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Thread: Marche Au Supplice

  1. #1
    Retired

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    Level completed: 79%,
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    822
    AP
    13
    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

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    Marche Au Supplice

    Closed to Josette

    When your past calls, don't answer.

    It has nothing new to say.



  2. #2
    Retired

    EXP: 74,447, Level: 11
    Level completed: 79%, EXP required for next Level: 2,553
    Level completed: 79%,
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    822
    AP
    13
    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

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    Prologue

    Brilliant orange poured out of the morning sun and across the horizon of the great white expanse. The Salvic sky was blood red and the furrowed clouds were every shade from palest pink to deep crimson. All of this colour carved into the recesses of the snow dunes that Telos Soltair traversed clumsily.

    Shinsou’s father watched the daybreak from the crest of a powdery mound, following the motions of a small flock of birds that danced upon the morning light. Every now and then they would climb steeply to meet the rising dome of the sun, before banking sharply and diving back towards the distant settlement. He wondered, as he watched the birds in motion, whether everything would be alright, whether he had made the right decision to protect both Shinsou and Telgradia itself. Would wiping Shinsou’s mind a second time work? If it did, would his son be able to lead a new life away from Telgradia? What of his superiors, would they be convinced that Shinsou’s threat had truly ended?

    The thoughts troubled his tired mind as he finished watching the birds and decided to continue with his journey. Despite Telos’s strength, Shinsou’s limp, bloodied body felt heavier than iron in his arms. The muscles in his shoulders ached with a searing pain and each crunching step in the deep Salvic snow only worsened the fatigue. The captain of the Council of Five intended to carry his son to the fringes of the northern wastes; to that distant settlement. The skin on his hands and cheeks glowed red, a sign that battle with his son had taken its toll.

    Perhaps that was something to be proud of. Perhaps not.

    When he finally arrived at his destination, the Telgradian fell back, panting, next to the icy flat of what was to be Shinsou’s resting place. A billowing cloud of snow rose up and covered nearly every inch of his bare flesh, but Telos made no effort to move.

    He was too tired.

    Though Telos’s work was finally done, there was no comfort in the task. His son deserved so much better than to be unceremoniously dumped in the frozen wastes, a couple of miles from the nearest town. So crude were Shinsou’s injuries that they left very little to ceremony. Telos wanted to scream, and cry, and slam his first into the tundra beneath him at the infuriating and desperate unfairness of it all, but nothing came. It had to be done, for Shinsou’s sake and the sake of everyone who wanted his son out of Telgradia forever. He had to leave him here, alone, to find a new life or to perish along the way.

    This is it; the price we both pay. One of recompense for the millions of innocent Telgradian lives that you extinguished, under duress or not.

    Dues had to be paid, and lest the reaper claim his harvest, Telos could think of no other way.

    Telos eventually feebly slid himself down to the floor, parting his legs out across the freshly disturbed snow. Sighing, he let his head fall back and he took a moment to reflect on what was going to happen now, but the Telgradian couldn’t focus on any more details. With the cold snow now starting to flake down heavily above him, the captain of the Council of Five ground his teeth and clenched his fists so tight that his bloodstained fingernails left purple crescents in the skin.

    In his eyes, it wasn’t just Shinsou who had caused all this. They were all equally culpable, all of them that took part in the Telgradian Civil War. Now, the last of what he held dear lay prostrate in front of him, no longer the man he was save for his name, his magic and his sword. Those three things he could not bear to erase. In his heart, even if Shinsou’s wandering spirit forgave him for this, the Telgradian would never sleep easily again.

    As the snowstorm hit its most violent phase, and at the crescendo of Telos's guilt, he took off his own navy green drakescale coat and whipped it over his son’s body with a violent jerk, almost tearing it in half. He didn’t know Shinsou could easily survive the cold, but even if he had, he wanted his son to have one last thing that belonged to him before he disappeared forever.

  3. #3
    Junior Member

    EXP: 3,765, Level: 2
    Level completed: 59%, EXP required for next Level: 1,235
    Level completed: 59%,
    EXP required for next Level: 1,235


    Josette's Avatar

    GP
    380
    AP
    2
    Name
    Josette Hawkes
    Location
    Corone
    It had been two days since Josette had left the coast, but the tundra that sprawled all around her closely resembled the sea. White drifts made by the incessant wind rolled like the gray waves, and glimmered like diamonds beneath the late-morning sun. Josette had watched the water shine the same way from the steep bluffs of northern Caershire. Perhaps the most pertinent similarities were that both were seemingly endless, remarkably beautiful, and deceptively dangerous. A traveler could fall to the northern wastes just as easily as a sailor to the swells, and both with similar likelihood of never being found.

    With this truth in mind, Josette's preparations had been both meticulous and expensive. Despite the fact that both time and coin were in short supply, she understood that her venture into central Salvar might cost her something even more valuable - her life. Three days spent in Caershire's northern-most town had left her twin saddlebags bulging, and her sturdy body warmed by a new cloak. The fur-lined piece was as pricey as it was showy, and with the rich crimson color, she would stand out like a splatter of blood across a spotless white rug. In the end, she determined that no one would bother to hunt for her so far north. Even more persuasive was the fact that no other cloaks were available in the single general store. If Josette hoped to stay warm, she would have to wear the outfit that could be seen for miles, like a lighthouse's glaring beam.

    For her mount, Jo had purchased a full bag of grain, and a heavy blanket for sleeping. Riding the hearty mountain horse while he wore the blanket was impractical, but she protected him by remaining at a slow, plodding walk. Her instinct was to run him, closing the distance more quickly, and leaving the sweeping snowfield behind. Besides, the plains meant she had entered northern Ressin, the neighboring province, which made her wish she could ride much faster. But a sweating horse meant sickness in such extreme conditions, and Josette refused to take the risk.

    Still, her palms grew clammy inside her deerskin riding gloves. Ressin would be the most dangerous leg of her journey, considering the massive price it's Boyar had placed on her head. She remained uninformed as to the charges, though "treason" had been stamped across the wanted poster she had found. If asked to venture a guess, Josette would say that Boyar Regis Dyskin the Third feared word getting out that he had ordered the slaughter of an entire community within his jurisdiction. Furthermore, he had arranged that the deed be done by magic users, something that would spell out his end were the Church of the Eternal Sway to catch wind of it. The man, as pompous as he was portly, had not expected one of his charges to go rogue, sickened by the situation she found herself in. Josette had run to clear her own conscience, but if he suspected that she planned to divulge this information, it was no wonder that he wanted her dead. Looking south, she squinted against the sunlight that climbed its way toward the noon peak. If anyone planned to attack her, they would come from that direction, where the heart of the province lay. They would see her from miles away, but fortunately, so would she see them. In a few more hours, she would find relief from the barren arctic as coniferous trees began to return. Hours after that, and she would be free of Ressin. Clenching her leather reins tighter, Josette found herself willing time to pass more quickly. Impatience was uncharacteristic of her, but no more so than being wanted for crimes against an entire province.

    Time passed at a crawl, as it had a tendency to do when one wished it would hurry. When the woman finally caught site of distant evergreens, her sigh of relief hung as warm vapor off her lips. It was by no means an extensive forest, but it was enough to provide some variety in the landscape. The trees also made life possible, and if her map was correct, a small town rest only a few miles southeast of her location. Even before her excitement of seeing the trees waned, new urgency pulsed through her chilled body. She could not stop.

    It may have been that she was lost in thought, or so focused on the trees ahead that she saw nothing else. Either way, it was her horse who spooked at the sight of a green smear across an otherwise white canvas. He gave a low nicker of warning, steam billowing from paper-thin nostrils that flared against the ice crystals that clung there. "Whoa, Dras," Josette commanded, though at the same time reaching out to stroke the horse's neck. Her deep seat prevented her from being unsettled by his sudden side-step, but she still paused to calm the creature before dismounting to investigate. The snow nearly crested her knee-high boots, and she waded through it until she stood beside what could now be identified as a body.

    Dead? came her first thought. He had to be, as no person could survive an extended stint in the northern wastes. Besides, she could think of no reason why a person would lie here, the swirling snow buffeting his body, the cloak not appearing to offer much protection at all. His dark eyelashes stood in sharp contrast to his pale cheeks, and she decided those were eyes that would never open again. A year and a half ago, Josette would have mounted up and rode on, leaving the corpse to become a permanent part of the landscape. Even if he was still alive, why should she risk her own safety, and that of her horse, staying here to rescue him? But the past year had changed her, and if nothing else, maybe this one act might be just one step toward saving her soul. Timidly, with one hand gripping her sword's golden hilt, the other reached to find the man's pulse.
    Last edited by Josette; 09-17-2017 at 03:10 PM.

  4. #4
    Retired

    EXP: 74,447, Level: 11
    Level completed: 79%, EXP required for next Level: 2,553
    Level completed: 79%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,553


    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    822
    AP
    13
    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

    View Profile
    The sun had long since departed. Standing on the edge of the cliffs of Corone, Shinsou gazed up at the night sky; the progression and position of the stars in the sky telling him that sunset had been roughly three hours ago.

    Civilization was several miles behind him, but its noise and light were ever present as he turned to see an oily smudge of orange across the sheet of star-studded black. It marked the position of the settlement he couldn’t remember the name of. Who lived there? What was that place? The Telgradian found a tall oak and sat with his back pressed against the rough bark, the fabric of his new coat managing to soften the pressing, rough texture of the wood enough that he was beginning to nod off. The query faded into the night. Shinsou’s legs were folded loosely before him, and his hands rested atop them, gently cooled by the night air. For the time being, Osiris thrust away the nagging questions that should have kept him wide awake, until at once he collapsed.

    Moments later, he opened his eyes.

    The forces that governed his dreams saw fit to lift him up across miles of rolling Coronian lands to deliver him to a strange field. The dirt seemed settled, but no grass grew upon its soil.

    Shinsou rose to his feet and blinked slowly, rubbing the bleariness from his eyes with the heel of his hand. The night air, colder than before, stung at his flesh as the wind picked up with sudden ferocity, its gentle playfulness from the day forgotten, now only bringing howls and moans to his ears as it rushed across the countryside. From the murky blackness, a woman seemed to simply materialize, her back to him, her red hair familiar. As she turned, her face was blurry and out of focus, like a poorly taken photograph. His expression shifted subtly; eyes opening a degree wider than before, his jaw muscles flexed - and nothing.

    "Do you remember me?”

    Suddenly, pain bloomed, accompanied with the taste of blood in his mouth. Thick, fat rivulets of it dribbled down his chin to splatter on his feet and the ground. The girl’s foggy image motioned to him. Her eyes were gone. Instead, her open eyelids showed empty sockets staring into a greater hell than he could imagine. The fingers of her left hand were slick bone in the moonlight, and the flesh was peeled way up to the elbow, where sticky red muscle shone. Her body stopped, just above her waist. A few inches of ropey intestine lay limply in the dirt.

    “Do you remember me?!”

    The question tore at his soul. Shinsou couldn’t remember her name, her face, or her form. A tornado of crimson and white suddenly tore into the wall of his dream, and as white noise replaced the words of the spectre and the ambience of this false plane of existence, he awoke from this hellish dreamscape to the bright glow of reality.

    A painful reality.

    Pure, blinding white made his eyes recoil horribly. That pain lingered for a moment before fading, and drawing in a deep breath, Shinsou slowly regained consciousness. A flutter of his eyelids accompanied a cold, burning sensation that overpowered his left cheek.

    Snow.

    Black threads still flickered at the edges of Shinsou’s vision, but the disorientation was beginning to ebb. The scenery was horizontal, as was he. His pain receptors were going into overdrive; throbbing from almost every part of his body thumping electrical warnings into his head. Clean sunlight poured over him, the light gleaming off a polished patch of ice ahead. The breast of his shirt was stained, sticky, and damp. His hair was pasted to his skull with a mixture of snow and ice, and it hung limply into his face. Blood was smeared in three wide patches on the flesh of his left hand; it was speckled in the white powder too, in tiny drops, just beneath the bottom of his hand. As he clawed his right hand forward and tried to pull himself up, sliding his right knee forward, a shooting pain jolted up his calves, through his ribcage and into his head. The sensation forced his muscles to fail, sending him crashing back into the chilling white. His laboured breath hit the cold Salvic air and turned to clouds of steam with increasing tempo.

    Something flickered between the curtains of frozen hair; catching his eye for just a second, but he was back at ground level before the thought could try to escape from his mind. It was a person. Dark spots stained the human’s crimson robed form.

    "Where…am I?" He whispered before the darkness dragged him back into the void of sleep once again.
    Thank you for everything!

  5. #5
    Junior Member

    EXP: 3,765, Level: 2
    Level completed: 59%, EXP required for next Level: 1,235
    Level completed: 59%,
    EXP required for next Level: 1,235


    Josette's Avatar

    GP
    380
    AP
    2
    Name
    Josette Hawkes
    Location
    Corone
    Her gloved hand withdrew as if burned, and she cradled it against her chest, taking two startled steps backward through the drifts. The movement nearly threw her off balance, but as Josette fought to regain her control, she spread her feet and found her center. Then, she drew her sword, her default when it came to uncertain situations. What had just happened? Even as she filled her lungs with the frigid Salvaric air, her mind raced with the same ferocity as her heart beneath her armor. The man had either been delivered to death's door, or was well on his way, when she found him. She had not even touched him before his body lurched, like some undead Raiaeran monstrosity. Was she watching his spirit flee his body, or was the man not so far gone as she had originally assumed?

    The latter became more plausible as the stranger's hand clawed at the snow, struggling to find purchase as he dragged himself along. Josette inhaled sharply as the movement shifted the draped cloak. Below it, she found a splattering of red, like rubies to the emerald of the cloth. The more he moved, the more was revealed, until she realized the entire front of his shirt was bloodied. Those looked like wounds a man could die from, Josette determined, unless the cold claimed him first. Even with the sun at its noontime climax, the chill was nearly unendurable. A person in good health would not survive the night, or even the darkening hours of dusk, as the temperature began to plummet. How would he possibly survive hours more of this? How had he evaded death for this long?

    This was only the tip of her iceberg of questions, as she had no idea who he was, or where he came from. Still, she would feel better solving this one mystery, if nothing else. Had he been deposited there within the past few hours, she would have seen it across the wide plains. Therefore, the only possible explanation was that he had laid there since early morning, a Herculean feat that Josette still struggled to believe.

    So lost in thought, she was neither close enough nor attentive enough to catch the man as he tumbled back into the deep powder. Though his body no longer moved, his startling golden eyes sought and locked on hers. They were clouded with pain, and muddled with confusion, but he managed a simple query before slipping into unconsciousness. Fortunately, he had chosen a lull in the howling wind, or else she might have missed the words he spoke.

    Again, Josette found herself faced with a choice - mount up and ride on, or tend to the stranger? Considering the severity of his wounds, she wondered if it might be like trying to bale out a sinking ship as it took on water. She lacked the tools and the knowledge to plug his wound before moving him, and the nearest town was still miles off. And the nearest town was in Ressin. She was waltzing into the lion's den, and with her red cloak and unconscious patient, she might as well write ahead to announce her arrival. The woman had made many mistakes in her lifetime, and some very bad choices, but most were revealed to be so in hindsight. Never had she knowingly done something so impossibly stupid.

    But could she let one more perish beneath the cloudless Salvic sky?

    She blew out a sigh, turning back to Dras; the horse had remained stationary, apparently unfazed by the dying man before him. "What should I do?" Josette asked. His response, a low rumble in his chest, could be interpreted as either cautionary or scolding. No help at all.

    [...]

  6. #6
    Retired

    EXP: 74,447, Level: 11
    Level completed: 79%, EXP required for next Level: 2,553
    Level completed: 79%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,553


    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    822
    AP
    13
    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

    View Profile
    Gradually, the void of black warped into something vaguely familiar.

    Shadows danced along the cracked plaster walls of a bedroom as candles burned in oil lanterns over the doorway. The pungent smell of cool, rising damp wafted into the Telgradian’s nose, stirring his senses in a way he would have preferred to not have experienced. As he slowly opened his eyes and adjusted his focus, Shinsou could see that the strange voice that had jarred the Telgradian from his slumber belonged to a strange face. Framed by dark hair the colour of tar, a woman peered at him from over the other side of the room. Her chair blocked his view of the door.

    How many hours had passed since he had passed out, the Telgradian wondered? As Shinsou sat up, only the irises of the woman in his room stood out on first glance. Across her lap lay a blade that she gripped just a little tighter as his eyes steered towards it. The Telgradian briefly sat up before glancing towards the window and began to take in the reality of today; a freezing cold, snowy dawn. Sleet began pelting the glass, and suddenly the view of the looming expanse through the flawed transparency was distorted by thick streaks of white.

    The Telgradian stared icily at it all, thinking upon the significance of these things. Where was he? Nowhere friendly, judging by the climate outside and the way his female guard kept her weapon close and her grip on it tense. He could feel the weight of his queries inside him, tearing at his hazy mind.

    “Am I your prisoner?”

    The question crumbled from his mind as his eyes fell upon a second bed. Upon it, well within his reach, were assorted pieces of his inventory. Included were his swords Stygian and The Goat. His buckler shield, Mephistopheles, lay atop his folded drakescale coat. They were the only things he recognised in this bizarre situation. It occurred to him quickly that if he were someone’s prisoner here, wherever here was, the guard wasn’t doing a very good job of securing him. This led Shinsou to believe something else entirely was happening to him. Surely, no-one was stupid enough to capture someone and leave their weapons out on the bed next to them.

    "I don't take prisoners." The lady's retort was weighted with a cold, matter-of-fact undertone that left very little room for doubt.

    Unhindered, and unchallenged by his keeper, Shinsou rose from the bed. He hobbled slightly to the window he had been looking out of before, rolling his tongue over his teeth and clicking it in bemusement as his golden eyes fell upon the nameless whitescape.

    “Interesting. If I am not a prisoner here, and you are not my guard, then why do you cling to your sword as tightly as you do? Is there something about me that concerns you?" The Telgradian thought aloud, turning his head slightly so that the woman was just in the corner of his eyesight. "...and If I am not your captive, just what am I, and how did I get to this desolate place?"
    Thank you for everything!

  7. #7
    Junior Member

    EXP: 3,765, Level: 2
    Level completed: 59%, EXP required for next Level: 1,235
    Level completed: 59%,
    EXP required for next Level: 1,235


    Josette's Avatar

    GP
    380
    AP
    2
    Name
    Josette Hawkes
    Location
    Corone
    Josette's mind had already swelled with questions as she watched the stranger sleep; now that he was awake, it somehow allowed more still. Though it was far from the most important, the one that most consumed her had to do with the man's speech. How could a man speak so much while saying so little? He rambled on as he stared out the window, as directionless as if he still wandered amid the white storm. Was it the illness, fogging his mind, and making it difficult for him to speak coherently? Or was it perhaps a custom wherever this man came from? Though he spoke tradespeak fluently, there was something in the cadence that suggested he was from neither from Salvar, nor Corone, her birthplace. They were both vast nations, of course, and it was entirely possible he hailed from some small unknown corner. Yet she still did not think so, and Josette had learned to trust her gut instinct. She had also learned never to squander her words, as anything uttered without complete control and thought might give away more than intended.

    Despite his verbosity, which she found as intriguing as it was vexing, she had to admire the man's resilience. Half a day ago, she had assumed he was not long for this world. Now, with the exception of his limp, he appeared to be entirely healed. What was it that had led to such a drastic change? Was the warmth she had felt when she touched his skin some sort of healing magic? It was yet another question that she would be unable to answer without his help, as she was unable to detect any magic on her own. That was yet another ability that her mentors had tried, and failed, to teach her.

    The wooden chair creaked beneath her mass as Josette leaned forward, her breastplate hovering over the crystal sword still balanced across her legs. The room was only dimly lit, considering the few candles, and the raging storm that blocked any moon or stars that might be present. As such, it was difficult to make out the man's expression as he stood at the window. What she was able to see resembled mild curiosity, and what might even be amusement, both of which were a surprise to her. In a similar situation, any other person would be all sharp lines and frayed nerves. He, on the other hand, merely looked as if he could not quite remember whose bed he woke in.

    "I don't know you," came her abrupt answer. She said no more on the matter, providing no other excuse as to her defensive behavior. Truthfully, the knight felt there was nothing else that needed explaining - he was a stranger, and until she knew more about him, she would remain on her guard. "I found you in the snow. You were sick, and I brought you here."

    She felt the man's gaze sweep over her, and when he spoke, he did not bother to mask his skepticism. "You? You were able to carry me here, without the aid of anyone else? How were you possibly able to manage that? You must be, what, even a few inches shorter than I am? And why would you move me in the first place?"

    There was no answer offered for the final question, as Josette was not entirely sure why herself. Instead, she nodded. "Yes, I carried you. You are large, but I am strong. No, I was not without help. My horse carried you the three miles to town, and the cook helped me navigate the stairs."

    It was this that finally surprised the man, and his eyebrows rose as he regarded her with a new appreciation. "You managed to talk the cook into carrying me up to bed? Did you pay him?"

    Without sharing her fears of being discovered in Ressin, Josette could not explain how careful she had been while smuggling her charge upstairs. She had known immediately that she would not be able to move his bulk herself, but asking for help was dangerous, for it would mean exposing herself to the tavern's patrons. In order to circumnavigate the issue, she had woven an elaborate lie to wrap them both in before knocking on the back door. After hearing her tale of woe, the bulky cook had agreed to help, and even ushered them through the kitchen to avoid the prying eyes of the lunch-time crowd.

    Josette loosed a shrug of nonchalance that was largely lost beneath her armor. "I told him you were my husband, and that you did not hold your alcohol well."
    Last edited by Josette; 09-25-2017 at 09:33 PM.

  8. #8
    Retired

    EXP: 74,447, Level: 11
    Level completed: 79%, EXP required for next Level: 2,553
    Level completed: 79%,
    EXP required for next Level: 2,553


    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    822
    AP
    13
    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

    View Profile
    It was now creeping closer to midnight. The Salvic air carried its characteristic bitterness to the tavern, biting at the dancing flames of the candles that illuminated the cramped lodgings. Even wrapped in the thick of her armor and a smattering of uniform underneath, the chill of the wind seemed to cut through this woman like an icy, serrated knife; though she was loathe showing it as she gritted her teeth and stayed silent. It wasn’t any warmer in the shade where Shinsou stood on the creaking boards, yet the Telgradian did not shiver nor fidget to stave off the chill; an advantage of being immune to harsh conditions.

    “Husband, huh?” Chuckling at his charge’s reason for peddling him into the accommodation, “Well, I’m just grateful you found me when you did. I don’t remember much, though.”

    It was then something caught his eye. He turned his attention momentarily back to the spare bed, and to his elven blade Stygian. Blood; his blood, apparently, stained its turquoise edge so instinctively he picked it up and wiped the flat to the tip of it with a white rag. Something in the back of his failing memory told him that a sword’s worst enemy was rusting, so Shinsou wasn’t going to take any chances with his. One of the few things he seemed to remember was that blood had a surprisingly adverse effect on metals and he was sure he would be relying on his weapon a lot from then on. With this in mind carefully sheathed the clean blade into its ivory and marble sheath, neatly lashed to the inside of his greatcoat, and turned back to the woman.

    “My name is Shinsou Vaan Osiris. Yours?” Shinsou enquired.

    “Josette.”

    Shinsou brushed aside a bang of brown hair and stiffened his arms, straightening his back as he did. “I’m indebted to you for your help, Josette. The least I can do is offer you a small kindness in return. Can I buy you some dinner?”

    There was a moment of silence. She looked uncomfortable. After a moment of contemplation, a resigned expression crept over her face.

    "Alright."

    With that, Josette and Shinsou edged towards the door. As they descended the stairs, two children ran past them and disappeared up the landing, laughing as they played together. Shinsou turned, paid one last glance to the room behind him, and faced down towards the vault of the Tavern. It was then, as the warmth from the fire-heated lounge rose to meet them, that the swordsman felt it; a memory that felt like a sudden burst of light eliminating a gigantic sheet of icy shadow. It was faint at first, barely even registering, but became heavier quickly. Shinsou remembered a sanctuary floating in the clouds. He remembered a man; an armored, hulking giant as tall and imposing as a mountain. Then, there was darkness again. The Telgradian, confused and disorientated for a moment, grimaced and shook his head at an observing Josette.

    “It’s nothing,” He assured her within earshot of the barkeep, winking, “Possibly just the hangover.”

    The innkeeper, a tall, sober old man, sat up from his post and leaned against a thick oaken support structure at the center of the pub. The dark-wood bar was surprisingly picturesque in the glow of the lanterns, with the light pounding down without spilling too much through the windows. Two other patrons sitting at the bar looked at them for a moment before returning their gaze to large tumblers of whiskey.

    “Back among the living?” The innkeeper jested, “You were in quite a state when she brought you in here. You’re lucky to have such an understanding better half. My wife would have plain left me out in the cold and changed the locks for getting as pissed as you were.”

    “Yeah,” Shinsou flashed Josette a knowing smile, “She knows what I get like. Sorry for the trouble. Actually, on that note, we’re both famished. I guess I drank without eating first. Could we get some food?”

    The innkeeper snorted his approval. “Schoolboy error that, lad. You should always pad your stomach out first. What do you want? We’ve got some wild boar on the spit, or Salvic Trout? While you make your mind up, have some water. Same for the lady?”

    The Telgradian reached over and gratefully took the offered cup. He drank half the clear liquid, savoring it as it moistened his dry throat. He could see Josette enjoying a water own from the corner of his eye, drinking in silence until her glass was nearly empty. Satisfied, Shinsou pushed his half away for a moment and turned to place his order.

    “Boar for me please,” Shinsou turned and gestured to his companion, “For you, Josette?”
    Thank you for everything!

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