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Welcome to Carista. We are an original fantasy roleplay forum set in the world of Carista -- a place where the eight different systems of control are divided across countries and oceans and blood. The systems of control are Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Ice, Plant, Health and Time -- all given to humanity in ages past.

Now, during a golden age throughout the kingdoms, rumors have come of the Loners discovering an ancient building deep underground that contains a legendary Relic that may hold the key to ultimate power or destruction. And so the race of kingdoms begin with the prize being a Relic of untold power...


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Stian Eld

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Posts : 19
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PostSubject: Waylaid   Sun Nov 04, 2012 1:17 am

It was a warm evening outside Cahaya, a village seated deep in the Seran jungles; unseasonably warm, in truth. Humidity made the air thick and close, the night sticking like sap to Stian's skin as she walked, her footsteps quiet on the damp earth. Still somewhat accustomed to the weather of South Glacies, though more acclimated to temperate weather now, she still had a fairly low tolerance for heat. Her thick soled leather boots had long since been traded in for the sandals the locals wore. In all honesty she would happily have gone barefoot, but walking barefoot through an unfamiliar stretch of jungle seemed unwise, especially with all the poisonous snakes and amphibians in the area. Her cold weather clothes had likewise been exchanged for a light homespun linen tunic worn threadbare at the elbows, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. Raising one arm to wipe sweat from her brow, she let her fingers probe the pins she had keeping her hair in place and off of her face, the familiar braid wound around her head in a way she had seen local women use, but didn't quite understand the mechanics of herself.

Insects swarmed around her bare arms, buzzing by her ears and trying their best to alight in Mercy's mane, which he shook fitfully every few steps. Running a slim hand down his damp neck in a calming gesture, Stian regretted bringing him for the hundredth time. She hadn't wanted to leave him behind, but jungles weren't exactly the best environment for a horse, especially one from northern Unda. He was coping admirably, but he certainly wasn't enjoying himself. Holding onto a fistful of his dirty mane for support, she glanced around herself, taking in the jungle. The well-beaten dirt beneath them was the only indication that the direction they went lead anywhere: Stian had been told that there was a town this way, one with a very wise old herb woman. Hoping to study with her, she had set off before she really understood how far it was. If she had realized she would need to walk through the night, alone in the jungle, she might have hired a guide. Or waited for the next caravan that was headed this way. No matter which way she should have done it, the current situation left her feeling exposed and unsure of how far she was from her goal.

The sky above the thick canopy of trees looked to be fading from dusky blue, a slight peach gilt to the underside of the clouds she could see between the branches. Below the canopy it was already on the verge of full night, with dregs of light filtering down from above to touch this branch or that leaf, illuminate the bole of a tree with some mysterious tangle of limbs shuffling inside. The rustling of underbrush nearby drew her dark gaze but quickly subsided. More than anything she was concerned about the large predators of the jungle, those huge cats that could sneak up behind a person with hardly a whisper. She remembered wistfully the small tribe she had met that wore masks on the backs of their heads to deter such attacks: they believed that if the cat thought they were looking at them, they would wait for an easier kill. Resisting the urge to look over her shoulder, she ran her fingers through the bit of Mercy's tangled mane in her grasp.

She had just caught site of what she believed were the outlying torches of Cahaya when Mercy stopped dead, shifting his feed nervously. Stian had learned to trust his reactions many months ago and crouched slightly, trying to spot what he had sensed. He snorted, shook his head violently and took several steps back, looking down the path ahead of them.

"What is it, darlin' boy?" Stian's voice was low and hoarse from disuse; one of Mercy's ears flicked back to acknowledge that he heard her, but his dark eyes stayed locked on the dusky trail ahead. And then she saw them, figures emerging from the underbrush ahead of her and to her right. The snap of a twig behind her made her tense, her heart pounding painfully in her throat. They were quiet, as quiet as the large cats she had feared: it had been complacent of her to forget that people were just as dangerous as animals.

The people in front of her and to her right stopped a short distance away, their faces covered by wrapped cloths. She felt the jagged tip of a weapon dig into her lower back, just hard enough to be uncomfortable but not enough to break the skin; if she could judge by what the two in front of her were holding, she assumed the third person also had a spear. Standing slowly, she kept a firm grip on Mercy's mane.

No one spoke for a long moment and Stian looked between them. Her voice still gruff fatigue, she said, "Well? What do you want?" She was in no position to fight off three people, but it didn't mean she wouldn't try. The person in front of her thrust his jaw out and pointed with his spear, toward Mercy.

"Give us your beast," the man said in lilting, musical words. Or at least that was what Stian understood of it, her Seran not being perfect, but the intent was clear. Tightening the hand on her horse into a fist, Stian shook her head, two decisive movements and then a dead stop, no room for misunderstanding.

"No." She knew her Seran was accented, she knew her complexion gave her away as a foreigner, but she most certainly was not going to give her horse over. Not only did she need him, he had become a friend to her, an amiably disinterested companion. He was certainly not going to turn into someone's dinner, as she could think of few other uses they might have for him in such a dense landscape.

There was a rumble of disapproval behind her and the spear pressed harder against her back, reminding her of exactly what the terms of this situation were. "Give us the beast, now." Taking advantage of the time it took for him to speak, Stian whirled and grabbed the spear from the masked man behind her, jerking it out of his hands and whipping it around to point at him. He took a step back, surprised, but quickly drew a thick bladed knife from his belt. His two companions began to close in, pressing the advantage of their numbers. Looking between them, Stian backed herself up against Mercy's flank and crouched lower, trying desperately to think of something clever, as her own merit as a fighter was completely negligible. As one stepped too close she snarled and lunged, missing him by a mile but making him retreat as the other stepped forward and like that, the fight began.


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Katsue Hyuuga

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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:57 pm

Five birds, two snakes, some kind of reptile...As she walked, Katsue tried to count the number of wild animals surrounding her. Of course, it was impossible to determine exactly how much there was. She was in a jungle; there was about more than a hundred insects on one tree. She continued this exercise nonetheless, thinking it was good practise towards her awareness and observation skills. She had nothing else to do, for one: she was by herself and treading through the thick greenery that was Sera. While she didn't mind being alone, she at least wanted to do something useful of her time.

A few days ago, when she had entered Sera, she was with her master, Hajime, still. On the outskirts of the jungle, he'd bid her goodbye and left. He wanted to return to Terra and check on his home. He wasn't one to care about property, but the rest of his pupils remained there. She might have been his favourite, but he still considered all of them important. Most of her belongings were also there, notably something in particular she wanted to stay untouched and safe for a long time. Thus, she didn't mind her master leaving at all. In fact, she welcomed the break from his incessant lecturing.

It was he who'd given her the idea of coming to Sera. He knew of her desire to get experience at fighting in real battles and he dreaded the idea of her joining some kind of gang or front. So, he'd though of the next best thing: coming to Sera, where being part of a group wasn't needed to get into a fight. Since the kingdom was still in the tribal era, it was common for clan members to attack foreigners – or other clans – at random. It was the perfect place for her to earn experience while not tying herself to any organization whatsoever.

Sometimes the geezer has good ideas, Katsue thought. However, days had passed as she made her way to the center of the jungle and nothing had happened. No fights had arisen, she hadn't been attacked or ambushed by anyone. She was becoming restless because of it. She could barely sleep at night, keeping her eyes peeled for a surprise attack. But, nothing. Either no Seran had come across her yet or they weren't as barbaric as she thought and wouldn't attack her without a reason. In that case, Hajime would be off the mark. She clicked her tongue. He better not have made me come here for no reason. It wouldn't surprise her if this turned out to be a wild goose chase just to keep her leashed for a little longer.

There was a reason to attack her, however. The katana she carried was invaluable and any warrior would want its razor-sharp blade that made short work of skin and fabric alike. She glanced at it; it was hidden by the sheathe. She closed her eyes, irritation boiling inside her. It was just a trick from her master after all. She would not let him off the hook easily when she saw him next. Angrily, she pulled out her sword. The weapon was a gift from Hajime, to commemorate the start of her training alongside him. Sasayaku, meaning Whisper. She wouldn't give it up for the world, but if it helped draw out enemies, she didn't mind parading it around.

At last, she heard voices from afar. Jerking her head in the direction of the noise, she tried zeroing in on the distance. It was just a few strides away, she'd have to get closer to see what was going on. Swiftly, she headed towards the sound, making herself as stealthy as possible. Luckily, it was basic skills like that she had developed more in her training while manipulation of her element had been neglected. Or, 'saved for later', like her master said.

Three tribe members were surrounding a young woman and what looked like her horse, from the way she was holding on to it protectively. She was holding onto a spear, one of the Seran's, no doubt. Three men, all three armed. Katsue was already making a quick analysis of the 'battles stats'. If she got that girl on her side, it'd be two against three, thus not complete suicide. What's more, she just wanted to fight. She craved it so much at this point, she didn't care about odds.

The girl had been crouched against her horse before and she suddenly lashed out at one of the assailants with the spear she'd stolen. Katsue took her chances at that moment and jumped in. With speed and precision, she knocked the knife from the Seran's hands and hit him on the temple with the flat of her blade. He backed up a little, confused, but worked past it quickly. They were tough. It seemed mercy was not an option. She'd already lost the element of surprise and knew the others would come at her soon. She had to make an example out of this one fast so they'd lose confidence.

She crouched, using the momentum as she got up to pierce the man's cloth and stab through his side. Pulling out her katana, she hit him with the handle and knocked him over. He fell to his back while she spun around, facing the other two and swinging her blade to wipe the blood away.

The other two were momentarily frozen, but they'd attack any minute now and they'd be more cautious. It seemed they wouldn't be scared off so easily. Satisfied, she smirked. It wouldn't be fun if they ran away now. She glanced at the girl, standing next to her. ''Keep one of them off me.'' And she charged towards the third one.
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Stian Eld

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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:07 am

Swearing at her assailants in rapid Enish, Stian flicked the spear at the man directly in front of her, raking the tip of the blade across his knuckles. He yelped and took several steps back, what she could see of his face tight with what could either be pain or severe irritation. Ducking a jab from the other spear, she swatted at it awkwardly with her own, clacking the hafts together and knocking it away. This was going nowhere fast, her shoulders already beginning to complain after the first rush of adrenaline that had made this all seem like a feasible course of action. She was by no means weak, but the sort of muscle she had was from doing everything herself, aside from carry her belongings. She ran, climbed, swam, anything, but had no muscle memory for weapons. Thinking about it now, that was something she should rectify if she made it out of this in one piece.

Moving on from profanity to just random phrases, trusting the sound of a strange language to disconcert them, Stian peripherally knew that making as much noise as possible was a good way to attract the attention of other predators but who cared. She certainly didn't, letting out a guttural yell and slashing the air in front of her in criss crossing motions that didn't hurt anyone or even come close, but no one was going to walk into that space. The wet heat of the jungle combined with fear and exertion had soaked the neck of her tunic with sweat, beads of it running down her face and flicking from the tip of her nose as she whipped her head around to swing at the next person to move too close for her liking.

Her gaze locking onto the Seran with the knife, she almost choked when another figure came rocketing out of the trees and struck him, square on the temple. He didn't seem injured for that moment, but the sudden appearance was enough to stun both he and Stian. At least this person didn't seem to be trying to rob her, or if they were they were going about it in an odd way. The fatal blow was dealt almost before Stian registered that it had happened, the blood arcing from the spinning blade. Her stomach dropped at the sight of it, a part of her having recognized that there was no way this wasn't going to end with someone dead, but not wanting to believe it. The less reasonable part of her had wanted the Serans to get bored and wander off, though in what world that was likely she wasn't sure. Certainly not this one.

Realizing she had completely stopped paying attention to the two other people there, her head snapped back to them, only to find them just as surprised by what had happened to their companion. Glancing back to her, hopefully, savior, she was a little surprised by what she saw: the young woman with the sword was about her height, but by her estimation, a few years younger. She hadn't been on the road - why had she been out in the brush? Deciding not to question it, at least not at the moment, she locked eyes with the young woman.

''Keep one of them off me.'' The accompanying smirk and dash away left Stian speechless for a moment.

"I -" But there was no real point in protesting, especially since the other woman was already in the fight and now outnumbered. Taking a deep breath, Stian yelled the most offensive insult she could remember in Seran at the man who wasn't currently being attacked. Raising her spear, she charged as well, though with a little less vigor.


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Katsue Hyuuga

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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:11 am

Her first fight. It was happening, finally. Well, the first one that counted. There was one time before...but no, it didn't count. That was a bad memory. This, however, she'd be remembering for a long time. It was exhilarating. The danger and adrenaline and possibility of overpowering her enemy all blended together in one sick, thrilling feeling that possibly only a revenge-driven vessel could enjoy. This was what she'd sought. A chance to spar; a real fight with her life on the line. Where she could measure her current skill, improve and get experience.

Although she was enjoying herself, taking care of her opponent proved harder than she'd initially figured. The problem was the man's spear. The long-rage weapon continuously kept her at bay, preventing her from getting closer and over-throwing her adversary. She could tilt the balance by using her element, but the last thing she wanted was to resort to using it. She did plan on eventually mastering her system, but that would come later. Now, she wanted to focus on her armed and unarmed combat capabilities. While she'd barely grazed the surface of Earth manipulation in her training with Hajime, she'd dwelt much deeper in traditional fighting. She needed agility and speed to win this fight. She had both.

She made a half-circle as the spear shot forward, ending where it would have once stabbed her in the gut. She smirked. With that, she already had the upper hand. The tribe member's side was exposed to her and she slashed down his shoulders, cutting the muscles connecting it to the arm. Said limb was now useless and thus, the winner determined. With a few quick-steps, she was behind him and she hit the back of his head with the flat of Sasayaku. The warrior bent forward and coughed blood, now at a more practical height for her. One step, hop, and she was standing on his back, her weight causing him to plummet face first into the ground.

She hopped off him. He wasn't dead, just unconscious. He'd stay so for awhile. Katsue turned to the last remaining one. Ignoring the girl currently dealing with him, the Terran cut between them in a flash and knocked the pesky spear out of the Seran's hands. She then slashed across his chest multiple times, at great speed, making shallow cuts. She was hoping to effectively scare off the now-alone Seran, and she succeeded. When she stopped swinging her katana, the warrior was a quivering, feverish mess. He ran off without asking for his due. Katsue let him go, satisfied.

Then, the tension dropped and reality kicked in. She felt the strain in her arms and legs and had to use her katana as support to keep herself from caving in. She tsked mentally. All that from just one fight against three opponents? She had to be better, much better, if she ever wanted to stand against her father on equal grounds. If she got this tired from one skirmish, she'd never be able to defeat him, the Fire Master, general of the Ignese army.

The sound of a neigh pulled her from her thoughts. She looked at the horse, then at its owner. She was finally taking the time to study the girl, having barely taken a glance at her before. From what Katsue had seen of her fighting, she didn't have any technique. She had spirit, if nothing else. No, she then thought. I don't know how long she's been here but she's been holding them off on her own for some time. She's strong enough.

Momentarily losing interest in her again, Katsue's coal eyes turned to the first Seran she had felled. She approached him slowly, apprehensively even. She hadn't been aiming for any vital organs when she'd stabbed him, so there was a chance he was still alive. She crouched down, felt his pulse. It was faint, but there. She stood up. ''Nothing to do for him now, though'', she mumbled to herself. Something clouded her eyes. Regret, maybe? She hadn't been planning on it, but this man would die. It was painful, especially when she'd planned this end for one person only.
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Stian Eld

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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Tue Nov 06, 2012 12:37 am

The man she charged wasn't particularly intimidated. He didn't seem to be a warrior of any great skill, but he knew enough to gauge his enemy and Stian was found wanting. Blocking her thrust with what looked to be negligible ease, his responding attack was a little too close for comfort, whistling through the air where her face had just been. Taking an unconscious step back to put even more distance between herself and the spearman, who she felt she was distracting a little too effectively, she barely had time to raise her spear before he was on her again, jabbing swiftly for her leg. An awkward hop got her out of the way of what would certainly have struck her calf squarely and she lost even more ground, almost back to where she started. In her peripheral vision she could see the second man fall, unconscious under the woman with the curved blade.

This caught the attention of her attacker as well and it was all too clear from his widened eyes that he realized he was suddenly alone. Both of his companions were face down on the ground, one bleeding copiously and the other an unconscious mess of limbs. Stian began to take advantage of his split attention, jerking toward his belly with her spear, but she pulled up quickly when the other woman interposed herself between them, cutting thin ribbons across the man's chest. Wounds clearly meant to scare, to send the message I could kill you if I felt like it, so don't push your luck. It worked. Trembling, the man backed up several steps, obviously not wanting to turn his back on her, before taking off into the trees at high speed.

Stian lowered her spear, breathing heavily. Slightly embarrassed by the way her arms quivered, she comforted herself silently that it was a combination of adrenaline and exhaustion, perfectly reasonable. Patting Mercy's flank with a shaky hand, he let out a soft neigh and shifted his feet, visibly less tense. Whoever this other person was, she didn't set off the horse's nose for danger, which was good enough for her. Stian looked away from him and back to the other woman, their gaze locking for a moment, each considering the other. The contact ended as abruptly as it had begun as the woman went to the side of the Seran Stian had thought fatally wounded.

"Nothing to do for him now, though." So he wasn't dead. Propping the spear against a tree, Stian pushed up one of her sleeves, which had come untucked during the fight.

"Let me see him." Crouching down on the other side of him from her savior, Stian reached a slender hand out, laying her palm over his eyes, her thumb on one temple and her middle finger on the other. With a deep breath she shut her eyes, trying to calm her racing heart and focus in. In, out, in, out. Feeling herself slip into a more meditative mind frame, Stian felt for the well inside of her, reaching for that bundle of elemental nerves and grasping it tight. A rush of emotion struck her, whirling in her internal fist; fierce but gentle, reassuring but also admonishing. A flash of color in her minds eyes, sunlight through snow and the golden late afternoons of outer Sera, when the fireflies came out in force. Scents that had nothing to do with her surroundings crept into her lungs, filling her with a deep and quiet nostalgia. Allowing those feelings, those emotional phantom pains to settle, she reached out with the delicate tendrils they formed, visualizing them pouring down her arm and into the man on the ground before her. She knew she owed him nothing, less than nothing, but it felt wrong to leave him to die.

Not completely altruistic, she pulled back before he was truly healed. The wound to his side looked weeks old and on its way to being fully healed, but it would always cause him pain and the scar would not be pretty. Pushing an overpowering sense of drowsiness onto his mind, she opened her eyes, feeling the thickness that filled the air whenever she worked her Element dissipate. With a sigh, she got to her feet and dusted off her hands. Holding one out to the other woman to shake, she said, "He should be fine now, though I'm not interested in waiting to find out. I'm Stian. Thank you for what you did; I owe you." Her voice was hoarse, once again, though this time from exhaustive yelling, and her eyes searched the other woman's face, her expression neutral but not unfriendly.


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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Tue Nov 06, 2012 10:05 am

Katsue moved away, allowing space for the young woman to approach the dying Seran. She watched curiously – yes, she couldn't deny she was mildly interested by the strangers actions – as the other crouched near the wounded and reached out with her hand. Her expression reminded Katsue of when she meditated, although the Terran never seemed to reach a state of tranquillity quite at the other woman's level. Finally, she extended her hand fully so it hovered above the tribesman. At which point the Earth user couldn't take her eyes off the spectacle.

There was a reason for her fascination. She was standing before a Health user; she'd just saved one. She was witnessing the application of the element. While the display itself was something impressive, it wasn't that which kept her keenly observing the scene. Her mother had always admired Health users. She had always told her daughter that she thought they were possibly the most blessed system users, because they could bring happiness to others, by curing their friends or families. She had wished to be one. Seeing one firsthand reminded her of Mirai and she felt her throat tighten ever so slightly.

She beckoned herself to snap out of her daze. This was no time for self-wallowing or reminiscing. As the woman performed her little ritual, Katsue sat down, cross-legged. She took out a cloth from her satchel and started wiping off the blood from her blade. She did so with care and patience. If she didn't do this every time the blade was strained, it would rust and lose its edge when she sheathed it next. She had time to do it now and it was a good way to unwind after the fight. When she finished, she sheathed the katana with a swift gesture.

Noticing her 'companion' had gotten up, she followed. It seemed the healing was over. Katsue glanced down at the Seran and noticed the wound wasn't fully healed. A small smirk played on her lips. So, this woman wasn't a complete goody two-shoes. A nice touch, that a person like her could appreciate. The moment passed and she stared, a blank – with just a hint of distrust –look on her face, at the hand that was offered to her. #B8B804"He should be fine now, though I'm not interested in waiting to find out. I'm Stian. Thank you for what you did; I owe you." Ah, what a bother. Now that her speaker had introduced herself, it was common courtesy to do the same. Well, it didn't matter that much. What Katsue didn't have the time or need for were friends; in other words, burdens. Just giving out her name was fine. Slowly, she reached out and gave the hand a light squeeze. ''Katsue'', she deadpanned. ''You don't need to thank me, I didn't do it for you.''

Hajime would've chopped her head off if he'd been there, watching her act like a rotten bastard in front of someone who was giving her an honest thank you. Katsue shrugged mentally; she didn't intend to be mean, simply honest. She wouldn't accept gratitude when her intentions weren't the right ones. She eyed the woman lazily. She didn't look all sunshine and flowers, either. In fact, the two of them had similar expressions, if only for a few subtle differences. In any case, Stian didn't seem like she'd take her words too personally.

''Actually, can I ask for a favor?'' She'd suddenly thought of something and her expression had changed to look less jaded. ''I was told I'd find people to fight here, but so far I've only come across you and those tribesmen. I want to head to a village. Would you know of how to reach one?''

The 'looking for a fight' could have been left out, but she figured honesty was the fastest of getting Stian to help her. The tribesman was starting to stir; Katsue looked at Stian expectantly, waiting for her answer.
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Stian Eld

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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:14 am

The hesitation before the other woman shook her hand did not escape her, or the faint pressure of the woman's grip. So many took a handshake as a chance to size a person up, to try and see if they could overpower the other without overtly attacking them. Or they did the opposite, if they just couldn't be bothered to care, as this woman seemingly couldn't. Letting her hand drop back to her side, Stian felt thoroughly dismissed even before Katsue spoke. ''You don't need to thank me, I didn't do it for you.'' Well that was enlightening. The straight faced delivery amused Stian, who couldn't help the tug of a smirk at one corner of her mouth. What this girl lacked in manners she made up for in straightforwardness, something Stian could appreciate. Though she still felt a little irked at being dismissed, she found her irritation combining with a bemused interest.

In the intervening silence Stian raised her slender eyebrows at Katsue, trying to keep the amusement out of her eyes. She wasn't quite sure what to make of her yet, and didn't want to risk making her angry if the excitable young woman thought she was laughing at her. Keeping her dark eyes on the girl's face, she considered her: she assumed Katsue was from Terra by dint of her name. That weapon, too, didn't look Seran or like any other sword she had seen before, or at least in such fine form as this. What had she been doing in the brush, travelling near the road but not on it; where had she been going? At least she didn't seem inclined to try and rob the person she had just helped; Stian could imagine stranger things happening.

"Actually, can I ask for a favor?"

Stian shrugged and nodded, curious about what she might want. If it was within her power, she wanted to be able to at least return the gesture.

"I was told I'd find people to fight here, but so far I've only come across you and those tribesmen. I want to head to a village. Would you know of how to reach one?''

Fight? She came here looking for a fight? That explained her attitude about the highwaymen, but such an unfocused reason took Stian aback. There wasn't a particular group of people she was fighting, a goal she was fighting toward? To be fair, she mused, it wasn't like she'd casually chat about her motivations to a stranger on the road. Stian wasn't in the habit of helping people get themselves cut up or stabbed, but Katsue seemed like she could take care of herself and who was Stian to stop someone from getting themselves killed if that was what they wanted.

She shrugged. "I'm headed toward Cahay, which should be just a little ways farther down this road. I don't know if you'll have any luck there, though; I don't know much about the place aside from stories about their healer-woman's abilities." Turning back to Mercy she straightened her packs and made sure nothing had fallen to the road during the scuffle. Satisfied that she was ready to continue on her way, she looked back to Katsue. "If you'd like, we could head there together. Its the least I can do."

The slight motions of the tribesman she had healed caught her eye and she regarded him with faint distaste. Crouching next to him, for a long moment she just looked and considered before she drew a fist up in a sudden motion and bringing it down on his solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him. With an upside-down smile that looked a little vindictive and a little smug, she stood and tangled her fingers back into Mercy's mane. Locking eyes with Katsue, she jerked her head to the path with a crooked half-smile, inviting her along. Not waiting for a response, she turned her back and continued on down the road, patting Mercy's neck absentmindedly.

Twenty minutes of silence later Stian and Mercy stood on the edge of the village, torches illuminating the packed dirt streets and huts. Pausing, she glanced between homes and the faces of the locals moving between houses, trying to decide who to speak to. Before deciding, she glanced over her shoulder to see if Katsue was still with her.


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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:04 pm

Katsue nodded gratefully. What Stian offered was no more, nor less than she could ask for. She didn't know about Cahaya or any other village in Sera. If she could at least find some kind of civilization, she could finally attain her goal. She watched as her make-shift companion 'tended to' the Seran and pulled along her mount. She followed suit quietly, a few steps behind. She would watch their backs on their way.

Both she and Stian remained silent during the walk. Katsue couldn't have been more pleased. She enjoyed silence and the fact the other girl didn't try to force some sort of conversation on her. All in all, she was a decent companion, the kind Katsue could eventually come to like. She was a bit withdrawn and fair – in other words, kind or punishing when either was needed. She also seemed set on her own goal. The swordswoman couldn't stand idle people who didn't possess a clue as to what to do with their lives.

Ahead of them stood the village. Stian and her horse had already reached the outskirts; Katsue catching up shortly. She met with Stian's eyes briefly. Something that was meant to be a smile, but resembled a smirk more, formed on her lips as she tried: ''Thanks. Consider us even.''

She turned towards the village. The people were going about their own business and couldn't see the two figures standing at the edge of their home from this distance. Katsue walked towards the entrance, marked by two logs painted in red and brown. There was nothing to do but walk around town, or so she guessed. She was bound to find a pack of hunters, or something, willing to fight her. If not, she'd try and find the village leader and ask for answers.

Her wish was granted without effort; as soon as she stepped in the village, she was approached by two guards. They seemed like guards by how they were dressed, in any case. They carried no other weapons than the daggers she could spot tied to their upper arms. She observed them carefully, half-expecting them to attack and obviously, a part of herself awaiting nothing else. But, they merely addressed her, using Caristian:

''Visitors must go see the Matriarch'', one of them said. He looked past Katsue's shoulder to Stian and continued: ''You as well. We will look after your beast.'' Katsue studied them for a little bit longer, before shrugging and giving her consent. The guards escorted them to a tent that clearly stood out from the others. For one, it was at the other end of the village and it was made of many varied and differently coloured cloths. While their guards returned to their posts, Katsue let herself in with a quiet ''Excuse me.''

The inside of the tent was scarcely lit by a few candles mounted on torches. The Matriarch stood half-crouching, half-kneeling in the center back. She was draped in cloths that resembled those of her tent and had markings painted in red on her forehead, under her eyes and on her hands to her wrists. Her wrinkled face showed her advanced age, as well did her eyes that had lost almost all pigment and now seemed on their way to becoming completely white. It was hard to tell if she was looking at her guests or not, until she spoke:

''I am the Matriarch. In this village, I serve as a guide, and a healer. State your purposes.''

From the elderly woman's words, Katsue guessed she was the village's spiritual leader, or simply just leader. Satisfied, she said: ''I'm looking to test my strength. Does your village host warriors with the courage to face me?''

The Matriarch seemed displeased with her words instantly. A frown appeared on her strained face, but she spoke evenly:

''We are a peaceful clan. If violence is what you seek, then you must leave, earth-user.''

Katsue clicked her tongue, her expression automatically changing to one of impatience and frustration. She'd followed Stian here and thought she'd finally found what she was looking for, and now this. Furthermore, how did the old woman know her Element? If anything, she could maybe salvage the situation. If she stuck around, she could ask this useless 'shaman' if there were any other villages close by. Villages that welcomed violence. However, the wise-woman turned her attention to Stian, asking:

''And you, health user?''


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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:20 am

A hint of amusement flared in Stian's eyes as they met Katsue's and the girl thanked her. She nodded curtly in response, trying to keep the slight quirk of a smile off the corners of her mouth. It wasn't that she found the other woman funny, but more that they seemed fairly similar: neither really wanting to be in debt to the other, or having the other person owe them. It was easier for everyone if they met, did each other a favor, and parted. Stian could appreciate the sentiment.

Allowing the hand holding Mercy's rein to loosen slightly, she hung back for a moment as Katsue went forward into the village, ostensibly in search of her next fight. Stian knew better than to walk too close behind someone looking for conflict and spent a long moment willing the tension out of her neck and shoulders. It had been a less than enjoyable journey, but she was where she wanted to be and hopefully about to encounter someone who could teach her quite a bit. While, logically, she knew the wise-woman here would probably be more versed in the use of local plants than anything else, it didn't stop the excitement from welling up inside her. So what if the native Seran plants would be difficult to get to Glacies? If it was a viable trade avenue, it would be beneficial for both countries. Hopefully someone would be willing to see the merit in it.

Stian gathered herself and followed after Katsue, just in time to catch the end of what the guards were saying to Katsue. Well, chances were she wanted to talk to that Matriarch anyway, but it rubbed her the wrong way to be asked to give Mercy over to them right after he had almost been taken from her. Her dark eyes locked with those of the guard and held them, for a moment longer than necessary, before she held them out to him. "I'll be back for him." While her tone wasn't threatening, there was no mistaking the warning in her words and the man nodded, face impassive. Mercy weighed in on the situation with a snort and a doleful, sidelong glance to Stian, as if to say why can't I come too? Patting his cheek, she turned away with a bemused sigh.

As the other guards escorted them, Stian found her gaze locked on Katsue's back: apparently they weren't quite finished with each other yet. They'd at least need to see the Matriarch at the same time, regardless of anything else that happened. And honestly, leading a blood thirsty youth here probably wasn't going to incur any good will, depending on how things unfolded. Stian smoothed the tense curve of her brow with her fingers and shrugged a corner of her lips; there was no point in worrying about it now. The guards left them outside a tent and Stian followed Katsue inside, echoing her placation as they entered.

She stood just behind Katsue's right shoulder and listened as the Matriarch introduced herself and Katsue answered. Their exchange was brief and didn't surprise Stian, though she was curious about the idea of their village being completely peaceful. She liked it, but the highwaymen taking advantage of people coming and going were probably making their lives difficult. Hopefully they would be out of the way for at least a little while.

"And you, health user?"

Stian bowed deeply, fully aware that the woman could not see her but unwilling to give up such customs. "I came looking for you, Matriarch. I am on a journey for knowledge, looking for ways to better the lives of my people, in Glacies. I came hoping that you might be willing to share your wisdom with me." Not really a people person at the best of times, Stian tried to pick her words carefully.

The Matriarch pursed her lips. "A decent cause. However, I cannot give you my knowledge for nothing in return. Customarily one seeking knowledge should offer gifts, which I am sure you are about to, but I have had a thought. Instead of gifts, you must reclaim something that was stolen from us: the idol of our Little God." She paused for a moment to clear her throat and resettle some of her robes.

Stian was now grateful the woman could not see her face, though she was sure she could sense her distaste for this task. The local deities were nothing she wanted anything to do with, though she could see the problem if the idol had been stolen: they were seen as conduits for the gods, something offerings could be made to that would ensure the gods received them. It would certainly be the secret treasure of the village, and under most circumstances it would never even have been mentioned in the presence of outsiders, no matter their business or good intentions. The fact that this woman asked for outside help said to Stian that this was something she either did not want to get her own people killed over, or they had already tried and failed. Neither pleased her. "Who took your idol?"

"The people of our neighbor-village, Huntar. They found their own god inadequate." Stian grimaced at this: a scorned god was hardly a pleasant idea. "They are a warlike people and unlikely to give the idol back without a fight." These words were clearly not directed at Stian, but at Katsue. "You may require... assistance."

Stian looked at Katsue, one eyebrow cocked in a silent question.


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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Mon Nov 26, 2012 7:49 pm

The corners of Katsue's lips stretched upwards at the old lady's words. That last sentence was clearly meant for her. She'd finally have a chance to fight in real-time and hone her skills. She barely heard the story about the idol and the feud between the two villages. That would be for...her partner to worry about.

She looked at Stian, whom in turn was looking at her expectantly. The Earth User smirked and slightly tilted her sheathe with a move of her shoulder. ''Looks like we're teaming up again. I'll take care of the Huntar warriors for you.''

The matriarch raised a skimpy hand, cutting her short. ''Before you go off charging in there like a fool, know this. While I cannot prevent any means you will use on Huntar territory, I would like to remind you that we are sending you. As long as the Huntar understand this, any action you take, they will take revenge for on the our people.''

Katsue frowned. She was vindictive, not evil, and didn't particularly want disaster to befall Cahaya because she went and made a carnage in the enemy clan. She wasn't planning to kill the Huntars either, but once she was there she'd go wild and casualties were bound to happen. Even if she managed to spare all her foes, the clan would still begrudge Cahaya for wounding their tribesmen. There was simply no way around it. ''So, how does that translate to me?''

At this, the Matriarch smirked in a way that made it look more like a grimace. ''Fortunately, I have thought of a plan that would best suit your dispositions. First of all, warrior, you will don this.'' She gestured at the consort at the entrance of the tent. The tribeswoman nodded and left, coming back a few minutes later with folded clothes in her arms. She handed them to Katsue who, bewildered, accepted them. ''What's this?''she asked.

''These attire will fancy you a forest demon to the Huntars. Forest demons are impartial and should they attack, no one is to blame. While you dispatch their warriors, you-'' She looked at Stian. ''will retrieve the idol.'' Her expression softened. ''Should you succeed, our village will be in your debt. I will relate to you all my knowledge of Seran herbs, Health User.''

Katsue remained quiet. Glancing at the costume, at the Matriarch, then at Stian, she shrugged. Works for me. As long as I get to fight. She asked for a place to change and discarded her clothes, which were kept stored for her, slipping into the 'forest demon' outfit.

Linen top and bottom pieces covered her privates and a sash of boar fur went from her shoulder to the opposite hip. A simple mask symbolizing a wild cat accompanied the costume, and her hair was let loose. Finally, markings were painted on her body; arms, legs, stomach, etc, by the consorts. The mask would impair her vision slightly and being barefoot would add a pain factor, but she welcomed the handicap. She would be tested to the limit. When the consorts were finished with her, she exited the tent.

She was handed twin sickles but firmly refused, taking back her katana. Sasayaku was her only weapon. She left the sheathe with her clothes since it would give their ruse away. She would have no choice but to hold the blade the whole time.

Finding Stian, she went to stand at her side. She lifted the mask a little, showing her face. ''I look absurd...'' She shook her head, motivating herself with the thought that she'd soon be going all out. ''Ready when you are. Do you have some sort of plan to get the idol?''
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:19 am

Katsue's cocky response made Stian duck her head slightly to hide the smile that pulled at her mouth. As the matriarch began to speak again she reached up a hand under the pretense of rubbing her chin and smoothed the smile from her face, turning her attention back to the matter at hand. The woman brought up a valid point: they couldn't just run in as they were, it would be clear they were sent by the Cahaya. Why else would outsiders saunter in and start asking about an idol? Unfortunately, this just made things even more complicated. How were they supposed to get the thing back if they couldn't be seen by anyone in the village doing it? She listened attentively as Katsue asked what she had been thinking as well and watched with some trepidation as the woman left and came back with the clothes. The explanation softened her once more, though she was certainly glad she was not being asked to impersonate a spirit.

Her eyes met Katsue's once more and she gave a mirroring shrug. If this was how it was going to work, this was how she would make it work. It was a decent way around things, as long as they didn't give themselves away by doing something stupid. Seeing as they had only just met, Stian wasn't completely sold on their ability to work as a team. Individually they had their strengths, she just had to hope she didn't get spotted by someone tougher than she could handle.

She bowed to the matriarch. "Thank you. We will return with your idol." At least she certainly hoped they would; the alternatives were running away or getting caught and potentially killed, neither of which appealed to her. This woman had better be a fountain of knowledge. Excusing herself from the tent, she waited for Katsue to reappear, unsure of what to expect. Who knew what the local forest demons looked like. And then she did, as Katsue reappeared wearing the white linen and fur. Stian took her in, nodding, and chuckled softly after Katsue spoke. "You're certainly striking." Looking at her companion, she realized that she would need to do something as well: at the very least, rub dirt on herself to be less noticeable.

Crouching down, she began to do just that. Grasping handfuls of soil, she rubbed them up and down her bare arms, neck and face, aided by her sweat. "Not yet. We'll need to see the layout of their village first, I think. And I don't spend much time planning how to break into people's homes, so that might take me a minute or two." Unwinding the braid from around her head, she took down her hair and began to rub earth in it. "I think the basic plan, though, is for you to make a ruckus while I sneak around. The matriarch didn't tell us what the idol looks like, but I'll know it when I see it. If we can figure out which hut or tent its most likely to be in, I'll head there." Stian began to braid her hair once more. "I think our main problem is if, instead of coming out to meet you and fight you off, guards are posted on the matriarch's tent that wait, in case you get past the others. Hmm." She stopped speaking for a moment to focus on her hair, pining it up might like she had before but tighter and more secure. Rubbing a little extra dirt across her nose, she stood.

"I don't think we'll really know what to do until we see the village." As politely as she could, she asked one of the men next to the matriarch's tent for directions to the Huntar village. Once she was certain she understood them decently enough, she thanked him and began to make her way into the wilderness.


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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Sun Jan 13, 2013 1:38 am

Katsue turned away to hide her face. Stian's jest had hit home, and Katsue felt her cheeks burn from the embarrassment. Were it my choice, I wouldn't be dressed like this. Stian proceeded to explain her outtake on their task and the warrior agreed silently. There certainly weren't a million ways to go about it. In any case, storming in while Stian sneaked around and found the idol was a plan that pleased her just fine. ''That's good enough for me'', she replied. ''If eventually something comes along, I'll deal with it. Improvise a little.''

Katsue observed with a watchful eye as Stian scraped dirt off the ground and rubbed it along her hair. Simple, yet clever; it almost made the Terran nod approvingly. Compared to her companion, she looked incredibly noticeable. Oh well, it was, in a way, the point. Her mission wasn't a stealth operation, after all. She needed to put on a show, give the Huntars a good scare. For that, she needed to be seen, and be seen well. She felt a little better about her getup after the little mental pep talk.

When Stian left, Katsue took quick strides to get ahead of her. She needed to get to the enemy village first to start her distraction job, so Stian could covertly enter Huntar. Katsue moved through the dense greenery. She didn't want to be detected and sidetracked by anyone before reaching her target. She thought briefly that in different circumstances, she would never had taken that precaution. She never avoided any fight whatsoever, but now that she had a clear goal, it wasn't the same. Moreover, she would be letting Stian if she wasted time and made it to Huntar late. Another unusual feeling that left her bewildered.

She felt the village was close. How? An inexplicable feeling of anticipation, with a hint of nervousness, that started building up in her gut. She brushed Sasayaku to sense it's reassuring weight, and a smirk tugged at her lips. Soon, she would be in the middle of the battlefield, doing what she did best. She picked up her pace, anxious to reach her goal.

The outskirts of Huntar were dead ahead; she could spot them from where she stood at the top of a small ravine. The village was at the bottom of said ravine, encircled by the jungle, but in plain sight from her vantage point. There was, in the same fashion as Cahaya, a wooden fence protecting the outpost, with guards waiting at the front.

From afar, she studied them. She had a falcon-like vision that enabled her to notice the details even at this distance. Unlike the Cahayans, these Serans were visibly more...rustic. And barbaric. The two guards had the same set of arsenal; a double-edged axe half their size and daggers all over their bodies. Their body structure promised they could break her in half with a flick of their finger. Her smirk grew under the mask she wore. Worthy targets. They were probably all brawl and no brain too, but then again, when she was fighting she wasn't any better.

Stian joined her shortly, and Katsue looked back at her, as a greeting. ''I'll be going.'' She pulled out her katana. ''Good luck.'' She ran briskly towards the entrance. The guards noticed her almost immediately, when she was still a fair twenty meters from the village. They brandished their axes and charged stupidly towards her, like they longed for the fight just as much as she did.

Upon approaching her, however, something seemed to strike them and they slowed. Her disguise had already made an effect on them, but they promptly forgot about it and resumed the pursuit. She evaded the joint attack and turned on herself, slitting their throats. She'd barely lost momentum in the encounter and she kept running towards the gates. Sentinels had alerted the rest of the village: warriors rushed to meet her. She let out a war cry, and the carnage began.
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:40 pm

As Katsue passed her Stian fell in behind, following the warrior girl deeper into the underbrush with a ducked head and soft footsteps. Rubbing one of the carved protective charms around her neck between her thumb and forefinger, she murmured silent prayers as they traveled. They would need all the help they could get for this to work in their favor, even with Katsue's fighting spirit on their side. Despite her costume, she was surprisingly quiet and Stian was reminded of her first appearance on the road, a figure bursting from the brush to take on the bandits. Letting the amulet she had held drop back against her chest, she feels for another one and continues her litany. Perhaps they had been meant to meet, fated in some way. A skilled swordswoman just managing to be nearby when she needed help most and then being the integral part of the plan that would get her into the shaman woman's good graces? It was a little too neat to be chance. But, she frowned to herself, it was self important to think that Katsue was brought to her for Stian's convenience. Chewing her bottom lip thoughtfully, her eyes traverse the space between her companion's shoulder blades, searching for what use she could possibly be to Katsue.

Nearing the village, she nodded to Katsue and silently wished her luck before ducking away, knowing the other woman could take care than herself. More than Stian could, certainly. Picking her way carefully to avoid stepping on anything that would break loudly or squeal indignantly, she threaded her way through the lush foliage of the jungle. It was true night by now, and most any moonlight that could be cast was blotted out by the canopy above. It was the time when nocturnal beasts stirred and it wasn't wise to be out between the trees alone. Her heart already beating from the prospects ahead of her, Stian couldn't help but keep an ear pricked for any sound of something trying to creep up on her. The jungle cats she had worried about on the road earlier jumped to mind immediately and it was with some effort she pushed the thought away. Now was not the time to worry about such things. Much more dangerous to her now were the warriors waiting in the village to skewer intruders and, she was sure, thieves.

Slipping farther into the ravine and closer to the faint village sounds, she peered under a bough and tried to pick out which tent or rough hut might be the one she seeked. It was difficult, in the dark, but the fires of their torches helped. Circling around toward the back of the settlement, Stian pushed her luck slightly as she moved forward. This wasn't going to work at all if she wasn't willing to take a risk, even if that risk was being seen. After all, she had rubbed dirt all over herself and was standing in the dark wild; chances were good she'd be fine. Tucking her talismans inside her tunic so they didn't clink together, she crept closer, low to the ground as she moved. Breathing deeply, she thought of the great cats again but this time she thought of the ones thought to sneak into village and steal babies out from their mothers noses. Focusing her mind into that mentality, one of subtle yet bold assuredness, she tucked herself between two shrubs right on the outskirts.

The shouts of the fight on the other side of the village reached her, though she knew they had been going on for almost the whole time she had been wending her way the spot she held. Swallowing, she touched the charms under her shirt and muttered another prayer for Katsue before steeling herself. It was tempting to go now, just run in and run out, take what they needed and screw the details, but that would get them both killed. Her eyes swept the village again and there it was, a tent much like the one they had just left in the Cahaya village. That would be her destination, once more of the town's population had gone off to defend themselves. And then it struck her: they had made no provision for if she had actually gotten the idol. She had no signal, no way of letting Katsue know. Shutting her eyes tight and swallowing a moment of panic, she shook her head fiercely and refocused on the tent. She would worry about that later. Now, to wait.
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:54 pm

Katsue's arms and legs ached from strain. Her chest burned from the effort she'd been putting. Her mind was hazy, filled with only the silver of her blade and the red of her enemies' blood. Despite all that, she felt more alive than ever. Her awareness had increased and suddenly everything appeared bigger, clearer. She was in control, she was master and her enemies were all minions. Energy coursed through her like electricity and she felt a bottomless surge of power.

Her enemies were strong. Physically, she was weaker, but she was faster and more creative. It took time per foe but before long several Huntars laid at her feet. She was relatively intact, with a few bruises and cuts but nothing to impair her. If anything her wounds added to the pool of adrenaline fuelling her, rendering her ever so sensitive to her surroundings. It compensated for the mask she wore, which limited her peripheral vision. She gave meaning to the sentence 'whatever doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger'.

Then, as reinforcements came, the tables started to turn. The warriors witnessed their peers falling one after the other under her katana and changed their strategy. Their opponent would require for them to fight more seriously, in other words; they began using their element.

''Circle it! Circle the demon!''bellowed one of the Huntar.

They formed a circle around her, spouting guttural-sounding nonsense – it was nonsense to her, in any case. Between each of them branches, twigs and vines came shooting at her, whipping her skin wherever it was exposed by her outfit. The first salve made her skin irritated, the second one made her bleed. The initial rush from the pain of her shallow injuries was gone; now she was feeling lightheaded – dizzy even. The harm was now intense enough to distract her.

Another of one those will finish me..., she thought as she swallowed a cry. She wouldn't let her enemies see her weakness; for the sake of her pride and to enforce the image of an invincible forest spirit. Although the bleeding was already giving her away. I have no other choice.

It angered her, and had the circumstances been different she never would have done it, but she had to resort to her element. She couldn't jump high or long enough to avoid the projectiles and trying to run past the Huntars surrounding her was suicide. She would be stopped right away and left wide open. She really didn't have any other option. Even though she had sworn to herself she would only rely on her brute strength and swordplay. Damn it all.

Patches of dirt – because that was about all she could manage to lift – flew off the ground and into every which direction. Some hit the warriors square in the face, blinding them or choking them, some on their bodies and some went right over their heads. She didn't have the skill, nor the time, to aim better. She was just desperately attempting to get herself out of this pickle. She briefly thought that once this would be over, she would have to work on improving her earth bending.

Using the confusion her sudden attack had instilled, she charged towards her enemies. Digging Sasayaku into one's chest, pulling it out and moving on to the other. She was able to fell the six Huntars around her in a swift, final spurt.

She nearly fainted. Collapsing to the ground, she had to will herself to stay conscious. She wondered about how Stian had fared, hoping she hadn't run into any Huntars. Katsue was a better fighter and she was half-dead now; she couldn't imagine the health user getting out of a skirmish alive. She pulled her carcass up and moved forward. Fortunately, it seemed like she'd won and there weren't any more warriors for now. Or, there were, but they were too afraid to take her on. That suited it just fine. She limped to the row of tents, barely holding on to her katana.

She saw Stian hiding beside a big tent. She seemed preoccupied, but otherwise safe. Katsue felt relieved and she didn't bother agonizing over it. She took off the mask, casting it aside, and dragged herself to the other woman's side. She was positive no one was following her and so it wasn't dangerous to regroup like this.

''Sorry, but can you do something about this?''

This being the wounds all over her body.
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:19 am

As she crouched in the bush, Stian noticed the clamor of the battle begin to subside. Unsure of whether it was moving farther away or they had reached a momentary lull, she decided to take her chance. Sucking in a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and leaned forward, her hands meeting the ground. Crouched and covered in mud, eyes bright, she knew she looked just as suspicious as Katsue, should someone get a look at her. But, she reminded herself, she wouldn't let them. Moving on all fours and keeping as close to the ground as possible, Stian executed a loping scuttle toward a tent near the one she is sure is the wise man's. The ground was warm beneath her hands but firm, packed down by the steps of many feet and the grasses beaten flat; a mere inch or two from the tent, she laced her fingers through the grass as though it were hair, gripping tight. Eyes scanning the spaces between the tents around her, looking for someone ready to jump if she moved, she was the one to jump when Katsue appeared at her side.

"Spirits teeth, Katsue, are you half cat?" The words were ground out, her voice low and slightly breathless from being startled. Turning her attention to the woman next to her, she narrowed her eyes when she saw the mask had been removed, making a mental note to pick it up before they left. If the Huntar found it the whole point of wearing it would be destroyed. Her eyes flicked over Katsue, who looked more than exhausted, taking stock of the wounds she could see and sifting them into different categories, namely "important" and "not important." "Yeah, I can do something about that." She threw one more look to the village, which had become eerily still with people having either run out and, apparently, died by Katsue's sword, or seemed to be hiding in their homes. Or maybe there was a hunting party out? Shaking her head, she forced herself to focus on Katsue. A little part of her mind tried to pipe up, saying this should wait until they had the idol, that staying here was stupid, but she ignored it.

Drawing a slow breath, she released it and placed a thin hand on Katsue, fingers just barely brushing the other woman's temples. Her eyes flickered shut and she began to slip back into the state she had gone into earlier, before she healed the man on the road. It was easier to tame the glimpses and scents this time, as she had done so before so recently, and it was second nature to reach out to the other woman's being with her own consciousness. Visualizing the wounds she had observed, she pinpointed the edges of one area where the skin had split and brought the edges together, as though pulling a tear in cloth together to mend it. She knew from experience that the actual healing itself looked nothing like she visualized it, but what worked, worked. Focusing herself on the wound that was held closed, she felt it seal. Then she went to work on the others.

Two minutes later she opened her eyes and dropped her hand from where it had hovered in front of Katsue's face. Taking stock of the other woman, she grimaced but nodded. Good enough. "I'm going to go now; come, or wait in the woods. Either way, make sure we don't forget that." She pointed to the mask. Wiping away the sweat that was threatening to run from her forehead all the way down the bridge of her nose, Stian resumed her loping scuttle, feeling more like a wild creature than a woman. Coming up to the back of the wise man’s tent, she paused and listened, waiting for a rustling of cloth or a loud breath that might betray if someone was within. Hearing no such thing, she raised up slightly, just crouched low instead of sticking to the ground. Knowing that Katsue was watching her, whether up close or from afar, made her movements more assured; she most definitely did not want to be the weak link now, after the wounds Katsue had suffered and the men that were surely dead for her chance to do what she was doing.

Creeping around to the front of the tent, Stian slipped inside without giving herself the chance to hesitate. The inside of this tent was different from the one in Cahaya; the wise woman's tent had been full of candles and herbs, the tools of her trade and what Stian had assumed were sacred objects. Here, the candles were few and far between, and unlit, except for one, near what she was almost sure was some sort of altar. The air was thick with the strong smelling incense this wiseman seemed to favor and animal pelts lined the ground. Casting a glance to where the struts of the tent came together, Stian saw various animal bones tied up with cord into formations or hanging freely, dangling low into the space. The smoke and the pelts made the room feel much too hot and the bones made the ceiling feel low, the whole tent seeming to close in around her.

And there it was, the Cahayan idol. It was so obviously out of place, a small wooden statue carved from a dark wood she did not know, and shiny on certain contours from being rubbed by many hands. It looked natural, the curves like that of a woman or a river, bending and flowing into an indiscernible but unmistakably holy shape. Edging closer, Stian's fingers were touching it before she heard the rumbling of breath behind her, and froze. Turning slowly in place, she looked across the small space of the tent and into the face of a wizened old man. His bare torso reminded her of twisted roots, his muscles defined partially by his lack of fat. A large white beard hung down from his face, woven and beaded intricately, which he stroked absently as he looked at her.

For a very long moment Stian simply stared at him as he stared at her. But he seemed to be making no move, though his dark eyes clearly saw her, and while she wasn't quite sure what was going on, she decided to make the most of it. Who knew, maybe he thought she was the one that had just demolished his warriors. Curling her hand around the idol, she picked it up and walked sideways to the tent flap, their eyes locked the whole time. She backed out of the door, and even as she lost sight of him he had not moved. Not sure what to make of what had just happened, she shook herself and crept away, shaking from the adrenaline of being discovered.
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:23 pm

Once Stian had finished with her, Katsue felt much better. The difference was amazing, despite a few shallow wounds remaining. It was more than what she asked for, knowing Stian still had her part to play. She sat up, now strong enough to do so, and watched her partner stand. "I'm going to go now; come, or wait in the woods. Either way, make sure we don't forget that."

Katsue gave the Health user a slightly startled look. Stian had never shown a meek personality, but now she was proving more assertive than the Terran thought. Far from minding the change, Katsue appreciated it, finding it to be an interesting surprise. Moreover, Stian was in a better position to take charge right now. With Katsue's condition, the success of the mission depended on her. Katsue nodded. ''Yell if you need me.''

As Stian entered the tent, Katsue picked up the mask, put it back on and headed for the village entrance: the only way to the trees. On the way, she passed by the bodies of her defeated opponents. She owed them at least to not avert her eyes, and so she didn't. But, now that she got a second look at the spectacle, she felt uneasy. Maybe a bit disgusted with herself, even. Then, she convinced herself she didn't have a choice. Granted, she had come here looking for a fight, but they had the same odds she did – better ones, actually. It was simply kill or be killed once the fight had started.

She decided to stay at the gates. She wouldn't be able to hear Stian if she went any further, no matter how loud the other woman shouted. She didn't have to wait long; soon, her companion came back, looking utterly zoned out, almost in shock. While she preferred not dwelling upon it, she tried: ''Everything alright?''

She saw the famous idol in Stian's hands. They had no reason to linger here. Wherever they were hiding, the rest of the Huntar would grow bold eventually and attack them again. Although her injuries were mostly healed, Katsue was too exhausted to fight. The idea itself didn't appeal to her at all, surprisingly. Even so, she had to hold on until they reached Cahaya safely. She started walking in front, hand on the hilt of her katana. She expected an ambush at any moment.

Finally, they arrived at the village. Katsue felt her legs just about to yield. ''Go see the old lady alone. I'm going to find somewhere to rest.''
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:04 pm

Unsure if she should be warning Katsue that she was seen, Stian soon realized it was beside the point; anyone the man might have sent after them was dead on the ground. If she hadn't already been in shock from her encounter with the wise man, she might have been more distressed by the death at the front gate. A small part of her mind reminded her, they're dead because you wanted to study with an old woman that might not even know anything; she might have been using both of you. This was true, uncomfortably so, but what was done was done; she would need to find a way to live with the consequences. Maybe in the future she wouldn't rush in, she'd spend time planning... there really had to have been another way, but she just couldn't think of what it was. She couldn't think.

"Everything alright?"

The question brought her out of her thoughts and she hefted the idol, nodding. She followed Katsue back to the village, keeping up as best she could. The Cahayan idol was tucked in the crook of her arm, like a person migh cradle a child, and her other hand was firmly on it; they hadn't done all that just to lose it in the dark, in the jungle. The dirt on her skin was beginning to itch but she kept her hands firmly on the idol, only once giving in and craning her neck over to scratch her cheek on her shoulder, as best she could.

She nodded in response to Katsue's command and went to see the wise woman. It was a short conversation, mostly one sided, but with the assurance of a short stay and much teaching. Excusing herself, she wandered over to where they had tethered Mercy and spent a few quiet moments talking to him, telling him how wonderful he was and how it had turned out to be an unexpectedly terrible day. He agreed, on the whole, and, after seeing that he would be fed, Stian went in search of Katsue. Asking about, she eventually got the idea that her companion had been lead, after a small argument, to a tent set up specifically for them, had they happened to come back. Along with these words she received several waterskins full of, from the smell of it, some particularly potent fermented drink. Seran hospitality, it seemed.

Slinging them over her shoulder with the faintest hint of a chuckle, she found the tent they had described to her and stopped at the entrance to clear her throat. "It's Stian." Waiting for a moment, she ducked inside.
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Sun Feb 24, 2013 4:09 pm

When Katsue was brought to the cot where she could rest, she had nearly fainted atop of it. Then, she had spent half-an-hour sleeping like a log. Normally, she had a very light sleep, waking up at the faintest sound, hand on her katana. This time, she felt like she had recuperated much more in half-an-hour than she ever did in more. She had shifted and noted with relief that Sasayaku was next to her still, along with her clothes.

Now, Katsue's head was spinning and she felt strangely warm. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling, but it was unknown. When Stian entered her tent, it was to see her make-shift companion glaring at the cup in her hand suspiciously. It was a concoction the Cahayan villager had offered her, saying it would help 'ease her pain'. Katsue had been impossibly thirsty, so she had downed half of it in one gulp. Now, she regretted the act, paranoia creeping in and telling her the drink had been poisoned. Sure, she didn't show any bad symptoms for now, but sooner or later she'd be choking on her own saliva and twitching like a worm. It served her right for just taking what a stranger gave her. Creator, did she feel dizzy.

She knew it was alcohol. While she had abstained from the damn thing her whole life, she remembered the stench all too well. It didn't mean it wasn't poisoned. Was alcohol supposed to have this effect? She just recalled seeing people angry and yelling, or bawling one second and laughing the next. She tried her best to calm down. The villagers wouldn't kill their hero of the hour, if they had any sense of decency. If they were trying to kill her, they could have let her bleed to death from her wounds. Her wounds that were healing up nicely, as a matter of fact.

Katsue looked up at Stian. The other woman seemed in high spirits. Compared to earlier, back in the Huntar village, anyway. ''The old lady said yes? You're going to be her understudy?''

As she spoke, there was noise coming from outside. Loud voices, cheering, chatting, the low sound of drums mixed with the sound of steps. She tsked as the commotion did nothing for her headache. She looked down at the bottom of her cup, suddenly very interested in its content. Or rather, the temporary immunity to senses it provided. She looked back at the exit. ''What's going on out there?''
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:12 am

"You going to be her understudy?"

Stian made a face and shrugged, dropping the waterskins onto the cot unoccupied by Katsue. She sat a little gingerly, her muscles sore from travel and from the earlier, ah, excitement, and slipped the thin soled Seran sandals from her feet, massaging her arches. The conversation hadn't gone quite as she'd imagined, though the beginning had: slightly incredulous that they'd survived but not complaining, the wise woman had invited them to stay for awhile and rest up. In Stian's case, she had offered tutelage, of a limited sort. The woman wasn't Health System, but seemed to know plenty about herbs and other remedies. The thing Stian hadn't originally understood was that the woman was also a spiritual healer, utilizing the idols of their local spirits and her own strength of faith to 'heal'. It was difficult not to be skeptical - she had never seen anything like that work and even if the woman could, that didn't mean Stian would be able to. She didn't have those deep convictions or devoted followers. Well, it would be an education.

"Yes, she said yes. She'll teach me." It seemed like whining to mention that the deal wasn't exactly what she thought it would be, especially after all Katsue had already done. Instead, she began to unbraid her hair and shake the grit out of it.

"What's going on out there?"

"Oh, they're celebrating the return of the idol. Technically I suppose you could say its in our honor, though we're not required." She chuckled a little, finding a snarl and slowly untangling it. Her face was beginning to feel a little stiff from the dirt she had rubbed on it but unless she wanted to wash it in alcohol, it looked like it was going to stay that way. No matter, she was sure she'd sweat it off in no time.

"You up for a party? They've given us more of this stuff than we can possibly drink and I figure we've earned it." Tucking her shoes beneath her bed and gathering her loose hair into a messy knot, she crooked an eyebrow at Katsue, a rueful smile on her face. Her companion looked like all she wanted to do was sleep and maybe tell the drummers to shut it.
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:06 pm

A slight smile crept on Katsue's lips. She was pleased Stian and she had gotten what they wanted. A chance to learn and a chance to fight. That wasn't it, though. Stian looked more relaxed than earlier, and so did Katsue. The alcohol kicking in, perhaps? She stared at the bottom of her cup with a scowl. It was half-full; surely such a small amount wouldn't have an effect on her. She wasn't that soft! She couldn't accept a weakness like that. Gulping down more of the drink, she made a face.

She sincerely hoped Stian hadn't seen it. She quickly retrieved a nonchalant expression, and shrugged. ''Yeah, why not?'' Part of her wanted to keep resting, but she also felt bored of it. She wanted to move about, to stretch her legs. Not to mention her little self-given challenge.

She smirked. ''But you have to drink too.'' Katsue got up, stretching her arms, neck and back. She decided to remain in the clothes lent to her by the Cahayans; they were more comfortable than her fighting gear. She would probably leave tomorrow, in any case, and would need her clothes ready.

She stepped out of the tent. There was a bonfire, in the middle of camp, where a big enough space was cleared up. There were already villagers tapping on big drums and other wood instruments. Food was abundant; scattered here and there on simple linen cloths left on the ground. Fruits and vegetables, meats of all kinds, nut assortments...She only then realized how hungry she was, seeing as she hadn't eaten since very early in the morning.

Logs with furs sloppily thrown onto them were placed around the bonfire, for everyone's convenience. Katsue went to fetch food, favoring meat – proteins – over the rest, and sat down. She made a point of ignoring the Cahayans who seemed to look at her in admiration, or like they wanted to catch her attention. She finished her drink and searched for another one, before one was handed to her by a villager. She nodded, not even looking at the man. She raised the cup and called: ''Who's up for a contest?''
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Stian Eld

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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Sat Apr 13, 2013 6:25 pm

Stian did, in fact, see Katsue's small grimace at the taste of the contents of her cup, but ducked her head to shake her hair again to hide her smile. Raising her head once more at her companions stipulation that she had to drink too, she arched in eyebrow and let a faint smirk tug at her mouth. "I'm up for that, though I have a slightly different tolerance than you might expect." While true, she was hardly a seasoned drinker. If she hadn't been Health System things would have been different: she rarely drank on her travels, largely because she didn't have the coin to do so and also because, well, it seemed stupid. Why be anything less than your most aware when traveling through a place you were unfamiliar with?

Deciding to leave her hair down and just not worry about it, Stian tossed the tie onto the cot and followed Katsue out of the tent. Eyeing the bonfire and accompanying food from behind Katsue, she licked her lips but then bit the lower one as she realized how important this had been. The village might not originally have thought they would do anything more than fail or maybe irritate their rowdy neighbors, but to have a spread like this put out, they had clearly achieved something.

Putting together a small plate of food, mostly fruits and vegetables she hadn't seen before, she took a seat near Katsue. The mostly-meat diet of the Glacien settlements had left her with a feeling that it was something to be eaten when nothing else was available, though she did admit that it could certainly taste good. Accepting a drink herself, she smiled faintly at the person who handed it to her and nodded to them. The cup had barely touched her lips when Katsue spoke next to her and she paused. Cocking her eyebrows at her companion, she shrugged. "I'll take you on, though you've been warned." Her tone was light and off hand, though there was a glint of humor in her eye.
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:44 pm

''Don't have to feel obligated, Stian'', Katsue said with a side grin. If it had been one of the Cahayans, it would have been fine. Maybe Stian felt she needed to join in so Katsue wouldn't feel like a loner. There was always more than met the eyes going on inside that head of hers: the Terran knew that already.

Then, another thing struck her. It was the first time she'd called the other by her name. Her chin drooped as she stared down the cup she held yet again. That was some strong stuff, to get her to act so friendly.

And yes, first name basis was friendly for her. Although Stian had addressed her normally all day long, it was different the other way around. She shrugged mentally. It wasn't that big a deal. Stian was good company; so far Katsue had nothing negative to say about the woman. In itself, that was an amazing feat, seeing as the young warrior was the embodiment of antipathy. With her, you were either an enemy, or a banality. Stian managed to transcend those restrictions. Katsue didn't dwell upon those thoughts too long, labelling her companion as 'an exception' and leaving it at that.

''Let's just do it like this'', she added, ''get a new cup each time, and count how much we've got at the end.''

That way, they didn't have to monitor the other's progress, and they could go at their own pace. It was a contest, but a more casual contest.

The Cahayans weren't completely oblivious to the partners' conversation, and they tightened the circle around them in apprehension. In doing so, they still kept to their own, either dancing, eating or talking fervently. Katsue looked at them, something like fascination flashing in her eyes. ''They look like they don't have a care in the world...Now that they've got their idol back everything's peachy.'' She let out a chuckle and drank from her cup. ''Stay here too long and maybe you'll become just like that.''
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PostSubject: Re: Waylaid   Thu Apr 18, 2013 12:32 am

She smirked in response to Katsue's grin and raised her cup. "I can agree to those rules, just make sure you don't hurt yourself." Legs stretched out in front of her and crossed at the knee, she leaned back on one of the logs near the fire, feeling more comfortable than she strictly had a right to. She'd avoided being robbed, gotten a mentor and was still alive. Barring the fact that she'd almost been robbed, her mentor wasn't quite what she had expected and a lot of other people weren't alive as consequence of at least one of those things, it hadn't been a bad day.

... Who was she kidding, it was a damn rough day, but for now she could forget that, in the presence of a maybe-friend and quite a bit of alcohol. Sipping from her neglected cup, she shook her head softly. "I wish." She hadn't had enough to drink yet to want to talk about what she'd be like after she was done studying here, and where she might go next. Thinking about it lead her back to thoughts of Glacies and she stared into her cup, slipping into a more somber mood. Knocking the rest of the drink back with a slight wince, she accepted another cup and set the first, empty one next to her.

But that really wasn't what she wanted this evening to be about. She didn't want to be that person who stares into the fire and says cryptic things, almost begging to be asked about them. Blaming her tiredness, she tried to recover.

Sliding down against the stump, she chuckled. "Thank you for your help. With my horse, with the idol, with... stuff." 'Stuff' was accompanied by a small shrug as though she were shrugging off the thought it had stemmed from. She picked up some sort of crunchy vegetable from her plate and started nibbling it, staring into the fire.

Oh damn, she was doing it. Looking away from the fire, she watched the Cahayans with distant warmth.
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