• Closed • Imperfections of the Heart (Arlo, Vega)

Beyond the city of Rharne lies the Stormlands, which is home to a number of farms, forests, fields, and the River Zynyx.

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• Closed • Imperfections of the Heart (Arlo, Vega)

Postby Oracle » Fri Apr 13, 2018 12:46 pm

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98th of Ashan, Arc 718 - Afternoon
Mistral Woods was a peaceful place, filled with the melodic singing of birds and the distant calls of forest dwelling beasts. A warm gentle breeze drifted through the canopy sending the leaves whispering as they brushed against one another. The sound of cascading water murmured in the distance where a tributary of the Zynyz River meandered its way through the woodland before ending at a brief waterfall. The water pooled beneath this cascade in a shallow pond with smooth pebbles coating the bottom. At the end of this glistening body of water rested the yawning mouth of a cavern.

Ever the wandering travelers, Arlo and Vega were visiting the forest to-trial, their footsteps crunching lightly as they moved through the woodland. Indigo and fuchsia hued stormflowers were in bloom and dotted the base of trees and the edge of the gurgling creek.

Arlo and Vega had been through a great deal in the past, suffering, hurt and guilt between the two of them. Vega had been shattered, quite literally. Death had come to her, before being brushed away like a troublesome cobweb. She had been remade by fire like a broken sword that had been reforged, but fractures would always remain in her core, in her heart of hearts. Arlo himself had searched for his father, to no avail. What does that do to a child, what does it do to the man to have never known your parent? It was the sort of pain that left scars on the soul, little imperfections that stalked one forever through life. The pair bore their wounds well, leaning on each other for support when needed.

Scars are a funny thing, they are a constant reminder of the damage we have suffered, of the wounds we have borne, but they are also a part of who we are. Would Arlo be the same man if he had always known his father from birth? Would Vega be the same woman if she had never died? Scars are the marks left on our souls as we make our way through life. What if on a whim you could simply erase them?

Suddenly a cold icy wind began to blow from the mouth of the cavern, tugging at Vega and Arlo’s clothes like a crying child looking for comfort. The birds ceased in their singing and the melodic gurgling of the water became dissonant and almost uncomfortable to hear.

There in the mouth of the cavern stood a little girl, appearing out of nowhere. Her eyes were nearly obscured by a matted cascade of hair; although a pair of hopeful deep green eyes could still be seen peering at Vega and Arlo. She wore a tattered brown linen dress and her feet were bare. Along her arms and legs were scrapes, cuts and bruises that were only half healed. The girl seemed to stare at the couple for a few trills before a tall feminine silhouette appeared in the darkness behind the child. Even in the poor lighting the woman appeared almost inhumanly tall, with perfectly sculpted features and gray stone-like skin. The woman reached for the girl and gently pulled her back toward the depths of the cave. The pair vanished as they both walked into the cavern together; the distant sound of a child softly weeping seeming to follow in their wake.




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Imperfections of the Heart (Arlo, Vega)

Postby Vega » Fri Apr 13, 2018 4:20 pm

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Oracle, your post made me think of this song

"It's right pretty 'ere, innit?" Vega said with a glance over to him. They'd come to Mistral Wood because... well, because it was here. The pair of them individually needed no more impetus than that and together? Well, together they had been in no doubt. "I mean, it's warmin' right up an' everythin'." He was keeping an eye on her, she was on him and it was always this way between them. Vega had missed this, so much that she barely had words for how she felt to be walking next to him. Just the act of putting one foot in front of the other and going where she wanted to go, under her own steam and at her own behest was a delight to her. But it was more than that. Since the time at the docks, where she had died, Vega realised that she wanted, more than anything, to enjoy every single bit and trill. To live their lives together, happy and exciting and wonderful lives. Exploring new places was part of it, of course, but the cynical, cantankerous and largely obnoxious mixed race woman had always been fundamentally hopeful, curious and excited about life. Things just seemed more vivid, more there. She supposed, if she thought about it, there was an argument which said that she had lost it all and so understood its worth.

"Oh, look at those flowers! They're well pretty." Vega was looking around with wide eyes, drinking in the sights and sounds with eyes which swam with orange and green. She was well wrapped up, even though the weather was better they both knew better. High boots, thick skirts and warm trousers underneath them; keeping her legs warm was important, she knew and she didn't mess around with that. All of that, of course, was as usual for her as the sword at her hip and the bow at her back. Stopping, suddenly, she turned to him and her face lit in a smile. "Xiur's perky nips, Arlo, I've missed this. Us, doin' this. I know you know that, but you know, I 'ave." There's been a time when they were simply never nice to each other, before they got together as a couple and those trials were behind them now. "An' I know you'd have been by my side no matter what, but flop-a-mop, I'm glad it's like this." Of course, those trials of being rude as a sign of affection weren't really that far behind them and could catch up easily enough. "I'd 'ave got right bored sittin' an' lookin' at you all trial." She put her hand into his and said nothing more, because there was not a need.

But then, things changed. Like the colours of her eyes or, if she was honest with herself, her moods, their surroundings seem to spin on the side of a silver nel. With a shiver as the wind suddenly bit cold against her, against them, Vega recognised that the sounds were different and the feel was different as they seemed to have moved from Cheery Forest of Pretty to Gloomy Woods of Doom, but all of that was very peripheral for her.

"Hey there," she said, to the child who had more or less appeared in front of the entrance to the cavern. "Are you a'right, love? Are you lost?" Vega should be cautious, she knew, of strange children who suddenly appeared. Last time, after all, she'd tried to help a child, she'd ended up possessed by a fire demon, prone to bursting into flames or being engulfed in molten lava.

It had been quite the relationship inconvenience, the redhead considered with an ironic smile.

"I'm Vega, this is Arlo. Are you with someone?" Oh, it seemed she was, Vega thought as she recognised that there was a very (very) tall woman.. "Is she...oh, ok." The woman didn't say anything, but the two of them stepped back into the cavern and Vega sighed. "We're gonna go in there, so shall we jus' do it?" She looked at him and smiled a shadow of a smile. "It's a child, innit. We're suckers for them, always 'ave been. Least we've always got light, though. I can light the way for us." Marked by Xiur, after all, Vega was able to make anything she touched glow with star light, lit like a torch. So, she looked at him and didn't move until he did.

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Imperfections of the Heart (Arlo, Vega)

Postby Arlo Creede » Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:14 am

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It was Arlo agreed as they walked, side by side and sometimes one behind the other along the forest path. Though pretty hadn't ever been his primary reason for being drawn to the wilderness. Whether it was forest, jungle or woodlands, plains, lowlands or mountain range. Even the open sea, more recently. It was was the lack of walls and ceilings, the absence of man-made boundaries. Where even the air smelled of freedom. Funny that he'd once had himself convinced that traveling with anyone else would taint or diminish the sensation. It might have, was it anyone else. But with Vega by his side, the sense of freedom and possibility was all the stronger.

Considering he'd grown up in the area and had only left when he was sixteen arcs of age, The Mistral Woods were familiar to him. He'd spent a lot of time running wild and elusive, hiding from his chores back at the farm. "It's warming up, yes," he agreed, but still eyed her the way that he had been ever since she'd been broken. "Are you sure you won't wear this?" By this, he meant the small wooden peg leg that he pulled out of his coat pocket, leaving it to dangle and turn on its leather string. Arlo was wearing layers enough to stay warm. Leather armor over his clothing, a long leather coat over that. And like Vega he was sufficiently armed for whatever might spring up along the way.

"Stormflowers, that's what my mother called them,' Arlo remembered when Vega spotted the blooms. He'd told her it was only a matter of time before she was back on her feet, he reminded her with a grin. But still, he couldn't help teasing. "Though I don't see how you could grow bored with my face to gaze on." There, where his little diri friend rested, riding along in the brim of his hat, Lyova rolled her eyes and snorted. The blast of cold air though brought her up short though, and Arlo too as he stopped dead in his tracks and frowned curiously. It just didn't seem natural and soon enough he was convinced that it wasn't.

There was nothing strange about the waterfall or the evidence of a cavern before. Both he and Vega had seen similar things before. It was what was in the mouth of that cave that was curious and a little off putting. The child that was, but then the woman appearing behind her added a second layer of unnatural to the equation. Appearances could deceive but it didn't appear as if the small girl wanted to be there. He'd have argued that for his part, he wasn't convinced that he was a sucker for children...at all. But Vega had a point, maybe. Were they going in? "Most people with any sense would say that's nothing but trouble calling, and it's better left unanswered. So yeah," he added with a lopsided grin. "We're going in."

If she wanted to light up their way, all the better but Arlo would make sure to grab the little glass jar from his sack with the blue light stone inside. Fixed on a leather strange he could drape it round his neck and leave his hands free. If they needed to wade through the water to get to the mouth of the cave, so they would then. But in the meantime he nocked a bolt into place on his pistol crossbow and kept the thing in hand, just in case.
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Imperfections of the Heart (Arlo, Vega)

Postby Oracle » Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:23 am

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The mouth of Creeksong Cavern yawned open before the pair. What had once seemed like a lovely and benign place had soured in mere trills. Shadows seemed to ooze from the entrance of the cave, although if Vega and Arlo looked carefully they could detect multiple gleaming, glittering surfaces within.

As the couple moved across the stream and into the cave the, discordant aura that had fallen over the glade vanished. Birds began singing again and the chipper gurgling of the streamed resumed. There in the entrance of the cavern stormflowers were seen growing right at the edge of the cave opening, but no further. It seemed that the only life inside the caves was mycological, as a myriad of softly glowing, luminescent mushrooms and lichens could been seen draped along the walls. Their radiant colors were rich, sporting hues of lavender, cobalt and emerald. The fungi provided a seemingly otherworldly source of light that cast the cavern into a perpetual state of twilight.

Perhaps more impressive than the luminescent life forms was the crystalline interior of the cavern. Mirror-like crystals with a metallic sheen reflected Arlo and Vega’s reflections in perfect clarity. The crystals were thin and wide, also appearing quite breakable. Perhaps if enough pressure was applied a piece, it could be broken off quite easily.

Even if the crystals provided a wonderfully sharp mirror image, the images reflected in them were somewhat different than the couple appeared in real life. Vega’s reflection held more wrinkles and freckles than before, with dark fatigued circles lining the space beneath her eyes along with her lips appearing thin and pale. If she managed to see her legs in one of these crystals they would seem shrunken and atrophied, as if they had never healed correctly. Her hair seemed thinner in the reflection, with a few streaks of gray running through the tarnished red locks. All in all her robust strength seemed leached away in those reflections. Arlo did not escape these effects in his own reflection. If he gazed into one of the mirror crystals his face would seem sunken, with wrinkles gathering in the corner of his eyes and deeply lining his forehead. He appeared almost shrunken and feeble, like a man much older than his years would suggest.

Regardless of how they saw themselves, if either of them looked at each other’s reflection then they would see a perfect version of their partner. Vega upon looking at Arlo in the mirror crystals would see a youthful, robust man without a single blemish or wrinkle. Likewise Arlo would see Vega with perfect unblemished ivory skin, bright glittering eyes framed in rich lashes and a posture and strength she had not possessed since before her legs had been shattered.

The crystals continued forward into the cavern until the path was divided into two tunnels. Both tunnels were lined in mirror crystals but they had grown to enormous size, providing a full length image in their reflection.

To the Right the crystals reflected a perfected image of the viewer. This path seemed to draw them in, to gaze upon their attractive reflection. To the Left the mirror crystals reflected the imperfect reflection. This path was darker and seemed to hold to the discordant aura that had first descended upon Arlo and Vega outside.

It was almost as if they were being herded toward the right, like cattle.





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Imperfections of the Heart (Arlo, Vega)

Postby Vega » Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:52 am

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When he looked at her that way and then asked if she was sure, Vega stopped and turned to him. "I'm sure, Arlo. Yer really startin' to flibberty my gibbet, sunshine an' in a bit I'm gonna be thumpin' you so hard you'll be in no doubt that I. Am. Fine. Stop it." Looking at him, she sighed and shook her head. "I'm fine, Arlo. Look. Feel," taking his hand she put it on her cheek and stepped into his arms, then, even though she was irritated she knew what it was, why he did it. "Smell. See now, feel now, hear now an' smell now." She grinned at him slightly, then. "An' shove that pegleg where the sun doesn't shine, I don't want it. I want you, an' me an' us. Which means I've got all I want right here." Touching her nose to his, she whispered, "I'm not broken, Arlo. I never was, not where it matters. An' I'm not gonna waste the rest of my life worryin' about might 'ave been or could 'ave happened.Or what did 'appen but is over now." She placed a soft kiss on his lips and looked at him with serious eyes filled with concern. Yet, her words were teasing, albeit gently. "I don't think you should spend your life doin' that, either, but if you carry on fussin' at me? Whatever you spend the rest of yer life doin', you won't have long."

Lifting his hand, she put it against her chest. "Feel it? It's strong, an' it's beatin'. I love you, an' I'm not broken." So close after his mother had died, he'd seen her die and Vega wished, more than anything that he hadn't. "Nor are you." Leaning up, she kissed him again and there she lingered for a while. "Now, come on, Creede." Vega whispered the last against him as she thumped him gently (ish) on the shoulder.

The cavern was in front of them and as they moved across the stream, the nice sounds and generally good feeling of the place returned once again. That was good, Vega thought. She kept an eye on him, in the way they always did watch out for each other in these sorts of moments, and a frown creased her forehead as she knelt down. "Look. This is weird. They're jus'..stoppin' in a line." The stormflowers seemed to just stop and she glanced up at him with a slightly raised eyebrow. Inside the cave was no less weird, in fact it was probably more so. The mirrors were well strange and Vega took a moment to look at her own reflection and then at Arlo's. "Well, neither of 'em's true, that's stupid. Mine is like, all old and wilted an' my legs not fixed right, an' you look like someone's gonna burst into song about yer shiny teeth any trill." With a deep frown on her face, Vega turned to look at him and shook her head. "I like this one the best. Scars an' wild hair, bit o' sleep still in the corner of yer eye an' you need a shave." She grinned at him. That was him, the right now, right here him and that was all she was interested in.

And then, they came to an intersection and Vega frowned. "My instinct is to say jog on an' I'm not dancin' prettily off where the perfect people live, that looks like a kidnapper offerin' a kid candy. But..." Vega suddenly shook her head, as though to clear it. "But we're followin' that little girl. An' what we look like don't matter, Arlo. They're jus' mirrors. I was gettin' well caught up in them. We're helpin' her not lookin' at reflections of ourselves cos we're obsessed." It was the unusual nature of the place, maybe, the way that the walls and the fungus and, the reflection of the light off her silver blood, but they couldn't afford to lose their focus, not at all.

So, Vega concentrated on looking for tracks. If she found them, or Arlo did, then that would be the way they should go. If not, then she'd suggest that they go to the left, not the right. Left, after all, was where there were reflections of them having lived a life. As she was looking down at the floor, studying and trying to find where they should go, she thought about searching for the little girl in Desnind, for Ser Denny in Scalvoris. "We keep runnin' into kids, have you noticed that?" Vega asked, thoughtfully. "An' it keeps bein' lost ones." And with that, she kept searching for tracks which, if either of them found she'd suggest they go the way the tracks did. If not, then to the left.

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Imperfections of the Heart (Arlo, Vega)

Postby Arlo Creede » Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:22 pm

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"You can fuss and complain all you like," Arlo maintained, even as Vega stepped into his arms, caressed his cheek and they shared a kiss. "But I'm still going to worry about you, just the same as you seem bent on worrying about me." Her concerns for him, he knew, were related to him coping with everything that had happened. He was also fine, it was in the past. But no matter how many times he said it, the look in her eyes, the touch of her hand at times told him that she worried without saying it. "Tables turned. It's all fair play," he added and couldn't help the lopsided grin that preceded all the strange goings on. "I love you but threaten all you like. Deaf ears," he teased.

But how strange it was that the atmosphere around them changed, not once but twice in the span of just a bit or so. Something about them wading through the water and in through the mouth of the cave could have given less suspicious others the impression that simply going in had put all to rights. Both him and Vega knew better. "It's not so strange is it?" he said, referring to the stormflowers in particular. "Some things grow better in some places and not in others. They might need a lot more sunlight than they'd get inside the cave." The luminescent mushrooms and other organic matter were far more interesting though in his mind. And Arlo might like to take some samples away from them, at the end of the trial.

The crystal studded walls were more curious still. It wasn't the same as quartz, as he'd seen occur naturally in stone countless times by now. This was much different in fact and made him feel a little uneasy. As if he wasn't already experiencing a heightened sense of watchfulness. To have two versions of himself staring back at him, neither of them exactly on point, and the same for Vega, well, "I can say that if this was true to form, by the time I'm in my twilight arcs, I won't have aged very well," he quipped. And yet the image of perfection wasn't right either.

There was no question about which path seemed more compelling, at least in a sense that was as close to physical as could be. And yet his instincts were heightened and warned of a trap. Unless, well, that was a trap too. But that would be thinking too deeply. He sensed that if it was the girl they needed to find, then it was the left hand path they needed to follow. "Well I guess it's alright we keep running into kids, so long as one of 'em doesn't try to follow us home to stay," he said, while at the same time studying the floor of the cave for tracks. Any except for their own of course.

But so long as there weren't any that told him that to the right was where she'd gone, then left it was. But not without his pistol crossbow close at hand, loaded, safety on and ready to go if necessary.
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