From Whence We Came

Re: From Whence We Came

Postby Rance » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:42 pm

"Does it accept me?" she repeats, and jerks her head to the side as if struck by some unseen palm. "Whether or not it accepts me is hardly my concern. What matters is that I accept it. What I talk for is my perception of it, and that alone. At the times it must, it hates me, and I can feel that burn acutely. And through it, I feel the pulse of the place.

"Its heartbeat hasn't changed, not since I left, and not since I returned. Always the same," Gloria said. "Always the same." The phrase fell from her lips like water, having neither body nor passion. She crossed her arms, almost as if suffering a sudden chill. She did not look at him. The missing eye, a void, was better left an imaginary fixture of that face she knew so well. "Valor sought, Elliot, or valor awarded? Whose life did you save?"

She milled about as if trying to find something, touching a knuckle to her lips. Staring at the ground. Half her attention for him. Half her attention buried into the world. ...most of my years of s— rang like a ball-bearing rattled in a bedside pitcher. He knew it. He knew it. Was it worth digging a thumb even deeper to peel it out, to pop out the rest of the world like the wet tongue of an oyster to be sucked out and swallowed? For what purpose. Satisfaction? Closure? Some sense of I told you?

No victories without blood. That's what Raf Ironback taught her. No easy victories.

Finally, she stopped. Her toe jabbed into the ground. "There."

A moment later, she'd squatted to dig the object out of the soil. The clumsy archaeology took no finesse. With its leather dry-rotted and its crossguard chewed nearly to crumbles by rust, the sword — a rusted practice blade, abandoned during the previous Guard's tenure in these fields — might as well have been a relic of a thousand years ago, let alone four or five. She peeled it out of the soil, lay it across her knee, and then looked up to the horizon of the town and the world beyond.

"There are little men and little women who — who thirst to know what valor is, and our little world needs good guides, good teachers, and good leaders. Time falls away. We used to be children. And now," she said, "we're not."

She dropped the moldering sword at his feet.

"What you never were, even then, was cruel. Or unkind. Or unfair. Whatever you do, I beg you not to bury those gifts in Snowstill."
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Re: From Whence We Came

Postby Glenn » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:13 am

"That seems..." and he struggled for a word, as he so often did. Elliot Brown rarely had such lofty goals as multi-syllable discourse. He was able to speak quickly, words running over one another in a raucous tumble. Gahald reached for more and quite often found himself lacking. "Haughty?" He wasn't sure enough of the meaning to make it a statement instead of a question, no matter his initial intent. It was only when a hint of passion entered his tone and his facade cracked that his vocal pace quickened. "And didn't you just go on about how I had to be concerned whether it accepted me or not." She was the bumpiest of roads and to ride beside her was to lose wheel after wheel after wheel.

It was exhausting, and it colored his every response. "You said you would not ask the what, just the why? Or the how? You know what I mean. I told you it was valor that was what for and valor it was what for and I shall respect your won't-ing, that is your limits and boundaries, Miss Wynsee," for somewhere in there, he found some artificial poise once more, "even if you don't respect them."

All the while he watched her as she fumbled about. He was strong, stronger than Elliot Brown had ever been, and had grown larger than he ought to have, had outpaced Brown's body in ways that hardly seemed natural, wounded visage or no. Elliot Brown was never meant to have stature.

"I remember what I remember, Miss Wynsee," and he would not admit this forever, not before every statement as a disclaimer invalidating all he might say. Here though, about her, he simply couldn't be sure, "and some more sharply than others, but while I would not turn a silent ear to a woman who begged for my aid, as I remember it," the sentence was slow and labyrinthine but not said with spite, "you were neither kind nor fair."
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Re: From Whence We Came

Postby Rance » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:56 am

"Kind, I was not, and never must be. The world demands a kind woman only for its satisfaction, and rarely for hers. But I venture to say your measurement of fairness is skewed. Your matriarch raped minds and murdered the essence of good souls, Elliot Gahald. Take care," Gloria said, "that you do not value fairness over survival. I survived. I survived. You remember what you remember, and I remember what I remember. And so does Myrken Wood."

She looped on herself; this, she might never admit, but knew too well. Offered reasons immediately damaged by contradictions. Her shoulders expanded and then deflated as, with a breath, she shook her head, and scraped her fingers through the grassy soil. "Valor is a fragile word to me, Elliot. As frail as my reasons for wanting to see you. I—" A handful of dirt. Squeezed. Like wet clay. "I wanted to see your face, if you care to know.

"I just — I just wanted to see your face."

Now, she sat in the grass, with one knee bent and her lone thumb picking at the edge of a patch on her skirt. She wiped a few streaks of rust off her fingertips. All this parrying, all this jabbing, it tired her, almost as much as it tired him. She looked up at him, her skin as dark as mud in the slanted morning Sun.

She patted the earth beside her. Invited him to sit. She unstrapped the burden of righteousness off her shoulders. Could he?

After a long bit of silence, where the sounds of the day seemed deafening:

"What you did for Cherny—" she whispered, looking at her knees. "Could you do that, too, for others?"
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Re: From Whence We Came

Postby Glenn » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:11 am

Kind. Kind. Raped and murdered. Fariness. Survival. Survived. Remember. Remember. Remember and remember.

He stood and stared with the one eye he could still stare with and with a chain pointed just so, which he could always do. He stood and stared and listened. He heard her admittance. He heard her excuse. He heard her take offense. He heard her accusation. He heard her warning. Then he heard her tie it all together, a lumpy, misshapen parcel, one that would come apart and fall into the dust with the slightest movement. He said nothing.

She squeezed a handful of dirt, dust, perhaps the same dust that contained what she had just tried to offer and force upon him.

She wanted to see his face. That selfsame face softened with those words. He would drown the world in compassion, compassion he didn't understand, compassion he couldn't even understand. Never do anything if you don't know what you're doing and why you're doing it. That was the sort of advice his mother gave, always so concerned that her children might look like fools. Rhaena Olwak's advice was very different indeed. Follow your code. Follow her edicts.

He did not seat. He was wary of his own compassion that he no longer understood. "I could." He had not sought out Cherny. That was not compassion. He had not sought out anyone, not anyone his own family. Consistency eliminated the question of compassion. Was it cowardice instead then? Whatever valor was, cowardice was its opposite. Everyone knew that, even Gloria Wynsee. "Swords. Practice. Again and again. A code to live by. Practice. Again and again." The words, though hardly sentences, came slowly. "I could do it with my eyes closed."

His smile, now that it came, was a far more complete thing than it had been a few minutes before. Complete and so very sad. "I can't with my eyes open, though."
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Re: From Whence We Came

Postby Rance » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:33 am

She could have basked in the Glass Sun all day. Here, even in the hottest day, she was always cold. Bitterly, violently cold, a chill so deep in her brown bones that only a mouthful of magma and whiskey could have rid her of it. Sometimes she caught hints of that Jernoan warmth. In the right angle. At the right moment. Up, she reached, with a mutilated hand, and rubbed at her cheek. As if to grind the gaze of the Sun right into her dark flesh.

What she expected was anger. Anger. Pure, hot, unrelenting. That he had damaged that body. That, underneath the guise of his valor, he'd — on some fool's errand — scarred it beyond repair when it was not his to sacrifice. But what should he do, then? Live within a bottle of glass, like some precious relic, meant never to blemish or fade? Her forearm and fist tightened with rage.

But not at him. For once, not at him.

She slipped her hand down against her side, ground her fist into the earth, and pressed, pressed, pressed until the tooth of a tiny stone chewed into that soft skin between her knuckles.

"A man has told me we ought to — to build. To reach outside of ourselves to find prosperity. Myrken Wood does not so much flounder as it stagnates. That is survival," she reasoned. "Good men, good girls, they want for a code like yours. Ariane lived by code, and even Agnieszka. Edmund did—" It hurts just to think of him "—and Lady Egris. The code is yours, Elliot. Not stitched into you by a maker's hands, or fabricated against your will.

"A code is made only more powerful by looking upon it and criticizing it with widened eyes. Who cares what valor you found," she asked, "if you saw a glimmer of you for the first time in forever?"

Up came the knee. So that her cheek could rest upon it.

"Do you want to build something good and fair?"
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