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Asterion
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#1

Asterion
in sunshine and in shadow*

He’s never been to the swamp before.
 
Asterion hadn’t set out with the intent to wander into a marsh; he’d been drifting, aimless as usual, and found himself following the small signs of spring scattered through Terrastella. A frail blue bloom of flowers so delicate he dare not breath on them, the slender curl of a fern, the warbling of songbirds returning to their warm-weather haunts.
 
For all his travels, he’s never been in a place long enough to appreciate the give of seasons; today it captivates him. On and on he follows his feet until the ground grows springy and the streams fade away and trees surround him, bare save for green buds small as a new promise. He doesn’t know the names of the birds, here, but they still keep him company as he goes on, each step squelching, heedless of the mud that flecks his sides.
 
If it were a few weeks later – if the limbs had leaved, hung the walls of the swamp with green – he would never have seen the hut. But it catches his eye, pale straw-thatched roof and wooden sides listing, terribly crooked. “Oh,” he says, and picks his way carefully forward, until he’s contemplating a weathered gray front door, half-hanging off its hinges.
 
It looks uninhabited, like nothing but the wind has come inside for years and years, but what does he know about buildings? He hadn’t known such structures existed until a season ago.
 
As surprised he is by his find, he’s even more surprised when movement catches his eye, and he half-turns to find he is not alone. “Oh!” he says again, and might blush if he were able. Asterion glances between them and the strange hut, set on low poles to stay above the water-line, and ducks his dark chin. “Is this…house…yours?”


for @Aibreann but anyone is welcome to join in! finding a hut for an EXP point :) 












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Rhea
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#2

She had been watching the stranger, quietly, since he first stepped foot within the bounds of the swampland. She had not intended such a thing, she was not a guardian nor a caretaker of the borders – in fact they mostly allowed anyone safe passage from the Ilati…so long as they did not venture too close to the heart of their territory.

 
Instead she had been collecting the herbs and plants that were good for medicines and salves, ripping them up from the earth at just as they were beginning. Sometimes, the youngest plants had different uses than a fully matured one – but she would be careful not to take too many. That was when the dark stallion had crossed her vision, simply a dark figure dappled by the rays of light that manage to make their way through the trees.
 
The kirin lifted her head slowly, as not to attract attention, and let her task be forgotten momentarily. She could tell from the way that he moved that he did not dwell here, for if you spent any amount of time in these murky waters then you learned how to tread so that the mud did not capture you at every turn.

Her curiosity was piqued by the stranger – and without much of a conscious effort on her part she found herself following him at a parallel, curious as to where he might be going. Her gait was smooth, effortless as if she knew all the correct places to step – the water a silencer of her movements rather than something that announced her presence.
 
It did not take him long to come upon the abandoned place, a hut that had been there as long as she could remember it being. Her Elder had brought her to it only once, as a child, and then she had come there a few times on her own before deciding it was boring enough to forget.
 
She could not help the slight quirk of her lips as she watched the stallion, as he drew nearer to the hut and inspected it. And then suddenly, his attention was drawn to her. She found herself in a cluster of nearby trees, though not quite as deep into the shadows as she normally would have been. Sunlight caught on the scales that lined her back, the litany of ebony, pearl and ivory giving off a sheen that she had tried to cover up.
 
Animal furs had never suited her back so she often wore the gray moss that clung to the trees, draping them across her in an effort to further conceal herself. The dark mare could not unfurl the unease that had squeezed around her heart, the first non-Ilati stranger that she had ever met. Her nares flared, her ears twisting about in uncertainty as she considered whether or not the break from the trees in a run – back towards the safety of her people.
 
And yet, something called her – an invisible force pushing her out from her hiding place. She lifted her head, trying to recall upon the way that she had seen her elders carry themselves. Her horns brushed her shoulders gently, as if lending their strength and she met the gaze of the man for the first time.
 
His question reverberated in her mind, an easy one to answer.
 
”Ah…no.” She said, with a little less grace than she would have preferred. Her gaze passes to the hut, if only briefly. She stands beneath the hut and its small knoll, in the safety of the swamp’s tepid water. “It’s owner… was before my time. It has been empty since I was a sapling.” She offered, feeling as though meeting this stranger had struck her with stupidity.
 
Her tail twitched nervously, like a cat who could not decide what it wanted to do, stirring the algae-covered surface.
 
”What brings you into the swamp? Aren’t you afraid of the creatures who lurk here?” She asked, unable to stop her curiosity from taking hold.



occ: sorry this is so ugly; i don't have a fancy table for her rn xD









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Asterion
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#3

Asterion
in sunshine and in shadow*

Asterion regards her with the same prickling of unease, for she is like nothing he has seen before.

She is a kirin, this he knows, and that is enough to make him wary – but she is as similar to the others he has met as a rough-cut amethyst is to a polished and set jewel. There is a wildness to her beauty, the flash of her opaline scales reminding him of nothing so much as the glimmer off a whale’s back in the water, or a hint of sunlight on wings.

He takes her in steadily – the tangled moss, the curling antlers, the surprising vividness of her eyes – and wonders if he ever would have seen her, had not a column of sunlight happened to catch her scales at the right moment.

The bay had not realized just how tense his muscles were until they eased when she spoke. He flicks an ear as he listens, and whisks his tail at a fly, and nods as he considers her reply.  “I see,” he says, feeling a little foolish, and though he wants to question her use of the word sapling he does not. He is too caught by her – she is far more interesting than a shabby, weathered building. Even her reflection in the murky water is lovely, scales iridescent as a dragonfly.

Almost he misses her question as he watches the water ripple away from her tail, but then his eyes lift to hers. “I followed my feet,” he says, and shrugs a dark shoulder. "It is very lovely here." His skin prickles at the mention of creatures, but Asterion shakes his head before meeting her gaze again.

“I was not afraid, but I know little of them. Should they frighten me?” And then, with a soft kind of smile, “Are you one of them?”

It is half a joke, but he wonders, now, just who the kirin is, that she has lived here since she was small. Asterion does not want to be afraid of her – he would much rather be friends.



@Rhea ahhhh I already like her, she seems so sweet












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Rhea
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#4


R H E A

He meets her eyes time and time again, something that she finds interesting though she can’t explain why that is. Her steps are timid as she begins to climb up from the waters, the caress of something unseen in the waters against her ankles. When she had been a child, even the slightest feeling of something against had been frightening. That was, until one of the Ilati Elders’ had forced her to stand in the murk for a full day. Each time she tried to return the land, she’d been chased away again and so it was for most youngsters in the Ilati, learning to respect the swamp and its inhabitants.

Her ear flicks toward him, catching the next sentence or two before she inclined her head towards him again. She was looking over the structure, similar to her abandoned greenhouse in its wildness. She looks over in time to see him shake his head, continuing on before offering her a soft smile. She met him with one of her own, a little nervous but feeling herself growing more confident. She could not sense any malice in this man, even though their encounter had only just begun.


”It can be.” She agreed. ”If you know what to look for. The beauty of this place is often overlooked, because most do not stay long enough to find it.”


She mulled over his questions, wondering how much of an answer to give him. ”There are certainly things other than myself that I would be afraid of.” She said after a moment of consideration. ”Things that are the subject of myth or legend, stories crooned to you as a child.” She offered another smile, turning towards the house instead. ”I have not seen this old house in years.” She reminisced quietly, looking up at the weathered building that had been much less in disrepair the last time she had seen it. ”I don’t think it will be long before the swamp takes it back.”


She turned to glance at him, not quite comfortable putting her back to him just yet. ”You said that you followed your feet? They must take you to plenty of interesting places, hm?”







@Asterion
she's awkward xD And i'm still rusty, but I think she likes him!









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Asterion
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#5

Asterion
in sunshine and in shadow*

He is caught by the way her scales shimmer and reflect in the sunlight that slants through the budding trees as she nears him. Asterion is still trying to place what she reminds him of: something of the sea, he thinks, something strange and lovely washed up on the sand beneath a full moon.

They are foolish thoughts, dreamer’s thoughts, and he cannot shake them even as they speak of danger. It is too new, this world and this stranger, both of them at once delicate in their beauty (moss draped like gossamer across spreading branches, the continuous humming of insects and warble of birdsong, her high cheekbones and the hint of a star) and yet unnerving. Like there is something darker, stronger, stranger.

As he is with most beautiful, dangerous things, Asterion is enchanted.

“I can understand that,” he says, when she speaks of beauty. “It seems a subtle thing.” He does not add that he would like to stay, that there are too many demands tugging at him.

The way she speaks of the dangers does nothing more to deter him; instead his interest sharpens on her, watching those eyes bright as dragonflies as she turns again to the structure. “I have not heard those myths or legends.” He might have added more – might have asked her to share one – but as she speaks of the swamp reclaiming the hut, he steps alongside her, turning his attention instead to the weathered boards.

Surely she is right – already vines are winding along the railing, climbing up the walls. They are thick and green and do not look like they could be easily convinced to relinquish their grip. “Maybe it will become a legend then, too,” he says, and his sigh is almost wistful. “I’m glad I’ve seen it before it’s gone.”

At her question he tilts his head, considering, and there is something a little sad in the faraway look in his eyes. “I suppose they have,” he agrees, “but it seems I’m never satisfied.” Oh, he has become greedy of wonders, in his brief time – maybe it is for the best that now he is more anchored. When he turns his gaze back to her, it is clearer, brighter. Asterion would far prefer to explore the entire world before considering himself. “You, though – you grew up here? You must know all of its secrets.”



@Rhea












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Rhea
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#6

R H E A
The stranger moves closer, a move that causes the kirin to move herself away -- if only subconsciously. She is not familiar with anyone outside of the Ilati themselves, and she is not close to them either if she can help it. She stands alone, if only out of habit. She continues to steal glances at him, curious about him in a way that she can not explain. He’s like a strange flower that she has never seen, curious about how it could be beneficial -- but wary that it might be dangerous. The mare flicks an ear in his direction, his voice mixing in harmony with the melodious calls of the swamp’s wildlife.

She wonders of the places that he could tell her of, sights that she could never dream of. A strange longing begins to blossom inside of her, as though the idea of leaving the swamp and it’s murky depths had never occurred to her at all. Suddenly her head is filled with the exotic dreamings of child, quickly swallowed with the fears of what could go wrong.

She lets her attention refocus, shuffling away from the painful dreams that she does not know will come to fruition. She would rather hear what he has to say, rather than to dwell on such sad possibilities. ”It’s certainly possible. It will probably be a great place for children to tell their ghost stories” She agreed, offering him a small smile. She could imagine that future, much more easily than the one where she ran away to see the world. She notices the wistful sadness in him, a subtle change but a change nonetheless. Her own expression reveals a little concern, despite the fact that they are strangers. ”Oh?” She questions softly, tilting her head. She wishes to pry, but then she realized that they have not even exchanged their names.

”Well,” She, begins timidly. ”I don’t suppose I’d be satisfied either, not when I know there’s countless things to see. Maybe more than even a lifetime could afford you. Maybe more than even immortality could...” She offered another smile, musing aloud before the conversation turned back to her and her suddenly very small world.. ”I have. I have lived here all of my days.” She reminisced quietly, the sadness of such a thought coloring her tone. She’d never considered it before, the swamp suddenly seeming like much more of a cage. ”Perhaps someday, though.” She offered, trying to sound more cheerful. ”I think I’d like to see more of the world beyond these borders.” She admitted with a small shrug.

”I don’t think...I caught your name?” She said then, with a lilting pause. ”I am Rhea, one of the...” The word Ilati caught in her throat -- the girl painted in tribal markings hesitating. The Ilati were changing, growing restless...but she still was not sure if mentioning such a thing so casually was the best ideas. ”Tinea.” She finished quite lamely, putting on her best smile to cover her little white lie.




.
Talk












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Asterion
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#7

Asterion
in sunshine and in shadow*

He makes no note of her moving away, save for the flick of a slender ear, but he does not try again to close the space between them. Asterion hopes he has not offended her (though he is growing used to acting outside of custom, here), but he also knows what it is to be shy.

Whatever her reason, their conversation continues unburdened, smooth as the shine of sunlight on water. The bay likes the idea of ghost stories, though such legends are ones he’s never been the most drawn to – but he can see such a thing, here, youths gathered with watchful, laughing eyes, finding the fun in being afraid. It has been a long time since he’s felt that little-fear, a wanted thing.

But it’s her mention of mortality that truly catches his interest, and he tilts his fine-boned face toward her, the dark tangle of his forelock falling across his eyes. He peers at her through that veil of hair and she becomes a shifting thing, a magic thing, distorted by perception – until the breeze lifts his fringe from his eyes again.

He had not noticed, before, the carvings on her horns.

“I think you should,” he begins, “I’d like to hear what you think of it all –” but then the dark stranger points out that they have not yet exchanged names, and Asterion shakes his head at his own rudeness. A flash of gold darts by, some nameless bird from branch to branch, and it makes the bay think of Florentine, which in turn reminds him of what waits for him in Terrastella.

In this turn of thoughts, he misses her own pause, the tiny hesitation that might have signaled her deception.

“I’m Asterion. And under regular circumstances I would say I’m at your service, Rhea of the Tinea.” He smiles then, but it is followed soon after by a sigh. The sound of it is lost immediately amid the wistful murmur of the wind and the singing of the insects and the frogs, but the shape of it is still in his gaze when he looks at her. “But I’m afraid I should return to the court. I would like to hear more of your stories, someday – and maybe I could show you more of Novus in return.”

Oh, he is sorry to tear his gaze from her and from the weathered, fading building; he feels that he may even miss the constant, close backdrop of droning insects and trilling birds. But he knows there is work to be done (always there is work to be done), and so he turns away, though Asterion cannot help a last glance.

“Find me sometime? Only because I’m sure I’d end up lost if I tried to find you,” he says, and laughs. It echoes strangely in the swamp, even soft as it is, like unfurling leaves.  




@Rhea













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