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Shaori Warden's Personal Journal - Torine Expedition Excerpts

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The following journals have been archived in the official Exile Academy of Science, flagged personal, but relevant. Please contact Shaori Warden, Department of Anthropology for permission to access these files.

Last Entry: Over two years ago.

Day 1

Today I land in Fool's Hope, our forward base inside the forests of Wilderrun. It's hard to believe how large the trees here are! Perhaps what they have been saying at the XAS is true, that this land truly is a font of life. Well, primal life. But it's not the trees or the wildlife I'm here to study. Early recon teams have reported a massive Torine population in this region, marking it as their primary home. Official reports even confirmed that Tresayne Toria herself is still alive! I'm sure she could shed some light on a great many misconceptions the Dominion holds about their "gods".

The Torine alone are a fascinating find, even without the significance of Tresayne. A tribe of women, ageless women, taming this wildscape. No doubt their proficiency with the sword has been honed over their thousand years in the jungle. A part of me hopes for the opportunity to cross swords with them. A short life time of training may not compare to an immortal one, but it's an opportunity to learn all the same.

Once my supplies are unloaded from the transport, I will head out immediately into the jungle. Hopefully I can find a nice place to camp and enjoy the forest before truly setting off and trying to find the Torine.

Day 2

I was right. A short life time of training did not compare to them. At all. I'll try to write while I can, but it was hard enough hiding this journal. Not the best start to one of my expeditions....
Posted Aug 2, 17 · OP
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Day 6 (I think)

It's nice to have my journal back, it gives me something to do while they continue to hold me captive. Before moving me deeper into the jungle, they found it and took it from me. Based on the state of the pad when it was returned, I suspect they read through it. Maybe it helped demonstrate that I'm here for the pursuit of knowledge. That I'm not dead yet has to mean something significant. I hope.

During the last few days, I've tried talking to the woman who captured me. It took two days before I could get a word out of her that wasn't "Silence!" or "Keep moving!". Very stubborn people, I've noticed. Her name is Neria and she claims to have been Torine all her life. I doubt she was born a Torine, but she will not answer further on the subject, or any subject for that matter. One step at a time, I guess.

I've started to see signs of civilization again. Markers that are clearly meant as landmarks, clearings between trees for roads that I desperately wish we would use instead of traipsing through the thicket, and the faint sound of drums occasionally in the distance. Could she be taking me to their primary settlement? My first day of capture was in an outpost, remarkable in its own right, so I'm curious to see what is their main settlement. And is that where Tresayne is? Will I get to meet her? Will I survive getting to meet her? Will I survive at all?

Should this be my final entry, know that my last thoughts will be of my beloved Richard. I miss you dearly. Damn the Dominion for taking you from me.
Posted Aug 3, 17 · OP
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Day 7

I guess this will likely be my last entry then. Tomorrow they are having me fight for my life, literally. I don't know what conversations were had, but it seems I will be fighting Neria again. They gave me all of today to prepare myself, meaning get put in their attire and learn to handle their swords. At least I'll die in one of their rituals. That has to count for something in the anthropological society right?

It's interesting wielding a traditional sword. The distribution of the weight, the fact that it probably can't slice through a spacecraft bulkhead, and the brutality of it. Cuts from this will bleed out. At least a plasma sword will cauterize the wound for the most part. I've only ever used a plasma sword, the one passed down since the first Warden Exile. I wonder how she would have felt about all of this.

Huh. I guess your mind wanders to strange places when you find yourself on the precipice of death.

I don't think I'll be getting much sleep tonight, even though I'm completely exhausted. Maybe I'll walk around the city. They've granted me that freedom, at least. Not that I can try to leave the city, but it's nice being able to walk. The settlement here is beautiful, an integration of nature and manmade structures. Though they look like ruins more than anything that the Torine have created. Osun perhaps? Regardless, the way they've built their home around those ruins, integrating and utilizing the forges, fortifying their home, the way everything seems to teem with life. Even the water seems like it has a faint glow to it. Or maybe that's just me trying to make this sound more interesting before I go.

There's a nice clearing in the canopy as well. Maybe I'll just stare up at the stars like we used to do for so many nights. If there's an afterlife, I hope you're waiting for me there.
Posted Aug 3, 17 · OP
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Day 9

I'm still trying to make sense of what happened. I've replayed the fight in my head over and over again, but the same thing happens. I don't remember how it ended. I'm still alive, so I can only assume that I won. But I don't remember how the fight ended. In fact, I can't even remember anything after Neria knocked me to the ground. Maybe writing it out will help. I'll try to recall my thoughts as well. Stream of consciousness. There has to be something in there.

Before the fight starts, I hear the drums. So many pounding in perfect unison. It deems whatever they devote themselves to they really devote themselves to. Then they go silent as the chime is struck. It resonates with such clarity, such a pure sound.

Neria is fast. Very fast. It takes all my focus just to defend against her movements. I cannot muster any kind of retaliation. She taunts me. What was it she said?

"The real Shaori would be disappointed in you!"

That made me mad. Just thinking about it I can even feel myself getting upset by it. And in my anger I mounted a counter attack. She handled my blows like they were nothing, deflecting them like they were nothing. Like a teacher training a novice. I had assumed she read my journal, but this confirmed it. She was using my inner most thoughts, my hopes and fears to taunt me. Then she punched me in the face. I have one hell of a bruise on my cheek.

"Maybe you should have been like your father, sneaking in the shadows and hiding from danger rather than facing it!"

Another deep cut to my pride, to my family. I grew furious. She knew how I admired my father for his work with the Mordesh, helping them get off world. I fought back again, harder, angrier than before. I think. It's getting harder to remember from here. Like a haze had overcome me during the fight. Did they use some kind of incense? Maybe there was something in the water? No, I don't think so. Something like that had happened before, hadn't it? And in my anger, my footing was clumsy. It was easy for her to trip me up and throw me to the ground. My sword fell beside me.

What happened next?

Think Shaori think!

"Maybe Richard would still be alive if you weren't so weak."
Posted Aug 3, 17 · OP · Last edited Aug 3, 17
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Day 10

I'm still trying to make sense of the day. When I woke up, Neria was sitting over me. She didn't seem hostile or threatening for the first time since she had captured me. It was strange seeing her like that, like a normal person. And she told me what happened in the fight and after.

After getting knocked down, apparently I went berserk. Those words, invoking my beloved like that....it threw me into a frenzy. A rage so deep that I blacked out. And in that blackout I overwhelmed her. She says that had I picked up my sword, I would have certainly killed her. The same thing happened yesterday. While writing my journal, the intensity of my focus, reliving those events, was enough to draw me back into that state when I remembered the insults. They had to knock me out to subdue me.

The strangest part? They aren't mad. When I was walking around today they seemed more respectful. Not like I was one of them, but I wasn't completely ignored. Some even greeted me. Did I gain some sort of acceptance? Is rage something significant in their society? There are plenty of reports on their aggressive, violent behavior against any scouts who wander into their territory, regardless of who they are aligned with. Perhaps Neria will be more forthcoming with me now.

But I really don't want to blackout again. It's like Arboria all over again.
Posted Aug 3, 17 · OP
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Day 15

An official decision has finally been made. I am permitted to stay, under the condition that I make no recordings or images of any kind during my stay. No drawings, outlines, traces, or anything. Considering what I went through to get here, I think it's worth the price. Hopefully the XAS will be satisfied with my written accounts both official and otherwise.

Another condition of my stay is that I am required to adhere to their way of life. Honestly, I wouldn't have had it any other way. While I'm delighted from an anthropological perspective, my fight with Neria has me worried. There's something about this place. I wish I could describe it, but I feel that any words would fail to adequately explain it. Stories of the Everpool, or the Pool of Vitara are already known in the XAS, but I think it's something else. A side-effect of the pool, maybe? Maybe I'm just reacting to the abundance of primal life in the region? Another of the many questions I will have during my stay.

Tomorrow, it all begins. Hopefully, I will start finding answers instead of more questions. But for what it's worth, at least they didn't kill me. Maybe they'll tell me why someday. Another question already. Go figure.
Posted Aug 3, 17 · OP
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Day 16

I thought I knew pain before. I was wrong.

Day 17

The level of physical activity these women go through is unthinkable. Could this level of training even be possible without the saturation of primal life? Perhaps this what a lifetime of training can do. And I am definitely not up to the challenge yet. I don't think they are going to go easy on me either.

Fortunately, today was a different learning experience. The bond between Torine and Pumera was explained to me. The two become practically inseparable once bonded. My official records should have everything on that, and my arms are too sore to write any more than I have to.

Neria seemed amused at seeing me limping around in pain today. After graciously watching me carry large buckets of water, she offered to show me how they recover from exhaustion. I'm looking forward to it and not just because I feel like every muscle in my body is dripping lava. It will be a good opportunity to talk to Neria. While the others have tolerated my presence, she actually welcomes it. Perhaps her capturing me was some kind of recruitment ritual? I imagine they haven't had many opportunities to bolster their numbers since Nexus had gone out of contact for hundreds of years. Ageless they may be, but they can still die. Maybe they view our arrival as an opportunity to repopulate.
Posted Aug 3, 17 · OP
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Day 24

I don't know if I'll ever get used to the rigors of just daily Torine life. Training, working, more training, more working, even more training. There's almost never a moment's idle time for them. Considering their self-imposed charge as guardians of Vitara and the looming threat of the Strain, it makes perfect sense. They battle the very embodiment of corruption. That it hasn't spread further into the forest is a testament to their efforts. I guess a few sore muscles is nothing when you have the weight of that upon you.

I've learned that they view themselves as more than just guardians of Vitara, the Everpool, or whatever else. They see themselves as preservers of balance, maintainers of the cycle of life. While they are plenty skilled at taking life, the lifecallers are able to perform miraculous feats. A tree that was destroyed by a lightning strike, the land around it scorched by wildfire. They restored it like nothing had ever happened before. They can also mend a great many wounds. I wonder if that extends to genetic conditions.

Neria has been visiting me with surprising regularity. I'd say she's become my first friend among the Torine. Not bad considering three weeks ago she kidnapped me and almost killed me. Maybe it's time the two of us sat down and had a real conversation about what happened during our fight. Even being as busy as I have, blacking out like that has weighed pretty heavily on me. I remember what I did on Arboria when I blacked out...when Richard was killed. Or at least I remember the stories of it. I really don't want it to happen again.

Granted, they'd probably kill me before it got that far anyway, so that's a relief?
Posted Aug 3, 17 · OP
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Day 30

Today is the first day that I've completed my training without feeling like I was about to die. Still plenty exhausted and sore, but it's getting better than it used to be. I've even noticed my sword handling starting to improve, and it's only been a few weeks. Their techniques are strict, certainly more strict than what I had back when I was younger. But the nighttime training is actually quite reminiscent of those days. Bathed in the light of the moon, surrounded by darkness, stars twinkling in the sky, it makes me feel like a child again. Of course that could be that compared to the Torine, I might as well be.

Perhaps something to do with the primal life concentration? I've noticed since coming here that every day I seem to have a little more energy than the last. It's not just the workout, I do my share of exercise back home. But I feel young again! Like I could take on the world again. And Nexus is a hell of a world to try and take on.

Neria has invited me to join her on a trip through the forest for the next few days. She's going to show me more of their history, their monuments, and a few personal favorites that she won't tell me about. And she promised we're finally going to talk about what happened. More like she said that I'm finally ready to talk about it. I was ready a week ago. But I'll take what I can get.

I have to admit, I'm completely surprised by how friendly Neria has been, or even all the Torine can be. They're cold to outsiders for sure, but their inner circle you'd have a hard time distinguishing from any group of people. They laugh, they celebrate, they....well they don't cry. I don't think I've ever seen one cry. Sometimes I think that they're physically unable to. Maybe some sort of scowling reflex that closes up the tear ducts.

This really has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I'm going to contact the XAS and notify them that I'm going to stay here longer. They've practically welcomed me into their society, so why not take advantage of it? It's a cold, cautious welcome for the most part. But a welcome nonetheless.
Posted Aug 4, 17 · OP
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Day 32

I'm going to have a lot to reflect on. Neria and I finally actually talked about the fight and the blackouts. Provoking me was her goal from the start, seeing if she could draw out that rage. There is strength in rage. But that strength comes at the expense of control. To black out completely during it is what worried her. Yes, she said worried. I didn't think they worried about anything. She says blind rage is a symptom, not a disease. A symptom of imbalance of the spirit. I think the XAS Medical division might disagree.

Still, it's something to pursue. Clearly the death of my husband would have been a traumatic event and rage is an appropriate response to it. But perhaps when combined with the adrenaline surge that would be present in a fight, when one's very life is at stake. It could be a dangerous combination. I'm no doctor or psychologist, but it makes as much sense to me as anything.

But tonight, we're putting such thoughts behind us. Neria and I are going to go to her favorite stargazing spot and sleep under the stars. It should prove just the diversion I need.
Posted Aug 4, 17 · OP
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