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Gravity the Seducer (closed)

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C'kayah cursed as he struggled to pull himself out of the gully. His leg wouldn't support his weight, so he pulled himself along with his arms. His scarred right hand closed around a vine, his arm muscles burning from dragging himself along. A sharp-leafed shrub scratched his face, adding to the welts and scratches already there. He cursed softly, more for the noise than anything else, but never stopped his efforts to move.


It had been almost a day since the wood wailers had found him, and he no longer heard the calls of their pursuit. Uttering a silent prayer of thanks to Nymeia for small favors, he heaved on the vine and pulled himself free, rolling away from the gully to lay panting on the ground. He was hot and sore and his breath took longer than he would like to return, but finally he propped himself up and surveyed his surroundings. He lay in a small clearing at the edge of the gully, it's sharp drop almost completely hidden by the thick foliage that grew within. A few tens of fulms away the trees started again, thick and dark and oppressive, perfect for hiding in.


He looked down at his leg. The bandage had been partially torn away in his struggle out of the ravine, so he gingerly unknotted it, unwinding it and setting it aside. The arrow-wound looked bad. Deep and weeping, the flesh around it a feverish looking red. He hadn't thought the wood wailers used poisons, and he didn't recognize the effects of this one, but it was clear that this was not simply a rapid infection. Once again he withdrew the little leather wallet that held his small healer's kit, searching through it for something else he could try. Once again his fingers found nothing. He uncapped his water skin, trickling warm water over the wound and sucking in a sharp breath as the aching intensified. He put the skin to his lips and swallowed a little water before recapping it and hanging it at his belt.


The bandage was soiled - filthy, actually - and he hated the idea of winding it around the wound again. The bleeding had mostly stopped, so instead he covered the thing with soil and leaves, hiding it as best as he could, before rolling onto his hands and knees and crawling for the cover of the forest. He grit his teeth, stifling a cry at the shocking pain from his leg. His vision clouded, and he braced himself there, hoping that he could remain on his hands and knees. Presently he found he could see again. The forest line up ahead looked impossibly far, and for a moment he worried that he wouldn't be able to make it. First one hand, though, and then a knee moved, then the other hand and knee. He paused afterwards to catch his breath. Some small part of him was aware that he was in far worse shape than he'd feared even a few minutes ago, but he forced himself to crawl again.


The sun was growing low in the sky by the time he made the tree line. His chest was heaving and a greasy sweat dripped from his face and soaked his hair. He looked up to see a root set square in his path, at least six ilms thick and many fulms from end to end. He groaned. "There's no way I'll cross that without a rest", he gasped, looking around for a good place to roll onto his back. The light faded abruptly and his arms folded, the Miqo'te collapsing to the ground like a ruined house slumping into rubble.

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"Well, well, well... "


When one spent their life learning the way of the forest, it became simple matters to make observations about it. If, say, a tree was suffering the beginning of a disease, it would be easy to notice that. As a student of conjury, this one was more than adept at finding such oddities. And even easier than that were anomalies.


A thin smile crossed this one's face. It wasn't simply the ability to scope out an abnormality in the forest that let her know of the presence of a stranger, an outsider -- but also the inherent heightened sense of smell. When her nose picked up the smell of blood, and the simple feel of the forest seemed just a little off, this one had known right away that an outsider -- not a forestborn -- had wandered in and gotten hurt somehow. Whatever this outsider's reasons for being here were, this one had always been taught to help others.


No matter who the 'others' were.


And so it came to this one's attention that, yes, this outsider needed assistance. She was looking down at a Seeker man, appearing dirt-covered, injured and potentially unconscious; certainly not the way many people would enjoy being met in. Kneeling down, this one allowed her pupils to widen to take in more moonlight as she scanned the man's body for the bleeding injury. Sniffing the air around him perhaps just a bit too closely for another's conscious comfort -- the normal forest aroma of plant life and dirt, with the underlying individual smells -- the scent of blood seemed concentrated more around the lower half, or more precisely, that leg with more soil caked around it.


Well, this one guessed that investigating circumstances could wait until the other one was in a more stable condition.


As she decided that, focusing her gaze on the reddish spot, putting down the bag she kept on her backpack, full of the necessities anybody needed when potentially encountering danger, this one stared intently at the dirty spot. It was quite clearly a very painful wound, obvious from this close proximity. To get an idea of what was truly occuring in the body, she hovered a hand over the wound -- a Conjurer who learned to see the ailments of the body just as well as the ailments of the forest was a successful one -- and noted that this man had definitely come into contact with Wood Wailers recently. The body spoke volumes of that encounter being a less-than-friendly one, with the wound of an arrow and an infection brewing.


Taking out a simple canteen of water, this one poured a decent amount to wash the majority of the dirt off the wound. The bleeding had seemed to cease before she had arrived, perhaps luckily for him. Perhaps running water of a river would be more sensible to use, but that wasn't an option without moving the man. She followed it with a good rub of infection-fighting herbal gel that her mentor taught her to make, as applied by the soft cloth pad, and followed that with the clean and proper bandage.


This one believed the man would be fine with the proper care; but to get him to the proper care (and she knew just the thing) he would need to be able to walk a little. Hence, a quick use of Cure on the leg, for temporary pain relief. But, before she were to raise his consciousness back from the depths of his mind, maybe she should see if he would wake up normally.


"Mister, waking up is desirable if you'd like to recover."


Cue a poking of the face and a gentle shake on the shoulder, as a young and curious Keeper stared, relaxed as can be, maybe a single fulm away from his face; while personal space was a foreign concept to this one, she still knew there was use in shock value for waking the sleepy.

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His dreams were fitful. He lay on the forest floor while sprites circled around him, poking him with sticks. It was storming, and rain lashed him periodically, soaking the fabric of his pants and making his leg hurt terribly. At one point they converged on his leg, pressing into him with herb-scented hands that seared his nerves with fiery pain.


Their rough attentions continued for a time, then they seemed to leave him alone, and blackness descended once more. It was peaceful and warm, like a blanket on a cold day, and he welcomed it, pulling it over him. Just as he was snuggling under it, drifting to sleep, the sprites returned and began to speak to him, insistently.


"Mister, waking up is desirable if you'd like to recover."


He shook off the voice, snuggling under the blanket of darkness, but the sprites were persistent.


"Mister, waking up is desirable if you'd like to recover."


He groaned, stirring, but kept his eyes closed, hoping the sprites would lose interest, fickle creatures that they were.


"Mister, waking up is desirable if you'd like to recover."


He opened one red-rimmed eye to see a round-pupiled violet eye staring back at him. He gasped, would have yelled if he could, the pale round face of the Moonkeeper watching him from less than a fulm away.

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This one didn't even move away while she tilted her head slightly to the left to continue staring. Not at first, anyway, not until she blinked slowly moments later and deemed the man very much alive. Fares the mister well that the wake-up tactic worked! Now, leaning back to resting on her feet in the kneeling position, at a more proper two and a half fulms away, her tail waved a bit and hands rested in her lap as she kept her relaxed expression for another moment of watching and appraising condition.


"Does the leg hurt now, mister?"


Although it is said gently like the previous shake on the shoulder, this one draws out the word 'mister' just a little longer than ordinary. The moonlight's glow, filtering in patches from the trees above and shining softly behind this one, may have given her white hair an ethereal quality -- or maybe just a ghostly, creepy quality instead. This one thought she looked very nice in the night's light source at any time, though. Much better than the very pale look she had in the daytime.

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She was strange. He could see it in her eyes. Mad eyes. No, he corrected himself, not mad. Alien. He dealt with Moonkeepers in the Shroud frequently, and some of the more isolated clans were very unusual. The hothouse environment of the social, intelligent Moonkeepers breeding strange philosophies. She must have been from one of these clans.


He struggled to sit up, his leg burning as he moved, drawing a cry from his lips. She'd done something to it, but not enough. The wound was closed, but the flesh around it still burned like liquid metal had been poured into his veins.


"Poison", he gasped, panting heavily, looking imploringly at the Moonkeeper girl. "Poison arrow..."

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Turning attention to the leg once again, she remained as impassive as she had outwardly been thus far. Must not have paid enough attention to the leg's wound, this one thought -- so, once again hovering a hand nearby it, she tapped into the feel of the bloodstream once more.


Oh, dear. No wonder he looked so pained. Only a casual evaluation, this one had done; the poison lurked indeed. Wood Wailer style, too -- but instead of judging what the man may have done, she judged the poison for being there. Certainly was creeping its painful influence further into the leg than expected, so maybe he had been like this for some time... ?


"This one thinks your poison is advancing too much for this one to fully handle. But not to fear, this one knows another close by who will be able to cure you."


Nodding to herself, still staring at the bandaged leg, she knew well that even though her Esuna would not pull the poison out entirely at this point, it should still alleviate enough of the effect to get him to the one who could. So, this one proceeded to cast it on the leg, and then returned her gaze to the mister's face again, judging the level of pain he felt by his expression.


"This one can also do another Cure on your leg, mister, if you need it to walk."

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She was a conjurer, this much was clear. He had been trained in the art enough to recognize what she was doing, but her skill clearly surpassed his. She spoke like a sylph. He supposed her clan lived deep in the Shroud, having more contact with the enigmatic beings than with other namegivers. 


She gazed at his leg, her hands radiating the telltale warmth of aetheric healing. The burning pain in his legs receded until it was just a dull ache, and he felt a little strength returning. He shifted, sitting up, and grunted with the effort. His head no longer swam, but it was clear he wasn't going to be traveling far on his own.


"Thank you", he said, a little of his usual smoothness returning to his voice. "I'm indebted to you, but I'm afraid I must impose on you a little longer." He began to struggle to his feet, the strain showing in his voice. "Could you... help me up", he gasped, reaching out for her hand.

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Hmm, the mysterious mister seemed grateful, and although this one would have helped regardless of the mister's attitude (she would have repeated her actions even if he had protested) it still remained pleasant to hear the efforts were appreciated in any form.


-- And on another note entirely, even if mister's voice was still raspy, it sounded nice. Maybe he would sound better when he'd had a good, long drink of water and after her mentor had cleansed the poison from the body. A lovely sounding voice was a nice thing to have, and to hear.


"Not to worry," she smiled at him -- another attempt at a warm and cute grin that was just a little too lopsided to pull off the girlish look properly -- and offered the hand he'd be needing to get up. Placing hers on top of his, she waited for him to grasp it fully to get up. "This one does not mind."

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He gripped her hand, tugging on her as he heaved himself waveringly to his feet. She was slight, but with the deceptive strength that some Moonkeepers had.


"Thank you", he said, steadying himself. She watched him, grinning oddly. On a better day he'd have been suspicious, but he could tell that he wouldn't have made it any further without her help. He'd come this far, he may as well go the rest of the way. He tested his leg, putting a little weight on it. It didn't buckle, he'd be able to go on.


"Let's go talk to your friend", he said, smiling at her. "Lead the way."

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Perhaps slight, perhaps not -- this one held on steadfast as the mindful mister pulled himself up and tested the strength of the leg. Luckily for him, it seemed it was fine, for the moment. A good thing, since taking someone injured back to this friend with the use of only one leg was a previous... drag. An experience this one definitely had, in the past. She turned away then, leading the way to the close-by cottage in the forest's relative darkness.


"This one is surprised you are this far out. My friend lives far from any villages," she commented, continuing her decidedly slow pace but glancing back at him curiously again, to be absolutely certain the man was capable of walking the whole way. "She is very smart. This one warns you not to talk back, though. She is right when it comes to many things, whether we like it or not."


That was for certain -- her friend was certainly an admirable and knowledgeable one, but even this one did not necessarily enjoy unabridged honesty. Although, as she said it, another and completely unrelated thought appeared, though it was also an important one.


"You can see in the dark well enough to not trip on roots, right, mister?"

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He took a moment to steady himself on his feet. The pain in his leg had faded to a dull ache, and some degree of his strength had returned - the Moonkeeper had some skill in healing, that was clear. He was aware, though, of softly burning lines radiating from the wound. The poison was still there, lending urgency to the moment.


He took a step, following the girl as she made her way through the underbrush. She was traveling slowly for him, and he smiled in appreciation. He moved slowly in the dim parts of the forest on the best of days. "I travel the Shroud fairly often", he answered, taking careful steps, testing the ground and feeling for obstructions as he went. "It's a big place, though, and I haven't ever been this way. I used to live here, off to the north and east."


She is right when it comes to many things, whether we like it or not. He chuckled at her words, smiling at the violet shine of her eyes as she looked back at him. "You're friend sounds... very knowledgeable", he said charitably. "I'm looking forward to meeting her."

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"Hmmm... That is pleasant to hear. She is very knowledgeable," she agreed, but of course, mister had not even a slight clue. Her mentor was never objectively wrong, and was certainly aware of subjective topics being such, but this one opted not to mention it. Best to let him see for himself. Hee-hee.


Soon enough, the cottage was in view -- just over the slight hill, between the trees. "That is the destination," this one commented, and idly peered back over her shoulder a moment, before continuing to walk. "Is mister still faring well enough? Still walking without much limp, for now?"


Although she also knew just how her mentor would choose to treat the mister, she opted not to mention it, either. A necessary yet still very 'gross' treatment. This one must have been desensitized to such things in the pursuit of conjury.

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Yellow light glimmered from the windows of the cottage. It was solid looking, with pale timbers, wattle and daub and a neatly thatched roof. His leg was burning again, and his muscles ached with a weariness that went beyond the distance of the walk. Still, they had arrived and soon he'd be able to rest.


"I'm alright", he grunted, struggling to keep moving. "We're almost there. Just a little while longer..." He closed his mouth tightly, realizing that he was still speaking. He wanted a stick to lean on, something to take the weight off his leg as he walked, but he dared not stop. Instead he doggedly followed the girl, watching her back and the easy way she picked her way through the trees.


His eyes grew aware of a change in the light and he looked up to see the door of the house standing before him. He breathed a sigh of relief, looking at the girl and mustering a smile. "We're here..."

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