[Oc/Be] Week 245: Under the Moon's Gentle Glow

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Sep 22, 2009
The day for Aeria and Dante to leave Terminus and journey out into the northern forests of whispering birches, dark conifers and clear, sparkling streams had arrived. The morning was bright, the sun was just beginning to fill the air with warmth and a light southerly breeze riffled through the short purple and green fuzz that decorated the top of Aeria’s head. The tall spurii leaned up against the wooden wall of an inn just at the outskirts of Terminus. Her lean frame was clothed in a coarse cotton shirt, basilisk hide traveling breeches and a pair of knee high walking boots with heavily lugged soles.

The spurii’s tall, lean frame was propped up against the wood and plaster wall of an inn at the edge of Terminus. One long-fingered hand was resting casually on her omnipresent halberd while the other tapped out a drumbeat on the wooden wall. Abruptly she straightened up, levering herself into a fully standing position. Her free hand was lifted and her eyebrows rose with it as she called out, “Hey! Over here, Dante!”

The athlete wore an olive drab shirt underneath a grey vest and black leather pants, his short silver hair flowing in the wind. Strapped onto his back was a rather large backpack. He walked towards her at a brisk pace, waving back to notify her that he had seen her.

It had been a out of a whim but she had agreed and thus they were going on a trip, the athlete felt a mix of excitement and nervousness.

Setting the halberd against the wall, she swung the backpack that rested at her feet up and began securing its various leather straps and brass buckles into place as her companion made his way through the milling crowds.

As he neared, she took firm hold of her halberd and strode to meet him.

“It looks like you’re all ready to go too! I figure we’ll make our way north and into the mountains, there’s some lovely terrain up there for us to explore. How do you feel about that idea?””

”That sounds good, expecting trouble?” he replied as his eyes glanced to her halberd. So that is her weapon of choice, seems a bit unwieldy to me and not quite something I expected from a girl of her stature.

Aeria lifted the halberd up until the blade caught the light and then spun it around, moving with grace as she easily made a complete arc around her head and brought the weapon easily down to her side again. “You never know! Things are a bit insane out there these days. I don’t want to take any risks.””

”Agreed, better play it safe than sorry,” he affirmed. The athlete was impressed with how effortlessly Aeria had controlled the halberd.

Glancing over at Dante she raised an eyebrow, “Do you ever carry any weapons or do you just use your fists and feet?”

”I have a few tricks at my disposal, that you might get to see if we encounter any trouble,” he replied with a smirk as they began to move away from the inn where she had waited.

”Got everything you need with you?”

“Yep! Let’s hit the road.”

Aeria’s strides lengthened to match Dante’s as they moved away from the inn and into the main stream of traffic. They were passing under the gigantic gate that marked the edge of Terminus proper. Ornately carved stonework wound around the portico which once held massive wooden gates. Now the gates were a sliding iron system that had been installed after the daemon attacks on the city. While impressive, they lacked some of the grandeur of the older wooden gates.

Aeria’s keen gaze flicked between Dante and the road. The kinchaa player’s movements were all athletic grace and poise. The spurii wasn’t much less poised, her contigeri training having also imbued her with a certain easy movement. “So…” she asked, “Have you been outside of Terminus much besides your time in the wars? I seem to forget that there’s a whole world out there beyond the gates.” ”

”No, that is part of the reason why I have been trying to travel. To see the wider world out there,” He replied calmly. The athlete slowed his pace just a step so that the spurii would lead them on, trying to subtly and more closely look at her curves from behind.

Aeria continued to walk in front of Dante for a moment and then slowed down as the kinner’s gaze was strongly focused on her. “How about you concentrate more on the wider world and less on my ass, Dante?””

“What, am I not allowed to look at beautiful things like you?” the athlete nonchalantly replied, before regaining his composure.

”So, what about you, been outside city walls much?” Dante asked, and firmly gripped his backpack with his hand, lifting his gaze to where it should have been.

“Yeah I was on the run for quite a while, so I’ve been around. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling but lately not much. It feels good to get out of Terminus. There are too many people trying to find me there!”

As they moved down the well-worn road, they were still in the midst of travelers who were also heading out of town. Those who walked the road were kept in a lane that was barricaded so that the rushing steam carriages could move at full speed without crushing the pedestrians around them.

The sky was a bright blue and the sun sent shafts of light across Aeria’s face as she walked next to Dante. Their pace was not slow but it was relaxed. Pointing to the distant mountains, the spurii smiled. “We’re going to head up that way. How do you feel about doing a little climbing once we get there?” ”

”Yeah, I am used to climbing, though usually it’s on stadiums and not on mountain cliffs, but I am sure I'll manage,” he confidently claimed.

As they kept traveling the stream of traffic lessened the further away from Terminus they got. By his estimate of their pace it would take them a while to reach the mountains.

As they walked along the cobbled lane beside the rushing steam carts and other machinery, their pace was brisk. Other travelers moved aside to let the faster walkers by. Their gaits were smooth and even, athletic as they strode along. Aeria glanced across at Dante. “Did you ever think you’d be as famous as you are? I’ve seen people stare at you when they realize who you are.”

After a moment, she added, “It isn’t so different for me since the Black Portal. Random people stare at me. How do you ever learn to cope with it?!”

The sun was now rising higher and sending warmth across the travelers. The traffic beside them was getting heavier as they were now moving between pine-clad hills. Even from the road, the mossy forest floor exuded a certain clean scent. The city moved further and further behind them. ”

”Not really, but I guess it’s a part of my chosen way of living,” Dante shrugged.

”I would say not to think about it, but after a while you just kind of get used to it, you know?” the athlete took a moment to consider on how to say what he wanted to say to her.

”Though that is probably not that helpful. What did help me was to not worry about what others think,” he calmly explained. There was something in the air that made him feel more relaxed than usual or maybe it was just his company, either way the athlete could not help but keep smiling as the duo traveled ever closer to their destination.

Aeria smiled crookedly. “I stopped worrying about what others think a long time ago. When you’re spurii, you do that. I guess that I’m just not used to the sort of attention the whole Black Portal thing got me.”

They traveled on, resting and eating a simple lunch of bread and cheese, before continuing until the sun started to move towards the distant western horizon. The spurii turned to her companion. “I suppose we ought to find a place to set up camp for the night. I think if we go off to the forest, we can find a clearing to camp in.” ”

The athlete nodded and lead them deeper into forest, it growing denser with each step, he brushed off light branches with his arms, making sure to avoid getting entangled as to avoid embarrassing himself. A while of trudging through, the athlete could feel the trees giving way to a clearing with clear view of the now heavy dusk.

”Well, it took longer than I thought but this should do, don't you think?” Dante asked Aeria as he measured the clearing, roughly ten meters in length and eight wide from where they had emerged. There was a couple tree stumps to their left, just on the edge of the clearing. Dante put his belongings on the grassy floor and sat down near it, starting to open its strappings and buckles to get supplies for his tent.

Aeria’s eyebrows shot up. “I completely forgot that I might need...a tent. Well, I guess we’re going to be sharing! At least it’ll be warmer in one tent with two people in it…”

There were hints of a blush touching the spurii’s face and she quickly turned away, sliding her backpack off and pulling out the cooking pot and utensils that it held as well as ingredients to start making their meal. It would be a humble stew using dried meat, some root vegetables that she carried and water from her canteen.

She also removed a small hatchet from her backpack and began searching around for wood. After she’d gathered kindling and split some larger pieces, she began to build the fire near the tree stumps. At first, her movements were tentative but as she worked, they got more confident. “It has been quite a while since I built a fire, but it seems to be coming back to me!”

Glancing over her shoulder, she asked, “So how’s that tent coming along, Dante? I was never much good at putting the damn things up.” ”

”Just finishing up,” the athlete replied and wiped his forehead off of small sweat beads. Setting his backpack to rest against the tent he came closer to the fire and sat down next to Aeria.

”I did not really plan for my tent to accomodate more than me, so it might be a bit a cramped in there,” Dante remarked as he looked up to the sky, ”I imagine that view is going to get more beautiful as the night falls.”

“Well as long as you keep your hands to yourself, we’ll get along fine!” She said this with a bright smile on her face and only a slight tinge of warning in her words.

The fire crackled as Aeria tended it and she gazed up, her eyes following Dante’s as she looked into the darkness around her. The evening breeze, while cool, wasn’t unpleasant and she inhaled deeply.

“It’s such a clear night. This is why I love getting out of the city! Do you ever wonder what it’d be like to go up into those stars? They seem so cold and distant, but I’ve heard that they might be some kind of fire.” ”

”Don't be silly, that is just tales they tell to the children,” Dante said with a smile, though he did wander a bit about the what if before setting his gaze more to the task at hand.

“Sometimes children’s tales hold a grain of truth” There was a softness to Aeria’s eyes as she spoke, but she quickly focused on the task at hand. ”

Nodding towards their pot, ”Is that done soon? I am getting a bit peckish,” he finished all the while smiling and beginning to reach for it.

“Yeah it’s done! You wanna be the offical taster then? Go ahead. I hope that it’s at least edible.” Aeria was smiling as she spoke, but there was a slight cast to her expression as if the answer might matter. The dish smelled delicious, but that wasn’t necessarily going to be borne out in the flavour.”

He took a spoonful and rolled the stew in his mouth, while certainly not anything like the fancier dinner they had had at the restaurant, it was certainly edible. There was definitely a balance of natural flavours that complimented each other well. Glancing over at Aeria, the athlete nodded to give his approval of the stew.

”So, I've been meaning to ask, while we were walking, you said you had been on the run, from what if you don't mind me asking?” Dante inquired from amid his eating.

Aeria took her own spoonful of the stew and nodded her approval at it before looking up and meeting Dante’s gaze. There was a pause that drew out almost uncomfortably, but she seemed to make a conclusion and took a breath in before she spoke.

“It’s a long story and some day I’ll tell it in detail, but for now what you need to know is that a group of people is after me in order to use me as a pawn in part of a larger game that they’re playing. They want to force me into a situation where I’m vulnerable and they can get their hands on me.”

Staring into the fire, Aeria sighed. “They’re trying to cut me off from my friends and my support structures right now. I’m trying to stay a step ahead and stop them from doing so. Being out of the city is giving me a chance to escape that pressure.” ”

”Thank you for telling me and I am sorry to have asked of such a heavy topic,” the athlete replied with regret, his thoughts briefly returning to events around Lucror's sport event and the cryptic message he had received from the shady meeting.

“Oh no! I don’t mind talking about it. In fact, it’s probably better that I do talk about it. Bottling it up only makes me feel worse!” Aeria’s face briefly flashed over into a soft smile. ”

”On some days, I feel like a pawn in a larger game, too. I can only imagine how it feels to experience that daily,” he took a pause for a breath. ”If you ever need for someone to listen, I will be there for you,” he finished.

Aeria let out a slow sigh and that same soft, slightly wistful smile touched her lips. “I truly appreciate that, Dante. I mean it.” ”

”Was that part of your reasoning to travel with me? To escape the pressure of the situation at hand?” Dante asked.

“Partially, yes. Of course, it was only a small part of it. The bigger part was wanting to go and explore the world with someone...someone whose company I enjoy. I really mean that too.”

The spurii glanced at her companion and then looked back into the leaping flames of the fire, slowly twirling her spoon in the bowl of stew. ”

A yawn caught the athlete off guard, who then chuckled. He must've been more fatigued than he had thought.

After Aeria had finished, she took some water to douse the campfire and did a small amount if simple tidying by rinsing their dishes, spoons and the cooking vessel with some water to ensure they didn’t attract any unwanted animal visitors. ”

”Oh,guess we did walk a lot today,” the athlete paused and took a look around, barely seeing anything that was not in the light radius of the fire, ”Well this seems like a good time to get some sleep,” he finished and rose up. Walking to their tent, he took off his vest and shirt and stuffed them into the bag that had held his bedroll for a makeshift pillow.

”Well, are you coming?” Dante turned to ask Aeria, his pale skin made to seem even paler by the dim light, though his muscles could still be made out.

Aeria’s face turned red, but she stood anyways and nodded in acquiesence. “Maybe it isn’t very lady-like, but I wasn’t ever much of a lady.”

In the tent, she slipped her outer shirt off, leaving the undershirt on. Her face was still red and she turned away from Dante, shyly, as she clambered under her blanket and made a similar makeshift pillow. ”

”If you want to feel, I don't mind,” the athlete said with an inviting smile.

Aeria laughed. “I can see that you’ve got very lovely muscles from here. I’m glad you’re proud of them.”

Playfully she poked him in the arm. “Yep. I have now confirmed that you are very athletic.”

Wrapping her blankets tightly about herself, she leaned back. Outside the wind rushed through the stand of tall conifers that surrounded their campsite and Aeria let a sigh trickle from her full lips. “Aaah all I can hear is the wind in the trees. It’s so nice not to have to listen to traffic, shouting and street noise, isn’t it?” ”

”Indeed, the calm of nature can help in clearing the mind,” the athlete confirmed. His mind was racing a bit, which caught him off guard. Taking a breath to calm himself and to choose his words carefully.

”Why did you turn away? You don't have to be ashamed of anything, it is just us here,” the athlete turned so that he would look her in the eyes if she were to turn to face him.

“Ashamed? No, I don’t do shame. It’s just that we don’t know each other all that well and...well….it has been a long time since I’ve been this close to anyone physically that I...uh…”

She trailed off and stared red-faced down at her hands which she wrung together. She found herself blushing and when she tried to continue speaking, her mouth worked for a moment but nothing managed to come out. ”

”Don't worry,” the athlete said and calmly putting his hand on her shoulder, ”Let's teach each other, alright?” Dante reassured his companion.

Aeria said nothing, simply placing her hand over Dante’s and squeezing it. She looked across at him and softly nodded. ”


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