A Silent Coda

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Arkane
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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by Arkane » Thu Jun 25, 2020 2:28 pm

Green eyes creased with worry, as he stared at Anceline in the dim light of the cave. Almost immediately he could tell that something was...wrong. She was there with him, safe and sheltered from the storm, but at the same time, she was far away. Lochlan remained silent as he busied his hands with creating a small fire, the young man choosing to ignore the statement she had just made about the tower burning. After a moment, the familiar cracking of a reliable fire could be heard bouncing off the cave walls, its warmth most welcome.

He took a seat on the ground opposite Anceline, the wildling leaning against the stone wall. He wished he could strip off his clothes and dry them over the heat, but he didn’t think Anceline would be comfortable with that, so he tried to get comfortable in his damp clothing. He did take off his soaked boots though, his toes almost white from the cold. Soon, the sound of Axl’s soft snoring filled the cave, along with the crackling of wood. There was nothing to do now but wait for Owain and Laurent to come back. Hopefully with food, as Lochlan was still starving. All his attempts to hunt or fish had been thwarted by terrible weather and bizarre forest spirits.

“Don’t fret about it,” he replied to Anceline, shaking his head. They all had their own battles they were fighting and this was just part of hers. That would usually be the end of it, as Lochlan was never one to partake in casual conversation, much less with a distressed girl that looked like she needed some comforting. But for some reason, he found himself talking to fill the silence.

“Did ye...see something in the forest?,” he asked, glancing over at her now. “Something not normal?” His hand went to throw another log on the fire, his eyes on the flames now. “I did. I met a boy. He had intense eyes and sharp teeth, almost foxlike. Told me they were here for a reason. Went on about songs and rhythms...nonsense that I cannot make heads or tails of. Then he went and vanished, as if he never been there in the first place. Made me scared o’ the forest for the first time in me life.”

Again, he looked over at Anceline, to see if she was listening. “If something like that happened to ye...I wouldna think ye’re fibbing or anything. I’d believe ye,” he said, sincerely.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by illirica » Fri Jun 26, 2020 1:26 am

Lochlan made fire, and the world didn’t burn. Somehow, the fire stayed where it was, banked. Anceline stayed where she was for a while, uncertain, but eventually the fact that she was soaked through and getting chilled won out over her worry about nebulous world-ending blazes and she moved closer, repositioning herself beside the fire, trying to take in what little warmth it could provide.

If she’d been home, she’d have taken off her wet things and changed into something dry, then let her clothes dry out. Here, she didn’t have anything to change into, and it wasn’t like there was anywhere to go to change anyway. She certainly wasn’t about to do it with Lochlan there. Anceline didn’t think she was modest, exactly - she’d shared a room with various combinations of her siblings for as long as she could remember - but that was different. Lochlan wasn’t family. Her mother would have been scandalized.

Not that Anceline’s mother would have a chance to say anything about it. Lochlan had started talking, and somehow it was good to hear another voice. It didn’t even matter too much what he was saying, it was just that there was someone that she could listen to who she knew was actually there. He told her about meeting a boy - or something like one - out in the forest. She should have been terrified by the idea, or at least scandalized - but somehow now it seemed comforting. Maybe she wasn’t the only one going crazy.

“No, I... I didn’t see anything in the woods,” she said, quietly. “Just in my head. I’d say ‘twasn’t real, but I think it might be.” She picked up a stick, poking at the fire - entirely unnecessary, as Lochlan had it going well enough, but stirring the logs about was something to do, a moment of familiarity. Anceline knew how to tend a hearth, and it was one small spot of knowledge in all the great unknown.

“The song’s not right, Lochlan. Ever been there when there’s singing, and most everyone’s on one tune, but there’s someone who’s singing a different song entirely, and it’s so loud you can’t hear the music that’s supposed to be there? Except it’s the whole world that’s singing the wrong song this time. And most people can’t even hear it, or they’re singing the wrong song, too. And I hear the song that says it’s the one that we’re supposed to be singing, but I don’t know... can the whole world really be wrong, Lochlan? Or is it just me? But I can’t get the song out of my mind... and I can’t help but feel how wrong this all is. I don’t understand any of it. None of it makes sense. I just... I know we have to go north. That’s the only thing I’m sure of.”

She paused, her voice lowering to a whisper before she added, hesitantly, “And I’m not even sure why I’m so sure of that.”

“You... You won’t tell anyone, will you, Lochlan?” Somehow, the idea of the others knowing about it worried her. Lochlan was different, somehow. He was the wild boy, the one who lived out in the woods and befriended wolves. She hadn’t worried about Axl the whole time they’d been in here - Anceline supposed that if the whole world burned, the wolves would burn with it. She didn’t know how to feel about that.

Wet, mostly. She would have expected a more sophisticated feeling, somehow, but it seemed that wet was taking precedence. Anceline didn’t think that was how it was supposed to be, but nothing was how it was supposed to be. The only thing she had to go on was what was.

And she had no idea how far that was going to get them.
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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by BanefulMelody » Mon Jul 06, 2020 11:54 pm

"Nay," Owain protested, rubbing at his eyes, thanking God above that it was raining. If the other man noticed he'd been crying - well, there wouldn't really be anything he could do about it, would there? It would only make him feel even more miserable, make him feel even less like the man he was supposed to be.

"Yer gonna - yer gonna need help. Ye got yer own stuff ta grab, an' Ancie's. Yer gonna need help." He leveled his eyes at Laurent, gaze serious. "I'm gonna help."

Anything to keep his mind off this. Anything to make him feel useful.

If the town from afar had seemed a field of charred bones, up close, it looked almost like a graveyard. Between the wooden struts jutting into the sky, stones littered the earth, round and worn by careful masons' hands. They were scattered haphazardly across the roads, each one a litter of monuments to the buildings that once contained them. Bodies, too, lay about, sprawling on the ground as if whatever keeper that tended this chaotic cemetery had forsworn his job, leaving the dead beside their graves instead of taking the time to bury them beneath. Grim-faced, Owain marched onward.

The scent was something else entirely. Ash and soot were dominant, but beneath, charcoal, pork, and an bitter smell that reminded him of the time Mr. Hennefy's entire stock of wool caught fire. He held down the queasy roiling in his gut, and turned to Laurent.

"Yer place still up, then? Ye lived round the ol' tower, I know, an' -"

The tower was no more. A pile of rocks, with a cracked bell sitting atop it. Owain shivered. The widow had stood tall his entire life, yet there it was, dead - just like the lot.

"Ancie lived in tha inn. Got a bit a hope yer'all's stuff's good, with the rain an' such."

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by UmbraSight » Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:21 pm

A moment’s concerned flashed in Laurent’s frown as Owain put up a brave face. He couldn’t be okay, not after seeing his own — no, none of them could be okay could they? Laurent nodded, and he swung one of the empty rucksacks off his shoulder and offered it up for Owain to take. All things considered, it would probably be for the best that neither of them were alone in this town of all places.

“Aye, m’greatful t’have the company.” Laurent said, giving the man a clasp on the shoulder before heading into town.

He had been keeping watch one night when a house of the village’s edge had caught fire. A candle left to burn low in a house of dry wood and a passed out drunk asleep on straw. A tragedy in its own right, that had been. The smell was similar here, but the undercurrent was far more salty with that tinge of stale blood. Crows perched on the charred ribs of buildings, their black eyes following as the two men walked.

Bodies.

Was that the man who had reached for his boot as the four of them had escaped? Laurent could feel that lump forming again in his throat that burn of acid in his stomach. If he had just —

Laurence slowed as they reached the pile of rubble that had been his tower. The Widow would never sing again, battered as she was at the top of the pile. Laurent swallowed hard

“Aye, it uh-“ he shifted the weight on his shoulder, but it seemed to make no difference. “It’s there, still.”

Some piece of the tower had cut into the front of the building, and the door looked as if it had been battered.

“We should have, ah, some dried food in t’back room. Might be some tools, and clothes as well.” He blinked quickly, to stop his vision from wavering. “Let’s be quick, t’inn’ll prolly have more.”

Were his parents — did they at least get to be… together?
//… under her weight the floorboards gave, and she fell into the dark...// Fall of the Aelir Isles, Vol. III

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by BanefulMelody » Sun Jul 26, 2020 12:35 am

Laurent passed through the door, and was greeted by the sound of the Widow chiming from a mere street away. Here, its mournful gongs rang loud enough to rattle glass - less annoyance, for a boy born so close, and more a sense of familiarity. That bell was his own. Well - not quite, such. Not even his family's, even, though they were tasked to guard it. No one really knew who owned the Widow, just as no one really knew from where the Widow had come. It certainly wasn't the work of the local blacksmith. No, the old, iron bell was much older, tarnished by decades in the sun, the only clue of its origin the tiny defect on the left-hand side from where a similar bell had been cut away from it. A twin-bell mold, yet only one bell remained -

And so she was called the Widow. Perhaps, somewhere out there, a Widower cried out for the love he too thought was long lost to time.

"Laurent, dear, you barely touched your porridge," his mother called from the counter, one hand idly tucking a stray hair from her ponytail back behind her ear. "You know you have to grow up strong if you want to be a watchman!"

It's what your father expects of you. Your mother, too. The entire town. It's what you were born for, isn't it? Ringing the Widow for first light, church, then setting sun - keeping an eye on the town for fires, and knowing the right way to chime an alarm. Keeping an eye on the horizon for - nobody. Nobody ever came into Coda, and nobody ever left. So what would he need to look out for?

"Your time hasn't passed, dear." She walked up behind him, one hand resting on his shoulder, the other brushing at his damp cheek. "I wish - I wish he could be here to see you, but he can't leave his post. He needs to wait for the riders to come."

Burning the village to the ground.

"They'll come again, little mouse - you best be ready then. There's a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. I know it's hard, but - I believe in you. We both do."

She knelt behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist, hugging him tight - as if afraid to let him go.

"You're braver than you think."


The inside of the house was ransacked, but there was no blood, no bodies. A table lay overturned, one leg missing, and white and black coals spread out in a crown from the hearth, the ghost of a fire that had spilled from its home but had the decency to not take the home down with it. A pot dangled above, thin layer of film coating the stew within.

" - be use?" Owain was calling, holding out a wrought-iron poker. "Coul' work for a weapon or summit. Wanna go light, though, don' we?"

He tossed it back on the ground, where it clattered across the tiles. His eye caught Laurent's.

"Y'aight?"

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by Arkane » Sun Aug 02, 2020 6:36 am

Words eluded him. Lochlan didn’t know what to say to Anceline to make her feel better. He didn’t know what he could tell her that would bring a sense of normalcy to the revelation she had revealed. Haunting words of visions and the tale of a world singing the wrong song, disrupting the balance. Course, Lochlan didn’t understand any of it, and it was mighty hard not to think that Anceline hadn’t just snapped into a delirious craze, but he had seen the fox creature, didn’t he? The strange boy had also mentioned songs and rhythms. If Anceline was experiencing such odd events, perhaps he wasn’t far from snapping into a delirious craze as well.

“No,” he finally replied, glancing over at her. “I’ll naught say a word.” It wasn’t his story to tell. His eyes fell onto the fire once more, the young man getting lost in the dancing flames. Anceline had mentioned that they needed to go North. She had tried to go in that direction during the storm, Lochlan having to persuade her otherwise. Perhaps they should go North. There was certainly nothing holding them here...not anymore.

“Let’s go North, then,” he said, eyes never leaving the flames. “If we ‘ave to choose a direction to go, let’s go North. We’ll just ‘ave to convince our fearless leader,” he concluded with a faint grin, speaking of the farmboy. “‘Sides, there’s nothing for us ‘ere, not no more.”

With a sigh, Lochlan wrapped his arms around his torso in an attempt to conserve warmth, and to soothe the hunger pains in his stomach. He closed his tired eyes, leaning his head against the cool stone of the cave.

“Try to get some rest. Might be the only chance we get.”

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by UmbraSight » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:39 am

Laurent blinked.

The warmth was gone, merely a passing tremble on his cheek. A dream? No, not— Laurent looked back over his shoulder, to the empty space that brought a sharp pain to his heart. He swallowed a lump in his throat as he turned back. The skin on his nose prickled as he blinked away tears that threatened to form. Had that really —? Was she really —?

“Y'aight?”

Laurent caught Owain’s eye, and held it for a moment before his gaze flicked away. The dining table lay ruined, and the room beyond ransacked. Laurent took a halting step forward, that familiar smell of his mother’s cooking from an upturned pot.

I believe in you. We both do.

Alright? Was he? He was here seeing spirits. He was here— was that even something he could tell Owain?

Laurent crouched down next to the table.

“If t’old man’d be up t’wall if he could see t’place like this.” Laurent said. He ran his fingers across a rough patch of wood, a space where childish hands had left a deep scratch. His name in an untidy script. Laurent raised, and brushed his fingers off on his trousers.

“No, no I don’ think I’m alright.” Laurent said. He pulled a breath, the smells of home but foreign. This was all foreign

“My mum’s clothes should fit Anceliene.” Laurent said, finally. “Looks like, ah, they looted t’place. Might be a t’ing or two of use left.” He said, stepping past the table and to a staircase.

“Should prolly be getting back to the others, soon.” Laurent looked back over his shoulder, “M’dad might have an old sword with his things. ‘Unno if it’ll be worth grabbin’. Was just a thing for training.”
//… under her weight the floorboards gave, and she fell into the dark...// Fall of the Aelir Isles, Vol. III

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by Annasiel » Wed Sep 02, 2020 2:15 am

Owain nodded solemnly, hand touching the pommel of his own stolen sword now strapped to his hip. He wondered if it had killed anyone he knew. No - probably not. The soldiers hadn't really attacked until then, just stood about and looked menacing. They hadn't attacked until the tall man in the armor like knives had given the word.

"T'would. Maybe give it te the wildboy, or Ancie, if she wants."

He slipped past Laurent, opened his rucksack, and began stuffing it with clothes. Once it seemed suitably full, he sighed, patted Laurent on the shoulder, and gave the man a nod.

"Be easier on ye if we don' stick around much. Was fer me," he said as he walked by. He shouldered the sack, coughed, once - the ash tickled at his throat - and head out into the rain. They had enough supplies for a decent trip, but the inn was along the way back, so it didn't hurt to check it. The door was singed around the corners, ceiling half-collapsed, half the structure utterly consumed by chary black. Little hopes left, Owain pushed the door. It fell inward with a crash. Gesturing to Laurent, he slipped inside.

Seconds later, he left, coughing again - not from the ash, but to try and keep the bile in his throat. Blinking, eyes stinging, he began to make the trek back to their makeshift camp.

--

By the time they made it back, the others were resting in the cave. Though the sky here was dark as well, the rain had passed, leaving only the ghosts of droplets falling from puddles still trapped in the leaves above. Every now and then, the wind would rise, shaking a branch, and a deluge of fake-rain would patter across the carpet. Then, it would pass, the faint pitters of occasional drips taking the torrent's place.

Owain tossed his bag onto the cave floor, slumping against the wall.

"Got some clothes. My stuff'd fit ye, wildboy, though it'd prolly be a bit loose. Some dresses fer Ancie, too, courtesy o' our fine watchman." Anticipating a question, he glanced at the girl. "No sign o' yer family, by the by."

It was a lie. It was a lie, but it came effortlessly off of his tongue, no less simple than a yawn. He couldn't mention what he saw. What he saw, nor half of how it smelled, sharper and more pungent than the wafts that filled the village streets. Blinking, Owain rubbed at his face, again, and leaned out to take a stick from the fire.

"Think we shoul' - dunno. Go somewhere. Gotta be another town past the woods, aye?"

He poked at the coals, eyes shifting around the room as he waited for an answer. They shifted, giving off a froth of sparks - his eyes quickly flitted back to the fire, and he dropped the stick pulling his hands to his chest. Acting like nothing had happened, he returned his gaze to the others, eventually settling on the watchman.

Which way those men come from, Laurent?"
I look in the water and fear what I see
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My life is a lie that was uttered in jest
If I can't change at all, let me rest

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by UmbraSight » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:10 am

His body moved, but there wasn’t much purpose behind the movement. He needed to make himself useful, he had to make up for- yet he moved from one part of the room to another, listening to the sounds of Owain moving above him. That gentle creak of floorboards that were ready to be replaced, his father searching for a missing pin in the dark of early morning. He never could let himself accept retirement, could he? Laurent’s hands found some things of use, or perhaps simply things that seemed they might, metal utensils that could survive a journey, food that might be good for a few days of traveling, a knife for carving wood.

A pat on the shoulder pulled Laurent from his stupor. Owain with his own bag stuffed full returning. The watchman shook his head as the other man spoke, as if attempting to cast off the dregs of some sleep he scarcely remembered partaking in. Or, perhaps it was the opposite.

“Right. Right, that would be good.” Laurent said. He turned to follow Owain but paused as he neared the door. He knelt down and scooped up the old training sword that had been dropped by the doorway. Probably checked and then discarded by whoever had rummaged through the rest of the house. The old thing was lighter than he remembered it being when he was a boy, but it found its space next to his hip all the same. He followed Owain out, suppressing a cough of his own at the smell of ash distrubed by the rain.

Laurent followed, silently as the two made their way back out of town, the inn was along the way and Laurent found no reason to disagree when Owain mentioned checking it. There wasn’t much left of the building after the fire had taken its toll, and after he followed Owain inside Laurent was certain that there wasn’t anything inside worth remembering.

Though, he was just as certain that the image inside would not leave him as long as he still took breath.



————

It was a relief, in its own right, to see the others again. More tired than he could remember being, Laurent dropped his rucksacks down next to the one that Owain had carried and found himself a dry piece of rock to sit down on. Strange really, to still feel so heavy even after you took the weight off your shoulders. Laurent pulled off his boots, offering up a mute wave of the hand when Owain mentioned him. His gaze flicked up when Owain mentioned Anceline’s folks.


Smooth as when he told any other story, that one.

“Not much o’ t’inn left, all told, fire got it.” Laurent added. He pulled in a breath, and that smell of char in the campfire --

Laurent pulled off his other boot.
His eyes fell back to Owain as the other man continued to speak. Leaving? And go where? Coda was - no. Laurent ran his fingers across his eyes.

I know it's hard, but - I believe in you. We both do.

Gone. Coda was gone.

He looked back to Owain again.

“North by North-West, they did,” Laurent said. “Might’ve been followin’ an ol’ road or somethin’, up-high you coul’ see some cuts in th’tree line, 'ere and there.”
//… under her weight the floorboards gave, and she fell into the dark...// Fall of the Aelir Isles, Vol. III

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by illirica » Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:08 pm

Owain and Laurent returned, and Anceline was a lot more relieved to see them than she wanted to admit. They'd said that it would be safe going into town, that the danger had passed, that the riders had moved on. She knew that as well as the rest of them, but knowing it hadn't stopped her mind from coming up with a thousand different horrible and grisly possibilities. She'd slept for a while, she thought, or maybe she hadn't - it was hard to tell sometimes. Mostly she'd worried, about one thing or another. Mostly one thing.

No sign o’ yer family. She breathed a sigh that was half relief, half concern, and nodded. No sign meant... meant what? The group that had headed away... was it really only yesterday? They’d all been on horseback, at a good pace, not the sort of pace that would mean they had p- people walking with them. Somehow she couldn’t quite use the word prisoners, not even in her own mind. “They must’ve run off, like we did. Maybe they’re out here somewhere - we could look-“

Her eyes moved between the others - they were already talking about leaving. It was almost impossible to think about - how could they possibly leave when some of the townspeople were still out there? They needed to go back and help everyone settle in again and go back to...

But no, it would never go back to normal, would it? Her attention caught on a word Laurent was saying: North-by-northwest. They had to go North. Anceline wrapped her arms around herself and closed her eyes, squeezing them tightly. What would her family say when she found them, and then told them she had to leave, to go north for... for what? Because the tree was burning and the streets of the marble city ran red with blood? It didn’t mean anything. They’d send her to bed with a warm blanket and a cold compress.

At that moment, she had never wanted anything more. Her eyes opened again, slowly, swimming with unreleased tears. “S-sorry. I’m sorry.” She swallowed, shivering. “We can’t go back. We’ll have to go on.” A quiet pause, a whisper. “We need to go north.”
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