrong, being too small, helpless. His fear had motivated him to become stronger, the strongest he could be, and it was the memory of those days that motivated in part his avoidance of others.


Rip, however, was excited to meet a new person, the last one had played music and this one had just tossed a piece of leather to him so that he could eat it... in his mind. The wolf began to move forward to grab the leather or greet the other woman, Matthias wasn't sure which but he caught the movement almost before it began. He snapped his head around to stare into Rip's eyes, glaring death at the wolf who hadn't caught on to the woman's body language. Rip did, however, have a decent understanding of Matthias' body language and immediately realized that he was one decision away from a beating and immediately lay down on the seat, tucking his tail and whining in apology for whatever it was he had done wrong. Good, that took care of one of them being intimidating.


"Please don't be afraid," Matthias spoke in reply. In his own way he did what made sense to him to put her at ease and make his intentions clear and sincere. He took out his knives, all seven of them currently on him, two form each bracer, two from each shinguard, one strapped to his left boot, one on his belt, and the one holding Rip's leash to the table. He set them to the side of the table, out of his reach and closer to her than himself. Then he set his hands on the table, palms up but not toward her, simply in proof that he had nothing in them and no intention to use them for fighting. If someone had did this in front of him he would have understood it completely, but he also knew that according to Rune he was not normal and people didn't understand him the way he did them.


Matthias looked down and slightly away from the woman, not attempting to make eye-contact, and shifted his body so that he was facing to her left not directly at her.


"I know if I had to, I could escape this place, even if every man here were trying to kill me, but that is because I'm a hunter in mind and body and it is simply what I do, in that way I am more similar to my wolf than to most people. You picked up on that, not many people do, you know I could kill you if I wanted to, you reacted to my presence as if you saw yourself as prey." Matthias paused, still not looking at her, "I am not hunting you, and you have nothing to fear from me or my wolf and while you are here talking with me, all harm that would come to you would have to get through me and that is a no small promise."


Hoping that he had set her somewhat at ease, Matthias turned toward her again, but still looked down at the table and his own hands instead of at her, though he did keep an eye on the other patrons in the bar in his peripheral vision, just encase she really had a good reason to expect one of them to hurt her.


"I was careless, I didn't expect you to recognize me for what I am, very few people can do that with just a glance, obviously you are used to having to size people up to survive. Please accept my apology for not reading you as well as you read me and approaching you as I did. I only wanted to know if you'd received my gift." Matthias continued, "if I had wanted to harm you I would have done it when I followed you back to Winterbury and saw you fall and hurt your leg. Instead I admired you from a distance, alone, facing the elements and the danger of that kind of life, seeing the determination and will in your steps that kept you alive until you reached the settlement. You were exhausted and hurt, and still you stopped to collect a metal scrap, I admire that, to me, you were a real person who existed, unlike most others. So when I had extra coin from my own trading I gave the gift to you, having already followed you back to where you spent the night, not because I pitied you or thought you were needy, or wanted anything in return, but because you were a real person who wasn't afraid to exist, and that is worth far more to me than the few trinkets and candies I gave out of what I did not need."


Matthias finished speaking, now willing to look at the woman. He didn't attempt eye-contact himself, but if she made it he would meet it with a gaze of steady sincerity. He only hoped that she understood what he had tried to say. It made sense to him perfectly, but she was already timid and he had used more words than he had intended to try and allay that fear. He wasn't sure if they had come out right or not, they simply had come out like a spring of flowing speech, intent on passing around the fragile canoe of her perception to calm the lake of uncertainty on which he tread.

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Rune had barely finished his last sentence to the bard when he noticed his patient from yesterday had come down. Looking up and down him once, Rune decided he hadn't decided to take anything (although he maybe looked a bit guilty...) from upstairs. Knowing that was comforting somewhat, and Rune nodded a greeting to him.


Then the man spoke, and Rune felt the same feeling of intensity from the man he had felt the other day. Rune didn't like it, but didn't perceive it as hostility either. It was perceived more as general intent, the intent to definitely do something and get it done. It was a good trait, sure, but Rune didn't understand why it was present in this man at this moment.


Rune opened his mouth to answer, but another sudden movement from the pale man caught his attention and his gaze immediately dropped to the man's hand. It had moved towards weapons, and Rune's first reaction was to shift himself between the bard and the patient. Yet a moment later the patient retracted his hands almost apologetically, and Rune relaxed. He smiled, moving out of the bard's way but keeping alert.


"Thank you," he said to the pale man. "Your offer is most kind. As a matter of fact, my brother and I could use an extra hand in our next endeavor. So long as you can hunt, we can provide you with any other necessities on the way. Perhaps we'll be heading in the direction of your home, although I don't suppose it's too important you return there." Rune then glanced at the bard. He meant to introduce bard to patient, but he realized he had never asked his patient's name. "I'm Rune Vashak, by the way," he said. He would normally have extended his hand for the man to shake, but he figured perhaps such a courtesy would be lost on a loner. Matthias certainly didn't grasp the concept. Rune had tried explaining that it showed there was no weapon in the right hand, but Matthias had blankly stared and stated there could be a weapon anywhere else on the body, why just check the right hand?


Thinking of this, Rune instinctively glanced over his shoulder at Matthias and could hardly believe the coincidence; there Matthias was, greeting another lady by laying all his daggers neatly out on the table before him. It was funny how often these things happened. Rune grimaced, deciding to pretend not to notice. Instead he turned back to the bard and the patient and tried to get more to the point. He spoke to the bard. "Actually, I was wondering if you wouldn't be interested in traveling with our group for a while? We could definitely use the cheer of music, and we would provide you with food and protection all the while. Even pay, if you wish. Might even give you ideas for new songs, if adventures inspire your music as much as it seems they do."


He was prepared for three things from her then; either she would reject the offer (he couldn't blame her), accept the offer, or ask questions. Where were they going? What were they looking for? What did he mean by 'travel' with them for a while? Rune wasn't used to inviting people to join him and Matthias, especially not non-scavengers and non-hunters, so he didn't quite know what to expect besides these three general responses.

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"Hello." Jasmine looked up at the new voice, smiling as he spoke and introduced himself as Rune. "I hope he and his companion didn't cause you any trouble last night. He's very talented in his trade, but we don't visit cities often... neither of them enjoy crowds."


"I thank you for the concern. Matthias and his wolf friend were no trouble at all to me. My name's Jasmine. Please, have a seat." Motioning towards the seat next to her at the counter, she turned fully to face him as she made her offer. It probably wasn't necessary since the man would have sat down if he so chose to without her offering. Still, she made the offer out of curtesy and, whether he took it or not, that was his decision to make.


Another man, the lost individual who had arrived last night with an injured arm, approached them and gave the cleric his gratitude. She noted the way he stared at her before focusing on Rune, and she wondered what kind of life he lived. Curious, she began to watch his movements. Her maple-colored eyes drifted down to his hands when she noticed his fingers rub against a set of knives he had on his person. After a moment, he seemed to realize something or change his mind to a different thought and pulled his hands away from the blades. The man seemed humble but out of place, kind of fidgety as if he didn't know what was acceptable amongst other humans.


It seemed that he was also waiting for a response from Rune and so she hesitated in saying anything to the stranger. However, it seemed she would not need to address the man just as of yet since Rune spoke up, shifting slightly as if intending to block her from the stranger when he had touched his knives. "Actually, I was wondering if you wouldn't be interested in traveling with our group for a while? We could definitely use the cheer of music, and we would provide you with food and protection all the while. Even pay, if you wish. Might even give you ideas for new songs, if adventures inspire your music as much as it seems they do."


Adventure. A strange term to call travel these days but generally the right term to use. "I would happily wish to join you and Matthias. However, I do not ask for anything in payment. As it is, I haven't had company to travel with in quite some time. Maybe a story will rise along the way." Jasmine didn't feel the need to comment about Rune's mention of food and protection. She was capable of hunting for herself and others but, certainly not as well as Matthias or Rune appeared able to. Still, she did not say anything and would leave it to chance for when she hunted for her next meal. As for the protection, it would seem like a bonus to all of them, not just herself. "When is it that you plan to leave? I'll be sure to be ready."

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(( Hey, guys, just popping in to let you know I haven't disappeared. Don't have time to type up a post now (it'd be lacking), but suffice to say that after his story and maybe some questions, the crowd would disband. Jovah's nowhere to be seen, so feel free to keep on with dialogue and the like. Character interaction's nice.


Hope everyone's liking the RP.


I'm CST. ))

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Perched on the edge of the seat, Indigo felt as if her attempt of confidence had failed, possibly even been seen as rude? She hoped not - staying out of trouble was high on her agenda. The wolf... Wow it was big...was moving now, and instinctively she flinched, eyes blinking. She opened them to see the man staring at the wolf, no, glaring. The wolf was backing down as well! From magnificent beast to a whining puppy in mere seconds. Impressive...yet intimidation was a dangerous game. S'pose if you were that strong, you could scare as many people as you needed, and they wouldn't be able to complain. Who would help them?


"Please don't be afraid."


Had it been that obvious? Sighing slightly, Indigo knew her poker face always failed. He was disarming now - slightly suprising if you thought about it, weapons were valuable and who has that many weapons? Knife after knife and knife, came out, and when the torrent finally stopped, he pushed them over to her. A grudging respect filled her, he had enough confidence in her abilities to know that she wouldn't be able to steal them.


"I know if I had to, I could escape this place, even if every man here were trying to kill me, but that is because I'm a hunter in mind and body and it is simply what I do, in that way I am more similar to my wolf than to most people. You picked up on that, not many people do, you know I could kill you if I wanted to, you reacted to my presence as if you saw yourself as prey. I am not hunting you, and you have nothing to fear from me or my wolf and while you are here talking with me, all harm that would come to you would have to get through me and that is a no small promise."


...was that a compliment? The honesty in his eyes shone through however, and she did start to feel slightly reassured. Glancing over, she could see the friend? cousin? was now talking to another group of people. Guessing that if he'd given the OK it was safe, Indigo pursed her lips slightly, thinking about which words to say next. He was slightly turned away from her, and that she was glad of, as having someone's full attention was an unusual sensation she did not appreciate.


"I was careless, I didn't expect you to recognize me for what I am, very few people can do that with just a glance, obviously you are used to having to size people up to survive. Please accept my apology for not reading you as well as you read me and approaching you as I did. I only wanted to know if you'd received my gift. If I had wanted to harm you I would have done it when I followed you back to Winterbury and saw you fall and hurt your leg. Instead I admired you from a distance, alone, facing the elements and the danger of that kind of life, seeing the determination and will in your steps that kept you alive until you reached the settlement. You were exhausted and hurt, and still you stopped to collect a metal scrap, I admire that, to me, you were a real person who existed, unlike most others. So when I had extra coin from my own trading I gave the gift to you, having already followed you back to where you spent the night, not because I pitied you or thought you were needy, or wanted anything in return, but because you were a real person who wasn't afraid to exist, and that is worth far more to me than the few trinkets and candies I gave out of what I did not need."


Someone had seen her? Indigo nodded slightly, a bit put out. "Aah. I owe you a thanks for your mercy then". Looking up, she concentrated her eyes on the center of his forehead, focusing in on the person she was talking too. "My name is Indigo." Pausing, she considered the point about existing. "You too, are a face that sticks out among the crowds. But is that a good thing? Attention brings trouble, and we don't live in the safest of eras." Giving a rueful half-smile, she continued. "And your...friend...certainly brings that. Is their a tale behind your choice, or is it minds thinking alike?"






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Yes-” Matthias said simply, glad that she hadn’t been even more intimidated by the number of words he’d used, from wherever they came “-Indigo. ” He rolled the name around in his mouth like a savory sweet candy. It was a color; he remembered it that way at least. Purple, but not bright, the dark purple that the sky became in the late evening, what little color there was in the constantly grey sky. She seemed much more at ease, in some ways Matthias could see some of his own posture reflected in her form, something that made him even more curious about what it was that she was really thinking.


I’m Matthias and this is Rip, ” he motioned to the wolf, who stopped whining and sat up at the sound of his name spoken in a strong calm voice, a sign that he was forgiven for whatever he had done. “And yes, my ways, my words, my wolf, they all make me stand out here, in this place, out of my element as some would say. ” Matthias motioned to his surroundings, “this suits me about as well as I blend in here, I avoid coming to settlements as often as I can, except to trade. I prefer the animals and the occasional kindred spirit…” he paused and met her gaze for a brief moment as if trying to judge for himself if she was in that category or not, “… to the goings on of society.


Not many people ask me my story, but I’m not opposed to sharing it. For one reason or another I left my parents bit by bit as I became more self-sufficient, once upon a time I tracked a pregnant wolf to her den and made a mental note of it. A month later I saw her no longer having a swollen belly. Perceiving that she had gone out to hunt I made my way to her den and stole a pup some time later when it had developed the ability to eat solid food. She tracked me and I eluded her and ran from her for three days and the pup was not very cooperative either. Soon thereafter I left my parents and he has been my traveling companion ever since. ” Matthias paused, a quizzical look on his face. “As to why… I suppose I’ve always admired wolves and found myself adopting many of their social habits simply on instinct, it makes more sense to me than the way people communicate. A wolf or dog is hard to find but an invaluable asset when alone in the wilderness, they provide warmth to sleep with and protection from the hidden dangers of thin ice, flash blizzards, and other predators. Rip told me about the blizzard two days ago, before I could pick out the signs, that is another reason I ended up here at this time.


Matthias nodded in consent, “but yes, trouble comes. Usually I see it coming, mostly I try and avoid it, when I can’t I settle it. I would argue that it’s no safer or dangerous than hunting for scrap on your own as a female. Not to make little of your own self sufficiency for we are very different and perhaps very alike, but to be sure, my ways of protecting myself would little suit you as yours would little suit me.”


Matthias looked her in the eye “why do you travel alone? ” Normally he wouldn’t pry into the business of others, but in this case, and in all cases similar, he always asked this question. He had begun asking only a year after he himself left, questioning if what he was doing was accepted, and why others chose to do it. He had never really lost the hope that he would find someone of a similar mindset to himself, though he never vested much hope in the matter.


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As Jed had touched the daggers at his sides, the cleric had moved protectively between Jed and the woman. Clearly there was not a terrible amount of trust there, but that was to be expected and that just meant that now the feeling was mutual. Trust was such a hard thing to gain, for he had not spent much time with other people and hadn't given himself the time to form these bonds with other people. The last one he really had was with his father, that is excepting his daughter who wouldn't really count because she wasn't exactly as she used to be. It had ended suddenly and quickly, and he wasn't sure that he wanted to be vulnerable by becoming attached to someone. Of course, that was rather contradictory to the life he led, for his whole life revolved around his daughter, who certainly compromised his full capabilities. But Jed was blind, blind to the troubles that he pushed in front of himself and forced himself to possess.


"Thank you," the cleric suddenly said, and Jed nodded to him, though he wasn't quite sure what the cleric was thanking him for until he started speaking again. "Your offer is most kind." Jed shrugged; he wasn't really doing this out of the kindness of his heart, he was doing it because he felt he had to. Not to mention he had no other real option to do anything else. "As a matter of fact, my brother and I could use an extra hand in our next endeavor." The cleric wanted him to participate, to help them? Of course, Jed had been somewhat hoping for some clear direction, perhaps even directed by fate to lead him to an answer, but he somehow wasn't sure if he felt ready to give up everything he'd had, even though most of what he had was already with him. But the house, with the garage that was converted to a stall for Bolen? The warm fireplace? His daughter, trapped inside a room with no clear way to get out? "So long as you can hunt, we can provide you with any other necessities on the way. Perhaps we'll be heading in the direction of your home, although I don't suppose it's too important you return there," the cleric finally finished, and Jed nodded firmly in response. He had been trained to hunt ever since he was just a boy. He had been born to hunt, and if there was anything that he could provide, it would be that service. And the thought of possibly passing by his house quickly affirmed his decision. He would travel with these men, and when he found his home, he would leave. It was that simple. Suddenly the cleric spoke up once more, and Jed realized that the man was introducing himself. Rune. Interesting name, but somehow it seemed to fit the man, especially considering how it even seemed to fit the man's profession. Rune the cleric. Rune Vashak.


"Jed. Jed..." he paused, his mouth pressing firmly together in a line and his brows knitting together in concentration as he attempted to remember his last name. "Jed Col... Colt? Colston. Jed Colston," he continued, pulling his last name out of long-buried memories. It was not often that he said his name, not often that he met people. But here it was, and how strange it did sound, coming from his own lips. It was a short name, and somehow that seemed to fit him. He was not be able to imagine having to pronounce a long name in front of people, for he'd undoubtedly mess it up and then people would laugh. He couldn't mess up Jed.


"I can hunt good enough. I've been doin' it ever since I was a boy. If there's anythin' I can do, it'd be that. And if we'd happen to find my home, then I'd just need to get one... one... I couldn't take her with me, so I had to leave her at home," Jed murmured rather quietly, unable to bring himself to call his daughter an thing. He would not refer to her as an object, for she was still a person. His person. If Rune decided not to take him because of it, than so it would be, but Jed would not do that to her. Not now, not ever. "Just one to get. Not... Important. I can't get home anyway," he mumbled.


Turning to look at the woman, he realized a little late that she had accepting Rune's offer and would indeed be joining them on the journey. Jed supposed she was at least minimally trustworthy if the cleric had cleared her, so he'd have to trust her at least to some greater extent than he had done earlier. Looking carefully at her, he decided she didn't really look very hostile at all, and probably wasn't worth all the unease anyway. She was interesting, though. With dark skin, at least compared to Jed's own, she seemed to be of a more diverse background than he, and he had already heard her play her wooden... thing. He wasn't sure quite what it was, but he liked it and was almost positive that if he picked it up, he couldn't make it sound like she did. No, she did not seem to be someone that he should hold too much concern for, but it was dangerous not to assume the worst of people. Even so, he attempted to look less... hostile?


"I'm Jed. Rune fixed up my arm. You tried to help me yesterday, and I thank you. What was the stick you had before? That made noise? What was that? How did you do that?" he asked, suddenly full of questions. After all, he'd never heard of music before, let alone a flute. It was not a necessary thing for survival, so his father had not taught him what it was. In fact, Jed's father probably hadn't known what it was either, and maybe even his father before that. But know that Jed had encountered this thing, this beautiful expression of creativity, he became very curious, and in a sense, afraid. The unknown was a dangerous and startling thing, and this 'stick' was unknown and new to Jed.

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Pursing her lips, Indigo considered what he'd said.


"It seems there are two kinds of people in this world of ours; those who thrive off company, and those who seek to avoid it." She paused for a slight breath, shuddering as the icy air made it's way into her lungs. "My family belongs here, there is food, and it is in reach of scavenging grounds. What more could one want?" A small, harsh laugh issued forth from her lips.


Mouth hanging slightly open, she listened intently as he told his story. Could it be exaggerated? She doubted that it would be - yet who knew if he was often asked the question. Besides, as long as it wasn't a con she couldn't care whether an angel herself swooped down and gave the cub to him. Maybe she was just being over cautious. Maybe.


"Animals would make better companions with humans.." she noted, trying to figure out in her mind how much meat such beast would eat. "It is a credit to your skills you can feed and keep him. I've never wandered far enough to need prewarning of a storm, though I've been caught in too many as of late." Carefully assessing him for any reaction, she continued. "We all protect ourself in the way that is right, if mine is too flee, then I shall survive. Natural instincts come in handy, and strength has never been a blessing of mine."


The question left her stumped - how should she respond? Blinking, she kept her eyes closed a split second longer than needed as her brain whirled. "A companion would provide conflict of interests, and responsibility. Why should I limit myself when there is a world to explore, and I have my own path to follow?"

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