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The Stranger with the Fa(M)iliar Face (Jabba x Firesblood)

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Offline Firesblood

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The dead men looked on with empty eyes, no awareness or intelligence within their gaze.  It was a lesser spell, meant only to raise the body without calling on the soul to return; she hadn't the materials she needed for such a thing.  Risen, however, they could move on their own without being carried, fight if needed, and be returned to their families for last rites.  Lor gestured in silent command, and the two undead settled themselves by the fire where they sat with unnatural stillness, like draugr in an ancient tomb. 

When Idryius raised his hands for tying again, and Victor shook his head.  "No.  I'll not bind you again.  You have earned that much at least."

He made to rise, then paused, turning green eyes back to rest on the man.  "And I believe you're right.  He would understand.  I think...I think he went through much to bring you back.  Perhaps he would not wish you to squander the gift he sacrificed his life to give you.  I do not know your Tsarin and cannot speak for him, but...I can speak for myself.  If it were me, I would give my life if it meant my wife could live."  He shrugged and rubbed at the back of his neck, a picture of awkwardness.   


Offline Jabbathejack

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Idryius lowered his hands, resting them on his lap. It was surprising that he was being allowed to have some freedom of movement, considering how he had betrayed that trust before, causing the wound in the first place. Yet in all honesty, Idryius did not feel as if he had the strength to even try to take his own life.

"I think your wife might argue against that."

Idryius smiled bitterly, but the woman's dislike of him was obvious, yet understandable. He was, after all, standing where her son should be.

"Tsarin was a young man when I died."

It must have been fifty years or more since then; Idryius was not entirely sure how long it had been. Fifty years of struggle and study, just to bring him back. It hardly seemed worth it. Not right now.

He fell silent, frowning. He was caught inbetween not wanting to live, but not wanting to die, all at the same time.


Offline Firesblood

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“All the more reason not to squander his sacrifice.  He dedicated his entire life to bring you back to the land of the living.  But…it is your life.  No one can choose what you do with it but you,” Victor said softly. “My hope, however, is that you give it a chance.  Give yourself and my son Samuel a chance.”

With that, the Imperial rejoined his wife at the fire.  They spoke together for a moment, and Lor looked in Idryius’ direction, but that seemed to be the extent of it and she made no move to bind him or convince Victor to do so again.  When she did approach Idryius again much later, it was to pick up the heavy fur cloak that had been discarded in the earlier fight.  She brushed the snow off and extended it to him.

“It’s cold.  Will you not put this on and join us by the fire?”


Offline Jabbathejack

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As Victor headed back towards the fire, Idryius slowly lowered himself to the ground, sitting on the snow despite the cold.

'He's right.' The voice in his head spoke up. 'Give us both a chance.'

When the woman approached, Idryius was convinced that she had come to bind him for the rest of the night. To his surprise, she offered him the cloak and invited him to share their fire.

This time, he actually thanked her, his voice soft. He pulled the cloak around his shoulders and followed her.

He felt tired, cold and hungry. All of that felt as if it were grinding him down, along with the heavy sense of guilt at simply being alive when Tsarin was not.

He lowered himself down by the fire, yet he kept his gaze on the flames rather than look at his captors.

'See?' Samuel spoke up again, sounding optimistic. 'I told you she's not so bad.'


Offline Firesblood

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“It’s a rare man that can hold his own in battle while dancing on the line between life and death, himself,” Lor murmured softly, a soft sort of respect in her tone.  Victor remained silent at her side, filling bowls with soup from the pot nestled over the fire while one of the others filled iron mugs with some sort of tea from the kettle.  Together, the two men distributed the meal and the hot drink, while Lor dug a bottle of mead from her bag to share between the lot of them.

Victor set a bowl and a cup beside Idryius on the off chance that he might take them this time, but no one pushed him to eat or drink; he had earned that much, at least, and while none of them wanted to see the man die, Victor had made it clear that there was only so much that they could do to prevent it if Idryius really wanted to end it all.  Still, he had fought for his life and by extension theirs, and that more than anything had earned him enough respect and consideration to be allowed his choice. 

There was little more offered in the way of conversation; they were all tired and grieving for their most recent losses.  They were a mere few days from home.  All any of them could hope for was that nothing else happened between where they were and where they wanted to be. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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Idryius looked up as his captor spoke and he held her gaze for a moment before turning back to the flames; he hardly felt as if he deserved any praise at all.

He could smell the soup, bubbling in the pot, before they even began to spoon it out into the bowls. His stomach lurched as the bowl was put in front of him and he stared at it, longingly. Fingers shaking a little, he found himself reaching for the bowl and he ignored the spoon in favour of tipping the bowl to drink it in his haste.

After so long without eating, his stomach lurched violently and he gagged, almost retching. Wiping his mouth with his hand, he coughed, trying to regain control over himself. He reached for the cup, taking a more measured sip to try and clear his mouth a little.


Offline Firesblood

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"Easy does it," Victor encouraged when Idryius began to eat a little too quickly, his tone tempered with paternal patience.  His eyes lit a bit behind the green, glad to see the man finally eat.  It was difficult, seeing the man that was his son in such a sorry state.  While he felt just as strongly for his son as Lor did, he recognized that it had not been Idryius's choice to be placed in Samuel's body.  He was another man, another life, a life that was just as important as any other.  He hoped that Lor would find a way to separate the two of them while still preserving Idryius' life in another body; there were no shortage of bandits in the high mountains, after all.  He was a warrior and stubborn at that, and stubborn warriors were a force to be reckoned with; Victor hoped that if all worked out, Idryius might choose to stay.  Of course, he spoke none of this.  Victor was, at his core, a quiet man who preferred action over words.

When the meal was concluded everyone began bunking down.  With two more men dead and no need for them to keep warm, Lor grabbed one of the bed rolls from the deceased's horses and laid it out near the fire by where Idryius was.  He had refused most everything up to that point, but seeing him finally agree to some healing and food was a relief and she hoped that the change of heart would continue on.  "You should be warm enough in this, but keep the cloak just in case.  I don't feel the cold like others do; I won't need it," Lor murmured to Idryius. 

"We're less than three days out from home.  We should reach the cave pass tomorrow evening, and the rest of the journey will be through the mountain itself and beyond to the highest valley," Victor explained.  "It's the hardest part, but at least it's warm in there, and shielded from the wind.  Best to get some rest."

While Victor bunked down in one of the bedding rolls, Lor remained sitting and staring into the fire.  So far she had slept not at all in all the time they had been traveling, nor did she seem any worse the wear for it.  When sleep had overtaken almost everyone, she stood silently and took up her blade, beginning her nightly watch anew.   


Offline Jabbathejack

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To Idryius' relief, the rest of the soup managed to stay down and he drained the bowl, setting it aside once he had finished.

He watched the others talk amongst themselves; even though he sat closer, there was still a gigantic gulf between them. He kept his gaze down, staring into the fire.

The offer of the bedroll snapped him out of his thoughts and Idryius looked up, blinking in surprise.
"I..." He faltered for a moment, then he accepted the bedroll, murmuring a quiet thanks.

He was not left alone for long, Victor spoke up, telling him about their route. It was not a way that he had ever been before. Idryius frowned.

"If the elements aren't going to be a worry, then how will it be the hardest part of the journey?"


Offline Firesblood

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Victor’s brow furrowed, pulling the fur atop him a bit closer around his shoulders.  “The first leg of the pass is an ancient bastion built into the base of the mountain.  Those who lived there in ages long past are entombed within, and the old magics placed upon the dead and their tombs are still intact.  With Lor’s gifts, we usually manage to make it through the bastion unscathed and without disturbing the draugr, but once we bypass the entrance into the caverns beyond, the way is almost entirely vertical,” the Imperial explained.   

Lor spoke up then, pausing just behind them after having overheard.  “There are paths carved into the interior cliffs, but they are narrow and precarious.  About halfway up the path falls away, and we must scale to the top.  There are ropes to facilitate the climb, of course, but it is dangerous even for the sure hand and surer foot.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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Idryius' expression matched Victor's as he listened to the explanation of what was ahead of them.
"I'm a fair climber." He paused, his frown deepening still more.

At least, he used to be. Yet now, he was weak and inhabiting a body that was not his own. Everything that he had once known about himself, right now, felt like a lie.

He glanced at Victor and his wife, wondering if they were asking themselves the same questions. Would they be forced to resort to carrying him up the cliff side?


Offline Firesblood

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Victor smiled faintly. "I do not anticipate any problems," he assured him.

Lor studied Idryius for half a beat, perhaps wondering the same thing as the man living inside of her son's skin.  She still hung on to the hope that Samuel was inside of him somewhere; if such was the case, she had little doubt that her son could guide the man on the path and get them both through it.  She said none of these things, instead moving on to continue her patrol around the campsite, unwilling to be caught unawares like before if another attack occurred. 

Victor moved his gaze to the flame of the campfire, considering.  "Once we reach the top, we will be home.  You will like it, I think.  We do not have much, but what we do have we share.  I will move ahead of the group, run interference with Samuel's wife.  I cannot promise that you will be spared that discomfort indefinitely, but...I will do my best."   


Offline Jabbathejack

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Idryius turned to look at the fire, but inwardly his mind wondered about how he would deal with facing the wife of the man whose body he was currently squatting in. The family did not deserve to be forced into this situation.

He remained silent for the rest of the night, falling back against his bedroll and staring up against the sky, although he barely slept. At the back of his mind, he could feel Samuel's presence, coiling and uncoiling restlessly, most likely at the thought of seeing his wife through the eyes of another man.

The group woke early, ready for the journey ahead. Idryius got up without complaint and rolled up the bedroll he had been given, although he felt like he was in a daze. He felt like he had been since Tsarin had been taken.

They rode through the morning, until they reached the base of the icy cliffs, rising up into the sky. Idryius looked up with a grimace; maybe he'd be lucky and his grip would slip half way up the cliff face? He followed the others through the gap, into the caverns. Inside, he found a stable area and they dismounted, stripping the horses of their tack and making them comfortable.

These people lived a strange life, being so removed from society to live in an area where you couldn't even take a horse.


Offline Firesblood

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Their arrival to the stable at the other side of the bastion by a young orc male and a nord woman.  Both clasped arms with Victor and Lor in greeting, then went about taking care of their horses.  A small girl, mirror image to the woman, brought climbing gear out of the one-room hut that sat just to the side.  Together, she and the other men in the traveling company loaded down a trough, which rose upward on the ropes it was attached to, to the top of the inner cliffs above.  The trough descended twice for the rest of what the group carried. 

The climb was treacherous, the path that led upwards was a narrow switchback, sometimes no wider than a foot across and slick with moisture.  They moved slowly and carefully, taking turns goading one another along good naturedly.  About halfway up they stopped, coming to a wide ledge where coils of rope waited, leading the rest of the way up. 

At the top, a short tunnel opened up into a bowl-shaped valley, small, and surrounded on every side by high, sheer mountain faces.  A village perched less than a mile away on the edge of evergreen woodland, surrounded by fields of winter vegetables and pens with chickens, goats, and elk.  Another group approached them from the village, women and children, a handful of men.

Lor glanced at Victor and sighed softly, resigned.  She gestured to the two dead men and withdrew the magics that animated them, watching as they slid lifelessly back to the ground.  Where they fell, the others reached down to carry them home the rest of the way; there was no sense in getting anyone’s hopes up, seeing more walking towards them than was really there.  Without a word, they headed forward to meet the group somewhere in the middle, though Victor hung back to walk alongside Idryius even as Lor sped up to reach the group ahead. 

As promised, Lor made a beeline for one of the women.  She was almost of a height with Samuel himself, clad in the furs and leather that the rest of them seemed so fond of.  Dark haired, pale, and with features as sharp as a blade, Beka was further along than her mother-in-law, and had to bend down to hear her when the cries of grief began to rise as the rest of their party caught up. 

“That’s Beka,” Victor said softly, nodding at the woman.  “They have been married for two years, but have known each other since they were children.  They were friends first.  She is due to have their first child any day now."


Offline Jabbathejack

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The climb was hard, but Idryius kept quiet, pushing forwards steadily even though he was weak. At the top, he paused to catch his breath, frowning as Lor allowed the dead to fall, releasing her spell. She was probably frustrated at being unable to dismiss him with a similar flick of her fingers.

He followed the others wordlessly, understanding why Lor hurried off before he arrived, informing the rest of the family that a stranger was inhabiting one of their own.

Beka. Idryius knew the name before he was told it, Samuel had whispered her name inside his mind. Idryius grimaced, for he could feel Samuel's pain.

"Probably best that I stay away from her." He nodded at Victor. "I have no wish to cause her pain."


Offline Firesblood

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Victor didn’t immediately answer, watching his mate speak to the taller woman.  There was a flicker of something in Beka’s features as Lor explained the situation, ice-blue eyes promptly shifting to focus on the two men hanging back from the others.  Her gaze was piercing, seeking any sort of physical confirmation of what Lor was telling her.  Without a word, she side-stepped Lor and made a beeline straight for Victor and Idyrius.

Victor grimaced, suddenly uncomfortable. “Yeah…good luck with that.  It looks as though Beka will be making her own judgments in this.” 

Still, despite whatever discomfort the Imperial was feeling, he stayed put beside Idryius in a quiet show of solidarity.  Beka stopped a few paces away, studying the stranger in her husband’s body.  Whatever she had been searching for, she seemed to see it after getting a look in his eyes. 

“Easy, Beka,” Victor cautioned. “He did not choose this any more than Samuel did.”

Beka hardly spared her father-in-law a glance.  It was difficult to decipher how she was feeling about what was happening; her features were well-schooled, her voice quiet and even when she spoke. “Name?”

“He’s called Idryius,” Victor mumbled.

“Idryius,” Beka repeated, shifting her gaze back to him. “I wish the blunt truth straight from your mouth, without platitudes or false hope; Does my Samuel still hold on to life somehow, or have I been made a widow like the other two?”
« Last Edit: August 21, 2020, 02:04:15 PM by Firesblood »