A Cool Breeze Blowing

A general forum for all in-character posts as they relate to Act VI: Absolution, the characters that inhabit the world at large, and the events that help shape both.
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Posts: 9
Character: Riah

A Cool Breeze Blowing

Post by Riah » September 16th, 2023, 5:35 pm

The sunlight filtered in through the bare windows looking out over the western wall of Fort Praesidium. Not for the first time, she was glad for the gentle introduction to the day. She stretched languidly under the loose covers and reached a hand instinctively to the other side of the bed, her eyes opening as she found it empty.

When he was with her, it was unmistakable. It was as if there was a magnet inside him that pulled at a companion within her own body. When they were together, it could not be resisted. At times like this though, when she was alone with Mateo’s smoky scent lingering on the pillows, she began to wonder.

She swung her legs off the edge of the bed and shrugged into a robe, padding barefoot on the deep carpeting. She focused on the orchid she had bought as a reminder that this was her home too, but she couldn’t shake that uncertainty. The feeling was the same, whether here in his lavish apartment or up north in his country house - she was a guest. She was here at his pleasure, and he could change his mind. Beneath the longing there was always fear.

That first night when he was still in the old flat, shortly before he moved into this apartment, he had set a key on a newspaper for her so she could let herself out when she was ready to go. Her curiosity being what it was, she read that paper talking about his blooming courtship with another woman and the seeds of doubt were sown. How many times had she asked about it? Each time, her fears would be swept away by the inevitable wave of passion and his reassurances.

“It was two dates, and it never went anywhere,” Mateo would tell her. “I haven’t seen her or heard from her in months.”

It always seemed plausible when he said it but then she would find herself alone in the homes they shared that were full of his things. The other woman’s name was carved on the pantry, and it was full of food she had prepared for him at one time. Seething with jealousy, she would take Mateo's coins from the kitchen drawer and visit that woman’s shops. Day after day she would buy the woman’s pies and steal away to drop them in the trash, standing over the barrel until the bin man came to collect it.

It was a small price to pay to keep Mateo out of those markets.

Posts: 9
Character: Riah

Re: A Cool Breeze Blowing

Post by Riah » September 30th, 2023, 12:46 pm

The streets were empty, the taverns were empty, the whole damn fort was empty. Again. She caught a glimpse of her reflection in a window, noting the shirt that had once belonged to the dead man. Maybe it had been callous of her to take it but now she wore it like a badge.

The disappointments were starting to stack, and her anger was building. People she'd meet once and never see again. People who said one thing and did another. Promises broken. She was finding it hard to gain a foothold as a new resident and was tired of being always alone.

"I have a message for you." His manners were cloying, his words dripping with honey. "He's not coming." He had the kind of straight teeth and perfect good looks that made you want to punch him in the face, even on a good day. This was not that day.

If she was honest, she wasn't really surprised. Thorne could be gruff, but she could see in his blushes that he was afraid of her.

"I got stood up again," she blurted out. "Are they all assholes?"

"Yeah, most of 'em," came the easy reply.

Then there he was, like a cold she couldn't shake. Mateo and his jokes, each one a barb directing attention away from some secret pain.

"Who stood you up this time? Was it me again?"

Inwardly she groaned but he had something she wanted. "Another asshole," she tossed at him. She'd have to play nice, but she didn't have to make it easy.

Unlike Thorne, Mateo did not blush, but she could see he was afraid of her too.

Posts: 9
Character: Riah

Re: A Cool Breeze Blowing

Post by Riah » October 22nd, 2023, 11:45 am

The setting sun bathed the room in golden light as she looked critically at her reflection in the mirror. Maybe it was the remnants of her upbringing that made her feel ugly or maybe the armor really was as ugly as she thought. Sometimes it was hard to separate herself from her past but Mateo was coming to take her hunting and she needed to be ready. This was not the time for doubt.

They had fallen into a rhythm and she knew the things he would need but would inevitably forget. She packed a basket with the essentials, ensuring there was enough for two. Then she waited. The light turned rosy as time passed. Mateo would be leaving the next day for a logging expedition but had made plans to spend this last evening with her.

Eventually the light dimmed to darkness. Filled with a familiar disappointed anticipation, she put away her armor and provisions and went to bed alone where she tossed sleeplessly until the night faded back to dawn. When she finally drifted off to sleep it was to the memory of her mother’s voice.

“No one wants you, Riah.”

She startled awake and looked at the empty space in the bed before shutting her eyes and letting the tears fall onto her pillow.

Posts: 9
Character: Riah

Re: A Cool Breeze Blowing

Post by Riah » January 28th, 2024, 3:43 pm

The snow crunched beneath her feet as she picked her way between the market stalls. She shivered in the cold, wrapping her cloak a little tighter, now missing the warmth of Mateo and his coat. Until this moment they had stood together in a place between two warring factions that they had carved out with their devotion to one another.

When he left to think, it had sounded so final. The sudden emptiness of their apartment and their bed was unbearable. The mute smith and the auditor had found her stumbling in the marketplace, her senses dulled with grief. She could barely comprehend as the mute conveyed her message - something about silver and the gretchens. The auditor called it an ambush and refused their company as he departed for the meeting.

The mute mercifully set her up in the attic and Thorne found her tearfully moving her things across the street. He stopped to help and to listen. He bought her a drink but was urgently called away. He had said to wait but never returned. So she sat there in familiar disappointment with only Eryn and the regulars for company until finally her drink was gone.

The next morning dawned grey and hopeless as she once again made her way idly through the market. Her attention was caught by a promising bushel of potatoes which she knew Mateo needed for his job managing the bar. She hefted the heavy sack up the two flights of stairs to the apartment they had left empty the night before. Struggling through the door with her burden, she was met with the sight of the apartment ransacked. She dropped the potatoes and ran.

Her first stop was the post office where she instinctively wrote to Mateo, begging him to return. In the few steps to the door of the post office, her confidence in Mateo crumbled. She turned back and sent a second letter to Thorne asking for his help too.

Her second stop was Mateo’s house to reassure herself of his safety. That’s where she found the note. She felt a great chasm open in the foundation of her world with the slow realization that Mateo had trashed their apartment, that he had deliberately terrified and hurt her.

There was nothing left but the mess to clean up. She packed up Mateo’s things and left the first load at his house with a note. “I love you. My heart is broken. ~Riah.” On the second trip she found him drunk on the floor hurling wild accusations at her through his stupor.

She had long known she was being followed because her stalkers had signaled their presence by terrorizing her. She knew anyone following her would find nothing but boredom so she had ignored it as best she could. She had assumed it was Avi and Connie behind it, trying to satisfy their curiosity about her friendship with Thorne. That Mateo may have been the one to arrange it was a new idea. Another new idea was the sudden eagerness to be away from him. She had some thinking of her own to do.

“You can’t go back. You aren’t safe in the fort,” Mateo had told her. His voice was gentle. “Stay here. Stay here with me.”

She looked at Mateo with new eyes. Yesterday at this time he had been the foundation of her whole life and now she could barely recognize him. Slowly the realization sunk in. She had nowhere else to go.

That night in bed as they lay talking, she tried to find a path back.

“I gave you a lot of power to hurt me with the trust you wouldn’t use it.”

She heard him swallow but he said nothing.

“But you used it.”

She lay there in the dark, wrapped up in the arms of a man she no longer knew. Her trust was betrayed, her heart truly and utterly shattered.

Posts: 9
Character: Riah

Re: A Cool Breeze Blowing

Post by Riah » February 14th, 2024, 7:36 pm

Her dirty face was streaked with tears, her nose running with blood-stained mucus, but her expression was defiant as she entered her family home.

“Now what?” Her mother snapped in her usual impatient tone.

“She’s hurt, Joon,” her grandmother said more softly. She turned to the small child then, arms open invitingly. “Come here, Habibi. Tell me what happened.”

The little girl began sobbing afresh as she was folded into the tender embrace, wiping her nose on her grandmother’s sleeve. Her grandmother remained silent, just holding the child until she had emptied herself of the rage and heartache. Once the girl was quiet, the older woman bathed her face with a cool cloth and held her again, repeating her gentle command, “Tell me what happened, Bibi.”

“They told Ziba not to be friends with me, Mamani,” she replied through a ragged breath, threatening another round of tears. “They said a girl with no father is a…”, she paused as if trying to remember the rest, her face screwed up into a confused expression, “... hamegi?," she added uncertainly. "No honor.”

The two women exchanged a silent look over the top of the child’s head.

“What happened to your nose, Bibi?” her grandmother asked.

“They made Ziba hit me,” she answered through a fresh snuffle of snot and tears. “To prove she wasn’t my friend anymore.”

Her mother looked at her with indifference, but her grandmother clicked her tongue disapprovingly and held the child close, rocking her lovingly. “I’m so sorry, Riah.”

Posts: 9
Character: Riah

Re: A Cool Breeze Blowing

Post by Riah » March 4th, 2024, 9:57 am

“You coddle her, Mama,” the young woman griped at her mother.

“You are cruel to her, Joon. Riah’s only little and she’s your child,” the older woman scolded.

“She’s no child of mine. She ruined my life.”


The painful familiarity of longing and rejection playing out repeatedly in the never-ending accusations and demands to defend herself became more than she could bear. She slipped out of bed quietly before dawn and dressed in the dark. Leaving a gentle note, she took a last look at Mateo as he slept, and turned the key for what felt like the final time.

The separation could not be sustained long, she discovered. Without quite knowing how, she found herself morning after morning waking up in Mateo’s bed.

She took a brisk walk to clear her head and found Mateo fully armored and facing a slow moving mass. He warned her away just a moment too late. They managed to get help but it wasn’t enough. It would take days of planning to finally defeat the mass of worms as their infections slowly took hold.

“It’s just us,” she had said to him right before that final confrontation.

“Ain’t it always just us?”

His retort sounded jocular and she had laughed, but underneath was her persistent insecurity and doubt.


“She ruined my life, Mama,” the younger woman repeated.

The young woman had not known her child was within earshot or perhaps she just didn’t care.


She rang the doctor bell and knelt in front of Mateo, looking up at him with concern as his eyes swam with incomprehension. The minutes stretched on interminably as he became more confused. She moved to sit beside him, reaching for him instinctively though timidly. Wrapping her arms around him, she rocked him gently on the bench, softly singing a soothing Prodaian song she had heard in her childhood.

And she waited.

Posts: 9
Character: Riah

Re: A Cool Breeze Blowing

Post by Riah » March 16th, 2024, 3:33 pm

“Where is the orb?” The thought was generally persistent and invasive, but now, encased in her nightmare, the orb offered her comfort.

The nausea surged as she opened her eyes. The darkness was absolute and she had to blink a few times to be sure her eyes were really open. A moment ago she had been going about her routine and she was trying to remember why chasing that sheep had seemed so important. Now she was engulfed in desolate darkness with nothing but her thoughts. In the absence of all other sensations, her mind was filled with words and images from her memory.

Her first thought was Mateo. She remembered decorating the solstice tree. The blissful warmth of the memory was visceral, but a moment later she could see that tree on its side, the ornaments scattered and broken like her heart.

From there her mind went to Thorne. “I love you, Riah,” he had said in a tone of finality as he kissed her forehead. “You have made me want to be a better man, to follow a different path.” His gaze was distant as if searching through the past. “Mateo is good. A strong, hearty man. A good home and a good man.” His gaze focused, looking deeply into her eyes. “I will be there if you need me, but being around me will only bring you trouble.”

Her eyes searched the piercing darkness and she wondered if she was actually conscious but her thoughts wandered again.

She was back in Prodai looking at the sneering face of the boy who always tormented her. Try as she might, his name escaped her, but she remembered the time he had snatched her hijab from her head, exposing her hair to shame her. He ran away with it to the safety of the madrassah where girls were not permitted. “Tereso!” she had shouted after him. She could hear the echoes of the other boys’ laughter fading as her mind shifted again.

“Snakebite.” She could hear the word tumble from the lips of so many people and she was trying to connect it to something that lurked just below the surface of her memory, but the more she reached for it, the further it slipped away.

There was Mateo again, holding a pie in one hand and feeding nurturing forkfuls of it to the wounded man convalescing in bed. The gesture was sweet and silly, yet she felt a surge of jealousy she couldn’t explain.

The darkness seemed to soften, almost pulsate. She blinked a few more times. Maybe her eyes were adjusting but she could swear pillars were rising from the floor to loom over her.

Another wave of nausea sent her thoughts back to Mateo holding her hair out of the way as she knelt on the floor, arms folded across the opening of the toilet and supporting her forehead as her body spasmed with retching. He had drawn her a hot bath, brought her a cool drink, loosened her corset, and helped her ease into the tub. She knew, as he fed her bites of cake while she soaked, that her passion was inescapable, yet she mourned the shattered trust between them.

She held up her lantern, squinting through the darkness. It seemed like figures were emerging atop the pillars and she could almost make out their shapes. They appeared to be statues rendered into forms of anguish with mouths agape, frozen in silent screams. The air thrummed with malevolence as unseen voices filled the air with discordant chanting.

“Where is the orb?” The thought cut through the noise, offering a tether back to her sanity, She fished a small, finely crafted sphere out of her bag and cradled it close to her body. She had rifled against Mateo’s ribbing about her obsession with the orb. As she tried to rebuild her trust, she was unable to endure his teasing, and she was never sorry she had commissioned the artisan to make it for her.

She tried to take a step but she was locked in place, surrounded by nightmarish shapes looming just beyond the shadows, menacing and predatory.

She clutched her sphere and she waited. With patience, time could fix almost anything.

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