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Creative Writing Share your fan fiction, stories, poems, essays, editorials, song lyrics, or any other related written work. All written must be your creation. Start a new thread, and keep replying to that thread as you add on more chapters. Anyone can join in at anytime.


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  #61  
Old 11-13-2009, 07:18 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Twelve Now Posted]

(CONTINUED FROM LAST PAGE)

Eventually, it reached an hour at which everyone agreed that it was time to call it a night. Solonn was shown by Azvida to a spare chamber in which he could stay for the time being. He bid her goodnight, and she smiled at him as he entered his room for the night.

Azvida then followed Jeneth into the sleeping chamber that they shared on the opposite side of the main cavern, where she immediately set herself down in the soft snow blanketing its floor and sighed blissfully. Something she had long thought hopeless had actually been set right in the end, and she was sure that she’d rest all the better for it from now on.

“The gods have sent you a miracle today, haven’t they?” Jeneth said as he moved over to her side.

“Yes, they certainly have,” Azvida responded. She waited for Jeneth to set himself down beside her as usual, but he did no such thing. Puzzled, she turned to where he remained hovering, giving him a look that asked if something might be the matter.

“They’ve sent your son back, safe and sound—and so soon after the last thing they sent you,” Jeneth said, seemingly musing aloud—yet at the same time, he was looking pointedly right at Azvida, his keen gaze imparting a particular significance to his words. “Maybe they’re trying to tell you something.”

The blissful relief that had enveloped Azvida just moments before retreated at those words. “I’ve already made my decision where that’s concerned,” she said, sounding quite discomfited. “I made it long before you came into the picture; you know that.”

“And you’ve questioned that decision ever since it was made. You know that,” Jeneth countered. “You know you made it for all the wrong reasons; you’ve known it all along, but you just wouldn’t own up to those mistakes.”

Azvida winced and turned away from him, but Jeneth circled around to face her, refusing to let her escape his gaze. “The chance to make this right has practically been lined up and laid out right in front of you. You know you can do this. And you know you should.”

“But… Gods, imagine what he’ll think. He’ll never forgive me for it,” Azvida said, her voice constrained. “I’ve only just gotten him back. I don’t want to lose him again now…” she whispered.

“Maybe he won’t forgive you. But then again, maybe he will. There’s only one way to know. And as I said, you’ve been given the chance to make up for your mistakes. The gods have done their part, as has he. Now all that’s left is for you to do your part. Tell him, Azvida, please,” Jeneth said firmly but not unkindly. “He deserves this, especially after all that he’s surely been through.”

Azvida stared back at him with a very cornered expression, at a loss for words. Some faction of her mind set about searching frantically for a fresh supply of protests, but disobligingly, it could conjure none. This was a matter that Azvida had always feared to share with Solonn or with anyone else; she would never have shared it with Jeneth, but he had insisted on enlightening her mate. Now, though she could not deny that she agreed with the point that Jeneth had made, she was nonetheless just as terrified as she had ever been of the revelation that he was asking her to make and of the consequences that it might bring. Deep inside, she had always felt that her son should know of this and wished that he could, but had never felt that such was safe.

“…I’m sorry,” she whispered finally. “I just don’t know if I can do this.”

Jeneth didn’t respond to her at first, silently holding her in his solemn gaze. Finally, he let out a sigh of disappointment. “I don’t think you can deny what you know is right forever,” he said quietly, “but I also think that he’s been denied the truth for far too long. I want you to reconsider this, Azvida—I want you to look into your heart and pay heed to what it tells you. Hopefully, you’ll do the right thing by this time tomorrow. If not, I will do it for you,” he told her with a distinct note of finality in his voice, then turned away.

Azvida’s jaw dropped open in the wake of Jeneth’s ultimatum, but all objections failed her. His tone had told plainly that he wouldn’t debate the matter any further. He had made his decision, and he was clearly determined to carry it out.

With a powerful anxiety now roiling inside her, Azvida rolled onto her back without another word as Jeneth finally settled down at her side. She closed her eyes, but she knew that sleep wouldn’t come. Her dread of the coming day haunted her throughout the night, for she knew that the truth that she had been evading for over two decades would catch up with her at last.

* * *

The new day found Solonn sitting alone in the room that he’d been given, watching the ice on the walls shift and transform as he idly manipulated it. Sleep had abandoned him early, leaving him awake throughout much of the morning, and during that time he’d found himself feeling rather bored. There was simply not much of anything to do in this place while no one else was awake with whom to interact. Too many years as a human, he reckoned, considering the lifestyle that he’d had while in that form: when he hadn’t been busy with his education and later with his work, there had been music, books, television, and a number of other things available to keep him occupied.

He began humming to himself as he guided the ice, wordlessly resurrecting one of his old favorite songs. The ice on the walls all around him began shifting in a different way; as if carved by an invisible chisel, swirling patterns etched themselves into it. He began to lose himself in his manipulation of it, and the lines continued snaking through the ice under a less conscious sort of control until they formed an image right before their maker’s eyes.

There was a delay before he realized what he had just done, but when he finally became aware of it, he fell silent. The once abstract patterns on the walls had taken on a definite shape: they now depicted twisting branches covered in delicate-looking flowers—sitrus blossoms.

The significance of what he saw did not escape him. The music of the band whose song he’d been humming had been introduced to him by Morgan. She had come to recognize that it was his favorite, and so they had listened to it together on many occasions. Sitrus branches had given them shade during those listening sessions—and sitrus blossoms had floated on the wind during his last moments with her. Those songs were associated in his mind with his memories of her; he got the feeling that they always would be. A low, mournful sigh escaped him as he let the conjured image vanish back into the ice on the walls.

Solonn was about to go and check yet again to see if someone else was awake now, but the question answered itself before he could even so much as turn around.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” Azvida noted from just outside the room, saying the very thing with which Solonn would have greeted her had he noticed her first. There was a distinct note of trepidation in her voice that Solonn noticed right away, and when he turned to face her, he saw that her behavior matched that tone. She was just hanging there at the entrance, her brows drawn together and the light in her eyes fluttering in clear unease.

“Is something the matter?” Solonn asked concernedly.

There most certainly was, as far as Azvida was concerned; this was something that she’d never thought she would ever do of her own accord. She knew that she couldn’t allow herself to dwell on that fact, however; what little resolve she had managed to gather would not return if she wasted it this time by hesitating too long, and she couldn’t bear to dread this revelation any longer.

“There’s something I need to talk about with you,” she said, her voice very weak and constrained. “Something that’s long overdue.”

Solonn frowned worriedly at her. Whatever it was that Azvida intended to talk about, her reluctance to do so couldn’t have been plainer. She still hadn’t moved one inch into his room and was now shaking on the spot. Solonn managed with difficulty to present a less troubled façade in an effort to calm her, but he still had a less than comforting feeling about what Azvida was going to say.

“I’m listening,” he told her, then sat down. Azvida gave a nod of acknowledgment and finally managed to get herself to move closer to him. The moment she entered the room, she felt as though the chamber’s exit had just been blocked behind her by a large stone, trapping her in that room with her obligation. She set herself down beside her son, unwilling to face him, and several breaths escaped her before she was able to give word or voice to any of them.

“When you were very young,” she began, feeling an almost irresistible urge to drag each word back into silence as it was spoken, “I told you something that was… not true. I told you that your father had died just after you were born.” She swallowed hard. “He’s still alive, Solonn. He only left us… and I was the one who drove him away.”

Her words registered with a considerable delay, and Solonn’s belief of them lagged further still behind his absorption of them. Once they sank in fully, they struck deep and hard; had Solonn not already been seated, he might well have dropped from the air. He turned a shocked stare at Azvida, or rather he tried to; she avoided his gaze in a swift motion, wincing sharply as if in pain.

“My gods,” Solonn breathed, shaking his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable… all this time, and you never said anything… Why did you do it, Mother?” he asked her plaintively, a distinct note of betrayal in his voice.

Azvida shrunk further still from him at the hurt in his voice, but managed to suppress the urge to flee from his presence altogether. “There’s something else you need to know about your father,” she told him. “You can’t understand why I did what I did unless you know the whole truth about him.”

She forced herself to face him; it was all she could do not to turn right back around when she saw the raw, earnest demand for answers in his eyes. “I told you that I never really got to know your father. That wasn’t true, either; I knew him very well. His name is Grosh Argrosh, and he’s… he’s not of our kind. He’s something very different from you or me… Here, let me show you.”

Azvida lowered her gaze to the floor of the cavern, and a second later, ice began rising up through the snow there. At her guidance, it took form, lengthening while crystalline facets shaped its surface. Seconds later, her work was done. Sitting there between the two glalie was a two-foot-long model of a segmented serpent.

Solonn was at a loss for words as he looked upon the sculpture, but his mind was racing. Less than a day before, his thoughts had fallen upon the very creature that was depicted before him—it had been one of the species that he’d considered as the possible identity of the pokémon that had disrupted the community of Virc-Dho months ago. It was astonishing to him to think that he could be related to such a creature, that he was the son of such a being…

“A steelix,” he said almost breathlessly.

“You know of his kind, then?” Azvida said.

“I know of many kinds,” Solonn muttered rather distractedly. He continued to stare at the tiny model steelix, imagining it in its true dimensions—an immense creature, the sort that he reckoned would absolutely terrify people who had likely never even conceived of such a being, let alone actually seen anything like one. “He was here recently, wasn’t he?” he asked then.

“Yes,” Azvida said. “Just months ago… he came back for us, Solonn,” she said, her voice laced with anguish on that statement. “But when he found out that you were gone and that I’m with Jeneth now, he left again.” There was an odd sort of flickering in her eyes then, and she averted her gaze once more, allowing the miniature steelix to disappear back into the floor.

“Ever since he returned, everyone else has resented me very deeply for the fact that I’m the one he came here for,” she said. “His presence surely frightened them, but… well, there’s more to it than just that. I think that enough of them correctly guessed what my connection to Grosh was.”

She hesitated before proceeding. “There are certain attitudes held by much of our society about mating with other species—and those attitudes are not favorable. It’s considered not only immoral, but also very bad luck. And… Gods, I’m ashamed to admit this…” She sighed. “I never really agreed with those old prejudices and superstitions, but I was still very afraid of what people would think of what I had done with Grosh, and it was because of that fear that I pushed him out of my life and yours,” she admitted, her voice cracking in mid-confession.

For moments on end, Solonn sat in silence, stunned by what he’d just heard. That his own mother had lied to him for his entire life and denied him from knowing his father, all in the name of a social taboo with which she didn’t even agree, was a notion that his brain didn’t seem to want to process completely.

“I know it was wrong,” Azvida said, her voice weighted by her shame. “Wrong to cast him away, and wrong to lie to you about him. I’ve always known. I’ve just been too much of a coward to do the right thing, too scared of what people would think and say and do about me, about both of us… and too afraid of how you might react if you ever learned that I had lied to you.” She looked Solonn right in the eyes. “I’ll understand if you never forgive me.”

There was a very long pause as Solonn wondered what in the world to make of this situation. He knew that he would likely never be able to condone Azvida’s cowardice and deceit. At the same time, however, he also recognized that she did seem sincerely remorseful about her actions.

In the end, Solonn finally supposed that if Azvida could find the courage to own up to her mistakes, then he should try to find the grace to forgive her, difficult though that might prove to be. At least she’s finally let go of the lies, he thought wearily. At least she did the right thing in the end.

“I… I will try not to hold the past against you,” he said quietly.

Azvida closed her eyes. She had feared that her son would hate her for what she had just confessed to him, and yet here he was, seemingly willing to forgive her. Silently, she thanked the gods for this chance to make right what she had done wrong and also inwardly thanked Jeneth for giving her the final push she had needed in order to finally tell the truth.

“I know that I’ve kept you from knowing someone you’ve deserved to know all your life, and it shames me more than I can express,” she said. “Nothing can give you back those years you two should have had together, but there is a way that you can have what you’ve been due all this time. I can take you to him, Solonn.”

Solonn’s eyes shifted her way slowly. Their light was still somewhat dampened by weariness, but they were slightly widened in a way that suggested a cautious but nonetheless present hope. “You said that he left when he saw that I wasn’t here,” he reminded her. Azvida nodded, making an affirmative noise. “So you know where he went, then?” Solonn asked.

“Yes,” Azvida said. “Grosh said that he was staying in the caverns above, in a place where he and I once briefly stayed together… he said that he hoped you could come and visit him there if you ever managed to make it back somehow. I will take you to him if you wish, Solonn. It’s the least I could do after how I’ve wronged you.”

Inhaling deeply, Solonn rose from the floor, looking heavily but not unkindly down upon his mother. “I’m still very disappointed in some of the choices you’ve made in the past,” he told her. “But I thank you very much for giving me this chance now.”

Very briefly, the ghost of a smile appeared on Azvida’s face. “Again, it’s the least I could do.” She ascended and made her way toward the chamber’s exit. “Come on, then,” she said, knowing that if there was any time for her to do this, it was now, while her resolve was so strong. “I think he’s waited more than long enough to meet you.”

The two of them drifted into the main chamber, where Jeneth was sitting near the exit of their home. His eyes followed them as they approached the thick barrier separating them from the warren outside, and as they stopped there before him, a proud, knowing smile spread across his face.

“We’re going above,” Azvida informed him. “We’ll be gone for most of today and tonight.”

Jeneth nodded in acknowledgment. “Take care, both of you.”

“We will,” Azvida assured him. The ice barrier began receding at her silent command, and she and Solonn departed home for the warren beyond.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 05:57 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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  #62  
Old 11-13-2009, 07:19 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Twelve Now Posted]

As Azvida and Solonn made their way upward through Virc-Dho to Shoal Cave, they were undisturbed in their travel through minute after minute, yard after yard. Azvida seemed to know just which route to take to avoid being noticed.

“Now, there is something you should keep in mind when you meet Grosh,” Azvida said to Solonn as they traveled. “He doesn’t know of your… talent. You know the one.”

“You’re advising me not to tell him about it?”

“I’m not saying that he’s untrustworthy or anything,” Azvida said. “I just think that it would be best to be extremely careful about revealing that ability… you know, considering what happened last time…”

“Don’t worry,” Solonn assured her. “I’ve learned my lesson well where that’s concerned. I don’t think I’ll be using that old trick ever again.” With things seeming to be going back to something that was at least similar to how life had been before he had performed that “trick”, he had decided that he would prefer to leave it in the past.

Something else occurred to Solonn then, something of relevance to the topic at hand that had caught his attention the night before. “Jeneth doesn’t know either, does he?”

“Not at all, and I have no intentions of changing that,” Azvida replied.

“Good,” Solonn said in relief, “good.” And with that, both he and his mother fell silent once more as they continued toward the caverns above Virc-Dho. Only once had Solonn ever been taken up to the surface exit via a proper route from the warren, and eventually, he came to recognize the route through which he was being led: this was the part of the warren that Sanaika and his gang had once haunted. Even though they had left their old territory behind, it seemed that people still didn’t dare to come here; there were no signs of recent development here. Nothing had changed from the last time Solonn had laid eyes on these tunnels all those years ago.

Soon, the tunnels that had once belonged to Sanaika merged via a hidden passageway into the path that led to Virc-Dho’s uppermost border. Azvida moved the ice guarding the exit aside, and she and Solonn passed through into the cavern outside.

“We’ve still got a fair way to go,” Azvida told him. “Much of the distance between our home and where we’re going is through the caverns beyond this one.” She proceeded onward, leading Solonn over a vast expanse of ice until they reached the far side of the cavern. There, half-concealed behind a broad, flat stone formation that jutted sharply outward from the wall, a passageway curved inward.

The passageway was short, and it opened up into territory that definitely didn’t belong to any glalie. The stone surfaces of these caverns were entirely bare, no ice glazing the walls, no snow blanketing the floors. Eventually, as the two progressed further, Solonn began to see tiny seashells and other minute remnants of marine life scattered about, evidence of the sea’s proximity to this place.

There were also natives about, the creatures that called these caverns home. The occasional zubat winged by overhead, while less frequently, spheal and sealeo appeared in Solonn’s field of vision. The spheal and sealeo immediately made a shuffling bid for shelter the moment they caught sight of the two passing glalie, and Solonn couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for this despite never having done any harm to any of their kind. It seemed a shame to him that these beings were raised to live in fear of his kind, but the fact remained that the rift between his people and theirs was just part of the natural order around here.

Solonn had lost track of time in following Azvida through Shoal Cave when she finally stopped before him and turned to face him. Fleetingly, a sign of some strange discomfort crossed her face, but it was gone so quickly that Solonn wasn’t altogether sure that he’d actually seen it.

“So is this it, then?” he asked of her.

“No,” Azvida answered. There was that unease in her eyes again; Solonn couldn’t dismiss it this time. But before he could ask about it, “Stay here,” Azvida said. “There’s something I need to take care of, but I need to do this alone.”

Azvida departed then without any further explanation, but Solonn gave it little thought. They had been traveling non-stop for quite some time now; the need to take a break was perfectly understandable. He set himself down for the time being, taking advantage of the pause to give himself a bit of rest while awaiting Azvida’s return. Though fairly worn and hungry after the distance to here, Solonn was ready to resume the journey as soon as his mother came back, for he felt that they must surely be getting close to their destination by now.

Several minutes passed before Azvida returned. Once Solonn noticed her moving into the edge of his vision, he rose and began to turn to face her. The moment he fully absorbed her into his sights, however, he abruptly froze in midair with a stunned expression, his thoughts arrested by what he saw.

Silently, Azvida lowered her head, allowing something small and blue to fall from her jaws. There on the floor before her, a zubat now lay motionless… or rather, almost motionless; its chest was rising and falling with deep, serene breaths. It was still alive.

Solonn was immediately sure that he knew why Azvida had brought the zubat to him—Gods, she brought it here for me, he thought with a shudder of revulsion. He fumbled for a moment before he managed to gather his words, and when he found them, they came forth even more forcefully than he’d intended.

“Take it back,” he said. “Take it back and leave it be.”

Azvida’s brows drew together in a worried expression. “I see that certain of your sensibilities are the same as they ever were.”

“Yes, they are. Now, please… just take it back. Please. I don’t want this.”

“Solonn… how long ago did you evolve?” Azvida asked concernedly.

“Not long after I was taken,” Solonn said. “And yes, I know that this is something that we’re all supposed to do once we’ve evolved, but I’ve never liked it, and I can’t imagine that I ever will.”

“Did you do any hunting at all during all that time?”

“Not really, no.” Solonn vividly recalled the one occasion when he’d nearly made a predatory kill, and he gave another shudder at the memory. He found himself glad that he didn’t also have a memory of actually going through with the act to haunt him. During his time away from Virc-Dho, he had been grateful that he had been given an alternative to feeding on live prey, and later, during his time as a human, he had enjoyed the option of being able to abstain from eating the flesh of other creatures altogether. “Food was always provided—I never had to kill anyone to get it,” he said darkly.

Azvida sighed. “But that was there and then,” she pointed out. “Others may have fed you up until now, and I may have brought food to you today, but the fact is that you won’t always have someone to provide for you. Ultimately, you will have to hunt for yourself. And you’ve known that for a long time, too. This is the way you must live now that you’re a glalie and now that you’re here again. Sooner or later, you will have no choice but to accept it.”

Solonn only stared at her at first, letting his gaze bear down upon her as if some part of him thought that he could somehow silently will her to take back that statement. In reality, though, he knew better than to expect such, for he knew that Azvida was right. He’d always known in the back of his mind that returning to Virc-Dho would require him to become an active predator, but he wondered now if being nearly as far removed from such a lifestyle as was possible for so long had perhaps caused him to lose sight of that eventuality. And such had been far from his mind when he had made the decision to go back to his native land following his reversion and the human tragedy. Now that fact had caught up to him at last, and he found himself all but cornered by it.

“…I know,” he said finally, wearily. “It’s just so hard to accept…”

Azvida closed her eyes and nodded in a way that suggested a sort of knowing sympathy. “I understand, Solonn. Believe me, I really do.” She opened her eyes. “When I first began hunting, I also had some difficulty accepting the fact that I had to take lives to sustain my own. I wished that it wasn’t necessary, but I also knew that I had no other choice and that I would just have to come to terms with that necessity.”

She lowered her gaze to the zubat before her, who still lay there unconscious and completely unaware of the mortal peril that faced it. “We’re all as we must be according to the laws of nature,” she said. “There’s nothing right or wrong about it; it’s just the only way that works. Every one of our kind must accept this aspect of our nature. It’s the only way we can survive.”

There was a small part of Solonn that understood and agreed with these concepts completely, one that had done so ever since his evolution. His eyes remained transfixed upon the zubat, and as he stared at it he tried almost wholeheartedly to convince himself to accept what he was seeing as food, to just give in to the inescapable reality of what he was and get that first step toward full acceptance of it behind him. His predatory instinct approached him from a myriad of angles: At least you didn’t have to go catch it this time. Maybe she’ll kill it for you. It doesn’t have eyes; that makes it a little easier, doesn’t it?

But none of those little details made it any easier for him, not in the slightest. He hungered, and he knew that eventually he would have to attend to that need… but he wanted to put it off as long as he could get away with doing so. “I know what I have to do,” he said softly. “I know I can’t escape this forever, but… just please, not yet. I’m still not ready.”

Azvida drew a very long breath, then released it slowly and heavily. “All right,” she said, sounding troubled but not at all surprised. “I got the feeling that you weren’t. That’s why I kept it alive.”

“Thank you for that,” Solonn responded. “But next time… don’t hesitate to do it, all right? I don’t think I’ll be quite willing to… to take one at first.”

Azvida nodded. The look in her eyes told that a part of her wanted to keep trying to convince her son to accept predation now, but she said nothing more for the time being, instead picking the zubat back up and carrying it away in silence.

You’ll get used to it, Solonn tried to reassure himself silently. Somehow, you’ll get through this. But there was a part of him that still couldn’t help but doubt that he ever would, and the notion that his only choices were to do something that he hated or else to perish was difficult for him to bear.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 05:58 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 11-13-2009, 07:20 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Twelve Now Posted]

Azvida returned shortly, this time without the zubat, and immediately began moving onward again. Solonn followed her with an eagerness that belied his weariness of both body and spirit, hoping that he was right in guessing that their journey was near its end. He figured that the prospect of actually meeting his father after having believed him to be dead for all these years would certainly help to take his mind off of his own physical obligations, at least for a while.

It wasn’t much longer before they reached their destination, but the relief that Solonn had anticipated would come at their arrival was dampened somewhat when he actually laid eyes upon the place itself. He and his mother now hovered at the edge of a fairly wide and deep hole. According to Azvida, this was where Grosh lived, meaning that anyone wishing to visit him would apparently have to experience quite a fall.

“All right… so exactly how do we go about getting down there?” Solonn asked, peering cautiously into the dark chasm. His question went unanswered, and when he turned toward Azvida to perhaps find out why, he recognized at once that she was deeply focused on something. Her eyes were nearly closed, letting only a sliver of blue light seep through.

A slithering, scraping noise began to emanate from the chasm then, and Solonn looked toward it to see a flat, glistening ice platform rising up through the hole. It came to a stop once it was level with the ground, and it was only then that Azvida emerged from her apparent trance.

“Move onto the ice,” she said. “I’ll lower you into the chamber that way.”

Solonn did as he was instructed at once. He set himself down upon the platform, making sure to leave enough space on it for Azvida to join him there… but Azvida did no such thing. Puzzled, Solonn turned a questioning gaze upon her, and Azvida’s eyes shifted aside awkwardly.

“I think I’d prefer to wait outside,” she said very quietly. “This time, at least,” she added hastily upon seeing the way her son’s brows drew together in what she fully suspected was disappointment. “I think that maybe this moment should be just for the two of you after all these years apart.”

Solonn saw right through her reasoning, though, and she knew it. “I’m sorry… I just don’t think things have quite healed enough between us yet. I’m not quite ready to face him again,” she admitted, “but, if you really want me to…”

Solonn held a saddened gaze upon her a moment, wishing that she hadn’t put her decision into his figurative hands like that. He rather liked the idea of having both of his parents brought together with him, a complete family once more, even if only for a short time… but at the same time, he didn’t really want to drag Azvida into a situation that might make her uncomfortable, especially after she had already had to battle her fears just to give him this opportunity.

“No, that’s all right,” he said softly. You’ve done enough for me today, he added silently with a weary heart.

Azvida smiled in response, but the expression was somewhat diminished by the sense of guilt that attended her at the moment. Nonetheless, she said nothing more and slipped back into her trance again, and the ice platform on which Solonn sat began to descend. Moments later, it reached the floor of the chasm, where it dissipated into vapor just as Solonn resumed his levitation.

The shaft through which he had descended opened into a large cavern that connected to another chamber via an imperfect archway. The room in which Solonn found himself was entirely empty, but he could hear something in the adjacent one: a rushing, rumbling sound with a distinct rhythm. He could also see something stretching clear across that room, something silver that gave off a dim glow of body heat.

Slightly gingerly, Solonn approached the metallic form in the other room. That he was about to meet his father was incredible enough to him, but the exact nature of the creature whose presence he was about to enter impressed itself upon him now more than ever. He knew of Grosh’s kind only from films—he had never encountered anything quite like him live and in person before. As he drew nearer, he began to feel a deep, very primal anxiety welling up inside him.

With a faint annoyance and only partial success, he silenced the instinct. His element isn’t important, he told himself firmly. He had always managed not to let the matter of type stand in the way of friendship before, and he was certainly not going to let it get between him and his own family.

He passed through the rough-hewn archway, and his perception was monopolized at once by the presence of the enormous creature occupying the chamber beyond. The steelix almost completely surrounded Solonn, his long, segmented body wrapped in an open ring that went nearly all the way around the stone chamber.

Grosh was fast asleep, oblivious to the presence that had just joined him. Solonn wasn’t altogether certain about the prospect of waking the steelix up, concerned that interrupting a good nap might not be the best first impression to make. At the same time, however, he was certainly eager to make his father’s acquaintance after over two decades…

Solonn remained torn between these two angles for a short time, but then Grosh stirred unexpectedly, his segments rotating lazily with an accompanying grinding noise as he stretched. Grosh’s broad head lifted slowly, and his heavy jaws opened to release a yawn whose volume and pitch made the walls and floor shudder. He opened his eyes halfway, blinking slowly with a seemingly unfocused gaze turned toward the wall.

Now that Grosh was awake, Solonn figured that he didn’t need to hesitate any longer, ignoring the instinct within him that still begged to differ with that idea. His heart racing, he drew closer to Grosh, trying to calm himself with steadying breaths as he approached. He inhaled deeply one last time, and then, “Father?” he said.

His overcharged nerves had weakened his tone somewhat, and he wondered at first if Grosh hadn’t heard him, for the steelix gave no indication that he had. Solonn watched him with bated breath and was about to try to get his attention again but then saw Grosh’s head perk up suddenly, rising almost completely to the ceiling in little more than an instant. Solonn looked up toward him and saw his father’s red eyes widen and shift his way in their deep, dark sockets, locking into his gaze.

“Hello, Father,” Solonn spoke up again, more steadily this time.

Silence hovered over the room. Then it was shattered to pieces as thunderous, positively jubilant laughter came roaring forth from Grosh’s mouth, reverberating powerfully within the chamber.

“Well, I’ll be!” Grosh exclaimed heartily in a very deep, metallic-edged voice. “Solonn, right?” he said, at which the glalie nodded. “Ah, I’d hoped to death that I’d get to see you again someday!”

Solonn couldn’t help but smile in the wake of his father’s elation at meeting him. The steelix slithered in a circle around him, looking him over. “By God, look at how you’ve grown since the last time I saw you!” Grosh said as he stopped to face Solonn again, his eyes shining with tears of pride. “To think how long it’s been since then…” He sighed wistfully. “I reckon we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, then,” he said, then gave a slightly growling chuckle.

“I suppose we do,” Solonn agreed, still smiling.

“So. What sorts of things have you been up to all this time, hmm?” Grosh asked.

“Well, not really much,” Solonn replied, “at least, not before I was found by a human.” He proceeded to give Grosh a brief, carefully edited account of events from the day that he was captured by Morgan onward that was similar to the one that he had given Azvida, still less than comfortable with the idea of discussing some of the stranger and more terrible of his experiences, still mindful that there were certain details in that story that he should probably never relate due to their connection to his linguistic abilities.

Still, he did feel a bit guilty about keeping things from someone who had waited so long just to get the chance to talk to him; he figured that Grosh at least deserved some explanation for the withheld information. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’d like to go into more detail, but… well, I’ve only just gotten away from it all. I don’t feel like I’m quite ready to talk about some of the things that happened.”

“Understandable,” Grosh said in a kindly tone. “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t feel comfortable with. Well then, I reckon it’s my turn. How about I start by telling you how your mother and I met and where I’ve been all these years?”

“Sure,” Solonn said. He was earnestly curious about those things, particularly regarding how Azvida could have gotten involved with such an unlikely person as Grosh, someone and something that he would have never expected to find in a place like this. He set himself down and looked attentively toward the steelix.

“All right,” Grosh said, settling himself back into a more relaxed position. “Now, I’ll warn you: it’s not the happiest story you’ll ever hear, but it’s the truth. Your mother and I met in a very unpleasant place after we’d both ended up in the hands of the same human, who stole us from our original captors.”

“Wait… my mother has actually encountered humans before?” Solonn asked incredulously.

“That’s right,” Grosh said. “She got caught by one when she was about… oh, ten years your junior, I believe.”

There was another thing that Azvida had never told Solonn. He found it incredible to think that she had been taken by humans at one point and had later been taken from the one who had originally caught her, just as he had. As he thought about it, though, he ceased to be surprised that she hadn’t told him of this before, figuring that it was because of that event’s connection to her involvement with Grosh that she had never mentioned it.

“Anyway,” Grosh went on, “the human who kept us made us fight pokémon belonging to the other humans in that place for hours nearly every day, and when I say fight, I mean hard. Those were rough times, and Azvida and I were each all that the other had. I looked after the poor girl, did everything I could for her, and she put all her trust in me.

“We were forced to serve that creep for quite a while, and then one morning, he decided to go and toss us into the ocean while we were in our capture balls for the night. Can you believe it?” he said with a chuckle.

“Hm… yeah, that is pretty strange,” Solonn said. “Do you have any idea why in the world he did that?”

“Well, what I suspect is that someone must have found out that he’d stolen us, and so he ditched us to get rid of the evidence. Ah, I hope that slimebag didn’t get away with it in the end, though… So. These grass pokémon found our capture balls out in the water, brought us back to their island, let us out, and told us what had happened. They also mentioned that they knew of a cave to the north where Azvida’s kind was rumored to live. We didn’t know for sure if it was really the place where she’d come from, but after her ordeal, she wanted to go back home badly enough to check this cave out. I decided to go with her just to keep an eye on her and help her stay safe… I’d come to care about her quite a lot by then.” Grosh smiled wistfully in the wake of that last statement.

“Two of the grass pokémon swam to the cave, carrying us in our capture balls, and they let us out once we were there,” he then said. “Azvida and I searched through the cave for some time, looking for signs of her home… and it was during that search that, much to our surprise, we found ourselves in possession of your egg.

“Well, Azvida had been acting strangely nervous ever since she had been told of this cave, but once the egg was laid, her nervousness easily doubled. It came to a head when we finally found the border of her homeland—that’s when I found out what it was that she was so worried about.”

Solonn averted his gaze, feeling a strange sense of vicarious guilt come over him at the thought of what his mother had done to Grosh and why. “I’m sorry for the way she treated you,” he said sincerely.

“Don’t be,” Grosh said gently. “You know you’re not at fault here, not in the least. I’m not even entirely sure it was her fault, either—the things fear can make people do… Some part of her really seemed to want me to go ahead into her people’s territory with her regardless of what anyone might think, but the rest of her was just too scared of what they might do. In the end, I agreed to leave despite how I wanted to stay—I didn’t want for you and your mother to have to live in fear of others’ hatred.

“She still felt bad about the whole thing, and she said that maybe I could sneak in sometime and see you after you were born. I took her up on that offer, but just once. I was there when you were born, but I left right after.” He drew a long, slow breath. “I was too worried about possibly causing trouble for her… and I thought it would be easier for me to endure giving you two up if I didn’t give myself much of a chance to get too attached to you,” he admitted almost voicelessly. The steelix bowed his head very deeply in shame, his long neck nearly doubling over on itself. He gave a deep, shuddering sigh, and tears began to trace the contours of his armored face as they slid toward the floor.

It was a while before either of them seemed able to speak again. Grosh remained overcome by his tears for moments on end, while Solonn was hushed by the weight of the steelix’s sorrow. Finally, “It’s all right,” Solonn said quietly. His father’s gaze lifted slowly from the floor, his eyes bloodshot and still shedding silent tears. “I don’t blame you for anything you did. I understand… you have nothing to be ashamed of,” Solonn told him.

A low, metallic noise resonated deep within the steelix’s chest, and uncertainty showed through his features. “I don’t know about that,” he said doubtfully. “I think I most definitely ought to be ashamed for not trying to get back into your life even once during all those years—especially considering that I’ve been here all this time.”

Solonn was momentarily stupefied—how in the world had a thirty-foot-long metal serpent been living in the area all this time without anyone noticing? “So… what have you been doing all this time?” Solonn asked once his wits returned.

“Oh, you’re not going to like the answer to that…” Grosh half-sighed.

“Try me,” Solonn said evenly.

“All right… all right. I knew that it was going to be damned hard to resist the urge to come back to you two, so I sent myself into hibernation here. Some desperate part of me actually thought that if I let enough time pass me by, then it’d be easier to live without you two. I should’ve known better.” He gave a sad smile. “When I finally couldn’t stay dormant any longer, your mother and you were the very first things on my mind, and when I realized how much time must have passed, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I rushed right into that warren, made a scene looking for her after I found that she no longer lived where she used to—I was so worried once about getting her into trouble, and then look what I went and did.” Grosh shook his head, growling to himself in shame. “I abandoned you both to try and protect you, only to fail you to that end. I don’t think I could ever quite apologize enough.”

“Yes, you can,” Solonn said softly. “As long as you mean it, you only need to apologize once.” He lifted himself from the floor and moved closer to Grosh until he hovered directly under the steelix’s gaze. “You have nothing to worry about,” he assured his father, looking right into his eyes with a steady gaze. “Whatever anyone thinks of you, whatever they try and do about it, I can take care of myself, and I’ll take care of my mother, too. You haven’t ruined things, Father. Your coming back into the picture was the first step in setting everything right again.”

Grosh stared silently into his son’s face for a moment, into the sincerity in those eyes. A broad grin spread slowly across the steelix’s face, and he swallowed back a fresh surge of tears. “You’re right,” he said. “There’ll always be people who’ll hold on to wicked ways no matter what we do. We can’t let them get to us anymore.”

He sighed peacefully. “Guess this is like starting over, in a sense,” he said. “I made my mistakes, she made hers, and we’ve both paid for them by missing out on the family we could have had all this time. But now… well, now it’s like we’re getting a second chance.”

_________________________

Grosh’s last name… XD Of all the things I could have gone with, I went with that? Well, that was the first surname that popped into my head, and wouldn’t you know it, it stuck. X3

Next time: Virc-Dho faces something that its people have not known for generations. See you then!

- Sike Saner
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The Origin of Storms
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Last edited by Sike Saner; 10-10-2011 at 09:40 PM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 11-14-2009, 01:45 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Okay, well, I've only read the first chapter so far, but it really made me want to post something.

Just from that chapter alone, I'm starting to really, really like this story. I love stories from a pokemon's point of view, especially ones that explore how the pokemon live in the wild. I loved how you described everything, especially the world these pokemon live in and the way Solonn views everything. Particularly interesting to me was the conversation about eating other pokemon for food, and Azvida talking about how the prey were meant to be respected. Another highlight was Solonn's reaction to the spheal, and how strange he found the pokemon and the concept of heat.

I'll definitely be reading more of this, and I'll post again as soon as I'm caught up!
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Old 11-23-2009, 03:43 AM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Scytherwolf: I love pokémon POV stories too, hence a big part of why I wanted to write some. ^^ And one of the things I like most and find most interesting when it comes to doing that kind of story (and about working with non-human POVs in general) is how many opportunities that it gives to show things from different angles, especially when it comes to things that might be really familiar to us (e.g. heat in this case) but alien to some other sort of being.

Predation of one intelligent life form by another is another thing that I've pretty much always found to be an interesting matter, so I'm glad that writing this story has given me an opportunity to explore that subject. ^^

And describing all those things that you mentioned was definitely something that I also enjoyed--I really like coming up with these places and people and looking into how they work and whatnot. I think it's fun. ^^

I'm glad to read that you've enjoyed what you've enjoyed and found interesting what you've found interesting about this story so far. ^^ Thanks for reading and for replying! ^^
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:46 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Chapter 14 – Speak No Evil


In silent determination, he made his way through a bare-walled, nearly desolate network of stone tunnels, alone. He moved with a swiftness that belied his lack of enthusiasm toward this venture; he knew, as always, that the slightest hesitance could dismantle his willingness to proceed.

Like a passenger within his own mind, he allowed his instinct to guide him, but without losing himself completely to it. This was as conscious an endeavor as it had ever been—he would always acknowledge the impact and cost of it, never allowing himself to trivialize the matter if he could help it.

His senses remained on high alert, trained toward the particular telltales of his quarry—it wasn’t much longer before he found what he was seeking. He followed a faint sound of wings beating the air until he detected a wavering light that confirmed the find even before its source was quite discernible. It was the glow of heat, the light that signified life in nearly every species other than his own.

With a command that was silent save for the echoing crack of its execution, the source of that light was cut from the air. Wings crumpled as their insensible owner dropped to the floor. The sole witness to her fall drifted silently forward to look down upon her for a moment through eyes that held a regretful resignation, then let them close for a long, solemn moment. He gave a sincere, whispered apology to the fallen creature as he sent a silent prayer out unto the heavens, asking the gods for the safe and sure deliverance of the soul that he was about to send their way.

Though he had done this deed countless times since he had come to accept his need to do so, Solonn was no fonder of it than he had ever been. There was never pleasure in the hunt, no delight in the kill. For him, it was nothing less and nothing more than the obligation that it was, something done because it was demanded, not desired.

He summoned his element to task once more, and the zubat before him was frozen solid. In that single instant, the light of her life was snuffed out. Sometimes Solonn couldn’t help but be stricken by the way that his power responded just as readily to a call for destruction as to a request for a benign, artistic display. To the mother element, it seemed, it was all the same.

Solonn maintained a respectful, conscious silence as he fed, and when nothing remained of the zubat, he lingered at the scene for not a single moment more. He looked forward to returning home and not having to hunt again for at least another day. He did find at least some comfort in knowing that he didn’t have to feed nearly as often as he had when he was human or even quite as often as he’d been fed by Morgan. With the feeding habits of humans and of pokémon kept and pampered by them left largely behind now, his body had relaxed its expectations somewhat, and he was grateful for that.

It had been well over a year since his return to Virc-Dho. Through this time, Solonn had gotten as used to the demands of life as a glalie in the natural setting of his kind as he reckoned that he ever could, and he had grown accustomed to the much slower and less hectic pace of life in the warren. Even now, however, there were still quite a few aspects of the Virc lifestyle that he didn’t quite understand. His friends and family had introduced him to all that they knew of their culture and way of life, and he did as he observed them doing, yet even to this very day, he felt as though there was something more to the ways of his people that he was failing to see.

Beyond the people whom he knew personally, the Virc community in general did nothing to aid in his assimilation to the local culture. Though the commotion caused by the unexpected appearance of a steelix in their midst was hardly recent, some of its effects on the public lingered, for in truth the origins of those reactions traced back much farther than that single event.

By and large, the people seemed to know exactly what Solonn was, exactly how he had come about. They showed him no open hostility; he suspected that they were too intimidated by his stature to do so. Still, nearly every time he found himself in public, eyes and faces shifted conspicuously away from him, stealing glances here and there in attempts to watch him without seeming to watch him, and he swore that he could feel the tension in the air.

Solonn had tried for a while to get through to them, to make them own up to their fears and try to overcome them, but had found that they would not be moved. He had come to realize firsthand just how deeply ingrained their attitudes were, that they were set in their ways and unlikely to change for anyone, let alone for a hybrid.

Though still disappointed to no small degree in their behavior, he no longer tried at this point to get them to endure his company just as they would that of one another. He focused instead on just living his life like anyone else, regardless of what others thought of him.

After a few minutes’ traveling through the warren, Solonn arrived at what had been his home for the past several months, a place that had been acquired for him by Jeneth shortly after its previous owner had passed away. It wasn’t the largest of spaces, but since he lived alone, that suited him just fine.

He had been less satisfied with the featureless, ice-glazed walls of this place; it seemed that the preference that he’d picked up as a human toward more visually stimulating surroundings had lingered with him even well after his reversion and departure from a human lifestyle. Thus it was that he had decorated the cavern with patterns and images etched into the walls and sculptures raised from the material of the floor, décor that was changed every now and again to keep things interesting for him.

It was by his passion for ice art that he kept himself occupied much of the time in those days, often by himself, simply enjoying the serene unity with his element. Just as it ever did, that pastime offered an escape from the ordinary that he dearly appreciated—moreso than ever now that his life contained necessities with which he was sure that he’d never quite be comfortable, things that weren’t and would never be pretty in his eyes.

On occasion, his family and Zilag’s watched him work, but he was uninterested in performing for any larger audience. He doubted that many of the locals would be particularly interested in such a display anyway, and not simply because of whom and what the performer would happen to be in this case. Dancing ice wasn’t the exotic spectacle here that it was outside the realm of his kind; here, he was just one more ice controller out of hundreds. He had no doubt that any glalie could pull off his art form with equal or greater skill if they were to practice as long and as diligently as he had.

He was about to engage in that activity once again, musing silently on a number of shapes that he thought he might like to sculpt and carve this time, when he heard the voice of Jeneth calling to him from the entrance of his cavern. Upon unsealing the entrance for him, Solonn was greeted with an announcement that immediately drove those ideas from his mind.

“We think it’s happening,” Jeneth said almost breathlessly, with what little voice he managed tense with excitement.

Solonn’s eyes immediately widened. “Is it really?”

Jeneth nodded. “It started moving just before I left,” he said, “and moving a lot, at that. From the looks of it—” He paused as a momentary thrill seemed to arrest his breathing. “—it might very well hatch tonight.”

“Ah, that’s wonderful news!” Solonn said, a smile overtaking his face. “Well, come on then; let’s not risk missing it!”

The two departed with no further delay, making their way quickly and excitedly toward the cavern that Jeneth and Azvida shared. This was an event that the family had anticipated very enthusiastically, for it was one that had been quite long in the making. For years, Jeneth and Azvida had tried to conceive an egg, but to no avail. They were on the verge of losing hope of ever having a child together when, to their immense joy and relief, their efforts finally achieved success. Now, months later, the baby that they had so dearly wished for would enter their lives at long last.

Upon reaching their destination, Jeneth removed the barrier at the entrance to his home with unprecedented speed. He and Solonn then rushed beyond the main cavern and into a small chamber in which the egg sat, watched by its mother.

Just as Jeneth had described, the egg was much more active than it had been when Solonn had last laid eyes upon it. It was shaking so wildly that were it not for the ring of ice and packed snow that Azvida had mindfully raised around it, it could have easily just rolled away into the nearest wall, resulting in a rather painful entrance into the world for the newborn.

Azvida didn’t lift her gaze from the egg for even one second, but she caught sight of Jeneth and Solonn entering the room in the edge of her vision and smiled in acknowledgment of their arrival.

“Any moment now,” she all but whispered, her eyes bright, “any moment…”

Solonn and Jeneth seated themselves, and together the three glalie waited eagerly for the arrival of the newest member of their family. The egg maintained its high level of activity… but as countless minutes passed, the shell remained intact.

Solonn’s brows drew together in worry as he watched his half-sibling’s continuing efforts to escape the egg. While he’d never witnessed the hatching of an egg before, he was quite certain that the child within shouldn’t be struggling for so long before breaking free. He cast a quick glance at the others, and the troubled looks on their faces only reinforced that concern. As if to emphasize that something was amiss, muffled cries began issuing forth from within the egg, sounding terribly desperate and fearful.

“This isn’t right…” Azvida’s voice was choked with anguish at the sight and sound of her child’s struggle. “This isn’t right at all… Dear gods, I don’t think it can get out!”

Jeneth rose from the floor and came to hover directly above the egg. He swallowed nervously. “We’re going to have to help it out, then,” he said tensely.

Fleeting apprehension crossed Azvida’s features at the thought of what Jeneth seemed to be proposing, but then she gave a quick nod of agreement with his conclusion. “All right,” she said. “Be quick, but please be careful.”

“Don’t worry,” Jeneth assured her. He leaned forward and lowered his face toward the egg, his jaws parting, ready to break the shell and free the child within. Azvida and Solonn watched him with bated breath, hoping that the baby’s ordeal was soon to end.

Before Jeneth could lay a single tooth upon the egg, however, it literally blew apart right in his face.

A cry escaped Azvida as she turned away in an instant; Jeneth was sent reeling backwards, spitting fragments of eggshell from his mouth and shaking them from his face; and Solonn shut his eyes and raised a protect shield. For seconds after, the three remained frozen in shock, unable to think, even seeming to forget to breathe. Finally, fearfully, they dared to look upon the nest of ice and snow where the egg had been before its self-destruction, trembling with dread of what they might see as they turned toward it.

What they found there calmed their initial shock somewhat, but only increased their bewilderment. There, amid the debris of his explosive birth, a newborn male sat completely unscathed, nibbling daintily and serenely at a handful of the surrounding snow as though nothing at all out of the ordinary had just happened.

The three glalie could only stare dumbfounded at him for a long moment, gathering their wits, still rather shaken after what they had just witnessed. Finally, “Gods… what in the hell just happened?” Jeneth managed.

“No idea,” Azvida responded breathlessly, her eyes still wide with disbelief, her brow still knitted in confusion and concern. “None whatsoever… I only hope he’s really going to be all right now…”

The three glalie kept a long watch over the newborn to make sure of just that. By evening’s end, it seemed certain to them that there was no further strangeness in store for the child, and with that reassurance, they were finally able to truly take joy in their new arrival. He was then named after his father and paternal grandfather, and it was thus that Jeneth Marasahn Zgil-Al was officially welcomed into the family.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:00 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:47 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Through the months and then years that followed, life came to grow richer and easier for the family. Eventually, venturing out into public became notably less of an ordeal for Jeneth and Azvida; the hostility and blame toward the latter for Grosh’s entering the warren all those years ago finally seemed to have faded into the past, the heightened fear and mistrust brought on by that occurrence no longer immediate and fresh. Young Jeneth, or simply Jen as he liked to be called, was accepted into his place in society readily enough; now old enough to spend time in the snowgrounds, he had met with decent success in making friends among the other snorunt.

As for Solonn, his appearance still inspired something a little short of trust and comfort in most of the people whom he encountered; it seemed that there was just something too fundamentally difficult for many of the Virc about getting used to a hybrid in their midst. Not that it upset Solonn too much, however; he was just as content with the companionship of his family and Zilag’s as he had been for years now. As long as he had their support, he felt no real need for the approval of strangers.

Though he usually paid them visits rather than the other way around—their homes, designed for multiple inhabitants, were a bit better suited for entertaining guests—one or more of them did occasionally show up at his figurative door. Such was the case on this day, when the tapping of a horn against the ice warding his home managed to pull his attention from the helix that he had conjured up from the ice in the middle of the floor. He removed the barrier to find Azvida and Jeneth hovering there, with Jen standing in front of them and looking a bit antsy.

“Ah, hi!” Solonn greeted them warmly. “Come on in.” He cleared the floor of sculptures to provide more room for his three visitors, taking a quick mental snapshot of the ice formations in the hopes of being able to replicate them again once his company left, and moved aside to let the couple and their son into his home.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” Azvida told him with a hint of guilt in her voice at the trouble that Solonn had already gone to for their sake. “We’re just dropping Jen off here, if that’s all right—he wants to be taken to the snowgrounds later, but he said he wanted to come see you first.”

“We were hoping you could take him there when he’s ready so that your mother and I can go ahead to the temple. We’re wanting to get there as soon as possible so that we can get back and… try again,” Jeneth said, lowering his voice on those last two words.

Solonn knew exactly what Jeneth meant by that, and he did an admirable job of not letting the fact that he suddenly found the conversation to be rather awkward reach his face. Jeneth and Azvida wanted another child, but they had had even less luck in the endeavor thus far than they’d had the first time around. Their trip to the temple was undoubtedly to once again offer prayers for the gods to change those fortunes, Solonn figured.

“Sure, that’s fine by me,” Solonn said, accepting the babysitting job with which he’d just been landed. He’d had plans for that day, having intended to go up beyond the borders of Virc-Dho to spend some time with his father, but that could wait, especially since it didn’t seem like it’d have to wait long. “I suppose you’ll be picking him from there later?”

Azvida nodded. She then looked down toward Jen. “Be good, all right?” she instructed him. “Remember: I’ll know if you don’t.”

Jen gave her a slightly nervous look. “Okay,” he said. “Bye!”

“Bye,” his parents returned in near-unison, smiling, then departed.

Jen entered the living room proper then, and Solonn restored the ice barrier at the entrance behind him. The snorunt made his way to a spot just a little off the center of the room, stopped there and looked for a moment like he was going to take a seat, but then paused in mid-motion and straightened his posture once more.

There was a distinct look of unease on the snorunt’s face, Solonn noticed, which brought a frown of concern to his own. “Is something the matter?” he asked. He wondered if maybe Jen had figured out somehow that his parents were trying to give him a little brother or sister and if perhaps the snorunt was feeling like they were replacing him or something. Maybe he was seeking confirmation from Solonn that getting a younger sibling wouldn’t really mean the end of the world as he knew it after all.

Or perhaps Jen had mentioned the whole topic of little brothers and sisters to his friends at the snowgrounds, the subject of where such things came from had come up, and he was seeking confirmation from Solonn regarding that matter. Solonn sincerely hoped that that wasn’t the case.

“Well… I need you to do something,” Jen said.

Solonn looked at him with a mixture of puzzlement and relief; somehow Jen’s response didn’t seem to him like anything that would lead into having to explain eggs or anything of that nature. Where it was leading, however, he couldn’t guess. “And what might that be?”

Jen took a deep breath, seeming none too keen on elaborating. Not meeting Solonn’s gaze, “I… did something stupid,” he finally admitted, sounding and looking quite embarrassed.

“Oh… Well… I’m sure it can’t have been that bad…” Solonn said, sitting down.

“It is,” Jen insisted. He shook his head. “Why? Why’d I say that?” he muttered to himself, turning and beginning to pace as he spoke.

Solonn’s eyes briefly followed the snorunt moving in a small figure-eight in the middle of the room. “Well, what did you say?” he asked gently. “And to whom?”

Jen let out a loud, annoyed sigh, though Solonn suspected that Jen was directing the sentiment toward himself. The snorunt managed to get himself to hold still. “I told my friends I could make stuff with ice. You know, like you do. And they said ‘prove it’, and I said I would next time I went over there.” He took another deep breath, then forced himself to look Solonn in the eyes as steadily as possible. “So I need you to come with me and do it for me. Like… hide outside and make things made out of ice appear in there so it’ll look like I’m doing it.”

There was a hint of desperation in Jen’s voice that suggested that he didn’t really have much faith in that plan. Solonn had none in it whatsoever. “Jen… sooner or later, they’re going to figure out that you didn’t mean it about being able to do that… I can’t be there every time you see them.”

Jen finally sat down, his face showing only mild disappointment; apparently he had expected an answer like that one. “And you can’t just show me how to do it,” he said, already having been told long ago that that sort of control over ice was simply outside the scope of a snorunt’s abilities.

Solonn gave a faint, sad sort of smile. “I’m afraid not. I’d be glad to if I could, but… well, it’s just something that you have to find for yourself by really connecting to your element. You’ll be able to do that when you evolve. You’ll feel that connection, and you’ll know when you feel it. There’s nothing else like it.”

“What’s it like?” Jen asked, his head tilted slightly in curiosity.

“It’s…” Solonn began, but found himself almost immediately at a near-loss for words. He tried to describe it, thinking upon the sensation, calling on memories of past experiences with it to study within his mind… and as he did so, he found himself falling into the sensation in the present. The ice on the floor before him answered the unintentional call of those straying thoughts, snaking upward and resuming the helical shape that it had held in that very spot before, with little wispy projections emerging from the main body of the sculpture and another, smaller helix rising up through the center of it.

Solonn only realized after the fact that he’d fallen silent and had shut his eyes; when he opened them again, he saw what he had done and gave a faint, apologetic laugh for letting himself get carried away like that. “Whoops,” he said. “Anyway… there’s really no way I could ever explain just how wonderful it is or what it’s quite like,” he admitted. “And that feeling, that connection… that’s where this comes from,” he told Jen, nodding toward the ice sculpture. “Whenever you connect to the element, this is what can happen.” Maybe it was partly because the experience of being one with the element was so difficult to put into words that these manifestations in ice happened, Solonn mused silently. Maybe this was the only way that he or anyone else of his kind could quite adequately express that connection.

Jen leveled a stare at the ice formation in front of him for a moment. Then he screwed his eyes shut, his brow creasing in concentration. A couple of seconds later, his eyes popped open once more. “…Hey, I think it moved!” he said, gesturing toward one of the thin, branchlike structures growing out of the main helix.

It hadn’t moved an inch, but Solonn didn’t quite have the heart to correct him too bluntly. “Well, one day, you won’t just think you made the ice move. You’ll know when you have.”

Jen made a noise of frustration. “I don’t want to have to wait to evolve to do it, though.” His eyes shifted up to Solonn’s again. “Hey…” he began slowly. “Maybe… maybe I could go ahead and evolve right now. And maybe you could help me.”

“Not unless you want to risk losing your mind,” Solonn told him, his tone serious. “And at your age, I think there’s almost no chance that that wouldn’t happen. Evolving brings a kind of power we have to be ready for, and that takes time. If you get it before you’re ready… it’ll ruin you. You could go insane. You wouldn’t even be able to think of making anything out of ice. And if I helped you go insane, Mother and Jeneth would never forgive me. And I would never forgive myself.”

The light in Jen’s eyes flickered, fading slightly. Whether or not he believed Solonn’s claims about what early evolution could lead to, the glalie couldn’t tell for certain, but Jen did at least seem disinclined to take the risk. The snorunt sighed once again. “What am I gonna do, then?” he asked.

“Well… all you really can do is tell the truth. Again, they will figure it out sooner or later—you should really probably just get it over with.”

Jen looked aside, worry showing through his features. “I bet they’re gonna beat me up for lying.”

“They probably won’t,” Solonn tried to assure him. “They’d better not, anyway. If they even so much as look at you like they want to, they’ll have Mother and Jeneth to deal with.”

That they would, and as he thought about it, he wondered if it might be prudent for Jen to get a chance to tell Azvida and Jeneth about the situation that their son had gotten himself into before confronting the other kids so that they could be ready to defuse any potential problems before they arose. He considered the option of not taking Jen to the snowgrounds and just watching him until his parents could return, postponing the trip up into Shoal Cave to visit his father if such proved necessary.

That would mean that Azvida and Jeneth would be returning to his home after failing to find Jen at the snowgrounds, he realized as this course of action occurred to him, and he could already picture Jeneth’s disapproving stare and hear Azvida chewing him out for giving them a scare, however brief, but he figured—or at least hoped—that things would be fine once he got the chance to explain things to them.

So, “Maybe it would be a good idea to talk with Mother and Jeneth about this before you go and face the other kids again,” he suggested. “Would you rather just stay and wait here for them to come back?”

Jen considered this for a few moments. Then he shuddered. “I don’t want Mom and Dad to find out,” he said finally. “I’m more scared of Mom than I am of the other kids.” He stood then, turning toward the exit. “Come on… let’s go,” he said with resignation in his voice.

“All right,” Solonn said. He rose, unblocked the exit, and escorted Jen out, sealing his home off once more as they left it behind. His half-brother kept silent during the entirety of the trip to the snowgrounds; Solonn didn’t try to provoke him into conversation, suspecting that the snorunt needed to focus fully on steeling himself for his confession.

He lingered at the entrance to the snowgrounds after bidding Jen goodbye there, feeling it prudent to make sure that the other children didn’t react too harshly to what Jen had to tell them. He still didn’t really anticipate too much trouble, but he found himself compelled nonetheless to stick around long enough to confirm that things would be all right. At the very least, he figured that he should be there in a show of support for his half-brother.

Fortunately, the other kids seemed to take the news well enough. There were a couple of groans from among the small crowd in response to it, but they only sounded disappointed, not angry. Solonn heard “I knew it!” out of one of the snorunt and found himself inclined to believe that most of Jen’s friends shared a similar sentiment.

He did see a couple of pairs of their eyes find him, regarding him uneasily. He disliked seeing children looking at him with anything at all like fear and frowned in regret; the snorunt watching him turned away quickly, possibly misinterpreting the look on his face as one of stern disapproval.

Jen met his gaze then, and Solonn gave him a reassuring nod. It’ll be all right, he told Jen silently, and as if to confirm that thought, a change of the subject and enthusiastic joining in on the new topic arose from among the snorunt. Smiling at the fact that the situation seemed to have resolved itself just fine, Solonn turned and went on his way.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:00 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:47 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Rather than head back home, he decided to go ahead and continue on to visit Grosh. Having taken the route that led up to Grosh’s residence countless times since learning that his father was alive and well and living not too far away, Solonn knew nearly all of its features by heart; things rarely changed along that path, and when they did, they were only minor changes.

Therefore it was quite a surprise, to say the very least, to find his usual path blocked by a most unusual obstacle just as he was approaching the passageway out of the border-cavern—one that literally just appeared right out of thin air in front of him with a brilliant flash. Given virtually no time to react to it and momentarily blinded by its accompanying burst of light, Solonn collided face-first with the thing with a dull whumpf, causing whatever it was to be knocked backward; it emitted a strange groaning noise as it went tumbling awkwardly away.

Solonn reclaimed his wits and his vision fairly quickly after the unexpected collision. As he cast his gaze off to the left, following the source of the odd sound, his eyes met something that greatly surprised him: uttering a long string of rattling speech to itself, a claydol pitched and wobbled there in an ungainly fashion as it tried to stabilize itself in midair.

“…Oth?” Solonn said, barely able to believe his eyes.

The claydol finally managed to right itself; once it did, it turned to face Solonn, having long ago taken on that habit of creatures who only have eyes in the front. <Oh, hello, Solonn,> it said, confirming his guess. <I am glad to have found you so quickly; I doubt that I could have tracked you down any more successfully than I had done the times before. My apologies for my rather… awkward arrival,> Oth added.

“No harm done,” Solonn assured it. “…The times before, did you say?” he then asked as the implications of what Oth had said hit him with a delay.

Oth gave one of its pseudo-nods. <I have returned to this cavern many times since our parting. However, you were not in this vicinity on any of those occasions, and I regrettably had to terminate my search each of those times before I could find you… It shames me somewhat to admit this, but I did so because I was unable to tolerate the cold of these caverns for very long.>

“There’s no need to apologize for that; it’s not exactly something you can help, after all. Anyway, since I’m here, I can try to keep the cold from you,” Solonn said.

<There is no need for you to try,> Oth said. <You are actually doing quite a good job of keeping the effects of this environment upon me at bay even as we speak.>

Solonn was momentarily surprised by this finding, but quickly realized that he must certainly have employed this type of control over his element subconsciously on many occasions for the simple purpose of keeping the coldness of his own body from having an adverse effect on anything around him. But even knowing that it was unnecessary to make a conscious effort to protect the claydol in his company, he suspected that he would still catch himself feeling compelled from time to time to make deliberately certain that Oth was adequately guarded against the local environment.

“So, then. How have you been?” Solonn asked amiably. “And what of the others?”

<We have fared well, relatively speaking,> Oth replied, <though largely, we have done so apart.>

“Oh?” Solonn frowned slightly, wondering what might have separated the old friends. “What happened?”

<Ultimately, we all simply had our own paths to take,> Oth said. <Many of those in Lilycove wished to return to where they had lived prior to being acquired by humans, and Brett was among them. Aaron met another of his kind and chose to go with her to her home in the southwest. Only Raze chose to stay in Lilycove—I doubt that she could ever bear to leave that place,> it said, its voice lowering on that statement.

Understanding shone through Solonn’s eyes at this; he figured that Lilycove was surely a place of tremendous sentimental importance to the skarmory. She had been born there, after all, and it had since been the birthplace of countless memories that she’d forged with the human with whom she’d grown up there. In her eyes, he reckoned, that city and those memories were certainly all that she had left to hold on to of Morgan and of the past.

<Brett, Aaron and Raze have all dedicated themselves to founding and raising families since you and I last spoke,> Oth went on. <Aaron and his mate Rhasth have had a young son together, Brett and Fiela have had two litters, and Raze and Eisen are awaiting the hatching of their first clutch of eggs.>

The thought of his old friends with children was one at which Solonn could not help but chuckle. He was glad to know that some kind of joy had befallen their lives since the sorrow that had hung over his last moments with them.

<As for Sei and I,> Oth said, <we were part of a team that served the effort to help people rebuild their lives after the day when the humans were stricken. We freed those trapped in capture and storage devices, relocated those who had need of such, helped those who knew not how to live without humans to fend for themselves capably and peacefully, and did what we could to dispel the chaos wherever they failed.

<Our work continued for quite a long time after the human tragedy, too. It was not only our part of the world that was affected, but every part. Even to the best of our hopes and efforts to find otherwise… the unfortunate truth is that nothing remains of the human species. Nothing at all.>

There was a prolonged, heavy silence in the wake of Oth’s pronouncement of the fate of humanity. Solonn was almost at a loss for thought—he, like many, had feared that the human tragedy might have been enormous and perhaps even global in its scope, but to actually hear it aloud, confirmed… “Did you or anyone else ever find out what really happened to them all?” he managed at length. “Do you know what caused it?”

<Sadly, no,> Oth replied. <Though many have tried, none have succeeded in determining the origin of the Extinction.>

Another somber pause hung over the two before Oth resumed its account of what it, Sei, and the rest of their team had done over these past years. <Eventually, as things began to stabilize in much of the world, most of us finally went back to our own lives, but Sei… She is still out there, doing anything and everything she can for whomever appears to have need of her. I think she may never consider her work to be done.>

“Hmm,” was all Solonn could say to that, nodding. Knowing Sei as he did, he was not surprised to hear such about her. “And what have you been doing since your work was finished?”

<Not much. In addition to trying to contact you, I have been checking in on the others from time to time, making sure that they were doing well and usually staying with them for a short time before moving on. Other than that… largely, I have simply roamed during these years. I have no single place to stay now, really…>

Oth fell silent, and a strange, faraway look entered its many eyes. The claydol seemed to have arrived at a difficult subject, and Solonn found himself sorry for anything that he might have said to lead it there, averting his gaze self-consciously. Oth seemed to recognize the awkwardness that had fallen over the situation then and moved to remedy it at once. <So, what has been going on in your life?> it asked, changing the subject.

“Well, truth be told, I’ve not really been up to anything of interest,” Solonn admitted lightheartedly. “I also haven’t got any kids of my own yet… but my mother found a new mate, and they’ve had a son together.”

<Oh? How fortunate for them!> Oth said.

Solonn smiled. “Indeed. And also… you might find this hard to believe, but… my father returned.”

All of the claydol’s eyes blinked in unison. <Your father?> it said incredulously. <I did not know that he still lived!>

“Neither did I, for a while,” Solonn said. “But he is indeed very much alive. As a matter of fact, I was on my way to visit him when you arrived.”

A series of peculiar little clicking sounds issued from the claydol, a sound that Solonn had long known to be its form of laughter. <Well, I am certainly glad to learn that he is alive and well,> Oth said warmly. <I wonder…> it then added, <do you suppose that I could accompany you? I am rather interested in meeting your family, and now that I have a chance to spend some time with you after so long, I am… not exactly eager to bid you farewell anytime soon…> There was something in its tone that suggested a bit of embarrassment on its part, as if it were worried that it might be imposing itself on Solonn.

But Solonn had no problem whatsoever with letting Oth come along with him. He was equally interested in prolonging such a long-due reunion, and he certainly didn’t want to leave Oth behind with no other option in the cold caverns but to go back from whence it had come. “Sure, of course you may,” he said.

<Thank you,> Oth said gratefully.

“No problem,” Solonn responded as he set off once again, with the claydol following close behind. “Now, I don’t want you to be too shocked when you see him…”

<Of course, but why would I be?> Oth asked.

“Well, you see…”

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:01 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:48 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Side by side, Azvida and Jeneth entered the temple together. They closed off the entrance behind them and then descended into the sacred chamber, moving silently through a small crowd as they sought a nice place to stop and commence their prayer and meditation.

Those who were already gathered there seemed to barely notice their arrival. People visited the temple as they pleased or needed; it seemed that there was nearly always someone coming or going through that entrance, and so no one paid much mind to the flow of visitors. Most of those who were present in the temple were furthermore too engrossed in their meditations to notice much else.

As the temple was presently not very heavily occupied, the couple soon found an empty spot near the front of the chamber and gladly set themselves down there. Before them, three tall, tapering spires of ice rose from the floor in a triangular formation, their intended purpose being to focus prayers unto the heavens and to channel divine energy into the worshipers. A solid, triple-diamond pattern was etched into a flattened facet on the front of each of these spires.

Azvida and Jeneth gazed upon the spires for a moment, then exchanged optimistic smiles before closing their eyes and opening their minds to the realm of the gods, doing nothing more for a while other than dwelling on the sacredness of this place. They then silently offered reverence and praise unto the gods, and they could virtually feel their wordless response. The couple sent their gratitude for their prior blessings and appealed to them for more, dearly hoping that their prayers for another child to come into their lives would be answered at last.

At the opposite end of the temple, the barrier at its entrance vanished and reappeared once again, this time admitting a rather larger group of new arrivals than usual. The people in the temple paid these newcomers no more mind than they had to the couple that had come in just before, not even those among them who were concluding their meditations. The newly arrived glalie moved into the crowd, one of them managing to make it up front to the altar, taking his place next to Azvida and Jeneth. Soon, all of them had gotten themselves situated, melding seamlessly into the tranquility of the scene as if they had always been there.

Then that tranquility met an abrupt end.

There was a sound like an enormous peal of thunder erupting within their midst—the signature of several concentrated bursts of raw elemental power released in unison. The worshipers were snapped violently out of their reveries, and their cries of shock and terror rose to join the echoes of the blasts as they saw that some among their number had been struck down to the floor. Just as quickly, the horrified crowd discovered that their nightmare had only just begun.

The first thing Azvida saw as she cast a panicked glance about in the wake of her shattered trance was Jeneth lying motionless by her side, seemingly unconscious. The next thing she saw, in nearly the same instant, was a gray-and-white blur that smashed into him from out of nowhere. She went reeling backward automatically with a wordless exclamation of surprise as it hurtled past her, driving her insensible mate along with it. There was a sickening crunch as they met the wall, and her eyes darted toward the sound of the impact.

Whatever—whomever—had just struck her mate was nowhere in sight, but there was Jeneth, propped against the wall at an awkward angle. Oblivious in his unconsciousness to the crushing blow that he’d just been dealt, he wore an expression of peace… but the rapidly spreading pool of nearly colorless, evanescing blood that surrounded him conveyed quite the opposite.

A strangled wail of anguish escaped from Azvida as she rushed toward him, desperate to find some sign of hope, of life within him, but before she could reach him, his attacker swung back around to the scene, turning on her this time. She caught sight of the charging glalie in the corner of her eye, and she raised a protect aura and dodged out of the way a split-second before he could strike her, veering wildly toward the center of the chamber—but not into safety.

All at once, Azvida found herself in the midst of pure chaos. All around her, jaws snapped, horns slashed and stabbed, and bodies collided with brutal force. The sounds of shattering armor and attempted sheer cold strikes filled the air along with hisses of fury and cries of fear and agony.

Azvida regained her bearings and looked back toward where Jeneth lay, her heart catching sickeningly in her throat—she was certain now that he was no longer living. He wasn’t alone, either; several others had fallen: smashed against walls, gored, or both. Her eyes shielded themselves from the grim scene as a powerful wave of sorrow and confusion welled up within her. In all her time in Virc-Dho, she had never seen such violence among her people, and she couldn’t even begin to imagine why it was happening now. All that she was sure of was that it shouldn’t be. This once sacred place had become a killing field, desecrated with the blood of innocents, and more were still in great danger, herself included.

She was struck the moment her shield fell; she gave a shriek of pain as she felt something gouge a burning path across her back, smashing through the sparse armor there. From some long-dormant corner of her memory, a response came: she abruptly turned toward her assailant in a violent, wrenching motion, her left horn raking across his eyes. A scream exploded from his jaws, only to be silenced as Azvida rammed into him powerfully, knocking the breath out of him as he was shoved away.

Her eyes swept the chamber, anticipating another strike at any moment, from any direction. She saw as she did so just how one-sided the battle seemed to be. There were clear aggressors, glalie who attacked ruthlessly and relentlessly with expert strikes. Most of the rest, while earnestly fighting back the best that they could, were just painfully outclassed by the other side. Others, having realized that they were no real match for the enemy, didn’t fight at all and instead just tried to keep their protect shields up and avoid the onslaught.

The fact of the matter was that most of them had nothing in the way of battle experience beyond the matches conducted for sport and for the purpose of encouraging evolution, and there was quite a significant difference between merely sparring and actually fighting for one’s life. Azvida, on the other hand, knew the face of mortal combat all too well. She had hoped to never have to employ the deadly arts that she had learned so long ago during the days when she was forced to fight savagely for the entertainment and profit of humans, but she knew that those skills would be needed here today to help defend the less proficient fighters from these people who seemed to desire nothing less than to slaughter them.

With no further hesitation, she charged into the fray. Wherever she saw someone being overpowered by one of the aggressors, she aided them against the enemy; wherever she saw someone cornered or otherwise helpless against an oncoming threat, she rushed in to intercept the attacker. Knowing that even undiluted sheer cold blasts could not be depended upon in such a chaotic situation, especially against such clearly-skilled opponents, she instead relied upon purely physical strikes, her skull bashing into the enemies like a battering ram, her horns seeking the vulnerable eyes and the gaps in the armor of her targets.

Her enemies’ retaliatory strikes left gashes and punctures all over her hide whenever her protect aura failed, but she paid no mind to her own pain, focusing instead on restoring her armor wherever it took damage, glazing over her wounds with ice, and keeping up her defense of her fellow men and women as well as she could.

But the fact remained that the other side was composed entirely of fighters whose skill was least equal to her own. She alone could not truly provide an adequate defense against that kind of force; despite her best efforts, her people were still falling.

Still, Azvida was determined to help defend them as well as she could. She hurtled toward another enemy who was bearing down on a vulnerable, seemingly wounded glalie lying near the altar—only to pass right through the attacker. She cursed aloud as she realized that she’d just wasted her attack on a double team illusion, and a damned convincing one at that.

Immediately, she sought out its source, anticipating an ambush from whomever had cast the technique—but much to her shock, that ambush came from the “helpless” glalie whom she had moved to save, who grinned wickedly as she rose from the spot in an instant and fiercely headbutted Azvida. Another glalie, the one responsible for the illusion, struck Azvida from the other side in nearly the same instant, causing her to collide painfully with one of the altar’s spires; Azvida only just managed to recover herself and get away from the spire before a large chunk of it broke off and fell to the floor.

As she hurried away from the broken altar, shoving her way through the crowd, she saw that a couple of glalie had managed to slip away from the fight and had made their way to the exit. A small surge of hope awoke in her at the sight, hope that those people might be able to escape with their lives—and that better still, they might bring back help, reinforcements that might put an end to this attack and bring its perpetrators to justice.

But that hope was dashed almost immediately as the barrier warding the exit didn’t vanish at the unspoken command of those gathered before it. They then tried to simply bash through the wall of ice, but to no avail; as if alive, it automatically repaired any damage dealt to it.

“It won’t open!” one of them shouted. “Why won’t it open?!”

Azvida’s heart sank as an answer to that question came to her right away: the enemies must be exercising control over the barrier blocking the only way out, she figured. They now outnumbered the defenders, and so their power to keep it closed was greater than even the defenders’ combined efforts to open it would be.

If more glalie arrived at the other side of the barrier, however, they might well be able to overpower the enemy and gain access to the temple. Were the lair of the Security Guild not located on virtually the other side of the warren, such help would certainly have come already. At the very least, though, they could be summoned if anyone were to come near enough to the temple to hear the commotion within it, but so far it seemed that no one had.

And then a possibility came to Azvida’s mind. Among the skills that she’d obtained during her time in human custody lay a potential means to draw that badly needed attention—one unsubtle enough to be noticed not only by those near the temple but quite possibly by the entire warren. It had seemed impractical to her as a weapon in combat due to that very unsubtlety and thus had been pushed to the back of her mind in favor of fighting methods with less risk of collateral damage. Its potential beyond simple offense had not occurred to her; inwardly, she cursed herself for not thinking of this course of action sooner.

There was no real guarantee that her idea would work, she knew. Maybe no one would arrive in time; maybe not enough would. Maybe the wrong people would arrive first, though such might happen anyway. Perhaps, the terrible thought occurred to her, similar or even greater violence had erupted elsewhere in the warren, too, in which case the aid that they needed in the temple might be wrapped up in trouble elsewhere. But Azvida felt that she had to at least give it a try, that it might be the only hope left for the salvation of those trapped with her—or at least for those who had brought this misery upon them to be given what she felt that they deserved for it.

With no further delay, she brought up a protect shield once again so that no one and nothing could disrupt what she was about to do—and just in time, as the two glalie who’d tricked her came back around for another strike at her then, accompanied by a third this time.

“Everyone!” she then shouted as loudly as her partially spent strength would allow, unfazed as each of the three assailants’ attacks struck her shield. She knew that her next actions could potentially wreak serious harm on the already disadvantaged and overwhelmed innocents, and thus she wanted to give them adequate warning. “Protect or get as high off the ground as you can now!”

Before her, she saw deep blue light blossom around nearly every living person within the temple, while others pushed their levitation to the limit, rising as high up off of the floor as their heavy bodies could manage. The enemies also took such protective measures, and their attention was now directed squarely and entirely toward Azvida. It seemed that they knew that she was up to something and weren’t interested in letting her pull it off successfully. In a single moment, the enemies amassed and moved toward her in unison.

But just before they could reach her, she surged up into the air, well above her normal hovering height. She came crashing back down in nearly the same instant, and upon landing, she released a powerful discharge of ground-type energy into the floor beneath her, sending great shockwaves outward from the site of impact. The ice that glazed the walls, floor, and ceiling filled with fissures and then exploded from the stone surfaces in a burst of frozen shrapnel almost immediately; what remained of the altar was brought crashing down; and the barrier shattered, only to be restored in virtually the same instant. Her shield fell a split-second after the earthquake’s release, and as the attackers fell upon her, she could only hope that her call for help would be answered in time.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:02 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:49 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Deep, rattling echoes filled the surrounding space: the sonic companion to Oth’s account of its ultra rank contest experience. Its tale was interrupted here and there by a question or comment from Grosh, but Solonn, having heard the story several times before, kept contentedly silent as he sat there in that chamber with his friend and his father.

As the claydol was nearing the end of its account, Solonn was distracted by something peculiar: a quick and rather small yet undeniable tremor that rippled through the stone floor beneath him. It was gone nearly as quickly as it had come, and it left Solonn a bit surprised; judging from the way it had felt, he wondered if it might have been a small earthquake, something that he had never personally experienced there or elsewhere before.

“Did anyone else feel that?” he asked, turning his gaze toward the others. When it fell upon Grosh, Solonn found the steelix wearing a distinctly troubled expression, and his own changed to match it at once.

<I did not feel anything… What is the matter?> Oth asked as it noticed the looks of worry held by the others.

“There was a small tremor a moment ago,” Solonn answered.

<Oh… Are tremors not a common occurrence in this area?>

“As long as I’ve known this place, no, they aren’t,” Grosh said, powerful tension clear in his tone and the set of his jaw. He looked down toward Solonn. “I think that came from the warren—and I think it was your mother’s doing,” he told him quietly, at which his son’s eyes widened in surprise. “And I don’t imagine she would have used that unless she was in major trouble.”

“Oh dear gods…” Solonn said almost breathlessly, rising from the floor, an immense concern for the well-being of not only Azvida but also Jeneth, who was almost assuredly still with her, instantly awakening within him. He heard an untranslated utterance from the claydol to his right: a possible echo of his sentiments. A number of the dangerous scenarios that Azvida and Jeneth could be facing raced through his mind in rapid sequence, quickening his pulse and causing fear to settle heavily into the pit of his stomach.

“She’s a good fighter,” Grosh went on, “and I’m sure she can hold her own in a lot of situations, but if she’s found it necessary to resort to that…” He shook his head. “I fear she might be overwhelmed,” he worried aloud, and his eyes darted fretfully toward the mouth of his cavern and the long shaft leading up out of it. “We’ve got to try and reach her,” he decided firmly. “We don’t know what’s going on, how much time she has… I can’t stand the thought of not being there for her if she’s in need…”

“Oth can close much of the distance between here and the warren,” Solonn said, trying to think as fast as he could. “It can get us to the border-cavern at the very least—and if it can do what I think it can, it can get us to where we probably need to go.” He knew that some psychics, like Sei, could extract memories of destinations from others’ minds and thus teleport to places that they themselves had never physically been. Oth, however, was not as powerful a psychic as Sei was; there was therefore a chance that it might not be able to do such a thing. Solonn hoped dearly that it could. There was indeed no telling how much time Azvida and Jeneth had—every second counted, and he was sure that being able to warp instantly to where they wished to go could make all the difference in how they fared.

<I can,> Oth said, correctly interpreting Solonn’s statement about its abilities. <If you will allow me to form a temporary link with your mind, I can be ready to take you immediately to any place you can recall.>

Though ordinarily somewhat averse to letting others into his mind, even friends, such reservations could not have been further from Solonn at the present. “Please do,” he consented readily.

Oth brought itself directly before him. As was typical in the execution of many of Oth’s psychic abilities, all but the foremost of its eyes closed as the claydol focused its power through it. There was no ray or beam of light this time; the manifestation of its power was invisible. It wasn’t intangible, however; in no time, Solonn felt the distinct sensation of some foreign presence entering his mind. At the same time, he felt an equally foreign landscape open up on the outskirts of his perception; Oth was forming a two-way connection, he realized at once, a true link. He hoped not to accidentally pick up on any of the claydol’s thoughts, but such concerns were not first and foremost on his mind.

To his immense gratitude, the link was very quickly established. <Just think of where you wish to go, and I will transport us there instantly,> Oth told him.

“There’s just one problem,” Grosh pointed out, his frown deepening further. “We don’t know where in the warren she is, exactly. We could lose precious time trying to find her.”

“I think I know where she is,” Solonn said. He suspected that she and Jeneth were still at the temple… either that or they were on their way home. He didn’t think that they would be en route to the snowgrounds just yet, let alone would they have arrived there—he hoped to all gods that they hadn’t, at least. The thought of any children—and especially of Jen—being involved in whatever trouble had befallen Azvida and Jeneth only increased the chilling, sickening fear that roiled within him.“She’s probably at the temple with Jeneth, but if she’s not… well, I think I know where else they could be. We’re just going to have to move as quickly as possible,” Solonn said, trying with only minimal success to suppress thoughts of what might happen if Jeneth and Azvida failed to get needed help in time. “If we don’t find them in one place, we’ll move on immediately.”

The others gave quick nods of agreement, and with that, Solonn focused as sharply as he could manage on visualizing the temple, hoping that the swarm of other thoughts and worries in his mind wouldn’t impede Oth’s reception of his desired destination.

Luckily, the claydol seemed to receive it without any problem. <Draw as close to me as you can,> it advised Grosh right away. The steelix did so at once, coiling loosely around Solonn and Oth. A teleportation field promptly formed around the three, erasing their presence from Grosh’s home.

In virtually the same instant, they rematerialized within the warren, in a fairly wide corridor that stretched out a fair distance from either side of them and curved away around corners into unseen passages beyond. Before them stood a tall, broad wall of ice, differing slightly in color from that which surrounded it; there was no stone immediately behind it, only open space. This was the barrier that sealed the temple of the Virc.

Upon arrival there, Solonn and the others recognized at once that it was also currently host to the trouble that they sought.

From the other side of the wall of ice separating them from the temple, the shouts and cries of the battle within reached the three, and the thundering dread and urgency that they shared surged higher still. Immediately, Oth teleported itself and the others into the temple, where they were greeted at once by the sight of the violence within, still raging despite the number of combatants who had already fallen in the minutes since the commencement of the attack. It was a far more brutal scene than any of the three who had just arrived had expected to find, drawing gasps and cries of shock from them at once.

Their entrance didn’t go unnoticed; several pairs of eyes shifted immediately toward the sudden flash of golden light that had just occurred at the exit, and those eyes widened massively at what they found there.

A fearful voice cut through the din, announcing the arrival of the steelix that had just appeared on the scene. “Ler Vhossilliar!” the voice shouted. “Retreat, retreat!”

At this call, a number of the glalie within the chamber broke away from the fight and surged toward the exit as one, many of them summoning protect shields around themselves as they did so. The barrier vanished at once before the small swarm of glalie as they fled the temple as fast as they could go, the three newly arrived pokémon whom they rushed past still in too much shock at what they’d found to even begin to realize why they should intercept them.

Following the departure of those glalie, the scene was instantly changed. The fighting had ceased completely; most of those who were now left in the temple were lying on the floor, unconscious or worse, while the few who remained off the ground hovered warily in place, their darting, fearful glances telling that they did not yet dare to believe that the violence had subsided.

Solonn looked upon the scene laid out before him, almost paralyzed with horror and disbelief—he had never beheld such carnage in his life. With an immense effort, he forced himself forward, shuddering hard as he and the others proceeded into the main chamber of the ruined temple, battling a faintness that threatened to bring him down alongside the victims. A thin, pale, silvery mist hung low in the air, vapors from the blood of the fallen; his stomach lurched hard at the thought that he was actually breathing it.

He spotted a small cluster of relatively unharmed-looking glalie huddling together and moving away from him and the strange, foreign creatures accompanying him. They froze in place when they realized that his eyes, as well as those of the claydol and steelix alongside him, had found them. Solonn noticed at once that Azvida and Jeneth were not among them, as did the others; Grosh broke away and immediately began searching the chamber on his own, a couple of his spiked segments rotating fretfully as he did so.

Solonn ceased his advance in an effort to seem less threatening to the fearful survivors but maintained his gaze directly at them, the troubled question plain in his eyes even before it was spoken aloud.

“Where are they?” he asked of them, his throat dry and constricted with fear. “Where are Azvida Zgil-Al and Jeneth Avasi-Ra; do you know?” He could only hope that one of them knew who they were and could recognize them.

One of the survivors nodded almost imperceptibly. Her eyes shifted off to her right—just as a bloodcurdling howl sounded from that very direction.

Solonn’s heart seized at the sound, and he made to rush toward it right away—only to have his dash arrested as familiar, yellow light briefly filled his vision. When it vanished, he found himself and Oth now directly beside Grosh, with the same sight before their eyes that the steelix had found the moment before… a sight that they found almost unbearable.

Azvida lay face-up before them, trembling uncontrollably and staring sightlessly into space through fluttering, ruined eyes. The degree to which she was suffering was difficult to tell, but that she was indeed in pain was all too certain. Her breathing was ragged, horribly labored. Her armor was deformed, hastily shifted to patch over her many wounds. She seemed to have lost the strength to do so at some point, for some of them were still exposed, still bleeding into the already considerable pool that surrounded her; Solonn mindfully took over the work for her, a wordless, strangled sound of horror escaping him as he glazed over the open wounds as quickly as he could.

“Mother…” he all but whispered, his voice catching in his throat. “Dear gods, what have they done to you?”

Azvida stirred slightly where she lay, trying but failing to turn toward the voice that had just reached her. “…Solonn?” she managed in a brittle, almost breathless tone, all too clearly struggling to speak. “Are you… here?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m here… and so is Father.”

Something of a sad, wistful gratitude managed to convey itself through Azvida’s marred features at this. “Thank you…” A frail, shuddering sigh escaped her. “Wish I… could see you…”

The failing light in her eyes flickered erratically as she unknowingly met her son’s gaze directly. A wrenching pang seized his heart as he watched the almost colorless rivulets of blood that were flowing from the wounds closest to her eyes… it looked to him as though she were crying, shedding impossible tears.

“Who did this to you?” Grosh asked, anguish and fury plain in his tone. “I won’t let them get away with it, I promise…”

“Don’t know,” Azvida responded very weakly. “There were… so many…”

“Mother… where is Jeneth?” Solonn asked hoarsely. “Is he… ?” He couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence.

Azvida couldn’t bring herself to answer, at least not in words. Her face contorted, and a frail sob escaped her.

Solonn’s heart sank even further at the way that he interpreted that response, and he drew in his next breath as a shuddering, pained hiss. “Oh… oh gods…” he said near-voicelessly, and he started to tremble. He heard sorrowful sounds from the other two who were gathered there with him and Azvida, and all around them, the ice that had fallen from the walls and ceiling surged back up to surround them, jagged projections erupting from it and beginning to twist and writhe at Solonn’s unconscious command as if in torment. The notion that Jeneth was gone was hard enough for him to endure as it was, and the anguish that was still plain on his mother’s face only made it hurt all the more.

He didn’t want such bereavement to be one of the last things she ever knew—and he had no intentions of letting it be. Her potential salvation hovered right at his side, he knew.

“Oth,” Solonn spoke up. The claydol made a faint noise of acknowledgment. “I know a place where they might be able to save her,” Solonn told it, and he brought thoughts and images of a state-of-the-art medical facility in a city far to the west to the surface of his mind. He could only hope that the pokémon who had been trained to work there still did so, that they had not decided that the skills of the human lifestyle were obsolete and thus abandoned them after the Extinction.

The familiar light of teleportation did not bloom around them, however. Solonn feared that Oth might have somehow failed to receive the image of their destination, and so he tried to focus harder on the Haven. This was far easier said than done, though, with such a terrible scene surrounding him, with one loved one already lost and another bleeding before him…

He noticed then that Oth had circled around Azvida to hover at her opposite side, and at that very instant, he saw a pale red beam project silently from the claydol’s foremost eye and strike the prone figure of his mother, seemingly to no effect.

“What are you doing?” he asked the claydol, urgency peaking within him. “We’ve got to get her to the hospital right away!”

Oth didn’t answer. It wordlessly widened its red beam and swept the ray of light over the wounded glalie before it, passing it over her twice. The beam was then terminated, and a long, low, almost toneless rattling issued forth from its maker, a sigh without breath.

<I am so sorry,> the claydol said somberly.

“What is it?” Solonn asked, dreading the answer.

There was the slightest pause as Oth struggled to deliver its next, difficult statement. <I am afraid that in her current state, she would not survive rematerialization,> it said regretfully. <She cannot be teleported.> Its head lowered, its many eyes closing in earnest guilt. <I am so sorry…> it said again.

None of the three gathered at Azvida’s side wanted to believe what was happening before them, but with that, the finality of the matter seemed undeniable no matter how dearly and desperately they wished otherwise. Solonn looked upon his mother with a profound apology in his eyes, hating the apparent hopelessness of the situation.

“I just wish I could do something about this,” he lamented quietly, “anything at all…”

Azvida drew as long a breath as she could manage, letting it out on a soft, hoarse note. Her jaws parted and she tried to speak, but a powerful tremor wracked her broken body then, stealing her breath before it could be given words. When it subsided, the lines of her face tightened briefly and a small, pained sound escaped her, almost a whimper.

“Just…” she finally resumed with immense difficulty, her words more exhaled than truly spoken. “Please… just stay safe.”

“We will,” Solonn assured her, swallowing against a fresh surge of anguish at the sight of her latest wave of suffering. “We promise we will. Don’t worry.”

Her only acknowledgment was the slightest nod and something whispered that came short of words. She gave another great shudder, one that seemed unwilling to relent… but then she finally fell still. The light in her eyes faded out, and her life went with it.

There was one last, precious ghost of a moment after in the minds of her observers in which she still lived. Then the truth fell upon them all, and deep within himself, Solonn felt something seem to tear itself wide open. The bereavement already aching badly deep within his bones swelled in him until it finally tore its way out through his throat in a long, raw, piercing cry, joining the anguished roaring and somber lowing of those at his sides. The surrounding ice through which his pain had manifested before shattered, crumbling from the walls and ceiling in tiny pieces that fell like frozen rain.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:03 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:49 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

Moments passed unmarked and uncounted in the wake of Azvida’s passing. Solonn shook as he huddled against the grieving steelix in a futile effort to comfort both his father and himself, his eyes closed, ragged breaths hissing through his teeth. He felt something slightly rough-textured light upon his back, which startled him slightly, but then he realized that it was only Oth’s hand. Opening his eyes, he turned and saw that it had laid its other hand upon Grosh, embracing both him and Solonn insofar as it could.

<I should inspect the others who have fallen,> the claydol finally spoke up, its mindvoice subdued. <Some of them may require medical attention… if I can transport them, I will do so.>

Solonn only nodded in agreement, unable to reach words. As the rest of the temple seemed to slowly reemerge unto his senses, he could hear the lamentations of others of his own kind, survivors facing loss or potentially impending loss of their own. He hoped dearly that as few of them as possible would share an experience like his own.

Oth parted from the group and began to move toward one of the other fallen glalie, but then stopped. <Someone is here…>

There was an especially loud, resounding crack. Without even so much as a chance to wonder what could possibly have hit it, the claydol fell to the floor—and in the same instant, Grosh did likewise, his head dropping heavily to the ground, very nearly landing on the glalie at his side. A cry of shock escaped Solonn, and he immediately looked to his father and his friend in turn, staring agape in disbelief at their sudden fall and fearing for their lives. Thankfully, Grosh was still breathing, his exhalations forming glowing clouds of warmth in the surrounding cold. Oth, however, was not breathing… but then again, Solonn remembered, it never did such. There was still its rather low but nonetheless present body heat to confirm its survival—an ice-type blast of lethal power would have left it thoroughly frozen.

The moment that he was sure that both of them were still alive, Solonn sought whomever had struck them down, suddenly awash in adrenaline and ready to fight back in the event that the attack on the temple had resumed. He swiftly found nine glalie at the entrance, seemingly newly arrived and wearing expressions that tried but failed to conceal horror at the scene that they’d found.

“Please remain calm,” one of them addressed the survivors, attempting to sound comforting and commanding at the same time despite the tremor that she couldn’t quite keep out of her voice. “No further harm will come to you. You all need to come with us before the Council of Authority for questioning and further aid and instructions.”

Any retaliation that Solonn might have had in store for the new arrivals faltered as he realized just what was going on: they were of the Security Guild, and they had undoubtedly come to investigate the commotion that had occurred here. With horror, he also realized why they had brought Grosh and Oth down, what they must have thought upon finding such strange creatures at a scene of carnage and destruction…

“No, you’ve got it all wrong!” he croaked out. “These two had nothing to do with this!”

The guild members regarded him with doubt, and most of them cast looks at the one who had spoken before. “Secure them and get ready to move them out,” their spokeswoman and apparent leader instructed her squad, nodding toward those gathered at her right. The six there nodded back in acknowledgment and moved in silent unison toward where Grosh and Oth lay unconscious.

“Leave them alone!” Solonn shouted, intercepting the approaching guild members. “What in the gods’ names is wrong with you?! I told you, they didn’t do this!”

The approaching glalie made no response to him, gliding around him and splitting into two groups to surround Grosh and Oth separately. Unable to watch idly as they set upon his father and friend, he brought a piercing, white blaze to his eyes. With a hiss of fury, he set off a sheer cold blast in their midst, a warning shot.

No sooner had the elemental discharge been loosed than another one just like it was unleashed—but not of his making. He gave a shout of surprise as the blast went off so close to him that he could feel the shockwave of its birth explode against his back. He turned in an instant to face its source and saw the guild leader there, holding a hard stare upon him.

“Sir, I’m going to ask you not to interfere, and I’m not going to ask you again,” she warned Solonn tensely, her tone telling that she wasn’t bluffing. “You’ll have a chance to speak with the council later, and they can determine the validity of your claims, but first we’re required to subdue all potential threats. If you wish to present yourself as a potential threat, then I’m afraid we will have to respond accordingly.”

Solonn only stared in mute, pained outrage at the leader for a moment, unable to believe his ears. Whatever was or was not required of the guild personnel, he was sure that they held a mistrust for unfamiliar species and that that in turn made it all the easier and more convenient for them to believe that Grosh and Oth must surely have contributed to the desecration of the temple and the loss of life there.

With a tremendous effort, Solonn just barely managed to suppress an urge to try and knock out the leader in one blast, just aware enough through the haze of all that he was feeling at the time that doing so would get him knocked out by the rest of her squad. “Listen,” he pleaded with her. “There are people here who might need help, and you just attacked the only person who can give it to them. You’ve got to give it a chance to help them!”

The guild leader held his gaze, her brow knitting, a frown that he couldn’t quite interpret forming on her face. She remained silent for a moment’s deliberation. “I’m sorry,” she finally said, “but letting them awaken is not a risk that we can take right now.”

“There’s no risk! They didn’t do this!” Solonn cast a hopeful, pleading glance around him at the survivors of the attack on the temple, who had witnessed what had truly happened and could thus back up his claims… and the conflict on their faces couldn’t have been plainer. Come on, he urged them silently, tell them!

For a fleeting moment, a couple among their number seemed to be considering coming forward, their brows drawn together as they debated their next actions… but to his dismay, none of them spoke up.

“Come on,” the guild leader instructed them quietly. “The council needs to speak with you.”

The survivors made for the exit, some moving more hesitantly than others and throwing glances back at people left lying behind, then waited there to be led away. With a bitter disappointment, feeling that he was defeated for the time being and despising that notion very deeply, Solonn turned away from them to face the guild leader once more, giving her a smoldering, reproachful glare. His attention then shifted toward the guild members who then proceeded to apprehend Grosh and Oth; he wanted to make damned sure that they did no further harm to them.

Oth was pushed up onto the head of one of the guild members, held between her horns. Another of the guild members generated a pillar of ice on which he lifted up Oth’s hands, which had become separated from their owner without its telekinesis active to hold them at its sides, and then deposited them on top of his head; he had apparently correctly guessed that the hands could function while detached and had apparently incorrectly assumed that they could do so while their owner was unconscious. Four of the remaining members of the squad positioned themselves around Grosh, two to each side of his neck, behind his massive head. The six guild members then secured the prisoners (and detached parts thereof) to their bodies with ice, shifted the shattered ice on the floor underneath them into a smooth, even surface on which to more easily drag the steelix, and began moving toward the exit. Solonn worked very mindfully to protect Oth and Grosh, particularly the former, from the coldness of their captors’ bodies as they were carried along.

“All right then,” their leader said, turning toward the survivors at the exit. “Everyone line up behind me and follow me out in an orderly fashion.”

The survivors did as they were told, and grudgingly, miserably, Solonn did likewise. As he followed them into the corridor beyond, he looked back one last time into the ruined temple, the place where Azvida, Jeneth, and gods only knew how many others had drawn their last breaths. He held that anguished gaze upon that place until the guild members carrying Grosh and Oth reached the exit, blocking his view behind and forcing him to move on. His heart ached terribly with the thought that innocent people were being punished for those deaths—he knew that neither Jeneth nor Azvida would have wanted this, and he doubted that the other victims would have wanted the punishment to fall upon the wrong people, either.

The only hope now for things to be set right in his eyes, or as right as they could be after something so terrible had happened, was if the council could be convinced of the innocence of his father and his friend. Silently, he prayed for a chance that the wrong done unto them would be undone.

* * *

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:03 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:50 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

The council chamber was fairly large and wider than it was long. The floor was raised slightly in a strip against the far wall, forming a platform just large enough to accommodate the members of the council. The council, however, was not there. The witnesses brought from the temple, a very small, shaken crowd of fearful, mournful faces, had been waiting there for them for uncounted minutes, some having waited longer than others had. There were more people in the chamber than had initially been brought there; a couple more, who had apparently still been unconscious when the rest of the squad had departed the temple, had arrived not terribly long after with the two guild members who had stayed behind.

Waiting for the council to show up was made no easier to endure for Solonn by the fact that the better part of his mind and of his heart still remained back in that temple with the rising vapors and the ruined lives, with them. Some of the rest was casting itself outward every which way in desperate wondering of where Grosh and Oth had been taken. Solonn had not been able to help asking where the two were being taken when the guild members carrying them, along with the guild leader herself, had diverged from the group upon arrival at the council chamber; he had only been given a short, unhelpful answer of “somewhere secure”, leaving him to fret helplessly for them and hope that there was at least someone there guarding them and unwittingly protecting them from freezing.

The rest of his thoughts and worries went toward his half-brother, still back at the snowgrounds and possibly wondering by now when his parents would show up—not knowing yet that they never would. Oh gods… Solonn was sure that it would be he who would have to tell Jen what had happened. He could already picture how the snorunt would react, and the image fueled the cold, sick feeling inside him further.

So did his awareness that the snowgrounds might have suffered an attack, as well—that he might not have to break the news to Jen after all, and for the most terrible of reasons.

He had to get out of there. He wished desperately for the council to make their appearance, to start this meeting so that it could end. The need to know if Jen was all right burned desperately within him, just as did the need to do whatever he could for Oth and Grosh.

Finally, the wall to one side of the raised platform opened, and the Security Guild leader emerged through it. She descended from the platform and took her position in front of it, off to the side, facing the small crowd.

“The honorable Council of Authority now arrives,” she announced. “Please bow as they make their entrance.” In less-than-perfect unison, the gathered witnesses lowered their faces. A moment later, “Now please give your attention to the lahain Hagen Ar-Vhannen,” she instructed them.

At the apparent cue, Solonn lifted his gaze and found the platform before him now occupied, seating the most powerful figures in Virc society. The Council of Authority numbered five: two men and three women. Their pale eyes told of considerable age, and of other things, as well: confusion, sorrow, unease, and fear. Whether or not the minds behind those eyes had yet been immovably convinced of Grosh’s and Oth’s guilt remained unclear to Solonn.

The one front and center rose and moved very slightly forward before seating himself again. His eyes swept the crowd slowly, and he inhaled deeply before speaking.

“These are most regrettable circumstances that bring us together today,” the lahain began heavily. “This day has destroyed the sanctity of our holy temple, and has robbed good, honest Virc of their lives. The temple is forever desecrated by the immensely wicked acts committed there, and nothing can bring back those who were lost there. All we can do is to see to it that those responsible are given their due punishment to protect our people from any such threat in future.

“Our Security Guild has brought to us two… individuals… whom they found at the scene and whom they suspect to be responsible for the murders in the temple. However… they also tell us that one among you has proclaimed these two to be innocent.” Here Hagen allowed a pointed gaze to fall upon a face in the crowd that was considerably larger than those around it, and he held it there. “What can you offer us to support your claim?”

Solonn swallowed hard, sending out yet another quick, silent prayer for the council to see the truth in his words. Some tiny voice within him warned of the danger in what he was about to say, that it might implicate him alongside his friend and his father, but he didn’t care. He felt that they were more than worth that risk.

“I know them, Lahain,” he said. His voice was hoarse and carried a distinct, pained plea. “Neither of them would ever do such horrible things. And besides which, they weren’t even there when it all started. They were with me. We picked up on the tremor and went to the temple right away… and when we entered, the fighting stopped.

“We were there to help,” he emphasized, sincerity imparting a sharp edge to his words. “Those two you’ve imprisoned wanted to save people—and their help may still be needed. Please, Lahain… you have to let them go. Some of the people back in the temple may be badly hurt; they’ll need to be taken somewhere far from here for the help they need, and you’re imprisoning the only one who can get them there fast enough.”

Hagen sighed. “I’m afraid that all those left in the temple are beyond salvation,” he said quietly. “The Security Guild reported that all those whom they were unable to wake had perished.” At these words, the somber air that hung over the space grew even heavier, drawing mournful sounds from many of those gathered in the chamber. A sickened dismay dampened the already dim light of Solonn’s eyes further; he was certain that had Oth been allowed to attend to those last victims, at least some of them might have had a chance.

“As for your claims regarding the two prisoners,” Hagen continued, “can anyone else here back up your testimony?” He lifted his gaze from Solonn and let it encompass the entire crowd. “Is there anyone else among you who claims that those two did no harm to the temple and those therein?” he asked of them.

There was a moment of silence that felt terribly long. Solonn expected that this would just be a repeat of the situation in the temple—that now, just as then, no one would speak up and support him.

But then, to Solonn’s grateful surprise, “Yes, Lahain,” said one of the other witnesses. “He’s right. We’d already been fighting for a while before they came. They appeared in the temple—just appeared—and when the other side saw them, they bolted.”

“Other side…” Hagen mused aloud. He cast perplexed glances at the other council members, but it seemed that they didn’t know what to make of the matter, either. “Well then, if it wasn’t the two strange creatures who attacked the temple, then who was it?” he asked, a question directed at any who would answer it.

“As far as I could tell, it was just some other glalie,” Solonn answered.

The reaction elicited by that statement was not what Solonn had expected: scandalized gasps issued from a couple of the council members, and the lahain himself looked greatly appalled.

“How could you even suggest such an abomination?” Hagen hissed, the light in his eyes blazing. “Virc must not and do not take the lives of other Virc!”

“…It’s true,” another of the survivors dared to insist despite the vehemence of Hagen’s objection. “They just came in, and they hit us with no warning… just like that, everything went to hell.” He shook his head. “There were… no idea how many. Don’t know who they were, either. But they were definitely glalie.”

“Now do you see?” Solonn asked of the council, conveying the question as more of a challenge than he’d quite intended. “The ones you’ve imprisoned are not to blame. You’ve got to let them go!”

The lahain only glared at Solonn and the other witnesses with an expression of potent outrage. There was clearly something at work behind those ancient eyes, perhaps actually considering the claims presented to him by the witnesses or perhaps just seething in offense at the notion of Virc glalie showing the same cruelty and disregard for life of which members of any other society were capable. Solonn strongly suspected it to be the latter.

Hagen drew a deep breath with a distinctly disapproving, hissing edge that he either failed or didn’t bother to suppress, and he opened his mouth, seemingly about to give voice to whatever was going on in his mind. But before the lahain could say a single word, the entrance to the council chamber opened unexpectedly, and an unfamiliar face peeked in tentatively, clearly conscious that he was interrupting something but just as plainly urgent to get something out to those who were gathered within the chamber.

“Ms. Skei-Vi!” he hissed, distress very evident in his voice. He made something of a beckoning motion, jerking his head toward the corridor outside.

The guild leader cast a questioning, troubled glance at the glalie at the entrance, then excused herself and went out to join him. The portal sealed, and speech was briefly heard outside before drifting away, the two outside apparently wishing to go and speak somewhere more private. Everyone in the chamber wondered what in the world was going on, but before they had long to ponder it, the leader returned, alone. All of the eyes that turned to her as she entered the chamber and took her position in front of the council once more noticed her grave expression at once, and the crowd watched her attentively, wondering and fearing what she might have just been told.

“What is it?” Hagen asked of her, sounding genuinely concerned, his previous vehemence seeming to have softened considerably.

“I’m afraid I’ve just received some terrible news,” the guild leader announced slowly, somberly. “A member of my guild has just come from the snowgrounds… all the children who were being kept there since this morning have gone missing.”

Immediately, gasps and cries of shock and alarm filled the air. Solonn’s heart froze as the personal significance of the situation struck him at once. “Jen…” His voice cracked as his throat went dry. “Dear gods, my brother was in there!”

“And my children!” another voice in the crowd wailed.

“Please, you’ve got to find them!” a third begged of the guild leader.

“Members of my squad have already begun searching,” Ms. Skei-Vi tried to assure her, but the guild leader’s words failed to calm her or anyone else in the room.

“This day has grown darker still…” the lahain remarked quietly. “Ms. Skei-Vi, do you have any clue at all as to where these children might be or who might have taken them?” he asked.

“Presently, no,” the guild leader said regretfully. “The children have vanished without a trace. There’s nothing left behind to even suggest what has become of them.”

“Hmm…” was the lahain’s sole response at first as he stared pensively at a spot on the floor for a moment. “I think I’ll hazard a guess as to who might be responsible for this shameful act,” he then said, at which every eye in the chamber met his gaze. “I believe that this crime may well have been the work of the same ones responsible for the atrocities in the temple—the very ones who are held in our cells at this very moment.”

Solonn had expected that he would hear that sort of suggestion made about them, but having seen it coming did nothing to dampen his hatred of it. “How can you make such a claim?” he demanded, his eyes burning bright once more. “And furthermore, how could they have committed two crimes at the same time?” he added as the thought occurred to him.

“No one said that those crimes were committed at the same time,” Hagen pointed out. “The children may well have been taken and left somewhere before the attack on the temple.”

“Maybe so,” Solonn responded, conceding the point no further than that. “But still, you can’t just accuse them without anything to base it on! There’s nothing to prove that they did this!”

“I see no proof that they didn’t do it,” Hagen countered.

“Oh, so I suppose that the word of these witnesses means absolutely nothing to you, then?” Solonn said acidly.

“Mere words can’t truly be accepted as irrefutable evidence,” the lahain said. “Anyone can say anything, after all.”

Lahain…” one of the other council members then spoke up tentatively. It was the first time since the meeting had begun that anyone of the council other than Hagen had spoken. “Surely the fact that so many report that they were attacked by other glalie has to count for something, does it not?” she asked.

“If my suspicions are correct, then no, it very well may not,” Hagen said.

“And just what are those suspicions, exactly?” Solonn demanded.

“I believe that one of the prisoners, the many-eyed one, is a psychic,” was the lahain’s reply.

Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:03 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:51 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Thirteen Now Posted]

This brought a fresh surge of astonished responses from the crowd. “How do you know?” one among them asked. Solonn leveled a demanding gaze at Hagen with the same question and the worry that came along with it tightening his brow—how had the lahain correctly guessed that Oth was a psychic?

“Two among you have each offered a very significant detail where that’s concerned,” Hagen said. “The strange ones were described as simply ‘appearing’… and you,” he said, nodding toward Solonn, “claimed that one of them could quickly and easily transport people outside of our territory, did you not?”

Solonn could only stare wide-eyed at Hagen, horrorstruck by what he was hearing. That he might well have inadvertently given the lahain something to help convince him of the prisoners’ guilt made it feel as though his blood had just frozen in his veins… he had been so desperate to save his friend and his father, but now it seemed that he may well have helped to seal their doom.

“The ability to disappear and reappear elsewhere is one long known to be associated with the psychic element,” the lahain went on. “I feel that the employment of such abilities could explain how the children could be made to vanish so easily and completely. Furthermore… it bears mentioning that this would not be the first time that one among our people’s youth has experienced apparent abduction by a psychic-type… now would it, Mr. Zgil-Al?”

Solonn might otherwise have been surprised or startled to learn that Hagen knew his name, but all that truly got through to him of the lahain’s last words was what Hagen was implying about Oth. “Do not even suggest that it had anything to do with that!” he hissed, thoroughly appalled.

“As I recall, no one ever did determine who took you that day. I also recall that you told the Security Guild leader of that time that you had no memory of your abduction or of anything that took place up until the time that you returned,” Hagen reminded him. “For all you know, that creature may very well have been your abductor.”

“‘Creature’…” Solonn spat distastefully, finding more to dislike in Hagen’s words with every moment. “That person is my friend, Lahain. It’s one of the kindest, most gentle-natured people anyone could ever hope to meet—it would never do anything at all like what you’re accusing it of!”

The look Hagen gave him in response to that was sad—pitying, even. “Mr. Zgil-Al, I fear that you may be a victim of psychic deception. Just as the rest of you who have been brought here may have been tricked into believing that you were under attack by glalie rather than by the strange ones, you may have been made by the psychic to see it in a much more flattering light.”

No,” Solonn said firmly, now positively shaking with astonishment at what he was hearing. “You’re wrong, Lahain. And everyone here knows it. Tell him!” he shouted as he turned to face the crowd.

But to his dismay, the faces he saw around him spoke of no desire to do any such thing. In fact, it looked as though they might have been seriously considering Hagen’s words.

He turned back toward the council. “Well, what about the rights of the prisoners?” he said. “Aren’t you at least going to give them a chance to defend themselves before you just decide that they’re guilty?”

“And just how do you suppose we go about that?” Hagen asked. “If they’re allowed to wake, what’s to stop the psychic from simply disappearing and bringing the steel creature along with it, freeing them to threaten us again in future? It’s a risk I cannot and will not accept.”

“They wouldn’t do that,” Solonn growled. “Gods, you’re speaking of them as if they’re some kind of uncivilized beasts… They were there at the temple today out of concern and love, Lahain. They’re good, decent people, and yet you’re talking about them as if they’re some kind of soulless, heartless monsters!”

“You can say whatever you want about them, but the nature of the day’s events seems all too clear to me now,” the lahain said resolutely. “It just makes far more sense to me that the terrible deeds that were done today could and would be done by such creatures rather than by Virc glalie. Why, anyway, would Virc ever kill their own kind?”

“Maybe they weren’t Virc,” suggested another of the council members, the very same one who had spoken up before.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Zdir,” Hagen said. “You know just as well as I do that there are no other nations of our kind anywhere near here.”

“I was referring to exiles, Lahain,” Zdir elaborated, sounding notably more assertive than she had before. “Exiles who perhaps desired to get back at their fellow countrymen for their punishment.”

There was a strange sort of flickering in Hagen’s eyes as if Zdir had struck a particular chord with him. It was gone nearly as soon as it had come, however; his expression now solely and strongly suggested that she had crossed some line. The looks on the faces of the other three council members emphasized her apparent mistake further; they looked as though they were deeply worried for her.

“I think it’s time we brought this matter to a conclusion,” Hagen said coldly. “The council and I will go and discuss the day’s events and what we have learned regarding them among ourselves, and we will return with our final decision.”

There was not a second’s delay between his words and the response of his fellow council members; the one closest to the side exit opened it at once, and the five filed through it without a further word. At the back of the line, Zdir stopped for the slightest moment, turning a supportive but not particularly optimistic gaze upon the crowd. Then she, too, was gone, and the portal was sealed shut behind her.

Solonn’s eyes lingered for a long moment upon the wall of ice behind which the council had disappeared. He could only imagine what sort of a discussion was taking place wherever they had gone, but he was all too certain that it was far from balanced. From what he had seen, Hagen had virtually the entire council under his figurative thumb; most of them had come across to Solonn as meek, obedient people who probably never spoke unless it was specifically asked of them by their leader.

He saw Zdir as an exception, as someone clearly having a mind of her own and daring to voice her disagreement with the lahain. But it seemed to him that she was only one questioning voice out of five. Chances were that that would not be enough to sway or overpower Hagen, not if the rest of the council truly did support their leader unquestioningly. She would probably be made sorry in some way for her dissent, Solonn suspected darkly, and the other four of her peers would likely give her theories and opinions no further thought.

It was a bit longer than he had quite expected before the council returned. Ms. Skei-Vi commanded the crowd to bow once more as the council members took their places once more; Solonn refused, earning a disapproving frown from the guild leader.

Ignoring her, he looked toward Zdir, the only member of the council for whom he still bore any respect. Her face told all too plainly that she had lost before even one word was spoken; she looked over the crowd with eyes filled with guilt and an unspoken apology.

“We of the council have arrived at our final judgment,” Hagen announced (a distinct bitterness flickered across Zdir’s features at the lahain’s use of the word “we”). “We have determined that our two prisoners, the steel creature and the psychic, were most certainly responsible for the destruction of our holy temple, the murders of eleven within it, and the abduction of an as yet unknown number of innocent children.”

It was exactly as Solonn had anticipated, no surprise whatsoever. Nonetheless, the judgment stabbed harshly into his heart, flooding him with outrage and despair. It was done—he had failed to save Grosh and Oth.

“The guilty parties will remain subdued in our custody until we have decided upon a more permanent punishment,” Hagen went on. “The public will be informed of today’s tragedy, but also assured that those responsible will pose no further threat. The Security Guild will do all in their power to find and bring back the children who have been taken from us… however, we must all prepare ourselves for whatever the gods may have chosen with regards to their fate,” he added in a somber tone.

“As for you who have found yourselves caught in the center of all this wickedness… you have truly endured a uniquely tragic ordeal,” the lahain said to the crowd, sounding earnestly sympathetic. “It may take some time for you to fully realize and accept the truth of what you experienced at the temple and of those who dealt it unto you. What I now ask of you all is that until that time, you do not tell anyone of the lies the wicked ones showed you.”

“You can’t possibly be serious!” Solonn responded at once, his eyes blazing. “This is absolutely unbelievable… First you convict innocent people based on nothing more than convenient coincidence and your own blatant bias, and now you honestly expect these people to not only deny what they know they saw but to also lie about it from here on out?”

“What we tell you is no lie, Mr. Zgil-Al,” Hagen said firmly. “Your mind, as well as that of everyone present during the attack on the temple, has been wrapped up in the trickery and absolutely abhorrent lies of the psychic, and I’ll not have any of you spreading those horrid ideas among my people. Do you have any idea of what such notions would do to them?” he hissed. “No Virc—or former Virc,” he added with a pointed glare toward Zdir, “has taken the life of his or her own kind for countless generations. The people could not deal with such an unnatural notion!”

“Will they be able to deal with the real threat when it returns? Because it will; I guarantee it,” Solonn said. “You’ve laid this on the wrong people, Lahain, and more innocents will suffer because of it.”

“Is that a threat, Mr. Zgil-Al?” Hagen asked, his pale eyes narrowing.

“It’s a warning, Lahain,” Solonn said, unflinching. “And for our people’s sake, you’d best heed it. Reconsider your judgment, let those prisoners go, and do not forbid us to tell the people the truth that could save their lives!”

The lahain inhaled deeply, letting it out on something between a hiss and a growl. He then rose from his seat and descended from the raised platform, gliding determinedly forward and coming to a stop right in front of Solonn in a clear move to show that he was not swayed by his words or intimidated by his stature.

“You concern me, Mr. Zgil-Al,” he said, with a cold, hard stare up into the eyes of the larger man. “I fear that perhaps you cannot be trusted to listen to reason and maintain the peace. But I also pity you, and as such, I’m going to give you the chance to prove me wrong where that’s concerned. To err on the side of caution, however, you and the rest of those from the temple will be watched for a short while by a few of Ms. Skei-Vi’s people. If any of you cause any further disruption, they will not hesitate to bring you down and put you into cells alongside the strange ones right away,” he warned the crowd.

Hagen turned then and resumed his place with the rest of the council. “Go,” he said to the crowd. “Remember your duties, all of you. Do not pollute the public’s thoughts with the lies that have corrupted your perceptions. If I come to find out that you’ve failed in this responsibility, you will join the prisoners in their fate.”

“Come on, then,” Ms. Skei-Vi said, then began shepherding the witnesses toward the exit.

Solonn lingered at the scene, maintaining his burning, condemning gaze upon Hagen for as long as he could. “You’re making a dire mistake, Lahain,” he said reproachfully. “The real threat is still out there, and anything that happens to our people from this day forward is on your head.”

With an insistent push and a softly reiterated warning, the guild leader managed at last to get Solonn out of the chamber and lead him away, leaving the council with his final, ominous words.

* * *

“We gather here, in the sight of all gods, for the honor of those who have gone to join them on this day. Eleven souls, good Virc all, have been torn from our midst before their time in a most dreadful act of violence.”

The voice belonged to the leader of the Soul Guild, her words echoing throughout the surrounding space. Assembled there with her within a vast, low-ceilinged cavern were dozens of glalie: survivors of the attack, friends and family of the victims, the other members of the Soul Guild, and several from the Security Guild.

They all formed a ring around a collection of eleven short spires of ice that were arranged in a spiraling pattern in the center of the chamber. Within each of these spires, the lifeless form of one of those who had perished within the temple was encased.

“To you who lie before us, rest well. Though you have departed this life through fear and agony, you will now know only peace forevermore. Though you have fallen by the power of wickedness, take comfort in the knowledge that no wickedness can follow where you have gone.”

With a very heavy heart, Solonn held the spires within his gaze. Though they and their arrangement were lovely in his eyes, a nice tribute of sorts to the fallen ones who were held within them, he could soon bear to look upon them no longer. He was overcome by thoughts of what they represented, of the reason why they had been raised on this day, and of the full impact of the day’s wicked deeds. Eleven lives, forever lost… two innocent souls, unjustly paying for the sins of others… children, gods only knew how many, taken from their homes into unknown peril. Part of his family was now gone, while the rest of it, as well as all of Virc-Dho, now faced an uncertain future.

“We of the living world now relinquish custody of your spirits to your new keepers, but we will never let go of our memories of you. One day, we may meet again. Until then… farewell.”

With those final words spoken, the Soul Guild leader then began singing a wordless melody. The voices of her fellow Soul Guild members rose to join her, filling the chamber with music that struck deep into all those who heard it. As the Soul Guild sang, the eleven spires began to sink slowly, descending on a circular platform into a very deep hole in the floor. Their peaks disappeared into it, and ice formed to cover the grave, sealing the fallen within their resting place.

Neither Solonn nor anyone else gathered within that cavern could shed a single tear for the day’s tragedies. But inside, he and all the rest of them were crying their hearts out, their grief manifesting here and there in frail, tormented sobs.

Their sorrow was earnest, but the fact remained that most of them didn’t know the true circumstances surrounding the events that had cost the lives that they now mourned. Most of them knew only what the authorities had told them, believing that the threat to them had been permanently removed from the picture when in reality it had not.

Solonn couldn’t vouch for anyone else among that crowd who knew what had really happened, but he knew one thing for certain: he couldn’t stand to remain silent. In that moment, he couldn’t care about the lahain’s threats and warnings, couldn’t care what speaking out might cost him. It was of far greater importance to him that the people be armed with the truth. He was all too certain that if they were denied it, then chances were that these caverns would likely be hearing the Soul Guild’s song many times in the days to come.

_____________________

Virc language usage:

Ler Vhossilliar (LAIR vo-SEEL-yar): Roughly, “The Steel Menace”. I thought that sounded kind of silly in English and thus decided to leave it “untranslated” there.

Lahain (la-HYNE): Roughly, “Oldest and Wisest”, the title used for the leader of the Council of Authority. Hagen is actually not the oldest member of the Council, however… yeah, Virc timekeeping isn’t exactly perfect.

And a note about Ms. Skei-Vi… you know where that name came from? Well, it’s basically a sort of “Vircanized” version of “Skippy”. Yes, Skippy. XD The name “Skippy” stuck to her (like peanut butter *is shot*) as a result of a convo with Saffire Persian regarding the then-nameless character. So there’s my little tribute to that—I simply couldn’t resist. XD

One more thing that I feel it’s prudent to mention: as many times as I’ve sent characters to the great beyond, it was no easier to do the same to this chapter’s casualties. But I’d known what would become of those characters since long ago, even back during the days of writing The Origin of Storms—and I assure you, having them die was a decision that was neither made nor carried out lightly.

Next time: Solonn is most displeased with the Council’s decisions of late, and he’s not the only one with such opinions. See you then!

- Sike Saner
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Last edited by Sike Saner; 04-11-2011 at 06:04 AM. Reason: Revisions.
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Old 01-28-2010, 11:39 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

He lost his mother...And his step dad. Wow...And now Oth and Grosh are being punished! I swear, if I even meet lahain in real life, he'll recieve a pummeling.

I just can't stand injustice...It drives me bonkers. I get the distinct feeling that justice will be served...And I think I know who the attackers were.



Yeah, killing off a character is a difficult choice...For me, I have the option of bringing them back, but there are deaths that are more permanent than others. Deciding if you should kill off a loved character to further the plot is never easy...
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Old 02-21-2010, 08:16 PM
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Default Re: Communication (PG-13) [Chapter Fourteen Now Posted]

Grassy_Aggron: Yeah, Hagen's conclusions have definitely drawn some disapproval outside the story as well as within it. I've had others elsewhere in Internetland inform me that he's cruising for a bruising that they'd like to personally deliver, too. X3

Thanks once again for reading and for replying! ^^
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