[Trade : Gift] Burning Adventure
"You’re a fool if you think you can play with fire without the risk of getting burned." - Quote from the work of a good friend.
Winter was, perhaps, the most tolerable time of year to visit a desert.
Many times now, Sunder had visited Autumn in her homeland of Vitalus, and now it was Autumn’s turn to visit him. The crisp chill of winter air bit all the harsher when out upon the sea, which churned with treacherous waves and threw icy spray over the decks. Autumn did not mind this, in spite of her short fur, instead having the time of her life learning the ways of the sea from the sailors and fellow passengers.
Proven immune to seasickness, she was thus still full of energy and verve when the ship she was on made harbour, prancing in place upon wooden planks as the ropes were lashed to moor the vessel to the docks. As the wooden plank of the gangway was carefully lowered onto the pier, Autumn looked back to admire the sails and rigging of the ship one more time - three tall masts, two with two square sails each, and the aft one (the mizzen, if she remembered correctly) having but one sail instead. The sailors had called the Mistress of Thunder - the merchant vessel she had taken passage on - a ‘fluyt,’ which was one of the broadest sailing vessels she had ever seen (not that she had seen that many before).
Double-checking that she still had her rectangular satchel, which held her essential travel items (along with her many notebooks), Autumn politely followed the line of other passengers in stepping off the fluyt. Though she wished to immediately dash off in search of Sunder, she was not so impatient that she’d risk others getting hurt by cutting in line, as the gangway was fairly narrow.
The docks district of the Thedalean harbour city of Jhatte was a bustling place, and Autumn found her agility tested as she dodged around humans and vayrons alike on her way across the floating pier - itself tethered to tall pillars in the water called piles - to the firm cobblestone-covered roads. Wood being at a premium in the desert, the buildings were carved primarily of stone - grey granodiorite near to the shore, and reddish-tan sandstone further towards the city interior. Sand coated everything in a light dust, gathering up in small yellow dunes in places where the wind had difficulty kicking it back up.
Air cluttered with the chaotic murmur and chatter of a busy midday warf married with the salty sting of the sea breeze, greeted Autumn’s senses with a feeling different, yet similar to that of the Vitalusi harbour she had departed from weeks prior. A shadow passed over her as she searched for the fiery-orange and night-black pelt of her friend, a tyrian flying by to one of the local roost inns. The familiar sight in this strange land made Autumn smile, before returning to her search.
“Autumn!” a very familiar voice called to her, though somewhat deeper than when she’d last heard it. “Over here!”
Turning to her left, Autumn grinned as she saw her friend’s fire waving a flickering hand some fair feet above where he stood. The locals walked a wide berth around it, while non-local visitors either admired the display, or ignored it altogether. It served to remind Autumn that Thedale was not nearly as welcoming of magic as her Vitalusi home was - something she was determined to not allow to stop her from spending time with her friend.
The fiery hand went out as she approached, and the two friends nuzzled one another in the vayron version of a hug in greeting. Sunder had undergone another growth spurt - one likely to be his last, for he was already exceptionally tall for a runner. Autumn still had some growing to do, but she too was nearing her final height, and she remained notably taller than Sunder.
“It’s really warm for winter,” Autumn observed, once she’d calmed down from seeing her friend again.
Sunder chuckled. “This is about as close to ‘cold’ as Thedale gets, short of nightfall. Then it drops below freezing, even in summer sometimes.”
“That’s really neat!” Then an idea hit Autumn, in much the same way most of her ideas did - like a thundercrack in a clear sky. “Let’s go see that Red Fang Gate you were talking about!”
She got all of five feet before finding herself blocked by a wall of solid rock that had risen from the street, her impact softened significantly by the gentle push of wind. Autumn looked back to see Sunder giving her that familiar faint smile of fond exasperation.
“Do you even know where it is?” he asked, amusement clear in his voice.
Autumn blinked, then gave a sheepish grin as she realized that no, she did not. The rock wall seamlessly vanished into the ground, not a cobblestone of the street disturbed, and the magical wind ceased.
“Follow me, and stay close - it’s easy to get lost in the crowd,” Sunder told her, and the two soon made their way out of the docks district.
The two spent much of the day exploring Jhatte, which had its fair share of interesting sights to see - the red sandstone gate that lead to Cadena down in the southeast, carved to look like the curve-fanged jaw of some great beast (Sunder said they reminded him of a snake’s teeth, which Autumn had never seen the teeth of a snake before); the beautifully-carved Crystal Spire that had been a gift from a noble of Vitalus to the then-mayor of Jhatte; the colourful markets filled with dyes, and fabrics, and the scent of myriad spices that was so strong it drowned out the salty, fishy smell of the nearby ocean, even to their acute noses.
It was as the day began to grow late that the two mutually decided it’d be a good time to find a place to head in for rest - which lead to Autumn discovering that Sunder, purely due to him being a mage, was barred from entering a lot of establishments. The discrimination upset her, but her friend simply shook his head.
“Thedale is more welcoming to magic now than when we were pups,” he told her. “Before, it was difficult to find anyone willing to be within twenty feet of me, outside of our village. When people weren’t trying to drive us out. Now people mostly ignore me on the street, so long as I am sparse with my magic.”
“But it’s not right for them to deny you shelter over it!” Autumn protested.
Sunder gave her a sad smile. “The history of war and centuries of tension do not go away overnight. Thedale has her problems, like all lands, but she’s been improving. It’s better to pick your fights, and I’d rather not upset the city guard today.”
“Still doesn’t make it right…” Autumn muttered, leading her friend to nudge her shoulder in a comforting gesture. That her friend was so accepting of the situation told her he’d resigned himself to it, which she also wasn’t happy about - but like he’d implied, there was little they could do to change the whole city’s mind in less than a few hours.
Didn’t mean she had to like it.
It was as the two were walking down one of the many alleys of Jhatte - to avoid a noble’s procession, as Sunder mentioned he wished to avoid being made a political confrontation piece - that their otherwise mostly peaceful evening was interrupted.
Autumn had set her satchel down on one of the scattered small dunes to rest her shoulders and back, as she was not used to spending quite so much time on her paws. The two had been quietly enjoying each other’s company when Sunder’s ear twitched and he turned his head to give a growled warning - thus alerted, Autumn spun around to see a strange, variegated-purple runner picking up her satchel.
“Hey, that’s mine!” Maybe the stranger had thought it was abandoned?
That thought was trashed by the dark-faced vayron giving a snort and tossing the satchel’s straps over his own back, white-tipped ears flicking back as pale blue-grey eyes narrowed. “Mine now. Watch your things better.”
“I think not,” with those dangerously-calm words, Sunder raised the ground into a wall right as the purple-hued runner took flight - which almost worked, except the stranger managed to notice the rocky blocks in time to leap onto their rising tops, thusly jumping over the attempted barrier and using it as a stepping platform to reach the flat stone roofs above.
Turning his makeshift wall of cobblestone into a set of stairs, Sunder took off after the thief, Autumn not far behind - all of her important notebooks were in that satchel! (Her money too, but that was replaceable, her notebooks were not.) In an unintentional demonstration of the depth of Sunder’s training, the earthen stairs sank back into the ground of the alleyway the moment Autumn’s paws left the final step, a return to seamless, undisturbed cobblestone so as to pose no inconvenience to the next innocent to walk through.
In a chase that was impressive in its speed as much as its duration, the three vayrons sped across the sandstone and granite roofs of the Jhattii buildings - the purple runner leaping across with the surefootedness of the experienced, while Sunder used the elements of air and earth to assist in jumps and provide bridges. Autumn found herself falling behind, despite her best efforts, as the two runners bolted through the night - noticing this, Sunder called upon the wind to assist his friend in keeping pace, and the puller’s determination saw to the rest.
The brilliant colours of sunset faded into the darkness of night as the three continued to run, pawsteps swift and breathing rapid. After leading the two younger vayrons all across the city, the purple vayron chose to make for the warf, thinking to lose the two in the docks and stow away on one of the ships that would be leaving with the tide. Autumn and Sunder remained close behind, however, despite their long day - both had spent many a day dashing through the forests of Vitalus, and while the roofs of a Thedalean city were different, it was not too much so from the great boughs of the land of magic.
As the three leapt from the roofs and hit the cobblestone streets of the docking district, they dodged around the nightlife as the thief made for the piers. Though catching the attention of the guards, no action was taken to stop the chase, and Autumn was confused as to why until she overheard part of a conversation as she blew past.
“-we put a stop to that?”
“Don’t bother, let them take each other out-”
With all she’d learned that day, Autumn had a grim feeling the guards’ unhelpfulness was because Sunder was a known mage - the ‘second citizen’ status of magi in Thedale continued to find new ways to upset her, but she had to focus on getting her precious notebooks back first. She could tell the guards off later.
The three dashed onto one of the floating piers, paws leaving behind stone and meeting resin-coated wooden planks. The variegated purple runner found he could not shake the two, and so spun around intending to dash between them and gain an opportunity via surprise.
It didn’t work, as Sunder called up water from the ocean and forced it to freeze into a barrier behind himself and Autumn as they came to a stop at the end of the pier, magic overwhelming the anti-freezing effect of the ocean’s salt. The chase thus halted as abruptly as it had begun, the three vayrons facing off against one another as they panted, catching their breaths as they stared one another down. The sound of calming breathing, the creaking of the docks, and the crash of the ocean waves were the only interruptions of the silence.
“Give back the satchel, and we’ll let you go,” were the words Sunder chose to break the near-quiet with.
The purple vayron rolled his eyes. “You kids clearly don’t know how this works. Get tossed.”
With that, the thief made to leap to one of the wooden piles the pier was lashed to, only to be tackled into the water by Autumn, her only thought being to get her notebooks back and not considering that the rough ocean waters might be the greater danger.
“Autumn!” Focusing his power, Sunder froze and lifted the water his friend and the thief had fallen into, and then melted half the sphere to open it to the air. The purple vayron pushed off against Autumn and fought his way out of the ice, and Sunder froze water under himself as he bolted across the sea to chase after the thief, who leapt from pile to pile.
Autumn followed after them, also using the piles, as Sunder’s ice was too slippery for her to find purchase - she assumed his magic was allowing him to run across it with such ease.
Creating a large ice wall again, Sunder cornered the thief once more - who finally lost his patience, and struck out at the night-fire-hued runner. Having no experience with combat whatsoever, Sunder was wholly unprepared for the viciousness with which the variegated-purple runner fought. Taking a decent few injuries as he backed up, Sunder then fought back with his own claws and teeth, ice forming wherever the two stepped as Sunder’s powers became guided more by instinct than conscious decision.
Wary of causing more harm by getting in the way, Autumn came to a halt, her worry switching from her notebooks to Sunder’s health as the fight quickly grew out of hand. Even in the dim lighting of stars and lanterns, she could make out the red staining the salty ice. Unsure of how to help, she stood there, watching as her friend and the thief dashed back and forth across the water, a violent flurry of teeth and claws.
Just as the chase had travelled all across Jhatte, now the fight travelled far from where it had begun, Autumn following Sunder and the purple thief as they left the docks and piers behind. Ice cracked and broke and reformed as the combatants became lost in the back-and-forth exchange of injury and desperation, and the backdrop of the city was traded for the outskirts, and then the broken shores of the wilderness of Thedale.
Bite, turn, duck, swipe, brace, lunge, drop, swipe, bite…
Sunder’s world had become a haze of the rush of blood and adrenaline, barely aware of the ice he was forming, his world narrowed to just the collision of fang and claw with the purple thief before him. Desperation spurred them both on, a fight started out of frustration (for one) and self-defence (for the other) having spiralled into a matter of life or death for both.
Though the duration of it was impressive, inexperience and weariness were never allies in combat. So it was that it was Sunder who faltered first, and his purple-hued enemy pounced on the opening - but magi were never defenceless, and a cornered mage was especially dangerous, inexperienced or no.
A scream pierced the night as flames roared high, flames that went out as swiftly as they had ignited, the instinctive release of his soul’s fire startling Sunder out of his battle-haze. The undirected gout of flame had not engulfed the thief, but it had badly burned the vayron along his shoulder, and consequently had incinerated the strap holding the satchel to the thief’s body.
It was then that the two combatants realized that they were nowhere remotely near civilization, and still out on the ocean at that - though, by some miracle, they had managed to not wander too far from shore. Autumn carefully picked her way across Sunder’s ice, soon taking up a spot by his left side, while the variegated-purple vayron backed away from them with a limp. The satchel, over which so much commotion had been caused, lay sodden, singed (with one strap incinerated), and bloodstained upon the ice, and the part of Autumn that was not in shock was internally glad she’d kept her notebooks within a waterproof container.
After some moments of silence, Sunder made the wind pick up and carry the satchel over to Autumn, then pulled out the water to dry it. His voice was quiet, and faintly shaky when he spoke. “Sorry about the damage.”
Autumn shook her head, instead gently nudging Sunder’s wounded shoulder to tell him where her main concern lay. Her friend shook his head, then looked back to the purple thief.
“That was…unnecessary…” Sunder’s tone attempted to be reprimanding, but instead only managed a sort of exhausted numbness.
The thief snorted, trying to pass off as unaffected by the fight, but clearly exhausted and wary of provoking more of Sunder’s fire. “You could have given up.” “You were the one who started it!” Autumn shot back, her own voice surprisingly strong and steady.
Silence returned for a few more moments, shattered only by the distant crash of ocean waves upon the shore.
“Let’s…call a truce, for now, and head to land,” Sunder told them, and carefully formed an ice bridge - this time roughing the ice for easier purchase for the other two’s paws. “I don’t think any of us intended for this to go so far.”
The purple vayron looked about ready to scoff, then realized that he was effectively at the others’ mercy, out on the sea with a burned shoulder and a leg that didn’t want to bear weight or respond quickly. After some tense few seconds, the thief lowered his head in a slow nod.
So it was the three quietly made their way to the shore, the silence between them awkward, exhausted, and heavy. The chill of the desert and ocean night was warded off by Sunder’s radiated warmth, something barely noticed as their minds were all preoccupied with recent events. The thief’s limp made the trek difficult, and though he held reservations, Sunder decided to help support the stranger by calling upon the air to take up some of the other runner’s weight.
The purple thief looked up in surprise and alarm, only to calm slightly at Sunder’s murmured, “Don’t want to hurt you again, just thought it’d help you get off my ice quicker.”
It took almost fifteen minutes of slow walking, but the three finally made it into dry land, Sunder making a ramp of rock to help them up the small cliff. He had initially thought to make a staircase, but then recalled the thief’s limp, and chose something more accommodating to injury.
Hours passed as the three rested, for though the mistrust between the thief and the other two was almost palpable, exhaustion won out - as did the pain of injury, once the adrenaline faded. The tension kept them awake, but did little else of good.
“Figured out where we are.” Sunder’s voice broke the silence, and made Autumn and the thief look up. “Judging from the stars, and the size of those distant mountains to the southeast, we’re about ten miles or so west of the major western fork.”
“‘Western fork’?” the thief asked, tone dry.
“The point where Outliers’ Road merges into the Jhatte-Cadena highway. It has a half-dozen fancy names, but I’m too tired to bother trying to remember which names are for the western fork and which are for the eastern Cadena-Thedale fork.”
“That’s a lot of roads for a giant desert.”
“Would you rather cross-country across the dunes instead?”
Autumn quietly chuffed a laugh at the bickering, the unease and tension finally lifting from her shoulders. She was still worried about Sunder’s injuries - though they seemed to have stopped bleeding for now - and wary of the stranger, but nonetheless glad for the break. Looking to where Sunder had mentioned the major road lay, Autumn then stood up.
“We should…probably find a village, or something,” she said, causing both males to look at her. “You’re both injured, and staying out here doesn’t seem like a safe place to be.”
“The nearest village that’d be willing to look past a mage and a thief would…probably be mine,” Sunder admitted, then gave the purple vayron a stern look. “I’ll overlook the trouble you gave us and help you get to where you can get that burn looked at, but I want your word that you won’t try to rob my friends and family.”
The purple thief appeared to think that over, then huffed. “Burns are one thing I don’t take chances on. Fine.”
A thought occurred to Autumn, and she blurted her question before she could think better of it. “What’s your name?” At the others’ looks, she shrugged and tried to justify the question. “If we’re going to travel together for a bit, we should know what to call each other. Something other than ‘hey you.’”
“Tristan,” the thief replied curtly.
Sunder inclined his head. “I’m Sunder, this is Autumn.”
Though some tension remained, the three vayrons gathered themselves, and set off for Sunder’s home - the mage using his magic to provide support for Tristan’s wounded shoulder, while ignoring his own injuries the best he could. It wouldn’t be until shortly past dawn before they’d get to the village, barely managing to hold out long enough and collapsing soon after Sunder was recognized by the village guards.
Not how any of the three had intended to spend their time, but it had turned out far better than could’ve been hoped for.
It is dangerous to play with fire.
This was already processed on DA, I just figured I'd put it up on Lorekeeper too. Payment literature for...something. Not really a "commission," so "trade" works well enough, I guess. Also a gift piece.
You must log in to post a comment.Log in