A Bitter Pill: A Damn Cold Night

Last Night

She should be used to the feel of floorboards by now.

Her body relaxed against them because her muscles simply had no more power to support her, but in the past they had cradled her in times like these. When isolation threatened to crush her, the floorboards were there to keep her from sinking into the Void.

These particular boards were even more familiar; she had stood at this window many times before. She had sunk to her knees here; her palms knew the knots and ridges of the planks and the smell of their polish.

In this room.

She remembered that this was the room Oendir had assigned to her and Neilia when she first joined the Wayfarers. She would watch the wind rustle the leaves of the Chestnut from the window, and so often she had thought of climbing out to disappear again from the world of Men for good.

But she had honor. And obligations. And she had the honor to see them through.

As she lay there, the memories flooded her vision. She could not stop their flow; they would drown her.

They had not found the floorboards that day; he had taken her against the wall and in the open doorway. Even has he brought her to ecstasy again and again, she had the underlying terror that someone would turn into the hallway and see them there against the door-frame.

The fear only heightened the experience of him, though, and by being able to identify the fear, she was able to finally master it. She pushed past everything that ever held her back before and her heart opened to him without its cynical armour, and she understood.

Here is someone who comes for her out of love, not hate. Here was a man who was devoted to her care and pleasure, not her pain.

And Rheb came for her, always.

Now, she would go to him.

The gate of Durrow was still blocked by the avalanche and the orcs still probably roamed the hills, but despite their presence and despite the warg attack, she knew that she was safe. She had offered herself to the orcs to buy them time not because she was brave. Not because she wanted to be a hero like young Margaret claimed, but because she knew that Rheb would protect her from the orcs and men and half-orcs of the camp and anything else besides.

She could not claim bravery when she knew there was no danger.

The view from the window was breathtaking as always, but she did not look forward. She looked down.

Rheb had lowered himself from the windowsill easily; Oendir claimed he was not a climber, but he appeared perfectly capable of climbing to her. Oendir so often refused to see what Rheb was capable of or what Rheb needed. Tears stung her eyes as she let herself hang from the window before letting herself fall to the grass below. Alone. Rheb had always been so alone and had anyone truly been there for him?

And she was just the same.

Fiddler Falls
A round moon rises over Ravenhold and Fiddler Falls.

Her eyes never wavered from her path; night was falling and the moon was nearly full as it rose above the treetops.The melodic song of Fiddler Falls soon met her ears and she hastened to the bank of the river. The high cliffs rose above her; without pause, she plunged into the cool water and swam for the cave she now swore that Rheb had told her about not so long ago.

How had she forgotten that detail? It had been raining that day; she had been standing in the broken shelter of the tree for a long time before he found her there. They had talked about other things and it must have gotten lost in the overwhelming presence of him. The little things they shared like the floorboards of Garden and Pinecrest-these are the things she remembered. These are the things that were branded into her mind and prevented her from recalling the little things like caves that led out from Durrow.

Like how much he loved her.

And how persistent he was in trying to claim her.

ScreenShot00457The force of the falls did not daunt her. She plunged into them and swam through to find the mouth of the cave just as he said it would be. The passage was narrow as he claimed. The men would have had a hard time fitting through, but the women and children had a way out. He had shown her the way.

But why? Why wait for so long when he could have told her from the first day? Why not go to Oendir with the information? Why make them suffer?

She climbed through cautiously, ducking low and eventually having to turn and twist to fit through some of the more awkward spots. Her bun caught on a sharp claw of overhang; she pulled her hair down to unhook herself and finally she felt the air lighten and the thought she could see a change in the darkness of the narrow passageway to freedom. Lights seemed to flicker ahead. She sped up and soon emerged outside of Durrow and took a deep breath of the fresh air.

She half expected a company of orcs waiting on the other side of the tunnel to capture her and drag her away. Only the lightning bugs and stars greeted her and she looked around for signs of his flight.  Nothing. Stillness.

And then the sound of tree frogs began and the noises of the living forest at night washed over her.

The lack of silence startled her. It seemed to scold her for not seeing things sooner.

Here she was, standing on the other side of the cliffs surrounding Durrow, and he had known of escape the entire time. His garb when she saw him-dirty breeches when he saved her from the wargs and then only the loincloth moments before in her room at Ravenhold-were not right for a Rheb that lingered in Durrow. She had put him in fresh pants herself after washing the blood away from his skin and they had not been lying on the floor when she woke the next morning.

Where have you been? she had asked and he had no answer.

Suddenly she knew and the weight of it knocked her back to her knees.

He came for her, always.

But he hadn’t come alone.

Cwen stayed there bent over at the hips until the moon began to set. The hands covering her head could not ward off the realizations as her tears watered the grass tickling her face. The cold and the damp seemed to sink into her bones and she wished she would dissolve with the morning’s dew once the sun rose and cast her ignorance in its glaring light.

She had been about to give in. She had been about to admit she loved him more, and only her obligations to the Wayfarers held her back. She had been about to tell him that she would go with him wherever he wished and that they would find their way somehow. She was going to ask him to only wait for her to get her things situated, but she had been too late.

It doesn’t matter anymore.

He wasn’t the one alone.

She was.

And he wasn’t going to come for her anymore.

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A Bitter Pill: Broken

“In this farewell
There’s no blood, there’s no alibi
‘Cause I’ve drawn regret
From the truth of a thousand lies
So let mercy come and wash away
What I’ve done”

-“What I’ve Done” by Linkin Park

From Enjin mail RP with Hallowisp (Rheb), edited to include the colour of her skirts, because somehow that is important:

Full of alarm, Cwen called after him, but it was far too late. Heedless of the mud, she hitched up her deep pink and white skirts only to keep them from impeding her stride as she ran toward the spot where he disappeared over the land.

“Rheb! Rheb, wait, please!”

Reaching the crest, she searched the darkness with vision blurred by tears.

“Rheb!”

It was no use. Though his flight left scars in the mud, she knew she’d be unable to track him in the dark for long. She sank to her knees and buried her face in her hands.

She cried there until the cool air, warm compared to Forochel’s frost, sank into her body and numbed her sobs. Her hat had come half-off in her pursuit and she pulled the rest of the pins free. Long, dark hair fell around her face and shoulders and she didn’t bother putting it back up.

Cold.

She began to shiver harder and suddenly concern darkened her features. She pushed herself to her feet. Long streaks of brown sullied her skirt outlining her knees. She didn’t notice them.

“What have I done?” she whispered to the woods.

~*~

The Bottle by Cwen

Little blue,
I see you.
Beckon to me with promise: release.
Freedom, find me; grant me peace.
Go numb, regret.
Forget
What I’ve done.
And what’s been done to me,
too.

~*~

“Please
Don’t wake me from the dream
It’s really everything it seemed
I’m so free
No black and white in the blue”

-“Blue” by The Seatbelts

~*~

“It was just a dream,” Cwen murmured as she sat on the banks of the Dunwash near Fiddler Falls. “Dreams have to come of an end. You have to wake up.”

The musical cascade of the falls soothed her as she watched the sun play in the spray with bleary, red eyes. Each outstanding blood vessel could lead a brave soul willing to hold her gaze to a different memory that threatened to hemorrhage with each passing breath.

“So pretty,” she murmured as she reached for a blurry rainbow that dissipated as quickly as it formed leaving behind only the blue of the rushing water.

Without warning, tears welled up and clung to her thick lashes. Her eyes closed and she swayed gently from side to side as they fell in rivers down her cheeks and off her chin to splash against her hands that rested on her ruined skirts. Her breath caught, ragged in her throat, and the swaying stopped.

“I have to wake up. It was just a dream.”

She opened her eyes.

TFF September 2014 Challenge: A Day in Durrow

The morning was blossoming pink over the treetops and the birds were singing high as Alder Leigh stretched beneath the warm quilt. He smiled as the first rays of sunlight warmed his face and threw back the covers. He had a meeting with the new resident after lunchtime. He didn’t know much about the lad or his family, but he knew there were more people in that little cabin than would be comfortable. If all went well, he’d have a new project commissioned by supper time.

As he dressed, Alder heard his children milling about in the other room and he hoped Caroline was preparing breakfast. The thought of fresh eggs and hashed potatoes made his stomach rumble lowly.

When he entered the kitchen, he found both Caroline and Dane sitting at the table waiting for him to eat. The potatoes weren’t hashed, but fried in little pancakes that he liked well enough. The children chatted about their plans for the day and he nodded and smiled and frowned when necessary. Dane commented on how quiet the village was with the Wayfarers and all their lot gone, and Caroline got a wistful expression on her face that make Alder shake his head and sigh.

Alder’s apprentice, Bran Bullrush, knocked on the open window and grinned at them from outside. As Dane greeted the young man, he waved and walked out of view only to reappear after a few moments, inside and taking a hearty helping of potato pancake for himself. The gathering ate merrily, enjoying the slow morning and each other’s company.

Once dishes had been cleared and washed, Alder bid farewell ’til the evening to Caroline and Dane as he and Bran headed down the well worn path toward Ruby Lake. The fisherman’s cabin – now the Tenorbekk Cabin – sat low between two high cliffs with its back yard running right into the water. The elder brother, who bought the property right out from Oendir Arrowheart, wanted another room added to accommodate his siblings.

It would be a big project and there hadn’t been a wall raising in a while. The challenge would be where to put it, but that’s what he loved about the project. No repairs. No restorations. Creation, something that would blend in with the landscape and the current structure. And then, building the furnishings, unless the moneyed Dalish lad had all they needed beneath that beat up tarp covering the equally beat up wagon in his yard.

The meeting was shorter than he expected. The young man was brisk but not rude. He simply knew exactly what he wanted and had a good idea of how the structure should be added on to begin with. He built his house in Esgaroth, he said. His own hands had carved the dragon into the headboard of his wife’s bridal bed.

He didn’t have the time with his brother and sister, he said, to do it again. But Alder heard something else in the man’s tone. He didn’t want to do it again.

Alder had heard he lost his wife, just as he had lost his so long ago.

Bran took measurements (that he covertly double-checked) and together they bid the young man farewell. The sun was still high and he and his apprentice returned home. On the way, they ran into Nancy Thistle on an afternoon walk with her son and Alder paused to smile and chat with the boy. Tipping his hat to Mrs. Thistle, he led Bran back to the shop.

Bran sharpened the chisels and saws while he sanded several miter cuts that had torn out. They joked and counted nails and then Caroline came home with a basket of fresh biscuits from the shop up at Ravenhold. Though she smiled, Alder could tell she missed Maludir and Maggie and Sage.

Dinner was hearty and the family sat out on the lawn counting stars as they came out. Dane nodded to his sister and his father and trotted off down the lane. The young man had plans and Alder knew better than to ask.

When the mosquitoes started to eat them alive, they turned in and called it a night. Alder hugged and kissed Caroline good night; he patted the girl’s hair as she turned to her room. In his own, he washed in the basin and ran a comb through his hair. He did some stretches to work out his back muscles before turning in.

As he settled down beneath the warm quilt, he peered out the window at the full moon above.

“Good night,” he whispered before rolling over. “Another good day. Sweet dreams.”