Title: `D E A T H IS WATCHING
Description: tag: jackie
Thomas Killikan - October 17, 2010 02:34 AM (GMT)
It was a time for war; At last his days could be consumed by the ever looming cloud of destruction that waited for his people if they failed here. And he’d dare to say he preferred the pressures of the battlefield than any political situation he’d been put in to, if for no other reason than he was close to the grass and the trees and the fresh air that rolled through the camps at whatever moment it wanted. The battlefield gave him a freedom that societal restrictions did not have room to allow and it was for this that being a soldier had and always would be dear to him. This stay wasn’t everlasting though, as it was his duty to maintain relations for the good of the kingdom and eventually he would be called to one place or another. But for now, here in this small tent and outside with the soldiers, he could enjoy himself.
There was no doubt that had he not joined the military his life would have been spent in an even less adequate way. For the job of every elf was to ensure the bettering and strong continuation of their species and were it not for this cold anchor he was chained to, he would have wondered in to the wilds a long time ago – only to find his way home when the signs of the world’s sickness were noticed. And that would not have been tolerable. He hadn’t a doubt that Mother of his would disown him the second she saw the scraggly mess that he was sure to have become. Then later, too curious about his life, she’d come to her senses and tie him to a chair to make him a most presentable thing with all her questions bubbling out as she did so. He laughed at the thought and settled in to his chair to look over the papers he’d brought with him. But, when he’d gotten himself in to a position comfortable enough, instead of reviewing the treaty before him he rested his head on his arm and dozed in to a dream.
This world was large and decorated and filled with so many masked men and women. Much like the ball but more exaggerated and confusing with all its people packing in a crowd yet somehow still managing to bustle around him. His sight caught on a woman, one who brought a wave of pain over him before his mind washed him of it and wrapped him up in a soothing blanket of disillusion. All was well and right in this world and with a fickle smile he reached out to touch the anomaly on her shoulder. Her body swept to the side, turning in a flurry of elegance so that she might see who had come to bother her; his eyes followed, stricken and unable to keep his heart from swelling with sorrow for his forgotten love. It was her. The soft blond of her hair shook with the release of her breath and an eager hand cupped around his cheek, his own hurrying to hold it there. Just a little longer, keep it there. ”Thomas” Her voice pulled from her, sad and lost. A lonely beacon of feelings trying to show him she couldn’t take his silence anymore and begging for him to stop. ”Thomas,” that eerie call crept to him again ”tell me how you love me.” How he loved her? He could tell her a million different ways how he loved her and none of them would be enough.
But he wouldn’t. No matter how many times he opened his mouth no words would come out and as he stood there trying to work his voice the room quieted and heads turned until the room was so still he could hear all the world’s disapproval.
He looked to the room of ghoulish masks and then back to his love, her brows knitting with confusion. ”Don’t you love me?” But he couldn’t speak and he couldn’t move except to draw back in disgust when her face became so skewed he realized she wasn’t confused any more, she was dead, and what wriggled underneath her skin wasn’t the contractions of her muscles it was maggots. ”Love me, Thomas.” She demanded. He withdrew further but his back landed firmly against the wall of people watching with their unfeeling masks. The cold of the crowd’s unfamiliar hands grasped him, pulling his clothes taught as he struggled against every new pair that found its way to him. But they were strong and forced him to stand and face her. ”Tell me that you love me!” She held out a decaying hand for him to take and when he did not she lunged forward with her half-maggot-eaten body.
”No!” Every muscle in his body contracted in repulsion and thrust him backwards from the table. His momentum was stunted by the four screeching legs of his chair but not enough to keep him from leaning back too hard and sending himself and the chair loudly to the floor.
He laid there a moment, eyes glued to the top of his tent and limbs sprawled over the floor. It was a dream. He breathed. Just a dream. Slowly, he came from his daze, gathered himself off the floor, and with an anxious glance –to make sure no piece of her escaped the dream with him- left his tent. What he needed was something to distract him. Anything, he didn’t care. He would try Jackalyn first and if she was too busy he would track his brother down. Even the awkward air between himself and his kin would be welcomed over being alone to stew in the thoughts that came after having such a dream. He turned sharply on his heel and made for Jackalyn’s tent.
”Jackalyn!” he beckoned from outside her tent, as if he’d wait politely for her to answer or something. He didn’t of course, only giving it a fleeting thought before pulling back the flap and peering in. ”Do you have time to come out and play with me?” A boyish smile set his face alight with somewhat forced joy.
Jackalyn Whimera - October 17, 2010 03:40 AM (GMT)
It was stupid. Dangerous and stupid, but she couldn’t help it. His letters were smoothed out in front of her and her desk was illuminated by the soft glow of a candle. She tapped her front teeth with the end of her quill as she tried to think of the words with which to reply to his insistent man. His tenacity was flattering and admirable, but it seemed that every time she said no it only made him even more determined to make her say yes. It had become a game of sorts… how many times could she say no before he finally gave up. She knew she should just stop writing… he would get the idea sooner or later if she never replied and burned every letter as she should have done with the first one. What had stayed her hand that day? It was the same thing that kept her from doing it now and had her hiding the letters in a cut out book chronicling the history of the Ethereal race. Who would think to look within that for anything?
Finally deciding what to write, she dipped her quill into the ink well at the top of her desk and in small, flourishing writing penned a letter to the man she shouldn’t know or care about, and yet did. She even found herself looking forward to seeing that mysterious scrawling script addressed to her on her desk every once in a while. She wouldn’t admit to anyone not even herself that her heart beat just a little faster when she saw it resting so innocently atop her battlefield maps. She forced herself to ignore it until she could read and reply without guilt that she was putting off some other important chore or task, but now she had time to herself and with a soft distracted smile she wrote as if outside there wasn’t the sound of swords clashing and men fighting.
Her head snapped up and immediately her hands pushed all the crumpled and folded letters into the heavy book, and crumpled the half written letter and tossed it over her shoulder toward the smoldering fire. Her heart thumped in her chest, but she schooled her features into calm, indifference. The worn edge of one of the letters peeked through the faux pages of the history book and she eyed it warily before she reached out and smoothed it back into the book.
”Do you have time to come out and play with me?”
“Thomas, I wasn’t expecting you,” she replied honestly as she stood and dusted off the sand used for setting the ink of letters from her leggings and tugged her jacket over her arms. “But, I think that I can spare a few moments for a fellow general.” She gave him wide grin then and settled the belt that had her scabbard looped through it lower on her hips and left her tent. The less time in the tent meant that there was less time for him to wonder what she had been doing before he peeked his head in and why she had so quickly pushed everything away.
She and Thomas were friends. It had caused a bit of tension between some of the other men. How could a man and a woman be friends? It was unheard of! Jackalyn rolled her eyes whenever she heard that particular exclamation. Not all men were looking to bed a woman and not all women were looking to have their bed warmed. Jackalyn was quite warm all by herself and she was happy to tell whoever questioned her relationship with her fellow general. The whispered rumors had only gotten worse when she had promoted Thomas over his brother Markus. Thomas was now a two star general whereas his older brother, Markus Killikan, remained a one star general. It had nothing to do with any friendship or other relationship… it had to do with skill and experience. Thomas had plenty of both and the only thing that kept him from moving up the ranks once more to a three star general was that he lacked the ambition. He was comfortable for now as far as Jackalyn was concerned and while she wouldn’t accept that forever she could deal with it for now.
“I do hope you mean play with swords because if we have to spar again with those little toothpicks you call knives I think I’ll have to simply run you through,” she joked with a smile, but the little glint in her eye sometimes made people wonder if she was joking or telling the truth. She walked beside him as they crossed to the small little sparring field just beyond her tent. It was smaller than the official one that was for training of new soldiers, but Jackalyn liked to use it for training and personal drills though her morning exercises were always performed a top the hill on the other side of her tent. Standing beside him she glanced toward her friend before unsheathing her sword, “Are you feeling well, Thomas, you’re looking a little… peaky.” Yes, peaky. She’d learned the word from her mother all those years ago.
Thomas Killikan - October 18, 2010 01:31 PM (GMT)
Thomas lifted a his brow at his friend, the sudden burst of activity and shuffling papers had piqued his interest but by the time he leaned in to spy on her she had already finished whatever it was she had been doing and was messing with a book on her desk. He watched curiously as she quickly moved on to fidgeting with her clothes and then hastened past him. What was so pressing? She couldn’t be that excited to train. He lingered behind a little longer than he intended, watching her for any more odd behaviors. There was something going on. He knew his friend enough to notice the most obvious about her. But, confronting her with impetuous questions wouldn’t get him anywhere; especially not if she had intentions of hiding this – thing, whatever it was, from him. For now, he decided, he wouldn’t press the issue and followed her lead from the tent.
He slowed as he came to Jackalyn’s side. ”Don’t tell me you were wondering around indecently in there.” And had gotten fully dressed so quickly? He doubted it. The way she had kept her eyes from him and fidgeted with her clothes reminded him of lovers interrupted in a moment of escalating emotions. How they too pulled firmly at their clothes, pretending there was some sort of imperfection in them more important than facing their intruder. A sign that she had been caught? He smiled in spite of his notions. ”Have you finally realized how liberating it is without the harsh chafing of these things?” He pulled at his clothes with mocked scorn. What was it that she would hide from him like that? He wanted to know.
“I do hope you mean play with swords because if we have to spar again with those little toothpicks you call knives I think I’ll have to simply run you through,”
A sly smirk crossed his face. ”I guess we can save them for after dinner.” Not everyone was cut out for swords just as not everyone was cut out for “toothpicks” and in his own opinion swords were limited. No one could sneak with a sword bouncing off their hip, threatening to clatter in to something at any minute. Besides, running the streets of Ad’hira as a boy taught him skills better suited for less traditional fighting.
”Peaky?” he repeated, taking the word in to his own mouth as if it were some confounding toy. ”It was your threat to run me through. I forgot to bring a sword so all I have to defend myself are my toothpicks.” He wasn’t sure why he lied to her. Dreams of his dead wife had haunted him for a long time after her death - sometimes making his sleep so troubled he would wake himself with his own screams. Gradually they had lessened until he was sure they were over. He remembered he’d been so relieved to escape their constant terror that he declared his news at Jackalyn, rather than to her –like a normal person. But that had all been forever ago and the unexpectedness of this dream unsettled him.
Without the bobbing shadows of tents to obscure it, the sun glared in to the bare field and forced Thomas to squint at a group of swords left carelessly on the ground. It seemed he was in luck. No one would mind if he borrowed one, right? They were just laying there. Abandoned. He’d put it back, too. No one would know the wiser; except him and Jackalyn. He slid off his coat, exposing the holster of daggers that hugged his chest; it was far too hot to be training it the stern material he preferred in his jackets. As well, he pulled the holster off and took one of the blades with him on to the field.
Instincts told Thomas the settle low and lift to the balls of his feet but he resisted. This was swordplay not hand to hand and he didn’t need to prepare himself to avoid or use Jackalyn’s momentum against her –he needed a firm footing to take the impact of her blow. Right? From what he knew this was much more planted than what he was used to, leading with the heel of the foot rather than lightly balanced on the front. He turned the blade over and frowned at the long metal piece. ”Is there a particular way this thing is supposed to be facing?” He looked to his opponent; both edges were sharpened the same to him but the weight felt so wrong in his hands. He had half a mind to raise it above his head like a club. But that wouldn’t do. Swords were already clumsy when he got his hands on them - there was no telling what havoc he would do with a sword-club.
Jackalyn Whimera - October 18, 2010 02:42 PM (GMT)
She gave him a questioning look as he asked if she'd been wandering around 'indecently' within her tent. Perhaps she'd been doing something that might have been considered indecent, but she'd done it with all of her clothes on despite the strange thrill of passion that Dominic's letters seemed to incite within her as if she were still some young untried girl. "What? No. Despite whatever hope you may have had to the contrary," she teased, but avoided the real issue. Thomas was a little more insightful than she cared for with her personal life at this very moment. He would do much better to turn that insightfulness toward the battlefield. "Harsh chafing?" she laughed lightly as they emerged from her tent. "Hardly. I still would prefer a full suit of armor to running around as 'liberated' as you say. Though, perhaps it would boost the morale of our men?" She joked lightly, but followed it up with an expression that said it would never happen in a million years.
There was a sense of familiarity and comfort that came with training for the Lady General. It would do well to get her mind off the distracting words of her secret letters and correspondence with a man whom she should have never known. The balanced heaviness of the sword in her hand gave her more comfort than any compassionate word ever could. The wide stance and face paced parries and thrusts were a dance she was familiar with rather than some graceful waltz to step on another's toes with. To this deadly dance she knew all the moves.
"If we must then I will do it to make you happy." He was one of the few people with which she conceded things; not everything every time, but enough that rumors had sometimes flown around camp about his favoritism. Especially when he'd been raised above his brother in rank by the Lady General. It became a bit of a jest to say that if you found yourself between her sheets you were awarded a star for your efforts. It annoyed Jackalyn more than anything. She'd done her best to remain as impartial and indifferent as possible. Still, a General who distanced herself from her men would never have their faith and support. So, she had set herself up as a model of propriety, and yet the rumors still flew. Men bored with themselves and prone to making trouble found themselves with nothing better to do in life.
Her blonde eyebrow arched in question as he deflected her inquiry with humor. She wasn't going to push it. Nothing good ever came from pushing something that weighed on the mind. Like a wild animal pushed into the corner, they tended to lash out rather than deal with their feelings constructively as the rest of society had learned to do. They were soldiers. Their answers to everything was to hit, punch, beat, or kill it. If he wished to speak of why he looked as though he'd seen a ghost then he'd share sooner or later… or get it beaten out of him when Jackalyn's patience ran thin.
She rolled her eyes at his empty excuse about having forgotten a sword, and crossed to the field where the sun shone brightly down upon them. A good day to practice deflecting when the sun could blind you through reflection. This was when being able to fight with a blindfold came in handy… when you didn't have to trust your eyes they couldn't lead you astray by blinding you. Standing at the ready with her feet shoulder width apart and back straight, she unsheathed her sword with ease and lifted it to her hip height while the tip pointed straight as an arrow toward Thomas. He picked up a spare sword and she watched as he palmed it like a mace or club and then struggled with how to hold it. "Well, it helps to keep the pointy end facing your opponent." There was a light bit of humor lacing her words, but also a note of exasperation. "Really, you'd think training with the top swordswoman in the Army would have taught you better than that… or are you watching other parts of me that aren't my feet and arm extensions, Thomas?" She teased lightly.
With a slight flourish that caught the afternoon light, she advanced upon him carefully as a panther would its skittish prey. Then in the blink of an eye, her sword was coming down upon him forcing him to parry or have his torso cut in two. The clanging of metal and the slight hiss of sparks as they clashed were high notes in the symphony of fighting. Their feet kept a careful rhythm and never slowed because to slow in a battle meant death. She circled him casually as she gave him time to get himself together before advancing once more. Each thrust brought her closer to him until she pushed off his last parry, spun gracefully, and brought her sword up in an arcing sweep that threatened to slice him from navel to neck.
Thomas Killikan - November 8, 2010 09:26 AM (GMT)
”It could boost morale. You never know with these men, a naked woman just might tickle their fancy. And I wouldn’t worry much about the women, some might even join you.” Banter wasn’t uncommon between the two of them and he’d understood to take her teasing lightly from the beginning of their friendship. It was refreshing, to him, that at least one of his fellow generals didn’t always have a stick up their rear. Her quirked brow hadn’t gone unnoticed but it had been over looked. If they moved on quickly the things they didn’t want to speak about wouldn’t sit so heavily in the air. Jackalyn had never been a woman to push issues like these but he’d never felt she didn’t care. He didn’t need her to divulge her secrets nor to be a shoulder for him to cry on, she showed her concern in her own way and that was more than enough.
He gave a short laugh to his friend’s teasing. “I suppose I’m just hopeless with a sword.” There was an impassible strangeness that he found in the soldiers, though, more so in the generals, that could not find value in this woman’s leadership. They sought out all the imperfections, even ones that did not exist, and decidedly belittled her for them. It was a shame and disgraceful especially in times like these - it was something he’d expect from the men under the command of that pig of a magician or even from that pig himself. Thomas never knew what kind of pungent rumors would find their way from the frothing mouths of envious men. And while he believe it was one thing to have a suspicion and to question, what had grasped their army was nothing more than bitterness geared towards a woman that wanted to succeed for her people. He couldn’t understand their sentiment.
When it came to handling these mens' indiscretions Thomas chose to ignore them. He'd denied everything once, when a friend actually asked him of it, and there was nothing more that needed to be said. Nothing more that could be said because no matter what he or Jackalyn did there would be whispers on someone’s lips. There would be suspicions in someone’s mind. There was no way to douse a wild fire that had already spread through the minds of whomever was haughty enough to think they knew more about his or Jackalyn’s life than him or Jackalyn.
But, what he couldn't ignore was that this was another stone in the wall between him and his brother. Just one more excuse for the two of them to distance themselves. This wasn’t the way he “knew” they were going to be when they were younger. Always, his naive imagination ran wild with how they would be brothers through everything. Now, he tried not to let his heart break when he realized the man Markus had grown to be was one he avoided, and who avoided him in return.
Pining for things long gone would get him nowhere.
He was a foreigner here, on this battlefield of swords. And an obvious one with the way he grasped his weapon with a heavy hand and guided it in front of himself – pointing the tip to his opponent as she had done him, albeit in a much less pretty and refined way. His attention focused on Jackalyn as she readied herself, eyes trailing her movements. At the very least he could know where she would come from and how she would strike.
The next few minutes found him slapping her blade away with the flat sides of the sword rather than directing it in any sort of way. The metal screeched with every block he made and pulsed against his hands. It distracted him more than he'd admit and kept him from being able to give strikes of his own. He was a lumbering oaf brandishing a sword for swords sake against a viper trained too well with her metal extension. She could fight, he knew that as well as any other person of their army, but it worried him that swords were so easily lost. Not always was the mind or the body keen enough to keep grasp of the hilt and a forceful blow could shake one’s foundation enough to throw the blade out of reach. So many things could happen to a sword that would render it and the wielder useless.
He settled from the bout of strikes that sent him backwards in a surprisingly steady few steps. At the very least he had kept himself upright and her sword from grazing over his skin. His hands jostled the sword, bouncing it lightly in the slack of his grip to try and get it to feel right, all the while he turned with his opponent. Were he a lesser man he would be offended or angered at the how leisurely she strolled her way around him, maybe he'd even be inclined to strike. But he wouldn't. He knew better. And soon she was on him again, pushing him and his sword back and at times striking with enough force that his sword was almost at his chest and he could feel the metal scrapping in the air around him. Misjudging the force of her last blow, Thomas put too much power behind his parry and as she spun around, sweeping her sword with her, he lost his balance and felt the cold of her sword cut in to his stomach. The pain had an old familiarity to it, the kind that sent ice in to his veins and weakened him more than it ought to, but he had enough sense to jerk away from her blade before it slid any further up his torso.
"Jack--" With a soft thud he fell to a knee and slumped against his sword for support, his free hand grasping at the same place his brother's sword had pierced in their youth.
Jackalyn Whimera - November 8, 2010 08:02 PM (GMT)
Here, in this dirt circle where men and women alike had shed blood and sweat, Jackalyn felt at home. When she was training all the complexities of life fell away and she felt as though there was only her and her sword. An old friend that never asked anything of her or imposed its will upon her. It didn't berate her, question her, push her or annoy her. It was simply an old friend that gave her a sense of wholeness she couldn't find without it.
The earthy smell of dirt and sweat wafted around her and the calming rays of the sun fell upon her. It was almost a religious experience the way that Jackalyn gave herself over to the will of her sword. She followed it blindly letting it guide her though her toughest battles knowing that it would protect her. She had had enough scrapes, cuts, and stabs in her lifetime to know that when she broke focus was when the more serious of her injuries had happened. A clear mind was all that was needed for victory. A thing she'd been severely lacking in lately.
If it wasn't An'ziano's voice in her head it was Silas's or it was Dominic's or it was worries about Ayise and whether or not it was a good idea to have brought her to the camp in the first place. The War was making Jackalyn second guess herself at every turn and it was turning the normally confidant War General into a blubbering fool with no answers and no where to turn for them.
Yet, here… they all died away.
Here in this training ring all her worries washed away and she was for the first time in days - clear headed and purposeful. Unfortunately for Thomas that purpose was to take off his head. There was no use in holding back in training. It didn't do the other party any good to feel as though they could hold their own if they truly couldn't. Jackalyn wasn't the type to coddle or placate her men into a false sense of pride or accomplishment. In her eyes, everyone could improve… it was striving toward perfection that made them better soldiers. So, in Jackalyn's mind every compliment needed to be coupled with a criticism. Cruel to be kind… or rather in this case to keep their vital organs within them.
Her mind drifted back to the days when she was a young girl learning the finer points of sword play with Duhain. Back to the time when she was taught to fight with a blindfold and without the aid of her sight. Her lashes fluttered down as she anticipated Thomas's jabs and parries with an expert air that seemed to border on precognition. Of course Jackalyn wasn't a seer and couldn't see the future in any way shape or form, but she could anticipate where Thomas would step a little too heavily and how quickly he could cut his blade up to deflect hers. A soft, distracted smile played against her lips as she advanced upon him. The clanging of their swords sending a numbing jarring vibration up their limbs. Something Jackalyn had since learned to ignore and fight through. It helped though if one's grip wasn't deathly tight on the hilt. The tighter the grip the more contact and jarring sensation one's arm felt. She gripped her hilt with a firm, but gentle touch.
That's all it took to die. One false step, one misjudged parry, one moment of being lost in your thoughts. It only took one mistake to end everything.
She knew the moment something was wrong. She felt the strange and sickeningly sliding sensation of her blade hitting nothing. Thomas had lost his balance after her hard onslaught and tipped into her blade, the sharpened tip slicing easily through his clothing and flesh uninhibited by armor or chain mail. She opened her eyes with a startled noise and jerked her arm back tossing the sword to the other end of the training circle as he jerked backwards.
"Thomas!" She hated the note of fear that hung in the air between them. He fell to his knee and then slumped to the ground his hands trying to stem the blood that gushed forth through his clasped fingers. She had pushed him too hard. She knew how weak he was in swordplay and she had pushed far too hard for his skill level. Now, he laid at her feet holding his stomach trying to conquer the pain. She fell to her knees at his side her hands coming to cover his and press down. She didn't care if he grimaced at this point. He could use this pain as a reminder to always guard his flank, but she could yell at him later when he was well. For now, she pressed down on his wound and looked around for someone who could find them a Healer.
"I need a Healer!" she called out into the air. A few heads peeked out of their tents at the urgent sound of their General. "For god's sake, someone get Ayise!" She glanced down to Thomas and brought one of her hands up covered in his own blood to slap him across the face. "That's for losing concentration." She glared at him angrily and had the frightening realization of how fragile life and friendships really were on the frontlines. This could have been a moment in battle fighting the Mystics. She'd be damned if he died in a training accident. He had too much honor and pride to die such an unsavory death. She'd make sure he survived to find his final end proudly on a battlefield as all soldiers were entitled to. "Don't worry, Thomas," she said after as her hands pressed down once more on his wound. Her next words said with gritty determination, "I'm not going to let you die."
Where the fuck was Ayise?!