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A cry for help and the end of an era.

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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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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Hirem on August 5th, 2015, 4:46 am

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9th of Summer, 515 AV

A year ago, Hirem first arrived in Riverfall to behold a city of wonders. Guarded by high walls and powerful warriors, the settlement stood proud and tall against the untamed wilderness of Cyphrus. Surpassing both Yahebah and Ahnatep as a place of unparalleled beauty, Hirem fell in love with the city's streets, its parks, its gorgeous vistas of the sweeping Suvan Sea. It was hard to imagine anyplace in the world so heavenly, especially after four years in the desert with nothing but hard sand and terrible memories for company. And, most importantly, in Riverfall Hirem found a home. In the Burning Lands, there was naught to find in the dune sea but danger, disease, and death. Taking a chance to wander an unexplored ravine could leave you dead, swallowed up in the stomach of a merciless creature. And the people of Eyktol, Hirem's kinsmen, left him feeling nothing but shame, for his memories of them all were twisted with sin. Eypharian, Chaktawe, Benshira... all of them had felt the taste of his malice. But in Riverfall, this sweltering city of thousands, was new to him. Here there were people willing to look past his mistakes; here there were people willing to embrace him as one of their own. It was unlike anything he had dreamed of.

This city was a paradise on earth. So of course, Hirem had ended up destroying it.

He never wanted to bring darkness to this beautiful city, but he could not stop himself from corrupting it. His nature was to befoul beauty and murder kindness. He had taken Riverfall, a city of tranquil peace, and filled its nights with attacked women and sobbing children, with dark revelations and even darker witches. His hands had wrapped around too many a throat, his words condemned too many to ill fates, for him to ever turn his path around. When he walked through the city streets late at night, they whispered back to him with the names of his victims. Marion. Timothy. Stella. Netanel. This place had supposed to give him the great opportunity he had always wished for, a second chance at life... instead, he let the misdeeds of the past creep back into the present. Indeed, it was impossible to tell if, after Hai, he would ever approach anything resembling 'decent' ever again. He was a wicked man, a brutal killer, a loutish thug, and a terrible father. And with every passing day, a more horrid drunk.

It was dark now, the only time of day Hirem felt comfortable taking to the streets. During the day, when the city was busier, he could not handle the wayward stares and hushed whispers that accompanied his haggard-looking appearance. At least at night, he only had to deal with the Akalak, who paid him little attention. Well, save for the Kuvay'Nas, who began to grumble about his continued presence in the city. Another season the way you're acting, and you'll be left to deal with the Sea. The threat loomed tall over Hirem's head, bringing a sour frown to his face as he walked quietly down the empty street. In one hand he clutched an empty bottle, its contents settling deep in his stomach. In the other, he carried a heavy burlap sack, hefted over his shoulder. Though it was only filled with paper, the weight it carried in his mind made every step he took felt unimaginably heavy. It was like carrying an anvil to his back, upon which he forged his transgressions. Gritting his teeth, Hirem deliberately avoided contact with people as he walked down the street, his mind entirely focused upon his grim purpose.

Finally, he arrived at his destination: the bridge overlooking Plunge Pool Bay.

Many times before he had come across this bridge, and stared down into the depths of Plunge Pool Bay as the Bluevein trundled along behind him. Many times before he had stared down into the darkness of the Bay, and wondered what it would be like to fall down into it. Whether he would survive or plummet to the lightless ocean depths. The dread the Bay gave him made it uniquely suited for the task Hirem now undertook. Taking a deep breath, the Benshira set the sack down on the ground and opened it up with trembling hands. Laying within, bundled into a messy pile, were his Penita Scrolls. Copies of Yahal's holy text, passed down from generation to generation within his family. When Hirem was younger, he had sworn solemnly to his father that he would pass the Scrolls down to his son, when he bore a son. At that, Raim had smiled, and placed a hand upon his shoulder. "My son, you will one day become a mighty soldier of our faith... but know that true strength lies only with your family. Take care of them, provide for them, and you shall know what it truly means to be blessed by Yahal."

And now Hirem's son could not even read Shiber, let alone care for what Yahal thought. Just one of his many failures.

The Benshira took a deep breath. "I'm sorry," he murmured once, before tipping the sack into the sea. Before he could blink, the Scrolls were gone, swallowed up by the darkness of the night, already consumed by the hungry maw of Plunge Pool Bay.

He stared into the black surface of the water, dwelling on the ramification of what he had just done. Any moment, Hirem expected to feel a great relief come over him, and the weight on his chest would snap free to leave him a changed man. His fists bared themselves into tight balls, his breath coming heavy and staggered. Any moment now, he would become a free man. From this moment forward, he was no longer bound to the past, to Yahal, to his damnable family... that was supposed to make him happy. But Hirem didn't feel anything. He just stared for a long time, uncaring of how close he came to slipping into the Bay himself.

And then the panic settled in. A great nameless fear arose within him, whispering to him with the voices of those long dead. The Scrolls, settling themselves into the water, now carried in his mind the body of his close kin, the alien darkness swallowing them up like it did to Hirem himself in Hai. Gasping for breath, Hirem dropped to his knees, bracing his head in his hands. "No... no no no no..." In a fit of desperation, he had thought that he could be free of his past just by discarding what fragments of it remained in his possession... and now he had to live with the knowledge he had just destroyed the last remnants of his beloved parents.

It was too much for Hirem to handle. Tossing the bottle aside and watching it plummet into the Bay, the Benshira picked himself up and staggered down the street. He didn't know where he was going, only knew that it had to be somewhere.

- - -

A few bells later, that somewhere turned out to be the front door of Rosela's mansion.

He knew that this was uncalled for. While he had shared a tender relationship with the woman during the winter that threatened to blossom into something more during the spring, the time for that seemed long past. Without thinking, they had drifted apart, Hirem thanks to his child, and Rosela due to her own. Besides, after things had righted themselves in Riverfall, he had come to realize that there were many things about Rosela he just... could not agree with, and things he saw in himself he did not wish to expose her to. They had been better off apart.

But now Hirem needed someone. He needed her.

"Rosela!" he barked, knocking twice on the door. "Rosela, it's me. Please open up, I..." he took a deep breath, resting his head against the wooden frame. "I need your help. I don't know who else to turn to. I - I can't trust anyone else. Please," he whispered, his voice fearful. "Please just open up."
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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Rosela on August 5th, 2015, 12:55 pm

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Rosela awoke in the midst of a hot flash, sweat making her sheets cling to her like a spider’s web. Still half asleep, she panicked and began thrashing, the heavy weight on her stomach making her nauseous. Something had caught her; something had come to take the child inside her; it was going to-

All at once, her legs came free and the rush of the cool night air awoke her fully. Goosebumps broke out over her arms and she stilled. Four hands settled over her belly, as though to check if it was still there. In spite of herself, she was relieved it was. Something hadn’t taken it from her…yet.

Heaving herself up with a groan, she sat with her legs dangling off the bed, toes inches from the plush rug below. The rug’s fibers under her feet would be no consolation, she wanted the bare floor to cool her. All six arms leveraging her weight upwards, she shifted her weight from the bed and walked across the dark room. It appeared as lit in twilight to her Akajia-marked eyes, though a glance at the window next to her bed showed no signs of the sun.

The cold floor was indeed a pleasant shock, and she relished the feeling as she made her oft-travelled way to the bathroom. She’d long gotten used to the fact that if she was awake, she needed to pee. Always.

She had no reason to venture into the courtyard after that, but she did anyway, after retrieving her creamy silk robe from the closet. Neither the shadows nor the moon cared that she had not a stitch of makeup on, or that her hair was a mess, or that she was tired and puffy from months of interrupted sleep. Once, she would have cared. Now, the child inside of her had robbed her of that dignity and made simple moments like the rush of the cool night air the finest of pleasures. Fully awake and disturbed by her fear upon waking, she wanted that pleasure now.

The night air was indeed a glory on her skin, and it whisked away the last of her night sweats. The cool stone of the courtyard against her bare feet was almost too cold, but she took what pleasure she could from it. Waddling to the iron bench, she slowly lowered herself into it with a long, slow groan, the only noise besides the whispering wind, the hum from the city outside her fortress, and the white noise of Makath chatter from the shadows. She let all of it slide over her like water as she leaned her head back and bathed in the moonlight. The child inside of her was still and she willed it to stay that way just a bit longer. Her life was finally back in her own hands, but as soon as…it happened, everything would change again.

She frowned at the thought, her moment of peace shattered. Her gold undan, the only jewelry she wore to bed, as it was the only piece she could not take off of her own will, felt uncomfortably warm and heavy on her wrist. Even here, in her fortress of a home, she was not safe. By virtue of having a womb, she would never be truly safe in Riverfall.

It was here, under the slow descent of her despair, that she heard it. The bark of her name and two loud knocks upon her door. If not for the stillness of the night, she may not have heard the words echoing after it.

“I need your help…”

It was not Likhren, though she was certain the voice was male. Even in the depths of his gambling and his drinking, Likhren never came to her like this, pleading at her door. More worried at a neighbor seeing a strange man at her door, Rosela pushed up and off of the bench, making her way to the front door as quickly as she could. Touching the columns for support as she passed them, she made it through the foyer and threw open the door.

Of all souls she expected to see on the other side, Hirem wasn’t one of them. How long had it been since she’d seen him? How long since she’d received that wretched letter from the Oathmaster, reminding her of her place and what she was permitted to do? The Hirem who stood before her, reeking of booze, was nothing like the proud man who’d helped her, been a kind shoulder in her time of need, and shared that one, shining, intimate moment -

He’d even grown his ugly beard back.

”Get in here,” she snapped irritably, dragging him in by his collar. Leaning as far as she could, she looked back and forth out the door, peering through the shadows to see if anyone was standing on their doorsteps, wondering why she was welcoming a bedraggled man into her home in the middle of the night. Where once she would have worried for her reputation, now she worried that word would get back to the Oathmaster. Oh, how her times had changed, and not for the better.

”What do you think you’re doing here? It’s the middle of the night!” She hissed, pushing past him to continue into the courtyard. She diminished her ungainly waddle as much as she could, but there was no denying by the light of the moonlight that she was at the absolute height of her pregnancy. Pulling her robe tighter around herself, she lowered slowly into one of the iron benches. Even if he hadn’t actually interrupted her sleep, by no gods would she allow him to make her yell at him while standing on tired ankles.

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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Hirem on August 5th, 2015, 5:39 pm

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Part of him wasn't actually expecting that Rosela would answer the call. He would pound and pound on the door for chimes, but from the Eypharian he would receive nothing but silence. After all, why would she bother with the likes of him? They had shared a brief friendship at an ill-conceived time; it was never meant to last. She was marked by a Talvis and bore his child, and he was an outcast that had once threatened to disrupt all of that. She was a lavish businesswoman that lived in a palace, and he was little better than the mongrels that infested the Rat Hole. Most importantly, he was Benshira, and she Eypharian. No matter what else changed in the world, Benshira would never forget the stinging lash of the Eypharian masters. Growing more disheartened the longer he stood at the door, Hirem consigned himself to another weary trek back to the Kulkukan and another late night caught in the grips of a nightmare...

And then the door miraculously opened. On the other side of it, Rosela, but a Rosela he had never witnessed before. A Rosela without makeup. A Rosela at the height of her pregnancy, belly having grown considerably since he saw her last. Indeed, the only thing about her that was familiar was the look of distaste that marked her face.

Staring at her wordlessly, Hirem fancied that he might look quite a shock as well, from her perspective. His red robes were in complete disarray, his sandals fraying apart at the heel, his hair exploding from his forehead in a wild tangle. His beard had grown obscene over the last season, making him look more like a vagrant than a citizen of Riverfall. And in his eyes, there was something manic, something desperate, that marked him as a man running on his last reserves. Truly any amount of strength within him had faded into nothing, replaced instead by this hungry and pitiable creature that now lounged on Rosela's doorstep.

"I-" he made to speak, before suddenly being yanked through the doorway. Still stunned by the Rosela that had greeted him, Hirem did nothing but follow obediently into the mansion, watching as his Eypharian friend checked outside for onlookers. What is she worried about? Will someone judge her for entertaining the likes of me? The thought made his expression sour. Even the person I thought I could trust most, is embarrassed for seeing me. What did he expect?

Following Rosela into the beautiful courtyard, Hirem thought to offer her aid in sitting down - then figured that gesture would just annoy her more than anything else. Instead he leaned against the nearby wall, staring up at the pale moon and struggling to find the words that could explain his actions. You certainly look and sound crazy. I don't imagine you'll hang on to this special friend of yours if you keep behaving like this. Hirem took a deep breath, and then turned his gaze over to Rosela, forcing himself to stare into her eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I know it's late, and I know there are a hundred more things that you must be worrying about. I won't take up much of your time. It's just..." His voice trembled, his eyes now glazed on the floor of the courtyard.

"I didn't have anyone else to turn to. There's no one in this city that I would dare meet with right now, in the state that I'm in now... they'd be ill-prepared for the truth of who I am. Everyone," he growled with distaste, gesturing aimlessly to the walls around them, "everyone has come to see Hirem the Strong as a beacon of faith. They look at me and expect to see answers, expect to see a man standing tall... I cannot face them like this." Pushing himself off the wall, Hirem stalked forward into the open courtyard, hanging his head low. "And, you know, when I tell them about who I am... about what I have done... they tell me that it's all in the past. They tell me that I can move forward and create a new destiny for myself. Ha! If only it were that easy. If only I was willing to forget."

"But you know the truth." Spinning about on his heel, Hirem walked purposefully towards Rosela, trying to muster the last of his composure. But the strength fled him more quickly than he would have liked, and the Benshira dropped to his knees before the Eypharian, an open gesture of supplication. His voice cracking, Hirem bowed his head. "You know everything. You know the names of those I have killed, you know the depths of the hate I once held... I thought that maybe I would not seem so unfamiliar to you. And, at the very least, I thought - well, I thought it would be nice to see you again." He looked up and gave her a weak smile, but his body still trembled terribly, making the man buckle down once more. "Please don't send me away. I am out of options. I would not have come begging to your doorstep if I had another route, but there is none. I can think of no one else I'd rather come to with this."

Pleading now, his hands reached forward and gripped her knees gently. "Tim is gone," Hirem blurted out, shaking his head. "He's left the Sanctuary and the city behind... last I heard, he was bound on a caravan north. North! He could be anywhere by now. Grovelling once more on the streets of a distant city. Back under the slaver's lash. Filling the stomach of some horrible creature!" His eyes watering, the Benshira took a low breath. "And I never got the chance to tell him the truth. I was too scared. The gods have seen fit to punish me, by giving me a glimpse of the son that I might have reared, then snatching him away. And what's more, they made that son hate me. Tim hates me with every fibre of his being... how much worse would it be if he knew that I was responsible for his fate?" Shuddering, Hirem closed his eyes and let his head drop forward, coming to an undeserved rest upon Rosela's lap.

"Just let me stay a moment," he breathed, his whole body trembling. "Please."
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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Rosela on August 5th, 2015, 7:19 pm

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Rosela’s breaths came slow and even as she took measure of the man standing in the shadows of her courtyard, looking no better than if he had become homeless in the season since she’d last seen him. Perhaps he had, she wouldn’t have known either way. He met her tired, irritated gaze and she saw with no small amount of pity that he was miserable, in the truest sense of the word. Yet, in his hour of need, it was her door he came to. For this, she felt a twinge of guilt for her shabby appearance, though it was still better than his. At his lowest point, he’d come to her for support and she’d met him not as a great woman, refined and strong, but as a bonded Nakivak, barefoot, without makeup, and in her bathrobe. She didn’t know what he hoped he could find in her.

She listened in silence as he spilled his heart into the open air between them, and she didn’t move as he came closer. She wondered if he could get it all out, pull these weeds from his mind, whether it would help him. He seemed truly lost and falling into the gaping maw of despair without any hope of support. Well…almost no hope. He’d come to her. If he were any other Benshira in the world, she would have rejoiced to see him kneel at her feet. But he wasn’t any other, he was Hirem, and he was worth more than that. Wasn’t it possible that one could prove themselves beyond the limits of their race?

“…I can think of no one else I'd rather come to with this."

He put his hands on her silk-covered knees, and he looked so small in that moment that he seemed like a child. Rosela pitied him from the depths of her soul. She honestly didn’t know if he was a good father, or what Tim thought of him, but she wanted to believe his good intentions counted for something. When at last his strength ran out, his head landed in her lap, though there was little space left in it. He seemed exhausted, all his sins and worries laid bare for her. She didn’t want him to cry on her silk robe, but supposed it was a necessary sacrifice for this man. Likewise, she didn’t want to touch the unruly mane of hair on his head, but she still laid a gentle hand on the side of his head. ”You can stay,” she said quietly, all judgement and edge gone from her voice. This man had been kind to her, a friend when it seemed so many had turned their backs on her during those queer seasons after her awakening. She wished he had chosen better cards than those he had picked up.

”Come, sit here.” She tugged at his collar until he moved and she patted the bench next to her. ”The ground is cold,” she said simply.

Settling back, she folded all six arms over her belly and looked up at the waning moon. ”When I woke up and found out what had happened to me,” One hand lifted to gesture briefly to her stomach. ”I was terrified. And angry, and disgusted, and very, very…sad. I had become low, I thought. Every dignity and reservation struck away. Even worse, my horrors had to be worn on the outside, for everyone to see. It was with me when I woke up, while I worked; it interrupted my sleep and my meals; it gnawed at me, every chime of every day. And do you know what I did?” She raised her hands with the question and looked over at him, unpenciled brows rising.

”I endured it. I woke up, I worked, I ate, I went to sleep again. Unless I wanted to jump off that wretched bridge,” She jerked her chin out towards the opposite end of the house, where one could faintly make out the waterfall in the distant dark. ”Or be hunted across the grass like a beast, I had to endure. And work. The gods help those who help themselves, and by every one of them, I would not take this fate lying down. Maybe I'll die in a few days time, expelling this creature from me, but if I do, it won’t be as a poor woman.” To speak of her own death that may follow the end of her pregnancy brought a dryness to her mouth and she brought the conversation back to Hirem.

”You will never forget your past. It’s a part of you and always will be. If telling them of your past causes them to shrink from you…then don’t tell them.” She met his eyes again and tried to draw on her reserves of power, but felt only tired. ”When my ordeal is over, I will put it away with my other secrets and never speak of it again. If I have to leave Riverfall to see that happen, so be it. But I will build on this chapter of my life to become greater from it, so help me. You need to find the strength to do that. Bad things have happened, terrible to be sure. But you have to endure.”

She sighed deeply then and patted his hand consolingly. ”And as for Tim? He’s a resourceful boy. He made it this far on his own, and I’m sure he’s sprouting up like a weed wherever he’s settled down. Hopefully, he hasn’t returned to his underhanded ways, but I don’t think he would have. He has a good heart under all that…adolescence.” Still, she felt it was a far stretch to say Tim hated Hirem, though it was possible the boy simply behaved himself around her. ”Why do you think he hates you?”

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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Hirem on August 6th, 2015, 12:30 pm

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By the time Hirem laid his head down across what little space remained of Rosela's lap, he was already past the point of tears. Sobbing was an expression of emotion, and right now the Benshira struggled to feel anything besides a nameless anxiety that threatened to unravel him a seam at a time. Numb to the chill of the stone beneath his feet or the wind that cut through the summer breeze, the man closed his eyes and breathed low, taking what relief he could basking from another's presence. After spending so long shunning the company of others and deliberately isolating himself from the world, it was nice just to breathe in the scent and warmth of someone else. He had been caught up within the confines of his mind, a prison designed by his own hand for endless torments... confiding his worries in someone he trusted allowed Hirem to step outside of the prison for a few blissful moments.

The fact that his hair was grazing Rosela's pregnant belly actually filled him with a quiet joy, his mind filling in for the little heartbeat that her child must carry. He must be due any day now, from the look of her. My mother always described this as the most wondrous time in a woman's life - I wonder if Rosela would agree? He envisioned the baby that was soon expected in her life, and ended up conjuring a strange six-armed blue skinned boy in his dazed imagination. Then he pictured that same boy running amok through this grand mansion, Rosela chasing after with a disapproving glare, and was only barely able to resist chuckling aloud. She would make a strange mother, I think, but her heart is in the right place... too bad that she will not get the chance.

Just as quickly as his mood lightened, it soured again, this time by the reminder that this baby was not for Rosela to keep. What grows within her now is a wound ready to fester, inflicted on her seasons ago by a vicious predator. Thoughts of Likhren, the gold undan around her wrist, and the poisonous word Nakivak made Hirem choke with rage. I would give anything to have the mother of my child be back in his life. Yet the Akalak push their mothers away, to be used as tools for breeding and discarded immediately afterwards. He had always been troubled by the system, but never truly hated it until he came to know of Rosela's plight. Taking a deep breath, Hirem fought to suppress that hate within, for it had no place in this time of healing. Slowly, the man pushed himself to his feet and joined his friend on the bench, leaning forward and resting his arms on his knees.

He listened to Rosela talk without comment, eyes staring up at the peaceful night sky. Inside of him, the worries that gnawed at him constantly were beginning to fade, replaced by fresh worries borne out of a desire to see Rosela safe from harm. If I can only ever harm one more person in my entire life, then I would not hesitate to punish Likhren for his crimes. No one should be made a mother without their consent. The thought that his friend may end up dying as a result of Likhren's attack, falling victim to a pregnancy that was markedly fatal, also troubled him a great deal. But the Benshira also understood that no matter what happened to Rosela, she did not need his help. Indeed, she didn't need anyone's help, for her destiny was hers alone to forge.

"You know," he murmured, glancing over to her and smiling quietly, "when we had that talk at the Alements... I was surprised. I had thought you a typical Eypharian, filled with pride and gusto, but what I saw from you in the winter was something different. You were humble and kind. You were far softer than I imagined you could be. I thought to myself, 'Perhaps this is what Rosela is like underneath all that armour.'" He chuckled then, shaking his head. "I was wrong. There was no armour to begin with. Underneath your strength, there is determination. Underneath your pride, there is a woman that has earned it. You are as you want the world to see you: tough. As hard to break as the walls of Ahnatep itself."

This earnest compliment paid, Hirem ran a hand across his brow, taking a long sigh. "I'm not good with secrets," he confessed. "Never have been. They eat me away from the inside. But if I let my secrets spill freely, I may end up poisoning the world against me. Perhaps..." He furrowed his brow. "Perhaps leaving Riverfall would be for the best. I have a found a home here that I have grown to love, but I am not ready for it. Perhaps my path was meant to continue onwards, past Cyphrus itself, into stranger realms." But even as he voiced this thought, Hirem was doubtful. It took all I had to leave Eyktol behind and venture here. It took all I had to start a new life here. Can I really put myself through that again? Can I expect that it will be better next time? "Who knows?" He sat back against the wall, folding his arms around his stomach. "Perhaps you and I can leave this city together. We'll keep our secrets on the road... you can keep my murders hidden and I won't tell anyone about the time you answered the door in your robe without makeup," he teased playfully.

Then came the most unpleasant topic of discussion. Tim. Hirem's hands trembled as he spoke now, his eyes searching for the cracks in the stone floor. "My son hates me in two respects. He hates the father that never bothered to find him, and he hates the Benshira always trying to pester him. When I first met him, I was struck by how fervent a believer of Yahal he was... now that faith has dried up, replaced only by bitterness. I tried to give him a home, I tried to give him lessons at swordplay, I tried to steer him away from thievery... none of it has gone to his heart. He's a selfish, angry boy," Hirem bluntly stated, "and the world will do him many injustices before it is ready to forgive him. I cannot blame him, of course; it is my fault that any of this even happened. His mother, Stella, was a..." he glanced over at Rosela for a moment, then shook his head. "She was a harlot that was bound to a lonely end in a rat-infested pit called Sunberth. I might have saved her from that life, might have gone with her, but I didn't. I was too afraid that my people would shun me."

Letting out a frustrated noise, Hirem shook his head. "But it is as you said. I must endure, no matter how much I wished things were different." No matter how much I plead for a just end to my sins.

Trying to take his mind off the subject at hand, the Benshira stretched his arm out and clasped his hand round Rosela's shoulders, drawing her into him against the night's chill. "How have you been faring? I... I've been trying to avoid you and many others as of late. I'm sorry I haven't come sooner." He reached his hand out and, despairing of figuring out the 'proper' hand to hold, settled on grasping the middle one. "Has Likhren been treating you fairly? And the babe itself?"
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Hirem
The golden age is over.
 
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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Rosela on August 6th, 2015, 2:52 pm

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Rosela’s lips drew down slightly as he spoke of the Winter, and the person she’d become during that time. She'd come into the Spring with a strong dissatisfaction with the way her life had gone, and had been happy she was able to turn it around. "I..." She hesitated to hell Hirem her feelings on the time. It had been hard for her, but she'd come out the other side with him as a friend, and she was glad of that. "That time, I wasn't myself. I don't know if 'humble' is the right word. I just couldn't...stop...crying." She enunciated the words with ill-disguised scorn. "Everything was so hard and instead of attacking it, how do you say it, head on? I just cried. I was weak. I started to truly believe...that all my plans for my life would come to naught."

For a moment, she was back in her workroom, staring down at the sheet that contained her 'master plan', wondering why she thought it would ever be possible. "Sometimes I wonder if part of me is still stuck in that time. Afraid of the hard work I would need to make it happen." As she stared up at the moon, her eyes were hooded with fear. To die without seeing herself become great was her truest horror, and if she’d stayed that person, she may have seen it realized. Swallowing heavily, she tightened her arms over her belly, trying to hold all of her weakness inside. "I need my armor. It's the only thing holding me together sometimes." She would not be that person again. Maybe now and then, when only the shadows could see, but she would never betray herself again in front of another person.

Hirem's discomfort with secrets was foreign to her, and her confusion showed on her face. How could one not keep one's secrets? It was simply the act of not telling, wasn’t it? His solution to leave Riverfall resonated with her, and though she had considered it loosely an option, she had never considered actually going through with it. Wouldn't they make a pair? The Eypharian and the Benshira, facing the world together? It was comedic in a way, and that was in itself sad. She pursed her lips in mock scorn and threw him a sideways glare. "A woman’s makeup is her very face. You wouldn't dare, you awful man." She didn't need to remind him of her own words that night at Alements - she would take his secrets to the grave.

Tim was, as always, a clearly delicate subject. "Sunberth," she repeated slowly, tasting the word in her mouth. Of the cities in the world, she marked this one as one not particularly worth visiting. "It sounds like you tried a lot with him. There is only so much you can do. Even children with fathers around can go astray and he's too old to lead by the hand. He is his own man, more or less, and he'll have to lay in the bed he's made." She wanted to believe he wasn't the angry boy Hirem knew, but she would remember Hirem's words. Someday, their paths may cross again and she would see what had become of the boy. "Raising a child alone is not a small task, but it can be done. You see it all over this city. It’s not a death sentence that you did not stay with his mother." The words were as much a comfort as she could give. There was no changing the past no, only peace to be made with it. "You can endure this. Somewhere, under all that scruff and hair, is the stone of the desert. We were made to overcome."

Glad for the change of subject, she leaned against him with a dejected sigh, the cool air starting to creep into her skin. The human contact was pleasant, as she received so little of it. She could ask her butler to rub her feet every now and then, but in the end, he was only her employee and was doing it because she asked. "I'm doing as well as can be expected, I suppose. Every day, I expect it to happen," Two arms tightened around her belly. "And every day it doesn't. Likhren has given me some space after, well, we had an argument. He'll come by every now and then, but he could be worse. I think he's waiting until after to see if he can cozy in. He has the Oathmaster on his side now, but it won't be that way for much longer. He’s a twat,” she slipped into irritated Arumenic to show her true opinion of him. ”But he’s not stupid. I’d love to see his face if I tell him I’m leaving the city.” Her own face twisted into a sadistic smile, and the idea of leaving looked even better for the thought of having that one moment to carry with her through the gates.

”The baby is growing, that’s about it. I’d swear I’m bigger than every other woman in Riverfall, but the Oathmaster just says he’s a big boy.” An icy chill ran over her skin and she stiffened. Did she have to say it out loud, why that terrified her? ”Caelum, I’ve been going to him for checkups instead of the Oathmaster. I think he’ll be quite capable…when the time comes.”

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Rosela
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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Hirem on August 7th, 2015, 5:44 pm

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If they were back in Yahebah, Hirem would know what to say in order to assuage Rosela's fears. It was the same thing his mother said time and time again, comforting women of all ages who were about to end their long pregnancies. Trust that our father will deliver unto us a child for us all to share. Then, with a wave of his hand and a respectful bow to the heavens, the prospective mother would be cured of all her wayward nerves. Hirem doubted that Rosela would be calmed by the same platitudes. But then again, in Yahebah, it was easy to be a mother. Though large, the whole city took its time to embrace each new member of the Benshira family, and midwives would flock to the mother's side at all bells of the day. She would want for nothing, for the Sons of Faith were only too eager to make her delivery a comfortable one. And when that child was born screaming into the world, they would be welcomed into the city's open arms. For the longest time, he had simply assumed that the rest of the world had to behave the same way, for who could not offer that same honour to mothers? But here in Riverfall, motherhood was something entirely different. Motherhood was bargained for, bought with an exchange of gold. Motherhood was a function of a woman and ended with the birth of the child. All of Hirem's sensibilities began to tremble then, and he suddenly desired to be free of this strange city at any cost.

But he stayed where he was, holding Rosela close and brushing his thumb idly against the top of her knuckles. It is good to hear that Likhren has been kept at bay, but I fear for what this means for the child. What kind of upbringing can the boy expect, from a father that had raped his own mother? The more Hirem thought about how Rosela came to conceive, the more angry he became. And in this city, it was not only lawful to take a woman while she cannot fight back, but approved of! No doubt Likhren's status will only increase once he has welcomed his son into the world. In the dark corners of his mind, Hirem vowed to murder Likhren with his bare hands if Rosela were to perish as a result of her pregnancy. And though I may be put to death for such grievous revenge, it will be worth it. It was hard to keep these thoughts to himself - surely she could not stand one more moment knowing that Likhren would remain unpunished for what he did to her! - but he didn't want to disturb the thoughts of someone who was about to go through the most difficult experience of her life. At the same time, Hirem was growing tired of keeping his thoughts to himself. This is how I end up sobbing at the edge of Plunge Pool Bay, my family's relics cast aside like trash. If I keep everything inside, one day it will explode.

Finally, Hirem took a deep sigh. "I cannot imagine how you have survived this on your own, Rosela." His confession was soft and slipped away easily into the night air. "What've you been through is... well, it's worse than anything I've heard in a long time. But know that you do not have to do this any longer by yourself. You have friends in this city that will do everything they can to help you." He angled his head to the side and planted a gentle kiss on the top of her brow. "Eypharians are built to handle six arms on their children. I'm sure an overripe Akalak will be no challenge for you."

Then he grew quiet. Pursing his lips, the Benshira bowed his head and closed his eyes, his thoughts drifting into the distant past. The silence between them grew steadily mournful, the only sound the quiet rustling of the wind and their shared breathing, the only smell the faint stench of alcohol still on his breath. Hirem had become aware of the intimate position he found himself now in with Rosela, and his thoughts tended towards the long passed Stella. I always thought that I'd be able to cradle my son like this, holding onto my wife with one hand clasped on her belly. I always thought I'd have this special time with her, time to bask in the great journey we were about to embark upon. Instead she's dead, my son's adrift and alone in this dangerous world, and I sit here with a stranger's child growing in the womb of another woman. No one might have imagined this future for themselves. He had never thought that Stella Mered would become his wife nor have his child, but if he had known that she was pregnant... perhaps things might have been different. Enough. It is as Rosela says; you cannot change the past, so instead you must endure. Look to what you have, not what you can never have again.

So, what did he have now? A tenuous contract with Kavala... a barely remembered friendship with Caelum... a strange understanding with the maddening Marion Kay... dreams for an orphanage doomed to be unfulfilled... and Rosela, his friend from another world. And of course, a lifetime of regret.

This must not continue another day. I must change my path before it heads into destruction. For one wild moment, Hirem imagined what it would be like to have his own child, to go back in time to when Tim was just a babe. He would be able to take the little boy, swaddle him up in blankets, and cradle him in his arms. He would be able to look down upon those little brown eyes and be at peace, knowing that he had found his rightful place in the world as a father. And there, laughing at the sight, would be the mother, and their lips would seal the compact between them to take care of the child until their last days. The daydream made him happy, but he knew that it could never last. He had already gotten his chance with Stella Mered, and he had let fear hold him back. Maybe... just maybe... it's not too late? Maybe I can start again?

The thought sent a chill down his spine.

"Rosela," he breathed, for a moment his voice carrying all the import of the world. "Maybe we can - ah..." Then suddenly the thought was gone, and he shook his head. "It's late. You should be getting your rest. Here," he murmured, helping Rosela up and offering her his body to lean against. "Let me help you inside. It's the least I can do after... well, storming in here." Smiling quietly, his eyes betraying the machinations going on inside his head, Hirem dutifully escorted the Eypharian inside, making sure his pace was comfortably matched against hers, averting his eyes from what he assumed Rosela would want to keep private.
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Hirem
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Hirem
The golden age is over.
 
Posts: 503
Words: 615942
Joined roleplay: November 26th, 2009, 3:50 am
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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Rosela on September 1st, 2015, 9:29 pm

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There was a stiffness that rose in Rosela's spine as Hirem's contact grew more familiar. It was pleasant, but more than a moment of it begin to push at her thresholds. Like a trickle of sand, it was so small at first, but quickly gaining weight by the moment. What did that say about her? Was she so damaged that only passing touches were physically acceptable in her deepest mind? Had Likhren done this to her? Or was she already cracked by the time he came along and drove the nail further into the crevices of her defenses? When in her life had she ever just...been comfortable?

Or was she reading too much into it? Was this how normal people showed friendship? Hirem would know; even if he had such a terrible past, he still once had friends. Even in the city, she knew he must have true friends. Then again, if it was her door he came to in a time of need, perhaps not. She could only be one's last resort as a means of comfort.

In an attempt to move her mind from such gnawing self-analysis, she attempted to take comfort in the thought of a six-armed child inside of her belly. Oddly, Hirem seemed more connected to it than she was. Would it be blue? She hoped not; the color had come to inspire revulsion in her. How would she continue on in this city, feeling so? Remembering? Dreading Likhren's face in the crowd, knowing he would be paired with a tiny face that may look like her own? It was a terrifying thought. She felt Hirem's lips against her forehead, and she made a concerted effort not to stiffen. He was a friend. The only one she had, though she didn't feel like correcting him on that front. His confidence was comforting. "I will...endure," she repeated the word she felt she'd said a dozen times already that night. "We'll see what this child has in store." She would not be frightened, she told herself, she must not.

When Hirem spoke again, it nearly startled her, the silence between them having grown so long. Facing away from him as they leaned together on the bench, he wouldn't have seen her frown as she wondered what he'd meant to ask. Maybe they could...what? A thousand possibilities ran through her mind, none of which she dare give voice to. As much as she wanted to stay out in the moonlight, in the soothing privacy of the night, Hirem's suggestion was undoubtedly correct. She would regret it tomorrow if she didn't sleep soon.

Sighing deeply, she nodded and tried not to put to much weight on his arm as she leveraged herself out of the chair. Hers was a heavy weight, and she wished it on no one else. "I suppose..." she groaned, tucking one arm around his and the others wrapping around herself. They moved towards the nearest door, the entrance to her bathroom, but as the door swung open, she paused.

"Here, let me...Why don't you stay? There's another room, I mean." Stumbling over her words, she tried not to let awkwardness intrude on what she hoped would be a well-received gesture. "I have so many guest rooms, but no one ever stays in them." Tugging his arm gently, she led him back across the courtyard and around the pond, leaving the door to her bathroom open behind them. "I have two more rooms upstairs, but I think stairs are just too much for me right now. There's another, over here..." They passed between the columns of her loggia, and she released his arm to open a door set into the wall. Inside was a sparsely furnished bedroom, dimly lit by a window that looked out onto the street. "We keep it clean but, well, no one...stays." Lamely, she repeated herself and gestured into the room. "You can stay, if you like.""
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Rosela
Bring me pretty things.
 
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Joined roleplay: August 24th, 2012, 7:54 pm
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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Hirem on September 10th, 2015, 6:16 pm

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As he escorted Rosela across the length of her courtyard, Hirem took in the sheer scope of the building his friend called home. Whereas he lived in a cramped tavern by the city docks, Rosela had a small palace to her name. He doubted that it was a mere twist of fate that she should end up so, nor did he expect that all migrants to Riverfall could expect such a lavish future. The seamstress had worked for this future, worked harder than perhaps Hirem had ever worked in his life. She had fought and sweat into a business that she loved, and for her efforts, wealth and comfort was hers in abundance. It made him reflective of the different paths their lives had taken, and he wondered if he had ever stood a chance of earning such riches. Perhaps... if I had done the sensible thing and devoted myself to a true calling. But I chased a god into the Burning Lands, and so I dined on dry fruit and slept in the shadows.

And yet... for all her riches, for all her advances, Rosela was stuck in much the same position that he found himself in. Both were hounded by a distant past, both felt as strangers in this city of the Akalak. Rosela had risen far in her years as a Rivarian, but that did not stop the city from turning against her when the bounty of her womb grew more important. What use was her wealth when she clung to a hospital bed, alone and insensate, the only one willing to vouch for her Likhren? What use was her position when she was forced to limp across her own courtyard thanks to the unwanted child in her belly? Wealth is not the only thing that matters... and a home is useful when you have a family to shelter inside. His mind wandered to Kavala's Sanctuary, and here he struck upon the element that made the Sanctuary so much stronger than Rosela's palace. The Sanctuary is not only more defensible, but it houses a community within. There's a small army inside ready to take care of any problem... cover each other's backs when they need the support... defend themselves and their family from threat. Rosela didn't have that when she needed protection from Likhren. She doesn't have it now when she needs help with her child.

Come to think of it, neither did Hirem.

"Why don't you stay?" Rosela offered, taking the Benshira aback. I couldn't. It was a mistake coming here at all, let alone spending the night... He furrowed his brow and looked over to her, unsure of what to say... but his heart answered before his mind was ready. "That would be lovely," he murmured, bowing his head. Without giving himself time to think, he let himself be led back across the courtyard to the guest bedroom, a satisfied look growing across his features. Part of him couldn't help but delight at the thought of spending a night away from that increasingly miserable tavern room, couldn't help but get a thrill at the idea of sleeping within a mansion. And part of him was secretly enthused with the idea that Rosela wanted him to stay, wanted him at hand rather than sending him back out into the vast night. His friend had a place for him here, within the confines of her mighty home. It was a joy that Hirem had only gotten to experience rarely in the past ten years. But he couldn't exactly forget the fact that he had come here solely because he had grown particularly drunk and desperate this haunted night. Why should Rosela be afflicted with his presence any longer?

Taking a few steps forward into the guest bedroom, Hirem cast his eyes about the place before returning his gaze to Rosela. "And you have two more rooms just like this?" He whistled, shaking his head. "You can take the Eypharian out of Ahnatep, but good luck getting Ahnatep out of her." Out came a deep breath, then Hirem plopped himself down on the bed and took off his weary sandals. Already the bed underneath him felt like the most heavenly rest he could ever imagine having, and the Benshira smiled as he laid one hand against the soft mattress.

Then, a wistful tone took over his voice. Hirem looked up to Rosela, brown eyes shimmering in the dim light. "You know," he began, his words barely a whisper in the dark, "I once said to you that I did not feel that I was ready to become a father. That I wanted to rebuild my life before starting a family. That was before I thought I had a chance of losing Tim a second time." His fingers turned over each other again and again, his gaze growing distant. "I realize that I was being a fool. There was no right time to be a father. All that mattered was whether you were or weren't one. I wish that I had been there for Stella when she was having my child, but destiny did not work out that way. I wish that I had done more for Tim in the short time he was here, but I didn't, and now he has slipped from my grasp again. I spent too much time worrying about ifs and maybes, and not enough time worrying about what was in front of me."

"I haven't prayed to Yahal in a long time. Perhaps I've just grown out of the habit... or perhaps I no longer believe. But I have decided to stop having faith that things will work out the way I intend. There is no more room for faith. There can only be action." Slowly pushing himself to his feet, Hirem came close to Rosela and leaned his arm against the nearby wall, staring her in the eye. "I am a father, and I am your friend. If you need anything... or if you feel that it's all too much to bear... just let me know. I - " Then came the hardest part of all. He took a deep sigh, then shook his head. "I lost my chance to raise one child. It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Don't... don't let that happen to you. No matter if it's this child or... or another opportunity to start a family. Just don't waste it."
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Hirem
The golden age is over.
 
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Our Last Days (Rosela)

Postby Rosela on September 11th, 2015, 1:25 am

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Rosela huffed a laugh at Hirem's quip, unsure if she agreed. "Maybe Ahnatep is in these walls... We'll see how long they stand." She wanted to believe the stone of the desert was still in her...but sometimes it seemed hard to find. Deep down, his amazement at her home warmed her, as flattery always did. She longed to hear more of it, to be adored, fawned over, and even envied, but Riverfall and the child inside her soured even that deep part of her mind. She was nothing to be envied now.

Despite her shame at the sorry state of the room, she was glad Hirem found it cozy. She didn't want to consider where he'd been staying if such a plain room gave him such comfort. Leaning against the door frame, she watched him settle into the mattress with a small smile, glad she could, at least for a time, drive away the pain that had plauged him when he arrived.

"I'm glad you haven't let your experience with Tim hurt you too deeply. I truly believe he's doing just fine. He's got his father's strength, even if that's all you could give him in the end. Life happens. All you, all anyone, can do is the best they can at the time." Her smile became brittle at the mention of starting a family anew. The monstrous child inside of her frightened her, when she let it, and when she imagined for a moment her future as a mother, it twisted in her belly in a way not unlike those many, many mornings of sickness.

She didn't move as he came closer, but she maintained as much of her smile as she could, even as her eyes slid away from his. "A family? We'll see. I don't-" She stopped herself, the corners of her lips downturning for just a moment. Hirem had just found the strength to be a father; she would not darken that with her own revulsion for her offspring. "We'll see what the future holds," was the best she could manage. "You deserve another chance. Just one more. I think you have it in you to be a great father."

Outside, an owl hooted in the distance. A brief, cool breeze, drifted into the room, bringing with it the promise of a chilly morning dew. Grunting as she pushed off the wall, Rosela felt the conversation close like a book, a long story with its ending still yet to be written. Sighing, she gestured vaguely across the courtyard, to the large double doors under the other end of the loggia. "The kitchen is through there. There's...potatoes? For the morning?" She frowned, trying to remember if there was anything else. "Help yourself. Water closet's through here." Hand dropping, she nodded her head at the door next to the bedroom's.

Unsure of what else to say, she started to drift backwards, shuffling her feet. "Cool night, restful sleep," she said wistfully in Arumenic. "And thank you," she paused, arms wrapped protectively around herself. "For coming, I mean. You are always welcome." With that, she faded back across the courtyard with as much grace as she had left.
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Rosela
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