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Post by Julen on

Julen started to help Numidar and Osaw unload the wagon. But he hadn’t made much progress before his work was interrupted by the sound a voice crying his name, quickly followed by a fervent hug. Careful to make sure that his armor didn’t bruise or jab Rosemary, Julen returned her embrace, drawing his wife’s body close to his own.

“Welcome home,” she greeted.

Julen smiled. It was true that, although he still missed his farm, the compound really had come to seem like home to him. Then again, maybe home was simply wherever Rosemary happened to be. “It’s good to be back. I saw some things today...” Julen thought of finding Cherie chained to the bed, lying in her own filth. “Some really bad things.”

“Me too,” Rosemary admitted. “I went out with Rollick and Uluki this afternoon, to help them buy sewing supplies, and people acted so nasty around Uluki. They didn’t care how nice she is, or how much she helps everyone she meets. They hated her for just being a fairy. It was terrible.”

Tenderly, Julen cupped Rosemary’s face in his hands, tilting it up so that their gazes could meet. No matter what horrors he faced, Julen knew that he would always find sanctuary and healing in the depths of her hazel eyes. “It’s nice, isn’t it? After seeing all that, we can just see each other for a little while. Just see love.”

Rosemary nodded, her eyes shining. But their moment was interrupted by Krarug’s arrival.

“Note for Julen,” the orc announced, handing Julen a piece of folded paper. “From lady.”

“From lady?” Raising an eyebrow, Julen glanced at Rosemary. He couldn’t remember any other woman ever sending him a note. But his wife shook her head. Curious, Julen unfolded the piece of paper and read the words written on it. As he did so, bemusement turned to surprise, and then to pity. Julen didn’t understand how any man could beat his wife. And he certainly didn’t understand how knowing that Callie’s husband had done such a terrible thing to her was supposed to make him feel better.

“That poor woman,” Julen murmured.

Rosemary, however, had seen deeper into the matter. With eyes full of concern, she placed her hand on Julen’s arm. “You didn’t have a choice. It was during a fight, and he was trying to kill you...”

At first, her words didn’t make any sense to Julen. Then he scanned back over the note and certain phrases jumped out at him. husband was one of the people who beat you up in the shanty town... my husband is dead... Gods! Callie’s husband must have been among the thugs they’d slain that day. Intellectually, Julen had always understood that every man he killed in battle might be someone’s husband, brother, father, or son. And even intellectually, he’d never been entirely comfortable with that aspect of being a warrior. Now, confronted by a concrete example, Julen’s fingers seemed to go numb, nearly making him drop the note. It didn’t sound like Callie’s husband was much of a loss to the world. But still, he was a man she had loved enough to marry, to have a child with. Julen couldn’t keep himself from imagining how he’d feel if someone took Rosemary from him in the same way that he’d taken Callie’s husband.

“I have to talk to her,” Julen announced. “Which one is she?”

Rosemary pointed to a golden-haired woman, seated with several other refugees, all of them industriously working on their knitting. A young girl sat beside her, playing with a colorful strand of yarn. Julen guessed that must be the daughter Callie mentioned in her note. However, when Julen moved to join the group, Rosemary held him back. “Not like that,” she cautioned gently. “Take a moment to clean up first.”

Glancing down at his armor, which was splattered with gore, Julen recognized Rosemary’s wisdom. Callie had enough reason to be frightened of him. It would be better if he didn’t seek her out with her husband’s blood still clinging to him.

After giving Rosemary a kiss, Julen went upstairs to carry out her advice. As he scrubbed at the filth caked onto his armor, he tried to remember the people he’d fought that day, tried to catch hold of some memorable detail: hair color, a crooked nose, a remarkable scar...anything. And his efforts brought him nothing. In a few cases, he recalled an unusual weapon or distinctive bit of armor. But not one single face. He hadn’t thought of his opponents as people, just as obstacles to be quickly overcome. Now, he’d killed a woman’s husband, and he couldn’t even remember what the man had looked like. Somehow, the anonymity of act made it seem even more heartless.

When Julen came back downstairs, most of the younger refugees were sitting in a circle around Sigvard. Swinging an imaginary sword, the Northlander gestured wildly as he recounted the adventures of five brave warriors, led by the mighty chieftain Wings-Of-The-Angel, who had battled many monsters in order to rescue some captive princesses. The details were so colorfully embellished that it took Julen a minute to realize that Sigvard was actually describing a version of what they’d done that day. However, Sigvard’s audience seemed to care more about dramatic flair than historical accuracy, and listened to him with wide eyes and open mouths. Julen was pleased to see Callie’s daughter among them. It would be best if he had a chance to speak to her mother alone.

Attempting to appear as mild as possible, Julen addressed Callie. “Miss? My name is Julen.” In one hand, he held up the note. “I’d like to talk with you about this.”
Last edited by Julen on Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Apologies

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((This thread takes place at approximately the same time as "Adjustments": viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1450))

((NPC Post))

It had been a struggle for Callie to allow Joy to go far enough away from her to listen to Sigvard’s story. Her initial reaction was one of protectiveness, of desire to keep her daughter right by her side in this strange new place that was all at once so welcoming and, because of Callie’s own fears, so frightening. Joy had begged her mother, though— mainly because Bethany was going to hear the stories. Joy had played with her a few times before, and now that Joy was finally recovered from her prolonged illness, she was eager to make up for lost time with a friend her own age. Jenny had gently pleaded the little girls’ case, pointing out how much fun they would have, and that Callie could stay close by and keep an eye on Joy. Callie had finally agreed, albeit rather nervously, and she was relieved to see that her daughter was indeed having a very good time. If Sigvard realized whose child Joy was, he gave no indication of it. He simply included her in the circle with no more or less notice than anyone else.

And it was so very, very good to see Joy smiling again. For almost a year the child had been too sick to manage more than a feeble, wobbly grin that was clearly put on for her mother’s benefit. Even before that, things had been so bad at home that Callie had rarely seen in her daughter the emotion that the little girl was named for. It was wonderful to see her happy…

Callie’s moment of relief was interrupted by the approach of one of the warriors. She tried to make herself as small and unassuming as possible, hoping he intended to pass by her, but then she saw her note in his hand and realized who he was. Her heart sank with dread.

But what had she expected, really? That he’d just accept her note and never… never pursue the matter? Never confront her about what had happened? Truth be told, there was a part of her that had hoped that, however unrealistic it was. She’d hoped she could just fade into the mass of refugees, and no one would take any notice of her anymore. She’d hoped she could leave her husband and everything he had done behind when she left the shanty town. Clearly that was not to be.

Callie’s heart raced, and her breath came faster. She tried to force herself to relax, to accept whatever happened next. If she let him take it out on her, didn’t try to stop him from taking his repayment out of her own flesh, maybe he wouldn’t feel the need to hurt Joy. Callie herself might even survive, if she could just make him realize she wouldn’t cause any trouble for him. The first time he hit her would hurt the worst. After that, she would start to go numb…

Just accept it, she reminded herself. Just accept.

She looked up at him, trembling, though she made a conscious effort to still her body as much as she could. “Mister Julen. I’m… I’m so sorry. I didn’t… I couldn’t…”

This wasn’t going well. All her words seemed to have deserted her. “Please…” she murmured. “I shouldn’t have come here. I just didn’t know what else to do. I wanted my daughter to have someplace safe. I should have left, but I thought… and then Missus Uluki said my daughter needed me.”

An instant later Callie realized how that had sounded. She’d meant to try to convey that it hadn’t been her own idea, that it had come from someone Julen would find more believable, but it sounded like she was blaming Uluki. Callie worried that would make Julen even angrier at her— but she was more worried about getting the kind fairy woman in trouble. She didn’t want to see Uluki harmed either.

“It wasn’t Missus Uluki’s fault,” she added hastily. “It was my decision. My fault. Just please, please don’t hurt my little girl because of my mistakes. She’s only six years old. She doesn’t understand any of what happened. Do whatever you want to me, whatever will make you feel better.” Callie had a vivid mental picture of what that would entail, but she tried to push it out of her head so it wouldn’t weaken her resolve. “Just please… not her.”
Last edited by Lylessa Uluki on Tue May 13, 2008 3:29 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: Apologies

Post by Julen on

Horrified, Julen watched his presence inspire mounting terror in Callie. He’d sensed fear when he read her note, but he hadn’t realized the full extent of it, hadn’t understood the cruelty she’d come to expect from men. This was a mistake. He should have sent Rosemary or Uluki, should have had them explain what he wanted to say. But instead, he’d blundered over here like a big oblivious idiot, and now the poor woman was on the verge of tears.

As Callie continued speaking, Julen found himself getting increasingly flustered. The more her fear of him became evident, the more he struggled with an urge to flee. Several times during her pleas for mercy, he opened his mouth, wanting to interrupt, to make her stop thinking all those terrible things about him. But he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how to prove his innocence. Any attempt to cut her off, or argue, would just be viewed as aggression. So Julen held his tongue, waiting until the outpouring ran dry. Although, in truth, part of him wanted to clamp his hands over his ears and run off in the other direction. And if he’d been able to peek inside Callie’s mind, to glimpse the torments she expected from him, he probably would have done just that.

“Miss, I...” Even after Callie fell silent, Julen still wasn’t sure how to proceed. Clearly, such desperate panic was not the result of a single beating -- Callie’s husband must have been very regular in his abuse to do this much damage to her spirit. The fact that Callie bore no visible bruises meant nothing. Julen, too, had been badly beaten a matter of days ago, and his appearance carried no sign of it. Although Callie hadn’t made any mention of being healed by Uluki, Julen suspected that they both had the fairy to thank for their lack of scars.

“I know your husband made himself feel better by hurting you. I know it, but I don’t understand it. The thought of harming you, or your child, makes me sick inside. I wish there was a way for you to sense how sick, because then you’d know that you never need to worry about me doing anything like that.”

Careful to avoid any sudden moves, Julen sat down on the floor near Callie -- close enough that they could continue their conversation, but far enough away that she wouldn’t fear any attempts at physical contact. He hoped that equalizing their heights might make Callie feel less intimidated. “You and your daughter are welcome here. What Uluki said is what I would have said, if I had been in her place. No one among us blames you for what your husband did. If you truly want to make me ‘feel better’, you and your child will blossom, finding happiness and growing strong.”

“It was kind of you to apologize for what happened to me. Even though you carry no responsibility for it, I appreciate your thoughtfulness. But it’s not what I came to talk to you about.” Julen glanced down at the note Callie had given him. He kept fiddling with it, folding it more and more tightly, as if that could keep it from ever again opening. As if that could keep it from ever again taunting him with its dreaded revelation. “After reading what you wrote, I realized that your husband must have been among the men we killed today. I don’t know if it was my sword that brought him down -- there’s probably no way to know for sure. But it might have been.”

Julen glanced around the compound, searching out his fellow warriors, who were all busy with activities of their own. Would any of them have been so disturbed by Callie’s note? Probably not. They would know that Callie’s husband had made his choices and been duly punished for them. They would know that she was better off without him. And they’d be right. So why am I too weak to find the same inner certainty? Why do I always have to be the one who questions everything?

With a slight shake of his head, Julen returned his attention to Callie. “I’ve killed men before.” No sense in dancing around that fact. “But I’ve never been faced with any of the people that they leave behind. And now, sitting here with you, I don’t know what to say. I can’t tell you that I’m sorry. I did what I needed to do, to protect myself and my comrades, and I’d do it again. I can’t ask for your forgiveness. How could you ever truly forgive me for such a thing? I guess...I guess all I can do is let you know that if you ever need anything, please come to me, and I’ll do my best to make up for what I took from you.”

“Your daughter...” Again, Julen’s eyes scanned the compound, this time coming to rest on a little girl. “Does she know that her father is dead?"
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Apologies

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Julen’s words, his kind tone, and his lack of intimidating body language set Callie at ease in spite of herself. In a way, she felt like this was the last hurdle. Uluki had promised that Callie and Joy wouldn’t be harmed, but Callie had worried that Uluki’s husband would overrule her, in spite of the fairy’s best intentions. When Rollick had not only agreed with his wife but said her decisions meant as much as his own did, Callie had been somewhat reassured, but had still worried that things would change with the return of the warriors who had been fighting in the shanty town. Would Callie and Joy become chattel after the victory? What happened to the human spoils of war? And what would Julen think, as the warrior most personally affected by what Callie’s husband had done? If her own husband treated her so harshly, how much more of her blood was Julen going to demand?

None, apparently. That surprised her, and the lifting of that weight from her shoulders made her feel almost giddy. “My daughter’s blossoming already, I think. I haven’t seen her smile so much in a long time. As for me, it’ll take longer, but I’ll get there. I already feel better.”

“You’re a very nice man, Mister Julen. Much nicer than I expected. Not that I thought you wouldn’t be, but… well, I’m pretty sure I know what Snyde and my husband and his friends would have done if they got their hands on the wife and child of someone from here… on the loved ones of an enemy. There wouldn’t be any welcome or any blossoming. There would be pain, and brutality, and violation until she knew who she belonged to. The woman and child would just be treated like spoils of war, not people. And they’d be seen as perfect targets for retaliation, because hurting someone a person loves is the worst kind of hurt. Even if the husband and father was dead, I don’t think it would matter. If Snyde got hold of the wife or kid of someone here, it would be really awful for them. Really awful.”

“I didn’t think it would be that bad from you and your friends. I never heard of the warriors here doing anything cruel to anybody, and word gets around when someone does. It gets around on purpose, for the sake of intimidation. But I also… I couldn’t imagine how it could be that different. I didn’t have anything else to compare it to. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t think it would be like this. You sitting here talking to me like… almost like a friend. I didn’t think this would happen. But it’s nice.”

As Julen spoke of his conflicted emotions, Callie slowly, tentatively laid a hand on his forearm, a timid gesture of comfort. Callie couldn’t relate to the details of the experience— she had never killed anyone, and considered it highly unlikely that she ever would— but she knew a lot about mixed feelings. She knew what it felt like when there was no right thing to do, no option that would magically take all the problems away. Times when no matter what you chose, someone lost.

“I was going to leave my husband anyway. He wasn’t doing right by our little girl. He didn’t hit her, so far I’d been able to stop him, but I knew one day he would, and she needed food and medicine, too. He was also pretty mean with me. I know all husbands smack their wives around a little.” She didn’t want to sound ignorant to the ways of the world. “But he did a lot more than that. He’d kick me and punch me. He’d break bones. That night I tried to find out if he’d been one of the ones who hurt you and Kaydee, he beat me up worse than he ever had before, but it wasn’t the first time by a longshot.”

“I loved him sometimes,” she admitted. “Like when he was sleeping, and he looked so peaceful, just like a little boy. Or when he used to dance with me, and then he’d wink at me at the end of the song. Or sometimes he’d come home really happy, and we’d have supper and he’d tell Joy stories and for just a little while we’d be a real family.”

“Others times I didn’t love him much, though. It was hard to love him when he’d leave me bruised and bleeding because he didn’t like his meal well enough, or because I was looking old and dumpy, or for no reason at all. Sometimes we wouldn’t have anything to eat because he’d gotten drunk and gambled all his wages away. He said we couldn’t get a doctor for Joy because it cost so much and she was just a girl, and if she died it would spare us the cost of feeding her, and he’d never have to give her a dowry. He said that right in front of her. Maybe I’m a bad wife, but that day I hated him.”

“When he died, we got away. We’ll get to have a better life now, without him lording it over us. Maybe we gained more than we lost, who knows. Time will tell, but I’d say we probably did gain more. But either way, it’s no more your fault than it was mine when my husband and his friends beat you up. I wasn’t trying to hurt you, and you weren’t trying to hurt me. I doubt you’re killing kind, loving men who would never harm a soul. Not everyone will thank you for what you did. Not everybody will be looking for a way out the door like I was. But all you can do is what’s right, and not hurt any more people than it can’t be helped you do.”

Callie suddenly flushed with embarrassment. “Sorry, not meaning to tell you what to do, or to make it sound like I understand. I don’t know what your life is like. But I think you’re a good man, and I think you’ll make the right choices, is all I mean to say.”

She nodded in answer to the question about her daughter. “I told Joy her father was dead. Not how, just that he had died. She was there when I talked to Uluki about it, but I don't think she was paying any attention to what Uluki and I were saying. I’m just not sure how much Joy would have understood about all of it. She’s never known anybody that died before. She was always sickly, so she didn’t spend much time with people outside the family, and she’s never yet lost a relative. She’s never even had a pet. I told her that her father was dead, and that he was never coming back, but I’m not sure she knows what I meant.”
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Apologies

Post by Julen on

“Your daughter is called ‘Joy’?” Julen smiled at Callie. The waning of her fear had allowed him to relax, and now he felt quite comfortable in the company of his new acquaintance. “That’s a beautiful name.”

However, Julen’s smile faltered when Callie described the fate likely to befall any child or wife captured by Snyde. He was thinking of Sean and Ian, of Bethany and Joy, of Dash and Zee. But mostly, he was thinking of Rosemary. Proud, fierce Rosemary, who only knew how to fight. Despite being a member of the supposed “gentler sex,” Julen knew that his wife possessed a will far stronger than his own. She would belong to death before she belonged to Snyde. And that could never, ever be allowed to happen.

“We struck a strong blow against Snyde today.” Julen spoke confidently, although he was trying to reassure himself almost as much as Callie. “Hopefully, we robbed him of the chance to ever exact that sort of vengeance.”

Still, perhaps it would be better if Rosemary took extra precautions. Didn’t she say something about having gone out today? With Uluki and Rollick? Maybe that hadn’t been the best idea. Julen didn’t doubt Rollick’s skill, or his commitment, but he was just one warrior guarding two civilians -- both of whom Snyde would be particularly eager to get his hands on. Maybe it would be better if Rosemary didn’t leave the compound. Just for a little while. Now that they’d crippled Snyde, it wouldn’t be long before Aorle led them against the mercenaries in Shim, and then Rosemary could return to their farmhouse. Julen would feel so much better once she was safely away from this blighted city. Silently, Julen resolved to broach the matter with Rosemary as soon as he got the chance.

Callie’s tentative gesture of comfort deeply moved Julen. For her to trust him with the gift of touch, when only minutes ago she’d thought he was going to do horrible things to her, was a huge step forward. Part of Julen wanted to reach up and place his hand over hers. But he decided that might be pushing things. Instead, he nodded his appreciation.

Her next comment, however, made Julen’s eyes widen in surprise. “Callie, no.” Julen didn’t want to make Callie feel stupid -- he was sure her husband had done that often enough. But he simply couldn’t let her misconception pass unchallenged. “Your husband may have told you that all men hit their wives, but it’s simply not true. I’m sure that Rollick would never strike Uluki. And I’d never hit Rosemary.”

Lifting his hand, Julen pointed out Rosemary, who had joined the circle of people gathered around Sigvard. “That woman is my wife, Rosemary. We’ve been married for a little over a year. There have been some pretty rough patches and we’ve both said things that I wish we hadn’t. But neither of us has ever raised their hand against the other. If a man hits you, it’s not something you have to tolerate. You deserve better than that.”

Julen sympathized with Callie’s conflicted feelings about her husband. It wasn’t something that he’d personally experienced, but he understood how a situation could get to that point. “Rosemary is a wonderful woman. But if that ever changed, if she started doing horrible things, I think I might be able to leave her -- especially if there was a child involved. But I’d never be able to stop loving her.”

“If you need to hate him, hate him.” Now, Julen did place his hand over Callie’s, although he refrained from the urge to give it a gentle squeeze. He didn’t want her to feel trapped in any way. “If you need to grieve for him, grieve for him. I suspect that you need to do both. So do both. I won’t judge you for either.”

“And I thank you for your understanding. I’m sure you’re right, that other relatives of the men who fall in battle may not see things the same way. But I’m glad you were the first one I met. Remembering this conversation will make the coming ones easier.”

As Callie spoke about her daughter, Julen’s eyes once more sought out the little girl. Sigvard’s storytelling seemed to have devolved into the Northlander giving Bethany a pony ride while the others cheered him on. “Children can have a hard time understanding death. My mother died when I was very young.” Unbidden, long-dormant memories awoke in Julen. “I remember going to her funeral. I didn’t want to look inside the coffin, but my father made me. He said it was important that I knew she was dead. What I saw gave me nightmares for weeks. I’d wake up after one and lie in the dark, biting my pillow to keep from screaming. But gods, I knew she was dead.”

The recollections made Julen’s head feel old, like a disused attic, and he shook it in an attempt to clear away some of the dust. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to take a weird trip down memory lane. I haven’t thought about that stuff in years.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Apologies

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Callie’s eyes widened with surprise when Julen spoke of men who didn’t hit their wives. It was an assumption she’d never really challenged before. Her father had hit her mother. Her brothers hit their wives. Then her husband hit her. It had seemed part of the pattern, something husbands and wives just expected to do and have done to them. It had never really occurred to her that it could be any other way. Her objections to her husband’s treatment had been more an issue of magnitude than kind. She’d felt she was abused because she was punched rather than slapped, and because he hurt her even when she hadn’t done anything. Could it be that the act itself was wrong, no matter how it was done, or why?

“I saw Uluki with Rollick. I was trying to work up the nerve to go talk to them, so I just watched for awhile while they sat and ate their lunch. They seemed happy, but that doesn’t mean much. My husband and I could look plenty happy when we needed to. What I noticed more was that they touched each other a lot. She’d lean against him, he’d put his arm around her, she’d touch his wrist, that sort of thing. And the thing was, she never flinched away from him. She never seemed startled when he touched her, even if she didn’t expect him to. Her reflex seemed to be to move toward him, not to pull away from him. And I wondered how she was doing that. Not why— but how. I wondered how she had so much self-control. But now you say he doesn’t hit her at all… well, maybe I can believe you.”

“Your wife’s pretty,” Callie said, looking at Rosemary. “I bet you two are very happy together. It’s good you have each other. It’s good you don’t hit her either.” She stared at Julen’s hand as though it could tell her something. “You know, I think I would have known you didn’t, if I knew any man didn’t. I’m glad you told me. Somehow, it makes me feel like there’s more good in the world, or something.”

Callie looked a little sadly at Julen when he squeezed her hand. “You’re right that I need to hate him, and grieve, and maybe do both at once. And I will. But I don’t want to wallow in it, you know? I want to get over it. I don’t want to drag myself down forever with the past, but even more, I don’t want to drag my daughter down. So even while I feel angry and sad, I’m going to try to get better, too. Because I want to be happy, and I think I finally can here. Especially with people like you and Rollick and Uluki to help me.”

Callie smiled and nodded when Julen said he was glad he had met her first, instead of one of the other relatives of those who his blade felled in battle. She didn’t know what to say, but in a strange way it pleased her. It made her feel like she wasn’t just taking and taking from him, like she had something to give back. She liked that feeling.

She listened carefully and sympathetically when he described the death of his mother. “I’m sorry for your loss,” Callie said quietly. “You must miss her a lot. My mother died too, and I know I miss her every day even now. I was twelve when she passed. It was a house fire. That happens a lot in the poor parts of town, fires. People live so close together and everything catches so easily. A lot of people cook with open fires or have lamps that spill oil and candles they don’t douse. We lived in one of those old tenement buildings— a shell of a building, more like, with walls like paper and rooms barely big enough to fit a bed. When those places catch alight, there’s no stopping it.”

“It was the middle of the night. Four people died in the fire. My mother was one of them. That’s why my family had to move to the shanty town, because we lost everything we owned. I didn’t care where we lived, though, since I was so broken up over losing my mother. It was a closed coffin at the funeral, because she was badly burned. I was kind of relieved not to have to look at her— not just because she was in such bad shape, but because it’s bad enough to imagine how she died. I’m glad I don’t have to remember how she looked when she was dead, on top of it.” She paused. Then, worried it was an impertinent question but wanting him to understand she was willing to listen, “How did your mother die?”
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Apologies

Post by Julen on

Listening to Callie describe the things she’d thought while watching Uluki and Rollick eat lunch, Julen felt a mixture of astonishment and pity -- astonishment because it was hard for him to imagine anyone looking at the fairy/human couple and seeing anything besides their obvious love for each other, and pity because he was saddened that Callie’s traumatic past had cast such a dark shadow across her perceptions of the world. But he made sure that the incredulity didn’t show on his face. Julen wanted Callie to feel safe expressing her opinions, whatever they might be. Unlike before, when a question or misspoken word might earn her a blow, there would be no more recriminations. Speaking her mind without fear was the first step toward her new life.

“Yes,” Julen agreed, pleased by Callie’s praise of Rosemary. His voice took on the slightly dreamy tone that it usually did when he was talking about his wife. “We are very happy together. I’m a lucky man.”

Briefly, Julen considered mentioning that one of the reasons he never hit Rosemary was his certainty that she would hit back. And kick. And bite. And throw things. But he decided not to risk any confusion. Clearly, Callie was just coming to terms with this new concept, and she might not realize that he was mostly joking. Better to keep it clear that hitting a woman was just plain wrong, whether you feared retaliation or not.

When Callie spoke about not wanting to wallow in the past, Julen nodded his understanding. “You’re very brave. It takes a lot of courage to leave behind everything you know, like you were prepared to do for the sake of your daughter. And it takes a lot of courage to embrace an unknown future. I hope you are happy here. But if sometimes you need to be sad, or angry, or scared, that’s okay too. A past like yours...” Julen almost winced when he thought back on what Callie had told him. The broken bones and cruel words. “A past like yours leaves deep wounds. I don’t want you to feel like you need to pretend they’re not there. Injuries left untreated don’t heal, they just fester.”

Callie’s tale about the death of her mother raised strong emotions in Julen. “How horrible.” He could almost see a raging wall of flames illuminating the terrified face of a twelve-year-old girl. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mother must have been a very special woman to have raised such a strong daughter.”

“My mother fell ill. At first, she was just tired a lot. But then it got worse and worse, until she couldn’t keep any food down, and she stopped getting out of bed. My father wanted to take her to the hospital in the city. It would have been hard for us to afford, but we would have managed somehow. Only, my mother didn’t want to go. She said it was her time, and if she was going to die, she wanted to do it in her home, with her family close by, not in an unfamiliar bed surrounded by sick strangers.”

“I remember a week before she died. My father carried her out to her favorite spot, a stone bench near the place where all her herbs grew. He sat there with his arm around her, holding her up, and I brought her things from the garden -- a bright orange squash blossom, a fragrant sprig of lemon balm, a crisp green peapod. She held each one for a moment, like she was saying goodbye to them. And then I got up on the bench beside her, and she hugged me, until it started to get dark. That was the last time she was well enough to go outside.”

Julen dragged the back of his hand across his eyes, hastily smearing away the moisture that had begun to gather in them. It was ridiculous. This poor woman, who’d been through so much, was able to talk about her life without losing control. And here he was, the mighty warrior, struggling against tears. Struggling not to cry for someone who had died sixteen years ago.

Once again flustered, Julen stood up, and gave Callie a courteous bow. “I’m afraid that I must return to my training. Thank you for speaking with me. It really has helped. And please, if you do think of anything I can do to aid you, let me know.” At that moment, inspiration struck. “Have you ever been to the countryside? It’s very beautiful. Once the mercenaries have been driven off, you and Joy can come stay as my guests. She can play with the animals, and pick wildflowers, and I...I’ll show you my mother’s herb garden. If you’d like to see it.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Apologies

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Callie was surprised to hear Julen call her words like “brave” and “strong.” She’d never really thought of herself that way. Maybe hearing that would make her believe it. Maybe it would help her really be those things. Since coming here, for the first time in her life she was sure there was at least a possibility she could heal. She would heal slowly, like Julen said, but it would be real, and someday she would be whole.

She couldn’t help but think it must have been harder for Julen to deal with his grief, seeing his mother fade away but being powerless to stop it. She had been powerless too when she’d lost her mother in a haze of smoke and a roar of light and noise, but it had been fast. Too fast to be afraid. Too fast to understand, even, until after it was over. The story about the plants from the garden touched her deeply, in a way she couldn’t fully articulate even to herself. It reminded her a little of when she’d thought she would have to leave Joy here and walk away, if the girl was to have any future. Callie hadn’t been dying. But Joy was all she loved, all she really cared about, and it was hard to imagine how you said goodbye to all of that. She both pitied Julen’s mother for her fate and admired her for her grace and acceptance.

Callie squeezed Julen’s hand as he wiped his eyes. She was impressed by his ability to feel so deeply. She had trapped her own emotions in a tiny little box long ago. She numbed, and repressed, and forced herself to forget and avoid, until sometimes it felt like there was nothing left but a shell. Except when physical pain forced tears out of her eyes, Callie tried to contain all of it within her body. Partly to avoid giving her husband reasons to hurt her, but mostly because there was just too much, and if she let it in it would overwhelm her. If a day ever came when she could just cry for her mother, she would feel she had made significant progress in healing.

“We’d love to see all those things,” she said quietly. “The animals and the flowers and the garden. It sounds so beautiful. I’ve never been outside of the city before. It would be nice to get away for a little while, and see something different. The place you love so much, and that your mother loved. I’m sure it would be good for Joy and me to see it too. I think it would be peaceful and nice. We’ll be happy when you take us there.”
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

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