Monday, January 14, 2013

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter VI: Southern Comfort

Lyta breathed deep in the cool evening air. She hadn’t expected there to be a stop so close to Lance Point, but homesteads were paying customers, and this one had booked a shipment. The longrunners were stopped for an hour or so, enough time to offload supplies and take payment, and for the passengers to stretch their legs, if they wanted.

Lyta wanted. She was tired of being cooped up, tired of being in close quarters with Ennik’s depression, Katchelli’s madness, and the Croydens’ quiet seething. She had found a ridge where she had a view of the caravan, enough to make sure they didn’t leave without her, but where she had relative privacy from prying eyes. She extended her staff and began twirling it in slow circles around her, letting her muscles loosen from being tight for too long, and letting her limbering muscles relax her mind.

She thought about Alain.

They had talked for almost an hour, about the Olympics, about their various training regimens, about the benefits of the fencing epée compared to the quarterstaff. They’d spent nearly five minutes trying to top each other with embarrassing stories from the competition circuit. Somehow, the conversation had drifted around to places they’d both traveled, and Alain had waxed poetic about the Southern Republic and how Lyta absolutely had to visit so that he could take her to his favorite restaurants and show her his favorite landscapes for painting.

Her feet began to trace out forms, leaving dusty circles on the ground in counterpoint to the circles her staff weaved through the air.

She wasn’t in love. She didn’t even trust him, not with anything important like their jobs or their employers or even her brothers’ real names. But she liked the way he spoke. After her initial distaste had worn off, she found she liked his flowery language and the way he made everything sound both urgent and passionate. And she liked the way he made her laugh, the way he wanted to make her laugh. She tried to remember if anyone else had ever wanted to make her laugh like he did, and came up blank. Sure, there were people who wanted to see her happy – Lukas, when he wasn’t busy with his own new love interest, Torgath, Ellen. But none of them tried to make her laugh, none of their eyes sparkled when they succeeded in getting past her defenses enough for her to crack a smile and banter. Not even Ti had.

Her form faltered for a moment, her foot caught on the ground as the staff slowed.

She thought about Ti. She felt the welling of emotion from deep in her chest, the tears and the pain. She closed her eyes and let the staff twirl in figure eights around her. Think about the trash heaps, she thought desperately. She forced herself to remember the way he’d been so awkward, his usually confident walk stumbling because… why? She thought back, remembered how Todd had tried to sedate him with their newly-acquired dart guns. She shook her head, a smile playing on her lips. She wondered why in Prophet’s name he’d decided to try it out on Ti, of all people.

Her feet started tracing the forms again.

Alain was too old for her, of course. If he’d competed in the Olympics in 1912, even if he’d been “very young,” he’d have to be nearly 40 by now. Definitely too old. Which didn’t matter anyway, because she wasn’t in love.

She started in on more complex forms, ones she’d designed herself, ones that used the staff as leverage for more acrobatic moves, combining her training for the B’Ti and gymnastics and martial arts into one fluid whole.

It wasn’t like she would ever see him again anyway, not in person. He operated mainly in the South, and she stuck to the Badlands. Even if they were going to rebrand the team, Lukas would probably keep them close to the equator and out of the Polar empires. For all of Alain’s talk about restaurants and beautiful landscapes, she didn’t think Lukas would ever take them down into the Southern Republic, and she wouldn’t leave her brothers behind to go visit. Besides, what landscape could be more beautiful than Junira Loresh?

She kicked off the cliff face and flipped back away from it, improvising the forms and beginning to incorporate her surroundings. She vaulted onto a rock formation, balanced precariously as it proved less solid than she’d anticipated, and spun herself off and to the side as it crumbled. The scattered pebbles became an obstacle course, and she danced between them.

There was also the whole issue of him loving her, which he had promised not to talk about. She found she didn’t mind as much as she’d expected she would. It was the Southern in him, the deep passions that ran so close to the surface in a way Badlanders would never allow of themselves. They always got swept up in emotions. He probably fell in love all the time.

She paused and stared accusatorially at the cliff face. “I’m not just another one of his girls,” she said to it, firmly, not entirely certain who she was trying to convince. She leapt at the wall, ran along sideways for a few steps, and jumped back in among the pebbles.

It was almost a shame she would never see him again, she thought. He was funny, and he was entertaining, and he was one of the few people she’d met lately who could give her a run for her money in a fight. She wondered what it would be like to train with an epée, a weapon designed for thrusting instead of sweeping, so flimsy that it couldn’t serve any other purpose but attacks. She wondered if she could get Alain to teach her.

There was a rumbling from below, the sound of engines whirring to life and heavy doors closing. A single blast echoed up the cliff-face from the longrunner’s horn. Lyta glanced down and saw that the caravanners were returning.

She stopped, hands on her knees, and caught her breath. They’d be expecting her. They wouldn’t leave without her, but they’d be damned pissed about waiting.

There was the path she’d come up, worn smooth by feet leading up to the lookout. It was the easy way down, well-trod as it wended its way back and forth across the steep side of the mountain, never too far from level.

To hell with that. She took ten seconds to stare at the slope, her eyes tracing the unmarked alcoves and unintended paths. She nodded to herself. She collapsed her staff, put it away, and spent one more moment preparing. Then she launched herself off the landing, tumbling and running and flying as she fell.

They were waiting for her, down below, and she would hate to disappoint.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.