Alisandra Tzara. She kept repeating her name as she looked out at the plains sprawling in front of her. Who was she? Alice’s mind kept running in a stalled loop – that is to say, she felt her mind was spinning around in circles on the same thing, with no progress being made in any direction. A feeling of being completely stopped in your tracks but having built up the potential energy to run for miles, and being unable to release that energy. In a shorter description, Alice was experiencing extreme mental discomfort. But Alice was too young to understand these ideas. She just knew she wasn’t happy, even as she looked out at her clan, running across the plains.
Nadia looked at her daughter across the fire, clearly sulking. “Pui, what’s wrong? Are you thinking too much again?”
“Nothing Mama.” Alice sighed.
“Pui, clearly something is wrong. You know what I’ve said before, ‘If you have time to sulk, you have time to talk about your problems and fix them’”
Alice sighed again. “It’s just…I don’t know who I am or what’s right and wrong. Bunica says that our way of life is a peaceful one and that we must live one with Tudi. But Tata and Uncle Stephen say that the Outsiders don’t respect the rules of Tanjo and that if we don’t protect ourselves, we will go extinct. I feel as though….both sides make sense but I don’t like either answer. And I don’t want Bunica or Tata to be wrong. So who are we? What do we do?”
Nadia sighed and then smiled and her baby girl’s astuteness. This girl was beauty as well as brains, but unfortunately, in their world, neither particularly mattered. It was power and strength that matter, and Alice was average in both. iI’m thinking again, Nadia pondered as she started to scowl. How were they going to find a suitable marriage for Alice? At 6 years of age, they were already late in arranging her match, but no one had asked for her hand. Stephen was their best bet with his son Nicolos, but he had yet to ask. Of course, it was a difficult decision for Stephen and they had innumerable other prospects; Nicolos was to be the future head of the clan after all. Of course, Seiryu willing, that wouldn’t be for a couple of hundred years at least. Nadia sighed again. Either Alice would have everything or nothing…but there was an excessive amount of sighing and thinking happening today and she wasn’t going to put up with it anymore!
“Alisandra Tzara! Copii your age should not be thinking. In fact, that’s a skill you’re going to need to start hiding a lot better.” She kneeled to face Alice directly. “Pui, you should be thinking of important things – honing your power, increasing your strength, how to be a good wife. These are the skills that will help you in life. You know I love you, and I love your beautiful little brain,” she said and she tickled Alice. Alice let out a loud giggle. Good. She’s cheering up. “But this thinking, this hobby of yours, it is not a trait you will need in life. Your husband will not care for it, and you know we still need an offer for your hand. If other copii or stramosi see you like this, we’ll never get an offer and you’ll end up like the Outsiders. I would never want something so terrible for you.” She held her daughter’s head into her breast, tightly, not wanting to let go. To protect her baby forever. If only I could…No more sighs!
Nadia stood up quickly with an assuredness. “Now, go get the rabbit from your Bunica! We’ll have them for dinner tonight,” she stated and she slapped little Alice on the butt. Alice giggled again, most assuredly in a better mood from the teasing. Alice scampered off the camp site, running towards her grandmother’s tent in the distance. In the distance, she saw Alice halt to speak to Nicolos, grab his hand, and run off in the complete opposite direction of the campsite. This girl…. she thought as a concerned mother as Alice and Nicolos went to go run in the plains. Nadia got up and started walking towards Bunica’s campsite herself. Alice had completely forgotten her task, but Seiryu willing, she would eventually grow into the skills to become a good wife. I just have to wait, Nadia thought as she looked off into the distance of the great plains.
Isa looked around. The whole area was infested. She should never have come to Nmaksom. These vain fools would be useless in her plans. She sighed. Well, perhaps she might be able to fulfill a different goal. Isa looked around again. The loudest sounds seemed to come from behind her. Time to see if she had completely wasted her time, or if something could be scraped from this waste of a trip.
Isa went in the direct opposite direction of the majority of the sound. When judging where to go, always go away from the fools. Her mother had been wise in at least one aspect. If only she had listened years earlier… But it was too late to think of the irreversible past. Never do anything you would regret telling your children about. Well, that had gone out the window as well. If only she had been smarter as a youth.
“AH!” Isa yelled, frustrated by her mind constantly taking her back to her dark past. She needed a drink, but she knew better. Quiet place, quiet place, quiet place Isa kept repeating to herself. She found herself running in the streets, seemingly trying to outrun her past. She knew better than that, but her feet always kicked in instinctively at times like this. Her subconscious did as well apparently. Although lost, she suddenly found herself at the place she wished for most – a library. She breathed a sigh of relief. Before stepping into the magnificent, pillar held building, she looked around again. The fools carried on as though they had not a care in the world. She smiled, knowing none of them would be in this haven; none of them could grasp the importance of such a building.
Isa walked into the library. Dead silent, just as she expected in such a place. Nmaksom was a sultanate technically. However, the Sultana had largely lost control to the native population of Undines. These disgusting creatures manipulated the masses and took control, thinking only of what was most convenient for themselves. Isa hated them. She hated them to her core. They had accomplished what she had been unable to thus far – power. The Undines, manipulative as they were, were not intellectually based, and thus, their power was only temporary. Isa had larger aspirations. She instinctively walked towards the back, where the thickest books were usually held, untouched for decades.
She suddenly stopped. An unlikely intruder in this hell hole – a man. And from the looks of it, a learned man. He sat at a table, with at least 10 books laid around him, with an even larger pile sitting behind him. He seemed deep in research moving from one book to the next, feverishly writing in a notebook. Perhaps there was something to be gained from this trip after all.
Hours had passed. Sometime after Isa had walked into the room, the man had noticed someone watching him. He seemed startled at first, but quickly opened up. Isa said nothing, yet the man had already told her in depth about his research regarding the Black Turtle. The man had been hopping from land to land doing research on each areas largest deity. They were currently in the Land of Water, where the largest organized religions told of a god, black as night, but who swam in the “Gen Sea”, the largest fresh water supply on the continent. This turtle, the man told her, is said to keep the sea fresh and fertile, giving life to all creatures, but taking life away as well. The locals, however, feared and revered the turtle, and felt that he could take their life as well, should he so wish. Most of the natives, the undines, were originally came from this sea, and generations back were said to have lived alongside the Great Turtle, the Turtle having sired all children of the Undine. However, when the women moved to the land, they lost touch with the ways of their ancestors and no longer gave birth to “true Undine” – those untainted without outside blood. As such, the Turtle forsake his blessings, and since, the women have always been fighting with infringing peoples in their land for power. Thus far, the local Undine have managed to keep power and using unknown magicks, subjugated harems of men for procreative purposes. These men lived in dungeons deep under the palace, under a deep hypnotic sleep under which they could take orders, but not act on any free-will.
Mithal told Isa all of this with great gusto, stating how although this was all rumor and lore, there is always truth to any outrageous story and how he was here to get to the core of the facts. Isa contemplated on this thought. She also added the phrase to the long list of phrases her mother had taught her. Every story, no matter how ridiculous, sprouts from a seed of truth. However, if there was truth to this story, that might mean hoards of unconscious men, lost in their own dreamworld, were being held captive in the city. This might also be the kernel that was the exaggeration in the story. There was only one way to find out, and Isa smirked as an idea came to mind.
She walked into the bar in the middle of the forest. The place had a musty stench, just like the humans who occupied it. She looked around at the drunken men, poorly trying to entice women to their side. To her right, she saw the yang, lonely men who sat at the bar, drinking their woes away. Both groups were disgusting, but she preferred the quiet to the idiocy.
She walked toward the barman on her right, and gruffly ordered a beer. The tone of her voice caused a few stares in her direction. She stared right back. Not many men could handle a solemn stare by a woman, especially in these parts. The crowd looked away, feeling embarrassed but not entirely sure why.
Joda knew why. Men were weak. So were women. And when confronted with someone as un-apologizing as her, well, that usually went in one of two ways. With only two options however, it was unlikely she would ever find her equal.
As she drank away her sorrows with a beer as disgusting as how she felt, she looked over at a rowdy group of men by the door. They laughed as though they had no cares in the world, catcalling women, and happy whether they were rejected or not. Idiots. They would never notice a woman as strong as her of their own volition for the true beauty she had. One of the men however, stared back at her with an eerie quietness about him. Looks like option 2 was about to start.
She stared back, unflinchingly, ready for the man to pick a fight with her. She quickly began to assess him. He seemed strong, and had rolled up his sleeves showing off his muscles. His face was heavily bearded, with a solid scar going down from him forehead to his cheek, covering his right eye. He wore overalls, with a red checkered shirt underneath. However, his hair seem well maintained, cut short and clearly groomed, as opposed to the rest of the slobs in this bar. Suddenly it hit her, he’s not drunk. What? A rugged man in a bar in the forest, surrounded by his friends, but not drinking? Something was up. He clearly was used to having bar fights, and apparently not gentlemanly enough to keep from fighting a woman. She was prepared now.
He stood up and began walking over to her, as she refused to break eye contact.
What? Why was he greeting her? This was an unusual start compared to most of her fights. She didn’t respond.
“My name’s Rizer. I saw you observing me from across the room, and I thought it would be more polite of me to offer you a drink, as recompense for having to look at my ugly mug.”
What? Her confusion intensified. What was he doing? None of his behavioral patterns made sense. He was almost treating her as she’d seen other men do to women – with decency.
“My name’s Joda.”
“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you Joda! What kind of drink can I offer you? It seems like your beer is almost out. If I may be so pertinent, there’s a house brew the offer, but it’s never on the menu. You have to ask for it. It’s got a great bodied-flavor! Lucky you ran into me, huh?” He winked at her.
There was no way she was going to be able to analyze this situation properly. His stance was not one of a fighter, and he just kept talking to her, without any seemingly duplicitous reason.
“HO HO. Looks like Rize found himself a woman as pretty as him, if you can call her a woman.” One of the men from the table Rizer had came from bellowed. Rizer threw him a glare.
“I think that’s rather uncalled for and unkind of you Gerth. I’d have you apologize to the lady here. I’m so sorry Joda; I have no words to excuse his actions.”
Joda’s glare switched swiftly from Rizer to Gerth; looks like she had just misjudged where option 2 was coming from. She knew she shouldn’t have let herself get comfortable. The barman put the House Beer in front of her. She chugged it, keeping eye contact with Gerth the whole time. He seemed displease.
Gerth stood up, and ambled over, with a man who clearly tried to convey he had confidence, but was only just compensating for his insecurities. These were more like her usual brawls. She was prepared.
“Well, well little Missy. Seems like you caught our boy here. Though with what, I’m not too sure. That robe of yours ain’t too becoming, and you ain’t done yourself up nothing either. MAYBE” he started off, increasing his voice so the whole bar could hear, “WE GOT OURSELVES AN ENCHANTRESS HERE.” A gasp and some murmerring followed. Accusations such as that were not taken lightly here.
Several years ago, rumors had spread through the region like wildfire, of an enchantress who had become the item of worship for a cult over the mountains. One day, something angered the enchantress, and she murdered her entire following. This was hardly surprising to the townsfolk. After all, enchantresses weren’t to be trusted. But the gravity of the accusation still stood.
“You’re taking this too far Gerth. Back off” Rizer said standing up. He evenly matched Gerth in height, another fact that seemed to bother Gerth.
“Back off man. Let’s take this outside lady, where we can discuss in private. Maybe you can provide me with some service, and see if these accusations don’t go away?” He said with a smirk, befit of disgusting human like himself. He unexpectedly pushed past Rizer, to grab Joda. He never knew what hit him.
Joda grab his outstretched arm, and twisted herself under his arm, forcing him into a flip in the air. He would’ve landed badly on his back, had she not been faster. She kicked him from the top of his back forcing him up. She snapped back his arms, which promptly forced him to land of his arse. His back facing her. She grabbed his head between both her hands, and snap. The threat was gone. Option two was always the more fun option. Got her some exercise on her slow days. She knew what would come next. The open mouths and gasps of the crowd behind her. She turned around. Rizer had the same look on his face. She sighed. She knew there was no one there to be her equal. She looked away and walked out of the bar, without paying her tab of course.