"The king did not say," Monopa said. "He told me that Cliff Rammes does not exist, so I asked him to judge the one who was touching him. Then he judged you. Is Clifford not your real name?" She paused and looked at the other two at the bottom of the hill, well out of hearing range considering how softly she was speaking. "You can tell me. If it's to protect yourself, I do understand. A lot of us have... invented our own names. I'm all right with that. We just don't pretend to be someone else entirely. Do you get what I'm telling you?"
Post by Ethereal Panda on Jul 24, 2009 10:35:52 GMT 9.5
Cliff nodded. "I am me and nothing more," he replied in a poetic manner. "I use," he stalled, "this alias, because there are people looking for me. People who I would rather not find me. I am sure you understand." He looked at her forcing a half hearted smile.
"That went well, I suppose," he commented more to himself before pressing on.
"Yes. It went about as well as it could have. I understand, but nobody from beyond can find you here. You are safe."
Both of them decided to wait until they got back to Gondarash to tell everyone what the king had decided. Jed initially pushed for answers, quickly offering to dispose of Cliff off the Rains, but Monopa said that that was unnecessary. Tex, however, pressed for a response for the whole walk, right until the sun was setting as they entered the village. Monopa gathered everyone into the commons and stood at the head of the table with Cliff by her side.
"The king judged Clifford Rammes," she began, pausing to observe everybody's expressions, "and told me that he is of no threat to us, and that he did not come from the water."
A tide of whispers rose, but nothing really discernible could be heard. Nobody gave any cheers of joy but at the same time nobody had any audible objections. Monopa held up her hand to quieten them. Arka sat at the other end, staring ahead impatiently with his hand supporting his chin.
"But Clifford is on a personal journey, and as such, the king said that while he is searching, he cannot be one of us. Arka and I will speak with him about this after nightmeal, but in the meantime, nobody else is to ask Cliff about such things. Is this clear? We will aid him in any way we can, but once it is time for Cliff to move on, then he must do so. It is his quest."
There was a mostly agreeable murmur from everyone. It was a sort of squashed response from the king; Cliff was acceptable, but he could not be accepted. So, unsure of how to react, they mostly nodded at him. Cliff was seated on the corner next to Monopa's place, away from Larr, and forcing Jed away from her. Then Joy came in with her usual soup, this time accompanied by several bread loaves for everyone to share. The soup and bread were tasty, but the meal was otherwise eerily quiet. The occasional glance was thrown in Cliff's direction, and it was hard to say, but at one point, somebody seemed to whisper something about Monopa favouring Cliff more than she should. None of them spoke of Tex's antics and the ferehen's attack, either.
"How was the walk?" Arka asked across the table, looking at Cliff. He shrugged and put on a thoughtful face. "Interesting?"
Post by Ethereal Panda on Jul 24, 2009 11:09:03 GMT 9.5
Cliff leaned forward and played with his spoon, twirling it around his fingers. "It was... a bit more eventful than I expected." Not sure if this was the wisest conversational course to pursue, he abruptly attempted to change the subject. "This is a very nice valley you have," he stated in a seemingly disinterested tone. The boy ceased his twirling and looked up to meet Arka's dark brown eyes, but after a moment looked over to Larr. Cliff realized that he hadn't had a chance to talk to him since he got back.
Arka nodded. "Thanks," he said. "But it's not really ours. We're just the only ones here."
Larr hadn't looked at Cliff once since they got back. In fact, the boy who was once the friendliest and most talkative one there was now quiet and glum. Shortly after Arka finished speaking, Jed stood and left. There was still soup in his bowl.
"We need to rearrange who has what tent," Monopa said, addressing something different entirely.
"Previously, we had the older boys in one, the older girls in another, and the younger ones in a third. Now, thanks to Larr and Arka's hard work, we have seven tents and there are 13 of us. That's two to a tent."
"Cliff!" Tex yelled. Some of the girls jumped. "Us two. Yeah?"
Post by Ethereal Panda on Jul 24, 2009 11:32:51 GMT 9.5
Cliff winced at the idea of having to share a tent with the rowdy blond boy. Controlling his unease, he said loudly enough to hush the chatter, "If you do not mind Tex, I would rather share a tent with," he rapidly looked around for a candidate, "Larr."
Noticing all eyes were on him, Cliff quickly made up an excuse, "I do not normally sleep well when I share a room, but Larr is very quiet." He couldn't remember if this was true or not, but he hoped no one would call him out on it. "I also have his shoes." He immediately realized this comment made no sense.
"That is, if it is fine with you Larr," Cliff said more quietly to the boy.
Larr, at first, didn't respond. He continued to machine the soup into his mouth as though it was a bottomless bowl.
"He didn't say yes," Tex said victoriously. "Larr?" Monopa tapped the table, trying to get his attention. "Sure," Larr said. "Good. Tex, you can share with Gerit. Arka and Jed. Nierra and Quera. Joy and Herring. Tania and Felinor. I'll have my own, since I need room for my shrine. Any objections?"
After some minor edits -- none of which really changed the ideal proposed layouts -- everybody agreed. Larr and Cliff had the same tent they were in before, but Larr had brought across some more of his belongings: a small wooden box, some bags, a bow and quiver with arrows, a larger box which rattled when he carried it, a statuette on a stand, some homemade candles, some tools for woodworking, a few books and scrolls, and other odd bits and pieces.
As he arranged his side of the tent with his belongings, he didn't seem to notice Cliff enter.
Post by Ethereal Panda on Jul 24, 2009 11:53:28 GMT 9.5
"Hi," Cliff said meekly. Although he could think of nothing he had done wrong, Cliff often found himself upsetting people without understanding why. In this case, he actually wanted to make amends. The books caught his eye, and even though he wanted to know what they were, for the moment he tried to remain focused. "I brought your shoes back," he held them out to Larr. Cliff didn't have any replacements yet, but he figured Larr needed them more. After all, Cliff had no role in the village. "Tex should make me some new ones soon," he said with a smile.
He spent some time arranging his bedding and turned to find Cliff still holding out the boots. He took them and placed them at the end of his bed. He met Cliff's eyes for just a moment as he turned back to what he was doing. Then he sat on the quilts and slumped forwards with a sigh.
"Sorry," he murmured. "I know I'm... It's just that... Tex always steals my friends. And you can't stay anyway, so I don't really see much point..." He quickly got up and went to leave, but he didn't do it so quickly that Cliff couldn't stop him if he wanted to.
Post by Ethereal Panda on Jul 24, 2009 12:08:05 GMT 9.5
Dropping the boots, Cliff grabbed Larr's wrist when he was already half way out of the tent. "I wanted you to come today, you know," he said matter of factly. "I did not know you were not invited. I only asked Tex, because I needed shoes."
He waited a moment to see if Larr would say anything, but Cliff still held the boy's hand firmly. "Besides, I will probably be here longer than you think. I mean I cannot swim out of the valley. I will need a boat, and I am in no hurry to leave." He heard someone approaching and let go of Larr's wrist.
Larr looked away from Cliff as he spoke but he didn't pull away. There was a pause and then the sound of talking and footsteps. Arka looked into the tent.
"Come on, Cliff," he said. "Let's talk." He took Cliff back to the commons where Monopa was waiting.
Larr was left where he was. "What's a... boat?" he asked himself.
"So Cliff," Arka began, taking a seat and inviting Cliff to sit. "What do you need?"
"What Arka means to ask," began Monopa, "is, what is your quest, and can we give you anything to help you accomplish it? The king didn't tell me what you're looking for, like I said, but that doesn't mean you can't tell us."
"But you don't have to if you don't want to," Arka added. "If you want to just go and have nothing to do with us, that's all right. Though you'd need a bow in case a ferehen chases you. And... to be honest, I don't know a way out of the valley anyway. But it's up to you. Tell us what you want to say. We won't tell anyone else and we'll try to help." He smiled.
Post by Ethereal Panda on Jul 24, 2009 12:45:50 GMT 9.5
Cliff placed his hand on his chin, and with a furrowed brow thought for about a minute. He could not think of a quest he was on, except maybe finding missing pieces of the Dutri, but these children wouldn't even know what that is. However, honesty probably wouldn't hurt.
"I am not on a quest. I mean, I did not set out to be on a quest... Well I suppose I did not set out at all," he laughed to himself while the other two looked at him half confused. Cutting the laughter off abruptly, he coughed and attempted a serious tone. "I have sworn to find the missing pieces of the Dutri. They are our religious texts, you see. Maybe that is what the king was referring to. I can think of nothing else," he said shaking his head.
"As to leaving the valley..." The boy trailed off into silence. He had been hasty the last time he rushed off into the wilderness. It had been almost a year since then, and he had no desire to make that same mistake. "I am in no rush." He suddenly thought of Larr and smiled.
"The mountains look almost impossible to climb, and I may not be able to even get down the other side. Plus, I do not even know where here is exactly." He pushed off the table he was leaning against and paced back and forth. "Probably the best way to leave would be by boat or raft. Chances are there will be another town down stream. From there I could get home." He was staring at the floor with a calculating expression. The boy lifted his head and met Arka's eyes and concluded, "Besides, I do not know how to use a bow."
Monopa and Arka watched and listened as Cliff told his story. When he finished, Arka suppressed a smile and looked at her. They moved to the other side of the tent and spoke quietly to one another for a few minutes. Then they returned to their seats.
"We only know of one 'religious text', as you call them," Monopa said. "There's one at the Gianthands, far to the north. People used to live there; giants, twice the size of any of us. But they're all gone now. We don't go there because the ferehens like to nest nearby. But maybe the text is similar to what you're looking for? Could you explain a little more about this Dutri, to see if there are any similarities?"
"Monopa has a good memory," Arka boasted. "She remembers the text. It told us about how we were all created, and things like that. We don't know who wrote it, but it's important to us, even though it's hidden in a dangerous place."
Post by Ethereal Panda on Jul 24, 2009 13:08:09 GMT 9.5
Cliff blinked several times in a state of shock. The idea that a missing piece of the Dutri could actually be in this valley had never occurred to him. His normal skepticism was overrun by a childish excitement. Grinning widely, he attempted to explain rapidly. "They're stone tablets, but there are also scrolls, you see. Um, there are four missing ones. Scholars think they were about the race in the temples, the birth of Renin, and the early humans. Does that sound like what you saw? We should go as soon as we can," he said with glee.
"I don't know. Ours is about Rean and the Hesten," Monopa said. "And Aldon. But there's nothing about temples, births, or early humans. It's about Rean, Aldon, and the king, and about our valley and the... blue water."
"It doesn't sound very similar," Arka said. "Besides, you've been walking all day. Don't you want some rest?"
"It would be a lot easier if we still had Rosaria," Monopa said, slouching in surrender. "Arka's horse," she added, seeing that Cliff seemed puzzled. "She's been gone for a few weeks now. We lost her in Hillenwood."
"Yeah." Arka shrugged. "I don't know about you guys, but our texts sound pretty different. Sorry, Cliff. I don't know that we can help you. How about we all sleep on it and see what we can come up with in the morning?"