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Kintsugi 金継ぎ

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As a philosophy, kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese æsthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.


Shaded halls were only lit by a singular light at the end of the corridor. Along wood, lacquered walls, were portraits of fellow men and women that served them well and earned recognition. Her face was not present. Here, in the den of snakes, she was a shadow, one whose name was lost in memory. She was the Viper, for some she was the Bowmaiden, and though she did serve her countrymen well, she was not be made known to those who worked not in the shadows.


It was here that the head of the Adders gather, business is discussed, matters are solved, and missions are made into light. Whispers in the dark are heard at times, but prying ears knew well not to listen, and hungry eyes understood that classified information was meant to be just that.


Rivienne was not often present. She came and went with the wind. Her assignments were sealed behind falsified paperwork and coded mostly for their protection, more than herself. Every thing she did was not supposed to exist, all the cloak and dagger work were just rumors. For a select few, it was all so real.


In these halls she walked, brushed by shadows, listening to the subtle him of the ceiling fans. She was adorned in her uniform, brandishing the emblem of the twin serpents. Earthy colors made her nearly blend into the walls she walked close to, if it wasn't for the lustrous gold of her hair dancing behind, due to her brisk and long strides. Cradled, in her arms, were files that needed to be purged of shy additional information. Though on the outside of it, it was completely inconspicuous, nothing splashed on it that screamed this was classified.


Except buried between false orders for supplies, and random maps, was the list of every target she was ordered to keep surveillance of, to kill if they moved, their family names, the areas they frequent. Every personal detail was etched onto the parchment, and thus it was kept close to her beating heart. Glances were were shared, but her eyes did not stray long before reaching the hall to turn toward the Commander’s room. Unannounced she came.




Silent foot-falls carried her forth toward the door, though the sudden slamming of a desk halted her immediately. His mood was soured, his anger was resonating into the very room. She could feel it seep out from the door. It was best to turn away and return at a later time.


“Three moon cycles past, we can not afford anymore men. Tell me, what do you think I should do, send more men to the jaws of dragons? This is not our fight.” The growl came from another who she failed to recognize, and intrigued as she was, Rivienne turned to face the opposite end of the hall. However her gut told her to stay. Something ensnared her completely, something pulled at every fiber of her being. Just one heart-beat more is what she needed. And one heart-beat is what she got to hear the all familiar voice of her Commander.


“Then continue with these reports, it is all I ask. We can not jeopardize it all yet. Night turns to day, wounds will fade in time. She will understand as she always have. She is durable. She is not expendable.”


“You want to continue this mockery then? Even after you pronounced him dead. Lies begets lies.”


She turned to the door, a quizzical expression plagued her features and curiosity kept her planted her firmly; her legs refused to move, not yet. Golden eyes stared at the wood grain, as if wanting to burn a hole through it. Something was amiss, and within her, something else stirred with warning. We all know that familiar bad feeling, the one that makes your skin crawl, that causes ones stomach to twist.


“We need her focused, if she begins to question his whereabouts, we will partner her with another. He will bring her the comfort she needs. Do whatever it takes..”


Whatever it takes?”


“To keep the Viper set on the path of what is important.”


The words echo into the ravines of her thoughts and she felt something inside release. What held her in place relinquished its hold. A breath escaped her. It was a shaky sound that was hardly audible past the door. Golden eyes stared forward at the dancing shadow of the ceiling fan splashed against the wall. The humming, of the fan, blended into the background, and she swallowed the soft sound that would have been a broken gasp.


“..Her strike is unkind, Commander. How many lies will you bathe in before you too are covered in the same blood. Your love for her has created a web of deceit. You wove it..”


She closed her eyes and tilted her back to the wall adjacent to the door, torturing herself as she took in each and every word, hung on to them and allowed it to sink into her skin like venom. Little pieces of herself shattered and scattered along with these pages. Names of those who fell to her were listed. Names of those who would be without families. Whose friends would mourn them. Names of fathers and mothers who will not see their children again.


“The Viper knows well her place in this web. I will not surrender her to seek one who is dead. The dead do not hear prayers. The dead can not wipe tears from her eyes. She knows this lesson well, for she delivers such death herself..”


For she was a weapon in the end.


Rivienne’s hold on the papers loosens as the shadows begin to snuff away the light. The glimmer of gold is eaten away by the dark. Lashes sink down, peppering her cheeks as she feels the burden in her arms give away. Descending papers fell languidly as time slowed, but the beating of her heart increased. The pulse beats in her ears, muffling any further sound from penetrating her thoughts other than the falling papers and a heartbeat that threatens to fade into the dark. Teeth pierce her lower lip and she finds strength in her trembling hand. Immediately, she seeks the blade secured in its scabbard, against her waist, and unsheathes it. It scrapes the leather roughly, but she cares not if it is heard.


Glassy eyes reflect what little light is left from the dancing light from the ceiling fan and she spins on her heel with a free hand extended to the door as their talks continue. Yet, she can not comprehend the words, the sounds die as the screaming within deafens her. The taste of blood dances along her tongue, a bitter and sweet flavor, and at his moment, she longs to satisfy her thirst. But, her fingers stop at the handle of the door, hovering dangerously close to its surface.


“If she questions this --”


She felt the air sizzle with electricity as the surge to end this nearly overwhelmed her. Perhaps it was fate, perhaps luck was on their side, for she withdrew from the handle as if it was lit by a flame. Footsteps had come far too close and she didn’t realize it until the young man had come a few ilms behind her.


--then you make sure she never questions her loyalties again.”


Eyes widened as she spun on her heel, weapon now twisted so the blade was pointed away. The hand that sought the handle had an open palm that came far too quickly for the youth to find a proper reaction to the impact. Fingers wrapped around his cheeks and the palm of her hand suffocates any sound of surprise that would have alerted her superior officers.


Unfortunately, his head bounced off the surface of the wall and Rivienne leaned close to him that he could smell the Earth and flowers from her golden tresses. Her eyes were burning, an image that shook him to the very core. In her he saw the flash of anger, the touch of turmoil, the burn of pain. The moment seemed to have slowed down, and when time presumed, she had already pulled her hand away.




He was rewarded with silence as she looked past her shoulder and whipped her head back to him. He grew rigid in posture and glanced to the floor with just his eyes, for he dared not to move and alarm her further. She could have been having a bad day, he thought, she could have been scolded, reprimanded. He knew well how that went.


He was fortunate to be ignorant.


Motion took place behind the door and Rivienne’s body twists to face the end of the corridor. The mention of those words were fresh, still burning into her like a brand. Her throat ran dry, her eyes were aching to fight back the rivulets of pain, but her body was moving on its own, knowing what she needed to do, it was all automatic, and she barely had a moment to think of what to do next. The motions were natural. Swiftly, and discreetly, the blade was secured against the muscle of her thigh before reaching turning out from the hall. There, familiar faces smiled at her, some greeted her.


“Good evening, M’lady Navarre,”


Their voices were distorted, their faces blurred. Her gaze was set on the light peering underneath the door of this endless hall. The exit. She needed to leave first. Before the walls crushed her all together. What started as a walk of a woman determined, turned into a sprint of a woman seeking to regain her lost breath. Within her, she felt an overwhelming pain, as if the same blade she wore on her person, ripped through her ribs. Clouded thoughts were sanguine, the smell of copper filled her senses, and the shadows threaten to drown her. People surrounded her, their smells asphyxiate the senses.




Get out.


When the door of the office opened, The Commander found a young soldier standing where Rivi once stood, gathering the falling papers. She was not in sight, but her perfume followed her, fading the further she went. He barely could catch the shadow chasing her into the hall.


“What exactly are you doing here, report,” Commander Heuloix stood above the young man, his eyes set on the papers. Little details of coordinates, maps, nothing of importance was noticed, until he saw the all too familiar handscript of the one he trained, the one he was all too careful with..


..the one who could easily sink her fangs into the unsuspecting.


His hand came swift and the young man fell back on his rear as he watched the Commander scrambling to grab these insignificant documents. The Marshal soon followed behind him and looked to the young man. Unbeknownst to the private was the information he nearly was privy to. He didn’t know how much was read, or if the hyur even bothered, but he wastes little time getting the attention of the man, who jumps to his feet upright to give him a salute and is dismissed.


When the hall was empty, when only they and the shadows stood, the Marshal’s blue eyes hardened to steel and he took a hold of Heuloix’s collar, bringing him to nearly brush noses. Anger blazed hotly in his words and a threat was finely placed in his tone.


Fix this. Or demotion is the least of your concerns.”



( to be continued )

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The air was brisk in autumn, she felt it cool the heat that built in her lungs, but it did not quench the fire completely. Her eyes adjusted to the silver glow that spilled through the clouds and tapestry of trees. She didn't bask in the moment, for fear and anger dominated her every move. With the festivities underway, there were many a denizen around dressed in their favored costumes. Vendors peddled their wares and it was by chance that one of them was walking close enough to the den.


Rivienne's steps were that of a woman determined and little thought was given to what must be done, but one shines above all, survival. Automatically, she makes her way behind the merchant and reaches around an older gentleman trying to make a purchase. Fingers caught hold of the dark, ragged cloak, mainly for costume purposes, and swiftly pulled it free from the pile before the two of them finished the exchange of gil.


It was loosened whilst she turned away into the crowd forming at the stalls nearby, admiring the props that adorned the city and wrapped it around her neck. The hood was tugged down to shadow her features. The step was a simple one, make herself an unknown, leaving the city proper would take priority next.


“We're not even certain what she even heard or how much, sir.” Respect and disdain was clear in the Commander's voice when ushering the Marshal to speak behind close doors again.

When the door was sealed, their exchange came in harsh whispers, each one carrying vitriol.


“This makes it clear she heard just what she needed to hear. She's no longer in control, you got lucky once with her, such has run out.” The papers were tossed across the room angrily, making a mess upon the desk and the high back chair behind it. Taller than Heuloix himself, the Marshal towers over him; the frown lines were visible, stress had taken its toll.


“She won't stray. She will come, as she always have. I would advise to please step back, sir. And let me do what I do best.” The same rancor was returned before he chose that it was a good idea to clear space between them. The tension in the room was far too thick. He knew what just happened, what strings he pulled and which ones just snapped around her heart. Heuloix knew her all too well to play a fool for long.


He was losing his most loyal of serpents.


Rivienne's body doesn't stand still. Long, strong legs, burned as she walked in wide strides across the field, betwixt crowds, until reaching the gates. That was when she halted. Golden depths peered past the hem of her cloak, kissed in shadow were her features as she tilted her chin up. Guardsmen were present, not a grand surprise in truth, but it presents a problem.


There is no time.


Fingers danced along the blades secured at her hips and she walked with confidence toward the gates. They glanced at her, though no suspicious glances were shared twixt the two men. She was another merry meddler, with so many visitors entering and leaving, they couldn't keep track of faces. But her eyes, they saw them. Bright, beautiful, and ensnaring.




The name was whispered in her ear. Rivienne slowly walked between the two men, but the sound came not from their lips. Her heart drummed harder, not from fear these two would recognize her, but her Commander was now toying with her.


“Please report back, there is something we need to discuss.” He didn't wait for her acknowledgement, and as she stepped past the threshold between the city and the woodlands, the guards turned to watch her. They couldn't possibly hear what was said in this linkshell, but something else was whispered in their ears.


Rivienne immediately knew that these prying eyes, directed at her, were just given a direct order that fell to her deaf ears.


“I said please, maiden.”


Run. Rivienne. Run.


The men turned to her and began their careful steps, unsure how to approach. “Miss, miss?” One of them, a wildwood, extends his hand in a fashion that indicated he meant no harm, but Rivienne knew the technique well.


The world around her fell into silence; the winds offered no whisper to console her, the path before her seemed to widen as her eyes stared forth, and she allowed her senses to become sensitive to movement around her, any motion in the air, simply waiting until he got close enough.


“Go with them, all will be explained. We will be waiting for your arrival at the Den.”


Time slowed down, from the moment he made contact with her shoulder, to the time her hands wrapped around his forearm. Rivienne, using her hips, and sheer force fueled by her anger, lifted the wildwood off the Earth and flipped his frame up and over without remorse, without any sympathy. His groan is blocked by the sound of his back slamming down, and her foot came crashing down against his chest cavity. A painful twist is made to his arm, pushing it to the brink of snapping a bone. All the while, her body turns as the foot from his chest lifts and comes up from below to kick the face of the other Wood Wailer already readying to take her down.


Blood came from the impact the toe of her boot made with his nose, splashing sanguine against leather. The act was swift, quick, and she did not linger long for them to recover. Releasing his arm, and recovering her lost composure, she turns to the wilds, the hanging boughs, the dancing shadows.


The cloak’s hood billows away, revealing the anguish stricken face of the shroud maiden as she faced the razor touch of the winds. The world around her came to life and animated, shielding her form as she dipped into the the heavily covered terrain. Her legs pushed forward, she forced herself to run faster, to let the wind gather the tears from the corner of her eyes and dry them, and, between her heavy breathing, the pounding of her heart, she was able to muster a word that was heard clearly by her Commander and all who had access to their channel. It was a choking sound that they heard, but one could not confuse this with anything else.



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He paced the room and a pensive look crossed his face. Static. Not a sound came from her end. Her reply was absolute and he hated it. He wouldn't be told no. Not like this. Very calmly did he gather the fallen paperwork and neatly piled them. All the while, he heard the groans that mingled with the words of the Woodwailers she just put down. He knew she hated the Wailers, but to assault them was a message to him.


“Don't pursue,” he spoke quietly, trying to keep himself in control. But, the Marshal, who seated himself in the high chair of the desk, glared furiously.


“Heuloix,” he said in a mumbled, unsatisfied. “You let a woman make a mockery of us. One wild animal who broke her leash. not only did she bring harm to her fellow countrymen, she ignored a direct order. You have lost control. You have let this thing loose.” He picked up the quill from the ink pot and calmly looked through the paperwork, casually picking up one of the empty sheets and placing it before him.

“And now it will come back to bite you. She doesn’t need classified folders, she knows the orders we have given her, the lives we told her to take.” He began writing quickly, his penmanship was neat, but the words written were orders of his own, a death warrant. The Commander didn’t need to read it, he knew what was to come. His hand came down upon the papers, knocking over the ink pot purposely over the script.


Darkness spreads and spills over the wood of the desk. Sinking into the grain.


“I am not going to give up on her.” The growl resonates into the thick air shared and the Commander’s defiant behavior only causes his Marshal to nearly lose his cool composure.


A finger rose between the eyes of Heulioux as the other elezen rose to his feet and leaned close. “You have three bells, before the coming of dawn, to bring her in. If you do not, if you fail, I will not only have her head. But yours.” The threat was laced with promise and both men stood down before ripping each other’s throats. His aggressive words sank into his flesh, rattled his core and he fell silent. The chair creaks, the door is slammed, and within moments, the Marshal is gone.


He waited until the footsteps faded, until he knew he was alone. His anger was on display with a swing of his arm, sending everything, on the surface of his desk, slamming into the adjacent wall. He was trembling with frustration and closed his eyes. There, he saw the image of her, the young woman whose determination shone through despite her dirtied skin and tangled hair.


“Orders, Commander --” a voice came through the linkshell.


He saw her blushing cheeks when he invited her to dance at the ball, how she stumbled slightly before he helped her adjust to the steps.


“..Find the Viper, watched the gates. Do not show aggression, bring her back,” he responds softly whilst locked in the ghost of her memory.


Then he saw her how she was now, beautiful, dangerous, full of confidence. A flower truly in bloom, a snake in the grass. His Rivienne, his valuable, terrible, serpent.


“What if she doesn’t come quietly?” The voice inquired with concern.


“Commander?” Again, it came through the linkshell.


Heuloix lifts his head and pulls himself free from the memory. A deep frown touched his lips before his attention turned to the papers scattered about once more, catching sight of her handwriting.


“--then kill her.”

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The trees offered shelter; their canopies shielded her from view, and allowed only slivers of moonbeams to pierce them. The cloak billowed erratically around her legs as she ran, it became soaked by the riverbed, entangled by weeds and ripped by jagged stone and twigs. Ribbons of gold whipped wildly before her gaze and she gasped for air in an desperate attempt to fill her lungs. She felt her legs burn; never had she darted through the terrain without care, without watching where her next step would land. The outposts were avoided, instead siding with the wild she loved.


She finally stopped at the first couple of steps of her door. Inside she felt every bit of energy depleted; legs trembled violently and her hands found little peace at her sides. A thousand thoughts ran rampant in her mind. They could be behind the door. They could be waiting in the dark with spears and blades at the ready. Troubled mind was set at ease, however, at the familiar barking that comes from the opposite side of the wooden door. Fingers hesitate the take hold of the door’s handle, but when she did, it swung wide and hard inward, sending a gust of wind to sweep through the abode.


Seated on his haunches, Virgil barked his greeting, but Rivienne was already bent forward, ready to charge and avoid the high attacks that she thought would still come. Dizzied, and sick, she fights back with every fiber of her being to not empty her stomach at her feet. Everything burned, everything wished to give away at this very moment. A hand extended out to seek balance in case she were to fall to the ground.


‘Get control of thyself..’


She curses herself softly and glanced past her shoulder, staring into the dark of the night, how silent it was. This was foreboding, for the woodland realm was never a quiet ambient.


The paranoia planted its seed, she had to move.


Forward she steps, looking at the room as lightning slashed hot across the tapestry of heaven. Light washes inside, causing it to glow brightly despite the lamps she left lit. It was empty here, devoid of much besides the presence of her companion wolf. She feels the sting in her eyes, the blurred images coming to life before her. She saw him there, a spectre of a man, whose eyes of cerulean glittered with mirth, a smile tugged on his lips. He sat near the lute, strumming it lightly before placing it down and heading toward her.


She could almost smell him. The smell she was all too familiar with. It was hers, it was theirs. It was the forest.


And as he came near, he fades into nothingness.


Along with him, the sound of laughter from babes, the shrills and joy. The future is a vision. Not a reality. Rivienne’s own mind was betraying her, and she was falling under its own wicked spell.


Her lips are pressed together, but that does not alleviate how much they twitch as she severely fights back the sob that bubbles in her throat. Closing her eyes to the sensation, to the images plaguing her mind, she sought the blade at her right side and lifted her left hand before her. Tears developed in the basin of her eyes, and with a quick motion of steel, it came across to pierce a thin line across her palm. A gasp broke into the air and she opened her eyes.


This pain substitutes the other. For now.


[align=center]For they are coming.


The blade is secured back in its sheathe, her fingers sink into the bleeding, tender flesh, and she opens her eyes to turn to Virgil. She needed to move, to secure him and Avenger, above all else. Pain, despair, these emotions took a back seat in her mind as she set herself to the task of gathering her satchels. She ripped a portion of her cloak to conceal the wound, temporarily letting it play the part of a bandage. The cabinets were opened quickly; bread and cheeses were tossed carelessly inside. Some fruits and vegetables, some gysahl greens for Avenger, and dried meats for Virgil.


It takes just moments for her to get what she needed, what little clothes she had, the food, the blades that were spread across the table. Then, when she turned to the lute, she took pause. Near it, on a small table that held their charms and delicate trinkets, was the ornate box that held the enchanted lotus she had given to him a year prior, aside it her band of marriage. She approached the items and gingerly lowered herself before the lute and the table.


She opened the box and saw the lotus, still aglow with aether energy. That was put away.


The wedding band was gathered and she felt the energy fading from it, the glitter, of the stone, was not as luminous, the band was losing its own magical property. Taking a breath, she slipped it on her finger, turned it inward, and closed her bloodied hand.


His lute was picked up, then a few wide steps took her to their chamber room, where his quiver and bow rest. She set the bow on her, the quiver as well. The saddle was gathered on her way to the door and she stopped to glance at Virgil. He knew what was taking place, he knew well. They both felt the chill that seeped through. The winds howled through the house. The warning came quick. She could hear what the land was saying.



‘They are coming..’[/align]

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Under the cover of night they roamed, listening to the rustle the wind made through the canopies above their heads. Their eyes attempted to pierce the night, knowing well that she was a mistress of this world. This was her territory, and for her, they were trespassers. To not alarm the denizens, only a handful of men were given permission to roam the woodlands, their priority was to find her before more harm came to their ranks. Lighting crashed, thunder rolled, and the storm was fast approaching the area. The grass was slippery underneath the soles of their boots, and mud clung to the leather. They were slowed down, these four men sent to find her. The path she had taken was lost, a tracker knew well how to conceal herself, but they knew where she made her abode, where she and her husband shared their life.


Between the shadows, of the monumental trees, they neared her modest home. Spearheads are seen with the slash of hot silver that traversed the heavens. With caution they approached, noticing that light was flashing from the crevices of the windows and underneath the wooden door. They saw nothing as far as movement taking place, but they could not be too sure.


They were to show that they were not here to fight, but pointed spears spoke volumes. The Viper was not a woman who they knew all too well; an enigma delicately wrapped in a mystery she was, classified information was not available to men such as these. Unfortunately, they were to learn that there was more to this woman than what rumours spoke of.

“We located her,” the Commander heard them while cradling his head in his hands. He cleared his thoughts of her, of who she was, and pressed forth to think of the present situation. She would feel betrayed, and in truth, he very much did so.


“She is not here–” He lifts his head and narrows his gaze at the paperwork before him. A flash of despair fills his gaze and Heuloix’s fear blossomed into reality.


There came an agonizing sound from the other side that forces the Commander to stand up fully from his seat, knocking it back. Commotion is heard, a sense of panic floods the linkshell and he slams his fist on the table. She was the hunter, not his prey. Never-more would she be his.


The arrow had pierced the man at his lower abdomen, forcing him back to stumble backwards, into part of the rug at the entrance without solid panels underneath. His foot falls in the maw of blades planted held in place by bundles on either side of them, keeping them from shifting. The foot trap claimed him. They pierced true, ripping past the hide of his shoes, ripping through flesh and annihilating his ability to move. The arrow that had embedded itself on his check came from the bow planted a several ilms before; it was a roughly made trap, rushed it was, but highly effective. He had tripped a wire she prepared, and suffered the blow of the bow she anchored down with the broken pieces of her chair, which was hammered to the ground.


The men around him see the setup, the trigger stick, the wire, the catch stick. She was expecting them, and in the little time she had until they caught up to her, she was able to take down one of their men without even present. The snake is about to claim her first victim among them.


“Jehantel is down, orders!” The panic was obvious as it echoed in his ear. His eyes closed and the Commander begins walking to his door, opens it, and languidly makes his way down the dimly lit hall.


“One of you stay with him, bring him home. For the rest, continue your pursuit. Duchesnel, check the stable, check everything. I want her back.” He growls into the linkshell quietly, keeping his voice low enough that others could not make sense of what was muttered. Men and women salute as he walks by, but he doesn’t spare them a glance.


And, while they cried in his ear, while the men worked to diligently comb the house of more traps, he rounds the corner and makes his way to the desk of one of the serpent’s secretary, who was doing her mundane chores, filing, sipping her tea lazily, avoiding doing any arduous work. It was presence, however, that made her demeanor change entirely. Her body is rigid now in her seat and color rises to greet her cheeks when he leaned dangerously close. Tension was heavy in the air, far too thick for her liking.


“Summon Arkwright, immediately.” He didn’t ask, he demanded. She shuddered and managed to nod curtly before he turned away from her, his expression all too serious for her comfort. But, she was not one to ignore a direct order. Sergeant Ivaan Arkwright was to be called upon, at this late an hour of the night.

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Mud caked itself upon sun-toasted cheeks, smeared to conceal the scent of flowers that drifted from her flesh. Under the night’s embrace she rode, leaving behind her life, the world she built not only for herself, but for her husband, for the future of their family. Memories were forever embedded within her, and that is all she was to have of this union. Behind her was a lie, forged by the manipulations of those she served. She did not know where deceit began or ended, or if this was their gamble all along - control her by any means possible, even if it meant tugging on the strings of her heart like a marionette.


She managed to escape out of her bedroom’s window after the preparations were made to her home. The traps were set and readied for intruders; she knew well they were going to try and seek her here, in her refuge, the only sanctuary she had left. There was nothing left there for them, but personal items of Yvelont’s and her own, her mother’s things. These were just material things in the end, and right now, she could only carry so much. But, the very first thing they would see, was her link pearl, shattered into pieces, across the floor. She destroyed their connection.


Against the wind she rode now, not daring to look back; the winding road was not taken, for she fled under the boughs of trees that hung all too low; their branches appearing like mangled hands as the leaves were plucked from the wood with the change of the season. The hem, of her tattered cloak, whipped violently behind her. Avenger rode hard into the night, masked by the shadows himself; he was a spectre between the trees. She was not seated in the saddle, but hovered whilst leaning over and guiding him over the brush, into the riverbed with a splash. The moonlight ripples in their wake as they beat the shallow depth and make their way toward treacherous, rocky terrain.


At their side, Virgil kept up with the flight of the maiden, who shifts quickly her direction when she noticing patrols ahead, who began to surround the establishment of Buscarron’s, much to her dismay. His words, his face, she would miss it all, the nights of conversation, the information passed. But it was too dangerous to say farewell. It was too much of a risk to see familiar faces. She goes to a place where no one knows, no one cares to explore, deeper into the woodland realm. Under the moss and vines, she slows her pace as the shadows spread like ink across this area, moonlight barely penetrate past the canopies overlapping above.


The cottage was quiet this evening, but light glimmered out from her opened windows. Avenger slows down against the slippery stones that lead her to the threshold. No matter how quiet she was, how silent Virgil padded, a woman opens the door. One who aged well, though it was obvious that she lived many a cycle. Her silver eyes were emptied of light, but she knew Rivienne’s presence before her; her energy was unmistakable.


With one fluid motion, she dismounts and brushes Avenger’s feathered face, thanking him quietly, the courser dipped his head low and breathed deeply; his heart pounded wildly within his chest. Virgil approached the duskwight woman and panted; she offers a gentle pat of the head and turned to the Shroud-maiden, who stepped forward with her head bowed.


“Child..” Her hands sought the curve of Rivienne’s muddied face, readying her expression with a touch. What she found was something empty, devoid of emotion, but her lips, when brushing them, twitched desperately, trying not to curl at the corners into a frown. “Something amiss?”


“The shadows will not last long, for soon light shall spread across the land, and my presence may not continue here then,” Rivienne’s whispers melted into the air and the winds came at her back, sending the cloak to sway forward, nearly enveloping Marbella, who stared forth at the emptiness of the world before her, yet she could see the patterns of energy surrounding Rivienne, the melancholy of her words, and the heaviness of the situation. This was her farewell. She was leaving.


“You are without your companion?” she said, noticing the lack of a masculine voice and presence; the answer came to her when Rivienne’s face turned away and she tucked her lower lip into her mouth. The act was soundless; no soft sob parted from her, no sigh. She was silent, and that spoke more volumes than anything else. Something happened, and the duskwight turned the maiden to face her.


“I smell not the tears on your face, child, but soon, they shall fall. Soon your heart will come to know pain as it shatters within you. Piece by piece, it will tear away, until you come to know darkness.” She pressed her forehead to her own and continued to speak quietly.


“Not all is lost, not all tears will be wicked ones, for tears shall dry. Your soul shall mend, and this heart of yours will be made anew. Broken things are beautiful, and the scars are meant to be seen. It will be beautiful.” She repeats this and takes a step back, knowing what she could do to assist her. Marbella was a midwife to many a man of the forest, some forgotten the duskwight, but she had not.


“Under the blanket of darkness, your life will be restored, and the forest shall mourn your leave. The wind foretells your farewell. Favors owed shall be repaid this night as the Shroud loses its daughter.”

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He was always prompt, Heulioux never expected anything less of the midlander. He knew his role well in this structure and knew who to report to. Without addressing the staff to let him venture through these halls, the youth rounds a few corners until reaching the office of his superior. He left the door ajar for him to enter. The young man knew not the reason of this summoning, nor did he feel that wrong-doing was done or that he erred in some way. However, he still felt the uneasiness set in the moment he walked past the door-frame and entered the room.


The air was heavier here, even with the mild relief that the ceiling fan gave him, it was too thick for him to breathe properly. He found his Commander seated there, hands folded over paperwork that seemed to have been smeared with ink. Amber eyes scanned the entirety of the room; he concluded that no fight took place here, but tension came from another source. The commander’s features were grave, though a sense of calm enveloped him. When Ivaan finally sat down, and looked forward, he saw him produce a folder that was sealed.


“Sergeant Arkwright, I am glad you came so immediately.” A hand came to land upon the folder, pushing it forward. He extends out his hand, palm facing the ceiling. “Let us not waste any time, this is your assignment, go ahead, open it.” He settles in his chair, watching Ivaan’s reactions, reading every detail upon his scarred visage. The man never failed to assist when it was needed. He would not fail him this day.


“Sir?” Ivaan took the envelope and broke the seal casually and opened it, only to take pause. His throat constricts and air is not allowed passage. He forces himself to swallow and pull his composure together immediately. The image he saw first was the woman who he was partnered with in the past, a mentor of sorts, one who trained him, showed him the life of one who was truly cloak and dagger. She took him beyond his rank into a world of darkness, molded by the orders of the Adder. He saw her face as she was now, with waves of golden hair framing her features. Another photo showed her at an early stage of her career, for she was smiling, she was young, and the sketch truly captured the light in her eyes.


And now she was his target.


The Commander gave him but a moment to let this sink in. There was loose papers within, giving Ivaan every intricate detail they could muster about her before she was forced to become a serpent. Her failures, her victories, her conditioning. Rivienne was forged in the heat of battle, and Ivaan was privy to the details she kept hidden from him. He was violating something and knew it.


A smile touched his features. Barely.


Heulioux stood up and took a deep breath as Ivaan looked away from the work; amber depths were sharp, narrowed and focused at his superior. “The crime on her head? If I may ask, she was my partner, after all.” He inquired calmly, keeping his hands over the folder. He saw his Commander’s eyes shift to their corners, a flash of something was found in them, something searing, it was anger. Ivaan didn’t regret this question. But, the answer was not one he expected.


“She is a threat to your countrymen. Her mental stability is beyond repair, for already she has attacked her fellow men, and perhaps killed one. Due to the information she holds, we can not allow her to continue under our banner. Your assignment is her, bring her, or cut the head of the snake. This forest is her playground, this land is her home. Who better than you, her husband is gone. He is useless to this task, and love would blind him.”


Ivaan’s frame soon rose and he bows his head, “Very well,” he responds without another word and takes the folder in his arms. The task would be completed, Heulioux knew this well. For who better to destroy someone, than one who cared for her, one who knew their obligation came above such trifling emotions, bothersome as they were. He could get close enough to her, to talk to her. Either his words would reach her ears, or she would find herself with the fading image of the world she loved far from her grasp. Guilt was something he had to push aside, thoughts of her would remain memories at best.


“You have your orders then. I will expect nothing less of you, Ivaan Arkwright.” He finally spoke as his eyes settled on the youth’s face, who wore determination clearly across his visage.


“Find her.”


The last words he spoke to him were heavy with the implication that this was something that could not wait another day. There was little exchange, except when his eyes met that of Heuliox and he could almost sense something there, hidden underneath the sternness in his glare. But he wouldn’t know what it was, nor would he question it. With silence shrouding him, the youth, adorned in customary uniform, simply made his way to the door, opened it, and stepped out.


In the hall, he stood where she had, staring at the folder held in his hands. No clear expression touched his features, but the shadows produced sharp shapes across his profile. Rivienne Juliette Navarre, he never knew her middle name, and for a long while, Rivienne is all that he was graced with. There was another world beyond the facets she allowed him to see, and now he had such a world in his possession, and he was the one that was to crush it. A familiar face to ruin her, instead of strangers in the dark. He would confront her in the light, and rid her of life, for the sake of Gridania..




For the Order of the Twin Adder. [/align]

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The uniform was discarded; the emblem, each patch, was torn away. Her flesh was cleaned from mud and grass, any perfume that lingered on her flesh was scrubbed away. Now she stood here, not as a serpent. The mirror reflected the woman stripped of rank, stripped of responsibility. Naked she was and in shame of the painful reminder of what she had become. Scars kissed her flesh and spoke volumes of her past endeavors. Rivienne stared at a reflection that was no longer her own. Gingerly, did her hands come up and brush along sculpted arms, feeling the warmth of her skin. An embrace is given to herself, and for a vulnerable moment, she felt the pieces of her heart begin to peel away. A shudder of breath parts her lips of cherry-hue and she turns away, wishing not to let her gaze linger further still. Marbella, perhaps sensing her dismay, or by sheer coincidence, stepped out from the bedroom with garments held in her hands. Her smile is brittle, a delicate thing that doesn’t remain ever long upon her epicurean features. The Duskwight didn’t need her vision to understand that Rivienne was grateful, though the pain was starting to take its toll. She masked it well, but the elder was no fool.


In silence she dressed herself, with soft fabrics befitting that of a noblewoman. It was made for a day in the spring, instead of a night in autumn, with how it was cut. It exposed her shoulders and slipped down its curvature. The front allowed passage for her legs, though kept her appearance modest, for it stopped before her knees. Billowy enough to move, and conceal her weapons, Marbella chose a dress that was personal for Rivienne, even if she were never to know, that this once belonged to Lady Gabrielle de Marcellus.


Her mother’s garments, from a time before Rivienne drew breath.


Spectres wrapped in cloaks they were, tattered at their hems, with flowers clinging to the ripped fibers. Ghosts among the trees the two of them, venturing down this path seldom traveled, where moonlight dares not to pierce through the canopies. Avenger’s wide stride makes only the sound of decaying leaves being crushed underneath his steps. This winding path soon broke away from the darkness, and autumn was seen on full display with gold and yellow peppering the trees. There were camps here, mostly men that ran from the law, men that Rivienne stood up against. Marbella knew this well, but this was the only choice presented to them, and prayed would be a fruitful gamble.


In the distance they could hear the birds let out their calls of warning; the Earth gave vibrations of hurried movements. Their time was dwindling, and soon night would no longer offer the shelter of darkness. Marbella, along with Virgil, Avenger and Rivienne, wandered further still to where the Wood Wailers neglected their patrol. The smell of burning wood greets their senses and flickers of light splash against the wide trunks of the trees, amber and red colors push back the darkness.


“I had a feeling I would find you here,” Marbella felt the warmth of the flames and, without need for guidance, made her way down the mossy hill to greet a fellow Duskwight, one who stood up suddenly at the sight of the elderly woman and sought her hands. She brushed them away and chuckled; Rivienne did not step into the light and simply waited. While they walked, she spoke of the many children of Twelveswood, those that she helped birth, those who grew up and remember, some have forgotten in time..


.. and there were some that did not make it due to Calamity.


“Marbella, this better be worth rousing me at such late hour, I don’t feel like having to dodge the hateful glares of Wailers thinking I am up to no good,” fingers ran through his silver locks, pushing them away from his face as dark eyes settled upon her features. Crow’s feet formed at the corner of her eyes, a smile spreads, and he soon sees the reason for her beckoning.


Rivienne stepped from the shadows, adorned in her cloak of lace textured like spider’s web. An appreciative smile trailed his lips as light fell upon her features. Golden eyes stared at him, though no hint of emotion touched them. Her red lips were all too inviting and he found himself staring at them as they parted. She was lovely against the warmth of the fire, her skin was aglow, and for a moment.. he thought Marbella had gifted him.


He soon turned to Marbella and chuckled. “My bed is rather cold as of late, what is the reason for such a beautiful pres--” He heard the unsheathing of a weapon, and before he can finish, she was upon him. A blade was produced into the space shared; one hand kept its grip on the handle and the other open against the pommel, ready to slam the blade forward.


Steel pressed firmly to his jugular without a moment’s notice and he could smell the sweetness in her breathe as she leaned to him, threatening to prick his flesh. Their eyes met and he halted his breathing for a heartbeat. His reaction is initially shock, and before it could boil to anger, Marbella’s hand rises gently and takes Rivienne’s wrist.


“She needs your help,” the Duskwight softly whispers, hoping to gain control of the situation before the maiden decides to use force. At times, solution is best not found at the end of a blade.


“What sort of help,” he reached for his neck, checking to see if she had pierced skin or not. His eyes looked her over, seeing her in a different light.


“Freedom is sought by river, mine passage shall be paid,” Rivienne whispered as the blade is secured upon her thigh once more, only hidden by a thin layer of fabric. He knits his brows, but would bite his tongue. Ignorance, in some situations, was indeed bliss. The way the woman dressed, the deadly precision and swiftness of her would-be-attack, hinted that she was more trouble than it was worth already.


“Pray tell, why should I help you?” He gave a glare to Marbella, who could not see his expression, but knew he was not all too pleased.


In return she smiled, the elderly woman reached to cup his cheek gently. “I helped birth you, but she will be the one to end you. Give her passage, and all your debts shall be paid to me.”


He took her hands and moved them away before groaning. Tilting his head back, he shook it and chuckled, “..For you, midwife. Just for you.”

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“The house is a death-trap, we can’t touch anything! Proceed with the hunt?” Duchesnel’s voice is received clearly, and he patiently waits for a reply.


Heuliox was running out of time, and excuses would soon have to pour from his lips to grace the ears of his superior. With a deep breath, and a jaw set and hardened, he replied quietly into the linkshell. “Proceed. Someone will come to aid you. Make sure she is down, keep her this way.” He placed only a limited amount of trust in Ivaan, hoping that the stern demeanor of the youth would not falter. But one could only place so much hope in one individual, look what happened to the young woman who softened his heart. She lived longest among operatives. He long ago placed a gamble on her, that she would shine the brightest, that her perseverance would carry her further still, but in the end..


.. she was meant to die.


In his office, enveloped in silence, the Commander seeks the comfort of a bottle from his collection of spirits and looks for a lonely glass on the bottom of the drawer. “Rivienne Navarre, ah, but that name will soon fade, won’t it,” mumbled words were interrupted by the sound of him opening the bottle.


Ivaan lead Moss through the heavy terrain, listening to the commands given in his ear. Amber eyes stared forth, penetrating the darkness that came upon him quickly. Lightning flashed, thunder rolled in soon after. The storm was coming. Rain had already threatened to weep down upon the lands. Mud was not ideal to travel on, but Moss was accustomed to dealing with complicated terrain.


The wind was against him this night, it’s howl carried a burden upon it. It slapped his visage, razor stings when his hair whipped about in his vision. He was not going to be deterred. With the elements working against his favor, the youth seemed more determined to meet with the others. “Go, go!” He growls, snapping the reins of his companion, who desperately rushed blindly into the unknown.


Will I find her?

Or shall I be met with corpses leading me to her?


Plagued by his thoughts, such fuel served to push him onward. The other men were ahead, two steps ahead. But this was also his home, he grew underneath the same boughs she had. With knowledge of the paths hidden from the usual denizens that only followed the main road, he cuts his distance from them in half within moments, and hopes that the Twelve are on his side this day.


Under shadow they walked with haste, Marbella upon the saddle of Avenger, the Duskwight before them leading them to freedom, or demise. The road was unkind, and the path was not meant for those without a strong heart. There were things in the forest that would wish to take one’s life without thought; these were savage and rabid, tainted creatures. They reminded him of the woman who was walking behind him, for once Marbella introduced her for who she was, what she was, the rumors were brought to light. He had to perform his task, not only because he promised Marbella, but because he too feared the wrath of her disappointment. Thus he took them to the only place he could, where smugglers brought those who feared persecution, where a supposed Lady Winter guided those who fled from the land Rivienne was now heading to. He believed her crazy.


And far too bold for her own good. Much like his passenger this day.


[ Final, Part I ]

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The heavens wept above, clouds hid away the silver moonbeams, and the world offered a cloak for them. Here, at this crudely made dock, Marbella’s hands found Rivienne’s shoulders as she helped her off Avenger, the courser made a soft sound as the elder chuckled and brushed his beak soon after. “A good companion, your father did well. He will serve you well beyond these lands,” she softly spoke, the sorrow was not clear, for Rivienne felt a touch of it when her hand reached for her.


“For the rest of my days,” the maiden concludes and leads her along the suspicious structure, fearing that their weight would easily send them splashing to the water. Avenger and Virgil were in tow, following the trio making their way in the dark, unable to see where the dock would end, and where the waters would swallow them. It was the Duskwight, Sylviel, that memorized the steps needed to take him closest to one of the tied boats. It wasn’t his, of course, but who was going to miss a boat out of the three posted here. Certainly someone. But, such was not his concern, at the moment.


“Hurry, this storm will not cover us long, seems someone is on your side,” he quickly lowered himself and looked around in this encompassing darkness, seeking the oars, making sure they were both in place. A glance is given toward the direction of Marbella, who takes the reins of Avenger and languidly guides him. Her stride is slow, though purposeful, as she reached for Sylviel and nods. “..and the blasted chocobo, of course.”


She ignored his mumbling and smiled as he carefully lead the large steed, who struggled slightly before surrendering to his lead. Rivienne stood silently, clutching at the fabrics that adorned her hips. Golden depths lost their luster and grew dull as rain kissed her sun-touched cheeks. The realization began to sink in, as Avenger boarded the boat, that she was leaving her home.


Auburn hair became sodden by the rain as ran across the riverbed, the feet of his chocobo tearing away grass and moss. They reported movement. The bastards had found her before he had, and his time was slipping twixt his fingers like Thanalan sand. With his heart at his throat, and a fear clutching at his senses, he pushed his companion to make haste underneath the low hanging boughs, over the uprooted trees, through the silk of webs and decay of thirsty vines.


The spear is pulled free from its trappings with a sudden snap; he held it firmly and tugged the reins with a free hand, forcing Moss to kick forward as his heart desperately tried to catch up and become steady. He saw Duchesnel there, a few yalms before him, hidden in the brush. He could hear the water as the river highlighted his location. It was by luck that he found movement taking place here, near the river bed, this secluded location. The wildwood turned to see Ivaan coming with spear extended to his side; seems the man was going to take his kill, no. He wanted this trophy. He wanted the title as the Viper killer. After what she did to Jehantel, the man deserved to be the one to end this.


Moss, however, had a different idea.


The officer did not see the chocobo coming, distracted by Ivaan’s presence, he missed the moment the two had split from his vision. As he took possession of the bow, and sought his quiver of his arrow, the wild bird came charging forward and kept his head low. It rammed at full force with the man, and with one jerk of his head, sent his body twisting backwards, bouncing off his saddle, only to thud into the ground. Ivaan was swift and animated in his attack, for he did not move in to kill him, but came to hit the elezen’s skull with the butt end of the spear. Panting breaths escaped his lips as he stared at the form; he was not dead, but this would render him useless for the time being.


His hands shook slightly, sweat had dribbled down his temples and forehead, stinging his eyes.

The rain started to come to an end.

And time had run out.


[ Final, Part II ]

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Marbella felt it, the sudden anxiety in the air, commotion was taking place afar, and the winds whispered what ill fate would surround them if they were to linger. She turned to Rivienne, who falls to a knee at her approach.


“It is time,” Marbella whispered as she too kneels, but her hand reaches to the side of the dock closest to her, and dips her hand into the cooling waters. It trickles from her hand as she gathers some and reaches for Rivienne’s visage, which is contorted with a sorrow far too embedded within.


“Where there is shadow,” The Duskwight began to trace a finger upon the bronze flesh of the Wildwood, right on her forehead. With the water, she slowly begins to draw while speaking. Rivienne fell silent, listening, as her eyes were fixated on the floorboards before her and the white of her dress around her knees.


“There must be light as well, remember, child of the realm, spirit of the wind. Your wandering shall come to an end, and you will seek the freedom you desire,” Marbella smiled and pulled her hand away; what she drew was the symbol of Oschon. They held this position for a moment, finding silence was beneficial for the both of them; they let the significance of this farewell sink into their core.


Her hands cup Rivienne’s cheek and she helps her up to stand with her. Sylviel looks away, giving them some semblance of privacy; though he cared not for the Viper, the emotion in Marbella’s silver eyes held strong. She was shedding tears, and her pain was all too true.


“Virgil,” Rivienne turned to her companion since youth and smiled to him as she leaned down and brushed the top of his head, “Guide her, watch over her, until I return.” The wolf tilts his head with confusion, for goodbye was not something he knew of. From a pup, he was at her side, been there when her world fell apart at the news of her brother’s demise, and when it collided once more when her mother’s blood stained her hands. Now, as her world crashed, she would part ways with him.


“Pah! As if I need a companion,” the Duskwight smiled and felt Virgil brush against her leg; he too felt her sorrow.


Rivienne stepped back and slipped her hands over his face until she no longer graced him. Looking to Marbella, she bows her head and holds her position. “May the wind be at thy back, then, forever more.” She spoke quietly, straightened her frame, and languidly gave her back. Sylviel turned and sought her hand.


The rain finally ceased.


[ Final, Part III ]

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Ivaan swung the spear to clear paths to the docks, tripping over slick rock and saturated moss. He was tired, overwhelmed with emotion, and felt his voice give out when he saw the surface of the water and the figure standing alone at the dock. It wasn’t her. It wasn’t her.


He felt the cool of the breeze welcome him and lure him closer, and thus he did, with Moss following behind his now tedious steps. Bewilderment crossed his features for a moment as he sought the dark; the clouds slowly assisted him in seeking and soon parted to allow light to trickle down. Marbella stood quietly, listening to his approach, as her eyes stared at the nothingness ahead. Virgil whimpered and broke into a howl that pierced the silence, the winds carried the woeful song to the river.


“You’re late,” Marbella finally said and turned to Ivaan, who dropped the spear as he walked to the edge of the dock. He did not give voice to his concern, his mind was filled with far too many inquiries, and little answers.


He wanted to call out, in hopes that the same winds of her beloved forest would reach her. That it would grant him this one wish. But he couldn’t speak her name, simply watch as the boat drifted further, and further away.


Rivienne felt the same breeze he did and closed her eyes as the faint sound of Virgil’s cry melted into the ambient. Trembling lips pressed together firmly, but pieces of herself began to come apart within, and whatever held her together, began to unwind. Behind closed eyes, the reel of her memory played. Oh beloved husband, his unshaven face, how it tickled her when he drew near for a kiss. The love in his eyes when he gazed down at her when they rested for the evening. The smile that graced his lips when they formed their bonds under the touch of moonlight.


Her lips part and she opens her eyes, eyes that now allowed tears to finally escape their basins. Under the moonbeams, they glittered like diamonds, before rounding her cheek and spilling from her jawline. His face was gone, and what she had left was blurred images of love. Turning to the back of the boat, she faced the docks and greeted the gentle wind of autumn. Glassy depths sought to see Marbella, but she could not make her out. Fog began to veil her, the world she knew offered her the safe passage she needed.


Rivienne pulled back the lace of her hood and felt her hair whip back past her shoulders. The smell of flowers. Gathering her locks in one hand, the other sought the handle of her blade as she expose her thigh and the weaponry on her person. Oh how she will miss their perfume.


“I am afraid –” She whispered to the gentle caress of the winds and extended out her hand, reaching out to the dark, and letting the locks of her golden hair dance as they are whimsically caught in the currents. The steel had cut away the the luster of her tresses, sending blooms, and silk strands, airborne.


“– that we shall not meet again, in this lifetime.” Marbella whispered to the very winds with a melancholy smile touching her lips and she too reached out, as if sending her message to the currents. For a short while, she remained there, listening to the whispers..


the farewells..


..to the maiden of the Shroud.


[align=center]It is an illusion that we were ever alive,

Lived in the houses of mothers, arranged ourselves,

By our own motions in a freedom of air,

Even our shadows, their shadows, no longer remain.

These lives lived in the mind are at the end.

They never were.. -Wallace Stevens [/align]



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