Open Chronicles Gifts in the Grasslands

Gerra

The Emperor
The Empire
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By order of the Emperor, diplomatic envoys were dispatched to the tribes who dwelt in the savanna bordering Cortos and Amol-Kalit, bearing many gifts to bestow upon the chieftains.

The Vizier Ashuanar was himself among the diplomatic party, as was Archlector Snaaib and Mirielle Merlon. Their baggage train was long and glittering, necessitating the accompaniment of the Bronze Claw mercenaries under Talon Grozkalla.
 

Ashuanar

Vizier of the Imperial Army
The Empire
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64
Hidden behind the veil of his façade his eyes looked out across the plain, absorbing the landscape as it stretched out away from him. It was like the desert in ways... but far different. The way the grass swayed in the breeze... the way the breeze felt. Gentler, calmer. It was in fact the first time he'd ever been this far east.

This is... amazing.
He rode atop a tall horse which leisurely trotted along ahead of the convoy. Around him in a loose formation rode an assortment of Abtati nobles and soldiers, as well as other elites of the Empire.

He spared a glance back, observing the progression of their goods. Many well crafted and covered wagons, filled to the brim with riches of great fortune. He smirked. It was but a paltry sum compared to the Emperor's great wealth. But to anyone else of course... well even he was awestruck when he'd first seen the gifts.

He turned his face forward again, and said out loud to no one in particular,
"It is a lucrative venture no? Finding favour with the Emperor."
 

Aeyliea

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It was late morning, far too late to be breaking camp. In a way, the Captain was vexed by her sloth manner this morning, but no matter how comfortable she tried to make home in Alliria, it would never be home. You could try to bring a piece of the prairie with you into the lands of the greedy, but you could never make it truly a part of the soul. The spirits were never to be found in the civilized lands.

The people of city and village had long ago forgotten their ancestors, and the guardians of the land. They only sought gold, now.

Aeyliea spit in contempt on the ground, and made an intricate warding gesture with her fingers as she stood to her full height. The woman gave off every bit of the tribal woman she was; she wore cotton cloth wrapped around her chest almost too tightly to be comfortable, and shorts that came short of her knees. All of that exposed flesh was tanned by days riding under the sun, but her complexion as naturally light anyway. She might be in her middle years, but she was still a finely crafted woman, and she knew it too.

Here there was no audience to play too, though, and so she had done her long white hair in a far simpler braid than she normally would have, and dispensed with a lot of the totemic charms she would traditionally wear when out in the city. Here, there was only the sun and the sky, and the ever present wind. No male eye to play to, and beyond wandering spirits, nothing that she would need to protect herself with.

She picked up her bedroll and the scant supplies she had brought with her, and loaded them onto the back of the dun mare she had ridden from Alliria on. With a hand shading her eyes, she looked out across the plains. Dust roiled up on the horizon, and she cocked her head to one side at its presence. The Anirians had not ventured here very often after the last several bloodying attempts, so she doubted that was what she witnessed. A trade caravan of some kind, doubtless. Easy pickings if the No'rei intended to do such, which was unlikely.

Their numbers had dwindled greatly over the last decade. Constant predation at the hands of Vel Anir had not helped, and the constant squabbling with other local tribes served only to bleed all the native people of their strength against their so-called civilized neighbors. It fanned a flame of anger deep within her heart, a spark born of betrayal that had never healed, and for a moment she had to struggle to master that emotion, taking the time to swing up into the saddle of the horse.

When it passed, she shook her head. A clan of the No'rei was not very far away from here, for she had been following their trail for a few days. Few in the civilized lands could do such a thing, but she had been born and raised here, in the wastelands. This was her home.

She clicked her teeth, booting the mare in a tight circle, and heading at an angle towards the dust clouds without any real interest in seeing what they were.
 

Mirielle Merlon

Noble of Lazular
The Empire
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"For the moment. Wealth tends to disappear in one direction or another when you're the nut in a nutcracker."

A little oblique, but Ashuanar might catch her meaning: within a couple of years, these territories would be pinioned between the advances of Amol-Kalit and Vel Anir. And then their future was anyone's guess, money or no money.

Mirielle's sturdy shadadu mare kept pace with the general's stallion easily. She'd come up here to stay out of the convoy's dust; meeting the general was a happy accident. They'd crossed paths more than once, in unusual circumstances.

"Perhaps you could suggest to His Majesty that since Lazular is halfway to Elbion, like these tribes are halfway to Vel Anir, we could use a little silver too."

The request was tongue in cheek.


Aeyliea
 

Ashuanar

Vizier of the Imperial Army
The Empire
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He offered a chuckle. Indeed, wealth only did go so far, and serve for only so much.

"I never did see you in Kherkhana, and I meant to speak with you in court..." he turned to face her, "I fear I may have overstepped."

He bowed his head, "please, accept my apologies, my lady."

"My lords!" A rider cantered up alongside them, "seems we have a visitor." He pointed out to a single line of dust rising into the air, signalling someone's approach.

Interesting...

"Perhaps we've been sent an escort?" He mused.

Mirielle Merlon Aeyliea
 

Aeyliea

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It did not take long before it became clear that whoever it was, they were numerous and they were heading more or less in her direction. The white-haired warrior clicked her tongue in vexation. She moved through the plains without leaving much trace of her passage, except for the occasional dusty patch of ground where a wadi, dry in this season, cut across her path. It would seem that had been enough to bring her presence to the attention of whoever it was.

The level of her irritation rose a little. She was here to visit with her tribe, such that was left, and ensure that the things she had been sending to them were being put to proper use, and secreted away securely. It was still years before any of her plans could come to fruition, but it was years she likely had. The Anirians were not especially good at stamping out her nomadic peoples.

She crossed another wadi, and stood atop its far bank, reaching into a saddle bag and pulling out a looking glass. The item was very valuable, not only for its usefulness in her line of work, but for the value of the object itself. She pressed it to an eye, and watched the column out there on the savanna leap closer. She stared at them from her vantage point for long minutes, unable to decide what it was she was looking on. It was almost like a trade caravan, in composition at least.

Just more ornate.

She turned to watch, making no effort to approach, nor any effort to slip away.
 

Mirielle Merlon

Noble of Lazular
The Empire
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Ashuanar Aeyliea

"I'm not aware of any overstep, General, but thank you."

Mirielle squinted off toward the distant figure watching them.

"Looks less like an escort and more like a sentry making herself visible. Letting us know we're being watched. Shall we? I'll let you take point."

She flicked the sturdy mare's reins and cantered that way.
 

Ashuanar

Vizier of the Imperial Army
The Empire
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64
He bowed his head cordially, happy to hear that there were no ill feelings between the two. His eyes stayed pasted to the figure in the distance. No matter how illusive, in the days light like this escaping the eyes of an Abtati was a difficult task - but then this one didn't seem to be concerned with any sort of concealment. If she was a sentry making herself visible, then perhaps she was here to speak for who they'd been sent to meet. Perhaps she was expecting them.

Very good.

He motioned to his men to display a banner of truce and then he hurriedly caught up to Mirielle with half a dozen riders and took point, each of them assuming the leisured pace she'd set. The others remained a modest berth behind the two, indicating a passive and merely formal and defensive presence. It would be foolish for members of the court to approach anyone alone after all.

"I had been hoping for some sort of parley before too long. I've spent far too much time in my life wandering as it is…" he chuckled.

 
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Aeyliea

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The approaching party was most definitely not a trade caravan. Aeyliea sat her saddle tall and proud, eyes narrowed in the bright sun. Six...eight people. The No'rei did not like being caught in the open with such a large group, however peaceful they might appear.

The Anirians were notorious for a peaceful approach and then a knife in the back.

"Closer, you should not come," she said finally, when they were thirty yards away or so. She was acutely aware of the fact her sword was not on her back, although it was close enough to hand. It was not as if she could best better than a dozen on her own, though. Probably half of them, though.

"Vel Anir, it is south of here," she continued. Her accent was particularly thick today. She could speak common well enough, though. "Why travel in No'rei lands? Surely your city allies will tell you, the Savanna is ours."

She stared at them, eyes inscrutable.
 

Ashuanar

Vizier of the Imperial Army
The Empire
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"Closer, you should not come,"

Ashuanar tightened on his reins, and drew one arm up for the men following to halt where they were. With a calculating gaze he studied the woman across from them, gauging her prowess. He imagined her quite a formidable foe, and if she were an example of the allies Gerra sought, well, then it would not be a wasted trip he wagered.

"Why travel in No'rei lands? Surely your city allies will tell you, the Savanna is ours."

"Indeed," he said, "I offer you my apologies, we've not come to intrude. But we have by no means missed our step, and have come with purpose."

He gestured behind him to the extravagant caravan of Gerra's great generosity.

"We come in the name of the Empire, and of lord Gerra himself bearing gifts of friendship and peace to the people of this great and," he took in a satisfying breath, "wonderful land."
 

Mirielle Merlon

Noble of Lazular
The Empire
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Aeyliea Ashuanar
Mirielle pulled back her dark veil and slid off the Sereti mare.

"Emperor Gerra believes there's shared benefit in friendship, especially now that Vel Anir is expanding its influence. The gifts he's sent your people will secure their future even in the leanest years. I'm Mirielle Merlon of Lazular, a city in the northern mountains. The Empire's friendship has served us well, but I've never seen gifts as rich as what Gerra sends you."
 

Aeyliea

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She looked at the speakers,one after the other, with hooded eyes. After a long moment of silence, she spit to one side and made warding gestures with her hands.

"Vel Anir came bearing gifts," she practically spit, her tanned complexion darkening even further. "Once our future we believed secure, did the hidden knife come. People of the civilized lands, in mockery they wear the term. Like lion in the clothing of the gazelle, only until weakness they are shown."

She really wanted her weapons now, but she would not violate the white flag, at least not with physical violence.

Words were another thing.

"The tricks, they will not work. Bled us once, have the cities. Our lands, stolen, our children, enslaved or dead." She looked st them, stormy blue-gray eyes filled to the brim with contempt and anger. The accent seemed to get thicker with every word. "In league or not, with Vel Anir do most run. Greed for shiny metal and for ground whose ancestors know not the pale hide and thin blood that tread upon it."

She glared at them in purest defiance.
 
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Ashuanar

Vizier of the Imperial Army
The Empire
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Ashuanar listened quite intently to Aeyliea as she spoke. As one of the Abtati, who for too long - and many even still do - lived under the scrutiny and malevolence of a looming monster. Tribe upon tribe had been enslaved or destroyed, and his own brethren had not gone untouched by these evils.

He felt the anger in her words, saw the fury in her eyes - and he understood.

Even he himself did not believe in Gerra at first. Not until he saw him at least, that day in that hall in Ragash. Even as the crown was laid atop his head had Ashuanar not fully believed. But when those dead arrived and even the dragon of ice appeared, and the Emperor too drew his steel and clashed to defend his crown - his people, just as fervently as any of his faithful. He knew then that he was just, and good.

Ashuanar dismounted his steed, and approached with his arms held out passively, "Indeed, the love of gold and jewel, the desire for wealth for oneself is truly an abhorrent thing," he halted, still quite a few paces ahead of the woman, "but do not mistake these goods for an appeal to such a thing. Our lord is not blind to the evils of Vel Anir, and would ask only that you receive his gifts as that which need not be returned, or held against. As yours, to do as you would for your people.

"For I myself come from down-trodden blood, and know our lord's generosity first hand. So as a token of all our sincerity to you and yours,"
he drew his blade, and knelt, offering the sword to the woman, "take my blood and spill it upon this land, to mark our pledge of friendship to you."

Aeyliea Mirielle Merlon Gerra
 

Rebecca Fourtuna

The Bayou Bone Eater
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Her ears twitched.

A slight whip of her tail.

Her prey was a small group of Pasqak grazing as she crept towards them. She hadn’t eaten in days. These new animals had proven elusive as of late and she had finally been able to sneak up on the small pack she had been stalking for almost 3 days.

These creature where sturdy, powerful, and as Rebecca had found time and again...easily spooked. After finding her self once again masterless, and alone after her new found friend Mika had parted ways with her Rebecca had done all she had ever known to do.

Wandered.

She wandered and followed the path her and her master had taken on the way in. After many days and nights sands gave way to grasses and soon she found herself in a land she had never visited.

Things here were strange from her normal swamps and forests she was used to. Water only gathered in small isolated areas rife with crocodiles and other dangers.

Howeverwhile the terrain, environment, and animals might have been strange and foriegn she found her body was well suited to it even if she wasn’t. Her natural stealth and vast array of natural weaponry her body boasted had served her survival here well if not being the sole reason she had survived out here this long. She began to ready herself to pounce when it came.

The rumble of wagon wheels and the slow clop of horse hooves began to approach. She pounced realizing her prey would flee only to land on top of nothing. Sensing this mysterious disturbance the pasqak had left quickly. She hissed in frustration. Her eyes shifting from pink to red as they turned to the direction of the large amounts of noise disturbing the savanna.

While angered by their unintentional interruption this was not the reason for her shift. She smelled the blood of mortals. Human, elf, and others. Their blood cried out to her nose, the sweetness of their flesh called to her tongue.

It had been a long time sense she had feasted on it. Her masters had generally kept her on a tight leash and helped her maintain what was left if her humanity after her..change..but the lack of guidance had left her as feral as she had ever been. Tribes in the area had begun to notice a new predator on the savanna as well.

Finding the crocodile she had torn in half when it tried to eat her the first time she had braved creeping to one of the “big puddles.” That seemed the only source of water for a drink after the tribe using it to fill their jars had left. She had been much more herself at that time.

Enjoying watching the people of the land visit the place and converse. Had she been in this state then...It might not have ended so pleasantly.

The tribes seemed divided on what they thought this new pressence was at the moment but the smell of poison and decay she left where ever she visited seemed to have some believe her to be an angry spirit.

Some of the less spiritual believed her to simply be an uncharacteristically active troll. With it being the dry season they were often rarely seen but stranger things had happened on the savanna.

None of this mattered to Rebecca as she stalked toward the caravan. Her scales flaring up and masking her form as light seemed to reflect from her leaving only the dimmest outline of her glittering presence. Just as she drew close she saw a detachment move away from the larger body.

Around half a dozen took point. The rest seeming to follow suit at a healthy distance behind.

It’s statement of passive defense clear as day. But that wasn’t what she foucused on. What she saw was a man lagging behind on the end.

Cursing at a clasp on his belt being tangled a strap on a bag her carried.

There was too many to openly attack them all, but such was her hunger their numbers did not matter. Her jaw unlatched as she crept closer. Her sensitive ears twitched again picking up the conversation being had easily, but hearing something and listening to it were quite different things. Listening took focus.

And all her focus was on the lolly gagger. Staying low and shielded by the tall grass she moved slowly as the wind blew. The slight rustle and movement it created in the grass causing the disturbance her movement caused to be attributed to it.

He almost saw her.

Almost caught up to the group at large.

Almost.

He glanced over as a small glint caught his eye. He never got a chance to even cry out before she hit him, first he was in his saddle.

Then he was gone with a soft swish like a passing arrow had blown across the group. His horse spooked kicking before galloping off.

His legs from the knee down still locked in the stirrups. The force of the blow simply taking with it whatever wasn’t locked in. She landed in the tall grass on the other side.

Blood splattering her clocked figure revealing her slightly as she drug off her prize. “Help! Ash-“ he began before she sank her teeth into his shoulder ripping out a chunk of flesh she devoured greedily. He screamed in agony as the venom burned his flesh.

Melting it slightly and making it easier to pull off his bones.

His cries of agony were mercifully short lived however as Rebecca simply grabbed his head and tore it off tossing it aside to gurgle into silence. She then would take her newly gained snack and cut through the grass lands like a cheetah.

She would be back.

But she was also unaware that she had left quite the trail to follow using her speed rather than her stealth to escape.
 

Aeyliea

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Hard eyes regarded the blade being offered to her, implacable as the summer sun over the dry wadis. It was difficult to tell what was going on inside her head, for she showed little emotion outwardly beyond anger, deep seated anger.

After a moment, she slipped from the saddle with practiced ease, and then stood by the placid animal, who was becoming a bit restive. The mood was palpable.

And then, with alarming speed, she had her belt knife in hand, and had seized one Ashuanar's arms. Before there could be any response to the action, she had slit the palm of her hand with her own blade while knocking his weapon from his own hands and doing likewise to him.

it took a split second. She gripped the wounded hand with her own wounded hand. Blood dripping into the thirsty dust, the No'rei locked her gaze onto his eyes. <<"By the sweat of the Al'husar, the Winged One, are we now bound. Soul to soul, heart to heart.">> The cadence of the words, spoken in No'rei, had a certain insistent rhythm to them. Oddly, it felt like each beat of the phrase resonated through blood and bone. "You are mine," she said in low and throaty whisper. "The burden of betrayal, you bear it should you yield unto it. Unto you, and your kin, and your kin's kin. The dark one, it has a piece of your soul. Consume you it shall, should you feed it."

She released his hand. The wounds on both were healed, only a pale scar remaining. An ancient curse, that, and it would cast a shadow upon all that this man touched should the vow he had made - knowing or not - be broken.

She opened her mouth to speak, when she saw the blur of motion, followed shortly by the scream. She had been born and raised here, and had never seen anything of the like before. Her fingers automatically made gestures of warding, and she muttered something about malign spirits under her breath in common even as she reached for a weapon that was not on her back.

"What demon, this, that you bring with you," she hissed as she got the to long, slightly curved two-handed blade in its scabbard on her horse. She felt more at ease with steel in hand.
 

Mirielle Merlon

Noble of Lazular
The Empire
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The mundanity of the errand vanished as Aeyliea performed a deft blood curse that left Mirielle deeply impressed. She was about to comment appreciatively when screams rose from the grassland.

"None of our doing," Mirielle said. She stroked a razor-edged blade down the outside of her left forearm in a practiced move with barely a flinch. The sacrifice to the Serpent Gods awakened their attention and unlocked a small boon, at their pleasure anyway.

A wind rushed in howling from the sea to the southwest. It tore at Mirielle's clothing and pressed the tall grass nearly flat against the ground. It would pass soon, but for a long moment, anything or anyone hiding in the grass might be a good deal more visible.

Rebecca Fourtuna Ashuanar
 
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