- Posts: 16
- Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2020 12:07 pm
It was actually a number of smaller scars that had oozed together to form a pink, fleshy “puddle” on green-tinged, cracked canvas. It looked and felt a bit like a burn, but the old man was more than experienced-enough with all kinds of paingivers to assume something was terribly wrong with the angry, bitter energy that coursed on its surface.
The scouring of that portion of his epidermis showed no signs of healing quickly, and the orc-brained part of him sighed impotently. What if his chest hair never grew back? What if --
Rhaeg’s attention was seized by the sensation of a presence beside him, behind the bathing curtain. He looked up, splashing and sloshing water in surprise.
She was beautiful.
And he knew her.
The thing that had first captivated the orcblood about the elven woman on that snowstricken hilltop were her eyes. A blue that stood out strongly against the drifting white and grey, and little specks and starbursts of gold floating in those pleasing pairs of oases. Silver hair - Or maybe platinum - drifted behind her in an unearthly breeze. She was wearing the simple green and brown leathers that he spent many an hour ogling over during those rainy afternoons among the alpine evergreens.
She was… Staring at him, that familiar half-smile lost over almost a decade’s time causing his heart to beat faster. Or, perhaps, it was the immediate assumption that he was being ensorcelled.
Rhaeg was no stranger to illusions and enchantments. The first step was to “disbelieve.” Despite that urgency taking the forefront of his mind, he felt… Sedentary. Unusually so. His guard was requesting to be let down, just this once. For once, he asked himself to assume that it wasn’t too good to be true.
He sheepishly sat down in the tub to better hide his lower half from her, and mumbled matter-of-factly.
“I’m dreaming this. You aren’t real.”
Ethira smiled sweetly at him, gently chiding, the vaguest hint of… Something discomforting veiled behind her words.
“What is ‘real’, Rhaeg, my love? What makes something real, to you?”
This wasn’t something she would have said to him - Or… Was it? He blinked a few times, trying to pry through the mothbitten haze of memories of his beautiful elven wife - Somehow, standing before him, so tantalizingly real, so unspeakably beautiful, he had to reach out, to know for sure --
In the span of an eye blinking, he was in the Darius Estate, in his long pajama pants. A half-eaten, thoughtfully-made breakfast was plated before him, and in front of him was another beautiful woman, a Tethyran with auburn hair and captivating hazel eyes. She wore a floor-length white bathrobe. There were vague circles ‘neath those green-and-brown singularities that seized his own, cloudy and grey and swollen with rain.
She was speaking to him. Words he'd heard before.
“I'm sorry. I shouldn't... I shouldn't have reacted that way. I know you didn't mean anything by it." She glanced away a moment, tucking a stray lock of hair that had fallen loose from her ponytail back behind her ear - Then, those eyes commanded his obedience again.
"I know you love me, Rhaeg, I know you love me. You've shown it time and time again in the way you act with me. The way you treat me... And the respect you give me even when I can see it hurts you." She smiled, tinged with melancholy. "It... It means a lot to me. I notice.”
The old man was frozen, unable to look away, unable to avoid reliving this moment, lingering on every word spoken.
“I notice, Rhaeg," she repeated, emphasizing. "And I want you to believe me when I say that I love you too."
“Please don’t,” Rhaeg begged her, unspoken words caught in his leathery throat.
“Don’t give me that hope again.”
"I do love you, Rhaeg. I trust you. I believe in you. And I want you in my life. I want to show you how much beauty you’re still missing out on by being stuck in the past, to be there for you when you need it, and to make new memories that will counterbalance the old ones, your old life." Hearing those words the first time had felt far better the first time.
She leaned forewards, and the orcblood felt his stomach churn. He was going to be sick, if he remained the memory’s captive for much longer.
"I care what happens to you. It hurts me to see you hiding your pain behind this.... Anger. I don't care that you have orc blood."
“Please, please, make her stop…”
"I care about you."
He snapped his eyes shut. Something, anything to stop reliving it.
The sensation of cold water hit his face, and he blinked awake. A long stone bridge straddled the Winding Water, the rain was coming down in buckets, and the Tethyran woman snarled at him, about five feet away, eldritch magic coursing at her fingertips. A Ffolk man with a fancy hat stood aside, looking as if he were about four seconds too late to physically intervene.
He wasn’t awake.
- Posts: 16
- Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2020 12:07 pm
It echoed over and over in his mind, long after she’d finished speaking the sentence. He’d been here before, maybe about a week’s time prior, and he knew how this ended, and how deep the wounds would be.
“Never.” Rhaeg snarled.
Ashen-tinged hair - The gutted embers of a brilliantly burning flame of a life - rose and snaked about the woman, and the magic replete within her soul lanced out of her hand. It struck him square in the center of his mass.
Whatever vision he was lost in, the pain was real, exquisite; like white-hot carving knives attempting to extract his heart from his chest. He was so dizzy that it felt hard to stand, much less charge in a straight line. But it was what he did, closing that short distance before another blast could deepen the wound.
His heavy left gauntlet wrapped around the woman’s throat, lifting her into the air, her feet impotently kicking and dangling. He remembered how he’d held her slightly above his brow with extended arm, searching those hazel eyes. Trying to find a glimmer of the woman who confided an impossible request in him, and seeing only the Abyss.
It was wearing her skin. While he held her there, he heard her struggle for breath, her magic-and-rage-riddled body pleading with her for air. Legs kicked him in the stomach - and below it - ineffectually.
Time had slowed while he stalled, not wanting to have to exact that tearstricken plea she’d made to him. His eyes briefly lidded closed, feeling her desperation and fury, the wind whipping at his scarf and hair, horizontal pelting him with the force of fallen hailstones. He heard her voice, ethereal, separate from the choking and gurgling.
"I... I had to. It.... The rage... It had to go somewhere."
“Blame the victim. Ignore the problem.”
"I didn't know. I didn't understand."
He opened his eyes.
Ethira, moon-elven skin tinged a slightly dimmer shade of purple in his grasp, stared at him with those pools of gold-flecked water. Rhaeg tried to let her go, shocked and terrified.
But he couldn’t. His grip wouldn’t loosen.
Conveniently ignoring her clamped windpipe, her calm and ethereal voice probed at his mind. His panic-seized breathing was only slightly less strained and intense than hers.
“What you had with her… Was it real?”
“Stop it. Stop it. This isn’t real. None’ve this is real.” His other hand tried in vain to pry the fingers of his gauntlet apart, to release her.
His words seemed hollow enough, even to him, to accommodate the heart-wound he’d withstood. He looked at the other man present, and saw someone else he recognized from about a decade's time ago.
A grey-haired, grey-eyed orcblood wielding a heavy morningstar glowered back at him, adjacent. They stared at one another a moment, and he spoke up in an equally-familiar gravelly tone, the sort that could cobble a road.
“It always needs an outlet.”
Rhaeg blinked once, the silver-haired elven maiden still writhing and choking in his involuntary grasp. The scene had become so surreal to him - So overfilled with allegory, that he could only react with deadpan non-shock.
“Oh, I get it, this is a metaphor for my choices I’ve made a -- HURRRKGH!”
His already-battered chest took a heavy weapon to its core, going flying back several feet, body completely limp for a moment. The physical and psychological beatdown was pushing the old man to his breaking point…
...But he stood back up, as he had before so many times. A familiar sensation. Just one more time. Vision blurry, he tried to see only one of the ashen-haired woman in front of him.
“Was it real?” She whispered, mere seconds away from unleashing the torrent of power that would break him. The howling wind, burning rain, and agony in his heart all awaited his answer as she did.
- Posts: 16
- Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2020 12:07 pm
I’m the children you saved
I’m the promise you made
I’m the woman you crave”
Roger Waters, “The Most Beautiful Girl”
Nothing felt right to use in reply. All he could reasonably anticipate doing was to prepare himself for the flensing agony of the Abyss as it washed over him.
And so, he scorned reason. He let his heart speak.
“It was real.” He murmured in reply, as the first lance of energy shot from her hands traced over where his scars now lay. He was blown back several more feet onto the ground, somehow managing to land at a kneel.
He stood again.
“It was real when that trapped chest nearly immolated me, when you wept for me.” Blood trickled out of the corner of his maw as an acidic, slashing rain began to flay him alive.
The old man pushed back against the howling wind that mingled with her furious shriek. “It was real when we convalesced after th’lycan attack.”
In his dream state, the woman’s fury had actually caused the bridge to begin to crack asunder. “It was real, no matter whether we’re oceans or planes apart.”
Rhaeg stared at the blinding corona of light that was sundering his body, tears evaporating. “You gave me ground to stand upon. You gave me a ‘home’. I think that’s… Somethin’ worth dyin’ for, hon.”
“I love you.”
He was flung back into the cliffside, half-buried in an ensuing avalanche of scalding rock, run through by the agony of his confession.
“Was it real?”
The statement echoed in his ears, apparently lost in a fugue within a fugue. A delicate feminine hand grasped his, the only twisted limb of his sticking out of the violent burial.
“It was.” He sobbed. “It was real. It gave me something tangible t’live for.” Rhaeg, at this point, wasn’t sure whether it was even him speaking. He didn’t feel a mouth moving.
“It should have been me who died, not you. You should have gone on to have a happy life after that, after what I wrought.”
Ethira gave him a heartbroken look. After all of the old man’s conviction, he still had no idea. He still couldn’t perceive what may have actually come to pass.
“I did.” She murmured, standing. She laced fingers with a disembodied masculine hand, beginning to walk away, to leave Rhaeg in the tomb he’d all-but-commissioned for himself.
…”What? No. NOOO!! Don’t leave!”
Rhaeg screamed, almost falling out of the tub.
He blearily blinked, then looked at his hand. Pruned and wrinkly, even moreso by what must have been quite some time in the now-room-temperature water. He heard concerned Ilmateri footsteps crossing to the staircase below him, already dreading the explanation he’d need to conjure for them.
Just old visions and traumas. Lamenting the loss of the most beautiful girl on Faerun. Twice.
As if to taunt him, a familiar, tempting herbal scent briefly wormed its way into his porcine nostrils from the recesses of his mind. A long-dormant addiction.
A reality he'd chosen.