A Silent Coda

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illirica
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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by illirica » Sat Nov 30, 2019 7:27 pm

Laurent ran, and there was nothing to do but follow. Amid the chaos and confusion, it all became a blur - and yet she couldn’t help but see things that weren’t as blurred as she would have wanted them to be. Faces, people she knew, brutal violent deaths. The newcomers weren’t even fighting, because fighting implied something more than just being cut down. No, they were... were... harvesting. People cut down, like wheat beneath the thresher’s blades. Wheat didn’t fight back. It bowed to the wind, and then it broke beneath the blade.

So much blood. It spread, even after the harvesters had passed, leaking out from bodies onto the dusky ground. It was slower than they, as they ran. Her body ached, because she wasn’t used to running so much. There was a painful stitch in her side, where the air caught every time she breathed, and her skirts tangled around her legs, making her stumble. Anceline reached down, grabbing a fistful and holding it up, her other hand still wrapped around Owain’s knife that she didn’t dare let go.

She ran on anyway, because the other option was too terrifying to contemplate, and terror lent strength. Smoke came rushing up around them, and Anceline lifted the layer of fabric from her skirt over her face, mouth and nose covered, just like leaning in to stoke the fires in the ovens. The cloth was harder to breathe through still, and when Owain stopped, she stopped with him, leaning heavy against the wall and struggling to find enough breath to go on.

He was looking around the corner, but she closed her eyes, trying to find her breath in the darkness - but the only thing she could see there were the same swimming visions of people she had known all her life, cut down like nothing. Her eyes flew open again, because one time was already a time too many to see such a thing, and when he said they were good to go, she went with him.

He was wrong, though. Nothing would ever be good. Never again.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by Arkane » Wed Dec 04, 2019 5:07 am

They ran through the raging fires and hazy streets, his lungs burning with every inhale of smoke. But they had no choice but to move onward, Loch taking the hood from his cloak and holding it over his nose and mouth in a futile attempt to filter the contaminated air. The intense fires from the buildings caused beads of sweat to drip from his forehead and into his eyes, the heat almost as unbearable as the smoke.

But there was something worse than those two combined. The corpses.

Lochlan saw them all.

They were running around and jumping over the people of Coda, their bodies littered the streets, staining the soil where they were slain with blood. All the lifeless faces stared back at him, their stories abruptly ended. He didn’t have an attachment to the people of Coda like the others did, aside from Thierry, which he thankfully did not see amongst the dead. Still...no one deserved this.

They stopped suddenly at the behest of Owain, the young man stopping to catch his breath.

“There’s no time, we must keep moving,” Loch urged, noting how close a mounted soldier had passed. Thankfuly, they were still unnoticed in the chaos. “The forest ain’t far now,” Loch said, peering around the building cautiously.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by UmbraSight » Sat Dec 07, 2019 7:22 pm

That was it, then. Twelve men was all it took.

Smoke plumed upwards filling the tower’s absence, and in the air - Laurent’s lips twitched. Hooves and screams and the crunch of wood. Buildings, homes, lives. His fault for stepping away from his post. His fault for -
His sword shifted uneasily in his hand, and a drop of blood hit his boot with a ‘pat.’ His grip tightened. The commander had ridden away like the lives here meant nothing.

His blade returned to its scabbard as he turned back to the group, or in the least, the fabric of Anceline’s dress as it vanished around a corner. With a start Laurent chased after the others, lifting the collar of his shirt up over his nose as he went.

The all too familiar streets of the town twisted outwards like a nightmare. Blood pooled in the crevices, fires consumed landmarks, and the bodies —

The worst weren’t the dead, but those with still life enough to move despite their grave injuries. Those he couldn’t help.

The smoke stinging his eyes and burning in his lungs was a mercy of sorts. It helped turn it all to a blur. A ruined bakery came and went, that teen he had sent off, had she fled? Had she gotten caught up in the slaughter? Acid churned in his stomach.

The sound of hoofbeats sent the group scrambling for cover. Laurent ducked into the alleyway last as the horseman blew by. His head unmoving, well and truly aware that there was no threat in this village.

“Let’s keep t’pace up then ‘fore t’smoke does us in.” Laurent said after Owain cleared the street. Holding his shirt back up over his nose, Laurent dashed out into the street.
//… 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 » Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:36 am

Owain followed suit behind Laurent, pressing the hem of his shirt over his mouth and nose. The wildboy was right. The forest wasn't far - they were almost at the edge of town, now, with only a few fields and a hill to separate them from sanctuary. Don't think. Don't look. Just move. It was hard, pushing himself to that, but he had to, if not for the three beside him, then at least for himself.

It wasn't until they made it to the treeline that he risked a glance back.

The sun had long since set, but it seemed the aura still lingered in the air, light from the fires casting their flickering hues across the smokey sky. Much of the town was in ruins. Buildings collapsing under the strain of their own weight, no longer able to support themselves with flames nipping at their supports. This was the place he grew. He could see the festival field, from here, the trees still strung with tiny candles, their own dim glow concealed behind their violent cousin's. It looked empty - mercifully - and for a moment, he entertained the thought that everyone there, at least escaped.

Then he remembered. Of course it was empty. They'd gathered in the streets the moment the men on horses arrived. The men on horses with no goal but to meet the Prima, with no act but razing down his people as if they were little more than weeds -

"We'd best ta move deeper in, ain't we? Yea." The boy rubbed his nose. Wildboy, you live here. Take tha lead. Get us... someplace safe."

Deep breaths. Focus. The monsters of the forest didn't seem too scary, now, not the devilish dragons nor the far more fearsome dragon-eater - tails for chitlins to scare the wary. He'd never liked going near the woods, f'course, even though he didn't really believe all the rumors, but he wasn't really sure anything could scare him, now, not anything that only existed in words. That was all cold and distant. Everything was cold and distant. Maybe the lack of fire. Maybe from the running - the tingling in his fingertips, the rocks that shifted every time he swallowed.

"Anyone hurt?" Owain asked, steadying himself against a tree. He looked, now, not as his companions, but over his shoulder, eyes straining for a sign of riders in the night.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by Arkane » Sat Jan 04, 2020 5:00 am

The group raced out of the town, the sounds of death and pained cries slowly fading as they approached the foreboding forest. Compared to the glowing embers of Coda, the darkened grove ahead of them seemed like a welcoming embrace. To Lochlan, it definitely was. They stopped momentarily on the outskirts of the forest, Loch already spotting an overgrown animal path that lead deeper into the woods. He usually didn’t enter the forest from this side, but there was no other choice in matter. Besides, he knew this forest like the back of his hand.

Another brief pause, this time, to make sure that no one was hurt. When it was confirmed that everyone was in one piece, Loch nodded, gesturing for them to follow him.

“I know o’ a place we can shelter in for the night. Follow me and watch ya footin’,” he said, taking the lead, the path interlaced with tree roots.

The moon was bright, its beams illuminating a path through the thick grove of trees. Loch set a quick pace, moving dextrously over the uneven ground, his arms frequently raised to move aside various tree branches and brambles. Once they were deeper into the forest, the sounds of critters and forest life could be heard, the lighting from the moon now minimal. He stopped, looking over his shoulder to make sure that no one had fallen behind.

Without saying a word, Loch would quickly find a branch on the ground, the young man wrapping one end of it with a piece of his tunic that he had sliced off. Approaching a particular tree, he rubbed the makeshift torch into some sap that was oozing out of its bark. With a quick strike of a flint, the torch caught with flame, giving them blessed light. Not the finest torch, but it would work.

“Not far now,” he said, taking point once again.

The trail they were on now was much wider and easier to traverse. After a few more minutes of trekking, the light of the torch revealed a small clearing, sheltered in the middle of a dense circle of trees. A craggy and tall stone outcropping could be seen, with a cave opening in the middle of two jagged edges of stone. In front of the cave was a small sitting area, where a few larger stones and several wide tree stumps circled a well used fire pit. Inside the cave was a sleeping area, where Loch had fashioned a bed frame made out of interlocking logs. And if one looked up high above the cave opening, there was another sitting area, one that Loch had used to keep watch and look out at the horizon over the tree tops.

“Used ta live ‘ere for a while, til Thierry took me in,” he explained, vaguely. He snuffed the torch in the ground, the moon light able to reach the area effectively. “Probably best not to ‘ave a fire,” he said, disappearing into the cave. He reappeared a few seconds later with a fur in his hands, shaking it out. “Here,” he said, passing it to Anceline. The poor girl looked like she needed it. “I can take first watch.”

Suddenly, a rustle could be heard in the bushes, followed by a soft, padded thump. Loch seemed unperturbed as a large, brown wolf came limbering towards him. The animal eyed the others with sharp golden eyes, before nuzzling Loch’s hand.

“This ‘ere is Axl,” Loch said with a big smile, crouching down to affectionately pet the beast. “He’s ‘armless. Mostly. They’re not for eating, ya hear,” he said to the wolf, tail now wagging.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by illirica » Sat Jan 04, 2020 6:41 pm

She didn't look back, when they made it into the forest.

Anceline already had enough images in her mind that she knew would never leave her - what was one more? For all she knew, it would be her last - but no strike from behind came, and Lochlan took the lead from Laurent and drew them deeper into the forest's embrace. Anceline was not entirely unfamiliar with its outskirts - like any village child, she'd picked berries there in the summer, or flowers in the spring. He led them deeper in than she'd ever been before, and something about the forest seemed frightening... or perhaps it was that everything seemed frightening, and nothing would ever be safe again.

She didn't really know when they stopped, only that they had. As soon as they'd gotten away from the village, she'd felt the rush of energy subside, and by the time they neared their destination, it was all that she could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other without falling - and even then, she stumbled now and then. She refused to make a complaint of it, though - it would help nothing, and she was scared to break the silence. They seemed to be in a clearing of sorts, and her first thought was that it would be too easy to find, followed by the second thought that she might not care if it were found. She certainly hadn't the strength to run anywhere else.

Lochlan held something out in her direction, and it was a moment before she realized that he meant for her to take it. When she reached out a hand, she touched something soft, possibly the first soft thing in this new world of roughness and sharp edges. "Th-" She stopped, swallowing back a sudden lump in her throat. "Thank you." The words came out quietly, without confidence, but she wrapped the fur around her shoulders anyway, sitting down on a tree stump with the understanding that it was that or collapse entirely. Anceline endeavored to do so gracefully, but any pretense to good manners disappeared with the appearance of a monster from the undergrowth. She started in on a scream, then put her hand over her mouth to stifle the rest of it, wide eyes staring at the jaws of something that could tear her limb from limb just as easily as a soldier's blade. In fact, the wolf was a more familiar fear - no child in Coda grew up with a fear of soldiers, but wolves in the woods were something they knew of, and knew to be wary of.

Lochlan petted it, and she would have questioned his sanity had not the entire world been insane. His reassurances were not particularly such, she thought. "Lochlan, that's a wolf," she protested, weakly. Of course he knew what it was, and she didn't suspect that anything she said was going to change that fact, no matter how much she'd have rather it been something smaller. A squirrel or a rabbit, maybe - or a chipmunk. Anceline rather liked chipmunks.

Unfortunately, it remained a wolf. She tried not to think about being disemboweled in her sleep. She wondered what would happen to the people back in Coda - somehow, she doubted the soldiers would give them a proper burial, or even a burning. Likely, wolves would eat them. The thought made her feel sick, but if she hadn't been sick yet, she wasn't about to start now. She probably should have cried, but her tears had run dry, sometime between the village and now. "Do we have any water?"

A sensible question - as if there was anything in this world left to be sensible about.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by UmbraSight » Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:00 pm

Laurent’s pace only slowed once Locklan passed him as their group drew close to the forest’s bleeding edge. The wildboy - hunter - seemed to find a path somewhere within the brush and motioned them on. There was a momentary pause once they were within the relative cover of the underbrush. Time enough to check for injuries, time enough for Laurent to look back upon the village. What remained seemed to shimmer impossibly bright and Laurent could smell the smoke upon his own clothes.

He was not cold, yet still he shivered.

Before he had time to really start to think, they were on the move again. Lochlan lead them on, following some path he could see in the dark, into parts of the forest Laurent only knew from years of staring out upon them from the distance. The sounds of the forest were bizarre, distant snaps, the low buzz of insects, somewhere a bird calling as if the world hadn’t suddenly been turned sideways. Above the forest’s canopy seemed to close in, as if it were trying to isolate them from the world beyond. It wasn’t long before their progress halted as the young hunter created a torch. A momentary image of the distant riders, noticeable only due to their torchlight, flickered through his mind.

But it mattered little, his tower was gone after all.

Being able to see the roots made short work of the final leg of their journey. It wasn’t long before they were in a clearing, one clearly kept well over the years. Not much by way of protection if anything happened to find them, but would the soldiers scour the forest for any survivors? Laurent could only think of the one rider looking forward as he passed their hiding spot.

“You’ll be t’guide tomorrow. Get some sleep.” Laurent said as Loch offered to take the first watch. “What’s t‘way to t’top o-“

The underbrush rustled, and Laurent turned sharply on his heel. A beast plodded quickly into the clearing, but before Laurent had a chance to draw his blade the wolf made its way over to the wildboy and nuzzled his hand asking for a pet.

A wolf. How many times had he rung his bell on the account of those infernal things?

Still it didn’t seem like it was going to attack them, so it was low on his list of worries.

Laurent cleared his throat.

“If t’ere is a source nearby I can ‘elp you draw up a few buckets.”
//… 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 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:25 am

Owain thought he might feel the rush subside, once they passed into the trees, but his tensions only seemed to rise. His father was back there. Alone. He'd still been at the homestead, so possibly safe from the soldiers, but still - probably safe wasn't enough. Probably didn't put food on the table, didn't stitch up wounds, and didn't open doors. Probably was a promise time didn't have to keep.

The forest, too, rankled him the wrong way. He never liked the place. No. That wasn't quite true, was it? Back when he was just a wee chitlin himself, he used to love running up to the edge, loved hiding in the shade of the trees. He'd heard the stories of monsters, of demons, of creatures more long than a house was wide, but in his youngin mind, he could take them all, just with a stick-made-sword and a heart of fire. They weren't real, but there were dangers you could touch, in the woods, dangers that could rip a man to shreds. Young Owain didn't know, or didn't care - he wanted to best them all. In time though, his fire tempered, less to defeat, more to protect, and while the dream never truly died, the story it contained was so different that it might've well bit the dust. And now?

Now he wasn't sure he even trusted tempered fire. He'd seen what it did. He'd smelled what it burned. He -

"Watch it with that, wildboy," he growled as the outsider struck a torch. He realized he'd been staring behind them, staring into the woods - for monsters? No, for knights - when the flicker of light caught his eye, and now it was to that his sight betrothed. He glared at it, lip curling, but didn't say anything else. The light was necessary, and they were far enough in that it shouldn't be too much a risk. Possibly. Hopefully. They passed through a thicket, obscured by rampant brush, and came to a clearing with a stony wall beside. Inside the wall was a crack as dark as the torch was bright, and for the first moment, a bit of the tension left Owain's shoulders. A cave. Caves were safer than the open. Caves, he could respect.

"Ye used ta live here, wildboy?" the farmer said, glancing into the hole. "Ye've got more nerve than me. I'd not wanna risk bein' out here, what with -"

Soft sounds of pads on dirt. Owain raised his stolen sword in one hand, holding his other out defensively.

"Girl's right. That be a wolf," he said. His voice was strained. Quiet. "What ye be doin' with a wolf, wildboy? Ye know they eat folk like us. They be ruthless."

He took a step towards it. His face had grown gaunt, strained, tension redoubled, eyes wide and cold. As he leveled on the beast, his lip curled back into - maybe a snarl, maybe a rictus. It could have been anger or fear, or possibly both, muddled up by shadows from the torchlight.
Last edited by BanefulMelody on Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by Arkane » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:38 pm

Lochlan spent most of his childhood in the woods, which resulted in him not having the same fear of the woods as the others did, especially when it came to wolves. So yes, Lochlan was fondly petting a wolf. He was genuinely very happy to see Axl, the young man now on his knees and stifling a laugh as the great beast attempted to lick his cheek. “Aye, it’s a wolf,” he replied to Anceline, finally getting up and dusting his knees off. Axl sat obediently beside him, silently observing them.

“There’s a small stream round back with a few pails that we can use for fetching it,” he said, already preparing himself for the first watch. However, he was pleasantly surprised when Laurent offered to take the first watch for him, declaring that Loch would need his sleep in order to continue to guide them tomorrow. That was unexpected. Lochlan was never a very good leader, but he supposed there was no one else that could do it in their current situation.

“Sure, that makes sense. We’ll fetch water first, then start the watches. The path up to the watch point starts here,” Loch said, pointing to well worn grooves in the rock face. He gestured to Laurent to follow him, Axl sitting up to tag along with them. However, neither of them got very far as Owain’s sword rose in defence, his eyes directed at the wolf.

Lochlan stopped mid-stride, his eyes now narrowed in a sharp glare at Owain. Axl, sensing his master’s tension, also became defensive, a low growl could be heard piercing the silence of the woods, the beast crouched defensively. “Well, then it’s a good thing I ain’t ‘folk like you’, huh?,” Loch said, eyes sharp as he tried to read Owain’s movements. His own hand reach for a dagger he had sheathed around his hip.

“Axl is my wolf. Raised ‘im from a pup when his pack abandoned ‘im after he broke his leg. He won’t hurt ye, not if you don’t give him reason too. But I warn ye, farmboy,” Loch continued, choosing to use an endearing nickname as Owain had done for him. “Ye be in our territory now and this is Axl’s ‘ome. There be far more terrifying things in the woods than just a lone wolf, so leave ‘im be.”

Loch held an arm out towards Axl, the wolf reluctantly stepping back in obedience. The hunter stood firm though, his body between Axl and Owain. He didn’t want to fight Owain, not after what they had just been through, but if he had to, then he sure as hells would.

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Re: A Silent Coda

Post by illirica » Thu Jan 16, 2020 3:42 pm

Laurent was taking the first watch. That was good. He was a watchman. Anceline didn't have the faintest idea what taking watch even meant - other than sitting up, perhaps, making sure they didn't get eaten by wolves? Except the wolf was here already, and apparently Lochlan'd gone and given it a name. It didn't feel right. Strange. Something that belonged in one of Owain's stories, not something that belonged in their real lives.

Owain didn't like it either, and unlike her, he had the energy to make something more than a weak protest. Well, she couldn't blame him, given what had happened - and yet, fighting among themselves wasn't going to get them anywhere, was it? And they had to get... somewhere. Anceline didn't even know where - but they had to get somewhere, tell someone, find help so that other towns didn't suffer the same fate as Coda.

She wondered how many of them already had.

Owain was right about the wolf. And yet... her fingers reached up, touched the fur wrapped around her. Lochlan had done her a kindness, when she hadn't known she needed one. She sighed quietly and stood up, letting it slip off her shoulders. She ought to have folded it nicely, she knew, but the energy wasn't there. She was surprised her legs even held her - but they did, for now. She took a few steps, locating one of the buckets and walking over to the two boys, coming up behind Owain. Her fingertips touched his elbow, lightly, and she put the bucket into his hand.

'No sitting about when there's work to be done.' Her mother's words. Her mother's voice. She'd never hear it again. Anceline felt the tightness in her throat at the thought, but her eyes were dry. There simply weren't any tears left - she'd spent them all already. Her mother had also known the trick of getting children to stop fighting - separate them, give them a task to do and a sympathetic ear. They weren't little ones, but maybe they were all tired enough for it to work.

"Come with me to get some water, Owain. I don't want to go alone."

Maybe she oughtn't have been so truthful, with the last. She could have told him she needed his strength to carry the buckets or something, but Anceline was a daughter of the boarding-house, she knew well how to carry a bucket. And she didn't want to go alone.

She let the statement be, truth that it was, and stepped away, picking up another bucket and heading down towards the indicated stream. It wasn't too far, which was a good thing, because she didn't trust her legs much farther. She knelt at its side, still feeling guilt about getting dirt on her clothes despite the fact that dirt was likely the best option right now - she didn't want to look at herself. She touched her fingers to the water, before there could be a reflection, watching the water split around her hand instead, drawn into little separate swirls.

Two, side by side. Like a pair of twins, but separated, drawn apart by something in the way. She couldn't see if they'd join together again, further down the stream. She couldn't see anything but the fire, burning brightly, caught up in the branches of a tree like streamers at a festival, stretching out into the night. The hill was distant, the tree the only thing atop it, and the fire tore at it like sword-slashes through the branches, cutting them down to fall, helpless and burning, atop the hill.

The fire stretched for the sky, leaping towards the tails of a flock of birds - white doves, unsullied by blood, unsullied by flame. They flew north, away from the flame, towards the open sky - but the sky was itself a blade, and it reaved their formation, cut-feathers scattering, twisting in the wind, rolling into clouds that boiled over the horizon. Beneath them, the hill stood constant, but the ash of the burning tree had scattered into the gray depths of the clouds, and there was a tower raised where it had once stood, being razed. Flames caressed the white stone, red on white like blood on the body of a pure white dove. The flames flickered, a flick of feathers, and behind the tower, something stirred in the shadows they cast, unseen.


Anceline started suddenly, and withdrew her hand and her gaze from the water. She was sweating, and the air that had seemed heated with fire a moment before was suddenly chill. She shook her head, dispelling waking dreams, and dipped the bucket into the water to fill it. Dip the bucket, draw it up. Nothing but water, to be brought back for drinking.

This, she understood.

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