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 woke up in a bed that was not his own. He was in a wagon that smelled familiar, but it wasn't his. The other tip off that he was not at home? He was alone, just him and his big fluffy snow kitty to keep him warm.
About time you woke up. Tove was apparently already awake. How long was I?
A healthy amount.
Then memory started filling Arlo's mind. Warnings. Attacking. Riding as fast as he could. Scouts. More riding. Etta... some kind of sleeping tea. Nightmares that felt muddy and lost in a haze. Attack. Blood. Oh he was at Etta's... but he wasn't hurt... but other people were..... no he missed the part where he could've gotten hurt... Kezia was gone... Kezia was gone! Arlo tumbled off the bed and stumbled out of the wagon and looked around for Etta.
"Etta?" he called? He didn't wait for an answer before a cascade of words fell out of his mouth. "Etta I gotta go save someone, I have to find Jaskier to see if he wants to come with me... but I gotta go rescue... and oh no is Adhla here yet? Where's the other caravan? Where are the rest of the Dijilia?"
Etta had found any number of excuses to stay close to her wagon while Arlo slept--only the most dire of emergencies could have dragged her away from keeping an eye on him, and she was thankful none had arisen, because he was already muttering loudly about absolutely everything as he clambered down the little steps, looking ready to fly off in five directions at once.
Grabbing him by the arm, she tried to pull him to a halt.
"Wait wait wait," she said. "I haven't heard from the other caravans or Adhla, yet. It's only been a handful of hours. You're in no state to go running away to rescue anybody."
"Tell her I said thank you" Tove told Sage as the snow leopard followed Arlo out of the wagon. Her fur was a ruffled huff and she had been ready to tackle him. She knew all the reasons he wanted to go running off to play hero, and frankly she agreed with most of them. But it wasn't practical until after they got some answers. Plus, what if they ran off in the wrong direction? Asking for directions was very important, though Arlo too often forgot that was an option.
Etta's hand on his arm was enough to ground him enough that he wasn't going to sprint off in a direction he hadn't yet decided on. "I had food and sleep, ready to go!" Arlo said, half a whine and half a determined roar. "Someone out there needs me." Arlo knew that in his gut. It was a feeling that hadn't left him since Hazel and Olive showed up. Someone was hurting and he had been sleeping. This was the second time that someone else had to take the burnt of a war, even though he was supposed to be the one to fight wars for them. And no one seemed to understand that at all no matter how much desperation they saw in his eyes.
Etta understood her brother's mercurial moods, his impulsiveness...but the stakes had never been this high, before. She had seen too many people die--slowly and quickly--over the past hours and days to think that Arlo simply being Arlo was anything other than deeply dangerous, right now.
"Someone here needs you!" she snapped, her voice rising to a pitch of near-hysteria that was unusual, for her. Calm Etta, cool Etta, collected Etta...they were gone, and in their place stood an Etta who was barely holding on to her control. Her fingers curled into fists around the material of his shirt-sleeve, and she realized, with rising panic, she didn't know what she could possibly say that might get through to him. "Don't, Arlo. Don't be foolish. Please. I'm not asking you not to help, or not to go, but...just wait until you've heard from the others. Until there's a plan. Until there's more than just you, and you all know what you're facing. You can't just run into Coheed lands and fix this."
Etta's voice stopped Arlo dead in his tracks. Her words shot straight through the fuzz of desperation clouding his mind and spoke right into it. If Etta was the one in danger, Arlo would've been long gone. There wouldn't have been a nap or food, he would've torn into Coheed like a raging ice storm, taking down anyone who dared step in his way.
If anyone was enough to make Arlo stop, it was Etta.
So he stopped, and then he stared at his sister, slightly dumbfounded in what was happening. Actually he was still shaking the sleep from his mind and figuring out what all was happening. Life felt more like a nightmare that he was sleepwalking in. They were all sleepwalking in it.
He stared at Etta for a long moment and then blew out a long exhale. "I failed everyone. I need to fix it." he finally said. And if Adhla and the thousands of people he left behind to follow them, the ones he asked to fight because he thought he was going to a bigger fight... their blood was on his hands too. He didn't deserve to be the that got to take a nap.
Etta was already shaking her head before he'd finished, her lips trembling as it took everything she had left inside her to stop herself from bursting into tears. Arlo was never defeated by anything. Even on the days when some of his children failed to re-emerge from the cave with their names and their dyrs, somehow, in a way that passed Etta's understanding, he managed to take it in stride. To mourn, and to move forward. This felt different, and he looked and sounded so eerily vulnerable that it shook her.
"You've never failed me," she insisted, taking hold of his hand and squeezing it tightly in both of hers. "Not once. Not ever. Not now." But even as she said it, Etta couldn't tell what that meant. If it meant anything. Arlo was a driver, he was responsible for so much, for so many. Part of her was so certain that this was only his own guilt talking, that no one judged him as harshly as he judged himself; but even if everybody else did blame him, she would not. But she was just one person...she was selfish, and she was scared. "Throwing yourself into a rash, reckless attempt won't fix anything."
Loss was something that Arlo was familiar with. How many children had he seen for the last time? How many had he mourned? Somehow, it was different now. He lost at least few children and lovers in this attack and the previous one. The guilt of outliving his named children had been weighing on him since it all started. What father did that? Who should outlive their children past the cave? Maybe statistics said it was likely to happen, given how many he had, but that didn't make it any easier.
"Of course I never failed you. You're here. You're alive." Arlo told his sister. "I can't fail you, but that doesn't mean I haven't failed everyone else. Look at all the people who died this time. The Dijilia are supposed to be the defense and where were we? And if Adhla doesn't make it back... I sent that message. I gave that order." And Adhla would've been a fool to put all her faith in him. What had he done to deserve to decide the fate of not his own but two caravans? He had been too late the first time, so why did people still ask him to lead this second time?
"You didn't kill anyone," said Etta. "No, look at me, Arlo. Coheed did this. Coheed did this. And if you want to tell yourself that these deaths belong to you, then you have to tell yourself that every life I ever failed to save belongs to me, too."
Etta was plagued by her own what-ifs that kept her awake into the small, endless hours of the morning. She would always have questions about why she hadn't tried something else, why she hadn't worked faster, why what she had done hadn't succeeded...but even within her first year of working independently as a healer, she'd had to learn how to push those doubts aside, to wall them off in some part of herself where they couldn't bleed into the rest and poison her thoughts, or else she knew she would hesitate. She would question every decision until she was paralyzed, and that could only lead to more mistakes, more loss. The healers she had learned from had told her about such things, whispered them in hushed voices, trying to make her understand when she was still too young and too inexperienced to grasp the truth. You could question, you could cry--but you had to control it for the sake of any good you could do, and have faith and work hard enough that it would outweigh the harm.
"Use your head, Arlo. The heart can wait to break."
Fighting with Etta was the worst, because it came with a sense of guilt. Also, Etta was pretty good at being right, but she couldn't see the storm that swirled about Arlo's head since the first attack.
"That's the difference Etts, you save people. You fix them. I gave an order and asked people to go into a battle, and I missed that battle." There was a fury in his bones, a fire that had no where left to go because it had been burning him from the inside out. "I didn't even fight with them. What kind of leader does that? Half my caravan might be bleeding right now and I was asleep... again..."
That's what he admired so much about his sister. She kept going no matter what, she kept trying to save people. Their other sister was like that too, Serena always tried to do the right thing. She followed her heart wherever it led her. "At least you had the chance to save them," he finally said with an attempt to free his sleeve from her grip. He didn't yet try to get away, mostly because he didn't know which direction he should be sulking off in. It's not like he had a wagon to go hide out in and his horse probably needed a break. Well, he was sure he could find another horse somewhere. Which way was Coheed again?
Etta felt his attention slipping away, felt his unflagging determination to be dense, and wished she'd given him something strong enough to knock his dumb ass out for a month.
"What good are you to any of us if you're exhausted, hm? What good will you be if you're hurt, or worse, because you rushed off, too ready to play the hero because you need to patch up your own pride?" Maybe it was unfair or even mean to say it like that, but Etta felt a surge of something new, and it felt an awful lot like anger that Arlo was refusing to see her point, to even take a moment to consider what he was risking and what it meant to anybody besides himself.
"And you don't know what Adhla and the others encountered, if they encountered anything at all."
That's where Etta was wrong. Arlo had a pretty good idea of what Adhla had to face. More Coheed than Dresmondi would be in that fight. They would be outnumbered at least three to one, at least on the human side. When you counted the dyrs it became a bit more even, and then the idea that Tove could take down three Coheedsman at once if they were close enough. Then again, the ones that were with Adhla weren't like him and Tove. Some knew how to fight, the Dijila knew how to fight, but what about all the Rashai. They weren't even his caravan and yet for some insane reason they still wanted to follow him.
"I saw them, my scouts saw them. I could've turned around to stop them or help Adhla but I didn't... because I wanted to be here... and I was too late. Adhla should be here and I should be back there fighting," Arlo grumbled. Adhla had asked him to lead because of military expertise, well combat expertise. Arlo would call his track record more along the side of military failure considering how the last attack he should've been in went. He'd struck out two for two now and he wasn't going to miss a third.
"I slept. I'm fine." He didn't know how long he slept, but it was more sleep than he had been getting. It was probably more restful too considering whatever Etta put in his tea calmed his thoughts. He looked around, trying to figure out where the hell he was exactly and which direction he was facing. He looked over at Tove, who wasn't telling him anything. The snow leopard just saw there by the wagon, licking her paw. Apparently the wiser, calmer part of his soul was outside his body and in his oversized kitten.
"You can't undo what's been done," Etta pointed out. "And you're not going to fix anything by brooding over it or by taking on all of Coheed by yourself."
She crossed her arms defensively as she watched him glance around, as if he thought Coheed raiders might be hiding behind the next wagon. If she had to take him out at the knees, she decided, she would.
"What would you say to me if I were being a bonehead and trying to fling myself up against an army?" she asked, hotly rhetorical. "Don't be ridiculous, Arlo. You're one man. And Tove."
And frankly, at this moment, she felt like the leopard (who she'd seen spook herself with her own farts) was the more reasonable of the pair. (Then again, she'd seen Arlo spook himself along the same lines, too.)
That was the problem wasn't it? Arlo had caused problems that he couldn't fix. Problems that no one could fix. And what if he did it again?
"Serena wouldn't have made those mistakes." Arlo said with a growl. Any time anyone wanted to talk about Serena verses Arlo on leadership, he didn't want to hear it. It wasn't that he didn't like how she had run things. In fact, he loved how their big sister ran things, he changed almost nothing at all. However, Serena always knew what to do and what to say, at least in his eyes she did. She would've made it in time to both battles. Serena had even earned her place as the driver of the Dijila, Arlo got his place because he knew how to not shake things up and because well Serena had recommended him. People didn't need to know if he was good at the job to follow him, they just knew that they liked him.
"You don't even fight, of course you wouldn't fling yourself at an army!" Arlo said, throwing his arms in the air out of frustration, some gesture to the surrounding areas. In one of those directions would be Coheed, where Kezia was.
Then he stubbornly crossed his arms in front of him "It's called a sneak attack."
Not that Arlo was exactly the sneakiest person in the world.
“Serena left!” Not that she resented that...it wasn’t as if she even lived in the same caravan as the rest of her blood kin, and of course Serena had every right to follow her own happiness...but Arlo had his roots in the people of Dresmond in a way that made it unthinkable to her that he could just tear himself away. “And now you’re just going to leave, too?”
Arlo was being so bloody literal-minded about her actual ability to fight that she wanted to scream. One on one, certainly, he’d come out far better than she would against almost anyone; but Coheed was not one person to fight. They were a diabolical mass of monsters, bred by monsters.
Etta let out an angry snort.
The cougar padded up to Arlo, and in a moment of winding herself past his knees as if she were a cat one-tenth her own size, she made thick vines spring up from the ground and twist over his feet and around his ankles.
Ouch. When Serena left, Arlo didn't really understand either, but apparently she was in love and love made people do some really crazy things. Love probably made him do crazy things, but his love was the entire caravan, maybe even all of them. He was just so full of love. But wasn't loving people the reason why he was also trying to rescue every person? What was the point in leading the supposedly most militant and strongest caravan if he couldn't protect the people he loved?
He was sure he could take out more than just one on one, or at least Tove could. When they took back the cave that's what he did. He only got stabbed once and that was because he was too caught up in the moment to look the other way. Tove would keep a better watch on him this time.
And now he was caught up in vines... Arlo huffed about this. "I wasn't trying to sneak yet!" he roared. Then just in the most Arlo natured way to handle this, he still tried to move. The result was not breaking free of the vines, it was falling forward on his face.
Tove sat there and let it happen. She wasn't going to work against Arlo, but she did agree that he needed to hakuna his tatas and maybe take another nap.