A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

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Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » July 31st, 2022, 8:35 pm

Character Introduction:

Hollis Maeby

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves” - H.D. Thoreau

Image
Full name: Hollis Miranda Maeby
Birthdate: 7th of Highharvest
Birthplace: Yultac
Birth Sign: Virtue
Appearance
Age: 25
Height: 5’6”
Weight: Average
Eyes: Dark amber
Hair: Sandy Blonde
Skin: Fair skin with a clear complexion
Handedness: Left
Posture: Decent, but not great
Hygiene: Good, though often wears dingy work clothes
Scent: Wood shavings, Charcoal and paint

Physical Description: Hollis is an average height for a Midlander woman, of average weight and of average appearance. She isn’t unattractive, but she does look like most women coming from Yultac which gives her an unremarkable appearance to those also from the area. She often has soot, paint or wood shavings on her clothing or under her nails. It isn’t uncommon to find a rogue wood curl in her hair or paint speckling across her face.

General Health: Very healthy and in good physical condition from the amount of physical activity she does.

Personality:

Profession: Blacksmith, painter, jewelry maker, novice carpenter and casual writing
Languages: Decusian and Yultish
RP Tools: Always has a sketchbook with her that she is doodling in

Positive traits: Friendly and altruistic Hollis will go out of her way to help most people regardless of her feelings about them. She is bubbly and has an infectious smile. She makes friends easily and has unconditional positive regard for those she is close with.

Negative traits: Naïve, impulsive and a horrible business woman. She is a hopeless romantic and falls in love just a little bit with everyone she meets

History: Hollis is the second oldest of four children, two girls and two boys and raised with privilege and comfort in Yultac. Her family ran a profitable steel manufacturing plant that allowed them to do a great deal of traveling and outreach to areas impacted by torment, for this reason Hollis is well traveled and uses these experiences to paint what she has seen. She has had dozens of failed businesses and is awful with money, a likely product of a childhood filled with excess.

Governing Virtue: Compassion
Governing Vice: Shame

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 1st, 2022, 9:03 pm

I’ve Never Been So Alone

The sun had already begun to set over the horizon as Hollis approached Fort Praesidium. The last rays of light hung in the sky and back lit the tall and imposing stone walls making them appear as large, black, and threatening shadows. She clutched the strap of her worn leather bag with both hands and walked carefully into the southern entrance. The streets were sparsely populated by citizens in thread worn clothes and the occasional trio of guards watching the streets lazily.

After a week and a half of travel she had finally reached her destination and the adrenaline that had kept her going these past few days was working its way out of her bloodstream. Hollis was exhausted, both physically and emotionally and had no idea what she was supposed to do now. The trip here, while uncomfortable and filled with its own strife and hardships, had at least had a destination and goal. Her journey from Yulatc to the First Province had only required that she put one foot in front of the other and follow the rest of the group in her caravan. But now, she found herself alone, in a strange land she wasn’t able to leave for motivations that were not her own.

Hollis wandered through the dark streets, seeking refuge in the circles of light offered by the odd lantern speckled across the fort. She found it strange that the streets were not lit by electricity, though she shouldn’t have been surprised; even the streets were unpaved. This fort was a variable wasteland compared to the comfort and privilege she had come from and as this realization set in, her chest felt heavy with dread and anxiety.

She continued to wander in circles, going down each path in the main fort, her feet continuing to take her back to the steps of the local Inn, the Hearth and Hale, and each time found the same sign that said “Sorry, No Vacancy”. She pursed her lips together, staring at the sign and willing it to change its message in vain.

Hollis turned away and walked back up the main road, the anxiety in her chest welling up and threatening to spill over into panic. In the distance she could see a light on in a building with a sign that read “Signed and Sealed: Fort Praesidium Public Library”. Without really thinking she walked in, throwing the door open with more force than she had intended and strode in.

The interior of the building was dimly lit with shelves of books and racks of newspapers pressed up against the walls. Her sudden entrance had startled the three occupants who had been quietly reading at their tables. All eyes in the room fell upon Hollis and she realized then what a sight she must have been; her face flushed with panic, her eyes wide with fear and her clothing a patchy mess. Swallowing dryly she turned and took a seat at the first empty table she could.

Hollis tried to take in slow breaths to calm herself, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth. To keep herself busy, she picked up a book in front of her without even reading the cover and opened it. The words inside may have well been in Nothryian instead of common Decusian for all she was able to retain from the text. Her eyes scanned over the same sentence three times before she closed her eyes and surrendered.

Tears escaped from her eyes as her lids slid over them and the large drops fell in splatters against the incomprehensible page. It was as if those two drops had been holding back a flood and with them came the rest of the storm. As she sat in the library she broke down completely, the anxiety that had been welling up in her chest flowing over in the form of heavy, uncontrollable sobs and shallow heaving breaths.

Hollis tried in vain to control emotions, wiping the stream of tears from her face aggressively, clearly frustrated with herself. She felt homesick, abandoned and she had never felt more alone than now. “You’re better than this”, she whispered to herself in a hiss as she held her blonde hair back from her blotchy face.

“Miss. . “, a small voice said from behind her.

The word was enough to draw her back and Hollis managed to compose herself enough to look over her shoulder with a forced smile.

“Miss, I’m so sorry but, the Library is a quiet space”, a middle aged woman who looked exceedingly uncomfortable said gently to her.

“Oh, of course. I understand. I’m so sorry”, Hollis stumbled over her words as she collected her things, her eyes falling upon the text she had been trying to read. The open pages were covered in tear splatters and the ink had run together in space. She motioned to the book and opened her mouth to begin a series of apologies but was stopped by the librarian.


“It’s alright”, the woman replied, her body language and singular hand that motioned to the door telling Hollis that all she wanted was for her to leave.

Back outside the night had only grown darker, an inky black fell upon the fort that seemed to threaten to even snuff out the scattered lanterns in the area. Hollis stood, her feet rooted to the dirt road under them. She didn’t know where to go or what to do now. Perhaps she could find a safe bench to sleep on for the evening and figure out her next steps at first light?

Through the darkness she could hear footsteps approaching and then from up the road the shining light of a bright lantern broke through the night. The tall, lean man dressed in flowing robes of burgundy held the lantern high, shining the light to illuminate the path before him and Hollis.

“Is this your-?”, Hollis began to ask, motioning to the library it had just been politely suggested she leave.

“תשלג צוא גלד חנןגזקגן םסלגס", the man had begun saying just as she had spoken, words in a thick accent and language she recognized to be Collatian.

“Oh, I-”, she motioned between the two of them as if to indicate she didn’t understand.

The young man stepped forward bringing the light with him and cleared his throat, appearing a little embarrassed and offering an apologetic smile. “Ahm, are you alright, miss?”, he asked in a small voice.

Hollis put on her bravest smile that was easily betrayed by her puffy eyes and her fair skin speckled with large blotches of red. “Oh yes I’m-”, she stopped half way through her lie and shook her head, “No, actually. I’m not”.

The man nodded with understanding and before he could speak again Hollis had launched into a frantic explanation.

“I’m quite lost- and it’s so dark, and there aren’t any rooms available at the inn. I jus- I just- I have no idea what to do.'', Hollis stumbled over her words motioning down the road to the Hearth and Hale and then behind her to the library.

The man calmly watched her as she finished speaking with kind green eyes. “I’ve a tavern nearby”, he said in a way that was a statement of fact but also a polite invitation.

“Oh, so you’re not a librarian then?”

“No, afraid not”

Hollis let out a soft sigh, “That’s a relief, I cried on three books in there”

The man grimaced before chuckling, “How bad could it be?” he asked with a reassuring smile though as his eyes flitted towards the library nervously.

Turning her head to look at the door she had just come from, she chewed on her bottom lip and glanced back at the man, “You know, lets just not talk about it again.”

The pair shared a laugh and with that Hollis felt some of the weight on her chest lighten.

“You don’t look familiar, are you newly arrived”, the man asked her just as an unintelligible yell came through the night.

“Yes, I’m fresh off the train”, Hollis responded, looking out into the night with unease. “Did you hear that?”, she asked as a second unintelligible yell followed the last.

The tall Western man turned at the second yell wordlessly and talked in the direction it had come. Not wanting to be left behind, Hollis followed the man to an alleyway where once they had rounded the corner they could see two people, one lying motionless in the grass and the other leaning over him.

A tall woman with tan skin and flowing black hair wearing a vest and red long skirt was hunched over the young shirtless man who, even in the dim lighting appeared to be heavily tattooed. The thin tattooed man was clearly unconscious and resistant to the woman’s attempts to rouse him.

Hollis watched the scene as the tall man she had followed and the woman they had come upon exchanged tense greetings. Hollis crossed her arms tightly around her chest and observed the scene. “Is– Is that man dead?”, she finally managed to say as continued efforts to rattle him awake were unsuccessful.

The woman tending to the unconscious man didn’t look up as they approached.

“No, he isn’t dead, at least I don’t think so. He has become prone to dis of late”, the man responded motioning to the man. “Last time I brought him back to dee tavern and got him a warm drink. He was easier to rouse them though.

The woman looked up at that and frowned, wetting her lips and shaking her head in what Hollis assumed was disappointment. “I’ll take care of him”, she said, her eyes flitting up to look at Hollis and the man before returning her attention to her work. “I’m sorry for the. . “, the woman gestured vaguely towards the man in the grass.

“Oh, it’s no worry”, Hollis responded awkwardly as the woman watched her, also unable to look away from the scene.

Drawing in a breath the man looked away from the pair in the grass and drew his attention back to Hollis, “I didn’t get your name, Miss. . ?”, he asked curiously.

“Maeby”, Hollis responded off-handedly, watching the group.

“I am called Constantine”, the man responded, motioning to himself before furrowing his brow in some confusion, “Maybe what?”

“Hm?”, Hollis responded

“Maybe I didn’t get it?”, Constantine said, the look of confusion still playing across his face.

“Oh no”, Hollis looked at him, her head tilting up to look him in the eye due to their height difference, “My name is Maeby, Hollis Maeby. I just tend to go by my last name”

Constantine nodded with a slight chuckle and motioned to the pair in the grass. “This is Doctor Drucilla and Ikashev.”

“And you’re sure he’s alright?” Hollis asked, looking back at the man in the grass.

“He’ll be alright in time, that is the important thing”, the Doctor responded, picking up the man’s wrist and keeping time on a small pocket watch. ”This isn’t a common thing in other places. In this quarantine zone, it seems people are eager to expose all of themselves to each other”, she said with a sigh and a nod.


“Oh. I see”, Hollis replied, unsure what to make of the doctor’s warning.

“No, really”, Drucilla said, looking up to Hollis and meeting her eyes, “Be careful. They’ve few boundaries, these refugees. These are strange times.” The woman’s eyes stayed locked on Hollis’, giving her an odd sense of dread with her words.

Constantine furrowed his brow at this, looking sidelong to Drusilla, who had finally dropped her gaze back down to her work.

“Well. . “, Constantine said after a long and uncomfortable silence, “I’ll leave you to it. I’m going to dee Risk”.

Hollis pulled her focus away from the scene and found that her feet followed after Constantine, the light from his lantern leading the way through the dark streets. He led her to an inviting and comfortable tavern and offered her food and drink that she had accepted readily.

As more people found their way to the tavern, Hollis moved from the bar to a table in the back. She opened her sketch book and began to draw those around her as she met them. Silvanas, a young man with white long hair, Luno a middle aged man with heavy frown lines and kind eyes and the woman Drucilla and Ikashev who she had met in the alley.

Hollis continued to sketch, filling a full page with an illustration of Constantine and as her eyes lowered to the bottom of the page to continue her drawing she felt her eyes grow heavy and begin to droop. Hollis settled into the chair, slouching low and decided to close her eyes for just a moment.

Through the reaches of her half conscious mind Hollis could hear people talking around her.

“Should we try to wake her?”, a raspy voice said.

“No, let her sleep. She’s been through a lot”, another responded as she slipped into unconsciousness.

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 5th, 2022, 6:28 pm

Live With What You’ve Lost

Hollis sat on the floor of her newly acquired apartment, her back pressed against the frame of the second hand bed she had found in a donation pile. The apartment, if one could call it that, was a single room and came furnished only with a pot belly stove in the corner. The room offered no running water, electricity or other amenities. The only light came from a window and a singular lantern that had been given to her by Constantine.

Constantine, a man so generous that Hollis had to wonder if his altruism wasn’t some attempt at redemption for past sins. She had asked him about it once, but the only explanation that he had offered her was that keeping busy kept the thoughts at bay. Frequently she replayed those words in her mind and wondered what he had meant by them, but the fear of him returning the question kept her from asking.

She tipped her head back against the worn padding of the bed and rubbed her face with both hands. Hollis had been holed up in her apartment the last two days, wallowing in self pity and drenched thoroughly in Meddler’s Mark whiskey. She lamented the choices she had made that brought her here to this province and had circled around blaming everyone for their part in condemning her to this life.

Rolling the bottle in her hand she realized that she was dangerously low on whiskey and would soon need to draw her misery to a close. Constantine had replaced all of her lost tools and even gone so far to buy her a packhorse she had named Risk. She couldn’t squander this new opportunity like she had her previous ones, but she did need to take the time to mourn the past.

Hollis missed her home, she missed her parents, her siblings and the familiar paths and roads she had taken her whole life to her favorite places. She missed the smell of Yultac, the comfort of her own bed and her dog Ruby. Allowing the thoughts to flow over her, Hollis wept loudly and openly. She would have to learn to live with what she had lost and accept her blame in it, but that would take time.

Sniffling and wiping her nose on the back of her arm, Hollis extended her leg and kicked her sketchbook over until it was within reach. She opened the book and sketched the room around her using long strokes of her charcoal and shading with the side of her hand.

The sketch showed the room, as empty and alone as she felt on the inside. The singular light source illuminated the room, showing only the stove in one corner and the bed in the other. Hollis poured her remorse and her shame into the drawing. It was a simple rendering, but the image clearly expressed the sorrow of the artist.

Hollis finished the sketch and scowled down at it, she considered ripping the page from the binding but couldn’t bring herself to. As much as she hated herself and in this moment the artwork itself she couldn’t bring herself to.

She would allow herself this final day to mope and finish the whiskey and tomorrow she would start, she’d pick herself up by her worn bootstraps and begin to start over. Afterall, she had to repay the kindness of a Western man she had met recently.

Image
(artwork compiled from adjusted stock images)
Last edited by Hollis.Maeby on August 9th, 2022, 12:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 7th, 2022, 4:19 am

The Sun Goes Down in My Eyes

“The fort is a safe place, right?”, Hollis had once asked Constantine. The tall Western man had paused and taken his time in answering, his lips pursing and his brow furrowing with poorly masked concern.

“It’s safe enough”, he had responded carefully in a non-committal tone, his eyes full of memories he would never share with her.

This interaction played through her mind as she walked from the public craft house to her small apartment. The once sunny and pleasant day had suddenly taken a turn and the sky was dimming rapidly as though something were obstructing the sun. Looking up she could see what appeared to be a shadow cutting across the sun.

Hollis had stopped in her tracks, one foot on the steps to her apartment to watch the celestial phenomenon. She had experienced eclipses before, but this was different. The atmosphere in the fort had changed and the air felt electrified, a soft humming filling the air.

As she watched, the shadow swallowing the sun began to ebb and flow, pulsating and changing directions like a large flock of birds. Looking down, she could see a collection of people gathering up the street in front of the Meddler’s Risk and recognized Constantine among them.

“Constantine”, she called out, one hand cupped along the side of her mouth. His gaze was pulled upwards and the humming filling the air prevented her voice from reaching his ears.

“Ouch!”, she yelped and slapped her arm instinctually as something bit her. A sickening crunch accompanied the blow and she felt the exoskeleton of something large crush under the weight of her palm. Slowly, she pulled her hand back and examined the managed corpse of an unusually large mosquito.

Disgusted, she swept it from her arm and once again called out to the group in vain. Hollis watched as the group, each with their heads skyward, began to pick up arms and several equipped full face helmets and masks. Clearly they knew something she didn’t.

Taking the stairs two at a time Hollis ran the remainder of the way to her apartment, the sky was growing darker and the afternoon now resembled night. As she reached the door she heard the screams of those out in the open issue from behind her and with shaking hands she quickly unlocked it and rushed inside.

Just as soon as the door had closed behind her Hollis heard several meaty thuds hit the thick wood frame and the screams below grow louder. Her chest heaved heavily and she clutched her hands together, taking a few steps closer to the window hoping to see what was happening.

THUD! The sound alone made her jump back, but what lingered on the glass of the window made her heart skip a beat. A massive mosquito, a pest so large it took up a full pane of glass crawled back and forth around the window, its massive proboscis probing around the glass for a weak point to enter.

Hollis froze and watched on in horror, her chest heaving with heavy breaths and the weight of dread filling her body. She was unable to blink and unable to look away as another large insect landed with a thud on the window. From the outside she could hear them skittering and buzzing, looking for ways to get in.

A scream from outside shook her free from her terror and got her moving. Hollis grabbed a folded stack of fabric from her work desk and stuffed it into the gap under the door. Still feeling insecure she dragged her desk in front of the door and stacked a wooden chest and other items up onto it.

She now understood Constantine’s hesitance in saying that the fort was a safe place. The tall walls could only keep out so much. Looking around the room she realized that she was trapped. She would have to weather this biblical storm and hope for the best.

Hollis sank against the wall on the other side of her bed, bringing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. Her body shook with unused adrenaline and before she knew it she was crying quietly into her knees.

The last few days had given her a false sense of security and she had been stupid to believe that an existence here would could be anything like Yultac. As she tried to calm herself she swore under her breath. She was such a coward. She couldn’t face the consequences of her actions back home and now she was hiding in her apartment while others suffered outside.

“I’ll do better next time”, she said quietly, a comforting promise made to herself that she was unsure if she was able to keep. Her eyes unfocused as she stared forward in the direction of the window. At this moment she was certain that she would never return to the familiar soil of the Midlands, she knew that she would eventually die here one way or another.

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 9th, 2022, 3:26 am

There’s an Art to Life’s Distractions

Hollis stood, with her sketchbook open in her hand and glared down at the idle doodle she had done the night before. Littered across the page were a series of crude hearts, some of them shaded but most were just curved two dimensional lines that made up the classic shape. In the center of the largest one was written, “3+8”, an embarrassing and childish code she had picked up as a teenage girl.

All of this would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact that someone else had seen it. Unlike the majority of her artwork, this piece was never meant to be viewed by another soul. It served her right for making this the first thing she’d scrawled across the fresh pages of the sketchbook. What was she expecting to happen?

While sitting at the bar of the Meddler’s Risk, she had opened the book and shown Constantine her original sketch of the outside of the bar. He had seemed quite taken with it and the pride that accompanied his approval left her in an elated haze. She’d needed to step away however, and in a jovial fog she had left her sketchbook upon the bar top.

Hollis hadn’t thought anything of it, but she should have considered the contents of that first page and the meaning of the arithmetic she had jotted down within it. While it may not have been apparent to everyone, the equation didn’t equal eleven. It was in fact, a very rudimentary code popular with girls in her class when discussing their crushes or love interests. While doodling on the page she simply wrote it out almost as if by muscle memory.

She thought back to moments earlier when she had re-entered the bar, and the way her stomach had lurched when she saw Constantine standing with the book open, his eyes gazing upon the contents. Every good feeling had fled her body, replaced with a surge of shame and fear. She could taste the metallic twang of anxiety upon her tongue as he had sheepishly apologized for snooping. After some back and forth she had discovered that he had indeed seen the front page but, according to him, hadn’t understood its meaning.

While her secret seemed to remain secure, the feeling of shame and fear lingered. It was too close of a call for comfort. While she could easily express herself in half a dozen artistic mediums she was too much of a coward to tell him to his face that she had feelings for him. So instead she had allowed herself to day dream and write out “3+8”, the third letter in the Decusian alphabet and the eight letter. A childish daydream indeed.

Her face burned with fresh embarrassment at the memory. She had been able to convince herself that Constantine truly was oblivious to the meaning of the numbers, but part of her still wondered if that was for her benefit. The best thing to do would be to get rid of the evidence and pretend nothing had ever happened.

Hollis tore the page of the book and looked over her shoulder. She could see Constantine through the window of the Risk from where she was standing, just in front of the trash pile next to the street. His head was turned and she thought perhaps he was watching her. Turning away she balled the paper up with her left hand and tossed it into the pile, kicking around the debris to conceal it.

As sure as she was of her feelings for the tall Western man, she was just as sure of his indifference. It was difficult not to feel something for him after all the help he had given her when she first arrived and the warm way he greeted her every time they crossed paths. But that’s all it was; altruism and a pleasant public face.

Hollis pursed her lips together as she thought. She’d always had a habit of falling for unavailable or uninterested men, a character trait that had caused her enough misery already. She was turning over a new leaf and she was determined not to repeat past mistakes. She’d keep her feelings to herself where they belonged, where they were safe, where they’d do the least amount of harm.

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 12th, 2022, 4:57 pm

When the Morning Comes

“Just go and get Constantine '', Drusilla snapped at her as Hollis had attempted to assist her. The lithe doctor had been having an episode, she was pale, looked clammy and had been phasing in and out of focus while Hollis and Quincy were speaking with her. Hollis had attempted to help her, but she refused her every effort, making excuses as to why she wouldn’t accept anything.

Hollis drew in a deep breath as she cut off the path, taking the shortcut through the woods from Market Lane to the Meddler’s Rest. It was just after dawn and the sun was climbing in the sky behind her. This was only her second real interaction with Drusilla, and this one had been even more disastrous than the last.

During their last meeting Drusilla had been terse and a little aggressive with her line of questioning, but Hollis had figured this might have just been the way of doctors. Or, perhaps this was a cultural difference that could be resolved. Whatever it was, Hollis was confident it was a misunderstanding. Drusilla had no reason to dislike her, she’d never been anything besides nice and helpful.

She considered their most recent interaction and chewed on her bottom lip anxiously. Hollis had told Drusilla that she reminded her of her sister Olivia, who was a blunt and prickly no-nonsense woman. This comparison hadn’t gone well and Drusilla had rounded on Hollis like a cat pet backwards.

“You’re really sweet in front of him, aren’t you?”, she had hissed through her teeth at Hollis, “He falls for it”.

“Who? Quincy?”, Hollis had replied, confused by the sudden verbal attack.

Drucilla had thrust her finger towards her, her posture weak though aggressive and her breaths drawing in short raspy hisses. “But you’re really just-!”, the woman had stopped mid sentence and in frustration growled towards Hollis, “Constantine will figure you out, you know?“.

Hollis had watched her, looking from her pointed gesture to her fragile stance and decided her actions, her words and her refusal for help were all related to the episode she was currently experiencing. She had tried to help the Western woman, but she had refused and now Hollis found herself on this fetch mission.

As she walked briskly through the woods she replayed Drucilla’s words to her. She had accused her of being two faced, something Hollis had taken personally even if she hadn’t shown it. While Hollis wasn’t always up front about everything in her life, she was, or at least she felt she was, an honest woman someone could take at face value.

She drew in another breath to sigh but the air in her lungs escaped instead from her mouth in a sudden and blood curdling scream. Something had grabbed hold of her ankle and from the corner of her eye she could see someone, no, something shambling towards her with its arms outstretched.

Hollis had been warned about the woods at night, but she hadn’t considered the monsters that wandered through them would need time to clear out as the dawn broke. In her mind the sun was up so the path should have been safe. Looking down Hollis could see just the upper half of what was once a man grabbing hold of her with an emaciated and leathery hand. The monster stopped short at the torso, a trail of discolored entrails dragging behind it.

In a full panic the young woman screamed again, the high pitched and distressed call attracting the attention of other ill in the area. Hollis tugged her way free from the monster, its milky eyes following after her as she began to run. Looking over her shoulder she could see the pack of undead following after her, though luckily she was more swift than they.

Her whole body collided with the locked door of the Meddler’s Rest and in a full panic Hollis slammed her fists rapidly against the wood. “Constantine!”, she screamed at the top of her lungs, her head flitting back and forth from the pack of undead still following her and the door that refused the budge.

She turned and with shaky hands she put on the set of brass knuckles she had made for herself the week before. Hollis had little idea of how to use these, but with no other help coming she needed to do something. Her heart raced, beating wildly against her ribs and her back pressed firmly against the door to the Meddler’s Rest.

“Constantine!” she continued to call out, her foot kicking at the door now to try to jostle the man awake if he were inside. “Fuck!”, Hollis let out in a hiss as the realization that help wasn’t coming washed over her. She was afraid to continue running into the forest for fear she’d attract something worse than a few shambling undead, but also terrified of the prospect of facing this nightmare alone.

The first of the pack approached her, what used to be a woman from the looks of it wearing the final shreds of a dress. The dehydrated skin sucked around the bones of the figure and the creature’s milky eyes stared forward, locked onto their target. The monster’s lips were curled around yellowed teeth that snapped towards Hollis, and as the distance closed between them it let out a low and terrifying growl.

Taking in a few quick breaths, Hollis moved into a defensive posture and raised her fist and swung. Fer fist made contact with the beast’s jaw nearly tearing it from its skull. There was a brief moment when Hollis watched the monster’s head sway to the left from the impact that she was full of confidence, but that feeling quickly waned as the shambling corpse righted itself and came back at her.

Hollis raised her arms to protect her face just as the monster swung at her, the claws of the shockingly strong beast cutting clean gashes into her forearms and ripping at her clothes with its second attack. Leaning back against the door to gain purchase, Hollis brought her foot up even with the monster’s chest and kicked it backwards away from her. The undead stumbled and flipped behind the row of neatly trimmed hedges.

Wasting no time, Hollis turned and ran through Constantine’s garden with little regard for the plants growing there. She ran, faster than she felt she ever had back through the forest towards the fort. She should have been paying better attention and she shouldn’t have turned to check behind her for if she hadn’t, she would have seen the tall tree root, easily lit by the rising sun that her foot collided with.

The impact felt like it took forever, the moment in which she was weightless as she flew through the air gave her a brief second to reflect. She shouldn’t have come to the Meddler’s Rest, she shouldn’t have listened to Drusilla and most importantly she shouldn’t have followed Quincy and Drusilla to his new shop. In the clarity of her reflection she could now tell she had been invited as a buffer, a way for Quincy to redirect the wrath of Drusilla onto someone else unsuspecting besides himself.

Hollis landed face first into the moist brush of the forest with a meaty thud. The impact had been too surprising for her to feel any pain, yet, and as she laid there with her face pressed into the damp soil she felt a great respect for gravity. If it hadn’t been for the deep moan coming from behind her, reminding the young woman that the undead were still coming for her, she would have laid there forever.

Peeling her body from the forest floor, Hollis collected herself and continued at a brisk pace back to the fort. Her appearance was a mess; her shirt was ripped and the whole front of her outfit and the side of her face were covered in mud. The impact from the fall had left a large gash across her left palm and sprained at least one of her fingers, a nice addition to the long cuts she already had across her left arm from the monster she had tussled with.

Hollis was unaware of her ghastly appearance, her only focus now being on getting back to the relative safety of the fort. She focused only on her feet, assuring one continued to move in front of the other. Her attention was so great that she nearly collided with Constantine who had been walking out of the fort as she had been walking in.

“Ah Maeby-”, the Western man had started, but abruptly stopped once he had taken in the sight of her.

She looked up, meeting his glance and could read across his face what he saw. For a moment the two stood there saying nothing. The blood flowing from her left hand and arm dripped into the dirt under her feet, breaking the silence.

“Maeby, are you alright?”, Constantine’s brow furrowed with concern as he observed the young battered woman.

Faced with the task of assessing herself well enough to answer his question, Hollis finally felt the pain throbbing in her body. She felt the sting of the cuts on her arm, the dull ache of her damaged bones and the sharp stab of the deep, flowing wound on her palm. Worst of all, she felt the terror she had faced and the mental scars that would take longer to heal than those of the flesh.

“Oh, I’m alrig-”, she couldn’t even get the lie out of her mouth before her throat closed up with emotion, her face burned red as the tears began to flow freely from her face. “No I'm not!”, she said suddenly nearly yelling at him. Some of her frustration at the man for not having been home bubbled over and she launched into the story. She barely took a breath as she told him about her meeting with Dursilla and how she had found herself wandering through the forest.

To his credit, Constantine allowed her to stumble and stammer through the disjointed story and listened patiently. If he recognized her resentment for him then, he made no indication. When she was done, he smiled sympathetically at her and nodded inward towards the fort.

“Do you want to come to dee Risk and let me have a look at that hand? I’m no doctor, but I can bandage it until you can see one”, he said calmly, his motions and the turn of his body to lead the way made it feel like less of a request and more of an instruction.

Hollis drew in a slow and ragged breath before nodding once and following after him. She cradled her wounded hand and cried silently as they walked, an equal amount of embarrassment at him seeing her like this and perplexity at his lack of surprise at the Doctor’s behavior washing over her. Perhaps this was yet another cultural divide she’d need to resolve?

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 16th, 2022, 3:31 pm

I Live in the Numbness Now

“Hollis?”, her name barely registered as she sank backwards into her mind. “Hollis?”, the name came again sounding more like a foreign word in a language that was unable to shake her from her dissociation from reality.

Her breath came in short rapid draws as she tried to ground herself. Where was she? The Hearth and Hale inn. Who was she with? Her eyes darted to her left and she recognized Quincy. What had they been talking about? The recollection caused stomach acid to roll up into her throat, threatening to spill out upon the carpet before her.

Quincy had sought her about making a music stand and the conversation had turned to Quincy’s avoidance of the Meddler’s Risk. Hollis, in her youthful naivete, couldn't leave well enough alone and had pestered the man for his reason.

“Constantine may be very indisposed with me”, the man had said with a weak smile.

Hollis couldn’t possibly understand, the two men had seemed to get along the last time she’d seen them together, “Are the two of you quarreling?”, she asked.

“Not directly, no”, Quincy replied, shifting a little uncomfortably, “But we have a matter in common which is indeed very tricky, as all matters of the heart ought to be”.

“I don’t think I follow. .”

“The young doctor from Kaduraas”

“Drusilla?”

“That’s the one. Constantine loves her. And for a while I thought I did too. .”, Quincy had trailed off, looking away from her.

The exchange repeated in Hollis’ mind causing her eyes to cross and the room to spin, a metallic taste on her tongue as though she’d been struck by lightning filling her mouth. It all made sense now. Drusilla’s hostility towards her, her constant attempts to find a weak spot in her armor to drag her down and Constantine’s refusal to step in and defend Hollis from Drusilla where he had always been so diligent; Constantine didn’t just love Drusilla, she loved him as well.

“Hollis?”, the voice echoed inside her mind again and she managed to look up, “Are you okay?”. Quincy was leaning forward now, squinting at her to try to read her expression.

“Oh. Of course”, Hollis switched herself over to autopilot and made the gestures and said the words of a person who hadn’t just been dealt a heavy dose of reality and the crushing blow of emotional damage.

She wasn’t sure how much she had given away during the rest of the interaction with Quincy, because quite frankly she wasn’t present for it. She’d simply chanted to herself in a slow montra until it was socially acceptable to part ways, “Just breath”.

Once home she had stood on the balcony that led to the door of her second story apartment and looked off into the distance. She could easily see the Meddler’s Risk from her stoop, the light spilling out from the massive store front window and the shadows of those within it bustling around. She usually ended her evenings there with a bite to eat, a good drink and Constantine’s company, but she couldn’t bring herself to tonight. She needed to go home and sit in front of the most reflective thing she had and practice her controlled facial expressions.

Before she turned into her apartment Quincy’s final words of their conversation came back to her like a dagger to the heart.

“I’ll give you the best piece of advice I can, Hollis. Don’t get close to anyone in this Decus-forsaken Province. Nobody is worth it. You’re much better off alone, doing what else there is to do until the inevitable happens”.

Perhaps he had a point.

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 17th, 2022, 11:23 pm

Give Me the Future and I’ll Think Only of the Past

“We should do this again sometime”, the disembodied male voice called out from the door.

Hollis didn’t look up from where she sat in the middle of her bed with her arms wrapped around her knees. “Mmhmm”, she offered noncommittally and pulled the sheet around her body more securely.

The shadowy form lingered in the doorway, back lit by the moonlight coming through. His body shifted as if he meant to say something more but instead took his cue and closed the door behind him.

Hollis’ eyes were fixed on one spot of her bedpost where the initials “V+J” had been etched into it. She wondered who they were, where they were now and if they were happy. She mused on how their bed frame had ended up in the donation pile she’d dragged it from. Had the lovers gotten a larger bed after growing tired of sleeping coiled around one another upon the small mattress? Or had the bed become a painful relic of the past and been discarded along with the relationship?

She’d never know the answers to her questions, but in her current frame of mind she felt it was the latter. The lovers were scorn, pulled apart not by circumstance but by their own selfishness and inability not to take one another for granted. Hollis ran her thumb over her upper arm as she mused, a subconscious tick to try to comfort herself as she thought of this relationship that to her was only fiction.

Pulling her gaze from the initials she looked to the door where the man had exited. That had been a mistake. One she wouldn’t be repeating. The interaction, instead of bringing comfort or the thrill of being desired, had only left her feeling more hollow and alone than before.

He was nice enough, a young guard that was frequently posted outside of the bank or the southern gate. He’d exchanged pleasantries with Hollis on a number of occasions and when he asked her out she had no reason to say no. She wasn’t attached to anyone after all.

The young man had taken her beneath Old Town, through a dark passage filled with the type of characters only a seedy underbelly could offer. Much to her relief there was a bar there as the man had promised. It was a small place where gamblers threw away the last of their coppers and young women danced naked to pry them from the hands of the winners. The environment initially made her exceedingly uncomfortable, but her anxiety was quickly soothed by the half dozen drinks she imbibed.

One thing had led to another as it tends to when alcohol is mixed with flirtation, and now Hollis was once more alone with her thoughts. The tickle of shame twitched in the back of her mind, she’d have to see him again around the fort, just as she would soon have to see Constantine and Drusilla. Her list of people to avoid was growing and the square footage of the fort didn’t lend well to that.

Hollis sighed into her knees, her impulsivity had brought her something else to feel guilty about. Constantine had warned her that the White Cloaks weren’t “great people”, but perhaps that is what drew her to accept the man’s invitation. A subtle act of defiance, even if it would only impact her.

She had always been prone to these acts of self destruction. As a toddler she’d hit her head against the wall in temper tantrums. As a child she cut her hair off when she came in second place in a talent show and as a teenager she had allowed herself to be taken for granted by a string of boyfriends. Now, as a young adult she was continuing that pattern with the series of mistakes that had led her to be sent to the First Province in the first place.

Hollis swore under her breath and dug her fingernails into her upper arms. To add insult to injury the tryst had done nothing to relax her as she had hoped it might and she could already feel that this would be another fitful night with little sleep. The sounds from the fort often kept her awake along with her intrusive thoughts, but now there was also this poor decision to dwell on.

She tossed off her sheet and collected her painting supplies. She knew this would be a night spent thinking only of the past.

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 20th, 2022, 12:46 am

I’m in Love With Bad Luck

Hollis had a talent for finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In her past she had been a bystander to not one but two armed robberies and had been inside of a local grainery picking up a delivery when it caught fire. On top of this she had walked in on three separate partners with their mistresses, or more distressingly found out she was the mistress in one instance.

Knowing this, Hollis was unsure why it surprised her that when she had gone to Old Town to use the public baths she had been drawn to the second story to find Drusilla and Quincy in a heated argument. As soon as her foot reached the last step she could see the back of Drusilla and froze.

“No, you’re not fair!”, the raven haired woman shot towards Quincy, “You never were. You knew what you were doing from the start. You told me what I wanted to hear. You concocted every part. You wrote up a story to manipulate me with and you did it!” The woman stood with her fists in balls and shook with emotion.

Hollis froze in her place, unsure if she should try to comfort the woman, intervene on behalf of Quincy or simply leave. Before she had the chance to choose, Quincy noticed her with panicked eyes and offered an awkward “Hello”.

The woman turned slowly, every muscle in her body tense and trying to control the outburst of emotion that had just erupted from her. She looked at Hollis warily and said nothing. Hollis could see past her to Quincy who was also opening and closing his mouth but nothing came from it.

“This seems- Er- I should just?”, Hollis tripped over her words and then her own feet as she slowly backed and retreated down the stairs. She had to grip hold of the railing to keep from tumbling down them as she rushed to leave the scene.

Just as soon as she had evaded Quincy and Dursilla, Hollis ran into another person she would have rather avoided.

“Hey”, the familiar male voice came over her shoulder smoothly as she exited the bridge to Old Town. The young man, just slightly taller than Hollis stood holding his pole arm and grinned at her knowingly.

Shit. What was his name? Eric? Edric? No. Was it Edward? Elaric? She froze in place with a plastic smile across her face as every “E” name she knew flooded her memory but she was unable to settle on one.

“Hey- You”, she finally responded to the man who she had shared a meal and a bed with just days earlier. She had been avoiding him, skirting past the places she knew he was usually stationed, but it seemed he had been reassigned.

Before she could make a bigger fool of herself she could see Constantine coming up the way from the corner of her eye. She smiled at the man, buying time as the tall Westerner approached her. Noticing her, Constantine of course stopped to say hello.

“Maeby, hello”, he said in his usual greeting just as Hollis laughed awkwardly at something the guard had said to her.

“Oh there you are!” Hollis said, turning and motioning widely to Constantine, “I’m so sorry I’m late for our appointment”, she tried meeting his eyes and giving him a meaningful look.

She watched the confusion on Constantine’s face as he slowly put the pieces together, “Oh yes”, he said looking between Hollis and the guard, “Dee appointment. I trust you’ve brought dee unicycle?”

Hollis gave him a flat look but played along, “Oh. No. I seem to have forgotten”.

Constantine shook his head and motioned for her to follow him, “Dis is going well already.”, he retorted with a disappointed tone.

“You’re awful”, Hollis had muttered to Constantine as she followed him away from the guard to the Risk.

Not one to let her off the hook so easily, Constantine had made Hollis jump through proverbial hoops as he pretended to interview her. Hollis had juggled for him, but upon explaining that she could only over-hand juggle, he announced he was looking for an underhanded juggler and put the joke to rest.

As the two bantered and carried on, Hollis’ mind drifted back to Quincy and Drusilla standing upon the roof of the bath house. She hoped that they were working out something that would allow them to both move forward. She had hoped that they would come off of the roof with a greater understanding of one another, or perhaps a better respect and continence. Most of all, she hoped they stayed up there, because so long as Quincy had Drusilla distracted elsewhere, Hollis had Constantine’s undivided attention.

The afternoon went on and still neither Drusilla nor Quincy had appeared at the Meddler’s Risk. Hollis had taken the time to show Constantine a detailed portrait she had painted for him and he, much to her pride and delight, had hung it above one of the overstuffed chairs in the backroom. Though, as the time went on Hollis began to worry. Why hadn’t they shown back up? Were they still arguing upon that roof?

“I need to be going to check on something”, Hollis had finally said and went to leave the Risk. Constantine followed after her and it wasn’t until she realized their paths were going the same way did she panic.

“Where are you going?”, she had inquired.

“Suppose I’ll find Quincy”, he’d retorted casually.

A knot formed in the pit of her stomach and suddenly she was wracked with guilt. The right thing to do would have been to inform her friend that his love interest was distressed and locked in an argument with a man Hollis knew loved her. As the burn of shame filled her face Hollis called out to him, “WAIT!”, she yelled and then slapped her hand over her mouth.

Constantine stopped in his tracks and looked to Hollis curiously. She had started to make excuses for why he couldn’t go see Quincy. She had other talents she could show him, fun facts to distract him with or magic tricks.

He wasn’t buying it and he narrowed his eyes on her. “What is dis about?”

She couldn’t take the pressure of his gaze and she snapped instantly. “I know where Quincy is,'' she confessed.

Constantine didn’t even need to say anything else. His expression spoke louder than any word that could come from his mouth. He was angry with her, disappointed in her lies by omission.

“Quincy is above the bath house with Drusilla. They seemed to be having a private moment and I had hoped if they were left alone they could work through it”, her words were small but she felt smaller under his scrutinizing gaze.

“Have a good night, Maeby”, he said in a monotone and turned to go to the exact location Hollis had directed him.

She stood in the dimming light of the fort and felt as though there was a spotlight upon her. The survivors and guards in the area had overheard and seen her embarrassment and she couldn’t help but feel their eyes. She folded her arms tightly around herself and half walked, half ran the distance to her apartment.

How irresponsible she had been, how incredibly selfish. She was disappointed in herself, but worst of all she knew Constantine was disappointed in her more. Hollis settled in for the night and sketched harshly upon page after page until the thin paper tore under her hand.

A flimsy substance, just like her.

Hollis.Maeby
Posts: 44
Character: Hollis Maeby

Re: A Trial by Fire: The Legacy of Hollis Maeby

Post by Hollis.Maeby » August 21st, 2022, 9:53 pm

In the Background

Self-destruction had always come as second nature to Hollis. She melted down during times of emotional distress and sometimes even in times of minor inconvenience. She had never learned appropriate coping mechanisms and instead took everything out on herself either mentally or physically.

The day after Constantine had walked away from her in irritation was no different, she couldn’t bring herself to face him so instead she poured herself into a deep bottle of whiskey at the Hearth and Hale. She was half a bottle in when Quincy had found her, fresh from weeping and face down upon the table.

Quincy was such a nice man and a true gentleman, he hadn’t even questioned her when she insisted she wasn’t intoxicated and instead had offered to walk her back home. A suggestion Hollis had refused. Finding themselves at an impasse they sat and talked for a long while. Though the first subject was a sobering one for the young woman.

“Constantine came by my trailer earlier today.” Quincy began, “That never happens, so I knew something was up”. Quincy looked at the fire roaring in the fireplace and was quiet for a long while, “He and Drusilla are together. Reciprocally. I never guessed I feared this day until it happened”.

Hollis looked down. Were it not for the numbing effect of the whiskey she’d imbibed she'd likely be more of a nervous wreck after hearing that. She could feel the tapping of anxiety and rejection upon the door of her mind, but the liquor kept it tightly closed.

The man looked at her and laughed ruefully between gritted teeth, “What’s worse is she still wants me around. She calls it ‘friendship’ but I know what it is-”.

“Selfishness” Hollis finally found her voice and finished Quincy’s sentence. She wasn’t surprised, she couldn’t be. She had seen this coming but the reality of it still stung. She couldn’t help how she felt about Constantine as much as Quincy couldn’t help how he felt for Drusilla, nor could Drusilla and Constantine help the love they felt for each other. The four of them were like magnets, some drawn together while others pushed each other away, repelled by the similar fields.

Quincy shook his head, “It’s pity, the wounded bird, the weakest end of the rope.” The man looked away as he belittled himself.

Hollis looked at the bottle of half drunk whiskey and contemplated finishing it. Catching Quincy’s defeated look she sighed and began to tell him a story of her past.

“I used to see a man- a boy really, we were so young.” She paused with a bitter smile. “ We constantly fought the way young lovers do. The fights would reach a fever pitch and we’d go our separate ways. He’d meet someone new, and when he was single again he’d find his way back to me.”

She pursed her lips and looked over to him, “We’re back ups, Quincy. The moment there’s an issue she’ll come back to you.”

Quincy shook his head, “Hardly. I don’t even qualify as that”.

But Hollis barely heard him. She was thinking back to that boy she used to date; Elias. Hollis had been a spare to him and for her whole life. She’d been named after her father when he feared he’d never have a male child, and then her name was given to her younger brother when he was born. She was a spare friend, a spare lover and even a spare Hollis. This was something she was used to. But she could tell by the pain on Quincy’s face that he wasn’t.

He continued to lament his poor luck and Hollis drew her attention back to him. “At least you don’t owe her a steel hammer”, she said ruefully with a sour chuckle.

She and Quincy’s eyes met and as they looked into their equally pained souls she knew he was aware of the secret she’d been keeping.

“Yes, at first I mistook your expression.” Quincy trailed off, looking at Hollis with soft and sympathetic eyes.

Hollis nodded and was glad when the conversation switched to the article he had planned to write on her.

“I know I wanted to write an interview with you but, for now, just tell me a bit about yourself”

“I’m not sure what else there is to know.” Hollis chuckled, “ I’m Hollis Miranda Maeby, twenty five year old hopeless-romantic” She fluttered her eyes at the man playfully to illustrate but Quincy was hung up on something else.

“Miranda?”

“Yes, my mother’s name, Hollis, is my father’s. The weight of two titans upon the shoulders of someone with a weak spine”, she mused and looked over to the man.

“Would you mind if I called you that?” Quincy asked her.

Hollis paused, no one had ever asked to call her Miranda before. After her brother Hollis had been born her mother had tried several nicknames to ease the confusion. Holli, Lis, Hol, but none of them ever stuck, so she had gone by Maeby most of her life. Quincy had also been the first person to ask to call her by her first name upon arriving, a curious trait she’d have to explore more.

“I wouldn’t mind”, she smiled at the man after a pause. She liked the sound of it, it felt like reclaiming something that had always been hers that had been stolen from her. She had felt the same way when he had asked to call her Hollis.

Quincy then disclosed to her that he too had been going by a different name to remove himself from the shadow of his father. Another thing the two of them had in common.

Hollis smiled as he told his story, perhaps it was the whiskey or just the good company during a trying time, but she was starting to develop a great appreciation for him. In a lot of ways she understood him and his flair for the dramatics, for she too could be the same way.

As Quincy continued, Hollis watched him and the way he moved, the small gestures he made when speaking and the particular way his mouth twitched before curling into a smile. Hollis drew her thumb over her lips as she watched the man, her eyes locking on his for perhaps longer than was socially acceptable. Had his eyes always been such a pleasant shade of blue?

Hollis snapped back to attention as Quincy looked at her with a sigh and pleading eyes. “Miranda, please tell me. What should I do?”

Without so much as a hesitation she responded, “You paint. You take everything inside of you and you subject it to a canvas”.

Quincy grinned with a hint of bitterness, “If only. What comes out is, ugly”, he said looking away from her. “I wanted to paint like you. Just an image, a random depiction of something light, unassuming without me in it”.

Hollis suddenly felt heat in her face. Quincy’s belittlement of his work and comparison to hers had her suddenly leaning over the table that separated them. “You can’t paint like me, you aren’t me. You have to paint like you.”, She said pointedly and without thinking she lifted her hand and pressed two fingers into his chest, “You have to paint from here. Even if that means throwing paint at the canvas, stabbing it and sewing it back together.”

Quincy looked a little alarmed as his eyes locked with hers and then trailed down to her hand poking him in the chest.

“Do you want to see them?”, he said to her in a small voice that brought her back.

Hollis sheepishly nodded, withdrawing her hand from him with an apologetic smile. They departed the Hearth and Hale and traveled across the fort and to the man’s wagon next to the Foundry.

Quincy let her inside of the small, cramped wagon and motioned to the crate of paintings. He stood back and watched her anxiously as she flipped through the canvases. What Hollis found was a series of beautiful and emotion inducing pieces, each more alluring than the last. As she looked at them she felt the emotions Quincy had when he painted them and she suddenly felt great empathy for the man.

“These are. .”, she paused, her eyes falling upon one that was black and red brush strokes, “Breathtaking” she said breathlessly looking back at him, a look of disbelief upon his face.

The pair talked more about the artwork and Hollis tried her best to convince him to show some of his work at an art show she was hoping to do. Before they knew it the sun was beginning to set in the horizon, marking the time to get to safety before the beasts of the night began to prowl.

Hollis began to say her goodbyes to Quincy, but she couldn’t look away from him. The man’s face, while brighter than it had been earlier in the day, was still marred with sorrow. She didn’t want to leave him, but she knew it wasn’t socially acceptable to invite herself to stay.

Suddenly the overwhelming urge to embrace him came over her. “Would it be too much to ask to hug you?”, she asked sheepishly.

“Nobody has ever really asked me that before.” Quincy’s brow furrowed and he looked confused. Hollis hoped she hadn’t made the man uncomfortable with her request.

“It’s partly selfish, I could use one and you seem like you would also benefit.”

“I could do with a hug”, the man said awkwardly after a pregnant pause. As he approached her, Hollos noticed that they were around the same height, a detail that had escaped her until they were so close together.

With slight trepidation, Hollis embraced him, wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning her cheek against his. There was a moment where Quincy tensed at the contact, but soon relaxed and encompassed his arms around her waist.

The muscles that had been held so tightly until then released and Hollis breathed in slow and deep. She hadn’t realized how touch starved she was until then, and without thought her grip on Quincy tightened and she pressed her body closely to his savoring the contact. Hollis lingered there until she felt Quincy’s grip on her grow slack and with hesitation she unfurled her arms and backed away from the man.

Hollis meekly thanked him wished Quincy a good evening before began her trek back to the fort. While she had always felt as though she were in the background, Quincy had never made her feel like anything less than center stage. It was an unusual sensation for her, but one she felt she could get used to.

After all, shouldn't she deserve nothing less?

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