Solo Hand Over Fist

The cottage gets claustrophobic. The siblings find their way around.

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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

Hand Over Fist

Postby Caspian on August 31st, 2020, 9:17 pm

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75 Summer 520

It’s hard to say what had been the last straw.

Though Caspian and Taalviel had lay claim to the highest section of the house, the loft – it just made sense at the time, as no one relished the idea of Shiress climbing anywhere with her baby in tow, and there was something about an apex window and Taalviel’s being able to fly that held some congruence – one day it all amounted to too much. Maybe it was the fact that they had crammed seven people into a house normally occupied by two – maybe it was those very two, Shiress’ parents, and their relentlessly questioning scans of his personage that only grew more invasive over time – maybe it was the baby, who cried, and though it wasn’t as colicky as some, was certainly of no help to anyone. Maybe, even, it was Shiress herself and Rosie, whose digressions were simply the fact that they cared.

It just seems that they never stopped looking. At first he swears it’s commiseration – then, somehow, all of it warped into pity, and at times he’s convinced that Rosie might even be afraid.

“It’s all in your head,” Taalviel had said once, when they’d found a way to clamber out the loft window and onto the roof, where they could blessedly be alone.

This was relative, though, with Shiress’ baby perfectly audible even with so much wire and wood between them.

“Where else would it be?” Caspian had cast back uselessly.

The man he had strangled during their last days in Ravok – they didn’t talk about it, he and Rosie, as the lot of them fled from the city. They had spent weeks together, journeying across strange lands and seas, and though he’d essentially never left her side he couldn’t on any of those many days bring himself to acknowledge what had been done. There was nothing to acknowledge, according to Taalviel, and presumably also according to his stepfather, who would doubtlessly have been of the same opinion. Caspian has certainly done more for less. The problem is that Rosie hadn’t necessarily known that about him, and now she probably does, and the knowing alone feels more irreconcilable than the veritable fact.

And that isn’t even the whole of it.

So on a very late night – or perhaps a very early morning – he steals away from the cottage with his bag slung over his shoulder. Were he also a Kelvic bird he might have just gone out the window, but in just one of the many ways fate has elected to be unkind to him, he has to skulk down the loft ladder, and avoiding the squeaking floorboards and just as squeaky stairs, picking through his descent to the bottom floor.

Once he shuts the cottage door and steps onto the cobbled path, the bay winds wash over him, bringing with them an immense wave of relief, like the sense of soaring he found on the cottage roof, only dialed past enumeration. It’s on this feeling – the conviction that he’s doing the right thing, as evidenced by absence of agony – that he passes quickly down the cobblestone path and onto the Zeltivan streets.
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Last edited by Caspian on November 8th, 2020, 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Hand Over Fist

Postby Caspian on November 2nd, 2020, 12:03 am

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The plan, now, is unfortunately to come up with one.

Caspian’s put a dozen streets between him and the cottage. Admittedly, he still doesn’t know them very well. It’s all a little ridiculous because one would think that being out at sea for so long would have made him stir crazy – and it did, but when they were finally on dry land he found himself hardly leaving the loft. Setting off on his own now, the sky above still mostly dark and the air stinging at his eyes – a terror engulfs him at his being so untethered. And it’s ridiculous, being afraid of something gloomy and incalculable and above all without a body – speaking of bodies, where had that one gone? – and like all the other things warring for space in his mind, it’s beyond acknowledging; it’s, dare he say it, downright petching rude. If his current maelstrom of feelings were a person, he wouldn’t give them the time of day.

Distance is the main objective – but when he gets there, he isn’t any happier. So he tries again, and for more, and takes lefts at the last second though he’d been steering himself to the right, doubles back and tries things counterclockwise, and the streets change and the buildings get taller and decidedly municipal but somehow, in a way, it seems he doesn’t get very far at all. There’s just no challenge to the streets in Zeltiva, their orderliness a far cry from Ravok’s winding canals and molt-iron bridges, and the makeshift walkways from one aqueous yard to the next.

Alone, finally, with his thoughts – time now, he supposes, for the sorting they deserve.

Here he goes.

The thing about him is that –

It’s not that he’s a quitter, but he comes to an abrupt stop. He’s just noticed his heels are clicking, the echoes as revealing as if he’d left behind a trail of paint.

Softer now, this time along the wider flagstones where the points aren’t quite so percussive, where he can start again.

The thing – thethingabouthimisthat

He halts again without immediately registering that something else had caused him to do so. Plastered on the wall before him is a poster in heavy replication, demanding the capture and destruction of the Vantha, in exchange for a not-inconsiderable bounty. This is one of the many university buildings for which the city is known, a large one at that, and the whole length of the wall covered in threat. This isn’t the first time Caspian’s seen such a thing – they cropped up occasionally in Ravok, though given the many natural and institutional barriers to breaching, the chances of ever seeing a Vantha were never very high. But in Zeltiva, a place built on coming and going – it makes sense, in its grim way, that anyone’s vigilance here might be rewarded. Like other bounty posters he’s seen, the tell-tale mark of Vantha, at least in the publicly communicable way, are rounder faces, and in the way of suggesting a chance in appearance, half of their hair is inked jet black, the other half left stark white. The eyes are rendered very much the same.

He doesn’t look very much like these posters at all. Thanks to his mother, if not examined too closely, he comes off as entirely Benshiran. But it doesn’t stop the trill in his heart at the thought of being rounded off and hung in front of the student commons, or the pang at seeing in these drawings some semblance of the features of his Vantha father. Despite his unease at viewing so many calls for murder on full display, he peers at one of them, as if he might derive some closeness to something so long ago lost – but only finds that he can no longer remember, to any significant degree, the details of his father’s face.
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Last edited by Caspian on November 8th, 2020, 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Hand Over Fist

Postby Caspian on November 2nd, 2020, 12:50 am

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Though he’s entirely confident of the impression he gives – he’s avoided being trussed up and flayed alive so far, hasn’t he? – it seems about as responsible as playing with fire if he lingers by the bounty posters any longer.

Hoisting his bag over his shoulder, he walks down the length of the building, which, though at this hour is looming and fallow, follows him with so many eyes.

The streets change again and again. It strikes him once more how utterly different this place is to anywhere he’s been before. Concurrently it comes to mind that he hasn’t been very many places to begin with, that though he’s been as privy to a map of Mizahar as anyone else, he’s only seen – what? A tenth of it? But even that seems a gross overestimation. Were he to keep travelling, would he start to see semblances between one place and another? Would the paths no longer seem so long, the unknown less dauntingly unfathomable? He doesn’t hate Zeltiva – he simply doesn’t know it well enough to hate it. But perhaps he had made a mistake, allowing himself to be pushed and pulled along by everything that had happened with Shiress. This place isn’t his, though he breathes its air, treads across its stones. This is Shiress’, and her father’s whose hands seemed to have been in the guts of every galleon in the dockyard, and her mother’s who these past few days seemed to devote less energy into concealing how burdensome she finds him and Taalviel. Under any other circumstances, he might derive some relish from being the thorn in someone’s side, but this was Shiress and Shiress’ mother and all this amounts to him allowing himself to be boxed into a corner in which the only way out is silence, and perhaps escaping just before the break of dawn.

And that dawn – it’s here now, powder-soft and blue like the bay below it.

The edges of said bay just inches from his feet.

Choking back a shout, he takes a step back. He’d nearly walked right off a dock and clean into Mathew’s Bay.

Light’s spreading across the sky with alarming alacrity. What had been a frosted blue was now flooding with gold, then peach, and behind him he can sense the city waking. The plan had been distance; then, distantly and to some but not necessarily all versions of him, a boat. One had taken him here; surely one could just as easily take him away. From here he can see plenty, and with most of his mizas in his bag – a respectable fraction left behind for Taalviel – it’s easy, isn’t it? It’s just a matter of asking.

It’s with neither defeat nor resolve that he perches on one of the chain railings lining the dock. Though he’s lived through several mornings in Zeltiva he hasn’t seen one come to fruition – not like this, at least, where it seems to be blossoming and peeling itself back for him, all layers of brush and flush, from the foothills to the towering mountaintops.

It’s not Ravok, and it knows it. The water’s full of so much light. And maybe it’s that way because Caspian’s only getting to know it now. It doesn’t hold a body that Caspian had chosen to drown –

The chain beside him rattles.

When Taalviel swivels into view, ultimately he can’t say he’s surprised in the slightest.
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Last edited by Caspian on November 8th, 2020, 4:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Hand Over Fist

Postby Caspian on November 8th, 2020, 4:57 pm

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In some senses – though he’d never admit this to her – he’s rather relieved.

Maybe it’s because he’s always had a thing for having an audience, at the very least just one person who might testify that they had seen him, and though they might misunderstand or disagree with what he’s doing, at least they know. Maybe he had, after all, gotten himself a bit lost and was steadily succumbing to being overwhelmed by a place he largely doesn’t know, and seeing a familiar face is something he can’t help but use as an anchor. Least likely on this list is that she’s family and as such he’s happy to see her (and here he quickly parses through his memories to determine whether that’s ever been the case, but no – relief, exasperation, disgust and finally happiness are all very different things).

What tallies itself without his trying very hard to is that at the end of all things, she’s been that witness for him. The one, maybe, he needs

“Why didn’t you make me stay in Sunberth?” he asks before he can slip and reveal too much.

“I did,” she replies calmly. “Several times, and very successfully, if you recall.”

Some of the scars still haven’t sloughed.

“If you mean that last time – “ She means Ravok. “ – it sounded very much like you’d made your mind up to it. And you had the means to do it. That wasn’t necessarily the case before.”

“That wasn’t the last time, and that wasn’t what I meant.”

She crosses her legs and waits.

“We took a ship here. Sunberth to Zeltiva. You didn’t stop me. In fact, I think – rather the opposite.”

“Did you want me to?”

The water doesn’t sing to him here, the way Ravok’s did. Here, it’s almost as if it’s just –

Just water.

“I don’t belong here,” he says. It feels like spitting. “Neither do you. So what in the world are we doing?”

A flock of gulls careen overhead. Something swifter and zippier dives down, emerging with a fish, the water spraying and sending ripples across the surface of the bay.

“All of them,” he says, nodding towards the crews now loading their cargo onto the many ships waiting at the docks, “they have somewhere to be. Someone to be.”

“What those people have are jobs.” Something glints on the water. Instinctively, her eyes flicker towards it, and also as is her nature, turn impassively back to him. “Something I suspect you could also find.”

“I just might, seeing as this is the nicest you’ve ever asked.”

“I am always nice.”

“Name one time.”

“Here, today, you are deeply considering abandoning me to a group of strangers whose lives orbit around a squalling child. And I have neither accosted you nor broken your arm.”

“How long has breaking my arm been on the table? No, don’t answer that.” He frowns. “You watched Shiress give birth and she’s still a stranger?”

“I think she is, if she sees me as such.”

“Because you don’t try – “

“I helped her push out a child.”

“Then what are you afraid of?”

It’s a rare moment in which he catches Taalviel shifting in clear discomfort.

“Oh gods. You’re getting yourself wound up, aren’t you?” Caspian exclaims incredulously. “You’re nervous. You care what they think. And you’re convinced you’re screwing it up – “

“Stop it,” she snapped. “That’s entirely off the mark.”

“That’s funny, sister, because something tells me it’s rather dead-on.”

“Say what you will.”

“Alright. I will.” Even in the face of the foreign, biting morning, he can’t help but wryly smile. “It’s all in your head, Taalviel. They know who you are to me. That’s reason enough for them to like you plenty. Well – a reasonable amount.”

“That,” Taalviel mutters, “or they detest us both.”

This seems, to the two of them, far more likely.
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Hand Over Fist

Postby Caspian on November 8th, 2020, 5:33 pm

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“You really aren’t going to make me stay?” Caspian asks. They’d simultaneously left the railing without speaking a word – something had just clicked, some measure of doneness and resolution reached. Now they’re wandering back through streets that he’s able to dimly recall having passed through. It’s an oddly conflicting feeling – on one hand he doesn’t enjoy the look on his face that doubtless advertises to all that he isn’t from around here; subsequently, please take advantage. And on the other, it’s as if knowing more cements the reality that this is where he’s going to be for the foreseeable future, that it’s absorbing him along with the salt from the tides.

Taalviel glances over walls plastered with Vantha bounties, then back to him. The concern that lights upon her face is only a flicker – she, too, knows how fortunately he resembles their mother.

“No. But I think it might be good for you.”

Two members of the Wave Guard cross the street ahead of them, the golden buttons on their starch-stiff uniforms gleaming in the morning light. Unlike Caspian, they certainly aren’t fussed over the sound of their boots slamming against the pavement. And now that he’s spotted them, he can’t help but notice more, their seeming omnipresence less like a patrol and more a parade.

The rogues narrow their eyes at authority in tandem and share a displeased grimace.

It’ll take time, but with a bit of waiting and watching, he’ll be able to sort out at least some of their schedules.

“Are you giving up on Sunberth, then?” Caspian asks when they pass.

“I never said that.” At the look of alarm Caspian throws her, she merely tosses her hair over her shoulder purses her lips.

“It’s horrific of you to consider it. After all these years.”

“There must be something about it you miss.”

“Dial back on the humor, Taalviel. It doesn’t suit you.”

“When you’re ready – “ She pauses. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Alright? Let’s just think about the here and now.”

And not the before is what she doesn’t say, for which he’s grateful.

“…I can’t believe you were going to leave me.”

Caspian scoffs. “As if. I knew you were going to catch up.”

They turn another corner. They’d noticed that the circuitous path they’d taken was growing bleaker – dingier, somehow, as if everything had been aged, and not gracefully. As if the light itself bore down differently here, with everything cast under a grimy film. A man in a tattered cloak hobbles down the street, and in a doorway a few yards away slumps a woman with a half-empty bottle in one hand and what appears to be a bludgeoned rat in the other. Pairs of eyes peer furtively at them from the surrounding windows, and from somewhere down the lane, a wailing cry is followed by a resounding cackle.

The siblings pause, consider the other and the way ahead. To their right is a battered sign that reads East Street. The Wave Guard are nowhere to be seen.

Eyebrows quirked, Caspian inclines his head down the lane. Taalviel nods in kind.

Perhaps Zeltiva has something for them after all.
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