Private Tales Roses and Rust

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Larka

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Larka sniffed the air as if she could also smell everything that Kitty could smell. She couldn’t. Her sense of taste and smell were beyond repair, and while flavor meant very little to her now, the young conclave member appreciated the few times in between when she could actually smell something nice. Like the salty water of the sea or that overwhelming scent of a field of freshly bloomed flowers. Or, like now, the smell of fresh forest air. It was faint but it was there, that slight refreshing twinge of cedar and pine, a hint of moist earth.

It had rained here not long ago, that much she could tell, the lush ferns seemed to be reveling in it. The small foster was also reveling in it as well, although she did her best to keep her focus on the task at hand. Despite being resolute in trying to exude the seriousness she often saw in established venari, that faint smile was still on her lips. Larka always smiled, and at this point, many had just accepted it as some sort of bad habit that she couldn’t break.

Even now, with her stomach growling, telling her that she had gone long enough without a snack, Larka upheld her serious golden gaze and barely-there upward twinge of her lips. Her stomach growled once more, and Kitty gave a slight huff of a whimper. He always seemed to be far more upset about Larka being hungry more than anyone else. Probably because he had witnessed her extreme irritation whenever her hunger levels dipped too low. It was from said low hunger levels that she had named her customs canem hunting dog such a silly name.

But it was better than what Larka was saying before! Kitty could have been Barf Eater after the first time they had met and Kitty had decided now would be a good time to make green pancakes all over the place. She almost felt she had purposely been given the “defective one” because of her laughable height and that maybe they assumed she’d be dead soon enough. It only made her want to prove to the Conclave even more that she would be their most devout and greatest venari to serve them. Now and ever and ever, she would make the Conclave proud, that was a promise!

If only her stomach would stop it’s borborygmus. Larka blanched, a bit sheepishly. Her grip on Kitty tightened, although she made sure not pull up on it’s scruff. Not Kitty’s fault she was a voracious eater. Larka looked straight ahead, focusing her mind elsewhere. The trees were thinning now, and soon they would come out from the forest and be greeted with soft green hills that nestled around a plain. And at that plain was a village, the church right and center as was custom in Cortos, the steeple high in the sky so everyone in the village would know where to head when it was time to pray.

From afar, nothing seemed to be amiss in Gallica. Larka knew better, because Gallica had received a rather foreboding nickname. The Village of Rust.
 
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Gannis

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Gannis almost never smiled. There were times when he smiled on this inside. That was usually when a client he did not like failed to read the small print in a contract, or when something truly ghastly happened to someone that he did not like.

He narrowed his eyes and looked to the steeple of the church as it caught the sun. Somewhere at the back of his mind, was a voice trying to point something out to him. He was an exceptional tracker and usually that voice was loud and clear.

"Oi, small'un," he called over his shoulder. It wasn't a phrase he could use often amongst his kind.

Dog was sniffing around the trees at the edge of the plain. He was probably looking for one to piss on.

"Want me to go down and look around first or we headin' down for a look?" he asked, giving her the choice.
 
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Larka

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The moment she was spoken to Larka shot right up to attention, her back straight as a rod as she looked over at Gannis. She then slid off Kitty’s back and trotted over to him. Of course she looked up at him with a faint smile on her lips, even if there was a part of her that felt nervous at this moment. She wasn’t sure if his question was just that, a simple question, or if it were some sort of test?

Can we go down there together?” Larka asked, a slight tilt of her head as she tried to read Gannis’ expression from her words. It was a bit rough, even among Venari who weren’t entirely all that expressive, trying to figure out Gannis’ thoughts was much much much harder. And Larka was such a teacher’s pet! How did she know if she was making the right choice? She glanced down at her feet.

Unless you think it’s better if you go alone?” She backtracked slightly, looking down at the town. “But I’d really like to learn how to be a better tracker.” She was small. Very small. Larka knew that fact very well. And because she was small, she needed to be much more prepared than anyone else.

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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Gannis looked down at Larka and then up towards the church he could see in the distance. He appeared to have fallen into silent contemplation on the matter.

"Where is the town we are heading to?" he asked earnestly.
 

Larka

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Larka balked, looking down at the town and then looking back at Gannis. She repeated that action a few times, and was really feeling quite unsure. Wasn’t it there? Right there? Or was she wrong?

Isn’t… Gallica there?” She asked, pointing down at the town a mile or so from their current perch. She could feel the muscles in her shoulders get tight, and for some reason she felt like she had said the wrong answer. But maybe that was what the issue was? “Gallica is there. The town fits the description we were given and we followed through on the directions.” Larka said more firmly. Wasn’t a venari, even a foster on the conclave, supposed to be confident?

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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His gaze never left the town as she vacillated between possible answers. Gannis managed to smile without moving his lips at all when she provided one of them.

"Excellent tracking skills, who said you needed to learn more? Let's go."

Gannis hitched the shoulder strap for his sword a little higher. It wasn't a graceful blade for dancing. It was a single edged slab of steel for hacking into monsters.

He had never been an elegant swordsman, but he was perfectly adept at finding beasts and hitting them with the sharp edge until they stopped fighting back.

Gannis set out at a relaxed gait down towards Gallica. Dog fell into step beside him.

"Why are we here again?" the question was more genuine this time.
 
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Larka

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Larka could feel the heat flush in her cheeks and she looked down. She felt as if she had been incredibly foolish, and couldn’t bring her golden gaze up from her feet. Not until Gannis began walking down towards the village down below. He may not have been as tall as ox-fed Baeshor but his legs were much longer than Larka’s.

She currently began to hurry after him, trotting behind him for a good moment as Kitty bounded after her. Larka was two steps behind Gannis when he asked his other question. This time she was far more wary about it, regarding the venari suspiciously for a moment before replying.

Because for the past ten years rust has been appearing. First on inanimate objects, specifically the outside of houses. And then children started being born but instead of crying or screaming they could only sing. Even when they get older they can only sing.” Larka herself couldn’t imagine how that was possible, but she supposed she would find out soon enough. “And then more rust came, but it started appearing on people too.” Another thing she was confused about. She frowned.

The contractor said it’s not the singing children but something else. Some type of monster?” Larka then looked up at the back of Gannis’ head. “But what monster just makes rust appear?” She wrinkled her nose.

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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Gannis slowed down so that Larka could draw up alongside him. It was the rust across the buildings that looked so strange in the light. He didn't know much about how anything worked, but rust was only supposed to grow on metal.

"Never heard of any kind of monster that makes rust grow," he said. "Monsters that use song to cast spells upon people but not spells to make people sing."

Dog had picked up the scent of something interesting and had bounded off to their left. He went around in a circle with his nose to the ground.

"Curse? Curse. Sounds like a curse. Ten years. Long time. Hard to pick up a trail of a cause."
 
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Larka

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Larka frowned for a moment, thinking this over. It was interesting if it was a curse, and she was curious why there were would be a curse in the first place.

Maybe the rust makes them sing?” She said. There were mixed reports. Some say the rust showed up first, others said the singing children happened first and then the rust. She frowned. “Singing can’t make… rust grow.” The foster shook her head. And then paused, looking at Dog. She gasped, pointing.

Because on the ground was a butterfly, unable to fly, one of it’s wings seemed to be entirely encased in rust.

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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"Dog, no!" Gannis called out.

The custos canem were far more intelligent than most dogs, but Gannis didn't trust his own to keep away from the butterfly.

Gannis dropped to his haunches beside the butterfly. It held its wings open in the sun, hoping to catch enough warmth in its wings to get airborn again. It could barely lift the one covered in rust.

He slipped on his gloves.

"The rust feels like the kind of thing that would be a curse," he grunted. "Could imagine someone cursing a place to always be rusting away, but the singing..."

He shook his head. It didn't make any sense to him.

Gannis touched the rusted wing. The butterfly tried to flap away, but simply flopped around in the grass.
 

Larka

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Larka pattered over to Gannis, a step behind him as she peered over his shoulder, checking out that strange butterfly. The corners of her lips dipped into a slight frown as she thought this over. Gannis was right. It most definitely felt like a curse.

So it’s not just the town but maybe a certain radius of effect?” She asked, tilting her head to the side a bit. Butterflies flew around, flitting about here and there and never staying in one place too long. She glanced over at where that town was before looking back at the butterfly.

Kitty whined, it’s big wet nose nuzzling into her shoulders. Larka looked over at her own furry friend, realization suddenly coming to her.

Do you think… we’ll be covered in rust too if we head down there?

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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"A certain radius of effect," Gannis parodied. "Fuck me, who taught you to speak like that?" He asked rhetorically. She must have fallen from a position of noble privilege.

"We might, so we take precautions," he answered when he was done shaking his head.

Gannis removed his pack from his shoulders and started to root about in it.

"Go and fetch me some dry kindling from the woods," he instructed.

When Larka returned, Gannis was quick to get a small fire burning. Just a little pipe of burning twigs the size of a fist. He held a small iron coin in the palm of his hand.

"An old ward from a talented sorcerer I once knew," he explained. He turned its face towards her, so that she could see the intricate spiral of runes on its face.

"Hard to say if it works still, but it won't do no harm either."

Gannis drew his knife and put a small cut on the outside of his hand. He rubbed a few droplets of blood into the face of the coin and then offered it to Larka with the knife.
 
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Larka

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Larka tilted her head, not quite understanding that it was a rhetorical question. “My first mentor was Aysel, that’s how she talks.” Larka answered. “She said it’s better to use one word that describes everything rather than many words to describe one thing. Makes things simpler for others to understand.” The foster practically regurgitated before nodding her head at Gannis’ orders.

Kindling! Yes, she got it, she could so that! And she’d do so in record time! Larka dashed to and fro in the wood like a busy bee, making sure to grab the driest of kindling and making sure she was quick about it. It must’ve looked like she was playing around with that eager expression on her face. It wasn’t long before she was back to Gannis, holding out the kindling before watching Gannis get to work.

Okay,” Larka said, taking the knife and copying Gannis’ actions, although she pricked her thumb, squeezing out the blood and rubbing it in the same manner Gannis had. She paused, wondering if she would feel something— a stir in the air, maybe even the sense of a cloak being draped on her. But nothing happened. She didn’t frown but she was wondering if such a thing even worked.

Or if it did work if it would work against whatever strange curse this was.

She handed the knife and coin back to Gannis and then glanced over at where the town lay. She was preparing herself for whatever horrors she might see. Seeing a butterfly wing covered in rust was shocking, but what about a human hand? Or a human face? She looked over at Kitty. If she saw a dog covered in rust she’d probably lose her shit. It was always worse when animals were in pain.

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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Gannis took the coin ant dropped it onto the small fire. It wasn't particularly hot yet, so the blood was not going to be quick to bubble and burn away.

"Simpler for others to understand," he mused. "When I use the longest words I know for a contract it's because I'm tryin' to make it as hard as possible to understand."

The surface of the coin turned a shade of dark grey as it was licked by the flames. Gannis pulled on a glove.

"I think the hounds should wait by the edge of the woods," he suggested. He hadn't missed Larka's glance.

He watched the blood burned away from the coin and used his gloved hand to flick it out from the flames. He stamped out the fire and poured some water over the coin. It hissed at this treatment.

"I am told if this coin gets proper hot that a curse is going to break the ward. But if it doesn't, might just be it doesn't work," he said with a shrug.
 
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Larka

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Why?” Larka asked Gannis, doing her signature tilt of her head that was so akin to the way birds did so. “Isn’t it best to write contracts that both parties understand fully?” Really, the fun part of being a foster was her variety of mentors that she had been paired with.

She had first been paired with Aysel, a conclave member that matched Larka’s zealotry and ardent love for the conclave. Her second mentor, dear brother Simon, was also someone she learned much from and would have learned more from if he hadn’t died early. She was currently between mentors, and as she looked at Gannis she wondered if this assignment they were on together was some sort of test to see if he would be her next mentor.

He was smaller than other members— although Larka knew no one was smaller than her. If she remembered correctly, sister Aysel was bigger than Gannis. She couldn’t help but smile, at least Gannis was one of the few venari that proved size didn’t matter! She would learn lots from him and also be someone who may be small but still powerful!

O-oh!” The small foster said and shook her head, leaving her grandiose thoughts. “So we don’t want the coin to get hot?” She asked, peering down at the little fire. The coin didn’t look that hot yet, but the mixture of their blood did seem to bubble slightly.

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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Why?” Larka asked Gannis, doing her signature tilt of her head that was so akin to the way birds did so. “Isn’t it best to write contracts that both parties understand fully?

"Because some folk are arrogant assholes," Gannis replied. He has the look of a man with a chip on his shoulder, which was exactly what he was.

"Always good when a noble is not only surprised to find you can read, but that you swindled him out of a few more silvers than he wanted to pay."

Gannis chuckled to himself as he checked he had all of his things. He tried to make sure that he didn't leave too many weapons on show. His grim visage worried people enough without enough steel for a small brigade hanging off of him.


O-oh!” The small foster said and shook her head, leaving her grandiose thoughts. “So we don’t want the coin to get hot?

"If the coin stays cold it either means that there is not a curse or that it doesn't work any more. You think they can sing to us how this happened?"
 
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Larka

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Larka thought Gannis’ words over, and then brightened up immediately. “Oh! So the conclave gets more money, then!” She said with a beaming smile. Well in that case perhaps she should try and learn the same tactics too! In her eyes more money for the conclave meant a better and safer world for everyone else. Who knew that Gannis was so sly as to think for the Conclave’s future in such a way.

It was then that she looked back at the coin, her bright smiling turning more subtle for the time being. She blinked, glancing at the town.

Oh.” She said, remembering something. “The singing children. The rust doesn’t affect them.” She said a bit absently. How could she remember. Maybe singing was the key to not getting covered in rust? Larka thought she always had a lovely voice, perhaps she could test it out and— the foster jumped slightly when a loud snap could be heard, from the burning coin.

The coin had split into two, a puff of sickly-green smoke wafting up between the crack.

So… that’s… good, right?

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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"Erm. Well....it hasn't done that before..."

Gannis held his open palm over the coin. It was still hot from the flames, but every trace of their blood had been seared from the surface.

"It's not good though," he replied. He looked up at the village. He hadn't expected any trace of magic to reach them out here.

"I can't tell if that's going to do fuck all now," he grunted. "So we take the risk and hope it doesn't catch us or we walk away."

He straightened and turned to face Larka.

"But I'm not singing all the way down there."
 

Larka

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Larka gaped at the fire, at the coin, and then looked at Kitty who whimpered their worries as well. Larka nodded her head, agreeing with them.

It’s kinda really spooky!” She said, and then like a dutiful foster, began to pat at her pants, her belt, behind her, anywhere she had weapons. She nodded her head when she was certain everything was in place.

I can sing for you too, enough for the both of us.” Larka said, just as they finally began to walk down and towards the town, their large dogs stay put at the edge of the wood. “Oh, but what should I sing about? Perhaps hymns of the conclave? Oh, I could make up a new one. After all, I can add in some verses about you in there as well.” She chirped, marching towards Gallica.

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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I can sing for you too, enough for the both of us.”

"Hah!" Went Gannis as they approached the town.

Oh, but what should I sing about? Perhaps hymns of the conclave? Oh, I could make up a new one. After all, I can add in some verses about you in there as well.” She chirped, marching towards Gallica.

"Oh," he went, "You were being serious."

He mentally balanced the danger of the powerful magic at play with the embarrassment of arriving with a singing associate.

"What the hell, give it a go," he said. "This place reeks of magic."

This was a gamble. If the ward had cracked he doubted much else would help them. They needed to get to the cause and pacify or eliminate it quickly.
 
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Larka

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Was it silly if she sang? Larka’s slim fingers quivered, maybe she was being silly, but what if singing was the cure? She frowned, thinking over things.

If singing kept the rust away, then everyone would sing, even the adults I’m sure… I’m sure someone has tried it.” Larka mused, but then, Gannis did say she could try. And what if singing was the cure? You just had to sing the whole time? Larka hummed a bit, could she sing all the time? Time to try and find out!

’ , … ? , , , ? ’ !” Larka paused for a second and took a deep breath, she was about to start singing another song, maybe this time about the conclave and all of it’s greatness, but something told her not to.

Brother Gannis, I don’t think singing is going to help.” She said, realizing that why she had wanted to stop was because her throat has somehow seemed to get so dry— unusually so. She coughed into her hand, and when she pulled away she saw blood. She blinked, not mentioning it, not wanting to, and wiped her palm onto the side of her pants.

Yes this place most definitely reeked of magic and it was a magic that was most foul.



When the two venari would reach the the edge of the town, rust would be apparent. Growing on the ground, every beam and shingle, covering windows and baskets or ceramic pots that had been left outside. The most fearsome thing was when humans could be seen: patches of rust on their skin that could be seen along the exposed places of their hands or neck or even face.

Just as frightening was that every now and then a young child could be seen, no older than the age of ten, with a mask over their face. If one looked close enough, at the side of their head were there was a slight gap from their mask being tied behind their ears, one could find an extra strap. That strap was connected to a cloth ball, preventing the child from speaking, or rather, singing.

Gannis
 
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Gannis

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Gannis slowed to a halt in the road. He turned his head to catch Larka's eye and then looked towards the child.

"Maybe they don't think singing keeps it away," he said.

Gannis tried to care about the people who paid him to deal with monsters and fiends and curses. The job meant he had seen so much death that it was hard to care about every stranger. He had seen entire villages picked clean by bog trolls, caravans of travellers ambushed and wiped out by ghouls.

This still made him feel...something. A little angry. Children being muzzled did not sit well with him at all.

No one reacted to them and that was also a surprise. They were in a situation where someone as foul as Gannis and his cleaver of a sword couldn't ruin their day. No one wanted to take control of a cursed town.

"Hey!" Gannis decided to call out. "Where can I find someone in charge around here?"
 
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Larka

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Larka nodded her head slowly, her smile faltering down into a thin line as she looked around at the town. It was empty despite so many people walking about and going about their normal business. Larka couldn’t help but feel as if she were some sort of ghost, only seeing and unable to produce any sort of tangible effects into this strange reality.

Gannis’ shout did, however, affect the townsfolk. They paused, all of them in this area, stopped moving or talking and instead slowly turned their heads and solemn gaze to the venari.

Seconds passed with nothing but silence. Larka held her breath, afraid to make any sort of sound.

“You’re the people the elder’s son wanted to come here?” Someone finally spoke up, a middle-aged man who was beginning to bald, although half of his forehead was covered in a misshapen mass of rust. No one else spoke up, instead they just stared at the venari and the foster, their faces stoic and grim. “I’ll take you there.” The man said, and picked up his thick wooden pole, two sacks that had recently been empty were tied to each end. “Follow me.” He said dully.

The lack of hope stifled Larka and as they walked it was incredibly clear that the man didn’t want to speak. Behind them Larka could hear conversation pick back up as the townsfolk whispered to one another. Minutes later they arrived at a home that was more grand the rest but still held an air of humility to it due to the age of it. Without saying anything the man gestured for them to head up to the door and then quickly began to walk back to the center of the town.

The two-story house had a small front and side garden that was just of roses. The smell was just as lovely as the sight of the mixture of dual-toned blooms that dotted the sections of pure white or red or peach roses. There were even extremely vibrant red-violet roses or small little yellow ones. Bees were busy flying all around them.

I’ll go knock!” Larka said eagerly, running up to the door and knocking before Gannis could tell her no. A crash could be from inside as someone yelped helplessly at whatever had just been broken. Someone clambered down the stairs and seconds later, the door was opening.

Gannis
 

Gannis

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His hand twitched as they all turned towards him. Gannis had to galvanise his self control just to keep it from reaching for his sword. He had been set upon by townsfolk more than once. And once had been enough.

The memories put him on edge. It didn't help his nerves that the particles of rust in the air tasted very much like blood.

Gannis could seem as if he projected an air of confidence, but mostly it was a lethargy for life itself. He had seen so many things that he was too tired to be afraid. In truth, he was a much better tracker than he was a curse breaker. He had walked Larka into this and he didn't know if this was beyond him.

The door opened slowly and was then shoved fully open so that the man could get a good look at them both.

Gannis found it hard to gauge his age. The rust plastered to his face tugged at his skin. Smooth patches and wrinkles were formed more from the spreading iron flakes than from age.

Young enough, Gannis thought, to be the son of the town elder.

Gannis turned away from his gaze, looking out across the myriad of colours in the flower bed.

"You came then," said the man. Apparently he appraisal was over.

Gannis looked back up the path they had followed and then at the elder's son.

"Gannis and Larka. Can we come in?"
 
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Larka

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“Of course!” The man said, their employer. Larka stared up at him. At her height, nearly anyone close to being six feet tall was very tall to her. This man practically towered over her and she got a good view of all the rust patches on him. He stepped aside for Larka and with a slight nod of her head she stepped inside his home, glancing over her shoulder over at Gannis.

“I’m glad you came.” He said once the two venari were inside. It was claustrophobic, Larka realized, the hair on her arms and the back of her neck rising up. The small hallway was so tight due to the staircase being right next to the front door and going a couple meters forward until it opened up what looked like to be a dining room.

Not to mention the walls were littered with masks, paintings, shelves that carried various items such as stones, shells, brass figurines. One shelf even held stone tablets with symbols on it that Larka had never seen before, another had charcoal sketches on wood that depicted mythical monsters— much like the ones the venari fought.

“My office, we’ll speak there.” Their employer said and began to lead them down that narrow hallway. Thank goodness one of the larger conclave members weren’t here to bump into the shelves and break everything in sight. Even Larka had to maneuver her shoulders a bit to not knock anything other. They were lead to a room on the left, the employer opened the door to a office that was as much as claustrophobic mess as the hallway was.

But worse.

Larka didn’t know how it could have been worse but it was with stacks of tomes and even more knickknacks scattered about haphazardly. And the smell. Not delightful. Not one bit. Larka took a deep breath through her mouth and resisted the urge to plug her nose.

“Oh! Florian Rhodes,” he then proffered his hand, first to Gannis and then to Larka for them to shake. Larka frowned but obliged, only to quickly wipe her hand on the side of her tunic, not being discreet about it.

Gannis
 
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