Lady Alexandria Vosslyn is looking for able bodied citizens with or without skill in gathering to assist her on her lands this end of the fall season and likely into winter. Compensation will be discussed based on skills or labor being contributed. For more information, please contact Lady Vosslyn at the Willowbrook estate.
Ladies and Gentlemen of Stragosa!
I know we had a heartbreaking number of losses and I did not wish to interrupt grieving during the weekend. This said, it is time to show me your kitty’s licking their buttholes art!
If you found any art, please meet me, Lady Alexandria, at Prince Araga’s estate between today and tomorrow and show me what you have collected! I shall announce a winner and a prize once I have seen all the collections brought forth by individuals.
Thank you for your participation and I hope it lifted spirits in these dark times. The small things bring humanity together.
Lady Alexandria Vosslyn
Alexandria huffed as she broke into a run, heading away from the border of Prince Araga’s estate. For the last two weeks she had been cooped up in her room, with everyone and everything telling her that it was for her own good and that the baby was bound to arrive any minute. They had brought her meals, pampered her, brushed her hair, everything. It was too much for a creature of the forest like herself and she loathed the attention. Alexandria had tried to escape several times. All of those times, sadly, she had been caught and escorted back into the room by servants or Sir Tul’uk or a very grumpy husband.
This morning was different, though. The Prince was meeting with various members of the council and discussing the sewer project and Sir Tul’uk was, hopefully, out on some errand, for she had not seen him about. In the time between the bath the servants nearly forced upon her and the time she was allowed to spend in her garden, a measly thirty minutes, Alexandria managed to forge a distraction. As she left the room, she shed Aura, her familiar, from her body and let her spirit wander off with very specific instructions.
Just as they were about to enter the garden, the servants who were escorting Alexandria had seen smoke billow from the main hall of the dining room followed by a loud, shrill cackle.The second they disappeared, so did Alexandria. Behind her, she could hear cries and the bustle of many servants, likely trying to put out whatever small fires Aura had set, or so, she had figured Aura had set. The instructions had been more of permission, really, a “yes, you may eat the shiny chandelier”, a statement Alexandria never imagined she would have to say, let alone that she would be gifting her soul with permission for such a task. Either way, Aura had likely knocked candles from the giant metal object and set the table cloth alight. Alexandria would pay for it later, but it was a small price to pay for her freedom.
Despite being rather heavy and not at all well balanced, Alexandria managed to reach the garden’s edge, called for the plants to give her aid, and pulled herself onto the roof then over the other side and fell to the ground, landing with a light thud on a large pile of moss she had called forth. From there, she made a break for it and began to sprint as hard as her pregnant body would allow, making a beeline into the trees and across the busy Stragosa streets. All people and animals in her way were but obstacles and she danced around them, only once knocking into a person, though it was hard enough to make him drop a basket of fruit. She had no time for apologies now, though, and needed to get to the forest before someone returned her back to the prison.
Closely behind her, Alexandria heard a cackle and a howl and a wiry blonde with great ears of a fox, black with gold tips, and eyes of gold bolted up and alongside her. Shoving one leftover arm of the chandelier into her gullet as she ran. Aura, in the form of a small blonde girl, laughed again then proceeded to merge into Alexandria as soon as they crossed the border into the green brush.
Alexandria slowed as she passed through the line of trees, trying desperately to catch her breath while maintaining a steady jog. A couple dull aches spread from her back to her abdomen, but she paid them no heed. Pushing on almost another quarter mile, she finally could go no more and leaned against a broad pine’s bark at the edge of a large hill to catch her breath. She didn’t even notice the one man who had followed her from the street and into the forest, despite him not being particularly stealthy. Her head was elsewhere, the taste of freedom burning her lungs and urging her to leave all else behind.
When she finally did notice, it was because she had been struck by some sort of weapon in the back. A seal broke on her body, magic coming to life, and she whipped around, eyes glowing and teeth newly bared. The man, scared, dropped the knife he had been holding and fled immediately. In Alexandria’s brief carelessness and surprise, she had stepped away from the tree and as she stepped back to lean against it once more, found nothing beneath her foot. Down the hill she went, avoiding some of the trees and stumps, but not all as she tumbled. When she finally reached the bottom, she found herself on the bank of a creek, looking up at the hill and panting. The spell on her had minimized the damage to nearly nothing, but something felt strange.
Convincing herself that she just needed to get up, she rolled to her side and found her balance. The second she rose to her feet, there was a feeling of wetness running down her legs and onto the embankment. A bit puzzled and dazed, she looked from the water’s edge to herself, thinking it odd that she had managed to get so wet when having not even fallen into the water itself. Then it dawned on her, coming with it an alarming ache and a brief cry as her spell could not protect her from this sort of pain. The baby was coming. A slight panic seeped into her as she realized there was no way she would be able to get up the hill, at least not with out considerable effort, and that she didn’t wish to cry out and alert her attacker to her current dilemma, should he have remained close by or had friends. Now she was regretting her desire for freedom, if only a little, but was more regretting having not left anyone any clues as to where she may have departed off to. Another dull ache spread and became more menacing as it grew stronger and she staggered over to the deepest portion of the creek ahead of her and fell into it.
“Just another obstacle to overcome,” she muttered to herself aloud.
Alexandria closes the book that she had been reading aloud for the past hour and turns to the children sitting in a half circle around her.
“Just one more story?” One of the orphans asks.
“There aren’t any left,” Alexandria begins to get up, ” besides, all of you should be in bed. We wouldn’t want to upset Miss Maria.”
“If there are none left in the book, how about you tell us one you made up?” another orphan boy pipes up.
“Fine, I will think something up as you guys get into bed, okay?” Alexandria smiles and waits for the kids to get into bed. Once they’ve gotten in and are settled, she begins. “There once was a girl who was very strange. From a young age she was running around and getting into all sorts of trouble like sneaking into the stables, getting lost in the woods, getting muddy and playing outside with the dogs. She certainly did not fit in with her family and they definitely noticed. She tried her best to behave and do as they liked, but it was not enough and she failed more often than not. Her way of showing them that she loved them was too mischievous for them, too, such as when she would hide for hours in the dining hall only to sneak out and grapple her father in a hug during one of his warfare meetings with the adults. They were so tired of her. so sad was she and so she tried to change as to not disappoint them. It was never enough. She loved them, but being proper and prim seemed like something she was not born to do. She was so unlike her siblings.
One day her parents decided to send her away. She was sent off to another country. She tried and tried to get back. She even stole a horse! But it was no use. The kids in this new land didn’t like her either. They thought the way she looked and talked was weird, so they shunned her,” Alexandria says. As she speaks she gestures hand signs and paints a picture on the wall using the dust debris from the room and shaping it into figures with magic.
“So what did she do?” a little blonde girl with large brown eyes asks, her blanket pulled up over her nose as she watches from bed.
“Well, the girl was very lonely. During her studies, she discovered magic. The magic she went out into the world and used to help people–but they feared it. She would heal their wounds, build their houses, and help their crops grow big and strong yet still they treated her like an outcast… They shunned her.
She was cried most nights, ever lonesome. One day she wandered into the woods and she came across a still pond. She leaned over the edge of the water and peered down at her reflection. ‘Sometimes it seems as though my only friend is my reflection’ she muttered to herself. As a frog leaped and displaced the water, even her reflection vanished, even her reflection seemed to flee from her. Her heart ached something fierce. Finally, she came up with an idea. She crafted a blade and she headed back to the town,” Alexandria says.
“Was she going to hurt someone? hunt the mean people down?” One of the kids asks as he watches the figure drawn by magic move with a sword in her hands through the forest.
“No, no. She only ever wanted to help those people. She couldn’t change that now. Once she got to her room, she locked herself away. She took the blade and she cut herself in half, right down the middle!”
The kids all looked surprised as the figure on the wall took the blade and tore itself in two. Both halves turned to one another then reached out so they could hold hands. The frown and sad expression once painted on the figure’s face morphed into a smile as the two halves held hands and looked upon one another.
“oh, I get it, ” one of the children speaks up, “its so she would have a friend.” The figures on the wall turn to the boy and nod.
Alexandria turns to the boy as well, “So she would always have a friend.”
As Alexandria left the orphanage, she let out a deep sigh and turned her eyes to the night sky above. Her eyes became watery as she gazed at the lonely moon sitting in a sky of stars. Alexandria held out her arms as if cradling something and from her body a creature began to form. In no time a dark fox with silver claws and golden eyes was sitting in her arms and looking up at her.
“Aura, do you think anyone will ever actually accept me or will they always want me to change?” She asks the fox. Her familiar nuzzles her. “Yeah, stupid question.”
With that, they start the long walk home.
Text translated from Shariqyn to Rogalt:
” Women are the greatest of treasures, and men who marry must lavish them in comforts and luxuries. In Shariqyn society, a man is incapable of having honors for himself – he only gains esteem in those things he gives to his wife, be they directly useful such as fine clothing, or symbolic of some accomplishment, like a stone that may only be found in the place he has conquered in war, a man’s social value is reflected most strongly in the ways he can grant these things to his wife.
A Shariqyn man, aside from showing his devotion to his wives through presenting them with wealth and comfort, is in many ways judged by his diction, that is, his choice of words, in relation to their women. For example, a man who bestows wealth upon his wife, but does not listen to her advice and does not tell her he appreciates her council, but instead disregards it, is seen as a poor husband. Should he use language that is ambivalent or lacks appropriate enthusiasm, his wife or others observing a conversation between spouses may take offense. Other women are often warned and the man, more often than not, ceases to be able to find another wife, regardless of his wealth. Other men also look down upon the man as he has failed to fulfill his duties to his wife.
A Shariqyn man who has recently married is required to remind his wife of his affection for her no less than once daily. The most common form of this is simply words of praise followed by the statement ‘al enahim ebi kali ehr’ which roughly translates to ‘an oasis in a sea of sand’. In the days of nomads, a life which some still endure, oasis are the life’s blood of the dessert. An oasis is that which gives life where there is otherwise none, similar to how a wife may give a better life to her husband and bring new life into the world of his blood. Even after the two have been married for many years, it is important for him to remind her of his affections through words and actions lest she cease to give him council or heirs.
When a woman married to a Shariqyn man gives birth to a child, she is honored. Traditionally, the woman’s bestows a gift upon her just after his child is born. Though no gift can compare to that which she has given him through the growth and birth of his child, it is important that a man give his wife something that has immense meaning and/or value after her first nursing and rest after the child is born. Should she die during childbirth, a single drop of the water which holds the mothers soul is swept over the forehead of the newborn child so that her protection and wisdom may guard over him always. After a woman who has died in childbirth is laid to rest, her husband is required to take a grieving period in which he may not marry again for three months post his wife’s death. The gift he had meant to give to his wife is to be later passed to the child when they become seven along with a story honoring his late wife, the child’s mother. “
The sound of the footfall of horses and hounds rang through the forest, disrupting the song of nature and making the birds fall silent. Alexandria let out a deep sigh and set her mushroom shaped mace and shield behind a tree, calling out “vindicur” which allowed the items to get rooted and stand up on their own. She placed a hand out, as if to say “wait” to the black fox behind her. Reluctantly following the command, the fox let out a grumpy growl and crawled beneath the mushroom.
“Manach, manach, Manach,” alexandria said to herself, flipped her cloak inside out, and began to walk towards the sound. She could tell the animals were fast approaching, for the animals riding on the back of the horses were loud and obnoxious in their chase. A rabbit raced from the brush and past alexandria who called to it and told it where to hide. Short on its tail, several hounds broke through the clearing. Alexandria spoke and the dogs came to a quick hault.
“What are you doing you lazy mutts!–oh? What do we have here?” a large man on horseback came through the trees followed by two scrawnier men in furs and leathers wielding guns. “What is a little lady like yourself doing out here?”
“Oh, I was walkin’ through the forest, gatherin’ ‘erbs when I came upon this clearin’ and stopped to catch me breath. Ye can imagine the surprise I got when yer dogs came a runnin’ through the bushes, gave me quite a fright!” Alexandria said with sincerity and acted as though she had been scared by the dogs who now laid down and watched her as if waiting for another command. I really need to work on my Dunnick accent, she thought to herself.
“Well, lil’ lady, what do you call yourself?” the head huntsman asked, a grin on his cocky face.
“Saoirse,” she said sincerely once more and bowed some with her black cloak dipping with her movement and sweeping the ground, “What ‘er you fine gentlemen doin’ out in these lands? If it were huntin’, I would warn ye against it. There is a guardian up’in these woods who protects it. I hear there is good huntin’ ov’r yonder that be just the same if not bett’r. ‘Sides, this land is owned by a Lady in Stragosa who don’t like any poachin’ on ‘er land,” she makes a point of pointing to the north east, away from her parcels when she mentions the other hunting spot.
The huntsman stops for a moment, his brow raised as he looked upon the woman before him. Alexandria stood before him, her cloak turned black, her hair grown out to a dark red that was tucked partially inside the cloak, her eyes rust brown, and her pale skin painted with freckles. She certainly looked the like a Dunnick woman and they definitely seemed to believe her. Alexandria was happy they didn’t examine her up close or they’d see the freckles were more like spots and the hair like that of a horses mane. Though even then they likely would not notice the likeness to an animal she displayed.
“Well, young lady, we’d best be getting back to the hunt. I haven’t heard of any guardians and this land seems full of game. Can’t miss out on the opportunity and so long as you don’t go snitching,” the man leaned over his horse in a threatening manner, “ain’t nobody gonna know. Don’t do anything you’ll regret, just go on as if you never even saw us.”
Alexandria held back a growl. She was more disciplined than to fall to his intimidation tactics, but he didn’t know that. She turned her eyes to the ground and nodded once as if to say she agreed, then allowed the men to go on their way. Once they and the dogs had left the clearing, she shook the magic away and growled. Her hands we balled up in fists at her sides.
“I tried to warn them, these are MY lands and MY animals. But no, fine, want to be like that? Fine. Want to play intimidation games? I’ll show you intimidation games. I hate when men try and intimidate women like that and I hate when they don’t take women seriously. You think you’re scary, guy? Okay, let’s do this,” Alexandria walked with purpose back to her mushroom and fox. “Aura, lets go.”
The little gold eyed fox looked up at her with what appeared to be a grin, knowing exactly what Alexandria was planning. Alexandria uprooted her mushroom and carried it off, getting ready for an experiment that would soon be under way.
The three men and their dogs ran throughout the woods for what seemed to be hours. The birds’ songs had died down and the animals all seemed to be in hiding. They cursed and swore, but still they could find anything to bring down and show for their day’s trek.
“Not one fucking deer or fox or even rabbit! I’m starting to think that guardian chased them off,” the scraggly brown black haired man on the last horse whined.
“Don’t buy into that shit. It’s probably just some rumor the noble who owns the parcel spread to keep people off of it, thinking the peasants would be too stupid to challenge their words,” the master huntsman grumbled. “If there were a guardian, we’d take it and gather it’s fur. Bear or monster alike, I dare it to come out and taste the bullets I have waiting for it. We’d hit it and let it run till it died then grab its hide all the same!” The man held up his gun and called to the woods as if taunting them.
Just as the man finished his sentence, a fox burst from the ground before the hounds who began to wail and bark. “Finally!” the men cried and they began their chase. Several shots rang out, but never did the shots seem to hit their mark. They chased the black furred fox through the trees and down to a river bank long enough that the dogs and horses seemed to grow tired. Once to the water’s edge, the fox still did not yield and it swam to the other side.
Once upon the other bank, the fox turned to them men and let out a startling, near human laugh which made the dogs shudder and retreat behind the horses. Though the men urged the dogs and horses forward, they would not listen to their commands. The men cursed and were about to shoot from where they sat when their eyes were drawn to the fox’s strange behavior. At first it seemed to taunt them, but then it dove clear out of sight and behind a rather large tree only to have a much larger figure appear from the other side. As it crept forward, the men all ceased their swearing and became fixated on the creature before them.
It stood the size of a man on four legs with black fur the color of a moonless night and looked upon the men with eyes that burned gold like the sun. Its legs were long and elegant and tipped in long black claws and it hoped upon a stump with speed and grace then sat before them in the dimming evening light. Even the remaining sunlight that sifted through the trees seemed to be swallowed up by the darkness of its fur. “You called, here I am, huntsmen. You have such disdain for the land, no respect, only in it for the next kill,” the horrifying creature spoke, “You have hunted me, you have hunted and tried to take from the land that I protect. Tell me then, why should I not come for you in turn? Were you not warned?”
The men stared in disbelief for several moments and the horses’ breaths became panicked though they did not dare move. The hounds had all gone into hiding.
The main huntsman seemed to begin to speak and lifted his gun just slightly, though at that moment the creature hopped from the stump and leaped to the bank across from them, readying itself to leap forward. “I, too, enjoy the hunt!” The creature roared. The horses with the men clinging to their saddles and the crying hounds began their frantic run from the woods. For a while the creature chased them, though by the time they were closing in to stragosa, they seemed to only be chased by a small black fox who ran hard on their heels all the way back. Many of the peasants who watched the men run into the city seemed perplexed and even laughed as they saw all the animals and hunters running so frightened with only a cute little fox in toe. The fox even stopped to pleasantly greet some of the people watching once the men had fled out of sight and into the city before returning to its woodland home.
The next day the men found themselves seats at the bar, their eyes sunken, tired, and still filled with terror. They tried to drink away the memory of the traumatic experience, when they found themselves listening to a curious song. They turned their attention to the stage only to see the same Dunnick woman from before, singing:
“And up there sprung like lightning a fox from out of his hole
His fur was the colour of a starless night, and his eyes like burning coals
And they chased him over the valley, and they chased him over the fields;
They chased him down to the river bank, but never would he yield
And he’s jumped into the water, and he’s swum to the other side
And he’s laughed so loud that the green woods shook
Then he’s turned to the huntsmen and he’s cried:
‘Ride on, my gallant huntsmen! When must I come again?
For you should never want for a fox to chase all over the glen
And when your need is greatest, just call upon my name
And I will come, and you shall have the best of sport and game!’
And the men looked up in wonder and the hounds run back to hide
For the fox, it changed to the Devil himself where he stood on the other side
And the men, the hounds, the horses went flying back to town
And hard on their heels come a little black fox, laughing as he ran…”
The woman smiled as she looked over the audience until her eyes fell upon the huntsmen. As they did, for a moment, her eyes reminded them of the beasts and seemed to burn holes in their souls. While the others in the room seemed captivated by the woman’s voice and hopeful, the men were traumatized and quickly ran from the bar, hopped on their horses, and fled the city.
After the song had finally ended, the woman dismissed herself from the stage and the band who had played so beautifully beside her. She went up to the bar with a smile, and paid off the rest of their tab. Then returned home at last, confident that they had been taught a lesson, and ready to be her normal self once more.