Completed Wandering Creek

  • The Veil Falls

    Three times a year Lessat, the largest of Arethil's two moons, eclipses the sun. This time the event falls on Hallow's Eve. All across the world spirits start to appear, reliving their gruesome ends. They cannot be interacted with.

    Join us for this year's Halloween event. More information coming soon!

Trajan Meng

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He knew what he had to do.

Trajan Meng, embattled and beleaguered, had made his way back to Vel Anir. This after an ordeal that nearly claimed his life in Alliria. This after he had seen everything he worked for, everything he believed in, come crashing down around him in an instant. His hope for a United Humanity lay in tatters, now that the Luminari had turned on itself--brothers slaying brothers, sisters slaying sisters. The radical Purists had usurped the Cause, and now they were the Luminari. And their message was clear: they did not seek a United Humanity and separation from the xenos of Arethil, no. They sought the eradication of them.

It made Trajan question everything he had thought since separating from the Anirian Guard. Made him question the ideals of his beloved home of Vel Anir down to their very core. What had he become? How far had he allowed himself to go? Glory be, he had thought it necessary to kill untold numbers of human beings--mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, innocents all--in a false flag attack to further the Cause.

He loved Mankind. He loved his fellow man, his fellow woman. But his love had turned him into a despicable villain. With the express permission of a clear conscience he had been blind to his own evil. He had taken his love too far.

Now, he had to make it right. He knew that if nothing else, he needed to avenge Khadija Han, Clarissa Mejeure, and all the others who had been betrayed by Dio and the Purists. Kha, Claire, they had all joined the Luminari because they believed in the Cause--because they believed in him. And he had led them astray. He failed them.

He had to make it right.

Trajan had to destroy the Luminari, and those Purists who now infested it. Destroy it and bury it beneath the dirt of Arethil.

* * * * *​

To this end, a return to Vel Anir was necessitated. Trajan had lost his armor, his weapon, and before he could even begin the business of cobbling together a force that could face the Luminari Purists in battle and defeat them, this he needed to attend to.

Trajan visited the Meng estate regularly. Though, this time when he came through the doors of his home and was greeted, his father, his mother, his three sisters, all of them knew that something had changed. They knew of what Trajan had been doing for the past nine years, though none were directly involved. Few words were exchanged at the dinner table, words that were solemn all. And when Trajan asked for his father's aid later that night, a knowing nod was all that was exchanged.

Trajan set about the next day to commission new armor, a new warhammer, and to speak with his longtime friend Crassus about the enchantments to be placed upon his new weapon.

All these the first few steps in preparation for what was to come.

* * * * *​

An afternoon of mostly cloudy skies--perhaps the edges of a storm rolling in from the Cortosi Coast. The sunshine was intermittent, some moments bright and others plunged into deep shadow as a thick layer of clouds drifted overhead, edges glowing with the golden hints of the sun beyond.

One such approach of shadow shaded Anir Square now. Trajan, clad in a fine dark brown doublet and pants, walked through the Square. His eyes could not help but to drift on occasion to the sight of a xeno here, a xeno there, they who were not human yet either lived or traveled to Vel Anir anyway. And where once he would have regarded them with either disguised or open disdain, now...now he was more neutral. Simply seeing them. Acknowledging their presence in his mind. Moving on with his own business.

He thought briefly of hearing the news of the Battle of Wandering Creek, so many years ago. Of his...

(cruelty)

...unfairness to Valynthe.

He thought of who he was before Wandering Creek happened. A boy, a young man, yet one so different and distant in the past that his own memories seemed like they belonged to the story of someone else. Someone better.

And Trajan walked amidst the afternoon pedestrians of the Square. He'd a ways yet to go back to the Meng estate.

Rumer
 
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Rumer

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The periods of shadow offered temporary reprieve to the glassy green eyes that had grown so accustomed to the darkness of the city hidden below Vel Anir. The city where the mongrels, the half breeds, were banished to and branded, the underground repulsive equivalent to the proud city's Dreadlords, those trained to carry out the less savoury tasks of assassinations and shady dealings that the corrupt nobles Anirian hierarchy had ensured were a well kept secret. Rumer was one of those abominations, a fact she'd grown used to reminding herself of every single day. Worthless. Shameful. Abhorrent.

Her scrawny little legs carried her hurriedly through the throngs of people, fingers clenching and unclenching into her clammy palms and her gaze downcast and hood pulled low. She didn't look like anything remarkable, just another poor child, her boots barely stuck together and her threadbare cloak flapping around her bare ankles as she scurried along the dimpled path toward Anir square.

She had a message to deliver, a strict instruction to deliver it and return swiftly. It was the first time she'd gone anywhere alone since they'd caught her, and she was too nervous to enjoy the occasion of 'freedom' for fear of messing up. The pain a wasn't difficult thing to conjure in her mind when she thought of exactly what would happen to her if she failed or Gods forbid, that she attempted to run.

She was moving so quickly and so blindly through the crowd that she bumped into a man clad in dark, ornate armour and she stumbled back with a quiet apology, but before she could get the words out of her mouth the man reached a gloved hand to her chest and shoved her hard onto the cobbles. The child gave a mousy meep of a sound and looked up, wide eyed as he pointed a finger a mere inch from her face.

"Watch where you're going you fucking runt!!" the man spat on the ground next to her and she winced. She was used to the look of disgust he glowered at her with.. "Bloody filth of it!.." he growled and dusted himself off as though her touch might cause his armour to rust.

"Said I were sorry..." she muttered as she attempted to pull herself to her feet, but the man lifted a steel boot and kicked her back down.

"I didn't tell you to get up!" he barked at her and she flinched. Of all the eyes she could feel on her right now, not one of them uttered a word about a full grown knight beating a child into the street.

By the Gods, she hated these people.
 
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Trajan Meng

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An altercation ahead. Trajan did not see the beginning of it, nor as of yet had a clear sight on who it was between. He heard the tail end of what was initially being said ("...you fucking runt!!"), and then saw--as Anirian passersby moved on with own their business and unblocked his view--the man in the dark armor and the small girl on the ground. He saw the man spit on the ground next to her and heard the rest of what was being said.

Saw the kick from the man laying flat the child once again onto the street. Worse, the sheer apathy from those who were nearby. Some watched with an impassive glance, some simply walked on by as if such an act were tolerable.

Trajan could not yet clearly see the scarred and blunt rims of the girl's ears, and yet even if he had, even if she were of full-blooded elven heritage...this was too much. An indulgence in cruelty and domination for the sole sake of each.

Dismay, and an accompanying anger, boiled inside of him at the sight of it. At the knight. At himself. For Trajan, too, could well have been like the knight, could well have allowed himself to slip so far from the dignified grace and brotherly love he held as the ideal for Mankind. He could have done something like this to xenos, to those men and women he had considered sympathizers and traitors to humanity.

He couldn't stand it. He did not know the knight nor the girl, but he could not abide this. Trajan wore no armor, had no weapon--he'd only the force of his voice, his gaze, his presence to rely on. The Meng family were nowhere near as recognizable as the Great Houses, as other minor Houses of wider renown, and so it would come to this. Just a man speaking to another man.

Trajan approached the knight and the girl on the ground. Placed himself as best he could between the two of them, close to but not quite touching the knight.

"That's enough," Trajan said to the knight, his voice a deep rumble. He met the knight's eyes with a hard regarding. "Look at yourself. A man who accords himself with dignity does not act as you are now."

And a final word.

"Reconsider."

Rumer
 
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Rumer

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The man turned his back from her, and Ru chewed anxiously on her lip as she thought of the scroll tucked away in her cloak. She was already wasting time on the ground, but she didn't want to cause any more of a scene than she already had. That would be terrible.. If only he knew what she could do to him if she so wished. Not that she did, of course.

She gingerly sat herself up, and she'd been on one knee when the man turned back, a balled fist rising into the air as he seemed about to thump her back down again. She fell back anyway, anticipating the hit, and lifted an arm to shield her face with, her eyes closed in a grimace as she braced herself for a beating. When none came, her tension eased and her eyes opened slowly to peer over her idle limb, blinking in confusion at the man who now stood between them.

Ru didn't dare move, but her arm fell and she tilted to one side to look up at the pair, her timorous gaze flitting between them nervously.

"A man of dignity does not allow the lower classes to go unpunished for treading in the paths of their betters, let alone sullying my armour with her filthy paws.." Rumer frowned and her nose wrinkled now that it didn't seem she had to worry about having it broken.

The disgruntled knight lifted his chin and squared his shoulders, trying to disguise the intimidation with irritation. His moustache visibly bristled and he waved a hand dismissively as he turned his back on the child and her defender.. "Filth I say." he grumbled.

Rumer didn't dare speak, nor did she assume it safe to get up just yet. She secured her hood and huffed the unruly hair out of her eyes as she waited on some sort of permission to leave, rather than risk another kick.
 
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Trajan Meng

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A man of dignity does not allow the lower classes to go unpunished for treading in the paths of their betters, let alone sullying my armour with her filthy paws..

Trajan said nothing in response. Only kept his stern composure and his gaze on the knight, as if the truth of what he had said could not be usurped by a simple rephrasing. He stood his ground. If anyone here was to take the brunt of the knight's disgraceful lashing out, Trajan resolved that it should be him. Someone who stood eye-to-eye with the knight. Someone who perhaps deserved such a beating as some small measure of penance for the misdeeds of his past.

But he did not need to. The knight dismissed the incident with a wave of his hand, and carried himself away from the scene in those same steel sabatons he had used to callously kick a small girl to the street.

Trajan watched him go for only a short moment. Then half-turned toward the girl and looked down to her and extended out a hand to help her to her feet if she so chose.

"Are you hurt?"

Rumer
 
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Rumer

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Large, green eyes peeked out from under her frayed hood and stared at the man, and then his hand with trepidation. Rumer wasn't supposed to converse with anyone, she was supposed to go about her business unnoticed and unhindered..

"Huh, uh..n-no." her head shook in delayed response to his question. She'd dealt with far worse than a few bruises, they were nothing to make a fuss over. She didn't want to be rude, and so hesitantly reached her grubby hand to take his, her palm sweaty with nerves.

"Thank you ser.." the girl uttered in a diffident whisper as she got to her feet.. "Good day ser." she added quickly, clearly intent on leaving without delaying any more than she already had.
 
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Trajan Meng

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She was nervous. Fittingly so, Trajan reckoned. Shaken by what had transpired. Vel Anir was the city of Trajan's birth, his home, and he considered himself a patriot, but...a display such as that was terrible to see. It remained that Vel Anir was the current pinnacle of human achievement upon Arethil--so did Trajan believe--and yet what he had witnessed was proof that Mankind had further yet to go. Not with larger and more impressive armies and citadels, no. With simple consideration of one another. Society itself, and its associated spirit.

The girl took his hand. Found her footing. Said words of parting.

"Very wel--"

Very well then, was what Trajan had been meaning to say. Yet when the girl stood, when he got a better and closer look at her face, something...familiar. Something familiar registered with him. Something that had been described to him. A flash of seeing her ears, her particular and unique ears, under her hood and around her hair. Her eyes. Her apparent age.

A breathless surprise found its way onto Trajan's face. There were passersby in the Square, but none of them mattered, sparing neither of the two much interest now that the show with the knight was done with. Trajan and the girl might as well have been on a small island among them.

"You killed a man. A Guardsman. Aemon."

Trajan expressed more shock than anger, than anything else. As if he simply could not believe what his eyes were telling him, despite by all appearances it being so.

He had not yet let go of Rumer's hand.

Rumer
 
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Rumer

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What little colour there was to the girl's sallow features was quickly blanched from her face at the man's words, at the shock of recognition on his face. She wasn't supposed to speak to anyone, let alone be recognised, especially not for that. Her heart stumbled over itself, leaving an uncomfortable fluttering sensation in her chest. She tugged her bony arm back, attempting to free the hand from his grip as her head shook frantically, the mess of hair falling back into her wild eyes.

Rumer glanced quickly one way and then the other before she answered, her words a tumbling out in a tremulous stutter. "N-no ser. You must..have me con-confused. Sorry I.. I have to go." she yanked again, now squirming in panic.

"Good day." she repeated to clarify her intention of leaving.
 

Trajan Meng

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He knew Aemon's father. Hell, Trajan had served with Aemon's father for a time in the Guard. And when Trajan was told about Aemon, what happened to him--within the very walls of Vel Anir itself no less, not even while on campaign--Trajan could scarcely believe it. Aemon had responded to a disturbance and had his throat slit. Just like that. And the description of who had done the deed...it was...but Aemon's father was absolutely serious, recalling every detail as relayed to him from his son's peers, they who had witnessed it.

Trajan had thought that it surely had to be a xeno. One that bore a strong resemblance to a human child, yes, but a xeno of deceptive age and malicious intent no doubt. It had to be. Aemon was reportedly slashed through the neck, yet the assailant had no weapon--his father stressed that point over and over again, increasingly grief-stricken with each repetition. A human child with magical ability would have been taken to the Academy to be a Dreadlord. So it had to be a xeno. It had to be.

Aemon's father was also stuck on one other point. The apparent girl's ears. How they looked so particularly...mutilated, he had said. And he told Trajan of them.

* * * * *​

Those details of the ears, a distraught father's recounting of them, came hurtling out of the reserves of Trajan's memory all at once when he saw the flash of them on the girl whose hand he now held.

His hand tightened just so.

And then.

Trajan let go. Brought that same hand which had clasped Rumer's own to his forehead. Tilting his gaze down and staring through the street down by his boots. A distant stare, one of a man arrived at a crossroads of two choices whose respective weights equally overwhelmed him.

Trajan had a clear picture in his mind of who Aemon's killer would be. He had been so certain of it...just as he had been with the eventual prevailing of the Cause of the Luminari.

A picture so clear.

And who he saw before him was not it.

Rumer
 
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Rumer

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She'd never forget the guard's name. She’d heard the other guards talking about him when she'd been tied up and thrown into that cell and she could still conjure the panic she felt. Panic she now projected to the here and now as the man's grip tightened on her hand. Rumer let out an audible whimper and pulled back so hard that the moment he let go she went smashing back into the ground again and let out a quiet 'oof' at the dull thud of her elbow hitting the cobble.

She stared up at him, a plethora of emotions swimming in the glassy surface of her mossy hues that were now quickly pooling with tears. Fear, dread, guilt, confusion...but not a hint of malice. She'd never meant to kill the guard. She'd never wanted to hurt anyone. Well..almost anyone.

Ru's lips quivered and parted and she drew in a breath as though she were about to speak but she caught herself and her lips pressed into a thin line, keeping her words locked behind her teeth. Her face was a grimace of apprehension. She wasn't sure whether or not it was safe to get up, if he intended on hurting her, which she would understand but, she really didn't have time today.. They could hurt her better. She shuddered.

Her eyes never left the man for a moment and she watched him staring through the ground and deep into his thoughts. She seemed to wait for him to make up his mind for a moment before hesitantly pulling herself to her feet for the third time.

"S-sorry ser.." the girl stammered again and dipped her chin in an awkward sort of bow and took a slow and hesitant step back, absently rubbing at the throbbing ache in her elbow as she prepared to make a run for it.
 
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Only a vague awareness that the girl had fallen again penetrated his mind. He could see it, see her, at the periphery of his downcast vision. Yet Trajan had been rendered a man akin to a statue, such was his stillness as a myriad of conflicting thoughts and emotions drew their battle lines.

The girl got up. Apologized.

And Trajan moved his hand from his forehead over to the right side of his face, the tips of his fingers all touching his temple and the heel of said hand hovering beside his cheek. He looked up from the ground and at the girl.

Despite the turmoil in his mind, his voice was calm and level. He said to her, "I would ask only one question of you, girl." And here his eyes seemed to take on something of a beseeching quality, as if there existed a precious thing kept in balance, teetering with its respective ends above a darkened chasm and a radiant one, and into which chasm this thing would forever fall depended wholly on what the girl would have to say.

"What happened?"

Rumer
 

Rumer

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He knew she was lying, and so there was little point in insisting that she had nothing to do with the death of which he spoke. Instead she stepped back, her breaths quickening and pulse pitching to frantic, her head shaking feverishly..

“I.. sorry ser I can’t..” she glanced around, her eyes wide with fear as panic swiftly took over and a cold sweat bloomed over her skin. If any of the handlers saw her speaking to anyone at all, she could only imagine what would happen to her.

“I can’t speak to you..” she continued, stumbling back another step and bumping into someone else who shoved her.. “I have to go. I..” she bit on her lip, the back of her neck tingling irritably. It was as though whenever she did, or thought of doing something she ought not to be doing, it threatened her with pain. She had to move, and do what she was charged with doing and go straight back before things got any worse.#

“I’m sorry about your friend..” she concluded timorously and turned to rush off along with the crowd.
 
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Trajan Meng

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The girl was timid and nervous. Had been with the knight, was now with Trajan. And though he was certain, so certain, that she did indeed match the description Aemon's father had told him--those ears, those eyes, complexion, age, hair--there still nagged at the back of his mind a quiet but reasonable doubt. A doubt which held a small but considerable amount of force behind it. For did he not expect Aemon's killer to be something near wholly opposite to this girl before him?

What if he was wrong?

What if he was right?

Trajan was stuck at an utter impasse. His hand at his temple lowered down to his side, and he did not pursue the girl as she rushed off into the flow of the Square's passersby. He followed her with his eyes only, not with his feet. And when she was gone from sight, he closed his eyes and pursed his lips and canted his head.

This was something he was not used to. Doubt. Uncertainty. He had pledged his heart to the Anirian Guard, to the Luminari. He had dedicated himself to his beliefs, adopting first those of Vel Anir and then that of the Cause for a United Humanity. His capacity for faith all but precluded things like doubt and uncertainty. His confidence in the unfailing righteousness of his actions had never waivered.

And yet here he was. Here he was, a man whose work lay in clear ruin. Whose work may well have been placed upon faulty foundations to begin with.

Trajan couldn't bring himself to chase after the girl. To unleash upon her a different kind of torment than the knight had. Even if in so doing he might dispel the awful argument bisecting his thoughts: he couldn't believe that she had done it, he couldn't believe that she had not. And he feared a resolution to this may never come.

But he could not follow.

Trajan took a step in the direction he had been originally going on through the Square, resuming his course toward the Meng estate. Took another. And gradually began to walk--albeit at a trudging pace--again.

The girl's ears. The way they were scarred. The particular way. Was it...was she...?

Rumer
 
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Rumer

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She'd spent so much time trying to teach herself to forget the terrible things she'd done, pushing them down into the deepest recess of her mind in order to function and continue doing as she was told. But the look on the man's face, the mention of the guard's name had brought that fateful day rushing back to the forefront of her mind and she couldn't breathe with panic.

The crowd had grown and she found herself swept up amongst them and trying to push herself through the throng, her grubby hands pulling at cloaks and sleeves as she tried to forge a path for herself. They all seemed to be rushing toward her and she was jostled this way and that, feet stepped on her, voices yelled at her, calling her a 'stupid girl' and telling her to get out of their way. Their voices reached her ears muffled as though she were far away.

She audibly whined and dragged lungfuls of air into her chest as though starved of oxygen, but her lungs didn't seem to fill up.. "Lemme out!" she was shoving at people now, but they were glaring down at her, towering over her. Were they getting taller?

The child staggered, bouncing off of people until dizziness took over and she stumbled and fell, the black spots in her vision taking over and she blacked out with a trickle of blood slithering from her nose.

..Now the crowd moved back.
 

Trajan Meng

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Trajan had hardly walked more than thirty feet when the tug of curiosity bid him to glance back. It was a small thing, a peculiarity in the way the crowd of the Square--those passersby walking opposite to him--seemed to back up, like the gentle rippling of a wave bouncing back once the flow of some water hit a barrier.

The glance over his shoulder. The noticing of an impromptu ring of people, much the same as those onlookers when the knight and the girl had their altercation. Trajan turned. Started back. Wondering just what it might be this time in a distant sort of way, devoid of words thought explicitly in the mind and consisting of solely of the raw feeling.

He had no problem making his way through the people of the Square, the crowd at its height at this time of day. He heard some murmurs, some people talking to their friends or companions, saying things like "Did you see it? I didn't see anything?" or "...don't know, she just fell" or "...the one who scuffed that knight's sabatons, same one, I'm sure."

Trajan emerged into the clearing of sorts, the small ring of people in the girl's (the same girl's) vicinity. The girl was on the ground once again. Blood, this time, leaking from her nose. Her eyes closed as if she'd been struck and her consciousness dispelled.

Trajan crouched down. Pondered for a moment on what he was hoping to accomplish here. He did want an answer to his question, a confirmation (if she was indeed the one) and a resolution. But he expected that this here would go no further than his attempt before. Yet...

He glanced up and around at the spectators. Gave a curt gesture with his hand. Said to them, "Move on."

And then he returned his attention to the girl. The blood. From her nose. It could have been something mundane. Or...or it could be sign of something else. Something that fit Aemon's father's description.

Trajan started out simple. Patted the girl's cheeks in an attempt to rouse her. Said, "Hey. Girl. Are you alright?"

Rumer
 
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Rumer really had fallen into the dark abyss of her mind. A cold, dank cell, a black hole where there lived the horrible memories of those she'd killed, wailing at her. Some, like Aemon, bled from the neck. As did an elf, drenched in sea water who reached out to her with one hand and clutched the wound with the other. One tall, muscly form of a handler had no skin left at all and this melting muscles oozed as he squelched toward her. She stepped back, tripping over the emaciated elven woman and the blood seemed to burst from her skin and flow across the floor like the flooded banks of a river.

Even in her unconscious state she panicked, a groan escaping her lips as she tried to force herself to wake and step out of her mind, and the pat on the cheek jolted her back to alertness, but not exactly to awareness. In the brief few seconds after her eyes shot wide open, her disorientation was just as frightening as the nightmare she'd just been torn from, and she gasped in fright at the man patting her on her cheek. His palm, if he was susceptible to magic, would be sliced open by her panic as though cut by a blade despite the child having no such weapon.
 
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A good number of the onlookers seemed satisfied to leave when Trajan told them collectively to Move on. A few still watched, surely entertained and with nothing better to do than stand and watch the mild drama unfold.

And it was from these people that Trajan hid his cut palm.

It caught him by surprise, the (for lack of a more proper descriptor) phantom blade that had abruptly sliced his hand. He was drawing his hand back from a rousing pat on the cheek, the girl's eyes shot open, and then in that precise moment it happened. Trajan did not open his mouth and cry out, but a grimace crossed his face and a groan of pain--errrrmmmhh--rumbled in his throat. He closed his injured hand (not fully into a fist) and brought it back to his side as he stayed crouched. And he could feel the trickle of blood running down his skin, to the edge of his hand, dripping off slowly to the ground.

No commotion had arisen. Good. That was last thing he wanted.

For it was clear now--as clear as could be--that this was the person responsible for Aemon's death. That same magic that had taken his life was the same that cut his hand, matching exactly the testimony of those who had seen it. And the girl now used it on him.

(What it intentional? A warning? Or was it not? An accident?)

(And why the ears? Why were her ears scarred in that manner? Unless they were...)


Trajan's heart quickened its pace. The knowledge that he was in the presence of someone with extremely lethal magic power was not lost on him. He had faced the demons of Pandemonium and yet even they could not kill so suddenly and with that which was unseen by the eye.

"You fell again," Trajan said to the girl. And he--with his good hand--placed a finger between his nose and his upper lip. Said, "And you've blood coming from your nose."

Some of the lingering onlookers tired of the scene, and pressed on with their business in the Square. Two remained, yet their interest was waning as well now that everything appeared to be dully alright.

Even so, Trajan leaned in a bit closer toward the girl. Said to her in a low and confidential manner, "I only want the truth."

Rumer
 

Rumer

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And just like that her heart pitched to frantic once more and she stared up at the man with short, sharp breaths. Her brow furrowed as it was the same stranger from before, and she cursed herself for the ridiculously tough time she was having delivering a simple message. She had already taken too long, and she knew there would be questions asked when she returned. Propping herself up onto her elbows, she touched her fingertips to the trickle of blood and glanced at the glistening crimson before dragging the back of her hand across it and sitting herself up, still dizzy.

As the man returned to his question she bit down on her lip. It was the first time she'd ever wished that she was back underground, back in her dank and dingy little room curled up on her damp and mouldy cot, safe from making any more mistakes. She glanced around, shrinking a little as she noticed some people still staring down at her, but they seemed to be getting bored, and they weren't the eyes she was looking for. It took her a long moment to think about her answer, she couldn't offer him the entire truth, there were things it would be physically impossible to say without terrible pain.

"I.." she hesitated, as though testing her words, waiting for a moment to ensure they weren't going to hurt. "I didn't mean it.. I only meant to stop him when he.. They were beating my father, be-because he was drunk and, causing trouble..a-and he died." her eyes pooled and she blinked a few times, glancing to the spot in the square where they'd cut her father down. It was the first time she'd thought about it since being told to forget about her past life. Her throat ached at the memory, and the back of her neck stung, causing her to wince and gasp.

Rumer looked back up at the man and shook her head.. "Please I can't.. I really have to go." she mumbled as she pressed her hand to her head, still trying to blink away those black spots in her vision.
 
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Trajan closed his eyes as he listened. Closed them as soon as the girl had said I didn't mean it.

There was a man. A man who had existed since the Battle of Wandering Creek. A man who had existed up until the Luminari Purists revealed themselves in Alliria and Khadija Han was murdered by them. This man would have risen up, taken hold of his weapon if he was so armed at this moment, and cracked this girl's head open. And he at this point would in truth have no longer seen her as "this girl," but rather as this "this elf, this xeno" or "this half-breed," whichever was appropriate. He would have done this and felt no remorse. Would have in fact rejoiced, and seen it as justice duly dispensed.

But there was another man. A much younger man, in the hazy gray between boyhood and manhood. A man who had existed prior to the Battle of Wandering Creek. A man of such bravery (of such foolishness, in the opinion of he who lived since Wandering Creek) that he would take a chance on the girl's behalf, at potential risk to himself.

Trajan knew nothing of the girl other than what he saw, other than the few words she had managed. He did not know where she was going in so intense a hurry, why she was possessed of magic and what she did here in Vel Anir. He could not even say that this was not all simply a calculated ruse, a clever deception, for nothing catered sympathy more than a young and vulnerable girl, and such a guise might well be donned by those disposed to prey upon the innate goodness of mankind.

Yet Trajan's belief coalesced into this: that what had happened to Aemon was a terrible tragedy. A collision of all the wrong circumstances at the right time to produce such.

He opened his eyes.

Said to her, "My name is Trajan Meng. I am a friend of Aemon's father. And though it is hardly my place to do so, I still..."

A pause. A hesitation. Years upon years of fervent belief were hard to overcome, and he struggled mightily in this moment.

"I believe you."

The sensation of warm blood in his palm was the final protest against his next four words. But he pushed past it. Accepted all that would come of this.

"And I forgive you."

(Valynthe. How she did so for me. Even in the face of my vitriol. Even when I did not deserve it.)

Rumer
 

Rumer

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Rumer stared intently at the man as his eyes closed. She wasn't sure what to expect, but as life was cruel she imagined there would be some form of reprisal for her admission, whether it be a beating or being dragged off to a cell. He wanted the truth and she'd given it, and now she wished she could breathe the words back into her chest and lock them in there.

She slunk back toward the ground just a little as his eyes opened on her, recoiling as he told her of his friendship of Aemon's father. She tried to swallow but found her mouth dry. Surely his intentions were to drag her to the feet of the bereaved father, that would be a worse fate, for guilt was a crippling thing.

Forgiveness?...

Rumer's expression paused in disbelief, her lips parting only to remind herself to breathe, and she drew in a quiet gasp of air. Words were difficult to find, but her eyes pooled with tears and they fell quickly, leaving pale streaks on her dirty face..

"But... I don't deserve it." she spoke without meaning to, without realising she had. "I'm an abomination. I'm no better than a sewer rat.. I don't deserve to live." her words were well rehearsed and believed, and she couldn't stop staring back at the man in utter confusion.
 
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Trajan Meng

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But... I don't deserve it.

"Neither do I."

And this he spoke with clear certainty, for he knew it to be the truth. Not just during his final days with Valynthe before they separated, but in all the years since. All the years in which his love for Mankind had turned to poison in his heart. It was horrible enough that he had convinced himself to commit wretched acts, but more so that he had convinced others--good men and women--to do the same. Only a correction of course was available to him now, for what was done was done, and of those from whom he might seek forgiveness were either unknown to him, perished from Arethil, or driven mad in their fanaticism now as a Purist.

"Yet we must persevere. I do not know of your struggles, but I know of mine, and for decades I have been misguided. Acting wickedly under the guise of righteousness and love."

He turned his hand upward. Looked briefly to his bloody palm. Let his fingers curl naturally and turned his hand downward again.

"If you are an abomination, then find in me a kindred spirit. But know that you are better than I was during those decades, for your troubled conscience is a sign of the virtue that I in those years sorely lacked. You can shine where I did not. But to do so, to right what requires righting, you must persevere."

Trajan stood up slowly. And once again, as he had moments ago, he extended his uninjured hand down to her.

"Though it is a pittance in the face of all I have done, had I not persevered myself I would not be here to offer you this small kindness. To make this tiny difference. And this, I now believe, is the only way Arethil truly becomes better for all who live upon it."

Rumer
 

Rumer

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'Neither do I..'

Rumer's brow furrowed.

'But, you're human' is what she'd have said if she were allowed to. For she too, was supposed to appear human. Humans deserved to have everything they wanted, they were the superior race, above all others. And she wasn't supposed to be talking to them let alone sitting on the street gawking like the silly child she was. But, he was talking to her, not yelling or beating, not stabbing or burning or poisoning. He was showing her mercy despite being personally affected by her crimes, for reasons that Rumer simply did not have the capacity to fathom.

'Acting wickedly under the guise of righteousness and love.'

Her mind was a surging perplexity, a divergent pulling her in several different directions at once. She knew herself to be wicked simply by her race, she was a horrible thing who did not and should not know love. Her gaze grew distant for a moment as she considered his words, trying to place some level of understanding in them, but as he held out his hand she flinched reflexively and blinked to refocus, her conscious mind asserting control again.

Better?...Virtue?...

Surely, surely he was not speaking about her? Of course, he didn't know her, he didn't know the things she'd done or what lurked in the dark abyss of her mind. He didn't know that she had no choices in this life, that she could only try to survive and no more, that she would continue to do the bidding of this hell hole of a city until she was killed herself. Shame crashed down on her as she stared at the man's hand, she glanced toward his other, knowing she'd hurt him, and now he was helping her, not just by lifting her to her feet, but by sparing her for her wrongdoings. She reached hesitantly to take his hand, allowing him to help her back to her feet.

"Th-thank you ser." she bowed her head, and dragged her wrist across her tear-marked cheeks, staring at her tattered boots.
 
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Trajan Meng

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He didn't feel like a new man. But neither had he felt like one after hearing the news of Wandering Creek. Change was slow, seemingly at odds with the relative quickness of time. Slow, yes, and all chapters of change required a moment, a spark, a kindling of the fire. Trajan was not conscious of it, but such an ember had nevertheless been alighted.

The girl was back to her feet. Trajan gave a slight nod of his head in response to the bowing of her own. Offered her a half-smile--the most he could muster against the strong undercurrent of tragedy that flowed in adversity to whatever happiness or well-wishing had come from this brief encounter.

And he did so wish the girl to be well. He knew nothing of her circumstances as he had said, but from the haggard and stained look of her she lived at present a discernibly miserable life. He did not know the way forward for her, the way out of those wretched circumstances--he could only pray that the road ahead would be unmarred by tragedies the like of those that had befallen Aemon and her own father.

Trajan glanced briefly to his injured hand. Looked back to the girl. Said, "I'll tell not a soul."

Then with a small sideways gesture of his head, he said further, "You'd best be off then. Fare you well."

Rumer
 

Rumer

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The weight that seemed to instantly lift from her shoulders as the man swore secrecy was substantial, and the child's gaze rose to meet his as a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She gave a quick nod and stepped back.. "Thank you ser.." her words tumbled out hurriedly as she turned to rush off, but she stopped herself.

"Wait.. I.." she bit on her lip, glancing around to ensure nobody was paying attention. When they didn't seem to be she stepped back up to the man and reached her hand out to take his with a brief moment of hesitation when she seemed to mutely ask for permission.

She would take his hand in hers and turn it palm up to rest her other palm atop it, her brow creasing with a moment's concentration and her tongue stuck out just a little. It always took more effort to use her magic in the way it was supposed to be used, since it'd been twisted and warped by those who had found better uses for it. With a sensation of warmth, the wound would knit and leave nothing more than a fresh scar in his flesh when her hand lifted.

The girl looked up, shot him a quick smile, and turned to run off with haste.
 
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Trajan Meng

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Trajan did not know what to expect when the girl voiced a somewhat hesitant entreaty for him to wait. Even so, what she did do, the magic she performed that was nothing short of undoing the invisible blade's work, caught him by surprise. The warmth of the wound's closing and the healing magic which brought it about covered and shrunk and made the pain of the cut disappear.

He was still staring at his now mended palm, mildly stunned, when he caught sight of the girl running off and carrying on with her hurried business.

And he had a moment to think.

Yes, he was a warrior. A life-long warrior. An old soldier. And there were causes that were wholly good to which he could lend his warhammer. These were things that he could pursue, altruistic aid and defense of those in need--and not just they who were human.

He could start such a life here. In the wake of a simple act of forgiveness for a girl who, despite her own words and now in Trajan's sincere belief, deserved it.

Trajan Meng turned, and walked toward home. Toward the rising sun of a new chapter, a better chapter, in his life.

Rumer
 
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