Epoch

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Fall, year 86

The streets of Frosthold were bustling, as ever they were. Over the course of days, the harvest of the southern fields had been carted in and carefully stored, and the granaries were near to bursting as the last dregs of those earliest crops of autumn were delivered. Eggplant, Apples, Onions and leafy greens were gathered in abundance, and with shepherds, butchers and hunters culling herds and flocks for the winter's harsh grasp, Venison, Mutton, and more were smoked and cured to keep them through to spring. This surplus in mind and their spirits high, the people sought, and the nobles approved, a festival in the last days before the autumn equinox; A proper harvest festival the likes of which the little nation hadn't seen in some time. On this, the first day of celebration, festivities were to be cut short.


The main square was packed with celebrants, but none took notice of the black-robed figure that drifted through their midst. Shoulder after shoulder brushed its cloak, face after face looked past its lowered hood, and in the shadowy depths of the cloth, it gave what passed for a smile. At the banquet tables it gorged on meat and bread, taking in food at an impossible rate. At the grange displays it hacked and coughed, leaving a fine red mist hanging in its wake. On the edges of the dancing floor its hands brushed shoulders as revelers whirled by, and still it went unnoticed, lost in a sea of vibrant colors and lilting music. In this way the figure wandered the square, invisible to pedestrian eyes.


All the while it smiled.
Almon enjoyed events like this, it always seemed to bring out the best in people as they let everything go and just had fun. Sitting nearby on a roof, he was watching everyone, enjoying an apple, bread and a bottle of mead he pinched from some soul. He was unaware of what was happening, too busy enjoying his food and people watching. The wanderer slowly popped the cork of his mead, downing it with a satisfied burp, covering his mouth as he filled his face with bread. His sword rested beside him, currently in it's sheath. His adventures had lead him around everywhere, but he had stopped at Frosthold on the words of a festival was to take place. 

"Mom, I'm sorry but your baking has nothing on this bread." 

He laughed softly to himself, looking down as he watched the people dance. Heck, he was considering even joining them soon before he left the next day. He pondered that, leaning back on the roof as he hummed along to the tune. 
Rheia looked up from the path beneath her feet when the sound of revelry suddenly spiked in volume. The festival had begun. She cursed lightly under her breath. She meant to have arrived before the festival started. She would have been there hours earlier, if it hadn't been for a particularly bad-tempered badger who, to her bad luck, was mostly deaf.

Remembering her two hour flight through the forest, ending with a lengthy stay up a tree, she muttered darkly to herself.

"Cursed Badger. Didn't mean to trod on your burrow. Can't hear the pretty song? Of COURSE can't hear the pretty song. Daft deaf fool started climbing the bloody tree. Give me a damn heart attack."


Consoling herself with the thought that perhaps with the festival started, the revelers will be in a better mood to toss a few coins her way for a song. She could maybe get herself a room and a meal, but it never hurt to have a couple extra coppers in the purse.

Readjusting the travel pack slung across her shoulders, Rheia eyed the remaining distance between her and the festivities. If she kept her pace, she should reach the town in just a few more minutes.

She paused to take a deep breath, enjoying the scent of the thick forest as it came up to hug either side of the road. Another few minutes of hard walking, and she'd be among the festivities.

Grinning in anticipation of the song and the meal it would earn, Rheia started walking in earnest. She couldn't wait to get there.
The crowd ebbed and flowed like a fleshy tide, parting around the figure as he circled the pavilion. All it could see were sacks of meat and organs in every direction. The sight was revolting, but it found comfort in the thought of what was to come. Silos, ranches, fields and forests were already seeded. All that remained to be purified was this farcical gathering of the blood sacks, and then the cleansing could begin and the region would succumb to its will. It watched them putter about like cattle, mindlessly consuming only to burn the resources away loping around in demented circles and spirals. They would occasionally cluster into larger groupings, and there it would muscle through to the center, contacting every body it could along the way. Each crowd thus inoculated, it would retreat to the shadows and seek the next opportunity. So many were provided. It took little effort to ensure that a healthy system took root in this place.
Almon watched, still clueless about this figure and their intentions with the crowd. He just bounced along like a child on the roof to the music, getting his groove on. He soon jumped to his feet, dancing along the rooftops with an invisible partner, his feet quick and agile as they did a quick step dance. He danced over to his sitting place and grabbed his sword, flinging it on his back as he kept dancing with (sadly) himself. He soon moved to the edge of the roof, jumping and sitting down as he just laughed and laughed at his childish behavior towards the music, going back to his people watching.
She was finally there. Her two-hour badger-induced detour not withstanding. The lights and sounds of the crowd washed over her in a warm and energizing wave. She had missed this in her solitary travels. The press of humanity, the sheer vibrancy of the human spirit. She loved it.

Her stomach growled, giving warning to the more pressing matter, getting food. Or, rather, the funds to acquire it. Scanning the area, she searched for a spot that would suit her needs. The broad center street of the town was packed on either side with stalls and tables, booths and wares. Off in the center of town there was a raised dais with a podium where one of the town's elders was making a speech. Rheia finally spotted a likely location. A clear place not quite in front of a nearby tavern. Heading over to stake her claim on the area, she spied some abandoned fruit boxes in the alley between the tavern and a local craft shop.

Setting down her pack against the wall of the tavern, Rheia quickly selected one of the sturdier looking crates. Setting it next to her pack, he drew out the battered cap she kept specifically for her performances and placed it on the ground, ready to receive what coins the crowd was willing to offer.

She allowed a small smile to herself as she climbed upon her crate, looking above the crowds. Just a simple song would do, she decided, and began to sing.

The melody lifted out of her in happy, lilting notes. The song coming from a place in her soul that felt like loving smiles and scales sliding against stone.

The crowd drew in around her, and in her mind they were like the bees drawn to the nectar of her voice. She sweetened the tune, giving a jumping twist to the beat and clapped along with it. The crowd soon clapped along with her. Coins were tossed intermittently into the cap. The enjoyment of the crowd was, on its own, like a fine sweet wine.


Rheia had been parched long enough, and was ready to drink her fill.
Almon at first heard the music and assumed it was some random singer, he closed his eyes and focused on the tune. What came next was odd to him as he shot up like a bat it of hell to try and find the source. Scanning left and right, he peered over the roof to find the source of this....attracting melody. As his eyes glanced over the many hwads, they finally stopped, resting on Rheia. 

Why was...he interested so much in this simple song? The crowd seemed to enjoy it as well, judging by the people throwing coin at that poor, and frankly helpless hat. 

He slowly made his way down the side of the building, much like tree climber would. Gravity played its roll and he landed on the ground with a soft 'thud'. People seemed to not notice the Wanderer, but he slowly made his way over to the singer.

'I think I will give her a bit of a hand...people can always use more coin.'

Almon thought to himself as he walked over, pulling out wooden pan flute. He gave it a small twist in his palm and walked past the last person, standing beside the lady with a nod and a smile. After his 'introduction', he turned to the group of people, giving a bow as he put his lips to the flute and raised.

What came next was a tune akin to her own, nothing to overpower it, no. It was a song to be melded with hers, never overbearing, but strong enough to be its own power. 
Almon closed his eyes, giving a small smile as he played. It ad been a while since he heard it, and for the first time in a while....he was have fun.
The humans were blind to that which was to come, but they would witness its brilliance before long. With each seed, its power would grow, and the waves of blood would soon wash clean this blasted land. An itch formed in the back of its mind, calling attention away from brooding thoughts. Breaking off from the hunt, it saw opportunity in the for of a mindless crowd, coalescing into a tightly packed wall of temptation and centered on a single point, in which two creatures sang and played with reckless abandon. The mass clapped and cheered to the beat, and hurled metallic coins as though attempting to stone the players to death with them. No-one noticed the figure's approach, so enamored were they with the performance. Pleased, it melded into the crowd, touching hands and shoulders, and brushing arms with its long, emaciated fingers. Once or twice victims shouted objections, but they fell flat in the face of the figure's all-consuming need to purge.
The song was nearing its end, and Rheia was basking in the warmth from the crowd gathered in front of her. She scanned the faces, measuring the reactions that she had seen time and time again. It never got old, this rapture her songs brought forth. No matter how many crowds, how many songs. It was nice to use it for something so pleasant.

Movement caught her eye. There was one among the crowd that was not enraptured with the harmony between her song and the young man's flute. A cloaked figure passed among the crowd, hands touching a shoulder here, an arm there. Not lingering long in any particular spot. It baffled Rheia, that this figure seemed to be unaffected by her song. Were they deaf, like the badger? Something about the figure made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. She kept an eye on the figure, but turned her attention back to the song, winding it down as the cap on the ground was near overflowing with coins. She didn't want to beggar the people, after all.

As the song came to a close, and the last petering notes lingered in the air, the crowd cheered and applauded. Rheia bowed her thanks to the crowd, a wide grin on her face as she scooped up her cap full of coins. The crowd slowly started to dissipate, some lingering to see if another song might begin.

Rheia waved a hand vaguely at the lingerers, she was hungry. Perhaps she would sing again after some food, but the song had wakened her thirst for something more mundane than the appreciation of a crowd. A tall pint of mead would not go amiss.

Turning to the young man, she held out a hand to introduce herself.

"Thank you for the accompaniment. My name is Rheia. I'm about to grab a drink," She gestured towards the tavern, "Might you join me? I really feel some of these coins should be yours."
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Almon played like he never played before, he seemed to be fueled by the energy the crowd was giving off as well as his partner in crime. However this came with a fallback as he did not exactly notice the thing in the cloak, too absorbed by his music. 

As the song came to a close, he bowed with his partner, a permanent grin on his face as he came up and looked at her in response to her question. He could tell she was in need of a drink and her statment proved him correct.

"Thank you for the accompaniment. My name is Rheia. I'm about to grab a drink," her hands gestured towards the tavern, "Might you join me? I really feel some of these coins should be yours."

Almon nodded, licking his lips as he coughed gently. 

"That is not a bad idea, dear Rheia. My name is Almon." 

He gave another deep bow.


"The Wanderer. Now please, ladies first."

He gestured to the bar, raising with a smirk on his face. 
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