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Bending But Never Breaking
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JewellRavenlock
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 12:15 pm    Post subject: Bending But Never Breaking Reply with quote

The Tree and the Reed
"Well, little one," said a Tree to a Reed that was growing at its foot, "why do you not plant your feet deeply in the ground, and raise your head boldly in the air as I do?"

"I am contented with my lot," said the Reed. "I may not be so grand, but I think I am safer."

"Safe!" sneered the Tree. "Who shall pluck me up by the roots or bow my head to the ground?"

But it soon had to repent of its boasting, for a hurricane arose which tore it up from its roots, and cast it a useless log on the ground.

On the other hand, the little Reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“It… won’t… sto-op,” she sobbed. “I can't… I can't…”

The tears she couldn’t contain as she walked out of The Line had lead to sobbing as Sapphire helped her into the rickshaw which was leading to hyperventilating as well as pain in her chest and a racing heart that was likely to explode.

It wasn't just all the things Kal had said (or refused to say). It was everything. Arish crushed in a pillar of water. Mallory looking at her with fear in her eyes. The Namekeeper calling her name. Kal asking her, “How do you want it done?” Sapphire lying on the street, her hair cut off and spread around her. Lirssa lost in space. Theo dead in Little Elfhame. The feeling of someone else inside her head, her arms, her legs, her entire body. Ishmerai bleeding to death in her arms. A bomb going off. Kal kissing her forehead as he stabbed her in the heart. Malcolm falling to the ground with an icicle through his chest. A priest touching her hair, talking about keeping her. Someone laughing in the dark, “Hey, when do I get a turn?”

It was all too much.

It was too much for anyone.

“Is your arm tingling? Is it numb? Can you feel it?” Jewell, doubled over, her fingers gripping her shirt over her heart tightly, shook her head no. “Damn it!” Sapphire leaned forward and shouted at the rickshaw driver on his bike, “Hey! Turn around! Turn around! Take us to Dragon’s Gate General. Now!”

Then she tore through her backup, searching frantically for the right bottle. She found it, twisting off the cap. The vehicle hit a bump, causing her to spill half the liquid on her lap. She grit her teeth. The state of her jeans was unimportant right now. “Here, tilt your chin. There you go. Just a little bit and it’ll start working, okay?”

Jewell drank the liquid prepared for her by the apothecary just the day before. Then she curled forward again and to the side, resting her head on Sapphire’s knee. Her heart was racing. Her chest hurt. Her arms and legs felt heavy and numb. Her stomach twisted inside. Sweat soaked the hair across her forehead and along the nape of her neck. As the rickshaw made a sharp turn and the cool February wind hit her in the face, she shivered.

And she could not check the tears streaming down her face. She could not breathe. She could not do this anymore.

The teen juggled to get the medicine bottle closed again before tossing it in her bag and brushing her hand over Jewell’s damp hair. She was a novice at best, but she tried to soothe the faerie even a little with the touch of her glamour. “It’s okay, we’ll be there in a minute, okay? You’ll be fine.”
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“So, we’ll want to keep her for observations overnight.” The teen looked up as the doctor came out of the hospital room, her backpack clutched to her chest. The calm and control she had exuded on the ride over had deteriorated. She was close to tears. “She can go home again in the morning though if everything checks out.”

“Is she...” she wiped furiously at her eyes, “will she be okay? Is there going to be more permanent damage? She couldn’t breathe. She was hyperventilating and she said she couldn’t feel her arm and her chest hurt and I just...”

“Sapphire, she is not going to die. Okay?” She nodded, sniffling wetly. “You did the right thing in bringing her back here so quickly. We just want to make sure her body is getting the oxygen it needs and her heart rate evens out before we send her home again.”

“So she’ll be okay?”

“As okay as she can be, yes. But this is likely going to set her recovery back a few days. These are the kinds of shocks to her system we warned her about avoiding.”

“I know.” She tightened her hold on her backpack, frustrated. “I asked her not to go. But she insisted and I just… She didn’t listen.”

He nodded. “I’ll recommend again that she visit her psychologist. Try to encourage her to set up that appointment, okay?” Sapphire bit at the inside of her cheek and nodded. “Also, whatever she drank likely interfered with the medication she’s been taking. She really needs to avoid that.”

She shook her head. “I told her. I told her not to drink. She knows she’s not supposed to. I don’t know what she was thinking.”

“She’s been through a lot of trauma. I’m not sure she was thinking.”

“Yeah…”

“Fortunately,” he flipped through Jewell’s chart, locating her blood work, “it doesn’t look like she imbibed a lot and coupled with how her body synthesizes mortal spirits, the damage was limited, but she really does need to stay away from drinking anything alcoholic for the time being.”

“Okay.”

“As for permanent damage,” the doctor flipped back to the top paper in his hands.

“If he hurt her more…” the teen interrupted, trailing off darkly, blue eyes narrowed and teeth grinding together.

Dr. Carson smiled, “Let’s not go stabbing Cupid, all right? I don’t need you creating more work for me.” That got the smile he was looking for. “We’re still not entirely sure how much permanent damage there was going to be to begin with. I looked but I have not found any cases where a faerie recovered from iron to the heart. Ever. Not in RhyDin at least. We’re just not sure about the lingering effects of the iron touching the muscle and surrounding tissue. Only time will tell. She may still want to consider a trip to Faerie eventually, but we can wait and see about that. Otherwise? We will hope for the best.”

She let her bag slip to the ground so she could grasp his hand, “Thank you! Thank you, Dr. Carson. You’re the best.

“You’re very welcome. You should be able to go in and see her now. She’s sedated though.”

“Right, okay.” She grabbed the top of her bag to haul it off the floor.

“And Sapphire?” Dr. Carson had taken a few steps down the hall before he turned back, approaching the blue haired teen again. “Remember, avoid anything that will tax or put a strain on her heart. It’s very weak.”
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She stood in the doorway of the hospital room, staring at the slight figure, hooked up to half a dozen machines, laying in the bed. The steady beep beep beeping of the machines, the dimmed lighting, and the stinging scent of disinfectant were all too familiar. They had just left the hospital yesterday, and now she was back here. Again.

For a moment, just a moment, she let herself hate Kalamere.

But it was just a moment because Sapphire knew this was bigger than him. This wasn’t really his fault. Not completely. Whatever Kal had said to her today was just the tipping point.

Only Jewell really knew the full measure of what she was struggling with and against, but Sapphire was starting to piece it together. She had wriggled details out of everyone that had come to visit (and mentally taken note of who did not come). She watched the faerie carefully. She listened to what she said and how she said it. She watched the way she fidgeted when certain topics came up or the way she skirted around other subjects deftly. She factored in everything Ishmerai had told her last summer about Jewell’s first encounter with the Temple of the Divine Mother.

She had also seen Jewell’s medical records and charts. All of them.

They made her cry.

Jewell opened her eyes and smiled drowsily at her, “Hey Lil Blue.”

“Hey.”

“Come here.” She held out her hand to Sapphire.

The girl hesitated before crossing the room, crouching at her bedside, and taking her thin, shaky hand in both of her own. “I was worried about you.”

Her eyes fluttered closed and she exhaled slowly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you worry. I just wanted--”

“Shhh.” Sapphire didn’t want to her what she had wanted from Kal. She didn’t want her to talk about it and start crying again. She didn’t want to know what he had said to her so she wouldn’t want to go make him take it back. “Don’t be sorry, mama. Just be okay.”
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sapphire treated her like a porcelain doll all day on Wednesday when they got home from the hospital for the second time in one week. That was fine. Jewell felt like she was made of porcelain. She had to sit down on the teak bench while Sapphire flitted around the bathroom to draw her a bath; she was out of breath after pulling her shirt up over her head; and she needed the teen’s help to get into the soaking tub.

“Remember, not too hot, okay?”

“Got it.”

“And you’ll shout if you need something?”

“I will.”

“You’ve got your pillow, I put the relaxing bath salts in, you have a glass of water. I put your book here in case you want to read, and…”

“Sapphire,” she waited until the young woman looked her in the eyes, “I’ll be okay.”

She hesitated and then nodded. “Okay. I’ll just be right down the hall. You know, if you need anything.”

“Okay.”

“And don’t try to get out of the tub by yourself!”

“I won’t.”

When she left, Jewell sunk down into the steaming water until it came up to her chin. Then just a little bit further until it hit against her lower lip. She wondered briefly what it would be like if she just kept sinking. She could sink so far that the water covered her mouth. Then she could open her mouth and breathe in the water. It would fill her lungs and clog her ears. Eventually, her heart would stop. Again.

It would probably hurt, but so did being alive.

The doctor told her to avoid dwelling on anything that caused her stress, but as the hot water soothed away the physical aches still plaguing her, her mind couldn’t help but touch upon a much deeper pain that consumed her thoughts: her visit to The Line yesterday afternoon. She replayed the conversation with Kal over and over again in her head. She re-imagined it a million different ways. She imagined all the things she could have said instead; all the things she wished she had said; all the things she wished he had said.

And over and over, she heard him say the words that broke her heart: “Might be I didn't see it. Might be I just didn't want to. Truth is I can't… I don't return it.”

Why didn’t he love her? If it wasn’t a matter of can’t, if he could love, what was so fundamentally wrong with her that he didn't love her? What was she missing? What was she lacking? What had she done wrong?

She wracked her brain.

Was she not pretty enough? Did she laugh too loud? Cry too much? Get into too much trouble? Was she not demure enough? Was it because she didn't sit there quietly, like a pretty picture? Was she too wild? Too unpredictable? Maybe she was boring? Uninteresting? Unexciting? Was she not smart enough? Dangerous enough? Was she not good in bed?

She thought there was plenty of evidence to the contrary on that last account, but that was the problem with rejection. Rejection made her question everything about herself. Jewell soaked in her bathtub and questioned the size of her thighs and breasts, the way her shoulders sloped, the length of her eyelashes, the shape of her nose, the little overbite of her teeth, her height, her waist, her hips, the way her hair looked when she woke up, her laughter, her smile, the way she spoke, the way she ate, the way she drank a beer, the crinkles at the corners of her eyes when she was happy, and the way she cried when she was sad.

The weight of the rejection, the way it both undermined everything good she knew and felt about herself and confirmed everything bad she knew and felt about herself, sunk her. Jewell slid further down in the tub, letting the water fill her ears, her nose, and cover her head, all while wishing she had the courage to take a deep breath.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The iron in the air burned his lungs. Even in Little Elfhame it was there, carried on the breeze, although fainter than elsewhere in the city. Ishmerai hated it. After so many weeks of the fresh air of Faerie, it left a foul taste in his mouth. It made his head ache. He was willing to endure it, though. He would endure it. He would endure anything for her.

The neighborhood showed some scars from the recent battle with the Temple of the Divine Mother: boarded up windows on several homes, broken streetlamps, gouge marks in the cobblestones from some type of blade or perhaps claws, a flower wreath and candles placed where a life had been snuffed out, and the blown out shell of Beyond the Veil. He stopped and stared at the store. Repairs were being made but not quickly. Jewell seemed in no rush to have her operation up and running again. That was not good.

Things were amiss in Little Elfhame.

The knight had received steady correspondence from the ladies in House of Summer and Sapphire since waking up, but nothing from Jewell herself. Not a single line. Not even after the events that had occurred at Sanctuary. There had been a recap from Haizea: the Temple had Jewell’s name and they had used it; Kalamere had made a bargain with the faerie and had broken the summoning; the half-elf had arranged medical assistance for Jewell; his lady was alive; the Namekeeper was dead; Mallory had been injured; the doctors seemed to think Jewell would recover in time.

And then only intermittent correspondence until Sapphire’s note: Kal broke her heart. Again. Asshole. Come quickly?

So he had. He had wasted no time in getting permission from the court healers, whose care he had been entrusted to by Jewell, to leave at once. He was not one hundred percent better, he was still in pain at times, but his lady needed him.

There was a new key to the penthouse waiting for him downstairs in the Mills at Little Elfhame. He turned it over in his hand as he mounted the steps to the top floor. There were reminders of the battle here too. The front doors were new. There were marks on the walls from when Jewell had blown the previous ones to bits. Gone were the pile of high heels in the vestibule. Oddly, he missed the sight of them. There was no Mr. Fitzy running to greet him with rambunctious barking or little Jax to bite at his boots. He missed them too.

He was pleased to see that some of the wards and security measure were still in place and additional ones had been set up. He was dismayed to see that every mage light was burning brightly even an hour after midnight. He knew his lady’s habits and her coping mechanisms; so many lights did not bode well. He wondered which demons she was trying to ward off this evening.

“Do you want cinnamon glaze or cream cheese?” Sapphire. He could hear her in the kitchen. A baking sheet clattered against the rack in the oven. The door banged closed. A bit of humming. The water in the sink turned on and then off. “Mama? Cinnamon glaze or cream cheese? I want to start making it.”

He held his breath.

“Whichever is easier. I don’t care.”

Jewell. His lady. His little Mira. Hearing her voice again, weak and listless but unmistakable, was an awakening. It was a reassurance. She was alive. He had not failed her too.

His life was not without purpose.

Ishmerai stepped into the living room. He had to see her. Needed to see her. Almost a month had passed in RhyDin since he had last laid eyes upon her, standing in the doorway of Beyond the Veil moments before a bomb exploded. It had been longer in Faerie. She was cocooned on the couch in several blankets, practically disappearing right into them. She was smaller. Thinner. Bruised and burned. Her hair was dark and short. And her eyes, they filled with tears so quickly when she turned from staring out the window at the black night and saw him standing there.

Her breath caught in her throat. “Merai.”

She threw the blankets from her and leapt from the couch, moving too quickly for the fabric to tangle her feet. The knight did not hesitate to cross the room to meet her, so it was only a moment before she was crashing into him. She was there and his arms were around her and she was real and she was crying, crying so so hard.

He crushed her against him, ran his hand along her hair, and spoke the only reassurance he had for her, “I am here now, Mira.”
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I felt you die.”

She tightened her arms around him. He was sitting upright in her bed, legs stretched out before him and his back against the headboard. She was curled next to him, arms around his waist, and her face buried against his side.

Dawn wasn’t far off. They had been talking all night.

“I felt the iron stop your heart and then you were gone.”

Kal was right. Several bonds had been broken that night in Sanctuary. She had known it was true when she woke in the hospital. The bond between lady and knight, made long ago in Faerie, was only unto death.

His or hers.

“I thought it was over when the bomb went off. I thought you were going to die in my arms. I thought they had taken you from me.”

“I am still here.”

“But your oath…”

“I will swear it again. You are alive now. That is all that matters.”

“I’m sorry.”

“There is nothing to be sorry about, Mira. You did what you felt needed to be done. And I am glad,” he hesitated, “I am glad he was able to help when I could not.”

“He did. He saved me. I couldn’t stop them but he did.”

He gently stroked her hair. “Did it hurt?”

She closed her eyes. “It did. But it was also a relief.”
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Mira…” he said her name, dismayed.

She was sitting on the floor in front of her closet, staring up at all the clothes. There were tears rolling down her cheeks.

Sapphire and Ishmerai had encouraged her to get dressed. It would make her feel better, they said. Maybe she should go out to the duels tonight. Friday nights were always quiet. She needed to see people. Be seen. She needed to get out of the house.

She had gone into her room thirty minutes ago.

“I know you said I should go out, but I couldn’t… I couldn’t decide what to wear.” She wiped at her face with the back of her arm, but the tears wouldn’t stop. “I don’t know what the weather is like. And I don’t know what fits because I lost so much weight or what would look good with my hair because I changed it and it’s not b-b-blue,” she sobbed, “anymore. And I thought about that dress,” she pointed to a forest green, cotton frock, “but it only looks good in heels and I can’t… I can’t wear heels. And now my face is all red and I can’t even use my glamour and I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to and I just can’t.

The knight silently crossed the room and knelt on the floor next to her. Then he wrapped his arm around her and let her cry.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tuesdays were bad days.

Three weeks ago, her life had ended on a Tuesday.

Last week, her lover had rejected her on a Tuesday.

She wasn’t even willing to give this Tuesday a chance.

It was late in the afternoon but she hadn’t bothered to get out of bed. It wasn’t worth it. The medicine Ishmerai had injected into her thigh last night, when she couldn’t breathe and her heart was doing that awful thing where it didn’t work, was still lingering in her system, making her brain feel sluggish and her limbs heavy. It had been unfortunately necessary though. Letting him administer the emergency “rescue medication” had been the only way to convince the knight not to bring her straight to the hospital after she had collapsed in the elevator on her way up from the Annex.

The Annex

Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it.

Someone knocked on her door. She peered up from the pillow she was trying to hide under. Ishmerai was standing there, concern furrowing his brow. He was always concerned these days. “You awake, Mira?”

She nodded, lifting her head and forcing herself to sit up, “Yeah.” She noticed the two pieces of paper in his hand. “Lirssa’s alignment change?” He nodded. That was to be expected. Still, her heart gave an uncomfortable twist. “And what else?”

A challenge from Old Temple.” He crossed the room to hand them both to her.

She accepted them but did not read them. Not yet. “I'm a little surprised. I didn't think he had the nerve.”

“If he had the nerve to lecture you in public like you are a child…”

“True.”

“And you did banish him. I understand that this is a common countermeasure and well within the rules.”

She nodded, staring down at the two papers. A challenge. It was just a challenge. It was just part of a stupid game. A sport. None of it meant anything. So why did it still hurt so bad? The words on the paper blurred. That was fine. She didn’t want to read them anyway. She did not need to see what her friends had to say to her. Aric had already said enough the night before.

“And if there's anyone that knows what it's like to be close to death... or even die... it's me. But you need to put that aside, and stop ignoring the people that were there for you.”

“Do you want pity? To be babied because you almost died? That you can use that as an excuse to treat people who have done so much for you so badly?”

“This was my attempt at giving you a chance to salvage loyalty. And all you had to do was talk to someone, and say a few words, maybe add an apology, and everything would have been fine. But if you want to act like this, wallowing in whatever it is that's got your head buried, then... so be it.”


All morning, she had tried to think of anything but the things Aric had said and managed to think of nothing else.

She needed to put it aside. She needed to stop wallowing. She needed to just get over it.

Jewell didn’t know how to get over the summoning. She didn’t know how to get over the Namekeeper’s voice in her head, the things the Temple had done to her, or the things they had made her do. She didn’t know how to put aside Kalamere calling to her and the way the iron shiv had felt as it slid between her ribs at the same moment as his lips touched her skin.

She didn’t know how to get over dying or being alive.

“Mira,” he ducked his head to the side to try and catch her eye, “you knew this was a possibility.”

“I know.” She refused to look at him, staring stubbornly at the papers. One line on top caught her eye: “Overlord, do you even know who your friends are anymore?”

Lirssa

“But there is still time to fix it if you want. Make amends. Go back--”

“Back?” The papers curled inside her fist as she looked up at him. “Back to what? Back to what Ishmerai? Our warm friendship of the last year? Back to Lirssa continuing to look at me with resentment over something I didn't stop… oh but wait, neither did she! Back to her keeping me at arm's length except for when it’s convenient or helpful for her not to? For when it serves her ends? Back to her Empress-ing me because she can't… she can’t even stand to say...”

Somewhere in the middle there, her quick anger had turned to hurt and the tears were starting again in earnest. There was a neverending supply.

“She doesn’t want anything to do with me. Even before the other night she didn’t. She couldn’t even look at me the other day.” Her voice trembled and her chest was heaving. “And why would she? Why would anyone want anything to do with me? They saw what I really am.” Kalamere. Mallory. Lirssa. They had all seen her under the influence of her True Name. Aric hadn’t seen her, but he had obviously heard. Alain too. He knew, so he didn’t want to see her either. He didn’t want anything to do with her. His silence and absence said as much. “I tried… I tried to keep them safe. I tried to save them. I asked him to stop me. To kill me. But the Temple… they… they ruined me.”

The knight sat on the edge of the bed, reaching out to draw her up against him. “I wish…” she sobbed brokenly, “I wish he would have just let me die.”
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She could not drink to blur the pain.

She could not fight to numb the pain.

She could not *** to ignore the pain.

She could not run to escape the pain.

So Jewell did the only thing she knew how to do: she caused herself more pain.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sapphire curled forward. The pressure was starting to get to her. She couldn’t go to sleep at night unless Jewell was asleep. She woke up early to make sure she was awake before her. She got up in the middle of the night to check on her.

The teen was tired. So damn tired.

“It would only be for a few days. Rest. Relax. See your parents. See your friends.”

“No.” She shook her head. “I would have considered it the other day. She seemed to have such a nice time with Val. I thought maybe...” It didn’t really matter what she had thought or hoped. Jewell may take a step or two forward, but then she slid right back to the bottom again. The faerie had seemed more composed when she had come home from an afternoon with Valentina. Then she had another panic attack at the Inn.

She insisted she was fine. They all knew better.

“You saw her arms.”

The knight nodded once. “I did.”

“She’s so stupid!” She leapt up, annoyed. Sapphire grabbed one of the dishes from the wrack and started to dry it off with a towel just to have something to do with her hands. “She can’t even manage a strong enough glamour to cover them.”

Ishmerai watched her, still seated at the kitchen counter. “I know.”

“I mean, what does she think?” She set the mixing bowl down with a loud clatter, still not fully dry, before grabbing the glass measuring cup. “Does she think we’re too stupid to notice or something?”

“She likely hopes we will just ignore it and overlook it.”

“Well… it’s stupid! And careless. And wreckless. Her body is still healing and then she goes and does dumb **** like this.” She set the measuring cup down and threw the towel towards the sink. She couldn’t look at the knight after her little outburst. Her shoulders hunched forward as her fingers found the edge of the countertop and curled around it. “Do you think she’ll… you know,” she couldn’t quite say the words out loud, “do something really stupid?”

“I certainly hope she will not.”

“But you think she will try, don’t you?” He didn’t answer. She turned to look at him. “Merai?”

He sighed. “If she has not attempted it yet, I would like to think that she will not. But she tried it at least once in Faerie. I think there is a chance she might try again.”

If Jewell was going to try something stupid, she couldn’t leave. She wouldn’t. Not even for a day. “I’m staying then. Until she’s better.”

“All right.”

“And she’s going back to therapy too! I don’t care if I have to drag her by her hair.”
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“And did they touch you without consent?” Silence. “Jewell, did they take advantage of you when you were in that state?”

She stared stonily at the wall of books in Dr. Bronner’s office, her fingers kneading into her thighs. It took her a moment to achieve, but her voice was flat when she spoke, “You saw my medical records. What do you think?”

“I think... you should talk to me about it if you’re ready.”

Her knuckles dug harder into her legs. “I’m not ready.”

“Okay, then we’ll talk about something else.”
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“And then I thrust at him, hiyah!” she thrust into the air with the spoon in her hand. “Executed a masterful parry that had him begging for mercy on his knees. Ha ha ha ha!” She imitated her parry before tilting her chin up and laughing haughtily over her fallen opponent. “And then I thwap!” the spoon cut through the air, “took off his head with a high cut! Thank you, thank you,” she bowed to the imaginary cheering crowd before spinning to face Jewell. “And that’s how it defeated the mighty Leviathan! What do you think?”

Jewell was staring right through Sapphire to the clock ticking away on the wall. “Do you think he looked okay?”

Sapphire planted her hands on her hips. There was no way Jewell was asking about her opponent this evening. “Arrrghgh! Ma-ma!”

She blinked, focusing on the annoyed teen standing before her with a spoon clenched in her hand. “What?”

“I was telling you about my fight… remember?”

“Oh. Right. I’m sorry.”

She shook her head. “You’re impossible.” She shoved Jewell’s feet out of her way so she could sit on the couch too. “And he looked fine. I guess. You know, the same.” Jewell nodded and looked away. The teen frowned. “Not wasting away or heartbroken or anything like some people.”

“Good.” She hugged the pillow she was clasping tighter against her chest.

“Did you expect him to be?”

She could hear the edge of frustration creeping into Sapphire’s tone. It was there more and more often. She understood why. The girl was tired of watching her cry. She was tired of watching her be so hurt. So broken.

That was fine. Jewell was tired of crying. She was tired of being hurt. She was tired of being broken. But she didn’t know how to stop. The pain washed over her like a relentless tide, threatening to pull her under.

“No.” She shook her head. “No, I didn’t expect him to be heartbroken at all. Why would he be? I never even touched his heart.” She didn’t sound bitter about it, just sad. She didn’t want Kal to be heartbroken. She really didn’t. She didn’t want him hurt like she was hurt. She had never wanted the power to break his heart. She had broken enough hearts. She didn’t want his too. She had never admitted to him that her very lack of power over him was one of his greatest appeals. Jewell did not want that power over him or anyone else. Not now. Likely not ever.

She was tired of people willing to die for her.

She did want to be missed though. She wanted to be important enough to be missed. Even just a little. It didn’t have to be enough for him to change his mind or even enough to make him regret it. She just wanted him to miss her in little moments when she wasn’t there wrangling dueling practice out of him, stealing him for unplanned lunch dates, stopping by for a late night drink, complimenting him into making her breakfast, and insisting on doing the dishes. She wanted him to miss her laughing over something Rath had done, sweet talking him into going away for the weekend, rubbing salve on his shoulders after a duel, or coaxing him into taking her to the hot springs. She wanted to be missed in the early morning hours when he tried to slide out of bed, unnoticed, on his way to a job and she woke up long enough to tell him, with a sleepy smile, to be careful.

She wanted to be missed just enough to validate that she was worth missing. That she was worth something.

She wanted him to miss her just a little like the way she missed him.

Tears were quickly filling her eyes again. She twisted, raising her shoulder and roughly wiping her cheek against it. If she let them continue, they might never stop. Sapphire sighed, giving her a few moments to cry before nudging at the faerie’s leg with her foot impatiently. Jewell laughed indignantly through her tears, nudging her back. “Stop that.”

“You stop!” She nudged her again. “Come on, mama. He’s not worth it. He’s not worth any of your tears.”

“He feels worth it.” Despite Sapphire’s comments and Ishmerai and Issy’s glowering, she couldn’t make herself feel differently. She couldn’t even make herself think differently.

She was missing her lover. She was missing her friend.

“He feels worth every single one.”
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Stop.”

“Nngh.”

“Mira,” he growled, reaching over to grab her hand so she couldn’t poke at the wound on her leg again.

“Hey,” she tried to tug her hand free. When unsuccessful, she merely reached over with her left hand instead and poked at the bandaged wound left behind from her challenge fight against Aric

Pain shot up her leg, making her wince and cringe.

The corners of her lips turned up in a grin.

Tonight had been a good night. She had fought a man almost a foot taller and close to 100 pounds heavier, give or take. Her heart had a hole in it. It was broken. Her muscles were weak. She couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without being winded.

And she had kicked his ass.

She still felt giddy. Exhilarated. Sure, she had pretty much collapsed immediately afterwards, and Sal had to carry her out of the Arena and Ishmerai had to inject the rescue medicine into her leg again because her chest hurt so bad they were afraid she was having another heart attack, but it had been worth it.

She dug her finger harder into the wound Aric’s axe had left behind,luxuriating in the pain.

So worth it.

“Ugh, you are impossible.” The knight released her right hand and sat back, watching her agitate the cut until blood stained the thick bandages. “Why must you do that?”

“Because.” She winced, giving it one more jab with her pointer finger. There were so many reasons. Because the pain distracted her from everything going on in her head. Because it helped her focus. Because it reminded her that she was alive. Because it reminded her that she was strong. Because it blocked out the voice of the Namekeeper and made her forget a stranger’s touch. Because it let her ignore the far greater pain in her heart.

“Because what? What Mira?”

“Because it makes me feel real.”
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Wait, so you just sat there quietly while he flirted with another woman?”

She shrugged.

“You just sat there while he flirted with that trashy blonde again?”

She frowned, drawing her knees closer to her chest with her arm around her legs.

“And you didn’t say a damn thing?”

“Language,” she sighed out.

“Mama, COME ON! You are the ****ING EMPRESS--”

“Language!”

“--for ****’s sake! Give me a break. Stop pining over some guy who is either too blind to see what you’re worth or too much of a coward or…” she grasped for the right thing to say, “whatever the hell is wrong with him.”

“There’s nothing wrong with him, Sapphire.” She sighed again, resting her chin on her knees and closing her eyes. She was so tired. “It’s just me. There’s something wrong with me.”
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She watched the truck approach, appearing to wait for it to pass, but at the last moment, she stepped off the curb, directly into its path. It slammed into her petite, battered body, smashing her bones and crushing her organs with the force of the impact. First, there was shock. Then a pain excruciating enough to block out the constant, mental torture that had driven her off the curb in the first place. It was so strong. It consumed her. Then, as her blood spread across the cobblestone street where she lay, it too receded.

Her heart faltered before finally coming to a stop, bringing sweet relief.

“Mira?”

She blinked, watching the large truck pass by on the narrow street. It snapped at the skirt of her dress as it sped along, almost tugging her with it. She looked up at the knight, who was watching her carefully, concern etched in his brow. “Hmm?”

“We can cross now,” he gestured to the street.

“Oh.” They were out on their afternoon walk, a recommendation of one of her doctors. The sun was shining, although there was still a chill to the air. “Sure.” She shook her head free of the errant daydream, taking the knight’s arm as they stepped off the curb.

It was an unwanted thought similar to so many others that flitted through her mind these days.

Last week, she was helping Sapphire prepare dinner when she paused halfway through slicing a red bell pepper to consider sliding the sharp knife up her wrists. She knew just where to cut. It would only take a second. The cutting board was already stained with red. What would be a little more? Even with the teen standing right there, it was unlikely she’d be able to stop the flow of blood in time before she died.

Yesterday, when the sun was going down, Jewell leaned over the side of the balcony to gaze at Little Elfhame spread out below. She admired the way the buildings turned to gold and reasoned that it would be rather painless if she tumbled right over the edge. All she would need to do is sit on the parapet, swing her legs around, and push. Hopefully, she’d be unconscious before her body hit the ground.

And every day, when she took the handful of medication needed to keep her heart going in the morning, her dull grey eyes wandered over to the row of painkillers on the counter. She knew it would only take a moment to ingest the extra pills needed to slow her struggling heart down so much that her body didn’t get the oxygen it required. Her skin would start to turn as blue as her natural hair. Her legs would give out beneath her. In her last moments, she would feel cold and breathless, but she would feel numb too. Then it would be over. It would all be over.

On and on and on the ideas came to her wherever she went and at every time of day: when she was in the shower in the evening, when she was getting dressed in the morning, when she was walking along the river in the afternoon, when she stepped into a dueling ring at night. The thoughts were there. They were there every single day.

They promised an end to the pain. It was too great. It was ever present. The weight of what the Temple had done to her hung over her head. The violation of her mind, body, and soul afflicted her every waking moment, making her vulnerable and filling her with self-loathing. Her heart was broken. Her body struggled to work. She was alone and lonely. She was worthless, damaged, tainted, and used.

The thoughts tempted her with the sweet relief she desired and craved. They offered her the escape she needed.

She did not act.

She did not step off the curb, move from slicing the pepper to her wrists, push herself over the edge, gobble down those extra pills, step into an oncoming thrust in the rings, wrap a noose around her neck, or any other of the countless, unrelenting suicidal daydreams her anguished mind suggested over and over again.

Jewell had neither the will to take her own life nor the desire to die. She actually wanted to live. She just didn’t want to live like this.

So the thoughts persisted.

“Mira, would you like to rest a moment?” the knight offered kindly when they reached the opposite sidewalk. “You seem tired.”

She sighed, glancing at a nearby bench. It was too warm already to imagine that she could sit there and succumb to the elements if she waited long enough. Few people froze to death in April. “No, Merai. I would rather just keep going if I can.”
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Okay, so then we just burn it?”

“Yeah, that’s what Eva and Mase said.”

Sapphire laughed, “Sounds like fun.” She poured a little chemical mixture from her workshop on the man’s button-up shirt that was crumpled up in the plastic bucket on the patio. “What about the rest of that stuff? Are we burning it too?”

Jewell looked down at the box on her lap. Inside was everything she gathered from her house that was connected to Kal. Several pairs of earrings, including the heart-shaped sapphires he bought her when she hit Sapphire rank in the Outback and the pair made up of a simple platinum chain and setting for blue pearls which he gave her for Beltane two years ago. Several shirts pilfered from his loft in addition to the one they were about to set on fire. A piece of paper with his handwriting on it. A pressed, dried magnolia flower. Newspaper clippings and tabloid pages. Several photographs from different events: the two of them kissing on New Year’s at EgoTrip, dancing at Rand and Val’s wedding, cheering on Royal Pain at a Hydra fight last summer, Jewell helping him out of the ring when Claire took Old Temple from him, fighting each other in the last Diamond Quest, her arms around him after she won Overlord for the first time. Then there was a drinking glass from The Line. An empty tin that once held breath mints. An unopened bottle of Badsider inside a velvet-lined, wooden box.

It was the sum total of their relationship. It was all she had left.

Except the memories.

His thumb brushing lightly across her cheek where she had been cut by iron. His hand wrapping around her smaller one when Sapphire was hurt last summer. A million midnight kisses. The way they moved effortlessly together when they danced. Late night swims and early morning dueling practice. The sound of his laughter and the shade of his eyes. Her fingers running through his hair. His voice calling her home.

“No. I’m not burning this stuff.”

“You gonna toss it though?” Jewell shook her head. “Okay. We can always burn it later or take a hammer to the rest if you change your mind. Whatever works. I’m gonna go get the matches.”

The teen disappeared inside and the faerie looked over the box again, picking up one of the pictures. In it, a red-headed version of herself was standing with Kal, Kheld, Matt and Sylus. She didn’t need to flip it over to know what was written on the back in her neat handwriting: “Team Hydra; Hydra 2014”. They were all posing for a photo op. She was standing next to her new mentor (who towered over her) with the golden scepter of Old Temple in her hand and the biggest grin on her face.

Jewell sighed, shoving it back into the box as Sapphire emerged waving the pack of matches. “Let’s do this!”

“I hate matches,” the faerie grumbled as she set the box aside stood over the bucket with Sapphire.

“Just light one up.”

She did so gingerly, careful not to burn her fingertips. When she tossed the lit match into the bucket, the thing erupted with a woosh! and a burst of flames, sending both women skittering back away from it. “Whoa!”

Sapphire laughed, “Maybe I put too much of that stuff on it.”

Jewell grinned, the heat from the flames warming her face. “Maybe just a little.”

They watched it together quietly. Sapphire reached over and touched her arm. Jewell stepped closer and leaned against her. “Thanks… for doing this with me.”

“No problem.”

She didn’t feel any relief or freedom from doing this. Maybe that would come later.

Her brow suddenly furrowed in concern. “Hey, is the bucket supposed to be melting?”

“****!”
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Sapphire?” She called out, not sure where the girl had closeted herself.

“In my room!”

She reached the top of the stairs, pausing to catch her breath before moving down the hall to the teen’s bedroom. She was fiddling with the napkin in her hand when Sapphire looked up from her workbench. “Hey. Um… if you have a minute, do you think you could maybe use your comm device for me? Or let me borrow it?”

“Sure.” She set aside the pair of needlenose pliers she was using on a small circuit board covered in elvish runes. “What for?”

Jewell took a deep breath, the admission coming with the exhale: “Crispin gave me his number.” She paused, unsure. “I thought… I thought maybe I’d like to meet him for tea.”

The teen reached out, accepting the napkin from Jewell with a too-wide grin. “Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

“Stop.” That wasn’t what she wanted from Crispin. Not now. Maybe not ever. She actually wasn’t sure what she wanted from him. Conversation, mostly. Conversation with someone who could legitimately relate to what she was experiencing. Someone who could come close to understanding the tumult in her mind. Someone who didn’t make her feel less than because of the trials she had gone through and the scars left behind. Someone who didn’t tell her to just move on and get over it. “Just… I just want to talk to him, so can you send him a message for me? Please?” She paused again. “Without the innuendo?”

Sapphire laughed. “Sure.” She dug her through the pile of spare parts she was working with, locating the device under some springs, and shot off a quick message to the number on the napkin.

Sapphire to Crispin: hey emo rock guy, this is sapphire. j wanted me to say hi.

Fifty minutes went by without a response. Jewell wandered back downstairs after ten of those minutes and a reassuring explanation from Sapphire that communication via digital message was not always instantaneous and she was sure Crispin was not ignoring her. At least not on purpose.

To Sapphire: Is that so? Good morning to you both.

“Hey mama?” No response. “MAMA!” she practically shrieked. “HE RESPONDED!”

Ishmerai was the one to shout back at her this time, “She is resting on the couch. She said come downstairs.”

“Unngh.” The teen dragged herself up from her workbench and plodded down the stairs as requested, plopping on top of Jewell’s legs on the couch.

“Oomph. You’re heavy.”

“He responded. I’m gonna respond back, okay?”

Jewell propped herself up against some pillows, suddenly more alert. “Yeah. I mean, sure.”

To Crispin: yep! also hi! this is my comm number. J doesn't have one cos she's a dinosaur.
To Crispin: she wants to meet you for tea. says that's not a euphanism (sp?) for something else.
To Sapphire: I've rarely met a faerie with one.
To Sapphire: I'd like that. Preferably without the attached euphemism.

Sapphire rolled her eyes.

“What? What did he say?”

“Nothing. You’re both just boring is all.” She didn’t bother to cover her yawn before her fingers were flying over the keys again.

To Sapphire: Did she mention when, or where?
To Crispin: wow. you're both so exciting.
To Crispin: when's good for you?
To Sapphire: I never claimed I was.
To Sapphire: Wednesday afternoon?


“He wants to know if Wednesday afternoon works.” She glanced up from the screen.

“Oh. Um.” Jewell bit down on her lip. She had been hoping to see him sooner, but things were rather crazy right now. She had her Madness duel tonight, Rachael’s challenge sometime this weekend, and the Diamond Quest on Sunday. “Actually, Wednesday will probably be good cause I’ll be back on my feet after the Quest by then. Hopefully.”

“Can’t believe you’re going after a Diamond.” Her blue ponytail swung back and forth as she shook her head. “You really are crazy.”

“It’s not crazy.”

“At least two intense sword fights this weekend and then the Diamond Quest? That’s crazy. You still have trouble walking up the stairs, and you can’t even hold your scepter.”

“I can hold the damn scepter if I want to,” she grumbled. “Just tell Crispin that Wednesday will be fine please.”

“Fine.”

To Crispin: sure. she should be less dead after the DQ by then.
To Crispin: where do you like to have your "tea"
To Sapphire: The venue I frequent tends never to have any down time.
To Sapphire: I should not like to subject her to a crowd.
To Sapphire: Teas and Tomes, however, is often quiet.
To Crispin: yeah, she's pretty jumpy and stupid around people sometimes lol.
To Crispin: She'll meet you at the Teas place.
To Sapphire: Between noon and one o'clock?

“Between noon and one o’clock at Teasn and Tomes work for you?”

“Yeah, that’ll be good. It’s quiet there.”

To Crispin: sounds good. it's a date.

Jewell leaned forward to see why Sapphire was suddenly grinning, glancing at the screen. “Wait! Why did you call it a date? It’s not a date.”

“Unnnngh!” she pulled the comm device away from her. “Stop spying!”

“It’s my conversation!”

“That you’re making me type.”

“So?”

“Sooooo… you’re impossible and next time you do this on your own. Better yet, get your own comm device.”

She sighed, “Just tell him it’s not a date. Please?”

Sapphire groaned, “You ruin all my fun.”

To Crispin: but not a date
To Crispin: she wanted me to add that
To Sapphire: I'm well aware, she can rest easy.
To Crispin: SIGH! neither of you are any fun

“Huh. He stopped responding.”

“Well what did you say to him?”

“I told him neither of you were any fun.”

Jewell sighed again, “And you wonder why he stopped responding?”
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I just… what did you expect from him? What did you think him not loving you all this time meant?”

“I don’t know.” Her face was hot and red. Dark strands of hair were clinging to her wet cheeks as she looked up at Sapphire. “Something else. Like… that he just didn’t love love me. Like we weren’t going to be soul mates or something or get married or build a life together. And I was okay with all that. I don’t need that kind of love… but that doesn’t mean I wanted his indifference. His apathy. His complete,” her whole frame shook, “lack of caring. I thought we were at least friends,” she wiped uselessly at her eyes but the tears worked their way out, unabated, “but apparently I don’t even deserve that.”

“Oh mama.” Unlike when she cried on Monday night and Kal just stood there, watching her, Sapphire settled on the floor next to her and leaned into her.

She appreciated the comfort of the girl sitting next to her, but the tears had already started and they had to see it through to the end now. “Every time I think I’m getting better, it just comes crashing down on me all over again. Why? Why doesn’t he care about me? Even a little?”

Sapphire stretched her legs out in front of her, rocking her running sneakers back and forth. She started slowly and carefully. “I think that he does… I mean, he has to. How could he not? You’ve been friends for too long. And why else would he have helped you? Why would he have saved your life when he didn’t have to if he didn’t care?”

“But if he saved me because he cared… why not visit to make sure I was okay? He’s sneaky. He could have done it without causing trouble. He could have done it if he wanted to. He just didn’t want to. He didn’t even want to wait two weeks to say goodbye. He was doing me a favor waiting that long. He said he didn’t want to compound things. How…” her voice broke, “kind! As if all of this was just going to go away once I was out of the hospital. As if I’d suddenly be able to handle it. As if I wasn’t going to still be so… so broken!”

She rested her forehead on her knees and just sobbed while Sapphire grasped for something to say. Something to explain the unexplainable. “Maybe… maybe that’s just his way. Maybe he doesn’t know how to show he cares.”

“Well, it’s the ****ing worst way ever!” She sat up, wiping her nose on her sleeve, the epitome of a fine faerie lady. “If he really cared about me, how could he just walk away when I needed him like that? I told him I needed him and he just stood there and watched me cry. And it’s not like…” her gasping breaths approached hyperventilation level. Sapphire rubbed her back, trying to get her to calm down, but she let her keep talking. She needed to get this out. “It’s not like I needed him there as a lover. I couldn’t **** even if I wanted to. I didn’t need a lover. I needed my friend. And I tried to tell him that. I tried. And he just looked at me. He told me we would have just had our conversation sooner. And he told me that he was seeing someone new. And he just watched me cry like I meant… nothing.”

She folded her arms on her knees and buried her face against them, the last of her lament muffled. “I just… I want this to be done. I want him to go away. And I want him to come back. I want to have never met him. I want to forget all of this. I just…” her shoulders shook, “I can’t do this anymore. He gave me my life back but I still don’t have it back and I want it back. I need it back. And I just wish none of this ever happened so I could move on.”

“I know.” Sapphire sighed and kept rubbing her back, letting her just cry it out. Eventually, she was spent. Her sobs quieted. Her too-thin frame didn’t shake so much. “Mama, I don’t think we’re going for our run today. Do you want one of your chocolates? You could try to go back to sleep for a little while.”

She sniffled, trying to control the trembling of her mouth that was the precursor to another round of sobs. “O-kay.”

The teen drew the curtains while Jewell pulled off her running shoes before climbing back into bed. The sweet taste of the chocolate mixed with lavender calmed her breathing and slowed her mind enough that her tears dried on her face. Sapphire sat with her until she drifted off to sleep.

Jewell wasn’t sure how much time had passed before she heard the door open and lifted her head immediately off the bed: groggy, confused, and alarmed. “Just me,” Sapphire’s familiar voice came from the twilight shadowed room.

“Time for dinner?” she asked but the teen didn’t answer, walking right past her and disappearing into her closet. She could hear her rifling around in there, but ended up burying her head back under the blankets, unconcerned. If it wasn’t time for dinner, then it was time to sleep more while she could. While the sun was still up and keeping her demons and nightmares at bay. While the lavender was still in her system, fighting off her next panic attack.

Ten minutes later, Sapphire was standing next to her bed. “Get up.”

“Ungh.” She grunted at the teen. She had already forced her out of bed this morning for the run that had not happened. She wasn’t going to be forced out of her bed now. She finally felt empty. The crying jag had released all the turmoil building up inside of her the last few days. Now she wanted to rest and enjoy the numbness.

The sharp slap to her leg made her jump, throwing the blanket off her. “What the hell?”

“I said get up.” Sapphire tossed an outfit onto the bed: a sequined skirt and a loose, low cut top. “Wash your face and then we’ll put some ice on your eyes. We’re going out.”

“What? Where?” She stared at the outfit. “Where are we going dressed like that?’

“I contacted Issy, Val, and Eva. We’re going to the strip club.” Jewell stared at her, blinking and confused. The teen laughed, heading for the door, “Get dressed, mama. We’re getting your groove back tonight and then you’re moving on.”
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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2017 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The sun was coming up over RhyDin. They couldn’t quite see it, but it lit the paving stones on fire just a few feet away from where they were sprawled on lounge chairs, bare legs stretched out before them with a heat lamp (and all the alcohol they had imbibed) keeping them warm. Ishmerai had abandoned them outside earlier when they insisted that they weren’t going to go to sleep but just drink more until it was time to go to the radio station for the latest episode of Too Blue. And giggle. A lot. At least they were close enough to the sober side of being drunk now where semi-rational conversation was possible again.

“Why is this so hard? Why are you are you worrying about it so much? You just put on clothes and then you do the thing!”

Jewell groaned loudly as Sapphire quizzed her on what she was going to wear in her challenge against Sabine that night. The topic had already been discussed ad nauseum at the strip club with Issy, Val, and Eva with even Mason joining in, but she was no closer to deciding now than she had been then. She used to take an odd pleasure in getting dressed. There was a satisfaction to be found in putting together an outfit that made her look good. There was something fun about trying to strike the right balance between feminine and fierce. A balance between wearing something beautiful and something functional.

“Because… I just am. Everyone is going to be watching me.”

And I'm so skinny. I'm so tired. I'm so worn out looking. I'm so damaged.

“Mama, it’s like...” she huffed, her alcohol fuzzed brain dragging the words out of reach. She tried again, “You’re just so afraid that when everyone looks at you, all they see is the stuff that happened to you or what you did instead of like… you.”

It was true. These days, Jewell just wanted to use clothes to cover herself. To not be seen. To hide. From the scars on her skin and the ones on her heart and the ones on her soul. She wanted to drape her too-thin frame in enough fabric that she simply disappeared. She didn’t want everyone to see: the damage, the trauma, the taint the Temple’s touch had left behind.

Sapphire wasn’t done, “And you’re so much more than that. Actually, you’re not any of that at all. So maybe you should just wear something that will make sure they’re looking at just you and thinking about nothing else but you and who you are in that moment.” She lifted her Badsider as if for a toast: “The Empress Overlady, kicking ass, being awesome, and looking smoking hot. Then they won’t be able to think about anything else, you know?”

Jewell chewed over that for a little while. This could be it. A moment to reclaim a little bit of herself. A moment to stop hiding and own who she was and maybe even own what had happened to her. She could stop being so ashamed of it or at least pretend not to be. She could stop saying, “Don’t look at me!” and instead proclaim loudly, “Look at me. Look at what I’ve survived. And look at how mother ****ing spectacular I still am.”

As she had several times over the last ten years, she remembered Koy’s timeless advice: Looking good is not dependent on being happy.

She didn’t need to just look good, though. She needed to look amazing.

She needed to be unforgettable.

“You know, Lil Blue? You’re pretty smart sometimes.”

“Indeed I am,” the teen laughed, lifting her Badsider for another sip. “Does that mean you know what you’re going to wear?”

“Oh, I know what I’m going to wear.”

Sapphire arched a brow at her in question.

“Absolutely nothing.”
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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“That is amazing progress, Jewell. I’m so impressed.”

She allowed herself a pleased smile at the praise. “It’s not been easy. Sometimes, it makes me feel so exposed. And weak. But it also feels like…” Her gaze drifted towards the window as her fingers played with the hem of her shirt sleeves, tugging on them as she organized her thoughts. “It’s like every time I tell someone I trust? Even if it’s not the whole story, even if it’s only part of the story, it takes a little bit of that burden away from me and gives it to them to carry for me. To carry along with me.” She looked back at Dr. Bronner, “Does that make sense?”

“It does.”

Jewell took a deep breath, nodding. “So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve given it away bit by bit. And Mother of Nature, it’s such a relief.”

Helen smiled knowingly. “It’s not completely gone though, is it?”

“Noooo,” she stretched the word out. “Not really. I don’t think it ever will be. It’s like I always have more to give away? And it’s still always there, crushing my chest.” When she raised her hand to indicate where it hurt, her fingers didn’t come to rest over her heart. Instead, they brushed a spot lower on her ribs. The spot where Kal had stabbed her. “Sometimes it’s strong enough to take my breath away, but sharing it lessens the burden. It makes it more…” she struggled to land upon the right word, “manageable.”

“Manageable is good.”

“It is.”

“This is all very different from how you’ve handled things in the past, yes?”

“Just a little,” the faerie grinned.

It was different.

It was different from when she had found out her children were dead. She had pretended nothing was wrong for weeks before mentioning it to some of her closest friends, but she never told them exactly what had happened. About all the journeys she had undertaken and the trials she had endured in her attempt to save her kids. About why they had died and how she had failed them. About the crushing guilt that wouldn’t ever go away. About the way she had cracked a little when her cousin had said the words and she realized she wasn’t a mother anymore.

It was different from when she first came back to RhyDin: empty, missing her children, a shade of who she used to be, her magic locked away. She hid in the RhyDin Imperial Hotel for months, refused to reveal herself to her friends for weeks, and never told a soul exactly what had happened during those two hundred years she had lost to Faerie.

It was different from when she had sold her name to get her magic back last year. She didn’t tell her friends how her soul had been violated, how her magic didn’t work the way it was supposed to anymore, how she had the blood of the members of the Temple of the Divine Mother on her hands, how she still slept with the lights on because the nightmares never stopped.

It was different because Jewell was not left alone to her own destruction. Not this time.

“It’s still hard, but I like not being alone. I like telling someone. I like having them know. I like not isolating myself. There’s just this… security in knowing I don’t have to face this by myself if I don’t want to or maybe on days when I just can’t. Because those days happen. They happen a lot.”
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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She ran her fingers over the strings.

“It’s a six-string electric, but you know… adapted to be used here,” Sapphire explained, gesturing around to the tech-null area that was Little Elfhame. “Maybe not the easiest thing to start with, but you’ve played other instruments before, so I figured it shouldn’t be too hard and it’s pretty.” She paused. “The sound’s real good too.” Jewell nodded, never taking her eyes off the instrument in her arms. She could see Sapphire fidgeting in her periphery, twirling one of the bracelets around her wrist. “I thought maybe we could practice together.”

“You had it made just for me?”

The teen nodded, her smile bashful. “Yeah. Put the request in for it a few weeks ago. It took them a while to get the color right.”

“Why?”

“Because the normal blue was kind of plain and I thought…”

Jewell’s lips curled in a smile as she shook her head. “No. Why did you do this?”

“Oh. Well… because,” Sapphire rocked back on her heels, thumbs hooking into the pockets of her jeans, “music can help you. You need a healthy outlet for your emotions. Punching people is all well and good, you know? And I know it makes you feel better, but playing... it’s more constructive.”

She still didn’t look up at her. Instead, she admired the maple fretboard and the sexy curves of the body of the instrument. She stroked the smooth, polyurethane finished alder wood, tracing the subtle, gradient blue: midnight along the back, sky at the edges, metallic and light at the center. It looked like her hair. There were swirls of silver in the paint as well. Sparkling and alive. That was her glamour.

Jewell ran her fingers across the strings, eliciting a quiet strumming. A more constructive outlet. She was still weighed down with so much pain and rage and hurt. Fear too. She didn’t know what to do with it all. If she vented it in a fight, she’d probably destroy herself and everyone else in range. She finally looked up at the teen. “Can we start now?”

Sapphire’s eyes widened. “Now? Like right now?” The faerie nodded. “Sure!”
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PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“‘Beltane honours life.’ Surprise surprise,” Sapphire interrupted her reading. “As if we didn’t know that part. Are you sure we need to read this?”

“Just keep going.”

The teen grinned and Jewell rolled her eyes. The initial excitement over the May Queen announcement last night--when Sapphire opened a bottle of champagne that had bubbled all over the kitchen floor--had ebbed into a more restrained giddiness this morning. At Jewell’s request, they had pulled all the books that discussed Beltane from the shelves in the study and had them spread out around them as they curled up on the couch. With hot chocolate to fight off the late April chill, they took turns reading.

It wasn’t just enough that Jewell got to play the part of the May Queen this year at Beltane, she wanted it to be perfect. She wanted it to mean something.

Sapphire cleared her throat. “Okay, soooo ‘It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme.’” The teen wrinkled her nose. “That’s a lot of talk about fertility.”

“Skip ahead to the part about the May Queen then.”

Sapphire ran her finger down the page until she found what she was looking for. “They’re calling her the Maiden Goddess here,” she snickered. “That’s you, right? The maiden?” Jewell just stared at her. “Maybe not. How about I keep reading?”

“That’d be great.”

“The maiden Jewell-- ow!” she rubbed her leg where Jewell kicked her before continuing, “‘is the manifestation of growth and renewal, Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, as the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand.” Her blue eyes widened, “The union is then consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant.’”

The Empress blinked. That was not quite how it worked in Faerie. “Well that part isn’t happening for sure.”

Sapphire shook her head, “You shouldn’t rule it out.”

“I’m ruling it out.”

“Fine fine. Just ruin the entire event!” Jewell kicked her again. “Ow! Okay, sorry. I’ll finish reading. ‘For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy.’” Sapphire looked up from the book, “Sooo, are you going to let the Young Oak King show you his wood?”

The faerie smirked, “Maybe.”

“It’s about time someone did. Might as well be him.” Jewell shrugged, unwilling to divulge any plans or thoughts she had about consummating the Greenwood Marriage on Saturday with Canaan. “Okay, you read now. What does that one say about that chick? The goddess one?”

Jewell laughed, lifting the book off her lap. “That ‘chick’ is the goddess Flora. This one says, ‘The May Queen is Flora… She is the goddess of the flowers, and the princess of the Fae.’ And then… yeah, it’s just some more stuff about fertility. No thanks! You have the one on Creiddylad?”

“Mmmhm.” Sapphire shuffled a book off onto the coffee table so she could read the one beneath it. “Creiddylad, ‘represents self being the constant, central axis to life’s cycles. Nothing is permanent – lovers that come and go, our own emotional highs and lows, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ circumstances – they are all just a part of life’s seasonal changes. But what must remain is our love for self. We are our own central axis which everything changes around. We are our own best friend, our own lover.’” Sapphire snickered. “So maybe you need to just love yourself more.”

“Very funny.”

“Do you want me to get you a vibrator to help with that?”

“Sapphire,” she groaned.

“Maybe one of those magazines? 20 Ways to Better Mastur--

Jewell hit her in the face with a pillow. “Just keep reading.”

Sapphire’s face was red as she shoved the pillow aside, her grin too-wide as she found where she had left off, “Ahem! So, ‘Creiddylad is the eternal May Queen, always seeking peace and stability. She remains eternally constant in the face of all change. She is the promise of love…’ blah blah blah some boring stuff. ‘She endures through all hardship and despair.’ Huh, that last part sounds a lot like you, mama.”

Jewell smiled, pleased by the comparison. “I guess so. I did like that last paragraph, especially the part about constant in the face of change and seeking stability?”

“Yeah, that’s nice. I liked the part that came earlier,” she traced the page with her finger, trying to find it. “This one, ‘Nothing is permanent – lovers,’” she gave a pointed look at Jewell, “‘that come and go, our own emotional highs and lows, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ circumstances – they are all just a part of life’s seasonal changes.’”

“Mmm,” Jewell nodded, her grey eyes locking onto something over Sapphire’s shoulder as she thought about Creiddylad and about life’s seasonal changes. “I like that. It’s like it’s saying, ‘don’t worry, you’re going through a lot right now but this too shall pass.’” She smiled when she looked at Sapphire again, her grey eyes bright and clear. “Like, ‘Hey, you may feel stuck in winter, but your spring is right around the corner!’”


((Sources: Creiddylad – Goddess of Flowers & Self-Love, The Legend of the May Queen, Beltane.))
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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She filled her lungs with the cool evening air, fascinated by her ability to breathe and how good it felt. For the first time since she opened her eyes in the hospital, she was truly awake. There was no heaviness weighing down her limbs. There was no fog clouding her thoughts or medication to make her numb. Sounds were sharper and colors were brighter. She marvelled at the red rubies in the trees; the moonlight playing on the spider silk strings; the iridescent wings of a pixie darting past; the delicious, salty breeze off the ocean below the cliff and the way it tickled the hair at the nape of her neck; the lively green of the grass and the pure luxury of being alive to feel it tickle the bottom of her bare feet.

The magic of Beltane stirred Jewell. It flowed in her blood and seeped deep into her bones.

The primal drums, steady and strong, matched the beating of her healing heart, and she moved to their call. She did not hold back to the shadows tonight, a quiet ghost and shade of her former self. Gone was the weak and faded woman of February, March, and April. In her place was born an ethereal creature of May with fair skin turned gold beneath the flickering glow of the lesser fires, a red dress that moved around her like a living flame, and grey eyes sparkling with merriment and life. She moved as light as air amongst the crowd, greeting friends and acquaintances alike, barely touching the ground as she flitted through the clearing to offer a gift to everyone she encountered: a hug, a kiss, a Beltane blessing. Each was warm with the touch of the glamour clinging to her this evening, an enchantment that drew revelers into her proximity and imparted a piece of her energetic joy to them in return.

This was the night. Her night. This was the moment she had been desperately awaiting for three months now. For every winter, there is a spring. I have been stuck in winter, but tonight my spring begins. Tonight, she would lay claim to the life returned to her. She would shrug off winter’s lingering touch. She would cast aside the depression and anxiety weighing her down.

She had no need for such shackles any longer for she was the Queen of May.

The sylph standing up on the dais cleared her throat to get the attention of the crowd. When she spoke, it was pervasive. Among the people, among the trees, in the air. "Attention please! Make way for the Queen!"

Jewell’s cheeks turn red at Shae's call, but she grinned at everyone she passed as she made her way to the dais. Both the platform and the throne atop it were hewn roughly from the fat trunk of the same oak tree. She could see the fresh willow garlands and swags looping the head and armrests of her queenly seat from where she paused at the bottom of the steps, staring up. Her throne. Anticipation built in her chest, pressing on her heart. This was it. She raised her brows at Shae. “Up I go?”

Shae looked down from where she stood on the tree trunk dais and smiled at Jewell. The expression wide and wild. "Come, claim your kingdom!"

Yes, this is mine. My kingdom and my life. Taking a deep, steadying breath, Jewell climbed the dais to join Shae at the top. When she turned to face the crowd, she lifted her chin and there was a smile playing on her lips: confident and radiant.

Shae turned to pick up a crown of red and gold blooms that lay waiting on the throne of wood behind them. Stepping forward, she held it with care. "Revelers, mad delighters, pay heed, I pray. I present you all, your Queen of May." With that, she offered the crown with all due ceremony to Jewell.

“Thank you, Shae!” Jewell accepted the crown, holding it in her hands carefully. When she spoke up, her voice was loud and clear. “I am honored to wear the crown this year. This year especially because the May Queen…” Swelling emotion caught the words in her throat, forcing her to take a deep breath. This wasn’t just some simple, silly honor. Being queen meant something to her. It meant everything to her. When she continued, her voice was stronger, more passionate. “The May Queen is the symbol of rebirth and renewal. She has survived the trials and hardships of winter. She has endured the cold and the frost and the long nights that seem to have no end.”

“And after?” Her grin grew like a budding rose. “She rises again, slowly at first but eventually stronger and more beautiful than ever. Like a blossoming flower. Like the fires we dance around tonight. Like the great phoenix, she is kindled back to life. She cuts away the old, casts off that which is dying or dead or maybe just holding her back, and in doing so, she makes room for new growth.” She paused, letting her next words hang in the air, quiet but still crystal clear, “And new life.”

She raised the circlet of flowers up into the air, “Here's to life!”
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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was Monday. A normal, ugly, stupid Monday.

Beltane was over.

She drew the blanket closer to her face, closing her eyes and wishing desperately to sleep. There were nightmares there, but being awake was its own nightmare. One she wasn’t interested in facing today. It took too much energy to face it. Too much energy to even lift her head off the pillow. It was glued there. Stuck. Motivation was needed to lift it and Jewell had none. She could not force herself out of bed. Not today. There was no point. There was nothing waiting for her outside the comforting cocoon of her fluffy white comforter. It took all her strength just to tug it up over her face to hide.

She could not face this day.

Beltane was over and the magic was gone.

It had lasted through the week: The evening of Beltane fires and wild dancing. A night with Cane and Sal. Afternoons in Feygarten. A day at the Meadowmeet. Rousing fights at the Battle of Beltane. Through it all, no smile had been brighter than her own. No laughter clearer and more joyous. She had been alive again. Energetically, spiritedly, wholly alive.

But the glamour had been undone. She was not Creiddylad the Eternal May Queen. She was a silly fool. It had been a Beltane enchantment all along: the confidence, the radiance, the seizing of life and all its many opportunities. The illusion was shattered. The clock had tolled midnight, stripping her of the Cinderella spell. She was nothing but a broken woman with scar tissue on her heart and soul and a thousand bad memories she could no longer escape.

She was hollowed out. She was too keenly aware of how empty she was because she had been so recently full. Bursting to the brim with life. The holiday was over, taking with it all her vitality. A renewal of life! What a joke that was. She was no more able to face life now than she had been a week ago. Putting on that crown had not been a cure all. It had not cured her ailing heart or damaged soul. Beltane had not fixed her. The holiday had done one thing for her and one thing only: it taught her that she was capable of appearing and pretending she was fine if she wanted to, but she had to care enough to want to pretend.

Right now, she didn’t care. She didn’t care about anything. She was flat. She was a slug.

Ishmerai would come in soon. He would try to coax her out of bed. He wanted her up. He wanted her around people. But she did not want to move. She did not want to breathe. She did not want to pack so she could go visit Harris and Seirichi in Adenna. She did not care that Zan was in town. She did not want to put on clothes so she could meet Crispin for drinks later. The color had bled from the world again and she was just one big blah.

She wanted to be left alone to hide under the blankets forever.

“Mira,” the knight knocked on her door as he pushed it open, “Avani sent over that cinnamon roll bread you like so much.”

Right on time.
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