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Hard Truths


Re: Hard Truths

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Wrath was the herald to his approach, so the knight was heard from far away long before he was seen. More helpfully than the chinking of the embedded plates of his armour, this herald gave news of him and his ominous mood.

"VERNON!" he roared while stalking his way through the compound. While he had not yet spoken to Rollick and Uluki, that Vernon was suggesting for Rollick to die had become common knowledge around the compound, which was part of the reason for the complete lack of subtlety on Karsimir's part. He wanted the people who heard Vernon's rumours to witness just how seriously he took the matter.

Initially he was brought to the storeroom, felt the sheer presence of evil lingering, and called for Gaelm to board that room shut. There was some equipment in there that would be locked away as well, although nothing truly essential. Then the page, Ian, found out that Rollick and Uluki had retreated to their quarters. Rather than be another person bursting in the room and bombarding them with questions of the ordeal, the knight chose to give them time together undisturbed, trusting Rollick to speak with him when ready.

And thus, did Karsimir Von Greyssen go hunting through the compound looking for the one seeking to harm a friend.

"VERNON!" The roar was long and loud. Most of the refugees would hear it. A few in his immediate presence decided to follow at a distance while he searched, most having never seen him so angry. There were those refugees who saw him in combat, and yes, it was a brutal sight, but his gentle manners and courtesy often disguised the fact that he was a professional warrior and fundamentally willing to rip a man's guts out should he see the need.

Finally, a few refugees nervously directed him towards Vernon. With perfect courtesy he thanked them, in stark contrast to the cloud of fury roiling above his head. None of his anger towards Vernon spilled out towards them.

When he found Vernon, who was in the same room as Julen, the knight was carrying a spare scabbarded sword from the armoury and had eyes blazing with wrath. The weapon and sheath together were forced into Vernon's hands. "Vernon. Now is your chance to go after Rollick. All you have to do, is come through me." Lowered body, wide stance, weight on the forward foot, hands up to shoulder level as his body pointed forward, all added up to a kampfringen stance which suggested he was clearly ready for a fight.

"You threatened the life of a friend of mine. Any harm comes to Rollick or Uluki or their family I will find you and I will kill you, I wont think twice. Understand this, try to harm any of them and you will need to be ready to fight me, because that is exactly what will happen." Instead of getting close, he kept that half-crouched posture, as if ready to pounce and begin rending.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Vernon braced himself to receive the blow Julen had raised his hand to strike. Truth be told, he wasn't surprised. Snyde beat people for even the slightest hint of disagreement, or sometimes completely at random. Snyde would never have let a subordinate speak to him that way. Vernon had thought it would be different because these were do-gooders and he was trying to join their stand against evil. But it finally sank in that he had gone too far, and he wasn't sure he'd live to repent of his mistake.

When Julen's hand dropped again, Vernon breathed a sigh of relief. For an instant he allowed himself to hope that Julen had changed his mind and seen how right Vernon was, but that was too much to hope for. Instead, the warrior had simply continued his lecture. Vernon usually tuned such things out, assuming his moral compass was fine as it was. But his fear had made him more aware, and some of what Julen said actually got through all of Vernon's layers of mental filtering.

He wanted to protest that he wasn't lying. That he was helping. But he didn't think Julen would want to hear it. And truth be told, Vernon wasn't sure he believed it as much as he had a moment before. Julen's words were giving Vernon a glimpse at Vernon's own true, hidden motives... and Vernon didn't like what he saw.

The mention of the knight stirred Vernon out of his rare moment of self-reflection. For an instant, Vernon was glad he'd have the chance to present his case. Surely the holy man would take his side against an obvious evil. But the knight's bellowing told a different story, and Vernon's knees felt rather wobbly. He tried to stand tall, but his shoulders shook a little. This didn't bode well.

Vernon took the sword and scabbard instinctively, in spite of the trembling in his hands. He had no idea how to use such a thing, and he didn't try. He just held it, and looked at the knight. The first suggestion took him by surprise. He was being given permission to kill Rollick. The commander had wisely seen the same lurking evil that Vernon did. But how was a civilian supposed to kill a warrior? He was about to protest, to say he would need help, and that anyway, those who consorted with demons had to be burned, not stabbed-- and then the second part sank in. He was not being given leave to kill the old man after all. Quite the opposite; he was being threatened in a very real and immediate sense.

Vernon couldn't help staring at the knight. He had no doubt of the sincerity of the man's words, or his ability to carry through with it. The sword and scabbard were still in Vernon's hand, forgotten. He tried to keep his voice steady, and didn't succeed. "Begging your pardon, sir. I have no wish to hurt those who are friends to one such as yourself."

A wiser man would have left it at that. But no one had ever accused Vernon of being a wiser man. "But I also know you wouldn't want to tolerate them who do acts of evil here, sir, when your back is turned to kindly help others. The old man betrayed you, and I don't think it's right, sir. He lied to your warrior, Julen, but I saw everything." Vernon had a strange feeling of gratitude toward Julen for not hitting him, even after what he'd said about Kaydee, so he wanted to make it clear that Julen wasn't in on the plot. "Rollick brought a demon here, sir. Could have gotten every man, woman, and child here killed. He knelt before it, must have been worshiping it, though he lied to poor Mister Julen about that too. But worst of all, he let it inside him. Opened his body up to it. And I thought you should know, sir. Should know what them who claim friendship with you are doing in secret. Doing crimes against all the good gods, and the angels. I wanted him punished for that, sir, which I why I said he ought to burn."

Rollick and Uluki had come downstairs just in time to hear the commotion. Rollick had planned on speaking to the paladin anyway, and it seemed that they might be needed in the current confrontation. They had no trouble finding the others, and once they did, they merely stood watching the exchange between Vernon and Karzomir. Uluki had promised she would hold Rollick's hand as he told the knight about what had been done to him, and she clutched his hand now, her eyes wide.

When Vernon had finished, Rollick said quietly, "You are mistaken, Vernon. What you think you saw is not as it happened."
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Julen on

Karsimir’s threats caused Julen to take an involuntary step backward, even though he knew he wasn’t the target of his friend’s rage. He’d only seen Karsimir like this once before -- at House Anstrun, when Phelan had been about to strike Julen with a horse rod. Now, as then, it was a terrifying sight. No one could accuse the knight of not being willing to defend the people he cared about.

A display of rage like this, coming from someone who’d defeated two demons in a single night, usually inspired some serious cowering. Maybe with a bit of grovelling thrown in for good measure. Amazingly, instead of backing down, Vernon made his case one more time, albeit with a shakier voice and paler complexion that when he’d been speaking to Julen. Julen couldn’t quite decide if the man was brave or insane. Maybe a bit of both. The bravery would have been admirable, if it wasn’t focused on trying to get Rollick burned.

After Vernon finished reciting his charges, Julen couldn’t stifle a burst of sarcasm. “Yes. He’s been worshipping the creature in secret. That’s why he decided to bow down to it in front of six witnesses. It’s not just a demon -- it’s a stupid demon.”

Vernon’s unchanged version of his story made it quite clear that nothing Julen had said or done had managed to make the slightest impression. Frankly, Julen felt that an attempt to reason with a brick wall would have been about as successful, and probably considerably more pleasant. If Karsimir or Rollick wanted to waste their breath on this ass, they were welcome to. But he’d had enough. “Excuse me.” Julen saluted Karsimir, then gave Rollick and Uluki a friendly nod. “I believe my presence here is no longer required. And there are people in this compound who actually want to be helped.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Sir Karsimir on

In all fairness, Karsimir heard Vernon out. Listened with a great degree of skepticism but heard Vernon out. When he heard Rollick join them, his gaze flickered to the older warrior. The relief was obvious. While he expected Rollick to be safe, and knew Uluki would not allow him to stay harmed for any length of time, actually seeing it made him feel far better.

With his relief clear on his face, he turned back to Vernon. How he brought the matter up then appeared far better, although the young knight would much rather be spared the deference, and especially not when it sprung from fear. Still, his anger softened while listening.

Slowly, he drew himself up from the pouncing position, standing upright. Ironically, his full height was far less threatening, since it did not give the same impression of a beast ready to attack. He reached out and took hold of the sword in the scabbard, seeing as Vernon was not going to be needing it.

His voice was calm and even. "Vernon, do you require a demonstration that a man can be forced to his knees against his will?" Then a step back, giving him time to answer. He had no wish to give that demonstration, and honestly would rather not manhandle a refugee. Merely drawing attention to the possibility that Rollick was driven to his knees by violence from the invading entity.

"I will discuss the matter with Rollick and assess the threat. I ask you not to pursue the matter further because encounters with evil spirits are best not revisited in detail more than needed. I speak as the man who went toe-to-toe with the demonhag." A pause for Vernon to recognise this fact. For some reason he could not explain, his memory of having his soul drawn into that living pool of corruption did not come with that sense of taint and anguish that he felt at the time. "There has been time for a rumour to spread across the compound. How long ago was this event?" No answer. "How long?!" he barked, towards all assembled.

"About an hour sir." offered a timid voice.

"Thank you." Sir Karsimir replied, before returning his attention more or less towards Vernon, although everyone present was included to some degree. "An hour. A full hour, sixty minutes, since a demon invaded this compound and I knew nothing!" Another deliberate step back, creating seething room where his agitation would not physically menace any of the refugees. "What I should know, is the moment that an infernal creature gets inside this compound. The moment there is a danger to the refugees. Not rumours which reach me an hour after the fact, I mean someone come and get me at the time. When I am away, contact Rollick and the nomads."

"I will be informing Petra of this conversation." After threatening her husband with death, it seemed only fair that Petra know what was going on. "The room the creature manifested in has been sealed to ward off lingering taint. Vernon, gather everyone who has been to that room in the past hour, I want to make sure there are no afflictions." This would mean lots of burns for Karsimir if there was.

With fanfare over, he marched directly to Rollick. "Shall we speak in private my friend?"
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Vernon relaxed a little as the knight's tension eased. When Karsimir asked if Vernon wanted to see proof a man could be forced to his knees, he initially nodded-- he would have agreed to just about anything at that moment-- but then wisely rethought his position and shook his head, his face still a little paler than usual.

When Karsimir said he would assess the threat, Vernon was satisfied. It had worked out in the best way possible, really. Karsimir would see the danger, and Rollick would burn. Or perhaps the knight would show mercy and hang the old man, then feed the body to the flames. Either way it would be over, and then the compound would be safe again. But the family couldn't blame Vernon for the decision. No doubt the blue fairy woman would be angry, and Vernon was more than a little nervous around those two teenagers the couple had originally brought to the compound, both of whom looked unsettlingly like demons, regardless of what their parents claimed. It wouldn't be Vernon's fault when the knight pronounced his sentence. Perfect.

"I leave it in your good hands, sir," Vernon said with confidence. "You'll deal with it proper, just like you did with that demonhag." Vernon was rather relieved it was no longer his responsibility.

He was less pleased with Karsimir's complaint about how long it had taken for him to be notified. Shouldn't Vernon be receiving praise and gratitude? They praised the other refugees for every little thing. Didn't the do-gooders care that Vernon had saved them? He blanched even further when the knight mentioned telling Petra. Petra didn't understand things like this; she always claimed her husband was overreacting, seeing devils and persecutors where none existed. She would probably even stick up for the old man, damn her. That would be just like her, contrary as always. "As you will, sir," he said with far less enthusiasm than he'd shown before. "I'll gather up the others as you say."

Uluki was shivering, even with Rollick's warm sweater hanging loosely on her small frame. It didn't matter how many layers of clothing she put on; she was cold from the inside out, her magic utterly spent. The fire in her was reduced to a few glowering embers. Rollick was familiar enough with the way her healing worked to anticipate this, so he stood with his arms wrapped around her, his warmth making up for the heat her body was not producing. It was nice to be hugged, and being warmer was certainly more comfortable.

The two of them exchanged a look when Karsimir expressed dismay about how long it had been before he had heard about what had happened, and they both felt a little guilty about it. When the creature had been present, Rollick had been under attack and Uluki had been unwilling to leave him-- which had proven wise, give how his body had been mangled. Losing even a moment in healing him would have meant his life. But afterward... afterward it simply hadn't occurred to either of them. The creature was gone, and there wasn't really anything the knight could have done. Rollick had been in shock from his ordeal, and Uluki focused on helping him. And also, not unimportantly, the two of them weren't used to having readily available support. With Mercedes frequently traveling, there simply hadn't been anyone reliable who was capable of helping in dangerous situations, so they were accustomed to dealing on their own with anything that came up. When they were under pressure, they'd reverted to the mode of operating they'd used in their old home-- the team was Rollick and Uluki. Though they said nothing, both quietly resolved to try to remember in the future.

Rollick nodded when Karsimir suggested speaking privately. "Aye, it would be best." Rollick simply assumed that Uluki was to be included in the conversation. He had no desire to keep any of this a secret from her. Uluki, for her part, had promised him her companionship, and intended to hold his hand as she'd said she would. She joined Karsimir and Rollick, and Karsimir didn't seem to mind.

Once they were alone, Rollick wasted no time. The telling of it was painful, and the longer he drew out the process, the more it would hurt. Since what the knight wished to speak of was obvious, Rollick got to the point immediately. "A creature of evil appeared before us today, as you already know. Uluki and I believe it was a god, since it recognized that a god had been in me, and called it kin. It was not me, Rollick, the human that it believed was its 'little brother,' but rather the god it presumed was still in my body. When it saw that was not the case, it was determined to get information about what had happened to me, how the creature had possessed me."

All of this, he'd said with a steady voice. But now came the hard part. The painful part, and the source of his shame. He faltered for an instant, and Uluki squeezed his hand and leaned closer to him. He continued, "It entered my body, and I was unable to stop it. Just as another such creature did those many years ago. It searched me, looking for that information, but failed to satisfy itself. The attack continued, as the creature forced its way into every part of my being, ripping me apart as it searched me. The physical pain was... intense, but not more than I could bear. I would sooner have been killed by the creature than provide it any help."

"Unfortunately, the beast discovered it did not need to break my will. Its presence in my body triggered flashbacks in my mind, such as I have never been able to prevent. My mind showed it all it needed to know, however involuntarily, to my great regret. Then it departed, saying it was not concerned with us. I hope nothing it learned from me was of use, but I cannot be certain it will not employ the knowledge to some evil purpose. Either way, it will not return. It is finished with me. It showed no interest in anyone else here, and... it left me to die from the injuries it had caused me as it violated my body. Fortunately for me, Uluki was able to save my life." He didn't specify how, but it was probably obvious.

"I am grateful to you for defending me. Your friendship... and Julen's, and Kaydee's, and that of many here... means more to me than I can say. But we would understand if this is all too much. If you feel we are too much of a danger to the others to remain here, our family will depart and cause no trouble."

Uluki nodded silent agreement to both the thanks and the offer to leave, and clutched Rollick's hand.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Sir Karsimir on

The sudden surety on Vernon's demeanor bristled the knight, who was sure something was misunderstood. Regardless, time spent with Vernon was not time spent seeing to Rollick and Uluki, who had apparently borne the brunt of this demonic assault. There was where his attention was needed, not with some angry fat man.

Once in private, he heard Rollick's account of what happened, which was a summarised tale of horror. There were details he felt he did not need to hear, but he accepted them, as details which perhaps Rollick needed to share. He reached out a hand offered to Rollick in support, an offer between men of sympathy and understanding. The understanding came not from Karsimir's own sufferings at the hands of corrupt entities, no amount of shared experience made these things better, instead it came from the warm care towards a friend.

Finally, Rollick's tale came to an end, thanking them for their stepping to his defence, and offering to leave with his family. That last part actually annoyed him. "Stop that, now." A flat voice. "No one is being abandoned because of the dangers they face. I cannot start sending people to the mercy of what threatens them if my promise to defend the refugees would mean anything." In theory, most of the people in this compound could be left to the hands of Snyde rather than get into a conflict with a criminal overlord, that was unacceptable, so was leaving a good man and his family to the cold when the very hells sought them out. "That, and you are friends."

Hearing the mention of a violation brought one subject to attention. Bowing his head for a moment, Karsimir searched for the presence of sin, the taint of evil from the creature's presence, and found none in Rollick. "You will be glad to know no taint has been left on you by the creature. We have sealed off the storeroom as a precaution, I sensed the lingering presence there and want to keep people away from that while we are gone." Most of the contents had been left in there, to avoid bringing the potential taint out.

Having not mentioned how Uluki saved him was good. Karsimir could probably guess, but as far as he was concerned, choosing not to tell him of this simply spared him the need to lie should the authorities come looking. For that he was grateful.

"I know little enough of spirits to determine further action. What I can speak of is places to avoid. The fort ruins beyond the shantytown, the woods, much of the Ofriyu Mar river. All of them are haunted. Most of the reason reason this city fears magic so much is because it is besieged by supernatural evil." As far as he knew, at least. There were probably those who found the belief convenient. Like a government with a monopoly over magic power. "With all that, and the law, this city may not be safe for you and your family. From what I understand, you may fare better joining the nomads after we return from Shim."

He did not wish to see them go, but he was not blind to the fact that Marn was a very poor place for them, and would not ask them to remain where they were in danger.

There were also the official reasons for this conversation to deal with, in particular determining the potential threat posed by these unhallowed entities, how to deal with it, and what the rest of the camp needs to know. "We will tell the refugees you were struck down by an evil spirit, a consequence of previous battles with evil." As far as he saw it, that is what it was. He told the truth, but truth and facts were very different things. "We believe the creature is gone. However, any potential tactical information you have I will need to know." Finally, one last thing, though he was loathe to part with it, Rollick, his family and the compound all needed some form of defence against these perils while Karsimir was gone. "Brightbiter, I will leave with you. The sword is holy, quenched in blessed water and annointed in angel's tears. Draw it and strike against a demon or evil spirit, and the blade will harm it, body or no."

He undid his sword-belt and handed it to Rollick. This would mean needing a new sword, ideally another longsword because his favoured techniques required a two-handed blade, but those here needed some method of dealing with these threats. And a magic controlled state such as Marn meant that options were few.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Rollick was grateful for the offered hand, and the words of friendship. Truth be told, he had given Karsimir more information than the knight needed to know. Rollick could simply have said that an evil spirit had attacked, but would not return. Telling him that would have been easier and less painful... but would have felt like a lie. Nor would it have explained the rumours spreading among the refugees. Best to admit it all to Karsimir, rather than keeping anything back. Best to hold up his own actions for judgment. The judgment of a friend was nothing to be feared.

"I am glad to hear that you do not sense taint in me. I worried that was what drew the creature to me in the first place, and now... I do not wish to be a source of contamination." Feeling tainted after such an experience was probably inevitable, but he was very relieved it was nothing that could hurt anyone else.

"I will do as you advise, and avoid the places you speak of. During our time in the woods, before we came to Marn, we saw... some strange sights. Mostly half-glimpsed shadows, but clearly best avoided. I have not been to the ruins, or near the river, and will keep it that way. I do not wish to provoke another such incident, if it can be prevented."

Rollick knew he and Uluki needed to talk about what they would do next. He could not simply speak for both of them and decide on his own, and this was not the place for an extended conversation between husband and wife on the subject. It was not something that needed to take up Karsimir's time.

"Certainly, we have considered that Marn is not the safest place for us. There is only the question of where else to go. Things in our old home were no less dangerous; if anything, they were worse. Some humans were quite overt in their hatred of Uluki and Martin, or anyone else not human like them, to the point their lives were occasionally endangered. In some ways, Marn seems like not much of a change. I sometimes wonder if a safer place where we could be accepted even exists."

While this spoke to the truth of the matter as he saw it, it wasn't a particularly heartening truth, and there was absolutely nothing the knight could do about it. "But perhaps it is time for us to continue our search. Certainly we could stay with the nomads for awhile. We should begin making preparations, so we might go with them when they depart."

But exactly how long would that hospitality last? How long would their sense of obligation to Uluki hold? The family had no supplies, no horses... gods, Uluki didn't even have a pair of shoes that wouldn't have to be left behind. How long would they survive on the steppe? Guilt rolled over Rollick in waves. He was the one who had done this to Uluki, to their daughters and son. It was because of him that they had to flee. He loved them so much, would have done anything for them-- why did that not seem to matter? Why did fate bring such cruelties to them, over and over?

Uluki looked grim, and her eyes threatened to fill, but she nodded her agreement. "It's probably best. I wouldn't want anyone here to get hurt if the authorities came after us. And it would be best for our children not to face that threat. Though we will very much miss our friends here." The urge to cry came in full force as she said the last part, but with effort she blinked the tears back. To say she would miss them was an incredible understatement. She felt like her heart was cracking down the centre. "Rollick and I will discuss the details, and make plans. I don't know what Kira and Kaydee will want to do. Kaydee has ties to many people here, and is unlikely to want to leave. Kira... I have no idea. But we'll ask them. Thanks for all your help. With everything."

Rollick concurred with Karsimir's suggestion of what to say to the refugees. "Far from a lie, but it tells them only what they need to know. That is good." The offer of the sword touched him deeply. "I thank you. I will do my best to defend all those here while you and the Lightswords are gone. I am grateful you would trust me with such a thing, and I will care for it well in your absence. If it would be useful to you, perhaps you should take my own blade with you. It is not your preferred weapon, and is nowhere near the quality of your own, but it will serve better than nothing. Unless, of course, you are able to find a better substitute."

Rollick would not be at all offended if Karsimir declined the offer, but it was silly for Rollick to have two swords in the relative safety of the compound while Karsimir went off to fight without one. If Karsimir found it useful, it was the least Rollick could do.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Ultimately, this was more cause for sympathy, and his heart reached out to them. None of this was fair, a family should not have to struggle so merely to find a place where their children would be safe. Karsimir wished he could offer them a better home. Personally, he believed they could make this work, easily so in fact. Life would not be simple, but it never was.

"Should this come to pass, you will have all support within my power to grant you. Both of you have more than earned that much, at least. We have surplus supplies which you are welcome to take with you, Osaw has prepared a gift of armours for the nomads in thanks for their aid. When the defence of Shim is complete, you will be welcome to any goods you might need, as well as surplus horses to bring to the tribe." One tale which Karsimir had often heard of nomadic peoples was that they measured their wealth in horses, what exactly they did with so many horses he was never quite sure, what he knew was there was a the possibility of many more horses in the near future.

Then he smiled. "In this case, we would still see each other. I would welcome the nomads as lasting allies, this would give us many opportunities to stay in touch." In all plainness, Karsimir was none-too-attatched to this city himself, so opportunities to work good from outside would be very helpful. Better lives could be pursued by most of these people away from the malign presences and mortal corruption which surrounded this city.

"Uluki, your previous meeting with the nomads has established they have need of a shaman to tend to the ancestor spirits. Rollick, the skill and knowledge you can share may serve their tribe as well as it has served me." For all Karsimir knew of nomads 'tribe' may be the right word, his awareness of this culture being minimal, and probably mostly wrong. "There are refugees here who may be able to help the tribes as herders. Know that whatever you decide, you will have my full support."

Then came the trade of swords, which Sir Karsimir declined. "With my thanks, I am not a nice enough person to fight with an arming sword." There was also a great deal of difference in the handling of each sword. Arming swords were single-handed, designed more for cutting than thrusting, with rounded points so they can slash effectively with the tip - while many techniques with the longsword dealt with two-handed thrusting, in a manner far more like staves and polearms. "I would favour a spiked axe or a flanged mace." Far more brutal, nasty weapons which did worse things to the body than anything so kind as a sword.

"I doubt this is a matter you wish to draw out, and we have covered all we need to that I know, so I shall conclude by asking if there is ought more I may do for you?"
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

"Thank you," Rollick replied to Karsimir's offer of supplies. "That is most helpful. While you are away in Shim, we will also begin gathering our own provisions." The horses were of particular concern. Not for trading or status purposes, but simply because on foot, the family would not be able to keep up with the nomad group in which even children rode. If they weren't slowing down travel by having to walk, there was less chance they'd end up alone on the steppe. "I am glad we will not lose contact with you. We have made many good friends here."

Uluki was rather less optimistic than Karsimir that the nomads would need her help as a shaman. Ordinarily the rituals to tend the ancestor spirits were carried out by the Triazee family themselves, and they had only needed her because things went so horribly wrong. She wasn't even of their religion, and had no idea about their traditions. Simply stepping in and taking over would be as impossible as it was likely to be unwanted. Still, few people would turn down the help of a healer, and at least Rollick would be useful to the nomads on a more regular basis.

Uluki knew it would be easier for her than the others. Dusklings were nomads too, so she was raised in a traveling tribe. Rollick and the girls would struggle more with a rootless existence. She knew they wished for a home that was a place. Maybe it was temporary, though. Maybe they could find somewhere they could stay. Even Uluki, born a nomad, would miss having a garden...

Most people who had come into Uluki's life had eventually left it, either by choice or otherwise. She would do well to remember that. She had allowed herself to get too close to these people too fast. Would miss them too much when she saw them only occasionally. Why could she never keep more distance, make her heart a little less soft and squishy? Why did she never learn? There was something wrong with her, something she'd never been able to fix, that made her get too attached to people.

Kaydee, especially. Uluki had allowed herself to think of the girl as a daughter, and even after such a short time, walking away felt like leaving her own flesh and blood. You aren't her mother, Uluki reminded herself. You never were. She doesn't want you to be. This is all in your head. She'll be sad, but she'll get over it. She isn't your daughter. She's your friend, and you'll still see her. She doesn't need you.

Uluki was grateful for the support from Karsimir, regardless of what decision they made. But really, what choice did they have? Stay in a city where the authorities wanted to kill them? Where they were in constant danger of being reported, especially after Vernon and Mamie had seen both the invasion by a god and the outright magic use? Helping and sheltering them could mean death for their friends, and despite Karsimir's willingness to do so, it was too much to ask. If they were reported, their friends stood to lose too much. Besides, they couldn't risk their own lives, and the lives of their children, because they were sad about leaving. They had to go. There was no decision to be made.

"Thanks," she said in a half-whisper, trying to keep her emotions at bay. "It'll all work out for the best."

Rollick nodded his understanding as Karsimir declined his offer of the sword. He was not at all bothered or surprised. "As you wish. May you be victorious in the battles you fight."

"There is nothing more you can do," Uluki assured him. "You've already done so much for us. Thank you."
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Once they were outside the room, Uluki turned to Rollick. "We have to go, don't we?"

"I think so. I wish not, but..." He stared off into space for a moment, considering the alternatives, but was unable to suggest anything else.

"Alright. We should start packing soon. And we'll have to tell..." They'd have to tell a lot of people. Not all of the refugees, most of them didn't need to know, but their closest friends would need some warning.

Kaydee's face came into Uluki's mind as she thought of friends, and the crying she'd been holding back finally broke. Her body shook with silent sobs as the tears rolled down her cheeks. Rollick began to whisper words of comfort, but two refugee women were coming down the corridor, so Uluki shook her head and pressed her face against his chest, hiding the tears. It wasn't something the women needed to see.

The first ones they should tell were the family. It affected them most, so it was important that they know. Dash just stared at them after they explained the situation to her. "What? They're kicking us out?"

"No, Dashie," Uluki said as calmly as possible. "Karsimir and Julen were both very kind, as we said. They would be happy to help us, but there's only so much they can do."

"Why aren't they protecting us, then? If they want to help, why don't they help?"

Uluki reached out to lay her hand on Dash's shoulder. "They are helping. They're doing all they can for us."

Dash ducked away from her. "Then we should stay. Why would you want to leave?"

"It is not a matter of wanting," Rollick explained. "It is a matter of need. For our own safety, and that of those around us."

"We didn't do anything wrong. Why are we the ones who have to go away? Why not the people who hate us?"

Uluki shook her head sadly. "If they were sent away, they'd go straight to the authorities. We'd be the ones who got hurt. Maybe our friends, too."

"It's not fair! I finally have a friend my own age. People are finally nice to us. We don't have to be poor, and struggle for every little thing we have. Throwing that away is stupid."

"We're hardly throwing it away." Rollick tried hard to keep his voice reasonable and unemotional. "This is not a decision to be taken lightly. But it is what we must do."

"I'm not going," Dash said firmly, her voice cold with anger. "I'm staying. You can go, but I won't. I like it here."

For the first time in the conversation, Uluki was hurt. She had expected Dash to be unhappy, and wasn't surprised that she was angry. She didn't mind being yelled at. But the threat to leave them stung. "You're old enough to make that decision. If you want to stay, we aren't going to drag you along. But I hope you'll reconsider. We love you, and want you to be with us. Just think about it before you decide, alright? Don't do something this important while you're angry."

Dash said nothing, just slammed the bedroom door in Uluki's face. Rollick looked at his wife questioningly. "Should I...?"

Uluki shook her head. "Give her time to cool off and get used to the idea. Talking to her now won't help. She's too upset to listen." But her tears were forming again. Being rejected by her daughter on top of everything else was like a knife in her belly. She only hoped Dash changed her mind. If not... well, they'd have to consider what to do if it came down to that.

They'd had so many dreams about living here. Dreams about being useful, and productive... and happy. Of finding a place where they fit in. A place they could call home. Uluki couldn't blame Dash for finding it hard to let that go. Uluki was struggling herself, and she knew Rollick also was in his quiet way.

"I guess it's time to tell the others," she suggested without much enthusiasm. "I hope they take it a little better."

The next person they decided to talk to was Kaydee. Uluki went and found her, and drew her aside so she and Rollick could speak to the girl privately. It was hard to know where to begin, so Uluki just dived in.

"Kaydee, we spoke before of how we might need to leave the compound, after the incident this morning. Though our friends here have been kind and eager to help, we've decided that the danger is such that we cannot remain. We put everyone here at risk. Should what happened today be reported to the authorities, it would likely not only be our lives, but the lives of others at the compound as well that would be lost. We cannot allow that to happen. We must go."

"But now you have a decision to make. We consider you part of the family, and as we told you before, we have no desire to sever that relationship. Whatever happens, we'll always care about you. The choice you have to make is whether you wish to go with us, or stay here. If you would like to come, we would be happy to have you. But if you would rather not leave the life you have here, and the many other friends you have, know that we will not forget you, and we'll visit you when we can. You're always welcome with us, whatever you decide."

Uluki paused; Rollick nodded his agreement, and added, "You don't have to decide right now. Think it over. We'll be here till the warriors return from Shim. Until then... you have time to consider whether you will stay, or come with us."
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Sir Karsimir on

There were people who Karsimir needed to talk to. Not to share the news that Rollick and Uluki might be leaving - he actually would rather keep that silent, not allow those who wanted them out that victory. Truth is he would rather begin the discussion with the nomads, suggest that some who wish it might leave with them, rather than suggesting Rollick and Uluki were leaving specifically. Part of this was another issue when facts would cloud the truth; he did not want the suggestion that the family was being forced out - they were not.

Who he had to talk to were the compound in general, to announce that Rollick had been struck down by an evil spirit, which found him and attacked because of his previous battles against evil. What he also announced is a holy relic was being left at this compound to defend against any future threats.

There was also the conversation with Petra over what happened, more specifically, why her husband was threatened with death. Only basic courtesy that she understand the situation. Surprisingly, she actually supported Karsimir's reaction. Apparently the couple were having problems... which were none of the knight's business so he chose not to ask.

Finally, Mamie. Since Delphina went missing - and was always 'just gone' whenever asked about (hence the lack of search party), Mamie was the most recognised of those who hated having a fae in the compound. So, she was the most fitting person to approach with his request, the request that she work to hold back the others who disliked Uluki. A rationale was given, if he tolerates the persecution of anyone on the compound, he would have a far weaker position when protecting anyone else. A rationale which Mamie accepted.

All of that went smoothly, which was always a bad sign, but paired with the possibility of close friends leaving, perhaps not so smoothly after all.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Falcon Bertille on

“Leaving?” Kaydee stared at Uluki with obvious incomprehension. When she’d first heard the accusations against Rollick, she’d been terrified about what might happen to her new friends. But then Karsimir showed up and vowed to protect them. There had been such conviction in his voice, such fire in his eyes -- as he stood before Vernon, prepared to repel any attack, Kaydee could imagine him facing down an entire army. “But...but Big Brother promised to defend you. Just like he promised to defend me. And he did, too. He took out Snyde.” Battlemages rarely ventured into the shanty town. Nor, needless to say, did the city guard. Snyde was the biggest threat that Kaydee could imagine. And Karsimir had toppled his organization like a house of cards. With some help from Julen, of course. “Don’t you trust him?”

“You’re the one who told us we should trust him!” Bewilderment had turned to a sense of betrayal, and Kaydee was now speaking for all her fellow refugees. “You’re the one who said we should come here, even though bad people were after us. The warriors might have gotten hurt fighting Snyde’s thugs. Julen nearly died trying to rescue me! But you didn’t tell us to go elsewhere because we posed too great a threat. You told us to stay here and be safe.”

“But now you’re leaving, just like you said that we shouldn’t. If people want to hurt you, they must be bad people, and we should stand against them. That’s what Big Brother always says, isn’t it? Better to do right and die than to do wrong and prosper. Well, trying to stop bad people from doing bad things seems like what’s right. And leaving seems like prospering by doing what’s wrong. What if the next people they try to hurt can’t just run away?”

It took Kaydee a moment to register Uluki’s invitation. But slowly, her indignation died down a little, and she realized that the family actually wanted her to come with them. Why? She couldn’t cook, couldn’t sew, couldn’t fight. She couldn’t conceivably be of any use to them. Was it possible...was it possible that this was what it meant to be part of a family? That people wanted you around even when you couldn’t earn money or do chores? Kaydee had already grown quite fond of her new friends, and this realization made her feel a burst of gratitude, along with a sense of even deeper bonds being forged. But that just made her all the more determined not to let them go.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

"Yes, we do trust him," Uluki said carefully. "We do not doubt either his abilities as a warrior, or his good heart. He has provided us with shelter, and with friendship. I know he would do anything he could for us. But Karsimir has agreed that it might be best for us to go elsewhere. Not because he doesn't care what happens to us, but because he recognizes his own limitations, and the dangers we face here."

"There are thirty warriors here at the base-- perhaps a few more." Uluki was losing track of the number of new arrivals to the compound, which seemed to multiply with each passing day. "The danger is the government of this city, the Guards and Battlemages. Thirty cannot stand against an entire city, no matter how brave and kind and devoted those thirty might be. They would fight bravely, but they could not succeed. How could we ask them to lay down their lives in a hopeless battle?"

That was the easy part. The numbers were hard to argue with. The bigger problem was the principle of the thing. How could she claim that the refugees were safe, if the danger to Uluki's own family had become so overwhelming that they were not? Wouldn't that simply mean that if at some point the risk to the refugees grew, they would also need to leave? Why was it too much to ask for the warriors to lay down their lives for Uluki's family, but not for the refugees? Was it only the sheer magnitude of the threat they faced? Should that really make a difference? Were the only battles worth fighting the winning ones? The questions made Uluki uncomfortable, because she didn't know the answers. She wanted to do the right thing, but she had no idea what the right thing was.

"It may be that sometime in the future, another threat will rise that the Lightswords cannot fight. No one can promise that nothing bad will happen ever again. It may be that the compound will not always be safe for the rest of you, either. What makes it right or wrong isn't that, that's just a fact. Right or wrong comes next. What would be wrong is sending you back to the shanty town, sending you back into danger, giving up on protecting you. What would be right is making sure there's another place for you, a place where you won't be at risk. And the warriors will always make sure you have somewhere safe to go, even if it isn't here. There is always a limit to human strength, but what matters is what happens when you reach the limit. Karsimir and the warriors aren't simply turning us out into the street. We'll be safe with the nomads. We'll be safe somewhere besides Marn."

Uluki couldn't help remembering that when she'd first been brought into Marn she'd been unconscious and bleeding, an arrow sticking out of her chest, another out of her belly. Rollick had held her, protected her, but he hadn't been in much better shape. Was that what waited outside the city walls? Were they fleeing one death, only to face another? She tried to reassure herself that they'd be safer with the nomads. That seven skilled archers in addition to Rollick's sword would be enough to confront any danger that faced them. Surely things would be better this time. Surely it was more dangerous inside the city, no matter what lay beyond.

"Trying to stop people from doing bad things is right. But sometimes, stopping them isn't simple. Sometimes you can't just fight with swords. If we die at their hands, our deaths will only fuel to the fire of hate. But if we live, maybe someday we can show them another way. We can get stronger, and then we can actually help. Sometimes change can't happen all at once, because it's too big. But maybe in the future, we can make things better."

Uluki hoped that was true. She hated giving up. She couldn't just turn her back. But she also couldn't sacrifice her own family; they were her responsibility, hers and Rollick's, while the responsibility for Marn belonged to many people. And she really had no way to help. But she would never forget, and maybe someday there would be something she could do. Something they could all do.

Rollick said nothing, he simply listened, pondering, processing his emotions. Weighing the decision. He didn't feel he had anything to add, so he simply wrapped an arm loosely around Uluki's waist, encouraging her and showing his support. She leaned against him when she felt his touch.

Uluki waited to see how Kaydee would respond to their offer. She tried not to get her hopes up; Kaydee had many people who cared about her, not just the family. Uluki didn't expect her to want to just leave everything behind, to leave all that seemed familiar and safe, as they were doing. Besides, whatever she decided, she'd probably need time to think it over. Uluki twisted her hands together nervously. "I know this is a lot to take in. And I'm sorry to have to ask you to make a choice. I wish there was another way."
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Kaydee listened to Uluki with an expression that was hard to read -- maybe because her own thoughts were so unclear. They sloshed back and forth inside her, tilting her first this way and then the other, until she felt like she was going to tip over and spill all over the compound floor. If Karsimir agreed that it might be better for Uluki and her family to go elsewhere, then surely doing so was a wise decision. And Kaydee didn’t want to see her new friends slaughtered because they chose to fight a battle they couldn’t possibly win. Maybe Uluki was right. Maybe they needed to wait until something changed before they could effectively stand against those who wanted to harm them. After all, she and the other refugees had needed to wait until the arrival of the Lightswords before they could claim their freedom from Snyde.

And yet, something still niggled at Kaydee. The price of change was sacrifice. Snyde had beaten that lesson into her body. For years and years, the shanty town hadn’t changed because no one was willing to make the needed sacrifices. Who could blame them, when those sacrifices probably would have been their lives? But what if they had? Maybe their example would have inspired someone else, and someone else, until the oppressed shook loose their oppressors. Maybe if Uluki stayed, it wouldn’t be just thirty warriors against a city. Maybe if other people saw, and understood, they would fight too.

But all this was too nebulous and complex for Kaydee to vocalize. Instead, she turned her thoughts to considering Uluki’s offer. Go with them? Leave Marn? Kaydee had no real love of Marn, but it was the only home she’d ever known. What would life be like among the nomads? Kaydee tried to think about the ones she’d gotten to know at the compound, and one daunting fact struck her -- they all rode horses. She couldn’t ride. In fact, the large creatures scared her.

And then, there were the people she’d leave behind. She would truly miss Karsimir. He’d said that she was more of a lady than most of the women he’d known in royal courts. He was always there with a smile, and a kind word, and he made her feel so very safe. Also, there was Julen. Some tiny voice inside Kaydee whispered that things would be better this way. That Julen could never be hers, no matter how badly she wanted him, and that the best course of action would be to go far away from him, where her heart wouldn’t be constantly reminded of what it longed for. But she silenced the voice with a resolute shake of her head. No. Those were the words of defeat. She would stay here, stay loyal, and somehow, she would find a way.

Tears glistened in Kaydee’s eyes, but she did her best to hold them back. She’d been doing too much crying lately, causing too much trouble -- if they realized how weak she was, they’d take back their offer to let her come along. And Kaydee still felt so torn about what she wanted to do. Was this the price of happiness? To always have to lose it?

“I...I’m not sure. I’m glad that you’re not leaving right away. Maybe...maybe things will change, and you won’t have to go after all.” Desperately, Kaydee wished that this would prove to be the case. But even clinging to hope couldn’t keep her emotions from overwhelming her. After giving Uluki a quick, awkward hug, Kaydee turned around and hurried off, searching for the one person she knew would be as upset about this as she was.

Re: Hard Truths

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki saw the tears in Kaydee's eyes, and felt guilty. Hadn't Kaydee suffered enough already? Uluki should have been able to make her feel better, not added to her distress. But of course, potential separation from people you cared about was always hard, no matter what pretty words you used. "It's alright. Take your time. It means a lot to us that you're even considering it. We know we're asking a lot."

Uluki was grateful for the hug, and would have prolonged it, but Kaydee seemed eager to be on her way, and Uluki didn't want to make her stay and continue talking about a painful subject. Once the girl had left, she turned to Rollick. "She has a point."

"I was thinking that too. It seems wrong to simply... flee, when others face the same danger here. And yet by staying, we might sentence our children to death, along with others who care about us. Whichever choice we make, it feels incorrect to me."

Uluki nodded. The same thoughts had crossed her mind. "I had an idea, though. I don't think we can stay in Marn. But maybe we shouldn't stay with the nomads, either."

Rollick was interested in the direction her thoughts were headed. "Where would we go?"

"I'm not sure. Well I mean, not exactly. But we could find a place that was relatively defensible, and make a home there. Then people from Marn who were in danger could come stay at our house, and we could protect them. Like we did before, when guests came and stayed with us."

"Perhaps. But I am only one warrior. We can't break our promise to the Dash and Zee not to make them fight again. What if we can't defend ourselves, let alone anyone else?"

"That's true, but it could be true if we had a hundred warriors and an underground stone bunker. We can never be sure any strength of arms is enough. We've faced bad odds in the past, and we're still here." She paused, reflecting. "We couldn't help everyone. We are just one family. But maybe we could help a few people. That's better than nothing."

Rollick was warming to the idea. "We could find some sort of cave, perhaps. Then we would only need to worry about defending the entrance, if it came down to a fight. Of course, we would run the risk of being cornered, so we would need some sort of escape route, but we would be less likely to be overwhelmed by enemies if the terrain was such that only a few could attack at a time. That would make our numbers less of an issue."

Uluki nodded. "That's true. And it would be easier for our friends to visit us if they knew where to find us. If we were always in one place. Then we'd be less alone. We'd just have a different home. I'd like that better."

Rollick raised an eyebrow. "You would? You don't miss traveling like that? Being a nomad?"

Uluki had to think about that a moment. "No," she said finally. "I still like to travel, but I like a home to go back to. When I used to wander, I always felt alone. Even my family made me feel like I was a stranger, because I was different from them. Being settled, living in one place... it was hard at first, but that was where, for the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. Like I'd found my niche. It was the first time I was ever really wanted. My home is wherever you and the children are, so as long as I have you, I'll be alright. But if we had a place to stay, too... I'd like it."

Rollick nodded his understanding. "So would I. And if that helps others too, even only the few people who could share our home at any one time, it would feel... more right than just leaving. Than just serving our own needs."

Uluki's mood became solemn again. "What if Kaydee... and Dash...? Rollick, I don't know what we're going to do."

His forehead creased with worry. "I don't know, love. I don't know. It would be difficult to bear. Uluki... I'm so sorry. I'm so very, very sorry. This should never have happened."

"No!" Uluki's voice was firm, insistent. "No. You do not have to be sorry for this. It's not your fault. A bad thing happened, as bad things do. And we'll survive it. I will not stand here and listen to you apologize for being tortured!"

Rollick was about to respond, when he noticed Kira approaching them. As usual, the girl's face was difficult to read. "Kira, we had something we needed to talk to you about."

She nodded. "Leaving."

"Yes, how did you...?"

"Heard Dash yelling at you. She's loud." Then, completely nonchalantly, "Still want Kira?"

"Of course," Uluki assured her. "I mean, if you're willing to go."

"Go is fine." Kira was surprised that it was even a question. What did she have that wasn't with them? She barely even knew anyone else, since she was generally too shy to talk to people. What was there for her here, besides the family?

"Good." Uluki's relief was obvious. "Good."

"Had a question, though. Can it be a little different?"

"Probably," Rollick said tentatively, reluctant to agree to something before being told the terms. "Different how?"

Kira paused a moment, trying to figure out how to word the complex thought. "Could talk about it differently. Could say, 'These are our daughters, Dash, Zee, and Kira.' Not tell people about the bad father. Not be the one who isn't like the others."

Uluki and Rollick exchanged a look of surprise. This was definitely not the reaction they expected to their bad news. "Yes, that's what we'll do," Uluki said with a smile. "We'll say it like that." Uluki wasn't sure how far Kira wanted to take this. Did she want to think of herself as their daughter, or did she simply not want to be reminded of the abuse every time she was introduced to someone? Did she just want to fit in, or was there some deeper desire behind it? They could talk about all of that later, at a better and less stressful time. For now, they would just honour her request.

Kira graced them with a rare smile, then darted off down the hallway. "At least something is going well," Rollick commented dryly to Uluki.


***


Dash lay on her mattress, staring at the drawing. She hadn't cried. Not a single tear. She felt cold and dry inside. It was the family portrait she held, the one she'd drawn in happier times. The family all together.

Dash was suddenly disgusted with herself. The only thing she'd ever wanted was a family. There were other things that were nice, other things she enjoyed. Things like drawing. But having a family was all that had ever really mattered. The only dream that had kept her awake at night, wishing.

She wouldn't leave them. Not really. She was angry and she'd said bad things, but she knew that when it came down to it, she wouldn't be able to watch them walk away. Which meant she would have to go too, and she was still upset about it.

Dash stood abruptly, allowing the drawing to fall onto the mattress. With a wordless cry of dismay, she punched the wall.

"Ouch! Damn it all, ow!" Her hand had gone straight through the brittle plaster. Her knuckles were scraped and bleeding, and two of her fingers were sore enough she thought she had broken them. Fragile, hollow bones were not made for punching.

After she was done inspecting the damage to her hand, she reluctantly turned to look at the wall, where there was a round hole about the size of her fist. "Damn," she repeated, surveying the hole with dismay.
"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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