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Thread: [M] The Sword and the Fang [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

  1. #11
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    The way the Lucet punctuated his words sent tremors back through Lec's body. There was a cockiness there, a confident ease at which the man spoke, and perhaps it wasn't that alone that scared Lec so much. Now, on the precipice of the city, of safety, of what the Lucet would know as danger, he still had that same air. Lec had been shivering, shaking, fainting in his home, and the Lucet was just as apathetic as he'd been in Lec's. It was as if the Lucet was fearless wherever he went, knowing he could command the world with his fingers, with his fangs, knowing he had Lec completely at his will.

    Issa's words were meaningless nothings, flowery aspirations only said to make the humans lower their guard. Lec saw right through him, but Soren watched on with eager eyes. He liked the idea of a Lucet wanting to learn about him and his people, and he wanted to be the one to show him. He imagined the three of them walking along the square when the market strolled around, showing Issa the collections of tools and trinkets so popular in human society. Would he someday get to experience Lucet culture in the same way? Naivety widening the grin on his lips, he turned to his sibling.

    "We should help him." His signs were eager, excited.

    Lec turned away. "Soren," they said quietly. "Come on, now."

    Soren approached their sibling and forced their eyes to him. "Stop ignoring me." He motioned towards Issa. "We can help him. It would be fair. He helped us, so we should help him."

    "No." Lec signed the word forcefully, an answer not up for debate. They glanced at the Lucet, still watching them. What did he think they were saying? Would he take offence at their silent language and attack them? The inched away, towards the forest, painfully aware of the short distance between them and this enemy.

    Soren was just as stubborn. "He's friendly," he insisted. "He said he won't hurt us. C'mon, Lec, it'll be fun." He was trying to convince his sibling to keep a stray pet, he realized, and he smiled at the comparison he made. He wanted to help this Lucet, to show a single person how pacifist humans could be, despite the bloodshed at the borders. He also romanticized the idea that he, by helping the enemy, could somehow bring the Lucet to trust the humans and end the war. But the child had ulterior motives, too. Maybe all Lec needed was some exposure. Hadn't that been what Papa had always told them? Face their fears until they were no longer fears... Maybe, if Soren could get his sibling and this Lucet to get along, maybe Lec would no longer be haunted by their trauma.

    Without waiting for a response, Lec walked towards the Lucet and grabbed for his hand. He started tugging him towards the city, only to be startled by his sibling's sharp yell. "Soren, what are you doing?" Lec swatted at the joined hands of their enemy and their sibling. "Act like a man, Soren, would you?"

    Soren crossed his arms over his chest. His meaning was clear: He wasn't moving until he got what he wanted.

    Lec shifted uncomfortably, dying to get out of his situation, out of these clothes and this makeup, out of this existence. They looked towards the Lucet. He must have thought them idiots, easily manipulated and scared little humans. Lec clenched their jaw. "It's dark," they said. "We can't show you anything now. Come back at noon tomorrow. Then we can show you around."

    They didn't know why they were saying this. Entertaining the idea of being a guide for a Lucet was barbaric, but if Lec's words would get their brother to let them go home, they would say whatever they needed to. Whether or not they'd be stupid enough to come back at noon, that was a different story.

    A smile spread over Soren's face again, and he excitedly looked to Issa. He made signs as if to goad him into confirming. Suddenly he turned to Lec, making small handsigns towards Issa, demanding a translator.

    "No," Lec replied with a shake of their head. "It's not wise." But as the young boy persisted, Lec sighed. They just wanted to go home. They turned to Issa. "His name is Soren," they said. "He wanted me to let you know."
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  2. #12
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    Issa glanced back and forth between the two humans as they signed to each other, their silent language as illegible as ever. It hadn’t bothered the Lucet up to this point, but there was something uncomfortable about the knowledge that the two of them were likely arguing over the outcome of his plea right in front of him, and he couldn’t understand any of it. He could infer a few things from their body language, certainly, but nothing that he couldn’t have guessed at already, based on what little he knew about them.

    When the smaller human stepped forward and grabbed his hand, Issa couldn’t help but smile. Not the sly grin that he had shown off before, but something altogether more genuine. A toothy grin that hinted at the excitement he felt, knowing that at least one of them was willing to try and help grant his request. Unfortunately, his joy proved to be rather short-lived, as the larger human quickly intervened. The way they slapped at their hands was hardly painful, but even so, Issa didn’t take kindly to the interruption. He glared at the older human for a moment, lips pursed, but said nothing.

    The Lucet hesitated for a brief moment when the older human finally spoke, requesting that he come back at midday tomorrow. He tilted his head slightly to one side, gaze drifting upwards as he considered their offer. He knew the chances that they would make good on their promise and return were slim, but how much could he really hope to gain by arguing? Finally, he responded with a simple nod, before the flurry of moment that was the younger human signing again drew his attention once more. He couldn’t help but smile again at the grudging translation that followed.

    “Its wonderful to meet you, Soren. My name is Issa. It’s my pleasure” the Lucet responded. He even went so far as to dip into a clumsy bow, one arm slung across his chest, in a well-intentioned attempt to emulate the humans’ own traditions. Once he had straightened up again, Issa gifted Lec with a small nod – the best farewell he was able, or willing, to give to the nervous human, who had still yet to share his own name.

    “I guess I’ll see the two of you back here at noon tomorrow, then. I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t wait. In the meantime, try and avoid setting fire to anything else, neh? That would put a bit of a damper on things” Issa finished. His cheery little grin had returned, and he gave the two humans a playful wink, before turning for home – their first meeting evidently having come to an end.

    He slipped past the two humans and back into the forest without another word, his movements making only the quietest of whispers. The forest was quick to embrace its child, obscuring the humans, and hiding them from sight. Alone once more, Issa quickly took animal form once again, and started making his way back towards the forest’s depths.

    It was a little early for him to beeline for the village, considering that he was technically still being punished. No, he’d have to keep wandering around on patrol for a little bit longer first The hours ahead promised nothing as exciting as what he had just experienced, but the idea that he might get his wish tomorrow was enough to keep Issa awake and energised. Even if the chance that the humans followed through was slim, he preferred to hope that they were as good as their word. The older one had been hesitant enough, but hopefully the younger human’s enthusiasm would see him through.

    His thoughts kept drifting back to the two humans in the moments that followed, right up until Issa returned to the village in the earliest hours of the morning. The hope was that he’d manage to squeeze in a few hours of sleep and still make it back to the forest outskirts in time for their meeting, goddess willing.
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  3. #13
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    By the time the Lucet--Issa--was out of sight, Lec was about ready to collapse. Legs wobbling, they needed to get home, to collapse onto their bed and let this day sink into the trove of repressed memories they wouldn't dare touch. However, they found themselves unable to move, trapped by the knowledge that they had just made a deal with the enemy. Vision wild and unfocused, they looked all around them, paranoid, waiting for Issa to come back with his siblings and kill them right here, on their own cobbled land. When they looked to their little brother, they found him excitedly sign-singing, detailing what they would do tomorrow until he realized his sibling wasn't paying attention to what he was saying. Giving up on communicating with them, Soren grabbed for Lec's hand, and he led them home.

    Their house was lit, and they could watch the candlelight flickering from down the street. Soren was leaping over the stone path, his mind filled with childish elation. They made their way straight to their front door, and Lec let out a large sigh. The candlelight meant their father was awake and waiting, and his wrath, too, was one of the repressed memories Lec kept trying to forget. They pushed open the door and locked eyes with him. Their father was seated in one of the large armchairs in their sitting room, an old book in his lap. He was shirtless, his bulging muscles making him far more intimidating than attractive. The deep black of his hair, his bushy beard, the set angle of his jaw; Lec had seen their father nearly every day for their entire life, and never had he looked this terrifying.

    Their father then turned to the boy, a look of disgusting swirling behind his eyes. "Soren," he said, his voice filling their vacant house.

    The child stepped forward, head bowed, eyes to the ground. He signed an apology three times, hoping at least his father had learned that sign, if none of the others.

    Their father didn't acknowledge it. He got up from his chair, setting his book on a table beside it, and made his way to his son. Soren cowered under the height of his father, but he stood firm. "You're an idiot," his father snarled. "Look at you." Blood now dried looked brown in the candlelight. His torn clothes would have to be replaced; there was no stitching to save them. "You're a disgrace to this family, you know that? Do you want to be killed? Do you want to do that to me?"

    Soren backed away, tears bubbling at eyes so filled with light before. His apology came quicker, slower, hoping one of them would spare him.

    "And look what you've done to Lec," his father continued, turning his attention to his elder child. "You look like a goddamn little girl. You're quivering. You're petrified and it's your worthless brother's fault." His hands balled to fists. "I am so tired of you creating trouble for this family," he continued, turning back to Soren. "Your mother was right." He unballed his fist and raised his open palm skyward, ready to bring it upon the now crying child.

    "Father." Lec's voice was now as loud as their father's, just as icy. A sharpened sword materialized in their hand, its blade made of swirling white flames. They pointed it to their father. "Don't touch him."

    Lec watched as surprise, then fear, then ire all crossed over their father's face. "You dare raise your demonic art to me?" he yelled. Lec was sure the neighbors would hear them now, a family arguing in the middle of the night again. "My own child would threaten me with their flashy props." He drew closer to Lec, inches from their face, and grabbed at their chin. "I am not scared of you," he growled, and he threw their face away. "Get out of my house." He said, voice void of emotion. "Get out. You're not welcome here. You're old enough now to support yourself. I should have done this long ago."

    Lec stood, petrified, their sword dimming until it crumbled to ash. "Father--" they started, but the man's expression, the look in his eyes, the hatred there, stopped Lec mid-sentence. They turned to go to their room, to gather what little they could carry, but they thought against it. Lec couldn't stand another moment with their father. They looked to Soren, praying he would be alright, and he made a small, three-fingered sign. I love you. With that, Lec shot back into the night, away from the only home they'd ever known, into the wilderness.

    The second moon was beginning to give way to daybreak when Lec finally stopped running. Their legs could no longer take this, their heart was about to beat out of their chest. Black stained their face, the paint having trickled with the tears running freely down their face. They clenched their jaw to prevent them from screaming. Just hours ago, Lec had been performing a new piece, had been the center of attention, had been adored by their fans. How did they get here...?

    Exhaustion took Lec right where they'd fallen, on a grassy patch beside the only church in town. Their clothing did little to protect them from the cold, and with every nightmare that woke them up, Lec created a fire in their hands to warm themselves up. They had nowhere to go, not this late. The worst part was, they didn't know if their father had been serious. They didn't know if they would ever be welcome back home.

    With sunrise, Lec finally gave up on sleeping. The red eyes in their dreams haunted them while they were awake, too, and they couldn't handle much more. They picked themselves up onto sore legs and wandered into the town fountain. There, they were able to wipe the dirt and paint from their face, bathe their arms and feet. Their outfit shone in the sunlight, and Lec was suddenly aware of how flashy it was, how tacky, despite how long they'd spent making it. They needed something new, but they had no money, they had nothing.

    They wandered to the inn, where the innkeeper felt bad for them and gave them a sandwich on the house. They allowed Lec to clean themselves better in their bathrooms, and they warned them that anything else would come with a fee. With food now in their stomach, Lec needed to figure out what to do. They could call upon their friends, few in number, but all of them would be heading to work, so they would have to wait until evening. They had no other relatives, at least not in town. Soren's friends would be in school, so they couldn't ask them if he were okay, either. Lec sighed, overwhelmed by their impossible situation. They looked to the sun, to its placement across the sky. It was just before noon. Lec thought to last night, to the Lucet, to Soren's excited signing and their plans. Soren would be trying to meet with the Lucet. That's where they would find him.

    Lec shot off towards their meeting place, hoping beyond hope that their brother would be there, that they could make sure he was okay, that they could embrace him once again. They were disappointed to find no one there at all. Lec lingered, hoping Soren would show up before Issa, hoping they wouldn't have to deal with that Lucet again.
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  4. #14
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    By the time it was early enough for him to return home, Issa was feeling more than a little tired. The rest of the night had been uneventful enough, but the long hours had started to wear on him a little, and he was eager to catch what little sleep he could before tomorrow. When the Lucet did eventually arrive back at the village, he immediately made his way towards the appropriate hut. Issa quickly collapsed onto the sleeping furs that were laid out inside, and promptly rolled over.

    Drifting off proved a little more difficult than expected. Despite his inherent wariness, Issa’s thoughts kept drifting back to what was supposed to happen tomorrow, and the anticipation was almost unbearable. He would finally get to visit the human town and see what it was like with his own eyes…well, provided that the humans he had helped deigned to actually keep their promise. The younger one had certainly seemed eager enough, but his sibling was undoubtedly less so. Would he insist on coming along to keep his little brother safe, or stop him altogether?

    In hindsight, Issa would have no clue how long it had taken him to drift off. Only that he hadn’t been asleep anywhere near long enough when movement outside his little hut stirred him back into consciousness. The familiar sounds of his cousins waking up themselves, and beginning the daily chores that kept their little community running. Issa briefly considered throwing some of the furs over his head and trying to get back to sleep, but quickly banished the notion as he recalled just why he had been so excited for this morning to come around.

    Issa slipped from the hut and out into the morning sun, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the unexpected brilliance. He tried to maintain a semblance of normalcy as he went about his usual morning routine, greeting those he saw with a smile and the occasional joke, lest they figure out something was up. The Lucet stayed just long enough to help himself to some food and drink, before he made to leave. If any of his brothers and sisters saw his behaviour as strange that morning, they didn’t see fit to call him out on it, and before long Issa was on his way back towards the forest outskirts, heading for the point nearest to the human settlement, where he had left the two humans the night prior.

    Issa was confident that he had plenty of time to make it to the forest outskirts in time, given how early his siblings had accidentally woken him. Self-restraint was not something that the Lucet had ever excelled at, however. Once he was beyond the village borders, and relatively confident that he was alone, Issa was quick to take animal form, and he set off at speed. He moved as quickly as he felt he could manage in his current state, and arrived with a moderate amount of time to spare.

    When Issa drew close, he paused for a brief moment to become human again, before creeping forward on silent feet. He clung to the treeline, fully prepared to settle down and wait if need be, despite his earlier haste.

    The Lucet’s eyes widened as he caught sight of one of the humans, and hope quickly bubbled up inside his chest. Had they actually decided to make good on their promise, despite the easy out? Even more shocking was the fact that it was the older of the two humans that had come to meet him, not the younger. Perhaps they had some sort of ulterior motive in coming here alone, after how hesitant they had seemed yesterday. Either way, Issa had nothing to gain by sitting back and waiting. It was time to get this show on the road.

    Issa rose to his full height, before stepping beyond the treeline and out into the open. The thinning foliage was quick to relinquish its grip on him, leaving the Lucet easily visible, and a tad exposed. He strolled towards the lone human at a relatively casual pace, without any of the theatrical flair he had employed last time – largely because he knew how jumpy they were now, and didn’t want to risk spooking a proven magician, lest they lash out on reflex.

    “Well, this is a pleasant surprise” Issa called out, once he was within easy earshot. The Lucet continued to walk forward until he was just a few easy steps away, and made no effort to hide his easy smile.

    “I’ll admit that I didn’t expect either you or Soren to show up today. I came all the way out here on the slim chance that you decided to make good on your promise, but I didn’t actually expect to find anyone here…not that I’m complaining, mind you” Issa said. He paused only briefly to glance around, before turning his attention back to Lec good and proper. “Where is Soren hiding, anyway? He seemed much more enthusiastic than you did yesterday.”

  5. #15
    The Ashen One
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    Moments ticked away, and Lec found their hope dissipating. Their father had probably punished Soren in his own way, and right now the child was likely confined to his room, unable to leave lest he face the wrath of that heartless man once more. Why had Lec been stupid enough to think he would be here? They lingered awkwardly, hoping they were wrong, hoping they'd see those bright blue eyes and those wildly signing hands again. Instead, they were greeted by their nightmare, by malicious red eyes, by suffocating large hands, by the Lucet from yesterday.

    Lec's body stiffened. The Lucet seemed darker in the light somehow, features more chiseled and angular than they remembered. He seemed jolly, carefree, though genuinely surprised to see Lec there. And why wouldn't he be? The human was out of their mind to still be here. Soren wasn't coming; they had no reason to stay and entertain this fool. He asked about Soren, and Lec's gaze fell. "He wasn't able to make it," Lec replied, wondering why they were bothering to talk to the Lucet at all.

    Something kept them there, kept them from running away, leaving this Lucet for what they sincerely hoped was the final time. They had nowhere to go anyway; the innkeeper wouldn't let them stay all day, and the bars they often worked at weren't open. They had too much time to kill, and even if they hated this Lucet, even if this beast sent shivers down their spine; well, where else would they find that smile, that genuine happiness on anyone else to see them? It was that excitement, that almost boyish glee so obvious in the Lucet's eyes, that kept Lec there, pondering. Despite their shivering hands, their quaking legs; what would it hurt, anyway? Helping this Lucet around, showing him this town Lec had so much pride in...

    And maybe there was another reason. Soren's hands flashed through their mind, giddy things, moving seemingly of their own volition. It was the only way the boy had ever had to communicate, the only language he was able to produce himself. Lec took pride in the fact that they had taught it to him, and that, besides some well-meaning strangers in town, the two of them were the only ones to know it fluently. Lec missed those hands, those jumpy words, those singsong movements. And they hoped, when next they saw their brother, at least then they could tell him all the stories of this Lucet that they knew he'd want to hear.

    Lec forced their eyes back to the Lucet. In the light, he would be able to see just how weird they were; they were an ordinary light brown, but close to their pupils, forming a ring around each, was a blue-green river. They were barely noticeable unless stared upon directly. Lec had always had mixed feelings about them; at times, they loved the oddness of them, loved how they made them stand out, but other times they hated them, hated how this blue-green center was the only way their mother still held onto them, as if she could leave nothing else in her haste to leave the family. Now, Lec wondered what the Lucet would think of them, or what he thought of his own eyes, the shared eyes of his people, no chance for variation.

    They were also painfully aware that the Lucet would notice they were in the same outfit as the day before, albeit more torn from the whirlwind of the night they'd had. Lec dismissed it. They couldn't be picky about their looks right now. As they stole a glance at the Lucet, though, they couldn't help but feel embarrassed. ...Why? This was an enemy, relying on them, in their own town. They had the upper hand here. But the curve of his jaw, the dip of his collar, the strength apparent in the muscles of his legs and arms... Lec turned away. You are not thinking of him in that way right now, they scolded themselves. Like a little schoolgirl caught admiring her crush, Lec felt the blood rush to their cheeks, and they coughed awkwardly to fill the silence.

    They looked back to the Lucet. "It was Issa, right?" they asked. "My name is Lec." They didn't offer their hand to shake, and in the back of their head they could hear their mother's distant voice scolding them for it. "What... did you want, again? A tour, yeah?" They tried to think of places to show the stranger. There were plenty of old buildings in town, attractions, all sorts of things. Maybe, while making their way through town, Lec would even find their brother. The chances were slim, especially if the kid were grounded, but that small hope burned within them, urging them on when they wanted nothing more than to collapse.

    "Um, yeah," they mumbled, motioning behind them. "Follow me. We can... We can go to the marketplace first. Is that... what you want?" Confidence fled from their words, and they were all too aware of their accented pauses, their hesitations. Why were they so nervous? Issa couldn't hurt them, they kept telling themselves. At the slightest sharp movement, Lec would have an icicle through his throat. Like last time? a traitorous voice in their head asked, and they were reminded of just what the Lucet meant to them, to all of humanity.

    Gulping, they shook their head clear. "The traveling market just left town, but there are still shops that stay all week long. That's where we pick up our groceries, tools, stuff like that. You... you wouldn't have those, would you?" They were talking more to distract themselves, but they kept a close eye on the Lucet. As they spoke, they realized how little they actually knew of the Lucet people, how little they knew beyond the bloodshed and vicious propaganda their country provided. Lec turned to Issa again, watching those curious, foreign eyes. He was just a person, like any other, behind those scarlet spheres. Lec turned away, mulling it over.
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  6. #16
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    Issa stayed silent when the human revealed that their younger brother would not be joining them, despite his obvious enthusiasm on the evening prior. His lips curled downwards into something resembling a small frown, and his gaze drifted off to the side slightly as he mulled over this new development. He waited for a moment, just in case any more information was forthcoming, but it quickly became clear that Lec didn’t intend to elaborate. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised, given how quiet this human had seemed yesterday. It was ironic, in a way, considering that their brother was supposed to be the mute one.

    Issa forcibly dragged his attention back to the human when they coughed, lifting his eye to meet their gaze briefly…or try to, at the very least. If the Lucet were aware of the scrutiny they had just been under, the way the human had been looking at them, they gave no outward sign of it. When the human finally introduced themselves, Issa found a smile somewhere and put it on, unable to help but feel a spark of hope. If they were taking such a proactive approach, then maybe there was hope for his plan yet. Heck, if they had shown up here to begin with, then they probably had some intentions of following through on the deal they had made, right? All he had to do was play along and avoid scaring them off…probably. Easy enough.

    “Yeah, that’s right. It’s nice to finally meet you, Lec. Officially, I mean” Issa answered, chuckling softly at his own lame joke. He made no attempt to bow to his new friend this time, as he had done when introducing himself to Soren on the previous day. Doing so felt a little needless, this time around. The Lucet doubted Lec would appreciate it anywhere near as much as their younger brother had. A little bit of a presumptuous call, perhaps, given how little time he had known either of them, but Issa didn’t think it was inaccurate.

    When Lec brought up the tour that Issa had been promised, his excitement was palpable. His eyes widened at first as his mind struggled to digest the question that had just been posed, as did his smile, which seemed infinitely more genuine than the one that had preceded it. He nodded overenthusiastically in response to the human’s first question, promptly confirming their suspicions. He did, however, settle a little when Lec made his suggestion as to where they could go.

    “We have plenty of tools” Issa offered, patting the hilt of one of his knives while he spoke, to help make his point. “Those other things…not so much. The…groceries? Was that what you called them?” Issa answered, his tongue fumbling over the foreign word a little. He was quiet for a few seconds after that, as he pondered the strange, unexpected dilemma that this misunderstanding brought to mind. His gaze drifted upwards, and he brought a hand up to scratch at his chin idly.

    “You know, I’ve spent so long wanting to see the human village, but I’ve never really considered what exactly I might find inside. I’ve don’t really know much about how you all live, so I’m not totally sure what the best place to start would be. I don’t even know what the best way to tell you what sort of things I want to see is, considering that I have no idea how you name them. It’s a strange thought.” He couldn’t help but chuckle, despite the potential letdown that waited for him beyond the human’s walls. Given that it seemed he was about to accomplish his dream, it was hard to feel mournful, or imagine that the results would be anything even remotely resembling disappointing. He gave something akin to a casual shrug, before turning his attention back to Lec good and proper.

    “Well, I guess I’ll just have to trust your judgement, neh? At least, until I understand things a little better. Until then, you’ll be playing guide in more ways than one” Issa answered. His good cheer altogether undiminished, he reached out to clap Lec on the shoulder gently, in what he intended to be an encouraging gesture. If the human were to flinch or shy away, Issa would give them a sheepish smile, before pressing on regardless.

    “Now, shall we? You’ll forgive me if I’m getting a little bit impatient” Issa offered, gesturing towards the distant city walls idly with one hand whilst he spoke. Pending Lec’s approval, he would set off towards the town, doing his best to restrain himself to something resembling a casual pace. Unlike their parting on the previous day, however, he’d make a point of glancing back over his shoulder at the human, to make sure they were following this time.

  7. #17
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    Now that Lec felt safe—or, safer than they had last night in the midnight-soaked forest—they found themselves concentrating on far more than just the Lucet’s dark eyes, the edges of his teeth, the curve of his fingernails. He had an accent, a softer cadence than the humans Lec knew, a certain chirp to his vowels. His dress made him stick out in the Evimaire autumn, but then, Lec wasn’t dressed for this shopping trip, either. And there was that smile, that juvenile excitement behind those wicked eyes, that Lec could not shake. Perhaps it reminded them of Soren. Or, perhaps it reminded them of themselves, years ago, before their mother had left, that childish awe about the world that any adult would long to have again. Would making this stranger happy bring a similar smile to their own face? They doubted it, but a part of them still wondered about the possibility.

    They were getting very distracted. Lec shook their thoughts and rejoined the conversation. When Issa mentioned his tools, Lec’s eyes trailed to his belt, to the sheathed knife hanging there. Fear crept back through their blood, taunting. Again they tried to clear their head; a fire-made blade would be far more effective than anything the Lucet could do with his rusted metals. At least, that was what Lec kept telling themselves as they prayed that their body would stop shaking. “Right,” they mumbled awkwardly. “Every civilization has tools, of course.” You look like an idiot, Lec scolded themselves.

    Issa didn’t know where he wanted to go. This realization brought a furrow to Lec’s brows that soon dissolved into an arch of curiosity. What words would Issa have for the things they knew? Would they have problems communicating with him on this tour? They thought to when their brother was growing up, how Lec had had to come up with signs to convey the words the child could not create. Would this be just like then? Lec waved Issa off, intending to tell him it wasn’t a problem, that they could take the lead, but then they saw the hand, the blur of movement, the possibility of a concealed weapon, the threat coming for their throat. Flashes of teeth. Claws. Red. So much red.

    Lec leapt away from Issa, light on their bare feet. They held out a trembling hand and jerked it towards their body. A harsh breeze blew from behind Issa to spiral into Lec’s shaky grip. The wind spun violently into a whip-like tornado, long, flailing, dangerous. It struggled wildly against Lec’s fingers, snapping at the air beside them and Issa. They couldn’t bring themselves to look at it. Lec’s eyes were pinched shut, blocking out Issa and giving opportunity to other images from long ago. They felt their winds lashing at their clothing, the fabrics billowing around their skin, the sequins and gems noisily clashing against each other. Their grip tightened around the weapon, and Lec raised it, as if to strike Issa. Before the whip made contact, Lec opened their eyes, realization crossed their face, and everything stopped.

    The whip fell from their hands, and the rapid winds slowed to a stop just before it hit the ground. Lec looked to Issa, to his expression, the reaction to their gross overreaction. It had been a touch, a friendly pat. Issa wasn’t trying to hurt them. That smile that had been there only moments before, didn’t that prove Issa’s intentions? Lec turned away, blushes bleeding onto their cheeks. They felt the prick of tears at the eyes. Panic slowly drained from their body, leaving only humiliation in its wake. They were silent for several moments, trying to comprehend what had just come over them.

    Lec turned their attention back to Issa, suddenly aware they were staring at nothing. “I—” they started, but they didn’t know what to say. Sorry? Issa shouldn’t have touched them. They mumbled for a few seconds, struggling to find any words, let alone the right ones for such a moment. “Don’t do that,” they finally choked out. “We’re not friends.” Their heartbeat was louder than the sound of their own voice. Lec avoided eye contact. They hadn’t meant to threaten him, not in the slightest. They didn’t even understand why such a gesture had prompted such a violent response. But as Lec stood before the Lucet, the man they had just tried to murder, they felt desperate. “Please don’t leave,” they whispered. “I’m sorry. I…”

    There was a tremble in their step as they turned to walk. “The market, that’s what I was saying, right?” Their words were more rushed now, more anxious. “Everyone in Evimaire goes to the market to pick up food for the week, or new clothing, or toys, trinkets, whatever. It’s just a few blocks away, down that way.” They pointed a finger towards a cobblestone street. “You’ve probably never had Sthenornian food, yeah? You’ll have to try our grilled lamb sticks, they’re probably my favorite. Er, shit, you still eat meat, right?”

    Dwelling on what had happened for even a moment longer would have killed them. Lec knew they needed to get out of the moment, to walk away, to start the tour, pretend nothing had happened. They could only hope Issa would play along, that his curiosity would trump his fear of Lec’s magic. “Um, yeah, we can try getting those first. I know the guy who sells them, so if you wanted one without meat, he could probably make one for you. Here, he’s just up ahead.”
    Last edited by Ashen; 01-05-2020 at 01:36 AM.
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  8. #18
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    Issa’s plans of quickly ushering them towards the city were interrupted quickly and decisively when Lec flinched away from what was supposed to be a casual gesture. Not having expected such a violent reaction, the Lucet was caught almost entirely off guard. He took a few hurried, clumsy steps backwards on reflex, and it was nothing short of a miracle that he managed to maintain his footing and avoid slipping on his ass.

    The breeze that had stirred into life behind Issa had been ignored at first, as powerful as it was, in the heat of the moment. That quickly changed when he caught sight of the magic that his new friend was shaping, however. His eyes widened as the full realisation of what was happening dawned on him, and the blood quickly drained from Issa’s face. He held both of his hands up in what could either be interpreted as a placating gesture or a show of submission, but to no avail. When Lec raised their makeshift whip, Issa turned his face away, closed his eyes, and threw both of his arms up, trying in vain to shield his head.

    He waited for the blow to fall. For this mage to strike him down. To grind his body into the dirt and send his mind spiralling into whatever it was that followed. His people often preached that death was natural, but in that moment there was no denying the fear that Issa felt. It lodged itself in his chest, just as if someone had just stabbed him with it, and set his heart racing. In a way, he supposed that Lec sort of had. After what felt like a small eternity of waiting, though, nothing had happened. Finally, Issa mustered up the courage to peek. He lowered his arms slightly and opened his eyes just a fraction, only to see that Lec had allowed their spell to disperse without being used.

    Issa wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but it appeared that he was safe, for the moment. Slowly, he tried to force himself to relax. He lowered his arms properly and did his best to straighten up, but there was no hiding the new wariness in his eyes, or the tension in his shoulders. He tried to speak. To confirm that he understood the new sentiments that the human had expressed, and the unspoken rules that accompanied them, only to find that his mouth was inexplicably dry. He settled for a shaky nod instead, and had to hope that was enough to set them at ease.

    There was no doubting that Issa wanted to flee, now. He felt like a wild animal that had just been confronted by one of its natural predators, and was just waiting for the opportunity to bolt. His gaze even flickered back towards the treeline briefly as he tried to estimate the distance between him and it, and how long it would realistically take him to close it. Before he could progress too far down that line of thought, though, Issa forced himself to take a shaky breath as he tried to relax, regain some small fragment of his composure, and think about what had just happened.

    In the end, it wasn’t just the human’s words that convinced him to stay. They certainly helped convince Issa that they had never really intended to harm him, but that was hardly the whole story. Was he really going to give up this chance to achieve his goal, just because his guide was a little jumpy, or had felt the need to make a point? So long as he noted the human’s words and didn’t make the same mistake twice, he would be fine…probably. If they wanted to maintain a minimum distance, then Issa could do that. He mustered up what he could of his courage, and finally spoke.

    “Some of my kin refrain from eating meat, but I’m not one of them, and some food would definitely be appreciated right about now” Issa answered. His voice sounded about as shaky as his smile looked, with neither showing so much as a sliver of his former confidence. He gestured for Lec to lead the way, and quickly fell into step alongside them.

    Normally, Issa would have spent the entirety of their short walk towards the town proper chattering away about anything and everything. All the more so once his his excitement and anticipation began to peak.. After the incident that had just occurred, though, he was subdued enough to remain silent…for the moment, at the very least. What’s more, the further behind they left the forest, the more exposed he began to feel. As if the more distance between himself at the obscuring and protective foliage it offered, the more dangerous things were. It wasn’t a bad feeling, per se. Uncomfortable, certainly, but not in a way that was totally unwelcome.

    It seemed as if the city quickly moved to embrace them. The grass underfoot quickly gave way to dirt, and then reshaped stone. The buildings seemed small and scarce at first, but quickly seemed to spring up around them, until Issa couldn’t see anything else. A thousand different new sights and sounds seemed to clamour for his attention, and the Lucet wasn’t quite sure where to look. The people and the strange new things they were doing drew his attention just as much as their new surroundings, and the sense of reservation that had lingered after Lec’s attack quickly evaporated in the face of overwhelming curiosity.

    “Man, some of these buildings are so tall. Much larger than anything we have at our place. I’m not sure how I feel about all this stone underfoot, though. Oh, what is that lady doing over there? Do all you humans show your clothes like that, for anyone walking past to see?”

    This sort of jabbering continued on for a while as Issa tried to get used to his new surroundings. On more than one occasion, the Lucet would take a couple of hurried steps away from Lec and towards whatever it was that had managed to snag his attention, as if he were considering sprinting over, or was trying to get a better look.His detours may have done a good job at delaying their arrival at the market, but in the end he always made his way back over towards Lec, so that the two of them could continue their journey inwards. At least…until the moment he decided that he needed to get a better look at the city as a whole.

    “That looks like a good spot” he said softly, before throwing a sideways glance at Lec. “I’m going to try and get a better look at the layout of this place. I’ll be right back” he offered. The Lucet took off then, running towards the building that he had supposedly singled out. Without any sort of hesitation, the Lucet jumped up onto one of the water barrels sitting alongside the nearest wall. From there, he leapt towards the roof. After catching the edge with his hands, Issa pulled himself up, climbing onto the roof good and proper. He made his way up to the apex, seemingly oblivious to all the shouts and strange looks that were being directed his way, and his jaw promptly dropped as he caught sight of Evimaire from this strange new perspective.

    “Oh man…this place is a hell of a lot bigger than it looked from the forest” he muttered softly, speaking largely to himself.

  9. #19
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    The two of them began moving on, but Lec couldn’t ignore the tremor in the Lucet’s step. That look of terror that had painted his face only moments before, that was an expression reserved for the cowardice before a monster. Absently, Lec looked to their hands, hands that had always been too small, too delicate. Just what sorts of power did these palms possess? The magic they had always seemed to know, even without instruction, the fires they could spark, the winds and seas and quakes they could conjure; unchecked, what kinds of destruction could they bring upon the world? Lec had considered themselves a relative pacifist, enjoying only the occasional practice fight with a sword or axe, never caring as much about the war with the Lucet as others seemed to, but just then, that terrified response on their enemy… Their own power, for the first time, frightened them, and that familiar fear crept back into their eyes.

    Issa spoke, and there was no hiding the reservation now suffocating his cadence. Lec had done that, had brought that fear there, ruined the enthusiasm that practically burst from the man-beast only moments ago. To make up for it, they would get them a snack at the market, a meaty one, with lots of vegetables and spices. Then they remembered their father, firm fists, a stern voice, the events of last night, and they wondered just how much they could afford to spend on this stranger.

    Awkwardness shrouded the walk to the market. Lec needed to say something, to have something said, but they couldn’t think of an appropriate way to follow what had happened. The silence formed a wall, trapping Issa somewhere far, far away. Lec couldn’t blame him, of course, for not wanting to talk. They just hoped they hadn’t ruined their chances. Though—of what? A chance to give a story to a little boy? The ability to say they’d done their kind deed? Or, perhaps, the knowledge that they, however temporarily, were needed.

    Buildings began to sprout and grow around them. They were nothing special to the human, too used to seeing them every day, but they saw that childlike awe back in their companion’s eyes. “Hm?” they murmured, looking to the clothing Issa had pointed out. “Oh, er, no, she’s not… showing her clothes to anyone. She’s probably just washed them, and she’s hanging them to dry by sunlight.” It was comical to Lec that this stranger, probably not much older than themselves, did not know about laundry. A smile crept onto their lips. Just how primal were the Lucet? Did they not wash their clothes? Lec tried to guess by Issa’s dress, but they couldn’t tell how clean or dirty his furs were. “It’s a very common chore. Do you not… do that?”

    Their walk continued like that, Issa pointing out things that seemed so obvious or so ordinary, and Lec explaining what each was with an amused smile and a gentle patience often reserved for their brother. As they walked, Lec found themselves wanting to know more about Issa’s culture. Would a rainforest tour be possible? No, Lec shuddered at the thought. The smile falling from their lips, Lec let out a small sigh. They turned their attention back to Issa only to find that he was charging away. “What?” Lec managed. “No, Issa, don’t--!”

    But the Lucet was well on his way up a building. What was he planning? Familiar panic bubbled under Lec’s skin. They charged after him, a tired mother chasing a son. Everyone’s attention was now on the red-eyed enemy catching the high ground. Ready to pounce? To catch under his claws some unsuspecting grandmother, some child? Lec ran at the building, climbing onto the roof far less gracefully than Issa had. Once there, they were prepared to tackle Issa, to throw him to the ground with them, anything to protect their city.

    But Issa wasn’t going to hurt them, or anyone. He looked out at the city as if he had never seen anything like it—and perhaps he hadn’t. Lec stopped and stared at the stranger. The smile on his face, the glimmer in his eye, the perk of his shoulders. He was just a regular man taking in the beauty of a world he’d never known. There was no harm in that.

    Lec expelled a long breath, trying to calm themselves down. “There’s a world further out there, too,” Lec explained, hoping the stranger wouldn’t notice the shakiness in their breath. “Beyond the port, countless human settlements, the likes of which even I’ve never seen. I’d love to visit them someday, see what else this world has to offer.” Their eyes were trained on the stranger, still wary. They were starting to relax, though, and scolding themselves for being so jumpy.

    “Aleca?”

    Lec’s ears perked. They looked down at the gathered crowd and noticed a thin man with a fluffy beard staring up at them. “You’re minglin’ with them now, are you?”

    Lec’s cheeks colored. “It’s Lec, Mr. Wallace, thank you.” They slowly made their way down from the roof and landed gracefully in front of the man. “He’s a friend. I was showing him around as a favor.”

    The man raised a brow. “You watch yourself now, kid,” he warned. “Causing all this racket. I thought we were under attack or something.”

    “I’m sorry,” Lec mumbled. “Issa, erm, please don’t… do that.” They motioned for the Lucet to follow them down.

    The crowd, realizing the Lucet was a tame one, dispersed. Some still lingered, wondering what the beast would do. Lec cast them wary glances but said nothing. “We can’t make such reckless moves, okay? You look different. You’re not going to fit in here. Make another wrong move in the wrong place and you’ll get a bullet in your head.” They motioned their chin to the man they’d spoken to. “He’s a fisherman. We’re going to avoid him at the market now, okay? It’s right around the corner, so let’s go, before you attract anyone else.”
    Last edited by Ashen; 01-28-2020 at 04:35 PM.
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  10. #20
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    Evimaire was totally unlike any place that Issa had ever visited before. There was no doubting that, given that he had never travelled further than the forest outskirts before. Up until this moment, however, the Lucet had utterly failed to grasp the true scale of what he was walking into. From down below, on street level, the city had felt…contained. With buildings on almost every side obscuring your view, it was easy to forget just how large this place truly was. From his new perch atop the peaked roof he had chosen, however, any such illusions were quickly dispelled.

    From up here, the buildings and streets seemed to stretch on almost as far as the eye could see, and Issa could only assume that the streets further away contained just as many people as those nearby. It made his home feel small and sheltered by comparison. Cluttered, perhaps. Whilst the forest itself may have rivalled the town for size, the village in which he was accustomed to living certainly did not. The sight was almost too much for him to take in, and he couldn’t help but wonder how anyone moved around this place without constantly getting lost. Especially when so many of the buildings looked so similar.

    Such were his thoughts when Lec finally climbed up onto the roof to join him, despite Issa’s promise that he would only be gone for a few brief moments. He kept his gaze fixated on the sight before him even whilst the human spoke, though he did turn his head to one side slightly, so that he might hear them a little more clearly. There was one word in there that he didn’t quite understand, but the gist of what he was trying to convey was clear enough.

    “There’s even more human settlements out there? Beyond this one?” Issa asked. The Lucet believed themselves to be the only ones of their kind, so he’d never so much as considered the possibility that the humans had more than one town out there, somewhere. If they had managed to do all this here, though, then why couldn’t they do the same elsewhere? He knew only the barest fraction of what they were capable of, and it seemed that those boundaries were much larger than he had originally expected. Far from feeling cowed by the thought, however, the thought caused his smile to widen. “Guess I’ve got a lot more exploring to do than I originally intended, then.”

    He finally tore his attention away from the city skyline when one of the humans on street level called out, and Issa watched as Lec quickly moved to speak with them. He took a few small steps towards the edge of the roof, from which quick glance around was enough to reveal the extent of the disturbance his actions had caused. Issa was used to making himself the centre of attention, but this was a great deal more eyes than he was used to, and the voice in the back of his head was quick to remind him that the whole point of finding a guide was to avoid the dangers of being singled out in unfamiliar territory. Even so, he found it hard to regret his actions. He did comply rather quickly when Lec gestured for him to follow, though.

    He closed the remaining distance to the edge of the roof rather quickly. A quick glance down was enough to gauge the distance, before Issa quickly dropped back down into the street. He landed lightly, before quickly moving to re-join his companion as the crowd began to disperse.

    “What’s the point of all these buildings if you can’t even stand on top of them? Seems like a waste to me” he mumbled, though the statement lacked any of his earlier conviction. It was, upon reflection, rather difficult to argue with your tour guide. Especially when they were trying to warn you against the exact sort of dangers that you had enlisted them to guard against in the first place.

    Just as Lec had promised, the marketplace proved to be just a short walk away from there. Issa did his best to keep his enthusiasm under control for the duration of their little trip - Lec’s recent warning still very much at the forefront of his mind - with limited success. Trying to contain himself quickly proved to be an uphill battle, given that he was currently in the middle of accomplishing his lifelong goal, but the Lucet did manage to avoid running off again. A marked improvement over the moments prior, if only a minor one.

    “So, what you said about me not fitting in back there” Issa started, during the brief walk. “Should I try and camouflage myself somehow or something? I’d be willing to try on some of your human clothes, if that would help. I’m not quite sure what we could do about the eyes, though…”

    It was at about this point that the two of them rounded the final corner, and were confronted with the sprawling mass that made up the city marketplace. Issa stopped dead as it came into sight, his previous question temporarily forgotten. His eyes went wide and his jaw dropped as his brain once again struggled to reconcile what his eyes were currently seeing with reality.


    They were greeted by a wide area that was occupied by no buildings whatsoever, as if some giant had shoved them all aside to make room. The open ground was far from empty, however. Instead, it was filled with an uncountable number of smaller stalls, packed so closely together that Issa thought he might have to shift into a much smaller animal to slip between them with anything resembling comfort. Not only that, but the place was filled with an incredible number of people. More than he had ever seen in a single place before. Those of all different races, shapes, sizes, removing what little free space seemed to remain, both between the stalls and beyond them.

    And the sound.

    A truly discordant cacophony of shouting and yelling, not quite indistinct enough to fade into a dull roar, but so much so that picking up on what any individual person was saying in full seemed impossible. It felt as if every store had decided to advertise their product by finding the loudest person they could to yell about them, and that every second customer was then forced into yelling to try and make themselves heard. It was, without a doubt, the strangest thing Issa had seen since his arrival, including the woman putting her…laundry…on display to the entire street.

    The marketplace itself was far from its busiest at this time of day. Right now, it seemed that one could make their way through by simply brushing past the other people who lined its streets, instead of having to force your way through with elbows and knees. To a human who was used to these sorts of places, it likely didn’t seem that busy at all. Issa, however, had no appropriate point of comparison.

    “Are we…going in there?” Issa asked, once he had regained a measure of his composure. He threw an incredulous look towards Lec, quite clearly seeking some sort of proper confirmation before he tried to throw himself headfirst into that mess.

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