The Hidden Estate of Duskhill
Pioloss nodded, smiling with satisfaction at what he assumed to be Picnic’s revelation about feelings… Until he was told to standby whilst the golem attempted to remove it. “Picnic wait! Dont-” He began, the smile dropping from his face as if it had been slapped off before he fell totally silent as the pulsing blue faded to be replaced with the darker hues of No Picnic.
Pioloss scarcely dared to breathe, fearful that even that might set off Picnic's more violent alter ego. But thankfully, No Picnic was gone almost as quickly as he had arrived.
“I am unable to remove the fault.” Picnic reported.
Once again Pioloss smiled, and once again it fell from his face as the golem continued talking. Contaminated?! It was impossible to say for sure whether Picnic considered that a good, or a bad thing. But under the circumstances Pioloss wasn’t about to take the risk.
“Not contaminated Picnic.” He clarified. “Your mind is evolving! Feelings are a byproduct of free will, it means you are more surely becoming your own… golem.”
Hopefully that would serve to convince Picnic, but if not, Pioloss was already trying to come up with an example of how “irrational” feelings could be every bit, if not more so, as valid as pure logic.
The golem fell silent, considering Pioloss's statement.
For the remainder of the night, as well as a good chunk of the morning.
It was only after it had moved outside, and had the treasures retrieved from the sunken ship loaded upon it, that Picnic spoke again. "Do your feelings also evolve, or are they static?"
To: Outside with the others.
Picnic again lapsed into silence. But rather than feeling awkward, as if he was waiting with baited breath for whatever response might be forthcoming, Pioloss found the contemplative quiet to be quite relaxing. It allowed him to ponder his own feelings - something he had never before paid much mind to - in greater detail.
He had come so far of late. Ever since his chance encounter with Rigel and Mr White back in Seven Oaks, it was as if his mindscape had been painted with every colour known to man, whereas before it had been only grey. Of course there had been hardships. Losses, fear, and more embarrassment and worry in a few short days (mostly due to Pioloss’s own ill considered actions) than he had felt before in a lifetime. But emotionally he was alive as never before. Which was funny really, given that he was now at least partially undead!
So when Picnic finally answered, long after they had both moved outside to begin preparing for their imminent departure, though Pioloss was somewhat shocked at the golems insightful counter question, answering it was easy.
"Absolutely my feelings evolve! In fact I have recently undergone something of a chrysalis in that regard, and I feel all the better for it!"
“Let’s go.” The drowess did not have much to say--speaking was still a rasping affair for her anyway--to the group assembled for their march to Shaarn. She led the way from Duskhill’s grounds into the fungal forest of the immense cavern. As they walked, she detailed the trail ahead to Tom-Cat.
Myrae knew the path, which forks to take and which caves, grottos, and chasms they would have to traverse. What she did not know were which flora and fauna had nested in them since she had last made the passage. The scout’s job was to suss out the various paths and choose the safest route.
The first day’s walk would see them through Duskhill’s great cavern. They would pass the crystal-clear lake with its central waterfall. The group skirted the shore opposite of the outflowing river that led to the ice caves. After the lake, the fungal forest gave way to purple fern fields. The ferns were thin-leaved and had an appearance similar to tall grasses or wheat, rising to chest-height on the Umans, making the goblin porters--and anything else of their stature--entirely hidden in the fields.
Near the end of the lighter cycle, the party would reach the narrowing end of the great cavern. The floor rose in natural terraces to meet the lowering stalactites of the ceiling. Numerous smaller caves branched off from the end of the huge cavern. Streams flowed from some of these smaller caves whilst smoke and steam issued from others.
Grog and his crew arrived, hefting their burden and staying near the center of the group of travelers. By their chattering, it seemed they were in high spirits after looting the rival goblin’s abandoned camp and then visiting their own tribe in the days prior.
The elfmaid found herself remarkably reluctant to leave Duskhill. The return of her goblin porters reminded her of the events of the days prior. She was tempted to distance herself from the memories, but all those traveling with her--save Myrae--were more Uman than anything. The seamstress had learned that “being elvish” while caravanning was not really advisable in the presence of the shorter-lived races, so she stayed present and did her best to act more Uman.
To take her mind off things, she tried talking to Miiya, asking the Aeros about herself; where she grew up, how she found herself in the Underneath, and the like.
The Aeros girl generally followed along and tried to stay out of the way as the group set out from Duskhill. The only exception was when Myrae sent Tom-Cat to scout ahead of the group. Then, she’d left Picnic’s side to run ahead to the catboy. “Tom, be careful, okay?” She’d said.
Miiya had been planning her goodbye to Tom-Cat pretty much all morning, and that was still the best she could come up with, along with a halting addendum. “...I, uh…” about as smoothly as the sand-jammed gears of The Watcher of Kiana, she lurched forward in lieu of saying more awkward things, and planted a kiss on his cheek. Except that she had not decided if it should be a kiss on the cheek or a peck on the lips, so it ended up more of a headbutt to his jaw. Miiya pecked like she was attacking an earthworm about to escape into the dirt, and then turned quite a few shades more red because Oh god. Everyone saw that!
Miiya was pretty grateful to Faan for pulling her from a worlde of cringe by pretending nothing awkward had happened and talking to her as if she was not some sort of circus freak. After a little while, the conversation with the elfmaid loosened her up enough so that her usual mostly-sunny disposition returned.
“Oh, hey, do you wanna ride?” Miiya offered at one point. “I don’t think he minds, do you, Picnic?” Tom-Cat had insisted she ride the golem, but Miiya figured she could manage to walk a few miles (well, maybe one) without getting hardfoot.
Rigel waited as the others gathered then took up position near Picnic. He found the great blue construct an interesting creature. He had not spent much time with his new friends since they had arrived here he hoped to further connect with Faan and Pioloss in the few days their journey would take.
For now as they walked he had a mission, he watched. he watched for anything tracking them, anything following them, anything that might put their little band in any sort of danger.
Rigel looked back often to see that no one was falling behind and that the group did not get too strung out. He has seen more than once the high cost of a group getting too spread out then attacked. The results were often disastrous, and that was with groups of trained soldiers. He could only imagine the devastation that could cause with this group...TPK. More than once he noticed Myrae watching him, but more often she was looking elsewhere as they made trekked through the massive cavern.
He also kept an eye forward in case Tom-Cat made a sudden rushing return.
As had become his habit he was constantly assessing their surroundings and planning for any contingencies. Strange how that line of thinking was so ingrained that Rigel never even thought of it consciously. How several years away from that sort of task seemed to have made no difference.
┠ TOM CAT ┨
A Felonious Feline
╺ ✽ ╸
"Do you belong to the city or the wilds? Are you human or animal? Are you sane or lunatic? Both? Neither? Yes."
– Heather Durham
[OOC: from Duskhill - the Window Seat Bedroom]
Tom-Cat had woken up climbing the walls, with that itch under his skin that’d made it feel like his temperature was up. The itch felt like a stray spark in midsummer that’d caught some dry brush and smoldered under the leaf litter for hours, before suddenly erupting into broiling flames. It’d been like every fever-flu he’d ever had rolled into one big ‘JOOK YOU’–except not really. It was worse, somehow. He’d take the fever-sweat of the flu over…this.
Kwesh! It’d been a while since he’d felt…
He’d groaned, shivering when Miiya had shifted a bit from where she'd apparently fallen asleep and sprawled out across him during the night. He’d felt almost too hot and weirdly feverish, as heat had abruptly seared through him like an inferno. Fire licked the surface of his bones and scorched the underside of his skin, until it felt like he’d burn anyone who touched him. He'd felt like he might burn up and was surprised that Miiya hadn’t burned up, too. She shifted across him as she’d slid off the bed, and he’d hissed out a quiet breath, before letting his head drop back down to the pillow.
Maybe he’d smother himself with it, because she.was.not.helping.
Every sense in his body was running on high–everything smelled sharper, felt more raw, but it was uncontrollable and just so jookan awful, at the same time. Tom-Cat hadn’t gone down to help her with breakfast, because he really hadn’t wanted to deal with anyone other than her, at that point. In fact, all he’d really wanted to do was pin her to the mattress and…smell her skin or something–look, he gets it. He does. Okay? Because he’d hadn’t really been able to help it
not that he’d tried very hard and that hadn’t been the jookan point, anyway. The point was, that it’d been pure animal and weird and it hadn’t actually mattered, because there’d been no time for…whatever, regardless.
Tom-Cat felt restless, agitated, and so jookan short-tempered, that even practicing some self-care meditation pissed him off.
He’d had a major case of resting garce face and had still felt pissed off and overwrought by the time he’d dragged himself down to the kitchen to eat some breakfast, that he’d almost hoped someone had picked a fight with him. He’d had to suck down roughly four cups of kaffe (loaded with sugar) and meditate two or three more times, before he’d finally calmed enough to get his head back in the game.
The heat was still there, but distant.
It’d been reduced to a quiet burn, simmering somewhere down in his marrow.
He could deal with that–for a while, at least.
╺ ✽ ╸
It’s obvious that the catboy is back to his usual mood of casual ambivalence towards everyone except for Miiya and Myrae (as compared to his obviously restless state at breakfast) and he looks much more loose and relaxed. It’s apparent that he’d put his time to good use during the previous night as he slides next to Myrae to discuss the first leg of their route with her.
Tom-Cat is wearing the most clothing that any of their three new…companions have seen him in, though it’s obvious from his easy bearing that he'd be as comfortable traveling in a full masquerade costume, as he’d be wearing only his undershorts and weapons. His current travel attire falls somewhere between the two, and is strangely stylish yet functional–it’s clear that his garments were made by a rather skilled tailor. The catling looks remarkably fashionable as he walks ahead of the group next to the Drowess, and would fit right in with the street style of fashion-forward youths of any big city the world over, like Greater Daelows, Terajin, or Caradon–minus the weapons and equipment, of course.
It makes sense: he’s wearing clothing that once belonged to his brothers, Cheshire and Chatte, though both garments were new and unworn when they’d been given to him. He loves that the slim-fit, black pants Cheshire gave him are stylish without sacrificing utility, and appreciates the clever functionality of the short-sleeved, hooded top that Chatte gifted to him. (Tom-Cat’s favorite part about the shirt is the hood that has slits for his ears, and the mask that he can pull up to conceal the lower half of his face. ) The only other gear that he carried were his weapons and equipment attached at various points to the leather harness he’d modified, and a sling-style backpack–another gift from Chatte–that is large enough for a couple changes of clothing, while maintaining a slim enough profile to be worn slung across his front or back, and still allow him access to his weapons.
Tom-Cat wasn't necessarily avoiding Miiya, but given how he woke up that morning, also knows that he’d easily be thrown off-balance by her presence and he needs to keep his mind focused. Of course, all of that sort of falls by the wayside when she came running up to him, and, so adorably awkward he sort of wants to throw her over his shoulder and smother–in a manner of speaking–her in some dark corner, she sort of punches him with a kiss to the jaw. Okay…not the best and certainly not exactly what he’d been hoping for, but he’ll take it.
He’ll just make sure he initiates next time, and who knows, maybe they can practice a bit before then.
The catboy grins at the Aeros and grabs her wrist and tugs her into him, before she can run away in burning shame. He smiles at her, feeling the fire in his marrow move up to settle over his bones, but he manages to keep it tamped down, nonetheless. He slides his arms around her in a brief embrace and tries to keep his anxiety over her safety from drifting into the bond. He leans back, catches her eye, and then quickly scent-marks her. As he pulls away, he gives into his impulse and presses a small kiss to the corner of her mouth, before he straightens.
Tom-Cat slips the backpack off and hands it to Miiya. He doesn’t need it for scouting and has plenty of space in the pouch attached to the waist strap of the harness. It’s small, but it’s big enough to carry some snacks (trail mix), a little hand held device for creating a spark for a fire; chalk for marking the correct trail, and other odds and ends. “Keep an eye on this forrr me, Teleskela,” he says, his tail slipping around her waist. His ears swivel to listen to something in the distance as he adds: “Please.” He grins. “You can be surrre I’ll be back forrr it.” He steps back, his yellow eyes glinting. “And you, of courrrse.”
With that, Tom-Cat starts to turn away before he pauses and turns halfway back to her. “By the way, don’t botherrr looking for yourrr tipsu in my pack.” The catling catches Miiya’s eye and raises a brow. He pulls aside the strap across his chest just far enough for her to see her tipsu tucked into the underside of the strap–it was kept in a modified slip pocket that secured the feather tight against the strap, with an extra piece of fabric-lined leather protecting it from rubbing directly against his clothing or skin. He readjusts the strap across his chest.
“You might find something interrresting in the strrrap of yourrr own bag,” he offers nonchalantly, followed by a shrug. He’s only hidden a small note in that part of Miiya’s pack, but he doesn’t want her to find all of them, all at once. Tom-Cat’s smile drops as he grows momentarily serious.
“Please stay safe, Teleskela. Rrride on Picnic so you don’t get harrrdfoot, okay?” he says in a soft voice. He lingers for just a second longer before he fully turns and jogs up the path.
Tom-Cat’s shape grows progressively smaller as he quickly puts distance between himself and the group. He stops right before he disappears around a corner, turns back, smiles, and waves, knowing that Miiya can easily see him.
He blows her a kiss with a cheeky grin.
Finally, he turns and disappears from sight.
[OOC: Okay peepsicles – let’s say the first stop is The Paths To & From Duskhill: A path through the Fungal Forest]
TOM-CAT: [KIANA BEACH: ★First Stab - POUNCE (★1/2) - WATCHER BATTLE (3/★4/5/6/★7)] – [GOBLIN SLAYING: (1)-(☆1/2)] – [ICE CAVES: CLIFFHANGER (★1/2) - POWDER KEG (★1/2/3) - HYPOTHERMIA (4/5/6) - BONDED (7/8/9/)] – [SUNSTEALER:(1/2/3/4)-(1/2)] – ★Miiya & Cat-Tom – [SPARRING: (1/2/★3)] - ☆The Great Tipsu Hunt! - ☆Stolen Kiss – ☆Overwhelmed by Intimacy – Returning to Her – ★Bath Time Bonding – ☆Wings, Tails, & Love – ☆Cave Storms – Climbing the Walls – [1st KISS: ★Chase-(★2/★3/4)] – ★Cat-Tom: Rescue Kitty! – Cat-Tom vs. Skaven – ☆(Forced) Shift Back – 9 Lives – ★A Beast in the Darkness – Reuniting w/Teleskela – ☆Bored Nihilism – Cat vs. Dragon – ★Emotionally Exhausted Bath – ☆Catboy, Interrupted – All For Her – ☆Bellissimo Gato – [BATH-HOUSE: Confessions(1/2/3/4)] – Catboys Can Purr – ★Bagels, Love Poems & Catnapping – Love Poem – [FIGHT PIT: CHAMPION SUITE (★1.No, no, no.../2a-2b/3.Prostitution/★4.Tipsu/☆5/☆6a-6b/★7a-7b.Holden's/Proposition) - GRAND ARENA (Leona/☆F#1/★F#4/★Cat-Tom vs.Werewolf: 1/2/3) - LOST (1/★2) - FOUND (3/4a-4b/5/★6.Swansong Kiss) - RESCUE (★1.Teleskela, MF'er/2/☆3.Reawakened Bond) - ESCAPE (4/5/6/7)]
DAETH: ☆Breaking Callon - ☆Pleasure w/Pain - Teasing Amarice - [DAYTRIP: LAVISH HAND (1/2/3a-3b/☆4.Sensing Death] - Kissing Fate(★1a-1b) - Precariously Balanced Nature - ★At Long Last, Eddellyn - Soul Searching - ☆Into the Maze - ★The Minotaur & The Labyrinth - ★Heart of the Maze - Before the Storm - ★Thunder & Honey - ★Ripped Gowns - ★Sensual Poetry - Warding Sigils - ★Hedonistic Filth & House-Sized Party Crasher - Confronting Maarazaar(1/2/3) - ★Ash Bunny Irihi - Cormeum MIA (stolen heart) - A Vow & Shadowy Msg
RISQUÉ: ★Fun with Fisticuffs!
[CHATTE] ★Enter Chatte - Chat w/Castor - ★Proposing the Race
[ASMODIEL & GALVINA] ★A Celestial & Demoness Play Cards - Asmodiel Smites a Feeder - An Angel & Aeros Walk Into a Bar... - Undaunted Spirit - Benediction
[☆ = favorite / ★= extra fave]
“No, thank you.” The elfmaid demured from Miiya’s offer to ride the golem. Faan was nowhere near as comfortable with Picnic as Miiya. “Have you two known each other long?” She asked both girl and golem.
To: The path through the fungal forest