Jump to content
Aveyond Studios Community
Mu11berry

In Pieces (RxD oneshots)

Recommended Posts

I'm ALWAYS happy to give you opportunities to gush, omg. I'm so glad to hear your process! I'm really happy you kept in those lines.

This new chapter is so cute and funny and sweet, omfg. I feel so bad for Rhen (but love reading) as every little thing that could possibly happen, of course, does. She just can't get a break and she really needs one! Luckily she has Dameon to help. I always love reading how you write them helping each other, from the big stuff like talking through their feelings about loss and responsibility to the lighter hearted stuff like this. The fact that they're there for each other through such a broad spectrum of ups and downs really gives a complete image of their relationship and I LOVE it, I love them, I love how you write them! And of course I love how the rest of the party is such a disaster (I really like how you characterized Marge even through just brief mentions, I like her intro to the fic; I love Lars helping "if he's bored enough" - nice balance between early game Lars who would never do anything to help and showing he's changing; I LOVE Te'ijal and Galahad just running even when there's a bunch of glass on the floor).

all in all this was such a cute chapter and I love it

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@darwin Thank you, Cough was so fun to write and those were all the most important things I was trying to convey and I can't believe it actually worked a little? Thank you so much T.T And haha Marge and Lars and... all of them, I love them and I'm glad they came across well! 

________________________________________________________

Sooo we are back to angst guys. I reread these next few pieces and cried, mostly because I'm a sap but also because they deal with some stuff that is hard to think about, so please take care of yourselves and find some fluff to follow this up with if you are like me. I promise cute pieces are coming soon (and also this piece does feature one of my favorite accidental oc's for reasons which will be obvious in like the second to last oneshot, so at least there is that).

________________________________

Dark Places

Thais is abandoned and ruined and Rhen has nothing in common with the people there. Nothing at all.

________________________________

Gray brick. That was what her future was made out of. It loomed above her, hard and cold and impassable. Unalterable. She hated it. She wanted to run from it.

Instead she turned to her companions, and told them to split up and look for an inn. They were going to sleep here, in this gray city. They had no choice. The blasted lands were dangerous. The rogues and red wolves would only get more vicious as night fell.

So she walked North on the gray brick streets, and under gray brick arches, and between towering walls of gray, gray, gray. It swallowed her whole. She didn't want this. She tried to tell herself that she didn't belong here, that her father was a shoemaker, and her mother was a seamstress—

Daddy, I have a serious question to ask you. Am I your real daughter?

It had seemed an absurd question. This was the man who had carried her on his shoulders through her whole childhood. He had made her every pair of shoes she'd ever worn, until— until she'd gone away. Until now. Now her shoes were made of dragon scales and they glimmered faintly in what little sickly light could filter through the thick clouds hanging in the sky.

It felt like it had always been overcast here, and yet Rhen knew it would never really rain, just like Pa had never really answered her question.

Before you were born, I served as a general to the King and Queen of Thais.

A royal general. Not a shoemaker, then. She was not a shoemaker's daughter. So who was she?

The king and queen of Thais had a daughter, the child who would defeat the demon.

The child. That's what Talia had called her, too. And the Empress of the Eastern Isle, and the Oracle. The child— she wasn't a child! She was too old to be bossed around. And yet—

And yet here she was, doing exactly what they had all told her to do. Or almost exactly what they had all told her to do—

Ma had told her she was a princess, she should be happy. Pa had told her to remember Thais, that it was her duty.

She didn't want to be a princess. She didn't want Alicia's ring— her mother's ring. She didn't want her parents country.

Parents. Devin and Alicia were not her parents. Her father was a shoemaker and her mother was a seamstress— a shoemaker and a seamstress, she tried to make it seem true again, but the weight of the sword on her back said otherwise.

In other cities, in Clearwater especially, people stared at her swords, and her shoulder pads and heavy boots and— everything. But in Thais, no one stared. She fit right in. Nearly everyone here wore their armor, riddled with the damage of hundreds of battles, polished so that it shined even under the overcast sky.

And everyone here walked slowly, with their eyes down, carrying weights in their hearts not less demoralizing than the burdens Rhen had carried as a slave. Everyone in Thais would rather be somewhere else.  

Rhen wanted to be home, with her parents. Her parents, the shoemaker and the seamstress. Not the strangers who had once ruled this now desolated land.

Thais used to be grand, one woman had told her. It had been the greatest city in all the kingdoms. It used to be surrounded by unexplored forests stretching for miles, and there had been cool, clear mountain streams running everywhere, and the land was dotted with farming villages instead of long, lonely stretches of burnt earth and endless gray. 

Everything was so empty now. And— there weren't any inns anywhere! She kicked a wall, a stupid gray brick wall, and it hurt even through her heavy boots so she scowled and kicked it again—

"Halt!" a voice shouted. She turned to see one of the guards running towards her, pulling his sword out. She reflexively reached back for her own sword and he stopped several paces away from her, weapon ready.

"Are you a citizen of Thais?" he barked, his voice echoing harshly from under his heavy helmet.

"I— no, I am a traveler—"

He half-raised his sword and she held her own in front of her defensively. "Are you a demon?" he asked.

"What? No, I am a traveler! I am just looking for an inn!" 

"A traveler!" he scoffed. "We have not seen outlanders for nearly seventeen years. Prove to me you are not a demon in disguise!"

"A demon in disguise?" This was ridiculous, she didn't need to be arguing with a paranoid guard, she just wanted to rest, somewhere far away from here—

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"I— I—" She was not a shoemakers daughter, not a simple peasant— who was she?— "I—"

"Rhen?" She half-turned to see Dameon hurrying towards her— of course he would find her when she was in the middle of a standoff— "Pirate John found an inn, do you want to— want to— what— what are you doing?"

The guard turned, brandishing his weapon now at Dameon. "Who is this?"

"This is my— we are— he is the Sun Priest!" she babbled— she wanted to say— more, but it all seemed too much, suddenly, and she could hardly say anything to mollify this guard, he still looked at them through narrowed, distrustful eyes.

"Please," Dameon began, calmly, "we are not here to cause trouble. We are only travelers."

"Why would you travel to Thais?" the guard demanded; Rhen wondered the same thing herself, especially now— "This is a desolated city. The gods have abandoned us. We cannot protect our own citizens. What could you want here?" He raised his sword to point the tip at Dameon's throat, and Rhen's hands were white on her own weapon— "Answer me!"

Dameon only stared at him, his dark eyes wide with—

With—

Something sad and soft that wasn't fear at all, and he finally said, quietly, "We came here to help."

Help. Was it really that simple? 

The guard scoffed, and pushed his sword closer to Dameon— he had better— he'd better not—

But Dameon just looked at him calmly, and slowly the guard's sword fell to his side. "Move along then," he muttered, and sheathed his weapon. "You won't want to be out in the streets after dark."

With that he left— really, it was that easy? — And Dameon turned to Rhen, and shuffled his feet a bit, and held out his arm for her to take. "John found an inn. Do you want to go?"

"Dameon— weren't you nervous at all?"

"What?"

"The guard—" she sheathed her sword, and took his arm— he was crazy, that was the only explanation.

He smiled down at her. "I knew you would not let him hurt me."

Well— that was true.  

"Where's the inn?" she asked.

"In the southern half of the city." He gestured with his free arm, and started walking that way. "It's by a ring shop," he said, and then, with an almost conspiratorial grin, "I think Elini will approve of the location."

The gray brick seemed so much less imposing when she was not alone, and the overcast sky looked more like rain every moment.

"I don't like rings," she blurted, and then blushed. She was thinking of one very specific ring, with a dragon engraved in its gold band. And— also that small silver ring with the blue stone, the one that had gotten her into this whole mess in the first place.

"Oh," he stammered, his smile slipping. "I— I don't think they're so bad."

She looked hard at the ground. The path was gray brick, like everything else. "You can have mine, then."

"I— What?"

Now she was definitely red. "I mean— the sigma ring. I— I don't— want it."

He was quiet. She could feel his eyes on her, waiting, and finally he said, in his low, soothing way, "What do you want?"

There was a pebble on the ground, and she kicked it ahead of her. It was gray, too. "I don't know."

She kicked the pebble again and it rolled behind a barrel. The barrel, at least, was brown. But it was probably empty. "Thais is a lonely place."

He didn't answer at first. She wouldn't have heard him if he had. She was walking beside him, but she was far, far away, in a tiny mountain town, looking for a little girl she had lost a long time ago. 

"Rhen?"

He called her out of her dark place so gently she didn't notice herself turning to face him— not until she was looking up into his eyes, sad and sympathetic and— this time, a little afraid. 

"I— the people here— have no one to help them." He began slowly, his voice so low she had to strain to hear. "They've had to fight for themselves. They— I guess what I mean is— they have been through a lot. And you— you also— are you lonely, Rhen?"

She swallowed. She wasn't sure how to answer, how to say yes, how to be so terribly exposed. "I— I want to help these people. But I— I don't— know."

His eyes were soft and dark and not gray at all. "No one else will help them."

"No." She remembered her helpless days. Sometimes she thought she was still in them.

"They... are brave, to have lasted so long."

Brave. What a word, for a hopeless people.

"Rhen." He had stopped walking, they were standing in a courtyard. The inn was in front of them— it really did exist— and he was brushing her hair behind her ear, and tilting her chin up so that she had to look into those stupid dark eyes. "You... You have a lot to think about. And... it is okay if you feel lost. But I think... I think you will find your way. I... I..." he seemed to hesitate, and she knew what he was about to say was something he hadn't said for a long time, maybe forever, and he finished quietly, "I trust you."

Those were heavy words— what if she failed? What if she stayed lost, forever and ever—

But instead of afraid, her heart felt lighter, somehow, and she felt her lips relaxing into a small smile, maybe because— because—

After everything, she was not alone. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sharing Sorrow

Sorry to have two angst pieces in a row, but this is important. Happens sometime soon after the party first goes to Thais. This piece means a lot to me; read gently:)

_____________________________________________________

He heard her door creak open, in one of those silent hours between midnight and dawn that was neither morning nor night, that was nothing but dark. Her boots scuffed against the stone floor of the hall, and he knew where she was going. There was only one place that kept a person awake into these hours, only one place to go when the darkness was this heavy.

The grieving never needed to be told where it was, they would find it, they were pulled to it, like moths to light— except there was no light, only stillness.

He followed her, because—

He had been there alone, so many times.

The cemetery in Thais was much bigger than the one he was familiar with. He moved carefully around the graves— there were so many, there had been so much death—

Only one would call Rhen’s name. Only one would be familiar to her restless heart.

He found her kneeling in front of a headstone, her hand pressed against it, fingers tracing the letters carved on its face— he did not need to look at the name. Everything in her posture told him, she had found what called her here.

He whispered a spell to conjure a small light, and he cradled it in his hands as he approached her, slowly. He did not know what he would say to her, no one had ever said anything to him— except Rhen.

Rhen had said, “I’m sorry.”

She glanced up at him as he approached, and squinted at the light. He cupped his hand over it, softening it, and slowed to a stop, only close enough that she could hear him.

“Rhen.”

She looked back at the headstone. “Hi, Dameon.”

“I— I didn’t want you to be alone.”

She didn’t answer.

“I’m— sorry, Rhen,” he said, and wished he knew anything else to say. “She— she must have been brave.”

She shrugged. “I wouldn’t know.”

He swallowed, and she shifted and patted the ground beside her. “Will you— sit with me?”

He did. His knees were used to the dirt of grave yards. The headstone towered above their kneeling forms and the tiny light between his hands flickered in its shadow.

There were many things carved on the stone, lineage and ranks, deeds done, dates and places—

What Rhen’s fingers traced, over and over, was the name. Alicia Pendragon.

“She died.”

Her usually light, cheerful voice cracked with bitterness. He wished it had never come to this. If he could take the ache from her soul and swallow it into his own, he would.

But the ache, he knew, was emptiness, and he’d never learned how to fill it.

“I’m sorry, Rhen.”

“I— I wasn’t— ready.”  There was a small, tremulous breath, and then— “I’m still not— ready— I— she just— left me! Alone!” Her eyes flashed and she hit the headstone with the side of her fist. “She abandoned me! They abandoned me! I— I—”

She was crying, her breaths came in stifled squeaks which, he remembered, felt more like drowning than breathing, and the only thing he knew to do was sit beside her and hold up the light. He would not leave her in the dark. He had been there alone, so many times.

“I lost them,” she choked. “Do you know— how that— feels?”

He remembered. It hurt to remember but he couldn't help it. “Yes,” he breathed, and he cradled the light in one hand and with the other carefully reached out to press his fingertips to her shaking shoulder. “I know how that feels.”

What he didn’t know was how to stop feeling it.

She leaned her head against the stone and he felt her trembling under one of his palms while the light wavered in the other, and she didn’t make another sound.

Words did not belong here. The silence was sacred.

He read the tombstone in the pale brightness. Alicia Pendragon. Queen of Thais. If only she had taken the title with her. She had been young when she died, not much older than Rhen was now.

But she had been dead for nearly as long as Rhen had been alive, over seventeen years.

The darkness seemed to creep closer to them, despite all the energy he was feeding into the light. He could not remember the world seventeen years ago, but he thought maybe it had seemed— nicer. Yet here was proof that parents had still died. Gods had betrayed their people. His father had been right— there was no justice in Aia.

And yet— it was said that Ahriman had destroyed this city. That’s what they told him, and he didn’t know if his father would say any different.

He had learned long ago that the dead did not answer.

And still Rhen bowed her head, and all he could do was rub her shoulder and whisper this little half-comfort, this almost-accusation: “If my father— hadn’t done what he did, she might still be alive.”

Rhen traced Alicia’s name again, her hands trembling. “That was your father’s choice, Dameon. I don’t blame you.”

The light flickered faintly. “Perhaps you should.”

“Dameon,” she chided.

“I know what he chose,” he reminded her, and then he tried not to breathe, not to say the next words that rose up in his throat, like bile. He hadn't dared to express them for so long, he had kept them locked in himself, piercing him, rotting him, but now they spewed out, convulsively—

"—I still love him."

And now, after so much time, the tears flowed, dropping onto the cold, unforgiving stone of a stranger’s grave, and the light in his palm wavered in the darkness like his lonely soul.

Little fingers brushed against his other hand, and settled at his elbow, and Rhen was there to sit beside him in his grief.

“I’m sorry, Dameon.”

Sorry. Sorrow could not revive the dead, the fates were unforgiving, the gods cruel. Love always led to desolation.

And Rhen always accepted it with a firm jaw and soft eyes.

“What was he like?” she asked him quietly, leaning her tired head against his arm and looking down at the light he was trying to hold. It was fading, it was barely a glow.

He stared up at the unpitying headstone, and breathed in the cold night air, and remembered.

“He was… He used to take me exploring, when he wasn’t… busy…” His throat felt dry and the words were like sand in his mouth. It was easy to remember that his father was dead, that part clung to him, like his shadow. It fueled his resolve, and his anger, and—

It was hard to remember what came before. That stayed twisted around his core and if he unravelled it— everything would fall apart.

He tried to swallow but there was something sharp and bitter in his throat, and Rhen wrapped her hands around his arm, and breath by breath he came undone.

“He… he taught me magic. We helped the binis, and the fairies sometimes—”

And he would have been ashamed of the way the tears streamed down Dameon’s face. If he reached up to dry them the light would go out. He couldn’t let go of the light.  

“He kept flowers… for… my mother.”

The words hung in the air and he waited for the blinding relief of rage but he only felt bruised, deep in his gut, and he cried harder and Rhen’s hands tightened around his arm. 

“He was strong, and… diligent.” He never gave up, not on anything, he had a fierce, unrelenting soul—

“He was my hero—” Dameon choked. He was in a thousand quivering pieces, he would have scattered in the cold night wind except for Rhen’s fierce grip on him— 

“He was— like— you—” he said, and he bowed his head and he wept and wept.

She was sturdy and strong and the world would destroy her too, it destroyed every honest thing. And the light was dying and—

“Rhen— I can’t—- keep the light— here—” 

Her jaw was firm and her eyes were soft, and she reached up and brushed little fingers over his tears. “Then let the darkness come.”

He trembled, and fought, and then— 

She pressed her face into his robes, and the way she shivered was familiar to him, it had nothing to do with the cold wind and everything to do with the bare broken feeling in her chest— and— he could hold on to the light or her, not both, and he reached for her blindly as the night swallowed them whole.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry—” he murmured into her hair, sorrow was useless but it was all he had, and now she was crying into his shoulder, and trembling violently in his arms, and her hot breath burned her questions into his neck, will you stay with me? — and he felt like a rope stretched taut, she wanted someone to keep her secured and he had frayed edges.

But he wouldn’t fail this time. He would just never let go— her quivering nose tickled his collarbone, and he kissed her hair and cried into it and they clung to each other and breathed in the shadows and waited for the slow, quiet sun to return to the broken world.

And he held her close, and she held him together.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I was going to save this update for next week, but then I realized I've kind of been sharing a lot of angst lately, and this piece is a little fluffier. Plus, it is my friend's birthday. She doesn't even know Aveyond besides my ranting but I still can't have her day pass without sharing fluff of some sort, so here:

________________________________________________

Sunshine

This piece happens on Mount Orion, after the party goes there to search for Priestess Oyane but before they find her. I think I have managed to outdo myself for sap once again. I even out-sapped Night Watch. And there are a lot of stupid sentimental metaphors if you look for them but I think you will be able to enjoy the story even if they go over your head. (Or, especially if they go over your head???) Anyway, also, there are jokes.

________________________________________

She could hear the rain pattering on the ground outside the cave, even with her head buried under her blanket. She did not like rain. It was cold and unrelenting, like

It had been overcast in Thais, too. It had sprinkled on them in Mysten Far, and still they had trudged on, because— well, that’s what they were supposed to do.

But Rhen, for one, was tired of being responsible. For two days now they had been searching for that confounded priestess, spelunking through caves, hiking up steep rocky peaks, and— also— getting— rained on!

Well, okay, so she hadn't exactly been getting rained on, but only because she was a rebel, and she had ignored the blasted Oracle all those months ago and let that dang Sun Priest come with her. And that dang Sun Priest could do a few cute little tricks, like, say, shielding the entire party from water.

Rhen was very grateful for this cute little trick, and she had beamed at the dang Sun Priest several times. And if she beamed once twice more than was necessary just to see him smile back— well, she already admitted to being a rebel, and she would do as she pleased. 

But— as lovely as it was to be dry, there was still the mud to hike through, and it made ridiculous noises every time she pulled her boots out of it— shooolp! shkiiip!  schup!— and it had been funny at first but it definitely wasn't by the end of the day. Neither were the landslides, or trying to fight ravwyrn kings and fire griffins in the howling wind, and— and—

She was sick of the mud, and sick of not finding any signs of that blasted priestess, and also—

Dameon kept rolling over, and his restlessness was keeping her awake.

Dameon!” she hissed at last— it must have been midnight, at least. “Can you please lie still for five minutes?

There was a guilty silence, and then he whispered back, “Sorry, Rhen.” 

Sorry, Rhen. He wasn’t even trying to be eloquent. She watched him through narrowed eyes, and he stared up at the cave’s ceiling, his body rigid except for the uneven rise and fall of his chest.  

“Dameon,” she said after a long pause. “Is something bothering you?” 

He looked at her with wide, dark, anxious eyes, but what he said was, “N—o.” 

She sat up on her mat and fixed him with her most serious gaze. Sleep was overrated, anyway. “Are you sure?” 

He swallowed, and turned red, and then finally, reluctantly, he admitted, “I— cannot sleep.” 

That made two of them. “Why not?” 

But before he could answer— 

“Will both of you shut up?” Lars interrupted exasperatedly, not bothering to whisper. “No one can sleep with you two around!” 

"That isn't quite true," Te'ijal said, turning towards them from where she had been keeping watch. "Listen to the pirate." 

Pirate John was, in fact, snoring loudly, though Rhen definitely hadn't noticed it before. 

Elini rolled over in her sleeping mat to look at John. "Hmm," she said. "I'll have to do something about that before our wedding." 

"I could bite him," Te'ijal offered.

"Serpent spawn!" Galahad scolded, sounding half-asleep himself. "Leave the pirate alone!"

Mad Marge shifted, and they all looked towards her in terror. "You're all crazy," she muttered, before flipping over and, if not actually sleeping, doing a very good job of pretending she was.

"For once I agree with her," Lars said, crossing his arms and glaring up at the cave ceiling.

Te'ijal chuckled. "You could all try eating mutton."

There was a confused silence wherein Rhen tried very hard to figure out this strange suggestion on her own, and then, finding herself completely at a loss, she said, "What?"

"Isn't that what you humans do to fall asleep?"

Dameon laughed, and Rhen started and everyone turned to stare at him. He flushed and cleared his throat, and mumbled, "My apologies. I— I believe she meant counting sheep."

Then Rhen laughed, but no one else was laughing and she quickly choked on it— not before Dameon looked at her and beamed. Which made her feel much less stupid.

Te’ijal just shrugged. “It hardly makes a difference to me.”

Nobody argued with her. Galahad rolled over. Lars pulled his blanket up over his head. Elini closed her eyes, Dameon lay motionless as stone, and Rhen—

Rhen still wasn’t going to fall asleep anytime soon.

Lightning flashed outside, and the light bounced off the cave walls like the silver sword of some vengeful demon. Rhen hated storms. In Clearwater rain meant days spent inside helping her mother with chores, and praying to the goddess that there wouldn't be any landslides or sinkholes, and that the apple orchards would be all right—

Rain was the sort of thing that could change someone's life in an instant, without ever asking for permission. Rhen did not like those sorts of things.

The thunder came after that, insistent and unforgiving, and Rhen ducked under her covers and shivered. Why did the rain have to be cold, too?

Te’ijal was talking to someone in a low, laughing voice. Everyone was supposed to be sleeping. Who was she talking to? Rhen shifted and peeked out from beneath her blankets, just in time to see Dameon walking out of the cave. And not bothering with a water shield.

Where did he think he was going? He was going to get caught in a rockslide, or struck by lightning, or— or—

She hated the rain.

Te’ijal,” she hissed. The vampress looked towards her and Rhen asked, “What is Dameon doing?

Te’ijal tilted her head, and her fangs glinted eerily in the strange glowing light of the midnight storm. “He wanted to take a walk.”

“In this weather?” 

But Te’ijal just shrugged, amusement clear on her features even in the darkness. “Do humans find that unusual?” 

Rhen sighed. And pulled on her boots. And went out into the stupid, detestable cold repulsive rain, too.

Because, she was crazy. 

She flinched as the first icy droplets hit her bare arms, and then her face— and then she lost track, and she was soaked through to her bones and tiny streams were flowing off the ends of her hair. 

And her boots— were— sticking— in— the— mud! Again! 

“Dameon!” she called over the sound of the storm and the Schkuup! Shhhkk! of the mud. 

Now was not the time for pacing or thinking or— whatever he thought he was doing. Now was time for sleep. Or at least, pretending to sleep—  

Shhllp!— Schkip!— 

She hated the mud— 

Shhkkpp— kkp— 

And she could barely see anything in the rain and the darkness, this was ridiculous— 

Kkp— kpt— 

“Argh!” she yelled as her ankle twisted and she slipped and careened forward and fell into— 

Wet, cold— 

Robes? 

“Careful,” said a low voice over her head. She didn’t know how she heard it over the rain. “It’s slippery.” 

“Th-thanks,” she shivered, clutching at Dameon’s cloak— of course it was Dameon— and she tried to regain her balance and— 

Ack—” she squeaked as she stepped down on her foot and felt a sharp pain, and she fell forward into Dameon again because her ankle wasn’t working like an ankle and it hurt a lot—

And mostly, because falling into him was much nicer than falling into the mud.

“Are you hurt, Rhen?”

She nodded into his shoulder. “My ankle— I— it’s not working—”

Words. She was forgetting all of them. But he brushed her wet hair out of her eyes and then he was lifting her off the ground— shhlkp!— and her boots were out of the mud and dangling in the air and—

Now, also, somehow, her arms had found their way around his neck, and she was looking up at him and thinking that the rain sparkled on his face like fairy dust, and— 

She could feel his heart beating through his robes, a steady rhythm that was nothing like the thunder. He was nothing like the rain— and she realized her mouth was still partway open in surprise or— whatever it was,  and she quickly closed it again and looked away, and—

She had kissed Danny once. Jenna had dared her to during a winter solstice celebration, and she’d found him by the pastry cart and she’d grabbed his shoulders and— 

It was slimy and gross and— thrilling, and she’d run back to Jenna and they’d giggled for weeks after. It had frightened Peter and confused Danny, which only made it all funnier.

And then, slowly like the snow melting and the flowers growing, as naturally as springtime, they had forgotten.

Kissing Dameon would be different. If she kissed him, it would feel like— like those bright mornings, the kind that dawned gradually after a long, dark, sleepless night, the kind where she was awake before the birds and she saw and heard and felt the whole world come to life around her, and felt like maybe she, too, could come alive again— he would feel like the first rays of sunlight falling gently on her skin and thawing her frightened heart, and—

“I’m going to set you down here, and look at your ankle.” His soft voice brought her back abruptly to the rain and she stared up into his stupid dark eyes—

If she kissed him, she would never forget it.

He set her down on a rock and kneeled in the mud in front of her, and carefully took her foot in one hand.

“I need to take off your boot,” he told her— she saw his lips form the words more than she heard them. “It might hurt.”

Her boot was heavy and covered in mud and his careful graceful hands didn’t belong anywhere near it— but there they were already, easing the boot off her foot and setting it aside so delicately she would have thought it was a glass slipper.

And it did hurt, but he held her ankle and rubbed the bones while muttering one of his spells, and the rain splashed on her bare toes and dripped off the end of her heel and it was all very—

Soothing.

He lowered her foot into his lap and looked up at her. “Is that better?”

Yes, but— “You’re all dirty now,” she told him, frowning at the mud caking the knees of his robes.

He shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

He picked up her boot and pulled it back over her toes and her ankle and then her calf, and she felt warm which didn’t make any sense because it was supposed to be wet and cold out here— it had been, not that long ago. 

“Dameon— what are you doing out in the storm?” 

He looked down at the rain bouncing off the ground between them. “I couldn’t sleep.”

His hair was sticking to his forehead and his cheeks, and she reached out, carefully and slowly like she had learned, to brush it back. “Why not?”

Now he looked at her with wide brown eyes. “I just— I’m not ready.”

She waited.

“I— It’s— been so long, since I’ve been to the Dreamworld. I— I don’t know if I can— go there again. Last time—” he swallowed and shook his head, looking at the ground again. “Last time— it— it will be hard for me,” he finished quickly, and fisted his hands in his lap.

Rhen, too, was afraid to go to a place. She was afraid of what had not yet happened there, he of what had already occurred. 

She slid off the rock to kneel beside him, and put her hand at his elbow. This was how she said I’m here— and his elbow fit in her palm very nicely. Then, because she was tactful and patient and very serious, she said, “So you decided to take a walk in the rain?”

And then, because it couldn’t get worse than that, she added, “Why didn’t you put up a water shield?” 

But she knew she hadn’t offended him by the way his lips curved up, and he looked at her sheepishly. “I like the rain.”

She blinked. “Really?” 

He nodded, and one long, elegant finger traced circles in the mud. “I used to play in it, when I was little.”

“Hmm,” she said, tilting her head. “I always had to stay inside.”

His childhood had been so different, and he was so different, but here they both were, sitting quietly in the soft rain and remembering. She traced a circle beside his.

“What did you play?”

He glanced at her, brown eyes almost glowing in the blue night. “I don’t remember,” he said with a nervous laugh, and his hands traced circles over the circles.

“I— I used to make— cakes. Out of mud.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Cakes?”

He gave her a short, embarrassed little nod. “Yes. Like— like this.”

And then his two graceful hands scooped up a pile of mud, and plopped it onto the ground between them.

She giggled— she couldn’t help it, she had wondered for so long what his childhood had been like and now he was showing her and it had been full of mud, and he laughed too, and she scooped up her own handful of mud and plopped it on top of his.

“Like that?”

“No,” he said, but he was smiling and she almost thought he was about to make a joke. “You have to do it like you mean it. Like this.”

Then— he tossed the mud so hard at the little pile they had made that it splashed up and Rhen gasped.

“Sorry,” he said quickly, “I got carried away—” 

But she was laughing now, and she gathered up all the mud she could into her two hands. “Like this?” she said, and she threw the mud so hard that it spattered up into their faces and Dameon sputtered and spat it out of his mouth and— 

Laughed and laughed, so that Rhen had to laugh too, and she rolled forward and had to catch herself with her hands in the stupid wet slimy mud, and she thought that if this was what rain was really like, maybe it wasn’t so bad.  

“You’re a natural,” Dameon told her when he had caught his breath, and she grinned when she had caught hers.

“This is fun.” 

And she patted more mud onto the cake, and he patted more mud onto it and their hands brushed against each other like timid butterflies, and their cheeks were pink in the soft blue rain.

“So this is how you played? When you were little?”

He smiled wistfully. “Sometimes. In Aveyond. It— doesn’t rain in the Dreamworld.”  

“Oh.” Now her hands were brushing his on purpose. His fingers were warm still, under the layers of mud and rain.

“I used to think storms were sort of— magical.” 

“Really?” She never would have thought of it before, but now— now everything seemed bright and enchanted.  

“Everything sparkles in the rain.” He glancing up at her with a soft smile— what sparkled was his eyes, and something in her chest when he laughed quietly and said, “Or everything gets covered in mud.”

She grinned. “Like us.” 

He nodded and laughed again, and she took a fistful of mud and patted it down over one of his lovely warm hands.

“Rain makes things— new,” she said, and she thought she was going to smile at him but then she was too shy so she smiled at the ground instead.

“Yes,” he said softly, while she proceeded to bury his other hand in the wet earth. “I think— it makes the tired world beautiful again.”

They breathed for a moment with nothing but those words between them, and then he said, “Rhen?”

She looked up at him, and now there was nothing between them but breathlessness, and he finished timidly, “You are like the rain, for— for me.”

She blushed, and smiled, and then she was laughing and leaning over the stupid mud cake at way-past-time-for-sleeping, and saying, “And you are sunshine.” 

And they sat in the cold, wet, quiet rain with shining eyes and pink cheeks and warm, bright hope inside.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fair warning, this piece hurts to read for me. I promise there is healing later! But first it's important to go through this part.

So find something soft to follow this up with. If you're reading after I post the next piece, "Rhen's Shield," then that is soft, but if you are reading before, I am sorry<3

_____________________________________

Tear Shrine

This piece almost doesn’t even belong in a fluff collection, but I think that some of what happens in this scene was a really big part of the character development in the game (and just of the plot in general), and I think it was also an important part of Rhen and Dameon’s relationship, so I’m sharing it anyway.

Happens in the Dreamworld, pretty much right after they first enter.

For those of you who haven’t played AP or those who don’t remember, Talia has brown eyes:)

______________________________________

He had not been here for… years. He had forgotten how the purple grass swayed slowly in the cool wind, too slowly, like it was underwater. He’d forgotten how the violently pink leaves of the trees rustled, quietly, as if they were whispering dangerous secrets, and the stars were scattered over his head and under his feet, there were places where the land just ended, and he could have walked right off into the sparkling abyss.

He had not forgotten the path to Tear Shrine, he still remembered the way to— to— 

Mother.

His heart fluttered desperately in chest, like he’d swallowed one of those portal butterflies and it was trying to escape. He wished he could escape. 

Or maybe—

Maybe— 

He took one tentative step forward, toward the shrine, towards her. He knew she wasn’t there. She was never there, when he looked for her.

But—

She was his mother. He took another step— she had been there, sometimes, when he wasn’t looking. She had told him stories about fairies, and elves, and made him wash his hands before dinner, and…

She had killed his father—

He remembered that, so vividly it paralyzed him— he had yelled until he thought his heart would come out his raw throat, it had done nothing— 

She had watched silently, like those cold, distant stars. Were they even real, or were they an illusion of the Dreamworld?

Dreamworld. It was not that anymore. It was a nightmare, and he was lost in it.  

“Dameon?”

The calloused tips of little fingers brushed across his arm, and he turned slowly, trying to still his shaking chest—  

It was Rhen. It was always Rhen.

Her eyes shined, not at all like the stars, much closer, much warmer, and she smiled bravely at him— bravely and gently. “Can you lead us to Tear Shrine?” 

He knew the way, but— to walk it again—

He did not know if he could do it without breaking in two. 

She was watching him quietly with those violet eyes. She trusted him. He did not deserve it—

But he wanted to. 

He dipped his head. He could not raise it again, but Rhen understood, and she slipped her arm into his and followed him down the old, bloodstained path. Or, did he follow her?

The others trailed behind, starting at every rustle of the fuchsia leaves, huddling closer with every distant screech.  

It was only shivens and dream witches, they weren’t the worst things that had walked these paths. Dameon whispered the words for a spirit shield. He could feel Rhen relax next to him as it settled around the party. He couldn’t relax, he could barely force his feet to move, one after the other—

She was a murderer, she’d taken everything from him—

She was his mother, she’d given him life, she’d held him in her lap and sung him to sleep—

She’d left him alone in a cold stone temple, with no one around except binis and fairies, and Vata, but he couldn’t talk to Vata, Vata treated him like a child—

He was a child, a very lost child, and he wished—

He’d had two parents once, and— 

He wished—

It was impossible. 

His mother had protected his dreams, even after what she’d done. He had felt her silently watching from a distance, and fading away as the sun rose, like the twinkling stars. And by that, he wasn’t sure if he meant— a small light in the dark, or far away and cold, and always meddling cruelly with fate.

That was before—

Agas had meant to kill her, but he only cast her out of her realm. Dameon had been— almost grateful. He had been ashamed of his weakness, he had tried to forget the feeling. But now, as he walked the paths of his childhood, it rose up and swallowed him.

His feet stopped moving. A soft blue glow had been cast over the ground ahead of him, and he knew if he looked up he would see— 

He had not been here for years. The last time—

The last time—

There had been death. He could still feel the echoes of it, reverberating in his soul.

“This is it,” he said, his voice hoarse and strained and hardly recognizable as his own. “My— my—” 

Rhen put a hand on his back, and said quietly, “Tear Shrine?”

He swallowed hard and nodded.

The others slowly stepped around him, began climbing the temple steps. Rhen tugged on his hand, and, somehow, his feet started moving forward again, closer and closer to—

A monster lived in the shrine, and as he finally reached the top of the stairs, Dameon half-expected to see his father’s body still lying on the floor, his mother standing watching with her silent dark eyes.

He had his mother’s eyes. 

What he saw, instead of any of the familiar horrors, was him.

Agas. 

The demon laughed at them, a low, dead sound, a sound that did not belong here, in his—

 His—

Home

“You’ve come only to die!” Agas hissed, and— 

Not here, in the last refuge he had known, the final resting place of all his hopes— there had been light laughter once, and warm smiles, and— and— there had been tears, too, from more than one set of eyes—

“You are the one responsible for my mother’s demise!”

The words— came out of his mouth, and— and he meant them— he was going to split into two, he could not hold both of these feelings in him at once, he would be destroyed— 

“I recognize you, sun priest. Whose side are you on?”

His father fought for justice, his mother for mercy, and he— 

He—

He didn’t know.

“I’ve always suspected your intentions,” the demon said, with a low, scornful laugh, and he drew his sword with a clang that might have been a death knell. “Prepare to be destroyed!”

But somehow—

Somehow—

When it was over, it was Agas who yelled and crumbled into dust. Elini was quickly drawing the symbols that would allow her to call him back to the living realm, and Rhen stood in front of where the demon had been, panting, and she turned to stare at Dameon—

He could hardly do more than stare, himself. 

“He is destroyed,” he said, quietly, amazed. “My mother will be proud.” 

The words felt strange in his mouth, strange and… and… He nearly said them again, but his eyes met Rhen’s and she watched him with— fear. She was afraid of him— he had never meant to frighten her.

“Dameon? Did you know the demon?”

The demon— he was surprised the Tear Shrine did not come crashing down around him, he had forgotten, for a moment, why he was here, what had been done— how could he forget?

Rhen looked down, and then up at him again. “He talked with you as if he did.”  

He could only stare at her, his breath rattling in his chest, like it was empty, like he’d finally managed to lose the heart that beat there and bled—

He swallowed, and looked at the floor. “I encountered him once before,” he said, carefully, his voice flat and lifeless. He would lose her now— 

He had already lost everything once.

“You must trust me,” he begged. “I am against him.”

Him— his father, or Agas?—

“—Them,” he corrected, quickly, and he heard Lars scoff, and Rhen—

Rhen—

“I trust you will do what is right.”

He did not deserve it. He did not know if he could live up to it, or if he even knew what right was

But he wanted to.

He raised his head to look at her. She looked back with brave, guileless eyes, and he said the only thing a broken, lost person could when a hero like her believed in them.

“Thank you, Rhen.”

She nodded, and she bent down to pick up the Dreamer’s Tear from where it rested in the dust. She cradled it carefully in her palms, and the glowing liquid swirled in the glass orb. There had been tears, from more than one set of eyes.

Slowly, she walked to him, her gaze not leaving his, and she pressed the orb into his shaking hands.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I lost an argument with myself and am sharing this fluff today, welcome to the sappy piece where Rhen has friends.

________________________________________

Rhen’s Shield

Originally this was going to be titled “Stupid,” for reasons which will become obvious as you read, but my sister suggested the title I ended up going with and it is so brilliant and metaphorical and much less, uh, stupid than my previous choice, and hopefully you all get it. if not I'll happily rant about it for three centuries

Happens after the party tries to go to Time Shrine but finds the way blocked by a fairy. I have them going there right after defeating Agas because otherwise how would they know to go back to Thais to defeat Aesma? So here, have this fluffy thing:

_______________________________

It wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t so adorable. He didn’t have to be so tall and lithe, and there wasn’t any good reason for his broad chest— except for her to hide in, but that wasn’t helping his case. And his eyes didn’t need to be so dark and deep and just right for reflecting all the things she had thought she would never find, and those two careful hands, so perfect for holding and soothing and— so utterly, entirely useless when it came to offense—

That was another thing. He did try, no one could say he wasn’t trying, but really the only thing she could think when she watched him swinging that silly staff was that it was— well, it was cute.

And usually Rhen could deal with this just fine, when they were fighting bigger monsters and he was focused on keeping the shields up and she was focused on death and destruction, but that day—

They were in Memory Caverns, the only thing to fight was the overgrown frogs, and they were gross and slimy and they converged on Rhen’s little group like an army, but they were easy enough to deal with if you had a sword or an axe or some simple spell to take them out. But if you had a stick— well, the frogs were swamping Dameon, and he swung his silly staff very patiently, but Rhen—

Maybe it was just that she was not patient, or maybe it was because— she’d seen him crumbling after Agas, and felt the pieces of him slipping away from her while his eyes begged her to hold on— she would hold on, she would never ignore those eyes.

She had one basic instinct which overrode all the others, which drove her forward even when her spirit was broken, and that instinct was, to protect every helpless thing.

And it was silly, but maybe that was why, even though they were only fighting frogs, and the frogs could only barely get to any of them through their armor, and there was literally precisely zero risk of even Dameon getting seriously hurt, even with his stupid stick— despite all of this, she still kept finding herself stepping in front of the druid and taking down everything that leapt at him. And by the way, having frog slime spattered all over her sword was not her favorite thing, and neither was having to wipe it off on her pants for the fifty hundredth time.

Nor was she particularly fond of the way Elini kept raising her delicate little eyebrows and tilting her perfectly rounded chin, as if to say, I see, but there was most definitely assuredly not anything to see here, except maybe the bright blush on Rhen’s face, which was really just a flush from the exertion of battle. Obviously.

She could tell that Te’ijal believed otherwise, but Te’ijal wasn’t always right, and neither was Lars, with his rolling eyes. And just because Galahad thought something didn’t mean it was true, not even if Pirate John was looking at him with what seemed suspiciously like agreement.

The only sane one in this party was Mad Marge. Marge never looked twice at anyone. Except to spit at them.

And then there were the fairies, the giggling, sparkling fairies who never told Rhen anything helpful, and— that one on the steps of Time Shrine, who wouldn’t let them pass! That one— she refused every sort of bribery Elini could think up, deflected every argument Lars could make, ignored even the worst of Mad Marge’s glares. She wouldn’t even tell Rhen how to help. All she kept saying was that she had been separated from her family, and she wanted to be alone.

That, there, was the worst part. Rhen couldn’t even be mad at her. Well she could be mad, very mad, surpassingly angry, in fact— but she was mad at herself for being mad because— it was just a little lonely fairy, lost in a world too big for her, longing for what she had known before and refusing to let go of it, even when it was so obviously irretrievably gone.

Anyway, because of that fairy they were on their way back to Thais. They had found a fairy kettle in Thais, so maybe they’d find fairies there, too, and if not...

If not Rhen supposed Ahriman would just wait nicely in whatever hole he was hiding in while they scoured the world for forever, looking for signs of a fairy group that probably had never existed and wearing their boots clean through to their socks— if they all even wore socks, which she rather suspected Mad Marge didn’t. And—

Why were there so many frogs in these blasted caverns?!?!?!

She swung her sword with a frustrated grunt, dispatching them all in a violent spatter of slime and other icky gooey froggy stuff, and then—

She was swinging her sword around to put it back in her scabbard, and she threw her shield arm up for balance and that’s when it happened— she’d forgotten how close she was standing to him, right up until she heard the sickening thud of thick metal hitting flesh.

She whirled around in time to see him stumble backwards, his hands pressed to his face—

“Dameon!”

“Augh—”

She shook her shield off her arm and it landed with a clang on the rocky ground— “Are you okay, Dameon? I didn’t mean to, I was stupid—”

“I’m fine,” he grunted, “it’s okay, Rhen—”

But he was dropping dizzily onto the nearest rock, and she couldn’t believe him—

“Here, let me see it,” she knelt next to him, and reached for his wrists—

“No—” he protested, leaning away, “No, I just need a minute—”

“Leave him alone, you’ll just make it worse,” Lars said, and Rhen wished she could sink straight into the ground, but Dameon shook his head—

“That’s not it, I— I’m just dizzy, give me a moment.”

Rhen did, a painful anxious moment of her wringing her hands and wondering why she had to be so careless and reckless and stupid, and then he was clumsily reaching for his pack, and she saw the swollen, purpling skin—

“You’re bruising!” she yelled, like it was an accusation, as if he had anything to do with her inability to control herself— “I’m sorry, Dameon. Let me help. Please?”

“It isn’t bad, you don’t need to worry—”

But she was worried, and she felt so far from him lately, and far from everything, she couldn’t do anything, it was all hurtling towards— towards disaster, probably, and she couldn’t get a grip on it— and he was fumbling with the ties on his pack—

Please, Dameon?” She felt her face drooping into a pout, but she couldn’t help it, and she caught his eyes on hers and held them there, and her face was going to burn off—

And he looked down, his cheeks pink like hers, and he nodded once. “Okay.”

He gave her his pack, and she took it in both hands. Aloe was for bruises, she had learned that fighting the feral oxen near Thornkeep. She hadn’t been in control then, either, but the world had felt smaller. She’d wished for space back then.

She crushed the leaf into a paste while everyone stared at her— everyone except Mad Marge, who sat herself down on a rock a few yards away and took out a hunk of venison and chewed loudly. And then—

Rhen took Dameon’s face in one hand, and tilted his chin up so she could see his eye— and she didn’t need to look behind her to know that Elini’s eyebrows were up in her hairline again, and Lars was rolling his eyes, and Galahad was pointedly looking away while Te’ijal made that face that meant she was laughing on the inside but was too composed and elegant to laugh out loud, but— she had hit him pretty hard, she could see where the skin was broken, and she pulled his face closer and he meekly closed his eyes as she smeared the paste over the bruise.

Her hands were shaking, why couldn’t she do anything right?

“Ouch,” he protested, flinching away—

“Sorry,” she said quickly, and then—

And then—

Her stupid—

Eyes

“Rhen!” Dameon let out a soft anxious sound, leaning towards her again.  “Don’t cry,” he soothed. “I didn’t mean it. You are doing well. Here, you can finish.”

He took her hand and pressed it against his tender, bruised face, after she’d hurt it, twice— and she— she—

“I c-can’t,” she sniffled, and she tried to ignore Mad Marge snorting and spitting at an enchanted mushroom— “I— I’ll mess it up again—”

“It— it’s okay, Rhen,” he said softly, and now he took her face in his hands. “Please don’t cry. You haven’t done anything wrong.”

She tried not to cry, but now that she had started she couldn’t stop, and she tore her face from his hands and hid it in his stupid broad chest and he wrapped his stupid gentle arms around her and she cried because she was stupid and little and lost—

“It’s all right, sword singer,” Elini’s voice said, and Rhen felt her slender hand on her shoulder. And then—

“It’s okay to cry,” Te’ijal said, patting Rhen’s other shoulder. “It seems to be normal for humans.”

Rhen had to laugh at that, and then sob, and Dameon’s robes absorbed all of it.

“You have many pressing responsibilities weighing on your shoulders,” Galahad said, and he added his heavy gloved hand to that burden, and Rhen felt surrounded in an entirely different way than she had with the frogs.

“We all have bad days” Lars said, joining the circle. And then Pirate John, too—

“We’re here for you, girl.”

She was an idiot, to be feeling sorry for herself when she had so much support, to be crying when she was the one who had hurt someone, and she tried to dry her face on Dameon’s sleeve and she looked up at all of them through red-rimmed eyes and stuttered, “Th-thank you, guys. I’m sorry I’m such a mess lately.”

She tried to smile at each of them in turn, even Mad Marge, who was still sitting on her rock, chewing her venison. The barmaid scowled, and swallowed her food, and then she said—

“You’re tough enough, for a landlubber.”

It was probably the nicest thing she had said in her life, and Rhen— she guessed she could take that, and she laughed.

And then started to cry again, and hid it in Dameon’s shoulder, and said, “I’m sorry I mess everything up.”

And everyone patted her back, and Dameon stroked her hair, and his lips searched for her ear and he whispered softly, for just her to hear, “It’s okay to make mistakes.”

She trembled against him, and she thought of the little lost fairy, and of Thais, and Ahriman, and Agas— and she thought of the way Dameon reached out for her when he was breaking apart, and she tilted her head up and carefully pressed her lips to the broken skin around his eye.

Which was a mistake, because it tasted like aloe. But then he smiled at her, and kissed her nose, and Te’ijal really did laugh and so did Pirate John and Lars shook his head and Elini raised her eyebrows.

And it was okay.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey look it is autumn in real life and this is a piece where it is autumn in the story, yayy!

______________________________________

Old Songs

You can consider this piece a tribute to Aaron Walz’s gorgeous soundtrack. I listen to it while writing a lot :heart:. And you can also consider this another introspective piece for Rhen, cuz I do what I want.

The lullaby mentioned was meant to be based on the story of the sun priests who sent the demons back to the demon realm and closed the “great schism” in like 4521 d (according to books in AP), and on the story of the sun priests who gave their lives to create agea and defeat Ahriman. I just really love the lore of Aia.

Happens sometime after Rhen and co leave Memory Caverns and sometime before they get to Thais again.

________________________________________

She used to sing sometimes. Silly, old songs Ma had taught her, songs about children growing up like apple trees, or cheerful ballads of the druid Armaiti and the harvest. There was a sweet, sad song about a girl who gathered pink marion bells for her lover in the spring, only to lay them on his grave when summer came. Sometimes Rhen had hummed that one to herself as she brushed through her hair in the early mornings, watching while the light crept over her companions and the campsite slowly came alive.

Ma’s favorite song had been an ancient lullaby about the coming and going of the sun. At least, that was the best sense Rhen could make of it. The tune was slow and soft, but the words told the story like it was a battle. The sun’s rays were the warriors of light, the shadows were cruel demons. The night fought to keep Aia in cold darkness, the day fought to restore warmth and brightness. There was a verse about the Goddess lamenting the price of sunlight— fire burnt to ashes, flowers from the soot.

In the end, the light sealed the dark forces in the ground, and the bravest of the burning warriors closed the schism and burnt out, fire burnt to ashes. The last verse was about how these dead suns lived still in the stars, guarding Aia from the return of total darkness.

Rhen used to sing that one to herself as she settled into her dirty bed in Mistress Rona’s house, and again in her room at Shadwood Academy. She had hummed it while lying on her sleeping mat for some months. She used to sing all the time, now that she thought of it. But Lars had always been quick to point out how off-key she was, and Elini would smile politely and tell her maybe she should stick to sword singing. So Rhen didn’t sing any more. The last time had been maybe— maybe last fall, when they were exploring the lowlands. One of the farmers had been humming a harvest song, and she’d joined in until she’d heard Te’ijal’s trilling laugh, and turned to see Elini’s carefully neutral face and Lars’ rolling eyes.

It was fall again now. There was a sharp chill in the air, and a certain over-ripeness about the soil. The world was in a state of decay, like those wilted marion bells in the last verse of the song about the girl and her departed lover.

Rhen peeked out of her sleeping mat and stared up at stars, and she thought of burnt out fire and flowers growing up from what was left.

Stop—” a hoarse voice choked, jarring the quiet Rhen had been relaxing into. “Why—

It was Dameon, crying brokenly into his blanket, tossing and turning and babbling quick, frightened pleas. He was having a nightmare again.

The first time it happened, Te’ijal had watched him curiously, intrigued by this strange human phenomenon called “a bad dream.” Now she barely glanced at him. Elini would sigh sympathetically and pretend not to notice. Lars would roll over and bury his head in his blankets, and Marge would glare, but she never said anything. John slept through everything, and Galahad always resolutely kept his eyes on Te’ijal.

Nobody ever tried to wake Dameon, and nobody mentioned it to him in the morning. And he never said anything about it to them. So Rhen had followed this pattern, for months now, for seasons, for almost a year.

A year. Had it been that long? Had it been that short? It felt more like a moment, and a decade, all at once.

I— trusted— you,” Dameon sobbed quietly. Could he really be asleep? His eyes were closed, but—

“Dameon,” she broke the pattern with a whisper. “Are you all right?”

He didn’t answer, he just rolled over again, and his breaths came in small, strangled gasps. "Father—

"Wake up, Dameon,” she said firmly, quietly. “It's just a dream. You’re okay."

Don’t— no—”

She kicked off her covers and crawled over to him. “Wake up,” she said again, reaching out to touch his shoulder.

He shuddered and she shook him gently and his eyes flew open, dark lashes blinking away tears. "Rhen—"

"Sshh. It's okay, Dameon,” she soothed. “You were having a nightmare."

He stared up at her, first bewildered and then embarrassed, his cheeks tinged a soft pink under the starlight and his chest still heaving.

She looked away and then reached for his hand; his tossing and turning had uncovered it and it felt cold in her fingers. “Do you want to talk about it?”

He breathed in and then out and he shook his head. “No.”

So they didn’t. She sat beside him with his hand in hers and he stroked her knuckles with his thumb, and they let the silence of night settle around them.

It was cold.

“It will be morning soon,” Dameon said suddenly, looking up at the sky.

Rhen followed his gaze. It was still dark as Halloween Hills. The air was motionless, not even the birds were awake. But there were the stars, twinkling faintly with the promise of tomorrow.

“Yes,” she said softly. The day would come.

“Do you remember—” he hesitated. “You used to sing a song. About the morning.”

She blushed. “Oh.” The ground suddenly seemed rather hard against her knees. “I sort of hoped you didn’t remember that.”

His brow crinkled, and a little line appeared between his eyes. “Why?”

“Well, I— er— I didn’t sing it very well.”

“Oh.”

There was a pause while his thumb stopped stroking her knuckles, and he reached up instead to brush her hair away from her face. The tips of his fingers were cold but his smile was warm. “I— I thought it sounded— nice.”

“Nice?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.” She took his hand again, and clutched it between both of hers. “Would— would it help you sleep if I sang it again?” Her face was burning red like the burning warriors but his was mild and soothing.

“If you’d like to sing it, I— I would like it very much.”

So she took a long, deep breath, and then she sang the old lullaby, off-key but happily for the first time in— it really had been nearly a year. And slowly like apple blossoms floating in the wind Dameon’s dark eyelashes fluttered and closed, and his breathing evened out and his chest rose and fell gently like the melody, fire burnt to ashes.

Flowers from the soot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Happy Halloween!! Here is an update that has nothing to do with Halloween!!! (If you're looking for something more in line with the spirit of the day, go reread "Me Too" on the first page, that's all I've got, haha. One day I'll write a oneshot actually meant for Halloween but not today, I've got candy to eat)

Before we begin, I wanted to share that this collection is complete on fanfiction.net now and I'm really excited about it :kawaii-happy:

Also! This!! Is one of my favorite pieces, I'm very excited to share it.

_________________________________

Trembling

Happens in the Blasted Lands, probably on the way to the Dark Caverns. I have them camping on the way there and this piece starts in the dark hours of the morning. You don’t know it yet but this is the piece you’ve been waiting for, so enjoy this dameonxrhen okay thanks

_____________________________________

It had grown in him so quietly he couldn’t say when it began; maybe yesterday, maybe weeks or even months ago. Parts of it he thought he could trace to that first moment her unconquerable eyes met his. Sometimes it felt like— like it had been growing in him his whole life.

But that didn’t make any sense. It was only safe to say that it was growing, and— and it was uprooting his old ideas and fears. It was destroying him and building him over again. He didn’t know how.

He wanted to tell her, and that didn’t make any sense either. Already she was stripping him of every defense, and defense was all he knew. Could he survive being that— exposed? Surely it was foolishness to try. And yet—

And yet he had tried, so many times, to tell her. The words, if there were any, eluded him. He told her she was deadly and beautiful, and that— didn’t even begin to explain it. He told her about the stars and the rain and the sunrise and every achingly lovely thing he could think of, but none of it compared to— to—

He told her she was brave. And wise. He tried to remind her that she was capable, and strong, and worthy of every happiness.

And mostly, he just smiled at her and hoped somehow she understood the strange growing thing that was happening to his soul.

Sometimes he thought it had something to do with her smile. She had a small thin little mouth but somehow her smile, her real smile, was as big as the crescent moon. He wished she could always have a reason to smile like that, and to sometimes be that reason himself was— was—

Dameon shook his head and rolled over on his sleeping mat. He was just going to make it worse— stronger. Better?

Sometimes he thought it was the way she laughed. She had two laughs, one muffled and shy like a fairy bell, and one that was startling, loud and happy and unrestrained. More than once, he caught himself telling jokes, real jokes, terrible jokes, and he wasn’t sure if she laughed because he told them or if he told them because she laughed. Her laugh, both laughs, made him want to laugh, and that was—

Was—

It was time to wake up, and stop— thinking. He pushed the blanket off himself and sat up and immediately regretted everything because it was cold. Too cold to wake up into.

He looked up at where Te’ijal was keeping watch. She had the bottle of sunscreen in her lap and was rubbing creamy dollops of it onto her bare arms, apparently unaffected by the frigid air.

The fire was dying. He couldn’t blame Te’ijal for not noticing; it wouldn’t make much difference to her. Galahad, on the other hand, had his blanket pulled up over his head and his knees curled into his chest. He looked rather like a very large and very cold and miserable cat, and rather unlike a gallant and fearless knight. Dameon would never tell him that, but he might tell Rhen, and then she might laugh and that would be—

Anyway, Elini and Lars also looked cold and miserable. Pirate John’s teeth were chattering and Mad Marge looked— murderous, actually. If he didn’t stoke the fire soon she would probably kill them all.

He groggily reached for his boots and pulled them on. They were cold. Everything was cold. He stood up and draped his blanket over his shoulders, and then clumsily stepped over Lars and around Galahad. Te’ijal glanced back at him and then down at the paladin, her mouth curving into a smile that was either fondness or mischief. Dameon was sure he didn’t want to know which.

Elini pulled her feet up as he passed her mat. Rhen’s feet were already pulled up. He wouldn’t have known she was even on her mat except the shivering mound at the other end of it. He hesitated, and then—

And then he knelt beside her, and put his blanket over hers. It would be warm enough soon with the fire anyway, and— when he pulled the blanket over her she made a little contented noise, like a hum, and he felt warmer already.

If he could just tell her.

He found the stick designated for coal-stirring and poked at what was left of the fire. Tiny sparks floated up from it like fairy dust. Fairy dust was supposed to reveal the truth, maybe he could just swallow some, and the words would come out.

And then— and then— he didn’t know what came next. Maybe she would kill him, like his mother had his father. Maybe that’s how it always went.

He pushed more sticks into the coals and watched them smoke and then ignite and slowly, quietly— burn, burn, burn.

The sparks travelled up towards the sky, as if trying to join the stars there in infinite space. For once it was not overcast. That would probably change before the morning was over, if the slight but persistent breeze that was playing with the fire had anything to say about it.

He might as well make breakfast.

He made his way to the brown pack near John, and carefully pulled cooking utensils out of it, trying not to wake the sleeping pirate. John made a sound like a snort and Dameon froze, but then he rolled over and settled back into an easy breathing rhythm and Dameon realized it was just a snore.

The oatmeal was in the pack by Elini. Elini was “rather weary” of oatmeal, she had informed them all yesterday morning. But Dameon didn’t know what else to make. He was so tired, and cold.

Shivering, he put the oatmeal in a pot over the fire, and poured in water from his pouch.

The sun was almost up now; the sky was glowing orange. And there, slowly but steadily approaching, were the gray clouds, painted by the dawn with pink and orange and vivid violet.

His mother used to tell him she missed seeing the sun rise. Maybe she was watching the sky now, too. 

Maybe she didn’t care anymore.

“Dameon?”

He started, and whirled around to find that Rhen was awake and up, and she was holding her brush out towards him with a hesitating little frown. “Can you help me with my hair today? It’s too cold to do anything.”

He nodded, and reached out to close his hand around the brush, but the corners of her mouth curved up and her little calloused fingers wrapped around his hand instead, and she pulled him to her mat to sit. It was easy to follow her.

 “Rhen—” he began as he bent his knees to sit behind her— he would tell her now, before he lost his nerves— if he could only find the words— he had no idea what to say after her name. “Rhen—”

 “Yes, Dameon?” she said, picking up his blanket and pulling it around her shoulders. 

“I— I—” he swallowed. He was shaking and he didn’t want his voice to shake, this was too important. “I— I hope you feel— warmer now.”

 That— was definitely not what he meant. And he definitely felt warmer now, a strange, trembling warmth that quivered in his stomach.

 She laughed, the shy, fairy bell laugh. “I do. Thank you for the blanket.”

He managed some sort of inarticulate hum in response, and busied himself with untangling her hair. It was so curly in the mornings, twisting and looping over itself and refusing to be separated. It was stubborn. And soft, and— one of his favorite things. 

That feeling was swelling in his chest again.  

It had very little to do with her smile or her laugh, really. It was more about— about— something in the way she turned to him to help her. She trusted him, and it was exactly that simple and that perplexing. 

I think you have a good heart, Dameon.  

He wasn’t sure what that meant, but he knew that he wanted it to be true. He wanted to be someone she could depend on in this world of inconstancy.

There was always a particularly obstinate tangle just at the back of her neck. He held it carefully and tried to separate it with his fingers.

He could depend on her. She had proven it more than once. He was used to trusting only himself, he wasn’t sure how to let her in. He shouldn’t let her in— but she fit so softly into the ragged edges of his broken life.

He was used to falling. He wasn’t used to the way she caught him, every time. 

He wanted to tell her. Maybe it was just “thank you,” maybe that’s what all this ridiculous feeling was about. He opened his mouth but the words were sticking to the back of his throat. He swallowed a few times, and what he managed to say was—

“You— you’re— you’re still shivering, Rhen. Here, take my cloak.”

He put the brush in his lap and swung the cloak off his shoulders and onto hers. She tried to protest, “No, you’ll be cold. Dameon!”

She had a very good scolding voice, but he couldn’t have shivered if he tried. His cheeks were burning.

“I’m fine. Sun Priest and all that,” he assured her, leaning forward to say it into her ear. She sensed the teasing in his voice and she laughed again even though the joke was stupid. He was getting much better— or maybe much worse— at stupid jokes.

He finished brushing through her hair and carefully began separating it into three purple bunches. He remembered he had been surprised to learn braids needed only three sections, they looked more intricate than that, like they had six, maybe seven parts at least. But he had learned that the simplest things were sometimes the strongest.

Rhen was the strongest thing he knew. Very strong, physically; she could probably wrestle a dragon and come out on top. But also—

There was another sort of strength, a quieter, softer strength that lived not in her arms but in her self. She always— helped. He remembered, she had carried Theodore nearly the whole way to the Gentle Children's School. She didn't have to. The child could walk. But he laughed so hard when she swung him over her shoulders, the little warlock was completely enamored with her.

Dameon had taken care of Theodore during battles. He had no idea how children worked, especially witch children. But Theodore hadn't seemed to mind, he just talked to Dameon like a grown-up. A very small, very strange grown-up.  He told Dameon once that he used to think it was horribly wicked of him to not be wicked, and that he’d wished for his mother's sake he could be mean just once, but that now he thought, maybe, it was okay to be kind, even if sometimes it was hard. Dameon had nodded and ruffled the boy's hair like he’d seen Rhen do sometimes, and he’d thought to himself that these were heavy subjects for someone so young.

Rhen was always kind when it was hard. Maybe especially then. She was fearless, and gentle, and— not really fearless at all, just brave.

If he knew courage like that, he could— he could tell her. He was so afraid of what that level of trust could do to him, he remembered how it felt to be destroyed by someone he depended on. He knew what it was to burn to ashes.

He was learning what it was to grow from them.

Over and under, he weaved her hair around itself as carefully as he could.

He wished he had words sufficient to tell her what he was thinking, or— or feeling. There were words, he could feel them burning in his lungs. But he couldn’t get them out through his mouth, any more than he could cough up his ribs.

Over, and under

“Dameon,” a tired little voice protested. “You’ve got to braid my hair more tightly than that!

"Oh, Rhen—”

"What if we get into a battle, and it comes loose?"

"Well, I—" he twirled a lock of lavender around his fingers— it was wispy and fine and soft enough to kiss, and certainly much, much too delicate to pull tight, and— before he could catch himself he had leaned forward and brought the lock up to his mouth— he had been wrong, it was much, much too soft to kiss, and he was drowning in the words that were burning in his lungs— he dropped it onto her back again, and cleared his throat and tried to say lightly, "Then— I suppose I will have to— braid it again."

She laughed, because he had made another incredibly stupid joke, and he felt less like drowning and more like floating and he smiled and, carefully, pulled the strands more firmly against her head.

She passed him her hair ribbon, and he took it and wrapped it around the end of her braid. He had to tell her. He was going to burst, and spill over everything— it was better to get it over with. His hands were trembling but he had finished tying the ribbon somehow, and she was turning to face him—

"Rhen!”

She turned wide violet eyes towards him and he tried to compose himself, and continued more softly, “Rhen, I— I have— I—" he didn't know how to communicate what was happening in him, but he had to say it, to tell her, somehow

"I have— an abundance of— feelings— for you—" and they were holding him in place, shaking him— "strong feelings, and you— I am undone." He swallowed, but his voice still wavered like the light of the fire in the wind. "I don't know how to tell you. You're everything. You— I— Rhen," he was pleading now, "do you understand at all?"

She looked up at him with her brow furrowed— why, why was he doing this? She was rejecting him, as well she should; she was braver than him, stronger than him, more than him, and he felt himself crumbling under her gaze, could almost hear the pieces of himself falling around him. He wouldn't feel this here, with her right there, he had to get away. He tried to stand but she was leaning towards him, her eyes like two soft lights, and he couldn't move. Her hands were taking his and he was trembling and his cheeks were wet, couldn't she see that she was killing him?

"Why are you running from me?" She was saying quietly, but he couldn't speak, didn't know what the answer was except that he hurt, and he didn't want to cry in front of her but he already was—

"I'm— sorry, Rhen— I shouldn't have said anything—"

She was leaning closer, her little hands trailing up his arms and behind his neck— what was she doing— he could feel his heart pounding through every inch of him—

Her quick breaths were tickling his mouth, and he couldn’t breathe, and—

And—

Oh.

He couldn’t feel anything except her, little lips softly saying everything his couldn't, all without making a sound, and slowly, naturally like rain falling or wind blowing he was relaxing into her, his hands found her waist and he cradled her shaking form against his chest.

And their fears scattered like shadows in the timid light of the breaking day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today is the day of my birth! So I am updating! I'm really fond of this next little piece, actually. And, it is set towards the end of fall, and right now is towards the end of fall, so for once my timing is right! 

__________________________________________________________________

Innocence

First off, tinctura hypericum is a powerful healing item in the game, maybe you remember it ;) Tinctura in real life is a medicinal mixture and hypericum is a flowering plant which actually does have healing properties (which I know because I'm a nerd), and it tends to react badly with other pharmaceuticals. So now when Dameon does his nerd babbling thing, you will know what he's talking about. Which actually isn't necessary to understanding the story but it's nice to not be confused, yeah?

This is a story about Rhen's innocence and her trying to reconcile her really very gentle and kind nature with the violence she has seen and done. Sometimes we see these things as mutually exclusive and I think Rhen would have to work through having both in her— and because of Dameon's experiences, he would be able to help. Happens in Thais, before Aesma.

____________________________________________________________________

The problem was, he had very soft lips, like marionbells or apple blossoms, and she had very rough hands, and she didn't understand— of all the places he could have kissed, her forehead, maybe, or her cheeks, or her mouth— but instead he always chose the dirtiest, roughest part of her and it was— was—

Bewildering.

Ma had always told her to wash her hands. And she had been right, Rhen's hands were always filthy. Rhen had used them to pick apples and catch butterflies and she couldn't remember a time there hadn't been dirt under her nails.

When she was a slave she'd scrubbed walls and floors until she didn't have nails anymore. She'd smashed spiders with her palms and got their gooey guts all over her fingers, and nobody had been there to tell her to wash them. She'd rinsed the gore off in muddy streams and dried her hands on her ragged smock and wondered if she'd ever hear Ma's scolding again.

And when she'd had to she'd grabbed a stick in her hands and swung it— the splinters she got were for Eddy and she didn't regret them but she knew they weren't beautiful. Violence was never anything but monstrous.

Except, maybe—

Maybe—

She had learned how to make swords sing and she got more than splinters from that; cuts and bruises that faded away and rough calluses that didn't. And it was those which Dameon always kissed with his flower petal lips, like they meant something.

I had no idea how skilled you were with a sword.

Her skill surprised most people, nobody expected ferocity from her. They didn't know what she'd sacrificed to become like this, they didn't understand she fought because she had to, because no one else would, because somebody had to stand between the monsters and the helpless, and if that made her a monster, too, then—

She would be what she must.

Deadly and beautiful at the same time.

Deadly she had heard before. Beautiful was—

Familiar in the same way a bird's song was after a long, cold winter, something she had known once and forgotten.

It was winter now, or nearly winter. It might as well always be winter in Thais, there were no birds and the only green things were the carefully kept trees growing in straight lines in the courtyards. They didn't look much older than Rhen was herself; their branches were still spindly and they stood hardly taller than Galahad. Some stubborn gardener had planted them after the demon attack, and had fought all the elements to keep them alive.

That sort of fighting was— it wasn't really monstrous, was it? She couldn't bring herself to call it monstrous. There was another word for it. If she was Elini she might know what it was, but she was just Rhen and she didn't know, so instead she stood and watched the stupid trees swaying in the wind and wondered.

It was Dameon who finally found her. He was good at that.

"Hi, Rhen," he said softly as he came up next to her.

"Hi, Dameon." She turned to face him. "Finished shopping already?"

He smiled and swung his pack off his shoulder to show her. "We have plenty of cassia leaves now," he said, briefly touching the neat bundle he had wrapped them in, "and they had tinctura hypericum. I don't know where they got the flowers, nothing seems to grow here. We'll have to be careful not to take it with anything else, it can react badly and— Rhen?" he interrupted himself. "Is something wrong?"

She had been staring at the trees again. She forced herself to look away from them and tried to smile.

"No," she said, in a tone that was meant to be convincing but was mostly tired. "Go on, I'm listening. You were talking about flowers."

She had heard something about flowers, and nothing growing, and then she had lost track.

"Flowers…" he repeated slowly, looking at her and then at the trees and furrowing his brow. Apparently that hadn't been his main topic. "Well, I— I couldn't find any flowers, but—" he cleared his throat almost nervously, which wasn't exactly the reaction she had expected, and then, "I did find something for you."

He was rummaging around in his pack, and he pulled out something small and leather.

"I— I noticed your old gloves were wearing out, and these looked like they would fit you. They do have flowers on the ends." His ears were pink as he held them out for her to take. There were little blue asters embroidered along the wrist seams.

They were very pretty, which seemed strange for something made for a fighter, but it was sort of— nice. And she had never been eloquent, she wasn't sure what to say, but she managed to stammer out, "Er, thanks, Dameon," and then—

He smiled at her, that stupid sappy smile that made her cheeks hot, and he took one of her hands in his and gently pressed it to his stupid soft lips— which was— which was—

"Why do you do that?" she asked, searching his face. He tilted his head at her.

"Do what?"

She was very warm and probably very pink and her heart seemed to have forgotten its regular rhythm and was now inventing its own wild pulse, but she was stubborn and she managed to say, without squeaking, "Why do you kiss my hands?"

There was a pause while he thought— his silences were familiar now, his slow and careful ways were soothing, and she found her breath as he brushed her hair back behind her ear. "I guess because— your hands do so much for others— and for— me." He looked at her with those deep brown eyes and that serious little frown and she clutched at the gloves. "I just want to— take care of them."

And he took both her hands, and pressed them to his heart the same way she might have pressed a marionbell to hers when she was a small child with dirt under her nails—

Deadly and beautiful. He cherished even the parts of her that were frightening, and the word for that was—

Was—

"Well, you could kiss my mouth, you know."

And he did, so, so softly she might have thought it was spring and the flowers had grown again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've ranted a couple places about the new piece I accidentally wrote, and I finally got it posted here so yay! It's chapter 10, The Opposite of Solitude, and you can find it on the first page after A Little Help and before Getting a Place. I've felt like something was missing between those two chapters for a while now, so it's nice to finally know what it was. Also, I've been wanting to address some of the stuff I talk about in The Opposite of Solitude since the beginning, but it always felt I was intruding or just not the right time so I'm really excited this idea finally wrote itself.

If it's easier to read on fanfiction.net than to go back to the first page and find the new chapter, here's a link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12094251/10/In-Pieces

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel like I say this every time, but... I really loved writing this piece, it's one of my favorites. Just like the other 42 of them are apparently one of my favorites, but different. So enjoy!

As usual this is also posted on fanfiction.net, if that's an easier format for you to read. (https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12094251/1/In-Pieces, this would be #37)

_______________________________________

Slowly

Sometimes I write something to explore the relationship development between Rhen and Dameon and sometimes I write to pay tribute to forgotten plot points in Aveyond that are too beautiful and important to fade into obscurity, and sometimes, sometimes I write just because I have feelings and I love my otp. This was one of the feelings times.

So enjoy this rhenxdameon piece that happens during/mostly after the battle with Aesma, the last daeva (in the order I play).

________________________

Aesma was too fast, even with the magic clock. It all happened too fast— he had tried to shield her, but even after all this time he could never quite keep up with her. She was standing, swinging her sword and yelling her warcry, and then— 

And then—

He ran forward to catch her— he tried to, but instead he slipped and watched in horror as Aesma raised his arm for another blow— 

It was Te’ijal’s arrow that stopped him, and then Galahad’s sword—

Dameon couldn’t remember, it all happened so quickly, but somehow he got to Rhen and Aesma fell— had it happened in that order? He didn’t know. 

Marge was yelling at him, or maybe she was just yelling, and Elini looked like she might be sick— Rhen wasn’t moving, there was blood in her hair and running down her face, he couldn’t tell where it was coming from and his hands were shaking—

He didn’t know how it happened, except that she sagged in his arms when he carried her and he cradled her head near his heart and tried to think of anything but death, and somehow— somehow, they had made it to a small cavern, and set up camp there. Lars had conjured a fire and Dameon sat by it with Rhen’s head in his lap and he tried to clean the blood out of her hair— it was everywhere, it stained her skin and his robes and he kept picturing his father bleeding out on the shrine floor— no! 

He had been helpless then, he had spells now. If only one of them would work—

The others had hovered at first, and he wanted to growl that Rhen needed space, but she was their leader, she was the hero they had followed and he remembered how it felt to lose that, he couldn’t ask them to go— so he let them wait.  

His hands were shaking too much to check her pulse— it didn’t matter, he could hear her breathing— it was all he could hear, rattling his bones.

He carefully massaged her scalp, brushing back loose strands of lavender. He couldn’t close the wound if his hands were shaking— get a grip— he couldn’t, he’d have to start somewhere else. 

He managed a deep breath, and felt for other injuries and murmured light healing spells. She was so pale, and cold— he must not rush. She had lost too much blood, she was fragile in this state.

She should never have to be fragile— why wouldn’t she wake up? 

The others slowly shuffled away, one by one. Galahad stayed the longest, his eyes hard and unmoving. He had that in common with Rhen, they would never back down from even the darkest, most hopeless scenes. From even death.

No. She couldn’t die, she was not going to die— 

Someone had prepared dinner, Dameon didn’t know what, but John had pushed a portion of whatever it was at him and he thought he remembered swallowing some of it. Most of it was wrapped in his pack to give to Rhen when she woke up. She would wake up.

His hands were steadier now and he brushed back her hair again and traced the wound. There was a large welt swelling under it. He needed to be careful. He forced himself to breathe deeply and speak evenly— he whispered, really, he didn’t trust his voice beyond that. And slowly, so, so painfully slowly, the wound closed and the swelling went down and the pressure in his chest lifted— he hadn’t realized it was there, until it was gone and suddenly he could breathe. 

The others had spread their mats out on the cave floor, and Elini touched his shoulder and pointed to Rhen’s mat— Dameon didn’t know how he remembered it. He would help Rhen into it when she woke up. She had to wake up, sometimes head injuries were irreversible— he wouldn’t risk it. He couldn’t—

No.

Sunshine was the first spell he’d ever learned— cure sleepiness. It wasn’t quite sleepiness that had her like this, but he was afraid a revive spell would be too strong. He didn’t want to hurt her, he didn’t want to make it worse— she still wasn’t moving. 

Why could he not have just moved, in the first place?

John was already snoring and even Te’ijal was lying down. 

Sunshine. He’d tried to use the spell to get out of going to bed once, and his parents had lectured him on the appropriate uses of magic. Protection and healing. That’s what he was allowed to do with his gift. The list had seemed small then. Now it seemed impossible.

Lars had stopped glaring at John and his eyes were closed. Everyone was sleeping now, everyone was breathing evenly— 

Except Rhen, whose breaths came in shallow little sighs. And except Dameon, who was sure he’d never sleep again.

He put his hands on either side of her head. The fire was finally starting to warm her cheeks, and her ears. She had little, round ears that stuck out from her head just slightly. She called them goofy. He called them charming. 

Sunshine. It was useless. She wasn’t moving, the firelight reflected somberly off the ends of her eyelashes, her usually pale pink lips were ashen, he was helpless again before the last inevitability and he felt sick—

Then abruptly, finally, her expression shifted. She drew her eyebrows together, and frowned, and her closed eyelids seemed to tighten.

Rhen?” he whispered hopefully, hopelessly, his breath catching in his throat. “Are you awake?

She didn’t answer, but she curled into his lap.

He almost cried, she was still so cold and pale. She needed to wake up. He whispered the spell again, and carefully pressed his hands to her cheeks and ears.

The muscles of her face were tight. 

His throat was closing and he swallowed— he was not going to cry, he needed to heal her—

He was already crying, he couldn’t do anything to stop it, and now there were tears that didn’t belong to her dripping down her face— 

Her long eyelashes fluttered, and now the firelight danced on the ends of them, and her two soft violet eyes opened and looked up at him.

Rhen—” 

“G’morning, Sunshine,” she slurred. He tried to laugh at the unintended irony of that but instead it came out as a sob, and she frowned and the rough tips of her little fingers brushed across his face. “Why’re you crying?”

 “I— I— I was afraid— you were— lost— I—” 

He couldn’t even say the words, and now he couldn’t even see her through the tears—

“It’s all right,” Rhen soothed. “I’m not lost. Don’t cry.” 

But he couldn’t help it, he couldn’t catch his breath.

She watched him patiently and then asked softly, “Was it Aesma?”  

Aesma— speeding across the cavern, his blows coming down like lightning, shattering the shields, knocking out every defense, and then— and then—

Dameon somehow managed to nod before he lost control of his lungs and his throat— he was going to wake the others, he tried to muffle the sounds in his hands but he wasn’t sure it made a difference, and Rhen reached up and pulled his head down near hers and patted his wet cheek.

“It’s all right,” she said again. “He’s gone now. Wait—” she paused, and frowned up at him. “He is gone, right?” 

He choked back another one of those horrible sounds, and nodded again, and her mouth curved in a small smile— her lips were pink again, and her breathing was steady and the demon was gone, he couldn’t harm her any further— he’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone

Dameon jumped, at first, when Rhen’s fingers stroked his forehead, but her hands were steady and he was tired and his chest hurt and it was— nice, to be close to her. He leaned down and her fingers found their way to his hair, too, and he didn’t know what her hands were doing up there but they were warm on his head and slowly, slowly he found he had followed her back to the present, and he could breathe again and the tears had stopped and all that was left was a dull, aching warmth where the fear used to be, and a tingling where the rough tips of her little fingers brushed his scalp. 

She was always steadfast while he was in chaos, she met all her monsters with unflinching strength, and—

She must be hungry, after all she’d been through.

“I saved dinner for you,” he mumbled softy, close to her ear.

She smiled up at him, and her fingers finished with whatever they were doing to his hair. “Well I am hungry,” she admitted, and he found somehow he was smiling despite himself. He carefully helped her sit up and then reached for his pack.

Dinner turned out to be fish, and it was burnt on the edges and cold from sitting so long away from the fire. But Rhen took it gratefully, and swallowed down large chunks of it before he could begin to apologize—

“Thanks, Dameon,” she said around another mouthful. “I was afraid I would have to starve until morning.” Then, “Here, have you had some?” 

“Oh, I— well, you— yes, you eat it, Rhen, I’m fine.”

She narrowed those vivid violet eyes at him and held out the rest of the fish, and he felt light-headed and he wished he could think of a joke so she would stop looking at him like that.

“Really, I had some, it’s okay,” he assured her again.

She blinked. “Please, Dameon?”

He swallowed and tried to think of some argument, but he couldn’t and she was still looking at him so he finally took the fish and nibbled at it—

He was hungry, and it felt good in his stomach, but what was really nice was the contented smile that tugged the corners of her mouth when he thanked her, and the happy sighing sound she made when he had given it back and she’d finished the rest, and especially— the way she leaned her head on his shoulder, and yawned into his chest, and sleepily announced that she would take care of the watch until Te’ijal woke up.

He smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear, and he carefully traced the still-tender skin where Aesma had struck her. “What if I take care of the watch, and you take care of yourself and get some rest?”

“No.” She shook her head. “That won’t do. You have to take care of me. I mean,” she yawned again, “of rest. Take care of rest.”

“I’ll take care of both,” he said, and felt thrilled and frightened at his own audacity— that was something he’d learned from Rhen. And his stomach was shaking now but he couldn’t stop himself, he was already asking, “Would you like me to carry you to your mat?”

She held her arms out towards him and she was shaking, too. She didn’t sag in his arms this time but she laid her head in the same place near his heart and he thought it might burst open, or maybe it already had. It was a short walk to her mat, Elini had made sure he wouldn’t have to step over anyone, and he laid Rhen down and pulled the blanket over her and he wondered when the trembling would stop.

She reached up and brushed the hair out of his eyes again, and her little smile told him she knew something he didn’t. But she never left him long in the dark; she pulled a lock forward and held it where he could see, and now he knew what her hands had been doing in his hair; she had braided it. He laughed softly and his whole self was still quivering but he felt brave somehow and he kissed her nose because it was freckled and pink, and then she blushed and her nose was pinker and his heart had definitely burst now. He stroked her hair and slowly, slowly her eyes closed and her breathing evened out and it wasn’t like last time, it was quiet and calm and she was safe, and slowly, slowly the tremor in his chest softened and somehow his chaos had gently settled into...

Peace.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×