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3 yrs ago
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Oh my gracious go to bed!!!!
Nah no rules with naming. And ojih.....I’d say generally no. They might know enough to distinguish high rank or something (they would probably know how to spot a Sol, Taja, and Eija. If they were the sort to spend time learning the marks they might know Ridahne’s treason mark. The mark itself is nonspecific, so they wouldn’t know she killed the equivalent of a princess, but they would know she has committed some form of high treason if they knew the mark at all. Those that deal with the Azurei more directly (royalty, merchants, or people that often hired Eija guards) would be more likely to know tidbits about the Ojih. They do know it’s significance and they know it is extremely rude to touch an Azurei’s face without permission.

Also yeah, Ridahne definitely knows, though she’s more stunned by the fact that Darin would keep her, as she assumed above all else she wouldn’t.
Ridahne genuinely could not believe her ears. Darin was mistaken. It wasn’t that Ridahne desired to leave her and abandon her quest, no, quite the opposite. Ridahne had only falsely preempted Darin’s reaction to hearing the news. The elf thought for SURE that the moment she knew, Darin would demand that she leave, that she would WANT a new guardian. And she had merely tried to accept this decision with dignity. But she’d been wrong.

She stared at the young woman, mouth open. “You...mean you still....want me?” She shook her head firmly as if shaking aside something heavy or bothersome. She looked visibly relieved. “You mistake me, Darin. I did not mean to say I want to leave I only thought you would send me away. No! If you would have me I would fulfil every promise I made to you. I meant every word and still do. I just thought for sure that you would be angry with me and wouldn’t want to keep me as your guardian. Forgive me! I misunderstood you and your heart. To think that you would still have me after all I have done is an honor. I swear to you I won’t let you down. But you are mistaken about me and my past as well.”

Her gaze, though still sparkling with tears, became hard and resolute. “I did not run. I have never run. I have always done my duty no matter how hard it is, no matter what I would lose. I made the mistake of trusting Khaltira-Sol, yes, but when I knew the truth I stood my ground and did what no one else would. I did not run to death, it was only the price paid for my deeds and i was willing to give it if it meant doing what was right. I paid the ultimate price and I lost EVERYTHING. Never forget that. For the record, I didn’t ask for this journey, I was sent. And I’m still trying to sort out why. But I did not run. And would not understand. I am not your father,” she said, tone edging on cold. “I did not abandon him. I did not leave him on a cold night with no explanation. We have known each other longer than your parents have been alive. He knows my heart. Better than most. He understands what I had to do. ALL of what I had to do. He knows I put distance between us for his sake. In doing so I kept him from my own sins. And I...I haven’t forsaken him. Not wholly. Like I said. Love is complicated.” She clutched the carnelian spiral. He had carved it himself, thinking of her as he did. The Azurei did not exchange rings like some humans, and instead they exchanged Ali’i, or the large earrings worn in the stretched lobes of their right ears. Based on design and material they conveyed one’s family and region of origin, and for her to remove her bone one and replace it with the carnelian would show publicly that she had become one of his family. Betrothed often wore them as pendants before the ceremony. She felt with a fingernail the individual cut marks where he had shaped the stone. And In that moment she missed him horribly.

Her hard, icy tone dissolved. “As long as he is Taja and I am disgraced, we cannot be. Not by law. There is...some chance that may change because of this quest. But you must understand, this is unprecedented. No one in the history of Azurei has ever murdered their Sol and then the next day been sent off to aid in the most important quest in all of Astra. I very well could be pardoned of my crimes but no one but maybe the Eluri can guess what the implications and specifics of that could be. I don’t even know if I’ll make it back. I can’t have him wither away while he waits for a false hope. We will see what the future holds but until then we cannot be.”

By the Tree, it felt so much easier to have all of that out in the open. She had been carrying that weight in silence for four months and to speak it aloud now was more of a relief than she ever imagined. And Darin still wanted her by her side. Ridahne did her best attempt at a seated bow. “Ri’atal, you have shown me kindness I do not deserve. I am yours. If you want me by your side then I WILL see this through. And I swear by blood and bone and by the Tree itself that only death will keep me from this task. You won’t regret this night I promise you!”

Ridahne meant it. It felt like the night she’d received her vision all over again, with hope bubbling inside her. The guilt and anxiety and wretchedness seemed to fade before it. Ridahne Torzinei, Seed-Chained, guardian of the Seed-Bearer, redeemed daughter of the Night Sky, would at last get the second chance she had so longed for.

Something about her whole demeanor seemed less closed off than before. Her deepest darkest secrets had been unveiled and there was nothing left for her to fear
Ridahne nodded tearfully. “I knew it couldn’t go on. And if I only walked away I would be replaced. It would continue. So I did the only thing I knew. I killed my partner. He and I had known for a while and he didn’t seem to care. I killed Inaeris, the young successor to Khaltira-Sol’s throne, because she was influenced by her and was learning her ways. And I killed Khaltira-Sol, princess of Azurei. I killed my own Sol that I swore oaths to. Oh, Great Tree, I killed them all!” She was struck with a new wave of tears. Doubled over, she did sob then.

“I am what they made me!” She cried in anguish. “They trained me to bring justice and so I did! They trained me to kill, they trained me to do what had to be done! What choice did I have? This wasn’t what I wanted when I became an Eija! I wanted to make something of myself, to do something right for once!” She was shouting now, not at Darin but up at the sky. “I didn’t want it to end up like that! I was supposed to be put to death for what I’d done. I deserved to be put to death. I should have been but I...”

Ridahne cut off, at a loss for words. Instead she clung to Mitaja until she got her breathing under control. She still had no idea why she was here with the Seed Bearer Of all people. It didn’t really make sense and yet there she was. Steadier now, she said softly, “I was supposed to marry Ajoran.” She touched the carnelian necklace around her neck. “But he is a Taja—a great honor. To associate himself with me would be social death and I couldn’t bring him down with me. I made him turn me in. I tried to give this back to him,” she said about the spiral pendant. “He wouldn’t take it. Damn him, he wanted to wait for me to finish this task. He’d do it, too. He would have stood by me at my execution too, even if I demanded he leave. But I can’t...I can’t destroy his career. He’s a good person...I can’t tie him down to my own burning ship. I’m sorry, this isn’t even important I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this. I will see you through to Eluri and you can find someone more worthy of this task there. I will go home.”

The weight of that implication sat among them like a stone giant. Ridahne could not fathom a world in which Darin would still want her by her side, and she didn’t blame her. When she spoke of going home and ultimately her own death, she was coldly resolute. Resigned, but she would go with dignity. The guilt did not overshadow the feeling that in the end, she’d done what needed to be done. Ajoran knew it. Hadian knew it. She was just the only one permitted to say it out loud. Ridahne sagged, feeling like all her emotional and physical energy had been squeezed out of her, but she no longer felt an exploding kind of anxiety and guilt. Just a deep ache for all she had done.

She sat with her legs criss-crossed and her head hung low so a curtain of wavy black hair shadowed her tattooed face. She exuded defeat in body and voice. But even in such utter defeat she held a kind of grace, a dignity that gave her peace. “I am Ridahne Torzinei, breaker of oaths and traitor to my people, murderer of royalty, betrayer of bond and kin, killer of those I swore to protect. I will go. I will accept my fate.”
I haven't thought too much about the Eluri. They are a 'softer' culture than Azurei, which is harsh, sharp, and hardy. For example, the Azurei would solve bartering disputes with a whole lot of shouting and hand gestures and curses, but then come to an agreement and be cool about it. The Eluri are probably a lot more 'reasonable'. Sort of 'oh, let's talk this out, let's make a deal that benefits both of us' etc. I guess they're more of a 'chill' culture whereas Azurei is very intense. They are more in touch with nature I think, since there is more nature to be in touch with LOL since Eluri is not a desert. Warm, since it's mostly southern but probably also wetter too. Likely forested.

They would be tall (elves are generally tall) with lighter skin than Azurei and hair colors leaning more towards light brown/blonde, eye colors ranging from brown to green to blue or grayish with everything in between, while Azurei tend to have more light brown/honey/gold/deep orange tones. If languages have a 'vibe' then Azurian tends to be sharp, while Eluri is more soft. More l, y, sorts of sounds. It flows a little more than Azurian which can be somewhat staccato, so Think Tolkien type elvish. In general they do have a more wood-elf kind of feel to them.

Culturally they value creativity, education, music, and the practice of critical thinking. Their access to visions make them able to understand ideas or cultures beyond their own, so they're flexible and accommodating when it comes to other cultures. Both they and the Orosi do not have ojih tattoos (the facial ones) like Azurei, though tattooing in general is still a large part of Orosi culture and probably a smaller part of Eluri culture. On the whole, they're not really fighters and sometimes will 'borrow' Azurei if they need guards for caravans or something. They have a single ruler (can be either gender) but they are backed by a council that is equally important.

Outside of that, add what you like and we'll sort of build it together, I haven't thought much beyond these generalities.
”is that what she told you?” The others had been so afraid, so desperate. An Eija-alihn, a hand of death had come into their midst and they all crumbled before her. They all knew why she had come and yet this one, a young man of about ninety, stood calm and firm. He did not raise a weapon against her, for he knew he would die. “Is that what she said to you to make you believe you were doing the right thing? That we were plotting to kill your Sol? It’s Khaltira-Sol, isn’t it?”
“You can sweet talk me all you want, but my task will be done tonight,” Ridahne said coldly.
“So be it. I would expect nothing less than one of her Eija. Tell me, how long have you been an Eija-alihn?”
“Dead men don’t get to ask questions.”
“Did you ever wonder if all she said about the people she sent you to kill were true? How many, do you think, did you strike down because of a lie?”

The night was cool and near silent except for the cicadas buzzing and chattering in the distance. A soft wind blew the curtains smelling sweetly of woodsmoke. Ridahne could hear every one of her own breaths, calm and soft.

“We never plotted to kill her, Eija-alihn. We wanted fair prices for our goods and refused to sell them for less. She was not pleased. So she told you what you wanted to hear. So you would go and see us dead. She tells you a lie and you believe you're doing the right thing. And for all you know, you are. The Tree doesn't prevent your lack of knowledge. So we die.”
“I won’t listen to your lies, dead man.” And Ridahne swung. The man went to the floor, silent except the drip of blood. Her task was finished. And in the quiet night she rode away, disappearing like a ghost. And as she did, one tiny, quiet thought crept into her mind, one that would change the course of her life forever.

What if…?

Ridahne blinked away fresh tears which she wiped away with the back of her hand. Clearing her throat a little, she nodded to Darin and got the salve from her pack. Ridahne looked over the injury with a practiced eye, searching for signs of infection or undue irritation. While Darin rambled, Ridahne only gave a soft "mm," and a nod in reply. She was somewhere else tonight. Ridahne dipped her fingers into the sweet, herbal smelling salve and liberally applied it to Darin's wound and the area around it. "This is made from honey and other things. It keeps infection out. If it keeps bothering you then you should rest your arm in a sling tomorrow. Try not to move it much and it will heal fine." Her voice was tight and clipped, but not exactly terse. Morose was more accurate. Something was eating at her from the inside.

Ridahne sat back, her amber eyes taking on a much more orange glow in the light of the fire. A war was waged behind them. All she wanted was to stop thinking about the past, but something made her. The thoughts and memories and anxieties and regrets boiled in her, threatening to burst any moment. She felt sick. "Darin..." it was almost a whisper. It was a troubling sort of sight, a woman so strong, unflappable, fierce, to be so distraught. So broken. But there she was all the same. "I have to tell you. Something in me...I have to. I don't want to but something in me is going to explode if I don't. I just have to. But when I do, please don't run. Allow me to see you safely to Eluri, and if you wish you can choose a new guardian then, but please, let me see that you are in good hands..." She was so convinced that Darin would want to do away with her the moment Ridahne revealed the truth.

Ridahne took a deep breath, and as she did a small fragment of peace settled on her. Yes, she needed to do this. It would be better when it was over. She just had to do it, to 'pull the arrow out'. "Eija means 'hand'. We do the will of our Sol. We are defenders of order and the law. Enforcers of peace. We protected caravans, guided people through the Dust Sea. That was my work for many years." Another deep breath. She could do this. She had to. "My Sol recruited me for another job. Me and another. To find those who broke serious laws and bring them to justice. I became an Eija-alihn. 'Hand of death'. You asked what I was, what I did before I was exiled. Darin, I was an assassin."

Ridahne broke down into tears with her head in her hands. She did not wail or sob. Just held her breath to keep it from hitching uncontrollably. The normally tall and imposing elf seemed so small then. The words came out like iron ingots, heavy and painful, but they did come. She'd done it. And now that she had, it was like someone opened the floodgates. "They were horrible people. Rapists, murderers. I was told, I...I believed I was doing something good. Justice. And then she asked us to hunt down others and told us all kinds of things about them. Plots to kill her or one of the other Sol or something like that, but at some point I realized she made up things. She lied to us so my partner and I would carry out her will without question. And I...I was supposed to be doing something good. It got so out of hand and I couldn't do it anymore. I was so naive..." And at this point she slipped back into her native Azurian, speaking rapidly in anguish as the tears continued to flow over her inked face.

"I'm sorry...." she said at length. Mitaja trotted up and rather insistently stuck her wide face in Ridahne's, licking away the tears while Ridahne gripped her smooth fur like a lifeline. "I am not deserving of this task. If you cast me away I understand. I will not be angry with you. It's no less than I deserve."

She did feel better for saying it. And some of the roiling torment inside her eased, thought it didn't disappear. Darin deserved to know, and she had the distinct feeling that she would find out tomorrow when they reached the Tree anyway. Perhaps it was better coming from her than from some other source. She thought of her other transgression, the one that earned her exile. Oddly she didn't feel quite so guilty about that one as she did her work. She was a wretch for it, a traitorous snake, yes. But it needed to be done. The deaths of those people...had any of that needed to be done? Maybe some, in her early days, really were awful and deserving of death. But near the end...somehow all that felt worse than her treason. One had earned her favor, the other earned her exile. Yet which was the greater sin...?
Tsura didn't mind that his rider spent extra time on him. When she was near his front, he frequently tried to shove his nose under her arm, or would hook his long head over her shoulder and pull her towards him. Tsura was spirited and wild, yes, but he was also affectionate to those he trusted. It felt good to have someone, even a horse, want her. Ridahne did not feel worthy tonight. Of the honor she was given by protecting Darin, of the grace she'd been shown by not being immediately executed after all she'd done. She did not feel worthy of love, mercy, or forgiveness. Tsura didn't really care either way and thought she was a fine person. It was more than Ridahne deserved, she thought as she combed his black mane. His light tan coat was smooth and glistened in the firelight after she'd finished with it.

High Treason.

The two words seemed to circle her like an evil halo, battling with the part of her that insisted she had only done as she was brought up to do. They had created her for a purpose, and she had lived out that purpose, only to show them that they did not like what they had created. Callous bastards, how could they do that to her? And yet, how could she do all that she'd done? She'd been so accepting of death because it was only what she deserved.

A noise made her pause for a moment in her combing; Darin softly singing. She didn't know why, but somehow it made her want to burst into tears all over again. She bit down hard on her lip. Get a grip, Ridahne, some part of her demanded. And yet at the same time some other part of her felt like breaking down and weeping openly.

Steadying herself, Ridahne checked on the cook pot and nodded. "Food is ready. Hope you like it. I don't blame you if you don't though, it's very different than what you eat in these parts." Ridahne's face was cast towards the ground, but her voice carried all the subtle expression for her. She was not at peace and was struggling to hold herself together amid warring emotions. She had made the curry far less spicy than she might have if it was just for her, though it still had a gentle burn to it. It still tasted like home.

Ajoran sat himself down across from Ridahne, his movements smooth and controlled while the others danced and caroused. "You look out of place, Imira." It meant 'moon' and she always felt a prickle of heat in her cheeks whenever he called her that. She tried to hide her smile in her cup, but he saw through it. "Are you well?"
"You know me..." she said with a shrug. "I didn't...I'm not used to so much one place. For me." Her first time at one of these feasts, she'd nearly gone wild as she heaped her plate with a look like someone might try and take it from her. The other Eija laughed and said 'slow down Atakhara, you'll choke!' She'd been so sharply embarrassed that she made a point to be reserved when food was on the table, at least around this crowd. She'd grown up poor and had the mentality of 'take it when you can get it', and that was hard to break. She was also often overwhelmed, like she was now.

Ajoran offered a soft smile. "At least have a drink. You could use one, I think. Here, I will have one too. Besides, I have something to tell you." He scooted a little down the low table across the smooth marble floor until he reached a small pitcher of clear juniper liquor with bits of orange peel and lavender buds floating in it. Ajoran snatched two silver glasses, short and wide like tiny bowls and poured them each a measure of the clear liquid. Ridahne took her own little bowl between two fingers and studied his face. Ajoran was practically bursting, so she prodded his chest across the table.

"Well? What is it?"
"It's not public yet, I have to get my marks first. But Ailinde-Sol asked if I would become one of her Taja in training. And I sort of accepted," he said coyly.
Ridahne openly gasped. "That's amazing! Ajoran! How wonderful!" They both grinned and tapped their little drinking bowls against the stone table--the Azurei equivalent of toasting and clinking glasses--and drank a sip. "Have you written home yet?"
"Not yet, I will when it's made public. But I couldn't help it, I had to tell you."
Ridahne grinned. "Not to steal your wind, but I have some exciting news as well!"
He leaned forward and she could smell the floral liquor on his breath like a sweet breeze. "Well then out with it!"
"Khaltira-Sol told me she has some special assignments for me and Takhun. She didn't say what yet, but said I had an aptitude for it and would do well. I still don't believe it sometimes--that a poor Atakharan girl like me could end up in the Sol's court at all, much less doing special tasks!" It was Ajoran's turn to congratulate her, and the two slapped their little bowls against the table again and drank.

She'd been so naive then. So excited. So eager. And look where that had gotten her...

"I am sorry," she said after a long pause. "I am...not good company tonight. I apologize. I have never been so close to the tree before and...I...have a lot to think about."
Rohaan blinked in absolute surprise as if she'd just told him that pigs were not just capable but adept at flight. That just didn't seem...possible. He'd been in cold weather before, colder than it had ever been at home but he never saw the ocean get hard and freeze like that. Had it just not been cold enough? How cold did it need to be? He looked over at the barrel she gestured to and in order to reach it, he had to stand up and plant his feet on the sides of the barrel somewhere in the middle, feet clinging there with expert skill as he leaned over to stretch and grab a handful of ice bits. He plopped them down in the water his own barrel except one, which he timidly put in his mouth and sucked on. Yep. Water. He crunched it and gave a soft laugh. He had so many questions! What did one use ice for? Did ice happen in nature or did she make it happen with magic? Was it possible to--

His inhumanly bright blue eyes widened in sudden realization and he looked at the chunks that he scooped up in his hands and then at her. "Did took the warm out of that water and put it in here, didn't you? So this barrel has extra warm but that one has none? So it got hard and cold?" He frowned, troubled. "Could you take the warm out of me?" He even cringed a little as he asked that. But then curiosity overruled his nerves again and he added, "would I get frozen and hard?" He seemed to be asking less whether or not she WOULD do it, but more about the theoretical idea that she could and what might happen if she did. He liked to know how things worked and he was a little less afraid of magic that he could puzzle together. And he was a little less afraid of her, too. Just a little.


Uban had expected a bit of a bang or a pop, but nothing like what actually happened. It sounded like someone had slapped two sheets of steel together, a sharp echoing crack that made his ears ring a little. The force of it made him have to take a backstep in order to steady himself, but it knocked Wheel straight on his ass. Wheel.

Berlin had been more focused on Rohaan, keeping one ear peeled for cussing, excessive splashing, or cries for help. Apparently she hadn't made him scrub yet because he was pretty quiet. But with his attention half on the horizon and half on his young charge, the bang startled him horribly. "Shit!" He turned, covering the distance between him and Wheel in only a few long strides. Everyone was alive--check. But Wheel actually went down. Briefly, but that alone was a feat hard to manage. And there was Uban, practically drunk with power, laughing. He wasn't laughing at Wheel, but just the sheer euphoria of the power he held. His expression, combined with the now very bright golden eyes of his, made him look almost cracked.

"Tevira's tits, lad!! Some WARNING for the rest of us next time!" Berlin reprimanded sternly, his voice resonant. He would be impressed eventually, but only after he made sure his crew was okay and he recovered from the shock of the sudden crack. "Damn, Wheel, you good?" Berlin knew not to smother him but he did offer his flask to the man. Curse or no, that couldn't have been pleasant to go through.
No worries mate!
Ridahne had spent most of the ride in decent spirits (for her, anyway--she always seemed a bit aloof and severe, but there were moments when she was less so, more relaxed and talkative). It felt good to make some progress, to put land between her and the whole mess of Greyrock. She liked the feeling of wind rushing at her, pulling at her hair and clothes and Tsura gleefully hammering the ground beneath her. They were a good team, her and Tsura. She had the fortitude to keep him in line and he had the stamina to keep up with her. But as the day drew on and they came closer to their goal, she seemed to darken in demeanor. For one thing, she got quiet and stopped offering riding tips to Darin, or quick comments about the landscape. Ridahne also seemed to be constantly scowling, though if she was ever called on it, she'd very honestly deny it. The expression was slight, but still there. Generally, she looked tense. Fidgeting, glancing around or just staring out at the horizon with a wrinkle in her brow.

They stopped for the night and started to look for a good place to bed down. "I am good in the dark," she said. She was trying to be amiable and casual but despite her efforts she couldn't keep out a slightly clipped note to her voice. "But even amongst my people its considered unwise to try and set up camp in the dark, if it can be helped." Ridahne dismounted, patting Tsura before she gave Darin her own waterskin, which was very large and clearly meant for extended travel. The leather was painted white and blue and a rusty dust-red in a repeating ornamental pattern. "Here. Fill mine too, and I'll find a place and get a fire going." Ridahne forced a smile past her own anxiety. "I better not find you in a ravine again, eh?" She really was just gently teasing her and hoped it didn't come off as stern or condescending. She tonight.

Ridahne led Tsura just off the road, glad to stretch her legs a bit. After some searching, she found a patch of pines where the ground beneath was clear except for pinecones and fallen needles, which she used to start a fire. It would be warm tonight and there wasn't much need to set up a shelter, so she focused on dinner instead. Anything to keep her focused on a task and not the worries in her mind. They would get to the Tree tomorrow morning and already Ridahne was feeling...different. This was the closest she'd ever been to the Tree itself and whether it was an effect of the Great Tree or just her own demons coming to surface, but she felt a strong sense of guilt.

You should have known better. You should have done better. You're a monster, Ridahne, and the Sol should have put you down when they had the chance. And it isn't just me I ruined but Hadian, who will now always be the brother of the traitor. And you abandoned Ajoran. All because you chose to blindly follow orders. Fool.

It was overwhelming. She had food simmering on the fire and her active attention was no longer needed, so the thoughts of horrible, wretched guilt pounced on her like a predator. Crouched by the fire, Ridahne buried her face in her knees and allowed a few hot tears to escape. No dramatic sobs, no keening, just a few tears and shaky breaths. It felt like ages since she'd thought so much about what she'd done and yet she knew it hadn't been that long. She felt it sharply now.

Ridahne heard Darin return and she forced herself to get up and rub Tsura down with a small brush, trying to sweep over the fact that she had been crying. "I've got dinner cooking. It might be spicier than you're used to, from what I've seen of human fare. But it's not too bad. It's a type of curry. A little taste of home." She kept her face toward Tsura and the brush in her hands, pouring herself into her task.
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