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SPNoelle

Letters and Life (A journal of sorts)

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Posted (edited)

Two months later:

"M'bored."

"Then go do something." Siobhan carefully slid a cut section of root into a glass jar and stoppered it, then tucked it into her satchel. Her hazel eyes wandered over the beachfront to where her husband, Torran, rested in a large pit in the sand, with his fists pressed against his knees. "Sweetheart, I can't entertain you all the time,  you know. I know you'd like to go hunt, but I need to collect these samples, okay?" He harrumphed and pushed his way up from his personally made hole, sulking and glaring at his patient wife. For a midlander, his wife was certainly petite, and seemed all the more so against his massive Ala Mhigan frame. She was pale where he was dark. She was calm and friendly where he was gruff and complained often. And he utterly adored her. 

Leaving her to her trimmings, he stalked along the beach toward the piers and the bright umbrellas, a drink on his mind. The sun glinted off his chocolate skin, which was coated with a fine sheen of sweat by this point, his hair bunched in a messy ponytail to keep his neck cool. There was humidity in the air, he could feel it churning, and it had convinced him to take his vest off and mull about in tattered trousers, while his wife added to her next herbology book. However, sitting there in that massive hole, the sun beating down on him and him regretting having left his fishing pole at home, and his wife unable to go play in the water, he wanted to go home. A stiff drink would have to do .For now. 

It was the sobbing Hyur with a busted handle, her garments strewn in front of her that gave him pause. Her hair was a rich red and frizzled from the heat, her eyes a pale green-blue hue that looked similar to the sparkling ocean water. That color was intensified by the tears that streamed from each red-rimmed eye along her pinkening cheeks. Her clothing looked tattered, dirty even, like she had swum a few miles along the sandy edge, dragging half of the beach with her, and just let the sand settle into the folds of her clothes. In concern, he demanded, "Girl, you hurt?" The girl's drenched gaze traveled to him and a tender smile broke out. "It's beautiful," she choked out, then covered her mouth as though ashamed by how her voice had broken. Torran looked the ocean water over, then peered at the girl, trying to decide what to make of her.

 

"It looks the same as it usually does," he stated. The girl shook her head in response. "No? Why do you say it doesn't?" He stooped down to begin gathering the cotton garments strewn at her feet, handing them over to her one at a time. Her dresses and tunics seemed even smaller in his massive hands. She had yet to gaze away from the beach in wonder. "Your first time to see it?" She nodded dumbly. He pulled a face, baffled, amused by how she responded to sand and water. "You'll entertain me," he decided and grabbed hold of her shoulder to nudge her to her feet. She startled, and almost dropped the pile of garments he had returned to her numb grasp. When she began pushing the garments back in the damaged satchel, he noticed claw marks along the leather, and asked, "What attacked you?"

"Couerl," she answered meekly. That one word started up a babble as she explained, "I thought I would travel from Ul'dah all the way here, to the beach, because I thought I would be safe enough. I had rented a chocobo, even, but it got attacked and I was toppled somewhere between Western Thanalan and here. Pretty sure it was eaten. Anyway, I tried to get into Limsa Lominsa, but there was a nasty crab along the way. I could see a bit of the ocean from there, but it was nothing compared to this. I ran a lot." She stopped to take a deep breath and giggled weakly. "I mean that I ran from the crab, and from these dodos that came chasing after me. I thought I had lucked out on getting here when the couerl came out of nowhere and tried to slash at me. Luckily, it took a fireball to his tail for him to run off and leave me alone." More tears began to leak again. "And now I'm here. And it's so beautiful and warm and ... it crunches. The sand, it crunches just like snow does."

"Snow," he grunted. "You not from Ul'dah?"

"No. I just started there," she explained. She hadn't realized he was leading her toward the piers until her sandals touched wood. She gazed around with wonder at the half naked bodies as they dove into the dazzling blue waters, splashing about. It was so clear, she could make out coral and fish and a massive silver streak that darted around from time to time. "I was going to come here with a friend, but I thought it would make him miserable if I did. And the other one is-." She stopped to swallow roughly, refusing to let herself think on Tariev. Misery had set in on the second day of her trip, and she'd had to fight herself not to turn back and beg him to love her. Since that night, she'd dreamt nightly of the creature reaching for her, calling her pathetic. Useless. Coward. She had suffered the loss of sleep until the sixth night, when she'd been so exhausted, she had made herself a protective cover and slept beneath a massive outcropping of rocks that had formed a cave of sorts. The night had been empty of dreams, and she'd felt refreshed for it. Since then, the dreams had been more sporadic.

 

They had reached an outdoor tavern of sorts, where a hulking Roegadyn who was taller even than Torran, watched them with blank eyes. Torran demanded, "Bottle of whiskey for myself, and the girl is going to be on my tab for this evening. It's her first time to see the ocean." Dyrs grunted out a rumbling, "That so," and began to pour, stir, and fill a glass with a frothy white drink, which was plunked in front of her. "First one's on the house." Torran readily took his bottle and ignored the shot glass set beside it. "So, girl. Where do you hail from?"

 

"Ishgard," she answered. There was already a white mustache across her upper lip. "Dragons and heretics and lords, oh my," she added on with a weak grin. "Most of my life, I've seen snow, stone, and sun. Not a very happy alliteration." She sipped more of the drink, cozying up to the counter. Torran watched with mild interest as she drained half of the drink in a few lengthy gulps. "Hoo. This goes quickly to the head." 

Torran chuckled along with Dyrs, cautioning her, "Want to take it slow, girlie. Otherwise, you'll be out like the lightweight you are." He clapped her heartily on the back, almost knocking her from her seat. "So, you've seen the beaches now. What do you think?"

 

"I think this is the most beautiful place ever. I didn't know it could be this vibrant. Ul'dah is nice and everything, but it's so bland most of the time, and unbearably hot. At least here, if it gets too hot, there's shade enough from the trees and, uh, places like this." She gestured to the covered docks before settling in to slurp more of her drink away. "As much as I tried to get a good view of the area along the way, most of the time it was sand, stone, and a lot of forts. I even had to stop at one of them and deal with a nasty influx of dodos in migration. They kept trying to take me down, no matter how fast I ran." She flushed at how the two larger men laughed at her. She felt like a pup at their feet, being lauded over for some cute trick she'd done, or a young child who had shown she was capable of counting her fingers AND her toes. Adorable, but defenseless. 

Show them some heat. Let them know who you truly are.

 

No. They've done nothing to me. Why should I attack them? They think I'm defenseless, because I am defenseless. They could squash me like a bug.

 

Coward. Useless. Pathetic.

 

"I am not," she seethed, realizing neither man had spoken to her or asked her anything. She gulped quickly and tried to laugh off her statement. "I mean, I am not going to drink too fast or too much. I'm just preparing for my first time in the water." 

"Never swum, either, ey? You shouldn't wait. Go on down to the docks, and once you've done so, I'll have you a fruit juice waiting for you," Dyrs promised her, taking her now emptied glass to wash out. "If you haven't a suit, well that's okay. A lot of those what swim here, they tend to dip into the water naked as they day they were born. T'aint nothing new around here." Fiona flushed primly at the mere idea of going nude. She would never be so bold.

"I think I'll just meander along the beach first, let my feet get a feel for it." The two men were already in discussions about some sort of herbalist book, however. She waved at them, baffled, feeling heat of another sort. Men. Always dismissive of women. Wasn't that just the way?
 

Edited by SPNoelle

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The waves sloshed across her bare toes, warm, bubbly. The sensation tickled as sand was sucked from beneath her feet, causing her to wobble when she no longer had firm purchase beneath her. She stepped further in, then further, until the water rushed across her ankles and tickled her calves. Her face, which had been puckered with concern, bloomed into a fervent grin of excitement as she wobbled in further, step by careful step, mindful of the shells and rocks that pricked at her bare soles. Around her, people laughed as they crashed together with the waves, some of them holding woven baskets to hold the clams, crabs, or whatever other objects they were gathering. Kathenna watched them with a burst of hunger so strong, it made her nauseous.

She wanted that. To be happy like them. The voice tickling in the back of her head laughed at the sudden desire, but she ignored it. Since she had come to understand she was not destined to love freely, she had felt lonelier and ... well, angrier than before. She had made a point of taking a long time traveling here to unleash some of that pent up fury inside of her, but to no avail. It felt more like feeding the fire than trying to extinguish it. Her dreams had become dangerously dark, with the black skinned beast now at her side, telling her all the things she wanted to do. Worse, she was beginning to listen and agree with it. 

 

She had attacked the dodos, wanting to see what would happen when feathers were put to flame. What they would do when electrocuted. One side of her had screamed in horror as the animals had dashed away from her, and had tried to reason with her to stop. However, the three massive males that had faced her and tried to protect their families had quieted that voice. She had toyed with them a bit. Not that their massive claws couldn't have ripped through her at any time, but she had made a point to throw rings of fire around the three birds and force them to dance around the ring for her own amusement before extinguishing their lives. 

That night, she had cried. She'd latched her arms around herself and shook so hard, her muscles had ached and her jaw had been tense and sore from clenching through the night. She thought that would have controlled the anger bubbling inside of her, but when the couerl had attacked, it rose up vehemently. Black, deadly. She didn't know what had happened to the animal, but when she came to herself, she had claw marks through both of her satchels, a good scratch along her leg, and the beast was black, charred, and smelled of burned flesh and fur. She had vomited not far from where it lay. 

 

She recognized that she was losing her mind, but she didn't know what she could do about it. Not with the black outs happening more frequently and the dreams happening even when she was awake. Not when she could look at the Lalafell walking down the beach, holding a large conch shell, and want to attack him. Or hurt the Elezan with the creamy skin, who laughed as she splashed her way into the surf. Kathenna stared at them with the violent hunger surging inside of her and felt herself go cold, even as the sun beat down on her. Why did they have the right to be normal and happy? 

 

Sweat beaded along her brow, her breathing becoming shallow, heart rate elevated. You are not taking over. I refuse to let you take over. I am calm. I am fine. I'm seeing the ocean, I'm in the ocean, it's my very first time here and it feels beautiful. It's warm silk on my skin, just focus on how it feels. Think about how the sand feels soft and loose under my feet, don't think about the people or lose yourself again. Just ... breathe ...

 

Her eyes slowly opened again just in time to see a Miqo'te come rushing at her, distracted by the leather ball that was arcing through the air. She was slammed off her feet when the two collided, both going down in an explosion of pain.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

"Hah - did you see that? You okay, Rose?" 

Two sets of hands reached down to hoist her up, two people talked over each other, bubbling with laughter. "That was the furthest yet! I would have caught it, I swear. Sorry about that, miss, I didn't mean to knock you down." Kathenna's eyes tried to focus on the two strangers, a tanned Hyur with shocking blue hair and the Miqo'te who had plowed into her, ears of silky black with elongated eyes of jade. They were both scantily clad, clearly having been enjoying the game of toss until she, Kathenna, had gotten in the way. The Miqo'te was still talking to her, her grin as bright as her eyes. "Usually I pay attention to where I'm running, but I was so damned intent on proving to Numbskull here that I could catch it. You okay, Miss? I didn't knock you too hard, did I?"

 

"I - no. That is, I'm fine. Just a little winded," she decided after placing a hand to her chest. Skin met skin where before there had been a ragged, old tunic. Fabric hung wet and listless along her side where the tunic had torn at the neck. She struggled to pull the fabric over her bare chest while the two laughed at her frantic fumbling. 

"I wouldn't worry so much about how you look, Miss. We see people without clothes around these parts all the time. If it bothers you that much, though, Cyrik can loan you his shirt." 

"My shirt! What if I wanted to wear it later?"

"Please, you never wear it." Putting a proprietary arm around Kathenna's shoulder, she led her away from the docks to where a set of umbrellas had been set up, along with chairs. Clothes and towels had been spread out across both seats. Cyrik found and tossed his shirt to her, pointedly looking away while Rose, the Miqo'te, helped to tear the fabric the rest of the way off. "Wow, talk about some thin material. It's a wonder this has lasted as long as it did. Must have ripped when I knocked into you. Sorry again." Except Rose didn't sound very sorry about the collision. She sounded delighted by it. "I'm Te'karose, by the way, but everyone just calls me Rose. And you're probably wondering why I look so strange. I'm a seeker and a follower." Holding her arm out beneath Kathenna's quiet gaze, she pointed to the milky blue cast of flesh. "You don't really notice unless you pay attention, really. I caught you staring at my ears earlier, though, so I figured you wondered."

 

Abashed, Kathenna nodded. "I'm Kath... Kate. I'm Kate," she offered uneasily. "Thanks for the shirt. I'll find a way to get it back to you." Rose still had hold of her arm, however, and was circling her slowly with a tactical gleam in her jade eyes. 

"Cyrik, time to have a little break and some drinks, I think. I'm dying to know what a girl from Ishgard is doing all the way over here in La Noscea."  

Narrowing her eyes at Rose, she tugged at the strange shirt with unease, demanding to know, "How did you know I'm from Ishgard?" Rose tapped her on her lower back, on the right side where the swell of her buttock began. The brand, while small and mostly faded, was still prevalent enough to mark her a heretic. The stroke of Rose's finger over the man-made welt made Kathenna shudder. That horrid mark was what had made her finally escape. "You've seen one like this before."

"Oh, yeah. I've seen another one just like this, almost in the same place. Let's go have some drinks and you can tell us how a lowly girl like yourself traveled from snow to sand."

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Dyrs kept the drinks going as the group talked. Torran's wife had eventually joined them, a petite Highlander from Gridania who had a keen interest in plants. She was as short and lithe as Rose, and sat easily on her husband's knee while the five of them talked. Siobhan had learned about Kathenna's, now Kate's, lengthy travel and the reason behind it. At least, the romantic sides of it. She thought it was truly heartbreaking, but confided she expected this "Tariev fellow will clearly follow his heart and come after you." Kate didn't want to bother telling her that the Tariev fellow already had a woman to warm his bed, and likely would have a few more soon enough, so why be worried about the loss of a single fool?

Rose and Cyrik kept talking about bar hopping, and how they'd wished they had known her when she'd been in Ul'dah. "Just imagine the places we would have taken you," Cy had commiserated mournfully. Kate had plastered a smile on and mumbled something, what she couldn't have said. It seemed to appease Cy, however, and the conversation had slowly migrated toward Ishgard and the master. At first, she had resisted talking about him, and about her life there. As they pushed, she finally admitted to having left due to the master's cruelty. A little more pushing, a few more drinks, and she began to talk about the letters. About Marius. "His servant name was Kehvan," she admitted with a twist of the ring around her finger. It was small, a silver ring with a rose formed into it. "But his father's name was Marius, and that's what he wanted to be called. I was the only one who was allowed to call him that."

 

That was about the time Rose had sloshed her drink along the table and had broken the conversation up, for which Kate was grateful. She was tired of talking about her life and her poor, pitiful, pathetic existence. She was tired of being pitied by these strangers. Then why do you keep bringing it on yourself? Constantly moaning and whining? You had your chance. You could have taken him for yours.

 

Because I swore to myself I would never be as cruel as the master or Marius. 

 

Fool. You are already like them, whether you admit it or not.

Edited by SPNoelle

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Posted (edited)

Sandstone pillars rose from the piers, swirled into unique walkways that were linked by bridges of wood and stone alike. People bustled along, top to bottom, with nary a pause to admire the broad sails that were displayed along the sea's horizon. There were the salty sorts along the docks, who slung guttural words with as much ease as the fish they tossed. Decorated admirals passed, their pressed uniforms decorated with all sorts of medals that dazzled anyone the passed by. The saltiness of the sea permeated into the stone and left a rich smell in the air that mingled nicely with the ever constant scents of food that wafted from the culinary guild. 

Cy and Rose had invited Kate along with them to the guild as their first stop, once inside the city. On a patio bedecked with umbrella covered tables, they had feasted on fresh, crusty bread with rich tomato sauce, steamed clams and boiled shrimp on a bed of ice. Kate showed off her abilities with ice - or what limited abilities there were. She kept their drinks chilled and kept the ice from melting in the seafood pan. The two had clapped at her skill, amusing her to the point that every time she did it, and they would clap again, her lips would twitch. "Shame that Torran and Siobahn couldn't have come with us. We should go visit their tavern when we go back to Ul'dah," Cy decided, giving Kate a pointed look. Kate disregarded his demanding words as she slid an oyster from its shell and down her throat. "So, are you here permanently?"

"I don't know," she answered. "Maybe. I like it better here than I do Ul'dah. People are friendlier here, at least."

"And steal from your pockets five times as much," he retorted. "Sweetie, you're such an innocent. At least you would have friends in Ul'dah that can protect you." 

 

"I don't need protection." The smile she offered had a feral edge to it, enough to have Cy retreat from his nagging. Rose took the silence over by discussing a tavern that had just opened up at the Goblet known as the Silent Maiden. Of course, she made a point to assure Kate that it was anything but silent there. "It's always ongoing, especially in the evening times. Lots of experimental drinks, and if you end up in a stranger's bed, don't be too shocked." Cy and she had tittered and began regaling Kate with tales of their many nights of seductive fun. Kate only listened with half an ear to their giddy tales, though. She was, instead, focused on the Miqo'te who was staring at her with open dislike. His mop of bluish-black hair swept over his pale eyes, but it wasn't enough to conceal the contempt he had for her. Kate stiffened, lip curling with distaste as he approached the table.

"You're alive. That's a shame. I was hoping something big had found you and eaten you up," he commented, grabbing the remaining empty chair to drop into. He didn't bother to ask permission, but started in on their food greedily. "What are you doing here, anyway, Hyur?"

 

"I could ask the same of you, pain in my side," she countered, her smile brittle. "In fact, why don't you go away again, and we'll pretend we never met each other. Maybe if we're lucky, we'll never see each other, either." 

"You two know each other," Rose asked uneasily. At once, Yen'to said yes as Kate answered no. Kate added, "Unfortunately, I met this nuisance a few months ago, and he had the gall to attack me, just because I was resting under his tree."

He pointed out, "Who was it that set the tree on fire?"

"I was aiming at you," she returned angrily.

"You have a poor aim."

"Be glad I did, otherwise you would be dead, jerk. Now go away."

"Make me."

"How about the fact that you sat down at our table uninvited," Cy added in angrily. "Unless you intend to pay for the food you're eating, I suggest you walk away immediately." Yen'to gulped down a final slice of bread slathered with tomato sauce and oysters. With a smirk, he gathered a handful of the shrimp up as well and sauntered off. The three of them glared after him. "What a horrendous jerk," Cy seethed. "I bet he has the hots for you." That horrified Kate into turning and glaring at him. Cy shrugged in response. "What? That's usually what happens. The guy wants the girl, so he acts like an incredibly pompous twit to catch her attention. Mark my words, sooner or later, he'll make a move. Now hurry up and eat more, before he sneaks back over here for seconds."

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Yen'to wasn't the only one to have noticed Kathenna. In fact, this one was less pleased to see her than the Miqo'te annoyance had been. He watched from the below ramp, where the joists of the building hid him perfectly while he listened to their conversation. A mean smile appeared. Kate had always been a strong-willed individual who just wanted love and attention. She was susceptible from what he remembered. For now, watching was the plan, but later he would talk with his companion, and maybe then something could be set up to help Little Miss Kate disappear again.

Edited by SPNoelle

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Three blissful weeks had passed and Kate had found a new library stocked full of fresh books on thaumaturgy. Day after day, she'd visited, borrowing a book and settling at the nearest table to read for hours on end. When she felt she had a strong enough grasp on the basics of each spell, she would go 'hunting' as she would tell the others. Cy was the only one who hesitated to let her go alone, deciding she needed protection. She balked at this, afraid he would see the other side she fought so well to hide from others, but he was so adamant on going along with her that she'd finally relented. 

For what felt like the seventeenth time for the seventh day, she told him, "You know, you don't have to sit here and watch me. You could be back at the city, drinking yourself silly and flirting with every man who comes your way." In fact, she was hoping he'd get the point and go back anyway. He kept giving advice that did nothing to help, and did everything to distract her. "In fact, why don't you go back to the inn, tell them to prepare a bath for me, and tell Rose we're having dodo steaks with fresh rolls tonight." She flexed her fingers, bringing thumbs and index finger tips together to create a diamond, through which she looked. The hands separated out, twisted outward so the diamond halves pointed upward. She drew her hands in, then flexed them outward so a shower of snow projected forward. There was a gust of wind that burst along with it, but too soon, it ended. "Hmph. Some blizzard."

 

"You don't have enough ice in your heart," Cy complained. He had tucked himself beneath a tree so the shade protected him from the rising sun. He had brought a stone jug of pineapple juice for himself, which he sipped at languidly in between tossing out criticism at her. "Maybe you're being too jerky with your movements. Try to make them flow more."

"They aren't supposed to flow," she bit out, irritated. "They are supposed to be short, sharp movements." As before, she brought her finger and thumb tips together to form the diamond. She flexed her hands, pushing forward, then inward and forward again, then broke the diamond up, still pulling and pushing the energy, her teeth clenched. She could feel the build of energy this time, like pushing at a great ball of water held in place, trying to push it along a hill. However, this time, when she gave the final violent push, there was a hard gust of wind and snow began to fall and freeze along the grass, a whole tree frosting up, cracking under the weight of the ice. "HAH!" Her muscles ached, but she jumped with delight, her fists pumping in the air. "I did it," she cheered. "Did you see that?"

 

Cy clapped dutifully, not at all impressed. Kate sent him a scowling pout, and turned away, flexing her arms and hands to work the soreness out of them. "What was the point of coming, then, if you weren't going to watch" she muttered to herself. Cy was watching her, however. Rather closely, too. She had been practicing, working on her attempt to freeze inanimate objects before she attacked an animal. He worried what would happen when she had to attack a human. He was afraid she wouldn't survive the attack. 

She jerked her arm forward, then slashed her hand downward so a violent bolt of lightning struck the ground near the base of the tree she'd frozen. Again and again, the tree was shredded by lightning until there was only a blazing stump left behind, charred on the outside with fiery embers inside. Kate stared at the incinerated tree with that blank look she'd begun to get often, which worried him. It was an expression he'd seen before in someone he'd once cared for deeply, someone who had betrayed him with ease and left him bleeding on the side of the road. If Cy was right in thinking she was who he thought she was, there was a meeting he needed to instigate, but only after she'd gotten strong enough to hurt someone. 

"Do something with wind," he called out to annoy her, pretending to lose interest. Behind his shades, he watched her as she rounded on him, annoyed, hands on her hips. Her lips pulled back in a snarl of anger as she rushed at him, hands whipping about to stir up a storm. There was a violent crack of thunder overhead, which made him jerk up to a sit. Lightning slashed at the ground in weak intervals, not close enough to hurt, but strong enough that he was blinded by them. He gaped at her, noticing how electric her eyes got when she was furious. And a smile slowly grew. The angrier she got, the more violent she got. And who else would bring a more violent reaction than her own ex-fiance?

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Posted (edited)

Two weeks later:

So far, the hunt had been dismal. There had been only two animals to cross her path, and they had been small, likely young. Much as Kate wanted to prove herself, she couldn't bring herself to kill defenseless babes. With the sun now dropping low along the horizon, she finally admitted it was time to accept defeat. It had taken weeks to get Cy to back off, allowing her space to herself, and she hadn't even been able to proudly show herself capable of hunting down a wild animal. In a foul mood, she had trudged back up to the city, dirty and stained after a day in the miserable tropical heat. 

 

She was too involved in her thoughts to notice she was being stalked. She never realized someone was behind her, following her up the winding path that led to the Drowning Wench, until a hand dropped on her shoulder. She jerked at the touch and gripped at the hand, her fingers heating up around the assailant's wrist, which was protected by leather. The wristlet began to smoke as it tightened around his wrist, causing him to yank free of her. "Y' goin' ta burn me now, ey," Tariev asked her, amused as he tugged himself loose. "Jus' wanted ta say hello. Haven' seen y' in a while."

She listed weakly away from him, relieved, and at the same time pained by his presence. "Yeah, well. I did say I wanted to see Limsa Lominsa, didn't I?"

"Y' din' even wait f' Wilhem t' go with ya? Jus' upped and left." There was laughter still, yes, but there was also a strain of irritation in his eyes. She ignored it, forced to push her emotions aside and aim for tactical as she tried for a half-cocked grin. "I couldn't wait around forever for him. He was slow, and you had your life. Time to go off, live my life. You know how it is."

The irritation gleamed stronger now. "Aye, yeah, I know how tha' is," he agreed with an offhand shrug, playing the same distant attitude that she was. "Y' look like y' doing good. Got y'self a nice tan goin' on." He raised a brow rakishly, that come hither look making her stomach clench up. Damn the man for still having that effect on her. 

Forcing herself to turn, moving out of others' way, she leaned against the edge of the wall to gaze down toward the docks. She had to look horrible, sweaty, hair frizzed from the humidity, clothes stained from rubbing against trees and bushes. That killed some of the heat she'd begun to feel for him, so she used it. "I finally found those friends you suggested I needed. They've been helping me grow up the way I needed, too. I'm not fixating on things the way I did before like some silly girl." When she finally dared look back at his face, he was giving her a dark, telling look. "And while that one night was ..., well, it happened. But I won't be someone's fun time, either." She pretended to spy one of her friends, fixing a smile in place. "And I'm being called to join the others. It was nice to see you again, Tariev." She made sure he felt the cold shoulder by making a point to go around him with a considerable amount of space between them.

She half wanted him to follow her, to prove her wrong, but was ultimately grateful when he didn't. Her breathing became uneven and hitched while she struggled against crying. "Silly girl, get over yourself. You knew that was never going to happen," she chided herself. No longer wanting to be around others, she waited nearly five minutes before turning herself around to head back to the gate, wanting out of the city again. She didn't want to deal with Cy or Rose, and more especially with Yen'to, who had become a regular nuisance. 

The docks offered a dark, alluring privacy that she gave in to, following them back out along the edge of the coast. The shadows moved around her the further out she got, until that solitude she had been seeking no longer felt safe. Her skin prickled, the sensation of eyes roving over her too strong. Both hands rose, lit up with flames, trying to ward away the shadows and the creatures that hid within them. She heard the rough movement of foot and anticipated the attack, the man charging at her with a sword that he lashed out at her with. She retaliated by tossing one of the flame balls at him. He dodged the ball with ease, sweeping at her again. She lobbed the other ball of flames, catching him on the leg. He yelled and swung, the tip of the sword connecting with her calf for a light slash. She could feel the sting of metal cutting in her flesh, but adrenaline kept her from feeling beyond that. 

From behind, there was a crash as a barrel was tossed toward her. She scurried back, lightning dancing on her fingertips and thrown only to come up against an aetheric barrier. "Black witch," snarled the man who had tossed the barrel at her. His hands flexed and shot forward, a blackness pouring toward her. Her fingers stuttered as her nerves rode high, trying to electrify the man before his miasma could envelop her. Both spells struck at the same time, he jerking violently before tumbling and she choking as the dark spell clung to her and made her nerves sizzle with pain. The sword swung out, the flat of it slamming into her shoulder, the edge digging into her flesh. She tried to suck in a breath, but found no air around her. And then it didn't matter when the hilt of the sword slammed against her head.

"Get her. Grab her quick," he told his friend, who was struggling to get to his feet again. "Come on, we have our orders. Take her stuff, toss her in the drink. Kehv don't like to be made to wait. The faster we get this done, the faster we get our gil."

 

 

 

Edited by SPNoelle

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Everything felt bogged down as she was dragged across the rough wood. Her hands and feet had been bound once she'd been temporarily knocked out,  making it hard for her to twist herself free and attempt to cast something when she came to minutes later. By then, the two had tucked her feet into the barrel that had been thrown at her, and begun to stuff her into it. "Going for a little swim," the swordsman told her cheerfully when she began to squirm in an attempt to break free. He flashed a gil in her blood-streaked face and snickered, adding, "Thanks for the stuff. You won't miss it. Only thing you'll miss is the air." The lid was slammed down over her head, pushing it down so her chin almost met her chest. All she could concentrate on was the dark stench of fish and brine, and how cramped she was. The wooden prison tilted on its side, jostling her back, then began to roll. Her head slammed about as she was shoved along the deck. As they rolled her along, she could hear them still talking, mumbling to each other about what to do with what they couldn't sell. "You figure she'll be found," she heard one of them ask.

"Maybe. It'll be too late, though, won't it?." They laughed and heaved.

 

There was a hard thump and then a thick splash as she sunk down into the murky deep. Water began to stream in immediately at an alarming rate. She rolled again, but the sensation was slower, logy even. She grunted as she tried to press herself against the wooden slats and steel bands that held the barrel together. There was a creak, but nothing else. She tried to press her hands against the wood and burn it, but it had become so soggy at a rapid pace, there was no chance of a fire helping to weaken the wood. With a sob, she took a swift breath as the water rose up over her chin, then another through her nose when it rose above her lips. She thrashed again, harder than before, the creak of the wood making her push with all her might with her shoulder. There was a crack behind her as the wood gave, and suddenly water enveloped her completely.

She slammed her head against the lid, her feet against the base, her hands pushing into the curved edge. She ignored every throbbing pain in lieu of the burn in her lungs as her air gave out. She released what was left in them in a flurry of bubbles and sucked in water. Even as she tried to cough that out, she sucked in more. She screamed, or tried to, as the burning filled her chest up. Lightning poured out of her in sharp spears, lick after lick, until the wood was cracked enough that she floated free of her confines. She was drowning. Everything was dark around. She was floating toward the surface, but it felt more like she was sinking into the void again, letting it envelope her again.

 

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"I see you're back again. Couldn't take them on, could you?"

 

She stood beside herself. No, that wasn't quite right; she could feel her lips moving at the same time she watched them move.  Her skin was coated with black ink, but there was something wrong, because the ink had begun to crack to show fiery red veins coursing through her. She could hear the sobbing around her and tried to shut it out. Her hand reached out and stroked a face - she knew that face, who was it? Young. He had been young, maybe twenty one or twenty two. She had bought him from the black market for her master's bidding.

"No. Please. I didn't do it," he begged. He was naked and chained down against a metal sphere. The master had liked to use objects that enhanced the electric field, she remembered. Why was she thinking about this now? Why was she dreaming about this boy now? He squirmed in discomfort, trying to fix his eyes on her. "Please don't hurt me. I only did what Lord Revespare told me to do. He was the one who-" He screamed and shuddered as she placed her hand on his chest, electricity running through him. When she drew back, he slumped against the chains, weeping openly again. There was a red mark on his chest with black imprints around it. 

She felt a thrumming sensation, excitement. How much could she make him hurt? Hadn't she wondered that before, too? How much would he endure before he gave in and died? Hadn't she tortured him until he spilled every wrongdoing he'd ever done, back to the age of six, when he had watched the young woman next door undress and bathe? He'd been an innocent. He had never done anything wrong, except to pass a letter for a lord. Worse, he had dared to enter into that lord's service as a clerk. It had been his first day on the job. He had been sold by that lord over to hers, just so she would have someone to practice on. All because he had a father who owed money to the wrong person. A father who had disappeared when the boy was no more than ten. 

"You liked hurting him, remember? For being such an innocent. For never knowing pain as you had most of your life. You were allowed to unleash your hatred and agony out on him. The master had rewarded you. That was what you'd thought, isn't it? And it was time ... for someone else ... to pay." She pressed her hand back against his chest and made him scream again. The sound vibrated, radiating out of his aching throat. His eyes were wide, his mouth gaping grotesquely as saliva poured across his chin. His skin had gone a violent shade of pink except where her crackling hand rested. That was red. No purple. Going black. His heart was a frantic slam beneath her hand that she exulted in. 

 

"You lost your innocence with him, did you know that? This is when you truly enjoyed making others hurt as much as you did. Did you really think you would get away from that feeling? From who you truly are?" She removed her hand from his body. His eyes had exploded. His tongue was swollen and bloody, hanging from his limp mouth. His nasal passages and ears were sizzling with blood. "You keep allowing yourself to be hurt over and over, ignoring what you truly are. You were meant to be an executioner. That was what he taught you and you try and turn your back on what you are. Why do you insist on being this week, mewling creature when you could have such power?"

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She woke slowly, the sand scraping at her bare back and the sun beating into her eyes. She ached all over, her body felt weak. Inside, though, she felt alive with a dark peace she hadn't experienced in a long time.

Edited by SPNoelle

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"Are you sure you want to do this?"

 

"I'm sure."

 

"But your hair is so pretty and red. I don't know if the black will wash out if you decide you don't like it."

"I said I'm sure," Kate repeated irritably. "Just do it." 

Rose poured the black dye over Kate's hair, her gloved fingers massaging it around so it would coat the full length of her hair. Most of the locks had already been cut off and still littered the bathroom floor. Rose had almost cried. "There. Done. You have to sit like this for thirty minutes, then wash your hair, okay?" Hesitating, she asked, "Is there anything else you want me to do?"

Kate was staring at herself in the mirror with a blank expression that worried her. 

"Kate?"

"No. Thank you, I'm fine."

She sat on the edge of the tub once Rose had left the room, patiently staring at her expression until the timer alerted her time was up. Then, doing as instructed, she began to wash her hair. Again and again, black rivulets ran down the drain. Her arms were trembling with exertion by the time the water was running clear again. Running a swift brush through her wet hair to pull it into place, she stared at her reflection with a fierce joy. There. She felt like herself now. Black suited her.

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A change had definitely stolen over Kate. She was calmer and tended to stare off into nothingness most of the time. There was a sardonic ring to her tone most days. Cy and Rose found this new Kathenna to be meaner. She spent most of her time testing herself or in the library, extensively reading thaumaturgy theory. What she learned, she tested with wild abandon. A set of docks had been burnt by her recklessness. She had been arrested and told she had to work the fines off to fix them, or she could take up a hammer and replace the planks herself. She had tossed gil at the magistrate without a word. Where she had gotten it, no one knew, but it quieted the complaints readily enough. The problem was, Kate continued to cause damage every time she was outside of the gates, enough that Cy and Rose had pushed fiercely on her to leave with them and return to Ul'dah before she ended up in some stockade. 

 

As soon as they had passed the gate into the city, Kate had disappeared for a good week only to end up working at the Silent Maiden. She greeted the two of them as they entered, her hair slicked back from her pale face, a heart inked onto her cheek right beside the beauty mark that already rode her cheekbone. Cy watched her uneasily as she poured a drink for a customer, then for herself. By the end of the night, she was so blitzed, the manager had taken her up to his bedroom for the night. 

"Enough," Cy finally decided on the fourth repetitive night. "What are you doing? Drinking yourself sick, going off to bed with that ... that Xaela." He sneered at the massive male behind the counter. "You know what he's probably doing to you every night, right?" 

Kate grimaced as she poured herself a glass of water. Her head was ringing and her body ached furiously from injuries Tajeun had left behind. She knew exactly what the Xaela was doing to her every night, and she didn't care. The pain had cleared her head better than anything had in such a long time, she craved it. Night after night, she tried to blur out the voices screaming inside of her head while she waited for him to haul her to his bed. "He isn't breaking any bones," she told Cy. He slapped the glass of water from her hand, knocking it to the floor, where it shattered. The sound was a thousand splinters in her head. She swung blearily in reaction, slumping against the dirty bar when she missed Cy by a good foot. "Bastard," she hissed at him, letting her head rest against the cool, sticky wood. "What do you care?"

"I care, because this isn't you. I don't know what happened-" she snorted a laugh, irritating him "-but friends don't let friends drive themselves to destruction, and that is exactly what you are doing. You're coming with me and you're going to tell me what's going on."

"Something the matter here?" Tajeun had been woken by the shattering glass and come to investigate. He was tall, rippling with muscle, the ebony scales trailing from shoulder to back, and lining his stomach. He was a beautiful imagery of Xaela - until you saw the scarred and puckered face, the glass eye, and smelled the nauseating stench of blood that rode on his fetid breath. He was a bloodsucker, and he'd already left massive wounds on Kate's skin, basically marking her as his property. Cy shuddered in revulsion at the massive Xaela's closeness, backing away from him and closer to Kate, attempting to protect her, whether she wanted it or not.

"I'm taking Kate with me," he stated haughtily, ignoring the sweat that had begun to collect not only on his brow but at the base of his spine. Loathe as he was to admit it, he didn't think he could take Tajeun in a fight, fair or not. "She looks sickly already, you bloodletter. She needs medical treatment."

Tajeun flashed his silver-tipped fangs at Cy, amused by the short Hyur. He flicked a hard finger at Cy's arm muscle, or lack thereof. "You going to just take her from me without a by your leave, and you think I will be okay with that?" When Cy gulped roughly, his smile turned nasty. "Didn't think so. Kate! You don't want to leave, do you?" 

Kate was too busy seeing to a drink for herself, her head swimming with confusion. She had yet to truly come out of her last drunken haze from two, or was it three, days ago. The headache was starting to set in and make the rest of her body throb in agony. Not the pleasant type, either, where that sharp stab of teeth cleared her mind the way she needed. She grunted as a hand clenched around her sore arm and yanked at her. "Do you," Tajeun repeated, pressing his nose down into her face, his good eye fixed on hers.  She tried to avoid the hard glitter in that lone, black eye, but he jostled her, forcing her to look at him. "I asked you a question, little girl."

She rankled at his tone, jerking only to have her arm jerked at again. Pain shot harder through her limb when he dug his sharpened nails into her flesh. A static crackle built up on her skin, but it wasn't of her doing. She glared at Tajeun, her own teeth showing. The pain had cleared her mind enough that she no longer focused on the rusty drag of the headache but on that blind eye. Her hand swung out to smack over the socket painfully, fire slammed into his face. She was thrown back against the wall of bottles. Suddenly glass was shattering at rapid intervals and alcohol mixed with shards and blood - her blood- where the glass had cut her. 

 

She reached for one of the half broken bottles to throw at him, striking his arm. He jerked at the connection, then stalked the five short steps to her to grab both of her arms and try to slam her against the wall a second time. This time, though, she was waiting for him, and both hands slammed against his face. Particularly his mouth, where her palms made contact with the silver teeth. A hard electric jolt was delivered from her to him, violent enough that he screamed, his glass eye popping out. She kept the connection until he stumbled to his feet, releasing his hold on her. He was down only five seconds, and that was enough time for her to dash away, far away enough that when he swung fire at her, she could dodge it. 

"Kate!" An arm hooked around her, hauling her against him. There was a blur of colors, everything bleeding together. Her lungs felt empty when they landed far away from the Silent Maiden, on the edge of Gridania's leafy creekside.

Edited by SPNoelle

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"What were you thinking?" He was restless energy as he stalked about the small living chamber. He paused only long enough to watch Rose tend to the multiple fang wounds that littered Kate's skin. "He could have poisoned you while sucking your blood. He could have drained you dry. And you let him. You're so far gone, you didn't even care about what he was doing to you. Do you have a death wish?" He stopped again to glare at her, hating how pale and waxy she was. The damned black hair made her look like some ghost. That infuriated him more until he was pacing around again. "What were you thinking," he roared yet again.

"Cy, that's enough," Rose remonstrated. She had doctored most of the bite marks on Kate's legs, and had now begun on those along the torso. There were some along the ribs that looked infected. She had already cast a few esunas on the skin, trying to mend the flesh and blood at the same time. However, Kate still had the sickly pallor of someone poisoned. 

"It's not enough! What happened, Kate? What happened to make you ... make you ... do this?" He motioned at her with a curl of his lip. 
 

"Kehvan," she answered. For most of the nagging, she'd simply lounged and let Rose tend to the throbbing bites. Whatever unguent was being used was numbing the skin, at least, but she still felt hungover and miserable. Infection of the blood, that's what Rose had presumed when they'd begun. All that time she thought the alcohol had made her feel miserably sick, when it had been the infection on Tajeun's teeth. She cracked her eyes open, gazing first at Rose, then at Cy. "He's alive. After all these years of me thinking he may have met his demise, he got the upper hand on me and had me ambushed. There were two men waiting for me, must have been watching me for a while, and they took their chance as soon as I left the city."

"Wait, when was this," Rose demanded. Her ministrations had stopped as she peered worriedly at Kate. 

 

"About a month and a half ago. Maybe it was two by now. I don't remember anymore. They were talking about Kevhan paying them to get rid of me and steal my items. I s'pose they thought the barrel would sweep me out to sea and I'd drown. And when it finally did come apart, I'd be so swollen and eaten up by fish, no one would be able to recognize me." Her mouth pulled into a sneer. "They should have knocked me out again before tossing me in. I'd have been out of it when I went under then. Never would have escaped." Shifting on the couch, she took the piece of cloth from Rose's fingers to press down over a particularly nasty bite on the swell of her chest. "They shouldn't have told me it was him, either. If they'd been smart, they never would have. Then again, he's never cared to hire people smarter than him. He always went for the soft minded sort to make use of."


Rose stood abruptly, heading toward the kitchen. Cy, however, sat down and gazed at her with pity. "And you thought it was time to fall apart?"

 

"I wasn't falling apart," she answered waspishly. "I was training myself. I can't let some pathetic bleeding heart hold me back. I'm stronger than that. And when I meet him, I want him to know what he left me to suffer alone." There was cruelty in the gleam of her eye, her smile more a snarl. "I want to take my time to make him understand just what the master taught me, and why he taught me what he did. Every single day. Every single lesson. Until Kehvan is screaming for mercy and begging for death in the same breath."

 

He stared at her with dread, making her wonder if he was intending to lecture her again. Instead, he sighed out, "So, then, you need to train. This isn't the way to do it, however, making yourself sick and getting drunk. You need to practice injury to the body. You seem to excel with lightning most of all, though you have a good grasp on how to lob fire, I've noticed. Ice seems to be your weak spot. But what you mean to do to him, do you really need the use of ice?"

 

"I don't. But I'd like to remind him of home, and make him suffer that frigid sensation of having the icy wind suck the air from your lungs and leave little, pricking shards behind. I'd also like him naked so he suffers hypothermia at the same time." He cringed from her, rising, hands rubbing along his legs. "Okay, I think that's enough plan-making. You're not going to get anywhere with this plan, though, until you strengthen yourself, agreed?" She nodded slowly, taking it upon herself to continue dabbing the unguent across her skin. It left a blue trail of liquid and smelled of chamomile and garlic. Not a pleasant scent. "So, we start practice as soon as Rose as cleansed your blood."

 

"So, what, tomorrow," she quipped with a smirk. He rolled his eyes and threw another cloth at her, telling her, "Hurry up and clean your arms, then I'll tend to your neck."

 

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"Kehv, we have a problem. Those two nitwits we hired to do the job were gabbing away and brought your name up. She was awake when they tried to send her off, so she heard them. She knows you tried to have her done in."

 

"That is a disappointment. It doesn't matter. What is she doing now?"

 

"She's getting doctored up. So much for getting blood poisoning and dying on us. What do you want me to do?"

 

"You're doing it right now. Keep an eye on her, check back in with me, and don't let her know a damn thing. I have some plans for her, but now isn't the time to strike."

 

"She wants to find you and torture you."

 

Kehvan chuckled thickly, growling out, "Let her make her plans. We both know she won't follow through. She's too weak, she's shown that too many times. Besides, we can make use of her."

 

"But, what if-"

 

"Be patient, Rose. You're too worked up, baby. Just keep an eye on the little chit and let me know what she's doing. That's all you need to do right now. Sooner or later, she's going to cross my path, and when that time comes, we'll have some fun with her, you and I."

 

"If you're sure. I'm just concerned-"

 

"Don't."

 

Rose sighed, her finger pressed against the linkshell. "Okay. I'll keep vigilant, I promise." She hesitated, adding, "I love you, Kehv."  And, as always, there was no response.

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“You’re not focusing,” he yelled at her, his face flushing red. He held his hands aloft, a book in one and a rune in the other to focus his abilities. He’d been tossing attack after attack at her, and Rose had been there to mend any damages he’d wrought. Their idea that Kate needed to learn her own abilities, learn how to fight Kehvan, was becoming a tedious task. Cyrik pushed hard on every lesson, and often left Kate breathless and weak from the overuse of her energy. She’d passed out twice, nearly fallen off a cliff. It had been decided that dueling lessons should be moved to the sandy deposits of Southern Thanalan for safety’s sake. The soft sand and calm weather made for a lovely setting and was a gentle landing spot if Kate crumpled again. 
 

Kate kicked sand at Cyrik in frustration, trying to ignore that she was already shaking. “Just give me a damn minute,” she told him. “You’re overexerting me!”

 

“Do you think he’s going to do that? Do you think he’s going to give you a damn minute? No. He’s going to come at you…” Cyrik went unusually silent. “Just do the spell,” he raged, and sent shards of rock up from beneath her to slap at her feet. She winced, tumbled away from the stinging projectiles, and tried to send ice along the ground to capture Cyrik off guard. The sheen of frost built up at his feet and then dissipated just as quickly. “You’re not doing it,” he yelled, voice rising enough that it echoed off the cliffs around them.

 

Kate gave him a murderous look, mouth pinched in. “I told you to give me a minute! I am not a damn energy device that can just spill spells out that I’m JUST learning, you horrid ass!” With a toss of her short hair, she stalked down the beach, away from the two. She heard Cyrik call her name, then Rose saying, “No, give her time.” For that, she was grateful. She did need some solitude.

 

Her head throbbed violently as she stalked over the dunes, almost plummeting into the warm hill a few times. Every morning, every damn morning they had come out here and dueled for hours on end until the heat was too much for him. She would be drenched in sweat, begging for mercy, and he still goaded her, pushed at her to do better. Her insides were clenched tight with fury. There were times she wanted to stab him. To hurt him so much he was bleeding and begging for her mercy. It took everything inside of her not to. When she attacked him, she wanted him to hurt. But he kept admonishing her to do better, to strive to strengthen herself by focusing on where she was weakest. At first, she took his advice to heart and pushed herself. It was never enough for him. A scathing smile crossed her lips. Perhaps she should show him what enough was and make him ease off with his aggression.

Why was he pressing at her so hard? Why was it so important she learn this at such a quick pace? She had no idea where Kehvan even was.. Ever since she’d even brought up the story about her wayward fiance, Cyrik had been a little more than interested in learning about him.At first Kate had put it down to comparing his story to hers, finding connections between what Kehvan had done to her and what his own fiancee and best friend had done a few years previously. She didn't think she would have let either live had she found them in bed together. However, as they progressed, the more Cyrik seemed to become enraged with her. No, not just at her, but any time Kehvan’s name was mentioned. His vehement reaction was wearing at her nerves quickly. After all, she was the one intending to find and murder the man. 

She gazed at the streaks of mauve pressing against the sky and knew she had an hour at best before the slow curls of heat began. Did she want to return to her training, or was she better off on her own? She panted softly, her feet braced on the edge of a rocky dune, sand shifting beneath her feet treacherously. It was tempting to walk back the whole way, to just leave Cyrik and Rose behind, and let them figure out where she went. She struck out, hand balled into a tight fist. As her fingers spread free, fire erupted in a lengthy burst to char the rock. She let the power overtake her as she pummeled at the ground, fire, lightning, a furious breeze as thunder rolled overhead and jagged shards beat the desert before her only to dissipate within seconds. She was strong, damn it.

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Hours had passed and it was near time for them to return back to Ul'dah. Kate still hadn't returned, and Cy was anxious. He'd paced at first, but now he was rambling about the dangers of Southern Thanalan. "Cy, she's an adult, if you didn't realize," Rose finally chastised him. "She has also proven herself strong enough to take almost anything on. Why are you so ..." she couldn't find the right word, so she gestured at his agitated state. 

"Because she has to beat Kevhan, okay? It's the only way she can get part of her soul back."

Rose's brows lifted in cynicism. "Are you trying to say her ex-fiance took her soul?"

Cy vehemently shook his head as he returned to his pacing. "Not physically. I meant figuratively. You have to admit that she's changed since she learned he put a price on her head and attempted to have her murdered. It's like he took a piece of her soul, ripped it out of her, and turned it black. It's like ... like he's already killing her by doing what he did."

Rose's cheeks flushed with color. She found herself unwilling to look at him, as she countered, "I hardly think it was this Kehvan that made Kate so hard-hearted. I think a part of her was already dark, and she just hid it. There were moments..." she faltered under Cy's furious stare. "You know that she showed signs of being, well, broken. I can't have been the only one to notice it, Cy."

The dark look lessened as he admitted, "I have noticed Kate isn't -"

"I'm not what, Cy?" Kate had returned, bedraggled, a staff of petrified wood in her grasp. It was warped, pale from the sun, and had a hollow look to it. Oddly, it matched Kate's eyes. They were devoid of emotion again. Cy shivered instinctively, but hid it with a fierce glower as he demanded, "Where have you been? What took you so long? We were supposed to be training this whole time, and you're off meandering in the desert." He jabbed a finger at the intense sun, then at her. "You wasted our time today, it's too hot for us to bother with training. Do you not get why we are doing this?"

Kate took a deep breath, released it slowly, then replied, "Cyrick. Shut up. I know what I'm doing. What are you doing?"

 

He jerked visibly, going red in the face as he stalked toward her, almost in her face as he barked, "I'm trying to help you kill someone, and you're acting like we've gone on some picnic!"

Her hand came flush to his chest, a dangerous glint in her eyes. He took a cautious step back. "Wise of you to remember that I can burn you. You can try and throw your rocks around all you like, but they're going to hit you as well," she reminded him coolly. "You fail to remember that this is my choice, my action. You have taken it upon yourself to train me when I never asked you to. I never asked for you to interfere with any of this, in fact, and yet you still insist on being part of it. You have been acting erratic and go behind my back, accusing me of being unstable. I think you should turn that mirror around, my friend." She smiled mockingly at him, letting the sarcasm drip heavily off those last words. "There will be no more training, not with you. Not until you explain yourself. Then, if I deem it necessary to continue this debacle, I will tell you when and how and where we will practice. Understood?"

"I... I..."

"Say "Yes, I understand, Kathenna"."

"Yes... I understand, Kathenna." He watched her guardedly, lips trembling faintly.

"Good. I'm going back for a drink." Staff clasped firm to her side, she sidled away from them as if nothing had happened, a serene smile forming as she strode off.

Edited by SPNoelle

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The small tavern was hopping. There was music, loud and brassy, which cast an energy to the people in the room. All except the lone Hyur in the corner, who nursed her whiskey and stared emptily at the painting across from her. There had been a few attempts from strangers to join her table, but she had only needed to stare silently at them until they got the point and left her be. Her thoughts were too dark to pretend to be nice, or to feign patience. She wanted movement. She wanted to put feelers out and find the man who'd abandoned her with such ease. She wanted-

 

A whistle broke through her concentrated though, and her eyes momentarily met with Tariev's. She stared at him, as if trying to remember him, and watched as his easy grin slid off his face. He was relaxing, enjoying a pint, legs stretched out beneath his table and his arm lazily hooked on the back of the empty chair beside him. And across from him ... With a sour expression, she gave Yen'to a once over. What was he even doing there? And why was Tariev talking to him, of all people? She unwillingly approached their table, a cool smile bending her lips. "Well, well. Look what got dragged in on the surf. I thought you were still in Limsa Lominsa." She stared haughtily at Yen'to over the rim of her cup as she sipped, her throat suddenly dry with anger. What had he been telling Tariev about her? Why would the two men, so very different from each other, want to be in each others' company? 

 

Both Miqo'te shot her a nasty look at the question, but it was Yen'to that responded, "The smell of you around that place was enough to drive me off. I had to get fresh air, and here you are, stinking the place up again." He smirked as color filled her cheeks briskly. She was tempted, so tempted to hurt him. He had yet to attack her and show his abilities, but she considered him weak. Tariev on the other hand ... She curled her fingers in, her smile going tight with dislike. 

"I think you're smelling yourself again. Maybe you should bathe for once." She moved, intending to take the seat beside Tariev, but found her way blocked when he slid his leg into the chair. With a narrowing of her eyes, she wordlessly demanded a reason for the action. He responded, "If y' comin' over 'ere t' be a witch, y' can jus' go back over t' y' own table an' sulk again." 

 

"I was not sulking," she retorted with a flush of anger. "But fine, if you don't prefer my company, I won't press it upon you." She emptied off her drink, missing the disappointed look Tariev sent her way, and stalked toward the counter to demand another drink. "I need something stronger than whiskey. This is hardly doing a job to wash the day away," she demanded. The perky female Miqo'te who was acting as server held a finger up as she dug a book out. She flipped it open, cheerful as she started to name out different drinks as a suggestion. 

"We have the whirlwind - no, that one makes you dizzy and throw up. You said you wanted to wash the day away. Hmm. The tornado? It has vegetable juice in it, but some strong gin in there, too." Kate shook her head vehemently. "There's the wild berry slam. No? At least if you throw it up, it tastes decent enough. What about the unicorn blood? It has a mixture of alcohol, it's very potent. We would have to have you sign a waiver, though, because everyone reacts to it differently." 

Hatred and hurt throbbed in Kate's heart, though she'd never admit to the latter. The cretin had turned his back on her as well, even though he'd been the one to cheat on his supposed love. Losing herself, just for a little, and going into a blissfully empty state sounded comfortable, even welcoming. She signed the waiver briskly and was given a glass of something that looked like molten gold in a copper mug. The mug was frosted, but the drink was warm. At first, she was struck with sweetness, then bitterness, then that sweet sensation. From there, everything blurred heavily and the heat began to strike her.

 

Her hands shook by the time she'd finished the drink off. Her eyes, hazed and blissful, swam around the room. Tariev was still there with that fink Yen'to, but she didn't care so much anymore. She was going to talk to him and pour her heart out to him, begging him to love her. She needed ... she needed him. It was difficult to get her feet to work with her at first, but with a firm grip on whatever was close by, be it furniture or person, she was able to fumble her way over to his table again. She stared at him with her brows knotted together. "She can't love you the way you need to be loved," she blurted out, or thought she did. In her mind, she was fervently and passionately explaining to him how deeply she admired him, his strength, his tenacity and how he pushed ahead, no matter what was against him. She respected how he endured and had made a life for himself. And she wanted to be a part of that life. So very much.

What came out instead was, "Y'girlfriend's a bi... well, you know. An' she's gon' find out 'bout you doin' stuff b'hind her back an' leave you." She added on a few expletives along with it, infuriating Tariev into warning her, "Y' should learn not t' drink if y' goin' ta keep on bein' nasty." She reached out for him and had her hand slapped away. Tears tried to prick, but worse, her stomach was reacting to the strength of the alcohol. She fumbled instead for the table as her stomach heaved again and she lost a good portion of the drink on the floor. Yen'to came to his feet immediately with a sound of disgust, quick to follow Tariev up the stairs. She tried to stop him, to demand to know what he'd told Tariev, but more of the molten gold had decided to pour out of her mouth. 

 

She wiped at her lips weakly, grinned, and swung around with a laugh. Everything felt like magic now that her stomach didn't hurt so much. She felt like singing. No, she felt like dancing. No, she felt... she felt hot and suddenly her clothes needed to come off, because they were sticky and soaked with vomit, and why was it suddenly burning up in what had been a normally cool room? She struggled against the wall with its shirt. No, not a wall. A massive Roegadyn with a foul expression as he hauled her under his arm, carrying her to the door to toss her out. She rolled across the cool grass, her stomach starting to hurt again. She laughed, heaved, and retched up more of the golden drink. And then she began to remove the offensive clothes, splashing her way through a water fountain while doing so. 

 

Everything seemed to glitter around her. Even the water did. She sat down in the trickling pool, letting droplets run along her head and down her bare back. Water was splashed into the air around her until, again, her stomach clenched up. She didn't know how many times she threw up in all, nor did she remember crawling out of the water naked, and somehow fitting herself underneath a bench to sleep. Not until the brazen sun peeked out at the sky, turning it a brilliant gold, just like the gold she had spat up in violent streams, and glared into her eyes.

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“Ooh, honey, you look worse than a Lalafell dragged through the mud and muck.” 
 

Grunting weakly, Kathenna dared to open an eye against the bright sunlight trickling down around her. Even with the shade of the bench protecting her, she still gave a weak scream as the bright beams penetrated her blurry vision to stab deep in her throbbing skull. The throb was worsened by the low chuckle above her. “Betcha don’t want to do that again,” her intruder commented. Something cool bumped against the back of her hand. “Drink this. It will help, but you need to drink it slow.”
 

“Whazzit?”
 

“Water, honey. Good, cool, old-fashioned water. Best remedy for waking up after a drunken binge,” he commented.
 

It took some effort to actually move the glass around to her mouth without drowning herself in the process. That first swallow reminded her of the horrid taste of her stomach’s contents. The second had her realizing that cotton had been spread along her tongue and the roof of her mouth. The third finally broke the shards of glass apart in her brain enough that the stabbing and throbbing decreased to weak jabs. By the time she had emptied it off, she felt the sloshing sensation of it within her stomach and knew she was going to be sick again.

Ginger root was shoved beneath her nose as she moaned. “Chew. Gently.” She opened her mouth to complain and had the root jabbed between her teeth. With a cough and gag, she had no choice but to clamp her teeth into the ginger, which she reluctantly admitted did help some of the nausea dissipate. Still, she spat it out after a few grinds of her jaw. It was dry as it rubbed along her tongue, working up her gag reflex to the point that she spewed water at the ground weakly when she spat the root out. “Aww. Poor baby, you’re still sick. Let’s go. You don’t need to be out here like this.” 
 

“No… leave me ‘lone,” she demanded, but her attacker either didn’t hear or opted to ignore her. She was hauled from beneath the bench and into a pair of strong arms. Her head bobbed as she struggled against being sick again, then dropped against his shoulder as she slumped back into her deep sleep.

 

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“… on the street?…that’s dangerous…”
 

“… to do …”
 

Something warm pressed over her forehead, then disappeared, making her complain. That throaty chuckle was back, along with her tormentor, who asked, “Feeling any better, Sicky?”

This time when she opened her eyes, there wasn’t a feeling of being stabbed by a lengthy needle. Instead, it felt as if someone was pressing around her eyes to create the sensation of a headache that was receding. “Where’m I,” she asked with a thick tongue. Though her eyes still felt blurred over, she could make out a dark-haired, thin face with piercing green eyes. Cyrick smirked down at her and answered, “I brought you home. There was no point in you throwing up all over the yard and making others sick, too.”

Rose nudged him back and trailed her warm fingers across Kate’s forehead again. “We gave you some potions to help, and I did what I could about your headache. Sorry I can’t do more, but I’m still learning how to bend my abilities to mend others.” Cyrick watched as Rose tended to her patiently, then disappeared only to return with two chilled glasses. Kate was handed hers promptly while he taunted Rose with hers. Lifting it out of her reach, he demanded, “What do you say first?”

She retorted, “You’re a pest and I hate you.” She also gave his knee a good smack, which almost made him drop the drink. She grabbed it in time before it could spill over the blankets that covered Kate to her waist. "Kate, you know we're your friends, and we love you, but this has got to stop."

"Don't judge me. You don't know what happened." 

"Oh, honey, we aren’t judging you. Cyrik was just as bad once upon a time. Had a girl…” She stopped to give him  a concerned look before continuing, “Well, things just didn’t work out. If you hear him spout out Marianna from time to time, don’t think a thing about it. He's gotten better about not mentioning her now, but there are times when he thinks about her and what she did with his best friend. Well, former best friend. He made himself sick over her, though. Didn't you, Cy?"
 

Kate stared at Cyrik briefly, wondering at his vehemence in training her before yet again. "So, the reason you've been so hard on me lately is, what, to help me get revenge?"

"Not exactly," he countered, looking uneasy. He sat on the edge of the couch, adjusting the blanket around her feet with the utmost care. When he finally looked at her, it was with the deepest pity as he reached over to gently wipe the tears from her cheeks, tears she hadn't realize had been falling. "Kate … I've been thinking. You really don’t want to go down that road. It’s only going to lead to more bitterness and hatred. Who wants to live that kind of life?”

“I actually think I do. I'm broken. You think I don't notice the looks you two give me? I'm not who I used to be, my innocence is long gone, and I feel so fractured that I hate. I hate so deeply that I’m never going to heal completely until I know he’s no longer around to hurt anyone else,” Kate responded, again dabbing at her cheek to clear away the moisture. “You know what it’s like to be hurt.” She motioned to the knotted white scars that stood up against Rose’s tanned skin - scars she’d received from a heartless man who whipped her when he thought she was stealing from his coffers. “If you ever saw your old boss, wouldn’t you want to hurt him, too?” Rose tried to deny it, but that hatred for the man still flickered in the bright eyes. “I want to find a way. I need to do this. What about you, Cy? What about your fiancee you mentioned? Marianna, that was her name?”

He flinched at the name, shaking his head as he paled. "I just don't want you to-"

 

"You don't want me to go dark and never return? I'm already there. You even said so to Rose, didn't you?" She nodded weakly at the pale-faced Miqo. "You thought I didn't hear your conversation? You were loud. My heart is already hard, I already feel hatred and scorn, and I just lost the last person who may have had a chance to save me from myself. What do I have to lose but myself?" Her smile was brittle. 


Cy cupped his face in his hands, sighing long and hard. He shoved his newly black hair from his face and decided, "Fine, I'll train you the way you need to be trained. Enough of this hard nonsense I tried on you."

"Why? I need a reason why, Cyrick. Otherwise, the answer is no."

 

"Because of Marianna, that's why. I was engaged to her for over a year, knew her for five years, and I was devoted to her. I never thought she would ever stab me in the back. Nor did I think my best friend would be complicit in her actions. They both used me, abused my trust, and scored my heart in a way that I never thought would heal again. I wanted revenge on them... I still do," he admitted with a slight lift of his shoulder. "I still hate them to this day, and I know if I focused on it, it would fester. But they've never tried to kill me, have they?" He gazed at her finally, his eyes full of an overwhelming despair that she could understand, because it had played its own pathetic melody on her heart. "So, when I say I want to help, I want to do whatever is needed to get you to him, sword in hand, or whatever it is you mean to use to kill him, and see it through."

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"I need to tell her. I can't keep this secret in anymore, Rose. It's killing me."

Rose tipped her shades forward to peer at her friend from her lounge, annoyed that her sun-bathing was being interrupted by such a fretful nuisance of a man. “If you’re so worried about it, tell her the truth,” she demanded irritably. Shifting, she settled the shades on the bridge of her nose again and resumed soaking in the sun’s steady rays. He dropped down on the edge of her lounge chair with a heaving sigh, reaching out to pull the umbrella over both of them. She made a sound of complaint, her furry ears flicking as she smacked out at him. “Go mope somewhere else, too!”
 

“You don’t need that much sun. You’re already the color of a hazelnut,” he complained. Sulked, really. “I want to tell her the truth, but what if she hates me?”
 

“Then she’ll hate you and this will be the end of your attempts for revenge finally.” Rose rolled her eyes over the edge of her shades, giving him a temperamental look as she swept back her strawberry toned mane. “Or she’ll understand that this was a difficult situation for you and you two will grow closer than before. One way or another, you’re going to have to stop punishing yourself over this. Now you're going around all the time, moping and whining, asking what you can do. You're driving us both crazy.”
 

“I know. I know it’s not something I can just make happen. It just feels so close to finally have a plan. He would see it coming from me. But to finally trick him, and finally get him back at his own game. Better, to finally take him out of the game once and for all, it’s something I’ve dreamed of for so long.” He dragged his hands over his pale face, agitated enough that he didn’t notice Kate’s arrival until Rose called her name. That horrid drag of guilt was back in a flash as he watched the petite Hyur approach them, her chin-length black locks sleeked back from her lengthy swim.It had taken little to convince her to come back to La Noscea, as long as they kept away from Limsa Lominsa. Two weeks in, and Cyrick had begun to revert to his nagging, pushing attitude until Kate had stalked away with threats of pain upon him. 

Kate now stared at him with accusatory eyes as she took the other lounge chair, her hands resting along the curved arms as she sunk into the deep chair. And he knew he had no choice. He knew they would never get past that block if he didn’t tell her. He was punishing her for something she had no hand in. “T’Karose, can you give us a moment,” he asked, glancing down to the Miqo’te beside him. Rose answered with a lift of her brows before easing out of her seat to give them privacy.
 

“I haven’t been fully honest with you, Kathenna. I haven’t been able to find a way … no, I can’t even say that. I’ve been a coward, unwilling to be honest,” he began. Wiping his slender hand across his shaking mouth, he slowly began to explain that he knew Kehvan. Not only knew him, but had Kehvan had been his best friend. He was likely partially the reason Kehvan had even left her there in Ishgard, the two of them wanting to escape the misery of ice, dragons, and lords. “I didn’t know you,” Cyrik stressed. “At the time, I only saw a pal who had a stone around his throat dragging at him, and I helped him free it. It’s a horrible explanation, but I was younger and far more immature. Besides, I enjoyed having a friend to seek women out with.” He shot her an apologetic look, but couldn’t stand gazing into the stony eyes fixed on him. “Things changed. I changed when I met Marianna,” he stressed. “She was beautiful, so delicate and gentle, and I lost myself quickly with her. She was so pure and shy, I would have done anything to protect her.” A sob resounded from his chest.
 

“We were together for nearly two years when I finally asked to tie bonds with her. She agreed heartily. We were truly happy, I know we were. Yet, months later, she was withdrawing from me, and I couldn’t understand why. I thought she was worried about actually going through with the soul bond. I thought perhaps she was so involved in making plans, that perhaps the stress had done her in. I tried to help. I made suggestions about getting away for a day, a week, anything. I tried to get her to talk to me, and she never would. And then, that day … that horrible day. She was in tears. Kehvan dragged her into my bedroom and threw her at my lap. “There. She’s well and used up for you, so there’s no surprises on the bonding night,” he told me. “There’s even a little surprise on the way, just a present from me to you.” And he laughed about it. He laughed as Marianna began to beg me for forgiveness. That gentle flower that I knew and love had suddenly become this venomous toad in disguise. That love I felt for her, it shattered. All that time, he had wooed her, lured her into his bed, because he wanted what I had as soon as we were engaged. I never saw that side of him, not until it was too late.
 

I tried to forgive her at first, but she became this hateful woman. So bitter, complaining about everything I did. Then she began to compare me to him. I began to question her, and him, and then about the stories he’d told me about you. How you’d been this clinging vine, killing him with your presence. How I’d been so cruel in telling him to drop you, to chop the relationship off and kill that vine. I felt such guilt, but I told myself that you would do better, would find better. I never thought I would meet you. I’m so deeply sorry, Kathenna. I helped him ruin your life, and in return he ruined mine. I deserve your hatred and blame. I blame myself already.”
 

She'd been silent through the whole diatribe, unmoved by his weeping. Now that he'd finally faltered into sobs, she commented, "So you're using me to get revenge on him, because you're too much of a coward to seek him out yourself to do it. How pathetic." She had stretched herself out in the chair to watch the waves list inward toward the shore. "Your story also has holes. Maybe work on that before trying to dredge up some sob story about how he did you wrong, yeah?" 

 

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