North Hampshire: Crosswaters Farm
The Crosswaters are a prosperous Hafling clan of North Hampshire. The clan is spread out across the shire and counts, among its members, several families in Kiana and the Fishery as well as a few Druids of Ishtar.
The main dwelling of the Crosswaters is located near Crosswaters Creek, though none can recall if the clan is named after the creek or the creek after the clan. The home is large and spacious with enough subterranean halls to host a goodly number of guests. It would be a bit cramped for big folk, but the Crosswaters are not in the habit of inviting foreigners inside.
A large field stands between the main home and the creek, and it is often used for family gatherings and parties. A new dwelling has been built under the ruins of an old barn that once stood on the hill above the main house, and other branches of the clan maintain homes and farms in varying directions at varying distances.
(OOC: Miiya Aether)
From: North Hampshire
Miiya sat in a huddled cone of feathers before the roaring fire the Crosswaters had stoked for her. She had revived somewhat on the litter-borne journey to the main dwelling of the Crosswaters clan. The last time she had been here, she had not been invited inside. Now, however, the head family showed no compunction about bringing the injured Aeros girl inside and tending to her.
Everything hurt. Her feathers hurt. Nothing, however, seemed to be broken, despite her barely-controlled crash in the cabbage patch.
She held a steaming mug of corn chowder in her bandaged hands, and spooned it in as quickly as the hot liquid and her shaking limbs would allow.
She had practically needed to be carried into the tight quarters of the Hafling home. The muscles of her arms and legs--her entire body actually--had been metabolized to keep her wings beating until she had been blown, by the storm, across the entire ocean and a good portion of Aniada.
Between sips, she did her best to answer the Crosswaters' questions, with nods and gestures. She just didn't have the strength to speak yet.
Yes, she was the same Aeros who had performed at the wedding last summer. No, she hadn't been living in Kiana during or after the battle. Yes, she'd gotten covered in ice and snow from flying high in the clouds. No, her brother wasn't with her.
At this last question, Miiya's head drooped. A little of what liquid she had left in her squeezed out as a tear that fell into her chowder. She had made it. She would save him.
"Storm's end." She whispered. "I have to find the monster at Storm's End." Speaking was too hard. She nearly tipped over with the effort of it.
The matron of the Crosswaters stepped in. "That's enough yew lot. No more questions. Leave the lass to rest an' git some victuals in her." She shooed the rest of the clan; family, curious visitors, and assorted children.
Turning to Miiya, she spoke softly. "Soft, soft, my lovely, we'll help yew find what yew seek. But first yew need food and rest."
The Crosswaters were not much in the habit of inviting strangers into their homes, but the Aeros girl was a familiar face who'd been in a bad way, and the clan was prosperous enough to afford such a small charity. North Hampshire had avoided the war damage done to the eastern reaches and Kiana proper. The year since the Battle of Kiana had seen bumper crops and--on a sadder note--far fewer mouths to feed than usual, so the shire had been able to make up for the damage to the Fishery and its environs while still keeping full silos and tills.
This was more-or-less the nature of the conversation and agreements made betweens those Crosswaters present as they discussed Miiya's disposition amidst second tea and through a few rounds of pipe weed.
The girl, if she so chose, would be helped to one of the subterrranean guest rooms and made as comfortable as a short biggun could be with the furnishings of the small folk. Some of the burlier uncles would keep, if not guard, then at least watch over the door to her room through the rest of the day and night.
(OOC: Miiya Aether)
A little food and a lot of not flying revived Miiya somewhat. She'd not been as close to death's door as she had seemed when the Haflings had pulled her from the cabbage patch. Aeros were built for thin air, cold, and exertion. As she allowed herself to be led to a Hafling-sized bedroom, she found voice and strength enough to thank her benefactors. That she'd landed on the selfsame farm where she and Cahron had performed just a few months ago lent her confidence that she was still on the path set out for her by the Jade Oracle.
Though the Weyers of the Mountains Ethereal were caves, Miiya had only been underground a handful of times, and those had been uncomfortable experiences for her. Still, she was too exhausted to work up any trepidation about the tons of stone and dirt between herself and the sky. "I coudn't..." she whispered to herself, then stopped, because talking to no one was a waste of energy she didn't have. She'd meant to reassure herself that she could not have flown even were there nothing between herself and the sky. She felt that she couldn't manage a post-flight stretch, couldn't remove her altitude gear, she could barely even walk unaided. As she collapsed onto the straw tick, it was all she could do to extinguish the candle she'd been given before she slipped into unconsciousness, wholly depending on the trustworthiness of her hosts.
(OOC: Miiya Aether)
Unwise and unworldy or not, Miiya survived the night at the Crosswaters. She had crashed near noontide and retired in the late afternoon, to sleep until late the following morning, awakening at a soft rapping before the door to the room was opened. The room was lit by a shaft of late morning sunshine coming from a sort of tunnel in the ceiling. So while Miiya felt a moment of panic an she reoriented herself, it was lessened by being able to see and recall her environs. "Uh... come in."
At her summons, a broad Hafling entered. "Is yew alright, Miss? Been asleep mor'n 'alf a day, yew has." He said.
Rest and food had restored some of the wits Miiya had taken leave of, reminding her that she was in an unfamiliar place amongst virtual strangers. She rolled upright, stood, and immediately struck her head on a beam reinforcing the plaster ceiling. "Ouch!" She commented on both the bump on the head and the general complaint of overtaxed muscles from the previous days of flying.
The Hafling spread his hands. "I don't mean to trouble yew none, Miss. If rest's wot yew need, then yew ought ta take et." He paused. "I was just sent to ask if yew want ta join us fer lunch. I can bring yew some, if yer not well enough to be up yet."
"No, I'm okay, thanks for inviting me!" Miiya rubbed her head. "Um... can yew give me just a minute?" She asked. She was still in her flight gear with the blood and dirt of yesterday in the places where her hosts hadn't cleaned and bandaged her. The room held a vanity and washbasin she wanted to use to make a run at presentability if her escort allowed.
"Certainly, Miss. Oi'll be right outside when yer ready." The Hafling replied, obligingly.
A few minutes later Miiya was feeling very out of place in a bustling Hafling kitchen despite having hung up her flight gear and scrubbed away what grime she could. Florid-faced Crosswaters in from the fields shouted loudly to each other about how the day was going and the hows and wherefores of what still needed to be done by sundown, older, paler Crosswaters alternated between passing out great thick butter-slathered hunks of breads, cheeses, meats, and sundry, and snatching them back or shouting at diners for being too piggish. Pot lids rattled with something boiling underneath, steam and delicious smells wafted, and extra-small children chased each other underfoot. In the midst of the bedlam, Miiya stood petrified with arms, legs, and wings pulled in tight to try to stay out of the way of the storm of Haflings.
While the chaos was a bit greater than usual due to their exotic guest--and all the aunts, uncles, and cousins come to secretly gawk at her--any sort of repast was serious business in the Crosswaters household, and all present set to with a will. All save Miiya, who still remembered her mother's exortations of proper manners when in anothers' home.
Seeing the wide-eyed longing look their Aeros guest gave every morsel that passed around her, a sweaty Crosswaters mother paused from chasing one of her offspring long enough to speak to Miiya. "Dearie, I'll only say this once; Eat!" She placed hands on hips, looking up and addressing Miiya directly. "Yer nothin' but skin'n'bones, and non'll begrudge yew, or tell yew twice, to partake." She turned to collar a juvenile Haflet about to abscond with a full loaf of pumpernickle. "Just watch yer fingers don't get snapped up!" She called over her shoulder.
So encouraged, Miiya joined the meal/battle. Her first bite came from an iced orange peel scone, and nearly brought tears to her eyes with its richness. After months of spartan fare from her father's homestead, the Hafling kitchen seemed to be a slice of heaven. Multiple slices, actually.
(OOC: The Crosswaters Family)
At first, hardly anyone paid heed that the tall bird person had started to partake in lunch. It was one of the primary meals of the day, unlike Extra Tea (after Second Tea) or Eight-Fifties, which might be foregone in a dire emergency. No, Lunch was too serious a matter to brook distraction, even if most of those present had decided to Lunch at Crosswaters in order to see the newcomer.
However, as Lunch progressed, the Aeros girl began to gather more and more attention, in part as the assembled family filled their bellies, but in greater part because the biggun seemed unable to fill hers.
Like any self-respecting Hafer, every member of the Crosswaters appreciated the ability to put away tucker. Of course, they all knew that Haflings were champion eaters; it went hand-in-hand with being good farmers and homebodies. If Hafers roamed thither and yon like some of the big folk of the world, they'd soon strip the land bare with their voracious appetites. No, it was the Hafling way, the Kianan way, and especially the Crosswaters way to stay put, grow prodigious amounts of food, and consume said food. Even the towering Northman--who was the last foreigner the Crosswaters had seen (on account of him fading into the distance last due to his height) hadn't been able to best even the lighter eaters of the Crosswaters clan.
But this girl, though she had barely an ounce of meat on her, seemed to be on the way to eating nearly as much as Aunt Claribel, then surpassing her, as much as Grandpa Tally. And she still continued to eat, at least, until she noticed the admiration she was gathering.
"Don't stop, child!" Exhorted more than one of the Crosswaters. "See if yew can best old Merryweather!"
"Oi'll take that challenge." One of the stouter Haflings said, loosening his belt a couple of notches. "Tho I 'ave 'ad a rather sizeable Elevensies." He winked at Miiya before stacking a few slabs of ham, several biscuits, a pair of scones, two ears of corn, and sundry other items onto a plate.
OOC: Miiya Aether
Miiya wasn't sure just how the Haflings were keeping score, but she was more than happy to oblige. It must be the Oracle's prophesy, she thought, that she had landed in such rich country amidst friendly and familiar Haflings. Cahron had loved to busk in Kiana and on H'jek Daru--anywhere Haflings settled really. The little peoples might be a bit stingy with their coin, but never when it came to feasting.
She had caught a glimpse of herself in one of the burrow's? cave's? dwelling's? mirrors, and had not been pleased by what she saw. The flight must have cost her two stone of hard-won weight, maybe three. The road to Aerie, before Cahron's affliction, had not been easy. Altitude training, and her father's (and her own) so-called cooking had not been much better. But the fare here--while it might not be the Crosswaters Wedding Feast--it still transported her to a heavenly world of sweets and savories. "Now go to the right place, yew." She whispered to the side of bacon she had wrapped around a cream-cheese slathered sourdough roll.
The gathered haflings were cheering now, some for her, and others for Merryweather. Miiya colored with embarrassment, but still reached for a stack of cornbread while swallowing the last of her collared greens. Her mother would be aghast at pretty much every aspect of her behaviour, but Miiya might be a Storm Dancer now. She had overflown the ocean! Why shouldn't she eat and drink and sing like those legendary Aeros warriors? Maybe this was who she was supposed to be.
But still, she had lived the life of a scholar--as much as a child of the slums could--in Daelows for her first decade and a half, and the manners and mildness her mother had beat into her remained. Miiya ate quickly and quietly, resolving to stop when her competitor did. She was still a guest here, and an uncertain one. She had a few krowns sewn into her flight gear, but no real idea how, when, and if they'd be needed to pay for the generosity of the Crosswaters.
Like other Aeros, now that she was actively aviating, Miiya could rapidly metabolize the great quantities of calories necessary to fuel and rebuild her flight muscles and fat stores. If she had truly become a Storm Dancer--as she suspected--she could recover the weight and strength she had lost in days, rather than weeks, and be able to return to the air very soon.
As she ate, she couldn't help but smile. She had been guided by providence. Aka-Aa'ar was with her, despite her father's warnings. Now, if only Old Merryweather had the stomach to best a Storm Dancer in an eating contest...
OOC: The Crosswaters Clan
Miiya needn't have worried. The aged patron of the Crosswaters clan had as much capacity for gluttony as he had notches on his belt, and it was a long belt. When at last the Aeros girl was sated, the portly Hafling politely dabbed at his chin with his shirt and let out a tremendous belch. "Amazing performance, my young friend, and my complements as well to the cooks!" He said to applause from the Crosswaters who had remained to witness the contest. "I have never seen a biggun who could keep up with me for so long as yew. Well done!" The family echoed his praise of Miiya.
After the meal, the heads of the Crosswaters as well as several aunts and uncles worked to clear the spread, storing some and setting the rest aside for Tea. They shooed aside any of Miiya's efforts to help, and directed her to speak with Daphne, the daughter of the head of the family.
"...so yew may come and go as yew please until dusk, dearie." She finished, after she explained the house rules to Miiya. The Crosswaters had resolved to host the young Aeros for as long as she needed to recover and continue on her way, without mention of payment or recompense.
OOC: Miiya Aether
"Here you go." Miiya handed the parcel, she'd retrieved from The Fishery northeast of Kiana, to Bella Crosswaters, refusing the proffered silver. She still felt awkward accepting payment from the family that had saved her life after her trans-oceanic flight. The crosswaters had nursed her back to health, and then let her stay on while she regained her strength and waited for the oracle's prophecy to come true. They continued to refuse payment for her room and board, so free deliveries was the least she could do, in return.
Once she'd regained the power of flight, the little folk of South Hampshire had been delighted to have a fast mail and parcel carrier who could connect them with all parts of Kiana. Normally a trip to town was at least an all-day affair on horseback, and points north or foot/cart travel required an overnight stay. Airborne, Miiya could make a daily circuit of the Hafling lands, picking up and delivering letters and small parcels, and still have time for a few side-deliveries, before sunset. She charged two coppers for letters and a silver for parcels (since she could only carry about one stone's worth of cargo). Business was booming, and she had managed to collect a good purse to buy essentials she hadn't been able to carry from Aerie.
After recovering, she'd asked after a place called "Storm's End" where the Jade Oracle had said she would meet a monster who could save Cahron.
"Storm's End's wot Gillyroy named the house 'ee bilt where tae old barn used ta stand." Merrimac Crosswaters had replied. "Me Niece wudn't let 'im call et 'Underbarn'." He had shaken his head. "Young folk these days got no ken o' names. Too much romance, nawt enough sense."
"But there's no monster at Storm's End, save their little tyke." Pauline Crosswaters had informed Miiya. "Yew kin call upon 'em an see for yerself."
So Miiya had, and had found the married couple--at who's wedding She and Cahron had performed--dwelling in a comfortable home excavated under the ruins of the barn in which the performers had slept on that visit. Still, as the elder clan members had said, there was no sign of any monster in or around Storm's End.
Even so, Miiya was certain this was the place of which the Jade Oracle had spoken. So she resolved to stay with the Crosswaters and provide courrier services to the region for however long it took the monster to appear. While the hafling family seemed to have grown used to her presence, Miiya had come to the realization that they did not like talk of prophecies, adventure, or anything that might disturb their bucolic life. She resolved to tread lightly and watch her words around the clan.
OOC: Bella Crosswaters
The hafling woman accepted the parcel. "Thank yew, dearie. I'm so sorry to trouble yew, but do yew have time to deliver a letter to town?" She asked. "I just remembered, this morning, that a Oncedug cousin is supposed to be in town. He's visiting all the way from Sagav on H'jek Daru!" She informed Miiya.
Bella looked a little embarrassed. "I'm afraid I've forgotten his name--I just marked "cousin"--on my calendar, but you'll have no trouble finding him. He has long hair dyed blue, and he wears it in a braid." Bella laughed. "Blue hair! Can yew even imagine? And all that travelling! Such an odd duck!" She said, pressing a letter into Miiya's hands. "If you don't spot him, just leave this with Zenfe at the Griffon and tell him to give it to the odd traveller with blue hair. He'll make sure it gets to him." Bella instructed, never imagining there might be more than one blue-haired person in the whole of Arcane, perhaps forgivable since her own experience with the worlde did not extend beyond the borders of Kiana.
OOC: Miiya Aether
Miiya pasted up a smile on her face while she listened to Bella. She had kinda known this was going to happen when she picked up the parcel for the woman. Bella nearly always had some errand for her to run--though she lived at Daisies Underhill, around the bend from the Crosswaters main home--and flagged Miiya down more often than any other member of the clan. Usually her deliveries were the most difficult, and she tended to assign them to Miiya late in the day.
Still, Miiya could hardly complain. The worst adversity over the few days she'd been the Crosswaters' resident courier, entertainer, and help around the house, had been getting caught by an afternoon thundershower. She could see why the Crosswaters were so content, and why Bella savored her little excitements--even if it meant an extra flight for Miiya. "Sure thing!" She piped up, and the happiness in her voice was not false. She still loved to fly after being denied the sky for much of her childhood, and she could visit the smithy and the leatherworker while she was looking for Mr. Blue Hair. Maybe her new cross-body flight satchels and waterskeins would be ready. She wasn't sure how the Crosswaters would feel about he dagger she intended to purchase from the smith, but she'd overfly that peak when it came.
"Blue hair! Got it! I'm off!" She chirped, tucking the letter safely away, then crouched and sprang into the air, blasting Bella with her downwash. Vertical takeoffs were easier the vertical landings, but still took some technique. Miiya purposefully pushed herself to fly her routes high, hard, and fast. She felt stronger than before. Maybe she was a Storm Dancer now! Miiya certainly hoped so, as she winged her way toward town.
The TonDen came to a halt in a skirl of dust and leaves atop the hill where the old Crosswaters barn had once stood. All twenty-something monstrous feet of the creature seemed poised, as if listening to some distant melody, or scenting something hinted at by the breeze.
She had been here. Like she had been where the mountains floated in the sky. Like she had been where the great circular lake had formed where she had struck a star from the sky. Like she had been where a great gouge was carved in the earth, straight and unbending from the mountains into the trackless sands of the desert.
But this place tasted different. Rage, fear, and dark, dark hate had tainted the essence she had left behind in those other places. But here, something different had occured. It smelled of... longing? Despair? The TonDen stood and contemplated this place, even as a small unobtrusive door set into the hill beneath it's cloven hooves opened a crack, and then rapidly slammed shut again as the inhabitents of the subterranean dwelling caught sight of the monster.
Longing, despair, and hate. Always the great sea of ire, that she carried with her, left its mark behind, like the high tide line after a Tsunami.
There was a sound, though the TonDen barely noticed--so deeply involved in its musings was it--on the breeze. A deep periodic reverberation. Bells. Bells from the West. More distant bells from the East, taking up the alarm. Still the TonDen stood, glowing faintly with the great slow turnings of its mind.
From the more dangerous path between Kiana and North Hampshire came a small party. The Crosswaters resident aerial messenger and the aged mare on which she rode made up two of the group.
Miiya looked pale and unsteady upon Pasquella. She was covered in blood and bandages, clearly the worse for whatever had befallen her during the day. "Where is everyone?" She wondered to herself as they passed the empty fields and shut doors of the shire, before reaching the Crosswaters main dwelling: also closed up tight.
From: Tobold's Hollow
The silence and emptiness that Miiya found odd did not bother Vjerdt. When one hails from the icy expanses of the Krowne, the current surroundings would seem rather lively. Of course, there was nothing of the hustle and bustle of the Green Griffon or of Kiana's Market Street (of which Vjerdt was honestly thankful), but there were colors, and fields, and small cottages - so much to absorb!
"This is lovely," the Ice Gnome thought to himself, finally reaching what he assumed to be the Crosswaters residence - for they had all stopped. After the harrowing battle at the Hollow, he would welcome some peace and quiet.
The Crosswaters Clan
Uncle Benni pounded on the door the the Crosswaters main dwelling. "Open up, sez oi! Wots all that clanging about then?" He hollered.
After a moment, there came from the door the sound of latches and bolts being opened. The door cracked open a hair. "Benniflax, yew old goat! Get in here, quick-like!" A voice from inside said in a hoarse whisper. "An tell them demmed foreigners ya go away!"
"Easy there!" Benni exclaimed. "Why, the two I gots wif me be jus Miiya an a little visitin' feller from far north ways." He pushed against the door, trying to widen the crack. "Theys been roughed up a bit in the holler, an cud use sum lukin after." He said.
"Don't care! Neither one of 'ems welcome here." The voice hissed. "Specially not the winged one. She's brot disaster down upon us, wot with all her talk of prophecies and monsters!" The Hafling inside grabbed Benni and pulled him inside. "The Guard's been roused. They'll deal with the creature she summoned to Underbarn! Now get inside, yew demmed fool!"
With a rather puzzled last look at Miiya and a shrug to Vjerdt, the Hafling slipped inside, and the door quickly slammed shut behind him leaving Vjerdt and Miiya alone on the Crosswaters doorstep.