The Beginning of a Revolt
Forest, Northern Barcea
Two months. When said by itself it didn't seem to be that much of a difference, but after a brief and yet brutally vicious war two months had been a long time. While the road to recovery for Gurata may have been relatively quick, seeing as not a single conflict had been fought in the northern land, Yihira knew that both H'kela and Barcea were having a rougher time of it. The new Queen and King of each nation had inherited difficult problems, whether they were caused by a broken system that came before or the sense of loss felt from the violence. Despite these difficulties, the news that the Chieftains had received about both had been optimistic, especially from Barcea.
The new King of Barcea had been working hard to raise the morale of his people once again. He knew the sudden loss of the beloved Queen had taken a very heavy toll on everyone, and wanted to start the process of healing. At first, it had been difficult to figure out how to best accomplish this goal in between all of the repairs and recovery of resources that had been lost due to pillaging, but tradition would soon come to the King's aid. Winter was fast approaching, and with it came Silvae's Celebration. Though Ambrosia may have been the one most directly celebrated by Barceans, all of them were revered, and Silvae was often considered to be quite close to Ambrosia considering her focus upon Compassion.
Silvae's Celebration was a week dedicated towards giving to others; giving to family and friends, certainly, but strangers as well. It was about caring for those less fortunate than one's self, and for everyone within the community at the whole. In Gurata, the festivities were simply an escalation of the almost daily feasts to a much more chaotic level, but Yihira knew that the experience in Barcea was very different; much more organized and deliberate. She had always been curious, but had never had a reason to go.
The King had given her one when, along with the news that in the Capitol the Celebration would be extended to a full month, he had sent all of the Chieftains invitations as way of thanks for their assistance in the war once again. Seryosa, naturally, had ignored it entirely, but that was expected from her. Kisarin had departed so quickly that nearly everyone had missed his departure; he had left well over three weeks in advance. The message that Kisarin had sent Yihira, sloppily written and delivered, had been what made her decide to leave for the even two weeks early. To her surprise, apparently the Barceans at least knew how to enjoy themselves before a major celebration.
She had left the Homestead with two warriors with her as escorts, and they had made good time to the south. Crossing over the border between her nation and Barcea had brought not only rest but an increase in heat, and though it was uncomfortable at least it wasn't the damnable H'kela desert once again. She was still finding bits of sand in her armor.
After starting for the night they began early the next day, and their travel soon brought them through a forest in the northern region of Barcea. The trees had grown tall here, and thickly together, but despite that the Barceans had, over time, managed to carve a straight road through the woods. It was a quiet place to be, the only sounds coming for animals in the distance, and only rarely...
And yet, at the same time, something seemed wrong about the silence after a while, like there was an underlying noise that was so faint it was more felt than heard. Her eyebrows furrowed, and as her body tensed and she looked around, her two escorts realized something was off as well. Steadily, the noise was becoming louder, almost sounding like swishing fabric.
She looked back, where it seemed to be coming from, and almost immediately the noise was gone. Her eyes narrowed, suspicious, but when her horse gave a frightened neigh she whirled around, and then reeled back in alarm. On top of the animal's neck stood a young boy who couldn't have been older than fifteen. Around him was wrapped a light blue cloak, and he had a blade in his hand. On his face was a plain, strange and polite smile, one that didn't stretch to his eyes at all, which seemed almost dead and empty. Beneath him, the horse had completely submitted, not even attempting to rear to throw the boy."I'm very sorry, Chieftan Yihira, but for the sake of my Master you simply have to die!"
The sword flashed, and rider and horse split in two.
The city had truly come alive for the first time since the relatively small celebrations after the King's coronation, and it seemed that the people were excited for something to be happy about. The announcement of the King to quadruple the length of Silvae's Celebration that year had been met with pure glee, and so eagerly had the people begun that it seemed like the Celebration had already begun. The skies may have turned somewhat grey as it became colder, but for the first time in two months the general mood was anything but.
The color of season was a light red, associated with the color of the ribbon that Silvae was usually depicted wearing in her hair. There were ribbons of this red everywhere, placed on doors or in the windows, lining the buildings. Briefly, the blue of Barcea was threatened to be overtaken by that red, but it wasn't forgotten.
Within the homes, decorations were rampant as well. There was a focus upon flowers especially, even though the approaching winter had begun to kill many in the wild. In anticipation of the season, florists had taken the time to gather and cultivate the flowers that usually did not make it to the Celebration, and kept them safe and growing through careful skill and, in some cases, sprinklings of basic magic bought and sold in the form of trinkets.
The castle was no exception to this, and indeed had been decorated thoroughly. Red and blue accented each other, streamers and ribbons hanging next to banners, and flowers filled the vases that had already been standing for a long while. The King himself was no exception, very purposefully wearing a red sash beneath his cape, over his shoulder and to his side. Beyond a few choices here and there, he had left most of the planning and decorating for the Celebration to better equipped people, those who were especially passionate and experienced with the holiday.
In truth, the King was feeling more overwhelmed than anything, at least most of the time. Grief returned at times with a vengeance, but even when he was feeling better than normal the work as King was utterly extensive. From the management of what was left of the military to the specific strategy for rebuilding, there weren't enough councilors to make that any easier for the King it felt. Cyril, more often than not, was more than a little tired and certainly more than a little stressed, but despite all of that he was remaining as strong as he could.
While the road to recovery as a nation was still long, it seemed like the Sentinels and their allies had managed their physical recovery failed enough. There had been plenty of wounds to heal, from broken bones to heavy slashes, but for the most part it had been things easy enough for Diane to heal, with the assistance of a few other healers. Unfortunately, some wounds were greater than others, and things lost couldn't be replaced; some were still having to adapt to their new way of living.
Emotional damage was still healing, but despite that and the worsened physical situation for a few, they had pushed on. The Sentinels had returned to training and patrol, and a few more had officially joined the Barcean ranks rather than just being trusted allies. Cyril was proud of them all; they had all fought and worked hard to push back the Advisor, and finally drive her away entirely. The King had made sure plenty of people were watching for her to perhaps return, and yet there wasn't the slightest sign of her at all.
Though their first foray against the Manu Propria directly had involved losing a fair amount, they still came out victorious.
Thanks to the rapidly approaching Celebration, they had plenty to be excited for as well. Some were already actively taking part of it, Gortul especially; he was eagerly giving gifts to all he came across, be them fellow Sentinels all the way to the servants within the castle. Chieftain Kisarin as well seemed to be enjoying himself, having almost immediately replied to the invitation with his arrival, much to the surprise of everyone; Cyril was still concerned the food stores might not be able to survive to the actual holiday.
In some way, everyone was going along with the preparation (whether they wanted to or not; those who didn't actively decorate their spaces on their own were often surprised when they returned to their own spaces), and during one of his brief breaks Cyril had finally found the time to make his way along, and inspect who had done what. He honestly enjoyed the decorations, though in a bittersweet sort of way; Kori had enjoyed Silvae's Celebration immensely, and that was always in the back of his mind.
There was still plenty of joy to be found however, especially in places like Ayano's room; she had gone almost wild with the color red, her door positively covered with it, and her normally white clothes now had plenty of red incorporated as well. Other places were certainly a little more... reserved, for lack of a better term; for example, Alsius' room was one of those that had to be decorated for him, and the most anyone had done was place a red bow on his door.
It was on his search that he found Calypso, and as usual the strange woman seemed just a little lost. Without anyone to be regularly attached to, she found a place to be stationary typically, and in that moment she had simply come to a stop in the middle of the hallway. Having no idea how long she had been there, he stopped briefly as his eyebrows raised before he proceeded forwards, approaching her from behind to stand next to her."Calypso, everything okay?"
She only moved when he spoked to her, and that was really just to turn her head slightly to look at him from the corner of her eye. Wearing her typical smile, he noticed the red length of ribbon she had in her hand as she replied."Oh, hello Cyril~ I'm fine, just thinking~"
While others may have tried to get her to call him by his new title, there was very little point in trying to get it to stick and he had made it clear enough to simply stop trying."About...?"
"Oh, what I'm going to do with this~"
She held the ribbon out to him suddenly. "Diane gave it to me and told me to make use of it~ Would you like it~?"
He held up one hand briefly, shaking his head slightly as he did so. "No, no, I think she meant for you to use it. Here, may I?"
She gave a nod, and he took the ribbon from her, holding it up next to her head. After a moment he carefully took a length of her hair and tied the ribbon around it, carefully making sure it would remain in place before he lowered his hands. In contrast her hands went up, playing with it gently, her eyes wide with curiosity as she tilted her head some."Do you know what's going on right now, Calypso?"
"Come with me then, let's walk for a little and I'll tell you about it."
"OW OW OW FUCK WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO, TEAR THE REST OF IT OFF?"
There was a sudden crack, followed by a somewhat shrill, "Lower your voice, you colossal dolt, and stop struggling! It would make this so much easier!"
Face stretched into a continuous wince, Christopher's hand came up to rub at the rapidly swelling welt on the side of his head, from the third staff that Diane had broken against him that day. Another sharp tug from his left side caused him to hiss and grind his teeth, but he didn't say anything as he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Diane's hand reach for the fourth staff.
He had woken up two days after the fight with the Advisor, and there had been plenty to fill him in on. He had caught up quickly enough, but it was only after regaining consciousness that he fully realized his left arm was gone. He had been told that they had attempted to save his arm, trying to reattach it to his body, but the limb had been too badly damaged by whatever the Advisor had been using, and his own body was rejecting it. Despite that his body was continuing to heal, even without the limb there; ragged stretches of skin pushed from the scarred stump every day, but no muscle or bone extended with it.
It was the suggestion of the Paladin to continue clearing the skin away, and more often than not Diane was the one to do it. It wasn't because of any inability on Christopher's part, considering how insistent he was on doing it himself; she simply didn't listened, and when she saw his efforts usually declared them as some sort of new attempt to butcher himself. After the third week he had given in, but part of him hoped that someone else would be able to keep Diane's attention away from him soon.
With one final pull, Diane had finished covering the stump with a fresh set of bandages. Calmly she gathered the old bandages (and the excess flesh with them) to dispose of, even as he rolled his shoulder to try and pop it back into place. A few cracks later he was standing and asking, "Are we done?"
"You're still here?"
With that being more than enough to answer him, he stepped out of the general room for the Sentinels, only to start making his way through the hallway. Part of him was honestly still surprised he was here; he had expected the Paladin to be ready to move on to the next bit of religious work, but apparently Dubois had decided to settle in with the King's forces for the time being. To be entirely honest, the young man didn't mind all that much. His feet certainly hurt a lot less keeping to one place, and the beds here were nice.
The downside? Now the Paladin wasn't the only one he had to avoid for "lessons" any more.
"Sir? Is everything alright?"
The Wanderer came crashing back down to the world around him, eyes going through a furious number of blinks suddenly. For a moment he couldn't recall what he had been doing at all, but as color returned to his vision the pieces quickly fit back together once again. Weakly smiling, he nodded, and quickly finished out counting the coins to hand to the vendor. After just a moment of hesitation, mostly shown by a furrowed brow, the man handed the single red lily over to Joachim. Nodding in gratitude, even as the small man began to walk away he was carefully placing it in the round, flat hat he carried with him, wearing it over his back with a string around his neck if not wearing it upon his head.
It was a time to make merry, and though Joachim had been feeling it up to that very hour he suddenly no longer felt his quiet joy. Instead, there was a sick feeling in his stomach, as if he had been hit hard in the gut. With it came an itch to his cheek that he was constantly scratching at (despite the Queen's official pardon he still made an effort to wear bandages over the scar when he went out). He felt a seeping paranoia in his bones, one that made him shift uncomfortably often and, like he had just done in front of the vendor, lose himself in deep thought.
He wasn't sure why he was feeling like this; the last time he had, after all, was when he and the Direwolf had met in the Arena in Gurata, before once again fighting one another. It was like something from his past was screaming at him once again, but he wasn't sure what. With that came the terrible feeling of being watched, but despite even the subtlest of glances he found no one suspicious around him.
It seemed that, for once, he was feeling paranoid for no reason, and that almost bothered him more than knowing that a threat was actually nearby. His hand came up and he carefully placed his hat upon his head, using it shield his face some as he made his way back towards the castle. Being recognized by the guards at that point, he was let through without any trouble.
He only stopped once more before the gates closed behind him in order to look back, biting his lip as he did so.
Forest, Northern Barcea"Sampson, wait."
Pulling the reins to bring his horse to a stop, Sampson looked over to Alasa as the archer looked around, having brought his own mount to a stop a few steps before. It seemed like the Sentinel was listening carefully, looking around, but most surprisingly sniffing, before slowly beginning to dismount. Giving yet another look to the trees around the two of them, Alasa asked, "Do you smell that?"
Blinking once, Sampson took in a sniff, and immediately realized what had grabbed Alasa's attention. It was a thick, acrid smell, one that had settled in all around them. Nodding, Sampson dismounted as well, the two leading their horses to the side of the road before beginning to make their way forwards. They didn't have very long to go, as the small side path they were on, which wound back and forth, soon met with the main road. It was there they almost immediately found the source."Divines, no-"
Sampson's hand came up, covering the lower half of his face as the smell hit the two of them even more heavily, and he looked away from the scene of something even worse than butchery in front of him. Meanwhile, Alasa slowly stepped forwards, into the thick of it. He crouched, and though Sampson knew he was clearly looking for signs of any sort, to figure out what happened and where the attacker had gone. It was not often, however, that he witnessed Alasa swearing under his breath due to failure, even as he stood."Sampson, help me. We need to hide them and report back to the King quickly, so that someone can be sent to recover them."
"Dammit- Alright, come on. Let's start with.... Let's start with her."
Of them all, Yihira's body was the least mutilated and scattered.