The peace that formerly reigned in Terra Nova has eroded, now little more than a memory. War ravages the continent. Disputes divide kingdoms; ideals divide families. The quest for power consumes absolutely and indiscriminately. None are immune to its allure.
Who will rise and who will fall? Only time—and ambition—will tell.
New gifted family of Lorendale added to the Families of Importance, the Decarlos!
At the beginning of February 2022 the site will experience a 5 year time jump! The IC year will jump from 822 to 827! This gives us about 8 months to prepare our characters for that jump. We plan to host very intentional planning sessions to help everyone get their plots and characters ready for this! As of this moment, one thing you should all start considering is making sure the threads your characters are in are furthering your character's stories.
Arlo was close to pretty much everyone, especially all of his children, and very especially his sister Etta of Kushti. She had been one of the people Arlo worried about the most the second that Hazel and Olive delivered that message. Why? Because Etta didn't fight. She was frankly terrible at it no matter how hard he tried to train her. Arlo knew that his sweet kind sister did not have it in her to harm.
He had scanned the people for her as soon as he arrived, along with everyone else he was close to. Fiesta had been easy to spot, she was always someone to want to be at the front of things anyway. She had been holding the hands of two of his other Adoi children, probably because she knew that he'd be looking and she always did little things to make things easier for people.
But now it was time for Arlo to possibly face his fear that his little sister might have gotten hurt. After quick debrief from a few people he cared deeply about, he found time to go looking for Etta. The good thing was, he had a pretty good idea of where to go looking for her and inquired after the direction of where people's wounds were being treated.
As Arlo was tired and there were a lot of people, he just fell back on the easy plan of wandering about that area yelling "ETTA! ETTA!" and looking for her to pop up somewhere.
Etta tied off the ends of another bandage and lightly passed her fingertips over the padding to see that it sat smooth and would not shift a great deal with any movement.
"Too tight?" she asked the woman who had come to her with the deep cut to her arm, and though the woman was pale, her expression pinched, she shook her head. "I'll give you something to take for the pain," Etta added, reaching into her kit and opening a bag of dried and crumbled leaves. She frowned at how little was left, sighed, and put only a few pinches into a square of linen which she folded and handed carefully to the woman. "Brew it in hot water, let it cool a little, then drink it all down. It's bitter, but it'll help get you through tonight. Come to me tomorrow and I'll check the dressing, and...and I'll see if I can give you more."
It was only when she was rubbing at the ache behind her eyes that she heard her name being called, and stood up, searching among the milling crowd before she saw her brother working his way somewhat in her direction.
"Arlo!" she raised a hand to wave, and Sage was already making a beeline for the man, gently butting her head against Tove's with a satisfied little rumble.
Found her first! Tove told him before the snow leopard took off to say hi to Sage. Arlo knew exactly which direction to look and he let out a loud sigh of relief when he saw Etta and picked up the pace so he could go wrap his sister up in a hug that lifted her off her feet if she let him. He squeezed her tight, but obviously not tight enough to hurt her. He didn't have anything that poultices and bandages could fix but he did have a lot of hurt and it had been building up since conclave.
"I was so worried about you. Are you ok?" he breathed into her hair before setting her back down. There were a lot of people who weren't ok and that was straight up depressing. At least some of his children were missing, some of them confirmed as lost to them all, some of their mothers, some of the other people that Arlo loved deeply and he hadn't been there to stop it.
"Me? I'm fine," said Etta at once, though the way she'd flung her arms around her brother's neck and held on for longer than she'd done since she'd been a much smaller girl somewhat belied her words. She took half a step back to look at him, brushing her hands over his clothes like a fussing mother flicking off bits of fluff and dirt, but actually checking to see if he had any injuries she could find. "I'm always fine," she insisted, her voice steadier this time when she said it. "What of you? You look tired. Have you heard anything of Serena? Are mother and father...?"
Etta swallowed, hard. Somehow, those words couldn't come out. She dropped both hands to his and took hold of them, her grip firm, though her fingers were cold.
At least this was one less person to worry about, for now at least. Well for sure for now, because Arlo was not letting anyone else get hurt. Coheed could take them over his dead body, and he meant that very literally. He looked a little worse for the wear, covered in road dust and sleeplessness with grief haunting his eyes. "Mom and Dad are with Adhla, she should be catching up soon enough," he said, a little nervousness in his voice. He had faith in Adhla and everyone there. They'd make it here just fine. If they weren't here in a few hours, he'd get back on a horse to go find them, even if he had to do it himself.
"No idea where Serena and Blair are, the messengers have been asking all the rogues to go protect the cave so hopefully she's there with them," he added, a little less worried about their big sister if he had to admit it. Serena was as strong as she was smart. She'd be ok. She had to be. Arlo couldn't live with himself if he let down Serena after she had left the caravan in his care.
He looked at Etta for a moment, "I'm sure Serena is going to be ok. We didn't see anyone else heading for the cave except maybe who the rest of the caravan is fighting. Ummm... I guess you should be ready in case she brings more wounded in with her..." he added. The majority of both Dijila and Rashai were with Adhla, stopping whatever Arlo's scout had seen. It was Arlo who gave that order and he had no plans to rest until he knew what he had done, what his choices did to other people.
"Protect the cave?" Etta echoed the words faintly, not quite understanding it. There had been so much chaos among the Kushti, such a tide of death and destruction that nothing seemed able to hold it back, that Etta hadn't thought any force the Dresmondi caravans could bring to bear would be sent anywhere, to any purpose that wasn't protecting its people.
She lifted a hand to her forehead, pushing back the tangle of draggled wisps of hair that had escaped from her braid, and let out a scoff that stuck in her throat as it swelled with something like anger, strangling it into a gurgle. The cave was just a hole in a rock that chewed up children, spitting some back out, swallowing others. What did it matter if the warriors of Coheed took it? Let them have it--let their precious sons never wake.
But there was work to be done, and there seemed little point in arguing about the future when it was difficult to see past surviving tomorrow.
"I'll...I'll get more supplies," she said, sniffling once and straightening her spine. "There's no time to dry anything, but some of what I'll need can still be potent when its fresh, if I can get Sage to grow enough of it."
Growing anything seemed almost silly and domestic at a time like this, but it was all she could do, and therefore what she needed to do.
"Are they...are they going to come back?" she asked in a smaller voice. "What did they want from us? Blood? Land?"
Arlo nodded, "Hopefully they won't have to and Coheed won't find it." He then lowered his voice to a whisper, for no real reason since obviously Coheed couldn't hear him but it had been a genius plan that he and Adhla had come up with. "We had them make a fake and buried the real cave under a hill. They'll never find it if they can even get past us... and Adhla..." Adhla wasn't really a fighter either, but there were some well trained people with her, Arlo had to trust her even though worry was twisting deep into his gut. Even though he knew his sister had rather different feelings about the cave, it was still what made Dresmond... Dresmond. The cave, The One, the medallion, it was a part of who they were, even if it came with a great sacrifice.
"There should be some supplies coming with the wagons too," Arlo added, at least he hoped so. He hoped that everyone would make it back without a scratch, that the wagons would be stocked and a buff to what they had here. He also knew in the depths of his heart that this was all just wishful thinking. "If they don't show up soon, I'll go find them." he added quietly. He wouldn't even try to ask anyone to go with him, because he wasn't going to put another life at risk.
"I don't know what Coheed wants but whatever it is, they're not getting it. They will be sorely disappointed. No one else is dying on my watch." Arlo said fiercely. It was unlikely that would be true if Coheed didn't fully retreat from the storm, but it was still Arlo's intention.
Etta nodded, welcoming the news that some supplies would arrive with the others. It was a vague hope, but it was more than they had at the moment, and that she had to appreciate. Arlo was here, now, and the Dijila. They knew how to fight far better than most of the Kushti, and they knew at least part of what they might expect. What had happened here could not happen again.
"I just wish...I wish there were more I could have helped," she whispered, feeling a hot film of tears finally stinging her eyes, and she looked down at the ground so Arlo wouldn't see. "Some of them were just...it happened so quickly. One moment they'd be whole and the next...even if I'd had everything I needed to hand in an instant, there was just no way..."
She raised her head to look out at those who had gathered to seek the care of the healers.
"Perhaps once I've seen to everything here, I should...people may want me to try to stitch together some of the bodies, before they're put to rest. Nobody should be mourning anything so...so broken, or torn. That shouldn't be their last glimpse of who they loved."
There was a painful irony to the fact that now out of the siblings, the sweetest one Etta was the one to have seen the most of war. Arlo really didn't like that thought. Etta shouldn't have to see war, she should be seeing meadows and flowers, and fixing children with colds and knee scrapes. That was the world they were supposed to live in.
He put a hand on her shoulder, "me too," he said, a new softness in his voice. "You're doing your best. You're doing... so much more than what I've been doing..." he said and that too weighed heavily on him. All the other Dresmondi had been fighting for their lives and Arlo had been racing to reach them and he hadn't made it in time. He hadn't struck down a single Coheedsman since they took back their cave before summer conclave.
"How can I help?" He asked, desperate to be doing something useful, because even though he had given orders and brought people to help... he still felt helpless.
Etta laid her hand over his, pressing it against her shoulder, drawing some kind of strength and calm from the weight of it, the familiarity of the fingers she knew almost as well as her own.
"You're here, and you're safe," she said. "That's what I wanted."
But they had to limit sentimentality, and focus on the practical, for now. Etta reached up to run a finger over his cheek, the untended stubble of several days making it rough.
"Look after yourself," she said. "You should rest. Eat something. Everyone will do better with full bellies and fresh eyes. I'll wager yours feel like you've had a fistful of sand thrown in them. The drivers need to be sharp and ready to attend to whatever comes next."
As if on cue, Arlo's stomach growled. He hadn't actually eaten in... well he didn't want to think about that or know the answer to that. "I am, I swear," he said, because to some degree he was. He was alive, he was here, wasn't that enough? There were other people he needed to take care of, that's what it meant to be a driver right?
He hadn't slept in a while either, but how could he? There would be no rest in his sleep if Adhla and so many others were out there. "I'm as sharp as I'll get, let me help you Etta." Arlo requested. Deep down he knew he'd probably fall asleep on his feet if he stopped for too long, it was adrenaline keeping him awake. Plus, his bed was with Adhla, like all the wagons. The 500 that had ridden ahead with Arlo were only on horseback with the necessities. He was sure at some point he had eaten a vegetable or something while riding. No he couldn't remember what it was.
Etta tilted her head to one side, narrowing her eyes at her brother. She'd always known (in the hoity-toity way of younger sisters the world over) that being older didn't make Arlo cleverer than her, and so she didn't always need to presume he knew what was best when she could see he was being irrational and stubborn.
"Come on," she said, tugging at his hand. "You can have a lie-down in my wagon. I'll give you something to help you sleep," she added, making a mental note to refresh those herbs, too. She suspected the caravans would be full of nightmares long after wounds had turned into scars. "And Ina is sure to have a pot of stew." Etta was certain she could smell something savoury beyond the dust and blood and horses, and the older woman who had often come to her for a salve for her husband's bone-aches in the damper seasons always kept something simmering for healers tending the sick and those who took the watches while the rest of the caravan slept.
Arlo was too stubborn to admit that he was hungry, tired, and he probably stank. However he didn't think he was someone who deserved a break and yes, he was going to volunteer for night watch if no one else did and he was awake. It helped him avoid sleep and nightmares. Still because it was Etta, he let her tug him along to her wagon. "Stew does sound good right now..." he admitted. Sleep sounded good but how could he?
No matter where they were or what though, he couldn't stop the glancing around at all the other faces around them, hoping to see more faces that he recognized. Hoping to see countless faces he hadn't seen yet. There were some that he knew he should've seen by now. They would've been at the front or they would've been with people that he did see, but it was like not enough people wanted to break that kind of news to Arlo yet. The past few days had been so much to take in.
They wound through the makeshift paths between wagons, the arrangement of homes less organized than usual, with several still showing signs of their hasty abandonment or destruction as the people had taken refuge underground. Etta’s wagon, painted a cheerful shade of bright green, still sat whole, though the black-haired nameless girl was still slowly setting it to rights, and dispensing herbs from what was left of Etta’s stores to anyone who came to ask for them. The young woman knew almost as much as Etta herself, but there were few who wanted their actual care from a nameless woman with no dyr that they could see. Still, she smiled faintly at them both, glad to see them, and silently slipped off when Etta asked her to please see if Ina had a bowl of anything to spare for her brother.
A pot of water sat heating on stones beside the campfire, and Etta went into the wagon to fetch cups.
This whole underground caravan thing was so weird to Arlo. There wasn't a sky above their heads or sunshine on their skin. The air, it just felt different, even though the air dyrs were helping to circulate fresh air into the cavern and the plants dyrs had planted things to keep the air smelling fresh and green. It did the job but still Arlo could tell something was just... off...
He followed Etta to her wagon, the daze of the past few days catching up to him. Maybe he did need some sleep after all. Now that the adrenaline was leaving his system, he was starting to feel as weary as people told him he looked. Arlo smiled at the nameless girl that stayed with Etta. They were cute together, or so he thought.
He plopped himself down on the nearest surface he could sit on, his mind was as tired as his body apparently, but still running miles a minute with all the things he needed to think about. Like where was the rest of his caravan? Did they listen to him and take a defensive stance to stop Coheed or had they rushed into more battle than they were prepared to? And still... the weight that he had asked them to do all of it.