Bygone Era

No matter how horrific the storm, the skies will always clear eventually.

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Bygone Era

Post by Issy »

Isuelt DeRomiano has been with me for about twenty years! And every once in a while (since the the RDI days on Dragon's Mark), I come across some archived writing and storylines that I had nearly forgotten about.

Damn...they were good!
Can't just have them go and die in the existential void of the internet...


I'll try to provide context and/or dates where I can.
Isuelt DeRomiano
Batten Industries



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Re: Bygone Era

Post by Issy »

"Opportunity Knocks"
Written Halloween, 2016.

Backstory: Issy and Jewell had gone off on a quick adventure to check out Metro -though we didn't really get a chance to write it I don't think.- What if Scorp had followed his gal back to Rhydin and did a bit of checking up on her as well?



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There were a lot of people in Rhydin who questioned Isuelt, or more exactly, her methods. She had acquaintances and strangers alike who asked how she wasn't lonely or why she didn't actively seek out company or what she actually did up on those rooftops all night long anyway (there were a couple of folks whom she'd overheard betting on if she just slept up there and nothing more). Even two of her Sisters approached her and voiced their concern over what they considered "unhealthy behavior," her solitude and her "brooding ways." The truth was that it was easier to be alone. It was far less complicated. There was nothing to explain to someone who wouldn't understand, no reason to constantly make up excuses for why she wasn't where she said she would be.

Lying wasn't really her thing, she'd never had respect for those that used their tongues only for twisting the truth. But truth could be a tricky and slippery slope; especially when it is buried as deeply as Isuelt liked to bury her secrets. So, in essence, her solitude was not a comment on her dislike for other people, but rather an admission of guilt for her own short comings. Most of the other Scathachians, both here in Rydin and those back home on the Island, knew that the moody Isuelt was best left to her own devices. They found it easier that way. For Isuelt naturally was hard on those around her and especially stringent on those whom she determined had earned the title of "friend." However, she was never hard on anyone like she was hard on herself.

There was no moon tonight to speak of, no silvery beam to shine in her eyes to distract her from her thoughts. Even so, Isuelt blinked heavily and sighed as she rubbed her right eye and continued to stare down on the streets of Old Temple. Her reverie had been sullen as of late and she was starting to feel it weigh on her shoulders like a heavy cloak. The breeze coming in from the east shifted the braid at her back only slightly, leaving behind a soft salted fragrance that was far more pleasant this far inland. The Judge sighed once again and decided she would call it a night. Her thighs tightened against the leather of her pants as she stood tall, cutting a mean silhouette against the dim lamps along the roofline. She would have nothing to report to Lieutenant Cullen this night; the district was quiet, she thought to herself, almost forlornly as she took to the adjacent rooftop which housed the stairs. By the time she reached the street level, she had nearly put herself deeper into her sour mood by silently bemoaning the fact that she wouldn't have any adventures tonight.

It was right about then that she caught something out of the corner of her eye...

Blinking only once, Isuelt began to turn her head toward what she thought was a flash of light. She never got a chance to see the object, not really. But she felt it. It happened so quickly. Strong fingers encased in leather gripped at her throat, the iron-like arm extending from there had encircled her arms and torso in a near-excrutiating bear hug. There was that blade that she had seen briefly suddenly pressing on her throat, held taught and steady and she was pulled back against a tall, solid man whose other hand was already at her waist. Isuelt's shock was more than measured as his fingers beat hers to her weapons. A touch of pressure just below her bellybutton and Isuelt heard her swords, belt and all, clang to the ground. She was just about to ponder how in the world he was able to undo her belt so quickly when she heard a voice licking at her ear in a familiar low rumble.

"Getting a little slow on the draw, aren't you Iz?" His lips brushed just behind her lobe. "This place has made you soft…"

Isuelt's throat shivered as she swallowed her pride and shut her eyes. There was only the slightest of breezes that wafted through the dark alleyway. Even so, she didn't need sight or scent to know who was holding her from behind. That voice was unmistakable. His voice. He had a certain way of blowing in and out of her life like the wind; and tonight it seemed was no different.

The blade still sat cool against her throat, not moving though she swallowed a second time. It was as if she needed to truly register that this wasn't a dream (as it had been a hundred times before), she stood still awaiting his next move. The Scathachian didn't have to wait that much longer for the sharp yank on her hair, forcing her throat further prone. Isuelt inhaled a gulp of air as she felt a push against her body, effectively spinning her around. Her lips were crushed by another pair. He still held a fist full of her hair securely at the nape of her neck, but she didn’t move a muscle to get away. Not when she had waited this long, not when she had realized this was no fantasy, not when he was once again this close to her. Her teeth all but gnashed at him as she pressed closer to him and returned his long-absent kiss. In the end, what turned out to be desperate, nearly violent, became sweet and somewhat tender. She couldn’t think of a better metaphor for their on-again-off-again relationship.

As their lips reluctantly parted, leaving the soft breeze to dry them, Isuelt finally opened her eyes to look at the man who would even dare to man-handle her and not expect to come within an inch of his life.

“Hi Iz,” his soft growl of a voice was more breath than sound as he licked his lips and let his smile lean into a smirk. His body mimicked his mouth and he leaned against the wall that wasn’t more than a step behind him. What little light there was in the alley was finally able to highlight his face: strong jawline, high cheek bones, a stray tuft of dark blonde hair escaped the ponytail at his neck.

“Scorpion Wraitharan,” Isuelt began in a dreamy manner, though quickly changed to a sharpened tone like the poker pro she was, “You are an absolute asshole.” Before he could react, her right fist collided with that perfect jawline, snapping his grinning expression right off of his face. Only now did she take a step back and regard him fully: hunched over slightly, the back of one hand rubbing his mouth as he spat out a mouthful of blood.

His blonde head turned to the side to look upon the woman who so often warmed his bed?when he could keep her in one place, that is. He spat once more before straightening up. “You pulled your punch. How sweet. I missed you too, Iz.”

Defiantly, the Judge raised her chin, never willing to confirm what was obviously true. Both points. “So, you think you can just come waltzing in here, whenever you feel like it, take what you want? Nothing has changed with you, has it?”

Rubbing his jaw lightly, he took a step toward her, though she kept the distance constant by taking a step back and folding her muscled arms over her chest. “Why should it? Business is good, Gonk’s got everything under control back in Metro, so I decided I would come and see you. What? You thought I was just going to wait around and pine by the window, hoping you’d come back to me and to Metro? Fuck honey, I’m not a damn maiden in a tower. And you’d leave me for sure if I was, so come off of it. What’s the problem?”

“Nothing, there is no problem.” She stated flatly. But it sounded more like an answer she’d give an acquaintance when they asked at the Inn.

“How long have I known you, Iz? Huh? Really.” Scorp licked his lips for a moment. “Sometimes I really think I know you better than you know yourself.”

Isuelt’s brows lowered as her dark eyes narrowed. It was always so easy with him. At least, that was what she told herself. Scorpion Wraitharan was, by no stretch of the imagination, a good guy. And yet, he was honest. Too honest. With him, there was never any bullshit. It was or it wasn’t. That was it. Black or white. And the honesty with which this crime boss operated was just too much for Isuelt. Isuelt loved the gray. She loved making excuses. Excuses for him, for his way of life, for herself when she was with him. With her, it was messy and she couldn’t readily explain to the casual passerby or to the regular citizen what an upholder of the law was doing with a ruthless kingpin. Their relationship was one that would boggle the minds of many a person and yet…here they were again. Both of them barely able to contain themselves.

“Probably…” she murmured, glancing away toward the street for a moment. She sighed after getting her thoughts in order, “What are you doing here?”

“Completing a story.”

“What?”


“I could have just as easily asked you what you were doing in Metro.” His thick arms slowly folded over his chest as he stood to his full height and lifted his chin in something of a ‘checkmate’ expression.

“Metro.” She cocked a hip, “I haven’t stepped foot in Metro City in…”

“A month." He cut her off, finishing her sentence.

“You’re seeing things.” A smirk hung effortlessly from her lips. She hated when he was cocky.

"Am I?”

"Yes. Why the hell would I go back there?”

“Well, I have it on good authority that you and some other blue-haired woman were skulking around about a month or so back.”

“Bullshit.” She lied.

“Don’t like it when I call your bluffs, do ya?” His smile was widening and it was infuriating to her. “So, what were you and Jewell doing, checking up on me?”
Isuelt DeRomiano
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Re: Bygone Era

Post by Issy »

“Persuading the Pugilist”

Written January 2012 with Perceval Tucker

Backstory: Rhydin was experiencing an uprising of Bhaalite activity and Isuelt was one of only three Scathachians in residence. More would come eventually.



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It had taken a few days, but she finally arrived at the agricultural farm of Perceval Tucker.  Isuelt had inquired with four separate patrons at the Red Dragon, as well as two employees of the forge in the Marketplace, and had subsequently achieved the location of the retired warrior's land outside of the city among the Southern Provinces.  Perceval's lands were impressive: the soil was lush and dark, birthing a surprising abundance of crops, even at this late state of the year.  There was a gentle fragrance in the cool air that reminded Isuelt of her village; it was sweet with the green life of freshly cut hay and the blossoming winter fruit.  The Scathachian paused and surveyed the property.  It was finely maintained as far as the eye could see; as well as a well-built structure in the near distance, with smoke was rising from the chimney.

For a moment, Isuelt was sorry she had come.  

This place was so serene, so quietly fulfilling, that she hated having to ask Perceval what she had aimed to ask him.  Why would he want to leave this?  Why would he want to be thrown once more into the bloody ring of war?  Her crimson clad shoulders slumped slightly, the muscled frame of the Judge was still visible beneath the drape of her cloak.  Feeling like a cruel wind out to shake the last clinging bud from the resolute branch determined to hang on to it, Isuelt sighed and started down the dirt and gravel road toward the house.

It was difficult to mistake Perceval, at 6'8" he was a broad-shouldered beacon.  He was not in the house, as Isuelt had expected him to be, but just outside of it.  While she couldn't exactly tell what he was doing, she suspected it was a chore of some sort, judging from the pristine manner of the lands.  Her husky voice seemed to rent the placid air, "Mister Tucker?"  The sound of her voice in this tranquil locale even startled her a bit, her tone quieted to balance on the breeze, "Perceval?  It's Isuelt."  Though her long legs could have crossed the distance between them, she lingered where she was.  Half expecting and half wanting him to turn around and tell her to get off of his land, she imagined how she was going to solicit her summons.  Her long espresso locks brushed over her shoulders as a hawkish breeze took hold of them.  The Scathachian warrior stood her ground quietly, like a sentinel, and waited for his response.

It had been well over a year since anyone from the city had stepped foot onto Perceval's farm.  Ever since his self-imposed exile, he had grown accustomed to the solitude of the land.  He was intimately acquainted with every sight, sound and smell, and as such, knew that Isuelt was approaching before she had spoken.  He hadn’t known who it was; only a handful of people knew where he lived but regardless, Perceval didn’t bother to turn around to find out.  If someone had come to kill him, they wouldn’t do it by sneaking up behind him in the light of day.  When Isuelt spoke, however, it not only told him who had come to find him, but also what it was that she probably wanted.  Why else would a warrior seek out a warrior?  He paused when he heard her.  His eyes closed.  His jaw clenched.  He let out a quiet sigh.  He hated the idea of telling anyone “No.”
 
Before standing and turning to Isuelt, Percy finished filling in the empty hole where one of the last ornamental sapling trees had stood.  He had moved them all to the greenhouse in the barn for the winter.  His large hands pushed the dirt into place and then patted it down tight.  Part of him wished Isuelt wasn’t really there; that she was simply a voice from his imagination mixed in with the wind and the sounds of the land.  Silly, he thought.  This was real.  She was here and she was going to ask something of him; something that he had given up a long time ago.

As he stood, he pulled a rag from his back pocket and began wiping the earth from his hands.  His legs were strong and sure.  His back did not ache.  He may be pushing 55 years as a human, but Percy was one to keep busy, keep fit and well trained.  Old habits do, in fact, die hard.  Turning, he took in the visage of the warrior priestess that was Isuelt.  Amazing, he thought to himself, almost untouched by the years.  She was as beautiful as she was powerful; with a powerfully strong will to boot, he thought.  Whatever she had come for, which he suspected was to enlist him into aiding her with a fight; he figured he would try to let her down easy.  “You're retired, Percy.” He thought to himself “Don’t forget it.”

He smiled warmly to the Scathachian and greeted her, “Isuelt, what brings you to the farm?”

She didn't want to start with an honest answer to that question.  She wanted to say We missed your company or I have come for a friendly visit.  The last thing she wanted to do was to pluck him away from the peace and quiet that every warrior deserves, what she herself longed for.  And perhaps that was the reason for her marked pause: she was jealous.  Isuelt was not a fool, she knew that a quiet existence of hearth and home was not for her.  

Although, here it was.  Perceval had achieved it.

Perhaps there was hope for her, after all.  That is, if she lived through this latest incursion.  And that was, truly, why she was here.  In her fellowship with Perceval Tucker, she had found a kindred spirit not only in their line of work, but in their way of looking at it.  Warfare was a means to an end.  Following orders was simply part of the job.  Thinking became an enemy; it was easier to do one's job if it wasn't pondered too long.  

Truth be told, she admired Perceval.  He had served his time, done his duty, and still had the skill and fortune to get past it.  He had found that little plot of peace that she so desired.  Isuelt prayed that one day, she would have the luxury of worrying about the spring floods or a hole in a thatched roof or tending to a pot of stew over the hearth.  

And now, she had come to pry Perceval away from this.  She was ashamed.

Her lips parted for a brief moment before the clamped shut over her tongue.  A lick of her lips and she endeavored once more, "Perceval..."  Her throat had gone dry.  "You have outdone yourself here."  The Scathachian was stalling.  "Something to be proud of, I'm sure," her deep chocolate eyes glossed over the lands that surrounded the two of them.  She knew that Perceval wouldn't go in for the sort of time wasting she was doing.  The waves of deep brown hair collected past her shoulders as the breeze calmed, she turned back to him and closed the distance.  The warriors stood facing each other, Isuelt raised her chin.  Perceval was like her, she knew that.  He appreciated the direct approach.

"I need your help."  An exhale flooded past her tongue, and it was only just then that she realized how she had been practically holding her breath.  Her lips curled in disgust at the words, but still they needed to be said.  He could accept, he could decline, he could tell her to go hell.  But whatever followed, she at least had been honest.  "I need your expertise, your mind for military tactics," Isuelt's voice stilled.  As she began again, she offered, in no uncertain terms, the complete reason for her arrival, "Perceval, I need you.  Please.”

Perceval listened to her plea for assistance.  It must be terribly important if she came all the way here from the Temple just to enlist his help.  He could see it in her eyes.

Tucker walked passed Isuelt, wringing the rag in his hands as he did.  He spoke with his back to her.  “Do you think I’m a hero, Isuelt?  Do you think I’m proud of what I’ve done in my years?”  He paused, not waiting for an answer, but simply to let sink in what he was trying to tell her.  “I've spent my life in the military…killing.  I’ve fought just about every sort of creature that can carry a weapon; and I killed them…” He turned to her now, looking her in the eyes. “All of them!  Including their families…their spouses…Their children…”  His voice began to rise in anger; anger not directed at Isuelt, but toward himself.  “I followed orders!  I gave orders!  And do you know what that’s gotten me?  Nothing!”  A brawny arm swiped through the air as he spoke.  

He paused a moment, collecting himself.  His next words were quiet.  “Dusty medals in a box.  That’s what I have.”  Looking down, he opened his hands, palms up and stared at them.  “And blood on my hands.”

Percy took a breath, as he turned away from her again, looking around his land collecting his thoughts once more.  He was being too hard on her.  Maybe he’d been here too long…by himself.

“Have you ever heard of the term ‘Institutionalized’?  It mostly happens with prisoners.  They get so accustomed to a certain lifestyle, within the prison walls, that when they’re finally let out, they have no idea how to interact with society.”  He paused again, looking down at the ground.  “I stay here, Isuelt, because I shouldn’t be up there, in the city.  I’ve lived a life of war for so long that I don’t know how to live a regular life.  I can’t even hold together a relationship with a woman, let alone anyone else.”  He looked up from the ground, surveying the land again.  “This is my prison.  This is where I belong for the things I’ve done.”

Perceval turned to eye her again.  His look was stern.  “Let me tell you something else, Isuelt.  They don’t want it.”  He pointed a thick finger in the direction of the city.  “The people of RhyDin could care less if you and your Sisters were out there every night fighting to save their hides.  I’ve seen these so-called ‘heroes’…” the words were almost spat out.  “…form their groups and their legions to try to do some good for the world and they get nothing but persecution.  You and your Sisters are different.  You want good for the world.  But the world doesn’t want you.”

Perceval spoke quietly again, “Let me give you some advice Isuelt.  Take your Sisters, go to your Temple and lock the doors.”

His words scathed her skin like pin pricks.  He was right, after all.  Perhaps that is what pierced her thickened hide so efficiently: what Perceval was saying resonated with Isuelt's deepest fears and expert self-deprecation.  But she wasn't yet ready to give up or give in.  On Perceval, on the city, on herself.

The swish of fabric was an indication of her movement as her cloak swept across her thighs; long legs moved the priestess's body into position back in front of Perceval.  Her expression was unflinching and valiant, though her unseen spirit was beginning to crumble.  Her courageous voice pushed past its usual indifferent rasp, "The world never needs heroes.  The world never knows what it needs; if it did, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place."  She measured his immediate response.  He seemed to be letting her say her peace.  With a smooth inhale, she opted to continue, before he changed his mind and kicked her off of the property outright, "A hero is someone who gives of themselves without asking for anything in return.  They put themselves out there, they sacrifice for those who have no idea.  I know you are a hero, Perceval, and I know what you've done.  I can imagine it, at least.  And I'm guessing that it is nothing that I haven't done myself.  And I understand your exile.  Believe me.  I know you're not proud of yourself or your past, my own self pride is non-existent.  I wear my mask well, or drown it in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.  But the fact is, the people of that city," her own leather encased finger pointed toward the distant peaks of Rhydin, "They need people like us, whether they know it or not.  Not the sort of heroes that wear the title and little else, but the sort that do their duty and ask for no notice.  It is the job that we do, that makes them completely oblivious to us.  If we do our job, they have no idea what lurks for them.  And it is the mark of a hero to continue, no matter what.  No matter of the past, a hero always looks to the future and what black clouds lie on the horizon to be obliterated for the common good.  It is a tireless job, and we know this."

The tall soldier began to turn away from the Scathachian, she needed to get through to him.  Her body moved to insert itself once more into his line of sight, her strong hand grabbed at his arm to make sure she was heard.  "What would you have us do?  Sit by and watch the daily massacres?  Would you have that on your conscience?  Would you have their slain and bitching bodies on your back?  I shall do it by myself if I have to, my Sisters and I.  But I would prefer having you there at our side."  Isuelt gave pause to measure the retired warrior's temperament.  Her tone softened slightly, being carried just atop the wintery zephyr, "You are a grown man, Perceval.  I cannot make you do anything.  But know this: if you look beyond your land, just there," her brunette head nodded in the direction of the silhouetted Rhydinian peaks, "and see smoke rising from the city, know that I and those who stood with me are no more and the ravage that descends upon those people will be cruel and prolonged.  And that you, you stayed back and did nothing to help."

Isuelt's voice quieted further, coaxing the words across her lips.  She prayed that she was getting through to him as her leathered grip lightened on his arm.  "It is a hero's obligation to change what they see as unfit for the world.  Be it a threatening menace, or be it themselves.  You have the power, Perceval, to change how you think of yourself.  To believe in yourself again.  To trust in yourself.  You can win that back.  Come with me.  Please."  The Scathachian finished with a whisper as she looked into the soldier's eyes.

“Damn you, Isuelt.”  The words were spoken softly. Decidedly.  

She was right.  She had spoken from her heart.  One cannot deny the conviction of Isuelt DeRomiano.

With his hands on his hips, Perceval stared at her long and hard.  He watched for something, anything to tell him that she was hesitant or unsure of the words she had just spoken.  He waited for a flinch; a flutter of an eyelid?anything.  But alas, there was nothing.  She was resolute.

She was right, and he knew it.  Moving passed her swiftly without a word, Percy marched up his front porch steps and through the front door, slamming it behind him.  For a moment, Isuelt may have thought he had decided to end the conversation there; that he had stormed inside and closed himself off to her and the rest of the world.  There was an uncomfortable pause.  A brief passage of time where the sound of the wind and the cry of an eagle were all that was heard.  Even the sound of Isuelt?s feet shifting the gravel beneath them was unnervingly loud in the pervading silence.

Without warning, Perceval reemerged through his front door.  The porch decking groaned again under his steps as he crossed them and down the stairs.  He had a bag slung low, presumably packed with some clothing.  He carried a second satchel, long and slender, slung over his shoulder on his back.  A large, leather wrapped handle affixed with a counterbalance protruded from its end; a weapon no doubt.  Without looking back to make sure the front door ever even closed, Percy made his way to where Isuelt stood and stopped in front of her.  

His tone was different than before.  No emotion; Just business.

“I assume you have room in the Temple?”

The way he had scrutinized her when Isuelt finally finished speaking, she prayed to Scathach that he was pondering, considering her proposal.  The brunette breathed easier, believing she had moved the graying soldier in front of her.  

But then came his surprising response.

"Damn you, Isuelt."

When followed by his hasty retreat into the house, the priestess thought that was that.  The air was crushed from her lungs as her hope was shredded.  A few dark chocolate tendrils fell from her shoulder's dam and hung to sway in the breeze.  Isuelt had several moments to collect her thoughts; and with that time, she fully believed that she had done her best to persuade Perceval.  She could think of nothing more she had wanted to say, but still, he had denied her.  That was his prerogative, after all.  And how could she fault him for it?  All a hardened and battered warrior dreams of in the end is peace, after all.  How dare she ever hope that Perceval would throw that away with both hands for the likes of her and her pleas.

As her boots turned in the gravel, the noise was deafening to her.  The priestess made ready to leave, her essay here was finished.  Then the sudden noise of the door swinging open and the quick pace on the porch  hooked her ear and the Scathachian turned quickly.  Her dark eyes wide and her hair splayed upon the wind, Isuelt looked at Perceval as he descended the steps,  in possession of  a few belongings.

“I assume you have room in the Temple?”  She recognized that tone, it was the unapologetic inflection of a gladiator ready for the gates to open.

Isuelt's lips turned into a soft upward arc, the lines in her face deepening.  A compassionate countenance was offered to Perceval as she nodded gently.  Her voice took on a gracious tone, "Of course, Mister Tucker.  Of course."
Isuelt DeRomiano
Batten Industries



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Re: Bygone Era

Post by Issy »

"When Enough Is Enough"

Written February 2017

Backstory: This is one of my favorite interactions between Isuelt and Cullen (and there are a lot of those). This was surrounding the incredibly epic "Temple Cleanse" storyline from Jewell Ravenlock, Mallory and others. In which Jewell was captured amid the Temple of the Divine Mother's insane rise to power and was seemingly sacrificed by them in a failed rescue attempt by a group of people. One of these days I'll see if Jewell will let me republish the rescue here. It was glorious!




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"They don't know anything. Apparently nobody knows anything," the Watch Lieutenant threw his hands up in a dramatic fashion. "This is getting out of hand...AGAIN...since anyone is afraid to come forward with any real information." Richard Cullen shook his head, "I've lived here all my life, my parents lived here all of theirs. I'm just sick of this shit. I'm sick of the shit this city has to go through!" The other few members of the Watch who were gathered in the small office were mostly quiet. Most of them had not yet been to bed and have been getting fewer and fewer hours' rest. The number of protests, incidents and attacks had been steadily growing both in frequency and intensity.

One of the younger patrolmen was the only to speak up. "We do know some things, Lieutenant Cullen. We know that this Temple of the Divine Mother is somehow behind all of this. Feeding propaganda, egging on this mistrust of magic users."

Cullen stopped his pacing and looked over to the young man. "Bertram, is it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, Bertram, I'm sooo glad you're here this early god damned morning to tell us all this! Where was this information an hour ago when we could have had it and then all gone home to our beds??" Obviously, Cullen was sleep deprived and lacked his usual grace when dealing with idealistic rookies of the Watch. The other patrolmen shifted their stances while exchanging uncomfortable looks, mostly at Bertram who immediately held his tongue.

One of the Watchmen in the back, however, muttered something under his breath, yet was just loud enough to be heard over the uncomfortable silence of the room. "Iffya ask me, it's the damned Unnaturals' faults."

Cullen caught it. "What was that?" His gray eyes speared their gaze through the detective in the back of the office. Cullen's voice raised, "What was that?"

"It's just that these Unnaturals, sir, if they didn't flaunt their abilities or even have these abilities, the Temple of the Divine Mother and the real people around here wouldn't have anything to be upset about." The detective straightened his lean as he postulated. "The Temple is trouble, sure, but can you blame them? This city has been plagued by those with unnatural abilities as far back as anyone can remember."

The others in the room said nothing, but they didn't have to. Their body language spoke for them as they mirrored the detective's posture, looking back to their Lieutenant.

Cullen took a moment to look over those in the room, even the rookie who seemed a bit sheepish at the moment before he spoke quietly. "Out." The patrolmen seemed to not hear him, so he aided their hearing, "OUT! All of you!" Pointing to the door, Cullen wasted no time in letting his rage fly from the tongue. The Watchmen took their cue and quickly exited his office, the last man shutting the door on the way out. Cullen took a long inhale and held it as he ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair and then over the stubble on his face. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd had the time to actually shave it properly. Probably before all of this Temple business started, he thought. A heavy sigh then took his body as he sunk into the chair behind the desk in his new office. Only having been promoted to Lieutenant late last year, this was the first test of his new position. And he could feel it bearing down on him heavily as he shut his eyes and fantasized about the day he could sleep in.

"Well, that's one way to clear a room." The Scathachian's velvet voice seemed to echo from within the shadows of the office, sending Cullen into a near full-panic as he shot up from his chair and looked around.

Isuelt was standing on the fire escape outside of the open window. It wasn't open to the point were she could saunter inside, but it was open enough that she had heard most of the meeting that had just ended.

"For fucks sake, DeRomiano! Are you trying to give me a damned heart attack?!” Cullen gripped the shirt at his chest for punctuation.

Isuelt’s gloved fingers reached under the window and pulled it up so that she could duck in. Graceful as a cat burglar, her boots hit the floor and she stood to her full height before the Lieutenant. “I’d never do something like that to a man like you, Cullen.” She smirked, knowing full well he was being a little over-dramatic. “I wouldn’t have anyone to stalk.” She winked, hoping to simmer him down. She knew he was under an immense amount of stress.

Cullen waved her off and resumed his pacing, “I’ve got innocent families being harassed and attacked, businesses being boycotted...and worse, graffiti all over the gods damned precinct, death threats coming in daily, too many to even check out anymore! My staff is picking sides, and half of them the wrong one! The captain breathing down my neck so he can get reports together for the GAC!”

“Which side is the wrong one?” Isuelt stood her ground close to the window, though her voice made sure it closed the distance.

“What?” The Lieutenant paused his pacing and looked at the Scathachian.

“Which side is the wrong one, Cullen? You said your staff was p-”

“God damnit, Issy!” He cut her off. “I’m not going to get into this with you. For fucks sakes, now is not the time for politics! Look, I know which side you're on! You were for that magic registration act that went before the Governor a few administrations ag-”

Now it was Isuelt’s turn to cut off Cullen, “You don’t know anything about my politics.” She paused, Isuelt knew full well that Cullen was well-aware of most of her politics. Still it felt like the right thing to say. Especially in this instance. “This is different.”

“You’re telling me it’s different! I’ve got kids who are being attacked with their parents at the park for crying out loud!”

“I know.”

“Yeah, I know, you were there.” He rolled his eyes, obviously upset that the Scathachians were not doing more to aid the Watch with this situation. “No one’s talking. Everyone’s afraid!” Cullen took a moment to study a few of the diplomas and degrees on the wall that bore his name, so recently hung up. “Everyone’s afraid to address the elephant in the room.”

“Let me talk to the suspects or even some of the witnesses.” She took a few steps forward.

“Oh sure! That'll make them all cozy, comfy and ready to spill their guts! A fucking Judge coming for their head? No offense, Issy, but you don’t really come off as the ‘nice cop’ sort of persona.”

The Scathachian’s long legs halted. There was perhaps a shadow of sting on her features.

“Look the couple and child who were attacked are probably going to be fine, physically. Mentally, who the hell knows. Who the hell knows how this city will come back from something like this? I mean, magic is what makes this city what it is! This Temple has to come down! It has to be stopped! This is too much!” Cullen’s hands went to his head and scratched as his eyes shut tight. He was exhausted and he knew it. He looked like hell and smelled like day-old coffee and an all-nighter in the sewers.

“Richard?” Isuelt had closed the distance between them and landed a soft hand on his shoulder.

He shrugged off her hand, though it pained him to do so, “Why don’t you just do your job and I’ll do mine.” Cullen made his way toward the closed door to his office and opened it as he looked back to Isuelt, presumably for her to walk through it.

She was unsure just where most of his hostility was coming from, other than lack of sleep and frustration of the case or cases. “I want to help you, Lieutenant.”

“Really?” Still holding the door now with a hand on his hip. He seemed less than convinced.

“Really. It's my damned job. It's the entire reason I and the rest of my Sisters are in this goddess-forsaken city to begin with. Times like this.” Her brows were tightly knitted. “Let me help you.” A pause. “Even off the books.” That seemed to be the magic word. Cullen shut the door and walked back to Isuelt. She continued, “Give me names, addresses, anything. I'll check out your leads, your suspicions.” They stood face to face and neither one shied away from looking the other in the eye. “I want to help you. I want this Temple to crumble.” Her voice was a whisper only for him.

It took Cullen a moment to simmer himself before he answered her quietly. “If you do that, if you help me do that...I would owe you more than I already do. I would- you could- you could do no wrong in my eyes, you know that, don’t you DeRomiano?”

“I won’t let you down.”



“You never have.”

“I never will.”

Cullen breathed deeply, feeling like he'd been thrown a life preserver in the middle of a hurricane. “Get outta here. Go do your job, Scathachian.” He smirked and nodded to the open window.

Isuelt returned his expression as she winked to the Watchman and turned to go, skirting the windowsill just as she had on her entrance.

“And close that thing behind you, would ya? I'm gonna catch my death of cold here!”

“Thought you could use the fresh air, Lieutenant!” Isuelt called back through the open window, “You smell like a dead horse who smoked a pack of cigarettes on his way into work.”

Cullen only saw a black blur as he made it to the window and looked down. The Judge had cleared the alleyway below and was well on her way before Cullen got a chance to close the window. He chuckled to himself as he let Iseult’s last words play back to him; though as he did, he took a quick inhale and decided she was right on the money. Another chuckle as he turned and grabbed his coat, shaking his head. He exited his office to get a shower and some sleep; he'd let Isuelt take this shift.

-----------------

Isuelt had taken Lieutenant's advice and had given herself a little time to take in fresh air in the Marketplace rather than cling to rooftops in the the WestEnd or skulk in alleyways of the Temple district. She was just sitting down to lunch by the fountain. Isuelt did have a fondness for some of the kebab vendors in the area and one in particular had a tzatziki sauce that reminded her of her days long ago when she kept company with her husband's gypsy caravan. She had been pulling long nights trying to quell the growing unrest in the shadow of the Temple of the Divine Mother and she felt that she was due the small reward of the taste of easier times past.

She'd never get that bite however.

The explosion, though still a few blocks away shook the ground and rented the very air she was breathing. Isuelt threw down her kebab and jumped up. It was impossible with the acoustics being what they were in the middle of the Marketplace to tell from which direction the explosion had come. People were screaming and running and Isuelt ran to and hopped up on the edge of the water fountain to look around. It wasn't until she saw the plumes of smoke coming from the east that she knew which direction to go. Her legs kicked into high gear as she leapt from the fountain and took off. She had to nearly push her way between citizens running this way and that, grabbing their children and cutting their shopping afternoons short. "Look out! Out of the way! MOVE!" The Scathachian began to pick her way around and even over a few carts as she headed toward the now billowing black smoke. She slipped down a side alleyway as a short cut and came out the other side to a scene much the same with people running where they could to get out of the area. Only on this side of the alley, she heard a few angry chants coming from people.

"Temple of the Divine Mother!" from one direction.
"Death to all non-humans!" from another.
"Non-human trash!" and yet another.

Isuelt's boots came to skidding halt as she felt people rush past her amid the thick smoke. There was debris everywhere and citizens on the ground, some bleeding, some helping. A breeze wafted through and lifted the smoke in a merciful, but brief act of clarity. However, what isuelt saw before her made her wish that the smoke had never rolled back its veil, never let her see.

The Scathachian's facial expression warped into a horrified silent scream. What she saw before her was the bombed out shell of what used to be the Beyond The Veil boutique.

"Jewell..."

Isuelt's voice whispered her friend's name amid the nightmarish scene before her. Had she been inside? Isuelt could barely think straight. Instead, she ran toward the still burning rubble to hopefully find no one. Especially not Jewell.

-------------


The following takes place in the early morning hours on the night of The Cleanse at the nightclub, Sanctuary.


In the hours that followed the rescue mission, there was much that had taken place. All of it, however, was little more than a blur to the Scathachian. She loosely remembered escorting the young witch, Mallory, to the nearest medical attention. She knew that her shoulder had been stitched up not because she clearly recalled the procedure, but because she could now feel the bandages pulling at her skin. Some rescue mission. Isuelt shuttered. A failed rescue mission.

Jewell was dead. Her body was nowhere to be found.

They had failed. Utterly failed.

Isuelt leaned heavily against the bar, her elbows on the counter, her head in her hands. She had remained this way for some time; so long in fact that the bar was nearly empty, save for a few who stayed within to be sheltered on the night of the Temple of the Divine Mother's self-imposed 'cleanse.' The tender long ago had locked the front door and was fine to leave the three patrons quietly secure for the night. The dive bar on the outskirts of the Temple district hadn't seen too much action save a few protesters with torches running through the streets in the hour just after midnight.

The Scathachian's body had forgotten that it could choose another position. She was far from sleep, instead she was watching the events of the night play out over and over again behind her closed eyes. A half-empty bottle of whisky sat in front of her, though truth be told, she didn't need it any longer. There was not enough alcohol to numb the pain she was feeling. Jewell had died, knights had died and she couldn't get the stench of death off of her hands. Still ever present was the warm feel of fresh blood on her hands, the scent of the Namekeeper's innards, the foul breath of the demons, a crackling in her ears. Not once, but a few times did the thought cross her mind that Renna's Rage Virus had not totally left her system. And perhaps some trace of it would always stay. She consoled herself with the knowledge that without it, perhaps she would have taken the Namekeeper into custody, along with the Knights of St. Aldwin. But for what he was responsible for...what he had done to Jewell...how he had sullied her...for that there was no better punishment than desecration. There was no ending more fit for him than to have his head removed from his body and his intestines spilled upon the floor. The carrion crows would have their fill of his shell and secretly Isuelt hoped the very birds themselves would choke on him.

There were no tears, just the sharp sting of loss that felt like it would tear her in two. Isuelt was in shock, her disbelief in how this all went down was enough to blind her to all that was going on around her. The sun was beginning to rise and show its bright crown of light to all the world. Shadows started to appear as day chased away the awful night. The other couple who had taken refuge in the tavern had ventured home, praising their gods for the safety of the bar. The Scathachian finally lifted her head long enough to take a deep inhale and once more let her hands rest about her nose and mouth. Her dark eyes finally opened to stare at the bottles clumsily stacked along the backbar. Still lost in her thoughts, she shook her head lightly. This had to all be a nightmare, certainly. There was no way that her dear friend was gone. A twinge from the stitches on her shoulder suddenly told her that last night was very real and as she rubbed her forehead, all she wanted to do was go back. Go back and try again. Try to save Jewell. Isuelt's brow broke; this was just all too much to take. She was secretly thankful for the emptiness of the bar; she was never one to shed tears in the presence of others.

-----------------


"So, you wanna tell me about what the hell went down at Sanctuary on the 14th?" Cullen dipped his salt and pepper stubbled chin and waited. Then waited some more. "DeRomiano?"

Isuelt finally looked up from her coffee the Lieutenant had been so kind as to buy her. An offering gesture for sure. "What? You don't have enough witnesses?"

"I'd like to hear it from you, Issy." His voice was quiet as he leaned forward over his own cup and employed a prying gaze at the Scathachian. His dark eyebrows lifted, imploring her to disclose her account. But the Judge was a difficult egg to crack.

"I don't know what to tell you, Cullen." Isuelt's nail scraped at something on the table.

The Watch Lieutenant sighed gruffly. He knew she knew the whole story and he couldn't get anything out of her. "Look, I've got conflicting reports of dead people that aren't dead and we're trying to figure a body count here!" He stared at her for a good few moments before his voice was pushed violently past his teeth, still clinging desperately to that hushed tone. "Damnit, DeRomiano! You're a fucking eye witness and I need to know what you know!"

Isuelt's eyes slid dangerously toward Cullen. "You don't need anymore than what you already have," she said after a long pause. "There's a whole other faction to what's been happening in the city because of that damned temple. What happened at Sanctuary is a dust up of those idiots. I helped to get some people to safety. That's it."

"DeRomiano, I--" Cullen began angrily, raising his voice before he was cut off by the Scathachian who reached across the small table and grabbed hold of his shirt and pulled him down until his chin was nearly in his coffee cup.

"Don't you fucking dare 'DeRomiano' me, Richard. I'm fucking serious this time! How many goddess damned times have I given you the inside track? How many times have I given you information? Huh?" There was a grimace from Cullen, but Isuelt refused to let the man's shirt go. If anything, she gripped it tighter as her words bit past her teeth. "Can't you give me this one damned time as a pass? With everything I've done for you?!" Cullen's face seemed to give Isuelt the answer she was hoping for. She let his shirt go with something of a push behind it and it took the Lieutenant a moment to straighten himself out again before he spoke.

"Look, Issy," his defeated tone was tamer than it was a moment ago. "I'm doing my job is all. And I heard that you were involved in something that I don't want to even imagine bringing you in for."

"Then don't!"

He sighed and hung his head to stare at his coffee, now cool. "Issy..."

"Richard." She quickly retorted.

He looked up at her; he loved the sound of his name on her tongue.

"Don't go digging where you don't want to find anything." Her face told him that the rumors he heard about what she had done were probably true; he couldn't bring himself to consider what his job would have him do. Cullen met her eyes and Isuelt's face rested secure in its expression.

The Lieutenant sighed quietly, his shoulders falling a bit. Perhaps it was Isuelt who had slipped a bit from the pedestal he placed her on. "Sure, DeRomiano. You deserve a pass, as you say..." Crest fallen didn't begin to describe the Watchman.

"You understand you're at war here, Lieutenant?" Isuelt's tone was cool and business-like. She assumed her guise more as the Daughter of Scathach, rather than a friend. Cullen glanced up at her. "Things happen in the fires of war that have no place in peaceful times. And yet, if these horrific things do not happen during war, then there will be no more peaceful times." It seemed to serve as her defense and Cullen would have to be fine with it. He nodded soberly and that signaled to Isuelt that it was time to go. No use pressing your luck with a Watchman. She stood up and secured all of her weapons, though they needed no adjustments. "Thanks for the coffee, Lieutenant." She managed a small smile for him.

"Issy..." Cullen's voice stopped the Scathachian before she left. Her eyes turned back to him. "Just...be careful out there."

"Always."

After she left, Cullen found himself still staring at his cold coffee and nodding his head. "Always." He repeated. "Hope so."
Isuelt DeRomiano
Batten Industries



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