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Roen shrugged. “I knew no other way to deliver the message. And I was in the east for other reasons. But…” She frowned, studying the Xaela with more care. She knew not who this woman was nor her motivations. Roen only knew that she was likely capable enough to deal with two mercenaries and therefore should not be underestimated. She also guessed that a foreigner threatening those of her kind would probably not go over well.

“The threat is not mine. As I said, I seek a friend. He had traveled to the west, and that was where we met.” She glanced to Ashur thoughtfully before continuing. “I want to warn his people of others. Those who are coming for him. Or… more accurately his people.”

She crossed his arms and looked between the Xaela and Ashur. “If you can help us navigate the tribes at the Reunion,  then we can provide escort there, to at least ensure there are no others who would be tempted to rummage through your belongings.”

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These Hingans were unfailingly polite.   To Ashur, that was not a particularly glowing compliment. In fact, the Hyur was practically gnashing his teeth when he stepped onto Kugane's docks. D

Roen shot a sharp glare in Ashur’s direction.   “It may not be our problem, but someone might need our help.” Roen waited awhile longer to make certainly whatever the source of the noise was

"Depends on what you can do," the Xaela said idly, twirling a black lock around her finger. Her green gaze was marked with some vague curiosity, the way one might look at a mutant fruit or a presumabl

Ashur nodded his assent. "You can be sure that we're a bit less foolish than to go poking around with shiny lights, at the least."


The Xaela's expression didn't change, but she shifted her stance from one leg to another, seemingly in assent. She traded hard stares between the two of them for what felt like too much time before finally sighing. "Then I suppose you two will do. I could stand to do significantly worse, that much is evident to me." The Xaela gave a meaningful and rather baleful glare at the unconscious Elezen on the ground.


Ashur breathed his own sigh of slight relief. While there were plenty of reasons to be apprehensive--he knew nothing about this Xaela--even having someone with a vague understanding of navigating the tribes at Reunion was at least a small comfort. It ensured that they would not be flying totally blind. Hopefully.


The Au Ra returned her thoughtful gaze to Roen. "Though, I must admit I am rather curious to know the nature of this warning. Your Khadai would believe it that much more if it came from me than from you, after all. If what you say is true, that is. Perhaps my name will convince you to tell me here? That is, if the name of Tsenkhai means anything to you. I would certainly be surprised if a foreigner did know of it, though."

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That singular word alone made Roen freeze, her eyes widening with surprise.


“I was Tsenkhai, once. Capable of interpreting the Correspondence.” Even now, Kasrjin’s voice returned to her easily. And so did other stories that he had told her over time of his people. And recalling them, it drew forth a wary frown that darkened her countenance.


“You…” Roen looked to the Xaela incredulously. “You are a Tsenkhai?” Her crossed arms uncurled and fell limp by her side. “You are of his tribe?” She couldn’t believe it. His people resided in the north, near the glaciers. What was she doing this far south? Or here at all? But then again, Kasrjin himself had traveled all the way to Ishgard. They had magical means of making such a journey. It made her both relieved and suspicious at the same time.


“How do I know that you are one of his people?” Roen squinted her eyes, looking her over for anything obsidian she might be wearing. “Do you know whom I speak of? He had traveled to the west. Then he returned to his home.” She blinked, another thought occurring to her. “He did return home, to his people, didn’t he?”

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Ashur wasn't entirely sure what was going on at first, but when Roen seemed to label this Xaela as one of the tribe that they were looking for, he almost immediately stiffened. Just as quickly he was careful to try to relax his stance so as not to give away anything too untoward, but if the Au Ra woman's slight glance towards him was any indication, that plan already failed. She was a perceptive one.


The Xaela sighed, seemingly in irritation as she rubbed her temple with her index finger. "While you seem to know more than I thought, I can hardly say I am surprised at your reaction. For one, it is rather presumptuous of you to believe that I am constantly aware of every single Khadai present or absent. For two, you are the one who must prove yourselves to me. And for three, if you truly knew a Khadai, then you would know enough about them to know how unflappable they are about their 'duty'. Unless he is dead or his mission requires him to be elsewhere, then your friend is certainly back where he belongs."


The Au Ra paced ever so slightly, placing the firepit between herself, and Ashur and Roen. "Though, this does answer some of my questions. You won't find any Aljai at Reunion; not at this time of year, perhaps not for several years. And asking myself to prove my caste as Tsenkhai would more than likely both of you similar to...them." The Xaela waved rather dismissively at the unconscious Elezen. "I am sure you can tell that I do not have any of the implements that you foreigners usually require to cast magic. Your...sticks or books or whatnot. Such things are unnecessary. Surely that will suffice, unless you feel you require a firsthand demonstration." Her tone was one of idleness, almost boredom, rather than that of a threat or a warning.


Nonetheless, Ashur not-so-subtlely placed his right hand on his hip; the opposite side of his shortsword, but the implication was clear enough.

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Roen eyed the movements of both Ashur and the Xaela, holding out her palms towards both of them to calm the situation.


“I assure you, conflict with anyone from your tribe is not what we seek." She gave Ashur a pointed look first, before turning to fully face the Xaela. “We are not here to rob anyone. And… if it is as you say and the Aljai will be not visiting the Reunion in the near future… then you are the best chance we have.” Roen was not hesitant to admit things as they were.


“And I had asked about my friend because…” Her voice quieted, her brows pulled with concern. “I was worried for him. That is all. His time in Ishgard was not necessarily without danger.” She pressed her lips for a moment in thought, wondering if she should continue. But she had already decided to trust Ashur enough to accompany him, and now she needed to at least earn the same from this Xaela as well, if they hoped to gain her aid in any of this.


“You may not know all the Khadai, but surely you must know of the one that was once Tsenkhai.” She was gambling that such a thing was not a common occurrence within his people. “He was sent west to retrieve an item that would save his people. Surely, you must know of this particular Khadai.”

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Given how taciturn and eerily placid this Au Ra had been so far, Ashur at first thought he'd imagined it when her brow seemed to twitch in response to Roen's inquiry, and her pause was marked. He withheld a sigh. Why couldn't anyone just admit if they knew something? Everything had to be a damn secret, apparently; he was tiring of it.


"I know that such an idea you've suggested is absurd, and that you would think it such too if you knew our ways. For Tsenkhai to become Khadai is for a hurricane to become a stone. But I suspect it my fault for expecting such depth of knowledge from a foreigner. No, I don't know of whom you speak, and if there exists one who matches your description, then I doubt he'd ever be allowed to leave the homeland. So all the more reason to not wonder to his fate. At worse, he is in safe captivity." The Xaela snorted haughtily. "The outside world would not trouble him much."


Ashur didn't have a totally clear idea of what was going on, but what seemed to matter was that this Xaela woman was part of the tribe he needed to contact, and so far Roen seemed to know what questions to ask. He glanced at her meaningfully. How sacred of a relic was this keystone to them? It would surely not do to trespass on some tribal taboo, not when this seemed to be their only point of contact.

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Roen noticed the pause as well. She didn’t know this Xaela at all, and she was infuriatingly self-possessed, to the point of arrogance. Which meant that she felt no threat in this situation and she was used to controlling the circumstances and events around her. As Roen recalled the various details that Kasrjin shared about the Tsenkhai, she was not surprised. And it made her all that more suspicious and wary.


But this Xaela was the only point of contact they had so far. She was their only link. If what she said of the rest of her tribe was true, there would be none of Kasrjin’s people found at the Reunion. They had no choice but to deal with this woman, if what she claimed to be was true. But there were also her peculiar choices in words. Why did she phrase things as she did? As if Kasrjin would be forced into captivity? Not allowed to leave?


“You are right. I know not of your people. Only what I learned in the short time that I traveled with the Khadai of whom I speak. But I hope what you are implying is false. That he would be kept locked away for his own safety. He has a will of his own. He risked his life to fulfill what he was sent out to do,  to save his people. That deserves recognition, but also freedom so that he could make more choices for himself. He chose to return back home for the good of all.” Roen paused, before she accidentally shared anything out loud about the betrayal. That was his secret, not hers. But her frown remained. “But he hoped that should I seek out his people at the Reunion, that someday we may meet again. He did not return home to be sequestered away from the rest of the world.”


Roen watched her closely as she continued. “I know some things of your ways, and that the Tsenkhai decides what is best for all. Would you have decided the same for him then?”

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The Xaela seemed to visibly falter somewhat at Roen's words, and while her demeanour hardened relatively quickly, her expression was not as stony as it had been. Something about what Roen had said affected her. Ashur kept the mildly annoyed expression off his face--he'd have felt better had Roen forced the Xaela to reveal her hand by asking directly about the keystone--but as long as they got the results that they needed, their line of inquiry didn't particularly matter. At least not yet.


The Au Ra folded her arms together, exhaling softly. She traded glances between the smoldering firepit, the sky, and her leather moccasins. Even the shimmering light from her gleaming limbal rings seemed to dull somewhat, blunting their initial sharpness as she looked at Roen. Ashur didn't have much hope of comprehending exactly what their exchange meant...but perhaps they would give him answers later.


"Did he give you his name? This Khadai you speak so highly of." The Xaela finally asked.

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Roen was watching her carefully as well, and as the Xaela’s demeanor shifted ever so slightly, she wondered if this woman knew Kasrjin. Knowing as much, or little, as she did of the Tsenkhai, Roen knew them to be careful, calculating, and powerful. It would be foolish to trust this woman, she needed to keep in mind that everything that the Xaela had said so far, was likely for her own benefit and not theirs. They were strangers after all, and foreigners to boot.


Still, those small changes in the woman's countenance, it told Roen enough.


“Kasrjin,” she said quietly, grey eyes intently meeting the gaze within those limbal rings. “He was a determined man, driven, focused, but… also bluntly honest. And… good.” Her own expression started to soften as she reflected on her time with the Khadai. “He helped me, and I him. I aided him in retrieving what he needed to return to his people.”


Roen studied the Xaela as she continued, but she had not forgotten about Ashur. She knew that as the conversation went on, it was inevitable that more details would be shared, those that he would likely be keenly interested in, that she had purposefully not spoke of. But she too was getting tired of the run around and the insinuations. If she and Ashur hoped to help his mother, learn of the keystone, and also warn Kasrjin’s people, all the cards had to be laid out for everyone to see.

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The Xaela's expression softened considerably. "The only way you could know that is if he told you. Which means that by the end of it all, he must have held you in high regard...or, given his nature, enough regard. Which is its own sort of praise. Even a foreigner like you should understand that." While the Au Ra still held a stiff, firm stance, her steely demeanour seemed to retreat, at least for now. "In this particular case, you are right; I do know of him. He did manage to return, and he is currently being held in our temple. Not precisely as a prisoner, exactly...I'm not sure how to explain it in a way a foreigner would understand. A monument, I suppose? Though I am sure the nuance of such a distinction is lost on you."


Ashur could only guess at the greater context of this conversation, since it seemed to involve someone he didn't know and a culture of which he knew even less. Which was all well and good, but he was tired of waiting. "Did his return include a keystone?" Ashur asked rather bluntly. "Some kind of black rock, shaped in a sphere."


The Au Ra seemed taken aback by his forthright question. "It...did. I am beginning to think that encountering the two of you was more fortuitous than I initially thought. I can only assume that if you are asking about it, then you seek to take it."


"Would that be a problem?" Ashur grunted, folding his arms. To his surprise, the Xaela shook her head.


"Not quite, though the others of my kind would likely disagree. You will need me, however. A Tsenkhai is needed to approach our grounds safely, unless it was in your plans to fight through a glacier you have no hope of navigating," the Au Ra said. "Though if you had managed to run into some Aljai at Reunion, that might have sufficed, for a time."

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Roen stared at the Xaela. There was a lot to process, and she wasn’t sure where to begin.


“What do you mean by… held?” She didn’t like that term at all, monument or no. But that wasn’t all. She too shook her head, for an entirely different sentiment. “Kasrjin risked his life to bring that keystone back. And… you have no problem letting us us take it?” This was clearly not the norm for the tribe, that much was obvious. The Xaela even said the others of her kind would object.

“Exactly what happened to Kasrjin?” Her eyes were narrowed, with both a hint of concern but also confusion. “And why is it that you are willing to help us take something from your tribe, that he claimed would save your people?”

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The Au Ra shrugged again, seemingly in exasperation. "As I said, I doubt you would appreciate the nuance. Let us simply call him a prisoner, then, since I believe that's all the terminology you need to understand. He entered our temple and there is no indication that he will ever be let out ever again, for as long as the sun endures. The keystone did--does--preserve our people, but his life and the lives of others are the price. Simply put, taking the keystone will save him, and others."


"And I presume you have a plan for accomplishing that, or you wouldn't be out here," Ashur observed somewhat sardonically. He didn't know this 'Kasrjin' and wasn't really interested in tribal politics. He was just glad that the conversation was now on something that actually mattered, whether they wanted to admit it or not.


"Of a sorts. Hence why I was looking for mercenaries. Your...motivations make you especially compelling choices for employment." The shape the Xaela's lips curled into couldn't precisely be called a smile; it was an unnerving facsimile of one.

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Roen’s expression slowly flattened. It was exasperating to continue to listen to this Xaela who refused to explain things, just assuming that it was far beyond their capacity to understand. Perhaps it was Au Ra who lacked the words to properly communicate in the first place.


She let out a measured sigh, pinching her nose, dismissing her annoyance and collecting her composure. Even if this woman grated on her nerves, she was still their best chance of reaching her tribe and helping Kasrjin. And possibly even getting their hands on the keystone. Only… Roen knew she also couldn’t let Ashur return it to his employers either in the end. But first things first.

“What do you seek out of all this?” Roen narrowed her eyes, studying the Xaela. “And what is your plan?”

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"I'd like some leverage to influence tribal politics. Things as they are now are a bit...hmm, strict. My people should be given the freedom to live as they want, and in order to enact that, I'll have to convince the others. Giving you the keystone gives me that leverage. Doing so also sets Kasrjin free from his bondage." The Au Ra snapped a finger. "And just like that, all of us receive what we want. I will have the power necessary to make life for us a bit better, Kasrjin is freed from his imprisonment, and some merry foreigners can have some magical bauble to...sell? Or whatever it is you intend to do."


Ashur raised his eyebrow slightly. Yes, that did indeed seem to give everyone what they wanted, for the most part. He didn't know Roen's friend but he assumed she would want him to be freed; this Xaela could do whatever tribal thing they wanted, and he could take the keystone back to Ishgard. It was suspiciously perfect, perhaps, but also the best option available to them now.


"And you need us because...?" Ashur asked.


The Xaela twirled a finger idly around a loose dreadlock. "There are elements of my tribe's magic that only works on people who have undergone certain rituals. Simply put, I won't be able to carry out the keystone myself. But I can get you inside. Foreigners would be unusual, but given my position, nothing that would be excess cause for alarm. I will get you inside, and then you will take the keystone, and then you leave. Quite simple, all things considered."

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It was sounding too perfect. Everyone was getting what they wanted. It was almost too good to be true. Roen still hadn’t forgotten the betrayal that Kasrjin had suffered, and it was amongst his own tribe. This Xaela was just yet another proof that things weren’t as cohesive and communal as he had believed his people to be.


“Before we agree to this plan, I need to know more,” Roen insisted. “What will happen to your people without the keystone? And just why is Kasrjin even a prisoner after what he did? This temple you speak of, is it where you keep…” She paused for the right word. “Souls?”


Roen had too many questions. She shot a look to Ashur, wariness clear in her eyes, but mostly to implore for patience. Undoubtedly he too would have more questions following her own... seemingly unbelievable ones. “Do you know of the place where we retrieved this keystone? Because that place was…” She licked her lips, now truly at a loss for how to describe it. “...Unbelievable. And it wielded magic far beyond any scope of understanding I had.”

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The Xaela shot Roen a peculiar glance, something of a mix between disbelief and curiosity. "He told you much of us, it seems. I am not sure if it is because you are just that trustworthy or if perhaps his sense of discretion had lapsed while he was in the West." The Au Ra slowly began pacing. Ashur, for his part, was getting tired of standing in the darkness and sat down on the damp undergrowth. He didn't quite understand this conversation, but a part of him said that he didn't need to. If it would get him his objective, then that was really all that mattered.


"Our temple is more than just a repository; in fact, that is a relatively minor function, and not one that is used very frequently," the Au Ra continued. "Without the keystone, it will likely bleed aether for...oh, a few centuries, I suppose. There will be no immediate harm, not in our lifetimes, if that's what you're concerned about. We'll all be long dead before the effects will truly be felt."


"If that's true, why retrieve it so early?" Ashur asked. The Xaela, for his efforts, passed him an irritated glance.


"Preventative action. We are not in the habit of leaving things to the last minute. As for Kasrjin, as I said, he is a...monument, of sorts. Like a trophy, or a badge to the accomplishment that he is. I expect you'll either know of what I am speaking, or you won't. How much did he tell you?" The Xaela stopped pacing and fixed her gaze on Roen. "It would certainly be to both our benefit if I knew what I may speak of and what I may not."

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Roen blinked, feeling a bit placed on the spot. There were tidbits she had picked up regarding the details of his tribe, but it wasn’t as if Kasrjin had been overly forthcoming when it came to the ways of his people. And her explanation of what had happened to him was disconcerting to say the least. Make someone a monument for their heroic deed? What kind of tradition was that? If she knew anything about her friend was that Kasrjin was definitely not the type to want or even enjoy such an accolade, much less being held captive.


She slowly moistened her lips and shifted her weight, beginning to walk slowly around the fire. She was too restless to sit as Ashur did, especially if the Xaela was also not relaxed enough to do so.


“It was not as if he sat down and gave me lessons about his people. We just talked. Over a period of time that we knew each other. He was honest. Almost to a fault.” She cleared her throat. Why was she even defending him to this woman? “He told me he was injured long ago, and was kept in a… stasis? Then brought back into the body of another. One who used to be Tsenkhai. And he still had some memories of him.”


Roen’s eyes flickered to the Xaela. “But he held to the belief that this keystone was essential in keeping the ways of your people. And that the temple, where aether was held static, it was becoming more erratic and your people used…” She paused with a frown, straining to recall what Kasrjin had told her. At the time, she found it all rather difficult to understand. “An alphabet, a manifestation of the aether, to communicate, to learn, to predict things. To thrive.”


Roen mulled over her own recollection for a moment, before she canted her head pensively. “So without the keystone, the aether would just dissipate into the land, away from this temple? And your people would learn to live without this… Correspondence?”

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The Au Ra clicked her tongue, though whether it was in disapproval or something else--curiosity, maybe--wasn't completely clear. "That is more than I expected. Count yourself lucky as one of the only--if not the only foreigner to have such in-depth knowledge of us. Still, that makes this easier. Kasrjin is being held as proof that vessels can be repurposed successfully, to great effect. Our temple has numerous competent souls: the memories, personalities, and abilities of valuable people who are dead, or close enough to dead that the distinction is meaningless. They are simply lacking in bodies. Kasrjin was something of a test, and the fact that he accomplished his mission is an...achievement worth remembering."


The Xaela began pacing again, though not before tossing another piece of obsidian into the dying firepit. With a crackle like a lightning bolt, the fire reignited, but this time its flame had shifted from a warm orange to an ominous, flickering mixture of purple and green. Ashur was startled by the sudden combustion, and somewhat disturbed by the fact that the light being emitted by the fire still seemed to be a yellowish-orange, despite the odd colour of the fire itself.


"The Correspondence is what enables us to live as we do, yes. It's also what fuels my magic. Creating it and manipulating requires specific concentrations of aether: more than what exists ambiently in the land, but less than your, ah, crystals. I suppose you could liken the keystone to a cork or a stopper in that sense." The Au Ra sighed again, stopping in her pacing briefly and just as quickly starting again. "In a few centuries, it's hard to predict exactly what will happen. But culture is a powerful force, and even without the Correspondence, we will likely be able to live. It will be without the same cohesion, the same unity. There will be more foolish decisions, more self-destruction, and rampant mistakes. But that is part of being mortal."


"So it'll be fine if we take it," Ashur observed rather simply.


"Well, there'll be protests if you're caught. But as I said, there won't be any harm." The Xaela sniffed.

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Roen listened and watched carefully. As far as she could tell, there was no deceptive air about the woman. Perhaps it was all masked by her confidence and the sure way she held herself, but small pauses and cracks here and there in her otherwise seemingly infallible countenance told her that she could believe the Xaela's words. Or at least, believed that their intent was aligned with one and another.


Roen did finally stopped pacing, just studying the Au Ra across the fire with her arms crossed. She occasionally gave Ashur a quick sidelong glance, to gauge his reaction to it all. His focus on the end goal was obvious enough, but with him sitting, and his line of questions told her that he was becoming a little more at ease with the discussion at hand and the auri woman.


But something still didn’t feel right. Or perhaps it was because it was too fortuitous that they ran into each other.

“So if your people are not supposed to be at the Reunion for years, then just what are you doing out here on your own? If you are a Tsenkhai, are you not one of their leaders? Why are you looking to hire mercenaries to steal something from your own people? Will all your people be against us?” She tilted her head. "Just what kind of opposition should we expect to encounter?"

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The Au Ra sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose, waving an idle hand at Ashur as the firepit blazed merrily. "You ought to imitate your companion. He seems to be eager enough without all of these qualms."


"Don't confuse my compliance with trust," Ashur was quick to retort, a slight scowl marring his face. "I don't know your people as well as she seems to, and those qualms are because I don't think failure is an option, for you or for us.  I'd hardly want our goals to be derailed by a slight miscalculation that one of us didn't account for." He didn't say it directly, but the edge on his tone when Ashur said one was clear enough.


She sighed again, seemingly irritated rather than perturbed by Ashur's rebuttal. "I said the Aljai aren't at Reunion. They are our merchants, our traders, and the ones who handle...interactive duties. Their absence simply means that the scheduled regularity of trading with other tribes has ceased for now. I am Tsenkhai, which means I can go where I damn please, including south. And the reason why I need you is because, as I said, you are not touched by the magic and rituals of my people, and could thus take the keystone without exploding or having your mind subsumed into our temple which would leave your body as a soulless husk." The Xaela began pacing again. "You have me by your side, and so no one will question you, and no one will fight you. I do not need you specifically; I only need two foreign bodies who can follow my commands. That you happen to need the keystone is a fortuitous coincidence, and nothing more."


Ashur glanced at Roen. "Well, she is our only lead," he muttered with some annoyance.

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Roen nodded to Ashur somewhat reluctantly. Whether the woman answered her question satisfactorily or not, the Xaela was all they had. But Roen wasn’t about to admit that out loud and so early. At least, not until she was given a better idea of what they were dealing with. The paladin still wasn’t sure how much to trust her, but the Tsenkhai did speak of Kasrjin with a measure of familiarity. Was she his friend? Would she even answer if asked? Roen doubted it.


“So then,” she sighed, the release of the tension in her shoulders just barely noticeable. “I suppose we are the foreigners for the job.” There was a quick glance given again to Ashur, just to be sure her companion did not have any other questions. She was starting to get the idea that the Ishgardian was as wary about this as she was, but willing to see it through.


“We came ready for travel,” Roen assured, although there was a twinge of doubt in the back of her mind. She had planned for a trip to the Reunion, but not as far as the glaciers. “We will need to resupply at the Reunion.” She tilted her head in the Tsenkhai’s direction. Like it or not, this Xaela would be their guide into the unknown. Neither Ashur nor she had ever traveled to the Steppe before.


"When do we start?"

Edited by Roen
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  • 1 month later...

"Immediately," was the short answer that the Xaela gave them.


And their preparations were indeed brisk; perhaps even instant, by Ashur's reckoning. Between the three of them, their personal belongings numbered in barely a few ponze. At Tsenkhai's insistence, the trio departed from their campsite at first light. Their travel was a quiet one. Any questions Ashur had, the Au Ra was not interested in answering. The questions were of a more practical sort. How far north would they be going? Were their guards, and of what nature? There was a pall of unease hanging over the Hyur; he did not like going into a job without knowing exactly what it entailed, but such foreknowledge was a luxury that was rarely available to people in his line of work. At best, they would have to rely on improvisation.


Either their timing was impeccable or this was the reason for Tsenkhai's rather grating insistence--the Xaela would practically huff and pout and occasionally complain sarcastically whenever they stopped, even to refill their water supplies or to look for the trail that had been lost, and Ashur was tiring of her attitude rather quickly--as they reached Reunion just as the sun was cresting over the horizon of the steppe and the masked Qestir mediators were rising to prepare for the day's exchanges. It was a truly varied marketplace; Xaela hawking their wares, foreign merchant caravans buying and selling. A pair of Lalafell, of all things, apparently having travelled all the way from Ul'dah or farther.


"I will see about contacting some...peers, and perhaps securing additional supplies before we go farther north," Tsenkhai said briskly. "Do whatever it is you foreigners do in the mean time." She tossed a small piece of obsidian at Ashur with nary a care for himself or the trinket, and he nearly flinched instinctively after remembering the bright flash that had come from the last stone the Xaela had thrown. "That'll enable me to find you if you get lost or decide to explore." And with very little fanfare, the Au Ra walked off.


Ashur's mouth twisted into a frown with a tsk as he stared at the seemingly featureless piece of obsidian. "Well, you know more about her tribe. How much of what she says is the truth, do you think?" he asked Roen.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Roen let out a long sigh, her shoulders sagging. She set her pack down next to her on the ground, her gaze following the Tsenkhai until she could see her no more. A small frown furrowed her brow and she flicked Ashur a narrowed look.

“I know some things about her tribe. But my friend was ever wont to speak of things only when necessary.” She rolled her shoulders, loosening the muscle there. The Xaela woman, as petite as she was, hadn't tired easily through their journey,  even after travelling quite a distance. “But she knows that I am not wholly ignorant to the ways of her tribe. And so what she has spoken of so far, it is in line with everything I know of them.”


Roen canted her head in his direction, her voice lowering. “Does that mean I believe she is being utmost truthful in all things? No. She is definitely not wanting to share more than necessary.” She tutted. “Actually, much less than necessary.” Her eyes looked to where she had seen the woman last, then drifted to adjacent yurts and stands and many other Xaelas. If she wasn’t trying to focus on the mission at hand, she would be quite fascinated about this place. Roen felt a small pang of disappointment, one that wrought forth a quiet sigh. She had hoped that eventually when she came here, that Kasrjin would be here too. And he, in his stoic and limited way, could introduce her to a place like this. It would have been an amusing scenario.


“She is purposefully not telling us many things, and in that, it concerns me.” Despite her suspicions, all she felt was frustration and impatience where the secrecy was concerned, rather than fear. “But I think you and I both know, we still need to follow her lead. She is the only one we have so far.” She paused, her attention going from one merchant to another masked Xaela, before looking back to regard Ashur. “Unless you think we can gather more information from some of these traders?”

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