shaar :: chronicles
"You have to give it a name."
The words were a gentle tug, but she couldn't bring herself to open her eyes yet. She wasn't sure where she was, how she got here, even who she was… The Voice seemed to sense this, somehow, and continued speaking.
"Yours is Shaar Al-Khatabi."
Ah. That sounded familiar. She mouthed the words slowly, 'al-khatabi', as if pronouncing them for the first time. But they were hers, through and through.
Shaar Al-Khatabi continued taking slow metered breaths, the air brisk and cold in her lungs and equally heavy in scent, each one a little less shaky than the one prior as she slowly began to extend her senses outward to her surroundings. Fingers of one hand pressed gingerly into the ground she lay curled on; slightly damp, cold, spongy. She turned her hand, feeling leaves and pine needles against her palm, and honed in on the sensation against her skin as she brushed them aside. And one eye finally opened, slowly, gingerly, to confirm her suspicion that she was in fact, outside.
She blinked slowly, trying to clear her blurry vision in vain; sunlight dodged through a heavy nest of branches above to illuminate the forest floor, autumnal hues of leaves stretching as far as the eye could see, piled aside age-worn stumps and massive tree trunks and strangely stacked rock piles. It was all too much - sensory overload - and Shaar squinted her eyes shut again quickly, curling a little tighter into her fetal position.
"I feel like I've been poisoned." Exhaustion reigned and each enunciation was a struggle, and barely audible as they passed her lips. But he heard.
"I know you do." The words were soft, kind, and tinged with a thread of regret. They settled around her like a warm blanket, comfortable and reassuring, and Shaar quietly relaxed her limbs and opened both eyes this time to have her gaze settle upon The Voice. He crouched at her side, unthreatening, slight in stature and in shape. His clothes were a shambles of rags and there was something about him she couldn't quite place, and perhaps it was his youth that caught her off guard; he was barely a scrap of a boy. Their gazes locked for a long few moments - hers that of a wounded animal, lost and frightened and scared, and his of nothing less than loving kindness, and Shaar felt the world around her slow as her breath hitched in her chest.
"We're all so proud of you. All of us." He reached out one small hand, settling it delicately on the crown of her head as he spoke, and at the touch a single tear slid from one eye, curving slowly along her cheek. "You've done so much. Seen so much. Come so far." His intonation light and airy, like the first flakes of snow drifting from the sky on a cold winter day. Like the brief oft-lost moments of the morning where the sun glitters newly across the ocean. The pad of his thumb moved slowly across her temple as he spoke; back and forth, rhythmic. "We've been watching you for a long, long time. You are so skilled in conquering adversity in your path. It's why We chose you. But this challenge… this one…"
The Voice let his words trail off as he lifted his hand from her head and moved it to his side, digging amidst the scraps to retrieve what seemed to be some sort of box. It was circular in shape, barely the size of his small palm, and as he held it out to her Shaar regarded the item with a quiet curiosity for several moments before extending her own hand in kind, gently taking the item with dirty fingers. The box had a hinge on one side, and she turned it over and over in her hands a few times before slowly flipping open the lid, steeling herself for whatever may come out or be lying in wait inside.
"This one is different."
There was a moment of quiet shock, and bright green eyes widened as Shaar found that she was staring right back at herself from the mirrored lid.
- this one is different -
Time froze for a brief few moments as the words rolled in her head, and Shaar slowly understood the task that lay before her. She let out a slow sigh, tilting her head to one side thoughtfully, watching her mirror image do the same.
"This one is different," The Voice reiterated, kind but firm. "And you have to give it a name."
She answered in one smooth word, voice lilting with the syllables.
Shaar sat quietly in the guild hall, mostly oblivious to the hustle and bustle around her. It was the cusp of a new year, another turn of the wheel, and excitement was in the air. The tavern ambiance was a nice white noise, comfortable and soothing, and Shaar sat half-curled in her chair, nimble fingers flipping the mirrored compact open and closed again, over and over.
"I guess he finally gave you that thing, eh?"
Emerald eyes widened and glanced upwards to settle upon a very familiar face, an old confidant, the tried and true… lips curved into a crooked smile as Shaar snapped the compact shut one final time. "Sure looks like it." Pun intended.
The Fury sat down alongside her; he pulled a chair out roughly with one quick motion and half-spun it, dropping to sit backwards, arms folding amidst the rungs and chin settling neatly atop the chair back. "Fuckin'… good. 'S all he kept -talking- about, every other day, gotta find her and give her this goddamn thing…" One hand waved dismissively in the air as he spoke, eyes rolling in a light sort of sarcasm, and he punctuated his words with a strangled sort of sigh. "Voice needs to chill out little."
"You? Telling someone to chill out? That's rich!" Shaar laughed then, light and melodious, for the first time in a while. She wasn't the only one to take note of that, and for a long moment, she and the Fury stared directly at one another, the unquenchable fire in his eyes burning into hers.
"Oh, what's that? It's pretty! I want to see!"
Quiet reverie broken by a child's voice, delicate like finely smithed silver bells, like the first blades of grass in springtime, like baby blue robin's eggs and the morning sun on your cheeks. The Light scampered up between them, small hands reaching up for the compact excitedly.
"No. 'S not for you." The Fury was firm and reached one arm out, curling it around the girl's tiny translucent form, tugging her away from Shaar and the table. She made a small noise of indignance, and Shaar smiled quietly to herself. The Fury and The Light often traveled together, a seeming dichotomy of forces. But for her, somehow, it worked.
"Sorry," Shaar offered, flattening one hand over the compact. "Maybe someday, when I'm done with it. Okay?" She leaned back in her chair then, tucking the compact away in the folds of her Ranger cloak. Her gaze dropped to The Light and her flickering form that had settled and gone quiet, before lifting back up to The Fury, who was quietly demanding her attention.
"So 'm guessing since you have that.. You don't need me right now, yeah?" The question offered with soft undertones of arrogance.
"… Yeah." Shaar answered in kind, dark brows furrowing in return. She watched as The Fury, who for all rights should have been annoyed, smiled instead. A wide, toothy grin.
"Whatever. Won't last for long." His words a challenge as he stood from his chair, simultaneously lifting The Light and easily tucking her under his arm like a bag of apples. She seemed to delight in this; tiny arms struggling to embrace the taller man's waist, legs kicking quietly with glee, humming like the tinkling of chimes. "You know I'm your favorite." Offered as nothing more than an absolute statement as he stared down at her.
Shaar laughed again, softer this time. "Naturally." One hand lifted to tug at her dark ponytail, and it struck her how no matter who or what you were, everyone had their faults. Their vulnerabilities. After all this time… She watched The Fury as his smile grew just a little more wolfish, and he turned away from her then, grinning back at her over one shoulder, all fire and sinew and zeal.
Shaar had been trekking through the forest for days now. She had been making good time on her path, stopping to sleep when the sun disappeared, curled in the insulated blanket she kept rolled tightly in her pack. Winter wasn't coming, it was already here, and she was always interested to notice that the dwindling temperatures of the season didn't bother her overmuch.
It was the most recent night where she awoke suddenly with a start, breath hitching in her throat and eyes widening as she scrambled to get a glimpse of the darkly shrouded world around her. Her campfire had long since gone out, and the seemingly never-ending void of night permeated each of her senses. For a long few moments the dead quiet was absolutely terrifying and Shaar sat bolt upright, willing everything she had in her body to keep from screaming out into the night like a feral animal. Screaming at what? What for??
Seconds led to minutes, to hours, and finally she drifted back into a tumultuous sleep. Shaar awoke, covered in pine needles and decaying leaves, to find The Voice crouched just a few feet from her.
"I… I'm sorry," were the words that first came from her lips, and even as she said them dark brows furrowed in a detached sort of confusion. Why did I say that?
The Voice smiled then, one shoulder lifting in a dismissive shrug. He asked the question her own mind pinged her with furiously. "For what?"
Shaar shook her head, mouth opening as if to respond… but no words came out. She distracted herself for a few moments, quietly pulling pieces of dead leaves from her long hair. "I…. " She paused then, almost unsure as of what to say, absently turning scraps of a leaf over and over in her hands. "Last night, when I awoke… it was as if every small doubt I've ever had flooded me, all at once. I don't… second-guess much. I just go, you know?" She smiled then, almost sheepishly, and let the leaf pieces flutter to the ground between splayed fingers. "But this was different, like no matter what I tried, it wasn't working.. doubt just kept slipping through the cracks. It was…." Her voice trailed off as she searched for the appropriate word.
"Paralyzing?" The Voice offered, rocking back onto his heels for a brief moment before standing. "Karash Han has been here, knowing your struggle. He has lingered and you have persevered his darkness." He smiled again, boyish face lighting up just a bit with… delight? "He is your darkness and your doubt and he will oft be at your heels. It's why that is so important." The Voice inclined his chin towards her hands - somehow, amidst his speech, Shaar had unconsciously reached inside her cloak to pull out her compact and hold it close to her - when did I do this? She flipped it open with a practiced motion now, staring back at herself.
"Yeah… I get it. Okay. All right." She understood, and then rose to her feet, tucking her talisman away for the time being while she brushed the remnants of nature from her shirt and pants, rolling up her blanket to tuck away for another day.
"Good. I'll see you soon, yes? We have much adventuring to do!" The Voice had already turned, continuing on the path ahead of her, one small hand up over his head in a departing sort of wave, a bit of amusement in his tone. "… And also, Fury says hello."
The path had come upon her suddenly, and Shaar quickly found herself within unfamiliar territory. These were not her trees, her branches, her foliage. She had to walk it, this much she knew, but the sudden overwhelming doubt of all these things fostered a growing ache within her chest and she couldn't help but slow to a stop, unable to move forward any further. Shaar was alone on this path, and she knew she had so much to do to keep moving forward… but instead she sunk to her knees in a pile of leaves, bound instead by anxiety and uncertainty.
She remained there for some time, shoulders rising and falling with heavy breaths in an attempt to steady herself. Moments of relief would come only to be swept aside by an anxiously invading electricity that tingled up her arms and into her chest, leaving her stunned in place. Shaar hardly noticed the figure that emerged from the forest a few paces behind her, footfalls as silent as a ghost, moving forward quietly to stand aside her.
A pair of charcoal leather moccasins, boots, laced up the back to the knee - Shaar lifted her blurry gaze up, past the boots, past the flowing cloak dark and soft as a raven's wing, up past the cascade of ice blue hair to a face of… a man? A woman? She couldn't quite discern, and her arms wound tight around her own torso, instinctively. The figure crouched next to her then, slim and hawkish, and eyes as bright as the full moon in winter locked onto her for a few long, silent moments.
"You won't recognize me," the figure mused, with a bit of a smile. "We haven't met yet." A voice low and rich, like fresh hot chocolate poured from a kettle into a warm mug on a bitterly cold night. Like the cashmere blanket you wrapped around your shoulders when you sat aside the fireplace. One hand extended carefully, and when it settled softly on Shaar's back between her shoulderblades it was like magic; her muscles relaxed and she became almost lightheaded, unable to discern what was truly going on. Her entire being felt like it was floating in an endless ocean, and Shaar gave no resistance as this mysterious envoy moved forward to take her small form in their arms.
"I'm your Revenant," they began to explain as they settled the dazed adventurer carefully in their lap. "…People hear that word, revenant, and they think of. You know. Corpses. But that's not what it always means." They explained, soft and quiet, as if this were the most comfortable thing in the world, folding Shaar's hands neatly in her lap for her as they went. "The real origin of the word is French. Revenir, which means to return." The Revenant rearranged their length of cloak, draping it over the wordless girl they held then, a momentary blanket as she was settled.
"I'm here to help you return to the things you need to remember. Where you've been, and where you're going. Your purpose. Because sometimes when things get to be so much, it's easy to forget…" Their voice, low and hypnotizing, lulled Shaar into an almost dreamlike state in The Revenant's lap, and she barely noticed as one hand settled aside each side of her face from behind.
"Où vous avez été," the velvet lilt in her left ear. Shaar felt fingertips aside her face, down the side of her neck, on her shoulder… almost as if drawing something, over and over, sigils of some sort. She felt so disconnected that she couldn't quite place it, but The Revenant continued their motions with a quiet grace and soon Shaar's memory began to flood with things she had already seen - things she had accomplished, struggles she had weathered, obstacles she had overcome. Battles she had won. Things that at the time has seemed insurmountable, but each one she had laid low, and kept on moving. She remembered, and the recollection of it all was enough to send a quick shudder through her prone form. .. where you've been ..
"Où tu vas." She heard it on her right side, far away and lingering, and felt the right hand dance up along her jawline, more graceful arcs of fingertips and lulling touch, and before she knew it Shaar's vision switched from past to future, and she saw it brightly in front of her.. Her goals. The things she wanted to do, more challenges she needed to overcome, where she wanted to be. Things she looked forward to. Her reason for all of her struggle. There was a sort of warmth then, a blue-green sort of synesthesia that swept over her senses, and Shaar felt tears well up in her closed eyes as she relaxed even further into The Revenant's embrace. .. where you're going ..
"You must not forget these things. Where you have come from. And what you are fighting for." Shaar felt herself slowly drifting off into a heavy sleep, as if a leaden blanket had been draped over her body, The Revenant's sweet words fading from her consciousness as she welcomed a much needed rest from her own mind.
"Pour l'amour de toi, you must always remember…"
from the journals of shaar; third fortnight, eighth day. written in a delicately slanted hand consistent with moving meditation.
This isn't something I want to do. It's not something anyone wants to do, frankly. But I need to do it, if I even want to entertain the thought of giving myself a fighting chance. It's the only way.
I sigh slowly, declining my chin to look at the scene before me with hesitation - a pretty little china teapot, steaming lazily from its spout, and four teacups all placed in an equidistant semi-circle around it. It's a cute scene, or rather could be if the current scenario was anything other than this. I steel myself and reach for the teapot, methodically filling each teacup in a sort of moving meditation, preparing myself for what's to come. The cups are filled and as I set the teapot back down, the three chairs across the table from me are suddenly occupied. I pause for a brief moment before lifting my gaze to my companions.
Fear sits, sprawled very intentionally in his chair. There's a certain disquiet that brews just underneath his surface; I can see it in his posture, serpentine and thoughtful, like a tautly strung bow ready to let loose a vicious strike. He is teeth and sinew and unfettered aggression. He watches me, bright eyes intense and unmoving, a vulpine grin slicing across his face in a silent challenge. 'Can you handle me?' My heart stops in my chest for a few brief moments as our gazes lock, and I know he can sense it; that smile widens, almost imperceptibly, baring impossibly sharp fangs laced with a heady aura of vivid hostility. Slim fingers of one hand drum a slow cadence on the tabletop - repetitive, maddening. He watches me, unmoving, like a predator intensely analyzing its prey for just the right moment to strike.
He remembers the times he's coiled around me like a pit viper - slow, unforgiving, stifling. I remember too. He is relentless and wolfish and utterly primal. To my credit I've become very good at warding Fear, and he does not cross my path often, but when he does we both know it's a dire moment in my timeline. I remember his breath on my neck, his teeth grazing my skin, the lock-tight grip of his hands on my body. He remembers too.
I release the breath I've been holding and with every ounce of gumption I can muster, I keep my gaze leveled on his. Icy fingers dance their way up my spine as I lean forward, choosing to concentrate intensely on the teacup cradled in my hands - moving slowly, fluidly, I set it down on the table, and push it towards the first fiend that appears before me. His teeth snap in a quick and chiding bite as my hands get close, and I only jump a little before my gaze turns briefly hostile. Fucker, I think to myself.
He never stops smiling.
Anxiety sits in the middle. He is literal electricity; the outer edges of his form hum and buzz with some unseen force, blurring his shape ever so slightly and making me subtly distrust my senses. My breath quickens before I can even realize it, and just looking at him makes me light-headed and unbalanced. And he watches me back, but unlike Fear his stare lacks any modicum of intention. It is empty, hollow, vapid. There is something deeply unsettling about this, and I notice a dull ache of nausea beginning to bloom in the pit of my stomach. I can feel his energy snaking over to me across the table, writhing and sparking, winding up the flesh of my hands and arms like a poison and tingling my senses very unpleasantly. And there is a droning in the back of my head, a vague recollection of something that could have once been a voice, repeating - 'Not. Enough.'
He is unpredictable - here and then gone, and then back again without warning. I can never put a finger on when he'll show up. Wild like the sea, he assaults me with a howling fury out of nowhere that leaves me stunned and paralyzed, like a deer in headlights, gasping for air and reaching for something, anything stable to right myself. He is erratic and volatile and unforgiving.
He knows. The dead stare locks onto mine and he knows exactly what he's done, and will do again. Whether or not it's in his control I can never discern, but it's clear to me that he doesn't care. There is no remorse, and as I push the second teacup across the table, I see his shape begin to vibrate more intensely, reacting to my encroaching closeness. He hums and buzzes and pops with increasing ferocity and it's almost too much to bear; my breath hitches in my throat once more and seconds feel like agonizing minutes as I move the cup as close as I can allow before pulling my hands defensively back to my chest.
His form relaxes when I pull away. The noise settles to a dull roar.
But it's Doubt that terrifies me the most.
Doubt is calm and collected, and has been watching these proceedings with a tiny smile on his lips the entire time. He sits back in his chair, relaxed, hands folded neatly in his lap, and lifts his benign gaze to meet mine once it is his turn.
I've seen him everywhere. At 2am when I'm awoken in a cold sweat, he sits hunched over on the edge of my bed, unobtrusive and discreet. After hours of thinking and planning and stressing over life's terrible details, he stands just behind me, just out of sight, watching. The times when I can't take it anymore and escape to the bathroom just to breathe and talk myself off yet another ledge, I catch a glimpse of him in the mirror, quietly standing there, waiting.
Doubt lingers like a shade, watching, waiting for his critical moment. He lets his brothers Fear and Anxiety do the real work, and when they've bitten at my heels enough to wear me down, just enough to expose a crack in my defenses, that's all he needs. One small opening. His eyes alight like a child in a candy store and within a matter of mere seconds he slips in, undoing days upon days of hard-wrought work and determination and rationale. It takes only one moment for him to slip a passing second guess through my weary defenses.
He smiles, a cruelly mischievous glint in his eye. 'What if?'
I stare at Doubt, at his strangely fascinating mixture of feral savagery clouded by pure absence of guilt, and I let out a long sigh as I reach for the final cup. Doubt lifts his shoulders in a noncommittal shrug, and there is something almost apologetic about his expression as I nudge the teacup forward, placing it before him.
I slump to sit unceremoniously in the fourth chair. Whether I like it or not they are here with me - my Fear, my Anxiety, my Doubt. I know at this point that fighting them guarantees me a losing battle. At least I've learned that much. So I relent and allow them in, allow them to be. We are all four a part of each other.
I lean back in my chair, pick up my teacup, and will sit with them as long as they are here. While not the thing I want to do, it is certainly the best chance I can give myself. The road is long and it's long past time for us to get to know each other a little better...
She exists in the winter; the time of the year where the world is quiet. Hibernated, huddled within their cocoons to ward the darkness and the heaviness that the elements bring. She too, used to be one of these. But no more.
Shaar moves through the forest, quick and agile, barely leaving a trace of her presence. It is indeed cold and dark, the air itself an icy chill against the exposed skin of her face. But she cares not. Over time she's come to love the winter, to thrive in it. The bitter chill only serves to invigorate her more, to fuel the Fury that courses within her veins like days of old, and she leaves nary a footprint on freshly fallen snow as her journey takes her up into the limbs of crowded birch and fir trees. From one branch to the next, as agile as a predator, she persists.
The world hates winter because it hurts. It brings the things that settle heavily in one's soul like a block of concrete, that pull the Light from everything one holds dear. Shaar knows. She's been there. She's felt it. And she understands. Yet, nimble from tree to tree, she can't help but respect and almost be fond of winter. It's unavoidable, brutal and uncaring. Winter doesn't give a shit about you. It's not here for comfort. But more than anything else, it's nothing more than a necessary evil of life that must be endured, no matter what. Shaar knows this too, all too well. Harsh and volatile, it will cut its teeth on you if you let it.
Shaar knows this life. She finds herself at home in the bitterness. And she will cut her teeth on it instead.
The Voice barely recognizes her as she finally drops from a low hanging branch, landing in a crouch on an exposed pile of flat glacial rocks. He's been tending a fire outside a small cabin - her destination - and slowly turns to look at her with a mix of confusion and faint recognition in his eyes. He is still young; changeless as the burn of the seasons. And he watches Shaar, clad in her charcoal cloaks and furs, pouches strapped close about her waist, various bones weaved into the furs lining her right arm. Treasures? Prizes? .... Reminders? She appears weaponless, but truly he knows she is anything but.
"You've returned?.." His voice is soft, kind. Comfortable.
"Yeah." Shaar stands slowly, relaxing into a bit more of a less threatening stance. She nudges the hood from her face, breath coming in cold puffs from her lips as she watches the boy, gaze softening into something more... friendly. "Sorry. Lots to.. handle," she continues.
"I can tell." He smiles then, turning from the fire, tightening his heavy rags about narrow shoulders. "I missed you."
"You've always been with me."
The reply catches him off guard - the words and the confidence that propels them alike - and his breath hitches in his chest, dark eyes widening in surprise. The Voice trembles for a moment, seemingly almost on the verge of tears, but he regains his composure impossibly quick, folding his hands in front of him. "I..." He attempts to reply, but the words fail him, and he seems almost baffled by this turn of events; speechless.
"It's okay. I know." Shaar takes a few steps forward, swift and silent, and places the palm of one hand gently atop the boy's head - a fond reminder of their first meeting. "I need your help," she continues as he relaxes under her touch. "I need to see The Revenant."
They traveled together, for a short while, through the wildnerness. Mostly quiet; The Voice still processing her words, and Shaar not needing to expound on her exploits from the past year, because he already knew. They moved silently, side by side, comrades in arms. The boy and the forest soldier.
The Revenant stood at a fork in their path. How cliche, Shaar thought to herself, and a small smile warmed bottle-green eyes as she came upon her old consort. Their words and affirmations had been invaluable in her most dire time of need, and her footfalls eventually slowed to a stop as she approached, The Voice moving to settle right at her hip.
She watched The Revenant work - deft fingers dancing over the weathered bark of what seemed to be an ancient oak tree, muttering softly to themselves as they examined the inconsistencies, silver eyes intent on the work before them. But, they were highly aware of company, and after a beat the slender figure took a step back, hands falling to rest at their sides, dipping quietly beneath the folds of their cloak. "A sight for sore eyes," came the velvety lilt, and that androgynous face responded with a warm smile in kind as they regarded the two over their shoulder.
"Likewise," was Shaar's quick reply as she took another slow step forward. She stood silent and watched as The Revenant moved to meet her in one smooth motion, gaze darting about her form in a calculating examination, quick and flighty, birdlike in its nature. And again, Shaar knew she needed to say little more, as the traveler before her easily sussed out the source of her enervation.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est..." The inquiry came as a low and meditative hum, and The Revenant shifted their position just so to more closely examine the assortment of bones that littered the furs that clothed Shaar's right arm. Both hands re-emerged and approached carefully, fingertips slowly tracing over the shape and curve of each fragment with a silent reverence, each one held fast with leather strips to their owner. Their bright gaze held a modicum of concern as they went, and eventually The Revenant sighed, standing a bit straighter. "You... should not have these." Curious, they looked up to meet Shaar's eyes, one hand lifting to idly swipe wayward strands of long ice-blue hair away from their face.
Shaar held the other's gaze for only a few moments before averting her own, sidelong into the trees, focusing on nothing in particular. "I know." Her tone held a hint of displeasure, and at that reply, she found The Voice steadying himself at her hip once more, tucking himself neatly under her arm, and crown of his head barely reaching her elbow. She startled a bit at the quiet motion of support, and her left hand instinctively touched upon the boy's arm in return.
"Those are old artifacts. Things from the long ago." The Revenant continued, now absently braiding a portion of their long ponytail as they spoke. "By all accounts those should be... gone. Buried. And I'm sure you did. But we all know how that tends to turn out, don't we?" Another smile flickered across delicate features, gone almost as quick as it had appeared, and Shaar had since turned her attentions back to the figure before her. "You shouldn't keep those. They will only hold you back from where you need to go. Drain you. But you know all of this, bien sûr... but perhaps we can fashion them into something that can help you, non?"
This seemed to intrigue Shaar, and both eyebrows lifted at The Revenant's suggestion. They were smiling again, sensing the girl's interest.
"Le choix t'appartient..."
For all intents and purposes, it was picture perfect. Like something out of a postcard, or a book of classic New England paintings. A tiny cabin, logs nestled perfectly aside each other in structure, framed neatly by a beam roof, perfectly sloped. A small porch, led to by three stone steps, protected by a waist high pillared fence. Two front facing windows were lit with candles, warm and inviting. Nestled cozily amidst an embrace of oak and birch trees, Shaar took a step through the wooden post gate, resting one hand aside the latch as she paused. She breathed deep, the comforting smell of the cabin's woodstove inundating her senses, and part of her suspected that none of this was real. But she didn't say a word.
Shaar continued to move forward, flanked by The Voice and The Revenant. She immediately began to feel a soft warmth radiate throughout her body the closer they got to the door. She was certain that it wasn't coincidence. And she smiled a bit to herself as The Voice took the stairs first, leading to open the door and grant them entry.
The inside was just as quintessential as the outside - wooden walls were flanked with flickering electric candles. A small kitchen, dotted with mugs and plates, a row of wooden spoons hanging above the stove. Something simmered on one of its burners; fragrant, inviting. A wall lined with waist-high bookshelves, filled to the brim with tomes of all shapes and sizes, well-worn. A plush couch faced a fireplace, a plaid-patterned blanket folded neatly over the back. And in front of the fire sat two figures, the first immediately leaping to turn in a defensive motion as his home was intruded upon.
"Hey what the FUCK do you thin-..."
Shaar crossed the threshold, and immediately locked eyes with The Fury.
They stood, staring at each other for a long few moments as his quick-flung insults faded away into silence. The Revenant quietly shut the door behind them, locking the latch before moving towards the kitchen like a silent shade, steering The Voice along with them. Shaar felt unbearably warm, and after a few more seconds she broke into a wide smile, and that was all The Fury needed - he lept over the couch, literally, in one smooth and easy motion as if he'd done it a million times before, and crashed into her with an enormous hug.
"Holy shit, where the HELL have you been?! Holy shit.."
Shaar laughed against the man's shoulder, at his brashness and exuberance, and she wound her arms tightly about his waist in return, savoring his embrace. He smelled like cinnamon and cedar and the woodstove, and Shaar breathed him in before replying succinctly - "Sorry."
"I don't think you are." His words came quickly, laced with a chuckle and heavy sarcasm, and he pulled back just enough to look her in the eye again, nose to nose. He paused then, copper brows furrowing, and he lifted both hands to cup Shaar's face, slowly turning her head back and forth, as if examining her. "You... you're a little different, huh. No. Lots different. In a really good way." He can sense it within her, the return of the same heart that beats within him, and The Fury eventually takes a slow step back, hands falling to his sides, seemingly satisfied. "Why didn't you come sooner?" His request is demanding, and almost a little petulant, but before Shaar can respond the second figure is upon her.
"You're home! You're really home!" The Light attaches herself to Shaar's leg in a tight embrace, hopping up and down at the same time, the delight in her tiny voice like a chorus of bluebirds. Of course she would be here with him, and Shaar's attentions turned to the small girl with a warm smile, one hand dropping to sit atop the crown of her head, her entire form flickering under her touch.
"I am. Has Fury been taking good care of you?"
"Yes. He built me a swing in one of the tall trees outside! Oh look, you brought me a present this time!" The Light's attentions divert and her eyes brighten, arms loosing themselves from Shaar's leg, tiny hands reaching up and grasping for the bone fragments woven into the furs of her right arm.
Shaar freezes in place, unable to move. She feels The Fury's hot gaze on her face as she stares at nothing in particular. "Are you for fuckin' real?", she hears him mutter through gritted teeth, and she can't meet his eyes when she responds.
"You don't understand."
He doesn't reply, instead exhaling quickly through his nose and leaning back against the couch with folded arms and an indignant expression. Shaar feels The Light tugging against her arm, her grip insistent, and she relaxes her posture just a bit. "It's okay, I know what these are. Can I have them? I know what to do with them. Revenant can help me." She's pulling the furs from Shaar's shoulder, tiny hands adamant, and Shaar finally relents, shrugging the well worn fur cloak from her form, giving it over to the small girl. The Voice hums with delight, gathering the fur and bones close to her chest, struggling to clutch the entire cloak as she drags it back to the fireside with her.
The Revenant has taken residence at the stove, seemingly oblivious, stirring the savory stew as it warms inside the stockpot. Yet a hidden smile curves their lips, veiled by long dark hair, and they delicately remove the wooden spoon and set it aside before following the small girl to her task.
Shaar had taken it upon herself to slip out of the back door of the cabin in a moment of everyone's distraction, footfalls soft through freshly fallen snow to the stone wall encircling the property, where she perched precariously on the edge, shielded by a heavy bough of snow-covered birch branches. It was cold out, but dry, the chill in the air thankfully not heavy enough to soak through to your bones, and so she sat on the wall; arms curled around bent legs, chin resting on her knees. She watched the cabin with a blank gaze, the smoke from the chimney gradually fading into nothingness, and Shaar closed her eyes and took a deep breath through her nose, savoring the poignant scent of a woodstove on a grey day.
She wasn't happy with herself. To some point she understood why, but to some she still did not.
She kept her eyes shut, brows furrowing, and arms tightened around bent legs as Shaar leaned her weight into the massive tree at her side. After everything she'd done, and everywhere she'd gone, still she felt like this? It made her angry, bitter, rueful at the world. She ignored the stinging warmth at the corners of tightly shut eyes and just... sat, in her grey and wintry silence, for quite some time. But she knew he was coming.
The Fury didn't say anything for as long as Shaar sat there in her shell. But she finally opened her eyes, blurry gaze lifting to him slowly, and... waited. Waited for him to say what needed to be said. He didn't; dressed in a crisp black peacoat, a thermos cradled in both hands, features were unreadable and impassive as he watched her. The blanket from the back of the couch was draped over one shoulder, and they both remained motionless, watching each other as if predators preparing to square off, sizing each other up... it was only when Shaar sat up just a bit, relaxing her tense posture, that he wordlessly took a step forward, holding the thermos before him as if it were a peace offering.
"... 'S your favorite. Anise and cinnamon."
His words were soft and humble and Shaar unexpectedly felt her eyes well up, unbidden. She took the thermos in one quick motion and clutched it to her chest, turning her face away from him so he couldn't see her cry. She heard the softly indignant exhale of air through his nose, the crunch of snow under his boots, and felt the blanket draped over her shoulders as he sat down next to her.
"What's -wrong- with me?" Her question came out in a furtive sort of hiss, words tinged with a painful sort of lilt, and Shaar suddenly felt very heavy as the air fell silent between them.
"You're human." His response was simple, matter of fact, and while it made sense it sure didn't make her feel any better. Shaar took a slow deep breath, doing her best to ground herself as she slowly sat up, focusing her attention on the thermos clutched like a life preserver in both hands. She unscrewed the lid, and quietly reveled in the encroaching scent of spiced licorice as it mingled with the woodstove, inherently comforting. She continued to watch the steam rise from the hot tea within the thermos, unable to look at The Fury just yet.
" 'M sorry I yelled at you," he continued, tone soft and metered - a very out of place characteristic for this man - yet it didn't last for very long as he continued in his predictable speech. "But... shit. That shit's gonna do nothing but hold you back. It's not -good- for you, so why the hell--"
"You think I don't -know- that?!" Shaar wheeled on him, interrupting with vicious words akin to a cornered animal. It took The Fury off guard and he hesitated, eyes widening at the venom in Shaar's gaze and tone alike. The silence fell between them both again like a heavy shroud, and he watched her curiously before speaking again, words soft and chosen quite carefully.
" ... It's making you bitter."
Her reply was nearly instantaneous, because she -did- know, and Shaar's chin declined in a semblance of defeat as she loosened her death grip on the thermos. She felt the warmth from the liquid within, the literal heat from the facet sitting aside her, from the blanket about her shoulders, but at the same time she also felt nothing, and it made her spiteful. Shaar quietly wondered if she had carried those artifacts for too long. "I.. can't get rid of them. I just can't."
"You have to." The Fury was still watching her, curious, ruddy brows furrowed over an intensely serious expression. "What they're doin' in there with 'em... for you, that's the only way you can take 'em." One hand gestured vaguely back towards the cabin, where The Light and The Revenent were doing who-knows-what with her baggage. "You can't do it any other way. You're gonna get filled with the bad anger, okay, I can feel it. It's already starting. I..." The Fury's voice trailed off for a few moments, as if he were trying to comprehend the entirety of the situation, foreign feelings and emotions alike. He turned his face away, gazing strongly at the forest filled with dark trees, and mirrored Shaar's posture inherently, drawing his chin to bent knees.
"I don't understand," he finally concluded, voice a mixture of petulance and uncertainty. "Why you can't just say, 'fuck it' to that stuff."
A small smile curved Shaar's lips, finally, although it struggled to reach her eyes. "It's 'cause you're not human."
cast of characters
shaar : our protagonist. small girl, long dark hair kept in various braids and beads and feathers. forest dweller. most often covered in heavy cloaks and furs. patron of the fury. has seen some shit.
the voice : small boy clad in rags. initiator of shaar's journey and original keeper of the mirrorbox. sweet, kind, pleasant. unofficial "leader" of the facets and guide to shaar.
the fury : always doing what needs to be done. tall dark-skinned redhead with bright eyes and a foul mouth. brash, emotional, fearless; literally takes no shit. extremely close to and protective of shaar.
the light : takes the translucent form of a small girl with blonde ringlets. bright, cheerful, reminiscent of the first days in spring. hope incarnate. often can be found with the fury.
the revenant : they/them. delver into the past and the future. tall, slender, androgynous. long midnight blue hair in a ponytail. birdlike delicate features; generally clad in tall moccasin boots and a myriad of light cloaks.
karaoghlanlar : mongolian mythos; the nine sons of the underworld lord erlik. also known as the "black boys". led by karash han, the god of darkness. shaar's antagonists.
??? : more to come ..