RP:How To Eat the Wind

From HollowWiki

Part of the I Got 99 Problems, and a Congenital Defect is One Arc

Synopsis: Josleen drags a sack of stone up the watch tower in Xalious. At the top she meets Josiah, an avian that is usually dedicated to Arkhen, but is currently rethinking that whole gambit. This seems to be a trend amongst followers of Arkhen. Perhaps Arkhen should offer better health insurance and other benefits. Josiah helps Josleen ring the stones on the lip of the watch tower's parapet. The stones are of a dark green color with light blue flecks. Josleen explains the the stones are wind eaters, and when they have eaten enough wind blowing at a certain speed, they burn a celestial blue. The bard needs the stone to burn blue before she can use them in experiments with Skylei, the purpose of which she does not disclose.

Watch Tower

Josiah sat atop the Watchtower in Xalious, eyes closed in meditation as he took in the sounds of the sky, and the village beneath him. He had removed most of his armor, as was his custom in this place...he fancied it his own, almost. He wore only a beautiful blue and white cloak that meant the world to him, and made him feel like a true healer. His wings were open in the air, feeling the breeze and adding to his serenity. This was a place of refuge for him, of rejuvenation. He was smiling serenely and thinking very little.

An arrhythmic pattern of sounds bounces up the spiral stairs of the watchtower. First come the three, slow steps of a likely medium-sized, but heavy (and possibly dumb) creature laboring up the steps. Then comes a thud of indiscernible original. Then a hoarsely heavy exhale, a sharp inhale, an incomplete exhale, and finally one bigger, wheezing inhale. It repeats. Pad... Pad... Pad... THUD! Pheeew. Aaaaah. Phew. Aaa-aaaa-aaah. Pad...Pad...Pad... and so on, until the noisemaker reaches the top flight of stairs and reveals itself. Josiah would be forgiven for expecting some obese troll dragging a club -- that's what Josleen herself would have expected given the grunting. But the truth is that all that racket came from one petite half-elf, dressed in floral prints and insensible, girly shoes. At least they are flats. She drags behind her a sack half as tall as her frame, and twice as wide. It must be heavy, and the culprit behind her tomato-red, sweaty face. Light brown hair sticks to her temples, forehead, and cheeks. Her legs quake with each step as she tries her hand at some manual labor, which is incongruent with her 'middle-class, provincial lady of good repute' look. When she at last looks up to find Josiah, she lets out a frustrated, feminine huff. "They told me the tower was not in use!" she whines.

Josiah smiles at the lass kindly, surpressing a chuckle at the strange spectacle. "They didn't know I was up here," he said, kindly enough. His eyes glinted in the sunset, and he ran a talon almost nervously across his forehead, an old tic that no longer made sense as the hair was not intruding on his face any more. "Can I help you with that?" He stops leaning on the wall, and takes a step towards the stranger, extending a hand toward the sack without imposing himself upon her at all. He was a gentleman, after all. He knew how to give people enough space.

Josleen looks away from Josiah's talon, embarrassed by the spectacle of it. Avians look so similar to humans, save for their beautiful wings and their grotesque talons. Josleen has been socialized into looking away from other's obscenities - even if Josiah himself would not agree that the talon is obscene. Josleen would also look away from a dog's prick, due to the same sentiment. If Josiah finds the comparison of his talon to a dog's prick offensive, he should. Josleen can at times be offensively racist. "Yes, thank you." She smiles easily, the expression rehearsed, and steps to the side so that Josiah may pick up the sack. It weighs as heavy as a sack of stones - because that's what it is. Josleen pulls from her purse a perfumed handkerchief and dabs at her sweaty face. "I should have just paid the local boys to do it, but they keep raising their prices. Hustlers, they are. 2 gold a piece! Back in my day" she doesn't look a day over 25, "boys would do it for free just out of respect for their elders!" It's difficult to know just who exactly the elder would be in Josleen's case. Importantly, Josleen would only ever age herself like this for the sake of saving a copper. She dreams about the days when she can pay the senior fare at the local theater, if only because at 60 the half-elf would look the same as she does today, thus serving both the demands of her vanity and frugality. "Anyway, I'm sorry if I interrupted anything. Like I said, I was told no one was up here. I came to, uh." She thinks better of it. She smiles away the unfinished sentence and chirps "So! Will you need this space much longer?"

Josiah bends at the knee and scoops up the sack with little effort- at least that he showed. He hoisted it over one shoulder and turned to face the half-elf. He was intrigued by her. She seemed very out of place in this rugged wilderness, but he could sense a strength within her...she was no one to be trifled with. He had noticed her automatic look of disdain at the sight of his talons, but he could not blame her for that. He had grown up in a small human colony, hidden away from the public eye for fear of such disdain. His adopted parents had raised him well, and his manners dictated that he allow her this reaction without calling attention to it. "No, I was just leaving," he said casually, smiling warmly at the stranger. "Unless I can be of some assistance to you. Some of us still respect our...elders." He raised one eyebrow as he accentuated the last word questioningly. He set the sack down gently against the wall. "I am called Josiah," he said, foregoing a handshake and opting to bow formally instead. "Might I ask your name?"

Josleen grins at Josiah's halting use of the word 'elder.' "Careful, only I am allowed to call myself an elder," she teases. She glances over the parapet, down at the quaint vllage of Xalious, which is worked by good people and lorded over by the worst of them all. Josiah's introduction pulls her attention back towards him, and she drops into a small, bobbed curtsy. "Josleen, a pleasure." She gestures towards the only other structure in Xalious that stands at over two stories: the Mage's Guild Tower, or simply the Tower as the locals call it. "Are you a mage? Or, have you come to see someone in the Tower?" The bard tries to downplay the keen intention of her question, overplaying her hand by an even keener, and falser, nonchalance. Rarely does the bard genuinely miss her mark when acting, thus it is hard to know whether or not the this miss is a put-on as well.

Josiah was excited to see someone with manners as formal as his own...a rarity in this land, it seemed. Although she had several quirks that he had noticed instantly, he decided she was not a foe. Maybe one day she would even become a friend. "Neither," he replied simply, trying not to give anything away. He felt that this was part of the game for her, trying to dig her way into new information using her charm and intellect. He loved to play that game. "I simply love to watch the sunset from up here."

Josleen's shoulders relax when Josiah states that he has nothing to do with the Mage's Guild. He isn't as forthcoming with additional details as she had hoped, but that tends to be a common trait amongst men of the sword. "Couldn't your wings carry you some place even better? Or are you afraid to fly too close to the sun?" Again she teases lightly, and her easy grin returns. Likewise, she deems him not to be a foe. Her first impressions stick. "Well," she moves towards the sack and crouches down beside it. If Josiah weren't here, she would bend over at the waist like everyone else, but alas, a man is present and thus she shouldn't be so obscene. "I should see to my experiment. You are welcome to stay if you make yourself useful." She pulls out an oval stone about the size of her fist and shape of her lips and sets it down on the parapet wall. "They're called wind eaters," she explains. The stones are of a full green color with flecks of light blue. They are also heavier than they look due to a dense, metallic core. "If you'd like, you can help me line them up along the wall. There are 20 stones in total." If Josiah touches a stone, he will immediately realize why they are called wind eaters. The wind which buffets the tower's roof ceases to blow within a 1-foot radius around each stone. "As they eat the wind, they will lose their green color and become complete blue."

Josiah decides to ignore her teasing about flight, knowing it was much too early to tell her that he never learned how. Instead, he obliges Josleens strange request, reaching into the sack and pulling out a stone. It did indeed feel immensely heavy for its size, and he carried it to the parapet next to the one she had just set up. "Like this?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "And to what purpose?" He looked interested, not suspicious. "I hope these are not going to be a permanent fixture, he added, before she had a chance to respond. "I rather enjoy the breeze up here." Flightless wings could feel what they were missing in a place like this.

Josleen chuckles softly at Josiah's concern. "No, I will be taking them with me as soon as they burn blue. They're uncommon, and it took me a while to find these. I'd rather not relive that forage." Her palm pushes into her lower back as she rights herself stiffly, informing him without speaking that hunching over boulders all day is bad for the back. From the look of it, the woman is just fine and hamming up the alleged ache for attention. "But I gather that it will take, oh..." She lifts a finger above her head. "Two to three hours at this windspeed, I should think, for these rocks to burn blue. If you're in need of a breeze, I've heard flight come highly recommend." She grins teasingly, fancying her own joke.

Josiah took this in stride as well, keeping his guard up. He would not tell her he could not fly...not yet. He helped her stack the beautiful rocks around the perimeter of the watch tower, and felt a very noticeable drop in the wind pressure. It felt like a meadow up there, instead of a parapice. He looked at her, and said with a sly smile, "So why wouldn't someone want you to put these here? Hypothetically speaking, of course?"

"Oh, so you think that's the way the cookie crumbles, do you?" Her grin deepens until her nose wrinkles girlishly. One can't help but suspect that the girly act is nothing more than that: a facade with which to face strangers, those beyond the outermost layer of her onion character. Girly and non-threatening come together to forge the perfect, supple armor for the socially adroit woman. But today her armor frays at the seams under the weight of those magical rocks she lugged up the stairs to satisfy non-girly motives and curiosities. With the rocks finally set along the parapet, she leans against the large telescope's base and waits. His company makes the waiting pass more bearably. "No, no one would stop me. My concern lies elsewhere. Guess again. I will give you a clue. The residents of this village should be factored into your guess. Three in particular."

Josiah leans back against the parapet nearest him, touching one of the stones gently with his fingertips. He is smiling kindly, intrigued by her game. "My first guess would have to be the mages," he said, strongly. "I don't know what effect this could have on their precious tower, but they seem to be the ones with the most to lose..." He pauses, deciding what to let her know he has caught on to. "As well as the fact that you immediately wanted to know if I was among their ranks." He looks at her expectantly, with no malice in his smile.

"Two mages in particular," Josleen corrects. "But not because these stones are in any way threatening to them or to the Tower. I highly recommend never, ever, ever threatening the Tower. It won't end well. But you don't seem like the type that's out to do much harm." She gestures towards his sword. "Whom does that serve?"

Josiah takes a step towards Josleen slowly, without seeming threatening. "Right now? It serves me," he replied, still smiling. "Once I've figured some things out...it will once again serve Arkhen." He spread his wings, flexing them and finding the lack of a breeze disappointing. "But you are right, I am not that type. Who are you out to wrong? If i have earned the right to ask, with my sweat, and honesty?" He gives a faux bow, still friendly.

Josleen's breath is stolen from her, and the culprit is unclear. Is the rocks' doing? Unlikely. She was breathing just fine until the God of Light's name was spoken, and now she is wrecked. "Oh." She turns abruptly away from Josiah and looks down the side of the tower. She teases her hair out from behind her ear and hides her expression. "Arkhen seems to have quite a few lost sheep in his flock." She pretends to wave at an acquaintance on the ground below. If Josiah crosses the tower and peers down alongside Josleen, he will see no one, but before he has a chance to do so, she turns around on heel and faces him once more, chirping, "I'm out to hurt no one. Guess again." Beat. "Just once more, just to amuse me, and then I'll tell you."

Josiah stares at her blankly, stumped. "The Preklek that have gathered on the hill nearby?" It was a shot in the dark, and one that he probably should not have even mentioned, but to be honest he was hoping it was the correct guess.

Josleen glances towards the indicated hill. "Drats. Preklek activity around these parts has been on the rise. The Tower will keep us safe, but it sure does make travel all the more intimidating." Again she gestures towards Josiah's sword. "Does that sword slay Preklek, by chance?" About one-quarter of each stone has gone blue. Josleen turns them so the opposite side faces the wind's direction.

"It has been known to cut more than a few down," he admitted. "Although I must admit my heart is in healing, not fighting." He leaned over the edge of the watchtower, looking at the villagers passing by below. "Now, if it's not the mages, and its not the Preklek..." he looked at her and grinned, coercingly. "Than who? Who stands to lose from this? Or to gain? Give me something."

Josleen shrugs slowly, still sniffing around Josiah's impression in order to figure out just how far she can trust him. The truth of the matter is, there isn't too much at risk of Josleen's liberty, livelihood, or life if this gets out, but sometimes a woman wants even more than those three hallmarks of a good life. "Neither. There is no winning or losing. Not everything is a zero-sum game. Sometimes, there are just obstacles." She shifts the stones around to maximize the green rock's exposure to wind. This fidgeting buys her more time to decide whether or not to come clean. He is a follower of Arkhen - sometimes. Sometimes-followers-of-Arkhens have always been her best companions. "I'm doing this behind the backs of loved ones. My father and betrothed," she gestures towards the Mage's Tower, "are members of the Guild, and professional worrywarts. I've, uh, been on a private mission - in good company, so fear not for my safety." Men fearing for her safety is a common theme in this half elf's life (especially men pledged in the service of Arkhen, until they're not pledged anymore, usually on her behalf - oops). To be fair, she does little to dissuade most men from doing so. "If they knew what I was up to, they would stop me; or at the very least interfere. And, being mages, they are quite clever at guessing at things."

The Avian laughs heartily at her admission. He was not trying to cause offense, but truly tickled by the notion of this girl going through so much trouble just to get some rocks to the top of a tower. Her answer left more questions than it solved, however. "Well, I am pleased to have been able to help you," he said, bowing again playfully. "Now, what are these things going to do? I promise I won't turn you in to them."

Josleen smiles selfconsciously at his laugh. She must be a bit ridiculous to an avian warrior of Arkhen, who can fly (as far as Josleen knows) and slay preks and heal others. Her concerns are so provincial and quaint, but to her they are real challenges - which is even sillier given the real challenges that she has overcome in her past. "Well." She wrings her hands, adjusts a rock, glances towards her apartment near the town well, and generally does anything but answer the question immediately. "...Once the rocks are full with wind I will study them with my good friend, the scholar and ranger Skylei." She waits to see if the name drop rings a bell. It likely won't, but among some academic and religious circles in the central plateau, Skylei's name is known. Either way she continues, "The idea is to find how the wind disrupts the wind, without using any aeromancy. Put differently, these rocks are not casting a spell within the aeromantic discipline in order to stop the wind. They simply stop the wind by some innate ability to disrupt the elemental movements of wind. I want to know how it does this." Motives she has plenty, but they're best left unspoken.

The paladin nods as she speaks, appreciating that she left it in layman's terms for his benefit. In fact, he had heard of Skylei, only in passing but always with connotations of deep respect. "So if these stones do their job well enough the mages can take a break?" he muses, raising an eyebrow. He knows it is more than that, but she has proven quite elusive so far, and probably with good reason. He's not sure who would be in more trouble if they found out more than they were supposed to, and he didn't mind keeping it that way.

Josleen shakes her head and smiles dismissively. "Not quite. But no need to think too much on that." There is a subtle pause and breath which makes it seem as if that conversation has come to its natural end, and not a forced end. It's a rather cunning bard trick that Josleen has mastered over the years. "I'm curious, do you have any magical ability yourself? Aside from the any divine gifts Arkhen may grant you. Do you have any skill in the arcane arts?"

Josiah felt he could be honest with her despite her evasive answers and prying questions. He didn't feel any danger in admitting that he did not. "None that I know of," he answered coyly. "I am a healer, first and foremost, and a warrior after that. I wish I could say that I had some skill with magic, but unfortunately, I do not believe that is part of my path." He grins. "But maybe one day someone will figure out how to get me a rock that can do the job for me?" He thinks she has earned a bit of teasing in return. He waits to see if she will explode.

"I'm terrible at magic too," Josleen laughs. "But, here I am meddling with it anyway. I feel my life has left me no choice, really." She starts to pull the now blue rocks into the sack. "Maybe it was always inevitable to someone like me, raised under the shadow of the Tower. I tried to escape it several times, but Xalious has a way of calling her flock home." She smiles fondly, despite her failed escape attempt. "And these rocks are just the beginning. I'd tell you to just wait and see, but I don't know if we'll meet again. Either way, well met." She curtsies a second, final time. "My rocks are just about done and I should get them home and stow them away where the Mr won't find them and ask questions." She winks conspiratorially. Now he is in on secret one. That may be all she lets him in on. It's hard to know.

Josiah smiles and bows deeply and formally again to the girl, fanning his wings completely. "Well met, indeed. And may Arkhen guide your steps." He turns to return to his meditation, but then turns around quickly. "Pardon me, I have forgotten myself. You should let me carry those home for you."

Those wings make an impression, and Josleen doesn't suppress her reaction. Avian wings have always been beautiful and coveted. They are an elegant race - save for those talons. "If you insist." She lets him carry the sack all the way to her home, which isn't very far. She lives above the ceramics store near the town well. Few buildings in this small village have two stories, and this is one of those few. Although he seems trustworthy, she doesn't show him inside. What would the neighbors think? You must always think about what the neighbors think, or you'll be thinking up a way to improve your reputation in short notice. "I do hope we meet again." And with that, he's dismissed.

Josiah smiles and shakes his head to himself as he walks away from Josleen's home. An interesting creature, to say the least. He hoped her project paid off for her, and he hoped he would see her again.