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KhazixRusyuu

Prison Keys

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Back by popular demand! ...Sorta. (see the related discussion topic to see what's going on)
 
500 years ago, an ancient seal of fear and distrust was broken, unleashing hordes of vengeful spirits upon the world, forever changing life as we know it. For some, this was where the world ended. For others, it was where it began...
 
Welcome to the roleplay Prison Keys, a spinoff/prequel type thing to another rp known by the title The World Spun Backwards. In this world, the basic idea is that the planet is currently a massive wreck due in part to an ancient seal getting busted from old age (See: Sealed Evil in a Can to get a better idea).

 

After several hundred years of ice age at the start, the climate and continents are still being pretty heavily ravaged by still pretty po'd spirits. This makes finding one's way in the world rather difficult when everything around you can be smashed to bits in an instant. For mortals still trying to survive and preserve their culture (there's traces, but it's gotten pretty backwards at this point. Think very ineffecient steampunk that could break at any second), as well as spirits recently born into this strange and savage world.

 

Spirits (at least in this world I am going to assume for the time being) are born in areas where there is a high concentration of magic pooling together. Feel free to call me out, provided you can cite a source that regards research on the anatomy of a magically based being. XP Their role in this story is to find where it is they are needed/where their composition is best atuned to in this incredibly out of balance world, as well as avoid having their essence sucked dry by the older and more experienced spirits. Along with that they may be expected to explore the full extent of their abilities in finding what's expected of them, provided they have not done so already.

 

Mortals (so humans. Let's try and avoid hybrid shenanigans, it makes everything confusing as hell and a pain to write rules for. *glares at audience some*) are in the same boat of recently born spirits in trying to survive from the wrath of the monsters that currently walk the Earth, but to a deeper extent. Many are sent out to find fresh spirits to either convince, trick, or capture them to bond with either them or their place of living for the sake of protection. This involves establishing a contract that requires something on the part of the spirit, in exchange for something the human offers that they verbally consider fair (the spirit being contracted, that is to say). The story will actually be starting out in a village already possessing such a spirit.

 

That having been said, I've got some ideas of where to guide the plot, so please work with me on this. Ok? Ok. All done with the world building, now to get to work on the story startup. Nobody post till I've got something ready down there please.



((Bit of a read, but I've divided it up plenty. Most of it's world building right now, so I... guess you can skim over it if you want?))

 

Whispers that dodge and hide from the tides of time run through shadow, carrying information warped by word of mouth, back and forth, over and over. But many still believe in what they say in their core. What they carry. That in this hellhole of suffering and torture, a way still exists. Not just to survive. But to be good again...

 

***

 

Prison Keys Part 1: The Last Starmaker

 

The village elder kept his gaze trained from above, on the children playing around nearby. It was night, and a meteor shower had been predicted. Many of the adults had voted to keep them inside, for fear of anything funny occuring, but it had been outvoted. This meteor shower would have been their first. They deserved that much.

 

Taking in a deep breath, the elder, aged but still strong and sturdy, stepped closer so as to keep a better watch on the children, having poor eyesight. They were dancing and running around, pretending to be the shooting stars that were now streaking across the sky. The elder, named Paramonos, allowed himself to look up. After so many years of destruction, having their village routinely wrecked and ravaged, no thanks to their rather lazy horndog of a resident spirit, the meteor shower was something of a pretty sight. Paramonos sighed, allowing himself a bit of time to enjoy it.

 

The stars seemed so much brighter than usual. The elder wondered whether or not events like this were heavy with magic or not. The spirits never seemed to concern themselves with astral events. What with all the humans on the ground to be slaughtering on a day to day basis.

 

This thought caused him to close his eyes and take a sharp breath, recalling the years of damage and suffering he'd seen up to this point. So much family and friends, lost in the blink of an eye.

 

"Come on children. Best return to shelter," he said, all the children stopping and groaning. "Can't we just play for one more minute?" one asked, tugging on his robe. "No, no. We need to be getting inside early tonight. There's some poor weather predicted for tomorrow," he said, beginning to usher them back to the village and looking up. Sure enough, clouds were gathering.

 

Paramonos squinted some, trying to see what color they were, to try and guess what they needed to be preparing for. However, as a stray meteor burst through the one he happened to be focusing on, he forgot all of what he was thinking about and started rushing the children back, all of whome were a bit distracted by the massive light now screaming over their heads and shouting happily, pointing after it before it made a boom in the distance. Without looking back, Paramonos knew well enough, having survived this long, to not look back for even a second.

 

***

 

The next day...

 

A body floated up through fluids that were pooling into a still steaming crater, splashing some as it surfaced. "Oi! There's another one!" a voice with a strange European accent called out, the sound of rocks slipping going off. "You sure that's not just some poor guy that had a nasty slip? Looks a little warm down there," another responded, carrying a more neutral tone. "Trust me, outside these suits, any mortal thing would be red mush. Only spirits can stand up to this kinda storm. I don't think I've ever seen the acid rain this bad before."

 

The two figures, wearing very heavy cloaks with masks, were completely concealed, only having a difference in height. "Seems like the old guy was right. This is the most we've found for years. Should keep the locals pretty quiet for awhile," the shorter one with the neutral tone said. The other one waded out into the acidic gunk, steam coming off his figure as he grabbed the hand of the body, unrecognizable from the slime it was currently covered in. Pulling it closer, he listened for a pulse.

 

"...Yup. This one's kickin'. Let's load em' up with the others," he said after a few minutes of examination, heaving the form over his shoulder and crawling out of the crater with his accomplice. Tossing the unconscious spirit onto a rickety looking cart with a handful of other limp forms, also drenched in the strange substance raining from the sky, the two started making their way back to the currently highly protected village.

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On that night, when stars fell from the sky, not far from where the children danced, there lay a fox, looking up at the sky.  A large fox to be sure, larger than any mortal fox would be, her fur shone more luxuriously than any, her eyes full of more cunning still, and five brushes flowed behind her as she watched fire fall from the heavens.  Taking a moment of whimsy, she watched the children, smiling and chuckling to herself, enjoying the sight of happy children, before her ears perked as she saw a meteor hurdling down upon the Earth.  Remembering what she had learned in the past, she knew it to simply be a rare event, nothing to be concerned about, unlike the poison filled rainclouds that seemed not too far away.  Casting a glance at the humans running for cover, and huddling up in their homes, she decided it would be for the best that she seek shelter herself.

 

Moving her way, dodging from tree to tree, she worked her way to a nearby cave, which was just at the edge of the town's border.  She could feel the presence of a spirit tied to the land, yet she had yet to be faced by him or her, which surprised but did not bother her.  Curling up in a corner, she started a fire near her, rested her head upon her forepaws, curling her tails around her, and drifted off to sleep.

 

As morning came, the fox let out a yawn.  Shaking herself a bit, she eventually woke herself up, and stretched herself as she looked out upon the nearby land, before putting out the fire that had kept watch over her through the night. That same fox thought about things for a moment how she would go about her day, and she decided to take a more human-like appearance, clothing herself in a fairly simple white dress, and chose that she would make her way to the village.  At that time, Ronce had only a few things on her mind, and her most immediate concerns were to see if the locals would not try to kill her on sight, if they might know anything about the supposed kingdom to the east in the ruins of the former capital of the land, and food, albeit mostly she was thinking about the lattermost.  Moving steadily in a confident, time practiced walk, she entered the village, a cheerful smile on her face.

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Eyes squinted at Ronce from behind grimy windows, darting away and putting something up that was to serve as blinds whenever they thought they were being looked back at. Anyone left outside in the strange appearing gear that seems to be designed as defense from the rain darts inside. There appears to be a larger structure at the center with greater protection around it, the door open with someone standing in it, staring at you.

 

On the outside of the village, the two scavengers draw closer, the figures on their cart bumping around as they continue to be covered in the acid rain pouring down, still remaining unrecognizable. "How much do you think he'll be able to get out of them," the shorter asked. "Dunno. I reckon he'll just take one or two for now. Let the others mature a little for when they're needed. He said once it was good for encouraging them to come back later," the other one conversed as they drew into town on the opposite side.

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"Voyons..."  Ronce mumbled to herself, as she watched the mortals run to and fro.  Their reaction in not drawing weapons on her was at least not the worst sign, but by the looks of things, they weren't exactly happy about her being their either, not that that was truly surprising either.  Though she did note the excessive rain gear that they all seemed to be wearing, and she found it curious.  Was the rain truly so poison filled?  It smelled foul to be sure, though if they had to take shelter to this degree from it, she couldn't think of a natural reason for it.  Pondering for a moment about things, and looking up at the clouds with a curious, yet disapproving look on her face, she thought for a moment more, then looked out to see the man staring out of the door at her.  Her ear twitching to the side in surprise and further curiosity, she blinked a couple of times, and started casually walking towards said open door.  She figured if someone here was going to talk to her, that seemed like the most likely place. Noting how the rain was still pouring down, she sighed  "Il pleut des cordes...."  as she neared the door.

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The man gradually turned around and headed back into the structure, gesturing for you to follow him inside. The minimal light from outside makes a small amount of the inside visible, the inside appearing to carry the same shaky quality as the outside.

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Ronce watched for a moment, then after the man was well inside, she entered the building, looking around as she could, she flicked what water got in the fur of her tails off as she could, aiming it so it would splatter out the door behind her.  "Some crazy rain out there, isn't it?.." she said lightheartedly, as she made a small heatless flame by her side to help light up the room.  

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The man said nothing, going a bit further. The inside was very dimly lit, containing mostly candles, along with a single fuse at the center that was clinging to life. "What is a spirit doing here?" the man asked, though he didn't seem to be speaking to Ronce. Another form, barely visible in the dim light, shifted in a leaned back chair as groaning could be heard. "Look bub, it's been a good six months since I've been able to recharge the barriers. Along with that you seem to be not burning to death, and it looks like you've still got most of your internal organs, so I don't think this one is wanting any trouble," it said, sounding a bit deeper and more youthful than the man. "Besides, it's not like it's-" the form had started to turn it's face some, fins flaring slightly on the back of his head as he saw Ronce, leaning back forward and standing up.

 

The other creature not in the cloak appeared in the light to be a reddish fish with multiple fins running off its limbs. As he stood up, he showed to actually be quite tall and muscular, wearing only a simple pair of tattered trousers. The creature was now sporting a rather pleased looking grin as he looked Vonce up and down. "Well. Hello there," he said, his voice suddenly sounding smooth and deep. "What's a cute little kit like yourself doing out in weather like this?"

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At the statement the man asked, Ronce was about to speak up, but, as she noted the other spirit, she decided to be quiet and listen until addressed, though it seemed to her, by the appearance of things, that he wasn't that strong.  Probably an asshole who thought he was more important than the humans of this village as well given his mannerisms.  After mentally sighing, she responded in kind in a flirtatious tone, never losing her physical composure.  "Mmm, well, I heard some rumors of things getting better around the place where I grew up, so I'm traveling a bit further east to find out if the stories are true.  I stopped in a cave a bit away from the village to rest for the night, and was hoping on finding some food before moving on, well, unless I find something more... entertaining to keep me for a little while longer of course."  She giggled a bit, smiling softly, her tails gently wagging.  

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The fish hummed lowly, his grin getting a little wider as he stepped closer, his posture exciting slightly. "Hmm, well maybe later you and I could-"

 

He was cut short by the old man grabbing his wrist. "THAT'S enough of that Henoch," he said, the grin falling from the fish's face. "Go and wait for the scavengers, there's a good change you'll be able to recharge today," he instructed, getting an annoyed groan from the fish. The fish, whose name was apparently Henoch, slouched slightly and walked out of the oother side of the room, mumbling something about old men and killing buzzes. Whatever those were.

 

The old man removed his mask and hood, turning to Ronce. "I am this village's elder. My name is Paramonos, though the children mostly call me Old Parmy," he said, removing a glove and offering a hand to shake. "The... energetic young man you just met is our local spirit, Henoch. He has been contracted with keeping our village safe from any passing attacks of the spiritual nature. We do not want any trouble from you, but the fact that you were able to find our village is a bad sign," he said, walking around the room some in a bit of thought.

 

***

 

Henoch paced around the back room, appearing fairly annoyed. "Been so long since he's had a good night he can't even tell when a guy's workin'," he said, his tone as acidic as the rain outside. Doing a few stretches, Henoch leaned agaisnt the back wall. "Ah well. If she's sticking around, one more night with the fins won't kill me," he said, staring at the back entrance and wondering when those two would show up.

 

***

 

Miles from the village, a clawed fist the size of a house sank a few inches into the mud. A maw belonging to the same body as the claw and heavily lined with dozens of messy, needle-like teeth angled up and drank in the acidic rain gleefully, before locking its eyes glowing with savagery and magic on the spot in the distance, licking its lips.

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"I see... and well, I understand, though I have to ask.... why does he need to recharge, what's he waiting for, I mean... can't he just draw energy from the earth?  Is something stopping him?  I apologize for the questions but.. umm... scavengers of what?"  She blinked, thinking for a while, her tails twitching here and there.  "Umm... didn't I see you watching the meteor shower too last night?  While the children were playing in a circle?  I mean you all ran inside so quickly there but I have to ask... exactly what could be so bad around here that you all seem so scared?  Is there some sort of bandit gang of spirits or something?"  she blinked a few times, rubbing her head a bit, obviously having even more questions but not saying them quite yet.  Except one.  "Umm... is there anything I could do to earn some food or something or would you take barter for novelties by chance?  I'm kinda hungry."  she said, her stomach growling as if to prove a point.

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Paramonos stared at her for a few seconds, trying to process her questions as he went to the side of the room, running his hands through a cupboard. "Y...yes, I was watching the children. We decided it would be good to show them something beautiful like that meteor shower for once in their lives. This area has been cursed. A spirit in passing saw us attempting to move to another area, and insisted this one was better. So they found a way to keep us here. The rain here is filled with acid, and burns everything it touches. We have protection against it whenever it shows up, but only enough to go out for incredibly brief periods. Never enough to try and leave," he said, returning with a small collection of dried fruits with a small cup of water and offering them.

 

"As for Henoch, he is very far from his home. An ocean spirit. They draw their magic from the seas. He was banished when an older spirit took up residence in his territory, forcing him onto the land where he likely wouldn't survive. But instead, he made it here, where he struck a contract with me to keep the village safe. In exchange we give him food, protection, and... articles of his liking," Paramonos trailed off, a hint of disdain mixed with amusement in his voice.

 

"He has to get magic from the occasional newborn spirit that pops up around here. The curse actually gives good conditions on the astral plane for magic to cluster and focus enough for them to be born. Every few months, we send people out to find recently born spirits for Henoch to harvest magic from. At that age they've yet to form much of a mind and simply recycle back through the astral planes once they've been drained. A few have even returned here on their own after being cycled multiple times, remembering having come here before," Paramonos finished explaining, his tone indicating he didn't fully approve of the process.

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"That's.. cruel..."  Ronce sighed, looking at the food and water, taking only about half the dried fruit, and after eating that half and drinking the water, she offered back the elder the remainder of the fruit.  "Hmms... as for the rain... there wasn't any last night, so do you ever have dry periods?  I mean, I heard stories of a human kingdom coming up in the east, and if you could get there I'm sure you and the rest would be safe...  so... you've all pretty much been in purgatory here, haven't you?... maybe... is there any way I could help you?"  Ronce sighed, looking depressed and being quite depressed in general by the situation.  She figured she had to do something to help, plus by the looks of things, they didn't have much food to spare, and they'd probably starve soon if nothing else happened.  

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"We can't leave. The rain comes and goes in regular cycles, but it makes exceptions if we ever stray too far from here," Paramonos said, taking the remaining fruits back without commenting on the status of their food supply. "Besides. Henoch can never leave this place. When he arrived he was on the verge of death so his contract was made in haste just to keep him alive. Neither of us thought ahead for a means of him to ever truly complete it," Paramonos said, keeping his face turned away as a guilty note rang through his voice for a second, before turning back with regained composure.

 

"Your offer to help is greatly appreciated, but there's nothing that can be done. The spirit that cursed us was quite shrewd in their ways. I'd ask you to find them since you have the option to leave, though I don't know how much good it would do. They kept themselves disguised, so we don't even know what they look like. Along with that if it's still kept up I don't feel like they'd be willing to take it off any time soon," the elder explained, sounding very worn out.

 

***

 

Henoch kept his hands locked behind his head and was starting to snore a bit, before the two scavengers came in from the back, their cart making large squeaking sounds that caused him to snap to attention. "Managed to find quite a few this time around mister Henoch!" the shorter one said excitedly, taking a cloth that was hung up on the wall and scrubbing off the grime from the forms, revealing unconscious faces, each different and exotic looking. Henoch stepped closer to examine a few.

 

"...Huh. I remember this one. Surprised she showed back up so soon," Henoch said, brushing the young spirit's face a bit, his face twisting slightly as he tried to hide a bit of guilt.

 

"I never like this part. It feels like we're just chaining them down here with us," the taller one said, shifting a bit. Neither had taken off their masks. "Can't be helped kiddo. In a place like this you do what you have to," Henoch responded, blue and yellow lights starting to jump from the form Henoch had brushed his fins on, soaking into his veins. After several minutes of this the creature had become increasingly pale, before her outline started to shimmer, and she faded away into the air, returning to be born again from the astral planes.

 

Henoch continued this process with the others, his body appearing a bit brighter and more colorful as he went, almost lighting up the room as each form faded back to other dimensions. The two scavengers continued cleaning up forms and even wrapped them in scraps of clothing, until every form on the cart was clean of acid and lightly dressed. They figured since their time in the world was so short each cycle they came around they should at least be treated well.

 

Eventually Henoch came to the last form, a very sickly one whose bones were visible. "Where'd you pick this one up?" Henock asked uncertainly. "He was in a crater," the taller one said, sounding somewhat confused. The creature had a mess of gray hair covering its head, concealing what species it was. Henoch sighed. "Well, maybe when he pops back up he'll have a bit more meat on him," he said, reaching his fin out to begin transferring.

 

...Only for the creature to shakily reach up and hold Henoch's fin in response. Henoch was initially shocked by the movement. But the real shock came when he saw the creature looking at him through strands of its matted hair, his form shivering. Henoch just stared for what seemed like several minutes, the scavengers to the side equally shocked. "W....well don't just stand there you idiots! Get this guy some more clothes!"

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Ronce sighed, thinking for a moment.  "Hmm.. but... what if you all could move faster?  or move several of you at once under cover?  I mean it might take a few trips, but... maybe I could help get at least most of the villagers out.  It would take a bit of planning and work before hand, but I'm sure it could be done.. and given that your buildings are intact, you obviously can shelter yourselves from the rain... so then you just need a way to move a bit of shelter, right?  And a spirit who can move through the rain without being harmed?"  Ronce looked to the elder, noting his guilt.  "Afterwich, if Henoch could build up enough strength, you could all move out of here.  Then the only issue is if the spirit who cursed this land and or tricked your people in the first place is still keeping tabs on things... then they'd have to be dealt with.  Do you know anything about them?"  Ronce pondered for a moment, before blinking.  "Oh yeah, kinda forgot, sorry, you can call me Ronce, Ronce Fleur."  she spoke up as an addendum.  

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The elder shook Ronce's hand, looking out the window. "Well Miss Fleur, your offer is very generous. But we don't have much to speak of in terms of supplies here. Our homes aren't exactly mobile at the moment, but if you could find anything on the outside of the storm range that could change that we would be grateful," he said, still sounding exhausted but somewhat hopeful. "We should be discussing this with Henoch though, he's the only one that can move freely around the area most of the time."

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Ronce smiled, shaking the elders hand and looking out at the rain herself.   "Well... perhaps we can work with something around here.  And I suppose you are right in that we should wait for him, though if I may ask in the mean time, hat are your roofs made out of, if I may ask?"  She said simply, waiting, as she looked around the room as she may, finding a wall to lean against for the time being.  

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"An alloy we mine from nearby caves. It's difficult to move and fashion into much, so we just stick with the sheets and makes roofs out of them. We generally have to repair and replace them on a regular basis," the elder said, sitting down. "Henoch, hurry up over there. We have things we need to be discussing," he called into the back room.

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"Could this alloy be used to fashion wheels, by chance?"  Ronce asked softly, trying to think of basic ideas.  

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"I don't think so. It would sink into the mud," he said, thinking some as Henoch came out, carrying something wrapped up in blankets. "Henoch? What are you carrying?" the elder asked, standing back up and holding his hand out. But Henoch recoiled, taking it away from him. "Don't... touch it. I'm not sure what it is, but the guys found it on their round," he said, laying the form down on the ground and pulling the top off, revealing what looked like an eastern dragon, tendrils on the side of its muzzle, breathing very hoarsely. "He's... he's already got a mind. I mean, he won't talk, but... he reached out to me. Before I could harvest any magic."

 

Henoch sounded nervous, having been caught off guard by the event. The elder leaned down and looked into the creature's eyes, squinting some as he did. Most of the creature's features could not be seen in the dim light, not even the color of its skin.

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"That doesn't seem too good.. as far as the wheels sinking... I think I can do something with that...." Ronce pondered to herself, keeping an eye on things, shifting to her more comfortable quadruped fox form.  Eyeing the dragonlike spirit curiously, she looked over to it, creating more heatless flames as to brighten the room more so she could see details. 

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The form was very visibly shivering underneath the blanket, Paramonos pushing its hair out of the way to try and get a better look at its eyes.

 

Henoch shuffled closer to Ronce, and whispered. "So. What's your story?" Henoch seemed to be dropping the flirty bit, having gotten serious after this last development.

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"What do you mean?"  Ronce asked, blinking, before yawning once.  "If you want more details, then alright.  Just under five centuries ago, I was born to the east, near one of the few human settlements at the time which was protected by a higher spirit.  It wasn't long after the veil was lifted, and while most humans would have run from me... that town was different.  The humans there accepted spirits and we were able to live as equals.  Six decades passed, before another deity approached and took over the land, along with a sweeping wave of lesser beings which slaughtered most of the mortals and forced myself and those remaining to flee.  Since then, I've been improving my ability to protect myself, others, and enjoying myself.  As well as the company of any half-decent males which might look my way."  She giggled for a moment, before continuing.  "I've been many places, but I've come back here, now that I've heard of a human kingdom rising once more a bit to the east, out of the ashes of one of their former great cities.  I'd like to see it for myself, and maybe if the peace can last this time... I'd like to think it could, and I know it can happen.  I miss those times..."  she trailed off a bit, looking up.  

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Henoch stared for a bit at her. "Uhm... that's all nice and... well, pretty depressing actually, but I was just wondering what you were doing in these parts. Though I can't help but agreeing over that... company comment...," Henoch lowers his stare and grins slyly and Ronce again. As he stepped closer though, Paramonos clears his throat, causing him to stop.

 

"This... can't be right," he said, standing back up. "What is it?" Henoch asked. But Paramonos said nothing, fixing his hood and hurrying back out of the structure, leaving the two spirits standing there with the fresh born still shivering in the bundle.

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Ronce sighed, blinking "Like I said when I first came here, I've been traveling to this supposed kingdom to the east.  I was traveling through here, saw the village, figured I might be able to get something decent to eat, or hear a story, or have a bit of fun, but obvio-... What's up mister Parmy?"  she yipped as she got up, shifting to an anthropormorphic form, walking over to the door to see what was up.  

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Henoch looked out after the elder. "Looks like he's going to our book stock. Not much, just fifteen books on... stuff, really. Don't know why they wanted to keep it," he said, turning back into the structure to face Ronce. The form in the center of the room continued shivering, as if nothing could warm it up.

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