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Ethereal- Towering above the world below is said to be a magical castle where magic and beautiful people roam free. This floating city, thought to be mere myth, has existed for thousands of years and is home to a seemingly immortal group of guardians who were blessed by the Gods and Goddess to rule the Earth.
Upon the island is a castle of eden where the fruit is grown to grant whoever eats it immortality as long as they continue to eat from the fruit. So for many eons life upon the castle was filled with bliss and wonder, ignorantly unaware of what the world was like below.
Below the billowing clouds and the beautiful castle lies the kingdom of Ramil. Here, water and resources are scarce as the hot winds and the arid world drives people to live in the desert. Despite the fact that the lives of the people here are hard, the people here are happy and they have been blessed by the gods. Or so they had thought till one day a sickness had gone around.
Desperate to save his people the young Prince set out by himself to travel to the nearest kingdom to find out where help would come from. However, he would never make it thanks to the fact that a certain little princess.
Bored with her life, the Princess had flown down to the world and was looking for signs of life. Frustrated that all she found was nothing more but desert and sand she was about to give up till she stumbled upon the prince and rescued him.
Now, face to face with people from two different words both are wondering what will happen?
Will the princess help save his people, or will she keep him as her new friend in this world above?
Hi everyone; so my rules for this roleplay are pretty simple so let’s go over them shall we.
One Communication is key. Even though I wrote the plot, i’m not a dictator and i’m open to tweaking and changing the plot if you have ideas. I welcome it actually. So please feel free to shoot me ideas whenever you want.
Two I absolutely love details. I’m a detail person so, personally, I enjoy writing wrong paragraphs. I try to keep my post between 800-1200 Words. But if you give me alot of detail then I’ll gladly give you the same back. I also dont mind writing less. I’m flexible when it comes to writing so dont be intimidate at all
Three Since I, myself, and an adult, I ask that my partner be the same. Please be at least college age (19+) if you’re interested in joining..
four I know that life gets busy, so when it comes to posting frequently i ask that you at least post every week. I know that we work and I personally have two off days a week. So I get not wanting to post while you’re working and have jobs. But if you can write at least once a week than i’d appreciate it.
five Last but not least I’d like to know you character so please fill out this skelly for me xD
For the Prince
Character name Name: Algyr von Ramil
Height: 5' 10'
Physical Description: Not quite the princely picture, a little rough around the edges. Lean and wiry built, not going to one shot anyone but often ends up as the last one standing. Short, jagged, blue hair with soft orange eyes and pointed ears
Three Words to Describe Him: Tenacious, Creative, Considerate
Three Things He Hates: Mental blocks, feeling powerless, destruction.
Description of His Goals: Before the sickness, he wanted to help his people in his own way. Inventing tools and methods that could improve their way of life. The desert was harsh, but it was home and as far as he could tell, they were blessed in their own way. However, as things are now, a cure is the only goal he has…
One Thing He Dreams Of: To make Ramil flourish as the legendary Ethereal. A more princely dream perhaps, but a selfish one would be to see the world with his own eyes.
Brief Bio: "Prince" was the last thing Algyr wanted but was fortunate enough and got dealt third in line for the throne. His brother would take the throne, his sister no doubt acting as an advisor. That allowed Algyr to do what he pleased for the most part. Exploring was more his forte than ruling would ever be, and he enjoyed building. The people of Ramil were grateful to him for his creations, as well as a near constant presence. There was no animosity between his siblings, but he heard rumors that some would prefer he was next in line. He'd vehemently deny ever doing so unless necessary. Besides, as sickness started to spread it was better for him to investigate it than his siblings, someone needed to maintain the peace as their father fell ill.
Character name: Dai-Lu
Physical Description: Slender and fragile, she has a soft features with a rounded jawline. Blonde hair frames her face and her eyes are slanted as though she were of Asian descent. Her skin is fairly light, almost porcelain and white. Her lips are the color of pink roses. Her fingers are long and slender and her eyes are the deepest shade of brown.
Three words to describe her: Curious. Bored. Playful. a
Three things she doesn’t understand: She doesn’t understand why sometimes, when people fall asleep they never wake up again. She doesn’t understand the concept of pain or how it is possible to hurt or struggle. She doesn’t understand the concept of love or hate her feelings towards everything and everyone around her is neutral.
Description of her magical abilities: Besides possessing the power to fly through the air at will. Her magical abilities come from her being able to hold her hand out and think about whatever she wants. Whether it's the ground rising up beneath her, or water, or fire balls. She summons her emotions from deep within and lets it out of her.
one things she wishes for: For life to be exciting again.
Brief Bio: Dai-Lu can’t remember what it felt like to be a child or how long ago that was. Only that life seemingly seemed to go on forever and ever. At first every single day was filled with joy and laughter. Bathing in the river, enjoying fruits and sweets and dancing with family and friends. Magic and other things were a forethought. But eventually all of this got boring to her and she decided to isolate. The home she’d love above the clouds felt like a prison. So fed up she decided to descend down upon the world beneath the clouds and see what awaited her. Character Pic
(Looking for a someone to join as the prince of Ramil)
80 years ago
“Dai Lu! Dai Lu!” The sound of voices frantically calling for the blonde made her turn her head away from the world below. . Oftentimes she would find herself perched upon the swing which hung from one of the fruit trees in the castle courtyard. Despite the fact that she possessed the power of flight she still enjoyed kicking her legs up to swing from the tree as she’d always done. Leaning backwards she flung herself forward rising high up into the sky. The feeling of the sun shining down upon her skin filled her with warmth along with the sound of voice eagerly awaiting for her to come and play. Kicking her legs back she moved herself with the swing before she decided that now was the time to entertain those whom had sought her out. With one fluid motion she flung herself from the swing and rested in the air, her body floating in the sky.
“Ty lee?” Her voice responded back and instantly the figure of a girl came barrelling towards her. Moving her body out of the way her lips parted, a firm ball was being thrown towards her. Skyball was one of her group of friend’s favorite pastimes. The object was simple: to use one’s feet, or elbows, or fist to pass the ball through the air as many times as possible. As long as one didn’t catch it or drop it to the world below everything was fair play. Leaning backwards she kicked the ball high up into the air, before doing a front flip and slamming her heel down upon the ball sending it flying towards a black hair figure who laughter filled the air. Zooming off at high speed her body moved to chase after the ball and her trio of closest friends.
40 years ago
A slender hand touched her reflection as she stared back at herself in the mirror. She’d done the one thing which many people had advised her not to do. Keep track of the flowing years and think about how one did not age for whatever reason or another. Standing at 4’9 in height, there were many who towered over her and still treated her as though she were something to be protected instead of her own personal being. The Palace soldiers constantly kept her within her sight and only let her play with the trio of friends. Despite the fact that the kingdom of Ethereal was protected by the clouds and none below could see the floating city traveling through the air, Dai Lu still had people following her wherever she went.
Stepping away from the mirror she turned upon her heels and took off running as fast as she could. A thin smile of mischief formed upon her face as she ran through the courtyard and towards the southern cliff that dropped off below the surface of the clouds. Instantly she heard the voices of the guards calling for her to halt. It had been explicit declared that no one was allowed to venture beneath the clouds below. Yet, she took no heed of this. Without on leap of faith, she drove from the cliff and closed her eyes.
The coldness of the wind whipping her face was the same as water being splashed onto her. Refreshing, stunning, and sudden. The further down she dove down, the harder and harder she kept her eyes close wanting to feel the surprise of what awaited her. Giving herself a countdown she breathed out before exhaling and counting down from ten. However, impatience got the best of her and she didn’t make it to seven before she open her eyes and saw whiteness all around her. The billowing and thickness of the cloud surrounded her and as she continued to fall faster and faster. She’d never imagine the clouds to be this thick or to break through them would take so long.
However, she would be rewarded for her patience. Her reward? That of seeing the world below. In the distance she saw specks of brown and red. Along with what seemed to be tiny buildings made carved from something she didn’t know or could understand. As she dove down further and the viewing of the ground began to become more and more clear. People were wrapped from head to toe in fabric that seemed soft and yet breathable. They also rode beast with four legs which walked amidst the sands.
As she continued to fall deeper she could’ve sworn she would’ve touched the ground before if she’d not been stopped. Rough hands seized her and before she had time to protest she felt her body being jerked through the air at top speed. Flying upwards faster than she’d fallen the ground rushed before her as she was pushed upwards and brought back to the palace.
Peizhi was the ruler of the kingdom of Ethereal. Adoring himself with his golden robes he had short hair and red eyes that bore into the soul of his beloved youngest. Placing a hand to her face he cupped it with his hand before he spoke to her softly. “Little one, why do you long for a world which we are not apart of? Surely you’ve been blessed to live in this one for a reason. Forget this silly obsession with the bottom world and come and accept that this is your lot in life.”
Removing his hand from her he kissed her forehead and let her go.
Oftentimes when the servants brought in the trays of food for Dai Lu, she barely registered their existence. Afterall, there was no purpose in this life that seemingly neverend. As far as she could remember, she had been the last person to be “born” in well over a hundred years. She didn’t remember being small or an infant, she only remembered that she’d always been this way with features intending like this. Pointing toward the tray of food which held sliced fruit and a cup of the water which flowed like a river from the northern cliff, she levitated it towards her. She remembered, once, of a male who had stopped eating the food that they’d always ate at the kingdom. It went on for months till eventually he closed his eyes and slept. For some reason the male never opened his eyes. Furthermore the warmth from his skin faded and he turned cold and chilled to the touch.
A part of her was curious if that would happen to her if she stopped eating the fruit. It was worth a try; plopping the delicious fruit into her mouth she then decided that it wasn’t worth a try. It was so sweet and savory and she enjoyed the flavor of it so much that she decided that she would eat it. With the tastiness of the fruit fresh upon her lips she shot up from her desk and stretched her arms and legs and blinked her head once and then twice again. Today was the day. Today was the day that she decided that she was going to cure her boredom once and for all.
Peering from behind the door frame she exhaled before she stepped forth and waited to find her friend waiting for her down the hall. She'd told her of this escape the other day and this time she was sure that she would succeed after all she had help. As she saw the pigtails of the female she instantly moved from her room and ran down the hall to her friend where they clasped hands together and looked into each other's eyes.
Being immortal hindered the princess’ understanding of emotional attachment or the need to be physical. So as she looked down at their hands she quickly jerked them away unsure as to why she’d felt the desire to feel the warmth of her hands in hers. Perhaps it was because for the first time in a long time she could feel some excitement boiling up inside of her.
The plan was simple: they would both jump from the cliff together except this time Ty-Lee would be using her magic to look precisely like the Princess did. Holding hands together they both exhaled before they took a running start and jumped down from the clouds below. Once more Dai Lu felt the excitement which came from feeling the rush of the wind run through her hair and the free falling sensation that came from falling through the air. Each second they were in free fall the tighter and tighter their grip on one another got. It wasn’t till they broke through the clouds that they broke away from each other.
Placing both of her palms together she closed her eyes as she thought about a rather large bubble of air to protect her and as she pulled apart her hands suddenly the feeling of the rushing wind and the roaring sound of it was silence. Her hair no longer whipped rapidly around her and instead she was falling at her own pace. Now, now, as she got closer and closer to the world below her eyes widened as she saw what she’d once did. Everything seemed to be different. Once before, she saw buildings and strange creatures with four legs. Instead she saw vast sand and no one for miles and miles around.
Landing upon the ground the first thing she noticed was that the ground below her was off. It was firm and soft. Supportive yet it gave a little with each step she took. The next thing she notice was the heat which rained down upon her. Instantly beads of sweat formed upon her face and as she looked upwards her eyes blinked at the glaring sun.
Sure, she felt heat before. The sun was nothing strange to her either. Yet, for the world to be this hot and scorching around her! It was something unheard of and unknown! Exhaling she gasps as even the wind air she breathed felt hot and harsh. It didn’t take long for her blonde locks to be plastered to her face due to sweat and as she looked around she noticed another thing that this palace was devoid of water to.
Stepping forward into elements of the unknown that mischievous grin grew even wider and wider. Finally after many years-(how many? she’d lost count but it was forty)-she finally found that which she was looking for excitement. Jumping into the air, she instantly took off flying across the strange land which was aired, hot and dry. Her destination was on known but as she looked out into the distance her eyes blinked as she saw her first mirage. The distance seemed to shake and waver revealing a far off structure. Unknowing what it was she began to fly further close to it.
She hadn’t at all been planning on doing so, but eventually she came across another person and that instantly made her pause in her tracks. Landing slightly in front of them she cocked her head to the side. For the briefest of seconds she thought that there would be no one out her besides herself and so as she stood there she waited for him to come closer to her till, to her surprise, he fell forward.
Gasping, she ran towards him and dropped to one knee. Hesitantly she reached out towards him and turned him over towards his back. He had such strange features. His clothing was also strange as well. Leaning forward she heard him speak a word she didn’t understand at first. Leaning in closer she tried her best to hear him with all her might before she blinked and giggled. Water? If that’s all he wanted than she could easily bequeath him such a gift. Opening her palm she summoned a ball of water and allowed it to splash upon his face, before she looked at him and spoke softly.
“Nǐ kàn qǐlái hěn yǒuqù.” Her words came out softly as she stepped back. Using her palm she closed her eyes and struggled a bit. Normally she’d had relative ease levitating an object but he was not an object. He was a human being. Huffing she strained to lifted him up using both of his hands and as she did so she slowly got underneath him. Wrapping her entire arms around his body as best she could she suddenly lifted the two of them off the ground and without warning began to soar through the sky with the stranger completely on her shoulder.
“Have you lost your mind?” Peizhi spoke as he stood upon the cliff watching his youngest daughter struggle to carry the man from underneath her. However the reproached he would’ve spat out was quickly lost when he saw the condition of the man. Clasping his hands together he quickly ordered the palace guard to take the man to any empty bed they had available and to fetch water. “Dai Lu you’ve just saved this man’s life.. He is now your responsibility.”
Cocking her head to the side the young girl blinked as she followed the commotion which was going on. Saved his life? She didn’t know what that mean but she was once again interested in life finally.
The sun bore down across the desolate landscape. Sand as far as the eye could see, occasional rocks jutted out of the ground like jaws ready to devour their next meal. Glimmers of mirages sailed across the ground, eager to send would be travelers to an early grave. But such tricks wouldn't work on those that called this hell home.
Ramil was by no means a small country, but its lands laid in the vast deserts, few would actively seek it out. Depending on whose story you believed it was punishment for their greed. A warring nation that fought and pillaged, always feasting on the weak but never satisfied. Til the gods themselves had to step in and put an end to their reign banishing them to the desert the searing winds a cage for all eternity. Other stories painted the kingdom in a more favorable light, a refuge for all seeking sanctuary. A place to start over and do so in the loving embracing of the sand.
"Honestly, there are ruins that support both pasts, so perhaps we dabbled in both, if history is written by the victors... Rather we were murderers or saviors, seems the desert will always be the victor, at least she doesn't judge us," Algyr spoke gently to himself. He was crouched in the shade of one of the outcroppings a few hand tools laid out on a strip of leather. His orange goggles pulled down over his right eye, allowing him a magnified look of the stone, a few faint traces of old glyphs but nothing substantial for what he was looking for. He sighed, placing the goggles back atop his head as he rolled the tools back up and added them to his bag.
A bucket sat behind him near a prepped fish pole over what may have once been a small oasis. The water long since dried up, instead replaced with not quite sand, or quicksand but an odd mix that mirrored the waves of a small pond. A literal sand pool, with its own fauna. He grabbed the pole, teasing the line ever slightly before a quick snap and pull as another sandfish was added to the bucket. Algyr looked towards the sun, he'd been out of the city for five hours now, with little to show for it. Not that he had much reason for being outside, wishful thinking really that he'd catch an old friend, but seems he may have miscalculated his return trip.
"Hmm," he paused a moment as his ears flicked picking up a faint sound of familiarity. He quickly secured his catch to his waist the pole to his back as he stepped out from the shade. The heat was intense from the quick location change but nothing he couldn't handle, he scaled the outcropping, readjusted the goggles as a telescope. He scanned the horizon, until the flip of a tail drew his attention. He followed the tail as it dipped through the sand dunes, a glimmer of red scales like rubies brought a smile to his face. "Zanbu! Over here," Algyr hollered fastening his gear to slide down, he landed in a crouch straightening up heading over to another bit of shade his eyes following the movement of the scales like a hawk.
Zanbu weaved through the sand dunes like a fish to water, slowly emerging from the ground pulling himself out shaking his scales free of the sand.
"Prince Algyr, I wasn't expecting a personal greeting from royalty," he laughed heartily. Zanbu belonged to the Lizardfolk, scaled creatures that resembled smaller versions of their dragon ancestors or larger versions of the everyday lizards that skitter across the desert. Rightly depending on how drunk or how badly they were losing at cards determined how they wished to be addressed. Zanbu fell into neither category, as he was a grandfather to Algyr above all else.
Honestly none of King Modun's children resembled royalty, certainly not how fairy tales would depict Elven Royalty. Granted elves could be found everywhere in the world, like any other race, the environment or the gods shaping the more unique subraces. Ramil was far removed from most other nations daily so those in the kingdom knew who they were, the titles weren't necessary, at least Algyr didn't believe his was necessary.
Longer ears than his siblings, hair blue like the depths of lakes compared to the lighter cerulean surface blue of his brother and sister, more than a few obvious signs the product of a second marriage. Algyr wasn't planning a long stay outside the city, so his attire was on the lighter side for traveling in the sands. Looking more like a bandit then a prince, loose pants, and boots better suited for the uneven ground, a dark tunic and spaulder over his left shoulder, he had his hunting needles strapped to his thigh but little else for self-defense. Exposing more skin than advised but he wasn't planning a long excursion.
"Oji Zan," Algyr sighed before a small smile came to his lips. He embraced the old lizard, his scales barely scratching his callused skin.
"Aye, it's been quite some time since I saw you last, hatchling," Zanbu responded holding the younger man tighter. "Alas, I have no information."
"It was a long shot but thank you for going through the trouble. I have another option in mind, but I'm not expecting much support for it," Algyr spoke solemnly before releasing Zanbu. “Come, we can continue this discussion back home before the sun sets.”
They tried to keep the conversation lighthearted, it appeared that Zanbu was about to be a great, great, great grandfather to a new batch of hatchlings. Lizardfolk were long lived like that, elves could be as well, but Lizardfolk had better immunity to diseases. Algyr fell silent as they approached the encampment outside.
"It's not forbidden to enter the city, but Erel advised those that were sick that were coming from the villages outside to wait here. He wasn't trying to ostracize anyone, honestly it was the best way to try and isolate whatever it is. Most barely have the strength to argue, the journey here taking more out of them than the disease. But we're spread thin as is, at least here we can try and help as many as we can," Algyr explained. Some of these structures were only supposed to be temporary, but seemed his buildings were holding and would be needed in the coming months.
"How has your brother been," Zanbu asked gently bowing in silent prayer.
"He's been holed up in the temple most days, offering prayers as well as pouring over any old text. As the leading healer, it's been eating him up the most. He's been able to alleviate some of the symptoms, but it's only a temporary reprieve."
"Keskil...ah she can tell you herself," Algyr paused as a group of people were approaching the encampment. Algyr and Zanbu stepped aside as the convoy made its way through the city holding up the rear was a young woman, she slid off her camel offering a hug to Zanbu.
"Zanbu, always a pleasure to have you. I only wish it was on a better occasion, but we shall take the joys when we get them." Keskil spoke gently as she pulled Algyr into an embrace. "Your methods are crude, but they proved fruitful this time, we were able to find a few more sources of water, in the underground caverns. It won't solve that problem but hopefully buy us some more time until the rains come. Although I imagine it won't stop your plan either."
"It won't but it grants me more time, I won't squander this," Algyr bowed deeply.
“Come back alive and we're even.”
Keskil parted ways with them as she went to speak to their father. Algyr continued to lead the way through the winding paths. There was still a bustling of people, trying to go about their daily routines, visiting the bazaars, but it was far more subdued than what it was known for, it still tore at his heart. Despite the desert, Ramil was a hub for trade for the other desert nations, it was a meeting place of all regardless of race or culture, there was always a vibrance.
"Barely a shell of its former glory, most people who attempt to go out are barely able and only do what they must. Anyone doing better is attempting to help those that can't." A ghost of a smile graced his features, for the swell of pride for his home.
"I had hoped it wasn't as bad as you said in your letter but seems things have taken a turn."
"Aye, I'd like you to speak with Erel. It might give us a different angle to tackle this from. We'll meet him at the temple but be a shame for this to go to waste," Algyr stated patting the bucket still at his waist. Algyr quickened his pace heading to a small house down the path.
"Thank you, my prince, my father loves these, I had hoped his favorite meal might make him feel better. Couldn't hurt right," Jenna spoke softly grabbing the fish.
"It can't hurt, and please I'm just happy to help," Algyr spoke gently leaving the house, her sobs ringing in his ears. Zanbu waited further down the street, Algyr joined him shortly. “She lost her husband last month, and I found her son last week outside. We are desperate, I've found too many...kids trying to take on too much. The least I can do is bring them home.”
The sun dipped below the horizon; the first chills of the night seeped through the city.
"Sorry, Oji Zan, I've dragged you halfway across the city without giving you a break. I insist you stay with us until you set out. This will be the last stop," Algyr bowed graciously where they stood.
"It's fine, Algyr, I don't know if what I have to offer will do you any good, but it's no hassle," Zanbu retorted bringing his hands to his shoulder to shake the chill away.
"Honestly you could have waited inside, even joined us. You needn't treat yourself and your guest as outsiders brother," Erel chastised him.
"Perhaps not, but sensitive topics don't need prying eyes. Besides fears brew superstitions, and poor decisions."
"Perhaps, please come in and make yourself comfortable Zanbu," Erel ushered them inside.
It was a modest temple, Erel led them downstairs to his study, he leaned against the desk as Algyr offered the seat to Zanbu as he closed the door behind them.
"I hope you fared well in your travels, although with how Algyr is, probably no new information."
"I fear not. Algyr sent a letter with what had happened. From where I've traveled, there haven’t been signs of this illness."
"Well, that could mean it's contained to Ramil."
"I doubt that" Erel interjected. "Ramil may have only been hit first, the desert has grown harsher, the rains have yet to come. Water has become scarce, we are managing, but the villages on the outskirts have not. Some of the sick have managed to travel to here but many have died along the way."
"If it was only a water issue, Keskil has managed to find some sources. But you don't believe the foul water to be it. Not everyone who's sick drank the water, so there's something else,” Algyr sighed pinching his brow.
"How it's spreading is difficult to determine as well, some of us who have been in close contact have been fine, while others have gotten sick. Young, old, human, elf, beastfolk, avian, lizardfolk, it's affecting everyone. My abilities aren't enough, same goes for the other healers, and wise men. We don't have the knowledge."
"Which is why desperate times call for desperate measures," Algyr surmised.
"It doesn't justify suicide."
"It hasn't stopped it either! I've brought too many children back dead to families, begging me why them, why we haven't done anything about it. They're getting restless and desperate, which leads to bad decisions."
"You want to throw yourself into that batch," Zanbu snarled.
"We are desperate, and we haven't tried this option," Algyr seethed clenching his fist.
“Peace gentlemen. Zanbu, we know we can’t change his mind; we can only support him.”
Algyr left the temple, heading towards the palace. Zanbu quick on his heels.
"Does His Majesty, know your intent?"
"He knows parts of it. Keskil and Erel the full story. "
"What is the extent of your plan," King Modun interrupted. Algyr and Zanbu dropped to their knees.
"To be told promptly, Your Majesty," Algyr responded.
"Stand and come to my chambers. Zanbu, it seems my son has dragged you into our affairs once again. He's consistent if nothing else," Modun said a partial smile reaching his eyes. They walked in silence, until their destination.
"Did Keskil speak with you?"
"She did, in case you decided to leave in the middle of the night."
"Fair enough, I would have left with or without your blessing, but I would have informed you nonetheless." Algyr paced as Zanbu and Modun sat down.
Modun didn't press him, as he saw him attempt to gather his thoughts. All his children cared deeply for their kingdom, going above and beyond to save it but all were hitting obstacles. Erel and Keskil were doing better with concealing their lack of progress. His youngest, not so much, his emotions readily available much like his late mother's.
"We need to search beyond our borders."
"Agreed, however it would take months to send a convoy, and months for them to return assuming they survive. You are aware of this, from traveling with them in the past. That was also when conditions were ideal," Modun countered briefly.
"Send me, no convoy, just me," Algyr explained ready to hear the same argument that Erel and Zanbu brought up. Modun was silent stroking his cerulean beard, barely touched with specks of gray despite his age.
"And go where? We've mapped out most of the desert where would you start?"
"The east, where Mamun came from." Modun lost his first wife to the sands, thirty years ago, he found Algyr's mother Aamu in the desert to the east, barely alive. She rarely spoke of her homeland, Ramil was her home, but she had to have come from somewhere...
"That's...an idea but I wouldn't advise it."
"I understand your concern but it's a plan we haven't tried. I have the best odds with this. Father, I will go with or without your blessing, please" Algyr pleaded kneeling before him.
"Very well, I'll allow it with my blessing," Modun kissed his forehead. "You best bid farewell before you leave."
"Thank you, I'll leave in the morning," Algyr responded. Zanbu stood up.
"You'll have my blessing as well.”
"Thank you, I'll show you to your room." They bowed as the left leaving Modun to his thoughts.
"So reckless, so kind, just like you Aamu."
The wind picked up as they walked through the halls.
"Was it wise for me to be a part of that?"
"Father didn’t mind, beside Mamun named you my Grandfather after all. You may have noticed it was one of his better nights. We might be more frantic since he caught the illness, it seems to be mild for now, but we don't know how long it will last. Besides I imagine I got the hardest task for you."
"And what would that be?"
“Go home, back to your family, and if you happen to find my body in the future, bring me home.”
Algyr woke to the pre-dawn light. His body was prepared but his mind was running in circles. He knew this was their only option, he prepared for this, he was ready to sacrifice everything but what if it wasn't enough? That shadow of a doubt clawed at the back of his thoughts as he grabbed his gear. He had plenty of excursions through the sands, many solo. He shook his head, walking outside.
Sure enough his family stood near the east gate, usually a large entourage would have garnered the attention of the people but perhaps he was graced with a small blessing to have them for himself. Algyr bowed deeply, he turned and climbed onto his camel, she'd get him part of the way. Words would be saved for when next they meet rather it was in this life or the next. They knew the risks, he was able to leave with his head held high, some of the doubt began to lift.
It took five days to get to his only marker. He climbed down from the camel; a quick snap of the reins had sent her back home. She would be better off than him but he wouldn't risk any more lives on this quest, she was a dot on the horizon before he could have any second thoughts. He walked gingerly through the sands, practice preventing him from sinking completely into the ground. He knelt in front of the small marker, bowing his head.
"I understand this is probably the last place you would wish me to be. But your salvation was but five days away from here, to save you from whatever hell you ran from, I ask forgiveness for traveling through your past against your wishes, Mamun," he prayed. He poured some water over the marker, a small swig for himself as he secured the flask. Modun found Aamu, dehydrated and starved around here. However, she also suffered wounds not from the desert or its wildlife, a miracle she survived at all. Algyr only attempted to ask her once about that day, she got very quiet and withdrew on herself, it took him a day to get her out of whatever memory she was locked in. It wasn't worth bringing up the past again.
She'd tell stories of her home, spinning them into bedtime tales of adventure, the details were so vivid, he had no reason to doubt her. Tales of mountains, lakes, paths of vibrant green, and so much color. The people never wanting, always thriving. So, his idea of their current salvation came from stories, overlooking some blatant lies that it clearly wasn't a paradise if she ran from it.
That was the main reason he came armed, the wildlife rather lacking to justify the extra precaution. A scimitar laid across his back from his brother, a pair of daggers from Zanbu on his waist, and hunting needles from his sister at his thigh. Violence was the last thing he had wanted to take part in, but he wasn't naive enough to assume kindness from strangers as it were in Ramil.
"May we speak again in the next life," he kissed his fist laying a smooth rock as an offering, pressing onward.
The last thing Algyr cared about was the passing of time. It didn't matter how long he was going, he had to keep moving, until either he couldn’t, or he found answers. The sun rose and set the desert continued to stretch. His head dreamed of clouds as he managed to keep his feet moving. Keskil spoke of a mind over matter trick to survive the harshest environments, it worked on and off between his breath the dry air stinging his throat. The winds offered some relief from the heat only to scrape his skin despite his best efforts to cover up.
His rations were holding, didn't mean his body was, he took the barest of sips, the smallest bites, taking any more than that caused him to stumble wasting more effort to right his path. The nights were the worst on the open dunes, the frigid gale piercing his chest.
His pace grounded to a halt as sandstorms began to form, he'd hope he'd avoid that hassle by judging them from past years. Algyr managed shelter at an old outpost long since abandoned, there wasn't anything he could even use to burn.
The sky was crystal clear after the storm, barely a breeze, nothing blocking the harsh rays. Algyr couldn’t bother anymore, allowing his body to collapse. He expected the sand, not the sudden shade, or gentle hands turning him over. Slowly soft orange eyes opened as slits the blurring image of a girl coming to the forefront.
"Wa...ter," he rasped. The girl moved her face closer; he was able to make out the porcelain skin, the blonde hair, and inquisitive eyes. "Please," he whispered. She seemed to have understood him, but the laughter took him by surprise until water splashed on his face. He managed small sips, inhaling it would have given him cramps but honestly, he'd probably have taken that over the headache that exploded behind his eyes knocking him unconscious.
Algyr stirred slowly, his head in a fog as he slowly opened his eyes. He didn’t recognize the ceiling, his muscles stiff as he tried to work his jaw, his ears popping loudly with a lasting pain as he curled on himself against it. The sudden motion landed him on the floor, pain shooting through his knees forcing him to fully open his eyes.
He hissed lowly trying to get his barrens, he was in a room he didn't know, a breeze that was alien blew against his skin sending goosebumps down his arms. There was a nightstand with a pitcher and cup. Shakenly he stood up using the bed as support, carefully pouring the water. He took measured drinks; he poured another ignoring the bubbling guilt.
It was only then he noticed, he still had all his gear on his person. His bag was empty due to the last sandstorm, his water satchel long empty had mud caked in the bottom. They allowed him to keep his weapons? Slightly jumbled with how he laid but all his weapons were still there.
"Am I not a threat," he spoke softly to himself. He was a dead man not that long ago; he was in no shape to fight. But not even as a precaution? Where was he? Curiosity got the better of him. He finished the pitcher, testing his balance he pressed himself against the wall. There was one window and door, he could easily hear voices near the door, he went near the window. It looked like it opened into a courtyard with a balcony on the right. He didn't see anyone nearby. The vibrance of the grass and flowers was almost blinding.
Algyr took a deep breath slipping out of the window, there was a roof beneath that, a farther drop than he liked to the courtyard, but he tucked and rolled landing in a less then graceful crouch as he ran to the balcony. He came to a dead stop.
"Where's the desert," he breathed bracing himself against the railing. Clouds and sky stretched as far as he could see. Whatever burst of energy he had ceased, his ears flicked to where he came, a commotion of some sort. He turned and sat cross legged on the ground, he disarmed himself laying the weapons down to his side. He wasn't getting anywhere on his own here, not yet at least.
It had been absolutely ages since something strange and mysterious had happened in the kingdom of Ethereal. Practicing the belief of self-isolation the immortal beings had distanced themselves from humanity long ago viewing the lower world as nothing more but a curse and something which had ought to be forgotten. No one remembered who the first king was, or how they used their magic to raise the city above the clouds and soaring into the atmosphere but here they were.. A Island floating through the world above untethered by such lowly earthly attachments that plague humanity of its problems below.
When the strange human-was he human?-was brought to the others by Dai Lu, there were instantly whispers and voices talking and discussing the handsome male whom was in the room. He was strange and peculiar. An enigma to all but none so than the Princess of the sky people. Leaning forward her hand felt his and she instantly recoiled. Of course! He was hot to the touch and burning! Peizhi was right when he told her that he needed help immediately. She did not know that human skin could get so hot naturally. As several women and men came to lift the body and take him to the medical room for healing, the blonde was about to follow him till a hand was lifted to her face and she was stopped from entering into the castle.
“You’ve made contact with the outside world. A thing strictly forbidden.. You know that you must bathe and cleanse yourself before entering into our castle. Least you bring the endless sleep upon us.”
Endless sleep. The word to describe those who fell into a coma and never opened their eyes again. It happened when one went without eating the fruit which was hung from the Tree upon the Island. However, the princess waved her hand not fully understanding the concept of not waking from sleep. The endless sleep was a story told to her long ago when she was new to this world. Living so long had made her unafraid of anything but rather looking forward to an eternity of resting and bliss.
“As if I’d believe in such superstitions anymore.” Her voice came out flatly as she took a step back and brought her heels to the edge of the cliff which open up to the clouds below. In the center of the island was a cave which was filled with water. A pool of sorts which could only be entered by flying into the man made carving which led into it. Inside that hollow cave was the priestess Yan Ji who offered lit incense to the carved statue of the first “angel” to ever walk the Earth. The mother of all the people of Ethereal who gifted them flight, wisdom, and magic. It was said she became a martyr protecting her daughter and the tears she shed gave her daughter the ability to fly.
Ever since then it was forbidden for the people of the kingdom to be a part of the world below until they hit the age of enlightenment. Once that age was achieved then they were allowed to head to the bottom world to bring back things which they believed would benefit the people. This, this was what gave Dai Lu her wanderlust and desire to escape the boredom which plagued her. Tales of rivers that stretched out for as long as the eyes could see or the desert swirling sands which shed previous experience inspired her to escape the boredom which she was forever consumed with.
Putting such thoughts behind her she entered the entrance of the cave and squinted her eyes. Here in the solace of the cave there was nothing but candles lit up the entrance. Maintained by magic which and the priestess who bathed within the waters constantly, this was truly a sacred place. In truth, it had been eighty years since the last time the princess had entered into this cavern and her curious nature and inquisitive nature hadn't ended since. Stripping herself down to her bareness she shivered as she entered into the waters.
Closing her eyes she'd forgotten she was alone for a moment till she felt fingers combing through her hair. Yan Ji was different from the other eternal beings who lived amongst the castle. She was blind. Her eyes could not see the light so everyone took turns visiting her and bringing her fruit from the tree which kept her youthful and thriving. Oftentimes people question why her sight hasn't returned. Everyone who ate from the fruit never felt sickness but despite how often she ate from it, the priestess still was left alone in the eternal world of darkness.
Feeling fingers combing through her hair, Dai Lu leaned back against the motherly figure of the priestess. Her ears were highly attuned and using the magic of sensory she could see without seeing. Her sight was sometimes even better than those born with it for she saw deep into the heart of hearts. Leaning her head back, hands cup the face of the princess as she looked into her eyes.
"Child, being curious isn't a sin. But be careful that your own pursuits do not harm those who love you the most."
"You don't understand Yan Ji. No one coddles you. No one treats you as though you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Everyone treats me like glass. This world bores me. I haven't left my room for fear that if I did they would choose another prison for me to live in. If I must live in a cage then I'll build the bars myself."
"This is the small price we pay for the gift bestowed upon us by the goddess. Only a few more hundred years and you will reach the age of enlightenment."
Dai Lu rolled her eyes. Oftentimes when people returned from the word below they told stories of being mistaken as ancient deities worshiped below. It was one of the three tenants of the goddess which everyone of Ethereal followed that was to blame for this mistake. The first tenant was to do no harm to any living creature. Which was why the people here did not kill or eat meat of any sort. The only exception to that rule was in order to feed those who couldn't feed themselves.
The second tenant was to help those who needed help without expecting anything in return. Kindness was to be done only for the sake of kindness itself. For expecting anything else wasn't a true act of kindness but coercion. And kindness was not create to profit personal gain.
The third and last tenant was to be a guide to the lost souls who traveled the world above. After reaching the age of enlightenment one was permitted to use their gifts for the greatest of goods which was preserving life which was precious and not to be trampled upon.
Dipping herself further into the water the girl closed her eyes and let herself be fully purified. Afterall, this was what was required of her.
Water dripped on the surface of the castle floor as the female arrived to face the repercussion of alighting to the bottom world before coming to the age of enlightenment. Here, the Prince was not the only sole word. Attending the prince were ten of his closest concubines who were noted as the Hòugōng. Wise women each with a combine total of over ten thousand years of wisdom and experience they’ve been with him since he took the throne and rule almost eight and a half centuries ago.
Only the emperor were allow to see them face to face so that whenever they weren’t by his side no one would know who or had been chosen. Hidden behind screens and dressed in a ruqun. A silky jacket simply called the ru wrapped around the upper body while the women wore a long skirt known as the qun. Each one used an elaborate fan to cover their faces while the process judgment went on. Running fingers through her hair she hummed as her fingers comb through the wet locks. She was expecting to be punished for disobeying a direct order and as another lady came in wielding a switch the princess inhaled and exhaled. Despite the fact that their body was immortal the people here still felt pain. In the rare event that the laws were broken, that person was punished by the method of Zhàngxíng.
Biting her lip the woman cocked her head to the side. She’d never felt pain before, not in her life. She wasn’t ignorant of the punishment despite it being rare. Sometimes, when exposed to the world below for too long, nefarious desires fester within the hearts of the whimsical people. Taking people from down below as slaves up above was a normal practice and indeed, they had an entire slave population which the princess was oblivious to. To her, these people weren’t living breath things. Every time she seemed to blink one had been replaced because the previous slave had fallen prey to the Endless sleep… If the girl remembered correctly they had only one escape.
That woman had been treated kindly and without incident for quite some time. Her owner had even offered her a chance at immortality by asking Peizhi if she could be fed from the tree which bore eternal fruit. As soon as that was ask, the other women on Ethereal began to treat her harshly. Looking out below her window Dai Lu would’ve seen the other women taken her to be strung up by the arms to the one. Taking a whip made of braided branches the sound of flogging and her cries once piqued her interest.
After the flogging had been done the blonde had flown to the slave and touched her back which had numerous lines of dripping crimson on it. This caused her to jerk and curiously, the princess had placed her hand on her back to see if she would jerk again and as the woman jerk and cried out she didn’t do it a third time. “Why do you do that? Move so.. Oddly when I touch your flesh.. I’ve.. never seen flesh so torn like this before.”
To that the woman had exhale. “I’m in pain. I’ve been whipped unjustly.. I've done nothing.. except being the object of a woman's jealousy.... Please… give me water to ease me suffer a little?…”
It was the way her voice came out so meek and almost pathetically that drove the princess to have a form of sympathy for her.
Even though she didn’t quite understand her emotions or feelings, she obliged and lifted her hand and summoned water. Placing it to her lips she watched as the woman drank from her palms before bowing her head in gratitude and thanks.
Freezing cold water being splashed upon Dau Li’s body instantly jerked her from that memory as she wrapped her arms around her body and shiver. The white dress she wore now clung to her body as she instantly shivered.
“This will hurt me more than you. We’ve decided that it’s time we stopped coddling you. Breaking our laws, ignoring your duties as Princess, and now bringing back an outsider without permission. You punishment will be severe..”
Biting her lips, the female nodded as she stood there shivering. As two men brought in a board, inquisitive eyes flickered to her brother and then back down to the board. “Lie on it!” A harsh voice shouted out from behind the screen. It wasn’t often that the women spoke themselves. Normally they were to be reserved and silent only whispering to each other before calling by waving the fan to get the attention of the Prince. Biting back a smile the blonde slowly did as she told. It seemed as though she’d finally made the right choice. Her dull life would be coming to an end and it started like this. For the first time she would experience what that slave girl had experienced before she’d disappeared.
The first blow came unexpectedly and it felt as though all the air from her lungs was suck away from her. Instantly she felt her entire body move without her telling her to. Jumping up from the Bed, Dai Lu instantly was in the air, her hands covering herself as she shook her head. “Guards!”
Her entire body was reacting without her having any control over it. Normally, she was composed and never reacted in such a manner, yet as rough hands held her down to the bed and grabbed her by her foot and hands forcing her to lie upon the bedding the Princess could only shout no over and over again. “Restrain her!” The voice behind the screen shout.
However, the voice of the prince suddenly shouted over the commotion. “You will do NO such THING HAND’s OFF the Princess NOW”
Instantly the Princess was released as she inhaled and exhaled. Sitting up from the bed she looked over at everyone in the room. “Does…. Does it always feel like this every time you get beat?” Dai Lu spoke hoarsely as she looked at the hougong and her brother. As he nodded she exhaled and stood up. What a new experience! She’d never felt something like this before! As her heart beat in her chest she slowly spoke to her brother through a shaky voice.. “Please… I want to experience this pain again.. But, not on my back.. Somewhere new.. I want to learn what pain feels likes..”
“You’re being childish.”
The voice of her brother chided her as he stood outside the door of the stranger whom they had taken in recently.
The princess said nothing as she leaned into the door. It had been a day and a half since she requested that she “learned what pain feels like.” Obliging her the Prince had her given five lashes on her bare bottom. That was all Dai Lu could take before she kindly asked that they ended the lesson.
“I am not.. I just… I just wanted to know what she felt like.” The princess spoke.
“Her… You mean the slave who mysteriously disappeared?” The prince asked as he softly reached for his sister.
Stepping away from him she nodded her head and once more he scoffed at her. “Next time, instead of subjecting us all to your morbid curiosity, simply ask for a slave to take your punishment next time. I was scolded by all ten of my concubines. They think you are a perverse woman now.”
“What does perverse mean?” The princess asked her eyes widening as she cocked her head to the side feigning ignorance.
“You are too much for me now, go.. Tend to you little play thing.”
Clasping her hands together the princess grinned as she turned upon her heels and made her way towards the room that he’d been guided to only to find the male suddenly jump from the window. Blinking, the Princess instantly moved to follow him.. Watching him jump down tuck and roll brought a giggle to her lips as she stepped over the railing and floated down beside him. Now she was face to face to the mysterious stranger with whom she’d saved for better or for worse.
“Hi!” Her voice came out slightly as she looked at the male.
Before she could he could say anything she instantly opened the palm of her hand and created a ball of pure water. Lifting it upwards to his lips she waited to see what his reaction would be. Last time he seemed to be desperately craving water and so, curiously, she wondered if he needed more after sleeping for nearly two days here in the castle. Dropping her hand after taking care of his knees she clasps her hands together before she speaks softly. “I saw you.. Jumping from the window and you did this weird thing on the ground… like this..”
Imitating his move the princess suddenly rolled on the ground before laughing at herself for doing such a thing. In truth, royalty was never allowed to get dirty despite having a trio of friends assigned to play with her. Ty Lee and Fa Mulan were always, always interested in playing sky ball or swinging from the trees on the swings they made or braiding each other’s hairs and putting water lilies in them.
Slowly she stood up and began to float within the air. It was than that she saw the weapons which he’d laid out in front of him. Curiosity got the best of her and before he could protest, she swooped down and grabbed one of his knives before floating back up into the air some distance. “Weird.!” She spoke as she looked at the design of the dagger.
“One moment!” she spoke as she flew. It took about a minute for her to return and as she did so she came with a beautiful emerald knife which had a dragon carved into the handle of the blade. Slowly she handed him the gift as an act of kindness. Sitting back down in front of him she held out her hand and spoke softly. “My name is Dai Lu, princess of Ethereal. And you are?”
Before introduction could be properly had the sound of whooshing could be heard as a girl with long braided pigtails came before alighting next to her. Placing a palm to the woman’s hair the male spoke in a rather stern but motherly tone. “Forty years, we do not see you exit your room. And now you’re the talk of the entire kingdom Princess.. You truly are a naughty girl.”
Clasping her hands together the princess spoke up as she spoke. “I know! The royal concubines had my brother have me beaten! I’ve didn’t know that getting hit so harshly with a thin switch could produce such pain and look at this!”
Standing up, she slowly turned and lifted her dress making her friend gasp. Four thin red lines could be seen on her bare bottom still visible from the severity of the lashes.”
“I’m told they should fade by the end of tomorrow but still!”
Clasping her hand her friend grabbed hold of her before speaking “Poor thing! Come, would you like to have breakfast with us and tell us more of what you saw from the earth below?”
The princess eagerly nodded her head before she dropped her dress and turned to look back at the stranger whom she brought. “One problem.. I do not know if this gentlemen can fly like us. I think we might have to carry him.”
Nodding her head the girl whistled and before long a third girl showed up and this time with black hair. With the trio completed each of the girls turned towards the male and gave him a rather devious smile. “Come on!”
They hadn’t expected to struggle so much between the three of them carrying him through the air. Had they thought that the task would’ve been more difficult than none of them would’ve suggested it so. They managed to carry him from the balcony and were about to zoom off with him before their slip on him started to loosen and so they all had no choice but to slightly crash land/fall to the soft grassy fields below.
Each one of the girls gave a hearty laugh as they laid on the grass, laughing the loudest was the Princess whose eyes were fixated upon the strange male. “Apologies for nearly dropping you. We did not think you would be so easily afraid of heights and such! We are not used to outsiders.” As the princess spoke her friend spoke up.
“Indeed.. So tell us, where did you come from and what do you think of our humble sky island?” Her friend Mulan interjected as she sat up among the grass.
Indeed the island was entirely beautiful. Surrounded by clouds and hidden away from the ground below it was as though this was their little slice of heaven.
Algyr heard the commotion but barely had the time to react when he saw the girl from the desert coming towards him. He stood up swiftly expecting he'd have to catch her, but she...floated? His hands stayed outstretched as her feet did not touch the ground. He barely heard her, his thoughts trying and failing to make sense of what he was seeing. He knew his fair share of Avians, grew up with some he was fortunate to still call friends. They varied in height but always had feathers covering their bodies with their 'arms' being their wings. Even mixed bloods had feathers somewhere on them, rather in patches on their arms or shoulder or in their hair. He saw none of those indicators for her, yet she still flew. She was hovering at his height, he'd guess he was taller than her, but she looked human. Although she kept bobbing in the air like she wasn't sure herself how she wanted to talk with him.
"Hel..lo," he responded slowly. He understood her, which was another mystery. He couldn't make out what she said in the desert, there were a lot of factors going against him then, but he knew he heard her speak at least he thought he heard her...
She was certainly unflappable. Algyr was doing mental flips to try and keep up with her, it may have been rude of him on several accounts, but she reminded him of a child who had a new toy or pet to play with...then that would make him the pet in this scenario... He inwardly groaned, in situations like this his only option was to be polite, she had the upper hand quite literally.
"How," he interjected quickly taking a half step back as she held her palm out. It took all his strength to not latch onto her wrist. It was his turn to be the wonder-eyed child, as though it was bubbling up from the ground, a small orb of water manifested in her palm. She was offering it to him, he wasn't sure how to react. He cupped his hands under her in case it...fell? Vanished? He dared not touch her hand in case it would upset her. He was torn to accept or decline, but his body made the decision for him as he drank greedily. He stopped himself before finishing it off, he kept his hands cupped looking at what was left. Algyr didn't even realize the girl left his sight until her blonde hair bobbed back up from the ground. The water vanished when she did, and the pain subsided from his knees from his would be escape.
Escape to where? Algyr shook his head gently, wiping his lips with the back of his gloved hand, pausing a moment... Did he just now realize he wasn't covered in sand? His skin looked scrubbed, his clothes washed, he felt the tips of ears burn red at the embarrassment, he scratched behind one of them to try to alleviate that obvious oversight. So much for only being unconscious for a few hours...
"I'll admit it wasn't my best choice of action, I've had a collection of bad ones lately," he said to himself watching her imitate his landing from the window. It was only slightly better than his..."Wait, that was you outside,” he asked. Perhaps he should have just waited to avoid his current dilemma. "Apologies, I shouldn't have...done that," she wasn't listening. She was giggling at herself; it was rather melodic and a little contagious as Algyr chuckled to himself. Up again she floated above him. He thought he saw her feet touch the ground, but it was honestly hard to tell as though her feet refused to be grounded.
"Wait," Algyr barely managed a protest when she swooped in and grabbed one of daggers from Zanbu. He wasn't worried about the dagger, namely he didn't want her to hurt herself. The last time he drew either of them was when he was making his way across the desert. He managed to cut some cacti for a few drops of water, as well as skin a snake for a meager meal, he didn't have the means to properly maintain the blades though, so he worried their edges would be more jagged than smooth. Seems his fears were baseless, she held it carefully but from what he could see whoever took care of him, also took care of his gear. "Weird," he repeated to her. The dagger had a blade about from the tip of his index finger to the tip of his thumb. The base of the blade was thick until it angled to a finer point. The middle was inlaid with red scales until the angle, the handle copper with a simple leather grip. The blade had a smooth surface but almost a wave like texture melded within. Zanbu made these for all his grandchildren, he gave Algyr two since he needed all the help he could get. A small smile flickered across his features at the memory.
She was off again, it wasn't like Algyr could go anywhere so he returned to sitting down. She dropped the dagger she was looking at, he grabbed it from the ground and slowly analyzed it for himself. Sure enough, that dagger, it's partner, his scimitar and even his needles were properly maintained. He could smell a faint oil on the blades, not a single nick or blemish on any of them. Seems he'd have to properly thank the smiths as well as the healers. Especially the girl, he looked up seeing her shadow coming near him. It was the first time she looked rather sheepish; did he offend her somehow? She slowly handed him a beautiful knife, he was no expert on them, but he could recognize fine craftsmanship, he gently took it from her. It had a good balance, not just an ornate decoration.
"Thank you, but I do not deserve this, you've done plenty, you've saved my life, I fear I cannot repay you enough," he needed to at least say thank you. He's been trying to play catch up with her this entire time. She held out her hand, he gingerly took it. Honestly now he was feeling awkward, her hand was like silk compared to the callused gravel of his own. But that wasn't going to be the main issue...."Princess of Ethereal," he repeated. "What?!"
Oh, would Erel and Keskil have his head for his complete lack of etiquette! Something or rather someone interrupted Algyr's self-depreciated thoughts. And of course, she just flew down to speak with the princess. He's met nobility before; he knew proper procedure. There was nothing that could prepare him for this! The legendary kingdom of Ethereal, it wasn't a legend.
It would seem at this moment, Algyr was far from either of their thoughts. It would have been the best time to just vanish, since that option wasn't available to him, he began to secure his weapons and gear back on his person, he was extra delicate placing the emerald dagger in his bag. Wait, did she say forty years? Algyr looked over his shoulder at the two girls...Ladies? Just with Dai Lu's attitude he pegged her to be younger than him. He was trying to rack his brain for any scrap of information he had on Ethereal, most of it went to the religious texts that Erel would preach. Algyr wouldn't say he was blasphemous; he wasn't the most devout either, but he knew enough about it. Ethereal was a kingdom in the sky where the goddess dwelled, always thriving. But being up here, he couldn't exactly bring this to Ramil.
Well, he certainly found the best nation that could help Ramil, but would they and could he even convince them? He was trying not to eavesdrop on their conversation, they weren't exactly keeping their voices down. Concubines, ordering her brother to beat her? Maybe some type of matriarchal government? If punishment was deserved Algyr couldn't say he was against it. He had been dealt the punishment he earned and thus learned from it. But he knew he had to have been the reason for Dai Lu's punishment and that didn't sit well with him. He was about to turn and properly apologize, then he quickly turned away. His face and ears were burning, had she no shame?! She clearly didn't forget he was still here, so she probably shouldn't strip in front of a male she does not know. He was going to have to practice a lot of patience to get through this.
Algyr felt the hair rise on the back of his neck, the blush evaporating. He felt two pairs of eyes on him as he slowly turned to look at them...
"I'm sorry, what did you say," he asked cautiously. He barely caught another girl approach him from behind. "Ladies," he pleaded. His pleas went unheard. For their effort, they got farther than he'd expect them to, but that was it. He was easily taller than all of them and outweighed each of them. He normally didn't mind heights, if he was the one making those heights on his own, under his own ability, not through some misplaced help. He didn't scream outwardly at least, maintaining some misplaced pride, but he certainly flailed more than he thought he would. The princess was directing them at least, and they did manage an emergency landing away from any castle spires and pointed rocks. They landed in a grassy field, that may have just been on the other side of the courtyard, which could easily have been walked to. Algyr was the first to recover as he rolled away from the entanglement of limbs and stood up to be sure the others were fine. He really didn't need to worry as he could hear their laughter, he scratched behind his head as he joined in. Seems most of his gear and weapons landed in heaps near the crash site. As the laughter settled, he felt all eyes on him now.
"I don't mind heights, Princess but a proper warning would be appreciated if you are going to go this route again. There is not a drop of Avian blood in me, I cannot fly. It might be disappointing to you and your friends but most of us cannot fly...below," Algyr explained briefly, he felt unsure of the wording 'below'. Since that would mean he'd have a long way down to return home. "I'll get to your question in a moment miss, I apologize I don't know either of your friends' names Princess," he explained sheepishly. The term outsider stung for a moment. He knew they meant no harm by it, what else were they to call him? But it briefly brought some unsettling memories from his youth. Royalty and titles can't protect you from everything. He was wholly accepted into the family since they knew the truth that he belonged. It was not always so simple with the citizens. He shook his head to chase the thought away.
He had strong doubts these girls were fully unsupervised, so he made sure his movements were slow. He knelt and grabbed his bag, not much survived the trip, but what he needed did.
"Apologies for holding up the conversation, but I'm compelled to do some things properly since we have a moment to breathe," he began. He pulled out one of the headwraps he wore, it was white to reflect the sun. "There are some tribes from below, that practice a custom when they are visiting others. A sign of good faith," he slowly unsheathed one of Zanbu's daggers. He cut a few strips from the cloth with ease, deliberately returning the dagger. "Anyone who is visiting, ties their weapons to their sheaths, if able or leaves their weapons outside," he stated tying up the other dagger. "We are putting our lives in their hands, as well as a reminder to us to behave as it were. My Grandfather would be able to give a far more detailed version of this, so you're getting the short version from me," he explained with a soft smile. He brought the scimitar to the front repeating the process there as well. Technically he wouldn't count his needles as weapons per se, but he wrapped the case securely putting it at the bottom of the bag. He gingerly pulled the emerald knife out as well as he used the rest of the headgear to secure and return it.
"Another custom, Princess, is exchanging fangs. Forgive the term, I have none of those, but it came from the Beastfolk," he handed her the untied dagger. "May you never need it," he bowed to her. "Princess Dai Lu, thank you for saving my life, it's not something I can easily repay, and seems it has caused major punishment onto you. I still cannot thank you enough," he pressed his forehead to the ground.
Algyr took a deep breath and straightened up.
"A long overdue introduction. My name is Algyr von Ramil, I'm the Second Prince of the Kingdom of Ramil. My brother Erel is the First Prince, and my sister Keskil is the First Princess. Our father King Modun rules the lands. If it's all the same for you, please just call me Algyr." Formalities aside, there was little else he could say that would be detrimental to his current situation, Erel may have chastised him for being too open, but it wouldn't do to lie on such matters. The tricky part would come later. "I was born in the rolling dunes and shifting sands of Ramil. We are vast in size but spread out through most of the desert. Our nearest neighbor usually takes about a month to get there if the winds permit it," he shrugged his shoulders. "As the sun rises in the sky, a burning wind sweeps across the lands; and when the moon takes her place a frigid gale pierces our homes, many probably think it's savage. But there's a beauty in savagery, and that's because we thrive, we thrive there in our own way. Some days are better than others," he ended. "I fear I cannot say much about your home Princess, ladies, for I have literally only seen that room, the courtyard, and this field," he stated vaguely pointing to each place he mentioned. "But from those alone I can tell it's a beautiful home quite the...sky island," that still wasn't registering properly with him, although he couldn't deny it if he wanted to. Its denizens can fly and summon water, who knew what else they could do?
"But if it's not too much trouble to ask, I'd like to see more of it. Seems I've been here longer than I thought and barely seen any of it. It may be rude of me to ask you to walk but give me directions to go and I believe I can get there on my own two feet. Although I might need a meal before attempting any walks across the entire island."
Three pairs of eyes stared at the stranger hearing him speak such weird words. “Avian” was a word foreign to both of them. Not only that, but the princess and the other saw him explain the culture of “exchanging fangs.” and him wrapping up even more of his daggers, including the one which she handed him both eyes widened in aw. They’ve never seen anyone wrap up their blades. Of course, here, the practice of bladed arts was usually done as a means of exercise or a form of play. So Dai Lu was used to seeing sharp weapons constantly exposed. Fingers laced together patiently as they watched him complete this process. Everything was going fine to it came to the Exchangement of fangs?
As the male handed his dagger to the young blonde and her group of friends the she held up her hand in refusal of it. She couldn’t accept it without breaking the second tenant of the Goddess. Placing both of her palms in her hand she spoke to the male. “I’m sorry.. I cannot accept your gift; for that is breaking one of our three tenants. Our goddess laid down three commands that we all must follow. One of them is doing an act of kindness without expecting anything in return. For kindness must be born from the heart and not out of the desire for personal gain.”
However, Mulan and both Ty Lee exchanged glances with each other before excited both reaching for the dagger. “We didn’t do an act of kindness!” “So we can humbling accept your gift o’ noble one.”
This led to both of the girls giggling as the held the dagger between them inspecting them. Now that they were preoccupied with the dagger in hand, only the princess was the one who was taking note of everything which the male was saying. As she sat back and listen to his lineage and where it was that he claimed to be. She clasps her hands together excitedly and nodded. So the ground below which was sweltering and hot was called a “desert?” and he, being a prince, came from a land which was known as Ramil. The more and more he talked the more and more interested she became in him and the strange world below.
It seemed as though his people were unable to fly. Putting a finger underneath her chin the Princess decided to take everything which he said one by one for she was filled with questions and was interested in many things which needed to be answered.
“So, it is true what I heard. People are not able to fly as I’ve been told by those who have reached the age of enlightenment. But than, does that also mean that you guys lack the ability to do anything else, including simple magic? Has the studying of harvesting your Qi not been passed down there below? Are you guys not aware of that the body is able to tap into the life force of nature and uses its gift freely? That was how our magic works. We summon the our Qui within ourselves to focus our natural abilities to minic that which nature naturally produces. Like summoning water or fire. We refer to this as magic.”
As if to show a demonstration she opens both of the palms of her hands. Staring out them both she said nothing only staring at her hand and slowly, sure enough, the sound of crackling fire could be heard before Voosh! In both hands balls of fire appeared. Smashing her hands together, she transformed the ball of fire into a singular strand and before lifting her hand up and shooting it up into the sky.
“Pfft lame, fire balls are elementary!” Coming back into the conversation her friend Ty Lee waved her hand away before she reached for the hand of the Prince. “Even our stranger who isn’t even trained in the harvest of Qi could do that if I just lended him some of mine!’
Widening her eyes Dai Lu suddenly shot up and spoke. “Ty Lee is right! I’ve never… ooh we’re being rude! The girl in pigtails with the bubbly attitude is Ty Lee. The other one with the dark hair is Fa Mulan. Now, let us listen to you finish your explanation in peace!.”
Calming down both of her friends Ty Lee let go of the strangers name as the learned more and more about him and where he was from.
As the finally finished Mulan was the first to speak up. “Grand father? What is a grand father? Here on Ethereal everyone are create in pairs as brother and sister. We have no Grand fathers… But whoever he is he sounds to be very wise and to have raised you well.”
Nodding her head both the other two girls agreed with the sentiment before Dau Li waved her hand away before she spoke up. “I need to thank you instead for allowing me to save you. In the one hundred and nineteen years I’ve been existing I’ve never felt the sensation of pain before. I was given a total of six lashes. One on my back and five on my bare bottom. Because of you I learned something very important!”
Leaning forward she gave the male a serious look. “It hurts when you’re given a lashing with a switch. And it leaves a mark on your skin! Would you like to see it?” She asked him wondering if he knew what it felt like to be flogged so violently. Of course she hope that what she said didn’t offend him in the slightest but as she sat back Ty lee also spoke up.
“So.. because you people do not have the power to fly it takes you all months to travel to and from said places? That sounds so harsh, I can’t even imagine..”
With that both of the ladies nodded in agreement. However, with the most important thing was the fact that the male was curious about their island. As he finally pointed out what little of the island he’d seen, all three of the girls stood up and smiled.
“We could use our powers to levitate you… take you high up into the air so that you can see for yourself how our island looks!”
Waving her hands, Fa Mulan countered that. “Or we can simply just explained the lay our of our island to him.” Spreading out her hands the female spoke up. “In the middle of our island is the Imperial Castle which has a courtyard which take up the entire middle of our island. The Imperial castle has four different buildings and is in the shape of a square. The main building is the room where our Prince Peizhi and his group of concubines conduct official business. There he oversees where the enlightened ones travel to and oversees much of which goes on. On the building to the left of the main one is the room where all the female’s sleep. It is three stories tall, though the top floor is the main room of the Princess; she has that all to herself. On the building to the right is where all the men sleep. Men and women sleep separately until they reach the age of enlightenment where they are paired together. It is one of the four pillars of enlightenment.
Men and Women were created as equal halves to enjoy each other’s company. And don’t worry, we are not all related. For example my brother was created almost five hundred years before I. It is rare that brothers and sisters are born in the same year. However, we know that the pair is our brother and sister because brothers and sisters each have the same mark on their bodies. It is impossible for you to not recognize your younger pair. Dai Lu, I and Ty Lee are the last generation to be born.”
“And, outside of the Imperial castle our island is divided up into north, south, east and west. On the northern side there are mountains which we refer to as the northern cliff. It is from there the river flows down all around our sky Island and it is also there that where we grow our fruit trees and are able to eat the one thing that provides supplement and nourishment for our bodies.
Than we have the southern cliff which is were those who are given permission dive off int the world below. To the East we have we have what is known as the Tiantang. It is a stair case which leads to the second part of our kingdom. There you will find another miniature building which is only a single floor but it has a west wing and a right wing. Along with a pool. Thats were we go for our entertainment to see our plays, our warriors perform their dance, and also another place to gather our drinking water. And finally to our West is another set of stairs that leads over looks another series of smaller islands were we fly to.”
With both Ty Lee and Mulan given him an explanation of how the Island work and what not all that was left was Dai Lu to smile warmly at the male. She was still wearing her white dressed instead of wearing the traditional Ruqun which mean of the women wore. The flowing skirt and the long overcoat didn’t suite the princess and she preferred to wear light clothing instead. Standing up and turning her head she clapped her hand. Before words could be describe the sound of more people flying led the princess to turn her head to look at them. “You said your hungry right? Can you use chopsticks? Come we’ll take you into our kitchen and feed you.”
As the princess cast a glance over towards the separate islands she gave felt a squeeze from her friend before she turned back towards the man and smiled.
Conveniently, the one thing which was left out of both of their explanation where the two slave islands were the bulk of the slave labour took place.
On the one of the Western Islands a task force of a several hundred slaves worked the rice fields. Bent over from sun up to sun down the slaves set about planting the rice and making sure that it was suitable for those to consume. It was one of the things the people of Ethereal used to trade with the world below. Using their magic they made it so that the rice field was able to produce food all year long. The working never stop and since the slaves were suspended in the air there was no where for them to run to.
Even though the Ethereal people weren’t overly cruel people and allowed them to have two days off to enjoy themselves as much as one could enjoy being trapped on a literately island on the a sky, there were those who couldn’t take it anymore and tried to jump to their deaths. However, they were unseccessful seeing as the fall to the Earth below was long and most Ethereals were able to catch them. But those who did attempt that were punished most severely with a hundreds upon hundreds of lashings from the enlighten people. Afterall, pain was the only way those on the bottom world could comply.
On the other island was a deep lake home to a myriad of fish. Of course the slaves on this island were tasked with caring for the fish,picking them out for food, cleaning them and serving them as well. These were the two tasks of the slaves which were brought to the island above from down below. To care for the food sources of the Ethereal people which were used to trade with those below and to feed the guest above. Giving a look over to the Island Dai Lu had always accepted slave labour as a part of their life. But that was because she’d never acted with the people down below.
“The people from the lower world are ignonble and an ignorant people. They deserved to be made into our slaves.. Never forget that.” That was what her brother had said told her.
“Algyr… your name is Algyr right? Do you have slaves where you from? People who harvest your food for you?” Stopping in the midst of their tracks both Ty Lee and Fa Mulan looked to the princess before they both looked at her.
Slavery were never thought of as people with their own agency so any concern for them was told to be foolish and worthless.
“Here, we have two islands that one can get to only by flying. One is used to harvest are rice fields. It’s back breaking work and we keep a population of slaves working the field. And the other has a great lake were we breed fish to feed and trade with the lower worlds. I want to know your thoughts on this..” Moving closer to the male, she slowly wrapped her arms around his shoulders and spoke softly. “I’m going to use my magic to levitate you so that your easy to carry when we fly. Walking while you have no strength is no good, come let us take you to the dining hall.
The dining hall was a series of low tables which had mats for kneeling on. Patting the matt beside her the princess watched as one of the Ethereals came out to serve the young Prince from below. Putting elbows on the table she leaned forward and looked at the prince as the bowl of rice was place in front of him, along with pieces of cooked fished chopped into bite size pieces. It was cooked salma fresh from the second slave island. It was sear perfectly and was season with the herbs found around the island.
As a pair of wooden chopsticks laid before him the Princess looked at him wondering if it was possible for him to use them.
Well, it wasn't completely a disaster on Algyr's end. Rather hard to know the customs of a long believed mythical kingdom. So, they had a strong religious foundation, that would track with what he attempted to recall about Ethereal, mostly the home of the Goddess. He'd have to be cautious not to disturb the other decrees or bring about Her wrath.
"Lack the ability to do anything else," he muttered to himself, that sounded far harsher than it should have been. The tick of anger evaporated as he watched Dai Lu create fire...without any form of kindling. He almost raced to her side to be sure she didn't burn herself but once more he was left speechless. Harvest Qi? Any tale of magic was just that, tales. Some of these stories placed his kind, the elves, to be the strongest practitioners of magic. Algyr had no skills like that, he felt he was better in tune with nature, predicting a few events with the weather or sensing where living creatures were among a sleuth of other more trivial things but nothing that mimicked the very power of nature. Honestly his skills were based on repeated observations. There was no such magic like that in the Kingdom. Even in his travels, magic was just a story. The closest thing he could think of would be Erel spoke of opening channels when he used acupuncture for some of his patients. Which sounded similar but on a much smaller scale.
Wait...this magic could be taught? Even to an outsider? Algyr turned his attention quickly to Ty Lee after her declaration. Maybe he wouldn't have to ask anyone to come with him if he could learn the skill himself. But how long would that take him?
"That's your question," Algyr asked after he finished his explanation and looked at Mulan. Created in pairs? Why would she use that phrase? No grandfathers, did they not have any elderly? Again, his time conscious on the island has been brief and so far, he's only seen these three who were young, "Aye, we aren't related by blood, but he saved me when I was boy. I did most of my traveling with him, until I could strike it out on my own, but he taught me many things and is still a large part of my life," he added. They understood the respect he had for Zanbu, so that was good enough for him.
There was that sharp turn in the conversation Algyr hasn't known Dai Lu long, but she was blunt with her questions as well as her actions. It didn't feel like an act just to rile him up. She was genuinely curious, and he could wholeheartedly agree with that. He'd consider himself very curious and inquisitive. He may have had a little more tact with his questions. But he was also a very new thing to her, so he could understand some brash questions. Didn't mean he could always expect those sucker punch declarations. Algyr found himself in a bind when she was thanking him for allowing him to save him. He didn't have a say in the entirety of that but that didn't make him any less grateful, he owed her his life. It didn't seem he'd be able to repay her, but she didn't want anything either. She learned something out of it, so perhaps that was payment of some form. He gave a brief apology to the Goddess if he offended her by considering a payment for kindness.
"One hundred and nineteen, knowing no pain until now, many would consider that a blessing," it was unintentional, but Algyr couldn't help feeling the bitterness to those words as he clenched and unclenched his hands slowly, taking a couple of deep breaths. "If it's all the same for you, I do not wish to see them. You may need to apply a salve to prevent scarring," he attempted to smooth over his bitter tone. She does not know, and he shouldn't treat her ignorance as an insult, it was not a crime to be ignorant. He tried a small smile as forgiveness that she may not have understood.
Ty Lee dispersed the oppressive air with her remark, earning approvals from her friends.
"That's not completely true, we can easily travel to some of the towns and villages within a day, some might take a little longer. It's more for the longer journey to neighboring kingdoms, such as the ocean and mountains. I admit I have only been to the ocean and that journey took a couple of months but it's not so harsh that it’s impossible. Preparations are needed for a safe journey but it's well within our abilities," he defended. He was mildly hesitant when they stood, he stood up as well, and immediately jumped back from the group like a cat at Dau Lu's asinine suggestion. It's not that he doubted these three, he wasn't sure he could mentally prepare to be that high without causing his own death from falling. He needed steppingstones to get to that height, and that was not going to happen today. That sweet woman! He whistled a breath of release at Mulan's suggestion.
Algyr wouldn't quite call it simple. But it was detailed. He knelt grabbing a small twig trying to recreate the lay of the island as Mulan explained them into the ground. He'd have to ask for a map later, or some writing utensils to make his own. He made a few notes to himself as well. Prince Peizhi ruled along with his advisors. That wasn't so different on how his father ran things in Ramil. He had his advisors, Keskil among them to conduct the kingdom. Age of Enlightenment, Four Pillars of Enlightenment, created halves of the same whole. Imprinting on each other before they are even born. These concepts seemed to deal more with their Goddess, he'd need some clarity on these later. He looked up at all three of the girls before him. The last generation born, and at least Dai Lu was almost as old as Zanbu. That might be a little awkward to explain...
Ty Lee took over the explanation as Algyr turned his attention back to his map marking the other sections. Being as long lived, it would make sense their bodies could survive on less than what his kin would need to survive. Permission to dive off sounded horrifying. The east, the Tiantang, sounded like their festival square, wouldn't hurt to look at that to see their culture. Ramil held plenty of festivals in the past, honoring a good harvest, or hunt, offering prayers as sword plays or songs for a bountiful rain. It's been a while since some of those festivals, smaller performances instead to try and prayer for salvation. There wasn't much mentioned in the West, smaller islands, perhaps storage, or fields for harvest. He stood up, using his boot to wipe away his mini map. He looked up noticing some other citizens were coming.
"Indeed, I did, I apologize for holding everyone up but thank you very much for the detailed explanation. As for your question Princess, I'm unsure, but I imagine I can learn."
Algyr was expecting to draw more of a crowd, but since the Princess was around perhaps, he was just an expected whim of hers by now. Her attire was different from the others, but it didn't seem entirely to represent royalty, more of a personal choice. Thank the Goddess, they allowed him to walk as he followed them. It was the first time she had spoken his name.
"Why do you ask," he questioned. It was rude to answer with a question of his own, but it was a bit of a sore topic with Ramil's history. The questioning caused them to stop down the hall. Ty Lee and Fa Mulan were quiet. Algyr decided to wait to see if Dai Lu would back up the question. "So that is what your western islands are for," he answered. Most became slaves because they lost, to save what was left of a nation, they'd offer their most troublesome people as slaves try to salvage what they had. Perhaps their slaves were foolish enough to abuse their kindness, although since they clearly had the upper hand, maybe they just took them without a fight or reason. Dai Lu seemed to accept his silence for now as she slowly approached and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He instinctively flinched but settled as she whispered to him. A small shiver crawled down his back; it wasn't completely uncomfortable. "I appreciate the warning this time, you have my thanks," he smiled with a nod.
The dining hall was welcoming, looks like others were coming in but he followed Dai Lu to a more secluded, private part of the hall. Or perhaps since Algyr was with them they were given a wide berth. It didn't stop the gossip from reaching his ears. The Princess gestured for him to sit next to her, so he obliged and knelt beside her, Ty Lee and Fa Mulan sat across from them. The rice and fish smelt heavenly as he could feel his stomach rumble. He bowed his head and sent a quick thanks as he grabbed the chopsticks. Dai Lu wasn't eating yet, so he couldn't exactly mimic her motions. He was not starved nor a complete idiot to start eating with his hands or shoving his face in the bowl. He spied Ty Lee holding hers and was able to partially mimic it. It was going to be a matter of control and trial and error.
"Forgive me if I'm rather blunt with my coming remark, I do not want to come off as accusatory to you or your people either, I ask patience," he began. He held the chopsticks and attempted to eat with them. Too much force, and the rice plopped back in the bowl, he managed to keep the table clean. He went a different route, holding the sticks together he shoveled some rice onto them, and managed to get it into his mouth. He could have wept with how delicious that small amount was. "Most would consider it a difficult topic to bring up, but I don't think you are doing so out of any harshness, your timing could use a little work though." Since it was quite impossible to ignore the slaves since their work was right in front of him. "Ramil officially no longer deals with slavery. It doesn't mean it no longer exists though. It's greatly frowned on, but terrible hypocritical of us to say much on that topic," he popped a piece of fish in his mouth before it fell from the chopstick, exquisite.
"Many, many years ago, before the foundation of Ramil there was nothing but fighting between those that lived in the desert. Depending on what you believe, the desert was where all the less desirables went, banished from their homes, or chased out for their violence. Let them kill themselves to save the rest of the land from their tendencies. It could be during this time, Dai Lu, that we were stripped of any magic. For the only magic you hear of from below is in stories. It was no longer taught because there was no one who knew it. Perhaps they killed each other over it or the Goddess herself stripped us of that gift. Strength was all that matter, you either fought or died. Those too weak to fight were enslaved."
"The story goes after the foundations were built and the city took shape, the slaves rebelled. Sure, most were killed but some of those slaves were from vanquished tribes their rulers killed, its citizens enslaved, violent tribes themselves that could fight. It was a slave named Ramil who beheaded the ruler and ended the blood bath. So, the kingdom was named after this slave, and it continued to grow."
"Surely a slave would end the trade, but sadly the cycle only repeated. It took the kingdom to be nearly destroyed numerous times before enough was enough. The Queen of the time pleaded with the people to stop, and many have grown weary of it. There were those that still practiced it, but they were exiled from the city. It was at this time that Ramil turned into a haven for those seeking sanctuary."
Algyr drank some water, getting a little more skilled with the chopsticks, still couldn't find the right ratio though, but he managed with smaller bites. Honestly probably for the better to ease his stomach off its survival mode.
"Von Ramil is just a title. It's earned through competition; my family has just been the victor over the last hundred years to maintain it. But you wanted my own thoughts on slavery not the history of Ramil," he sighed. "I do not approve of it, but there's the blood of slavers and slaves in me, so I cannot easily say one thing and pretend the other part doesn't exist. The majority of Ramil doesn’t have slaves, but I have seen my share of slave trades in other parts of the kingdom. I fear I cannot give you a better answer than that now," he explained softly. "Although the harder part for you may be to learn I'm twenty-eight and have known plenty of pain and sorrow through my life, so I need to apologize for my behavior when you spoke of your experience with it. I was harsher than I should have been, probably because I was jealous of you. But we are unique so life shapes us differently. I shouldn't have...belittled yours, for life is precious, my grandfather would have disapproved of my behavior," he apologized again turning fulling to face her and bowed his head. He straightened up and glanced at the bowl. "I'm not sure if you can teach me magic, since my ancestors have abandoned it, but a few hints for these would be appreciated," Algyr spoke with a smile trying to lighten the conversation. He attempted to snap the chopsticks at her, but he nearly lost both. "I'm getting rather frustrated with these."
Dai Lu might have been ignorant to the sufferings which many suffered from down below, however one thing she was not was tone death. The bitterness which seeped into his voice as he spoke of how things worked down below and the history of Ramil brought her and the trio of girls to silence. He was so young compared to the girls who had lived easily over three hundred years with their combined ages. Yet his eyes held the wisdom and the same experience as those who had reached enlightenment and had traveled to the Earth below as well. So she didn’t take it to heart that he was slightly bitter towards her or her words. Instead she reached for a stray strand of blonde hair and tucked it behind her ear. She enjoyed his honesty and his vocal disapproval of Slavery. It made her put things which she’d never thought of into perspective and made her feel better that she had help that lady escaped. Still, twenty eight years, that would’ve been close to the time when she’d asked Fa Mulan and Ty Lee to assist her with a certain problem. Biting her lip she didn’t would keep that story had bay till the time was right if such a time could ever exist. She feared what he would say to her if he found out about that incident.
Instead, a slight smile formed upon her face as she saw the way he struggled with the chopsticks. Indeed they were quite formidable to use upon first glance. So she slowly took his hands in hers. The best way to teach someone was to show them. “Sure Prince, let me teach you how to properly use chopsticks.”
“The bottom stick you hold it as though it is a writing utensil. Like a pen or a feather, it does not move and rests within the pocket of your thumb and index, fitting snugly there.” As she placed the chopstick into his pocket like she’d explain she then took his other fingers and wrapped them around the top one. “The top chopstick is the only one you use to move. You treat it as though you were pinching your two fingers together. You bring the two chopsticks to either side of what you’re trying to pick up and you softly pinch the top one against the bottom one with the food in between. It takes time to use efficiently yes, but once its you’ve done it you’ll see that it becomes easier with practice here you go.”
As she guided his hand with the use of chopsticks Ty lee and Mulan both huddled together before pointing at the two and giggling. It wasn’t as though they were trying to embarrass the two, but the princess was never so hands on. As she removed the hand from the Prince’s and stopped back watching him eagerly wanting to see how well he’d improved with the short impromptu lesson she clapped her hands as she saw how better he’d gotten.
“I will not lie to you Algyr.. I am out of practice when it comes to conversation with another human being. It has been… close to two years since I’ve spoken this much in a single day. I’ve.. when every day offers nothing new you begin to become…. Your desire to live a life of inspiration and joy becomes less and less possible. You begin to feel a draining effect on your spirit. I know, I can tell by how you try to hide the anger in your voice, that I’ve no right to complain. I cannot imagine how hard your life has been down below and compare and I beg you for being insensitive.”
Moving backwards she slowly placed her hands upon the floor and bowed low to him in sincerest apologies. Her eyes closed as she did so as to show that she meant every single word she spoke deeply inside of her heart. As soon as she was done with her apologize that smile upon her face resumed as she gave him a bright smile and flicked her hair back. Now that she was done talking Ty Lee decided it was her turn to interject into the conversation.
“So.. how do you guys travel down below? I’ve heard that there are creatures which can be ridden on. Creatures that walk on four legs and are huge compared to a human! What are they called oh you gotta tell us!”
Leaning forward the girl smiled warmly at the prince as she watched him get a better handle on eating with Chopsticks. However, that answer would had to wait as the sound of heavy footsteps came walking down the hallway. As the sound of people standing up and whispering filled the halls, soon all three of the girls stood up and Dai Lu’s eyes widened as she saw the way her brother approached the table.
There were two men who were walking behind Peizhi. On the outer surface they seemed to be normal humans who seemed to be just like the other Ethereals who were converging in the dining hall. But upon closer inspection it was obvious that they belonged to two races entirely. Originally not from here, they had started off as slaves brought here by several of the enlightened people but over time the status was granted to them along with the gift of immortality. Now they served as royal eunuchs and the walking advisor that shadowed the ruler whether he went. Lifting a hand up to one of his male servants the prince whispered into his ear and in turn that whisper was responded back.
“You can’t even use chopsticks properly. And yet I am told that you come from a most interesting kingdom known as Ramil. Your face strikes me as similar..”
The prince spoke softly as he spoke to him as though he was speaking to a long lost child. Kneeling down upon one of the cushions the dark eyes of the king filled with a cloud of emotion. Regret, disgust, anger, sadness, all of these things ran through him as before he stood up once more and turned towards the other eunuchs. “After you’re done feeding him, sister, bring him before me and Hòugōng”
“This is bad.” The voice of Fa Mulan interjected as she sat back down after the Prince left and without warning, Ty Lee jabbed her roughly in the side with her elbow before placing a finger to her lips and rolling her eyes looking at both Dai Lu and the Prince which had come below. It was rare for anyone to be directly summoned by the Prince. Normally he sent one of his eunuchs to fetch someone to come before him.
Closing her eyes in concentration the female pressed two of her thumb and index to her forehead before she opened them again. She wasn’t concerned with what would happen with Algyr if truth were to be told. She was more concerned with losing the one thing which made life interesting again and being forced to return to that same boring mundane life that she had tried to escape. Yet there was no denying her brother. Letting out a sigh she turned towards the male and spoke softly. “This is one of our three tenants.” She explained to him.
“In our final tenant we are told to help those below in any way that we can. So you being summoned by the Prince isn’t what bothers me. It’s the fact that you look familiar.. And that is what worries me.” Dai Lu spoke as she could no longer deny the similarities that were shared between him and the slave whom she’d helped free several years ago. She had slipped a note to the royal palace guards, a plea for help.
She’d been left to hang on that three by her wrist for hours after the beating. The blonde had watched her the entire time. No one helped her or even bothered to give her any water. All she knew was that she had to do something and do something she did. An enlighten one was always ready to help the princess back then since they understood her predicament of exploration. Not what she had in mind was nearly unheard of. Helping a slave escape? Impossible. Slaves were kept very, very, secure. None had escaped that was known to anyone else on the island. However, if the Princess had been able to sneak halfway down to the world below thant they had to be cracks within the system. Blind spots which no one in there right mind would dare diving off into the world below for one reason or another and Dai Lu had been right.
With her instructions, the beaten slave was nursed somewhat. However, because time was not their friend, they had to spirited her away before she had a chance to full recover and leave her to find for herself. It was the most shameful thing that the blonde had done. She had stolen from someone.. She had stolen their own property and she never forgave herself for that. She only wished that she could’ve lied and said that she was doing so out of the goodness of her heart but even that was debatable. As she looked to the prince who was his guest she gave him a warming smile before standing up and offering her hand so that they might gather in the room of the Prince himself.
As the Dai Lu led her guest into the Prince’s chambers a shiver went down her spine as she felt the dull ache of the lashing she felt before. What was it that the Algyr had suggested that she put on her skin to heal herself so that it would not scar? Before she had that answer the Prince clapped his hands together as he sat on his throne. It was an ornate one with gold weaved into it along with silver claws at the bottom of its feat. The throne itself resembles that of a tiger sort of.
“Dai Lu, thank you for bringing our guest. You may leave us.” There was pouting on the face of the Princess and the other girls exchanged worried looks to one another. But the Prince was having none of it.
As the four girls left the Prince stood up and walked slowly towards the male. “I want to make one thing clear before I begin our conversation. I did not send them out because I was being cruel to them.. I sent them out because if we were to have this conversation with them than they would be unjustly cruel to you. There are four pillars when it comes to being able to call oneself enlightened.
Firstly, one who does not understand human suffering has no right to call themselves enlightened for suffering breeds compassion and compassion without understanding suffering will always lead to a desire to obtain personal gain.
Secondly, man and women were created as a pair to share one enoughs joys, griefs, sadness, and loneliness. It is for this reason that we were made to find out other halves either on the earth below or the skies above
The other two you will come to find out in time.. But now is not that time.” Prince Peizhi spoke.
As he reached inside his robe he pulled out two vials of water. Holding them up both to the prince. At first there was nothing wrong with the water inside, both seemed to be clear and clean. Yet that changed as the male shook both vials in front of his guess. When the other vial went back to be clear and see through the other had a murky whiteness to it. It was as though the water was foggy and it was hard to see though. As though it were contaminated with something but what it was he didn’t know.
“Water sickness Prince. While you were sleeping I sent my two eunuchs below to discover where you’d come from. The clothes you wore reminded me of a land I once visited many years ago to buy slaves from. Ramil. This is what they discovered.. The water in your land has become tainted and many who have gotten sick were unable to tell that there was contamination in the water. We were both born cursed to be Princes. As such the lives of many people rest on our shoulders and one simple mistake, one careless thing that we overlook can have desire situation.
Tell me, did it not occur to you or your people to recheck your methods of purifying your water before you venture out for help? If it weren’t for my sister you would be dead and your people would be dying waiting for a false promise to never come true.. As I said before, Prince, I don’t give a good damn! About your feelings! I know that your teachers taught you well. I know that you’re educated. So the fault lies solely on you for not realizing that sometimes it is the simplest answer that will solve the biggest problems.”
Turning around he walked over to one of his eunuchs who had brought in a slave from the fields. “If I was cruel I would force you to watch the effects of what water sickness does to a person by using our slave.. But instead I will teach you how to cure water sickness..”
Taking out a knife the Prince moved closer to the slave and slit its throat. “There is no cure for water sickness. Those who have it die from the inside out. Do you understand the severity by which you and your kingdom have fucked up? You allowed the water to be contaminated and if this continues everyone in your kingdom who is too weak to survive the sickness will be purged.”
“I can see that you're seething and I can see that you’re angry. Good that anger will be put to good use. Tenant number three and demands that we be a guide to those above. Our scholars had the sense to realize that we originally mistranslated the word “above” and it was supposed to mean below. But tradition dictates we quote the original script but we all know that it means to help those below. So I am sending you back to your people, along with Princess Dai Lu and royal entourage and four of my eunuchs who originally were from Ramil.
They were gifted with immortality for proving their loyalty to me. So they are familiar with the land and hopefully with their help you will be able to find out where the contamination started. In the meantime I have ordered them to use magic and herbs from above to build new wells and so that you may have clean drinking water again.”
As the Prince clapped his hands once more the doors to the throne room opened and Dai Lu and the others were led back in. Walking up to his younger sister and the other pair the prince gave Fa Mulan a kiss on the forehead. Walking over to Ty Lee he also gave her a kiss on the forehead and walking over to his sister he cupped her chin and ran a finger softly through the locks of her hair.
“What are you doing brother..” Dai Lu asked as she looked at him.
“I am finally giving you what you want… a chance to seek enlightenment. You and your friends are to go to the world below and help Ramil and its people. And since you are the closest thing to my heart. I must give you the sweetest of kisses..”
“F…fine..” Dai Lu spoke blushing as she closed her eyes and welcomed the kiss between them. It was a sweet and tender one. His hand caressed her cheek as his other held her chin closely to his before finally they broke apart leaving Dai Lu and the Prince both breathless and flushed red.
It was to be expected that a crowd would join to watch the spectacle of a group of strangers diving off the Eastern cliff to finally meet the world below. Especially considering how one in the midst of the group was their most beloved Princess and the stranger who had only been with them for five days. After the meeting with the Prince, Peizhi had told them that preparing the medicine that would help increase the survival rate of water sickness in Ramil would take time. For there was a lot to be made and indeed several bags of herbs that needed to be crushed and poured into the tea which were prepared. Then there was the problem of how they would get the prince safely down to the world below. Dai Lu had offered to carry him, but when it was pointed out that he might react differently to falling than he did to being flown upwards they needed to put several heads together.
A giant basket with a balloon attached was how they decided that they would carry the group ground instead of flying. It was a hot air balloon that could fit all of them. The journey to the world below would take an hour or two longer but it was definitely safer this way. Heading into the hot air balloon the eunuch prepare for the trip and as soon as everyone was settle one of them began to form as fire ball to use hot air to lift the balloon up in the air, as it took off into the air, the male slowly began to lower the heat so that the balloon could start sinking slowly to the ground below.
As one of the eunuchs reached for the strings he began to tug them as he leaned forward and spoke to the prince. “These Strings allow us to direct the balloon in whichever way we choose to go. Once we’ve left the comfort of the clouds it will be up for you to direct us to your kingdom. We figure it would save us days walking in the desert if we just flew directly to the center of your kingdom. We were instructed by Peizhi to be your hands and tools.. Though it feels odd returning home after two hundred years or so.”
With that the rest of the way was filled with small talks and Dai Lu pointed out things she’d never seen before and wondering how the world below would reacted to them. In the end the descend and the traveling to Ramil lasted longed than anyone had thought and by the time they reached the Prince’s home they had found themselves getting ready to watch the sunset.
Algyr attempted another snap of the chopsticks towards Dai Lu when she seemed distracted. A certain emotion flickered across her features, but he didn't have time to question it, as a small smile graced her face instead. He may have to table that conversation for later. He's seen chopsticks before, they had some finer grains that would benefit from using them, but most of his food got by with spoon, knife, or hand. Certainly not the most graceful method of eating but if you were polite, they didn't have the strictest of food etiquette. He could feel a faint blush twinge his ears as Dai Lu gently took his hands, it was some quick thinking on his end he didn't end up dropping the chopsticks immediately. Her directions were precise, and relatively easy to imitate once he knew. He felt a deeper blush reach his face as the other two girls were giggling at them. It could be considered an intimate moment, but with what Mulan spoke of being paired, surely Dai Lu has already been paired and very unacceptable for an outsider to even attempt. Why was he feeling like a young schoolboy again? She was certainly like no one he had ever met for a variety of reasons. He continued to chastise himself as he managed to get a few more bites of rice under Dai Lu's tutelage. Keeping his thoughts elsewhere helped to dissipate the blush.
"Two years," he repeated softly following Dai Lu's explanation. He felt guilty again. Sometimes people lose the spark to keep going, it wasn't unheard of for some to be devastated by that lack of something. Especially being as old as her... Drastic methods are taken to try and make sense of it. He'd be lying if he said he hasn't had dark impulses that could have fallen in one of those veins of thoughts that Dai Lu explained. She wasn't stupid, and he was less than graceful with hiding his anger. Something he had thought he had mastered by going through similar exchanges, clearly, he still needed work. "I shouldn't have said what I did in the tone I used. We have different experiences, that shape us uniquely. Again, I shouldn't have...," he trailed off as Dai Lu bowed deeply to him. Seems this was going to be a repeated trend with apologizing to each other. Saying anything more felt like it would blemish her obviously heartfelt apology, so he nodded towards her instead with his own smile. He resumed eating almost with the confidence of someone who as always eaten with chopsticks.
He listened to Ty Lee's question. Come to think of it, he hasn't seen any other animals on these islands, he saw some birds through the corner of his eyes, but not many other land-dwelling animals, certainly none that Ty Lee was trying to ask about. Honestly the Ethereal probably didn't need such creatures of the like of horses or camels. Be a shame if they haven't even seen a domesticated cat or dog...
"You're probably asking about..." The atmosphere of the dining hall drastically changed whatever joviality was had evaporated. His ears flicked in their direction before the whispering and shuffling entered his vision. The girls stood up, Algyr was going to as well but decided to take a more submissive approach. The man who entered clearly had the air of royalty. Perhaps Prince Peizhi? He laid the chopsticks down next to the bowl as he straightened his back and rested his hands in his lap. Honestly Algyr wasn't looking at the center of attention, he was looking towards his bodyguards. They've never seen Avians? The guard on the right clearly had the sharper, angular, features of an Avian, no obvious wings but he could catch a glimpse of more feather like tattoos on his arms. That wasn't something he was used to seeing with them. Was he that far down from a pure Avian, or something else entirely? The other guard was elven, their ears not as pronounced as Algyr's but the slightly reddish tint to their hair also an elven trait. These two were obviously important, but their presence still seemed suppressed.
"You face strikes me as similar." Algyr was ignoring the obvious arrogant tone the prince used with him. He kept stone faced but clenched his hands on his pants after that declaration. It may have been rude to keep eye contact with the prince, but Peizhi clearly knew he was the superior between the two. Algyr had to bite back a chuckle with how hoity toity the prince was sounding. He was expecting someone a little more eloquent with his words even if by Ethereal standards Algyr was a child, speaking lowly of someone just based on age was a sure-fire way to get killed.
The atmosphere slowly regained some normalcy after the Prince and his entourage left, but the same couldn't be said for the table. Shame, the meal was quite good, but Peizhi’s remarks even managed to turn the meal sour. Algyr sighed but resumed eating. Perhaps he should be more worried, but he wasn't impressed with his first conscious interaction with Peizhi. Algyr was more curious about the sudden silence with the other two girls. He glanced between all three, resting on Dai Lu as she was apparently trying to concentrate on something she didn't quite want to voice with Algyr yet.
"Tenants," he repeated. She told him a little about them. He was still a little unsure of some of the religious ramifications that came with them. Help any way they can, it was an honorable belief, but sounded too good to be true. Keskil and his father both advised caution against such things.
"And that worries me." Algyr knew Dai Lu was hiding something from him. Her reasoning could be anything, but the fact the very open Princess was being rather quiet herself seemed to show the gravity of this secret. Something that wouldn't bode well for either of them. He could fathom guesses, but it seemed unwise to do so, besides whatever happened, has happened, they couldn't undo the past. Had to live it and move on. He shook his head discarding the thought as he resumed eating, leaving the Princess and her friends to their own thoughts.
"Whatever worries you, let it lie. I imagine your Prince isn't the patient type with outsiders like me. Don't let past actions, judge your current actions. You'll just have to live with them and move on. With some luck, you'll learn from them," Algyr spoke with a shrug finishing the meal as he laid the chopsticks down once more, he offered a prayer of thanks. He took Dai Lu's hand and stood up.
The trek to the throne room took far less time than Algyr would have liked. It didn't give much time for him to think up a solid approach to Prince Peizhi. Perhaps for the best then, he'll have to figure things out on the fly. They entered the audience chamber. The center of attention was the Prince as he sat on an ornate throne. He mentioned the Hòugong as well. Algyr didn't see these other members, but he could sense their presence. It felt proper to probably bow or kneel, but Algyr chose neither as the prince asked the other girls to leave. He watched them leave before focusing back on the Prince as he stood up from his throne.
If his interaction in the dining hall was anything to go on, Peizhi didn't care for ceremony when it came to dealing with outsiders, namely when dealing with Algyr. He kept his posture relaxed resting a hand on the handle of his dagger. Unjustly cruel? Coming from someone who dealt with slaves, it sounded like he was trying to sound better than he was. Peizhi knew nothing of him, just as Algyr knew nothing of Peizhi.
"You don't need to stand on ceremony with me, I understand I'm but a child to your eyes. This situation is rather unique, so don't bother holding back for my sake. You don't seem the type to do so anyways," Algyr slipped in.
Algyr didn't get much information when Mulan talked about an enlightened one. It sounded like a rite of passage to be considered an adult in their society. As long lived as they were some more requirements did make some sense, if not a little restraining. Not all acts of compassion could be seen as selfish, especially with some of their tenants requiring them to aid without personal gain. But if one didn't know, perhaps it was easier to act selfishly than selflessly, even if the act was done with good intentions.
Mulan also mentioned the pairing system. But he wasn't sure when Peizhi said the earth below, or the skies above. He assumed it was with only those above, since Dai Lu's interactions with him clearly show they don't deal with outsiders much at all. It was their version of marriage, instead husband or wife it was brother and sister or whatever pairing worked for them.
Water sickness...Even Algyr knew that, perhaps his confusion flickered across his face. He knew what was causing the illness, but they weren't sure how it developed past that. It felt almost anti climatic, but his thoughts wavered as Peizhi said he sent people down to investigate on his behalf. How generous. It was hard to fathom how they viewed the years, slavery had been officially outlawed, but there were markets for those looking. Algyr couldn’t recall anyone recently mentioning slaves, surely Peizhi would have stuck out and he'd be informed of it. Unless he paid for silence as well.
Algyr could feel a lecture coming on, Peizhi did little to hide the intention in his voice or his mannerisms. Did his arrogance know no limits? Algyr was getting frustrated, but he had to be the better man to be polite in this situation. Algyr's plan was one of three that had the least amount of success. He knew the risks, as did his family. Erel had already surmised it was the water causing issue, he didn't have the resources that Peizhi had but Algyr saw some of his notes trying to find new methods to purify as well as distinguish tainted water from safe water. Keskil was mapping out and finding new sources of water to help buy time as well as trying to find the root of the problem.
"Your cruelty is assuming my ignorance Prince," Algyr hissed. Algyr knew the effects of water sickness. He clenched his fist tighter around the handle of the dagger. This was not his territory; it wasn't his place to correct the Prince. He saw the bodyguard enter with another slave, they were human, young, barely considered an adult by his standards. Algyr didn't flinch away as Peizhi slit their throat. No cure, but it’s not a guaranteed death sentence either. Algyr hardened his glare at the mention of purged. By whose order would they be purged? Algyr has helped many cross when they couldn't handle the sickness, it was a mercy killing. Peizhi did it because he could. Showing off his strength by killing someone defenseless, seemed to be the epitome of weakness.
Mistranslate? These people clearly want nothing to do with the lower world, why even honor tenants that would force them to help those beneath them? Was it just tradition now, and going through the motions, not really believing in them? He released his hand on his dagger clenching and unclenching his fists. It wouldn't be wise to challenge their Goddess, some apparently still believe in her. Algyr knelt in front of Peizhi.
"You have my gratitude for offering help to those clearly beneath you. I won't forget this kindness," he stood up. "Some advice to you then, you may have heard the phrase the straw that broke the camel's back," he looked towards the corpse as a eunuch took it away. "Life is precious, a short one or a long one. People can only take so much until they are pushed to the brink. Your slaves no doubt outnumber you, do what you will to restrict them but there will be a time when your restraints no longer hold power. Time is irrelevant to you and them, don't think it will protect you indefinitely," he held his hands up. "I'm not threatening, only advising, your call to heed it or not. I thank you again for your assistance," he bowed once more and turned on his heel. As the doors opened Algyr brushed past the Princess and her friends not daring a look to any of them.
It was going to be quite the endeavor to start the journey back home. Algyr heard from the girls their plans to get him and the supplies back down to the earth below. They seemed to think it simple to just fly down, but even with the added manpower of the eunuchs that wasn't the best option, he offered some insight to the problem. But with the preparations for the medicine as well as the decided basket it would take a few days to get ready. Algyr kept to himself the best his could, the audience with Peizhi rattled him more than he was comfortable admitting. Algyr met other rulers, some downright frightening but they all shared mortality, sure some lived longer than others but there was a more obvious ending. The Ethereal were so ambiguous, and Peizhi's downright jaded with life that the lives of others meant nothing to him. It was enough to make him sick. They fought through tooth and nail to survive, and it meant nothing to him. Honestly, Peizhi was probably only doing this for Dai Lu, granting her a chance to go through her own trial of adulthood. Perhaps he was beginning to see a little clearer with what Dai Lu meant with life growing stagnant if there were no risks or clear end to it.
Algyr pinched the bridge of his nose as he trailed after the overly excited girls. He didn’t want to dampen their spirits, so it was easier to just go along with their whims. Before they were going to depart, Algyr asked for some maps and other information they were willing to part with. It wasn't much but he'd make the most of it and see if he could share some more with Erel when he saw him again. He took a deep breath and sent a quick prayer to the Goddess before he entered the basket. He was a little unstable on his feet but managed to not freak out as he stood next to one of the eunuchs, he'd have to ask for their names later. He gripped the railing of the basket tightly as it began to lift off as he watched the eunuchs wield magic to fly it. Watching the process made it easier to gradually settle his nerves of the journey and focus more on what was going to happen next.
"Two hundred years ago? Ramil was probably ruled by Queen Geeta of the Avians at that time," Algyr attempted to make small talk with the Eunuchs, leaving the girls to their own conversation. "I can't guarantee a successful navigation since I'll be looking at the desert from a bird's eye view compared to a ground view but I'm sure I'll manage."
It did take a little longer than initially planned, granted Algyr wasn't confident enough to give an estimate but soon he could make out the palace.
"Home," he breathed a deep sigh the arid air calming his nerves. He could smell a hint of rain on air, if they were lucky, they'd get some tonight. "Please maintain this height and distance for a little longer," Algyr said. The sun was getting ready to set but there was still enough light to make out the landscape. He drew his dagger, finally untying the cloth as well, he angled the blade towards the sun reflecting it towards one of the walls around the city. He repeated it a few more times until he got a response, flashes of light chased the wall, to a watch tower, finally the flashes stayed near the palace. Algyr tilted his blade a few more times before sheathing it. "I'd like you to land a little outside of the city. Keskil will meet us with wagons so we can get everything to the palace. Ideally, I'd like to distribute what we have as soon as possible, but I don't know the whole situation, it’s also been a long trip. For now, rest this evening, and we'll start early in the morning," Algyr instructed.
Algyr couldn't have been happier when they finally landed, he would have kissed the ground too if he was alone, didn't want to pass on odd habits to the ladies. He practically leapt out of the basket to land on solid ground.
"I understand you will have questions, and I will answer them to the best of my ability. However please hold onto those until we get into the palace. If you aren't opposed to it, you can probably borrow some of my sister's or the servant's clothing to be better suited for the desert. It does get cold when the sun goes down," Algyr paused, it almost seemed like a silly afterthought but what he witnessed he'd probably have to be very concise. "At the palace we have servants, not slaves, that help with maintaining it. There are other occupations throughout the city that do different tasks, such as farmers, fishermen, herders, etc. The difference between the slaves you are used to seeing and the people living here is that we treat them fairly, as people, and compensate them for their work. That is how it is through most of the kingdom, I do not doubt we'll come across exceptions to these when we head out further in the desert but for now that is how it is here," he explained. He turned his attention up to the path, just over the hill. It was a small convoy, Algyr could see three camels each pulling a wagon behind them, there were a few guards on foot. His chest tightened as he watched Keskil slide off her camel. His stomach dropped as he knelt before her. "Your Majesty," Algyr barely squeezed the words out as she was wearing the raiment of the king, with a small tiara atop her head.
"Stand, Brother," Keskil spoke raising Algyr's chin to face her almost to be certain it was him. Slowly he stood. "Welcome home," she pulled him into an embrace. Algyr had a little height over her, but he tightened his grip around her and kissed her head.
"Aye, I'm home," Algyr stated softly choking back a sob he had as he slowly released her. He touched their foreheads again before turning around to face the Ethereal. "I apologize, this is my sister Queen Keskil of Ramil. Your Majesty, this is Princess Dai Lu of Ethereal, along with Fa Mulan and Ty Lee. I apologize I did not catch your names, but guards of Prince Peizhi, sent to help us."
"You've been busy these last three months," she nodded at Algyr before turning to face the visitors. "The honor is mine, thank you for traveling so far to come to our humble kingdom. I hope my brother has not caused any problems for you," Keskil spoke bowing to them as Algyr bowed again to them. "Breathe Algyr, Father and Erel are still with us."
"Seems you've also been busy." Algyr relaxed slightly with Keskil’s assurances.
"Three months, hard to not do anything come let’s return to the palace," Keskil finished the discussion as she called over a couple of the guards as she herself also helped to load up the wagons.
"That's a camel Ty Lee," Algyr pointed as he nudged all of them to go over to her. "She's old but pretty mellow, she shouldn't give you any trouble. We use all parts of the camel when necessary." Algyr gestured for the eunuchs to come over as they loaded up the wagons. He helped the girls into the wagon. Keskil got back on her camel as she led the convoy back to the city. But she was close enough for their questions. "I imagine some of your questions can't wait, so ask away, we have about an hour til we get to the palace," Algyr pulled out a blanket offering it to the girls. "It gets cold when the sunsets." Algyr stretched out on his back using his arms as a pillow.
“Are we there yet?” Ty lee’s voice broke the silence of the hot air balloon ride as the group of people followed the Prince’s instructions when it came to getting closer and closer to the kingdom below. Of course by then, it’d been several hours and the sun was getting close to setting. Dai Lu had been drifting in and out of something similar to sleep. The Ethereal beings really didn’t need to rely on such things, one of the many perks of being immortal It seemed as though both Ty Lee and Fa Mulan were restless when it came to wanting to see the animals which the prince had mentioned earlier. They’d been here for a while and already they felt a drastic difference than before. The air here was hotter; the sun here was felt more keenly. However as the prince was having conversations with the Eunuchs, the blonde was keeping her self occupied with her own inner thoughts. She’d done it. She’d finally made it outside and she was more than excited.
The moment that the hot air balloon touchdown Dai Lu was more than excited, her eyes gleamed as she shot out of the balloon along with her two companions. Of course. As she got aquainted to the area around them she turned her head as she heard what Algyr had said to him. Of course she’d had lots of lots of questions! Tons of them, to her this was a whole new world that needed to be explore.Where would she even begin to ask questions? As her and her trio grasps hands they all jumped in a circle and squealed there was just to much to take in. Without thinking the three girls began conversing with each other, talking about the difference between Ramil and Ethereal. But, all that went away as soon as his older sister came to.
Turning around to look at her Dai Lu froze. The locks of blue hair, the way her face was shaped and the way that she spoke. It reminded her so much of that slave girl whom she had helped escape. As Dai Lu watched the emotional display between Algry and Keskil her eyes widen as she took a step back and shook her head. Sister? That wasn’t possible. It wasn’t possible at all. Dai Lu was sure that the prince wasn’t that old. What was going on? Keskil?
Stepping forward she was about to reach out to Keskil but now wasn’t the time. They had to move and travel into the kingdom.
Of course, her reaction was completely different compared to Ty lee and mulan. As soon as the camel was pointed out to the two girls they both jumped up and screamed excitedly. “NO way! So this, this is a camel!” Clasping her hands together Ty Lee was so enamored with the sight of the along with Fa Mulan that they both wasted not time poking and prodding at it the humps on the back was something that caused them to be interested in it. Moving her hand away from them they blinked as they turned back to the wagon.
Meanwhile, Dai Lu was lost in thought.. Her eyes weren’t focus on the here and now.. Instead they had been somewhere lost in the past.. Lost far far in the past.
“Have your eyes ever seen such beauty before, Dai Lu? Her locks of blue hair and her tender skin.. I… I think I’ve fallen in love with a slave girl.” It had been several years into her isolation where Dai Lu was sitting in her bed. Those eyes of hers were looking out across royal courtyard as her brother came into her room to check in on her. Normally the Ruler came by himself but this time he’d come baring with a young girl who had her face down cast. A collar hung around her neck showing that she’ truly wasn’t a one of them. Not that the collar mattered the blue hair gave it perfectly away that she was from a different race than the Ethereal’s and her ears were so pointy and strange. For once in his life, the eyes of Peizhi had a warmth to them as he slowly held the hands of the girl in his and pushed her forward to meet his youngest sister.
Turning her head she stood up and slowly walked towards the girl. She’d look so young. But she was told that people would grow. Taking both of her face in both of her hands Dai Lu slowly peered into her eyes. Indeed she would grow to be beautiful in time.. Taking a step back she turned and looked at her brother as she bit her lips. Ethereal women were known to be extremely jealous towards other women outside of Ethereal. Dai Lu wasn’t quite sure why but she’d seen it first hand. A female slave had been propositioned by an Ethereal man to come to his bed chambers for the night. When his partner had found out that the slave girl had been found mutilated beyond recognition with a note carved into her flesh which read “Know your places slave women.”
“You’re making a mistake. If you choose to go forward with this.. Choose to make it known that you plan on giving her the eternal fruit.. Brother, I think you’ll be inviting harm unto her.. She should remain a slave. Or… if you really must, make her your plaything and nothing more..” Back than Dai Lu had been a lot harsher and colder with her words. Turning her back on the Prince she asked them to leave. She didn’t care for what her brother had in mind to do with the slave girl… afterall she was just that a slave.
As the years went back the infatuation that Peizhi had with the slave girl grew and grew unto it happened. Dai Lu had heard her cries from her windows. She’d poke her head out as she watched the young girl being dragged towards the nearest tree by a group of women. Her voice screaming out for them to stop. Dai Lu could’ve stopped it. Looking back on the past, she’d claim that she had just been curious. That she was ignorant of her maliciousness the women of Ethereal could be. But she wasn’t…. She knew what she was happening.. What was going on…. She didn’t stop it. Not till it was over.. Not til the girl had been flogged mercilessly. Not till her back had been cut to pieces.
Cutting her down from the tree Dai Lu had done something that was forbidden. She’d taken her to the temple of purification and had placed her before Yan Ji the priestess.
“What is this… Dai Lu, what have you done?” The Priestess has spoken as she’d taken the young girl and violated the purity of the Goddess of Ethereal. “This girl belongs to Peizhi, your brother! What plans do you have for her? Do you plan to steal from him.. Take his slave and run away with her?”
“I told the stupid fool that this would happen!” Dai Lu snapped as she turned to the priestess. For some reason her heart beat was quickening and she felt heat rise up in her chest. She never felt this emotion before or sense, but she’d had come to learn that this was what jealous mix with anger felt like. She didn’t know why she was angry or why she felt jealousy. Afterall, she hadn’t been paired yet. She didn’t know why she was tending to this girl, but she knew that this was something akin to the right thing…
“Fix her! That’s an order! Fix her before the palace guards come looking for her.” She snarled as she walked towards the priestess. Even though Yan Ji was blind and her eyes couldn’t see could see into the heart of Dai Lu and could see the festering storm of emotions that were beginning to form. She didn’t say anything and only fulfilled her request.
Carefully, gingerly, Dai Lu had carried the girl down to the world slowly descending from the world above. She still had scars and cuts on her bodies but the deepest ones had been closed. It was towards the East of the kingdom of Ramil that she brought the girl down below. She knew that the girl would need water and so she’d placed an enchantment spell on a wooden cup. She’d blessed it with eternal water. So whenever she’d drunk for the cup it would always be full of water. Sitting the girl up she poured the water into her mouth as she looked to Dai Lu and blinked her eyes.
“Why… why are you helping me?” She asked, confused. Dai Lu didn’t have an answer.. She knew that the girl was weak and she knew that if she stayed that her brother would only become more protective of her.. That her brother would fall deeper in lover with her, that her brother would stop checking in on Dai Lu. That if this slave girl stayed… than the one person who meant more to her than life itself, would forget entirely about her choose this girl over his own people.
This wasn’t mercy… this was death by a thousand cuts. Dai Lu had hope that she would die in the desert. Die and be forgotten. Die and forever be banished from the minds of both the Prince and Dai Lu.
Dai Lu couldn’t take it anymore. They’d been traveling to the for hours and hours and she’d had time to think about questions. Thousands of them, but all of her questions where forgotten when she saw Keskil. The moment the convoy stopped and they had reach their destination, Dai Lu couldn't stand it anymore.
Flying out of the wagon she soared into the air. Her eyes fixated upon the blue hair woman whom Alygr had introduced as his sister. She understood the concept of brother and sister but what she didn’t understand was how…
Floating down beside Keskil she reached out for her face and cupped them in both of her hands. Her eyes narrowed as she looked deeply into her face. Her eyes examining every inch of her before.
“PRINCESS! What are you doing!?” Fa Mulan shouted shocked as she saw the strange behavior that was being exhibited by Dai Lu. but that didn’t stop her from examining the girl further before she stepped away.
“Are you her?” Dai Lu spoke flatly. “Are You the slave girl I helped escaped from Ethereal all those years ago, because both you and Algyr look exactly like her.. Like Aamu.”
"Princess," Algyr questioned Dai Lu. He could tell she and her friends were vibrating with excitement but once they got everything loaded, the inquisitive princess turned silent. Her other friends talked amongst themselves; their demeanor didn't seem to waver at all. As for Dai Lu, she almost seemed fearful, uncertain. Algyr could understand the uncertainty not so much the fear, she was entering a new land, but she sounded more excited than scare when they first landed. Dai Lu didn't respond to his question as he sat up in the wagon. It wasn't the most engaging of trips but eventually the got inside the city walls.
Algyr was grateful but also worried when they didn't receive a grand welcoming. Algyr didn't want any such ceremony, but his stomach sank with the lack of people walking the streets. Indeed, the sun has set but it wasn't cold enough to turn in for the night, surely there was some reason to linger more. Algyr smelled fresh rain coming on the horizon, surely it wouldn't be enough to send those home.
"No, we haven't enforced a curfew yet or anything like that. We've gotten rain sparingly last month; it's been a little more consistent this week. I took you this way for another reason," Keskil spoke.
"We avoided the encampment. Has it gotten worse?"
"Depends on your definition of worse. Have there been more cases? No, but the dead has been on a steady rise. Erel has found clues to slow down the spread and ease the symptoms, we've mitigated cases so far. A few new ones, but it has been partially manageable."
"The graves have grown then," Algyr whispered. They pulled up in front of the palace, they had some storage space near the stable. Algyr jumped out of the wagon first, letting the Eunuchs follow his lead. Perhaps it was for the best there wasn't anyone else around, he wasn't sure he'd have the fortitude to explain their guests. At least not so easily when Dai Lu flew out of the wagon. Keskil held up a hand to stop the guards from rushing the two. She made a motion to dismiss all her personnel leaving only the girls and the eunuchs in the stable. Algyr didn't think too much of it, Dai Lu was inquisitive and probably had questions for Keskil. He almost dropped the jug he was carrying he steadied it but was doing it more to steady himself.
"How...do you know that name Dai Lu," Algyr asked shakily trying to keep himself from lashing out at the Princess. Sure, it wasn't necessarily a rare name, but how he saw the Ethereal viewed slaves, why even bother learning their names?
"It has been quite some time Princess Dai Lu. I'm honored you'd remember just another slave girl. Seems I'm indebted to you once more for saving my son," Keskil bowed deeply to the princess. "I wished though you'd learn some manners with your questions. Take consideration of those around you when asking them."
"Son...Mamun," Algyr couldn't breathe. Keskil turned towards him. Depending how the light hit her features, he could see glimpses of his mother. Darker hair to match his own, more pointed ears, but then he was looking again at Keskil's features. "I watched you die...I buried you a day later with Father, Erel, and Keskil...Zanbu was there...I don't understand," Algyr rambled. But the more he looked at her, the more he saw Aamu. He fell do his knees feeling nausea and vertigo hit. Credit to Keskil...Aamu? She didn't rush him, she slowly approached him and knelt down still away from him.
"I had hoped to ease you into this, but Ethereals can be naïve and very astute, a dangerous combination in delicate situations," she spoke softly. She glanced over to the other Ethereals present. "Algyr said you are Prince Peizhi's bodyguards, if you wish you can stay in some of our guest bedrooms in the palace. I'll have servants bring some vegetarian dishes to your quarters. I'd like to speak to the Princess and her friends in private," Keskil dictated. She pushed off her knees standing up as she helped to finish unloading the wagons. The body was willing to help, but Algyr couldn't bring himself up quite yet. It didn't take long for everything to be put away. "Algyr, please take the ladies to my quarters, we'll continue this discussion there," Keskil finished as she led the eunuchs away.
"Understood, ladies if you will, please follow me," Algyr replied automatically as he stood up and guided the girls into the palace.
If his mind was anywhere else then where it was, Algyr could have explained some of the architecture of the palace. Since the right to rule was done by competition there was a clash of style from the different tribes that still managed to flow coherently. One hall had more avian touch, another elven, and so on and so forth. The girls were talking amongst themselves but were able to grasp Algyr's mindset, so they avoided asking him questions, he'd almost felt guilty of that since they were such helpful guides to him during his stay. He'd have to make it up to them. It didn't take long to reach Keskil's quarters. He knocked.
"You may enter," Keskil replied as Algyr opened the door, ushering the girls inside. There was a decent bed in the far corner, a desk near it where Keskil currently sat. There was a long low table with some cushions, Algyr offered the cushions to the girls as he sat on the window's ledge. Cool air hit his back but was helping to calm his nerves. Keskil finished her task at the desk as she sat across from the girls. There were a couple bowls of fruit and nuts for them eat. "I imagine Princess Dai Lu has questions for me, but what of yours Algyr," she looked towards him. Her tone was Aamu's, her features Keskil.
"The beginning of this tale would probably be best for me."
"I fear it's a long tale, that may only give you more questions."
"We need to start somewhere."
"I'm not sure where you'd consider the start of the story. If you believe the tales, the Goddess of Ethereal had a daughter whom she protected by giving her life. Some stories say she had two daughters, one of wind one of earth. Her daughter of earth became the mother of magic for those below. Her descendants were granted magic. You can imagine they wanted to keep these lines as pure as they could and protected. Eventually the blood ran thin, and magic seemed to vanish from the world below. Other blood lines went to extremes to keep it hidden. My family has been one of those extremists, keeping ourselves hidden from the world, where else to hide then in the sanctuary of Ramil's desert? It worked for a few generations, but nothing lasts."
"Our caravan was attacked by raiders, some escaped, others were killed, those deemed too weak were enslaved. You might see the history of Ramil repeating itself here. Elves were considered a rare commodity especially elven women, since stories usually have us stay with our enclaves to never mingle with others. As you have seen for yourself that is far from the case now, but back then it was the superstition. I have lost track of my age, but as a slave it was much easier to regress to the mind of child. Do what was asked, don't question it, and just survive."
"Eventually I was bought by an Ethereal prince. This is probably when you first met me, Princess Dai Lu. There was kindness there I had not experience in quite some time, that I was able to slowly regain myself. I was still a slave, but I had some dignity and it lasted for some time. But jealously is a wicked emotion. It didn't take long for those fangs to rip through me, it was by Dai Lu's hand that I was saved and thus she helped me to escape."
Keskil stood up as she walked back to her desk. Algyr kept silent during her story, so she was a slave for most of her unknown life. No wonder she didn't want to talk about it when he asked her so long ago if he was to assume that Keskil was Aamu.
"You may recognize this little cup, Princess," Keskil returned to the table setting a less then ornate cup on the table. She pulled some other glasses near her as she poured the first cup into each one, never did the cup spill over or go empty. "To this day your enchantment holds. This helped me to survive in the desert for many years until Modun found me," she explained with a small smile. Years? Algyr knew her marker was five days away from here, he managed months out there, but years?
"Did magic sustain you?
"Some of it did, you'll probably ask why I didn't use it against my enslavers? It was easier to be sold as just a girl instead of a mage, where my powers could have been used for far worse situations. If only I had to suffer it was for the best. You may have surmised these water sources I've found have also been by magic. Some, but even so they would only be temporary fixes until we find the root of this illness." Keskil continued assuming some of Algyr's questions. She wasn't wrong, but Aamu was always good at reading him like a book.
"What of your death? Was there ever a real Keskil," Algyr questioned harsher.
"The Keskil you knew before my death was real, she was Erel's younger sister from Modun's first marriage. She was real. If you recall, you also got sick at that time. Keskil did too. It wasn't the water illness; it was something far worse. Keskil did not survive, Keskil died in my place, as I took her identity. You barely survived yourself," Keskil spoke. It was five years ago when Algyr got sick, Aamu aka Keskil also got sick around this time. The symptoms were like water sickness, but it came on much quicker, the disease torturing the body far harsher. Some thought it was divine punishment for the outsiders to get sick and almost be viewed as sacrifices. Ridiculous but there was still some animosity with Algyr and Aamu being a part of the Ramil Royal Family. Clearly it wasn't a curse against him if Keskil also caught it.
"Say I believe you, why? Why go to such extremes? Does Father or Erel know of this?"
"No, they know the story as you did mere moments ago, I don't intend to change that. As to why? The answer may be deceptively simple. I was a slave for most of my life, sometimes hunted for being a magic user, so if I can fake my death, that was a surer way to stay hidden wouldn't you say," she replied so casually.
"And how is Father and Erel?"
"Modun has gotten worse with the water illness, almost to the point of bedridden. He has far fewer good days then bad days, but he's strong he's hanging in there. Erel has been holed up at the temple most days doing research into herbs and purification for the sick and tainted water. Modun passed the king's raiment to me, as Erel didn't want it at the time, he believe I was to be a better option as I served as an advisor to Modun."
"So that's how it is?"
"For now, yes," Keskil finished.
"So should I call you Keskil or Aamu now?"
"I'm Keskil now, so better stay with that."
"So be it," Algyr replied with a deep sigh. He took as much information as he could. It would take some time to process it, but he did have some answers. "Forgive me, but I need to excuse myself for a moment, if you have any more questions, I'm sure Keskil will be able to answer them better than me," he bowed to the girls as he left out the window. The night air pierced his lungs, but it was something he could make more sense of then all of that information. He walked across the rooftops of the palace until he found a flat landing, one of his secret spots from when he was a child. There were a few blankets tucked away in a crate. He sat on the crate as he watched the storm clouds brewing, trying to sort through the storm of his own thoughts.
The girls were left alone in Keskil's chambers, her gaze lingered to where Algyr left before turning back to her guests.
"Since your observation started all this Princess Dai Lu. There are some questions I have for you. You know how well I was treated by others on Ethereal. Do I need to worry about Peizhi reclaiming his property? I'm no longer the weak little girl that needed protection, clearly, I have fallen from his thoughts. All the better if that is the case. And if I were to say Algyr is Peizhi's son, how would you and others on Ethereal treat him?"
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