I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.


    ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

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    Fabien

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    ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:50 pm

    The room had been silent for hours.

    The only sounds which now stirred the bare walls were his breath, low and deep, and  the whisper of rain as it fell upon the silvery rooftops of the city. It sung musically against old sash windows, and made fragrant the filthy streets with its gentle dance. It was almost sneering in its carefree chatter, oblivious to the pain of the creature who longed to greet it with his bare arms.

    Because the current occupant of this space could not watch the rain fall. Not with the shutters in place which barred his view of the outside world, and concealed him from prying eyes down below in the street. Instead, he had been forced to languish here, high up in a sorrowful little backroom with its dirty pale walls, bleached of all life and vibrancy. Where there were few furnishings, an old wooden chair, a few crates used for storage, and a bed.
    The bed that held him hostage, kept him bound uncomfortably by his narrow wrists.

    He was only a boy, no older than twenty or so.

    His features not yet corrupted by the toil of poverty, but marked by hardship all the same. His skin gently browned by the sun, from hours spent in the open air, performing, entertaining. The hair which curled over his brow and about the curve of his neck was likely the colour of warm sand in its natural state, but was so clumped with grime that it had dulled to sickly ashen grey. But most distinctive were his eyes. Though currently hardened by anxious plotting, they were as dark as storm clouds, and ringed with a lazy application of greasy soot. This was no doubt designed to draw attention to their fine shape, to evoke sympathy and awe.

    But here, in this place of lust and violence, they had not served to protect him. Over the rise of his cheekbone, a bruise had begun to spread and darken, black as a shadow. There the flesh had started to swell, to compress around his eye until it would soon be forced to close. Blood too was encrusted in the corner of his youthful mouth, the lower lip of which had been split open by some  violent force.
    His clothing, likely mere rags when he had arrived, looked as though they had been half torn from his body. The stained linen shirt ripped open to expose his gaunt chest, marred by the evidence of unwanted affection. The signs of it were everywhere. The youth was clearly underfed, the pinch of his bones sharp beneath the skin, but not yet too disfigured by hunger. Not yet.

    But oh, he had suffered. For three days now. Unrelentingly, until this moment.


    It was no doubt the reason for his stunned silence. The way his eyes fixated upon the ceiling, and traced the vague silhouette shapes which emerged from smoke stains, and the gangrenous mould festering in the corners. Though motionless, he was fiercely attentive. So much it seemed, that even the softest creak in the floorboards, the gentlest murmur from the downstairs rooms, caused him to flinch.

    Now, in this moment, he could hear those voices grow firmer, louder, closer, just beyond the door. When the floor groaned anew, the boy’s heart began to throb erratically, and cold sweat broke across the surface of his skin. He began to haul his weight into the coarse rope above his head, and strained until his thin arms were stretched taunt and trembling.

    This had not been his first escape attempt. The flesh around his wrists was already blistering and swollen from rope burns. But now his attempts were fuelled by panic, and he desperately worked the skin over and over until it began to split apart and bleed.

    “Merde,” he muttered, the word trembling over his broken lips.

    It should have been so easy. He had slipped free of ropes and shackles more fearsome than this a thousand times. But the knots were so tight, and his position so vulnerable, it was impossible to muster the strength.

    “Merde, merde, come on, s’il vous plaít, s’il vous plaít... ” he hissed, and continued to strain viciously against his bondage.


    Last edited by Fabien on Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Tariq
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:07 am

    The voices outside the door grew louder. A disagreement, surely – a woman’s voice raised in exasperation, cut off by a man’s incredulous remark. A third voice, soft and grey and muffled by the door, intruded like a tendril of smoke. It evidently ended the dispute. The voices petered to gentle murmurs of agreement, a lilting question met with a short reply – “Non” - before the groaning floor protested quietly under the retreating footfall.

    Silence. The rain tapped on the window pane with curious fingers.

    The door swung open with enough force to send the intruding stranger’s clothes fluttering like a flapping of great wings. Light and warmth, the high trill of laughter and the heavy scent of smoke wavered from the rooms behind him but a chill slipped about the room like a noose as though the stranger had smuggled slivers of storm-soaked petrichor and frigid night air underneath his mantle.

    The door closed with a wave of his hand. He paused in the entryway, his profile straight-razor sharp.

    The heel of his boots clicked on the grimy wooden floor, softer than the tap, tap of the cane as it swept along the ground. It was easy to see why it was required. The stranger’s eyes were dull, vague, clotted with a thick web of white that reduced his pupils to a faint disc of grey and swallowed his irises entirely. They were almost silver, burnished dark and mottled towards their edges. Perhaps those eyes had once been umber or hazel or amber. Now they were pale, white, as though burned from the skull to reveal the ivory sockets beneath.

    The walking stick connected with the chair’s leg and his hand reached for the back. His fingers, thin and long and tapering to a fine point, were sure and confident. There was no dirt beneath his gently curved fingernails. No specks of filth marred any part of him, despite the well-worn fibers of the travelling cloak clasped about his shoulders. His attire was neat and somber and entirely unaffected by the falling rain outside – a far cry from the tattered remains of the boy’s rags.

    He sat with a weary exhale that began in his chest and slipped like a sigh between his teeth, his spine straight against the dark wood of the chair that very nearly paralleled his own fawn skin. He crossed his cane neatly across the top of his knees. His long hair, white as his ruined eyes, fell in a loose spill about his shoulders.

    Those eyes, useless though they were, lingered with mild interest over the boy’s vulnerable predicament.

    A whisper of wind slipped through the rattling shutters and stirred the diaphanous curtains, vibrating to a dusky, dreamy smell of dying shadows. The chair had been placed where a nightstand would rest in a more conventional bedroom, close enough he could reach out and stroke the boy’s face if he desired. He did not. The intruder sat silent at his side like a priest preparing his last rites, his skull tilted to one side as though lost in soundless contemplations.
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:11 am

    From the moment the door opened, the boy’s struggling subsided to nothingness. No longer did he pull like a wild colt against his reins, like a fox caught within the cold wire of a snare. The figure’s entrance robbed him, albeit briefly, of all thought and feeling. It swept aside his hatred of this place, his seething anger and strong-willed desire to destroy all who had caused him wrong. Instead, his dark eyes followed the stranger’s path with intense interest. An unpleasant coolness seemed to creep its way into his bones. He could feel his fear lodged deep in narrow channel of his throat, where it refused to be swallowed and devoured. His mind was animated with terrified whisperings; soft voices which begged him find a way to escape, away from this place, away from him.

    For now, he forced such thoughts aside, rationalised them. He was hungry, exhausted, he had in fact not slept for days. Such a situation was bound to turn every man into a wolf, to encourage shadows to dance about their feet.

    The youth made quick estimations, began to calculate the stranger’s position in a life. It was the skill of a pick-pocket and fraudster, an old habit that served him well in his honourable profession. From his bearing, the boy initially assumed the stranger might be an ex-serviceman, possibly a reason for the walking aid, perhaps he was disfigured in some way. But further observation indicated there was something too polished, too refined to mark him as anything less than nobility. A wealthy foreigner perhaps, they often had unspeakable tastes. Though why he had selected a bruised and battered urchin instead of a trained whore, skilled and compliant and decadently perfumed was... unsettling. His gaze lingered on his hands, the impeccable cleanness of his fingers. He shuddered, and turned his eyes away.

    When the stranger seated himself at the boy’s side, he immediately sought to ignore him, to allow a petulant silence to pass between them both. Despite his efforts, those eyes returned now and then to steal small, cautionary glances. His eyes lingered curiously on the disqueting pale gaze, and stuck there like a moth caught in the delicate threads of a spiderweb. Though the eyes appeared blighted, the stranger did not move like any of the blind he had so far encountered.

    The sound of rain beating against glass whispered around them, its sound like the giddy hushed voice of the no-doubt gossiping clientele. But when this quiet was too prolonged for even him to bear, he severed it angrily.

    “Come to try your luck, vieil homme?” His voice was as sharp as a knife, though currently a little higher pitched than was natural. He was afraid, but masked it surprisingly well.

    “I have sent away stronger and more persistent than you” he boasted softly. It encouraged a look of bored disinterest to soften his features. He hoped desperately it might filter into his words.

    “It is why they now offer me out to foreigners, you know?”

    He fell quiet briefly in order to calculate the cost of his next move. It was deeply irrational given his current position, the fact he was bound to a bed by his arms. But he wagered if he could disgust the man enough, he might settle for an easier option. His whole life was a risk, a mere roll of the dice.

    “I heard rumour you were all vile sodomites.” The words simmered with hostility upon his tongue.
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:27 pm

    The stranger appeared content to sit in silence at the unfortunate boy’s uncomfortable bedside, serenaded only by his ragged breaths as he sized him up. His hazy gaze remained level. His hands remained still, unperturbed.

    When the boy broke the uneasy silence with his hostile query, his head turned sharply to the side. There was something faintly avian in the gesture – a razor-beaked hawk honing in on the rustlings of a soft-bellied mouse below. However, he remained wordless. The curve of his neck and interrupted gaze suggested he was listening intently as though hoping to coax some hidden meaning from the rise and pitch of the voice that crackled with anger.

    It was the bitter accusation that roused his lips to curve into a smile. The thin sliver of exposed ivory teeth held all the warmth of a barren river swollen with ice. “And I had been promised that was you.” There was no venom in the barb, only a lazy humour that warmed every word. His clipped accent confirmed the boy’s suspicion; a foreigner, with a foreign tongue that blurred the syllables of his words into shifting sand. His voice snarled at the back of his throat, lending the words a slight rasp. They did not creak with age.

    He clicked his tongue against his teeth in mock disappointment.

    “Your kind hosts wanted to gag you before they even showed me into the room; said they had only just scraped you from the street and your barking spoilt the appetite,” he said delicately, his words still lit with a spark of amusement. His tone was soft, his voice a low purr on his tongue.

    The chair creaked as he leaned forward. His pale gaze was unfocused. The effect was eerie, as though he were seeing into another realm of ghosts with eyes as ruined as his own. “It is very inconvenient to them that it is a dog’s nature to snarl when trapped in a cage.” Blind eyes flickered to the burns encircling the boy’s wrists. “And to gnaw off his own leg when ensnared.” He inhaled deeply through his nose and released the breath through his teeth.

    Thunder growled behind the shuttered windows. The stranger worried the worn crook of the staff in his lap with his thumb contemplatively.

    “But you are unmuzzled and do not appear to have any other plans for the evening-“ Another glint of white eyetooth exposed in the wolfish smile. “- and it won’t do to call you Dog. What is your name?”

    He remained seated, made no motion to contribute to the violence and defilement the boy had already experienced. Instead he coolly brushed a stray strand of hair from his face and cocked his head in cordial anticipation of an answer.

    Those bleached eyes had returned to the boy’s supine vulnerability, dispassionately lingering over the blooming bruises and red splotches that speckled his exposed chest in a riotous garden of cruelty.
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Thu Nov 26, 2015 5:44 pm

    The boy had clearly hoped his insult would, at the very least, coax some display of irritation or disgust into the stranger’s expression. And when this proved immediately unsuccessful, his brow pinched in irritation, and he began to stir restlessly against his bonds once more. He turned his head aside, away from the mocking mouth and the shadow of amusement that still lingered there.  At the blind figure’s comment however, the boy’s head snapped back, and his lip curled unhappily away from his upper teeth. This caused the wound about his mouth to stretch unhappily, and entice a fresh droplet of blood to glint upon the surface. Though the stranger could not see the boy’s skin redden in shame, it was there, lingering upon the tip of his tongue.

    “Though not by my choosing, Monsieur,” he hissed, and his upper body writhed angrily upon the grimy sheet beneath him.

    He spoke no more, and instead slipped back into a despondent silence as though in protest. And yet, he was not entirely disrespectful. He did not ignore his company, nor seek turn aside from him. Perhaps it was curiosity which caused him to listen with such deep intensity. He drank in every word, as though awaiting some indication of what the man’s intentions were. So on edge was the youth, that the sound of the chair creaking, and the sight of the shadowy figure’s incline towards him caused him to startle violently.

    For that short time, fearful expectation turned the boy’s eyes into wide, dark mirrors. Eyes that were infinitly sad and so locked with fear that they were a sight to behold. They were like starless nights on the empty streets, frozen lakes, loss. They fixated upon the terrible empty whiteness of his companion’s gaze, and held there like a starving hound upon a scrap of meat. He swallowed sharply, and was silent.

    The boy did not find his voice again for some time. Far above their heads, the thunder groaned its gentle warning, and the boy shivered. He had never before been upset by storms, and yet now every fresh crack of thunder had him startling like a velvet eared doe.

    “It ah... it is Fabien,” he answered softly, though seemed strangely unsure of it.
    He rediscovered his voice and temper soon after, unearthed both from the shadowy corners they had briefly retreated into.

    “...Though I do not see why we must know each other on first name terms.”

    “Since you are come here to try and fuck me.” He practically snarled the last words, they burned so fierce from his tongue it seemed they might leave scorch marks upon his lips.

    “That is why you are here after all... non?” This accusation, clearly meant to unsettle the stranger, was delivered in trembling ill-formed fragments. Instead of fire, there was only unhappy questioning. This pause was clearly torturous for him. This terrible space in-between knowing when those clean hands might become active, and when he would need to start fighting.
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Fri Dec 11, 2015 9:26 am

    The stranger considered the boy's angry protest more intently than perhaps it warranted. Something unfathomable shuddered briefly behind his dead eyes. “No,” he agreed lightly. “I do not imagine you have had many choices in your life, to have led you here.”

    It would take a keen eye to detect the clench in his jaw as the boy’s snarl enticed a ruby bead of blood to darken his lips. He grew painfully still, content enough to listen to the boy’s growling in silence.

    It was the heated accusation that dripped with such malice which roused him from his stillness. The laugh was so low in his throat that it was nearly a purr.

    “Is that why I am here, Fabien?” He held the word on his tongue like it belonged to him. It was almost affectionate in his mouth, cradled possessively between lips. “I have failed terrifically at it.”

    He shifted in his seat, the base of his staff finding the floor with a dull thud. He clasped his long fingers in a contemplative steeple on its curved head. The faintest ghost of restlessness haunted the gesture, as though he had come to a wordless verdict and was eager to pursue it.

    “Their fortune—“ He indicated the closed door with his chin. “-- is made on the backs of aristocrats who sell their sons to pay gambling debts and girls who find it is easier to endure a cruel hand with warm, full bellies than on the cold street. It is not often their net snares one who would rather bite the hand that offers to feed. Your arrival caused quite a stir.”

    He regarded the boy with a sly tilt of his head. “To those who take notice of such things.”

    A moment of silence reigned as he considered his next words. The bone-white of his ghastly eyes disappeared behind closed eyelids. “I suppose either choice is a gamble. A roll of dice from a hand unknowable to mortal flesh. A cage is security, but liberty will still not protect you from those with darkness in their hearts.” His voice was like smoke and ash in his throat.

    When his blank eyes opened they fixated on the bound boy with intensity enough to be disconcerting. “If your life were in your own hands, where would you choose to take your chances – with the specters of famine and violence on the outside of that door or with whomever waits their turn beyond it?”

    There was a strange tension pulling the question taut. The stranger lapsed into expectant silence after he had delivered it. Thunder rattled the shutters like an urchin weeping for the warmth within, the gentle fingers of rain softening as the storm dwindled to a lull as though in anticipation of his answer.
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Sat Dec 12, 2015 5:57 pm

    Fabien’s skin flushed with renewed displeasure at the soft sound of the stranger’s mirth, and he unhappily turned his eyes away from the curving lips. He did not know why he had disclosed his name so readily, and a heavy wave of regret had already begun to creep its way into his bones. But entwined within it was relief, at the answer he had been given, at the stillness. He had not moved from that chair, nor had he come towards him. Perhaps did not intend to hurt him at all. It was not so fantastic a scenario. He had lost friends to generous strangers before.

    But there was a coldness that haunted his skin whenever he looked upon those white eyes. Something within him, some soft voice somewhere, urged and willed him to keep away. He had never had such a feeling before.

    The soft rhythm of the stranger’s voice had eased much of his initial terror, but now the ruined flesh beneath his coarse bindings had begun to throb in angry protest. The boy shifted his arms, wincing in discomfort as he fruitlessly sought to loosen their punishing grasp upon the frail bones of his wrist. He listened to him speak in silence, but bit firm upon the tip of his tongue to lessen his desire to unleash hostile retaliations.

    But something within his guest’s word caught the boy’s attention. It enticed his eyes to sweep toward the door, before he looked back toward the seated figure. Still he listened to him in enrapt silence, searching in-between the lines of his speech for some indication of his purpose.

    When the pale eyes were fixed upon his, Fabien startled, and the fine pale hairs on his skin rose. He curled his tongue over his lower lip, dragging the taste of blood and salt over his teeth. The desire to flee this place was suddenly impossibly hard to shake, as were those whispers that told him something was wrong with this man. Very wrong.

    Regardless, he was awaiting an answer, and so he produced one:
    “These are no fair odds, are they Monsieur?” The boy murmured softly, tugging once more at the knotted ropes.

    “At least... in the cold,   out there, I stood a fighting chance.”

    “I would prefer it was always that way. To fight.”

    “I was not meant for these walls. I was not meant to be here.”He shook his skull a little. Unsettled perhaps, at just how intimate an answer he had given. So to distract from it, he provided questions of his own.

    “Who are you? Why are you here?”
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Thu Dec 17, 2015 6:19 pm

    The ropes groaning taut against Fabien’s burned wrists failed to lend the intruder’s easy demeanour any edge of urgency. Perhaps, that he could not see the fear and unease hardening those grease-lined eyes meant he did not know it was there; perhaps it simply had not occurred to him that he could ease it.

    Whatever the cause of his composure, the boy’s murmured answer to his careful question appeared only to deepen it. He exhaled a breath of approval from the back of his throat. “Ah, better the diable you know,” he agreed. Deep satisfaction warmed the purred words. “Better to fight, and to struggle, even against the inevitable.” This last seemed less an agreement than a validation of the boy’s words, the humour lacing the statement brittle and easily overlooked.

    He allowed the boy to ask his questions in silence, easing back into the chair that creaked beneath him. The length of his wooden staff rested at a lazy angle loose between his long fingers, never out of reach. Only a crescent of blighted white eye remained beneath his half-lidded gaze. The pale sliver was a stark slash of contrast to the earthy ocher of his skin.

    “I am,” he said after a moment’s pause. “A man who has lived a long time, and witnessed much suffering. I am here because I have an interest in those who have run out of options.” Those dreadful eyes opened, although they did not return to the bed. “I would rather you were given a chance to fight. It seems we are brothers in that regard.”

    Another pause, as though he was weighing his next words carefully on his tongue. A loose strand of silvered hair fell over his face as he softly shook his head.

    “There was a boy in my house, once. He was perhaps older than you are now. He is no longer there… but his space, his clothes remain.”

    The words weighed heavy in his mouth, but the boy would not have long to ponder them. Abruptly, the stranger leaned forward once more. His palms pressed flat on the grimy sheet beneath the boy – not quite close enough for his neat fingers to brush the bound boy’s bruised skin, but very near it. His vague eyes were suddenly much too close for comfort, near enough he could see the dark flecks that mottled their edges.

    “Here is my proposal, Fabien.” It was soft, gentle, the mirth having melted from his tone. “Allow me to buy your freedom from this room. Let me keep you in my house, feed and clothe and warm you, until you are recovered. A night, two, perhaps longer.” The light caught his dead eyes and they flashed like silver coins. “I imagine you have proved what you intended to, that you are more trouble than you are worth to your hosts; they likely plan to starve you into compliance or the grave. They will leap at the opportunity to trade your body for the more reassuring weight of gold in their palm.” His voice had fallen to a serpent’s rhythmic hiss. “It is clear you are not meant to be here.”
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Fri Dec 18, 2015 3:45 pm

    The room had darkened softly about them,and it seemed every stray shadow had been encouraged out from haunting the murky corners as the storm reached its peak. Thunder once again groaned softly overhead. It enticed the wind to rattle hungrily against the windows, as though it hoped to catch the boy’s attention. To encourage his eyes away, from where they remained hooked upon the stranger’s mouth. As the rain grew heavier, Fabien shivered within the tattered cloth that lay over his skin, the scraps too ruined to be considered clothing.

    He collected the stranger’s words carefully, stitched pieces of information together, and stowed them away in his mind until he might need it.

    The  boy’s lips had just begun to part in eagerness, to pry and question this story, when he noticed the stranger incline towards him. From then on, every part of his bruised body hardened like stone. His exhaustion ringed eyes opened as dark and wide as hollow pits, and he pulled sharply into his binds in order to press his spine back upon the old mattress. In that moment, fleeting as it was, his entire body seemed to plead: ‘Don’t, don’t, don’t.’

    The boy’s sorrowful eyes eventually fixated upon the long dark fingers, before they rose back to greet the man’s sightless gaze. His upper lip, frozen in a silent snarl, relaxed slowly and he released a soft, shuddering breath between his teeth. He could feel his heart throbbing so sharply in his chest; it threatened to erupt through his skin.

    “W-why would you...?” He began, clearly disorientated. His thoughts tangled from the sharp burst of fear which had raked through him. He allowed himself some time reorder them, and then slowly the gravity of what was being offered to him began to seep in. The boy turned the man’s words over in his mind, but the answer seemed a fiercely obvious one: In no time at all, he could be free of his bondage, he could stretch his arms up towards the empty sky again.

    “Well I don’t... want to starve here, Monsieur.” He murmured, and attempted to recover what shred of bravery he possessed.

    “I would like to leave... to go with you.”

    “But they would not let me go cheaply, not from somewhere like this.”  His words were softened by feigned concern. If this man had could produce wealth enough to pay his escape from these walls, he might be worth pursuing.

    To emphasis it further, his head turned toward the door briefly, as though afraid their conversation might be observed from beyond the room. But it wasn’t long before he took to watching the stranger’s hands instead, studying the stretch of his long fingers to ensure they were still in place.

    Away for now, but still close, too close.
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Tue Jan 05, 2016 2:59 pm

    The lengthening shadows seemed drawn to the stranger. They robed him in a darkness that only the silver of his eyes and the paleness of his hair were immune to. It dulled the warmth of his dark skin to an ashy grey. The effect was unsettling, as though he were a corpse that lacked the decorum to stop moving about the land of the living.

    He waited in patient silence as the boy considered the proposition. At his tentative response he released a soft breath neither of them had realized he was holding. “Then leave you shall.” The words stirred with a satisfaction thick as blood.

    The boy’s feigned concern elicited a smile that did not touch his dead eyes. “I suspect you overestimate your value.”

    He lowered his head, his face hidden behind a veil of hair. Whatever he reached for was concealed from the boy’s view by the edge of the bed until he revealed a small knife held with easy familiarity in his palm. The light skittered nervously along the blade’s thin edge. It was sharp. There was an argument to be made it was too sharp to be held so assertively in the grip of a blind man, a blind man who had regained his feet and was suddenly much too close for comfort.

    “If I may?” It was a request that did not wait for an answer before his hand was on the boy’s elbow, the joint like the joint in flower stems, the skin faintly blue where it stretched over the bone. No, hunger had not yet managed to mar the easy attractiveness of youth but it lived happily in the sharp angle of his bones and reddened flush of his bruises.

    The stranger’s fingertips were startlingly cool, as though he had soaked in the chill of the storm outside and refused to relinquish it. His hands were smooth, not the calloused instruments of a man who worked for a living. There was little weight in the touch – it was fluttery, fleeting, merely perfunctory as he found the coarse rope biting into the boy’s mottled wrist. His unoccupied hand pressed a thumb into his forearm to hold him steady as he readied the knife.

    “This will hurt.” A soft warning that the youth would have little time to consider before it proved true, the rope becoming too tight on already abused skin as the blade pressed beneath it. A rocking motion confirmed the knife’s sharpness as it severed the fibers into a disgruntled fray and, abruptly, the pressure fell away and the boy’s hand was free.

    It was over in seconds, before he could register a protest. The stranger had to lean to release his other hand, close enough that the boy could smell the candle smoke of his clothes. Beneath it, faintly, a whiff of something else, something metallic and cold, before the painful pinch of the rope clenched at his wrist heralded its reluctant release. The boy was bound no longer. The stranger’s touch did not linger a moment more than necessary.

    “There.” It was a purr of satisfaction. “Better, non? Or perhaps not – it might be some time before the blood returns to your hands. It will burn. Sit, gather yourself.” If it was a command, it was veiled prettily enough by his gentle tone of concern. His staff was in his hand, the knife returned to wherever it had been unsheathed from. The motion had been so fluid as to be difficult to track. “I will convince your hosts that you are worth parting with.” His dull eyes flashed, his ivory teeth glinting in his sharp mouth – the boy’s liberation from his bondage was sweet to this intruder. “And then we will depart, Fabien.”
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:14 pm

    Somewhere in the time between the stranger’s entry into this room, and their soft discussion, the boy’s sharpness had dissolved. Fear no longer pumped attentiveness into his limbs. In its place was the relentless ache of pain and hunger. Every bruise on his frail body had begun to sing in unison, and the effect was disorientating. He was strained, exhausted. So much so, that when the stranger inclined once more towards him, Fabien’s dark pupils did not know where to settle first. They could not decide which threat was the most immediate, which warranted the full force of his attention. His eyes flitted from the gleam of bright, dangerous metal, to the hands soft and cool upon his aching elbow joint.

    He was briefly engulfed in the stranger’s scent. His eyes, wide and unblinking, fixated on the sweep of pale hair. They studied the underside of his lean throat.

    The vulnerability of the youth’s position miserably heightened any closeness between them, and invented intimacy where there might have been none. Suddenly the boy was aware of how dry his mouth was, how his tongue settled at the back of his throat like a stone. He swallowed awkwardly, and the man’s warning went unheeded. Thus, when the knife separated skin from rope, his features twisted into an expression of dull shock. A whine of discomfort, half swallowed, curled through his upper lip. It was clear he made extensive efforts to conceal it, to project an image to those unseeing eyes: He was too hard for such trifles, too strong for displays of pain. He’d had worse.

    But the boy did not lower his arms immediately. He did not shake them free from the remnants of the severed rope in an ecstasy of freedom. Instead, they were carefully lowered to his sides, as he stifled further unhappy grimaces and groans. Slowly, and with much trepidation, his swollen fingers were miserably flexed. And with the disagreeable creak of his arms and shoulders, eventually he lowered the stiffened limbs to his sides, as though they had been just newly attached to his body.

    The boy did not speak at first, though the stranger was sure to hear a soft “Merci, Monsieur” before he fully exited the room. Then, when the door closed completely, Fabien released air from his lungs in a shivering gasp of discomfort.

    Despite his instruction, the boy had no desire to remain dutifully waiting for the stranger to return. He had other ideas. He rolled onto his side, and began to feel around for the floor with one bare, filthy foot. His legs felt strong enough while stationary, and were deemed much more useful than his arms at least. So without much hesitation, he sought to swing his body onto the floor.  It was, rather predictably, enormously unsuccessful. The boy was severely weakened, and he would have struck the floor entirely, had he not seized the seat of the nearby chair like one drowning. He remained clinging to the wooden frame awhile, his chin resting upon the lip of the seat.

    “Probably a pervert,” he muttered softly.  “Rich or no.”

    This seemed incentive enough to try and find his feet again. And so the boy used the chair in order to leverage his weight back upon his trembling legs. It was a complicated process. His hands were red raw and painfully swollen. The rings of burned skin around his wrists were almost like brand marks, applied with the molten end of a poker.

    Somehow, though mostly aided by sheer determination, he found his feet. But he swayed on them unsteadily for a time, at least until he had moderately stabilised. His attention then drifted between the door and the window. Both were potential avenues for escape, both as illogical as the other. But one had to be settled upon, so he opted for the window. He staggered awkwardly towards the shutters, discovered at once that while closed, they were fortuitously unlocked. Carefully, he sought to push them aside, trying his best not to entice the wood into eliciting a symphony of groans and cracks. They yielded to him well enough, and soon he was presented with a view of the outside world. Though the storm had seemed to pass, the street had been robbed entirely of daylight, as though it too had been stolen and secreted away. Soon the lamp-lighters would emerge. Rain was still flowing softly upon the streets, and he could almost smell them. They seemed to whisper his name, to call him home.

    Unfortunately, the windows were barred and bolted. His clumsy, aching fingers swept pathetically over the seals, but there was no hope to found. The boy sighed softly, and pressed his brow against the cool glass.

    “No matter,” he rasped. He was resourceful. It would have been a pleasing escape route, but fortune was still in his favour.

    He turned, and began to hobble his way back towards the bed, as swiftly as his body would allow. It wouldn’t do to be seen wandering around, not when he ought to appear meek, and desperately grateful.
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    Tariq
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:47 pm

    The stranger did not linger long after unbinding the boy – his eagerness to depart was evident in the swiftness of his steps and the efficiency with which he gathered himself to leave. The boy’s murmured thanks gave him pause. His long fingers brushed the door handle. He bowed his head in silent acknowledgement and exited, the door closing with a neat click.

    The boy would have ample opportunity to return to the bed and perfect his look of saintly gratitude. The stranger was gone long enough for the night to darken and the stars overhead to sparkle like a fresh glass of champagne. He returned just as abruptly as he had on his original entrance, a waft of perfume trailing his heels. His curdled eyes were lit with a gleam of delight that sharpened them to silver.

    “It is done,” he all but purred, standing with the smooth wood of his walking cane clasped easily in his palm. “You are free – or you will be, after you have fulfilled your word.” He tilted his head, pale hair falling loose around his shoulders, a shard of ice in his gentle smile.

    He approached the bed, stopping not quite close enough for his fingers to brush the boy. “Can you stand?” His tone was soft but the syllables were just clipped enough to gently suggest urgency. “My house is not far.” He took a step closer, his unwillingness to touch the boy both plainly evident and warring with his yearning to set off. Some internal compromise was reached and he offered his arm in a clear suggestion of support. Likely of interest to the boy was the way the motion lifted the fabric about his shoulders and revealed clearly for the first time the hem of his pocket at his side.

    Regardless of whether his support was accepted, his eagerness to leave could not be postponed. They would leave, down the creaking stairs and into the well-lit reception. Women with hair spilling merrily down their backs dared peeks of the stolen boy from beneath their lashes, their murmurs falling to a hush at sight of the unusual pair. The stranger shielded the boy from the worst of the curious stares with a turn of his body so casual as to be mistaken for accidental. He exchanged brief niceties with a man by the exit and steered his new ward onto the street.

    The rain had ceased but the moisture and cold it carried haunted the air, splashing the road with puddles that reflected the city’s lights like mirrors. Their warmed breath rose from their lips as fog. If the boy hadn’t accepted the stranger’s aid now would likely be when he most keenly regretted it, his own torn rags an ineffective barrier against the evening chill.
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:40 am

    Fabien had reunited with his pitiful prison bed, and was consumed with a quiet air of absolute victory. He had claimed the filthy mattress in such a way, that it had transformed into a throne. His bony spine was propped against the bars that had held him hostage, and he was sprawled upon the sheets with immense satisfaction. Prior to his companion’s arrival, he had been lazily caressing his filthy fingertips, working over the flesh in an attempt to revive his cold skin. But at the sound of movement behind the door, his grey eyes rose, and darkened with expectation.
    The stranger’s words punctured something within his chest. And the last threads of tension that were strung within him slackened completely. The boy’s skull drifted contentedly against the wall, and the corners of his impish mouth curved into a delighted smile.

    “Oui, I go with you happily” he breathed softly.

    Carefully, and with much effort, he pushed his exhausted body upright, and every muscle that he possessed screamed in protest. The adrenaline which had pumped life into his limbs had long worn thin, and now his body miserably conveyed its hurt. But eventually he rose, and twisted enough so that he was seated upon the edge of the bed.  

    “I think so,” he replied in a quiet rasp.

    The boy managed a graceless step or two forward, before his knees weakened and he stumbled awkwardly, and intentionally, into the stranger’s arm. His hand caught the blind man’s shoulder, moved in a delicate sweep over and away from his hip. He tested him idly, skimmed here and there, attempted to locate any areas where he might keep items concealed. But despite the attractive availability of the gentleman’s pocket, he waited, for now.

    “Maybe... not so good then, forgive me” he rasped, his words muffled with another clever act of soft embarrassment.  The boy brushed against his side, and one lean arm coiled firmly about the stranger’s like a hungry snake. His fingers curled tightly into the  dark fabric of his coat, and he grasped him as though fearful he might slip through the boy's fingers like a mirage.

    As they made their way through the quietly prying halls, Fabien limped steadily at his companion’s side with his head meekly bowed. Though any that happened to steal a glance of him, would see the evident delight which illuminated his darkly ringed eyes. He had told them, hadn't he? That they couldn't keep him here. That he had connections. That they'd be sorry. As soon as they had departed the building, the furious urchin turned his skull to the side and spat viciously and upon the front step.
    The night air bit into his exposed skin, unforgiving and brutal even for one who was familiar with its cruelty. The boy hoisted his ruined rags back upon his hip, preventing them from slipping entirely down his bruised and bitten thigh. He shivered, and turned his body inwards to seek the warmth that should have been emanating from his saviour’s skin.

    “I don’t know how I can repay this kindness you have done me, Monsieur,” he whispered as he drew in closer.

    He adjusted his clothing a second time, a careful, idle nudge. It was followed by an almost thoughtless  sweep of his fingers, as he sought to slip his hand into the blind man’s side pocket. A movement that was almost impossible to detect, for those unfamiliar with a pickpockets tricks. Not as sharp as he'd like, had his fingers not ached so it would have been more precise, but still accurate enough to evade detection. He was sure of it. And he covered it so easily, so finely, with his soft questions, his distractions.  
    What he hoped to secure was that knife, but anything would do, a few coins, an expensive trinket. It was all the same to him.

    “You haven't even told me your name. Will you tell me?”
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    Tariq
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:25 pm

    The stranger proved to be a strong and willing support, easily accommodating the boy’s clumsy limp with his sure gait. He offered his aid without insisting on it, clearly straining to remain well within the bounds of propriety despite the intimacy of their proximity. When the night air doused them in its cold breath he gladly angled his body to share what thin warmth he could.

    There was no indication the blind man had detected the dirty fingers in his pocket; if anything, he drew the boy closer against him as though in recognition of the absolute ineffectiveness of the thin, torn rags to protect him. The boy would no doubt be delighted to discover the pocket’s contents had been a modest bundle of coins that were very likely all that remained after purchasing the waif’s freedom.

    He waved away the boy’s forged concern with a dismissive flick of his wrist, the point of his staff tracing an elegant arch above the street. “As I told you, it is of interest to me.” A tongue of wind howled savagely through the pair as they rounded a corner. “It is enough you allow me to tend to you before you are cast out to the streets.” A genuine pleasure warmed the words, shadowed almost imperceptibly by a flickering amusement.

    The boy’s inquiry so struck him that his steps faltered and he momentarily paused, the hoarse rasp of a laugh on his tongue. “Ah… you must forgive my lapse in manners,” he said silkily, resuming his pace. “I will take care to cling more firmly to them. I am called Tariq.” His foreign accent came through heavily on the word.

    Their destination was, as promised, not overly far from the miserable place from which Fabien had been so newly sprung, but it doubtless felt like an eternity to the shivering boy. Their journey was uneventful. The blind man was not excessively talkative, mostly offering gentle direction and responses soft enough to go overlooked by the occasional passerby. The quiet tap of his walking stick was their ever-present guide, like the clack of a hound’s heels.

    “Here,” he said at last.

    The house he gestured to was irrefutably a consequence of money; a businessman’s austere household made up of slanted roofs and dark-eyed windows, where archways yawned above the doors and ivy climbed the coarse exterior. It had the luxury of privacy, being separated from its neighbours on one side by a natural incline that had evidently been less trouble to build around than to flatten, and on the other by a copse of thin trees with paper-white skin and moonlit leaves that whispered a trembling chorus with every breeze. A host of unblinking eyes stared dispassionately out from their bark.

    An ash-grey tabby sniffed tentatively around the front entrance. She lifted her head at their approach, regarding them with watery yellow eyes and lashing tail. Evidently displeased at what she found, she arched her knobby back and spat out a hiss before darting away.

    Tariq ushered the boy inside and locked and bolted the door behind them. The house was dark. Absolutely so – it would be difficult to take more than a few steps without groping blindly into a wall.

    It was impossible to tell if the lack of light had even registered with the blind man. His dark skin melted silkily into it. He took a confident step forward and called softly into the thick inky shadows; “Colombe?”

    A faint glow, like the bobbing light from a will-o-wisp, travelled down the hall. A girl, surely not much older than Fabien, turned her face around the corner. Lit from below by the candle in her hand, it was a ghostly visage. Where hardship had left its mark on Fabien, pinched his bones and sharpened his fox-like features, she had the robust look of one who had always known the privilege of warm beds and a full stomach. It was only her dark eyes that belied this story. They were big and soft and so dark as to nearly swallow the pupils; the eyes of a doe, something wistful and vacant filling them.

    “My dove. We have a guest.” She mutely regarded Fabien with those deep, dark eyes. Her thin lips drew even thinner, although she remained silent. “Draw a bath, fetch clothes – although I doubt we will be so lucky as to have anything that is not too big – and see to finding him a meal.” And, after a moment’s consideration– “And do not subject the boy to the dark; light the house.”

    Her half-curtsy was stiff and she pattered down the hall with no indication of how she had been occupying herself in the inky dark. A warm glow obediently sprang to life within the corridor she had entered. It illuminated the room in which they were standing just enough for grey silhouettes to sharpen and become visible. Tariq turned to the boy after her departure.

    “Forgive her unconventionalities,” he said. “Her life has not been an easy one and my act of charity in taking her in can only stretch so far.” He turned his palms upward, fingers spread wide as though to suggest defeat. “But she will tend to you. Go clean yourself up; perhaps unknot some bruises in warm water. Colombe will show you. If you will excuse me—“ he inclined his head. “I will meet you in the kitchen.”

    Tariq stepped away but then paused, his silhouette sharp as a blade in the gloom. “And Fabien,” he said, the flash of his dead eyes quicksilver bright. “You will find my sweet dove a poor conversationalist – but do not suppose that her muteness leaves her unprotected. I trust you will take care not to upset her.”

    He did not linger for a reply before disappearing into the dark house, wooden stairs groaning gently under his weight. The sound of his footsteps soon faded to perfect silence.

    The boy was left in the dark. The playful sound of splashing water indicated easily enough where a hot bath and fresh clothes awaited him. If this wasn’t temptation enough to stir his aching feet into motion, the now candle-lit path offered alluring opportunities to peek and pry into other rooms.

    Should he obey the blind man’s edict and follow the girl, he would find the warning had been unnecessary. She was like a ghost made of fog, disappearing from sight as soon as he entered a room. However, she had clearly minded her instructions. The boy would be allowed to bathe in peace, fresh clothes that, as predicted, sagged on his thin frame waiting neatly folded and a meal that, despite being both modest and room-temperature, was likely the best fare he had eaten in months waiting on the kitchen table. It was accompanied by cool, clean water and a carafe of sweet wine. He would have ample time to consume both in the absence of his host.
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Sun Jan 31, 2016 4:16 pm

    Fabien’s eyes slipped up and over the front of the building as though it were a palace. “It is a fine house, Monsieur,” the boy murmured.
    A thousand questions at once had begun to burn upon his tongue, but there was hardly a moment to voice them.  For even before he even had a chance to take in their location, they were within the blind man’s walls, and the comforting glow of the street lights banished. The boy grew perfectly still. Indeed a closer observation indicated something was wrong. There was a stiffness of his limbs, a quietness about him.

    He was afraid, deeply so.

    Perhaps his host would find it amusing, how greatly disturbed the boy was by supreme darkness. How he startled suddenly when the door had closed, and how he groped for the hem of the man’s coat. It was a curiosity. Thick-skinned gamin did not fear such things. Those raised in dens of despair and neglect, did not shy from moonless nights. Only this one then, perhaps.

    Thankfully he trembled so much from the cold that any nervous shuddering was sure to easily get mistaken. But the man was certain to feel him startle as the bolt and lock crunched into place. And when the gentle touch of candlelight began to sweep over his skull, it illuminated his tense expression. His teeth clenched tightly into place, the brow pinched with displeasure. By now he was so frozen with cold that those teeth were rattling loudly against each other. And his trembling so violent, he could scarcely move a step or so further. He remained still and quiet, his storm cloud eyes slipping back and forth between his host and the girl with her wide, melancholy eyes.

    When the blind man departed, the boy was plagued with doubt. Should he wait awhile, and then leave? Or flee this place now? Could he find somewhere to sleep on those dark streets, those corners which were no longer his sanctuary? Would he even survive the night while stripped to nakedness? It wasn’t likely. And his trembling would not subside. His blackened toes were so frozen by the icy cobbled stones, that they were now bereft of sensation. No, he would stay, and he would rest the night and then he would depart.
    So for now, he sought out the girl.

    “Hé, mademoiselle?” the boy whispered softly into the empty room. His dark, tired eyes moved hesitantly around the corners of the room in search of her. He would have enjoyed the company, would have delighted in engaging her in soft conversation while he bathed. But finding nothing, the youth stalked around the bath instead, and trailed his fingertips along its edge. S
    lowly he undressed, slipping his thin arms from within the awful yellowing cloth. The pathetic material was left to slump around his ankles. Then the boy knelt, and uncurled his fingers to reveal the dull glint of stolen money. The mere sight of those coins enticed his youthful lips to curve into a soft, satisfied smile. He caressed the surface of the coins with his thumb, and so he tore a strip from his shirt which he fashioned it into a dirty fabric pouch. It was tucked away within the pile of his gifted clothing.

    Fabien slipped the rest of his clothing from his hips, and clambered into the inviting embrace of the steaming water. Once settled, he began a slow and painful ritual of exploration of the landscape of grief which had been painted across his flesh. The worst of the bruises were about his ankles, his hips. But there were angry scratches which clawed their way across the side of his ribs, the smooth sides of his legs. The boy sighed, and tenderly prodded the teeth-shaped dents that marked the soft flesh of his inner thigh. It was an unhappy vision, and he had to momentarily swallow back a soft, unhappy whine. A memory had become dislodged somehow, fallen free of the case he had sealed it within. The boy forced his pain down like a draught of poison, and buried his face within one hand.

    “Non, non put it away. It’s over. It’s over. “He whispered hoarsely to himself.

    The boy spent the remainder of his time removing the dirt, and grime and shame from his body. His bony fingers worked the grease and sweat from his hair and scalp until it darkened the water. He would have liked to spend more time there, until sleep threatened to drag him down deep like a siren. But he emerged, his skin ruddy with heat and gleaming with renewed life. The clothing that had been provided him was adequate enough. Though the large shirt slipped to one side, and exposed a great deal of the sharp point of his shoulder, his bruised neck. It was however, a vast improvement, and he had not felt such soft cloth on his skin since his birth. He spent awhile slipping the fabric between two fingers as though it were expensive Chinese silk.  Then, his stolen funds were secreted into the pocket at his side.

    When he emerged from the room at last, he was a different being entirely. Only the boy’s darkly ringed eyes, so hollow with weariness and hunger, betrayed his prior suffering. Soon his hair would dry, and catch the candlelight like afternoon sunlight over the wheatfields. The bruise about upon the rise of his cheekbone had begun to fade, revealing beneath one lid a black mark like a spot of ink. Now that he was clean and glistening, it was far easier to see why the brothel had deemed him a worthy investment.

    The boy wandered along the spacious hall beyond his bathing room like a revenant. As he went, doors were tested here and there. If they yielded, he slipped over the threshold and searched the shadows for the gleam of finery. Things he might obtain while the blind man slept.
    For now however, the scent of food lured him. The boy found the kitchen easily enough, but its emptiness left him cautious. He behaved as though he had not been invited into these walls. Not taken pity on, cared for. He treated the space like a trespasser might, fearful of waking the occupants. Step after tentative step he approached the kitchen table where his meal had been set. His eyes burned holes through the plate of food, straight down into the polished wood. It was a vision for him, an unreality.

    Fabien’s approach to the food was painfully delicate at first. He did not settle to a chair, but gathered pieces with his fingertips, mere crumbs. Then as the flavours struck his lips, the boy crept onto a chair and crouched before the table like a demon. The delicacy was forgotten, and he turned ravenous. Both hands were his tools, and strove to eat as much as he could. Cheese and bread were stuffed were between his eager jaws with gasping abandon. He broke the pattern of feasting only with a mouthful of wine, though it hardly made its way past his lips. The gleaming liquid soon seeped in fine rivers over his chin, down his lean throat. And he gasped in-between each mouthful.

    Despite his eagerness, the boy made sure to save a single crust of bread. It was stowed mechanically into his pocket along with his coins. When he was finally satisfied, when he had scraped the surface of the plate clean with teeth and tongue, he abandoned it while wincing in fullness. And then it was over, he was sated, and content. Happy even, in the way those that eat rarely are so easily charmed by sweet wine and sustenance. His skin was a glow, and some of the nervousness in his fingertips had finally begun to ease.
    It seemed at last, that everything would be better now. That he was safe. The cards had been dealt, and they were favourable, smiling upon him as they had once before.


    Last edited by Fabien on Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Tariq
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Wed Feb 03, 2016 6:35 pm

    The boy would just be licking the last crumbs from his plate when the scrape of a heel heralded Colombe’s presence in the doorway. She faltered when she saw him. Her uncanny eyes flicked over his hunched form over the table, taking in the dark bruises mottling his neck and the ill fit of his new clothes. Those dark eyes narrowed. She took Fabien’s plate from him without a word and studiously begin tidying up, radiating an aura of perfect, thin-lipped surliness. She avoided making eye contact, keeping her back towards him as she busied herself with dishes. Her mouse-brown hair was long and ragged at its ends as though it hadn’t felt a barber’s shears in months.

    It would only be a few minutes longer before the master of the house rejoined them. He had undressed and his loose attire was casual, his pristinely white shirt revealing a great deal more of his neck and wrists than his somber evening clothes had. A jagged scar that called to mind the teeth of a vicious beast gleamed silver from the base of his throat. It would have been a life-threateningly deep wound to leave such a raised reminder. Similar scars speckled the dark skin on the inside of his wrists. A crimson sash tied about his trim waist gave the uncanny impression that his stomach had been slit and the blood poured down his thigh.

    “I trust you found everything to your liking?” He crossed the room with an easy stride, the familiar length of gnarled wood in his hand largely idle in the familiar domain of his house. He seated himself at the head of the table across from Fabien. The ruined white expanse of his eyes was lazy and vague, never quite alighting on the boy. “I hope my hospitability proves more to your taste than your previous hosts’.” The soft smile did not touch his eyes.

    “We have a few matters to discuss,” he continued. “I hope you still wish to spend the night here. You will regret it if that leaves this room.” His tone did not change from its conversational gentility but his dead eyes were firmly on Colombe. The girl froze guiltily, a glass half-full of milk clutched in the hand that she had no doubt thought was furtively tucked beneath her shirt. Her dark eyes widened and flicked from her master to Fabien and back again. There was a shine of genuine fear within them. Without a word, she set the glass on the table and left the room.

    The house had a way of swallowing sounds and her footsteps quickly disappeared. A fat bead of condensation rolled down the glass.

    “Now,” the blind man said, turning his attention back to the boy. “Your room has been prepared, should you still want it. Bien sûr, you are welcome to return to the streets with your stomach full instead.” He clasped his neat fingers together on the table. There was something of expectancy in the gesture. “Otherwise, I will need an assurance from you that you will abide by the rules of this house.” He pronounced the words delicately, his voice a purr in the back of his throat. The flickering light in the kitchen silvered his pale hair as he inclined his head. “And then I can show you to the bed that is yours for as long as you want it.”
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:04 pm

    Fabien had already begun to wilt into his seat by the time Colombe returned. One leg was tucked against his chest, and his thin arm left to drape loosely around his knee. He was succumbing to sleep, and could feel his body begin to pull him down into those comforting depths. He toyed with it, played with the notion of allow it to entice him to the nourishing embrace of rest. The boy’s darkly ringed eyes lazily followed the outstretched hand as it whisked away his empty plate, though he barely comprehended it at first. Then, he twisted slowly at the waist in order to observe the girl better as she flitted about him. Despite her efforts to avoid his eyes, he stalked her in the frail hope they might briefly catch upon each other. The look of intense dislike clearly visible upon her face delighted him, provoked lips to curl into a smile that was rich with boyish amusement.

    Colombe. It’s a pretty name” he murmured. The boy’s hand rose, and he entwined together his long, conjurer’s fingers. He flexed his fingertips before the glow of candlelight, so that they might cast a bird-shaped shadow across wall at her side. Her silence, her reluctance to spare even him a glance, seemed not to deter the urchin.

    “You work alone here in his service, chérie?” His voice had soft, easy warmth to it. It almost seemed to seep from his lips, to curl from the languid stretch of his limbs and lazy slant of his head. It was practised charm of a street performer, a wooer of crowds and giddy tourists. “That must be a quiet life, non?”

    He stretched slowly, arching his back and purpled neck as he sought to half muffle a yawn behind his palm. Despite his tiredness, he was nothing if not persistent, relentless.

    “Won’t you sit for just awhile, speak with me?”  He relaxed forward a little, his fingers outstretched to pull the empty chair at his side in closer. He patted the vacant seat encouragingly, as one would seek to entice a timid house cat to creep in closer to them. “Here, there is some wine left, I-“He was just in the process of curling his fingers around the rim of the carafe, when his plan was interrupted.
    The boy quickly sought to correct his posture, to unconsciously straighten. There was evident slyness in the gesture, as if he felt those useless pale eyes could see him, and would look upon him with distaste or anger. His eyes trailed cautiously over the vivid scar’s that marked his hosts flesh.

    “Oui. You and your girl have both shown me such kindness.”

    The next words which departed the man’s lips caused Fabien’s renewed happiness and warmth to wither. His blood turned sharp within him, his veins were suddenly ice water. His wide, exhausted eyes were unable to depart from his generous host. He watched him in tense, agonised expectation. But when it seemed it was not his theft which had enraged the man, but the girl’s, relief overcame came in a soft wave of pleasure. He released a small, shivering breath from between his tightly clenched teeth. Lucky.


    The bruised youth turned his head in order to witness her crime. But upon observing her offense, his eyes grew wide with pity. It seemed such a trifle, a simple glass of milk. He obsessed over it. Studied it as though it were something priceless, something vital. Suddenly it was impossibly important for him to obtain it for her. Perhaps he would, later, in the dark. He would present it to her like a trophy.  
    He stole his gaze away from the glass, back towards his host, his saviour. Despite displaying nothing but goodwill, perhaps even something like empathy towards his situation, still the dark skinned man unsettled him. The decision to remain was therefore briefly agonised over. And then it became final.

    “This night...only this night, just to get my strength back?” He replied softly. “I would not wish to do anything that might displease you, Monsieur Tariq. You have my word on it.” He lied.

    The urchin unfurled his thin limbs from the chair, and was careful to smooth one hand swiftly over his pocket. Satisfied that the contents had not slipped free, it was left alone. Back upon his feet, he awaited the man’s instruction, his guidance towards the place where he might be allowed to spend a warm, restful night.

    “Before you sleep, would it be prying, Monsieur, if I asked you some questions?” The boy drew in back towards the chair, his arms and weight pressed into its wooden spine as he observed his companion along the length of the table. “Forgive me if I overstep, I do not often spend time in... places like this.”
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Sat Feb 06, 2016 12:31 am

    The girl stiffened at the sound of her name in Fabien’s mouth. The distaste etched across her features deepened and she turned her face away. However, the bird illuminated on the wall brought her up short. She regarded it with quiet wonder, her dark doe eyes softening. It was a child’s trick, something anyone who had spent a lazy evening with a candle could easily reproduce, and it oughtn’t to have affected her the way it did. Her lips parted as though to form a question, her fluttering namesake darkening her hair as it snuffed out a sliver of the light.

    However, his next line of questioning shattered her interest and she turned away from him, her shoulders high and taut. She returned to her task with renewed zeal. Her coarse hands were impatient as she scrubbed his plate clean. She snorted a scoff out her nose at his suggestion that she sit and converse, as though he had proposed they sprout feathers and fly out above the dark streets. It was the first noise she had made in his presence and was indelible proof that he had succeeded in catching her attention despite her frosty conduct.

    It was difficult not to follow the path of her dark eyes when they flicked anxiously to the doorway. Her premonition proved correct – although his soft tread provoked nary a sound from the floorboards, her master entered moments after. She averted her gaze, her head down as she focused on her task with new interest.

    She had doubtless thought him distracted enough by his quiet conversation with their guest to risk the pilfered glass. It was impossible to guess where she had disappeared to after this proved false.

    Tariq did not much appear to mind her hurried absence. He regarded the boy with cool interest. His long hair fell in spiraled threads on the table between his arms, his hands still clasped neatly together.

    “This night, the next,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “However long you need to regain your strength.” The boy’s swift assurance of his absolute trustworthiness seemed to please the blind man and he dipped his head.

    Non,” he agreed in his grey-smoke voice. “I cannot imagine you would.”

    When the boy stood, his host remained seated. He leaned back in the chair, his long spine straight. The scar at his throat caught the light and shimmered like the strands of a cobweb.

    “Very well,” he consented. “If they are of import enough to postpone your rest, ask what you will.” His tone remained unfailingly gracious, but there was a brittle edge of brusqueness sheathed within it. He added with a wry trace of humour, “After all, there is nothing done in the dark that is not brought to the light, in time. Go on, Fabien.”
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    Fabien

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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Sat Feb 06, 2016 6:41 am

    As soon as his host had agreed to grant him this small request, Fabien slipped along the table. He claimed a new chair, not desperately closer to where the blind man sat, but much more so than his previous seat. It appeared boy was somewhat pleased that he’d been provided with an opportunity to have an audience with the man who had rescued him. To converse with the being who had provided him with a way out of from a life of unspeakable torture; who had closed the door on a world of hot breath and eager hands on his skin, stripping him, claiming him over and over. But there was a brief pause before he found his voice, and immense hesitation lingered on the edge of every word he spoke.

    “You mentioned to me, Monsieur, when we were... back there.” The boy’s brow pinched in a sharp display of grief. He had no desire to think on that place ever again. He would strive to eradicate it from existence, banish it from his every thought if he could. He slipped his hand over the surface of the table, and began to slowly work his knuckles into the grain of the wood. Every now and then his eyes flitted sharply to the line of that terrible scar which sparked like lightning across the smooth skin of the blind man’s throat.

    “You mentioned to me that a boy lived once here, with you.” He moved his fingertips towards the cuff of his sleeve, and pried delicately at the edge of the fabric. It was Ill fitting, but not substantially so. And he wanted to know who it had belonged to. He began to work loose a thread between his index finger and thumb, to tighten it slowly around joint of his fingertip like a noose.

    “Was he a relation of yours?” His eyes moved in a relentless motion, down towards the thread, then back toward his companion’s face. He studied him intently, sought even the slightest hint of irritation, or discomfort in his expression.  But if there was none, then he’d press on, and aim to get as deeply in as he possibly dared.

    “I ask only that... I thought houses such as these.” The boy’s chin lifted, and his eyes turned towards the ceiling as thought in contemplation. It was a perfectly composed act of feigned naivety, of unschooled innocence and wonder.

    “I had always imagined they would be full with people, of servants, families. You know?” He tightened the loose thread further. Eventually it was rendered so tight it bit into the flesh of his finger, encouraging the tip whiten with blood loss.

    “Have you come upon some misfortune?”

    Slowly he began to unwind his finger, and now his sight fell upon his companion’s white eyes, and did not falter until he had his answer.
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Sat Feb 06, 2016 4:32 pm

    Tariq permitted the boy to unwind the layers of his question in silence. He was still, very still. There was little expression in his dead eyes, nothing to suggest irritation or menace, although the keen-eyed might detect the pensive roll of his shoulders, the meditative cock of his head.

    It wasn’t until Fabien had said everything he meant to that the blind man moved to run his fingers through his hair. He sighed softly through his teeth.

    “Are you superstitious?” The question was not cruel. It rested gently on his tongue. “Would it worry you to rest your head in a house that had seen misfortune? A curious fear for someone who sleeps on streets built on the bones of the dead.”

    He lapsed into a contemplative silence. The tip of one long finger tapped softly on the wood of the table as he pondered.

    “This house,” he began, each word deliberate. “Was not cleansed through plague or pox, there is no miasma that lingers here to harm anyone who lingers too long within its walls.”

    The man’s ghostly eyes disappeared beneath his dark eyelids. He was silent a moment more. He did not open his eyes when he began again.

    “The boy was not of my blood.” The expression had strange context in his mouth. “I was not offered much opportunity to know him. He died with his father, an associate and friend, in a machination of fate.” The words were flat, plain, bleached of all emotion until they were white as bone. He opened his pale eyes but they did not meet the boy’s, instead slanting lazily to the floor.

    “This place and the wellbeing of all its inhabitants fell to me. It was never a large household and most left soon after the pater familias fell. Its numbers dwindled to one. Colombe was too young to send away and their deaths left a wound on her heart that has yet to heal.” His voice softened as though in fear the girl would overhear. “She would have died or spent the rest of her short life bound to a bed not unlike the one in which I found you.” He pinched the arch of his nose between his fingers as though this last was too distressing to contemplate. “I am certain you can appreciate my aversion to such a fate.”

    He returned his hollow gaze to his guest.

    “She takes care of me and I take care of her. It is not so large a house, and my needs are not so great. We manage. I have whims that she does not care for; it pleases me to have company on occasion. I suspect she would rather keep this house quiet and dark, a lonely effigy.”

    There was gentle fatigue in the movement of his hands he used to indicate the end of his tale. “Does that satisfactorily sate your curiosity, Fabien?”
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Tue Feb 09, 2016 6:46 am

    Fabien hoisted his leg back towards his chest, and curled his arm around it, claiming his knee as a resting post for his chin. His eyes were unable to depart from his companion. He remained completely attentive, entranced. There was something child-like in the way he carefully settled his limbs, sought comfort. It was as though he was about to be told tales of old, legend and folk lore. His eyelids were heavy with the weight of his tiredness, but fascination parted the youthful rise of his lips.

    At the blind man’s question, the urchin gave no answer. But his storm cloud eyes briefly turned aside as though he still believed his expression could be read by his host’s sightless gaze.  There seemed nothing else to suggest he was uncomfortable with such a question, just the uneasy creak of his chair as he shifted his weight. But he did nothing break the gentleman’s thoughts, and kept his lips firmly sealed.

    As his host’s tale continued, the boy’s expression began to shift, to grow slowly melancholy. Something close to pained understanding shadowed his youthful features, and filled his eyes with a brightness that had emerged only briefly before, and was fleeting. At the mention of the girl, his eyes completely severed their connection for quite some time. His gaze then lingered on the abandoned glass still left to stand on the kitchen side, before slowly it returned to the gentleman’s lips. The boy nodded softly, forgetting that such gestures could not be read. He corrected it with a softly spoken acknowledgement.

    “Oui. Would be better to be dead, than rot in such a place,” he replied. The words were hard upon his lips.

    The youth considered his companion’s question, and then his lips curled into a lazy, somewhat self-conscious smile. No, not satisfied entirely it seemed, but it would do, for now.    “Ah... a little Monsieur. It is nice, to learn something of you, you know?”  The boy stretched his spine, arching his arm behind his neck to caress the bruised flesh with palm and fingers.

    “But, I will keep you no longer.” He slipped from his seat, and moved aside from the table with his fingers still gently working the tight muscles about his shoulders.  “Merci, for allowing me your time.”

    He lingered patiently against the back of the chair like a ghost. The glint of candlelight gently fell upon his hair, and transformed the erratically curling strands into what looked like threads of fire. One hand slipped into his pocket, and his lean fingers curled over the hard weight of the coins sneakily concealed within his old clothing. He worked his thumb over them in a circular, obsessive motion as though they were tokens, charms. His expression seemed faintly troubled.
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:06 pm

    Tariq inclined his head at the boy’s murmured appreciation. A cobweb of fatigue cloaked him, blunting the sharp humour that had thus far animated so much of his movement.

    Parfait.” He rose with easy grace, staff in hand. “Perhaps, when you have rested, I might learn something of you.” Weariness had softened his voice to ash but the suggestion seemed a genuine one. “For now, come; I will show you to your room.”

    He left the kitchen as it was – half-emptied carafe, abandoned glass and all - with the calm assurance of one who was accustomed to such tasks falling to someone else, and began to ascend the stairs.

    The stairs had a gentle curve as they wound upward that concealed their top level from the ground floor and groaned softly under their feet. A window halfway up bled silver moonlight through the thin curtains that shuttered them. It flattened the pair to dark silhouettes as they passed. Outside, the ghostly trees gossiped in their dry tongue.

    There was less to the second story than there was to the first. At the end of the corridor arched a sturdy pair of double doors that undoubtedly opened up to the master bedroom. The blind man halted in front of another door whose hinges creaked as it was opened.

    The room lacked a window. The shadows seemed blacker without it. However, the absence also gave it the impression of being hidden, dark and deliciously warm; a retreat, a respite, a comfortable den. Colombe had preceded them here, as evidenced by the sconces that flickered on the walls, weakening the darkness and warming the space with their orange glow. A third flame illuminated the nightstand it rested on. It revealed the furnishings to be precisely in line with his host’s hospitality thus far – sufficient, unassertive, and far more lavish than the boy had ever enjoyed.

    The bed followed suit. It was large, warm, dressed with soft, clean sheets and thick blankets, and beckoned with alluring promises of deep, rich sleep.

    The blind man ushered the boy inside and allowed him a moment to contemplate the room. “It is yours,” he repeated gently. “For as long as you wish it.”

    The house’s scent was difficult to place – something that began with wood smoke and hinted at the green unfurling of sage leaves, a coil of chthonic clove and sharp garlic eddying beneath. It was neither unpleasant nor particularly noticeable, but it was much stronger in this room. It was likely the first time the boy would even take notice of it.

    The boy’s host remained near the doorway, his spine straight. “There is one more thing,” he said softly, his teeth coming together with a click. His eyes reflected the light in cloudy pale streaks. “I would ask before you sleep.”
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Thu Feb 11, 2016 6:14 am

    The urchin cast aside the sensation of unpleasant tightness which had briefly worked its way into his gut, and stuffed his other hand deep into his pocket. His smile, which had only just begun to fade a little, was vibrantly rekindled. The boy rolled his bony shoulders, shrugging aside the suggestion that he had much to offer.

    “Ah, there is not so much to tell, Monsieur. Mine is just a pauper’s life, not so interesting.”

    The boy’s weight shifted between his bare feet as he waited for his host’s guidance. And then, his dark eyes followed the gentleman carefully as he began to make him departure from the room. But for the first time since they had arrived here, Fabien seemed reluctant to follow. There was there a twitch of hesitation in his limbs, a shiver of doubt perhaps. It was hardly detectable, and it wasn’t long before he was trailing behind his host, his eyes upon the glowing sweep of the gentleman’s white hair. The boy continued to speak softly to him, as though it did his nerves good to break any silence that might creep between them.

    “Though I am sure you have many more stories, non?” He kept his voice above little more than a whisper. It made him seem as though he feared disturbing those already sleeping, of shaking them from their deathlike slumber.  The boy moved like one who still fiercely believed he was not meant to be here, within these walls.

    He paused by the window as they passed by, his eyes attempting to steal a glance of the outside world. Of his streets, the dark corners and alleyways which called for him, whispered sweet enticement to him. It was with considerable effort that he tore his eyes away from the inky sky.

    And yet, as soon as his bare feet had stepped over the threshold, all his reluctance, his restlessness bled away into nothingness. The boy’s darkly ringed eyes stirred around every corner, up every wall. He moved forward swiftly into this space that was his for the night, and the candlelight painted his eager shadow starkly across the wall. It was a different realm entirely to the one he had just left, and acknowledging the painful constrast made the boy’s fingers tremble against his thighs. It felt as though he had been lead sweetly from the darkest, fiery pit into unspeakable bliss. He moved toward the bed, his hands escaping from their confinement, and long fingers stretching forth to brush against the soft fabric.

    “Mon Dieu, that there are those who live like this.... Il est le ciel.” He murmured in breathy exaltation.

    For a moment it seemed he had forgotten his companion entirely, until the sound of his voice made him turn. He moved a step or two back towards the doorway, his eyes bright and attentive.


    “Oui, Monsieur? Ask anything of me. ”
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Tariq on Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:35 am

    Fabien’s quiet interest in the details of his host’s life briefly rekindled the man’s ivory smile.

    Oui,” he had breathed, pausing his ascent as his ward stole a look at the outside world. “I have many more stories. But I fear some would not be to your taste.”

    Now that mirth had been brushed away, leaving only a stony solemnity that transmuted him to a grim statue, knotted wood clasped somberly in his hands and every muscle still. Pale hair fell in a shroud over his shoulders. His eyes, white as ashes, were canted uselessly to the side, his head gently cocked as though keen to hear the boy’s response.

    When it came, those eyes shuddered back to the creature trapped in that windowless room. They were neither dull nor blank - something vulturine shone with fierce hunger within them.

    Très bien. I would ask your counsel.” His voice was deadly soft, low enough the boy would strain to hear it. “I ponder what you would find a just course of action for one who invited a poor soul in need into his home.”

    Distantly, the dry leaves shuddered like the rustle of leathery wings. Each of the man’s words seemed to linger in the air as though heavy with dreadful import.

    “For one who offered to clothe and feed and warm that beleaguered guest, to ease his suffering and soothe his hurt,” he continued softly, silkily. “And who satisfied his oath to the word, at his own loss, only to find—“

    The door at his elbow slammed shut as though at the hand of a poltergeist. But the house was only haunted by the presence of its master who did not waver from his place, presenting a formidable barrier to the exit.

    “—his aid had been betrayed, his compassion disparaged and that same bruised, beaten guest had stolen from the same hand he had extended in mercy.”

    The shadows seemed to sharpen into blades. The man’s eyes glittered like lost jewels which some ill-fated wanderer might pick up only to be haunted by sharp-fanged phantoms and terrible, terrible misfortune. He had yet to move. His blighted eyes remained on his guest.

    “What punishment would be worthy of such scorned charity? What would you have done to such a thankless dog, Fabien?” He bit off the boy’s name as though it burned like a coal on his tongue.
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    Re: ** Interlude - Brew a bruise on my heart and drink it like wine

    Post  Fabien on Sat Feb 20, 2016 2:50 pm

    The gamin took one more confident step towards his host. It would prove to be his last, eager approach. His expression was still luminous, still warm with content, and bright, untarnished interest. He was so evidently pleased by the prospect of sleep, that he barely recognised the man’s words at first, they slipped through him like mist. He was slow to digest his meaning, he struggled follow the thread of his speech, to make any sense of his question. It was sure to be some gentle request, some mild instruction that he remain in this room for the duration of the night, and that he not wander and disturb the girl.

    When at last he began to understand, to realise something was wrong, the boy’s eyes darkened in terror. Like ink disturbing the clarity of water, anxiety wove its way across his features, and once again painted haunted shadows into the hollows beneath his eyes.  
    Before he even had the sense to recognise his own actions, Fabien had already begun to retract his steps. To push back into his own shadow, as his vision swept up and over the blank walls with hot, panicked recognition. When his search proved fruitless, fear flicked like candlelight across his storm grey eyes.

    The bolt of blind panic that sparked its way through his nerves was a distraction. So much so, that the sound of the door slamming into its frame sent a violent tremor through the boy’s entire body. He rocked back upon his feet, before managing to stumble a few more steps away. Soon he would run out of space to retreat into, soon there would only be the wall, solid and unrelenting. Like a limping fox cornered by braying hounds, his body seemed to half crumble into itself.

    “I don’t...” He managed to rasp weakly, though it was little above a whisper. His throat was so tight he could barely draw even a slither of air into his gaunt chest. He swallowed heavily, and tried again.

    “F-for me it, it would... depend on the nature of the crime, you know?”

    He stepped back once more, his attention rooted upon the entrance, his only possible escape route from what had swiftly become a prison.

    “M-my brothers and sisters, on the streets, you see they ... we learn it is not wise... to cling onto much of anything.”

    “I would, I would just let it be, Monsieur. S-sometimes, there are mistakes, or... accidents.” He rasped. The sound of his voice was gently, almost coaxingly apologetic. Like a boy trying to tame a caged lion’s hungry cruelty with soft words and careful actions.

    “I would let them be.”


    Last edited by Fabien on Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:53 am; edited 1 time in total

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