A Portent of Things to Come

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A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:19 am

Urteau sat heavily in the mist. Keep Venture towered above the city walls, peering down upon her city protectively. Ranks of Venture soldiers kept peace between the smaller houses that took refuge within, and even the occasional Misting and the even rarer Mistborn patrolled the night. It was, for all intents and purposes, safe.

Nevertheless, rumors abounded. The skaa especially spoke of things that preyed upon them in the night, in the mist. Monsters, they said. Monsters that ate them, absorbed them. Things that went about in their loved ones' bodies. Consequently, the working class, already given a strict curfew by their noble masters, dared not step out of doors into the mist. For who would wish to walk where death stalked?

Perhaps one who felt a greater drive than the fear of death. A tall figure, wrapped tightly in a gray cloak, strode down the road that left Urteau. A Terrisman by birth, a Steward by profession, a Keeper by training, an instigator by purpose. His role as a Steward involved close interactions with the skaa, and he regularly heard their stories and myths. And most seemed just that. But one had grabbed his attention. One skaa woman in particular had whispered of a shape of enormous size but frightening intellect. She said it would lure late-traveling skaa off the roads, only to devour them for their bones. So Dorlin, the Steward of a lesser house, had ventured out to track it down.

His bare feet crunched softly upon the dirt road as Dorlin pressed on. The cold feeling of his multiple metalminds felt reassuring. He'd been sure to leave his copper minds stored secretly and safely, but Dorlin was well stocked with steel, pewter, zinc, and gold metalminds. He felt ready for whatever he might come across.

But looking was idiotic. He'd reached that conclusion before he'd climbed the wall. So, when he was far enough away from the city behind him, the Steward stepped off the road several yards before calling out into the mist.

"Mistwraith! Or whatever you. I must speak with you!"
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:00 pm

A reply came from the mists. Muffled scrabbling could be heard ahead, but after listening for a moment, Dorlin realized it was getting faint. Heedless of the eerie night, he pushed forward, towards the source of noise. He had scarce gone a few dozen yards when he discovered a thick line in the caked black ash, a broad furrow marking the passage of something bulky.

The Steward did not have far to go. He found himself winding through a small ravine, bordered by treacherous loose escarpments.

Dashing ahead he saw a shape convalescing out of the shifting curtains of the mist: a large man lay supine in the rock-strewn ash. Even in the darkness, the tang of oozing blood in the air was impossible to miss.

“Your cheekbones. They are appealing.”

The words were spoken with all the empathy of an Steel Inquisitor. The voice was raspy and dry, almost impossibly hoarse from ash exposure and, Dorlin wagered, disuse. It came from above, and though Dorlin could not see though the mist, whatever or whoever was addressing him must have been standing a few yards above him on the edge of the steep ravine.

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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:48 pm

Dorlin jumped at the sound and cursed himself internally, realizing the situation he'd put himself in. He knew better than to allow himself to be drawn in to such a compromising position; the years he'd spent gathering knowledge of tactics and maneuvers, and the Steward had put himself in the most basic of bad places. Nevertheless, he maintained his bearing. Glancing up through the mist, his eyes roving as they searched for the origin of the voice, he smiled wryly.

"I imagine you've seen far better. Mine are hardly worthy specimens." Dorlin eyed the body in the ash. It was impressive, thanks in all likelihood to a life of hard labor. A skaa? In the end it didn't matter. What did matter was that the body was still there. Which meant... "But I didn't know that you were in the market for, uh, cheekbones. I hear you're more inclined to, uh, 'enjoy' the company of the odd skaa, kandra."

The Steward clicked his teeth. He was allowing his tongue to get away from him. And delicacy was needed here, if he was to achieve his goal. For he'd reached a dead end, and Dorlin could do little more by himself. Placing his right hand upon his heart and his left open to his side, he bowed.

"But I forget myself. I am Dorlin, Steward of House ______."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Sun Feb 22, 2015 2:01 am

There was silence, at first, and then the low voice slithered down through the mists, softer now, and closer. The speaker must have begun moving along the edge of the ravine, drawing nearer on the Terrisman's right.

"You use the word Kandra. Curious."

The voice was changing, and not for the better. The raspy, soot-edged quality lingered, but the timbre strained upwards, breaking and cracking as each short sentence drew to an end.  

"How and why. What else have you heard, Steward Dorlin?"


Last edited by NashFel on Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:32 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:18 am

A confirmation. Good. Dropping the term had been a wager, and still potentially meant a risk, but the creature had all but validated his suspicion, vague though that confirmation was. Dorlin followed the sound of the strange voice with his eyes, keeping his body tense in anticipation of an attack. But hopefully it wouldn't cove to that.

"Mistwraiths are scavengers; thieves and criminals leave bodies. You fit neither pattern, and the skaa are only too ready to whisper of the Ghost of the Wild."

He opened his arms in a friendly gesture, smiling.

"But I have not come to threaten or coerce you. Instead I come to offer you that which I feel you lack: purpose." Dorlin paused a moment, then continued. "Your assistance would be welcome, for you are capable of things I am not."

Though he spoke in an open manner, still his eyes roved and his ears pricked, wary for signs of danger or attack.
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:07 am

There was a pregnant, calculating silence.

"...you would give purpose. Intriguing."

Dorlin's audience had stopped moving, and the voice had constricted into an almost child-like range. Though close to the Steward, the speaker had not left the anonymous veil of the mists.

"Say what you will. Attention is given."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:43 am

Leaving his left hand out, Dorlin brought his right to cover his heart and bowed again.

"You honor me," his deep voice echoed in the ravine as he summoned all his etiquette. Standing up straight, the Steward cupped his palms together in front of him, the fingers of each hand curving around to the back of the other hand.

"Life, nature herself, is a delicate balancing act: the fox hunts the rabbit and the rabbit consumes the grass. But should that balance be broken, should the fox population jump and overwhelm the rabbits too quickly, or should an apex predator be introduced that destroys both populations, then nature is thrown into chaos, and death inevitably follows."

Dorlin paused a moment, the echo of his voice dying in the mist. Finally he spoke again, his expression hard.

"The Final Empire has brought imbalance to the Way of Things. I would reintroduce balance by undermining the apex predator that has restricted the natural movement of men and kingdoms.

"It is perhaps an unachievable goal. But if I do not pursue it, I fear it will never be done."

His cloak had begun to gather moisture as the mist condensed upon it. But he ignored it.

"But I would not reveal more than I have without your support in my endeavor. What say you, kandra? Would you be a part of this?"
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Tue Feb 24, 2015 12:17 am

Dorlin had scarcely finished his proposal before a child's reply sang out of the mists. "Men catch rats. Some use sweetmeat. Some use rubbish. All use poison. And the Kandra? They are not so different."    

"But, your words are new. Unexpected. Not false enticements. Or threats."

There was a blur of movement, and a small cinder-smeared shape came flying out of the mists to land on one of the flat stones at the bottom of the ravine with a dull thud.

"Yours are not the words of a Kandra. Not the words of a spy."

A child clothed in sooty rags drew herself up, one grimy hand clutching a large jagged spar of wood with a vicious honed edge. It took Dorlin a moment to recognize the mangled tool: it was a broken plow, probably taken from some hapless Skaa slave. She carried the improvised weapon with ease that bespoke of an unnatural, almost hideous strength. The young girl's face was pale to the point of being translucent. Her eyes were mismatched, one stained yellow and the other brown, and to Dorlin both would have seemed more at home in the face of a goat or sheep than that of a little girl.

"You are asking to for one to help. To pull things apart, slowly."

The false child smiled, the expression framed by a curtain of damp soot-colored hair. It was like a cheap parody of innocence, but at least the wrong eyes closed when it smiled.

"Yes. Help will be given to your endeavor. Most likely."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:44 am

It was only through years of practice that Dorlin maintained his composure at the sudden thud, and again at the odd appearance of the child. But despite his shock, he smiled amiably. 'Most likely' was probably as good as this thing was going to give.

"Excellent."

Briefly he considered sitting to help put the creature at ease. But the vulnerable position it would put him in worried him, especially when he considered the twisted farming tool it held in one tiny hand. Not that Dorlin thought he might be out matched; his Pewter metalminds were hidden comfortably above his elbows within the folds of his sleeves and cloak, and he'd often been chided by his fellows concerning the time he spent Channeling his strength into them. All the same, he had come to talk and not fight. Any behavior or action that might undermine the former was not to be taken. So, a friendly smile still upon his face, he remained standing.

"I'm glad to hear it. But business partners need to be able to converse on equal terms, and I would rather refer to you by your name. Or at least, by a name. I can appreciate anonymity."

Even with the kandra before him, his eyes and ears were still wary for signs of danger. There could be more, less amiable creatures about, after all. He mentally chided himself for not bringing his Tin metalminds as he awaited his companion's response.
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Tue Feb 24, 2015 3:30 pm

"This body's name was Sind, not long ago. For now it is suitable."

The girl hunched on her stone seat, feet dangling down so that the tips of her toes brushed the ash, drawing weird designs. A single Caprine eye opened to peer at the Steward through locks of errant hair.

"There is agreement here. Have you a plan, then? Dismantling the foundation of the world. Not an easy task."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Tue Feb 24, 2015 7:34 pm

"If it were, it would have already been done."

Perspiration gathered across the Steward's brow and shaved head, encouraging the impression that it gleamed. Away in the mist, far away but all too close, the unnatural howling scream of a mistwraith shattered the silence like a stone through a glass pane. Dorlin stood like a statue, considering and contemplating. The willingness that the kandra- no, that Sind exhibited have him a cautious hope. The abomination's scream having died down, he answered his companion.

"The plan is a fairly simple one, or is initially. Things may change as I- as we progress." The Steward bent down on one knee. As he spoke, he began building a small pile of stones in the shape of a triangle. "The Final Empire reaches everywhere, and into everything, through the arm of the Steel Ministry; the Steel Ministry maintains employment within the noble Houses, without whom they have no organization to affect; and the Houses, though they would be loath to admit it, need the skaa to do their labor and command about."

The pile he had built balanced precariously upon its foundation, the stones of which were oddly sized and stacked haphazardly. Carefully, with almost surgical precision, Dorlin started removing pebbles. The smallest ones were the first to go, and their absence seemed to matter little. But their lack of support began to add up, and sections of the pile fell away. Eventually the strain of the weight was too much on the remaining foundational stones, and the remaining pile collapsed with a clatter that sounded like a bag of gems being poured out. From his display, Dorlin looked up at Sind.

"If the skaa cannot, or will not, do their part, the Empire itself cannot exist. The system crumbles, and nature is again allowed to take its course. Smaller, more tightly knit kingdoms may rise to take its place, their consequential power struggles bringing balance to a world that desires it."

Reaching down, his forefinger and thumb grasped a particularly large and oddly beautiful stone and exhibited it to the other.

"House Venture, one of the Empire's foremost up and coming houses of supply, is in prime position to fall first."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Wed Feb 25, 2015 2:28 am

When Dorlin paused, Sind cocked its head, listening carefully to the unearthly gibbering of the mistwraith. As Dorlin outlined his plan, her attention slowly shifted back to the pebbles and stones the Steward was using for a visual aid, her own uncanny glance usually failing to meet his. As he finished the demonstration and the stones tumbled down, Dorlin looked up to gauge her response.

The girl-thing had hopped away, and was now crouched over the inert body lying nearby. She seemed to be inspecting it; for what, Dorlin could not say. After a moment a decision appeared to have been reached: the plow blade arced up and then swiftly descended with a wet crunch, severing the man's foot below the knee. Sind snatched the mangled body part and paused for a moment, as if concentrating, or remembering. Then she made an answering cry of her own, a deep, braying wail that carried and re-echoed off the stone walls, before hurling the dead limb deep into the mists, far beyond the confines of the ravine.

The child's unwholesome eyes blinked slowly, slightly out of sync as it turned back toward the Steward. The blood did not drip from the stained plow, but clung, congealed and thick like jam, to the notched wooden blade.

"The skaa. On them the whole turns." Sind's head jerked stiffly towards the smallest of the fallen pebbles. "How will they be removed from beneath Venture?"


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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:30 am

Dorlin observed the kandra's behavior impassively, but his mind raced. So this was a kandra. He'd always been under the impression that kandra had more of a certain...professionalism about them. This one seemed almost feral in comparison to his presumption. Something was wrong with it, of that he was certain.

"The skaa don't need to be removed: merely neutralized. If their work ethic is compromised, the nobles are not only denied their labor and therefore their structure, but they become further ingrained in their rut as they devote noble resources to attempting to motivate their peasants."

Standing, he held out his hand, his forefinger and thumb held up to see.

"And that is where you come in. I can only do so much in my position. Paperwork, schedules, those kinds of things I can manipulate. The skaa themselves are out of my reach." Slowly he folded in his thumb. "But they are fully within yours. You have already left an abiding impression within their limited society thanks to your nighttime activities. What I ask of you is that you focus your efforts upon House Venture's skaa, as well as increasing your acts of terror."

Smiling, Dorlin gestured about them. The night was still and calm, and no wind blew through the air. And yet the mists still undulated and shifted, almost as if it were a living thing.

"The skaa are a very superstitious lot, as evidenced by their refusal to venture into the mists."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:02 pm

Sind shook her head. It was a contemplative motion, more like the expression of a weary old man than a petulant child.

"Fear. Fear? Dorlin. Clever steward of the great houses of men."

It walked over, stooping to pick up some of the fallen stones, cradling them in her palm, rolling them around as she continued to speak. The strange person peered up at Dorlin, leaning on the plow like a walking stick.

"Venture's fall, fine. Good. Tyranny of law collapses into freedom. But fear is not enough. Not by far."

The pebbles hit the grey earth one after another as she slowly dumped the contents of her hand. The clammy touch of the mists left a sheen of moisture on her skin reminiscent of a fever.

"Lived long beyond the unwalled city. Spent time among skaa. Eye opening. Fields of taut flesh. Nerves burned out. Worn muscle, numb minds. Dulled by lash and loss. Fear is on them already." A hint of admiration had crept into the mimicked child's voice, and the words came fast, almost jumbled.

"Their fear is cold. Not hot. Cold fear freezes. Hot fear stirs the limbs."

It retracted an arm under her frayed robe and scratched distractedly at some irritation on its back.

"Noble bloods. Unthinking ones. Koloss. Death looming. Ugly, blatant. All things skaa fear. Paralysis sets in. Alternatives required. One more ghost singing in the mist? Not enough. Not enough to turn cold fear hot."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Wed Feb 25, 2015 1:24 pm

Intrigued as ever, Dorlin watched, studying the kandra and her (its?) behavior to later save the memory within his copper minds. He'd heard a tragically small amount of data on the creature, so he'd do what he could to enrich the records.

"Indeed. But that is not the only trick I intend to show during this circus. The skaa must fear to work for the nobles; that I have established. But what shall they do instead? Should they sit on their hands, awaiting the nobles' punishment?

"No. Fear, fear of the Ghost, shall be the stick that drives them. But rebellion, and the promise of a better lot, shall be the honey that attracts them."

Dorlin stared at Sind.

"There are always stories of skaa who live better existences. Some of them are even true; I've visited one or two of them. But Venture's skaa are little better off than the horse that carries the noble. Indeed less so.

"But these stories need validity, authentication. I cannot provide it; I'm too close to their oppressors. But you can walk among them, gain their trust, and encourage them. You can give them hope."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by NashFel on Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:04 pm

Sind sat, listening but unmoving aside from an occasional twitch. She nodded once as Dorlin finished speaking, her small fingers creeping idly across the haft of the plow.

"Stoke embers amid ashes. Understood."

The thing's lips parted, revealing adult incisors and canines crowding alongside small, gleaming milk teeth. The borrowed face was smiling again, but to Dorlin's surprise the expression actually conveyed something akin to happiness and warmth.

"Now what? Agreement reached. Next step, still to be determined."
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Re: A Portent of Things to Come

Post by Dorlin on Fri Feb 27, 2015 6:49 am

"Unfortunately, that's true. This dream of restoring political balance is, I'm afraid, still in its infancy. Reaching out to you was my first attempt to gain allies. Now that you've agreed to partake in this, I shall find others."

Dorlin glanced at the sky, trying unsuccessfully to pierce the mists.

"But I must head back. When I need to contact you again, I think I can reasonably assume you'll find me."

With a smile and a short bow, his jewelry jingling lightly as he did, he turned to head home.
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