I actually remembered to log something for once, so I'll share it, because I need to do that more often. This is the first encounter of Phoebus and Ruin, a troubled young woman who is tied to Czixi, whether she likes it or not (spoilers: she doesn't.)
A tiny shard of jade flies in from the northeast and skitters across the walkway, eventually falling from the edge to disappear into the air below.
You raise an eyebrow questioningly.
(I move NE to check it out.)
The Bridge of Knowledge.
A deep, ominous song hangs heavy in the air, warning of the presence of a war shrine of Isune nearby. Banks of clouds roil about here. Glowing gently with a soft blue light, a delicate dreamcatcher has been permanently hung here. Tension visible in every inch of her bearing, Ruin lingers here, one hand clutching the hilt of her sword.
You see exits leading southwest and up (open door).
Deep, dark brown hair barely distinguishable from ebony tumbles into the face of this alert young woman. The thick, perfectly straight locks have been chopped raggedly just below her ears, and scatter around her head in a cloud of shadows when she moves. She has delicate features that seem at odds with her weathered face; her eyes are wide and dark, and never ever meet the gaze of those around her. Barely healed scars mar her right cheek in lines that rise to pinch and wrinkle her dark skin, the edges of more marks just visible by her collar bone beneath the thin, tattered scarf wrapped around her neck. Armour of tanned hides protect her torso and legs but stop at her shoulders, leaving her arms bare - the only adornment the battered sword clutched perpetually in her right hand.
Ruin has an air of extreme strength.
She weighs about 151 pounds.
She is loyal to Czixi, the Welkin.
You cannot see what Ruin is holding.
You incline your head politely to Ruin.
Leant against a railing with little concern for the drop below stands Ruin - a young woman with the bearing of an alarmed cat.
You say to Ruin, "Greetings. I don't believe we have met. Were you responsible for the gemstone I saw skitter past?"
"Are you Phoebus?" Ruin asks bluntly, trailing the tip of a battered sword across the crystal walkway.
With a nod, you say, "I am."
Ruin nods her head, sending her hair scattering over her cheeks and hiding the worst of her grimace. "Then, yes. I'm supposed to talk to you."
You say, "You don't seem particularly excited to be doing so. Are you nervous about something?"
You tilt your head curiously.
"No," Ruin snaps, before snapping her head aside to stare in the other direction. "I'm not scared of anything."
You say, "Ah, perhaps. But there is a difference between being afraid and being nervous."
You say, "Anyway, what did you need to speak to me about?"
Ruin wrinkles her nose up. "I don't need to talk to you," she mumbles as she scuffs her toe against the ground. "I just have to. She said so."
You ask, "And why is that?"
"Because She likes telling me what to do? I don't know, She's really nutty." Ruin rubs at the back of her neck with her empty hand. "I just do it, I don't ask why. No point."
Deep in thought, you lean your cheek on your hand.
You say, "No one does things for no reason. You should try to understand the reasons why you are asked to do something. I've certainly not gotten the impression that Lady Czixi is 'nutty' or would tell someone what to do without having a reason for it."
Ruin furrows her brow. "She wants to control me. Everyone does. Some of them talked about giving me food when I behave like I'm a stray dog they have to keep around but don't really want there." She peeks up through her hair towards you, dark eyes narrow. "She said I have to do what you say, too, just like the other prison guard."
You ask, "Prison guard?"
"Well, that's what he is. And you. She's keeping me trapped her and I have to do what you say." After making that blunt statement, Ruin cocks her head at an angle. "Why do you think She made me talk to you?"
You say, "Well, I don't know why. That is why I asked you, after all. But, why do you feel trapped?"
"Because I'm not allowed to go," sighs Ruin in exasperation, scraping at the ground with the notched edge of her sword. "She won't let me. She stole my death and won't give it back."
You have emoted: Phoebus studies Ruin with a soft, neutral expression. "If you were not trapped, what would you do? Where would you rather be?"
Ruin's eyes almost close as she looks down at her feet. "Dead," she says, quietly.
You say, "Do you feel comfortable telling me why you wish to be dead?"
Ruin opens her mouth as if to say something, but pauses. She lifts her head, looking at you in confusion. "None of the others asked me that. They just asked me what happened."
You smile softly.
You say, "People do not always know the best questions to ask. They wish to understand the situation, but overlook the individual in an attempt to do so."
Though Ruin does not relax, some of the bite goes out of her voice as she speaks. "It was my day off. I went walking away from the camp, exploring. I was - seen. By orcs." She winces, left hand knotting in the tattered scarf at her throat. "They followed me back."
You have emoted: Phoebus's expression softens again, her hands folded as she listens intently.
For a moment Ruin seems unaware that she is meant to continue - or, perhaps, unwilling. Then she grits her teeth and continues. "They killed everyone." The words hang awkwardly around her until she presses forward. "I tried to stop it. There were too many of them. I ran, and they followed me and - and then I died."
You say, "But then someone intervened. You are not dead, now."
Ruin nods her head sharply. "It was bright. She was there, and then - others came. They asked me questions." She wriggles on the spot. "I tried to fight them, so She..."
With her free hand, Ruin pulls down her battered scarf to reveal a barely-healed scar across her throat, as narrow as a needle but somehow nonetheless vicious.
Deep in thought, you lean your cheek on your hand.
"She said that - that my life was Hers, now," Ruin continues roughly, as if the words were being pulled from her. "And that I wasn't allowed to die until She said so. That I had to go with the other prison guard to your floating city, and do as he said."
You say, "When you refer to this prison guard, who do you speak of?"
Ruin wrinkles her nose up. "The other city people call him Casty...something. I didn't really pay attention."
You say, "Was it Castellan?"
Ruin nods her head.
You say, "I see. Hmm hmm."
You say, "I apologize for all the questions. I know it must be difficult for you to relive these memories."
You say, "If you ever feel too uncomfortable, just tell me. I do not seek to issue you any commands."
Ruin finally removes her hand from her scarf, fingers flexing at her side. With difficulty, she forces out a reply. "...thank you."
Then Ruin looks away, the momentary politeness lost as she picks at crumbs on her armour.
You nod your head at Ruin.
You say, "I am very sorry to hear about your camp. Life is...sometimes cruel."
Ruin stares resolutely at her feet. "Not life. Orcs." She turns her sword in her hand. "When my lessons are done, I am going to kill them. Maybe then She will let me go."
You have emoted: Phoebus has a concerned look on her face for a moment, but she puts it away. "You receive lessons?"
"The Castyone gives me orders. He made me go to the Eleesly for lessons, but the Eleesly is a -" Ruin bites down on her bottom lip. "- stiff. He told me I had to read books to get better with a sword. But I don't read. So the Castyone sent me to the Ambassador. He's not as bad. He has funny pointy things on his head, and a stick that makes lights."
Deep in thought, you lean your cheek on your hand.
You say, "So they sent you all around...to learn to use a sword?"
Ruin shrugs her shoulders. "I did point it at the Eleesly. And the Doctor. And some of the other city people."
"The Castyone told me I shouldn't point my sword at people I don't mean to hurt," Ruin adds almost cheerfully, her tone juxtaposed by her glowering expression.
You say, "It is good advice. To unintentionally hurt someone comes with guilt that is not easily overcome."
Ruin nods her head. "So now I just point it at people I want to hurt."
You say, "And who do you want to hurt? The orcs who attacked your camp?"
"Them most," Ruin agrees vehemently, her dark eyes glimmering with rage. "The Ambassador says I am learning letters quickly. When I know them, I will read the silly war books the Eleesly has and I will learn the slowest way to kill an orc and I will practice it until I am ready. Then I will be free."
You say, "Would you be willing to learn a different sort of lesson from me?"
Ruin gives you the once-over, eyeing you suspiciously.
"What lesson?" Ruin asks, flatly.
You say, "You have to be very careful, where you are right now. You are very vulnerable, and so angry. You wish to seek revenge against those who have hurt you. I will not tell you it would be wrong to kill the orcs who raided your camp - stopping them from doing the same to anyone else is something that may be necessary. But to do it slowly, to wish to cause them pain...this solves
nothing. And if you hate all orcs for the actions of a few, you may see yourself become a reflection of the same senseless, violent behavior which stole your life from you."
You say, "This might not be what you want to hear. But learning to kill comes with the heavy responsibility of doing so for the right reasons."
"But when they are dead," Ruin says slowly, "I will be too. So it doesn't matter. They are my fault and I will have fixed them and it will be done."
You ask, "How are they your fault?"
Ruin's eyes flicker downward, and she stuffs her empty hand roughly into the pocket of her armour. "They followed me home."
You say, "They do so of their own volition. All you did was exist."
You say, "You are not responsible for their actions."
"But if I hadn't been there," Ruin replies with vehement bitterness, "they wouldn't have found the camp."
You say, "They used you to find your camp, but that is -not- your fault. You did not tell them to follow you. You didn't even know they were there."
You say, "If someone is robbed, do you consider it their fault for owning things?"
Ruin shuffles back slightly, bumping back into the railing at the edge of the platform. As she does, a lick of mist manifests out of nothingness and gently pushes her upright. Ruin jumps back from the vapour as if burned, her eyes narrow with anger.
Gently, you say, "I know that guilt weighs heavily on you, right now. You feel like you should have known somehow, that you should have been able to stop it. And no matter how many times I say that it wasn't your fault, I cannot be the one who convinces you of this."
You say, "All I ask is that you ponder the things I have said, and do not dismiss them without consideration."
"It's my fault," Ruin states stubbornly, her answer a manifestation of your own statements. But she does appear to have listened, even whilst staring daggers at the mist before her.
"Ruin," the mist says suddenly, forming a mouth from within its cinereous shape. "Ambassador Horotep is waiting for you."
Ruin curls her nose up and grimaces awfully.
You say to Ruin, "I suppose you are needed elsewhere. I am glad we could speak. I hope that the scars inside you can heal, as the ones on your body shall."
You say to Ruin, "If you wish to speak to me again - because you want to, not only because you are told to do so - feel free to find me."
"If I'm told to," Ruin replies, bitterly, "I'll have to anyway." Then she glances over at the mist, and back to you. "You weren't as bad as the others."
Glancing appraisingly in all directions, Ruin tightens her grip on her sword and slinks up.
You say, "Hmm."
You ask, "Lady Czixi, are You here?"
"Where she goes," echoes the voice from the mist, as it coalesces into the simulacrum of a full face around the narrow lips, "I will always be watching."
You say, "Do You mind if I ask why that is?"
"Because she reminds me of someone who lost everything."
You say, "She -is- someone who lost everything."
The face contorts into a frown. "She is. They are the same. And so I believe that she can recover."
You say, "I think she can, too. I hope I can help her, if she wishes me to. But she doesn't seem very pleased by the way You have been handling it."
You say, "She is overwhelmed, and confused. It sounds like her return to the living was not a very pleasant experience."
You say, "And now she's having to deal with people who care more about forcing her to do what -they- think will help her, than actually treating her like an individual who is in distress."
The face tilts at an angle, expression fading. "Do you disagree with how I have treated her?"
You ask, "I do not know how You have treated her; I only have her side of the story, and she is very biased against You. I was more concerned with how my citymates have handled her. But I do have an important question: are You helping her for her sake, or because You felt You should have done more for someone else who lost everything?"
"Yarith has been the stern hand she needs to keep her from endangering herself. He has given her something to focus on, without allowing her to fully succumb to her desire for revenge. You have shown her that she is more than a caged animal, a person to be listened to and valued. You have given her patience when others would deny her it. Others have been less helpful, but their actions do not undervalue those that were."
"As to My purpose in doing this..."
The face shatters into thousands of tiny motes. They do not split apart, instead duplicating and spilling forth until they have surrounded the blank expression with asymmetrical hair and the beginnings of a ribboned cowl.
"I do this for her sake. I do not do it out of regret. For the person she reminds Me of is not one I was able to help. I watched Them as They were helped by another. I seek to do for her as They did for Them."
With a nod, you say, "I see. I understand."
You say, "But I don't think she does."
"Of course she does not. Everyone she has ever loved is dead, and she has been prevented from joining them."
You say, "She has no idea why. To her understanding, You've done this for no reason. Have You spoken with her about it?"
The shimmering image inclines slightly, a low chuckle echoing through the platform. "No. Even if she would listen to Me - and she would not - it is for the best that she harbour hatred for Me, and place the blame at My feet."
You say, "She probably would not listen to You right now, this is true - but I'm not so sure I agree with the rest of Your statement."
You say, "Right now, she's not trying to get better, or recover. She's trying to escape You."
You say, "She doesn't feel like she's been given a second chance at all. She doesn't see a future for herself aside from death."
You say, "As long as she considers You her hated captor, I don't know if she can overcome this."
"She does not see her second chance for what it is, no. She cannot. She is in too much pain to do so."
"But that is now. It is not forever."
You say, "Mmh. Her perception of her situation will influence the path she takes towards recovery."
"It is far better that she blame Me for now," the voice continues, softening slightly, "than for her to keep hold of all of that blame herself."
You say, "She still does blame herself, all the same. She blames You for something different."
"I cannot take all of the blame from her, no. But what I can bear for her, I shall. It is not perfect, or good - I do not claim it to be. Nothing about what has happened to her could possibly be considered good."
You say, "It is a complicated situation. I do not mean to give You trouble over Your choices. I just worry about her wellbeing."
The misty face curls its lips into a smile that makes the slate grey eyes glitter.
"Your challenge does not give Me offense, My Flutter. If anything, it is a compliment."
You ask, "Why did You tell her to speak with me?"
"Because you will care for her in a way she deserves - a way that she needs. Because she must learn that she is more than the revenge she desires and the ending she craves. Because it is in helping others that we learn to understand ourselves."
"And because it is possible she will kill the staff at the teahouse if they tell her to use a fork properly one more time."
You laughingly say, "Hmm, well, that wouldn't be good."
You say, "Perhaps we can bond over not caring much about proper utensil form."
"It is My belief that you will like one another. That, perhaps, you already do."
You say, "She needs people who see her as a person, not as a problem to be solved. I am glad to be this kind of person for her."
You say, "Hopefully we can talk more about the kinds of things that have nothing to do with her painful situation. It will help her to feel like...a person, again."
The face turns blank for a moment, gazing at you with intensity. Then it turns, revealing its flat formation as it looks away. "That is My hope." It pauses, voice replaced by a rolling wind. "There are other things that she will need, in time. But for now, it is enough to know that she has a friend."
You smile softly.
You say, "I will do my best to be a good friend to her. While she is struggling, and after she improves, as I hope she will."
Then the mist dissolves, motes splintering into nothing more than pinpricks that illuminate under the dim light of the moon and the radiance of the overcity. They flutter and fall over the edge of the platform, ushered by a gust of wind that whispers words in its wake.