every planet we reach

POSTED: Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:42 pm

how pure, how sweet the love beneath it

A month had past, and with it the moon waxed and waned through the starlit heavens, with time the pact had weighed on her mind, enough to prompt the dark coywolf with distraction from daily duties. She had packed a few days prior, before setting on her way, once more crossing skull-dotted borders and up into distant mountains at a more leisurely, meandered pace - it wouldn't hurt to take time, after all, it would keep Infernians from asking questions, so long as Briarblack didn't come back empty-handed.

A rabbit and some squirrels had been caught along her travels, and provided small and simple staples to sate over-much hunger that gnawed at her stomach that was never far away in winter - things were growing easier with the burgeoning springtime, save for flooded plains and muddy, sodden earth. What wasn't eaten was brought along for that meet-up, hardly wanting to go hungry while trying to focus on lessons and learning.

Within time, she had found herself at the place - stones and trees and the soft, babbling creek. Whilst she waited, she dipped into her bag, withdrawing a long and shaven stick and chiseled stone arrowhead, binding them together taut with sinews with still stubborn fingers that twitched and tweaked with fine movements.

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Despi

POSTED: Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:28 am

Neith Heiwa was a man who kept his appointments. Each night over the last few weeks, the doctor had exited his home—new or old, whichever he slept in during the move—and glanced the sky to check the progress of the moon. When it neared full, he paused labor on the cabinets in the kitchen and devoted time to packing and practicing. When it was time, he took his things and he left.

He could not help but wonder if she would be there. Certainly, Inferni would not have approved of their meetings almost as much as Salsola (and Elphaba) did not, but would they bar her from going? Would they send scouts and spies? Would he become a prisoner again?

Of course not. Neith was overthinking things, as he so tended to do. He took a break from walking to sketch some sprouts, and continued on with a lighter step.

Briarblack arrived first, it seemed, and the Heiwa glowed with a smile when he saw her from afar. “You made it,” he exclaimed, despite the fact that he had traversed the greater distance. “Are you well? How is the clan?”

He set his satchel on the rocks beside her, dug into it and handed a selection of mostly destroyed books and loose pages, each beaten worse than the last by crumples and water and rodent teeth, but each with a meager sentence or two at still legible. His beloved sketchbook did not leave the bag. “Here, look. There’s not much to read there, but if you still want to learn, I grabbed what I could find.”

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POSTED: Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:03 pm

how pure, how sweet the love beneath it

Shafts of feathers wormed beneath her grip as she attempted to fletch her newmade arrow, the vane folding under clumsy fingers that prompted her lips to pull into a taut and frustrated little line while winter eyes tried to harshen their focus and will focus into disobedient digits. Her small ears had folded into raven hair with her seriousness, though it was remarkably short lived at the sound of encroaching footsteps. It was Rust, stark and ghostly as ever among the pines, but wearing a bright and welcoming smile that prompted Briar to hop up to her feet, fingers casting out the lopsided arrow. The coyote hopped over in jaunty step, immediately crowding into the dapper Salsolan's space and gripping at his shoulders with a firm but gentle hold, dark tail eagerly sailing behind her.

"It's good to see you! Things are alright back home, but how are things for you?" Briarblack prompted, backing up and following his hands with her eyes, which fattened a tick at the sight of those ruined books. With an unbridled enthusiasm, she gripped them tight in her palms and felt their earthly, heavy weight, the pads of her thumbs tracing over weather-worn and ruined covers as though trying to coax them of time-lost meanings that were no longer readable. Briarblack settled down to carefully smooth out crinkled pages, and squinted at the smudgy marks that marred the pages in typed uniformity - they still meant absolutely nothing to her, but their meanings had been promised by the silver-guilded Rust.

"These are good, thank you, Rust," she offered quickly, graciously, resisting the urge to point at the markings and demand their meanings outright - instead she waved to her own satchel. "I brought arrow-making materials."

Briarblack's offering was meek, and lame, and she cleared her throat, toeing her bag over the awkward little arrow she had discarded. "Ignore that - I'll make a better one."

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Despi

POSTED: Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:48 pm

The Infernian threw her arms around him. At first Neith froze in place, though she did not seem to notice; even his breath caught in his lungs, and he was assaulted at once by confused and startled thoughts as well as some means of a survival instinct he did not know he had. His family embraced him, Elphaba did from time to time, but that was it—he was never coddled, never made especially touchy by his experiences. Embracing a stranger? It had never crossed his mind.

Given a moment of stiffness, he patted at the small of her back and smiled through it. “Things are fine! Things are fine. I’ve moved into a new little home with space for a clinic. Between cleaning it up and refilling my stores of herbs and what have you, I’ve a busy warm season ahead of me.”

She was enthralled at once by his books. The Heiwa took a moment to admire the sight of a comparatively primal woman with knowledge in her hands, the delight and wonder in her eyes by the weight and build of the what remained of the books. If only he had more than tatters and remains to share with her. “They’re a little beaten up, but it’s enough to get us started, trust me. Oh, and I’ve charcoal, too, somewhere in here—” he knelt and began digging in his satchel, “—in case you want to try writing something too... Where is it, now...”

His attention was drawn to her discarded arrow and supplies before he could find it, and the quest was forgotten at once. Neith collected her arrow and held it to his eyes. “You made this?” he asked. “All of it? Briar, this is... How long did it take you to do this?”

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POSTED: Sat Apr 21, 2018 3:51 pm

how pure, how sweet the love beneath it

Reading, writing, knowledge; it was all in her hands, in her grasp, with a teacher to help lend it to her in easily consumed bits, which enthralled her to no end - she was enthused to finally know, and finally understand. She could finally read what survived the fires, go back and read Virue's sign, scribe her thoughts and methods.

Briarblack could finally catch up on all she had missed in the Good Book.

Single-track and driven thought diverted finally once pale blue eyes looked up to find Rust looking over her discarded project, and the shame at it's outcome roiled in her stomach a moment, despite Rust's seemingly impressed framing.

"Oh, well, yeah, but, it's not good. The arrowhead isn't secured quite right," she started, gingerly taking the arrow from his fingers to demonstrate, and peering down the length of the arrowshaft. "It's lopsided, the fletching is ruined and sloppy, this thing won't fly right and would be lucky to hit a target at all. I could still salvage the shaft and the arrowhead, but the feather is ruined."

A finger ran the vane of dark feathers, ruffled from her shaky handling. "I actually had started to do really well, but since the war it's like I can't quite control my fingers the same, they twinge and shake."

Briarblack saw fit that she show off what she had brought in turn, and set down the arrow again to stoop and dig through her satchel, withdrawing a spool of tough, thin sinew, a bundle of arrow shafts, and a smaller sack of feathers, along with a slew of loose arrowheads.

"Chipping and chiselling the stone takes the longest, but there's something almost calming about methodic work. I've also been practicing my stitching with bone needles I've made, if you'd take a look?" In her palms she held out scraps of stitched-together leather, her seams significantly cleaner now than her earlier attempts, though she had still a few missed stitches, and one of her bone-sutures was still stuck in a half-finished piece.

"Do you make your own needles and tools?" she asked, suddenly realizing that he probably had quality materials to work with, but considering the impression from a shoddily-made arrow-

"I can try and find some bone, next time we meet, and teach you to make needles or fish hooks?"

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POSTED: Mon May 07, 2018 8:35 am

“It’s better than I could do,” blurted Neith, in such a tone that seemed to negate any and every self-criticism she had of the product. He took the arrow back, and with admiration twisted and turned it in the air before his eyes, smiling. Salsola had several archers, not the least of which his nephew, but the Heiwa was unfamiliar with the sport and its details—and taking the time to see up close exactly what had left the scar in his shoulders was a valuable experience. He cursed the day he would need to remove a pointed head as this from one of his patients.

He glanced up as she explained further. “Twinge and shake how? You haven’t exactly been eating well.” Before she could go into more detail she presented a scrap of leather with crude stitching across its length. Crude at a glance, anyway, for when he looked closer Neith found the stitching more than tight enough to serve its purpose, even if it wasn’t beautiful.

“Pretty good for shaky hands,” he beamed. “Have you been teaching yourself all of this?”

She asked of his supplies. He shook his head. “No, I’ve inherited most of what I have from my mother’s stock. I grew up a trading hub south of here, we had plenty of it. I’d like to learn, that would be wonderful. I’ve never had the opportunity.”

“This,” he said, sliding the rapier from its sheath and handing its decorated handle to her, “we also got at the post. My mother traded dyes for it as a gift. Here.”

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POSTED: Mon May 21, 2018 12:52 pm

how pure, how sweet the love beneath it

"It's not a shake like that, no, I may know hunger well, but not well enough that it makes anything else just... jitter," Briarblack made to explain further, and felt her skin prickle and warm at the admiration of her work, critical as she was of it. Fingers combed at her nape, tamed the wild locks there, and her gaze found the dirt at her feet a moment. She hadn't known exactly how to place that feeling - pride? Flustered, more like, and there was an ugly twist in her gut at the prospect and familiarity that had been soured since --

She glimpsed back up, let her hands drop to her sides as he asked the whereabouts she had learned her crafts, and she gave a hum of affirmation. "Picked up some of it while working with Aunt Vesper, and brought some tricks from home, the rest of it I tried teaching myself much of it in my freetime - working with bone isn't too bad, if you don't mind the cleaning part."

Goliath had helped her with it before.

Her expression went a little cloudy, and she cleared her throat, not quite looking at the silver-gilded man across from her as she apprehensively took the rapier in hand, turning the pommel over and keeping the sharp-bit downwards - after all, she'd known it's bite once before. A fingertip traced the raised details of the guard, skylight eyes appreciating such handiwork that did little to veil how impressed she was.

"It's a lot lighter than I thought it'd be?" Briarblack started, turning to lift the blade and peer down it, though in truth she had no idea as to how to inspect such a weapon, glinting and steel.

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POSTED: Tue May 22, 2018 7:12 pm

He read her face, her squirming, and watched her hands while she spoke. The shake was not severe enough for him to see it, at least not at the time, and he considered a half-dozen plausible reasons for these shakes that plagued her. Lack of food, perhaps. Maybe the air was not clean above the mountains. Maybe she needed more sleep. Gentle, Neith took her hands into his own to feel the tremble for himself. It was subtle, but sure enough, she was not still.

“Perhaps you are working too hard,” he said, releasing her. “I hope it will pass on its own. I’ll prepare some satchets for you to turn to tea next I come.” It was so simple a task, so fundamental a need, that it did not occur to him that Briar might not know how.

He grinned, happy to move to lighter subjects. “I’ve worked with bone plenty, trust me. They are the focus of my studies.” Neith did not seem to notice her momentary disillusionment by way of loss and memories, and he took back the rapier once she’d admired it and poised himself into refined and graceful position.

“It’s quite light, yes. Meant for jabbing and poking, not slashing. Slips well between the ribs.” He had practiced this for himself, suspending pairs of ribs from strips of leather and string in his study, and poking his sword between them (or jabbing them out of their binds, more often). He demonstrated such practice with a few trained stabs and slices at the air, speaking as he did so. “There is much to be learned from bones, it is almost a shame to shave them down into tools. I’m no good with whittling. Perhaps you can show me.”

The sword turned vertical, pressed flat to his nose between his eyes. His poise dropped, and he handed her the hilt. “Would you like to try it?”

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POSTED: Tue May 22, 2018 7:37 pm

how pure, how sweet the love beneath it

Rust's nimble hand took the rapier back, and he made quick to showcase his skill; Briarblack craned back slightly with alarm before it melted back towards innocuous curiosity. Slow to lean forward again, she watched disciplined actions and the way weight pivoted on the axis of hips from foot to foot that lended a purpose and strength to the way the sword poked through the pockets of air, shadow-fighting a target Briarblack could only imagine.

Once more, the hilt was extended to her, and blue eyes blinked down to it, her coffee fingers lacing the handle before she went to mirror the silvery man's pose, features set and focused; she had considered that she did well at this mimicry, though her companion's gentle fixes to her stance made her second guess as such.

There was little expectation for the earlier reciprocation of touch, and all at once she felt drowned by tiny corrections, the closeness with which he stood and guided her hand with his own. There was a fire beneath her skin, a fog in her head, and petite ears leaned and swiveled, side and back, listening and uncertain, to the shift of fabric behind her. The dark coyote was attuned to his every move, and was released from the trance the moment he had saw fit to loose his delicate hold. As though possessed, a little nervous laugh bubbled up, unbidden, before she coughed and choked it down, merely testing another clumsy jab through the air.

"I don't know if I'll ever be par with your skill - blades are uh, a little out of my reach."

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POSTED: Tue May 22, 2018 8:12 pm

She was uneasy and soft with the blade returned to her hand, and when he came to guide her into first position Briar turned quiet and rigid. Neith was not oblivious: Clearly she had never held a sword before, and the thought of the weapon in her hands locked her muscles. It was perfectly rational of her. After all, she was an archer. She had frozen up in the same manner when his rapier nicked her shoulderblade during the war—

Out of her view, Neith grimaced. It was a hated memory. He’d acted in defense of Salsolans with a simple duty, more or less unaffiliated with the current events of Salsola proper. They were attacked with their caravan en route to the Kingdom, just as he had been the day he returned from the Outpost and never again left. He’d put his life on the line for the thorns and thistles he despised. He was not killed, he was not injured, but his experience as their Infernian captive had been eye-opening both in aligning his outlook, and acquainting him with Briarblack and what she came to represent.

Guiding her, his eyes dropped to the scar across her shoulder, still visible, the one he’d placed himself. By now, there was no wishing it away. She would carry that gash, his mistake, to the grave.

For her sake Neith pushed beyond this plague of guilt and guided her, then stepped back when she was more or less in the right position to begin. The clanwoman’s jabs were graceless and the rapier wiggled about like a lover scorned of their dance partner. Sympathetically, Neith chuckled.

“I’ve had a partner and a lot of practice. If it helps, I don’t know that I’ll ever meet your level of dexterity. Carving weapons, making arrows.” He hoped so, given that delicate hand work was a fundamental part of stitching and sketching. “We’ll only practice if you want to, but you really must cobble together some way to defend yourself.”

He nodded at her shoulder. “Does it, um... Does it hurt anymore?”

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