Solo Friends and Benefits

Nightmares and nighttime company

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The Diamond of Kalea is located on Kalea's extreme west coast and called as such because its completely made of a crystalline substance called Skyglass. Home of the Alvina of the Stars, cultural mecca of knowledge seekers, and rife with Ethaefal, this remote city shimmers with its own unique light.

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Friends and Benefits

Postby Autumn Rose on July 2nd, 2020, 5:27 am

The moon that watched from above smiled down on her, its crescent grin wet with blood. Something about the surroundings said she knew the place. It came echoing out of her mind, some long distant memory that had faded somewhat but wasn’t quite gone. There was familiarity, but in the moment, it was as if she was seeing it for the very first time. The feeling was haunting, like déjà vu of a place one was certain they had never entered. She wanted to be out and maybe not just because of this feeling.

Her heart was pounding in her chest. Her hands were sweating. Her breath came raw and ragged against her throat, and she had to cough to breathe freer. The panic that rose in her chest could only mean one thing. She was in danger. She was being chased.

Instinctively, her hand reached to her belt where she knew she had something to defend herself. Tugging at something once, she felt it pull free from her belt. She glanced down at her hands, only to find they weren’t hers.

They were a man’s hands, a small man’s but a man’s nonetheless. Furthermore, Autumn knew these hands. She had watched them grow into what they were now. These were
his hands, Maro’s hands. She was him, but where were they?

In the hand was Maro’s bolas, the one thing he carried that could do him some good in defending himself. It wasn’t much in close-quarters, but it could serve as a rudimentary club. Their hand gripped it tightly, ready to use it for just such purposes.

Autumn didn’t like this. Maro didn’t either. She could tell, because she knew she wasn’t the one controlling their emotions.

It was odd to be him, to feel him. If she was being honest, it was odd to feel at all, but her preoccupation with the notion was quickly forgotten as fear rose in them once more. Maro, as a Kelvic, was more in touch with the instincts that drove the primal beings that walked the world. Those instincts had reached a heightened scream that said fight or run.

Neither she nor Maro knew where the danger was coming from, only that it was coming, so they cast their eyes about, in hopes they would see it before it found them. Beside them, running at an even pace, was another person who looked as frightened as Maro felt. As his eyes caught theirs, the other person’s eyes changed color, from what to what she couldn’t tell as Maro’s gaze swept forward again.

Vantha! The haunting realization of where they were erupted in Autumn. This was Alvadas. This was the Underground. This was the fight to save the Vantha. That meant this only ended one way. Maro died. Autumn’s heart ached at that thought, or perhaps that was their chest.

By the Goddess, their lungs ached, and their throat burned with every gasp of air. The harder they breathed, the less air they got as gasps turned to wheezes, but something said they had to go on. Something was desperation. Something was whatever pursued them.

Next to them, their fellow refugee began to flag, the pace too sharp and too heavy to maintain. Maro’s pace slowed for a moment, and their hand reached out to catch the child’s to drag her along.

How could he be so strong. He was so small and had so little to give, but he gave it anyway. Pride, Autumn’s pride, somehow surfaced in them, though it wasn’t an emotion present in Maro’s moment. Inexplicably, this pride gave Maro a renewed strength, and he put on a burst of speed, pulling the hunted Vantha along behind him.

Hope sprang up. Somewhere ahead was the exit from the Underground, one that would put them close to the Patchwork Port and a ship headed away, maybe back toward Avanthal, maybe just out to sea. The sea was a lonely place, but loneliness could mean safety.

Hope was a petty friend and the downfall of fools and heroes alike. They weren;t sure which of those they were. Perhaps both. But one thing was certain. Those who depended on hope quickly learned that the world is rife with disappointment.

Just before they fell in behind the others on the final sprint, a man cut them off from an alleyway just ahead. His intent was clear in his eyes; his purpose, murderous. Maro couldn’t be certain whether it was greed that drove the man and the desire to gain the Vantha’s bounty or just the cold pleasure derived from killing.

But Autumn knew. Autumn had a lifetime and deathtime of experience that Maro did not. She didn’t have his faith in humanity. This was a look she had seen before, only once, just before her life had been taken. This man wanted to kill, and it didn’t matter who. The bounty was just icing on the cake, and if more than one life was ended tonight, all the better. From the depths of them, Autumn screamed for Maro to run.

Maro heard it, and for a moment, Autumn had to wonder if instinct was just wiser souls living within, observing and crying out for the living to avoid their mistakes.

Maro heard, but he didn’t listen. He didn’t run, but he did shove the Vantha to one side to continue the sprint before he lunged at the man. Scrawny muscles coiled and released in his core, and the bolas whipped club-like forward to catch the man in the temple.

Ahead of them, the child slipped away, moving out of the reach of those who would kill her just for coin. Autumn felt Maro smile, but victory is always short-lived.

Their world spun as a thick hand wrenched their shoulder violently, and the scent of blood filled their nose at the crunch of bone as the same big hand met their face once, twice, thrice. There was no time to hurt, no time to think, no time to do anything before the man hoisted them into the air, then slammed them back to the cobblestones of the world beneath the world. And so choking on their own blood and bathed in the bloody light of the false moon, Maro tried to right themselves.

The same hand closed around their throat, and they struggled to breathe, this time not due to effort. Beyond the panic that rose in them, a simple thought came through. They wished they were struggling to breathe against the harsh breathing required by running. Panic turned to struggle which quickly subsided to useless spasms of the chest. Awareness gave way to something more wholesome. Peace. And then, for a moment suspended between this life and the next, there was no need to breathe. There was existence, and then, there was not.

Autumn bolted upright in the bed, struggling for air. It had been such a long time since she had lived it was almost as if her body had forgotten what it needed to do. Several gasps brought nothing inward, her body working against itself, until finally something remembered itself and the breath came as it should. She whimpered several more breaths in before a gentle hand pressed against her shoulder, guiding her back to lying.

Gweneveh’s voice was gentle, even in the heavy weariness of someone freshly awoken from sleep. “It’s alright, Autumn. It was just a dream. Go back to sleep.”

Autumn shook her head and shuffled herself back up to sit against the headboard. “I can’t.”

That was a lie. She needed sleep desperately. Living had exhausted her more than she cared to admit, especially with the effort she had poured into the spiritism classes with Madeira. She was not used to the toll of living.

But every time her eyes closed, this dream haunted her.

Gweneveh sighed, then sat up too.
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Autumn Rose
Even weightless, I'm a burden.
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