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Re: Adjustments

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

The rest of the evening passed as most evenings did— pleasantly and uneventfully. The family ate supper, then spent some time with friends. Callie seemed interested in Uluki and Rollick’s marriage and asked numerous questions, including how long they had been together. They answered honestly without demanding the reason Callie wanted to know; Callie seemed satisfied, and somehow… almost pleased... with the answers she received.

After talking to Callie, Uluki and Rollick decided it was a good time to introduce Kira to the Lightswords. Julen wasn’t immediately visible and they didn’t want to pester him, so that could wait till another time, but they stopped to talk with all of the others. Kira clung shyly to Uluki and Rollick’s hands, and smiled at each of those she met. Most of them simply acknowledged her politely, but Merohl, who had apparently become concerned about her during the visit to Panterras, asked, “How are you feeling, Kira?”

“It doesn’t hurt anymore. Uluki made the pain go away,” she said, the raspy quality still distinctly evident in her voice. Then she added, “I like it here. It’s a nice place. I don’t have to die.” Then she grinned as though this was some great boon she had been granted. As though the prospect of living to see age fourteen was an unexpected gift— which Uluki supposed it was.

Merohl was obviously sympathetic and exchanged a somewhat pained glance with Rollick, whose expression was a mirror of his own, but he simply replied, “We will do all we can to keep you safe.”

A short time later the family came back together, and just sat and talked. As bedtime approached, they moved their things to the two adjoining rooms they had chosen.

Uluki and Rollick were surprised to discover they had acquired a bed over the course of the day, which had been placed in the smaller room for them. It was just wide enough for the two of them, but the mattress had obviously been cleaned, and it was quite comfortable. Uluki mentally thanked whichever of the Lightswords had realized that Rollick would wake up less sore if he didn’t have to sleep on the floor.

Uluki repeated her suggestion that the four girls sleep in the bigger room, while she and Rollick and the baby took the smaller one, but Dash pointed out that there would be more room for Martin with her and the other girls. Uluki opened her mouth to question the logistics of that, but Dash winked very knowingly, and Uluki blushed a deep purple. “Martin can share with us, Mama,” Dash said again with a smile, and Uluki didn’t protest.

The couple didn’t do anything blush-worthy that night, though. Rollick was exhausted from the amount of digging he had done and Uluki was still in a significant amount of residual pain from healing Kira, so neither of them felt in the mood for anything beyond hugs and kisses.

Uluki and Rollick snuggled close together, their usual sleep position. Before Uluki got married she had slept curled up in a ball, as she still did on those rare occasions when she had sleep alone. Both were unconsciously protective positions; Uluki never slept with her throat or belly exposed, not after some of the sights she had woken up to. She felt safest cuddled up against Rollick’s warm body.

That night, in spite of the aching in her limbs and hands, sleep overtook Uluki easily, and within moments of crawling into bed she had drifted off.

A few hours later, a scream woke her. A man’s voice, crying out in pain, right beside her. “Rollick, my love? What’s wrong?”

He wasn’t awake enough to hear her. Still caught up in his dream, his arms and legs flailed as though he fought some invisible enemy. She ducked one of his arms— an easy proposition since he wasn’t aiming for her in the first place— and lightly shook his shoulder. “Rollick, wake up!” she said in a louder voice, but still calmly and lovingly. “It’s alright. You’re safe.”

His eyes opened and his breath came in sharp gasps, as though he’d been running a long way. “Uluki?”

“I’m here, love.” She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him, unresisting, close to her, and let his head rest on her chest.

The door to the adjoining room banged open. Uluki could see Dash silhouetted in the doorway, and it looked like at least one of the other girls had also woken up. “It’s alright,” Uluki called out. “Just a nightmare.” Then, because she couldn’t see who besides Dash was watching, she clarified for Kaydee and Kira, “This family is rather prone to nightmares, so this really isn’t uncommon. Try not to worry, and go back to sleep.”

Dash stared for a moment at the two of them, Uluki holding Rollick as his breathing slowed, then she nodded and closed the door.

Rollick was silent as all this took place, then he said softly, “Uluki, you shouldn’t come near me. It’s too dangerous.” He made a half-hearted attempted to pull away, but her arms still encircled him and he didn’t want to hurt those fragile limbs by tugging too hard. “It’s back. The beast. The creature. I feel it in me. Well… felt.” The more awake he became, the less true that seemed.

“Just a dream, love. Nothing more than a dream.”

“It felt real this time.”

“Rollick… you’ve said that before,” she reminded him gently. “It’s a rare nightmare you don’t think felt real. That’s why they’re so frightening. If you knew it was a dream, why would you fear it?”

“But this time it felt…” But the sensation had slipped away, a sleep impression not able to sustain itself in his waking mind. It had already burned off, like dew in the morning sun. “You’re sure…?”

Uluki released him, and held his face in her hands as she stared deeply into his eyes. His eyes always showed the truth, and there was nothing in their kind blue depths but Rollick. “I’m sure.”

He relaxed and leaned back against her. “It was a bad one this time.”

“Me again?”

“Yes.” He didn’t elaborate, not wanting to go into detail about seeing Uluki crumpled and bleeding from injuries too numerous to count, burned blue flesh, his own hands soaked with blood even as his mind rebelled against the horrors his body was being forced to commit… “The baby, too.”

“I’m so sorry, love,” she murmured, stroking his hair and kissing the top of his head.

“Do you ever just wish you had a normal husband?” He tried to sound playful, but it mostly just came out worried.

“I don’t wish I had anyone else but you. I need my wonderful Rollick with me. A few nightmares don’t change that.” For a little while they just enjoyed the comfort of their closeness, then Uluki asked, “Do you think you’ll be able to sleep at all?”

“Eventually. Not just yet, but you don’t need to stay up with me.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I know. But I’ll feel guilty for making you miss your rest. You should sleep. Can I just… hold you while you do?”

Uluki nodded, and they changed positions. She nestled her head against his chest, and as she prepared to sleep again, she reflected that though the nightmares were wretched, she was very, very lucky to have him there at all. She’d come so close to losing him. And frankly, it was amazing that he could suffer so much… that he could struggle against a god… and still go on to lead a happy life. That only a few bad dreams disturbed an otherwise healthy mind. Rollick was incredibly strong. “I’m glad you’re so brave,” she whispered. “I’m glad you’re brave, because it means you’re still here. It means I get to be with you.” With these words spoken, she drifted back into sleep.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Adjustments

Post by Julen on

After speaking to Callie, Julen spent the rest of the afternoon doing whatever tasks seemed most necessary. He trained, worked on the fortifications, and helped unload the wagon whenever it arrived back from one of its trips. He even found time to chat a little with the women taking their sewing lessons. Callie’s reaction to him had made Julen realize that most of the refugees were accustomed to thinking of people with weapons as bullies and overlords. Julen wanted to change that perception. He wanted them to think of themselves as equal to the warriors, with nothing to fear from them. So, Julen made small talk, learning the refugee’s names and complimenting their fledgling efforts. At first, the women seemed nervous, answering him with downcast eyes. But after a little, they loosened up. Julen even managed to elicit a few smiles and giggles before other work called him away.

Of all the plunder brought back to the base that day, there was one thing Julen wanted more than anything else. He wanted it more than trophy rings, more than bishani, more than improved weapons or armor. He wanted a bed. Not that sleeping on the floor had been too much of a hardship for Rosemary and him. They were both sturdy. But still, it bothered Julen that his wife didn’t have something softer than a folded cloak to rest on after a long day. Dutifully, Julen distributed the pieces of furniture to those whose needs were greater -- the old and mothers with small children. Until, finally, only one bed remained. It was small, and plain, and apparently made by a drunken carpenter with broken tools. But it was a bed. Julen could hardly disguise his glee when it became apparent that he would be able to keep it.

A bed is not an easy thing to sneak anywhere. But then, an orc is not an easy thing to see around. While Krarug distracted Rosemary, Julen and several of the Lightswords carried the bed up to his room. Soon after that, Tulip arrived, smuggling the fabric scraps and bits of ribbon that she’d promised to bring. Knotting them around the bedposts, Julen managed to create the suggestion of streamers on a colorfully wrapped gift. A few small candles, waiting to be lit, completed his preparations.

It was hard to sit through dinner without giving away any hints. But somehow, Julen managed it. When he and Rosemary had finished their stew, and made a desert from a few of the precious fruits brought by the nomads, Julen escorted his wife up to their room. “Surprise,” he whispered, placing his hands over her eyes.

“Surprise?” Rosemary’s voice rippled with undercurrents of laughter. “What sort of surprise?”

“An anniversary surprise.” In truth, it was nowhere near their anniversary, which fell during the spring months. But Julen was thinking of their wedding night, when he’d covered the bed with wildflower petals, before leading his bride over to it. All night long, each fumbling exploration had stirred a flurry of color and filled the air with fresh floral perfume. “Now, close your eyes.”

When he felt sure that she’d complied, Julen removed his hands, and opened the door to their room. Quickly, he lit the scattered candles. Then he turned back toward Rosemary. “Alright. You can look now.”

Rosemary opened her eyes. And when she saw the bed, and the candles, and her husband’s hopeful expression, tears blurred her vision. Even as she pressed a hand to her mouth, she couldn’t name what emotion she was trying to contain. Her heart felt balanced on a sword’s edge, caught between joy and sorrow.

Not understanding, Julen feared that his gift had been a disappointment. “I’m sorry. I know it’s not much. I had to give the nicer ones to people who needed them more. You were expecting something better, weren’t you? I guess I shouldn’t have made such a big deal about it. I just thought--”

“You foolish man!” And then, suddenly, Rosemary’s body was pressed against his, her arms wrapped tightly around him. “You clueless, stubborn, frustrating man. Don’t leave me. Please. Don’t ever leave me.”

Julen attempted to return Rosemary’s hug, only to find his arms pinned to his sides by the ferocity of her embrace. So instead, he nuzzled her cheek, pressing kisses wherever her auburn hair slid aside to reveal the soft flesh beneath. “Never,” he vowed. “How could I leave? How could I walk away from you? The first step would break my heart. The second step would steal my sanity. The third step would kill me.”

A sniffling sound was Rosemary’s only reply. But after a few moments, she released him. Gently, Julen took his wife’s hand, and lead her over to the bed. “You really like it?”

“I love it.” Smiling, Rosemary toyed with one of the strips of fabric he’d tied to the bedpost. “And I love you. You always take such good care of me.”

“I try.” Julen couldn’t help suspecting that he’d fallen short in that particular area, no matter how much Rosemary might deny it. But it felt good to see her happy. That was all he wanted -- to make her happy, to keep her safe. And the issue of safety reminded Julen of something else. “Rosemary? I was thinking that it might be better if you didn’t leave the compound for the remainder of our time here. We killed most of Snyde’s thugs, but we didn’t get Snyde himself, and he’s going to want revenge. A cornered rat can be more dangerous than a confident one. As far as we know, he hasn’t learned who you are. Still, it wouldn’t be hard for him to find out, and I don’t think we should take any chances.”

The candlelight chased shadows back and forth across Rosemary’s face. “Stay inside? Like a prisoner?”

“Just until you’re able to return to Shim. That shouldn’t be long.” Julen couldn’t bring himself to mention the things Callie had told him about, couldn’t give voice to her graphic description of the horrors that would befall any loved one that Snyde got his hands on. He didn’t want Rosemary thinking about such things, much less fearing that they might happen to her.

“So I’m expected to wait patiently while you march into battle?” Rosemary’s voice had acquired a dangerous sharpness. “But you can’t even survive the thought of me going on a shopping trip?”

“That’s different. I need to fight those battles.”

“And I need to live my life!”

Despite himself, Julen felt his temper rising. “It will only be for a few more days. Why do you have to be so difficult about this?”

“Because it won’t be for just a few more days! So I go back to Shim -- then what? You’ll still have enemies. I’ll still be vulnerable. Being in Shim didn’t protect me from the mercenaries.” Yanking her hand from Julen’s grip, Rosemary placed it on her hip as she glared at him, daring him to deny anything she was saying. “How will you protect me in Shim? Assign a couple of Lightswords to stay by my side at all times? Board up the farmhouse and keep me inside it like a diamond in a miser’s vault? Or maybe, just maybe, you could trust me?”

“I do trust you. I just -- things have changed.”

“What?” Rosemary demanded. “What has changed since you stood before everyone in our village and told them you wanted me for your wife?”

“It was supposed to be easy!” The words burst out of Julen, driven by his panic and desperation. If he lost this argument, if he failed to convince Rosemary, she would be the one to pay the price. His beloved Rosemary would get hurt, and it would be his fault. “Why can’t you understand that? When I took you as my wife, I thought I’d be giving you a good life. A safe home, a child, a husband who was never far from your side. But instead, I stole all those things from you. I made your life miserable. If I’d known -- if I’d known how things were going to turn out, I would have begged to you marry another man.”

The fire in Rosemary’s eyes turned to ice, and Julen knew that he’d said the wrong thing. “Rosemary, please. I just meant--”

“I know what you meant,” Rosemary hissed. “I was good enough to be your wife when you thought I’d never need to face any challenges. But now that things are hard, you’ve lost your faith. You think I’m not strong enough to be your partner. You treat me like a child, or a pet, or a possession. Well, I won’t live like that. Not for you, not for any man.”

With that, Rosemary turned and marched from the room, slamming the door behind her so hard that two of the candles flickered out. Every muscle in Julen’s body wanted to spring up and chase after her. But his mind knew it would be useless. As long as she was shouting at him, her heat could still turn to passion. Now, he’d spoken too unwisely, cut too deeply, and nothing remained but frost. There would be no reconciliation tonight.

Falling back on the bed, Julen grabbed one of its pillows and pressed the cushion over his face, howling his frustration into its muffling bulk.

Eventually, exhaustion dragged Julen down into sleep. But even sleep seemed unwilling to offer him any peace.

Instead, he dreams of standing on a battlefield, chaos all around him. He feels the thick mud sucking at his boots. He feels the sweat inside the fingers of his leather gloves. In the distance, a voice shouts orders, but Julen can’t understand them. They sound like a strange garble of other languages. All he knows is that he must hold his position. To protect his friends, his family, everything he loves, he must hold his position.

A warrior steps from the teeming mass of fighting men. He’s impressively armored, wearing a helm which conceals all his features -- even his eyes. In the dream, this makes sense to Julen. He doesn’t question how a man can fight without seeing. He just knows that he must hold his position.

Sword raised, then shield. Thrust blocked, strike parried. Julen only experiences moments of each action, while other moments are lost to him, like puzzle pieces that drop away into darkness before he can assemble them. Finally, an opening presents itself. Julen swings. And his opponent falls.

Silence. Every other person on the battlefield abruptly vanishes. For several seconds, Julen stands alone, staring down at his slain foe. Then, a cracking noise ruptures the stillness. Thin lines appear in the warrior’s helm, and it shatters, falling away to reveal a horribly familiar face.


Out of nowhere, two figures come running onto the battlefield, throwing themselves down in the mud as they embrace their dead father. “Papa! Papa!” Tears run down Zee’s face when she raises it to stare accusingly at Julen. “Why did you kill our papa?”

Julen opens his mouth -- tries to explain, tries to justify his action. But there is no explanation. There is no justification.

Then Uluki is there, sobbing for her dead husband. “How could you do this to us?” she screams at Julen. “I should have left you in the street to die! I should have left you to rot!”

Trained by years of nightmares, Julen’s eyes snapped open, and darkness rushed into them, obliterating the terrible image of his friend’s hate-twisted face. But her voice continued to ring in his ears. Only lying absolutely still, listening to the raspy sound of his own breathing, finally made it diminish. Julen knew where the dream had come from. And he knew that, no matter what had happened to Callie’s husband, he would never be forced to kill Rollick in battle. Unfortunately, knowing such things didn’t keep his hand from trembling. Instinctively, Julen reached for Rosemary, only to find the bed empty beside him.

“Gods,” Julen groaned as he sat up. His head ached, no matter how much rubbed it, and his body twitched with a restlessness that mocked the possibility of sleep. So, moving as quietly as possible, Julen made his way through the darkness of Lightsword Hall, until he came to an exit.

Slipping outside, Julen found himself standing near the beginnings of Uluki’s garden. Even now, many hours after it had been disturbed, the smell of freshly dug soil hung in the air. Julen inhaled great, gulping breaths of it. Then, he knelt on the ground, breaking a clod of dirt between his fingers just to feel it crumble. The familiarity of the sensation comforted him. This was what he understood, the earth and the things that grew in it. Not the ways of warriors. And certainly not the ways of women.


The voice was so soft that it didn’t even startle Julen. Glancing in its direction, he saw Kaydee standing near him. “Hi. What are you doing up so late?”

Kaydee didn’t answer immediately. Instead, she sat down on the ground next to where Julen was kneeling. “Rollick had a nightmare. It woke everyone up and I couldn’t get back to sleep.”

“Rollick?” Julen would have never guessed that Rollick suffered from nightmares. The elderly warrior seemed so strong, so centered, so confident. Julen was the weak one, the one who allowed his own mind to torment him with grim visions. Yet, it seemed that Rollick shared his problem. Strange. And strangely reassuring. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Uluki said it was alright.” With her finger, Kaydee began to draw in the loose dirt, not looking at Julen. “I heard that Rosemary decided to spend the night with another group of refugees. What happened?”

“I don’t know.” Part of him really didn’t understand. And part of him did, but didn’t want to think about it. “I gave her a present. She seemed happy. Then I said the wrong thing and we had a fight. I don’t know.”

“Do you ever you ever think that maybe it shouldn’t be this hard? That maybe if two people are really meant to be together, it’s easy for them. As easy as Rollick and Uluki. As easy as us, just sitting here, just talking to each other.” Kaydee tilted her head, glancing over at Julen. “This does feel easy, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. It does.” Ever since the ordeal with Snyde, Julen felt surprisingly comfortable around Kaydee. She understood darkness. He didn’t need to paint over shadows or pretend they weren’t there. “But marriage can be difficult. There may be things going on between Uluki and Rollick that we don’t see. My parents loved each other, and it didn’t make everything easy for them. Sometimes, when you really care about someone, you need to endure a few storms. Sometimes you have to fight for them.”

“I guess.” Kaydee scooted back from her dirt drawing, revealing a picture of two people surrounded by giant flowers. For several minutes, she stared down at it, as if trying to reach some sort of decision. Then she reached into her pocket and pulled out a charm hanging on a blue ribbon. “Remember when I said that you deserved a medal for rescuing me from Snyde? Well, I made one for you. I hope you like it.”

Surprised and flattered, Julen grinned as Kaydee hung the medal around his neck. It felt good to be appreciated. “It’s fantastic. Thanks so much. I--”

He stopped because Kaydee’s lips were suddenly pressed against his own. Reflexively, Julen’s eyes slipped shut. Inside his head, he was so busy telling Kaydee how wrong this was, how they could never be more than took him a moment to realize he was actually kissing back. And the shock of that made him jerk away. Julen’s eyes popped open, and he gawked at Kaydee like a rabbit cornered by an unfamiliar beast. “Kaydee, no. I’m sorry. I can’t. You can’t. We can’t. Not ever.”

Unfortunately, Kaydee leaned closer to him, her face beautiful in the moonlight. “But you want to, don’t you?”

Desperately, Julen shook his head. “No.” And yet, even as he spoke the word, he thought of her in his arms, bits of colored fabric and ribbon stirring softly while their passion made the entire bed tremble beneath them. The image nearly choked him. Since his marriage to Rosemary, Julen had never experienced so much as a flicker of desire for another woman. The fact that he could still feel something like that for a woman other than his wife was deeply disturbing.

“I have to go.” Too flustered to worry about hurting Kaydee’s feelings, Julen scrambled to his feet and fled. He didn’t stop until he reached his room. Once there, he shut the door behind himself, and collapsed on the bed. His heart was beating as hard as it ever had in battle. What just happened? Nothing! Nothing happened. I was tired, and confused, and hurt by the fight with Rosemary. That’s all. Rosemary is the only woman I love. Rosemary is the only woman I’ll ever love...

Sleep did eventually take Julen back into its embrace. But for a long time, he lay awake in the darkness, gripping the medal that hung from his throat where a silver locket had once been.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Rollick woke before Uluki did, which was unusual for him. Not hearing any sounds from the adjoining room or the rest of the compound, he thought it was safe to assume it was still early, so he let Uluki sleep. Careful not to jostle her enough to wake her, he settled her into what he imagined would be a more comfortable position in his arms. She muttered in her sleep, something that sounded like “Don’t bother the ducks”— how he would love to know what was going on in that dream— and snuggled closer to him, nuzzling her face again his chest.

Rollick’s sleep had not been troubled by any more nightmares, but it had been light and uneasy, still coloured with the reds and burnt blues of his dream. As he finally drifted toward wakefulness he had fought against it, though, afraid that if he opened his eyes and allowed his mind to return to full consciousness, he would find the last ten years had been a fantasy, joyful and bountiful but ultimately self-deluded. He was afraid he would wake alone, to find his family— his life— was nothing more than a dream. Even as these fears crossed his mind, he broke the surface between sleep and waking, and even before his eyes opened he was aware of Uluki beside him, the almost insubstantially light weight of her snuggled between his chest and his arm, the gentle puff of her breath against his skin… and he had known everything was alright.

For a long time he just held her, and watched her sleep. It was actually far more relaxing than trying to force his own mind to shut down and rest. He stroked her shoulder, left bare by her chemise, his fingers tracing gently up and down. He knew she wasn’t awake enough to be aware he was touching her, that she probably couldn’t feel it in her dream, but the contact, his skin against hers, was both reassuring and grounding. It restored his emotional equilibrium, and made it seem like everything was back to normal again.

Uluki stirred and yawned. Her eyes opened and she rested a hand on Rollick’s chest lovingly, but she was in no hurry to leave the warmth of his arms. “How are you, love?”

“Better this morning. There’s nothing like a cuddly Duskling to make you forget your troubles. I don’t know how any man sleeps without one.”

She giggled and kissed his neck.

“And how are you feeling, dear one?” he asked. “You look like you’re doing a little better.”

Uluki nodded to confirm that. “The rest helped. It hurt more when I got tired. I don’t think it’ll be as bad today.”

“I hope not. I worry for you.”

She was about to give a flippant, joking response, but she saw the undisguised emotion in his face, so she merely said, “I know, love. I worry too. We worry because we care. But everything will be fine.”

They spent a little more time lounging together— they hadn’t slept in a real bed in almost a month, so it felt like a luxury— but then it was well and truly time to get up. The girls were awake by that point too, so Uluki went in to get the baby and then left them to get ready for their day. Uluki gave Martin his bath while Rollick dressed, then Rollick put the little one in a clean diaper and romper suit while Uluki pulled her dress on and combed her hair. Thus attired, they met back up with the girls. Rollick stammered a rather embarrassed apology for disturbing their night’s rest, then together they went down to breakfast with the refugees. After their meal, they split up to do the day’s various tasks.

As Uluki walked around the compound with Martin slung in the pouch across her front, she noticed a few of the refugees wearing old iron nails hung around their necks with strings or pieces of cord. Uluki wondered about the significance of that. Maybe it was a religious thing? Perhaps their god shoed horses or something? She smiled at one of the women, anticipating asking her about their unusual necklaces, but she returned Uluki’s gaze with an expression so hostile that Uluki backed away instead, confused.

Her first goal of the day was to check on Becky and her baby, both of whom turned out to be doing fine. Uluki offered to look after Nina-Uluki for a little while so her mother could have a break. Becky agreed gratefully. Jenny had been very helpful but had a child of her own to tend to, and Becky was glad for the extra pair of hands. It would be nice, she confessed Uluki, to bathe and to wash her clothes. Uluki told her to take as much time as she needed, though she doubted the new mother would want to be away from her child for too long.

Uluki sat on a chair in a quite corner of the hall. Martin stayed near her, alternating between very enthusiastic crawling and playing with his toy dog or carved turtle. Nina-Uluki slept, unaware the arms she was in were not her mother’s, and Uluki rocked her gently.

She was off in her own little baby-filled world when two of the refugee women approached her. Uluki smiled at them and stood to greet them, but they just stared at her. One of them wore a nail necklace, and the other one instead wore some kind of small circular metal piece on a similar string. Uluki realized in that instant what was going on. There was no horse-shoeing god. The nails themselves had no particular significance, they were just the easiest thing to find made of iron. Cold iron. To ward off the fairies.

“Baby thief!” one of the women hissed at Uluki. “Going to replace Becky’s sweet little human baby with your own vile changeling.”

“Her mother asked me to watch her. No one is getting replaced. And my own child is neither vile nor a changeling.”

“Liar! No sane woman would leave her baby with a fairy. Everyone knows fairies steal children and do gods-know-what with them. We caught you in the act!”

“I didn’t…”

The women weren’t listening to her explanations. One of them yanked Nina-Uluki out of Uluki’s arms. The woman wasn’t rough with the baby, but the newborn was jostled enough by the transition that she woke up and began to bawl, suddenly aware she was in unfamiliar arms. The woman holding her tried to comfort her. “There there, lovey, we’ll get you safe and sound back to your mummy, never fret my darling, we won’t let the mean fairy hurt you…”

Uluki, frightened, reached to try to take Nina-Uluki back, but the woman holding the baby whacked Uluki across the face, and the other shoved her away. Uluki sat down hard; the impact of the push had been enough to knock her off her feet. Seeing the women hurt his mother, Martin began to cry too, his wails joining Nina-Uluki’s.

At that moment Becky entered the room, her hair still damp from the washing she’d given it. Then she stopped, dumbfounded, and took in the scene: her baby crying in a strange woman’s arms, Uluki on the floor with a purple mark darkening her cheek, Martin screaming… “What the hell is going on?”

“The fairy was trying to steal your baby!” the younger of the refugee women said solemnly. “We got her back for you. Don’t think she’s hurt, luckily.”

The other woman nodded hearty agreement as Becky took her baby back and rocked the child to soothe her. “We ought to tell the warriors what the fairy did. Then they can decide what to do with her.”

Becky looked at them like they were insane. “Tell the warriors what the fairy did, will you? You attacked my babysitter! Why don’t we tell them that instead? Missus Uluki was kind enough to watch my little girl when I asked her to, and you go giving her trouble. You ought not to be allowed to stay here.”

The two women looked dumbstruck and horrified. “We didn’t mean no harm,” one of them finally said. “We thought she was hurting your baby. We only wanted to help. You ain’t going to send us back to the shanty town for trying to save your baby, are you?”

Becky gestured toward Uluki. “Up to her,” she said bluntly. “It’s not me you hit.”

“Please, Missus, it was an honest mistake!” Her eyes fixed on Uluki’s imploringly.

Uluki rubbed her cheek. “I know it was. It’s alright. Just next time, don’t hit people. This is a place where people are supposed to be safe, not get hurt. If you hit someone again, you’ll do it knowing you weren’t supposed to, and I won’t be able to just overlook it if it happens. And you shouldn’t assume things about people because of how they look or the colour their skin is.”

The two women left without another word. Becky let loose a string of choice words about them, of which “silly ignorant biddies” were the kindest and least profane, then apologized to Uluki for what had happened— Uluki assured her it wasn’t her fault at all— and then Becky took Nina-Uluki back to their room.

Most of the refugees treated Uluki as kindly as they normally did, including all of those she knew well. A handful of the new arrivals still eyed her warily, though, and still wore their iron necklaces. One woman pulled her little boy behind her protectively as Uluki passed her, and another shoved her husband out of the way, putting herself in between them and glaring at Uluki. She heard them whisper to each other as they did so. “The fairies will steal your baby.” “She’ll seduce your man and take him away from you.”

Uluki hated that. She hated the stares and the whispers, the accusations and assumptions. She was sad that the people who were saying such awful things about her were among those she had healed the day before. She wondered what had changed overnight, because that seemed to be forgotten. But there was nothing to be done about it. Any attempt to correct their misconceptions would be seen as the lies of a deceitful fairy. All she could do was be kind to them, and hope that those few who so disliked her would eventually come around.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Adjustments

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Callie sat in the shadow of the building trying to collect her thoughts. Her mind reeled with confusion as she tried to bring the separate pieces together into a coherent picture. On the one hand, the things Julen had said made a lot of sense, and she trusted him. If he said marriage shouldn’t involve hitting, surely he knew what he was talking about. On the other hand, there was the fresh bruise on Uluki’s face. Julen said Rollick didn’t hit her, but obviously he was wrong about that. Did that mean he was wrong about all of it? Did it mean that while Julen didn’t hit Rosemary, he was the odd one for it, the only one who didn’t hurt his wife? Or was he only wrong about Rollick, but right about the rest of it? Callie was deeply, deeply confused. She also wanted to find some way to help Uluki.

She didn’t know what to do, though. Armed with her new knowledge, she thought maybe she should help Uluki escape… but where could the fairy woman go? This was the safest place Callie knew of. Callie wasn’t sure she’d be able to convince Uluki to leave, and even if she could, where else would Uluki find shelter?

At the same time, she couldn’t just sit by and allow Uluki to be hurt. She considered going to Julen, but she wasn’t sure he’d believe her, and she didn’t want to damage the fragile trust between them. The only other option she could see was to talk to Rollick directly. If she could get him to admit what he had done, she would have some solid evidence to present to Julen, and then she could ask him what to do.

Callie approached Rollick and asked to have a word, but after they had finished their polite but generic greetings, she couldn’t think of what to say to him.

“How are you, Callie?” Rollick finally asked, after several extremely awkward moments of her staring at him in silence.

“I’m alright. I’m just thinking about something Julen said.” She paused again, unsure how to proceed.

“What did Julen say?” Rollick prompted gently. He had no idea why Callie felt the need to address the subject to him, but surely she had some reason, and if it was important enough to bring her over to him, it was important enough that he needed to hear it.

“He said… he said it was wrong for men to beat their wives. That they should never do it.” She looked up and met Rollick’s gaze steadily, looking for the flicker of guilt, or at least recognition, she expected to see in his eyes.

“That’s very true. Julen is right.” Rollick didn’t know what else to say, other than to confirm it.

The apparent hypocrisy stirred a flame of anger deep within Callie, an emotion she didn’t think she had enough strength left to feel. It turned out she could feel it, and it burned deeply. “Then how could you do it to Uluki? Why did you hit her, if it’s so wrong to do?”

Rollick was shocked and horrified by the accusation… but also thoroughly puzzled by it. Where had Callie gotten that idea? Why would she think that Rollick of all people— Rollick who was so careful to be gentle with his family and never to hurt them, even by accident— was a wife-beater? “Who told you that?” he asked mildly, trying not to let his face or voice betray the discomfort he felt.

Callie took a step toward him, her hands balled into fists, her body closer to him than normal conversational distance would dictate was proper. Rollick didn’t draw back, but he didn’t move closer to her, either. He kept his body relaxed, his arms loose at his sides, trying to let his body language convey that she wasn’t in any danger from him. Even if she did decide to hit him, he doubted she’d be able to do any damage, and it was more important to reassure her than to defend himself against a frightened refugee.

“No one told me,” Callie said hotly, her voice shaky. “No one had to. I saw that bruise you left on her face.”

“What? She’s hurt?” Rollick’s calm demeanour melted immediately, and his brow furrowed with worry. “Where is she?”

“Why, so you can hit her again?” Callie tried to sound brave, but she was suddenly worried she’d put Uluki in more danger by confronting Rollick.

“Callie, no! Gods… no! I swear to you I’ve never hit her, and I never will. I would never strike her, or my children. I love them all so much, and that means never causing harm. Whatever happened to Uluki, I didn’t do it. But now that I know she did get hurt somehow, I’d scared for her, and I need to make sure she’s alright. So Callie, please. Where is she?”

“Swear it again.” Callie wasn’t sure if it was the right time to budge.

“I swear it.” Rollick gazed into her eyes with complete sincerity. If it didn’t convince her this time, he’d go find Uluki himself and return to trying to convince Callie later. She finally seemed reassured, though; she nodded and motioned for him to follow her.

After asking Uluki the details of her injury and satisfying himself that she wasn’t in significant danger, he held her close for a moment. Rollick was aware Callie was watching them, but he didn’t know what to do to prove his innocence to her, other than to act toward Uluki as he normally did: tenderly, lovingly, and without violence. He touched Uluki’s cheek gently just below the bruise, wishing he could help her, that he could heal her injury and take away the irrational hatred that had caused it, but none of that was within his power.

Rollick needed to get back to work, and to let Uluki do the same, but it was hard to walk away, knowing there were people around who thought so badly of her. Knowing there was no guarantee she’d be spared further harm. Even a bruise on the face was too much hurt to see inflicted on one so loved. He wrapped her in another hug for good measure. “If you ever feel like you aren’t safe… if you need your fighter looking out for you…”

“I’ll come find you, Rollick. I promise.” Uluki smiled up at him.

“I can talk to them, tell them how kind you are…”

“Rollick, you can’t. I appreciate your willingness to do so, but it would only cause more trouble. They’d think it was because you were bewitched.”

“Damn it! There’s no winning!” His mouth tightened in frustration.

“We just have to ride it out, love. It’ll get better.” Then she kissed that tense mouth till he relaxed and kissed her back.

He finally managed to make himself walk away, but he kept sneaking looks back toward her as long as she was in view. He couldn’t promise her complete safety, only complete devotion— but as long as there was breath in his body, devotion she would have.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Delegation was a fine thing.

The supplies carted in from the wagon were put to good use, and yet there was so much more to bring. At the dusk most recent, they were unfinished bringing in the goods from the criminal storehouse, and there were still more dens in need of looting. This task could be left to the Lightswords, without need for Aorle's direct supervision. Instead, he would give one of the veterans command of the task, one with experience. This freed Aorle to fulfill civilian duties.

Important duties. There was much he wished to do this day. There were new refugees present, and we wished to set an example for them as a leader, to demonstrate his leadership for the sake of those unknowing or doubtful of what they would find. There was more he wished to know. How Tulip was doing. Who these new refugees were. More than mere names and faces, but who they were. Their lives, and the lives they sought. Their goals and what they would do with new safety. Finally, he had pages to attend to, there was the matter of their futures to consider.

Approaching this morning, Aorle was unarmoured. In theory. One legacy of his homeland was the Gothic man's love of fur, a sensible affection for there were few choices of garb that would stop a sword stroke so well as a thick rich pelt. Heavy black fur showed at the neck, the shoulders, the upper arms and thighs. Leather covered the rest of him in a jerkin and further pieces on his lower arms and legs. A trained eye would notice how the leather on his arms and legs were in the form of greaves and vambraces, a detail easily overlooked by civilians.

Greeting him at the entrance was Triarius, who saluted the dismounting knight. "Hail sir."

"Grace, Triarius. Is all well?" The question was both professional and personal, inviting either of a military report or the troubles of a friend.

"A quiet night, my lord. The best kind. We have some nomads with us. They are friends of Uluki."

"I will meet with them shortly. Any news on the refugees?" wondered Sir Aorle, deeming best to gather such knowledge in advance.

The Imperial leaned against the pole of his ranseur for support, which was held upright in the turf by a spike on the end embedded in the ground. "None of note. The new furniture is getting use. The people seem quiet. Strange place."

"Have Numidar and the others set out?"

"Yes sir." Then Triarius produced an armlet made of three thick iron bands. "Numidar said to give this to Julen when I see him. Made from the cudgels of the three he took down in the ambush."

Aorle smiled, then noticed Darir trundling by hauling an earth-filled basket. The trenches were now too deep for the dwarrow to reasonably dig in if seeking to remove any earth from the ditch. "Fair morn Darir, I have a task for you." From his pack he produced a thick mass of canvas made into an oversized garment. "Make this into scale armour for Krarug, use the scales from the coats in the armoury."

The dwarf nodded, his beard bouncing from the gesture. "Aye, lord. Simple rivet job. Ye not planning to use the coats?"

"Remove the scales. We will make further armour from the leather."

"Aye!" Darir took the canvas garment and finished with the basket.

Meetings with the nomads need not be immediate, if Uluki allowed them in, they were in. Rather, he wished to address the refugees. Most of them he barely knew, Kaydee was a friend, but the others were near strangers. This had to change.

Long, rough, rectangular benches and tables lined the main hall, both at the edges and in the middle. Many refugees were there, as were some of the Lightswords, for the morn was still early and work was not fully underway. After a few respectful nods towards those he recognised, he found a suitable location to address the crowd.

"Greetings!" The Shining One called out, in a voice sharp enough to gather attention. "We have yet to speak. I would see that changed. I am Aorle Kar, Sword of Heaven. You may have heard this from others, you will hear this from me now. All within my power to keep you safe will be done. That alone is why you are here. I will ask your aid in improving what shelter we can offer. In aiding each other, everyone prospers."

"On that note, we will be organised. No one leaves the compound alone, or unannounced. We say where we are going, how long we will be, before leaving. Each of you came here for a reason, for shelter from a threat. You have asked that we protect you, and this will aid us in our task. Acting on my half above all are the castellan, Rollick, and the chirurgion, Uluki. These are entrusted with command. You will recognise Rollick as the eldest warrior, and Uluki by her blue skin."

"Now, to all who wish, ask what you will of me."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

There was silence for a moment as those who had questions worked up the nerve to ask them, but then one by one, they gained courage.

“Mister, what’s a Sword of Heaven, sir, my lord?” Jenny finally asked, apparently feeling that tacking a few random titles to her request would camouflage the fact that she had spoken first.

“Why are you helping us, mister?” another asked, this time a newcomer who had apparently found courage in the fact Jenny had broken the ice. “It’s really nice of you, but there aren’t many would help the likes of us. Why do you want to?”

“Are you going to try to overthrow the government or something?” Petra asked conversationally, not sounding particularly bothered by the idea.

Meanwhile, a small knot of about seven people had clustered together. Though they had been respectfully silent as Aorle spoke, as the other refugees asked their questions they began to whisper softly to each other, occasionally shooting looks at Uluki and Rollick, who had moved to stand together during the speech.

Finally, when the questions had reached a lull, their appointed spokeswoman cleared her throat. It was Delphina, Uluki saw— the woman who had hit her and left the bruise on her face. Delphina’s friend Mamie, the one who had pushed Uluki down, was at Delphina’s side as the younger woman spoke.

“Sir, mister, it’s nice that you’re so accepting, and take in people you feel sorry for. I’m sure we’ve all benefited from that. But sometimes people nice as you get tricked by people not so nice. Someone’s tricking you, and you need to know who it is so everyone can be safe.” Delphina’s face and tone were perfectly sincere; she genuinely believed she was helping Aorle and the others. “You’re not from around here, so you must not have heard about fairies. They’re very bad. They lie and trick people. They ain’t able to be good because they ain’t got souls…”

Mamie interrupted her. “That ain’t why. It’s because they used to be angels once, but they rebelled against the good gods and got cast out of heaven. They ain’t bad enough for hell, but neither are they good enough for heaven, so they got to walk this world. They trick people and try to get them to go bad, because they think if a human ain’t allowed into heaven, maybe it’ll make room for a fairy…”

Delphina cut her off. “Anyway, they’re bad. People have different views as to why, but everyone from around here knows that. You say you’re the Sword of Heaven, but you got something bad living right here under your roof. Ain’t nobody safe with that fairy here. They steal children and leave changelings in their place. They seduce good men away from human women, and then they keep the men as their prisoners. Fairies work all sorts of treacheries and mischief, just for the sake of causing hurt and trouble.”

Many of the newcomers were staring openly at Uluki. A few looked angry or scared, but most just seemed curious. They were curious both about the accusations Delphina made, and the suggestion by the knight that a fairy, a second-class citizen and less worthy than a human, should be treated with respect.

“You’d do best to be rid of her, her and that evil little changeling she tried to make look human. If you did it quick you wouldn’t have nothing to feel bad about, or you could give her to the Guard and let them deal with things.”

At those words Uluki shrank back against Rollick, holding Martin close to her as Rollick’s arms encircled them both. She wasn’t scared that Aorle was going to kill her or Martin. She knew him better than that; he wouldn’t just hurt them for no reason. What upset her was that people hated them enough to make the suggestion. Dash, standing nearby, looked murderous, Kira was close to tears, and Zee just seemed utterly confused by the whole conversation.

“At the very least, everyone ought to have some cold iron on them,” Mamie suggested. “Or a piece of bread in their pocket. You can give it to a fairy to pacify her…”

“No, it’s because fairies are unholy and bread is a holy object!”

“It ain’t, it’s to leave a trail to guide you back to the world of mortals…”

“Not so! It’s for you to eat, so you ain’t tempted to eat fairy food.”

Delphina whistled shrilly to silence them. “Hush, that don’t matter. The point is, mister, you want to protect these people, you got to do something about the fairy.” Her eyes, as she turned them to Aorle, were both resolute and fearful.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

At first, all was calm, and each question was answered in turn.

The cluster of titles seemed to go overlooked, although Aorle was very conscious of them, regretting the discomfort in her manner. "Sword of Heaven is an individual title bestowed by the angel Amaranda. As for why 'twas awarded, we would need to ask her. I suspect 'tis for fighting battles on Heaven's behalf." A mental note was made to speak with Jenny further, to somehow put her at ease.

Next question. "I come to your aid because to do other would be to leave you to suffer. You deserve better. The cruelty done to you is unacceptable and I will not allow it." Whatever history he could speak of, first meeting Kaydee, would merely confuse the issue. These people were in need, that was reason enough to aid them.

One matter always confused the Shining One - why did so many people believe he was planning to take over the entire city with a force of less than twenty? Aorle had some idea of what was involved in conquering a city, this was not it. "Nay, m'lady. Nothing of the sort. My plans are merely to do what good I may with my time in these lands."

Then the other matter came up. This did not bode well. Looking towards Uluki and her family, Aorle could see distress written plainly on their features. Rollick's stony silence spoke volumes, for the knight felt a familiar calm coming over him as well - a warrior's talent to transform rage into focus, to be pushed beyond rage and out the other side. Passionate in upholding the Virtue of Defence, the Shining One could defend with word as well as sword, against hate as well as weapon. In the worst case, this would be needed to head off a danger in advance.

If you did it quick you wouldn’t have nothing to feel bad about. Far from welcome counsel. "'Twould be the deliberate murder of a mother and her child! No such thing will be permitted here." That needed to be said. Open outrage met the very suggestion, although his anger remained controlled. "Indeed I have heard dark tales of the Fair Folk, much the same as I have heard dire tell of women who work in brothels. Your fears are unfounded in this case." Although there was no blame on the spokeswoman's part for her previously enforced profession, she still lived off seducing men away from their wives, which dented the significance of her assertion against fae.

At this point, he stopped addressing the one woman and started addressing the crowd. "There is no need to tell you of Uluki's merits, her actions speak for themselves better than any words of mine. What does have need to be said is that I vouch for Uluki here and now, she has my full trust and backing. Both Rollick and Uluki have been entrusted with authority to organise our efforts in improving this shelter, I trust you to aid them in this." Of course, there was one more angle to be considered. "If I allow harm to come to Uluki and her child without due cause, and Fae blood is not due cause, then my promise to protect you becomes meaningless."

"Bringing this matter before me was the right course, yet what this comes down to is that many of you have been told to fear Fae. In Uluki's case, I tell you different, and ask that you trust my word."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Delphina looked horrified when Aorle used the word “murder” in response to her suggestion. She hadn’t thought of it in those terms at all. Since the fairy woman was clearly a threat, it seemed liked self-defence, or even… or even the removal of vermin. Killing a fairy was no more murder than it was to kill a snake that was coiled around a child’s leg, or a rat that carried disease. It wasn’t as if it was a person, someone with a soul.

On the other hand, her sense of self-preservation was, after living her whole life in the shanty town, fairly keen. For whatever reason, the golden warrior liked the fairy. Maybe he was bewitched, or maybe the fairy had won him over with her charms, or maybe she was just a novelty, but he liked her. It wasn’t so much a matter of trust on Delphina’s part as one of practicality. Delphina had nowhere else to go. If the knight wasn’t willing to get rid of the fairy, it seemed they would have to live with each other, at least until Delphina and her friends could either change his mind or break the spell.

And frankly, his comparison to the reputation of her own profession, if it could be called a profession when it was born of such desperation, made her uncomfortable. Could it be that fairies were people too, but were just as much maligned? Surely not! But still, a seed of doubt had been planted.

Delphina nodded when Aorle had finished speaking. “Begging your pardon, my lord. I was never intending no murder. If you’re willing to trust the fairy, then I’m sure you know best.”

She paused, took a breath, and then went for it. “It’s just, she’s already been stealing children, sir, right under your nose.” Delphina marveled at that level of audacity, though she supposed you didn’t have to worry about the bewitched finding things out. “Only that little blue one is really hers. I suppose she told you the other two were orphans, and that may be true, but the new one ain’t. Kira has a father. He’s alive and well and misses her something dreadful.”

Delphina had never met Kira’s father, and knew no other details about him, but she’d overheard those four girls talking— truth be told, she had deliberately snooped on what in good conscience she had to admit she had known was a private conversation— and she knew Kira was no orphan. From the sound of it, her father was in fact quite eager to get her back.

“I’m sure the fairy didn’t mean any harm by it. Probably didn’t know any better,” Delphina suggested charitably. “They don’t love their children like we people love ours. She probably didn’t know how sad she was making those poor parents. But maybe you ought to try to get those girls back to their real families, to make things right, sir? I know it’s forward of me to suggest, but I hate the thought of their grief.”

“No!” Kira cried, half-word and half-gasp. Her lips moved silently as she tried to say more, but her newly restored ability deserted her in the extremity of her emotion. Instead she bolted and hid herself behind Uluki and Rollick. Her father sometimes forgot about her if she was out of sight; maybe this scary woman would do the same.

Delphina was not so easy to distract, but Kira’s response did give her pause. Of course the girl wanted to stay with the fairy, she was bewitched— but she seemed fearful, not awed or ecstatic. She was acting like a girl who was terrified of going back to where she had come from, not one intent on staying in a dreamy fairy spell.

Rollick drew a breath to calm himself, then said evenly, “You’ve addressed your question to Aorle, and he has answered it. I hope that you will accept that answer, and allow family matters to remain in the hands of our family.” Inwardly he seethed at the woman who had struck his wife. “Aorle and the other warriors are aware of the situation of which you speak, and have voiced no objection to our handling of it.”

Uluki spoke for the first time in the gathering, though she didn’t move from Rollick’s arms. “I’m not asking you to like me. You don’t have to speak to me, or come near me at all. Maybe in time you’ll get used to me, or maybe you’ll always wish I wasn’t here. The thing is, we’re all stuck with each other, so I would ask that you accept that, and we all find some way to live together in peace. That’s all.”

Delphina stared for a moment at the fairy, the changeling, and the fairy’s warrior lover who must be bewitched. Then she exchanged a brief glance with Mamie, who nodded. “We can accept that.” Then she deliberately turned her back on Uluki and Rollick and spoke directly to Aorle. “We’ll live here with the fairy because you gave your word she’s harmless. We trust you.”

She was, of course, also making clear who she didn’t trust, but Uluki figured that was inevitable. If they trusted Aorle for now, maybe in time she would win them over too. Or maybe not. Uluki didn’t have much luck with winning over fairy-haters, no matter what she did. They would accept her kindness and her help and go on hating her. There wasn’t much she could do about it, though. For her part, she would do her best, and hope that maybe someday they would come around.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

"There is one more matter I wish to address. I have some knowledge of Kira's father, and he is dangerous. I will no more return her to him than I would hand any of you over to Snyde." Granted, all his information came from Uluki's word, which was how he knew it true. Complete faith in Uluki aside, Kira had made her decision known, and reports from Metellus confirmed everything.

Then Merohl stepped forward. "We have her father's logs." Directed at once at Aorle, Rollick and Kira. Focusing on the latter two, he made his suggestion. "With your permission, we can show the lady them to clear any doubts." Intruding on the polite tone was a note of harshness brought forth by the memory of what that damnable journal contained.

A few of the Lightswords had begun to gather protectively around Uluki and her family, a loyal gesture, although the clear show of support could potentially be interpreted as bewitchment by those eager for such an explanation.

Difficult to hear was the suggestion that Uluki did not love her child as mortals did. Perhaps not, she clearly loved her's more than so many mothers. Nevertheless, he recognised the newcomer's intent, and any of the hostility borne towards Uluki was born from presumption and naught else. The Lightswords once held similar concerns upon meeting Zee, and Aorle himself had taken precautions upon when finding her with a baby in her arms.

By all appearances, the matter was settled. No further comment would serve. Pushing the discussion would only back nervous and superstitious refugees into a corner, where reason would ever fail. To overcome such fear, to welcome another, was an act only done by one's own free will. Without that, he could expect no more than a token gesture.

Next he walk to Uluki and her family, observing her bruise for the first time. Pause lasted a moment as his words were delayed by a sharp intake of breath. "Come with me." Eyes glanced from Uluki to Rollick as he spoke, then towards the family, including all who wished it. "I will see to your hurt." he told Uluki. The manner of command was drawn over his horror like a pale gauze.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Rollick nodded when Merohl suggested allowing Delphina to see the logs Panterras had made about the experiments on Kira. “I have no objection to that, though I will warn you, it is painful to read and may disturb you,” he cautioned Delphina. “But it is not my place to grant or deny permission. That record concerns Kira, not me, and it is for her to say who may have access to it. I have retained the journal as proof of her father’s crimes, but who is allowed to see that proof is up to Kira. She will decide.”

Kira looked unsure. She was reluctant to let that snoopy woman see the record of her pain, her father’s casual mistreatment of her, and how she had been made to feel like an object for so long. It was like letting someone see inside her, to the deepest depths of her hurt. It was different with Uluki and Rollick, and even Merohl, Metellus, and Aorle. They cared about her and wanted to help her. Delphina, on the other hand, had no motive other than the satisfaction of her own curiosity.

On the other hand, if Kira didn’t let her see it, didn’t let the logs bear silent testimony to what she had suffered, Delphina might not believe it had happened at all. She might try to send Kira back, against the wishes of the others. She would think she was doing the right thing in returning Kira to her “real” father, not knowing about the abuse that had made him unworthy of the title.

And besides, it was incredibly unfair for Uluki to have to bear the scorn and suspicion when she wasn’t the one who had done anything wrong.

“She can see it,” Kira said simply, knowing that by noon all the refugees would have heard all the details of her painful past. Gossip was a force to be reckoned with, and no amount of attempted shushing would stop a secret from being passed from mouth to mouth once someone knew the horrific truth.

Uluki, thinking the same thing, was worried, and it showed on her face. “You don’t have to.”

Kira smiled a little weakly at her. “I know. I want to. It’s alright.” Rollick touched Kira’s shoulder gently, a gesture of reassurance and support.

Uluki addressed Delphina again. “I hope you will remember that the events recorded in those logs are immensely painful memories for Kira. While I realize you will also need to satisfy your friends that Kira’s father is indeed a threat, and we can’t demand complete silence from you, I would ask that you be as respectful as you can of Kira’s privacy. I ask that you not treat any of this lightly, given how weighty the matter is for her.” Delphina nodded her understanding and agreement.

When Aorle offered to heal her bruise, Uluki said “Thank you” quietly. Though she could easily have healed it herself, to do so would draw attention to her magic. While it was worth the risk to heal the refugees or her loved ones, it was not worth it for a wound of her own, not unless the injury was life-threatening. In other circumstances she would simply have waited a little while and then gradually diminished the injury, but with people’s interest focused on her because of the fairy fears, it seemed a bad time to draw even that possible attention.

It went without saying that Rollick would stay with Uluki while she was being healed. It would never have occurred to him to do otherwise, not because he thought there was anything he could do, but just for the sake of companionship. The rest of the family followed, also wanting to lend their support to Uluki and to show solidarity with her.

“It’s not that bad,” Uluki told Aorle as they walked. “Just a little bruise. I don’t think they meant to hurt me. They saw me holding Nina-Uluki— Becky’s baby— and they thought I was taking the child away, or hurting her. There are a lot of stories of fairies doing bad things like stealing babies. They took her out of my arms, and I was so startled I didn’t even know what was going on, and I was scared they were going to hurt her, so I reached over to try to get her back. I shouldn’t have done that, I should have tried talking to them, but it all happened so fast and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to the baby. It was partly my fault too, for not thinking straight.”

“It is not your fault!” Rollick insisted. “What were you supposed to do, just hand the baby over to the crazy women who grabbed her? You had no way of knowing their intentions weren’t to do harm to her.”

Uluki was prepared to argue the point, but the mixture of anger and concern in Rollick’s voice stopped her. While to her the bruise was a minor discomfort, to Rollick it was deliberate harm done to the woman he loved. Uluki thought about what it was like to see him injured, and realized Rollick was hurting a hundred times more than she was, even though he wasn’t the one who had taken the hit. “I’m alright, love,” she said simply, instead of continuing the debate. Then, to Aorle, “Thank you for your help.”
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Touching his knuckles to his heart, the Shining One looked Kira right in the eyes. "M'lady, I salute your courage." For courage it was, to expose such horrible memories to a stranger's eyes. She had good reason - to show the truth of Uluki's care, to block any misguided efforts to return her to her father. Indeed these were true motives, yet all the difference they made was the reason courage was a virtue.

And then they had privacy. "I stand with Rollick on this. You have every right to resist, and they should have talked to you." This was part of his teachings on humility, any misdeed for her would be a misdeed for any other. "They saw you previously in duty, and you outrank them." Rather than linger with the discussion, he sought to attend to her injury. "The one who spoke against you has witnessed me heal by miracle. The same miracle invoked on your behalf may help convince her. May we bring her in?"

Pausing to be sure she would agree, Aorle sent Thetta to gather the group most concerned living with a fae, with instructions to make clear they were being called to witness a matter of importance.

While Thetta was busy seeking out dissenters, there was more in need of being said. "Know this. You need not stand idly by should such events occur. As castellan, you have full authority and my support. Deem cause, and you have warrent to order execution." No plans made involved such.

Within a bare minute, Thetta was back with the familiar crowd who gathered vaguely like huddling penguins, as if the chill of being surrounded by many close friends of the woman they had hit was manifesting physically. The Shining One gave them no answer, instead keeping his focus on his friend.

A column of light formed, centered on the knight, engulfing both him and the Duskling within arm's reach. Two palms reached out and pressed against Uluki's forehead, sending forth a rush of soothing warmth. Performing the healing was no more difficult than with Cherie, though no easier either. That alone hinted of ill-signs.

Miracles of Heaven healed people, not injuries. Thus greater effort was needed due to the hidden affliction. Even so, the bruise was the lesser of all sufferings, and soon faded, with the dark blight merely eased.

The radiant column paled, and then faded.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Kira smiled shyly and stared at her feet when Aorle complimented her on her courage. In spite of the combination of early-teenage awkwardness and how unused she was to receiving compliments, what he said pleased her. She didn’t know how to respond, so she didn’t respond, at least not verbally, but his words would ring in her ears long after he had turned away to address the others.

Uluki saw no reason to object to Delphina, Mamie, and the others witnessing the healing. She wasn’t sure how much of an impression it would make, but she didn’t see any harm that could come from it, either. It certainly seemed worth a try. She and Rollick both quickly agreed to Aorle’s suggestion.

Rollick nodded in response to Aorle’s words about executions. “I shall remember that.” It didn’t really change anything. If Rollick perceived a danger to the compound that merited lethal force, he would address it in that manner, and accept responsibility for his actions. Though appeals for mercy could stay Rollick’s hand, fear of the consequences of doing what he considered right and necessary never would. He was a warrior, and warriors killed people; he would not do so without cause, and he did his best to avoid killing in anger, but neither would he apologize for his profession. Rollick would do all he could to protect those in his charge from danger. Of course, though all that was true, it was still reassuring to know he and Aorle were on the same page, and could rely on one another’s judgment. Though what Aorle said was unlikely to make any practical change in the actions Rollick would take, Rollick appreciated the support.

Uluki was impressed by Aorle’s healing. It was so pretty and shining, so clearly something holy. She wondered what it felt like to be holy like that. It was something she neither envied nor was glad to be free of, because she couldn’t even imagine what it would be like. She wouldn’t even be herself anymore, if she was sacred like that. It never occurred to her to wish for it, not for her own sake. But imagine the comfort it could bring to others! Imagine if you could give people that kind of hope, as well as healing their broken bodies.

Delphina, Mamie, and the others merely stared. Some of them had witnessed Aorle’s healing before, but some hadn’t. Uluki had healed all of them as they arrived, but a gentle warming of positive energy wasn’t in the same league interest-wise, not when there had been so many new sights and ideas to distract them.

“You must be some kind of saint, mister!” one of the men finally said. “That’s amazing. A holy man right here among us.”

“Maybe she does have some kind of soul?” Delphina mused. “Not a real soul, like a person, but some kind of fairy soul.”

“Does this mean she could get back into heaven?” Mamie wondered. “I mean, without keeping a human out, so she could take the place?”

“Would that work on someone evil?” another asked doubtfully. “Maybe she ain’t that bad after all.”

And with that comment, the limit of Rollick’s endurance was exceeded. “I have tried to hold my tongue because I am all too aware of the conclusions you’ve drawn about me as well, and I had no desire to compound the rumours of my ‘bewitchment.’ But what husband could stand by and hear such things said about his wife, without feeling the need to set things right? You speak rightly of miracles and holiness in what you just witnessed. But the gift of healing has also been offered to each of you, and yet you call the one who offered it unholy. Not one of you had a problem with Uluki when she made you well. It was only after you took all you needed from her that you went on this bizarre campaign against her. Maybe you really fear her. But I find it rather suspect that you were will to take from her, to accept healing and food, to share shelter with her, and it was only when you had all she could offer that this vendetta began. It is not for your fear that I think less of you, though I hope in time you will come to see it is an unreasonable one. No, what I fault you for is your willingness to use her when she suits your purposes, and then to turn on her only after accepting what she offered you!”

The man who had called Aorle a saint looked uncomfortable. “She just gave us medicine or something. There were no fancy lights or nothing.”

Rollick stared at him. “And do you feel any the worse for that?”

“No, I suppose not…”

Uluki held her breath, unsure that to do. Rollick had hit directly on the thing that bothered her the most about this whole unfortunate episode. Well… bothered her about every time it happened, really. Rarely did anyone refuse her help, but still she was hated. And frankly, she wasn’t very inclined to come up with ways to defend it.

Rollick sighed. “I cannot convince you to think well of my wife. If her actions do not speak plainly, my words will be of no consequence. But I would ask you to think on that. Think about why your reasons for hating her today weren’t strong enough to prevent you from accepting what she did for you yesterday.” With that Rollick fell silent and took Uluki’s hand.

((Continued: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1583))
Last edited by Lylessa Uluki on Fri Feb 08, 2008 12:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

As instructed, Thetta gathered up the people who’d been grumbling about Uluki -- although, in truth, it took an act of willpower to bring them back to Aorle rather than simply marching the malcontents outside and locking the compound door behind them. Ever since vowing to protect Uluki’s daughters, a deep loyalty toward the fairy had grown inside Thetta. She hated seeing people make trouble for her. Especially trouble rooted in nothing but bigotry and ignorant superstition.

But despite other temptations, Thetta did as she was told. Partially because of her grudging respect for Aorle. And partially because she knew that evicting the troublemakers would only send them scurrying to the guard. Still, it was very discouraging. Upon being delivered from a true evil, someone who really did steal their children and jeopardize their souls, these people couldn’t think of anything more productive to do than create another monster to take his place. Thetta was beginning to think that the women of Marn wanted to live in fear.

Having arrived, Thetta watched Aorle heal Uluki. And, as usual, her feelings were somewhat mixed. She was glad that Uluki would be relieved of her pain. But displays of divine magic made Thetta uneasy, even when wielded by as worthy a vessel as Aorle. The Northern gods had failed her. Why should they, and those like them, be allowed to wield such power? What had they ever done to earn the worship they demanded? It made Thetta what to shake her fist at the sky, to scream her defiance, to rebel against all that they desired. She would die before she gave them a moment of undeserved satisfaction.

The other people present, however, seemed to have a more purely positive reaction. Their feelings about Uluki underwent a shift -- although, in Thetta’s opinion, not nearly enough. She wanted to rip the silly iron charms off their throats. She wanted to scream. What did you wear to protect yourself from Snyde? A bit of bark? A pretty pebble? Do you really think it’s that easy? Do you think true evil was ever defeated by waving a trinket at it?

But Thetta held her tongue, allowing Rollick to defend his wife. Which, in her opinion, he did rather well. Still, she couldn’t quite keep herself from muttering after he’d finished. “This is what comes of religion. Teach people to value faith over the things they see with their own eyes, and they’ll believe whatever pack of lies strikes their fancy. Teach them about souls, and they suddenly think they can tell who has one and who doesn’t. Teach them about an afterlife, and they’ll go mad trying to get into it.”

Re: Adjustments

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Present was a knight of holy orders. Views such as those muttered were hardly the sort to be welcomed by a man of faith. Indeed, to accept such claims would be to cheapen and debase all that he stood for. Prowess, Justice, Loyalty, Defence, Courage, Faith, Humility, Largesse, Nobility and Franchise. All of these were supposed to make a pack of lies? Frankly, this recent matter struck him as a sign of those most untaught of faith and souls.

First task was to dismiss the others. "Each among us knows enough of mortal evil to have no need of this. Inventing monsters to fear aids no one. That will be all." Back in the Fatherland, Aorle himself had supported the practice of nailing blessed horseshoes to the doors of homes to keep unwelcome fae out, a practice no different to locking doors against unwelcome humans. As far as he knew, the fae were capricious and untrustworthy nature spirits whose whims trampled the world around them like careless horsemen - he even believed dusklings to be mostly petty and shallow, based much on what Uluki had told him of the other dusklings in her life. This much he accepted, what he did not do was blind himself to the individual.

According to the knight, action needed to be taken. "Triarius and Metellus will take over the earthenworks. Be with your family." This was the most important thing he could do right now, indeed there were tasks, but they did not require the castellan's personal involvement. "We will have thirty straw mattresses coming in this day as well, and paint for the warriors." Being part of a merchant family made such arrangements easy, and the treasure won in battle more than covered the costs.

"Thetta, with me." They began to walk. "The best thing to ever happen to me was being introduced to the Teachings of Angels. 'Tis a gift I will share with the others." That was exactly how he thought of it, not as an obligation or a sense that his was the one true faith, more that the act of converting another was a favour. "There will be a chapel created on the grounds and services performed. There is also the matter of our cause, of which my faith is much a part. I will hear your concerns now."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Adjustments

Post by Falcon Bertille on

For a moment, Thetta nearly held her tongue. Despite various frustrations, she was happy here, where men respected and valued her skills. She wanted the chance to follow a leader as worthy as Aorle. She wanted to help liberate the women of Marn. She wanted to finish Sasha’s training, to straighten what Snyde had bent. But it was not concern over her own happiness which caused her to hesitate. Instead, she was thinking of her brother. For her sake, Sigvard had left his beloved Northlands. How could she force him to also abandon this new home? Surely it would be easy enough to say whatever Aorle wanted her to say, to feign a belief she would never feel.

In the end, however, Thetta could do nothing but speak her mind. It was simply not in her nature to do otherwise.

“When we first came to you, you asked us to atone for the raids we carried out. But our gods told us to go on those raids. Just as they told my kinsman that I was guilty of a murder I didn’t commit. Perhaps you think these are just the acts of uncouth gods who rule over a barbarian people. If so, I tell you it is the same everywhere.”

“My brother and I traveled for several years before we came to this part of the world. And during that time, I saw lands ruled by many different gods. I saw men use religion as a tool to oppress women, telling them that they were inferior creations. I saw neighbors war against each other because this god said that dusk was the holy hour, while the other god said it was dawn. In one town we visited, they marched their children onto the battlefield, sure that their god would grant victory to such innocent soldiers.”

Something dark stirred beneath the blue ice of Thetta’s eyes when she thought of that day. Unable to oppose an entire town, she and Sigvard had joined the fight, doing what they could to protect the young ones. But even with their help, too many had fallen. Far too many...

“And now that I’m here, I see people use ideas like ‘heaven’ and ‘soul’ as excuses for their own prejudice. Distracted by what they can’t feel, they ignore the gift they can -- the healing given to them by a woman who risks her life to offer them aid. It’s madness.”

“The goddess you worship seems better than some,” Thetta conceded. In her mind, there was no distinction between angels and gods. They were both powerful beings who told people what to do. “But gods are not infallible. They’re just more powerful -- power which makes them petty, and jealous, and fickle. Why should I kneel before them? Why should I surrender myself to their commands? I am Thetta Eskedatter! I have the heart of a warrior. I do not need a god to tell me what must be done. I do not need their power to accomplish it.”

Thetta paused for a moment, and then looked Aorle directly in the eyes. “And I do not believe that you need them, either.” This was meant as a compliment. Whether Aorle would take it that way remained to be seen.


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