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After The Adventure (Chapter Seven poll up 11/25!)
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:15 pm    Post subject: After The Adventure (Chapter Seven poll up 11/25!)  

Chapter One


“And we really can’t change your mind?”

Etta paused, fork poised halfway towards her still open mouth. For a moment, she debated using the act of chewing to delay her answer. Instead, the fork lowered, clinking onto the fine plate quietly. Smiling brightly, she balanced her chin on one hand and braced her elbow on the table.

“Isn’t the night before I leave a bit late to try and change my mind, Sabella?”

Sabella frowned, her lips pouting for just a moment, before she sighed and poked at something on her own plate. “Maybe. I wasn’t going to try at all, you know. This is your path to walk. But—”

“But you’re our friend,” Jaetyn interjected, gesturing wildly with their dinner knife. “We aren’t supposed to just sit back and let you cart yourself off to the wilderness.”

“As I recall, we met in the ‘wilderness’. I handled myself there.”

“Perhaps,” Praxton said gently, having abandoned any pretense of eating the fine food in front of him, “It would be better for us to be supportive, rather than…” His voice trailed off as he struggled for a ‘proper’ word. Etta just waited, using the moment to put her abandoned bite of potato in her mouth. The vibrantly seasoned and perfectly cooked fare certainly was a contrast to the meals she’d shared with her friends before.

“The prince speaks true!” Holden near-bellowed, thumping Praxton ingloriously on the back. Etta muffled a laugh at his expense, turning her attention back to Sabella and Jaetyn.

“It’s not exactly ‘the wilderness’. The town has a guild affiliation and everything.”

“I looked into that,” Jaetyn said with all the newly acquired authority they possessed. “The town in question has one guild clerk, and the guild office isn’t even in its own building. They haven’t had a single adventurer turn in a quest listing there, and have only listed one quest themselves—”

“—For an herbalist.” Etta said with heavy emphasis. “Which I am, and want to get better at. And it’s in the exact forest I wanted to research. This is a good opportunity for me.” She paused a moment, taking in the expressions on her dear friends faces. “... Even if I didn’t take this quest listing, you know I wouldn’t be staying in the capital.”

They looked away, then back to her. For just a moment, none of them could meet her eye. Sabella even slumped in her seat, all these months of regality training erased from her posture. Etta wished this grand table of Praxton’s were smaller, so she could reach out and take Sabella’s hands in a tight, reassuring grip.

“We’ll miss you.” The words came from Praxton, raw with emotion, but the others echoed him with varied noises of agreement. “But we know why you’re leaving.”

They did, didn’t they. Better than anyone else could, the four other people in this room knew what she was dealing with. What they’d all dealt with, but only she couldn’t put behind her. She lowered her gaze to her plate, staring distantly into the scattered potatoes.

“I’ll miss you too.”

“I refuse to accept this—” Jaetyn said, leaning towards Etta and lifting her chin to lock eyes. “—Unless I can get one promise out of you.”

“I make no promise to promise,” Etta said, voice light despite the mood. Or maybe because of it. It was easier to be jovial than honest. “But tell me what you wish.”

“You’ll write. This tiny village of yours has a proper post office, or the guild wouldn’t’ve let them be affiliated.”

“I promise.” She said, but Jaetyn kept talking.

“If I don’t hear from you, I’ll hike myself up there and confront you.”

“I promise.” She repeated, only for Jaetyn to speak louder.

“You’re pursuing a ‘peaceful’ life, not becoming a hermit. You—”

“Jaetyn!” She threw a grape tomato from her salad right into their open maw. With a cough they dropped her chin and reared back. “You’re jabbering again. I promised to write already.”

Jaetyn sighed and sat back down, chewing the tomato. Silence drifted over the table, broken only by the sound of Jaetyn chewing and Holden cutting his meat. She really had the best friends. Etta smiled at them, wistful and sad. It was almost too bad they hadn’t been able to keep adventuring together forever.

“In that case,” Jaetyn finally said with a heavy and dramatic sigh. “I guess we better drain the dear prince’s cellar drinking to celebrate your departure.” They lifted their glass, and smiled smugly. “To Etta, may your life be peaceful and boring.”


~*~*~


“Is that all you’ll need?” Praxton asked, incredulously.

“Yep.” Etta said, adjusting her pack on her lap. It wasn’t strapped to her back yet, since Praxton had insisted the first leg of her journey include a royal escort. She hadn’t been able to talk him out of it entirely, but at least she’d talked him down to just a carriage ride to the edge of the city.

“But, your herbs—”

“Most of my personal supply was used up already. Anything I purchased to resupply I had sent to the village ahead of me, it should be waiting at a depot at the base of the mountain. I also had Jaetyn help me arrange with the guild to set up a quest for labor hauling up said herbs once I’m settled.”

“Your clothing—”

“In a trunk, already waiting at that same depot. As are my journals. All just waiting for me, to make the journey with them.”

“The village is providing a home, right?” Sabella fretted. “Small villages like that, they don’t often have any extra buildings just… laying around. There’s got to be a catch.”

“There’s a small combined warehouse and home, which was occupied by the previous herbalist.” Etta smiled, hopeful. “The Head Villager and I exchanged some letters, and apparently none of his belongings have been removed. I’m hoping that this herbalist was a meticulous note-taker, and I might be able to learn something new from his records.”

“I’m almost offended at how excited you look.” Jaetyn muttered. “So ready to run off and abandon us all.”

“I’d like to remind you that Holden is leaving as well.” Etta said, looking to her right, where Jaetyn sat slumped against the side of the carriage, sulking out the window.

“Yeah, but we always knew his goal was to head home. It’s not like you’re leaving us to head back home.”

Etta frowned, wondering how to reply to that. In truth, she’d never had somewhere to feel like ‘home’. Vague memories of a stone cottage when she was very young, perhaps, followed by many years inside cold walls with lessons and trials as her companions. The ramshackle buildings she’d thrown together in a few different regions had been shelters, not homes. They’d merely been roofs over her head while she studied. The closest she’d felt to being home, to being at peace, had been on the road with the friends sitting with her in this carriage now. Holden excepted, of course, as he was back at the castle preparing for his own departure. They’d said their goodbyes already, and her back still felt bruised from that hug.

“I’m looking for a home.” Etta finally replied, after the long silence had drawn even Jaetyn’s sullen gaze. “I hoped to find one here, but after everything… I don’t know. It’s too busy. Too many eyes, too many expectations.”

Jaetyn sat up, throwing an arm over her shoulders and squeezing tight. “Sorry. I know. I just wish… your home could be closer to us, is all.”

Etta sat stiffly for a moment, then sighed and leaned into them. “Yeah. Me too. Maybe this won’t work out, and I’ll be back.”

“Naw, I’m not selfish enough to hope for that.” Jaetyn mumbled, resting their cheek against the top of Etta’s head. “You go to that distant, tiny village. You wow ‘em, even without your magic. You find your place. And you write. Then I’ll be happy.”

“As will I.” Praxton echoed. Etta looked at him, not surprised to see Sabella holding onto him tightly and nodding, even as she wiped copious silent tears off of her face.

“I’ll find times to visit, too.” Etta promised, surprised even as she said it. For all her denials about running away, returning hadn’t occurred to her at all before. Not even in passing. If they’d had replies to that, they were cut off when the carriage came to a stop. Sabella took in a shuddering gasp, and wiped at the tears still on her face.

“Oh, dash it. I look neither like a composed Priestess nor a regal princess.”

Etta passed her pack over to Jaetyn, and then leaned forward to kneel at Sabella’s feet and take her hands, pulling them away from her face. “Nope. You look like a mess. Thank you, Bell. I’m going to miss you and your blubbering dearly.” Sabella’s lip quivered, a sure sign the waterworks were about to begin in earnest. Gripping her hands more tightly, Etta half-rose, and pulled Sabella down into a hug. “I’ve got to go catch my stagecoach, now.”

“Good luck getting me to let go.” Sabella murmured mutinously, gripping Etta tighter. “If I just never let go, then my friend group won’t collapse.”

“Goodness, but am I sad I’ll miss seeing you arm-wrestle Holden into submission later, then.”

“Yes. Yes you will.” Sabella gave one last squeeze, then despite her words, released Etta. “I’m just… going to stay in the carriage.”

Etta nodded, then reached for her pack from Jaetyn. For a brief moment, they looked like they might not relinquish it, but then the rebellious look faded from their eyes and they passed it over. She really felt loved, with the way they clearly all wanted to keep her, but instead weren’t fighting her desire to leave. Mildly grouching, bemoaning, and arguing, but not fighting. Once she had the pack looped over her shoulders and verified that the stagecoach fare was still in the pouch at her hip, she headed towards the door.

A grip at her wrist stopped her.

“Wait, Etta.” Praxton pulled her back towards him, and Etta blinked. Though they were all a close knit group, the Prince was ‘proper’, and withheld himself from most physical affections. Even Sabella, his newlywed wife, had remarked upon it.

“Praxton?” Drat, she was supposed to be using his title, now that they were in the capital. “What is it?”

“A present.” He turned her hand over and dropped a small hunk of metal into it. Unsure, Etta dropped her gaze to it.

A ring. It was thick, made with a wide white metal. Around the band were entwining engravings of—vines? Thorned stems? Reflexively, she brought it closer for a better look. Stems, definitely, but those were little sprouts and buds. Herbs. These were herbs, engraved into the band and surrounding a symbol on its front. She turned the ring towards her, focusing on the symbol. Even in this miniature form, it was easy to recognize the sigil of the royal family, a flareflower. The leaves of the flareflower shone in a lustrous yellow, clearly gold. In the center of the flareflower a small gem had been set, a deep brown. The Prince had given her a ring which, if she showed it to the right people, would put her in a place of authority that was rivaled only by his own and his fathers. More than that, he’d personalized it to her.



DP: What does Etta do about the ring? Does she react well? Poorly?
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Lebrenth



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1479
Location: Utah

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:01 pm    Post subject: Sweet sorrow  

I'm really feeling the affection these adventurers have for each other. Pity we're getting to know them just to leave them behind.

DP-wise, graciously accept it and when she's out of sight of the others, tuck it away. Keep it secret, keep it safe... sorry couldn't help myself... but seriously, I don't think she wants a high profile where she's going, but she may need it if she gets into trouble.

Nice chapter! Looking forward to more!
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:08 pm    Post subject:  

I'm so glad! It's a pretty slow start, exposition and plot wise, but I REALLY wanted to establish Etta's relationship with her friends before, you know, she left them.

Thanks for being the first commenter, by the by!
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ten11



Joined: 19 Sep 2018
Posts: 24

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:51 pm    Post subject:  

Thank him, but also ask him what he thinks she'll need it for.

This is a good chapter. I've always liked the concept of story taking place after the "plot" has already happened, or is happening somewhere else, and with slightly different phrasing, focus on slightly different things, I could easily imagine this chapter being the epilogue of some other narrative, just completed.
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Emperor



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 467
Location: San Diego, CA

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:43 am    Post subject:  

Great start Noni! I agree with Lebrenth...again, that we should just take it graciously and hide it away for our future. Just for the sake of putting up a second option, maybe give her a keepsake of our own.

Here are some things that pop out to me. I'll just do them in order of the chapter.

Quote: thumping Praxton ingloriously on the back. Etta muffled a laugh at his expense... I'm pretty sure that you wanted to use the word ingloriously here, but just in case you meant something else I wanted to point out that it means to cause dishonor... or something along those lines.

Quote: [b] Etta said with heavy emphasis. [b] you forgot to close your bold command

Quote: Sabella even slumped in her seat, all these months of regality training erased from her posture. This line was just one instance in the way it gave us a peek in into her life and helps us really understand her and the other characters

Quote: [b] Jaetyn said, leaning towards Etta and lifting her chin to lock eyes. [b]
you forgot to close your bold command

Quote: he threw a grape tomato from her salad right into their open maw Like Lebrenth said you do a really good job of showing us the dynamic of these characters. This little scene here to me speaks a lot without having to spell out anything.

Quote: Small villages like that, they don’t often have any extra buildings just… laying around. There’s got to be a catch I enjoyed this bit of world building here. So many time, I have been guilty of just having things exist for the story because it is convenient.
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Wellspring



Joined: 13 Jan 2016
Posts: 20

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:51 am    Post subject:  

This is fantastic!

I think that Etta should refuse the ring and tell him that she can't take it.

Keep up the good work! :D
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:57 am    Post subject:  

I'm glad you noticed that, Ten! As the title implies, this is supposed to be the 'last chapter' of their original adventure. I'm delighted it's coming across as I intended.

I did actually mean ingloriously, as its meaning includes causing shame, not just dishonor. It's supposed to imply both Holden's disregard for Praxton's princely status, and how much stock Praxton places on it. And thank you! I remembered the bold coding at the last second before posting the chapter, so I sort of rushed that part. Edited both of those to how they should be! Thank you for noticing the world building, too.

Thank you, Wellspring!

Okay, so the current options are:
Refuse the ring, saying she can't take it.

Take the ring, but give the Prince a keepsake of our own (I think, Emperor used 'her', so I'm not sure that's what they meant)

Thank him, but ask why he thinks she'll need it.

Take the ring graciously, and tuck it away safely out of sight.


Gonna give it til the end of today, I think, before I put the poll up. This is going so much faster than I thought!
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Sapphire_Rayne



Joined: 17 Sep 2015
Posts: 38

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:30 am    Post subject:  

I really love how this chapter is written, as mentioned before the way these characters all interact is a huge show of the affection they hold towards one another and I'm hoping we'll see more of them scattered through later chapters as our lovely Etta is traveling away.

While I feel like Etta is the sort of person to refuse the ring, I feel like it'd be a good idea to have her accept it as to not make things tense. She doesn't have to wear it on her person and could always keep it tucked away somewhere safe that way she still has something to look at fondly to remember her friends.
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:45 pm    Post subject:  

Poll is officially up!
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Lebrenth



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1479
Location: Utah

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:52 pm    Post subject:  

Emperor wrote: Great start Noni! I agree with Lebrenth...again, that we should just take it graciously and hide it away for our future. Just for the sake of putting up a second option, maybe give her a keepsake of our own.

Oooh, good thinking! That's what friends do! Second option, please.
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8762
Location: http://www.NeilHarlteyBooks.com

Posted: Fri Jul 26, 2019 3:01 am    Post subject:  

Somehow missed the DP stage, but managed to catch the poll and turn it into a three way tie! :cool:
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Fri Jul 26, 2019 9:42 am    Post subject:  

Well, at least if it had to tie it's a tie between the options I can kind of combine. Thanks for reading, Chinaren!
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Emperor



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 467
Location: San Diego, CA

Posted: Fri Jul 26, 2019 10:25 am    Post subject:  

Novelest_Ninjagirl wrote: Well, at least if it had to tie it's a tie between the options I can kind of combine. Thanks for reading, Chinaren!

There is always the authors power to tiebreak. Though I have always enjoyed implementing ties when I could.
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:23 pm    Post subject:  

Emperor wrote: Novelest_Ninjagirl wrote: Well, at least if it had to tie it's a tie between the options I can kind of combine. Thanks for reading, Chinaren!

There is always the authors power to tiebreak. Though I have always enjoyed implementing ties when I could.
My FAVORITE thing to do is combine ties. It's gotten me some really interesting scenes before!
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:16 pm    Post subject:  

I closed the poll! Key happened to break a 3 way tie that had been going on for like, most of the day, and I didn't want to risk another tie happening. Thanks for voting!
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 12:41 am    Post subject: Chapter Two  

[Note: I edited the last paragraph of chapter one, changing starflower to flareflower because awesome ideas always come after you hit ‘post’.]

Chapter Two

“I—”

Why weren’t words coming out of her mouth? One of the many things she’d learned from her friends on their journey was how to talk. To them, to strangers, to talk at all. She wasn’t the reclusive person they’d first met, hesitant to even give them her name, no matter if she’d already offered her talents. The natural ease she’d developed around them hadn’t vanished, but it was quaking.

No, that was her.

“Your highness—”

“You can hardly start with that respectful pretense now, Etta.” Praxton said gently.

“But—” Etta squeezed her eyes shut, unable to look into Praxton’s. It didn’t help, she could still feel his gaze boring into her. “Praxton, I hardly need this.”

“No.” Praxton sounded amused, and Etta wondered what he was thinking. “No, Etta, you hardly need a hunk of metal to protect you. Take it anyway, for my sake.”

“Your sake?” Etta frowned. What did Praxton expect of her, to be giving her such authority and power? Hesitantly, she made eye contact.

“Yes. Our party is disbanded, we’re all heading on our own paths. I can no longer protect my friends.” He curled her fingers around the ring. “Not with my bow, anyway. Not with my sharp eyes, or my skills. The only power I have, that you can carry with you, is the power of my title.”

“Then—” Etta’s shoulders relaxed a little, her shoulders dropping. Then it wasn’t just her. This wasn’t a secret mission, some lofty expectation she could fail. “Okay. Okay, thank you.”

A glimmer of a scheme sparkled into her mind. Should she? It’d be a terrible idea, almost certainly. It was just as likely she’d embarrass herself, rather than Praxton. Still… Still. Etta grinned, and threw herself forward, wrapping the prince in a tight hug. He instantly stiffened, and she swallowed back her mirth, not wanting to tip her hand. Pulling back, Etta patted Praxton’s head only slightly condescendingly, and spoke.

“Poor proper Prince Praxton, can give away authority and power but can’t handle a simple hug.”

“I— you—” Praxton looked to Sabella, clearly hoping his wife might defend him. Sabella only giggled, though, clearly immensely amused.

Etta had to go, quickly. The stagecoach wouldn’t wait, and her present wouldn’t go unnoticed long. She tucked the ring away, safely out of sight in a hidden pocket inside her overskirt. Then, quite dramatically, she opened the doors to the carriage. She stood there for a moment, arms still outstretched, and stared in front of her. Just fields, a paved road faded to dirt before it reached the horizon, and a coach. One more step, and she’d be on a whole new journey, alone again for the first time in years. She took a deep breath, and looked over her shoulder at her friends, smiling widely. Strongly.

“Thank you, my friends. I’ll see you again soon!”

And with that, she jumped out of the carriage unassisted, and shut the doors behind her.


~*~*~

“Did she look back?” Jaetyn mumbled, watching Sabella as she watched Etta.

“You have a window, too, Jaetyn.” Sabella answered in reply, turning away from hers. “You could have watched.”

“No,” Jaetyn said, slouching further. “No, I couldn’t.”

“If your regrets were this strong, why didn’t you try to stop her?” Sabella said. “Of all of us, maybe you could have stopped her.”

“What do you think I did?”

“You researched where she was going. You helped her find a depot for her things, and arranged for transport of those things.” Sabella scowled at them. “You all but kicked her out the door. You certainly didn’t—”

The carriage jolted, then began to rumble. That was it, then. Etta’s stagecoach must have left, if they were already returning to the castle. Jaetyn sighed, and flicked a glance towards their window. It faced the wrong way, just like they’d intended. If Etta wasn’t going to look back, they weren’t going to tie her down with unwanted sentiment. They wouldn’t watch her go.

“I didn’t what, Sabella?” Jaetyn said, looking at her, their expression deadpan.

“You— urgh.” Sabella crossed her arms. “Are you going to feign ignorance now? Only Etta didn’t notice how you felt, Jaetyn, and that’s because you always bickered with her.”

“Bickering is fun,” Jaetyn was avoiding the question, of course. They sat up straighter, sighing again.

“You could have told her you love her.” Praxton cut into the tension with his soft statement.

Jaetyn flinched. “I don’t love her.” They leaned their head against the carriage wall, grateful for the rhythmic thumping as it clattered over the cobblestone road. “I just… could have. If we’d had the chance. But... I’ve just been smitten.” They swallowed, then sighed. “Smitten isn’t enough to ask her to stay where she isn’t happy.”

“... Sending her where she’d be happier, even if it made you miserable.” Praxton gently took Sabella’s hand. “That sounds like love to me, Jaetyn.”

Jaetyn huffed, and lifted their head. “Everything sounds like love to newlyweds.”

There was a tense silence in the carriage, before Jaetyn sighed. Again. They seemed to be capable of little else. “I’m sorry. I don’t begrudge the two of you your happiness.” Jaetyn smiled, and finally looked properly at their friends. “I truly am happy for— what’s in your hair?”

Both of them blinked, then reached up. Praxton’s fingers touched the foreign object in his hair, and then gripped it with confusion. Jaetyn watched, with dawning realization, as he pulled a hairstick from his bun. Unlike the finely crafted works of art that adorned Sabella’s long black hair, or the expertly woven silk ribbon that tied Praxton’s into a high bun, it was simple and carved from wood.

“It’s Etta’s.” They spoke in unison, then laughed, and all began speaking at once.

“She finally got you!” Jaetyn.

“I can’t believe— when did she—” Praxton.

“She used the hug! How clever~!” Sabella.

As the laughter faded, Jaetyn smiled. Even as she was speeding off towards new horizons, Etta had managed to dispel the tension. Gods, they were going to miss her. She really better write.

~*~*~

She looked back. At the last second, just before putting her foot onto the coach, Etta looked back. She hadn’t meant to, of course. Maybe it was because only one of her buns had a hair stick, now. Her head was lopsided. Of course it would turn towards the carriage. It wasn’t because she was already missing her friends. It wasn’t because she’d just realized how lonely she might be, if she didn’t find what she was looking for at this village. Of course not.

Of course not.

Shaking it off, Etta climbed into the coach, and found her seat. The pack resumed its place on her lap, and she looped her arms around it. That made her think of hugging Praxton. She wondered if he’d noticed the hairpin yet, or if someone would have to tell him. He might’ve noticed it as she did it, of course. She hadn’t given him time to call her out on it. As the stagecoach rumbled along the path, Etta sighed, and rested her forehead on her pack. She’d given the prince a stick of wood she had haphazardly carved for her own hair. Good friend or not, that was embarrassing in hindsight.

“Are you sick?”

Etta lurched, lifting her head and looking around her, at her seatmates. In this direction, the stage mainly focused on delivering mail. As such, the coach was mildly more roomy than normal. There were three benches of seats. One at the back of the coach, one directly across from it, and a third facing front, pressing backs with the middle bench. Each bench could hold three, if they touched hips. She sat in the back bench, between a matron with her child on her lap, and an old man who was asleep and snoring, despite his head thumping against the window. Across from her were two empty seats, and one young man who was taking advantage of the space by stretching his bandaged leg. Who had spoken?

“I’m sorry, who—”

“Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just in the line of fire, so to speak.”

Ah, it’d been the young man across from her who had spoken.

“Line of fire?” Oh that’s right, he had asked if she was sick. “No, no. I’m not going to puke.” The child, unabashedly listening in, giggled.

“Just left and it’s already homesickness?” It was the matron that spoke this time, looking at her gently and sympathetically.

“Ah, not quite.” How odd, the womans sympathy felt like a coat that was one size too small. It warmed, but exposed Etta’s cold spots all the more strongly. “I’m just… missing my friends.”

“Oh, I understand that!” The young man burst out, before lowering his voice when the old man snortled in his sleep. “I’m on my way back home, can’t work with a busted leg.” He patted the offending limb. “Gonna miss the other apprentices in the city, though.”

“What happened?”

“A shelf collapsed, and I was under it.” He shrugged one shoulder, a touch too nonchalantly. “My master ordered me to head home to heal, and not to come back if I didn’t.”

“You couldn’t heal in the capital?”

“The workshops on a second floor, and the fare home is cheaper than visiting a Priestess. Aren’t enough of them to go around.”

He spoke jovially, but Etta only nodded somberly. Priestesses were the ones that worshiped the spirits, purifying themselves in sacred bodies of water, and allowing themselves to earn the ability to enact healing magic. The way Sabella described it was that it was a transfer. The Priestess pours her purity into the body of the wounded, and that increases their souls natural ability to heal. It might look like miracles to the uninitiated, but it had its limit. No matter their magical ability, a priestess could only hold so much purity within themselves, and so to continue their magic without harming themselves, they had to regain it from the holy waters. Not to mention they still had to learn the appropriate circles to channel their magic.

Which meant that Priestesses were high in demand and low in supply, especially in a highly populated area like the Capital. Herbalists were more common, but less effective. It was a harsh reality, and one Etta herself was taking advantage of. If every village could afford a Priestess, they wouldn’t need an herbalist. Etta mentally shook it off.

“I hope you heal quickly.” Etta said, smiling as politely as she could manage, before looking out the window.

Her view of the already small window was partially obscured by the old man using it as the world's worst pillow, but it served the purpose she’d meant it to. The young man stopped speaking, instead leaning into his seat and rubbing almost absently at his leg. For the next few hours, the only sounds in their corner of the stagecoach were the old man’s snoring and the child’s occasional complaint. Etta contented herself with watching the passing scenery.

Eventually, the stage coach arrived at the next stop. One of the passengers in the front bench disembarked, but was quickly replaced by two new people. Etta didn’t get a good glimpse of the first, as they were assigned the seat in the front, but the second of which had purchased a window seat. The young man apologized, and stood. Etta watched out of the corner of her eye, as he rested his weight on his good leg and stabilized himself with one hand on the ceiling of the coach. She mostly ignored the gentlemen who took his place by the window, and instead locked eyes with the young man. In order to sit down, he’d have to bend his injured leg, and keep it that way for hours at a time. Etta’s hands clenched.

“Sit in the middle, and put your leg in my lap.”

Had she just said that?



DP: Decide either Etta’s or the young mans next action!
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Lebrenth



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1479
Location: Utah

Posted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 5:49 am    Post subject:  

Quote: “Everything sounds like love to newlyweds.”
Touché! Good retort.

There's a lot of depth of story in each action, we're filling in a lot of good backstory and setting. I have to note that of the last two chapters we have a few short lines devoted to why we're leaving, and several pages of reasons why we shouldn't. I'm tempted to ask for more details of why she is leaving, but I won't. Why she's leaving is about deep personal needs for growth or change, and how that enfolds is emotionally significant. Even the long separation is about untangling herself from emotional bonds so she can pursue her new goals without complications.

I'd really like a more consequential DP, though. We've already offered to help him and the young man would be foolish not to accept. I don't see much to debate. Would the matron try to get us thrown out for indecency or something?

We should also treat him with our herbalist skills. That's what she wants to get better at and here we have our first patient literally dropped onto our lap. I would also do it for free, assuming we can afford to.
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Emperor



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 467
Location: San Diego, CA

Posted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 7:47 am    Post subject:  

Quote: Etta grinned, and threw herself forward, wrapping the prince in a tight hug. He instantly stiffened, and she swallowed back her mirth ... Quote: ....Jaetyn watched, with dawning realization, as he pulled a hairstick from his bun.

Ahhhhhhh you tricked me! Sneaky-sneakerton! I love it. I was getting ready to comment about how I liked how the interpersonal played out but I felt a little cheated with just a hug - and then you tricked me. Made me smile.

Quote: “... Sending her where she’d be happier, even if it made you miserable.” Praxton gently took Sabella’s hand. “That sounds like love to me, Jaetyn.” Indeed.

Quote: The way Sabella described it was that it was a transfer. The Priestess pours her purity into the body of the wounded, and that increases their souls natural ability to heal. I really like this idea and the mechanics of it. I don't know if you are interested or not but I think it has some great possibilities for sub plot with loopholes and perhaps tying it in with our healer stuff. Just something to think about.

Alas Lebrenth has the best idea out of the gate with practicing our craft on the guys leg.
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 9:22 am    Post subject:  

I have been laying it on a little thick why she wouldn't leave, to emphasize her friendships. I'll work on that in the next chapters.

Honestly I didn't intend for this scene to happen, and the next chance for a DP isnt for a while. This was to break up the chapters rather than post something exceedingly long.

I'm glad you felt tricked! I was just going to have her hand it over but this felt like it had way more character.

It's good you're enjoying the way healing mechanics work. We're just dipping our toe into this universe's magic, don't worry.
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
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Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 2:33 pm    Post subject:  

I had two readers who didn't have time to post (Adryrn and Sapphire) who also agreed with the suggestion of her treating him with her herbalism. Since there's no dissent, I'm going to go ahead and write the next chapter.

My bad about the lack of consequences to the DP! I'll work on that and make sure there's a better one for the next chapter.
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Vishal Muralidharan



Joined: 24 Aug 2010
Posts: 864
Location: City Of IF!

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:25 pm    Post subject:  

Just caught up!

I'm loving how you're taking time to establish the interplay between the characters, and how they feel about each other. There seems to be a really nice base to build a story on, and I'm excited to see where this leads.

Just a couple of things I wanted to say:

Quote: They’d said their goodbyes already, and her back still felt bruised from that hug.

Loved this line!

Quote: She’d given the prince a stick of wood she had half-hazardly carved for her own hair

I think you meant "haphazardly"?

Quote: It might look like miracles to the uninitiated, but it had its limit. No matter their magical ability, a priestess could only hold so much purity within themselves, and so to continue their magic without harming themselves, they had to regain it from the holy waters. Not to mention they still had to learn the appropriate circles to channel their magic.

Loving this concept as well. Really excited to see how this will play out.

I don't really have a new DP option to suggest now, so I'm just going to be waiting on the next chapter :D
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:27 pm    Post subject: Chapter Three  

[My bad for the insufficient DP, hopefully this chapters is better!]

Chapter Three


“Is that okay?”

Oh good, he’d spoken. Etta thought he was going to just keep staring at her, dumbfounded. If she’d been with her friends, she’d laugh. She’d joke, say something like ‘of course not, that’s why I offered, because I hate the thought’ and then she’d force them to do as she said. This wasn’t one of her friends though. Etta sat up straighter. This was a patient.

“Yes. Please.” She reached for the chain hanging from her neck, pulling the metal pendant out from under her clothes. “I’m an official guild herbalist. I’d disgrace my profession if I let you sit there in pain when I had a solution.”

“Uh… as you say, then.” He mumbled.

Had she startled him? The guild tag was new, but it wasn’t special. Everyone who registered at the adventurers guild received something similar, with their guild rank, profession, and name embossed into it. Etta glanced back at it, running her thumb over the steel for a moment. Maybe she was making him uncomfortable— or worse, he was hesitant because he thought she expected payment. She had just lifted her head to reassure him otherwise when he managed to sit in the middle seat, holding his leg aloft.

Oh! Her pack was in the way. She quickly dropped it to the floor, pulling out her cloak as she did. She folded the fabric a few times, then set it down on her lap. Gently, she took his leg in her hands, and lowered it to the fabric. His leg was slightly longer than she’d supposed. Settled against her hip, his foot was in a shoe, and his ankle didn’t appear to be bandaged. That meant his pain was likely centered at his knee, which he had been nursing earlier. Etta wondered how it had been bandaged, what sort of salve had been applied beforehand.

“M’names Kares.”

“Hmm?” Etta lifted her eyes up from his leg, her train of thought broken. “I’m sorry?”

“Frankly speakin’, introductions should happen before any part of me is in a ladies lap, right?” The young man— Kares— said, scratching bashfully at his face.

“Oh.” Etta tried to ignore the fact that the matron was openly giggling at them. “My name is Etta.” She leaned forward and extended the guild tag so he could see.

“Etta Burnes,” Kares read, “Herbalist, Guild Rank C.”

“That’s me.” A good ranking. Not high enough to draw notice, not so low she’d be underestimated or discriminated against. Jaetyn really had looked out for her.

“Then, the reason you’re leaving your friends…?”

“I took a job, up in the mountains.” Etta lifted her pack up, careful not to jostle Kares leg, and reached into a well padded pocket. “May I?” She held up the small jar of salve.

“I don’t— that is—”

“It’s thanks.” Etta said, “For caring enough to ask if I was feeling sick, earlier.”

“What is it?” Kares asked, looking curiously at the jar.

“A salve for general pain relief, intended for sore muscles. It’s made with menthe herb and merrybloom, infused in a mixture of beeswax and carrier oils.” Etta opened the jar, and the fragrant woodsy scent of the two filled the coach. “There’s a slightly warm tingle when you apply it, then it fades to a chilling sensation, which relaxes tense muscles. It’ll reduce inflammation if that’s a problem, as well.”

“Huh.” Kares smiled. “You’re a lot more talkative when it’s about herbs. Ah, if you two misses don’t mind,” Kares nodded both towards Etta and the now thoroughly flattered matron, “Then I’ll take you up on that.”

Kares edged up his pant leg, pulling it until it went just past his knee. Though his knee was bandaged, his leg was covered in bruises both above and below it. The darkest ones were lines, running parallel to each other down his leg. They must have been from the shelves he mentioned. Around them were irregular bruises of varying shapes and sizes, no doubt inflicted by whatever had been stored on the shelves themselves. The bandage itself was neat, at least, cleanly cut strips of undyed cloth. He hadn’t mentioned seeing any sort of physician, so she’d half expected torn up strips of sheet. She began unwinding it, wrapping the bandage around itself as she did to keep it clean.

His knee was banged up, swollen, and bruised a vibrant sunset of purples and reds. She gently probed it with her fingertips, ignoring both Kares wincing and her pangs of guilt at causing him pain. His knee had been dislocated, and then popped back into place. Though he wasn’t wearing a splint now, if she went off of how well it seemed to be healing already, he most likely took it off for travel in the cramped coach. The bandages had been doing a good job of limiting his motions, as well.

“This was dislocated, who put it back into place?”

“Ah, my master. He also did the splinting and bandaging.”

“He did a decent job. Make sure you get that splint back on when you arrive, but don’t wear it constantly, or your knee will heal weak. Give it a little time, then begin gentle exercises.” Etta dipped her fingers into the salve, and began to smooth it over his leg, starting at his knee. “Try to get as much dairy as you can into your diet. Fish and egg yolks, too.” Etta closed her eyes, mentally flipping through the books she had read. “Ah, green vegetables, too. Things like kale.”

“... Thank you.”

Etta lifted her head, surprised by the gentle reverence in his voice. “I — it’s nothing. Just some salve and advice.”

“It’s my leg.” Kares gave a soft, anxious chuckle. “It’s not nothing to me.”

Awkward, Etta fell silent, dropping her gaze to her work and focusing on it. Once she’d finished rubbing the salve into the wound, she began to rewind the bandage around his knee, compressing it so it didn’t slip out of place while it healed. If she’d had her things, she would have used a new bandage. It bothered her, reusing this one. It also bothered her, the tone he’d had in his voice. She pulled the leg of his pants back over his wounds.

“I’ve seen worse,” Etta said bleakly, before repeating herself more calmly. “I’ve seen worse, but I should not have underestimated the effect this had on you. I apologize.”

“... Thank you.” He mumbled, looking away and scratching at his face. “But I’ll be alright eventually. I have to be grateful for that.”

‘I’ll be alright eventually’, he said it so sincerely Etta felt a pang of envy. His wounds were physical, and he knew they’d heal. He could trust they would heal. Would hers? Would the nightmares stop? If she told him, right now, that she was Ninette Rothburn, would the adoring eyes still sting? Would he expect her to bear the weight of greatness she no longer carried?

Her own name felt like an imposters now, and so she had changed it. Erased letters the way she hoped to erase her past. Cut out all the excess, all the ‘great things’ she had achieved and keep only the great things she’d loved. Remove the memories of an enemy throne room torn apart by war and lightning, keep the ones of a happy meal around a campfire. Wash away the sight of deep red blood, reminisce on sunrises staining the sky pink, instead. Etta reached up to rub her eyes, remembered just in time that she still had salve on her hands.

“Here.” The voice was cold, but the gentleman was extending her a handkerchief nonetheless.

“Thank you.” She took it, and wiped off her hands, hoping the dreary mood would go with it.


~*~*~


“What a long ride.” Etta murmured to herself, stretching.

The stagecoach had taken three days to arrive at Peltagrow, this bustling town at the base of a mountain. Each night, when the sky grew too dark for safe travel, they had stopped at an inn, and left again in the morning, soon as dawn touched the sky. Kares had borrowed her lap for his injured leg for the first two days. The last stop of the stage at the second night had turned out to be his destination, and his family had picked him up from the inn. Etta smiled smugly, remembering the way she had snuck the rest of her salve to his elder sister. He had tried to turn it down when she offered, but his sister had had no such reserves. The jar had been nearly empty, anyway. It would last him the weeks he’d need to heal, but not much longer.

Still, as long as the ride had been, and as sore as sitting had left her, it felt odd to be so near to her destination. Etta stepped to the side of a building, sticking close to it to avoid foot traffic, and pulled a letter out of the pouch at her hip. She scanned through it, looking for the information she needed.

— and my son will be at the Peltagrow North mountain path at midday on the day you specified, to personally escort you to our town, Axes Rest. His name is—

Etta glanced up at the sky, using the sun to gauge the hour. It was still a solid two hours until midday, so she had some time to burn. She refolded the letter, and replaced it in her pouch. Leaning forward slightly to look at the town, Etta reflected on what she had read about it. Peltagrow was mainly a trading town, since it was near plains to grow food, the mountain forest for it’s herbs and lumber, and a river for ease of transport as well as regular water. They had a daily exchange of goods, as well as a twice monthly market that drew people in from neighboring smaller towns to buy and sell. Somewhere in this town was the depot where she had stored her herbs and belongings, though they would stay there until she had seen Axes Rest, and the home they provided.

She closed her eyes, and focused on the scents. There was horseflesh, of course, sweating under the late summer sky. The smell of bread, too, standing in stark contrast to the salt of the animals, so she must be near at least one bakery. Smoke, from the ovens and from the forges of the blacksmiths, but she only suspected the later because of the clang of metal on metal in the distance. Her ears rang, but not from that.

There was an endless chatter of voices, raised over the sound of each other. Traders were hawking their wares to travelers that came from all directions, the savvy were yelling right back, haggling their prices down. Those settled enough to own stores or restaurants were hailing people inside. A few feet away she could hear a small child throwing a tantrum, and what she thought was their mother, apologizing to those nearby in a defeated voice. It was smaller than the capital, but still just as busy. She wouldn’t want to live here, but with two hours of time to spend, what should she do?



DP: Etta is at Peltagrow, with two hours to kill. What does she do?
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:35 pm    Post subject:  

Thanks Vishal! I'm so glad you liked that line, because I really did too. I did mean haphazardly, and I went back and edited that. Also good to see people enjoying the magic system so far! I tend to info dump things like that, so I'm trying to stagger it out this time.
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Lebrenth



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1479
Location: Utah

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 6:13 am    Post subject:  

Treating the leg ended up more tense than I expected. Good to know more about her past. She apparently has a lot to try to put behind her. We'll do our best to maintain anonymity, though I wonder if we're just burying the feelings instead of working with them.

For the DP, it would be a good idea to seek out fresh ingredients for medicine. She won't have as much to choose from in the little town. She should keep an ear out for local gossip and advice as well.
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Vishal Muralidharan



Joined: 24 Aug 2010
Posts: 864
Location: City Of IF!

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:24 am    Post subject:  

I'm with Lebrenth on the DP. Get all the supplies that we'll need, and keep an eye (and a ear) out for anything that may prove useful later on.
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ten11



Joined: 19 Sep 2018
Posts: 24

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:27 am    Post subject:  

She spends her time in a place of peace and quiet. A library, maybe, or a garden.
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Emperor



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 467
Location: San Diego, CA

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 12:28 pm    Post subject:  

Quote: — or worse, he was hesitant because he thought she expected payment. I'm glad this line was here, because it would have been exactly what I was thinking if I were that young man - and it shows that she is aware of such nuisances.

Quote: “A salve for general pain relief, intended for sore muscles. It’s made with menthe herb and merrybloom, infused in a mixture of beeswax and carrier oils.” Etta opened the jar, and the fragrant woodsy scent of the two filled the coach. “There’s a slightly warm tingle when you apply it, then it fades to a chilling sensation, which relaxes tense muscles. It’ll reduce inflammation if that’s a problem, as well.” Soooo this next comment is merely something to keep in mind. The good part of this is that it shows her level of understanding and experience as a healer, which is good and we want her to be believable.
The part I wanted to mention for the future is that, while this one isn't too dense, to be careful with how detailed and nuanced you spell everything out as she plies her craft - barring of course it is essential to the story as a whole. When Resio and I were writing Thorns and Steel it was one of those things that I know for myself I had a hard time balancing.

Quote: “It’s my leg.” Kares gave a soft, anxious chuckle. “It’s not nothing to me.” I really liked this line and the possible impact that it might carry going forward.

Quote: There was horseflesh, of course, sweating under the late summer sky. The smell of bread, too, standing in stark contrast to the salt of the animals... Lovely, just lovely.

As for DP, assuming that she has had almost every moment of her life shaped, guided and watched, maybe its time to do something that she has always wanted but would have been chastised for at "home".
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 1:40 pm    Post subject:  

Lebrenth, I didn't want to make light of an injury bad enough to send someone home, and so things ended up being a lil tense. Glad it came across!

Emperor, I'm glad you noticed! Etta's had an interesting set of life experiences, but she hasn't completely lost track of how commonfolk think.

I do appreciate the heads up on getting too descriptive, it's a pitfall I'm watching out for. Since this is the first time it's coming up in the story, I wanted to be a bit more descriptive. Plus, it's in character for Etta to over explain.

I really appreciate the way you pick out particular lines! It gets me excited to write more.


So far the options are:

Seek out medicinal resources, keeping an ear out for gossip.

Spends her time somewhere quiet, like a garden or a library.

Does something she's wanted to do but was prevented from in the past.

(And Adryrn, my beta reader, suggested this off-site)

Stretch her legs by walking around and finding something to eat.

I'm gonna put the poll up sometime within the next few hours, thanks a bunch for the suggestions so far guys!
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:29 pm    Post subject:  

Chapter Three poll officially live!
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Lebrenth



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1479
Location: Utah

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:41 pm    Post subject: Following my own lead.  

Voted for my own option :) Looking forward to the next chapter!
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Vishal Muralidharan



Joined: 24 Aug 2010
Posts: 864
Location: City Of IF!

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 10:19 pm    Post subject:  

Voted! For some reason, I have a feeling that the next chapter is going to be crucial to the rest of the story, so I'm super excited for it :D
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8762
Location: http://www.NeilHarlteyBooks.com

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 12:29 am    Post subject:  

Took me a while, but caught up and voted and winning* :cool:





*Well, tied it.
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 9:20 pm    Post subject:  

I closed the poll!

What does Etta do in her two hours in Peltagrow?
Seek out medicinal resources, keeping an ear out for gossip.
44% [ 4 ]
Spends her time somewhere quiet, like a garden or a library.
11% [ 1 ]
Does something she's wanted to do but was prevented from in the past.
44% [ 4 ]
Stretch her legs by walking around and finding something to eat.
0% [ 0 ]
Total Votes : 9
Who Voted: Adryrn, Chinaren, Emperor, Key, Lebrenth, Sapphire_Rayne, ten11, Vishal Muralidharan, Wellspring


In truth I THOUGHT I'd closed the poll before the tie re-happened, but I hadn't, so I guess I'll figure out a way for both!
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:10 pm    Post subject:  

Hey guys, no new chapter yet. Hit a bit of a block, and even though I forced out a whopping 950 words, I reread them this morning and scrapped the whole thing. Next chapter is still on it's way, though!
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Emperor



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 467
Location: San Diego, CA

Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 6:41 pm    Post subject:  

Novelest_Ninjagirl wrote: Hey guys, no new chapter yet. Hit a bit of a block, and even though I forced out a whopping 950 words, I reread them this morning and scrapped the whole thing. Next chapter is still on it's way, though!

Ouch. Nothing like having to just burn everything you did and start over. Just wow!
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Lebrenth



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1479
Location: Utah

Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:42 pm    Post subject:  

Novelest_Ninjagirl wrote: Hit a bit of a block, and even though I forced out a whopping 950 words, I reread them this morning and scrapped the whole thing.
Sometimes it's necessary to get the the good stuff. You'll get there!
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 2:10 am    Post subject:  

((thanks guys! I did get there, I'd like to think))

Chapter Four

Perhaps Peltagrow merchants stocked different herbs than the capital. Resolute, Etta nodded to herself, and pushed into the flow of foot traffic. The bustling grew louder as people crowded against each other, pushing forward to find their way. She made a guess at a direction, and watched the stalls as she walked. The food stands melted away into more unique fare, the kind people would step out of the way for. Etta stopped in front of one fair to bursting with greenery, pushing through the other customers for a better look.

The seller had packed the herbs tightly into wooden boxes set at an angle, and tied them into small bundles with strips of cloth dyed in a variety of colors. Merrybloom and menthe herb popped out to her first, reminding her of the gifted jar of salve. There were some flareflowers, freshly picked with bright yellow petals. Etta closed her eyes, mentally flicking through her memories. Flareflowers had a growing season of mid summer to early fall, so they’d be in high supply right now, but not for much longer. Nodding to herself, she shimmied as politely as she could to the front of the stand, ducking under the arms of another customer. She caught the eye of the seller, motioning towards the flareflowers, menthe herb, and merrybloom.

“Could I get three bundles of each?” Etta paused, looking at the cloths themselves, and thinking of Praxton. “And— do you make these cloths yourself?”

“That’ll be 3 silvers, but for 4 silvers, I’ll throw in some ribbons.” The seller said, elevating the status of their meager cloth strips to that of ‘ribbons’.

“3 silvers for the herbs,” Etta said, surprised at how reasonably the herbs were actually priced, “But I’ll pay you 25 coppers for just one ribbon.”

“50 for two,” The seller lobbied back, “And I’ll even let you pick the color.”

“Deal,” Etta said, before adding, “Do you have blue-green?”

The seller nodded, leaning back and calling over their shoulder at their son. Etta passed over the coins, and within a few moments she had her bundles of herbs packed neatly into her bag. She kept the cloth strips clutched in her hand, once again stepping out of the flow of foot traffic. They weren’t on level with Praxton’s finely woven ribbons, dyed deep royal colors with expensive flowers, but they were pretty. They’d caught her eye, and she deserved a small celebration. Etta reached up and tied the strips of fabric around her braided buns, tucking the ends underneath. She couldn’t see her handiwork, and it might even look odd with her singular hairstick, but Etta was content.

What to do with the rest of her time? She could find more herbs, but her pack had limited space as it was. Her stomach growled, deciding for her how she’d spend the rest of her time. Her pack might be full, but her belly clearly wasn’t. She marched off towards the nearest food stand, hoping the lines wouldn’t be too long.


~*~*~

Ginneon had very few excellent qualities, especially when compared to his family. He wasn’t as intelligent as his father, as charismatic as his late mother, or as talented as his sister. He was passable at communicating with people, and decent at chopping and carving wood. What he was, was punctual. Ginneon Leigh Woodensworn, best horse rider of his admittedly small village, had never been late.

Until today.

Today, of course, nothing had gone right. His horse had been strangely swollen, and it had taken nearly two hours to discover that she wasn’t sick, she’d simply been fed too many apples by some sneaky children who loved her. Then he’d had to scold them, then he’d gotten scolded by their mothers, since he was ‘only a lad himself’ in their eyes. Then he’d finally managed to get his cart hooked up to his horse, and made his way down the mountain.

Of course, because he was there hours later than he’d intended, Peltagrow was already at its busiest by the time he arrived. Which meant navigating the roads with his horse and cart was an absolute nightmare. He’d still had time, though, so he’d thought he could get the mail for Axes Rest from Peltagrow’s Post Office— his usual reason for coming— before he addressed his secondary reason. Then he’d gotten to the post office, only to discover they were having an even worse morning than him.

He hadn’t quite followed their comical explanation, including a knocked over vase of water, drying magic that led to fire, a hastily thrown planter of dirt, and a shelf coming undone, but he’d been able to see the carnage well enough himself. Adding his efforts to those of the Peltagrow’s post’s had sped up the process of re-sorting the knocked over mail, but not quite enough. When he stepped out of the Peltagrow Post Office, small burlap sack of mail for Axes Rest over his shoulder, it was already midday.

Shit.

Ginneon nearly started running. It’d get him there faster, for sure, but they’d have to come back to the Post Office to get his horse and cart anyway, or their trip up the mountain would double. Instead, Ginneon heaved one deep, cathartic sigh, and lumbered back up onto the seat of his cart. He dropped the bag of mail into the space behind him with a decisive and satisfying thunk.

“Let’s do this, then, Charity.” He mumbled, flicking the reins.

They pushed themselves through traffic as quickly as he could possibly manage, his nerves on fire, but it was still a slog. None of the people crowding the market had any interest in letting him by. At half past midday, Ginneon at long last pulled up at the entrance to the North mountain path. There wasn’t anyone there. There was only Ginneon, his cart, and the decorative wooden archway that rose over the cobblestone path. He sat numbly, holding loosely onto Charity’s reins. He was late, had the herbalist left? They’d waited months for a response to their guild listing, and only this herbalist had shown any interest.

Shit agai— wait.

To his relief, someone stepped onto the path behind him. Holding his breath, he turned in his seat. A young woman stood at the entrance to the path, panting. If this was Etta Burnes, she wasn’t what he’d pictured. Odelron had emenated bitterness in every lanky, limping step, with stern grey eyes and greyer hair. He couldn’t see Miss Etta’s — assuming still that he was, in fact, looking at Miss Etta— eyes from here, but her hair alone had more life than he’d ever seen in Odelron. Her hair was a light brown touched with sunset-bloom red. Most of it was twisted into two braided buns on the crown of her head, but thick tresses of it rebelled wildly against them, hanging in curls over one eye and at the sides of her face.

They locked eyes, and Ginneon flushed as he realized he’d been caught staring. He opened his mouth, hoping some sort of explanation would helpfully fall out. Where would he start, though? Explaining he was comparing her to Odelron? What if she wasn’t the herbalist, and he offended her by comparing her to an old man? Wait, even if she was the herbalist, he had still just stared blankly. Oh damn, and it was too late to try laughing it off like his mother would have.

“I’m sorry!” Strange, Ginneon hadn’t realized he’d spoken— wait, no, that had been Miss Etta. “I’m almost never late, I’m so sorry—”

“I’m late too.” He blurted out, then he scratched his head. “I don’t want to assume, but are you—”

“Etta Burnes, guild herbalist.” She interjected, stepping up closer to the cart. “And you?”

“Ginneon Woodensworn,” Did he have a fancy title to add like she did? ‘Village Head’s Son’ was a mouthful. ‘Post Worker’ was accurate, but not relevant. “Your escort.” Well, that was at least better than ‘post worker’.

“Thank goodness,” She said, grinning widely up at him and resting a hand on the edge of the cart. “I was worried I’d missed you. It’s impossible to get through this town.”

“First time I’ve ever been late, and I still arrived first.” Ginneon gave a strangled laugh, unable to resist the relief flowing through him. “Not that I could tell. I’d worried you gave up on us.”

“Not at all! Is this our conveyance?” She patted the cart, where her hand still rested.

“Ah, yes,” Ginneon adjusted to offer her more space, then extended a hand towards her. “It’s three hours even with Charity’s help, double that if you try walking.”


~*~*~

Etta gripped his hand firmly, braced her foot on the lower edge of the cart, and allowed herself to be leveraged up into the seat. She shrugged off her pack, setting it gently next to the bag already sitting in the carts storage area. She hadn’t been expecting the cart, but it definitely made things easier for her. Once she had her footing, Ginneon flicked the reins. The cart began to roll slowly over the cobbled road, and after a few feet, the stones gave way to a dirt trodden path, angled slightly up into the trees.

“Charity is the horse?” Etta asked, settling into the seat.

“Yes, I bought her as a foal off a cranky old man that, when I tried to haggle him too low, exclaimed ‘this isn’t a charity, boy!’” Ginneon’s attempt at mimicking an old man's voice left something to be desired, but Etta laughed anyway.

“So you paid what he asked, but got the last laugh by naming the horse Charity?”

“Exactly. Ah, Sorry, I should be more professional, right?” He reached up, pushing ineffectually at the hair in his eyes.

“Do you want to be?” Etta asked.

“What a question. I’m acting as your official escort in place of my father, so shouldn’t I—”

“— hup hup hup,” Etta interrupted him smoothly, holding her hand palm out. “Let’s leave off ‘should’. If I wanted pomp and proper procedure, I’d’ve stayed in the capital.”

He fell silent, and Etta belatedly realized she was already treating him like she might a friend. How odd, that she’d be at ease so quickly with a stranger. Perhaps it was the way he’d looked just as rushed as she felt, or that he hadn’t hestitated to admit to being late as well, even though she’d arrived afterwards and wouldn’t have known. Or maybe it was the way he looked like he was hiding behind the black hair hanging in his face, like she’d done so long ago. Or maybe… Not so long ago. She tugged thoughtfully on the lock of hair that covered her eye.

There was a long stretch of silence as they traveled, that Ginneon eventually broke. “Then… what do you want, Miss Etta?” He asked slowly, like he wanted to take the question back even as it left his mouth.

“From you?” Etta asked, resting her chin on her hand, and bracing her elbow against her knee. “What a question. Honesty, I suppose.”

“Honesty?” Ginneon asked, sounding shocked, though she couldn’t tell if her statement had offended him or not. He wasn’t making eye contact, focused forward on the road instead. Were they going faster?

“Yes. I’m going to be blunt with you, and I’d like some candor from you in return.” If Etta was going to gamble her trust on anyone, he seemed like a good pick. Honesty begets honesty, after all. “The listing for this job has been up at the guild for three months, and in that time, I’m the first to even inquire after more details. On top of that, because you set the request for E or D, I agreed to a wage below the average for my guild rank. You— the village of Axes Rest— probably feel tempted to lie and make this place seem more appealing, hoping to get me to stay. Don’t. The truth won’t scare me off, and I’ll likely appreciate your honesty.”

“I don’t— that is—”

“Don’t worry, I don’t expect the whole town to follow that request. From what I’ve seen it’s almost second nature to talk up your hometown to strangers. All I’m asking is at least one person I can trust to be straight with me.” Etta held up a single finger, emphasizing her point. “And, Ginneon, I’d like that to be you. You were rather open about being late, after all.”

“I… then… then you should probably be less relaxed right now.” He said softly, almost guiltily.

“Why’s that?”

“Monster attacks have gotten worse on this road, and I think Charity just heard something.”



DP! How do Etta and Ginneon handle the potential attacks? You can speak for either character or both~!
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Lebrenth



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 1479
Location: Utah

Posted: Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:39 am    Post subject: We can't stop here, it's monster country.  

Nice chapter! I liked the imagery of the markets, especially the herbs.

Not sure what we have at our disposal, but perhaps the herbalist has some kind of repellent? Some nasty smelling concoction intended to keep beasties away might be enough to dissuade attacks. If not, perhaps we can try meeting up with another group of travelers to get safety in numbers. If none available, perhaps just get ready for a fight. I'd be especially wary of attacks from trees and cliffs directly over us.
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Novelest_Ninjagirl



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 698
Location: The inn. Probably. Come check!

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2019 9:33 am    Post subject:  

Thanks Lebrenth! I didn't want to introduce too many new herbs so I didn't do a complete list of what's for sale.

And noting down your ideas!
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Emperor



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 467
Location: San Diego, CA

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:25 pm    Post subject:  

Quote: Then he’d had to scold them, then he’d gotten scolded by their mothers, since he was ‘only a lad himself’ in their eyes. This was a very pretty and well set scene.

Quote: her hair was a light brown touched with sunset-bloom red. Very nice

DP
Ginneon-- I guess its time for Charity to work off those apples, lets get some speed up and see if we can at least spot what we are getting into.
Etta -- Ask G what we might have for protection.
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