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About Roen

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    A Free Sworn

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    Roen | Nabi
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  1. Roen

    New To FF14 RP

    Hello! Welcome to Balmung! As a person who is loathed to re-level anything and yet with alts that I want to play with or glamours I want on other classes, don't forget you can boost yourself to level 60 but it will take a bit out of your wallet. As for the general RP scene itself, I would point you to the Balmung event calendar, there are usually events/areas you can poke your head into for RP on any given day. There is also a Balmung RP tumblr site you can check out as well. Otherwise, I would browse this site and just see if anyone interests you and send them a PM! Everyone's pretty friendly. Have fun out there!
  2. Roen

    The Screenshot Thread [Tag Your Spoilers]

    Some screenshots from RPs lately.... Anchor. Ghoa, and Shael accompanied Nabi to the Reunion during the Archery Competition! Akhutai was there too but off camera. Nabi was captivated to see a Xaela competitor participate without any clothes on. "I suppose I ought to return as well, if that's all. Though we will be staying in Shirogane for some time longer, until this business is all behind us. So I will be close by if I'm needed." "We..." Nabi echoed, with a hint of prodding lilt to her voice. "We," Ghoa repeated, with a hint of amusement. "Lehko'a will be staying with me until this mess is done, loathe as I am to have to keep him overlong from home." Nabi's eyes warmed, possibly reflecting the setting sun. "Perhaps... you are his home." Ghoa's cheeks flushed a dark red, she seemed to be struggling for a moment to come up with an answer. She finally cleared her throat, nonchalantly shrugging a shoulder, though the blush remained. "P-perhaps so." There was a small, knowing smile as she dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "I'm guessing you'd know something about the subject yourself, so?" "And who said there be an end? As you said, you won't stop until I say I am satisfied, isn't that right?" Nabi rolled her shoulders at him coyly. "Who knows when and if that will ever happen?" "I." An incredulous huff escaped him, lips quirking up on one end to match it, "Aye. Selfish as ya be, I imagine there be little chance in it ever."
  3. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    It felt as if the moist ground was embracing her feet as she walked, the earth seeping up in between her toes with each step. The soft sands kissed her flesh and the light ocean breeze caressed her cheeks, much like a back of a gentle hand tenderly brushing over her skin. It made her think of him. Nabi pulled the light shawl just a little bit tighter around her shoulders. Despite the warmth of summer, the mornings by the beach still harbored a crispness that threatened goosebumps along her limbs. But the cold did not deter her outing this sun, rising just before the arrival of dawn. The ocean to the east was slowly shifting in color as the sun began to rise from its long slumber, the deep velvet blues slowly painted over with the lighter hues of the horizon. Sometimes Nabi would spin around and walk backwards, watching the white foam rolling up to erase all traces of her passage. “Our time here is finite. A flickering candle that burns out too quickly, compared to the eternity of the stars above. So live and love as you walk the earth, child. Let no one else choose your path for you. The horizon is vast. All you have to do is decide how to get there.” Nabi took a deep breath in, filling her lungs with the cool salty air. Her mother’s words had been returning to her more often of late, ever since the fateful trip to the Reunion. Ever since discovering that her mother had planned her birth all along, that her life and her purpose on this earth had been predetermined by some prophesy gained from an ancient ritual. The very remembrance of that revelation still gave her pause in breath, an inkling of disbelief once again stirring deep within her consciousness. But Arasen, her cousin, had confessed as much without any reservation. Making the journey to the Reunion to meet with a distant kin that she didn’t remember, the encounter was tepid at best. He too bore eyes of gold just like her own, and the Kharlu had trace of features that reminded Nabi of her mother. But mostly he resembled her uncle, the imposing Xaela warrior whose face never truly left Nabi’s memories. Tugan Kharlu was someone even her mother feared, although Nabi wasn’t sure what about Arasen reminded her of his more intimidating father. Perhaps it was the fervor in the Xaela’s eyes. While they were colored the same hue as her mother's, those eyes held no gentility. Arasen, even though his carriage was that of a scholar, still had the same intensity that Nabi remembered of his father. She thought her mother also had that same stubborness as well, but when she looked into her mother’s eyes, there was never fear or apprehension, or even question. At least that was what Nabi used to believe. She desperately wanted it be a lie. That Arasen had fabricated the whole story of her heritage. That was the only way it made sense. All the tales of her mother’s love for her father... they felt true in Nabi’s heart. She didn’t want to believe that she had been lied to all her life. So once she had returned to Shirogane, she looked to Anchor for an answer, for he had always told her she was too trusting. She hoped that he would denounce all the words of her cousin. If he had just said so, Nabi would have believed him in a heartbeat. “My mother couldn’t have done that, right?” she had asked him as he was leading her to the ferry to return home. “He must have made that up... right?” But where Nabi expected possible frustration or annoyance, the look that was on Anchor’s face as he turned around to her, was gentle and patient. "Mayhap. Mayhap not." He huffed and stepped towards her. "There be no knowin'. Words of the desperate are oft not words to mind, aye?" His head canted and his eyes narrowed softly with curiosity behind them. "You spoke of her fondly not long ago. Even if it be true, them words suddenly nothin' now in light of the ones against her? Do her own in past suns, moons, and cycles, not weigh on ya as heavy in face of it?" And that was at the heart of the matter, wasn’t it? Who to believe? What to believe? Thinking back on his words, Nabi recognized them for the only truth that mattered now. “I don’t... love her any less,” she had confessed. “I can’t. She is to me now as she always has been. My mother. A woman who loved me, who risked her life to save me. Who… who made me who I am.” For all the questions that were stirred up, as Nabi heard her own words, the churning began to settle somewhat in her chest. “Even if what Arasen said was true, all my life, all I’ve known is her love.” She didn’t doubt her mother’s affections. She didn’t doubt that there was regret on her mother’s part, and that was why she had left the Steppe. And yet… “But if it is true... why didn’t she just tell me? It wouldn’t have changed my heart. I would have understood.” Tears came then. “I would’ve loved her all the same.” Anchor -- no, it was Jude when they were alone -- huffed quietly. "And all these blasted tears all the same. Hardly a mystery much." He reached for her, so his forearm and sleeve could wipe the moisture from her flushed features. The motion was somewhat brash, but Nabi knew it was meant in tenderness all the same. A shiver climbed her legs as another wave from the sea washed over her feet. Nabi glanced down at the splash against her calves, her ankles disappearing beneath the foamy water. She wrapped her skirt tighter and lifted them, to avoid them from getting soaked. A quiet chortle escaped through her nose. She hadn’t minded the water at all the night before, but that musing gave rise to a small private smile. No, she hadn’t minded one bit. Nabi let out a soft exhale, tucking her hair away as a light wind tugged at her locks and her shawl. Just a sun ago, she had been so distressed, confused, and anxious about what was true and untrue. She didn’t know what to make of the life that she always thought she knew. And that curious birthmark, Arasen said it boded ill for her if she didn’t return with him. She was struggling, trying not to succumb to the feeling of helplessness and uncertainty. Feeling hurt and betrayed by someone she had loved so dearly. But after last night, there was a new calm to her core. A fullness that expanded from deep within, with a new determination turning away the sinking weight that wanted to take up residence in the pit of her stomach. “I want to live my life, however way I choose,” she had whispered to Jude. She was on her tiptoes, her lips hovering just before his, her next words just a breath against him. “I choose you.” Just as the questions of her mother’s intentions were set aside by Nabi’s unwavering belief of her mother’s love, so were the doubts of her future by this newly found vision on the horizon. It was one of her and Jude. Together. “I want to dance with you,” Nabi had whispered to him with a sense of wonder, as they both lay in bed. Their bare bodies were huddled close for warmth, but also because they couldn’t abide any other distance. “I want us to travel to a place that neither of us has ever seen before. And I want to bake you a cake on your nameday. Westerners blow candles, did you know that? I want to see you do it.” “I told ya ‘fore, I don't be rememberin' the day much.” Jude admitted, a softer breath huffed out in his amusement, his brow raising slightly in mock-wonder. “Sailed a number o’ seas, I have. Who knows how far we be goin' to see a sight we two never seen, aye?” That didn’t deter her one bit. “That only makes me more curious on where it would be!” Nabi giggled, turning onto her back as her eyes searched the wooden boards of the ceiling. “They say even at the other end of the world, they still see the same stars in the heavens above. But what of the color of the ocean? The feel of the sands on the beach? The scent of flowers in the spring?” Her expression and tone had turned somewhat dreamy as she imagined those scenes playing before her eyes. “Do the sunsets look the same?” "Mayhap," Jude replied, his voice ever quieter, his words coming slower as lethargy of slumber began to take him. "When it all be over... I'll take ya to find out, aye? Far as we go... long as it be..." Another yawn claimed him, breaking up his words and drawing his eyelids closed. Nabi watched him all the while, taking solace in the peace she saw settling onto his visage."However long it takes for ya to say ya be... satisfied...." Nabi was staring out towards the sea, as the sun just began emerging from the watery depths. The darkness of night was retreating in its wake, the luminescence of the day slowly beginning to seep into all corners of the heavens. And the sun cast its image onto the rippling canvas, drawing a radiant golden beam that stretched from the end of the earth to the very beach she stood upon. She could see it so clearly. That brilliant dream on the horizon. The unimaginable beauty that filled her soul with awe and wonder. And that was what it felt like, falling in love and being with that person body and soul. She had opened her heart completely, and knew with absolute certainty who belonged there. And Jude, in his own way, took her into his own. This was where she belonged. It was like no other certainty she had ever felt before. Nabi smiled and opened her arms out wide, drawing a deep breath and welcoming the new morning. She would embrace each new sun with hope, and perhaps just a little awe, and she was determined to weather even the darkest of storms should it come. It didn’t matter that her mother lied to her. She still felt loved. It didn’t matter if the mark was cursed, she would find a way to undo it. She had to. She had a someone of her own to care for, to cherish, and to love most of all.
  4. Roen

    New RPer - Where to find people?

    Not at all! The events have individual links to them for more info and locations. If the zone is open to you, you can just show up!
  5. Roen

    New RPer - Where to find people?

    Welcome to FFXIV RP scene! I would also like to add going to events as a good opportunity to become immersed. Everyone that shows up to those events are there to RP. There are events going on every night. I would peruse here for this week's events. Good luck!
  6. Roen

    Tumblr vs. Wiki questions

    Maril has some great advice and explanations, so I don't need to add much. What I like and prefer wiki for is that with just quick glance, the reader can get an idea of what a character is all about. Tumblr being a blog, sometimes you have to scroll through a bunch of images or know how to sift through tags and posts to get to what you might be interested in if you just want to get to know a character. Where as wiki, it's much easier to find some basic character information. Tumblr is also interactive with other people, where as wiki I see it just as a presentation of your character. The only interactive part about wiki really is the rumors you can add to other people's pages. I have found new roleplayers to meet through tumblr, but I always look up wiki first to see if any new character I am curious about has a page there. And as Maril mentioned, you can also find plenty of artists on tumblr, if you are looking for such a thing. But tumblr, more than wiki I think, you need to be active on it to get the most out of it. Wiki takes a LOT more work to set up initially (from my experience) but once it's set, it's there as a resource for others to learn about your character. How much of an opportunity it creates, I have no idea since you don't really see the traffic on your wiki page. Tumblr, on the other hand, you get some ideas through likes and such, but it doesn't really reflect the amount of actual interaction you get out of it. Both are good resources though though. I recommend both.
  7. Roen


    Album of cool art I've collected! Either commissions or just awesome art drawn by a very talented friend. (I am looking at your Ruen)
  8. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Many years ago... “I can’t.” Her hand was so small, yet it held on so tightly to Chanai’s forefinger that the Xaela could only stare in wonder at the fragile thing in her arms. The babe was but a few suns old; her raven locks were soft and wispy upon her tiny head. And when those sleepy eyes blinked open just a slit, Chanai saw her own golden gaze looking back at her. “I can’t do it, Siban.” Chanai’s voice trembled, full of both awe and anguish. “She is beautiful. And she is his. And she is mine.” A shuddering breath left her, her lips parting into a smile as the babe began to suckle upon her fingertip. The Xaela’s sadness gave way to stubborn resolve. “I won’t.” “You speak from the mother’s heart,” the elder seer answered, her aged hands holding onto a necklace of bones gathered in her lap. She sat hunched in her seat made of leathery hides, her back bent with the passing of decades. Gifts of meat, woven cloth, and incense were scattered around her feet and throughout the yurt, although the attendants that had hovered about had left the two auri female to their privacy. Such was the intimate relationship shared between the elder seer and her star pupil. The udgan did not look at Chanai nor the baby she held. She only stared at the floor as she thumbed through the carved baubles, made of both tooth and stones of the earth. Her voice was muted, laced with melancholy. “Will you forget all you saw? All that you know? Will you forego the lives of many more generations to come?” Chanai felt herself shake, her hold upon her own child tightening as she brought the babe closer to her breast. “Do not speak to me as if I am but one of your adepts. I was the only one willing to do this from the start. The only one to see it through.” Even as her own words left her lips, she heard the confession of her own betrayal. Siban remained still as stone, as she continued to stare at the bones in her grasp, but new lines appeared around the woman’s eyes. Chanai couldn’t tell if they were drawn by sadness or ire. The udgan’s voice remained low and steady, quiet as to not carry beyond them and the yurt. “And now you are the last.” The soft clatter of the necklace came to a silence as Siban laid her hand over it, her gaze rising to steadily fix on Chanai. She felt as if the woman's eyes were spearing straight though her. “You and that babe you hold are the last remnants of hope we saw in the divination. She bares the mark.” The old Xaela’s chest sunk as she let out a heavy exhale. A weight of sorrow seemed to weigh heavily upon her frame. “Our people will never know peace... if you make this choice.” “Will you betray me to the khan? Or my brother if I refuse?” Chanai bristled, her nostrils flaring. “Will you tell them of the forbidden ritual? As if the khan would accept your words over his own udgan.” The look that Siban gave her surprised the younger Xaela. The elder seer looked truly forlorn, her shoulders slack and her aged face seeming more weathered than ever. “You have always stood by my side and never betrayed me. I would not betray your faith. Even for the sake of all.” Chanai stared at her, a new pain contorting her visage. Those words were like a slap to the face, reminding her of the bond she and the elder shared. How committed she had been to this task, this unimaginable gift the gods demanded for the sake of peace. Year after year, she had witnessed the bloodshed between the Kharlu and the Jhungid, mended the seemingly innumerable wounds that resulted from the battles, only to repeat it all again the next year. All that the Kharlu and the Jhungid did beneath the remainder of their suns was dedicated to this ritual of violence that was doomed to repeat itself. The prosperity of the tribe depended on winning the next battle, and the next, and the next. Strengthening their numbers was mandated to defeat the Jhungid. It was fated for all time. Only Siban’s visions said otherwise. How had Chanai ever thought the completion of this task was possible? “The gods are too cruel.” She shook her head. “Your visions come from the cursed moon. It cannot be the only way. I’ve already lost him. I can’t…” She swallowed down the lump in her throat as she looked back to the babe in her arms. There was only a look of peaceful slumber there, so unaware of the terrors that existed all around them. The udgan’s head lowered again, beads of her braids clacking quietly with her movement. “I cannot make this choice for you. It must be made freely of your own will.” “So then, you will tell no one?” Chanai’s question was held both apprehension and a desperate plea. Siban rose from her seat, leaning heavily upon her gnarled wooden staff. “The offering has to be a willing one. It is useless for me to tell another.” Her deep-set eyes bore into the younger seer. “I see you as my own, so I understand your need to protect your child. But someday... someday she will question. And she will come to understand the circumstances of her birth. Then what will you tell her?” Chanai just stared back at the elder in silence, having no answer. The udgan didn’t wait for one as she turned and made her way out of the yurt. Left alone, the air seemed more stifling than ever. But all her fears and doubts vanished as soon as Chanai laid her eyes back upon the wrapped newborn laying against her chest. “Nabi,” she whispered to her baby daughter. “That is the name your father gave you when you were growing in my belly. I won’t let anyone harm you. You will forge your own destiny. You will walk your own path.” She leaned down and pressed her lips against her soft hair. And not the one your mother bequeathed onto you.
  9. Roen

    balmung Mikky's Barber Shop!

    Aw! I never made it there. For scheduling reasons. 😭 I thought this was such a cute idea and passed it along to a few others.
  10. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Nabi tacked up the last of her notices on the bulletin board outside of the Hostelry, smoothing out the parchment and squinting at the written letters. She didn’t have too much time to admire her work however, for she noticed Wlveva making her way back from the tea house. The Xaela turned and quickly paced away since she was sure the hyur wasn’t too keen on advertisements on the board that distracted potential adventurers from the Clan marks. Still, what better place did she have to drawn in potential capable hunters that would go to Yanxia and the Steppe to retrieve her reagents? She was confident that some of her stocks would be replenished with the help of Mister Eshem -- no, he wanted to be called Marsazio, Nabi reminded herself -- but she couldn’t rely on one man to restock all of her supplies. Ever since her clinic had burnt down and she had gone into the mountain after Anchor, her business of selling herbs and potions had come to a complete standstill. Yoshinari and Mimiyo had yet to return from their trip to Hingashi -- the one that they took at her behest -- and so it was left to Nabi to see to restarting the shop, now that most of the stall has been rebuilt. The ferry back to Shirogane was still a few bells away, so Nabi took the opportunity to go visit her favorite spot in Kugane, the koi pond by the consulates. She leisurely made her way through the Kogane Dori, winding through the crowds there, both Hingan and foreigners alike. She gave a friendly wave to Kurogai as she passed by her favorite teriyaki stall, then hopped up the steps toward the Ijin Diistrict. And while the cherry blossoms were in full bloom all throughout Shirogane, Kugane had the swaying willows and the crooked pines, with their own delicate scents that was just barely hinted in the caress of the ocean winds that washed through the port city. It wasn’t like the Hanami Festival, where the countless pink flowers blanketed all the branches, and the higher mountain air enticed her senses with the fresh aroma of spring. Nabi could not help but smile at the memory that returned of her and Anchor’s visit to the Plum Springs. He had agreed to go with her to the festival -- with a healthy dose of reluctance, of course -- but she had successfully convinced him it was good to get out and enjoy the sun and all the splendors that made their return when the last of the winter had thawed away. There were singing performances and plenty of vendors. She even purchased a couple of festival masks for the occasion, although Anchor refused to wear his. The sun lent its illumination behind the cover of clouds, and the veiled sky reminded her of the morning when she had left Kugane to go into the mountain. But it had been cold then. Now, the air was warmer, with the gentle breeze causing small ripples in the shallow pools that outlined the periphery of the Spring. The water gently lapped on the shores of grassy mounds where the trees were lush with fresh cherry blossoms. Nabi enjoyed the crowded yet somehow still tranquil ambiance of the festival, watching all the attendees milling about. She and Anchor meandered leisurely, gazing at the flowers and browsing through various stalls. Then Anchor did something Nabi didn’t expect. He suddenly held out his hand to her. “Alright. Let’s be gettin’ this over with. To me now.” Nabi didn’t question at first. He beckoned, and she came as she always would. She followed along as she entwined her fingers in his, as Anchor led her to another quieter island. She didn’t find it odd either when he then placed her at a particular spot near a few trees. She was too busy reveling in the moment. Surrounded by cherry blossoms beneath a hazy afternoon sun, she couldn't help but admire how the day warmed his face, even his ever-slanted lips. “Jude,” she whispered his name, the one he had confided in her beneath that mountain. “This was one of the things I wanted, back then.” Her voice had turned timid, sentimentality suddenly welling up in her chest. Anchor blinked, surprise flickering over his eyes at his name. “A-aye, ya mentioned it then. And again.” He cleared his throat, narrowing his eyes at her. “Ya be satisfied, then?” Nabi nodded wordlessly, her gaze lowering to their hands, her thumb grazing over his knuckles. Her lips slowly split into a warm smile. “I am,” she murmured. “And I am glad that you are here.” Anchor seemed to hesitate for a moment, his lips parting then pressing tight again. Then after regarding her for a moment longer, he huffed. “Don’t ya bloody lie to my face!” he said indignantly, chin tilting up sharply. “Ya ain’t be satisfied.” He spun away from her, releasing her hand, and marched off a few fulms to a nearby tree. Then he promptly kicked the tree. Three times in all. It brought a heavy shower of pink petals raining upon his head. It covered his hair, his shoulders, and the ground beneath his feet. He then turned on his heel, facing her. “There. Like ya bloody well wanted. Ain’t it everything ya ever dreamed.” There was plenty of sarcasm in his voice. But Nabi didn’t hear it. She saw the cherry blossoms petals spinning and floating all around him, to land lightly over his face and frame. It was what she had wished for. One of many things that she had pictured when she hoped for more tomorrows. Nabi remembered her lungs filling with so much air in that moment that she thought she would float away. Instead, she hopped over to Anchor and threw her arms around him, planting her face against his chest. “You remembered!” She laughed gleefully. “I--aye. How the hells could I be forgettin’ somethin’ so utterly ridiculous?” he scoffed. Nabi peered up at him, still grinning from ear to ear. She stepped back and clapped joyfully. “Still. You did do it.” She tiptoed, brushing a few petals from his hair. Anchor sighed, leveling a flat look at her. “See?” He too reached over and plucked off a petal from her hair, flicking it away. “Now ya be satisfied.” A soft sigh escaped her lips as Nabi recalled that very moment, letting that warm memory linger in her mind for as long as she could. Anchor wasn’t with her in Kugane this afternoon, and Nabi was starting to not feel so anxious when she wasn’t near him. It was probably because he was getting stronger every sun, color returning to his complexion, and his joints and bones no longer as prominent as they were when they had escaped. Still, there was always a certain feeling of elation when she saw him again after she had been away for just bells. As if she was reminded yet again, that he was alright. Nabi knew it was silly to be so overly protective now that they were free, but it didn’t ease the sense of vigilance she had over him. That thought brought to mind something she had nearly forgotten. Nabi pushed off from the bark of the willow tree she had been leaning on. There were other things she should be looking into while she was in Kugane. She furrowed her brow, dismissing the daydreams and the recollections from her mind. Now that she too was feeling better with her own aether beginning to replenish itself, it was time to start delving into what she had been putting off for too long. With quicker steps, Nabi started making her way back toward the pier.
  11. Roen

    New character looking for FRANNND

    If Marsazio was in Kugane, Nabi would love to make new friends!
  12. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Twenty-six years ago... Chanai watched him breathe as he slept next to her. The flames flickered and danced chaotically, whipped by the winds that whistled into the cave. But the fire stubbornly continued to burn, lighting that small space she shared with the Xaela warrior next to her. The night had fallen, and the two tribes had retreated to their respective sides. The only ones that remained were the dead that laid upon the field, those that had yet to be gathered after the long and violent sun. And then there were the two of them, a Kharlu healer and a Jhungid warrior, tucked away from sight on a mountain that overlooked the bloodsoaked plain. Chagur Jhungid was everything she had imagined him to be. He was the strongest of his tribe, known for his prowess on the battlefield. His skill with his greatsword was said to be unmatched, and he had slain many Kharlu warriors in the years past. Some said that it was because of his unspoiled lineage, his bloodline that was believed to be one of the purest from the earliest ancestors of the tribe that made him so powerful. Chanai’s golden gaze roamed over his bare chest as it rose and fell. There were many scars that marred his skin, and her trained eye could discern what came from which weapon and when he had incurred them. He had been a fighter for over a decade, and it was in thanks to the likes of him that the Jhungid won many battles. She knew how the victors of war took their spoils after the annual campaign was over. How their warriors were expected to plant their seed onto many females, so that the tribe could swell their numbers with more heirs to the violence, who would soak the soil with their lifeblood in the years to come. But this warrior had not looked to her as his spoil of war. When she found him amidst the smoky prairie, he had suffered his own injuries, although none that would have been mortal. Breaking custom, Chanai offered him her aid, and strangely enough he accepted. He could have cut her down, could have taken her as his own and brought her back to serve the Jhungid in any way he wanted. Chanai was fully aware of all these possibilities when she approached him. “The battle is over,” Chagur said to her, a wearied smile softening his features. “And tomorrow, the strife between our tribes begins again. But for what few bells remain of this day, I would see peace between us.” Indeed, Chanai had known this warrior to adhere to honor and duty. He fought for his tribe’s survival, and he killed because he had been taught since birth that it was expected of him. But he did not hold victory as something to relish in, bloodlust was not what drove him to cut down the Kharlu. Chanai knew too many warriors that lived only for battle, her brother enjoyed nothing more than to prove his superiority by taking as many Jhungid lives as he could. And this annual tradition gave him just the means to do so. Chagur was not like her brother. Chanai knew this, when she chose to do this. There were only a very few who had the pure lineage as he did, but amongst those, Chagur was the only one that would not have killed her or raped her on the battlefield. No… he was different. Even during the healing, they had talked. He was curious as to who she was, and why she was offering him her skills. And even though she gave him no reason to, he trusted her not to try and poison him. Something about the warmth in her golden eyes, he said. Chanai scoffed at him, chiding him for being too trusting even as she led him away to a secluded cave. But as his earthly brown eyes lingered on her, and his baritone voice continued to coax her to converse with him, she almost forgot the true reason she had sought him out. She was beginning to enjoy his company and appreciate his smiles. But Chanai was too determined to let herself get distracted for long. Her touches became more intimate, her answers more inviting. Chagur didn’t resist her advances. But to her frustration, there was no hurry in his reciprocation either. Where males would often rush for immediate satisfaction, Chagur took his time gazing upon her, letting his fingers note the details of her scales, and his lips roam over her body. Chanai hadn’t expected this. As she watched his scarred chest rise and fall evenly in slumber, she didn’t expect that she would relish this night. That she would stare at him, drinking in the view of him, not wanting to forget what he looked like. His tanned skin, his long, chaotic raven locks, taut muscles, and lips that wanted to smile rather than frown. She wanted to etch them all into her memory. Why did the thought of not seeing him again suddenly tightened her chest with unease? She knew she should be gathering her clothes and slipping away in the middle of the night. She had gotten what she needed, she had accomplished what she had set out to do. But as her hand lowered to her belly, she felt a flush of warmth from within. There was a part of her that wanted to stay. Chagur turned in his sleep, his eyes drowsily peeling open as he looked upon her, staring at him. His expression softened at seeing her, and it melted her heart. He reached for her, his thumb caressing her horn ever so gently. “You are still here,” he murmured. A soft sigh escaped her lips. “There are still a few bells yet, before the dawn.” “Then stay with me for awhile longer.” His hand drifted from her face to her hair, following its course onto her collarbone. He idly traced its contour, his eyes becoming half-lidded again. Chanai nodded, entwining her fingers in between his, her smaller hand closing over his callused and bloodstained knuckles. She was doing this, to try and end the conflict once and for all, was she not? Then why not allow herself to revel in this fleeting moment of yearning and tranquility? The morning can wait. Destiny too… can wait. Chanai tucked herself in against his chest and closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of him as she welcomed his embrace.
  13. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    The shed was small and cold. The winds whistled in through the cracks in the walls, and the door rattled against an incessant gust that wanted entrance like an unwelcome visitor in the night. Nabi recognized it well. Dread pitted her stomach as she found herself here. The place's disuse over the years was apparent in the cobwebs, the dilapidated walls, and the thick coat of dust that covered everything. But it was their only shelter from the cold, the only respite in sight after they emerged from the freezing waters of the lake. “Rest with me a spell,” Anchor whispered as he tugged on her dress. His breaths were so faint and there was hardly any strength left to his body. Nabi was about to frantically look around the dark space, looking for something, anything to warm him. But his grip made her pause. One of his eyes was fully red with blood, and it was obvious he wasn’t seeing what was in front of him, the way his hand weakly felt toward her wrist until his gauntlet lightly encircled around it. He kept trying to grasp upward toward her arm but his touch kept slipping down to her hand. “S’enough…” he exhaled, his head limply resting against his chest. It wasn’t enough, Nabi wanted to tell him. He had nearly died, many times over in that mountain. For her. He had gone into that mountain, in a trade for her freedom. And now, they had finally escaped, and here he was, propped against the wall of an old deserted shack, his arm awkwardly bent and his skin ashen pale. He was so cold. How could it be enough? She should have protested. After all he went through, he had kept his promise and gotten both of them out. And now, he was slipping away from her. But as she looked to her wrist and his shaking hand there that seemed desperate to pull her back to him, she swallowed. How could she deny him anything? “Just for a spell…” Nabi said quietly as she settled into a seat next to him, tucking herself between the crook of his arm and his chest. She pressed herself against him as closely as she could, one hand draping across his torso. At least she could try and warm him. But when she laid her head against his chest, she heard his heartbeat. It was a feeble and distant thing. And it was slowing. It skipped beat. Then two. Then the next was even slower to come. “Figures…” he breathed faintly, his lips brushing against her brow. “To find again… only to lose…” “I’m going to try and heal you.” Nabi said firmly with a grimace, rising from his chest. Her own aether stores were drained, and her body was only able to continue because of the potion she had taken in the morning, one that kept her adrenaline running throughout her body. It was a dangerous thing, to try and heal him as she was, but what else could she do? She was going to lose him. “Nabi…” His metal hand closed around her forearm unsteadily as if to protest. But no more words came forth from his pale and broken lips. I can do this, Nabi told herself as she laid both her hands on his chest. The light from the small fire within the oven licked the metal augment of his arm, giving it an odd red glare. Nabi closed her eyes to shut away the darkness that was creeping upon both of them, gathering the last bits of aether left in her body. She called out to the earth to answer her heartbeat, to beat with her own, to give her strength to pull Anchor back from the precipice of forever-darkness. I can. Only, she couldn’t. Instead of her own heartbeat in her ears, she heard his, as it skipped a beat then another, then it paused. One more beat echoed in the distance, as if he was far far away. Then... there was silence. Nabi felt herself reaching for him, to grasp whatever strand of life she could within him, but it slipped away, like grains of sands sifting through her fingers. His skin turned frigid cold beneath her touch and when she opened her eyes, his body had turned black and distorted, much like that of Ashen Bear, the final champion Anchor had fought. And just like the mutated roegadyn after his death, Anchor remained still, even as his blackened body began to melt away. But the enhancement remained, still encircled around her arm. And despite his body no longer containing life, the gauntlet began to tighten its hold, the razor sharp blades slowly emerging from its fingertips. It pressed and pierced into her flesh. Bright red blood began to pool forth in rivulets down her arm from the rends the sharp, unforgiving steel was tearing into her skin. Nabi tried to pull herself free, but to no avail. The agonizing pain as that gauntlet clawed away at both flesh and aether returned fresh from her memory, and Nabi tried to scream. She startled awake. Nabi was gasping for breaths, and there were tears that had stained her face and the pillow beneath her. She blinked rapidly as the recognition of her surroundings returned slowly to her, the dream of blood and death slow to loosen its hold upon her consciousness. But Nabi saw Anchor, lying there next to her. She stayed frozen, just staring at him, willing him to breathe. And when she finally spotted the faint movement of his chest as he slowly inhaled and exhaled, a shuddering breath left her own, and she bowed her head, awash with relief. Careful not to wake him, she pressed her forehead against his chest. But the sight of seeing him alive gave her little relief. The despair and the horror from her nightmare still gripped her chest like a vise. Her fingers curled around his shirt, as if to hold him there with her. She was shaking. Wasn’t this over? They had gotten out. They were back in Shirogane. She was under the blankets with him. He had asked her to stay with him until she was recovered. They were safe. They were free. And yet, when she closed her eyes, her mind was pulled back into that mountain. “Hold to me now…” he told her, before he tucked her under the blankets. “Ya can rest with me a spell, aye? So ya not be forgetting.” Her fingers tightened their hold on the fabric of his shirt and she tucked herself against his body, suddenly desperate to hear his heartbeat. She didn’t let go, even when she heard the strong and even rhythm within his chest. Nabi didn’t know how long she stayed that way, just listening to him. She didn’t want to go back to sleep, to return to the visions of that place. The darkness that nearly crushed her spirit. The mere memory of it was enough to make her tremble. But eventually the call of slumber prevailed, as fatigue finally weighed her eyelids closed. But her hands remained upon his shirt, over his heart, even in sleep.
  14. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Her finger barely brushed the surface. Silent rings of water grew outward, the reflection of the blue sky blurring on the rippling surface of the pond. Nabi felt soft nibbles greet her fingertip, and the Xaela smiled as she saw the brilliantly colored koi swim to the surface to greet her. There were a few shy ones that hid beneath adjacent floating lotus leaves, but many circled and frolicked near the rock where she was perched. Signs of spring were blooming all around; leaves were more vibrant in color and flower buds were starting to emerge from their protective shells. The winds had become a gentle, whispering thing, and it carried a faint scent, promising of blossoms soon to flourish. Nabi lifted her face to the sky, welcoming the warming touch of the sun that greeted her skin. A lazy breath filled her lungs then slowly left through her parted lips, a serene smile lingering on her countenance. It felt like forever since the last time she was able to sit out in the sun with no worries or cares. The winter had been brutally unforgiving. Ever since her clinic had burnt down, and then all the troubles that followed… the last few fortnights had been the hardest she’d ever experienced in her life. But now that it was all over, the sun seemed warmer, the sky looked clearer, and the air never felt more crisp. “The world will look odd… when ya be back… everything'll look so trivial…” Anchor’s words drifted into her thoughts as she soaked in the light of the day. So much has happened. Nabi understood what he meant. When she tried to think through the process of rebuilding her clinic, and the task of restocking all her supplies and the work and the obligations that went with it, it felt so... mundane. But then there were other things too, little details that she had not noticed in awhile, that felt more alive and more vivid than ever before: the rustling of willow branches as it swayed along with the passing breeze, the soft babble of water as koi swam about, and distant chirping of sparrows as they sang merrily to each other. “You’ll be…hah…” Anchor’s voice whispered in her ear again. He sounded so far away. So weak. “You’ll be alright now…” Even just the vaguest recalling of that moment, it tightened her chest. Why did her thoughts return there now? To that small shed by the lakeside? It was their only refuge from the cold after they had swam out, escaping the mountain through a small shoot of a tunnel, carried away by a frigid river through a waterfall onto a lake. In that tiny shack with just a small oven for warmth, that was where Anchor’s heart started to slow, skipping a beat, then slowing further. He had poured out so much of his aether in that mountain, that his body had too little left. Nabi saw him slipping away before her eyes. She too was drained and exhausted, but she couldn’t let him go. She couldn’t let him die. What had she gone into the mountain for? After all they endured, what would it have been for if she lost him, just after they finally shared that first breath of free air? Another sigh left her lips as Nabi pulled her thoughts back to the present. She lifted her wrist before her eyes, the sunlight catching the glimmer of gold and silver threads entwined there. The bracelet was a gift, made by her mother’s hands, the one that Nabi had worn on her person for as long as she could remember. Her mother had implored her long ago, made Nabi promise not to take off the bracelet except in the most dire moments of need. It allowed her a closer connection to the earth, but she also knew it would be risking discovery by those that her mother had fled from so long ago. I am sorry, mother. I couldn’t lose him. Nabi had taken it off, more than once, to heal Anchor in the fighting pits.The final time was in that shed, when she used all the aether she had left. She knew he was going to die, and that she was the only person left that could bring him back from that precipice, return him to the light of the living, even if it would cost her everything. She said her last prayers to the Mother and called to the earth for its strength, then laid her hands upon him and gave him all she had. Nabi inhaled deeply as she came to lay beneath a maple tree, her hands stretched out over the cool blades of grass. Her eyes squinted at the shafts of sunlight peeking through the canopy of branches above, her gaze darting from one random leaf to another. She couldn’t quite remember what happened after, in that shed. There were vague visions, of luminescent butterflies answering her call, and fingers of vines and roots reaching for her through the floorboards of the shed. When she had finally awoken, she was laying on the floor, attended to by Anchor who looked so terribly worried. But the shed was intact, with no sign of unusual foliage having overgrown it from the inside out, as she had seen in her dreams. Nabi smiled broadly at the memory even now. She did what she promised herself to do. She saved him. Even if she didn’t quite understand or remember how, the end was still the same. They were now both back in Kugane, and they were both alive. Only… it wasn’t the end. “I was wrong, you know,” Nabi had confessed to Anchor in that shed, whispering what truths came to her mind, when she thought he was drifting away. “I thought I wanted one thing from all this. Your freedom. That if somehow I helped you get free, that it would all be worth it. “I was wrong. I want more. I want… to watch the cherry blossoms rain upon your head. And... I want to hear you say my name. I want us to watch the fireworks again. I want to show you the fireflies taking to the air just as the daylight sinks into the sea.” She was imploring him to stay. With her. “I want so much more." Nabi bit her lower lip, her forearm covering her eyes, as if that would shield her from the questions that began to grow in her mind. Now that the rest of their lives awaited them, what did those words mean exactly? So focused was she on just their very survival, she had not allowed herself to really see how important Anchor had become in her life in such a short period of time. She had gone after him, knowing she would be putting her own life at risk, accepting that she may never see her loved ones ever again. And more than once in that mountain, she had made impulsive and dangerous decisions to put his life before her own. She hadn’t questioned what that meant. She only knew that she had to. And even now, there was no doubt in her mind. If she ever thought he needed her, if he was ever in trouble, she would not hesitate in coming to his side. She would protect him. Even if she wasn’t powerful or strong, she would still be there for him. But even more than that, she wanted… She wanted to see him happy. When had that become so important to her? To see to his happiness and well-being? How had that become the most important thing? And what did that mean for the rest? For Tserende? The ever polite and quietly spoken man who had come to her aid more than once? Who had kissed her under the afternoon sun? Who she had kissed back as a blush rose to her cheeks? To whom she struggled to confess her growing feelings for after the trust that was developed over moons. She could still recall the moments of mirth they shared as she teased the unflappable man about his unwillingness to try a cooked mollusk. Or the gleeful laughter that rose from her chest when he took her riding over the waves of the ocean on his giant bird. Nabi had thought she found a content and peaceful place for her heart to reside. But now, she felt pulled by the undeniable whirlwind that was Anchor. Turbulent and unpredictable. But amidst all that turmoil… in the center, there was this glimpse of a tender heart hidden behind those many scars and wounds. He was so strong, yet so hurt at the same time. How could she be pulled by such opposite things? Did it make her a bad person to wish both of them happiness? Selfish… Nabi chided herself. She still remembered the subtle distance and coldness to Tserende’s demeanor when Nabi begged him for help on Anchor’s behalf. When she refused to listen to his advice about accepting Anchor’s sacrifice and went against his wishes in willingly accepting Grave’s invitation, there had been acute disappointment in the Ishgardian’s pale blue gaze. Had she hurt him already even without realizing it? That thought made her sit back up, the serenity she felt earlier draining away to leave only a weight of guilt that sat heavy in the pit of her stomach. She needed to speak to him. She hadn’t seen him after the escape; Shael said he was looking for her in Yanxia just as the Highlander was. Why hadn’t he returned to Kugane? Why hadn’t he come to see her? Nabi frowned. She was being more selfish than she realized. Just expecting him to come to her, after all he’d done for her already. Pushing off her legs, she rose. She was free from danger now. She couldn’t push aside these questions anymore. Not that she knew the answers to them, but… She knew she needed to speak with Tserende.
  15. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Gunshots echoed overhead. Usually such things would make her flinch with fear, but while Nabi kept her head low and her heart was racing faster than ever, her lips parted with a nervous kind of relief, knowing it was Shael up there. Her eyes darted from guard to guard as they were rushing out through the gates all around them, but soon as they heard the gunshots, their attention was diverted upwards. They were drawing their guns, looking to find the shooter. Anchor was right behind her, and guiding her towards the door that he had exited out of earlier. As Nabi lifted her dress and darted to the opened portal, she spotted two figures there. One was a guard, writhing on the ground, clutching at his leg. A stream of blood was spurting forth from the back of his knee. A quick assessment told her that his artery just above the calf must have been severed. And next to him, she saw the means to his injury. Myuto, the mute slave boy that Anchor had befriended, was crouched near the guard, with a sharpened bone in his bloodied hand. He was warily watching the guard, until he spotted both Nabi and Anchor. He suddenly rose and waved his hand, a youthful smile on his face despite the chaos. Once both of them were through the gates, Anchor did not waste time drawing forth the blade and shoving it into the guard's throat. Nabi looked away. There was something about Anchor that had made her shudder. It wasn’t the violence or the bloodshed this time; since he had caught her falling from the dais, she felt nauseated around him. She could feel his anomalous aether just overflowing from his body. She had caught something changing about him during the fight itself, when he was using the gauntlet on his own person. Now the very air around him felt sickly. His eyes were bloodshot and there were stains of crimson pooling in the corner of his eyelids. Even his voice sounded somewhat distorted. Once he pulled his blade free from the guard, he pointed the bloody tip down the tunnel. “Go!” he ordered Myuto, before he turned to her. “Follow him!” He then spun from them both to close the door behind him and latching it shut. Myuto scampered away and Nabi continued to follow as fast as she could. She was silently thankful for the potion she was able to drink before coming to the match, else her weakened body would never be able to keep up with this pace. But she felt its effect injected into every muscle fiber, as her heart pumped harder than ever to keep her moving. It was a maze of narrow tunnels and caverns. Mytuo took multiple quick turns, and if it wasn’t for him guiding her, Nabi knew she would be hopelessly lost in these depths. It was when both took a sharp turn that a guard appeared out of nowhere, also running quickly toward the sounds of chaos and battle. He immediately reached for his gun, but then another arm shot out from the metal bars behind him, grabbing the man by the throat and pulling him back against the cell. Nabi could spy scales upon that arm. Whoever it was that intervened, was an au ra, just like her. There was no time to linger or even thank the stranger. Nabi nodded quickly just as she spotted Myuto darting away. As she took off after him, Nabi hoped that the au ra, and the rest of the fighters would find the same freedom she was chasing after now. Just as Myuto finally came to a stop, pointing ahead to the final tunnel that would offer them escape, she heard an explosion in the distance, one that rocked the mountain and brought a rain of dust down upon their heads. That was when Nabi turned around and realized Anchor was nowhere to be seen.