Cooperative Fiction

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Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((Note: This thread splits off from "The Blade's Edge" viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1731))

((NPC Post))

Dash didn't see much she could do for the others. Martin was off somewhere else, playing with Eemay and Lillibell, unaware that tragedy had befallen his family-- Dash thought that was for the best. The baby could pick up on other people's moods fairly accurately, and being around his sisters right now would only make him sad about something he wouldn't even be able to understand. Zee was still sleeping, showing no signs of stirring. She looked peaceful, and Dash hoped she was having good dreams. Zee had been unconscious for most of what had happened, so at least good dreams were a possibility. Dash wasn't sure she herself would ever be able to close her eyes again without seeing Rollick's hand hacked from his body, or feeling the knife plunge into her own back.

Dash was really worried about Kira. Kira had accepted Uluki's leaving, as she had to, but instead of calming down, she was now sitting cross-legged with her forehead pressed to the wall, making soft whimpery noises. Dash had tried talking to her, hugging her, but the words had no effect and the touching only made her cry louder.

Dash wanted to talk to Kaydee. If anyone currently at the compound could understand what had happened, how they were all feeling, Kaydee would. Dash wanted to run to her friend, confide everything and get a comforting hug... but she held herself back. She was worried about what would happen if Kaydee saw this, saw the whole family sad and in pain. Maybe Kaydee would get scared, be afraid she'd get hurt if she spent more time around them. Maybe she'd think it was all too depressing, and try to find more pleasant company. This might be the last nail in the coffin of Dash's dream of having Kaydee as part of their family.

So Dash didn't look for Kaydee. Instead, after Uluki left, Dash sat by her sleeping sister, knees drawn up to her chest, waiting to find out if her father was still alive.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

The rumors were flying. Someone had kidnapped Dash and Zee. No, they’d been killed. No, they were back at the base, but badly hurt. Dash had been stabbed and Zee was in a coma. Rollick was the one who’d been kidnapped. Snyde had sent Rollick’s hand to Uluki -- or was it his head? Amidst all the conflicting stories, only one opinion got repeated over and over. The Lightswords had been gone for less than a day and things were already falling apart. Clearly, no one was safe.

Kaydee clutched at increasingly large handfuls of her skirt as she ran from person to person, trying to discover the truth of what had happened to her friends. Concern for them drove her onward like a cloud of stinging bees. And beneath the worry lay a sense of guilt which Kaydee just couldn’t banish, no matter how much she tried. It didn’t make any logical sense, but she felt as if this was her fault -- that the universe was punishing her because she’d selfishly turned down Uluki’s offer to go away with them. She hadn’t appreciated how much they meant to her, so now fate was going to take them all away, to teach her a lesson.

“Rosemary?” Julen’s wife was one of the last people to receive Kaydee’s barrage of questions. Partially because Kaydee felt a little bit intimidated by her, and partially because Rosemary hadn’t been easy to find. In the end, a search of the compound grounds had revealed her standing by the front gate, her arms wrapped tightly around her body and her expression grim. “Rosemary? Have you heard anything? Are they coming back with Rollick?”

Rosemary shook her head, barely taking her eyes from the gate. “I haven’t heard anything.”

“But you’re waiting for them?”

“Uluki will need me when she gets back.” Rosemary knew she couldn’t do anything practical to aid her friend. But she was a wife who understood what it felt like to fear for her husband, and she wanted to give Uluki whatever emotional support she could provide.

“I wish...I wish Julen and Big Brother were here. Do you think we should send a message? Get them to come back?”

Another shake of Rosemary’s head. “They can’t retreat from a battle once it’s started. We’ll just have to handle this by ourselves.” For the first time, Rosemary really looked at Kaydee. She didn’t exactly view Kaydee as a rival -- she trusted Julen more than that. But her own experiences had taught her all the ways desire could twist a heart. Because of this, Rosemary usually responded to Kaydee with a certain amount of wariness. However, in that moment, Rosemary didn’t see a former whore with an unhealthy fixation on her husband. Instead, she saw a young girl who was scared and alone.

“Sweetie.” Gently, Rosemary placed a hand on Kaydee’s arm. “You’re friends with Dash, aren’t you? You should go to her now. She shouldn’t be all by herself.”

Wordlessly, Kaydee nodded, and hurried off to find her friend. It didn’t take long before she came across Dash, seated beside Zee. Rushing forward, Kaydee dropped to her knees and flung her arms around Dash, words bursting from her with a force she couldn’t control. “Oh, Dash! I’m so sorry. Are you alright? Is Zee alright? I’ve heard so many terrible things. What happened? What’s going on?”

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

When Kaydee hugged her, the tears that had been bottled up inside Dash since the day before finally burst forth, abrupt and hot on her cheeks.

"We... we went sh-shopping." Dash forced the words between trembling lips, trying to answer Kaydee's questions. It seemed so odd now, something as mundane as shopping. How had it turned into this? "For when we have to go away. There was a problem in the marketplace. Some woman accused Doeni of stealing. Everyone was a-arguing, and we got separated. They got Zee to drink something. It had drugs in it and she passed out. I tried to run away and get help..."

Dash felt their hands on her again, grabbing at her, hitting her, pulling her down. She shivered, then clung tighter to Kaydee.

"They beat me up. Mostly fists, but one had a rock. They broke my wings. I think I passed out, because next thing I remember they were dragging us somewhere else. They were holding knives to our throats. I didn't understand. I didn't see why they didn't just kill us. But then Papa came to help us..."

Dash's feelings threatened to overwhelm her again-- but not pain or fear this time. Dash was deeply, deeply ashamed. Rollick had come to save them, to offer his life for theirs, and Dash had done nothing. She'd just stood there staring at her father, expecting he could make it all better. Dash should have fought. She should have screamed. She should have told Rollick to run, to save himself, to save Zee and then go. He could have done that. He'd only been hurt because he was trying to help Dash too.

"They said they'd let us go if Papa surrendered, and if he didn't they'd slit our throats. He didn't want us to die, so he let them take him."

Dash's breath was rapid, her heart beating fast.

"They shoved him on the ground. All of them jumped him, and..." She was shaking more now, remembering the ax, the blood, the sound of his muffled scream. "They hacked his hand off. Then they burned him to make it stop bleeding where they cut him. They dragged him off down an alley, and I don't know..."

She didn't want to say it. It was as though as long as she didn't tell Kaydee, it wasn't real. But Kaydee had to hear the truth. "I don't know if Papa lived or died." It was the hardest thing Dash had ever had to say, admitting that. "I got stabbed in the back, and I don't know what happened to my father after that. Mama went to try to find him."

What were the other questions? She tried to remember. "I'm alright. Zee is alright too; she's just sleeping. When she wakes up she'll be the same as always. I don't know what's going to happen now, though. I don't know if Papa..."

Dash took several deep breaths. "Thank you for coming. Thank you so much. I'm so scared, and I... I'm glad you're here."
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

All during Dash’s description of what had happened, Kaydee kept hugging her. With tears running down her cheeks, she prayed for her embrace to be transformed into a barrier, through which no more bad things could ever pass. But Big Brother’s angel must not have been listening, because her arms remained only arms. Still, maybe the hug helped a little. Kaydee remembered how much it had mattered to her, to be held, when she’d thought her pain would never end. When she’d thought that nothing could ever make the world good again.

Dash’s ordeal was one which Kaydee understood all too well. Although it sometimes felt like lifetimes ago, barely a week had passed since she herself was beaten, raped, and held against her will. At least Dash hadn’t mentioned being violated by the people who attacked her. That was some small mercy. “I’m so sorry,” Kaydee repeated with pathetic helplessness. “I know how it feels to see someone you care about get hurt. Especially if you can’t do anything about it. When Snyde had me chained to that wall, I watched...he made me watch...while his thugs beat Julen. And it was my fault. Because Julen wouldn’t have even been there if it wasn’t for me.”

“But you and Zee are alright. That’s what Rollick wanted. Just like Julen wanted me to be alright.” Gently, Kaydee rubbed Dash’s back, just above where her wings sprouted outward. “I’m...I’m sure that Rollick and Uluki will be back any minute. They’ll walk right in here, and give us all hugs, and everything will be fine.”

As if she could somehow make this happen just by believing it, Kaydee stared at the doorway with moist eyes. But the entrance remained depressingly empty. And Kaydee felt even worse for having raised her friend’s hopes, only to crush them. She wished so much that there was something she could do, something she could say, to make Dash feel better.

“Hey, guess what? You don’t have to draw another picture of me after all. I’ve decided that I’m going to come with you when you leave. So much has happened. We should be together now.” Because I think you need me. Kaydee would never actually say something like that aloud -- it felt presumptuous and arrogant to claim someone might need her. No one, in her entire life, had really needed her. But Dash had survived something horrible. Even if Rollick was alright, much darkness would remain. Kaydee couldn’t let her friend face it alone. “You can teach me to ride a horse. And...and it will be interesting to see the world beyond Marn.”

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Kaydee's sympathy meant a lot to Dash, because Dash knew Kaydee did understand. It wasn't just platitudes; Kaydee knew how it felt. Dash remembered the hugs and tears they'd shared when Kaydee first arrived from the shanty town after all she had suffered, and how that night had bonded them as friends. Now that shared understanding made Dash feel less alone.

Her arms tightened reflexively around Kaydee when the other girl spoke of her own ordeal, still recent and no doubt painfully fresh in her memory. Dash knew her story had probably made Kaydee relive some of it. The closer embrace was an unconscious protective gesture, as though she could shelter Kaydee from the pain she'd already experienced-- clearly impossible, but the small action wasn't rational. "It wasn't your fault, what happened to Julen. It was their fault-- the people who hurt both of you. You didn't do anything wrong."

Dash believed that completely, but she didn't apply it to her own situation at all. Dash had been designed to be an assassin, built to be a killer. Not made to sit there and watch while people she loved got hurt. She saw a failure on her own part where she saw none on Kaydee's.

"It's hard. They made me watch too. She held my chin so I couldn't look away while... while they did it. I felt so helpless. But you're right. Julen wanted to save you, and our Papa wanted to save Zee and me. And Papa will be glad to see us again, when they get back."

Dash followed Kaydee's eyes to the door, but unlike Kaydee, she didn't expect anyone to walk through it at that moment. That would be too simple, too easy, too out of step with this horrible day.

"I'll be so glad when we're all together again. When they're home." She had previously acknowledged the possibility that Rollick was dead, but she refused to dwell on it. There was no point.

When Kaydee said she was coming with them, Dash's eyes widened with... with the closest thing to hope that was possible under the circumstances. Just for a moment, a portion of her pain fled. But then it washed back over her, like a tide closing over her head. "Kaydee, you know I would love it if you came along. And Mama and Papa..." Dash lost her nerve for a moment, considering how it would ease their hearts, but she made herself press on. "But I don't..."

She took a couple of deep breaths. "I don't want you to feel like you have to stay with us out of pity for me. I don't want you to make yourself unhappy for my sake. If being together is what you want, then... then we'd be really glad. But if it isn't, you shouldn't force yourself to. You don't owe us anything. You deserve to be happy."

Dash desperately, desperately wished Kaydee would say that staying with them was what she really wanted-- but only if she meant it. Dash knew she couldn't heal her own pain by making Kaydee hurt too. She wanted her family to make Kaydee happy, not for Kaydee to sacrifice real happiness for their sake. If Kaydee couldn't find that with them... then this couldn't be, no matter how much Dash wanted it.

Though it didn't relate to the current topic of conversation, Dash couldn't help blurting out something that was on her mind, something that had been gnawing at the edge of her thoughts the whole time. "Delphina was with them. The people who took us and hurt Papa. She was the one who drugged Zee, and the one who stabbed me. I shouldn't be surprised, I guess, I mean she already tried to get Karsimir to kill Mama and Martin for no reason, but... why does she hate us so much? I don't understand."
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

“Of course I want to go with you,” Kaydee assured. The words flew out of her mouth so easily, so earnestly, it took her a moment to wonder if they were really true. Kaydee wanted to make her friend feel better. But she also respected Dash enough to give her a true answer. Did she really want to go? Or did she just feel like she should go? What would she gain? What would she lose? When Kaydee spoke again, her words came in a more slow and solemn manner.

“I really...I really do want to go with you. Friends should be together. And so should family.” Kaydee thought of all that had happened that day, all the courage and strength she’d seen from every member of Dash’s family. “I never knew what it was like to be part of a family. But you showed me. And I want that. I think it means more to me than anything else.”

Regret threatened to overwhelm Kaydee when she thought of Julen. One day, she’d hoped to have a family with him. But he didn’t want her. Why should she stay here and pursue something she might never have, when it would cost her everything which already lay within her reach? Besides, all of them were making some sort of sacrifice by leaving. That was just what families did.

Dash’s next statement caught Kaydee completely off-guard. “Delphina was there? She was the one who stabbed you?” Kaydee’s eyes widened with shock as Dash made her revelation. Kaydee had always disliked Delphina -- especially since Delphina started making trouble for Uluki. But this maliciousness went far beyond anything Kaydee would have presumed her to be capable of. The sheer immensity of the betrayal flooded Kaydee’s heart with anger. “That’s horrible! After Uluki healed us...after Rollick fought in our defense...after you and Zee worked so hard to get the garden ready...this is how she repays you. It’s madness!”

Aware that her outburst might be misinterpreted, Kaydee reached over and took Dash’s hand. “I mean, of course I believe you. I do. But why? Why would Delphina do something like this?” Unfortunately, Dash had just asked her a different version of that same question, so Kaydee couldn’t really expect her friend to have an easy reply ready. Frowning, Kaydee attempted to solve the puzzle. After all Dash had been through, after all she’d suffered, it seemed like an answer was the least of what she deserved.

“Do you you think, maybe, Delphina went back to Snyde? And he put her up to this?” Despite Kaydee’s fear of Snyde, she actually hoped this guess was the correct one, because then all their problems led them back to a familiar villain. But Kaydee couldn’t quite make herself believe it. Even Sasha wasn’t pigheaded enough to rejoin Snyde. Why would Delphina? She was ambitious and proud, not stupid.

“Or maybe she’s a really bad person. Some of what Snyde did to us, he did to make sure we’d obey him. But some of it...some of it, he did just because he enjoyed hurting us. Maybe Delphina likes making people hurt. And she’s targeting your family because she thinks she can get away with it.”

“We should tell Big Brother and Julen about what Delphina did. They’ll make her go away.” Although the words should have been reassuring, Kaydee felt a chill whisper through her body. What if Big Brother decided that all the refugees were as bad as Delphina? Or decided that it wasn’t worth the trouble of sorting the good from the wicked? What if he made them all go away? Banishment wouldn’t be too much of hardship for her, since she would be leaving with Uluki. But what about Jenny, and Tulip, and all the rest? This compound was the only good thing that had ever happened to most of them. Delphina couldn’t be allowed to ruin it.

“No. We can’t wait until Big Brother and Julen get back. We need to do something about Delphina now. She can’t be allowed to get away with this.” Kaydee felt that Delphina definitely deserved some sort of punishment. And she also hoped that taking decisive action against the traitor in their midst would show Big Brother that the refugees, as a whole, didn’t support what Delphina had done. That they were loyal to him and to Uluki. That they were grateful for everything which had been done for them. “Maybe we could bring her back here, and everyone could take turns hitting her, or something?”

It was a rather violent suggestion. But Kaydee was working with the tools her life had taught her.

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

A genuine smiled crossed Dash's face when Kaydee said she was coming along. It wasn't a smile without sadness or free of worry, but it was a smile nonetheless. Even as bad as things were, as dark as they might turn out to be, having Kaydee with them was important. Dash clutched her friend tightly in a grateful hug. "Thank you. Thanks for being with us. Thanks for letting us show you. I'm so glad we met you, and so glad... that we got to be friends. And family. You mean a lot to us, to all of us, and I'm glad we don't have to say goodbye."

Talking about Delphina was a less pleasant subject, but a necessary one. "I don't think Delphina is working for Snyde. No one said anything about Snyde while they were holding us captive, not to us and not to Papa. If it had been him, I think he would have made sure we knew it. We weren't anywhere near the shanty town, either. This all happened way downtown. I think if it had been Snyde, he would have wanted to do something like this on his own turf. To try to teach a lesson."

"I also don't think Snyde would have traded both me and my sister for Papa. Snyde probably does have something against my mother after that night in the shanty town, but he'd have no reason to have any particular grudge against my father. If he just wanted to get back at Mama, it wouldn't make sense for him to trade two family members for one, so he ended up with less of her people in his grasp. And even if it was just to send a message to everyone here... again, I don't think he'd trade two for one. But..."

She continued considering what Kaydee had said. "But maybe she learned something from him. Snyde hurt other people to feel powerful. To prove he was in control of them, as you say. Maybe after being controlled for so long, Delphina wants to do the controlling-- and the only way she knows how is by hurting people. Maybe this is the only way she feels like she can get any power. By hating people. By making them suffer. Maybe that's why she was so mean to Mama in the first place. Maybe it makes Delphina feel like she's in charge, after so long under someone else's boot."

That realization didn't make Dash feel any better about Delphina. In fact, it made her all more inclined to take Kaydee's suggestion. It would feel good to drag Delphina back here, make her be the one who was helpless, and hit her and hit her and hit her until...

"We can't leave the compound. I want to make her stop, I want to make her... I want her to pay for what she did. For everything they took from Papa."

She knew how much Rollick would struggle. Cutting off anyone's hand was a horrible thing to do, but for a warrior, it was more than just part of a limb. What they were trying to take was his career, a piece of his identity. She hated them for that more than anything else, because it was so permanent and scarring. Well, unless Rollick died. Then Dash's hatred would be about something even greater, the ultimate sin of taking life without cause.

"But we can't go. Not now. Delphina was all the way downtown when we saw her. What if Mama and Papa came back and we were gone? They'd be terrified, thinking we'd been taken, and they'd come looking for us. They might get hurt again trying to find us, and even if they didn't... I can't do that to them, not after everything that's already happened. I can't make them worry about that again."

That meant Delphina would probably get away with it, and that thought rankled Dash to the very core. But punishing Delphina wasn't worth causing Uluki and Rollick more pain. As angry as Dash was, her parents mattered more to her.

Kira, having heard Kaydee's suggestion, abruptly stood up and ran to them, grabbing one of each of their hands. "Don't go!" she begged. "Please." Her eyes were wide with terror. If Dash and Kaydee left, who would protect her, with Uluki and Rollick gone? The bad father would take her back... no, he was dead, but someone else would. Someone mean. Someone who would torture her again. Rollick and Uluki had both disappeared, and Kira might never see them again; she wasn't going to lose Dash and Kaydee too.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Kaydee nodded as Dash explained the reason she doubted that Snyde had been behind the kidnapping. It made sense. Maybe, if Snyde’s ultimate goal had been Karsimir, he might have traded two hostages for one. But for Rollick? Unlikely. “You’re right. Besides, Snyde would have made damn sure we knew it was him. When he sends a message, he sends it loud and clear.”

Dash’s speculations about Delphina also seemed logical, although they only hardened Kaydee’s resolve to do something about her fellow refugee. If Delphina truly had embraced the example set by Snyde, and if she’d decided to pursue that sort of power, she needed to be stopped before the list of lives she’d destroyed stretched out as long as Snyde’s.

“I agree that it’s too dangerous for us to go after her right now. But she has to come back to the compound eventually. Where else is she going to go?” Kaydee frowned, absently gnawing on her lower lip while she pondered the problem. “If she doesn’t come back, maybe we can set a trap. Use some sort of bait to lure her into an ambush.” Clearly, Delphina wasn’t the only one who had learned a thing or two from Snyde.

However, before Kaydee could propose any further ideas, Kira suddenly rushed over and clasped her hand. Although surprising, the unexpected overture touched Kaydee. She and Kira were on friendly enough terms, but Kira had never initiated physical contact before -- Kaydee felt glad that Kira trusted her enough to seek that sort of comfort. More proof that she truly had been accepted as a member of Uluki’s family. “Don’t worry,” Kaydee soothed. “Dash and I won’t leave you alone. And soon, Rollick and Uluki will be back.”

Thoughts of Rollick’s return raised a jumble of questions in Kaydee’s mind. “Dash? When he gets you think we should say anything? About his hand? I mean, what do you say? ‘I’m sorry you lost your hand’? That sounds so stupid. Maybe we should just pretend that we don’t notice anything different?” Kaydee hoped she wasn’t upsetting Dash any further by discussing this. But she desperately wanted to do the right thing, and in this instance, she had no idea what might be.

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Dash considered Kaydee's idea of an ambush, and thought it was a good one. "That could work. Then we could stop her. I know she has people she cares about at the compound, but I don't think we should use them-- if we do that we're just acting like Snyde, or the people who took Papa, or... like her. But there's someone else who could be the bait. Me. I know what she did, and she'll be in big trouble for it. Whether or not she comes back to the compound, the people here aren't just going to let it go. I was supposed to die, and if she finds out I'm alive and willing to talk, she'll try to stop me. Whether she comes to kill me, or scare me, or try to talk me out of it, she'll come. And it'll be different because this time we're the ones who will have the plan and the advantage."

Dash added her reassurances to Kaydee's when Kira grabbed their hands. "It's going to be alright. We're going to stay. And Mama and Papa will probably be back any minute." As she often did, Dash wondered what was going on in Kira's head, what she thought of them and how she viewed her place in the family. But that was idle curiosity, and it didn't matter right now. What mattered was that she was affected like them, and she was sad and scared.

Anxious to prevent Kira from returning to face-against-the-wall grief, Dash didn't let go of her hand. Kira showed no reaction but didn't try to pull away, so Dash thought maybe it was helping. It was hard to tell.

Dash wasn't certain how to answer Kaydee's question, because it was something she herself was also unsure of. "I don't know. I think it would be alright to say, 'I'm sorry you lost your hand.' I know it doesn't sound very good, but I'm not sure what else there is. We are sad that he lost his hand."

Well, Kaydee was sad, and Dash was sad and guilty. When Dash said she was sorry, it wouldn't be just sympathy, it would be an apology. I'm sorry you lost your hand because of me.

"I don't think we should pretend we don't notice, because then he'll feel like he has to pretend that too, and maybe... maybe that would make it harder for him. Maybe he'd worry we couldn't handle it, and he'd try to shelter us from it. And I don't think that's what he needs right now... to be afraid we can't take it."

Dash thought for a moment. "Maybe it would be best to focus on how glad we are that he's back. Tell him that we missed him and we're relieved to see him again. That way he doesn't have to try to ignore what happened for our sakes, and he knows..."

She switched tracks slightly, trying to explain what she meant. "He's a warrior, and they took his right hand. His sword hand. It's going to make him feel different. So we need to make sure he knows we still see him the same way. If we pretend not to notice, it would probably seem fake. But if we concentrate on the fact that we missed him and we're glad he's safe... then he'll know that even though things are different for him, it doesn't make him any less important to 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: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Kaydee agreed that they shouldn’t use any unwilling people as bait for their ambush -- although she couldn’t help wondering if Delphina’s friends had known what she was doing, if maybe they’d even been a part of it. Involvement meant that they, too, presented a danger. But that would have to wait. For now, Delphina was the one who needed to be dealt with.

“I’ll help however I can,” Kaydee vowed. “I can’t fight like the warriors can. But I could lure her into the ambush, or act as a lookout, or scratch and bite her. Whatever you think is best.” Between the two of them, it appeared clear that Dash had the better mind for tactics, and Kaydee was happy to follow her lead.

However, when it came to Rollick’s lost hand, they both found themselves equally powerless. “I agree,” Kaydee conceded. “Pretending nothing has changed would be wrong. Things have changed. Denial won’t help any of us adjust.”

Kaydee had hoped Dash would know some magic words she could speak to make everything alright. But she should have known better. She’d seen so much ugliness in her life, so much pain that words could never fix. What good was an ‘I’m sorry’ in the shanty town? You couldn’t eat it, couldn’t drink it, couldn’t sleep beneath it to keep warm. Handing out pebbles would be more useful.

Kaydee thought back to the night when the warriors had carried her to the compound. What could anyone have said to her then? No speech, no matter how eloquent, could have healed her. Instead, it took the kindness and compassion of everyone present. The words weren’t what mattered -- it was the intent behind them.

“You’re right. We should just say what we feel. We are sorry something bad happened to him. And we are glad that he’s alive. Because we’re family.” Kaydee hoped that Dash wouldn’t get annoyed with her repetition of that fact, but she was still getting used to the idea. Still sorting out all that it meant.

“Dash? Now that I’m part of your family, can I still call Karsimir ‘Big Brother’? I know he isn’t really my brother. I just like pretending that he is. It makes me feel close to him.” Kaydee fidgeted with the hem of her dress. “But if it would offend you, for me to say that about someone who wasn’t really a member of the family, I can stop.”

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Dash nodded her thanks when Kaydee offered to assist in stopping Delphina. "I don't know exactly how we should do it. I'll need to think about it more. Maybe Papa will know more about where she is, or maybe they'll have crossed paths with her downtown anyway. But I'll definitely need your help. Thank you."

In her own mind, Dash resolved to make sure whatever they did wouldn't put Kaydee at risk. As the bait, Dash would be assuming risk herself, but there was no reason to drag Kaydee into it. There was no way she was going to sacrifice Kaydee for Delphina. Whatever Dash planned, she would need to find some way to ensure Kaydee's safety. But for all that, Dash was glad to have Kaydee on her side, glad for the support and help.

Far from annoying Dash, Kaydee's stating once again that they were family made a little flame of warmth flicker in Dash's heart. It was a reminder that things weren't all bad, that the situation wasn't hopeless.

"Of course you can still call him 'Big Brother.' Even though you don't have the same mother and father, that doesn't mean it isn't real. It's not fake; it's just different."

If the only thing that was real was blood, it would mean Dash didn't have anyone at all. Even Zee was not her biological relation, she had just been created at the same time. And her ties to Kira, for all their physical similarities, were the ties of mysterious magic, not the typical method of human inheritance.

But Dash knew she did have a family in spite of all of that, a family she'd found and been accepted by, though not born to. She knew her family was real.

"I don't think that being part of one family means that you can't be part of another one, too. You can be in our family and be Karsimir's little sister, and it's not a contradiction. It's just complicated. Families don't have to be simple. You just have to care about each other. I mean... in my opinion."

Because who was Dash to declare what families should be like? Dash, who hadn't even been born, who had been made. Who had no biological relatives, who wasn't the product of the union of a mother and father, but of a series of magical rituals.

Even Kira and Kaydee, however questionable their blood-related families had been, had once had them. Dash and Zee had never experienced that, or even the long-term desire to explore unknown biological roots. Dash had tried such an investigation briefly, but had quickly discovered the simple answer-- she didn't have any.

So Dash hardly felt she was the most qualified to speak on the subject of who was or wasn't family. She only knew what she had experienced, and that was far from typical. All she knew was that she loved her parents and siblings fiercely, no matter how unconventionally their family had come together.

"I don't think Mama and Papa would want you to stop calling him 'Big Brother.' They're glad that you have that relationship with him. They wouldn't ever demand that we be your only family, because that isn't true. They'll just be glad that you want to be part of our family too."
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((Continued from: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1763&start=15))

Once they were out of earshot, Rollick quietly asked Orion, "Do you know them?"

Orion shook his head, "No, but that doesn't mean they weren't around. I didn't... get out much. It's Jenny you should be asking about that. She knows everyone."

Rollick nodded. "Do you think I was overreacting?"

Orion gave a little shrug with the shoulder that wasn't helping to support Rollick's weight. "Dunno. Maybe. But you're less likely to go wrong being careful than doing the opposite."

"That was my thinking. They're almost certainly harmless, but..." But he wasn't quite sure enough of that to trust them. "Can you ask the warriors to keep an eye on them? Nothing harsh or invasive. I don't want them locked up or anything of that sort. Just... a watch? Until we're sure about them?"

Orion nodded. "Sure, I'll tell them." Whether Orion approved or disapproved of what Rollick asked wasn't clear to Uluki. Maybe the Elf didn't really care after all.

They ran into Eemay in the corridor, and retrieved Martin from her. The baby settled into Uluki's arms, pleased to be with his parents again, and Rollick kissed his son's forehead and stroked his hair. The baby smiled back, not seeming to notice anything amiss about his father in spite of the blood and bruises. Uluki considered that a blessing. A crying baby wouldn't help matters, and would have added to Rollick's discomfort.

Once they reached their set of rooms, Orion took his leave of the couple and returned downstairs. Uluki knocked on the door of the girls' bedroom, and she and Rollick, with Martin, entered when Dash gave them permission to come in.

Rollick felt slightly nervous, not sure what to say to the girls. How did you talk about what had just happened? Should you talk about it at all? He sat down on the bed by Zee, caressed her cheek, then turned his gaze to the other three girls. "I'm glad you're all safe."

Dash just stared at him for a moment, then she abruptly dissolved into sobs. Her face was red and she was having trouble catching her breath, but Rollick could barely make out the words, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."

Rollick motioned Dash beside him and wrapped his arm around her. "It's alright, Dashie."

"No it isn't! You lost your hand, and it was because of me. I shouldn't have let you. I should have told you to take Zee and run..."

"And I wouldn't have. There is nothing you could possibly have said or done that would have made me leave you there. I lost a hand, but a hand is nothing compared to your life. Nothing. You have no need to feel guilty." Dash snuggled against him, burying her face in his shirt, still crying. Kira, meanwhile, had wrapped herself around Uluki and Martin, beaming a delighted and relieved smile that everyone was home again. Not wanting to leave Kaydee out, Rollick offered his other arm to her-- the left arm, the one that still ended in a hand.

As usual, Rollick felt a little awkward about initiating physical contact with Kaydee. It wasn't that he saw her as unclean or contaminated because of her past; in his eyes she was just as clean and pure as the other girls. No, it was instead that her past made him worry that she would misconstrue his actions, since she wasn't used to being touched by males in ways that weren't either sexual or meant to inflict pain. Rollick cared very much about Kaydee, but it was in a purely paternal way, and he didn't want to give her the wrong idea about his motives. Didn't want his conduct to make her feel unsafe. Still, she had hugged him the day before after he was attacked by the evil creature, so clearly she didn't feel that touching him was inappropriate. If she wanted the hug, she was welcome to it, and if not, he would understand.

"It was all worth it to spare you and Zee from harm, Dashie," Rollick assured his daughter. "I would do the same for any of you." He made eye contact with both Kira and Kaydee specifically, trying to ensure they knew they were included in that statement.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

When Dash broke down crying, Kaydee’s first instinct was to hug her friend once more. But Rollick acted first, wrapping an arm around his daughter, and Kaydee knew that his embrace was the one which Dash really needed right then. So she hung back, listening to Rollick reassure Dash. Even with her lack of experience in the realm of love, Kaydee could clearly see how truly Rollick meant the words he spoke, and she hoped that Dash would be able to take them to heart.

Rollick’s silent offer to include her in the cuddling startled Kaydee. Of course, she’d embraced him the previous day, but that had been an impulsive gesture driven by the fear that he would be forced to leave. Given more time to think before acting, Kaydee hesitated. Then she allowed Rollick to draw her close. She knew there would be nothing sexual or hurtful in his touch. Like Karsimir, Rollick had been quick to put a clear label on their relationship -- Karsimir was “brother”, Rollick was “father”. Although she’d never possessed either of those things, Kaydee understood the ideals they represented. She sensed the boundaries which came with them.

It was the bonds that hadn’t been named, or that had been named too late, which aroused such a confusion of emotions in her chest.

“I’m sorry you lost your hand,” Kaydee murmured. “But I’m glad that you’re home now...Papa.” The title felt awkward as it dropped from her lips. However, that was what Dash and Zee called Rollick, and now that Kaydee had been made an official part of the family, she wanted to fit in. Given time, she felt sure that the word would come more easily.

Dash had said that simply stating her feelings would be enough. But as the sentences lingered in Kaydee’s head, they seemed so weak and useless. This family had been so kind to her. Didn’t she have anything more helpful to offer them in return? “I slept with a man who had a metal arm, once. He said that gnomes made it. Sometimes, it whirred and sparked a little, but mostly it worked pretty well. I remember it felt cold when he touched me...not unpleasant, but cold.” Kaydee blinked, aware that she’d let herself fall a little too deeply into the memory. “Maybe we could get the gnomes to make you a hand.”

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Rollick was unable to conceal his surprise when Kaydee called him Papa. It certainly wasn't a bad surprise. He was quite pleased, and more than a little flattered. But he was also rather confused. The last he'd heard, Kaydee wasn't intending to come with them when they left Marn. Had she changed her mind? Or was she simply trying to soften the blow of their departure? At that moment, Rollick wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer. He would take what Kaydee had offered, and accept it as it was. He simply replied, "Thank you, Kaydee. I'm glad to be back with all of you. It's a relief." He gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze. What she'd said, calling him Papa, still made him feel lighter, somehow.

Uluki and Rollick exchanged a look when Kaydee spoke of the man she'd slept with. At first the point, the metal arm, was lost on both of them, as they contemplated what one so young had been forced to do to survive. After a moment, though, Kaydee's intention became clear.

Rollick tried not to be disturbed by the idea of the false hand itself. A hand that was cold, insensitive, unable to perceive. Not connected to him, not part of his Self. Alien to him, yet attached to his body. Touching Uluki's skin but unable to feel her...

After a pause, Rollick said carefully. "I could certainly look into such a thing. If it was fairly reliable, reliable enough to be trusted in battle, at least for archery or a shield..." He couldn't imagine using a sword with a false hand, and wouldn't try. In his more than thirty years as a warrior, Rollick had of course trained to wield a sword with his off-hand. His skill was not equal with his left, but it should be more than adequate for battle. "I will give it consideration. But I fear it would prove too costly." Soon they would be without any income at all, and what money they did have should be saved for food and supplies.

Uluki was suddenly worried. What if Kaydee thought the solution to their coming financial trouble was to sell her body again? They couldn't do anything to encourage that. Kaydee should not be treated as an object, and shouldn't be put in that danger. Uluki wanted to try to make it clear that wasn't what they had in mind.

"We can start putting money aside," Uluki suggested. "If we save for it, we'll be able to afford it eventually." She wasn't sure if that was actually true. Where would they get money on the steppe? No income meant nothing to save. It would be a struggle just to feed the family, let alone put anything away for something not necessary to sustaining life. A gnomish hand for Rollick was almost certainly out of the question, and the look on his face told her he realized it too. "It's a good idea, Kaydee. Thank you."

Uluki tried not to let her worry show. Life on the steppe would have been hard anyway, and it would be even more so now. But that wasn't something to worry the girls with, and it wasn't something that needed to concern Rollick right at this moment. There would be time for all that when he'd recovered a little.

Uluki continued, "And thank you for staying with Dash while we were gone. Thank you for being here for us. For all of us. That... that means a lot." There was great sincerity behind those words. Uluki tried not to consider how hard it would be when they had to say goodbye to her.

Dash, having some inkling what her mother might be thinking about, turned to Kaydee, wondering if she planned to tell them about her decision. Dash didn't want to put her on the spot, especially if she changed her mind again, but the silent glance was questioning.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

“It was nothing. I wanted to be with Dash. I think she was here for me as much as I was here for her.” Kaydee squirmed a little and tugged on her dress. She was unused to being thanked -- at least, for anything other than getting a man to climax -- and she didn’t know quite how to react. But it felt good to hear that she’d helped.

At first, Kaydee didn’t understand Dash’s questioning look. Had she said the wrong thing? Was Dash staring at her in disbelief because of her suggestion regarding the gnomish hand? Were Rollick and Uluki only humoring her by pretending to consider such a stupid idea? Then, Kaydee realized that Dash’s silent query related to the fondness conveyed in what Uluki had just said. She wanted to know if Kaydee planned to announce her decision to become part of the family.

For a moment, Kaydee hesitated. Should she? It seemed like such a small thing, compared to what Rollick had just been through. Kaydee didn’t want to hog all the attention. She didn’t like the idea of coming across as if her choice mattered more than his lost hand. But then, it had been a rough day. Maybe some good news would make people feel a little better.

“I just told Dash, right before you got back. I want to go with you when you leave. Not out of pity. Not because I feel like I have to.” Kaydee’s fingers twisted her lap like a handful of convulsing worms. “But just because I want to. Seeing you all today -- seeing how you care about and protect each other -- it showed me how good a family can be. And I want to be part of one.”

Kaydee’s gaze dropped to the floor, and she braced herself for a refusal she still half-expected to come. “That is, if you still want me. If you haven’t changed your minds.”

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