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    Things Fall Apart

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    Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 14/11/11, 04:40 pm

    For two weeks Kallista had been working almost non-stop. Clearing rubble, caring for the wounded, organizing rescues and evacuations, dealing with and comforting orphans and lost children... there wasn't time to think, let alone rest. For the first three days she had gone completely without sleep. Finally, several of them had almost been injured while passing out and Roscoe had begun demanding that they sleep in shifts; despite every fiber in her being resisting, Kallista had grudgingly begun resting for four hours a night, although she rarely slept more than two.

    Almost all of the money that she had earned in her time as an adventurer was gone. Most of it had been donated to the various churches or the homeless or those who were leaving the area to start over. She had kept a mere 25 gold out of her savings; enough to see her through on bread and water and necessities until she could hopefully get more work adventuring. She honestly didn't know how long that would be, but she knew that right now others needed help more than she did, and her modest savings would go a long way towards helping people rebuild.

    Finally, almost imperceptibly, the pace of the clean up efforts had begun to slow, and although there was still a lot to do, it seemed that the bulk of the urgent rescue operations had been finished, one way or the other. For the first time in almost a fortnight, Kallista found herself with a few precious spare minutes.

    Given the circumstances, it was amazing that Kallista was even still standing. Sleeplessness, lack of food, over-exertion, dehydration, and above all worry had taken a toll on her. Her normally mischievous eyes were dull and glossy, and sunken into her face above dark circles. She had lost several pounds in the last few weeks, and her body was covered with minor scrapes and cuts and dirt. Even her tail hung limply behind her, as though it simply didn't have the energy to do anything else.

    She walked away from the site that she had just finished clearing and glanced down the road at the church of Avandra, with crowds of people flocking around it, lining up for their evening meal. Despite being no more that 500 feet away, to Kallista it might as well have been 500 miles. She wanted desperately to go down and offer more prayers, perhaps even help with feeding the dispossessed... but she found that her body simply wouldn't move anymore. Her muscles rebelled against her wishes and she gracelessly sank to the ground, leaning back against the crumbled wall of what used to be a bakery.

    She looked around her, watching in a fog as people wandered to and fro. Everyone seemed to be running on empty now.

    Kallista slowly and painfully brought her knees up to her chest and hugged them, her head falling forward as tears began to well up in her bloodshot yellow eyes. Within a few moments she was crying uncontrollably, unable to move, to speak, do to anything except give in to the pain and death and guilt that was consuming her.
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 15/11/11, 09:10 pm

    After two weeks of back-breaking labor, Delona wanted nothing more then to collapse. Maybe curl up against the oven in the dojo's kitchen with something a little stronger then tea. And perhaps some candy. Ooooo, candy would be nice. Or cookies. Soft and sweet and crumbly and yummy in her tummy, followed by a full day of sleeping next to that nice warm comforting oven. And then apple juice. Cold and crisp and sparkling and maybe adulterated with another something stronger then tea. Mmmmm, tasty...

    Delona had begun employing fantasies as a method of brain distraction approximately thirty hours into the rescue operations. Normal meditations just weren't up to the task of keeping her up and alert enough to work. The fantasies had grown progressively more elaborate and were comforting enough that she kept them up even after Roscoe had laid down the Sleep Law. Anything was better then thinking about how tired and hungry they all were.

    Her brain had just shifted from cider to pie when she suddenly stopped in mid-step. Shaking away the food fantasies, Delona looked around to find out why she had stopped moving. her shoulders slumping in despair when she saw Kallista curled up against the bakery. Oh. So that was why her feet stopped. Shit. Oh well, the rubble-clearing teams would just have to do without them for a while. First things first, get Kal out of public view; she would never forgive herself for breaking down where people could see her.

    Luckily they didn't have to go far. Delona knelt down and scooped up her tiefling comrade, murmuring softly to let her know who it was, and carried her around the corner into a narrow alley. Picking a relatively clean spot to sit against the wall, Delona carefully sank down so that her friend's back was to the street and settled the smaller woman in her lap, mindful of the tail. Crooning a lullaby in a voice turned gravelly by the week's work, she rocked Kallista back and forth.

    She had been a pillar of strength for everyone else, now it was time for someone to be a pillar for her.
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 15/11/11, 09:51 pm

    Kallista was vaguely aware of a presence, of strong hands lifting her and holding her. There was a sense of movement and then again she was still. She continued sobbing quietly into her hands throughout the process, tears running freely down her face. Through the tear-stained fog came the gentle sound of celestial singing, distant and faint, and for just a moment Kallista wondered if she was dying, and the singing was Avandra herself calling to her.

    But then the fierce pounding of her heart began to slowly quiet and the singing became stronger, more earthly. She opened her eyes and after a moment the swirling colors merged into her teammate's face.

    "I'm sorry..." Kallista murmured between sobs, breathing still ragged and shallow, "Oh gods... I'm so... so sorry..."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 15/11/11, 11:05 pm

    "Shh, shh." Delona wrapped her arms a little tighter around her friend and continued to rock them back and forth. "You've done nothing to be sorry about, we're proud of you. Just breath, Kal. It's all alright, just breath."

    She raised a hand and started smoothing back the unwashed red hair while she hummed, petting and rubbing away tension in an attempt to offer comfort and support. It briefly occurred to Delona that this was the sort of reason why she kept her hair in microbraids and a topknot; it didn't matter if she went a while between shampooings. The thought slipped away as quickly as it had arrived, swallowed up by the necessity of the moment.
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 16/11/11, 10:22 am

    For a while, Kallista cried in her friend's arms, Delona's calloused but gentle hands stroking her face and hair. Slowly her breathing began to slow and her sobs quieted, replaced by a kind of exhausted resignation.

    As Delona hummed and held her she slowly, stiffly turned her head, looking back down the alley onto the street. A child in tattered clothes and bandages walked slowly by. Across the street a young couple huddled together on a doorstep.

    "It's my fault..." she whispered, unable even to cry anymore, "All of it... I did this..."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 16/11/11, 01:40 pm

    Ahhh, so that's what the problem was. Silly girl.

    "Did you really?" Delona sounded curious and mild, restraining the urge to smack her upside the head. "How ever did you manage to trigger it? I didn't know you had arcane training at all, let alone enough to activate such a big spell during dinner without any of us seeing."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 16/11/11, 01:49 pm

    Kallista sniffled, but she didn't flinch or move her head. If the half-orc's sarcasm had penetrated, there was no outward sign of it.

    "When I was younger..." she said quietly after a long moment, "My father... he had captured some prisoners. I helped them escape. But he caught them again. And then he killed them. Just to hurt me... to teach me a lesson. He never forgives. And he never forgets."

    Finally she turned her head and looked at her friend, her face drained of color and emotion.

    "If the cult did this... then it was because of me."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 16/11/11, 03:20 pm

    "Then he's an asshole. And he's gonna get all wrinkly from scowling all the time and end up looking like a butt. See?" Delona scrunched her face up as much as possible, making the most ridiculous 'mean old man' face she could to make Kallista smile.

    It hurt her cheeks to hold that expression for too long, so she morphed back into a sisterly smile and bumped her forehead against Kallista's "Don't be daft. If they're behind this, then they've declared war on Highmark and the entire Nerathi Confederacy and are gonna get obliterfucked. If they were really that stupid then they'd have gotten themselves squished a long time ago. Right? Of course right. So let's just let the high level mages figure this one out, okay?"
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 16/11/11, 05:16 pm

    Kallista nodded slowly, knowing somewhere deep in her heart that Delona was right, but stil unable to overcome the nauseating wave of guilt that had caught her in its tide.

    She curled up tighter into herself and took hold of Delona's hand, squeezing it as much as she could in her weak state.

    "I'm so sorry..." she said again, quietly, "I don't deserve you guys... I don't deserve this life..."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 17/11/11, 05:27 pm

    Something in Delona's brain twitched. She normally had very little patience with emo people, but this was Kallista who had suffered tremendously before coming to Highmark so she was doing her best to make an exception. She squeezed the tiefling's hand and hugged her a little tighter.

    "Now you're just being silly. You deserve the best life possible. Pity the world doesn't keep score cards, else you'd see how much good karma you had saved up. Now," she beeped Kallista's nose, "you sound like you could use some food. What do you say to tracking down some folks and going up to the Big Square? We could get some of those kebabs, and maybe drop by one of the Markets for supplies on the way back."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 17/11/11, 05:33 pm

    Kallista shook her head and tried to extricate herself from Delona's arms.

    "I can't" she said as she sat up slowly, her head still swimming, "Too much to do... I have to help."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 17/11/11, 05:40 pm

    Delona gingerly helped Kallista up, helping support her weight. "We will be helping. We'll be bandaging your equipoise and getting foodstuffs from sources that won't gouge us on the prices. But first, we are going to sleep. And I mean actually sleep, not just an hour's catnap. We'll be no good to anyone if we're too tired to think properly."

    She fixed her friend with a 'totally serious about this' faux-glower. "If you can't get a solid six hours of sleep on your own, I will hunt down an herbalist. Or some booze. Either way, you are getting some proper sleep."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 17/11/11, 05:54 pm

    Kallista nodded weakly and tried to stand. Her legs felt like oozes, but she managed to get herself upright with Delona's help and the two leaned on each other as they slowly and carefully began the short walk back to the guild.

    With the sun setting behind the western horizon the air was growing cooler, and as the two walked, the pink color slowly began returning to Kallista's ashen face. Outside the guild's main gate was a water tent, handing out ladle-fuls of clean water to those who needed it. Kallista stopped for a moment to take a drink, and although it was warm and slightly metallic, it helped calm her nerves some.

    "I'm sorry..." she said to her friend as she passed her the ladle, "I just... I'm sorry. I'll be okay."

    As she loked at Delona, it finally sunk in just how exhausted and depleted the half-orc looked herself.

    "You look like you could use some rest yourself."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 17/11/11, 06:15 pm

    The cautiousness of their slow mutually supportive walk reminded Delona of one time they'd all gone out drinking together. She chuckled and started humming a drinking song that she remembered them caterwauling that night. At least it kept her from thinking about food.

    She accepted the ladle with a nod and drained what was left, handing it back to the Junior Explorer who was manning this particular barrel. "Don't worry about it. So long as you're alright that's what matters."

    A chuckle erupted at Kallista's comment. "What, you thought the booze would only be for you? I can't sleep either." She tossed an arm around Kal's shoulder and started their wobbling walk out of the tent. "Now what can we get? A hot rice wine or kallu would hit us hard and fast but taste pretty nasty. I'm thinking cold would be better if at all possible."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 17/11/11, 07:37 pm

    "Heh", Kallista said, humorlessly, "Good luck. All of the good booze is being used for surgery. We haven't been getting any more shipments in with the roads in the state they are. Most of what's left is stale beer and hobgoblin rotgut from the Grimgarn Brothers' still."

    She sighed and offered the ghost of a smile.

    "Oh wait..." she said, remembering something, "One of the half-elves that came through yesterday left a half-bottle of some kind of elven whisky. I was gonna bring it over to the medical tent, but... fuck it. Let's go kill it."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 17/11/11, 07:44 pm

    A slightly insane grin split Delona's face at the prospect, followed by a somewhat crazier giggle. "Yaaaaay" She looked on with satisfaction as the people who heard her gave them a wider berth.

    "Think it'll be enough to share with the others, or are we gonna be selfish? If it gets us some sleep, I'm all cool with selfish."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 17/11/11, 07:50 pm

    Kallista shrugged.

    "I ddon't know. There's only a couple of swigs left."

    When they got to her makeshift cot in the union's training room she reached under it into her backpack and brought out the small clear flask with a few inches of amber liquid in it.

    "Here" she said, tossing Delona the bottle, "Knock yourself out."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 19/11/11, 01:10 pm

    Delona accepted the bottle and plunked herself onto the ground between their cots, not really trusting herself to sit on the cot itself without flipping it over. Taking a quick swig, she handed the bottle back to Kallista and shook her head vigorously in a failed attempt to clear it.

    "Whoo, that is good stuff." Satisfied that the whiskey would hit hard and fast in their current states (and hopefully let them sleep dreamlessly) she started taking off her boots.
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 19/11/11, 01:14 pm

    Kallista took the bottle and sighed before knocking back a good inch of the liquid in one swig. She barely even grimaced as the liquid burned its way down her throat.

    "Thank you, Del..." she said, after a moment, "I'm sorry about before. Things are just... they're really fucked up right now."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 19/11/11, 01:29 pm

    "Ah, no worries, Kal." Delona took the bottle back for another swig. "Things take a while to get unfucked, and they're gonna leave us off-kilter until they do." Handing the whiskey back, she reached into the backpack beneath her cot and pulled out a blue wine bottle that was about a quarter empty. "That's just the way of things. Well, except for kids. Kids bounce back real fast." Uncorking the new bottle, she set it on the ground between them. "Water, for after. Don't wanna wake up wishing we could take our brains out to stop the headache." Her face cracked into a small grin.
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 19/11/11, 01:35 pm

    Kallista shuddered.

    "The kids are the ones I'm most worried about." she said, baraely managing to keep from crying again, "I've been spending half my time helping Jacinthe and the others with the orphans. There's so many of them, Del. The babies are too young to understand, but the older kids... I look into their eyes and... I just don't know what to say to them."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 19/11/11, 01:50 pm

    "I know." Delona toyed with the water bottle, her layer of good cheer worn thin when it came to the orphans. "I've been helping out as best I can, and it's not easy. I've been telling the younger ones that a big rock egg hit the city and it hatched elementals when it cracked open, and the older ones that the Council has the best minds in the Confederacy figuring out how and why it happened. I'm trying to keep the older ones focused on taking care of the younger ones so they won't turn street rat and get into trouble, and that has meant dragging more then a few around by the ear."

    She chuckled softly at the memory of the outraged howls, then shrugged. "At least the orphanages are getting plenty of donations. People are more willing to help out when kids are involved, I guess. Gotta admit, Lady Jacinthe surprised me. I'd never figured her for the sort to get her hands dirty, but there she is. I'm impressed."
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 19/11/11, 01:55 pm

    "This was the first I'd met her." Kallista said with a shrug, "She's seems nice enough to me. We haven't really had much time to talk, though. Haven't had a whole lot of time for anything."

    She took another swig of the whiskey and followed it up with a long swallow of water before laying down on her side on the cot, still fully clothed. She didn't even have the strength or wherewithal to remove her boots.

    "I just want to wake up and have this be over. Have things be back to normal." she sighed.
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by Kitrazzle on 19/11/11, 02:07 pm

    "Soon, Kal. Soon. It'll never been soon enough, but it's still soon." Delona took the whiskey bottle and held it up to judge the amount, then polished off the swig and a half that was left. Taking a long pull from the water bottle, she sat forward and handed it back before she started unlacing Kallista's boots.
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    Re: Things Fall Apart

    Post by tuck on 19/11/11, 02:17 pm

    "I hope so..." Kallsta said mournfully.

    Kallista started to protest when Delona moved to begin unlacing her boots, but a stern look from Del cut her short before she opened her mouth. Instead, Kallista began lay back on her cot and sighed, looking around through half-closed eyes at the people milling about in the guild. After a while she felt Delona slipping off her boots and let her eyes fall closed.

    A few moments later she was fast asleep.

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