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!
Congratulations to our winner of the holiday submission contest, Rigby, who came up with a brilliant holiday idea that incorporates a beautiful tale that flows with the lore and will be celebrated in Lorendale each Hiems from here on out! The Feast of the Twelve Marshals celebrates the return of Lorendale troops from war just in the nick of time to save the people from blood sacrifice and starvation. It is celebrated with secret note exchanges and a feast in which the firstborn of a family gets to dance with whomever they wish! We are looking forward to this new holiday!
Etta looked up at her brother from stirring the embers back to a full flame and half-smiled. Which, considering the circumstances, was as happy as she could be. She couldn’t help feeling that everything would be better now that Arlo was here. Perhaps it was naive, and she knew, with deep pain in her heart, that the dead could not be revived; but whatever came next could never be so bad as what was already past.
She carefully measured herbs into cups with one of the little polished wooden spoons she kept in her kit, and scooped hot water from the pot with a long-handled dipper to pour over the dried needles, bark, and powdered berries. To Arlo’s, she added a pinch of a particular root, ground to fine whiteish dust, and handed him the mug.
“It won’t knock you out,” she said. “But it will quiet your thoughts.”
While Arlo was glad that his arrival had brought some people comfort, he wasn't ready to find comfort yet. He couldn't just relax, what if something happened while he was asleep? What if he slept too long and he couldn't go help the rest of his caravan?
"I don't know about that Ets, those thoughts are pretty loud," Arlo said, but he accepted the cup and drank the hot tea anyways. It warmed him in a comforting way he didn't expect, or maybe because he hadn't had hot tea in a while. It was like he was suddenly starting to feel all the aches and pains of riding hard for the past day or so. All the stuff he had been ignoring was starting to crash down on him.
"You'll wake me if Adhla arrives right? Or if anything happens?"
"Of course!" she promised. "If and when anything happens, I'll be right beside you."
Etta's friend returned with two bowls of rabbit stew, bright chunks of carrot gleaming in the thickened broth, flecked with dark herbs, and handed one to each of them.
"Have you eaten?" Etta asked her, and she nodded as she sat down, a little ways off, to keep picking over the supply of medicinal plants and give them some space.
Etta looked down at her dish, and her stomach clenched, somehow both starving and repulsed at the thought of chewing and swallowing anything.
"So Adhla is bringing the others?" she asked, watching Arlo carefully. "Is there some sort of plan?" The Dresmondi were not generally a people of plans, beyond the rhythms of their lifestyles and rituals. Battle was not something they knew well...and if Coheed returned, it would be more than a battle...didn't that mean it was a war?
"Thank you," Arlo said to the dark haired girl. Sure she was nameless, but Arlo was a driver and the nameless were part of the caravan too and he swore he was going to protect everyone in his caravan and the other caravans.
He hadn't realized how hungry he was until he tasted the stew and proceeded to wolf it down like he hadn't eaten in days, which might have been true to some degree, time wasn't really relevant in that sense lately.
"Yeah, we combined the caravans and then the fastest came with me to get here quicker," Arlo said, "But we saw Coheed men along the way so Adhla and most of the caravans went to stop them. We came as soon as we could..." Arlo said, hoping that he really had come as fast as he could, that he did pick the fastest route. He had left as quickly as he could've gotten people organized, but was it enough?
"When Adhla gets here, the drivers and Danior will meet, we'll come up with a plan." Arlo assured her, though retreat was a very valid plan at this point, Dresmond was not suited for a war. At least Arlo was a planner, by Dresmondi standards.
Etta listened to her brother's explanation, nodding along and saying nothing, watching him eat with the sense of satisfaction she always felt when she could see she had done something helpful, that someone had what they needed.
"Adhla is strong," she said at last. Though she could not say she knew the woman well, the driver had a reputation as a good leader, and Etta respected her for it. "I'm sure the caravans will have defeated the raiders." Though Kushti was the largest caravan, and they were a proud and resilient people in their own way, Etta knew they were the weakest in a fight, the most vulnerable to attacks...
She met Arlo's gaze and handed him her own bowl to finish when his was empty.
"...if we have time," she said, hesitating, "...could you...would you try to teach me some things? I want to at least try to put up a better defense than I did, this time." There had been no defense at all, really. She had panicked, and Sage had sent thick and thorny vines twisting across the path of some of the attackers, but Coheed blades cut through the fleshy stems as easily as they cut through defenseless men, women, and children.
Honestly, Arlo envied his sister right now. In the aftermath of a war, she was the most valuable and useful person. Sure he was here to go fight back Coheed and freeze hell over, but Etta could fix people. She built people up and was great it while he went to battle to pour blood onto the ground.
"I'm good, you need to eat too," Arlo said, waving her bowl away. He wasn't lying either, actually he probably ate too fast. That was a problem for later Arlo to deal with.
He looked over at Etta. More than anything, Arlo wanted to make her unsee whatever she had seen in the battle. Whatever she had to go through, he just wanted to make it disappear. He wanted that for himself too, maybe. "Of course, we did some training for Kushti while we were all traveling together, I don't like it but I think everyone needs to brush up on a few things just in case..." Arlo had amped up training back since concalve, half the people thought he was being paranoid, and sometimes he did too. At the end, he was upset that his people were about to have to use those skills. There was no way for him to win this.
Etta finally stopped messing around with her spoon and made herself lift a bite of stew to her mouth after Arlo had insisted. She chewed carefully, barely tasting any of Ina's talent with seasoning, swallowed, and took a breath. One down...several more to go.
"Right," she said. "And I'll work with Sage, see if we can't figure out something better in terms of magic." Could she do it, if she had to? Take a life as easily as Coheed warriors cut down her friends and neighbours? Before this, she would have said no, and would have stood firm in that belief. Now that fury was beginning bleed into her feelings, hot and sharp against the cold numbness of her grief, she thought...perhaps she could.
"Have you seen Fiesta and the others?" she asked. The ones who had survived, anyway.
"Being on the defensive is important too," Arlo said gently. It was arguably the most important part even if it was a lot more passive. "Look at all the trees here moving the air, look at the people you're fixing. Maybe you can protect them with some thick thorns or something?" He knew that steel verses thorns had a clear winner though. "Or what about poison plants?" He made at face at that suggestion, as much as he knew they had to fight he didn't like the idea of slow deaths for anyone. Then again, he hadn't seen that much bloodshed yet compared to everyone that had already been at the border.
Arlo nodded slowly, "Fiesta is fine, so are some of the others... some are missing and not confirmed either way... Laurie and Jo are gone... they fought bravely..." That's as much as Arlo knew. All the children that had scattered during the battle were still being rounded up and counted. It wasn't just Arlo's children that were missing, it was some of his lovers, some of his friends and some he knew he would never see again. All of that was still sinking in for him.
Etta squinted at her brother, wanting to agree, but not believing there would be any answers that simple or straightforward. What she knew of poisons, she knew in order to treat them with an antidote. And even so...they weren't going to invite Coheed to join them for a feast and then somehow manage to fatally dose only those dishes which the raiders ate. As satisfying as the idea might feel.
She inhaled sharply at the mention of Laurie and Jo by name, shutting her eyes for a moment. She had recognized their bodies among the dead in the first blurry hours she had spent frantically trying to stop people's bleeding, much less stitch or bandage the wounds and give them any ointments for healing, or medicine for the pain. All she wanted to do was stop, stop moving, stop time, and just let herself hold the still figures that were her kin--they were all somebody's kin--and if any shred of their spirit lingered, to whisper to them that they were loved.
Etta bit her lip and looked back down into her bowl at Arlo's question.
"I...I don't...no. No, there's no one I ought to be looking for. Nobody in particular," she mumbled.
For better or worse, news spread faster where it concerned the caravan's drivers, so Etta hadn't had to wait long before word spread that Stone had survived. She hadn't had to run the risk of asking anybody, either.
Arlo was tired but he saw that subtle little lip bite of his sister's and raised an eyebrow. "Oh really now?" he pressed. "Ought to be?" he echoed, now this was actually getting a little entertaining. Arlo was a very hands off person, until it came to nosing about the people who were closest to him.
"You know if you're looking for someone, you're looking for someone and I can try to help find that person for you," Arlo said. He was looking for so many people he might as well be looking for everyone. If anything he just had a growing list of people he had greeted and knew was alive and kicking in case someone asked. He hadn't gotten to see a list of the dead yet though, he was scared of it. It didn't feel real yet, though it was very possible that this in between felt worse than reality.
“Well I’m not looking for someone, so you needn’t look for someone, because I’m not looking for someone,” said Etta, the words somehow coming out more sharply than she had intended, and she immediately pressed a hand over her face. She honestly couldn’t believe she was actually blushing at a time like this. There was so much more at stake here than her useless, futile feelings. “Sorry,” she added, clearing her throat. “I just...I think I’m a little...off.”
She shoved another spoonful of stew into her mouth because at least it gave her something to do and a reason to be silent.
Was Etta blushing? Etta of all people? The sister that claimed she wasn't into partnering up with anyone or having children of her own? Hey at least a little bit of happiness in all this would be very welcome. "
"You're never off," Arlo countered. "You know you can tell me who you're looking for right? Is it a nameless?" his sister did have a soft spot for them and honestly they were a lot harder to track because "the one with the curly hair" was really not specific enough. Still, even with a lot of vagueness, Arlo would at least try. He had always been good at at least trying.
“It’s not a—” Etta broke off and nearly bit her tongue.
She certainly was off if she’d managed to slip up this badly for the first time in years. She looked up at her brother doubtfully. If she could have confided in anyone, it would be Arlo...but Arlo liked to manage things in his own way, and Etta suspected he would feel compelled to meddle with the best intentions and dubious results.
“It doesn’t do any good to dwell on it,” she said in a low voice. “Please, Arlo, it’s not...it can never be. And we have more important things to think of, now.”
She was only one person, and her unbidden and unnecessary feelings were not the end of the world. The attack from Coheed—that was more like the end of the world.
He was just trying to help! That's what Arlo did, he helped people and he would be more than glad to help Etta if she wanted his help. So if it wasn't a nameless then who was it? Who would she not want to share... well unless... unless it was something that she suddenly took a fancy to? And as he listened, he realized that it was that Etta had taken a special liking to someone.
"Etta if there's someone special to you, that's something that should be celebrated in a dark time," He said as sagely as possible. After all there was no better time for a declaration of love than between battles, or so he heard. It sounded romantic enough for him. "If it comforts you to know this person is ok, take that small comfort. I'll even help you go looking for them." he told her.
“Well celebrate it, then, but there’s no need to tell anybody!” Etta said with some exasperation. There seemed little point in denying it—she might be able to mostly hold her tongue, but she was a terrible liar when pushed to it. “I’ll take my small comfort where I can, and not ask for more.”
She set down her bowl and put her hands on her knees.
“Now,” she said in a bossier tone. “It’s time you got some sleep,” she said, as if he was a child up well past his bedtime. “Get in the wagon,” she said, pointing. “My bed is the one covered in cat-hair.”
Padding up behind her, Sage let out a huff, as if her dignity were deeply outraged.