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.
Stone had cried and grieved enough in his lifetime to know that what he was going through now was soul shaking, he didn't understand how he was keeping himself together. When he finally found the twins he embraced them with strong hugs, forehead kisses, and several times he done a quick check for wounds on them. They were safe and in one piece, mostly dirty and scratched up.
Little Girl had pointed out Stone's cut before he even noticed, "Daddy you have a cut we need to see Etta," her voice was edging that fear tone and tears glistened her eyes, "Etta can save Light Daddy! hurry come! Come!"
Little Girl and Little Boy now took Stone's hand trying to pull him towards a direction but Stone pulled them back and squatted in front of them, "Who is Light?"
The pair both started talking, "He got a name at the last naming ceremony! And he was with us protecting us," they both were crying and Stone felt there trembles as Little Girl continued, "A big mean man cut him with a bigger sword but Light and Ray got him back....he.h..," she just like Stone realized that perhaps Light was beyond the realm of saving. Today was going to be a memory the twins never forget and the weight of it sat like a lump on his throat. Afa who was very weak lumbered over and pulled them all into a tight hug.
It was a while before Stone pulled back, "Let's go find etta shall we?"
Getting on with work had been easier once she was sure that Stone and his children were safe and well. Of course she hadn't wanted to bother the driver when he must have a million more important things to look after, right now, and so Etta had satisfied herself with a glance at a distance to confirm he was alive and not too grievously injured.
"Good..." she had muttered to herself as she took a deep breath, held it, then slowly let it out. The caravan would need Stone more than ever, now. She was glad for the sake of the Kushti. And his family. There were already too many children left orphaned, or worse...and even those that had, miraculously, not lost anyone had seen horror beyond comprehending. Etta badly wanted to praise these children for being so brave, while her anger rose to think that they were being called upon to be brave, at all. Men and women could do whatever vicious things they liked, but children ought to be left entirely out of it.
She dipped her hands into a basin of water to wash away the flecks and smears of blood, and looked about in vain for a bit of towel before she gave up and dried them on the hem of her tunic, trying to find a clean-ish spot. Everyone liked a healer who was tidy, but having been underground, everything was much dirtier than usual, already.
Hearing a pair of small, piping voices calling her name, she turned to see the twins dragging Stone towards her, each catching hold of an arm, and she managed to lift one corner of her mouth partway into a smile as she crouched to greet them.
"I'm so glad to see you!" she told them, cupping each of their chins in her still-damp hands affectionately before she looked up at Stone. "How...how is everyone?"
It was another blessing for Stone to see that Etta and Sage had survived, just like him Etta brought a calming presence with the caravan that he respected. Little girl was a big fan of hers too.
He smiled at Etta giving her a reassuring hug, "We are...," the word couldn't come out and it was a simple word, 'fine', but everything was far from it, "Going." His face probably said it all, red rimmed eyes from exhaustion and from the tears of seeing passing friends, but he had to be the strong leader he was always seen as for Kushti.
"You look tired, but I'm glad you and Sage are safe" he absentmindedly pushed a lock of loose hair out of Etta's face, "Its going to be a long night and I'm sorry bu-," Little girl cut Stone off, "Could you please look daddies cuts over?"
She was sweet like Stone while Little boy was stoic like his Mother. Stone shook his head, "Could you look them over first for me? Please. Little girl, if you don't mind, also wants to help you if you need it."
The smile was enough to set her heart pounding despite herself, but Etta entirely froze when Stone pulled her into a warm and friendly hug. He smelled of earth and sweat and drying blood, but so did they all, and Etta could have stood still and breathed it in for an hour and let it settle her worn-out nerves. Stone was alive. Stone was here. Stone was...
Touching her face, lightly, briefly, without seeming to think twice about it, and Etta fought off a shiver. They were all exhausted. After so much brutality, any softness was going to seem surreal and overwhelming. That was what it was. Of course he was glad she was safe—they would need as many strong survivors as possible, and with their dyrs, to protect what was left, and her healing skill for the wounded must be of some importance. As a driver, as a good person, he must be glad to see anybody who was alive and unhurt.
The girl’s small voice broke through the jumble of her thoughts and excuses and Etta glanced more sharply back at Stone.
“You’re hurt?” she asked at once, though she understood his priority to be the children, and given that she could see no spreading pool of blood nor broken limbs, she did at once turn to the twins and ask them to turn their heads this way and that, stretch out their arms, and tell her if they had any pains. She looked closely into their faces, but beyond a pair of runny noses and some still-wet eyelashes that told her they’d been crying a short while ago, there seemed to be no injury to their bodies. She wanted to prescribe a long cuddle for them, and cups of warm milk, sweetened with honey and spices, and soft, happy songs to sing them to a sleep where no nightmares waited.
She wasn’t about to ask the little girl to accompany her while she looked after some of the grievously injured, so instead she tried to smile encouragingly as she turned her attention to their father and whatever wounds he was hiding.
“Can you go into my bag and find some clean bandages, please?” she asked the little girl, then she took the basin, emptying it onto the ground, and handed it to the little boy. “Will you please go and ask Paola over there for some fresh warm water?”
The twins followed Etta's instructions, "Thank you, I need.. just some time for them to occupy their minds and any small task they can follow. I've got a few duties I'm not looking forward to," Stone didn't elaborate because Etta knew and Stone knew Etta knew because she was probably up to her own eyes in....death...mayhem...unknowing...
Stone broke from the thought so she could assess his wounds and it wouldn't do him well to avoid it with Etta, "I ducked when I should have dived," Stone joked as he touched his face which was hidden by thick jet black hair and instantly winched. Removing the black hair band around his wrist Stone pushed back his long hair into a pony tail revealing a decent gash across his left cheek and another across his right brow, "For someone who isn't a prepared warrior I believe I took my blows today with some gusto, I don't remember receiving them honestly."
Stone followed the twins every move even though they weren't more than just feet away from him, it would be the tempo for sometime. Afa came slowly up to Stone's feet where she sat head hung from exhaustion but she leaned into Stone, 'Eat,' was all Afa could respond with, "Twins when you are done assisting here please find Afa some food, fruit if you can."
Stroking Afa he turned the conversation back to Etta, "How is Arlo? Sage? How did he do today? I fear we will see less of the faces we saw yesterday after today and my heart weighs heavy because of it."
Etta nodded with understanding as they watched the children dash off to their duties, still quick with the bafflingly endless energies of young children.
Her brows knit together into a small frown as she inspected his cuts, carefully pushing at their edges as gently as she could.
“Well I don’t think they’ll need stitching,” she said, “but there could be scars. Thank you, children,” she said as the boy returned with the water and the girl handed her the linens. “Now with any cut,” she explained to the girl, “you must first bathe it in clean water. Boiled and cooled is best, with plenty of salt, if you have it, but even fresh water from a running stream will do.” She showed them how to sponge away the dried blood, to gently sweep any debris from the cuts before she took up another bowl she had already mixed a paste into. “Honey, and some of my special herbs,” she told them. “Use something that isn’t your fingers, if you can,” she said, using the flat end of a split twig of greenwood to daub a little along the cuts. “And then, some clean padding, and the bandage to hold it in place.”
The children began to rather enjoy the process of unwinding long strips of linen to wrap around and around their daddy’s head, with only a few small corrections from Etta—such as it’s best not to blindfold them with it, dears.
Holding her bowl of herbs and honey in her lap, she watched the children work for a moment before she looked back at Stone.
“Arlo is alive,” she said, brief and thankful. “Sage and I...we haven’t a bruise between us, somehow. The sign of a coward, perhaps,” she added ruefully, before she looked with some concern at the wearied gorilla, though she did not reach for her. Where the healer would not hesitate with people, she held back from dyrs. They were something more than beasts. “Is Afa hurt as well? Is there anything I can do for her?”
Stone was enjoying the little moment of joy that his children were having with Etta as they cleaned and dressed his wounds. He didn't expect to find it so soon with everything that has happened today, but he was very grateful for it because they desperately needed it. All of them. Even Stone felt the grin tug at his own tired and weary face muscles.
He instantly disagreed with Etta with a humble tone, "A coward? Never. I see a Healer. A nurturer. Someone I've seen save a life when others had abandoned that person," he was speaking of the Nameless, "So no I don't see a coward, I see Kushti," he gave her a glowing smile, "We are blessed to have you Etta," he patted the back of her hand giving it a gentle squeeze.
He dropped his gaze down to Afa who was eating a banana slowly, 'I feel fine,' she spoke to Stone sweetly and looked at Etta giving her the sign for "hurt" by extending her index fingers of both hands and giving a jabbing movement, 'tell her my back hurts.'
"She says her back is hurting," Stone was suddenly alarmed in his eyes, "do you mind one more check up?"
Stone sat down beside Afa patting her large siemian hand, "We weren't ready for today and I don't believe Coheed is done with us," Stone was looking off now as if formulating his entire caravans next move.
Etta couldn't help the tiniest of smiles overtaking her when he spoke so kindly. She hardly knew whether to pull away her hand or not when he pressed his against it, so she only held it still, hoping it would not shake. She had always liked Stone, ever since she had joined the caravan. Hardly anybody seemed to dislike him. Then had come the blight, and he could not help commanding respect as a driver. But even besides all this, there was something more about him that had slowly but surely sunk roots into her heart, and grown, since she had been called on to use Sage's magic to help heal the crops. She could easily admire the man who decided and acted for the good of the caravan at vitally important moments...but it was the small kindnesses, the gentle humour of the everyday that had made her care for him in a way she'd never felt for anybody else.
But that was her own burden, and she couldn't think of humiliating herself by revealing anything, when she had no reason to suppose he viewed her as anything other than a friend and comrade. There was no point in it.
So Etta drew a slow, deep breath when he turned back to Afa, and squared her shoulders. She would try to be everything Stone had said he believed her to be, even if she couldn't join him in believing it.
"I'm just going to have a look at your spine, Afa," she explained in a calm voice, pressing two fingers gently along the ridge of vertebrae she could feel beneath the soft fur, and slowly working her way down it. "Tell me, or show me, where exactly it hurts."
She kept her gaze focused on the gorilla, not daring to make eye contact with Stone as she worked.
Stone was attentive towards Afa and anyone who knew always saw it, while his own Mother was Kushti and exorcised a bond with her children they still had that social barrier before his naming. Afa had shared a bond with Stone since her existence she didn't pick a time when it felt safe to make that full connection. She picked Stone up when he fell, humbled him when his pride of hard work clouded his judgement, and when the call came to bear grit she was true to the people of Dresmond.
So, for that and other reasons Stone had spoiled the dyr with immense admiration and love. He was stiff with concern as Etta examined her, 'Tell Etta it is my lower back that hurts. It isn't sever but it hurts Stone.'
Dark eyes found Etta, "She says it's her lower back, it isn't anything terrible she says but enough to hurt," now his eyes didn't leave her as she worked graciously. Stone admired watching Etta work, she was dependable, sweet, and....'Cute? Is that the word Stone? I think she is.'
Stone blushed a light red a little thrown off by Afa's assessment, "I won't argue with that Afa but she isn't interested in me," Stone flashed a gentle smile before joining Etta behind Afa, 'Men know nothing about women,' Afa retorted with a huff.
"How does she look?" Stone asked as he stood a little closer to Etta, "Do you need anything by the way? Food? Water? I don't mind. You've been busy today."
'Perhaps just your company,' Afa replied once more this time with a little hint of teasing. Stone blushed again but paid her no mind.
“There’s no wound, that I can find,” said Etta. “And if her movement is unhindered, that’s good—it may just be a pulled muscle. A salve rubbed into the skin or a warm compress will help, and she must take it easy for a few days...no heavy lifting, that...”
She glanced up to find Stone watching her, with a slightly odd look on his face, one she didn’t recognize. But he smiled at her, so it couldn’t have been anything awful...it was probably just the awkwardness of her touching his dyr. Etta drew her hands back at once.
“...that sort of thing,” she concluded her professional opinion and cleared her throat, turning to her bag to rummage through her supplies, see if she had the ointment that would relax the strain and ease the ache. It was unfortunate that there was nothing similar she could apply to her own heart, when Stone was near.
When he stood so close, it would have been an easy thing to turn just a little and wrap his arms around her...but she didn’t dare dream of it. He had asked what she needed, and Sage was giving her a long, unblinking look. Tell him to hold you, she suggested, ready to purr at the thought. No, Etta retorted, heat creeping up her neck. That’s not a need, that’s just... What you want. More than anything, right now.
“I’m fine,” the words came out of Etta’s lips with sharp insistence. “Just...tired. But I can manage. I will manage. I’ll have a nap later, maybe, if there’s time.”
'You really don't see it do you?' See what Afa? 'Every time you get close she goes a little stiff and distracts herself with something, like rummaging through her bag?' She is looking for an ointment? 'Perhaps but she does the most by avoiding your gaze, she likes you. I know. While you stay busy with being a leader you overlook some of these things, today isn't the first time I've seen Etta get like that around you.'
"I'm fine," she replied to his question or maybe not, the tone sounded like she was firmly telling someone something.
"I'm sure things will be fine if you sleep a little Etta," Stone was concerned of course and he knew she was going to be busy later as well as now, "I have a place set up within my quarters complete with the option of a warm bath and a soft bed."
'You can hold her for a little while! She looks like she needs it and you haven't been sleeping alone so well.' Afa, please. She can sleep in my bed without me....what next? Want me to kiss her? 'Bet.'
"It's....its a um..quiet place if..if uh you need that of course, I can hook you up with the privacy," he bumbled on with a smile, "I...I could also use the company after today," Little Girl was now staring between the pair of adults with innocent wonder, "Does that mean you wanna share your bed with her Daddy?"
"Ewww yuck," was little boys response, "Don't be gross sis!"
Little Girl stomped her foot and stuck her tongue out before going back at her brother, "That ain't gross! Its beautiful and shes cute anyways so don't be mean!"
Stone was stunned into silence with a awkward grin on his face. Afa chuckled within his head...
- So when he says privacy... - Stop it, Sage. - AND company...does he mean, alone...together?
The cat leaned into a stretch, her claws skitching at the bare earth delightedly.
- Don't you dare even think about it. - You could use the bath.
Etta realized she probably had no idea how she might currently reek after all that had happened, and she reddened at the thought.
- I can heat water in my own wagon. Where I also have an adequate bed. - The bed that's buried under a heap of clutter after you ransacked your own supplies?
Sage was almost unbearable when she was being smug. Etta's wagon was normally a tidy and cozy space, with every jar and pouch and carefully knotted bundle of dried flowers kept organized and in its proper place for when she needed them...but right now, everything was topsy-turvy.
Etta sighed and rubbed at her forehead before she set her hands on her hips and looked at the children. She would not look at Stone just then.
"Your dad is being generous, and sharing is a kind thing to do during times like this," she told the little ones. "And provided I do have that bath, first, I shouldn't be too disgusting to sleep in anyone's bed."
There, that was a reasonable excuse to believe that that had been what the boy was thinking about. As to her being cute, well, that hardly mattered. Lots of things were cute. Puppies. Sunflowers. Mouthy twins.
Rubbing an ache in the back of her neck, she finally turned to Stone with a faint smile.
"Thank you, I'll...accept that offer. And I promise I'll be out of your way as soon as possible, just...a couple of hours of decent sleep. That's all I need."
Whether she'd get any sleep in a bed that she knew belonged to Stone was entirely another question, but she had to try.
'She isn't looking at you again and I think she just made an excuse for Little boys 'that's gross' comment. Nice save.'
Stone cut his eyes at Afa and she rolled her dark eyes, maybe Stone saw a little smile. He scooped both the twins up, "I'm glad you will accept, you and I will definitely need it for the next few days. Whenever you are ready come along Etta," Stone gave her a warm smile, "I'm going to feed these kids and get them to Tempest for a few hours. Afa says thank you for the ointment."
Afa huffed and nodded, 'Maybe she will bring ointment for you? I bet she won't even mind applying it.'
Stone blushed but he quickly gathered himself before walking away, "Glad to still have you Etta, I appreciate everything about you," he said as he disappeared. Little girl blew a kiss from over her Fathers shoulder.
She’d already said she would go, so it would be more awkward if she didn’t turn up now, wouldn’t it? It was only a big deal if she made it a big deal, and she refused to make a big deal of it. So there.
Did he really appreciate everything about her? It was just one of those maddening things Stone sometimes said that could be taken in more than one way, and as usual Etta decided it was kindest to assume the least extreme option, which was that he was being his usual friendly self. He always had something nice to say about almost everybody, and as a good driver he must know that morale needed bolstering right now. He was probably telling everyone in Kushti and beyond how much they were appreciated, and of course he meant it, and it was true. Etta was feeling pretty appreciative even of people who normally got under her skin in a bad way, because they were still alive and on reflection they weren’t that irritating, after all.
She waved them off, smiling helplessly at Little Girl’s sweet little kiss, and bent to start packing up her things to go see to her last few urgent patients before heading to Stone’s.
Sage flopped down at her feet and rolled as if she’d just grown herself an entire acre of catnip.
“You’re a disgrace,” muttered Etta with fond exasperation. “Thank you for not licking poor Afa, at least.”
I thought about it. Gorillas like grooming, don’t they?