[m] never be like you

POSTED: Thu Jan 24, 2019 2:16 am

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.



She wasn't like Griffin, though she'd given it an honest effort. Turns out, it was difficult to be him after all.

That wasn't to say she gave his methodology completely up, because she knew now what Griffin saw and all from which he hid. She wished she could say it was nothing. In a sense, it was a kind of nothing; it was a vast and painful and hungry sort of emptiness, and to gaze too long or too closely was to invite it into existence. She didn't know this fear before, but now she understood the impulses that drove Griffin to find relief wherever he could.

Self-destructiveness found a way, it always did.

She threw her arms up to brace for the next punch, which came too quickly to dodge. Her opponent certainly did not pull his punches - rather, he leaned into his hit with all the intensity his large body could muster. It knocked her flat on the ground, and the pain of the landing rippled over her skin like static shock. It was from the dirt she saw the dark amorphous shape of the crowd, hollering and bobbing with interest over the rope that demarcated their ring. A sensible part of her wondered how she'd gotten there. The reasons didn't matter, she supposed - the ground rumbled with her opponent's approach.

She rose unsteadily to a crouch and there assessed her options. Having spied and felt his imbalanced weight before, she determined his back ankle would make the cleanest break. She lunged as he made another grab at her and this time slid past his hands. Throwing her whole weight behind the movement, she kicked out the weak back leg from under him. He fell like timber, each limb a log bouncing with gratifying finality against the damp earth.

There was a great pause as they waited to see if the man would rise again. Then all at once the crowd pulsed uproariously and broke apart as winners collected their earnings from the spitting losers. Tiamat wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, sending a splatter of blood and mud onto the earth beside her felled adversary. Their sheer size difference and the lack of weapons made the fighting more difficult, but in the end, he was one drunk idiot against a seasoned warrior. The win felt cheap, but the solace was that for a while, she didn't think about anything.

Maybe Griffin had been right about her. Maybe she wanted him to be right about her, because it was easier than asking herself the truth.

As she crossed over rope, a tall figure slid a leather pouch into her hand. "Your keep," he told her, baring his false wooden teeth in a grin. She tied the pouch to the belt at her waist, noticing only then that her ivory hands were dyed a deep crimson. Once upon a time, a gentle poet would have wrapped her torn knuckles in his own.

She spat at the ground again and began the long journey home through the dark.

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HERE COMES THE
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POSTED: Thu Jan 24, 2019 2:49 am

the highlands are not a suitable place for sleeping

He was quickly becoming a keeper of his companions.

The crowd was loud, and it made his dark ears twitch against his brackish, inky mane, the baubles and bits giving delicate sounds that were drowned out just as quickly; Griffin he had found, half drowned, in his liquor; this port town did ill on restless travelers, he supposed, as each fell in line with dangerous habits, and dangerous company.

The sea of gathered gamblers parted slowly, and one such gentleman slipped her a pouch.

Tiamat was every bit he had always seen in her, froth and brine and viciousness to churn through her emotions, a volatile sea that chewed and spat out any that dared to cross it. If the poet had ever met her fury, her wrath, she would surely break him on her shores.

Patches of red broke up her sea foam, evident even from a distance, and before that stormy lass had even looked up whilst walking, Tsolin was there, arms across his broad chest, impeding the egress down that path.

Mist-touched eyes watched her, calculating, when she looked up with some measure of surprise, a furrow in her brow. He held his dark tongue, and let the stern set of his disappointed expression speak for him, before he dropped his gaze and took up her hands to examine those split knuckles more closely.

"Come," he started, flatly, and did not wait on her answer, holding a hand to take the feisty woman aside with all her rage, her conflict, and moved to set her down in private. His fingers were not so neat, not so soft nor unscathed from roughness of wear, as the poet's doubtlessly were, but, he tore away at the ruby cloth of his robes, and set to wrapping equally crimson hands. "You are not hurt?"

His cool voice was steady, solid, though a subtle worry bled into the statement and that concern so readily betrayed his caring, despite the evenness he so presented. Fleetingly, his eyes passed up to her, her stony expression, and looked back down, tightening his makeshift bandage and moving onto the next one. Of course she was fine. She was Tiamat, unyielding, raging, capable, a tempest in every right; she could easily handle herself. So why did it worry him?

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POSTED: Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:43 am

If the poet had ever stood in her way, it would have been with open arms. That was his way, that stupid boy. He was the only person to disarm her like that.

The mongol was less far-fetched. When he blocked her path it was with the earth firmly beneath him, and his arms locked together with the finality of stone. She was too tired to shield the surprise and subsequent resignation from her eyes - sure, she had gone far out of her way to hide her activities, but stealth had never been one of her areas of expertise.

She thought he might be displeased, finally throw in the towel for their pitiful group the way Mateo had done, and she had a mouthful of nettle for him just before he took her hands instead. He led her away from the ring and its crowds, away from the torchlight, into a quiet carcass of stone. Some time ago it might have been a shelter, but now it was broken concrete and branches of steel, laden with the imprints of past inhabitants. Shreds of blankets and fabric hung from the beams above them, and through their holes the stars quivered to be noticed. Vines grew between the spaces of the walls in spectral re-imaginings of the place as it was, though they were not flowered now, brown and silent in their sleep.

She let him guide, because she was weary, and because he seemed concerned. Suddenly, she felt very sad that he was so far from home, from his people.

Meeting his inquiry with a downcast gaze, she gently shook her head. "If he had been an Arena, I would be dead." She said.

No matter where they went, the war came with her. When she first realized it had followed her, she had been afraid the others would find out. In hopes of sparing them the fear and anger and grief, she did not speak of it and did not acknowledge it, believing that this would be enough to suffocate the remainder. Then it spilled out into their world, and Griffin came to tell her that they all knew. They had seen it too. Only Mateo, foolish, innocent Mateo, did not see, at least not until the end perhaps, that Tiamat lived in a nightmare of enemies and false friends.

Every bit the Selkie's daughter, she did not know what drowning felt like.

Her brows tightened into knots, like a mimicry of the wraps Tsolin made of her hands. "I used to know what was right." She found herself telling him. "But now, I think, maybe I was better at picking my fights."

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HERE COMES THE
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POSTED: Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:02 am

the highlands are not a suitable place for sleeping

War-wounds lingered in dark places, far beneath the skin. So much of this was written in all of Tiamat, in her eyes, in her frowns, in her blood. She was reckless to feel. Tsolin saw the ocean's wrath, enough to drown out his villages burned.

"If he were an Arena, you would not face him on your own." There was a resoluteness in how he spoke, his bandaging done, and though he did not release one of those hands, and fanned his thumbs over the curve of her palm, turning it up and open, eyes on it and expression unreadable. He looked up, a hardness in that mild gaze, and for the first time in a long while, he had felt homesick. It lurched uncertainly in his stomach, and there was a subtle twitch in his whiskers, before he went to smother it.

It was no use to think of ghosts, of things he could not return to.

He squeezed that hand, and dropped his eyes again.

"I think, I wish, that you did not see conflict in all things. Maybe, then, you would not go to try and find it." If this was the warrior woman's way of asking for help, he was not certain - she was a hard read, and proud, but beneath it all, ghosts festered. "How long do you think you can fight alone?"

The tenor of his voice had come out, unexpectedly quiet, scarce enough he wasn't sure that he had actually spoken it, when it had dawned on him that he had the shadow of that very question on his tongue in the past, though it had never come to light. But he could ask it to Tiamat - she was hurting, but not too far gone. Not yet.

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POSTED: Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:43 am

His words heartened her, and for a moment a smile eased the tension from her face. People never said she was beautiful like her mother, and certainly not with the scowl she so often wore, but Griffin had likened her smile to the best days at sea.

Though she was fiercely independent, perhaps to a fault, Tsolin's affirmation would warm her for the days to come. Loneliness had been her lifelong sorrow, as Laevisa had seen to it that she spent her childhood isolated, molding her into a creature that would never seek the companionship she so sorely needed. Love had seemed an obvious solution, and it was love that had been at the front of both the poet and Griffin's lips though never enough for her. Yet to be told she wouldn't be alone, and to know that Tsolin would be there because he was there in the war and there now, was of the greatest comfort to her.

She realized he still held her hand after the wrapping had been finished, and though he seemed to examine something in her palm, she didn't feel the need to withdraw. His bright eyed gaze caught her watching, and she looked away as if to grant him this small connection.

When he spoke again, she found herself squeezing his hand in return. His palm was rough and textured and steady, and she knew that he would not drift into the clouds or break apart with force.

She wished, more than anyone, that she could be different. It hurt to live this way, but she did not know how else to live. This was Griffin's plight, wasn't it? How could a broken thing fix itself?

"Not long," she admitted to him. "But, we all must die." she said, if it was any solace. Sometimes it was a comfort to her, because it meant the suffering had an end.

"You didn't come here for this, Tsolin." She placed a hand over his. "I wish I could give you better answers. I wish I could give you more than this life."

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San
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HERE COMES THE
G E N E R A L

POSTED: Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:26 am

the highlands are not a suitable place for sleeping

Tiamat's wounded features cracked, though instead of an ache they had split into a smile. It was surprising, just in its presence, but not in its quality. Tsolin spoke nothing of it, but it soothed something deep in him, and the severity in his shoulders lessened. Perhaps some part of him sympathized with her plight. Her own fingers gripped his palm a little tighter, and he maintained it.

With her continued words, a measured sigh crept past his lips. Death was hardly a solace - it was odd the living found it as such, a release from earthly bonds. But if something came after death? What then? Would they fight on?

"I suppose I will have to train myself up again," he simply answered back. "Everyone fights best with someone at their side."

A warm palm went, covered his own, and there was a soft hum. If he did not come here for this, why did he come at all? Her words gave him pause, and let on to worries, expectations, things that should not have come to rest their weight like oh so many stones - its evidence was damning. His features softened considerably, and he leveraged their weight, pulled Tiamat's hands towards him before abandoning them to wrap his arms about her shape in an embrace.

"You should not be expected to have every answer," he started plainly, murmuring against the side of her waving tresses, which tickled the side of his cheek - it was odd, to feel something so delicate from a woman so stalwart and wild. "This life suits me just fine."

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POSTED: Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:08 am

You are not alone, he reaffirmed. She once thought she knew what that meant to be by her side - to stand by the side of justice, and truth, and all these lofty notions she strove to embody. But more and more, they impressed on her that it was her side - Tiamat's side - by which they stood, however flawed, and broken, and uncertain it may be.

Now she understood. Perhaps she should have thanked Mateo, because until he'd gone, she didn't realize why any of them had truly remained. Now she could appreciate their presence fully.

Her gaze lingered on the warm little nest they had made of their hands.

In the time that she'd known him, Tsolin had never shown signs that he was physically affectionate. Their contact was limited to sparring and moments of grooming, the latter of which had been established over many uneasy sessions. For this reason, Tiamat was perhaps the closest to Tsolin of the group; they had shared stories, philosophies, even a smoke or two while he painted. The sprawling kraken on her shoulder was a testament to the trust they had built, and the physicality he had earned with Tiamat, though he hadn't cashed in on it until now. She didn't think that was something he had wanted, or something she had wanted either.

The embrace took her by surprise. After a moment, when she realized it was Tsolin and not another adversary seeking to harm her, she let her hands slide back around and her head pillow against his collar. His words carried the warmth of a faraway land, and she could almost see the rolling steppes and acres of sky stretching beyond imagination.

She thought she had been held in all the ways a woman could be held, but she was starting to learn that no two men were the same. Griffin gripped her like a dying man coming upon an oasis, and Mateo had the touch of a writer, caressing her the way he coaxed lightness out of words. Tsolin was steady, the same as when she laid her head against the earth and felt like there was nothing that could break her ever again.

Her eyes fluttered closed. The guilt was quiet, and the future waiting.

She shifted like she might pull away. Naturally, his own grip slackened to allow this parting, though she did not follow through. One hand slid up and onto his shoulder; the other into his feathery mane. She leaned forward, her toes pushing her upwards, to tuck a kiss on his cheek.

It was not such a friendly kiss, though it was grateful, tentative, and soft; she withdrew but only slightly, and her eyes were the low shimmer of a summery brook, catching starlight and drops of dew. She pressed her nose up against his, her face gently upturned with a look entreating more.

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HERE COMES THE
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POSTED: Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:01 pm

the highlands are not a suitable place for sleeping

Of all the things he could covet, he had never thought of Tiamat as one - she was wild and her will her vice; she was no tame creature, and some part of him understood this, perhaps because he had come to understand wild things, that things could not be bent to his will nor fated things shaped in ways he so desired. He was glad, though, that she permitted this.

Tiamat had fit, so nicely, in the cradle of his arms, and the warmth of her cheek came to rest against against the edges of his collarbone. He had not realized it could have felt this nice. Tsolin, regrettably, was a fool in such notions. He was suddenly quite frightened - a weakness had crawled into his heart, just there, and he felt it beat just a bit faster. Tsolin did not dare to move; the fluid nature of the tempest would be gone, otherwise.

Insidious, selfish, his own heart had betrayed him.

Slowly, he let his head dip, until it found the top of her head, where it finally came to a rest against the curls of her tresses, and he breathed deep of the salt spray and wind and everything he'd now known as familiar, as home, and the mongolain transplant felt his roots take hold. His eyes closed, much as hers did, and he waited, until Tiamat broke the hold first, loathe as he was to relinquish her to her whims.

"I am sorry--" he had started, his voice a barely audible hush to atone for his transgressions, but it cut and died in his throat as a kiss pressed to his copper cheek, and Tsolin stooped himself down, made himself smaller so she did not have to make herself so tall. Mist and steppe-sky eyes found the glitter of her own, like winking, sparkling stars. For all their flaws, he thought the world of Tiamat, but lacked the words to tell her.

Their noses touched, and their breath was still and bated, and he raised a hand to those long waves of hair, threading them between his fingers like a loom, before he held her there, and chased the offer she had presented despite himself, slanting and sealing his lips over hers.

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