you're my last candle in the night

POSTED: Sat Feb 24, 2018 9:17 pm

“...but I’m not certain what my other options are for space,” the Heiwa had been saying to his sister, as the two walked side by side through central Salsolan lands. “I appreciate you coming along with me to scout something out, Ondine. You’ll probably be better at it than I am.”

For two days this lesser migraine had persisted, likely brought on by stress and by the moody patterns of February weather—snow one day, melting the next. Neith could afford to wait no longer, however; the stray his sister had brought in, the father of her newest children, had moved into the home shared by the Heiwas. Though Krios was long gone (in more ways than one), asking Isabella to leave was out of the question, and that left Neith with little other option than to arrange a place of his own.

He didn’t mind it. For too long the Heiwa household had been crowded with far too many bodies and sound for Neith to perform his studies, and the younger Heiwa hoped to move his things out before being subjected to sounds through the wall shared by Ondine and her questionable lover.

She could do better. It was probably best he moved out before stress persuaded these opinions out of him.

Neith touched fingertips to his temples, coaxing away the pain with pressure. “How is that thing with Janik going, anyway? I try not to eavesdrop.”

They maintained dialogue as any siblings would, though one thing was left unsaid between them. What was the point? Why should he bother finding a new place to live, when his time left with Salsola might have been limited? Ask Fylgja could return to his homeland and declare himself not only alive, but stolen away by Neith’s command. No less, with every passing day and with every passing conversation, Neith Heiwa’s tolerance for Salsolan culture and masquerades diminished.

For his sister’s sake, and for the Hierophant’s sake, he had to persist. He had to make it work for as long as he could.

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POSTED: Sat Feb 24, 2018 10:03 pm

Maybe all of these things made me who I am

Part of her was sad that Neith wanted to move himself from their familial home, but she knew that of all the people to leave, it would have to be him. Ondine had been there before him and as the eldest remaining child, the home had gone to her when her mother left for the outposts. Elderly - though no one would call Isabella that to her face, she would have to stay with one of her children as age crept up on her. No one said anything, but she was definitely slowing down.

"We'll find you something nice. Krios can come fix it up with you," she offered, volunteering her son for the task. He would likely grumble and whine, but he'd help out in the end.

Her lips did tighten, though, at the mention of Janik. It all felt a little weird to her, with things so up in the air. It was an uncertain time and she did not much like it. She could tell, though, that her family did not approve and part of her wondered if they were right. She had dragged the man from his loner lands to be among them. Did he have what it took to be part of them fully?

"It's going. Honestly, I would rather it be Janik than someone from Ame Rouge that none of us have ever met." The risks were so great, even if her cousins all came from the region. She did not want the risk of a stranger in her house in an arranged marriage that meant nothing to her heart. "I don't know anyone from there." She had never grown up among those people, and Isabella was the only one really tied to them.

Ondined walked determinedly on, eyeing occupied ruins that grew less populated as they walked. One seemingly sturdy building caught her eye and she walked to it without second thought. She did not want to let doubt into her heart, not when so much rode on things going well. "Now, what were you hoping for at least? A garden? Two floors? Two rooms? Or space to expand?" she asked as she touched the stone wall of the ruin.

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POSTED: Sun Feb 25, 2018 12:00 pm

“I’m sure I can fix it up on my own,” replied Neith, with every effort to sound grateful for his nephew’s help. It was not as if he disliked Krios, but the youth had sprouted into a young man with very Salsolan instincts and a very Salsolan sway to himself, and his uncle felt guilty for letter his personal bias with their pack get between their relationship. They’d never been close, despite Neith’s efforts. As it went, they likely never would be. “Something a little more remote, I think. A floor or two, perhaps a garden. I wouldn’t mind a room space for a clinic, in dire circumstances. Simple enough requests.”

Much to his surprise, Ondine did not speak of Janik with any level of excitement or anticipation. In the short periods Neith allowed himelf to be home at the same time as both new parents, he’d heard and suspected the very same. His mothers, occasionally strict or moody as they could be, had been doubtlessly in love during his upbringing; Neith heard none of these coos between his sister and her flame. He’d forced himself not to think about it too much.

But as she said, at least she had not been arranged by their mother with someone from Ame Rouge. While he thought Ondine could do better than Janik, she certainly could do much worse. “I’m not convinced Mother is done with that arrangement,” he said. Something dawning on him, Neith shook his head. “You didn’t bring Janik here just to discourage Mother, did you?”

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POSTED: Sun Feb 25, 2018 12:31 pm

Maybe all of these things made me who I am

Ondine nodded at his list, removing her hand from the wall. She doubted that Neith would ask for her son's help. After their tearful talk in the dark during her pregnancy, she knew that her brother's leanings were turning from Salsola. They had not spoken about it since then, so she was unsure the strength of his convictions. Krios was decidedly very much into the Salsolan mindset, likely spurred by the Boss, his new identity, and Lokr.

She wondered if her son could be salvaged and figured that he was a child lost to the holy cause that was Salsola.

"Let's walk on." She moved on as she spoke, returning to the path and by her brother's side.

Ondine was not sure how she felt about the whole Janik situation. The animosity her mother held for the man was definitely disheartening, and Neith was likely right that it had not discouraged the talk of a proper suitor for her. It really wore on her that the woman questioned her at every turn, dismissing her capability of choosing. It was possible she had picked solely for the purpose of making her stop. She loved the man. Right?

"I brought Janik here because Krios grew up without a father and I worry that is why he is so zealous in other ways." She was cryptic, but the trees had ears, after all. "I don't want Victoire and Garsea to suffer the same sort of childhood. At least their father is someone of little value or threat to Salsola." She bit at her lip as they walked, eyeing decrepit ruin after decrepit ruin.

"Krios discovered his father's identity." Her eyes turned to her brother. "Perhaps, you ought to speak to the Hierophant about it." No names were uttered, but there was suggestion in her voice. Neith had to be told, or he would be blindsided when things went sideways.

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POSTED: Sun Feb 25, 2018 8:51 pm

On topic of Janik, his sister gave the answer he’d been hoping for—that Ondine had brought him to Salsola more for the sake of her children than for herself or the situation with their mother. Good. She spoke of him with a certain detachment that Neith selfishly found relieving. If he was to leave, he’d promised to take her with him. But if she became attached to some fool she herself dragged to Salsola, would she not be shackling herself to the place?

She implied Krios’s father to be of some merit, and reported that Krios had learned the identity. The answer had been so long shrouded from Neith he had come to think nothing of it; now, the way she spoke of it concerned him. Was there danger surrounding his nephew’s conception? Was there danger even now, months later?

“The Hierophant?” he asked, taken aback. “Elphaba? What in the world for?—why not just tell me yourself? You know me better than to do this.”

Equal parts frustrated and concerned, Neith winced at the mercy of his headache and paused his steps to press at his temples and breathe it through. He grumbled between grimaces, “Don’t play games like the rest of them, Ondine. Not with me.”

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POSTED: Sun Feb 25, 2018 10:30 pm

Maybe all of these things made me who I am

He seemed surprised, with no real idea of what the truth was. It bot pleased her and hurt her to know that she was going to have to shatter his innocence in the whole ordeal, but it would be out in the world soon enough. The boy had told and she just waited for the fallout. He had explained what he had done, to her horror, but at least tried to paint her as the victim. Some good might come of it, but she could see that her son put all of them in danger without thinking things through.

Neith stopped walking, rubbing at his temples. Ondine paused, heartfelt pity in her glance as she went to him. She squeezed his shoulders, knowing that his headaches were a constant pain and unlikely to ever truly cease. It seemed an unkind punishment for the man who had done nothing to deserve such a recurring misery.

"I am not playing games with you, brother. I am trying to be conscientious of where we are and who may be about." She looked around and could neither see nor smell anyone. It was fair to assume that they were alone. But yet, still the Seer did not trust the world that they lived in. Why on earth had she brought Janik there?

"And yes, the Hierophant. Brother, I am just trying to warn you," she said, with odd emphasis. Her eyes widened briefly on his name, as though trying to make it more clear for him, without coming out to say anything. Out in the open, she was far more afraid of being overheard than she was in the dark shadowy confines of her room.

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POSTED: Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:51 pm

It was not until his sister implied caution of who might be listening that the gravity of their conversation sunk in for the younger Heiwa. Though his fingers pressed at his temples and his eyes thinned to ward away the too-bright sun, Neith looked long and starkly at her, reading her expression, dismantling her words. What had happened to her? The Ondine he knew tended toward such simple mannerisms, always straightforward in her actions. She took risks only after thorough calculation, with a mind for Salsola’s games and how to best thwart them without drawing attention to herself. She neither attracted danger, nor sought it out for herself.

Or, that was what he thought. He’d suspected her affair with Janik another one of these calculated risks, given the detachment in the way she referred to him. Was he a shield for what complications surrounded Krios’s birth?

She emphasized brother; this was not lost on Neith, but he did not follow. He had his guesses, not one of them safe to ride the open winds of near-spring. The look fixated on her that shaped next from his features was a mixture of terror and disappointment (and pain, of course, because his headache could only get worse on subjects like these).

Pressing harder at his temples, Neith all too suddenly took up pace again and passed by her. “A second floor isn’t necessary,” he carried on, a stiffness constricting his every motion and word, “as long as I have some extra space to work with. For guests, for a clinic, what have you. I’d like not to be far from the family—”

Or did he? Loki and Stjarna lived absurdly close; at night, Neith thought he could still hear someone crying all these months later.

“—but that isn’t necessary, either.” He sighed. What was the point? Were he to pick a home, how long could he live there? A bite in his tone he said, “Please, share your ideas.”

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POSTED: Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:51 pm

Maybe all of these things made me who I am

Her brother’s expression did not suggest that he entirely understood, but the implications were not lost on him. He understood that there was something decidedly dangerous in the knowing and did not push after he expressed his fear openly on his face. Neith took off quickly and Ondine had to hop forward into a pace that would catch up to the man.

It was all a dangerous game they had been born to play, which made her wonder if it was worth it. Surely, other places did not have remotely as much trouble as they did? Surely, they did not have to fear that they would be betrayed or their secrets exposed, their lives ruined. Surely, they worked together. That was their natural state, so surely they could cooperate in kindness.

But the threat of betrayal and disgrace were embedded deep in their culture and Ondine could feel the etchings of it on her very bones. It was hard to ignore. How could she forget where they were and the opportunistic ears that listened at every turn.

Neith gave off a list of descriptions, and a curious question, too. She narrowed her eyes at him, brows furrowing a little as she tried to understand if there was another meaning in his words. ”I’m sure it’s entirely up to you. Do you still want to have that same thing we talked about at home when I was pregnant last?” she asked casually, though it was hardly an innocent subject. Had anyone heard of their treasonous, cowardly musings, they would have known exactly to what they spoke of.

”I’m sure Mother would like to keep you around, at least close to home since she’s of the age to encounter a slew of illnesses.” It was a lie. Their mother was hale for a nearly nine-year-old woman. She was venerable, but others had lived longer. ”I would see you comfortable in a nice home, of course.” Even if that home was not in Salsola, and if there was a space for her to flee one day.

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POSTED: Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:53 am

“Yes,” he replied firmly, the consternation of their conversation persisting but a blunt sincerity in his voice as if to suggest she’d asked something obvious. “For you and your kids.”

They had sworn a sort-of fealty to each other. A pact, almost, that one would not abandon the other. Ondine had watched over him in his earliest days returned from the outpost and unfamiliar with the culture of Salsola prime. Little more than a year had passed since his return. So much had happened, but his older half-sister had been present and had seen eye-to-eye every step of the way. Theirs was not a bond forged in stone, but in blood.

Neith hesitated. “Your... newest kids,” he said, looking sympathetically at her. “I’m sorry.”

Krios was already too Salsolan to be trusted. If he learned what had become of Ask and how his uncle was involved, what would he have done? What would Ondine? It occurred to Neith that she did not know—that she was a mother, and she might have sympathized with Stjarna’s loss over Neith and his treachery.

The thought spiked his headache. That secret was his to keep for as long as he could. Neith pressed on.

Heading east from their Ruins home, they found a building along the path heading north evidently empty. The Heiwa stood squinting and hooding his eyes in the sun, making calculations. The home was equidistant from his family, and from the homes of both Elphaba and where Lilia was staying with Indra. It was accessible by the road, too, should he ruin a clinic. Perhaps too accessible for his liking, but he could make do.

“This is a pretty good spot.” Neith wandered in following a hesitation in the door to ensure it was empty. It was a modest residence—no spires, no gaudy accoutrements, and a few rooms with a plan not painfully unlike the western Heiwa home. He meandered room to room for a time, a smile slowly growing as he went. “I might need your help decorating this. I wouldn’t know where to start,” he said from one of the backrooms.

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POSTED: Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:11 pm

Maybe all of these things made me who I am

Her heart gave a painful pang. Of course he meant her youngest duo, who were still malleable and unexposed to the truth that was Salsola. They were approaching the time rapidly when they would shift and join the rest of the adults, provided they worked on their riddles. Time was still in their favor though for neither seemed too keen to rush into proper Salsola society.

”I understand, of course.” Her voice gave a faint hint of the pain in her soul. Krios had succumbed mind, body, and soul to the mantra of the pack. He was ambitious, eyes forward, and with a new connection to a prominent bloodline, it was unlikely he would ever leave. He was too comfortable, too well placed, to look beyond. Ondine had suffered in childhood, she had watched, and her heart remained soft despite the pain. Neith was like her, she like him, for they may have not had the same drops of blood but their spirits ran tighter. Krios would have to deal with the fallout of his family’s abandonment, but he had enough reputation to stand on his own, if need be.

They moved into an old ruin, something modest, that vaguely reminded her of their single-story building. Granted, theirs had years of modifications to it, but anything could be done with some work. Ondine smiled faintly, still feeling the dull ache in her chest over the fact her son would be written off if they ever fled.

”I think we can make it work.” She looked about, hovering in a larger room while Neith strolled through the rooms. She eyed the debris, crouching to hold a rusted metal pipe. She clanked it back down. ”I think the first order of business is to clean everything out, and then see what we’re really working with.” They would need to haul dead leaves, broken stones, and dust out. It would be messy, but it would be a distraction.

Ondine stood slowly. ”I hope the work is worth it,” she said, cryptically, yet somehow without much meaning. Even she did not know what on earth she meant.

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