is probably distracted.
Silence and Song
Caltrin Cas Ester was born mute. Being unable to communicate made many situations in life difficult, and many a time he wished he had the ability to speak. Now, with the sickeningly cold body of his master laying lifeless in his arms, was not one of those times. Now, there was nothing to say.
Long, lithe fingers slid soundlessly down the waxen strings of his lute, trained digits quieting any reverberation in the same instant it was created. Worn and worked, the aged instrument showed its age gracelessly, with paint chipped in places from the sun and filigree designs around the bowl long since having faded since their original painting. The jacks creaked as he tuned the strings, and his fingers glided over numerous divots in its long journey back down the neck to its base. Most any other musician would deem the instrument to be too old while some might even call it unplayable. Others still would call it trash. All the same, Caltrin's fingers were as gentle and every bit as intimate as a lover's as they traced over the wooden surface, appreciating every blemish. Sharing a soundless smile with his old friend and long-time lover, he hefted his lute and slung its leather cord around his back.
One more journey, m'lady, that's all I ask of you. One final trek... for Master Radakhan.
Breathing in deep to steady a heartbeat that threatened to accelerate into outright racing any moment, he calmed himself by verifying he had everything he needed. Stout leather boots, their downturned legs bending halfway up his shin, adorned his feet. Cloth britches, light blue in color, tucked into them, only to be covered by the similarly light blue tone of his jerkin and shirt he wore over his sparsely muscled chest. A heavy riding coat closed around his neck, and over that hung a thick cloak of a deep navy hue, with Master Radakhan's symbol of the standing turtle embroidered into the fabric. Tapping each pocket, he ensured their contents were there, and checked the strapping of his pack for the thirteenth time since he first donned it, a full hour ago. Caltrin knew he had everything he needed the first time he checked his equipment... but that most certainly didn't mean he was ready.
Turning towards the door of his room, determined this would be the time he stepped through it, he hesitated when he saw the long, gold-and-blue scarf that hung from a peg on the wall. Nervous fingers twitched at his side, worrying at nothing as the sight of the scarf drove unbidden memories to the forefront of his mind. A winter solstice gift from the Master, embroidered faintly with the standing turtle on each swatch of color. Caltrin knew just touching it would brew a storm of memories and thoughts of his fallen teacher within his heart... and so he pulled it from its peg, wrapped it twice about his neck and stepped from the room.
It was a full month since he'd discovered their master, their eternal mentor and font of security and wisdom, slumped over his desk with a foreign, jagged blade in his back. A full month since he'd lost the closest thing he could call to family to an inexplicable act of violence. A full month since he'd had to endure the intense pain of telling his closest friend and fellow student, Amana Ji, and seeing the shattered look on her face. A full month since their lives, spent in servitude and learning, were viciously stolen from them by a faceless shadow in the dark.
In the silence of an Autumn night, Master of the arts of Psyche Manipulation and Interpreting Senjhi Radakhan was murdered. His body was discovered by one of his two students. Missing from his study was a tome holding the secrets to Immersion Puppetry, or Mindstepping; the art of leaving one's mind to enter and control another's. It was an art of the highest power that only Master Radakhan knew. His murderer left no clue other than an intricately designed dagger of foreign make. Despite their best attempts to learn of its origin, neither student discovered its secrets. Devastated, they searched for meaning and purpose beyond their teaching, which had become their whole lives over the time they spent under Master Radakhan's tutelage.
It wasn't until one of the two students discovered their fallen master's journal that their lives once again found purpose. The newest art Master Radakhan had been trying to perfect was the ability to speak to the dead by reaching into the remnants of their psyche. He'd named it Life Tapping. Though the art was incomplete, there were enough notes to complete the research on their own. With the ability to Life Tap, they'd be able to reach their beloved master and learn from him the nature of his killer... and then, finally, they would be able to exact revenge.
Pack secure, lute at his side and determination in his heart, Caltrin crossed the hall to his friend's room. Out of respect and reverence for the older student, he knocked twice upon the wood, timid and soft. Hearing no immediate reply, haste and anxiousness pushed his hand. The door softly creaked as it swung open, revealing a blushing, blue-haired Caltrin. Trying to simultaneously avert his gaze while find her, he had his hand bobbing urgently in the sign that indicated he was ready.
Last edited by Teller; 01-09-2011 at 12:59 PM.
Not a trace of sunlight filtered through the window to lap at the hardwood floor. The darkness of predawn permeated the cottage, along with a sense of foreboding—and rough-edged anticipation tinged with excitement. In typical preparedness, Amana had packed the night before. And, in typical alertness, Amana had not been able to sleep well at all.
For the last hour, perhaps longer, she had stared at the ceiling, meditating as Master Radakhan had taught her. Deep, calming breaths, in for an eight-count, hold for an eight-count, and out for an eight-count. She thought of the three of them as the breathing stages: Caltrin as the inhalation, the period of taking in, of experiencing everything; herself as the holding, the time of expectancy and rumination; Master Radakhan as the exhalation, the segment of release, of calm.
"Every time I exhale, I will focus on that calm, Master. And with that calm, we will find the answers."
With a renewed sense of purpose, Amana rose to a sitting position on her bed and lit the oil lamp on the nightstand. Her eyes swept over the meagre belongings spread out on the floor: her tinderbox, a worn-yet-still-waterproof canteen, a change of travel clothes, a somewhat presentable outfit for more auspicious occasions, Master Radakhan’s journal, two blankets rolled together, a set of charcoal sticks tied to a loosely-bound sheaf of parchment, a dagger and its sheath, and a heavy, elaborately decorated box with six sides, made of a grey metal. Between the important items gathered in her room and the rations Bauta Wa would have waiting for them in the kitchen, Amana felt grateful for the small yet helpful charm on their knapsacks that enabled them to carry all the necessary items at a reduced weight and volume.
Thinking of the upcoming trip had thrown off her breathing, and Amana closed her eyes and drew herself back into the pattern. In-hold-out. In-hold-out. In-hold-out. She pulled her hairbrush from the bedside drawer and guided it through her locks, in time with the breathing. Deftly, she wove her auburn tresses into a single plait down her back, securing the end with a bit of twine.
At last, she stood. Amana bent and corralled the various items, adding her hairbrush and placing everything carefully into her bag. Tying on her long, burgundy cloak, she stepped into her lightweight boots. When her hands were free, she laced up the footwear and straightened the skirts of her forest green frock. Silver leaves graced the hem of the skirt and sleeves; she had embroidered them herself. At last, Amana reached for her staff, a long, gnarled branch that matched her tall height. The wood gave off a reddish glow in the lamplight, a colour not unlike that of her hair. At the top of the staff, two leaves and a single black feather dangled from a knotted cord.
The knock did not surprise her; Amana had felt Caltrin’s unrest for some time and knew he would come before the sun visited her window. When the door drifted open, she turned to face him.
“Yes, we should be going. We need to stop by the kitchen, pick up our rations from Bauta, and give him our goodbyes. More than likely, he has already saddled our horses.”
With this, she stepped across the threshold of the room and placed a hand on her fellow apprentice, her touch brief. In her focus on the approaching journey, she had forgotten to honour the bond between them.
“And good morning, Caltrin,” she spoke, simultaneously making his gesture for the greeting, subconsciously imbuing both words and motions with a trickle of sadness for their last morning in their familiar home.
Last edited by Myrrha; 01-10-2011 at 11:22 AM.
is probably distracted.
Though it had taken many years for him to grow accustomed to it, the blue-haired bard had eventually learned the finer nuances of living with an Empath. The morning, crisp and alive with impatient destiny, drew his thoughts elsewhere, however, and thus it was with widened eyes and lightly-toasted cheeks that he met her expectant gaze. Held captive by her direct gaze, it was all he could do to bob an agreement, head and fist nodding in sync. When finally her eyes shifted elsewhere, he felt relief not unlike the rush of oxygen after holding one's breath... and he inwardly cursed himself for his nervous quirk.
Born mute, he'd always felt uneasy in groups, and this bashfulness was amplified tenfold in the presence of a woman. Amana was no exception to this rule, though long years sharing the teachings of their master and the quarters of his humble bungalow had done much to numb the effect she had on him. Most days he looked up to her as a younger brother to his older sister, though their difference in age was diminutive, or as one peer to another. Brief moments of unexpected intimacy, however, such as the brush of her arm along his as they exchanged books or the scent of her honeyed hair as she brushed past him in the hallway, were sharp reminders of her fairer gender. Now, with her gaze lingering in his mind's eye, was one such moment, and he fought the rush of heat as it fled for his face.
The sudden touch of her hand to his shoulder, shaking him from his reverie, had the most curious effect on him. Where normally such closeness, all but unheard of from the aloof and distracted Amana Ji, would set his body ablaze, the bittersweet solace in her voice and stare did quite the opposite. Within those eyes he was reminded that there was something much greater than his insecurities, a man much bigger than all of his worries and frets. Cooled, calmed, and collected, Caltrin waved his open palm in an arc, a lightly tanned sun dawning over a distant horizon, followed by his gesture for her name.
//Good morning to you as well, Amana.//
Together, the two made it to the dining room, where a stooped Bauta Wa awaited them in silence, his head shaven and grayed top-knot falling into his face. He was aloof, at times forgetful, and kind to a fault... but he was familiar, and he was a steadfast reminder of the home they were to leave behind. Caltrin had requested the night before that they eat their meal on horseback, predicting that his stomach would be far to knotted with anxiety to bear a meal. By the way his innards fluttered, it would seem he was right. Bauta had readied two bundles, steaming still with savory heat that smelled of maple, and Caltrin thanked him with a tight embrace. That singular hug lingered around the older man's neck longer than either man intended, and when the young bard pulled away it was with his head ducked into his shoulder, smothering potential tears.
Composing himself, dexterous fingers danced the words his lips could not.
//Keep our home safe for us, old friend. We'll return soon, the Master's words on our lips.//
With farewells underway, Bauta Wa's bent, smiling figure receded into the distance until he was a speck of color beside the blurry outline of their home. Standing atop the crest of the valley their master's home lay within, the pair sat upon their steeds, their gaze steadily locked on their distant house. They'd been away from home in the past, but never before did it seem so far away.
Gulping low, Caltrin ventured a gesture; guiding his trusty Mandarb with his knees, he sidled next to Amana and found it was his turn to press his hand softly to her shoulder. Catching her gaze, Caltrin met her with an unwavering look of sapphire confidence, a surprising act for the timid bard. A smile curled his boyish lips, his eyebrows furrowed with determination... and, for the first time since meeting him all those years ago, the shy and nervous boy looked like a young man. His free hand whipped and gestured, boastful yet, somehow, reassuring words.
//We will be home soon, Amana, I wouldn't lie to Bauta. Master Radakhan wouldn't let me.//
Grinning, cerulean tendrils whipping about in the breeze that licked back and forth across the hilltop, he gestured down the road, urging Mandarb down the road.
Last edited by Teller; 01-12-2011 at 11:35 PM.
The goodbyes to Bauta Wa had been difficult for everyone involved, but Amana sensed the elderly servant would fare better if he believed them confident and optimistic. Caltrin had evidently also gleaned that notion, and applied it to her, as well. Much more cautious, and feeling she did not need to protect the young bard from her opinions, Amana shook her head. The way would prove difficult, shrouded in mystery and unknown difficulties they would labour through together. Neither she nor her fellow apprentice could predict what dangers might encroach, what pitfalls might ensnare. And there was the added knowledge that they were exploring a murder, perpetrated by a formidable, unknown assailant who had snuffed out the life of a skilled master.
Over the past several days since Caltrin had discovered their master's body, Amana had often wondered how Master Radakhan had allowed the murderer to succeed. She lavished admiration on the master and often conceptualised him as supra-human. Perhaps he had trusted his attacker, had allowed the murderer into his confidences and let down his guard. Amana gave a quick shudder.
In typical fashion, Rowan noticed her distress and side-stepped a bit on the path, pawing at a few loose rocks. The red chestnut mare flicked her ears back a few times, but Amana leaned forward and rubbed a hand along the horse's neck, sending her calming thoughts.
Before she could voice her perspective on their complex journey, Caltrin had flashed his impish smile and taken off down the pathway.
For a long moment, Amana turned her attention to the cottage, watching a wisp of smoke curl invitingly along the lip of the chimney, unfurl into the brisk morning air. Dawn had edged itself along the horizon, its light seeping into the darkened sky and diluting the smattering of stars.
“I know, Rowan,” Amana murmured. “I know. But we have a purpose to fulfill.” After stroking the mare's neck, Amana threaded her fingers through Rowan's mane and pressed into the horse's flanks with her knees. Rowan responded by easing into an immediate trot, which became a gallop as the woman and her steed raced to draw even with Caltrin.
Amana watched the bard, his cobalt tresses streaming out behind him, and hoped his predictions would be true.
Last edited by Myrrha; 01-14-2011 at 12:36 AM.
is probably distracted.
The crisp morning air, electric with potential, coupled with the mare's trot to kiss crimson onto Caltrin's boyish features and snowy white onto his knuckles at the reins. Mandarb, though bolder than her rider, shared an insatiable sense of wanderlust with the young bard and she kicked and pulled eagerly against his attempts to slow her down. The free-spirited steed, anxious from her extended time spent cooped and stabled, was chomping at the bit to churn the hard-packed earth beneath her hooves. Despite his best efforts to soothe her, bending in his saddle to press warm lips to the dappled palomino's dark mane and stroking lithe fingers around the tight curve of her ears, she wouldn't be sated. Caltrin turned in his saddle to where Amana and Rowan were quickly catching up, and he offered a softly turned apologetic smile. A single index finger shot up, his sapphire strands drizzling down to veil his face, as he tilted his head toward her.
That same hand reached over his shoulder to find the neck of his lute, slung over his shoulder as it was, with all the ease and familiarity of finding a lover's hand in bed. A pitch-perfect whine sung out as he slid his fingertip down the wire. Getting a good grip on the third string, he gave it a single, solid pluck. The air resonated with that simple note, every bit as plain as it was intricate, every bit as sweet as it was short. Mandarb's ear's perked up while Caltrin's eyes drooped heavy, giving the young bard the appearance of a monk deep in prayer or a drowsy drunkard teetering on the edge of sleep.
In the next instant, the note dissipated into the brisk morning air, and with it went Mandarb's restlessness. Docile and content, the mare reacted kindly to Caltrin's soft pets through her hair. Turning, he gave his fellow student a soft, knowing smile, lucidity having refilled his vacant eyes.
The morning melted into day and the day into night, the sky blushing the maple-and-rhubarb colors of a setting sun. The day had passed by in relative quickness, the clopping of hooves drowning any potential conversations before they could have begun. This was probably for the best; memories still hung heavy on the mind, and even without the weight of Master Radakhan's final task... Caltrin and Amana were never that close. This was an issue the bard had been meaning to address for some time but, as always, it was Master Radakhan who gave him the final push he needed. Instead, Caltrin contented himself with catching sidelong glances of the auburn-haired woman, a familiar mystery he watched when he hoped she wasn't looking.
Their home, sequestered down a dirt path that broke off of a main traveling supply road, was a day's ride to the first town, and right on schedule the curling plumes arose on the horizon. Trisani, a quiet milling town, awaited in the distance. Within lay warmth, beds... and all of the costs of said niceties. Outside, the small township was surrounded on one end by the quiet river Mane'theren and on the other end by the light forest and rolling grasslands they'd traveled through for the majority of the day.
Mandarb clapped her hooves down as Caltrin slowed her brisk walk to a slow canter and, finally, a full stop. Stamping her hooves impatiently, the spotted horse awaited her master's prompt... who in turn was looking expectantly up to his companion. They stood at a crossroads of sorts, with the main road leading down into the town's square while a dirt path branched off into the light woods, and any number of potential clearings to set up camp.
Sapphire eyes, drawn deep against the fading sunlight, asked her the unspoken question with a trusting patience. Light strands of cerulean seemed darker in the dwindling light, and though they usually hung heavy around his small, pointed face, the striation of the ride drew his locks to lightly curl and fall about his shoulders. In silence, the bard and his mare awaited her lead.
Last edited by Teller; 01-18-2011 at 06:46 PM.
The long ride had given Amana time alone with her thoughts, perhaps more than she wanted. Falling into the rhythm of Rowan’s gait, Amana had hummed and even sang to herself, the spirited wind grasping at the notes and flinging them away. Unlike her traveling companion, Amana could not claim any particular talent in the realm of music, but the sounds soothed her troubled heart.
Pulling up alongside Caltrin, she peered along the pathways and considered their choices. Signs of the season swirled around them: crimson leaves, bare branches trembling in chilled breezes, a taste of change in the frolicking air. Near the left path, a single aspen trembled, naked in the dim light of the evening, its branches bereft of foliage.
Despite the nip to the air, Amana knew they could camp quite comfortably in a clearing, an option that would quickly disappear as the Earth continued Her dance, turning, shifting, inexorably carrying Her people into Winter’s embrace.
Their funds being limited, Amana decided they should take advantage of more rugged options while possible. Perhaps, with a few songs from Caltrin and a few sketches of her own, they could earn a bit of coin, but not that evening. Not then, with a steady pressure building against her temples. Not then, when she had spent the entire day in pensive rumination.
He had looked to her to make the decision, deferring to her choice. Amana turned her gaze from the crossroads to his face, to the shape of his jaw and the curled tendrils wisping about his neck.
“We can camp in the woods, tonight,” she stated, in answer to his unspoken question. Already tired and more than willing to stop for the evening, she steered Rowan down the branched path and into the sparse forest.
Shafts of bronze pierced through the autumn canopy. Amana rode along the dirt trail at a walk. As she passed through pools of the sun’s setting rays, the sharp colours spilled over her tired form, and set her auburn locks ablaze with a luster nearly the same hue as the fluttering leaves.