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07-28-2020, 05:02 PM
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The fringe of the forest was made of slightly thinner, relatively navigable undergrowth that went on for maybe a hundred yards deep, which Crocell knew because he’d been here before. It was oft at his family’s great reluctance to let him engage the dangers of being an acquisitor, not to mention how beneath him it was to participate in manual labor — a derogation of the noble status! A disgrace! Cro had stifled his laughter at the time, but he was grateful for his parent’s eventual agreement, by merit of his good behavior in other areas.

Perhaps he should have said something to them. Or to his brothers and sister, whom he was rather fond of. And he sighed at the thought; if only he could afford to.

Aslan spared a glance from his place at Cro’s side, yellow eyes narrowed. “Realize, you owe nothing to whoever set this up. Just turn back if you’re going to be conflicted, because I’m not comforting you should you end up regretting your decisions.”

Trust his familiar to read his mind, and to word his thoughts so heartlessly too. “How mean,” Crocell hummed, eyes still searching for an entrance into the deeper woods. “I’ve already made up my mind, actually. And I do have an obligation, to myself at least; the voices are invading my thoughts even during the day now, it’s a matter of time before they drive me insane.”

He tugged at what seemed like a weak point in the wall of overgrown foliage, and to his surprise it relented, falling before his efforts to reveal a dark, albeit narrow passageway. The unlikely path dipped slightly downward, and like a chasm in the earth, allowed no light to guide the way.

“Well, that wasn’t too hard.”

“Suspicious if you ask me,” Aslan said, unimpressed. But he didn’t hesitate to follow either when Crocell took the lead, scanning behind him only briefly before crossing into forbidden territory.

@The Deities

07-28-2020, 05:49 PM
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Adarr, God of the Harbingers

As the time came to stir the old magic within the souls of slumbering Harbingers, Adarr had sensed more reluctance in this group than the others. He watched helplessly chained to the stars above as most continued about their lives with little notice to the voices aching inside their head; the great King of the Harbingers had long begun to think that their magic had loosened their hold, that the Ancients' legendary will had finally overpowered the last of their creations. But when a few brave souls did pursue their purpose deep within the Great Evenwood (or Askan's Woods, as those mortals now called it), Adarr stirred from his slumber and sent his magic forth down upon them.

That day, Adarr had watched as Crocell meandered through the forest, and the great Deity could feel the young Harbinger's thirst for adventure, the need to answer the calls of the voices Phymera and Ashena had so carefully sown in all their dreams. When Crocell pushed aside the underbrush to reveal a dark and winding passage, Adarr allowed his blinding light to illuminate the way, stretching until the long route divided into three separate paths.

To his left was a path where Adarr's light was not powerful enough to reach past. It would surely plunge Crocell into a continued darkness, unaware of his each and every step, but just beyond the fringe of the trees in that direction, one could swear that the peaks of distant mountains flickered through the fog; but Askan's Woods was known for its clever illusions. It was clearly the more dangerous of the choices.

To his right was a path where Adarr's light could continue to shine, illuminating a route that was far brighter, revealing a break in the rocky terrain in favor of soft grasses and large lumbering pines. This path seemed to promise safe passage, but it seemed worn and well-traveled, as if others had already attempted that way before.

To the center was a path that jutted upward, a large cliff that could not be scaled by one wolf alone. Adarr's light reached there, too; in fact, it was so blindingly bright, Crocell would not be able to see past it. There was uncertainty behind such a way, but always the alluring pull for the most daring of adventurers.

@Crocell is presented with a choice.

Take the left path
Take the center path
(requires the participation of another Harbinger)
Take the right path

07-28-2020, 06:33 PM
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Avaneira knew it was dangerous to return to the forest. She had avoided it for days, and each time she dared to spot it from the outskirts of the city between the pillars of shattered marble and stone, its trees seemed to reach out toward her. There was a quietness about it that hadn't been there before, a fleeting light lingering between the trunks of towering pines as if commanding her to chase it. Avaneira had taken to shielding her view of it with her large lion companion, bidding Cairidan to keep himself between her and the damn woods so that she wouldn't stray. She couldn't. Her father depended on her to run their meager shop in his absence, her brother's honor demanded her to not fraternize with the Harbingers, even if she was now slowly coming to find out she was one of them. Undeniably, unmistakably. Fettered, shackled. But when Shale had not returned from the mountains when she came need of herbs, Avaneira had no choice but to venture out into the woods.

As she neared the treeline, she recognized the familiar paths she and other apothecaries had taken in the past. What once may have seemed ordinary and familiar now seemed strange and novel. While her paws stayed trained on the well-worn path, she often found herself desiring to wander away from it, pulled in a particular direction; the voice inside of her head grew stronger, remnants of her dream from days prior. It grew louder and louder until it was a wardrum inside of her head, beating as ferociously as her heart. So entranced by the continued and disembodied clamoring inside of her thoughts, Avaneira did not realize she had strayed well from the path and deep into a dark and narrow passage until all the voices stopped all at once. Wide and wild gray eyes glanced around her, and while before her was a dim light, behind her was nothing but a darkness. Wouldn't I have noticed when it got dark? Cairidan, who had been dutifully and silently following behind her, was nowhere to be seen.

Avaneira gulped, but she was too scared to move back. All she could do was move forward.

Eventually, she came upon the same fork in the road; a young man stood just before her, as if contemplating which path he was to take. Avaneira immediately discounted the dark pathway to their left, shuddering at the mere thought of going that way. Instead, the reassuring footprints of the right seemed to draw her. If wolves had walked it before, surely it would be the way out? “Do you...know which way to go?” she finally asked timidly, against her better judgment. Perhaps this man would at least be friendly and knowledgeable enough to get them both out of here.


07-29-2020, 06:14 PM
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Time moved slower in the darkness, and without any reference point Crocell couldn’t tell how long it had been since he entered the woods. He supposed it didn’t matter anyhow; before him lied more pressing matters. An inexplicable light had rather suddenly illuminated the path before his eyes, revealing a long, straight pathway that branched at its farthest point into three distinct directions. His instincts had led him here, orchestrated by the voices in his head, and for the moment he wasn’t too sure what to make of it.

Aslan had disappeared somewhere along the way — it was only now that he’d realized — but strangely he wasn’t fearful for the fate of his friend. He would know in his gut if misfortune had befallen the cat, and moreover, somehow, it felt as if this particular exploit wasn’t one to be casually shared. And yet he was perplexed; the path he chose didn’t seem like it was one he could endeavor on his own either.

As if in answer to his thoughts, a timid voice sounded behind him: “Do you… know which way to go?”

It surprised him that he didn’t notice her approach, putting aside that there was someone else here at all, but sure enough when he looked behind him, there stood a young lady staring back with a great deal of uncertainty in her eyes.

“Well no, not really I’m afraid,” he admitted, then noticing she was looking past him, followed her gaze to the rightmost path. “I’m not sure about that one though, it seems odd for it to be so well travelled when entry to the woods have been banned for so long. I was more drawn to this,” he indicated the middle path with a nod. “Higher grounds would provide a better vantage point. And besides, surely we were both called here for a reason? It’s not a path I could’ve taken on my own.”

He returned his gaze to her, gauging her reaction. After a moment of thought, his stoic expression broke into a smile. “I’m Crocell, a… Harbinger. Would you be willing to lend me a hand?”


08-04-2020, 03:09 AM
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Well no, not really I’m afraid.

The words sunk Ava's heart, the gentle thump, thump, thump of its beat in her throat now feeling heavy and heartaching. I’m not sure about that one though, it seems odd for it to be so well travelled when entry to the woods have been banned for so long. I was more drawn to this, he motioned toward the center path, and Ava at first felt the pull of hesitancy. Wouldn't they want to go down the well-marked path? Even with the woods fettered off from Yaurithians, perhaps it had meant there were straggling hunters who'd come for their long expeditions long before the King's declaration, and perhaps they'd soon be on their way home with the spoils of their adventure. could also mean ghosts, spirits, trepidations of legends told to babes to scare them to their mother's bellies. The center path, while not nearly as frightening as the left, carried just as much uncertainty. Higher grounds would provide a better vantage point... Ava nodded, agreeing with his reasoning, until— and besides, surely we were both called here for a reason? It’s not a path I could’ve taken on my own.

A hard lump welled in her throat, at first stammering to speak in response. While there'd been an ease to his tone, Ava couldn't help but think the man alluded to those same voices she'd been hearing; the very same thing she'd tried so desperately to forbid from her thoughts. And just as soon, he confirmed it, a broad smile crawling upon his dark lips. I’m Crocell, a… Harbinger. Would you be willing to lend me a hand?

No...get away from me, she tried desperately to say, but it were as if she was forbidden from speaking the words. Ava had not quite come to terms with the novelty of her position now; she felt less like a born and raised Yaurithian, and more like a fugitive, a stranger vagabond. But around this man, she'd suddenly felt a surge of warmth and reassurance, a sort of familiarity she'd experienced in those moments she'd watched her brothers descend the steps of the Citadel, breaking from their busy lives to spend time with her and their father. Eventually, the steeled healer gave in. “Avaneira,” she whispered in return, before focusing her gaze on the center path, “I suppose I am.”

She neared the path first, and as it jutted upwards, just out of reach, Avaneira figured the best way to overcome it was to climb. “If you help me up there, I'll pull you up, ” she suggested, turning to look back to him. When she caught his gaze again, she flinched. Harbinger. “You...should be careful of what you say,” she whispered, suddenly averting her pale gaze, “I could have been a Templar, you know...”


08-05-2020, 06:31 AM (This post was last modified: 08-05-2020, 06:59 AM by Crocell.)
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She struggled to respond, and for a moment Crocell worried that he had been too forward. His request was abrupt, certainly, but the circumstances weren’t exactly accommodating, and he did genuinely want her help. The emotions that flitted across her face were interesting though; it was a habit of his brought about by his upbringing, to heed inflections in tone and shifts in demeanor over the meaning of words on their own.

“I suppose I am,” came her decision, but despite her agreement and his nonchalance, Crocell was surprised to feel a wave of unease wash over him. What was it? He pondered the feeling as he trailed after the girl — Avaneira — who had gone up ahead, oblivious to the falter in his step.

She was a harbinger as well, he felt more certain of it now. To begin with, it was a theory he’d easily betted on — her sudden appearance, together with the strangeness of the places that he’d been lured to like a moth to flame, guided by the voice which named him ‘Harbinger’ — all things considered, nothing that had happened to him so far had felt less than... deliberate. Even when he thought he’d acted of his own violation, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was merely performing his part in a theater, but at the very least it also meant that these peculiar paths in the woods would not have revealed themselves to anyone who wasn’t a part of the cast — that is to say, anyone who wasn’t also a Harbinger. This was why he was here, and Aslan was not.

He pulled himself back from his ruminations to see that Avaneira had stilled, looking up thoughtfully at the ledge just out of reach. “If you help me up there, I'll pull you up.” For someone so timid, Crocell respected her decisiveness. “Sure,” he nodded in agreement, eyes scanning for a good foothold. Brute strength had never been his forte, a trait better attributed to his eldest brother, but he moved to position himself at the foot of the cliff anyway, bracing his shoulder against the stone for support. He turned to motion her forward, but caught her eyes instead. “You...should be careful of what you say,” she murmured, then her gaze flickered away. “I could have been a Templar, you know…”

He couldn’t help the gentle laughter that escaped his maw; nothing about her deportment remotely resembled the airs that Templars exuded, and he was rather familiar with them. “But you aren’t one, right?” His silver eyes glinted with mischief, “and you wouldn’t have agreed so easily unless I told you about myself. But you’re right,” his ears pulled back in apology, “Sorry for laughing, I’ll be more careful.” It wasn’t lost on him that she had enough preoccupying her mind on her own; he decided against weighing her with his thoughts as well.


08-21-2020, 02:58 PM
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The proposition had come easier before Avaneira realized the technicality of roughness of such a situation. Suddenly, she wished she were ten feet taller—enough to brace her shoulders against the sky, and leap northwards and clear the cliff in one bound. But instead, she stood smaller amongst the majority, oftentimes barely reaching the shoulders of war-brazened Templars and even other merchants that frequented the square. What one she'd considered a strength—being able to slip between the shoulders of passersby unnoticed—suddenly felt like a burden. As he pushed his shoulder into the rocky outcropping, Avaneira slipped forward cautiously; his laughter was the only thing that stilled here mere inches away from his more lumbering form, grayish eyes glittering in the pale dimlight. But you aren’t one, right? Ava's lips pressed into a thin, firm line. and you wouldn’t have agreed so easily unless I told you about myself. She opened her mouth to protest, but before she could—But you’re right. Sorry for laughing, I’ll be more careful.

Perhaps says a man who's never seen their bodies swinging in the Gallows.

But Avaneira was in no position to judge him; she, too, had heard only stories of Harbingers starved and lined along the edges of that rocky cliffside as they awaited their deaths. Soren had told her stories of it, and she could not help but catch the sparkling in his eyes as he spoke of such divine justice. Avaneira had once thought nothing of it; now, the weight of it rested so heavily on her shoulders she was often certain they would crumple. “You are a bold man,” she admitted in a mere whisper, before uttering an even softer apology under her breath as she shifted closer; her paw found its first foothold between his shoulders, and before bearing her light weight down upon him, she paused, checking to make sure it was still alright.

Hoisting herself onto Crocell's form was easier given her smaller size, but she was only just barely able to reach her forepaws upon the edge of the steep cliffside. Desperately did her blunt claws try to dig into the soft soil, and though it did not seem to give way, the jaggedness of the ravine-side kept her hindlegs from getting a good foothold on the side, preventing her from climbing off of Crocell's back. It took her a few tries—and many, many apologies when she accidentally kicked the man beneath her—before she was finally able to hoist herself over the edge and onto the top of the cliff. There, she was met with an unending fog; she could see the winding forms of trees closeby, but nothing well beyond that. To her surprise, however, there was a long and healthy tree frond nearby. Quickly, she moved toward it; and it was just long enough to reach the bottom of the cliffside, hopefully strong enough to help her hoist Crocell up.


08-31-2020, 03:55 PM
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“You are a bold man,” she said in a quiet voice, and he hummed wordlessly in response. Coming from a her, he felt it was meant as a compliment — perhaps to be brave was something she might’ve wished for herself. However, to the Duke and Dutchess who had urged Crocell to make use of his talents in service to the king, his self-assurance had always been something of a nuisance, knowing that it could have made him a viable heir had he been more in line with expectations. He did not desire power or fame; he wasn’t interested in court intrigue, or in weaving a web of social connections. A part of him envied Avaneira, because all the money and influence tied to his family name could not outweigh the expectations that burdened his every move, when all he desired was to discover for himself what it was he would rather live for. A childish dilemma, his seniors would tell him — how conceited it was for him to feel this way, in the face of real suffering that plagued the poor and the talentless. He could do nothing but grit his teeth and agree; perhaps his impudence did stem from arrogance, perhaps he was being entitled to believe he had a choice in his duties — though he felt just as certain that they had never known the hurt evoked by the words, “I give up on you.”

Avaneira’s touch brought him back to the task at hand, and he managed to smiled reassuringly at her when she paused and looked silently to him for permission. She then clambered onto his back and he was grateful that she was much smaller than him, because even then his legs strained to support the weight of them both. Endure it. If only to keep from distracting her, he stifled any expression of discomfort as she struggled to find a good foothold to carry herself over the ledge; she was already apologizing so much it started to make him feel guilty too, though in reality Crocell know his sudden sullenness was his own fault, for thinking of useless things on his own.

They were successful however, and he felt his heart lift as her weight left his back. Having been distracted with other thoughts the entire time, it was only then that he pondered with some amusement how they would get him up there as well, but it didn’t take long for his thoughts to be answered; a large tree frond dipped down from above him, and he gratefully used it as a bridge.

“Well done,” he breathed, upon scaling to the top. Without their combined weight holding it down, the front slowly lifted itself back into the air. Before them was a familiar fog that obscured anything beyond several meters in all directions. For a moment he would hesitate, less out of regret or uncertainty, and more in wait to see if whatever unseen force had aided them before would come into play again. Should it not, he would look once in Avaneira’s direction to see how she was feeling, before carrying on to let the mist envelop him.

@Avaneira @The Deities

09-11-2020, 11:03 PM
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Adarr, God of the Harbingers

Aided by Avaneira and choosing to take the center path, Crocell and his new companion find themselves atop the steep cliff and able to see just above the tops of the trees. This wide expanse is untouched; there are no pawprints, no scents, and the fog that had just choked their sights now seemed to recede, allowing them to see the sprawling of the cliffy forest around them. Two different scents suddenly drift from two different directions: to the north, they can smell the salt of the sea and a twinge of wintry gusts. To the south, they can smell fresh grain and dust. It is perhaps the first glimpse for these young Harbingers at a life beyond the threshold of the Woods, where once it was thought to be nothing but endless forest. And though they cannot see beyond the trees as they disappeared into the long horizon, there is a renewed sense of hope filling the air, reinvigorating the promises whispered to them in their sleep.

But this is not the only gift Adarr has given them. There is a strong wind, enough to nearly knock both wolves over, and it parts the trees in the path before them. A strange light emits from beyond the newly-carved pathway, and it is only interrupted by the shadow of a great beast; as it approaches, its large form begins to take the shape of an aged stag, whose antlers are so twisted and crooked they appear like ancient branches. It is ethereal: holy, almost, and pure white in color, except for its eyes, which glow a decadent blue. “You have made a wise choice, young Harbingers,” it began to speak, “alone we falter; together, we prevail. But your journey has only just begun.” Before him appears a glittering light, until two perfectly-preserved small health potions appear at Crocell and Avaneira's feet. “Take these boons and spread my message: there is prosperity beyond the Woods.”

+1 Small Health Potion added to Crocell's inventory

+1 Small Health Potion added to Avaneira's inventory

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