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Moonday Morning Meanderings

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Moonday Morning Meanderings

Post  Saoirse on Wed Mar 02, 2011 7:14 pm

Lamashan the 8th, 4710 AR.

***

The weather was crisp and clear that early Moonday morning and the citizens of Sandpoint were already bustling about with preparations for Harvest Feast to be held that evening. The sorceress took the long way round today, deciding to make a stop at Risa's Place to pick up her current breakfast of choice, day old Varisian Spicy Chickpea Simmer. It was a heavily spiced blend of vegetables and brown rice stewed in a broth whose pungent aroma has been known to clear sinuses and break fevers. Patrons would usually enjoy the meal on day one, because by day two everything would dissolve into a thick gruel with a distinctly unappealing look to it. It suited Morelen perfectly.

Clutching the warm, clay tankard to her chest, she glided down Festival street and through the market square where dozens of merchants were setting up tables full of produce and trinkets, or stacking cages of livestock available for purchase. A humble scene compared to the great clamor of the Bazaar of Sails in Magnimar that she'd been allowed to visit on a few occasions. Humble and heartwarming. No one in Sandpoint would shank you in the kidney while you were perusing a stack of Varisian scarves for example. Well...not since the Late Unpleasantness at least. Still...there was no fear of shanking as she returned the hellos of her neighbors and greeted her way through the gathering crowd.

A wave and a goodmorn were offered to Ven Vinder who was unlocking the doors of his general store as she turned up Main Street on her way to her destination. Morelen had a good life here and she knew it. It wouldn't last...so few things did that weren't cut from stone, but she had no desire to rock the boat. That was why, when the notion was presented to bring in additional experts from the Great Library in Magnimar to study the recently uncovered Thassilonian ruins, she'd reacted so viscerally.

The sorceress apologized to Skookumchuk on their way back to The White Deer that previous evening, and his response to her fears was one she'd not anticipated. He'd offered her protection. A kind gesture from her companion and though she knew very little of him, she knew that the gnome only ever said exactly what he meant. With Zerye and Nuari still out for their walk, Morelen decided it was as good a time as any to learn more of this sailing monk from Jalmeray.

It was no secret where Skookumchuk might be found on any given morning...

The tiny brass bell on the door frame merrily tinkled its welcome as she entered Sandpoint Savories, where the familiar, bright blue hair of the gnome stood high over the back of his chair at the immaculate wooden table which was reserved for him each day. Alma Avertin's twin daughters, Arika and Aneka, tittered between themselves as they worked, refilling Skookumchuck's glass every few minutes whether he needed it or not and ensuring that he never saw the bottom of his basket of breads.

"Nice weather," she offered, in what she'd come to believe was an acceptable gnomish greeting no matter the actual state of the weather. "Might I sit and break my fast with you? I'll be buried in books for the remainder of the day I think, so I'd be glad of a little company now."
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Saoirse

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Skookumchuk

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:56 pm

Skookumchuk went over in his mind the various forms that he and Sabyl had been going over the day before as he sat in the bakery making sure he had enough energy for the day's activities. She had inherited her father's knowledge of the unique fighting style from the isle of Jalmeray, which was of a different school than his. The information she shared with him was so foreign to the way he normally thought and had been taught, he found a good review several times a day was important so that he could master the basics. He needed more arm strength to do the one handed push-up handstands that she made look so easy, so walking on his hands up and down the hill toward uptown needed to happen at least three times a day.

His mouth was entirely full of cheese danish when the bell rang out as someone came through the door. With Nuari and Zerye out of town, and Morelyn working with the books all day, he wasn't expecting anyone to come up and talk to him that wasn't in the store already. The store owner's daughters never talked to him either, only looked at him in an odd way. He was quite used to people staring, but those two kept dilating their eyes at him for some reason.

"Nice weather" he heard from behind him in a familiar voice, and for a moment, he was confused. He looked over his shoulder with a questioning look. When he recognized Morelyn, he got his composure quickly and motioned for her sit down while he worked to swallow his mouthful. He quickened it with a swig of milk that ran down his orange chin. As he wiped his chin with the back of hand, he felt the fine blue hairs that had started growing just in the last couple of weeks. Skookumchuk was pretty excited about growing his first beard, but he needed to keep shaving as if he was going without his beard on purpose.

When he finally got his mouth empty, he started on in his monotone drone. "I cannot say that I'm not glad for the company, but what brings you to the savories this morning? I would not have thought that you would prefer the company of me to books for any length of time."
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Morelen

Post  Saoirse on Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:59 pm

"It's true that I find a certain amount of comfort while immersed in the texts," she admitted, resting her spear against the wall where the raven corpse that dangled from the end spun a few times before coming to a halt. "I've been scribing and studying alone for as long as I can remember, but such solitary pursuits can't replace real social interaction.

"Besides..." The sorceress pulled off her long, black gloves and after setting them next to her on the table, warmed her frosty hands on the tankard. "I rather enjoyed your company yesterday with Mr. Quink and then again at the Hagfish, so if I must hike across town to spend time with one of my fellow Heroes of Sandpoint, then I'll do just that."

A small smile split across her features. It was an honest one, though it seemed her face didn't naturally hold such an expression. She raised her cup in honor of her diminutive companion and took a swallow of the warm, thick broth that for a brief time would help alleviate her parched throat.

As she did so, Morelen caught a glimpse of the Avertin sisters out of the corner of her eye and found them unabashedly staring daggers at her. Confused at what she'd done, she turned to Skookumchuk and then glanced back at the girls. Understanding blossomed and her smile cracked all the wider.

"Have you tried speaking with those two at all?" She discreetly shifted her icy blue eyes to the corner where the girls were standing. "Arika and Aneka I mean... They seem to go out of their way to make themselves available should you wish to."
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Skookumchuk

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:22 am

"Oh, those two?" Skookumchuk's eyebrows arched up a bit. He turned over his shoulder to look at the sisters, and as he did, their expression changed from shooting daggers to the most angelic smiles their faces could produce. He waved at them, and they giggled a bit to each other and scurried off to the kitchen.

"They aren't very good conversationalists" he said as he turned back around. "When I talk at them, all they do is smile and dilate their eyes. Normally, I do my best to appreciate the hospitality I have here, but they usually are very punctual and considerate of my needs. I've found that many people are people of action rather than words, and so I do my best to accommodate them. So I end up eating more than I normally would, and just make sure to do plenty of exercise."

Skookumchuk rotated his left arm, while cupping his shoulder with his right hand. "Now I am doing hand walking and swimming. Both are important for strengthening the arms. Sabyl says that many of the forms she was taught require arm strength, and so that is how I try to improve. Are you able to focus your magic better by studying books? I have heard that it is how it is done, but I've never cast magic, so I am not entirely sure how it is done."
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Morelen

Post  Saoirse on Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:22 am

"My former employer has many magical texts he studies from," she responded quietly. "He's very...dedicated to his craft." The image of Dr. Noenn's favored spell book was indelibly burned into her brain. The darkly tanned leather binding looked relatively innocuous, until one recognized that the stitched up 'tear' in the leather actually used to be someone's mouth... Morelen shuddered to think of what dark secrets might lie within that tome!

"But no," she continued after another swig of the spicy broth, "the books I've been going over are mostly history books, accounts of archaeological discoveries, Thassilonian rune lore, that kind of thing. Though quite fascinating, the texts are not magical in and of themselves. The magic I use comes from within rather than from arcane formulae, but I'm finding that it takes a great deal of practice and effort to control it. Focus it, as you say, into something useful."

The sorceress pushed a lock of stark white hair over her ear and tipped her head to the side as she addressed her companion. "This is something you know much about though, isn't it Skookumchuk? Training and conditioning your body to harness the power within yourself?" She nodded at the strapping gnome. "I've no doubt there is a great deal you could teach me on the subject!"

Mental conditioning she was referring to of course... Physically, well, let's just say she wasn't in the best of physical condition and she was fairly sure that no amount of Core training would lengthen her life. More likely it would just bring it to a very abrupt end.

She felt the dull thud of her heart beat weakly against her chest and she casually tapped at the leather bodice above her sternum a couple times as if congratulating the stressed little muscle for continuing its rhythm.

"I remember you mentioning over dinner that you discovered your love for dancing and I certainly can see that influence in your martial skills, but I'm curious how you bridged that divide? What took you from dancer to fighter? Were you trained in these methods in Jalmeray under a master, or are you self-taught?"
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Skookumchuk

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:53 pm

The orange gnome brightened up when she mentioned something about wanting to learn something from him about training, but the thought seemed to give her indigestion when she touched her breastbone. Maybe the foul smelling liquid she was pouring down her throat and her poor choices in food had disrupted her delicate system. Skook thought that if she was quite serious about training, he would have to show her the discipline of food first. It is very important to keep body and mind clear together.

After her questions, he determined in his mind to answer them in order, for nothing was done well that was not done in order, and he couldn't bear to give Morelyn something that was not well done when she had gone out of her way to be pleasant to him. That alone was enough, for it was not done often. "I have always loved dance, and would seek out those who practiced it when I was younger, and made my mother weary of having to come find me. Later she would just leave me at an established dance, or stage, and then come back for me a couple of days later. When we arrived at the island of Jalmeray together, I became so entranced with their movements, that I completely lost track of time, and by the time I realized it, mother had left the island altogether, and I was on my own.

"Work for honest pay was impossible to come by, because they usually hold their appointments in that end through their families, and since I had not one of those, I became destitute quite quickly. I did discover there was one place that would take care of me, and that is in the great houses of discipline. However, since I could not pay the extremely high price to gain entrance to one of those great schools in the martial arts, I had to prove my worthiness through trial."

Skookumchuk took a swig of milk and proceeded in his detached monotone intonations. "To get into the House of Unblinking Flame, one has to outsmart a Efreet. I was unable to do this. To get into the House of Unfolding Wind, one must out race a Djinn. I was unable to do this as well. The last great house was the House of Untwisted Iron, and one must wrestle a Dao in order to gain admittance. I am not entirely sure how this happened, but when I stood before the magnificence of the noble race from teh elemental planes, and he asked me the method of my defeat that I challenged him to a thumb wrestling match. It is a childhood game I learned along my travels, and had gotten quite good at it. Our match lasted for three days. Often the Dao would complain to me that it was getting restless, and I would taunt it by pretending to sleep or being distracted by a bird or some such thing. Finally, it let me win just so that it wouldn't have to endure my abrasive personality anymore.

"When I stood victorious, glad that I finally found a place which would take me in, I was informed that I broke the rules of the contest. I was supposed to wrestle the Dao and win, but since the Dao gave up because of mental fatigue, I would not be allowed into the House of Untwisted Iron after all. Dejected and hungry, I began to leave, intending to throw myself into the sea, for I had heard that the death caused by drowning was the more perferable to starvation, but a fetchling dressed in bright clothing came and blocked my path."

The gnome needed another drink, finishing his glass. The twins were on it like vultures, refilling the glass and making sure that the crumbs and droplets were clean from the table before leveling an icy glare at Morelyn before going back to their activity of eavesdropping. "He told me he was from the House of Unsatisfying Water, and that I was invited to come to their house for training. This house was not well thought of in Jalmeray, because it was a place where unorthodox techniques were encouraged. It was a house which believed in innovation and creativity were a proper devotion to the god of self perfection since all selves were not the same. There was no trial to enter this house, but they watched all those who showed promise in unorthodox thinking in the other trials, and invited them, even if they lost.

"There I was trained by the Dhampir master Zhagoul. He viciously attacked me every day but did not tell me how I could defend myself from his attacks, only he refrained from harming me in such a way that could not be healed. By doing this he forced me into disciplining myself, and coming up with my own method of defense and attack. By the time I was ready to leave the blue house, it would take near an hour before he would be able to thrash me to the point at which I could not retaliate or stop his abuse. It was a tearful day the day I left, for I knew I would likely not return. If I did, it would be as a master, who had the ability to teach others. In order to make my way to this end, I have begun traveling the world to study and emulate the different styles of dance I found to make my particular style as strong as it could be."

Skookumchuk checked Morelyn's eyes to see if they had glazed over yet. Usually his life story had a way of putting people to sleep, or to make them irratible but the gnome thought that he had done well, and looked for approval from his companion.
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Morelen

Post  Saoirse on Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:10 am

A span of incredulous silence followed the gnome's story before finally a grin split wide her face and laughter bubbled from her lips. No mockery tainted her voice, only simple pleasure at the remarkable tale.

The sorceress wondered then if she once lived such marvelous stories...what kind of life she might have had before being put into this new body. From what she remembered seeing of the mousy, middle-aged crippled corpse lying next to her on the slab... Probably not much of one.

"Thumb wrestling Dao, grappling with cephalopods..." Still smiling, Morelen could only raise her snowy white eyebrows and shake her head. "I'm envious of the life you've led! The size of it! Sailing the seas, no doubt you've visited some amazing places! The bustling harbor of Absalom? Osirion's ancient ruins?"

Her eyes gleamed with the thought of wonders she'd only read about. After taking a gulp of broth, she swept the corner of her mouth with a single white finger and leaned forward on the table.

"Your world is so big, Skookumchuk, and I've no doubt there are many more adventures on the horizon for you. If I may be so bold, I'm glad to be numbered among your companions. Even for a short while."
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Saoirse

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Skookumchuk

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:14 pm

"Oh, I wouldn't say short. You are still fairly young for a human. Even though we used to be immortal, most gnomes will last for three times as long as a human will. But that doesn't mean that a human lifetime is insignificant to us. You have a good fifty years left, if you take care of yourself, and I hear magic users actually can grow stronger as they age. By the time you are done, my body will be unable to keep up with the stress of adventuring and I will retire to the House of Unsatisfying Water to beat initiates until they get creative."

Skookumchuk hazarded a smile. It was a rare occurrence, and so it didn't quite suit his face. It hardly seemed natural, but he put quite a bit of effort into it, and managed to not break the windows. He gave up on it and went back to his normal deadpan face.

"'How one lives their life is up to them. They can fight until they win, or they can lose.' That's what Zhagoul told me. Usually as I lay on the floor bleeding. But he said it often enough that I came to accept it. There are many battles I don't bother fighting, I try to reserve my strength for the joy of self perfection."

"And I have never smelled a worse smell than the harbor at Absalom. They say it is worse than the breath of an elderly sea troll, and don't let anyone tell you differently."

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Morelen

Post  Saoirse on Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:14 pm

"Oh, I wouldn't say short..."

Morelen startled a bit at the gnome's comments. He'd spoken before of his desire to return to his sailing life when the shipping season got underway again in a few months. She'd assumed that he'd choose to go alone and that's where their paths would diverge, but now it sounded as if he was speaking of walking that path together! This pleased her a greatly, for she was never really sure where either Skookumchuk or Zerye stood on the matter of her companionship. Gnomes were hard to read sometimes.

Since the Swallowtail Festival debacle, Morelen had come to greatly respect this powerful companion and his fighting prowess. Even moreso his desire to protect others. His comments about keeping her safe from the threat from Magnimar... The way he threw himself in with the barghest and heroically pulled Nuari's nearly lifeless body out of the cage to rescue him... They may have only met recently, they may not know much of each other but the sorceress was certainly impressed by him and would leap at the chance to foster a burgeoning friendship!

Or...perhaps there was just some sort of misunderstanding...

"So..." The sorceress lowered her eyes almost timidly to her tankard of sludge. "Are you saying that you'd welcome my company for longer than just the winter season?" Though she did not raise her head, her gaze flicked toward Skookumchuk and she peered at him through long, trauma-bleached eyelashes. "That you'd wish for me to travel with you until the end of my life, whether that be a few months or fifty years when you'd retire to beat the initiates?"

In a blur of motion, without allowing him time to change his mind, Morelen snapped on a black silk glove and reached across the table to clasp the gnome's hand firmly. A cold, blue flame of excitement burned in her eyes.

"Very well, I accept!"
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Skookumchuk

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:03 am

If it is possible for an orange skinned gnome to blush, Skookumchuk was certainly doing it now. He had seen that look before, in many people who had felt like they just took advantage of him. What made him so embarrassed was that he did not even see it coming, much less know what it was that had just happened. It took him a second to realize what he just shook hands and agreed to, and it made him just a little scared. His eyes widened just a bit, and he swallowed, hard.

"Forgive me if I seem a bit shocked. As you can probably tell, I haven't had anyone being enthusiastic about spending time with me if they didn't get to try to beat me up for as far back as I can remember." The gnome began to sweat as the pace of his utterances accelerated. "What is it that we do then? I seem to be at a loss. I don't have any experience in these kinds of things. I think I need to dance."

With that he was off his stool, doing an odd gyration with short jerky movements. He would spin rapidly and then stop, flip backwards and then frontwards, and put his fingers between his toes and rolled around a bit. He leaped into the air and did a sideways flare followed by splits and stretched his foot behind his head. Overall the dance expressed his feelings of nervousness, awkwardness with a hint of joy or bemusement.

The twins watched from behind the counter with their mouths agape. It was hard to tell if they were pleased or afraid. Eventually their mother came out to watch the spectacle as well, and then shooed the girls back into the kitchen to make sure the things in the oven did not burn.

Skookumchuk continued to dance at a feverish pace, oblivious to the world around him until he suddenly stopped, as if the music in his head had finished, and he returned to the table with a serene look on his face.
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Morelen

Post  Saoirse on Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:43 pm

With her elbows propped on the table, the sorceress rested chin in folded hands as she watched Skookumchuk's performance. She'd caught him a bit off guard with the forwardness of her proposed alliance, but perhaps that had been intentional. Morelen had no time to muck about with formalities. There were things she intended to do with her life, things to see and accomplish and precious little time to do them in.

Her eyes were still burning when the gnome sat back in his seat. "I assure you that I have no desire to beat you," she said in a cold, smooth voice that, had it not been paired with the semblance of a warm smile upon her face, would have been slightly disturbing. "Not that I could if I wished to!

"Your Master Zhagoul shared some wise words I think... 'How one lives their life is up to them. They can fight until they win, or they can lose.' I like that..."

Morelen pushed back into her seat and lifted the tankard to her lips, wincing painfully as the last of the lukewarm broth was forced down her desiccating throat. Thoughts of her last encounter with Dr. Noenn flashed through her mind.

"I have fought for my life in Magnimar and in doing so I doomed myself to death. But I've won! You see, I've chosen quality of life over quantity. I'm not nearly as young as I appear to be, Skookumchuk, you need not fear being shackled to me for long, I promise you!" She smirked a bit and set the empty mug to the side.

"As unusual as you may find it to be, I do enjoy your company and I'd love nothing more than to spend the time that remains to me in worthy pursuits such as what we've already accomplished here in Sandpoint! Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor, do they not? How much more so a company of four!"

An ally. A friend. That's what she needed and wanted to be to others. A person might make their mark on the world alone, but she felt this could be accomplished faster...and more effectively in a group.

If the Heroes of Sandpoint were to last and make a name for themselves they would need to become a bonded unit rather than scattered fragments. It had only been two weeks, she reminded herself. Only two weeks and they'd made good strides toward that goal! Understanding takes time, but most of the groundwork had been laid... Most of it.

There was yet another gnome that Morelen had set her sights on...
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