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The Place of Broken Angels
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Shae Stormchild
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Joined: 13 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing an Aftermath, Part 1
03/04/16, Sleepy Tree Inn

The address given to Cris was for a small motel on the northern edge of town. About as far away from the city center as one could manage without leaving city limits. The sign was old, but still fully lit. No letters missing on the Vacancy for the Sleepy Tree Inn. They were going for rustic charm about thirty years ago. Now the place was focused on upkeep. The door to her room had been painted in the last year, for example, a forest green that camouflaged old dents and scrapes.

He'd given the address quite a few hours of thought. Throughout errands, throughout training, throughout the wind-down after the intensely involved training session. On the way, he rethought the wisdom of going, wondering if Shae had had enough time alone to sort whatever it was that had affected her so much, but in the end reconciled that if she hadn't, she wouldn't have let him know where she was.

As a peace offering, he brought with him Leung's zodiac appetizer special and a bottle of whiskey. Rum was, to him, meant to be enjoyed. Arriving at her door, Cris shuffled both burdens into his left arm, and knocked with his free hand.

From within a few distant sounds of movement, then the door was pulled open. It was Shae, until one's eyes adjusted to the forty watt glow of light from paper lampshades. Then it was Shae looking less like herself. Clean, dressed in one of her corseted numbers, hair in order. One arm wrapped across her stomach while the other held the door open for him. A nod for hello. The difference was in her energy. Drained, was the feeling. Dull fool's gold eyes, black hair that threatened to let itself be called a very dark grey instead. Facial expressions took effort she was carefully rationing.

Inside there was a table with two chairs, where it looked like she had been sitting. A double bed that a vulpine Fox now slept on, unmade. A TV, not on, was functioning as a clothes and coat rack for two pairs of jeans, a sweater, and her leather jacket.

Door drawn open brought his gaze back around. It skipped from features to cinched waist, then back up, his own scowl pulling in where his brow had been smooth otherwise up until that point. Concern ached behind it, though he was glad she was at least upright and coherent, but he kept any enquiries regarding her well being in his head where they belonged and nodded, slipping past her into the small motel room: a setting he was getting too used to. "I've brought something," choking the whiskey bottle, he offered it to her on his way by.

Offered bottle was cradled into her chest as she leaned against the door to close it. Examined there before she pushed herself back towards a seat at the table. "You're well timed, I was thinking of ordering something." Maybe not Leung's this far out, but the small collection of menus on the table gave credibility to her words. "You want a drink? I think there are paper cups by the teevee." Bottle settled on the table with care she flickered a tired smile in his direction to ease the tension in his brow.

"Thank the Angel, I'd debated bringing anything at all, but in the end felt it wrong not to." He set the plastic-over-paper bagged parcel down on the table, gaze hitting Fox, then the dead TV, acceptance of her invitation given quietly as he went to collect two drinking vessels.

Her interest passed to the appetizer left in his wake and peeking at what it contained while he quested for something to drink out of. Normally fluid movements took on a degree of stiffness as her weight met the chair. "Thanks for coming." The texted address had been less of an invitation and more of a notice to not go dredging the bay for her body, but she found she actually did appreciate the company. It gave her something to focus on. "And..." Oh hey, yeah. That thing. Cris would find Shae in his way coming back from the cup retrieval, and, unless he stopped her, he would find the sylph reaching out to hug him.

The special was named zodiac for its combination of twelve different appetizers, most Chinese, others more Western to appease the possible, pickier eaters. Crab rangoons, cheese puffs, fried donuts and dumplings shared the bag with french fries, chicken fingers and fried macaroni and cheese. "It's my pleasure," he took two of the cleanest cups he found and stacked them together. "I did not know if you wanted company," he couldn't seem to avoid confessing it, "or if whatever's happened is something you'd even like to try and discuss---"

He'd turned mid-sentence and had only taken one stride when she met him. Shock momentarily stilled him. From finding her there and the added reach of her arms. Swallowing, he set his own around her in return, his open palm on her shoulder with a firm, meaningful squeeze. "What's happened to you?" He regretted asking, and waited for the echo of his own voice to fade.

The weight of her was light, but fingers gripped at his jacket like snaring rusty wires. The woman vibrated with fatigue, for to call it a tremble might do her disservice. "Thank you." When she spoke into his shoulder it was the same words that had caught him on the breeze days before. Laced with a bone deep sense of relief and gratitude. In that moment of visible weakness, she lingered. Door shut, blinds drawn. How long might it have been, one had to wonder, since she felt safe enough to not just ask for comfort in human connection but to take it selfishly when it wasn’t already on offer. "I'm sorry. I happened. I'm so..." relieved no one was hurt. "Thank you." At last she let go of the hug that probably went on far longer than Cris might have liked.

He frowned, visiting his uncertainty upon the floor behind her as she clutched and held. His coat was cold from the journey he'd taken, thick leather creaking under her fingers and where his arms tightened as long as she'd let them. As far as he knew, he'd done nothing, merely asked her following the sight of a suspicious man and a group of equally suspicious texts. The women he knew in his life now, and had known in the past, rarely required embraces like these and he thought that whatever had made it a necessity for her must have rocked her straight down to her core.

"You do not need to apologize." He withdrew when she did, palms skimming across her upper back, dragging tousled black with them before he set them to her shoulders, searching the shadows carved into her features now that they were only a foot from each other.

"I do, though. I shouldn't have let it get that far." Fatigue crept back in, as if the effort or rising and reaching for him had involved a marathon. Fingers that no longer clutched at him now worried themselves along her stomach before she tucked her folded arms against her rib cage. "I'm just...it meant a lot to me to hear that I hadn't done any serious damage." Guilt lingered beneath her tired expression, unable to summon the reassuring composure that he was more familiar with.

"You terrified a great deal of the town's transport services. There was damage, yes, but I heard nothing of casualties. Shae," he ducked his head, tipped to the side in attempts to catch the waned light of her gaze. "Can you tell me what happened?"

The defendant pled guilty while meeting his gaze. Her eyes were a pale imitation of her normal gold, bloodshot. "I'm an idiot. But in a less vague answer, I lost control of my nature. Too many feelings eroded my focus and I lost it. I didn't expect it would be that bad. It hasn't been that bad since..." She trailed off, looking over her shoulder towards Fox on the bed, where he slept heavily and without much sound. "I was having a conversation with Ketch -- one I shouldn't have been impatient for, here's the part where I'm an idiot -- and he told me that he's still very much in love with Mimi. That shouldn't have done it, not by itself. I'm...I'm used to..." Swallow. "Anyway, the point is," she was explaining this terribly and she knew it, but she had no choice but to continue, "I had too many other things I wanted to hold on to. I could show him the face that I wanted to and leave or I could vent at him and keep control. I left and I lost it."

His hands fell from her shoulders as she spoke, the plastic cups warm where he pinched them, and the line between his brows deepened the longer she did. They needed whiskey, they needed to sit. Perhaps they simply needed to forget that he'd asked, though not for his lacking desire to know.

In the wake of her confession, he exhaled. There were too many hot coals to prod with curiosity, and so he let them cool, following the angle of one dark brow with his fingertips. "You have control now, yes? Have you rested? At all?" It didn't look like it. In fact, it looked like she might wilt there at the foot of the bed.

The chair beckoned when he mentioned rest and she retreated to it strategically. "It's not the sort of thing one night's sleep would fix, anyway. But yes, I did rest. And yes, I have control now. There was something different this time. Worse. I don't know why it was worse, but it was." In truth, the Leap Year distortions had caused an exponential spiral of what might have been a much smaller disturbance, but Shae hadn't surfaced from her recovery long enough to put two and two together.

Once seated, the smell of the appetizer called to her. The whiskey bottle was nudged towards him in a silent request as she helped herself to opening the food he had brought. Her normally voracious familiar slept on.

"No, it isn't, but---" He had no plan on where that was going. Waving his hand to dismiss the attempt, he headed to join her at the table, separating the cups. While she went at the food, he poured them both a generous two and a half glugs each. "I've no idea where to even begin." Sliding her cup forward.

Luckily for Cris, she wasn't expecting anything. It was a lot, and she knew it. The cup was accepted for a heavy sip, the rim tapped for a glug more to refill the volume she had just emptied. "There really probably isn't an appropriate place, but if you want to know something I'll do my best to explain." Trust evident in the fact that she made such an offer. Yesterday, food had been like ash. Today the flavor of everything was still dulled, but the needs of her body and that of Fox were too strong to ignore.

He obliged her request, then set the bottle aside, shrugging free of his coat and draping it along the back of his chair before he sunk down into it. "I---do not know if I want to. Not because I do not want to know," raising his hand, thumb and middle finger stuck through holes that he'd worried through his sleeve cuffs. "But I haven't the desire to make it worse. I'd not mind if you'd prefer not to elaborate."

"The built up chaos is already out." A pressure valve blown, stitches ripped. Quietly, she added. "I'm not going to lose control on you, so please don't...don't be afraid of me."

The furrow in his brow changed angles, rising from the bridge of his nose instead of forked down above it, he looked up to her from the table and slowly shook his head. It was a moment before he could speak, dumbfounded by the fact that she needed to make that request at all. "I'm not, Shae. But if there's the slightest chance that my curiosity will cause you more pain---I'd rather not know. We have time. It does not have to be now. It does not have to be ever. I'd like to help you, not stick a thumb into the wound and wonder why you bleed."

There a smile, tired but genuine around a bite of egg roll. Mood lifted with the reassurance. If anything, the experience had reinforced that she hadn't properly prepared the people she'd come to know for the hazards. "It's not going to hurt me I promise. You can ask what you want to." There was a residual hoarseness to her voice when quieter. Recovery from strain.
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
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Joined: 13 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing an Aftermath, Part 2

An exhale as he leaned back into the chair, the motion a silent Fine. of resignation, but he was not going to ask without a cigarette. Hands to his pockets, whiskey left untouched, he found one of the two he kept there, a grey lighter produced afterward. "I suppose my first question is who in the Angel's name is Mimi?"

For whatever reason, his opening volley inspired laughter. Bemused, quiet chuckling. "You know? I'm having a hard time explaining that one myself. Ketch wasn't exactly an open book about her. What I got was that she and him were an item. Partners, even. She was the driving force, I think. Someone so vital that you can't help but get caught up in their wake. So he loved her and then she went mad. He tried to help. Failed. She ran. He searched. Gave up. Came here. Then she showed up again." Rough, succinct summary attempted.

Cigarette tucked into his frown, he thumbed the lighter, the cup of his palm trapping heat and light behind his hand and close to his mouth. Flickered shadows caught in the downward angle of gaze and lashes. Her answers were like the blows of a fist. Sharp, strong, rhythmic. He'd suggest the real thing later.

Mushroom cloud of smoke rose, he pocketed the lighter. "That must have been jarring."

A suggestion which she would happily take once her limbs felt a good deal less like anchors and her breaths didn't feel so hollow. The air in the room was oddly still, despite her presence. "Undoubtedly." Her thoughts shifted towards the situation to handle it with care. "I offered my help, but I don't think he'll take it. He feels too personally responsible for reasons he wouldn't reveal."

Slight shake of his head. He traded the cigarette for his cup and swallowed a shot's worth of it. "I do not doubt that he heard you. How long have you felt the way that you do about him?"

"I'm not sure." She was reluctant to even define what way she felt about him openly, not with the nebulous attachment that it was supposed to be. "From the start I wanted to see if it might go somewhere eventually. Beyond just the company. But recently I realized I wanted to let him in some. To me, my past. Wanted him to want to explore too. Little things at first. It bothered me when he wouldn't dance with me or I found myself wanting his company more. I tested the waters with him, but he stayed at arms length and I didn't push. I was going to have a conversation with him about it, but the timing didn't work out."

He swallowed what was left in his cup if only to have something to collect the ashes, nodding as he tucked away what she told him. "When did she show herself? How was it that she was able to find him here?"

"The Valentine's dance. That night, when he broke the glass. She was there. Apparently he could sense her. As for how she found him?" Small pause for a sip of liquor. "The city isn't that big if the one you're looking for isn't hiding."

He thought so. Eyes closed, he scratched a scar on his temple with his thumb, driving away a tide of warmer, much more pleasant memories of the same evening. "I remember seeing him looking at someone. Or something."

"He didn't catch her that night. Or that weekend. He did last week, though. And may have again. He said when he spoke to her...well. The way he tells it, she's broken. Fragmented. So their encounter was like stepping into a conversation from years ago. I'm not sure if she sought him out for help or if she sought him out because his is a face she remembers, at this point. And he feels guilty. It must be very hard." Fried mac and cheese, a new food that might have been explored with curiosity in another setting, was simply stuffed into her mouth.

A slow, one and a half nods, "It must be, when faced with someone you thought you would never see again." Cigarette tapped against the rim of his cup, ashes falling like dirty snowflakes. He looked up, "What will you do now?"

"Recover first. I'm no use to anyone like this, especially not myself." When she said it it came with an odd sense of comfort. That fatigue was the best indicator that she hadn't lost complete control. That no one was dead by her direct hand. "Then? I don't know. Throw myself at some other problem. Some other work. Worry much. Maybe cast something to restrain my concern for a while. What would you do?"

He eased back into the chair until it protested, and propped his left boot on his right knee, palm on the heel. If ashes were to fall, they'd hit leather instead of the floor. "If someone I cared for had feelings for someone else and was determined to aid them through a crisis---probably the same as you. Recover," a slight cant of his head, "distract."

"There you are then." Distraction number one: another bite of food. Distraction number two: another sip of whiskey. Distraction number three involved a patient sort of attention in his direction. She'd offered to answer his questions and she planned to stick to that, clearly.

His earlier curiosity had given the illusion that he'd a plethora of them. "I'd do what I could for them, too. As you've offered. I would not want to do nothing, nor wallow in my own---" movement of his hand outside his head, leaving smoke trailing in its wake. "I'm sorry, Shae."

Where the Nephilim had run out of questions relatively quickly, there was always a small arsenal of them lurking in the back of Shae's mind. She swept aside the sympathy with a request. "Have another one of those?" This a point to the cigarette in his hand. She had her own stolen set but his were much closer in proximity and much less likely to smell like a knife to her ribcage. "Maybe you could fill me in on some things I've probably missed."

He had one. That he dug out of his front pocket and offered to her with the slide of it, and the lighter, across the table. "I'll do what I can."

The cigarette was picked up and, after a moment's hesitation so was the lighter. It was rather clear that she was unfamiliar with how the lighter actually worked as she spent a good amount of time studying it. "So what happened with Robert?" Right to the heart of what she wanted to know. And a way to distract from her gradual discovery of the miniature flint and steel mechanism.

It was a habit to pass both over, even if she was perfectly capable of lighting up herself. A thin muscle tensed in the back of his jaw at the mention of the demon's name. "I asked him to look into something for me, and I am having---serious difficulty accepting his answer as truth."

"So..." Led around lips pulled in one corner to hold the cigarette in one place while she tried to spark the lighter. "... what was it that you went to him for?" There were only a few subject she could even begin to think that Cris would want to consult with Robert on. None of them were particularly comforting to think about. "And what did he say?"

"Directly after the matter with Timothy and Marion was settled, I was visited by an incredibly powerful demon that had, apparently, had a hand in the events that transpired the whole time. It touched me," he set his hand against the center of his chest, "here, and I have never felt such blinding pain. Afterward, I was on the ground, and there was a symbol etched in blood in its place. A symbol that disappeared thereafter as if it had never existed. I have not seen it since, and I did not know if I truly had in the first place. This demon bade me beware that 'my time was running out.'"

Cris flicked his thumb against the cigarette filter over his empty cup. "I asked Robert to look into the origin of this symbol, of this demon, since he was the one working so closely with him in the first place."

"And I was told," he said, as he sat back, "that a symbol like the one I have given Robert is the evidence of a contract. And that the symbol itself is something of a deterrent to any others that would attempt to try the same thing. This soul is spoken for, if you will." He rolled his eyes.

Shae finally got a flame out of the lighter, but now it hovered several inches away from her goal, utterly forgotten. Brows furrowed as she looked at him, looked at the point he had touched hidden by dark fabric and hems of leather. "When he visited...what was that conversation like? Before the warning, that is." She didn't think Cris the type to make that sort of contract, so the devil was in the details. Literally and figuratively to her mind.

"Brief." His gaze slid aside from her, momentarily out of focus as he searched through mental layers. "It appeared to pay respects, it said. It had knowledge of me, and my life here. It was the reason why Robert sought me out in the first place. But I do not recall seeing this demon before in my life, I do not remember feeling what I felt in its presence. It was an oppressive force, Shae, as twenty feet of water is upon one's body. It was heavy and unforgiving, and its buffalo shaped skull is something that would leave an impression.

"Nephilim are incapable of suffering mental manipulation, especially from a demon. When one of my kind is born, there is a ritual performed upon them that blocks such invasion from ever taking place. There is no possible way that I would have done something like this. There is no possible way that I would have done something like this and fail to remember it."

At the moment, all she was doing with that cigarette was soaking the filter, so she plucked it from her lips and put it down with the lighter on the table as she listened. "Did you ask anything of it? Anything at all?" His assertion that he had no memory was one she believed. His assertion that infants of his kind were so treated was taken with less surety. "Do you have proof that the ritual was performed on you? A mark? And I hate to say this but without guaranteed protections it is very possible for anyone to be made to forget something." Here she frowned and rubbed the fingertips of her right hand together. "Some people even seek to forget deliberately...to protect something."

"The demon disappeared before I could, but there is no possible way that those safeguards were are not in place. It is the way of my people, it has been since 1000 AD. I have seen them performed, and I have felt what it is to be spoken to within my own mind, the poking, prodding, sickening feeling it leaves behind when I discover its intent. It's as though you're trying to hide something with a piece of white tulle. It's useless, and it merely does not work.

"My parents would not have let this go undone." Though a thought occurred to him throughout his explanation, and he sat forward, boot shifting and set down on the ground beneath the table. "But there is a way for them to be removed...."

"Let's set aside the 'impossibles' for a moment." The pride in assumed lack of corruption shut the mind away from exploring all the angles from which they might be circumvented. Thankfully, Cris had proven to be able to think flexibly given the right motivations. "And let's focus on that last hypothetical. You had them. You felt them in action. Something happened where they were removed. What is necessary for that removal to occur?" The more involved or complex the answer, the more likely it became that his memory had been modified.

His frown pulled in tightly over his eyes and where they had settled unfocused on the table's surface they now glinted sharp as broken shards of peridot glass. He dropped what was left of his cigarette into his whiskey cup. And unfortunately, perhaps, his answer was neither involved or complex. "One must die."
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
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Joined: 13 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing an Aftermath, Part 3

Several possibilities sketched their way through her mind. In the interim she found the coffin nail again and went through the motions of lighting it with the lighter. Not the smooth process that it might have been in another's hands but an effective one. The cherry burned bright for a deep inhale. Smoke twisting wild towards the ceiling as she exhaled a slow sigh. "It sounds like you're on borrowed time."

He exhaled and rested his brow in the well of his palm. "I must talk to Salome to be certain. The only time I've come that close to truly dying was the day Bianca was taken from us. I do not remember thinking I was that close, but I could have been. The months that followed," he pulled his hand down his face. "In the months that followed, anything could have spoken to me, and I would have let them in. Without question."

A chill worked its way down from his scalp. To his throat, the nape of his neck. Down his arms despite the layers and further south. "I do not remember," he repeated, quietly, fitting the thick silence befalling her motel room.

"Do you want to?" The question posed after a pregnant pause in which Shae was quickly putting a dent in the cigarette he had given her. The lighter was still in her hand, turned over between her fingers in a hypnotically constant loop of motion. "We have work to do if we are going to identify a way to free you from this new mark." Apparently, a demon's sign of warning was not enough to deter the woman.

"Of course I want to ****ing remember," he said, throwing his hand from his brow, fingers spread in broad gesticulation. "I want to know what it is I did. I want to know which demon it was, and I want to find them, and kill them."

"I can probably help you restore the memories, but I don't know your host of demons. Robert apparently knows this one." Robert who Cris had threatened quite recently in his disbelief. "As far as you know, is killing the demon the only way to free yourself from its contract? I should remind you, if the contract was for extended life in exchange for your soul then in all likelihood the moment this entity drops dead...so do you."

"Then I suppose it'll be prudent to figure out the details of whatever deal this is beforehand. If I'm to destroy the contract instead, if there is such a way to do that, then I shall do that first." He grit his teeth and smeared the chill of his palms down his legs. "I am not going to let this happen. Yes, I was in pain, but if I truly wanted all of that to end, there were---myriad beings that would have taken care of that for me. I could have done so myself."

"It might not have been a case of wanting it to end for your own sake, Cris. It might have been a case of needing to get up again for someone else's." The truth of the matter was, she had seen him as a man more apt to motivate himself on the behalf of another than for his own self. Save for where instances of personal violation were concerned. "Yes. That would be prudent." And then, something of a tangent. "I spoke to Charlie last week."

The skies had recently known such tumult as that which stormed through his gaze. Brow furrowed in frustration, dubiety, regret. The light waned from his eyes before he closed them, as the weight of his own choice, however far the memory of it was from his mind. If what he had done had all truly been for Bianca, then he had damned himself for nothing. Whatever he had wanted, had needed to gain in that moment had not been enough.

And that may have been why it was done in the first place.

He massaged the ache in his brow, frown hewn tightly on his mouth. And suddenly there was a name floating between them, tumbling like a feather to rest upon the table.

"Did you?" he asked, pushing his hand back through his hair. Clearing his throat, he redirected his frown to Shae.

It had been strategic, that tangent. A line tossed at the edge of the quicksand of self-recrimination and regret. For she could already see the way he'd been torturing himself with this. Could already foresee the self-flagellation that he intended to inflict. Even without his doe eyed distraction's gift of prediction. "I did. Have you told her about this?"

Strategic in the way that there was a spot on the upper back through which one could sever the spine and pierce the heart all at once. Charlie. Her name reverberated in his head until it draped over all other thought, dismay more for the possibility that he could fail at correcting this mistake than it was for the task of telling her about it.

"Not yet. I intended to, once I was certain that what I would be saying was the truth."

"She's a strong girl. I think she can handle it. And I'm sure she'll want to help. Much like you've already helped her." Smoke exchanged for the fire of liquor and then the soul comfort of a bite of food. "I'm guessing she didn't tell you about our conversation yet, but she has some hurdles of her own, doesn't she? We're going to figure this out Cris, I promise you." Promises were things the Sylph didn't hand out lightly. Her word was her strongest bond and the Nephilim was one of her dearest friends here. There was a steel in her tired eyes that made her drawn out appearance seem little more than a lie covering something more resilient.

"Strong is not a strong enough word for her. I haven't discovered any suitable ones to describe her yet." He ran a hand all over his face and exhaled a sharp burst meant to clear his head of rampant anxiety, dread, things that would only get in his way and things that he would rather no one see.

Charlie. Like an echo between his ears. He remembered the demonic invasion of a penthouse, where they had known each other a collection of about five hours and she'd urged him to leave to save himself. A diner where she'd set her hand on his, black eyes filled to the brim with concern.

And a dark, pre-dawn alley. Where she laid on an altar of vampire corpses, bathed in her own blood and asked him not to leave.

She was in his mind too often, she was in his mind now, where his trepidation should have been for himself, for his own life---it was wrapped up instead around the removal of himself from hers.

All of it passed through the shadowed dark of his gaze aimed down at the table. Clouds rolling in, drifting by as he sat still with Shae's promise like the reassurance of a warm hand against the chill of his own superb weakness. He nodded, his swallow pulling at the Marks on his throat and their mouth shaped friends, crawling the line of lean muscle and black rune. Another nod followed, and he shifted his gaze aside to her. "Thank you."

In the wake of his self collection, Shae simply nodded. The corpse of her cigarette extinguished on an empty corner of the appetizer tray where she had, at some point, devoured the crab rangoons. "Thank you...for coming. For trusting me."

His scowl shifted angles, leaning more toward ache than consternation. "Was there any doubt, or do you simply mean to convey appreciation?"

"Appreciation." Flash of a smile, the quiet interrupted by the sound of snoring from Fox on the bed. He'd passed out of his coma-sleep into something more like his usual rest. "You were one of my first lifelines here, after all."

There was a faint shifting at the corner of his mouth, "That won't change, no matter what may be affecting you."

That little shift was like a punch to her gut. The woman closed her eyes for a long moment and then opened them to pour herself a refill on the drink he'd so kindly provided. Offering the tilted bottle in his direction wordlessly.

"No, thank you," hand raised and swept aside to decline the offer. "But you may keep the bottle."

"Oh, that was happening regardless." Breezy, maybe just a bit too breezy, with a flash of teeth that bordered on wolfish. She was trying, it said. The booze had been forfeit the moment he'd handed it to her coming in the door. Suddenly though, the motel room felt too small a space for all of her. "Want to go for a walk?"

"A walk, or a walk." There really was a difference. Though regardless of type, he stood from his seat and tucked the chair under the table.

"The latter," she clarified, "I need to remember how to breathe. Just let me get changed first?" The drink she had just poured disappeared like a double shot after she closed up the libation and set it aside for later.

"Certainly." He took his coat from the chair and swung it around his shoulders, arms stuffed through the sleeves. The familiar weight of it did not comfort him as much as he would have liked it to. Perhaps the walk would.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Component of Clarification
3/04/16, Conversation on a Walk

Cris would ask her, seriously, about what she had in mind to help him remember.

"There's a spell I prepared for Ketch's birthday present." She'd say with a remarkable lack of emotion. "I still have most of the materials so my intention is to re-purpose them to aid you. If you ever knew what happened, this should provide the chance to retrieve that information. Should it fail, there are other methods."

"I've narrowed it down to a period of about two and a half months. There's a great portion of that time that is simply---not there in my mind. We may need to look at all of it. What will happen?"

"I will give you a focus, from something precious that you will provide me. I will use the materials I have to enchant it. Once done, you will touch the object and focus on what you long to recall. You will then relive the memory in details both fresh and hellishly vivid."

"Will you be seeing this with me?"

"That is, providing the magic and the desire is strong enough." There was a pause. "Potentially"

He nodded, "I understand." There is no apprehension when he tells her, only hastily gathered conviction packed down and pressed solid. Whatever shame he may potentially feel at what she was about to see did not, and would not, override the importance of seeing it. And another set of objective eyes wouldn't be such a bad idea.

She would need time to prepare things and, most importantly: "Do you have something we can use? Something tied to the memory or imbued with the desire for you to remember? Something you won't mind becoming a touchstone for your recollection permanently unless I am able to disenchant it?"

His pause in actually handing over the item was more for his own reluctance to part with it rather than a loss for what to use. In the end, he offered her the largest of the daggers he carried on his person. It was forged from pure silver, hammered solid and polished to a wicked shine. Small runes were etched into both sides of the blade, a procession speaking of strength, of sure striking, and accuracy. The dagger's hilt was sprayed with chips of pure amethyst, minute where they hid but when the light caught them, they gleamed. Cris flicked his thumb across the edge of the blade, looking it over from pommel to tip, then gave it up. "It was a gift from Bianca for my nineteenth birthday. I do not part with it easily."

"All the better. For if you long for it to return that can be applied to all the things it is attached too." The dagger was handled with care before it disappeared into the fold of her dress. "I'll let you know when it's ready."
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Into Memory
03/12/16, The Quarry

Text to Cris: The enchantment is prepared.

Text to Shae: Is there somewhere specific you'd like to meet? Anything else I must do?"

Text to Cris: You tell me. Somewhere private, certainly.

Text to Shae: The quarry.

Text to Cris: Doable. When?

Text to Shae: The earliest we can. It will take me a half hour to get there.

Text to Cris: See you in an hour, then. Bring lunch.

Continued in this crosspost from Crispin's storyline Ballad of the Nameless.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Into Memory, Part 2
04/05/16, An Abandoned House in the Temple District

Text to Cris: The book is ready.

Text to Shae: Same place as last?

Text to Cris: No...Do you have some other place?

Text to Shae: Not off the top of my head.
Text to Shae: We can buy out a motel room for the afternoon.

Text to Cris: Meet me here [address]

Continued in this crosspost from Crispin's storyline Ballad of the Nameless.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When Witches Gossip
04/22/16, Teas 'n Tomes

Warm air clung to the city late Friday night, much like the Sylph's own breeze, making the wee hour stroll to the Tomes a pleasant one. Shae had set herself up with a cup of tea at one of the tables by the window to watch the nocturnal citizens filter along to those shops still open to accommodate their needs. Shae had come from Cianan's club, offering only one performance earlier in the evening, and hints of her performance attire still remained: the bangle jewelry on her wrists, feather dangle earrings, the sparse sprinkle of glitter in black hair that had been thrown into a lazy bun with an elastic hoop. Otherwise, she had changed clothes and wore a black corset over a steel grey blouse with sleeves bunched at the elbows over dark blue jeans and a favored pair of heeled black boots. Her phone rested on the table, on vibrate in case her coffee date changed her mind.

Nearby, her familiar was exercising his fuzzy faced charms to feed his gluttonous appetites. The shop girl, a newer part time worker attending the local academy, was smitten. It was a familiar story that resulted in a lot of free food and ended with Shae having to carry her plump stomached companion home. Amazingly, the creature managed to avoid becoming obese, or even chubby. His ravenous appetites were driven by an overcharged metabolism. As the reynard rolled onto his back for the latest chunk of meat pie, Shae shook her head and turned gold eyes back towards the street.

As much as Salome didn't want to take Cris' advice about anything, he'd told her the last time he'd used a taxi service in town, he'd had to kill three people. And she really didn't want to have to kill three people. She didn't exactly want to have to kill anyone, they'd killed enough already so far. But coffee was a sacred thing, cafés like churches, and she probably would if something spilled hers.

She'd gotten directions to Tomes from Cris before she left him with his Angel girl to do Stars knew what to her B&B rented room. She knew a thing or six about his "tastes" and she'd already decided to give him the bill. Hand to the teashop door, she pressed her way inside, the rush of a warm winter breeze at her back disturbing her hair where she'd gathered it back from a wide brow and shivered the thin grey knit of a peep shouldered blouse. She paused there, half in and out to simply appreciate the aroma of coffee and old books.

The face that entered the shop lived in Shae's mind in a borrowed memory. The very sight of Salome brought the vivid experience of reliving Cris' memories to the forefront of her mind again. Her chest ached where Cris' had been split open and she inhaled sharply at the phantom pain. The noise was covered by the swift application of a smile and the lifting of her hand to call attention to where she was seated. The shop girl looked up at the sound of the door, prompting Fox to slide a curious gaze to the source of interruption to his pampering.

"Okay," she said under her breath, admiring the gleam of window panes and polished wood. The shelves upon shelves upon shelves of books that would take a good chunk of her lifetime to peruse. "Rhy'Din, one." She was closer, and Salome noticed her hand before she got too good a look around. She didn't have any details to go on, but at this hour, and with that pointed of a greeting, she didn't think she was mistaken. The clack of russet brown riding boots brought her close enough to reach across Shae's table with a thin hand, each fingertip ending in a long, black talon. "And I bet you're Shae."

Stores like the Tomes were one of those silver linings that balanced the Sylph's new life in the city. She understood well that look of admiration for the literary collection. And though she didn't drink coffee herself, the smell was not a disagreeable accompaniment to the scent of parchment and leather. "Guilty as charged." The taloned hand was taken without hesitation, perhaps an extension of the trust that lingered from Cris, perhaps evidence of the woman's own confidence. "I've heard a lot about you, though I daresay not as much as I would have liked to hear. Why don't you grab something to drink and join me so I can pester you with my curiosity? You should be able to pry the shop attendant away from Fox long enough to pour you something."

One thin brow worked its way up her head. She shook Shae's hand diplomatically. Short and firm, and when she smiled, her cheeks rounded like apples. "All I've got on you is that you're hot, so we're kind of uneven. I'll forgive it," she waved her hand, "Cris wasn't lying. I'll be right back." Cafés like these tended to have their service counter toward the back, either to keep the lines moving, or to distract them with all the books they'd run into on the way there. She could magick her own coffee into existence, but that wouldn't be any fun. She put in an order for a tall, iced vanilla latte, heavy on the foam with a shot and a half of extra espresso. With the shop girl's assurance that she'd bring the drink out to her, Salome started to return to Shae, but gave her a curious glance for the Fox all up in her lap. "That thing's yours?" of the animal, for Shae, when she rejoined the Sylph. She drew out the other chair and sat.

Shae blinked, processing what Salome said with a soft laugh, bemused and flattered. Cris thought she was hot, huh? Well, he had pretty decent taste in women from a physical standpoint. She'd take it as the compliment it was. Seeing Salome in the flesh, Shae was picking out the differences, slight though they may be, between the distraught, combat focused woman in the memory and the living, breathing example. Fox was not in Shae's lap, but rather with the shop girl, begging shamelessly. Still, she answered the question. "He's my companion, yes, even though he's availing himself of attention from his newest admirer."

"Huh," it was almost a giggle. "You don't see that too often with gingers."

She had been younger looking in the memory. Or maybe that was the weight that she'd lost, the presence of faint wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, between her brows and around her mouth. Not products of age, but evidence of time spent collapsed in hard, immovable frowns. She didn't wear one now, she was in a pretty good mood considering how she'd been when she'd first arrived.

"It's the fur." Cute and cuddly did wonders for social status, and Fox had been riding that train since his arrival. Shae's smile suggested that she was just fine with letting her familiar monopolize the attention. Indeed, it gave her more time to observe. There was something about a face that ages slower. A strange clash of care lines and youth stamped with telltale evidence for those with extended lifetimes. "So I'm told some congratulations are in order. You came all this way to help out and the demonic influence shot off prematurely. You can relax and enjoy your visit now, no?"

She rolled her shoulder, "I'm not going to make a habit of praising a guy that comes too early, but in this case---" Her mouth puckered. "---he was a slimy little ass to begin with, and he just couldn't keep it up long enough." She sat straighter when her coffee arrived, taking it with gimme-hands, a quartet of black acrylic bangles sliding back along her left wrist. "I can enjoy it until Sunday night. I've got a business to run, if it hasn't burned down yet." She took a drink, and her eyes rolled back, taking a moment to savor the chilled coffee first before she swallowed with a scowl. "He told me you helped too."

The narrowing of Shae's eyes was satisfaction, perhaps a bit of regret, but chiefly satisfaction. "What business do you maintain?" The first of many questions, probably. For example, here came another. "And if it's not a trade secret, how do you travel from Earth to here and back?" The mention of Shae's contributions to the efforts earned a chuckle. "Mm. It felt a little like observing self torture, but yes. I helped." How else to describe the anguish Cris had put himself through chasing Bianca's ghost through his memory? "Got to see you being a badass, as the locals say. I know who has the connections in case of future sucking chest wounds."

"It's a small place. Consultation, wares. I also do purifications, exorcisms, ghost killings, and lessons." She opened her hand and there was a white business card laying on her palm. 800-WARLOCK was written in thick typeface above elegant script dictating what she'd already stated to Shae. "I use Portals. It took a bit of work to get here. This plane's caught up in a twister, a hurricane, and a tsunami of unstable energy that's always moving. It's where it is one second, and gone the next. Ripping open a tunnel to it is always a risky thing. But Portals are what I do."

Shae's compliment chased away the stone threatening to take over her expression. Unlike her Nephilim counterpart, her command of her facial features had not reached mastery yet. She smiled instead, chuckle a bit bashful. "You do what you can."

"How do you know him, anyway? He doesn't---I mean. You've met him. He doesn't," finger combing the air, "branch out much."

The card was taken with care, examined with amusement. If it weren't for TV advertisements, she would have no idea that this was a phone number. "Do you get calls from here?" Because she couldn't help but wonder how Cris kept in touch with her given the stated tumultuous metaphysical status of Rhy'Din. Salome's description only served as a reminder how fortunate she was to have been delivered here rather than lost to the void during her own arrival.

"You do what you can, and apparently you can do a great deal." The card disappeared into her pocket as she framed a reply to the warlock's inquiry. "He was one of the first people I encountered when I came here. And, odd thing that I am, I was always more intrigued by the ones sitting at the edge of the room than by the ones sitting at the center. I'm probably to blame for our current level of association. I can be stubborn and persistent."

"Yeah," like it should be obvious, but catching on to Shae's train of thought, she elaborated. "Cris' phone is like mine. It's been modified to survive all sorts of things, even cross-realm calls or cities without cell towers. I wasn't responsible for that spell, Bianca was. She was better at it than I was." She rolled her shoulder and bit the straw sticking out of her coffee, eyes like black marbles raising to Shae's as she answered. But there was a swirl above her left eyebrow that caught Salome's attention too. "S'the only thing that works with him. Stubborn and persistent. I think he likes it."

Bianca's name brought a small frown to her lips, quickly dismissed with shop talk. "Do you notice any limitations, incorporating magic with technology? A local warlock enchanted my phone for me, to keep its communications from being disrupted, observed, and so forth. A little over a year ago was the first time I had encountered a cell phone and I'm still a bit unsure about their effect on my spells." There was no shame in that admission. The world she came from just wasn't as technologically developed. Her tea was an afterthought at this point, she'd not touched her mug since Salome sat down. "It confuses him to have interest, but he's been valuable to me as a sounding board."

"Sometimes? Like, if you go at it like a jackhammer to the sidewalk, you're going to wreck the device and then there's going to be a ton of magic spiking off in all directions with no place to go. But if you're good and careful, it's not a big deal. I was just never good or careful. I've been working on it," she said it all around her straw, then set the cup down, smearing the cold sweat it left behind into her palm. "Who did you get to do it?" She latched on that instead of Cris, despite her being the one that brought him up.

"Good and careful." Echoed thoughtfully. "The challenge of the ages, perhaps. And I got the assistance from a fellow named Canaan. Cris was hanging around him when I first got here. He told me I could trust him with it." Shae's hand dropped to trace the outline of her phone in her front pocket. "Do you know him?"

She raised her chin in a mannerism that was not entirely hers. Silent and minute, giving herself time to stuff back the first four responses that leaped forward. "I know of him. I've only really talked to him a couple times, though. Nosy. The accent doesn't save him."

"Likewise, only communicated with him a few times. One of which might well have been him accusing me of being 'nosy'." Shae's opinion was carefully expressed as neutral as she watched Salome's reaction to the name. "In fairness, I ask a lot of questions. You might have noticed."

"HA," like a slap. "That's cute. People ask questions, that's just what happens. If he can't take what he dishes out, he needs to get out of the kitchen."

"Course he might just set the whole damn thing on fire, but you now. Semantics." Hand flap.

"Are warlocks from your world elementally aligned, or would you call that an affinity on his part?" Here, her eyes wavered towards the talons of Salome's hands. "I thought for a time that the scales on him might have been draconic in nature, but I was told they reflect a swamp dwelling predator." Fox, full of pastry and content, came sauntering towards the table they shared, watching Salome as he did so. He detoured towards her to sit near her chair and sniff at the air around her.

"Some of us are. It all depends on where the chicken egg or the love juice comes from. Most of us don't really figure that out. We just deal with it." She bent the straw toward her lower lip and once more considered the faint blue patterns she could see on Shae's skin. They did not detract, but they were too random to enhance. Intriguing. Prettier than some of the other Warlock marks she'd seen, but Shae wasn't one of them. She didn't know what Shae was.

"Are you several generations in, like the Nephilim, or are you closer to the source? The separation of what you call the Shadow World from the rest of your society fascinates me." Now she remembered the tea, taking a side glance towards Fox who seemed to be considering Salome's lap as a potential target. "I think he likes you. He says hello, by the way." Sip.

She raised her shoulders near the rope chain dangle of her earrings. Little feathers and knotted charms swayed to and fro, ruined dreamcatchers. "I don't know. I thought about it for a while, a long time ago. We all go through one of those weepy existential periods, wondering why we're born, why we can't die, why part of our bodies looks like it was superglued on from something else." She looked down to find Fox's intelligent face turned up. Salome raised her coffee and tapped her yoga-pant thigh with her other hand. "I have a cat," she explained. "Anyway. Most of us don't get real deep into where we come from. About two thirds of us are the results of an Eidolon and a mundane. So I guess in that sense, we're purer than the Shadowhunters. Ish."

"And what, in your world, is an Eidolon?" The term was not unfamiliar to Shae, but she was rather certain that what she defined it as was something entirely different. Fox took the invitation, or what he presumed to be an invitation, and bounced up into the warlock's lap to further ingratiate himself into her space. His attention was drawn to her earrings, and it was these that he pointed his nose towards. Shae watched her familiar's investigation, her expression changing in the moments that she and Fox exchanged glances.

"Shapeshifters. It's an---" she ducked her head away from Fox's sniffing, her other hand open and ready to grab his snout and redirect it if she had to. You get one cat stuck in your earring, and it changes your whole life. "---all encompassing thing. There's around twelve or so species of it. Succubi and incubi kind of fall under that tent. They shift, they make babies, that kind of thing."

"Don't even think about it," squinting down at the canid.

With Salome's fingers around his snout, Fox cheekily blew a raspberry into her palm. "He says they smell interesting." Cue a waggling of canid brows. "Shapeshifters, hmm. Demonic though, yes? Cris mentioned as much. He seems to have a very...conflicted relationship with the other elements of the Shadow World. Honestly, the social order is...I'm just rambling now. It's been interesting trying to puzzle out his motivations and what might have caused them."

"I took a shower." She'd taken three, really. "Demonic. Yeah." She looked up as Shae dropped the sensitive name this time. "He has a conflicted relationship with everything." Salome smeared her hand back along Fox's head and dragged her claws down his back. "He would've done anything for that bitch. He'd do anything for his new one. He'd do anything for anybody that asked him. He stands apart from people, like you said, but once you figure out how he watches them?" she shook her head.

"He was already broken when he showed up on our doorstep, and Bianca stuffed her hands in there and spread the pieces all over the place. I don't even want to figure out the motivations behind it. If it was him, or her, or whatever. It's over, and he can get the *** over it."

Shae didn't seem aware of the sensitive nature of the topic, or maybe she didn't see a reason to attach much stigma to it. The matter of Bianca, though, made her sigh. "His new one had best not use him the way the old one did. I might have to beat the notion of self respect into his head." Another frown. "Love makes people blind, I suppose the old wisdom is true."

She liked Shae. "Hell, I'll beat her. She comes back from the dead and everything, and all of a sudden," frilly ripples of her fingers. "Then I'll beat him. Or maybe not, he likes that. We'll tickle him instead."

"Tickles and hugs. The real torture methods." Drawled before her face turned devilish. Her innocent tone of questioning at odds with her demeanor. "Did he show you his pet bunny?" That grin was pure amusement. "Bun-bun is adorable."

"Tickles and bugs actually. If you've never seen him squirm around before, it, is, hi----larious." Her mouth dropped open. "His pet what?"

"Oh he--" False surprise, a hand to her chest. "He didn't introduce you to his pet bunny? It followed him around when he went to visit a local named Taneth so she gave it to him. He smiled so big, just like a happy boy." Shae giggled. Giggled. "I named it because he couldn't decide what to call it."

"No,hedidnotintroducemetohispetbunny. Oh, my god, that ass." She pulled the collar of her loose shirt aside and dug around between her breasts for the big black brick of a phone that matched Cris's down to its lacquered sheen, though she had a frilly little flower charm stuck into the headphone jack that gave it some flare. "I am going to tell him he's an ass right now. It'll mess up his sex life, I know it," grinning broadly, she looked up. "I met Taneth. She told me he lets her call him Crissy."

"When he was a kid, he wouldn't say a single word to you for six hours if you called him anything but his name." Her claws clicked around on the screen, fast enough to suggest she's had a lot of practice with them.

"That he does." Taneth had that kind of power over the local male population. "I used his full name a few times, and he was rather huffy about it. I'm reserving future use of it for when he pisses me off. Just to get my point across, of course." Seeds of fluffy bunny chaos sewn, Shae sat back in her seat to enjoy the rest of her tea. Fox, meanwhile, was eyeing the pillowy valley that phone had appeared from. Prompting a "Hey." from Shae in his direction. "Also, I don't really want to think about his sex life. It just highlights my current lack of one in a depressing way."

"Tack on his middle name with it, really freak him out," click-click, "It's Elias. By the way." She put the phone down, screen-to-table, her hands resting somewhere in ginger fur. She seemed more comfortable about the interest in her chest than she was about her earrings. "Not you too," moaning, she rolled her eyes. "What is up with this town? I don't get it. I've not seen one ugly person since I've gotten here, I don't know why you all aren't bending each other over stuff."

"Don't get me wrong, I've seen some ugly stuff too, but I think these two uglies were actually bumping uglies, and it was really disturbing. Don't go under any bridges."

"Elias. Not bad, not bad. It will certainly freak him out as he'll wonder where in the stars I learned if from." The appreciation was mutual. Shae found the warlock to be quite agreeable to her sense of humor. "Yes me too. I blame it upon my picky nature and the widespread assumption that most of these attractive people are already wrapped up in one another in some way. To be fair, I was somewhat wrapped up, but that might just have been wishful thinking on my part." Here a small shrug. "I tend to stick to the rooftops, but I'll take your warning seriously."

"He might put it together. That's definitely not the worst thing I can tell you about him." She ruffled Fox's fur behind his head. "You know, there's nothing wrong with adding yourself to something like that. Like just for a night, sidle on in there. Wrap yourself up in some people." It'd been awhile since she'd talked to a female she actually liked. At Shae's confession of a somewhat past lover, she looked up, her eyes going round. "Ooooohhh, who was it? Was he tasty?" Pause. "Was she tasty?"

Laughing, Shae waved the questions off. Ignoring them, and the memories, in favor of what proved to be an afternoon of sharing stories about Crispin and giving the Warlock a few pointers about the city itself.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

04/25/16

2:27 AM

And shortly after...
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One Question

It happened like that. So fast. Things a blur of involuntary motion. Breathing. In and out. Like he wasn’t. Taneth took the body, buried it in the garden with the flowers and the rabbits.

I took the responsibility of telling people. I couldn’t ask Salome. Grief paralyzed and crippled her. I had to. I had to keep him alive. I had to speak his name.

Bianca. That name will never be redeemed. How did I explain five months of waiting? How did I justify it when I didn’t even know why myself? How did I answer Ketch when he stared at me as if I was failing Crispin and asked me Why haven’t you fixed it yet?

I don’t know when it was that I became a god in his eyes, but I suppose it was about the time I realized he was still drinking with his ghosts. About the time I realized my world looked like a fairy tale to him.

Why haven’t you fixed it yet?

The question haunted me. I wanted to scream. I wanted to fight Salome. I wanted to cry. I didn’t have the time. I had to speak his name. At Beltane I spoke and for a moment he was as close to life as he could be. He echoed in their minds in that moment and I could almost reach him.

I thought Salome would punch me. I thought she’d draw blood.

Blood.

Willingly given drops for a dagger and a ritual I’d never heard of.

Demon. Human. Angel.

Robert. Fin. Theron.

My blood on shards of mirror glass when Bianca cut the connection. I could see his soul there. She showed it to us, all ripped edges and folds of agony. Holy marks replaced with lacerations. Souls bleed. Who knew?

Why haven’t you fixed it yet?

I don’t remember sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I could see it. Every time the rage almost choked me. Secondhand memories of an axe wound to the chest pulled me back to work, sucking air.

We were still missing one ingredient when it all went to hell. No. Came back from hell. How I wish Bianca had died there. Five months demanded became barely two and a half. The 10th of July, Taneth’s garden, not long after midnight. Uprooted flowers, a shower of dirt and Leena’s blood to replace that which her father refused to provide.

Fox bridged Lirssa’s gift into the test of endurance neither Salome nor I had the time to prepare for. The path was ripped wide, the door opened. Seven feet tall, and five across. A milky way galaxy of red stardust and swirling nothingness. It smelled like fire and char. Lightning crackled at its edges. We held it.

And held. And held. And held.

We would hold it until we fell. Allow only what was him to take possession. The sun rose and set. The deep of night came again. There was only the one chance and nothing to spare for thought. Lirssa passed out. I watched Fox’s fur darken from red to black. I watched the wind in my skin pool into my hands and disappear.

Then, abruptly, the doorway pulsed. The grave rumbled and spewed dirt up into the air like a geyser. Minutes passed as the door crackled, then shattered. The silence was so loud I thought, as I sunk to my knees, that I had gone deaf. I heard a cough, a rattle gasp breath. The last thing I saw was blonde hair diving into an open grave. I was nothingness, like that doorway, but nothingness wasn’t supposed to hurt in the ways I did.

.

.

.

.

Days later, when I came to in the remote cottage Fox had taken me to, my voice was a ruin but I managed to ask one question.

Did we fix it?
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incarnation, Part 1
08/27/16, Dockside

Text to Cris: Hey, so someone told me you were alive. Surprisingly, I think I am too. Been a while. Could I meet you somewhere?

Eleven minutes later
Text to Shae: Was that some sort of jest?
Text to Shae: Text does not translate that well.

Text to Cris: Self deprecating humor mixed with observational absurdity. In some cultures, a joke, yes. But I was serious about meeting to talk. I'd track you down by force, but I don't want to intrude if you aren't up to it.

Four minutes
Text to Shae: Thank you for the consideration.
Text to Shae: Where were you thinking?

Text to Cris: My only stipulation is somewhere private. I just want to see you.

Text to Shae: That's been my preference lately, as well. I do not mind otherwise.

Several minutes later...
Text to Cris: Where would you be comfortable?

Text to Shae: Out of doors. But my knowledge of any private yards within the city limits is----well, limited.
Text to Shae: I do know a park that's rather sparsely populated. The trails keep foot traffic moving along.
Text to Shae: We may need to look a bit higher for privacy.

Text to Cris: Are you able to make it to the quarry from the cliffside trail? The lighthouse, perhaps?

Text to Shae: The lighthouse may be easier.
Text to Shae: Less climbing involved.
Text to Shae: Give me some time?

Text to Cris: I'll meet you at the city pier. Would you like me to bring anything for you? Food or drink?

Text to Shae: Water. Just water, that would be fine.
Text to Shae: Thank you.

Dockside was familiar ground she had not tread in several months. Somehow, the wild fantasy took root that the area would be much changed since last she laid eyes on it. Not so. The city was also remarkably like the painting in her memory. A novelty for a town plagued by destruction of property through various means both accidental and deliberate. Nervousness settled into her bones as she sat on a bench located midway along the pier. Already one of the several bottles of water she'd picked up at a convenience store was open and half depleted. Fox sat on the planks with such unnatural stillness that her subdued shifting in place between sips from the bottle made her seem almost fidgety. The woman had lost weight, and taken to hiding her marks again. Long sleeves in the height of summer, long hair down, denim wrapped legs. One might sweat just to look at her, but the air in her immediate vicinity defied logic and resisted the ambient heat to leave her globed in more comfortable temperatures.

It had taken a great deal of mental coaxing and absurd inconvenience for him to reconcile using the town's public transport, but as he did not yet trust his ability to ride, he'd left his motorcycle collecting dust in a dockside warehouse and taken an orange taxi instead. He bade the driver take him only so far, and thus when he finally approached the pier on his own, it was on foot. There was a storm coming, so said the flat bottomed cumulus clouds overhead, the thickness of the salty air that smelled like seafood and wet, rotting wood, but was somehow cleansing on every inhale. He wore a simple, slate grey t shirt, thin and just slightly loose on his body. Two scarred fingers from either hand were tucked away into the tight front pockets of black jeans. His boots were silent, even when touching down on the creaky slats of the boardwalk. Sunlight caught their silver buckles and etched his frown out a little harder on his mouth. He followed the length of the lighthouse up from base to bulb in the distance, listening to the cry of gulls pierce the serenity of lapping water.

The storm wasn't on her behalf, and there wouldn't be much she could currently do to control it when it finally did break. The tall clouds looming overhead still had Fox eyeing her warily. Although she didn't hear his approach, Shae threw enough glances towards the main boardwalk to be able to spot him not long before he made it to her current perch. Fumbling to close the water bottle in her hand, she stood with haste, knocking the bag at her feet over and sending a loose bottle rolling lazily across the planks. There was a brief moment of pause, where it was clear that the woman was visibly restraining herself as she studied the figure drawing near.

It had been months for her, even longer for him, since the last time he'd set foot anywhere near the lighthouse. He recalled a dark night, an office, a cup of tea, and a discussion about a demon who, at the time, was his biggest problem. The thunk of something dropped closeby was like an iron mallet to his senses. He stiffened, turned his head with a sharp snap, the set of his brow stern, his jaw stone, in time to see the upshoot of a slender figure topped in black and dressed nearly the same as he was despite the weather. The rolling bottle caught light too. His pace slowed the closer he came to the bench, sure in his mind that he wanted to continue forward, but his stride refused to hurry.

Like her, he'd lost some of his weight, lines of definition softened where they were visible in his arms, along his shoulders, and under Marks. His hair needed a trim, more of it caught in the oceanside breeze than it used to, and there was a three days' coat of dark stubble on his jaw, lending to the impression that he had just rolled out of some comfortable position and committed to going outside in the clothes he wore to bed. Fifty feet became thirty, then seventeen, enough to see her shoes, to begin to measure just how pronounced the difference in their height was, to discern the idea of her frost gold gaze where it had not left him. At fifteen, he paused, and could not stop the skip of an aching, near smile as it brimmed behind his frown.

It was the first time she'd been able to see her handiwork. All the reasons it had taken so long for her to convince herself it was the right time to intrude upon his recovery slipped through her mind incoherently. Eighteen weeks. Four whole months since that night Salome called her. And even after Fox's reassurances, it was only real in the moment she saw him. Fifteen feet, he stopped. That twitch of his mouth tugged her one step forward with an noose around her heart, or so it felt. One hesitant step became two. The third a closer inspection as her mouth worked to try and articulate some form of greeting. All she managed was a soundless inhale of his name on step four and then there was her hands reaching out for him.

Her breeze told her he was there, he was real. Her fingers tips hesitantly touching his shoulder said the same. Questing touch shortly became a hug of desperate relief. It did not crush with pressure, but her fingertips warped black clothing with her grip and the cage of her arms was determined to demand that singular physical reassurance.

In the months that passed, he had not asked many questions. The stain of self-involvement kept his curiosities dampened, and he could live just fine without knowing how those he knew found out about his death, without knowing what they'd done concerning it in the time he'd been away. Will had mentioned that both he and Nica mourned him. He'd been visited with a deluge of capitalized texts from Antonia, tears from Sabine. Smiles from Fin, a healthy dose of awkwardness from Ketch. His heart in his throat as he waited through Charlie's stare, Madison's disbelief. But he had learned from Salome, that in the order of events, Shae had been the second to lay eyes upon what had been the grisly, impossible, sight of his corpse laying rigid on the floor.

He did not move as she sorted her intentions. The wave of her step kicked a place deep in his chest. The mixture of her own personal breeze and that off the ocean lifted her hair, dark against the blank white of her cheeks, the harsh cut of her cheekbones. Her touch felt too uncertain, shy perhaps, for it all couldn't be disbelief. She'd been there, she'd known what she'd done, and what she'd been a part of. But perhaps knowing it and seeing it were two separate things. She brought with her the scent of fresh air and lightning. Warmth off her skin. Some kind of herb, another kind of tea, and the feral smell of fur and she had no sooner made her decision to put her arms around him than he returned the gesture. The loop of his one sliding in tightly, locking in at the small of her back, his other beneath hers, reaching up at an angle along her spine, his palm finding a place to rest against the back of her head. Fingertips briefly bit into her scalp, a response to the skid of her touch across two points of constant ache just inside his shoulder blades, but he was determined not to let physical discomfort bar him from holding her their, solidity in his embrace despite the pronounced jut of bone under skin.

The woman could sling words in anger with all the color of the most veteran of dock workers. Could craft calm threats and diatribe at length in debate on her opinions, the facts, and any mixture between. She could gleefully laugh her way through an explanation or directly confess to a crime. She'd choked out an explanation of a friend's demise and promised herself at length that she wasn't going to cry when she finally got to see her friend again. But that all went to hell the moment he returned her hug.

She felt the tears escape, a quiet stream down cheeks decorated in pale skin and pale markings. Fox's sense of smell bled over onto her own as the canid approached at a sedate pace, and her senses were flooded. The embrace became prolonged, the stutter shake of her shoulders accompanying incoherent failed attempts at words against his shoulder. She gave up, but still a tremor passed through her and lingered in her hands. Unsteady hands that moved from his shoulders to the sides of his head as she pulled back to blink at him with watery vision and then hug him again. When she found words at last, she shocked some locked away part of her more rational self with the choice of them. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry I couldn't...You shouldn't have had to...I'm sorry."

Tea tree oil and peppermint, the spent match char of the Marks on his skin, an airy, light detergent from his shirt; a selection that had nothing to do with him. He was missing the telltale acrid tang of cigarettes or leather, but in its place was the subtle, warm fruit hint of pomegranate tea. He could do nothing but mold like putty to her movements, where she took hold of him, set him back and gave him the sight of tears too close that he did not want to see, and wished she wouldn't have to cry for him. She left him with a gentle whiplash for how swiftly she dove back into a second embrace. He tucked his chin upon her shoulder, thought better of it, ducking his head to set his mouth there instead, hiding his frown as he breathed her in deep. But he had to move to speak. Softly, meant to get lost in her hair, for he trusted she'd hear him, "Why are you apologizing to me, Shae?"

She shook her head once, carefully so as not to knock her head against his in a harsh way. She didn't trust herself to explain it properly at that moment, and the immediate look of reproach sent her way by her familiar had already been translated in her mind as a scathing admonishment. She had to give him something, though, to ease his worry. She settled for a truth. "I just wish I could have fixed it sooner," came past a tongue thick with suppressed sounds. A valiant effort made to focus meant one hand was re-purposed to wipe her face on her sleeve as she tried to clear her throat. "All that time...If it hadn't worked..." And then a sudden switch in both tone and focus. She drew back, rolling up a newly damp sleeve and gently holding both his shoulder and the side of his neck to examine him. "How are you feeling?"

"I've been alive and still remarkably baffled by that fact for the last two months. I could, and was, most definitely, much worse off without your aid." Her hand returning to his neck centered his mind. There was a pulse there, just under his jaw, that beat against her thumb. Steady and even. His own arms slid south, down her spine, the breadth of one palm to either side of her narrow waist. This time, when he offered a half smile, it came much easier. "Tired. But when has that not been the case?"

"No side effects? You look thin." Hypocrite. Nevermind the way she sounded like a nervous mother. No one had texted her about any complications, but she wasn't even sure Cris would mention them if they existed. The pulse beneath her fingers offered reassurance that he wasn't somehow still at death's door despite being forcibly dragged from the other side of it. "Any other markings?" She referred, of course, to that late-blooming demonic signature in his skin that had brought them to this point in the first place. Other questions asking after his health threatened to spill over in true Sylph fashion, but she managed to limit the first round of interrogation to just the two questions. "I've missed you. Fox missed you. You're certain there were no complications?" Almost just the two questions.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incarnation, Part 2

"Side effects----is a rather broad term. Anything could be one." He owed her the truth, and not some half baked generality, but that would take time to articulate. Time that he had, now, but time that he was not allowed as she continued, and the precision of that inquiry, the way it tripped too close to the very thing he was trying to decide how to explain tugged in a small scowl between his brows.

But she'd moved on, and he felt a peculiar touch of upset at his desire to simply let her. To let her have the day. He swallowed, nodded, dropped his gaze from hers, focused instead on the truth in her admission rather than the absurdity of the one surrounding Fox. "I am----but a shade of a shade of what I once was before all of this happened. I do not believe my body has caught up to its reality yet, but I am doing what I can to help it along."

Teeth worried at her lower lip and tears threatened again, suffusing her words with the guilt and worry and relief jumbled beneath them. "I've...I've never brought someone back after so long before. Weakness is common. Some physical changes too. But...nothing a-alarming? Pervasive cold? Loss of certain senses?" Rot...bruising...organ failure. Voices that didn't belong. Deathsight. The ways in which a revival could go horribly awry were countless. "I can help you work through the muscle repair...if...if you want. I'm..." She cut herself off before she could apologize again. It would be meaningless. Instead she rubbed at her eyes again with the back of her hand taken off his neck.

Was that really all it could be? An awry revival. He'd gladly take the consequences if there were to be any. "There has been no pervasive cold, no----no rot, by the Angel, that's.... That's rather disconcerting." But if it had been necrosis, he was certain Eva would have mentioned it by now. "So far, I've the ability to see extremely well in the dark without the benefit of a rune, though I do not count that as a detriment. Surprising, yes, but," but she'd cut herself off.

In that moment, he decided, that it could wait. It may have gotten him into this mess to begin with, and he could not remember exactly who it was that told him that he was not alone, that he had more than enough generous hands to catch him if he fell, but in that moment, he only saw hers, and how often they rose to her face to catch tears stubbornly fighting their way through her lashes. He moved one hand from her waist, slid the length of four scarred fingers around the thin line of her wrist to carefully draw her knuckles from her eyes.

Try as she might to listen with clinical concern, she couldn't do Eva's job. Not with that persistent twitch in the corner of her lower lip threatening to make it quiver and frown despite pressing her lips together. Nothing serious, from what he had said. Nothing serious, she told herself. The curl of his fingers pulling her hand away from eyes rubbed red betrayed the dampness she was knuckling into her cheeks. A sharp intake became a hiccough. "Promise to tell me if there's anything wrong?" Anything to not have to be blindsided by such a gut-wrenching shock again. "Please?" Her voice lost all its usual strength, her composure beginning to crumble without the shield of her hand to rely on.

It had never been a comfort to be faced with an empty well where before strength resided. A sense of duty, a stalwart dedication to the protection of his friends who needed it. Especially one that looked like this. One that he'd gone to for help months prior, one who'd remained and given just about everything she could to what it was that allowed him to once more open his eyes. And he owed her. He owed her better, more. She did not deserve to be patronized, her intelligence insulted by a paltry desire to keep her from experiencing any more pain, anxiety, anything that could make her voice crack as it did, because hers was a strength he had always admired, counted on when he could not find the threads of his own.

He closed his eyes, leaving her wrist with a squeeze from the rough calluses of fingertips when he set his palm instead against her hair, and he ducked his head, the stiff line coming to press against the dark border of her hairline. His exhale was warm, but too long, too even, to be anything but resignation. He wetted the crease in his lower lip when they left her brow. His hand firmed up against her waist, fitting into the curve too deep from too little sustenance. "All right," he began, his voice, roughly scraped dry for the ache that had wrapped the very core of his throat, "You know----you know that had I any control over this, it wouldn’t have happened at all. I would not have put any of you through this, I would not have let her put you through this." His swallow stuck and took its time on the way down. "And I wish, Shae......I wish, by the Angel, that I could tell you with conviction that I do not think there is anything wrong with me. With my body, at all, but I can't." His mouth pressed together, compressing the follow-up----"Because I think there is."

For those who opened themselves to her and took shelter in the arms of her friendship, there was little the Sylph was unwilling to do. Wars waged, screaming demands at the universe. They had managed to claw Cris back to the Material, and the only price she would ever ask would be his trust. She had begged it of him. Take what you need, just let me give it.

The unexpected press of lips to the line of hair that was once again its proper shade of black caused her breath to still. To better hear words potentially uttered into her tresses, she offered a silence that needed filling. The desert dry resignation that seeped into the void, scouring at the bones of hope, was a better comfort than the placebo of uncertainty that he might have otherwise left her with. She was quick to reassure him, though not about his more prominent fears. Those she took her time in getting to. First was the creep of her arms pulling him back into an embrace, her eyes closed. She wasn't able to swallow the frightened sorrow in her voice completely, but her words were clear enough. "I know you had no control. I know. I told you before you aren't at fault for the horrible things that Bianca has done. She lied to you. Used you. The weight of this fiasco is on her shoulders, not yours." Recrimination crept back in. "Salome and I were fools to be taken in by the mark disappearing. I still think we were fools for letting her dictate how you were to be brought back.So if...if there is something wrong it is probably our deficiency. And I am sorry Cris. I am. But please..." Here her voice broke again, warm salt water tracing rivulets along his collar. "Please believe me that I will do everything I can to fix it."

He knew in the back of his mind that if he did not bring it up now, he never would. He'd cling instead to the fact that he'd narrowly avoided laying another ton of weight to the phantom yoke already weighing her shoulders down. She drew him back in and for a moment he merely stood there, his hold gone lax at her waist and against her hair while she moved in and gathered strength in her embrace a second time. "It's obvious now," he said, letting his chin rest lightly on her crown, "that that entire encounter was a farce. The demon we killed that day did not even know what it was a part of until its part had been played. It was, for a time, as subject of great gloating." Her tears were warm on his neck, they left a broadening dark spot on the collar of his shirt. "At the moment, even I do not know what's going on. I had thought it merely----natural, I suppose, if that's the term for it. If one's body suffers a trauma, one needs to heal. But after two months of near absolute listlessness given my body's newfound allergy to any physical exertion, I should have improved much more than I have. And I would be content to give it all the time I had, to be certain that I would not merely give out. But I do not think I have that sort of time. Nothing has stopped since I've been gone."

Restraint kept her from attempting to examine him there on the pier. Brick by brick she rebuilt her composure. This one the relief that they hadn't failed outright. That one shaped like the comfort that he seemed himself. Both hands found his shoulders and she pushed herself back from the warmth of contact and back into the cool breeze that haunted her every step. Puffy eyed, she drew herself up. "This is uncharted territory for me. But we are not without resources, here of all places. There has been some improvement, but not enough? Do you think someone still moves against you? Against your life? Tell me what you know." The spark at the back of her gold eyes desired a target. A foe. A face to put to the sense of wrongness that had robbed him of his conviction that all would be well. "If this is Bianca..." The threat begun trailed into nothing, waiting.

He felt the breeze between them in her absence and he did not count that as a relief. With her hands on his shoulders setting him back, he let his own light grip fall away from her slender waist. "I'm not ready to rule out the possibility that there is yet another threat lurking somewhere that I can't see. I've spoken to Charlie about this, and she's said the same." He ducked his head, raising a palm to rub his face. "She," the pause he took there, though there was no supplied name, made it clear just whom he meant, "told me, repeatedly, that she would lock and destroy the exit after I went through it. From what I recall----the last thing I remember seeing before I opened my eyes was a red dust plateau, set upon by a horde of demonic creatures that moved as arachnids, with her in the middle. And as monumentally powerful as she was, I do not want to operate on the assumption that she succeeded in what she set out to do."

He drew back, scratching a line into the dark thatch of whiskers on his jaw, and swung an emphatic look to the bench she'd left behind to let her know his intentions when he moved toward it. Time spent immobile put a stiffness in his legs and his gait was slower, gone about with caution instead of a confined grace. "I've gained already two items from Charlie that aid in protection against demonic forces. A barrier around and inside my home, and this----" He paused to sit on the corner of the bench first, his hold against its back tight enough to pick out the striation of waning muscle under Marks as he guided his weight down. Then he motioned to his opposite wrist, ringed in a hand tooled leather cord that sported a pewter talisman the size of a small coin. "It is meant to repel any untoward action visited upon me by any who share demonic blood."

As the Nephilim excused himself to the bench, Shae gathered the wayward water bottle from the planks. It had settled into a crack in one of the boards and rocked in place as the waves lapped at the pier. Not quite as cold as it had been, she nevertheless offered the condensation coated bottle to him, using to proximity to allow her gaze to flicker over the talisman worn on his wrist. Fox drew alongside Cris' left leg, staring up at him. The canid's attention held the weight of assessment. "Do you continue to improve, albeit at an unsatisfactory rate?" Her own half-empty bottle was retrieved next, still balanced on the metal arm. The bag containing two more was righted and set at the corner of the bench beside him. Then she claimed a stretch of slats for herself.

That breeze folded around him again, preternaturally vigilant against aerial attacks against any within its range. "What does Salome think about this? Is she concerned about your progress?"

He took the bottle with a nod of gratitude, letting his gaze rest finally on Fox as he approached. Cris offered a minute curl of his lip before Shae drew his attention aside, snorting at the term unsatisfactory for it wasn't the one he would have used. "At first, when I rose, there was such a profound deluge of sensation. Of confusion, of----such physical agony that, at first, I could not breathe. I thought momentarily that something had gone wrong, that I'd entered the wrong door, through I was only following her direction." He turned the bottle in his hands, pressing his thumb into the plastic. "That pain and that sensory overload has since ebbed a great deal. But I am still.... And it may be, simply, that for the time I existed, I was not----attached, to this body. It's been in stasis for so long, and I've forgotten what it is to move again, to feel, as I did certainly feel everything where I was, but the difference between There and here is.... It's difficult to explain.

"I've not yet told her of my concerns. I don't...." he stuck the tip of his tongue against the corner of his mouth. "I do not yet know enough about what I'm dealing with, if I'm dealing with anything at all, but I know----I know that I am dealing with something. You mentioned markings," crinkle, "yes?" He did not look when he asked.

Fox's muzzle tilted upwards in recognition for Cris' subdued lip curl of greeting, but his observational attitude didn't waver. Ears perking forward at the snort and staying there as the man began to explain the overwhelming experience of regaining control of a physical body after months of separation. Wincing, Shae sniffed once to try and clear her sinuses, to mixed success. There was nothing to offer in follow-up to his description of such sensory trauma. It didn't deviate from her expectations drastically. A cough and a sip of water later, she was pondering what it meant that he hadn't decided to tell Salome these concerns. "You need to tell her. She's the best resource I currently know on how magic might effect a body like yours." Tone gentle, it still carried the weight of her opinion that it was the right thing to do. Half a dozen questions battled to the forefront, but her response to his singular example regarding the markings was: "I did, yes." Followed by another, expectant silence.

"I know," crackle, "I know I do." He may have only wanted the water for something to do with his hands. "I know she'd want to know, I know she'd momentarily despise me for keeping it to myself." Exhaling, he ducked his head, tipped it into the cradle of his waiting palm. "She's done----and she's been through enough, and I can't----I do not want to drag her into it. I do not want to drag you into it, I do not want it to be happening at all. By the Angel, I want it all to *** stop, to just----to simply, simply stop. It can pick up again later, if it likes, but these last three years have been so entirely arduous that looking back on it all, I can't even fathom that I'm sitting here, coherent enough to describe it. It's, literally, killed me." He slid his fingers through his hair, and it really did need a trim for how lax it was against the passage of scarred knuckles.

"There are wounds upon my back that have grown exponentially worse in the last two weeks. I did not notice them at first, and for the scars I've already collected there, I may have simply missed them. But they are present, and I have done nothing strenuous to warrant them. I have not been attacked, I've hardly been out of doors in the last three months. The barrier upon my home and this bracelet rule out all demonic influence. If something is being done to me, it is not demonic in nature, and should Charlie's description ring true----if Bianca still lives, in whatever manner she's found, because of her demonic ties, she would not be able to touch me either.

"I am starting to entertain the notion that it is me. My body, my----my soul, my something that is causing this. I've been to a physician in town. Eva, the one who aided Antonia after her attack and surgeries. She's given me something for the pain. I am to see her again soon."

The more he talked, the more fodder he gave her to process. Her mental calculation of his state of well-being was undergoing constant revision and the overall impression was on the decline. "Hey...no, hang on. Isolating yourself isn't the solution to this. If it was I know I'd have a hell of a lot fewer problems myself." Fingers reached out to follow the path of his own through his hair. The mention of wounds on his back meant that any comforting gesture or rub there was completely off the table lest she exacerbate whatever issues were already present. Issues that were rather alarming. Wounds that weren't healing. Night vision. She had questions, but first she had some things to say:

"And let's sort one thing out. You aren't dragging myself, Leena, Salome...any of us. Anywhere. We're here Cris. We're already here. We've been here. So try to look at it a different way, because from our perspective? We're just waiting on you to hand us the tools to work with to get out of this together. By deciding you care about someone, it's a conscious decision to make their *** your problem. So that when they feel the way you do now -- like some sort of punching bag for the universe -- you can step in and help."

After a noisy inhale meant to steel herself, she got to the questions she needed to ask. "You might not have been attacked or strained anything, but did you come into contact with something in those places? Even something that normally would never cause wounds to you? Have you been having any dreams, lately? Has any healing been attempted on them besides pain medication? Have you noticed any other changes?"

Her fingertips skidded past his own, he hadn't taken them off his head yet. The water bottle dangled in a dangerously loose grip. He closed his eye as he listened, taking comfort in the even cadence of her voice and the rush of lapping waves against the pier. They, all of them, made him tired, and he simply could doze for an hour or so. Perhaps that would clear his head, perhaps that would give some perspective, if it would not make it all go away entirely.

"There is nothing that has not touched me, in some way," quietly. "Any fathomable implement, blunt or sharp, I have felt them. I was told, whilst There, that wounds visited directly upon a soul take longer to heal, emotional blows especially, and prior to my escape I sustained a myriad of them. The road from where I was to where I needed to go was not an easy one, and there were battles. There were points where I felt, as curious as it feels to say, that I would perish there, and remain locked in solitude, on a plane that was nothing but a wasteland of belched ash and broken rock.

"Dreams are," he exhaled a humorless chuckle, "of course I have them. It's rare that I don't. Iratzes do not work but for to stave off a slice of the pain they cause me."
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incarnation, Final

The trail of her fingers replayed in slow motion, a focus for her gathering thoughts in as much as their movement was meant to soothe. "I meant since you returned here. A brush with any substance. A particular metal or an object with certain properties. And the dreams, well, they could harbor hints to an explanation." She seemed to dismiss the thought for a moment. "You didn't answer me if there had been any other changes." Prompted before she took a moment to sift through his description of what he was told and what he experienced. "So is it possible, then, that the wounds you have now are a physical reflection of the damage your soul sustained in these battles and from theses emotional blows you are referencing? It might follow that if you allow yourself to properly heal from them that these physical maladies might also improve? Properly heal, I said. Not sublimate beneath a brave face and try to forget. Mind...or soul over matter?" Therapy, really. Whatever form that might take. The man beside her had been through more than just a sensory trauma. The whole event was the sort of thing capable of scarring and festering.

A pause, and then: "Do you in any way doubt that you deserve to be alive right now?"

He shook his head against his hand, continued to as she made her list. "The only untoward experience I've had since my return is the blow of a fist to my jaw. That is nowhere near where these wounds are located, and the bruise left behind cleared with the iratze I used to experiment." He set the water down between his boots and slid his hands together, letting her take over the drag of fingers through his hair without recoil.

And he gave her suggestion some thought. She reiterated aloud what he had thought himself over the last two months. He'd been through more than a simple battle, more than a vacation. He deserved whatever time he asked to be given because enough had been done to him, by the Angel, and he deserved the opportunity to at least take a breath.

Lids rose when she asked her question, the line of his brow pulling in wrinkled in the middle as he looked past the net of his hands to the boardwalk below. "Would that matter, even if I felt it?"

Her lips parted to ask, in surprise, who might have punched him. Not even a single syllable escaped, however, as she thought better of it. It really wasn't all that much of a surprise if someone had punched him. His denial of pattern between physical contact and wound allowed her to close the chapter on that particular suspicion. Into silence as he mulled over her words. Unhurried. Marked only by the deviation of Fox's attention from Cris. The canid turned his nose towards the sea and his eyes towards some wheeling specks overhead on the forefront of the clouds.

Shae's hand didn't still. A hum of an exhale. "It could. Is your training ever fully effective if you don't have a clear vision of what you want? Are your words the truth if you feel like you are lying to yourself?" Circling around examples, she finally settled on the one that really applied. "Can you really forgive yourself for what happened to you, if you think you don't deserve it? Can you accept the love of your friends and not feel guilty, is you think you don't deserve it?"

"It wasn't my fault," he said, with force despite its weak volume. He shook his locked hands and turned so he could see her instead. "You said that yourself. You know it, and now, after a front row seat to its validation, so do I." He did not seek out her eyes, for afterward he was giving his own back to the water. "I've made mistakes in my life, Shae. I know that I have, and I like will again now that I've been granted the chance to continue on. But I have never....I have never done something, to someone, to anyone, that warranted..... What I did not deserve was a death like that. A death at all. I did not deserve to be sold, spoken over as I was, as if I would not have *** helped her achieve whatever it was that she needed to achieve, for whatever *** reason she needed to achieve it."

He sat back, finally ducking low, aside, to escape her hand with a splay of his own to request to suggest an apology for such an abrupt motion. Two minutes later, he stood, muscling through the discomfort of it, sliding one hand to grip the spot between his neck and left shoulder. "I would have helped her, Shae. If she needed something, if she needed anything, I would have given it to her. I would have given it to her freely. If she'd asked me, told me.....told me anything.

"If she would have just *** waited, we would have reached her in time."

"You're damn right you didn't deserve any of that." There was quiet steel in her whispered statement. She seemed to only then realize how much she had been touching him. It had been reassurance at first. That he was real, alive. Then comfort. She'd forgotten completely about his usual demands on personal space in her need for that reassurance. Upon reflection, he'd been quite generous with it and for a moment she felt rather honored.

"And of course you would have helped her. You tried to help her. I saw." And she had. She'd sat through the memory, experienced his adrenaline. The desperation to reach a woman who abused the devotion she'd been granted. "You're a good man who did everything he could to help someone he loved. And you have friends who would do the same for you. Anything you asked, because you asked. Difference is you aren't going to step all over the people who care. You deserve the help if you need it."

He dug his fingers into the thin fabric of his shirt, into the equally thin knot of muscle below, until the former wrinkled in his grip and he felt a chilly numbness spread from shoulder to forearm. Her voice washed up like the incoming tide. Gentle, unhurried, but tenacious in its presence. In every word she spoke, in every silent encouragement she gave. He could not avoid it, and he found he did not want to as much as he remembered he did, at one time. He stood in its way, letting it bathe him as he closed his eyes, bowed his head to the sea.

Shae watched him there for a time as the wind picked up from the bay, signalling the storms approach. The lighthouse was already shrouded in shadow as the sun began to set behind the clouds. Some time during his contemplation she joined him, standing next to him as she looked out over the waters. "I don't know if I ever told you about how my father died." Hands found the front pockets of her jeans and buried themselves inside. "The Drow who raised me, I mean. Not my...actual father, whoever he is. If I did, forgive me for the repetition but... I grew up sheltered. My view of the world limited to a small village, my father's library, and the traders that would come to town. My father being who he was, getting the villagers to accept him took time. I struggled with that myself, by the sheer virtue of being an unknown."

Now and then her eyes drifted his way as she recounted the memory to him, always returning to the water or the storm clouds nearby after a reasonable interval. "One day a man comes to town. Not one of the usual traders. A stranger who looked...different. I thought he'd walked right out of one of my favorite books. I was so excited. I asked him a thousand questions, all of which he answered patiently. He told me he was a mage apprentice, and that his master had died. He was so charming, I was smitten right away. I begged my father to take him on."

Fox trotted over to sit, leaning against Shae's calf with a wide mouthed yawn. "Eventually he agreed. None of the villagers liked it. They were afraid of this man but...we fell in love. That is, I fell in love. He used that, though. To get closer to my father. His previous master hadn't died. He'd killed him. And I let him into my home. He used that opening, that trust, to steal one of my father's artifacts. To attack him, fatally wound him, and flee." Leaning down, the woman scratched at the top of Fox's head. "My father died and in a rage I destroyed his home trying to bring it down on that man's head. But he... he got away. I chased. Damaged the village in the process, but he was gone. I didn't realize that I had been in love with...with someone capable...with someone like that."

He could feel it in the air, the latent chill in every kick of offshore wind. Cris remembered discussing her father very briefly, bits and pieces shared in the dark with various local sceneries displayed before them, but nothing absolutely concrete settled in his mind. Even if it had, he would have listened the same way, with respectful silence, his gaze swung toward the stretch of ocean to his left, the side closest to her, to further solidify the impression that he heard and retained.

He turned fully when she leaned down, watching the sweep of her dark hair along her shoulders as she spoke, gave her nearly identical parallel to what he now faced. "Did you question yourself afterward? Wondered if you were all but blind, or if what you felt you knew, as deeply as you knew your name, was all entirely a fabrication?"

"Of course I did." There she smiled, ruefully. "I questioned my judgment. I questioned whether I was a danger to others. If I was the one ultimately responsible for my father dying. If the villagers were right. For a long, long time I had difficulty trusting myself. I stayed away from people, too afraid that I would hurt them. That they would hurt me." The woman straightened again, tucking her arms against her chest and crossing them. "I had a friend though. One who helped me understand that I wasn't ultimately responsible for other people's choices. That not everyone I chose to love was going to betray me. Helped me realize that if I really thought about it, I could find the warning signs I'd missed the first time. I wouldn't be blind to them again."

Her expression eased towards calm and she freed one hand to push her hair back from her face. "It seems to me that you've gotten to be a better judge of people yourself. Some part of you admitted what was wrong before. I mean. Look at the people around you now."

Her list served to make his own roundabout of internal questioning seem remarkably self-involved. For what did it matter if he felt that he did not deserve what had happened? That did not change the fact that it did, and reexamining it, trying to decipher clues in the context of ten years worth of memory surrounding the dead Warlock, would not change that either. In efforts to derail that discomfort, he looked to Fox instead, presuming him to be the friend Shae spoke of, and part of his mouth turned up at the corner.

"I've been incredibly fortunate, thus far. I did not choose to arrive in this town, and strangely, were it not for Bianca's involvement in the lives of Timothy and Marion, I would not be here at all. But as I did not choose to arrive, I did not choose to forge the connections that I have. I did not plan on forging them at all, I did not want them, to be honest. I'd lost someone, and I was not looking forward to moving on from that, to potentially finding someone else afterward, to making a life for myself here where the threat of that sorrow hung around like a spectre." Finally, he dropped his hand from his neck, rolling both shoulders tightly forward, then drew them back.

"Those that I know now. They are, all of them, good. Kind in their own way, intelligent. But they are good. I see it in them, as I saw it in her, though I do not feel as though I must look very hard, or past anything to do so. Going home, at this interval is completely out of the question. I do not think I want to leave, nor do I think I've felt that for a long time. You are all my friends. I was not ready to lose that this time, nor am I willing to face that threat again."

"You don't plan on life, Cris. But you do have some say in who you connect with. Who becomes important to you. You could choose to stop talking to me tomorrow, to refuse to see Salome, to stop picking up Leena's calls. We can't control that because it's your choice. But you do have to be present for a connection to form. So maybe you didn't go out of your way to make them, but you didn't go out of your way to avoid them either. Which is what you could have done if you really didn't want people in your life. Sometimes you can act on your needs without realizing you have them. Maybe you needed to feel alive again, or to believe you could."

The Sylph shrugged and then smiled over her shoulder at him. "Come on, let's go get something to eat. Fox is hungry. I know a quiet spot a few blocks from here."

It was so incredibly strange to hear from someone else that he was in total control of his life, when he felt that he had as much control over it as a fish did the necessity to breathe water instead of air. Often, he felt that his life was a spiraling mess of emotion, fear and anxiety, an aching connection to an Angel that still held everything at arm's length, and bad dreams. If he could not control that, then he could control himself, but he could hardly do that anymore. He said nothing to her suggestions, did not wish to label a couple of them as being true, and turned instead to collect the bottle of water he had not opened from the boardwalk with a heavy lean on the bench seat. "I'd like that."
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Root of the Issue, Part 1

An hour later…

That was nice and all, but when are we going to discuss the problem? Fox’s voice broke into her quiet thoughts as they walked back towards the Inn.

The problem? Trepidation.

I understand you’ve been emotional about this, but I didn’t think you had put on blinders. Did you not notice the energy emanating from him? Exasperation.

He--... I--... You think it is to do with the delay he mentioned in his recovery? It’s divine, right? Even as she asked, she knew that her gratitude that he lived was overshadowing her denial.

I know, but listen. Think. He’s got an affinity in his blood, but even an affinity is not meant to hold that much. The output is too great. There’s a problem. How do you want to handle this?

Acceptance. Guilt. Salome has been here. I’ll text her. As she continued towards the Inn with Fox, she pulled out her phone.

Fifteen minutes after sending the first string of messages to the Warlock, impatience won out. She texted both of them separately as she climbed the steps to the Red Dragon, not yet aware of how group texts worked.

Individual Texts: We need to talk.

Text from Salome: Welll ***, waht now?!
Text from Cris: Has something happened?

Individual Texts: I think I know what's wrong, but I need you both to confirm it. Can you meet me at my room at the Inn?

Text from Salome: sure fine, when?
Text from Cris: Certainly.

Individual Texts: Now, if you can.

Shae hadn't been back to her room at the Inn in months, but when the witch warded a place her protections were durable. There was some strength taken from the lack of consistent habitation and renewal, certainly, yet as she stood in front of the door marked 103 she was satisfied with what she found. The active deterrents were still dormant. The delicate spiderweb weaving of the perimeter spell was intact. The woman had been arguing with her familiar all the way up the stairs, but their internal disagreement had gone quiet with the need to check for signs of trespassing. She found none. Woman and Fox stepped inside, the door closed behind them. Silence returned to the hall as if it had never been disturbed.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Root of the Issue, Part 2

Salome arrived first because, out of the two of them, she wasn't the one fighting off strange soul crushing fatigue. Still somewhere across town, she took a cab to the inn and thundered through the nearly empty common room below, flat footed on the stairs that she took two at a time. Skidding to a halt outside Shae's room some fifteen minutes after the Sylph herself had gotten settled, she raised her fist to knock, then turned away from the door and put her face in her hand so she could get her breath back.

When the door opened, sound came jarringly from nothing. Shae's voice close to the door, muffled and getting cleared. "--n't have time for this. Go change." The crack widened to reveal her face, then widened further to admit the woman sorting herself out. "Come in. He isn't here yet." Then, as an afterthought. "Hi...thanks for rushing over."

That begged the question, then, who she was talking to. Salome pulled her face up, peeking through her claws when the door opened. She curled her fingers into her palm, "Fox problems?" She slid inside, a twist of her hip keeping the tail of her sweater from getting caught in the door when it closed. Longer than her shorts, it hit the middle of her calves and was knitted out of a fine ivory wool. She wore a black halter underneath, and high waisted denim cutoffs. Her Chucks were a little beaten up and one was untied. "Like I really had a choice," for Shae's gratitude. She pushed some of the flyaways back from her brow and heaved another deep breath. "It's good to see you, Shae."

As Salome stepped inside, the bathroom door finished closing. A small grunt of acknowledgement confirmed Salome's inquiry to be correct. Shae dismissed it, "Just an old disagreement." The Sylph hadn't changed much about her attire from some hours earlier at the docks. Jeans and a long sleeved shirt remained. The boots were still laced to the knee. Her hair had been braided back, but without a tie of some kind it threatened to unravel itself in the near future. "Have you recovered?" Or, to offer a translation: It's good to see you too Salome, I hope you're well.


"Ew, where is he?" tucking her hair back, she invited herself to sit on the end of Shae's bed, palms on her knees. "I'm----yeah, yeah, I guess. I mean, I was doing great until you called. What the hell is this about, anyway? 'We need to talk' never means anything good."

"Ew?" Shae echoed, her mouth twisting up at the corner in amusement. An expression quickly banished in the light of why she'd issued such a cryptic summons. Perching on the corner of her desk, she began and it would become clear why her greeting wasn't full of warm hugs and smiles. "We *** up, Salome. Did he tell you what we talked about? What he told me?"

"Yeah, ew. Old arguments," waving her hand flippantly, but then there's a bomb dropping and she can swear a mushroom cloud is growing in her chest. Choking the breath out of her lungs, evaporating her blood. She looks wide-eyed over at Shae, like the wider her eyes go, the more she'll be able to see. Like a neon sign, maybe, flashing over the other woman's head that read LIAR, because she did not just hear what she thought she did.

"What are you talking about? No. No, he hasn't-----What happened? What happened to him, what did he tell you?"

"At first I put it down to the measure of what we did. Stars knows it took me some time to put myself back together after that working. There have always been adjustment periods for the one resurrected. A period of weakness, disorientation. The longer it takes to pull them back, the worse it is. The more you change and the more they forget. And he played it off at first." Unlike her meeting with Cris at the docks, there were no tears to be had here. Only an air of resignation. "He's got wounds that aren't healing properly, Salome. He said...he said his soul went through trauma on the way back. That alone might explain it. Why he's still so weak, why he's in pain. I figured, if we can just get him to heal from the trauma then the physical ailments might clear up."

There was a thump from behind the closed bathroom door and Shae tugged at her braid. "It’s why I sent you the first texts. Fox told me that when we were speaking he...what he saw was... we didn't account for something. I know his people are supposed to have a flavor of the angelic, but have you seen him? Noticed? I didn't, because I wasn't looking. But Fox was. He's emitting so much of the divine that I'm surprised he hasn't been attacked by or attracted something. And there's no way a human body was built to contain that sort of energy. Not without damage. We *** up."

She gets up, staggering to her feet, with a fist held up against her chest like it'll stop her heart from beating its way out. She takes it all in, gulping it down and for a few moments, she looks like she's going to be sick. Her hands crack open and she puts them up against her temples. Out of nowhere, a gust of kinetic energy washes over her, her sweater flapping open at her back. "He didn't say anything. He didn't say anything, hedidn'tsay, he never *** says ANYTHING!!" Throwing hands out, the same kind of invisible force crashes into the walls and makes the wood panels creak and moan against each other. "I'm going to kill him..."

The sudden release of energy cascaded into a series of reactions. First, the bathroom door flew open revealing a shirtless, redheaded man with a sword. Second, Shae reached over to steady several vials on the desk before the bleed over energy could cause them to crack or shatter. Third, the room's wards flared to life, revealing thousands of glowing runes overlapping each other in moving scrawls along the walls. They buffered the outpouring and contained it, acting as dampeners that hummed in response to the pressure applied by Salome. But not, that is, before one bookcase fell over and all the rest of the furniture rattled against the walls violently. In the aftermath, dryly, Shae commented. "Well that seems distinctly counterproductive."

Out of all of them, it's the bookcase tipping over that makes her jump and she looks around with a fierce, needle sharp frown that could have been rueful for the petulant jut of her mouth if she didn't also look like she wanted to do it again. But she balls her hands into fists and finds her gaze, not quite so surprisingly stolen by the half naked man in the bathroom. "........Jesus, what'd you eat....?"

A beat later, "If I kill him myself, I know he'll die for a good reason." But she's lost the conviction that powered her earlier threat. She doesn't think it needs to be explained that, no, she doesn't really want to go through with it. There's just no other way to convey the new realm of Pissed Off that she was unceremoniously thrust into.

The man in the doorway to the bathroom seemed to relax as Salome's venting calms itself. The hand holding the sword opened, and the weapon simply disappeared as it dropped to the ground. Distinctly aware of a female looking in his direction, he attempted a pose-not-pose designed to look sheepish and flattered at the same time. He just about had it when Shae raised a knee with a sideways lean against the desk and kicked the door shut in his face. "Put a shirt on," barked in the direction of the now closed door. Clearly, she was completely immune to that smile framed to melt hearts.

Her attention returned to Salome."You can beat the martyrdom out of him after we fix this problem. First he needs to get here so we can do a more in depth examination." And then...well, she hadn't gotten that far.

Nothing quiets a racing mind quite like a hot, half naked man. Her thin brows climb higher toward her hairline, and she almost, almost smiles as Shae punts the door shut. Instead, she turns her fists into her own eyes. Heels against brow bones. "Goddamn him anyway...... You know he just *** did it because he doesn't want us to worry about him." Hands pushed back over her head, she closes her eyes, nods her agreement with Shae and tries simultaneously not to cry in frustration, or shriek in anger and level another bookcase.

Salome's struggle only lasts for thirty-seven seconds before a quiet trio of knocks imposes itself upon the door.

From the hall there was no sign of the recent chaos from within. At the knocks, Shae stood and crossed to the door. "Of course. That doesn't mean that he--" She cut herself off with a shake of her head and opened the door. As before it was a crack and then a widening to admit the body standing on her doorstep. "Don't mind the mess, it’s possible Salome was just giving me some decorating advice."

Salome's head jerks up at the sound of the knocks and she's a half step behind Shae as the other woman moves to open it. She seeks him out even before she can see him.

A wrinkle shoots through Cris' brow at the sight of half of Shae's face. "Decorating advice," parroting. "Shall I be surprised that you've anything left to decorate?" he can see the remnants of what used to be an organized collection of books strewn all over the floor when he steps tightly over the threshold and moves aside of the door, finding it inexplicably difficult to both look at, and away from, Salome when their gazes lock.

Finding the space near her door suddenly crowded, Shae shuts the room off from the world again and takes a step back. Then another. Nothing constructive could happen here until the two of them got past whatever needed to occur between them and Shae wasn't going to take sides for this one unless it got out of hand.

Five seconds of staring later and Shae was already out of patience. "Can we skip the blood on my carpet, possibly?"

He'd run through multiple scenarios of how this meeting would go. The, unfortunately, first one since the night that he rose, and he suspects that he may need to cut her some slack for it. He'd learned enough from Leena to know that Salome knew exactly where he lived, and she had yet to take it upon herself to force her way in. She'd given time as he'd requested, maybe not in the same way that he wanted. But she'd given what she could. Seven more seconds of staring ended in the birth of a half smile curling at the right corner of his mouth. In reassurance, in greeting, in numerous other things.

And she'd done the same. Ran it through her head, over and over. She'd had expectations for what he looked like. Salome was prepared for tired, but she wasn't prepared for gaunt. He'd always been thin, but now he looked like someone had cut some of him away. Too much shadow under his eyes and cheekbones. Too much give in his clothes, too much weakness in that stupid little smile he gave her that was supposed to just erase everything he'd done.

She stiffens up her mouth, takes a step forward, and hauls back her arm, swinging the flat of her palm at his cheek with a girlish grunt of frustration.

But her hand stops midair, a foot from his head, as though some phantom had grabbed her wrist and held it tightly. She shoves what meager strength she has against the sensation of being repelled, bodily, from him, and staggers backward, staring at him in shock and half resolved anger.

Though judging by the shock mirrored on his face, he hadn't expected that to happen either.

Aside from a single hand raised and then restrained, Shae had remained still for the moment Salome lashed out. Or tried to. Shae's eyes narrowed, and then widened in realization. Her sigh was tired as her gaze cut aside to the books scattered in the corner of her room.

"What the *** was that," Salome hissed, "what the *** did you do?"

He raises his hands, one middle finger stuck through a loop in his sleeve cuff. "I didn't----"

"Like hell you didn't do anything!!!" She charges forward, throwing her hand out as though she means to stuff her palm all up in his face, but as before, it comes to an abrupt halt about a foot away.

"The bracelet, Cris," Shae interjected. As if to remind him of the protective charm he had been given. She'd learned enough about the warlocks from their world to put together why this one hadn't been able to give him a well deserved smack.

And then there's Shae. They both look at her in unison, with the same degree of startled confusion.

"What bracelet?" Salome asks, crisply.

Cris draws the cuff of his right sleeve up, away from his hand, revealing the simple leather cord and pewter talisman resting just above a thick, runic eye. Then he squints, "One I shall keep on, if your only intention is to strike me."

The door to the bathroom opened to release the redheaded man again into the middle of the commotion. Barefoot, but with a pair of jeans and a white cotton shirt. "Oh good, Featherbrain is here."

Salome scoffs as Fox shows himself from the bathroom, and folds her arms. Cris sends his squint to the other man instead, pulling his sleeve back down.

The squint did nothing to faze the lazily confident new arrival. Gold eyes swept Crispin from head to toe. "Yep. Still a sodding angel torch." His tone was conversational with a level of detachment he seemed to hope to be able to pass on to Shae, from the glances he kept sending her way.

It may have worked. Shae cleared her throat and spoke. "Cris, take off your shirt and let me see the wounds on your back. Salome, I have a sedative if you need one but might I suggest sticking to verbal reprimands for the time being?" Her wish to skip the blood on her carpet temporarily granted, Shae reverted to pushing the evening along. "And Cris, if you don't cooperate I might hit you for her. I think I've figured out what's wrong thanks to Fox and the sooner we can confirm it the sooner we can figure out how to fix it."

"A sodding angel torch....." Cris parroted, almost under his breath.

"According to her, you've got way too much divine energy in your body. And you didn't even think to *** tell me----"

"I didn't know----"

"How could you not *** know?"

The hissed discussion between Cris and Salome took place in the span of six seconds, beneath Shae's firm suggestions for plans of action. Refusing to answer Salome, Cris looks instead at Shae. For her plan, and her warning. "May I have the privilege of an explanation before I'm to strip down in front of a friend, a stranger, and Salome?"

"You're *** lucky I can't hit you right now, who the *** gave you that thing, anyway?" Salome snarled.

"He got it from Charlie." Shae supplied.

"Charlie. That tanned, bug-eyed girl that reaaaaally likes to make threats?" Salome asked.

"A stranger. Now that just hurts my feelings." It was hard to tell how much of the affront in Fox’s voice was affectation, especially for those who had never heard him speak.

"I can explain whil--” Shae began and then cut off to squint aside at Fox. “If you're just going to antagonize you can leave, you know."

"What?" Feigned innocence from the man. "Salome has a good point, his perception is clearly diminished."

"Just shut up for a minute, would you?" Wrinkling her nose, Shae turned her attention back to Cris. "As I was saying, I think I know what's causing the wounds on your body. Salome just explained it fairly succinctly. Fox here noticed it when we were talking, but I need to confirm it so if you would please--"

"Ferys," Fox interjects.

"Wh-- I don't care right now." Exasperation from Shae.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Root of the Issue, Part 3

Frowning, Cris turns to look at Salome, his gaze following the volley of conversation back and forth as it pinged around the small room. Salome opens her mouth to add something but Cris cuts her off with a raise of one hand, then both to request a cessation of spoken barbs. "Shall I presume his presence is needed since he's taken on another form?"

After a moment, Shae nods.”I figured that Salome would have some things to say and I didn't want to have to both referee and translate at the same time since his perception of energies is better by far than mine."

"She needs me," Fox confirmed smugly.

"So far, it's been established that she needs your ability to communicate aloud, since she's perfectly capable of doing so on her own. Beyond that, you are merely a device for the detection of energy," dryly. His fists clenched tightly, then released. She'd detailed her intentions clearly, and as much as Cris wanted to believe that a solution to the concerns he'd voiced not a few hours ago could be found so swiftly, the last time they all made that mistake---- Well, he did not not need to remind himself. He did not look at Salome, nor Fox. The both of them could very well not exist in the room for all the attention he paid them. Instead, his gaze rests solely upon Shae, and her desire to eke out some manner of order from the high spirited exchange.

The redhead's grin spoke of amusement, satisfaction, and -- strangely -- affection. He didn't add anything further, choosing to let Shae take the lead again.

"Cris, if I'm right about this then time is already a factor. If I'm wrong it's better to disprove it now to avoid wasting anymore energy on the theory." Shae gestured to Salome. "Neither of us want to see you suffer from something we've overlooked."

His tongue juts up behind his frown and he closes his eyes. Because of it, he can't see the way that Salome looks at Shae, at Fox, or the way she tightens her arms, flattening her claws against her ribs so that she doesn't have the temptation to move them or reach for anything. "If I'm to do this," he says, raising his hands to the collar of his hoodie, the zipper keeping it closed, "I'd like, as well, for the antagonization and wry commentary to stop. I respect the desire to lighten the mood, but I guarantee you that all it does is irritate me beyond measure." Ripping the zipper down, he shrugs slowly and with only minimal trouble from the garment. When he opens his eyes, he finds Salome's gaze and the full two ton weight behind it, solely upon him. Silent communication passes between matte black and gold-green. He offers her the hoodie, and she takes it, hugging it to her chest.

"If we keep having to fix you-----" Salome began.

Cris scowled.

"Sorry. Sorry----but really---" She pressed.

Cris maintains eye contact as he slips two fingers behind the leather cord of his bracelet and tugs, loosening its cinch. With it free of his wrist, he brings it to the nearest available, flat surface; the desk with all of its vials, and he lets it go.

Shae had been a still point making her argument and remained so as Cris removed both hoodie and bracelet. Gold eyes dart briefly in Salome's direction to make sure she didn't take the opening to leap at the man. Once fairly confident that an attack was not imminent, her attention drifted towards the quiet Fox. "Well?"

"I'm going to behave." Both hands up in surrender.

Then two sets of gold eyes focused on Cris, expectant.

For her part, all Salome does is watch. She can see, like he still wears it like a garment, the weight bearing down upon his shoulders. The weariness in their line, how brittle his resolve to keep himself upright really was. She should have known from the beginning, as she did when she accepted his request for time so easily. He'd never been one to let others see him in any facet of weakness, and there he was now, with his hand against the edge of the desk like he was trying to decide whether or not letting go of it was really a good idea. She stiffens up her mouth and balled up Cris' hoodie, setting it aside. Then she strips free of her own sweater, and tosses it on top. Soon, he's got a pair of black eyes on him too.

And it's lucky that he has his back to them already, so that he can not see anything of their expectancy. The three hole punch of their intent stares is enough for him and like they know they're being watched, the twin wounds on his back begin to itch. Burn and flare with a tight pain that forces him to shrug and hunch his shoulders forward. Generally, for males at least, removing one's shirt in the presence of others tended not to be that big a deal. But for the care he took with it, how slowly his hands raise to grip his collar behind his head, the unhurried way he works it up, over his head, and slowly pulls the rest free of him, they could have been asking him to hold a gun to his head and play Russian Roulette.

The hike of the charcoal grey hemline reveals a littering of scars in groups of threes and fours, the work of bestial claws, spanning the breadth of his back from hip to shoulder. There are only two Marks to be seen; one half peeking above the thick leather of his belt, a bit off center. The and the other, easily the size of one of his hands, stamped right in the center of his spine between shoulder blades. They stand out sharply, razors under scars, for the weight that he's lost since his resurrection, and just inside them sit a pair of jagged, angry fissures in his flesh, as though something once resided there but has since been sawed clean off. Each nearly a foot long and raised, keloid, nearly, in the compounded way swollen flesh splits around them, and down their center, a smattering of maroon suggests that they may have bled, at some point, but only very little. Lightning strikes of blue and darker, bruising purple spread out from the wounds like the roots of a poisonous tree. Every breath he takes moves them, every movement, however minute, disturbs them, and it is all of a sudden obvious the reason why he carries himself as stiffly as he does.

Already inside the witch's head a chorus of I knew it, I told you so. existed just for her. The placement of the injuries and the spreading 'infection' of their wounding is like a slap in the face. She didn't need to look over at her familiar to get the confirmation. Now that she was looking for it, she could feel it too. The Sylph drew closer and drew back, her face twisted into a moue of frustrated disgust. Not with him, but with the situation in general. Perhaps with herself. Then began the cursing. A string of Drow words that sounded downright murderous, interspersed with a few samples of the common tongue: "...*** angel blood...of course, *** wing roots... triggered survival traits..." This tirade went on for a solid twenty seconds before she paused mid stride and pressed white knuckles into her forehead. "You're both idiots and I'm the biggest fool for staying away so long."

During this outburst, ‘Ferys’ examined his nails calmly. "My turn to translate, is it? Oh goody. What she's saying, if you haven't been following -- I know her accent can be a bit thick in the Drow -- Is that she believes your heritage is trying to assert itself, most likely as a response to severe trauma and time spent in a region hostile to it, where it would have endured the exposure better than the more human aspects of your soul." Nails flicked at nothing, then he slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "And once you wake up a traditionally dominant heritage, it doesn't like to go back to sleep."

She's abruptly cold for the loss of her sweater, but Salome feels like her hands need to be free, and she doesn't need an extra layer getting in the way. But she crosses her arms tightly over her chest, palms wrapped around her shoulders. The toes of her Chucks point inward and she stares across the room like the twin gold pairs of eyes do, but they don't stay there long when the reveal begins. At first, she sees nothing. Nothing but too much bone in his spine when he moves, nothing but scars that she herself put there, and her claws curl into her own skin for the memory of it, but they do not stay their long.

Her mouth drops open when she sees the rune for Courage in Combat flanked by----She can't even name it. She's a sound like broken glass in her throat, pressing her hands instead up against her mouth and nose, looking over the points of her claws at the ruination that had become a part of Cris' body, and she rushes forward at the same time that Cris puts his hands on the desk and bows his head. Trepidation rolls off of him in waves. She can only look, mute, at the other two in the room, whites around the solid black of her eyes going red and wet with unspilled tears.

Ferys' eyes widen and his voice becomes much more consoling. "Oh come pet, don't cry." Instantly alarmed by a female other than Shae in distress, he shifted over towards Salome to gently pat her back. Though it was obvious from his body language that he wanted to scoop her up into a hug. "We can work through it, yes?"

"Yeah, but----but, but they're, it's hurting him......! What the *** happened, how, why!?" her voice gets thinner and higher the more she speaks until all Salome can manage is some sort of keening and hand flailing. First at Cris, then at herself, for not forcing him when she wanted to, for not guessing sooner. For any number of things. Fox puts his hand on her back and she takes a step toward him, giving in easily to the attempted gift of comfort.

Ferys slung a steadying arm around the warlock's shoulder, his supportive tone at odds with his usual instigating nature as he encouraged her to stay calm, breathe, and think in little doses of platitude and tiny patches of arm rubs.

Shae, in turn, moved within Cris' line of sight once she'd finished trying to press her palms through her face. A rough scrub and a sigh as she crouched down into his bent-over eyesight at the side of the desk. Sitting on her heels she folded her fingers together. Calm, unearthly calm suffused her. "The fact remains, you are radiating divine energy at a volume that should not be possible for what I know of your kind. Which suggests that whatever happened to you on your way back to us...something brought with you, something awakened...is flooding a mostly human body with things it was not designed to withstand. Your wounds, I'm sure you've noticed, are incredibly suggestive in their placement. You've as yet expressed no outward source for them which, when paired with this energy output, suggests a change from within as the most likely origin. I believe your body is trying to heal itself, but to the wrong base state."

His hands on the desk had turned into boulder tight fists the moment Salome's voice shattered. The weight of his lean on his hands was starting to become a strain more than a relief, the force of it picking out spare lines of muscle beneath the mural of Marks wrapping both forearms, the silver road map of older runes, and vast array of little, ancient wounds inflicted by myriad sources. Cris stares at the wood between his fists without really seeing it, a great slice of his mental focus given over strictly to the act of breathing. In deep, out easy, because if he does not maintain control of it, it will begin to trip over itself, just like his heart was starting to.

He sees Shae out of the corner of his eye and for a while, as she speaks to him, her gentle voice like the back of a cool hand against a fevered brow, it seems like he does not hear her. So focused on the desk, and the strict rigid line of his spine, trying not to move at the same time as he was sipping on every bit of air he could. But, slowly, a blade's edge sharpness returns to his gaze. His brow stiffens, pulls in tightly together. He lifts his eyes from the desk to the wall. He remembered just about every moment he'd spent in that Hell plane, every pain visited, and every illusion he'd been forced to choke down to the point that it took effort for him not to. It was enough that he revisited that place every time he closed his eyes, he could not, would not, bring it with him when he was awake.

Despite his body language, Shae continued. "Now, there still could be another reason, but I think this is enough to warrant treating my theory as a strong possibility for what is going on here. This is the point where I'm no longer the expert. Information from your world is the best recourse to prove or deny my theory. Salome do you…,” the calm broke to give way to uncertainty as her face turned towards where the Warlock had pressed herself into Fox’s shoulder, “...has something like this ever happened to a Nephilim?"

Cris turns his head in Shae's direction, too much wariness in the sharp flick of his eyes to her. Then back, as she directs her question to the Warlock scrubbing her face in frustration.

"I----u-uh." Grunting, she sniffs, forcing herself away from Fox with determination. "Not----not like this. I mean, there was this clan of Shadowhunters that went *** crazy. One of their own started looking for new ways to fight demons, and started to turn on Downworlders. He was trying to create the perfect Shadowhunter," in clawed quotations, "and experimented with a whole bunch of ***. Some of that was angel and demon blood. He tried demon first, for some reason, and ruined his first kid with it. So he took an angel's blood instead and fed it to some pregnant Shadowhunters. One of them was his wife. As a result, the two of them, they've got more angel blood in them than the rest of them do.

"During one of the last two wars, the story goes that this Shadowhunter, Valentine, summoned Raziel and tried to control him, but his kid took over the circle instead. Instead of using the angel's power for whatever Valentine wanted it for, she asked him to bring back the Herondale boy Valentine killed. That same boy was stabbed later with a weapon of Heaven so ridiculous, it turned him into like----like a lightning rod of holy power. He couldn't touch anything," the more she speaks, the more her eyes go wide, the quicker she looks between Shae and Cris. "I don't know how they turned that off. They got it all out of him, but I think they were all afraid he was going to combust because of it.

"We have to figure out where it's coming from. You said that his body might be stuffed with something it can't handle?" she chooses not to be perverse here, "we have to figure out where it's coming from. If we can, maybe we can get it out of your before you explode."

Shae stood for a moment, moving out of Cris' line of sight. When she returned, it was with an outstretched arm to offer his shirt into the space on the desk between those two hands in the rigor of stress. He was processing it in waves, or so it seemed. And the look in his eye, like a frightened animal, caused her chest to ache dully. The Sylph listened to Salome as she moved over to gently relieve the hoodie from the crook of Salome’s arm. "Well, there are a lot of theories in that explanation alone. And some of them we will need Cris' help to confirm or deny."

The hoodie was delivered to the same spot in which she had left Cris' shirt a few moments before. "We don't know that anything as drastic as that will happen, but we can safely assume that continuing in this state is not healthy for you, Cris." The conversation directed back towards talking at the man rather than over him. "Perhaps my theory is wrong. It could be that you came in contact with or were injured by a holy weapon of some kind. Perhaps somehow exposed. It could have been a wound long dormant, for all I know. Then again it could just be that in the strain of what you went through, your angelic blood has surged forth to try and protect you because it doesn't realize you made it out. Any details you can provide on things you recall or experienced will probably help us figure out how to help you."

That was a lot of talking all at once, and once she was done with it, Salome stuck a claw up into her teeth and set to thinking. Spells she'd seen, spells she could research, ones for protection, ones for detection, ones for---- Everything. She'd look through everything she had.

Cris came to life with the gift of clothing. It had no sooner landed on his fists than he straightened, taking hold of it to find the hem, the collar, so he could shake it out and tug it on, regardless of where the fabric kissed the furious wounds on his back and how he wished beneath it all that he did not need to touch them, or make them move. Turning, carefully, he found a place against the edge of Shae's desk to lean, the lock of his arms across his chest coming in tight and solid. Save for when Shae collected his hoodie from the pile Salome had made on the bed and offered that too. He nodded his thanks, but held the garment instead of donning it, and recognized the silence after Shae spoke as one he needed to fill.

He raised his hand, still curled around the hoodie, and outlined his lower lip with his thumb. "I remember----after I rose. A few weeks afterward, when the pain throughout my entire body had begun to coalesce where it is now. The location," he made a V of two fingers and cut them down through the air to symbolize the wounds he had shown them. "One of the first memories I have of awakening There was agony, where they are. I was seated, restrained, I recall, for I was barely able to move my limbs. But not so much so that it was impossible for me to lean forward. It happened daily, or----as often as days passed there. Never at the same time. I would awaken to the sensation that something in my very core was being shredded and dragged out of me. I could not remain conscious throughout it. Never once."
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Root of the Issue, Part 4

Witch and familiar exchanged glances, a pass of non-verbal communication arced between them, little more than a quick flicker of facial expressions, a vague narrowing at the eyes or slight turn of the mouth. Ferys' posture changed where he hovered near Salome, disengaging to cross towards the toppled bookshelf where he began to set it and its contents to right.

Shae allowed her attention to settle on Cris, heavy lidded eyes shading gold visions of the experiences he described. Her body shifted in empathetic, imagined discomfort. "Who?" Was the first question when she opened her eyes, making the Sylph seem unintentionally owl-like. "I assume that the one doing such things to you was the entity Bianca bargained with, but I would like to make sure. To know who was...leeching from you might give some insight into what it is they took. What they targeted." Shae paused, licked her lips and turned towards Salome. The next question was for either of them, but it was the Warlock's Nephilim history lesson that had inspired it.

"Are their any entities active currently that would have reason to experiment with altering Nephilim such as the one you mentioned?" A shot in the dark, but she'd rather cover all bases.

Fox let her go, and Salome lurched forward toward Cris, no hesitation in the reach of her clawed hands to his jaw. She turned his head to, fro, ducked at a lower angle to peer into his face until he flapped his hand to get her to move and she slapped him back. It went on for two more revolutions until Shae pulled his attention over.

"I do not believe it to be Rumnach, else he would have added that to the diatribe. Have you a way of discovering the source?" he asked in a way that suggested he'd strip whatever it was he needed to to find the answer. Salome's palm on his shoulder earned a glance. She peered around his back, her gaze narrowed like she'd like to touch what she'd seen. But in the end, she settled in to lean against the desk at his immediate left, the white skin of her arm mashed against the Marked leanness of his.

"Not right now," Salome answered Shae's question. She had the most experience with their neck of the woods over the last few years. "The kid of the Shadowhunter I mentioned. Valentine's kid, Jonathan. He kept going where his dad left off. Built an army, turned Shadowhunters dark. He killed hundreds of them that way. There's some *** going on with the faeries because they helped him. There's always something. But as far as I know? Not right now. They can't afford it."

As Salome spoke, Cris fell silent, a chill spreading out from the center of his chest. Reaching into his limbs, hunching his shoulders forward. If it was not Rumnach, and he did not believe it to be, it only had to be one other.

Ferys worked in quiet, but his ears were not closed. If further commentary passed between the foxman and Shae, it was not readily apparent. Books were piled in an order that seemed to make no sense. Either he was complying with some personal system that the witch preferred or he was setting her up for a future afternoon spent rearranging. At least the books were getting picked up.

Salome's relocation centered Shae's attention in one area, allowing her to observe the body language of both summoned guests in quiet contemplation as they worked through answering her questions. The slow morph of Cris' reactions paired with Salome's further education into Shadowhunter history had the Sylph arching a brow. "Short of digging a memory out of you or performing some very risky scrying, I'm not sure how helpful I could be to..." This trailed off as Cris hunched into himself. "...but I have a feeling you've just made an educated guess. Who do you believe it to have been?"

No space between them. Every breath pressed one's elbow into the other, and Salome seemed content with just getting that much out of him after two months of absolutely nothing. Her wide, wary gaze moved between Shae and Cris, lingering on the latter as he sucked himself in with the gravity of a black hole.

She sucked her teeth, reminiscent of the man standing next to her, and kicked up her chin. "Bianca." It wasn't a question.

Cris closed his eyes. Turned his head, and pushed away from the desk. "What risks are involved in this scrying, and how accurate is it? She is my guess, but I spent a great deal of time completely unawares. I'd rather like to know for sure. If it is pain, I do not care. Death, I've suffered already." He gestured at nothing with his hand, opening his palm. "She will take nothing else from me. What do I have to do?"

If Shae never heard that woman's name again, it would be too soon. It had become synonymous with an epithet in her mind, suitable only for being spat out with a hint of venom in distaste. Everytime she thought they had moved past involvement with the selfish parasite of a woman, she reared her head. A recurring infection plaguing the life of her friend.

In the background, Ferys' hand paused on one book that looked different from the others. Hand tooled leather, spine worn with use, tied closed. This was handled with more care as it was returned to the shelf. Silence reigned for several seconds after Cris' request. Ferys' shoulders set and left his face uncharacteristically serious in a tight frown.

After a slow exhale, Shae replied, "The difficulty and accuracy depends on what of Bianca's you could provide me. A piece of her body would be the best. Hair, for example. A personal item of significance would be less ideal, but it would be something." A pause. "You recall the scrying we did in the clocktower? If she is behind wards or on a different plane the effort will require power. Although... no we'll discuss that option if the first fails."

"A piece of her body," Cris turned. "Salome----"

Salome raised her hands. "Like I have anything like that laying around. You seem to forget that I hated the bitch."

Cris exhaled, took another step forward, then paused, pulling his shoulders forward. Rolling them back one by one. The care he took with the movements dragged them out to near lethargy.

"Her Hell plane, according to her, was like----light years away from this one. She said New York, our New York, was closer. I mean, if it all really falls apart here, we can just try again over there. All my ***'s there, anyway." She folded her arms. "I want to know where it's coming from, first. Magic like that leaves a giant footprint, no matter how much you try to hide it. If we can figure out how she's doing it, maybe we can block it while we figure out how to get to her and make her knock it the *** off."

In the middle of the room and regretting it, Cris continued forward until he was close enough to lean toward the edge of Shae's bed. Fingering its edge, smoothing his palm across it, he turned to carefully lower himself there, down on the corner. Salome watched it all, stiff lipped and antsy.

The simple room at the Inn had hosted many strategy sessions. Emotions of comfort, sorrow, and anger etched their own ghosts into the walls. Those specters hadn't seen such helpless tension before. It hung in the air with the dust from Salome's earlier outburst.

Ferys set the knocked over armchair on its feet, settling his weight into it with a subdued presence. The frown lingered on his face, the corners of his eyes creasing.

"If that location is closer, if there are no barriers or reasons to avoid it, we shouldn't waste the energy or time trying here. Furthermore, do you still believe she's influencing him? Do you believe she's siphoning something to or from Cris?" His slow progress across the room was painful for Shae to watch. Tracking down Bianca was a priority, but so was finding a way to protect Cris from the energy roiling beneath his skin. "The talisman won't be enough. We need something, a spell or rune, to mask the divine energy. To bleed off the excess, if possible. Like releasing pressure."

"I don't know," Salome said. Three words, and it busted through the resolve she'd just set down to stay where she was. She took one jogged step forward and walked the rest so she could kneel in the space between his boots. He drew back an inch when she did but did not stop her this time from touching his face, a weary resignation to bear it cut in alongside his frown and the pale tension around his eyes. "I mean, if that talisman----" she snatched her hand back and recoiled. "If it's meant to stop people like me from doing anything to him, I don't get how this hasn't stopped if it was really her. If it was really anyone. But if it is, and it's off him----I can't *** touch the damned thing." She looked back at the desk then smoothed her face over with her hands.

"I don't----I don't know what the *** she's doing. I thought she was dead, really, but apparently dead doesn't really mean dead. I----" Suddenly, she looked up at Shae. "That thing you said earlier, what was it?"

"You're going to have to be a bit more specific, Salome." Shae managed to dredge up a bit of dry humor to combat the mixed feelings of watching the warlock practically fall at Cris’ feet in concern. "I've done a lot of talking, after all." Shae hadn't shifted from her spot near the desk, but now she crossed to the window to brush the curtain to the side. "And I don't think the talisman would prevent you from any beneficial spell work, I think it works off of intention."

"That thing. With the----with the wing roots and survival," Salome swung around to Fox. "And then you. If this is all really just him, if it's coming out of him, trying to protect him, or something, can't we just turn it off and shove it back in?" She looked back to Cris. "I'm all for killing her again, really. But we don't know how long that's going to take. He's in pain now."

Cris grunted in exasperation and leaned down, forearms to his knees. The position took a few pounds of weight off the muscles of his back.

"Can someone at least bring the damn thing back here and put it on him?" It was a desperate sort of question that Salome voiced.

"I am not helpless, by the Angel-----"

"You know, if I didn't think it'd kill you, I'd hit you."

Shae shook her head. "I wasn't trying to find out who was responsible in order to kill them, satisfying as that might feel. What I was after, and thank you for bringing me back to the point of that question, was the motive. What would Bianca want to take out of him? It sounds like she was trying to strip back his humanity, but you two would have better insight into her intentions than I would." A sigh and a wrinkle of her nose. Her gaze remained on the empty alley below. Stiffness lined her spine, her breeze listless where it wasn't spasmodic.

It was Ferys who spoke next, a voice not heard in some minutes. There was no humor to it, and the weight of experience reverberated in his chest. "To control the progress of a heritage requires sacrifice, if it's even possible. You either make the body ready to become what it is intent on becoming, or you find the power to craft a very powerful seal against it to stop or slow the change. To purge the Angel from him may be possible, though will likely pose the greatest risk to life. Your people's experiences with occurrences such as this will be key. We can apply temporary measures--"

"-- or medicines." Shae picked up when she had gathered her composure, turning to the duo at her bed. "But I have no ready made solutions to this."

It was a testament to how much time they'd spent with each other that Crispin and Salome snorted at the exact same time, in the exact same way. Emphatic and gurgly. The Warlock looked at the Nephilim and failed at hiding a smile. Still tucked up between his boots, she pulled in her legs and set her hand on his ankle. After a moment of silence, she tapped him. "You were the one that got all gross with her Downstairs----"

"For ***'s sake. I did not 'get gross with her', by the Angel, she helped him." He had only just gotten comfortable and it took effort to draw his boot away from Salome's touch. "She helped him. He told her to touch me," the hard sole of his bootheel came down on Salome's knee and he shoved to force her retreat. She scooted back and leaned out of his way, but he did not rise like she thought he would. Instead, it seemed only that he didn't want her hands on him. He didn't want anything on him. "He told her to set her greedy hands upon me and stretch that which she'd been given. Her strength, her power that she was after for so *** long, upon me. He told her to, and by the Angel, I looked at her. I looked at her like I could not believe what I heard, like I could not----fathom it, because surely she would not. Surely there had to be some reason, why, beyond that.

"But he told her to, Salome, and she held my eyes. And she moved towards me, and I could not get away from her when she drove her hand into my soul and tore free of it pieces that she smeared upon my face as he laughed. My time There with her was anything but cozy, and I do not care what your intentions were when you spoke that. You have absolutely no idea what it was that went on down There, and I should not have to spell it out for you so that you do not stick your idiotic foot into your even more idiotic mouth."

"I can tell no one nothing of her intentions for when have you ever *** known her to take orders from anyone? I do not care what it is she's done, or what it is she's doing, only that I wish for it to *** stop."

When Fox spoke, it stole the wind from his sails. He gripped the edge of the bed in his fists and fought down a fit of roiling disgust at the mere notion of purging that which came from Angels in the first place. He grit his teeth, and shrugged the tension from his shoulders.

Salome stared at him as he spat it all out to her on the floor, and the soft ribbon of her mouth became a wrinkled bunch. She held his gaze as it burned down into her face. Clarity in its green glass shine, maybe too much gold to go along with his anger. Something that had always been short-lived. Years of experience told her that if she merely waited, it would all blow over, and it did. The door on his private emotions did not so much slam closed as squeal on its way back home. Rusty hinges and corroded corners. Slowly, she sat back down. "Look, I get----I get it. I don't get all of it, but I get it, I get her. I've been with her for a lot longer than you have, and no, that's not a competition, that's a *** reminder. You don't need to hide this from us, Cris. If it's eating you like that, talk to us. We're trying to help you."

It was not an easy thing to stomach Cris' description of the ways in which Bianca had violated him. It nauseated her that she could already hear the excuses the woman would give for such gross abuse of the man's soul during his imprisonment in that other plane. Salome had stepped recklessly on a landmine in the Nephilim's heart. And while Shae wouldn't defend the warlock's blunder, some part of her was appreciative that reason had been created for him to air some of the truth of his ordeal.

Cool and clear as water, Shae's voice came with a soothing air when she did decide to speak. "The source of poison wears different faces, finds different ways to maim, but power is a common reason for it. Power that lies and tells a person they are infallible. That their actions don't have to hold consequences. Much like addicts sacrifice others for their own artificial needs, someone obsessively seeking power often loses any notion of empathy. They craft elaborate reasons why they had no choice but to commit one atrocity or another. Citing that the bigger picture all makes sense, but unable to see a bigger picture in which they don't benefit. There is no logic to be found in that selfishness, not when all ties but the noose yoking them to their own self interest have been burned away."

Salome looked up and over at Shae when the Sylph graciously leaped in, but her gaze didn't remain on the other woman long. Instead it went back to Cris where he had leaned completely forward. Elbows digging into his knees, hands together, the scarred length of his fingers making a steeple against which he bowed his head.

Ferys picked up as Shae paused, resting one ankle on the opposite knee. "You won't be able to reason with her. To get her to stop will require some manner of extreme action. Break her connection to her power, or break her."

Frowning, Shae jumped over the man's impatient staccato of the facts as he saw them. "We'll pursue the avenue you want, Cris, but I can't promise you that there won't be a permanent change when all is said and done." She moved to take a seat beside him, not touching him but just to share her air with him. "And I can't promise that there won't be prolonged effects on the other side, but I can promise you that I...that we are going to be here for you. We'll see this through and fight for you. If you're going to look for a reason behind anything that is happening, or has happened, trust that our reason is that we love you. Each in our own way, we would fight to keep you here, to keep you from pain. We are imperfect creatures, sure, but promise me you'll try to hold onto that truth about us."

The bed sunk in gently as Shae added her weight to it. He felt her breeze on his skin, the gentle purity of her tone like mountain spring water. Refreshing and cool, centering as it always was. But the longer she spoke, the harder he pressed into his hands. Until the rigid line of his forearms began to shake, until he curled his fingers in and dragged them unevenly down the center of his nose. Pressed them to his mouth. When he opened his eyes, Salome saw too much red in their whites. He turned that gaze to Shae, swollen below, lashes too dark and long above, somber in its even weight.
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
Old Wyrm


Joined: 13 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2018 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Root of the Issue, Final

That heavy look seemed almost too much for his fatigued frame to bear, and her first impulse was to offer the circle of her arms to support him. Instead of giving him the chance to think, Shae moved on instinct. Her hand reached across to the cheek whose sunken volume spoke to the wrongness that plagued him. Cool fingertips gently cradling the side of his head as she leaned over to press her lips to the center of his brow. A soft, lingering presence. Words whispered there against his skin were only for his ears, apologies Salome.

"You are loved, dear one." It was a promise. "And the hands that reach out to catch you when you fall are not a sign of weakness, but your greatest strength because you inspire them to be freely given."

Once spoken her lips lingered for a moment more, a marking to seal the words to his skin. A charm to carry against future woes. In his chair in the corner of the room, Ferys said nothing, but Shae felt his thoughts in the back of her mind and, for the moment, let them linger without response.

A thread of tension cinched his brow together, wrinkled in bewilderment at the reach of her hand, the touch of it. She leaned in and brought with her the primal scents of a storm. Wind and rain and lightning, earthy and alive. He thought at first that that was all she meant to do, that he should have expected words to be given, but he hadn't, and he didn't. He felt the fullness of her whisper in his ears, louder and less muffled than it should have been against his brow, something that he'd come to know as the telltale sign she was speaking to him, and only to him. Whether to hide it from the others or to be sure he heard it, he wasn't certain. But after they fell, the word strength landing like a feather, the knit of his brow below her kiss rucked up for a completely different reason. Her hair tickled his cheek, caught one or two lashes when he blinked, firmly closed his eyes. His throat worked through two dry swallows, the frown on his mouth breaking apart to permit a thin inhale. He freed one hand to slide across her knuckles, the warmth of his palm pressing hers to his cheek.

He stayed like that, counting the beats until they hit four, then sniffed, and let his hand fall.

Shae took the drop of his hand as the sign that he had taken what he would from her gesture. Cris wasn't wont to indulge in comfort when offered. At least, never for very long. The Sylph always left the gesture open, should he ever want to take more, but she wouldn't force it upon him. Gently she pulled back and the hand on his face didn't leave completely. Rather it dropped to curl fingers around the side of his nearest hand as she drew her face back from his. There a squeeze of reassurance bestowed and lingered. "We're here for you. Take a few moments to think, to center yourself, and let us know which path you want to pursue."

Salome watched it all with the rapt attention of a child at their first fireworks display. All eyes and fascination, between Shae and Cris, and she rejoiced at the total absence of any bitterness, jealousy over the fact that he allowed this other woman who knew him only for a short time the opportunity to speak softly to him, to give him comfort. To touch him unhindered, and she watched as his fingers tensed around Shae's returning the brief squeeze she'd offered. She sucked her lower lip, looking over to Fox first, because he hadn't said anything in a while, then back to Cris for his answer.

He didn't need a minute to think about it. What he needed was a cigarette. His dropped hand returned to his mouth, knuckling one corner of his frown as he bowed his head. "I do not want it taken away. What I have, what the Angel has given me----do not take it away. If I must strengthen my body to sustain it, I will. But I can't----I will not allow myself to be made weaker to save my life."

When Salome spared a glance in the direction of Ferys, the fox-wearing-man-skin was looking at her. A measuring look that asked how much of what was to come could be placed on the warlock's shoulders. His expression was carefully neutral, but there was a hint of displeasure at the situation that lingered in his posture. He went from near perfect stillness to sudden motion, rising and walking towards the bathroom. The door shut behind him quietly and then it was just the three of them there.

Shae continued to ignore him. It would be an argument for later, she knew, but the priority was the answer she had expected coming from the man sitting beside her. Cris wouldn't give up the Angel. "Salome," name offered in beckoning as she let go of Cris' hand. "What spells do you know that can mask the divine aura, remove the excess energy, or strengthen his physical body?"

Ferys' exit to the bathroom made a thin little line pull in between her brows. But Shae pulled her back. When she let go of Cris' hand, he folded with his other and let them hover within her reach. She did not touch them. And scoffed a raspberry at the question. "Loads. But that's all for physical wounds, physical ailments. Like, breaking bones, ripping muscles. That kind of thing. I've probably come across a few that'd do something for this, but I've got to look into it. Thankfully? This place is ridiculous. I can get Zane and Jem to work on it back home too, they need *** to do. In the meantime," she looked to Cris. "Slap that angelic power rune all over you. That one," pointing at the thick rune taking up the whole of Cris' left bicep. "One of the strongest ones they have. It does a ton of things. Blocks demons, prevents them from using objects, but it strengthens Shadowhunters against purely holy materials, like their seraph blades. You've only got a few of them on you now, right? The one there and your hip?"

Cris nodded softly.

"Go crazy with them for a little while. Do what you can for the pain. Maybe the runes will dial it back a little bit. Rest, but try to keep moving. And remember that masking it isn't the same as stealing it. Maybe the holes in your back are where it's trying to get out, I don't know," she threw up her hands.

All was quiet from behind the bathroom door.

Shae listened to Salome's suggestions with a considered nod. She relied on the warlock's knowledge and resources to identify the better solutions to Cris' particular dilemma. A memory shifted to the fore at the mention of the seraph blades. "Do you know anyone who would be able to accept a portion of divine energy without harm?" Palms rubbed at the legs of her jeans. "Anyone without inherent demonic aspect would probably do. Especially someone who could take care of themselves." She paused. "As for masking, I know a few charms to suppress the aura."

She clicked her claws against her teeth. "Off the top of my head? A divine energy crockpot?" she shook her head, "Nuh uh. But I might be able to make some? Like, maybe we could bottle it and set it aside. Or bottle it and set it free, give it back later. An angelic milking, if you will."

Cris rolled his eyes and straightened up like he meant to flop backward on the bed, but thought better of it at the last minute. "Lirssa?" finally. "I mean, she was a battery for us, maybe she can be a sinkhole too. Or what about Taneth's place as a whole?"

Salome lit up. "What if we bottle it, can we use it to power the scrying we need to do?"

"The spell I know transfers divine energy to a living host. It was used to allow squires to safely handle a paladin's sealed weapon during...well that doesn't matter. The point is, it wasn't designed to feed the energy into an object or into a location. Taneth's place might break a few rules, from what little I know about it. Could make a whole warren of divine bunny rabbits, I suppose, though they wouldn't be able to tolerate but the barest fraction."

Salome's suggestions about using it for the scrying were not met with the same level of excitement. "Pushing divine energy around is one thing, using it can be tricky for me. Fox might be able..." Shae trailed off, looking towards the closed door. "I'd suggest asking Lirssa first. If she can hold it to feed back during the scrying, Fox can transform it into something I can use safely."

"The only problem is, how much are we willing to suck out of him and how well is the person we're giving it to going to take it? I mean, we could potentially be transferring his problems to someone else for a little while." Salome agreed with the Lirssa angle, pointed her claw at Shae and nodded. "All right. There's this thing that shoves currents through the city here called the Nexus too. It like some ribbon or EAC of inter-planar----ness," real technical. "I wonder if we couldn't use that too, or instead, or----" throwing ideas out as she stood made her feel better. Not at all as powerless as she truly was.

On the edge of the bed, Cris rubbed the knot between his brows.

"So suppression, aura masking. I'll make the call."

"A human can take a good bit, provided they don't have any hidden ancestry that might cause a reaction. It's not ideal for spellcasters, unless they are conducting some rather esoteric research. Fin perhaps. Ketch, maybe, though I'd have to ask him about something first." Fingers drummed on her knees. "Go to Lirssa before we explore that avenue."

Pushing herself to stand, Shae crossed towards the desk to pick up the talisman Cris had left there. Her fingers traced the edges of it, feeling for the fabric of Charlie's spell work within the metal. "Try your runes before I offer up a spell to mask your aura. I don't want it to interfere with this protection charm."

"Fin?" surprised, for some reason, but she shouldn't be. "Yeah. Yeah, probably. He was all about---- All about----helping, with stuff." Frowning, Salome shook it off and reached for her sweater on the bed. It gave her something else to focus on beside the mention of Ketch's name and how stupidly tingly the tips of her fingers became. She frowned for that too as she shoved her arms into the sweater.

Cris, who had been doing what he could to morph himself into a boulder and disappear from the room, had looked up at Salome's odd, awkward pause in the midst of her answer, but he gave his gaze to Shae instead at her suggestion, and dug two fingers into his right boot to retrieve the stele he kept there.

Three steps later, the Sylph was offering the bracelet back to Cris. Only now did she spare a glance for the bookshelf that had been victim to the earlier outburst. Fox had done a decent job putting it back together, she'd inspect the actual damage later. "Thank you both for coming over to talk through this."

With stele in hand, he dedicated himself to the task of finding a suitable location for the rune he meant to put on. Deciding against his right arm, which had the most open flesh, for his left wasn't dominant, and he didn't want to botch its illustration for impatience. He settled on a space west of his navel, the upper left quadrant, near the X shaped rune clasping his ribs. The moment he touched the stele to his skin, his flesh sizzled, and he grunted, brow collapsing together in a tight scowl for the ferocity of the burn and how angrily red his broken skin glowed for too long in the shape of the finished rune after he'd finished it. Stele tucked into his palm, he smeared his fingertips against the blackening lines and they came away charred, stained in the middle with little flecks of burned blood. But it was the relief, the immediate unraveling of the mantle of tension upon his shoulders that let him breathe easy. Shrug them, roll them. Swallowing, he dropped his shirt and took the bracelet from Shae, but did not yet put it back on. "No. No, thank you for telling us." Stele stuffed away, when he got to his feet it was without a thick slice of caution, feeling a surety in the movement of his body that he had not had in the last two months. He gulped for that too, and looked up at Shae.

The sound and smell of sizzling flesh never was a particularly pleasant experience, but he seemed satisfied in the end with what he had wrought upon himself. Shae had watched, of course, unable to turn away her innate fascination with the runic system of markings. She'd seen the stele a small handful of times before. Interesting memories each. Memories she would have indulged upon were the timing better. His response came a fraction easier, as if a vice had been loosened. As his eyes rested upon her, she favored him with a knowing half smile of reassurance.

"Call me if you need me, hmm?" Her posture widened to include Salome in that offer. "Either of you. I'll do what I can."

Like before, Salome soaked it all in. Tucked away bits and pieces about what the rune looked like, how angrily it burned. The strength of the runes drawn was a direct indication of the artist's aptitude for runic magic. The less reaction, the less power. But on the flip side---- Salome sucked her teeth and nodded to Shae, stepping into her personal space without indication and raised her arms in attempts at a tight hug, "I will, definitely. When I find anything out."

The Sylph accepted the gesture without question, folding the woman into the circle of her arms and the space of her breeze. So close, the air felt somehow poised, waiting. Suffused with potential for movement and the scent of the sea, picked up from an evening spent on the docks. The hasty braid half undone tickled at the cheek pressed close. Tight embrace returned with warmth. "My door is open to you, and I promise I'll use the phone better now that I'm back in town."

Salome sniffed, buried her nose a moment into the other woman's shoulder, then blinked back whatever it was that trying to fight its way up into her eyes. "You'd better," quietly, "I'm really glad you came back." One last squeeze, and Salome drew back, pulled out of the warm circle of Shae's arms with a tight lipped, achey smile that rounded out her cheeks and she moved aside toward the door to wait for Cris to say his own goodbyes.

He'd tucked the trinket into his back pocket, feeling better about having it on his person, yet he presumed that there would be more bodily contact between himself and Salome on the journey back to wherever it was she'd come from, and he'd rather avoid the tirade than suffer it. Salome moved away and Cris took her spot, the set of his mouth soft, unwilling to hide the veil of relief blanketing his features now that he had it, because he wasn't sure how long it would last. He raised one arm in invitation, but did not step into Shae as the Warlock had.

"I will." Reassured as Salome pulled away. She'd promised, that in itself was a large thing for the Sylph. Which brought her to the picture Cris now painted with his one arm out. The newness of it made her smile with amusement. Not wanting to turn down the rare invitation, Shae moved closer beneath that arm and gave him a hug that favored the side not recently marked with a rune and took care not to apply pressure at his shoulder blades. "Be safe."

She may have taken care, but he had never been one to, his embrace firm for a moment as though it was the first time they'd seen each other in the last four months, and not the second. She stepped in, and he gathered her to him first with one arm, then the other, his palm coming to rest against the back of her head, atop the mess of her braid. He bowed his own, turned his mouth against her hair to press a warm kiss there. "Thank you. I will. You do the same, yes? Tell him thank you, too?" as he withdrew, nodding his head toward the bathroom.

Caught up in his gesture, she gave into the hug more earnestly. A steadying inhale at his shoulder and a nod as he withdrew. The woman had to fight to keep the touched smile from turning into a grin. The mention of her familiar assisted mightily in that regard. "In summary, he says 'you're welcome'." A kind paraphrasing, certainly, but Shae wasn't going to spoil the mood. She moved to the door to let them out.

He smiled, nodding, "If there were expletives involved, I'll return them the next time we meet." He trailed after Salome who flung a loud farewell to "the hot guy in the bathroom", and she ducked out first when Shae opened the door for them, tucking her hair back. Once out in the hall, Cris paused to look back over his shoulder, offered a simple raise of his hand in farewell, then they both descended to the main level below.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Troubleshooting, Part 1
08/31/16, 9:27 AM

Ring Ring

Two more rings before the line picked up.
"Hello."

"Shae," clicking, "I woke you, didn't I?"

"Doesn't quite matter. Everything alright?"

...
...
...

Grunted exhale. "I don't----yes, now. I would've called Salome first, with this, but I've nowhere near enough mental capacity to withstand both her good hearted concern and torrential anxiety. I did something, last night. Something that should not have been physically possible for me to do, not without extreme effort."

A pause while she filtered through her thoughts. "Start at the beginning, and don't leave out any details. What was happening and what did you do?"

"I was with Charlie. She called me, late, requesting that we speak face to face. It was not yet so ungodly an hour that I refused." Further clicking, the telltale scratch of whiskers against the mouthpiece. With his head bowed against his hand, elbows against the kitchen counter, he reeled back. "She's----Life has not stopped since I've been gone. The troubles she's had still remain, and she's gone to rectify one of them, but she.....she believes, she's a very strong feeling that she may be killed in the endeavor. It felt as though she merely called me so that she might tell me goodbye first.

"I told her what I could," softer, "if I could, if my body could withstand it, I would go. Shae, I have never felt so----so utterly and totally useless, in all my life.....? I know, I know that it isn't my responsibility, it is not my battle, none of them are, but----at least before I had the choice."

From Shae there was only the sound of her breeze occasionally curling past the mouthpiece as she listened. The silence stretched for a few seconds more. "I've seen you frustrated when your hands are tied before. Though I can imagine it becomes worse the closer you are to the problem." Birdsong, from an open window. "So, what did Charlie have to say?"

"All I could do," whispered, "was stand there. Stand there dumbstruck and nauseous that the one time, the one time she may actively need one more body to stand with her, I can't." He dragged his hand down his face. "That is what I mean, it's all taken from me....." he didn't explain any further, presuming Shae would know exactly what he meant. "She knew. She knew that I couldn't, and she told me only that she shared my desire for things to be different.

"When we parted, I was so----so maddeningly irate. Frustrated. With myself, what happened, the whole of it. I struck," flexing his hand, "I struck the corner of a brownstone wall with only a fist. A crater blew out of the bricks. I used no more force than I would have had I simply been aiming the blow at an opponent. I've only accomplished such feats before with a viciously targeted strike and runes to empower the strength behind it. It winded me afterward, as though I'd spent myself entirely in that single motion."

"Anger. Hm." If Shae was surprised that her friend had just confessed to such a feat of strength, it didn't come across in her voice. "How is your hand?" It seemed an obvious question to ask, though the fact that he hadn't mentioned it being damaged suggested that it hadn't been. "Do Nephilim have a history of...pushing past their limits in occasions of high stress or intense emotion? Angels, same question."

"Bruised," another flex of his fist, "I do not use an iratze for such insignificant wounds. But, no. We don't. Angels, I can tell you nothing of. I've only been in the presence of two. But Nephilim----that is not how we do what we do. That sort of strength, that----that is not innately inside us. We haven't the ability to use magic, only the ability to use angelic tools. The skill of the use of runes varies from one to the other. As one's ability to draw, one's musical talent, one's aptitude for language varies. But emotional responses have no bearing. Though, I should say that they don't for any normal Nephilim.

"And I am starting to believe that I am no longer normal. Death and resurrection notwithstanding."

"Bruised is a far cry better than what should have happened to your hand from throwing it at a wall like that." Dryly offered to cover her relief that he hadn't mangled himself in his fit of self-punishment. Shae paused and framed her next question carefully. "Cris, what sort of creatures from your world exhibit heightened strength, possibly in reaction to emotion, and darksight?"

"I thought so, as well. Some months ago, I actually did the same thing. I struck at an opponent who I was not aware was using a spell for stone skin. I broke every single one of my fingers, and more than likely a few other bones in my hand." Rippling his fingers. There was some discomfort, little scrapes and lacerations to go with the scars already there. But otherwise, it did not pain him. "Warlocks, for the magic they work. At least in terms of Salome. The Fae. Werewolves for their inability to control when they Change parts of their body, at times of great stress."

A sympathetic wince crossed her face, one hand cradled in her lap. He was lucky that it had healed well enough that it wasn't noticeable. Her next question was slightly delayed, but it came with a level pitch. "What about Bianca?"

Silence on the other end of the line, save for the muted scratch of movement. When he bowed his head, exhaled quietly. "I rarely saw her legitimately upset," answering finally. "Life seemed like one great, neverending game to her. She took enjoyment in everything. Her command over her magic was vicious and formidable on its own. But it did----yes, seem to sharpen, in those instances where she was truly threatened. Or if Salome was. Especially, when she was."

"And the darksight?"

"That----that, I do not know. I've only seen that trait displayed in those whose bodies have undergone a radical change. Vampires, Lycans. Et cetera."

"And in true demons? Is it present in them?"

"Most of the species I've come in contact with. Sunlight is poison to them. Shae, please do not tell me that's what you think this is. Is that what you think this is?"

"Don't get ahead of me, I'm not sure what this is, but I'm trying to figure it out." A sigh, her lip pulled through her teeth. "I have a few theories, but all of them could damn well be wrong." She was an outsider to his biology, to things his people knew and took for granted."Do you want to walk through them with me...rationally?"

"Shae, do you honestly expect me to be rational when we're discussing the possibility, however infinitesimal, that what it is I'm capable of now has anything to do with demons. To think that I could want something like that, to think that I will not kill myself, to make that stop. I can't. I can't, Shae, I can't----

"I----" clicking, scratching, "just----just hold on. Hold on----" Click, scrape, thunk.

She held on for several seconds, standing to pace across her room. "Cris." Impatience warred with guilt and the desire to give empathy. When she continued it was gentle. "Are you really going to draw that line there, after all you've survived? You have friends who are part demon, you know. You can. Crispin. You can. I know that. It's okay to be frightened, you've been raised all your life to believe that this is a terrible thing. But I have faith in you, Cris, and I know it's hard to discuss, but please."

He'd dropped the phone onto the counter, and after a few moments of silence, there came the sound of running water. Splashing. He forced himself to return to the call long before he was ready to speak and merely knelt, with his brow against the cupboards hiding pipes under the sink. His wet fingers slid down the white painted wood. He put his brow against it and found that when he tried to speak, he couldn't. A terse exhale came over the line next, then a second, open mouthed one. Then a third, followed by an inhale too sharp, and too quick.

There was no response to her words, and so she waited. Waited through the clatter and the water. Through the various thumps and sounds. Relieved, at last, to hear the sound of his breathing. She let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding and found herself sitting on the floor beside her bed.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Troubleshooting, Final

Twenty-seven seconds later, he grunted. Weakly, in tight frustration. Pulled his hand down his wet face, digging his fingertips into his eyes, and he told himself, now that he could hear that clear, rational voice again, that he'd only gotten water in them and that his throat ached for how avidly he'd attempted to control his breathing. He shifted, taking a seat there on the floor, with his shoulder up against the cupboard, and he sighed a weak, frustrated, "***," into the phone. One sniff, and he cleared his throat.

"Abbil, I'm sorry that you are suffering." Her voice had become quiet. Gold eyes on the window. "You ache so to help others and have endured more than most can bear. I forget sometimes, watching you, and it is unfair of me."

"Don't," gently, though it was as much a plea for her to take it back as it was one for her not to continue. He closed his eyes, swallowed thick, and did not bother with the new, thin river describing the line at the side of his nose. "Don't, it's all right. I should not----leap quite so far ahead. But I need to know, Shae....? I need to know what she's done, and if it's----if it's that......" Slide of his palm across his mouth, "I don't know.

"No one has said anything, or made mention of any----any poisonous aura. Not Charlie, not---- There's another in town. Saila." As he spoke, his voice smoothed itself out. "I do not know what sort of ability she has, but prior to your return, it was visited upon me without my knowledge. We believe it to be possible through personal contact. I did not know that at the time when she asked to touch my hand. Requests such as those, for one recently resurrected----I didn’t believe them all that strange. I do not know what she did. Perhaps it's prudent that I find out."

Silence as he collected himself. She would not take it back, that apology. "One moment, who is Saila? What do you believe to be possible through personal contact?" He was tracing his memories for other options, and it was well that he did, but he'd lost her.

"I'm not entirely sure. What I do know, only, was what I felt. A probing sort of presence, not upon my body, but a bit further past that. I can't explain it, she offered to. But at the time it---- Like a psychic, perhaps. Some sort of supernatural sixth sense."

"And think, truly, did you feel different as a result of the encounter? Was your darksight making itself evident prior to this?"

"Prior. I felt violated and acutely pissed off. But otherwise, nothing else had changed."

"Then I would be wary of her in the future, but would not yet lay blame in her direction for the changes you have noticed." The name would be remembered. "If you should see her again, let me know."

"No, I----that's not what I meant when I mentioned her. Only that if she experienced something strange, she may have said something. I do not know her well, but I think she at least had an idea of what I was not."
Four beats passed. "Tell me what you think, Shae. Please."

"Ah, I understand now." As he asked again, she sighed. She couldn't deny him her thoughts, even if she wanted to. "There are several sources these traits could be coming from. I will list the ones I consider most likely.

"First, the spell that brought you back. The blood of a demon was a component at Bianca's instruction. As was the blood of a man and the blood of an angel. Anomalies in the sources or during the spell work could have had an effect on you." Her guilt spoke first.

"Second, Bianca." Next it was her anger, though like her guilt it was masked with careful tones. "While she reached into you she may have accidentally or deliberately left a part of herself or something demonic within. A contingency, a mistake. It would not be of your soul, but it would be within you, and the result might manifest. It might also explain why the angelic within you now shines so intently. An attempt to purify that which has thrown you out of balance as a result of what she did."

Then came another thought. "Third, the journey back itself. The chance that something forced its way through on your heels, though we were vigilant for such things. Finally, there is to consider that someone has been tainting you since your return. I cannot speak to this, I have not been here."

He listened, rubbing in a droplet of water along his brow that had not yet dried. They were, all of them, good theories. Better than what he had; a staccato of memories thrown about like playing cards, trying to become something linear. As he ran his thumb back and forth, he let them as opposed to locking them away behind a door that had too many holes in it. "First. First, and foremost, tell me. The blood of a demon, and a mundane? Leena supplied her own, she told me, to fulfill that and it nearly took all of it to do so. No one was hurt, no one killed for this. Yes?"

"The components were given freely and without death." An easy answer to give, for a change.

His exhale came thick and rough. "Thank the Angel. Do you know whose it was?"

"The demon? Yes. I understand it was Robert. Salome asked him."

Silence fell, for nearly half a minute. Then, "Robert. I wasn't aware she knew who he was or where to find him."

"She didn't. There was a specific focus needed, a dagger. You'll have to ask her the details but I believe that they came in contact during her search for it." A story better left to those who lived it. "But I would have asked Robert, myself."

The mundane's identity had nothing to do with the discussion at hand, and he hadn't had the inkling, even to learn the finer workings of what allowed his escape. He would have, he thought, if where he'd gone had been somewhere he wanted to stay. But this information was easier to stomach, at present than anything else. "And the mundane's?"

"A friend. One of the many. I told you, after all, that is your strength." At least she could say she tried, Salome. The woman had requested she keep Fin’s involvement from Cris for reasons Shae did not quite understand.

He nodded, unsatisfied, but that wasn't Shae's fault. He pulled his hand down his face, sniffed, then reached above his head to grip the counter and haul himself up with a tight grunt of effort. "Is there a way----a way of discovering the origins of whatever this is? Perhaps whatever divine energy there is so much that it's overlapping all else." He leaned on the edge of the sink. "I know that----I know that my soul is in a laughably weak state. I think----maybe that's part of it. The wounds upon it, they're not merely from Rumnach or Bianca's hand. There was a stretch of time after I was sent from my bonds where I was forced to survive alone. The wasteland of that Hell plane was crawling with skeletal horrors that pursued as if starving."

Her legs drew up into the circle of her arms. The morning had moved on and the sun was crawling across the floor. Followed by her familiar's half-asleep ooze across the rug. "We could try to test it. And then try to purge it."

"If that is what it is." He put his brow up against his fist. "I've yet to speak to Lirssa, I will soon. I thought, merely, that it was important to tell you. To tell someone, what happened. Whatever this is, it must be directly connected, otherwise my body truly is in a sad state of affairs."

"There...there is one other option I didn't mention, but if we're going to discuss the options then I will bring it up." Her lips pursed together and she chewed on the inside of them before she continued. "Something that was in you before. Either planted there, or there from birth."

Silent, for a time. He grit his teeth as he stared at the faucet, flexing his open hand to give it something to do. "And that would be," thinly.

"Heritage, design, or Bianca."

"Heritage, I can rule out immediately. Were I anything but Nephilim, the runes upon my skin would have incinerated me years ago. The ones I use now would have done the same. I can at least take comfort in that." But there was Bianca, that name he was starting to despise the sound of, the memory of her face washing up, unbidden, and completely out of his control. "What would you need to perform this test?"

"What's stopping your runes from incinerating you now?"

"However weak I am, my body is still strong enough to handle them. The blood in me, is still strong enough to handle them. They burn much harder, and much more strongly than they used to. As though I'm carving them deeper than I really am. Reactions like that occur when one has a higher aptitude for their use. I would have been unable to withstand the rune you saw me draw, Shae." After a sigh, "I have to believe that. I have to believe----that whatever was done to me, whatever I've taken with me, is not poison. That it's not---- That it's not that."

A thoughtful sound, short and guttural, preceded a long pause. Part of her knew what name he wasn't saying. "I'm not the foremost authority on detecting demonic influences from Earth by a large margin, especially beneath a well of divine energy... but I will try with Salome."

He nodded, easing up. His earlier near miss left him with a relentless headache in the dead center of his forehead. "Thank you, Shae." Like he hadn't wanted her apology, he doubted she wanted one of his. And so he kept it to himself.

Soft laughter. "One condition. You tell Salome about this."

Click.
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