• Solo • Evolution: Chrysalis Pt. 1

20th of Cylus 720

With the escalation of hostilities between Etzos and Rhakros, a series of small walled towns is being established as a network of early warnings and defenses against Rhakros' reprisals. Only the very bravest and most formidable of characters should risk themselves on the Witches' Wilds frontier.

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Aylune
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Evolution: Chrysalis Pt. 1

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20th of Cylus, 720

Tick, pain, tock, step. Since the injury, Aylune had settled into licking his wounds, a crutch under both arms, a leg set at the local infirmary still healing. Swirling thoughts left him uneasy, expectations and desires roiling, goals and looming timelines seemingly out of reach. Since his leg was mangled, his confidence shattered, his sleep was uneasy, his connection with the Sparks inside troubled and distant.

In the Trials past, Aylune had taken to studying the local fauna, from the pack beasts to the wild animals sold dead and alive at markets. Something inside him felt insecure. He thought knowing and pushing along was everything, but there were beasts far greater than the totem of the wolf hanging around his neck, and he needed an edge. Something big and nasty, something with huge teeth and a tough hide that could go toe to toe with titans.

Everywhere he looked in the market, he saw nothing but weakness, fellow lifeforms living and falling prey to systemic exploitation in this cold, snowy world of urban strife. Then he saw it, laying in the clutches of an iron cage: a most curious beast. Aylune pulled his hood taut against his head and hobbled over, his robes marking him as a foreigner.

Looking up at him, a shrewd, well-dressed merchant crossed his gaze, knowing instantly what he was looking at. “What’re you supposed to be, fairy-boy?” asked the man.

“I’m recovering from a nasty fight, if you must know,” replied Aylune, though his gaze didn’t leave the creature made from smooth sapphire, its eyes staring into his own.

Seeing them in cages, it doesn’t seem right,” came a ghostly voice, the apparition of his Familiar and friend standing by his side.

”This is their way, let’s not forget the markets of Melrath were much the same, Needle,” thought Aylune.

“So you’re interested in buying?” asked the merchant. “Or are you just having a look at all the pretties?”

“More of the latter, but I’ll pay you a pittance for information on where these things come from,” said Aylune. “Do they get any bigger than this? I’d pay more for a bigger one.”

”It hardly seems fair to make a Totem of a caged animal,” dissented Needle, who seemed agitated now.

Aylune snorted. ”That’s not the point. Don’t forget that people lie.”

”I know... but I trust everything you say,” said Needle endearingly, leaving Aylune a little distant behind the eyes when the merchant piped up.

“Yeah, they get bigger,” said the man, adjusting his frocks. “Had one the size of a large dog come through here not long ago. Any bigger and they aren’t sold as pets, too aggressive with age. They’re called Shifts. Kind of a pest at best, if you ask me, a bit terrifying at worst.” He leaned in. “I heard there’s a real nasty one out north of this city, a real man-killer,” said the man in a hushed tone. “The hunter who traps and sells these things told me about it. Clashes with the farmers, eats livestock. Huge, takes the form of a Zelroux.”

Aylune was intrigued now. “So that stony hide these creatures possess, can a spear get through?”

The man shook his head. “Maybe if you’re a pretty strong guy, but hammers are the only way to really hurt these things.

”I want one,” thought Aylune to his friend. ”Maybe as one of these things, I’d stand a chance against the monsters of this world.” He inched forward a bit on his crunches, leaning awkwardly to get a better look at the squirrel-shaped creature. “And it takes the form of a Zelroux? What are those things like?”

“Like antlered wolves, but huge and wicked smart,” replied the man. “Rare, too. If you ever get your hands on a pup, I’d buy one for a huge sum. That’s what you are, right? A foreigner touring for game and fortune?”

“Antlered wolves, huh? Must pack quite a bit of power. Wouldn’t want to fight fair against something like that,” said Aylune.

“Aye, they probably trap ‘em. That hunter seemed to want to trap the Shift Zelroux. Its hide makes a pretty good armor, if a bit heavy.

Aylune bit his lip, lost in thought. “Maybe I should get back into husbandry. With a pair of those things by my side, I’d be pretty untouchable. Or really, any kind of wolf, if I’m being honest with myself.

One thing leads to one thing, two things leads to two many things,” said Needle.

“...I can find this hunter asking around the farmers up north?” asked Aylune.

“You bet,” replied the merchant. “I’ll sell the pelt for ya, though by the looks of you, the hunter is going to beat you to it if he doesn’t die trying.”

“I’ll figure something out,” replied the hooded mage.” Shifting on his crutches, Aylune reached into his pocket and flipped the man a coin before going on his way. As he turned, his robes parted just a bit to reveal the waggling wolf tail tossing to and fro.

”What in Sintra’s name...” scoffed the merchant under his breath, but Aylune heard every word with his sensitive ears. ”They ought to close the ports before more of those things show up.”

Aylune shut his eyes and tucked his tail, but let that comment go with a sigh. His expression hardened, and he hobbled along back to the inn he was staying at. The stairs were the hardest part, body aching, crutches slipping along the smooth, lacquered boards. Those whom had seen his tail hadn’t bothered to help him; the nurses at the infirmary seemed weary of him too, those wolf ears causing a stir.

”I’ll be the talk of the town, a mockery,” complained Aylune as he heaved himself up the last step.

”Who cares, you’ve friends unseen,” said Needle. “Why want for their graces?”

“I’m trying to make a new life for myself, Needle,” said Aylune aloud this time. “We’re not having this discussion right now. Ghrgh-” he fumbled for the key to his room, and slipped it into the lock, hands shaking. The key jiggled until it caught the tumblers at his impracticed wrenching. Moving his hand to the knob, he turned it and pulled the door open, sliding his knee between. A few more complex maneuvers later, and he was through the door, locked, and key pocketed with the crutches tossed to the floor as he began tipping towards his bed with a groan.

Bouncing on the cushions, he felt the warning ache from his leg again and moaned into the cushions, voice muffled. “Uhhnnn, Needle, I wish you could fetch things for me. You’re so useless.”

I could always keep my distance, I’m not your tool,” growled the spirit. ”You’re trouble-double-triple-danger-fool-failure if you think that of me. What of the sacrifice you made? Did it mean nothing?” barked the familiar.

A void ran through the pair, but Aylune still had the poison in his mind, the thought of losing Needle a fear that he couldn’t shake. He drew a pillow over his head. “Needle, just... go away. I don’t ...want you anymore.”

You don't know a thing!” shouted Needle with a snap of frustration, a distressed yip punctuating his voice. “Aylune, I--I’m part of you, here to stay for as long as our souls are intertwined.

Shifting himself up onto the bed, Aylune waved his hand over the wick of a nearby candle, willing flame upon it. It burst to a steady flame, and Aylune sat back, a hand on the cloth wrapped over his shattered shin. "My Sparks make me strong," said Aylune. "There isn't any way for me to make you stronger. You're a danger to me, and that world you live in--how do I get there? How can I ever save you, should some monster come and snatch you away from me, or seek to rend you apart. Do you understand, Aylune? The very moment we raise claw against the strongest forces in this world, you'll be the first one of us to fall."

"You are like a dog with its tail between its legs. I thought you were braver than me, but now I know the truth about you. Afraid. Of everything."

"I was a fool, you told me so time and again, but I didn't listen to you. That changed when I almost lost you, Aylune. I need to get stronger, so I can protect us," replied the Becomer. A silence began between them, but Needle hopped up on the bed and lay by his side, a ghostly cheek planted in his lap.

"We shouldn't argue," said Needle.

"I know friend, but some conversations need to be had," said Aylune, running his hand over that ghostly form. "I'll find a way to make us both strong. I'm not sure how that's going to happen, but I'm going to try." Opening his mouth, he hummed the frustration and fear away, shifting all of his thoughts away from his insecurities by focusing on the future. That Shift... if a totem from such a thing even worked, I could at least have a chance at protecting us in dreams. What is a weak bag of bone and sinew compared to a being of hardened earth?

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Re: Evolution: Chrysalis Pt. 1

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Aylune

Experience: 10 no magic xp

Knowledge:

Meditation x4
Endurance x1
Tactics: Understanding the Weakness of a Familiar

Renown: 5 for showing off his tail in the middle of town.

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level.

Loot/Losses: information.

Injuries/Conditions: none

Consequences: none

Comments: I like the interactions between Aylune and his familiar, Needle. It really helps the narrative flow, but sometimes it does get hard to follow exactly what's transpiring outside of that conversation. Still, I found it intriguing to learn more about the fauna of Etzos. Being in such a market selling various animals and perhaps their hides seems quite like a become in a candy store. Even if they can't turn the dead materials into totems, they can find out where to get the animals they're from...

Cool story, enjoy your xp and knowledges.

If you have any concerns about this review, please PM me about them.
word count: 153
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