Hunting for Purpose

Hunting for Purpose
Summary: Castor Westmark finds himself at a crossroads - and goes seeking the Chosen, Alyona for advice. She is practicing archery in the training yard of the Temple of the Four, in Laketown, and the winds of Altheara are poised for a change…
Date: 03/06/2013
Related: None
Players:
Castor Alyona 

Training Yard, Temple of the Four, Laketown
The training yard of the Temple is an open area attached to the armory. It is a clear yard surrounded by high walls, with torches to provide ample light even during nighttime. There are racks on the walls, and barrels for storing practice weapons within easy reach of those training for combat. Next to the sparring area, is a long archery range with a target-dummy of straw at the far end.
3rd of June, 1329

<FS3> Alyona rolls Marksmanship: Great Success.

Late afternoon paints the exterior of the Temple of the Four in coruscations as brilliant as firedrops in an elegant matron queen's crown. Long shadows fall through the temple altars, and young acolytes move to light sconces over each archway. The Temple never truly sleeps.

Within the Temple chambers, most of the initiates are settling for the night - evening prayers, supper, and the final chores of the night. The day guards of five Chosen is being replaced by the night watch, but in the interchange, no sign is seen of Alyona the Still. A question would lead one towards the practice yard outside of the small armory.

There, two torches are driven into the ground 50 meters apart. A dummy stuffed with hay is already bristled with arrows, all in a tight knot at the target's neck. Alyona slowly notches another arrow - it seems almost as if she is meditation, though a strange meditation indeed, with the weapons of war in her hands.

<FS3> Opposed Roll — Castor=stealth Vs Alyona=perception
< Castor: Failure Alyona: Good Success
< Net Result: Alyona wins - Solid Victory

"I would never have though of archery as a religious practice," says a voice from behind the Chosen. His footfalls strike the ground in near-silence, but the torchlight casts his flickering shadow across the far wall, giving his presence away before he speaks. He is in his leather armour - the lad is hardly ever out of it, while his sister is recovering - has his cloak over his shoulder and a quiver of arrows at his hip. His hunting bow - ornate, finely crafted and sporting an engraved elk on it - is in his left hand.

A smile crosses his face as he draws closer, sparing a glance for the target between the torches. "You are… not without skill!" he remarks with a roguish half-grin on his face. Then he shrugs and nods his head a few times. "Very well, you are exceptionally skilled, Chosen!" He chuckles.

It feels good to chuckle.

"I… was looking for you. Would you mind if I joined you?"

The arrow whistles ever so softly - a velvet whisper instead of a hiss - before it hits in the same grouping with a steady, violent thump. It is only then that Alyona turns towards the Westmark, inclining her head graciously at his compliment. "It is not my skill, but Altheara's." She says, modestly, indicating the purple crest marked upon her otherwise simple hunting bow. Then, with just tiny quirk of a smile, she adds: "All of the Guardians', in fact, for the many years I spent in the woods with only my bow and a narcoleptic priest as companions."

She steps aside with a sweep of her hand, quietly inviting the noble to take her place. "I find it to be meditative. You have a simple goal, which if you do not focus upon constantly, you will not hit. All you can do is draw, breathe, loose." Her voice betrays none of the adrenaline-soaked excitement some get from archery. In fact, her soft tone might as well be attempting to lull a baby to sleep.

Castor lifts his eyebrows at this peculiar, yet intriguing woman. "Are you sure you're not more hunter than Chosen?" he asks with a lopsided grin. He stops walking when he reaches Alyona's side, and then turns to study the target - the purple crest on the Chosen's bow draws his attention, however. He lifts one eyebrow now.

"Hunter… Chosen… I am starting to believe they are not necessarily dissimilar vocations…" He glances at the target and reaches for one of his arrows with a practiced motion of his hand.

"You really believe this is… meditative?" he asks with genuine curiosity as he draws back on the bowstring, pulling it to his cheek for a second and sighting down the shaft with his eye. He exhales…

…and fires.

<FS3> Castor rolls Marksmanship: Failure.

"We all have our calling." Alyona says, her voice continuing in a soothing tone. "Mine is in the mountains and wild places." And certainly not Laketown, though as every day passed, she felt her childhood home wrapping around her ankles like ivy, intent on rooting her in place.

The Chosen falls silent as Castor takes his shot, her eyes sharp as a battlefield instructor's. Just not as intrusive, for she offers no teaching yet. It may be short to come, though, based on the particular cant to eyebrow. Almost… amused.

<FS3> Castor rolls Marksmanship: Success.

"Calling…" Castor murmurs as if tasting a foreign delicacy for the first time and hoping he doesn't choke on it. His fingers pinch the bowstring instead of releasing it and the arrow he had fired goes wildly astray. It ricochets off the wall of the yard…

Once…

Twice…

And embeds itself in the wooden shaft of one of the two torches illuminating the target dummy. Castor lowers his bow with a look of dismay, then he sniffs and points with the bow at the errant arrow, glancing at Alyona.

"…I meant to do that."

Nocking another arrow, he takes a little more time to centre himself before firing, and looses it with a bit more skill. When the arrow pierces the target just under its left shoulder, the youth looks reasonably pleased.

"Is that you were?" he asks as he lowers his bow. "Before being a Chosen? This is… not exactly a mountainous temple. Why would you… change?"

<FS3> Alyona rolls Perception: Success.

Amusement lights her placid green eyes like the flickering of the stricken torch upon the armoury wall. But the Chosen does not chortle as some women might, and when his second shot hits the target, she withholds the over-eager words of wisdom often given by veterans. Instead, she nods, an economical motion of approval. Or perhaps, a silent 'do it again.'

"I was born in the mountains, I'm told. But these walls are all I had known, forever. I was meant to be a priestess, with Tylon." Her words are quiet, and brook emotion in the same way a wide, slow river might. "It was the mountains that called me back, put the knife in my hands. Showed me that I was Chosen." She tilts her head, regarding the ever-shadowed target mannequin. "There are parts of ourselves that we must simply accept. I tried to change it for many years, but I could not." Her hand brushes the dirk still upon her belt, even here in the cloistered safety, and her nostrils flare as they did earlier. When she opened the door, intent on killing to protect the Westmark children.

Her eyes settle again upon Castor, weighing something more than his archery skill. "Does it trouble you?"

<FS3> Castor rolls Marksmanship: Failure.

As Castor prepares to aim another shot - more than a little disturbed that he is… off his usual game, tonight - he hears the Chosen's last question and slowly… he relaxes the draw on the bowstring, and lowers both bow and arrow to his side.

His jaw is very tight.

"Something troubles me, aye…" he whispers without looking over at the Chosen. He cannot bring himself to meet her eyes. Instead, to stall for time, he prepares his third shot. His arm is tense like a band of iron, except that it is trembling. He releases the string and the arrow sails past the target, ricochets off the wall (again) and flies back at the pair of them, to embed itself in a barrel for storing arrows.

Castor grimaces and turns around to Alyona. "I did not mean to do that," he remarks quietly. "Sorry… Chosen - Alyona - I need to say something, and… I have not said it to anyone, yet - not even Cricket…"

It might just be that Alyona would have made a fine Priestess. For that is the mein that she presents, patience and an open ear, wrapped in boiled leather armor, shimmering with sharp weapons and a Chosen's sigils of protection upon her tabard. Her hand moves to the young man's tense arm - not the feathery touch of a coquette, but a firm, steady squeeze. A mother bidding her child to relax, an old soldier offering a simple sign of presence. Then she lets loose. Some men preferred to sit when they talked, others preferred to lob arrows into adjacent courtyards. Both options are open. "My silence is yours." She offers, simply.

Castor lowers his bow to his side, and does not reach for another arrow - yet. He begins to pace, back and forth - only to stop when he feels Alyona's hand on his arm. He turns toward her, his eyes on the ground.

"Three years ago, my family broke the Corsair siege against our Keep; I returned from my uncle's home, to my family." He snorts ruefully. "It… was not quitethe home-coming I expected - or they - except for Cricket. It was hard. I didn't know my own parents anymore, my baby sister… only Cricket. So I took to riding and hunting all the time… I wasn't even sure what I was looking for…"

He then reaches for another arrow and swivels on his heel to face the target. He gives himself a moment to try and collect himself, before drawing back on the string. "Little more than a week before we travelled to Wolveshire, I went hunting Corsairs down the coast. I found them - by the smoking shell of what was a fisherman's hut."

He fires the arrow at the target dummy, his expression twisted with disgust.

<FS3> Castor rolls Marksmanship: Good Success.

Once the decision is made, Alyona steps back. Castor is given plenty of room to move, to draw, to speak, to exist. She stays just on the edge of the torch-fire's reach, apparently still, and listening. All of her reactions are too minute for the boy to catch in his preoccupation; she stiffens at the mention of Corsairs, and her gaze follows the arrow to the target and back, her eyes darkly hooded.

Her lips are moving, too barely audible. A simple catechism - notch, target, draw, breath, loose, target. The soothing meditation. She is not surprised when the next arrow finds the target. He wasn't thinking about failure anymore, but a target, instead.

"Aye, I found them…" he repeats with distaste as he eyes the arrow at it rest quivering in the target dummy's 'throat' (along with most of Alyona's arrows). "Killing Corsairs is what we do - Westmarks. Shadows. To protect ourselves and those who live on our land. But the war is over… killing just feels like…" He shrugs, and looks back at Alyona.

"Killing."

Lowering his bow, he takes a step toward Alyona. "Who am I if all I ever do is… hunt, kill, play, and then 'rinse and repeat'? It all seems so… pointless. I used to think - to believe - that I needed to be 'out there'! Living! Fighting! Playing - to feel free. To be free. Then we come here, our father rakes Cricket over the coals - because of me. Then there's the assassination attempt on her - and skills I had spurned for most of my life… end up helping to save her."

He glances away, looking at the target as if it represented every man he had ever put to the swords… or arrow. "The Corsairs may have gotten what they deserved… still, it's not much of a purpose. I want to make my father proud - I… I really do. And I want my life to have a little more meaning if it is remotely possible. I just don't know how to do either. It's… peaceful here. I'm not entirely sure I want to leave. Yet."

Moving quickly, he reaches for another arrow, nocks it, draws back on the string and fires all in one motion.

<FS3> Castor rolls Marksmanship: Good Success.

As expected, the confession garners no disgust or dismay from the Chosen. It simply washes over her like the water of that wide, still river, as does the boy's anger, frustration, and confusion. She does not sway, or recoil, or react, other than to give another one of those spare, approving nods, as she has each shot that hit the target. "Killing is a part of life for those like us. But just a part. Too many men rush headlong into death, before learning how to die, without noticing life. You already know what it is you need."

"You are ready for your calling. But that, too, you cannot force, Castor. It will not come until it knows you are ready, not when you want it to." Alyona walks a few steps around the circle of light, watching his form. A soft tap brings his elbow up for better leverage.

As the arrow is brought up, her words give way to another susurration of her catechism. Just a touch louder, as if she is reminding him. When it hits, she doesn't look at it, but instead at him. "The Temple welcomes all, for a time or for a lifetime. There is work to be done here."

Down goes the bow.

Up comes the man's chin.

He looks at the arrow for a number of quiet seconds, a careful thought for every tick of the clock, so to speak. He breathes slowly, evenly - arms at his sides, his back to Alyona for now. All he seems to care about is the target.

"I watched you tend to my sister with more calm than I've seen across a crystal lake when the winds of Altheara were still. I've seen you stand up to the biggest braggart I know - I did not enjoy seeing something of myself in that pompous turtle who has all the etiquette of a rock at the bottom of the ocean - with more iron in your veins than the richest mines of Eikeren."

Now he turns to look straight at the Chosen.

"And I have seen you - rather, not seen you - creep upon me and my sister with stealth worthy of the Shadow Baron himself." He smirks at that; true admiration there. "But more than anything else, Alyona… I see a purpose in you that I… wish I had, myself. I don't want to leave. Not even after Cricket is well. I want to stay. To train. The next time I raise my weapon against another, I want it to be with the kind of purpose I see in you…" He chuckles at the two arrows of his that went royally astray: one stuck in a barrel up against the wall behind Alyona and himself, and the other embedded in one of the two torches stuck into the ground to illumine the target.

"…and with better aim, actually," he adds with a wry grin. "I want this," and he swallows as if making a decision that surprises him enough to make him hesitate. "I want to be Chosen."

And here, at last, a reaction. Surprise, which oscillates quickly from eye to brow. And modesty, which just ever-so darkens the pale woman's ruddy cheeks. The only thing that ever threw Alyona off her course was being noticed, and more so being … admired. After a long moment searching the lad's eyes, she finally nods. "I cannot promise that we will find what you seek. That is for the Guardians to decide." She draws in a breath, and certainty steals into her next words. "However, if you will bring that fire-" Her gloved hand taps the center of his chest, once, "-and come with truth, then I will teach you all I know."

Alyona's hand bridges the gap between them, offered for the clasping. "I will teach you to hunt with purpose."

The hand offered…

…is accepted.

And with it, the path ahead of this young lord - soon to no longer be a lord, but something else - is chosen. For once, the smile on the youth's face is not cocky at all, but confident. He releases Alyona's hand, and takes a small step backward. The light breeze that barely caresses the training yard of the Temple of the Four changes, causing the torches to flicker, Castor's cloak to flap against his calves, and a lock of his hair to blow across his face.

Slinging his bow over his shoulder, he reaches with one hand up to push the lock of hair back behind his ear… while his other hand produces a pair of dice from a hidden pocket inside his vest. "I don't suppose I'll be needing these anymore…" he murmurs with a sly smirk on his face - and he casts the dice aside. Both of them bounce off the ground, when the wind catches them and deposits them on a flat area where they can fall face down.

The dice stop, displaying a three and four.

Seven.

Castor blinks at them and then at the Chosen. He grins.

"Well, what do you know…?"

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