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A Child's Eyes

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My favorites of past Marea bits compiled in one post, from newest to oldest. Future writings will simply be posted on their own! Sometimes NSFW for violence and language.

Spoiler: 1329, Rajya's death.Show
Spoiler: 1329, apparent revenge.Show
Spoiler: 1329, a fresh start.Show
Spoiler: 1329, coming home.Show
Spoiler: 1329, disaster.Show
Spoiler: 1329, brewing disaster.Show
Spoiler: 1329, baking and feelings with Rajya.Show
Spoiler: 1329, First Blade Marea.Show
Spoiler: 1329, an empty arm.Show
Spoiler: 1329, a list of fortunes.Show
Spoiler: 1329, chatty victim.Show
Spoiler: 1328, strange love.Show
Spoiler: 1328, no peace between beasts.Show
Spoiler: 1328, so fucking cool.Show
Spoiler: 1328, still unbelievable.Show
Spoiler: 1328, meditation?Show
Spoiler: 1328, so many places to belong.Show
Spoiler: 1328, just a dream.Show
Spoiler: 1328, mandatory home.Show
Spoiler: 1328, company in nightmares.Show
Spoiler: 1328, a deranged child.Show
Spoiler: 1328, families.Show
Spoiler: 1327, protection.Show
Spoiler: 1314, lunch.Show
Spoiler: Very Tiny Marea Bits, 1310-1328Show
Posted Jan 20, 17 · OP · Last edited Jan 20, 17
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Before she reaches the hill, she pauses. She leans against a spindly tree, and pulls off her boots, first left, then right, a few stray coppers scattering in the wild grass. She digs her toes into the dirt, cool and soft against her callused skin. She so rarely feels things. The wind and the sun on her face, but darkness when she extends a hand, huddles up next to a friend. Without sight, she would never know what she was doing, what she was feeling, or supposed to be feeling.

She watches her steps the rest of the way. The clanging of metal and a hiss of steam drifts out from somewhere in the distance, ghostly machinery in motion, probably coming from the fort on the violet horizon behind her. Ahead, the sky is already blackening, the deep blue of the ocean just kissing the ridges of the hills. A brisk breeze scatters amber leaves through the air, dry and brittle as they flit against her face, and fly along, never staying in one place too long. Her feet move so slowly, through the long green grass. She should be flying. She should run away. She should take the airship, and never look back, just go, as high as she can until the atmosphere gives way, for as long as she can, until she starves and fades into memory amongst the clouds. It shouldn't take long, for the forgetting. Though she will never forget them. Too late for that. Too late for almost anything. Always moving in circles, front start to end and back again, no matter where she goes.

And yet, the ship sits quietly in faraway canyons, awaiting their next adventure. And she moves towards a certain point, the one certainty, the only certainty, that she has ever known in her life. She sees the gradually sloping mound up ahead, already impressively covered in baby grasses. The plants of Ascalon, resilient and determined. Rajya always liked that about them, and Marea supposes she does, too. At the top of the hill, she stops, her feet just brushing the slight rise in the earth, and her hand goes to her chest, over her heart. Her heart tightens, constricts, and for a moment, she can't breathe. Her legs tremble, and the earth beneath her feet seems alive, awake, the isolated, cool touch of dew setting her whole body alight with sensation, a swelling, powerful sense of loss. But she doesn't sit, she doesn't cry, not yet. First, she must practice. Like she said she would.

She steps onto the mound, coming to a rest in the center, and slowly turns in a circle, taking in the scattered trees, the sloping plains, a lake that glimmers with a rainbow sheen of oil. She looks straight up, at the creamy, round moon overhead, bright and perfect as a pearl, and she closes her eyes, reaching for the energy lent to her earlier that night. She can feel it, hovering lightly around her own life force, waiting to be freed, or harnessed into something more. But for now, she carefully, gently, as if she were grasping a butterfly's wing, tugs on it, and slowly shifts it to one part of her body. It gathers around her head, and she imagines a halo to rival the moon's brilliance. Two moons, orbiting each other, one so insignificant in the silent eyes of the other. She lets the life force slip downward, to her chest, a bit escaping in transit, and onward to her hips, her knees, her feet. On each movement, it dwindles, taking flight with the leaves and the wind, but she maintains her concentration. No reason to harp on what is lost, what never belonged to any one person, anyway.

Something crackles. Her eyes snap open, and she whirls around, quickly taking in the shadowy trees, eyes darting from side to side, hands poised to draw weapons. But there is nothing in the night.

Another crackle, and she slowly looks down, brows furrowing, perplexed. A twig, no more than six inches tall, sticks out of the ground, right beside her foot. A single leaf shudders weakly at the tip, looking frail enough to fall off at a strong breath. She crouches down, prodding it with one silver finger, tilting her head with curiosity.

The fuck is this? I haven't planted a tree here. Did someone else plant a tree here? Why the fuck would they plant a tree on a suspicious mound of dirt? And how didn't I step on it?

She flicks it once, twice. It is still a twig, a baby tree, in the most fledgling stages of life. She makes note of the shape of the leaf, the pattern of its veins, the texture of the wood, the heady smell of it. And she stands once more, closes her eyes, and guides a touch of life force through her body, from head to toes, and then lets it go. And perhaps it doesn't seek to escape the world, as she assumed, as she assumed all things wanted to do. She loses track of it, once it leaves her being. But she swears the flickering leaf grows just a little bit thicker, brighter, stronger.

She finally turns away, to face out over the plains and the lake, almost small below her hilly vantage point, and she repeats, toes curling into fresh dirt, fingers clenching and flexing in ways she cannot sense. She goes through the motions, and warm tears glisten on her cheeks in the moonlight, while budding life seeks new purpose at her feet.
Posted Jan 20, 17 · OP
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“And he said to me, Marea, I made you, you'd be nothing without me, if I hadn't fucking chopped off your hand and gouged out your eye and made you half bald for three months! And I'm standing there like, I have no idea what you just said. But I really wanna kill you. And then Raigar starts saying something, and everybody at the bar is staring at us, and it was just, it sucked.”

Marea slides her dagger through a fistful of bluish locks, watching them flutter and drift to the sandy stone floor. Across from her, a wooden toy beagle, with little wheel legs and a sproingy spring tail, stares at her with googly eyes. Forever attentive, an excellent listener. She grabs her next chunk of hair, lining up the blade just so.

“I mean, what kinda asshole just goes strolling into the place where you always hang out, with your friends, who own the damn thing, and starts shit-talking your dead mom? Who he fucking killed! Stupid asshole.”

More wisps of hair gather on the worn floor tiles. She looks up, out the archway, at the monolith above her doorstep. The dull roar of machinery is white noise to her, now, though the clink and clang of gears and chains adjusting and revolving sometimes disturbs her in the night, and the hiss of steam, great billowing mists, blown right into her room, is doing a serious number to her modest library. But still, she has the best seat in the house. She falls asleep with her eyes to the sky, slowly shutting on a dark, looming shadow that blocks out the magnesium stars of the desert night. And in the morning, as the sun just begins to rise, it crests and splays golden rays over the edge of the airship, turning murky, worn metal to vibrant pinks and purples. The ship reflects its destination, and every moment she spends on her pile of pillows, gazing at it, dreaming of it, the more real it becomes. Almost like a living being—the Rogue, not the name she would've chosen but certainly not too bad, a living, breathing ship. Gargantuan puffs of steam, its breath. Grinding gears, its bones. Flapping, screeching fins, the legs. What would you feed an airship? Maintenance? Oiling and tuning? No, a living ship wouldn't be so easy, so practical. It needs adventure, space, fresh air! Using the ship would keep it alive, no food required. A journey around the world, once a day. A journey that never ends.

She looks back to Bagel the Wheeler, bopping him on his smooth wooden nose.

“How does my hair look? Is it even? You wouldn't know, your eyesight's probably all funky. Since your eyes point in different directions. And they shake around whenever I touch you.” She pushes him back a foot, just to make a point, and he bumps into Rajya's mystery box. Dark metal, slightly melted on one side, waiting to be opened once more. She's been taking out one item at a time. As long as there are still things inside the mystery box, there are still new pieces of Rajya to discover, to enjoy. Scholarly notes in the margins, lists of supplies long forgotten, and the constant wonder, endless question, of how did she get this? And that? Marea wants to hear the stories, but she knows she never will. So she focuses on the things themselves.

She hefts open the lid, putting her whole body into it. A chest made for a massive charr, no doubt about it. She closes her eyes, shuffling around inside blindly, until she thinks her fingers close around something solid, and she pulls out a thin, worn journal. On the front, almost completely covering the brown leather, is a drawing, with a little note, written in jagged, chicken-scratch letters.

To: Daddy. Love: Rebekka. Daddy plees com home safe frum the campane. Me yu and momy wil eet cake. Cake is gud.

And beneath that, a stick figure of a little girl, standing beneath a malformed tree, holding hands with a vaguely more manly stick figure, covered in squares. Armor?

She flips open the journal, a random page, and picks at her chapped lips.

Colossus, 1299. Gillfarn Plains.
The charr are relentless. We've held our position for weeks now, but they keep coming. I wish that it would end. I can admit, I'd rather be home. But we must fight for that privilege. What is rightfully ours. With Ebonhawke standing as strong as ever, you would think the beasts would be discouraged. Go back to their own share of Ascalon, give us a few months rest. But this is another night, drinking booze that tastes like piss and eating moa patties stripped of any resemblance to food. I watch the charr now, as I eat. They've camped on a hilltop, where they can watch us from above. They all look the same from here. Probably the same up close, too.

Marea snorts, flipping to the next page. She leans back in her pile of pillows, propping an arm behind her head. So this was how it happened. Rajya, an absent-minded, docile degenerate to begin with, started stealing the journals of dead human soldiers. She can't say she understands how the sympathies budded, how Rajya grew to love the people that despised her, how she fled her home for a new one in a city where she could hardly step outside. But if this journal was in the metal box, then it must be important. And she will read the whole damn thing, every last word, thanking her lucky stars that the racist fucker who wrote it is dead.

She turns the page again, smiling to herself.
Posted Jan 25, 17 · OP
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1315 AE

She slept heavily. A sleep unlike any she could remember. There were dreams, ghostly, whisper-thin things, like hairs blown across her face in the wind, before they turned elsewhere and were sent on their way. She had feared there would be nightmares, after the killing. So afraid that she would awaken to the sound of the door beating down, Seraph storming into the cramped apartment, calling for justice for the life of a street urchin murdered in the heat of rage, a little boy they never cared to help before, when it mattered, when he was still just a ragtag child.

But, instead, she feels warmth on her face, on her one muddy foot that sticks out from the blanket, and the morning sun turns her eyelids red. She blinks awake, and stares up at the picture window. Four tall frames, glass bubbled with age, one pane shattered and replaced with a white tarp that flaps softly in the breeze. The other three are speckled with scarlet, big splotches that bloom like flowers, and drip nectar tendrils down to the outer windowsill. She reaches up, touching skeletal fingers to the cool glass, and then drops her hand, turning her head to face her host.

“Is that the—the blood—of humans that y-y-you, disemboweled?”

The charr looks up from her reading, tucked away in a shadowy corner of the room, just behind the ladder to the loft. Golden eyes flash in the flicker of candlelight, and her voice rumbles low, like gravel trampled underfoot.

“I would not be sitting here if I killed my neighbors.” She pauses, her gaze shifting to the window splatter. “Rotten produce. A waste.”

Marea slowly sits up, blanket falling to her lap. For the first time she can remember, she feels no aches or pains, no piercing soreness in her spine after a fitful night's sleep amongst the voices of her family. What are they doing now, out there, in the camp? In the courtyard between four abandoned buildings, across the city in the Western Commons? Have they found Darius? Her knife? Her footprints in the blood?

She pulls the blanket up, exposing both feet. Filthy. Can't even see the blood with all else that coats them.

“W—W--Why do they th-throw p-p-produce at your, your windows?”

The charr gives her a dull look, turning a weathered page of her massive book.

“Why do you think, girl?”

“'Cause they don't w-want you h-here.”


The hulking white form looks back to her reading, ears twitching slightly. Marea wonders what it means. Irritation? Just a tick? She's never met another charr before, yet here she is, sitting in one's living room, sleeping on her couch, hiding from a world that might finally be done with her. From this height, the beast is fierce, distinctively feline eyes that angle downward at the inner corners, teeth that overhang her snout by several inches and look sharp enough to sever bone, wild long fur that gives her permanently furrowed brows an almost elegant look, though such daintiness is lost to her overall impression, of a ten foot tall monster that could throw Marea through a brick wall.

But she remembers from the night before, standing on her doorstep, and looking up at that face from below. White pelt glowing softly in the moonlight, ragged, fierce features turned almost doubtful. A sad curve to the snout, reluctant roundness to the eyes, and massive shoulders hunched, low and inward, as if trying to hide from the outside. As if standing on the empty street, in the dark, with nothing but a street rat at her feet, was a trial of unimaginable bravery.

“Then why are you here?” Marea pipes up, briefly startled by the clarity of her words.

The charr shrugs, a barely perceptible rise of her shoulders.

“Because I choose to be.”

“Isn't it, it dangerous?”

“Yes. But I am afforded some protection from the Priory.”

“But w-what is the point?”

“To exist where I feel I am needed.”

“Y-you're needed here?”

“Not to them,” growls the charr, though there is no malice in her words. “And perhaps I am wrong. I simply do what I believe in.”

“What do you believe in?”

“You talk much for a stuttering mouse, locked in a room with a beast like me.”

“You don't s-seem that m-m-much like a b-beast. You're, you're less sc-scary from below.”

The charr snorts, maybe, just maybe, a sound of amusement, though her expression is unchanged, eyes glued to her book, a pen turned twiggy in her paws scratching away some notes on a piece of scrap paper.

Marea carefully swings her legs over the moth-eaten couch, pressing tiny calloused feet to the creaky floorboards. She allows herself a moment to watch the room. Dark, aside from the patch of sunlight the one broad window lets in. Every blank space of wall lined with shelves lined with books of every imaginable size and age, along with trinkets here and there, a globe on a stand, a massive, spartan rifle resting in the corner behind the front door. A small brick fireplace, covered in dust and cobwebs, the remains of logs within just soot and ash. A fine sized three-legged table where the charr sits, turned puny beneath her looming form. Two extra chairs, broken and sad. And wooden buckets placed at seemingly random locations around the room. She looks up, following the almost comical slant and curve of the wilting walls, to spot patches of water damage on the chipped plaster ceiling. And further up, beyond that, the mysterious loft, completely cloaked in shadow with no sunlight to bathe it.

“This place is, is nice. Windows. Fire.”

“Good. I pay five times too much for it. Enjoy.”

Marea watches the gruff creature for a moment, wondering at her flat, harsh tone, before standing fully, ragamuffin dress falling to her knees, wrinkled from a good night's sleep. She takes gentle steps to the door, places her hand on the knob, struggles to turn it, finally a small click and it opens on screeching hinges, and she steps outside, onto a peaceful cobblestone alley, at the edge of Rurikton. This early in the day, the only other soul in sight is a maid, leaning from the back window of her proprietary's apartment, and clipping freshly washed linens to a clothesline that stretches across the narrow street. A lacy mint green dress, just a touch too big for her, catches Marea's eye, and she stares at it blankly, for a good whole minute, before she notices the maid giving her a disgusted look. The woman's dull brown hair curls untidily over her shoulders, her simple shift marred with stains and threadbare from overuse. Marea gazes at her for a moment, then slowly steps backward, the kiss of the sun sliding from her shoulders, and she closes the door.

The cries of a lonely seagull cut through the window tarp, high and piercing, and Marea returns to the couch, resting her chin on the backrest. She stares up at the sky. Clear blue and cloudless. Marred by the gore of tomatoes.

“It is wasteful,” she says, a hand moving to her stomach, feeling the sharp protrusion of her ribs against wan, itchy skin.
The charr spares her a glance, a flicker of wry amusement in wary golden eyes.

“Humans and charr alike do not care for what they sacrifice to prove a point. The fight goes on, no matter how small. But I will not be chased out by fruit.”

The pen scratches away, the maid slips back in the window and pulls it shut behind her, and Marea lets her eyes slowly close, warm, soft, safe.
Posted Feb 23, 17 · OP
She walks barefoot in the sand. Overhead the sun blazes to blot out all else. She lifts her chin, watches that eerily large, wavering disk as it rises higher in the sky. Though her eyes ache from the strain, she can see clearly—the sun is red or yellow. Or perhaps molten blue. If sapphire lava were bubbling up from the depths of the earth, in a tiny geyser pool, reflecting the morning light with fierce magnesium brightness—that is what it looks like, she decides.

The blue sun creeps over the wild curves and peaks of great canyons, up ahead. She's been walking toward them for a while now. She's not sure how long. Sometimes she leaves this place, and finds herself in some dream world, where there are doctors everywhere, and they all look the same. Gen lies beside her, puncture wounds straight through each of her forearms, kneecaps shattered by bullets, crying silently as she stares at the beaded night sky.

But in the real world, she can't remember who Gen is. A figment of her imagination, perhaps. Though Rajya once told her that every face you see in a dream, is a face you have seen while awake. A split second glance is all it takes. As the white sands part around her slow, gentle footsteps, she wonders where she's seen Gen. A noblewoman buying flowers from a street vendor? A Seraph on patrol in Ossan district? Even more unlikely, an Ascalonian ghost, stalking the great wall round and round, never knowing left from right. That's what the sun looks like, she thinks. A darker Ascalonian ghost.

She spots a speck on the horizon, and shields her eyes with a hand of pale, smooth skin.

Sometimes, in her dreams, she sees another face, too. Raigar—she does remember him. But she doesn't remember what she remembers about him. Only that he is there. He belongs. Everything in her azure world belongs. He seems to be hurt as well, lying in bed day after day, gravely quiet, as if a great weight sits upon his chest, and he fears to admit it's there.

Her breath catches, and she rubs at her neck, frowning slightly in a face as clear and unmarred as the dusty atmosphere. She can practically taste the blue in the air, soothing and cool. She remembers a great weight in her dreams. She likes it here better, being awake. She can't carry the weight. Dim memories of trying to shove it off, leave it to starve and wither on a barren landscape much like this one. But not this one. Because that was a dream. A nightmare. And if she can just stay awake, she need never go back to it.

The mark on the horizon is Rajya. She is much closer than before, and stands very still, gazing sternly at the shifting sands. The glow of her golden eyes seems dimmed by the sun's watery light. Marea takes a step towards her, separated by mere feet. She never leaves the place she started.

A dainty, frail hand stretches out to the charr.

“Fine weather we're having, isn't it?”

Rajya stares. She breathes out, long snout hairs tickled into motion, immense shoulders rising, and falling. Marea laughs, feet trodding upon the ground once more, going nowhere fast.

“I had a cinnamon bun for breakfast. Getting spoiled now, aren't I? Watch what I can do!”

She leaps into the air, far above Rajya, fingertips brushing the sky. And Rajya is a mountain, a living, breathing landmass, twisted desert trees sprouting from her back, grotesquely crackling and screeching as they force their way into the thin, dry air. Marea lands directly atop one, grasps it by the branches as if to steer it onward.

She grows tired. She watches the blue sun creeping over the canyons, the washed out sand burying her feet. Life is not very exciting these days. Yet she hates to leave it, for even a moment, to lie down and close her eyes, and go back where everything is wrong, the faces are wrong, the words are wrong, the very air itself is wrong. She's known it since the first time she went there, since she felt that wrenching ache in her chest, and that unbearable weight on her back. Pain. So much pain.

In her dreams, where the sun shines golden as Rajya's eyes and her arms are a blank, empty space on her weary body, she awakens with a violent start. To her side, Geneva flinches, avoiding her glance. On her other side, Raigar lies with eyes half-open, red mist billowing from them slowly. A small quartz crystal lies beside her pillow. So inconvenient, to have to remember everything about a pretend world, every time she falls asleep.
Posted Mar 25, 17 · OP
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Marea sits in her reading chair, a fancy-cushioned dust-covered probably stolen throne of comfort, right at the edge of the cliff that serves as her balcony. On a piece of paper, she jots down ideas in spidery elegance, though occasionally the pen slips in her unnaturally smooth grip, casting a thin straight line across the otherwise perfect script. Then she fights the urge to fling the paper off the cliff, into the ravine. Don't waste the paper. Write like Rajya would. Though Rajya would not have to spend hours coming up with a mediocre list of bullet points as a means of keeping herself from angrily ranting in the author's note to her own life's work.

You are not Rajya, and you don't have to pretend you are. Just clear your mind. Let the anger go for one fucking second, Marea. Let it go. Feed it to the cat.

Her fingers slowly crumple up the paper into a ball, hardly aware of what they do.

“How can I write this,” she says dully to the sky, tilting her head back to the glare of crystal clear blue. “How can I write it. It's not even the main part of the book. Just a few words. A few words about why, or how, or when.” She pauses, and quickly unfurls the paper, flipping onto the empty back side.

When: 1316.

How: A happy coincidence.


The pen pauses, and her shoulders slacken, sinking into the lush backrest.

Because there has always been a great sadness, a wrongness, in my life. And if I can recognize that, in all the pain, that it isn't the way my life was supposed to be, that anyone's was supposed to be, then I must believe there's something else out there. Rajya always spoke of balance. She didn't believe in easy happy endings. No magical cure for the hatred that plagues us all, that plagues me especially, in my every motion and every word. But she did believe in change, and the natural tendency to do good in all living beings—along with the tendency towards brash, terrible mistakes.

Even if she achieved her goals in her lifetime, she didn't expect them to stay that way forever. There will always be something, someone, eager to knock the balance, wrench a gear out of place. What mattered to her was that someone always remained to stand back, withdraw from the love that inspired enough wildness and fury to tear apart nations. Someone to guide the world back to peace. No one you would remember, someone you would likely hate, scorn, spit upon as they passed on the street. Yet it would be them who changed the world, through an isolated word of kindness, or a simple pastry offered to a starving child. Alone with their misery, misery their joy. Joy to give back to the place they call home, Tyria, Ascalon, the Black Citadel, Divinity's Reach. All of them were hers. There may have been a time when this was not the case, when Rajya was the monster many would see her as. I will never know. She was taken from me before I could get her to confide. But what she once was makes no difference; only what she became as she learned and grew matters.

People can change. Maybe not everyone. Certainly not me. But she is proof. Many of the people I have met in my fairly short life, are proof. Though I don't feel it, there is hope. Hope is an objective fact. It always exists, whether you can acknowledge it, or not. Rajya had no reason to believe in a better life for the opposing peoples she loved, but she did believe, anyway. And she gave away her life to pursue that belief, that hope. That one solitary, outcast charr could change the world, with words in a book and a tiny mouse at her side to spread the dream. The mouse has returned, and as she writes, she can't believe her own words. But what choice does she have? In a world where every face is an enemy, every whispered word a threat, and it seems there is nothing left to fight for, not even worth the energy of a bullet to the head, what else can fill the void? How better to live in a life broken and beaten, than with hope, feeble and flickering?

Famous last words, I suspect. But her dream is a dream I have carried on my back since that night in 1316, when I read my first word, and history unfolded in my hands. I may not have hope, but I have her dreams. That's all that's left of Rajya Sleekfur. And it will not be forgotten.
Posted Apr 16, 17 · OP
“Do you ever feel like, like, you're suspended in time?”

Marea leans down and plucks a pebble from the rocky floor, rolling it between her fingertips. A shape moves in the shadows just beyond her, sheltered from view by an outcrop of glittering silver veins, like liquid in the glow of the lantern.

“I feel like if I just stood in place, completely still, for even a second, days would pass me by. And I'd barely notice.”

The shadows grunt, a foot reaching out into the pond of yellow light, callused and caked with blood. Marea drops the pebble, and dips over to the creature, carefully kneeling down and tugging the gag from its mouth.

“Sorry, I always forget about that,” she offers, shrugging, and ruffles the brown hair upon its head, matted with sweat and dust.

“It's okay,” rasps the creature, blinking up at her pale face, turned vague and dreamlike by the lantern shadows.

“So do you know what I mean? I've always felt the opposite. Like I was flying along, and the world couldn't keep up. Wasn't fast enough. I don't, I don't understand what's changed.” She settles down next to it, back to the cavern wall, knees pulled up to her chest.

“Never thought on it,” the creature mumbles, slumped in resignation, chains chafing like fire around its wrists as it tries to adjust positions. “Me ass is asleep.”

“Nobody cares about your ass,” Marea snaps, flabbergasted. “We're talking about me right now. My issues. They're important.”

“Aye, 'cept y'know they not,” murmurs the creature, sad eyes deadpan. “Ye went through this yesterday. Ye not important at all. Me neither. We both of us should be thrown in the pits of hell. You, 'cause ya terrible, then me, so I can get away from you.”

“But if we're both in the pit of hell, won't you be stuck with me forever?”

“Naw,” it says, with a bit more vigor. “'M not a shit person. Somebody'll save me.”

“We'll see about that. If I chain you to me before we get thrown in, then—you're trying to distract me! C'mon, you must know what I'm talking about. It feels like no matter what I do, I'm just not myself anymore. I feel all wilted, and deflated.”

“Yer a balloon. Me brother has a helium tank--”

“Cute!” she exclaims, abruptly reaching out and smacking the creature across the face. It gasps in pain, the not-so-dull ache of steel against bone spreading through its head anew. Its eyes throb, a halo of little stars sparkling over Marea's grimly satisfied visage. “You are about the worst captive ever. You won't die on your own, and you're not willing to dispense with the worldly advice.”

“I dunna have any,” it says, desperation creeping into its voice. “I'm just a miner. Can't be much older than ye. Have a family. Wanta see 'em again, one last time.”

Marea rolls her eyes, placing a cordial hand on the creature's shoulder. “Buddy old pal, that was almost pitiful enough for me to set you free. Keep trying.”

“So they alive,” it gasps, watery eyes widening with hope.

“Nope. But you can still see them again. In time.”

She gives its shoulder a painfully reassuring squeeze, and then heaves up to her feet, striding back to the lantern and hooking it onto her belt loop. The sharp rap of her boots on the stone floor cuts through the wailing of the creature she left behind, if wailing it could be called, soft and scratchy, like the dying cries of an old man as he turns around and finds himself face to face with death.

She stands in the slip-thin entrance to the cave, watching the amber sunrise, trees turned starkly black by the glare of the morning light. Rosy clouds drift across the sky, leaves crinkle under the gentle foot of a deer. When last she turned her gaze upward, it was dark, velvety night, the air thick with crickets, and she could slip through the hillside without encountering a soul, all alone in all the world, surrounded by life, yet barely living. She listens to her breathing. Average. The chill is already dissipating in preparation for the coming day.

Her boots tap crisply on the stone floor. She stops in front of the shadows, silver veins all through the walls glistening like a spiderweb of tears, and with one resounding shot, the man goes silent.
Posted Jun 9, 17 · OP
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She sits quietly on the edge of the fountain, cross-legged, watching her old coat circle round and round in the warm waters. She reaches in, fishing a ratty sleeve out, and, finding the last traces of dried clay finally removed, lugs out the whole garment and promptly drops it on the ground, in a heap, to wrinkle in the wind. Inigo hears the splatter of wet mass against the stone, and comes scurrying from inside, padding onto the coat and settling down in a ball amongst the damp leather, a cool reprieve from the toasty desert air.

“You got it made. Life is so simple for you,” Marea says quietly, watching him from her perch. “Just eat, sleep and play. That's kinda how I am. Only you're better at it. Much better.”

Inigo lifts his head towards her, eyes half-shut, and makes a tiny 'coo' sound, before tucking into a ball again.

Marea sighs softly, and takes up the simple notebook from beside her, flipping it open on her lap. The very first page has already been filled: graceful, spidery calligraphy spells a winning title, The Why's and How's of Marea's Fuck-Ups, surrounded by delightful, cartoonish drawings of animals frolicking. She turns to the second page, sets her pen against it, and begins to write. Anything, everything. Just something. Because something is changing, and she can't wait until she discovers what it is on her own. By then, everyone will be gone. And it will be back to Marea Alone, without a friend, without a home. That's not who she is anymore. She can't imagine wanting that, ever again.

Phoenix, 1330.

I am cruel. I like to pick on people I love. I mean, I'll pick on anyone, but I get the most satisfaction out of going after people who mean something to me. So that sucks. I made Gen really upset today. Now I have to fix that. What fun. Well, it is fun, because I love her, and I want to make her feel better, and be friends again. It's a challenge, like one of those cubes with the different colored squares that you rotate around. Should only take like, twenty minutes. No big deal. Except Gen is a human, not a cube toy. Fucking humans. Should all go fuck themselves. Wouldn't be in this mess if I wasn't human, and my fellow humans weren't human. Make us all charr or asura and we'll have better things to worry about. Like radiation. And raging fires. Wow, way off topic. Why do I do that? Why do I always almost deliberately ruin what I have? Why can't I just be happy?

She pauses, tapping the pen point on the paper. A bird twitters somewhere up above, on the cliff side, and Inigo's ears twitch in his sleep.

Should I be happy? I think I shouldn't. No one should. Everyone has played a part in this living, breathing disaster. Me, Tyria. Both, ruined. It wasn't our fault, but now it's our problem. And there's no escaping a disaster like this. It's practically the end-times, the apocalypse. Everywhere you look, things are falling apart. But maybe then I should be happy. If there's no way out. Why waste away in bitterness?

Because many before me have wasted away in bitterness, and they did not deserve it. I do. I have wrought what I've sown.

And hundreds of miles away, a young sylvari sits in the long, amber grasses at the foot of an amber tree. So much amber, coppery, shimmering ruggedness. The same color that glitters in her quiet eyes. And her skin, thick, stubborn blue bark that melds seamlessly with the sky. A sapling modeled in the image of Ascalon, in all her beauty and splendor. A land reborn, finding its feet again. That's how she feels, much of the time. As if she has been here before, on many occasions, seen many shifting faces, all a blur of fur and fangs.

Slowly she lets her eyes drop from the treetops, back to her journal, pages overflowing with crisp, thin lettering, the quick jots of a scholar.

Phoenix, 1330, 9 months old.

Dear Journal,

I have been writing you for several weeks now, yet I feel as if I am no closer to uncovering the secrets I seek than I was when I first began. Than when I first awoke, in fact. Certainly, I do have a good catalog of information now, but what use is it if I can never put two and two together? The girl that I search for, she must be Ascalonian. I do not know why else I would be so drawn to so many places in this part of the world. But I could be wrong. Perhaps all these things have something else in common. How can I ever know? I am surrounded by clues, yet they are always out of my reach. It is cruel, I dare say! So many strange feelings, all leading to nowhere. It does not matter how my heart swells when I look upon a certain building, a certain face, when I hear a name or taste a candy on my tongue. It does not matter, if I do not know what it means.

Pen Yfan brushes at her shaggy fronds, pushing them back from her face, only for a moment, before letting them drop back down, surrounding her expression in shadow.

Am I to be forever a stranger, in a strange land? My face so odd and alien? My body small and weak? My intuition crowding my mind until I cannot make sense of anything anymore? Tyria is naught but a series memories that I have not yet had. And I must admit, it makes me feel weary. I am drained, though I make no progress. There is something I am missing, though, and I cannot rest until I find it. Some people are too important. I know that this is not meant to be a life-long Wyld Hunt—it is pertinent now, in the present. If I do not find this girl before it is too late, I will never live with myself. She is precious. Precious beyond the stars and the sky and the land that I love. She is the reason that I have lived for all of these years, and not simply left myself to waste away in the wilderness like the monster that I am.

The pen scrapes to a stop. Pen looks at her pen, then at the paper, then the pen again. She gives it a good shake, bangs it on her knee, squints at it, searching for any odd imperfections. But it is only a pen, held by Pen, offering only the words that she, herself, wrote.

I cannot explain what I just wrote, but it cannot be denied that I am monstrous. In a friendly, flora and fauna sort of way. I would certainly be frightened if confronted by myself on a dark, stormy night. I am often startled by the sight of myself in the mirror! Well, that is enough for today, clearly. Goodnight, journal.

With best wishes,

Pen Yfan.

She closes her eyes, and in the darkness behind her eyelids she can almost see another face gazing back at her. Shapes shifting, branching off and vanishing in the flickering sunlight. Whenever she reaches for understanding, the feeling vanishes, the memory is gone, the presence but an aching longing in her chest. The presence of something beyond her. The path to the girl with the pale gray eyes.

And hundreds of miles out west, in a canyon where Pen Yfan has trod before, Marea dozes on the ledge of the fountain pool, curled up like Inigo, innocent as a child in the haze of musty old memories.
Posted Jul 12, 17 · OP
Marea runs her fingers through her hair. She pushes her bangs back from her forehead, a moment of sweet relief, before letting them feather down once more, tickling at her eyelids. Through the tips of bluish strands she watches dust motes traverse the air, swirling gracefully as a priest slips by. Through the dust motes, she watches Grenth, stone and silence in the shrine, only interrupted by the crackling of candle wicks, and the gentle shimmer of the artificial waterfall as it splashes into the fountain.

She never cared for religion. She never learned it, never understood its purpose. Her childhood guardians made games out of peeing on the statues at every city plaza. She did not partake, as she did not partake of most things. Simply stood and watched, a small, sunken shadow peeking out from behind a lamppost. When she was young, the statues did hold a certain gravity to her. As she found herself standing before them, it was as if a hundred monumental eyes gazed down upon her, scrutinizing, judging, knowing the unthinkable, the impossible, and her, knowing her wants and needs, knowing her heart.

Childish superstition. But there was always one god that glowered harder than the rest. And she looks up at him now, a pale, starving urchin at his feet. It is as if her hands are still weak, bony and flesh, the talons of a spider. As if she has not grown somewhat strong and resilient, carrying around pounds of steel in the form of metal boots and murderous prosthetics. It is as if she never left the city, never entered the home of Rajya Sleekfur, never learned to talk, never killed.

Some things never change. The stained glass windows are the same. The statues themselves, of course. Some of the older priests might even be those from her years on the streets. But she has changed—hasn't she? In many ways, certainly. On the outside, she has grown up, frail but mature in form, with a hard face, and a dozen weapons. On the inside too, she understands people better, sympathizes with her closest friends, she feels regret and sorrow, and she moves past it, as is the only way to go on, and continues to be the beast she always has been, since the moment she came into the world, unwanted, one of a million monsters.

Yet still, she gazes up with round eyes, scarred and altered from combat but as pure and clear as they ever were. A child's eyes, and a child's heart, glowing forth from within her. Some things never change, and she feels frozen in time, always locked into one day, one instant, a lifetime ago, a frenzied fever dream, a regretful reminder. And she remembers coming here afterward, during a quiet lull in her sniffling and tears, after she had eaten the warm food that Winnie gave her. She went to the fountain with the waterfall, and rubbed the blood off her hands as best she could. Such tiny hands, marred with scrapes and calluses. Only one priest drifted by, carrying a small stack of books, destined for some greater purpose. He vanished around a corner, leaving her alone in the dusky temple.

Under the icy gaze of Grenth, she walked up to the statue, little bare feet soundless on the floor. They watched each other in the emptiness. For emptiness was all there was. Her heart would one day be filled with equal parts aching love and raging, burning hate, but always there would be a ring in the middle, a tiny black hole, something missing, something wrong. Everything, everyone, cruel, hideous, insatiable, wrong.

She climbed up on the stone pedestal, and peered deep into the eyes of a skull at the god's feet. They were carefully hollowed out, empty ivory crevasses staring blankly at her own swollen eyes. She took her knife from her belt and wedged it into one of the eyes, as far as she could make it go, and then she laid down her head, right upon the side of the statue. Her raggedy dress felt like silk in the warmth of the shrine. She slipped into sleep, and awoke to a chorus of morning bells, crisp blue light floating in through the doorway. She climbs down. She wipes fresh tears. The paving stones cut the soles of her feet.

And the city is empty, empty, not a soul to witness her passing.

The urchin is all grown up, yet as small as the day she remembers so vividly. Small in the eyes of a god. In the face of the world. Lost among rushing feet at every turn. She presses her metallic fingers to the skull, slips one inside the eye that must hold her knife.

Some things will never be fixed.
Posted Aug 31, 17 · OP
It has been many years since Marea looked at an open plain, a faceted tower, an endless sea of shifting dunes that stretches to the impossibly far horizon, and felt the spark of discovery within her. It has never been a feeling she can explain, but ever since Rajya began to tell her tales of the world outside the Reach, she yearned to travel, to see everything she could, to make the world her own, walk every path and see every star. And more than anything, she wanted to find that place. A certain place. A place that she could never put into words, but which lingered in the back of her mind, in the depths of her heart, like an aching old wound. It was like longing, but also love, and misery, and so much more. As a child, she let herself overflow with it, wrapped up in dreams and history texts disguised as storybooks. One day, she had known nothing. And the next, Rajya handed her the keys to the earth on a convenient lanyard.

But where to put the keys? Every new place a door, and all of them already opened. Everywhere she went was tarnished, scourged, by the humans with their hate. A weak race, with no desire other than to tear others down, and no talents to make their faults worthwhile. In every passing face she saw the people she knew from the streets of the city. The people who never saw her—or did, and kicked her, spit at her, molded her into who she is now. The only place she felt truly safe was in Ascalon, north of Ebonhawke, where only the charr and the local critters roamed. But she was not welcome—more welcome now, yes, things have changed. But in the end, there was no one who would have her, human or charr, poor or rich. Rajya Sleekfur was her only solace, and she tossed her away for a pretty picture of copper hills.

And Rajya forgave her. They were together again, for a time. Then, under those same rolling hills, Marea buried her keeper beneath the brittle grass. No place she had been will ever be the same.

Now, she must go someplace brand new, chasing that glimmer of hope that refuses to die, despite how much she tries to extinguish it. A child at heart, she thinks to herself, as she packs a light backpack for the journey ahead. When Raigar flew Blackclaw to Amnoon, she hitched a ride, expecting to see the city, sample a few new poisonous fauna, and go home in two week's time. But this desert is something she hasn't seen before. Like the Wastes, but without her emotional baggage. And so much more diverse, much more to see—a land arid by design, not a jungle wiped out over time. She's decided to stay. She's gathered stories of dwarven ruins to the north, in the chilly uplands. Rajya liked the dwarves. Thought they were cool, though not her area of expertise. She'll explore for a bit, find a small souvenir to take back for Rajya's grave, and be back in Amnoon in just a month, in time to fly to Kryta with Raigar. The journey will breeze by, a walk in the park compared to the things she's seen.

She shoves a wad of wrinkled paper into her pack, snatches a collection of little wooden animal figurines off a shelf. The people in the Zephyrite refuge have been very kind and accommodating, and they will continue to be, whether they know it or not. She slips out from the room, and walks just a few feet to the storage area, where a small, almost pathetic, amount of dried meat has been stashed in crates. She grabs it by the handful, stuffing as much into her bag as she can.

Outside of the darkened cave rooms, the sun is just flooding the horizon, turning the dusty village roads a deep, bloody scarlet. She soundlessly flits over to the bank of the ravine, and dips her canteen into the cool water. Her fingers brush the surface. She closes her eyes, and a million sensations flood her mind, fresh, crisp, cold, floating, rushing, foaming, roaring rivers running through her fingertips, pale skin so tender to the brackish liquid.

She opens her eyes. She feels nothing.

Her canteen is filled to overflowing, so she caps it and hooks it to her belt. Adjusts her backpack so it sits more snugly on her shoulders. Tugs a lumpy braid out from under the left strap—even restrained, her new long hair is always in the way. As she starts to make her way for the scaffolding that crisscrosses between the cliffs, forming a path upwards, a tiny voice calls out her name. She doesn't miss a beat, footsteps steady and brisk, as the sound catches up with her, and a little boy tugs at her coat.

“Mar!” he whispers urgently, the sound of villagers awakening, metal clinking, beginning to stir in the air. “The Forged have been seen approaching. Please, my father sent me to ask for your weapons, we can fight if we each have a gun, or even a knife.”

Marea yanks her coat out of his grasp, speeding up her pace. “Don't touch me,” she snaps. “I'm leaving now, so I can't stay and lend you all my hard-earned weapons. Sorry.”

“Please! It's all we have!” He dives down, crashing to the ground and wrapping his arms around her leg, the faint glimmer of tears on his cheeks. “They're going to kill us. You outlanders came to help, didn't you? You have to stay and help. You have to--”

The reaction is immediate. The second she tries to lift her leg and feels a child attached, her kitty pistol is in her hands, cracking across the boy's temple. He crumbles away with a cry, and she turns on him, drawing back her liberated leg and kicking him in the chest, pointed steel toe digging into flesh.

“I am not here for you,” she hisses, already starting away. The boards of the elevated walkway creak beneath her feet. “Fucking kids. Fucking touching me. Not how I wanted to start morning!” She raises her voice, throwing it back accusatorily. The little boy lies in the sand, curled into a ball.

Humans, with their hate. Poisoning the earth. And then, from the earth, new, more terrible humans spring up like weeds, and the cycle continues. Even here, she cannot escape. But maybe up north, in the cold, there will be solace. There will be wonder and dreams again. Maybe, when the time comes to go home, she will already be home.

Raigar barely wants her. No one else cares. She once made it her prerogative that she should never need anyone, not a single soul, no one to hold her at night or fight by her side. She doesn't know a thing about this place that she seeks. This glimmer of hope, this strange swelling in her heart. She doesn't know a thing, except that she's never going to find it. But she's going to try anyway. Again, and again, and again.
Posted Nov 9, 17 · OP
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