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Author Topic: Stars Beneath the Earth  (Read 2862 times)

Kvasir

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Stars Beneath the Earth
« on: August 02, 2014, 08:19:00 PM »
(OOC:  First off, I'm sorry this turned out so long – Ástir and Kvas kept talking!  Next post will be back to normal length though, I promise.  Also, as usual, if anything needs altered/omitted/added don't be afraid to let me know. ~  Also also... FEELS!  Also also also:  Kvas is the equivalent of about 10 years old, Rian the equivalent of about 8 years old.  Also also also also: I can't format to save my life, sorry!)

His mother was awake.  She seemed tired, sitting by the dwindling fire with a chipped mug clasped in her hands.  On her face was a faraway expression that left her looking haunted.  Kvasir supposed she was.  

“Morning Ma.”  Kvas spoke quietly from the doorway, but still he saw the surprise jolt through Ástir's frame as she looked his way.  A faint smile immediately showed itself on her face.  

“Good morning, little bird.”  Then her eyes – the same shade of blue as his – travelled to his bare torso, to the breeches hanging loose and low on his narrow hips.  Her painted lips pursed with with worry.  “You're looking skinny.”  Kvasir looked down at himself and tugged the trousers higher, though his mother made this very observation with some frequency.  Likely because he was always looking thin.  

“Aye.”  Feeling suddenly and strangely embarrassed, he picked through the messy tumble of laundry in the corner for a plain tunic to cover himself with.  As he shrugged it over his head, he could feel his mother's gaze lingering on the angry welts that crossed his back, the gleaming red scars from his public flogging.

At least he hadn't lost a hand.

Slipping a belt through the loops of his breeches, Kvasir noted that the poky little kitchen was in disarray.  Dirty plates were haphazardly scattered along the counter, the best of their goblets sullied with red wine.  Quite where the wine had come from, he couldn't say, only that there must have been an important client visiting last night – either one with money or a member of the nobility.  The Dwarf lad clucked his tongue disapprovingly, rankling from the unwanted attention, from the clutter and the mess.  “This house is disgusting.”  Kvasir hissed under his breath.  

Ástir breathed a weary sigh.  “I've been up all night, I only just sat down -”  She was cut off by the clatter of Kvasir stacking the plates together hurriedly, of him pouring water from the pail into the kettle and settling it over the embers of the fire.  

“Kvas, what are you doing?”  She asked tiredly.
“Tidying.”  Came Kvasir's curt response.
“Why so frantic?”  The woman took a sip of her tea, regarding him over the rim of her mug.
“'Cause I got somewhere to be.”
“Oh?”  Ástir prompted but Kvas did not answer.  Not out of rudeness or irritation but because his attention was taken by a single apple that was sitting out on the counter.  Following his longing gaze, Ástir nodded in encouragement.  The lad was reluctant – looking almost guilty – as he lifted it, rubbing it briefly against his tunic before taking a bite.  When still no reply came, Ástir asked more directly.  “Where?”

Still Kvasir did not answer, instead he crunched the fruit with an eagerness that Ástir had seen in the children of nobility eating sugar-lumps.  Hunger made him tetchy, she knew.  Hunger made them all tetchy.  Then the apple was gone, save for the stalk and the little fuzzy calyx, which Kvas dropped into the container that acted as a bin for their meagre kitchen refuse.  Licking the juice from his fingers, and wiping his hands on the front of his tunic (Ástir tutted faintly in disapproval but either he did not hear or roguishly chose not to) he moved to lift the kettle from the smouldering flames and set about fixing two mugs of tea.

“I was going to make more tea.”  Ástir protested.
“Yeah, well, you didn't.”  Kvasir's voice was flat.
“Thank you, Finch.”  The warmth of sincerity in her quiet voice saw her son pause, soften, and then nod.  
“Where do you need to be?”  Quiet sadness and concern lined Ástir's face.  Kvas was never sure if she actually wanted to know his intentions but her persistence on the matter made it apparent that, today at least, she did.
“There's a convoy coming.  It'll be here any day now.  I heard it from Olaf who heard it from Joren.  He's an apprentice with the soldiers now – heard 'em talking about it – and they'll be riding out to bring it in safe.  I want to be there when they arrive.”
“Sounds exciting.”  Ástir commented.
Kvasir shrugged.  “Not really.  They're just from Ered Luin.  Stuck-up merchants, most like, but they sometimes throw us coins.”  Then an almost smug expression stole over his young face as he set a mug of steaming tea in front of his mother.  “And they ain't all that careful with their wares.”
“Kvasir, I won't have talk of stealing in this house.”  Ástir knew that her son was a thief, of course, but for some reason would not tolerate it being discussed openly.  This rule had been more strictly enforced since he had been caught and punished so brutally.
“This disgusting house.”  Kvasir muttered but he allowed the subject to drop.  Ástir shook her head a fraction, moving on to the fresh cup of tea.  Immediately Kvas swooped in to lift the unwanted mug, pouring the remaining hot water from the kettle into a basin and beginning to wash up.  “I'll see if I can't point some of the merchants this way.”  His mind was still on the convoy.  The married travellers wouldn't have seen their wives in weeks and the unmarried ones were almost always in need of company.

For several beats there was silence save for the sound of Kvasir scrubbing plates clean and stacking them to dry.  Still, his words seemed to have stirred something in his mother, for she abandoned her tea and rose from her seat.  “Sit.  Leave the dishes.”  Ástir instructed.  Her authoritative tone saw Kvas obeying, though a confused expression graced his young face as he dried his hands on his tunic.  Sitting at the table, warming his still damp hands on his own cup of tea, he watched with curiosity as his mother fetched a crumpled piece of paper and began to write.  “You aren't going scouting or thieving or drumming up business today.  You hear me?”  Before Kvasir had the opportunity to protest, she shot him a level look and continued on.  “Instead you're going to go on an adventure, to somewhere remarkable.”  Ástir breathed the words, as though she was speaking to a child.  She felt she was; Kvas felt she wasn't.  He regarded her dubiously but with unconcealed interest as she pushed the page over to him.  The lad peered closely – it was a set of directions!  But to where, he had no idea.  Ástir, in meantime, had fetched bread from the pantry and had begun making cheese sandwiches.  

“Where...?”  Kvasir began.
“You'll see.”  His mother answered, smiling a small knowing smile as she paused to brush back a lock of brown hair from her face.
Kvas frowned, attention now focused on what she was doing.  “That's a lot of sandwiches, Ma.”
“And you're taking them all!  We did good business yesterday.”  She glanced over at him and smiled, wanting desperately for her child not to worry.  “We might even eat chicken tonight.  How would you like that?”
Kvasir only grinned boyishly in answer and sipped his tea.
“One other thing, son.”  Ástir continued, cutting the sandwiches into halves and wrapping them in a clean tea towel, popping them carefully into a little linen backpack.  She filled a skin with water and put it in the bag too.  “Don't go alone.  Memories are something nobody can ever take from you but... well, they mean so much more when there's someone you can share them with.”

Minutes later, with a bellyful of apple and tea, Kvasir fed his arm through the straps of the backpack and tolerated his mother rubbing his grubby face with a damp cloth.  He nodded, again and again, at her requests to be careful, to not take risks, to keep her directions to hand, to follow them to a tee, to take a friend or two with him.  Going barefoot, as he always did, Kvasir pressed a kiss to his mother's soft cheek – she smelt of cheap perfume, sweat and something primal – before eagerly dodging out of the door.  He would forget about the convoy, just for today.

Rian

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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2014, 08:01:00 PM »
((OOC: Don’t you apologise, I loved it! Same to you, though yours was perfect. Feeeeeeels~))

 Damel set down the pear he had been inspecting and sighed down at his little sister. “It isn’t even a dress, Riri.”

 “S’a skirt. How’s that better?” Rian’s muttered response was ignored, probably because the sheer relief that it was plain fabric with no embellishment – and that she wore breeches under it – was making it hard to be vehement. Pity that the belt was really more of a wide ribbon, though she could stand it because again it was fairly plain. And dark green, which helped. The lack of response was also partially because Damel had caught the eye of the dwarf running the stall they were standing at and had started haggling.

 It would’ve been quicker just to grab a few slightly wizened fruits and run, but Damel didn’t believe in stealing. He hadn’t even realised that it was how she spent her days; such was the extent of his innocence. People like them didn’t steal, even if they’d fallen on hard times. Their moral fibre had been bred strong. His little sister disappeared from morning to evening clad in breeches, returned fed somehow, but she probably spent her days exploring or something like that. Looking for other forges less heavily guarded than the one he apprenticed in, no matter how many times he warned her that she’d only get in the way or get hurt.

 Their mother suspected but it was the eldest sibling, Raelan, who knew best out of the entire family. Or what remained of it. But it’d be hard not to know when he had happened on her the day Kvas… Got caught.

 Shivering away from that thought, Rian tugged absently away from Damel. His fingers seemed loose around her wrist but they tightened instantly when she so much as thought of moving, all those days in the forge showing in his iron grip. Oh well, worth a try…

 Bored out of her mind, Rian sighed. Bright green eyes searched the surrounding stalls, picking out weaknesses and distracted vendors, tables she could duck under and easy escape routes. It was still early – earlier than Damel usually got up, but the forge was closing early today for the sweeps to do some annual massive clean of the chimneys and his whole routine had shifted backwards to compensate.

 The thought of the smithy made her scowl, for once, because that morning she’d dared to hope for a split second that when her brother informed her that she was coming with him, he had meant to his apprenticeship. And laughed when her face fell. He didn’t usually take her to the market, but Raelan wasn’t usually on a single-minded mission to keep Rian in sight and in hand all day. He’d have dragged her with him if he could have, but his own work called him to the training yards so he had delegated responsibility. It came and went, his stifling overprotectiveness. She couldn’t figure out whether he was trying to ‘protect’ her from her friends or from the possibility of a soldier or a vendor’s whip. Probably the former, to Rian’s mind. He had seemed much more concerned about his little sister knowing a thief than about said thief’s blood on the street.

 She saw a quick figure dart under a table a few vendors down and diverted her eyes quickly, recognising one of the few girls in the ragtag bunch of scamps she ran with. No use in directing attention towards her, scarfing down a tiny pot of stew from one of the stalls that sold hot food. Daughters were treasured in every settlement, and families had to be poor indeed to let one take up thieving. Poor or stifling.

 Searching eyes came to a stop at one of the entrances to the Square and Rian rocked up on her toes for a better view, ignoring the sudden pressure around her wrist. Kvas? It took a moment to confirm, with the obstacles that kept appearing between them.

 Cold air brushed her forearm as Damel unexpectedly let go to take pears and give coins, transferring them out of the worn bag slung over his shoulder. Rian would once have taken the opportunity to run and she might have made it, even with his longer legs, but she had gained more than speed from life here.

 She stood patiently and his grip was looser when he recaptured her wrist, smile more trusting. She waited until they’d crossed the street before tugging gently on his sleeve. He glanced down and she tipped her head towards the nearest toy stall – rare things in Ered Mithrin, with toys that were simpler and more durable than they were in other dwarven settlements.

 “Can I…?”

 “We don’t have enough, Riri.” He pushed his flaxen braids out of his face, frowning in apology.

 “Just to look?” Damel chewed his lip a moment and then smiled, still a little sad.

 “Ah, why not? Be careful, ask before touching. I’ll be over in a moment.”

 She nodded obediently, rolling her eyes at his instructions so he wouldn’t think she was being too submissive and wandered over at a snail’s pace. She waited until she heard her brother’s voice rising to bargain and set off for where she had seen Kvas. A walk first, so the toyseller wouldn’t think she had lifted something, then faster. Running wasn’t exclusively a thief thing to do; she just had to keep her hands lower and not swerve too close to the stalls. It felt odd to run with a skirt. At least she had left the too-small shoes Dyen had insisted on in the house; they would have worsened matters.

 She reached Kvas in less than a minute, coming up beside him with a slight smile and a light punch to his shoulder. “Thought you’d be out waiting for the convoy.” A golden head tipped to his backpack, looking strangely full for this time in the morning. “Where are you going?”


(#008A15)

Kvasir

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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2014, 09:16:00 PM »
(OOC:  Ahhh, loved your post Blue!  The nickname ‘Riri’ is insanely adorable! ~)

Though Kvas did not care to admit it to his mother - she would only worry unduly, or get that dull sad look in her eyes - his missive of finding a friend to share in this adventure was easier said than done.  There were plenty of other children he ran the streets with, of course, but they were for the most part an ever-changing cast.  Kvasir suspected that most of them would throw him under the wheels of a cart to save their own hides, or gladly steal the very food out of his mouth.  Ever since being flogged, the Dwarf lad had grown cynical.  When he had been seized, heaved to the centre of the market, he had cast his eyes desperately into the gathering crowd and seen only Rian.  Of all his companions she was the only one who stayed, the only one to watch, and it was she who came and freed him of his bonds, all but carrying him home as he wept insensibly and bled on the cobblestones.  Embarrassment coloured his face at the memory.  He was not half so brave and stoic as he had thought he was.

Thus he drifted through the marketplace, looking a little lost given that he was not here with the purpose of stealing, for once.  Kvas adjusted the strap of his backpack on his shoulder, slowing as he listlessly took in the stalls, listening to the low murmur of numerous conversations, the distinctive raised voices of vendors hawking their wares and, somewhere further off, the shrill and delighted laughter of a small child.

What he did not hear was Rian's approach.  The light and friendly punch caught Kvas off-guard but his countenance of surprise immediately brightened into delight.  He parted his lips to greet her, only at that moment his attention was drawn to the lass’ appearance.  “Woa, you’re wearing a skirt?”  Kvasir asked, eyes fixed on the garment in question and blinking in wonder.  Then it occurred to him it was rude of him to point it out.  Rian was a girl after all, she could wear skirts if she wanted (though, knowing her as he did, she had likely been coaxed or even forced into donning something so feminine).  Kvas was by far more used to seeing her in breeches.  She made a convincing lad when she wanted to, almost every adult fell for her guises.  Quickly he made to answer her question.  “Nah.  I wanted to go wait but -”  he paused to push loose hair back from his face, “- well, Ma gave me directions to someplace.  She wouldn’t tell me where.  It’s way down deep in the mountain, through tunnels and shafts and everything.”  Kvasir beamed, realising his good fortune at having bumped into one of the few people he could trust, one of the few he could confidently call his friend.  Perhaps even the only one.  “Hey, you wanna come with me?  Ma wants me t’bring someone.  Probably to make sure I don’t fall into a pit.”  Kvas grinned jauntily.  He made no mention of what his mother had actually said.  Somehow it seemed sentimental and silly, out here in the daylight and surrounded by people.  Then a vague look of uncertainty passed his features.  “Unless… wait.  Why aren’t you waiting on the convoy?”  Rian had family, Kvas knew, and immediately he cast his gaze over her shoulder as though her brothers or mother might be lingering right there.

Rian

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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2014, 06:42:00 PM »
((OOC: And I loved yours! *Flails* Just don't tell her that, she doesn't like it XD))

 Rian gave her friend a distinctly nonplussed look at his surprised exclamation, but let it go when he moved on. To be perfectly honest she had been just as surprised to find herself wearing the skirt when she left the house trailing from Damel’s grip.

 His answer piqued her interest, curiosity shaping her features. Why would his mother want him to go so far into the tunnels? Dyen had sent her brothers to the market and no further when they were Kvas’s age. Exploring was irrelevant – you should never go anywhere you didn’t have a reason to be. It was a strange idea, being told to go somewhere without purpose, so far away that it couldn’t be a vendor or a friend or any dwarf at all. In these mountains everyone lived as tight together as they could manage – hermits and outcasts were easy targets for everything nasty that lived in the spaces between settlements.

 Then Kvas smiled, bright enough to distract most vendors. “Hey, you wanna come with me? Ma wants me t’bring someone. Probably to make sure I don’t fall into a pit.” Yes was on the tip of her tongue but worry at where Damel was and whether he had noticed her absence yet made her hesitate. She knew he’d probably worry a bit at her disappearance, make a few rounds of the market calling for her, but he’d give up and go home, trusting her to turn up at some stage. Dyen would glare at him (and later at her) but they wouldn’t be surprised, and by this stage their anxiety for her had been dulled and worn away by use. It wasn’t that part that caused her to worry, it was more what Damel might do or say to Kvas if he caught them both here before they left. To put it lightly, he was a prejudiced idiot, and if he ever figured out who Kvas was they’d both be in trouble. She wasn’t supposed to know whoresons, and more importantly in his eyes they weren’t supposed to know her.

 “Unless… wait. Why aren’t you waiting on the convoy?” He glanced over her shoulder and she followed the look. No golden hair caught her eyes. Good. Perhaps he was still haggling.

“Got caught on the way out of the house, and they wouldn’t let me go,” she answered absently. Then she turned back to Kvas and grinned. “I’m in, provided we can get out of the Square without Damel noticing I’m gone.”


(#008A15)

Kvasir

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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2014, 11:16:00 AM »
(OOC:  Ehehee!  *says nothing*  If anything in this needs changed, particularly pertaining to Kvas’ knowledge of Rian’s brothers, don’t hesitate to let me know. ~)

“Yeah?”  Kvasir chirped in response to Rian’s assent, delight bleeding from his grin into his voice.  Judging by the way Rian had followed his gaze, her brother Damel was lingering somewhere behind her, in the shifting crowd of shoppers.  Domestic relations weren’t something that came up in their conversations often (part of the reason they ran the streets was to get away from their respective homes) but the lad knew he wouldn’t be doing his friend any favours if he was caught in her company today.  Kvas had not yet had the pleasure of making Damel’s acquaintance, nor was he in any hurry to.  Raelan he had met (in a vague and unfortunate sort of way) the day he was given his stripes and, despite being starey-eyed and breathless with shock, he had had the distinct impression that Rian’s eldest brother thought very little of him.  Which he could honestly say did not come as a surprise.  Dyen and her children might have fallen quite a few rungs on the ladder of social standing since arriving in the Grey Mountains but they had not yet fallen so far that their only daughter and sister could freely run with boys such as him.  In fact, Rian really ought to not be running the streets at all.  Maybe that’s what the skirt was about.  Kvasir’s blue eyes glanced almost suspiciously to the offending and unfamiliar garment again.  Maybe this was a first step in a futile effort to tame the wild green-eyed girl.

“’Course we can.”  Kvasir responded with his characteristic easy confidence – as though the soldier’s whip had taught him nothing – his eyes fixed comfortably on Rian’s face once more.  “C’mon.”  He nodded his head in the direction they ought to take (sensibly, it was pretty much the exact opposite direction than Rian had come from) and began to walk, quickly but not so hurriedly as to draw attention.  Almost immediately Kvas felt his body wind tighter, like a spring, the way it did whenever he chose a mark, and he became conscious of his breathing as his keen eyes picked their surroundings for anything that could be used to their advantage.  Any moment now they might hear Damel’s shout cut through the crowd, or the foreboding thunder of his approaching footsteps, as though he was some irate vendor they had pilfered from.  “It kinda feels like I’m stealing you.”  Kvasir laughed, pushing hair out of his eyes and shooting a look across at his friend, wondering if they might be better sprinting after all – before Damel noticed his sister’s absence.

Rian

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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2014, 05:25:00 PM »
“Yeah?” Kvas sounded happy and Rian nodded, a giggle that made her seem years younger than usual bubbling brokenly in her throat.

 “Yeah, ’course.” Adventure appealed to her, and it was good to remember that there was more to the world than dusty streets and never-empty markets, flickering torchlight. The surface was better than the depths, but she’d take the company and the hope that Ástir wouldn’t send them anywhere too dangerous over the cold sun.

 Kvas asserted that they would be able to escape the Square unnoticed and directed them off. Rian followed, chancing another glance back. No sign of Damel. Good. She trusted their skills to get them away, but confidence didn’t come so easily to her these days, and her blind belief in Kvas’s infallibility was diminished. Not that she didn’t trust him – she certainly did. But it wouldn’t end well for either of them to rely entirely on luck, on the fact that they’d never been caught before – that fact wasn’t even true – wouldn’t end well to get complacent. She had learned that lesson.

 They walked at that efficient meander that got them quickly and subtly around, most of the time, when it wasn’t a running sort of situation and yet they weren’t truly relaxed. Rian reached up and pulled her hair into a ponytail that felt too tight but would provide a layer of protection from recognition. Damel noticed the wrong things – he’d see her clothes first. But she couldn’t change them so easily and there was no point not changing her hair when there was a chance it might work.

“It kinda feels like I’m stealing you.” Kvas’s voice didn’t exactly surprise her but she hadn’t really been expecting it, her lips quirking into a smile with his laugh as she met his eyes, nudging his elbow with hers in mock reproach.

 “Hey, I’m helping! And s’nae stealin’ when I want to go.” She looked mildly perplexed at the sudden twist of Iron Hills in her accent and cleared her throat as though to get rid of it. Another glance for her brother, and she spoke again. “Damel couldn’t catch us anyway, he’s slow.” Voice full of assurance and a soft disparaging note, she weaved around a box sticking out from a lopsided stall.

 She picked up a faint Ririiiii from somewhere but it was muffled and distant, so quiet and lost in other voices that she only caught it because she knew it inside out. A searching call rather than him spotting her. Rian resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Before long they were at the edge of the Square, down the first corridor with strides loosening. Rian started to get properly excited – when was the last time she had gone exploring, seen somewhere entirely new? And she was going with Kvas, which could only improve things. “What way are we going?”


(#008A15)

Kvasir

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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2014, 02:48:00 AM »
(OOC:  I promise Kvasir will get over the skirt eventually!  Every post he seems to bring it back up even if he doesn’t mention it out loud. :P)

A red-faced Dwarf carrying a bushel of apples barrelled their way.  It seemed to the young lad that you were either a mountain – budging for none – or you were water, coursing your way around obstacles.  If you could only be one or other, he was most assuredly water, and he skirted around the sweating Dwarf with ease, though it briefly parted him from Rian’s side.  When they knitted back together he noticed that she had pulled her hair into a ponytail.  Good.  That was familiar.  Unlike the skirt.  It took conscious effort on his part not to glance disbelievingly at the offending garment again.

The familiar nudge of Rian’s elbow, as though in mock reproach, had the tip of Kvasir’s tongue playfully appear between his teeth.  He made no remark on the note of the Iron Hills that suddenly bled into his friend’s smoky voice – though it did prompt him to wonder precisely at what point Rian had lost her accent.  Shamefully, Kvas found he couldn’t remember.  In any case, it was a relief to know that Damel was a slowpoke who stood little chance of catching them.  The distant cry of Ririiiii failed to reach his ears.  If it had, he surely would have snickered and taken it as evidence that, in the eyes of some at least, he was stealing Rian.  Not that Damel would ever know.

They escaped the market without issue – thank the Maker – and Kvasir at last allowed his guard to drop a little, his narrow shoulders sagging as the tension ebbed away.  The question of where they were going shouldn’t have caught him off guard and yet somehow it did.  “Uhhh…”  Kvasir slowed his pace, sheepishly pulling from his pocket the folded directions Ástir had gifted him, flattening out the creases so that his blue eyes could run over his mother’s familiar scrawl.

“This way!”  Kvasir turned to beam at Rian once he had deciphered the first few instructions and their expected landmarks, relieved that he hadn’t made a fool of himself by leading them out of the square in the wrong direction.  It was down to luck that he hadn’t, really he ought to have been paying more attention instead of focusing entirely on avoiding Damel.  “There’s a poky maintenance tunnel on the left somewhere up ahead.  That’s where we turn off.”  The lad did not put the directions away, instead doing as he had promised his mother and keeping them close to hand – well, literally clutched in his hand.  

Rian seemed bright, excited, and this happy fact further buoyed Kvas.  For once, the day would not be about stealing, about providing for themselves and others, it would not be given over to living in fear of being caught or going hungry.  It was about them.  It was about adventure.  It was about fun.  Feeling bold, Kvasir reached out to tug Rian’s sleeve, a crooked grin on his young face.  “C’mon Ri, I’ll race you there!”  With a breathless laugh, he broke into a run.

Rian

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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2014, 12:52:00 PM »
((OOC: Fight the skirt! XD Rian is none too used to it either, I imagine it will end up a casualty of their adventure >.>))

 She smirked at Kvas’s lack of preparedness, watching in curiosity as he pulled out the piece of paper and unfolded it. It was probably slightly nosy to lean in and look, but she did so anyway, her shoulder bumping his. Ástir’s writing was legible but slightly untidy, rushed, not fancy and decorative like Rian’s mother’s. If she was entirely honest (and even at this age the thought had an aftertaste of irony to her) with herself she was envious of her friend’s family. Not their situation, but their relationship – Kvasir and Ástir genuinely loved each other. Dyen would never have gifted an adventure like this to her daughter.

 “This way!” Rian wondered if Kvas had been directing them on purpose or if it was merely coincidence that they had ended up in the right place. By his wide and slightly relieved smile she suspected the latter, and the thought made her smile back. This was so different to what they usually did, following a plan they hadn’t made piece by piece like a treasure map in some storybook. They’d make strange heroes – a runaway girl and a harlot’s son, with light fingers instead of swords or axes, quick feet and lying tongues protecting them in place of shining armour. If they’d been older they’d have been villains. Or Kvas would, and she’d have been some nameless background character for the hero to marry at the end. The story they were living was infinitely better.

 Kvas explained further – a maintenance tunnel, they really weren’t staying on the beaten track for very long – and she nodded in comprehension, smile still lingering on her face and a bounce in her step that was usually subdued or absent.

 Her sleeve was plucked at and she raised an eyebrow, starting to guess the suggestion that was coming. She still squeaked in surprise as Kvasir took off, though her feet were already moving instinctively. Her fast start was her advantage, and losing her early lead would lose her the race. Kvas’s legs were longer, though, the seven years he had on her making more of a difference now than it would when they were older, and he was fast as well – it took effort for her to catch him in that first few steps and then she had to make the choice between laughing, telling him that that wasn’t fair or gaining a few inches. Green eyes hardened in childish determination, her competitive streak rearing. The inches were taken and all the while the left wall was scanned for an entrance. If it took too long to find she’d run out of stamina. The skirt (of pure undiluted evil) already seemed to be tugging against the air as it snapped along in her wake, pushing against the front of her legs and tickling her heels when it brushed against them. Once a foot seemed to catch in it and she nearly tripped, barely recovering to see the small entrance to the maintenance tunnel coming ahead. She could feel Kvas beside her, but try as she might no more speed would come – this would be close.


(#008A15)

Kvasir

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« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2015, 07:05:00 PM »
(OOC:  I tried to push these two along a bit, if I’ve moved them on too far let me know – I realise Rian needs time to respond! ~)

Racing was exhilarating, the rush comparable to that which came with stealing – though this innocuous thrill ran considerably less risk than petty theft.  Kvasir’s eyes were bright, a wild grin on his face as he sucked in deep breaths through his teeth.  Rian was fast – quicker than him off the mark – and it took little time for her to draw even, their rapid footsteps echoing in the tunnel.  A waste of energy, perhaps, but running laid the foundation for the sinewy strength the lad would possess as an adult.

More importantly, it was fun.

A strained glance across as Rian outstripped him revealed the steely look of determination on her face, her beardless jaw set, green eyes fierce and focused.  The skirt, by comparison, was flapping and distracting, its ridiculousness causing Kvasir to laugh breathlessly, the sound of his childish amusement lost in the roaring rush of passing air.  Whatever benefits there were to being a girl – particularly when it came to inspiring leniency – there were none to be found now.  A more thoughtful lad might allow a maiden to win, but Rian was counted simply as a friend, her gender barely registering with Kvasir – unless it was to admire her ability to make for a more passable boy than he did himself.

Besides, she was perfectly capable of beating him.

With a dazzling burst of speed, Kvasir closed the space between them, taking shameless advantage of Rian’s stumble.  His young heart pounded feverishly as he pushed his lithe body, scrabbling to claim back the ground he lost.  Just as he drew even – and was about to overtake, perhaps – they had reached the service tunnel.  The race was over.  Kvasir slowed suddenly, swapping his powerful stride for a bouncy and choppy gait as he moved swiftly from an all-out sprint, to a jog, to a walk, to a standstill.  Panting happily, he punched a loose fist lightly against Rian’s narrow shoulder.  “I’m callin’ that a draw.”  There was a note of laughter in his young, musical voice.  “S’okay though, I’ll getcha next time.”  His focus swiftly shifted from the unspoken promise of his words to the dark, yawning mouth of the maintenance tunnel.  With a lopsided grin flashed at his friend, and without a second thought, he stepped into the gloom.  

It seemed that this new path was long disused.  Then again, much of the Grey Mountains appeared obsolete.  Even the tired marketplaces looked abandoned and forgotten, save for the shabby figures that drifted through the dust like ghosts.  A large and tired-looking cart lingered in the rough-hewn corridor.  Ever the scavenger, Kvasir stood on his tiptoes, small hands wrapping around its iron-hemmed rim to peer hopefully inside.  He was met with disappointment, for there proved to be nothing of interest beyond a fistful of gravel and what looked to be grubby, oil-smeared rag.  Wrinkling his nose, Kvasir returned his attention to their directions.  The note was crumpled, having been clenched tight in his hand during their race.  Smoothing it out, blue eyes skimmed over the instructions, lips mutely forming the words that were written there as Kvasir read them in to himself.  This small gesture showed his lack of education, his only lessons taken from his mother in short, stolen moments, and hinted at the challenge he still found in deciphering text.  

“We keep goin’.”  Kvasir called to Ri after a pause, running his tongue thoughtfully over his too-large adult teeth.  “Straight t’ the end.  Part of the floor’s fallen in, we climb down there.  There’s a…”  he frowned at the offending word, lifting the parchment closer to his young face, as though that would help him make sense of it.  It clicked as he sounded it out silently to himself, his features lighting up with the realisation.  “Oh!  Boulder!  S’a good word, isn’t it?  Boulder… can’t believe I didn’t get that.”

Rian

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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2015, 09:17:00 AM »
Rian’s slender lead disappeared, reeled back under Kvasir’s bare feet – he’s going to beat me – but then they reached their finish line. Just in time. She slowed faster than him for a few steps, though she was still far from skidding to a stop. The skin of her feet had had enough pain. But before she could stop she decided to make up pace again, remain beside him. No point in going on an adventure together only to lose him, though she doubted that Kvas would ever leave her behind.

A loose fist brushed her shoulder as she caught up again, drawing green eyes to his blue. It was darker here. How would they navigate without the torches?

 “I’m callin’ that a draw.” Rian raised an eyebrow challengingly, ignoring  that he would have won, grinning at his laughter. “S’okay though, I’ll getcha next time.”

 “Not if I get you!” Kvas disappeared with a flashed grin and the girl-thief barely hesitated before following, smile still lingering at the corners of her mouth.

 Cold dimness was far easier to deal with than warm dimness – at least for Rian, it was. You could trust coolness. It didn’t feel like there was a fire waiting on the other side of the wall. The shape of the cart made her pause, blinking until her eyes adjusted, wanting to look in but trusting Kvas to see anything interesting. She was just a mite too short, and unwilling to haul herself up by the rusty rim if it wasn’t necessary.

 Paper rustled and she watched Kvas decipher the next portion of their directions. Letting him carry on, she wandered back to the entrance and looked for something to light their way with. The holder in the wall that might once have held unlit torches for workers was empty, but they’d have to find something. Kvasir’s voice came from behind her, echoing slightly. “We keep goin’. Straight t’ the end. Part of the floor’s fallen in, we climb down there. There’s a…” She glanced back as the pause stretched, wondering if the writing was defeating her friend. Should she help? Would she be able to manage a word that he couldn’t?

 But finding answers to these questions proved unnecessary as Kvas found the sound to match the marks on the page. “Oh! Boulder! S’a good word, isn’t it? Boulder… can’t believe I didn’t get that.” Rian grinned at his triumphant expression, flicked her ponytail back over her shoulder.

 “Boulder.” The girl couldn’t call the exact letters to mind that spelled the murmured word, just then – the fact that Kvas had found the time to learn to read at all surprised her, and his occasional stumbles were probably rarer than hers. Literacy was a rarity among the street children, and it affected them in opposite ways – Kvas learned voraciously, while she didn’t read when she could help it. She raised her voice to be heard, a smile in the tone. “Alright. ’ll get a light.” The blonde girl stepped back into the corridor they had come from, casting her eyes up to the torches sporadically dotting the walls. The closest one had a rusted bracket, the bands of metal eaten away by time and now tugged at experimentally by small, cautious hands.

 The lowest band peeled away easily, and Rian was working on the second and about to call Kvas for help when her elbow brushed the base and it crumbled away. With a scrape of wood winning against metal, the burning shaft dropped straight through. By the time it bounced Rian was two steps away, a hoarse curse breathed out after a yelp, green eyes wide with momentary panic. A few seconds and deep breaths later, the torch was still lying on its side, the top still flickering tauntingly at her.

 Why had she thought this was a good idea? Torches burned.

  Her mouth worked for a moment, and then she stepped in and snatched it up. “’M’good. Got it.” The wood was rough and cold against her fingers. It was a little big and unwieldy for her, particularly held so far from the lit end, but she would manage. Kvas had the directions and his bag, it was only fair the she carry something. Although maybe they could swap when it burned down a little. Share the load.

 Giving her friend a small smile and a nod, they started down the dank corridor. Green eyes darted over the walls, inquisitive rather than anxious. Holes and stained soot marked where brackets had once been – it was a pity they were long gone. The tunnel was long, dark and decrepit, lit only by their wavering bubble of torchlight after a while, and it was hard to place Ástir here.

 “Why’s your ma been this way?” The curious words were almost whispered, as though Rian was avoiding breaking the easy silence too suddenly.

((OOC: Your post was wonderful!~ Apologies, I gave you a long post without actually moving them far along the corridor >.> If you want them moved a little further or anything changed, just say!))


(#008A15)

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