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In Pieces (RxD oneshots)

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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

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@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! 

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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).

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Dark Places

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

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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. 

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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:)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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

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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:)

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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