Draxillus, Ayariss and Xeymera were three unfortunate siblings. They were unfortunate because they had been born into the Raxen clan, a particularly poor and unsavory band of mesphine that some say plagued the near coastal islands of the Marshland Flats. No one particularly cared for the mesphine anyway, an exiled people whose homeland had been destroyed because of their excessive pride and vanity, now consigned to the ranks of wanderers and brigands, carrying the curse of their people with them wherever they went.
Not all mesphine were as bad as the stories told about them, but plenty of them were, and some were worse. The Raxen siblings came from a clan that was not nearly so violent as some, but it was every bit the criminal enterprise that many assumed all mesphine belonged to. Drax, Aya and Xey never really knew their parents, which in their case turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Dumped on the doorstep of the equally poor but dignified Marshland Flats Empath Enclave, the monks there did what they could to raise these mephine children, even though they had none but lowland humans among them.
Fishermen who had found a crumbling shrine and some moldy scrolls on achieving inner peace, that was how the Empath Enclave was described by the traders who eked out slim profits making the rounds in the quiet fishing and farming villages that dotted that portion of the Iaxian coast. With the wealthy city states of Greater Iaxia to the north and the constantly warring kingdoms of the Estaxian hill country to the east, the comparatively barren and sparsely populated southwestern coast saw little activity.
Aethynia pressed her palms together, bowing her head and murmuring the words of absolution before she allowed herself to resume her passage through the depths of the garden.
She was in a holy place, holy not just to her people, but all peoples who relied upon the sun and shunned the blasphemous Overworld.
Aethynia caught herself with a quirk of her lavender-scented lips. The Overworld was natural, she had been told, but she stayed close to the belief, a heretical belief, that it was either corruption made manifest or had become irredeemably polluted in the distant past. Too much evil came from there, too much chaos was sown in its wake.
She could not think of it as part of the same universe that brought them the life-giving wonders of blessed father sun.
In focusing on that pleasant thought, Aethynia gazed up through the closely packed canopy of the tall plants and taller trees, watching how the light glimmered through the leaves rustling in the wind. Her smile was fuller now, and she hurried along the path towards her destination, satisfied that she had recounted her blessings and paid sufficient homage to the hidden lords and ladies of the spirit court which watched over this place.
Emerging from the forest path and into the brilliance of the clearing always made Aethynia blink away the brightness, tears nearly coming to her eyes as they adjusted from the subdued shade. The earthier scents of the interior gave way to the lighter, airy fragrances of field flowers and grass bathed in the morning's dew, not yet carried back to the clouds by father sun.
As usual, Aethynia was among the last to arrive, the brothers and sisters of her kinship already here and waiting for her, though she was not late. They had asked her to be here during the morning, without specificity, and Father Sun was not yet at his highest point.
"Ah, Aethy, hello there girl," said the eldest among them, by far, the Master Woodsman and Tracker of Spirits, Feyln Mistweaver. He was a woodland syl like herself, smaller and darker of skin from long days spent not beneath the canopy but watching from above, only seldom sheltered from the life-giving rays of Solarus.
He was one of the few she would ever allow to call her girl, and among men, the only one save her father, though he had given up his life to protect the kinship of the sun when she was truly but a girl, and that was why she had been left in Feyln's care all those years ago.
"Yes, look, the other treehopper arrives, thank the stars," said another voice from off to one side, away from the gathering, and sheltered under a few broad leaves that draped into the clearing. Without having to turn and look, Aethynia knew it was Breyah. Normally she would ignore such a snide remark, though as she and Feyln were the only two of the woodland syl present, she could not let it pass.
"Afraid to even stand in the Father's full glory, Breyah? I don't know why any shadowcursed even care about the kinship of the sun. I would have thought..." she would have continued, if she had not seen Feyln raise a hand, beckoning peace. She would do whatever he said, though she could see in his eyes that he was not unappreciative of her standing up for the woodsyl here in their own home.
From the shade, Breyah smiled. Her glowing purple eyes smoldered as they always did, when they weren't overwhelmed by natural light. Unlike her people, Breyah was tall, too tall in Aethynia's mind, even though the shadowcursed, or mountain syl, were still not so tall as the hairy plainsmen or smooth-skinned shorefolk. However, there was no denying that, like all the so-called fair folk, Breyah was beautiful in her graceful and slender way, though it ended up just making her seem more sinister.
"Your eyes linger upon me so, tree-sister. Are you perhaps more smitten with us, or with me, than you're comfortable admitting?"
Because of Feyln's request, she ignored such a doubly rude statement. Not only had her father been betrayed by Breyah's people, but she was spoken for by another, even though he was not here, and it would be some time before she would see him again.
Oh Aron, when we need you the most. When I need you the most. You're so far away, following your other love. I hope some day I can kindle such a fire in your heart as your work does.
ntyler1989: hey man where u at?
randomkoolaid1: tiny's man. Wtf are you?
Nate swore, shoved his phone in his pocket and pushed his way out of the crowded library.
Barely catching the bus in time, he threw himself back against the seat. How could he have forgotten about the meeting at the hut?
Thankfully Kool had reminded him just now, or he might already have missed his chance to meet Ashley.
Kool was only too happy to remind him that he was late.
randomkoolaid1: man, that girl of yours is already here,We're having some tacos
ntyler1989: Tell Ash to get on messenger or text me
randomkoolaid1: nah, were eating. See you soon lol
Nate couldn't believe he'd screwed this one up.
He'd planned this meet up with Ashley for a month! They'd hung out online, played some games, really hit it off. She lived an hour away, but this was going to be their first big meetup.
Why did he ever mention any of this to Kool? Sure, he was his best friend, but he was also the worst about bagging Nate's girlfriends.
Bagging? Man, that was a terrible mental picture.
The bus arrived at the crumbling corner of Dumas and 10th. About a block away, he could see the blinking lights of Tiny's.
Only a few minutes away, he felt the need to shoot Kool another text message. He really wished Ash had been on somewhere, but she wasn't, and she didn't give out her phone number to people she hadn't met in person, she said, so he couldn't just SMS her.
'Almost there' he thumbed while he walked, or at least tried to, his distracted thoughts and fumbling fingers letting autocorrect play havoc with what he was trying to say.
Up ahead, he could hear the outrageously loud flickering lights that Tiny's used, clicking on and off. It probably wasn't the lights themselves, just whatever made them blink, but he realized that he usually couldn't hear it this far away.
Once the bus was gone, Nate realized he couldn't hear much of anything at all coming from Tiny's. There was usually the sound of laughing, talking, car horns and the sizzling of their outdoor grill.
Speaking of the grill, where was the smell? The smoke? Was Tiny's closed or something? He'd been so focused on his phone that he'd just caught glimpses of the Hut, and now he realized he'd been filling in a lot of details from his previous visits. Especially the smell. He would've sworn the charred beef fajitas were there in the air in front of him, even made his stomach rumble, but now it just smelled like bus exhaust and...something else. Burning?
Maybe that was just the bus tires. Must be.
His phone buzzed in his hands moments after he sent the message, and it was Kool, for once not giving him some flippant remark.
randomkoolaid1: K dude, inside
Nate jogged the remaining half block to Tiny's, which stood alone at 10th and some street he didn't know, because the sign was out and he'd never bothered to look at it on the map. He just knew where it was in relation to the bus stop. As he got closer, he felt a lightness in his chest.
Tiny's was open, only it wasn't. There wasn't anyone anywhere inside the grungy white stucco hut or seated at the peeling red and yellow tables with garish Corona Cinco de Mayo umbrellas that were so ratty and torn as to barely keep out the sunlight.
Nate walked in the front door, which was propped open in defiance of the late spring heat that had already begun to creep up from the south. Cold air blasted out.
That smell, it was stronger in here now, and it was definitely not burning tire rubber.
The restaurant was empty, but the parking lot wasn’t. There was Tiny's ancient, rusted lime green Z and Kool's Vespa. He loved to give him shit for having a Vespa, even a black one, but at least he had transportation.
A crash sounded from the kitchen, then a grunting, gasping voice.
Nate ran around the counter, and there was Tiny, on his back, and he'd spilled something all down his front. He was having trouble getting up.
That smell hit Nate again, then that lightness in his chest moved into his head. He was dizzy as he realized that Tiny hadn't spilled anything on himself.
Guts. Tiny's guts spilled out of him, on to the floor. He was cut open like one of those BBQ pigs he fixed sometimes. His eyes were locked on Nate, motionless, and by the amount of blood trailing to the freezer he had no idea how the little guy had managed to get out here.
Another noise, something wet and syrupy being poured onto the ground. From the freezer.
Nate wanted to run, but he couldn't leave if Kool was here. He had to be, he wouldn't leave that Vespa of his for nothing.
Nate felt so light and far away, like he was controlling his body remotely.
Down the short hallway, he turned the corner and looked into the open freezer.
Blood everywhere. Dead bodies. Kool's head stacked with other heads on bags of ground beef and blocks of cheddar for the nachos.
Ashley! She was there, and she was grinning, but she was covered in blood! Holy shit, she was naked, holding Kool's lime green phone.
In spite of himself, Nate thought she was pretty hot.
The last thing he saw was her too-long tongue whipping around inside a too-big fanged maw, then she was on him, tearing out his throat.
That smell had been Ashley all along.
It was brimstone.
ST +2, HP +10 (36)
Advantages: Amphibious (10), Very Fit (15), Pressure Support 1 (5), Temperature Tolerance 5 (colder) (5), Ultrahearing (5), Sanitized Metabolism (1), Sharp Teeth (1)
Disadvantages: Chummy (-5), Dependency (water to swim in, monthly) (-5), Gigantism (SM +1) (0), Increased Life Support (-5), Proud (-1), Staid (-1), Aggressive (-1)
Racial package total: 60
Average Height/Weight: Males 7'0 - 7'5, 300 - 350 lbs, Females 6'10 - 7'0, 275 - 300 lbs
General characteristics, commentary: Far fewer in number and therefore much less common than their smaller brethren, orcan cetans were the result of a limited AI-initiated expansion of Project Pacifica carried out in the waning days of the Terran Central Administration on Earth. While created on Earth, they only knew widespread settlement on Oceanus, but even there felt estranged from both their human creators and cetan cousins. Only a handful reside within Alliance space, while small colonies of them can be found within the Union, struggling to create their own culture and find their own way. It is argued that unlike the smaller cetans, who inherited the better traits of their human and cetacean forebears, the orcan cetans ended up with more challenges to overcome.
Far less diverse in their coloration, orcan cetans are generally black along their backs and sides and white along their fronts, with the occasional variation, especially concerning the white patches above their eyes. Both male and female orcans are hairless but for their head hair, and orcans of both sexes commonly wear their white or black hair long, either loose or ornately braided. Orcan eyes range from dark green to dark blue, with lighter shades not naturally occurring.
IQ +1, HT +1 (30)
Advantages: 3D Spatial Sense (10), Amphibious (15), Fit (5), Pressure Support (5), Temperature Tolerance 5 (colder) (5), Ultrahearing (5), Sanitized Metabolism (1)
Disadvantages: *Gregarious (-10), Dependency (water to swim in, monthly) (-5), *Easy to Read (-10), *Sense of Duty (podmates) (-5), Broad-minded (-1)
Racial package cost: 45
*Gregarious can be bought down to Chummy (-5), Easy to Read can be bought off entirely, Sense of Duty can be bought down to a 1 point quirk.
Average height/weight: males 6'2 - 6'5 / 200 - 250, females 5'10-6'0 150 - 185
General physical characteristics: Previously derived from terran cetacean stock, most modern cetans are a mixture of shades of gray, ranging from pale to nearly solid black. Additional characteristics have arisen or been added via more recent genetic modification of existing family lines. Hairless except for head hair in many (but not all) family lines, with the same variety in hair and eye color in humans, owing to their shared ancestry.
Hello and welcome adventurer! Perhaps you've come here looking for information regarding the recent unpleasantness between the Union of Economic Security and Prosperity and the Earth Alliance? I'm afraid we don't do much in the way of hows and whys here, since there's a war on and there's no time to waste when it comes to the number one topic on every merc's agenda: Profit!
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