Little Silver Bridges
One long week, moving through the East.
Only little villages on their way, and the vast expanses of the East...
The Mount of Sighs was seen far to the West. Such a wonder of nature, pearly white, bare of vegetation... clouds gathered on its peak, where it is said, a great shadowland opens, the final end of all those that climb its peak to leave in the eternal undying grave and heaven of such adventurers. Cherry River was past... a river that fills with cherries on autumn, one for each daughter its goddess ever gave birth to or adopted, one for each lover. Picking one brought curse to the one who did so, or the goddess' favor - thankfully for the group, those like Leaf and Wrynn could not find out, as it was, clearly, not atumn. They went past lands where herd-gods fought by mortal proxies, in ritual battle-festivals each year, starting with wooden weapon blows and ending with dance and mead.
They walked, and talked... and prepared.
Leaf spent most of his time slowed down by his injuries, those that would have killed lesser men. He spent long times meditating, practicing failed katas, understanding his body... and willing his essence to mend his wounds. Willing himself to be whole. For four days, that brought nothing.
And by the seventh day, he was whole.
Fangs-of-Winter: Every night when they would rest, the Wolf-Bitch walked off alone into the forrest, and felled a tree. She withheld her divinity, and with her might attempted to shove them to the ground. They resisted, as trees had deep roots and were hardy things. However, as she trained thus, she learnt how to focus the power of her muscles thusly, and she knew she could force any foe to kneel.
When she had fallen the tree, she leapt into the branches of its still standing brothers. And she practiced leaping from branch to brance, attempting to keep her balance on smaller and smaller limbs. She oft fell, and snarled when she did so, but she always returned to the tree to attempt it again. She did it until her Essence lent her muscles protean agility, until she could pluck an egg out of a birds nest as she balanced on the slightest of branches.
And finally, she fucked.
Each night, she would lure Leaf off with teasing looks and taunting promises. Each night, they would frenzy. His fist struck her, her claws raked his flesh. A skilled knee into her abdomine. They wrestled. She was slammed into a tree. He was thrown into a stone bottomed pond.
The countryside suffered for their rutting.
- Sapphire is her usual demure self on the trip, fetching and doing chores for the group as needed, practising the martial arts each evening, asking about the events that transpired at the party and listening wide-eyed to the description of the fighting and the ghastly vine monster, looking at the book but unable to make head or tail of it. "It must be something important if they're going to that much trouble over it."
She picks up a vague impression of what Leaf and Fangs-of-Winter do each night, and is confused, nervous and fascinated in equal measures, wanting to sneak a peek to try to figure out whether they're fighting, making love or both... but suppresses the impulse. *
Wrynn Diermidis: One might say Wrynn spent his days of traveling in secluded meditation, focusing on flows of essence and the body... Assuming of course, by secluded you meant tucked away in Snowy's robe or Gin's hair-- by meditation you mean sleeping-- and the bodies you're talking about are soft and curvaceous.
It's more work than it sounds, honest. Were he anyone else, the constant games of 'where's the book?' might have gotten on other people's nerves, but it's hard to stay upset at something so fluffy, cute, and good with his tongue.
Gin: Regiment, routine, and ritual were the bread and butter of a Companion. Even on the road - particularly on the road - there were formalities to be performed, holy places and days to observe, rites to over-see. Gin's days were long. From morning tea till eventual bed-time prayers, the kitsune was busy around camp and caravan. Directing her own small squadron of servants, overseeing the proper offerings to the local gods, and of course taking time where and when she could to continue Fawn and Sapphire's instruction. She over-saw a wedding at one point in the trip, giving the Fox-Lords blessing to a pair of plainsmen children on their day of joining. It had been a touching ceremony, one which Leaf was thankfully busy elsewhere to avoid attending. It would have been far less touching, and the parents of those being wed far less generous in their offering of foodstuffs for the trip, if the bridegroom had been cuckolded mid-ceremony.
Leaf, she found, was often "busy" during the trip. Gin was somewhat grateful for Fangs-of-Winter distracting the Solar so often. Her job had never been easier without him constantly hanging over her shoulder, looking to cop a feel or tuck away into the back of her travel wagon for a mid-morning, noon, afternoon, evening and midnight quickie. She still had to deal with Leaf's students as well as her own though. They were little better than their master when it came to keeping out of trouble. Trying to seduce the sons and daughters of the ranchers they passed. Trying to steal food or other things from the homes and hamlets they came across. At one point, one young man had come running back into their midst leading a goat with mistletoe on it's horns. Gin had yet to figure out just where he had gotten it from, though she suspected it had been someone's ritual offering to some deity or another until the boy had "liberated" it.
The only time it seemed she had for herself was late into the evening, when the others had already bedded down and Leaf was too busy recovering from his "work outs" with Fangs to pester her for sex. Alone under the moonlight, Gin meditated. She couldn't say that Ivory's death had weighed heavy on her mind. There was no guilt for her failure to protect him, but there had been disappointment in her inability to even realize that the ambush was taking place until after the fact. So, the kitsune began to try to focus her awareness outward more. Each night, she sat and observed the world, watching it through half-open eyes, feeling it through every pore on her skin. Tense, wary, she tried to learn to catch falling leafs with her tails at first, then to bat away the specks of seed pods carried on the wind, and then finally to know when the wind itself was coming and to control the area around her even before the breeze could reach her.
She knew the lesson had been learned on the night before, when Leaf snuck out of his golden castle to attempt to molest her from behind and she sent the finally healed and healthy Solar flying into the grass. Leaf had not shared her amusement.
Narrator: It is soon that they come to the Amaru River, and the the Aquamarine Crossing...
A great Bridge built on the First Age over the Amaru River, made of pure Aquamarine, of more than should exist... an arc of silver is the gate to the bridge, which is large enough for five Guild Wagons to go through at once... but yet, there is one large line to it. On the shores of the river, people make lily-filled boats and sacrifice to the current... many people sit down and pray, and clay and rock statues to the bridge-god, very new, can be seen around the path... and on the almost-temple-city growing around it, as people pray, and only a few, slowly, go through the Silver Gate... a gate filled with water on the air, a thin menbrane people have to go through...
As the Chosen walk their way towards it, a man in robes in the colors of the river approaches them.
"Have you come to cross the bridge, oh honored ones?"
Gin: "We have," Gin answered, stepping forward ahead of the others to meet the man before he could draw too close to their odd assemblage. She alone, apart from Leaf, could afford close scrutiny, as her Tell and the features inherited from her sire were one and the same. Besides which, she little trusted the likes of Fangs to deal with the man in a diplomatic fashion and they hardly needed to explain to an irate bridge god why they had thrown one of his servants into the river, possibly without his head.
"What name should we honor in prayer and offering before making the crossing?"
Narrator: The priest watches her... trying not to allow his gaze to stray too far... and failing at that, even as he takies notice of her tails... "May I ask your heritage, my lady?" He asks, looking behind her... "And how many are with you?"
Fangs-of-Winter: She began to pace back and forth, her lips curled into a snarl. How dare this insolent little man bar their passage! Were she not an honorable person, she would merely rip his throat out for his insolence!
Wrynn Diermidis: Wrynn huddles down in his bosom bunker, certain Gin is collected enough to not count or Luna forbid, name him.
Gin: "Your question is as forward and impolite as your gaze," she answered coolly, giving the man a look of mild disapproval. "But I know the need to be wary of strange travelers upon the road, so I will answer. I am Gin, daughter of the Fox Lord Rei-Lai and one of the Nine Companions of Great Forks."
"With me, my entourage," she gestured back to the others with a wave of her fingers. "Whose names and numbers are too great to listed individually. We are on our way back to Great Forks, as my current contract has but recently expired."
Narrator: "Well, you see, the price of passage has to be paid individually. You are in luck, my lady, for the Great Lady of Aquamarine, looks well upon the children of her divine brethren, and you shall pay less. It is still a pricy tithe for all of this entourage..."
Snowy: Meanwhile, in the week of travelling time, Snowy had been mostly concerned with the book, reading and understanding the passages she could, trying to decode the passages she couldn't. It was slow, it was boring, and she too took many breaks, seeing as the opportunities for relaxation to be ample at this point, and they may not be available later. Snowy wasn't used to travelling like this, travelling like a *human*, so she she'd always shift into her owl form for sleeping, hiding herself well and waking ready for travel refreshed.
Gin: "Will it?" Gin asked, an eyebrow arching. "Perhaps then it would be politic to speak with the Lady of Aquamarine herself. I am certain after some polite discourse, we could reach a more mutually beneficial arrangement."
Narrator: "You wish to speak with the Goddess?" The man archs an eyebrow. He seems to not have heard of the Companions, as his face clearly showed he thought she was going above her station. "The main temple is that one, the blue pagoda over there... if you wish an audience with her, you have to go, and pray..."
Gin: "Then it will be so," she answered, waving him away with a practiced gesture of dismissal and sauntering back to her companions. "It would seem that the goddess of this bridge has worked for herself a lovely little extortion scheme. Not an exceptionally clever one, but surprisingly effective by the looks of the surroundings."
Fangs-of-Winter: She steps forward then, "And what shall this tithe be, before we beg favors of siblings?" She stated, crossing her arms under her chest, and arched a white eyebrow.
- Snowy finally comes forward from the crowd, leaning on her staff as she looks over the man, then she looks at Gin, then looks back to the man "Don't bother paying for me, I'll make my own way across, if you don't mind."
- Sapphire listened curiously to the whole exchange, taking mental notes, and rather impressed by Gin's attitude that talking to a goddess is going to be a chat between equals. If alone she'd probably have just swum across, but she likes Gin's idea.
Seven Leaf Sorrow: Leaf shrugs. "Beg favors of siblings?"
"With all the people giving prayer and sacrifice, seems like you either pay or pray. Pray seems to give people who make people happy... inns, restaurants... this'll be a village in no time. Guess people benefit from extorsion, huh?" He shrugs again. "I'm for beating up of anything and everything that stands on our way accross."
- Sapphire is unsurprised by Leaf's idea, and suspects Fangs-of-Winter will probably be all in favor of it too.
- Snowy sighs a little and looks to Leaf "You can't beat up all your problems, so unless you too can fly, or turn into a fish, I suggest we do indeed have Gin seek an audience, or failing that, simply pay what is asked."
Wrynn Diermidis: Surprsinginly, Wrynn is for the idea too-- in a roundabout way. Of course, when Wrynn did it, there wouldn't be anyone in the way, so the point was moot. As it was though, he was likely to get across for free anyway, so why chance it?
Gin: "That is hardly necessary, master Leaf." Though, she was unsurprised by the suggestion. Doubtless the moment he had heard it was a bridge goddess, he'd started forming plans of battle and molestation. His thoughts were fairly simple to follow, in that fashion. "If you give me the evening free from our contract, I believe I can arrange alternate means of payment that should allow us all to cross without violence."
Seven Leaf Sorrow: He sighs. "You never let me have any fun. But... we are on an important mission, and discretion is good, right? So I guess we can just do it your way... you get your evening, Gin. Taking one of your apprentices with ya, or goin' alone?" He looks at his students behind... "Guess I'll get time to beat them all up, them. They'll be fine by tomorrow, with some luck."
Fangs-of-Winter: She growled in her throat. "I don't trust this. I shall go with Gin, and look after her." She glares over her shoulder at Leaf, thinking it what he should have done.
She flexes her claws once, twice. "With your permission, of course," she says to the Kitsune.
Gin: "Actually, mistress Fangs, I was hoping you would accompany me," Gin looked up at the fierce barbarian woman and gave her a slow burning smile. "And Sapphire, Fawn, the both of you will come as well. As observers. It will be a good opportunity for both of you to witness the diplomacy of spirits."
- Sapphire perks up. "Oh, thank you mistress!" She's definitely curious about how things like this are done. *
Tattered Fawn: "Really?" Fawn perks up behind Sapphire, making her way to Gin, flashing a smile that was half a grin, the tanned and white parts of her face accomodating it in such a cute way, "We are going to meet a goddess? Cool. I'll see if I can remember any of the pointers..."
- Snowy just yawns a touch at this whole thing, she *is* a goddess, so she's really starting to wonder why these people are going so crazy, but it wasn't her problem, not yet anyway. She looks to Fawn "You've met a goddess, so this would be your first real spirit goddess."
Tattered Fawn: "I did? When?" She looks at Snowy, eyes wide, wondering... when did that meeting happen, that she forgot? Certainly, she did not mean Gin... Gin was powerful, but... well. Much like Leaf, it was just wasn't... godhood, you know? Even though it is pretty and all... but who did they meet in the way that could have been a goddess?
- Snowy just smirks a little "I am worshipped as goddess by my people in Respllendant Peak."
Wrynn Diermidis: A faint snickering is heard from the general region of the goddesses posterior.
Fangs-of-Winter: She frowns a little bit at this. Was the Kitsune being gracious, or manipulative. She narrowed her eyes slightly. It was very hard to tell with her.
Tattered Fawn: Immediatly, Fawn takes a more wary look to Snowy Silver Night. He takes a little step back, and carefully, not trying to stare, looks at the lady uppp and dooowwn... well, it is true that they had wondrous powers. Her kitten was a handsome man, after all. And had such manners! And she was the most distant of them all, staying so far away.. always tucked in her quarters, doing... whatever she did. To do with the book. But still... for all that, it was like she didn't do... goddess-ish things! She got Fawn's wary respect, but... "And can you, like... hear the prayers? Do you do any goddess-ish things?"
Gin: "Never mind it, Fawn," Gin said, placing a hand on the fae-girl's shoulder and steering her away from Snowy before the girl could get too caught up in the conversation. "Worship and godhood do not come inherently hand in hand. Even master Leaf had worshipers at one point, if you recall. Despite his claims to the contrary, I can assure you he remains quite... ungodly."
"Now, let us go change. We will want to meet this Lady of Aquamarine properly attired..." Gin paused, her eyes searching Fang's up and down.
- Snowy just smirks a bit more and looks over the river, sighing a touch "Well, kitten, would you like to see the other side?"
Tattered Fawn: Fawn's clothes were for traveling - a short, narrow skirt covering her front and back, brown and dull, and a white, sleeveless shirt. Despite Gin's advices, she did not even wear anything that highlighted her clash of colors - the white that went from her inner thighs to the front of her chest and cupped her breasts like a dress. It was all, but the part on her legs hidden in the practical, bland clothes. "What? I'm not dirty those pretty robes on the road!"
Fangs-of-Winter: The large, well muscled barbarian woman noted this with concern. Oh no... they were going to make her frilly!
Wrynn Diermidis: Wrynn's head pops out Snowy's sleeve and looks up at her with a smile. "Oh we must-- anything to thumb my nose at a bridge god."
- Snowy laughs a little and nods "Now, did you want to go the wet way or the dry way?"
Gin: That smile crept back onto Gin's face as she stepped closer and slipped her arm around Fang's own, petting the taller woman's hand in a soft, placating fashion. "You too, of course, mistress Fangs. You would look lovely in red."
As she started to lead Fang's away, Gin cocked her head back and gave Fawn a stern glance. "I do not recall asking if you wished to change, Fawn. Now come along. Sapphire, you as well. Let us make this swift."
Wrynn Diermidis: Wrynn licks at his paw absently "Oh, dry for sure. If I want you wet-- you'll know it."
Fangs-of-Winter: She looked desperately over her shoulder Leaf.
Do something, you bastard!!
She looked back toward Gin and bit her lower lip. She... could say she was alergic! Yes, alergic!
- Snowy laughs a little, getting to show off her beautiful white wings with black speckles for the first time as they pop into existance in a flash of white light. She stretches them out, giving them a few experimental flaps, then looks down to the kitten "Hold on kitten, you're going for a little bit of a ride, then."
Seven Leaf Sorrow: Leaf does something alright.
A step foward, a pat on Gin's shoulder, and a sneer. "Dress her pink. Lacy and frilly too."
Gin: "Pink?" Gin echoes, her ears perking up. She looks Fang's over again, slower this time, considering carefully...
- Sapphire follows Gin, glancing at Fangs. A less well trained girl would have started giggling hysterically; as it is, it takes a considerable exertion of willpower to keep her face composed.
Tattered Fawn: "Oh, sorry... thought it was..." She says, looking as Snowy spreads her wings and flies...
"Well... she is Goddess-ish now, I guess..."
And as for Fangs, she does not giggle histerically.... but oh, she does giggle!
Fangs-of-Winter: YOU WILL SUFFER TIL YOUR LAST BREATH, SOLAR!! she mentally screamed at Leaf.
In the unescapable iron grasp of Gin's silken hand, she was dragged off toward certain doom.
Surely, the bell tolled even now as she walked.
- Snowy shrugs, assuming the kitten had found himself a good spot to sit down in, so with a leap she takes to the air, heading up and over, seeing exactly what they were going to be coming into, once the rest of them headed over the bridge.
- Seven Leaf Sorrow , on the other hand, laughs as loud as he can
Wrynn Diermidis: Wrynn sits-- even before Snowy jumps-- perfectly upright in the small of her back. Wind whips through his fuzzy snow-colored fur, but he doesnt' budge so much as an inch save to give off a little "Wheee!" as Snowy jumps.
Narrator: Below Snowy, the impromptu way-town - with its couple inns and restaurants and all-purpose stores - stops their prayings and such to look up, pointing in wonder to the flying woman in barbarian robes... with such great wings. No one there has the eyes to see the kitten, and they go over the bridge... a wonder in itself. So grand, and so... clean. Compared to the dirty road and semi-town around it, the margins filled with remains of sacrifices, flowers and remains of little boats or true boats, it is... almost alien. Different from all around it. The great gates filled with the menbrane of water are two, and great poles raise from its limits, forming banners of countries history has forgotten, destroyed time and time again, close by.
And on the other side... pretty much the same, really. People praying, putting their offerings to the river... here, however, they can see they have some forest and a small chain of mountains on their way... their peaks seeming like the beaks of birds. The inn-restaurants are probably better this side, however... such a scent of apple pie!
And all are looking towards Snowy, all the same...
- Snowy flies over to the other side, simply looking around, not really knowing *why* everyone's staring at her, its not really like this would be *that* odd of an occurance. She shrugs mentally and turns around, heading back to the group, landing in front of Leaf, almost exactly where she came from. "Looks good, seems to be better inns the other side too, I suggest we head over sooner rather than later."
Seven Leaf Sorrow: Leaf had just finished laughing as Snowy came back, and he looked over... "Really? That's great!" He says, patting his stomach and hearing its vocal complaints. "Just hope Gin godes fast. Of course, seeing Fangs in frilly ping by itself will be worth the wait..."
"But do we even got the money to eat very well?"
Gin: Gin's servants had gone to the river's edge and fetched back bowls of water. Behind a hastily arranged screen at the back of the Companion's wagon, the handful of young woman took wash cloth and towel to their Exalted mistress and her companions.
Gin had shed her clothing, down to only the white linen wrapping on her forearms and thighs that held her sai's and fans in place. Arms stretched out to her side, Gin stood patiently as one of the servant girl's sponged sweat and travel dust from her skin. The river water was like ice upon her skin, making the fur on her tails stand on end as the towel caressed across her, but the cold was refreshingly invigorating and her skin glowed for it.
"You need not worry too much of what was spoken, mistress Fangs," Gin told the other Lunar, looking back over her shoulder at the silver-haired barbarian. "Pink would ill suit you and it would be best to keep something of that wonderfully savage look about you, simply to throw this goddess a bit off guard."
Fangs-of-Winter: "I'll be Ascended when we enter. I'm not coprimising that." She said with a bit of a huff, "If you can find something that can cope with me like that, then you have my blessing." Her form seemed to swell, her muscles rippling. Still, it gave her a slightly more shapely figure, and made her already substancial presence stand out all the more. She flexed the talons on her fingers again.
She smiled her challenge at Gin. Take your best shot.
Wrynn Diermidis: Wrynn peeks over the side of his curvy chariot and takes in the smells of apple pie in the cool, clear air. He wasn't one that flew all too often, but he certainly enjoyed it when he did-- and when he didn't have to do the flapping, of course. Some birds could sleep flying. Birds who are otherwise kittens... not so much. "If it were just the four of us, we'd like as not have been here and gone days ago or more. We might as well enjoy the pace these mortal hangers-on set for us-- ooh, hey, land over there--" the kitty hunkers down next to Snowy's head and points with a stubby little paw. "Those meat pies look good."
- Snowy nods to Leaf, then Wrynn. "Well, maybe we should wait for you on the other side then?"
Seven Leaf Sorrow: "No ride for me? I'm hungry too, you know. Especially if it's on you."
- Snowy laughs a little "Well, I think you prefer a much rougher ride than I would provide, plus you can't turn into a nice lite kitten for the trip, and you have all these students to keep company. Though, maybe later, of course, if your current rides don't object."
Seven Leaf Sorrow: "They know how to share." He flashes his best grin, pushing some bangs off his forehead, the iron-colored bandana over his forehead hiding the Mark of Dawn, "And so do I. But... ah well. Least bring one nice pie for me, then?"
- Snowy sighs a touch "Pie is heavy, you sure you wouldn't rather have a cake?"
Seven Leaf Sorrow: "Aren't you a goddess? Make pies fly, or something!" He says with a long gesture, opening his arms.... then letting them fall. "Alright, alright. A cake. But it's gotta have chocolate in it!" He points his finger to her, close to her face, face as if he was making some great heroic speech, "I'm settling for no less!"
- Snowy smirks a bit "I can't make things fly, not yet anyway, and not besides myself. And I'll see what I can do about your cake or pie. Ready for another trip, kitten?"
Gin: And so she did. Turning around, both to offer her back to the girl attending her and to examine Fang's new form more carefully, the Companion was nonplused by the transformation. The sari that the other Lunar woman currently wore was flattering enough to her figure, but not precisely what Gin had in mind for this meeting. One could almost see the wheels in the kitsune's head turning, devious machines of trickery and strife, drawing her beautiful lips into a slim, wicked smile.
"Oh yes," she answered, her hooded gaze alight. "I believe I could find something..."
Wrynn Diermidis: Wrynn shakes his head sternly "No. I must have those pies". The kitten hops off Snowy's shoulder and lands in human form in a crouch-- a slightly more bouncy human form than Snowy has seen before dressed in another silky Kimono like she'd worn the night of the party, though this one was a soft amber, rather than green. Before anyone can comment, she springs out of her crouch into a run-- though her feet hardly seem to touch the ground but once or twice. In a few moments, she reaches the river's edge and jumps with a cute cry of "PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!"
And she falls.
And falls and falls and falls.
Then her feet touch lightly on the other side.
Narrator: On each end of the bridge, there are two pillars. The arcs come from them, and atop the arcs, a small pillar raises. Atop each and every one are statues of women, covered in scarves of flowing water that cover all of her parts, held in her hands like they grip a snake, a whirlwind, something that coils around them. It is all made of aquamarines, but their eyes actually show the crystalline mien of blue jade.
And as Wrynn finishes his horizontal fall and lands on the other side... the one on the right edge, the closer edge to them on the other side... turns.
"You intend to break the tithe, Moon-Goddess? You intend to flaunt the Goddesses' rules?"
Her eyes shine in the most dangerous shade of lighting. "Do you?"