Re: you love to judge strangers' karma

POSTED: Tue Dec 10, 2019 6:11 am

Like wildflowers, they fell into their own symmetry. To try and rearrange it all — make sense of the disarray, the chaotic tumble — would mean destruction. Not everything could fall into a logical order, carefully contained, though the idea seemed all at once to rebel against her puritanical upbringing.

His vague answer was just that, a child’s marble at the bottom of murky water. To her, it seemed as if they were speaking in code, fumbling around in the dark but afraid of the answers and the intent. It was perfectly adolescent; suitable, she thought, given their respective ages. On that score, she’d come to the conclusion that he mustn’t be much older than herself, less even than her initial assumption.

With that in mind, the thought that this might be his first foray into the double-edged world of romance was logically sound. Refusing to perhaps be embarrassed by the knowledge that it was hers, she looked away, flicking an ear pensively. It was for this reason that she didn’t see the incoming intrusion, this conjunction of worlds. Their private circle and its careful tête-à-tête was about to be rudely invaded, set upon by outsiders.

The tenseness was her only warning, the sort of moment she imagined took place before pitched battles when both sides sized each other up, debating and then resolving their deepest most profound fears. The floor and the breath she didn’t know she was holding left her if only for a moment, replaced by a sudden rush of sound and commotion.

Fortune smiled upon her unlikely savior, for everything had happened so quickly that there was no time to flail or shout; by the time her eyes had widened, her feet had found solid ground once again, and the stranger was apologizing with laughter in his disbelieving breath for his social faux pass. Another time, in another place, with another person, her temper might have flared, sparks flying.

Valan’s face was so close, however, that she forgot to feel anything other than a dizzying sense of wonder.

For a moment, in the space of half a heartbeat, she thought she could see him not as the man he was but the boy he’d been. When he forgot to brood, when the blood on the mountain hall floors was washed away, when the shadow of war no longer lingered, he was very, very handsome.

Fine, I think, Thanks to you. Her voice sounded strange to her, like a dream. and you?

The otherwise indifferent universe had righted itself, continued hurtling onward into the unknown, and they had come through it unscathed but changed.

Apparently realizing that their apologies were falling on deaf ears, the couple was withdrawing, a shared look flying back and forth between them that was more indulgent than not. Others had also found calamity among spilled drinks and, in one case, the corner of someone’s cloak had found the licking flames of the hearth and were stomping it out.

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POSTED: Mon Dec 23, 2019 3:17 am

The war had stolen much from Valan. It was hard to think there was a time before, and yet there had been misty mornings where the whole world had been lost in a sea of fog. On those days he would sometimes walk to what felt like the edge of everything and gaze out to the beyond. Once, the light broke through, and the sky was awash in more colors than he had ever known. Until that moment, he never thought the mountain could be beautiful. He never thought any of it could be something more than gray and silver.

He was young, but he didn't know it.

Antiope didn't fight the sudden change. Even at a moment's notice she yielded with grace, intuiting his actions if only a second before he made them. She had the makings of a perfect partner.

Their expressions too took on this harmonious pattern; the look on her face was same one that Valan felt on himself. "I'm..." the words came and went. He cupped her cheek and looked at her with a kind of wonder, as if he could see that whisper of dawn in her eyes.

The bar snapped back into view. "Enough!" the Mullens' matriarch bellowed. The room began to stir as Bessie Mullen came down from the loft. She took one look at them — revelers, all dirty and unkempt and drunk — and then grabbed the nearest fellow by the ear. "Run!" someone yelled, and the tension broke. All at once there began movement of a different kind, the dance known as the Wild Dash; not a soul wanted to linger and let Bessie put them to work.

Valan withdrew his hand from her cheek quickly, although the other lingered, a warm palm on her waist.

"C'mon," he said, already shifting them toward the exit. There was a twinge of a smile in his words, an echo of the boy he had been in the mountain halls. "We need to get out of here."

POSTED: Tue Dec 24, 2019 3:06 am

Magnus’ departure had proved itself, in time, a double-edged sword. In losing a brother, she had gained a fiery sense of ambition that could not be dampened no matter what she did. This was, by Salsolan standards, right. The matter stood, however, that she would in an instant, without thought, trade her every worldly belonging, her rank and status, her own life even if it meant that he was once more allowed to walk among the living.

In a perfect world this would have been possible, but theirs – nor anyone else’s – was not perfect. She was amorphous like smoke, not yielding but adapting, constantly finding cracks in a reality where she could escape, whether it be on horseback or in a barroom.

He was going to say something, the beginnings of it were there, but a brilliant arpeggio of sound happened in that very instant.

It was the theme of the night, these subtle but constant interruptions – her, falling into the seat opposite him; him, acquiescing to her request for a dance; her, stating the obvious; him, lifting her from peril – and now here was another descending the stairs, raising her voice like a cudgel. Unable to find herself surprised, Clementine stifled a sudden bubble of laughter that found buoyancy in the absurdity of the situation and threatened to burst.

And it was absurd, not only because of the transformation from drama to comedy, but because her first instinct when it came to the Mullens’ matriarch was to protect him from her and not the other way around as she might’ve otherwise expected. It proved unnecessary, however, because some other poor bloke found himself at the woman’s mercy, and in an instant, they were pushing along with everyone else for the door.

It was a mad dash, and amidst the crush of (rightfully) terrified patrons this deafening crescendo was finding its stride.

The throng surged, everyone desperately bidding for their freedom, and for a moment she saw in brilliant clarity the insanity of all of this, the drinks, the dancing, the whirlwind attraction. A space opened ahead, and she prodded at it perhaps a touch unkindly with one elbow, prompting an alarmed yelp. It was the man whose cloak had caught fire.

This way, She called above the clamor, pulling Valan – by his wrist, his shirt – behind her and, ultimately, into the bracingly cold air of the night. Where everyone had converged upon a single point within Mullens’ at the door, those who escaped sprinted away in a thousand different directions. Some of them would return tomorrow shame-faced, prudent others would stay away for a few days until their faces were forgotten altogether.

Unsure which she was among them, Clementine led them briefly down the twisting, turning maze of Portland until, gasping from both breathlessness and laughter alike, she gestured that they should stop.

I hope you weren’t planning on staying long, She regained her composure with consummate grace. Bessie won’t forget the likes of you.

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