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Built into the cliffs overlooking the Suvan Sea, Riverfall resides on the edge of grasslands of Cyphrus where the Bluevein River plunges off the plain and cascades down to the inland sea below. Home of the Akalak, Riverfall is a self-supporting city populated by devoted warriors. [Riverfall Codex]

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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Hirem on March 3rd, 2015, 7:00 am

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17th of Spring, 515 AV

"You know Nystir," Hirem murmured as he shambled across the tavern floor, a wide smile creasing his worn face. "I never realized just how many bars are in this city. But it's really... truly incredible, you know?"

"Really." The Akalak proprietor murmured, his usually cheerful attitude absent when dealing with the Benshira. "Just how many taverns are there, Hirem?"

"Oh Nystir... many!" Giggling, the man then felt dangerously off-balance and supported himself by leaning on the bar panel, his legs nearly tumbling out from under him. But none of this served to disrupt his merry mod, and Hirem gave a solemn, knowing smile. "You see, there's the Kulkukan... very lovely place," he murmured, winking at Nystir in vain, "and then there's the Blue Bull, and the Rat Hole, and... and the White Crane and Atri's Place and... well, I think that's it. Still, that's a lot! Back in Yahebah, we - we didn't have any taverns!"

"Of course," the barman quietly said, glancing around the tavern and making sure that the loud Benshira wasn't disturbing any patrons. It was a late evening, far too late for any respectable men and women to be awake, yet there were a few tavern goers nestled in the corners of the room. "And which tavern gave you that?" He asked, gesturing to the bottle of ale clutched tightly in Hirem's right hand. "Alements?"

The Benshira seemed shocked. "Never," he hissed, shaking his head vehemently. "Never Alements. Caelum's a friend... I could never do this around him. He's too, too, too - good, anyway. He'd probably just take the bottle from me and make me drink something else that tastes of piss."

Nystir was unimpressed. "Ahuh. So you come to my tavern and do this?"

Hirem was not blind; he knew that the barman had long ago grown annoyed with his presence. While Nystir was able to smile and joke with almost everyone in the city, Hirem's particular problems had grown particularly frustrating to the Akalak. First, it was the nightly screaming, that kept neighbouring residents awake and got them complaining. And then it was the constant fights he got into at the Rat Hole, that left him scarred and bruised and an ugly mess that offset Nystir's patrons. And now, it was the drunkenness. Every few nights, Hirem would stumble in, half-blind and ranting to himself, making a horrible scene and ending up embarrassing everyone involved. The Benshira knew Nystir's problems with all of this, yet he could think of a better response than shrugging and throwing his free hand into the air. "I used to live here?" He joked, offering the Akalak a friendly smile. "And don't worry, my friend! I'm not going to be moving back in, anytime soon. I live at the Sanc-Sanctu-Sanctuary now, with Kavala-la." Laughing at his own flustered tongue, Hirem waved the comment off. "But you know as they say! Only a fool rides the Kabrin drunk! And I am no fool!" The man shook his head proudly, then took a healthy swig of ale.

Nystir gave a quiet sigh. "Of course. You are no fool." Giving one final look to the patrons of the tavern, he gestured Hirem to the stairs in the corner. "You'll be paying tomorrow, I assume?"

"Suuuure!" The Benshira drawled, grinning to himself as he shambled his way over to the stairs. Every second step of his threatened to send him tipping over and crashing into the ground, but some miracle managed to keep Hirem aloft. His good fortune didn't stop him from bumping into every possible table and chair on the way there, however, prompting a "Hik! I'm so sorry!" from him each time it occurred. By the time he reached the base of the stairs, half of the tavern had been upheaved. Humming a happy little tune, Hirem grabbed onto the nearby rail and hauled himself up the first step. Then tried to ascend the second step. Then nearly slipped on the third step. Then finally collapsed on the fourth step, plunging his knee hard through the polished panel. "Oh shyke!" He howled, withdrawing his knee. A hole had been punched through the step, a jagged hole of splinters and wooden debris. "Nystir! Nystiiiiir! I broke your stairs!"

"It's fine, Hirem!" the barman shouted, his voice a little too harsh compared to the meaning of his words. Letting out a frustrated groan, the Akalak waved him up the stairs. "Just go to bed! It's very late."

"You're damn right it's late!" Hirem repeated, chuckling. Relieved to hear that there was no problem, the Benshira dragged himself up the last two steps and into the second floor hallway, searching clumsily for his room. "All these doors look the same..." he muttered, eventually choosing one that looked familiar... in his sober mind, he would have recognized the fact that this was nowhere close to where his room was supposed to be. Approaching the door and shaking the ale bottle mindlessly in his other hand, Hirem pushed hard on the wood to open it. Then, when the door didn't budge, Hirem frowned and pushed again. And frowned, and pushed again. Finally tiring of this exercise, the Benshira threw his weight against the door and slammed it open, revealing a dark bedroom within. "Finally," he grunted, placing the bottle of ale haphazardly on the nearby desk. The room itself looked strange to him - When was the last time I owned a wooden mask? - but the bed was empty and inviting, and that was good enough for him. With a great sigh, the Benshira threw himself onto the bed and rolled over, staring up at the roof overhead. Letting out a sound of contentment, Hirem eased out of his tunic and tried pulling down his breeches, but gave up when they caught around his knees. Figuring that he was perfectly fine going to sleep in this disheveled state, the Benshira yawned and stretched his arms wide.

His right arm, ending up stretching out to the nigh stand, ended up knocking over a small book.

Curious, Hirem reached down and retrieved the book from the ground, propping it on his chest and turning to cover to face him. After a full chime of staring, he realized that the book had no cover image; giggling, he flipped it open to a random page and squinted to make out the words. After another full chime of staring, he realized that there were no words, but fantastical drawings inside, penned by a hand far more skilled than his own. Hirem could make no sense of what the drawing was actually supposed to be, but it impressed him nonetheless. Grinning, the man laid the book across his knees and perused through it at his leisure, smudging some of the more delicate work with his wandering thumbs.
Last edited by Hirem on April 11th, 2015, 4:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Marion Kay on March 7th, 2015, 4:39 am

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There was something different in the air. Marion knew that much -- felt that much -- without knowing how or why. But just as much as she knew something had been inexplicably wrong for the past season, she knew something was now inexplicably right. She knew that she was back on track. And she knew that while she sat here waiting for her impromptu "date" to finish what she estimated to be his tenth mug of ale, she felt no guilt for what she planned to do.

Across from her sat a man with deep indigo skin and wandering eyes, and it was those eyes that had drawn Marion to him. Not because they were particularly attractive, but because they were filled with a resigned longing, the kind of longing that caused them to linger too long on the women in the room before floating back to the bottom of his drink. It was something akin to the look men wore in Sunberthian taverns, but it was not so much a voracious hunger as it was a quiet want, the admiration of something one might pursue if only one had the will to do so. Mister Indigo didn't have that will and instead wiled away much of his night alone. Marion, on the other hand, had will enough for both of them.

And so it was that no more than twenty chimes ago Marion had wound her way over to his lonesome corner table and asked to sit. It had taken his ale-clogged mind a tick to process her request, but once it had he had accepted without a second thought, beaming. The next moments were spent in pleasant conversation which mostly consisted of Marion's prying questions and his enthusiastic but not altogether helpful answers. Even so, he did answer with all of the ardor of someone eager to impress, and Marion had managed to find out that his name was Velatos, he worked as an instructor at some place called the Tuvya, and he held a particular distaste for someone he called Loshevik, though Marion couldn't be quite sure whether that was actually a name or some kind of Tukant insult.

Still, she wasn't after information -- at least not the kind garnered through simple word of mouth. It did, however, require the other party to be, for the most part, unaware of her intentions. Marion doubted people much appreciated having their anatomy scrutinized for replication, and that's exactly what her purpose was here, downstairs at the most ungodly bells of the night. To scrutinize. So when Velatos raised his arm to motion for his eleventh round Marion did not stop him, for when she brought him stumbling upstairs to her room for further scrutiny, she wanted him to be as far gone as possible. If she were lucky, he might even fall asleep before she had to follow through with the unspoken suggestion she was prepared to give.

Or perhaps she would be the one to fall asleep. Marion couldn't remember the last time she'd stayed up this late, though she was certain it must've been seasons ago, which was too bad. She loved the stillness of night, when the city was quiet not because it had to be but because it was. Unfortunately morning rehearshals took their toll, and she could feel her head drifting downward of its own accord as the akalak regaled her with a half-slurred tale of his role in some great hunt on the plains of Cyphrus.

No, she ordered herself harshly, blinking herself awake in the dimmed light of the tavern. You're a petching actress, whether you like it or not. Be a petching actress.

Literally, if you have to. A self-amused but rueful grin found its way to her lips for a tick before being replaced with one a bit more coquettish. She leaned forward against the table, trying her best not to appear uninvolved in the man's story when all she was truly interested in was whether or not she would be able to replicate his face with her own. But as her gaze scanned the stark curvature of his jaw, it occurred to her that she likely shouldn't even bother trying. She wasn't going to be able to memorize every detail in one night; she'd be better off using this time to make sure there weren't any surprises she needed to be aware of in Akalak anatomy. From there, she could improvise her own simple model and tweak it, rather than putting herself through the tedious process of imitation.

To that end, she might as well get this over and done with.

"Velatos," she purred, interrupting him with a light touch on his forearm. he seemed surprised by the sudden contact, glassy eyes blinking rapidly. He looked down at her hand, then back up into her face, squinting, but with the same goofy grin he'd been sporting since she'd sat down. "Should we continue this in my room here? It's pretty late." The suggestion in her tone was markedly obvious, but apparently neither her cocked brow nor the lascivious smirk she offered were enough to get her point across to his addled mind.

"It is?" He tilted his mug and peered into it with a suspicious look, as if he could glean the time from it. After a long moment, his head snapped back up with a jovial bounce. "Nawww I think we're good. Yeah? We're good." He gave a satisfied smile, bringing the drink to his lips before continuing where he'd left off. "But that glassbeak, oh he was a bad one for sure. Nasty little thing, 'e was --" Some small drunken commotion across the room snagged his attention for a moment, giving Marion time to compose herself.

Rubbing a hand across her eyes in an attempt to mask the disparaging thoughts the akalak's daftness conjured, she tried again. "Velatos." A hard edge of impatience crept into her voice. She had to resist the urge to snap her fingers for his attention -- "Velatos." -- but he did slid his gaze back over to her after a moment. "Do you understand what I mean?" she asked, disturbed by just how much she sounded like a mother reprimanding her child.

"Hm?"

The crooked smile on her lips grew more strained with every passing tick. And this is why you stay away from drunkards.

You say that now, but you certainly never had a problem with it before.

"When I say you can come you my room, do you understand what I mean?" she repeated slowly, taking care to enunciate. Velatos furrowed his brow.

Then there was the flash of wondrous realization, and he leaned forward in a comically conspiratory fashion. "You mean..." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Marion nodded.

And suddenly they were pulling each other across the room.

They were tripping up the stairs, Velatos's bumbling laugh ringing in her ears when he nearly fell prey to some newly-opened hole in the steps.

They were stumbling against the wall, the man's heavy arm draped across her shoulders as she tried to support him and his uncoordinated steps.

They were giggling, shushing each other as they went along, and Marion couldn't tell when she'd crossed the threshold from feigning to feeling. She didn't care anyway.

Because then they were kissing and, shyke, if she was going to go through with this she figured the least she could do was not analyze herself out of enjoying it.

His lips were sloppy, which was only to be expected. What she didn't expect, however, was just how much hunger she tasted on them -- she'd seen the quiet longing in his eyes and the goofy grin he'd donned when she approach and assumed that their encounter would be much the same. She hadn't counted on his roaming hands tugging at the bottom of her shirt, or his teeth pulling at her bottom lip, or his starved body eagerly pressing her backwards toward her door. Her door. "This is my room," she breathed dumbly, withdrawing traitorous fingers from his hair without remembering giving her body permission to put them there in the first place.

"Yeah, okay," Velatos mumbled, eyes half closed and leaning forward, hands pulling at her waist, blindly seeking to reinstate the contact that had been broken. Marion almost felt bad for him and the state he was in, frustrated and disheveled and stinking of alcohol. He was almost like a child, really. Or a puppy. But in light of her intentions, both of those comparisons seemed far too perverse. Better to think of him as a pawn. She had one purpose for him, and one purpose alone, and anything else was unnecessary. As much as she wanted to let his calloused hands wander, she couldn't let herself lose sight of her task. He was a pawn, chosen because he seemed easily swayed. So what would it say if she let herself be just as swayed by some sloppy caressing?

She placed a steadying hand on his chest, fishing for her key in her pocket, but Velatos shuffled forward, wobbling, pulled her towards him and pushing them both off balance in the process. The door should have caught them.

It didn't.

She felt the wood fall away at her back only once it was too late to do anything about it. The momentum of the pair's fall sent the door slamming open against the wall, echoed by the distinct crash of their own bodies hitting the floor. Marion exhaled sharply, stunned by the impact, before the weight of the akalak caught up to her and forced the rest of the air from her lungs. "Crushing," she wheezed once she realized what was happening, prying against the muscled blue shoulder as it jammed into her chest. Joints knocked together, flesh slapped flesh, but this was altogether not how she had imagined the night going. Velatos gave a long, lamenting groan but managed to roll off of her and onto his back fairly quickly -- likely because he had just planted his face quite firmly against the floor and wanted to get the taste of it out of his mouth.

It wasn't until Marion reached a hand around the leg of the bed to pull herself up that the stinging confusion over the situation faded to be replaced with hard realization. Against the muted light of the hallway, she could plainly make out the outline of the splintered wood of the door frame where the lock had been busted. In the corner of her eye gleamed the glass of a bottle that certainly hadn't been there when she'd left. And as she pulled herself to her feet, turning slowly, ever so slowly to face the heavy breathing she felt in the air, Marion was quite aware of what she would find.

A dark figure lounged on her bed, Marion's figure blocking the faint glow of the hallway and casting them further into shadow. But in that moment she didn't particularly care who it was. Because even in this low light she could make out the familiar shape of her book, her book, (or, really, her father's book) clutched in hands that were undoubtedly too large and too clumsy to be trusted with anything so delicate, even if one disregarded the fact that there were few worldly possessions Marion prized more than that book.

Her grip on the bed frame tightened, knuckles growing white.

"That," she growled, voice low and dangerous, "is not yours."
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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Hirem on March 9th, 2015, 5:34 pm

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There was something buried within this book, and the longer he pored through it, the more Hirem grew convinced that he would discover its secrets. At first his interest in the book was only in passing, for it had come within his grasp and... well, shyke, he didn't have much else to do. Now that he was laying down, his body felt dreadfully sapped of energy, and it would have been an easy thing to just close his eyes and drift off into an unruly sleep. Staring at the book's fanciful drawings had initially been a way for him to peacefully doze off while still entertaining himself, for there wasn't much fun to be had sitting alone in a dark room and pissed drunk. But eventually the Benshira started to become fascinated by the drawings that he observed in the book, tracing them idly with his finger and giggling whenever they took a strange or unexpected route. Most of it just looked like scribbling to him, but if he looked closely, he could make some familiar shapes constructed on the page. Then, finally, it hit Hirem that he was supposed to be looking at finely-crafted drawings of animals, creatures, monsters of all shapes and sizes. Grinning at his discovery, the Benshira cracked the book wider open to see if there was something hidden in the margins.

Though his world was reeling all around, Hirem was able to focus himself on the drawings, anchor his swaying mind to these charcoal pieces. There was some security in doing that, after having spent the past bell in a dizzying world where the streets curved and twisted around him. Laying his head back against the strangely unfamiliar pillows, the man took a deep breath and idly ran his finger down the flank of some imaginary serpent, wondering how this strange book had come into his possession. "Anyone left this here?" He groaned with a quiet laugh, waving the thing about idly before returning it to his lap. Some part of him wished that he had the skill to create something like this, was envious of the man or woman that had put this creatures down to the page. "Should have learned to draw, not fight," he murmured, closing his eyes and shaking his head from side to side. "Very bad, bad idea. Should have drawn more. No blood, no pain, just - just draw." Finding that he could take the pounding of his head no more, Hirem tilted his neck back and put a hand to his protesting temples, groaning in pain.

He opened his mouth and prepared to give out a hoarse cry for the barkeep, but was immediately silenced as the door to his room crashed open. The warrior within him gave a start, but the drunk that was laying on the bed only shuffled a bit from the bed's edge and stared confusedly at the pair of bodies on the floor. "What the shyke," he breathed, tilting his head to the side. "What the petch are you do-do-doing in my room?" Trying to make sense of the tangled mess of limbs that was sprayed over the ground - some of them blue, some of them frail and pink - eventually Hirem just shook his head and laid back down on the bed. "Whatever. Just don't make a fuss, alright? I'm trying to read." Brushing off the encounter, the Benshira reached again for the bottle he had set down on the desk, taking a healthy swig. "And don't even try to ask about this, okay? This is mine. Miiiiine. I worked my arse off for this." Placing the bottle back on the desk, a small drop of ale spilling from the corner of his mouth, Hirem let out a deep sigh and returned his gaze to the book, only glancing occasionally at the prone couple. "You two are discussting-discussing- you two should get your own room," came his ramble as the woman that lay underneath the Akalak pushed herself to her feet.

It was only when the figure threatened him that he realized who it was.

"Marion!" Hirem suddenly cried, throwing his arms - and the book with them - into the air. "It's you! I shoudda recognized you sooner!" Giggling, the Benshira clasped the precious book to his chest, ignoring her angry glare. "I'd know those threats of yours from anywhere! It's so good to see you!" Buzzing at the back of Hirem's mind was the memory of his last encounter with the actress, wherein she had shoved a blade before him and he had promised a bloody death to her, but in his state he was just happy to see a familiar face. Sitting up on the bed, only vaguely aware of the fact that his breeches were snaked around his knees, Hirem shuffled his legs and pat the mattress just beside him. "Here here, come have a seat on my bed, we can chat! Catch up! I, uh..." he glanced around the room, realized the implications of Marion's former words, and broke out into a giddy laughter. "Oh! I guess this is your room! That's my bad, I'm so sorry... they all look the same, though!" Chuckling to himself, the Benshira passed the book in his hands over to her, shaking his head. "Have you read this? It's so, so, so good!" Grinning from ear to ear, Hirem swayed uneasily as he spoke, the stench of ale thick on his breath.

And then, amazingly, the Benshira had thrown himself to his feet, walking over to the prone Akalak. "Who is this?!" he thundered, grabbing the man by the collar and hauling him up to his feet. "He was crushing you before! That's not okay!" Gritting his teeth, Hirem shook his fellow drunk roughly, hands curling into tight fists. "No one hits Marion, not even me!" Stopping himself just short of punching the Akalak, Hirem tossed his head over to the side and stared at Marion with a fuzzy gaze, pursing his lips. "What do you want me to do with him?"
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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Marion Kay on March 12th, 2015, 3:51 am

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The air reeked with ale and sweat, and it took a great amount of will power for Marion to keep it from going to her head. She didn't want to think about how long it would take for the smell to fade, and she didn't want to think about how long Velatos would to roll around on the floor before he either managed to pull himself up or vomit. She should help him, Marion knew. But she didn't. Her attention was too caught up in this stranger, this intruder who bumbled not only into her room but also into a part of her life that she went through great pains to keep private.

She wasn't sure what she was expecting from the shadow. An apology, perhaps. Or an attack. If she were still in the city of anarchy, an assassination attempt would have been her first assumption. Her right hand fell to her waist and came up empty, forgetting that her dagger laid shelved on the dresser. Her other hand gripped harder against the wood at this realization, the corners of of the bed frame digging into her palm. She was bracing to be hit by some hidden weapon, but the sound of her name ringing out against the air struck her harder than any physical blow.

The sound of it was too eager. Too glad. Even so, she would have recognized that voice anywhere, that voice which had whispered her demise on more than one occasion. "Hirem?" She sidestepped, floorboards creaking, to let the light from the hall fall past her and onto the bed. And it was, indeed, Hirem. A half-naked and sloppy-looking Hirem with a grin she'd never before seen grace his dour features, but Hirem nonetheless. Not that this did anything to lessen her caution; it reminded her too much of something she herself would do, and she couldn't read the intent behind his flashing teeth and vacant, smiling eyes.

Marion backed away, feeling very suddenly ambushed by his genial greeting and trying not to let her confusion play out too plainly on her face. The man's slurring words and and the faint odor of alcohol that wafted from him as he shifted at least provided some semblance of an answer to a question she needn't bother ask. "You've been drinking." It was plain to see, even without the bottle he brandished covetously. The only difference between him and Velatos in that moment was the fact that Hirem was still capable of keeping himself upright. The akalak, for his part, had apparently given up trying to figure out how gravity worked and instead layed with his arms spread out to either side, staring up at the two of them as if he were stargazing. Marion spared a moment to glance down at him, and he muttered something in Tukant that she couldn't decipher.

She turned back to Hirem, and as he shoved her father's collection of sketches back into her arms where it belonged, the overwhelming sting of violation faded into something far more reserved yet deeply troubling. Marion felt a deep frown etching its way into her features, the likes of which she hadn't felt in some time, not even when Hirem had left her all those days ago with nothing but a thinly veiled threat and more questions than she cared to seek answers to. This was not the Hirem she knew. This was not the man she'd met in the dead of winter whose utter certainty in his faith was enough to stir a thrill in her chest at the very thought of tearing him apart. This was not the man whose resolve was so raw that it had set her trembling in absolute anticipation of their next encounter. That had been a man she could admire, or, at the very least, a wonderful game she would enjoy winning.

But there was no thrill in besting a drunk man. And this was a very drunk man, of that Marion had no doubt. Her hands glided across the surface of the sketchbook as she pondered this, stroking its spine in the same way a child might stroke their doll's hair. If it had been anyone else that had found the thing, if it had been anyone else who might have damaged its delicate contents, she would have been contemplating the extent of her vengeance. Perhaps later she would. But in this moment what concerned her more was the words that wove their way to the front of her mind, words that Hirem himself had spoken that first night they met, before the encounter had taken such an unfortunate turn. There had been something effecting the city, something that had set people to doing things they otherwise would not do; "drunkards swearing off the drink," he'd said as an example, and she had to wonder if that particular example applied to him. She had felt that strange air then too, just as she felt its absence now. So was the Hirem she knew and illusion, a figment of whatever oddity had seized the city at the time? Was this man, with his pants around his knees and his stinking breath, the real Hirem?

If it was, she was quite disappointed.

Marion pursed her lips as the man hauled Velatos to his feet, having all but forgotten the akalak in her reverie. The appearance of her unplanned visitor had certainly thrown a stopper on her plans for the night and prematurely pushed the akalak past his usefulness to her. She didn't want him shooed away -- he had yet to pass her scrutiny, after all -- but if she wasn't going to have the opportunity to glean what she sought in more clandestine ways, she was going to need him to be unconscious. That was a task she felt Hirem was be perfectly suited to accomplishing, but what she was more interested in, for now, was the fact that he seemed entirely willing to carry out her wishes, at least where her perceived safety was involved. Maybe she would toy around with Drunk Hirem more, see exactly what he would do and how far he would go in this state. Later though.

Right now she wanted Velatos incapacitated, and Hirem was willingly offering his services. She did not, however, like the idea of having to explain away the drunken brawl she was sure would break out between them. The akalak might've been a bit out of it, but if there was any truth to the stories he'd shared with her downstairs she was sure he'd have no trouble holding his own, even in this state. With a resigned sigh and a placating gesture towards the pair of them, Marion tenderly returned the book she held to the nearby nightstand before sweeping the pair with a pensive gaze. What she really wanted was for Hirem to pull his damned pants up, but so long as they didn't interfere with what she was planning to do, that could to wait. She advanced quickly and silently towards them, pushing the door closed with a gentle creak, leaving it ajar just enough to provide a thin beam of light. Velatos was beginning to writhe and curse now, having realized that this odd man with dark skin and large hands was threatening him and the woman he'd been happily kissing not moments before was doing nothing to stop him. He must've been feeling rather confused, perhaps even betrayed. And that feeling, Marion was sure, would only intensify in the coming moments.

"Quiet," she murmured as she felt her way over to them, though she couldn't be certain which of the men she was addressing. She was standing behind Velatos, his body positioned between her and the other man. Her hands brushed around the akalak's shoulders, patting at Hirem's hand dismissively. This would be difficult; Velatos relaxed slightly at her touch, but was a great deal taller than she was. She did have a handy-dandy assistant, but she could only hope Drunk Hirem was good at following orders. She really should have entrusted this task to him, and she would have if she could be certain he wouldn't accidentally kill her quarry in his stupor. Of course, she was just as likely to screw up even with all her faculties fully functioning, but she trusted herself more than she trusted this man. Hai, she even trusted Winter Hirem more than she trusted this Hirem. This Hirem was a stranger to her.

"Hirem." Her voice was firm and deceptively cool, tinged with the kind of authoritative tone one might take when directing a group of children. "I need you to take his legs."

And like that her arms were snaking around the akalak's collar rigidly and Marion had no idea what she was doing. Her right arm looped around his throat and grasped at the upper arm of her left in a way that felt the most natural, hands clawing a vice grip that she was certain would leave bruises in her flesh. Her left arm, in turn, crossed behind his neck and latched on to her right shoulder in a way that felt the most natural and would hopefully provide some kind of leverage. Every move she made was guesswork at its core, entirely unpracticed, but strangling was strangling no matter how refined it was, and she knew how strangling worked. Hirem himself had made sure of that.

OOCFeel free to take full control of the NPC in your posts! You can expect him to break Marion's hold rather easily once he realizes what's happening, what with her whopping 5 points in Unarmed and all, and you can NPC Marion's reaction to that accordingly -- i.e. whether she falls to the floor, gets knocked backwards, etc.
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Marion Kay
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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Hirem on March 12th, 2015, 8:25 pm

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"You've been drinking." At Marion's comment, Hirem scrunched his eyes together and let his head tilt to the side. "Well, of course!" He slurred, bobbing his chin in agreement. "What else would have me acting so funny?" It was hard for the Benshira to speak a full sentence without breaking into giddy laughter, his lips constantly trembling into a sheepish smile. Everything just seemed so whimsically funny, no matter the circumstances, no matter the piercing glare that came from Marion, no matter the dawning realization that had just broken into her room accidentally. A bubbling spring of laughter and cheer had formed within Hirem, and he was a fool to try and ignore it, or worse, suppress it. "By all the shkying gods," the Benshira murmured to himself as he wobbled from foot to foot, the world spinning all around. "I've gone long enough without some damned laughs in this petching city. What's the point of even coming here if there's no petching laughs." Shaking his head, Hirem grit his teeth and tried to focus himself on the pair before him. "Whadda they even doing here?" He grumbled, thinking aloud. "Is she really going to petch this big pile of blue meat? I never figgered that'd be her type."

But there was no time to consider such meaty questions, for Marion had a request of him. "I need you to take his legs," she explained, and the Benshira gave a respectful nod. He had no idea why the oddly quiet woman needed his help with this drunk Akalak, but there was no arguing with that stern tone. Grunting, Hirem slowly bent down and wrapped his hands around the drunk's ankles, taking care not to accidentally topple over in the motion. And even when he managed to get a firm grasp on the Akalak, he still felt close to tumbling over... gritting his teeth, Hirem bowed his head and steadied himself against the nearby dresser. "Just so you know," he murmured, biting down on his lip. "If you want to get me involved in some kind of - " He realized that he had no idea what the Common word for intercourse was, and so just shook his head. "- In some kind of strange act, then you will be seve-severely-surely disappointed." The Akalak shifted his feet, surprised at whatever it was that Marion was doing above, so Hirem reapplied his pressure round the man's ankles. "I have not acted in twelve years, I certainly will not, won't not, climb into bed with you and this poor bastard. I am waiting for the right time." Giggling at all this talk of acting, Hirem prepared to launch into a tirade about how petching boring the past twelve years had truly been, but was rudely interrupted.

"Hey!" The Benshira cried as the Akalak's foot suddenly lashed into his chest, the surrounded man beginning to panic. "That's not nice!" Hirem tightened his grasp around the Akalak's foot until the ankle felt close to cracking, fighting to keep the legs pinned as the rest of the body convulsed violently. "The hell is going on," came the annoyed exclamation, as one foot broke free and ended up connecting with Hirem's bicep. In his numbed state, the Benshira barely felt any pain, and so he just kept struggling to hold the legs down despite the flurry of kicks coming his way. Then, the drunk Akalak apparently realized that he still had his arms free, and launched a sloppy punch directly into Hirem's brow. Knocked off his balance, Hirem stumbled back and released his hold on Marion's victim, who took this opportunity to break free of the woman's weak grasp. Spinning about, Velatos gave a shout and clumsily shoved Marion back against the door, bewildered by what had just occurred. Balling his fists, the Akalak prepared to attack the woman anew -

And then Hirem launched himself at Velatos' back, wrapping one arm around the man's neck and jabbing the free hand hard into the Akalak's side. "Enough," he hissed, growling into the man's ear. Velatos, immediately upon being grappled, sought to escape the Benshira's hold, but Hirem kept distracting him by throwing punch after punch into his exposed side, bruising ribs and knocking the wind from his lungs. Empowered by his mindless rage, Hirem squeezed and squeezed on the throat in his grasp, the look in his eyes wild. Desperate for a release, the Akalak threw himself back against his attacker and ended up toppling them both to the ground, the impact rattling the floorboards and shaking the nightstands. Yet Hirem, in his dazed state, managed to roll back on top of Velatos and now wrapped both hands around the drunk's neck, pressing his thumbs sharply into the man's windpipe. "Enough!" He repeated, shoving the back of Velatos' head against the ground roughly. "Just stop!" Panicked blue hands kept beating on his chest, trying to claw at his eyes, trying to push him away, but Hirem did not relent his stranglehold. It was only when the hands fell limply at the Akalak's side and the drunk's eyes wavered shut that Hirem finally let go, collapsing against the side of the bed.

In the tense silence that followed, the only thing Hirem could hear was the pounding of his heart in his ears, drowning out all other sounds. His breath shallow and rapid, the Benshira eased his head back against the mattress and closed his eyes, struggling to stay conscious himself. Then, with an unexpected grin, he looked over to Marion and waved her over. "It's done. He's out... still alive, I think, but out. Gooood job." Clapping his hands together, Hirem then stared down at his trembling fingers, distracted utterly by the sight of them. "Do you know," he began, "how many people I've killed with these hands? It's, uh... it's quite a lot!" Smiling from ear to ear, he closed his eyes again and tried to recall the faces of his victims one at a time. "Let's see... first there was the seven at the campsite... then the two later on near the watering hole... then three more when we caught them in the ravine. The tall one gave this little squeal when she saw me coming with the sword and tripped over herself, landing face-first in a pile of camel shyke... it was petching hilarious. Then two... three?... no, two Chaktawe... and then that annoying petching old man... heh." He shook his head, caught up in all the memories. Slowly, the smile was drained from his face, and a more serious look overcame the drunken visage of Hirem. "And then, uh... and then I went into Hai and... and... and then two more in the years after that... and then I killed a man just last season."

Letting out a quiet sigh, Hirem looked back to Marion, his eyes watering. "He was another Benshira, you know? Looking up at me with his bright eyes, pants around his ankles, drunk out of his mind... his beaten girl hiding in the snow nearby... and then I kept thinking, 'why not?' And then I just... lunged down and stabbed him. He was a good man, you know... before he got drunk. Before he hit his little girl." Brushing idly at his cheek, Hirem shook his head. "Did-did you know that I'm a father? I never knew it. I just figured out like... like ten days ago. My son is twelve years old. Can you imagine that? I've only ever petched once, and out pops a kid!" He giggled despite himself, amused at how cruel his fate had become. "And, you know, the worst part of it all is how pale he is. How scrawny he is. The kid ended up becoming a slave and he didn't have my strength to help him out. He doesn't look a damn thing like me, doesn't act like me... if he did, he wouldn't have become such a miserable little shyke." Grunting, Hirem clasped his knees together, head rolling from side to side. "And you don't actually look that much like Stella, you know? You're too blonde. Too evil. But if you want to be my wife, I wouldn't be opposed!"
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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Marion Kay on March 14th, 2015, 4:58 am

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Marion's mind, usually tossing about so many different thoughts and feelings at once, was disturbingly calm as she tightened her arms around the akalak's neck. All of her concentration was focused on this moment, this action, the feel of his pulse against the crook of her arm, the way his chest strained and heaved against her own as it fought for air. She could practically feel the realization wash over him, his silenced protests gaining momentum with every breath she denied him. She could taste his fear in the air. She could smell it -- a heady scent, bittersweet, thickened and tainted with alcohol. It fueled her, her inspiration and her addiction. She needed it. But that wasn't what had quieted her mind. No, that, she was sure, was attributed to the utter clarity of control. The cold rush of holding another's life in her hands. Their future, their present, their potential, their ideas, their thoughts unspoken, everything that they were and everything that they could be dancing like puppets on the tips of her fingers.

It was a feeling she had denied herself for so long. She had thought it made her better somehow, more evolved, that she didn't have to resort to violence to bring about terrible things. But as her muscles dug in to Velatos's throat, a venomous thought crept across the back of her mind. Perhaps you could get used to this, it hissed. You've felt to out of control your entire life. I think this is just what you need. She was distantly aware of Hirem's slurred voice, babbling on about something involving acting, and it was the only thing that kept her grounded in the present situation, inadvertently reminding her that she wanted only to knock the poor blue fellow out, nothing more.

Unfortunately her grip had slipped tremendously when her attentions began to waver towards the internal, and Marion suddenly felt herself being knocked back. Her boots scuffed against the floor as she fought for balance, hands flailing for something -- anything. What they found was Velatos's elbow as it swung towards her again, forcing her against the door. Her shoulders smacked the wood hard, and what little space she had previously left between the door and its frame vanished as it slammed shut on impact. A part of her (the part that wasn't currently preoccupied bracing for the fist that was flying towards her) realized with dark amusement that she apparently had a penchant for getting shoved against walls.

Marion's arms, previously so eager to choke and break and harm, curled around her own head protectively. She grit her teeth, preparing. But the blow she was expecting didn't come. Instead, when she peered around her elbows her eyes saw Hirem grappling with the akalak, fists flying, a feral expression hijacking his features.

Hirem punched.

She lowered her arms to her sides, leaned her head back against the door, and slid slowly downward until she was sitting, her legs curled in front of her. A dull throb spread across the left side of her skull. She must've hit it against the door as well.

And he punched.

She was sure she should be afraid. She would be afraid. That was, if she could.

But then the Benshira threw the other man to the ground, choking the life from him, and Marion only felt distant, as if she were watching from the other side of a frosted window. Hirem was going to kill Velatos, she was sure of it. He was going to kill him, and she sure as shyke wasn't going to take the fall for any of it. So she began planning. 'Hirem was an intruder,' she would explain to the guards. She had the broken door to prove it. 'He attacked both of us in a drunken rage. I tried to stop him,' she would point then to the bruises she could already feel developing, 'but he was just too strong.' Maybe she would even throw in some tears.

But then everything just stopped. The fear, so ripe in the air, faded away as the akalak's arms fell.

Velatos was out and Hirem was beaming at her with a grin that made her feel sick. She could see the subdued rise and fall of the akalak's chest, and a knot worked its way into Marion's gut. Guilt? She wasn't sure why she felt that when she had learned long ago that it only ever over-complicated simple situations. She'd done so many things she should be guilty over, so why was it rearing its ugly little head now?

She knew why.

It wasn't because she had been ready to turn Hirem in for something that would have been decidedly her own fault. That was only good sense, protecting herself. But he was protecting her.

That's what it was.

Like a dog. A ruthless, vicious guard dog with crushing hands, but a dog all the same. (Really, with his dopey grinning and too-enthusiastic tone, she had no trouble making that comparison). And she was going to have the wretched fellow condemned for doing the only thing he knew to do? Of course, she would have done it, of that she had no doubt. Between a dog's life and her own she'd kill the dog every time. But there was something about making that choice without having to act on it, coupled with Hirem's current obliviousness, that left a foul taste in her mouth.

She stood as he beckoned her, placing one hand on the bed rail and the other against her head to alleviate the dull ache there. When his gaze trailed downwards, hers followed it, resting on his quivering hands. Why did they tremble so? Exertion? Shock? She would have to get inside Hirem's head to find out, and that was possibly the last place she wanted to be in that moment. Marion felt she should say something, a 'thank you' perhaps. An explanation. Something to let Hirem know that the violence was worth something, but she wasn't sure if it was. She was grateful that he seemed to enjoy talking drunk just as much as he did sober, until he actually spoke.

Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, Marion dropped her hands to her lap and let him talk. Not that she had much of a choice, since she wouldn't know what to say even if she did interrupt him. He was a murderer, she knew that already. What she didn't know was the numbers. Seven, two, three. One, two, one. Then Hai and two. And he calls you the monster. The thought was more sad than bitter. Then... one last season? When? It had to have been after their second meeting, otherwise she was sure he would have mentioned it then. Had she pushed him to it, this tormented man? Her eyes flicked from his hands to Velatos's face -- how peaceful it looked, belying the circumstances. She almost regretted her involvement in Hirem's life. He tried so hard to be good, Marion figured it simply wasn't in his nature, and she might have felt sorry for it, for the things she said and did and made him do. Setting her lips into a hard line, she raised a hand towards his shoulder, the ghost of a comforting gesture. But she couldn't bring herself to truly regret anything, and the hand dropped back to her lap. To apologize would be to undo all the work she'd done so far, and his torment was his own doing. Morality destroyed men.

And children. Children were cruel. And to have one dropped upon him so suddenly -- was that why he had been drinking? More importantly, was Hirem's son a tormentor? No, a slave, more likely a victim. Not that it mattered either way. Everyone was a monster in the end.

Most of his speech she wrote off as drunken ramblings; but one of his last few remarks hit a nerve and Marion twisted her hands in front of her chest, grasping for words that would not come. When they did, they were small; the words of a someone she had known once upon a time but was now forever a stranger.

"Why do you think I'm evil?"

That question had bothered her for some time -- how had he managed to sense her intent that first night? -- but the voice startled her. It was too soft, too childlike, tinged with the same innocent curiosity she had harbored in years long past when she had asked her father why the sky was blue. The sound of it sent a shock down her spine and she had to resist the urge to slap her hands over her mouth. But Hirem had claimed, many days ago, that he knew her, understood her, because he had seen through one of her faces. Oh, but an actress had many faces, and an Alvad had faces layers deep. Faces on top of faces, lies on top of lies, and oh Marion knew how to lie. She hadn't at first -- she'd been very bad at lying earlier in life, and that was likely where most of her problems had stemmed. And here she was again, letting truths slip in the form of questions. The act was sliding. (But you hate lies anyway. Or have you forgotten?) So perhaps for one night, she could tell the truth. It was what she wanted all along, wasn't it, to force people to see the truth that they deny themselves -- that they're all just as twisted as those they brand villains.

Besides, she considered sardonically, he likely won't even remember this conversation once the ale wears off.

"I don't --" her voice came out too strained, and she swallowed hard, starting again. It was her turn to stare at her hands, though they didn't quake the same way he did. Maybe that wasn't good either. "I don't like hurting people." Not with her hands, at least. Either way, the words sounded hollow, like she was trying to remind herself of that fact more than she was trying to convince him of it. Her mind drew her back to the serenity of control, and she knew that she very well could learn to enjoy it if she cared to. "There's no real artistry to it, you know. And I've never really had the constitution for it, not even after..." She scowled then, not sure what it was she was intending to say. Not even after her peers beat her with stone? Not even after Ssena gave her the strength to fight back? Her eyes jumped to where the sketchbook rested and she gestured towards it. "My father tried to teach me to draw, but my hands trembled too much. They always trembled, like there was so much fear building inside of me and it couldn't escape. It was like a waking nightmare. Can you imagine living your nightmare for sixteen years? And then suddenly a savior comes along and it's like this bright light when I haven't known anything but darkness.

"Is it evil to cling to that light? To want it to envelop the world?"


There was a pause and suddenly the air felt too hot, too stale, too tainted with sweat and stench and violence for this conversation. She needed fresh air before her tongue got too clumsy, before the dizziness and late-night desperation got to her. She needed to clear her head. The thoughts she was prepared to share had never before left the confines of her own mind, and she wasn't particularly fond of spilling them in a stinking inn room, with a giant blue body resting at her feet. Oh yeah. "We should probably do something with this guy," she added offhandedly, prodding the akalak's leg with her booted toe.
Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy.
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Marion Kay
Flung out of space.
 
Posts: 144
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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Hirem on August 1st, 2015, 6:02 am

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"Why do you think I'm evil?"

The response left Hirem's lips before he had time to think. "Why do you think," he began with a lopsided grin. "You're a mage, first off. With your little hair colour tricks. And mages are vile more often than not!" The Benshira wagged his finger knowingly, closing his eyes momentarily. "And secondly, you are an actress! Actresses are like sorceresses... you don't have to look too deep into their wardrobe to find their sad, sad victims!" Barking with sudden laughter, Hirem bowed his head, uncaring of whether his words hurt or amused Marion. He might have continued his pointless tirade, had the drunk not realized with a start that Marion actually sounded... unsure. The truth slowly dawning on him, he fell silent and turned his head to face hers, brow questioning and mouth wordlessly fumbling. By all the gods, she's scared! The conclusion that Hirem leapt to both excited and scared him, and he decided to remain quiet if he knew what was good for him. His jaw locking and unlocking in place, Hirem sprawled himself across the floor to get more comfortable, staring up at her with a wide gaze.

No real 'artistry' to hurting people? Who cared if it was pretty or not? The point is usually to inflict harm! What exactly did she mean by that mysterious comment? Hirem was struggling to figure out, his already confused mind further deluded by the taint of alcohol. His head spun around and around, her speech floating in and out of consciousness, and he was stuck trying to follow it lazily through the air. "And I've never really had the constitution for it, not even after..." After what? After what? Hirem was dying to know, but managed to stop himself from asking, his mouth comically shutting closed after it opened long. Quiet, you fool... do you want to be cursed with the pox?! Taking a deep sigh, his eyes struggled to focus on the sketchbook once she drew attention to it, and he nodded his head repeatedly. "Can you imagine living your nightmare for sixteen years," came the question, and immediately Hirem's silence was broken. "I would die," he said, his voice hard and blunt. "I would do anything to not have that. An-ee-thing." He glanced up at her and offered the woman a timid smile, but then fell into deep contemplation as she offered her final question.

"Is it evil to cling to that light? To want it to envelop the world?"

Hirem stared up at her in wonder.

To be rid of fear? To never suffer it again?!

It was hard to imagine a life without terror, but if what Marion said was true... then perhaps she was not so wicked as he once thought.

Still struck by her words, Hirem was slow to get up as she indicated the Akalak's prone body. "Don't worry," he slurred, grabbing the slumbering giant by the arm and hefting him onto his shoulder. "We'll just give him a nice little rest in my room over here... and when he wakes up, he'll be too ashamed to admit he got beat up by a desert man and a girl!" Grinning from ear to ear, Hirem undertook the tremendous task of hauling the massive Vetalos from Marion's room, dragging the Akalak slowly across the wooden floor. With each step Hirem grunted and groaned, feeling like this man might have just become the heaviest man in the world - or perhaps that was the booze talking. Thankfully the hallway outside was clear, allowing Hirem to escort Vetalos to his own room safely. Pushing open the door with his back, the Benshira dragged his hapless victim over to the bed and dumped him clumsily onto it, letting out a low moan. "Benachag, you weigh like an ox!" Dusting off his hands, he folded the sheets over the unconscious Akalak and stepped outside, closing the door behind him. To Marion outside, he gave her a lazy smile. "And don't you worry about all my Peni-Penita scrolls! They are safely at the Sanktury." With a knowing bow, he gestured to the stairs. "Shall we?"

Without waiting for her, Hirem bounded down the steps with as much grace as he could muster, waving to the barman as soon as he came into view. Nystir frowned as he saw the Benshira, and looked like he might comment on the situation - but soon nodded his head upon seeing Marion, drawing his own conclusions about what just occurred. Almost stumbling through the door into the cold night beyond, Hirem threw his arms out wide, turning to Marion and smiling. "Let's go for a walk! I feel like we should have a nice walk!" Again he offered her no room for a reply. With a comic salute he began marching aimlessly down the street, staring up at the dark sky above and commenting upon it. His eyes would then search either side of the abandoned road, glance over to Marion, glance back ahead, then roll back in their sockets. He would continue to grunt and murmur at what they passed by, but did not attempt to make serious conversation. Hirem's jaunt was jovial, suggesting to him that perhaps he saw this as nothing more than a quiet evening affair with his friend.

But something changed as they arrived at the high bridge overlooking the Bluevein's fall into Plunge Pool Bay, Hirem's steps growing shorter, his face becoming longer. Leaning against the bridge's railing, the Benshira stared down into the churning waters below, his expression a dark mix of emotions. Against the din of the waterfall, he glanced over to Marion and said, "Always wondered what it would feel like to fall into that, you know?" He nodded, then took a deep sigh. "If I could... if I could live a day without fear..." His voice trembling, Hirem shook his head. "If I could go to bed without being so damned scared about what I'm going to see in my dreams... I would do anything, Mary. Anything." His fingers curled tight about the railing. "It's so bad. It's so bad every night and it doesn't ever go away. I see people dying in my sleep, over and over again, people I've seen die and people I've killed. I see monsters and magic, darkness and demons... everything I want to forget!" The Benshira looked upon her with a desperate glint in his eye. "If you know what the secret is, then that makes you my best chance at getting over all of this! Because no other petcher in this city has been able to help! Not Caelum's potions, not Kavala's magic, nothing!"

He fell silent for only a moment. "I don't think you're evil, you know." His bright eyes stared at her, the moonlight reflecting in them. "I'm just so scared of you. I see you, and everything in my body starts shaking. I panic. And you... you don't deserve that. You could have gotten me killed a long time ago, and you didn't." The smile on his face briefly grew appreciative, and he stared out into the vast Suvan. Feeling the sea breeze on his face here, and the chill of the night affecting his bones, managed to quell the numbing effect of the alcohol, restoring to him a meagre sense of clarity. "I always hoped that Yahal would show himself when I was younger, descend from the heavens to make everything better... he would take up all of my fear into his arms and spirit them away, leaving me so happy. That never happened." He shook his head. "Instead I'm stuck here. With nothing. With no one. Fear ruined me."

"And if you claim you live without fear... if you want to bring that light to everyone else..." Hirem slowly pivoted his entire body to face hers, his eyes struggling to make contact with her own. "Then you're not evil. You're the most beautiful person I've ever seen."
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[Kulkukan] With Foes Like These... (Marion)

Postby Marion Kay on September 13th, 2015, 4:24 pm

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Marion wasn't sure what response she'd been expecting from the drunken hound of a man that sat stooped before her, but she knew by the drop in her gut and the tightening in her jaw that it hadn't been the one he'd given. It was nothing she hadn't heard before, of course, only a handful of years ago when someone had let slip the secret her father had instructed her to guard so carefully. Mages were vile. They were contemptible. Cheats. Blasphemers. She had been called all those things, delivered with all the eloquence and inflated sense of moral high ground that a pack of young Alvads could muster. And then again in Sunberth, where she had made her living on the basis that even being rumored to be associated with magic somehow made her increasingly more terrifying and hate-inspiring than all the city's rapists and cons and murderers.

It was supposed to be a good thing, she knew. Terror and caution kept people honest. But the gap between fear and hate was narrow, and, every now and again, being on the receiving end of the latter was still too much for her to handle. She was only a little girl, after all. That was all she had ever been.

There was a knife tucked into her spine, one forged of harsh words and bad experiences, one she often tried to forget existed. Hirem twisted it. And yet it was in the same motion that Marion decided, as she watched thoughts play across his face through her own flat expression, that this was the Hirem she liked the most. There was no overwhelming sense of misguided righteousness, no judgement for sins real or imagined. He was honest here, open and bare and more broken than she could've thought. There was a long silence before either of them spoke again, and within that silence Marion felt, almost violently, the sensation of being understood on some base level, as if the only difference between he and she was the fact that Marion had been saved while Hirem suffered on.

Velatos' sloppy presence was still heavy in the air, a reminder of some plan she'd had that she wouldn't be able to call a mistake no matter how awry it might've gone. Perhaps if he was still out cold once Hirem was gone, she would revisit the idea. But that was something to worry about later. The immediate issue was figuring out what exactly to do with him in the meantime, and seeing as her newfound partner in crime was already taking it upon himself to haul the akalak toward the door, she simply followed his lead, wordlessly mirroring his grin with a touch of ruefulness as she trailed close behind. The hallway was clear. Of course it was, at this bell, when respectable individuals were tucked away for the night and the only people left to roam about were the kind who dragged unconscious men from their rooms. Regardless, Marion lingered in the hall, keeping an eye out for anyone who might stumble across them, with an explanation of the situation ready on her lips.

She hovered outside Hirem's door, one hand braced on the frame, and watched as he faded into the darkness with his burden in tow. There was a small creaking of floorboards and a groan, and Hirem reemerged a few ticks later, the dim lantern light of the hall catching his features suddenly. Marion backed away in one languid motion, watching his face and the lazy grin he offered her. It was brighter in the hall than in her room, and while that wasn't truly saying much, the expression certainly seemed more pronounced than it had been. She was struck by the foreignness of the gesture, on a face she felt was better suited for scowling. But it was only a mask, wasn't it? Like covering a disembowelment with a bandage. He said something about scrolls that Marion, in her distraction, only half heard, though the name of the place they were kept (Sanktury? Was that meant to be Sanctuary or some local Tukant word she didn't recognize?) echoed, being the last word before he skirted around her and motioned to the stairs.

It took a moment for Marion's mind to catch the suggestion, still sluggish from both the late bell and the surprise of her present company, but once it did a sense of relief rolled across her shoulders, as if she'd just released a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. She hesitated only a moment, just long enough to debate whether or not she should snag her coat from the dresser in her room. But Hirem was already moving, and she decided against it, reasoning that the night chill might do her some good.

She trailed after Hirem like some chaperon, her eyes meeting those of the tavern keeper as she wound her way through the tables. She reflected an explanation in his gaze, and absently wondered what he saw when he looked at them, the large, drunken foreigner whom he seemed to recognize, and the young, pallid-faced girl who dined alone more often than not. They were an odd pair, to be certain, and though he must have seen far stranger things in his time, she was sure whatever guesses he could hazard or private conclusions he could draw about the nature of the relationship between the pair were far from accurate. That, at least, brought a furtive smile to her lips as she slipped through the door.

Like the somber accompaniment to Hirem's wide-flung jaunt, Marion followed his through silent city streets, trying to make a point of walking beside rather than behind him, though it was he who decided when and where they turned or paused. The air between them was curiously relaxed, almost comfortable. And after feeling so cooped up with the stench of alcohol, the breeze was more refreshing than she had thought it would be. A silence settled over them, punctuated every now and again by Hirem's occasional noise-making, but generally and uncharacteristically peaceable.

But they eventually came to a stop on the bridge, and the upward gusts from the city's namesake ushered a shift in the mood. Marion glanced at Hirem directly for the first time in several chimes, noting the sudden slouch in his posture and the moonlit sheen in his eyes casting a faraway look. And as he began to speak, Marion mirrored him, bracing her forearms against the rail to his right and peering down into the nothingness below. She knew, even from her limited interaction with him, that he could get like this, weaving words together, almost effortlessly spilling his thoughts for the world. He was quite articulate, despite the few stumbles in his voice that told her Common was not his first language. He had the potential to be a good orator, she thought. Or preacher. Perhaps he was, once upon a time, before his faith had been so shaken.

So she let him talk, uninterrupted, listening to the deep intonations of his voice, letting his words float on the air around her, let their meaning seep into her flesh. She didn't even bother to correct his calling her Mary, a nickname for which would have ripped anyone else to shreds in any other moment. And as he finished, Marion was caught dizzyingly off guard by a burning sensation behind her eyes. An uncomfortable heat rose to her face, unfettered by the stinging cold mist in the air, and while she turned to meet his gaze, she found she couldn't. The sadness and burning expectation that met her there was too much for the moment, so she instead tilted away from him. Shame and anger burrowed their way into her throat, and something heavier too, something she recognized but couldn't put words to.

How long had it been since she had last cried? It felt as if it'd been forever, and longer still since she'd cried for another. She braced a palm against her brow, applying a pressure there to ward off the sensation. Why did she feel the urge now? It couldn't have been Hirem's tragic experiences, which he'd relayed before without her so much as batting an eye. Maybe it was because she understood him in ways she could not comprehend. Maybe it was because she saw herself, or the little girl she used to be, in his hopelessness, in his despair. Maybe it was the lost look in his eyes as if he had been orphaned by the world, the one that made her wish she could tell him that she knew how to make the nightmares go away.

It suddenly seemed that the game was over, that she had wasted her time trying to cure this man of his illusioned view of the world while, the whole time, he had known the truth as well as she did. But he had spilled everything to her, while she had given him nothing. How selfish she had been.

But what was she meant to say? What was she meant to do, besides stare into the watery abyss below, unblinking, and hope the wind dried her eyes before the first wavering tear had a chance to fall? She let a long, silent moment pass between them and leaned further against the railing. It should have terrified her, she knew, the sense of near weightlessness that accompanied the action, as if she were about to be swept off her feet and over the edge. It would be so easy, to simply let herself drop over the edge. (But when had she ever chosen the easy route?) She could imagine the air rushing past her body, the silence of wind in her ears, the utter peace of falling through space. A part of her still anticipated the rush of adrenaline, some momentary panic that would send her toppling backward. It didn't come, of course, and it's absence served to remind her of who she was and what her path she walked. A stillness settled over her and she shuffled back into a less precarious position.

"I... wouldn't say I live without fear." Marion let the words slip from her lips of their own accord, and even as she spoke she didn't know what she would say or how she would say it. But she did know one thing: she wanted this man to know the truth. Not because she owed him that much, though she probably did, but because he deserved it. And it would be up to him to determine whether or not that was a good thing. Still, she could not bring herself to look at him just yet, and she spoke as if to the horizon. Faraway. "I'd say it's more of the opposite, really. You can't live without fear, you can only grow comfortable in her presence. And the only way to do that," a mirthlessly cryptic grin danced its way onto her lips for a fleeting tick, "is to welcome her into your life."

"That's the big secret." A pang of bitterness crept into her voice for a moment, and she straightened, letting her hands leave the rail to wander aimlessly across her arms, tugging at the fabric of her sleeves. "People get so caught up in trying to expel fear, trying to run from fear, that they don't realize they're just making it worse on themselves. Fear is such an ugly truth, they think, and you'd be surprised at just how many people are afraid of the truth."

With an abrupt motion, Marion's fingers fluttered to the front of her shirt and she spun to the side, her back facing Hirem. Slender fingers fumbled with the three buttons below her collar, and with them undone, she turned once more, this time placing her back to the bay. And with her right shoulder facing her companion, unfettered by neither modesty nor the cold, she pulled down the fabric of her shirt to reveal the spiral that made its home on her skin. Black markings, like some unintelligible language, stood stark against her skin. Instances when people saw the mark were few and far between, and instances when Marion willingly put it on display were rarer still. But she knew what to expect, the throb of horror, and she didn't particularly want to frighten Hirem away. Not yet. "This is the truth," she explained quickly before tugging her sleeve back into place.

"The nightmares don't go away, they just turn to dreams when the fear is gone. And fear only leaves when you let it flow through you. Everyone leaves all their terror locked inside of them, like they can forget it exists as long as its kept out of sight. They're lying to themselves. There is no hiding from fear. I told you earlier that it felt like it was building inside of me. Where do you think it went when it was released?"

And finally she looked back towards him, casting her gaze at him in a glace with only the slightest tilts of her head. There were so many things she wished to tell him, so many things she wished he could understand, as if whatever wavering kinship she'd felt between them, even in its significance, was not enough. She wanted him to know everything she knew, to see everything she saw. Perhaps then she would not feel so alone in her fight, a solitary soldier in a war against the world. Or perhaps she would simply be satisfied that this particular battle was over. Either way, where was she supposed to begin? "There are two options: unleash your fear on others and be saved, or stop running. Stop running, leave the cage open, let your greatest fear consume you. And if you survive that, nothing less will be able to faze you."

She paused a moment in silent consideration before continuing, seemingly jumping topics. "That first night we met, the only reason I approached you was because I wanted to destroy you." She didn't bother explaining why, not just yet, because that wasn't what she was trying to get at. "I wanted to rip your mind to shreds. So don't begrudge your instincts. Of course, I think the worst I managed to do was remind you of... you know."

She crossed her arms in contemplation. "Which was brought on entirely by yourself. Sometimes I wonder if the same would have happened if I'd just seen you in the street. I wonder if I did anything but exacerbate a process that was already in motion." A rueful grin smile flashed across her face. "I guess that's really all I can do anyway. People have to face their fears eventually, and I can only hope to speed up the process.

"In any case, this mark," she touched a hand to her now-covered shoulder. "It lets me see into the darkest corners of another's soul, because my goddess is not so apathetic as your Yahal seems to be. I've seen your greatest fear, Hirem. Do you know what it is?" There was a momentary silence. Her next words carried accusatory weight, but were delivered with a tenderness that felt foreign on her tongue. She sighed. "I don't think fear ruined you. I think you ruined you."
Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy.
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Marion Kay
Flung out of space.
 
Posts: 144
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Joined roleplay: November 11th, 2014, 8:03 pm
Location: Riverfall
Race: Human
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