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Roen

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About Roen

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  • Main Character
    Roen | Nabi
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    Balmung
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  1. Roen

    The Art of Cigarettes and Fireflies

    “Why did you save me?” Because, I couldn’t save her. Nabi and Anchor by Ruen! You can check out more of Ruen's art here! This one has a special place in my heart, because it was the very first art that was drawn of these two together, and a total surprise sprung upon me by Anchor's player. I love LOVE Anchor's look here. This is pretty much how I see him in my head. And it has been the reference I've used when approaching other artists to draw him since. I guess you can say that this piece started my entire run of collecting all sorts of art pieces for the characters in this story! It made me fall in love with these two instantly.
  2. Roen

    Remnants

    Well, he certainly sounded confident. Roen arched a brow in Ashur’s direction, her head slowly canting as she considered his offer. There was not much to lose, he was practically offering his services for free. Labor a mere drink? She would be a fool to refuse. At best, this man knew what he was talking about and she would see the chronometer fixed and avoid being cheated, and at the worst, the timepiece still would still be broken after a drink and she would have to come back to this jeweler, and probably offer her more coin. It was worth the risk. And judging by the very displeased look on the Hingan woman’s face, a rare sight for the paladin thus far, Roen suspected that this man at least spoke some truths. With an apologetic sigh, Roen turned and bowed politely to the jeweler, taking her device back. “I apologize for wasting your time. I think I will see if he can help me.” The Hingan huffed, but recovered herself quickly enough to manage a cool smile and a bow. “Of course,” she said calmly. Roen carefully pocketed the chronometer into her belt pouch and turned to the man. She narrowed her eyes at him, but her gaze did not hold him suspect. If anything, there was a hint of amusement behind her muted expression. “You have yourself a deal, then.” She half turned and gestured down the street in the Hostelry's direction. “Although I dare say that you are probably underselling yourself, offering your services for something so little.”
  3. Roen

    Remnants

    Roen was still counting out the coins when another voice from behind her drew her attention. She looked over her shoulder, then had to turn back around the other way for the man had chimed in while walking past them. A quick study of him, she noted his rather scruffy appearance, the large gun on his back, and the distinctly non-eastern accent. He was a foreigner like her. “You say that ser, as if you might have a better option?” She quickly retorted back before he got too far away. He was either considerate enough to lend his advice when it was not asked for, or arrogant enough to throw his opinions about when unwanted. Either way, Roen would hear him out. It would do her no good to haphazardly spend what coin she brought, especially this early in her journey. Giving the jeweler a sidelong glance, Roen also spied that the woman’s courteous expression had dimmed somewhat, some lines appearing at the edge of the Hingan’s narrowed eyes. She certainly didn’t appreciate the stranger’s unsolicited input. Which made Roen all the more curious to hear what he had to say. She turned where she stood, facing the male fully. Compared to the blonde mercenary, she resembled more of a merchant in traveling clothes, for she wore no armor this sun. She was dressed in a simple but clean overcoat, with detailing that could be seen on Sharlayan garbs. At least, that was what she was told by a merchant in Ul’dah. It was a lighter fare to travel in, without the worries of humidity and the weight of metal armor. Her hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail, and she wore no jewelry nor baubles that advertised any wealth. She was dressed for comfort and travel. She certainly did not carry a large weapon as he did. Roen canted her head expectantly at the stranger, which also brought the Hingan woman’s annoyed gaze upon him as well.
  4. Roen

    Remnants

    “So, do you think you can repair it?” Roen eyed the woman behind the counter as the jeweler continued to study the chronometer in her hands. The older Hingan had brought out pair of glasses to inspect the device more closely, and so far just indistinct mumbles and hums were all Roen had to go by in terms of her assessment. Since the paladin accidentally dropped it while wandering lost in the busy streets of Kogane Dori, she had been unable to find someone who was familiar with magitek technology that seemed comfortable in repairing this particular nonworking timepiece. Had it just been an ordinary gadget, Roen was sure any capable craftsman would have qualified. But this was one of Nero’s treasured personal belongings, and he had a penchant for collecting odd and unique items. Garlean designed devices certainly were one of them. But Kugane was a port city that even showcased a Garlean Consulate in their Ijin district; for certain Roen thought that finding someone capable would not be such a task. Or was it that she was a foreigner herself and she just didn’t know where to look? Who to ask? Having landed not long ago in the East, Roen was careful to abide by the rules here. She was given plenty of advice during the trek across the seas, of what pier she was allowed in and under no circumstances was she to cause any ruckus, violence, or mishaps in the streets of Kugane. The law enforcement -- she was happy to call them that for now for Sekiseigumi was truly a mouthful -- was reputed to be ever strict and unforgiving, especially where foreigners were concerned. And yet the Hingans themselves seemed indisputably polite. All the merchants greeted her with a meek expression and a courteous bow. And just walking about the well swept streets of the marketplace, it was easy to believe why all the different factions could coexist here in peace. Colorful umbrellas hanging above stalls lent a festive air, and the intricate woodwork of the archways and the buildings drew the eyes upwards, to where eventually one could gaze upon the magnificence that was the Kugane Castle. But none of those details helped her right at this moment. She had come to the East for three specific purposes, and the first was already hindered from the start with the clockwork being broken. The carelessness on her part that led to the incident, of just bumping into another person of all things, still made her grimace in reflection. No matter. She would get the chronometer back in working order, then go about fulfilling the purpose of why she had left everyone she knew in Eorzea to come here. “Yes, this is definitely repairable.” The jeweler finally looked up, breaking Roen out of her reverie. “It is a bit of an old piece, an antique I’d say, but all the components are here. I will just need a couple of suns to get it work again.” “Wonderful.” Roen sighed with relief. “My gratitude. How much would that cost?” “Five hundred koban,” the woman answered with a pleasant expression. Roen paused, her brow rising. She was not at all sure about the currency or what labor of such a thing was worth. But she was never the one to haggle. She nodded and began to reach into her bag hanging from one shoulder. “Of course,” she murmured, retrieving her coin pouch. Then she slowed, wincing. “What would that be in gil… exactly?”
  5. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

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

    The Art of Cigarettes and Fireflies

    "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." Commission: A Wish of Cherry Blossoms by lovely BunBunDango!
  7. Roen

    The Art of Cigarettes and Fireflies

    "You got ones like you. That go sniffin', and diggin', and explorin' them darker corners. And then you got the one's that were bred there. You ain't see the true piss of this world. Its people. You's hardly even had a taste. You saw a peek in from the muddy window." Commission: The Underground by Shinjyu I commissioned this piece after the completion of the Underground arc! It included the major players in that took part and I am happy how it turned out! From left to right: Anchor Saltborn, Nabi Kharlu, Tserende Valqirelle, Shael Stormchild, Ghoa Mankhad, and the shadowy silhouette represents Elam Grave (alas!).
  8. Roen

    The Art of Cigarettes and Fireflies

    "Once we laid on a grassy hill, and just listened to the sounds around us, with our eyes closed." Nabi Kharlu by Ruen! You can check out more of Ruen's art here!
  9. Roen

    The Art of Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Nabi watched the sparks disappear toward the heavens, a sense of serenity finding her in that moment. A belief that things would be alright, somehow, in the end. She could have sworn she spied a smile on Anchor’s face too. [Except from this scene] Commission: Nabi and Anchor at the Shogatsu Festival By Yutaan!
  10. Roen

    The Art of Cigarettes and Fireflies

    “He isn’t a hero. He killed so many people today. …But he still saved me.” Commission: Anchor Saltborn By ADPong This commission was inspired by this scene.
  11. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    The last of the lanterns were starting to blink out in the streets of Shirogane, the residents bidding farewell to the day as they readied themselves for the respite of slumber. The crickets’ quiet chirps filled the night air, and the stars littered the sky, matching each light that had been extinguished below by waking ten more above. But the beauty of night was lost on Nabi, her gaze solely upon the man she was laying next to. This was her usual nightly ritual, to drink in the view of Anchor Saltborn as he slept. They would murmur quietly about something or another, and slowly but surely his eyelids would grow heavy. Sometimes he would stifle a yawn, trying to continue to listen to her usual rambles, but as her voice grew softer, Nabi could see in the corner of her eyes his blinks growing slower until finally, sleep claimed him. She was usually soon to follow, but just for a bit, she relished in watching him, as peace settled over his features. But this night, it was not so. Her eyes didn’t leisurely roam over him, carefully tracing the scar that traveled across his face, wondering how old he was when someone marked him so. She didn’t marvel over the tattoos on his cheeks, those that still resembled thorns on a stem of a flowerless rose. Nor did she lean in, almost bringing her lips to press against his, so slightly parted. It looked as if there were words held just within, waiting to escape. Perhaps if she kissed him, she would learn what unspoken sentiments were on the tip of his tongue. But she didn’t want to wake him, so only her breath was allowed to brush his lips. But there was always tender affection that swelled her chest as she lingered just a finger’s breadth away from him. She usually found herself beaming, remembering how soft the tip of his nose was. Despite his scarred face and weathered skin, when she lightly grazed the very tip of his nose with her own, it was always surprisingly soft. But Nabi didn’t revel in any of these things. Not this night. Instead, all she saw were the dark circles under his eyes, lending his sallow cheeks a more ashen hue. Even in sleep, the lines between his brows didn’t diminish. Was it exhaustion? Pain? Fear? All of them, Nabi told herself, and there was a cold shudder that rose from deep within. All those nights she doted on his sleeping visage, she had never thought that parts of him were suffering, his arm slowly becoming lost to the energies of the mutated crystals unseen beneath the enhancement. How could she have been so negligent? She was there when the Curator brutally drove the metal rods into the bones of his forearm, so that they could make him a more deadly killer, a pawn in their bloodsport. Why did she allow him to keep it this long? Anchor needed to get stronger before another surgery, she told herself. Then they both put Batuhan’s needs first, because the Xaela’s condition was much more dire. But after that? Shouldn’t she have insisted that Anchor not return to Ironsong until the enhancement was removed? Why didn’t she beg, plead, or say anything to get him to agree to do away with that cursed gauntlet, before they set out for the ruins deep in the heart of the Steppe? Nabi already knew the answer. She had grown too complacent. Too happy. She was busy making him a nameday cake. Planning beach picnics. She wanted to cry and laugh ruefully at the same time. While she was sharing sunsets and fireflies, his arm was slowly being corrupted and warped. So when Anchor stepped up to protect her, when he took it upon himself to become her shield against an angry spirit that haunted the ruins, it costed him dearly. The ghost drained his aether and scrambled his memories, and destabilized the crystals beneath the metal, causing them to shatter and embedded themselves further along his arm. Shael blamed Otsuyu, the ghost of the ruins. But Nabi knew better. She herself allowed this to happen. She was the reason that the gauntlet was on Anchor in the first place. He was forced to use the gauntlet and his aether because of what he did for her. And they had all volunteered to travel to the ruins for her sake. None of it would have happened, if it weren’t for her. Nabi could look on him no longer. Her eyes were spilling over with hot tears, her chest starting to burn. She had refused to show her despair during the surgery, and even after. Anchor couldn’t know of her guilt. He would only be upset, and he needed to focus all his energies on his recovery. For unlike after the escape from the mountain, Anchor now seemed more frail than ever. At least in the fighting pits, his tenacity always burned stubbornly behind his gaze, no matter how broken his body was. But after the ruins, racked with pain and exhaustion both physical and mental, Nabi watched as the man before her struggle with keeping his thoughts in the present. Otsuyu had ravaged his memories, and Nabi wasn’t sure if all could be regained and when. Nabi quickly brushed away the moisture from her cheeks, pulling her brows into a tight frown. She couldn’t let Anchor see her like this, just in case he accidentally woke. She pressed her lips in a determined line instead, and curled in closer to him. She almost listened for his heartbeat, a sound that used to bring her comfort in times of darkness. But now she could only hear that distant thrum, that other presence that beat and hummed alongside his heart. Nabi shut her eyes, burying her face into the pillow as more tears began to flow. Not even the sight of the fireflies taking flight would give her peace. She balled herself up beneath the blankets, thankful that the sheets muffled her quiet sobs through the night.
  12. I've always wanted to share with people here all the art that have been created for the characters in the story thread Cigarettes and Fireflies. So I will post them here as I obtain the permission from the various artists to repost them! They are all lovely and some of them from specific points in the story. I can't wait to share them all! Also the respective artists and where to find them will be posted under each piece. I invite others (I am looking at you Anchor/Ruen and Ghoa) to post any art if you'd like too since I know you have some really great ones! You are totally welcomed to do so! It was just after nightfall, when the tall blades of grass swayed and rippled like the sea across the plains of the Azim Steppe. At first, when the lights appeared all around her, she thought that the moon itself had dusted the fields. But when she blinked her tears away, she saw the countless fireflies rising up from the waves of the meadows and quickly her sniffles gave way to a sigh of wonder. The first commission: Nabi Amongst the Fireflies Artist: Sangrde @ https://www.deviantart.com/sangrde
  13. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Years ago... Chanai never relished in the visions, even though everyone else heralded them as gifts from the gods. When she had her first vision at the age of twelve, Siban declared her one of the blessed daughters of Nhaama, seeing through the eyes of the Dusk Mother, able to interpret the omens of things to come. To Chanai, they were but nightmares that came to her in the light of day. So when another revelation came to her, Chanai tried to dig her fingernails into her palm and shut her eyes, shaking it off. She had so little time to spare. But it was never any use, there was no denying the Sight, for who could refuse the gods? But this time, it was the flowers who would not be spurned. Even as her hands worked to carefully dip the golden petals into the vials, her fingers lost their strength, the glass tube sliding from her grip. Her lips parted in a silent gasp and her entire body stilled. Her Sight took her elsewhere, no longer kneeling before the flower bed in the atrium. “Mide… Mide, don’t! Please!” The woman’s voice was desperate and hoarse. Chanai stood stark still, as she stared down at the woman on the ground. A Xaela, in her mid twenties mayhap, was trying to propel herself forward, trembling arms and elbows pulling the rest of her immobile body along the ground. Dark crimson smears stained the rug behind her, and it was still flowing fresh from the woman’s mouth and eyes. Poison. Chanai knew the sight all too well. Behind the dying woman was a mound of pillows and blankets, a large bed surrounded by candles and incense. Two goblets were turned on their sides, the liquid that had spilled from within splotching the furs below. And upon the bed was another figure, this one male, with dark lifeblood staring to coagulate around his lips and jaw. But the woman had somehow survived long enough to drag herself halfway across the yurt. Even before Chanai turned her head to follow the dying woman’s gaze, she heard the cry. And her heart stopped. It was a newly born baby -- she would know that cry anywhere. It reminded her of her own daughter she held in her arms so many years ago. And to her horror, the scene witnessed before her seemed all too familiar. An older woman, draped in a heavy necklace of bones and carved rocks -- those that marked her as the tribe’s udgan -- was cradling that infant in her arm. And the other, held a knife, its sharpened blade gleaming orange in the distant candlelight. “Mide... she is a but a baby,” the doomed Xaela woman croaked. Her breaths were coming haltingly between sobs and her tears did little to wash away the red that was still spilling from her mouth. She did not have long, but there was a stubbornness in her eye; she would plead for her child until her last breath. “You… you can hide the truth. You can raise her… none need to see the mark! You need not…” “I am sorry, Yisu. This must be done.” Such a look of sorrow the older Xaela wore, Chanai could not doubt the depth of her regret. “She bares the mark. It bodes ill for all. For all.” The udgan repeated, as if to convince herself as well as the fading mother of the deed that needed to be done. “You… you were the one that b-blessed us! Consecrated our union! That it would bring forth peace!” Yisu’s despair turned into one of fury and indignation even in her final moments. She spat out more blood as her voice rose, she would have screamed at the elder if not for her lungs being choked of her last breaths of air. “I was wrong!” The udgan was shaking now as well, her body racked with remorse. “I thought the visions were of peace. Not… this. Not this!” “P-please… I… I b-beg… of you…” Yisu could no longer move, and her head sank with the heavy weight of impending death. She could only claw at the rug beneath her as her hair fell around her face and her body convulsed one last time before it fell limp. She could not even lay her eyes upon her own child one last time. Chanai turned away, as the shadow of the elder Xaela and the babe was cast on to the far wall of the yurt. She could not watch. She closed her eyes as the babe’s coos came to an abrupt end. Her own harsh intake of breath broke the silence around her, and Chanai’s eyes snapped open. The golden flowers still swayed all around her, but the extract from the vial she was holding was no more, the glass having fallen to the soft soil, spilling all its contents. Chanai chided herself quietly as she snatched the vial up again. She didn’t have much time before the golden colors started to fade from its peak. She also didn’t turn when she heard the familiar clacking of wooden staff upon stone, accompanied by the clattering of bones and beads. Of course, she thought to herself. Of course, she would be here. “Ten winters,” Siban broke the silence. Despite her advanced years, the clarity of her voice still could cut through stone. “She was never meant to live this long.” Chanai didn’t turn, but her lips pressed into a tight frown. “It’s because of the mark.” Her fingers trembled but she exhaled to calm them. The proportions of the reagents must be exact. “Have the flowers shown you the truth as well? It was never about peace.” Her words tasted bitter on her tongue and Chanai made no effort to soften them. Siban did not answer right away, but she did approach closer to the center of the atrium. The winter chill had already clung to the stones, and there were patches of ice along the crevice. But the goosebumps that ran along Chanai’s arms was from the memory of the wet sound of a blade’s end meeting flesh. She focused on mixing the solvent, then gently starting to soak the petals in them again. If Siban brought others to take her former pupil back to the tribe, then so be it. But until she was forcibly torn from her task, she was determined to work on the medicine for her daughter. “They showed me the same time they showed you,” Siban’s voice was quieter and nearer. It was also full of guilt. Just like Mide’s. “Like all visions, portents can be interpreted differently. Even the most violent storms give way to the clearer skies after. Mide was afraid that…” “I don’t care anymore!” Chanai snapped back, cutting the elder off. “Ill omens and great change wrought through destruction… this was never what I wanted.” She set the vial upon the ground, digging its tip into the soil to settle it before she turned to look at Siban. There was fury that was burning within her. “I cursed my own blood for a futile ambition. I stole her life even before it began.” Her clenched hand shook along with her voice. “So I intend to do everything in my power to give her a normal, full life.” The aged woman’s visage didn’t flinch at her pupil’s outrage. The lines around her eyes lengthened as she studied the flowers behind the Xaela. Her wrinkled hands clutched heavily onto the gnarled wooden staff she was leaning on. “You may give her another five… ten years? Then what?” Chanai’s nostrils flared. Siban knew as much as she did. The udgan had seen as much as she did. But the elder didn’t love her child like she did. Siban only saw what the gods chose to show her. She didn’t feel the resolve, the absolute undeniable conviction that a mother would, to defy all the gods to give her daughter what she deserved. “Then I do whatever it takes,” Chanai rasped with a lift of her chin. Then satisfied that none but her mentor came for her, and that she would be powerless to take her back, the younger Xaela turned back to her work. I will save Nabi. Whatever it takes.
  14. Roen

    Cigarettes and Fireflies

    Kugane had always been a busy port city, but the pier was where it was the noisiest and most crowded. Ships were always coming and going, with streams of seafarers and passengers disembarking and or loading ships. Traders and merchants were ever eager to make koban, and sailors were hungry for whatever diversions the land had to offer. There was always so much to see and smell on the docks. Whenever Nabi begged to accompany her mother there, Chanai always warned her not to lose sight of her, nor let go of her hand or the fabric of her robe. Nabi always thought that it meant there were dangerous people there. The stories of pirates weren’t lost on her after all, even at the tender age of eight winters. But under the watchful eye of the Sekiseigumi, she always felt safe, knowing that there wasn’t any real threat of violence or thievery. But she clung to her mother’s skirts dutifully each time, while her wide eyes wandered about, taking in all the sights. Once Nabi was in her teens, her mother felt more at ease in letting her go about the city as she pleased. But the docks she still cautioned her daughter against. So it became Nabi’s little secret to sneak onto the piers whenever her mother left the shores of Kugane to journey to Yanxia. While she never considered herself a disobedient child, she was always curious about the lands her mother journeyed to. Nabi was not yet allowed to go with her mother offshore, so sitting on the docks, usually on a pile of crates as she watched the ships disappear into the horizon, was as close as she could get to imagining the lands beyond. She remembered vaguely the tall grass that lined the plains of the Steppe, and the throng of yurts with horses and children running about. But as the years went by, those images were losing their clarity, fading from her memories. She still recalled the sea of fireflies though, that first night when she was lost by herself in the plains. It was a sight she would never forget. Such were the daydreams that Nabi replayed before her eyes as she stared off into the ocean, when sounds of shouting caught her attention. Nabi paused, her hand just hovering over her bag of roasted chestnuts, looking to where the ruckus was coming from. It was a boy -- no a man, he was too tall for a boy -- with skinny arms and lean features. And there was a tattoo on one side of his face, on his dirt ridden cheek. It was the mark, rather than his unwashed appearance, that caught her eye. She thought it was pretty, like the bent stem of a rose with all the thorns. But it had no flower. The scruffy looking hyur was grousing at another bigger sailor who was threatening him about stealing. If there hadn’t been other vendors yelling and hawking their wares, Nabi was certain that this heated exchange would have caught the attention of the law. But the larger sailor didn’t seem intent on calling on the authorities; instead he curled his hand into a fist and held it up in between them. It made Nabi hop off her perch nervously, as she started to make her way back toward the Hostelry. But she couldn’t keep her eyes off the dispute. The large sailor reached to grab the tattooed man by the arm, but the thinner male jerked away with a furious look. It looked as if though there might be impending violence, but the younger man spun away and made his way off the pier, leaving the sailor fuming. But curiously, he still didn’t call for the Sekiseigumi. Wide eyed and stilled, Nabi watched as the tattooed man stalked by her, and it was obvious he didn’t notice her for he roughly shouldered past. Nabi stumbled to the side, but in the press of the crowded dock, the hyur also didn’t see the small pouch that dropped from his belt. When Nabi saw the bigger male also turn away in a huff, she bent to retrieve the dropped purse. The tattooed man was already at the end of the pier by the time she raised it to call for him. But what would she call him? A man of thorns? It should have mattered to Nabi that the younger man also did not bear a favorable disposition when he jerked away from the other sailor, or that he was unwashed and looked unkempt, and even somewhat sickly. At least, these were all the reasons that she could hear in her head as Mimiyo lectured to her about staying away from strangers, but it didn’t really matter to her. He dropped something accidentally and what if it was important to him? And without knowing how to get his attention amongst the rowdy atmosphere of the pier, she hurried after him. After weaving through the mass of people, Nabi managed to follow him around three more corners before she caught a glimpse of him entering the canals. Now both her mother and Mimiyo’s voice were louder than ever in her head. She was never to go down into the canals, after all. And looking into the long dark tunnel that seemed endless before her, Nabi was starting to understand why. I am only going to return this and then leave as soon as possible, Nabi promised those voices and herself, gathering her courage to take a few more steps in. With each corner she rounded, she stretched her neck as far as possible, just trying to spot the owner of the small pouch she carried. A smile of relief brightened her features when she turned into a narrower canal and finally spotted him. The humidity was starting to weigh her clothes, and the stale odor of the aqueducts stung her nose. But she was determined in this task. She paused just at the bend, her face half hidden behind the stones as she watched the tattooed man settle down near one of the steaming vents, possibly for warmth. He had a small rolled blanket nearby and a pack as well. Did he live here? Does he not have a home? Mimiyo did warn her that there were unsavory and dangerous folk in the canals. Nabi chewed her lips, her tail swishing side to side nervously as she hesitated. What would she say? What if he thought she stole it? What if he was still angry? Nabi frowned to herself. What was the point of her coming down here if she was just going to back out now? She straightened and exhaled. She was sure he would simply understand if she just explained-- “Ya lost little thing?” A gruff voice behind her made Nabi jump. She spun around to see the larger sailor she had seen earlier on the dock, except now he was accompanied by two other hyurs. And they were all wearing blades by their hip. “A place like this ain’t for the likes o’ ya.” “Oh! Yes! Sorry! I’m-- I was--” Nabi squealed, her words turning into something incoherent as her lips started to tremble and her breath caught in her throat. Suddenly she was recalling all the worst possible stories that she had ever heard about the canals and they were reverberating loud in her head. She was sure her heart was going to leap right out of her chest the way it was racing. “Now I think she’s gonna cry.” One of the other hyur tutted. “Git. Git on outta here.” He looked back to the larger sailor, dismissing her as if she was a bug. “Ya sure he’s down here?” Nabi didn't wait for the answer; she skittered past them, nearly tripping over herself as she did so. The three men strode past her and turned into the narrow tunnel, their hands resting on the hilt of their swords. Nabi was sure it was the tattooed man they were seeking. But much to her relief, no shouts or any sounds of conflict came soon thereafter. The three men’s voices continued to grow distant, and when she couldn’t hear anything they were saying, Nabi poked her head around again and found that indeed, the tattooed man wasn’t there any more. And the three sailors continued their way further down the canal. What was she still doing down here? Now Nabi was scolding her own self. Perhaps she wasn’t meant to return whatever was in this pouch. It was a silly idea, she was certain Mimiyo would say just the same. But as Nabi was about to turn back, she spotted something in the corner of her eye. It was a small slip of fabric, part of that bedroll she had seen earlier, peeking out from the grated vent alongside the wall. It was where the tattooed man was sitting before. Licking her lips, Nabi craned her neck again to make certain the three men were far down the tunnel, before she too rounded the corner and approached that very spot. Indeed, there was a cavity that was well hidden in the shadows, low to the ground just next to the vent. And there was a small pack and a rolled up blanket there. How clever! Nabi told herself as she knelt down. A little hidey hole. She retrieved the pouch from her belt and tucked it into the pack, then after a thought, stuffed the bag of roasted chestnuts there too. Who knows? If he had no home, he could also be hungry. And these were delicious snacks. But when she started to hear the grumbling of the three men again, she bolted up and raced out of the canals as fast as she could. Her task was complete and the canal was still scary. But by the time she returned home, there was a silly smile about her face. It was as if she went on her own adventure, just as her mother did! Nabi wouldn’t be able to tell her about it, she was sure she would receive a stern scolding besides. And she had no plans of returning there ever again! But still, there was a sense of triumph that settled upon her shoulders. That silly smile returned when, a few suns later, Nabi spotted the tattooed man again on the docks. He looked as surly as ever, but unhurt. Which meant the three men didn’t find him. It wasn’t that she thought he was a good person but… his tattoo was nice and she didn’t want to think of anyone getting hurt. “Did you swallow something you shouldn’t?” Her mother’s hand upon her shoulder made Nabi jump. Chanai was looking at her, a curious expression twisting her lips. “Why are you smiling like that?” Nabi blinked, her eyes wide as saucers. She couldn’t possibly tell her mother what she did, and yet… her finger automatically rose and pointed at the tattooed man across the pier. “I returned something to him that he dropped on the docks, the other sun.” She shrugged her small shoulders. “I am glad to see he’s okay.” Her mother followed her gaze, her own becoming distant and pensive. Nabi saw that look in her mother’s eyes from time to time, where she would go quiet suddenly, and her eyes would glaze over as if she was seeing some mirage in front of her. She blinked out of it after a few moments, as she always did. Her hand squeezed upon her daughter’s shoulder and she looked back down at her. “You are to never go back into the canals again.” Chanai’s voice held a firm warning. Nabi stared up at her, her mouth agape. This wasn’t the first time her mother just happened to know something that Nabi never told her, but it was the first time she seemed upset with something. Or at least, there was something that seemed unsettled about her mother’s usually serene air. Nabi didn’t try to deny it, she just nodded, and started to blubber out a response. “I-I didn’t mean.... I won’t! I promise. I’m sorry!” Chanai lowered herself to her knees, leveling her gaze with Nabi’s own. There was no ire in her mother’s soft voice, and her hand rose to cradle Nabi’s cheek. “I am not angry with you. Just promise me you won’t go down there anymore. I know you were just trying to be helpful, but I don’t want you getting hurt. Now… or later.“ She sighed, and Nabi thought her mother seemed more sad than anything. And that only made Nabi fret and nod even more vigorously. “I promise! Really! Never again!” “Good,” Chanai said quietly, gently caressing Nabi’s cheek with her thumb. But her eyes drifted back across the dock to where the tattooed man was continuing to go from ship to ship. That sadness then left the older Xaela’s face, giving way to something more pensive. “There will be another time,” she whispered to herself. Then drawing a deep breath, her mother rose and took her by her hand. “My next trip to Yanxia, you are coming with me. Would you like that?” Nabi gasped, beaming up at her mother. All thoughts of the tattooed man and the canals flitted away with the excitement. “Oh! More than anything! I would love to!” Chanai nodded and began walking again, and Nabi followed eagerly. Her mother's path led her further down the pier, her pace slowing when she came upon a ship that had recently docked. Nabi's gaze followed up the tall main mast of the ship to the flag flying above, a black crow holding a blade upon blue. “This will be the ship we will travel upon,” Chanai said quietly, giving her daughter a sidelong glance. “They are Confederates, so be wary and careful around them. But their deal is fair.” Nabi nodded dumbly to her mother’s advice, her mouth parted wide open in awe as she stared up at the ship. Her eyes drank in the sight of the sails and the colors painted on them. And the name upon it... it strangely made her smile. The idea that something strong could still sing, it felt right. She whispered the name to herself, the vessel that would carry her and her mother to and fro to the mainland. Ironsong.
  15. Roen

    Hi Hello Hey

    Hello! Welcome! (and what a cute smile)
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