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.
His hand was still on her arm when she placed her hand on his shoulder. So she completed the circle, that had never happened with a human before and nd was only possible through her dyres presence. His mind was still open to let her in, full of a certain kind of vibe, that always overcame him, when he connected with an animal.
Just that Etta was no animal and he could taste and feel her in that moment. First there was a memory of his own home, the feel of his childhood. Then there was her. Robin. But merged with Etta, who he followed back to her childhood within the fall of a tear as he looked at her. Etta wasn't even a teenager yet but dreadfully worried and afraid. In a cave with candles, elders, rhytmical drums. There were other children, who seemed equally worried. There were shadows, too, that he did not recognise. As the drums got louder he could feel her shame, her trembling just like before every battle. He had never felt as deeply connected to another person as he did within those seconds. Nord never let his feelings show like that either. He had cried out and screamed when he lost comrades but there was never such a calm surrender.
"Don't be afraid." Nord whispered as he leaned forward, eyes closed. His face streaked with tears, that now softly touched her skin when his lips fell on hers. He imagined that comfort would reach her.
It seemed as if a door, once opened, could be passed through both ways. Even as Etta sought to give solace for whatever it was Fox was feeling, as she felt his own feelings and memories ebb, the pulse of vital energy that was Fox slid back into her consciousness like an incoming tide, in a way that didn’t threaten her, but still somehow found its way through the channels of her own experiences to the memories that were most potent and painful for her. She had been afraid. Of some things, she still was. But not of Fox. Whatever this was, strange as it was, it didn’t scare her.
But it had been years since she had let herself dwell on the cave, on what happened. She avoided the subject as much as she could, but now, only days after the end of conclave, it was difficult to forget the scores of children who had been lost or gone unnamed, this summer. Etta’s heart broke for them as much as it did for herself, who had supposedly ‘won’, supposedly been strong enough to survive, deemed ‘worthy’ of her precious dyr. It broke and it burned with anger.
It had been years since she had let herself remember in detail, and years since she had let herself be kissed. Even back then, she had hardly found it inspiring. She had been young, foolish, reckless, ignorant, and ultimately disappointed. The kisses of her fleeting lover the summer she was eighteen were vague things, nothing much she cared to linger over. She felt more sensitive, somehow, to this touch of Fox’s, and knew it would not be so easily forgotten. Cerebral as the connection was, the salt of his tears, the softness of his mouth, the scratch of his beard—they were a physicality in complete counterpoint to the bond they had shared, the other side of the coin. For a warrior, there was a tenderness there that surprised her, and Etta made no motion to end the kiss, but held still in it, like a deer seeking a scent on the wind, a sound in the distance.
She wasn't afraid. Not of his touch or kiss. She did not move away nor scold him but he could feel the warmth and softness of her lips. He drank it in end enjoyed the feel, that created a certain longing. A wish to get even closer if that was possible at all.
Nord had kissed girls and women. Some for fun, some he was fond of. Not many held this kind of meaning and purity. For a second longer he let his lips linger on hers, caressing them a bit. Then his hands found her face as he opened his eye.
Slowly his overwhelming feelings faded and left happiness behind. He could not feel the pain, that the bear or her work had inflicted, and she and Sage hopefully couldn't either.
Blue eyes met brown ones. Was it time to break the connection?
It was so very human, Etta realized, to feel this way. She had always understood the Dresmondi ways of freedom, particularly when it came to this kind of thing. Sometimes it meant a great deal, other times it was a fleeting encounter purely for pleasure's sake, and most of the time it seemed to be something somewhere in-between. She couldn't quite decide what this was. Something different had happened with Sage, but how it was connected to the kiss, she couldn't find out. She only knew that it was inextricably tangled together. She couldn't resent it, and could even admit to herself that she liked it--Fox had a certain attractiveness to him that she couldn't deny, and were she somebody else, she knew she could have easily given herself to him entirely in this moment, to let the flood of her feelings run free across this undiscovered land.
But she was Etta, and she had carefully built her sandbanks around herself for many, many years.
When he held her face, she placed her hands over his and smiled for a moment before she pulled back her mind from his. She didn't know how she did it, but she knew she wanted to close that door, and so she did, softly, gently. Finished.
Still, she let her forehead rest against Fox's, now that the moment had ended, to let them sit peaceably in the aftermath, with no rush to justify or explain. This would take as long as it needed to.
It was her who finally withdrew and left him longing. But Nord knew it had to end. It was too dangerous to let someone in like that. Share everything. Etta broke the kiss but Nord was endlessly thankful that she kept her forehead against his. This way, he was left completely cold and alone.
Nord held the connection but eventually used a hand to dry his face and whipe a droplet from his nose. "Something unites us, Etta. I've never experienced anything like this before. I only ever connect with animals but never likevthis."
Eventually he pulled her into a hug and then sat by her side still holding on to her hand. "Was that you? Is it what your people do? Or was it us?"
He shifted his weight away from his injured hip now that reality had him back and looked up at the sky where the evening star was visible.
"No. I don't know. It...there's no magic like that, among my people. We share a bond with our dyrs, as they are a part of us. Other people are still other people--we can't..." See inside their minds? Be inside their minds?
Etta tried to smile, but a faint frown of confusion still pulled her eyebrows together in serious thought.
"I can't tell you what that was," she admitted. "It's never happened before. I'm sorry."
Being a healer, she was used to being able to find answers when people came to her with questions that troubled them. It didn't feel right, not to know what was going on.
Sage moved to sit by her other side, and with her other hand still in Fox's, Etta leaned her head against the cat's shoulder, reaching to idly scratch the cougar behind the ear.
"...am I some kind of animal?" she wondered aloud at last. "Sage is...well, she has the form of one, but she's not...she's not an animal. She wasn't born into nature the way people and mundane creatures are. She's...a piece of my spirit. So is it something to do with me? Or maybe, if you met another Dresmondi...we are so bound to the natural world, perhaps we are a people closer to being beasts, ourselves." She couldn't tell if that made any sense, and it wasn't entirely a comfortable thought. People saw animals as lesser. They kept them on farms. They hunted them.
Etta seemed even more confused than Nord but unlike him, she had a frown on her face like something was wrong and said 'sorry'.
"Don't be!" Nord squeezed her hand to make emphasize that. "I'm not."
She frowned, which made him a little sad because his words must have provoked those lines on her forehead. Now he understood, strangely enough.
"You think that I could bond with you because you're an animal? That you're a beast and less human. I don't think so. You might be more."
For a moment he inhaled deeply, searching meaning or reasons in what had just happened. There was only one explanation, that he could come up with.
"I think it's a combination of who we both are. You and Sage, who is expressed as an animal, whoever she is. Part of you. I...I..." Oh, those words did not come easy. They had hardly ever left his mouth as it had been instilled in Nord as a little boy to hide it, to never admit. Otherwise he'd be taken for the great army and collared.
Whoa. And there it was. Out in the open for a stranger, who wasn't a stranger anymore.
"It was me, probably. And Sage opened up that channel to you....if anyone should be sorry, it's me. But I'm not. I will keep that moment in my heart."
Etta looked at Fox, thankful for his reassurance, though she still couldn't find an answer that explained everything. It simply was.
"Of course you're gifted," she said, not grasping the enormity of his confession, that in other places, people's magic was policed. It was such a part of Dresmond's society, its everyday life and its defenses... "You spoke to that bear, and she was entirely wild."
She looked down at her hands, finally able to push away the wondering thoughts that would only circle endlessly, without finding an explanation. If nothing could be done about it, she would set it aside. Maybe someday she would figure it out.
"Well, nobody got hurt, whatever happened," she said, trying to be more cheerful about the whole thing. "You still look tired, though," she added, concerned for him. "Using your gift tires you, doesn't it? Sage is the same way."
"It does...so does being attacked by a bear." He joked. Yes, he was really exhausted, physically and emotionally but he didn't understand why what happened wasn't that great for her. A little sad he mumbled. "For me what happened was a beautiful moment. I wish you felt the same way."
He briefly got up and felt his pants, that were drying near the fire. In it's light he didn't look half as pale and shaky as he felt.
The pants were still damp so he sat back down, flinched and groaned. Damn, that hurt a lot, now that he was aware of it again. In the orange light he couldn't see much though.
Silently he wondered how long it would take and how he'd make it back home. Would she help him if he asked her?
Carefully Fox laid down next to her and pulled the blanket over his legs. "I'm glad that we've met." Nord rested his head on one of his arms and looked up at her shape. Etta had long dark hair that looked slightly auburn in the light. Her dyr looked completely different. How could they be one?
Etta kept a concerned gaze on him as he checked his drying clothes, the firelight casting him into a sharply-defined shadow wearing only her shirt and sometimes a blanket. The stitches held, however, and he moved carefully as he lay back down.
"It wasbeautiful," she said. "I don't...I don't have any words that would describe what that was, precisely. I just don't understand it. I don't know if I ever will."
She drew up her knees, resting her elbows on them and leaning her chin in her hands.
"I don't...I don't really often share my deeper feelings," she tried to explain. "It's easier not to speak of such things. But you're a stranger and...and yet not, now. Even before whatever just happened, you saved my life, you saved Sage, and that binds us. I feel as if I could tell you anything, but...but I don't know exactly the right words."
To his relief Etta said it was beautiful, too, but she still looked a little lost. Shivering he answered. "You don't have to say anything. I already know." Well that sounded like he knew all about her now but he had only gotten a glimpse. "I know about the cave and how afraid you were...still are but you don't have to be. Something beautiful came out of it. Your bond with Sage. You don't have to be afraid anymore. Why are you still so worried? It's over."
He had no idea why he was saying that, just that it was true. "What is that cave? Some kind of ritual?"
Now that the sun was gone and tge fire low Nord could really feel the cold of the night creep into his body. Today he had no defenses against it. He was starting to shake a little. " I'm really cold."
Etta smiled sadly as Fox told her she didn't have anything to fear, anymore. Without a word, she rose to put more wood on the fire, to set a pot of fresh water over some of the coals on one side to heat it for the tea, and began to measure out dried herbs for a warming concoction of ginger, sweet mint, and cardamom.
By the time she returned to sit beside Fox, she'd found some of the words that might explain. Sage had moved over to Fox's other side--somehow the taboo of not touching dyrs among the Dresmondi seemed to matter less with this outsider who didn't know. He needed to stay warm, and Sage was just that, settling next to him and beginning to rumble with loud purrs. Etta pulled her green woolen wrap around both their shoulders, hoping to provide some kind of shield against the cool night air with her and Sage on either side.
"The cave is where we awaken our dyrs, find them inside ourselves, and draw them out so they can show us their powers," she said. "We go when we are children...I think you saw. But...not all children awaken. There are those who take part in the ritual and just...disappear into the cave. Every generation that undergoes that trial leave some behind, never to be seen again. Their kin doesn't even have a body left for them to mourn." Her mouth twisted as she thought of it, of every conclave, of every one of Arlo's children, of her friends' children, of children she had seen born, of children she had helped to heal, who had never come back from the cave. "That is what every generation of children must face, their fear and their lives are the price paid for some to prevail, to find their dyrs and unlock these powers. Our dyrs give us our names, too."
Etta rubbed a hand over her face, an ache settling behind her eyes that told her she wanted to cry, but she refused.
"And we are told we have a choice," she said, but her tone made a mockery of the very idea. "There are those who decline to take part in the ritual, who live their lives without access to power, without names. They are not treated with violent cruelty, but...they are ignored, and they are called cowards, and every child knows that that is the life waiting for them if they do not take part when their time has come. The Dresmondi pride themselves on being a free people, to do what we will. But we are all shaped by this sorrow and this shame we allow to happen to our own children."
Her lips tightened for a moment, then she moved to take the boiling water from the fire, to pour it over the dried herbs, and handed one of the cups to Fox before she took one for herself, cupping it in both hands.
"I have Sage, yes. But it was fear that pushed me into that cave, and I cannot say how or why I survived. I wasn't braver or stronger or better than any of them that did not. And I watch every time it happens, again and again, and I just wish...I wish it wasn't the children who had to make the sacrifice. I wish we could just let them be weak and afraid and maybe wait until they feel they are more ready, or at least tell them that no matter what they choose, they would still be loved and not reviled."
Etta blew on her cup of tea, watching the rising steam swirl off-kilter into the air.
"So there it is. The monstrous price we pay for our beautiful power. And I can't...I won't be a part of it, if I can help it. I will not abandon any child of mine to that fate."
With the cougar so close by, warming him, Nords shivering subsided slowly. He watched Etta get up and poke around the fire, make tea and take her time. He knew what was bothering her and her explanation shed more light on the whole process. At first he thought Lorendale was better. At least now. It wasn't a decade ago.
A deep frown had set on his face, which only lifted to thank her for the tea to warm his hands on and his belly. For now it was too hot. "Then don't subject your children to the ritual. A life without magic can be nice. Most people in Lorendale don't have any. They still believe they are the greatest gift." He nudged her a little. "You might have to bring me home anyway. You can live in my village with your children. How many do you have?" It was a strange thought to know she already had them and probably a man, too.
"Who knows...maybe they'd get their dyr when they are ready...without the cave. Just like I did. The fox found me without anyone else knowing."
Etta could have laughed and cried at once. If only it could be that simple. Part of her loved Dresmond so much, the life in the caravans was all she knew, and so many of the people were good people. She wasn't certain who she was, without them. And she did have her dyr--did that make her some kind of hypocrite? Would she be trying to deny some children their chance to have their dyrs, by warning them off?
Would Lorendale be so different? She could have a life there, perhaps, with some of the things she wanted so badly, sometimes--a family, peace, a quiet life. But she would give up her people, their ways, the magic that was so much more common than it seemed to be in Lorendale. She would still feel herself an outsider. Maybe she would wonder what her children's dyrs might have been, and never feel the pride she saw on Arlo's face when any child of his returned with their name and their dyr at their side. She had never heard of it happening for anybody without the cave, however, without the power of the Medallion. She had nothing to convince herself that any child of hers might be some special exception.
"I'll help you get home," she assured him. "I don't want you walking far on that leg." She took a quick sip of her tea, which was still slightly too hot, and coughed a little as her throat swelled and burned. "None. I have no children," she rasped. And even if she did, would it be fair to take them away from Dresmond, and their heritage? Because when she imagined having children, they were also the children of a man who was a proud Dresmondi, who would never leave his people, their homeland. Even if Stone could have cared for her in that way, even if they had a family, Etta knew she would break his heart in the worst possible way to take his own child away forever--and that, she could never bring herself to do.
it was hard to get to know this part of her so quickly. Fox didn't know much about Etta, just a few necessary facts plus the glimpse of her inside, which he had gotten. It had lead to her revealing her greatest fear, which of course was weighing her down now.
"I understand. Dresmond is part of you. It would be a tough choice."
For some reason he was glad that she didn't have children, though. Silently he wondered why? Maybe because it meant that she didn't have to worry about their well being or was there a different reason?
He pressed a little closer to her trying to steal some of her body heat under her green woolen jacket because the shivers were returning. The tea provided some warmth, which ran down his throat and warmed him from the inside.
"Just know, that from now on you have a friend in Lorendale, who will protect you. You'd always be welcome. I live near a small village in a house on the edge of the forest. It's a good place."
Sipping again, he tried to gather more warmth and grimaced.
"Can we move a little closer to the fire to sleep?"