The Comedown

Caspian starts the new season off on a good note.

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

The Comedown

Postby Caspian on September 17th, 2018, 1:31 am

16 Fall 518

It’s the dead hour decidedly past carousing and still a laggard’s throw before industriousness when Caspian drags himself west through the Noble District, across the fringes of the Merchant’s Ring, and towards the Docks, where according to someone’s scrawl and his own long-past flourish, overriding all recent habit and preference, is what he calls home.

Dawn is breaking behind him when Caspian stumbles into his unit, clutches himself down long, poorly lit hallways - or is he barely holding his eyes open? - somehow catapults himself up two flights of stairs, and finally, heaves himself over his own threshold and into a bed chilled and musted by months of triumphantly volitional absence.

For exactly 37 minutes and 51 seconds, he lies there in a tangle, barely registering his own arm crushed in awkward, cricket-like angularity beneath him, and listens to his heart beat. Even when pushed to his mental and physical limits, his instinct for the metronomic is near impeccable. It’s a helpful attribute, sometimes, in the obviously, immediately applicable sense - but there are other times, like this one, too exhausted to do more than crumple but system too thrumming to sleep, where he is sentenced to exist only to involuntarily track the chimes.

Before the advent of the 38th minute - an arbitrary marker, but one that compels him to continue breathing all the same - he finds the reserves to grit past his involuntary shudders and reconfigure his broken marionette’s limbs until he’s curled on his side, his respiration no longer, at least, hindered by partial smother. He had made up his mind to follow this momentum and move again immediately, but improbably, a sense of complacency washes over him, and he becomes too overwhelmed to do more than lie there.

If he actively counts the chimes now, he only dreams it - and when he wakes, the sun is streaming through his window, and the clattering of tankards and silverware can be heard once more from the Silver Sliver, not so far and somewhere below.

It occurs to him, as he forces himself upright and staggers across the room, that he had never taken off his shoes. If he stoops to pull them off now, he’ll topple, he’s sure of it, and all that besides, one thing at a time, first thing being his chamber pot - his excursion there passing, thankfully, with nothing novel - his next-first-thing being his washbasin, to see if something can be done about the layer of acridity that seems to have applied itself to the entirety of his tongue.

The visage that greets him in the mirror above the basin is even more pathetic than what he'd steeled himself for. A convulsion grips him suddenly, one that by his age he’s too familiar with, and for a split second he calculates the distance between here and his chamber pot, factors in the average level of adroitness he holds during these morning-after’s, and then out of frenzied optimism decides to also factor in the extra burst of speed his erupting level of fear and revulsion might grant him - but in the end the gentlemanly thing to do is what he does, which is grip both sides of the basin and heave the contents of his guts directly in.

It’s a hackneyed joke, one that he’s managed to play against himself, to vomit at first sight. As he shudders, glaring at himself in the mirror, he resolves to never tell another living soul about it.

No two ways about it - he looks absolutely ghastly. Hair askance, matted and crusting with something he can’t quite name - lip split from a moment, last night, where he had not thrown up his arms quick enough, and his mouth and jaws are one long wince now, one that he feels quite acutely, though thankfully he doesn’t seem to be missing any teeth. He steps back a little - though with one hand still firmly anchoring him to safety to the basin - to view more of himself in the glass.

His jacket is ruined.

A truer sense of the totality of the wreck he is and the degree of catastrophe the previous night had been become irrevocably apparent. There’s a pang in his heart as he takes in the grime that’s been charred into the silk, the blood that settled and congealed in the seams and beneath his collar, the embroidered silver sedges now hacked and swans gutted to unrecognizability, that dangle now in formless tendrils down his torso and sleeves.

The world wavers, and heat rises to his skin. The cocktail of chemicals - actual cocktails and otherwise - that had been, as they so often are in those settings, generously administered to him last night are wearing thin. These symptoms, too, are familiar to him, and this particular ritual practiced enough for him to know that he ought to just lie down again; that the haze clouding his conceptions of the past, present and future, with the contradictory accompanying hyper-attention to irrelevant details - like the asymmetry of one of the floorboards, or that last night Jaleen had said he ought to wear more blue and he had preened - just mean that the chemicals are wearing out their welcome. All this, in imperfect storm, which will take little more than lying still to weather, means that in only a matter of hours the world will right itself for him again.

But – the thought manifesting with more severe chill than the ones seizing his limbs – though he will inevitably repossess his mind, that will be the full extent of his recovery, and there is no regaining everything that he had just lost.

And for an absolutely ridiculous blunder too.

What were even the odds that he’d fish the wrong note out of his pocket, that he would press it into exactly, diametrically the incorrect hand? That it would contain a missive written to such a degree of specificity that it was subsequently impossible to deny the author, and its intended recipient, and the scope of his betrayal? (He really shouldn’t be so indignant - frankly, the odds were quite reasonably high. He has a finite number of pockets and just two hands and only so many figures bearing fears and requests and motivations to keep track of, because this should have been easy, this was easy and one-going-on-two whole seasons too, this web not so much a web but a petching skipping rope one hardly needed much wit to navigate, so this is his own fault, getting thrashed about their parlor when things came to light and being hounded down the banisters and it was also his own fault that he found himself in a position where he had to choose whether to jump out a window and then he did, so-)

The bed’s a little warmer now. He doesn’t remember reaching it, or pulling off his boots, or wringing himself out of his tarnished coat and abandoning it on the floor. The noise from the Silver Sliver’s a little livelier now, and he supposes it must be around noon.

How many times – though at this point, of no benefit to wonder – has he narrowly avoided making this sort of mistake? For all he knows, it is every time, and always, and maybe he is actually quite clumsy, in all his actions and his words, the most pitifully maladroit. Maybe he’s only gotten this far because he’s the luckiest half-Vantha bastard on the continent – not too many of those, surely, so if it’s a competition maybe it’s not totally unreasonable to assume he’s winning, and besides, he’s never met another - and he tends to avoid telling people about his father, anyway, the real one, because he hardly looks Vantha to begin with, because what these kinds of people want for their mizas are companions who glimmer, inside and out, companions who deliver, and he hasn’t got any of that at least on the out, he’s none of that aerial mystique but still exotic enough to them all the same, so all that in concert topped off with he just doesn’t like to talk about it, so he won’t, though people ask(ed), so he had a story prepared that granted him origins that are bland, flatteringly tragic but bland, but now that that’s all over he’ll have to come up with five new ones, some fairly factual fables, find new patrons with, ideally, favorable features, and more ideally, feckless funds, who fancy his own funny little flavor of flair -

The last coherent thought he manages to parse is that before things had gone sour, Harrel had tried to affect some measure of gallantry, and dubbed Caspian a “silly sparrow,” with a kiss pressed to his temple. Caspian’s never cared much for birds, but he’d smiled all the same, and things could be quite easy with Harrel, who was easy on the eyes, and it was a shame, because if Caspian had to be honest there were things about his arrangement with Harrel that were worth being missed -

He drifts. Beneath him, the city bustles, and the tavern gleams. A shadow soars past and into an alley, from which a young woman eventually emerges, inconspicuously garbed. With quick strides she reaches the unit foyer, ascends two flights of stairs, flurries through the narrow hallways - and with decisive twists and turns, enters Caspian’s apartment, shutting and bolting the door softly behind her.
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The Comedown

Postby Caspian on October 1st, 2018, 1:22 am

In Caspian’s dreams, a wind, wildly wailing, drags him through his unit and out into the streets, past the tavern and over canals and docks, the bridges over the murky waters shifting impossibly, tessellating into dead ends and avenues he isn’t entirely certain exist. The wind takes him backwards into Sunberth, through familiar narrow alleys and even more familiar and narrower hallways, with increasingly frantic speed, until he is pitching down cracked stone steps where in youth he used to linger, and he’s tumbling backwards, suddenly through flurries, body breaking into powdery mounds of snow - and if he throws his eyes up to the auroras that snake so often through Avanath skies his hands then follow- and he is falling, somersaulting, ricocheting rapidly regardless of matter and berth-

Until he strikes his bed, and the world again is full of light.

Which, for his aching head, is almost too much to bear.

Following instinct, he leans over the side of his bed, and heaves dry. The last of the heavy dosage of toxins that he had consumed and imbibed the previous night are stubbornly clinging to his inner linings. What matters is that he’s already rid his system of most of it, when he threw up earlier, into the-

Right. The washbasin.

The thought makes him grimace. He staggers to his feet, head swimming, but his thoughts and perceptions imbued with a greater and reassuring level of lucidity. Better the basin than the floors, he supposes- coming from the angle of, what, it’s less disgusting so long as it’s contained?

But the basin is empty. And, somehow, cleaner than how he’d left it.

Had he not vomited at all? Had he simply been so sick and tossed out of his mind, striking a low peak on the previous night’s binge, and wanted so badly to rid his body of the offending substances that he’d desperately imagined doing so?
It isn’t impossible. But it sets him on edge, this discrepancy between this reality of modestly gleaming porcelain, and his memory of the chain of events that led to him bolting for his life across the city and into his own bed for the first time in over a season.

With his higher caliber of perception comes an even keener understanding of the extent to which he’s a physical wreck. The bags under his eyes are more pronounced than normal, his eyes themselves gone bloodshot, his split lip scabbing to black. His skin’s a mottled mess, some parts ashen, his jawlines coloring over with bruising. Then comes the nausea- were his skin not this dark, he’d surely be showing green. Tiredly, he rubs at his eyes, leaning closer over the basin towards his reflection, lamenting over his eyeliner gone haywire, the precise placement of dark kohl now pulling downwards into unflatteringly long smudges, and the gold liner he uses to brighten in contrast frayed into a lackluster remnant across the tops of his cheeks.

Despite the ache remaining in his limbs that tempts him to dive back into bed, he takes the time to scour his skin, biting through all winces and removing every trace of the makeup he’d worn, and the blood that had mingled over it. Through sheer determination alone he will erase the evidence of a night gone south, of not just one but two reliable patronages shot straight to implosion, of over a season’s worth of timely smiles and illicit romps and dodgy maneuverings that had just gone to waste. No part of it- or so it seems to him at this moment- is salvageable.
Supposing, then, he finds someone else? Or someones again, plural? Who, in those circles of wealth, had he not already met, or hasn’t heard of him, and preferably hasn’t even heard of Jaleen or her people, or of Harrel and his father, a luxury textile distributor whose influence was prominent enough that he’s seen even urchins blowing their noses with scraps of one of his signature satin-trimmed handkerchiefs?

Everyone in those circles surely must have heard the news by now, that the dark-eyed dasher had turned out to be nothing more than a scrawny, undergrown, bastard-eyed equivocator whose list of notable accomplishments is primarily characterized by proving the degree to which he is utterly expendable.

Self-flagellation is not, historically, something he’s made a habit of, but the feeling envelops him now, weightier than he cares to give it credit for being, hanging noose-like round his neck, sagging his frame. The lovely jacket Harrel had given him, the adornments so precisely to his countenance and taste, hangs limply from a hook by the door, now a frayed, disembodied husk, when once he had breathed life into it, and it into him.

It occurs to him dimly, as he kneels and peers underneath his bed in search of a small pouch of stray mizas he hopes he left concealed there, that he doesn’t recall hanging the ruined article. Sloughing it off with exorbitant difficulty, and defeatedly letting it abandon itself to the floor, yes- but when had he found the heart to stoop and retrieve it, and also walk it back across the room to pin it up there?

The money he’d squirreled away here doesn’t reveal itself to him immediately. It’s all dust there, thankfully not so distressing an amount, just the collective that had escaped his typical fastidiousness, due to his prolonged absence- just dust, and the oblong case wrapped in dark canvas housing his violin.

It must have slipped more than a few cents out of tune by now, without him to gently coax and tighten with incremental adjustment day after day, as he once did.
Impulse makes him falter for a moment, and for a second he reaches- but there’s the more pressing issue of taking stock of the remnants of his being and his wallet, whatever may be left of those things now that he’s got no one to float him. He’d been so sure he’d tucked the money between one of the slats in the bed frame- but if not there, then it must all be in the dresser, and at this his exasperation with himself only grows more vocal in his head, because he ought to have known there wasn’t anything but the abandoned instrument beneath his bed, it isn’t like he owns very much to begin with, and if he wants to feel he’s worth his spit the very least he can do is know where his money is, of all things, to know and not properly know and forget. This silent cycle of admonishment isn’t typical of him, no, neither is being this scatterbrained- he’ll blame the liquor and drugs, then, the hangover and the comedown, and he’ll blame himself for running headlong into both. So he’ll check the dresser, and if it’s there he’ll count it, and if it’s not there he’ll, well, figure it out from there, but first is making it there, to the dresser-

It occurs to him suddenly that he’s not alone.

Acting on an instinct, one less born in him and far more violently bred, he extricates himself from beneath the bed frame and dives for the dagger he’d left underneath his pillow- another practice that even the most blown-out stages of his high couldn’t muddle. By the next beat he’s whirled around, dagger raised, and with his back against the dresser, a place from which he knows he can survey the entirety of the room with no risk of being blindsided.

Despite readying for the worst, it shocks him still, badly, to see a lone, hooded figure cloaked in formless swaths of grey standing in the center of the room.
In contradiction to the small sense of victoriousness he had allowed himself at the idea of being more sober now than he was before, some part of him had hoped that he had not, in fact, sobered up very much at all, and that consequently his conviction that some malicious stranger had followed him home was due only to fleeting paranoia, as so often went hand-in-hand with this state of mind. That, of course, would have been much more preferable to the reality, that reality being the possibility that either Jaleen or Harrel had sent their own agent to tail him home and finish what they had started.

“My goodness, Caspian- is this how we say hello?” The intruder sighs and draws back her hood.

Caspian freezes.

Then tightens his grip on his dagger, and raises it ever so higher.

“Taalviel? What are you doing here?” he snarls.

His sister purses her lips in disapproval- and she didn’t used to do that, that’s a relatively recent expression, because she, in her Kelvic alienation and general disinterestedness in interpersonal affairs, has to be convinced to expand her range of expression, and it’s only ever perfunctory, towards greater and gainful design. “I think you really ought to lie down-“

“-who sent you?” he demands, doing his utmost not to budge, but he may have exerted himself more than he should have. Nausea rises in his gut, and his vision begins again to dip.

Taalviel frowns and doesn’t reply. It’s typical of her, and never not-infuriating- when she’s deemed something isn’t worth answering, criteria derived from foundations frustratingly ambiguous and self-contradicting, she doesn’t respond, barely even acknowledges you’d queried at all.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” he growls at her, even as the lights suddenly dim, and sickness is rising across his skin- then the world is falling away from him and he’s tipping backwards, not so different than how he’d done in his dream, spiraling back into frenetic lapses and feverish lulls. In the end, he’s guided back to his bed by Taalviel, who sweeps his hair away from his flushing forehead with cool, calm hands that - to her constant credit - do no further prying.
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