Arden is foresty. And cold. And it's waaaaay early in the morning. Only crazy people are out at the crack of dawn like this. Crazy people, and Catriona, Alexis, and Kiernan. Cat has dragged both her beloved cousin, and the Ranger who saved her life, with her on this dangerous scouting mission. No horses for these three. It's all on foot through narrow forest paths at the bottom of a large, sheer cliffside.
"So, do you miss Karl, Kiernan?" Cat asks conversationally, breaking a momentary silence. "He certainly misses you." She trods along in her hunting garb, a satchel at her side, silver-gilt hair tied back but uncovered.
Alexis tags along close to Cat, dressed almost identically. Her own silver hair is lose to frame her face, but where it darkens in the back is braided up and pinned in place. "Sometimes I think you forget I'm from the /desert/," Alex playfully scolds Cat before she looks to Kiernan, "Who's Karl?"
Kiernan is used to foresty. And cold. Both. And early early morning. Kiernan typically is out before dawn on most days. He counts as a crazy person, apparently. No horses. /Again/? Kiernan hadn't said a word and he keeps up easily with the two women. He's much taller than both are, afterall. "Why should I miss Karl?" asks Kiernan just as conversatinoally. Pause. "Oh. I have something for you," he adds. He glances over at the cousin. "Are you cold?" He smiles. "Karl is a yeti who is in Lady Catriona's care. He was invisible. Said kissing him would turn him visible. So I made a deal with him. He wanted to push Lady Catriona off the cliff and kill her. So I kissed him so he wouldn't."
Cat listens with poorly veiled amusement. "Ranger Kiernan saved my life." She looks to him with a curious eyebrow lifted. "Is it a dagger in the back for referencing Karl?" she asks, glancing aside to Alexis and reaching out a gentle hand to touch the woman's shoulder. "I'm terrible, I know. But I need you here. You are my anchor. I promise that after this, we'll go to the tropical isle." She strides along in the slowly-rising dawn, alongside the other two. The cliff base doesn't change much, save for a few rocking outcroppings. The trees remain as thick as ever.
"Oh well that's very kind of you to go around kissing yeti's so that my cousin doesn't get pushed off cliffs," says Alex in lilting tones. Seems she takes most everything at face value. He even gets a grin for his troubles. A nod follows, "It's cold in Alhambra. At night. So one just doesn't go out at night. Then again, I bring Night wherever I go so I don't have to worry about...the...sun's...heat. Sun...right? That's the name used here."
The question is met with a raised brow. "Why would I save your life and then stab you in the back?" He sounds a little perlexed. He shakes his head and reaches a hand into a pocket. He pulls a small package out of his pocket and then shakes it out. It looks like that veil Catriona had been wearing a few days ago. He offers it to her. "Anchor?" He turns his eyes to Alexis and studies her for a moment and then simply nods. "Does that mean you're cold now?" His accent is very much that of Lyonesse.
Cat's hand falls away from Alexis's shoulder with a fond smile, and she turns her eyes back to the surroundings. At Kiernan's question, she shakes her head. "Just an expression, Ranger," the Karm replies with a low laugh. "To both. Because I deliberately brought up Karl to tease you, and because Alexis keeps me grounded." There are the normal sounds of the woodland creatures waking, nothing out of the ordinary.
Cat accepts the veil with a look of surprise, too. It's clear she'll have something to say about that shortly.
"I don't know why I keep her grounded. If anything, I encourage her to be a little bit more out there, I think," Alex says with a giggle. She nods to the Ranger, "Yes, I'm chilled but I'll live. What else would I complain about? I can't complain about the walk, she knows I can out pace a horse over distance. I can't complain about the scenery, nor the people, so weather it is!" Despite her complaints, she seems to be in a good mood. Her accent doesn't bear more than a faint hint of Alhambran here and there. It seems she's worked on that.
Kiernan considers the woman. "An... expression. Right. But.. what does it mean to be an anchor?" He sounds rather as if he's got no experience at all with such things. Maybe he really doesn't. He chuckles softly at the mention of Karl. "I'm not so easy to tease that way, you know." He grins as she accepts the veil from him. But like her, says nothing. He glances over at Alexis and strips out of his cloak. He steps toward her and attempts to shift it around her shoulders. "I have several friends from Alhambra who feel the cold far more keenly than I do."
Cat watches Kiernan off his cloak to Alexis, and this earns a true smile. She glances between them, makes a soft, undecipherable noise. Perhaps that move just spared him the lecture that might have followed. "Thank you, Kiernan," the Karm replies, tucking her lost kerchief in the satchel at her side. "I appreciate the effort, though I worry that you were alone where such creatures reside." There's a head shake to her cousin. "You know that I would likely be a hermit without you, within the House and never leaving."
The cloak is gratefully accepted and Alex laughs as she bundles up within it, "I would kiss you, were you not so tall," she tells him in thanks. "Ab is brutal, but his warmth is something you learn to live in, live with." She glances to Catriona, "Perhaps. But we will never know because I keep you busy. And don't scold him, there are far more dangerous things than the monsters we can see. I'm sure he was just fine with...whatever creature it was."
This is simply how Kiernan is. His tunic is a fairly heavy one. He doesn't even look cold. "You're welcome," says Kiernan to Catriona. He lifts a shoulder at her. "The forest doesn't typically bother me. That includes most of the residents." He pauses, and tenses. "Hold," he says, and the word is very much an order. "A shriek.. It approaches." He tilts his head, one way and then the other, homing in on.. whatever he'd heard. "Ahead and to the left. It approaches." The cloak is warm and lined on the isnide with fur. He's distracted enough he doesn't respond to the offer of a kiss. "Who is Ab?" he asks distractedly. "If you wish a kiss, later will be better."
Cat is about to respond to them both with what was likely a scolding when Kiernan commands then to pull up short. The Karm listens, which is a telling mark of how much she trusts the Ranger. Her eyes flick from side to side, and then to the sky. They see nothing, so she keeps them focused on Kiernan for more information or further warning. Her entire frame tenses as fingers twitch to the satchel to produce a candle, black with golden veins. What is it?" She moves to place Alexis behind her protectively, despite the fact that the other Karm is likely more powerful of the two.
From out of the sky soars a burning Phoenix with something grasped in its talons. Something paper like. But it's not burning, only slightly charred, and it drops to the ground near the trio.
Alexis lifts her head, "I smell fire. Ab is the sun...what is a shriek? Should I be armed?" She doesn't reach for a dagger or sword. Indeed, she doesn't seem to /have/ a dagger or sword. A full laugh is bitten back with a small snort at his statement over the kiss. Instead she whispers to Catriona, "I thought /I/ was oblivious to turns of phrases that are just sayings." then there is a Phoenix and Alex squeals, "Oh isn't it pretty! Here birdy..."
Kiernan shakes his head. "I'm uncertain." He pauses, and then points toward where the sound is coming from. "Fire. A bird of some sort." And then the phoenix is there. "Someone's message bird?" He glances briefly aside to Alexis. "Do you need a weapon? I have extra." He looks up at the bird and watches it come in. "It really is pretty, isn't it?" Pause. "Is it a phoenix? I've never seen one, only read about them."
The Phoenix doesn't stick around to singe Alexis. It simply drops its missive and flies off with a screech that likely attracts all the bad things in the area.
Cat watches the parchment fall, "A bird of paradise? Pattern sending. It's not one I've seen before, so it's probably not for me. Lex?" She looks at her cousin in askance.
"I want a Phoenix! Wait! Come back!" Alex calls to the bird with a bit of a bouncing. "Oh...for me? No. I doubt it but I will open it. I'm not important enough for such things," says the girl without a hint of bitter or sorrow. She's more than happy to be 'unimportant'. Reaching down to pick up the missive she looks it over, trying to open the message without success. She even almost resorts to trying to tear it with her teeth before she thinks better of it and hands it to Catriona. The Ranger gets a shake of her silvered head, "No no, I'm quite fine. Thank you though!"
"I don't know anybody with a phoenix," says Kiernan, with a slight shrug. "I know Cyndre and Qamra both like fire. Maybe 'tis from one of them?" He watches Alexis try to open the letter without success. Then glances to Catriona as it's handed over. "Maybe 'tis for you afterall," he says. He nods absently to Alexis about weapons. "You're welcome."
Catriona accepts the singed parchment with a lift of her pale brows. She makes a grunt of sound in her throat, not at all ladylike. The letter comes open without any hesitation in her grasp. Brows wing high, both of them, after a brief moment. Silence stretches as her eyes lift, and re-read, like possibly there's a message in there that she can't quite decode. "Hrmph." Eyes lift, land on Alexis. "It's from Gilgamesh. That's... odd."
"Oh. I haven't seen him since...I...a long while I think. Whatever it is if you need my help, then you know I'll be there," Alex says with a small curtsey. Her mismatched gaze shifts between the two curiously, "I feel very out of the loop with people I don't know well at all. I really should get out more and pretend to be a proper Karm. It's easier here than at home anyhow since I'm not met with immediate distrust."
Kiernan studies Catriona as she reads that letter. He doesn't try to read the letter, just watches her as she reads. "Why is that odd?" Pause. "Then again, he's a noble, aye? They're always trouble." He wrinkles his nose and his eyes shift around, taking a check of their surroundings. He glances back to Alexis and shrugs. "I do not know him." Pause. "Why would you be met with immediate distrust?" He sounds curious.
"He denounced me, violated both my Duty and His, is married to a shrew, and has been publically cruel in the space of the last few months," Catriona replies coolly, balling the paper up, but tucking it away in her pouch none the less. "He has treated me ill, and now he asks for my help as if none of that had happened. No apology. No reinstatement of Hasp. Just... help me. However, he speaks of Baroness deSorgo, and I have already spoken with her on the same matter some weeks ago, so it should be an easy reply--" Whatever else the Karm might have said is cut off by a dark shadow soaring high overhead, blotting the rising sun momentarily.
"I am part Djinn. We are a strange folk. I am the child of the stars itself, and a Karm. Still haven't figure out how that got done," Alex says, even as she reaches out to lightly rest her hand on Catriona's arm, "Nobles. They are crazy. Let's see where this goes though. It could be a good thing," she begins and trails off with an upward glance. "This shadow isn't my doing..."
Kiernan looks back to Catriona. "How'd he denounce you and violate your duty and his? I know you mentioned a bit about it, but you never mentioned specifics." He blinks a bit. Shrew? He seems clueless but doesn't ask that. The last? He blinks at that. "Publicly cruel? That.. isn't right. What did he do?" He shakes his head. "He should apologize at the very least. He sounds like an ass." He glances to Alexis again. "Djinn?" He sounds curious. "Why would that be difficult to figure out? Someone had sex with someone else and voila, Alexis was born." He glances back to Catriona and nods. "I haven't met Baroness deSorgo. Is she nice?" As he ever is, Kiernan is /always/ curious. He looks back to Alexis and nods. "Agreed. On both counts." And then there's a shadow. Blotting out the rising sun. Kiernan's eyes go up to it. "Nor mine. Ideas?"
Cat seems to calm at Alexis's touch. Or at least, her demeanor is less chilly. However, the calm is short-lived and it renders her unable to answer Kiernan's queries. Because up in the sky there flies... a dragon; a dragon of twisted proportions, black scales, and with a tale spiked and club-like, wafting in the early morning coldness. "Er. I don't suppose that could be a Mandrake..." she offers, faintly, clasping the candle in her hand tightly.
"Um. I don't think so actually," Alex says as she peers upward. "There's something off about it. It has a familiar smell but I can't quite put my finger on it." She releases Catriona, though remains very close to the other woman, reaching under her tunic to draw it up, exposing the curve of a hip with a shove of clothes that produces both a small pair of knives and a tattoo that can only be described as occult. It glows and shifts slightly as she murmurs softly, running her fingers along the runes inked into flesh. The shadows around her, and Catriona by proxy thicken, darken and the small woman with oh so much cheer bears a sinister cast. Small, but dangerous.
Kiernan has forgotten all about his questions, too. He shrugs to the comment from Catriona. "It could be. I can't feel it, so it's sentient. I can't feel the emotions of sentient animals." Pause. "This one's not going to be as easy as the yeti." He reaches to his side and draws his sword. It's a scimitar made of pearlescent glass. Narrow and curved, sweepign to a sharp point. It's colored along the blade like ocean waves and surf, and on the hilt like a forest with a brook running through it. He is watching the dragon. Doesn't even see Alexis fiddling with her clothes. Oh sure. No shadowy protection for the Ranger. Not that he notices.
Catriona notices the shadows, of course, and even seems to relax into their embrace. There is a glance back to her cousin, and a tense smile. "Stay out of danger, Lex. I mean it this time. We'll protect you." It's almost a chiding tone, like possibly Alexis has been in danger more than once. Or twice. Or ten times. The candle in Catriona's hand, after a few whispered words, grows into a fiery blade, snapping gold and black flames. Her eyes angle to the side.
Suddenly, the dark dragon dives for the trio, and it pulls up just a few feet shy of the ground with a mighty flap of broad wings, and let's out what sounds like a woman's scream as it tries to sweep them all with it's spiked tail on the upswing.
Nope, no shadowy protection for the Ranger but it's not much protection. However, it does seem to be a starting point, for those Shadows move with Alex as she strikes out at the dragon. A small girl with small knives but those knives are accented by the ever so solid shadows she draws on. They hit along with her own strikes, biting in deep with a snarl from the girl. She curses something, or calls for something, in rolling Alhambran.
Kiernan doesn't have it in him to dodge away from a fight. He didn't really have much of a sense of self preservation before. Now? He has none at all. He pays not the slightest bit of attention to Catrinoa's display of firely blade. He has eyes for nothing but the chaos-dragon overhead. He rushes in and leaps up, aiming the sword's blade for the dragon's belly. He scores a line, just enough to split a few scales, before that tail catches him and tosses him into a tree off to the side. At least he didn't get skewered by a spike. The cut along those scales? Doesn't even bleed. Bah!
Cat and the shadows that surround her by proxy courtesy of Alexis twist aside at the exact right moment, her tiny form a blur of powerful bunching muscle. The sword, held one-handed in a grip that shouldn't be possible for such a small fist, slices out in perfect counterpoint to Alexis's knives, drawing a deep, burning score upon the tail.
The dragon shrieks out in fury, of which Kiernan probably tasted most. The scream is that of an angry woman, and the words, yes words, out of the dragon's flaming snout are enraged. "Pitiful things. Bound and unchanging things. I will split you open to find out what is inside." And the dark wings soar high, ichor dripping to splotch like acid upon the ground. The dragon dives again!
The tiny one, the tiny one of shadows and stars strikes out again at the Dragon. Her little knives barely poke at the thing, but the Shadows bite in deeper than she ever could. "I am born of the Stars themselves, you stupid, fleshy creature!" Alex shouts as she cuts into the Dragon, shadows gathering up behind her like great, leathery wings, a bird puffing up to make itself larger and more ferocious.
It's a dragon. Of course it has words. The other dragons Kiernan has encountered do! He's immediately up and off the ground, onto his feet again. He sheathes the sword and draws his bow off his shoulder as he draws an arrow from the quiver at his side. The bow comes into place, the arrow is nocked to the string. Bow is lifted and aimed, breath goes in as he draws. He holds it for a moment as he sights in on the dragon's eye. He releases the string as he exhales. And the arrow flies true. Until the dragon starts its.. her.. dive. The arrow bounces off the bony ridge just below and behind her eye. Kiernan is unphased. He simply draws another arrow from his quiver. He has eyes only for the dragon, but he keeps part of his focus on the two women.
Cat waits to strike again, only this time she doesn't do it with a sword. She waits until the dragon has been distracted by Kiernan's arrows, harmless as they prove, and waits until Alexis finds purchase with her stiletto-sharp daggers and dark, massing shadows. In the moment before the dragon shoots off into the air, the Karm lunges onto it's tail, grabbing a spike, and she pulls, hard, trying to keep the beast, with all her bulging might, from soaring off for another attack. "Now! Now! Attack, don't kill!" That spike probably hurts like hell, but Cat's cry is drowned out by the beast.
"It binds! It binds! I must not be bound!"
There is a rush of strange silence around Alex, the shadows almost smothering everything about her for a moment before all her effort is put into making her mark. Enough push to hit, but withdrawn enough not to try to go for the kill. A controlled strike is much harder and has pulled all her concentration.At least for Cat, she takes orders well.
Kiernan nocks the arrow to the string of his bow. He draws the string back as he inhales. He holds the breath for a moment longer, this time, and sights in on that eye again, held for a moment with Catriona's orders not to kill. He releases the string as he exhales. The arrow flies true, this time. It lances into the eye at an angle and sticks in the eyesocket. A debilitating blow for sure, but not a deadly one.
It's enough. It's enough to send the creature thumping to the ground, and Cat manages to hold on long enough that the other two can score those blows. The fall is so hard, the dragon in all its dark glory is knocked unconcious, sprawling to the ground in a long, shadowy heap about twelve feet in length and six feet in width.
Cat drops the tail, though she has to pry the spike free of the fleshy part of her palm first. Blood streams from the wound, and the Karm notes it, but busies herself with checking on the others, first. "All okay?" Her first glance is to her cousin, though, but Kiernan is a quick second.
The shadows disperse, feathering out into the forest as Alex gives a grin and a nod to Cat. She wipes her blades off on her clothes, "I'm a-okay." She does look over to Kiernan with an arch of a brow, checking on him even as she tells him, "Djinn are not all good. The natives are very cautious of those who have bound one, who can call one and especially those who are part one. We bear marks of our blood, so, there's distrust because our magics can really...pack a punch. Sometimes."
Kiernan watches the beast fall, and then moves toward Catriona. He pulls a cloth from a pocket and passes it over to her for her hand. "I'm fine, aye. Looks like you took the worst of it," he points out. He glances to Alexis and shrugs. "You are who you are. Unless you prove otherwise, no reason for me to distrust you."
Cat accepts the cloth with a grateful thanks, and proceeds to wrap her palm with it to staunch the blood flow. "She is as noble a woman as you would ever hope to find," the Karm offers of her kinswoman, with a spark of earnest that runs deep. Her forest-green gaze turns to survey the dragon, then. "This will make for some fascinating study. Now, to seal it. Do either of you have extra rope?" There is a length uncoiled from her satchel, but not near enough.
Alexis shakes her head, "I've no rope, I'm sorry. I didn't come prepared to tie anything up. I mean, I generally keep all that beside the bed after all," she teases Cat with a laugh. "I'm sure we could find something. Except this cloak because it's so warm and I love it right now. Maybe some...vines?"
Kiernan glances from Catriona to Alexis and back. He nods to Catriona's words about Alexis. "How mcuh do you need?" He slips out of his small pack and undoes the top. There's light, silken rope within. Light, but strong. He offers it over to Catriona. He looks to Alexis then, an appraising look in his expression. "Really now?" he asks, clearly meaning the rope beside the bed.
Cat narrows her eyes, even through the blush. "She's joking. She's an honorable woman who deserves more than light hearted play. I'll be back after I'm done this. I'm watching you two." Warning? Threat? Suprememly overprotective cousin? All of the above! The Karm accepts the rope and sets off to work, securing and binding the dragon, in preparation for the Lesser Binding.
Alexis cuts her mismatched gaze toward Kiernan with an arch of a brow, "Oh, yeah, see...all that. What she said." Sure. Right. The girl is pure trouble but somehow, without the shadows, without the powers, she's just...small, harmless, cute. It's almost devious, but yet, surely she's so adorable she couldn't be at all devious. Nope. "But to be honest, I don't deal with people...much. I'm a bit of a loner, which is why when I'm social, I'm very very social. Desert life is warm, but it's...hard."
Kiernan shifts his eyes back to Catriona, and tilts his head thoughtfully. "I will do nothing to hurt your cousin," he says. The words have the sound of an oath to them. Though, of course, Kiernan has no such powers, so it's merely a promise. He looks away and back to Alexis. He nods to what she's said, thoughtful. "Being alone is easier. Hurts less." He turns his eyes away, busying himself with closing the pack up and putting it back in place. And then the bow gets slung over his shoulder.
"It's easier until you're a month long of nothing and no one," Alexis says with a shrug. "Then again, any time you're standing on the grass on the other side of the fence, it always seems better. That's why that's a saying. And cows are pretty dumb. Both those things together. But really, I don't keep to myself because it hurts...less...or because anything or anyone hurt me. Sometimes, I just need to learn things. Takes time. Also, people have to know you to hurt you. I'm a bit of...oh...I hate to say complicated. So cliche. Spend a lot of time alone, Ranger?"