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Author Topic: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)  (Read 4037 times)

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Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #50 on: January 16, 2015, 01:57:26 PM »
July was left behind in the camp, she lit the oil lantern that hung from her gnarled walking staff. The flame flickered orange and yellow, illuminating the surrounding enclosure with warm light. After the girl had passed a few trees the lantern light was already completely muffled by the dark. Astrid's own magical sphere gave the surroundings a ghostly blue hue. The moss and bark were different in that light, the magical glow did not drive away the magic like the fire did. New things rose from their daily slumber. Small polyp-like wings unsheathed themselves from tiny cones of lichen. They did not glow by themselves and were regularly pale white; almost invisible in the night. However, those that the girl had walked past retained the blue magic glow in themselves, lighting a path. Likewise those lucky enough to bathe in the stray strands of moonlight that made its way through both leaves and clouds glowed silver light.

Countless more appeared and disappeared, though most were still too elusive to be caught with eyes and quickly scurried behind a corner or a branch when they felt the girl's presence approach. Calden finally felt they had enough distance to the crone. His voice oozed of frustration when he spoke, "Did- did you not see that Astrid? Now is the time. Lets just get away while she thinks that you're going to find her this...  ahhh! I don't even know. Just run, okay? She did it! I saw it! Something in her aura shifted when the night fell and part of it flew towards the forest. She did some evil magic here. I don't know what but please for the love of Gods just please listen to me. This is the perfect chance. We can lose her in the night and there aren't even any of those nightmare monkeys around. Phew..." He took a brief pause, waiting for Astrid to answer, and then, when he felt an opening he added, "Let me see too. I can only spot blurred picture of magic from here, and even just that is so pretty. I wanna look!"

Offline PennySludt

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #51 on: January 18, 2015, 08:57:33 AM »
Astrid pulled the neckline of her dress down over her right shoulder, letting Calden see around them better. She walked slowly and silently now that she was a little further from the old woman. Calden's words of warning and pleas to run were swirling through her head and she was confused and worried. He really seemed afraid of July. Was he just nervous because of what had happened? Was he paranoid? Or was he right? After all, he had said he could see magic around her. And if she had magic, why had she not used it? And if she HAD used it....what had she done....?

"What do you mean, evil magic, Calden? How do you know it was evil? If you don't know what it was...how can you say it was evil?" She felt responsible for the old lady. She didn't think she could just leave her here, alone in the forest. She seemed to be quite mad in the head and Astrid wasn't sure how well she'd be able to fend for herself. But Calden was beginning to fill her with fear too. She also wondered WHY there were none of those creatures around. What if there were none of those things because they were afraid to come here....what if this was the territory of something....worse.....?

She poked around looking for the things July had described. She was awfully hungry, and July had promised a delicious stew...Her stomach rumbled at the thought. Then she thought of something, "Calden....? Do you get...hungry? Or thirsty?" She didn't know why she had never asked him this in the last few days, but perhaps she was just beginning to accept that he was merely an attachment to her own body now, and not his own person. Perhaps she was starting to understand a little more. She herself was very thirsty, and as she looked for the things for July, she kept her eyes and ears open for the sound of water.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #52 on: January 18, 2015, 04:35:24 PM »
"What, how do I know evil? Uh-", Calden stuttered to come up with a good reasoning for his suspicions about the crone. "I'm just, getting this... I don't know," he sighed. It was true that despite her eccentrics July had not done anything that would justify putting her in the same category with monsters, and it was not like Calden was entirely sure about what he had seen. He couldn't read those auras too well yet, they very different from what regular eyes could see and not always so straightforward to decipher. "Well she did use some sort of magic. I saw a big cloud of it leave overhead towards the woods earlier, even through your clothes! And she, she isn't just old lady that's for sure! I can see the magic inside you and it's beautiful, but hers, its..." He paused again. Truth be told Calden had only seen one person in his new state aside from Astrid and that was the old woman. How could he be sure that wasn't just how people normally looked like? Doubt began creeping into his mind, had he been accusing her for nothing? No. That couldn't be, something didn't feel right!

The swirling dance of doubt and suspicion stopped as Astrid directed his mind elsewhere. Calden turned from the scenery around them take a glance at Astrid. "Umm," he pondered out loud, trying to remember the last time he had felt hunger or thirst for that matter. "No. Not really... I-" he was about to mention of not even sleeping, but held his words. He thought that Astrid would no doubt feel guilty that he sat there in the darkness, alone. The only thing talking about it would have done is ruin her sleep and put more stuff on her already loaded conscience. Calden improvised to quickly come up with some words that he had paused, but the half- truth he conjured up sounded weak. "Not that I really miss it. I mean, we're living on just berries and shrooms. Heh! I'm kinda glad for it at the moment really." Calden continued pondering on his night-times, coming up with reasons why it wasn't so bad, and really he could still come up with many. It had not been that long since the 'merging' and he had needed a lot of time to think so as to not fall apart and cry of fears that lurked in his heart, ever ready to jump at a weak moment.

The night continued its mystical display of the hidden parts of nature around Astrid as she walked. It was hard to say if the sounds were even louder than during the day, but it was difficult to spot any rippling of a stream from beneath the concert of chitter. After climbing over some mossy rocks and landing back on the soft green ground, Astrid's foot sank in a bit and wet seeped through the leather of her boots. It was not a stream. The moss ahead sank in a gentle slope to form a small forest pond. It's surface undisturbed, the pond reflected in the ghostly blue light of Astrid's sphere to wrap on its surface a twisted version of the forest around her. In the darkness, its water was perfectly black. Anything could be hiding below the surface. There were a little less of those strange critters making sounds. Around there, the night was beginning to feel truly like one.

"Um...  lets go back?" Calden suggested; his tone trembled slightly with trepidation.

Offline PennySludt

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #53 on: January 18, 2015, 05:52:55 PM »
Astrid listened to Calden's reasoning about why he thought July was evil. None of it made sense to her. She couldn't see the magic he was talking about. She couldn't feel anything bad about the old woman other than the annoying things she was having Astrid do for her, and that was just the eccentricities of an old lady, wasn't it? Besides, so what if she'd used magic earlier? That didn't make her bad, did it? Astrid had magic in her, was she bad? She began to wonder about that. After the things July had said before Astrid had given in and rubbed her feet, she wasn't sure now. And if having magic meant you were evil....She felt a sharp stab in her heart as she thought about it. Perhaps she really wasn't a very good person...After all, it had been she who urged Calden into that cave. She who had conjured the light to see by to get them to the place where he had jumped on the stone and released that...thing. She who had been ready to refuse to help July with her painful feet. Perhaps she really was an awful person and she just hadn't been aware of it before...? When Calden said he could see the magic inside her and it was beautiful, she felt a little better about that. If Calden thought her magic looked beautiful, then perhaps she wasn't ENTIRELY bad?

When he mentioned being rather glad for not feeling hungry and thirsty she felt a momentary wave of resentment when she thought that it was not 'we' that was living on nothing but berries and shrooms, but 'she'. He couldn't feel the pain of hunger in her belly every day. He couldn't feel the burning of her throat and chest for water. He probably couldn't even feel the bone-deep exhaustion of her young body. She pushed the sudden and unwelcome feeling down deep, trying not to think that way. He was her best friend. He was there for her. Of course he would say 'we'...But she couldn't un-feel something that had been felt already.

Suddenly her foot sank into wet and she gasped, pulling her foot back and shaking it off as she looked further ahead of her. "WATER!" she said with relief and excitement. "Calden, it's WATER!" When he suggested they go back she nodded, not noticing the fear in his voice, "As soon as I get a drink. I wish I had some way to carry more. A bowl or something. At the thought of a bowl, Astrid paused, a defeated, disappointed feeling coming over her.

"A bowl..Calden! She said she'd make a stew...but we have nothing to make a stew in! Why didn't I think of that before? How could I have been so stupid!? Here we are on a useless trip to find something for a stew we can never make!" She groaned as her stomach rumbled again. She wanted to cry right now. She was thirsty, hungry and exhausted, and she was wandering around in the dark in a strange magical forest with no way to protect herself from whatever might come. "Oh, Calden! I'm such a fool!"

She began walking down the slope dejectedly, "At least I can get a drink, though I don't have a way to bring any back for July...keep an eye out for anything we can use as a bowl or something..." After she had said that, she felt a pang of guilt. Calden ONLY had an eye to keep out. How could she have been so callous!? Maybe she really WAS a horrible person...

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #54 on: January 19, 2015, 02:15:58 PM »
"What do you need a bowl for? Just drink your fill here." He was still somewhat suspicious of the quietness that had fallen around them, but Astrid's worries of commonplace things interrupted those fears. The loss of body really went ways to detach his mind from much of the worries that he used to have been able to share with Astrid. Calden couldn't really understand why bowl was so important right now or how to make a stew. This July person really had something to hide, possibly something dangerous. In his mind they really couldn't afford to think of bowls and stews at that moment.

"Yes. We can agree on that," he chuckled with some arrogance in the tone in response to Astrid's admittance of foolishness. He was more than glad to oblige with the rest that she said after though. There wasn't really much he could do to help and he had on many occasion made solitary vows to keep an vigilant eye out for dangers that might lurk around Astrid. His words were infused with proud confidence, "No need to tell me that. I'm always watching."

The water in the pond was cold to touch and the moss around it thoroughly wet. The surface was a dark mirror. Before it was interrupted a clear reflection could be seen in the light of the glowing sphere. A girl with disheveled hair and ragged appearance stared back at Astrid from the pond and on her shoulder gleamed a large blue eye surrounded by squiggles that continued below the clothes. The reflection didn't show a pupil for Calden's attention was directed at the canopy above them. Once a hand was put into the pond the water turned out to be perfectly clear. There was as slight earthly flavor to the water, but that was a familiar taste very similar to that of the lake back home.

"Think we should go though," remarked Calden after a while. "It really is too quiet. I can't hear any of that humming anymore. Haven't seen a single critter in ages either." It was true. The sounds had altogether faded away. The only sound present aside from Astrid's breathing was the gentle night breeze rustling leaves high above. Nothing strange appeared yet. It was almost like a normal night again. "Uh, well there's no oaks here. Those creatures that we were supposed to catch grew near oaks. Can you maybe make your light brighter too? Even I can't see that far in here." Calden made some suggestions. He sounded like he really wanted to get moving.

Offline PennySludt

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #55 on: January 19, 2015, 03:03:09 PM »
"I want a bowl to take some back for July to drink, silly dilly!" Astrid said in response to his asking about why she needed a bowl. She did grow quite cross and a little sulky at his attitude when she realized there was no way to make the stew without a bowl anyway.

She continued down to the lake in silence, and knelt on the edge before she realized just how wet the edge was. The front of her dress was now soaked and she sighed in frustration at her stupidity. Now she'd have to sleep in a wet dress all night! Oh well, too late now. She leaned forward and looked into the water, seeing herself for the first time in a long time in the crystal clear surface of the water. She frowned at what she saw, but continued anyway. She carefully let go of her ball of light, letting it float above her, leaned closer to the water and cupped her hands. She drank and drank and drank, until she finally sated her thirst with the cold water. Finally, sitting back on her heels and sighing in relief she looked around again.

Calden's unease was beginning to take hold of her as well, now that she could think beyond how thirsty she was. "Why do you think it's so quiet here...?" When he pointed out that there were no oaks around she nodded, "Yeah, that's right. Okay, I guess I'll just have to watch for a tree knot or something to carry some water back in. It WOULD be really good to be able to carry some with us anyway. So we don't have to rely on finding water every day..."

She collected her ball of light and paused when he asked if she could make it brighter. "I....I can try....I'm just....so tired..." She trailed off as she focused more of her energy into making the ball glow brighter, bouncing it's light about a foot further in each direction. "Is that better...?"

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #56 on: January 19, 2015, 04:03:58 PM »
"I don't know why, but I don't think I like it anymore," Calden admitted about the stillness that lingered in the night around them. His glance switched from tree to tree in a fretful manner before magic pushed revealed that nothing other than plants and moss hid in the shadows of the trees. When last they could see barely past two of those ancient thick trees, a wide are was bathed in the magical illumination. Calden was glad, he gave their surroundings a careful look before thanking Astrid, "Yes. This is good. Thanks." He didn't offer much comfort to take her thoughts away from the grumbling stomach or the heavy and tired limbs. It didn't even occur to him to think of saying something. He was preoccupied looking for oaks and danger.

The brightness helped and Astrid didn't have to drag her feet too far from the pond before a victorious yelp came from her shoulder. "Haa! Look, there! Behind that thick crooked beech to the right. That could be an oak?" It was dark and one just couldn't be sure from afar, but indeed between the shadows of its surrounding wooden sentinels there stood the first oak candidate of the night. Approaching it confirmed all the suspicions. Before Astrid could take more than a few steps towards the tree, something took flight from near its roots. It had been almost invisible against the ground, but as it floated in the air one could make out white outlines of an opaque creature. It was like a ghostly mushroom cap or a round piece of cloth that curved at the edges to form a fluttering upside down cup. Its edges oscillated to some silent rhythm while the cup descended with unnatural disregard of gravity. A strong pulse pulled together the sides of the creature and it pushed air away, jumping another half a dozen feet up through the air before resting again. This one was quiet, but there were some of those noise makers again and here and there trees had patches of those light absorbing polyp.

Calden watched the floating creature with fascination and disbelief. Looking at the invisible auras overlap with the already mythical scenery, he felt really happy. It had not occurred to him before, but now that the stress of July's evilness had subsided somewhat, there was spot for the positive thoughts to lift their head. He felt a tingle of thankfulness of his current state. Without any leading in on his thoughts or mention of a context, Calden made a somewhat relieved statement, "I wish you could see this from my point of eye." He, or the mark that supposedly was part of him, glowed with light, though it was so faint in comparison to the one Astrid made that it just seemed like regular blue.

Offline PennySludt

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #57 on: January 19, 2015, 04:34:31 PM »
Astrid turned quickly in the direction Calden indicated, peering through the darkness to see if it was an oak tree. She began to approach it and grew excited when it did turn out to be a big old oak tree. "Oh, I hope we find some of those things so we can get back. I'm SO hungry and tired!" But she had hardly got close enough to identify that it was the tree they were looking at, let alone verify that what they needed was indeed under it, when something flew up in front of her. She gave a little cry of fright and jumped backward away from it.

Once the initial fright was gone, she drew a little closer again, watching the floating white...thing...She couldn't tell if it was some kind of creature or plant. "Do you think that's what she was talking about, Calden?" She stood in wonder for a moment longer as the strange thing wafted in front of her. She put a hand out to grab it, but the thing floated up and away just out of reach.

When it came back down again, she reached up more slowly, but still the thing floated away just beyond her reach. She waited again, and when it came within reach she stuck her arm out quickly to grab at it and take it by surprise, but once more the white fluffy thing managed to stay just out of reach, almost as if it knew EXACTLY how far she could reach, and was able to stay frustratingly just outside that area.

She huffed in impatience and stood still, her hands on her hips as she contemplated the task in front of her. When Calden said he wished she could see it his way she got a little upset with him and snapped, "See what? That annoying thing!? How am I supposed to catch it? What IS it anyway? I've never seen anything like it. What do I DO, Calden? Every time I move, it just floats away!"

Her hunger and tiredness were beginning to take better hold of her emotions and she was starting to lose her patience and self control. She was already close to tears of frustration at not being able to catch the thing. She couldn't think of any other way to reach it. She just wanted to go back and go to sleep, and maybe try to find something to eat in the light of day!

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #58 on: January 19, 2015, 05:36:21 PM »
Calden saw Astrid's tone as a rude interruption the serene mood that he had not really had the luxury of experiencing that often after they had freed that thing. "Huh? You don't have be rude. Why are you asking like I should know? I have no clue what she meant or what that..." Calden held his sentence to try and come up with a name for the creature, though he had to yield in the end, he had never been that imaginative, "...pillow is. Just jump! It's not THAT high. You can easily catch it, I've seen you jump higher before." The floppy creature continued its rhytmical taunting maneuvers. It slid down within reach and then pushed a puff of air right in Astrid's face as she approached to project itself out of arm's reach. Calden's world rocked up and down with any attempt Astrid made to catch the thing.

"Come on! Just get it and you can go back. We can't spend all night chasing some dinner, you're going to need sleep so we can decide what to do with that crone tomorrow. Maybe we should give her a chance after all," he spoke, making it clear how tiresome he found this whole ordeal.

Gradually, the creature was flying away from its home oak. Some of those glowy plant creatures that lived on the bark retracted back into their lichen shells behind Astrid faster than they normally did. Those star shaped things that were hanging on the lowest branches climbed up along the trees and fell utterly quiet. Even a big one that neither of the kids had seen until then stirred, revealing itself. It had looked like a few year old birch, but now as it moved, the creature lowered its whole frame against the ground. The branches in its rear end retracted into one tight bundle, which rattled as the creature slithered out of the way. It was difficult to note the change in atmosphere from the ghost chase and the charged mood, until in the distance a familiar sound echoed once. It could only be those nightmare monkeys.

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #59 on: January 19, 2015, 05:51:45 PM »
Astrid felt the frustration gripping her chest as she kept jumping up trying to reach the thing. "I AM jumping! Can't you FEEL it! I'm doing the best I CAN, Calden!" she snapped impatiently. She stopped and watched it float much further out of reach, her shoulders slumping in dejection. Calden was right. She should just head back and at least get some sleep.

Suddenly, in front of her a larger creature seemed to be running away from something. It hadn't run when Astrid had come near it, but it suddenly broke it's position and left, creeping away in fear. She watched it go for a while in confusion and then the sound reached her ears.

She froze, her eyes wide and filled with horror. "No! Calden! Do you hear that? It's them, isn't it? It's those things!? Oh Gods no! No!"

She looked around her wildly, trying to place which direction the sound was coming from. But everything seemed to echo terribly in these woods, bouncing off the leaves and trees, and she couldn't figure out which was they were. Her heart was racing in terror, cold sweat breaking out on her body. WHY had they trusted that there wouldn't be any around here!? WHY hadn't she just refused July and stayed at the camp and made themselves safe for the night!? WHY oh WHY oh WHY!?

Tears of fear pricking her eyes, she whispered, "Calden, what do we do? What can we do? Can you tell where they are? Can you see them?" she asked in panic.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #60 on: January 20, 2015, 04:16:19 PM »
The presence of those wicked creatures hit Calden just moments after Astrid had reached the terrifying conclusion herself. "I- yes. I heard it too," he whispered in disbelief with all that frustrated negative dispelled from his voice as it got replaced by something much simpler - dread. He would have swallowed could he have felt the cold sweat himself, but instead Calden remained quiet in a state of realization as his mind processed it all. His first thought was a statement that he knew it. He knew it! Somehow he just found himself immediately blaming these creatures on July, but how could that be? Even he knew that at least these weren't her pets, but maybe something else. It could still be a trap by her! Yes. That was possible.

In all that chaos of accusing thoughts and Astrid panicking next to him, Calden had not given the real situation a single thought. He sounded just as clueless as her with his answer, but at least his tongue instinctively found the words, "I don't- Run!? RUN! I can't see them yet, no wait." He quickly revised the statement after noticing a shadowy aura slid along a tree in the darkness that lied beyond the range of magical light. "One right ahead of us. There, in the shadows, it just climbed down! Go back the way we came. It's uh..." His eye spun wildly in its socket. A large moss covered boulder he had never seen before. A congregation of smaller oaks growing almost trunk to trunk. He couldn't find it; he couldn't spot anything familiar.

"Where was it? We can't be that far," he insisted, trying to reassure himself as much as Astrid. "The pond! The pond. Just find the pond, there was that big pile of rocks there. It's not too far away from there." He wanted out of the situation and it didn't matter how or where. No matter what the old lady was his heart couldn't wholly deny the impression of a gentle old woman. Maybe she wasn't a human, or maybe she was, but also something more, it didn't matter to him as long as Astrid didn't get caught by one of these things.

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #61 on: January 20, 2015, 05:00:33 PM »
Astrid instantly spun on her heel and began running for dear life in the opposite direction from where Calden had said the creature was. She had no idea where she was going, which direction the lake was in, how to get back to July. She just ran. Ran as fast as she could looking wildly around her for ANY sign of where she was or where she could hide. She was desperately fighting back tears of terror as she stumbled once or twice on fallen branches and raised roots, managing to catch herself before she actually fell and continuing as fast as she could.

Surely she should have reached the lake by now? She felt like she'd been running much longer than it should have taken to get back to the water. She hadn't walked that far to get to that oak tree. And yet, where was it? Had she been going in the wrong direction? "C...Calden..." she panted as she ran, "Can you....see....anything....behind us...? I can't....see.....the lake......! I don't know....where we are......" she was breathless with running and fear as she sped through the dense forest.

"There! There! Over there! Is that a crevice? Can we fit?" She veered slightly to the right toward a large mound that looked like rock. Sure enough there was a thin gap between two pieces of it. It looked awfully small, but she would have to try. It was the only thing she could find around here. "Is it safe? Is there anything there, Calden?" she gasped.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #62 on: January 23, 2015, 06:17:38 PM »
Calden's voice shook and trembled with the girl's shoulder as she rampaged through the forest. "Where, where are you going? Astrid!" They had gained good distance, and as the chilling screeching yells of the creatures became more distant the scenery around Astrid became strange, unknown. Calden's up and down shuffled and switched places wildly as Astrid stumbled on the roots and rocks. He too had lost all clues of where they were. He searched for creatures once Astrid's run stabilized again. Those spine tickling sounds came from all around them from the night. Their voices called for more to come forth from deep corners of the forest and gather, but none were within his view at that moment.

His eye darted to stare into thee cave that Astrid pointed out. The flashback to the first night in this damned forest felt like a vivid déjà vu. All the emotion of the first night flowed in unchecked. A pang of heavy anxiety gripped from beneath the fear. Would this be their life? Hiding in caves every night, fearing for their lives. No, it was worse than that. For a brief moment his thoughts veered into the territory that he had tried to blockade, his state. It was impossible for the boy to separate the panic that rose from sudden reminder of the bodyless state from the acute terror. His voice shook, "Yes, its safe! Cave is okay."

He tried to concentrate. Calden attempted to focus his mind on the creatures around them, on watching Astrid move her hands or just on her intense expression. Nothing helped. He had subdued this feeling on the first day so easily, but it would not bow down now. The logic stripping panic kept growing in intensifying pangs. Every time his eye twitched he could feel the absence  of motions that his body would have done if he had it. He had no heart beat but something in his mind thumped in thought numbing volume. The magic tattoo engraved on Astrid's skin flashed faintly in chaotic patterns of black and blue. He could not offer any advice anymore, even understanding what she was saying was difficult. His voice was broken and teary, "Astrid. Give me your hand. Something. I'm afraid. Please." He realized that he had not really touched another human in many days. Despite being part of her shoulder, but feeling the shoulder was akin to feeling your clothes after wearing them the whole day. His eye was on her hand, he just wanted that to brush him.

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #63 on: January 26, 2015, 07:21:21 AM »
As soon as Calden said the cave was clear she made a beeline for it, sliding her slim little body into the crack and immediately began trying to conjure a fire in the entrance way. On the fourth try she managed it, and she huddled in the back of the little crevice with her knees to her chest, tears of fear in her eyes as she stared at the flame, the only barrier between her and those things.

Once they were safely inside and blocked off she turned her attention to Calden again. She pulled the neckline of her dress down over her shoulder so he could see, not that there was much to, but she thought it might make him feel better. Gently placing her hand over the mark on her shoulder she thought that had been a pointless move, since he couldn't see now anyway, but then she thought this way her hand wouldn't be blocked by the fabric of her clothing.

"Like this, Calden?" she asked softly as she rested her hand on her arm lightly. "Can you feel that?" She felt the ache in her heart returning as she thought of him stuck there, unable to even reach out and hold her hand. She'd managed to push that feeling aside the last several days, and today, since meeting July, she'd had no time to even think about it. "Are you okay....?" she asked tentatively. "Is there anything else I can do to help?" She wanted to reassure him as best she could, but she was at a loss as to how.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #64 on: January 26, 2015, 04:53:47 PM »
The gentle touch of Astrid's smooth hand was a warm wall against the night. The fingers were so tiny, but in that cave they were strong and beautiful bars that would keep everything but the light out. Already it helped a little. The black iris on the unblinking eye relaxed and widened into a gentler round shape from the thin slit that it had been. The boy's voice wavered with relief as he spoke, "Yes. Thank you..." He would have closed his eye and to enjoy the sensation of touch to the fullest, but that was of course impossible. Instead the eye rolled to look up at the girl's features, twitching every now and then as it soaked in her face. An idle thought passed his mind. Too bad that she isn't smiling.

If he could not dream then Calden would at least fill his vision with the next best thing. He had come to know this angle of her face very well. On those nights when she had not in her unconscious slumber pulled the veil over his eye, Calden had spent most of the time just looking at her. Yet when she asked what was wrong, he could not keep his mind away from that sensation of wrongness that made it feel like his sanity was tip toeing on the edge of a knife and below lied madness. No friendly face or word could stay it off forever.

He did not have to search long for the answer and it came out accompanied with the exact same emotion of fear that he attached to this state. "No," he answered to the first question and quickly continued, "Just keep your hand on. I hav- haven't felt anything. I try to forget. I thought I did, but these nights are bad." Although Calden had never had problems speaking his voice stammered as he struggled to keep the tears from flowing. "I don't know. Am I going to be like this forever? I can't do it. I can't even remember how to move anymore. It's just so empty in here. Help..."

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #65 on: January 26, 2015, 05:12:28 PM »
Tears filled her own eyes as Astrid listen to Calden explain as best he could what was wrong. She pressed her hand to her shoulder more tightly, as if she could hug him, hold him to her and make him feel better. "Bad in what way?" She couldn't fathom what he must be going through. It had never occurred to her that living without a body could be so hard to cope with. On some level she had understood he was having trouble with it, but in her mind, it was more the horror that something had stolen the body that belonged to her friend and that was what was so terrible about it. The loss. She had never considered what it would be like to live WITHOUT a body.

"You won't be like this forever, Calden. I promise I'll do everything I can to get you back to normal. I'm here, Calden. I'll always be here for you. I promise." She found she was rocking gently, as if trying to comfort a child by rocking them in her arms. She was unconsciously doing the same for Calden, holding her arm and rocking gently, soothingly, hoping to calm and reassure him.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #66 on: January 27, 2015, 08:27:08 AM »
Calden could not hold it in as he felt the comfort of Astrid's hand and words. His cry was uncontrolled by dignity or fear. He had to let it out. There were no thoughts in his mind as he bawled, just the simple sensation of touch, her words and the pain and panic being turned into tears.

They would not see it or notice from their woes, but the little monkeys that had driven them once again to take refuge in a miserable hole snapped shut their screaming jaws as they felt another presence approach. Its shoeless steps were soft and utterly silent. They left behind nimble footprints, but by the time any natural light would shine on the tracks the moss would have assumed its normal puffiness and cleaned all evidence. The person was clad in a green hooded robe which concealed all details. The figure was tall, standing upright in a proud posture that emanated strength. One hand with a gentle looking hand gleamed from underneath the heavy sleeve. Its fingers were wrapped softly around a dark wooden gnarled staff with an oil lantern hanging from the top. In the lantern burned a mystical flame that danced between the colors of purple, green and red. All of the nightmare monkeys that saw the person made a hasty exit, yelping in quiet fear as they hoped to not be followed.

The mysterious figure came to a halt when that lonely little magical flame of Astrid's came to sight from between a thicket of trees. The hooded figure's head lowered a little in the pity that it felt. It did need a magical eye to see the and hear what the little human girl and her friend were suffering through. What had started as a playful jest to spend some time had ended up as an ugly feeling that gnawed at the conscience of the hooded sorcerer. It was time to leave the forest, but before that, the sorcerer would leave something for the little witch. Surely the child was smart enough to find it. The right hand slid from underneath the sleeve as the sorcerer raised a a forefinger against the bark of the nearest tree. The finger stroked downward against the bark. A trail of  faint magical flow followed and as it faded the bark had been neatly carved off. The finger moved left in an arching spiral, then continued with gentle motions until a beautiful rune carving decorated the ancient tree. The sorcerer continued walking and circled the cave slowly while keeping the flickering warding light against the night in vision at all times. In the end of the round many more trees around the damp stone 'camp' had runes carved on them which would keep the monkeys away and make sure rest of the night was quiet.

The sorcerer gave Astrid's direction one last look, hoping that perhaps one day after she had grown a little they might meet again. The right hand took a pinch of something from within the foldings of the sorcerer's robes. A faintly masculine voice chanted in a beautiful lost language. In the end, right before finishing the spell the right hand dropped a gust of powder in the air. The flame of the lantern burst over the seams of its container, engulfing the sorcerer in an instant of light that was unnaturally faint to have been caused by such a wide flame. The fire died down as quickly as it had grown and again Astrid was the only magician in the forest.

In the morning they would realize why it was so quiet at the later hours of night and find a circle of runes carved on the trees. July would not be found.


Two days later the air would become warmer. Not because the sun was slowly rising, no the Autumn was still on its way. The air was drier than in the swampy parts of the forest through which Astrid had waddled for so many days. Then, while walking up a slope in the woodlands a bright shine of daylight filled the underneath of the canopy and dyed the leaves bright green. The edge of the forest was right there, ten trees away.

Approaching the edge one could feel the wind gaining strength. A free open freshness of mountain air replaced the stale musky stench of the forest. Even bird chirps sounded brighter. The edge was sharp. The trees suddenly ended into a dangerously steep cliff that oversaw a wide valley scene. Lakes and fields dotted the green landscape and in the middle of it all rose a tall city with human lights shining all over it and smoke rising from dozens of thick chimneys. The sky was clear aside from a group of clouds that had gotten stuck on the mountain range opposite to the cliff. The vibrant range of yellow, red and purple filled the sky and the sun was almost blinding in its brightness.

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #67 on: January 29, 2015, 08:26:01 AM »
Astrid kept her hand over her shoulder all night, crying silently as she listened to Calden's sorrow and heartache. Eventually, after who knows how long, she fell asleep, her back propped against the back of the tiny crevice, cramped as far back as she could tuck herself in the shallow space. When she woke, cold and slightly damp with the dull light of the morning and extinguished her little fire, she peered out into the surrounding woods and carefully crawled out. Standing up slowly, brushing the dirt from her dress as she looked around. She had been running in such a panic last night she'd had no idea where she was going.

As she looked around she noticed the trees around the rock they had been hiding in and froze. "Calden....Calden can you see...this....?" she asked as she began to inch closer to the nearest tree, her fingers stretched out to tentatively touch the carving on the tree. "What.....what do you think it means.....?" Suddenly, she cried out, "July! Calden, what about July! We left her alone all night! We have to find her! What if she's....what if those...." She couldn't finish her thought.

When they finally found the place they had stopped with July the night before she was nowhere to be found. The only sign that she had even been there was an old, worn out pair of boots, lying haphazardly next to the place she had been sitting when they left. No other trace of the old woman was to be found. "C...Calden....You don't suppose those.....creatures....." Her mind began to work, thinking of all the possibilities, "If they HAD taken her....her staff would be here too....wouldn't it? But it's gone...." Then she thought of something else, "Do you think.....maybe.....what if it was July who left the carvings....Maybe you were right, Calden....Maybe she wasn't just an old woman....." She trailed off, embarrassed to admit that she might have been wrong and that perhaps she aught to have listened to Calden from the beginning. Then she began to wonder, "Do you think it was....July....who made those markings around us last night...I mean, whatever it was that was pretending to be July....?"

Even so, she was awfully hungry now, having had nothing to eat since the previous midday because she had given her dinner to July and her hunt for dinner had been cut short. She spent a while searching the surrounding area for some roots and berries to calm the gnawing hunger in her belly. Once she was less hungry she could think more clearly and she began to wonder, "Calden....Do you think....if I copied the runes on the trees....that it would keep those things away from us tonight.....?" Surely it was worth a try?

That night before dark fell Astrid found a large fallen log that created a sort of ledge in among some other trees. She walked around the area in a circle, marking the trees with the same symbol they had found on the trees that morning, hoping above hope that they would work. Then she set to work on creating a circle of fire around the little shelter, just in case the runes didn't work, and also for some warmth. As they settled down and darkness fell she waited tensely, expecting the sounds of those creatures to appear as always, but to her utter and complete relief, there was not a sound to be heard from them. The night remained peaceful and calm, and the lights and sounds of the other creatures of the night began to lull Astrid into a soft, deep sleep. It was the best sleep she had had since before they had entered the cave.

After that she carved the runes in a circle around them every night as they continued on through the thick forest until finally, one afternoon they broke out of the trees onto a glorious sight! The trees ended abruptly and before them was a beautiful valley, and perhaps best of all, a town! People! Other human beings! "Calden! Calden do you see it? Can you see that far? It's a town! We're out! We're out of the forest, Calden! We did it! We made it!"

Astrid was giddy with relief and excitement and practically bounded out of the line of trees and began following the narrow winding trail down the mountainside towards the dwellings below. At this rate, they would reach the town before nightfall and perhaps they would find somewhere to stay the night. As she walked along she began to hum an old children's song, feeling happier than she had in almost two weeks.

When they drew nearer the town however, she stopped and asked, "Calden...Do you think it's safe to go there....? I mean....I'll hide you, of course, but do you think we'll be alright? And I haven't any money....where will we stay?" Suddenly, she was filled with trepidation and insecurity.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #68 on: January 30, 2015, 05:49:33 PM »
Calden had calmed down later, long before she would have fallen asleep he had already seized sobbing, though would still request her to keep on with her soothing; his voice still fumbled as he asked so. In the night, there was the gentle rhythm of Astrid's breath that he had grown familiar with and the soft crackling of the magical flame, but something was missing. It's difficult to find just that one detail you've began to take for granted when it suddenly disappears and the eerie sensation of wrongness gripped at him until in the end it dawned him: the nightmare monkeys were gone?!

In the morning, he didn't hesitate or wait to inform Astrid almost as soon as she woke up. "Those monkeys. Astrid, I didn't hear a single one in the night. Usually, after you've slept they've come and kept howling from a distance but now...  OOooh..." He peered around curiously from her shoulder. Also simply gawking at the trees and the strange scriptures carved onto them. He hadn't seen such things before, not exactly, but they were familiar, maybe? The village elders also used runes, but those were different and he had never learned any.

"No... I've- I've no idea..." No idea of what they meant, no. How could such things just appear from thin air. He could see faint magic lingering on the runes. It was not strong in volume and almost invisible in the brightness of the morning light, but he had no doubts of the power of the spell behind them. That was a thought he left unsaid for now Astrid grabbed his attention back to the present, back to July. "Oh! Yes! No... aww. No, maybe the fire kept her safe? Agh." He had doubted the old lady, but now, after his own despair had been eased and put away Calden could only recall the gentle tone and mannerism of the woman. The thought of her getting cornered by those things did not make an image that he dared to even fathom.

His heart was kept in suspense until they made it to that old, now abandoned, campsite. He could only peer around curiously. Astrid voiced her own guesses as he was about to make his own and instead he simply found himself agreeing. He was glad to have been right, well partially anyway and to be fair this was better than what he had thought when he claimed that July was some evil creature. "Well... maybe I was wrong too. I mean I thought she was somehow evil, but she did bully you. Hehe I'm kind of really glad she wasn't. I mean if she did draw these, or whatever it was that looked like July." He decided that next time they'd meet he would greet her too, and Calden was quite confident that even if that - whatever it was - changed its form he would recognize that strange aura anywhere.

He jumped right at her idea of trying out the runes. "Yes. It's not that big a shape, and the magic I see in it is... well it's not that strange or too big. I'm sure you can do it. Heh, you came up with flame on the spot!"


His cheers were so happy when it worked, the exact opposite of last night. He chatted happily that night, only quieting when Astrid finally stopped responding. But it was not the fearful solitude that he had in store. Even without her comments and reactions the night was beautiful enough to keep his head straight and away from darker thoughts. Calden just wondered at the forest creatures of the night and was glad to get to observe them, he began trying to figure out their habits, keeping notes of the little details; something he wanted to prepare so he had things that she might want to hear. It was the closest to a dream he had had in many nights. On the following nights he would still sometimes ask her to remind him of human touch, but Calden became noticeably happier, chattier. He no longer had to spend the nights alone with only the sound of her breath reminding him that there were others in the world than him and those horrid creatures. No, the last memories of that forest were ones he would cherish.



He beheld that distant valley town quietly from her shoulder, but the excitement and anticipation were obvious even in his whisper. "Aaaah. Finally!" He too looked forward to seeing others. Afterall, they had never been outside of the village in their lives. Cities were a thing of stories told by older people who had seen the world and traveled just as much as forest lions and nightly creatures of the woods had been. A lot of wild legends began mixing in inside Calden's imagination. Would they be all witches and sorcerers too? Would the people even look human? What could they be then? Trolls, dragons? What were those big rising smokes? Could it be like the pyres of midsummer back home? Maybe they were having a festival. Most of the sillier ones he kept to himself.

The boy's thoughts were in another realm altogether until Astrid voiced her worries. It triggered those of his own, but his voice remained calm and determined as he gave his own opinion on the matter. "Hmm... I think so. I mean people who live in that big a city must be friendly, right? They couldn't be able to stand so many neighbors otherwise. I mean there's soo much space in the valley, if they weren't good folk they would spread out don't you think? But... yes, maybe it's best you hide me. I mean even the forest lion thought I was something bad, and they're friendly things, much more so than most humans at least if the elders' stories are true. Don't worry, I'll keep an eye out for magic! I can see it through the clothes. I'll whisper you if I spot something strange. The money um..."

He had forgotten there was such a thing. They had never used it in the village and he hadn't cared about that particular story too much. Pieces of shiny metal having value? Silly idea, but now that word - money - raised mysterious doubts. He too could vaguely recall how it was everything to people outside and that without it one was worthless. Even if people liked their neighbors here, Astrid wasn't one. Maybe they wouldn't help her? She was sharp and good at magic, now maybe even better than he or the other kids had ever been, but what good would that do? Maybe everyone here was like July.

Calden tried to sound convincing as he reassured her, "It'll be alright, I'm sure. We can always go away if they don't want us there, right? Forest isn't so bad nowdays, though maybe next we should go up there," his eye looked up at the mountain range on the other side. It had looked big from the edge of the forest, but from down there in the flatlands through which they were making good pace they seemed absolutely gigantic. He was captivated by their majesty, Calden had always loved high places. "Or, maybe that way?" He looked to their side, to the direction in which the valley opened up into distance where low hills, rivers and small puffs of forest made a continuous horizon of a more gentle looking landscape. "It'll be okay even if they turn us down."

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #69 on: February 01, 2015, 04:12:07 PM »
Reassured by Calden's support and alternative solutions Astrid began on her way again and very soon was passing the first few houses on the outskirts of the town. She was in awe. These were incredible structures! The people had used many things to make their homes. Stones, wood, and who knew what else! She walked slowly down the widening path until it seemed to no longer be a path but something much bigger. The houses began to stand closer together now the further she went and soon she was surrounded by the bustle of people.

She was quite overwhelmed by the number of people in the streets, calling and jostling each other, peddling wares and hurrying on their way. She walked slowly, her eyes wide, trying not bump into people. She had never seen so many people in her life! Everywhere she looked it seemed utter madness and chaos. She wondered how anyone could live like this!

She half wanted to hold her shoulder, as if she were holding Calden's hand. Something that would offer some sense of security or comfort. She felt so out of place! Not to mention shabby and dirty and completely unused to being around people, July being the only person she had seen in about two weeks.

"Wh...where should we....go..." she whispered fearfully to Calden. She felt so lost!

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #70 on: February 01, 2015, 05:45:56 PM »
The buildings, they were much different from the wooden buildings back home. The roofs had strange scale like rocks on them instead of hay and the windows weren't just wooden shutters but made of glass - that expensive and strange opaque material that some elders wore on their eyes. The village had stench of the countryside to it. Dry and many times stomped animal dung were mixed in with the hardened dirt roads. The noise too was amazing. On the way to the city, past the farmlands of the valleys it had been serene chirps and songs of crickets, buts here the babbling of crowds muffled all else. The streets were busier than the home village had been during a festival, dozens of people moving past and talking, arguing around what seemed to be like some sort of stall with clothing hung on several racks for display. A particularly heartily smiling older woman in a blue tunic who stood behind the the open air counter was ranting on about something to the small crowd which had gathered around her.

Another stranger passed Astrid. A tall and burly man with brown braided beard and a shirt hanging from his waist with its sleeved knotted into a belt. He was carrying a heavy looking steel hammer, a bigger one than the village smith had owned; the hammer head rested against his shoulder. In his other hand hanged a loose canvas bag from which emanated a delicious warm smell of bread. He wasn't interested in the little witch for long and averted his gaze as he passed her. The smith began climbing an ascending street that split off from the wide dirt road Astrid was in. It went further up towards the hill on which the village was built and after a brief ascent squiggled between tall stone buildings. More and more strange looking people passed by the girl. Well, at least they were human, and most seemed to have quite pleasant expressions on them, even if many seemed too busy to pay this little wanderer much attention.

Calden too was positively smitten with the change in scenery. There were so many things going on that even if he'd had had a body he would have probably forgotten what to do with it right there other than stand around dumbfounded. His words staggered as he just spoke something in an answer, "Uh- uh- food? I- I've no clue. What's going on? Can barely hear you and all I see through this cloth is just sooo many people, so many people. I think they're people. Do they look like people? They feel like people, their auras seem so normal and fluffy."

He didn't spot them all in time though. A gentle small frame bumped against Astrid's back. It was a little kid, no more than seven or eight, though it was difficult to tell the exact age. The kid had short hair with messy brown bangs that covered her brows and almost her eyes as well. Her mouth was pursed into a stern downward frown and she looked up towards Astrid with two wary brown eyes. Her clothes were really different from those that the kids back home would have had. On top of her colorfully embroidered multi-colored dress she had a light poncho; it hid her hands.

She spoke apologetically, averting her eyes somewhere. "Uh, erm... sorry. I was just-" The kid stopped mid sentence, a sudden surprise spread on her face. She turned back to Astrid. "Whaat?! What?" Her hands had been discreetly going through Astrid's pockets, but now the kid tapped them so obviously that everyone looking could see what she was doing. Nobody in the village seemed to care though, at most they grinned with mild amusement. "Miss you have nothing in your pockets? Nothing!" She invaded Astrid's personal space and stepped in to actually look into the pockets instead of just feeling through them. "How? Why? Where on earth did you stumble from? No food, no money, no trinkets, no nothing..."

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #71 on: February 05, 2015, 03:59:21 PM »
Astrid felt as though she were being tossed in a rushing river of people as she was jostled and bumped by the rushing people. Her stomach rumbled at the smells of bread and cooking wafting on the air. It had been so long since she'd eaten proper food!

"Yeah...I'm sure they're people." She giggled softly, "You can see their auras? Even if they're not magic?" That was a new revelation. They hadn't seen any 'normal' people since that fateful day in the cave, so it was interesting to learn that everyone seemed to have something about them that Calden could see.

"Oh, excuse me!" Astrid responded when the child bumped into her, then looked at her quizzically when she seemed shocked and confused, padding Astrid's pockets. "Why are you looking in my pockets?" she asked curiously. She didn't understand what the girl had been hoping to accomplish. "If you were hungry, you could have asked me. But I'm afraid I didn't think to save anything from breakfast. I'm sorry. I've never had any money, but I've heard about it though. Is it pretty?" She smiled at the young girl with a genuine kindness.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #72 on: February 06, 2015, 05:34:45 PM »
"Yes, I guess. I mean the trees had some outlines too, though they were fainter," commented Calden quietly to Astrid's question, before the strange kid had rushed them.

The kid took a small step back from Astrid when she was being spoken back to. For a moment she squinted at this new arrival, not quite sure if she had heard right. Then, the surprise shifted to pity and further rather quickly into simple amusement. The kid covered her mouth with both of her little palms. Her eyes however remained visible and could not hide the laughter in them, not that covering of the mouth did much to muffle her giggles either. She turned away from Astrid and the giggle grew to full on uncontrollable burst of hilarity. However, the kid was no stranger to these. With immense focus, she drew in a big breath that puffed her cheeks and let it out. She repeated this thrice before being able to face Astrid again. Her eyes were still slightly moist from tears.

"Ahhh... missy you are really daft aren't you?" The voice was just as bright as her smile. "Is this your first time being pick-pocketed or do you not even know what the word means? Hehehe..." She was biting the lower lip out of excitement. Clearly, from the reaction of rest of the townsfolk so far, travelers were not all that uncommon over here, but this little kid in particular seemed to find them (or at least Astrid) more fun than it made sense. "No, I'm not hungry," she stated, very matter-of-factly. "But, uhhuh! Money is pretty, look!" She brought her hands to the front from behind the back and held up a single silver coin towards Astrid's face. It was big in her small hands. A thick silver disk with grooved edges and something carved on both sides.

"How come you don't have any though?" She asked, still rolling the coin in her hands. "Travelers always have a lot of money or other things. How can you travel without money, or food, or anything?" The smile had at some point been replaced by concern and the kid's thick brown brows were furrowed in a quizzical look. She took a cautious step back, pocketing the coin in a swift move. Some measure of worry and doubt resonated in her voice. "Um... you're not something strange are you? You're not a monster or anything?"

Some of the adults who had been just idly looking at the situation from the other side of the street, whilst engaged in their own conversations turned their stern gazes towards the girls. Many still passed by mostly ignoring the whole scene, but some had overheard and were beginning to grow curious. Calden remained quiet all the while, but he was beginning to worry. Was this it? Was it going to be just like she had feared, even though he had said it would be alright.

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Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #73 on: February 07, 2015, 09:12:15 AM »
Astrid looked curiously at the child giggling in front of her. "What's so funny...?" Instead of answering her the child began to ask questions of her own.

"Ahhh... missy you are really daft aren't you? Is this your first time being pick-pocketed or do you not even know what the word means? Hehehe...No, I'm not hungry, but, uhhuh! Money is pretty, look! How come you don't have any though? Travelers always have a lot of money or other things. How can you travel without money, or food, or anything? Um... you're not something strange are you? You're not a monster or anything?"

"Pick...pocketed....? Why would anyone want to do that when you just have to ask...?" she asked curiously. This child was rather strange...She reached her hand out to touch the money the girl held up in front of her. She was right, it was very pretty. What were the funny markings on it? Was that why it was special? Did it hold some magic power in the runes engraved on it?

Suddenly, she drew her hand back when the child stepped back and hid the coin in her pocket again. Astrid shook her head at her question, "I'm not a monster!" she said in an injured tone. How could this child think she was a monster? "I just....I wasn't expecting to travel when all this started, and I...I got lost...." She wasn't sure how much she wanted to or should go into things with this girl, here in the middle of the busy market with people beginning to stare.

She bit her lip and blushed slightly as she glanced at the gawkers, fiddling nervously with the hem of her apron. "Ummm....What's your name...?" She wondered if the girl would let her see the money again. She was very curious about the power of that little circle.

Offline SainTopic starter

Re: Bound by curse (Sain and PennySludt)
« Reply #74 on: February 11, 2015, 02:17:12 PM »
The kid's brows deepened into an inquisitive look as a reaction Astrid's answer. She nodded sagely, licking her lips, evaluating the truthfulness of Astrid's answer. Some of that fear which had appeared on her faded immediately. She just couldn't stay doubtful of Astrid the honesty was so blatantly visible in her. However, she continued the facade just for a while longer, enjoying every moment. "Or so you say," she noted in a quiet ponderous tone while glaring up at the little witch with her eyes squinted into narrow slits. "Hmm..." She stepped forward again and tip toed to lift her face closer to Astrid's, all the while maintaining an intense eye contact. It was unlikely that the kid could ever look as intimidating as she did at that moment.

However, suspicions of the onlookers faded as they read the scene and saw what was happening. A short burst of chuckle was soon suppressed from the direction of a thickly armed burly man carrying an axe. The adults just turned back to their business and the surrounding babbling picked up in volume again. The stream of traffic resumed its slow and steady pace. The kid's serious expression opened wide into a bright toothy grin in an instant. She dropped back on her heels, sliding back down below the height of Astrid's shoulders. Her small open palm reached towards Astrid to  offer shake. She answered the question in a chippery tone, "I'm Kate, the town thief!" She sounded proud to give herself such title.

The pace of her speech quickened as she continued, "I could tell right away you weren't any monster, was just testing you, hehe. So who are you exactly, and where from? You must be really tough if you can just wander out there without anything, are you like from some sort of secret tribe of rangers or something?" Kate bit her lower lip while fidgeting around, anxious to get an answer from the older kid.