The Counterfeit of Campania and the Assassin of Abruzzo

Stories of the those from House Dragoon Talanador, the Company of the Dragon and the Tavern itself.

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Charlie Nausikaa
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Location: House of Retribution in the Old Market District of RhyDin

Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:07 pm

"Do you think of anyone but yourself?"

That was the question which drew Ruke LaChayne from the brink of sleep and the question which reminded he had sworn off ever living with a woman again. Women have such an uncanny flair for ruining a man's sleep with such loaded questions.

He folded his hands on his chest, staring up at the cobweb covered ceiling. "I try to not, no. The affairs of others tend to depress me."

Madeline DiRossi gave an annoyed snort at his response to her question. "You think you have played me for a fool, Mr. LaChayne."

Ruke gave a chuckle and finally lifted his head to shoot his amused blue eyes in Madeline's direction. "Of course not." His voice was filled with irony.

The tone and laughter caught Madeline by surprise and she shifted her weight, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "You do not?"

Ruke slowly rose to his feet in order to take a step close to the young woman. "Of course not, Madie. May I call you Madie?" Without waiting for an answer to the affirmative, (perhaps because he knew that the response would be to the negative) he continued on, "I am the one who has been played for a fool." he said, motioning to the bars that stood between them.

Madeline did not respond. With her brows furrowed in thought, she shifted her gaze to the floor. Ruke dropped his voice, tilting his head to the side slightly. "Does that make you happy? I am in here. My friend continues to rot away in one of your father's jail cells," he shot at her bitterly.

Shock was the initial emotion to register on her features. She was the youngest DiRossi, the maiden in a fine family. She was not at all used to being spoken to so harshly. Yet, anger quickly followed -- anger at being spoken to in such a tone, anger at Ruke for having attempted to use her to gain information, anger at her father for his business practices. "He's just a dirty mage. He'll end up in hell anyway," she shot back in the heat of the moment.

Ruke took a step back with a sad shake of her head. "Don't spout such racist comments, dear, especially when you do not even believe them." He then turned his back on her as he walked back to the cot, sitting down heavily as a signal that the conversation had ended.

With the statement, the anger with Ruke was taken out of her sails. She was only left with the anger with her father and, although she was having trouble admitting it, anger at herself for not having helped Ruke free the man. Her dark eyes brimmed with tears as she turned from the cell and quickly headed down the hall determined not to allow Ruke or any of the household see her cry.

In his cell, Ruke leaned his head back against the wall and his blue eyes shifted to the ceiling. In that moment of solitude he allowed himself a small smile of success. Events were unfolding better than even he could have hoped for.
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Charlie Nausikaa
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Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Sat Aug 19, 2006 5:48 pm

Zale Renzo was numb -- numb from the overload of pain and numb from exhaustion. As the guards dragged his battered body back to the cell, his eyes sought her out. He found her where he had left her. She was seated on the cot with her elbows on her knees and her face buried in her hands. He had seen her a handful of times in Talsiny at a distance. She was always larger than life, an eye-drawing character but seated there with her dying skin hidden beneath a blanket which was wrapped around her back, she looked small, frightened, and horrifyingly vulnerable.

He wondered if the guards saw it too. Had his mind been able to focus on anything other than her, he might have noticed that their posture stiffened as soon as they had seen her. While Charlie and the guards were roughly the same age, they had grown up fearing her. They had heard all the stories of Charlie Nausikaa -- the beautiful angel of death who would kill you rather than look at you.

Zale remembered a particular wives' tale that Charlie could kill just by touching a man. Merely brushing against her was a death sentence. These guards were not taking any chances. They'd stay as far away from her as possible.

She rose as she heard them. Her desperate green eyes found his but could not linger there long. As the guards opened the door, she carefully took a full account of the damage. There were numerous cuts on his face. His clothes were further shred and the bruising from the guards' attacks were beginning to discolor his olive toned skin.

The guards released their hold on him once he was within the cell and while Zale made a valiant attempt to shift his weight onto his cane, his legs gave way and he began to sink to the floor. Charlie quickly stepped in, sliding an arm under his to keep him upright.

Quickly, the guards exited the cell, slamming the barred door shut behind him. The older of the two gained the nerve to glance back at the pair and Charlie met his gaze angrily. "I want you to take a good look at this man's injuries," Charlie started smoothly with a deathly cool to her tone. "Because I will revist them on you before I kill you."

The bars between them and the peer looking on emboldened him. He gave a short laugh, meant to be offensive but gave off a clear undertone of anxiety. "Eventually Lord DiRossi is going to realize that Nausikaa doesn't care about you anymore and then we will be able to get rid of your stain of evil that you brought back when the Devil rose you from the dead."

With that, his peer gave him a hefty slap on the back and the pair headed away from the cell. Charlie's arm tightened around Zale as she watched the pair walk off with joy in their steps. They had bested Charlie Nausikaa. It would be a story that they would tell many times over in the hours and days to come. Each time they would tell it, embellishments would be added and Charlie's admonishment would be greater.

The only thing that kept her from throwing herself at the bars in a tantrum of threats and curses was the semi-conscious man in her arms. Shifting the weight of his body, she helped him to the cot and, this time, she was the one to help him drift off to sleep.

While studying the many cuts, bruises, and bumps the guards had created on Zale in their quest to obtain the magical formula, Charlie muttered from the Book of Ezekiel, "Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none."
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Charlie Nausikaa
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Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Mon Aug 21, 2006 8:36 pm

When Zale Renzo began to awake, he found that his companion had surprised him once more. She was seated on the rickety chair beside the bed with a bowl of water balanced in her lap. Gently, she was cleaning the lacerations on his face, arms, neck, and shoulders. There was something unsettling about having such an infamous character tend to him in such an uncharacteristic way.

His hand reached up to snag her wrist. The movement drew her attention from a particularly deep cut on his right shoulder up to his face. Their gaze met for a long moment before Zale could find his voice. "You don't have to do that."

Charlie's lips spread in a rare soft smile. "But I want to." It was then that Zale Renzo realized that he was no longer in the presence of Charlie Nausikaa. This was the softer side, the human side of the woman that few had ever seen but that Ruke had insisted to Zale did exist. This was the part of her that Ruke wanted him to get to know.

Realizing the opportunity was upon him, he released her wrist, allowing his hand to slide back down onto the cot. "I don't understand something," Charlie began.

Zale gave a slight wince as she reached a nasty bruise. She shot him a brief apologetic smile before continuing on a bit more gently. "What is that?"

"You seem like a decent guy who really is in the whole magic business to help people... so why do you work with Ruke?"

Despite his pain, Zale could not help but allow a short chuckle to escape him. "Good question. I suppose I like Ruke. I like living in RhyDin -- the crazy people, the modern conviences."

He paused as he struggled to sit up. He settled facing her with his back against the wall and his knees hanging over the edge of the cot. "Primarily, though, he offers safety. As if life isn't hard enough for a Talsinian gifted in magic, I am also a cripple." His tone was not bitter but matter of fact.

Charlie placed the piece of cloth in her hand back into the bowl and met his gaze with a tilt of her head. "And, if you don't mind me asking, what did happen to your leg?"

He met her gaze willingly. There was something bluntly honest about him that she found disturbing and refreshing all at the same time. "My parents died when I was quite young. I went to live with my grandmother who told me that my parents were angels who watched me all of the time. Whenever I would fall, she told me, they'd be there to catch my fall with a giant cloud cushion."

"When I was six, I decided to test her theory," Zale continued. "I found the tallest tree I could find, climbed to the very top, and then leaped off of it. They weren't there to catch me." Charlie pursed her lips into a thin frown. Unable to come up with words of sympathy, she returned her attention to cleaning his cuts.

His eyes drifted down from her face to the dead patch of skin spreading across her neck. The magic that brought her back from the dead and the success of the mission was fascinating to him. He wanted to know more yet he had to feign ignorance. "You really were reborn from the dead?" he asked in prepared tone of a mixture of shock and curiosity.

He broke her mending with his question and her green eyes traced back up to his face. "Yes," Charlie answered simply with a nod of her head. "And now it appears that death is reclaiming me." With her free hand she motioned towards the greyish patches of her skin that appeared as if her body was dying and turning to ash.

"Fascinating." He reached a hand up to touch her skin. Part of it immediately dissolved and slowly fell to the floor. Charlie stiffened at the touch but did not move. "Actually, it is not death that is reclaiming you at all. It is the person who woke you up from the dead."

Her green eyes shot back to him. "I'm sorry?" The desperation was clear in her voice. Could it be possible that he knew what was happening to her? Zale could read all of that on her face.

He removed his hand from her, allowing it to fall back to his lap. "The person who woke you from the dead put a curse on the magic. Think of it as a time limit. After about eight months you would start getting these patches of skin, and by twelve months you would be dead."

"Can you fix me?"

He was drawn to silence by her tone. There was such hope and desperation to it. There was something tugging deep down in his gut. He wanted to be her savior. "Somewhat. I can restart the timer but I cannot remove the original curse. Every eight months to a year, we would have to do it all over again."

She leaned forward, both of her hands reaching out for one of his. Her voice dropped low. "You have to help me. I am not ready to die again. I only just came back."

He gave her hand a squeeze. God, how he wanted to reassure her, to tell her everything was alright. Zale paused momentarily to remind himself that the woman was a killer. He was a healer. She stood for everything that he hated about humanity. She brought death. He was one who attempted to stall death. Yet, it didn't work. The woman before him did not fit the picture of evil that he had imagined. "We will get out of here and then I will heal you."

His heart jumped when a bright smile broke through her anxiety, lighting up her face. He had caused that smile. His heart felt full with that knowledge. "Thank you."

Finally his mind cut through the silly emotions that had overtaken it and clicked into gear. His gaze dropped to her deadening skin once more and a glimmer of hope brightened the moment further. "I have an idea on how to get us out of here."
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Charlie Nausikaa
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Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Wed Aug 23, 2006 5:50 pm

"Wake up," a voice demanded in a hushed whisper.

The urgency in the voice tore through Ruke LaChayne's sleep. He rubbed his eyes as he shoved himself into a sitting position. Darkness had settled on the DiRossi's RhyDin Manor. The bustle of the house was finally still. He ran a hand through his shaggy dark locks before turning his gaze towards the bars to get a look at who was summoning him.

"We need to leave now," a woman stated in the same hushed whisper. Sleepiness clouded his mind causing him to be unable to identify the voice.

The visitor clad in a full-length dark cloak slid a skeleton key into the lock. The lock clicked open as she twisted the key over. Ruke rose to his feet, squinting at the figure but it did him no good. The hood of the cloak was pulled up and her face was lost in shadows. Without a face to put to his rescuer his mind immediately jumped to the most likely candidate. "Charlie?"

The ring of keys was abandoned in the barred door as it was flung open. Her hand reached up to draw back the hood of the cloak. A braid of dark hair rested on either shoulder and warm brown eyes met his gaze. Where Ruke had expected Charlie's stern frown and statuesque features, he found only soft curves and gentleness.

Ruke's lips parted in a half-smirk as Madeline DiRossi tilted her head curiously at him. "Who is Charlie?"
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Charlie Nausikaa
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Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:51 am

"Help!" Zale cried at the bars. "Help us! She's dead!"

Echoing footsteps signaled the guards return. They found a desperate Zale at the bars and Charlie Nausikaa sprawled out on the stone floor. She was stripped down to her cami top and a pair of skimpy boy shorts leaving the many patches of gray peeling and blistering skin visible. The guards, who had yet to see the death that was taking over her body, were appalled.

What made the situation worse was that her eyes were open and unblinking and her chest was not rising and falling in time with her breaths. There was no breathing. Panic welled up in them. If Charlie Nausikaa died on their watch, they would have a lot of explaining to do to Lord DiRossi who was still hoping to gain favor with the ruling Nausikaas in Talsiny by returning their wayward enforcer unharmed.

"Hurry, hurry," demanded the older to the younger as the younger slid in the key and unlocked the cell door. Both rushed inward and dropped to a kneel on either side of the prone body.

Zale remained standing at the opposite end of the cell. His dark eyes fluttered shut and a single word was whispered beneath his breath. "Spiro."

As one of the guards reached out to touch the deathly skin on Charlie's body, the other reached out to grab his hand. "It could kill you!" he warned. They were too consumed in their own anxiety to notice Zale's utterance or that as soon as the word passed his lips Charlie's lungs reinflated with air, causing her chest to rise.

Awareness flooded her green eyes and took in the guards who were now bickering incoherently over their next move. The one to her right was flung against the wall like a rag doll. The back of his head violently struck the wall. As she turned on the shocked second guard, the first slid to the floor, leaving a vertical streak of blood on the stones.

Before he even had a chance to mount a defense, Charlie was on her feet and had her right hand wrapped around the second guard's throat. While the pressue with only one hand wasn't enough to cut off his oxygen supply completely, it was enough to disable him while she yanked off his belt holding his sheathed weapon off of his body and allowed it to clatter against the floor.

Fear registered in the guard's eyes as a slow smile spread across his captor's lips. "I told you, love, that I would revisit all the injuries you gave my friend before I killed you. Do you remember that?"

"Charlie, forget it. We need to get out of here," Zale pleaded uneasily as he took a step towards the pair. He forced himself to watch her. This was the side of her that he needed to see. He needed to convince himself she was indeed evil, she was a killer, that the plan was necessary. But wasn't she just angry because he had been hurt? Was she evil or simply overprotective?

She did not respond to Zale. Her gaze remained intent on the guard. Her grip on his neck kept him from talking so he merely nodded helplessly. Finally, the internal struggle within Charlie seemed to end. Her gaze briefly dropped in disappointment. She grabbed the cell's keys out of his hand and then released her hold on the man.

Even the guard relaxed slightly as she took a small step back but as soon as he had, she launched a high round kick towards his head. He couldn't react quickly enough and a heavy boot connected with the side of his head. Unconscious, he joined his silent friend on the ground.

Charlie tossed the keys to Zale whom relied on his cane as he shuffled out of the cell. She picked pulled free the swords of both guards from their sheaths before following Zale out of the cell. He slammed the barred door back shut and locked the two guards within before turning his brown eyes up to Charlie. "What now?"

Her lips twisted into a slight smile. "Now we fight."
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Charlie Nausikaa
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Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:56 am

Charlie tightened her grip on the blade in each hand and violently swung them upward. The crossed swords blocked the incoming blow meant on removing her head from the rest of her body. Instantly, she realized that the guards were no longer concerned with keeping her alive. She leaned into the block, using her weight to shove the attacking guard off balance.

As Charlie battled their way up the back stairs into the main house, Zale Renzo, with his slow limping shuffled step, was doing his best to merely keep up. After a brief glance in Zale's direction to ensure that he was still following her, Charlie spun around and slammed the flat of one blade into the skull of the guard. Even before the guard hit the floor, Charlie was shoving his body to the side so that they could get around him on the narrow stone stairs.

The front half of her hair was held back in a bun but wisps of hair had escaped and were stuck to her glistening face. Her lips were pursed and features tightened in a stern look of concentration. He could tell that each sense was focused on one thing and one thing only -- their escape.

Despite his panic and the energy he was exerting to keep up, he could not tear his gaze from the woman. She was not killing unceremoniously. In fact, she had gone out of her way to keep from having to permanently disable their captors. Still he had never seen her look more dangerous, more in her element... or, he had to admit, more beautiful. Zale Renzo had convinced himself that destruction was what the devil had made this woman for but now he was questioning all of that.

Did the Lord not need such muscle to protect his people? Could her infamous past have been a perverse way of evil using the Lord's own tools against His work?

He shoved those thoughts from his head as he concentrated on taking one stair at a time. Charlie was creeping around a corner and from Zale's angle all he could see was a fist fly forward and catch Charlie in the eye as she turned. "Christ!" she cursed beneath her breath.

"I'm sorry!" came a return woman's voice.

Zale quickly moved up the final steps but was unprepared for what he found at the top of the stairs. Charlie was bent over clutching her eye and still muttering incoherent curses while the youngest DiRossi girl, her attacker, was staring down at her in horror. Ruke LaChayne, of course, wasn't far behind Madeline and was sporting an amused grin at the scene.

"You just hit me!" Charlie exclaimed as she finally dropped her hands away from her eyes and sternly frowned at Madeline.

Ruke patted Madeline's shoulder lightly. "It was a nice shot, dear."

The stern look was shot in Ruke's direction and he shrugged absently. Zale decided it was as good a time as any to cut in. They were standing in a lower hallway of the home, exposed to whomever may come along this corridor, and neither woman was being particularly quiet. "Hello, Ruke. I assume this is the lovely Miss DiRossi. Why exactly are the two of you here?"

Madeline shot a sheepish look back at Ruke before meeting Zale's gaze. "We came to rescue the two of you."

Charlie gave an indignant huff but Zale cut her off before she could begin a lecture on how she did not need to be rescued. "Well, Maddie, where do we go from here?"

The young woman took a moment before speaking. She was not used to having her opinion relied upon. "There's a hidden tunnel from here to the barn. We could get a couple horses there and--"

"And get the hell out of here," Ruke added. "Lead us to the Promise Land, Mad Maddie."
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Charlie Nausikaa
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Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:14 am

It took some effort but by shoving his weight against it, Ruke was finally able to fling open the rotting wood trap door above his head. The rusty hinges protested with a squeak. Ruke glanced back down at the rest of the group to shoot Madeline a smile. "Nice job there, Mad Maddie."

A proud smile was elicited from the young woman. Ruke carefully stepped up the final stairs and through the floor of the barn into a back storage room. He turned back to extend a hand to Madeline to help her through as well. Zane relied heavily on his cane as he took the final steps upward. Charlie followed behind him still clutching one of the swords she stole off their original guards, watching his gait carefully. He was getting tired. She knew she had to get him free of this place and she had to do it quickly.

Her long strides immediately took her to the door of the cramped storage room. Carefully she inched open the door, her gaze carefully searching the barn. Save approximately a dozen horses and several sleeping cats, the barn appeared devoid of life. Only the pale light of the early morning hours peeked through the windows but a pair of lit hurricane lantern hung from pegs on the wall at either end of the barn, illuminating its occupants in an eerie glow.

Several barrels in the storage room had caught the attention of Ruke. He had dropped to a crouch to investigate the markings on the front of them. Finally, he shifted his concerned blue eyes to Zale. "Do you see this?"

His uncharacteristically somber tone immediately drew the attention of both Madeline and Zale. Zale frowned darkly at the Latin markings before nodding gravely. Madeline tilted her head slightly, repeating the words over in her head several times before pronouncing them aloud. "Liquidus relevo. Liquid lightening? What does that mean?"

Ruke rose to his full height, brushing his palms off on one another. "When combined with fire it creates a terrific magic-resistant explosion. I only know a handful of mages in the area that can create it and none that would create it for Lord DiRossi."

"It's very dangerous," Zale added quietly for Madeline.

Charlie turned back to address the trio behind her. Their conversation had not phased her. She would not be deterred from getting them out of Benlo Springs. "Let's move quickly. Get a couple horses saddled up. I want to get out of here before dawn breaks." They nodded in agreement with her plan and silently got to work. With Madeline's help, the men were able to pick out four athletic mounts and gathered together a equal number of saddles and snaffle bridles.

Too uneasy to help, Charlie headed for the barn's exit and slowly eased open the door, anxiously awaiting something that she could simply not put her finger on. Her gaze was drawn downward to an attention-deprived mackerel tabby cat which was twisting between her legs. Its chest rumbled with a deep purring noise which reminded her instantly of Tareth's ball of fluff, Hack, and briefly caused a small distant smile to creep across her lips.

The distraction of Tareth Thorn would again be her downfall. The barn door was pulled violently from her grasp from the outside and when she reached forward for it in her panic, it was slammed into her head. The hilt of the sword slipped from her fingers as she stumbled back in surprise. A shout rose up from the guard who caught her, alerting others of his find.

As Charlie struggled to clear her ringing head and make a grab for the weapon, Ruke wasted no time in creating a diversion while shouting to Zale to help Madeline onto a ready mount. Ruke yanked the bolts up out of the remaining eight stalls and threw open the doorts. Ruke shouted and slapped the rumps of the horses within but the horses needed little further encouragement to escape the commotion that had befallen the barn.

The guard who had discovered them had pushed his way in and swung his sword at Charlie's midsection. She pushed her weight off to the side, missing the brunt of his blow. However, she was unable to miss it entirely. At the very tip of the arch of his swing, he cut through her cami top and into her gray deadened skin. Ash fell to the ground and blood quickly colored the fabric on her left side just beneath her ribs.

She cried out in pain but the guard, taken aback by the dead skin which was revealed, was unable to take advantage of the situation. His shock allowed her to turn away from him briefly to send a side kick to open the pair of barn doors for the rush of eight horses. Her boot connected solidly sending the doors banging open and was able to get out of the way just in time for the herd to push past. A small group of guards that had been arisen by the shout of alarm was now waiting just outside but the pounding of exiting hooves kept them at bay for a split second.

"Go!" Charlie shouted to the three others who were now all on horseback. As the guard came at her again, Zale swung his cane against the man's head from above. The blow stunned the guard, giving Charlie enough time to tuck and roll to her abandoned blade.

Madeline had hesitated in leaving her to the fight so Ruke leaned forward and slapped the haunch of the mare she was on, yelling at it. The mare immediately lept forward, anxious to join the push out the door. Ruke dug his heels into the leopard flank of the Appaloosa he was astride and followed after the startled young woman.

The guard came back around for another attack and with the horses thinning out in their exit, the rest of the guards were beginning to see an opening. Zale only had a moment longer to keep the cover of exiting with the rest of the herd. She could see him hesitating, not wishing to leave her alone and greatly outnumbered.

"Get out of here!" Charlie cried to him desperately.

She swung the blade around as she rolled back up onto her feet, blocking the incoming attack and then rapidly pushed her edge by slicing the sword back around. He ducked and rolled behind a stall for cover and her blade hit the wooden opening of the stall, causing shards of wood to fly in every direction. With the guard hiding, her green eyes swept back up to Zale and were met by his dark gaze. She tightened her features into a hard frown. He was not leaving without her.

Zale watched as one of her hands reached for the hurricane lantern hanging beside her. She tossed it against the opposite wall, not far from his gelding. The glass burst open, spooking the horse and before he could stop him, the horse lept to a canter after the others. The fire from the lamp was not extinguished and fueled by the surrounding hay, began to lick at the wood around them.

He ducked his head as the horse passed through the barn doors as the last of the twelve. The guards outside had drawn close now that most of the panicked herd had cleared the stalls. Several reached to grab at his legs to pull him down but Zale leaned forward keeping his legs tightly against horse's side. The gelding needed no more encouragement than the lapping fire to increase his speed to a more ground-covering gallop.

He caught sight of the flapping dark cloak of Madeline with Ruke beside and kept the horse in line with their's. The horses began to tire from the break-neck speed and Ruke finally slowed his to a stop on high ground. Madeline drew her horse around to face the direction in which they came. Zale followed suit as she muttered softly, "Oh God."

While the details down below were difficult to make out, the general picture was not. Fire had nearly consumed the building in that short period of time. Suddenly and violently, the building exploded in a brutal concussion as the fire reached the barrels of liquidus relevo. The earth shook with the energy of the magical formula and the blast of explosive color against the early morning sunrise was brazenly radiant.

Madeline's horrified gasp drew Zale's mind from its fascination with the beauty of the scene to the tragic thought that Charlie Nausikaa had more than likely still been in that building. His stomach wrenched at the thought.

"Do you think she's d--" Madeline began but Ruke cut her off before the sentence was finished.

Ruke's tone was no disingenuous. He was confident in his assertion. "She is fine."

Yet none of them could tear their eyes from the burning building down in the valley below. They were so consumed with the fiery vision that the missed the approaching rider from behind.

"Let's go," came the tired voice.

All three immediately twisted on their horses to catch a look at the fourth rider. Relief flooded to Zale's gaze. Charlie was alive and astride an equally restless palomino before him. Her clothing was singed and some of her deadening skin was burnt, turning gray ash to hardened black coal.

Her green eyes again found Zale but could only read the emotion flooding his face for a brief moment before she yanked the horse, setting a direction out of Benlo Springs. "I said, 'let's go'," she demanded again which this time spurred the others into action.
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Charlie Nausikaa
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Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:45 pm

Charlie Nausikaa leaned her head back against the bamboo wood of her headboard to look up at the spinning ceiling fan above her. Her lids fluttered shut as she soaked in the gentle breeze. Although, she was Talsinian and had grown up with a complete lack of technology, her time in RhyDin had left her with an enjoyment for these small comforts. Silently, she said a prayer of thanks for being brought back home safely. For the first time since Tareth had disappeared, she was able to speak to God without bitterness, without hopelessness, without a desperate request.

A knock on her door broke her thoughts and she offered a smile to Zale as he stepped through the doorway of her bedroom, holding a mug of steaming liquid. "Are you ready?" he asked as he stepped toward the bed and then sat on the edge beside her, lying his cane against a knee.

"I don't have much choice, do I? I do this or I die, correct?"

There was no need for him to answer her question and her questions had answered his. He held out the mug in his hands. "Drink this. It will put you to sleep. What I have to do to... reset your clock is going to last well into the night and will be painful. It will be best if you just sleep through it."

Her hands reached out to take the mug from him. The death was now even reaching her wrists. Her smooth golden tanned skin had turned to a gray ash. The dark liquid within the mug smelled strongly of nutmeg which she assumed was added to make the taste bearable. "Do I even want to know what's in this?"

Zale answered the question with only a chuckle. He watched silently as she lifted the mug and gulped down drank the liquid. A shudder spread up her spine and her features twisted in distaste as the liquid was forced down the back of her throat. She handed the mug back over and leaned back to rest her head against the propped up pillows.

"Charlie, I have--"

She shook her head sadly, lifting her worn voice to interrupt him. "You don't have to say it. I already know. You won't be here when I wake up. I just want to know why."

He smiled softly at her, reaching up with his free hand to draw a lock of freshly washed blonde hair away from her face. "You are in love with another man." It was an assertion, not a question, and was said with a good deal of sadness.

"He left me."

Zale's hand fell back to the mug as did his gaze. "Yes," he said softly. "And given some time I am sure you will heal from that as well so I must leave and give you that time. When I come back, you and I will get to know one another."

"Mm. I will miss you." Her tone was slow and warm. Zale could tell that the liquid was beginning to draw her towards sleep.

He laughed softly and leaned forward, pressing his lips against her forehead. "I will write," he said softly before rising to his feet with help from his cane. He paused briefly in the doorway to cast a glance over his shoulder at the woman who was already fast asleep. For a brief moment, he allowed himself to admire her sly smile and mane of golden blonde hair. Then he forced himself to close the door and move for the kitchen to prepare the rest of the ingredients he would need for the very long night that they had ahead of them.
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Charlie Nausikaa
Posts: 145
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 7:10 am
Location: House of Retribution in the Old Market District of RhyDin

Post by Charlie Nausikaa » Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:36 pm


Her name seemed to be coming from a million miles away. It was spoken softly but echoed in her head. The willowy branches of sleep grabbed at her and she wanted to stay.

"Charlie, wake up now."

She blinked her eyes open. Bright light peeked in through the slim opening of her drawn heavy linen curtains. Then the pain flooded back as well. Every joint ached. Every muscle screamed. Every one of her bones felt pulverized. A soft whimper escaped her parched throat and then Zale, looking haggard, appeared in her line of sight.

"Is it over?" she whispered.

He nodded to her while sliding an arm around her back to help her sit up. With some effort the pair succeeded in the task. He handed her another mug of the same steaming liquid. "You just need some more rest. You will feel better soon."

Without hesitation, the liquid was downed. The taste was a small price to pay for the coma-like sleep that would allow her to escape the pain. Zale placed the empty coffee cup onto the nightstand while helping Charlie slide back down to a comfortable position. She rolled over on her side, exposing a bare shoulder above the sheets. He ran a finger from the strap of her tank top over the arch of her shoulder and then down her right arm to her elbow. While her skin was not flawless, thanks to several old scars that crisscrossed their way across her body and were hid from her fans by the art of air brushing, it was again how it should be.

"Ruke will stay here with you. I must leave," he stated softly, his hand slipping off of her body. The guilt weighed heavily on him and for that brief moment he wavered in his conviction. "Charlie? Charlie, there's something important I must tell you."

However, even his grave tone was not enough to draw her from the sleep that had pulled her back within its strong grasp. He received no response and merely sat there listening to her heavy breathing for several long moments before he could work up the nerve to face Ruke LaChayne. Finally, he reached for his cane, leaning his weight forward onto it as he forced his exhausted body to his feet.

His step was even slower than it was normally. He could not be sure that was the lack of sleep or an unwillingness to leave her that was the cause. After quietly shutting the door to Charlie's room behind him, Zale turned to take in Ruke.

Ruke was a victor and was enjoying the moment in full-fashion. He was leaned back comfortably on the couch with his fine leather boots kicked up onto the ottoman. An ashtray lay on the arm of the couch and a unlit cigar was in one hand while the other clutched a generously filled whiskey glass. "Zale! Have a drink with me before you go!"

Slowly Zale shuffled to face Ruke, leaning against a chair and frowning sternly at Ruke. "What are you celebrating?"

"My genius, of course!" Ruke brandished his infamous grin with too little ease. "I thought that the DiRossis kidnapping you was terrible luck at first given the timing and our plan but then I realized just how perfectly it would work into everything if she was the one to save you! Genius, I tell you."

"We can't do this to her, Ruke."

The grin immediately disappeared. He set the glass heavily down on an end table and pointed the cigar at Zale. His voice dropped low and serious. "I cannot believe I am hearing this from you, Zale."

Zale shook his head adamantly. "I am just saying that maybe we should consider that she has changed. When Hazel told you that Adana Ganderfald had approached her to bring back Charlie and we gave Hazel the knowledge, the potions, everything to do so--"

Ruke rose to his feet quickly. "Adana would have found somebody else to bring Charlie back. Somebody who would not have put the curse on Charlie."

"But are we sure that the curse is necessary? The pain that she will go through everytime I have to do this to her--"

"Is necessary! There is no other way to control her!" Ruke's voice had nearly reached a shout. He took a moment for a deep cleansing breath before continuing on in a more controlled tone. "Have you forgotten the people she has killed? Have you forgotten the lives she has torn apart? For God's sake, Zale, have you even forgotten your own brother?"

The words were like a stunning blow to Zale. Had he? Had he forgotten what she had done to Tomasso? Had he too fallen victim to her cunning ruse? He shook his head slowly, banishing Charlie Nausikaa back into the part of his mind where she belonged. She sat beside the devil. "You are right."

"Of course I am," Ruke huffed as he fell back onto the couch.

"Are you sure this will work? Are you sure she will fall for me?" Zale asked, lifting his gaze to the man again. "She is in love."

"It will work," Ruke stated confidently. "I don't know who this Tareth is but I doubt he is coming back and if he does, I will find some way to ensure that it does not work between them. Not that it will be needed. Charlie is quite good at ruining relationships all on her own."

Zale nodded slowly. They had been over this all before. "You know where to find me when I am needed."

"Take care, Zale, and try to not get yourself kidnapped again," Ruke called in parting as Zale shuffled out of Charlie's home.

With the pieces of his game in place and in feeling in full control of not only his own destiny but also the destiny of those around him, Ruke kicked his boots back up on the ottoman. He smiled a hefty smirk as he picked his whisky glass back up and settled deeper into the couch cushions to enjoy his victory.

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