Hadrian is lost. Hopelessly and utterly lost! He chastises himself for coming here alone, and regretted declining Darius’ insistence upon accompanying him. An old saying from his time in Aden’s fathers Ludus echoes in his mind: Trying for nothing, feet caught in mud, never an inch gained in anything short of blood. He chortles to himself at the irony, as he steps into a rather thick patch of putrid, stagnant water. “Ah, hell,” He grumbles in a deep, grating tone—his accent remarkably uncommon, “If this isn’t the armpit of the world!” He pulls his foot free with an exasperated sigh, stomping the boot to free it of tendril-like vines that somehow seemed to entangle themselves around it. His march, matched to the clink-clinking cadence of metal armaments, is resumed as if strolling he is strolling through pastures! The ominous feeling these swamps brought him were a bit unsettling; he can nearly feel a presence looming up ‘round him, as if it is waiting for him to unknowingly waltz into its maw. Hadrian shakes his head, clearing it of these childish thoughts. The Warrior’s intentions of the excursion into the Swamps were to make contact with the outlying Orc tribes, and hopefully rejoin them with those of Gualon. Not fantasize about the Swamps seeming ability to personify a dark foreboding. He grumbles to himself some more, cursing the mist, and generally whining about everything this place harbored.
Asailu as at peace back in her homeland after having ventured far to the north to the frozen lands. Reunited with her longtime friend Hunnin, a twenty five foot long crocodile, she was enjoying the eerie sounds that came from within the fog. Standing atop the back of the oversized creature the duo traveled in silence. It was the sound of the male marching his way that they stopped to listen for just a moment before changing direction toward him. Moving through the thick fog the elf woman appeared to be a ghost. Too tall standing on Hunnin's back to be anything else with her ghostly white features and piercing green eye, if she was not in the fog she'd look an albino elf were it not for the emerald hue in her eyes. Emerging through the fog only a few feet away she spoke though a hoarse cough, "Who are you to travel into my swamps alone?"
Hadrian, astounded, looks up from his scrutinous survey of the ground at his feet, bland green eyes sweeping from left to right—he is clearly not in his element out here. Finally, moss green eyes settle upon her, his typical unquestionably confident air returned in full force, held like a vice upon his demeanor. “I am Hadrian, Champion of Gualon,” His tone the crunch of gravel beneath foot, “And I am lost.” His tense expression eases, donning the look of undisturbed tranquility, yet his eyes betray such-- gateway to a forlorn man. “And who… or what might I call you?” He struggles to make out the wispy silhouette through the lingering fog.
Asailu did not feel any threat even after the man announced himself as the champion of the city nearby. No, she showed no fear only confidence in her stride as she stepped off the back of the large beast, losing about two feet in height leaving her standing at a mere 5'3 when she fully emerged from the fog. A grin, one left more eerie than peaceful with the sharp croc teeth that pierce the corners of her lower lip, "I am Asailu, remaining member and medicine woman of a long extinct tribe from these swamps. Pleasure to meet you, Sir Hadrian." Her words were slurred with an tribal accent now that she wasn't coughing and talking, but moment after she introduced herself she was coughing again into a white cloth. Pulling it from her mouth the fabric was stained with splatters of blood. Hunnin remained idly by, hidden in the fog with just the gleam of his yellow eyes giving way of his location.
Hadrian, instinctively, takes a singular step back, left hand snaking around to rest upon the pommel of Widomaker at his hip—not a display of threat, but rather an old habit borne from self-preservation. “You honor me then, Lady Asailu, by granting me an audience with a creature as rare as yourself,” he bows his head humbly to the Swamp Elf, the first time he has removed his eyes from her since her appearance. That ever-ready, rigid posture slackens, albeit his grip upon the pommel remains. A glance at the blood-soiled cloth results in the questioning loft of a brow, “Don’t think me smart by this, but if you are a Medicine Woman, why are you sick?” He waves off-handedly to the cloth, “I’m no man of medicine, but isn’t coughing up blood a surefire sign of severe sickness?” His eyes, glazed by the fog, watch her carefully, brows now furrowed in honest worry for this stranger. “Perhaps we can help each other, Lady Asailu?”
Asailu watched as his hand rested on the weapon at his side. A common gesture that she had seen from many a lost man in the swamps when meeting a woman not from their civilized towns, but she never changed her demeanor toward the man standing across from her. "A woman of medicine can cure the illness of those that come to her for their sickness, but there are only so many things that can be cured, Sir Hadrian. Some things there are no potions or poisons that can cure them…only in death can some things be ridden from the earthly body. I am afraid that one cannot cheat death, but I can guide you through these swamp lands if that is what you seek?"
Hadrian steps forward, a quizzical expression whisking across his otherwise serene demeanor, “How can you just give up that easily? Surely fighting it will yield some sort of a result?” He felt panged by this woman’s hardships, and the struggles that lie ahead for her. “I would like it if you could guide me out of these swamps…” He trails off, eyes lifting to the thick canopy that lie above. Wishful thinking. It would be impossible for him to ascertain the time of day sheathed so within the confines of this muddy retreat. “I came out here to make contact with the Orcs, and yet I find you… Perhaps it is fate?” He grins, bearing his near sickeningly-perfect set of ivory teeth, “I wish to learn more about you, Lady Asailu, if it pleases you.” The rigidity returns once more, and he inhales deeply, “It seems I have much more to learn about these swamps before I venture in again—I believe you could help me.” His diplomacy is never round-about, preferring to blaze through the bush, rather than skirt it.
Asailu looked at his man as if he was the crazy one between the two of them. Give up on herself? No, she'd yet to do that, but perhaps he did not understand ailments beyond the common cold, he was a fighter after all. "I have not given up, just faced the facts, Sir Hadrian. To that I see not what your concern about my health has to do with anything of the matter besides needing a guide." Pausing she debated the best way to travel through the swamps to return the man to his town of fighting. No need at this hour to venture toward the orcs, it would be a bad idea. Offering the man a pale had she stepped onto the crocodile's back as he emerged out from the fog. "I do not see fate in this encounter either, unless you consider being alive by the end of this night fate. Let us return you to Gaulon before night fully sets. Hunnin will serve as our transportation this eve." And here she'd wait for him to accept or deny and choose to walk on his own.
Hadrian grunts at her words, shaking his head with exasperation, “You’re a difficult one, Lady Asailu.” He chuckles, and follows her over to Hunnin. And this is where he groans. “You want me to get on this thing?” He takes in the hulking monstrosity with a critical query, obviously wary of the things true intentions. “How very curious…” He states to no one in particular as his short-lived study ends. “Very well then.” In honor of her ways and perhaps even customs, he steps upon the Crocodile’s back, unsure if he will ever see Gualon again. He hoped Medicine Woman isn’t a nice way of saying Witch. He had a run in with one once, and ended with his freewill stolen for a time. “Thank you for your help, Lady Asailu,” Comes a quiet tone, set in reverence of the being she represented—the last of her kind.
Asailu helped the man up onto the back of the large beast below them. Hunnin shifted below them, adjusting his position before starting off in the direction that Hadrain had just come from. At least they were showing good sign of returning him home by retracing his steps. "I do not see how I am being difficult. I am taking you through my homelands on the back of my friend to return your lost self back to where it belongs, no? I think that is rather the opposite of difficult." The ride was similar to walking without walking for themselves. Asailu would move with the way of the beast, almost swaying left to right faintly. It was easier to maintain balance when the croc hit a hole and dipped to one side. As they moved she'd pay careful attention to not allow him to fall from Hunnin. "I am rather sure I have enough time left to accomplish a few things I'd like to do before death wins. And then there are those that are rather impossible to ever see happening. What is it you seek with the Orcs?" She rambled to herself before questioning his intents.
Hadrian tries at first to move with the beast beneath his feet, but his unsteady approach to that yields no fruitful results—it was like trying to ride an earthquake! He hunkers down low, hands out to the sides, and bites his lip in sheer determination to remain upon the thing! The ghost of a smile wisps across his features, “Forget I said anything about being difficult… you’re just different than, well, anyone I’ve ever met,” Were she to look at him, an apologetic smile graces his lips, “I meant no dishonor in the mention of it, I am sorry.” Carefully, he rises, testing his balance all the while—perhaps he was getting the hang of it! “Nothing is impossible, Lady Asailu. As a matter of fact, my honor dictates I must help you achieve something of equal magnitude as you have done for me; getting me home safely.” Hadrian’s honor-code is a tangled mess of old traditions and the mandates of Gualon’s Gladiator laws. The thing is precarious and fragile, pricked by the slightest of things. “What can I do to help you?”
Asailu chuckled softly watching the man stand upon the croc with unsteady feet. It reminded her of the first time she did the same task, only she was but a little girl when she first found Hunnin. Shaking away the thoughts about the past and bringing them back to the current topic at hand she let out a giggle for a moment, "At the time there is not much that I need help with, but there are some things that are impossible in this world. To that, I doubt you'd be willing to help me accomplish that of which I am seeking at this moment. The two favors are not of equal value anyways…" She turn to look over her shoulder at him, flashing a faint smile for just a moment before turning to look forward again. The fog was starting to fade and the smells of the swamp were dimming. Gaulon was not too far off now.
Hadrian puts his hands on his hips--or at least he tries, unsuccessfully at that! The failed attempt ends up with him flailing about for a few quick seconds, before regaining a decent enough posture on Hunnin’s back. “Listen here, I have to help you, and you will accept my help. That is just the way it is.” His voice both patronizing and tinged with a hint of humor, “Whatever it is, I will help you. Name them.” In all of his life, he had never met a person to her match. She is both startlingly interesting, and yet dreadfully independent—at least from what he surmises; and perhaps those are the two reasons he liked her. She didn’t yield when most did and her collective calm was unsettling. He knew one thing, he didn’t want this to be the last time they met. His calculating green eyes peruse the scenery, not nearly as hindered by the fog as much as before. Networks of dead looking trees are scattered about everywhere, with interconnecting vines and other flora growing betwixt. The ground a stagnant cesspool of muddy water, eroded greenery and who knew what else. Despite this, Hadrian can appreciate the beauty in the place; how everything seemed to simply work together.
Asailu moved with the movements of the beast as she turned around to face the man that she was returning to his homeland from hers. She was ever skilled at riding backwards as she was forwards, almost like she was part of the croc below. "In life just because one person helps you does not mean that you need to return such a favor. Persay I kill off your enemy with a toxin in their drink. Does not mean that you kill a person for me, no? I can handle my own." The thought process of the woman seemed to jump a bit. Steady on one topic then lost in another that was not a perfect flow from the first. As if to mock his failed attempt she placed her hands on her hips with a smirking grin before answering what he wanted, "I want what I can't have on my own, but that you can give." The grin remained before she pulled the cloth from her pocket to cough a few times before tucking the blood stained rag into her pocket. The riddle was left in silence for him to ponder on the fact she was like most other woman who lived alone for too long; she wanted a man to stand at her side and a baby.
Now it is Hadrian’s turn to cough. And so he does, seeking some sort of way to gain a few moments to think. In order to gain a bit more time for thought, he answers her first question. “Should you kill an enemy of mine, I would not kill one of yours, unless asked.” He continues, in order to explain fully his honor-code, “It doesn’t mean you are incapable of doing something by yourself, it means you hold my honor until that debt is repaid. It is the only way I can maintain my own honor.” It is an odd thing, having to explain something so common to him, but so foreign to her; it made him feel awkward. He smiles to her now, his tone still roughly-hewn, “If you are implying what I think you are,” He is not naïve when it comes to matters such as these, “Then I have no other choice but to accept.” Hadrian only wishes she hadn’t grinned about it! It wasn’t funny! “Matters of the heart are a complex thing, and I don’t boast to know them. If you seek a mate, and I match your specifications…” He swallows here, not entirely understanding the magnitude of his words until after he says them, “Then I will do my best to please you, in order to gain the affection required.” He adds a chivalrous bow, and wink, just for good measure—this is just his way of making an awkward predicament a little less so, yet while still attempting to achieve her desire.
Asailu was left rather speechless after his statement of words. The honor code he had for himself was enough to confuse her. Such things were not present as such in her tribe. Some things might be similar to his honor code…you scratch my back I scratch yours. Blinking once than twice as she mauled over how it was best to reply to this man she'd found wandering the swamps. Chewing her bottom lip for a moment, the croc teeth in her lower lip wiggling with the action, she thought to herself before speaking aloud "I believe it is you that would be the strange one, Sir Hadrian. A woman does not choose her mate. She has no say in the matter as it is up to the man to choose the one he sees fit to carry on his name." Bewildered that he was even considering letting her make the choice of the matter she let her hands fall from her hips and hang freely at her sides. Nowhere in her reply did she hint or suggest that he did not fit what she might like to have in a mate.
Hadrian lofts a curious brow, “That is… interesting. I am raised to love a woman, and give her all that she requires—if she requires from me.” The pair obviously had very different backgrounds, “A woman is free to decide which man she wishes to take, based on looks, build, or anything else that fancies to her liking. More often than not, women choose strong men, because they wish to bear strong children.” He shrugs at this, as if stating the difference between them mattered little. His honor is at stake here, and he must regain it. He could have died in the swamps if she hadn’t come along—therefore, he sees what she did for him as saving his life. Giving her a life, the baby, would be exactly what is required. “If it is your wish for me to choose, then I choose none other than you, for that is what is required.” Only now does he realize that his words sound more like a man speculating about a prospective dig site, more than matters of the heart. “I’m sorry…” He looks away, fully capable of seeing the outskirts of Gualon from where they are now, “I’m not sure how to go about this. I suppose we will begin with the basics. Courting.” He looks back to her and smiles broadly, “I wish to see you again, Lady Asailu.” Even without his honor on the line, he really did want to see her again.
Asailu glanced over her should as the familiar smell of the town reached her nostrils. They were only nearing the outskirts, but it was enough of a change from the swamp that she knew they were close to where she would be dropping him off at. There was no point, in her mind, in her venturing into Gaulon with him this night. The town people were not too friendly toward her and her companion. He was a scary beast and she smelt of the swamp all to strongly for their liking. Turning her gaze back to Hardian she offered a bit of a sincere smile, "As much as your choosing sounds nice, I can't really fathom how besides keeping your honor makes you wish to make such a choice. If you proclaim for matters of the heart then it is not your heart speaking, but your code." Hunnin suddenly came to a stop. Asailu was ready for it and did not falter from her stance on the back of the beast, but as for Hadrian he was on his own. "We have arrived." She offered the man a polite curtsy, something she'd learned from travelers past, and flashed a smile, "But I shall not deny your customs good Sir and shall see you again as you please."
Hadrian is too far lost in the intricate study of the woman before him—her eyes, specifically, like twin-lanterns guiding him into the depths of her soul. It is not until Hunnin abruptly stops, that he regains awareness of the surroundings. And with that, he falls forward, his stance too tight at the moment of time to maintain an upright position. The Gladiator, thankfully, is quick footed enough to not completely topple over and therefore domino effect into Asailu, but it brings him startlingly closer to her. It wasn’t the swamp that he could smell on her that overwhelmed him—they both smelled of it. Nay, it is the sheer fact that he stands so closely to her. Because of this, he immediately jumps down from the beast, then turns to look back up at her. “Thank you for the ride, Lady Asailu, and helping me get back.” Hadrian can’t help but smile now at the odd sort of predicament he landed himself in today. “I will send courier with a letter to you soon,” He glances at the swamps, remembering how easy it is for anyone to get lost in there, “A few couriers maybe, for a time when we can meet, and I may begin courting you.” Once more, he bows to her—far more respectfully than he had before—and he offers her up a dashing smile, “Until I see you again, my lady.” And with that, Hadrian turns and carries himself towards Gualon on long strides, a smile gripped in earnest upon his visage. A very interesting predicament.
Asailu flashed a brief smile followed by a nod at his simple terms of sending a courier her way when he saw fit to meet again. She'd not move from her spot as he walked off and would instead stand there watching him vanish off into the distance of the town. A whistle would summon her normal means of sending word when it was needed, a snowy owl. The bird would fly off to follow the man so that he could easily bring his message when it was time without getting lost on the way. It was then when he finally vanished she turned to head back into the swamps on the back of the croc. "I don't know if I can bare anything with that man. He is all too polite and such a hypocrite at the time. Claiming matters of the heart but doing such actions to keep his code. We shall see soon how it plays out, Hunnin." Yes, she was talking to the beast like one would their best friend.