Completed Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

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

Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Shiress on March 20th, 2021, 11:27 pm

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80th Day
Spring 521

Bones snapping

Blood squelching

The feel of the blade quivering as she pressed it into Madeira's throat

Shuddering, Shiress drained what may have been her third, fourth pint of kelp beer in less than half as many bells after leaving The Redynn at something a little less than a run. Thankfully, her employer had taken one look at her pallid face and trembling hands and had said nothing, just nodded, knowing something was off.

She would return tomorrow and claim to have been sick. It wouldn't be a lie. Shiress was sick. Sick at the thought of what she had done. Sick in the head for doing it. God's it seemed as if she had been beside herself watching it playout by someone else's hands. But no. Shiress stared down at the dried blood staining her hands, caked beneath her nails, streaked up her forearms in thin crimson lines. Madeira's blood. She curled her stiff and sticky fingers into a fist, hearing the woman's bones snap again and again in her head. Shiress slid her eyes closed against the memory.

Distantly, she heard the scrape of her empty tankard being taken up, then the clunk of another, heavier one taking its place. Without looking, she snatched it, draining nearly half in one long gulp, ignoring the slimy strings of kelp pulp that bobbed up against her lip.

"What yer' tryna drown in that there pint, sweetheart?"

Shiress slid a slow, bloodshot glance sideways toward the voice.

A man, if one could be deemed a man simply by the barest hint of patchy stubble shadowing the youthful face below a shock of bright red hair, had taken possession of the stool closest to Shiress, leaning forward, one hand propped against his cheek, the other hidden within the pocket of a rather threadbare, blue and red plaid coat.

He grinned, meeting Shiress's glassy gaze, showing off a row of blackened teeth. Indicative, those teeth, but Shiress couldn't care enough to remember of what. Instead, she blinked, slowly bringing the boy's face into focus before glancing away, unimpressed.

"Petch off." she slurred, bringing the tankard to her lips.

"Hey now," he cooed, inching closer, "Don't be like that, not fore' I can help."

"With what?" she replied, not looking up from the depths of her beer, or so she tried, but it came out sounding more like 'wi ot'.

"Whatever be troublin' ya, is what." He inched closer still, invading Shiress's space. The hand in his pocket appearing with a small glass vial held between two fingers. "This'll do yer better than ole kelp beer." he said, tilting the small container back and forth as if to entice.

Shiress's slow mind hadn't quite caught up to what the boy was offering before he tipped the vile over the rim of her tankard. She watched dumbly as a couple of clear drops slid free from the opening of the vile and dripped down into her beer before he tapped a small cork back into place. Belatedly Shiress slapped a hand over the top, protecting her alcohol, as the other slammed into the boy's forehead and shoved. The redhead tried to catch himself, but failed, and ended up on his rear staring up at her in mute surprise. The small poison-filled bottle rolled across the bar, making a tink sound when it hit against the side of her pint.

"I shed no." Shiress spat, beer-tinged spittle spraying out between her teeth. She swiped a hand across her mouth and instantly tasted blood. Looking down at her hand, she swore. Loud and unladylike.

Grabbing the tankard, Shiress threw back the rest of its contents, not stopping to consider what the boy had put in it, and banged the empty container back down against the bar. Sparing the boy a sidelong glance, her upper lip curled, she clumsily kicked at him.

"Go petch with someone your own size." she paused, thinking that through, then corrected herself, "age" then turned and stumbled toward the exit, but not before her hand closed over the vile, sliding it from the bar as she passed by.

Outside she made it two steps before deciding on a rest. Looking around, she barely remembered turning down East Street after exiting the dovecote. The sun had still been out then, but now the city was dark, lit here and there by street lamps that cast shadowy demons in darkened corners.

A woman walked by. A woman with blonde hair that looked alarmingly like Madeira, but in truth probably looked nothing like. Still, Shiress couldn't contain the sob that crawled up her throat and slipped past her spit slick lips. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, but the movement only reminded her that her hand was still covered in blood. It looked like dirt in the dim illumination. She dropped the hand and scraped it against the fabric of her skirt, but dried blood wasn't going to be rubbed away simply. She clenched the fabric into a fist instead.

Suddenly angry again, Shiress staggard back against the tavern wall and slid down until her bottom splatted in what she hoped was mud. She didn't care. Why should she? Petch all if no one else did either. She became aware that her other hand wasn't empty. Lifting it, she unclenched her fingers and watched the tiny glass vile roll around in her palm, eyes flaring wide with realization. She shook it back and forth close to her ear, trying to decide if there was anything was left inside of it.

Huffing in irritation, she lowered the bottle and went at the tiny cork stoppering it with the tips of her fingers, eyes squinting, head bobbing with determination just as footsteps sounded close. Too close. Shiress's bloodshot eyes creased as she peered up. Recognition came with a full-on scowl for the face looking down at her.

"Livmedapetchalone" she slurred. Dismissing her unwanted company with a messy snort, Shiress returned her attention back to the impossible cork.
Last edited by Shiress on April 21st, 2021, 5:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Caspian on March 22nd, 2021, 11:59 pm

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“Harv wasn’t my first, you know.”

From his languid position on his second favorite divan in Mindy’s townhouse – there are four throughout; and yes, he’s ranked them – Caspian can just make out the hem of her dress, tight pinstripes in blue and white ending in a ruffle that sweeps the floor.

“Is that considered currency in Zeltiva?” Caspian asks airily, flipping through his book – an awful, tissue-thin paperback from Mindy’s bookcase, where the heroines have bosoms that never seem to stop heaving and the courtiers are constantly engaged in demonstrating feats of strength. But he can feel Mindy continuing to fret after herself in the mirror, and feeling duty call, he shuts the mess of a novel and gets to his feet.

“No, not necessarily – well, I suppose it depends who you ask. But I mean to say – I shouldn’t be so devastated, getting divorced. There was nothing special about him; he came along after a long train of others. He just happened to be the – I don’t know, station, at which I stopped.”

There’s an empty glass of cordial on the vanity by her – well, not so empty anymore, with the bottle also within arm’s reach. There’s a flush across her cheeks, proportions due to liquor versus the blush she’s liberally patting down to be determined.

“You must have thought there was something decent about him. Given that you stopped at all.” Caspian treads carefully; though the infidelity of her husband had struck Mindy hard, he discovered the hard way that expressing an opinion too far in either direction can elicit an extreme response.

“He’s - “ She takes a sip of her cordial. Frowns at herself in the mirror. “He’s responsible. He has a career. He bought this house – and since we split, he even bought a second. I mean, you saw all that.”

A very dull sight indeed.

But if one were a socialite, perhaps exactly the sort of match one is after.

Stability, after all –

He’s come to realize how badly he craves his own.

Perhaps it’s the liquor she freely shares with him, or that they’ve spent enough time together that he doesn’t feel odd doing this, but – he slides onto the quilted bench beside her, wraps his arm around her shoulders. For a moment she stiffens, and he prepares himself to be swatted away – but she only sighs and leans her head on his shoulder.

“You’re right. He wasn’t your first.” Facts. She can’t lose her temper over him stating facts she herself had offered just moments before. “And he doesn’t have to be your last. It’s worth a good cry over, I think. But these aren’t the end times. You must know that you’re – “ She’s wearing lace gloves. Now there’s a sign, surely, of someone who doesn’t labor. He takes her hand, running his thumb gently across the delicate whorls. “ – Harv, he doesn’t know what he’s missing.”

This close, he can feel her breath, the steady rise and fall of her shoulders beneath his arm. Can she feel his too, against her brow, the glossy curls of her hair? Mindy’s hand clenches into a fist, and she pulls back. But before he can determine whether he’s gone too far, there’s a rapt knocking at the door. The head housekeeper bustles in – without, Caspian notices very well, waiting for a sign to enter.

The head housekeeper’s eyes narrow at the sight of them. Though he’d dropped his arm from Mindy’s shoulders, they’re still crammed together on the little bench seat before her vanity.

“Message for you,” she says brusquely, holding out a slip of paper. “You. Yes, you.” She holds out the note insistently until Caspian takes the minimum number of steps necessary to reach it.

“Alright, ma’am?” she asks, conspicuously looking around Caspian towards the lady of the house.

“Yes, obviously,” Mindy snaps, pouring herself another glass of cordial to the brim.

Caspian unfolds the note, reads it twice. Shoves it into his pocket.

“Mindy, darling, I’ve got to go,” he says, the coddling warmth of the liquor ebbing away swiftly, as if flushed out through his toes.

“What? Really? Why?”

Under the housekeeper’s glare, he decides it’s not worth swooping in to give Mindy a parting kiss on the cheek. In any case, she’s rather absorbed again with her own reflection.

“Family emergency,” he says, ignoring the housekeeper’s suspicious stare and sweeping from the room.

--

The first few steps – that’s what they are, just steps. But when Mindy’s house is a block behind and out of sight, his satin frock coat be damned, he breaks out into a run.

The handwriting had unmistakably been Taalviel’s. The address was at a dive on East Street, one that he vaguely remembers having been to before. But East Street is only so many blocks; even in the dark, even if he has to check every brick and salt-stuck stone, he doesn’t worry that he won’t be able to find them.

“Caspian!”

Taalviel sees him first. She pulls her hood back, waves him into an alley, where a dark figure is propped up against a wall.

If it weren’t for the note, if it weren’t for Taalviel – he wouldn’t have known, from passing glance, that that figure was Shiress.

He drops to his knees before Shiress, who moans incoherently, teetering unsteadily as if she’s on her feet, aboard a ship, and not at the bottom of what might be an actual gutter.

“What’s wrong with her?” he demands to Taalviel.

“I don’t know – I think she might be drunk.”

“Petching hell. But why?

“How am I supposed to know?”

He brushes Shiress’ hair back from her face, holds her lightly in his hands. “Shiress. Shiress! I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but – can you stand? We need to take you home, and it’ll be a lot easier if you pitch in.”

“She was holding this.” Taalviel had rather easily extracted the corked bottle from Shiress as they waited for Caspian. The glass glinted beneath the moonlight. The contents, to both of them, were unknown.

“Petch that. One thing at a time,” he says. “Shiress. Can you hear me?”
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Shiress on March 23rd, 2021, 4:23 pm

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Shiress must have lost a few ticks because she found herself suddenly empty-handed, and she let out a garbled, singsonged "Heyyyyy!" but just as suddenly realized she didn't care and let her oddly heavy arms fall to her lap and leaned her head back against the bricks behind her. Or, tried to at least, but her head seemed too heavy for her neck to support, and she found herself continuously picking her chin back up off her chest. Ugh, it was tiring.

A touch, voices, familiar voices dredge what little is left of the doctor's consciousness back to the surface again. Hands. Soft hands against her skin, gentle fingertips brushing against her face. Shiress smiled, leaning into the touch. It felt nice to be touched. A gentle touch that exuded kindness. It felt like ages since someone was deliberately gentle and kind toward her.

The smile evaporated as quickly as it had appeared.

Shiress didn't deserve kindness. Not now, not after what she had done. Not after...

Feebly she attempted to pull away from the touch and wrestle free of the hands, not wanting to sully whoever they belong to with her...her...what? Badness? Evilness? Darkness?

Shiress groaned low and long, the sound exiting her chest with the cadence of wretched guilt and growing irritation, redoubling her efforts to be left alone. At last, her hand caught hold of the offender's appendage, long slender fingers wrapping tightly around a wrist. Shiress squeezed. Hard - at least, she thought it was hard- rolling her head toward its owner. Bleary eyes blinked open with a failed endeavor to fix a hard glare on..

"Caspia....whoa.."

Shiress's head lolled to the side at the sight of multiple Caspians all fanning out like a deck of cards before he solidified back into just one man when her head stilled. She tried hard to fix her gaze on just one pair of eyes but couldn't quite manage it, so she squeezed her eyes closed again instead.

"Shop. Toshing. Me." she mumbled, jerking her hand away from the man's wrist as if he was the one holding on to her. She licked her lips, cleared her throat weakly, and spoke each word as best she could around a tongue that felt too big for her mouth. "Or I'll just end up breaking ya too." Shiress sighed deeply as if the weight of Mizahar just descended around her shoulders. "I'm bad, Cashbian. Worsh than Rhysol. So bad. D'you member meeting Rhysol?"

Shiress's head lolled again, and her eyes peeled open and focused somewhere in the vicinity of Caspian's chest. "Member in Sunberf, when I help you escape but I got shot, and you ran anyway, and I was begging you to wait because I had a bolt in my leg and was crawling an couldn't run with you, but you just look back and kept goin? You were bad." Shiress made a noise somewhere between a snort, a sob, and a hysterical laugh. "I'm so much badder than you ever was."

Chimes behind schedule, Caspian's first words registered, and Shiress vehemently began shaking her head as she attempted to scramble away "No, no, I can't go home." she lurched to her feet and stood, swaying, propped up by the wall against her back, head bobbing as she lowered her eyes to upturned hands—so much blood. "Ian's at home. What if I hurt him like I did her. I c'not control it. He's so little and-"

Shiress staggard away from the wall a step and used the unsteady momentum to jerk around and stumble deeper into the alleyway, hand against the wall to stay upright and completely unconcerned that her feet squelched and squished in what one could only hope was mud, but was probably far worse.

She made it three whole steps before she crashed to hands and knees, wrist deep in mud that suddenly became thick, oozing blood. Her blood. Oh, Gods. Madeira's blood.

Jerking upright to her knees, Shiress began frantically scrubbing, wiping, and slinging her hands, trying to rid them of blood, but the more she attempted to clean them, the more the crimson oozed and spread. Then she began hearing bones pop and snap.

"No, no, no!" Futilely, she tried covering her ears with her hands, but somehow that caused the gut-wrenching sound of a body breaking beneath her own hands to get louder. Still, she pressed her hands harder to her head, fists tangling around long strands of hair.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"I didn't mean to. I didn't mean it."

"I broke her, oh gods. I broke her!"


A sudden, forceful burst of hysterical laughter bubbled up Shiress's throat.

"I did. I broke her. Snapped her bones and sliced her skin."

"I'd do it again. Madeira....."
Shiress called out the woman's name as if summoning her. "Come back for more, Madeira!"

Another laugh, but this one broke off into a sob when Elijah Jorden stepped into the ally with a knife embedded in his back. Another man joined him, the one from the tavern with Hadyn, the one she had stabbed in the throat ages before because he had attacked her friend, followed by Elias's would-be assassin, a long dagger protruding from his eye. Then Madeira stepped in beside him. Then they were all on her, grabbing at her, pulling at her, whispering in her ear garbled, useless words, the more they spoke, the more they touched, the more her rage built and built and built until....

Shiress screamed and began to fight back.
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Caspian on March 25th, 2021, 1:09 pm

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”D'you member meeting Rhysol?"

Will he ever forget?

Leagues away from Ravok, with seasons behind him, the fact of Rhysol is reduced to an ephemeral bogeyman, a curse, something to keep your children in line after sundown. Outright homage to him in Zeltiva, apparently, is illegal – a concept profoundly baffling to him. For a city prized for its wealth of knowledge and allegedly open discourse, to ban examination and worship of any deity feels absurdly hypocritical.

Sometimes he dreams of Rhysol. He’s never told anyone this before, but ever since that day with the God and his Voice at the Temple, the memory of his nearness had taken root. For weeks after, he found himself turning over the experience in his mind, as if he might divulge something from it that he hadn’t before. In all cases, he came up empty. Rohka in her devout enthusiasm – it made sense, why she had been summoned. Sevris, the Lazarin – absolutely. But Caspian? What in that world had Rhysol seen in him, a transplant, a runaway with his past scattered haphazardly across the map? But the dreams – they started when they’d left Ravok. As if the God were reminding him of the depth of his imprint – that no matter how far he ran, he had steeped himself in Ravok long enough to leave a stain. In his dreams Rhysol holds him as he’s holding Shiress now – by the shoulders, as if she might crumble.

How far across the continent would you have to go before the name means nothing at all?

Here, though – they don’t need a visit from the Wave Guard.

Shiress, thankfully – or not so thankfully – has already rolled herself over into the next thought to cross her mind. The reminder of their meeting in Sunberth and how Caspian had escaped, had left her behind –

He doesn’t let go, though it’s a jab to the heart. Rhysol wouldn’t.

Taalviel’s eyes are upon him.

He’s never told her this story – at least, not the specifics, never confirmed that Shiress is the one he had become tangled with so many years past.

“I’m not sorry,” he says – and he doesn’t mean it cruelly, only as a statement of fact. It’s too much, maybe, too honest – but this is Shiress, not some acquaintance he’s going to use and flatter and forget the next morning. It’s a twisted way of coming to this conclusion, but she’s someone close enough to him to deserve the truth. “I did what I had to do, and I could have done it differently. But I didn’t. And for that alone, I highly doubt that makes you more of a bastard than me.”

But she’s so insistent and specific about what she’s done, and who she’d done it to. The first thought that comes to mind is an ugly one –

Are they going to have go on the run again?

How complicit are he and Taalviel to be standing here right now, and depending on someone’s perspective, harboring a fugitive?

One of her flailing limbs catches Caspian right across the nose, momentarily stunning him out of his terribly grim train of thought.

“We can’t stay here,” he says, hauling her up. If she’s got enough energy to smack him around, she’s got more than enough to walk out of this alley on her own two feet.

“We can’t bring her home,” Taalviel says. She’s been watching the mouth of the alley in case they needed to head off any passersby. “She’s right about Ian.”

“Then - ?” Caspian looks around helplessly. Doesn’t block in time for Shiress to scratch him right across the eyes. “Oh petching petch – Knock it off, Shiress, before someone notices and takes this entire situation the wrong way – “ They flounder and grapple, and he catches her wrists, holding them as tightly as he can without hurting her.

“Spot o’ trouble there, little lord?”

Out of the shadows steps the self-proclaimed Mayor of East Street, a grubby man in muddy green rags, carrying a conch-topped wooden staff. Taalviel hisses – both she and Caspian had missed the man’s presence until he’d made it known.

“You!” Caspian says. He’s never been happier to see the salt-crusted man in his life. “My friend, she’s not well, and we have no idea what she’s taken. There has to be somewhere we can ride this out.”

The man hems and haws, passing his staff from one hand to the other. “Always trouble wi’ you, ain’t it?”

At this moment Shiress begins a bloodcurdling cry. Caspian swears and clamps a hand over her mouth, hating the way she’s looking at him, all the ways she isn’t.

Please,” he says to the Mayor.

The mayor harrumphs and pivots down the alley. “Alright. Follow me. And don’t look so glum! Priskil knows I hate seeing tarts cry.”

Moving swiftly into action, Taalviel takes Shiress’ other side, the rogue siblings ushering her into the shadows of the alley after the Mayor.

They take one turn. Another. The alley becomes so narrow that they can’t walk three abreast, and Caspian takes the lead, holding Shiress’ hand like a lifeline, Taalviel bringing up the rear. The Mayor stops suddenly, raps sharply against a barred, grimy window with his staff.

A door beside the window swings open, revealing a short set of stairs, leading down to a basement.

Caspian hesitates, turns to the Mayor. “Wait – what is this -?”

But before the Mayor can answer, Shiress flails so wildly that she knocks Caspian over the threshold, sending him tripping and crashing down painfully onto the floor.

“Come, m’lady,” the Mayor says with a fond gruffness that’s almost fatherly. He leads Shiress the rest of the way down, guiding her to a bed in the corner.

Taalviel shuts the door behind them, and they stand there in disconcerting darkness until the Mayor lights several oil lamps, filling the room with a surprisingly warm glow.

Eyes adjusting to the shift in light, Caspian brushes himself off and takes in the room, realizes this isn’t the dungeon monstrosity he’d feared.

It’s someone’s rather nice and cozy bedroom, with a colorful, fringed woven rug on the floor, the furniture all made of wicker, two neat bookshelves and the bed covered in clean linens. There’s a small writing desk in the corner with an abundance of inks and quills, beneath which huddles an orange tabby cat watching them with wary eyes.

“I was getting ready for bed, you know.” A young woman around Shiress’ age is standing in the corner in a nightgown, arms crossed and hair mussed, openly frowning.

“I know, I know,” the Mayor says, "but this was an emergency.”

Remarkably, the young woman, in all her comforting normalcy, doesn’t seem put off by his eccentric appearance at all.

“Hey – don’t I know you?” Caspian blurts out.

The woman tilts her head, scrutinizes him in the flickering lamplight. “…did you barge into my shop one day? Looking for – what was it? Fauxslip and connal?”

That day, hunting for Eve, this woman’s shop had unfortunately been a dead end.

The shock of the coincidence, though, is something he can marvel over later. “You’re an apothecary,” he says. Looks to the Mayor.

Puts two and two together as to how they can make sure Shiress hasn’t taken something that will do lasting damage.

“All will be well,” the Mayor says. “So don’t fret, little lordling. Teeva’ll look after yer lady.”

The Mayor stamps his staff upon the ground in farewell, then takes his leave up the way they came.
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Shiress on March 28th, 2021, 7:52 pm

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The young druggist turned her attentions on a writhing Shiress before the door to her hidden abode had fully closed, a sad smile of recognition playing about her lips as she moved closer.

"Ah, the Underhill girl, yes?" she said, casting a glance across the room to where her uninvited guest still stood. "Shiress, I believe is her name, though, I knew her twin, Zane, better."

Placing a hand across the girl's forehead, Teeva closed her eyes, brows furrowing in concentration. Within a handful of heartbeats, every muscle in Shiress's taut form eased, her entire body going lax with a long sigh, eyelids fluttering closed.

After another few ticks, Teeva stood, regarding Caspian and Taalviel with what might have been a sort of reluctant resignation.

"If I am to help your friend, I must have your complete discretion." Teeva eyed them warily before sighing and closing the distance between them. "As it is, I could not turn the poor girl away if I wanted to, which I do not." thin, pale lips pursed. "I am favored of Rak'keli, twice marked by the Goddess of healing."

The healer lifted an arm, pressed a fingertip to Caspian's forehead, then trailed it slowly down along his nose. Beneath the touch, the discoloration of the newly formed bruises seemed to seep from the skin into the healer's finger as it trailed along inflamed cartilage, leaving Caspian's amber skin unblemished.

"What you have learned here can not leave this room." The healer's sky blue gaze hardened, "I have my reasons for secrecy, just ask your friend," she glanced over her shoulder to where Shiress lay sleeping, "what knowledge of her gnosis did for her." Teeva paused, eyes flicking from Caspian to the female and back, "For your continued discretion, I will offer you the same as I did the Mayor." Another pause, before continuing almost reluctantly, "My emergency services for you and close family at no charge." she grinned. "Tis' better than the alternative." she added in a sing-song voice as if that could be mistaken for anything other than the obvious warning it was.

"Now, about miss Underhill." she said, ignoring the ominous silence that had fallen between her and her guests. "Two things; first, she has been drugged, obviously, and the drug used is a type of hallucinogen that seems to affect one according to their current mental state when taken, and I assume Shiress's state was less than calm, to begin with. As for the second," Teeva paced closer to the prone figure, brushing a lock of Shiress's dirty hair behind an ear, "Shiress, it seems, has suffered mental ailments, though sickness or illness is a closer term, even injury."

The apothecary turned then, gaze assessing as she studied the siblings. "I am trusting that you are close to Shiress, if not family, for what I am about to tell you is personal, of a sort, but, I think, detrimental to aiding the girl now and in the future. I have seen this type of...injury in the minds of those who survived the djed storm and those that return from war. A scar, if you will, on the mind; one that seals over a horrific memory or event. Oftentimes, the seal breaks, and the traumatic events of the memory leak out, poisoning the mind. My peers often referred to these leaks as episodes, brought on by sight or sound, something that reminds the inflicted of the hidden events, thus breaking open the scar of their past."

Teeva sighed, heaving herself to her feet. "Your friend here has this in abundance, it seems. Whether or not this..episode was brought on by the drugs or something more sinister, I can not know. Still, she will be vulnerable, emotional, and very unstable for the next several bells, perhaps even a full day. I drew what I could of the drink and drug from her blood, but there's little I can do for what was already done before you arrived here, and I dare not mix the concoction swirling in her veins with one of my own. Are either of you familiar with pathic attacks? Well, you will be, I assure you."

Teeva shrugged on a robe over her gown that she had pulled from a nearby chair. "You are welcomed to stay here for as long as you need. I'll sleep upstairs in a spare room. She'll sleep for about a bell, maybe less, depending on what amount of the drug slipped by my endeavors." Pulling a lamp from the bedside table, she turned toward the stairs in the far corner of the bedroom but paused, speaking over her shoulder. "I'll bring down some food and drink for you two and some blankets. The bed is big enough for two, and the rug by the fireplace makes an unexpectantly good pallet." With that, the apothecary disappeared up the stairs.

----------------

The first thing Shiress became aware of was the throbbing ache in her head.

The second was the roaring in her ears, or was that just the deafness of the complete silence that surrounded her? Where was she?

Shiress pried open her swollen eyes and blinked. Blinked again, but still, her eyes refused to focus, so she closed them again and tried to remember, remember, remember....what?

"The tavern. I went to the tavern and drank kelp beer. But no, wait, I only drank three or four. Surely that didn't get me drunk enough for this headache." she lifted a hand to her head, wincing. " The boy, the redhead, the vile."

"Oh, petch me." she slurred aloud.

Still, she needed to go further back because why would she have gone to a tavern and not home from work.

Work.

Shiress whined, groaning, as the panicked acceleration of her heart deepened the ache in her head, causing it to throb in time with its rapid beat. Even that didn't halt her from recalling the memory of bones snapping and splitting skin, blood bubbling and oozing, or remembering that blood actually made a sound when it broke free from the skin.

Another whine formed in her chest, racing up her throat to escape out between her lips as a sob. Shiress thrashed about, finally finding a purchase for her hands to wrench herself up to a sitting position, gaze flailing about and around the room looking for something, anything, anyone familiar.

At last, Shiress's green eyes landed on a familiar face, a female's face, Taalviel's face, and that realization had her immediately seeking out Caspian.

There, there he was.

Panic bloomed, rose, and broke free.

Her body shook, and she couldn't breathe.

She couldn't catch her breath.

Her heart was racing too fast, too fast, too fast.

Would it stop? Was she going to die?

Die.

Dead.

Panicked and pleading emerald eyes fixed onto Caspian's shadowed features.

Why did I do it?

Is she dead?

"She made me do it," Shiress said, nearly inaudible words gaining strength as she continued. "She did something to me, used magic on me, knew something, knew something about me, or knew what to say to make me-" a sob tore free from Shiress's throat as she lowered her eyes to her lap, to her filthy hands. She watched, dumbstruck as they shook, fingers clenching and unclenching as she turned them over and back again, eyes going vacant, distant, "-to make me...hurt her. I hurt her. I broke her, but she wanted it."

Shiress began rocking back and forth, eyes wandering the room, but not really seeing, not really feeling. Then, she suddenly stilled and her green gaze slowly shifted back to Caspian, watching him, as something frigid and dormant and very familiar to the ex-slave girl surfaced, glazing over her icy stare.

"Did I kill her?"
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Caspian on March 31st, 2021, 12:19 pm

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“Discretion comes with the territory –“ Caspian begins, and then Teeva touches him.

Startled, he blinks, almost reflexively jerks away – but from Teeva’s fingers comes a balm, like honey, like ice, like silk threads softly knitting him back together.

He feels so much better. Preparing to wince – finding that he doesn’t – he grazes his hand gently over his face.

As good as new.

When Teeva leaves, Caspian and Taalviel shoot each other a look. They would have settled for a quiet nook and cranny in which to stash Shiress until what’s roiling in her system passes; neither of them expected the white gloves.

Teeva says it’s free of charge, but is that ever truly the case?

They sit silently by the fireplace, watching the flames leap, the tinder crackle.

Between the two of them, they know more than a touch about trauma and getting high and how combustible the combination might be.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Taalviel surmises. She’s found a spool of golden braiding from a basket by her chair, plucked it from a pile of yarn and knitting needles, buttons and shiny odds and ends. Methodically, meditatively, she winds and unwinds the golden ropes between her fingers, staring right into the flames. “Though we’ve determined, at least, that she isn’t necessarily getting worse.”

“Thank petch for that.” Caspian’s still compulsively running his fingers across his face where his wounds had been. Unmarred, unbruised. It’s almost hard to believe. If he were capable of such power – well, he’d petching hide it at all costs too.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Taalviel repeats, “so maybe we should leave.”

It’s always the straight and narrow, conversations with her, her vectors and intent never deviating once she’s started.

“We can’t just leave,” Caspian replies, aghast.

“Why not?”

“Because – we brought her here – “

“Right, and now there’s someone with a Gnosis who knows far better than we. I just don’t see the point –“

“The point is that we came together, so we’re leaving together, and until Shiress is back in her right mind I’m not just going to abandon her to some woman I’ve never met, Gnosis be damned –“

But Taalviel isn’t listening, attention focused on the glimmering golden braid twined around her fingers, the way it seems to undulate like a molten snake in the firelight.

“You just hate being underground,” Caspian says flatly. Ravens, he supposes, aren’t exactly built for it.

“Don’t you?”

Both of them swivel sharply at the sound of Shiress’ voice.

Caspian bounds to his feet, to Shiress’ side. The siblings frown, shoot each another look from across the room. For all they argue, they’re cut from the same cloth, and there’s no doubt in Caspian’s mind that Taalviel’s asking herself the same questions.

Envisioning the same outcomes, and none of them merry.

“Who?” Caspian says. What if Shiress has just imagined hurting someone? Is it just the hallucinogen, a combination of imagination and wishful thinking? “Shiress, who?”

The feverish pitch in Shiress’ voice is enough for Taalviel to drop the golden braid. There’s a dark look on Taalviel’s face as she slowly approaches, purposeful, searching.

“If there’s a body,” she says lowly to Caspian, “we’re going to have to deal with it.”

Afraid of alarming Shiress further, Caspian sits on the edge of the bed, close enough to show her he’s listening, but just out of reach. “Who did you hurt?” he repeats as calmly as he can when Shiress only mutters something he can’t understand. “And where? We’re going to deal with this, okay? Taalviel and I. Situations are our bread and butter, and we're going to deal with this one, just like all the rest. But we’re going to need your help first. So who was it, and where, and – why?”
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Shiress on March 31st, 2021, 2:57 pm

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Several heartbeats passed and all Shiress had the capability of doing at the moment was stare at Caspian, uncomprehendingly. The man's words Passed over her, through her, and despite not having quite the present faculty to understand them, his words still soothed her. Something inside Shiress broke away, parted, like dark clouds disassembling under the brightness of Syna's rays, and she suddenly became aware that she wasn't making any sense.

"At work. I-"

Shiress's eyes flicked around her unfamiliar surroundings bewilderedly. Trying to slot the memory of the past several bells into place was much like trying to fit puzzle pieces back into a well-known pattern but not being able to quite manage it. It frustrated her, and she frowned, wrinkling her nose. Something wasn't right; Shiress felt...off somehow and knew she wasn't thinking properly.

When her gaze alighted back on the siblings and, upon seeing the twin looks of concern they both were giving her, she knew some questions could wait. Others couldn't. Her friends deserved an explanation, even if she didn't remember how either one had come to be with her.

Gaze dropping to her fidgeting hands curled in her lap, Shiress drew in a shaky, deep breath, trying and failing to focus her thoughts, eyes squeezing shut at the borage of unpleasant memories.

"I was at work." she began, voice soft, trembling "A woman, Madeira Dusk, came in. She had cut her hand, and I was about to stitch it, but then she told me of a man trying to hurt her and asked me if I'd help her get away from him." Shiress huffed a humorless laugh, "Of course I'd help her, I told her so, but what she wanted-" her breath hitched, catching in her throat. Shiress shook her head, eyes stinging "-what she wanted was to be hurt so she could accuse this man of doing it and get him arrested, and she wanted me to do it, to hurt her, but I told her no, that I just couldn't."

Shiress opened her eyes, setting loose tears that streamed down her cheeks.

"She changed then, became different....angry, stern. She said things, mean things, about running and slaves, and about being a whipped dog, and.."

Shiress's words trailed off as she stared out past Caspian's shoulder, eyes glazed, wandering. Where was the anger now? Shiress had heard worse things, been accused of worse things. Where had the anger, the rage come from? Where was it now, amidst the dredged-up memory? She shook her head, swallowing hard through a wave of nausea.

"I..I lost it. I just completely lost control. It was as if she had told me I was being enslaved again or that she was going to take Ian. What she said just infuriated me so much that I...gods...I gave her what she wanted." Shiress began to cry in earnest now, face falling with the despair aching in her heart. "I threw her against a wall. I broke her nose, her fingers, her shoulder with my bare hands. I cut her! With my own dagger, I sliced open her skin!" The last words came out on a sob. Shiress's body shook, her chest heaving with heavy breaths. "I stopped, though. Left her. But she wanted more! Needed more, or she said she'd scream." she paused, then added in a soft, low tone "So, I did; I broke her collarbone and then her arm. Broke it until bone sank through her skin."

Shiress fell silent, trembling, sobbing, breaking. Then, voice thick with tears said.

"I don't understand why I'm so upset now, why it's affecting me the way it is. I left her alive, but-"

Shiress looked at Caspian, her eyes wide with something close to fear, apprehension, and a silent plea for him to not hate her, for him to understand, or, perhaps, for him to help her understand.

"because, when I was hurting her, I wanted to do it."

"I think I even enjoyed it."
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Caspian on April 2nd, 2021, 12:42 pm

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The new information from Shiress has no outward effect on Taalviel.

That’s how it seems, at least – but it’s hard to tell at this time of night, with their being below the level of the sidewalk, the firelight flickering and casting illusive shadows over her visage.

”I was at work –“

The delay in which it takes him to recall where that work might be – that’s on him. In his defense, Shiress has never told him directly where she’d found employment. That now critical detail was something he’d had to learn secondhand a few days ago, one evening around dinner when he was skulking down the landing, and froze upon hearing voices in the kitchen. Did everyone else in the house realize how far their voices carried, how from this configuration they floated onward and upward with the same velocity as hot steam through a vent? In the dark he’d paused, a foot planted on the stairs, the other trailing in midair as he listened.

What had Shiress said that night?

“The Outpost,” he says, more to Taalviel than Shiress. “She works at a healing facility, I think, at the Outpost.”

This also garners no outward reaction from Taalviel, who only watches Shiress grimly. It’s entirely likely she already knows that, has moved on to the next and most pressing thing, which is determining her next course of action and what it’s going to cost her.

Caspian has been to the Outpost before. Quite a few times, actually – it’s a lot easier to find drugs there, and Mindy had a phase last season where she accompanied nearly every meal with a certain liqueur that you can’t find in Zeltiva. The first time he’d gone, it was on a job, tracking down someone’s wayward niece. What a great gallstone of a day that had been, both helped and hindered by a curious Kelvic child by the name of Moritz. On the whole he’d been grateful for the company; had wondered and mildly hoped that he’d run into him again. Moritz had said his mother was a spiritist, and while Caspian didn’t know much about it, it already sounded leagues more interesting than what he’s done for a living.

Whoever Madeira Dusk is also sounds like she’s got far more going on in her life than his own.

“The Outpost is out of our jurisdiction,” Taalviel deems flatly, crossing her arms. “I’m surprised she made it all the way back here without being arrested.”

More importantly –

There isn’t, it seems, a body to hide.

That’s one thing off his shoulders, and though his chest still feels like a tightly coiled spring, he’d been picturing this going far worse.

Teeva reappears, bringing food and water, the blankets she’d promised. The wool is pleasantly scratchy against Caspian’s skin. Like everything else here, it feels like it’s been handpicked, painstakingly handmade – like there’s more where it came from, that despite the famine that batters this city, all of this will weather it nonetheless.

Their host had come right when Shiress admits she had enjoyed hurting the woman. Doubtless she’d heard it word for word, but whether she disapproves –

She’s back upstairs in a blink, leaving them to their privacy.

“I’m sorry this happened,” Caspian says, and though he means it, the words feel hollow, powerless. Madeira should have come to someone like him or Taalviel, and not the shuddering healer before him. No matter what he says, he can’t turn back the clock, can’t make her forget or pave over what she’d done. He tries anyway. “That woman, Madeira – she made her choice.” And so had Shiress. “No matter what you did – you’re still you. It sounds like someone came to you in need, and you wanted to help in any way you could, even at your own expense. That’s the most Shiress thing I’ve ever heard of.”

Taalviel snorts, settling into a chair, picking dully at a crust of bread.

“And if you liked hurting her – “ He pauses. “Taalviel and I were raised by mercenaries. We’ve seen all sorts of shyke you wouldn’t believe. We’ve had a petching long year and you’ve somehow done most of it sober, and everything that’s been chasing us – well, I think it had to come out sometime.”

That last part – he doesn’t know if he means it. Perhaps not all of it. Years ago he’d discovered the thrill of taking things that don’t belong to him, of circumventing the rules to suit him. After a certain point he didn’t steal kohl and fripperies because he didn’t have the coin; somehow it all meant more to him to know he didn’t have to pay for it at all, that somehow this designated him in a separate class from everyone else. But is the satisfaction of pinching a few silvers’ worth of trinkets the same as being enamored with the feeling of someone’s bones cracking beneath your fist?

Sadism is something he’s never identified with – and he’s thankful for it, though he’s never admitted it out loud. His stepfather Taaldros had enjoyed, to a certain point, hurting and frightening people – because he’d been good at it, and because so often he’d deemed they deserved it. Gavir, the Vantha man who’d lived in their house and also partly raised him and Taalviel, was a skilled and vicious interrogator. Surely Gavir had enjoyed some aspect of his work; how could he stomach it otherwise? And Zhassel, the Kelvic Hound who had replaced Caspian and Taalviel’s mother – it would have been odd if she didn’t find any joy in snarling and snapping something between her teeth. But all of those people he’d left behind in Sunberth – this is who they were, who they likely still are, and he’d never expected any different.

But someone like Shiress?

Is this a part of her that’s been inside her all along?

Or is what he said to try to comfort her at least somewhat true – that the past year had morphed and twisted their realities into something beyond their recognition?

None of this is helpful, his sensing a spark of trepidation about Shiress. A newness, an otherness that he isn’t sure he can relate to, only manage from a distance.

“It was just once,” he says, perhaps more to himself than Shiress, “and it’s over.”

He joins Taalviel. They’ve both got one eye on each other, another on Shiress.

“I don’t know what she’s so worked up about,” Taalviel says.

“Yes,” Caspian replies tiredly, rubbing at his temples, “that much is clear.”
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Shiress on April 7th, 2021, 4:49 pm

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They didn't understand.

Of course, they didn't because how could they understand?

They didn't know.

Neither Caspian nor his sister knew that this was not the first time Shiress had lost control of her anger. It wasn't even the second or third time. It was actually one of several occurrences that Shiress had gone into a rage. It was the first time, however, that the recipient had been willing.

Shiress shivered, peering sideways through her tear spiked lashes to where Caspian and Taalviel sat and listened with growing irritation to their not-so-quiet whispering. Should she enlighten them? Should she tell them of the men who had not faired so well as Madeira? Should she tell them of the ones whom she had killed?

Shiress's gaze fell to her lap, where trembling fingers worried at the loose threads of the quilt covering her legs.

They had come for her, aided her, protected her, worried for her from what her fractured memory of the last handful of bells could confirm. And they had stayed with her. Were still with her. Because they cared. Caspian cared, despite his less than cordial manner toward her the last couple of seasons. And Shiress did want them to understand. They deserved to know what had brought them to be here, with her, this night.

"It wasn't-" Shiress began but cleared her throat to steady the words, but it was futile, her voice still slurred slightly as she continued. "It wasn't just once." she drew in a deep breath, hands going still, eyes finding and locking on Caspian. "I killed Elijah Jordan."

Those four words floated in the silence between them for a tick as Shiress tried to reign control of her emotions, which wasn't quite worth the effort it took in her current state.

"In 513, nearly a year after I escaped, he found me in Syliras. Two of his guards took me and a friend, Hadyn, from the city to where he was camping deep in the Bronze Wood surrounding the city. When I saw it was him, when I heard his plans to enslave me again, and the punishment he was going to give me for running away, I just...went numb, and all I could think of was blood." Shiress shuddered hard "His blood." she paused, taking a deep, shaky breath, eyes returning to her lap. "All I remember is stabbing him in the back over and over and over."

Shiress looked up, smiling sadly. "A few seasons later, Hadyn and I went to a tavern one night. That night, I left a man dead with his own dagger in his back after he made drunken remarks about my slave brands and attempted to grope my friend." she shook her head before adding, more to herself than anyone else, "The night is just a blur of rage and blood and grasping hands trying to get me to stop."

Shiress fell silent, struggling with deciding whether or not she wanted to continue, but then sighed resignedly. "Then came Sayana, the Eypharian, who managed to capture me in chains again. That's how I ended up in Ravok; stripped from my home and enslaved yet again. Sayana managed my outbursts of anger and disobedience with hypnosis, making me relive horrors again and again in my mind until she had my loyalty."

Then came Elias and our introduction when I stabbed his would-be assassin in the eye without a second thought."


Shiress glanced up then, meeting Caspian's gaze with eyes glistening with unshed tears. "You'll hate me for what I'm about to tell you." Shiress frowned, brows furrowing, "and I won't blame you for it because I should have told you by now. I should have told you that it was vengeance that brought us to flea Ravok, vengeance from the Lark's for what I did to one of their own after the Eypharian sold me to them. After my freedom was bought and paid for by Elias Caldera." another breath, deep and uncertain, "After I beat and stabbed my Lark Master and left him broken and paralyzed from the neck down, then burned his floating garden in the middle of Lake Ravok. I do not know if he survived."

Her tail ended, Shiress fell silent again, waiting for the verbal onslaught of hate and disgust from her one remaining friend. She'd take it because she deserved it. Shiress's thoughts turned inward, and she sank further into the bed, feeling unworthy and ashamed and numb, thoughts dangerous and destructive for no one other than herself.

"She paid me" she said, voice soft, distant. "Madeira paid me 3,000 gold for what I did." lifting her face, she met Caspian's green gaze, "It's yours. All of it. I do not want any of it, but I will ask one thing of you." she paused, studying her friend. "Put some aside for Ian so that if anything should ever happen, he'd be cared for."

Shiress dug in the pocket of her skirt and withdrew the paper that Madeira had given her, blood-smeared and stained, and offered it to him.

"Madeira said that there's a moneylender by the dovecote holding three thousand kina for me. He'll change it to whatever currency I need. You need. Just-" she swallowed, voice thick with tears, "Just make sure my son is cared for. Please."
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Aftermath of Violence (Caspian)

Postby Caspian on April 10th, 2021, 1:19 pm

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Caspian becomes dimly aware his mouth is hanging open.

He shuts it.

The note hangs in the air between them, and he’s motionless for several ticks until Taalviel shifts pointedly beside him. She doesn’t say his name, doesn’t have to urge him out loud to just petching move – she doesn’t have to. It’s as if it’s someone else who has him crossing the room back to Shiress again, raises his arm and accepts the crumpled, bloodstained page. He unfolds it, has to read its contents, once, twice, even three times, so stunned is he by everything Shiress has just shared.

It’s just as Shiress had said.

A promise from the woman named Madeira, to be delivered at the Dovecote. And there, fittingly, Xyna’s will be done.

He doesn’t know where to begin.

“Shiress,” he says finally, “I – we – “ He looks pointedly back at Taalviel, who cares very little for that golden braid she’d been fiddling with, now that the mention of actual gold is on the table. “We don’t care what you’ve done. If anything – I knew you were a fighter. Always have. So I’m not surprised to hear you’re a winner too. I’ve never faced my problems – I just ran the other way. But you – you went right for the petching jugular.”

That silent bond between him and Taalviel – he can feel it pulling taut. Can practically hear the wild whirring of her thoughts as if she’s humming them aloud.

“You did what you had to do. And they absolutely deserved it.” He means every word. “But this –“ He holds up the note, shakes his head. Doesn’t allow himself to believe it – because it’s just a bit of parchment and ink and he knows very well not to count money unless it’s directly in hand. “I – appreciate it. I really do. And if – “

With every pause, every stutter, he can feel Taalviel’s heart near petching burst. Because – the money isn’t his. He didn’t earn it. He certainly had nothing to do with the woman named Madeira and the convoluted reasons that had brought her to Shiress’ door. Shiress deserves something, anything for what she’s done, to make up for what it’s so clearly cost her.

But it’s a lot of money. A life-changing sum – a life-saving sum, because he had spent so much of what he’d saved bringing himself and his sister here.

He’d be a petching fool to walk away from it. And he knows, from the tension zipping out from Taalviel behind him like electric sparks, that she’s afraid he’s very much that.

“If you mean it, giving me this – I promise. No matter what happens, I’ll make sure some of this is for Ian. What’s happened to you and me, everything it took to get here – I swear to you he’ll be looked after. He’ll never go through the hell we did.”

The note feels as heavy as stone in his hand. Behind him, he can feel Taalviel’s eyes piercing, though he knows she’s outwardly showing no sign of her grit, her frustration, is very likely poised with her back curved in the armchair and one leg crossed over the other. The picture of feigned relaxation; the paradigm of practiced serenity.

It doesn’t sit right with him, any of this.

He can compromise.

“Tell me again, alright?” he says. “When you’re sober. Look me dead in the eyes and say it then.”

He can’t go to the Dovecote alone, though he knows Taalviel, in all her pecuniary practicality, would fly this instant from her seat. They’ll wait for Shiress to recover, then set off as one.
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