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.
Thousands were dead. Children. Nameless. Healers and farmers. Lost, in an instant. Adhla wandered through the wagons with a vacant, unseeing gaze. They had survived. The wheels that were broken could be repaired. The routes that were disrupted could be restarted. The Cave of Names still stood. Free. Dresmondi.
And yet—thousands. It was a number she had never thought to fathom. What were there a thousand of in her life apart from stars in the sky? A thousand dead. Nothing could have prepared her for the sight of them. Her boy, mercifully, was not one of them. She had wept to know it, and she had wept again to look upon all those who had not been so fortunate.
Days had passed since the attack, since those at the border chased the invaders back to their homeland. She had barely slept. Every creak of her wagon, every hoot of an owl brought her snapping out of whatever fitful slumber she managed to find. Terrified. Dark circles rimmed her eyes as she walked, hair loose around her shoulders for once. Reshi trudged in uncharacteristic silence at her side, feet dragging with a weighty canter.
His head bobbed as they rounded an unfamiliar wagon, swinging toward another, more familiar one. “Camus ,” she called, voice its usual quiet, albeit somewhat hollower now, in the wake of the fighting. “Mercy.”
They were still alive. Another day, another battle.
He wouldn't call this a victory, not by any stretch of the imagination. Camus hadn't had it in him to count them personally. He would leave that grim task for another who had more of a stomach for it. He was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. The Rashai had escaped for the most part. They'd lost a relatively small portion of those who had attacked the Coheedsmen. Yet each of them hurt deeply. What was worse was the children. A father, the blacksmith had almost crumbled to his knees when he'd seen the number of children, many of which hadn't even had the time to get given their dyr or their names dead.
His own pair were safe in the wagon. He had forbidden them from doing so much as looking outside and for once, perhaps sensing the gravity of the situation they were listening.
Sitting on the steps of his caravan, with his elephant's leg outstretched. The man struggled with a pair of grips. The wooden shaft of the arrow that had struck Mercy had broken but the shaft remained trapped inside. He did his best to grab it. The beast's thick skin ensured that the wound was relatively minor. It also made it a pain to retrieve the piece of metal. The elephant waited as patiently as possible, deep and rugged breaths the only clue that she was suffering.
The sound of a familiar voice caused him to look up. Adhla, no doubt surveilling some of the - he hesitated to call it a battlefield - more of a procession of bodies. "Adhla. We're okay here if you're needed elsewhere." He wasn't chasing her off so much as ensuring that she wasn't worrying about others who could cope for themselves.
Adhla frowned as she neared, shaking her head to dismiss Camus’s offer of independence even before she was upon them, her gaze shifting almost immediately to the arrow that had struck the blacksmith’s dyr. “I’ve already seen most the camp,” she assured the ailing pair as Reshi lumbered around her side, beady eyes surveilling the situation. “Mercy, I’m so sorry.” Adhla reached a hand to where the elephant panted, generally soft features bent in a look of concern.
“How can we help?” Her gaze shifted to Camus just long enough to utter her question. Despite the quiet of her voice, it was not an offer. She intended to help. To make herself useful. To feel the part of a Driver who had done anything other than fail her people. Thousands. The number reverberated her in her mind, haunting her. Reshi remained at her side, his usually sarcasm buried beneath the earth, replaced with an uncharacteristic resolve—to offer what help he could.
Camus was used to detecting when he was fighting a losing battle. It had been a daily occurrence where Leonie was concerned. So he didn't put up much of an argument when Adhla made it clear she intended to provide help.
The elephant grumbled lowly as she took note of the newcomers. "Let them know that I've had worse." Came her rumble through his mind. "Mercy says that she's had worse." It was true. Both she and him shared a large number of scars and battle wounds, some more crippling than others. "That's the problem with a big dyr, they make for a nice target." Camus spoke with a light joking tone. "There are some bandages and ointments in those chests. We're going to need a couple of yards, if you could get them ready, I'd be grateful." He knew already that once he removed the head, there was likely to be a fair amount of blood flowing. Not enough to endanger Mercy's life but he would rather not make a mess which could cause unnecessary concern. "Easy there..." He spoke now to the elephant. "I've almost got it." Sure enough, his pliers made contact with the iron. He would wait until Adhla had what was needed before proceeding however.
It was a moment of levity in the wake of loss, and Adhla appreciated the smile their remarks elicited. Reshi lingered almost anxiously at her side; the hippo was more than content to make himself useless under most circumstances. But wanting to help and having no real means to doing so was uncomfortable, even for him. Adhla rested a hand on her dyr’s shoulder, feeling his thoughts as her own just as he felt her empathy like a balm to his mind. “Next time, Reshi will have to make you rock armor of your own, then,” she added, speaking to Mercy, though her words served to lift the spirits of her dyr as well. “Or at least knee guards.” The laugh that followed was her first since reuniting with the other caravans, and there was something achingly familiar about the way even the lightest huff volleyed her own spirits.
As a pair, they were only as experienced as their early years training on the plains and Camus’s later tutelage had afforded. Offense still felt clumsy and wrong, but the coat of rock armor Reshi forged over his hide to encase all but Adhla’s face while she was seated on his haunches, that was a practiced, fine art. It had kept them safe during the fight to waylay the invaders who made for their Cave of Names just as it had shielded them both from more than one collapse in a mine shaft. Even with dyrs, mining was a treacherous business.
Adhla followed Camus’s gesture to the chest of bandages and quickly moved to retrieve the requested items. She returned to the elephant’s side a moment later, bandages in hand. While Camus angled his pincers on the offending arrow, she opened the jar of ointment and applied it to a swath of the material she’d obtained. When the pair was ready and the arrow was removed, she would move quickly and deftly, applying the length of medicated material to the wound directly before navigating the fabric around the dyr’s sizeable leg. Adhla was not—and had never been a healer—but she had tended to more than a few gouges and broken bones. Not every miner was as fortunate as she and Reshi had been over the years. If Camus was in a position to assist with the bandaging, she would hand off her length of material to him before reaching to retrieve it again; if he was busy ridding himself of the arrow, she could duck easily enough under his dyr’s chest to walk her way around Mercy’s ponderous leg.
In truth, the assistance was rather welcome. Camus and Mercy had spent a long time wandering alone as drifters. They'd had to patch up their own wounds as they went along. Having someone to help was a relief and comfort. The elephant turned to consider the hippo. "I would welcome it..." The dyr muttered in such a way that her partner struggled to guess whether or not she was being serious. Armor would have been nice, a little something to keep his soul a bit safer. "Careful..." He advised with a knowing smile. "We might just hold you to that."
The blacksmith grew tense as he readied himself, anticipating at least some trouble. He found himself abruptly reminded that it wasn't just the two of them in the wilderness anymore but that there was a third person present. "Mind your head..." Camus advised. Mercy was a placid and gentle soul. Whilst she had fought alongside him for decades but he knew that she was more at home in the forge than she had ever been in the battlefield. Right now however she had an arrow in her knee. This was going to hurt. The creature was so massive that even if she didn't intend to cause any damage, her human partner remained weary, having learned the hard way on a couple of occasions just how much damage a fully grown female African bush elephant could potentially cause.
Camus would wait until he was certain that Adhla had taken his advice to heart and that she was ready before proceeding: "Okay. Ready? One... Two... Three!" The man was as delicate as he could be whilst trying to ensure that he pulled the head out in one. As a result, he yanked hard pulling it out as straight as he could. It resisted for a moment before abruptly giving way and coming out. Mercy let out a high pitched trumpeted shriek. Her trunk shooting up as something of a reflex, ready to bash whatever had inflicted such pain upon her. Her wild moment was thankfully a short one. It didn't take long for the dyr's eyes to fall upon her human companion and the other pair nearby. It was enough to calm her. Her trunk was raised as her breathing gradually began to slow down once more.
Relieved, Camus loosened his grip on the handle of the pliers he'd been using, allowing the head to fall to the ground. He placed the tool down a little bit more carefully. He would provide as much assistance as he could to the driver with the bandage. Already, blood was beginning to come more quickly now as the bronze which had been acting as something of a plug was removed. Sh still wasn't in a huge amount of danger but the sooner it was bandaged, the sooner Camus would be able to rest.
If hippos had eyebrows, Reshi would have waggled his at the injured elephant. ‘And it’d be my pleasure.’ Sardonic as always. Adhla knew her dyr well enough to know he appreciate the opportunity to restore some levity to the exchange, and to the moment at large. With wagons still rocked off their wheels and Dresmondi—humans and dyrs alike—bleeding under their bandages, it was good to smile again. As Reshi swayed alongside Mercy, unable to physically comfort the other dyr but content at least in his capacity to stand by and to make light, Adhla raised a look of quiet amusement to rest on Camus.
“Reshi could use the work,” she assured the blacksmith over a soft grin of her own. His warnings did not go unheeded, though. Adhla positioned herself carefully at Mercy’s side, waiting with bandages in hand for Camus to yank the offending arrow from his dyr’s knee. The elephant’s trumpeting was not at all unexpected, but it was loud enough to startle; Adhla ducked from her trunk as it shot upward, but recovered quickly enough, rushing forward to stem the flow of blood that erupted in the wake of the removed arrow. Placing the bandages ointment-side-down over Mercy’s wound with a ginger hand, Adhla threaded the spool around the elephant’s leg into Camus’s hands. It was not particularly quick work, but then, it was never meant to be. The bandage was bound tidily and carefully and tied off in a capable knot that would undoubtedly require adjustment as Mercy moved about her day. There was no avoiding that. The wound, at least, was dressed and covered, and that was what mattered.
Once her hands were free of the medicated wrappings, Adhla raised her fingers to the elephant’s shoulder, falling short of the dyr’s haunches but landing near enough for the sentiment to be understood. “I hope that’s better,” she added, eventually turning her attention from Mercy to her Dresmondi.
Camus worked quickly to help as much as he could. The bloodied arrowhead was abandoned in the mud and dirt, momentarily forgotten. In their youth, had something like this happened, Camus would likely have taken the offending article and hung it around his dyr's tusk as a token, a reminder that it took more than a bit of bronze and wood to kill the two of them.
"Ah..." In the space of a few seconds, the elephant relaxed. The pain wasn't entirely gone but it was more of a nuisance than anything else now, rather than the crippling burning that it had been earlier and that had prompted her to be reluctant to get back up. In a few minutes, Camus had little doubt that the elephant would be back up on her feet. Oh, she would have to take it easy for a few days certainly but he knew from personal experience that she would be able to recover and bounce back soon enough. He couldn't fault Adhla's dressing of the wound, that was for sure. It put some of his efforts, particularly when the two of them had been rogues, to shame. The most important thing to do over the next few days would be to monitor the injury and insure that infection didn't set in.
It was Camus who smiled, giving his dyr's message to the driver who had been so kind as to provide them with her assistance. "You have no idea..." Like most Dresmondi, his closeness with his dyr was such that he could more than sense her discomfort. The arrowhead removed from her knee was not just a chance to allow her body to start to heal but it was something which had been very much impeding her as she attempted to go about her duties around the camp.
They'd survived another battle with only a few scrapes and scratches to show for it. He knew that there had been many on both sides who hadn't been quite so fortunate.
"Do you know what we're to do now?" Some part of him was loathed to ask the question, aware that Adhla likely had more than enough on her plate at the moment. On the other hand, he was experienced enough with warfare to know that they might not have much of a choice. Coheed was in Dresmond now and they would likely be bringing more trouble with them.
“Good.” Adhla spared one more smile for the recovering dyr before returning her attention to the man who had spoken for her, relating her relief as his own. It was their way; just as Mercy and Camus breathed as one, so too did Adhla and Reshi exhale a collective breath.
The moment, unfortunately, was short-lived. It had to be, in the wake of the attacks. For the first time in living memory, the major caravans were at a standstill, and the question of ‘what next’ hung in the air like an unrelenting fog. Camus gave it voice and, for a moment, Adhla’s gaze dropped. If she told the truth, she would tell him that she didn’t know. That she was terrified. That while everyone else asked themselves what the future might hold, she was lost, holding desperately to a past they lay in ruins, wanting nothing more than to pretend they might somehow be able to get it back.
Instead, Adhla raised her eyes with a slow, apologetic shake of her head. “Danior is calling a meeting of the drivers.” Her words came slowly, almost hollow compared to the usual musicality of her quiet. “Some will want to fight.” She had heard it already. Anger gnashed between teeth and uttered over clenched fists. The sort of fury that got men and dyrs killed. Adhla wanted nothing to do with it. Her eyes sought Camus as she spoke, looking for some indication of what he thought about it all. He was Rashai now and, as far as Adhla was concerned, he always would be, but he had been something else once. And that made his perspective on it all far more valuable than her own.
Mercy moved her trunk so as to rub the injured spot. She did so gingerly, ensuring in the process that she didn't needlessly irritate or worry it. Her human partner wasn't all that worried, he knew the dyr to be think skinned and resilient. In a couple of days, she would be right as rain.
A meeting... Of course. Whilst Camus wouldn't live anywhere else other than Dresmond - the view of a man who had never left the country but heard rumors of what the other nations had to offer - he did acknowledge that their way of operating had its disadvantages. Everyone would have to be more or less in agreement for them to go forwards. In war, that wasn't always terribly practical. It was their way however, he acknowledged that much. He most certainly didn't envy Adhla who found herself saddled with the responsibility for an entire caravan and all of the lives that that inevitable entailed.
"There always will be." Camus couldn't help but mutter in response. A few years ago, it would doubtlessly have been him angling for some vengeance. Now though... His hand travelled down his leg, to where the natural skin and bone were gone, replaced instead with iron, bronze and wood. A painful way to learn a simple lesson. "We can hold our own here but I wouldn't fancy our chances, even united, against Coheed on their turf. Not without help." In his mind, an attack or even a simple attempt to strike back against their enemies could and would only end in disaster. At the very least, it would leave those left behind vulnerable to attack. On the other hand, he knew their enemies to be relentless... "I can't remember two attacks as violent as the past couple. Something must've got them riled up." The former fighter couldn't help but note.
Reshi shifted his weight away from the convalescing elephant, not going so far as to lift his feet in a lumbering retreat but enough to grant the dyr some space as she acquainted herself with the bandages that circled her knee. Adhla, meanwhile, dropped her gaze. There always will be. It was the truth, she was sure. There would always be those who wanted to fight. To rebel. Or, now, to avenge. They were common enough among the wagons of the Adoi and the Djilia. Even among the children of the Rashai, there were those destined for more than the quiet of the mines and the roar of the forge. Adhla loved them all the same. She kissed their heads when they emerged from the Cave and declared themselves Adoi or Djilia or wanderer. And she laid awake that first night, their faces in her mind, wondering whether she would see them at the next Conclave or whether the border would take them from her.
“I won’t turn Rashai toward war.” Her voice shrank until it was barely above a whisper. A quiet truth that had been building inside of her since the moment Danior sent word to the drivers of each caravan. Adhla knew what they would ask; she knew what Arlo wanted, what even Stone was likely to support. The Rashai would have to replace her as Driver before she turned their wagons west. Into Coheed. And more death.
A part of her wondered whether that made her a coward. It was a thought she had never before confronted. Was she brave? She had never had to be. Now, it was all she could do to keep from shaking. In fear. In anger. With regret. Raising a slow, tentative look up to where the blacksmith stood, Adhla gave voice to the question that she knew would be at the forefront of ever mind—dyr and human—across the plains: “What do you think we should do?”
Throughout the caravans, Dresmondi were already huddled, whispering over that same question. What was there to do after so much death? After so much destruction? Should they fight? Rebuild? Hide? They were a people built on freedom. On the ideals and independence of every man, woman, and dyr. But they were a people all the same. And, sooner or later, they would have to decide what that meant.
Camus sat down, resting against Mercy's massive form. From the ground beneath him, he pulled at a couple of the blades of grass, taking them into his hands as he contemplated the problem at hand. A few years ago, he would have called her a lowly coward and accused her of fearing Coheed. Now, he recognized that there was a good amount of virtue to be found in fear, especially when the lives of others were hanging in the balance.
"The Adoi and Djilia will want to fight." He said that much with certainty from having spent his formative years in the former. "They've suffered a great deal and will be out for vengeance." He couldn't speak quite so confidently for the Kushti, from what he knew of them and a few of their members, they tended to be on the more peaceful side of things. "I'm sure you'll find some among our people and some of the other caravans who thirst for blood as well after what happened." There was some part of Camus which also desired vengeance. He'd seen the bodies, nobody had been spared, not even the women and children. He'd imagined finding his own two slain. What would that have done to him if he suddenly found himself without Esme and Archer? No doubt he too would have been chomping at the ground.
Camus let out a sigh, leaning back against his dyr's remaining tusk. He raised his head to look up towards the sky above. "I don't think we can defeat them on their turf. Not alone, there aren't enough of us and whilst we're brave, we're not all warriors. Not like them." He'de fought those men, matched his strength, speed and agility against their own. One Coheedsman alone couldn't challenge a Dresmondi and their dyr but there were always another hundred behind that one man willing to take his place in the name of honor and they would never stop.
"If it were me, I would keep us together, form a unified front to protect those vulnerable. Use the dyrs to create defenses so that when they come again, we can face them on our terms and even the odds." He would be silent after that, deeming that he had fulfilled his duty and provided what little insight on the subject he had to offer. He would wait, just in case there was anything else which Adhla needed help with or his opinion on.
A sickness clawed at her stomach as she listened to what it was Camus had to say. He was right; she had already said as much. There would be those who wanted to fight, who would not stop until they had exacted justice for the lives Coheed had stolen from them. But how many more would they lose in that fight? Fear sank like a weight against her shoulders while the blacksmith settled himself against the tusk of his dyr. Their conversation, Adhla knew, was coming to a close. She would need to move on, and yet she scarcely knew how. How to move forward in the face of all this.
Absently, she nodded, agreeing with Camus. It was his recommendation that brought her gaze finally up to rest upon where he sat. “The first wise idea I’ve heard all day,” she said at last, the corners of her lips raised in a strained smile. It was something, at least. “I’ll suggest it when we meet. Thank you, Camus.” Her voice was smaller than usual, but no less earnest. “I know you didn’t join the Rashai for more warring and strategizing but I appreciate it.” She had already asked him to train their people, and now here she was again, asking his advice. It was another little pang of guilt laden atop a mountain of worry and doubt and fear.
Adhla raised her eyes to move from blacksmith to dyr, running a look across Mercy’s bandaged leg, as if assuring herself of the elephant’s wellbeing once more before she committed herself to leaving.
Camus would be easy to bed tonight. Whether or not he would find sleep terribly easily he couldn't have said. It had been quite some time since he'd last seen combat, at least serious fighting against Coheed. There was a time when he wouldn't have thought much about it. Now though, he was acutely aware of what he stood to lose. It wasn't just his own life. Should he fall, what would happen to Esme and Archer? The sensible part of her knew that the Rashai would care for them but still he found himself worrying. At this point, he would have been far more comfortable knowing that it was peace which lay ahead for them rather than the uncertainty of war.
The fact that she called his words wise and that they were the first she claimed to have heard that day was rather disheartening to hear. It told him that his initial assumption was correct, that there were many calling for war and an attack. He was silent for a few moments, allowing that piece of information to settle in for a few moments. "Well, a one-legged cripple like me has to make themselves useful somehow." The man's tone was light enough to make it clear that he was speaking for the most part in jest. It was all that he could offer to perhaps relieve some of the tension. He would however become serious once more quickly afterwards: "I think the times ahead might not be the easiest. Adhla, please don't hesitate if you need any help with anything."
Perhaps it wasn't the most optimistic sentiment to end on but it was nonetheless something that he felt the need to express and to offer a helping hand.
Asking for help had never come easily to Adhla, but she nodded all the same, grateful. The corners of her mouth had ventured toward a smile. It was a thoughtful, quiet gesture that edged on reproach, one that argued Camus was more than the cripple he made himself out to be.
“Tell him to give himself a bit more credit, would you?” Adhla remarked, looking to Mercy. She had tried to lighten her tone, to mirror the blacksmith’s, but the effort fell in a flat, uncertain quiet. Still— “Thank you.” There was a weight behind those words that had nothing to do with the anchor that dragged at her heart and everything to do with the role they had played in defending the Rashai, the Cave of Names, their way of life. “Both of you.”
The corners of her mouth raised in one last attempt at a smile before Adhla let her eyes drop and her feet lead her back to where Reshi stood waiting. Despite the dark gathering overhead, there would be no sleep for her this evening. Not with the threat of Coheed still looming in the darkest corners of her mind and not with the rumblings of war and vengeance edging into their camp.
Still, though. They had survived. And that was something.