Homecoming

Homecoming

Postby Rance » Sat Jan 09, 2016 8:28 pm

It was quite a fucking chore, willing the stairs to stay steady under my feet as I stomped up them. Thank the gods for the walls in the stairwell leading up to the flat; I bounced left, right, left, right, and only once — no, twice, I guarantee, just twice — did the stairs pull themselves out from under me and send me careening to my knees. But the bottle in my right hand was there to catch my fall. So when I got to the top of the landing...

...swaying, trying to drag the iron key out of my pocket—

"Fucking door."

Couldn't hold the near-empty bottle and try to fiddle with the key—

Jabbing the toothy edge of the key into the hole didn't work; I ended up scraping a few marks along the wood before it fell from my fingers and clattered —clack, clack, clack — down the stairs. The fishmonger's hut one floor below the flat I'd rented near the docks reeked like a stagnant, frothy bay, and the stink of dead fish was starting to turn my stomach. I stood victoriously in front of the door, swigged from the bottle, and then went with the only option that presented itself to me: I crushed my cheek against the heavy wood and beat on the iron brace with the flat of my palm.

"You god'da open this thing up, Ail'va. I'm a right fuckin' circus out here. I'm a right fuckin' circus, and..."

I flattened myself against the door, because if I didn't, the whole world was just going to keep tumbling and tumbling and spinning and rolling, pitching, yawing, swaying like everything was on the deck of a ship cast out into the storms—

Soo when ye gaz'd ooff, ye were sharin' soome rosy dream with 'er?

(Keep your footing. That's it! You could stand like this for hours, couldn't you, Elias?)

"You there? Tell me you're there. Nine bleedin' Hells, Ail'va, you should'da heard that horned thing screech after you left."
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Re: Homecoming

Postby highawaywoman » Sat Jan 09, 2016 8:43 pm

Lips thinned into a veritable line as she heard the careening steps that clambered up to the door. Not that she was angry over his drunkenness. Gods' teeth. She'd been in such a state many a time and he'd never passed judgement. However, the fact he'd admitted the bird-witch's hold in front of the half-dragon? It set her teeth on bleedin' edge. Then there was that odd conversation she spied him having with Phor on the porch.

Soon enough, the pounding sounded at the door of their shared abode.

"Nine bleedin' Hells, Ail'va, you should'da heard that horned thing screech after you left."

"Feck ye, Elias! Ye wee sod! Ye see no 'arm in tellin' a roigh' strang'r oour business, bu' 'ave a prooblem with the gutter-snoipe tha' made us rich."

Despite her words, the bolt was slid back and the door swung open afterwards.

"Why dinnae ye 'ell me soon'r? Why didae 'ave 'o be in froon' o' 'im?" The horsewoman spat to the floor, "'e communes with witches 'oo." Booted feet shifted as she allowed her love entrance into the flat. Despite her rage, she hadnae made a wreck of the place.

"I wanna punch ye in the throoa'. Ye make deals with some sanctimonious woods-creature, and then 'appen 'o 'ell me tha' ye were mind fecked - or almos' mind-feck'd at oour meetin' with tha' witch? In froont o' the half-dragon? As if'n 'twos nae matt'r a' all." The bottle was grabbed out of his hand as she took several fortifying sips, "Wos i' 'er teats or feath'rs tha' turn'd yer heid?"
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Re: Homecoming

Postby Rance » Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:04 am

There were two of her. No, three of her. And I couldn't figure out which one to focus my eyes on. I couldn't ascertain which was the actual Ailova and which was a doppleganger. The center one, I surmised, was her; the others were blurry imitations, glassy images that mimicked her motions and tilted sideways like the rest of the flat. "Made us rich?" I spat. "Oh, with nothing to say about me pud'din a fuckin' bolt through that fat slob's nose—" my voice shifted down into a drunken whisper, "—or you drawing your sword on the two nobs we took the money from?

"She did all of that, eh, with her own two hands? Her, with her little fuckin' ultimatums and accusations. You want to trust that horned devil more than me? By all means—" arms out wide, bottle to one side, a frank and welcome invitation, "—because if feedin' into her little fantasies puts coin in your pocket, who gives a fuck about what she's actually after. Right?"

Where'd the bottle go? She took it. I cut my hand through my hair and swayed past her toward the middle of the darkened flat.

Ye make deals with some sanctimonious woods-creature, and then 'appen 'o 'ell me tha' ye were mind fecked - or almos' mind-feck'd at oour meetin' with tha' witch?

I turned, almost stumbled, and jabbed a finger sloppily through the air.

"You think I found pleasure in it? What the fuck do you think I am, Ail'va? And that—" I motioned blindly toward the door, to the world, toward Hok leagues away, "—wasn't a fuckin' deal I went into without your blessin', so don't pull that shit on me. You knew why I was telling him. You did'din' have a problem with it at first—"

At first. At first...

Because she'd been complicit, hadn't she? The way she'd whispered — Tis nothin' tha' woould be brin' doown anythin' untow'rd. Jus' a noote o' interes' — and understood, until...

...until you thought I'd been compromised by that feathered slit playing around in my mind.

I steadied myself against the wall. "You god'da be shitting me," I muttered. I braced myself for the throat-punch she'd earlier threatened.

"Nine Hells, you're jealous, aren't you?"
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Re: Homecoming

Postby highawaywoman » Sun Jan 10, 2016 6:23 am

For two people that until now had shared a blissful domicile - this fight was quickly making up for that time of peace. He swayed in front of her, making a string of words tie themselves into one of those intricate sailor's knots she'd seen at the docks. The more he spoke? The more her hackles rose.

"She did all of that, eh, with her own two hands? Her, with her little fuckin' ultimatums and accusations. You want to trust that horned devil more than me? By all means because if feedin' into her little fantasies puts coin in your pocket, who gives a fuck about what she's actually after. Right?"

He was right! Damn his bleedin' eyes. That only served to make her even more furious.

"Are ye tellin' me she accus'd ye o' somethin'? Wot the feck exactly were the two o' ye conversin' aboou', at any rate? I'd ratherra ken i' noow than lat'r with soome passin' feckin' acquaintance!"

A wad of spit was delivered to the floor, as if the action would remove the taste of bile that'd arisen in her mouth with this heated exchange.

"I ken tha' she be evil! She's murder'd moore than animals and her sadistic nature ken noo boounds. Wot the feck am I 'o do, thoough? My friend brings 'er in 'o oour rooms a' the Dagg'r, off'rs her guardianship? I'm nae exactly able 'o neatly extricate meself froom this noow!"

Despite the anger the that palpitated in the small flat, she followed him to the middle of the room. A long finger poked him in the chest, but it wasn't as forceful as she could have been. Or wanted to be.

"Feck ye, Elias! 'ere I be thinkin' tha' ye were wrapp'd up in plottin', bu' instead ye two were takin' a dance within yer brainmeats!"

His final words knocked the wind from her storm tossed sails.

"Nine Hells, you're jealous, aren't you?"

"Ye are a roigh' feckin' twa'!" Calloused hand went to grasp the front of his shirt, pulling him close. She should hit him! He deserved it! Instead.

"I am. Or wos. I dinnae ken!"
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Re: Homecoming

Postby Rance » Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:17 am

I laughed. A more sober man would have realized that was an absolutely idiotic response, but I couldn't help it with the whiskey in my gut and in my brain. I didn't laugh in her face, and I didn't guffaw like some schoolboy who'd won a fistfight in the lawn. Rather, it was more a bubbling burst of surprise, an easing of pressure from my lungs that didn't do fuck-all to relieve the spinning sensation inside my head.

"You are," I finally said, even as she knotted my shirt in her fist. "Fuck me silly, you are jealous. Because of what?" I tried to squint my eyes so I could focus on hers, though through the darkness of the room, it just made me teeter more. "Some doxy and her feathers and her parlor tricks? You ain't thinking I'm that daft to fall for it, are you?

"I pushed her away. Because I thought about you."

Twat, she could call me; she could call me whatever she wanted, but right then — even if I fancied leaning forward and enveloping her mouth in mine, to drown all this spitting and hashing — what mattered most was sitting. I tried to clumsily pry my way out of her grip, sweaty fingers an apologetic storm as I peeled her hand away. I stumbled toward the hay-stuffed bed and collapsed down on it. The hot, nauseous pulsing of the room began to dwindle. Everything spun around me like I was the very center of a child's top.

"Your little shadow," I said, swinging up to yank at my boots until I flopped back on the bed with a foot thrust out above me to give me more leverage, "told me we could share you. Like you're a fuckin' flask, aye? And who the shit cobbled these things—!" I wasn't successful in taking the boot off. I continued: "Staked claim over you, like you're a god'am commodity. She'd take you away if — fucking foot!"

The boot fell away and thumped to the floor. I spread out on the prickly bedding victoriously.

"The kid just wants what you offer her. She's got you twisted right up. You worried about me with tits an' magic in my head, but that one's stuck her horns right into yours."

I squeezed my eyes shut to keep the ceiling from running its marathon of circles and draped my knuckles on my forehead. Couldn't remember if I'd taken off the other boot...

Couldn't give a fuck, really.

I dared open an eye, looking from underneath my hand toward her.

"You wann' know why I did'din tell you, Ailova, what happened in the alley?"
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Re: Homecoming

Postby highawaywoman » Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:43 am

Ailova's hand dropped away from him as he chortled and tottered precariously towards the bed. Admitting her jealousy had been harder than admitting she'd cared for him. Jealousy for something that she would never - could never be. It wasn't just Feather's appearance, her endless supply of money, or perfect teeth - it was her self-satisfaction at being utterly female and embracing it. That was something Ailova could never do herself.

"I pushed her away. Because I thought about you."

It was safer to talk about Phor. After admitting the true reason for her ire, she now wished to forget it.

"Phor wan's ye 'o share me? As if'n I'm soome work 'orse 'o be trad'd betwixt farmers?" That certainly didn't sit well, but a few sips of whiskey helped to calm her nerves and racing mind. "I cannae be rid o' 'er. I've troied. She's evil. She kill wot I loove, whom I loove." Pointedly she glanced to the bed as he struggled with his boot, before collapsing back onto the lumpy mattress.

"She'll kill ye. Or orchestrate soome way 'o 'ave ye 'aken away froom me." The bottle was finished and after a pause, she considered leaving and spending the rest of the wee hours within the gaming hell. Instead, the highwaywoman moved to the bed and sat at the edge.

"I ken wot she is. Wot she can do. How verra rotten she is within 'er coore. I ain't bloind 'o i'. Noor does she 'ave soome 'old in me brain-box."

"You wann' know why I did'din tell you, Ailova, what happened in the alley?"

No! Part of her wished to scream at him, tell him to shove whatever misplaced reasons he had up his arse, but she bit her lower lip fiercely to suppress the urge. He wasn't going to let the meeting from the other night go - not without explanation.

"Aye, woould be noice 'o ken."
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Re: Homecoming

Postby Rance » Sun Jan 10, 2016 9:21 am

The spins. That dangerous, precarious bridge between conscious drunkenness and the black sea of sleep, where every second with your eyes shut felt like you might keel right over the edge of the world and fall forever. I shouldn't have mounted the bed; I knew I still had a few hours left in me, an opportunity to shake away the drink and let my mind clear, maybe deny sleep altogether and bathe and shave...but the woolen bedclothes were a temptress and Nine Hells, did the pillow bunched underneath my cheek feel cool, refreshing...

"Because you," I slurred, feeling control over my words literally bleed right off my tongue, "would'a gone af'fer her. In that way you do when something you care for is thrett'end. You would'a chanced it, tossed every care to the wind, and aimed to cut her throat for it. An' I couldn't risk—"

(Sit up, Elias! Just a press of the elbows into the bed, lift your head, look her in the eye...)

"If I lost you? Tha's like snuffin' out the fuckin' sun."

It was a twat's excuse. But it was what I had, and it was what I believed, fused to my brain and my heart like a shaft of iron. I pressed my fist against my forehead, an attempt to ease the incessant throbbing. Fuck whiskey. I uncoiled my fingers and let them crawl across the bed, a pitiful attempt to reach out and try to touch one of her hands.

"And you would'a done the exact same thing."

All the talk about the smooth-horn, I could barely piece my way through it; she was stuck between a wall and an immovable rock, and had I been more hale of mind, perhaps I could have offered a reasonable bit of advice. But instead? I thought back to the Red Devil in the woods, and to Feathers and her dainty parasol, and even thought of Phor and her destructive, possessive envy. All of it, I realized in my addled mind, boiled down to one incontrovertible fact: as a man, as Ailova Smith's lover, I was a rusted anchor; I was the one weakness of hers that could be exploited, a reminder to the beings threatened by her — or that admired her — that she was, underneath her unflappable, unchippable stone exterior, a human.

A better man might have internalized it too much, gathered his shit, and fled under the pretense that he was being some savior, some martyr. Me? I knew Ailova Smith could handle her shit. I wasn't giving this up.

So I said it the best way a drunken asshole could, drooling into my pillow, trying to make her laugh:

"That settles it. After we get that farm—" my eyes were getting heavy, too heavy, "—I'm cutting my dick off."
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Re: Homecoming

Postby highawaywoman » Sun Jan 10, 2016 10:36 am

Earnestly, the highwaywoman searched for some quip or lighthearted remark to ease the gravity of the situation. It was the best defense to this outpouring of drunken truth that came spilling from his lips quicker than the whiskey had spilled into his mouth.

There was no attempt to cut him off, but she did arise and go to the wash basin. There a stone pitcher sat with water. Not that Ailova would touch the stuff, but she debated on either pouring it on him or letting him drink it. Instead, she moved to the bedside, poured him a mug and handed it over.

"Ye are roigh', damn yer eyes. I'd 'ave troied 'o cu' her throa', bleedin' me new blade and gettin' soome good witch blood on i'."

"If I lost you? Tha's like snuffin' out the fuckin' sun."

It was mayhap the most wonderful thing anyone had ever said to her. For the first time in years, tears pricked the back of her eyes. His hand reached for hers and she squeezed his in reflex, "I loove ye, Elias. A' much as I'd rath'r noo'. I canna 'elp i'. Ye are as much as a par' o' me as Bruis'r. If'n I los' eith'r o' ye? 'Twould be nothin' moore 'o rob fer, 'o care fer."

"That settles it. After we get that farm—" my eyes were getting heavy, too heavy, "—I'm cutting my dick off."

Finally, the tension was broken, laughter bubbling up out of her as set aside the water and slid back to lay beside him.

"Nae, cannae be 'avin' tha'. 'Tis oone o' yer many foine attributes." A kiss was placed on the side of his face, guts twisting as she thought of the various threats that had suddenly appeared around them in the last week. It was her curse. A glimpse of happiness and everything about her would turn to destroy it.

A dark thought reared up in mind, like a horse that'd broken it's traces and taken the bit between it's teeth.

I should leave 'im. Tell 'em tha' I'm throough with this - with us. To save him.

Another kiss, this one closer to his mouth, trying to push away memories of Gareth. Him swinging from the rope till he was almost unconscious - the cutting him down and how the hangman had split open his belly, entrails splattering the wooden surface of the gallows. Stop! STOP. Elias was older. Wiser. She was older and wiser. The thought of giving him up was more painful than the fear of keeping him.

Besides, since when did the blonde brigand run away from her fears?
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Re: Homecoming

Postby Rance » Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:33 pm

Sometimes, there are things that can snap you — if for a hostile, short-lived moment — out of a drunken stupor: a slap across the face; a punch thrown in the midst of a drunken brawl; a sword drawn over a friendly game of bones and a few heavily-poured glasses of whiskey. But those, because the reaction often boiled down to sheer instinct, were hardly as sobering as the admission that rolled out of her right then, as I lay sprawled and reaching for her fingers, her reciprocating in kind with a touch, a squeeze. I loove ye, Elias.

And I said, not because I was drunk, but because I was honest and swollen with affection for her, for this rough and beautiful and passionate and devoted and daring and wonderful woman; and I said, not because I was lying, but because I was suddenly, intimately filled with unencumbered truth of what I'd once feared was only a boyish infatuation; and I said, not because I was trying to please her, but because I must tell her, for fear I'd burst like a fucking blister if I didn't:

"I love you too."

And then I was drunk again, and we were laughing, and I couldn't even remember if I'd taken off my last boot. Oh, I was drunk, with drink and with the lightness brought by feelings cut free to the world.

In the quiet of the night, while waiting for sleep to come, I thought back on little bursts of images burnt into my brain over the years, memories that had lost their sensations, their reality, but that tenaciously carved themselves trenches in my brain to occupy—

I felt the sea-spray on my cheeks as the cutter darted through the waters, turning blue to frothy white across the creased bow. The small sails rattled in the wind, blew themselves up like great canvas cheeks above us. Captain Arom put his hand on my shoulder, squeezed until his fingers bit into my collar. He breathed into my ear, "You don't hesitate. You kill the whoreson the minute you see him. You close your eyes if you have to. Men's eyes sometimes plead for their lives. Don't be weak, or it's your—"

And then—

They had her hands lashed with hemp. That was the first thing I noticed when I stepped in to see her. The cell was cramped and wet, less like a box and more like a tiny pocket in the wall the architect had forgotten to brick. A smudge of black was on her forehead. The woman wore wrinkles that reminded me of old parchment. A few ropes of gray lightened her hair. She had a smile you could have seen in the dead of night. She said to me, "You're my son, aren't you," and I said, "I am," even though I barely had a voice, and she said, "You grew up to be quite a handsome man," and I said, "I'm afraid," and she said, "Why," and I said, "Because they're going to kill you," and there was youth and fright in my words and she reached out her arms and said, "I know, but that doesn't mean I can't get to know you," and we cried together—

And then—

I was standing next to the river feeling my boots sink into the sand and mud. Or maybe it was clay. That part wasn't clear. But The moon was tall and fat and seemed closer than it had ever been. Myrkentown throbbed with a candlelight pulse. I rattled my hands in my pockets trying to keep them warm. The handle of the rusted knife I'd stashed there kept knocking against my knuckles. A thunderous rumble of hooves cut through the darkness. The rider threw herself down to her feet with a confidence that I knew I had to match. When she spoke I saw her gold teeth and my first thought was, I wonder how much I could sell those for—

I'd done some things. But I'd never loved a woman. Not until now.

Sleep came, drunken but clear as a crystal.

Filled with her.
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