We All Fall Down

Faerie tales from beyond the veil to the streets of RhyDin

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Post by JewellRavenlock » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:47 pm

“I just have to grab a few things before going back to The Line,” she told Haizea, but she still didn’t move. She just sat on the edge of the couch, hunched over, looking small and subdued.

“Of course Lady Empress! Don’t you worry about a thing. Everything is under control, and the cleanup is already under way.”

She nodded, fingering the hem of Kal’s shirt. She had lifted it from the half-elf’s closet. It was either that or wear her torn and stained dress from yesterday, but she had taken one look at it and had felt immediately sick to her stomach.

It had been soaked with Ishmerai’s blood.

“Are the preparations for Tuesday still okay?”

Haizea smiled at her bravely. “Don’t even worry about it. I have already spoken with Lady Isuelt and Lord DeMeur. Ishmerai’s--” Jewell flinched as she named him and the woman hesitated, “uh… his absence should not adversely affect the rest of the planning process. Everything will be taken care of.”

“Good.” That removed the last of her concerns. She had already made sure that her part on Tuesday would be taken care of, but without the fae knight, she didn’t know who would be working with Alain and making sure Little Elfhame (and the rest of RhyDin) didn’t burn to the ground. “Thank you, Haizea. I really appreciate it a lot. Do you think...” her mind went blank, the words just slipping away for the moment as she forgot what she was going to ask. She was so tired. She was so numb. She gave up and started over, “Is there anything you need from me?”

“No, my lady. We have it all covered. You just rest now, okay? We’re all very worried about you.”

“Of course.” She managed a thin smile for the young woman. “I will do that, thank you.”

Haizea moved towards the foyer and out. The door shut loudly behind her, echoing in the empty house. The Summer girls had taken all the pets to their place for the time being. Sapphire was away in her time.

And Ishmerai was gone.

She curled forward even further. She was supposed to keep focused. She was supposed to get moving. Instead, she sat there listening to the grandfather clock ticking away in the other room as she crushed the piece of paper Haizea had handed her earlier inside her fist.

An update from Faerie.

She didn’t have the heart to read it. What if he was dead? What if Ishmerai had died and she was not there with him? Who had held his hand? Who had said the parting words to him? Who had promised to avenge him? What was the last thing she had said to him? Had she told him she loved him? Did he know that before he died?

When the clock struck the second hour after noon, she uncurled. Her hands shook uncontrollably as she forced herself to unfold the crumpled paper and smooth it out over her thigh.

Jewell began to cry before she even read the words.

knight stabilized for now
should live
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:18 pm

On Monday.

After Kal promised to kill her; after they showered, washing away the blood and stress and anguish from the day; after they applied salve to her wounds and ordered in take out; after she matched him glass for glass with scotch and then lost herself in his kisses and touch; after she forgot everything that had happened that day just for a little while, Jewell lay with her head pillowed on his chest, sleep ever so near, and asked him if she could stay until it was over.

She only had a few more days left to live, and she wanted to spend a part of each of them with him.

On Tuesday.

There was a necessary trip home to collect her things, but then she returned to the relative safety of Kal’s loft, his wards, and his company.

He didn’t say anything about her red eyes, the tear marks on her face, or the way she stared at the portal all day long, lost.

On Wednesday.

She finally ventured back downstairs.

She joined in the chatter at the bar. Encouraged regular patrons to increase their bets in her usual, winning way. Insisted on watching the championship match for turtle racing and placed a ridiculous amount of money on the losing one.

She let Jerry dote on her, let Rath crush her with a hug, flirted with Kal, and drank herself into a reasonably good mood. But there was something a little less spectacular about her smile. A little less magic in the animation of her eyes.

On Thursday.

She asked him to take her out dancing.

She did up her hair. She glamoured her lingering cuts and burns into flawless skin. She put on stockings, sky high heels, and a slinky black dress that left her back exposed. She wore a spritz of perfume that made his pulse race and the sapphire heart earrings he had bought her.

She laughed through dinner and drinks as if nothing was wrong, and for the moment, there wasn’t.

And when they danced, she pretended that this could last forever, even though it wouldn’t.

On Friday.

She made him a Valentine.

Eden brought the supplies into the Annex and the faerie took the opportunity to produce her very first homemade card. On the front was a picture from the Mad Fairy Ale campaign clipped from a magazine. In it, Jewell was sending a sultry look at the camera. Over where it had originally said “Mad Fairy Ale” was bold glitter paint: “The Empress Wants You!”

On the back, she struggled to write him something. Something that meant something. Something that would last when she was gone. A million ideas flitted through her head, but in the end she settled simply for:
  • Kal,

    You have always swept me off my feet. Literally.

    Thank you for everything.

    Yours,

    Jewell
She hid it so he wouldn’t find it until after.

On Saturday.

As smooth as he was, it took him a while to extract himself from the clingy faerie. She stole his pillow when he finally escaped, burying her face against the unequal replacement. He tried to lure her out of bed sometime later with mimosas and an omelette. She lured him back in with a smile.

The eggs were cold by the time they ate them.

And on Sunday.

She was the one to get him out of bed. She made him breakfast early, complete with burnt, smiley face pancakes that required a lot of syrup. Considering the circumstances, she figured she could break the “Jewell cannot cook in the loft” rule this one time.

When they were done, she cleaned the dishes. She put them away. She took her time getting dressed. Then she kissed him goodbye like she was going to see him later. Like this really was any other Sunday. Like she would be back. Like nothing was wrong. Like everything was going to be okay.

For his sake, she hoped it would be.
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Post by Mallory » Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:10 pm

As exhausted as Mallory felt right now, it could not compare to what she had seen in the eyes of the woman on the other side of the door. Since Ishmerai -- since the bombing -- there was a different energy to Little Elfhame and its hapless godmother. Pixies still flitted by in bursts of bright light, but without any tricks or laughter; Jewell was as beautiful and graceful as ever, but there seemed to be less of her now.

The witchling was tired, struggling with an uneasy dread, and a little heartbroken over Ishmerai, but she was still present. Jewell had let her finish the final inscriptions for the Ward of Solitude, separating her penthouse from any sense of the outside: the degree to which that protected against the call of a true name remained to be seen. She had even let her take a lock of her hair for a Curse of Binding -- with a warning not to abuse it, a now-rare impassioned moment from the faerie -- and now Mallory stood ready to complete the ritual.

From the inside, with the Ward, Jewell was protected from the outside. From the outside, with the Curse, Mallory hoped to seal her within.

“Not a step beyond, thou of blue hair,” she said, and allowed herself a smirk as she poured a line of salt across the hallway. “Not a step beyond, Jewell the fair. Within wilt thou dwell, in thy prison cell; but not a step beyond, have a care.”

The rhyme was not a necessary component, but it helped to focus her power, and as she used the lock of blue hair (tied with a hair band) to brush the salt into a broader, more even line, red sparks leapt into the air. With the last stroke, she felt a thread snap into place, sharp like an electrical bolt and pulling somewhere behind her eyes. She stifled a sharp cry into her arm, clenching her eyes shut until the count of five, and took a deep breath.

It was set. It ached still, but it would not hurt like that again, not unless Jewell tried to break it.

There was a moment of regret and true pity for the woman within, despite the wealth of her home, and all of the other advantages life had given her; she shook off the momentary feeling of Montresor dooming Fortunato, and quickly packed her things to return home. The Ward needed monitoring from afar, because once it broke, the Curse would soon follow, and she had a mind to fight it.

She wasn’t a fighter, but there’s no one left standing, so it’ll have to be me. She hurried down the stairs and out into the street, to the sound of bells tolling the call to Sunday worship across town.
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:41 pm

The summoning started as the sun went down on Sunday evening and the Namekeeper whispered her name.

Again and again and again.

Eilya Fitae Amaavian

She could hear it through Mallory’s Ward of Solitude. It made the hair at the back of her neck stand up. It wrapped a vice around her heart. It sent a shiver down her spine.

But the ward was working.

She could hear the call, but she could resist the summoning. It had no power over her. It could not break through the wards.

Yet.

Trembling, Jewell sat on the edge of her bed, a silver letter opener resting on her knee. It was only a matter of time before the Namekeeper broke through the wards. It was only a matter of time before the summoning worked. From there, she’d likely tear apart the Curse of Binding the young witch had set up like it was tissue paper. Then she would belong to the Temple of the Divine Mother.

Unless she killed herself.

She should do it. Her greatest nightmare had come true. There was no denying it now. There was no hoping that she could get away from this. They had her name. They were using it.

They were going to use her True Name to control her.

She could save lives if she killed herself right now. They wouldn’t be able to use her to hurt anyone. Kal wouldn’t have to put himself in danger to stop her. This entire nightmare would be over. Her hand shook as she wrapped her fingers around the letter opener. One prick. That’s all it would take. The prick of a silver blade would be lethal in seconds. That’s what he promised. A few seconds and it would all be over.

Jewell didn’t move. She couldn’t. Even faced with the enslavement of her soul, the faerie did not want to die. But she also didn’t want to be subject to the Temple’s manipulation even for a little while. She fully trusted in the half-elf to fulfill his end of their deal, but until then, she would be theirs: body, mind, and soul.

She would belong to them. Again.

It made her sick.

She knew what she had to do.

The edge of the letter opener tickled the skin at her wrist.

Her hesitation cost her the chance at freedom.

Eilya Fitae Amaavian

Through one repetition and the next, the summoning took hold. It slipped in as a wave of null magic washed over the area.

Jewell ceased to exist.

Eilya Fitae Amaavian, come to me.

She stood, her eyes dilated until there was no more grey. The blade fell from her hand. She padded out of her room barefoot and marched down the stairs. She met the resistance of Mallory’s curse at the front door. Consternation flickered over her face. She raised her hand, setting her palm against the door. Then the faerie moved adjacent to the wall, her fingers brushing against it as she traced the pattern of energy that made up the curse. Back and forth she moved against it, calmly. Unhurried.

Then she blew the door apart with a burst of energy as effortlessly as one would tear through a spiderweb, shredding the curse with it.

She was free.
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Post by Mallory » Sun Feb 12, 2017 8:19 pm

It was sunset when Mallory felt the flux.

She had been in the middle of a divination ritual, her third attempt at one more complex than she had managed before: a pile of letters clipped from magazines and newspapers floated on the surface of a basin of quicksilver. A pocket watch -- taken from a dead man’s waist coat before his funeral -- hung over the surface, swung in slow, even circles by her practiced fingers. The letters had stirred dozens of times so far, but she had only made out three words: mask; murder; well.

There was a momentary thrill, her heart beating faster as she thought, at ****ing last I have it… But the surge of energy had nothing to do with her. Or did it? She had a nagging feeling, like a stranger had pried open a window and crept into the hall, waiting to bring harm to her housemates.

She dropped the watch on a silk handkerchief (likewise pilfered from the same dead man) and crossed her room to the gaudy dollhouse that served as a model for their home, marked in red wherever she had placed one of her wards. Only a moment of stretching her fingers like a spider spinning her web, and she could feel the threads as Mist had taught her -- active, and uncut.

The house was safe.

“Jewell,” she hissed, and a white light flashed before her eyes as something tugged inside her head. She cried out and bit her lip, clenched her eyes shut and held out her hands. As soon as she felt the thread, she grasped it, pulling herself along, winding across her room as her mind’s eyes saw what her own eyes were too pained to see.

A strange hallway, awash in gray and blue. No -- Jewell’s hallway, and her front door. The walls looked thin, strange and uneven, like an X-ray, and a brilliant shape stood behind it, dispassionate eyes studying the wall, tracing patterns, searching… finding.

The woman beyond the wall touched a ghostly cluster of Greek letters, and an invisible thread shimmered in the air; Mallory bit back another scream and plodded forward, her feet moving as if through wet sand. The walls were getting thinner, and as she pressed her hands to the door and held her weight against it, she could see the remaining threads of her Ward of Solitude, now cut and useless as they fluttered around Jewell’s apartment. What remained had an angrier energy, the Curse of Binding, and as each of its anchors was discovered, Mallory glimpsed red sparks before she was blinded for a moment with white hot pain.

Jewell pressed her hand flat to the wall. Every anchor glittered; every invisible thread, now visible. Their hands were so close… Mallory followed the line of her arm to her shoulder to her face, and found a pair of cold black eyes staring at her, disconnected from the faerie’s own soul. “Jewell,” she pleaded, desperate and afraid.

The door exploded, and Mallory screamed as her sight returned to her, a dizzying whirl of color as something hard impacted her side and arm, sending her sprawling onto the floor of her room. Her vision went black, returned as she pushed herself up on her sore and throbbing arms, and looked over her shoulder at her door:

Cloven cleanly in half and torn most of the way off its hinges, dangling precariously from them. She groaned as she pulled herself up to the edge of her bed, and she heard panicked footsteps racing up the stairs towards her room. She didn’t want to see them. Nothing was broken. She needed a moment alone, to deal with what was broken:

Jewell was out. And the Temple had her.
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:37 pm

The Namekeeper’s presence was always there. It seeped inside every inch of her. It filled her up. It would not go away. It would not budge. She couldn’t even want it to go away. She was an extension of him and nothing more. He had consumed her. Everything she was. Everything she had been. Everything she could ever be. Gone.

Hours past. Days. An eternity. Suddenly, his presence receded. He moved away. He was distracted. Something was going on.

The strings holding her prisoner went slack.

She opened her eyes. She could see things more clearly. The pressure of the Namekeeper’s consciousness was still there, but it was distant. With greater effort than anything in her life had ever required, she pushed it aside and tried to seize control over herself once more.

She told her fingers to wiggle.

They moved.

Jewell grinned.

She looked around. She didn’t know where she was. The room was small. It had a dirt floor. There was a bed against the wall, but they didn’t care if she used it. She hadn’t. She was sitting on the floor in the dirt and filth. They had told her not to move. She hadn’t.

Until now.

There was a priest standing over her, touching her hair. “Pretty thing, aren’t you? Maybe they’ll let me keep you after they’re done with you.” Jewell’s hand shot up, wrapping around his wrist and twisting it as hard as she could. The sound of his bone snapping echoed off the cement walls. “Son of a bitch! Alec, get in here! I thought you said she couldn’t touch any of us. Bitch broke my ****ing wrist!”

Just as quickly as it had slackened, the summoning reasserted itself. The Namekeeper was back. He shoved her consciousness aside and regained full control. The strings pulled taut.

In the room, the priest hit her. A soldier join him. Together, they kicked her. Her head hit the ground. She did not move. She couldn’t fight back. They wouldn’t let her fight back. They beat her until she bled. She never once cried out. They wrapped her body in iron, burning her skin. They shackled her to the floor.

It hurt so bad.

There was nothing she could do about it.
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:37 pm

The faerie stood in the basement of Sanctuary, a puppet whose strings were not currently being pulled. She had been standing there for hours. Ever since she had killed Malcolm, entered the car, and was driven by a circuitous route to the nightclub where the Temple of the Divine Mother was planning its final spell to destroy the city she loved. Her arms, legs, and throat were marked by deep iron burns; the left side of her face was dark with bruises; and the cotton dress she had been wearing when summoned was soiled and torn. She did not care. She did not fix the mess that was her wild blue hair. She did not turn her head. She did not think. She only saw what was straight ahead of her, listened, and obeyed.

"Sir, trouble." One of the soldiers said. There was a pause then, "You all know the drill. Mother Bless us."

The other soldiers echoed him, "Mother Bless us."

The blue haired woman standing in front of the stone slabs didn't say anything.

She heard the commotion outside and the beat of the music from upstairs. She saw but did not see her friends come in the side entrance, concealed by brick pillars: Issy, Lirssa, Rand, the Knights of Drasill. She did not move to greet them. She did not attack. She did absolutely nothing.

Until the Namekeeper told her to do something.

The man known as the Namekeeper looked to the faerie as her friends started to engage the soldiers. "Protect the priests. Kill the intruders."

Only then did the faerie lift her head, her grey eyes dilated almost completely. One of the soldiers was in her line of sight as Issy and the knights lead the charge inside. The faerie seized all the water in his body and spread her hands apart, turning the man into a fine mist of blood that filled the air while what was left of his body hit the floor. Then she started forward to meet the intruders.

Protect the priests. Kill the intruders.

She didn’t pay any mind to the startled expressions of friends and enemies alike as she turned a soldier into a mist of blood. She didn’t care when the soldiers’ weapons turned against them and failed to work. She didn’t even notice that the soldiers had surged forward with her and wasn’t phased when she came face-to-face with her friends and the knights she had met over the last few months.

Protect the priests. Kill the intruders.

She reached out, taking hold of the water running through the pipes hidden behind the brick walls. She gave a tug, and the pipes burst through the bricks, sending streams of water into the air and across the floor for her use.

Arish, one of the Knights of Drasill, charged ahead, swinging his axe at the faerie. She lifted her left arm, catching the glancing blow of the blade with her forearm as if it was a shield. She didn’t react with more than a blink as it cut so deep it hit bone. While his blade was thus engaged in her arm, she kicked the knight away from her with strength far beyond her petite frame. Then she raised her hands, blood pouring down to her elbow, and a pillar of water rose up around Arish. The knight writhed, swimming in his watery prison for a few terrifying moments as it twisted around him before surrounding him completely. The faerie lowered her arms and brought her hands together, creating enough pressure for the water to crush the knight caught within it. There was a crack, and he hung limp in the trap, his axe slipping loose and clattering to the floor.

Protect the priests. Kill the intruders.

The faerie looked around for her next victim, choosing another knight. There was action behind her, but she paid it no mind until the Namekeeper called to her again: "Summon some elementals and then take out the witch!"

She had to obey.

Summon some elementals

Her body trembled, sweat forming on her brow as she accomplished a task that she was normally in no way capable of doing: summoning elementals. The faerie tore a portal through her world and theirs, calling them forth. They emerged from the water that now coated the floor. With a flick of her wrist, she sent them to join the fray with the soldiers. Then she swayed, a little unsteady on her feet as she turned to find Mallory.

Take out the witch!

The witch in question was on her knees in between two slabs, keeping a low profile, eyes shut as the water soaked through her hair and clothes. She lifted her head to see Jewell staring at her. "The Devil ****ing take you, you were supposed to be stronger than this!" Then she crushed something: a clay tablet, inscribed in Hebrew. Three lines of golden fire swirled out from her along the floor, and the water around her started to turn red.

The blue haired faerie stalked--slow and confident--towards Mallory as if she were prey. She didn’t break her stride when Rand blocked the pipes, preventing more water from entering the room for the time being. As the water already on the floor roiled and thickened into blood, she lifted some up off the ground, combining it with the blood pouring down her left arm, and formed it into razor sharp nails along each of her fingers.

Then she really started to move.

The faerie vaulted easily over one of the stone slabs to come face-to-face with the young witch, swiping at her chest. Mallory broke first: she did her best to whirl around, to protect her face, to get away from the faerie, and she screamed as two of the nails landed in her back -- one sticking out of her right shoulder blade, the other passing in and out of her side. She swiped one bloody hand, clutching one of her wounds, across her mouth, licking it. "Take my bitterness -- make this ash in my mouth," she whispered, and spat at Jewell. Steaming black liquid, a type of blinding venom, aimed at the faerie's eyes.

It hit her in the face, blinding her momentarily. The faerie hissed. Just as she had done to the priest at the start of the fight, she seized control of all the water in Mallory's body blindly. But she was weaker now. Slower. Lirssa, hidden amongst the stone slabs, had been siphoning off some of her energy. Still, she was under command. She couldn't stop. She couldn’t stop even if she was bleeding profusely, her energy was depleted, and her body was failing under the stress of the battle. Instead of pulling the teen's blood from her, she tossed her across the room. Mallory cried out again as she thudded against the floor, then the wall opposite the stairs. She curled into herself in pain; both of her bags were scattered beside her, several vials of powders and liquids rolling free.

Take out the witch!

The faerie paused, drawing a hand across her eyes to pull away the liquid venom and restore her sight. Then she looked around, found where Mallory had landed against the wall, and made as if to throw something overhand at the girl. The remaining icicle nails made of blood went flying at her.

Mallory was crawling away into an archway, clutching her bloody and aching ribs with one hand and her satchel with the other. She didn't get to cover fast enough, groaning and letting out a whimper as two more of the nails thudded into her -- one in her thigh, the other tearing two of her fingers as it embedded in her side. Blood was welling out now... blood, and power in it. She withdrew the hilt of a broken sword from her bag and began to whisper: "Let me not die of misfortune; merciful Luck, lend me a blade... lend me a blade..." The blood welling out of her side and suddenly melting out of Jewell's crimson ice-spikes began to bubble and coalesce under her hand. She lifted her head to stare at Jewell.

The soldiers were being slaughtered. The Namekeeper was also staring at Jewell, his sharp eyes narrowed. "Summon more elementals!"

The faerie took two steps towards Mallory, intent on finishing her off as commanded, but at this new order from her master, she paused, chest heaving as she tried to obey. Sweat poured down her face as several more elementals spawned from the tide of blood covering the floor.

Command obeyed, she started for Mallory again.

The Namekeeper was not impressed. Chanting under his breath, he called the name of a handful of minor demons. Circles formed on each of the stone slabs, drawn before the fighting had ever begun, and the demons rose forth from within to attack the remaining knights and defenders.

When they appeared, the strings controlling the faerie slackened.

Somewhere deep inside, Jewell stirred.

Unfortunately, the charge was still there, driving her body forward. Take out the witch! She stalked after Mallory, moving on automatic. "Look at you," Mallory spat, though her breaths were shuddering and weak. "Not so strong... too weak to stop this...!" The witch tore her hand away from her side, drawing a long iron spike, almost a short javelin, out of it and hurling it through the air at Jewell... though her eyes were focused somewhere over the faerie's shoulders.

Jewell moved easily on reflex, dropping down and rolling to the side to avoid the large bit of iron that would most certainly have killed her. She popped back up, pulled by those invisible strings that demanded she kill and not hesitate in doing so. She paid no mind to the priest that had accepted the iron javelin in her place. She had to take out the witch!


Things were a bit more chaotic than Kalamere liked, knowing he was going to leave himself exposed. If Jewell kept on and killed Mallory though, he'd have failed in his task. This all sounded much more straight forward back when he'd agreed to it. He slid from the shadow he'd found cover in, pushing away from the wall to move forward, not quite putting himself between Jewell and Mallory, but close enough to be in her line of sight. "Jewell," he called to her, hoping for a bit of recognition in her eyes. "Darlin', fight this." His voice low and soft, thick with affection. If he could get her to hear him, remember who she was, who they were, for just a moment.

Jewell had her eyes on Mallory, but the Namekeeper had relinquished some of his precious control and now there was a greater call. When Kal said her name, she paused and turned, shifting her focus to him. She lifted her left arm, slick with blood and trembling; a bit of silver energy flickered to life in her palm as if she was going to blast him to pieces.

But she didn't.

She just stood there like that. "Kill him!" The Namekeeper screeched, but his rule over the faerie was not as firm as it had been earlier in the night. His commands meant less. He had made a mistake in splitting his attention between the blue haired woman and the demons scattered across the basement.

Kill him! Kill him! Kill Kalamere!

Jewell took a deep, shuddering breath at the Namekeeper’s command and then lowered her arm. "Tha's right, lass. Ye' can fight this," Kal stepped towards her, searching for her eyes with his. His silver blades clattered to the ground at her feet as he tossed them, surrendering himself. "Listen ta yer heart, darlin', fight 'em off an come 'ome." He held out an arm for her and took another step.

The fingers of her right hand twitched, as if she were about to cast something, and then stilled once more. Jewell took a hesitant step forward and then another, moving slowly as if each one required a Herculean effort. Her grey eyes were still dilated, glazed over, distant but there were tears there now too, cutting through the blood on her face as she got closer to Kal.

His daggers already on the ground, he moved to meet her, his right arm reaching to pull her near. He brushed back a bit of that blue hair and kissed her forehead. The iron blade, more needle than knife, that appeared in his left hand might well have been summoned for the speed with which he drew it and, as he stepped into the embrace, plunged upwards beneath her ribs to prick her heart.

He could say the words and she might have looked for a moment to have had the tenacity to break the Namekeeper's hold, but Kal knew better and so had Jewell.

A name given and used... there was only one way to truly break that hold.

She gasped as the iron blade slid home, unexpected yet effective. Her exhale was a sigh of relief. Right before her eyes closed, they returned to their normal, warm grey. Then her legs gave out beneath her.

“No!” The Namekeeper roared. "Kill them! Kill them all!"

Jewell didn’t move. Her name no longer held any power over her. The Namekeeper no longer held any power over her.

She was free.
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Post by Kalamere » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:01 pm

I heard a creak as a door began to move and opened one bleary eye in time to see the doctor stepping through the waiting room door. I tapped a throwing knife back into its wrist sheath, undrawn, and tried to sit up straighter in what I'd decided was likely the world’s most uncomfortable chair.

"Mr. Ar'Din?" he asked. He wore the typical long white coat with a stethoscope hung around his neck, an item I generally figured was just a prop to prove doctorly credentials, but which was probably good to have tonight given the unbeating state of Jewell's heart when I'd arrived.

"Aye," I acknowledged, though it came out more a nonsensical string of sound. I was tired. I don't know how long I'd been there since scooping up Jewell and abandoning the fight at Sanctuary. The clock seemed to be stuck at 2:35 and the second hand was bouncing back and forth between 20 and 25 seconds.

"I don't know how you knew to expect a fae woman to be stabbed in the heart tonight..."

"Valentine's day," I offered. "Probably happens all the time. That lad Cupid ought to be dealt with."

"Yes" he frowned at me, "well, be that as it may, we had all the proper non ferrous equipment on hand to deal with her particular allergies. That saved a lot of time and effort, but you should understand that she was clinically dead for more than five minutes."

"Was." I repeated the word back to him. "This your way of letting me know she pulled through, Doc?"

"It is, sorry I should have led with that. It was a complicated procedure given the stab wound and needing to bypass and patch that, but luckily it was a very precise incision that had stopped her heart. If you happen across this Cupid, let him know I may have a place on my staff for that type of skill if he were to use his powers for good."

Doc giving me attitude didn't completely set aside the bit of professional pride I felt at the compliment. It’s the little things.

"We are keeping her sedated for now. There were several other, less lethal, bodily traumas to deal with and we are going to want to keep her for some time, for observation and recovery."

He droned on for a while after that. Touch and go this, medication for that, some kind of at home care and therapy. I tuned most of it out. Her staff would be along before too much longer to look in on her and keep watch. One of the bossier ones was sure to badger the doctor and nurses into repeating all this stuff anyway and they weren't a group I presently had any intention of hanging around to see. I figured it was probably in everyone's interest that I made an exit before they arrived. I also wanted to be well gone before other friends, like Issy, showed up. I'd caught a look from her, just before the portal out had closed down, that suggested a week or two vacation out of RhyDin might be a good idea.
Last edited by Kalamere on Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Kalamere » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:02 pm

"I'm sorry?" I began, speaking to an unconscious Jewell. I'd threatened my way into her room, past glowering nurses and a pair of security guys who took a look and thought better of stopping me. Sleeping in the small hospital bed, leads and IV tubes attached and machines beeping rhythmically, she looked almost at peace for the first time in a long while. Without her glamour she was bruised and beaten, though still beautiful as she lie there, her blue hair haphazardly framing her face.

"It was your idea. Mostly." This was only true to a point. Stopping her heart, sparing her friends and others a fight against her as the Temple pulled her strings, sparing her the anguish of knowing she'd been responsible for some of their deaths when it was all said and done. Yeah, that part was her idea. The how of it, not so much.

"The thing is, I couldn't know how much of you would still be there. On the surface. Possibly remembering the plan and taking measures against it. It had to be a feint." Which was also true. True name callings don't always work the same way. Sometimes you're nothing but a puppet, just a hint of consciousness lingering at the edges. Others allow for almost complete self control, the spell more a warping of a mind set - pulling a different set of strings, turning you into a believer. I had no way of knowing which it would be. I also didn't actually have any of the herb that reacts with silver. That stuff is insanely hard to find. What I did have? Knowledge of a different weakness, confidence it could be exploited, and a cruel streak wide enough to do so.

It had been cruel. I wasn't going to kid myself over that. I mean, sure, dead is dead, so maybe the means didn't really matter and I'm pretty sure I get *some* credit for arranging the hospital part. But still.

"I love you. - Jewell" Pencilled on a takeout receipt and affixed to the tree with a hundred other lover's wishes. Another lad might have seen that and rethought things. Hesitated or even outright broken his oath. To me it spoke that I was on the right path; the best means of fulfilling a promise and escaping unscathed.

"Hearts can't be trusted, darlin'," I admonished.

The side table of her room would soon be full to bursting with floral arrangements, cards of love and best wishes, balloons telling her to get well soon. For now it sat barren though, so I'd make the first deposit. A slender branch of magnolia, a trio of snow white blossoms budding but not yet blooming. I wondered if she'd remember as I finished tying off the silk wrapping, a blue so dark it might well have been black. I used the pin she'd given me for Christmas to fix it to the branch, the blue threads running through the silver a lighter color, contrasting against the silk. I used it so there'd be no doubt where this came from. I used it because, right now, it was too personal to keep on me.

I turned back to the bed to look at her, sedated and silently recovering from a hole in her heart I was responsible for. I brushed back a long lock from her forehead and kissed her there. "You're going to be fine, darlin. Just a bit of time."

And then I left. Others would be here soon and I still needed to stop by The Line and chat with Jerry before getting out of town.
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:56 pm

The doctors patched the hole in her heart. They stopped the bleeding around it and begged it to work again. They shocked it. It still faltered. They shocked it again. It skipped a beat before stopping. They shocked it one more time. It struggled. They fought.

They won.

Then they sutured her wounds and treated her for energy depletion. They applied salve to the iron burns and fractured bones, but they could not touch the wounds deep inside. They could not heal the battered spirit. They could not fix what the Temple had done to her soul. They could not fix the way they had pushed her body beyond its limits so far that even if iron had not pierced her heart, she would have likely died anyway.

The only thing that could fix any of those wounds was time. So Jewell slept. She slept to heal. And in her sleep, she dreamed. Not of true names called and a tortured body in pain. Not of knights crushed in a pillar of water or soldiers turned into a rain of blood. Not of friends fighting and dying or of a city in flames. She did not dream of the horrors she inflicted or those inflicted upon her.

Jewell dreamed of magnolias.

There was cool grass beneath her bare feet as she walked through a forest glade, two moons and countless stars shining above. She wore a dress of pure sunshine and yellow flowers in her dark hair. Faerie lights swayed in the newly budding branches above and a fire chased the cool night air away from the center of the clearing. Music and laughter filtered through the woods from different revels.

But Jewell was alone. And alone, she danced in the moonlight.

She danced alone until a knight in a dark cloak entered the clearing, tall and blonde with curving ears and the bluest of blue eyes. Her heart knew him. It fluttered at the sight of hm. She stopped her dance when he approached and dropped into a curtsy. “All hail the Green Man.”

He chuckled lightly, returning a bow to the curtsy. “M'lady, ye' look lovely t'night.”

“Thank you. I must say you make a fine Green Man. Our Queen of May has a very good eye.”

“Ye flatter me. A verra unexpected honor, ta be sure.”

“But not undeserved.” She offered him one of the primroses she was carrying, sisters to the flowers in her black hair this evening.

He took the gift, gazing upon it and then upon her. He reached out to brush a bit of her hair back. “Don' thin' I've seen this shade on ye' b'fer.”

Her cheeks turned a bit pink at the gesture. “It has been a long time since I wore it. Perhaps not as nice as blonde,” she teased the knight familiarly with a grin, “but it matches my dress so well.”

“I struggle ta think of a color ye'd nah be able ta make work.” He tucked the primrose through a buttonhole in his cloak before remembering he had something similar for her. He produced a small branch of magnolia, blossomed with several white flowers, and held it out to her. “Seemed appropriate fer an Empress.”

“You remembered,” she murmured as she took the offered flowers, bringing them to her nose and breathing in their scent deeply. They smelled like lemons and sunshine and warm summer days and fresh starts.

They smelled like home.

((The dream was adapted from live play at the May 2014 Beltane celebration.))
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Wed Feb 22, 2017 3:19 pm

“Do you want to hear what the doctor had to say earlier?”

“No.”

“Do you want to know his recommendations for therapy?”

“No.”

“How about a walk around the floor?”

“No.”

“Do you want to go over Haizea’s latest report? They found the body of the alpha pack member that the normies killed with silver.”

“Don’t say normies,” she responded absently while her brain fixated on something else entirely: Killed by silver. Jewell rolled the silver dagger pin between her thumb and forefinger. It was never far from reach. Neither was the dark blue silk he had left her. It was tied around her left wrist. The branch of magnolia was in a vase on the table nearest her head. She slept better with them there. The three white flowers were blooming.

But it was the pin that she was obsessed with.

The pin that was her Christmas gift to him. “With the hair... it can kind of act like a ward. To keep you safer,” she had told him. As small as it was, it was an actual blade too. It was sharp. It could be used as a weapon. The prick of a silver blade would be lethal in seconds. She pressed the tip of it into the pad of her thumb. Even with the narcotics flooding her body, she could still feel pain. She pushed it down harder and harder until it broke the skin and drew a bead of blood. Then she waited. One, two, three, four, five…

Nothing. She wasn’t any more dead than she had been Wednesday afternoon when she first woke up: disoriented, in a world of pain, and incredibly confused about being alive.

Unbelievable.

“Mama?”

“What?” She looked over at Sapphire. She had arrived early Friday, throwing her backpack on the floor and insisting that she was staying for as long as she was needed regardless of any objections that the city wasn’t safe and that she wasn’t needed at all. Jewell didn’t have the energy to argue with her. If she thought about it, she would realize it was a relief to have her there.

She didn’t think about it.

Sapphire handed her a tissue to press to her thumb. “You’re bleeding.”

“Oh.” Jewell just stared at the tissue.

“For your thumb… because it’s bleeding.”

“Right.” She took it and tucked her thumb inside the fold.

Sapphire shook her head. “So, did you want to hear Haizea’s latest report?”

“No.”

“Lamont’s?”

“No.”

Jewell had been ignoring everything. She ignored the regular reports Haizea and Lamont brought her about the status of things in Little Elfhame. Four buildings damaged beyond repair. Five pixies dead. Extensive carnage caused by the redcaps supposedly in the defense of the neighborhood. Reports of remnants of old gangs--like Fae Dynasty--rising in the aftermath of the fighting. Of new people rushing to fill the power vacuum in Little Elfhame and in neighboring areas. Of the alpha male in one of the werewolf packs run down and skewered with silver daggers by a handful of humans.

She tuned out the doctor when he came in with the long list of things wrong with her--a hole in the heart, deep laceration to her left arm, iron burns, mana burns, fractured cheekbone, magical burnout, stress on all her organs, muscle damage, nerve damage--and what it all meant: fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, weakness in the limbs, dizziness, loss of appetite, loss of physical strength, nausea, headaches.

And she didn’t respond when Sapphire pressed her for details on what had happened with the Temple. She didn’t talk about the icicle of blood that had killed Malcolm. The things the cult had done to her while she was with them. The way the nameless soldier had burst into a fine mist of blood. How Arish had died, crushed in a pillar of water. She didn’t talk about chasing Mallory across the basement of Sanctuary or how she could still hear the Namekeeper’s voice inside her head.

She didn’t want to think about any of it. Couldn’t focus on any of it. It was too much. Everything was too much. She could only focus on the pin. The blood stained tissue had already been abandoned on her lap, forgotten. She rolled the tiny dagger between her fingers, watching the way the light made the strands of blue in the metal sparkle.

Sapphire sighed, flopping the stack of papers back on the bedside table. “Do you want me to strip down and do a little dance in front of the hospital staff?”

Jewell stared owlishly at the girl. “What?”

“Wasn’t sure if you were listening,” the young woman huffed.

“I’m listening,” she insisted, even as she looked back at the pin.

“Mama,” Sapphire leaned forward, reaching for her hand. She frowned when Jewell initially shied away. “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m fine,” she promised, trying to give the girl’s hand a reassuring squeeze, but all it did was emphasize how weak she was. How thin she was. How her hand trembled. How there were iron burns on her wrist still and IV tubes sticking out of her arm. “I’m just tired and these painkillers they have me on… they make it impossible to think straight.”

To be fair, she was tired. It was only four days ago that she had died. The painkillers did make it difficult to think.

But there was more to it than that and they both knew it. There was an elephant in the tiny hospital room with the two, blue-haired women: Jewell Ravenlock had lived on Tuesday night and she wasn’t sure why.

“Yeah.” Sapphire sat back, frowning. “Okay.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:35 pm

“Kitten.”

Jewell cracked an eye open and smiled faintly. She thought she’d have a few more days of rest before they showed up. Agents from the Council of Preternatural Activities visiting her hospital room was an inevitable unpleasantness, but she was genuinely happy to see her friends anyway. She was happy to be able to see them, especially after their grim warnings and goodbyes back in December. “Hey Ruka. What, no flowers?” Haruka grinned at that, stepping aside to reveal Michiru and the vase she was holding. “Ah, much better.”

The dark haired agent stepped into the room, making space on the crowded table to set the vase. “These magnolias are lovely, Jewell.”

Three white blossoms of magnolia still blooming without any sign of wilting. Her heart skipped a beat or two, causing the machine at her side to utter a warning beep. She ignored it. “Thank you.”

“This one yours?” Haruka thumbed at the blue haired teen who was sitting in the corner, staring at them over the top of her book.

Jewell looked over at Sapphire. “Yeah. She’s mine.” There was a pause as her grey eyes locked with Sapphire’s blue ones before she felt the need to add, “Kind of.”

The teen set her book aside and stood, offering Haruka her hand, “Sapphire Ravenlock D'Artainian. A pleasure to have you meet me, I’m sure.”

The blonde took the offered hand, turning it over to kiss Sapphire’s wrist all while staring at her with the most rakish grin. “It is a pleasure.”

Sapphire turned absolutely scarlet and was only saved from stammering out something incomprehensible by the lovely Michiru clearing her throat. “Come on, Ruka. Enough games.”

“Yeah, Ruka,” Jewell chimed in, unamused. “No toying with this one.” The blonde relented, releasing Sapphire’s hand and crossing over to the other side of the room where she pretended to stare at the collection of get well cards. “Saph, step outside for a bit and make sure no one bothers us. I have to talk to these two.”

Her blush faded quickly and she narrowed her eyes, casting a distrustful look at the couple before staring at Jewell. “But the doctor said you have to avoid all stressors. Your heart can’t handle--”

“Sapphire, now.” She was tiny, stuck in a hospital bed, hooked up to half a dozen machines, and consistently having trouble catching her breath.

She was still intimidating as hell.

The teen scowled at her before shuffling out. Michiru watched her go before taking her seat, dragging the chair closer to Jewell’s bedside. She waited until the door was closed before praising the teen, “She’s lovely.”

“Thanks.”

Haruka turned to face the other two women but remained standing. “Glad to see you made it out alive.”

“Told you I’d be fine.”

“Getting stabbed in the heart with cold iron is not fine, Jewell.” Michiru admonished, taking her friend’s hand briefly and giving it a squeeze.

The comment killed all her joy. She brushed her right hand against the spot along her ribs that was still padded with bandages. “Why are you both here?”

Michi looked to Haruka. The blonde crossed her arms over her chest. “We need to talk about what happened with the Temple.”

“Officially?”

“Yeah.”

Jewell took a deep breath, settling back against her pillows and closing her eyes. She hadn’t talked to anyone about what had happened. Not fully. She had told Eva the specifics of her physical injuries. Swore to Issy a dozen times that Kal had saved her. Answered Sapphire’s questions with as little detail as possible. Refused to speak to the psychologist that had paid her a visit. Made light conversation with Jules and suggested that Eless not spend much time around her right now.

Obfuscate. Mislead. Deceive. Anything she had to do to avoid talking about it. She didn’t want to talk about it. She wanted to forget it. All of it.

But she couldn’t ignore the CPA. That would only lead to bigger trouble for herself and everyone involved.

She opened her eyes and looked between them. “All right. What do you need to know?”

“All of it, kitten.”

Michiru pulled a recording device out of her bag and set it on the table, “Start from the beginning, Jewell. How did you originally encounter the Temple of the Divine Mother?”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:40 pm

“So what did they want?”

“It’s none of your business.”

“It is my business!”

“It’s not.”

“It is because this afternoon you were feeling pretty good and then they come in here and now you look like death again.”

“I’m fine.” She didn’t really feel fine though. She felt empty. Undone. Michiru and Haruka had wanted to know everything. The Council for Preternatural Activities wanted to know everything. They needed to know it, and Jewell had told them because there was a chance that they could finally go after the Temple of the Divine Mother.

There was a chance they could end them.

“Stop lying to me!”

“I’m not lying to you, Sapphire!”

“But you’re not telling me the truth either, are you?”

Her fingers curled into the blankets covering her legs. “What do you want me to tell you, Sapphire? Do you want to know what it felt like to watch these people hurt you and then Lirssa? Do you want to know what it was like to cradle Ishmerai’s body as he bled to death in my arms? Do you want to know how I had to go the man I love and ask him to kill me? Do you want to know what that was like? Do you want to know how it felt when he agreed without a moment of hesitation? How we had to sit around together and plan it out? Do you want to know what it was like when they called my name? Or how Kal kissed my forehead as he--”

The machines all around started wailing. The hysteria rising up her throat was choking her. She wasn’t getting enough oxygen in her blood. Her heart was beating too fast. It was palpitating. Jewell doubled over in pain, trying to remember how to breathe as all her limbs turned to lead.

“Stop stop!” Sapphire sat on the bed, wrapping her arms around the faerie. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, okay? Just stop. We don’t have to talk about it. We don’t have to talk about any of it. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to know. I’m sorry. Just stop and breathe, okay?” She stroked her hair. “Just breathe. It’ll be fine. We’ll make it fine. Just breathe.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:13 pm

Sapphire jiggled they key in the door lock when it didn’t open right away. It was new. The doors were new. Jewell had blown the last set to pieces under the influence of her True Name. “Okay, just remember that you have to rest for a few days still. And the nurse is going to come by mid-morning every day for the next week at least. And the apothecary is going to come to look at your iron burns since they’re still not looking great…”

Jewell tried to pay attention to what Sapphire was saying, even if it was just a repetition of her discharge orders and everything the doctor had said, but self-care had never been very high on her list. It wasn’t now. “--and we’ve got all the business stuff covered so you don’t have to worry about any of that for a while. You can just avoid all stress to your heart just like the doctor… Tahdah! Got it.” She swung the doors open and then gently took Jewell’s arm. “Come on, let’s go in and get you settled in bed. The girls are gonna bring Jax and Mr. Fitzy and Cupcake over for a visit later.”

“I’m not going to bed. Not yet.”

“You want to stay on the couch instead?” she asked as she guided her inside, reaching to pull the door shut behind them. One of the House of Summer girls had already brought all of Jewell’s effects home--the cards, the gifts, the vase with the branch of magnolia and its still-blooming white flowers--so all the teen had to worry about was The Empress herself.

“No. I want you to cut my hair first.”

“Mama,” she tsk’d. “You just got out of the hospital. We can have someone come over tomorrow or Wednesday to do that for you. How about a nice bath and then into bed, okay?”

Jewell shook her head, leaning more heavily against Sapphire. “No. I want to do my hair.”

“I just don’t think--”

“Just do my hair!”

“Fine fine. We’ll do your damn hair.”

“Language,” she chided with a smile.

Sapphire smirked at her in return, unrepentant. “I’m only doing your darn hair so you don’t give yourself a damn heart attack.”

Those jokes were getting old.

Ten minutes later, the faerie was sitting on the teak bench in her bathroom as Sapphire fluttered around her with a pair of scissors, snipping and clipping. Jewell could feel the weight of the hair falling off her head piece by piece.

It was like the weight of all her troubles falling away.

She was no longer in danger from her True Name. The Namekeeper was dead and her name had changed. There had been a fundamental shift in her very soul when she died. When Kal slid that dagger home between her ribs. Her soul had changed. Her name had changed. So Jewell would change too.

“Make sure it’s short. Really short.”

“If you say so.”

“I wanna change the color too.”

“Whatever you say boss.”

She nudged a bit of blue hair with her toe as it fell to the floor. A layer of her identity was being shed. She had completed a full circle in her life. The domino of events that had started the night Conventina Ta-Neer burned down her house and stole her children from their beds had ended when Jewell had died.

It was over. There was no going back.

Instead, she looked forward. Ishmerai would be home in a few days. There were things to do. There were people to see. She was still the Overlady in the Duel of Swords. She was still The Empress. She was battered and a little broken but still alive, and she planned to savor every moment of being alive.

There was just one loose end she needed to see to.
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Fri Mar 03, 2017 6:05 pm

She paused inside the entrance to The Line. The last time she had been there was a little over two weeks ago. It felt like forever. The place hadn’t changed. She had.

Jewell tugged a little on her short, dark hair as she looked around, moving for the bar as she undid her jacket. She hadn’t even walked all the way over here, but she still felt winded and her limbs felt heavy. The doctors told her to expect that, but it didn’t make it any less annoying. She hesitated a moment before tugging her jacket off and dropping it on one of the barstools. She rubbed at her damaged arms a bit self-consciously; her grey t-shirt was loose and did little to cover the lingering iron burns, the bandages on her left arm, or the bruises left behind from the IV and picc lines. “Hey Jerry,” she smiled at him when he was done serving a patron. “He in the back?”

Jerry heard Jewell’s voice and turned from the patron he’d been handing a beer to with a smile on his face. A smile that almost immediately vanished to be replaced by blinking confusion at the sight of the faerie with the short black hair. He stepped backwards, out from behind the bar and a few steps down the hall to knock twice on Kal’s office door before swinging it open. She frowned a little as Jerry turned away. That was not quite the reception she had expected, but she wasn’t here to see him anyway.

“Hey boss, I think that rift might have opened again. There’s a Jewell here to see you.” Without waiting for Kal to answer or even looking to see what he was doing, Jerry waved Jewell back and then moved into the storage room to find some supplies he needed for the bar. Or, at least, that’s what he would say if asked. Mostly he just figured this was Kal’s problem.

Normally, she wouldn’t wait for Jerry to knock. There had been any number of times when she had just breezed right past him and into Kal’s office, unannounced and uninvited. Today was not one of those days. She had to push away her hesitation as she moved down the hall, and she lingered in the doorway instead of going right in. This was the first time she had really seen him since the Sunday morning when she had kissed him goodbye. The first time she had seen him again with eyes unclouded by the summoning of her True Name, and although this was what she wanted, her heart was suddenly doing a funny little thing inside her chest that made the blood pound in her ears. Still, she couldn’t help but smile, “Hey.”

Kal's desk, usually neat and organized, was a disaster. Things had piled up while he was out of town and despite being back for a week, he'd barely made a dent. With Madness on the horizon, the paperwork and scouting reports were coming in faster than he could get through them. He dropped a spreadsheet to the side and looked up from the disarray to see Jewell walk through the door. The real Jewell, despite Jerry's assumptions about the new look. He could spot the remnants of the fight at Sanctuary lingering, even if it'd been two weeks since last he'd seen her. The hair did, however, bring a curious glance.

“They finally let you out, aye? Looking much better than the last time I saw you. The arm’s good?” Asked, because obviously the arm had been the most traumatic of her injuries.

She laughed; it was a bit weak but genuine. “Why thank you. You know, I was waiting for someone to come bust me out of there. Finally decided to take matters into my own hands.” It was a playful reproach without any venom or sting, but she meant it too even if she had known all along that he wasn’t going to come. Jewell stepped inside, nudging the door closed behind her. She ignored the question about her arm, taking in the mess that was his desk and then him. “Where’d you run to?”

"Here and there.” The where wasn't really important, she wouldn't have known the place anyway. Mostly it was just important that it hadn't been here. Hadn't been to see her in the hospital or been the one to bust her out. He'd weighed that, back and forth over whether or not he should have, but in the end he hadn't. It felt wrong on too many levels. "You know me, world traveler and all. I had some work to look to. A desire not to be hunted down by Issy. Typical stuff."

Kal slid open the bottom desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of scotch and along with two glasses and looked at her as he filled the first. "Doctors letting you drink yet? If not, are we ignoring them?"

“We’re ignoring them.” She crossed the room, avoiding the available chairs. Instead, she nudged aside one of the piles of paperwork scattered across his desk and perched on the end of it on his side, effectively taking away the physical barrier between them. There was already enough other stuff in the way. “And no one is hunting you down. Not Issy. Not Ishmerai. None of them.” There was a more serious reproach in those words, like he should have known that she wouldn’t let that happen. Even dead, she would have somehow ensured his safety. She had taken steps to ensure his safety. She held her hand out for her glass, “Or me.”

"Ignoring them it is. What do they know anyway?" He handed her the glass and then filled the second. He wasn't going to comment on who was hunting whom or why. He'd felt safe enough to return to RhyDin after a bit of time and allowing cooler heads to prevail. A tap of his glass to hers, "To a speedy recover," and sipped at the single malt. She only took the tiniest of sips despite her apparent disregard for the doctors’ orders and failed to echo his sentiment. A full recovery, if it was ever achieved, was not going to be speedy but he didn’t need to know that.

"I saw Sapphire's in town." Sure, a drink and a bit more small talk about injuries and visiting family, why not? There was an unusual tension in the air between them, despite her newly found perch on the desk. More meaningful words needed to be spoken. He knew this and her posture seemed to say she did too. Just maybe not yet.

“To take care of me, she said. Boss me around is more like it though.” She rolled her eyes but there was no hiding the smile that came unbidden to her lips. “She cut my hair for me.” And glamoured it because Jewell didn’t have the energy to do even that simple task, but that was something else he didn’t need to know. She tilted her chin up, “What do you think?”

“Kids,” and not for the first time, Kal thanked the powers that be for having never been so blessed. “Short an dark is a big change, but you pull it off well.” He considered her a while longer and took another sip of the scotch. “So, what brings you by, lass? Too soon to be placing bets on the Madness tournament and I have no doubt the doctors would be displeased to know you’re walking about town. Probably Sapphire too.”

She stared at him, wanting ever so much to ask why she needed a reason to stop by at all. But she did have a reason. A good one. One that had nothing to do with Madness bets, drinking his scotch, or talking about her hair. “The doctors… right.” She looked down, swirling the scotch in her glass carefully, “The ones you secretly arranged to save my life.” It hadn’t taken too much work to figure all that out. There was only one Cupid in her life these days.

Now her heart was really starting to feel funny. It hammered away unsteadily at her ribs, prompting her to take a sip of her drink before setting the glass aside and looking at him. “Why’d you do it?”

"Why?" that seemed an odd sort of question to ask. "Because, as slim a chance as they told me you'd have, it seemed worth trying? I mean, who wants to be known as the lad who killed the Overlord? That’d be terrible for business. Hmm.. though I suppose I could have sold it as you being delinquent on debts.” He feigned pondering that for a moment, then smirked as he added, “Ahh well, too late to take it back.”

“The lad who killed the Overlord,” she repeated softly, nodding. “Right,” she strung the word out, her grey eyes hardening. “Of course that’s it. You didn’t want that hanging over your head because it’d be bad for business. Mother of Nature, you’re unbelievable and I don’t care if this kills me,” she grabbed her glass and emptied it in one breath before holding it out to him. “Is it really that hard to say that you didn’t want me dead or is it just not true? Because the reason I actually came over here was to thank you… you know, for saving me and then saving my life, and for the flowers. But if all this was about was business then refill my glass, we can settle my supposed debts, and I’ll leave.”

"There's really no reason I would have wanted to see you dead. Well... see you stay dead," he corrected, since the dying part had been on purpose and he had to admit he'd have been pretty annoyed with himself if he'd missed. It probably would have been him dead, though that wasn't worth thinking about just now. "That I also didn't want your death hung on my shoulders and the little bit of hell that likely would have rained down on me over it? You'll have to forgive me that bit of self indulgence as I kept the promise you asked of me." Where'd the small talk about kids and doctors go? He should have gotten bigger glasses for the scotch. "You're welcome though."

The anger and frustration that had fueled her bled away just as quickly as it rose and she shrunk back as if his words stung. “You’re right. That’s not…” Her right hand drifted over the spot on her ribs. It still hurt at times. It felt like it hurt worse right now. “Of course you didn’t want to deal with that. I’m sorry. That wasn’t… it’s not what I came here to say. Not like that. I’m sorry that I had to ever ask that of you. And you did keep your promise, and I can’t… You don’t know what that means to me. What you did for me? You didn’t leave me to them, Kal. It would have been easier to if you had. Safer. But you didn’t. If you hadn’t...” Jewell couldn’t even think about that.

“It’s done, no sense dwelling on it.” No possible good could come from diving into the whats and wherefores; they didn’t matter anyway. “The calling broken, various bonds severed. You’re healthy.. ish or at least on the mend. Have your magic and your, well, Sapphire. A title to defend, businesses to rebuild, lads to enchant with that smile. Too much you should be looking forward to, to waste time looking back. Just maybe don’t share your true name with anyone again.” Which always seemed like excellent advice.

Only the whats and wherefores did matter. They mattered a great deal to her. “Various bonds severed,” she repeated. That hurt worse than the cold iron touching her heart, and it was reflected in her smile. “Is that the price then for my mistake? For letting them have my True Name? Is what I paid not enough? Having them call my name, what they did to me, what they made me do, having to ask you…having you...” She had to stop a moment. She couldn’t catch her breath. Between the scotch and the way her heart kept faltering as it beat quicker every second, she felt like she was starting to drown.

“Isn’t it enough? Don’t make it greater. Please? I’m sorry. I’m so sooo sorry that I had to ask you and put that burden on you. I’m not upset that you did it or agreed to it or how you did it. None of it. I don’t care. I don’t want to think about it anymore. I just want to get on with my life. The life you gave me back. And I still want you in it.”

"Save a life by taking it." He almost laughed at the ridiculousness of his being the one to do that. Thankfully it didn't always work that way or he'd have a lot of really ticked off clients out there. "I wasn't the one to give you your life back, Jewell. Thank the lads at the hospital for that. I was the one that ended it. Armed with an iron shiv and shielded by a note you'd pinned to a tree. I did what I ..." he stopped short on that. Did what I'm good at? Did what I get paid to do? This was something he didn't talk about with Jewell and wasn't about to start now.

Kal gave a sigh and shook his head once more to start over. “I’m not mad. I don’t need apologies. It’s done and you’re well, and that’s really all that matters. So, no, don’t think about it. It’s good for you to take your life back and for you to get on with it. That’s all I want for you.”

“Get on with it. Without you, right?” Jewell shook her head before leaning forward towards him, “Do you think that note ended up on the tree by accident, Kalamere? Like it was just some passing, romantic whim of mine? I knew what I was doing. I was doing my best to make sure you walked out of there alive. And it worked, didn’t it? The words worked because I meant them.

“I love you. I’m not ashamed of it and there’s nothing new about that except me saying it. I loved you before you saved my life. Nothing that happened two weeks ago changed that, certainly not for the worse. And I still don’t expect you to feel the same way in return. I never have. I haven’t been waiting around for you to suddenly fall madly in love with me. I don’t care. I know what this is and what it’s not. So that hasn’t changed either. The only thing that has changed here is you.”

She straightened up again, “So what is it? Are you bored with having me around? Bored with screwing me? Tired of making me breakfast? Found some other lass you fancy more? Can’t stand the dark hair?”

"Well, you know I rather prefer blondes." His instinct to deflect with humor had the joke rolling off his tongue before he could stop it. His timing obviously sucked. There was a small wince as he realized it and then rushed to return to a more serious tone. "Might be I didn't see it. Might be I just didn't want to. Truth is I can't..." No, can't wasn't the right word. It'd go against a lifetime of training and the magic of his ring could well kill him, but it wasn't a technical impossibility. Also, saying can't felt like a cop out, like shifting blame to some mystical force rather than taking this on himself.

"I don't return it,” he corrected. “You say that you aren't waiting for me to and that you don't care. That's good, but I do. It's too unbalanced, too much like taking advantage, for me to want to be a part of it. So aye, you're right, I want you to get on with things without me."

She did not cry the second time he broke her heart. “I could have lived with can’t, Kal. I really could have. Happily. We could have just gone on the way things were before. It wasn't so bad, was it? And I just would have always hoped… I would have thought that maybe, just maybe, if you could, if you were capable of it, it’d be me.” She was starting to feel breathless again, and it was hard to get the words out. “But it was a silly hope, wasn’t it? And I just can’t live with don’t. I won’t.” She paused and shook her head, “But you knew that already, didn’t you?”

Jewell stood, a little unsteady, and ran her hand back through her short hair. “It’s a shame though. We work, in our own way. And I tried to be good to you and not ask for more than you were willing to give. But I won’t force my presence or my love on you. I think you deserve it, though. When’s the last time someone truly loved you? I would have. I have, and I don’t regret it. Not a moment.” She smiled at him, but it was missing all its glamour and the way it lit up her eyes. “Guess I should have just gone blonde this time, huh? Then maybe I’d have a chance.”

"There be any number of things I likely deserve, lass, but not that." A sardonic grin found his lips at the statement. Kal had no illusions about who he really was, the things he’d done or would do again tomorrow. He had a personal code of honor and a moral compass to guide him, but it rarely found true north. "You though. You do deserve better, and I hope that comes your way."

“Maybe,” she tried to say it like she believed it. She didn’t. “Unfortunately for me, it’s you I want.” Jewell leaned over to kiss his cheek, “Take care of yourself, handsome.”

Then she turned and walked out of his office, out of The Line, and out of his life.

((Co-written with the amazing Kalamere. Many thanks <3))
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