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VenomousEve

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Soft Falling [Fin]
« on: April 12, 2016, 09:08:13 pm »
The moon was ripe and dripping in amber, the night Catalina’s brother was born. Or, so she was told. It was a moon that was swollen with opportunity, but the town still shifted with worry. A witch’s son was rarely a blessing. Catalina’s mother was sure, though, that the boy was lucky. The moon had been too magical.

When Catalina entered the world three years later, it was the darkest night. The moon hid in silk shadows and left the stars center stage. The spanning spill of white that was the Milky Way lay a fog across the sky. It was a good night for a witchling. The town bell was rung three time, long and sonorous tolls, to mark her birth. Good health. For the witchling and for the town.

Catalina grew up red, like her mother. Spiraling curls and eyes bright like ferns after rain. She danced in the dew and pressed her cheeks to the earth. The town was happy with their little sprite. She learned the Old Magic from her mother’s patient hand and left candied fruit in the Fae rings, when they grew too close to the homes. She burned like a blossoming flame, and then the town learned about her brother’s blood.

Jealousy never could take root between the siblings. Perhaps it was the steadfast love of the mother, who treasured equally the new moon and the full. Nonetheless, when Catalina was abruptly eclipsed by her brother’s crimson magic, she didn’t grow bitter. She grew afraid.

“I think it’s like a drug, or something. Remember when that man came down from the city and found us here? Mother said he was a heroin addict. I think it’s like that, maybe.” Cat picked another nettle for her basket and turned to look impetuously at her brother. “You can say no. They don’t need it for every little thing. They’ll bleed you dry and Mother will let them, at this point.” She sighed and wandered further down the footpath. Up ahead, an old truck was slowly disappearing into the growing forest. A raven crowed from the top of the pickup’s cabin, black feathers sharp against the chipping blue paint.

Cat tossed an auburn coil over her shoulder. She was a pleasant sight, though she hadn’t realized it. The town boys were afraid of pursuing the witch’s daughter and Cat had only ever had time to worry about her brother. Besides, there were prettier girls in their small town, with a little less wild and a lot less Old Magic coursing beneath their skin.

“We could go to the city. Maybe, when they learn to live without you again, we can come back. Mother will be able to take care of them, like before, and things can go back to normal.” Catalina suggested for what must have been the hundredth time. Neither of them had been into the city, some miles away on the other side of the mountain. They had read about it, though, on the one old computer in the town library. There was always news worth reading, coming from the city. In their small town, her brother had been the only news anyone cared about for the last seven years.

Cat stopped to pick at another patch of nettles. “You’re not theirs to use up, that’s all.” She said, with the sort of tone that implied he might be hers. When her green eyes sought him out, a moment later, she looked sad. “Somebody has to take care of you, too.”
« Last Edit: December 20, 2016, 09:17:44 pm by VenomousEve »

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2016, 08:28:27 pm »
Inan’s eyes were white, like the body in the sky on his birthday. Similar to that circle, his irises also wore a ring of gold on the outer rims, to disconnect them from the whites that were blodshot at times. As with anything fantastical, it didn't really matter after so long. He'd liked to think Cat had been mesmerized by him as a child, when he'd hovered over her cradle, but now, playing when they could, gathering things for mother and father, his ambrosia blood and her fierce hair didn't delay their closeness by stunning the other.

His large mouth bent, amused at the image she was painting. Heroine. Maybe. Would a whole town come to a peddler's door like that? The tips of his fingers smarted underneath the gloves, from mother's ceremonial needles. Thick things for the delicate task of pricking his skin, but there needed to be theatrics, or you were just a woman selling your son's life for status and an aura of mysticism. He believed though, in what she said, like a dutiful son. "It's a sin not to help when you can." he answered, voice monotone. Father said it that way when mother asked him to.

His eyes were on the raven for an instant, that toss of his head scattering the brown hair he'd tucked behind his ears, the middle amount on the top of his head was tied back, but the old band was failing. He liked picking up bands that had lost most of their elasticity from the street. Mother had scolded him about it on occasion. The raven waved back with both it's wings, though it didn't really look in his direction from atop its kingdom of rust and bleached noble paint. Inan pulled the garden variety glove back up around the bandage on his wrist. The Andersson boy had broken a leg. Mother had been determined to have a go before they sent the boy to the city hospital. The Andersson boy was playing football again, and Inan had a this new bandage.

The bitter smile warmed and softened to half its curve when he looked at the back of her head, and then her shoulders as they helped in the rhythm of her gait. "If we go to the city, will  you try some?" he asked, quickening until he was by her side, hand not holding his now fat backpack tightening to a fist that pushed at her arm, as though the tender abuse might sweeten the offer. He turned his bandaged wrist up, a new cut hiding underneath, across many of the old, pale ones. It wasn't bleeding through, but he had a feeling it might soon.

When they were children, deeper into childhood than they were now, before he tried looking away when she put on her jeans, father had held her down when she'd gotten scratches, and taken blood to heal her. Now, when she was more grown, she'd not let them. She’d simply wait for the scratches to fade by themselves. He was flattered and secretly saddened at the same time. The one person he wanted to mend the most, wouldn’t have anything to do with his elixir. He thought about smearing her lips with it when she was asleep, one bed away in their shared bedroom of their small home, but wasn’t sure she’d forgive him if he took the liberty.

He stopped, tattered sneakers stirring puffs of dust fast taken by a quiet gust, his lips parted in awe. It was a dirty roadside crown, but it was pink. He tossed Cat a quick smile before he crouched down, dropping the backpack to fish out a pair of sheers. The fat head was lush, and he pulled his glove off to straighten the stem by holding the crown like the belly of a wine glass. “This is your favorite.” He mumbled excitedly as he cut the thorny leg. It probably wasn’t. It was simply his favorite that he enjoyed giving her. Growing up, she’d had a red shirt that became pink with time. He clutched his teeth gleefully as he inspected the find. “Here,” he said, standing up quickly, white bandages around his fingers, spread around the petals. “we can wash it. You can wear it in…”

Mother didn’t allow Inan iron supplements, or too fatty foods, or an excess of water. She’d planted and raised the willow he’d become. No tainting the blood, she’d say. His veins were usually hollow, some of his heartbeats were echoes rather than workable rhythm. Growing up, that steady, lacking melody had worked to make a somber song of bones and soft skin of his face. On any given day he knew not to move too quickly, but he’d been adrenalized by the smudged treasure, and for Catalina to have it. Inan was falling back, hair forming dark clouds around his fading, now almost gray cheeks. His eyelids were always purple.

Adam had been walking slowly, intending to meet his children. Simon, a week commuter to the big city, salesman, for what Adam could gather, had cut his face helping at the factory. Simon and his wife, Shirley, had come with pointed shoes to their threshold, with an envelope of bills and a newly baked, purchased, loaf. Adam’s wife had sent him to fetch Inan. Adam had laid eyes on the sister and brother just as the brother faltered. As he scurried, he realized it couldn’t be serious, Inan would be fine, but the panic of a father still fueled his brisk steps. “Is he alright?” he demanded when he arrived, his beautiful son nestled in the grass, hand still cradling a lush flowerhead.

Adam had raised the pair with a heavy hand, but he’d only repeated what he’d been taught. Those days were over, mostly, but his voice still resounded with that nostalgia every time he had to assert himself. Part of that hardness was in his question now, but it was diluted with concern. The broad man squatted over the silver-limbed boy. “I’ll get him back to the house. The Whitaker’s are with your mother. Simon’s had a nasty cut across the cheek. We have to get your brother ready.” The duality of a caring man doting on his son, and someone who was fussing over his claim to fortune and social height couldn’t have been clearer, then.

Inan's purple lids clipped open, his unfocused vision sticking to his sister.

VenomousEve

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2016, 07:18:12 am »
Catalina had the most fire in her when her brother was weak. He was usually weak. “I don’t care about sins.” She had retorted, casting a sharp glance over her shoulder at him. Those green eyes could be venomous. It was all out of love for him, of course. Were she not such a bright spark, she might have spent herself on the energy she pressed into being affronted on her brother’s behalf. “Mother doesn’t know what’s a sin and what isn’t, anymore. People respect us more, now, and that’s her drug.” Cat snapped, slinging her hands to her thin hips.

They had nearly made it to the truck carcass when he reached her side. She scowled at him, but did not move away. “Don’t say stupid things.” She muttered. “I won’t take a drop of your blood. This stupid town doesn’t need your blood either.” Cat’s expression shifted to something a little more desperate. “It’s not like—it’s not like the Old Magic isn’t still good enough.” She said. “Mother’s Magic has gotten weak because she’s stopped believing in it as much as she believes in your damned blood. But it’s just going to waste you away.” Cat said. “She doesn’t even try the old spells anymore.”

Catalina sighed and tossed her head back. “I bet the Earth wouldn’t even give her back all her Magic after she’s played with your blood so much.” She said quietly, a resigned weakness in the words that said she was done being angry about it, for the moment. It wasn’t a kind thought, either. When she was younger, before Inan’s pretty veins had given up their secret, Mother had warned Catalina to remember always from where they witches drew their Magic.

There were many Magics in the world, and the only one that was truly safe was the Earth’s. The Earth was their mother, and that meant she would not betray them. Blood Magic was a dark thing, no matter where it came from. It had been lost to time for a reason. Her Mother had tainted herself by indulging it. Mother Earth would never betray the witches, but she could abandon them. This kind of disrespect would have had a witch ostracized from their Coven, back when Covens were still around. Abandoned by your sisters, abandoned by your mother.

Catalina had walked on, lost in those thoughts, when Inan had stayed back to snip the buds. His voice plucked her from those winding concerns and dropped her back into the present ones. “My favorite?” she had asked before she’d turned to see the flower. When she looked to him, it was the faint pink vanished from his face, not the pink petals, that caught her eye. “Inan!” she gasped, dropping her basket of nettles to rush toward him. Hand outstretched, but too many paces between.

The grass growing along the forest road was lush, at least, and Inan found a somewhat gentle landing. Catalina dropped to her knees at his side. Idiot brother. Her father’s heavy steps were a welcome sound. Inan was frail, but Cat was too small to carry him home. “I think he’s okay. He overexerted himself again, I’m sure.” She said, though her tone was accusatory. Toward Mother. Toward the town. Her father was the closest thing to an understanding soul. But he loved Mother and a full belly too much to breath a word.

“Get him ready?” Catalina echoed. “Father, you should let me try my Magic first. It’ll be good practice for me. I’ll need to take over for Mother someday, anyway, right?” she suggested, voice peaking with a sad sort of hope. Adam gave his daughter a stern look.

“You know better than to try and use another person’s pain for yourself. Your brother will be best for this.”

Catalina looked like she had been slapped, as her father plucked up Inan and turned back toward the house. She caught Inan’s gaze as the two men retreated from her, and big frustrated tears welled in her eyes. The irony. As if she were the one capitalizing on the pain of other’s. What about Inan’s pain? Their town was old and ragged and broken but they had survived because they’d stayed in touch with the Old Magic. They’d kept their witches. What of it now?

--

“The furthest stop out will be fine.” Money on the counter from a refined hand. The teller nodded, distracted by the porcelain doll face on the other side of the window. He passed a bus ticket back. “Thank you.”

“The bus leaves in twenty minutes.” The teller’s voice cracked and he flushed. A reserved smile that didn’t quite reach the dark, feline eyes. She walked away. Found a hard plastic seat in the far corner of the waiting room. Put on a set of headphones. Marin closed her eyes as some song started half-way through. It was a good time to leave the city. She’d been getting tired. Or bored. There had been an interesting story whispered near the bar, the other night. Something about a boy with magic blood. Somebody’s wife had gotten better because of it. That wasn’t boring.     

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2016, 07:52:27 pm »
He was still drunk on bloodlessness and warmed by her anger when father lifted him. Catalina was a spark, looking for a trail of gunpowder or the moist tracks of gasoline. It wasn’t a bad likeness, he though as he found himself again, through the pulsing dots in his vision, as he danced well with the confusion after that rush to the head. She was bright, and pure. Mother had raised her better than she had become herself. Inan loved their matriarch, but it was out of loyalty, out of a desire to please and help her and their family. He would have loved Cat without knowing her first. She’d rejected his blood again, and that made him smile. Of course she had.

When he saw her eyes, that smile became kinder. His world always slowed when she was sad. It stung, but it made it easier to think. “I know you could do it, Cat.” He said before father had turned him too far. Cat was good at magic. He knew it. Because she respected it. After a few steps Inan escaped his father’s shoulder and tried the dirt path by himself. He twisted around slowly, legs wide apart for caution, and smiled brightly at his sister. The bloodletting didn't shadow the bones of his angel face then, as he held his arms out and walked backwards.

She was mad. She was hurt. His arms were long but the distance was growing. He would help mother, and listen to father, probably until he wasted away, so he'd always have them, but with Catalina-- he had trust. His fingers waved toward his chest, so she'd take her place inside his wide open embrace. Sometimes it worked, when she trusted his strength, or when she like him needed the comfort more than she was cautious. He hoped it was the first, but didn't care which today, right now. He just wanted to see her smile.

He would whisper sweet things, if she came to him, promises of an escape to the city and helping her to open up a place where she could help people. He told the story well, because he couldn't let himself believe it.

-

Simon drummed his shoe against the scuffed wooden floor. Adam was handy, but no one put that much effort into their home around here. The owners of the factory, the Pitts, maybe. He reached for his cheek, but Shirley grabbed his wrist before he could get that satisfactory sting of pressure. She also shushed him, made his foot stop tapping. People said she was unkind, it wasn't the word they used, but he knew she was angry over her life, rather. In moments of happiness, or forgetfulness, she could be sweeter than anyone he'd met. Maybe that was why he worked two jobs.

She was the one who had insisted on the loaf. Bringing just the envelope would have been cold, she'd said, especially with the meager amount they'd weighted it with. He'd shrugged and wondered if they'd pay him for his last hour, or cut him off at the thirty minute mark.

First in the door was Adam, and and then the tall boy. His sister was never far behind. The man produced a chair in front of the Andressons and waved for Inan, or Mend as the town called him, to sit. Simon thought the boy looked dapper in the thin, long-sleeved shirt. How many scars did it hide? Almost everyone in town forgave both Inan and Catalina for being beautiful, with the lives they'd gotten. If this town was unwell, and it fed on them, what were they?

"He's here, darling." Adam said, head in a cupboard. He pulled out a small chest and placed it on the table between the Andressons and the boy with the blood. Inan smiled bright, long legs sprawled until he heard the footfalls of his mother. Then he straightened, and the smile became a line. A boy imitating what he thought a man should look like.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2016, 06:46:10 am »
Cat went to him, partly to assure herself there was still enough of him left to continue passing around the town and partly out of hope he might look where he was walking if she obliged him quickly. He was foolish on her behalf too often. “You can say no.” She muttered, when she wrapped her arms around him in a brief embrace.

Siblings their age generally fought more than these two. It might have been that Catalina spent enough energy being angry for the both of them, directing it away from their wasted childhood. Or, maybe it was that Inan had not often had the strength to tease her. Their parents attributed it to their dutiful upbringing, but guilt tells fabulous lies. There were worse ways to grow up, certainly, but the darkness that had seeped into the humble home had tinged the sister and her brother and made them sweeter.

“I’ll tell them no, if you don’t want to say it.” Cat offered. Urged. Catalina had been yelled at often, when she had started to protest the casual bloodletting of her only brother. She was going against the principles of their Craft, her mother had said. Catalina was jealous, her father had suggested. She had quieted at Inan’s insistence. It wasn’t a request she’d been happy to oblige. Cat stepped away from him.

“Better hurry before Mr. Whitaker ends up with a scar.” Catalina said. Partially to the father. Partially to the brother. Mostly for the bitter of it. She was sullen, but polite, when they entered their small home.

--

Elise was a woman that time had been exceptionally kind to. She looked her age, in so much as she had the stateliness appropriate of a mother to two near-grown children. Aging gracefully was an art more refined than eternal youth. She had given Catalina her red, and wore it herself in autumn hues cast under an early haze of smoke. It was long and coiled atop her head and pinned with a silver birch branch. Some homage to an Earth she once relied on.

Her sharp grey eyes were on her son, the moment she stepped into the room. He was having some spell of anemia again, it seemed, from the exhaustion that lined the veins of his gossamer eyelids. She was briefly frustrated, and then concerned. Elise had her priorities, but she did love her children. It was a shame she couldn’t do anything to help Inan’s condition. Spells and supplements, both, might sully his precious blood. It would be best if there were simply no callers for a while. Inan could rest, then.

Elise glanced at the Whitakers. But, then, when the callers came she certainly could not turn them away. “Oh, that’s quite a cut you’ve got.” She said to Simon. Shirley set the envelope and the loaf on the table.

“We came as quickly as we could. The hospital is going to charge more than a full day of Simon’s pay for stitches on that thing. We were hoping, maybe, you might be able to help…”

Nobody ever asked for Inan’s help. Not directly. They went to Elise and asked her out of some respect for the old ways, maybe. She appreciated it. Healing was still her craft, in the end. She had trained Catalina and brought Inan’s precious blood into the world. Beyond that, she was Inan’s mother. It was up to her to decide on where his life was to be spent. “Of course. We take care of our own.” She said.

Curious phrase, really. 

--

Marin shrugged her knapsack higher onto her shoulder as she boarded the bus and scanned the rows for a suitable seat. The vehicle was mostly empty. She took a seat near the back and shoved her shoulder up against the window. She’d never been to this Valleyrun. It wasn’t a popular tourist spot, from what she gathered. A small factory town just far enough from the city to stay a bit backwards. There were rumors that Valleyrun was a superstitious kind of place.

The bus wheezed out of the station and rumbled toward the city limits as the sun began to drop low on the horizon. Marin hummed to herself. The stars would be out soon. She pulled a large sweatshirt out of her bag and shrugged it on, nestling herself deep into the hood. The bus reached the last stop before Valleyrun just as the sun slipped fully below the horizon and the moon blossomed forth with its celestial entourage. Marin stared quietly out the window as the trees darted past. A lock of her dark hair slipped from the safety of her hood and glimmered milky white under the soft night light.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2016, 08:28:27 pm »
So he sat on the chair, comfortable against the stick wood, a soft expression at mother when she came. Beautiful woman, because if she wasn't, then Catalina wouldn't be. Simon had removed the bandage, there had to have been one. The wound, filled with crust now, ran from the bridge of his nose to the angle of his jaw. Just flesh. It would take less blood. Mother had washed out an eye once, when a new baby had fallen down the old steps of the ancient library in an unguarded moment. The rip on the blue eye and the then bloodshot white hadn't been impressed by the blood at first. Mother had near hospitalized Inan to prove a point.

He leaned off his seat to touch his temple to Elise's hip, where she stood beside him, an affectionate contact that didn't require her attention. The scent of the bread didn't flavor the air as much as it warmed it. He suppose some of those aromas were lost on the way here. The little trumpet on the bag that had rustled before it settled on the table was enough to guarantee it'd be good baked goods. Annie-Sue, and her white-dusted blond hair, had some business form the city, even. He was hungry, admittedly. It was a constant state for boys his age, and Inan also had the trouble of not being fulfilled in the paths of his pulse, of course. The gold in his eyes glittered with some excitement, and some glee as he sent the sentiment toward Cat.

"It's nice to see you again, Mr. Withaker, Simon." he said and sat up straight. "And Shirley." The polite arch on the ready-to-converse lips uncurled when mother moved for the chest. He cleared his throat and crossed his arms over his torso, hands tucked against his sides for an instant, where Cat's arms had been when she'd accepted his hug before. It gave him additional comfort before his fingers clutched the shirt and pulled it over and off.

The scars were good ones, if she'd given them. Silver lines over a body that couldn't afford to blush on most days. The long hair came back to weigh on the shoulders and coil, filling the bowls of his collarbones. The band that had served to keep it from his eyes had gone missing in the discarded shirt, and left a brown wave from his scalp to eclipse one pale orb. It wouldn't be hard to see the used, pretty body and its devoted cadence as medicine, then.

Hopefully, foolishly, Inan held up the hand with wrapped fingertips and bound wrist. Pinpricks wouldn't be enough for Simon's plight, and that forearm high-way had obviously already been tapped. This morning. When he realized his mistake, he looked at the insufficient, offered limb and then up at mother. He switched hands, this one also with gauzed ends, but a naked, major joint. Three lines there, not surgical but not malicious. The other ones had faded. Or grown away. The new, open palm beat once, as though holding an active heart. His now freed, overused collection of digits went to his sensitive neck, the right side, protectively. Mother had said there, above the heart, and inward from the hipbone were the most powerful brooks. He didn't want to be opened on any of those intimate places, today.

The hand not trying to soothe and cover his aorta and adjacent arteries, lifted higher for mother's attention, hoping to be enough.


Simon didn't know why his own hand sought out Shirley's then. Out a reflex, or real affection, she took it. It was such an unworldly thing, to ask someone for their son's blood. He wondered if he'd be a father that could do good for others if it meant any measure of suffering for his child. It seemed odd that Inan should come from anyone's womb, looking at him. Simon wasn't romantic in most ways, sentimental, perhaps, but he'd always thought The Boy with the Blood looked like a flower that bloomed at night. Was this what Elise saw, also, when she cut his stems and took dew off his petals to invigorate the other plants?

Adam reached to the side, to look for Catalina's shoulder. He liked to know where she was in these moments.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2016, 09:55:57 pm »
Catalina was stiff to her father’s touch. She wasn’t so rebellious as to interrupt what was already begun. It might result in some accidental hurt to Inan. Her green eyes were harsh though, staring at the gash on Simon’s face as if she might bore it deeper into the muscle. He shouldn’t look so much like he cared. He had come asking for help, knowing what would be offered. These people were pathetic. This town was pathetic. Cat’s gaze snapped to her mother. Lost woman. How could she even call herself a witch anymore.

Elise nodded to herself taking Simon Whitaker’s face in her hands and tilting gently, so that she could get a better look at the slash. It was not an awful hurt, but deep enough that she would take a bit extra of Inan’s blood. It was better not to have to try more than once. The magic was more respectable when it worked the first time. She turned to her sweet son. “Shall we begin, Dear One?” Elise asked as she pulled out the ceremonial needles and stone bowl from the bag on the table. It wasn’t really a question.

“Mr. Whitaker, if you would,” she said, reaching for the man’s free hand as he clutched his wife’s fingers with the other. There was a small needle, which she used to prick the finger of her patients, and the much larger one. The large one was for Inan, to make the blood flow faster. That was mostly for show. Taking the small needle, she scratched Simon’s fingertip and let a drop of his red life fall into the dark-stained stone bowl.

Elise took a rubber tourniquet, not ceremonial, and tied it around Inan’s offered arm. “This will do,” she said, as if she knew his concerns. His deeper rivers were safe, for the moment. The larger needle in hand she smiled gently at her son. “Such a good boy,” she said. Elise, at least, was swift and precise with practice. She tapped the prominent purple thread of his forearm and withdrew the needle in a single motion, holding the boy’s arm over the bowl so that she did not lose a single drop of his magic.

Cat shook her shoulder free from her father’s hand and went to her brother’s side, reaching to stroke his fall of brunette coils. She was watching his face, searching for any signs of fade. It was something Mother had stopped looking for a long time ago. When Inan could not stay through a session, his sleep made it all the more dramatic. Elise would stop then, of course, so as not to put her son in any great harm. But the effect had earned them generous donations above the norm. Cat was not pleased with those theatrics any more than the rest.

When Elise had taken what she needed, enough to make Inan’s fingers cold but no more, she undid the tourniquet and took a glass rod to the bowl. “Catalina, please see to your brother.” Elise said. Cat nodded mutely and went to the cabinet for some antibacterial cream and gauze. Inan was probably the only boy in town to use a first aid kit so much. Everyone else just pricked Inan’s fingers.

She dressed the puncture gingerly. At least it was only this, and Mother had not needed the knife. “I can fix that tonight,” she murmured, softly for only Inan to hear. Elise had told Catalina not to work spells on Inan. It might affect his blood. Cat had not taken that directive to heart and worked away the smaller wounds in their bedroom in the dead of night. Inan had such a freckling of healing cuts that Mother never would be able to tell.

--

Marin tucked her hair securely into her hood before she disembarked the bus, offering a close-lipped smile and a thank you to the bus driver as she stepped off. As the bus driver pulled away, he wondered if he must be overly tired. He could have sworn the girl had had dark eyes, but they’d been near luminously silver just then. Tricks of the light, surely, but still a bit unsettling.

She glanced around. Valleyrun was even smaller than she’d figured, with a single main road that cleaved the town and disappeared into the distant forest. To the west, a large mountain promised early evenings. A single bus stop, so far as she could see, and a sooty looking factory looming in the backdrop. Marin had been prepared to call the town quaint, but found that too kind now that she stood on the cracked asphalt. Tired, then.

A block away, a flickering sign above the rooftops announced a motel with vacancy. Marin adjusted the strap of her knapsack and headed off. At the front desk, a tired looking woman blinked twice when Marin entered. The light must be doing funny things, making such a dark-eyed girl look like she was glowing. As Marin approached, though, the woman assured herself she was wrong. This stranger was striking, certainly, but not glowing.

“May I help you, Miss?” the woman, whose nametag read Lynnette, asked. Marin nodded.

“Yes please, I’d like to get a room. Just for… three nights, if you have one available.” Marin said. She was quite sure they would. Lynette nodded and clicked at her old computer.

“Ms… Lynnette. Lynn?” Marin began, leaning on the counter as she waited. “If you wouldn’t mind telling me,” Marin coughed into her sleeve. “Is it true that there’s a family here that knows Magic?” she half whispered the last word. In the city, that’s how everyone did it. She gave the woman a hopeful sort of expression. “I’m sick, you see. I heard there might be someone in Valleyrun that could help.”

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2016, 02:21:33 am »
Inan nodded when mother asked. Cat had wondered aloud on occasion when mother was not present, what the question was for if his answer didn't matter. He understood the logic, but with the emotions in the room when Elise did ask, he couldn't do anything but offer that complacent gesture. Simon was bled first. Ornamented eyes stuck on those drops when they were drawn. There was nothing in the hue, the scent, or in the way it colored the air before it landed against the stone that suggested Simon's trail was any different from Inan's. The boy had counted lakes of hot human rain, and never known a difference other than in effect. It would have been valuable.

With the snug rubber around his arm, he looked up at the mother, thanking her with a flick of his deep eyelids for her comfort before he let himself be tapped. He'd bled himself on occasion. Once he'd caught his eyes in the blade. The golden rings would swirl discretely, and the sheen would lessen if a lot of his magic was used. What they'd lost in luster this time was replaced with loving glitter when Catalina came to him, and dusted his newly freed hair with her fingerprints. He leaned into that greeting, and smiled at her as he flexed iced fingers.

He drew his thumb over the other fingertips, rubbing bandaid on bandaids, when she took care of the puncture. "Thank you, nurse." A thousand times, and he still thought it was the most appropriate joke for this moment. Once, the landlord of the apartment house in town had laughed through his beard.

Inan lived for their late nights, their interrupted sleep. Gawking over her magic, when she'd secretly apply it to small scratches, was just part of it. The night was private, in their room. Her hair was darker and her demeanor was for him. Sometimes they'd bet dried berries on made-up card games. The silver font on his skin spelled out his worth for mother and father, perhaps, but the purple around his white eyes was a sign of affection he'd shared with Cat.

He would have stood when Elise was done with him, but knew better than to repeat what had happened before, when father had to pick him up. As Simon waited for the woman to continue the procedure that would ultimately sew the wound on his face shut, Inan stretched his already long neck to beckon his sister closer, so he could whisper. "Did you keep the flower?"

Adam liked watching Elise work. There was enjoyment in her little routines. She liked the result, of course, and the feeling of being useful, or her craft being validated. They'd found common ground with the healing herbs. His knowledge was of their medicinal properties and hers of their mystic roles. He didn't practice much of his profession anymore. Other than teaching Catalina what she wanted to know, Adam kept his hard earned skills for cooking and brewing tea. His tasks in this house had become that of an assistant to Elise. That job was more than enough for the family man.

In these rituals he found himself superfluous. He could only watch. On occasion he would hand Elise her needles and blades, but often found that she was more efficient, and elegant if he kept out of her way. Directly afterward was Cat's domain, when she'd fuss over her brother, and usually get between mother and son physically. For the most part, Adam had made his peace with this, as well. It was a tension he could live without, but he also trusted the conflict to be too heavy for itself, and therefor never boil over. He loved both women, after all.

Simon's excitement grew. He'd usually try the few home remedies Shirley knew before he came to this house, but there was no denying that it was a treat, not only to have your ailments tended to quickly, but see real magic take the stage. He was sure most of the money people paid was for that, partaking in the town's secret, and keeping the wonder alive. He didn't believe, like some of the elders, that Elise's son was going to bring the town immortality, but he knew that it had made the neighbors a little more accepting of each other, because they shared this secret. His own father had spoken of a time when witchery had brought more uproar than peace. He waited, holding his breath, for Elise to apply the blood.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2016, 05:07:05 am »
Cat rolled her eyes at Inan, but it wasn’t cruel. He loved that joke. He loved a lot of things she found silly. Inan was a sweeter soul than she, though. He asked about the flower. Another silly thing. Anything that wasted his precious strength was silly. She slipped the flower, somewhat crushed, from her sweater pocket. “Of course. You caused such a scene over it, didn’t you?” she muttered. Still, the corners of her lips turned up a little. It wasn’t as if she could really be mad at him over it.

Elise tried not to mind the whispered words between her children. She often felt the things they secreted between them were against her, but Adam often assured her that her worries were misplaced. It was just so difficult that Catalina had grown so defiant. Adam told her Cat would understand when she got older. Elise wasn’t completely sure that it was true, but it made her feel better to believe her husband.

Elise dipped her bare thumbs into the coagulating blood in the bowl. It needed to be just thick enough that it seeped deep into the wound and didn’t run out. She smeared it across Simon’s cheek and hummed an old tune of power, eerie and clear. Elise didn’t speak the words of spells anymore. It was too easy to corrupt a spell when blood was involved. She preferred to think that it was really just that Inan’s blood was potent enough that the words weren’t needed. That must be at least half the truth, if the magic continued to work.

Catalina helped Inan from his chair. “They don’t need us out here, anymore. You should rest.” She said to him, throwing a pointed glance in the Whitakers’ direction. Taking the cue, Shirley mumbled an embarrassed thank you.

“You do us an immeasurable service, Me—Inan.” Shirley said. It was rude to call a boy by his use to his face.

“Yes, he does.” Catalina said with a daggered smile. She was glad when Shirley shifted uncomfortably and couldn’t keep her gaze. It made Mother’s chastising stare entirely worth it. She tugged on Inan’s arm and led him down the hall toward their room.

“Honestly, scars are supposed to make men look more worldly and handsome, aren’t they?” Catalina whispered to her brother. The smile she gave him was a sweeter sort of flavor. “Mr. Whitaker should have learned a little from you.” Inan was lined in silver and, while Catalina hated that the cuts had been made, she’d always thought his suffering had only made him more lovely. The brother bloomed with suffering just as the sister glittered with her fierceness.

--

Lynn cleared her throat and took a moment to pause from her typing. She looked over the young woman in front of her with a new sort of interest. Inan was a closely held treasure in their town. They didn’t like to share him with just anyone. “Magic still runs deep around Valleyrun, yes.” Lynnette answered carefully. City folk liked to gawk and poke fun at the backwards ways of their little town, sometimes. Magic was weak and generally relegated to superstition in most parts of the country. The Old Ways were only alive in the quiet place. In the city, it was likely that Magic really was just a feature of bedtime stories. Lynnette was okay with the disdain her answer might get. It was better than giving up Inan.

Marin cocked her head. “It runs deep wherever people will let it, of course.” She coughed into her sleeve again. That was fine, if the woman wasn’t in the mood to talk. In reality, Marin had all the time in the world. It might be more fun, finding the boy on her own anyway. Lynn stood from her desk and grabbed a room key off the wall behind her.

“You’ll be in 201.” She said. The girl’s answer had surprised her a little, but she’d done her best not to let it show. Still, she wasn’t going to start wagging her tongue. Marin thanked the woman for the key and headed out of the lobby. As soon as the girl had left, Lynn grabbed her phone.

“June, the strangest girl just came in from the city.”

In Valleyrun, the news tended to travel fast and it didn’t have far to go.


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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2016, 07:39:37 pm »
Inan brushed the flower, compromised from having been locked in with its own lushness, with his naked knuckles. Mother had no need for the folded skin where his digits bent, and so they were usually unmarred. “You’re welcome.” He said quietly to Cat, flawlessly unaware that he had projected this love of hers for the color. As he bent over it, the humbled, glorious clutch of petals, his head touched the front of hers. A favorite thing. He looked for her eyes from this dizzying closeness.

Simon drank back a gasp when the hot smear and cold edges of the blood was painted on him. He looked at Elise, the ancient reaction from men that lead them to obsess and often burn women like her flaring before he managed to quell it. His eyes on Shirley, after that, a fading apology there. Signals awoke underneath his skin, fanning out from where Elise’s fingers traveled. At first it was just a primal pack, living, unleashed, then he felt it sniff out the long wound, gathering around the sides of the gash. The power ate inward, turning the crusted, broad line into skin again, flawed as it had been before. He kept Shirley’s hand harder as he listened to her hypnotic humming.

Inan followed his sister. On a good day, or in the morning, this amount wouldn’t have swayed him, but he’d already lost some earlier to the family business, so he made sure to step carefully. Cat was usually sympathetic enough to mind her pace. The smile he gave to Shirley had rounded edges and full lips. If he begrudged people his blood, he could not have lasted long in this house. Surely, that kind of regular bitterness would have poisoned the blood more than anything he’d been deprived of. He offered a wave, too. “Thank you for the bread, Shirley.” He said, hoping the volume at this distance wouldn’t disturb mother’s work.

He leaned in to hear his sister as they walked by a couple of photos of their family. His index finger underlined his favorite, a sliver of a time before his gift had tainted his skin, and Cat’s smiles. His sister’s approval tasted well. He wasn’t vain, but he’d take Cat’s praise in any form. “Maybe he keeps the little ones.” He thought to her. With the Whitakers, their blood was not their lively hood, so they were bound to not have the same relationship to scars. Inan had often been fascinated seeing the bodies of others, when they needed healing in concealed places, and had to remind himself not to stare when he got the opportunity to read their adventures and mishaps.

Well inside their room, his shoulders dropped, shaking the tension from the main room. He pushed Cat firmly, hoping to topple her into his bed, which was closes to the door. He sat on the floor, pulling out a t-shirt from underneath the bed, his longer one lost out there, with the ritual. “On the subject,” he said as he relaxed, spreading his legs and slowly laying himself flat on the floor, half his length received on the math between their beds. “I was talking to Nona the other day, when you were in the pharmacy, and she said she’d have a new wound for me soon.” He shook his head at the ceiling. That girl had at least two run-ins with sharp objects that should not have taken place. To Inan, it was equally important to heal those injuries as it was that he considered not to. As thought mother would turn her away. In the very beginning, those patrons of mother’s services had been a compliment. Now he didn’t like it. “Do you suppose she is brave?” he asked. He sighed. The first time Nona had come intentionally, it had been her forearm. A long cut, but shallow. The second time, she’d become wiser, and drawn deeper lines along her ribs, so she’d had to shed her top.

Inan liked to play dumb, and could be faulted to hide behind Catalina, but he knew when people worshiped the stories they told among themselves about the family in this house. People who came with hurts they wanted to be rid of had a need in their eyes, and sometimes a fear that today was the day the magic had run out. The ones who wanted a spectacle were excited, and held up their blooded trails like proof of admission. Nona, and the handful of people around her, had a mad kind of expectation when they looked at him.

-

Ahler was not quite as fanatic as Nona. He was grateful his physical shortcomings weren’t targeted anymore, and that he had a group that would accept him. Of course, he was also fascinated by the Blood House, and its centerpiece, Mend. It was a hard interest to be addicted to.  Nothing to collect on the internet, nothing to search for when everything was word of mouth. His father had clipped him over the head when he wanted to do an assignment on the history of witches of Alleyrun. They liked their secret here, hoped it would grant them immortality one day.

So he was limited to gossiping in houses when parents weren’t there. He’d been there when Martin cut Nona, and they’d seen her off to the Blood House. Little things like that kept him alive, and hungry for more. It was an unwell little collection of souls, their pod. He fed off it even when they weren’t speaking, simply by sitting with them. It was only times like now, when he was without them, that he felt like the odd man out again. Not that Lynette was hostile. She was a pleasant supervisor, allowing him his books when business was low. Except for during the Red Sky festival, business was always low.

The green eyes in the startled boy had fixated on the pearly woman when she’d entered. He’d listened behind the bind of his book, and smiled to himself when Lynn wouldn’t tattle. Not that she didn’t later, on the phone. He stood and let the book thump to the floor, stepping out of the little room in the back, where he’d seen the conversation from. Two fingers to his mouth as he collected his jacket passing the desk. He didn’t smoke on weekdays, but she didn’t know that. Lynette would be busy a while, anyway. She could make a lot out of nothing.

Ahler would be startled further by the woman when she turned for his not too subtle pursuit. The plot of his book, The Sanguisuge Clearing, left on the key-room floor, flared up to play on her hauntingly perfect features. He took a step back. “I-I heard you’re looking for magic.” He straightened his back and caught up with his own breathing, squeezing his jacket in one hand. “How do you feel about blood magic? I-I… there’s a family.”

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2016, 11:26:40 pm »
Catalina let herself fall onto the bed, a heavy sigh rushing from her lungs. It was tiring, being tense and annoyed all the time. She pressed her finger between her eyebrows, absently checking for wrinkles there. Her father had mentioned it once, in the infancy of her conflict with Mother. “You’ll set wrinkles there, like an old lady, if you keep frowning all the time.” He’d said in jest. A half-hearted attempt to calm the little fire.

“Well, Nona can just go bleed to death, then.” Cat hummed. She didn’t like Nona or Nona’s friends. Her brother was barely human, reflected in their eyes. Some bizarre well of power and nothing else. Cat could have cared less if Inan had any Magic at all. He would still be worth all the adoration in the world. Inan was the purest souls Cat had ever encountered and she was sure she wasn’t particularly biased. He made her look like the deepest depth of sin, in contrast. What with her vindictive flare and bitter intentions. For the most part, she thought it was best that she bear the dirtiness for both of them. Inan wore blamelessness well.

Cat rolled over onto her stomach, peering over the edge of the bed at where her brother was sprawled. “My birthday is soon. I’ll be turning 16. Sweet 16. For my birthday, will you tell Nona and Mother no?” she asked, an impish sort of grin on her face. She knew he hated denying her things. But Inan had never had the heart to say no to Mother, either.”

--

Elise watched with satisfaction as the wound healed in the wake of the blood, soaking it up and springing forth new flesh like flowers after a storm. She saw the brief cast of primal distress in Simon’s eyes and it made her feel strong. Elise had always been proud of her gift. Her mother had raised her that way, moving from the city to Valleyrun for more acceptance and raising Elise to understand she was a treasure. Elise had internalized that well. She had brought Inan into the world, too, which had made her sure her mother had been right. If only Catalina could understand that their true power was always in being needed.

“That’s it, then, Mr. Whitaker.” Elise said, humming stopped. “Good as new. Thank you for the gifts, of course. It was unexpected.” She said. The gifts were expected. Inan was always available to heal, if he had been fed well. Health of the son was first priority. Of course. The money would all go to help him. Elise glanced at her husband. For as much as she liked her place in town, the woman was never fond of her patients staying too long. In part, it was to preserve the mystique of their family. Elise relied on Adam to gently steer their visitors back home.

Shirley didn’t need prompting, though, tugging on Simon’s hand to stand. “It was the least we could do. I hope the bread is good. Thank you so much.” She reached over and stroked the smooth new skin on her husband’s cheek for emphasis.

--

Marin stopped to look at the boy, eyes aglow back out in the moonlight. “Blood Magic? It’s all just Magic, I think. There’s a family, you say?” she asked. She lifted her arm to cough into her sleeve for emphasis. “If it wouldn’t be too much to ask, can you tell me about this family? Can they… cure me?”

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2016, 06:16:46 pm »
He coughed dramatically when Cat wished anemic death on Nona. The imagery was familiar, leaving him slightly sympathetic. Her next mar would be on her torso, of course, so she could look him in the eye again while she disrobed. In the picture Cat’s ill wish conjured, Nona had cut too deep, hands swimming to lap and pour back overflowing, pumping luster. With a grin he shook his head, as though it was his sister that had directed the graphic story he was playing.

He knew her birthday very well. He was deciding on presents, expensive or sentimental. Inan sat up, echoing the sigh she’d lost, hitting the bed. “Cati.” A slight pitch in his voice, petitioning for her mercy. “That’s not my role.” But Catalina’s birthday was holy to him. She didn’t ask him for much, just the same request, over and over. When he could give something she wanted, he’d break himself producing it. Inan rubbed his neck as he thought about it. Maybe he could see Nona outside of their house, and convince her not to come. A refusal to her’s and mothers face might be too much. “I’ll try.” He said and lifted his chin. The smile was more excitement for Cat’s big day than a celebration of his own resolve. “For your birthday.”

He rubbed his toes together and watched the socks rumple. “What more?” He asked. “We can get a cake from the bakery.” He thought of the bread out with mother and father. He took sugar when he could get it. He was addicted to the rush. And mother and father usually didn’t deny him the few material things he raised his hand for. Inan could have been a spoiled, clean whelp, if that had been his flavor. “And we can invite the town.” Laughter in the spaces. “I’m sure there are some boys who would like to dance with you.”

Inan made sure to poke every now and then. They were together enough that he should know everything, but he definitely didn’t feel like Cat was without mystery. One boy had been saucer-eyes for her, and Inan had tried his best to encourage it, but Philip, kind, was in an accident on his way to school, involving the handle of his own rusty bike and a pocket of ice. After Philip had come to the house for the blood, he’d not come again. Inan had always wondered if he’d given off something unpleasant that time, enough to scare the boy off. He reached to brush hair off her forehead so he could push a digit between her brows as well. “I hear the hippity-hop is all the rage among the youngers’ this season.” The light was already being replenished in the gold rings of his eyes. “Maybe we can scour up a suitor for you yet.” There was a stiffness to those syllables that he didn’t care to examine.

-

Adam saw Simon bow his head and stand with Shirley. The Whitakers, though not strangers, weren’t here often, and those who weren’t didn’t really know how to handle the fact of the magic. Better than those who took it too much for granted, or the sensationalists. He held Simon’s shoulder on the way out. Before closing the door behind the couple, he suggested the two of them should not go back to the factory today. It was very unlikely they’d listen.

The water was already boiling. He’d known by the nature of the wound that this wouldn’t take long. Pride over Inan’s blood and experience with Elise’s ritual. He went past her as he collected the items on the table, and put the loaf, still wrapped, on the cutting board. He lifted the kettle and filled the basin. “Shirley’s not been here much has she?” he could not remember the woman coming for herself. Adam wiped the needles with cloth and dropped them in the water. He had alcohol for them, later. “Catalina’s become good with cataloging herbs. She a quick learner, like her mother.” Always his attempts at peace.

-

He understood her intentions. She’d not tried to keep them secret, here or to Lynn. Alleyrun kept Inan to itself, the very town and forest closing around the house, but a fountain of health was its own beacon. Ahler suspected the simple existence of something worthy of whispers was enough for it to find its way out into conversations. The loyalty to their treasure held his vocal chords, but this woman and her inexplicable glow gave strength to his lips. “They live in the Blood House, out to the side, toward the forest.” Sounded far, but nothing was in Alleyrun. “Mend lives there.” He looked down, proceeding with the bad news. His uncle had succumbed from his own body turning on itself, despite the presence of Inan and Elise. “She—doesn’t like specific illnesses though. Won’t give to those with the common cold, and if it’s auto immune or a growth…” Still, there was the story of someone going in with leukemia, and leaving with color on their cheek. He wondered if it was a question of pride or compensation.

He turned his head up again, swinging his jacket over his shoulder. It was good to talk to someone who knew less than him. Ahler had not been permitted to feel useful many times in his life. The initiative suggested he might take her, though his feet were stiff. “If you don’t mind me asking, Miss. What is it that you have?” he wanted to shake her hand, but wouldn’t until he knew it was safe.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2016, 07:42:25 pm »
Cat went a bit wide-eyed at Inan’s promise to try. He’d always asked her to take back the request, in the past. And then on about a party, devising plans that she supposed suited his own sensibilities more than they were thought out considering hers. Inan was like that, though, his greatest efforts on her behalf when she wanted very little but his health. She appreciated the affection, but it tended to cause her more worry in the end.

“I don’t want a party.” She said, a bit sullen. “If there’s a party and dancing there’s going to be at least one person hurt. Especially if you’re there.” Cat told him. She was right, he would know. “And, what I want least on my birthday is to have to see any of your blood.” She stuck her tongue out at him, as if that might lighten the mood she’d cast. Inan would be disappointed she didn’t want a party, and more so over her reason. To keep him from troubling over it for long, she offered a distraction.

“Do you want to see something neat?” she asked him, scrambling across his sheets to throw herself across the gap and onto her own bed. There, she fished over the edge, reaching for a small box underneath. “I figured it out last night, after you fell asleep, and I meant to show you today in the forest.” She explained, putting the box in her lap as she sat cross-legged on her blanket. Inside the box were a few of Catalina’s favorite forest trinkets and some scraps of paper with spells she had been practicing.

Mother had only ever taught Catalina healing Magic, though the Magic the earth gave the witches ran a good deal deeper. It wasn’t because Elise had wanted to hide anything from her daughter. It was only that Elise’s own mother had only passed on the useful Magics, carrying with her the sensibilities of a city witch. It was best to use only those spells which endeared you to those around you. Other Magic wasn’t believable and it made you look crazy. Or it got you shot in some dark alley.

“Watch.” Cat pulled a pair of glossy dragonfly wings out of the box and a dried flower bud. She paused. The witchling tossed the dried flower back into the little trunk and fished out Inan’s flower from her pocket, instead. She held the items out on her palms and gave her brother an impish sort of smile. “I figure this one out, myself.” And then she whispered a few of the Old Words, which carried with them lovely chills to race up and down their spines. Cat began to hum, a tune different from her mother’s, and the flower began to glow. On a soft puff of breeze, the bud and the wings were lofted from her palms and swirled toward each other, closer and closer as the bud grew brighter and brighter. Then, they were joined, a small hovering orb of light flitting between the siblings. “A Faerie Light.” She said, in explanation, and swirled a finger toward the little lamp. It swayed and danced in rhythm with her orchestration.

She was distracted by Inan’s teasing, though, and when her hand dropped back to her lap, the light faded and the items dropped, too. Catalina frowned. “It’s not your job to find me suitors, you know.” She said, and it was a little harsher than she’d intended. “I’m going to leave this place and go to the city someday, anyway. I’ll find somebody there. Somebody who hasn’t ever borrowed your blood and never will.” She flopped back onto her bed, staring up at the ceiling.

--

Marin wiped the corner of her lip with a delicate finger. She hadn’t really thought all that far into her ruse. Marin had just wanted to know if the rumors were true. Quite honestly, she couldn’t have said if she even intended to act on the information she’d acquired from the stumbling boy. He made her feel old, which was interesting. She’d only had this body for a few years.
The pale eyes winked, catching the lamplight. “What’s your name?” she asked him, instead of answering his question. “You seem like you know a lot about this place. The Blood House. Do you like Magic?” she asked. A vague sort of smile. He might have seen something predatory there, between her deeply red lips, and rare. It might have been a trick of the light. Everything about her seemed more like a trick of the light, in truth.

Marin hadn’t met any others like her in the city. What she knew of herself were through old books in the back of an odd old bookstore she’d found. She had a catalogue of her names, held in the deepest corners of her ribcage for the lives she’d lived. And from the books, she’d read about loving humans and hating them. Marin hadn’t found a reason to feel strongly about much of anything in this lifetime, yet. She eyed the boy and wondered if Valleyrun might change that.

--

Elise hummed a half-hearted agreement with her husband. She knew Catalina was talented. It wasn't surprising of her own daughter. That was half the problem, though, she was sure. "She thinks she knows better, Adam." Elise said, raising an eyebrow in his direction. She appreciated her husband's attempts at peacemaking, but she felt he couldn't really understand it. He wasn't a witch. "She thinks she's better than my magic and Inan's."

Elise knew that wasn't entirely true. Catalina wasn't a prideful girl. It was a matter of morality. And in some recess of the woman's heart, she might have thought her daughter really was better for her purity.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2016, 12:40:29 am »
He frowned, an honest response to her refusal to have a gathering of people in her honor. He soon realized the taste of the expression was for himself. She who was so free should love to dance. He clutched his most recently visited vein as a reflex, when she mentioned his blood. He knew he was bleeding inside her careful wrapping. Not a big flow, it would drown itself and dry. He was about to engage with her, try to convince her, when her tongue came out and he became quiet, unsure whether to deny her attempt to lighten the air.

Before he could decide either way, she had him nodding, waiting for the secret, if a secret it was, that she offered. The show was reflected in his eyes, and on the glow on his parted lips. He loved her magic. It gave him hope, and it made him proud. The aesthetics of it, too, appealed to him. "This is unbelievable." he mumbled, bound to the radiance. He reached out, unable not to.

He gasped in distress when his pique got to her, and the light fled. His cupped hands caught the debris of her tantrum, and he looked at the scorched petals, and the further translucent wings. They were warm the way her back was warm, when he woke her up in the night.

Carefully, he put the ingredients of her magic back into the box she'd used, and then took the box to sit by the leg of her bed as he knelt by its side, arms laid out for his head, close to hers. "If that's your only requirement, you should just stay here in Valleyrun, and marry yourself." he said and puffed air to move her hair over her face. "I'd attend the wedding of course, just for the spectacle."

-

Ahler realized he was walking ahead, and something in him didn't agree with that. He let her catch up, the few steps between them, and then swallowed once at her smooth complexion. Surely she should have one or two ill fitting details to her, somewhere. He failed to confirm this, as he did with noticing she hadn't answered him. "Brent Ahler. Ahler for short." her smile injected his legs with an eagerness for another direction, but he was drawn in to smile back.

He wanted to appease her, so he continued to give her the information she requested. "I like magic, of course. Me and friends." He thought of Nona and Martin, and the others. What would they say if he presented them to this woman. Would they be as mesmerized? "Everyone knows about the Blood House. It's the home of a witch, and Adam's the herbalist. Old trade, old traditions." A shrug. "Old town." The were turning out of the main row of houses, on the one path that would take them to where Mend lived.

He felt nervous when she looked at him, her eyes different colors than he remembered. And every time he should have taken to panic, alone on this short walk with her, where the trees would be his only witnesses, he was drawn deeper into infatuation. Being who he was, Ahler liked to think he had a good handle on his heart, favoring distance over disappointment. She, who was making his sweat cold and throat dry, seemed to pass without obstruction, through his attempts at being guarded.

"You could always speak with Elise. She's the witch. She'll want money, even if she doesn't ask for it." he explained to fill the silence. He was equally afraid of what this creature might do to him, and that she might leave, so his words were offerings to keep her entertained while they traveled. "But like I said, don't get your hopes up." He wondered if he should teach her Nona's method. It would seem crass, to say the least, especially at this point in their familiarity. The house was visible, small but well kept for a home on the outskirts of the outskirts. "There. Would you like me to follow you in?" Hopeful. At least, this would be good gossip for later.

-

Elise summed up pretty well the gripe between the two women. It was that then, that made them so similar, and why they couldn't be expected to get along all too well. Perhaps if there hadn't been an Inan, there could have been something amicable. He was sure the two would behead him if he ever voice that thought. The father thought on this often. Inan was sweet, but more than that he was valuable.

"She'll get over her rebellion." He hoped. He loved his little fire. The best would be if either of them would give. Of all the things that happened in this house, perhaps that would be the biggest miracle. He was wiping the needles with a clean towel and placing them back in the small chest. "Her sweet sixteen is soon." He tried for a new angle, but the same topic.

-

Inan was upright, holding out his wrist, looking down at his sister on the bed. "Do you think you'll be able to close it?" he asked, a moist line darkening the bandage. He laughed at himself for not having been careful, before.

-

Ahler nodded at the window to the sibling's room, now that they were close enough. The boy with the blood. Ahler hated Inan for his prettiness. A starved beauty, with kindness on his lips. Everyone wanted him in one way or another. The lesser blessed boy shook his head and put his hands in his pockets. "That's Mend. He's the source of the blood."

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2016, 11:15:41 pm »
Catalina rolled onto her side. “Maybe I will.” She retorted. It sounded more pleasant than settling for any of the boys in town. “What do you care about that, anyway.” She said. “Shouldn’t you be more worried about yourself? Or do you figure Mother wouldn’t let some other girl take you away.” Cat snickered. Perhaps she was too cruel to her mother, when she was out of ear shot. Cat didn’t take the time to consider it for long. She wasn’t in the mood to feel guilty.

“Whatever. Birthdays are sort of silly, anyhow.” She said. Sixteen should have meant a little more than that to the witchling. It was the year of womanhood and independence for witch of the Old Ways. But, these weren’t the same times and Mother had taken whatever modernity suited her. Catalina didn’t expect a proper ceremony. If she had to guess it, her mother was likely to forget about her birthday at all. This year, it was set to fall on a New Moon, same as the day she came into the world. Now days Mother was superstitious of New Moons, when it came to Inan. She liked to tuck him away in the house and put wards on the doors, as if the Fae might still come to snatch her near-grown son.

Catalina wriggled herself so that she could hang her head over the edge of the bed and look at her brother and his star-spun eyes. “Do you ever wish things were different? Sometimes I see the other families and it seems a lot simpler.” She said. “Then I feel guilty, because I love my Magic. I love yours too. It’s special. I just hate that everybody else thinks they have a right to it.

--

Marin was a little surprised that the boy was so eager to take her to the place that was so precious to their town. She had figured it would be a little harder to get close, quite honestly. Now that they seemed to be on their way, she wasn’t totally sure what she wanted to do about it. Simply see the house, maybe.

“Brent Ahler.” She echoed. Marin ate the name, letting it slide between her teeth as she breathed out the sound. Marin liked names. They were rooted. Marin could remember her names and occasionally said them out loud so that she could eat them also. She liked to make sure she was still tied to them, so that she was rooted too. Before Marin, she had been Yue. Before Yue, she had been Selene. Before Selene, she had been Chandra. Before Chandra, she had been Luna. The only name she’d never eaten was her first name. It was the only one she couldn’t remember.

“I like old places. Sometimes they’re the most comfortable.” She said. Marin stared at Ahler’s back as she followed him, her footsteps silent. Too silent, if he paid attention. “Old places have layers of history. History doesn’t disappear even when the places do, but that’s when it gets lost. It’s better when there are old places to keep all the history anchored.” There was weariness in the way she said it, and little melancholy beneath that.

When they came upon the old house, Marin stopped to look it over. It was shabby, though it couldn’t have been built more than fifteen years ago. The construction looked cheap. Brent Ahler gave her another name. “Adam and Elise.” She said back. “No, I don’t think I’d like to go in just yet. I’m very tired and I’ve just arrived in your lovely town. Beyond that, I’ll be needing to visit an ATM to get some money. As you said, they will accept payment. I appreciate you showing me the home, though. I would have had trouble finding it if I was relying on Ms. Lynn to show me.” Marin laughed softly. It was a little funny. Ahler had given up the town secret so very easily. She wondered if he found that funny too.

It was best to come back to the house alone. If the woman that lived there was a witch, it was unlikely she wouldn’t recognize Marin for what she was. It would be a hassle if Elise the witch wouldn’t invite her in. “You said there was an herbalist who lives here, as well? Adam?” she wondered if Adam would know. He might invite her in. It was a bit rude to circumvent the lady of the house like that, but she was really only there to look. A human with blood after her own heart.

There was Ahler, though. He was another possible option. “You said you like Magic, Ahler.” She said. “If you follow me past the trees out there, I can show you something you might like. It’s a sort of Magic.” Marin offered. She didn’t wait for him to answer, sidling past him and out from beneath the window and heading for the woods edge. He would follow, probably.

If he did, she’d stop just past the first line of trees and shrug down the hood of her sweatshirt. Her dark hair would blaze white as fresh snow, her fair skin would halo with a ghost light twin to the moon’s. Her red mouth would be the pretty petals over the trap of edges behind them. She would give him a mysterious smile with the same sadness tucked in it as her conversation. “Would you believe me if I told you that my grandfather was an angel?” she would ask. And then, “Will you keep my secret for me? That’s why I’m here to see your Blood House. I don’t think the hospitals will know how to repair an angel.” It would be a lie, as most of the rest had been, with just enough truth that it was easy to carry on. She would cough weakly into her sleeve again. She could expect Ahler to fail at keeping her secret. He had said he had friends that liked Magic too. Maybe if the word carried quietly, the boy Ahler called Mend might find her, himself. Then she wouldn’t have to worry about being invited in at all.

--

Elise folded her arms across her chest. Sixteen. She wondered if Catalina would ask for her Witch’s Rite. It was unlikely, she thought. Cat gave her looks, sometimes, that made Elise think the girl hardly considered her mother a witch anymore. At the very least, Elise was fairly sure her daughter wouldn’t ask for the Rite from Elise’s blood-stained hands. Thinking about it like that made Elise a little angry. She shouldn’t have to feel dirty for doing the right thing.

“Maybe we should throw her a party. She could take some time to meet a nice boy. It might be good for her.” Elise said. Something to take Catalina’s attention of her brother for a bit. Really, it couldn’t be healthy to be so protective of a sibling. There had to be a point that they grew out of each other. “Inan won’t be able to go, of course. It’ll be the Dark Moon and he shouldn’t go out. She’ll be upset about that.”

--

Catalina rolled back onto her back when Inan stood. “Of course I can close that. I’ve fixed much worse for…” she trailed off briefly. “For you. Before.” She said, an unexpected pink tinging her cheeks.

There was a man that passed through Valleyrun from time to time. Lynnette had said that he used to be a religious vampire hunter in the city, when he was a youth. She said he still hunts, these days, but only for marks that had done really bad things. Cat had found the story intriguing and the man more so. He’d been ruggedly handsome and she’d blushed furiously the day he came to her in the forest and asked for help. He’d gotten hurt on a hunt up in the mountain but didn’t want to go to Mother, because Mother would offer Inan’s blood. The man said he didn’t like the idea of taking blood like that. Catalina had never healed a wound so big as the gash across his torso, but she’d poured her soul into doing a good job of it just because the man had not wanted to take Inan’s blood.

Cat hadn’t seen the man more than twice since, floating through town a few years back, and he’d largely left her mind. He was the one secret she’d ever kept from Inan, though. She’d had a feeling he wouldn’t have liked it, though she wasn’t sure why.

“I’ll do it after everyone is asleep, in a little bit.” She said, though she didn’t quite look Inan in the eye. 


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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2016, 07:44:49 pm »
Inan smiled, absent into that thought, when cat stirred that cauldron, him and mother. It was to see a future for himself where mother didn’t funnel his blood into helping people. It was not unrealistic to think that he’d stay in this house, in this room, until he couldn’t bleed anymore. But he’d always been a romantic on pause. How could he not, with all the love he had inside? He wasn’t deprived, or craving, but he wanted it for his later self. So, perhaps, circumstances, however they may unfold, might hold someone for him. That person was a caricature, a cut-out shadow now, but he supposed he had half-hearted plans to fill in that silhouette. He came back to now, where Catalina was.

“Maybe mother won’t know.” He said quite sincerely. When it dawned on him that it might be a mischievous plot, he added a smirk. Could you keep such a secret in Alleyrun? If he didn’t leave when his sister did, he’d try, at least. “And birthdays aren’t silly.” He couldn’t believe that. Not when it came to Cat’s. It was the closest thing to a holiday he believed in. If not a dance, then he would have to give her all the attention for the others. There was an account he didn’t touch, not all too full, but more than he needed. During lush times, father would put in something extra. Perhaps he could steal Cat away to the city, on her big day. Mother’s opinion on the matter was already giving him a stomachache, but it seemed like something Cat would enjoy.

He smiled with half his mouth at her question, and nodded. He should have hesitated, but this particular experiment was often before him, when he didn’t have other things to think. “Do you remember when you married us after I’d thrown grass,” green fire “on the three-legged king?” a stool they’d drawn on. “You’d just defeated all the goblin rocks, breaking, I think, a dozen sticks.” They’d played a lot of pretend, but that wedding had stuck because both mother and father had come out when he’d kissed Cat after she’d been the bride and the priest, on account that she’d actually learnt the ritual from mother’s scroll. Mother had father perform the separating ritual the next day. The elixir had been so bitter Inan had been sick. “I wished that time that we weren’t Elise’s and Adam’s children, because other parents might not have taken back your pretty ceremony.” He counted the well-grown worlds in her eyes. “Not simpler, but I’d like to have been free, back then.” He laughed, sudden, surprised himself. “I cussed, do you remember? I though father would faint.”

-

The way she spoke of old places made Ahler think of how the elders would scold the children when they weren’t being respectful of the old ways. Then she mentioned the need of an ATM. It could have been this that made her so different, other than that impossible quality to her skin, that she seemed to hold herself like someone who’d seen more things than her apparent age should have allowed – her contrasts, as though time had become askew in her. He gasped when she laughed, to imitate the sound, so she would think he knew what her amusement was over.

“Adam, yes.” Polite man, very low on their interest, since there really was nothing fantastical about him. Ahler thought he should offer something other than ‘he has white and gray on the sides of his head’. “Think he holds a degree, but not a doctor.” Not medical practitioner, he meant without knowing it.

He followed, of course. The promise of magic could mean a lot of things to the boy. The Sanguisuge Clearing fluttered with its blurb across the back of his mind. His jaw grew with its tension and his eyes filled when he saw her. He was afraid, without flight in his legs. She was completely other. Fingers in his pockets twitched with a need to examine her cheek. He shook his head, so this wonder would go away, and then he nodded, lying despite his intentions. Those fingers slid nervously over the screen of his phone. His reflex was to take a memento of this creature. “Of course.” To all that she said. If he’d been obsessed with The Blood House, he was slave to her now.

Her heritage, what she chose to tell, made him feel calmer. Humans aren’t always taught to fear angels. The religion in town wasn’t limited to The Book, he’d not mapped out his feelings on angel kind. “What can I do?” he had a fear she would cease to be, somehow. He couldn’t stand that. A step closer, before he could shackle that impulse. A bit of mania in his slightly parted lips. He felt special, chosen, thought that it was owed him, that she not abandon him, that she should use him. “What can I do for you? I have a friend. Mend likes her.” Nona might have embellished on the looks that Inan gave her when she lost her clothes. “If you need his blood. We can get him alone.” With the promise Inan had given Cat in their room, it was a porcelain offer, at best. Their little pod of Blood House worshippers had been speaking of such a plan, lately. It seemed less selfish if they should execute it for this creature.

And already, the human was selling a brother out for the angel offspring.

-

Adam was glad to hear Elise meet him on this. He was quite the cook, if people Catalina’s age still ate. He had a feeling all they did was talk sharp or not at all. Often he felt like their joke, when he met them, even though that jargon was dulled in this town, thanks to the hierarchy in age. The father lifted a brow as he started assemble things to put them away again. He leaned closer to her as he passed her, his shoulder bushing hers. He’d learned this from having seen Inan do it to Cat on occasion. “She’ll want Inan to be there.” He stated.

It wasn’t a protest to what Elise had said. Mother and daughter would try to move each other on occasion. It was simply a fact, as though Elise didn’t know. Catalina wanted to be close to Inan. If the girl had any say in her birthday celebration, she’d ask for that. The idea of Cat meeting someone did lighten Adam’s heart. A good boy. “Of course, if her brother isn’t there, maybe you’re right, and she’ll open her eyes to someone else, finally.” Cat was strong, usually the head variety of strong, but he’d not met anyone yet that could win over the floods that came with puberty. “Perhaps we can rent out the café bakery. I think the kids are tired of the gym hall, anyway.” And he didn’t know that he’d seen Cat with enough friends that they’d need the space. He laughed out of nowhere. This was pleasant. “And early in the morning, we can wake them both up with breakfast.” So Inan didn’t feel excluded, since he wouldn’t be able to go. It’d be a unspoken peace offering to Catalina, as well.

-

Inan, with his hand out, put his other hand on his hip as he saw her disappear to somewhere else. It was curious to him, especially the way she’d worded it. But he couldn’t discern from a look on her what she was thinking. Secrets weren’t usually between them. He sat down on her bed and brushed three fingers over the line. It was only the color that had come through, not enough to smear yet. He was sure that it would. “Thank you.” He mumbled as he warmed the color with friction.

The brother noticed her arm, and drew his knuckle over the bend of her elbow. His was bruised, dotted most days. Hers was serene. “We’re different, aren’t we?” The knuckle dug a bit deeper before it retreated. He thought of his future here, and the future he imagined she had, out in the world. “Your value is that you’re full of life, and I’m only good if I’m full of scars.” He licked the ceiling of his mouth, behind closed lips as he multiplied their possibilities, if they weren’t who they were. The lowering night had its effect on his sentimentalities.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2016, 10:22:43 pm »
Cat nodded. “You’ll learn to keep secrets from her, eventually.” She said. It was true. Inan was nearly a man, but Cat always figured he had no real hope of growing up until he learned to be more than Mother’s rules. She didn’t bother arguing with him over the triviality of birthdays. It was largely pointless to do so. Catalina was quite sure she’d never convince her doting brother to change his mind.

With all the talk of un-had lovers, she found herself blushing a little at his answer. She’d nearly forgotten that ceremony, as it had been in the days before Inan’s blood had brought Magic and those times seemed desperately far away. “Mother was so furious I’d been going through scrolls without her.” Catalina giggled. “I could understand the Magic but not the marriage. We didn’t have a clue it was wrong!” she reminisced. He was right, too. He had cussed and Father had gone white as a ghost. Surely he was worried Mother would scold him later for letting that kind of word slip for Inan to remember. She laughed louder. “That might be the only time I’ve ever heard you cuss at all.” She said.

--

Interesting histories shifted in Marin’s stare when Ahler began to make his offers. His assistance had been what she’d been after. A card to keep in her sleeve, if the witch and her herbalist were unwilling to play along. She hadn’t expected quite this much eagerness, though. Perhaps it had been a poor judgement, though. The boy had given up the Blood House without much hesitation, either. Humans were curious. It was a thought she’d had many times, if she could recall it.

“They named their child Mend?” Marin asked, the shining white creature tilting her head at the oddity of it. “That seems a little rude. Shall I call you Snitch?” The pewter eyes narrowed just so. “Or will you keep my secret?” she continued. His talk of friends said this little dance in the woods would not stay quiet. That was fine. She had expected that much. She just wanted to make sure he told it right. She was close to him in an instant, near enough that he would catch the scent of something sweet and extinct. A night blooming flower from the hanging gardens, had he lived at a time to recognize it.

At that proximity, she was a construction more than a girl. Had he not walked there with her, she might have been an eerie porcelain thing and no more. There was no blemish in her snow but the red, red lips and the thick dark lashes. The flaw was its absence. In the city, there was talk of the Uncanny Valley. The sort of technology to touch that place hadn’t ever made it out into Valleyrun, save some pictures on the web. She would have been a tingling sort of disturbing that Ahler wouldn’t have been able to name, but would have wanted to touch. She blinked at him, and then plucked his phone from his hands. “It’s rude to break a promise, you know. Sin is real. You should believe in Demons, too.” She told him.

“I’ll find you, Mr. Ahler, if I need you. I’d like to know if your Blood House would be kind to me of their own accord.” She said, with the sort of tone that suggested it might be a divine test for the witch’s pride. “I’ve lived with my illness for a long time. I can be patient and your town seems nice.” Marin said, and whatever danger had been in her otherworldly edges seemed to dissipate. She took a step back, playing with Ahler’s phone in one hand.

“Will you walk with me back to the motel? I don’t suppose I should worry, but I’m a new girl in this place. It would make me feel safer.” She asked him, pulling up her hood with a tired sigh. He might have imagined the angel, if she weren’t still holding onto his phone.

--

Elise let her husband talk, some part of her enjoying the thought of a nice party. She loved her daughter, despite their differences. “That could be nice.” She agreed. Elise suspected the girl would still fuss, breakfast with her brother aside. At least Inan was perpetually sweet. He’d apologize to Cat, himself, for being kept from attending. Such a good boy.

“Maybe we’ll talk to them tomorrow. If Cat is inclined for something we’ll have a week to put it together.” She said with a tired smile. “It’s late and that Magic was draining. Shall we lay down?” she suggested, moving toward their bedroom as she spoke. It wasn’t ever the Magic that was exhausting, really. It was the weight of her own heart and the way it was reflected in Cat’s temper and Inan’s obedience.

--

Catalina frowned at her brother. “You’re good because you’re you. Same as me. I’m good because I’m me.” She folded her arms over her chest. “Of course we’re different, but it’s not because of that.”
« Last Edit: April 28, 2016, 07:40:44 pm by VenomousEve »

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2016, 07:36:46 pm »
Ahler shook his head violently, to dispel the mistake he'd produced. "Inan. Sorry. The town calls him Mend because of what he does." he said with some haste. A slip with an angel could be concidered a lie, couldn't it? What kind of sin was lying to an angel, what punishment would it buy you? While the disloyalty he'd performed, whether it be to his place of birth or his friends, did not weigh on him, her stare did. His hands came up, to keep back any judgement she would attach to him. "Ahler's fine. I'm just trying to be helpful." He hadn't snitched in the past. He'd had no reason to. "I'll not tell anyone about you." Again, a lie.

He was afraid of her complexion, so close. It was painful to hold in this breath. The discomfort at her beauty started just below his diaphragm and stuck there when he tried to shift his body to let it rise and be exhaled. The implactions of demons was almost too much for him, especially when the claiming of his voice in the world, the scratched up, flat device, felt so deliberate, so final. He shook his head to be more convincing, the showing palms twitching, petitioning for her to see. Surely she should be able to detect sincerity in them.

He lasted through her warnings, somehow, and was eager to be useful again, now that she’d revealed herself to be more than the pretty he’d tried to talk to outside his workplace. He took a few steps and waited for her to follow. Ahler wasn’t leading anymore, since she knew the way, but still took the role of a guide. Hard to believe she needed him for protection, but his ego was quick to convince him. He was going to be good, quiet company from here on out. That, also, he failed with when her word rolled off his drying lips. “Demons?” he wondered. She could deny him the information, of course, but he had to at least try to quench himself, now that she had revealed herself a possible source of the supposedly otherworldly. “Are there really demons?” if she existed, then her opposing kin should. Already he was wondering what Martin, Nona and the others would say. Every now and then he’d throw a glance at the phone she’d claimed. “How will I know them?”

“And you illness.” He realized it might be rude before he could halt his tongue. Now that he was committed to the question, it had to be spoken. “Is it bad? What could possibly make an angel sick?” and then “Did a demon do it?” Ahler was not a charming person, even if he’d desperately liked to be. There was something to be said for transparency, though. The boy felt some winter take him, speaking of what he assumed were the worst secret beings while walking the dark patch of forest.

-

Adam had very few illusions that the girl would not be obstinate in some way. She was not hard to please, she simply wanted one thing. The one thing he could not provide, and something Elise would not. The mother’s attitude toward the idea made him happy enough that he would allow himself to hope. He’d not felt tired, but her mention of sleep fell heavy on his lids. “Some hours of rest sounds nice.” He agreed and quickly finished up in the kitchen.

He suspected the other two would be up late, which was a habit he indulged them in. He was usually the one going up at night, hearing their voices. When they were being too loud, he’d deliberately walk by their room without saying anything. Usually that worked in calming them down. He’d not told Elise, since she’d probably force the boy to rest if she knew.

-

Inan felt guilty for what he’d done to the mood, but laid there, lamenting in the silence. His heart wasn’t built for this kind of contemplation. He sat up quickly and stuck his hand underneath her pillow, lifting her head to find a band. As he tied his hair back, he sighed, light. When he’d not been able to lure her into conversation yet, he grinned, lifting an arm off her chest to expose her ribs. “I’m sorry.” He said in his saddest voice, pulling at a drama that wasn’t there. He played those ribs lightly, but would grip her arm harder and when she struggled. “This is for your own good, child.” He continued, amusement apparent.

His limbs were long, a natural athlete in some sports if his blood had gotten the chance to nurture his muscles. In many ways Catalina was the spry one of them, the guardian of the blood wraith, but he was at least heavier than she. If he was not satisfied with this extraction of laughter, and she showed too many signs of being able to flee, he’d roll onto the bed, and throw his leg over hers to keep her down. “Recite the recipe for nettle soup!” he demanded with manic laughter in his voice, afraid of her revenge. She was fire, after all. “All of it!” It was one of the few things he knew from father’s work. It was good for infections and on hot days. It was also long.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2016, 08:33:46 pm »
So many questions. Marin wasn’t generally fond of questions. Probing too deep could be problematic for her. Not because she feared revealing her nature, no, it was rather that she did not know what nature there was to reveal. There were many secrets for her many names. Marin only knew Marin’s secrets. This line of query, though, was benign. She found his fervor nearly charming. In humans, she had found, passion was the only innocent emotion. The rest were contrived and thick with motive.

“You didn’t ask me ‘are there really angels,’ why is that?” Marin asked him, following behind by a few paces. “Are angels easier to believe than demons?” Ahler should have been the one concerned about protection, really. Marin hadn’t made a point of being vicious in this life. She’d not had a reason to do so. She’d not had a reason to care overly for the human race either, though. She licked her lip thoughtfully. There were less useful creatures to eat than the boy, but his nature appealed to her pallet. Perhaps, when she’d had her fun in Valleyrun.
 
“How will you know them?” Marin echoed and laughed a little. “You won’t.” she said. “But, you won’t know the angels, either.” Angels and Demons seemed rare, these days. She’s not met any that she could remember. Perhaps they had also grown bored. Marin had read that Chandra had loved a demon. They had slaughtered humans like sheep, under the full moon. Marin didn’t know if the demon had ever shown up again. After Chandra, the stories of otherworldly things had become more fiction than history.

“There are a lot of things to go bump in the night. Faeries and Wolves and Vampires.” Marin said, the silvery eyes dancing. “But why would you know any of them, unless they wanted you to?” she mused. She supposed if he went digging, there was still enough knowledge out there to help him reveal the secrets of the Night. It would have been hard, though. The internet was such a playground for urban legends that it really had become the best shroud They could ask for. The truth was such a quiet thing.

Had a demon made her sick? “I suppose you could say that.” Marin said after a measured pause. If her nature qualified as sick, it could even be true. By that logic, though, she was ill as punishment for her parents and their parents before them. Little rips in universal order, little slips into the taboo.

When they reached the motel, again, Marin gave the boy a generous smile. “Thank you for the company. I do appreciate how forthcoming you are. I respect the desire to protect your town’s secrets, truly, but I am very grateful you told me about your Blood House.”  She said, jingling the keys to her room in her hand. When she had stepped inside, she turned back to toss Ahler his phone. “I’ll be seeing you, Ahler. Snitch.”

--

Catalina clamped he hands over her mouth to hold in a squeal of laughter. There were brief moments when she was just a little sister again. There was no Magic and no darkness in their home. Inan was healthy and strong. She squirmed mightily, gasping as he pinned her with his leg. “Inan!” she let out a little shriek, despite her best attempts to keep quiet.

“Inan,” a more urgent hiss. “Don’t make me laugh so loud, Mother and Father should be asleep soon and I don’t want to wake them.” She wheezed in between giggles, pointing at his wrist. The sooner their parents were asleep, the sooner she could close the wound. Even as she appealed to him with logic, she launched a counter attack, slipping her fingers up under his shirt to prod at his bare skin for full effect.

“You can’t tell a Witch what to say!” she retorted. Words were power. Still, she squirmed harder for fear of being made to comply. She’d be suffocating from her own laughter before she made it half way through that damned recipe.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2016, 06:36:49 am »
And there he stood, with his phone. How useless it was now. It did signify the punctuation of this meeting. She had him leave her. He could have stayed here all night, waiting for her to leave her room in the  morning, so he would have proof, for himself, that she had existed. The moon face in the beginning of night. A moon he'd led to the Blood House. What a beautiful first chapter they'd written.

He didn't stay. He went past Lynn, and sat in his room, stepping over the book on his way. He sat there, filling the little space with the thoughts she'd left him. Why hadn't he questioned the existence of angels? Was she so convincing in her role? Yes, he'd have to say, and he'd shown it too, in his eyes when he'd looked at her. Because he believed her and the eyes that were black dark when they weren't white light. Whit his jacket off, his shirt thin, winter had gone, mostly, he could feel his heartbeat.

He gripped that pumping muscle harder when he thought of Faeries and Wolves and Vampires. He was at once stricken with a lust to see them, and a fear of them, and a world where they existed. So the night was like the ocean, and he had only seen and measured it by its surface. The way she'd laughed, expressing how acutely impossible it would be for him - at whatever lacking capacity she deemed he had - to ever see them if they wanted to be hidden.

It made him sad, it made him feel small, but her existence, and her confiding in him, made him feel hopeful. Maybe he could matter. He looked at the phone on the little table. He couldn't very well wait to matter. He'd sleep here, take one of the rooms. Lynn wouldn't know unless he lit the light by the window. They never cleaned rooms that weren't supposed to be occupied. Ahler reached for his phone.

It was Martin that answered. Tonight, Nona wasn't with him. It was hard to keep the other boy on the line, but eventually, with persistence and a offer to prove either insanity, gullibility, or splendor, Ahler was able to convince him to come. They could hang out in the room and wait. The others could come if they wanted. Nona would start about the Blood House, and they'd all bury themselves in theories for the night. And then, if they caught her before she slipped them, he could show them his angel.

She'd called him Snitch. He squeezed his heart harder and widened his eyes larger. He wouldn't be. Not in the end. He'd be something more.

-

Innan bent around her hand when it visited his skin, already laughing out of glee. He tried to swallow that mirth now, even as he was folded over her dancing fingers. "You're way more ticklish than I am. I'll win this, Witch!" he challenged. In his mind, it was true, even if they mostly had the same nerves to be teased. His cheeks filled with his attempts at not making a sound, and eventually he had to exhale into the pillow. While there, encased in the scent of her hair that she left on the cloth, he squeezed his eyes shut stubbornly to try and fight the bubbles in his stomach that wanted out, forced out almost, by her expert tickling.

So focused was he on not laughing, the hand on her arm squeezed a little harder, while the one playing her ribs stilled. His leg hooked tighter around both of hers. The strain, if any of them cared to notice, would grow the dark lines on the bonds around his wrists. His writhing was tell-tale of course, if the lack of motion in his tickling hand was not. Eventually, dizzied in her natural perfume, he would have to toss his face back to breathe.

If she'd not stopped by then, he'd have to use his strength and grab both her wrists, so he could escape the cackles that grated his throat. At that point it wouldn't be out of a spirit of competition, it would be out of necessity. This was why he loved the nights with her. The secrecy, the privacy. None of his blood between them. "Sccchhh. You're waking our parents." As though he'd not been the one to initiate.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2016, 10:43:09 pm »
Marin sat on the motel room bed. It was and old and tired thing, with worn springs that should have creaked under her weight. She was more light than woman, though. More wave than particle, perhaps. There was no sound, no stir, same as her steps. For a long moment, she didn’t move. She’d come to Valleyrun and set a few cogs in motion, but she had no greater design. She wanted to meet the Witch’s boy. She wanted to know his blood. Perhaps, to know her own a bit better. A slow breath, wispy between the blood petals.

She shrugged out of her sweatshirt, laying back on the bed. The pale evening light slipped through the gaps in the old blinds, playing patterns across her skin. Luminous threads. Sharp teeth. She was hungry. There had been a boy back in the city who’d been a lot like Ahler. Quietly longing for something greater than the neat rules of daily life and enchanted by suggestions of the Other. He’d been hungry too, to break the rules and play the impossible. His veins had been soft and his heart had been so very willing.

Marin was a doll of Forever and the boy was the sort to waste. She’d left when the bags under his eyes had settled in deep and he’d started missing work. He hadn’t been worth bleeding dry. It wouldn’t have been satisfying. In addiction, he’d despaired over the punishment of continued life without her. It was on the tenth day of his ceaseless phone calls that she’d disposed of her phone and bought her bus ticket to Valleyrun. She wanted something different.

--

Cat was vicious, ignoring his gasps and fighting her own to persist. “I’ll never give in!” she laughed, though she did finally relent. Panting as she sat, she glanced at his wrist. “Here, let’s take a look.” She murmured, noting the dark beneath the bandage.

She slipped off the bed and padded to the door of their room, shutting it carefully. “They’re in their room, now, at least.” She said to him. Catalina returned to Inan’s side and took his arm into her hands, gently unwrapping the gauze. She’d used herbs and medicinal blends in the past. Since her meeting with the hunter in the woods, Cat had become more independent. She pressed her thumbs against the sides of the newest cut, frowning as more dark bubbled up.

“You’re not clotting well.” She said. Mother’s fault, she was sure. Mother gave Inan odd things to drink, now and again, to supplement his diet and keep him more ‘able to help’. Cat bit irritably at her lip. “She pretends she doesn’t see what happens but you know she knows. It’s okay to be a little selfish. Everyone else is.” She said, green eyes fierce when they landed on his starlight.

A deep breath, and then she wrote Magic in the air above his arm, thin lines of light sparking off her fingertips as she sang the Old Words soft and low. Catalina was softest when she was singing her Magic and touching the Earth Mother. She closed her eyes, humming still as she let her fingers trace the cut. Heat seared and sparked under that touch. The wound closed in its wake.

She smiled at him when she was through, running her hand over the healed skin with an affectionate touch before rewrapping it. Little successes Mother would never know about. Years ago, Elise would have been exceptionally proud of her daughter’s talent.

“One less, at least.” She said. Cat leaned in to give her brother a light kiss on the cheek. “I wish I could do more.” She said, and there was more of an apology in her words than a girl her age should have had to offer.     

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2016, 01:20:31 am »
The house was theirs now, with mother and father tucked away. Inan smiled at the blood she brought out after baring the wound. It was a common thing for him. He looked from the little wealth to his sister. Then he listened carefully as she sung to seal it. He'd wanted to tell mother about Catalina's skill, but it seemed as though Cat didn't want that to happen. It was the magic worth having, wasn't it, worth fawning over, the one she'd earned by studying, instead of his strange, unnatural occurrence.

He knew the blood didn't harden the way it used to. Mother liked to wrap his punctures and cuts faster now. He thought it was efficiency on most days, when really it must be guilt. Love blinded him, but it could not turn off his common sense. In that act it was explained, that Elise thought some things more important than others. Her son may bleed, and bleed well, as long as the blood was still good for its purpose, which apparently, in her eyes, was not be to fill up his veins. If he was sentimental about it, his heart would get heavy. It made the care Cat gave him worth more.

"But I am selfish." he said when she closed the bandage again. He tested his wrist as though this hurt had concerned his join. Perfect pressure. What else could he call himself, for wanting this forever? Their room, their house, their flow of people needing help. The things he dreamed of he was afraid of, too. If nothing changed, he wouldn't be sorry. He let her kiss the dimple from his smiles. No one could have done more. "It's what we do. In this house, we heal wounds."

He started laying up cards, piling them to suggest her favorite game, rather than his.

Inan clung to the night. He had his pretty purple eyelids, and his slow blinks from the night. But he was usually lacking in body, and would slur his words and forget the rules of their games as the stars shimmered high. He didn't always know when he ended the chatter with a decrease of volume, only that eventually, father would wake him up, and that is was morning. On occasion, he would have lasted as long as Cat, and wake in her bed, an arm on her. Most days, father woke him in his own bed, tucked tightly, and with his hair brushed back from his face.

"You shouldn't sleep like this, anymore." Adam said, leaving the room after having shaken Inan softly. Tonight, he'd slept in her hair. The brother smiled widely, and returned the kiss she'd given him a few hours ago, to see if she'd wake from the peck.

"It's the morning, Cat. I'll make breakfast. You can pick out fresh spices for the eggs." Father would have disapproved of the extended affection. Father would have disapproved of the hand on her stomach underneath the blanket, as well.
-

Ahler would wake too, in the room he'd commandeered, in the armchair. Martin and Nona on the bed. They usually stayed the longest. There had been no proof. But they believed him, by the end of it, between Nona's stories of how the Blood House must be like to live in, and Martin's longing for a time when they used to burn those associated with magic. He'd researched his bloodline. Rich. Founders of what was now Valleyrun. Superstitious and afraid. Ahler thought it was a strange thing to be proud of.

"Will we go today then, and find your little moonlight crush?" Nona said as she sat up in the clothes she'd come in. Her slightness showed when she stretched and her shirt hiked up. Out of vanity, Ahler guessed, she would excuse herself every time they sat down to eat together. She must know every boy in their group fancied her. That's why they listened to her until they were believers, too. Ahler shrugged, like he could think of better things to do with the day than follow and angel, even though he could not. The smile he wore might have given him away, because she shook her head with playful judgement.

"If she's not flown." he said. Martin woke with laughter. They were romantics, both of them, but liked to be cynical when others were dreaming. It galvanized Ahler to get up and sigh loudly, to create some kind of momentum in their atmosphere. It eventually prompted the other two to follow when he left. Her room was just on the other end of the corridor.

"If we hurry, we can still be in the Blood House this afternoon. I'm going to try glass, today, I think." Nona said, last in row. Ahler thought it was exciting, sometimes, that she was such a morbid spirit. At this time of day it wasn't as charming as it seemed desperate.

"She might not even be up." he said, unusually hard. "Or she could have already left."

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #22 on: May 01, 2016, 07:02:14 pm »
Cat enjoyed the nights she shared with her brother. They were simple and quiet. She could be innocent, again, without thoughts of her Mother’s oppressive practice or the deep rift that had cleaved the house in two. Even still, she suspected Inan was even more attached than she, clinging to the dark hours like they were his most precious thing. She wondered about it, on occasion, because his heart still seemed content with his daylight duties. She’d never been bold enough to ask him why. The illusion might shatter, then. Instead, she considered it her one indulgence at the expense of his health. The shadows beneath their eyes were a pact.

When it was morning, she woke coiled against her brother’s soft warmth. “Good morning, Prince Charming,” she teased, while sleep was still thick in her throat. “You’re supposed to wake the princess with a kiss, Silly, not the Witch.” She rolled away from him so that she could stretch her thin limbs, scratching at the wild twists of her pillow-tangled hair with a yawn.

“Okay, that sounds good. I need to get the rest of the nettles, today. We were interrupted yesterday.” She said, sliding out of bed. “Do you want to come?” Cat’s favorite time of year was winter. The long nights and grey days, as well as the break from home studies. She and Inan had always done their lessons with Father at home. Mother had been worried the children might be treated poorly for being Witch’s spawn, despite their value to the community. Now, the practice was more likely to keep a watchful eye on Inan and his precious veins. Not that it mattered anymore. Inan should have been thinking of heading to the city to start university studies and Cat was but two years shy of that possibility as well. Neither sibling had spoken of it, though. Valleyrun’s grip was tight.

What mattered now was that Father let them off on their own during the day, because it was a good time to catch the early year harvest of herbs in the forest and the proximity to the holidays was close enough to make their break seem valid. “I didn’t think we were so low on our stock, honestly.” Cat said as she was shrugging into a fresh change of clothes. She’d not developed many modesties in front of Inan, close as they were in spirit and living quarters. “I’m just glad there are enough this early in the season. It’s because there was a lot of rain, I think.”

As they made their way toward the kitchen, she leaned near to offer a secretive thought. “Maybe, if you and I make it deep enough into the woods, you’ll miss stupid Nona and she’ll have to figure things out with her own blood.” The deep green eyes sparkled with delight at the thought. Catalina wasn’t a cruel girl, but she was unforgiving.

--

Marin was standing outside, leaned on the old metal rail and staring down into the parking lot. She’d been out early, watching the shift change as Lynnette traded off duties with some old gentleman. There had been little activity since, the only cars to come and go had been using the lot’s turning utility rather than with intentions of motel patronage.She was waiting. Either for Ahler or someone who might give her something to eat.

She’d pulled a soft pink sundress from her bag today, intent on creating a wholesome and trustworthy sort of appearance. If it appealed to her femininity as well, she had accomplished double. It was hard to distrust a pretty woman, in the same way it was hard to distrust an angel. She tied up her long dark hair, as well, suggesting some deeply deceptive vulnerability in the bare curve of her slender throat. In the morning light, she was not so ethereal as she had been in the woods. It was just as well. She wanted to meet the Witch’s husband, today, so that she might acquire and invitation inside. If he had married a Witch, he ought to know the inviting darkness that tinged all Magic. That kind of temptation made the hair rise on the back of men’s necks. Marin did not want to feel dangerous.

She heard a door open down the open hall and glanced to see Ahler exit with some friends. Dear little Snitch. There was a boy and a girl. Marin thought the girl looked like she might cry the day she realized her prettiness was fleeting. It might be interesting to see. The other boy seemed interesting too, in so much as he might be good to eat. She wondered if that would break Ahler’s heart and the girl’s as well. Not that the substance of their emotions mattered terribly. Simply that they showed them to her. Anything was more exciting than the void of unanchored existence. Marin rarely knew what she was supposed to feel. It was good that humans were so definitive about their own sensitivities.

Marin pretended not to see them, returning her attention to the parking lot. It would be a game, today, since Ahler had found her first. She could, perhaps, learn a little more of Adam of the Blood House’s schedule if she entertained it. It was the boy’s move, though. Whether he might try to follow her or greet her outright would set the rules of their engagement. A small smile. Valleyrun was already a bit more fun than the city. She was glad she’d come.   

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2016, 06:52:47 am »
He knew which prince she was referring to. He tried to wink in a way that might honor that image. Mother had raised them on the truth of those tales. Father had been more informative. It hadn't left the boy jaded, growing up, but it brought some nuances to the way they'd played. Today, in the morning light, they'd borrowed from the kinder, sweetly coated versions.

Inan had leaned back into her bed, finding the ceiling a sudden anchor for his half-hearted focus, when she put her clothes on. It was a recent development, and one he fought to hide. It was not a conversation he wanted to have. If Catalina had noticed, she'd not said anything yet. He quickly followed her lead, and chose something quickly when she was leaving the room. The good thing with not having many changes of clothes, was that they had all worn to perfection.

He hadn't answered her invitation to come along. There was nothing that he wanted to do more. And in Valleyrun, there was nothing more for him to do. With his hair obediently being tied back as they walked, he expressed a reflection of the sentiment she was suggesting toward Nona. On him, it looked like compliance. Nona wasn't doing a good thing, cutting herself up, but it would be unusual for the boy with the blood to willfully deny someone. The plan had a perfect moral balance, though. If he was too deep, and could not be found, then it wasn't his fault, was it?

"I've always liked when we reach the cave." he said, a hidden act of evil toward Nona. A long walk. It had red berries around its mouth all year around. The strangeness of this occurrence had been with them growing up, and now that they were old enough to find that out of place, they hadn't spoken about it to anyone else. A small entrance that not even dad had shown knowledge of.

The kitchen was its usual labyrinth of light. He was quick to turn on the stove. The boy knew how to cook. When there was time, he liked to follow recipes to complicated desserts. Some of the green life in their forest were exotic according to the pages he frequented. He liked to fuss over the aesthetics, and take his time. Today there was no need. He usually made an omelette, because it was the best vehicle for Cat's spices. The sizzle upon the first egg in the oil was sensational, an abrupt end to the stillness. Dad was in the fridge.

"We're going to pick the rest of the nettles." Inan offered as he added more shells to the trash. It was to make conversation, but mostly to make sure it was still alright that they went out. Adam hummed with agreement, lifting his head, mouth full of something. Inan held his hand out and waved Cat in. "Hurry, or we'll have it plain with salt." he warned. When he cooked, they always ate out of the pan, always shared. As a child, he'd liked picking from everyone's plate.

"Don't forget your phones. I'm going to the groceriestore today." Adam said, brushing the two old models on the counter as he left the kitchen area to have his collected breakfast in the couch, in front of the fireplace. Since they'd bought those devices, the sister and brother had only brought them a handful of times. The father wasn't much hopeful anymore, but he thought it was his job to keep his children as available as possible, though he didn't mind going to get them. Adam had developed a sense for where they'd be, anyway, which was why Elise sent him, and didn't usually go herself.

-

Ahler spotted her first. His wide eyes turned back at the other two. Nona was immediately annoyed and intrigued. Martin wore a lax expression, already trying to look his off-beat charming. Ahler suddenly felt unsure with the other male there, and walked faster. Marin looked like a day, hiding her significant beauty with a flattering cadence. Tools of her trade, no doubt. "Oh, hello neighbor." he said as he stopped by her, hand on the rail. He kept some distance, without being sure why that was important. Probably to keep Martin as far away as possible. "Nona, Martin." he continued, and gestured toward the woman. "This is Marin, we spoke yesterday."

Martin was quick to let go of Nona's small shoulder to step beyond Ahler and extend his hand. "Nice to meet you. Brent say's you're from the city." the ashen blond said. He looked her over with a practiced friendly interest. He'd not seen something as pretty as he before, but he knew not to let that on. Martin fancied himself a predator in his own right. "We were going to skip school today, maybe show you around?"

The girl behind the athletic boy grabbed her elbows, posture stiff and smile sharp. She didn't keep a taut leash on Martin, not so possessive of the bodies she held for comfort, but the beauty of this new person did encroach on something Nona thought she had all to herself. There is a lot of power in being the loveliest in any group, and she'd thought Alleyrun her own domain. "Sorry. Boys likes new, shiny things." she said with a shrug, hoping, perhaps, to underline the cleanliness of Marin's attire, while her own direction was deliberately haphazard. She refused to see that the difference between them were not in category, but in level.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2016, 05:23:02 pm »
Catalina was pleasant with her father, put in a good mood by Inan’s suggestion of the cave. Not that she was ever terribly irritable with Father; she seemed to have decided his heart was well-meaning, at least. Cat had stopped affording her mother the same courtesy some time ago. Wayward or not, it was a bit difficult to say whether that judgement of Mother was fair. Father certainly seemed to think not.

“Coming,” she said, popping over to Inan’s shoulder with a small tasting bowl of spices. Cat had gone with something a little bit spicy and very aromatic. It was a refreshing play of scent and texture for the morning. “I put in a bit of mint with the red pepper, can you smell it?” she asked as she dumped the spices over the thickening eggs. “Maybe I should get some cheese for them, also? We have a bit of goat’s cheese left in the fridge, I think.” She suggested, going to fetch it before waiting for an answer.

Catalina nodded at her father. It was fair enough to be asked to carry the phones. On the one hand, she wasn’t sure she liked the idea of being that accessible. It made it easier for Mother to summon them home for more bloodletting. On the other, if Inan was careless again and fainted, it would be good to be able to reach Mother and Father for help. She couldn’t remember if either she or her brother had bothered charging the devices, though. They so rarely took them anywhere.

Cat brought two forks and the goat’s cheese back to the stove. Eager, as always, to be moving. She crumbled some of the cheese over the top of the omelette and held a fork in Inan’s direction. “If we eat quickly, we’ll have more time to find nettles before we stop for lunch. I’ll pack us sandwiches before we go.” She meant they’d have more time to get deeper into the woods, and when she said sandwiches she meant bread with some peanut butter. They did not generally keep foods that would spoil quickly, because they could not afford to waste. The little luxuries they did have, like the goat’s cheese, were gifts from neighbors that made them in exchange for spices and herbs that Cat and her Father had ground and dried. Bartering was still quite common in Valleyrun, despite economic complexities of the twenty-first century, but the town had stayed very close to its roots. Whether by necessity or preference was depended on the pride of the one telling the story.

For as stringy as the girl was, she had a strong appetite. Inan was a “growing boy” and had plenty excuses for his body’s need for strong nourishment. That he had grown up slim was not terribly surprising, regardless of how much he consumed. Cat, on the other hand, seemed simply to have the sort of metabolism most girls envied and ate voraciously simply because she could and it never made much difference. She dug into the omelette before Inan had even transferred the food off the burner, though she had been polite enough to wait for him to cut the heat.

Cat was pleased that she had finished eating and thrown together some peanut butter sandwiches in just under fifteen minutes. She was already waiting at the back door before Inan could get the pan in the sink. Her satisfaction diminished somewhat when Mother came into the room.

Elise wasn’t the kind to squabble unnecessarily with her daughter, really only demanding that she behave politely when they had visitors and to hold her tongue when she became disrespectful. Typical expectations of a mother, really. If anything, the woman might have been a bit saddened by the immediate stiffness in Cat’s posture when she entered. She loved the girl dearly, despite their differences. It was the only reason why she continued to believe Adam when he said Cat would understand their ways, eventually. Elise smiled pleasantly at her family. “Going out already? I suppose it must be for more nettles,” she said. Cat’s shoulders relaxed just a bit. “Have fun. Please be careful and don’t stray too deep. Your father said Inan collapsed yesterday.”

Elise’s concern was sincere, though she might also have considered how easily the children could get back in the case of a visiting neighbor. The suspicious curl of Cat’s lips, though fleeting, felt overly accusatory, regardless.

“We’ll be careful. I’ll make sure he doesn’t do anything too terribly dumb,” Cat said, choosing to be civil as well. She flashed her mother a smile, which was half-hearted but gladly accepted by the Witch. “Okay, Inan, let’s go.” She said. She had already forgotten to go get their phones.

--

Marin arched an eyebrow ever so slightly, a bit surprised by Ahler’s boldness. It was possible he hadn’t considered what it must look like, emerging from such a nearby room with his entourage. She felt quite comfortable with her ‘snitch’ accusations, to that end. If her eyes said so, when they met his, her smile was satisfactorily unperturbed.

“Nona, Martin, Mr. Ahler, good morning.” Marin said, turning to face them as she ate the new names. She let her gaze linger on the blond boy, returning his handshake. She wondered how old she looked to them. Her body must have suggested something between sixteen and twenty-two, depending on how she’d made herself up for the day. The dark eyes, though, had generally begun to suggest something much older. It was only fair that past lives would begin to weigh heavy and lonesome at some point. “Well, I’m not a fan of school, myself, so I would say that sounds pretty nice.” She said. Marin had gone through schooling of various kinds many times over. She could remember all her lessons, even if she couldn’t remember who had taught them. She was careful to hold on to Martin’s hand just a little longer than a handshake might require, suggesting opportunity.

The girl was delightful. Nona. Fragile girl. Marin’s smile grew wider. Wide enough, in fact, that there might have been a suggestion of something sharp for the group to see. She even laughed a little bit. “It’s nothing to apologize for.” She said, enough amusement there that Nona might have found it annoying. “I like you two.” Marin said to the boys, offering encouragement. She didn’t have plans to take Nona’s boys away, but she didn’t mind the girl thinking so. A little blush as she tucked a stray fall of dark hair behind her ear. Effortlessly provocative in the small things. She was sure not to make direct eye contact with either boy, because ideas of competition, she had found, made males significantly more pliable.

“Where shall we go, then?” she asked, taking a moment to cough weakly against her wrist to remind Ahler that he should want to help her. Even in the day, her lips were so very red. 

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #25 on: May 03, 2016, 09:55:19 pm »
Inan was weary of the chili. He liked things that were aromatic, and liked to indulge himself with great inhales when he found something new. Mother had never prohibited that gluttony, surely the blood could not be tainted through the nose. Do it with chili once, though, and you'll learn a lesson. He waited for the steam to carry the blend to his nose, instead. Bold, as Cat liked it. The perfume was soon diluted by the familiar addition of the cheese. He felt as proud as he did hungry, now.

He laughed as Cat started circling the spoon from the pan to her mouth as he carried it to the side of the burning plate. Hypocrite, he emulated her behavior soon. It was too tempting when some of the red flakes stills tuck to the strings of cheese she moved in between her lips. It burnt, the first few bites, but the mint did well to refresh. Every few scoops, he'd disturb her in her shoveling task, and scrape the morsels off her fork before she could lift them all the way. She had always been impressive by the kitchen table, or here, by the stove.

He smiled widely at mother as he stepped into his shoes. He was glad she'd come out, so that he didn't have to look for her to say goodbye. Both he and Adam looked from one woman to the other as they interacted. Inan was sure he saw a smile mirroring his own on father before going to Cat. He had a backpack as well, this one mostly empty, so they could carry nettles home. He did like the freedom of studying under dad, even though it was giving him some diffuculties now, looking over where to apply. He hadn't concidered that the lack of papers from the prestigeious schools in the city might be the excuse to stay forever that he wanted.

"Don't worry mom." he assured Elise as he flexed his arm for her, pushing Cat out the door.

Adam tried asking if they wanted anything from the store again, but his children were gone.

It was starting out as a good day. Innan kicked some dirt to the side as they cut into the woods, pace a little less leisurely than usuall, with their goal in mind. They needed to be at least where they were yesterday when dad had come for them before they could start collecting nettles. "Hey, do you remember what mom used to tell us about these woods to keep us near the house? About the vampires?" he asked as he looked around. He chuckled when he saw a few shadows that would have startled a younger him.

Before his blood was worth its mass in magic, she'd told him it was worth its flow in flavor. He had always been intrigued by those stories, and had made father tell him which were old myth and which were crafted to control him. He loved the creatures of legends, because they were more than he'd ever met, yet he belived in, was raised on, the mysticism that must fuel them. On any day, he lived that magic. Though beeing slightly jaded by his side of the spectrum, he longed to see what other things might look like, when they weren't human.

He felt bad for his desires to hear gossip of vampires in the city, but not so bad that it kept him from secretly wishing those incidents would take place closer to Valleyrun. "I think I'm going to be a vampire hunter." he said, laughing by the end of the statement. He ran a finger over where she'd healed him last night. "Could you imagine? Who would do that? Surely that's no life for anyone." he said as he ducked under a branch. "I'd like to meet one though." he admitted and looked over at her. "Wouldn't you?"

-

The boys toppled into her trap willingly. Nona, though not as smitten, was also brought along, a bit. Martin was not used to such viles, no mortal man could have figured out Marin's cunning, but the light haired boy had not had much trouble in the past with his dalions, because of his social standing, Valleyrun wealth, and good looks, so he was additionally sensetive to this manipulation. Having gotten to keep her hand for a moment longer, suddenly seemed more worth than having slept next to Nona all night.

Ahler felt immideately regretful to have brought the taller speciment male. His ego was about to turn from glowering to desperate when Marin offered the competition, rather than dubbing Martin the winner, already. It was more of a chance the inferior boy had ever gotten, and so his chest sprung slightly. "Nothing to do so early." Nothing to do ever, really. "We could show you the one street."

"First we should get coffee at the store." Martin injected. Nona narrowed her eyes but then got beside the woman she had now decided was her own age. Bravely, she hooked an arm into Marin's to lead her along the rail so they could leave this place, and also get some distance from the boys, though they would follow soon. She did want coffee. Martin didn't always offer to buy.

"It's not so bad here." She was a proud Allyrunner. A queen loves her land. "No posters, but no ruckus, either. You can be with your own thoughts and still be among people." She'd practiced this a few times. Her cousin lived in the city. She'd walk them toward the store. "Where are you from, in the city?" she asked, looking back, suddenly excited to have the two others follow, some of Marin's power spilling over on her, with the proximity.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #26 on: May 06, 2016, 01:46:41 am »
There was a noticeable spring in the Cat’s step as she hastened toward the woods. The siblings moved with purpose, the cave securely at the heart of their adventure today. “I remember,” Cat said, thinking again about the hunter in the woods and the way the stubble on his sharp jaw had looked when he’d clenched his teeth against the pain of his wound. “What about it?” she asked, curious as to what had conjured the blood drinkers in her brother’s memories today.

Catalina had never thought too much of the vampire stories. She’d accepted them as mostly true and taken Inan’s confirmation of certain parts, learned from Father, as enough proof. She regarded them the way she did Faeries and other moonlight walking things. They were Other, which meant she should respect whatever balance they brought to the Earth, but that was all. Sometimes it was better not to delve too deep, looking for answers about the Night things. Respect also meant restraint.

Her left eyebrow arched high, though Inan himself seemed unable to take his own words seriously. “Well, it’s certainly not the life for you.” She agreed with a laugh. Who would choose the life of a hunter? Mysterious men with long histories in the city, that was who. She snorted a little when he continued. “Really, you’d like to meet one? I don’t know. I don’t know if you could trust one. I mean, I’m not saying that I know that you can’t, either.” She mused, kicking a stone out of the path.

“Maybe you’d like that better than Nona?” she teased. “Some pretty monster that wanted your blood to eat, instead of to cause a scene?” Cat stretched her arms overhead. “I suppose that would be a little more humble, at least.” The Witchling fell quiet.

The winter birds had a more piercing song than the summer birds. Their calls were a little lonelier and tasted more strongly of the ancient echoes in the woods around Valleyrun. Catalina like them, but they made her restless. The summer birds were more optimistic, so she liked them best. After a short while of walking to their tune, she struck up one of her own.

We lived in our little drama
We kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama last night

She could have gotten a job in the city, singing in some smoky lounge with her velvet voice. She only ever sang for Inan, though. Any other time, she held her tongue for the Old Words alone.

I can’t forget the glamour
Your eyes held a tender light
And stars fell on Alabama last night

Cat skipped a few paces ahead of her brother, turning to face him as she sang with a cheeky sort of smile.

--

Marin nodded at Martin’s suggestion. “Coffee sounds very nice. Then the one street.” She laughed a little. They were fun. Coffee was one of the few concoctions she was fond of. She didn’t care for foods, but drinks of various sorts had caught her fancy. Coffee, tea, and other warm drinks. Warm was always better.

She was startled, when Nona took her arm. She wasn’t used to people touching her so boldly. If her surprise was sincere, she did a good job of covering it, matching the somewhat taller girl’s stride easily. Again, no sound in her steps. For that matter, there wasn’t a breath in the folds of her dress to be found, either. That breathlessness was a bit contagious, hanging in the old sweet scent that floated still around her. Sometimes, when things grow very old, their sweetness becomes hazy and languorous. Too much becomes choking. Just a little, just this hint, was more like the soft suggestion of a perfume tied to heartbreaking memories.

“That does have its appeal,” She agreed, though her tone said she was only half invested in the conversation. The big dark eyes were drinking the length of the street in as they went, counting doors and old things on the side of the road. “I stayed in the North End for a while.” Marin said. That was where the book store had been, with the stories about Chandra and Selene. “Before that I traveled around a lot. I like seeing new places.” She said. New places, new lives, over and over, all around the world.

“What about you? Were you born here?” Marin asked. It wasn’t meant to be cruel, the mysterious and worldly doll with the pretty girl next door. There was something easy to envy in being exotic, though. It was cheating, a little bit. She cast a glance over her shoulder to look at the boys behind, hanging her lashes just so that she might have seemed shy of making eye contact with one of them. “And the boys. Were they born here also?” 

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2016, 03:14:22 pm »
Catalina wasn’t wrong. Though his profession, or better named, his function could be mistaken for somewhat dark and mystic, he wasn’t a very fitting partner for a hunter of fanged ones. Though a hunter might have use for Inan’s services, there would be hesitation in killing anything with a human face for the boy, devoted to mending. In the field, if the streets were fields to a hunter, Inan thought his sympathy would weigh him down. “I could buy them a beer.” Inan said with a loudly pitched, defensive voice, laughter clucking at the end of the last syllable.

His sister posed an interesting point of view. He unhooked one thumb from the strap of his pack to touch his neck, mother’s favorite highway, one she’d protect unless it was sorely needed. It would be a way he and his blood would be equal to others, quelling thirst. Another sheep. He smiled to himself as he let the hand slide back to strain the strap. Why was that such an appealing though? And the longer that scenario lingered, the more he wanted to be special in that regard. Was it vanity that made it so desirable that he taste good? “Though, if my blood is medicine, then maybe it tastes especially bad and bitter to a connoisseur.” He said with disappointed revelation.

There was a child in the village, that had smiled when mother had given her a few drops of his blood on her tongue when she’d had blisters. She still waved at him when she saw him in town. The ordeal hadn’t been unpleasant to her palled, not so much that it ruined the satisfaction of being healed, at least. Children are sensitive to association. He’d tasted his own blood, of course, nosebleeds and bites of his tongue and lip. To him it just tasted like blood should. He lifted his head from those theories and looked at his sister, but the question ‘ will you taste it, just to see if it’s bitter?’ even though she was not a vampire, was not spoken when she started singing.
His eyes brightened as they followed her, her steps moving her in front of him. Their adventure was well on its way, then, when Cat filled the forest with her voice. The smile wasn’t a wide delighted grin on him, but without teeth, slightly open. Not reverence at her perhaps, but soaking in the moment, definitely. He thought she was beautiful, her hair burning her aura bright in the green of the winter forest. Inan knew some of the emotions he should reserve for women that weren’t his sister flared her way anyway, because of their closeness. He’d labeled them as reflected glow rather than sincerity of the heart, and was able to deal with them, that way. Did she see it in the gold rings around the eggshell irises? He wasn’t a fine enough deceiver to hide it, if he tried.

Eventually, they were deep enough that they should start picking nettles. His steps slowed first. They couldn’t very well walk all the way to the cave without trying to fill their packs. He took out a net bag and black gloves. Mother insisted on the protection, and he supposed fewer cuts were a good thing. “I’d like to see you on a stage.” He said, a bit quiet so as to not disturb her song. Earth rained from the roots of a plant he’d picked. It was not what they were looking for and it made him frown as he uselessly put it back in the upturned dirt and stomped around it to pat his conscience. “I’d throw roses at the end of every song.” He meant to use a sweet tune, but now he was huffing, trying to put the plant back before bending down to pick up what he’d intended to from the start.

-

Nona didn’t like that Marin was well-traveled. The way she carried herself, Nona could see why it was not hard for Ahler, who was already a citizen of the clouds, to think that she was an angel. It was not this that upset the girl the most. It was of course the loveliness that grated more on her. Angel or not, Marin was an enemy. “Born and raised.” Nona admitted. There was some pride there, or rather, some petitioning for Marin to think that it was something to be proud of. “Just a girl who grew up on the fields and grew with the seasons. I like the closeness. I hate the close-mindedness.” A crooked smile tried to apologize for bigotry that wasn’t really an issue unless it came to the old magic. Truly, Nona had an image of what kind of girl she should be when next to someone like Marin.

Both boys looked at each other when Nona painted the picture of a Belle that had grown up close to dirt paths and the high grass. Nona had always been progressive, aggressive with modern things, and would either buy her clothes with imitation smudges, or be squeaky clean. There should be some proof of that in the fact that she still smelled like her label of perfume, despite her night away from home. Martin shrugged and Ahler wasn’t about to point it out. The girl was about to answer for the two not-men, but Martin was too fast, reacting instinctively to the lure of Marin’s recoiling demeanor.

“Traveled some with mom and dad as a kid. Nowdays I don’t go so often. They’re no fun company, and my sister feels the same way.” He said. Ahler thought the answer was strangely devoid of bragging for having been something out of Martin’s mouth to a pretty thing.

“My family’s lived her for generations.” Ahler added. There was some hesitation in sharing this, since he’d been told it was not something to be proud of. “How about…” he realized he couldn’t ask of her lineage, too much. She couldn’t very well tell the others the truth about her origin, as she’d presented it to him. “…your life in general?” he said, a bit of panic on what to fill the air with as they turned into the little store. Nona looked back, and Martin, as well. Ahler’s pulse quickened. “Eum. With work, and your love life. Got a boyfriend?” Martin became increasingly elated at Ahler’s verbal failure. The poor boy turned right, suddenly very intrigued by the chips when Martin and Nona continued to lead their guest toward the corner with the loud scent of roasts and blends.

“Should go with the herbs and garlic. It’s better for you.” Adam said to Brent. Ahler turned and gave the grown man a look Adam didn’t understand.

“Thank you, sir.” Ahler said. Adam smiled and reached over him to get a planer flavor. “So. How’s your family?” Ahler continued. Adam dropped the item in the basket he was carrying and tried not to look too surprised. It was definitely against Ahler’s character to small talk to anyone outside of his circle of friends.

Ahler was trying to think of a conversational route that would take the father of The Blood House to the window where they sold coffee.

-

He was a moonlight thing, pirouetting on the full scale of emotions. His playground was the heart. He was not often required to pay for lodging or food. He was not known for being cheap in the aftermath of coercion, either. Someone had asked someone else what you call a thing that can make you feel anything. Someone else had said ‘dangerous, a rift in our world’. Of course, they had been adversaries, in part, to the alabaster ray. He’d asked the bus driver if he felt generous, and then sat down. He’d asked for forgiveness from the two who frowned at the unfair, waved wage, and received it.

-

Olister had found the family of five, naked, with passionate stories in their open, foggy eyes. Surely the father had not meant to die inside his son, like that. Red hair in the puddle of blood, a calling card. If you lifted the strand, it would was out, eventually, to pure white. A moonlight thing. Olister brushed the chest of his shirt, to remember a girl who’d truly had red tresses. The pale mark remembered, also. There were many ways out of these blocks, but he looked at the time of death, apparent from the video on the daughter’s phone. Just before the bus that went to Midsummer, by way of Valleyrun.

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #28 on: May 06, 2016, 10:45:43 pm »
She stopped singing when they found a fresh patch of nettles, following Inan into the scrub around the dirt road to start picking. Cat didn’t wear gloves, despite the stinging quality of the plant. It was easy to tell when the smart started to bother her, because she’d start humming one of the Old Songs to soothe her skin and the plants. The Earth was kind to the witchling, because she was kind to Her. Often enough, Cat didn’t notice a sting from the nettles at all. “That would be weird. Mother always says Witches should go unnoticed, outside of Valleyrun.” She mused. It was a funny thing to say, given her disagreements with Elise at every other turn. Some warnings had stuck, it seemed.

“I would be embarrassed, anyway. It’s ok, in front of you but…” she glanced at him. She couldn’t have said why the look she was met with made her blush. Catalina turned her attention back to a sprout of nettles with haste, tugging hard at the base of the plant. “Roses are expensive, you know.” She mumbled.

Cat cast her gaze further down the path. “We should be quick about going deeper. Who knows when Nona will show up and have us called back.” Cat suggested, stuffing more nettles into her basket and shrugging her backpack up on her shoulder. She chanced another glance at Inan.

“It’s a little bit weird, not being a kid with you.” She said, a bit suddenly. In the dappled forest light, she noticed for the first time that Inan really did look like an adult. At least, he would have if it weren’t for that ever-youthful brightness in his eyes. She couldn’t quite blame Nona for being so enthused about visiting Inan. Cat figured she wouldn’t have faulted the girl at all, if it had just been visiting. It was that Nona always came looking for Magic out of her brother’s veins that upset her.

“I remember trying to make it all the way to the cave with you pretty often, when we were little. It always seemed so far away. It’s really different now. It doesn’t feel nearly as far and—“ she hesitated. “Well I guess before we only ever tried to make it there for the adventure of it. It’s really different now.” She repeated. A sigh. She wondered if she looked like an adult to Inan, too. Maybe she had a few years left for that. Not that Cat was a good judge. The girl had always known her brother and the Earth a good deal better than she knew herself.

--

Marin nodded at the things Nona said, because it seemed like she was supposed to find the story pretty. She wondered what Nona tasted like. Emotions were their own chemical cocktail and they flavored blood in various pleasing ways. Nona seemed like she had a lot of emotions, bubbling below the practiced presence. Marin didn’t mind that sort of mask, but only because it seemed fair.

She slowed so that she could converse more readily with the two boys, a surprisingly abrupt strength in the petite limbs as she pulled Nona to her pace. It had been Nona that had insisted on walking arm in arm like this, in the first place. Surely she could suffer Marin’s preference to engage the other two, as well. It was only polite. “Traveling is nice enough. I prefer it on my own, though I like making new friends in the places I go.” Marin said. Marin traveled everywhere alone.

Snitch seemed to be struggling, and it made her brows arch high with something between curiosity and amusement. It wasn’t an unkind gesture, though, and might have even seemed as if she found his clumsiness endearing. She did not, truthfully, but it didn’t anger her either. Generally, it took a lot to move her. Weary soul. “History is good,” she offered in consolation for his blundering. It was a sentiment she’d shared whit the boy the previous night. “I don’t work.” She said, coughing with her face turned away, as if it were an explanation. Marin had not needed to work in a few years. She’d endeared herself to an aging widow that had left Marin a pretty fund in her will. The widow had lonely blood, which Marin had liked. It had tasted familiar.

She was silent on the matter of boyfriends. Instead, she expressed her delight over the coffee. “Fresh coffee is one of my favorite smells.” She said, and it was genuine. An unfamiliar voice caught her attention. A middle-aged man speaking to Snitch.  She untangled herself from Nona and leaned in a bit closer to Martin.

“Is that another friend of Ahler’s?” she asked. 

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Re: Soft Falling
« Reply #29 on: May 07, 2016, 01:24:19 am »
He'd picked quietly, effectively when she reminded him of mother's words. It was strange to him, how he could carry any task mother gave him, and work through any inconvenience, but he could barely stand the limitations the woman set for Cat. His sister held the title with pride, he thought Elise should at least see that, and give only the good things of that life to her daughter. That little outrage, a wrinkle between his eyes, didn't seep out very far from him. Not even the nettles minded, very much.

"Nettles, then!" if roses were so expensive. But the plant itself had been too light, too loose from the lump of dirt he thought it was stuck to when he tossed it, so only a particulate cloud reached her, its mass eaten by the distance before a few grains could perhaps pelt her leg. He looked surpised, stepping quickly to pick the useless projectile up and join it with the others he'd gathered.

He stood up straight, fussing with his bag to close it with gloves on. That stopped when she talked about their childhood, gone, and the change in their relationship to each other. And the world. It was devastating that something so dear to him had ended without a farewell, even if it was replaced by something just as important. There was some suffering in him, now. He trusted the swing of his bag back on his shoulders to dispell some of that somber. It was at least enough that he could pretend it worked.

Inan stuffed the gloves into his jacket pockets as he caught up with her. He took her hand for his own comfort, but didn't look at her when they continued toward the cave. They knew this place, the way all children know their playground, but it did feel weird, seeing it as grown. "We'll always be sister and brother." It wasn't an answer she'd asked for, but it was what he wanted her to hear.

Even in winter, the forest was tight in here. You could walk and walk, but the closeness of the trunks and leaves would still be intimate. "I think, if the world changes, that won't." It was as true as anything could be. But there was also a lie, in there, if she thought he meant that he'd always feel for her what he felt when they ran here, and had to jump over roots they now stepped over. In the house, he had to hide from her, sometimes, so he could imagine her, compromised. Surely that was a vile thing for a brother to do. His hand was warmer, for hers.

"And if it does, I won't mind, if I get to keep you." some resolve radiating from the pupils to his golden rings as he looked at her, finally. "Not sure what kind of person I will be, but I'll always come to you." He wanted to say 'stay', but what if Cat decided to leave? He wouldn't stop her, on that day, not the way he felt now, but that didn't meant he couldn't follow. If it broke mother's heart, then that would have to be a broken heart he'd have to carry.

-

Nona had to comply in the pace Marin chose. She'd not realized this a was a tug of war, and applying too much force now would be inelegant. Marin seemed wordly, the way she spoke. Except for the city, Nona had not traveled much. All three of them had noted how their newest aquaintence had side-stepped Ahler's akward question. That was a mystery Nona did not have. Her connections were rather public to anyone who had an ear for gossip.

Her eyes gleamed at the chance to change the subject. "That's Adam Copper. He's the father of Mend. He's the herbalist of Alleyrun and his wife's the witch of The Blood House." she said. By the look on Martin, where he stood by the counter, she'd beat him to it. It was satisfying.

After an exchange of common phrases, much stuttering on his own part, Ahler thought of a plan. Really it was just a lie. He quickly explained some symptons and applied them to Martin, asking Adam for help. "Those sounds like he has the cold, Brent. I'd recomend echinacea, or some rest." the man looked over at the supposed sick boy, paying for coffee. "He seems fine to me though."

"Oh, but he's like that. He doesn't want anyone to know. Could you come over and tell him to take the medicine?" Ahler pressed. This was slipping out of his grasp. Adam was about to leave, shaking his head, until he saw the girl Nona had attached herself to.

"Who's that? New girl?" Without knowing why, the father suddenly felt concerned about the two kids that he'd watched grow up. Ahler was pleasantly surprised to see the man move toward the coffee court on his own accord. None of them knew that it was his sympathic role in Valleyrun that beackoned his instincts to protect. The witless boy trailed a few steps behind, and smiled widely, as though the trio didn't already know what was happening.

"This is..."

"Adam. I'm kind of a nurse around here, trying to take care of this town." he interrupted, placing himself close to the new, beautiful girl. Charming, but her air seemed too still for a person her apparent age. Once, he'd found Cat and Inan building with broken mirrors in the mud because they liked the pretty prisms. This reminded him of that. He offered a hand. "And you're new, I take it."