Summary: Xarah didn't exist until she had been dropped into the life of Cyntia and Kaven. So if *they* need her, why are *they* trying to take her away from them? Plus, Kaven realizes for the first time that his smart mind isn't always a blessing.
A/N This is my NaNoWriMo fic. And I honestly can't believe I actually did it. Me, who prefers reading action above all others, actually delved into a mass block of attempted character exploration.
This is a G1 fic. Originally I planned to do this as a companion to Mabinogiworld's Wiki, as that one was more focused on the plot and I wanted more focus on character and themes. Having said that, though, I'm too lazy right now to insert references here where the plot deviates from the actual game's scenario.
Still, I am looking over each chapter once and making it easier on the eyes. The middle of this chapter used to be a massive wall of text, which was unfortunately influenced by this site making paragraphs shorter and me actually wanting a paragraph to look like a paragraph and not a one-liner. I probably overdid it, so I broke most down.
Anything else...nothing comes to mind. Enjoy the first chapter.
Disclaimer: Mabinogi belongs to Nexon and devCAT. I own absolutely nothing in relation to it, except for the characters I thought up.
Black. It's all black.
Why is it all black?
All black means emptiness. All black means nothingness. All black means an eternal stretch of a neverending void that ceases to have any meaning barely a metre down which couldn't exactly be a metre because there was nothing to measure or compare it with and what is a metre anyways?
She's scared. She doesn't know what's going on. She's utterly helpless.
What is she? What was she? What will she be? None of that matters, in this enormous, expanding, enveloping fog of black.
Why is she here? What's going on? Why must it torture her so?
Why is it torturing her so?
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Wh –?
And the next thing she knows, it's all white.
White. It's all white.
Why is it all white?
All white means emptiness. All white means nothingness. All white means an eternal stretch of a neverending void that ceases to have any meaning barely a yard down which couldn't exactly be a yard because there was nothing to measure or compare it with and what is a yard anyways?
She's scared. She doesn't know what's going on. She's utterly helpless.
What is she? What was she? What will she be? None of that matters, in this enormous, expanding, enveloping fog of white.
Why is she here? What's going on? Why must it torture her so?
Why is it torturing her so?
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Chapter One –
In that instant, she isn't scared anymore. She spins around immediately, her red hair nearly whipping her in the face as a tentative smile forms on her lips.
First she sees black. Then she sees white. And then she realizes she's seeing both black and white. She loves it, and her smile grows wider.
"H-hello," she replies timidly, but then becomes quiet, afraid this other, white-haired, black-dressed girl before her will fade back into whiteness if she spoke further.
The other girl has an odd twist on her cheeks, mouth and eyes, and it takes the little girl a moment to categorize it as an expression of relief. Only upon seeing this does the little girl become encouraged once more. "P-pleased to meet you." She does a little formal curtsy, spreading her imaginary skirt, bowing her head and shifting her right foot a little behind her left one, before realizing she has no idea what any of the parts she's trying to move or any of the actions she is performing are called. The other girl only giggles, but it's somehow a cute, warm giggle that reminds the little girl of a small creature with whiskers, triangular ears, graceful tail and a beautifully arched back she feels she had cuddled with even though she has absolutely no memories of it. Her confidence bounces back again. "My name is…"
But there she has to stop, partly because she has little idea what in the world a name is, but more importantly she has no idea what her name is. She feels helpless yet again, and suddenly a tidal wave of fear sweeps over her as she realizes she may have lost the only connection she might have with the girl she just met. As she gazes at the other girl desperately her sight fogs over and her feeling only skyrockets, afraid that her earlier suspicions are true and this other girl really will fade into the whiteness. A quick rub of her eyes, however, dissipates this moist fog, giving her relief for a tiny moment.
The other girl chooses this moment to speak. "Xarah," she says kindly, and the little girl immediately brightens. "Your name is Xarah, with an X. It's a unique name, little one. Be proud…"
But then she breaks off, and it takes Xarah another moment to realize the fog had attacked her eyes once again. She brings her hands back to her eyes, rubbing it quickly, before gazing sullenly back to the other girl. "No it's not."
"I'm sorry?" Xarah remains silent, so the other girl cautiously speaks again. "What is it not?"
"U-u-u-" She stutters a few more times before giving up. "There are other names like it."
The other girl apparently has nothing to say to this, but when she gives another smile, albeit an apologetic one this time, Xarah's confidence zooms back like a yo-yo on tangled string. "It's nice to meet you, Xarah. My name is Nao Mariota Pryderi. I watch over, and live in, the Soul Stream, which is this area that you just arrived in. You're probably wondering–"
Xarah already stopped listening at the word "which", instead running forward and hugging the girl fiercely around her black, smoothly textured dress. The other girl gasps slightly, and then proceeds to an "Umm…"
"I'm sorry," Xarah says clearly. She doesn't let go.
"It-it's quite all right," the girl manages back, "there's no need to be sorry. W-what are you sorry for?"
Xarah pulls back, looking straight at the other girl's face with wide eyes. "You live here, right?"
"Y-yes. I do."
"All by yourself?"
"You're brave, miss," the little girl says admiringly, but also with a hint of sympathy. "Everything is white." Xarah shudders. "It's not as pretty as your hair. You must be scared. I wish I could do something." The little girl's mood brightens. "I know! I can live here with you! We can build a house. We can have a big dragon. We can have a pretty prince. We can live happily ever after!" Xarah starts bouncing excitedly on her feet. "I can get the trees! Daddy showed me how. First, I need a lumber axe. Then –"
A hand sets down on her little head, and somehow Xarah immediately knows that the other girl is feeling melancholy. She looks up in confusion as Nao explains. "I'm sorry, little one. You can't live here with me. I'm needed here. You're needed somewhere else."
Xarah's shoulder slumps immediately. The fog from earlier viciously returns, and this time it seems to be threatening to overflow out of her sight. Her eyes drop down onto the floor, unfortunately reminding her of the white that surrounds her, and she concentrates on the border between the end of Nao's long dress and the floor instead. "Why?" she whimpers. "Don't you like me? What did I do wrong?"
The arms that wrap around her still feel too sad for Xarah's liking. Yet, they also seem to give off a sense of strong support as well. "No, little one. This has to happen because you are special."
"I don't want to be special. I don't want you to leave."
"I'm sorry. I have to. But let me tell you something. You're going to make lots of friends, Xarah. All of them will care deeply for you. The Goddess Morrighan promises you."
At this point, Xarah's smile had already returned. "F-friends?" she asks shyly. "Will they be…just like me?"
"Not exactly, Xarah. Your friends will be different from you. But isn't every person different from one another? What they can be, no, what they will be –" and Nao's arms reassuring hugs her tighter as she says this – "is loving. They will take care of you. They will be your newest, dearest family. They will love you with all their hearts."
The prospect of new friends, and lots of them, makes Xarah woozy enough for her to not notice the other girl stepping back, and gesture something that she didn't quite catch. The fear of whiteness rears again, but the new weapon, the promise given to her by a Goddess, rages in her mind and chases her enemies away. She has just enough time to call, "But what about you?"
The problem is the fact that Nao already disappeared by the time she started calling out. She likely did not hear. It occurs to Xarah that maybe it was a good idea to go to sleep. She did not know why, but it sounds good.
She closes her eyes and her body takes over, sending her mind over the brink into unconsciousness.
Blue. It's all blue.
Why is it all blue?
All blue means emptiness. All blue means nothingness. All blue means an eternal –
"ALL RIGHT, WHO THE HELL DUMPED THE GIRL IN OUR CART!"
All blue did not mean that. Not that it matters to Xarah, who is already scrambling out of the slightly smelly vegetable cart with a huge smile on her face. Her feet thump on the earth at the same time, and she takes a look around.
She does not recognize the scene, though for some reason the term "market fair" dominates over her mind as she observes her surroundings. Most of the stalls that attract her eyes are built the same, with large white sheets, blinding in the sun, draped over the skeleton of a rectangular prism, which in turn imprisons several small opened crates that are filled with anything from apples to cucumbers to coverless, dilapidated books. There's no colour on the sheets as far as her eyes can see, but the variety of products and the texture of the crates themselves instantly capture her eyes, and she decides that she likes how the stalls look.
Xarah adores the clothes around her, too. There's some that are ragged, looking like dull pieces of fabric that are barely held together by string and will alone. There's that funny bearded man with the bulging muscles only a way off, who is wearing a simple worn black vest that looked like it had seen the ups and downs, the good and bad, the successes and failures of the man. It seems to have been paid for its stubbornness by being repaired by a hand either miserably unskilled or uncharacteristically clumsy. He is talking animatedly to a couple standing in a stone pit who is watching the commotion around them nervously. Xarah notices they are wearing the finest garments the little girl had seen in a while, not including Nao's of course. However, this seemed to have put them into a precarious position – she giggles every time the lady crows like a mouse and withdraws like a squirrel every time someone only just misses brushing against her shiny dress, and the man is not looking like he is comfortable either.
Several kids barely older than she is are running around the stalls, playing, and some of them seem to have taken upon themselves to try to annoy the couple for no reason than to amuse themselves with it. One boy finally manages to sneak up to the lady without being seen, and soundly and grossly wipes his nose on the back of her flowing gown before fleeing the slap the woman furiously sends his way. They turn to a different game next, going to the various stalls around the town and trying to take the products from each stop, giggling every time their varyingly coloured robes only just manages to evade a quick tender's snatches. The kids call back something that sounded so mean Xarah instantly desires to join them. This want diminishes rather quickly when one of the boys are actually caught by an elderly-looking man in a green traditional-looking wear, and the man returns the boy to the various stalls, making him apologize and give back everything he took, although the boy doesn't seem terribly upset by his capture.
The spectacle as a whole is so wonderfully chaotic, so beautifully blended, that her eyes absorb the view around her greedily, far more enthusiastic than she was in that horrible, terrifying place Nao lives in.
That's when the noises finally set in and she winces at the cacophony of guttural sounds that reach her ears. She cannot identify any of them at first, but once she sees the source of each sound it clears away some of her confusion. The bartering voices of several shops at once immediately become bearable this way, and so do the calls of various tenders to attract customers. Next she recognizes the constant squeaks of a particularly old-looking stall, the clucks of the chickens somewhere to her left, the pounding of multitudes of feet against stone and dirt, and the proximate yelling of the girl who stands right in front of her. Now that this new, dark-haired girl has her attention, Xarah decides to listen in.
"– you mean you haven't seen that girl get in! You're supposed to be watching over the cart!"
Despite the loud, almost obnoxious sound the girl is making, Xarah decides that the girl's voice is actually quite nice. She can only imagine how much better it must sound when the girl actually spoke in her normal tone.
"I looked away for only a second!" This voice wasn't quite as nice, but Xarah decides she likes this one too. "How was I supposed –?"
"You weren't supposed to look away at all! When we pay you to look after our stuff, you're supposed to keep your freaking eyes on it!"
"But there was this lady –"
"Get this in your head! You're! Not! Supposed! To! TAKE YOUR EYES OFF!"
"We kinda did pay you actual gold beforehand, you know," a quieter voice interjected. "You're supposed to make good on that deal."
"Look, there was no harm done. No one actually stole your stuff –"
"OR SO YOU THINK! NO HARM DONE MY –" And then the sentence became suddenly mumbled as Xarah observes the quieter, brown-haired male clap a hand over the girl's mouth.
"Lemme finish this for Cyntia. Basically, you let up on your paid job. We could have been robbed, or vandalized, or, if this was Emain Macha, a lot worse. We don't pay people who breach an agreement. We also don't pay people who let children climb onto potentially risky structures. So we want a half-refund. Just be glad I'm not asking for damages."
"What damages?" the other man exasperatedly asks. "It's one thing if there was a vandal, but this is –"
"Sir, you're making a scene. I hope we can get this over with quickly, because Duncan might intervene otherwise. And who knows if he just might happen to notice the wooden thingamabob – what is it called, by the way? A fake bottom? Anyways, our honourable town elder might find that fake bottom in that crate you're sitting on, coincidentally of course, and I doubt he'll like what you're hiding underneath it."
Xarah only has to watch the man turn a funny hue of purple before she can observe no longer and bursts out laughing. At this, the black-haired girl turns to her and grins, the anger seeming to fade out of her lovely milk chocolate eyes. She brushes her hair over the shoulder of her emerald green, collared, and sleeveless tank top that seems to be attached to a dark red cargo skirt, and then Xarah notices all of the pockets on it are hand-sewn. The little girl drops her eye contact, still giggling, as the male waits until the man gives up money from his pocket to turn to Xarah, who is still clutching on the side of the cart she had jumped out from. She embarrassingly lets go, shuffling sideways and away from the cart nervously. The girl only grins wider, but the male develops a frown on his face, scratching at the side of his greyish pants just above where the knees are patched with white cloth.
"Hey there, li'l girl. Are you lost?" Before Xarah could even think of an answer to that the male's arm darts ahead, catching something that is a little behind her, though when she turns to look the hand and whatever it may have been holding had been withdrawn. Xarah simply continues turning, coming to a complete three hundred sixty degree spin before bursting out into laugher once more.
"Take care of her?" she hears a voice say incredulously, though even when she tries to listen she cannot concentrate her mind through her laugher enough.
"It's a joke, right?" The girl now has a frown on her face as well, and Xarah finally senses that they're talking about something serious. "Duncan won't stand for child neglect. But either way, the girl won't have somewhere to live, since he'll probably relieve her parents of their duties. Um, is that an owl drawing I see here?"
"Could be. But come on, Duncan doesn't have to know about this. Think of the extra equipment we could buy if, at the right market –"
"Kaven, no," the girl warns, and the tone is so full of warning it brings Xarah's only just wandering mind back to the conversation. "You let me take over for the day. I am not going to spoil it by having you doing human trafficking."
"Cyn, think about it. This girl's, what, ten years old? Or maybe eleven, at best. We don't even know her, and besides, what can she possibly do back home?"
Both of them turn to look at Xarah, and sensing she finally has a safe chance to speak, she takes a moment to brave looking at the sky. The blue that greets her almost coldly drives fear into her heart again, and then she sees the several patches of clouds floating in from one direction. The blue and white makes a lovely view. Today is going to be a good day.
She turns back to the two people on the ground, and smiling as wide as she can, she greets them.
"Hello! I'm Xarah! Are you my new friends?"
Virtual cookie to anyone who actually guesses Xarah's one fear right from just this chapter.