Private Tales Namesake

  • Distant lands call to you, Guest. The next world event coming soon.

    A land once ruled by Dragons and Gods opens, but not every secret of Arethil's past is safe to uncover.

    Titanfall

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Hahnah

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The sun was welcoming. Even the rangers' lodge Hahnah would frequently leave to spend much of the day outside. Sometimes the weather could be unpleasant, but it did not bother her as much as elves--or humans for that matter. There were some comforts that could be found indoors, and some that could never.

Griffin had a question. One that she was prepared to answer. Then that younger human man from before came from the building with the symbol of wings upon it. Spoke to them. The lodgings, the temporary home. It would do. Though Hahnah preferred the wild, even with the rugged terrain and days of cold or rain or wind, when in a city it was better to make a home inside of a building than not. Her more recent spot between the shops of the baker and the fletcher was one of several, her previous ones she had been shooed away from. Sleeping in the wrong spot within a city was an invitation for ire. She would not have to be concerned about that now, and that was good.

Hahnah followed beside Griffin, taking in the "landscape" of the city as she went. Into her mind these sights were seared, a visual feast of this new part of the city that she had not been. She needed no map for the places she had been, for the landscapes she had seen--she knew them all by heart. It was like an obscuring cloud being lifted from a picture, and now this small part of Menura was an eternal part of the mosaic of her travels.

A large house. Hahnah did not like the larger buildings, like the one they had just come from--not at all. Her caretaker's lodge had been small, simple--only four walls. These larger buildings were more like the Temple, more like those worlds confined to a box that she likened them to. Easier, then, to be lost within.

But, as if the young human man had known, he did not bring them into the large house. There was a smaller house, one amidst the garden behind the larger building. Servant's quarters, he called it. "Lodge" seemed like the right word to Hahnah, but "quarters" would do.

Hahnah walked inside as Griffin and the young man spoke further to each other. She ran her hand along the wall, glancing to the windows and the bookcases and the rug and then to the table with some food already set atop it. She stopped by one of the windows, looked outside, and then went to the bedroom on the right. Opened the door and peeked in. She faced about and did the same with the bedroom on the left.

And by then the younger man had departed, and it was solely herself and Griffin in the quarters. She wandered to the center of the main room and laid a hand down on the wooden table.

"Yes, Griffin von Spurling of Alliria, I would like to talk," she said. "I did not answer your question. This is all suitable for me. I will be very comfortable killing Reds. Please do not hesitate to command me to do so. The Mistress of this city believes in you."

A question, newly arisen, came to the forefront of mind.

"How did she know you? Have you met her before?" Her eyes flicked to the left in a slightly puzzled way. Then back to him. "You did not seem like you knew her."

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn sighed deeply and folded his arms.

"Right, I don't believe we have ever met. I may have been introduced to her husband at one point in my life, but... he would have been just a face in the crowd.

"I suppose I should come clean,"
he continued, "though it really isn't much to speak of..."

Then he paused. He watched Hahnah, her intent gaze and her severe posture, her curiosity. How much did he trust her? What was driving her, her agenda? Too many unknowns. And yet, despite it all, he wanted to trust Hahnah. He wanted to help her and, Gods be damned, he would even like to be friends. She was odd and otherworldly and interesting. She would have a lot to teach him. So he nodded to himself, and continued.

"My father is part of the Merchant's Council of Alliria,"
he said, before hesitating and explaining further, "which means he makes some of the decisions for the city, and by extension much of the Reach. Like the Lady, you see, only Alliria is quite a bit larger than Medura. I don't have a title, you understand, but it's always been assumed that I would take over the family finances once my father retires, and that would mean a seat on the Council, provided I didn't squandor it all away as soon as I got it.

"That means a lot of very important people across Arethil are eager to remember my name and face. I could be an asset as a friend, and a favour owed by me could be paid back all manner of ways in the long run. Does that make sense?"


He wasn't sure how politically savvy the rangers of Falwood were, but his impression was that the wild guardians of the natural order didn't have much time for counting votes in the city. He shrugged, looking down.

"I'm not proud, or rather I try not to be. It would suit me fine to stay away from everyone's attention for a while. Still, this seige is something of an unusual situation. I suppose there is nothing to be done."

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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He spoke as if he were making a confession. This Hahnah surmised, even with the meaning of the phrase "come clean" not making clear sense to her. Sometimes ideas were spoken in a such a way that made it difficult for her to understand. There were many such phrases she had overheard and had been spoken to her, now that she was walking among them.

My father is part of the Merchant's Council of Alliria...


Hahnah just canted her head to the side, her expression mostly blank. She did not know what the Merchant's Council was, though she did at least know of the city named Alliria, and that his name had hinted that this was his home. Maybe if she was human the significance of this would not have been lost on her. But it was lost.

He went on to explain. Griffin's father was a master, one who was higher than the master here in Menura. She remembered the landscape of the Reach, having briefly gone through it. It was troubling to know now that there were humans in Alliria who thought that the Reach was theirs, much like the humans in Vel Anir who thought that Falwood was theirs. A bad omen for the Reach, and any good people who lived in it.

Griffin didn't have a title like a book, and Hahnah did not understand. But he did think that he would become a master of Alliria when something happened to his father. Yet, despite what Hahnah would have thought, Griffin seemed...reluctant. He had seemed reluctant when the human mistress made him Commander. Why? Both of these were perfect opportunities to enact the cruel desires of his human heart.

Many people, eager to remember his name and face. Many humans, Hahnah imagined. Maybe some desperate or sinful elves, who lived under human oppression.

"It does, and it does not," Hahnah answered. People saw him as a means to achieve their goals, because of the importance of his father and because that made Griffin important as well. That made sense. Hahnah had done the same with the human mistress of Menura. But the strange system of importance, of being higher or lower than another person, Hahnah would never truly understand. There were many elves who also had such a system, and it was baffling to her.

He was not proud--he did not like the place that he was in. And that was even more baffling to Hahnah. He could kill many elves if he wanted, and yet he did not, and did not seem to wish to. Was he even human? He seemed more like a monster, or an elf.

Honesty. She would speak with honesty.

"Griffin von Spurling of Alliria, I do not know who your father is, and I do not care how many finances he has or where he places them. When I look at you, I do not see him. You are a master and a commander, but I do not see you or anyone as higher or lower than me. I do not follow you because you are those things or because of your father. I follow you because I have chosen to do so. We are equal--that is what I think."

She thought for a moment, then added, "I can kill or injure anyone who pays attention to you, until you are ready for people to pay attention. Would you like for me to do that?"

Still she had her own questions to ask, but this was a pertinent thing to inquire about. A license to kill more humans without repercussions would be welcome.

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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"What? No!" he exclaimed. "Do you jest? Hahnah, I would not have you harm anyone if you can help it, let alone kill!"

He rubbed his eyes. Again, Hahnah showed him a bloodthirsty side of her personality that made him more than a little uneasy. He reminded himself that this could be a mark of her upbringing. Was Falwood truly so wild a place? He realised he had no idea.

"But I'm glad we agree on one thing," he continued. "I would have us as equals, if we are to get through this siege alive and well. Partners."

In truth, Griffyn hoped that he wouldn't need to make use of Hahnah much for the remainder of the siege. He had brought her into this so that he could protect her from a life on the street. Still, she was suggesting that she was familiar with a set of skills that he did not have, a viewpoint that he refused to see, that might keep both of them alive. He would need to seriously consider how best to coordinate with her.

He gave her a soft smile as he pushed off from the wall and stretched out his hand to shake hers.

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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Hahnah blinked.

This man named Griffin was unlike anything Hahnah would have expected, insofar as his spoken word went. His actions still had the potential to differ from his spoken word, to be more congruent with the true nature of Humankind. The Reds had embraced this nature, and Hahnah could not see any other way for the city of Menura to be free other than for Griffin, as Commander, to embrace this nature as well. Though it was difficult to comprehend this new scale of human aggression and sin, where some of their kind had within them a degree of reluctance. Like a predator, denying its own hunger, walking harmlessly past prey.

She glanced down at the offered hand. It was good that she had seen this gesture before, and that she knew what to do. She took his hand in hers. Shook. Up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down--she knew the gesture but what she was unsure of was when to stop.

Going perhaps a little too long with the handshake, she said, "May I ask you a nosy question? Who is Alt-yr?"

She had pronounced the name as "Alt-yer," going off of the inexpertise she had in reading it.

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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He frowned and he gently forced his hand from hers. "I... don't think I know anyone by that..."

Griffyn raised his hand to his jacket, and the folded letter within. He smiled, looking down at his feet.

"Altyr is my brother," he explained. "He'll turn eight years old in the spring. I promised I would write to him, to all of them, as often as I could. Though I don't know how much of all this I'll be sharing. He's only young."

He chuckled, a quiet and rough sound that carried little mirth. Altyr was a sentimental youngster, a lover of tales of adventure but conflict adverse by nature. Griffyn wasn't yet sure how many of his letters home would end up being daring tales to inspire, and how many would fill the boy with fear for the outside world. No doubt some of what he wrote, he would regret.

He walked to the long table in the centre of the room and took a seat, helping himself to some fruit. He was suddenly aware that he had not eaten in some significant time, and much of that time had been spent purging his blood of vitae to power his spells. He took a bite out of a small apple as he asked,

"How about you, Hahnah? Any family?"
 
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Hahnah

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He pronounced the name differently. Oh. The "y" letter in the Common script was a strange one, changing its sound in a pattern that Hahnah had yet to decipher. She thought of something. A small question, but one that could be very important later. For now she kept this question in reserve.

His brother. Altyr was Griffin's brother. Prior to her transformation, Hahnah would not have properly understood what that meant. But now she knew, and her curiosity overrode all else. What was that like? To have another person in the world who was connected to you in such a special way? Who was birthed from the same coupling of mother and father?

(the Living Armor within Hahnah stirred subtly, and she did not notice)

Hahnah sat down at the table when Griffin sat. She looked at the bowl of fruit. Thought for a moment. Yes, she could probably have a little more to eat. She remembered that her caretakers had been cautious about feeding her too much too quickly when they found her starving in the Temple. This time was not as bad as then, and this time she was bigger. If she felt pain then she would stop.

Hahnah plucked a small bunch of grapes from the bowl and brought it close to her and set it on the table. She ate one as Griffin asked her a question in turn. And again she did not see a reason to mix honesty with dishonesty, as she had been with the human mistress.

"No. I did not have a mother and father in the same way that you do, because they were not truly my mother and father. But they found me when I was locked in the place of my birth. They saved me from starving. They took care of me when I was a--"

(small one)

"--child...and I loved them. Their names were Kylindrielle and Elurdrith, and they were elven rangers."

She eyed Griffin closely.

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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He nodded, even though he didn't really understand. His mind put together a sad picture of a girl abandoned by her parents, found by elves and raised as their own. Living off the streets when they moved on, or possibly died. All details he only guessed and did not need to know. To address them would no doubt darken what was turning out to be a very constructive conversation with his new partner.

"They sound like they were very special."

He had seen enough families brought together through hardship on the streets of Alliria to know that the circumstances of birth did not necessarily build the strongest of kinships. He had seen birth parents cast aside their children when caring for them grew to be too much, and those same children raised as apprentices or wards by completely different families, perhaps even different species entirely, and thrive in their new homes.

Still, he considered with a wince, better them than me. He would not trade his family for anything.

Griffyn leaned forward on the table, resting on his elbows. He set the apple core to one side and grabbed another as his stomach, finally fed after so long, remembered that it was empty and growled for more.

"And this other Griffin, the friend you are looking for? How do you know them?"

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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Hahnah nodded. And spoke with sincere truth, "They were my entire world."

Again, that powerful disillusionment came over her. That she was having this conversation with a human--or so he appeared to be. Her sense of smell was nowhere near as potent as it had been before her transformation, so she could not instinctively tell anymore. The bidding to walk among them, this siege of Menura which had trapped her within the city, both had conspired to produce something that was as disquieting as it was unprecedented. What if this Griffin was going through the same? Some bidding or event that was in combination with this siege and producing equally strange behavior. That he would even say what he had said and entertain any of this matter concerning elves.

And this other Griffin, the friend you are looking for? How do you know them?

Hahnah slowly placed her left hand on the table, and then her right hand on top of it. There were immediately two ways in which she recognized she could handle this. The way that was safe, and the way that was dangerous. She could hold to the lie about Griffin with the blonde hair, the one who had gotten away twice. Or she could reveal the truth, and see how this Griffin, Griffin von Spurling of Alliria, reacted. Going safe promised her nothing but that: safety. No new knowledge about her enemy of that was the whole of Humankind, about how they functioned--or could function, ways that she did not expect, like how they could infect others with sin. Zael had never explained that, nor had she gained that knowledge through him.

She decided, with some apprehension, to go dangerously.

"I lied before about the other man whose name is also Griffin. He is not my friend."

Her brow narrowed ever so slightly.

"I know him because he killed Kylindrielle and Elurdrith. There were several other human monster hunters with him, and they are all dead. It is only Griffin with the blonde hair who remains."

A tiny cant of her head.

"It is strange to me. You share his name, but you do not act like him."

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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"I'm... sorry."

Griffyn looked down, oddly ashamed by the actions of his double. As if he could have done anything to prevent the murder of Hahnah's family. The mention of monster hunters was an interesting one. Though not an official part of the itinerary in his head, Griffyn had wondered about locating the elusive group and spending some time learning the trade as part of his year abroad. Now, he would have to reconsider.

"And you say he passed through here? Or... you said something to that effect, though he isn't here any more. I'd be happy to help you look for him while we are here, if that is any consolation. Murder should never go unpunished."

Big words for one man, he thought. So brave to stand up against crime while living in a city where murder, unfortunately, continues to occur. Well, there wasn't much he could do about Alliria's problems, not yet at any rate. If he could bring this false Griffin to justice, however, that would be good. Very good.

He glanced to the window. The soft orange of the early sunset smeared light across the city.

"Time enough for that in the morning," he remarked. "For that, and for whatever else we will need to be doing to keep the city safe."

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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...Sorry?

Hahnah expected anger at the lie. She expected suspicion and aggression at the implication of what she could have done to him by mistaking him for another man. She expected joy to expressed at the deaths of her elven caretakers. She even expected dismay or outright hostility at the truth that the other human monster hunters were dead. Every human that crossed her path was suffused with sin, and she was the punishment delivered upon them by their own cruel gods--that it what she believed. How could it be then...that this Griffin had been placed into her path? What were his sins? She did not know.

She did not know.

Murder should never go unpunished.

"My name is Zael..."

"Yes..." she said, her voice far quieter than she anticipated.

"...and you killed my father."

She stared down at the table. Through it. Beyond it.

"You are a monster. You don't even know what you've done. You don't. Even. Know."

"...I agree."

A feeling of unease that she did not fully understand crept like a cold wind across her back, her shoulders, leaked from her heart and sank down into her stomach. It did not feel good, she did not feel good, and all the things of the world--the feel of the seat beneath her, the sound of the city outside the quarters, the lingering taste of the grape upon her tongue--seemed in that moment to be sliding away with the inevitability of a dream twisting into a nightmare.

Time enough for that in the morning...

Hahnah took in a small breath. She looked up, and the world snapped back to her.

"May I ask something of you, Griffin?" she glanced around. Stood from her chair and glanced around the quarters some more, eyes searching for something. The small question she had held in reserve had come back to her. "Is there a writing feather somewhere in here that you have seen? I wanted to know...what your name looked like in its written form."

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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He sat back, surprised at this sudden passion from the girl. It took him a moment before his mind put together what was being asked of him. He watched Hahnah carefully.

"Uh... Oh. Certainly. I can do you one better than a quill in here."

He looked down at the ground by his chair, then around the room. Then cursed under his breath.

"Ah, my journal. It must be back at the barracks still. I'll have to..."

Waving his hand dismissively, he stood and moved to the bedroom directly behind him. Surely even a servant would... Ah, yes! Opening the drawer beside the bed he found a set of basic quills wrapped in leather. The ink in the inkwell also present in the drawer looked a little thick, solidifying with age, but would do. No paper, though.

Returning quickly to the room (for Hahnah had a taut quality to her posture that suggested haste would be appreciated) he ran his hand along the row of books on the bookshelf opposite the front door, eyes scanning the spines for the least valuable he could find. He settled on a tome bound in red leather, red like expensive upholstery. The Romance of House Black was a common sight in the collections of young ladies, and Griffyn had seen enough of it around Alliria to know it could easily be replaced. He opened the page to the inside cover, dipped the quill, and began to write.

"I think I understand..."

G-

"...that as my name..."

-R-

"...is also that of the murderer of your family..."

-I-

"...it brings you some discomfort."

-F-

"I hope that this..."

-F-

"...gives you some relief."

-Y-N.

He slid the book towards her and sat back, watching her eyes. Expectant, concerned.

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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Hahnah watched patiently as Griffin searched for a writing feather--a quill. He thought to check one of the other smaller rooms and this thought proved to be right. He came back into the central room and looked at the books. There was plenty of paper bound together to be found on the shelves. He selected one and sat and Hahnah pulled her chair closer to his and sat as well and watched as he opened the cover.

He wrote. Each letter appearing in sacred black on the page.

I hope that this gives you some relief.

He finished, and the book was slid to her on the table. She placed her hands upon it, upon the inside cover and the pages thereafter. Her eyes moved across each letter. And it was different.

"Griff...yin. Griff-yeen." She shook her head--but neither was right, even though it was spelled with a "y" letter inside of another "i" letter. She glanced up from the book and could not help but to share a small, reserved smile, "The 'y' letter is a strange one in the Common script."

A tiny sigh. "Your name is not the same as his. I am glad."

She could have followed up with a question from Griffyn's letter. About the "Griffins" in the plural. But it did not seem so important now. Still it worried her, but it was not an immediate concern. Instead, something else occurred to her to ask of Griffyn, since there was a particular kind of impetus for it now. She had almost entirely forgotten that she was speaking with a human, that she was a trapped in a city full of them, and everything that troubled her about this strange situation she had found herself in within Menura.

Hahnah held out her hand for the quill. Looked at Griffyn expectantly until he gave it to her.

"There is something that I have wondered about for a long time," she said. "Something that I had been meaning to ask of my caretakers, but was too late in my asking."

She started to write on the inside cover. Very slowly, very carefully, and very precisely.

"I did not know how to speak until they taught me. The concept of communication and language itself was...new and foreign. I made many mistakes. But I learned."

Large letters she wrote underneath Griffyn's name.

"I did not have a name until they gave me one. I remember vividly the letters they used when they were teaching me what my name was, even if I did not know how to read then. They spoke to me my name many times and I believe that I understood the sound of it, but even so, I know that I made many mistakes."

She finished and set the quill down.

"I want to hear what the sound of these letters are. I want to hear the true sound of them. Reading is still new and foreign to me, and so I do not trust myself to be accurate."

She lifted up the book and held it open and pointed. A reverent, entreating hope coming through in her eyes.

"Would you speak for me the sound of the name my caretakers gave to me?"

Written beneath Griffyn's name:

Hannah

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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He glanced at the book, recognising the name immediately. He smiled softly. All this time he had assumed that Hahnah just had a Falwood accent. To think her name was...

"Hannah."

He spoke the name as he knew it, as the girls of Alliria would say it. Ha-nuh. Less breath than Hahnah, more momentum. Strangely, he had a hard time associating the sounds with the girl before him. Her aspirant, careful pronunciation had in this short time become as much a part of her as her hair or her freckles, to Griffyn at least.

"It's a really lovely name," he added. "I think I have a cousin called Hannah."

For a long moment, Griffyn considered his own name. Even though the purpose of his travels was to walk among the people of the world, absorb their experience and culture, he had never thought to be covert enough to cover his name with an alias. The word 'Griffyn' was too much a part of him to be changed easily, it seemed. It was the name his father had given him. What other would do?

He remained silent, however. From the large shimmer of her eyes, he could tell that this was an important moment for his new ally. She might need the space to think.

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Hahnah

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"Hannah."

The mere sound of the name sparked tiny embers of memory, and seemed in the ephemeral way of a wish temporarily granted to undo the deaths of Kylindrielle and Elurdrith, to breathe a certain life back into them before, like a real breath, the sound faded and the breath became an indistinguishable part of the air of Arethil itself.

She set the book back down on the table. Placed her finger again by the letters she had written and glided it over them. Her breath hitched, and she said it again with a joy that was quiet, mounting, and a touch solemn. "Hannah."

She placed her hand on her chest. And she smiled and blinked and looked to Griffyn and blinked more and sighed a ragged sigh of that solemn joy and lifted her other hand from the book to wipe at the edges of her eyes.

"Thank you, Griffyn. Yes, it is a lovely name," she said, trying subconsciously to keep her tone level and neutral and her expression cold and strong so as not to show weakness and failing (wonderfully failing) at both. "Your cousin must be a good person."

It had to be so. It must be so. For Griffyn's cousin had not been placed into Hahnah's path, and she hoped on some deep and unspoken level that his cousin never was. That she would be free of sin forever.

And she thought of the name, given to her originally by her caretakers and shared with Griffyn's cousin, again.

"I...I think I will save this name...for a better time."

When the war was over. When she could be at peace again.

"But I will carry its true sound with me until then. Thank you, Griffyn," she said again.

She moved without thinking, without a thought to war and peace, enemies and friends, sin and innocence. She stood up from her seat and leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him and hugged him.

"You gave me something to cherish."

Griffyn
 
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He tensed, alarmed. For a shameful second he believed himself under attack. But then he relaxed, at least a little, and slowly brought his arm around to pat the girl on the shoulder.

"That's... that's no problem." His eyes moved about the room, not knowing where to settle. "I wish you the joy of it."

To think Hahnah (Hannah) found such comfort in the true sound of her own name. He understood that it brought her closer to those who chose it for her, in the same way that walking through the ancient ruins of a building brought you closer to those who walked there centuries past. But at the end of the day, it was just a name. Griffyn simply did not understand how someone would come to put such importance on something as insignificant an intransiant as pronunciation.

But one thing he did understand - that Hahnah was happy. And that was all that mattered.

When it felt like she was content, Griffyn leaned back from her embrace and stood to his feet, slightly flushed.

"This has been quite a day for you, then," he said with a soft smile. "I assume you must need a bit of solitude to figure all this out, and I need to go and find some items I seem to have misplaced. I hope that doesn't become any more a habit than it already has."

Laughing nervously, he walked to the door. The sunset outside cast an orange, ember glow upon Hahnah as he looked back to her, as if she were aflame.

"I'll see you later, or maybe in the morning if you are asleep when I get back."


Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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A hug was something that was far more natural to her than a handshake, and she had a better sense of when to let go. She pulled back, and she was too engrossed in the selfsame joy wished upon her by Griffyn and that she was experiencing in the wake of hearing the true sound of her given name to be shocked by what she had done.

This has been quite a day for you, then...

"It has been memorable," she said. The morning of the day seemed part of some dreary, bygone year instead of separated by mere hours from the much better evening.

Then Griffyn mentioned that he had to go and get some things. His journal was one--that he had said. He did that often, misplacing things, much like the spoken and written linguistic mistakes Hahnah herself made. His lost things would be easy to find this time, so she assumed. They were likely all in the barracks. It also vaguely reminded her that she ought to go and fetch the shoes she had left in the alley sometime--she did not like to wear them, but they were nevertheless still useful.

Griffyn laughed, and though Hahnah did not laugh along with him, her smile endured. He went to the door.

I'll see you later, or maybe in the morning if you are asleep when I get back.

"I will be here," she said. And then in a reflexive manner that was surprising to her, she added, "Remain safe."

When the door to the quarters closed and she was left alone to reflect, she bowed her head in contemplation and pondered everything. Walked through in her mind the day's events from when she heard the name "Griffin" being spoken while wandering in the street to where she was now in the quarters, ending with those words: remain safe. In saying them a certain strangeness that compounded atop the day's other strange happenings. Lying was a necessary part of walking among them, but...the words did not carry the soft sting of being a lie.

Hahnah walked to the doors of the two bedrooms. She looked at them both and chose the right-side room, pushing open the door and stepping within and closing (not entirely, but leaving ajar) the door before sitting down on the edge of the bed. This was a more comfortable way to think, to call back that joy, and to relive some of the old memories of Kylindrielle and Elurdrith.

A few minutes later, her door opened and she came out and picked up the book and went back into the bedroom with it and left the door ajar.

A few minutes after that, her door opened again and she came out and picked up the branch of grapes from the table and took them as well into the bedroom and left the door ajar.

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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The early evening was chill against Griffyn's skin, and he rubbed absently at his arms as he walked the streets of Menura. Now back in the low town, in terms of altitude as well as prosperity, the road was clustered with townsfork rushing home in time for the curfew, soldiers ushering them on or keeping a lazy watch on the main thoroughfare, and the odd stray cat slinking around the shadows. The walls were manned well, he discovered as he returned to the barracks that had been his home for the past two days. He spotted some familiar backs of heads on duty, their postures slack and leaning heavily on their spears.

As a Commander, was that something he would have to crack down on? Would he have to start barking orders at his friends now? Not a pleasant thought. Griffyn had been thrilled with how quickly the makeshift militia had accepted him as one of their own. His new status threatened to undo that.

These thoughts were on his mind as he pushed open the main door to the long barracks building. The rows of bunks were mostly filled with snoring bodies, rolled over clumsily under their thin sheets. He closed the door quietly as he entered, passing through shadow along the row until he reached his own bunk, close to the trapdoor that led to the roof and on to the walls. It was empty, thankfully.

Griffyn's ironwood wand was still in its place on the bedside table. He clutched it eagerly, comforted by the familiar texture of the wood, and slid it into his belt. His original sword was nowhere to be seen, but that was of little consequence. The blade had been a hefty purchase from the markets of Alliria, but had no sentimental value. He was forced to bend down and peer beneath the wooden bunk in order to find his satchel, which someone had kicked into the gloom. He grabbed the strap and pulled it free, dusting it off with his hand. Inside was his journal. He breathed a sigh of relief.

Reaching into his jacket pocket, he removed the draft letter to his brother and slipped it between the pages of the journal, next to a couple of other loose papers. Something slid out from the folded letter as he did, landing on the floor. He picked it up.

A playing card. The Two of Mirrors. How did he come by that?

"Well, look who deigns us with his presence."

Griffyn stood and turned at the low voice, though he knew who it was already. Amon sat up on his bunk, legs over the side, and glowered at him from the shadows. Griffyn tightened his lips.

"So it's true," Amon said, shaking his head like a disappointed parent. "Once a lord, always a lord, I suppose. Glad to see your lot looking out for their own."

"Don't start, man," Griffyn retorted, voice low to keep from waking the others. "I'm going to try not to let this change anything. I'd ask you to do the same."

"Can't change the way in which you were born, my lord," said Amon. "A hound can't change his coat. And such lustrous fur this hound has."

Griffyn had had enough. The man's venom was slick in his words, stinging his skin. Tossing his satchel over one shoulder, he walked out of the barracks by the main door. He heard a sneer as he passed Amon's bunk, but thankfully no words followed it.

Out in the darkness of the city, Griffyn breathed a lungful of evening air. He felt feverish, his mucles tense. How dare he? After all Griffyn had done to distance himself from his upbringing, how dare he throw that in his face? Some people would clearly never be satisfied.

Shaking his head, Griffyn set off for home.

And at the end of the street, unbeknownst to him, a door opened in one of the short towers that made up the walls of the city, and six figures slinked into the city.
 
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Hahnah

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Hahnah sat on her bed and read by the thin light of a candle.

When first she settled in the room and there was still some waning light of the evening, Hahnah nibbled on grape after grape and thought on the day. About the humans of Menura and her purpose. About Griffyn. She was conflicted, and she wanted to pray to the Dying God, but oddly she had no impulse to do so and despite her want she left her hands unclasped. And the conflict remained. Was Griffyn not a human, one who had been placed into her path by his own cruel gods, thereby proving the sins he had committed? Was he not profane and she his punishment, if not during this siege then at sometime thereafter? It was demanded that she kill him, and yet...she did not want to see him harmed.

The thought, the truthful acknowledgement of this, was painful. Humankind had killed Kylindrielle and Elurdrith and tried to kill her when first she encountered them. To show them--any of them--mercy was to slap her caretakers across the cheek and to spit on their memory. Mercy would allow evil to spread, and this evil would consume more and more of Arethil.

Hahnah did not notice when the dark had fully permeated the bedroom. But when she did, she stood and lit the candle in the room as Elurdrith had shown her and she let the troublesome and conflicting thoughts fall away for now. She looked at the inside cover of the book admired the letters which comprised her true name and said again the sound of them Griffyn had shared with her.

Eventually, on something of a whim, she turned the page. Saw the stylized title of the book written again. House...Black? Was this house sacred? Why, what was in it? The title intrigued her, and she turned the next page.

And she sat on her bed now, engrossed in what she had discovered was a written--a written--story.

Unaware.

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn waved to the soldiers, and they bowed back. He doubted he would be invited to cards in the morning.

Keates and his team walked down towards the low city, and Gryffin climbed the path towards home.

The moon was considerately bright in the skies overhead, lighting up the paving beneath his feet and glimmering off the steel of his sword. The chill was on his fingertips, along his cheeks, and he realised he would at some point need to afford a new wardrobe as the months began to freeze over. Maybe once the siege was over he could coerce his one-time employers to pick something out for him. And for Hahnah, of course.

He smiled at the amusing thought of taking the vagrant girl clothes shopping. What colours did she favour? Did she care about being fashionable?

The question tickled him so much that initially he didn't see the patrol emerge from the side street on his right, a few paces forward. He blinked as they registered in his mind - five men, dressed haphazardly. Four with spears, one with a longsword. They halted when they saw him, shoulders hunched. Against the chill?

"Evening, lads," Griffyn said with a cheery wave. "All well?"

This is when they see the blue armband and bow their heads in deference, he thought sadly.

Although, in the stillness of the moment Griffyn wondered at the oddity of a patrol this deep into the city at this hour, none of them chatting in that amicable, soldierly way he had grown familiar with. And all five wearing helms or coverings that hid their faces. The smile on Griffyn's face slowly slid free, replaced by a worried frown.

The five drew their weapons. As they approached, Griffyn did the same.

"MEN OF MENURA!" he bellowed as the fight began. "TO ME!!"

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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"...and so it was that the heiress to House Black did see the young prince at the eve's gala. A strange feeling of delightful danger drove her heart to thunder within her chest once their eyes met across the sea of slowly spinning dancers. Their fathers were foes, were they not? Hard and bitter, their enmity. And it was true that both she and the prince wore their family names proudly. Did this not make by extension she and the prince foes? Was there--?"

Hahnah lifted her head from the book, her reading interrupted. Her eyes scanned the bedroom in a wary manner. She thought that she had heard something. It was a sound made low and faint by distance and obstruction, but she was certain that she had. Slowly she began to register it as she focused, replaying the sound in her mind. And she realized that it was a shout. Not just any shout, but one that had carried with it a particular sense of urgency that did not require her to know the words spoken to recognize.

She placed the book down on her bed and stood. It could be nothing of any concern to her. Or it could. It could be an opportunity to slay some of the humans called Reds if they had somehow climbed the walls in the night, or to slay some Menura humans that had become desperate and were attacking their fellows--they would surely be acceptable targets as well. Griffyn had not yet returned, and though he might wonder where she went if he did return while she was out, she did not anticipate being gone from the quarters for too long. The shout was close enough.

Hahnah jogged out from the quarters and around through the garden and around to the front of the large house and the street. And it was here that favorable winds carried the sound--the certain sound--of battle.

She could cleanse some of the profane tonight.

Now Hahnah sprinted. It sounded like the fight was coming from the downhill road, in the direction of the lower city where Hahnah was more familiar.

It did not take her long to come upon the melee, wherein she saw six men--

One of whom was Griffyn.

Hahnah's eyes widened and she gasped and her breath seized within her lungs for a second. Then her lips flattened into a line and she narrowed her brow with the cold resolve of a killer. She did not want to throw or launch any of her magic into the melee for fear of hitting Griffyn, so she had but option left to her. She held her hands out low and to her sides and Tendrils of Elemental Hatred slithered out from each palm. The magic weapons--churning white, black, and maroon in color--writhed about at their tips like they had minds of their own, half whips and half snakes.

And Hahnah started charging. Speaking quietly as she ran, "They have been placed in my path because they have sinned. They have sinned because they are cruel. They are cruel because they are born that way. They are..."

She had to close the gap. Slay the human men who were not Griffyn. Before they could--

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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There was a trick that Griffyn had taught himself. It was a trick that his swordsmaster has snubbed his nose at, a trick that caused his magic tutor to roll his eyes. But it had saved Griffyn's life twice now.

Unhooking his wand as the five advanced, their formation clear and unrelenting, Griffyn tapped the steel of his blade with the wood of the device. With a whip of his wrist, he slid the wand along the flat of the sword with a hot, brilliant, whispered word. And in a flare of light, the sword was ablaze with lustrious blue fire.

He swiped the sword before him a couple of times, letting the fire snap and roar in the air. He grinned with what he hoped was a convincing facade of confidence and set his feet steady to receive the attack.

Of course, he remembered the words of his tutors well. The Vel Aniri weapons teacher had told him plainly that a man stabbed through with a blade cares not that the blade was on fire - he's just as dead. And yet, Griffyn had met men aplenty for whom a man with a sword is an expected and comfortable enemy. The ruffian in the low tavern who had accosted Griffyn and his friends two years ago didn't care that the young man was wearing steel. But oh, how his face had dropped when that steel was suddenly lit with the flames of the ethereal! This was unexpected, this was unpredictable. If Griffyn could set a sword on fire, an audacious and wasteful gesture of power, what more could he do when began actually trying to kill you?

On both occasions when the blue fire was utilised, Griffyn's enemies had fled before a blow was ever struck. It had saved his life with its flare.

Not so tonight.

The first pair of soldiers to meet him both held spears. Griffyn's grip on his wand tightened as he deflected the first point with a transparent shield of energy, letting him spin into the short range that the spear-user feared. His pommel met the covered face of the first attacker, and as he flinched Griffyn was able to tuck the spear of the second attacker under his arm and chop downwards with his burning sword, cutting the weapon in two.

He pushed both foes away as a third advanced, keeping some distance. The first stab Griffyn pushed aside with his sword, the second he stepped back to avoid. Then he pushed forward with a short blast of flame from his wand to disorient, rushing the man and impacting him with his shoulder. They slammed together against the brick outer wall of one of the fancy houses on the row. The winded soldier was unable to fight back as Griffyn raised his sword, placing the tip against his enemy's chest.

And he faltered. He could see the pale eyes of his enemy behind the face shield of his helmet, and he found he could not deal the final blow.

A booted foot slammed into his side and he stagged away from the wall, freshly bruised. A speartip surged through the air towards him and he narrowly deflected it with a shink of metal from his blade, but did not see the swing of the incoming sword until it was too late, earning himself a cut across the cheek. He lashed out with his burning weapon to force his foes away, but a rock of some sort was hurled through the fire, catching him on the side of head. One leg shuddered as his body realised its own weakness. Blood seeped into his eye as the fire of his sword died.

His five enemies lined up before him, blocking his return down the street. But beyond them, a figure stood in the pale moonlight. He recognised Hahnah, and was suddenly overwhelmed with both relief and affection for his friend, and fear that she was putting herself in danger. He rose his weapon again, drawing the attention of the interlopers, and prepared to fight.

Somewhere in the distance, a bell was ringing. For him? He could only hope.

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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Hahnah had seen only the rock hitting Griffyn in the head and the fire (his magic) of the sword extinguishing. But the backs of the men arrayed against him were to her. That was good. Those who were not looking and were not aware were primed for ambush. But unlike her usual tactics of slaying, she would stay in the fight this time.

Hahnah ran down the street, her bare feet pattering on the stone. She could see more clearly on her approach that the men were wearing helms, and did not have much flesh exposed. But helms had their weakness that her magic could exploit.

They were focused on Griffyn, and did not hear her coming. They were not aware--yet.

Once in range, Hahnah used the reach of her Tendril to strike from afar. The tip of the Tendril she whipped around the helm of the furthest man on her right, then yanked back. Most of her magic dissipated harmlessly on contact with the inorganic metal--cutting the length of the Tendril--but some of it leaked through the visor. Got into the man's eyes. His face. His skull and his brain. And it consumed flesh and bone and blood until each tiny wisp of her sorcery touched some part of her enemy's head. Ichor and gore splattered and dribbled from the bottom of the man's helm, and the man with a quarter of his skull gone dropped to the ground.

The spearman immediately next to him turned around with seasoned haste when the body smacked the ground. And he did not hesitate.

He stepped forward and thrusted his spear and Hahnah skipped to one side.

Her shortened Tendril whipped at his helm but he turned it to the side by inadvertent instinct and her sorcery found no opening into which to penetrate. The Tendril was shortened further as her magic dissipated upon touching the solid metal.

And the spearman, not wasting his thrust, swung the spear laterally to slash at Hahnah's right side.

It caught her.

Unclear, whether the sharp spearhead or the shaft had struck her. But she let out a small wince and her face grimaced in that second.

Griffyn
 
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Griffyn

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He was dimly aware of chaos erupting.

Griffyn lunged forward as the first body hit the floor. He lashed out wildly with his blade, shouting out a cry as he did. There was a thunk of wood as his blade cut into the haft of a spear, locking him together with one of the enemy soldiers, which Griffyn followed up with a vicious kick to the stomach. He raised his wand-arm to block a blow that came from behind as another combatant swung down the broken half of a spear towards his head. His arm cracked in protest, and he winced. He flung out his wounded arm to push the soldier back, adding a flare of light to the attack encourage him away.

But suddenly the melee became a flurry of stabs, swing and thrusts. Griffyn took a blow to the side of the head, a slash to the waist and a stabbing slice along his thigh as he pushed his foes back. The opportunities for killing blows came and went as he focussed on disarming and despiriting the interlopers, but he paid for it with blood and pain.

Exhausted and agonised, he shoved forwards with his arms and sent a soldier toppling over the body of his fallen ally. He lashed out in a punch against the swordsman and caught him on the jaw, sending him reeling. The third soldier leapt forward but caught Griffyn's sword against his arm, dropping his spear with a muffled yelp of pain. He too stepped back.

With space to manouevre and breathe, Griffyn took stock of the situation. Hahnah was battling nimbly, doing... something that caught the enemy by surprise. One of the gang of five (now four) was fighting back, but there was an odd tension to the man's shoulders that Griffyn recognised - reluctance. Why? Because his opponent was a girl?

Regardless, he wasn't receiving any of the same treatment. He spat out a mouthful of blood as he took up a defensive stance against his three enemies, glad that they seemed willing to let him compose himself.

And only then did he hear the footfall of a sixth interloper in the ally behind him and to his left. Griffyn turned as a pair of arrows slammed into his side, and he tumbled to the ground, vision red.

Hahnah
 
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Hahnah

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Hahnah saw the reluctance in the spearman's demeanor as well. But she would not show mercy.

Stifling another wince, she trapped the spear between her bicep and her side before he could pull it out. Her Tendrils of Elemental Hatred slithered quickly back into her palms. She was going to try to even the numbers and cause confusion among her and Griffyn's foes.

She snapped a hand out and could just barely touch with her forefinger and middle finger the sliver of showing flesh of spearman's throat. Her new sorcery gained in the wake of her transformation, Provoke, was covert. It came with no glowing energy nor flash of light nor crack of sound. She needed but a few seconds to search...

(a lingering hatred. for the man Griffyn had punched in the jaw. tiny, but there. he had said something. made a joke at the spearman's expense. the spearman resented him, and it would do.)

Hahnah's Provoke infected the spearman, and his will was too weak to resist. Quiet, coercing, sorcerous energy was pumped into him through her fingers. She knew her back was vulnerable as she glared at the spearman, but the other three she could hear behind her, fighting with Griffyn still.

Almost...there.

Hahnah let go of the spear and stepped back, and the spearman breathed heavily and clutched at his helmed head for a moment. He seemed to be in shock. And then he slowly looked up. His eyes found and locked onto the object of his hatred, the joking man. The spearman brought up his weapon and Hahnah manifested two Orbs of Elemental Hatred in the palms of her hands, and she stood beside her coerced and temporary ally.

The spearman bellowed in rage and charged the joking man and viciously jabbed his spear at the gaps in the joking man's armor from behind, a relentless assault.

The man who had dropped his spear turned about when he noticed. Alarmed. He snapped a glance back and Hahnah threw an Orb at his helm and though most of it did indeed dissipate harmlessly, again some of her magic leaked through his visor. He did not die...but it was as if acid had splashed through visor's slit; his eyes and nose were gone along with a great swath of skin from his face. He hollered and clutched at his helm and dropped to his knees.

Hahnah could see Griffyn again as her foe dropped down, still hollering. Griffyn, bloodied, but still standing.

And then she saw the arrows plunge into him. Saw him go down.

Hahnah gasped sharply. And though she was not consciously aware of it, alarmed worry had in that moment supplanted her slayer's intensity.

She was not at a good angle to see the sixth interloper in the alley. But she knew another human had to be there. While the Provoked spearman and the joking man fought and the toppled man regained his footing (and was equally shocked about the spearman), Hahnah started to rush forward. To close the small gap between her and Griffyn's fallen body. To perhaps see and possibly engage the sixth interloper.

Or she might catch an arrow herself once she became visible from the alleyway.

Griffyn
 
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