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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Fighting for a Lie [ATTN: Jatasha]


Guest Estel
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Shutters still hung only half-attached to their windows and plaster was still chipped, exposing large sections of weathered red bricks- that hadn't changed.  Niether had the reek hanging thick in the air, carried throughout the Perfumed Quarters from the filthy canals by the wind off the sea.  The breeches worn by the sailors and other ghetto inhabitants were just as frayed and patched while the children's rags were even more filthy.  If houses weren't even more dilapidated, they were freshly missing in great sooty sections.  There were a great deal fewer people thronging the streets and the last corpses had finally disappeared from the canals- or at least they were no longer recognizable as the remains of human beings.  At least the only soldiers in sight were those whose clothing and armour were as ragged and mismatched as the people's around them.

 

The battle against Javer'en had changed the Perfumed Quarters but the grief still lay too heavily on the community for the good to be seen.  Things always had to get worse before they got better.  Until they got better, though, Carnhain would have to endure their glares and veiled hatred.  Patriotism ran high in lieu of the fighting and long blonde hair and an unshaven face weren't popular local fashion.  Silk shirts and good cotton breeches spoke of everything these people had never had.  Carnhain's greatest sin, however, was the steel openly worn on his waist; steel that had spilt Illianer blood.  Regardless of intentions, who was a foreigner to wreck justice on their homeland?  As much as they might hate the blade, to go without it would mean fisticuffs or worse in every back alley.  While as Captain General he certainly knew how to handle himself in every violent situation, fighting would only increase tensions between the Band on the locals.

 

So despite a city on the boil, why was Carnhain wandering the Perfumed Quarters alone and blocks away from the area the Band was occupying around the Militia's Headquarters?  Jatasha, of course.  Apparantly she had gone off to wander the familiar sights and he was trying to find her.  Why on earth had anyone let her wander with no one to guard her back?  She knew only as much as Con had been able to teach her in the past two weeks and even if this used to be her home, it was common knowledge she was with the Band nowadays.  Carnhain was going to have to kick Kedyn for this.

 

Though he had never even seen a city before the age of fifteen, navigation and tracking were easy enough.  It was amazing how helpful beggers could be when shown a little silver and with the recent promotion, complete with raise in wages, Carnhain had enough to spare a few coins to find Jatasha.  Maybe it was stupid, but through her he felt connected to this place as well.

 

Finally spotting the inn she had supposedly gone to visit.  The why eluded him as she could easily have gotten food or drinks at the inns the Band was at.  Maybe this place had some special signifigance?  She had mentioned working at an inn before...  Upon entering, he was resolved to ask her about it but most rational thought fled as his mind registered the scene before him.  Hairy arms wrapped tightly around her slender waist- obviously holding her down.  For the first time since he had met Jatasha, Carnhain barely even saw her as he glared murderously while the strange man forced his face up near Jatasha's.  Those lecherous eyes didn't register the thunderous steps nor anticipate the fist that connected solidly with the man's jaw.

 

Chair, man and Jatasha tumbled sideways.  The surprise and indignant "What in the Light do you be doing?" didn't really hit his mind as blood lust threatened to take over control of his mind.  "You want to take this outside?" Carnhain growled as the other man stumbled to his knees, face purple.  A twisted smile played across his features at the sight of a trickle of blood oozing from the man's lip.  Out the door before his opponent could really reorient himself, the man was stupid enough to play by Carnhain's rules.  Just like Con had taught him, always set the rules for the fight. 

 

His idiot opponent came barelling out the door, fists flailing.  Laughing, the cavalryman stepped aside and let the other man's momentum carry him away with a boot to the bottom to speed him on the way.  It didn't matter at all that the other man was a good half foot taller and hundred pounds heavier, this was about control.  The bigger man swung around like an angry bull, chargin again but not so stupid as to expect Carnhain to stand there and take the hit.  Ducking in time to laugh as a punch whistled overhead, a knee to the groin had the other man down on his knees.  Now it was a boot to the same sensitive area that had gotten the man in trouble in the first place.

 

"You.  Don't.  Touch.  Her."  Each word was punctuated by a knee to the man's jaw, nose, groin and then a kick to the forehead to knock him over for good measure.

 

The gathered crowd emenated anger as Carnhain remember the explosive nature of the Perfumed Quarters post-Javer'en.  Glaring back defiantly, he spotted Jatasha and rounded on her.  "Let's go."

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It had happened before, finding herself suddenly dumped to the side when a fight broke out unexpectedly, but she hadn't expected it to happen today.  She had left the 'camp' of the Band to come find some old friends and had ended up at once of her old haunts.  Not surprising but she was also finding herself in the same old spot.  Some man's lap with a promise of coin if she was willing to take a room.

 

At least that was her spot before she landed on the floor.  Once on the floor, she barely had time to register what was happening around her.  Everyone was moving, making way for the fight and it took a moment to figure it out.  It wasn't the sight of the two men that made her understand, but the voice as he spoke.

 

Carnhain.  Oh light, Carnhain. 

 

Before she could respond, the men were running out onto the streets.  She yelled for Carnhain to stop but he didn't seem to hear her.  Her heart stopped when she heard his words.  You don't touch her.  Oh light, he'd seen everything!  She had no idea what he would do next, but he saw her then, reaching a hand for her to join him as he realized how precarious the situation was.

 

"What do you be thinking Carnhain?" She asked as she pushed through everyone to get next to him.  "You do be getting into trouble around here.  What do this be all about?"  She was terrified of the answer and terrified that people were going to get truly angry at the foreigner for interfering in something that they wouldn't see as his business.

 

Jatasha :P

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Wrapping a protective arm around her waist, Carnhain dragged her through the glaring onlookers.  His right hand lay on the hilt of his broadsword as a warning to those who thought they might have better luck than the man laying unconscious in the middle of the suddenly packed street.  When the crowd began to quickly disperse, that was the young man's warning that Con's militia has shown up and it was time to hurry.  Ducking into another nearby tavern, he drew her towards one of the corner tables, strolling in as inconspicuously as possible.  Despite how impatient Jatasha seemed to be about his answers, Carnhain ordered two cups of wine.

 

Light, lucky for him he had been wearing a shirt.  He could be confused with other medium-build, blonde men in the Band, although if anyone took care to notice his connection to Jatasha, he could be in for some trouble, but the scars on his chest would have made him impossible to confuse with anyone else.  Either way, he was likely to come under scrutiny even if authorities could pin him with anything.  'Was it worth it?'  He glanced over at Jatasha.  'Yes.'

 

All the same, her confusion over why he had done what he had done, hurt.  "What do you think I was thinking?"  That had come out a little harsher than he had meant it.  For a moment, he considered perhaps having misread the situation.  No, surely this wasn't just some figment of a jealous mind.  Besides, he wasn't even really sure where exactly they stood- there was no reason for jealousy to cloud his thinking.  He saw what he saw.  He saved her... again.  Why in the Light was she so upset, then?

 

"I'm not going to let some man treat you like an animal!" he growled.  "I came out here because I didn't want you wandering around alone with things so unsettled.  It's hardly a secret that you came back with the Band and we're not exactly popular here at the moment.  What are you so upset about!"

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Saved by the bell.  Wine actually, but as the wine arrived she quickly took a drink so she wouldn't have to answer.  Because she couldn't answer.  Her throat was tight with the tears that she held at bay.  Light, she didn't know how to get out of this.  Was it really worth it?  Had it been worth the chance of discovery just for a bit of coin?  Couldn't she just say that she was no longer working the streets for a few days?  But no, she hadn't.  She'd fallen back even though the Band was taking very good care of her at the moment. 

 

What would happen when Carnhain put the pieces together and figured out what was happening?  Had it really all been worth it, just to see her old stomping grounds once again?  Looking at Carnhain she knew the answer.  No.  She didn't know how to stop though.  Two years since she'd left Illian and she had never been able to stop.  The saying was probably true.  You could take the girl out of the streets, but not the streets out of the girl.  She was a street whore and it would probably be all she'd ever amount to, even with the friends she had managed to make. 

 

Light, she should just confess it all, tell Carnhain what she had been doing and let him run out on her now before it would hurt any worse.  She opened her mouth, but nothing came.  She couldn't do it.  Instead she shook her head.  "You be coming down to protect me because I be with the Band?  But these people do be my people.  I do no be an outsider like you.  They do be seeing me with the Band," she had no desire to let him in on what most people thought her position with the Band was, nor that they were entirely accurate. " they so still be seeing me as the girl from the corner.  I do no be in any more danger here that I ever be.  You be no so safe though.  And I do know how to take care of a man if he be no doing what I like."  She saw the look in his eye and held a hand up to forestall him.  "I do be a big girl Carnhain and I be traveling the world on my own long before you be finding me."

 

She wasn't sure what she saw in his eyes then.  She'd been hurt bad enough by other people who had 'found her' on the road and Carnhain had seen what some of those types were like when they'd met.  But she'd always survived before.  Besides, maybe if he got mad enough over that comment, he'd forget exactly what he'd seen before he put two and two together and realized that his little lover was still involved in her former trade and he'd just walked into a business transaction.

 

Jatasha   

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It wasn't until he opened his mouth to growl back his answer that Carnhain realised he was angry with her.  This was entirely new.  Around Jatasha he was generally more content, than he was otherwise.  Even the few times their meetings had become nostalgic, tears shed over the tragedies of their pasts, there had been a level of comfort and peace in their sadness; she was his shoulder to cry on and the only one around whom he felt comfortable doing so.  And like the events of today, he had been angry because of her; he would not tolerate men pawing at her like some inanimate object!

 

But he had never been angry at her- it scared him.  Carnhain tried to understand why she seemed so upset with what he had done and he tried to force the anger away.  Despite his attempts, though, the cavalryman had to close his mouth and rethink a reply that wouldn't sound entirely like a reprimand.  Light, but he hated being angry with her.  What would happen if he just let loose?  Would Jatasha stop coming to see him?  No more notes on his desk, no more attempts at teaching her weapons, no one to talk to except Kedyn who was already too busy with Miria.  He would go back to being alone, looking at Kedyn and Miria through the mirror in forlorn misery.  This... thing with Jatasha, he didn't know where exactly they stood on it and that scared him, but Carnhain wasn't ready to give up and never find out just yet.

 

So he tried again.  "Jatasha..."  Blood and ashes, even pleading with her wasn't working, there was nothing else to say if he couldn't simply just let her know how he really felt.  "Damn you!"  'Damn me.  I can't help it.'  "If you know how to take care of man, then why didn't you?  I walk in and see you on his lap, what did you expect me to do?  Walk away?  Ignore it?  Where would that have gotten you in Baerleon if I had just walked away?  Light burn you, how long do you think a lone girl like you could have wandered the world without getting used and dumped in some back alley to die?  You got lucky!  You got lucky in Baerleon, but I'm not about to take the chance that you might not get lucky next time!  I..."  'I what?  I care too much about you to let that happen?'  He couldn't say it though.  Not aloud.  No matter how many times he cursed himself for a craven, his tongue wouldn't form the words.

 

It was done.  Carnhain had let his anger loose and now all he felt was guilt for having yelled at her.  Furious with himself, he drained the last of his wine and refused to look at Jatasha, scared to see the forerunners of rejection obvious across her face.

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Jatasha had never seen him like this before.  He'd been upset for her and upset about her, but she'd never seen him truly upset at her.  Angry.  The words that came from him were confusing even if they did make sense.  He'd come to save her from what he felt was trouble.  And he was making the assumption that she had fallen into bad company again and had needed saving.  Light, she couldn't correct him.  She couldn't.  No matter what else she knew about herself, she knew that she could bare to see the look of rejection on his face, not here of all places.  Not blacks away from where her mother had told her she could do anything she wanted and her father had laughed until she had understood her real place in the world.  She was only as good as the men and coin she could get from her bed.  Except for Carnhain and the Creator forgive her, she wasn't willing to lose that just yet.  She needed him in her life and if it meant she had to keep clear of the Perfumed Quarters for a while and keep herself clean she would.  She had enough coin right now and her time was fairly full between her lessons with Con and the teaching she was doing for Arette to pay off the debt she owed. 

 

She took a deep breath before moving closer to Carnhain and putting her hand on his arm.  He wasn't looking at her and that scared her, that he would still be so angry over all of this.  She didn't need protected, but light it also felt good to know that he had come to do just that.  That he had started a fight with that man to save her. 

 

"I do no be meaning to upset you." She said softly, trying to figure out how to make all of this OK.  "You... I...." she sighed.  "I do no be used to someone caring if I be around or not, or even noticing that I be gone.  It be a brave thing you do be doing, to come and try to help me, whether I be needing it or no.  I just...  I think you do be the only person who ever be trying to save me, and you be doing it twice now.  Please, do no be angry with me.  I do be promising to be more careful." she said.  "And I do no be coming down alone again, unless I be heading to the Stavros.  Ok?"  Light she hoped it was OK.  She hoped he would let go what he had seen and just forget the whole thing. 

 

She smiled up at him then, unable to figure out what he was thinking.  "If you do no trust me, you can be locking me in your room." She teased.  Light, let it work.

 

Jatasha :P

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  • 1 month later...

Why couldn’t this all go away?  Carnhain just wanted to forget about being mad at her, about her being on that man’s lap, about Illian, about every single problem that, in this moment, seemed to stack up to form an unbearable mountain that weighed him down.  His hands curled around his empty wine glass.  He wanted another.  No... that wasn’t any good, he had seen what happened to men who sought the oblivion of alcohol to escape their lives.  Hell, hadn’t he watched Kedyn, helpless to help part of the only family he’d ever known?  Now the only family he had left.  Rowul was gone.  Gone.  Gone damnit!

 

No, alcohol was no good.  What he wanted so much more than another half-dozen glasses of wine was to be back in the Citadel.  Back in the Citadel, back to that night she had invited him for dinner, when nothing in the world had mattered but them.  There, he could forget he had some twisted demon that turned him into a monster.  In that room, it didn’t matter that his only family in the world were two other soldiers who had adopted him and that his own blood was out there somewhere but wouldn’t likely love what he had come to be.  Around Jatasha, he could even forget that the only man whom he had ever seen as a father was dead.

 

Now, he might have ruined the only escape he had.

 

Light, she was better than the best wine and far more addicting, but the guilt the gnawed at him for yelling at her was more brutal than any hangover.  Was it just as self-destructive?  Half the time he forgot he was supposed to be responsible for the lives of a few thousand men and women!  How could he forget that any decisions he made could kill someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister, friend?  Burn him, and hadn’t he just attacked a man for her sake?  Beat him bloody?  Nearly incited a mob, because he couldn’t stand to have anyone else touch her?

 

The touch on his arm let loose a flood of relief, the depth of which surprised him.  All the same, Carnhain didn’t turn his face back towards hers while she apologised—he still felt so guilty!  Her words reminded him so much of how he had felt during his first few months with the Band, how he still felt so often: alone, like he could die the next day and no one wouldn’t even notice, let alone care.  With Rowul gone, mentor and uncle, those feelings only got worse.  It didn’t matter that he was a prominent officer in the Band and that his death would be noticed, no, he still felt alone.  But never around her.

 

“I’m sorry for yelling.”  He had to say it before he could finally look at her again.  Light, she was smiling back at him!  She wasn’t angry!  Finally, that awful guilt stopped eating at him and he could smile back.  “Locking you in my room sounds so very tempting right now.”

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She couldn't begin to guess what was going through his mind when he refused to look at her, but suddenly he was back again and she felt like she could breath.  It was all it took.  A single look.  The apology meant nothing since there was nothing for him to be sorry for.  Light, but he'd caught her at work and he was apologizing to her?  It was so completely wrong and part of her wanted to just tell him.  Let him know he had the right to yell at her, to be upset.  He had the right because she was no good really and he deserved someone better.  Only she'd have scratched the eyes out of anyone she saw touching him.  It didn't make any sense in her head, but in her heart it was the right fit.  He was the right fit. 

 

She smiled warmly at him, biting softly at her bottom lip at his words.  She got off her seat then and moved to crawl into his lap.  It wasn't the first time they saw something in a place like this, but she blushed anyway.  Something about Carnhain made her very aware of herself, of what she was doing.  Sometimes that was a good thing and others ... well ... she blushed. 

 

"I do be thinking there be worse things than locked in your room.  At least you do be there to keep me occupied." She said, kissing his lightly.

 

Jatasha 

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He wrapped his arms around her waist as she slipped onto his lap.  That he had had other motives for choosing a corner table when they had come in was completely forgotten as they took advantage of the relative privacy.  Light, what would he have done if she really had just walked out of the inn?  Would he have turned to alcohol anyway, knowing the human shells it had made of Jaem and Kedyn?  Who would he talk to without her, now that Rowul was gone and Kedyn too busy with Miria?  He’d attempted suicide before, was being a brother and a soldier enough to give a person purpose when both were stood on such shallow foundations?

 

Carnhain trusted Kedyn, they’d been through far more than most people ever had to go through.  One could not doubt the loyalty of someone who had forgiven you three times for nearly killing them.  But what if there was a fourth time?  Would Kedyn be able to stop him; Carnhain’s swordwork was much better than his “brother’s”.  And what about being a soldier?  This had been his life since Carnhain was seventeen and killing was all he knew.  But he fought to prove himself, not for some noble cause, and now that he had risen about as far as he could, what was there left to fight for?  He’d proven himself, right?  Only... he hadn’t really.  How many times had the entire Band watched him turn on his fellow soldiers like a rabid dog?  Is that all he’d proved in all this time?

 

But with Jatasha’s lips on his, it seemed so easy to forget.  What had started out lightly, almost innocently, grew in fervency.  Carnhain realised he’d missed her even before she’d left.  Breaking the kiss, he took her hand and stood.  “I’ll take you up on that offer of the room now.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jatasha smiled as he offered her his hand.  “I’ll take you up on that offer of the room now.” 

 

She knew she was lucky then.  Perhaps the Creator was trying to make up for the mess her life had been so far by protecting her when she hadn't even known she'd needed it, by sending her Carnhain and making him such a trusting person that he couldn't see the lie that was before his face.  She couldn't keep it up though.  Someday soon he'd learn the truth and she'd lose him.  She had to change everything she knew about herself.  Somehow.  Sometime.  When they were back at the Citadel it would be easier to figure out her options.

 

She took his hand in hers and as she wrapped an arm around his waist, she practically purred at him.  "Anytime." She said, planting a kiss softly on his lips before pulling ahead of him, leading him away to a room.  "Anytime."

 

Jatasha

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