It was a sunny day, so Captain Ling was not at all sorry when she finished her paperwork early. She stretched behind her desk and headed out to check on her patrols. She listened to the sounds of Thorns as she walked, drawn by the cool breeze to the dock, nodding and passing a few words with the various guards she passed.
The dock was busy, the scent of salt in the air, people running to and fro and shouting, ships creaking and swaying. She breathed it in, and heard a cough to her side. One of her junior officers drew her attention to a small sailing boat making its precarious way through the lanes, crewed by two ragged children. She watched as the stockier child instructed the scrawnier one and they managed to avoid collisions. She looked back to the officer as they pulled up to dock, but he'd already moved on.
Back to the boat, and the children had secured it and were looking around nervously. The scrawnier one steeled itself and stepped out, before reaching back to help the other onto the dock, where they stood, hand in hand, too sunburnt, windswept and saltworn to tell their gender. The stockier child held a bundle that looked like a stick of some sort, wrapped in a blanket. The scrawnier one carried a couple of battered bags and, she saw, was a little taller and seemed more confident. They looked to be of an age, maybe 7 or 8, but were too alike in appearance to be anything other than siblings. That they could be twins didn't occur to her: identical twins were rare enough in Creation that neither she nor anyone she knew - possibly no one who'd ever lived in Thorns - had met any. And non-identical twins were simply impossible.
She saw them look around again, then the taller one's eyes met hers and they marched over, dragging the other child with them.
"Hi. My name's Taji and this is my brother Kito. We're twins. We're looking for our sister Mei, because everyone back home got hurt and our brother Han says we have to find her so she can get us to our uncle Chow of House Cathak. Do you know where she is?"
The breakneck delivery finished and Ling found herself staring down into a pair of dark, dark eyes, full of trust and expectation.
Her mind whirled. "I, uh, I guess you'd better come to the station with me," was all she could muster.
I helped Kito out and he dragged the big sword out and then we stood there and I knew I couldn't get scared or Kito would be scared too and then we wouldn't find Mei so I looked around and I saw a nice looking lady in a guard's costume and so I went up to her and explained why we were in Thorns and she led us to the Station and her name was Captain Ling and we chatted the whole way and she was really nice and when we got to the Station she got one of her men to get us some food and water and she didn't know Mei or her husband so she sent out people to try and find her and she was really surprised when we said about our uncle Chow and asked if we really meant Cathak Chow because he's the head of House Cathak so we explained it probably wasn't him but a different Chow in house Cathak because we aren't nobles, we're just from Derren's Ford and she didn't seem convinced and said she'd see what she could find out for us, and we showed her the sword and the jade and when she saw the jade stamp she looked really worried and her eyes went big and she said "that decides it then" and called someone in to get a message to House Cathak and she knew what the stamp was which means we can trust her because of what Hak said and after she sent all her messengers away and we explained about Derren's Ford and how Han said he would walk here and she promised to send someone to look for him to, she told her people that she was taking the afternoon off and took us to her house and her husband was there and she got him to run us a bath and then she helped wash all the salt off us while he cooked and he's a really good cook and it was yummy and then she took us for a walk to a really nice place where we could see the harbour and our little boat and everything.
And then she got out some paper and brushes and taught us to paint.
I love to paint.
You see exactly what you're looking at when you paint, and the world stops.
I don't think Kito likes it so much, but my picture was really good.
We stayed with Captain Ling and her husband for a few days and she taught me lots more about drawing and painting and then Mei arrived because they'd found her and she and her husband had dinner with us but I don't think her husband wanted us to stay with them so we still stayed with Captain Ling but Mei told us stories and they were the same as the ones Yee told us because Mei had taught them to Yee and it was really nice to hear them again but it made me a bit sad because I don't know where Yee is.
And then one day when we were up on a hill painting the view over the sea and there was this weird cloud that got bigger and bigger and Captain Ling looked a bit worried and brought us into town and the cloud arrived and there were two men and one of them was normal height and skinny and the other looked like Daddy but even taller and broader and his long hair was black like mine and Kito's but with red flashes through it which you can see in Kito's when the sun hits it the right way. And he was dressed in vibrant reds and his voice boomed and this was our Uncle Chow and he was really pleased to see us and he talked to Captain Ling and to Mei and then took us back to his estate on the Realm in the tornado-cloud his wizard friend summoned.
Our GM actually had a different story in mind for Thorns, one with more misery and trauma, but when I stepped off the boat he let me roll a social check to find someone to talk to - one of my best dice pools. I aced the roll, and he went with it. I'm glad; for an NPC created on the fly, Captain Ling became an important part of our back story. We still have unfinished business with her; in a way, finding her gave us less trauma as children but more as adults :-D
When we played the scene, I couldn't help picturing it from her perspective, which is why I wanted to open the post this way. This is also the last told in Taji's child voice: the next few Exalted posts are going to be a combination of broadstroke and snapshots of the life of the twins to shortly after they Exultation; hopefully I'll manage to include all significant characters, locations and events...
There's a few of each I'm particularly looking forward to introducing you to.