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Casualties


Re: Casualties

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Kaydee felt a wave of compassion wash over her as Ambrose tearfully explained his split with Del. Her own heartbreak still remained fresh, like a wound which refused to close. She knew how it felt to give your devotion to someone who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give you theirs in return. She knew how it felt to kneel in the dirt, futilely begging for the smallest sign of affection. Kaydee’s expression softened and she reached out toward Ambrose, intending to lay a comforting hand on his arm. But her sympathy vanished when Ambrose began railing against Rollick and Uluki. Without ever making contact, her hand dropped back to her side.

“You think you’re the first person who ever loved someone who treated you bad? Who didn’t love you back? Well, you ain’t. And it can’t all be because of fairies. Sometimes people...sometimes they just get it wrong.”

Shaking her head, Kaydee placed her hands on her hips. “Come on, Ambrose. I know you’re not much sharper than a bent nail. But even you must have seen it. Del couldn’t hardly shut up about how she wanted to be a grand lady and live an easy life. All us girls heard it until our ears were full. What did you think? That she was going to wait until you turned out to be the long-lost heir to some noble’s fortune? The only surprise here is that she actually found a lord desperate enough to take her.”

Really, that was pretty surprising. Del wasn’t bad, especially for a shanty town whore, but lords generally married ladies. Even their consorts tended to be classy girls from the downtown brothel. Why would one make promises to Del? If Del was a more self-sacrificing person, Kaydee might have suspected that she made up her imaginary suitor in order to cut Ambrose free, to keep him from getting tangled up in the mess she’d made for herself. But not Del. She’d stand on a baby just to get a better view. The lord must be real. But what did he want with her? What did he hope to gain?

Inspiration struck Kaydee. Maybe it was true, and maybe it wasn’t. But it would certainly serve their purpose. “If you’re convinced I’m under some sort of spell, I guess there’s not much I can say to change your mind. But think about this. Del ain’t in my bed, she ain’t in Rollick’s, and she ain’t in Uluki’s. She’s off with this lord.” Kaydee waited a moment, allowing this to sink in, before she continued. “He’s the one to blame for your misery. Hell, I bet he put her up to the bad stuff she did. If Uluki and Rollick find Del, and she tells them who he is, they could probably go easier on her. Punish this lord instead. And with him out of the picture, you and Del could be together again.”

It was pretty pathetic, really –- to rush back into Del’s arms after she’d ditched him like that. To win her back by getting terrible crimes pinned on his rival. But Kaydee had long since learned that pathetic was a way of life in the shanty town.

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki felt a surge of pride in her daughter as Kaydee argued with Ambrose. It wasn't exactly a conventional achievement for a mother to want to praise, but Uluki couldn't help admiring how Kaydee stood her ground, and how she seemed completely unruffled by anything the drunkard said. Uluki could even imagine Kaydee being a lawyer or something, someday. Kaydee seemed to have the strength and the heart for it.

Ambrose looked helpless and defeated. "I knew Del was saying them things, Kaydee. I knew she wanted a man with a title. But I thought maybe if I could just keep her interested long enough, she'd end up staying. That she'd realize there weren't no lord coming for her, or... that she'd see I wasn't a bad fellow myself, for all I wasn't nothing but some guttersnipe like her. I think she loved me, in her way, but I thought if I was just patient with her, she'd come to really want me, too. For keeps."

And that too, Uluki could understand. Loving unwisely, hoping the person would change. Uluki had gotten over Garz; maybe Ambrose too would get over this self-destructive attachment to Delphina. In a strange way it gave Uluki hope, knowing Ambrose's cooperation with Delphina had been about love, however tarnished and hurtful that love was, rather than about the desire to be cruel. Love could be channeled in more positive ways, as Uluki had learned well. She clasped Rollick's hand just a little tighter.

Ambrose's reddened eyes seemed to take on more focus as he looked at Kaydee. "She didn't really tell me much about her lord guy. Didn't even say his real name-- not quite sure if she knows it. But she must, mustn't she? Man ain't going to marry her if he ain't even willing to tell her his name. She just called him Lord Honey Hair. Met him at some tavern downtown, but I dunno which tavern. Didn't ask. Didn't make any difference to me where it was."

That pseudonym meant nothing to Rollick, but he tucked it away as an additional piece of description. He believed the man who hired the sellswords must be in some way connected to Panterras; Panterras was the only one, besides their circle of friends, who knew about the possession by the god-- and the sellswords had given the god as their reason for wanting to capture Rollick. Whoever this Lord Honey Hair was, he must have been in league with Panterras to know the information. Rollick would ask Kira if she had any idea who it might be.

Ambrose was looking back and forth between them. "You catch this Lord Honey Hair, and you're going to let Del go, right?"

Rollick shook his head, unwilling to lie to the man. "It isn't that simple. Delphina committed serious crimes. She must be held to account. But when we find her, we will listen what she has to say. Knowing about the man she conspired with may help explain what she did. And of course, if it should turn out she is innocent, she will be released. The information you have given us only helps her case."

Rollick couldn't imagine how Delphina could turn out to be entirely blameless, short of this lord using some type of mind control on her, but it was vaguely possible, and it was likely to reassure Ambrose to know that Delphina would at least be given a fair hearing. "If there's anything else you can tell us..."

Before Rollick had a chance to finish, the door burst open, banging against the wall with the force. Mamie shoved her way inside, and said breathlessly, "Ambrose, you gotta come. The fairy's been accusing Del of these terrible..."

Mamie went white with shock, and stared at the three people she had definitely not expected to find in the room. "Why you lying fairy bitch! How dare you do this to poor Del? Getting your human dupes to lie for you too. Shameful."

Like Ambrose, Mamie also seemed inclined to vent her frustrations on Kaydee, perhaps because Kaydee was more of a known quantity. "I can't believe the audacity of you, either. You think you're better than us? Us shanty town folks got to stick together! What kind of traitor are you, turning against your own? You should be helping poor Del, not these strangers!"
"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’s blood began to race when Mamie burst in on them, and she felt something pushing against her ribs, like her heart was about to rupture. In truth, she’d actually been going relatively easy on Ambrose. She thought he was a bit of a dolt, but not truly evil, so she felt no personal antagonism toward him. But Mamie...Mamie, she hated. And the woman’s unprovoked accusations didn’t put Kaydee in a kinder mood.

“Stick together? Help my own?” Kaydee snorted, unable to reign in her anger and disgust. “What do you think I’ve been doing? When you lot wanted to lynch Julen, who stopped you? Who urged you to escape Snyde by coming here? I did. And you know what I got for it. So don’t you dare lecture me about helpin’ my own -- especially when you’ve never done anything for your own except get self-righteous because you can parrot some lines from a book written by a bunch of dead settlers.”

“Del’s the one who’s betrayed us. She helped people attack Big Brother’s friends. Now, when he comes back, maybe he decides we’re all bad. Or not worth the trouble. Maybe he throws us out onto the street. And why? Because Del got horny for some honey-haired noble.”

Mamie started to protest. But Kaydee thrust her raised palm in the woman’s direction, clearly prepared to shove the words back down her throat if she tried to speak them. “I know, I know. It’s all a lie. Rollick cut off his own hand and Dash stabbed herself in the back, just to cause trouble for Del. Because Del is really that important. Gods, Mamie! What does it take to make you see the truth?”

“These people helped us!” Kaydee gestured at Rollick and Uluki. “Even tho’ they didn’t have to. Even tho’ we aren’t their own. They gave us food, and shelter, and medicine. They helped to teach us new skills. And how do you repay them? With distrust, and insults, and unfair attacks.”

“Do I think I’m better than you? Damn right I do! I don’t give bad for good. I don’t let the color of someone’s skin excuse my thanklessness. If a person does right by me, then by the gods, I do right by them.”

Kaydee lowered her hand. If Mamie chose to speak, she would now listen. But Kaydee very much doubted that she’d like what she heard.

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Mamie seemed prepared to argue with Kaydee, her mouth opening and face flushing, but she abruptly changed tactics. There was a visible transition as her face slid into an expression of sympathy and gratitude.

"You're right, Kaydee. You're a good girl, ain't ya? Always lookin' out for the rest of us, and we don't never thank ya for it. What Snyde did to you, that must've been terrible. Poor thing."

Mamie reached out toward Kaydee, intending to give the girl's hair a motherly stroke, but somehow the gesture came out looking stagey and false, even though Mamie did have a child of her own.

"You done a lot for us, and we're grateful. We should all be sayin' that more often. And now the rest of us gotta follow the good example you set for us. Now we gotta do somethin' to keep all of us safe, too."

Uluki didn't like the sound of that. There was nothing wrong with the sentiment, but the tone was too slippery, too self-assured to fit the cowed image Mamie was trying to project in response to Kaydee. Uluki looked at Rollick, and saw he was also frowning.

Mamie smiled sweetly at Kaydee. "I wouldn't want to see you get hurt again. Nor anyone else here. That's why we gotta get rid of a couple of people. The ones who are dangerous. Uluki and Rollick, the magic user and the demon worshiper. That bitch Callie-- dunno why the knight didn't put a sword through her the minute she came begging for a handout, after what her husband did. But you know all about that, don't you Kaydee? Dunno why you put up with her being here."

Rollick tried to cut in angrily, but Mamie refused to let him speak.

"You see how it is then, Kaydee? You'd best find yourselves some new friends. Because I got more than enough evidence to report these two to the Judges. If they don't get out of the compound soon and leave us good folk in peace-- or if they make a move against any of us-- they get reported. I suggest you get some distance from them, lest you get pulled into it 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

When Mamie reached out, Kaydee shrank away from her touch. It was hard to imagine her looking more repulsed if Snyde himself had attempted the caress. “Grateful. That’s a laugh. You’re grateful like a poisonous snake.”

But Kaydee’s voice lacked its former confidence. As Mamie continued to speak, each cloying word wrapped around Kaydee’s heart, smothering her anger beneath their slimy chill. Kaydee no longer felt righteously outraged. She felt sick and scared. However, even in her weakened emotional state, Kaydee couldn’t let Mamie’s words about Callie remain unchallenged.

“You know Callie wasn’t to blame for nothin’ that bastard did. She probably got worse from him than any of us. Julen and Big Brother killed the men who hurt me -- and if they were here, they’d kill you too!” Now, Kaydee’s tone took on an edge of desperation. “They wouldn’t let you stand there, with that smug look on your face, and threaten good people. They’d stop you.”

Wrapping her arms tightly around herself, Kaydee took a few stumbling steps back from Mamie. “You’re vile. You’d pick us all off, one by one, if you had half a chance. And no matter how many you chase away, there’ll always be somebody else. Somebody who ain’t quite right enough for your tastes. Somebody for you to hate, so you don’t have to hate yourself.”

“I said I was better than you. But I ain’t.” Kaydee’s gaze fell to the floor, and she poked at it with her foot. “I encouraged you to come here. You, and Vernon, and Del, and all the rest. I thought maybe we could start over. I thought that all the hurt, all the evil -- I thought that was Snyde’s fault. I thought that if we were free of him, we’d be okay. But we don’t need Snyde. We do it to ourselves.”

A hot tear rolled down Kaydee’s cheek. “Uluki and Rollick only wanted to help. But we brought bad with us, and they were the ones to suffer for it. I should have known better. I should have known people like us don’t have nothin’ good left to give.”

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Mamie smiled, savoring what she felt was a victory over Kaydee, her lips stretching into a mocking sneer.

Rollick was having none of it. He was tired of being pushed around and browbeaten. Tired of his family being assailed from all sides by people who wanted to drown them in fear. "Enough! I will not have my loved ones threatened like this. You have exceeded the limits of reasonable tolerance."

Mamie turned her cruel smile on him, triumph still burning in her eyes like a demon's lantern. "So you'll do what? Kick me out? You can't, and you know it. I'll go straight to the Judges."

Rollick leveled a stare at her. "You have two options now, Mamie. You may stay confined to the compound, with watchful eyes upon you, and cease your accusations and warnings. Or I will lock you up until you demonstrate more sense."

Mamie suddenly started to look slightly ruffled. "You wouldn't dare! You wouldn't dare do that to me! You can't punish me for keepin' the law."

Rollick was utterly unimpressed. "You overestimate my respect for an arbitrary legal system. Each of us must think for ourselves. You cannot simply use an immoral law to defend immoral behaviour. If the law required you to eat a baby for breakfast every morning, I would not just give a wave and a nod to your cannibalism. A system that would condemn a healer for saving lives while ignoring the vicious pimp who tormented you all is not a law I feel constrained to follow."

"I was doin' my civic duty..."

"You were not." Rollick's voice was calm... deadly calm. "This was blackmail from the beginning. If you truly believed Uluki and I were a danger, you would have reported us immediately, not waited till the moment most to your advantage. You cannot claim to believe this blackmail is your duty as a citizen."

Mamie's voice hardened. "The knight is a holy man who believes in the law, and he'll kick your arse if you..."

Rollick's heart lurched a little. Kaydee had said she wished Karsimir and Julen were here. Of course she believed they would be much more effectual. Of course she wanted them around to defend her, not Rollick. He'd done a poor enough job of that so far, hadn't he? He shouldn't take it personally; this was to be expected. Rollick knew he was not at his best now... and would never be at his best again. "I take responsibility for my own actions. You need not trouble yourself. I stand behind what I say and do."

"You'd really lock me up?" Mamie's voice was sounding less and less confident, and there was a hint of concern becoming gradually more evident.

Rollick continued to stare at her. "Without a moment's hesitation. And if you attempt to bring any harm down on my family-- or my friends, including Callie-- I will kill you. You are the one who should tread cautiously if you value your life."

Uluki was proud of him, but turned her attention to Kaydee. "That isn't true, the last thing you said. You didn't bring the bad. You've brought a lot of good. To our family, and to everyone here. You're a big part of the reason they're out of the shanty town, and even if Mamie is being mean about it, that doesn't discount what you did. You've done so much, Kaydee..."

Tears were starting to well up in Uluki's eyes at the sheer unfairness of it, of Kaydee blaming herself for any of this. "You've helped Dash. You helped Rollick feel better about his hand. Knowing you has meant a lot to me, too. Just... please don't ever think you're bad, alright? You've given more good than you even know. You and a lot of the people here. I'm so glad we've met all of you. I have a lot of regrets in my life, but the fact people came here from the shanty town definitely isn't one of them. That's been wonderful."
"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 practically beamed when Rollick stood up to Mamie, swatting her threats out of the air as if they were nothing more than bothersome bugs. He hadn’t gotten mad, like she had. And he hadn’t succumbed to the poison of Mamie’s false righteousness. Instead, he faced his foe without flinching, and calmly told her that enough was enough. Under more appropriate circumstances, Kaydee would have applauded.

When Kaydee had invoked the names of Julen and Karsimir, she hadn’t meant to exclude Rollick. It wasn’t that she doubted his strength. But she hadn’t yet seen him in action. Besides, his ordeal was still so recent and his wounds still so fresh -- Kaydee didn’t expect anyone to be at their best after all that. Yet, here he was, powerful in both body and tone as he told off Mamie. Kaydee couldn’t help thinking of a papa bear defending its cubs.

Rollick’s victory helped restore some of Kaydee’s former confidence. She still didn’t feel like jumping back into the fray. But she dragged the back of her hand across her face, wiping away the stray tears, and glared at Mamie in mute triumph. See? My family is strong. Together, they helped stand against Snyde, and it will take more than a nuisance like you to do any harm. I’m safe with them. I’m finally safe...

As Uluki spoke, Kaydee moved closer to her adopted mother. She appreciate Uluki’s attempt to make her feel better. And, now that her despair had waned, Kaydee could acknowledge that many of the refugees who’d come to the compound were good people -- people like Martha, and Jenny, and Callie. They hadn’t brought any bad with them. They’d worked hard to help each other and help Big Brother’s warriors. Kaydee could even concede that she herself had done some good since arriving at Lightsword Hall. But still, after witnessing the loathing directed at Uluki, after seeing the stump where Rollick’s hand used to be, it was hard to believe that the fairy’s family wouldn’t have been better off if they’d never met a single refugee.

“Thanks. I guess I know I ain’t bad. I just hate seein’ bad things happen to people who don’t have it coming.” Kaydee shook her head. “You’d think I’d be used to it by now, wouldn’t you? But it still makes me mad.”

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

"I think the reason you aren't used to it is that you have a caring heart," Uluki suggested in reply to Kaydee, giving her a reassuring hug. "That's something to be glad for. That caring helps people. It helps a lot."

Then, giving voice to her previous thoughts as Kaydee had argued with Ambrose and Mamie, Uluki added, "You did a good job just now. The way you stood up to them and weren't afraid to tell them what you thought. You were strong. I'm really proud of you." Uluki kept her other thought-- that Kaydee would make a good lawyer someday, if she was so inclined-- to herself. She planned to tell Kaydee that eventually, but this didn't seem like the moment for a major career discussion. It could wait.

Rollick continued to question Ambrose and Mamie, but it quickly became clear that they didn't know anything. Ambrose had been too distraught to ask Delphina questions or make observations. Mamie hadn't been told the details... and it was obviously driving her crazy. Her itching for information about the situation was quite visible, but she didn't possess that information yet. Rollick was eventually forced to conclude that his interrogation was doomed to be fruitless.

He finally gave in to Uluki's promptings that he get some rest, and after delegating to others the task of hunting for Delphina, then ordering a check that all the weapons at the compound were safely under lock and key, so that even with Delphina roaming free she wouldn't have access an arsenal, Rollick was not only ready but eager to accompany his family upstairs.

Until sleep carried him off, Rollick talked to Uluki and the girls, speaking of light matters and happy times. The baby snuggled with his father, fortunately seemingly oblivious to anything amiss. This is what it's all about, Rollick thought groggily. This is the core. The core is stable, and everything else will turn out alright. With this pleasant thought in his mind, he drifted off into a dreamless slumber brought on by sheer exhaustion.

Uluki didn't leave his side, and when she too felt tired, she snuggled against him for her own night's sleep. She was on his left side, as usual-- not specifically a concession to his missing hand on the right, but so she could rest her head on his chest and listen to the comforting rhythm of his heartbeat. He was alive. He was safe. Every breath, every pulse reassured her of that, until she was calm enough to sleep too.


***


Night settled at the compound, with the daytime bustle of noise diminishing and then fading to nothing but the sound of the boots of the sentries making their rounds.

Delphina waited until the boot-sounds had retreated into the distance, then emerged from her hiding place. The strong smell of the old wine cask had foiled any attempts to track her by scent, and though her body was stiff from confinement to a cramped position, she was pleased that she hadn't been discovered.

In a few hours, when dawn came, Delphina would join Lord Honey Hair-- that was what the mercenary woman had said. It had seemed like more of a brushoff than a promise at the time, but Del had always been a firm believer in wishful thinking. In the meantime, she had some loose ends to tie up.

It was easier to think that way. Loose ends, instead of a girl who wasn't quite dead enough and had to be finished off. Delphina still felt a strange lingering guilt for stabbing Dash, but that was outweighed by her fear of the girl spreading the story, and maybe becoming such a liability that Lord Honey Hair would be displeased. Clearly the girl had to go.

Delphina crept past the room where the soulless fairy and the perverted old bastard slept. She knelt outside the door to the girls' room, deftly picked the lock with a hair pin, then slipped her steel nail file through the crack in the door to lift the inner bolt. Though Del's primary "career" had always been prostitution even before she fell under Snyde's control, she had never been above stealing when she needed a little extra to get by, and the procedure was accomplished with the practiced ease of an experienced lockpick.

Del softly pushed open the door, ever so slowly, inch by inch. Delphina hadn't been able to find any weapons-- a fact that struck her as the height of irony in a military compound-- but she carried a broken-off chair leg that she could wield as a club. She didn't plan to use it; it would be easier and less messy to simply crush a pillow into the girl's face until she suffocated. But if things went bad and someone awoke, Del would start swinging.

Delphina entered the room and bent over the bitch-daughter's bed, her free hand reaching for the pillow that Dash had displaced in her restless dreaming...

And in a single clumsy movement, she inadvertently gave Kaydee's mattress a solid kick. Delphina froze, waiting to see if the little tramp would wake up.
"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

Uluki’s praise won her a wide grin from her new daughter. Kaydee couldn’t remember if anyone had ever said that they were proud of her. Certainly not Snyde. Even the girls who tried to please him soon discovered that their efforts would never be enough. Why should he waste any kind words? He understood the lesson learned by so many tyrants -- if you have a big enough stick, the carrot becomes irrelevant.

“Thanks.” Kaydee savored the warm sensation spreading through her. It made her feel lighter, made her stand straighter and hold her head higher. “It didn’t seem like I did nothin’ special. I just said the words in my mouth. When I get mad, I can’t keep from telling people what I think of them. Usually gets me in trouble. I’m glad it helped this time.”

Kaydee listened carefully while Rollick questioned Mamie and Ambrose, but she wasn’t able to add much. It soon became apparent that the pair didn’t possess any particularly useful information. Browbeating them further would be as pointless as trying to churn water into butter. So, Kaydee’s mind once again turned to Del. She was the key. She knew who wanted to hurt Rollick. Now, more than ever, it became crucial to find her, to make her talk.

However, that would have to wait. It was late and the whole family felt tired. After returning to their room, they indulged in the usual pre-bed ritual of checking in with each other, chatting about the small joys brought by each day. Of course, Kaydee had participated in their conversations since the night she first arrived at the compound. But this time felt extra special. Because this time, she was officially family.

That night, Kaydee dreams of Julen. At first, they’re lying in the street again, naked and beaten. Then the pavement seems to grow soft beneath them. Stone dissolves to liquid, lapping against their skin in gentle waves, and the city fades away. Now, Kaydee finds herself floating in an expanse of water more vast than anything she’d ever imagined. No sign of the shore can be seen in any direction. Strange white birds careen through the sky above, their song like the mournful cries of recent widows. And the bits of moisture which splash against her lips taste like salt.

Julen? Turning her head, she can see him floating beside her, and she notices that his body has completely healed, just as her own has. Julen, where are we?

Don’t you know?

No.

Don’t you recognize my mother’s garden?

Kaydee opens her mouth to ask what he means, but a huge wave knocks into her, spinning her over, dragging her under into darkness. For a moment, she feels like she’s drowning.


Then, Kaydee’s eyes snapped open, and she found herself back in the room she shared with her new sisters. But someone else was there. In the dim light which bled in from the hallway, Kaydee could make out a figure standing over Dash, with a crude club clutched in one hand. The shadows kept her from recognizing Del. But the person’s identity didn’t matter. Someone was trying to harm her family and Kaydee would have challenged Amaranda herself to prevent it.

She experienced no instinct to cry for help. In the shanty town, help never came. Instead, Kaydee simply issued a guttural snarl, before leaping at the person who dared to carry out such a brazen assault. If she could, she would drag them to the ground. If not, she would bite, and scratch, and rip out their hair.

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Kaydee's attempt to tackle Delphina was somewhat successful. Del wasn't pushed all the way to the ground, as she weighed more than Kaydee did; though Del's body was trim, she was still more curved and fleshy than skinny Kaydee was. In spite of their size difference, though, Del did not expect to be leapt upon. She had merely been listening for stirrings from the girl's bed, and an all-out attack took her by surprise. This surprise element gave a distinct advantage to Kaydee.

Del was forced into an awkward position, off balance and half-pinned against the mattress. The woman lost hold of the pillow, and barely managed to keep her improvised club in her other hand. She swung the club toward Kaydee, but given the angle and how little she could move her arm to get momentum, if it even hit Kaydee at all, it wasn't likely to do serious damage. Kaydee's fingernails raked Delphina's face, and Del winced at the pain, but she ignored it, shoving back at Kaydee, trying to dislodge the girl and get her own body into a a more advantageous position.

Meanwhile, Dash rose from her bed. Dash was always a light sleeper, and Kaydee's growl had been enough to wake her. And much as Dash treasured her new life, her safe and loving family, months filled with drawing and reading and learning instead of killing, it had done nothing to dull her initiative. In fact, her new situation had conveyed somewhat the opposite effect, as it had done much to increase her confidence. As she had done when she went with her parents to face down Panterras, and then on her own when she followed Zee to try to rescue her from Delphina's clutches, Dash was ready to be pro-active.

Nor was Dash unprepared. She reached beside her mattress for the knife she'd brought to bed just in case such a thing should happen. The light coming through the crack in the door was enough to recognize Del, and anyway, Dash would have helped Kaydee no matter who she was struggling against.

Dash's knife was a small one, a utility knife she used for sharpening pencils, not a weapon for combat-- but it was a blade. It offered surprisingly little resistance as it pierced the flesh of Delphina's side.

"You bitch! You did this to me, so how do you like it? I should cut off your hand, so you know how my father felt..." Dash murmured in Delphina's ear, an angry whisper. She made no move toward Delphina's hand, though, instead drawing the knife back for repeated gouges.

Delphina first made a gurgling noise, then opened her mouth to let out a scream...
"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 felt Del’s improvised club strike her, followed by a wave of pain rushing down from her shoulder. But Kaydee was used to pain. She was used to ignoring it. And, although Del could hardly be called frail, her ability to inflict pain simply didn’t measure up against the misery routinely doled out by Snyde’s thugs. Kaydee’s grip on Del barely loosened. Instead, she continued her efforts to bite and claw.

And then Dash joined the fray, which only increased Kaydee’s ferocity as she struggled to protect the friend who had so recently become her sister. When Dash drove her small knife into Del’s side, Del attempted to fend off this new threat with the club, but Kaydee caught Del’s arm in both hands, preventing the blow from falling. Then Kaydee sunk her teeth deep into Del’s wrist. Already weakened by the knife wound, Del lost control for a moment, and the club dropped from her twitching fingers.

Dash’s hissed words didn’t escape Kaydee. However, while she certainly sympathized with her sister’s desire for vengeance, she herself had other concerns. As Del attempted to scream, Kaydee thrust a pillow against her face. Then, using the pillow as leverage, she pushed Del to the floor, where Del lay on her back, blinking upwards at the girls she’d been so willing to kill. Quickly, Kaydee straddled her, making sure the pillow still covered Del’s mouth and nose.

“Who put you up to it?” Kaydee hissed. Her eyes glinted with harsh emotions and blood from her biting attack still dribbled off her lips. All in all, she didn’t make a particularly comforting sight -- which was the point. Kaydee knew how to do this. She’d seen it done so many times before. So many times.

“Who wanted to kidnap Rollick? Tell us or you’ll be sorry. And if you try to scream, I swear, we’ll kill you.”

Cautiously, Kaydee lifted the pillow a little. Beneath her, Del wheezed as she sucked much-needed air into her lungs. “I...I don’t know. He never told me his name. You little bitch...he never told me his name.”

“I don’t believe you.” Without a hint of remorse, Kaydee shoved the pillow back into place. Then, she looked up at Dash. “Stab her again.”

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Dash was frozen as Kaydee interrogated Delphina. Warring emotions in Dash's mind, completely opposed and compelling different courses of action, left her paralyzed and unable to act on either one.

Dash's anger hadn't dissipated. If anything, it had gotten stronger and started burning brighter now that she was finally able to act on it. The sight of the blood affected Dash on a visceral level, slowing her conscious mind and making her coldly focused. There was nothing in her tunnel-narrow line of thought but the woman on the ground before her, what that woman had done, and Dash's desire to spill more blood. In that moment, the sensitive and thoughtful artist had vanished, and the purpose-bred assassin stood in her place.

But the assassin was not alone. With her, in her, part of her was the damaged child, the one who, in spite of her apparent physical age, had experienced less than a year of life, the first few months of which had been blood-soaked and brutal. Despite being created for and in the midst of violence, Dash had been completely unprepared for it mentally, and still was. Unprepared even to see it, let alone to be the violent one herself. Dash was reminded of her creator, The General, and his harsh brutality. She felt like she was back there, unable to move, unable to save herself and her siblings. Just watching, incapable of action. Paralyzed, like a mesmerized victim staring into the eyes of a snake. Wishing desperately for escape, to flee to somewhere, anywhere but here.

The two Dashes watched from inside one skull, one straining like a hound on a leash and the other cowering like a frightened child, unable to run.

When Kaydee addressed her, Dash's painfully divided mind merged again, and the taut paralysis snapped. Dash knelt by Delphina and ran the blade across her cheek, firmly enough to draw small red beads of blood. "Who was it?" Dash demanded with complete calm.

"I don't know! I told you I didn't!" Delphina's desperation was mounting, but it was also turning into anger. "I didn't know he was going to lose his hand, though! I didn't know!"

That had never occurred to Dash. She had assumed Delphina had been in on the whole plan all along. Was it possible Del had been drawn in without meaning to be, as Dash had been drawn into The General's schemes? Dash moved the blade so it rested against Delphina's throat, creasing the skin but not drawing blood this time. "Who was it, then? Who did know?"

Del didn't have any information, but she still hoped she could ingratiate herself. "I feel right bad for the old man, I do. Must be hard for him. And no doubt the fairy would be hurting too, if she had a soul..."

Dash snarled, and Delphina, accurately sensing danger and how utterly she had erred, abruptly tried to get up, jerking away from Dash and Kaydee. Del aimed a kick in Kaydee's direction, then her hand snaked toward the club, planning to smash it across Dash's face.

But Dash hadn't chosen her self-given name at random. She was fast, faster than Delphina, and she managed to use her knife again, striking hard and fast and low, aiming to incapacitate rather than to kill. The knife stuck in and deeply gashed Delphina's thigh... and to Dash's surprise, a fountain of bright-red blood erupted. Dash realized, with not a small amount of detachment, that she must have hit Del's femoral artery, ripping it wide open.

It seemed like mere seconds before it was over. Maybe it really was seconds. There had been no last words. Dash knelt in a pool of blood, soaked in blood, not touching the body that had been Delphina, staring at it. Just staring. Dash's previous paralysis was back, now transmuted into what was essentially catatonia. How had this happened again? How had Dash, after all her attempts to be normal, caused another death in spite of all the vows made to herself and the people she loved that the killing part of her life was over? How...?
"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 remained unmoved by Del’s insistence that she didn’t know Rollick was going to lose his hand. Even if she was telling the truth -- which, frankly, Kaydee doubted -- Del could hardly claim ignorance about the potentially deadly results of driving a dagger into Dash’s back. Del had it coming. And they were going to give it to her, unless she told them what they wanted to know.

However, before Kaydee could resume her questioning, Del suddenly rocked her body sidewise, throwing Kaydee off. Then a kick connected with Kaydee’s face. For a moment, Kaydee was too stunned to move. In a daze, she watched as Del scrambled to retrieve her club, and Dash stabbed her in the thigh. Blood. So much blood. Who would have imagined that a single body could hold so much blood? Kaydee thought that some of it was running down her own face, before she realized that Del’s kick had broken her nose.

“Oh no...” Kaydee whispered. She didn’t feel bad about killing Del in a general sense. But the immensity of her mistake began to creep over her. Del hadn’t given them information they needed, and now Del was dead, which meant she couldn’t give it to anyone, which meant Rollick was still in danger, and surely Uluki and Rollick would be mad at her for messing up, and probably Big Brother and Julen too. “Oh no, no, no...”

As always, Kaydee’s instinct for self-preservation quickly kicked in. Scooting forward, she grabbed Del’s shoulders, and began trying to drag her toward the door of the room. “It’s still dark and most people are asleep. We can hide the body. Bury it in the garden. No one needs to know what happened.” Her words were short and clipped, punctuated by fear.

Re: Casualties

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Dash didn't respond to Kaydee, didn't even look at her. She barely heard the sounds, and couldn't follow the words. As Kaydee began to pull Delphina's body toward the door, Dash's eyes tracked the corpse; she made no other move, not even turning her head.

It was too much. Too overwhelming. Too much past barging unwanted into the present.

Nothing Dash could do. Too late. Nothing she could do. How had this happened again? Not a human, just a thing. Just a murderer, a killing machine. Too late...

Unable to move or speak, Dash just stared at the body.


***


Rollick was awakened by scuffling and the muffled sounds of urgent conversation from the adjoining room. It took him a moment to return to full wakefulness after the fog of a deep and exhausted sleep, but when he did, he became concerned something was amiss. The sounds didn't seem like ordinary night noises, and after the events of the day, Rollick wasn't prepared to take any chances.

He tried to slip out of bed without waking Uluki, but since she was pressed against him, her head resting on his chest, with his arm draped lightly around her, this proved physically impossible. Uluki muttered in her sleep and woke, and she too immediately became concerned about what was going on in the other room. Both of them quickly climbed out of bed, careful not to wake the sleeping baby. Rollick was still wearing most of his clothing, since he'd fallen asleep talking to his daughters as well as to his wife, but Uluki shivered in just her chemise.

Both Uluki and Rollick were surprised to see Kira curled up on their floor; they hadn't heard her come in. At first it seemed she had come seeking comfort-- something she had done before, one of the first nights she had stayed at the compound-- but another quick glance showed that was not the case. Kira had the hilt of Rollick's dagger clutched in her hand; she was there to protect her godparents, not to seek protection. Uluki couldn't help smiling, and Rollick gently removed the weapon from her grasp so she wouldn't injure herself, but neither of her godparents disturbed her sleep, which seemed peaceful.

Rollick gave a couple of sharp raps on the door to warn the girls they were coming in, but did not otherwise delay. Ordinarily he would have had more respect for their privacy, but circumstances being as they were, he was more concerned about their safety. He and Uluki entered the girls' bedroom... and were surprised and shocked by the scene of blood and carnage that greeted them, as well as the presence of obviously-dead Delphina.

What had happened seemed quite apparent. Delphina had clearly attacked one or more of the girls-- there was no other reason the woman would be in their bedroom-- and fortunately, they had been able to defend themselves. Uluki and Rollick were intensely glad they were alive, but also very worried. Kaydee had sustained some visible physical injuries, and Dash looked like she was in some kind of shock state. Zee, remarkably, was still asleep, probably due to the effects of being drugged earlier that day.

By unspoken agreement, Uluki went to Kaydee, and Rollick to Dash. The wounded girl needed the healer. Rollick took Dash into his arms, comforting and asking if she was alright, and though she didn't answer, she looked at him, and her previously tense body went limp against him.

Uluki, meanwhile, tried to help Kaydee. "I'm so glad you're safe. I see she hurt you-- will you let me heal you?" Uluki glanced over to where Rollick sat with Dash, and saw that Dash still wasn't talking. "What happened?" Uluki asked gently, not pressing or accusing but trying to understand.

Then, concerned that Kaydee was too frightened to welcome the gesture but unwilling not to do everything she could to provide comfort, Uluki opened her arms to offer a hug.
"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

Dash’s lack of response wasn’t lost on Kaydee. Fearing that her friend -- her sister -- had been hurt by Del, Kaydee released the corpse and took a step toward Dash. “Dashie?” Instinctively, Kaydee spoke the affectionate nickname she’d heard used by Uluki and Rollick. “Dashie, are you alright?”

Dash didn’t reply. Instead, the sound of knocking made Kaydee spin around. Her gaze settled on the door just in time to see it open, revealing Rollick and Uluki standing beyond. Guilt flashed across Kaydee’s face. Stumbling backward, she attempted to increase the distance between herself and Del’s lifeless body, as if she could sever her connection to it. As if she could pretend that she hadn’t even noticed it yet.

When Uluki approached her, displaying no emotion other than compassion and concern, Kaydee stopped backing away. In truth, she’d nearly forgotten her injuries. But Uluki’s offer of healing still earned a mute nod. For an instant, Kaydee felt like she’d never be able to speak again. Then, a gentle request from Uluki broke the dam, and a stream of swirling words poured from Kaydee.

Reeling like a drunken guardsman, Kaydee’s mind struggled for a believable story. “We didn’t do nothin’. She staggered in here like that -- I guess maybe somebody else hurt her for what she did. Dash and me tried to help her. That’s how we got all bloody. But she was already dead. And I was just about to go get you and Rollick. I was.”

Kaydee’s eyes darted toward Dash, hoping to gain confirmation of her lie. But Dash remained silent, slumped in Rollick’s arms, apparently oblivious to everything happening around her. Concerned, Kaydee once again scanned her sister for any sign of injury. And that was when she noticed the bloody penknife still clutched in one of Dash’s hands. Soon, Uluki or Rollick would also see it, if they hadn’t already. And they’d know. Defeated, Kaydee sunk into Uluki’s hug, beginning to cry as she confessed the truth.

“I-I woke up. And Del was standing over Dash with a club in her hand. I didn’t want her to hurt Dash. So I tackled her, and that woke up Dash. Together, we got her pinned on the ground. And...and I wanted to know who’d told her to kidnap Rollick. I know Rollick said he was going to ask her, without using torture or nothin’, but I didn’t think that would work. So I told her to tell us. I said that I’d kill her if she didn’t. But she got loose, and reached for the club, and Dash stabbed her with the knife, and then there was so much blood. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just wanted to help. But now she’s dead, and we can’t find out who wants to hurt Rollick, and I think Dash got broken.”

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