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Old February 12, 2018, 09:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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[PA] A Lovely Brightening for a Stroll (Barthelme)

 
Spring, Era XXV
Port Alyxandrya
 


Too much! Too much!

The words pounded in rhythm to the headache that had begun to spread throughout her skull. Port Alyxandrya was an incredible city, filled to the brim of bustling people scrambling about beside a striking view of what she learned to be the Sea of Diana. However, Tali spent most of her life within the woods of her father’s home. She went into towns so that she could practice her techniques, but nothing could prepare her for the sight before her. Although Moonstone certainly helped a bit. I’m pretty sure I would be one with the cobblestone, otherwise.

Tali retreated to the outskirts of the port, finding solace in the trees that danced beneath the brightening’s rays. A faint smile brought color to her otherwise pale complexion as she tucked a strand of auburn locks behind her ear. While the view all around was breathtaking, she had to switch the gears in her mind. After all, if she played her hand correctly, this could be a good area to loose her assailant should he find her.

She ascended one of the dancing trees, obtaining a better view as she pulled out a handmade map from her satchel. From the viewpoint of others, it looked as if a child had gone wild and scribbled nonsense all over it. With quill in hand, she began to add to the piece - her gaze darting between the parchment and her surroundings.
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Old February 13, 2018, 09:27 PM   #2 (permalink)
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There was a sudden rustle through the long grass down below, and a panicked squirrel burst into sight, running as though the forces of Aeternia themselves were at its heels. The small animal looked around wildly, and then barreled up the side of a tree not far from the one in which Talindra herself was perched. It swiftly disappeared among the leafy branches there. A moment later the thing's hunter came into view. It was indeed panic-worthy... if one happened to be a squirrel, anyway.

Some sort of horrible little green monster! It was about the size of a pumpkin. It was also about the shape of a pumpkin. Actually it basically was a pumpkin, albeit one with a glowing green shell, and trotting around on four stubby, bestial claws. The thing had a face like that of a carved jack-o-lantern, with menacing slits for eyes and a snarling mouth full out out-sized triangular fangs. Both were glowing a dull red, as if there were some sort of strange spectral furnace inside the small creature. And aside from the legs that clawed and pawed at the ground and the bases of the trees even now in frantic search of its prey, the pumpkin-thing had long, leafy vines trailing from its stem, which continually swept through the air like flailing tentacles.

Also the little monster was a king, apparently! Or at least it was wearing a crown. Just a shiny black circlet, studded with thorny spikes all around it. After a moment the pumpkin-beast lifted its glowing eyes up toward Talindra herself. It uttered a low, animalistic growl at the sight of her.

The squirrel, wherever it had gone, was as quiet as the grave. Too frightened even to shriek defiance at its pursuer, as squirrels were wont to do.
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Old February 14, 2018, 07:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It was rather soothing, sitting perched up high as the rest of the world sort of faded away. Her paranoia provoked a few scans to ensure her safety, but for the most part she finally felt at peace. A small shriek of terror caught her attention, forcing her quill down to allow a hesitant reach for her dagger. The sound erupted from a rather terrified squirrel, clearly fleeing a predator as it seemed shelter in a nearby tree.

A pang in her chest created a quiet growl of irritation. Am I seriously sympathizing with a squirrel? That’s pathetic.

The creature’s pursuer appeared from a bush, leaving Tali both uneasy and oddly...excited? Aww! Look at the adorable mutant pumpkin that could possibly hurt me! It was a strange feeling indeed, but lasted only a few moments. Upon being discovered, she stuffed her map back into the satchel and hesitantly stood. The creature’s glowing gaze was locked on so she couldn’t try and sink further in to hide. I could possibly jump over it and make a run for it? Those vines might catch me in mid-air so not a good idea to risk it. Maybe move to another tree? Talk to it?

...seriously? Talk to the adorable GREEN killer pumpkin that currently doesn’t like me?

...

Maybe it could work...?


A combination of the two brought her to a decision as she hesitantly stepped onto a nearby branch. “Hey there, little guy!” She paused, noting the crown. “King? Little king! Hey so I’m not a squirrel. I think it went up another tree. Maybe sniff around and see if you can’t find what you really want?” Each word was drawn out as her discomfort bled into her speech. In her attempt to flee, her attention became fixated and unable to check her surroundings.

Yeah! Come and kill me while I’m being taunted by a fething pumpkin! That’ll be a perfect tale for bards to sing about in taverns!
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Old February 14, 2018, 09:12 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The Pumpkin King(?) answered her attempt at parley with a surprisingly loud, open-mouthed roar, and leaped to attack... the base of the tree. Which was really about all that it could reach. Even had she been on the ground, of course, it would have had to stand on its tiptoes to so much as bite her on the kneecap. As it was, the creature basically just snarled and scrunched up its face as it gnawed futilely on the tree's trunk, its burning ruby eyes still fixed on her all the while.

"There you are."

Oh noes! An assassin had found Talindra-- and here he came just strolling up while she was distracted, exactly as she had feared!

Except, wait a minute, he seemed to be addressing the pumpkin, not her.

The fellow was a half-elf, identifiable as such mainly because he had the basic build of an elf... and the pointed ears... except that he was human-sized in height. He wasn't exactly dressed like an assassin, either. More like a semi-prosperous adventurer, which was indeed what he was. Brown hair, brown eyes. Clothes all in various earth tones as well. Elven blood aside, Barthelme was a man as likely as not to blend in with a crowd, if not for his various otherworldly accouterments. Case in point: in one hand he was carrying his Staff of Arcana, which was probably most noteworthy for the cage-like structure of splintered wood and bark at the top of it, in which an orb of swirling blue and violet energies was imprisoned. In his other hand he held an empty harness attached to a chain. Presumably it belonged to King Pumpkin.

The half-elf's eyes were fixed on the pumpkin creature as he started over toward the tree. But because it's eyes remained fixed on Talindra, it was only a matter of time until the stranger followed its gaze upwards, and abruptly stopped in place.

"Ah." Barthelme blinked in surprise. As if to say that finding an elf in a tree was very much the most surprising part of his day thus far. "Serale. Or vedui."

He glanced down to the little monster... currently trying to throttle the tree with its vine tentacles... and then back up at Talindra. Slowly the half-elf tilted his head to one side as he considered her, arriving at what seemed to him to be the obvious conclusion.

"My apologies," he said, "if you were treed by my little friend... Samhain, here. Rest assured, there is no need for concern. He's quite..."

There the half-elf paused, knitting his brow slightly. How to finish that sentence? Not "tame," surely. And "harmless" was also a bit of a stretch.

"...small," was what he eventually came up with.
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Old February 15, 2018, 05:15 PM   #5 (permalink)
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It's so cute!

The combination of a loud, intimidating growl mixed with fierce scratching at the trunk of the tree did nothing more than put Tali at ease. She sat down on the branch, her slender legs dangling above the creature. "Little king? I'm afraid that your squirrel has managed to elude you. Perhaps there's a mouse nearby that you can capture before it reaches the city?" Her pale hand rose up to muffle the soft chuckle that escaped her lips. It was rude to laugh, the pumpkin king was clearly trying his best. A small part of her thought to maybe climb down and let him have his victory. It couldn't hurt too much, right? Perhaps a bit of bloodshed, but certainly nothing dangerous.

The thought left as quickly as it came upon hearing a voice. A chill infected her whole body, leaving her breathless while her heart attempted to break free from her chest. The owner of the voice fell into view, but nothing more could move beyond her cognac gaze which examined the half-elf. The attire wasn't one of an assassin, simple and casual. It could be a disguise, blend into his environment so as to not raise suspicion. There was an odd-looking staff gripped tightly in hands strong enough to wrap around her slender throat if necessary. The object itself? Either stolen or an illusion.

There was a pause in her deductions, however, as the half-elf greeted and apologized once her presence was made known to him. The tension quickly retreated, leaving her a bit of a mess although she tried not to show it. "Hm? Oh no, I was in the tree before he came long." Tali explained in her best attempt at a calm tone, the sound of rustling filling the air as the elf attempted to get out of the tree. "Actually, your little king was after a squirrel when we crossed pa-" The crack of a branch was quickly followed by a squeak as Tali found herself unable to finish her sentence. She collapsed onto the ground in front of the man and his pumpkin, groaning as the broken twig decided to add insult to injury and fall on top of her abdomen.
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Old February 15, 2018, 06:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Legs! The little Pumpkin King flailed wildly up at them with his vine tentacles, trying to seize the elf by an ankle and drag her down from her perch. Fortunately she was high enough that she remained well out of reach. Definitely the beastly little pumpkin seemed more interested in eating her, now, than any mouse or squirrel. Not that it appeared terribly likely to be able to manage such a thing, even if she had been standing right there on the ground before it.

"Ah," said Barthelme, when the elf woman explained that she had already been up in the tree.

Before he was able to say much else, or even hear the rest of her explanation, the branch had broken and down came Talindra. Fortunately Barthelme had moved to fix the harness around Samhain when she had started trying to climb down. It was an easy task, now, given the little pumpkin-monster's state of distraction. So it was that when the elf fell, Barthelme was able to hastily yank Samhain out of the impact zone. Which was good, because the pumpkin "king" probably would have been even worse to land on than the ground was. If only because the ground, at least, could not bite her.

Anyway, Barthelme swiftly stuck the pointy end of that staff he was carrying into the earth several feet away from the fallen elf, and looped Samhain's chain around it several times over. That would keep the vicious little creature at bay as he went to offer the woman a hand up with one hand, after tossing the bit of branch off her with the other.

"Are you alright?" he asked. "Not injured, I hope?"

What was that in the half-elf's eyes just then? Professional interest, if Talindra only knew. Not that Barthelme was hoping she was injured, or anything. But being a bit of a Grafter, among other things, Barthelme sort of liked using his modestly-relevant skills in applying first aid to injured people. It was a bit like putting a puzzle together. A puzzle of broken flesh and bone. Not that he was hoping she was wounded or anything, of course.

But that was Barthelme. Always prepared to be helpful.
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Old February 15, 2018, 08:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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The elven woman laid there in silence, her head pounding to the fast-paced rhythm of her own heartbeat. She half expected to be feeling teeth by now, but upon opening her eyes she learned that the creature had been restrained. Her gaze shifted to an open palm extended toward her. After a moment of gathering her thoughts, she managed to piece together the man’s offering of assistance. Nothing felt broken, at least that she could tell. Everything was a bit sore, but overall her head seemed to have suffered the most damage. She took his hand and found herself back on her feet once more, staggering a bit from the fast movement.

“I’m alright, but thank you.” She finally replied, giving a bow which was a poor choice on her part. A small hiss forced itself through gritted teeth for it felt like her brain was now loosely richocheting around her skull with each harsh movement. The ascent into an upright position was a bit more slow and cautious. “Your little Samhain is quite the ferocious beast. Did he manage to elude you upon seeing the squirrel?”

Despite the kind exchange of casual conversation, Tali’s body maintained a certain level of tension. There was still a chance, even as small as it was now, that this man was her assailant.
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Old February 15, 2018, 09:33 PM   #8 (permalink)
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"Pain?" Barthelme asked, his tone gone slightly clinical. "I can fix that."

Which he would. Just a little Mind Control trick he had practiced a time or two before over the eras. A small jolt of Mysticism to quiet the pain receptors and assure them that, no really, she didn't feel a thing. Then eliminate the dizziness the same way, and presto changeo, the random elf woman would feel fine. Or at least her brain would tell her she felt fine, which was actually pretty much the same thing. Though Barthelme gently took her chin in hand to shift her head this way and that for a moment, examining her for bumps or scratches or like that (without so much as a by your leave). After all, she still might need him to wrap her head in bandages or something. Or just slap on some gauze treated with Der Kleber. That would do the trick.

"Mm... yes. I'm afraid Samhain has been aggressive since the moment I... conjured him. One sight of what must have seemed easy prey... well. The chain slipped from my hand when he charged."

"Yeah, smooth move, Barthelme."

Had it come to this already? Indeed it had. Well, here was a blue-scaled monster woman, just slithering through the grass behind the half-elf like a giant snake. If a snake had two tails, that is... and four arms skittering along the ground as they went. Stopping just next to Barthelme, Usira reared up on her tails, standing on them as though they were a pair of legs, now. Stretching her arms out before her, she extended her hands in the elf's general direction, revealing a single large eye set in the palm of each one. That made five eyes together, including the one that dominated the left side of the creature's otherwise almost humanoid face. Around each eye was a strange whorl of scar tissue, almost as though they had been fired into her flesh by some sort of eye-shooting gun. The right side of her face, on the other hand, was entirely smooth and blank. Not even an empty socket where a human's second eye would have been.

"And who's this, then?"

"We... haven't been introduced yet."

Well, better late than never. The half-elf bent in a slight bow of his own, though his eyes remained on the elf all the while.

"Barthelme is my name. And this is Usira. A friend."

"Hey! How's tricks?" Usira grinned broadly, revealing many needle-like fangs. "I guess you already met Samhain."
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Old February 16, 2018, 02:16 PM   #9 (permalink)
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No, really I’m fine!

Tali’s mind managed to piece together a formal decline of his offer, but her lips refused to part. Before the transition of thought to verbal could occur, she found herself free of pain. Thaumaturgy? Mysticism? It certainly added to the authenticity of his attire and strange companion who was still attempting to consume her despite his restraints. As his hand slipped under her chin, however, a newfound chill jerked her head away. “S-sorry,” she began while taking a step back to regain a bit of distance, “I’m good, but I appreciate your kindness.” A smile tried to lessen the awkward tension that the elven woman had created. “I’m glad I was able to provide a distraction so that you were able to catch up to him.”

A new voice mixed into the pot caused a knee-jerk reaction as the elf attempted to arm herself, but found it to be futile. One tiny blade against the snake-like beast, the mage, and the pumpkin king (well, maybe not him) wouldn’t get her out of the current predicament. As the scaled creature neared closer, Tali began to back up in an attempt to gain a bit of extra distance – just in case running was her only option. She tried to remain calm, but her heart was already attempting to flee as it pounded harshly against her chest. There was a small gasp for as the beast reared back to rest on its dual tails, the elven woman’s back slammed against the base of a tree. Ironically, the exact one that the pumpkin king tore up prior to this.

Four eyes on each palm added to the singular one perched on the left side of its face, all focusing on Tali whose slender frame was mildly trembling. Stay strong. You can get out of this. Who knows? They might be friendly. Just don’t pass out and you’ll be golden either way.

The two introduced themselves, the half-elf going by the name of Barthelme while the sharp-fanged ‘friend’ went by Urisa. That one could definitely eat me-ahh, stay calm. Just stay calm. “Tali…” she replied in a quiet voice, giving a small bow while maintaining eye contact with them both. “My name is Tali. A pleasure to meet you both.”
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Old February 16, 2018, 05:37 PM   #10 (permalink)
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"Hmm?"

Barthelme looked faintly puzzled as she jerked away, and then raised his eyebrows when comprehension dawned.

"Ah. Apologies if I've offended. It's easy to slip into the habit of seeing every injured party as..."

Meat puppets in need of repair.


"...a patient of mine."

He smiled agreeably himself, though, as the elf commented on her serving as a distraction for Samhain.

"Yes," said Barthelme. "How fortunate for me."

Oh, my. Barthelme knew that look. Now the girl was actually fumbling for a weapon. And then making as if to flee?

"You're frightening her, Usira."

"Say what?" Usira pressed a claw to her chest, looking slightly offended by that suggestion. "Not me! I haven't even done anything. Probably she's having a delayed-reaction freak-out over Samhain over there. Cucurbitophobia, I'm guessing. Or maybe even apocolocynposis. That's a super real thing!"

Barthelme turned his gaze to the sky, folding his arms behind him as he did. Looking for patience, perhaps, somewhere up there in the clouds.

"Company manners, please. That's all."

"Oh, fine. Serale, Tali! You don't have to be scared."
Usira grinned wider, pointing a finger from each of her hands at her mouth. "Look! Big smile! I'm friendly, see?"

"In any case... Usira could not harm you, even if she wanted to. She is entirely psionic in nature... and has no physical presence."

"Not like Little Lord Fauntleroy down there,"
Usira said, indicating Samhain.
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Old February 17, 2018, 03:50 PM   #11 (permalink)
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No physical presence? I can bloody see her!

Right. Calm.

Panic will do nothing but get me killed.


Barthelme’s words did little to soothe the elf, although she tried to hide it a bit more. One could not make proper inquiries if the interrogator looked as if she were on her last leg. The tension slowly drained out of her delicate frame and sank into the grass beneath her leather boots. With a gentle breeze guiding her hand from her blade, she allowed it to drop casually at her side.

A silent sigh escaped from her lips before they curled into a faint smile. “Forgive me. I’m afraid I’m a bit jumpy when it comes to meeting new people. Please take no offense, Urisa. It’s a pleasure to meet you both.” Her cognac gaze shifted over to Samhain and bowed. “A pleasure to meet you as well, King Samhain.”

Her gaze shifted back to Barthelme, allowing the smile to gain some warmth to it. She kept her back pressed against the harsh bark of the tree, using the discomfort as a reminder that all of this was real and not some dream she conjured up while drawing her map. “So, What brings you and your friends to Port Alyxandrya?” Or the nearby area, rather.
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Old February 17, 2018, 05:48 PM   #12 (permalink)
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"Forgiven!" Usira declared, with a magnanimous wave of her claw. "Forgotten."

"We take no offense."

Barthelme wondered, briefly, how much of what the elf woman said was actually true. "A pleasure to meet you" was clearly a lie. Being afraid of "meeting new people," on the other hand, might not be. Usira had a history of inadvertently terrorizing the very timid, yes... but thinking back, Miss Tali had seemed nervous even before the Otherling made her appearance. Was she really that frightened of Samhain, then? Or even Barthelme himself? Some people were. Something about his being so close to the Nightmare. He could only conceal that imperfectly.

"So! What are you so afraid of, anyway, Tali?"


Such was Usira's way. What Barthelme wondered, she asked outright.

"Your pardon, please," the half-elf said, bowing slightly. "You don't have to answer that."

"Obviously not. Still, Barthelme wants to know as much as I do!"


"Irrelevant. Your business, Miss Tali, is your own."

Now Barthelme stooped to pick up the end of Samhain's chain, winding it tightly around his fist. With a murmured word from the half-elf, the staff was out of the ground and resting in his other hand. As for Samhain, apparently he really had caught a mouse while Talindra was distracted with Usira and all. Certainly he had caught something, anyway. There was fresh blood on his jaws, and in general he seemed somewhat calmer now. But, hey, any small animal that was dim enough to crawl within the pumpkin-monster's reach probably deserved to be eaten.

"Oh, Samhain isn't actually a king, you know."


"Indeed... the crown is merely the device which animates him. Without it... Samhain would be merely another pumpkin."

"A Terror Pumpkin! Is what his species is called."


Barthelme gave a slight shrug when she asked what brought him to Port Alyxandrya.

"My work brings me here. I won't bore you with the details."

Usira, on the other hand, had no such compunction.

"Field research! Studies in Mysticism. Finding strange new reagents. Hunting monsters. That sort of thing. How about you?"
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Old February 17, 2018, 07:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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There was a certain admiration that Tali had toward Usira’s blunt attitude.

It wasn’t often you could find someone, or something in this case, that wasn’t afraid to speak their mind. Nor was there any harm in answering! To an extent, of course. Despite their kindness and respect thus far, Tali was still unable to trust them.

“At present I’m afraid of strangers, Miss. Urisa. I fear I have a person of interest on my tail and little to go off of as far as what they look like.” Perhaps not the best phrasing to use when addressing a two-tailed snake, but little could be done about it now.

Her gaze followed Barthelme as he went and freed the beast from the staff’s restraint. The sight of blood brought a faint smile across her face. While not an actual king, she was glad to see that little Samhain had a victory after his loss against her and the evil squirrel. A small part of her wanted to find the little critter, however, and wring its neck with her bare hands before hand feeding it to the mutant pumpkin. If not for the squirrel, she would not have ended up in this predicament.

What was considered originally as a problem, however, Tali found a glimmer of interest at Urisa’s explanation. The man was a mystic such as herself? Interesting. While it was a bit dangerous, she may benefit from investigating further. “I’m actually here under the interest of research as well. I wanted to survey the port for mapping purposes and entertained the thought of studying mysticism a bit further.”

She made a gesture toward Usira and Samhain. “I hope it’s not rude of me to ask, but are these two conjugations from the mystic arts?”
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Old February 17, 2018, 10:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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"Okay, just to clarify: you fear you have someone following you? Or you know you do?"

"If you don't know what this... 'person of interest' looks like... how do you know they are pursuing you?"

Barthelme's gaze had sharpened on Talindra, now, as if he was truly seeing her for the first time.

"What'd I tell you?"
Usira drifted closer to nudge at Tali with one blue elbow. True to Barthelme's words before, the elf wouldn't feel a thing. Usira was no more substantial than a ghost would be. "Barthelme's just eating this stuff up."

Indeed he was. A random elf woman, even a random elf woman up in a tree, was one thing. But a woman fleeing from some unknown enemy, whom she apparently would not even be able to identify on sight? Now that was intriguing. Was she actually being hunted, or was it all in her head? Was she dealing with an enemy of flesh and blood, or some monster out of the Nightmare? There were any number of ways the answer to those questions might be of professional interest to Barthelme.

"Anyway, you aren't going to tell us that much and then leave us hanging, are you? So who's the mystery dude? Do you know? Spill!"

"Or don't... as you prefer. Still, if I knew more, I might be able to help you."

"Barthelme dabbles in detective work sometimes when he's not busy with other stuff, you know. He loves solving mysteries."


And then later the conversation turned to Mysticism. A favorite topic of Barthelme's.

"I am always pleased," he said, smiling faintly, "to discuss our craft with a fellow practitioner of the magic of the mind."

"But to answer your question: Samhain? Not really. Me? Sort of!"


"In times now long past... before the Flux of the Arcane... Mystics could summon entities called Psions from the Essence Plane of Thought," Barthelme explained. "These beings were born our thoughts... and took on any shape that our minds could conceive of. Usira is... something of a cousin-species to the Psions of old. A being of pure Psionic Energy. As I said before, she has no true physical presence. Indeed... in her natural state, she would not be perceptible on the material plane through any of our physical senses. The Usira you see is essentially an Illusion I am broadcasting within a small radius around me... to give her the approximation of a physical shell, through which she can be seen and heard."

"Yeah, used to be Barthelme could conjure me up an actual shell of semi-corporeal Thought Essence," Usira said, folding her four arms around herself and looking somewhat put out. "I could Psionic Shock people with my claws and everything. With a little more power I could have been as solid as you are. Now? Not. Cruel world, huh Barthelme?"

"It truly is."
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Old February 18, 2018, 03:10 PM   #15 (permalink)
Rising from the Ashes
 
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“I know someone is after me, but I don’t know who it is. They’ve already made an attempt on my life, so one can only assume they are coming to finish the job. Or at least, that’s what my paranoia is set to believe.” Tali replied, her tone growing a bit more calm with the exchange of conversation.

There was still a subtle level of tension as she refused to let her guard down all of the way. Her gaze shifted over, allowing Urisa to attempt her budge so she could confirm Barthelme’s theory.

Not a thing.

Interesting.

Barthelme’s explanation certainly piqued her interest. A psionic illusion used as a potential distraction or a companion that wouldn’t be at risk to have around. The idea behind such a creature being used as a weapon had its appeal, but her preference remained on not leaving a trail of bodies. Just a trail of empty pockets. With the addition of Urisa’s pout, however, came the realization it had to be rather difficult to maintain.

In an attempt to drop the subject of her assassin and delve further into the depths of common ground, Tali gave a small nod. “I see. You have to be very powerful and skilled to be able to replicate something done so long ago. How would one go about beginning such a path?”
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Last edited by Talindra Koranthil; February 19, 2018 at 08:01 AM.
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