Memories and letters from my travels

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Aldwyn
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 3:17 pm

Memories and letters from my travels

Post by Aldwyn » Thu Feb 08, 2024 8:43 pm

**More from the clan forums. This is posts and from the perspective of Xoco*

A singing in the night woke me from my dream. Out in the tiny distance the flicker of a chain gang of torches twined its way along the horizon, and I could almost feel their naked helplessness crawling inside me. I had read of these convoys, travelling only by cover of night, men dragging themselves in file, women stacked into wagons like dominoes, bound for an underground dormitory where they would be visited by the wealthy in private. Only after a long minute did I see abreast atop the hill with me the great beasts, pale matted fur dressed by blood, ochre and earth in their eyes. They addressed me with a regal silence, watching me, as a pair. When they turned slowly and departed I was left only with the sensation of their invisible embrace across the whole extent of my body. The dry plains around that solitary hill upon which I had set myself stretched on forever in moonlit silhouette. The train of torches blinked slowly out of sight, and dawn uncovered the mass that I had escaped in my sleep, withered and gray at my side. I felt my horse's hooves and checked her limbs and by afternoon we were into the Braem.

My memory has degraded to the point that I can no longer clearly remember what I did even at the start of the day, earlier in the day. Or it is that my days have become so routine I cannot tell one moment (one day, this day, this moment) from the next. This evening I will eat the same thing I ate yesterday evening, every evening for the past, week, month, year.... I have been reduced to my basest instincts, perceptions.... which are, however, altogether dulled. Between writing the previous sentence and this sentence I have closed the windows and drawn the curtains, because it began raining heavily, because I cannot stomach the sight of rain today, and I have put on a sweater, to ward off the chill, although it will of course not ward off the chill.

A single life can easily be ruined by chance, an entire species can be obliterated by chance without any effort whatsoever, with slightly more difficulty an empire can be ruined by chance, and the difficulty gradually becomes greater and greater, but never impossible, gradually more and more irrelevant without ever becoming totally irrelevant, until the point is reached at which chance ceases being chance, kills itself off, and becomes purpose. Past that threshold chance suffocates, meaninglessness is suffocated by choice. Resolution, however, never actually occurs, except in individual instances; it exists perpetually in the future, not yet having arrived; clarification remains beyond our reach, and the amended situation, amended by time, remains petrified in the dead centre of the womb. But one life can, with the utmost ease, be extinguished. Everyone is constantly forming opinions about you so that it is increasingly difficult to be another person the more people you come into contact with, opinions that are always mistakes. The person who you believe yourself to be, who you are convinced is the person that you are that is really existing, is almost never the person who you are seen to be by the people with whom you come into contact, and thus the person who you actually are. Every woman I have painted believed me to the be the woman she believed to be painting her, but the woman that I am has never been, in even a single case, the woman that she has believed to be painting her. The people I paint are always other people entirely, I have never painted a person who was actually that person who I painted, the woman on the canvas is always a different woman, a third woman, different also to the second woman I see or the first woman she really is to herself as she knows herself to be. The eye is actually a defective organ, the most defective organ, whereas the ear is the most correctly tuned organ, the most truthful organ of the body. What I see has never, I have not noticed (or remembered) even once when this was not the case, corresponded to what has really been in front of me, in whatever direction I have been looking. It becomes painfully obvious when others speak to me or of me in front of other people, when I hear them speaking of me, that what they are speaking of, who they are speaking to, is not me but something else entirely, really only their (always ridiculous) image of me, which is utterly false, and I am constantly ruined by these false observations, to a greater and greater extent I am ruined. To know someone for a long period of time, to be in constant contact with one person for a long, the longest, period of time, for decades or for a lifetime, is to be ruined further and further, their image of you becoming more and more corrupt, more and more false, eventually a total deception, a total incompatibility, an unbearable weight, the woman that I am no longer recognisable as the woman that exists entirely within her own mind, she who I have been in constant contact with for uncountable years. Such a situation, such a relationship, if allowed to progress so far to so much ruin, must be escaped without hesitation, before extinction occurs. The only person with whom we have a perfectly sublime link is our own person, and therefore our own person is the only person with whom we are able to communicate without serious, without fatal error. Everything else is repetitions of repetitions of miscommunication after miscommunication, unto unintelligibility. But even our intrinsic communication, the only reliable, stable form of communication available to us, can easily be ruined by chance, by the exteriorisations of other people of their versions of us, versions riddled with corruptions that then suddenly infiltrate us and corrupt our own mechanisms of communication with ourselves, leading rapidly to either insanity or complete stupefaction, a disease the majority of the human race now suffers from. The opposite, inverse position is anxiety, usually a totally disruptive and devastating anxiety, disruptive to the miscommunication towards which we are constantly compelled by exteriorisations but never disruptive to our truest communications, communications of the deadliest accuracy. But we have been taught to be terrified of accuracy, taught to worship the most inaccurate of ideas, the most inaccurate actions and communications.

I placed the letter back into my pocket. The ink had begun to grow faded from continual exposure. How many times had I read that paragraph? The letter only twice from start to finish, it was too huge to digest all at once, the longest she had sent me in our years of communication, and the last. To read it was to be completely conquered by her, as was the case with all her letters, all our interactions had been a complete conquering of me by her, all our communications had been a total surrender by me to her strength of character. I had declared my love to her on more than one occasion, and I believed that, although not explicitly expressed as such, her letters, always stretching on for pages, pages and pages of unhurried yet messy writing, writing of a totally individual intellect, were in some sense a declaration of love. Caemlyn, according to my first impression, was an empty city, a bland expanse of idleness and childish vigour. I rested my horse for two days out of necessity, scarcely leaving my room to the mud of the streets, before continuing west, towards the Mountains of Mist. A week later I found myself in Baerlon, surrounded by merchants. I immediately began writing a letter to S, although she could no longer read letters.

Dear S,
I have passed nearly through Andor and am staying the night in Baerlon before going south. I have decided not to continue through the mountains. I cannot stand the sight of those mountains, I know it would be totally fatal to me to attempt to enter them, totally fatal to my personality, to cross into those mountains, although of course the passage is totally secure, physically speaking. There is the most frightening thing in those mountains, which I can identify as total stupidity. S, I want to tell you of a dream I have been having, every night since passing through the Braem. It begins and ends in that forest, the Braem, in the structure (which does not in fact exist) in the centre of that forest, although it is not that forest but my own, a pseudoBraem, usurped, deformed, taking on the appearance of being not my own, originating from a location given birth to by another, behaving in such a way as to be entirely unusual to my own being, at least by appearances, by physical appearances, which of course dominate every possible view, a location dangerously pregnant, even possessed, from which my forest was extracted, or: expelled. In the dream, the workers, with materials from an alien, unknown location, having built the structure to perfection, having completed the project which they set out to complete, were hired to set out to complete, and ended by becoming attached to, as if it belonged to them, as if it were part of their individual being, the structure at the centre of the forest, said to themselves, before departing, as their vocation demanded they depart, always depart, “Here is the structure at the centre of the forest”, and later, some of the forest having since been cut down, still referred to the structure as “the structure at the centre” of the Braem, even after such a portion of the forest had been removed from existence that the nonforest nearly encroached upon the structure, skirted the boundary of the structure, the forest edge becoming more and more perceptible from the vantage of the structure, still then called it “the structure at the centre of the forest”. I read a strange passage in one of my books today, a book on the design and construction of the buildings of the Ogier, it has made me wonder whether this is the same seamless impregnability of which you wrote once in regards to the untoward concourse of childhood amorosity. How many years was I imprisoned in my dungeon in order to prepare me for marriage according to the cruel and insane whims of my mother? Simply because I showed the expression from the youngest age, like my mother, of an invert's sensibility? The in fact (contrary to her inept estimates) ultimately submissive inclination to don the garb of boys and to roll through mud? When I was sixteen she uncovered my volumes of poetry and short prose which had until then been safely hidden by me for over two years, and did not simply forbid me from penning any further “perversions” but removed every scrap of parchment and every writing utensil from my rooms. The only way I was able to maintain correspondence with the outside world was by the compassion and sacrifice of my liveried watchers, who provided me with just enough parchment and ink each time to compose my short responses, who smuggled the letters to and fro. Where now is the impregnability, the supposedly impregnable dungeon within which I was contained, the supposedly impregnable devotion, the impregnability which (as you say) is elementary? I can't bear to go outside. Everything I hear myself speak comes out only as guttural nonsense, and all about me people are singing praises and infatuating themselves with their own saliva, their own genitals, their own excrement. And I am always hounded by that same excrement!
Yours, Xoco

I passed through Ghealdan as I had passed through Andor, the mountains always at my side. In Cosamelle I talked with a bar girl who told me her life story, then I sought solitude from the gleemen in the woods skirting the town. Just before arriving at Amador my horse stepped on a scorpion and before four days had passed waiting for the hoof to heal I was issued a summons by an Inquisitor. Apparently my reclusive visit had unsettled certain suspicions. A guard tried to apprehend me as I made to leave the city with a new horse, insisting I wait for “clearance”, and I was forced to leave him bruised at his post crying “witch”. Just inside the border of Altara I began staining for the first time in four months. I met an old woman living in a squalid hut with four malnourished cats and stayed with her for two days. We made love through the morning of the second day and ate boiled potatoes with our hands. There were no goodbyes. A representative of the Records and Classification Section who had personally inscribed an inventory of the buried dead in question gave me the location of the common grave outside the city border where S had been interred along with nineteen other criminals and enemies of the state of Illian. I burned all the letters that I had written to her since she had died at the site along with all the letters she had written me. My staining had not stopped even after twenty days, as I stood in the spray at a declivity before the Bay of Remara.

There are two ways, yes, only two: you either become bored by a thing, or it pulls you into itself, an addiction, or an obsession, in either case uncontrollable. After reading the works of deep and serious thinkers, returning to tales, entertainment, becomes absurd, each phrasing engorged with improbability. How many copper, for instance, must one count? Everyone knows that a starving person suddenly finding food eats too quickly, eats too much, and immediately dies. There is not even the opportunity to expel it: their stomachs are shrivelled, their throats are parched, there is no reflex whatsoever. Sometimes (you know this) when I lived in Ebou Dar, I would go days without eating. I would forget that I had not eaten. I wandered those convoluted streets, looking upon one architectural artifice after another, sometimes stopping for a little kaf. Back then, everything was dusty, up to the sky. Actually, the dust seemed always to come from above. In Cairhien, the act of looking upwards is an impossibility; no one speaks except in curses, behind flagging veils, in whispers in taverns. In Cairhien, everything is architecture. But in some places, the dust rises up from the ground and scarcely touches upon the air: it fuses instantly with something heavier than itself. Elsewhere, dust appears from nowhere, suddenly attached to you, or it sweeps across you, always on your blind side. In places where the latter is the case, conversation consists only of interruptions punctuating interruptions.

Aldwyn
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 3:17 pm

Re: Memories and letters from my travels

Post by Aldwyn » Thu Feb 08, 2024 8:43 pm

The Ghealdanian youngster across the worn wooden table wore her hair lifted from her neck and pinned up in an elaborate fashion that I complimented her for as she palped her knuckles and switched and fidgeted from one side to the other with her free arm as a prop against the uncomfortable slatted boards we bore the company of. The only other patron was a grayed woman with a crooked jaw and dangling teeth who was busy mumbling to herself about her widowhood before a plate of neglected potato. She's waiting for evening, the girl told me. - To do what? To start drinking, of course. - Why is she waiting for evening? She shrugged helplessly. We never drink until the sun goes down. None in Cosamelle. She shrugged helplessly, and motioned to me as if she were about to divulge something valuable. I'm a good worker. I get paid well. Customers respect me and don't push boundaries. Most evenings I get a someone want to provide me extra on the bill, and that's mine. I can pick it too. I know you before you take the door is one, and I know the amount but I won't say. - Where are you from? - Here. Wasn't always but I birthed here and took it here again after being Murandy for a time. Mother said to take it here with my aunt, I did that and she did her thing, had no ability to care for a child. My other mother died preventing a robbery when she was stationed over winter in Whitebridge, never met her of course being I was in the womb. Murandy's where I learned to walk and talk and read and play, but I'm here and from here, I say it's home. My aunt still lives here too, she lives on the south end of town. She has a bed for me at her place and always made, I sleep there sometimes, but mostly I'm here or at my girlfriend's. I've seen what's out there, don't like it much so I stay here. - What have you seen? But her reply was postponed by the introduction of a customer to the establishment, ostensibly a resident of Cosamelle. The girl apologied as she separated herself neatly from the bench and moved across the room to her position on a high, cushioned stool behind the bar. She lounged upon that stool for the greater part of the hours following the passing of dusk, as men and women clambered through the door in pairs and in threes, lounged and collected the coin and gazes of those sitting at the bar, scuttling to and fro atop her stool--it seemed to have been fitted with miniature wheels, I did not get a clear look at the contraption--and of those from the tables, which she occasioned, delivering meals and alcohol, with what she must have called her winning smile. I sat in a privileged position (alone) at my table at a location against the wall from which I could watch the entire room with ease, and received her story piece by piece as she chanced to pass, sequences unravelling in between service. What had been a small, empty den expanded into a bustling tavern, the dining room grew in size with each new inhabitant or traveller and the common room became a standing queue of overheated and unshowered bodies. When the noise began to splinter through the floorboards I made my departure and walked blindly in the first direction that came to me. The girl would finish her evening, retreat to her quarters in collapsing exhaustion, and wait to be visited by her first client. Did she really expect me to believe that she enjoyed those visits? Don't ask for no directions in Amador, if you have to go there, she had told me, they will all put you straight into the Fortress. (She meant the Fortress of Light.) Find the place called Blue Dawn, just north from the eastern merchant's gate. There is no safer or quieter place in that city, and for a woman travelling alone you need every protection. Whatever you do, don't talk to nobody. I had thanked her, and had presumed her behaviour to be eccentric. But then, it was I who found myself in the middle of a dense copse of trees with a moon dangling over my head.

On the road, within the borders of Amadicia, I rummaged through my packs for a book that I had previously neglected to read, A History of Amadician Social Thought.... "The most easily accessible of these is the accussation of collusion with the Dark One (Article 10), or failure to report collusion (Article 12). All that is required as proof of a person's collusion with the Dark One is one testiomy, most often given by the person themselves during torture, but also very commonly given by someone else, a stranger, or someone they know, an acquaintance or friend, a business competitor, a ex-lover, a maddened youth, and so forth...."

On the facing page:
Davra, a seamstress, was seized by an Inquisitor for being suspected of illicit relations with her neighbour. She was tortured for eight hours and threatened with exile and death before finally confessing to the charge the Inquisitor demanded of her: attempting to subvert the security of Amador. Darkfriend. Immediate execution.
Altuline, seen wearing dark clothing and even hoods (Creator help us, hoods!) on multiple occasions and habitually staying up at late hours by candlelight in her single room shack, apprehended and questioned in the Fortress of Light, refused bread and water for eighteen hours, eventually broke down and simply begged forgiveness (for what? everything!). Darkfriend. To be burned at the stake as a witch.
Alinara frequently travelled in the same merchant convoy as Amelia, and was close friends with her. When it was discovered that Amelia was a darkfriend Alinara was immediately taken in. Did you not know she was a darkfriend? Of course you did! Confess! And she perished after two days of torture.
Jemari was denounced by her lover for carrying knives up her sleeves. What! Then she is an assassin and a darkfriend! (She had been assaulted the week prior by a colleague and no longer felt safe.) Buried as a criminal element after her heart failed during "interrogation".
Among a long catalogue of others. So just what sort of city is it, I wondered then, that I have been continually recommend to visit? Only the beckoning words of a friend by correspondence in that city propelled me onwards, the desire to find a place where I might rest my feet. But she was no longer living in Amador. She had up and moved, without any warning. I never heard from her again.

Aldwyn
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 3:17 pm

Re: Memories and letters from my travels

Post by Aldwyn » Fri Feb 09, 2024 12:33 am

*More story from Xoco with full permission of the named members*

The air is cool and ocean-fresh on the streets of Mayene as the Lord Lieutenant makes his way towards the Remara and the Golden Hawk. It is the eighth day of Nesan, and the sky is illuminated by afternoon sun. The passing of idle city life is all that is occuring about him; the play of children, the contentment of their carers, the appetite of shoppers and merchants, the quietude of the Guard in watchful patrol.
— The Dark One's presence is not felt in Mayene as it is in every other city in the world, even the most guarded and carefully kept. There exists a rare peace among its inhabitants, a joviality and sense of place that outsiders often mistake as ignorance, weakness, or seclusionism. It is a quality of presence that is expressed in its utmost by those who bear the hawk in flight on their uniform. Their banner is to them the utmost expression of their values, values that are created not within them as individuals, but within them as members of the clan of the Winged Guard. It is this unity of spirit that expels the Shadow from Mayene, that binds the inhabitants and its finest irrevocably, unconditionally, whether in the face of death or in the pursuit of revenge or conquest. It is this cohesion that fosters harmony in one of the most unhospitable corners of the world.
— The Lord Lieutenant massages his temple with a gloved hand, works at the stressed muscle that beats pain down his neck and arm to a rhythm. A vein of color ripples lightning-like across the brown dirt in front of him. It quivers, then fades, and he resumes his southward path to the harbor. A guard salutes as he approaches the Golden Hawk. The salute is cordially returned.
— “Lord Lieutenant, sir, has Lieutenant Lucie spoken to you?”
— “No, soldier, what of it?”
— “Sir, a messenger arrived not long ago, inside the hour in fact, the Lieutentant ordered that you be notified before you set out.”
— “She did not pass this information on to me just to trigger my curiosity, I suppose.”
— “The Lieutenant is in the palace hall, Lord Lieutenant.”
— “Very well. Good.”
— “Sir.”
— The Lord Lieutenant returns another salute before turning back towards the palace, hunched slightly to one side despite himself.
— Lucie is talking with two others when the Lord Lieutenant approaches. They turn to greet him.
— “So, Lucie, what do you have for me? Seber, Emdawe.”
— “Santino,” nods Emdawe. Seber salutes silently.
— “Read it,” directs Lucie.
— She holds out a piece of parchment. It bears a wax seal, since broken, and the difficult scrawl of unskilled penmanship.
— “What is it?” The Lord Lieutenant takes it and begins to read, furrows gradually spreading across his brow and around the harsh downward curve of his mouth. He traces over the message with bloodshot eyes, then runs through it again before returning his gaze to his companions.
— “Where is the messenger?”
— “Taking rest. We already questioned him. He was given the letter by a woman at a bank in Taien. He was already heading to Tear on a bulk run. He doesn't know anything.”
— “Do we have any Aes Sedai in the city?”
— “None for months,” says Seber.
— “Then we have to go north.”
— “Maybe.”
— “Maybe, Emdawe?”
— “We have no way to verify the author of this letter, Santino.”
— “And even if we did,” adds Lucie.
— “No,” Santino cuts off her thought. “Assume the letter is real. I will not abide paranoia. What purpose would there be in a forgery? Could we trust ourselves to be sure, with these stakes?”
— “Sir, I am familiar with her handwriting. I was assigned to go through the notebooks after she disappeared. I haven't had time to study the letter with care, Lord Santino, but I don't believe that her hand composed what you have just read.” Seber pauses and runs a finger across his lips. “However, the writing is in her style. It's difficult to tell. I'll need time to examine it.”
— “How much time?”
— “If I begin this evening? By tomorrow, maybe.”
— “Then begin this evening,” commands Santino. “We will need the time to organize a riding party, in any case. Lucie?”
— “Santino, if the letter's forged, we must consider carefully how to proceed.”
— “If the letter is forged, we will find the forgers and punish them accordingly. Either way, we make our way tomorrow.”
— “Very well, but who should we send?” asks Lucie.
— “Emdawe?” Santino queries.
— “Lords Garett and Dennel, Lieutenant Marie, and Squad Leader Theq are in Mayene, along with a number of soldiers and recruits. Dennel is still unfit for duty after his recent skirmish in Tear, and Lieutenant Marie has just returned from Illian.”
— “Getting old, Dennel, isn't he? I can recall the day where he would have been only two nights recovering from slaughtering as many as he did last week. We're all slaves to our bodies, I suppose.” Santino massages at his temple. “I digress. Lucie, send someone to inform Garett of the situation and see if he would like to lead the riding party. I will send a messenger to Caemlyn, to let Aldwyn know. Light willing, he can join you at Cairhien.”
— “You aren't going, Santino?” Emdawe asks, his brow lowering inquisitively.
— “No, man. I have a headache and I need to spend a little time with the open ocean air. Wisdom's orders. You can handle it from here.”
— Lucie peers after Santino as he departs without a further word.


§§


— “How much do you know about us, then?”
— “Enough to know which city to not mention your name in.”
— “And I wouldn't be long there, either, if I were you. They don't like your kind.”
— “My kind?”
— “You know what I mean.”
— “Well, yes, naturally.”
— “Have you been able to travel west, then, at least?”
— “Not even. This'll be my first time more than a league beyond the walls.”
— “Then I hope you enjoy the journey. Unhospitable territory we're in, but all the same, I believe there's something within this humidity and desolation that smacks of home. There are few strangers, here. If you're one to surpass the discomforts, you're welcomed.”
— “Provided you walk in the Light, naturally?”
— “That goes without saying.”
— “And back home?”
— “Back home? Very different. In many ways the antithesis of these parts, and yet in others all but identical. The climate's one thing, but here the attitude is one of survival at all costs. Back home, there's no existence outside of the collective. Survival's secondary to loyalty.”
— “What do you mean, secondary?”
— “That if one of my sistren or brethren were in danger I'd stop at nothing to eliminate every threat to their safety. I understand you outsiders have a tendency to value your own life as of greater or at least equal import to the life of another, but our perspective is simply incompatible with this system.”
— “Then, what's your perspective? Am afraid I don't see your point.”
— “Okay, well, imagine that you have a flask, filled with water, and that water is the aggregate life of your clan. If one of you were to die, a proportionate amount of water would be emptied from the flask. It may also be the case that some members would be measured by a larger quantity of water than others. That's the utility view of life, how most people seem to think. Do you follow?”
— “So as in, if a commander were to die, a greater amount of water would be emptied from the flask than if a new recruit were to die?”
— “Precisely! But according to my view, and that of many of us, there is only one measure of water in this figurative flask. Contained within this measure is every life, every one of us, and if one of us were to die, the full measure of water would be emptied. Make sense? According to this way of thinking, my life is infinitely diminished if I allow any one of mine to die, and so I'll go to any length to prevent it. But neither do I believe that there is only a finite quantity of water, as so many do. So that not even death can separate us.”
— “I don't really understand, but you seem to know what you're talking about, so that's good.”
— She smiles and returns to admiring the landscape. The mountains have been growing in size and definition, the nearer the pair comes to the jagged reaches, and now begin to swallow the sky with their monstrosity. The approach of dusk scatters shapes of shadow and light about the rocks in a way that makes them appear to be shifting. She knows it's irrational to believe that the sensation of being watched could come from lifeless terrain, and feels fortunate to not have to make a path into those heights.
— “How many times have you been over it?” Her companion asks.
— “Over the mountains? Never.”
— “Never? Light, so this is your first time, too?”
— “By no means. There is a narrow pass, that's the path we take through. No one goes over them, only shadowspawn.”
— “Oh, I see.”
— “It's just around the corner of that ridge. We'll be there in under an hour.”
— “We will? Well. I'll miss your company, Lliaz.”
— “You're kind.”
— “Are you certain you don't want me to wait, or to return to see you back?”
— “We'll not be alone, when I do. If I do.”
— “Is that a yes?”
— She looks at the other woman, gazing attentively back at her, and feels a smile warm her face, amused by the woman's intriguing blend of playfulness and seriousness. There is a certain ironic edge to everything she says and does, as though she is constantly both in obeisance to her own human insignificance and in rebellion against the very notion of such significance. The woman is markedly ingenuous, and yet the occasional displays of intelligence and even of cynicism make it increasingly difficult for her to decide whether the woman's apparent naivety is willful, unconscious, or a byproduct of some other aspect of her personality. She shakes her head, unable to make up her mind about the woman.
— “It isn't either, dear.”
— The mountains open upon a wide, cliffed passage as they round the ridge. The way is swathed in the enclosing shadow of evening. All that they can see is the rough geometry of the mountain cleaved apart, a point of symmetry between two towering peaks.
— “Well, this is where you leave me.”
— “So... it's pretty.”
— “Not so pretty on the other side. Could you make another one of your barriers, please? It isn't very safe to camp here at night.”
— “Of course. Where would you like it?”
— “Over here by this boulder wall. I'll set up the tent and get a fire.”
— “Okay.”
— Evening draws in upon them, punctured only by the crackling warmth of the fire. The ground is anything but comfortable and blankets do little to soften it, but there is no deterrence on this night. After eating, they take off their clothes and entangle each other's limbs, stirred by the approach of their parting and by the worst possibility of danger that lies beyond the pass. The blankets beneath them become disordered by their wrestling; one woman's right leg across another woman's left leg, one woman's left leg across another woman's left leg, one woman's right arm around another woman's right shoulder, one woman's right foot under another woman's left knee, one woman's fingers interlocking another woman's fingers, one woman's fingers turning over inside another woman, one woman's hair being brushed by another woman's hair, one woman's face on another woman's neck, and neither of them very sure whose body is inhabited by whom.
— “Mm. It's going to be morning soon, dear.”
— “Mm. Sleep?”
— “Uh-huh.”
— “Okay.”
— “If you're not too tired to think about it first, I need to ask you a favor.”
— “Okay.”
— “Someone sent a letter to Mayene about me, when we were in Cairhien.”
— “What do you mean?”
— “To the Winged Guard. I intercepted the messenger but I didn't manage to take it off him.”
— “What letter? Intercept him?”
— “Just a letter. I tried to stop it from being delivered. They're going to be coming after me, and I need you to help me.”
— “What? How?”
— “Go to Fal Dara and wait. They'll make a stop there. They'll trust you when you tell them where I've gone.”
— “You want me to wait for them and tell them where you're going?”
— “I want you to tell them where I'm not going.”
— “What?”
— “I want you to tell them I went to Arafel.”
— “Arafel? Honey, you know I can't lie.”
— “You won't. I'm going to Arafel. Now you can say that I told you I was going to Arafel.”
— “Hm. What're you doing there?”
— “Trying to find someone.”
— “In Arafel?”
— “Yes. But the person I'm trying to find isn't in Arafel.”
— “Is this what you're telling me, or is this what is actually the case?”
— “It's what I'm telling you. I'm trying to find a connection in Arafel. When I do, it'll lead me to what I need.”
— “I see. And what do you need?”
— “A person.”
— “Okay, but who?”
— “There's a man, he was a commander in the Winged Guard, once. I've only heard about him, don't know his face. He was famed for his ability to organize and maneuver small corps of troops in large-scale battle. As the story goes, his formations were so fast that he was accused of being a darkfriend. Whether you won or lost, you would never outrun him. Denounced not by the flaming Children, but by the White Tower.”
— “The Tower? What happened to him?”
— “I don't know. He disappeared one day, left his family, belongings, gone without a word.”
— “So, he was a darkfriend, after all?”
— “No. The disappearance happened long after that mistaken business. The Tower apologized for their brashness after it became obvious they wouldn't get away with slandering one of the highest ranking members of the Winged Guard. Anyone who knew him knew that the accusation was ridiculous.”
— “Well, what's his name?”
— “Traven.”
— “Never heard of him!”
— “You wouldn't have, with that secluded existence of yours.”
— “And you're looking for him.”
— “I know where he is.”
— “Where?”
— “Where I'm leaving to in a few hours time. Where your oaths prevent you from going.”
— “So, he's hiding? Why the blazes is he in the Blight?”
— “Not hiding. He was taken.”
— “Taken. And you're going to rescue him.”
— “Something like that. Will you help me?”
— “Okay.”
— “Okay.”
— “But, why do you want them to go to Arafel?”
— “The Guard? Because they'll believe that I'd go there.”
— “But why don't you want them to find you?”
— “Because if they did, they'd kill me.”

Aldwyn
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 3:17 pm

Re: Memories and letters from my travels

Post by Aldwyn » Fri Feb 09, 2024 12:34 am

*story continued*

The dust of Taien settles as a new sun rises over the darkened peaks of the Spine of the World. Lliaz wakes to a stain on her sheets and curses the Creator for the aberrant cycle her body insists upon taking. The window of her small room is open to the emerging crescent of daylight, and she moves over to it, to perch her elbows on the sill. Memories begin to swell within her, though she quashes each in turn, and she finally sighs and retreats to her wardrobe to ready for the day. Her gaze catches the doorway, and she scrambles over to the note pushed underneath. It is marked by a red seal, and reads: “Mark from Lady. Msgr inc T. Rtrv letter WG.”
— Lliaz crumples the note beneath the coals of the small furnace by her bed. She dresses, gathers her things, and closes the window before exiting and making her way to the post.
— “Not two minutes past, Lliaz. Woman came by last night, asking, same again this morning, fine specimen, sent the messenger to her, over at the banker's is where. You sending something?”
— “No, not sending anything. Thank you.”
— “Right. Good luck then.”
— She reaches sight of the grocer just as a finely-dressed figure emerges, speaking with a tall, slender man. Their exchange continues as they walk away from Lliaz toward the edge of town. Lliaz follows slowly, keeping out of sight, until the woman mounts her horse and rides away. As she moves to approach the man, he walks to the threshold of a house and begins talking to someone within. A moment later two armed men emerge from the doorway, hand him a large satchel, and accompany him as he leaves towards the village center. Lliaz pauses to think, studying the bodyguards, and after a moment decides not to make her move too soon. She follows them in secret as they ride towards the capital.

The city of the Golden Dawn is one of rare form. Its geometric conformity has an almost oppressive effect on one's sense of freedom, with the smooth squareness of every wall and intersection mimicking the rigid posture assumed by its inhabitants, broken only by the curl of tower spires and the plume of women's hair. Foreigners stand out more starkly in Cairhien than many other cities, on account of the distinct manner and fashion of its native-born. To go unnoticed as a foreigner takes considerable practice.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > At The Stump Of The Avendoraldera
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
A medium-sized stump sits solemnly in the middle of a wide bed, surrounded by grass. It is the stump of the legendary Avendoraldera tree, the offshoot of Avendesora. The stump is capped low, its rings showing the once-cherished tree's age before it was cut down. It sits here in a quiet testimony of Laman's great folly. A small bench sits beside the tree, a quiet place to contemplate the stump and what it means for Cairhien's past, present and future.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the north.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman looks at you.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dressed woman says 'I'm here, what is it, Lliaz?'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You say 'I have a mark in the city, here, now.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman says 'A mark?'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > You say 'Yes. I've been following it from the border, it has a package that the Lady needs.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman says 'And so?'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You say 'It's being guarded.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman says 'Okay. Do you have a schedule? Where are we?'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > You say 'Nothing yet. It's doing the rounds here, presumably taking the night before moving on.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman says 'Are you certain?'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > You say 'He stopped in at The Long Man, along with his bodyguards.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman says 'Okay. I'll go over there.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > You say 'And following this he should be headed south along the Erinin.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A plainly-dressed woman says 'So.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You say 'Just watch my back. If we can take them tonight, before they leave the city, much less a bother.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh > A plainly-dressed woman says 'Okay. I'll report back?'

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
You say 'I'll be on south Alguenya.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh > A plainly-dressed woman nods in agreement.

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh > A plainly-dressed woman quietly takes her leave.

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
A plainly-dressed woman leaves west.


§§


* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > Alguenya Avenue
Large cobblestones click under the heels of the people as they make their way down the road. The backs of tall buildings and houses line the road to the east, and to the west, the thick, gray walls of the city block out the noises of the river. Dark alleyways lead between the houses, homes for the
stray animals that roam the city.
[ obvious exits: N S ]
An oil lamp, set in a steel cage, hangs from a high wooden pole.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the north.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dressed woman nods at you.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainy-dressed woman says 'I've confirmed their room at The Long Man.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You say 'Good. I've been tailing them. They've finished their deliveries and they just went in for drinks.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dressed woman says 'Where?'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You say 'Day's End.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dressed woman nods in agreement.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You say 'I'll wait on the street, you'll go in and keep an eye on them. When they leave, follow them.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dresssed woman nods in agreement.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You say 'We'll take them by Jaseem's.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dressed woman says 'Okay. I'm ready.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You beckon a plainly-dressed woman to follow you.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A plainly-dressed woman begins following you.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > Alguenya Avenue
The tall, gray city wall keeps out the noise of the rushing river to the west. The tall houses sit with their backs against this narrow roadway, casting long shadows when the sun is high in the sky. Slender alleys run between the buildings, dark and full of refuse that hasn't been carried away yet. Occassionally a stray dog or cat will venture out of the darkness of the narrow back street.
[ obvious exits: N E S ]
An oil lamp, set in a steel cage, hangs from a high wooden pole.
A watchguard surveys the city streets here.
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the south.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > The Merchant Quarter
The narrow roadway is crowded as citizens make their way deeper into the area where the merchants sell their wares. Tiny shops are compressed between their much larger counterparts, all going after the same customers. Merchants who have no shops stand on the corners, selling their items out of baskets or trays that they carry. Some small, square flower boxes line the sides of a few of the buildings, trying to add some class to this somewhat dirty, crowded area of town.
[ obvious exits: E W ]
A dirty old beggar stands here in rags, giving you a blank stare.
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the west.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > The Merchant Quarter
The road breaks off here, heading to the north at a right angle. A large clothing store and a small grocier are the main areas of attraction to the north. The stone wall protecting the city rises high above the road, and holds in the din of the many citizens in the area, creating a loud, boisterous corner for selling goods.
[ obvious exits: N E W ]
A worker busily earns a day's pay.
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the west.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > In The Merchant Quarter
The hard stone road is narrow between the two buildings that sit to the east and west. A large, bright window to the east shows the shop of a tailor, and a painted sign hanging from the walls names the place as Jaseem's Fine Clothing. To the west, a small grocier sells food and supplies to the citizens. Small flower boxes line the street and hurried citizens bustle about their shopping in the merchant's quarters.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the south.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > In The Merchant Quarter
Shops become more numerous in this part of the city, with the merchants selling every type of good imaginable. Off the road to the west sits a comfortable looking inn, and the steady stream of people into and out of its doors shows it doing a brisk trade. To the east, a sign hanging off the building tells of a shop that specializes in selling armor and weapons to the general public.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
A watchguard surveys the city streets here.
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the south.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong > Ferron Lane
This broad intersection offers busy corners for the lesser merchants that can not afford a spot in the merchant quarter to sell their goods. An enourmous building to the east stands taller than any of the houses around, only smaller then the palace or the topless towers. Made of beautiful grey and white stone, a large placard announces that it is the famed library of Cairhien. Smaller houses and buildings that are near it are dwarfed by its tremendouse size.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the south.

* HP:Healthy MV:Tiring > A Broad Walkway
This wide roadway continues on to the northern and southern ends of the city. To the north, a sign for a large tavern hangs right across the street from the official bank of Cairhien. Small shops transform into the houses of the citizens as the city moves from a commercial area to a residential one.
[ obvious exits: N S ]
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the south.

* HP:Healthy MV:Tiring > A Broad Walkway
The wide road runs off the main road that lies to the north. Off the boulevard to the west, a sizable tavern does a hefty business, as people forgo the bank that lies to the west to spend their wages on ale and entertainment. The bank is enourmous, telling of the wealth of the city. Everyone keeps their money there, from the common man to the lords throughout the country.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
An oil lamp, set in a steel cage, hangs from a high wooden pole.
A plainly-dressed woman has arrived from the south.

* HP:Healthy MV:Tiring >
A plainly-dressed woman nods in agreement.

* HP:Healthy MV:Tiring >
A plainly-dressed woman stops following you.

* HP:Healthy MV:Tiring >
A plainly-dressed woman leaves west.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
The blazing sun fades into greyness behind the towers.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A watchguard has arrived from the south.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A watchguard leaves north.

* HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
The night has begun.

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
A ratter bellows 'Paying out for scalps of the shadow at City Watchtower.'

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
A tall, slender man has arrived from the west.
A bodyguard has arrived from the west.
A bodyguard has arrived from the west.

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh > A Broad Walkway
The wide road runs off the main road that lies to the north. Off the boulevard to the west, a sizable tavern does a hefty business, as people forgo the bank that lies to the west to spend their wages on ale and entertainment. The bank is enourmous, telling of the wealth of the city. Everyone keeps their money there, from the common man to the lords throughout the country.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
An oil lamp, set in a steel cage, hangs from a high wooden pole.
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A messenger is here, delivering parcels.

* HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
Ok, you'll try to move silently for a while.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
A tall, slender man falls down laughing.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
A tall, slender man leaves south.
A bodyguard leaves south.
A bodyguard leaves south.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
You peer around into the shadows.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Fresh > A Broad Walkway
The wide road runs off the main road that lies to the north. Off the boulevard to the west, a sizable tavern does a hefty business, as peopl forgo the bank that lies to the west to spend their wages on ale and entertainment. The bank is enourmous, telling of the wealth of the city. Everyone keeps their money there, from the common man to the lords throughout the country.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
An oil lamp, set in a steel cage, hangs from a high wooden pole.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Fresh >
You swear loudly for a long time.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong > A Broad Walkway
This wide roadway continues on to the northern and southern ends of the city. To the north, a sign for a large tavern hangs right across the street from the official bank of Cairhien. Small shops transform into the houses of the citizens as the city moves from a commercial area to a residential
one.
[ obvious exits: N S ]
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A messenger is here, delivering parcels.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You attempt to hide yourself.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A tall, slender man yawns.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A tall, slender man leaves south.
A bodyguard leaves south.
A bodyguard leaves south.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong > Ferron Lane
This broad intersection offers busy corners for the lesser merchants that can not afford a spot in the merchant quarter to sell their goods. A enourmous building to the east stands taller than any of the houses around, only smaller then the palace or the topless towers. Made of beautiful grey and white stone, a large placard announces that it is the famed library of Cairhien. Smaller houses and buildings that are near it are dwarfed by its tremendouse size.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A messenger is here, delivering parcels.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You attempt to hide yourself.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
A tall, slender man leaves south.
A bodyguard leaves south.
A bodyguard leaves south.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You think really hard.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong > In The Merchant Quarter
Shops become more numerous in this part of the city, with the merchants selling every type of good imaginable. Off the road to the west sits a comfortable looking inn, and the steady stream of people into and out of its doors shows it doing a brisk trade. To the east, a sign hanging off the building tells of a shop that specializes in selling armor and weapons to the general public.
[ obvious exits: N E S W ]
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A tough-looking man is standing here.
A messenger is here, delivering parcels.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You attempt to hide yourself.

* S HP:Healthy MV:Strong >
You silently approach your victim...




§§




The smell of dawn wafts gently onto the streets of Mayene, carried along by salty, ocean drafts that dissipate into the heat of the marshland beyond the walls. The riding party is assembling at the Market Square, horses being retrieved and warmed for the week's coming travels. Squad Leaders Theq and Crenna, Bannerman Raek, and Recruit Corey are each saddling their warhorses and checking their armor. Emdawe is speaking with Theq, and opens his mouth to ask where Seber is just as the Squad Leader hurries into the Square from the palace. Dark bags hang under his eyes, and his face and posture sag from the weight of sleeplessness.
— "Lord Emdawe," Seber gasps, waving some papers clutched in his hand. "Lord Emdawe, it must be her. It must be —"
— "Be calm, Seber, what have you found?"
— "The letter, Lord Emdawe," Seber droops, panting, "The style.. The writing is not hers, she must have had another put it to paper, but.. the syntax, the punctutation, the vocabulary.. there's no mistaking it, Lord Emdawe, it's identical, all of her journals and notes, the letter must be from her."
— "Thank you, Seber. Excellent news. Let's hope she is safe after all." Emdawe smiles and tells Seber to rest himself. Seber nods and leaves, half staggering on limbs like wilted flower stalks, back in the direction of the palace. He doesn't even notice Lieutenant Lucie's greeting and concerned look as she passes him, heading towards the square.
— "A little trouble with Garett, Emdawe...." Lucie trails off, thumbing at her collar.
— "What trouble?"
— "He's not feeling quite right, Emdawe. Maybe you'd better come have a talk to him..?"
— Emdawe nods curtly and follows Lucie back towards the barracks. Outside the door to Garett's chamber, someone can be heard talking loudly from within. It cuts off as Emdawe and Lucie open the door and enter.
— "Oh yes, they do hurt from my blade, they — Em!" Garett regards him with a wide grin. "Em, my man, where have you been!"
— "Garett.."
— "Come and talk to me, listen, I was just telling Lucie —" Garett breaks off as he loses his balance and nearly falls off his chair. He catches himself with a hand on the table then turns again to Emdawe. "Em, you know that I love you. Come here. I have.. I have a.." Garett trails off, blinking at his empty hand gripping at the air.
— "Burn me, Garett, we're riding inside the hour! What are you doing drunk in your quarters?"
— "Riding? We're riding? Yes, I am drunk. Where are we riding to?"
— Emdawe curses under his breath and turns to Lucie, "Let's go, Lucie."
— Garett scrambles out of his chair, knocking it over, one hand steadying himself against the table, one eye shut and the other barely open. "Where are you going? I'm coming! Lucie, you —"
— Lucie shrugs as she walks out, followed silently by Emdawe. They leave Garett to stumble around his room alone in search of a pair of boots. He calls out to them as they quit the room, "Wait! Just let me.. Oof! I knew that I hated you two! I knew it, I —"
— Outside again, the horses are stamping their feet impatiently. Lucie retakes her horse and Emdawe immediately heads to the stables without a word. When he returns, he gives the order that he will be leading the riding party. They ride down to the Golden Hawk behind Emdawe and embark.

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