Lampide’s location at a cliff by the sea meant that the sun took forever to fully set. In a valley, it only had to sink past the mountains. Right next to the sea, it had to go below sea level. Add to that Lampide was far, far above the sea, and… well, the point was that sunset felt slow enough when you weren’t paralyzed with apprehension.
As dusk began to set, Dawn sighed and looked across the stone street again. She’d been staring at this one building for over an hour now. She knew exactly what she wished to do. She was… just afraid to do it. She couldn’t get children any other way, she knew. She had never married, and she didn’t want to just pick someone at random on the streets. The thought of adoption had consumed her for a long time, but especially after the Restless attack. She messed with her long black hair nervously, trying to muster up her old resolve. Dawn had faced far worse than a building of strangers.
As if it would somehow make a difference, she smoothed her dress’ skirt for the umpteenth time. It was extremely conservative, down to just above her ankles, but she still felt exposed out of uniform. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d asked for a day off (or gotten one, for that matter) and she wondered idly if she’d somehow put the dress on wrong. Maybe she could take a day off tomorrow, too, get some more time to-
She shook herself. No, she was here now, she’d do this now. This was too important to leave undone any longer. She put her straw hat on her head and moved forward across the road. She could feel the light of Onore shining upon her, from the tower and the setting sun. She could do this. No point in waiting any longer.
She opened the orphanage’s doors.
In front of the desk, she saw a woman clad in armor, with auburn hair tied back into a ponytail. She was speaking to the Seer caste in charge of the place, and her necklace marked her as a Sufferer. Her armor was one of the newer sets – full plate, she believed it was called. That meant she was high-ranking – probably a Sufferer Lord.
Dawn looked to the Seer. Exasperation was written plainly on her pale face, her blue eyes glazed over and bored. Dawn waited while the two argued over what she thought was the price of the children (making a mental note to look into this place later – who in their right mind puts a price tag on a child?). Dawn tried to tune them out, waiting patiently as they talked. Her eyes roved over the building.
This room was fairly small and clearly meant as an entryway more than an actual living space. There were two doors, one leading into the back of the building and one other to the left, both unlabeled. Dawn wondered why there were Bluecoats at the doors – why would this orphanage need domestic law enforcement? Kids weren’t that rowdy… were they?
Eventually the Seer (Elaine, she said her name was?) got fed up with the Sufferer and ordered the Bluecoats to throw her out.
Ah, that makes more sense.
She looked to Dawn as she approached the woman’s desk. “Adopting, I presume?”
“Alright. I’ll need to know your caste and personal income.”
“I assure you, income is not a problem for me.” Dawn pulled her necklace out of her top. It was a stylized I, in the center of a fiery sun.
The Seer hid her surprise well, but Dawn spotted the woman’s muscles tense, her eyes growing more alert. “Inquisitor! I didn’t- did something happen?! Whatever it is, I-”
“Don’t worry, I’m off duty!” Dawn added quickly. “I just wanted… after the Restless attack, I figured…”
“Of course, of course.” The Seer said quickly, hopping off of her seat. (It struck Dawn as an odd time to note that this Seer was very short) “I’m Elaine, I run this orphanage.”
Dawn shook her hand. “It’s nice to meet you. How does this work? Do I need to put on a mask, or…?”
Elaine laughed without mirth. “Just go in, talk to the kids.” She jabbed her thumb at the back room. “We can only keep a dozen or so here, most casteless at the moment.” Elaine cocked an eyebrow. “Don’t ask about their parents, or mention the Restless.”
Dawn blinked. “Why would I do that?”
Elaine shrugged, and her false smile faded. “I’m just being careful. A few of them were without spitting distance of their parents when they were… devoured. It definitely wouldn’t be good for them right now.” Elaine shivered. “I can still remember those eyes…”
Dawn’s expression was darkened by sorrow. It had barely been two months since the silver mists had rolled in and the dead first attacked Lampide. Some had been lucky enough to cover their mouths before the mist all but paralyzed them.
Dawn put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry the Inquisition couldn’t do more.”
Elaine shook herself, forcing a smile back onto her face, even if it still didn’t reach her eyes. “Well, saved most of us. We couldn’t ask for much better under the circumstances.” The hollow ring of her statement hurt Dawn more than outright blame would have. “But enough about that.” She opened the door.
Thoughts of walking dead, choking mists and eyes of hellfire suddenly drained out of Dawn’s mind as a wooden horse flew towards her face. She ducked down,throwing her arm up to catch the toy. She blinked and looked to the perpetrators, a tanned girl with short black hair and an albino boy.
“She/he did it!” They both said automatically, pointing to each other.
“Soras, Idalia!” Elaine cried out, exasperation back as she walked into the room. “What have I told you?”
The girl (Idalia, she presumed) sighed. “‘Respect the works of Ilos and his Housemen’ or… something.” There was a dull, automatic tone to her voice that suggested she’d heard this a thousand times. Dawn understood – she knew most of the sayings of the mender god’s followers by heart.
“‘Onore frowns on those who cause pain with their fun.'” Soras intoned duly. Dawn frowned. She had never liked that saying – it was a terrible thing to teach kids. The sun burned those who inflicted pain for fun, not with it.
“Exactly.” She clapped her hands and looked between the two “This nice lady is here to meet all of you. She’s very excited to be here and I expect her to be treated with respect.”
Idalia cocked an eyebrow at Dawn, looking her over. “You’re not gonna just buy one of us up, are you?” Her voice was blunt and dark.
Dawn blinked. “No, I… I intend to talk with all of you over the next few months before I make any decision… Why would you assume I would…” Her voice faded.
“Suf-fur-iers like to do that. It doesn’t take ’em long to come back. It’s like they never get enough kids.”
Dawn frowned, keeping her alarm at this news hidden. “I’m an Inquisitor, not a Sufferer. And I promise I’ll look into that.”
“Inquisiwhats-its?” Idalia’s face twisted into confusion. “What do you do?”
“We look into stuff like that. As well as heresy, conspiracy, corruption,” Her eyes twinkled, “And people who steal cookies from the jar.”
Idalia smiled at that. “Guess I’m in trouble then.”
Dawn looked over the room, now seeing it held ten or eleven kids of varying ages and genders. The youngest was easily four, the eldest sixteen. There were toys and games scattered around the room, and the children amused themselves with them. A teenage boy looked to be teaching a six year old girl about that game from the desert kingdom… Paroqa, was it? Dawn thought so. A curious game. (Though, she’d thought the game was too expensive for an orphanage like this.) At another corner, there was a child with a toy sword, swinging it around like a novice and blissfully unaware of the new arrival. A midteen boy was putting together something from pieces of wood.
“Oi, Lady! I asked you something!”
Dawn blinked and looked to Idalia. “I apologize, child, what did you say?”
She rolled her eyes. “I said, ‘what do we call you?’ I’m leaning on ‘deaf’.” The girl’s tone was light and playful despite the words, now. Dawn felt herself brighten up a bit, too.
“Miss Dawn will do.” the Inquisitor smiled. “Idalia, wasn’t it? You have a strong arm.”
“Don’t encourage her.” Elaine whispered.
The little girl grinned broadly and flexed her arms. “Damn right I do! (“Language!”) Train every day!”
“Dedicated, I see.” Dawn smiled and patted her head. “Admirable.”
“Damn straight! Ain’t nobody gonna-”
“That is NOT proper language for a young lady!”
“I’m 10 now, you can’t tell me what to do!” Idalia yelled.
“Ugh, child, this is utterly ridiculous. You treat your friends like-”
“What friends?! I-”
Dawn tried not to chuckle as the two got into a (small) shouting match over the exact age one was allowed to make decisions on their own. She turned to Soras and smiled brightly. “Care to show me around?” She asked.
The extremely pale boy nodded and bowed his head. “Of course, ma’am.” He said stiffly and formally. He took her hand and dragged her along, kindly but firmly. Dawn’s eye twitched for a moment as she was dragged to the two playing Paroqa.
“Eliana and Helio.” Soras whispered. “They don’t like it when you interrupt their games, but I think they’re almost done.”
Dawn smiled as she looked at the pieces. The older boy was playing a teaching game, from the looks of it. He was winning, but not by too far. Teaching her strong play while keeping her confidence strong, that was good. Personally Dawn would have kept ahead a bit – give the child an obstacle to overcome – but this was well done, and-
The boy hesitantly made a move, and almost instantly the little girl made her own. Eliana’s move suddenly gave Dawn new perspective on the game. Eliana’s move had slammed shut a trap, and in a few more moves she had achieved victory.
Eliana smiled and threw her arms up. “Yay!”
Helio sighed and chuckled. “Got me good there.”
Dawn’s eyebrow raised. He hadn’t allowed that? She looked over the pieces. This girl was barely 6, maybe seven…
“That was fun! Again?” She tilted her head, grinning with the innocence of a child. Dawn wasn’t sure someone at age six should be able to pronounce her words like an adult, but then she hadn’t spent much time around children.
“No, I got some work to do out back.” He smiled sadly. “Later, I promise.”
Dawn blinked as she examined the board… She knelt next to the child. “May I play you, Eliana?”
The girl clapped her hands with glee. “Yay!”
The game began, and it very quickly turned into an utter massacre. For every move one of the two women made, the other had two counters ready. Slowly but surely the two utterly demolished each others’ forces, each unable to get the upper hand. As the two’s game became more intense, others came and looked on, watching their genius 6-year-old duel this Inquisitor. Eliana’s grin had been replaced by a determined stare, and Dawn’s expression had turned hard as iron.
Eliana and Dawn both stared at the board, then looked up at each other.
“Tie?” asked Eliana, tilting her head curiously.
“Yes.” Dawn agreed. “I cannot see a way for you nor I to win any longer. Good game.”
“That was fun!”
The remaining children and (Elaine) broke into murmurs at that. Eliana smiled, packed up her board, and brought it over to Idalia. She handed it over and the tanned girl took it back, mumbling thanks. Dawn smirked and walked back over to Idalia.
“No friends, huh?”
“They’re not my friends, they’re my charges.”
Dawn blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“They’re my charges.” Idalia repeated. “Sure, some of them are my friends too, but a charge is more important than friendship.”
She looked up at Dawn. “I’m stronger than most of the older boys and girls here. I can lift up whole barrels full of wine, run from dawn to dusk, and speak some of the Qali’s language. I’ve got so much strength – I have to help and protect.”
Dawn smiled. “That’s… very impressive for a child. But protection and friendship do not have to be mutually exclusive.”
Idalia said nothing for a moment before looking back to the other kids playing. “It feels like it.”
“Eh, you’ll grow out of it.” Dawn ruffled her hair. “Now, I think-”
Suddenly, Dawn shot up. Something had just fallen past the open hole in the wall. Something huge.. that suddenly groaned. Elaine groaned. “Hasardai, not again… Solange, get in here!”
Solange climbed in through the window she’d fallen past. She was around Idalia’s age, and grinning sheepishly as she came in with wooden frames attached to her arms.
“Um… I can explain?”
Elaine rubbed her temples. “Let me guess. You tried to make a frame to help you jump higher than Onore’s tower.”
“No, of course not!” She held up her hands placatingly. “That was last year’s.”
“Then you tried to fly to Qalistan with wings made of wood and parchment.”
“Oh now you’re just being ridiculous.” She pouted. “I just wanted to go over the city wa-” She quickly covered her own mouth.
Danw would later swear that Elaine’s frustration had turned into a strange red mist. The Seer turned and left the room. “Just… whatever.”
Solange looked to Dawn and waved. “Oh hi! You’re new.”
Dawn smiled and waved back. “It is nice to meet you, Solange… What exactly possessed you to leap from the top of the building?”
“Oh!” She pointed to the wood poles attached to her arms. “Well, I wanted to fly. So I made some wings and FLAPFLAPFLAPed to get as high as I could. It didn’t work.”
Dawn blinked in surprise. “Why?”
“I dunno. Seemed like fun.”
Dawn’s response was slow and deliberate. “There are ways to have fun without… attempting the ludicrous and impossible.”
Solange grinned. “True. But nobody ever accomplished the impossible by shooting short of it.”
Dawn was quiet. “…Well… that…”
Solange took off the poles (frame?) and walked right past Dawn. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got like four more impossible things to try tonight. Maybe I’ll do ‘making a tiny sun’ next… no, I’d never get enough coal…” She whirled around to Dawn, her eyes bright and twinkling. “Say, do you know where I can get three goats and a wolf heart?”
Dawn blinked dumbly.
“I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”
Dusk, she noticed, had come and gone. Saltwater was on the air, as always. The golden light of Onore’s tower awashed over the whole city now. She could see the people drawing cloth over the windows, readying to sleep the night.
She didn’t feel tired, though. Dawn smiled at Elaine. “I think I would like to come back again some time.”
Elaine smirked and leaned against the wall, her arms folded across her chest. “We’ll be waiting when you do.” There was a sudden sound of breaking glass, and Elaine sighed with exasperation. “I have to go, too.”
Dawn would be back soon. But that is a tale for another day…
This is a very long roleplay post I put together for a game called Godhood 3 that I wanted to share with you guys. Ilos and the Hasardai are another player’s characters in the game (the former being a god) but they are only mentioned in passing. The Restless are zombies, but actually kinda scary again. (Seriously, Raz, you are a friggen GENIUS!… Or at least very clever!)
I take critique on all my work.