Apr 05, 2020 12:35 AM
leareth meets serg in post mage wars valdemar
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Lionstar finds himself on his bottom in the dirt. Again. And...exhausted. Whatever the wyrsa did to his spell, it seems to have gotten some of him as well. His vision wavers. 

In the corner of his mind not filled with alarm, he's quietly impressed. He's seen plenty of trained soldiers who don't react so quickly, especially not when woken from a sound sleep. 

"Look out there's another one–" he gasps out. 

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He's pretty thoroughly occupied just dealing with the first.

The second leaps onto his back—there's a fast-paced violent scuffle, blood, snarling, a few very unpleasant cracking sounds—one wyrsa is down with a broken foreleg and his knife in its throat, but that leaves him wrestling unarmed with the other—

And this looks like it might go very badly for him, right up until he grabs the wyrsa's snaky neck with both hands and its head is abruptly engulfed in flames.

It struggles for a few more seconds, then goes still. Sakshemar, panting, shoves it aside and looks around for more. His control of the fire was sloppy; his fingers are singed, and a stray tongue of flame scorched the closest tree, although the bark was too wet to catch.

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What.

Lionstar cautiously sits up, glancing around. No more wyrsa are apparent, so he turns to Sakshemar.

You could have told me sooner you were a mage, he wants to say, only it isn’t mage-gift, he would have sensed it. It’s...something else.

”Are you hurt?” he says instead. “That was...very impressive. And, thank you.”

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He inspects himself for damage, rubbing his singed fingertips and poking at a couple of bleeding scratches on his upper arm, then shrugs. "No bad hurt," he concludes. And, surveying the dead wyrsa with a soft snort of tired amusement, "Wet lions good hunt. What is them?"

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"They are called wyrsa," Lionstar explains. "A magically created race – although I have not seen this kind, before. What they did to my spell–" He stops, takes a deep breath. Now, after the fact, his body is making a belated bid for panic. "They seem to eat magic," he finishes. "You were much better placed to fight than I. I...am afraid I may not be good for much, today. My reserves of power are drained." A difficult admission, but somehow he finds it easier with Sakshemar. 

He shrugs. "Good hunt or not, I would not recommend we eat them. Magic-twisted creatures are not necessarily healthy." 

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He nods acknowledgment, of both Leareth's condition and his recommendation about not eating the wyrsa.

And: "Things," he says, gesturing at the second wyrsa's charred head. "Fire things. Different from magic. I have."

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Ohhhh. Several points of confusion fall into clarity. 

"Things," Lionstar repeats. "That your people would take from you, and you wish to keep. You meant a Gift. You have a Gift for fire-use, but not mage-gift, something different. And your people have a way of...shutting down Gifts?" He's heard of such abilities, but can't recall learning any actual technique, and he doesn't think his memory loss was that bad. "Do you have other Gifts as well?" 

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He nods.

"Other things—Gifts—but," a grasping gesture, a helpless shrug, "no words. Hard say."

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Lionstar nods, and starts mentally going through the list of known Gifts. "Can you move things just by thinking about it? Can you see things far away without being there? Or see things happen in the future? Can you read thoughts, or speak thoughts into a person's mind?" Unlikely, or communication would be a lot easier right now. "Can you tell how people are feeling, or make them feel a certain way? Can you heal illness and wounds, in people or in animals?"

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He shakes his head slightly at each of these, until Lionstar gets to 'tell how people are feeling' and then he makes a 'yes, that one' sort of face.

"I hear you loud feeling," he explains. "You feeling very loud, before."

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Oh no. Sakshemar could hear his brief, doomed mental battle with the former inhabitant of his current body? Lionstar can't begin to imagine what his friend – a mental stumble, no, Sakshemar is his ally and, after the wyrsa incident, coming to feel more and more like a friend – he has no idea what Sakshemar must think. And no way of checking, because in this body he doesn't have a sniff of Thoughtsensing.

He needs a cover story, now, before Sakshemar becomes any more suspicious than he already is, but he can't think of a neat explanation either, not one that will definitely hold up when he isn't sure exactly what Sakshemar sensed or in how much detail. And, to his own surprise, he finds himself uncomfortable at the prospect of lying. 

"I was upset," he allows, and waits. 

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"Yes," he agrees, and shrugs slightly. "Is not," word-seeking gesture, "I," another, more frustrated, word-seeking gesture, "...mmph." He shakes his head and starts over. "You say, good, you no say, good. All good."

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Lionstar chews on that for a minute, with building sympathy for Sakshemar’s frustration at the language barrier.

Lionstar wants to tell Sakshemar. It’s...sort of shocking, how badly he wants to tell someone that I was your villain from the war, they teach schoolchildren about my war crimes, and before all of this I cast a spell in the Void to bring my spirit back from the dead, and I just murdered a kid and made his body mine and now here I am. He’s killed before, hand-to-hand or from a sterile distance, Ma’ar was hardly squeamish about death - but until now he’s never eaten a teenager from the inside so he can wear their skin. It shouldn’t bother him, he learned a long time ago to weigh that trade and accept collateral damage, and yet. 

He’s stranded in a forest who-knows-where with no armies or sealed citadels full of ancient tomes and mage-artifacts. He’s alive, it’s time to study his mistakes and start over, but it’s such an overwhelmingly long road ahead and he has so little. Only a fellow runaway from a strange land who just fought off a pair of wyrsa for him, and it would mean so much to have a true ally here. Someone who would understand the why, and help him build the how, and damn it all but he wants to believe Sakshemar can be that kind of friend.

Wanting to believe isn’t the same as knowing, though. He can’t afford wishful thinking.

Lionstar shakes his head. “Thank you. I would prefer not to speak of it now.” He shrugs. “Anyway. Maybe I could teach you some more Kaled’a’in words today?”

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A wry smile, a nod. "Words, yes. Good."

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And so they work on vocabulary. They start with easy words, the sorts of things that Lionstar can point at or, after that runs out, draw pictures of with a stick in the dirt. (Lionstar is, unfortunately, not a particularly talented artist.)

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Sakshemar is not particularly natively talented at languages, but he's highly motivated to learn and pretty clever at generating useful circumlocutions with which to confirm that this or that drawing matches to this or that concept. He offers some words of his own language in return, when it comes up, or to seek their translations; and as the picture of his native vocabulary develops, it starts to look like he's educated, much more so than you might expect from someone who fled his home country with nothing but sturdy practical clothing and a pack of useful supplies. He also turns out to be literate, though not in Kaled'a'in, and willing to attempt to exchange knowledge in that area as well, although he didn't bring anything to write with or on and scratching with a stick in the dirt is a clumsy and imperfect way to demonstrate the shapes of letters.

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Lionstar is pleased by the opportunity to learn another local language, though he really wishes one of them had pen and paper. Lacking any real note-taking method is wearing on him. Perhaps something can be figured out with local plants – tree bark, berries for ink? The former Lionstar apparently failed to pay attention in those lessons as well, though, and Ma'ar was never an expert in wilderness survival.

He's also very curious about Sakshemar's background, but holds back his questions, in case that leads into Sakshemar questioning him. Instead, after the sun crosses the zenith, he suggests that they either build a better shelter, or look for another place to camp. 

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His receptive vocabulary grows much faster than the expressive, but by midday he's still noticeably more fluent than he was the previous night.

"Another place, better," he says. "If you can go that far. Better rested now?"

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"I am rested enough to walk," Lionstar reassures him. "For difficult casting, not so much – that reminds me, I had meant to ask if you wished to practice your fire Gift at some point, perhaps with my assistance." It's clearly a strong Gift, but not especially trained, which fits what he now knows about Sakshemar's homeland. If he's seen it before, he doesn't recall, but he hasn't forgotten everything he knows about pedagogy for Gifts in general. "Anyway. Do you have a place in mind?" 

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He nods thoughtfully at the offer of help practicing with his Gift, and again at the question, but the second nod is much more tentative. "Forest like this not," he pauses, frowns slightly, come on he knows this word he learned it this morning, "—familiar. But I see—saw—place, yesterday, maybe good. Maybe not. We find out?"

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Lionstar agrees with this plan. “Shall we go, then? Oh, and I would prefer we not leave signs of our presence here.” Just in case there are search parties from White Gryphon out looking for Lionstar. Lionstar doesn’t want to be found.

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He nods, and looks wryly at the trees Lionstar scorched the previous night, and then at the two dead wyrsa, one clearly killed with a weapon and the other even more clearly by unnatural means. "Good thought. How do?"

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This presents a non-trivial problem.

”We bury the bodies,” Lionstar decides. He glances at the carpet of damp leaves and forest detritus. “We can cover it convincingly. The trees... Hmm. Perhaps if we find a way to make it resemble a natural fire? I could knock them down, or split one of them in the middle, like a lightning strike would-“

Belatedly, he remembers that throwing around flashy magic isn’t the best idea right now. Aside from his exhaustion, he’s concerned about attracting more of the magic-drinking wyrsa. 

“Ordinarily I could,” he corrects. “Do you have any tools that could accomplish this without magic use?”

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He squints appraisingly at the trees, then shakes his head. "Maybe my fire? But maybe not. My fire..." He gestures self-consciously at his singed fingertips. "More than I want, sometimes. Better practice small, with not trees."

If they're going to bury those wyrsa they're going to need digging implements. He prods the damaged trees until he finds a reasonably sturdy branch whose absence doesn't seem like it would make the scene look any less natural, then snaps it off. He's definitely pretty strong.

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Lionstar’s youthful body isn’t quite as fit as he may have wished, but he can help with digging. Maybe they’ll think of something for the trees in the meantime.

Digging without magic is slow going, though, and the sun is quickly sliding down the horizon.

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