The High

Factories along the northern quarter of the city for the production of goods like cloth, brewed ale, and construction materials. An old water-wheel provides power for half the city.
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Daq Bekkar
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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:32 am

Help Daq relax? The phrase stuck out to him. He focused his attention on Pagusel, narrowing his eyes, as if, by concentrating, he could force her to say more. She changed the subject nonetheless, and his expression faded as he contemplated the little information he did have.

Why would Daq have needed help in relaxing? What had made him so anxious? The prospect of death? How aware had he been of the process he was about to undergo? His memory had framed it as an unexpected sort of thing--an accident met while on an errand to assist Morax in forging himself a new body. Morax, generously, had opted to risk his life and transfer Daq to the form he'd been making. Funny, though, how none of his memories covered the process of shaping the thing.

He only half-listened to Pagusel's confused discussion of the arrangement Morax had made. Fortunately, he could recall the deal being agreed upon and knew its tenets. Otherwise, he'd not have been able to understand her. Intentional or not, the grammar would have taken too much effort to sort through.

"Morax can still help you with that," he said, staring past her. "He is a shrewd businessman, but he is also fair."

Daq lost further interest in her when she seemed to have either disregarded his comment on practicality or misunderstood it completely. Not bothering to interpret her take on what he needed--the ambiguous notion of "culture"--he considered getting up. Again, he was too tired, too sluggish. Briefly, he wondered if they were simply talking past each other, or if either of them actually understood anything about the person with whom they spoke.

With his attention drifting in and out, he listened to her pitch about which drugs to take and which he might not have taken as his former self. The first one offered, the emotion-enhancing bud, didn't interest him very much.

The second drug he took from her in the hopes that, if nothing else, the excitability it was supposed to induce would help energize him, so that he could up and leave this former associate of his to her own devices. He popped it into his mouth, swallowed, and waited. At first, there was nothing.

He sat patiently, though his sternly-arranged face may have suggested otherwise.

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Re: The High

Post by Pagusel » Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:59 pm

Pagusel clicked her teeth in anticipation as Daq consumed the small, brittle pod. It was uncharacteristic of her to display much degree in emotion, but beneath her languid demeanor, there then blossomed a sensation that would have displayed on most individuals as elation. That span of several moments after he took the drug--as they waited for the effects to sink in, as she pondered the leftover deep purple libation in her fingers--was familiar and exciting to her. It was inevitable that, prodded by the adrenaline from the excitement of the unknown, she would in turn take the unchosen drug; but, she was letting the moment of stasis linger, the better to enjoy the natural high.

When she did take the drug, it was as if an afterthought. She parted her lips very slightly and placed the little slip of a leaf just past the opening of her mouth, onto the end of her tongue. She closed her lips and watched Daq earnestly. He would likely soon feel the first wave of that drug's effect. Increased heart rate was not uncommon in accompanying the "exhilarating" feeling she had described. In truth, her expectation was that the intellectual paranoia would manifest itself as a foil to his complaint that he knew everything and experienced nothing.

Pagusel's leaf--some called it a petal for its horticultural value, but it was indeed a true leaf--melted against her tongue and seeped into the tissue; laced saliva trickled down the gulley on either side of her tongue. She swallowed, and sighed through her nostrils.

For a moment, her eyelids wavered and shut. She sat there, half-nodded-off, for a few seconds, and then opened her eyes. For several moments, she fought the dizzy drowsiness that had suddenly overtaken her, blinking slowly. The rate of her blinking gradually slowed, and then her chin lifted with attentive recognition as the desired effect presented visually: she became acutely aware of the ambient light and how it played off objects in her field of view; streaming halos of light poured out from the edges of object in her sight and faded to pale gray in her periphery.

When Pagusel's gaze turned up to the moon, she could only glance for a second, as its brightness was nearly that of the sun's to her. She looked only long enough to confirm the comforting, orangeish hue to the moon above. There was by no means a harvest moon out, but to Pagusel, it was the color of honey.

She lifted a hand to shield her gaze from the moon as she looked at Daq. She squinted and gave a stiff-upper-lipped smile as she waited for a color to fade in for him. It seemed her psyche could not settle on something for him, as grayish purple and red wove in and out of the streams of light, which seemed to pulse with an energy that could have been his quickened pulse.

Pagusel lifted her hand from her eyes to strum the beams of Daq's aura from a yard's distance, an act she seemed to find idle and pleasant, for she kept it up as she talked.

"You're not empty entirely," she mused.

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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Sun Sep 13, 2009 11:00 am

His face hadn't portrayed it, but Daq had been on the edge of nodding off himself when the first effects of the drugs began to whittle away at his torpor. Though the leaden feeling in his limbs hadn't dissipated, his heart had begun to race. His skin felt like it was freezing over as his capillaries constricted to shunt blood to his core. A few seconds later came the sensation of melting, as everything evened out again and the blood flowed back to his extremities.

As soon as the physical effects had grown familiar enough for him to redirect his attention, he noticed that his perception was changing. Most prominently, everything around him seemed like it had begun to shake. He tried to steady the shaking by holding his eyes perfectly steady, but that only made the oscillations worse. The outlines of each thing dissipated as they blurred into the boundaries of adjacent objects. Everything seemed to be in a state of flux.

A great transition, he thought. Not evaporation, but sublimation.

But what was the coming vapor? The aether? Empyreal air?

Surely, he was not good enough to breathe those things, to consume the world around him, to move from sensory derivation to experiential integration. His senses would overwhelm him. He hadn't experienced enough. A vague, unintelligible fear began to fill him--a feeling of hot, desperate emptying at his core.

There must be made room.

There was one thing being held constant. Pagusel, so still, so unmoving, staring at her moon. In his view, her outlines were crisp, framed neatly against her cloak that covered the hole in the armoire from which she had removed the drug that had made him feel so strange, so suddenly and acutely endangered, where he had before only felt the distant sensation of loss.

Her statement, "you're not entirely empty," no matter how casual and tangential it may have seemed to him while the sounds were still hanging in the air, only confirmed his suspicions. She was hiding something from him, something about his 'condition.'

"The schleyr," he said nervously. "The curtain. The cloak. The obstruction. What is being hidden there?"

After a few difficult moments of impulses just a hair too weak to translate into actions, he finally managed to exclaim, "Move it aside!"

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Re: The High

Post by Pagusel » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:46 am

Daq's agitation was instantly palpable when his gaze fell upon her. Before she was cognitively aware of his change in attitude, she simply admired the crackling lines of his protean aura. The purplish red was more vivid now and roiled with spikes that couldn't be strummed.

A spike lurched, with his attitude, and Pagusel flinched before he even spoke. Her expression softened into a mild smile, and she was just happy to see him excited.

The curtain . . . she looked down at the cloak. It was sort of like a curtain, and the hole in the armoire was sort of a window, and the face of her lover in the sky was the sun beating sweetly on the drapes drawn shut; she felt as if she could tuck part of herself--a shoulder blade or a thigh--inside there and invite her old friend to someplace familiar.

Move it aside! he insisted, and she recognized that he would inadvertently be intruding if she did such a thing. She looked at Daq with a gaze as slow and deep as molasses and shook her head. Her lips were a tender frown.

Pagusel scooted her seat a few inches so that she sat nearly over the little hole that the cloak covered. She tucked the fingertips of her left hand down to feel the coolness just under the cloak, and in that way she kept herself tied to that private spot in her mind, in the armoire. Very slowly, as ever, the wood continued to rot, so as to eventually give way to stress. Perhaps it would crumble some more tonight.

"You mustn't," she said with love. "It's private."

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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Sat Sep 19, 2009 9:00 am

Upon hearing Pagusel's response, Daq fell into a state of almost paralyzing distress. How was he to find the thing that he needed--the key to his survival--if it was being deliberately hidden... if it was being kept.. private!

Drawing his hands up against himself, he shuddered. It was mainly a mental reflex, but as his muscles twitched he could feel the cold. He could feel it on the backs of his arms especially. An image of short sleeves came to mind, a pure river, the smell of distant winter. They were standing under the shade of something. Who were they?

To keep from falling away, he began kicking his heels into the heap of scrap, childishly digging himself a trench out of the smaller pieces of loose debris. He looked to Pagusel for some clue but found none. Her little smile might just as well have been amusement over toying with him as it might have been a tiny pleasure over his 'progress.'

"Pagusellllll! I need to see it! I know it's in there--this thing of mine," he whined. Without knowing whether he was speaking metaphorically or being literal, he made what he considered a very mysterious wave of his hand and quietly, reverently added, "The key."

How could Pagusel have come into the possession of something that belonged to him? Something so important? Did he give it to her? Entrust her with it? Or had it been stolen?

He pressed his eyes shut and tried to remember, but nothing he could dredge up seemed very worthwhile. A recipe, perhaps, for hemoglobin. The metabolic action of potassium chloride. After quickly growing tired of the task, he tried to summon the river, the shade and the summer attire, but he couldn't resurrect them. Even with his eyes closed, the image of the covered armoire still dominated everything else.

As much as he wanted to move the cloak, he couldn't. Pagusel's insistence on its privacy, along with her surprising, inscrutable tone, gave the thing unparalleled weight. He reached out briefly with his hand, trying to imagine pushing it out of the way. He made the appropriate motions, but he didn't dare reach out close enough to touch the thing. In his mind, he was seeing the covering swing back into position with impossible inertia, snapping bones, taking limbs and fingers as it went.

Quickly withdrawing, Daq folded his arms across his chest and rocked back and forth silently. How was this to be resolved?

The chemical components of flash powder.

Daq unfolded his arms. Still rocking, he allowed his fingers to begin to twitch.

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Re: The High

Post by Pagusel » Sun Sep 27, 2009 7:24 am

Pagusel's attention was away from Daq for several moments as he lurched within his personal space. Her gaze was on the horizon, scanning a low scape of ragged trash. She had moved her fingers up to comb her hair back from her temples and seemed to be taking great indulgence in the action. A pretty, lovesick smile tucked up the bottom edge of her lower lip. When her name was whined, she merely tilted her head side to side a bit, a connoisseur tipping the sound about in her mindspace.

Finally, having preened her hair for a minute, she lowered her hands and stroked the sides of her face as she did so. A trace of dried green coloring came off on her fingertips. She looked down and her eyes widened as she saw a radiant shimmer pouring from her fingers. Then, it dawned on her: she did have something of his in there.

"Oh!" she whispered. She pointed her glowing finger at him and his aura transformed into a kind, comforting green that reminded her of napping. Her ribs felt strained with emotion as she recalled his generosity in giving her . . . a box of pills.

While she felt certain there was no key of any sort associated with that box, the lavender waves of gratitude that flowed from her shoulders compelled her to cooperate. But how? Invite him to impose on her privacy?

She held up both hands to keep him symbolically at bay. He was rocking and making strange tics with his fingers. Her face softened with empathy; her lips wavered with something else. She rolled her posture forward, fell smoothly onto her knees, and scooted towards him.

"Dear thing," she murmured, her brow knit with concern, "you may be calm. Do you need more herb? A lully-bye, dear?"

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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Thu Oct 01, 2009 5:32 am

At first, Daq tried to concentrate on what he was doing, but he found it easier to turn his focus away from the stitchery at hand. It seemed that his muscles had a better feel for the warp of nitrogen and woof of oxygen than his consciousness. Not daring to engage the muscles of his neck and back to pitch his head upward, he allowed his eyes to simply peer at out Pagusel from under the overhang of his brow.

He could see her luxurious preening, her gentle caress. She only loved herself. It was clear to him. The was some value in the things being hidden, some value that Pagusel did not want to share. She was pointing at him, whispering. An accusation. He'd been discovered. He wanted to urge his muscles to go faster, but he couldn't. They were working at their own steady pace--forehand, backhand, forehand, backhand--and he'd have to wait until they were finished with their task.

And then, something else. A disarming motion, an approach. With her posture, rolled toward him, he could follow the expanse of skin down from her neck a little further than usual. She cooed at him, offering to sing him to sleep, and she was transformed, instantly, into a mother. His mother? No; he didn't remember his mother. She was any mother. Every mother.

His fingers continued, but only at a languid, recalcitrant pace. He was scared. How could he betray the great Everymother?

Even Morax was a good son. Daq couldn't conjure up a vision of Morax's mother, but he could sense Morax's obligation to her, his filial duty. Besides, Daq reasoned, she wouldn't have been able to look any different from the way Pagusel looked now.

"Please, mother," he murmured, full of guilt and reluctance. A small patch of the rust and dirt in front of him was beginning to bleach. "Please don't make me."

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Re: The High

Post by Pagusel » Sun Oct 04, 2009 4:18 am

Things had a way of refusing to stay one color. Each twist of Pagusel's understanding brought on a psychedelic paradigm shift.

He begged her; she remembered once plying the boychild, in his anxiousness, with the smoke of herbs ground in a mortar. He had coughed and whimpered over the brazier. Daq's aura shivered dark pink.

Instinctively, Pagusel lifted her hand to his face to feel his forehead for fever. Her fingertips traced up the firm, over-engaged muscles of his brow and paused at his hairline. In an instant, she recalled brushing Daq's hair off his face earlier, when he had fallen in the alley. The tips of her fingers tensed. His color was suddenly so unmistakably purple that she felt certain she could reveal him.

The pads of her fingers pressed at the top of his forehead, and she crooned through her stern expression of tough love. The proper Daq should be hiding behind that mask, and if she could pull it off, he would be better for it. "You must," she pressed.

For a moment, his color changed to match the odd discoloration of the earth near her knees. She blinked and her hand slipped down slightly. Her shirt slackened and drooped at the front. Her breasts were marked with pale tattoos that arced low on her decolletage. Pagusel absently lifted her hand to push her shirt back against her bosom and scooted right up against Daq on her knees.

"Be strong, dear. You should . . . " She trailed off as she put her thumb against his jaw and frowned. The face didn't seem to want to pry off so easily.

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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:33 am

Like a naughty child anticipating his punishment, Daq jerked back away from Pagusel as she lifted her hand in his direction. Her first fleeting touch at his brow alleviated his fears. She wasn't angry at him. She was concerned, sorry for the difficulty he was facing. He relaxed his face, allowing his features to fall back into the same artificial, impassive arrangement they'd been made to have.

As Pagusel massaged his forehead, she spoke some words of encouragement to him. He focused on her throat, watching the muscles' slight movements. Her covering slipped away even further to reveal markings. It was a script, and he felt an intuitive sense of its meaning. He was being tested. This was all a test. If he was to find the key to his survival, he would have to earn it.

His fingers twitched a few more times before growing still, pausing in deference to the daunting task at hand. Daq was finally beginning to grasp the duality before him. Pagusel, the great Mother, was also the great destroyer. Her dark features, her lithe body reminded him of an insect, a spider perhaps. She would just as soon fight for the viable among her young as she would kill and consume the rest, thereby purging all weakness from her brood.

Daq squeezed his eyes shut and fumbled to set his reaction in motion. The pertinent hand motions seemed to fail him at the most critical instant, so that all he was left to do was slam his fist into the patch of chemicals that had been elicited from the earth. He punched at it several times before reaching the correct amount of power. There was a sound, but mostly there was a feeling. His knuckles burned as the released heat seared his skin.

He winced, opened his eyes, and lunged for the obscuring cloak. Only after grabbing hold on the greasy fur and snatching it away did he look back to see what had been wrought. Though his guilt and worry could not be denied, he was mostly fearful.

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Re: The High

Post by Pagusel » Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:16 am

Pagusel's breath quickened several moments before she was consciously aware of her own sense of alarm. So intent was she on the puzzle of unweaving Daq's persistent jaw that she didn't notice the building urgency of his tics. Once more, she caught a glance of the dirt in her lower periphery, and his aura blanched before her eyes.

"Nnn . . . nnnu . . ." She blinked and muttered half-formed annulments to a situation already beyond her control. "Mm!" she inhaled she she sat back on her haunches.

He was striking at the earth--a tantrum? Pagusel searched his whitened face with wide-eyed dismay. She should have taken the opportunity to calm him more seriously.

A synapse fired that replayed the a split-second memory of a human's squeal. Like someone on the verge of sleep, or a hallucinator, she interpreted the sound as real.

Daq exploded, bright and white. Pagusel didn't allow herself to cry out and upset him further. She shrunk back and instinctively held up her arms to protect her face from the imminent danger. She was blinded.

In an instant, she shrank down further for her own protection of the rampage she assumed would ensue. Behind Daq's back, she became a cockroach and scurried under a scattering of brittle old parchment.

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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:54 am

He looked back and saw... nothing. There was only the expanse of scrapyard, bathed in rust, bleached-white moonlight, and silence. It was so oddly bereft of motion and presence that he couldn't help but feel like he was in a different place entirely. It was as if he'd awakened from some busy nightmare. It was.. a test. Surely, it had all been just a test. Trial passed, the tribulation had come to an end. He could now collect his prize.

Returning his attention to the cache, he saw a few items partitioned strangely by the upended shelves and resting against the back of the armoire. Contemplating the awkward angle of the chest made him feel a bit queasy, so he only allowed his eyes to wander briefly over the contents, merely scanning to find his object among them.

There were a number of small pots, no larger than a tree-borne fruit. Each had plants growing within, and dried herbs had been packed around and in between. He supposed that if he'd paid closer attention to them, he'd have been able to identify their taxonomies. They were, however, undoubtedly not what he was looking for. Nor were the books in the corner, nor the plain wooden box half obscured by a still-intact door panel.

He was about to replace the cover and give up his search when he saw a flash of something. Insight, was it? No, it was the box he'd overlooked, one of its silver hinges. He fished it out, and, now looking at its cover, he was overcome.

The inlay was dazzling, effulgent even in the moon's light. And the tree! The tree. The memory returned to him--the river, the short sleeves, the shade. It was this tree's shade! He knew it. Clutching the box closely, he'd started to rise when another memory returned to him, riding on the coattails of the last. Pagusel was not just a woman. As he'd surmised, she was also.. or.. could also be an insect. A Kaavfer.

The test was perhaps not over. She was perhaps still watching him. He was perhaps in more danger than before, even.

"Show yourself!" he whispered. He glanced around wildly. "SHOW YOURSELF!"

Still clutching the box, he sprang to his feet and patted at his garmets. What if she was ON him?! He tore off his jacket. Placing the box between his knees, he deftly undid the buttons of his shirt and removed that as well.

He clamped the box under his chin and unfastened the buckle of his belt and the buttons on his trousers. He stepped out of his undergarments. Soon, he was standing naked atop the mound of rubbish, pale skin glowing almost as brightly as the silver inlay of the box in the garish light of the moon. He slapped at himself madly, hopping from one foot to the other, not daring to keep both on the ground at once.

"Where are you?! Pagusel!"

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Re: The High

Post by Pagusel » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:00 am

Mere yards from the armoire, the old parchment barely rustled above Pagusel's antennae. She would pause, and if there was indication of a lot of noise and violence in the air, she would put more distance between herself and the situation. There was no conscious thought beneath the parchment, but there was waiting, and sensing.

A smear of stale library paste caught the bug's attention, and for several moments, her mouthparts moved to peel up flakes of the food; Pagusel the cockroach was not possessed of the same austerity as her human counterpart, and was liable to act on such base stimuli.

The thud of feet hitting the ground nearby stunned the cockroach for a moment. A jacket dropped to the ground create a breeze that riffled the parchment. The scrap directly above her shifted away, and Pagusel became disoriented.

She scurried toward the armoire, where the air was more still. Then there was a shift there, too: more garments dropping, all around. Pagusel was confused and made drowsy by the food she was still in the process of swallowing. She stood up.

For only a moment, Pagusel's human eyes expressed the cockroach's panic. She blinked this away quickly, for she had largely learned to take any residual bugginess with a grain of salt. The next sight she registered would have been less upsetting if she could have retained a cockroach's healthy lack of self-awareness . . .

Daq was not a frightful beast on a rampage. The only bright white light, now, was the moon above. It gave off none of the sweet amber rays of before; Pagusel's high had worn off almost entirely in the transition. It appeared his high was in full swing.

She stood there for a few moments, glancing down once or twice to tug up at the sagging top of her shirt. Her thighs had goosebumps, seeing him hop about so naked. Her face bore a frown of concern. After a few seconds, she picked her way over to the armoire to pick up her cloak, and her frown deepened to discover it had been swept away.

She plucked his shirt up from on top of her cloak and lifted it gingerly with her fingers. From a half-crouched position, she eyed him before her gaze shifted conspicuously away from his form. "Your reaction is . . . extreme," was the only counsel she had to offer.

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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Sat Oct 24, 2009 6:24 am

Having learned nothing from Morax about the feelings of shame coupled with nakedness, Daq would have been perfectly content to continue standing around in the buff even after Pagusel's mysterious reappearance had it not been so chilly. Nonetheless, it was only after the realization that her reticence and apparent discomfort might have been the result of a broken taboo that Daq reluctantly reached for the proffered shirt. Before donning it, he inspected it carefully with a staccato burst of sniffing for the smells of poisons and an almost comical rifling through the folds of the fabric for hidden, odorless powders.

Content that this, at least, wasn't a trick, he put the shirt on. The mysterious box had shifted out from under his chin during the bout of bug-swatting, and he'd tucked it under his armpit, so it had to be set down on the ground before this task could be accomplished. He followed the shirt with his undergarments, pants, and coat and then retrieved the box.

"Extreme?" he asked. He held out the box in front of him. As if on cue, the inlay caught the moonlight and glimmered. Daq didn't quite observe the glimmering itself, but he saw a glimpse of the remainder, the reflected light dancing on the ground by the armoire. It was like the recovery of the box. He had no idea how the box had come into Pagusel's possession or what it had done in the interim, but he was keenly aware of the aftereffects of its discovery, even if he couldn't quite piece everything together.

"How could this have come into your possession?" he asked. He had a wild, wound-up looking expression on his face, and his tone was undeniably fierce. The question was an important one to him. Since he had no memory of the box leaving his possession, he assumed it had been stolen. For the time being, he had chosen to ignore the fact that he had never had any distinct memory of the box in his possession in the first place. His instinct was enough.

He was so certain of the instinct that he gave voice to it and said it out loud: "This object is mine!"

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Re: The High

Post by Pagusel » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:22 am

Pagusel's gaze wasn't directly on Daq's box either--in fact, her eyes remained averted from his figure at an angle more or less inverse to the quantity of clothing he was wearing. As he finished dressing himself, she too caught sight of the shimmer of the box's reflection on the ground.

Her expression, as he asked her these questions, was uncharacteristically sympathetic. Truthfully, she was yearning to scrape up what remnants she could of her altered state, which would give this difficult Daq a pleasing glow and in turn fill Pagusel with a surplus of credence to give. Rather, she came up only with a lingering taste of library paste, and a syrupy brown haze around Daq.

She sat down on the very edge of the now naked armoire and gazed at his feet. There could be no expertise when it came to predicting the effects of drugs psychoactive drugs on individuals. All Pagusel could do with this experience was perhaps chalk it up as anecdotal evidence in argument of the futility of such predictions. She could try to coax him into returning the box, but it was just as likely as not that he'd respond poorly to reason. Indeed, his perception of reality and physical evidence seemed to be teetering, for he should have recalled the actions that had led to her possession--

--But of course, she was still a bit high, and confusing herself. This erstwhile jaybird was most certainly not the Daq who had given her the gift in the first place, and she knew that.

The brown mist smelled like human breath, and she became aware of the weight of a day-old kiss on her cheek. She fluttered her hand at it, and the haze dissipated. Fortunately she wasn't partial to the kinds of drugs that would have motivated her to scratch a gaping hole in her cheek.

"Mister Bekkar lent it to me," she said finally. It seemed that such an ambiguous statement of ownership was the proper way to describe the situation, lest she risk upsetting Daq by stating hard facts he couldn't abide by.

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Re: The High

Post by Daq Bekkar » Wed Nov 04, 2009 8:21 am

Mister Bekkar... Daq hated that distinction. Moreover, he hated the way Pagusel employed it, like a child insisting on some important truth. Daq could see nothing innocent or truthful about it. He was Bekkar, and Pagusel was forging a disconnect between his present and former selves. His blood boiled. He could feel it rushing to his pale, unnaturally smooth cheeks. His jaw clenched, and he could feel his hard, sharp teeth grinding together.

But then.. it wasn't so much anger, was it? No, not as much as it was a deep fear. He knew it without Pagusel having to remind him. His selves needed no dividing. Little remained of the former, if anything at all.

He allowed his jaw to slacken, and his lips parted as if he was about to say something. He pressed them together resolutely and withdrew the box to his chest, clutching it protectively.

"Bekkar..." he said. "I think..."

Sniffling loudly, he moved a hand up to scratch at his nose. He looked away from Pagusel for a moment to gather his thoughts. What if Pagusel wasn't an enemy, but an antagonist? Or better... an agonist, meant to elicit this response from him? If Bekkar... If this box was the clue, and Bekkar had lent it to her, then that might mean, or could mean...

A vague itchiness had overcome him, making it difficult for him to focus on the point of his consideration. He couldn't quite arrive at a conclusion; he only knew what questions to ask, what experiments to perform.

Turning back to Pagusel, he moved to sit cross-legged at her feet. He reached out and placed the box on the edge of the armoire next to her.

"This item," he said. "Or the silver tree, rather, because that's what I think.. Um."

He paused to scratch at a little red spot forming on his hand. "A better way of starting might be to ask your opinion of the change that occurred. Did Mister Bekkar know what was to become of him?"

Locked