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Fantasy To Hunt or Be Hunted (1x1 RP with Mystics Apprentice and Thanny)

Sub Genres
  1. Adventure
  2. Magical
  3. Romance

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
In a war-torn world ravaged by greed, there dwelled three countries sharing a solitary stretch of land. Fomoria was the greatest of them all, both in wealth, power, and expansion. Being the most populated and with the vast majority of resources, Fomoria was renown for their militia, weapons, technological advancements, and science. Sharing its borders were two smaller countries: Kikioni, a nation lying to the south, and Krux, which dwelt in the very center of both countries.

Kikioni was what many would consider a third-world country; primitive, overpopulated, with not enough resources, and generally behind in technological advancements and technology. However, whatever Fomoria lacked in livestock, Kikioni had. Further, the people of Kikioni were highly spiritual, and believed that they needed only the favor of their ancestors to survive, and that both technology and wealth were unnecessary for a fulfilling life. As such, they had quite the untapped supply of oil, something that Fomoria and Krux were all too keenly aware of.

And last but not least lay Krux: the Crossroads. The country between. This country relied highly on tradition and negotiation. Its king, Iskandir, favored to work with Fomoria rather than conflict with them. As such, Krux has suffered a great amount of loss of land, resources, and, sadly, citizens. The king traded out many of its own people for wealth and supplies, leaving their fate up to Fomorians to use as they saw fit, whether it be slave traders, laborers, or miners. Beyond this, Krux considered themselves to be in a perfect equilibrium, the fine balance between modern and tradition. Technology, science, and spirituality. There were the highly wealthy and the impoverished, with very few in between.

And amidst all of those countries, were the mages.

Gifted with the powers of the Four Dragons, humans were chosen to wield power beyond that of technology or science. Some called it a blessing, others considered it a curse. In Kikioni, they considered one with magic to be "demon possessed" and would be buried alive. Whereas in Fomoria, ones with such powers were considered a rare phenomenon, something to be cherished and promoted. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for Fomorians to attempt "breeding" mages from bloodlines which seemed to have stronger ties to the magic of the dragons. They believed such individuals from these bloodlines had been known as Dragon Walkers, those who were descendants of the dragons themselves in human form. Others believe that more magic was present in some select areas, such as the shrines of the Four Dragons. Regardless of the reason, magic was either the bane or blessing of your existence, depending on which side of the border that you lived.

Our story starts in modern day Fomoria, on a crisp winter morning. A sheen of fresh snow crunched under the footsteps of a dark-haired young woman and her father, the branches whistling in the breeze. Wrapped in furs and laden with dried meat and berries, the two made their way further up the slope until, finally, they made it to the peak. Letting out a long, exhausted sigh, the woman dropped her pack at her feet and adjusted the bow over her shoulder.

"Wait here, Father," she said, hauling herself up a branch and straddling the limb. "I'm going to do some scouting. If you see anyone, don't forget your knife, and--"

"Inari." The elder man shook his head, patting her thigh. He looked worn and frail, his gray beard scraggly and in desperate need of a trim. His blue eyes were an identical match to her own, as was the heart shape of his face, the sharp pointed nose. "You have been too good to me. But worry not; no one has followed us. Only a mad fool would even attempt to have found us in that storm, even if it were discovered that we are gone."

"That is what I am afraid of," Inari murmured darkly, shaking herself free of her father's gentle hand and hurling herself higher up the tree. Fatigue wracked her entire body, her muscles stiffening up from the cold seeping in. If she were normal, she likely would've died by then. But she was not normal. She was hunted. Cursed, demonic, unwanted. At one time she was a hunter, the best in her clan, and arguably in all of Kikioni. But eventually it was discovered that her senses were good. Too good, to be normal. She could hear from miles away, see far beyond that of the naked human eye's capacity. She could taste even the smallest traces of impurities. Such things were grounds for death. And as such, she was sentenced to death. And would've been killed had it not been for the scheming of her father and best friend. Now, they were on the run for their lives, to start anew in a place where they could live in peace.

After struggling, climbing, slipping, and scaling, Inari finally made it to the top, her long dark braid swishing over her shoulder as she made the final haul. She carefully stood on the branch with nimble feet, bracing herself with a hand on the trunk of the tree. She shielded her eyes with her other hand, eyes widening. Her pupils grew and shrunk repeatedly, irises swirling like discs. She could see, beyond the forests, trees, and past the rooftops of the greatest city in Fomoria: the capital city named Spiritvael. The streets had been plowed, carriages rolling along the cobblestone streets. Men and women conducted business, trading, teaching. A man and his child walked out of an apothecary, *the* apothecary that she had visited many years ago. She nearly fumbled for her balance at the memory, her gaze lingering on the building a moment before scanning more pertinent information on the city. Breaches in security, openings in walls, alleyways, most crowded streets.

"Here we come, Fomoria. Where I'll truly, finally be free."
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The Destined Undestined
"Keep your money. This is on the house," voiced an older man in a black overcoat, a rising smile on his lips as he witnessed the shock on the other's face, a young woman with hair the shade of dark honey. Beneath her a child matching her hair clung to her leg and stood dumbly, no more than four and, while attentive, not understanding the transaction between the two.

"Thank you, Rhines," she replied in shaky tones, her eyes dropping to her moppet. "This would go far to improve his condition, I am certain."

"The materials are quite cheap to come by. It is the disease that is odd. Hogsblight is a rare issue among humans, but it occurs every now and again," the doctor replied, looking between the both of them with an expression of seriousness. "The pustules will die down, as will the fever and body aches, but bed rest is what young Roland needs. Your husband appears to be in the early stages, but it is milder for adults than for children. Still, do not forget the portioning, a teaspoon and a half of syrup for a child and two tablespoons for an adult. If the symptoms stop, only continue use for a day more. Any longer can lead to issues later on in life. If it is difficult to get down, add some honey or cane sugar."

The woman's eyes clouded with thought, taking notes of everything in her head. Rhines knew she had a good memory and packed away his materials carefully in his apothecary satchel. Glass bottles were carefully pocketed separately, padded by leather and covered with furs to shield from the cold.

With the tinny ringing of a bell, the entry door opened to showcase a young man coming in from the snowy streets, already unraveling himself from his winter clothes. Pale blond hair was revealed after doffing his coat and scarf, and his grey eyes darted up to meet the doctor's, embarrassment within them. Rhines, however, did not seem fazed.

"Anyways, I must close up shop for now," he continued, offering another smile at the young woman. "Please come in later to communicate how the two are doing, or if you need more syrup."

"Thank you again, doctor," replied she, wrapping her child in the scarf that was tucked beneath her arm. "Come, Roland. We should get going to see Daddy."

~~ ~~ ~~

Once the patients had left, the newcomer fully shed his winter gear and placed them on a rack near the fireplace. Unraveled now, anyone could see that he was almost a mirror match for his father the doctor in his younger days with the exception of what he gained from his mother: his ever-pale eyes and hair. The doctor, however, sighed and turned over the sign at the door to "Closed."

"I could have used your help earlier, Hughes," Rhines said as he leaned against the outside wall, letting the cold from that far extremity of the room seep into his back. "Had you been here an hour earlier, you could have made short work of holding John Brown down for dressing an infection."

"That bear of a man was scheduled for this morning?" the youth asked, growing red in embarrassment. "I thought he was due for tomorrow."

"Yes, but that does not explain your tardiness," chided the doctor sternly. "What were you doing? Off moving heavy furniture around again?"

"And a number of other things for the inn and stable," Hughes answered honestly. "But I did get the ingredients as well. They were not an easy find. The hawkers moved shop again because the guards gave them trouble for loitering."

"Ah." The doctor looked over the materials in the leather bag that was on the young man's shoulder and was tossed his way. Everything seemed mostly shielded from the damp, but the moisture seeped through the clothes. "Not in prime condition, but they should be good still with a little heat. Thanks, son. Would you mind keeping the shop while I collect some additional things?"

"Not at all. For how long will you be gone?"

"Long enough for some riffraff to try to get some free materials at the apothecary for their own purposes, selling or finding their own brand of ecstasy. You'll keep them at bay, won't you?"

"Who do you think I am?" retorted Hughes with a smile and crossed arms. "A pushover? I am not like I once was."

That earned a grin from the older man.

"Definitely not. You are better in nearly every way, but do keep some of your boyish traits. When you get to be my age, you'll miss them." He dawdled for a bit with his equipment before reaching for his coat, scarf, and gloves by the fireside, each wonderfully warmed. "I'm ducking out. Beware who you let in, son."

The bell at the door chimed with the door's opening and closing, and with the turn of the lock with a key Hughes was alone.
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Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
The turrets of the grand cathedral cast long shadows over Inari and her father, the chilly wind whipping at their hair and furs. Alongside the huntress her father let out a visible shudder, rubbing his hands together for warmth.

" 'Course we chose the coldest day in winter to arrive," he said with a chuckle, a feeble attempt to break the melancholy which hung thick in the air, a fog between them. "Though at least they clear the roads decently here."

That was true, in stark contrast to their motherland. Within this past hour alone Inari had seen two horse-drawn carts wheeling snow rollers, flattening the snow so that those with a carriage, horse, or simply travelers on foot would have an easier time traversing the streets.

It was noontime, and the streets were bustling with people. Inari caught the smell of fresh-baked goods wafting through the air from a nearby bakery, as well as the scent of roasted coffee beans that were freshly ground and being brewed at a nearby stall. Inari's tribe had a taste for tea as opposed to coffee, the huntress having had perhaps only two cups of coffee in her lifetime, and yet the aroma of coffee beans was a distinct one that she wouldn't ever forget--and in fact enjoyed.

As they moved through the streets, Inari couldn't help noticing that the people were dressed rather differently from those of Kikioni. Tight-fitting corsets, large hoop skirts, and long coat-tails with trousers surrounded her, along with many top-hats on well-dressed gentleman buying newspapers from a nearby stand. Suddenly Inari felt self-conscious of her crude fur coat that she had made herself, from a fine wolf that she had hunted two summers ago, along with her thick woolen pants and bulky, fur-lined boots. It hadn't occurred to her how much of an outsider her and her father would appear upon arriving in the capital. Perhaps clothes would be a good first step in getting settled.

The sounds of her stomach rumbling made her mutter darkly under her breath. Perhaps clothes would be a good second step. Food first.

Inari's gaze surveyed their surroundings. Few birds were left this far north at this time of year, and the lakes were frozen over. Hunting would not be a good option, especially not here in the city. They had already burned through their rations of dried meat and bread, so they would have to purchase something. The huntress withdrew her pouch of only a handful of gold coins, the currency within Kikioni. She was uncertain wether any vendor would even accept it here in Fomoria, or how much she could buy after a currency conversion. As she calculated this in her mind, musing over the possibilities, she noticed her father slump to the ground beside her, propping his arms on his knees. Her brows knitted in concern as she turned to him, though he waved a hand dismissively.

"It's been a lot of walking for an old man," he said, smiling kindly at his daughter. "Don't mind me. I'm fine. Where did you have in mind for us to set up camp?"

"For now, in the forest due west," Inari answered, pointing in the general direction of trees. "It is on the outskirts of Spiritvael, and should do well for us until I'm able to acquire work and we can arrange lodging. But first"--she slung her bow over her shoulder and set her belongings down beside her father--"you need to eat. Wait here."

Brushing stray dark hairs from her face and absently fidgeting with her braid, Inari made her way over to the bakery whose bread she smelled from miles away--quite literally.

A bell rang as she entered the quaint building, and the smells in there immediately wanted to make her buy everything. Brownies, cookies, pastries, breads . . . . They all seemed so delicious on a stomach that had seldom ate anything for the past two weeks. Humbly, she took a loaf of bread and made her way over to the counter, which was managed by a boy appearing no older than sixteen years of age. His red hair was cut short and curled at his ears, freckles covering nearly every square inch of his face.

"Hello," she greeted, gingerly placing the loaf of bread in front of her. "My father and I were traveling north, and have yet to convert my money to your currency. I was wondering if you would take this?" She withdrew a single gold coin from her pouch and held it up for the boy to see. He squinted, as if trying to make out what sort of object she was offering him, before shaking his head.

"We only accept notes, ma'am. Gold like that has to be traded at the jeweler's."

"Oh." Inari tried her best not to appear crestfallen. "And where can I find a jeweler that's open?"

The youth shrugged, gaze shifting toward the invisible line of customers behind her, as though she were wasting his time and there were others that were waiting on his service. "I don't know."

"Is there any way that I could get this loaf of bread now and pay you back once I convert my gold into notes, then?" she asked hopefully. The boy opened his mouth, as if to immediately protest, before she quickly continued on, as if to not allow him the chance. "I promise that I will return. I will even leave my turquoise ring with you as a good faith payment--"

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but it doesn't work like that here." The boy shook his head. "If you don't have the money, I can't give you anything. I'm sorry."

"But I do have the money! I just have to take it to the jeweler's, like you said."

"Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it's a pawn shop that converts gold into notes."

"A what?"

As if sensing trouble, a tall older woman swept over to the counter in a quick, single step, reminding Inari oddly of a bat swooping off a ledge before soaring into the sky. Her and the boy shared the same red hair; she assumed this to probably be his mother. "I am sorry, but we cannot help you here. If you don't have the money to pay for your bread, I must ask you to leave."

"But like I've been saying, I do have the money, it's just not converted."

The woman smiled, though there was no warmth in it. She pointed at the door with one hand, the other snatching the bread that Inari had placed on the counter, as though fearing Inari would take it and bolt out the door. "If you will excuse us, we have other paying customers to attend to."

Hot tears burned in Inari's eyes as her hands balled into fists at her sides. If this was only the beginning of Spiritvael, how would the rest of their stay be? Was she completely naive in thinking that they could start a new life here, a better one?
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The Destined Undestined
In a strange twist of fate, Rhines passed by the establishment where Inari and her father stopped by, following the arterial roads to the main streets where his business lay. Had he known what was happening, perhaps he would have done something about it, but he did not hear the altercation, his eyes glued vacantly -- or perhaps merely fixedly -- to the snowy and treacherous trodden path before him as he trod on.

One, however, was within earshot and perked up at the conversation from eyeing some herbal bread of his own, his dark gaze rounded by shadows catching sight of the young woman new to Spiritvael. A two-toned sun hat sat unseasonably upon his wild and long brown hair dyed in some spots a dull indigo. About nineteen years in age, he dressed in what appeared to be his finest rags, a coat long torn by much use. For the moment he had full attention not on himself, howerver, but on Inari, eyes bathetic and ponderous, before approaching the counter with a grin.

"How now, Rosemary, you'll lose a customer double-quick that way!" he chided, leaning on the glass and waggling a pointer finger at the shopkeep. "Not very entrepreneur o' you. I'll pay for the lady's bread so she can eat, change out her money, 'n' buy more bread from here if she wants, innat right, miss?"

His attention went back to Inari as he spoke, handing her a few crumpled-up notes from his pants pocket that should be just enough to buy the bread and something extra if need be.

"Varna's me name, Varna Husk," he continued, ignoring the woman and her son at the counter for now. "Iffin you get a chance to pay me back, now you knows my moniker, though I intend my name to be famous one o' these days."

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
The baker, Rosemary, blinked twice, surprised at Varna's interjection. Her surprise turned to irritation quickly, however, as she flourished a hand at Varna, as though he were a pest that she wished to swat away.

"You would change your tone if you saw the amount of beggars that wandered in my store everyday," she murmured through a smile of gritted teeth. She held out her hand for the payment, begrudgingly, looking back and forth between Varna and Inari expectantly. Inari's eyes widened in surprise at Varna's kindness, hesitantly taking the notes and handing the due amount to the woman. With a smile of bared teeth, the baker extended the bread to Inari, murmuring a "thanks, come again" that sounded more like a threat than an actual show of gratitude. Inari bit her lip, lowered her gaze, and quickly moved away from the counter, eager to leave the scent of baking bread that once beckoned her and now threatened to strangle her. Once outside and in the fresh, freezing air, she turned to Varna.

"You did not have to do that," she said, withdrawing a breath and smoothing down her furs. Then, letting out a sigh, she offered him her hand. "But thank you, I really appreciate your kindness. My father, he's suffering . . . . This journey has been hard on him. I--thank you. This means a lot to me."

The wind picked up, gently caressing her face and sending wisps of hair to free from her braid of thick black hair. She offered Varna a smile. "It's nice to meet you. My name is Inari. Inari Bylilly. Uh"--she stammered over her words, as though struggling to remember her manners--"maybe you would like to meet my father? He is just over there." She pointed in the general direction of where she left her father, before leading Varna over to him, if the man were willing to follow. Across the frosted street they would see an elderly man within his sixties sitting in the snow, his back leaned against a tree and elbows propped on his knees. His weathered face was lifted toward the heavens, eyes closed and chapped lips moving, as if in prayer.

"And of course, I would be happy to pay you back," Inari said as they were walking toward her father, "but, erm, what is a pawn shop, exactly? Is that where I would go to convert my gold, or could you point me in the right direction, please?"


The Destined Undestined
Varna maintained a smile all the while, his tobacco-dark eyes shifting from the lady baker to her son to his scarf. All of the while his hands kept busy, sometimes wringing his scarf, sometimes adjusting his hat. The transaction complete and the bread secured by Inari, he tarried just a little longer to perform a ceremonious bow and the slightest tip of his hat before following the newcomer out the door, holding tight to his clothes to bar the cold.

"You're quite welcome," Varna piped up, giving her an unsubtle wink. He snatched up a few of her fingers and gracefully shook her hand that way before withdrawing. "I'm not the kind t'leave a person hungry, 'specially a Kikioni, 'n' to give Rose some irritation's a bonus I can't pass up. She inflates her prices t' give the poor a tougher time, they says. Still, it beats day-ol' black bread. That's why I got some meself."

His hand went to his coat pocket and came out with a dinner roll. He bit into it with relish at first, then chewed the morsel quickly, stifled a laugh, and swallowed.

"The irony," Varna continued with a grin. "Needs more rosemary. So, Miss . . . Inari, was it? I've never been good with names. I'd be o'erjoyed to meet your dad, but yer better off not visiting any pawn shop in this sector, save two I know. Conversion rates're poor otherwise. Visit Reddis' Coins and Jewelry two blocks down that-a-way and to the right. He'll give you a fair conversion if ye say my name to him. Pawn anything else and it'll be fair after appraisal, but the key trait of pawn shops is ya have to pay extra to get 'em back. The money'll be worth the warmth of a good bed, though. Dear Dad'll thank ya."

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
The huntress' eyes widened as Varna procured a dinner roll from his coat, immediately wondering what the penalty was in Spiritvael for stealing. She would've asked, but felt that it was in poor taste to ask such a question after he had aided her in her hour of need. Back in Kikioni, one would lose their hand for stealing, as it was the hand which took from the rightful owner. With the ease in which Varna swiped the dinner roll, she assumed that the penalty was nowhere near that high, or he was simply a fool.

She wasn't yet sure which was true.

"Well, uh, I probably won't be returning there, that is for certain," Inari said, struggling to tear her gaze away from the stolen roll. "But yes! My father, he's this way."

As they strode over to the elderly man sitting in the snow, Inari listened as Varna described how she could exchange her gold into notes, though froze in her tracks when the man had mentioned getting more coin for a warmer bed.

"Oh, no, no, we won't be staying in a bed for a long while." She couldn't help but let out a hollow laugh at the notion. "We are setting up camp within the city outskirts, in the outlying forests. I don't have a job yet, and certainly don't have the money for lodging right now. But, hopefully, I will be able to carve my way here in Spiritvael and call it home."

She stole a sideways glance at Varna, suddenly wishing that she knew more about this man. What made him be so charismatic, so carefree? What did he do for a living, and what brought him to Spiritvael? She knew that everyone had a story, and she found herself craving to know his. Before she could get any questions out, however, her father was rising from his place on the ground, offering her a hollow smile and tilt of his head to Varna.

"My my, making friends already," he said softly, gaze shifting from his daughter to Varna. "And who is this new friend of yours?"

"Father, I'd like you to meet Varna Husk," she said, waving a hand at the man's form. "Varna, this is my father, Durando. Father, this kind man loaned me the money to buy bread. I owe him a debt, both in money and in kindness."

Her father drew himself to his full height, which was only to about 5'6". He offered Varna his hand, which was rather large and calloused. Much history were in those hands. Working, hunting, woodcarving, washing. "Varna." He wheezed out the name, as though trying to get the syllables right. "Thank you so much for showing kindness to my daughter. We will not forget what you have done for us. Would you join us for dinner this evening? I'm sure Inari can find some meat, and I'll set up a fire. We just arrived, so our campsite won't be much, but we'd like to have you in our companionship."

Inari opened her mouth to protest, but then quickly closed it, cheeks flushing a furious shade of crimson. What was her father thinking?! They had no lodging, no plans, and where was she going to find the meat?! In Kikioni, it wasn't uncommon to show such accommodations as her father had offered, but Varna was not of their clan, nor was he, well, accustomed to their customs.

"O--of course. But first, if I may ask another favor"--she shifted to face her new friend--"would you be able to take me to this Reddis' shop, please? I'm not exactly sure what this 'block' is that you speak of, and I'd like to repay you sooner than later." With that, she handed the bread to her father, pressing a kiss to his temple.

"Rest, eat. I will be back soon," she assured him."


The Destined Undestined
The rapscallion known as Varna continued alongside Inari, gulping down the entirety of his roll and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before they arrived at the feet of Inari's father. Up close, besides his haggard appearance from many leagues of walking, Varna detected nothing too shocking of the man besides his impressive build and strong hands which had touched many a survival task. Taking his hand from his hat, neverminding the wind, Varna warmly accepted the handshake from the older man.

"Pleasure ta meet ya," he spoke, his face alight with a grin. "I was in the area, 'n' I meet a ton o' folks in the same bind. Lots of issues in every quadrant, but Roses as thorny as the shopkeep 'n' hunger ain't two I take lying down."

Varna caught the flame of crimson spreading across Inari's face, but was unsure of its origin. Was it pertaining to his joining her and her father for dinner? How flattering! She was a comely lass, after all, and having one indebted to him was certainly greatly better than nothing, especially one so fervent. He cleared his throat.

"I'm afeared I have other business to attend to when it comes to dinner, but maybe some other day. I can take you to t' shop, however. I'll tell ya all about the city 'n the meanwhile."

Flashing a dapper smile to the father, he waited for the two to part ways before migrating toward the paths most travelled down the street.

"Now, I reckon Kikioni is different from here, so I'll lay down the basics. A block is between two streets. Alleys go between buildings. Duck into those if ya need to hide, but be careful if ya are seen. Some are dead ends. That spells trouble for folks like myself." He looked over to her then, unabashed mirth on his face, and continued walking. "A mental map does wonders, and if you don't know where you are that holy place can direct you. It chimes its bells every daylight hour. Other than that, there's the citadel where the royals and some nobles cozy up for the winter in their manor houses. Easy to spot, that one. Big walls, gatehouse, 'n' moat close it in. Hard to break in, as many tested. Place is guarded vigorously, so if ya want to storm in crying 'Down with the nobility!' or somesuch nonsense don't try it. They'll kill ya dead, no questions asked.

"Anyhow, here's the shop. Fine place, innit?"

If upscale was the adjective Inari thought of first for the shop, she would sadly find it shortchanged in appearance. A lone sign hanging on two iron hooks swung lonely above a door, but the foot traffic, if judging the tracks, made it seem more used than not. A sole window appeared on the outside close by, but when Varna opened the door to a straight staircase leading up she would find that it was not connected. All of it smelled old, musty, and faintly of sweat inside, but it would not take much longer to reach the end of the stairs where the path branched left and right to doors unknown. Varna hovered around the left and placed a hand on the door there, paused, and looked back to Inari.

"Bein' Kikioni, what's your stance on magic?" he brought to voice with caution.

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage

The bell to the entrance of the apothecary chimed, followed by a chilly gust of winter air whipping into the building. If Hughes looked up he would see a figure in a trench coat of the deepest violet, with gold trim and embellishment on the sleeves. A matching top hat was tilted forward, concealing the face of the individual, only revealing a host of long blond coils cascading over the individual's shoulders and down his back. The figure was clearly masculine, with broad shoulders, and standing a full six foot, two inches. He tilted his head up, revealing a serpentine smile and a row of perfectly aligned pearls of teeth.

"Doctor Bassett, I presume?" the well-dressed man inquired, a lilt to his voice that suggested either arrogance or boredom. "Greetings, I am hoping that you can help me."

He closed the door behind him before striding further into the apothecary, leaving a trail of snow clumps in his wake without caring that they would melt and seep into the hard-wood floors underneath him. He removed his hat, uncloaking his face from the shadows and revealing a long, oval face with an overtly pointed chin and nose. The man was clean-shaven, perhaps in his mid-twenties. High cheekbones accentuated his pale features, and peering at Hughes were large green eyes. He blinked, once, as if his eyes were adjusting to the light after having been shielded by his top hat for some time.

"Rumor has it that you are the best physician in Spiritvael, perhaps even better than the imperial physician housed within the palace," he stated flatly. "And yet, I cannot help but wonder: how do you do it? Is . . . magic involved in the legacy that you carry with your name?"

His smile widened, a snake toying with his prey before striking. He sauntered closer to the counter, leaning on it and drumming his fingertips on the solid wood. "I understand that magic has been used in this very establishment before. Someone that you must know, either directly or indirectly. I am hoping that you can help me find this person, Doctor Rhines Bassett."

With a hand, he smoothed down his perfectly curled locks, wrapping one curl around his index finger as he tilted his head, eyes never leaving Hughes. "Oh, and forgive me; I realize that I never introduced myself. My name is Verrine Navarre, son of Emperor Steffan the second, and crown prince of Fomoria. It is a pleasure to meet the famous doctor of Spiritvael at long last."

"I would very much like that," Inari said, turning her best smile onto Varna as she fell in step with him toward the city. She stopped to turn one final glance toward her father, whose face wrinkled with a pleased smile, which she could only guess was because she was standing alongside a man at last. "I will be back soon. Please don't get into trouble while I'm gone."

He let out a hollow laugh, shaking his head. "My dear, you have nothing to fret over. I will just take a little walk. I trust you can find me." He offered Varna a wink, before taking a huge bite of his bread loaf and wandering off, leaving their belongings alongside the tree as he did so. Inari bit her lip, concern darkening her expression, before following Varna toward the direction of this pawn shop.

"You will have to pardon my father," she stammered finally, absentmindedly running her hands along the length of her dark braid, occasionally fidgeting with the turquoise beads intwined within the thick strands. "He has never been the same since Mum died ten years ago. Slowly I fear he is losing his sanity, sometimes even forgetting where we are or who I am. It is worrisome, really." She paused, biting her cheek to stop herself from continuing. Who was she, to toss all of her concerns onto this stranger, as kind as he was?

Inari remained silent as she listened to Varna rattle on in his thick accent, one that was foreign to her and slightly difficult to understand, and yet she managed to grasp the general meaning of his words. A frown furrowed her brow as he described the alleyways, and she was unable to contain her outburst and she uttered with surprise: "You're a criminal?!"

She covered her mouth, as though shocked that the worlds escaped her lips. Those around them turned their heads to gawk at the pair, but if they were concerned at a Kikioni native and a rapscallion traipsing the streets, they didn't voice it. She ducked her head in shame and continued, in a lower tone of voice this time: "I'm sorry, I didn't meant to say that so loudly. I just, I mean, I pictured criminals of Fomoria to be, well, cruel."

Inari's legs halted upon the arrival of the pawn shop. The huntress tilted her face up to take in the building. She did indeed expect to find an establishment displaying wealth and splendor, as was often what she'd seen in Spiritvael. And when she thought of a business that would exchange her gold into notes, she certainly wasn't expecting a rickety old building with a sign hanging on rusty old hooks. Cold dread immediately filled her, the hairs on the back of neck standing on end. Warning bells filled her senses as her gaze followed the staircase up into the building. She was with a criminal, and they were entering a shady building. What if this place wasn't a pawn shop at all? What if it was a mafia, or a criminal operation and they wished to do Inari harm? Sure, Varna had been kind enough to loan her money, but what if it was a trick, all to earn her trust and lead her into harm's way?

Instinctively, Inari's right hand fled to her belt, where she had her dagger sheathed at her waist. Her mouth was dry like sandpaper as she opened it to speak, her voice sounding foreign and faraway to her. "Um, I, uh, thank you, Varna. I appreciate you bringing me here."

His question on her stance on magic made her freeze mid-ascent on the stairs. Did he somehow know of her gift? Is this why he was bringing her here? Her immediate impulse was to punch him in the gut and flee, but that wasn't going to earn her any friends in this strange new land. And Varna was the only person who had shown her kindness. She swallowed her gut reaction as she responded. "I don't have a strong opposition to it, unlike my people, who would have a mage killed on the spot," she said coolly, watching him carefully to gauge his reaction. "What about you? I've heard that Fomoria doesn't hold any animosity towards mages, and in fact welcomes them? Can I expect to find mages on the street?"

She continued her ascent quickly as she spoke, hoping that whomever was upstairs could save her from her doom, rather than the possibility that she was rushing right into it.


The Destined Undestined
With the doorbell jingling, Hughes started from tending to his clothes at the fireplace. He did not hear the turn of the bolt, nor the sound of a key in a keyhole, which meant that the door had somehow wiled its way into opening . . . again. He will have to test the lock every time he leaves the place unattended, or else cough up the money for a locksmith to look at it. If he himself did it, perhaps it would break more.

The new company surprised him, however. The man was a royal, or thought himself one, with the deepest of purples adorning him, but no entourage followed the resplendent one. Was he that confident, this man, barging into a closed apothecary and tromping further in? Hughes swallowed and left his scarf unturned, the last remaining set of clothes to be shifted, in order to cross the distance between him and this client. He almost broke a stride when the conversation shifted to magic, his eyes clinging to the man's face for fear of showing anything. What he and his father knew was to remain clandestine.

It all made sense in time, however, and the name of Verrine Navarre struck a chord in him enough to make him lock his lips and want to respond very, very, very carefully. His father the emperor was a powerful man, and a simple edict could close down the apothecary shop for good, ruining his father's livelihood as well as his own. They would have to start from scratch in such a case.

"I"--Hughes began as cautiously as he could from behind the counter--"am a doctor-in-training, Hughes Bassett. You must be thinking of my father, Rhines Bassett." Hughes offered his new "guest" a short-lived smile. Such was what his father would do if he were here, stricken by surprise like himself. He hoped, however, that he would hold half the silvered tongue as his father had. "It is a pleasure to meet you, your grace. Begging your pardon . . . but our studies don't rely on magic, yea, instead the sciences. The right tonic for the right diagnosis is our way. If there's a magician out there that heals, he would not be here where science reigns. We do serve all who come here, though . . . even magicians. I figure the two I have met have been from the royal court. Who you're talking to must be one such person. Myles, I think . . . and Jerome have visited."

The man's eyes were captivating, like a snake's, and Hughes had to break off his stare with an extensive blink to look away. Verrine held power. He toted it like it was his birthright. Perhaps that was why the crown prince came alone. The names he listed were safe bets, however. Myles and Jerome were well known mages in the capital, neither of them highborn but incorporated into the army.

"I am sorry, my lord, but I have not witnessed magic be used in this store," he continued, his gaze on the man's royal nose instead of his eyes. Such felt safer. "Perhaps your sourced information was wrong."

-- -- -- -- --

Varna smiled roguishly to himself as the father departed before softening his expression to listen to the daughter. It seems he earned some credit from the older man, much to his cheer. He didn't even really do much. Winning hearts like this was a rare and fortuitous time for him. If he played his cards right, he could earn more from them. From what Inari mentioned, however, they both suffered from hardship. Losing her mom left scars on the both of them, and his face held a more human sorrow than seen anytime so far from the both of them.

And then she shocked him further, stating rather loudly, "You're a criminal?!" He looked about him as if to assuage people's panic before wrapping his hand around her shoulders, wearing a false grin.

"Listen, I mayn't have the cleanest record and steal, Little Miss Sunshine, but I ain't a criminal. Call me a capit'list cuz I capit'lise. Now, I'm sorry about yer father, but there is always a chance for recovery. Your father may not be mad, but senile. Even that can be cured with the right medicine."


High up the steps, Varna looked at the girl curiously, uncertain of what had her worried. The dagger on her hip had not gone unnoticed, even if he did not see her reach for it. He shrugged in response, then answered seemingly quietly, as if worried about being heard through the door.

"Just curious for that same reason. I didn't know if you or yer father are fanatics to the cause of slayin' mages, but you may see some things sanctioned here that most mages'd be arrested for havin', 'cause Reddis is a mage with special rights, you see. Scares off folks. Attracts some wrong crowds too. Man just wants to live his life, same as anyone." Varna gauged Inari for a time before smiling. "Well, what's the harm. You seem an honest soul, 'n' I trust you won't come at 'im with a knife."

"Indeed not. Come in, you two."

Varna winced and cursed under his breath, hearing that voice through the door. Tossing a guilty smile at Inari, he popped open the door which, in turn, showered the two with a milky light. The accommodations inside were like an antique shop of some sort, with various knickknacks showcased with tags tied onto them. Cigar cases of fine silver, jewelry, furniture, cinnamon-wood boxes, and wire works decorated the varied tables that littered the cozy one-room shop, and some paintings were stored behind them, no more than three in a spot. The wealth collected in here was impressive, just miscellaneous and sometimes bulky.

Further in was a man with a ruddy tint to his face and bare arms, as if perpetually sunburned. He bared sharp teeth at the two, especially Inari, but his gaze through a pair of thick spectacles was as soft as velvet which in turn softened his features to that of an older man. He put down a watch and a small tool to give them his full rapt attention.

"Reddis, I've a lady who needs an exchange of gold fer notes," Varna explained, trying to usher Inari through the door.

The gentleman inside turned his wooden chair around to smile, taking down his spectacles. Inari could see that they had magnifying glasses attached to them.

"Is this true, young lady?" Reddis asked with a silver gaze locked onto her own.
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Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
Verrine's presence seemed to unnerve the young doctor-in-training, causing the prince's smile to widen. He liked it when he was able to dominate the conversation through intimidation. The prince's stance relaxed at the counter as he mused over Hughes' statement.

"Oh, my apologies, then. If you are not Doctor Bassett, then where is he? Does your home not reside within this establishment?" He ran a gloved hand across the counter, before rubbing his index and thumb together, as if detecting a thin layer of invisible dust, nose wrinkling when he was disappointed to find nothing.

He listened impatiently as Hughes rattled off what he did know, frown deepening as it brought his brows together. "Myles and Jerome, you say?" he repeated. "Come now--erm, Higgins, was it?--do not take me for a fool. Surely you have encountered more than two of the registered mages within this city? Even I know that there's at least a dozen unregistered ones within the country, hiding under the radar lest the imperial government enlist their services. Something in which we are entitled to do, mind you. Does there not ring anyone else in your memory, anyone at all? Rumor has it that they were here within the past week."

Verrine moved away from the counter, boots clicking on the hardwood floor as he moved toward a shelf of glass vials. He began fidgeting with them, picking up a bottle of valerian and examining its contents. "My sources are never wrong, Young Bassett. It would do you well to remember this."

- - - - - -

The response that Varna offered Inari was not one that she expected. Her eyes widened, hand lowering from her belt. "Wait, a--a mage?" And then, in a lower tone further added, "why would you tell me all of this? Are you not afraid that I would confiscate this Reddis' status as a mage and the items that he possesses to authorities?"

Tell him, a voice in her head whispered, tell him that you're one of them. That you having magic, too. Then you won't be alone anymore, won't be lying to the world. Inari visibly shook her head, dispelling the thought. She could trust no one, no matter how much she wanted to. All it took was one word, one whisper, and it would be all over for her. Her identity would be out there, and the authorities would either take her in, arrest her, or, worse, ship her back to Kikioni to seal her fate.

Before the whispering of her heart could betray her, a voice from the other side of the door beckoned them, and the door opened. Inari squinted at the brightness from the room before them, contrasting with the darkness of the stairwell. Timidly the huntress stepped inside, though paused at the threshold.

"Should I, uh, remove my boots?" she asked, initially turning to Varna before glancing toward the shopkeep, Reddis. Never had Inari seen such a man. He was both strikingly Fomorian and yet not. The hum of mana coursed through Inari's veins. So much magic surrounded her within this shop. Immediately she cast Reddis another guilty glance. Could he, too, sense magic, or was this part of Inari's unique gift? Would he realize that Varna brought along something else magical with him, and realize that it was her?

Taking a breath, Inari nervously moved her hands down the length of her coat, drab in its faded navy-blue in contrast to the vibrance around her. "Yes, I am here to make a trade." Inari removed her pouch of gold coins, withdrawing them and extending them out within her palm. "Where I'm from we bartered with favors and gold, but here it is very different. Would you be able to help me, please?"
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The Destined Undestined
Hughes felt a cold shiver through his spine, his eyes following the prince as he migrated across the room. He did not take the bait as Hughes thought he would, and had full confidence in his sources. What even was his source? How did he find magic in this shop, of all places, and why did he enter here alone? For information, or for him?

"Perhaps there were other unregistered mages," the youth at the counter admitted, swiping his hand through his ashy hair, "but I wouldn't know them. I did know some from my youth, but they've been enlisted by the Empire, so I am fresh out of ideas."

He looked up from the edge of the counter that he brought to focus his gaze, feeling a vein of mental fortitude wash over him. Rumours? So perhaps nothing concrete was known about this mage, or the suspect was already found and they wanted more information. Well, he was not going to rat anyone out.

"Pardon my saying," he pressed coyly, trying to keep his expression still and his voice unaffected by emotion, "but the past week is a vague time frame. Dozens of people can come to the shop in a day -- many of them repeat customers, and not all give their names and addresses. I'd best communicate this with my father who would know more, but he may be gone for hours running for medicinal stocks. He only told me 'long.' Would you like to wait in the meantime?"

Check, thought he, only inwardly smiling as he played this game of chess. Now Prince Verrine would hopefully go away and come back another time. In the case someone else is sent to keep tabs on the shop, I'll lay low for a time. There would be no chance of me being caught, and hopefully others if my father knows them.

-- -- -- -- --

Varna wanted to tell Inari why he told her -- the want was written all over his face -- but events had quickly changed. Upon these new distractions he shrugged, not minding it too much, and shielded his eyes with his sun hat when the brightness of the mage light within, hovering over Reddis' coal-black head of hair and more luminous than any candle, stung his eyes. She will figure it out.

Reddis, possibly sensing the girl's unfamiliarity with this form of light, relaxed the light to the brightness of a torch and, grasping it with one hand, reached up to perch it on one of the chandelier candles. The blaze did not seem to burn either his hand or the candle, and yet its light was phenomenally able to shine up the room so brightly, even if the few street-facing windows were shuttered and curtained.

"No need to remove your boots. A little mud and water doesn't bother me," the red-skinned man replied, his teeth again grinning toward her, his eyes once more sparkling at her. "Yes, I have magic, and no, I am not worried. This shop is my hallowed place. None would defile it."

Reddis approached with an unhurried yet large gait, a swirl of wind around him that smelled of clove and orange peel. He looked at Inari's face up close, smiled, and glanced down to the golden coins in her possession. Taking one up, he weighed it steadily in the palm of his hand and appraised it carefully.

"An old coin of fine make and gold quantity among other, newer, and more primitive ones," he stated after a few seconds, placing it back in Inari's hand as tenderly as a father would to a young child. "There are collectors for these sorts of currencies. Most in the capital here in Fomoria do not like the travel aspect of sightseeing. They prefer simple pleasures of seeing foreign monies and telling themselves that they have seen enough. The going rate is thirty notes per dracona, and you have four draconae. That makes a hundred and twenty notes if you are thinking about parting with all of them, though I'll throw in ten more for the older one. That makes a hundred and thirty total.

"But I do have a question: do you have business here?" he asked, mouth puckered like a coinpurse's as he looked at her intently, head tilted curiously. "Not many native to Kikioni make the trek this far inward, and you do not seem like a trader."

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
Verrine's face fell at Hughes' testament, the mask of the serpent slipping briefly as his eyes darted frantically across the shop. His disturbance, however, lasted only briefly, and the oily smile was soon back in place, his charisma returning. He shifted his weight to lean against the wall, a look of careless arrogance crossing his face.

"Well, no matter," he said with the utmost nonchalance. "I am sure this perpetrator will show their face at some point or another. As you well know, Hughes, an unregistered mage is illegal, and I cannot allow unregistered mages to traipse the streets as soon as I learn of them. With their powers unchecked, they're a danger to us all. Perhaps you know of what I speak firsthand, with your line of work and all."

He did a half-spin, scanning the walls as if searching for something he couldn't find, before tipping his hat to the young doctor-in-training.

"I don't wish to keep you from your work." He waved a hand. "After all, you look like you have very important matters to attend to. If you haven't seen someone, then maybe this mage is more clever than I thought."

Within a fluid motion, he swept across the hardwood floor, resting a gloved hand on the doorknob before pausing and turning toward Hughes one last time. "Please give my warmest regards to your father. I would like a moment of his time, when he is once available. I will be back to see him soon, but you don't have to tell him that last part."

With a bemused hum and quirk of the lips into an upward smirk, Prince Verrine left the store, leaving muddy footprints and fresh fallen snowflakes in his wake.


With Reddis' blessing, the huntress moved further into the shop toward the owner, still bothered by her shoes tracking in mud but did her best not to dwell on it. Inari was shocked that Reddis was a mage, but, more than that, was stunned by how open he was about it. The man seemed confident that no one would dare defile him within his abode. Was that really true? Did he somehow possess enough magic that even the empire feared him, or perhaps he had some means of protection around his shop? Inari didn't know, but she very much wished to inquire about it later.

Maybe he can help to protect me, Inari thought weakly, swallowing down the words that came to the tip of her tongue.

The huntress held her breath as Reddis drew closer to her, subconsciously leaning back, as though uncertain of whether to regard him as a friend or with the utmost suspicion. The monetary exchange that he proffered seemed indeed reasonable. Perhaps even generous? Inari, however, had no idea, and the matter of business was never her strong suit. She glanced over toward Varna, as if seeking validation, before nodding to the renowned mage.

"That sounds like a deal to me," she agreed, emptying the contents of the pouch into Reddis' hands. "Thank you, sir. I am unfamiliar with Fomorian currency, but roughly how much can I buy with that amount of money?"

Inari gave pause when Reddis inquired more in regards to herself. She bit her lip, uncertain of how much to trust him with when it came to herself. Varna was also within earshot. Even if she confessed her secret to another mage, there was the thief's presence to consider, as well. How much money would it take for Varna to be persuaded to sell her out? Inari was loathe to find out.

"My father is ill." That much was true, though that was not the sole--or even prime--reason that they came to Spiritvael. "He is suffering from some kind of memory loss, and I am seeking better medical treatment here than what is available in my motherland. Say, do you happen to have a good recommendation for a doctor here? I don't suppose the royal physician ever takes on commoners?"


The Destined Undestined
Verrine's face fell at Hughes' testament, the mask of the serpent slipping briefly as his eyes darted frantically across the shop. His disturbance, however, lasted only briefly, and the oily smile was soon back in place, his charisma returning. He shifted his weight to lean against the wall, a look of careless arrogance crossing his face.

"Well, no matter," he said with the utmost nonchalance. "I am sure this perpetrator will show their face at some point or another. As you well know, Hughes, an unregistered mage is illegal, and I cannot allow unregistered mages to traipse the streets as soon as I learn of them. With their powers unchecked, they're a danger to us all. Perhaps you know of what I speak firsthand, with your line of work and all."

He did a half-spin, scanning the walls as if searching for something he couldn't find, before tipping his hat to the young doctor-in-training.

"I don't wish to keep you from your work." He waved a hand. "After all, you look like you have very important matters to attend to. If you haven't seen someone, then maybe this mage is more clever than I thought."

Within a fluid motion, he swept across the hardwood floor, resting a gloved hand on the doorknob before pausing and turning toward Hughes one last time. "Please give my warmest regards to your father. I would like a moment of his time, when he is once available. I will be back to see him soon, but you don't have to tell him that last part."

With a bemused hum and quirk of the lips into an upward smirk, Prince Verrine left the store, leaving muddy footprints and fresh fallen snowflakes in his wake.

When Verrine's smile fell, Hughes barely kept his face from showing any mirth. He was simultaneously glad and worried that his name was not lost upon the prince's mind and lips. Should Verrine wish to exact revenge upon Hughes, he had enough information to do so at a whim.

His pale eyes followed the prince as he wondered what was going on in his head. His interest seemed drawn to the wall for whatever reason. Was there something more there that caught his eye, or was he merely posturing? Verrine certainly had a way of getting under one's skin, whatever the case.

"I am sorry that I could not be of more help," the young doctor-in-training lied as convincingly as he could, offering a bow of his head. "Mages can be tricky from what I hear, but I will keep an eye out."

Finally, he was alone. The prince had left the room as empty as before, besides the crumbled footfalls of dirty snow that melted all over the swept floor. The silence itself, only broken by the slow crackling of wood in the fireplace, was deafening. Now left alone with his thoughts, he remained there at the counter, trying to devise a plan of what to do now.

"First things first," he sighed, eyeing the snow and picking up a dustpan and broom.

The simple action of sweeping up everything took him longer than anticipated, and when he espied his scarf he panicked and tried to flip the warm face to the cool side. Any longer and he feared that the woolen face would combust. It was a keepsake from within the family, a treasured relic of his maternal grandmother, the red and yellow dyes long aged and, as a result, almost washed out. Besides his mother who had since moved out from the divorce, that was all that remained of her, the rest scavenged by vultures in human form. Smiling at the memory, he brought out a rag to wipe up the water left over, still busy with thought.

-- -- -- -- --

With Reddis' blessing, the huntress moved further into the shop toward the owner, still bothered by her shoes tracking in mud but did her best not to dwell on it. Inari was shocked that Reddis was a mage, but, more than that, was stunned by how open he was about it. The man seemed confident that no one would dare defile him within his abode. Was that really true? Did he somehow possess enough magic that even the empire feared him, or perhaps he had some means of protection around his shop? Inari didn't know, but she very much wished to inquire about it later.

Maybe he can help to protect me, Inari thought weakly, swallowing down the words that came to the tip of her tongue.

The huntress held her breath as Reddis drew closer to her, subconsciously leaning back, as though uncertain of whether to regard him as a friend or with the utmost suspicion. The monetary exchange that he proffered seemed indeed reasonable. Perhaps even generous? Inari, however, had no idea, and the matter of business was never her strong suit. She glanced over toward Varna, as if seeking validation, before nodding to the renowned mage.

"That sounds like a deal to me," she agreed, emptying the contents of the pouch into Reddis' hands. "Thank you, sir. I am unfamiliar with Fomorian currency, but roughly how much can I buy with that amount of money?"

Inari gave pause when Reddis inquired more in regards to herself. She bit her lip, uncertain of how much to trust him with when it came to herself. Varna was also within earshot. Even if she confessed her secret to another mage, there was the thief's presence to consider, as well. How much money would it take for Varna to be persuaded to sell her out? Inari was loathe to find out.

"My father is ill." That much was true, though that was not the sole--or even prime--reason that they came to Spiritvael. "He is suffering from some kind of memory loss, and I am seeking better medical treatment here than what is available in my motherland. Say, do you happen to have a good recommendation for a doctor here? I don't suppose the royal physician ever takes on commoners?"

Reddis gave Inari a warm look as she asked about the weight of the currency, how much it would buy. Varna seemed to be ready to speak up, but Reddis did so first as he laid claim to the golden coins.

"You can part with a note for a reasonable loaf of bread or a half-pound of chicken. Thirty can give you a luxurious bed free from vermin in uncrammed quarters, fifteen for standard fare, or seven for a common room. Treat your money carefully in these parts, and for heavens' sake do not show it all to anyone, right, Varna?"

The dark-haired man with coffee eyes, starstruck by the conversion rate of gold coins to notes, jumped at the mention of his name, stared, and finally gave way to a smirk.

"He speaks t' truth," he replied with a shrug more made by the head than by the shoulders. "Any number of pocket pickers'll be glad to nab 'em from you."

Reddis nodded somberly, but put more focus back on Inari as she mentioned her father. He pursed his lips in thought, eyes closed behind red eyelids.

"Memory loss has many forms, some natal, others incidental, and others still magical. Given your father's potential age, perhaps there is nothing my magic can do, but perhaps it is everything my magic can do. Bring him in sometime, or invite me over, and I can see what I can do. For now, Gaius does not take on commoners unless it is for a matter most troubling, but I know a doctor who goes by Bassett. They are not far, and sell curatives of many sorts."

"Pfeh," exclaimed Varna, shaking his head. "I know of that place. Bein' around makes my skin itch more than magic would. You should go to Eddy the Mammoth. He'll fix you right up."

"Nevertheless," the pawn shop owner continued with a finger wag toward Varna, "that is my recommendation. He'll at least be better than a charlatan like Eddy."

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage

A look of relief flickered across Inari's face. Her gold coins would buy her more than she anticipated. That would help her and her father considerably. The brief luxury of renting a nice, warm bed for a night crossed her mind, but was quickly eradicated. There was no way that they could afford such a luxury, not if they were to make the money stretch long enough to provide food and necessities until Inari could acquire work.

"Understood," Inari said, taking the notes gingerly and folding them to place in a pocket close to her heart. Beforehand she withdrew five of the notes and extended them toward Varna. "For the bread. Thank you so much, for helping me then, and now."

Her green eyes widened in surprise as Reddis mentioned magic being a potential cure for her father's memory. Magic . . . of course. She hadn't thought of that. All this time she had been under the notion that herbs, remedies, and the proper care under a physician would be the only cure for her father. Never had it crossed her mind that a simple remedy could be that of magic.

But, magic wasn't necessarily without its own set of risks. The outcomes of magic were sometimes uncertain. Inari stared into the red face of the mage, biting her lip before responding. "I can bring my father," she stated. "But you would only assess him before doing anything permanent that could, well, hurt him, right?"

Bassett. The name coursed through her with a shudder, bringing with it a flood of memories that plagued her on many restless nights, and even troubled days with its presence: breaking into an old, musty apothecary. The round face of a blond youth. The glass vial of a clear liquid containing a remedy for leprosy. He'd given it to her for free, even though it was highly sought after and would've cost her ten-year-old self a fortune that she didn't own. Instead of turning her in to the officials, he let her go, in hopes that she could heal her ailing mother. Inari closed her eyes against the pain of the memory, eyelids fluttering.

"This is a good starting point. Thank you . . . . I appreciate all of your help, the both of you." With a slight bow, Inari started to move toward the door, appearing somewhat clumsy and frantic in her rapid movements to get away, from the people, the pawn shop, but most especially: the memories.


The Destined Undestined
Varna stiffened when offered the notes, staring at the hand that offered them with suspicion. He still grabbed them, however, and stuffed them into his roll-filled pocket without a second thought but with a sweeping grin. He made a decent profit off of the exchange. He did have to be careful, though. He had a liking for the generous ladies.

"Pleasure doin' business with ya," the coffee-eyed youth remarked. His gaze darted between the two speakers absently, and he rubbed the back of his leg with his other. He never was much for hearing about people getting healed. As a matter of fact, he would rather do all of his own healing himself than trust a doctor with his wounds, the only exception being good ol' Eddy. Sure, he might have had a few more broken knuckle bones and cracked ribs, but the affordability and the lack of stuffy suits both were worth the service.

Reddis, on the other hand, was more conscious of and well-versed in the arts of providing succor, and being an appraiser he knew of the qualities needed for a good assessment: experience, practice, and patience.

"I will do him no harm, I assure you. Remedies given blindly cause more harm than good, so I will make sure the spell is a correct one."

Both of the men in the room waited as she seemed to space out before them, looking at each other curiously. The clock ticked mercilessly, and had Inari not moved Varna might have made an attempt to ask whether she was all right. When she moved away, saying her piece, Varna was left baffled.

"You are quite welcome. Come again now! You will be a pleasant sight in comparison to some of my latest frequenters," Reddis returned with a chuckle, remaining next to the chest of drawers from where he pulled the money out, sprinkling in the coins he had received without a care of Varna being watchful next to him.

"Do y' think she'll be fine?" Varna asked once the door closed behind Inari, licking and chewing on his lower lip.

"Of course. She seems hardy and capable enough."

"Yeah. But somethin's botherin' me. Yer exchange rate's very different from other shops, double theirs. Yer not moonin' over her, are you?"

"Oh, no," laughed Reddis, replacing his spectacles over his eyes and sitting back down to the watch he was fixing. "I'll leave all the mooning to you, young friend." Varna's face contorted, but Reddis held up a hand to stop him. "Call it a little . . . premonition. She'll have need for that money soon, and a little philanthropy to someone suffering from fate such as hers . . . well, maybe it will better my karma. Do you know of karma?"

Varna scratched his nose, sniffed his finger, and said, "That some kind o' fish?"

"Heavens, no!" the old man chided. "Do good deeds, and they will be rewarded. Evil deeds, and reap evil in turn. Remember this. Your fate is wrapped into something bigger than you realise. So is hers."

Varna's eyes stared off into nothingness for a few seconds, but he recovered and shrugged, saying, "You speak in odd tongue, old man. I'm headin' out."

Reddis seemed unfazed, fixated on the watch, and Varna parted ways without another word, his aim to head into the streets to find Inari. Too late to find her in the crowd, the scalawag wobbled his way further north, pocket laden with less rolls than before by the time he disappeared inside a ramshackle brick warehouse stinted by time.
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Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
The rest of the day passed by in a blur for Inari, her hands deftly working to string up a tent for herself and her father in the outlying forests of Spiritvael, mind ruminating over the past. She hadn't thought of Hughes Bassett in so long, the mention of the boy evoking emotions that she didn't like to dwell on. A loose strand of hair escaped her braid, irritatingly hanging within her peripheral line of vision as she carefully tied a hempen rope to a wooden stake in the ground. Her father stood nearby, staring off into the distance in a daze. Apparently his period of lucidness had passed, and was now replaced with the shell that was difficult to transport and impossible to communicate with.

That night the two sat around a fire outside their tent under a canopy of clouds, the scent of roasted rabbit wafting in the air. Inari had managed to find a plump rabbit hopping in between bushes near a Spiritvael residence. She only hoped that the rabbit hadn't been a beloved pet that would never find its way home. Together, her and her father dined on the roasted rabbit and leftover bread, the grease from the meat dripping down her fingers. A shiver ran down her spine. It was a cold night and would be the most unpleasant to sleep in. A part of her very much desired to spend what she had of her money and purchase a warm room and bed for the night. If not for her, at least for her father. Her green eyes shifted from the fire, glancing toward him. The journey seemed to age him, the wrinkles on his face running slightly deeper, face sallower. He'd lost weight during their immigration. Biting her lip, Inari glanced downward. Perhaps it had been selfish to bring him this far from home, when it was her that needed to get away. To become a fugitive.

"You have been quiet, dear daughter," his rough voice broke into the night. "Something on your mind?"

"No," Inari replied, perhaps too quickly. "Just thinking about where I'll start looking for a job, that's all. I don't want to attract unnecessary attention to myself."

"Oh." He sounded crestfallen, the elder man sitting back on his heels. "I thought you were thinking about that young man. Handsome, wasn't he?"


He chuckled, seeming delighted that he managed to ruffle Inari's feathers. "Always so serious and down to business. Isn't it time that you started enjoying life a little, perhaps even finding a man to spend your life with?"

Inari sighed and rolled her eyes, stretching her legs out in front of her. "Father, we've been through this. I have no interest in marriage, nor do I need a man. I have you, and that is all that matters to me."

"But I'm not going to live forever, Inari. You have been too good to me, taking care of your old man over all of these years. But what would make this old man happy is to see you live for yourself, to see you happy. We came here not just because you needed to get away from Kikioni, but so that you could be you, to start a new life. A bright future." He closed his eyes, letting out a long sigh. "It is what Natashka would've wanted."

Inari blinked, glancing up in surprise. Never did they speak of her mother; it seemed to be a forbidden subject between them. She wasn't entirely certain how to react, how to feel. A lengthy silence passed between them, the only sound was the fire crackling before them. Eventually Inari rose, her coat wrinkled from sitting on it so long.

"I'm going to take a look around," she said dismissively. "Get some rest."

"You don't have to tell me what to do whenever you leave. I know how to take care of myself."

Inari scoffed, refusing to glance his way as she strode from the campsite, her boots crunching in the hardened snow.

Whether minutes or hours had passed, Inari didn't know. She'd lost all sense of time as she just walked, farther and farther away from it all. From everything. She found herself wandering the streets of Spiritvael, which were entirely deserted; a stark contrast to how they had been that afternoon. Her feet seemed to shuffle forward on their own, the girl uncertain of how she ended up standing before Dr. Bassett's apothecary, the closed sign glaring at her from the window. For the longest time Inari just stood there, frozen in place, large snowflakes fluttering through the air and gently, silently, falling on her head. She didn't know what she was doing there, or would do there. She just stood several yards before the door, a silent tear rolling down her cheek.

"I'm sorry that I couldn't save you, Mom."


The Destined Undestined
After some long hours, the scuffling of a key within a lock heralded Doctor Rhines Basset's return, and Hughes looked up from a tome on the counter. The volume he was gleaning was the length of his hand in breadth, and filled with yellowed, tabulated pages containing miracle remedies gathered over aeons. The clock he tossed a glance read half past five.

What kept my father for that long? he thought to himself. His father had always been the type to keep secrets, and barring some small snippets of notes he had come across he was not able to glean much from the man. He had his suspicions that Rhines was seeing someone, but never found a chance to attempt to follow him and confirm his thoughts.

Rhines emerged from the darkened streets beyond the door, letting in a blast of cold air which stirred the fire. Stuffing a box under one arm, he dismantled his scarf to reveal a face partially red from the wind. Beyond the increasing pops of the wooden beams of the building, the open sky and the last gleams of sunlight, to Hughes, seemed to herald a bitterly cold night.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" Hughes asked, approaching his father to assist, but was staved off by a held-out hand and a sternness behind a smile.

"I did, very much so. These items should be perfect for use. Mahogany leaves and bark, guava fruit, orange fruit from down south, even some yew shoots for chest issues -- all rare to come by, and all medicinal. They put me a little behind on funds, but they will be worth it."

"I see," Hughes replied, staring in disbelief at the box. Some of those things he had read about, but others he needed to read more about in that tome he consulted earlier. "Come, sit by the fire. I cooked up some pumpkin soup that should heat you right up."

"Ah, excellent, excellent," Rhines replied with seemingly forced gusto, setting his trophy items on the ground carefully.

The box was sealed tightly with wax binds and thick bands, something that Hughes had never seen before. There was a wrongness to it all, as if it was not made for merely transport, but for keeping it secured. Along the length of some leather strap could be seen something in a language Hughes did not understand, three symbols holding power and old reverence. Rhines caught him staring and frowned.

"You look worried. Don't be. This is Krucian in make. Religion is woven into many things there and in Kikioni, where here that has fallen out of style. You will understand that one day with enough experience and study."

"Ah . . . okay," Hughes responded, averting his eyes from the box guiltily. There was still so much of the world he did not know. After some silence, he felt the need to change the subject to something more familiar, and in fact more imperative. "Dad, something happened while you were gone. The Crown Prince stopped by."

Rhines froze from trying to take off his boot, eyes shooting up to meet Hughes', and asked, "Oh?"

"Yes. He wished to pass along his 'warmest regards' and to consult you over the matter of an unregistered mage in our shop a week or so ago. He said his sources never lie, but nothing seemed descriptive. I wanted to inform you before anything."

Rhines palmed the top of his head, sweeping back his peppered bangs from his brow and mussing into the tidy ponytail he kept the rest in.

"He is lying," the doctor said lowly, maybe fearfully. "He must be, or you would have been taken. I never saw a lick of magic in the shop besides from you, my son, and while I may know some mages they are allowed their anonymity. We doctors have our pride." Hughes felt a lick of guilt from reporting two mages earlier, even if he was certain that the prince would likely know of them. Rhines continued. "Tonight we should dine as if nothing happened, but keep an eye outside upstairs to see if there are spies watching. I'll do the same. Can you move my bed to one of the windows facing the front?"

Hughes nodded, swallowing tightly, and answered, "Of course. What are you saying? Do you think they're after me, but do not know who I am?"

"It is a possibility I do not wish to risk. If you ever have the need, use the attic. There is a crawlspace in the wall away from the street, used for smuggling back in the days of old. You would be safe there." The father's eyes darted over his son, then lightened as he smiled. "But let's not get ahead too far. Let's eat. "

~~ ~~ ~~

Night fell, and food was swallowed slowly as Hughes and his father sat down for dinner. The youth's stomach was knotted so tightly that it was filled from the first bowl. Even afterward he did not dare step downstairs for fear of being seen, instead posting himself by the window, quiet and peering out from the curtain as stealthily as he was able. Nervousness plagued him whenever he did not check the street, and he berated himself when he did, as nothing was out of the ordinary.

Footfalls went downstairs, rummaging occurred, and footfalls travelled back up. Hughes listened all the while and jumped when light from the other room struck him, the only door opening into the bedroom.

"There you are," voiced the father, leaving the door open by a crack. "Everything okay?"

"So far so good. Nothing new graced my eyes." Hughes checked again, and again nothing new graced him. He puffed out a breath in relief.

Rhines pushed back his bangs again, erupted a deep and weary sigh, and started, "I feel I should apologise." That caught Hughes' attention as he looked back from the street. "I scared you earlier when I should have made you feel safer. What I did, I did out of love for you as my only son."

Hughes looked back to the frost- and snow-laden window.

"I understand, and you should not apologise. After hearing about what mages go through for the greater good, and after meeting a royal myself, I don't . . ."

The words caught in his throat as his eyes went wide and his mouth hung. Outside stood a shadow in the spinning snow, just before the shop and immobile, staring forward at what looked to be the shop itself.

"Dad? There's someone out there."

Rhines stood as stiff as a wooden brace before rushing over, peering out the same window from the other end.

"Those are Kikioni clothes," he said once his eyes adjusted to the light. "I don't know her. Do you? Maybe she is seeking medical attention."

Hughes looked at her for a while studiously. Something about her seemed familiar. The face, the colour of her hair, the apparent age . . . it smattered of an old acquaintance of his long ago, from a fateful night that changed his life long ago. Could it be? "Inari?" escaped his lips.

"Inari?" mirrored his father, giving him a glare. "So you do know her?"

"It is a sneaking suspicion. She looks just like Inari did, a friend from years ago, before my magic grew . . . just older. Dad, this is an odd request, but I'd like to go out and talk with her, see if it is really her. Please."

"A weird request indeed," huffed Doctor Rhines under his breath. "Don't you recall our earlier conversations about spies and whatever? When I apologised, I didn't mean for every bit of worry to be thrown out the window. Stay inside. 'Inari,' was it? I'll ask in your stead."

~~ ~~ ~~

Doctor Rhines grabbed a lantern, lit it, and travelled to the door, wondering if she would even still be out there. The glow of the lantern was nothing in comparison to the fire's, even if the wood was running low, but outside it would show up considerably well to those who were near. He unlocked the wooden door from the inside, shoved his lantern out the door first, and opened it partway to see the person waiting outside.

"Are you seeking medical attention?" he asked, smiling up towards her as if nothing was the matter.

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
The huntress was snapped from her stupor when she saw the front door of the apothecary open ajar, a lantern emerging from its depths. Her initial instinct was the run, but that would only draw negative attention to herself, especially if she had already been seen. She swallowed hard, fear engulfing her as she watched the doctor partially emerge from the doorway, her eyes wide with surprise. This was not the boy that she remembered, was it? While it had been many years since she had seen him, he had been only a boy, not much older than herself at the time. This was a middle-aged man, perhaps well in his forties, if not fifties. Had time treated Hughes cruelly, or was this man Hughes at all? Inari squinted in the dark, trying to study his features, and yet it was impossible to get a good look at him in the shadows of the night, even with the dim light of the lantern aiding her.

"Oh, I'm sorry for bothering you," she said, hands in her pockets for warmth. "I was not trying to trespass. I was just going for a walk, and wanted to see if I could find this apothecary again. You wouldn't happen to know of a Doctor Hughes Bassett, would you?"

She swallowed hard, heart pounding in her chest, waiting for the recognition to light the man's eyes as he recalled her from that night. But perhaps he didn't remember her at all. Maybe the entire encounter had meant much more to her than it had to him. It was entirely possible, as his actions were only an act of charity, and perhaps he doted on many of the girls in Spiritvael in a similar fashion.

Handing around expensive antidotes for leprosy, as though it were free candy? Hardly likely.

"I--" What was she going to say? She stared dumbly at the ground, too frightened to see the doctor's expression. "I'm seeking medical treatment for my father. He is ill, you see, with memory issues. I was told by someone in town that Doctor Bassett would be able to help me."


The Destined Undestined
Doctor Rhines looked out at her with lantern still outstretched, his brown eyes dark and his bushy brow furrowed in confusion. Apothecary? Doctor Hughes? It was surprising to him that these two went hand-in-hand, judging from what Hughes had explained to him. Perhaps Hughes had boasted long ago that he would be a doctor and she found the apothecary he described still here. His gaze softened thinking such.

"It is no bother," he responded, his smile reappearing. "My son Hughes is not yet a doctor, but is well on his way to become one. I am Doctor Rhines. Would you happen to be a friend of his?"

He looked at her studiously, trying to gauge her reaction and see if she would react negatively or dubiously. He had half a mind to turn the girl away for possibly being a spy, but if he deemed her to truly be Inari, well, perhaps that was beneficial for both Inari and Hughes. What happened next, however, left him baffled.

"Your father is ill, you say, and with failing memory?" he asked, surprised in both tone and face. He pursed his lips and looked up into the cloud-stroked sky, as if watching the snow fall. His eyes, however, were clouded with thought. "Ill and with failing memory. That can be a kaleidoscope of possibilities, but if I can narrow down the source and look at the symptoms perhaps I can help."

His eyes regained their clarity as a shudder eeked its way through him, the cold crawling up his arm. He only wondered what it was like to be out in the cold fully, and if this was Hughes' friend perhaps he should offer some warmth. He opened the door a little further, retreating his extended arm, and shuffled to the side.

"Would you like to come in? I was about to turn in for the night, but you look chilled, and the fire I have kindled in the shop can aid in that."

Mystics Apprentice

Colorfully Ecstatic Time Mage
Realization dawned on Inari, an odd relief coursing through her veins. Of course, this was the father; it all made sense. That would explain why Inari could partially recognize his features, but not wholly. There were some similarities that Inari could detect between father and son, traits that made it apparent that they were family and yet, to Inari's relief, not one and the same.

The huntress fidgeted with her coat's pockets, trying to do something besides reach for the knife tucked at her waist, something she commonly found herself doing when stressed or threatened. The question that the doctor proffered gave her pause. For a moment she stood, struck dumb, uncertain on how to respond.

"I wouldn't exactly call ourselves friends," she said at last. "More like acquaintances. We met briefly, once, a very long time ago. I doubt that he remembers me."

Suddenly Inari felt small under the kind gaze of the doctor. Would that gaze be quite so kind if he'd known that she had stolen from him? He even stepped aside to offer her shelter within his home, to which Inari found herself subconsciously backing away from before she could formulate words.

"You are very kind, Doctor Bassett. Thank you, but I really must be heading back to my father. I want to make sure that he is safe and sound at home and hasn't wandered off in the night. But maybe I can bring him to you, sooner than later? When is your earliest appointment?" She bit her lip. He did do appointments, didn't he? Isn't that what doctors did? Everything was so different in Fomoria; she couldn't keep it all straight.

The dark-haired girl gave Doctor Bassett a soft, respectful bow, preparing to bid him goodnight when, suddenly, a cold wind blew, rattling the beads in her hair. For a millisecond her heart froze, a thought dawning on her, and the words fled from her mouth before she could process them. "By the way, I was wondering . . . . How much would a remedy for leprosy run? It is a disease that runs rampant where I come from, and I was curious so that I may inform my clan when I return, so that we have can have the emergency funds at the ready in case we ever need them."

A lie, and perhaps an obvious one, but she had to know. Needed to know. It was the only way that she could clear her conscience, and feel right about seeking anything from the Bassett family again.


The Destined Undestined
Doctor Rhines stared at her methodically for some time before smiling, accepting her answer. The information Inari had given voice matched up with what Hughes had mentioned to him earlier, and his suspicion that this was someone other than Inari was sloughed, giving way for a sense of relief.

"You are welcome," he answered, brushing back hair as the cold gusts toyed with them and spun snowflakes into his eyes. "My earliest appointment would be at nine in the morning tomorrow, but if you are able to be here earlier you may arrive earlier than my usual time for appointments at the seventh hour. Please come by when you are ready. I will say that this case is a more curious one than hogsblight."

The last thing he mentioned was more mumbled than anything else, but he listened attentively as Inari spoke up again before she left. Leprosy? He did know of the disease, curable under the right circumstances, though he did not know of any perfect wonder drug for it. There was his only curative he had in the store long ago, but that had disappeared. Thankfully the recipe was still available if the need arose.

"Leprosy? Ah . . . in Kikioni, if I judge correctly," he thought aloud, later musing about the going market price for the herbs and tinctures he needed. "Around two hundred and fifty to three hundred notes for a vial that can cleanse the disease of five persons. This depends on the dosage and the severity, of course. Now, I do not travel. Are there apothecaries where you are from? In the northeast region four curative plants grow in some abundance, bought from traders and supplied here. An apothecary that makes a cure there would do well, I think, but if you have immediate need I can brew a batch for purchase."

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