• Solo • [North Woods] Guest (Graded)

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Rokas
Approved Character
Posts: 74
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2020 6:57 pm
Race: Human
Profession: Muscle
Renown: 20
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[North Woods] Guest (Graded)


Cylus 14th Arc 721

How much longer do I have to wait?

Rokas sat crosslegged on the forest soil in the center of the loggers’ camp, eyes closed and mind drifting. Fire warmed his front, earth created a soft and comfortable pillow of dirt. Covered with a heavy cloak, Rokas attempted to clear the impatience from his thoughts. Even accompanied by the elements wherever he went, boredom took hold every so often. Apart from foraging and the occasional attempt at hunting, activities to pass the time were in short supply. If he desired conversation, either of the four elements gladly indulged him, but he himself wasn’t always up for it. Sometimes he too needed some peace and quiet.

With a deep sigh, brow twisting in a frown, he gathered his focus and forcefully brought his mind back on track, away from conscious thought. Instead funneling it into perceiving the world around. On the sensation of the earth beneath his body, on the slight discomfort that came from holding a position for too long. Listening to the absence of rushing gales, the wind instead perched in the trees and laying on the ground, motionless. On the taste of the crisp, frozen air. On the slight burning of its coldness in his nose and throat.

On the soft, inaudible patter of snowflakes piling up higher and higher. Feeling their weight on his cloak, a small heap having gathered on Rokas’s head and shoulders. When he shifted it crumbled and fell, rolling down the mountain of his body like a miniature avalanche. Trees groaned under the increasing weight, evergreen branches creaking and bending until gravity yanked the packed white down, a dull thud breaking the quiet.

After some time, a new sound --or rather a series of the same sound-- attracted his attention. The characteristic cracking of several thin layers of ice, the shards being compressed into a compact surface. It happened in patterns, at regular intervals. Crack, pause, pause, crack, and repeat. Footsteps. The noise of someone approaching from behind.

Finally.

But no, it couldn’t be. There existed too much time between each step, the complete opposite of the fast rhythm he expected. The breeze launched itself from its perch, soaring up and rushing back down, weaving between the trees and scattering snow. Gone for a few moments, then it returned and settled back down. One uninvited guest, on the larger side for a humanoid. Rokas asked for details, but the element just shrugged and juggled some snowflakes. It didn’t concern itself with telling people apart, bar the uncommon exception.

Valuable information in its own right.

The newcomer stopped at the edge of the circle of light, boots no longer squashing the layer of white. Rokas rose without hurry, shrugging the snow off his body, and pulled the hood of his woolen cloak a little further over his head. Paired with the dark, it’d make it difficult to see much of his face. When he finally turned around, his unexpected guest still hesitated a couple paces back, fidgeting with the cords of their fur jacket.

Rokas didn’t speak, just stood and waited. The broad and tall figure on the border of light and dark didn’t say anything either, though they did make a few attempts to move closer, raising a foot halfway out of the snow before reconsidering. Minutes passed. Rokas remained statuesque, yet the visitor’s fidgeting increased, until eventually they approached.

Fire’s light spilled across their face, revealing youthful features and a beard that could be mistaken for a dead rodent. One that’d gone absolutely feral before being caught in a snare and dying a slow yet brutal death. The kind of beard that might just detach itself from the chin to jump at you, tooth and claw at the ready. Yet none of the same fierceness translated into the young man’s other features.

“Excuse me,” he stammered, eyes refusing to meet Rokas’s, “I’m Barry. I saw the campfire, so I was wondering if this place was inhabited again. They usually don’t come back until Ashan…”

Rokas blinked and waited for a moment, then sat back down. Facing the other man, for now.

“Ah, the lumberjacks, I mean. That’s their lodge over there.” Barry pointed to the largest of the cabins within the camp. “There’s not usually anyone else staying in there. They lock it up tight.”

For a brief moment, Rokas’s eyes darted to the wooden structure. When he’d arrived, it had indeed been locked, latch fastened with a thick padlock. Quality iron, very difficult to break without specialized tools. The same couldn’t be said for the door and its frame though, nor for the wood the latch was bolted to. He’d busted it open with bash of the shoulder followed by several well-aimed kicks.

“You’re with them, then?” the young rodent-bearded man asked.

“No.”

“Oh.” He swiveled his head, glancing at the other buildings, gaze lingering on dark corners. “Anyone else here?”

“Just me.”

“Oh… Uhm. Do you have anything to eat? I’ve run out food a couple days ago and I haven’t eaten anything substantial since. I was hoping maybe there’s something you don’t mind sharing.” He patted his stomach and dared to move a few steps deeper into the light. Rokas frowned, running a couple quick calculations, visualizing the inventory list of the pantry. After a couple moments, he got to his feet and nodded. “Yes.”

While the wild-bearded Barry chose a spot around the fire, Rokas headed into the pantry. It was dark in there, but he didn’t need any light to grab what he wanted. He returned with some hard biscuits and dried jerky, and none of the salted pork. His guest accepted the food happily, and before long he was chewing and chiseling away at meat tough like hikers’ footwear, and biscuits more durable than Etzos’s outer wall.

“Where are you from?” Rokas said. He made a vague gesture towards the stranger’s filthy and worn fur coat, the patched woolen pants, and… well, the man as a whole, really. In the flickering firelight he bore the distinct appearance of someone who hadn’t seen civilization in quite some time. “You look like you’ve been in the woods for a long time. You lost?”

He glanced up from his meal, teeth letting go of a piece of jerky that kept itself together despite how hard he pulled at it, stubbornly refusing to tear. It flopped out of his mouth, dripping with saliva. “No, not lost. We live—I live about a three-quarter day’s walk to the west of here. There’s like a cavern system there, one entrance that branches out in multiple tunnels and chambers. Pretty huge. Room aplenty for all of us. Me and my family. Been living there for years now. Well, until a little while ago, that is...” His voice trailed off, eyes distant. He snapped out of it by clamping a corner of biscuit between his molars and attempting to break a piece off. Somehow, he managed to.

“Then why are you here?”

“My family went out to get supplies,” he said, biscuit crunching in his mouth,” Food and water, some luxuries, new clothes. Said they’d spotted a… hmmm… source in the vicinity. Easy pickings, little work. Left me to keep watch. But they never returned. So I waited. And waited. And after a day or so, I followed their directions and watched for their tracks, and I stumbled upon them. All dead. Burnt beyond recognition. But I could tell it was them.”

A sigh filled with pain, fresh wounds that had yet to heal. He bit off another chunk of the hard biscuit, crumbs tumbling into his beard. “I couldn’t find any tracks of the culprit with all the snow, so I tried to bury them, but they scattered into flakes of ash when I touched. Nothing to do but go back to the cave, so I did. Not doing much. Just thinking. Waiting. Until a few days ago, when the wind brought with it the scent of scorched flesh and hair. So I followed.”

Rokas cast a sideways glance to the treeline, where the breeze snoozed between knobbly roots. It puffed up for a moment, rising and falling in a shrug. With a flick to a sagging branch, it caused a curtain of powdery snow to fall, then fled. Rokas frown deepened.

“Took me some time to get there,” he pointed in the direction he’d come from. “Small clearing with a burned tree there. Stench was strong there. I couldn’t find any other clues though, but I saw your fire, and here we are.” Barry managed to carve through a strip of jerky with his teeth. “Did you know?”

“Hm?”

“About the clearing, the tree.”

“Oh. Yes.”

“Were you here when it happened, or did you arrive later? Did you see it happen?”

Rokas pondered for a moment what to answer. Then he shrugged internally. Why not be honest? “The former. And yes.”

Barry leaned in close, elbows on his knees. Wide eyes now narrowed, brow lined with creases. “Do you have an idea who caused it? The fire?”

“Yes.”

Earth’s lips trembled. It hid a chuckle behind a fist of boulders and rock.

“So you’ve seen them?” Eager.

“No.”

Wind howled, rolling back and forth across the forest floor, unable to contain itself.

A frown. “But you know who did it?”

“Yes.”

In the distance, a stream bubbled as water snorted, freely cackling away. Slapping rocks and its bed and its own body.

“Can you tell me? Please!”

Fire dimmed, flames shrunk in a suppressed giggle, then exploded out in a shower of sparks. It leaned towards Rokas conspiratorially, dancing and jittering in anticipation and excitement.

Rokas cocked his head, and thought for a moment. Listened to voices –suggestions— only he could hear, considering. Then sighed and shrugged and grinned. White-toothed and thin-lipped. And very, very wrong.

“It was me, Barry. I fed your whole family to the flames and listened to their wailing and begging as I watched their skin crumble into ashes. I gave warning and they refused to heed it. I expended more patience than a band of brigands deserved. They had it coming.” He fixed his guest with a pitiless stare, uncaring eyes revealing a heart of stone. Cold, frozen, unyielding rock. Hard and gray and barren. Not even moss grew on its top. “And now that you know, what are you going to do about it?”


Continued here
word count: 1788
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Doran
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Posts: 3564
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:43 am
Race: Mortal Born
Profession: Alchemist
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Re: [North Woods] Guest

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Rokas:

Knowledge:
-Detection: Sizing up an unexpected guest
-Discipline: Patience
-Intelligence: Know who the elements take an interest in
-Intimidation: Showing your colors
-Meditation: Focus on your senses
-Meditation: Perceive the world around you

Loot: -
Lost: -
Wealth: -
Injuries: -
Renown: -
Magic XP: -
Skill Review: Appropriate to level.
Points: 10
- - -
Comments: The beginning of the thread where Rokas waited for someone in his camp immediately made me curious. I wanted to know who he was waiting for – and why. I also like how big a part the elements play in his threads. There was something quite atmospheric about your description!

When I saw the review request, and especially the Intelligence knowledge you asked for, I wasn’t sure about it, I have to admit, but you used Defiance in a way that made me think of collecting information and gathering intelligence. I like in how much detail you described Rokas’ guest!

The description of Barry and his beard amused me. I don’t think I’ve ever read about a rodent-bearded man before!

Even if Barry didn’t seem to be whoever Rokas had been waiting for, I was quite interested in him. I wonder how his family and he had ended up living in a cave. Did they want to get away from society or something like that?

For a while, I thought that this was a simple, comparatively relaxing meet and greet, but then Barry mentioned the clearing with the burnt tree and began to get a bad feeling. I still remember that thread. I wonder if my suspicion regarding the sequel will turn out to be true!

Enjoy your rewards!

word count: 272

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