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

  1. #81
    The Ashen One
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    Nothing Issa was doing was inspiring confidence. His voice wavered, nervous, and that energy was infectious; Lec’s shaking grew worse, and their hands trembled too powerfully to hide. His pacing was making them anxious too, but when he sat down and tried to keep himself still, that was even worse. His legs frantically bobbed up and down, and his hands were in constant motion, more erratic than usual. If Issa were this bothered, something was horribly wrong. Lec wished more than anything that he would just come out with it.

    When finally Issa started explaining why he was here at all, Lec kept fixated on him, though their shaking was turning distracting. They watched his face, watched the worry there, while trying to understand what he was saying. He was just talking about some silly prophecy; who were they to believe in the superstitions of their enemies, anyway? The names of these gods didn’t mean anything to them, and they didn’t feel they had time for a theology lesson now, among everything else. This was all so overwhelming, and so much of it was going over their head. Though their mind wandered, coming up with the worst, they tried to stay focused and follow Issa’s story.

    “Two heroes.” Their voice was small, scared, as they put together what Issa was about to say. It was a ridiculous idea, the two of them being chosen by gods to play a part in some celestial squabble, but… Lec’s attention fell to the window again, to the black snow, the proof of the destruction their people—and people across the globe—had yet to understand. Could it really be true, then…? No, they decided, it was a dumb suggestion, and they wouldn’t have it. Them, hand-picked by a god—they were too ordinary, too boring, too… worthless. They couldn’t begin to believe something so far-fetched.

    But Issa was right. All the things they’d heard and seen about their world of late, all the signs of impending death, did make sense in light of the Lucet story. Lec couldn’t deny that. Had their meeting Issa been coincidence as they’d until now believed, or had it all been orchestrated by a god? But why them? What was so special about them that they would be chosen? They shook their head. It didn’t make any sense. When they turned back to Issa, they opened their mouth to protest, to tell him all the reasons he was wrong, that his elder was crazy, but what came out instead was seemingly unrelated to any of this.

    “When I was born,” they started, their gaze falling to the window, the rug under their boots, anywhere but Issa, “my mother thought me a miracle. She said I was making fireballs before I could even talk. I don’t know how much you know about human magic, Issa, but that… that shouldn’t happen. Mages study tomes for years or decades before they’re able to do much at all, and even the most skilled mages can’t do what I can.

    “Magic is exhausting. It takes a great toll on the body and the mind, and because of that, most people give up before they make much progress. It’s just not worth it. Being able to light a candle or water your garden isn’t all that special when you need to practice every day for years to do it. But I never needed to do that. I was born knowing what to do, and I was stronger than anyone I’d ever met.”

    Lec paused. Soft blushes lit their cheeks, and they gnawed their lower lip. They didn’t like talking about this, didn’t like feeling like they were bragging. “It’s… genetic, sometimes,” they continued after carefully thinking about their words. An affinity for magic can be passed through the bloodline, but geneticists and mages both can’t agree on how. Dad studied magic for years, but he doesn’t have a magic bone in his body. He can’t even shape the wind through his teeth to whistle properly. My mother studied magic in university, and she could do some basic spells, but never anything all that impressive. Soren took after her, but I… Well, I don’t know where my skills came from.

    “When we studied magic in school, teachers couldn’t make sense of me. Professors and students from faraway universities came to study me and make me bend the elements for them in ways they’d never seen. They offered me scholarships to our best universities, just to test the limits of what I could do. They promised me I would achieve greatness, that my magic would be written of in our history books, but I… I didn’t want to leave my family, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being some kind of celebrity. Maybe, if I had gone, I’d be in one of those universities now.”

    Lec sighed and took a moment to steady their breath. “I started turning people away,” they admitted with another blush. “I didn’t like being in the spotlight. Ironic, I suppose. I wanted a simpler life, and being a performer felt… better. It felt like home. A lot of people think of me as a waste, but I’m happy now, doing what I do. I stopped questioning why I was so good at this and started asking what I could do, how I could make it beautiful. I never thought I’d ever figure out why I was different.” They hesitated, then brought their gaze back to Issa. They paused to swallow the lump building in their throat. “…Until now.”

    As much as they wanted to, they couldn’t deny what Issa was saying. This prophecy, strange as it was, answered too many of the questions they’d had all their life. Their magic, their mark, their world dying around them; this was all a burden they had accepted at birth, one they did not deserve. If Issa was right, then people around them would continue to lose their homes, would continue to die, unless they did something about it.

    Lec’s hands began to move, signed words Issa wouldn’t understand, words of affirmation, reminders to breathe. Their motions were automatic, as if this was something they had done many times before. They waited for their breathing to level again before they forced their attention back to their messenger. “Okay,” they finally said. “So your god wants us to fight. What… What do we do?”
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  2. #82
    Mistborn
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    The first thing that came out of Lec’s mouth after Issa’s haphazard explanation was a far cry from the response he had been expecting. The story his human wanted to tell seemed unrelated at first, but Issa knew them well enough to know that a point was coming, if he could just be patient enough to let them reach it. Curiosity urged him to speak, to let loose with the collection of questions that swelled up inside him immediately, but the Lucet urged his tongue to be still. Thankfully, it listened. Either the answers would come, or Issa would have time to ask afterwards. Lec had done him the courtesy of hearing out his insane story – the least he could do was return the favour.

    All the talk of magic that followed was both fascinating and terrifying, in equal measure. Up until now, Issa had wrongfully assumed that Lec was the standard, just because he didn’t know any other mages to compare them to. The idea that most of them were much less powerful was comforting – the Lucet likely wouldn’t have survived this long if his original assumption had been true. At the same time, this news bathed everything that he had witnessed so far in a brand new light. Their escape from the cruise ship, and the performance Lec had given last time they had met…both meant so much more than Issa had understood. More than he had ever considered possible.

    It made sense, for someone so remarkable to be the subject of prophecy. If Lec really wielded so much more power than normal, Issa could understand why they might have been chosen. At the same time, though…he was nothing special amongst the Lucet. Issa had always known himself to be talented, certainly, but not to such an extreme extent. What purpose could he possibly serve, what role might he play, that another Lucet wouldn’t fill just as well? His elder certainly believed the two of them were the chosen ones, but…well, even if he did believe in the prophecy, Issa wasn’t so sure. Maybe he had been picked by mistake. Maybe their birthmarks were a happy accident. Maybe he was just a stepping stone, meant to lead Lec to their real Lucet partner. The possibility stung Issa’s pride, wounded him in a way that he wasn’t quite ready to admit, but…well, if the fate of the world really was at stake, then he couldn’t rule out the possibility. The feelings of one individual had no place in a conflict this large.

    Just as interesting was the new information Lec shared about their personal life. It was another side of them he had yet to see, another thing Issa desperately wanted to ask about. Again, though, they had more pressing matters to discuss. Besides, it seemed an uncomfortable topic for Lec…or was that just their general nervousness? He eyed the way Lec was pacing, the movements they were making with their hands, in silence. Either way, Issa reluctantly let the opportunity to bring it up pass him by, in favour of the question Lec ended on.

    “Frankly? I have no idea. That’s the problem with prophecies. Even in stories, they’re never as detailed as the heroes might like.” Issa’s tone was a carefully controlled neutral, in line with the calm way he was forcing himself to sit still. Or rather, the way he was trying to appear. Without realising it, the Lucet had begun to tap his fingers against his thigh idly, subconsciously beating out a familiar rhythm.

    “Heck, this particular prophecy doesn’t even say that we’re going to win the way that the ones in stories always do. For all we know, our best efforts won’t be enough, and all this will still lead to the world being destroyed.” A hint of panic began to creep into Issa’s words near the end, a look of uncertainty flickering across his face. He only dwelled on the possibility for a moment, though, before shoving it aside. Worrying would help nobody. They needed to break it down, work through the problem one step at a time. Especially since he wasn’t even sure he believed this was his burden just yet.

    “Are we supposed to go hunt the monster down, or should we just wait here, and let it come to us? Even if we wanted to track it, we wouldn’t even know where to start. We’d be following a bunch of rumours started by people who have just lost their homes and families. They’re probably all still in shock.” Issa’s expression deepened into a frown as he continued to think out loud, addressing the problems as they sprung to mind. “Heck, we don’t even know what sort of monster this thing is. If it’s actually a god given form, can it even be killed? Do we actually believe this story enough to try?”

    About half a second after the words had left his mouth, Issa realised that he was rambling again, and possibly upsetting Lec more in the process. He’d hold his tongue, let the question linger, in favour of glancing at his companion once more. Another attempt to gauge how well Lec was taking all of this. If they seemed close to panicking, then he’d prefer to try and calm them down first, before continuing down this path. They’d accepted everything remarkably well so far. Much better than Issa had expected. Frankly, Issa almost wished that they would laugh, or deride him for entertaining this lunacy. Any sort of denial would be a real weight off his chest.

  3. #83
    The Ashen One
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    Lec hadn’t realized how much they had been counting on the prophecy to tell them exactly what to do until Issa admitted he was just as clueless about the specifics. Their hands shook harder again, and they turned away from him to hide their nerves. Without a starting point, without even a hint, they didn’t know how they would ever live up to the expectations they did not deserve.

    When they faced Issa again, he was continuing on, pointing out the ambiguity in the outcome of his prophecy. If the legend itself didn’t even specify that they would succeed, then… Lec was quick to turn away again, this time with a lump swelling in their throat. It was getting harder to breathe, and the room was blurring with a wave of dizziness that made it difficult to stand. They reached out for something to hold onto, and they grasped the windowsill in an effort to steady themselves. They were overreacting, they told themselves, though that thought gave way to the possibilities before them. If they were to believe all this, it was up to the two of them to save the world, but what if Issa was right? What if they ventured across the world, only to fight a god-monster and die? They would lose, and they would take the whole world with them. Knowing that was a possibility—a likely outcome, even, given that they were just two ordinary people—how could Lec ever bring themselves to try? What was to stop them from turning Issa away now and acting like none of this conversation had happened?

    After steadying their breath, Lec turned to Issa, their face blank, cold, their gaze trained to the floor. “Issa,” they said, almost a hiss, desperate as they were to get the word out through their ragged breaths. “Get ou—” They winced, silenced, as pain shot through their chest. Their fingers drummed at the edge of their shirt, where their mark met their skin, trying to soothe the ache there. It was as if Issa’s gods were warning Lec against ignoring this, as if they were forcing them into action. They shook their head, embarrassed at having tried to move on, knowing what they know. Whether they liked it or not, this was now their problem, and the guilt of their inaction was a fate worse than whatever death they’d face trying to save the world.

    But accepting their responsibility was one thing; acting on it without any direction whatsoever was another. If they waited for the monster to come to them, how many people would die in its path? If they went out in search of a beast they knew nothing about, how much time would they waste looking where it wasn’t? There was no good solution. The refugees staying in Evimaire came from the west—that was a start. But the most populated lands in the world were to the west, millions of people who might unknowingly be lying in the path of destruction. There were expansive continents out there filled with scarcely populated land, too—how would they ever find one creature among the forests, seas, mountains, deserts? There was too much to search, too many options, and too many ways they would fail the people counting on them.

    Lec felt it, the clutches of unconsciousness grasping at their core, and they swallowed hard. If they didn’t get a grip, they would faint. All of this was too much to think about right now, but they couldn’t stop. They tried to focus on their breaths, tried to clear their mind, but Issa’s eyes on their back were impossible to ignore. They signed again, but their hands were slimy with sweat, and that realization only made their panic worse. Their body was reacting to the emotions they were refusing to acknowledge, but soon, it would no longer be their choice.

    Choked laughter escaped their throat, and the sound of it startled them. It distracted them from the tears forming at their eyes; if they were laughing, they could ignore their loosening grip on their sanity. Panic attacks were nothing new to the jumpy human, but they didn’t want one now, not with Issa here to watch, to judge. If he saw just how broken their prophecy partner was, maybe he would turn tail and get out while he still could. Lec tried to stop it, tried to get away from Issa, but they didn’t want to be alone, either. They stood by the window, trembling, panting, crying, unable to move.

    The fall was loud and inelegant, and they didn’t even flinch when they landed on their ankle. Their hands were half-signing, half-shaking, frantically trying to express their panicked thoughts. Trying to ignore what their body was telling them had been a mistake. Lec pulled their legs to their chest and began rocking, chanting softly under their breath. Their words were too rushed and quiet to make sense of, but they were rhythmic, tongue-twisters, as if they were saying them only to force their focus somewhere. They counted their breaths, in and out, in and out. If Issa tried to intervene, he would be ignored. Unresponsive as they were, like this, Lec knew what they were doing, and despite it all, they looked oddly in control.

    It was over in a few minutes, shortened by their own incessant reminders that they weren’t alone, that Issa was waiting, that they had an entire world to save. There would be time to panic later, to fully vent all of their confusion and frustration and dread. For now, though, as soon as they regained control of their breathing, they raised their gaze to Issa’s feet, cheeks ablaze, and sighed. “I’m—” they started, but the words caught in their throat, and they choked on something akin to a sob. Clearing their throat and wiping their eyes, they tried again. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what—”

    This time, they were interrupted by a distant sound outside. They’d heard the sound plenty of times before, often enough now that it had become negligible. The refugees had said it was louder abroad, back in their homelands. It was thunderous and terrible, like an animal screaming its last breaths, or… like a monster bringing the apocalypse.

    Lec shook, shaky on their own legs, and pointed out the window. “That’s it,” they announced, trying and failing to keep their voice from trembling. “That noise started when all the other disasters did, and no one has found an explanation for it yet, so it must be…” Unable to bring themselves to say it, they stopped, hoping Issa would understand. They grabbed for his hands and met his gaze, hoping he would not comment on their stained cheeks, their quivering lip, the whole episode they’d barely managed to pack up and bottle inside for later. “That’s where we need to go,” they said, oddly confident. “We need to follow the sound of that road.” They hesitated, then added, “Tomorrow.” Not nearly enough time to prepare for a trip like this, physically or mentally, but the more time they wasted, the more people would die. They gave Issa’s hands a squeeze, desperate. “Can you meet me at the border at noon? I’ll get us tickets for the next ship out, and we’ll figure out the rest once we leave Sthenorn.”

    This was an insane idea, one that was likely to get them both killed, but their mind was made up, and they’d brave what they had to to fulfill the prophecy. To save the world.
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