Unforgiven II: Flashback

It looked like rain, Lord Stone thought distractedly, as he made his way towards the North Quadrant of the Castle grounds. He could see her at the top of the tallest tower, the deep red gown framed against the twilight sky. A familiar sight, he thought warmly, despite the cold and exhaustion seeping through his bones.

He climbed the long flight of stairs to the chamber at the top. Home, came the unbidden thought. For now, he corrected himself sternly. The war was moving North, and he would have to set off with his men, soon.

He flung off his cape as soon as he entered the room, not pausing as he moved to the balcony, where she stood leaning against the railing.

She smiled at him as he walked up to her and kissed her forehead, and somewhere in time and space, a heart shattered into pieces. But the two of them didn’t hear a thing over the thunderclouds that hung over them like carrion birds come to claim their prey.

They stood together in silence for a while, watching farmers and village folk scurry around in the distance, preparing for the incoming storm. Another familiar sight he would miss once the war began in earnest. Suppressing a sigh, he inclined his head slightly towards her, and she smiled without turning to face him.

“What?”, they said together, and her smile turned into a grin.

“Why are you sighing?” she asked, sniffing at him curiously.

“I am not,” he replied, indignant.

“Okay.. Why are you not sighing?”

He looked at her for a moment, before turning away and fixing his gaze on the horizon.

She followed his stare.

“Storm’s coming.”

“I know.”

“It’s not safe here.”

“I can look after myself.”

He shook his head, frustrated at her stubborn refusal to go back to the city, where he wouldn’t have to worry about her.

“I will leave soon”, he said, a coldness creeping into his voice that he wasn’t proud of.

She turned to face him, and he could feel her eyes searching his face for something he damn well was not going to let her find.

She closed her eyes and turned towards the setting sun again.

“I will wait for you. Here.”

I don’t want you to, he thought. I’d rather you be safe and happy. I don’t think I will return. And, I cannot take you with me. I won’t be able to protect you. I only want to protect you.

He said nothing. Only took her cold hand in his own as he watched her raise her face to catch the rain that had just begun to fall, fixing the memory of her smile in his mind and hoping she would someday forgive him for what he knew he would have to do.

She opened her eyes just as a flash of lightning illuminated the skies, and for an instant, he saw a glimpse of the path she could have taken, the severity with which she could ensure retribution. But then she turned towards him, only mercy in her eyes, and he knew he had nothing to worry about. She’d forgive him nearly anything.

Nearly.

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The Night Begins

He came to her, as he always did, to their chosen secret place, and she smiled as he appeared, breathing heavily from the long walk uphill.

“You’re too happy”, he grumbled, even before she’d managed to greet him.

“Sorry”

He sighed, “Don’t be like that.”

“Okay.”

Damian frowned, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything further. After all, she had returned to see him again, just as she had said she would. He knew it must not be easy. The tired lines around her eyes as she turned to smile at him made him feel a twinge of guilt. But he shivered at the thought of that empty, aching loneliness which was just waiting to envelop him once she was gone for good, and he cast aside those feelings of guilt. Now was not the time.

Cerid was watching him closely, a strange expression on her face as she watched Damian’s distracted frown go through a series of minor transformations, until he suddenly snapped his icy gray eyes on to her warmer brown ones, and even though she smiled comfortingly at him, the haunted look in his tired eyes made her want to cry.

But, Cerid had not cried since the war had ended. Not once. Not even when she had spent two weeks watching Damian destroy everything around him, until the cursing and swearing and whiskey and screaming was all done with, and all that remained in its place was his pale gaunt frame, surrounded only by endless destruction and stony silence. Her heart had ached as she’d watched, but she hadn’t shed a single tear.

Damian liked to believe that it was because she had run out of tears, and not because other people’s agony and pain affected her more than his. Cerid thought it had something to do with the last battle she’d been part of. Because she had had plenty of tears to shed that day. An all of a sudden, the picture of little Remo, lying in a pool of his blood, flashed through her mind.

He had been a day away from his fifth birthday. She had promised to gift him a real kite. He had been counting down the days. The day of the last air-strike… it was Roberto who had found out first. Damian had been in the middle of his own dilemma. Straddling both sides of the war, he had a difficult decision to make. Even though, technically, he would always be of the Shadow Tribe first. Ceridwyn had been at the forefront of the battle. And she had watched Remo die.

Ceri! Ceri!

She opened her eyes to find Damian kneeling over her, eyes full of worry, “Are you alright?”

She laughed, then, suddenly aware of the bizarreness of the situation. “We have to stop doing this”, she whispered, leaning up into the familiar frame of his body. He swallowed, once, twice. “I understand”, he said, “But what am I supposed to do?”

She shook her head at him, despondent and unsettled, “I love you.”

He looked down at her cautiously, then swallowed again, “I have always loved you.”

“And that’s why you can’t stay”, she whispered, smiling up at him gently, even as her eyes sparkled with waylaid tears.

The baby wouldn’t stop wailing. She knew that it was Arianna’s son. Arianna, who had trusted her and helped them escape when the entire kingdom was against them. Arianna, who now lay buried not far from here, shot in the heart with a poisoned arrow, even as her husband fought on in the Outer Circle with the other Marine Corps. Arianna’s son was trapped inside the burning building, and his mother was injured, and there was no one around to help him. Cerid had already lost a lot of blood. But she could hear the shouts in the distance, and it was clear that victory was imminent. She was just steps away from the designated Tower. She’d get medical attention there, and probably be able to send someone for the baby.

But it would be too late.

And as she turned away from the tower and towards Arianna’s home, for some strange reason, she thought of Damian and the last thing he’d said to her.

Dead to me.

He stared at her for a moment, memorizing every detail of her face as she smiled at him encouragingly. “It’s going to be alright. I’m always going to be here, with you.”

“So,” he began, in a shaky voice, stopping to take a deep breath and continue, “What you’re saying is I’ll never be walking alone.”

She beamed at him then, and for just one tiny moment, Damian forgot all about the last night of the Quarter Century War, when he had returned to the village only to find her overwhelmed and outnumbered against Assassins intending to eliminate all the noble-born children.

He had joined in the battle, and afterwards held her blood soaked body in his arms, as the cheer of celebration and jubilation rang out all around them, and the last of her life ebbed away from her. “Forgive me” he had cried, but it had been too late, and the only answer he had was the silence of the blankness in her empty eyes, just as she had promised him.

Sudden darkness. The hill was empty now. A cold wind rustled past the nearby trees, and a whisper trembled at his ear.

“You’ll never walk alone.”

Damian fell to his knees.

The night had begun.

Murdered Children/ Incoherent Rant

I don’t know if this is Gaza or Syria or whose doing it is or who they are.. but here are murdered children. Look at this picture. What are we? This is worse than primate behavior. Who does that? Who fucking murders babies? What does that even prove, man? Come on. Fuck. Even video games don’t allow you to injure civilians, leave alone toddlers. I just feel so ashamed of being human right now. I know we do a lot of good too. But it’s just damage control. We are all that’s wrong with this world.


Murdered Children

Injured Children

Murdered kids

Requiescat in pace, my darlings. I’m sorry we failed you so miserably. I know it doesn’t mean a thing. But I don’t know what else to say.

I hope it didn’t hurt. There’s no use saying cliched things like I hope you are in a better place, though wherever it is, even oblivion, it would be kinder than what our world did to you.

We’re not supposed to ask forgiveness from children for letting them die. We’re supposed to protect them.

Protect those weaker than you. Isn’t that what civilization is about? What does bombing or shooting a child prove?

What does murdering someone who can’t fight back fucking prove, man?

Fucking cowards.

Whoever did this.. indefensible act.. death’s too good for them.

They deserve to be damned.

The Tower of Peace // Shelter from the Storm

She ran through the rain, the cold water dripping down the sides of her face and into the flowery dress that now clung scandalously to her body. The sun hovered lazily at the edge of the horizon, darkness only moments away. It was not far now. The Tower. She could already see it in the distance, rising up to the faintly star-studded sky, perfectly camouflaged against its surroundings. Hidden away from everybody else. It was sanctuary, her refuge. And as she made her way through the dense jungle, eyes focused only on her destination, she nearly stumbled and fell into a deep puddle of disturbed water. A stab of pain in her right ankle accompanied her regaining her balance. This was no time to fall.

Not much further now..

He was waiting at the foot of the tower when she got there. ‘You’re all drenched,’ he said, smiling. She wanted to throw herself into his arms like the long lost friends that they were. Instead, she insipidly nodded, looking around to see what had changed since the last time she had visited him here. The garden had grown wild, and there were flowers everywhere, yet she could see that he thought they bloomed to spite him, and she did her best not to speak of them or even think of them.

The flowers rustled quietly in the wind, as if begging to be touched.

Instead, she reached out and touched him, once, gently, the skin above his collar warm against her icy fingers. (Though perhaps that was the rain’s fault) She would have kissed him then, too, but they were supposed to be adults, and she was supposed to be a certain way that existed between two narrow lines of acceptable behavior. She satisfied herself by studying his profile instead, and as he spoke to her of troubles and amusements, she ached to run her fingers through his midnight hair. He smiled at her indulgently as she concentrated on the pieces of him that she could still see, that were still open to her, and then he turned away, leaving her to make her own way up the tower. It would take him a while to put away his weapons, lead the horses back to their stables and then join her. So she climbed the endless spiraling staircase herself, fingers curled around the cold railing in the dark, ankle still throbbing with a dull pain that she tried her best to ignore, water still dripping down her body in tiny rivulets and large drops.

It was a long way down.

Standing at the top, she felt a rush of giddy feeling sweeping over her. Perhaps things were finally changing for the better. Perhaps, the war was finally done with them. Perhaps, tonight, they could begin rebuilding everything that the fire had destroyed. Perhaps he would even remember what he had once sworn to her, a long long time ago, before the first war had started. But, somewhere within, she already knew what he always had; that the damage was done.

There was no going back.

Still, she thought wistfully, as she heard the wooden door rattle, and rushed to the door to let him in, beaming from ear to ear even as he breathed deeply, in an attempt to catch his breath after the steep climb. His hair was disheveled and wild as he stripped away his sweat soaked shirt and changed into the torn colorless gray garb that he seemed to favor. His eyes were always tired, even before the war, but lately it felt like even his own smiles stopped before they could reach his eyes. Still, he was beautiful to her.

And she smiled as she touched him again.

War or no war, every single ounce of pain was worth being able to stand here, so close to him, worth being able to touch him, even if he distractedly moved her hand away, or quickly sat down to pour over his books and maps before she had even finished saying what she was saying. It wasn’t important, surely. Not as vital as this memory of a present yet to be transformed into the past. His eyes glowed tirelessly as he sat at his desk late into the night, and she watched him sitting there for hours, until sleep tugged at her eye-lids and dragged her to its realm. Even then, she only truly breathed easy when she felt him climb into bed with her, his presence all the reassurance that she had ever needed.

The nights were the hardest part of her exile.

But in the present, (or maybe it was already the past, she thought sadly), her hand sought his as the World continued its indiscriminate and cruelly pre-meditated murdering and looting by bombs and missiles and soldiers all around their fortified turret. And even though he drew away from her subconscious need to feel his skin against her own, they both sighed peacefully and leaned into one another.

Like the last two trees in a parched desert.

Bleeding Light

In the arch of her back,
At the corner of his mind,
With all the things they have lost
and dare not hope to find
lies one last chance at redemption
flickering slowly out of sight
But he resolutely faces the other way,
while she stands, blinded by the light.

It was so much brighter once,
before her eyes grew used to this dark
whilst he nourished the flame as long as he could,
until the constant vigilance left its mark
And now he stands, unmoved, decided,
even as she begs him to reconsider
As the flame of all that once was lies dying,
promising to leave them both embittered.

Why won’t he listen? Why won’t he save it?
Girl, wipe those questions of grief off your face
What you weep for is long long gone
nor will this once raging fire leave a trace.
Except that scar, around your heart,
where the wire cut you deepest
There is no shame in falling down,
when the height you chose was the steepest.

I know you won’t stop wishing for miracles,
nor stop needing the way he breathes
I wish I could show you the truth,
because, in the end, everyone leaves.
But you know that, my dearest girl,
Isn’t that why you bleed yourself to sleep?
Ah, you’ll miss the pain when the numbness starts,
Remember not to go too deep.

~ Mono no Aware ~

Something about this picture is just *too* precious.

World Class

World Class

It’s like all these years, the determined Prince marched on into war after war, watching his once proud army bleed and fall; saving them from utter defeat so often, but always moving further and further away from the dream and realm of victory..

Until the Empire sent forth its finest general, a horrific injury keeping him off the battlefield, but his mind as sharp as ever. The Empire thought it was just getting rid of a non-soldier in armor; transferring him to a war-front that was almost certainly lost.

But… from the moment the Prince and the General first met, they recognized something in one another that they both desperately needed; a relentless hunger for victory.

The General, he devised strategies for harder battles, filled up gaps in the army that prevented them from defeating smaller/weaker opponents, came up with tactics for every situation, and pushed every single soldier towards the best that he could be.

The Prince, for the first time in too long, flanked on all sides by an army finally worthy of him, led forth his young charges into battle after battle. And, inspired by his steely eyed determination, battle after battle, they emerged victorious.

Together, the Prince and the General, they reined in the younger boys, transforming their anger and frustration into an indomitable spirit of conquest. And, soon, the news spread like wildfire.

The Reds were on the March.

And they were Invincible.

And so, these two, surrounded at last by the fine young soldiers that they themselves had created, marched on towards their common goal. For the first time in too long, both for the General as for the Prince, Victory awaited.

[So, this hug. After a difficult battle.
“Thank you.. for winning that.”, said the General to his Prince.
The Prince shook his fair head and smiled nobly in return, “No.. Thank you.”
..
And not so far away, a lonely Victory shivered beautifully in her tower of glass, even as the men who had abducted her all these years ago stood ready for the final onslaught.
“My Steven and Brendan will come”, she whispered. And even though the men holding her captive laughed and mocked her, you could hear the fear in their voices.

Because they too had heard of the men in that army. The unstoppable Suraez. The faster than lightening Sterling. The always on target Sturridge. The mage-like Coutinho. The frightening Skrtel. And a whole bunch of other soldiers who only got stronger and better and faster with every day.

An army of red, led by two determined men.

Victory was rightfully theirs.]

In Love and War

“Get the fuck out of my fucking house.”

She shrunk away from him, turning away so he wouldn’t see the tears filling up her eyes. She needn’t have bothered, as a moment later, the door had slammed loud behind him, and his angry footsteps faded away from where she knelt. Her stifled cries turned to sobs, but only for a minute. Had she not cried enough for this? Had these stone floors not drunk enough of her tears?

She limped to the door, and bolted it from the inside. She was safe now, at least until he decided to return. She had to be gone before that, she thought dully. Gone somewhere far. Where he couldn’t find her.

The mob stormed the village, screaming obscenities and firing indiscriminately as they came. The villagers ran about in panic, many getting slaughtered in their futile attempts to protect their families and children. Shops and houses were set on fire, and the people seeking shelter inside were hunted down and killed as they ran from the burning buildings. An infant wailed endlessly somewhere in the distance. A dark haired boy darted across the burning streets, two younger children in tow, making his way towards the college at the center of their once-quiet settlement. The college of Magic. Abruptly the wailing infant fell silent, and the three children shuddered to think of what that meant.

A loud crash brought forth a strangled sob from her throat. Until she realized it was only their cat. It made its way over and licked her bruised knuckles. “Hey, kitty cat”, she whispered, stroking its soft fur. The cat purred and rubbed against her, and she thought of how they had first found the kitten. Alone and lost in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm, it had taken shelter under his car, meowing piteously until they had found her. At first, he had insisted that they leave it outside in a box, and she had managed to convince him to let it spend the remainder of the stormy night in a corner of his house. The next day she had come home from work to find him fast asleep on the sofa, with the kitten curled up on his chest, also asleep. They had been nearly inseparable since.

She shook her head, as if trying to clear it, and rose up to put out some food for the cat. That’s when she saw the flowers he must have brought home that morning, and her heart ached. Everything was so confusing. How did things get to this? When did they stop laughing at shadows and chasing falling stars?

The boy managed to reach the college grounds undetected, and pulled his young charges inside the gate. Here he stopped to catch his breath, and the two children looked about themselves in awe. Civilians were generally not allowed inside the campus of the infamous college of magic. Though the Council maintained that it was for their own safety, rumor had it that some of the students and teachers at the college dabbled in.. more than just the white arts.

“Alistair, take Nova to Professor Edward. He should be at the top of the North Tower. If anyone stops you, show them this.” Saying so, the older boy pushed a small rock into the younger boy’s hands, even as the young girl looked on, startled. “Nova,” he started, and she backed away from him. “That’s not my name”, she whispered, her eyes locked on to the parchment he held in his hand. “Listen to me, Nova”, he said, louder than he had intended. And now it was Alistair’s turn to watch as she backed further away from the older boy. “We’re not going in without you”, she said, looking past him and into the fires scattered just outside the gates. The older boy looked upset, and bowed his head. But when he looked up again, he was smiling. That made Nova begin to cry, and that made Alistair want to cry as well. But he held on to the rock in his hand tighter instead, and grit his teeth to help fight back the unwelcome tears. “I’ll be alright, Princess”, the dark haired boy assured her, and taking two steps forward, he suddenly knelt in front of her. “Please take the scroll”, he said, head bowed and hand outstretched. Nova hesitated, then reached out and plucked the parchment from his fingers. He looked up and smiled, and asked her to dry her eyes.