((Collab w/ @Tangletail))
-="Turn back to step forward."=-
Phinuphus looked between Raux, Szazah, and his parting companions. There was no swaying the man. The ranger could talk all he liked of what Phinuphus did not know of the warlord's condition and load; what the two of them might've been able to put together of Szazah wasn't half of the drink-soaked stone that made up the his face. Raux's counsel, too, rang true. There was nothing for it. Phinuphus huffed and leaned down to pull Szazah into a hug, firm and all-encompassing like a parent holding a child, each trying to remind the other that they were not alone. Szazah grunted, though it wasn't clear whether he was discomforted or affronted. As best he could he half-heartedly tried to return the embrace, his arms brely able to circle the capybkin's torso.
"Do not let Dripood tie your heart under his fin. Meekminnow knows no god's grace." Phinuphus whispered, giving Szazah a final squeeze before he let the man go. Phinuphus backed away, falling to all fours and not looking away from the Szazah as he stood there, slack from drink and gloom. It was like watching the last scraps of a hot meal sink into a mire. It was the first time Phinuphus' iron had wavered about the nature of their journey.
It is not enough to stay by motherwater.
Phinuphus chittered, kneeling forward briefly for Cheed to climb onto his back. The boy looked solemn, as uneasy as his big bear of a master. With his child atop him, Phin strode forward, finding his roadstep and trotting by Szazah as he made for the north gate.
Raux said nothing more, only listened. She disliked reminding people that there were certain things that they had no power over. And though she could not actually see it, she knew what particular actions were by sounds. They always varied from person to person, but the basis was always the same. She heard what sounded like a hug, an intimate moment between sorrow filled friends that did not last long enough. The corner of her mouth dipped down when she began to think about the journey she decided to join. When the last formalities were exchanged, Raux gave Szazah a bow, and slowly spun on her heels. She waited for the sounds of heavy footsteps to just barely pass her before following along, the end of her staff feeling the ground for anything that might cause her to trip.
Phinuphus's breath did not quicken at all with the pace he set, barely faster than the horse's trot that had lead. They would meet their companions in a few minutes, but it gave Phinuphus time to cool. And talk.
"Michael teaches us to look inward. So too does Anomandaris. There, Michael says, we find strength. Anomandaris, too, holds that within we find purpose. Sister sermons and proverbs abound. But we are of a different blood from soft-skins." Each sentence was thrust quietly into evening chill, gusts of heat churning in the twilight.
Raux's ears perked, though she smiled softly, and listened. She was no fool, she knew what she was to the eyes of her kin. But it was welcome to find a voice that held some understanding despite the reservations.
"And together, they formed bonds," Raux hummed softly, remembering a detail that was often left out. "A companionship that is interpreted differently from mind to mind. Master and slave. Owner and pet. Or friend and friend."
Behind her blindfold her eyes went half-lidded while her head canted to the side. Her tone was soft, but she held that smile. "Though blind I am, I know what we are now. I asked questions about my own existence to my masters who graciously took me in. What am I. What color am I. I was a creature mysterious to myself~."
"And you are not mysterious now?" Phinuphus quipped.
The raksha stuck out her tongue. It was a playful gesture as evidence by the humor in her tone, "I am blind yet I've traveled further alone than most with functional eyes. And I still do not know if I am concidered beautiful or ugly."
Cheed giggled, flopping his legs forward and back with enthusiasm. Phinuphus was not as easy a mark though.
"A Michaelite for certain, cat. But I was not leading you to litany. Friend and friend for certain, cat... but the world around them shaped how they saw one another. Beauty in the eye cheapens beauty in the nostrils... the sweetness of hindequarters and the sour of the gland. The texture of strange fur against one's own, and all the songs of life. Michael trusts his fellow man... and too, trusts his dog. But Anomandaris knows Michael by scent and sound and keener senses still. You think it knowledge you lack? You think you blind?"
Raux's head turned slowly towards Cheed when she heard a giggle. A small curisoity that she had seemingly missed. But her gaze lowered to Phinuphus with a hint of curisoity on her muzzle. But she turned her head back to the path once more. Her mood still not dampened. She gave the ground a hard tap with her staff. Her ears flicking as it picked up the many vibrations in the air. Finally, she raised her staff up and rested it on her shoulders.
"Perhaps not as blind as I often portray, as I still sense the world. Only differently," her head rolled back to look to the sky for some reason, though she couldn't see a thing. Then back to the ground. "But I do not deny that I lack knowledge." She looks to back to the Capybkin with a thoughtful grin. "Perhaps I could tell you that I am young, barely a few years older than the age of consent. And I have not see what the world could offer, nor the wisdom experience brings. But... you are no fool. No one could openly claim such a thing directly themselves."
"The truth is... I feel that I lack... wisdom. I do not know how or why."
"Tankin says wisdom is the valley between all mountains." Cheed interjected, mirth still in his voice. He took another bite of hardmeal, talking through his food. "Climf wif foolf, painff with filofoferf, or -gulp- walk with friends."
Phinuphus let the boy's words hang there, but he could not hide the prideful stiffness that weighted his next several steps. He sniffed loudly, very pleased.
Raux shifted her quartstaff from her shoulders, to under her arm. Her freehand moved to rub her chin as she not only contemplates the words. But also contemplates the child. "Mmm.... it seems that you've adopted a young one," The Raksha lifted her nose and gave the air a small sniff. "Human, as well. You've taught him well."
"Yes... this confounding rascal of an orphan is called Cheed." Phinuphus spat, affecting his usual irritation for the boy, who chortled into his hand. "I have given up foiling his tendency to snoop and spy, and so he has stolen the point of my rambling. We try lead our friends from mountain peaks even when they are fully kitted for the journey--even when they have climbed the same peak before. And Szazah is not well."
Phinuphus stopped then, turning to look at Raux for the first time, and sniffing the air as his long face seesawed up and down to take in the shape of her.
"Michael does teach that a man can heal himself in time. But no man does so during a mountain climb. No breastkin either. Anomandaris gave us the sense to trust motherwater or fieldwarmth or whatever cradles each of our senses best. What senses gave Michael his children?"
Raux seemingly remained quiet for some time as she contemplated the answer. Her tail twitched softly with each step she made, she was likely to let seconds go into minutes if she remained in such a state. But a tiny voice in her head whispered softly to her, to which she shook her head. Her smile had faded into a contemplative purse of the lips. "Michael does not provide such senses. But gives men ideals..." she hummed softly. "I do not doubt that I am a child of Anomandaris upon my birth. But my orphan background had brought me to the hands of Michael. These ideals brought me some amount of curiosity. The monks taught that these ideals are not defined by the mouth of Micheal himself, but by the man that seeks some value in his life. Values created by fears, longings, morality, and emotions."
Values created by man, elf, dwarf and dragon.
Phinuphus turned to walk again, silent as he lead them on, a bit faster to make up for the distance opened between their two groups. Presently, he spoke, no longer the master to a prospective apprentice, but for the first time the old and weary hill. "Ideals are the peaks, girl. Men strand themselves all the time upon them, lonely heights where every friendly face is hidden by clouds and all the world lies below for creatures born to two-leggedness, with flesh desperate for second skins against the cold and sheer winds. If Szazah makes his way down from that peak, with bastards like Rripp to hound him... bah... it is not right, this thing."
The feline's smile returned. Her tail waving back and forth in a metronome fashion. "But that... is what makes me curious. I... do not fully understand it... but I desire to. The ideals that Michael allows men to create... is quite a curious thing. Those whom are weak, could not defend themselves from the natural laws - which states that if you are strong enough to take something, it is yours. Yet... they saw strength in numbers. They formed societies based on ideals to protect their own lives and their pocessions. But... with time these ideals grew more complicated. The ideals of beauty lead artist to capture it with paint. The ideals of honor created knights. The ideals of power... created kings, conflicts, and murders."
Lest we forget ants and bees, says Nalfgyr.
She glances to Phinuphus, "The ideals are just that. Ideals. Perfection. Something we are not meant to strive for, yet men do it anyways to a feverish degree."
Phinuphus wiggled his nose in thought as they kept on, letting the silence between them thicken, taking time to taste the air and the wind. "Am I the first of our blood you will have ever traveled with?"
Raux gave a brief nod. "You are correct. I've only had two companions prior. A bard who's race I couldn't identify, but was not covered in fur. And a dying human."
"Then we shall take our time in the valley, friend and friend." Phinuphus said, and broke into a fast trot, leading them steadily to rejoin their companions.
Summary: Phinuphus and Raux take their leave of The Moving