Aug 15, 2020 3:04 PM
leareth meets serg in post mage wars valdemar
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For a long ti– no, not time, time is the wrong word entirely – there is nothing. Silent, colored swirls of nothing, seen from the hollow shelter of a deeper nothing. Somewhere else, sensed at a great distance through a web of power that crosses the nothingness, time passes.

The thing-that-watches is folded up and small. There are no thoughts except, wait. watch. not yet.

In another place, a tendril of power twangs, and the web echoes. Now?

...

Lionstar k'Leshya swears under his breath as his tunic catches on the rough bark. Stupid tree. Stupid rain. He twists to free himself, shoves aside a wet branch that returns the gesture by smacking him in the face, and tosses the last armful of branches onto his meager pile.

The new kindling is just as damp as the rest. Fortunately, Lionstar has options other than the flint-and-steel in his pocket. He squats by the heap and reaches out, focusing. He hasn't, technically, ever attempted this spell before–

...

Now.

The hollow nothingness turns inside out, and the everything-else rushes in. The thing-that-watches – he had a name, before, what was it – he unfolds, stretches out, grasps at his new surroundings. Where am I? What– 

Something is screaming very loudly, not in his ear but substantially closer. Instinctively, he clamps down on it, and a tiny fraction of the storm quiets. The rest is – he seems to be in a body, but all wrong. Too loud after the peaceful nothing, and he doesn't know where or what, but finally, as he seizes control of a big enough corner for thought, he has a guess at how

His name was Ma'ar, before, and he remembers dying. His first re-embodied emotion that isn't panic is satisfaction. It worked. 

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The trees and the rain and the small creatures of the forest all go about their business with no thought to the struggle taking place by the unlit campfire. A bird takes off from a branch, jostling its leaves, which in turn dump a shower of cold water onto what has up until this point been Lionstar k'Leshya's head.

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Satisfaction quickly turns to frustration. Minutes or hours pass before Lionstar-formerly-known-as-Ma'ar finds himself capable of rolling over on the wet ground and, eventually, sitting up. Time to take inventory – or try, anyway, the mental screaming that belonged to someone else is now thoroughly and permanently silenced, but he doesn't exactly feel in control. 

His resources include: one teenage body, in possession of what seems to be a powerful but untrained Mage-Gift. The easily accessible memories-that-aren't-his consist mainly of simmering anger toward various unknown adult figures, and swearwords in a dialect of the Kaled'a'in language – interesting, perhaps a hint to his location, except that Lionstar doesn't seem to know where his homeland is in relation to Tantara much less Predain. Figuring out the details of Lionstar's familial situation from the confusing tangle of memory-threads is beyond him for now, but he ascertains that nobody is likely to notice his disappearance for several days. 

His new teenage-runaway host is woefully unprepared for a forest expedition. Lionstar seems not to have thought to bring water, or food, or particularly waterproof clothing–

Thinking becomes difficult at this point, as his new body sends a barrage of increasingly unpleasant and distracting sensations. 

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Some of those sensations are the sound of someone tromping through the forest nearby, headed in his direction.

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Lionstar scrambles to his feet toward the sound, flings his half-controlled power in a wide arc that sets half a dozen trees on fire, and then promptly trips and falls over. 

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A sound that might be laughter, and some words in an unknown language, and then in thickly accented Kaled'a'in, "Peace! I no harm!"

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Lionstar considers throwing more fire at the voice until it stops talking, just for simplicity, but his head is throbbing from the fall. Besides, an apparently-benevolent stranger – based on the accent, unlikely to be a local who will recognize Lionstar – could be a useful resource. If he's lucky, the stranger might even have a map. 

He sits up, hands braced on the wet leaves, and decides against standing. "Who is there?" he calls out. 

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"Sakshemar!"

He emerges from between two burning trees, patting out a smouldering sleeve, with a wry smile that suggests he probably isn't mad about it. He can't be much older than Lionstar's body, and might be younger by a year or two; the cut of his clothes and the cast of his face are as unfamiliar as the language he tried first. He looks only slightly better equipped for a jaunt through the forest.

"I look for gryphon people. I hear you loud. I go help."

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Lionstar is fairly sure that he didn't start making noise until after the footsteps, which he adds to a growing stack of notes-of-confusion, along with a wistful longing for pen and paper. 'Gryphon people' lines up with his having fallen among the Kaled'a'in. Not, on reflection, a place where he wants his true identity known, and he very much hopes not to run into any actual gryphons. A cover story of some kind would be a very good thing to have – later, add to the list, right now he needs to come up with a response, if he stares blankly much longer the stranger is going to think he's a simpleton. 

He tries to compose his face, ignoring his racing heart and the fact that he seems to be shaking, he can't tell whether from cold or stress. "Thank you," he says, as politely as he can. "You...are from somewhere else, then? What brings you to seek the Kaled'a'in?"

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He frowns a frown of insufficient vocabulary.

"I from Haighlei," he says. "I hear gryphon people different. Haighlei nowhere different from Haighlei. Maybe gryphon people better. Maybe wet forest better. Maybe you better! You name?"

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He thinks for a few seconds, but stalling on giving a name will become awkward fast, and he can't see a specific way it could go wrong. 

"Lionstar." He can't be Ma'ar here, and he likes the name that comes with this body well enough. "I'm, er, pleased to meet you." This Sakshemar of the Haighlei people – which he has no recollection of, and he doesn't think his memories are that addled – seems motivated to be helpful. He really needs a plan for how to use that to his advantage. 

Lionstar attempts a self-deprecating smile. "I ran away. Thought the wet forest might be better. I am not sure that it is, although it has its merits." Relating to people was never his strength, and he's not exactly at his wittiest right now, but he's had practice. "What did you hate about your homeland, then?"

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"Lionstar," he repeats, taking unprecedented care with the foreign sounds. "Pleased meet you."

And then the question.

"Haighlei..." He trails off, frowning, making small movements with his hands as though physically grasping for words. "Things," he says eventually, giving up on the specifics. "In Haighlei, people have things, people take. I have, I want keep. So, here now. In wet forest, maybe wet lion eat me, but I keep things."

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That is...almost infuriatingly vague, but he doesn't think that Sakshemar intends it – his best guess is that it really is just a language barrier, and not deliberate obfuscation. And it's not like he can afford to be choosy about his allies, given the circumstances. 

"I am sorry," he says. "I promise not to take your things." Though if Sakeshemar has valuable possessions, Lionstar doesn't know where he's keeping them. "Besides," he adds, "I am a mage." He gestures at the blackened trees. "I ought to be able to keep any lions away, wet or otherwise." Lionstar's stomach interrupts with a growl, and he frowns. "Although, if you have anything to eat, that is something I lack." 

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"Ah! Food!"

He nods, smiles, and shrugs off his pack, which proves to be stuffed with smoked meat. If there are any other supplies in there, they're buried underneath it all. He cheerfully offers some to Lionstar.

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"You came prepared." It would be undignified to look as excited about the food as he feels. "Are you cold? I can light a fire – I was beginning when you arrived and distracted me." He gestures at the now-very-wet firewood. "And then I suppose we ought to decide whether to camp here, or to try to go elsewhere. I...would prefer not to return the way I came." 

And meanwhile, he badly needs an actual plan. There are a lot of questions occurring to him that he can't find a non-suspicious way to ask, such as 'which way from here to the Citadel of Predain' and 'how many years ago did the war end', because apparently the former inhabitant of this body never paid attention to his lessons. 

(Lionstar is trying not to think about the end of the war. The memories are foggy, but not that foggy. He's fairly sure Urtho is dead. Blame is a messy concept, but he knows that certain of his choices were causally involved. He's pretty sure that Urtho's countermeasures against him caused a spectacular amount of destruction, although maybe not as bad as it could have been, the forest here doesn't look so bad. Either way, though, it's starting to sink in that everything he had is gone, including the only person who he could have truly called a friend, and this is, technically, his fault.) 

"When did you find out that the gryphon people were here?" he asks. 

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"Eclipse," he says, immediately and assuredly. Why that word merits a spot in his heavily restricted vocabulary is anybody's guess. And, with a firm nod, "Fire yes. Wet forest very cold."

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Lionstar nods and lights the fire. Or tries. He's still getting accustomed to his new body and Gifts, and it's a struggle. He tries not to feel embarrassed, it isn't a productive response, but it turns out that a recently-borrowed teenage boy's mind has a number of thought-patterns that pull toward embarrassment. 

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Sakshemar smiles reassuringly.

"Fire things hard?"

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"I am unpracticed," Lionstar admits. "It will go better the next time. In any case, now we have a fire." The magic feels a lot more draining than he expected, maybe because he's inefficient at it, or possibly just that it's getting to the end of a very, very long day. "I think...I will sit down now."

He's glad to have run into Sakshemar, because he isn't sure whether all the willpower in the world can keep him awake much longer. 

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"Eat food," he advises, handing Lionstar another bit of smoked meat. "Sit, rest. I stay. No wet lions eat you."

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Lionstar spends several moments trying to decide if he can afford to trust a near-stranger with his life, before realizing that the decision is going to be made for him very soon. 

"Thank you," he says, folding down in front of the fire. "I really need some sleep." Taking over a new body is exhausting, it seems. His head is buzzing. "Please wake me when you are tired and I can keep watch."

Then he applies his full effort to the chunk of smoked meat, hoping to cram in some nourishment before he involuntarily dozes off. 

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If any wet lions approach during the night, Sakshemar handles them quietly.

It's not long before dawn, a generous interval indeed for Lionstar to rest in, when Sakshemar leans toward him and quietly calls his name.

There's a small cooking pot sitting by the fire; it seems he's transformed some of his abundant rations into a respectable, if plain, meat stew.

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Lionstar mumbles out his thanks and stands, trying to shake off the grogginess. His dreams have been, unsurprisingly, very odd.

Waiting for the sunrise, he goes through his memories, which are even less clear now. He tries out a dozen minor but increasingly complex spells, relieved to find that each attempt is smoother. He considers his options, such as they are. 

He tries not to think about Urtho. 

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Sakshemar finishes his share of breakfast and then curls up by the fire and goes to sleep.

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Lionstar throws another log on the fire, and begins his third attempt at an illusion-spell. It isn't going well, and he has a headache. 

Somewhere nearby, a twig breaks. 

Lionstar spins around, flinging up a shield – thankfully, the second spell he drilled, after fire – as a dark shape slinks out of the trees. 

The creature doesn't look like anything natural. Its hide is too smooth, its neck too long, the greyhound-like body uncannily stretched. Half a second later, a second appears. 

Wyrsa. He recognizes the creature from his past. Some long-dead Adept's attempt at a Master Working, and even before the war and his...death...they roamed the woods wild. These ones look different, though, larger, their hides a deeper light-swallowing black. 

"Saksh–" he starts to scream, just before the first of the wyrsa leaps and, to his horror, seems to drink his shield whole. 

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He startles awake, blinks at the scene, and then all in one motion the knife attached to his pack is out of its sheath and in his hand and sinking into the wyrsa's shoulder as he tackles it away from Lionstar.

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