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Roen

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Everything posted by Roen

  1. Control is knowing what we have and what we want. Power is having something someone else wants but cannot have. 

  2. At first, the Outsider thought her slowness a sign of fear, the way a woodland creature might employ guile to escape the notice and attention of a predator. But no, no such flattery. It was only weakness. With her foot still cut open on glass, Isabella walked across the room with his ruby-gaze lingering on her, unblinking in serpentine regard. She was limping. At first, it was hard to reconcile her with the pain she must have surely been in. She had been a vampyre for as long as they had known one another. He himself had tested the limits of her endurance, timeless night after timeless night, and knew her threshold of pain as only an intimate tormentor ever could. This, though.. He exhaled, his head turning to follow her where she roamed to the dresser. The helmet in his hands was a light burden of heaviness, compared to the weight of his indecisions concerning his pretty beloved. She was the moon to a sea of spite, her waxing and waning pulling and pushing his will this way and that like a buoy in a storm. Once, the paradox had given him a sort-of thrill. Now, he hated the hold she possessed over him. Control is knowing what we have and what we want. Power is having something someone else wants but cannot have. The old philosophy came unbidden. He had control, but the reins of power had ever been in her unkind hands. Not for the first time, he thought to murder his beloved. Coldly, dispassionately, without regret or shame. She threatened to unmake him with her very weakness, to push him into compassion when this world needed steel and fury. Something warm and small and kind thought to go to her again, but pragmatism silenced that voice with a vicious throttle. That path lay insanity; to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. To go to her with vindicta, though. To kill her for all that she had done and yet still planned to do. He could be free from her, free of this torment and this insanity, free to prosecute a war that so desperately needed to be waged. But, no. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror, after procuring a small bottle of pills from her dresser. Even from here, he could smell the odious scent of chemicals when she worked the cover off. She was such a handsome woman, it had to be said. Even stricken by sleeplessness, abuse and distress, it ever had to be said she was attractive. To be beautiful was to be almost dead, and no one lived that truth better than Gabriela. And was she singing? He couldn’t be sure. There was a musical cant to what she was saying, his mind impulsively putting a meter to her words. He had such a fondness for music, the Outsider. He closed his eyes briefly, while she took in a mouthful of her medicine. A better man might have been alarmed by the flagrant self-medication, but he was neither better nor a man, and so kept his peace. Her self-destruction was beyond his purview, so long as it wasn’t uniquely and promptly terminal. He simply watched her, silent and judgemental, his preternatural stare ever once wavering away from this bit of haunting theater. Then, because she had smiled, so did he. Wiping anger from his sensual mouth and twisting his lips into the facade of charm, the Outsider shook his head slowly from side to side in soft, quiet negation. Gabriela the Philosopher. Would that they had the time or energy to debate so complicated a subject as love and the breaking of it. She spoke with a certainty that would put artists and poets to shame, had they heard it. But the fiend had his own ideas concerning love, and perhaps that is what set the pair apart the most. If she had asked, he might have said she was confusing love for trust, which was never the same once broken. But she didn’t ask and so he never said that love, true love, was unbreakable. Perhaps she would one day realize he lived the very truth of that sentiment. “You look like you could use a rest. You look like you’d be better dead.” “Is that a dirge for me, sweet girl?” He asked, smiling stil. She only shrugged and limped away to crawl back into the bed he woke her from, her back turned to him. He knew when he was being dismissed, but he took no umbrage. He wondered, had she killed herself with that last handful of pills? She didn’t seem suicidal, but then again, rare were those who did. Setting his helmet on his hip and magnetically sealing it there, Roen moved over to Gabriela’s bedside. A return to their starting positions, he thought, of this dance macabre. He looked her over, from heel to head and back again. “It sounded like a dirge..,” he said quietly, speaking to the sleeping and uncaring. He had achieved nothing of note, visiting her. They had gone nowhere, accomplished nothing. He imagined her waking later and attributing this confrontation to little more than a violent hallucination, and couldn’t help but chuckle in dark amusement at the absurd honesty of the expectation. Eyes stilling at the flat of her injured, bleeding foot, Roen curled his fingers and reached with his senses for the shards of glass still embedded in her meat. With a tug, he jerked them out with a thought and sent them skittering across the floor with the rest. Her blood was red again. Just red. He drew the tip of a metal finger across the bottom of her foot, wetting it on vitae and bringing it up to his mouth. The copper salt-tang of the proudest blood, but nothing of the abyss, nothing esoteric. Just her, just his girl. He licked his lips and lowered his hand, brushing her naked shoulder with the back of his metal gauntlet. She didn’t stir. She only slept, bleeding and bleeding and ruining the perfect cream of her bedsheets. No, he didn’t think she would die, not from an overdose. He saw abdominal cramping in her future, and a morning she might wish she never lived to see, but not death. She only wanted to escape him, him and this confrontation, and he couldn’t say he blamed her for the sentiment, despite hating her for it. No such luck. Roen reached for his hair and unfastened the ribbon that held back the tide. Shiny black and glittering red with gemstones, he twined it deftly between his gauntleted fingers and bent for beloved while she slept. Cruelly, with the expectation of future savagery, the fiend rolled Gabriela onto her belly and lashed her hands together behind her back, binding her arms and wrists together with inconsiderate tightness. “I wanted to take you home to the Black City.” He said quietly, speaking to nothing and no one. “To the tallest room in the highest tower, where you could watch the world burn and a new one rise from the ashes. But I see now that will never work. You would find a way to escape from there, from me. So, I will keep you in my shadow, and always by my side, whether you wish it or not.” He was tracing his fingers across her dress, plucking the thin fabric between pinches of metal and tugging, pulling and ripping. Though she bled and though she slept, it did not stop him from stripping beloved of the trappings of prestige and power. He made a ruin of her dress, just as he had made a ruin of their lives, and did not stop until she was bare and brazen before him. What a terrible and startling contrast between them now, he in war regalia and she as pale and beautiful as the loveliest moon. He dragged a black and gold finger down the curve of her back, just to see the supple skin dimple and the fine hairs stand up. Down and down and down, he stroked her the way a man might would a cat, until he reached the curve of her bottom. This he held in the palm of a large hand and indelicately squeezed, again just to see the dimpling and impression he left behind. “First, you..,” he murmured. “Then, mm, you’ll see what else I take.”
  3. “Is that what you wore when you killed them? Did you come here in your war-lord regalia to scare me -- or did you really want to crawl into bed with me and fuck me while you were wearing the blood of my guests? The people I invited to come and celebrate my birthday with me? The people who I invited to break bread and drink wine with me?” He stopped reaching for her. Withdrawing his hands and taking a measured step away from beloved, the Outsider shook his head. “No. I was not wearing this armour when I killed them. I was wearing that suit you thought I looked so handsome in.” He chuckled briefly at this anecdote, though there was little in the way of humour in the soft exhalation of breath through his nose. Lowering his gaze and giving himself an idle onceover, he did not know whether he preferred his warplate over the noble cut of expensive fabric. There was nothing subtle about his armour, for example. There was nothing that bespoke of discretion or sense. There was just the broadness of it, a thickness of set that put to mind the impossibility of its function. Yet despite the bulk, he moved fluidly within its confines as if born to the burden. And that made the armour’s hideous size nightmarish. To move so gracefully, so purposefully, it defied expectation and defied sense. It was beautiful in other ways, though. It was his decision to have it lacquered black and affixed with gold, in private homage to the woman he claimed to love. She had called him Crimson King tonight, a name that had followed him through realms on account of his flamboyant sense of fashion and penchant for outrageous reds. How antiquated it was, now that he had taken her colors. In shame and shadow recast, in black and gold reborn. And he was remade. No longer a sedentary king, but a warlord, as he was before and as he should have always been. He sighed, those hands of his settling on the front of his breastplate to scratch across the golden dragon and pawn there. He closed his eyes to her ridicule and mockery, and sheathed his heart in steel just as he sheathed his body in blackened plate and gold. As he stole her colors, so, too, did he steal beloved’s disposition. Abandoning the dulcet tones of the enamored and fond, the Outsider grew harsh with his warm, story-teller’s voice. “The same guests that were butchering each other while you fled.” Piqued, the Outsider’s accent grew more pronounced. Typically clipped and polished in terms of measure and tone, he sounded more the aristocratic erudite than ever, with his temper flaring. It lent his words a weight of superiority he did not intend, but nonetheless laid heavily into. “While you were showing me the crease of your arse, the people you invited to celebrate your birthday turned that nightclub into a bloodbath.” Looking up and raising a hand, the Outsider pointed two heavy fingers at his eyes. “I saw it. All those handsome bastards and pretty girls, tearing themselves apart while assassins, always the assassins, used the cover of chaos to try killing you. And me. They were all animals, and I slaughtered them like animals.” “What do you want from me, Roen?!” It wasn’t often that the Outsider was rendered speechless, nevermind incoherent. In a perfect world of clever responses and perfect witticisms, Roen had nothing but a sputter of curses for Isabella, such was the heat of his sudden ire. Aggravated, more incandescent with fury than when she had a dagger to his neck, the fiend turned and stalked deeper into her bedding chambers. “What do I want from you?” He seethed, throwing an arm out with reckless abandon and gesticulating with the choler he was so very well known for. “What do I want?” He reiterated, the volume of his voice rising in tandem with his temper. He refused to look at her, refused to even lay eyes on beloved lest the temptation to lay hands on her follow, and focused instead on walls and columns and dressers and desks. What a tempest of wrath he had the capacity of becoming; he could have torn that room apart, such was the towering need for violence. But he was master of his rage, not it of he, and though it gnawed savagely at his will to be loose, he kept it in check. He would be thrice-damned before he put on such a display as to justify her derogatory words. He wasn’t a disgusting creature, he was -- he groped for purpose, for meaning. He was her Lord and Master, once. He was her lover, he friend, her companion and confidante. He was many things to her and many more to himself, and one by one there slipped away from him, like so many grains of sand between his fingers. He ground his teeth, fury rendered impotent. He couldn’t tell her the truth, she wouldn’t care and worse, she would ridicule him for it. Neither could he tell her lies, for those ever went beyond his nature. What remained then for Isabella, greatest of loves and greatest of fools. “I want you to lower your voice and have a care.” He said, stunningly calm. “Do not yell at me again.” Turning, the Outsider flicked his ruby-gaze back towards Isabella and briefly considered unburdening himself further. Perhaps there could be common cause found here between them, a foundation upon which they could build the beginnings of an understanding on. How pleasant that might be, reaching an accord with her. But no, that was a fool’s errand, and just as she was tired of him, so was he growing tired of her. The selfishness, the sanctimony, the sheer audacity of her misguided beliefs, it was beginning to become a bit too much. This was not the homecoming he had expected, but in truth, no homecoming ever was. Wherever he went, wherever he roamed, be it out of duty or pleasure or simple wanderlust, he had and always would meet hate on his return. This was nothing different. It would never be different. He was her enemy, as he was the enemy of all mankind. Hated and unwanted, he was, of course, ever the Outsider. He had embarrassed himself, coming here. And embarrassment was anathema to rage. Exhaling the dying embers of his temper with a tepid sigh, the Outsider raised a hand and rubbed weariness from his eyes with the blunted metals tips of his gauntleted thumb and forefinger. The metal was cool against his feverish skin and burning eyes, but that was a small comfort. He missed the cooling touch of Irene Gabriela Du’Grace. Would that he could take her hands and hold them on his face, to leech away the hate of his shame. “I am merely the unruly spirit of Roen, refusing to accept my death and instead, choosing to haunt you. And this is nothing but a dream conjured by a very unconventional ghost.” He lowered his hand and let it fall limply to his side. There was no pity in his stare, for himself or for her. There wasn’t even anger, for he put that away as it had no place here, not now. He just looked at her, drinking in her pale and pretty face the way a lover might, before the parting of ways. “Would that the somnolent reflections of your mind would dream of paradises instead of nightmares such as these.” At this he gestured vaguely and broadly, indicating the blood, shattered glass and ruined furniture. Then he reached for his helmet, an ugly thing with a narrow visor and a crown of curving horns cresting its brow, and summoned it to his palm with a pull of his mind. It snapped loudly into his palm with a crack of metal, and he turned it over in his hands, fiddling with it. “I’ll wait for you at the fountain, my love. When all is said and done. We will laugh and we will cry, so long as you don’t take too long.” There was hatred in his stare, and spite; the tight-clench of the jaw, the furrowing of brows and a curling of the lip that threatened a snarl. Let her scream and rage again, he swore, he’d bring her to the death she said wouldn’t matter.
  4. They were largely inspired by Necromorphs from the Dead Space franchise.
  5. “You may not.” The wilful obstinance of a girl-child, it made the Outsider screw his eyes shut and cant his head with an oblique tick of irritation. There was temptation here to follow the retreating limb with his hands, to draw it out from her body in spite of her protests and ministrate aid as he saw fit, the way a custodian might when overseeing an uncooperative charge. He didn’t, though. There was only struggle and a pyrrhic victory down that path, and their conversation was strained as it was. Browbeaten by her sudden ire and outrage for his presumptions, the Outsider endured the sudden and awful tirade with a patience that she neither asked for nor deserved, with an uncharacteristic grace that did not fit the choler of his mien. He remained kneeling, opening his eyes only when violent need had her throwing the glass he had poured from her across the room. He turned his head, following it with his dark gaze to see where it crashed. A waste of glassware and water and sentiment, he thought. Then he turned his head and attention back to her. Shifting where he knelt and draping an arm across his upraised knee, the Outsider looked upon Gabriela with a frown that bordered on somewhere between disappointment and displeasure. But for all his dissatisfaction, there was something to say for beloved’s piqued wrath. There was an aspect to her rage that he found not only endearing, but also familiar. He might not have cared for her choice of focus concerning this fury, but by his wicked little heart, it was thrilling to see it. He knew better than to smile at it, though. That tasted too much like mockery. Better to remain impassive, to see which way the winds blew and stoked her passions. He never flinched, not once. Impassive, perhaps even stoically, he bore her scrutiny and hate with the attention and focus such a spectacle demanded, without judgement or recrimination. She was being cruel, terribly so, but he did not hate her for it. Hating anger such as this was as meaningless and inappropriate as hating a storm, or any other natural disaster. The best course of action was to sit and endure, to watch and admire, and hope, perhaps, to not be struck down by it. In truth, that’s what he was waiting for. Aware of the dagger but not so silly as to regard it, he was waiting for her to lunge at her kneeling devil and plunge her silver blade into his neck or eye. He would have welcomed the intent, if not the action itself, as the truest expression of her fury. How lovely that would be, he thought with a swelling of passion and flush of adrenaline. How wonderful, if her outrage led her to violence. But no, she couldn’t, or at least wouldn’t attack him. He saw it leaving her now, that pureness. It was like watching the setting of the sun, so heartbreakingly dreadful to behold he almost grabbed her then and there to shake her from a descending lethargy. He wanted her fury, her anger and outrage, he wanted her to give into these things and -- and be like him, and see the world reddened through the delicious justification of honest anger. No higher state of sentience, no purer emotion. Nothing was as honest or true as wrath. In rage, anything was justified. No sin too small, no excess too great. In it, there was vindication, and with vindication came peace. Clarity, even. He was never more serene, never more himself than when the spikes of fury were buried in the meat of his mind. It was a serenity that had to be chased. Never peace, no, never that. But serenity in rage, like the calm at the heart of a storm. If he could teach her that, if he could turn her.. “Why are you here, devil? Why have you come here? What do you want? I have work to do and I don’t have the time or the interest -- or the goddamn energy to deal with you. My people will tend to me, my lover, will tend to me.” Drawn from his reverie by her queries, the Outsider licked his too-dry lips. She seemed diminished, even sick. The anger was gone from her, too wild and too untamed to do anything more than leave her spent after an excess of it. Coupled with her injury, weariness and substance abuse, it shouldn’t have surprised him at all that she was nothing of a vessel for anger such as that. The temper was there, but none of the endurance. She didn’t know how to leash such fire, to keep it bound and fed so that it never wilted. As he looked at her with his dark and measuring eyes, he knew that now was neither the time nor the place to consider such things. She had opened up avenues of possibility with her outburst, but no, teaching her self-control was not the purpose he boarded her airship to fulfill. He wondered why she ever needed to ask at all, the answer was always the same. It was so obvious in fact that he could scarcely bring himself to say it at all, as if it should have been implicit by his very presence here. If there was ever a moment to abuse her with the mocking edge of his wit, it would have been now, and she would have well and truly deserved it. Instead, the Outsider looked away and reached for the gauntlets he had just removed. With whirring clicks and drives of needles through flesh and bone and sinew, he donned one and then the other, flexing his fingers in each with ruthlessly smooth purrs of well-functioning servos. Cold unfeeling filtered back into his hands, a welcomed respite from the constant aches and pains of silver scars that always and would forever plague him. He could have told her he had every right to be here, that she was his and always would be, nevermind her waspish disposition. Beyond love and ardor, she was his to love and his to rule, as he had ever told her over the years that bound them together. He was her Hell on this planet, her punishment and her salvation. He could have told her everything, all the petty crimes of life that weighed her down with sin and slaved her to him. The infidelity. The betrayals. The wounds he had sustained, the grievous insults he had endured. There was a mausoleum dedicated to the death of the Black Queen he had spent nearly a year inside of, for the horror of living in a world without her. She had faked a death then, and though he had forgiven, he had never forgotten. Petty dramas, pieces of theater that haunted them even here, even now. But the most grievous of course was her pregnancy, and the months she spent with her cousin. Oh, how his blood boiled at that particular recollection. Fury, yes, he knew fury, this devil. He kept his shackled and restrained, but how it snarled and balked at its cage. It was always there, lurking beneath the surface. The fiend closed his hands into tight, shaking fists, his gaze lifting, catching first the black, black blood leaking from her feet, then the look she paid him with sickly eyes and a sickly pallor. She looked as if she were going to retch, which wouldn’t have surprised him. “My vampyre. My lovely vampyre. You know nothing of what you speak. You’ve spent a lifetime running from me. But I love you, sweetling. I adore you and all your kind. The world can hear me sing each time you breathe. And one day, when you leave your flesh behind, you will be mine. A concubine of spirit and shadow, claimed by your true love at last.” He extended a finger, pointing in spite of her unspoken plea of aid. He indicated her foot, and the blackest of blood, so thick it reminded him of coagulation. He shook his head. “You’ve taken many lovers, but there are only two in this life that ever truly mattered. I, and your father, Tenebrae, and he - and I apply the term loosely, your Father is so grandiloquent he transcends sex - has a hold of you I can never break.” He had been so blind, so ignorant, so consumed by her he had ignored all the signs. The look in her eyes, the smell of ozone and burn, the sickness that was overtaking her. Substance abuse, he thought, but that was only the start. Like pieces of a puzzle falling neatly into place, a clearer picture was forming, and true to form, he was an outsider looking in, only vaguely grasping the meaning of it all. Whore, trash, ugly or wasted, she was none of these things or perhaps even all, but no descriptor applied to her more truly than beloved, and because she was beloved, his rage only seethed and did not consume. There was no lover here for her, at least not the one she desired, nor were her people or her staff. There was only him, her constant, the thorn in her side. “If I take you in my arms and lay you back in bed, will you struggle?” He asked, finally rising where he knelt and speaking with sacrosanctity that went well and truly beyond his descriptor of devil. He could have left - should have, perhaps - but wouldn’t, not now. Not when she looked at him like that, not as she bled, not now that her fury was gone and his heart thrummed with that terrible and persistent need to tend to her, like the child and queen she was to him. He hated that hold she had over him, though it sustained him like no other. He rose from the floor, his armour grinding, snarling, heaving with the effort of moving itself to his demands, and he reached for her. “Your blood is black.” He said, quiet and clinical. “The way it was when you were..,” he trailed off, unwilling to say it. It was one thing to know a thing, but quite another to name it, and he didn’t have it in him to say outloud the impossibility and ludicrousness of her change from a vampyre into a mortal. “I think your excitement,” he stressed the word nastily, “triggered it. Or woke it. I don’t know,” he confessed. “Your connection to your primogenitor is something of a mystery to me.”
  6. He didn’t mock her, no, never that. His words might have sounded crass or insensitive to her perfect ears, but there was no derision in his sentiments or contempt in heart for her or the departed. He lamented the needless loss of life, he felt he had articulated that adequately, but he was not so depthless as to be consumed by it. It wouldn’t have come as a surprise to him, though, her misunderstanding. Though they were bound by love and loss and years between them, they had never understood the other, not truly. Passion and ardor and obsession had a way of blinding supposed lovers, and they had never proven the exception. It divorced them from their wits, made a mockery of their beliefs and threatened their very characters with every concession they made for the other’s misdeeds. They were fools, the pair. Blind, idiotic fools, but it could never be said he didn’t love her. He made every concession for her. Except now, of course. Except when it came to the matter of his head and his life. He would not give her these things, not now, and his threat to kill her if she pursued the matter further was a ruthlessly sincere one. Nevermind that they were bound by adamantine bonds of devotion, his life was his own, and she should have realized his resolution to live it by his terms when he spoke of the abattoir he made of the nightclub in Hell’s Gate. Perhaps she thought the threat was too heavy-handed, too extreme given the nature of the proposed crime, but since dealing death that night, he found he had less and less compunctions concerning delivering it. Death was the great ender of things, of violence and woe and heartache. When he killed those men in Hell’s Gate, they did not rise up from the ground with renewed thirsts for vengeance. They didn’t return home to nurse their wounds, plotting his demise. And they would never pretend they had never sought his death, sitting across from him at a diplomatic table. They were simply dead, their bones and memories cast to the earth to moulder and decay, while he, the victor, still drew breath. In their demise, his life was made consummate, and so became precious beyond all mortal ken. More than this, it christened him with a renewed sense of purpose and resolve. He wondered if that’s what she saw, when she leaned against him with her face upturned. She must have seen the hint of it in his eyes, in the subtle curve of his mouth and the danger that radiated off of him. Yet how wrong she was, saying he could no longer hurt her. He could, oh, of course he could. There was pain the likes of which she would never, could never know. Even death itself was a foreign concept to her, she who had pretended death to hide from those that would pin her down and force her into a life she did not choose to lead. The threat of death had never been more realistic, more profound, than the moment he had spoken it. Would that he could show her visions of her own demise, her slender neck caught in the vice of his hands. No slow strangulation for beloved, no, never that, but a quick snap to release her soul from the mortal coil, that he might pluck it from the air before it was consumed by thirsting gods. But no, no death for her, only sympathy. Would that he could tell her that her life did matter, that she should care about living for the sake of a future. Would that he could understand the motivations that now drove her.. But she was gone, withdrawing from him in all the ways that mattered. He let her go, of course. When he saw the sudden pallor that crossed her face, a paleness that made him wonder if she was going to be sick, the Outsider released her slender wrist and let her drift away from him. Concern took over his abject stoicism, though he knew better than to give it immediate voice. Rather, he lingered where she had pushed him against the wall, watching her limp her way towards a chair after one final glare thrown his way. He even let her speak uninterrupted, though he very much wanted to explain that she was his business, as she ever was and would be. But prudence and tact kept him silent. Instead, he watched and observed, wholly ignorant of her affliction but nonetheless full of anxiety. He frowned, seeing her sink into her seat with a weariness he had not expected, and quite forgot all about murder in the face of her obvious distress. He cared for her, it had to be said. Be it from love or courtesy, he cared. So while she settled, he went about the task of being a courteous soul. “Go...away…” “Mm.” A non-committal reply, both distracted and insincere. Armoured, broad and heavy, he moved with surprising grace and alacrity through her bedding chambers, seeking. At last, he found a pitcher of water. Taking it in hand with a delicate clink of metal against glass, he poured beloved a tall glass of water and brought it to her, his uneven stride making some slosh over his gauntlet and patter on the ground, thinning the blood she left in her wake. Exhaling through his nose a breathy sigh while she spoke of destroying the world, burning it and taking his life sometime after the end, the Outsider crunched glass underfoot before his shadow fell across her. He was still frowning, his ruby-gaze simmering with some foreign emotion, like rage and spite warring with other, kinder sentiments. “The world can wait on my pleasure..,” he told her with forced civility while he raised the glass and offered it to her. Then, if and when she took it, he knelt by her legs. With a series of whines and snarls of protesting armour joints and servos, the Outsider took a knee beside Isabella, much like a knight might before their monarch. There was a time not too long ago when the gesture might have been more honest than symbolic. Though she did not speak of it and he not so inclined to either, he still thought of her as a queen - his queen. Whatever her incarnation or ailment, he was avowed to her, her servant as well as her master. In better times, he had treasured the very ground she walked upon. Now, he could only sigh at lives they had left behind. How far they had fallen, the pair. “Peace, Gabriela.” He murmured, paying passing heed to the dagger she still held at ready before raising his gauntlets and lowering his attention towards the task of disengaging them from his wrists. With several clicks and the snap-hiss of escaping air pressure, Roen grimaced and, with a pull, drew it off of his hand. Little pinpricks of blood beaded from miniscule puncture wounds along his wrist, knuckles and the top of his hand - the remnants of neural needles that sunk into his very bones. He shook his hand out, little patters of blood striking the floor, before he likewise disengaged the black-and-gold gauntlet from his other hand. He rubbed both together, soothing the aching muscles and ligaments beneath now that the pain was no longer suppressed, and reached for Gabriela’s injured foot after setting the pieces of warplate aside. “If I may.” He said, though scarcely waited for a reply. Hot, dangerously hot and calloused fingers took up her bleeding foot by the heel with gentle if not clinical care, his gaze finding the narrow slit where glass had maimed her so. He frowned deeper, his armour growling as he bent further to inspect it, all too aware he was offering his unprotected head to a woman who was very seriously threatening his life. So close now, so beneath her, it was easier to see he had not healed from the massacre at the nightclub, at least not completely. There was purple bruising threading its way down his neck and into his gorget, while a contusion above his brow, still stapled shut, was just starting to show signs of scabbing over to eventually scar. A wound of silver, courtesy of a world that knew full well he could be injured by the precious metal. It was the first wound he had taken to the face and would forever carry - a thin line above his right brow, descending towards the edge of his eye. It seemed incongruous on his bearded, patrician face, as all scars inevitably did on the faces of those who bore them. “Try not to flex your foot..,” he told her quietly, absorbed in her injury she had sustained on his behalf, however inadvertently. He was smearing blood across her foot, some of which his own. The temperature in the room declined several degrees, and for a briefest moment, hoarfrost bloomed across his pauldrons and breastplate. Magic, it could be called, or sorcery. He referred to it as the Art, though in truth it was a minor cantrip of biomancy; just an encouragement of cellular growth along its intended path. He didn’t heal her, no, he couldn’t do that, but with a gentle nudge, he made her body do it at an accelerated pace. From closing to scabbing to scarring, it was done faster than it took to describe the venture. The temperature rose again, the frost along his armour soon to recede. “Ironic..,” he said quietly, mostly to himself. “If you were still a vampyre, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I don’t know enough about vampyre physiology to even attempt it. But now that you’re human..,” he trailed off, the sentiment explicit. He knew the human body the way a surgeon might, or a mad scientist. After all, it was on the basis of that knowledge that he crafted for himself the shape that knelt before her now, scars and wounds and all. He might have discarded the mask of the Gentleman Sage, but this mortal guise, the face of man and devil that loved her, no, he could never rid himself of that. He tapped the underside of her foot with the pads of his fingertips, some semblance of boyish wickedness prompting him to curl his fingers in an endeavor to tickle her albeit lightly. “Perhaps I should be a doctor instead of a lord of war,” he teased without any warmth.
  7. “You killed those people?” “May they rest in peace.” Lowering his gaze and leveling the weight of his scrutiny on Isabella’s bare and bloody feet, the Outsider drew in a slow, steadying breath - superfluous, considering he needn’t breathe to be - and released it in a characteristic display of enduring suffering. She was bleeding all over the floor. The smell of her blood, a coppery tang that stuck to his teeth and the back of his throat, was an unpleasant one, and he did not bother to hide his distaste for her display of superlative restraint. The girl he knew, even in the incarnation of vampyre, did not take kindly to pain, but she smashed his expectations by working and walking through it. Towards him she came, leaving a bloody mess behind her, and he did not move though the temptation to meet her halfway was strong. For whatever it was worth, he did not like to see his girl suffer, but there was determination in her stride and lingering hate in his heart, and these things above all rooted him. Then she was in front of him, small and slender and impossibly beautiful. Would that they had lived different lives, he thought with some semblance of regret. He might have enjoyed an eternity, staring at her countenance while their estates and progeny grew around them. They could have lived and breathed and existed together for the rest of time, and it would not have been an immortality wasted. But they had squandered their chances most every opportunity they could, forever stealing away brief clutches of fulfillment and happiness here and there among so much tumult. They were a pitiful pair, the two. He sighed, wondering however briefly what might have been, and in his sighing caught the unexpected of something that went beyond the coppery tang of blood. The fiend stiffened and cocked his head, his animated brows furrowing sharply. “What--” “You killed them all? I was so wrong about you.” Distracted by her words, the Outsider’s gaze refocused on Isabella. And while he had expected judgement and recrimination, it appalled him to receive it. Disgusted, Roen’s face twisted firmly into that of a mocking sneer he reserved only for the basest and crudest of ignorances he was faced with. He might have shoved her away from him entirely, had she been anyone else. But she was his girl, judging him for the justified rage and spite of a monster when she herself had never known such fury before. She knew nothing of war or wrath, had never stalked the field of battle or held a weapon in anger. There was purity in war, in the hot and heavy thrill of battle. He had been made for such things, whereas she -- she was not. He was a Lord of War, and she, well, she was a queen. He was on the cusp of pointing out these very differences when she spoke over him with the most vulgar commentary he had ever heard leave her lips. “Are you going to fuck me? Fill me with your seed -- try to put another baby in my belly? Will you make me bleed to death like the whores you killed in Patia, Crimson King? Oh yes, this is who you are. This is who you have always been. At long last, you've shown yourself.” Oh, what a wicked and vile thing she was, his girl. It wasn’t often his sins were thrown into his face with such brutal force. Lips compressing into the tightest of lines beneath the bark and ash and flame of his beard, the Outsider glowered down at Isabella with all the impotent fury of the leashed and restrained. She might have been his, his from the tips of her fingers to the bottoms of her sore and bloody feet, but he, he was her’s just as surely. Her devil, her monster, her man and fiend, he was her’s in ways that went beyond the mundane and lingered somewhere in the profane. And because he was her’s, she enjoyed a degree of protection. Not from others, though, no, never that, he had never been able to protect her from the violence and predations of the monsters she courted. No, she was protected from him, for in truth if anyone had talked to him as boldly and as vilely as she had, he would have felt no compunctions against twisting their very heads off of their shoulders. He wanted to, though. It was in his eyes, that very same threat, and in the hands he held at his sides so resolutely, lest they act of their own accord. He wanted to grab her, to yank her limbs and twist them until she burst and came apart in pieces in his hands. He had done it before. He had drawn and quartered men for less. But she was beloved, and she was afforded a degree of forbearance from the one who loved her. This was not to say she would escape unharmed or unpunished, but the point was that she would live beyond this moment of abject disrespect. Flush together like the lovers they were, the Outsider allowed his girl the indulgences of touch his cheek and running her fingers through his hair, perhaps intending to stifle the embers of his wrath before she was consumed in the flame. Too late for that, he thought without humour. Flicking his gaze away at the smell of burning, Roen paid little heed to the machinations of Isabella while he searched for the source of this preternatural change of atmosphere. A protector to save her from her, perhaps, or maybe even a defensive system aboard the airship, designed to protect its mistress. He considered these things until his hair was snatched, once again bringing him back to the present danger of his mortal beauty. He felt the dagger, of course. Felt the sharp kiss of silver against a jugular that didn’t bleed the way a mortal’s might when severed. He grunted and tilted his head away, almost as if to offer more of his throat up to the bite of the blade above the gorget of his armour. She wasn’t wrong. His was a plagued existence, and indeed he had brought much and more in the ways of horror and strife. And it was true, one day he would die, and what a tragedy that might be, his afterlife that of an eternity of torture at the hands of masters he had long ago betrayed. A fitting end for a traitor, he thought. But no, it would not be tonight, and not by beloved’s hand. She had her chance long ago, with her silver dagger pressed against his heart. No such luck, now. “That won’t kill me, Isabella.” He was looking away, regarding the room, the ceiling, the heightened and electrifying ambience of the room, going back to seeking the source of the change that overcame it. “It will hurt and I will bleed, but no. Unless you intend to hack my head off with that knife.” A pause, a returning of his attention back down, seeking to meet her eye. “Don’t try it, or I will be forced to kill you.” No lies, of course, never lies. He wondered if it might chill her blood, knowing he would dispatch her, if this became anything more than a show of intent. He didn’t give her much time to reflect on this, though. With delicateness that went quite beyond his character, the Outsider reached for Isabella’s hand, the one that wielded the knife. Feedback sensors built into the gauntlet told him when he was touching her, and still, delicate, he wrapped fingers wrapped in gold and blackened adamantium around her wrist and encouraged her hand to withdraw. “There is so much heartbreak and horror ahead for this planet, but by the time I am done, no one will ever question the price of blood paid for paradise. Philippe sleeps quietly in his grave, waiting for the perfect world. And when I am done, when there is peace on Valucre and Philippe is returned to life and into the arms of his mother, then, Isabella, if you still want it, I will give my life to you. But not tonight. There’ll be no dying or fucking or filling you with seed tonight, lover. Tonight..,” he trailed off. “Mmm, tonight I won’t ask why you sleep with a silver dagger under your dress. I will ask where you are going aboard this vessel, though. Where are you rushing off to, dearest heart?”
  8. Then loathe me. Once upon a time, Roen might have been driven into the excesses of contrition when such a threat was levied. Now, though, not so much. This was not to say the sentiment did not hurt or that his heart was numb to such things, though. Quite the opposite. Her words wounded him, her waspishness anathema to the ardor a returning hero ought to have expected. But he was not a hero, and loving her never hinged on the reciprocation of feelings. There were no more words nor deeds left in this lifetime or the next that she could level against the Outsider to bring him low. His affections were indefatigable, his tolerances and graces supreme. Long ago the Outsider had reconciled her awfulness with her goodness, and accepted them each in turn as a part of the greater whole. She could disappoint and anger him with her words, but they were not enough to bring him low or chase him away. They passed over him much as a chill might, briefly unpleasant but ultimately endurable. Rather, he rolled his shoulders with an affected indolence, the way a tomcat might when denied a conquest. Except he was wearing full-plate, which made a gesture into a snarl and grind of fiber bundles and metal. Lifting his head away from her own, no longer two co-conspirators but enemies again, the Outsider looked down on Isabella with a stoicism that had never belonged on his lined, handsome face. In truth, it was her mask he wore. It was an expression of artful indifference, perhaps even disdain, which he had the privilege of looking upon whenever his spiteful outbursts came to her door. And he had mastered it well, this one. If imitation was the surest form of flattery, then the subtle curl of his lips and delicate lift of his brows might have charmed Isabella back into the bed his rude awakening had pulled her from. Were he of a more introspective inclination while she spoke, he might have wondered if she had ever appreciated how much influence she had over his character, this girl of beauty and venom. He wasn’t feeling introspective, though. There was indignation, yes, and outrage, of course, but these were just responses, little curdlings of feelings that twisted in his belly like writhing, gnashing coals. He had a regret in life, this devil, and it was that he had never cultivated a culture of fear within his beloved. Respect, no, she had lost that for him a long, long time ago with his relentless prowling and the many tears he had shed on her behalf, and there was precious little chance of ever rebuilding it. Fear, though, could be taught at any point. She had a healthy fear of the Great Devourer, he knew. Her cousin, too, he was sure she was terrified of, lest she might have never abandoned her vampyre blood. The Outsider, though, no, there was nothing to fear from the Outsider, the Gentleman Sage. A kind word and a soft touch was all his temper ever needed to be soothed, and he had never been a cruel one regardless, inflicting pain for the simple indulgence of it. Raising his hand, hard and heavy with the weight of a gauntlet, the Outsider set his palm and fingers against the center of Isabella’s chest and pushed her inexorably into the dresser, pinning her there. There was no romance in the gesture, no cunning play of dominance over the fairer sex that might turn into something more than a coquettish display of strength. It was a man, a monster, exerting power over a thing that was essentially powerless. It was cruelty made manifest, and again he loomed over her, so dark and terrible and lacking in all the qualities that might have once made him desirable. He was dangerous. Peering down into her golden eyes with ruthless sincerity, the Outsider drank her in for the briefest of moments, then shook his head slowly from side to side. No, he didn’t want to kill this one, no, he did not want to hurt her. He couldn’t. That was not his character, at least not yet. I massacred them. Once more the Outsider allowed his memories to unfold, and he relived the crime - the event, as he had at last come to think of it. In telling and retelling it, in reliving it, he had gained an authority over it, the ability to see the event merely for what it was, without emotion, without judgement. It was as if the event had occurred years rather than days earlier, and as if someone else had authored the crime. And when that defining moment had come, something wicked had curled up inside him, as dark and as terrible as the space between stars, born out of hatred. Vindicta, he called it. Vengeance bought at any price. Only when she finished speaking did he deign to speak. “If you accuse me of abandonment again, Gabriela, you will see the extent of my daring first hand.” Withdrawing his hand from her chest after a ruthless push that set the metallic dresser behind her rocking on its legs, the Outsider walked away, the bulk of his armour painting him a menacing, lumbering figure. Looking around, his ruby-gaze seething with a fury rendered impotent by care, he sought something, anything he could get his hands on to destroy. Finding a nightstand, the devil slapped it aside with a backhand that saw the furniture splintering on impact. And if he shouted in anger while he did it, he didn’t notice. Broken glass cracked and popped underfoot, his hands curling into tight, shaking fists. Control, even now, was evident in his every movement. These were releases, vents from a furnace he kept so very, very tightly secured. Then he tilted his head back and exhaled, chuckling. “I’m only angry because you’re right, of course.” He said, low and quiet and suffused of the relief only the unburdened could enjoy. “I did abandon you. When I could have cut and run with you and your companion, I stayed behind to indulge in butchery. It wasn’t self-defense. No, of course not. They were humans. They stood no chance against me. But their audacity, their temerity, mm, I was outraged and I lost myself to anger and spite. And by the time I was finished, I was the only thing left alive in that nightclub and you were long, long gone.” He chuckled again, amused. “I even killed the fucking disc jockeys, poor machines.” He turned around to face her again, his smile already fading as he gazed upon beauty and love. “I was ashamed of myself, afterwards. I was filthy with the blood and gore and the offal stink of soiled mortals. The idea of going to you afterwards was sickening. How could I dare look you in the eye, smeared in the filth of death, and not expect you to run from me? But I know better now, you wretched girl. You fetishize death. You court monsters. I should have crept into your bed afterwards and fucked you with their blood still on me. I should have known there was nothing to be ashamed of. You have always accepted me and I have never frightened you.” He took a step forward, lethal of purpose if not or intent. “Do you accept me now, dearest heart? Do you accept me as I am and the beast I’ve always been? Do you believe me when I say I love you? Because I do, sweetling. I love you most and best in this world. Tell me no, please, I long to show you my daring. It’s been so very, very long since I’ve shown you audacity..”
  9. "Of course." He said with sincere and quiet dignity. "Watch your feet, there's glass on the floor." Ruthlessly smooth armour joints hummed as the Outsider withdrew, his ruby-gaze following her wherever she intended to roam. He exhaled. Isabella may not have possessed a vampyre's inhuman grace or unearthly, moonlit beauty, but there was love in his heart for her, and love made her more attractive than any soul that lived and breathed on this small and violent planet. This was not to say she was an unattractive woman, however. And there were times he had wished others did not find her beautiful only by merit of the parts that moved her. She was lovely, both within and without, and he took this small, tentative moment to appreciate that loveliness, for moments such as these were always so few and very, very far inbetween. He watched her while she went to the dresser and poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher, and frowned when she threw a glance over her shoulder with raised finger. He was less gracious with her second request. Regarding her and her upraised finger with something between a glower and a look of long-standing suffering, the Outsider flicked his gaze away and pursed his lips in an evident display of restraint. Isabella had a way about her, even now, that lived and breathed a majesty and imperiousness that made her every request feel like little more than a demand. Where some men and women pretended and played at being kings and queens, some more masterfully than others, his beloved had no reason to affect the mein of a monarch. She was royalty. From the tips of her fingers to the pads of her feet, Isabella was born and bred to lead, to command. Aristocracy was in her blood, as it was in the blood of her kin. There were times he was all too happy to yield before the temper of her command, to kneel before her majesty and pledge his services to her cause. This was not one of those times. There was an impulse to grab one of her lounging pillows, preferably one of the harder specimens, and throw it at her with some force. He didn't like the look she threw at him from over a shapely shoulder, nor the cold prickling it gave him at the back of his neck that felt a little too much like excitement. He didn't like how she could make his belly twist with anxious delight. So the Outsider looked elsewhere, taking stock of the bedroom he assumed she shared with that bearded fellow. Then the glass clinked against metal and she was addressing him, prompting Roen to turn his head and so his attention back to bare-footed, imperious lover. And as she spoke, both his mood and his expression turned ever darker, ever more bleak, until he looked even less like himself and more like the face of murder he was quickly growing all too fond of wearing. When he looked away a second time, it wasn't to ignore her or sharpen his anger on the injustice of her assumed infidelity. Rather, it was to reflect and look inward, his words being chosen carefully before he slid into a tirade that would benefit neither of them and only further alienate their disjointed lives. He wanted to see that he had been to their fountain just recently, to wash the gore and shame from his hands and learning to his dismay he could do naught but learn to live with them. He wanted to say he had visited their son's grave and wept all the tears he had left in him to weep, and remark that his sorrow had choked the last of the laughter from his lips and lungs. He wanted to say all these things and more, and engage with beloved on the matters that occurred and sentiments he fostered since last they laid eyes on one another. He didn't say any of these things, though. He couldn't, or wouldn't. To engage would be to feed into a lie, and while there was much wrong with the murderous, wrathful fiend, dishonesty and deception were faults that could never be laid at his feet. Licking lips suddenly dry with anticipation, the Outsider nodded slowly and mutely, as if coming to some internal revelation, turned to face Isabella. Deliberately and with great threat, he drew up on her until he was close enough that his shadow fell across her, dark and heavy. He smelled of peat and spice, of blood and smoke, of quenching iron and fresh citrus, but above these scents were the unsubtle aromas of weapon oils and burning ozone. He smelled less like himself and more like the infernal nobility that he was, fit more for the fields of some great battle than exchanging pleasantries with beautiful, dozing women. "You think this is a dream." He said. It was not a question. He had come to her in dreams before, it was true. In days long since gone, mortals had once called him Dreamfather, a predator that haunted the sleeping realms to seduce and ultimately damn unsuspecting souls with promises of fortune. And he was a predator and he was a seducer, as she well knew and could attest. Yet her inability to distinguish the waking world from the dreaming one were second when compared to the idea that she thought him dead. That was more than distressing - it was insulting. Raising his hands, the gold trim of his gauntlets catching in the dim interior of her bedroom, the Outsider set the tips of his metal-wrapped fingers and thumbs on Isabella's face, as if he might soon take the whole of her head in his hands and, if he so desired, crush it between them. He let her feel the warmth of his active warplate, the steady thrum of the power that ran through it, running the systems that made it hum and purr, and looked into her eyes as deep as he dared. "If this were a dream and you were never to wake again, it would not matter." Roen looked at her eyes, the dark circles beneath them, her nose and cheeks and mouth. She had lost weight since the last time they were this close, and none of it good. The drugs and alcohol abuse were taking its toll, though none of it was irrevocable. He might have pitied her decision to subject herself to a martyrdom such as this, but he understood. Grief had made an enemy of himself often enough. "This isn't a dream, and I am not dead." He shouldn't have been surprised, of course she would think him dead, so used was she to his persistent involvement in her life. Of course only the grave would keep him from returning directly to her side after the attack on the nightclub. But she could have never anticipated the glutton of murder he had made of himself that night and his retreat afterwards. So much loss, this one suffered, how could he fathom a sense of outrage for whatever solace she might seek, be it in substances or men? He didn't pity her, nor did he sympathize, knowing her pride would never allow her to accept either. He did understand, though, and perhaps that might be enough. Tilting his head, the Outsider set his feverish forehead to Isabella's own, and at last touched noses with the once and future queen. He breathed out an exhale, his breath warm and clean. "That is a nice dream, though. Of the gardens, of Phi--," he paused. Brows furrowing, a twinge of the heart and a hesitation later, he shook his head. "Our son in the gardens." He said, quieter, now. "A nice fantasy. But that was taken from us. They tried to take your life and mine on your, mm, birthday, but..," he trailed off again, his pauses becoming more significant, more pregnant. He didn't need to explain himself, at least not at the moment, but before she jumped to conclusions, he wanted to be succinct and brief with the how and why of the nightclub incident. "But I defended myself while you made good your escape, and afterwards, I -- needed time to heal." He hedged, not lying but far from telling the whole of the truth. He withdrew, drawing away and removing his hands from her face lest she feel overwhelmed and smothered by his overbearing presence. "And then I came to find you. Tricky business, boarding an airship midflight." And then he smiled, soft and crass and lacking all the humour that might have made it charming. The events of the nightclub were not pleasant memories, nor a discussion concerning the son they still mourned and the life they might have had together, as a family. He glanced askew. He had lost the thread of this meeting. And he was sure she would not be satisfied with his words.
  10. I should kill her. How easy fond sentiment could turn in on itself. It twisted in his belly, curdling his affections and making his gorge rise. Disgusted, the Outsider averted his gaze with a roll of his eyes and turned away from the pantomime of silhouetted and assumed lovers. It was to be expected, though that did not soothe the sudden wash of anger that prickled the nape of his neck and filled his veins with something very closely resembling the viscosity and heat of lava. He could give in, he thought. He should give in. With bare hands and a blackened heart, he should follow the lactic leash of this sudden spike of sour adrenaline and tear through the screen that separated him and beloved both, and find serenity in the heart of rage. He imagined with rich clarity the act and sensation of strangling the male from behind, wringing the interloper's neck until he heard the sweet and satisfying click and crack of ruined vertebrae. And her, a human, so frail and fragile, he imagined bludgeoning her with his fists, striking her again and again and -- he drew in a slow, deep and calming breath, the air cool in lungs he was sure was filled with the thick smog of war, and exhaled. He saw red instead of shadows behind a paper screen, and with effort he forced himself to stand aside and let a calmer, intact mind subdue the beast that gnawed at the cage. Murder and mayhem, these thoughts came too easy and too quick. And while he was not ashamed of them, having come to terms with the bloodlust of a serial killer, he leashed the urges to purposeful conduct. He could not murder the world, and certainly not beloved. She was the last of his redeeming qualities, and he needed her besides. So while the vicious, dangerous part of him whispered of the freedom that might be his if he snuffed out her life and walked alone into a blood soaked future, the heart that had learned to love and cherish shackled his ire and forced him into a gentler approach. Stepping away from the screen and finding some distant alcove in the private chambers to settle into, the Outsider stood in some dark corner and closed his eyes to the world, and waited. He waited for the handsome gentleman - a type of character Isabella Marquis frequently attracted - to leave, and while he waited, he stoked the furnace of his fury. It burned, this moment. It burned and galled and angered him, but he held onto that outrage and squeezed it tight in the white-hot fist of absolute control. And then the man was gone, opening the door and closing it behind him to leave Isabella to her rest, which the Outsider was sure she very much earn and needed. The disgust returned, but for other reasons. Roen watched him go, his presence cloaked in the mundane to render him nigh invisible, lest one were actively searching for him. Bloodlust had his teeth clenched and his body rigid, but like a beast of burden beneath the lash, he remained where he stood, as immobile as a statue but nowhere near as unfeeling. And he remained steadfast still until the door closed behind the man without locking, which the man might have found curious were he not absorbed in his own thoughts and machinations. "That will be the last time I leave an insult go unanswered..," the Outsider said to himself, a solemn vow of future violence. Fury left no room for pittance, and abject displays of disrespect such as this were as tired to him now as the humans he frequently indulged. Mercy and kindness, he spent the last of these things tonight to avoid bloodshed for the sake of bloodshed. He had not come for war, he reminded himself. He had come for her. And it was her he moved out of the alcove to find. Armour humming and purring with every nuanced cycle of motion that brought him to her bedroom, the Outsider opened the screen with a gauntleted wave of his hand and lowered his gaze to the form of sleeping beauty. How quickly she was aging, he thought at first. While it would take a few more years for gravity to notice this wretched girl, no one knew her better than he, and the differences between now and when last he saw her as a vampyre were as noticeable to him as every gray that grew on his weathered face. He frowned, wondering if that should make her more precious than ever. A decaying commodity, something vicious whispered in the back of his mind. No more the Black Queen of Orisia with skin so cold it was able to soothe the aches and pains of his wounded body, but just a human - a promiscuous girl of unidentifiable moral character with a bloodlust that mirrored his own. Not for the first time, he thought about killing her. Painlessly, though. Kindly, and gently. She would never hurt again and she, she would never hurt him again. And she would be cold, blessedly cold - he could crawl up to her bones every night and hold them as he used to hold her, so very long ago. He thought of these things and more as he stood over her slumbering body, fantasizing of making a corpse of beloved for all the wrongs they had done to eachother. But, of course she stirred in her sleep. Of course she twisted in her bed, breathing peacefully and quietly into the night, and of course his fury and outrage diminished, just seeing her face and lips twist with the grimaces of the restless and the weary. His bloodlust receded, his outrage forgotten, now that they were alone together. He felt Roen's love and Roen's vigor seep into his blood and bones, and thought of love when before he thought only of death. He sighed quietly, soft and sweet, and reached with gauntlets of black and gold to tentatively brush against her forehead. Feedback in the mechanism told him he was touching her, but he couldn't feel it, not really. The armour may have been as much a part of him now as the dread-black blade he wielded into battle, but there were times, times such as these, that he grew to resent it. There were few things in all this world he loved touching more than this one, no matter her incarnation. Years, a decade, his tactile enjoyment had never once diminished, not even a little. There was no climbing into bed with her, though. There was no cuddling to be had, as lovers were wont to do. There was only this, only him; only warplate and metal and vindicta and love. And so he bent towards her slumbering, half-drunk form and plucked the half-finished glass from her fingers, which she had apparently fallen asleep holding. Delicate, so very delicately, he pressed his lips to her temple, kiss her once, and withdrew with a snarl of fiber bundles and protesting hydraulics. Modern, yes, they were both dressed very, very modernly, now. While she was no longer the Black Queen of Orisia, he had evidently stopped pretending to be the Gentleman Sage. Warlord, Outsider, Battle-King - there were many names, but to her, only one had ever sufficed. Glass in hand, Roen finished the last of its contents in two steady swallows, then let the glass tumble from open fingers to hit the floor with a crash. He might have let her sleep, once. He might have been considerate of the dark circles beneath her eyes and the obvious aftereffects of drug and alchohol abuse. But he had spent the last of his mercy and kindness on her assumed lover, and had none left to spare for her. "Is this what you're doing with your life?" He asked, stern and disapproving as a father might be. "I'm disappointed."
  11. "I had almost forgotten how beautiful this world is." Standing at the observational window aboard Isabella Marquis' airship, the Outsider raised his hand and pressed an open palm against the thick sheet of glass that separated him from an unfortunate drop. He had been on board for hours, wandering the corridors and inspecting the make and nature of the vessel he tracked beloved to. After finding it more than adequate but appropriately beautiful in both form and function, he found himself at last on one of the lower decks. Obviously designed for recreation for the crew aboard, he took the opportunity to collect his thoughts and appreciate a perspective he had gone sometime without. He had seen many worlds, this one. He had walked death worlds of vicious fauna that would tolerate no man, hive worlds that were choked with cities and drowned in acid rain, and even grave worlds, where there were naught but continents of sun-bleached bones and grinning skulls to mark the end of ages none were alive to speak of. There were precious few like Valucre, though. They were like gems in the primordial soup of cosmic fate, planets too young to have yet seen the future of the roads they were traveling. He was not young, though, the Outsider. And he knew the future of this world, or at least knew enough to predict it. He tapped his fingers on the glass, the thick plate of his gauntlets clinking dully against the reinforced crystal, his musing taking him away from the purpose of his boarding here to the ambition that was turning in his belly and putting fire in his veins. Only for a time, of course. Only for a moment or two of indulgence. The world would spin whether he willed it to stop or not, and there was more than business here he had to attend to, but pleasure. He smiled, a strange twist of the lips he saw in the reflection he cast. Pleasure was perhaps too base of a sentiment, and not at all what he intended or even expected. He drew in a deep, chest-filling breath and exhaled, hoping to dispel some of the unease and anxiety he felt, just standing aboard this ship and breathing her air. It was anxiety that had him in the lower decks in the middle of the night like this, brooding and skulking in and out of shadows while he pretended to inspect an airship to hide his hesitation. Terror was what it was, being unmade and unmanned like this, questioning his every instinct as if every decision were fraught with peril. That was the delicious irony of it all, though: the anxiety, the hesitation. It was like a sharpening the quality of life upon a whetstone of need. He almost reveled in the twists in his belly and the flutters in his breast, the way his blood burned and chilled in equal measures, depending on the wicked and contrite thoughts that went through his mind. Almost. He had no idea how long it had been since he laid eyes on her last, not when time itself was deceptive. Minutes turned to hours while days tended to bleed into mere moments. It could be years, if his longing had any say and was any sort of judge of these things. But it wouldn't last. Couldn't. He had rested and healed enough. With the grievous wounds on his face little more than mottled bruises and half-knit contusions along his upper brow and cheek, he was whole enough to find and assure her of his health. And if he hid other, more pressing injuries beneath his warplate, like wounds of silver that bled through dressings and ached incessantly, well, that was his concern and no one else's, especially not her's. All that mattered was the seeing and holding of her, and that was well worth the price of blood and discomfort, no matter how steep the toll. So it was that he finally drew away from the observation window and the reflection he saw within it, and turned to find the exit. Eidetic memory had him in the halls again, avoiding half-hearted patrols as was his way to find the segregated quarters the once and future royal had sequestered for herself. And while the door might have been locked and sealed to prevent intrusion, there were no doors in this world or the next that could stand before him. He touched the door, pressed himself against it and sighed, feeling for the mechanism with applied will and thought, and burned through the wards that were designed to repel a supernatural approach. The mechanism turned to molten ruin that quickly cooled to slag, and he was already inside. What a dichotomy it was for such a creature of armour and purpose to be so circumspect, but the Outsider was nothing if not subtle in his entrapment of beloved. Be it he come in silken robes or thick plate, the initial and metaphorical touch was ever and always slight, perhaps even deft - he only but rarely pushed into her life with shock and fanfare, and only in the most dire of circumstances. No, the airship was a quiet thing, as was these chambers, and he was circumspect because quiet asked for quiet in turn. He indulged the quiet, greeted and copied it, and so moved as quiet as armour could be moved, which was to say not so quietly at all. Though he did not cling and clang as a knight of old might have, there was a certain and undeniable savagery to the noises his warplate produced. In motion, it purred with an active hum, a deep and resonating thrum that tended to unnerve the more sensitive of souls. And, of course, was the weight of it. A modest man by nature and so a modest man of both build and height, his armor of black admantium trimmed with gold gave the Outsider a presence hitherto unheard of, save for the days he went to war. It gave him height, depth and breadth; it made him more than the Gentleman Sage, but the Warlord of old, great and terrible and suffused of a purpose self-evident in the pitted and scored plate he wore. He had come dressed for battle, but seeking only beloved. Dichotomy indeed. He was standing in what was undoubtedly a sitting room, adjacent from what he could only assume to be the bedding chambers and bathing areas. It was well lit, casting in in a warm light which he appreciated. It meant she was still awake, somewhere. He did not go searching. Rather, he removed the helmet latched on his hip, a blackened thing of narrow eyeslits and a crown of horns, and he found a counter to set it on. He thought to disengage his gauntlets and removed them too, but thought better of it. Try as he might to scrub them, his fingers were stilled stained by the blood of innocents and murderers alike, and he did not want to show them for reasons he could not yet quantify. Not shame, not really, but something else, something just as tepid and bashful. After setting his helm aside to glare at the room proper, the Outsider turned, his black and tattered cape sweeping the floor behind him, and regarded his surroundings with a purse of his lips. The airship was new, he reminded himself, and so did not benefit from beloved's personal and ofttimes majestic touch. Then, it occurred to him she might not be alone. A frown twisted his handsome face into a grimace as he remembered her great danes. Humming deep and throatily in his chest, the Outsider threw his ruby gaze downward, searching for the monsters and listening to the tell-tale clacks of nails against flooring while he turned, making a circuit. Damnable beasts, really. Beautiful, but dangerous, given their inclination to protect their master against unwelcome guests. This wouldn't be the first time he had entered their territory unwelcomed and unannounced.
  12. After the madness of the incident, a term that would forever encapsulate the events at Club Tablillas and the bloodshed therein, the Outsider had a single, pervasive thought: home. It drove him, much how fury and spite had driven him to the excess of violence that made an abattoir of a nightclub and a murderer out of a sage. He wanted to go home, where the heart and peace could be found, knowing in the deepest of ways that he needed both to overcome the turbulence of his thoughts and the memories of his deeds. So it was that, after he was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt beloved was safe, he fled through means that were both esoteric and profound. Home, his innermost wish was. I want to go home. And he did go home, that terrible fiend and ubiquitous monster. He returned home, though home had never been the Black City or any of the other innumerable haunts he frequented throughout the years. It was sandy shores, warm weather and white, white rooms of marble and sheets and a golden-eyed girl-child. The veil behind corporeality lifted and a monster in the trappings of a man stepped through, sure of step if not of intent, with naked blade drawn. Then the veil descended again, a shimmer and rustle in the fabric of space and time, and the beast was alone in the castle's gardens. The briefly disturbed cicadas, moved to silence by the new and engaging presence of the Outsider, took up their singing again, as did the myriad of other insects that populated this lush and vibrant place. Their voices reached him from a great distance, faint through the coppery euphoria of absolute anger. Rage this deep left its taste on the tongue. Something not far from fear or ecstasy, but sweeter than both. He turned, but for a moment he couldn't see until he wiped the blood from his eyes. Hræðilegr was in his other hand, it's bright, burning edge sizzling away the remnants of gore and vitae that had frozen fast to the weapon during his travel through the realm between realms. He looked at it, looked at his bloody fist wrapped around the lathed hilt, looked away. The Outsider's sigh released the last of his clinging fury, and Hræðilegr slowly, inevitably grew cooler, its incessant whining for a return to bloodletting diminishing. The metal pinged, the super-heated edges and flat, cherry red all through the night of slaughter, dimming. He waited until its heat was no more than a draft up his wrist before he traversed the gardens, seeking as he ever did the fountain of his - their - youth. This was his home, whether he wished to admit to himself or not, and there was no more peaceful place on this planet for him than here. He also knew it better than the halls of his own estate. Every path, every tree, every stone and brook, all of these things were indelibly etched on the stone of his mind, so very easily recalled, even in turmoil. And he was in great, great turmoil. Finding the fountain in ruin did not come as a shock. He had seen it in state before, smashed by the hands of the young and temperamental. The only difference between now and then was the overgrowth that surrounded it, weeds and vines threading through splintered stone and mortar. Nature itself threatened to take this first gift back into her bosom, and while this disheartened the fiend, there was no more violence within him tonight to deter such a thing. He hadn't come to reminisce over the broken stones, or lament that he had never taken the time nor initiative to restore it again, as he restored it so long ago. His reasons were pragmatic, seated in the very real need to cleanse himself of both sin and -- he flinched, feeling the stickiness on his skin, on his face and hands and chest and -- he dropped down to his knees and started digging with his free hand. He pulled at stones and roots and vines until, at last, water gurgled and seeped out. He dug more greedily then, until fresh water was slopping across his thighs and turning the ground beneath marshy. With a steady flow pouring out from the ruin, the Outsider grabbed greedy handfuls of the clean water and splashed his face. His hand came away a deep, deep red. He grabbed more water and scrubbed. He kept scrubbing, ribbons of pink running down his face to saturate clothes already dyed by gore, until he felt sane enough to remove Hræðilegr from the death-clutch of his hand. Bending over blade and grasping fingers long since locked and numbed from impact tremors, the Outsider started plucking at his fingers, painfully pulling them from the hilt one by one until it tumbled from his shaking hand. Curling the arm beneath his chest, he grabbed the hilt again with the surer grip of his right and, with outrage, hurled the weapon into some nearby bushes like the refuse it was. Groaning under his breath, Roen rocked forward until his forehead was pressed into the soggy earth, and there he remained, rubbing life and sensation back into his killer's hand. The quiet of the night threatened to lull him into reliving the night's affair, and his mind recoiled. He killed them. Of course he had killed them. Not just the ones that shot and stabbed him, not just those who had ill-intent for beloved and those she called friends and allies, but the men and women and innocents, too. He wanted to call it fury, he wanted to blame it on the rage, and for a moment, the guilt and shame receded. Hræðilegr rose and fell without heed, without care, each of his blows slaying wherever it landed. The fury had been buzzing in the back of his head, his muscles leashed to the lactic burn and purity of violence. Each sensation, each scream and curse and cry was reddened by the delicious justification of honest anger. He screamed with them, the Outsider. He screamed alongside the innocent and guilty alike. His was a wrathful existence, and anger, pure, unfettered anger, it vindicated all of his sins. Nothing was as honest as this, this rage. What release had ever been more worthy and true than this dreadful, depthless anger. He was a father confronting his child's killers. He was a lover defending his family against murderers. He was the judgement of Hell made manifest. In rage, anything and everything was justified. It was the highest state of sentience. With rage came vindication, and with vindication came peace. He had charged through a cannoade of gunfire. Blood bathed his neck and chest, and he remembered with sudden coldness, just for a moment, if his face had been blasted open to the bone. Not that it mattered. Not that anything mattered but violence. The wrath had brought him clarity and, at last, with the spikes of fury buried in the meat of his mind, the Outsider had drifted, dreamt, and remembered. Serenity. Never peace, no never that. But serenity in rage, like the calm at the heart of the storm. Every life that could have been taken in the nightclub, was. He had left none alive, as far as he was aware. If it had breathed, if it had laid eyes on him and beheld the totality of his outrage, he slew it without compunction or hesitation. It was only now, in these gardens, that the weight of his decisions. Because he had enjoyed it. He had enjoyed the killing, had enjoyed the way Hræðilegr felt in his hands as it parted skin and split bodies asunder; he had enjoyed the making of war. And beneath it all, he had enjoyed the sick and sweet smell of fear, and the copper tang of blood, leaking from broken skin. There was purity in the smell - purity and purpose. He had been made for such things, and had spent so many, many years denying it. Reaching for the back of his gore-strewn dinner jacket, Roen pulled the ruined fabric above his head and tossed it aside. Scrabbling, yanking, jerking at his clothes, he pulled off every article of clothing that clung to his body and discarded them in heaps around him until he was nude. Wounds he had taken that had only begun to heal oozed from open rents and puncture marks across his body. With his fingernails, he started digging out bits of metal and wood shrapnel, clawing gouges in his skin to tear them from his dermis and muscles. Frantic, eager, he kept clawing and clawing, raking his skin and grabbing fistfuls of water to wash his nudity of the sins he relished. His hair took the longest of all. He held it in the deepest of disgust, holding his head to the stones and combing out filth and organic matter. Dry heaving, retching, Roen controlled his gorge as it rose and finished the task before moving away, crawling on his hands and knees to the bushes where he had flung Hræðilegr. A tool for slaughter, yes, reviled and hated, certainly, but his. He forced it to wilt beneath his touch, transforming it into the ribbon that ever held his hair bound back from his face. Instead, he wrapped the reduced weapon around his fist and between his fingers. He couldn't stay here, he knew. He needed clothes. He needed to find Gabriela. He needed -- time, the one luxury the world was never eager to give. Moving, a killer walked through the castle's gardens, seeking out the palace proper for rooms he was intimate with but seldom visited. The fiend had clothes here, if memory served. More than memories and sentiment, there were things of pragmatic value to be had here, at home. Tail swaying behind low above the ground, the Outsider did not wander, but moved with purpose. There was much to be done..
  13. Come home.

    1. princeben07

      princeben07

      ROEN> Sup my Poetic friend?

       

      Benny

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