Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:52 pm
Maalech and Serendipity, Februaru 1 2008
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 04:45 PM
The rain was washing the dust from the rooftops, turning the narrow streets to shallow streams as the water raced downhill towards the sea. The clouds that had rolled in were black with thunder, spears of lightning tearing across the horizon quickly followed by low, rolling booms. Gusts of wind came in irregular intervals, and the trees near the shoreline bent and shook with the elements fury.
It had not been an unexpected storm, the weather had been too hot, the air too cloying and everybody with some skills at reading the sky could have predicted that sooner or later, this would happen. And no matter how violent the storm, it would weather its fury, and already people were looking forward to fresh air and a city washed clean.
This was perhaps little comfort to those caught out in said storm.
Maalech was standing under the edge of a rooftop, not that far from the sea. It was just enough to shield him from the worst of the rain, and the wall was angled so that he was spared the wind. Perhaps he should have made a run for it, but he had thought that it would end sooner than it had, and had then been fascinated by the display.
Perhaps it was simply that he did not enjoy being wet. Rain was something that never used to touch him before, and now? Now his sandaled feet were soaked, as well as the hems of his trousers.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 15 2008, 04:57 PM
The girl herself, however, was thoroughly plastered, her fringe sticking to her forehead, wisps glued to her cheeks, and her skirts soaked nearly down to their bottommost layer. She was holding her shoes tight against her chest as she jogged for shelter under the hanging roof. Despite all this she was glowing warm, cheeks pink. "Nice one! Brr!" She shook out her hair like a puppy. "Get caught out, or just appreciating it?"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 05:04 PM
"I was caught out..." Maalech had such a hard time to keep a straight face when she shook herself off, there was just something so irrepressibly alive about her. She felt more real than the shadow of houses across the street, made blurry by the rain. She felt as real as the storm, or the rain, a glimpse of what the town would be once the wind had driven the rain elsewhere.
Wet. Fresh. Rosy cheeks.
Realizing that his brain was going nowhere that was even remotely safe, he quickly spoke again to hide that there had ever been a pause. "It turned to appreciation. It is unnerving to be faced with such fury and not be able to properly feel it."
Looking down at her wet skirts and bare feet made it impossible not to smile faintly. "I have found out that I do not appreciate getting soaked, though I seem to be alone in that regard."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 15 2008, 05:12 PM
"And this is called 'good sense,'" she pointed out while attempting to scrape her hair back from her face. "It's one thing to go dandling about in the rain of your own free-if-misguided will, it's another when the heavens split above your head. Hopefully you won't be stuck here too much longer." She stamped her feet. "God! It's freezing!"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 05:16 PM
"One would think that you could have chosen a later, and drier time to appear." But she was most likely governed by rules he did not grasp, and she was as always dressed for sunshine. Was that the optimist part of her?
Maalech sighed and slid out of his overshirt, offering it to her. "Here, I do not know whether you can catch colds or not, but I have been told that they are not pleasant." He had so far managed to avoid being truly sick, if you did not count the hangover.
But he was moderately dry, and she looked like a soaked kitten.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 15 2008, 05:21 PM
"Bless." She accepted the shirt, which had to be tugged down tight over her breasts while hanging over the rest of her like a poncho. "My bad entirely. I was in Cecilia. I think if they ever saw a cloud in the sky there, they'd all think it was the end of the world."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 05:27 PM
"There actually is a place with better weather than this island?" Maalech sounded rather disbelieving, making an effort not to look too much as she pulled down the shirt.
This was somehow all Morgan's fault. He was sure of it.
Letting a soft sigh of frustration slip out, he turned and leaned against the wall again, watching the rain. "In some places a cloud across the sky would most likely mean the end of the world."
It had been like that, had it not? The impossible vastness covering the sky with shadows. In the desert, storms were rare enough to almost be legendary. Shivering for a moment he closed his eyes hard, then opened them again.
What had made him thin of that right now?
"I hope your business there went satisfactory then."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 15 2008, 05:35 PM
"It didn't go so hot, actually, but thanks for asking." She twitched her shoulder in a shrug, then leaned against a post, looking out to sea, where the sound of millions of droplets hitting the surf was so deafening that it leeched into a constant roar, like a solid wall. "Cecilia's lovely. But it's too large to really be intimate with. Like a mansion as opposed to a cottage."
Turning slightly, back to the pole, she cocked her head to the side. "How's your business been? I've been deliberately not keeping up with you. Thought you might have things you needed to work out without me getting the edge immediately."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 05:46 PM
"My... business has been... mundane I suppose. I have to admit that once the first vertigo have worn off, it is a rather boring existence. There are books to be sure, and it is still fascinating to chart the differencing layers of reality from this perspective, but in the end it does not change the fact that my horizon is as limited as this island. You might say that I am land-locked, there is an ocean out there but I have no part of it anymore."
Yes, he certainly seemed more on edge than before.
And he had to admit that the mundanity was not the main cause of that.
"I am at that stage where I miss what I had more than I am looking forward to what will come. It will pass I am sure. But it makes me question matters."
A frown had settled on his face by now, and showed no intention of leaving.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 15 2008, 05:51 PM
"Well, you're not exactly Prospero," she pointed out. "Self-imposed exile only works as long as it . . . well, works. I were you, I'd push through it as long as I could, but if you think this is as much as you're ever going to get out of this experiment, stop."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 05:59 PM
"Don't be absurd." He gave her a dark look, then relented, face softening. "To stop something because it is hard or annoying is simply giving up. How would I ever know whether there was anything more to learn if I stopped already?"
That thought was so very foreign to his mind. He had set himself a task and he would see it through.
"Exile... is that what this is?" He mused a moment on the word, then shrugged. "Granted, I can no longer influence my machinations and have to hope that my pattern holds true without adjustment, but I trust my weavings in that respect. If my plans would not hold without me, they are not well woven from the start."
The word still did not sit kindly with him. Exile. The story of his life.
He sighed again, then turned to face her fully.
"Apologies, I am in a foul mood, and it is not your fault." He should have stopped there, but he found himself continuing. "Though you are one of the reasons."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 15 2008, 06:09 PM
"Exile's not the best of words. There are people, where I come from--wealthy people, for the most part--who travel thousands of miles to a monastery in the mountains where they spend a month keeping house for the monks. Doing mundane things. Getting their hands dirty, cooking, gardening, all the things they pay other people to do for them back home. They say it brings them clarity. They want to be enlightened." She chuckled lightly. "Meanwhile, I imagine that they're still paying housekeepers and gardeners to do the same things to their real homes, so that everything will be ready when they come back enlightened. A bit silly. But if the enlightenment's real . . . 'There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right.'"
She watched him without seeming offended. "I thought it might be that."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 06:13 PM
"You speak truly... and there are things I have learned here I do not wish to leave behind once I go back. Though only time can tell whether I will succeed with that or not."
He had not realized he had grown quite that detached from the world. He suppose it had been such a gradual thing that he had failed to notice, every year making him more insular. More prone to crafting his own reality rather than sharing in the one that normal people inhabited.
It was hard work being alive. Harder than he had remembered.
And the hardest part of all was standing here, looking at him with those too serious eyes.
"I imagine I must seem quite foolish to you."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 15 2008, 06:18 PM
"You're only foolish when you stop trying to learn," she said seriously. "You haven't done that yet. At all."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 15 2008, 06:22 PM
"My foolishness has nothing to do with learning. It has everything to do with feeling." A look of dismay passed his face as he realized that there was no way to retreat gracefully.
He would have to see this through. Somehow he imagined Morgan would be quite amused.
"I fear I am becoming too fond of you, and that is neither safe nor clever. And yet I find myself unable to stop."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 07:16 PM
The look she gave him said plainly that from where she stood, this was all about learning. But now was not the time. She smiled slightly, dipped her head, and put a hand out for his. "I know that," she said quietly. "And that's not a my usual kind of knowing, that was a me knowing-knowing." She raised her eyes again. "I know that wasn't an easy thing for you to say. You don't deserve an easy reply. The only thing I'm having trouble with is that one little word. Fear."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 07:28 PM
"I could say that it was just an expression, but that would be a lie." Maalech looked away for a moment, there were always reason you choose the words you choose, subconsciously or not.
"But perhaps I am. Afraid." He frowned, his eyes growing distant as he searched his own feelings, failing to find the answers he sought. "I have no answers here, and it irks me." He sounded more than throughly annoyed by now, each word spit out as if this was a challenge to his own peace of mind.
But he took her hand regardless, the frown lessening somewhat as he looked down upon it. It felt human. Solid. Pale.
"I know that this could ruin me. I would say that is the cause of my fear, but to give up my powers like this is an easier path to ruin, and yet I did not fear then. So clearly that cannot be the cause." He felt far too exposed dissecting his own emotions like this, he was far too much of a private person to wish to deal with matters like this.
But the thought that he was afraid annoyed him more.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 07:43 PM
"I could be glib and say that, maybe . . . you're afraid of you?" She pricked up her eyebrows. "How this is going to change you? That I'm going to ask you to change, or that you think you just have to alter yourself just to be in love with someone?" She squeezed his hand and let it go. "If you're unhappy with yourself, then change things. If you want to continue as you are, then don't. You're the one who has to live with you every day; I'm only here on occasion. Even I'm not in your head. But this--" She patted his chest, over his heart. "This doesn't think. It just decides. It has no rational basis. It knows what it wants and tries drag the rest of you along with it. And you're like a mule: the first thing that happens when someone tries to drag you is, you balk."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 07:55 PM
"Perhaps you are right." Maalech pulled his hand back and looked at it, tanned skin, slightly paler palm, trimmed nails and clever fingers. They had stayed the same.
"Being... in love with someone..." He spoke the words slowly, as if trying them out for the first time "... is not a part of my self-image."
Looking tired, he leaned back against the wall, pressing two fingers to the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes for a moment. But the darkness did not bring clarity, so he opened them once more, watching the rain instead of her.
She was far too adorable, all soaked in his shirt, and he did not trust himself to overlook that fact.
"I am not comfortable being dragged by anything, either by my heart or other parts." There was the faintest hint of a wry smile there, which faded as quickly as it appeared. "It infuriates me. Or rather, my own indecision infuriates me, to not know what it is that I want. You said that if I was unhappy with myself I should change, but..."
He gave her a sharp look, as if all this was somehow her fault. "I was not unhappy with myself before I met you. And now that I am, I am not certain how to go about it. You speak as if this was all up to me, and... I have been let to believe that is not the case. No, I know that is not the case. Every action has consequences."
He reached out and wiped away some of those wet, black strands from her face. "I think that the truth is that I know what I want. I do not know whether I am willing to pay the price for it."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 08:09 PM
Her hand slid away. "And I'm not hard enough to write this off as an occupational risk. I knew this might happen as soon as I stepped into it. When I started getting suspicious, arrangements were made for--oh, this going to sound terrible. A parallel thread, I suppose you'd call it. It wasn't much. A few hours out of the continuity. That's what I told you about. That's what was going on there."
She let him brush away her hair. "I got called up on it. In the end they gave me the option of continuing to work with you, even though we were all about ninty percent positive what it would lead to." She shrugged a little, as if percentages meant little. "I figured you were worth it. I'd rather run the risk as myself and keep with you, as long as I'm allowed. I like you. Even if you are a son-of-a-bitch."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 08:19 PM
Maalech was silent for a little while, grateful for the rain that kept the street empty. The thunder was growing increasingly distant though, so the storm must be passing.
"I see." The words were short, succinct and summed up the situation rather well. So this was what he had not been remembering before, it was both a relief and rather alarming.
"So the question then would become what now. You already told me that you are not the first one in your position, and if you have already been 'called up on it' as you put it, it would seem that the answer would be simple. This is as far as it goes, the risks are too great."
He loathed himself for saying those words, not just because he did not want to rein this in. He hated admitting to any form of defeat, and to admit that the risks were too great? It was not something he enjoyed.
"As you say, I am a son-of-a-bitch personally, and that is one of the things that is unlikely to change. Whatever my feelings, the world remains the same. I have come too far to change now."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 08:33 PM
"Well, we either have a mad torrid affair right here and now, shocking the hell out of passersby and getting me booted immediately afterwards." Her nose wrinkled at the likelihood of that happening, although it made an amusing mental image. "Or . . . we bring up the more likely suggestion that maybe the arrangement between us has become . . . indispensable. I've shown you too much. We're too deeply entangled. You're too good a chance to blow it over a couple of silly things like rules. And I know you; you know good hard logic when you hear it. It doesn't take things like feelings into account, but you gotta admit, when it comes to influencing people, it can be strong medicine."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 08:43 PM
"I am far more comfortable with logic than feelings. Though the problem being with rules, they sometimes tend to be too inflexible to encompass logic." Maalech was a bit stunned to realize that his heart had made a small jump at the notion that there was perhaps some way to work through this that did not necessarily mean cutting everything off.
Because had he not come here with at least half an intention to do just that?
But as always she made him see things in new ways.
"It is rather amusing that I am less bothered by the notion of being indispensable and in too deep in some manner of extra-dimensional plan when I am without even a hint of magic, than to break things off with you."
He gave her a fond if brief smile.
"You have shown me too much."
Though the knowledge about how the worlds might work was not the bulk of it.
He felt... alive.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 10:05 PM
"Oh good." She looked relieved. "I thought you'd be the only person here who wouldn't be offended. And what the hell, I get all melty when you can actually be persuaded to smile. I feel like I've won something. So it can't be all that bad."
And she returned the smile, with considerably more enthusiasm.
"So. I guess to justify all this . . . we move on to Stage Two." Her tongue flicked out over her lips, as if she were uncertain about how to introduce this. "There's more of us than just me. I think I've told you that?"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 10:11 PM
"It was easy enough to get that impression. You have spoken of 'us' enough times, and for someone to hold you responsible, there has to be... colleagues, or brethren or superiors... whatever you wish to call them."
Yes, business first, though he really could not let this one go quite yet. He had to know. "What exactly would be so vile that I should have been offended by it?" He knew he did not exactly share most people's views on matters, but he was still curious.
And her relief was infectious. Like it or not, one matter had now been settled. And he did feel better for telling her. Maalech rolled his eyes internally, he supposed he had to give that much credit to Morgan. Perhaps he would even tell the man.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 10:27 PM
"Colleagues. Co-conspirators. Cognoscenti." As with most points, she was fairly indifferent to titles. "The assholes I hang with. There's nothing in the line of superiors. The only difference between them and me is that I walk this world and they don't, for the most part. If they do it's either by mistake or because they got booted. If they're booted, they get replaced fairly quickly. Except for one." She held up a finger, looking solemn. "He's the one that pretty much did professionally what you worked with. The Senex. He does time. Or did. That's sort of the trouble here: he's no longer with us, but, dealing with time . . . " she spread out her hands rather helplessly. "He still control the present from his position in the past. That's the only reason there's still cohesion in that realm. If you want, you can meet him."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 10:39 PM
"Time." Maalech spoke the word slowly enough to taste it. Time was always the one thing that tended to resist most magi. The timestream had a will of its own, one that resisted manipulation. And yet it had been known to happen.
There were ways to twist it and make it stick. If you knew how.
He shook his head, an amused crinkle in the corner of his eye. "You do realize you are asking questions to which you already know the answer. I do not believe there is any reason in existence that would make me not want to meet this man."
It would be easier to turn down... no, he could not think of a suitably precious thing.
"Not that I am aware how your process of 'booting' and recruitment work, but it seems to me that if he has not become replaced yet, it is simply because he still holds the position. At the same time he obviously does not. Once time bends enough paradoxes like that abound. It is the same with the blade that Morgan now carries. I forged it in the past, but I could not have forged it if it had not been brought into the past from the future. Thus it is both forged and unforged. Paradox. Power."
Yes, he did love to theorize.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 10:53 PM
"Precisely." She nodded, again looking relieved. "The Senex stepped down of his own volition, fairly recently. Of course he had the advantage of being able to set up his own lineage, ages and ages past, for himself to step into when he got tired of being the Senex, so right now it's simply a matter of going to where he is, rather than any . . . travelling." She waved airily in the direction behind her, over her shoulder, and somehow managed to encompass more than mere distance with the gesture. She watched Malaach the way a bird spies a bright object in the grass. "I think you would like him. He's a great deal like you, once you strip away this sort of veneer of a life he's given himself."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 11:03 PM
"I am not certain that being much like me would mean that I would automatically like him." Maalech considered that for a moment, at the same time as he tried to remember what part of the continent that lay in the direction she had indicated. The south... would that be Cecilia? How was this island aligned again, and how accurate had the maps been?
He was not sure. Once again his ignorance annoyed him.
Her look made him give her one back, because she made such an interesting sight right now. All drenched and miserable, yet as focused as a sharp lens. Morgan was right. He was smitten.
"I assume that most people take the information you disseminate with less grace, since you seem to expect me to balk at the impossibility of the whole thing."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 18 2008, 11:17 PM
"Well, yeah," she admitted. "But you could probably converse on the same relatively level playing field in an equitable manner, if you want to interpret that as 'liking' each other."
For once, she seemed a bit shy, hanging back from him, scuffing a foot deeper and deeper into the sand. "You've had a bit of prepping for this sort of knowledge. Most of it from stuff you've looked into yourself, your own experience. Only a bit of it from me, although I like to imagine that I can help--" She meshed her fingers together into a ball. "--solidify some things you might suspect. I'm the Psychopomp. I guide people."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 18 2008, 11:26 PM
"The problem with theories is that they remain theories unless you have something to compare them against. And these levels of reality are not easily accessed, even for me. You... helped solidify a lot of things." Maalech found himself smiling at her again, the feeling still unfamiliar enough for him to notice it as something strange.
"You guide people." He echoed her words, sounding faintly amused. "I suppose the real interesting question to ask oneself when when presented with a guide is... guiding towards what?" He took a step closer to cover the distance. "Though most people never do."
Not him. Normally he'd balked at being guided anywhere. He found his own path.
"I find that question less and less important. I have no hurry to reach any goal." Because that would presumably mean there was no more need for a guide.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 19 2008, 05:37 PM
"Guiding toward truth?" she suggested. "Understanding? Enlightenment? And you don't even have to do my gardening?" She chuckled and went on. "In this case, it's guiding toward an introduction. No more than that. The Senex has always been a bit of a hermit, and he works on a level that not even most of us understand."
She paused long enough to peek around the edge of the awning, and to hold her hand out to test the drizzle.
Posted by: Maalech Jan 19 2008, 07:10 PM
"The rain should be over within minutes, the clouds are already parting and the wind is strong enough to chase them further out to sea. Though I do say that it will take more than wind and sun to dry you off."
She looked like a drenched cat, and Maalech had a hard time not to think it was adorable. He knew that part was wrong, he simply did not think of people as adorable. But he was hard pressed not to keep smiling at every thing she did, no matter how small and mundane.
He was such a lost cause.
"Time was always the one part of nature to stand apart the most."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 19 2008, 07:20 PM
"Yes, well. Apparently he didn't much enjoy it. Met a woman, fell in love, put in a request, got his clearance and now lives happily ever after, or the next thing to it. Bastard of course set himself up to be nearly completely free of the main continuity." She shook her head in both annoyance and amazement at the man's audacity. "Speaking of continuity, this won't be an immediate meeting. Right now the poor man's at the nexus of a shitload of continuity, and there's too much of a chance of bumping into some things that your prescence would complicate. Mine too, for that matter. But I've spoken to him, and he's looking forward to the prospect."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 19 2008, 07:26 PM
Maalech nodded, it was interesting to see that apparently the lines did not need to be so solid after all. But he had found out that things rarely were once you started looking closer. Good. Evil. Time. Space. Not everything was as clear cut as in the diagrams.
"It is not as if I will have any pressing business in the coming year. Not now." Not without his Art.
But what she had said struck a nerve with him.
"That being said, you need to dry yourself off. What are your... plans for this afternoon?" Oh he hesitated when he said those words, because he was simply so abysmally bad at small talk like this.
Discuss philosophy or arcane theories or even simple politics, that was something he could do. But simple pleasantries as inquiring whether she wanted to have dinner with him?
He found himself floundering.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 19 2008, 07:34 PM
"I am going to attempt to talk one of my coworkers out of tormenting one of our controls." She rolled her eyes as if to stress how optimistic the word 'attempt' was in this context. "Then there's possibly an incoming control that's going to turn up around the same region in Cecilia later today, if the day doesn't roll over before it arrives, and I have to keep an eye on that one as well. Cecilia's going to be a wreck for weeks." She tried to fluff out her hair, then gave it up and gave him a sidelong look. "And to top it all it off, I'm think I'm having dinner with you?"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 19 2008, 07:40 PM
"If you would be so kind as to." Maalech kept a straight face as she fluffed her hair, pondering not for the first time why she let the world affect her so. Perhaps that was a lesson to learn here. He had no doubts she could just have avoided the rain as well as any magi, but instead she allowed herself the small frustration of being soaked. Being human.
He had not considered such things in a long time. He would simply have dried himself had he become wet. If she had been the same, he would not have been treated to this sight.
"It sounds as if you might not have time for food later if things will be getting that busy." He echoed her earlier action of peeking out from underneath the awning, and indeed, the rain was almost gone now. The light drizzle that fell already shone in the sun, and around them, the streets were already beginning to get filled with the first children to play in the puddles.
"Though I assume that at least the business will be somewhat drier.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 06:12 PM
"But not half as pleasent," she pointed out as she dared to venture under the open skies again. Looking philosophical, she added, "I think the whole trouble with maintaining a relationship is going to be that there really isn't much more too me than work. I mean, I read a lot, if that's any help. But not everything's got to be significant." She held out both hands to him, to lure him out.
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 06:21 PM
He gave her an utterly dry look "And that is different from me, how?". He shook his head as he stepped out into the street to take her hands, though he still disliked the thin drizzle. Taking her hands in his, he looked down on her for a moment, serious as always.
"Look. I have given this matter some thought, but I have no answers. All my reasoning comes to one single conclusion that is impossible to overlook. I enjoy spending time with you. I wish to do that whenever time permits. I have no wish to change what you are, or what you do."
He truly did not. He was not certain he was equipped to handle what might amount to proper relationships, the amount of time and attention that people demanded seemed to ruin any chance of proper research. Most magi did not marry, and those that did... found it a difficult balance to maintain.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 06:30 PM
"That is different from you in absolutely no respect that I would care to dissect," she said, sounding pleased. "It's conscious research versus unconscious research. To the untrained eye, unconscious research resembles goofing off. Oh, did you want your overshirt back?"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 06:36 PM
"And to me that sounds rather much like a good excuse for goofing off, as you put it." He looked rather amused at the thought of it. "If you are not cold anymore, but I do not need it for the moment. The sun is coming out, and I suspect it will be warm enough quite soon."
He shielded his eyes, watching the skies for a moment, trying to decide the time. It was another thing he had become used to as a mage, to always know the precise angle of the sun and how far until sunset. Satisfied with what he had learned, he turned back to her again with a sombre expression. "I mostly wear it because at times, it can be rather chilly indoors. And weaving is not work to keep you warm. Another thing I suspect I was spoiled with in my other life."
It was a long list my now, and it was a good one to know.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 06:48 PM
"It's going to be all sultry now that it's rained," she agreed, with a sigh of satisfaction before looking over her shoulder at him. "What, does that bother you now? Is it because it's things you missed out on, or because it's things you insulated yourself from? There's a difference there, too."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 06:53 PM
"I would not say that it bothers me." He frowned, making sure he explained things properly to her. "It is something of my own choosing after all, I had just not given any thought to how far it had gone. How much I had insulated myself from... life I suppose." He flexed his hand, noting the faint stiffness in it now that he had no Art to smooth out the aches his body got from being used.
"It started quite innocently. Why be bothered by things you could avoid. Rain, heat, cold... sickness..." He gave her a thoughtful look. "It made it rather easy to be detached."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 07:03 PM
"Habits have this tendency to feed on themselves. Good ones and bad ones. You can force whole patterns of behaviour just by training yourself to do the same things, day after day, until they become engrained. Until they become . . . real, I suppose." Walking on, she sucked on a thumbnail and studied the remaining clouds. "I've had this argument before, with someone, and fairly recently. There's a fellow I quote constantly who talked about the habit of kindness. Forcing yourself to be a good person, even if you don't particularly feel like it, until it becomes habit, and eventually until it becomes part of yourself. Until you are changed, not just pretending. So is that a genuinely good man, or is it an ordinary one that learned good habits? Is that just parroting, or after a while, can you call the change real?"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 07:11 PM
"I would call it real. Should we limit ourselves to just the things that came easy to us, we would be rather limited people." It felt comfortable to walk side by side with her, people re-emerging on the streets now that the storm had passed.
Perhaps that was the one thing that amazed him the most, that he felt so comfortable in her presence. It was not usually a feeling he associated with people.
"But perhaps you would get a different answer from someone not a mage. Belief in change is essential for us, it is the basis of what we do. Will creates reality. It would be no different with behavior and emotions."
The thought made his lips curl in a faint smirk. "It would be a shallow view to put the man higher that never had to work for his goals."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 07:14 PM
She rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank you; that is exactly what I told Saboteur and he totally blew me off. But then again, when you're trying to argue a moral point with someone who identifies with a damn saboteur, you've got to learn to like banging your head against a brick wall."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 07:18 PM
Sidestepping one of the puddles, Maalech shook his head at her comment, hiding his amusement.
"Arguing moral points is futile most of the time. Either the person have not thought them through and are thus not aware of their shortcomings, or they have and have already reached a conclusion you will not be able to change. Few people are capable of change."
He could not help giving her a rather pointed look. "Though there is much to be said for banging your head against a wall, sometimes it cracks, even though it might take a while."
She might take that as she wished.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 07:33 PM
She looked a bit chagrined at the pointed look. "Duly noted. We get into these little philosophical tiffs every now and again. Kind of like what we do, you and I. Whenever we get bored someone will drag out the old argument and we'll sharpen our claws on it."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 07:41 PM
"That is most appreciated, since at the moment it feels that all the challenges I am likely to face are verbal ones." Maalech paused for a moment before picking a path once more. There was this little place near the harbor that he enjoyed frequenting now and again, and that was where he led her.
As they came within eyesight of the harbor proper, he shook his head with a faintly amused chuckle. "Though perhaps I should not challenge the weave. From the look of the ships assembling, it seems that someone wishes to start a war. Unless such naval assemblies are commonplace around these parts."
There had been rather more military vessels here recently than he remembered from his first visits.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 07:58 PM
She followed his gaze out to the ships and stood silently, the light breeze blowing her black skirts around her feet. "There's a change of power coming. This is called messing the place up good and letting someone else clean it up." For once, she sounded perturbed. "All in the name of good housekeeping, of course."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 08:03 PM
"It did seem too peaceful." Maalech frowned, he did not particularly care for wars. He had grown up during one and knew what it did to people. But, once again he was unable to do anything to influence it, he would have to sit this one out.
A strangely humbling feeling that, not that he would have interfered, but...
To be helpless. He did not care for it. But he had little choice.
He placed a hand on her shoulder, giving it a light, companionable squeeze.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 08:06 PM
She gave a slight smile, tipped her cheek against his hand, but shook her head. "It won't come as far as here. This place is established neutrality. It'll mostly be above us. Aquitaine, Cecilia, Lorrain, Eurastad, the Erins. There'll be a storm in the north."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 08:14 PM
"It will?" The question was more rhetorical than anything, but the slight frown meant that he was thinking about something. "There are certain individuals in the Erins I am quite interested in. Shame that I cannot see how this will turn out." He seemed throughly annoyed for a moment before shrugging off the uneasy feeling of lacking information.
"I suppose it is for the best. Sometimes it is far too easy to meddle when one should stay clear of matters."
He gave her a fond smile, the earlier frown banished for the moment.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 08:24 PM
"You are talkin' to a world-class meddler," she said with exaggerated bravado. "But that doesn't matter. You're still watching the Erins, aren't you? You do know that place is all eat up with the crazy right now."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 08:30 PM
"I am not watching anything at the moment." Maalech sighed though he tried to suppress it. "I know next to nothing but the local rumors, and they concern prices, pirates or possibly the latest developments of the Aquitian navy. Nothing of the Erins."
"I could foresee some matters though, based on the threads that were in use before. Have there been war then, between the old Queen and the young Countess?" He made his best attempt to sound rather nonchalant about it.
After all, it was beyond his influence now, but the lack of knowledge was frustrating all the same.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 08:44 PM
"Oh, let's not be coy, Maalech. That was pretty much a given. I wouldn't call it a war, but it was definitely a bit elevated from a slapping match." She turned back to face him full on. "Now here we find a bit of confrontation. Quicker than I expected. The scene: you and Morgan, fishing things out of your beers. I turn up. I made some remark about 'oh dear, this has turned into a business meeting after all'."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 08:49 PM
Maalech looked down on her thoughtfully, thinking back. Yes, he remembered that quite well, that was the time where he had decided that it might not be such a bad idea to drink. Of course it had quite annoying drawbacks, and he had stayed clear of it since.
"I do remember that. What of it?" He was not dismissive, he simply wished to know what she was aiming for.
Because the news that there had been a conflict up north, no matter how small made him wonder exactly how much was falling into place.
For a brief moment he acutely missed his Art, had he been able to he might have cut this experiment short then and there. But he could not, and would not. Temptation was one thing, but he had done this with a purpose. He simply had to trust his weavings, and that the groundwork was strong enough.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 20 2008, 09:04 PM
"Nothing! I just wanted to see if you could remember it on short notice. That was what we call 'foreshadowing'. You get to where you can hear it, after a while. It sounds like a bass chord." She tapped her breastbone. "Just here."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 20 2008, 09:10 PM
This time Maalech made no attempt to hide the sigh, closing his eyes for a moment as he pressed two fingers against the bridge of his nose. "I do not know whether it is comments like this that makes me so fond of you. If indeed it is, then I suppose I truly need help."
Of course there was a trick to filtering through the normal from the important, but without his Art he was deaf dumb and blind.
Or was he?
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 24 2008, 07:13 PM
The girl caught his frustration and blushed. "Oops. Sorry."
Then she turned back toward the ships. Her expression grew strangely still and solemn, as close as she had yet drawn to disapproving. "Remember something else for me," she said quietly. "Remember how I came and brought you breakfast, and we talked about some of the layers of worlds that set atop this place."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 24 2008, 07:18 PM
"Yes..." He opened his eyes again, his gaze tracking hers. "You chided me for my wish to attempt to perceive the higher layers of your kind. I do believe I took that challenge to heart."
A faint frown, he did not understand her changing moods, but like the approaching thunderstorm it was not something he could ignore.
"You also mentioned that you had hoped that Morgan would be there. But you had to wait until that other meeting to catch us both together."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 24 2008, 07:28 PM
"That was nothing much. I just wanted to meet Morgan, since I hadn't yet. That, and he knows about the whole continuum thingie as well. But I'm assuming that was a deliberate exposure?" She raised an eyebrow at him, then shrugged and jerked her head at the ships. "Aquitaine's got a clue of what's going on out there. Only they don't know what they're up against. They're after power. They think they can amass enough of a fleet to invade some of the outer interests."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 24 2008, 07:35 PM
Maalech scoffed, looking at the ships. "Power. Everybody is in search for power, it is just the forms that differ. Ships and men seem to be something that most men understand. Violence."
War annoyed him. No, worse, its very existence irked him. It had consumed his childhood, and had in a roundabout way taken his son.
Not for the first time he wished that he had simply dissuaded Lothrim from his futile crusade. Instead he had thought it wiser to leave the man be and let him make his own mistakes. He had fail to foresee that thread might lead to disaster... no, if he should be honest with himself he had seen the possibility. But he had thought that it would not come to pass. That Lothrim would be strong enough. He had been too arrogant.
It was a failing he knew he had.
"You said that they think... is their struggle futile then? Or will the war simply grow to devour both sides in the end."
There were seldom winners. Not in the long run.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 24 2008, 08:04 PM
"Not so much futile as it is decidedly lacking in scope," she replied, sounding a little amused by the question. "They can't break into the primary continuity, either. All they know is that there's something out there that they don't own. They're like ants." She did not say this in the complimentary tone she usually reserved for ants, either. "It's futile in the sense that they can't accomplish their goal. All they can do in the meantime is spread misery and cause disorder. Which I hate to admit is not necessarily a bad thing? But I tend to like my disorder and misery to accomplish some loftier ends than putting flags on a map."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 24 2008, 08:13 PM
Maalech turned to look at her then, the faintest hint of a smile playing on his lips. "It is one redeeming quality of humankind. Once we know that something is out there, we seek it out. The motivations might vary, but we can't abide the unknown for long." It was the one reason he still had respect for humanity as a whole, because they questioned.
They might be wrong most of the time. They might be destructive, chaotic and violent. They might be a plague upon the earth as some had put it, but for Maalech those things were essential. It was what made humanity dynamic, and not static.
"As for wishing it would be for a loftier cause..." He shrugged, having wrestled with many of the same questions in the past. "If the thread is too strong to be diverted, twist it into the pattern of your own choice. Surely not all ends that might come out of this are worthless."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 24 2008, 08:21 PM
She chuckled lightly. "Way ahead of you. It's already been worked out; we knew it would happen." Then her dark head bowed, as if in embarrassment, her fringe falling to shadow her face. "I shouldn't have to explain to you that even when I don't approve of some of the threads, I can still see where they're necessary. It's why I like you. Even when you are a son-of-a-bitch."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 24 2008, 08:29 PM
Maalech could not help it. As she bowed her head and confessed to liking him, he reached out and ruffled her hair. "We all are sons-of-bitches, it is impossible to get anything done otherwise." It was an utterly frivolous gesture and most likely far too intimate, but it had felt like such a moment. He was attempting to be more in touch with his feelings after all.
Still, his fingers tingled after having touched her though he knew it was an imaginary charge.
"I was never concerned with doing the right thing. I know I am far too selfish a man for that." He would have liked to add that most magi were, but that seemed redundant and a way of deflecting his responsibilities.
"And sometimes there is a need to do things one might regret afterwards." Regret the act, but not the reason for it.
The sad though was that of all the atrocities he had committed over the years, there were only one or two decisions where he would truly have gone back and changed what he had done.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 25 2008, 06:15 PM
The girl threw back her head, flipping the fringe away again, and laughed in honest surprise and delight at his gesture. "Uh-oh, is this where we start in with being disgustingly cute with one another? I don't mind, but I think Morgan will either gag or snort beer out of his damn overly long nose."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 25 2008, 06:20 PM
"The nose runs in the family I presume. Seth has it, as did two of his other children. The daughter loathed it." He was not quite sure why he tended to turn his thoughts to the past around her, but he had a few suspicions.
That had been when he had felt the most human. And the most powerless. Both things he currently found himself experiencing quite strongly.
"And I do think that he would be immensely pleased. The man has been quite insistent that I should be forthcoming with you as well as 'loosen up a little'. I am more convinced that it is because he is afraid to do the very same things himself, thus he pins his hopes on me. if I dare to take the step, maybe he will do so too eventually."
He did not really mind Morgan's action, he regarded them with something akin to fond tolerance.
"I do however not think I am capable of that level of... cuteness." The words hesitated a bit, as if he was not used to uttering it.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 25 2008, 08:00 PM
"It's called living vicariously; people do it all the time." She seemed deeply amused at the concept. "Bah. Tell Morgan to get his own damn love-life and be a little more gentle with it this time. And please, I beg of you--don't tell me you just said 'noses run in his family' and expected me not to make a silly joke about it."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 25 2008, 08:05 PM
Maalech was silent for a moment, as if he at first could not see what she was getting at. After a moment he chuckled, shaking his head. "Languages are strange creatures. You think you have mastered them, and still you find yourself saying something that would sound inadvertently humorous when simply stating the obvious."
He shook his head again, looking down on her. "I fear that this self imposed exile is less than healthy for me. I find myself guarding and weighing my words less and less when I am with you."
It was true. Before he would not have uttered anything before making sure that the words carried exactly the weight he wished to give them. He did not make small talk.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 25 2008, 08:20 PM
"It is not small talk. It's spontaneity." She jostled him under the ribs lightly. "It is the art of surprising oneself and others with what happens next. "Consider it being chameleon-like and get over it. You blend in with the natives. People talk all the time; they say the same words over and over again. You have to take them off guard to jostle them out of chattering."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 25 2008, 08:28 PM
Maalech looked more than a bit annoyed at the jostle, though the annoyance for once did not reach his eyes. It was mostly for show. "I never had much concern for blending in, I was never able to."
He made a brief gesture to his eyes, then decided to ignore the ships for now. Instead he just continued the short distance to the place where he knew they could find some decent food, even though most spices here were still strange to them.
He had always been a creature of habit after all.
"Things... have changed in that regard. There are more strangers here, I do not stick out overmuch. Not more so than anybody else." He paused, looking troubled. "It is an intriguing exercise of the mind at times, to attempt to see what would have happened had my heritage not been so apparent. Would I still have turned out the same just by virtue of being myself, or did the surroundings warp me to a great extent?"
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 25 2008, 08:49 PM
"See, this is nature versus nurture and it's another one of those thing we argue about all the time." Despite the hyperbole, she looked utterly sincere about the frequency. "When we're not arguing about inherent virtue versus habituated virtue and which edit of 'Hey Bulldog' should be considered canon . . . "
She trailed along behind him, her head cocked in curiosity to one side. "Which do you think?"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 26 2008, 05:49 PM
"I think that there are no easy and clear-cut answers here." Maalech sat down at one of the tables that had been shielded from the downpour by a thin roof. For a moment he sought the right words, then continued. "But had all things been equal but for my eyes showing my true heritage, I think I would have been much the same. Less bitter most likely, but I would still have sought..." Here he brought off, then shook his head.
"No, let us be honest here. Had I not been that bitter I would not have sought power that desperately, and I most likely would not have attempted to fight Indhra once the walls fell. Then I would most likely be dead."
He shrugged then, scratching his chin for a moment, deep in thought. "Though I presume that is an unfair way to end the argument, with death before I would have the chance to find out what I would become."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 26 2008, 06:33 PM
"I think it's perfectly fair," she replied rather gravely. She propped herself at the table beside him, then flipped up her skirts to straddle the bench and look at him directly. "If by 'fair' you mean it'd be the logical progression of events in those circumstances. It also means you might've sought out something else with your life. Been a farmer, or a poet." She smiled faintly at the image. "I think you would've fought with yourself, though, if someone had stuck what you are into the life of a farmer or a poet. You might not have known why you were doing it, but you would have struggled with it all your life, trying to figure out what on Earth cast you into this lot when part of you knew that your destiny lay elsewhere. It happens a lot, actually, in some of the outer worlds."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 26 2008, 07:58 PM
Maalech scoffed loudly, though most of that ire was not directed at her. "I was not meant for this life either way. Even without the halfbreed issues I was still the son of a whore. They did not draw weaver's apprentices from those kinds of people. My life should have been quite different."
He silenced himself, quite disturbed with the passion that had surged there. "I would like to think that it was a thirst for knowledge that drove me as much as a thirst for revenge."
He would like. He was not just sure it was true.
"You are not cast in your lot in life, you take it."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 26 2008, 08:11 PM
The girl's small mouth softened while her eyes grew more stony, sharp as flint. "You of all people. You've spent this long keeping track of this many threads, and you still . . . all of you still cling to this feeling that you are so . . . self-determined. Like a liferaft. You either look so hard for sense that you get locked into superstition and self-imposed patterns, or you take it that there is no pattern and that outside is nothing but . . . flux and chaos. You should know better. You of all people."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 26 2008, 08:18 PM
"Oh I know that there are threads and patterns, I weave them myself." Her rising emotions didn't provoke any more of a response from him than when she had been kind and pleasant. "Threads fit easier in some patterns than other, and it is much easier to make a nudge than an outright break. I know that there is no true complete self-determination, and I know that there is more than random chaos and entropy."
He was looking quite calmly at her.
"However I refuse to believe that it is impossible for man to change one's fate. And thus I say that in the end you choose your own lot in life, if nothing else by just accepting what is already given to you."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 26 2008, 08:28 PM
The girl listened in silence. In the end her tongue ran out over her lips as she tried to compose what she wanted to say. "You're right. Within your current frame of reference. I suppose there's no other way to live."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 26 2008, 08:34 PM
Maalech did look faintly amused at her thoughtful look. "Did you wish to tell me that my role was already cast since I entered into this story? That while every decision I make is my own, it is also those very decisions that will lead me down a path you, or someone, already knows the ending to?"
There was the faintest of shrugs as the serving girl appeared. He ordered a simple meal of fried fish and bread for himself, letting the girl beside him chose what she wished herself. As an impulse he ordered in some wine as well.
Once the girl had left, he added a bit more quietly. "Do not think I have not considered other alternatives to my beliefs, but I find them far to cruel to take to heart."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 26 2008, 08:37 PM
"Endings," she corrected lightly, with a stress on the plural. "Would it really be so different than what you do, if the answer was yes?"
Posted by: Maalech Jan 26 2008, 08:49 PM
The frown deepened at that, as if he truly considered what she had said. After a few heartbeats of silence he spoke once more, slowly, measuring his words.
"Yes. And no. Regardless of what you say, it would not change my life nor my decisions." It was not the first time he had wrestled with these thoughts, she was just the living embodiment of laws that had thus far been impersonal and distant.
"Say that you speak the truth, and that my life is as clear to you as some of the simpler threads are to me. How would this change anything about my existence? If I asked for answers and received them, then that would also have been a part of the thread that you had seen before. My frustration and my actions would not change anything, just cement my fate more throughly."
He was smiling now, though it was directed at himself and not at her. "It is as before, when you allowed me to retain a memory that I had forgotten something. Or never learnt it. That knowledge changed nothing. And it changed everything."
He gave her a long look, dwelling on her face. "I can only walk my path as I see fit. That is all. I need nothing else."
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 26 2008, 09:26 PM
"It's as much as anyone does," she said gently. "Knowing differently doesn't make anything any easier, and it rarely makes anyone any happier. Knowledge doesn't magically bestow the ability to step outside of the threads. It actually . . . yeah, kind of sucks. There's nothing worse than knowing that there's a way out and not being able to find it. It's . . . ergh."
She made a small show gritting her teeth, stamping her feet, and pounding her knees with her fists. It was all over in a few minutes, never serious.
Posted by: Maalech Jan 26 2008, 09:32 PM
Maalech's face softened somewhat as he watched her. Sometimes knowledge truly was a terrible thing, and he had only learnt to what extent once he had stepped down and left most of it behind.
"Do you ever wish to do what I do?" There was an amused smile as the wine arrived before the food, and he poured them each a glass.
"Step down for a little while. Stop standing outside the window of the bakery looking in. Or is that a line you cannot cross, even in wishes or dreams?" He paused for a moment, then added gently "Or is the line drawn so hard you never even make the wish?"
She was not human. He knew that, even though all his senses screamed that she was.
She was something else.
Posted by: Serendipity Jan 26 2008, 09:47 PM
She shrugged. "The more I interact with this world, the more I become like you. I get myself involved in people's lives, in their stories, and I can't be myself anymore. Then they take me away and they put another one down in my place. But it's not something I set out to do. It's a gradual process, being human."
Posted by: Maalech Jan 26 2008, 09:58 PM
That did make Maalech actually laugh, shaking his head. "Yes. It is. Very gradual."
But he sobered up quickly enough, regarding her for a few long moments. "You might be changing, but I doubt you are becoming human. Should I seek to strike you, my blow would fail. You would still be privy to knowledge and powers most humans do not share. You would simply be,,, more entangled in the web. It would not fundamentally change you."
He raised a black brow in question. "Or am I wrong?"