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Ondine Azur

Never underestimate the consequences of a single ripple.

0 · 334 views · located in Aires

a character in “Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape”, as played by cirrus_sd

Description

Image Name: Ondine Azur

Aliases: The Siren of the High Seas

Age: She'll be damned if she tells you how old she actually is. She appears to be in her mid-30s.

Origin: The Eastern Isles

Role: Guardian of June

Animal Form: Dolphin




Appearance: Natural beauty graces Ondine, but while she might have put much effort into her looks when she was younger, currently she has taken on a more rugged, practical, imposing look. She is a tall, stately woman, standing at an unusual 5'10, although she is more commonly seen at 6 feet or more in her favorite heeled boots. She is heavily buxom, and her limbs are shapely and strong, the muscles apparent under her supple skin. A man would be hesitant to pursue her too aggressively.

Old scars paint her back in long strokes. She has had ink added to them, transforming the ugly marks into beautiful stalks of river reeds, cattails and blossoms. Her hands and feet are veined and calloused, betraying the rough, seafaring life she had lived.

On occasion, Ondine can dress up and impress, when she wants to or finds it a requirement. She has been known to strut about in nothing but pearls for naught but a reaction from the "high and mighty".

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Personality: Ondine is a very take-charge, no-nonsense woman. She has spent a lifetime giving orders to ruffians, lower-lifes, and even those from higher birth, and she does not take kindly to being disobeyed. Her voice is as loud as her attitude, and her tongue as sharp as her knives, cutting deeper than steel. When she wants, she can be quite the charmer, amping up the sexual allure and mystique that she holds well, but through it all she is always cold, with little limit on how far she will go to prove a point, even if it ends in blood. Perceptive ones can sense that at one point in her life she had been very warm and kind, yet that warmth has long disappeared, with only a tiny flame flickering within her and always threatening to go out. She is very confident, to the point of arrogance, yet her unflinching eyes betray a hidden sad and bitterness tangled together in a ball of insecurity that she locks away deep inside her. She is always thinking, and most of her acts of 'spontaneity' have often been thought out previously. Although she is quick to judge others, she does make a point of being fair about it. She holds justice in high regard, and will enforce it how she sees fit. Despite being good at giving orders, she does not take kindly to obeying others. It is difficult to earn her trust, and while she will work with others, especially concerning the Warriors, she will not hesitate to do something her own way.

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Background: Ondine was born the eleventh of twelve children to a poor farmer in the Eastern Isles. A brother was born after her when she was 2, and with too many mouths to feed she was sold by her parents to the nearest whorehouse. There she lived and worked, not yet in the rooms but in the hallways, fetching water, running errands, cleaning and occasionally helping with a birthing. Already a pretty girl, even as a baby, she grew even lovelier with each year, until at the age of 13 she flowered. Not even a week later she was taken by a man and subsequently lost her virginity. She stayed for two more years in the brothel before a handsome man thirty years her senior bought her permanently from the whorehouse. It was after their wedding on his ship that she realized that she was now the child wife of the infamous pirate, Rand el Azur, better known as The Hurricane of the High Seas. The newfound freedom of the seas invigorated Ondine, and the crew found her presence equally enlightening. She was taught how to fight, how to curse, how to spit, how to tie knots, how to navigate...everything essential to being a pirate. She was radiant, and soon she was able to prove her worth to Rand not only in the bedroom but also on raids.

Tragedy struck three years later when rival pirates attacked their ship. After killing Rand, her young son Eidon, and more than half their crew, Ondine and the survivors were taken prisoner. The beautiful 18-year-old was quickly and brutally preyed upon, and her screams pierced the nights for an entire week. At the end of it she was badly beaten, whipped, her back raw, and the baby inside her, as well as any other future children, were lost forever. She was kept as the new captain's whore, locked in the closet of his bedroom until night. Finally, after a month had passed, she retaliated, first murdering the hated captain and then the rest of the enemy crew. The wood of the ship was soaked in blood, and it was said the boards still remain stained. The surviving members of Rand's crew pledged their allegiance to Ondine, and those who refused were tossed overboard. Hardened and aged, the young woman took over the ship, and for the rest of her life she terrorized the oceans of Aires, murdering and pillaging as she pleased. She became infamous, not only on the seas but also on dry land, where she would lure men into sex before murdering them brutally. No one was safe from her pirating, for she would kill women and children as well, sex and age something she didn't discriminate against.

The only thing Ondine feared was death itself, and she went through immense measures to protect herself from it. After initially becoming a Guardian, she had viewed it less for redemption and more of her elixir for immortality, but still upheld her duty, albeit very, very harshly. Although she has killed considerably less people as a Guardian than as a pirate, her questionable ways hadn't changed much. Her first visit to Earth had her appalled at the justice systems that, according to her, were even worse than in Aires. She visited often thereafter, drowning the evil as a dolphin or ruining the corrupt as a woman.

So begins...

Ondine Azur's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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There were approximately only three things in the world that Harper could say, with full confidence, that he was good at.

These three things were: 1) Swimming; 2) Tinkering; and 3) Being Loud.

Please note that meditation was not one of those three things. In fact, Meditation belonged on the endless list of things Harper was hopelessly bad at.

He wasn't sure what it was exactly, but he just couldn't get the hang of sitting there, trying to think of nothing. He always had an itch or a scratch or a sneeze about to come up, and as soon as he thought he wasn't thinking of anything, he'd realize it and start thinking of other things and ruin the entire ordeal. Although, he supposed it didn't take a genius to realize that being quiet without moving wouldn't sit well with him. But it was frustrating how bad he was at it, especially since nearly everyone else not only liked it, but excelled at it.

If there was another thing to add to the three things he was good at, though, it would be the elemental part. Who knew that a guy who loved swimming would be so in tune with water? On the first day Haru had taken him to the beach, the ocean reacted to him. Nothing too big, but he'd heard later that it was more than some of the others had achieved. Ever since the first trip, he'd gone down to the beach every day afterwards, regardless of whether Haru had brought him or not, and when he wasn't swimming, he was practicing.

Shortly after the camping trip, and the argument that had taken hold, Harper had lost a lot of sleep over nightmares, induced by both the cyclopean and the experience of being tossed off the cliff. Sadie was now in them, and when it wasn't him being attacked or thrown, it was her, which of course was much worse. The third night after he wasn't able to sleep at all, and instead stole away into the forest for a walk. It was there that he'd come across a large log/branch on the ground. Something about it reminded him of an electric cello he'd seen in a catalog, which made him think of cellos which made him think of Sadie. So, naturally, he dragged the log back, hiding it under his bed when he wasn't working on it. Night by night, whenever he couldn't sleep, he'd drag it out and carve into it by the fountain, etching away and shaping it, in hopes that it might be capable of some sort of sound.

He spent weeks on it. The strings were the hardest part. He'd used vines, twisting and coiling them and pulling them tightly. At least three nights were just tightening their pegs, ear to the strings, straining for the right notes and intervals. When he finally finished, the instrument looked very little like a cello. The body was thin, with a long neck, the soundbox resembling a gourd. The only giveaway was the retractable endpin, as well as the genuine horse-hair bow (although the bow itself looked more like the kind for archery).

He had been admiring the instrument and wondering who could play on it (since he certainly couldn't) when Haru called for them all to gather their weapons and meet.

Sliding the instrument back under his bed, he looked over at the trident. The most he had done with it was shine it, since he hated the look and feel of rusted metal. He had been contemplating for a while the edition of a chain link, so that if he threw it he could reel it back in, but the cello had taken up whatever free time he'd had. He hefted it up, reminded again of its weight, and walked over.

Even after Falke had fought the cyclopean, Harper still didn't feel any less prepared, and his eyes had stayed the same width as they were when Haru had first told them what they were doing. The only thing he'd gathered was that you had to hit the chest, and it would explode.

He probably would have gone last, were it not for a firm hand suddenly clapping onto his shoulder. "He's next," a woman's voice, accented and heavy, declared. Harper looked up, baffled. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded.

The dark woman didn't even look at him when she answered, "Your guardian." And as Falke returned, she pushed Harper forward, not stopping until he was in the cage, despite his protests.

"WHAT?" he shouted, rattling the bars, "No. I'm not ready. Not ready!"

"Relax," the woman said, this time looking at him. Her eyes were so dark they were almost black, matching her glossy hair. "It doesn't matter from where you attack. Just hit the chest. Don't stop until you see shards. And don't. Panic."

What? Were those his instructions? His words of encouragement? Why did no one ever listen to him when he said he wasn't ready? He was reminded again of the beach, and his ears went red from anger. He wasn't one for grudges, but he still wasn't over that. The toss over the cliff, Kyle threatening to beat him up...even before that. This whole ordeal, this whole shindig. No one, NO ONE ever listened to him!

He remembered Autumn saying how she wanted to go home. Well, if they had just listened to him in the first place, they'd all be home and wouldn't have to worry about this!

But noooo. He was the asshole, right? The loser. The one everyone couldn't wait to vote off the island. But he'd never wanted to be on the fucking island in the first place.

Gripping the trident hard, he looked at Haru. "Well, fuck me, right?" He turned to face the new cyclopean, restrained and growling and angry, lashing out and hissing. Full of hate.

At that moment, Harper knew what the cyclopean was feeling. Every rattle, every jump, every claw snatching out, he felt and understood. Because he felt the same. Caged, scared...antagonized. About to face certain death.

"Let the fucker loose," Harper ordered.

It wasn't until the cyclopean stretched, its bonds and restraints gone, its tongue snaking through the air, that Harper's resolve left him, and he wondered what the hell he'd been thinking in the first place. As he ran, blood already snaking down his leg, he caught a flash of Dorian. As he turned his heel and thrust the trident in front of him, the end of it digging into the wall behind him, prongs out and flashing, he remembered that Dorian played cello. The cyclopean leaped towards him, and he promised himself at that exact moment, as he squeezed his eyes shut, that if he ever got out of this alive, he'd ask Dorian to play his cello...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

...he didn't relax until he heard the shards clatter onto the floor. Even now, three years after his first one-on-one, he still closed his eyes for each kill.

His fighting technique hadn't changed much either, although it had certainly been refined. He always made the monster come to him, although he'd taken to running around just to wear it out. Ondine continued to nag on him about having a better strategy, saying that his first fight had only been won by chance, but Harper still thought that if it worked the first time, it'd work every other time.

He left the cage with a wide grin on his face, although Ondine still didn't look very impressed. "Oh lighten up," he said, hefting the trident onto his shoulder, "I still got him."

"You're still too unplanned. Everything is impulse for you," Ondine snapped, but her tone wasn't as harsh as it usually was. Harper rolled his eyes. "You can't have a plan for everything," he retorted as he left to wash up and grab lunch.

While he hadn't grown taller, the three years had left him tanner, leaner, and much more muscular. He'd already been in good shape the first day, but now he was in prime condition.

He was still clean shaven, and his curly hair was at a shorter length than when he was younger. Once he'd firmly established his daily swim routine in the ocean, he'd taken up shaving again, which much of the others at the academy found strange, if not amusing. For a while he'd try to convince the other guys to shave whenever they went swimming, especially Kyle, whose power was closest to his, but as far as he knew, they mostly ignored him (although with Kyle being blond, he'd never know if he actually took his advice or not).

Speaking of Kyle, while Harper wasn't super best buddies with him, he'd still ended up hanging out with him anyways due to his own friends being close with the blond.

And yes. After three years, Harper finally had friends.

Skylar was no surprise. He'd already been friendly with her before, but now they were on a whole other level. Best friends, if he could believe it. Almost like siblings. The two were unstoppable together, sarcasm flowing from them like a fountain, and they were always up to something. He always went to her first, whether it was to tell her about some gossip he overheard or to show her something new he had made, and he had taken to affectionately calling her BB (which was short for Breaking Bad, but was also sometimes pronounced similarly to Baby). For a short time he'd wondered whether they could be more--usually whenever Xavi seemed more distant or unattainable than usual--and there had been a short drunken stint between the two of them that ended up with them making out a lot, but Harper still didn't develop any further feelings towards her, and didn't think about it twice.

Dorian was a surprise. As he'd promised himself, after he'd defeated the cyclopean the first time, he'd told Dorian to meet him in their room during dinner. The taller boy seemed to come reluctantly, but when Harper showed him the cello, he thought he saw something light up in those gray eyes. The cello had sounded awful, but it still sounded, and Dorian gave him suggestions. They had met each night thereafter for a month, Dorian trying out the cello and saying what wasn't working and Harper taking notes and working on it later. Sometimes Harper would bring up Sadie, asking about what they would do together--more so out of curiosity than interrogative--and on some nights the cello would play second fiddle to Sadie.

Finally, the day when it actually sounded like a cello, Harper was ecstatic. He was afraid he'd have to beg Dorian to play something, but luckily the quieter boy was already on it. Harper recognized the piece--The Swan by Saint-Saens--and after Dorian finished, he was silent. He didn't say anything until the next night. Instead of pulling out the cello, he apologized to Dorian. It was then that he confessed that if he could send one of the warriors back to Earth, he would send Dorian. "You were there for my sister when she lost a brother," he had said, "I know you'd be able to do it a second time."

Since then, the two had bonded, over Sadie and the cello, and soon, music. Harper made more instruments, some for Dorian, some that played automatically. He made himself a guitar, and with some help, learned how to play it, and it soon became commonplace for him to walk around, strumming and singing whatever pop song or show tune he remembered. He didn't have a bad voice to begin with, but as he kept doing it, his singing became stronger, to the point where he considered making it the fifth thing he was certain he was good at.

He'd grown on better times with the other warriors as well. He tried to be on his best behavior around Autumn, just because she was so nice. And with Tallyho, he'd started giving her swimming lessons not long after the camping trip.

Of course, the real person that had taken over his thoughts was Xabi. They were close friends now, something Harper was happy for every single day. But he still hadn't confessed his feelings. In fact, he hadn't told anyone how he felt. Part of it was embarrassment, another part shame. He was pretty certain he still liked girls--whenever Ondine went swimming or bathing, he was sure to stick around--but Xabi...man, he really liked Xabi. He didn't even know if Xabi would swing that way, and there were moments when his heart would sink whenever he saw Autumn or Tallyho with him. For three years he'd kept his feelings to himself, but today....today was going to be the day, he thought, as he approached the others at the fountain. Today, he would tell them.

But thoughts of what would happen today or tonight, or maybe even tomorrow, dissipated as Harper's mouth spread into a sly grin. Popping open a small wineskin filled with seawater, he aimed at Kyle. With a snap of his fingers, the salty water splashed at Kyle like a water gun. "Looking good yourself!" he laughed, and leaned against the cool stone of the fountain, facing the girls. "Ladies," he asked with a cheeky smile, "Is this young man bothering you?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Jason Carter Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Despite his resolve, Harper never got a chance to talk to Xabier. He had chickened out over his dinner, and by the time he finally yelled at himself to actually do it, he couldn't find him and it was late. So, grumbling, he went to the beach.

Swimming didn't have its usual calming effect that night. Thoughts worried through him. Maybe he should just give up on Xabi. It was doubtful the guy even liked him back, at least in that manner. Harper knew himself that if a guy had confessed feelings to him three years ago, he would have declined without a thought.

Or...would he? He wasn't sure anymore...it would depend on what the guy looked like, he supposed...

He breached the surface, gasping for air, and shaking his hair. He tread water for who knew how long, just thinking. Three years...had it really been three years? Sadie...she'd be 18. About to go to college, if she wasn't already in college. What did she look like? What was she studying? Was she still playing cello? Did she remember him?

Of course she'd remember me, Harper thought with an eye roll, and he ducked underwater again, diving deep. The real question is, how will she remember me? He had left her before, so many years ago...what was it, 8 years ago? But that time he'd at least had a chance to say goodbye to her. Let her know his reasoning. Promised to write and call. Gave her a parting gift, a hug and a kiss...she understood then. Knew why he was leaving. Almost encouraged it. After all, the only alternative at the time was having him shipped off to military school. No phone calls there.

But this time...he'd never had a goodbye...not a proper one...he'd promised her he'd watch her performance that night. She'd had a concert that night. She was going to play Elgar. Elgar's Cello Concerto. She was so good...he'd heard her practicing the weeks before. Even when she made a mistake, he thought it sounded wonderful. She was going to play it that night, and he promised he'd see it...

He resurfaced, but even after he'd shaken his hair and rubbed the salty water from his eyes, the tears kept coming. He remembered Dorian telling him, after he'd made him that cello, that he was a good brother, but Harper had never believed it. Maybe in that moment he had, but in the three years since, never. A good brother would have tried harder to go back to Earth. A good brother wouldn't even have left that day to do whatever the hell he'd been thinking of doing, which he knew wasn't important at all.

A good brother wouldn't have abandoned his sister to begin with.

The tears were really coming now, and he ducked under again. He pushed the water away from his head, creating an air bubble, circling around like an astronaut's helmet, and he yelled. Screamed. Hollered. Shouted, six feet under the water. Incoherent strings of curses and insults, hate-filled words and rage. All targeted at himself.

Perhaps the others thought Harper a cocky, arrogant, self-confident son of a bitch, and certainly that was the air he'd put on his whole life. But in truth, there was no one in the world who hated Harper more than himself. He didn't remember when the self-loathing started, but it had continued throughout his life, and the three years away from Earth didn't change it. If anything, it only aggravated it.

These underwater venting sessions were the reason why Harper hadn't had so many above-air freak outs and meltdowns. It was here he screamed his frustrations away. Here he cried his fears away. Here that he tried to forget his nightmares. Ever since Haru had first taken him to the beach, he'd come here. He still hated heights. Still missed his sister. Still grew frustrated with himself over everything. But at least here, no one else had to see.

When he surfaced, another did as well, a familiar spray of water misting him. He snorted, wiping water from his face as the dolphin shifted into a human form, although he could recognize his Guardian in either shape.

"You are so loud under the water," Ondine complained crossly, but just like earlier, the bite he'd been used to was softened. "That is the third time this week you've come here to scream."

She counted? Harper sighed. "And that's the third time this week you've been here while I did. What are you, spying on me?"

"That's my job," she replied curtly, eyeing him with her dark eyes. "Your average is once a week. Something is bothering you."

Harper sighed again and lowered in the water, blowing bubbles with his nose. "I'm not a child you know," he said haughtily, throwing his head back, "I'm the oldest of the group. Everyone else is just turning 20, and I'm over here at 25! I'm like a grandpa!"

"Oldest in age, maybe, but not in maturity," Ondine countered. Harper rolled his eyes. "Psh. Please. You should know by now this whole thing is an act. I'm immature by choice. Come tax season, they'll all be clueless, and we'll really see who's the most mature."

"Choice? Or simply reluctance? Avoidance? Denial? These are all traits of yours, Harper. Even in your combat style, all you do is avoid and deflect."

"So? It's worked so far. Why should I have to charge when I know the cyclopean will come to me? I'll just let him do all the hard work."

Ondine shook her head. "Sometimes the direct approach is a better strategy. You cannot just avoid the certain. If you strike immediately, it gives the enemy less time to work out their own moves."

Harper huffed, and glared at her. "I thought you were worried about me. None of this is encouraging."

"There is a relation. I thought you were going to talk to that boy."

"What?!" Harper bristled, splashing backwards, "What boy? I don't know what--"

"Don't even try, Harper," Ondine sighed, "I can see these sorts of things."

So she knew...figured. "I was going to," he whined, "But...ugh...how do you even begin to say something like that to someone? I mean, if he was a girl there'd be no problem. I know how to handle girls. But guys...they're different!"

Ondine laughed. "Men are no different, Harper," she said with a chuckle, "I can assure you that. At least if you go for the direct kill, the suffering is short."

"Kill? I thought we were talking about Xabi!" Harper protested, but Ondine had ducked underwater and swam off. Grumbling, he floated on his back, staring up at the sky, before diving back down.

-------------------------

It was very late by the time he finally climbed back onto the beach. But as he walked closer to the academy, something was wrong with the sky. There was a glow...a foggy, smoky glow that only grew brighter the more he walked.

And then the smoke...

Fire.

Eyes widening, he broke into a run, slashing at anything in his way with the blunt side of his trident. The weapon did finally have a chain at the end. He'd also hollowed out a small pipeline through it, for water flow. And it shone in the moonlight, though when he finally reached the academy, the silver gleamed red.

His eyes went wide, taking in the sight of the school in flames. How...when? Why?!

He continued running, reaching the courtyard. Chaos was loose, peoples screams almost drowning out the roaring of the flames. The stable suddenly caught fire as well, and the high pitched whinnies of the horses was a sound that he was certain would haunt him forever.

It was there he went first. The horses...he'd grown to like quite a few of them. And with all the commotion, no one would think of them, locked in place. And the stables were en route to the boys dorm, where Xabi...

Oh no, Xabi...

He wasted no time, smashing the already weakened wood of the holding stalls and splashing water onto the horses that were burning. The horses, once freed, ran off in a frenzy, spurred on by pain and fear, but Harper grabbed at the reins of one of them, leaping on top. The horse reared, but Harper had ridden this one many times, and forced it towards the boys dorm. "Just get me there," he pleaded as it finally galloped over. They reached it, and the horse nearly threw him off, but Harper jumped off and smacked its rear, shouting "Go! GO!" before running into the dorm.

Smoke filled he hallways, and too many doors were closed. He kicked them all open, screaming until he was hoarse at whatever occupants were still there to get out. "Single file! No pushing!" he hollered. He used the water in his pouch sparingly, for the worst cases of boys actually on fire, which were thankfully few. It looked as if the guy's dorm would hold out for a few moments more, but not long. The fire was travelling fast, and the boys were getting out too slow. Harper eventually resorted to carrying out the occupants, especially the younger ones.

Finally he reached the upper dorm, where he and the other male warriors slept. "Get out! GET OUT!" he bellowed, literally pulling them out of bed. Jason, Kyle, Falke, Dorian...Xabi...the guy was probably terrified.

There was a crack from below, followed by screams and a heavy crash. Harper ran to the hallway and was greeted by flames from below and a missing staircase. It had collapsed, and from the groaning, it looked like the rest of the building was sure to follow.

Without really thinking it through, Harper grabbed at one of the bed units. Kicking the wall until it came loose, he swung the heavy wood through the wall. It crashed through, landed a story below. Harper didn't dare go near the hole he'd made. Even if they were only a few feet above the ground, it was still too high. But not for the others.

"The stairs are fucked, so you'll need to jump!" he shouted. His throat felt awful, like he had been drinking bleach or something, and his eyes stung. "Hurry up!" he coughed out, waving at them to go before him. He moved to the back of them, in case the fire reared out, which it was wont to do very soon. "Jump the fuck out already!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley) Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Once the others had jumped out--with all the smoke, Harper had miscounted the actual occupants in the room--he was left, alone, fire crawling the edges. Yet, even in the face of burning to death, his fear of heights still gripped him.

Gritting his teeth as hard as his trident, he tried three times to jump off, but each time he hesitated, backing away from the edge. He felt like the horses from before, antsy and pacing and rearing, facing the fire on all ends. But he knew a horse would jump.

By now he was certain the entire dorm was empty. Anyone unlucky enough to be still here...or stupid enough he thought to himself. He laughed, a bit hysterically, at the situation he was in. One who swam as much as he did should have been absolutely panicked at the sight of fire, but no. It was the stupid heights that was going to kill him.

He coughed, hard, the smoke finally getting to him. He grabbed at the wood for support and his hand immediately flared up in heat and he pulled it away. He used his trident instead, tines imbedded in the dry wood as he leaned against it, hacking and wheezing.

Something bright flashed out of the corner of his eye. Catching his breath, he looked up, craning his neck closer to the hole he'd made. A small fireball, it looked like, in the distance. Descending to the ground like a flare.

"What the hell?" he said out loud, voice husky.

The fireball fell behind the buildings, and he braced himself for impact, but....nothing happened.

"Seriously. What the--"

A deep BOOM reverberated through Harper, like someone had just turned the bass to the max. A deafening crash followed, splitting his ears, and the floor dropped under him, yanking the trident from his grip. Splinters shot into him, and an invisible wall slammed him against the beds before everything collapsed on top of each other in a heap of wood, mortar and fire that looked more like a giant bonfire than the dormitory it had once been.

------

Ondine had lost track of Harper amidst the chaos, helping out anyone should could, either through direction or physically picking up the wounded, and sometimes the dead. For once, she hoped he was still out swimming, taking care of only himself, oblivious to the disaster that this was. At least that would give her one less thing to worry about.

Yet, while others might find it easy to believe that Harper was still hiding in the ocean whilst all this was going on, the woman had her doubts.

Of course he would choose now to suddenly heed her advice...

Many were trying to herd everyone to the courtyards, although Ondine didn't see the point of that. Wouldn't the lake make more sense, considering this was a fire? That was where she directed everyone to go, advising them towards the less harrowing route (the last thing she needed was casualties from drowning via that drop). She herself went to the courtyard, hoping to convince at least Haru that the lake was the place to go. She had just glimpsed him when the explosion rocked everything.

A pounding filled her ears as she sat up, palms bloody and scratched, body aching. There was a stinging from her cheek, and when she stood, her legs felt weak and bruised.

Yet the pain of that was quickly forgotten. Especially after what happened next.

Ondine in general had a rule of not trusting others. It was a rule that had helped her deal with all the inevitable betrayals and mutinies aboard a pirate ship, especially one run by a woman. But this betrayal...from such righteous people...she could hardly believe it.

She snorted from disbelieve...imagine. Even the good could betray. She'd never pegged Ji Na to be with them, but she knew how appearances could mislead. Yet she had never been close to any of these mutineers. The only feelings she felt were towards those who had been, yet she still couldn't help but judge. They should have known better.

She took her leave after Kyle ran forward. His entrance had reminded her of Harper--if only because of how much her ward had complained about Kyle underwater throughout the past years--and her doubts still nagged her.

She checked the ocean first. In that moment she hoped with every ounce of being that he was here, but as she swam through, her sleek dolphin form clicking through the silent waves, she knew her hopes were fruitless. He wasn't here, and she had wasted precious time.

She thought as she ran back to the academy, heading dorm side. She hadn't seen him at the courtyard, and with him not in the ocean, the only motivation she could conceive for him was his crush, Xabi. But...Xabi she had seen. At the courtyard. Then where the hell...

She gasped as she neared the boys dorm...or rather, where it should have been. The fire was raging, and smoke pillared above. Harper...he couldn't possibly be here, right?

Yet as she neared, there was no mistaking the silver trident, burnished but still glinting on the outskirts of the rubble.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Harper woke up to pressure on his legs and small aches that peppered his entire body. His forehead was pounding like an elephant stampede, his eyes were dry, and his throat felt like he'd swallowed steel wool. Bruises pulsed all over, particular his back, and his right shoulder was numb.

In other words, Harper was very, very uncomfortable.

Sitting up, he discovered he was laying on a tarp on the ground. The air was still laden with smoke, the atmosphere as heavy as his legs, which he noticed were bandaged.

"You are awake," Ondine's voice observed.

Harper turned to her, running a hand through his hair--which, to his surprise, was much shorter than he remembered. "What happened?"

"What is the last thing you remember?"

Harper blinked, then scrunched up his nose in effort. There had been a fire...he remembered that. A fire and an explosion. He remembered the boys' dorm collapsing. He remembered getting thrown back, and then the ceiling landing on top of him. He remembered his shoulder hurting like crazy, and thinking he had dislocated it. He remembered dousing himself entirely in his remaining water, and then pushing the flaming boards away from him with the backs of his arms.

His ankle suddenly throbbed, and he remembered that his foot had gone through a board during the collapse, and he couldn't kick it off, which meant he'd had to half-crawl half-stumble his way out. But it was so hard, with the smoke stinging his eyes and filling his lungs. He could hardly breathe and kept coughing. Everything hurt so much, and he kept tripping over everything, and the wooden board kept eating into his foot. He didn't think he had ever been in that much pain before.

He barely remembered collapsing on the dirt not even two feet away from the burning building, but even then he could still feel the fire, still feel the splinters in him, still feel the jagged teeth of the board on his foot, now burning. Even the ground was hot, and it was in that moment, as he coughed himself unconscious, that he truly thought this was the end, and that he would die.

Yet, clearly, he didn't. And as he relayed all of this to Ondine, he still couldn't figure out how he had gotten from near-certain death to extreme discomfort.

Ondine herself looked confused. "When I found you, you were on the grass, a good distance away from the fire," she told him. "Are you sure you didn't drag yourself further?"

Harper shook his head adamantly. "I specifically remember falling down after two steps. And then not getting back up."

Ondine raised an eyebrow. "Well, either way you're lucky. Your burns aren't very bad, 2nd degree at worst, and mostly on your legs. It's going to take a few weeks to heal, so no swimming until then. Your shoulder did get dislocated, but we popped it in already. The hardest part was getting all those wood and glass splinters out of you. Your chest took a heavy hit, but I think most of them were retrieved. Same with the board around your ankle, although that left behind a nasty cut. Again, no swimming, unless you want to lose the foot."

Harper would have pouted, but at that moment Haru passed by, muttering about meeting somewhere. Harper groaned and Ondine glared, but she got up anyways. "Do you need help?" she asked, extending a hand.

"No, I can do it," Harper said. He ended up falling over, cheek grazing the soot covered ground. The second time around he did let Ondine help him up, and she offered him his trident before walking along with him.

As they walked/hobbled, Ondine filled him in on the traitorous acts of Ji Na, Kat, and Benjamin, as well as the arrival of Amber. Towards the end Harper spotted a horse, recognizing it as the one he had ridden to the dorms.

"At least the horses made it out all right," he said when Ondine finished.

"Really? A huge betrayal by some of the elite, and all you can think about are the horses?"

"Did the others make it out all right as well?"

Ondine snorted. "If by others you mean Xabi, then yes, they made it out all right. You'll see them in a minute anyways. I'm assuming Haru meant to round up all the warriors."

Harper nodded. The betrayal was shocking, but it was hard to pay attention when everything was uncomfortable. "I wasn't really close to them anyways," he admitted with a shrug.

Ondine was quiet for a while, before asking, "I take it then that it was you who freed the stables?"

Harper nodded. "I couldn't stand to hear them screaming like that. And I mean...they're just horses. What did they do? And then all those little kids at the dorm...there weren't many left by the time I got there, but there were still some in their rooms, just hiding and crying in there. They'd even locked the doors. Like that would keep fire out. Although, it probably helped, since fire needs oxygen and they always tell you not to open doors with hot doorknobs."

Ondine raised an eyebrow. "They always tell you?"

"Well, you know...fire safety videos."

"I don't."

"Whatever. Forget I said anything."

A pause. And then, "So you helped the other tenants of the dorm as well?"

"Of course!" Harper exclaimed, "What, you think I'm just going to leave some kids in there to die? How horrible do you think I am?!"

"Some might think you were still in the ocean."

"Yeah? Well fuck them," Harper said angrily, "You know, if I was still in the ocean, some of the warriors wouldn't even be alive. And all those horses? Dead. Other kids in the dorms? Dead. They'd all be dead!"

"Harper." Ondine said, a warning tone in her voice. They were nearly there, and certainly within earshot.

"I don't care, Ondine. They can hear me for all I care! And they better get used to it, since i won't be able to go into the fucking ocean for a while to scream all my problems out. I mean, seriously!" Harper stopped walking at this point, too riled up to continue with his stiff leg. "It's been three years and people still don't like me, but it wasn't fucking me who betrayed everyone, was it? It was the fucking sweetheart, Ji Na. The doctor. Everyone loved her. And then Kat, and the other guy. No one disliked them. Yeah, I'm selfish and an asshole, but at least I'm fucking honest about it."

"I thought you didn't care what anyone thought."

"I don't! I don't give one shit! Not a rat's ass!" And with those convictive words, he marched/hobbled onward to join Haru and the others while Ondine followed behind, shaking her head, but with a slight smile on her lips. After all, she didn't disagree.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Tallyho was more than surprised that Gwen had reached out to her. It wasn’t that Gwen was a part of the “other” side of the team, but she did tend to keep to herself. The blonde would have been content with her bandage job, but based on the information that she lost a lot of blood maybe she wasn’t thinking straight. For all she knew she could have been unconscious this entire time.
“Sure,” Tallyho relaxed her leg, an open invitation for Gwen to treat her. “Where is everyone else?” She rubbed her eyes, things were a little blurry but she could still make out the figures around her. Just as she asked she noticed that Harper (who looked pretty fucked up himself) and his guardian joined the group. That wasn’t what she meant. Though earlier she would have even been happy seeing even Harper alive, she did not address him. They were not friends after all.
But where were her friends? She could have sworn she caught a glimpse of Falke somewhere around. But she hadn’t seen a trace of Dorian or Xabier since the orphans left.
Haru stood on the outskirts of the group, extremely annoyed by everything really. It wasn’t just because of what happened with Amber but when he tried to reel the group back into order he was met with grunts, rolled eyes, and twisted expressions. But of course everyone BUT the cat guardian was doing the best they could in this situation! Somehow, as always, Haru just wasn’t doing his job right, right? Of course. The redhead felt an ache in his chest but he patted it off with the base of his palm.
“It looks like we are going to have to pursue political protection.”
Tallyho cocked her ear in the direction of the cat guardian.
“We now have two enemy groups to deal with. If we are going to be attacked again like we were last night then it is time to seek approval from the Harbinger and go under the protection of the church.”
Haru mentioned before that at some point they would have to prove themselves to the Harbinger and test their claim as the true month warriors.
“I don’t know what this Harbinger wants us to do for our test but we are going to have to be very smart about this. When we go to the RK we will be meddling in politics and there is no avoiding it. Therefore, all of you will have to learn how to hold your tongue, know your place, and refrain from betraying information that the government doesn’t need to know. If you do exactly what I say this chapter of our lives should go as smoothly as possible. But if you’re difficult about it this could cost the lives of the entire team.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Lux Adair Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Ondine was restless as she approached. She had taken down many a trading ship such as this in her pirating days. She hadn't seen her own ship in too many years to count. And boarding any ship without being in command of it always left her uneasy.

Harper, while starting the voyage off with his usual grumbling and conversation with Skylar, peppered with the occasional pirate joke in reference to his bad foot (which had required all of Ondine's willpower not to amputate the leg in question on the spot), had dwindled off into uncharacteristic silence. He had also slowed in pace, and indeed, the two were some of the last to board. However, it was clear from his labored breathing and grimacing with each step that Harper's hesitance and silence was from pain, rather than any past nostalgia. Ondine nearly had to carry him the last few rungs of the ladder onto the actual ship, and by then he was looking very pale.

"Who knew...that...tridents..." Harper wheezed out, "would make....such bad...crutches..."

"Why don't you sit?" Ondine suggested, worried that he might pitch over. The way he was holding the trident suggest a possibility that he might accidentally stick himself with the prongs.

"And miss...the grand...tour?" Harper asked through breaths, and somehow managed grin. He stood up straight, stretching his back, "I'll sit...when I find the beds..."

Ondine hovered, making sure he didn't fall and keeping an eye on him while she herself examined the ship with judgmental eyes. Fancy handiwork, but in the heat of battle, she was certain her own ship would crack through without much issue.

When they finally reached the sleeping quarters, Harper was first to claim a bed, hobbling over to the farthest corner, dumping his trident unceremoniously between the wooden trunk and the wall and pulling himself in a most ungracious manner onto the netting and rolling onto his back. There was a brief moment of uncertainty in terms of whether he would fall off or not, as expressed in his very wide eyes and arms clinging either side, but the moment passed and the netting ceased its swinging.

With a shake of her head, Ondine left her ward to his own devices, which no doubt included a nap, and returned to the deck.

In the days to come, the deck would be where most would find Ondine, if she wasn't in the water as a dolphin, jumping and diving in and out of the water and tossing up any fish that she herself didn't want to eat. Occasionally she would also mention any large rocks or boulders to be wary of, though she always did this in an offhand, casual manner. Heaven forbid she report anything to any captain but herself.

Harper spent an equal amount of time above and below, though whenever he was above deck he was always looking out at the water wistfully, his envy of Ondine's ability undisguised. Being on this ship quickly turned into a sort of torture, being surrounded by water, but never able to swim in it. It was only a matter of hours after taking to water, though, that Harper lighted upon a compromise and hurried under as fast as his limp would let him. Pulling out his knife, he sawed away at the wooden trunk under his bed. After about forty minutes, with little progress than several scratch marks that totally marred the wood, he resorted to just jabbing with his trident. After another half hour of stabbing, he managed to slide the prongs under the bottom and, through the use of basic physics, levered the trunk up from the ground after a good fifteen minutes.

"Success!" he exclaimed, hoisting the trunk above his head, slats of wood still connected to the bolts dangling from the overall box.

With a confident, excited hobble up the stairs and onto the deck, he placed the block top down near the front of the ship, the sky a deep orange. With some effort, he raised a water pillar from the sea and hosed the ocean water into the box. He then proceeded to strip off all his clothes, with the exception of his underwear, which was still the same Speedo he had been wearing when he was first brought to this world (meticulously cleaned and maintained, mind you), and with a small splash of water, lounged in his newly-fashioned mini tub. The sight was perfectly ridiculous, the water only coming up to his upper abs, with most of his body out of the tub than in it, and the wood was scratchy and not quite smooth, no thanks to his knife-work, but if there was ever a moment when Harper would start caring, it certainly wasn't now.

In fact, as the sun set, and the melody from Titanic whistled from his lips, the ocean water still cool as a breeze swept through his fire-burnt hair, Harper felt pretty fucking majestic.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley) Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Kit Withers
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Haru’s small stature was over-taken by a mass much larger, and heavier than he was. But this mass, in all of its sobby, slobbery essence was full of more care and sentimentality than Haru could hold in one paw. This mass was, at least to Haru, the very epitome of lifelong friendship and loyalty and Haru truly felt like the Goddess was testing his strength by having this mass, which was carrying a great grief on its shoulders and an even greater heart in its chest, bear its weight on his shoulder. But to the guardian this weight was not a burden.
The readhead did not stroke Ryou’s head like a baby’s, or embrace him and say that everything was going to be alright because he didn’t know. All he could really contribute was leg strength and a sturdy crying spot. When Ryou finished Haru wordlessly turned back to the sun and fished into his pocket. He pulled out a carton of cigarettes, a carton with, lo and behold, the every last of his cigarettes. Haru hadn’t known Ryou to be as much of a smoker as he was, if at all, but he offered his last nicotine stick anyway. Ryou knew how much the cat guardian cherished them and offering up his last would send a bold enough signal.
“That’s right,” Haru said after a while. “Apologize. Ask for forgiveness because you have wrongfully claimed that Ryou Zerrin has let his students down and that he has no to right to shed a tear. Who’s to say that he didn’t do the best he could for his students? What gives you the right to deny his humanity and tell him that he cannot feel pain and just fucking cry it out? Shame. Shame on you.”
Haru leaned on the railing.
“Ryou…. I think we all know that a great loss of life can be a tragedy. But I can guarantee you that this loss wasn’t by your hand or negligence, or whatever the hell you’re blaming yourself for. This was Amber and you should know that. And I know that though he may not feel it now, the psychological effects of destroying so many human lives will catch up with him. But you can’t force it on him. Take it from me, the grief will come slowly at first then graze him with increasing speed. Attach to him. Never wash away no matter how many damned baths he takes in the holy river. Hell, I’m still bathing in the fucking river for what I did and I still fucking stink.”
The cat guardian chuckled. “You know. You’re my best friend and I never told you what the hell I did to be here today. You’re looking at a bad man Ryou, and I mean, heh… A bad. Bad. Bad man. You guardians… I mean despite the fact that you’re guardians I still think you are good people who simply did bad things. Kit did what he did because he needed to save a life by smothering it’s flame. Ondine did what she did because people abused her. You did what you did because you had to play the grind to survive but me, I don’t know why the hell I did my deed. I was young and I was sharp as fuck and I mean not just like… Physically but I was fucking smart Ryou, especially at my tender age. And…. And Hales’ military wanted my mind and I wanted to get out of the cold because it was just so fucking cold and I married young and had people to care for and they had to get out of the cold so I just…I just went where it was warm. And they asked me about problems, and I came up with plans. Soon I went from Haru Karokov the grunt of the Karokov clan to Haru Karokov military strategist, Haru Karokov war instigator, Haru Karokov illegitimate father of the 16 year war, town toppler, baby burner, cattle killer the very person that Amber was last night and I didn’t have to lift a fucking finger to do it because I had men who would do it all for me. Men who were fathers and brothers and farmers who weren’t too young, or decrepit, disabled or stupid to be recruited by the military at the time. I thought I was just doing my job: what the government wanted. ‘Get us more territory’ they said, ‘We need more POWs’ they told me. And I did it, and I did it so well that suddenly they were negating everything they told me before. ‘Have more humility!’ Then my wife fucking smothered me to death in my sleep. And then I died... Then I was given a chance to turn over a new leaf, thrusted into an Aires that I had a hand in creating yet was so much further from what I expected. Placed into an unfamiliar time and charged to protect super powered people who ultimately failed the challenge.”
Haru paused, realizing that he hadn’t taken a moment to really breathe.
“But,” he rasped, “I was partnered up with you. And Lillian, and Kit and Ondine and all the others. People who, from what I could see, were so much better than me at the whole human thing. And... And I thought, wow, I can’t be so bad if I’m lined up with so many other ‘sinful’ people. And… What I’m trying to say with all of this is that I think… and I might be wrong but I that if I am a good person…then you are a good person too.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Jason Carter Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Lux Adair Character Portrait: Harbinger XII Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Harper, for one, quite enjoyed life on the ship.

In fact, he quite enjoyed life in general. Especially considering how life in general was going at the moment.

Oh yeah. Things were going great.

Of course, it had taken a while. There'd been three days of confusion, hurt feelings, uncertainty...three days where smiling was hard, where everything was hard. It didn't help that he had still hoped. That almost made it worse...trying to tell himself to let go, but refusing to because what if, just in case...

Not to mention his ass still hurt from the beating Ondine had distributed. For someone who was supposed to be looking out for him, she certainly didn't hold back with the paddle.

Dorian had been one of the few to notice and care about his funk. In fact, the third day, Dorian had actually tried to tell him jokes to cheer him up. Very stupid jokes...popsicle stick jokes. But Harper had laughed at each one, especially the last one. Just the thought of Dorian trying to be funny was funny. He had mentally approved his friendship with Sadie for the umpteenth time afterwards.

And then, lo and behold. On the fourth day, He emerged. And after that day, Harper had a difficult time NOT grinning like a stupid idiot.

Not that he'd tell anyone why. They had both agreed that this thing between them had to stay secret. Besides, they both had very different circles of friends...Harper didn't even want to know what Kyle might do to him if he found out...he definitely knew the blond would hit him. At the very least.

Still, Harper was happy, even with the arrangement. In fact, it was kind of exciting. Trying to find pockets of time and space to be together, the adrenaline rush whenever they kissed in a location that wasn't entirely hidden away, the tightening in his stomach whenever he stole away to their secret room. And then whenever they were in public...the glances he'd slide to him, small innocent inside remarks that were actually inside jokes to something racier...the semi-flirtatious jests, which he had always done before, to everyone, but were now more prominent than ever, and masked the deeper implications whenever these were targeted at Xabi...yes, it was like a delicious game of tension. Of pushing boundaries. Trying to see what he could get away with before anyone caught on. And then doing something else to completely confuse everyone.

Yes, life on the ship had grown interesting indeed.

Whenever he wasn't teasing Xabi or chatting up his friends, he'd practice his abilities. Already fairly advanced in them, at least compared to some of the other warriors, his practice sessions were less about getting actual results and more on refining the results he did get, as well as amping up the scale. Besides the usual drills that Ondine would put him through, he'd experiment, working on waves, and then shaping the waves. On one stop, about a week after his leg had healed, he'd managed to successfully surf a few of his own creation. In the latter days of their travel, he'd been able to keep up with the ship, the waves rippling and pushing beneath his feet as he skipped and ran across the surface, Ondine diving in and out next to him. His newfound transport usually resulted in rocking the ship more, an unwelcome thing to the seasick.

The storms, when they happened, still proved too much for him to control. One night he had tried to tame the waves, but had nearly fallen off the ship instead. Ondine had grabbed him by the collar, pulling him back from the angry sea and dragging him back under. She had thrown him into a spare room and screamed at him, the angriest he had ever seen her. He hadn't tried it again.

~

When they finally reached land, Harper for one wished he could still stay on the boat. Well, maybe not this boat. But another boat. Just to stay on the ocean...away from other people, free to swim every day. Just him and Xabi on a yacht. Or a little house boat. In the middle of the ocean. A man could dream.

During Haru's "welcome" speech, Harper couldn't help but feel that the guardian was specifically talking to him, especially during the "please do not be a selfish ass" bit. Harper could have snorted. He'd lived in big cities his entire life. If there was one thing he'd learned, it was that people tended not to care if it didn't affect them specifically. If this was New York, he could announce to everyone that they were month warriors, and the worst he'd receive would be a few judgmental glares.

Still, he wasn't very keen on hanging. And after Ondine had pulled him aside to reiterate everything Haru had said (something that the other guardians didn't do with their wards...at least that he noticed) he decided to behave...for now.

Harper actually had been one of the few guardians who had taken on jobs. Granted, they were odd jobs, that never really lasted long, and the whole working thing was mostly Ondine's idea, but he had enjoyed them. Mostly delivery things...a few metalworking gigs...blacksmith assisting and such. Being thrust below the poverty line of his own accord years ago had given him a rude awakening to just how much a dollar was worth, and he was actually quite frugal with his money. For the most part.

As such, he was able to buy his own clothes, and with some guidance from Ondine, settled on an ensemble that looked a cross between Mozart and a New World colonist..

"Aren't you getting something for yourself?" he asked Ondine as they returned to the others. She shook her head.

"Eventually," she allowed, but added under her breath, "The fashion of the Rose Kingdom has never been one I fancied, to say it politely."

Travelling to the city was a bit like travelling through time. He felt like he had somehow blue-skidoo-ed into an art history textbook...with the chapters melded together. Sadie, he knew, would love it. She actually knew the different styles. He could see her now, pointing out the Renaissance, Tudor, Rococo...

Ve Marie would have blown her mind for sure.

When they reached the inn, Harper had immediately changed into his new clothes. "I look like I belong in the Met!" he exclaimed to Ondine as he strutted about in his new garb, jacket and all. She didn't look too impressed, but he repeated the joke to everyone at dinner, particularly Dorian, who he knew would appreciate it. At the table he'd channel his inner Amadeus, acting the ever-pompous sort, and whistling small bits of Mozart's various works intermittently throughout dinner. Every so often he'd interrupt people's conversations, an urgent look on his face, only to say that the British were coming.

Although, if you asked him, he would prefer if it were the Spanish who came that night...

~

Surprisingly or not, depending on who you were and what you thought of the curly-haired ruffian, Harper was very well-behaved the next day. Haru had stressed so much on maintaining the best appearances, and Harper knew that he in particular was cause for worry. So, in an act of seeming goodwill (although, in all honesty, it was more out of spite to prove naysayers that he just chose to act like an uncivilized bum) Harper drew from his roots and acted the perfect upper-class youngun...old enough to be noticed, but too young to actually be taken seriously. When you grew up in Upper Manhattan with a corporate lawyer for a father and an heiress for a mother, with a party every weekend at least, old habits were hard to forget.

As they reached the cathedral, Harper was no longer just Harper. He was Harper C. Fields, who could tell the difference between Armani and Vuitton and took his coffee black, thank you very much. Even Ondine seemed surprised.

Harper couldn't help smirking as he stood in line next to her. "Betcha thought I'd have screwed everything up by now," he whispered to her out of the corner of his mouth.

"It had crossed my mind," she replied quietly, hands folded in front of her dress, loosely fitted and flowing, barely appropriate, but not obnoxious, like some of the other dresses he'd seen in the audience and in line. While her voice was soft, her tone was still sharp as ever.

"Hey now," he murmured with a smile, "When Harper C. Fields needs to clean up, he stands and delivers."

"Careful now," Ondine warned, "You might have spoken too soon."

"Please," Harper said with a shrug, lifting his chin and straightening his shoulders, "I know more about this game than you think."

That was all it was, really. A game. A game of appearances, invisible walls and lines, of dos and do nots, and endless rules. He hated the game, but he knew how to play, and play it well. Haru's advice the previous night? He had lived it. For seventeen years.

When he stepped inside the large structure, it almost felt like home. The home he had run away from.

~

Harper would be lying if he said he wasn't at least a little nervous during the ordeal. His nerves, he would say, were mostly attributed to the fact that everyone else seemed so damned nervous. He could feel it in the air. When Dorian was called to perform, he held his breath the entire time.

There was also the matter of staying focused. More than once he had found himself zoning out, or zoning in too much on a distant pillar. Much as his cool outward demeanor came easily, so to did his old tricks of not being bored out of his mind during the endless and dull dinner parties.

He snapped back to attention when Tallyho stood up. He followed suit. His eyes widened when he watched the Harbinger walk by, holding a small crystal. As the man passed by, Harper couldn't help realizing just how mundane his own stone was. Everyone had had such personal connections and stories with theirs...family heirlooms, prized gifts, personal treasures. Whereas he...he had found the ring in a public pool, the day he'd been whisked away.

To think he'd wanted Sadie to have it...

He tried not to imagine her in his place, standing before an old man with a glowing stone, surrounded by strangers. Well, except for Dorian.

It would have been better if he hadn't kept the ring at all. If he'd dropped it back into the pool, dramatically reenacting the last scene in Titanic...or perhaps Lord of the Rings.

Even if it meant he'd never get to know Dorian, or SKylar, or Xabi.

Well, Dorian he was certain he'd meet eventually regardless. And Skylar too, maybe. But Xabi? He hadn't been with them in the beginning...

The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Talk of the flock brought him back. As collected as he seemed, though, the more he heard of what the flock entailed, the more worried he grew. Yes, he had fought cyclopeans before, but only singularly. And in a contained environment. This was true for all of them. How the hell...

And then this talk of wards of the state? He thought they believed them! What with the glowing stone and...had he missed something while he was zoning out?

His face stayed a mask, albeit a cracking one, as they were ushered outside, Haru assuring everyone to trust him. Right.

If they were going to end up hanged, Harper was going to sue.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Harper was barely 18 when he was first arrested.

It had happened not even a month after he'd moved, or rather, escaped to Boston. Back when he was pretty much homeless, new to the harbor city, spending his days sightseeing and roaming the city with his backpack and duffelbag, sunglasses perched atop his curly nest of hair. His nights were by far less leisurely, his bed ranging from park benches to public restrooms, even shrubbery beds. A hostel if he was lucky. Yet he didn't complain. Anything had seemed better than military school.

It had been late afternoon, almost dusk, when he saw the Vespa. Just...laying there. The sun hitting it just right...he could hear angels in his head as he stared at it. Bright red, smooth, polished...beautiful.

He came back the next day, and then the next, and then the next. Three days after that, he sat on it. Three minutes after that he was driving it.

He did bring it back. It was even in the police report. Of course, he'd been hoping to return it before anyone found out. The police officer was a middle-aged man with tired eyes, a receding hairline, and a gut. Officer Joe Mack. He and the owner had caught him right as he was powering down the scooter. While the owner mulled over whether to press charges or not, since Harper had returned the scooter, which didn't exactly make it a theft, the officer took the teenager into custody.

Harper had talked the entire ride back to the police station, alternating between trying to talk himself out of being put in jail and becoming someone's bitch, and seeing how many Apple/PC jokes he could fit in after he learned the cop's name. It was that night he'd discovered the difference between jail and holding, and also the first night in a long night that he had the opportunity to sleep on something that wasn't ground-level.

"Ya know, maybe I'll just stay here," Harper had said, stretching out on the cot, "I didn't know they had beds at police stations. I shoulda gotten arrested as soon as I moved out here."

The next morning, Officer Mack, came in with donuts, a cup of coffee, and a phone number. The first two were for breakfast, and the last was a job. A Chinese restaurant needed people for deliveries. Mack had already put in a word for him.

"There's a room above the place that the owner says you can sleep in, if he decides to hire you," he'd told him, "Should be more comfortable than that cot."

"The cot's better than everything else I've tried," Harper joked through his donut.

"That's another thing," the older man said, "I don't want to see you back in here."

Harper laughed. "I don't know if I can promise that, Mister Mack."

The police officer didn't laugh.

"Look, how about I just don't do anything worse than that?" Harper suggested.

"You tryin' to make deals with a cop?" he asked, eyebrows raised, his tone of voice difficult to place.

Harper's eyes widened, not sure what terms he was on anymore. But the cop smiled gruffly. "Do what you want, kid. But I can't promise I won't lock you up for good next time."

Harper ended up back in holding three more times, bailed out by his boss. The number of times he had joyrided was too high to actually count, but he had definitely been caught thrice. A few times he had called the guy whenever he was too drunk to walk home or fetch a cab. Some of those times he didn't remember, but apparently had drunk texted him, queuing Mack's appearance. He saw Joe every week when he got coffee, and would stop by the station every so often, usually with a new joke or pun about his name.

The last time he'd been in holding, it was clear even to him that Joe was getting near the end of his line. "I don't understand you, kid," he sighed as they waited for the angry Chinese man to show up and take Harper back. "It's like you don't care about your future."

Harper shrugged. "What happens happens."

The man snorted. "Yeah. What happens is you're gonna end up in jail for good."

And now, 6 years later, here he was. In jail. For the stupidest reason.

As the fighting across the room died down, Harper leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his somewhat sated stomach, wondering what Officer Joe Mack's reaction would have been. Would he laugh, considering the circumstances? Nod sagely? The guy hadn't been much for words. The classic silent man's man. Stoic. Cautiously emotional.

Although...now that he was thinking about it...he had seen the man cry once. That day they found him in the bathtub...

"How long are we stuck here again?" Harper groaned out loud, "Why are we even here? I thought they believed us!"

"There are still more tests to do," Ondine answered snappishly, though Harper felt that the tone wasn't meant entirely for him. "Thanks to bureaucracy, we're simultaneously the saviors and prisoners of the state. Make sense of that." She could have spat.

"Laaaaaaaame," Harper drawled. Clearly the good boy persona had been discarded for a while. "Governments suck."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Jason Carter Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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Harper's careless words were paralyzing, and it took Ondine several minutes to realize he had actually said it. That those words really had been spoken. That it was this that Trent was reacting to.

She would have slit her ward's throat, if that was what it took to take back those damning words. In fact, she would have shouted Harper's name herself if Dorian hadn't done so. It was probably better that it had been Dorian, rather than her. Even though Harper had glared at Dorian with a look that was equal parts wounded, offended, and "how dare you interrupt me!", it did shut him up.

But of course, it was too late. The flame had already been lit. Even if the other warriors had already wanted to speak darkly, Harper had opened the floodgates in making it acceptable. It just spiraled on, growing worse and worse, wave upon wave of snarky tones and comments, to the point where even the genuinely respectful introductions would be automatically misjudged.

To top it all off was Trent and his very, very, very annoying mannerisms. If this was any other situation, Ondine would have killed everyone right on the spot, starting with the general and ending with Harper, just so he could see what he had wrought. That damn boy!

Trent's retreating footsteps were not even out of earshot when Ondine moved. In two angry stomps she grabbed Harper by the shoulder, whirled him around, and backhanded him as hard as she could across the face. She didn't even wait for him to recover before slapping him again on the rebound, this time with even more intensity.

"You idiot!" she hissed into his face, voice so venomous she could taste the poison in her mouth. It took every ounce of restraint to keep herself from screaming and/or spitting at him. "I would ask if you didn't think before speaking, but I already know the bloody answer! Now the only question to ask is whether you think at all, but I'm certain the answer would still be the same!"

"What, I should have just let that guy treat us all like shit?!" Harper demanded loudly, eyes watering and voice quivering slightly from the pain, cheeks red and swelling. Small bubbles of blood dewed out from five trails her nails had blazed on his left cheek, stretching from his jawline to the bridge of his nose, the skin breaking across the softer flesh. A handprint was clearly visible on his right side, and a scratch running tangent to his lower eyelid was reddening.

Yet Ondine still felt like she hadn't hit him hard enough.

"Yes, that is exactly what you should have done!" Ondine snapped, her black eyes flashing against the stormy seas that were his. "You talked top shit about knowing how to play the game, but clearly that's all that was. Top bull shit."

"He called her a prostitute!" He shouted back, gesturing forcefully at Tallyho. "He didn't even listen to her!" His hand moved to point at Skylar. "He pretty much pretended you and everyone else without a Y chromosome didn't exist!"

"Words are only words if you don't react to them," Ondine argued icily, "Especially his words. If you knew anything about politics--"

"Don't even talk to me about politics!" Harper yelled, "You were a fucking pirate! No rules, nothing! I had to live that shit every day, every hour, every fucking second. Assholes like him were part of my life, and I fucking hated it!"

Ondine couldn't help herself. She lunged forward, grabbed him by his collar and dragged him away from the others before slamming him against the stone walls of an empty corner.

"I don't care whether you fucking hated it or if you fucking loved it," Ondine spat, voice as sharp as a knife and low, "This isn't about you or your bloody soap opera of a life, and it never has been. You're not the fucking main character, you're not the tragic hero, and you are not the victim."

"I never said--"

Ondine slapped him again.

"Would you--"

Slap.

"HEY--"

Slap.

Finally he shut up, left cheek smeared with blood and right so red it practically radiated heat.

"Now I want you to understand something," Ondine continued, her fury spiking her words, "I want you to realize exactly what your stupid words did. You know how important first impressions are? Well you've given us one hell of a bad one. And because of your oh so favorite politics, we are going to stay in bad favor, so that even if we do succeed with the flock, those who hold all of our fates will still doubt and suspect the worst. You have jeopardized all of our lives for a petty insult. You have made our journey a thousand times harder. You have ensured that from now on, all those who meet us will already have a sour taste in their mouth from rumors and hearsay of this event."

"It wasn't just me!" Harper blurted out indignantly.

The slap that followed was louder than all the others that preceded it.

"You were the instigator," Ondine finished bitterly, her own hand stinging. "Just as you always have been. And if after three years you still haven't realized that, then you are truly the stupidest man to have ever stumbled upon Aires."

"I AM NOT STUPID!" Harper roared, but any possible indication of a lunge or attack was quickly halted as Ondine slammed an elbow into his shoulder before kneeing him in the gut.

She left him as he crumpled to the ground, dress whipping as she made her way to Haru. She sat on the cot across him, arms crossed, as if she hadn't just assaulted her own warrior. She shut her eyes, and kept her mouth likewise. A plan. They needed a plan.

Back at the corner, Harper had pulled his legs in, face buried against his knees, muttering over and over, "I'm not stupid. I'm not stupid."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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Skylar was a little pissed. It wasn’t like she wasn’t used to being blatantly ignored, but she’d used her nice voice and everything to try and please Trent. She’d even batted her eyelashes and curtsied for Christ’s sake!
Unfortunately for all of them, Trent seemed set on his decision after Harper’s little outburst, walking away before any of them could say anything else to change his mind. Great.

Just as quickly as he’d left, Ondine was down Harper’s throat. Skylar wasn’t quite sure what to make of the situation, Ondine beating and reprimanding him like he was a little boy who’d snuck a cookie before dinner. It was like being at a friend's house and watching them get scolded for mouthing off, a weird sort of embarrassed feeling settling in the pit of her stomach as she ducked her head.

Her loyalties were torn at this point. Harper was her best friend, but his comment towards Trent may have singlehandedly ruined their chances at being taken seriously as the month warriors, even if they did wind up passing the test. Still, the bright red slashes across his face showed that Ondine seemed to have already done a pretty good job at letting Harper know how badly he’d screwed up.

With a short sigh, she walked over to the corner where Harper was sitting.
“I’m not going to bullshit you and say that what you did back there wasn’t the stupidest fucking thing you’ve done in the three years we’ve known each other,” Skylar said as she approached the older male, arms folded across her chest. “Although I’m pretty sure Ondine already let you know that. Hey, are you sure that she isn’t also part cat because she really clawed your face up.” She cracked a smile, trying to lighten the seriousness of situation.

She paused before sinking down beside him, not caring at this point if she ruined her dress. She wasn’t used to this whole advice giving sort of deal, finding herself at a loss for words. “Sorry I can’t heal you like Gwen or conjure up some ice like Lux, but I just wanted to make sure you were alright. And to say thanks for sticking up for us girls I guess.”

Even if doing that did almost cost us everything, she thought. Still, she was pretty sure the bright red handprint on his face showed that he already knew that much.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Jason Carter Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Kit Withers
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Tallyho wasn’t so positive how to feel about all of this. It all started with one comment from Harper and suddenly all of the other month warrior boys piled into the fray, taking jabs at the general in the most obvious of ways. All except Dorian, who had attempted to approach the situation with the same safe submission that Haru endorsed, and Falke, who probably felt just as dazed and confused and guilty as she did.

And she couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. Sure she hadn’t asked to be called out of name but the entire incident revolved around that very exchange. And as all of the warriors threw themselves into the pit of the situation, Tallyho found herself physically recoiling. She honestly wanted to walk away too, right through the fray and through the cell doors and into the nearest eatery. But like a child born of a struggling relationship, she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her wrists latched into each parent’s fist and yanked raw as she justly blamed herself for absolutely nothing.

And then it all ended with Trent calling them inbred and Harper in the corner wincing with his face red. As if Trent’s discounting the group wasn’t enough, it sucked to say but part of Tallyho really felt bad for Harper who was now in the corner wincing. She knew it wasn’t really her fault but at the same time she really felt like it was.

And her stomach dropped.

Usually she couldn’t give the right side of a rat’s ass about Harper’s feelings and she still assumed the sentiment was likewise on his part, but today she was surprised not only that he actually acknowledged her existence but that, at the very least, he didn’t think she was a prostitute. Which was comforting for the moment but certainly not enough to erase a long history consisting of every ignored statement, thoughtless shoulder shove, stomped toe, or any other general lack of acknowledgement of Tallyho by Harper. But to see him there reacting to being called out on his bull, well in this particular instance, it wasn’t as pleasurable as Tallyho had imagined it would be.

And then there was Haru…

Haru was pretty much done with it all. As Ondine wailed on Harper in a way she had once wailed on him a lifetime ago, Haru tried time and time again to figure something out. And every time he came up short. And every time he failed he confirmed that having that conversation with Trent would have made planning for the flock so much easier. But who says they were even going to make it to the flock. Who—

“…Hey, are you sure that she isn’t also part cat because she really clawed your face up.”

Was that a joke? Was that a fucking joke?! No. No he was not offended that someone just pretty much compared his ex-girlfriend to his fucking spirit animal. He didn’t care about that. No, he was pissed by the principle of the thing. The fact that someone was making light of a mistake like this. He looked up, from his hands, peering through with hard eyes to find the comedian. And lo and behold it was Skylar smiling and attempting to comfort Harper. And he didn’t have a damned thing against friendship, and he had nothing against the girl personally, and maybe he was just testy—actually yes he was very, very testy—but that fucking pushed him off the edge.

Haru’s cot shuddered violently as he literally vaulted himself off of his butt and onto his feet, so abruptly that the mattress clung to him on his way up, hopping once on the springboard with a loud clang before staying put, the force in his movement ringing through the metal frame.
And then he was standing again, face cold, fists clenched and hot. His jaw skewed to the side casually as he drug his top teeth across his bottom lip grating flesh, not thinking twice about blood.

“You fucking idiots!”

And oh he meant every word of it. And it was meant for all of them. Every. Last. One. Of them. Because even if some didn’t have a direct hand in this episode, each one of them were bound to have had a hand in another. Because that’s just the way it was. This job was never easy.

“You fucking, fucking idiots. You fuckers! Do you really know what just happened? Do you really? Why in the world do you think I stopped you every chance I got to give you a warning I really shouldn’t have had to repeat more than once? ‘Don’t be stupid,’ that is absolutely ALL you had to do for me. I didn’t tell you to kiss these people’s feet. I didn’t even tell you that you had to LIKE any of these people. Yet every time I ask you to act civilized, every time I try to teach you people how to be a bigger person, you still find something to gripe with. You still feel like you have to break the rules somehow because you’re big kids, you can take care of yourselves, and never mind the fact that your asses would be dead in a ditch somewhere without any form of guidance. But alas, you can’t even color within the fucking lines! Do you think we actually like telling you people what to do? Because I don’t know about the rest of these poor shmucks but I don’t! In fact, every morning when I wake up, if I ever even sleep, I dread the sight of your smug little faces because they are constant reminders of the fact that I’m not dead yet and that my ass is stuck on this forsaken planet and bound into immortality until you get a grip and do your jobs! At least if we get hung your mortal souls are off the hook! But hey! The guardians are no better. Some of us,” Haru’s gaze whipped to Kit who readily contributed his own sly remark towards Trent, “absolutely LOVE to complain about our guardianship and bitch and moan over how the warriors aren’t getting this shit right when they don’t even have the decency and restraint to do their jobs and be an example. But you know, whatever! Who cares if we completely sabotage our chances of getting the support we need, huh? Make the job harder it’s okay! Haru will fix it! There’s no fight because we can joke and smile about it right? It’s all okay because all of these boneheaded mistakes are made out of the pure goodness of our itty, bitty, witty little hearts!”

He looked dead at Skylar, too flustered to really feel bad about calling her out.

“Make another joke, huh? Please!”


“HEY SHUT UP!”

It was a voice from the other side of the room. One of the POW’s from Hales in fact. He was hunched over in his cot, shamelessly claiming the outcry as his own.

“Shut up little man or I’ll give you something to really complain about!”

Haru stood there in silence. But oh, it wasn’t a silence of utter stupor or embarrassment it was an eerie silence. A frightening silence. And Haru was quite frightening with his head cocked so slightly to the side, his eyes so wide that his forehead wrinkled.

And in a brief moment he was off. Dashing all the way to the other side of the room. He was actually running to the other side of the room, bunks he ran into shuffling about his shins. Men in his path parted like the red sea, beholding to some wrathful Moses. And the soldier who yelled at Haru did not move. In fact as the guardian ran towards him he stood up as fast as he could and lunged forward.

With one more row of cots between Haru and the veteran the cat guardian, in the midst of his run, planted a firm foot onto the mattress, vaulting over the headboard and plummeting into the larger man. And as graceful and clean as one might have wished this scene to be, it was quite the opposite, the image littered with small imperfections: the cot slid slightly when Haru pivoted forward. As the man fell to Haru’s mass he landed shoulder first on another man’s cot, smashing the poor guy’s finger.

Tallyho shifted back onto her headboard. She had never seen Haru actually fight, fight. She was confident that he could but she never…

Haru straddled the man, as he punched. The thud of fist to cheek drowned out by the howls of the other soldiers, many of which who were egging it on, making a dense circle around the fray blocking the warriors’ view. A few other POW’s however, probably from the same nation as the one assaulted, made it their business to jump into the event, pulling at Haru’s jacket as he went.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Kit Withers Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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It was like a morbid game of follow the leader, Dorian thought numbly as he stared on at his teammates with a muted sort of horror. It was as if he'd never spoken up to verbally halt Harper's sneering insults because the moment after Harper shot Dorian a withering, almost pouting glare, the next person was already off on their own thinly veiled insult. It was, he thought with mounting terror intertwined with a rush of anger, as if they thought they were being so clever, so sneaky that the man before them wouldn't be able to pick out their snide tones and not so brilliant insults. They thought they were immune to any repercussions and, yes, he deserved them- he deserved a whole lot worse- but here was a man who held a distinct power over them, vital information stored in his mind that they needed. Only a select few (Bless Skylar and even Xabier's attempts at keeping themselves out of the fray) followed his own example, the others following Harper in various stages of insult like lemmings jumping off a cliff one by one.

They want to die, Dorian decided, as Jason sidled forward with a mockingly respectful tone, as Kit, who was supposed to be protecting them, added his own two cents followed by Autumn with venom dripping form her words and Kyle and his saccharinely sweet but obviously (at least to Dorian) fake respect. They want all of us to die. They were willing to put their lives in danger because someone had insulted their friends and, yes, the words had been clearly awful, but words were words. They hurt, of course they did, when they were flung at you, but they weren't worth risking everything you've worked for over.

And then General Cress was gone with nothing but a smirk, stinging pride, and unanswered questions desperate for survival in his wake. They'd blown it, and he really could say they because they were a team and whatever happened to one of them impacted them all, and now their smarmy and smug but only resource was gone with a swagger in his step and maniacal giggles echoing as he made his exit.

In that moment, Dorian hated them, ever last person who'd deigned to try to be smug and clever in the face of a pompous jackass. He hated all of them because they hadn't kept their damn mouths shut. This was bigger than hurt feelings and horrible men with too much who took pleasure in picking at his prisoners. This was the fate of Aires, of Earth, of all of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. If they died here and now, facing down a herd of Cyclopeans and a monstrous one larger than they'd ever seen, they'd damned everyone. Every last person. But hate he could deal with, could compartmentalize and shove deep, deep inside the depths of his mind so that he could function and survive and interact with these people. He'd save it for a wild storm where the wind would be his outlet or, in the case of certain traumas that kept him up at night, woke him with a scream caught in his throat and sweat drenching his skin, he saved it for the therapist he knew he was going to need when he returned to New York. Wrong.

Haru was staggering away, desperation and loss clear on his features as if he'd been dealt a deadly blow and was waiting to bleed out, to die. He was in shock, barely making it to his cot before he crumpled onto the thin mattress, doubling over in grief. There were no words Dorian could offer, no hopeful bits of information, because he'd done all he could for Haru moments ago when he'd followed his example with aching politeness despite the fury that had bubbled up within himself with each insult dealt.

His gaze -sympathetic and more than a little bit fearful because if Haru didn't know what to do, if he thought this was bad, then they were all fucked- was drawn from the mournful Guardian by the loud, echoing sound of flesh meeting flesh. He whirled just in time to see Ondine launch herself at Harper leaving him with a throbbing, glowing red cheek and nail marks cutting into the flesh of his face on both sides. They were shouting at each other and it was so, so stupid because the damage had already been done and here they were arguing about what had just happened. And then she was beating him again, another slap so loud that Dorian flinched where he stood. Harper was right, he knew, loathe as he was to admit it- she shouldn't be taking this out on him because of course Harper had been a stupid, selfish bastard when he'd broken the unspoken promise to Haru that they wouldn't mess this up for everyone, he hadn't been the only one. The fight finished with a flurry of movement leaving Harper crumpled on the floor, his repeated words near hysterical as Ondine sauntered away as if nothing had happened. Nothing at all. Wrong.

He didn't know what to do after that display of aggressive violence, didn't know if he should be horrified or offended or perhaps even traumatized. And then came Skylar, walking over to Harper like nothing had happened, her tone blasé and a tiny attempt at a smile on her face. Wrong.

And then Haru exploded.

Dorian wasn't sure if he was awestruck or terrified, but the moment Haru's rant began, he was frozen to his spot, staring at Haru with impossibly wide eyes. Haru had never yelled at them before, hadn't sworn at them even all those years ago when they still tended to burst into hysterics at the drop of a hat. Logically, Dorian should have known that Haru had felt that way, had felt as used and abused by a thankless group whose assistance in his work was basically limited to trying not to mess up. But hearing it flung back at them, words piercing and full of righteous fury, Dorian's didn't feel defensive or understanding- he felt like he might cry. Like he was a child again and a trusted authority figure (his Aunt, his teacher, possibly his mother if he could bring himself to remember her) had turned on him, had emptied the darkest depths of their hearts with words aimed to hurt, to sting, to wound in a deep, deep way.

“Shut up little man or I’ll give you something to really complain about!”

Everything froze, an icy chill settling over the room's inhabitants. It was, Dorian knew instinctually, the eye of the storm that they'd fallen into, hit once by Haru's words, now to be bombarded by whatever happened next. In that moment, frozen and contemplative, Haru looked terrifying.

Haru didn't disappoint, darting across the room to meet his opponent midway in the beginning of a magnificent brawl as a thick circle surrounded him, swallowing the Guardian and his opponent in a sea of cheering and crowing ex-soldiers, eager for blood to be spilled.

"Shit. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit," That chant of swears was the only warning Dorian had before a splash of gold flashed by his eyes. It was Ryou who'd been frozen during the onslaught of anger and hate, now running hot on Haru's heels and launching himself into the fray the moment the first soldier's friends or allies or fellow cellmates just looking for a fight joined in. It wasn't anger that fueled him, but concern and fear and panic like he knew that Haru would be fine if left alone, but he didn't want it to come to that, couldn't let him do this by himself. It was unnerving, really, to see Ryou and Haru fight or to watch the swarming mass of humanity around them and knowing that Haru and Ryou were buried beneath actually throwing punches and kicks and putting their finely honed skills to work. This was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Ondine heard the scraping of the bed frame, the flurry of movement, the whump of the mattress, and her eyes stayed shut as Haru screamed at the others.

Well, she supposed she was included as well.

She bit her cheek when Haru's rage turned to the guardians, speaking of their curse. Although, the first time around, Ondine had seen it as a gift. Death was the only thing that had terrified her, and she had done everything in her mortal life to delay it. When she had been brought back, she had relished in her "second chance", for selfish reasons, which had ultimately fed their failure.

It was only when she was trapped in her limestone prison that she'd realized there was a fate worse than death.

A shout from the other side of the room finally caused Ondine to open her eyes. They flicked up to Haru, and she couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia during the tense, dark silence that was oh so familiar.

Shit hit the fan. And after Ryou joined in, Ondine felt she had no choice. And with the blood still pulsing through her, fury still strong and blazing within her, even after dealing with Harper, she really wasn't complaining as she briskly made her way over, pulling off her dress en route. Now clad in only her underclothes, she whipped the fabric around the head of a much taller ex-soldier, twisting it behind him and yanking down as she leapt up and somersaulted over him, feet kicking down on his chest and forcing him to the ground, creating an opening with which she could dive into the maelstrom of fists and hulking men.



The words hit him like a hurricane, raining down and whirling around in his head. Yet, despite the volume, the tone, the crazed fury and disappointment cracking from Haru's voice as he ranted and raved, Harper could only focus on one word in particular.

stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid

Ad nauseum.

It wasn't like he didn't know that what he said was wrong. He wasn't stupid! Not like they thought! He knew he shouldn't have said it. Knowing something was wrong had never stopped him before, and it certainly didn't stop him then.

But of course, he hadn't been thinking. Didn't fully realize the consequences...no, that was also wrong. He wasn't stupid like Harper knew the implications. Knew what could happen. He had just ignored them. Willingly forgot they existed. Decided they didn't matter. He did what he did and what happened happened.

Yet, as Ondine and Haru had so eloquently revealed, it wasn't just about him. Had never been. He hadn't spoken just for himself. He had spoken for the entire group...had willfully said something he knew he shouldn't have...for the entire group.

And finally it hit him. The extent of what he had done. The full scope of it. Yes, he wasn't the only one, but he'd triggered it. And now, because of him, everyone was going to be effected. Would they be killed? Tortured? Hanged? Or devoured during the Flock, which they knew nothing about? Even if they survived, how much harder had he just made the ordeal for everyone? What were they going to do? What were they going to do?!

There was too much to think about, too much to take in...it was all so overwhelming...he was never good at analyzing things. Planning, .Overthinking was not his style. It only gave him headaches.

Stupid. He really was stupid.

He found himself slipping, and fast. Back down to that dark corridor, that oily pool. And in that instant he desperately wanted out. Wanted to just stop. To quit. Throw his cards on the table and walk out. He had fucked up. More than he'd ever fucked up before. It was all going to be downhill from now on, and he wanted no part of it. Why wait to suffer when he could just end it now?

He stood up abruptly, moving hastily to his bed and ducking down as he reached for his trident underneath. Anyone paying attention to him would have no reason to believe that he had any other motive besides joining in on the fight. Yet as he wrapped his fingers around the polished metal, he had another gut-sinking epiphany. Or rather, a reminder, that this act as well wouldn't just affect him. They still needed all 12 of them after all. Anything less was an immediate game over. Much as he had spoken for them, he realized that he had to live for them too.

Three years of denial, rejection, and willful ignorance came crashing down on him in that moment, and for the first time felt it...the weight of his responsibility, his duty, his job.

He released the trident, falling back on his backside. He even kicked the weapon away from him. He didn't want it. Didn't want this. He'd never wanted it! Never wanted any of this! He started pulling off his jacket, his shoes, his shirt, even his pants, flinging the articles of clothing as far away from him as possible. Left in just his undergarments, his fingers scrabbled to his necklace. He tried to untie just the metal band, but in his frustration yanked the entire thing off, breaking the cord. He tore the small trinket, threw the necklace onto the ground and flew to his feet. Without a moment's hesitation he pitched the pearl ring as far as he could across the room, where it was lost amid the chaos.

He collapsed onto his bed, breathing hard, cheeks stinging with renewed bite from how hard he had been gritting his teeth. He felt like a toddler, throwing a temper tantrum. He knew it was stupid, knew it was useless, that stripping and throwing away his birthstone wasn't going to change anything.

He had no choice in the matter. No say. Nothing at all. He was damned if he did, damned if he didn't. For once, he couldn't weasel himself out of it. Couldn't run away, like he'd done his entire life. The consequences of his actions were here, leering in his face, tangled and looming and unreadable.

I never asked for this! he wanted to scream at the Goddess, or whoever the powers at be were. I never wanted this! Why can't I just keep being useless and worthless?! Why do I have to be a part of this!?

But the answer was clear. What he wanted didn't matter. And it would never matter. In fact, it dawned on him that what he wanted had never mattered. Ever.

Because regardless of what he had done, whether he had found that ring in the pool or not, run away or stayed, chosen the pills instead of water, he knew that he still would have ended up here. No matter what he changed, the end result stayed constant.

He knew this. And it broke him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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"You guys okay?" He asked Tallyho and Falke quietly.
"Forget what that guy said, he knows nothing." His accent grew stronger with his disgust.
Xabier had wanted it say something further when Haru started ranting and raving.
His words harsh and biting.
Apparently they were only fuck ups with no brains.
That hurt.
"Shut up little man or I'll give you something to complain about."
A POW from Hales called Haru out and it was if the world froze.
Within moments it was full scale brawl between the POWs and the angry Guardians.
Their skills were terrifying to say the least. Haru alone looked like he'd destroy them all with ease, let alone the others.
Why? Why did it have to turn out like this?

From the corner of his eye he noticed more movement. This time it was Harper.
Harper had become a tornado, flinging his arms about destructively.

"Harper?" He held his hands up in defense.
Xabier walked cautiously over to the crib. The older lad had stripped down and flung everything he had on across the room. Now Xabier wouldn't mind this usually but this was hardly the time and place.
Scooting around the rush of people fighting, he picked up the clothes, still slightly warm.
"Qué haces ahora Harper?" He muttered.
He was aware that he shouldn't speak any Spanish for fear of having someone overhear, thus further dooming their team.
But he was furious and little reminders of home kept him focused.
Xabier tried his best to ignore the full on brawl. He wanted to yell and punch something, but didn't. There was enough anger in the Guardians to fill his appetite for a while. That, and he had his heart set on harnessing whatever he felt in this moment and letting his Iluntasuna have it. They seemed to thrive on anger. All the better for possible revenge.

Xabier went past Skylar.
"Don't worry about the joke, it was funny. Everyone is a bit on edge, yes?" No smile. He couldn't.
He hadn't laughed at the joke, but he didn't want her to feel bad. There was enough bad feeling in this godforsaken place.
Xabier turned to the half naked guy.
He was curled up and emotional.
"Harper, you're not stupid." He crouched down by the crib, clothes in one hand.
"What you did was reckless but I think you already get that."
Xabier had wanted to say something softer, more gentle, but stopped.
Was it okay to comfort him? Would he just make a bigger mess?
Scrunched up face like a crying child, his necklace gone, Harper looked a mess.
Screw it, he thought. It wasn't the time to worry about what the others may think.
He leaned over and touched his hair gently.
"Now can you please put your clothes back on."
God, he never thought he'd ever say that.
Removing his hand from the hair, he patted his shoulder in a friendly, you're-my-bro way.
He was worried about Harper but didn't say any more. His face showed it all.

He appraised the slapped, red cheek. It was bleeding a little and really did look a cat had swiped at him.

Whatever annoyance at Harper had disappeared the moment Ondine had slapped him.
She made his blood boil.
It was clear that if the roles were reversed with Ondine being smacked about by Harper, all hell would break lose.
Instead they all watched in silence.
Maybe this type of punishment was okay here, but Xabier couldn't stand it.
They already had to put up with a bully. One slap was justified.
Shit, even he wanted to punch him at one stage.
But the amount of slaps by Ondine was excessive.

He also felt a sense of shame at Haru's words. Xabier had tried his best, given the circumstances.
It became increasingly clear that these Guardians were not who he thought they were.
Who he had waited for, for over three fucking years.
No.
If his guardian was a person who'd beat him or make him feel like shit for a mistake, then maybe he didn't need a guardian.

Sure, he respected the Guardians. He knew that they worked hard for the group.
But it had become difficult to admire them the way he had before.


*what are you doing now, Harper?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Their world was collapsing again, this second time worse than the first. Their fearless leader Haru, proved that being immortal doesn't change that he is still human and afraid. Afraid to fail, afraid to lose. He put everything he had into trying to help them, protect them, warn them, and they didn't listen. They didn't see it! Dumb kids!

Unfortunately, throwing himself into a fight showed that he was giving up. They saw what happened to the last men who got into a fight, and any minute now Haru, Ryou, and Ondine would face that same fate. She wanted to break it up, but she didn't know if the guards would take her away too. These dumb kids were the only reason any of the guardians were alive right now, and they couldn't afford to lose more of their number. She hated to admit it, because Haru and Ryou were her friends, but they were expendable. Those left had to stay back and watch their friends disappear. They needed to make sure the kids stayed alive long enough to do what they have to do. These dumb kids were the only reason for anything.

And someone needed to stand up and lead.

Stone was a cold, hard, unforgiving surface. The small seafaring woman felt it through her entire being as she pressed her feet to the stone floor. Her body trembled.

Her own dumb kid had something to do with this mess right now. Was she really the right one? She bit her lip and froze. Then her hazel eyes hardened like the stone. He had no one to blame but himself. As soon as she could think of something suitable, she would deal with him. She looked around. The fistfight continued unabated while those dumb kids, and their guardians not involved moped. Yes, they should feel the weight of the situation, but moping about it won't change a damned thing.

She finally stood up and paced the line of them. "Yes, you messed up. General Cress most likely has the ears of the king, so he'll hear about this fiasco, which DOES damage our position whether you want to believe it or not," she hissed and glared at Xabier who treated this incident like a game and brushed off absolutely everything both Haru and even Ondine said. Nikita didn't approve of at least the punching and kicking of that dumb kid, but the June Guardian did make good points.

Kyle wasn't listening. He heard enough from Haru and Ondine. Right now he sat on the floor and stared at the madness on the other side of the room. He knew he did a lot of stupid things, but this one was the stupidest yet. He didn't even like Harper, but jumped in anyway. Haru warned them multiple times, Nikita warned him, even Dorian warned them. He warned Harper. Harper as usual was deaf to all warnings and stupid Kyle played into it as well. For such a long time he tried to be the 'good' kid, and even though he still had his stupid moments, he didn't think he ever went 'bad.' What the hell was he thinking?! He pressed his hands against his face. He didn't deserve to be the April month Warrior. He didn't deserve this. Haru, and Nikita and all the guardians didn't deserve this. His friends didn't deserve this. His family didn't deserve this. He didn't deserve them, any one of them.

Just as expected, the guards rushed in to clear out the fighters, interrupting both Kyle's pity party and Nikita trying to get these kids to get their acts together. Nikita was relieved to see only one of her friends carried away, but Haru refused to look at them. She cringed and trembled. Did these dumb kids wipe out all his passion and strength? She didn't want to imagine that. She couldn't. Other things she couldn't and didn't want to imagine sprung to life in her mind. Closing her eyes, she silently prayed that none came to pass.

She took a deep breath to get herself together. She didn't have the time to mope either. Opening her eyes, she finally said, "Yes, you messed up, but whining and moping about it is a waste of time. We don't know when we have to go to this battle, and we don't know where we'll be standing when that time comes. So instead of moping around we need to focus our energy on what we CAN do." She didn't yell at them, but she did lay down the facts as much as she could. "We know this group of attacking cyclopeans is bigger than what Ve Marie has seen before, and we also know that one of these cyclopean is bigger than what you may have seen before. What can you do about that situation?" Then she turned away from the group and ordered Kyle to move his stuff next to Harper's bed. Since he jumped in with Harper's stupid behavior right after she warned him AND Dorian warned them, he had to wait on Harper for the rest of their captivity.

Kyle didn't protest, but he did squirm. Now he had no bloody choice but to babysit Harper AND think about what they were supposed to do about their lack of information regarding the flock. After Harper gave the entire bloody prison cell a strip show, he needed to bring all his stuff over next to the idiot and help him get dressed again, seriously?

He also glared at stupid Xabier, who was still hanging around telling widdle baby Harper that everything was okay. "Go away," he barked to the Spanish boy, who he thought was his friend. His friend wouldn't be so cozy with someone he hated.

Kyle sighed and swallowed as Skylar moved away. During his stupid show, Harper completely ignored Skylar who also thought the idiot could be trusted. The blond knew right away that the jerk was no good and would hurt her, but he let her go. He let her get hurt. That just gave him another reason to hate himself.

Finally away from Harper he moved to Skylar's side. It was too late to apologize to Haru, but he could do something about her situation. "I... I... I'm sorry."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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For, quite possibly, the first time in his life, Harper was at an absolute loss.

He didn't know what to do. What to say. What to think.

His normal had come crashing down on him, and he was trapped.

Everything sounded louder, looked bigger, felt worse and more uncomfortable.

Small. He felt small.

He had been staring blankly at the floor, tears pricking, shoulders slumped, when he heard Xabi's voice ring through the cacophony.

"Harper, you're not stupid."

The words would have been more comforting if they weren't followed up with, "What you did was reckless but I think you already get that."

How many times were people gonna rub this shit into his face? Remind him that he had, indeed, fucked everything up? First Ondine, Skylar, Haru...now Xabi too?

He wanted to yell at him, to lash out, but as he tensed up in anticipation he felt soft and gentle fingers touch his hair. Such a
small gesture, but he melted immediately.

He swallowed, a lump in his throat, eyes stinging. How could he even think of shouting at him?

Wordlessly, he took his clothes from Xabi, sniffling as tears rolled one by one down his cheeks, which still buzzed from heat and pain. He winced as he pulled his shirt back on, the fabric brushing against the cuts, red dotting the collar. He could feel the younger boy's eyes on his face, no doubt inspecting the damage. Ever the doctor.

He opted to keep his jacket off, folding it across his lap. His hands rested on the fabric, fingers tugging at any loose threads anxiously. He'd kept his vest on in a half-hearted attempt to look a bit more presentable, even if he didn't feel presentable in the slightest.

Again he stared at the floor, eyes finding the discarded necklace, black cord fraying on both of its broken ends, shark tooth curiously speckled with red. He glanced at his hands and was surprised to find his right palm had been cut, a thin slice dicing through the middle.

Had everything decided to go against him?

To make matters worse, Nikita started talking, reprimanding them yet again. Seriously. How many times were they going to fucking beat the dead horse?

Her voice suddenly sounded closer, more sinister, and when he looked up he was surprised to find her venomous tone directed at Xabi.

He felt his face heat up, this time from anger. Why? Why was she mad at him? Xabi hadn't even done anything! Was he not allowed to comfort others, especially his own boyfriend? (even if no one knew they were a couple?)

He opened his mouth to snap back at her, but was startled to find he had nothing to say.

With Nikita silent, the fighting across the room took precedence again, growing louder and louder in volume, threatening to swamp him. Just when he thought he wouldn't be able to take it anymore a loud voice boomed, "BACK TO YOUR COTS! GET BACK OR NO MEALS."

He flicked his eyes up in time to see Haru being led out, the brawl dissolved. Ondine, her white petticoat stained with grime and blood, hair in disarray, stood with wide eyes and a heaving chest, glaring at the guards as if she were angry at them for disrupting the fight.

When he saw her eyes slide to him he looked down again.

Away.

He wanted to get away.

He wanted to dive into the ocean, swim 1,000 leagues in the opposite direction and then sink to the bottom, just to find some peace of mind. Just so he could scream and cry without consequence, break down into a million pieces so that he could put himself back together again and bounce back like nothing had happened. Like he had always done.

He would even have settled for a private room, a rooftop, even a fucking bathroom. Just somewhere quiet, where he could be alone, away from all his problems.

What he would give for ten minutes of solitary and silence!

Nikita resumed talking, trying to get them to focus again, but her voice and her words melded with conversations across the room into a monotonous drone in his mind.

He moved to wipe his eyes, but something caught his hand. Blinking, he looked down to see his index finger rapidly turning purple. One of the threads he had tugged at from his jacket had somehow gotten twisted and wrapped so tightly around his digit that the skin was bulging out between the thin string.

As he unraveled the golden twine from his finger, he noticed the rest of the destruction he had unknowingly wrought upon the article of clothing. More threads had been loosed, a large tangle of knots where there had once been embroidery. The cuffs had been distressed to the point where no amount of ironing would be able to rid all the wrinkles. Only one button remained intact, the others pooling in the middle of the folded fabric.

He bit his lip and realized just how fast he had been breathing. His vision blurred and he felt the tears drop faster. When he tried to wipe them away, his finger shook and trembled against his lids. He didn't want anyone to see him like this, but, as he had realized today, nobody really cared what he wanted anyways.

Close. He was so close to losing it. The jacket twisted in his grasp, wringing and stretching, nearing breaking point. He could feel his heart race, his shoulders bounce, his hands balling into tight, tight fists, arms wanting to rip apart.

He'd never been good at repressing his emotions. He only wished Xabi wasn't so close...he didn't want him to get hurt.

Yet, just when he was about to explode, something pushed its way into his view. A block of wood, it looked like. No, two. Rounded on one side. Already sanded. He blinked, jolted. Once. Twice.

With shaky fingers he plucked the blocks from the brown callused hands that offered them. A knife followed afterwards, the hilt familiar, blade curved slightly and clearly suited more for slicing the throats of mutineers than wood chipping.

But Harper couldn't care less. This was something he could do. This was something he knew. A distraction. A pacifier. An apology. The shadow of his guardian left, soft footsteps retreating as he sniffed and wiped his eyes for the umpteenth time. He rolled his shoulders back, red eyes blinking as he inhaled and exhaled, breath still shaky but nowhere near his previous hyperventilaiton.

Swallowing thickly, he brandished the knife against the first block. Eyebrows furrowed in concentration, the rest of the world drowned out as the first sliver of wood curled against the downward moving blade.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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The past two weeks had gone by ten times longer than the 2 months on the ship. Or at least, it felt like that. As gregarious as he was, Harper still had a need for privacy and personal space. With nowhere to escape to, especially in a moment of turmoiled emotions, life in the prison cell had been as hellish as he'd imagined it would be.

Only a heightened elevation could have made it worse.

Given the inability to literally run away from his problems, Harper had trouble bouncing back. What would normally have only taken a 2 hour swim to recover from was now spread across days of bathroom breaks, where he wold relieve himself physically, mentally and emotionally. Many a guard had looked at him suspiciously when he emerged with red, watery eyes and ragged breath.

When he wasn't spending an unnecessarily long time in the washroom, Harper was carving. Even though the soles of Ondine's boots weren't very large, he spent the entire two weeks working them, carving and refining, over and over. Even though Ondine still hadn't apologized formally, Harper was over the slapping incident. It had hurt, and wounded his pride among other things, but Harper didn't like holding grudges.

Still, that didn't mean he forgave. Something like that seemed too....he didn't know how to put it, but it didn't seem to suit him.
He just didn't feel any vengeance or anger towards her. Or even resentment...at least not more than usual. He just...let it go. Didn't worry about it. Moved on. Went back to their usual dynamic.

He just didn't forgive. And he doubted he would forget either.

The same deal with his father, of course.

Besides, Ondine didn't seem to expect any more from him.

As quiet as he was, Harper did not think about the situation at hand, or plan for the future battle. It would take more than a few
slaps to the face to change the way he thought, assuming it was even possible. Instead, Harper thought of nothing. Clearing his mind was his goal, and there was not a thing anyone could do to interfere with that. Even Ondine seemed to grasp that.

In fact, his guardian had hardly talked to him since that first day.

Not that he cared.

He finally bounced back mentally around the tenth day, but continued carving, although he did so with a smile and whistled to himself. However, he did talk more, whether it was to Xabier or Dorian. He tried to talk to Skylar, but sensed tension. It took him a while to figure out how he had wronged her, but when he finally connected the dots he nearly face-palmed himself.

It was also around this time that he'd sheepishly gone looking for his ring. After sweeping the entire cell on his hands and knees,
Ondine tipped him off to Dorian, who he approached to retrieve the jewelry, muttering a small "thanks" during the exchange. He slung it back onto the broken black cord, retying it around his neck with Ondine's help, who had tied it in such a way that he doubted he'd ever be able to take it off without a blade.

Over the next few days he finally finished. He'd made a small windmill, complete with movable turbines and a small waterwheel. He had decided to give it to Skylar the next morning, as an apology of sorts.

He woke up to a kick in the back from Kyle (why he was placed next to him he'd never know...) which almost landed him on the floor. "Ah yes, just what I needed," he yawned sarcastically as he sat up, glaring at Kyle, "Nothing like a good ol' spinal break to kickstart the morning."

His sarcasm only increased as they went over the game plan...if you could even call it that. He was in the right state of mind to stay quiet and not voice his thoughts, but he couldn't keep himself from rolling his eyes at everyone's comments, especially Kyle's. Team? Working together? Yeah right. Eat your own words, blondie. It wasn't like Harper went around kicking Kyle off the bed, or anyone else for that matter. Sheezus.

He stayed sullenly cynical as they were escorted out, shooting off snark after snark in his mind as he was dressed in the leather armor--like that would provide much protection against obsidian blades--and subsequently realized for the umpteenth time that he hadn't brought his saltwater skin with him. Some fight this would be. He briefly wondered if perhaps he should just linger in the back and let all the others take care of the fighting. Sure, this was all about teamwork, but wasn't keeping himself from being killed aiding the team? Didn't that count?

His thoughts were only reiterated when Ondine took him by the shoulders as they were led out and ordered, "Do not get yourself killed out there."

"Wasn't planning on it," he told her as he was pulled away, and he waved at her as he crossed the bridge, shouting, "Although you have to admit, death by monster is one hell of a way to go!"

Yet, for all his sarcasm and lack of seriousness, it was only on the surface. His legs shook as he waited, staying near the back of the group, trident heavy and slippery in his hands. Water...he had no water. At least Kyle could use rain. And there was that moat behind them...fuck, everyone could use their power except him. He would be forced to use his weapon, something that was painfully close range...shit. Shit shit shit shit shit.

Haru's shouting didn't help matters in the slightest.

And as a rumbling vibrated throughout the earth, Harper felt his stomach drop, and fear began to take over. Regrets filled his mind. He should have given Skylar the windmill straight up this morning, instead of pocketing it and saving it for later. He should have talked to Dorian more, asked him more questions about Sadie. Should have tripped Kyle at least once, just to see how he liked it. Should have kissed Xabi one last time. Should have told Ondine he was scared. Should have decided to bring his fucking his pouch of seawater. Even a gallon of it would be more helpful than nothing.

Should have. Should have.

Well, it was too late for those.

He swallowed dryly, trying to focus. But even when Haru shouted the affirmative, and Tallyho took off like a streak of lightning, screaming and flashing, Harper froze in place.

Above him he could barely hear Ondine's voice, travelling down the wall, shouting with every ounce of her might, "SOMEONE BRING ME SOME DAMNED SEAWATER! NOW!!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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She was right about one thing, the guardians would be separated from their warriors for the actual test, but they still weren't far away. They could watch over the kids from above. This pleased Haru. He was practically giddy as he looked around and called orders, and Nikita grinned. Apparently, he hadn't given up like she thought. He just needed a break. She had no way to judge him for that, as of the guardians, she had been with these children the shortest time.

After he left, she had seen changes in them. Most she considered good, so she didn't blame him. Not that she would anyway. Sometimes she was actually proud of these kids, like when they offered suggestions this morning. She did wonder what would happen next, though. Twelve children against an army of cyclopean was definitely not a fair fight. Her grin faded as she thought of it, but like she had been the whole time she kept her fears from showing on her face or posture. She nodded to Haru's orders regarding them, but after assessing where the pulley for the platform was, she stayed close to the cannon. She wanted to be the one to use it when the time comes.

From her vantage point, she noted Harper freeze and heard Ondine shouting. She frowned but turned to the guardian. "The only access to sea water is the port. It's completely impractical to expect anyone up here to have any. He just needs to trust his weapon and his team, and so do we. Look, Autumn's already trying to help." She spoke gently and moved to bring the other woman over to show her.

Kyle grumbled after the guards practically pushed them over the edge of the drawbridge and left them, but he kept his mouth shut until Haru ordered them to move. He gave a whoop, way too excited to fight monsters, but he had waited a long time to actually fight. Trent's despicable treatment of the group, two weeks of taunts that he couldn't defend himself against, anger with Harper and Xabier's behavior. All that came to a head right here, right now. The guards basically threw them to the dogs and hid away in their fortress.

He growled and pulled a wave over the closest cyclopeans, bowling them over and drowning them. He only had limited arrows, so he would save them for when he knew he could get a clear target. He also did his best not to lose any of that water, by pulling it back into those spheres he used for the puddle in the cell. He didn't want the moat to go dry before they were done here. There remained the river, but he wasn't sure how close it flowed past their present position. The water bombs went right back into the fray to throw any surviving beasts into another warrior's attack or against a sharp rock or tree to finish the job. The power in his hands made him giddy, but he knew he couldn't keep it up forever.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Ondine immediately jerked away from the April Guardian. "Do not touch or patronize me, Nikita," she hissed, fingers curling into a fist, "I will hear no words from you either, especially considering how your ward has plenty of his own element. In fact, out of everyone, Harper is the only one without access to his element. Even December can freeze her water."

She looked back down at the fighting. The June warrior was finally moving, but of course in the opposite direction of the swarm. Any cyclopean he did kill were purely out of chance and entirely unintentional.

It was cruel. Ondine knew that Harper was easily the most gifted in the elemental department and was absolutely hopeless with his weapon, preferring to shine it rather than use it.

But of course they would take the one thing he was good at. Of course.

Ondine had half a mind to lower the platform for him, but she had a feeling he wouldn't take it...the wall was easily many times too high for him, and she didn't want to risk a panic attaack.

She couldn't help him. Couldn't extract him. Nothing. She had nothing.


It seemed to happen in an instant. In between him dodging and dashing away, only barely registering Autumn's instructions.

He had half a mind to just dive into the moat and take his chances there--even if his chances had a high probability of Kyle drowning him--when it happened.

He suddenly felt dry.

No sweat. Literally.

It took him a couple more seconds to realize that the beads of sweat were hovering around him, like small stars...quivering droplets suspended in midair...so small he almost missed it. He was only able to really comprehend this for a second before something big and black barelled into him, scrabbling at his leather armor, scratching his face, slicing his arms, flinging the trident out of reach.

Or so he thought.

After what felt like hours of frantic reaching, the trident was suddenly in his grasp, sweaty and slippery for a moment as he dug it between himself and the monster and wrenched up, piercing it through. The shards scattered on top of him like rain, but when he stood up he was still...dry. No copious amounts of panicked sweat, or even tears. Not even saliva from the Cyclopean, which he had definitely felt.

No. He didn't feel any of it. And his mini universe had grown bigger.

A grin spread on his face.

Yes. Yes. THIS he could work with.

Hiding behind a building, he immediately started working. He gathered the salty fluids to him, centering on his left hand. There was more than he expected...at least a liter? Two? Jeez, how much had he been sweating?

Didn't matter now.

With a mental flick, he sent the water spinning into each other, picking up speed until it could have been mistaken for a clear plastic ring. He snaked it around his wrist as it raged, faster and faster, tighter and tighter, sqeezing, compressing, until it had the strength of a whirlpool and the width of a needle.

The ground shook beneath him and he looked up. A cyclopean had found him once more.

He lashed his wrist forward, eyes narrowing as the monster roared at him, jaws gaping. And he released.

The water shot forth so quickly he missed it when he blinked. And for a terrible second he thought he had missed entirely. But when the cyclopean staggered, a thin spurt of blood ejecting from its throat, Harper knew it had worked.

Summoning the water back to him, he jumped forward, trident in hand, and finished the job.

He continued fighting like this, pressure jetting and stabbing, until he even started to progress forward in the ranks.

He even laughed.

Finally. Finally. Things were going his way.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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"So what? If Kyle was unable to use his powers, I'd say the exact same thing. Trust the team. There are twelve month warriors and half of them have opposite powers. Where one is weak the other is strong. Are you saying we should all fuss, complain, and make a scene when our own individual warrior is weak and ignore the fact that there are twelve warriors? All twelve have to finish the course and therefore they MUST work together." Feeling herself tense up, she paused and took a deep breath.

Nikita turned back to the agitated Ondine, calm and composed. "Two weeks ago, you said that the mission wasn't all about Harper, and you were exactly right. It's not all about Harper or Kyle or you or me. The only individual that matters is the Goddess, and She wants these twelve for Her work, all twelve of them. All of them together as a fully functioning team. " The April Guardian turned away and leaned on the edge with a grimace. She muttered bitterly to herself, "We're just tools to get there." Biting her lip, she looked around. She hoped that none of the other guardians heard her complaint. It may be true, but her bitter tone would not be welcome.

General Cress also seemed to be distracted. Lightning blasts, cyclopeans stumbling around as if drunk without obvious reason, and a tidal wave washing over them. Yeah, those should be able to keep his attention. How long could the kids keep it up though? Several monsters were already gone, but there were more.

After throwing out the tidal wave and using up the leftover water-bombs, he felt the strain on his power. He never tried such a large attack before, but he wouldn't deny being proud of himself for it. Still. this is only the first wave and he didn't see the big cyclopean they expected yet. He needed to save as much of his energy as he could for that one. He also expected getting rid of the big one would lead the smaller monsters to scatter, expected and hoped. The twelve of them alone against an army, made him extremely uncomfortable after the euphoria of battle started fading.

Problem though. To save his energy, he needed to use his equally restricted arrows. Not only that, but the monsters were too close for him to shoot. He growled again; this time at the extreme unfairness of this test. He reached for some more water bombs as he started dancing around the fringe of the battle seeking space to shoot from. Every arrow needed to be a bullseye and kill instantly to be worth it.

If he heard the conversation between his and Harper's guardians, he would have thought Ondine overestimated him. Yes, he has greater access to his powers, but they cost him more than using his physical weapon. As long as he's been alive, he's always been stronger with physical activities in strength and endurance. Endurance he needed now.

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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It took every ounce of willpower not to do the April Guardian some sort of bodily harm. That holier-than-thou attitude was growing more infuriating by the second. Ondine ignored her as best she could. Snapping back would just give Nikita more to answer to, and right now the June Guardian just wanted her to shut up. Two seconds after the fox finished speaking, Ondine moved away wordlessly, putting distance between the two of them.

On the bright side, it looked as if Harper had figured something out. Ondine hadn't been able to see what he had done exactly, from her vantage point, but somehow he had water, even if it was just a small amount. And somehow, he made it work. Again, the makeshift pressure jet was too thin for Ondine to see, but she could definitely see Cyclopeans falling before him, presumably from his doing, and him stabbing them, and that was all that really mattered.

Still. There was so much more to come. The June Guardian just hoped that her warrior could hold out until the end.


It was in 5th grade that Harper had started competitively swimming.

It had only seemed natural. He'd been swimming as soon as he could walk, and when the option rose up, he dove in immediately. This was also back when his father still had hopes for him.

He had excelled easily, just from sheer experience and talent. Winning was easy. Sprinting, Long-distance, relays...he only needed to swim and he'd win. It was almost habit.

Things changed in high school. The competition widened. Now he wasn't the only one who was talented. Wasn't the only one who had been swimming all their life. Wasn't the only one who loved to swim. And everyone else was taking it more seriously than him.

He had tried to take it seriously. Or, more seriously. It became evident that sprinting was not for him. He was fast, but the pressure to be the fastest and to keep going faster was too much. Not to mention he didn't get to enjoy his time in the water.

So he competed in the longer heats. Where timing and endurance and knowing when to start the final sprint were crucial. It was more to think about, but somehow less stressful. It felt more natural in a way. He had longer time to spend swimming, and could actually enjoy some of it.

He'd gotten quite good, one of their top swimmers, but his terrible grades eventually got him kicked off the team, and everything fell apart. Sometimes he still practiced, in the harbor, in a public pool, sometimes even in the ocean. Yet he realized just how much he had depended on knowing how far he'd needed to swim. While muscle memory had ingrained 100, 200, and 400 meters in his brain, he could still never be sure, and it was strangely discouraging to see more water where his fingers had expected hard wall. The distance had become crucial to him when it came to competitive endurance...Harper had to know just how far he'd be swimming in order to keep up. There needed to be some sort of landmark to set his sights on, an other side, a finish line. Otherwise...

He nearly fell over when a large cyclopean barreled into him, his pressure jet starting wobble out of control. He managed to snap it back together, to shoot the devil in the mouth before spearing upwards. Yet as the black shards rained on him, he had half a mind to just lay there. How much farther was there? How much longer would he need to swim? As he stood up he could feel his muscles aching, his limbs grow heavier, the trident uncomfortable to hold.

He was getting tired. And unmotivated. He didn't want to swim anymore.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Jason Carter Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Lux Adair Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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And then everyone started yelling at him.

By everyone, of course he only meant Kyle and Autumn. And Ondine, who was screaming at him from above to get his ass in gear. As if he didn't already know that.

He didn't necessarily ignore them, but he didn't respond either. He was already nearly to his feet when Kyle pulled him all the way up before running off to the platform, saying something about trees and forests. Honestly, what even...

The trident grew slippery, and he pulled the sweat into his pressure jet, increasing its size and speed. Get your head back in the game he tried to tell himself, clutching the trident with shaking fingers. It's not over yet...not even close...can't stop swimming now....

He could see the second wave (only the second??) rising up like a tsunami, and he looked around him wildly, doing a mental head count. Everyone else had been doing fine, right?

Yet when he saw Xabi, shaking to his feet, a Cyclopean lumbering zig-zaggedly towards him, Harper's stomach sank. No. Not everyone else was doing fine.

The monster widened its jaws and brought an arm back.

It was like flipping a switch. Suddenly the trident didn't feel as heavy. The pressure jet revved up, spinning faster and faster. Both hands gripped at his weapon, and his foot pressed off from the ground and he was running. Cyclopeans in his way were jabbed at or gunned down and he saw red and black and white flashing like a strobe light.

And then he reached it. And he was behind it. And he brought his trident back. And he stabbed it down. And he did it again. And again. And again.

"DON'T!"

TOUCH!

MY!

BOYFRIEND!"

His last stab sliced directly into the ground, clattering against the black scales. He blinked, throat raw from screaming, shoulders heaving. He looked at Xabi. His face was bleeding. And dirty. And wet. His armor was ripped. Yet somehow his hair still looked perfect.

He managed a smile as he grabbed the October warrior's hand. "Hey babe," he said as he pulled him up, "Sorry I'm late."

Screeching could be heard growing louder. The second wave was upon them. Still holding Xabi's hand, he turned to face it.

"200. 400. 600. 800," he mumbled to himself, "Free. Relay." He gave the Spaniard's hand another squeeze before letting go, grabbing his trident.

Inhale. Exhale. Control the breathing. He whistled and tensed. Fingers clasped on the edge of the pool. 200. 400. 600. 800. Free. Relay.

Beep.

Beep.

Beeeeeeeep!

"Let's kill these motherfuckers."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Kit Withers Character Portrait: Bryce Edwards
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"Kyle!" Nikita shouted. Time seemed to freeze as her charge fell. The noise of the crowd faded into silence around her. All she could see was his body tumbling through space. She abandoned the cannon where she posted herself since they arrived, giving the free reign to Haru. Kyle was more important. She caught him only moments before crashing his head on one of the seats.

The boy was only vaguely aware of a familiar voice and touch. Those familiar hands lifted his head, allowing more breath in his lungs, and swatted his cheek. "Come on, Kyle." She gave a half-smile when he looked to her blearily, and attempted to move a heavy hand against his head. "Try this." An arm braced up against his back, and the other tipped a canteen towards his mouth. He claimed it and drank greedily as a newborn at his mother's breast.

Surprised gasps and excited murmurs broke back into both the warrior and guardian's hearing. Nikita's half-smile spread into a full one. Her sheltering presence blocked his view of the black rain that fell over the fields after Tallyho finished her part, but despite the excited crowd, they thought they could hear the tinkling gems. "We have victory, but there is one more thing left to do. You have to do it."

Still disoriented, he rasped, "What?"
"The farmers need their fields back." She moved to the other side of him, so he could see, and she could also see the massive piles of gems spread across the entire battlefield. By now it was dark, but the full moon cast enough light to see the gems shimmering.
"I..." He started but she interrupted. "You can and you will."

His body trembled with weakness, even after the water from the canteen semi-woke him up. He leaned almost all his weight on the edge of the wall. Puddles still spread across the fields, but they were already sinking back underground.

He forgot that cleanup duty was part of the original order. If he remembered, he could have pushed himself to hold on to a little more magic. He let go of it to give Tallyho space to do her own part and not have to fear hurting him with her electricity. Could he really pick it up again? He had to try. The boy concentrated on those puddles again and slowly, painfully slowly he pulled them back together, back to him. At least all his friends were still alive and safely on the wall.

Nikita chewed her lower lip until she tasted blood. One hand gripped Kyle's shoulder and she partially hugged him against her as he fought through his battle fatigue. She wasn't as obvious with her affection as Ryou, who seemed to be clinging to Dorian for dear life, but she did care about these dumb kids. Tallyho was already out of commission, which worried her, but the sun-child was still breathing. Although she probably didn't need to, the April Guardian asked Bryce or Gwen to help her if the January month warrior felt strong enough to try.

She was a simple sailor and knew she couldn't do any more for Tally. Kyle struggled also, and Nikita honestly didn't think he'd last much longer either. The confidence in her tone was mostly for his benefit. Based on what she knew of his personality, he always did better work when he felt other people believed in him. Not unlike a certain cabin boy she remembered from her ship.

She gave him a squeeze and stayed close as he fought his battle fatigue to turn those puddles into a spray to wash as many of those crystals As possible back to the forest they came from. That was the absolute last he could do and the heavy body fell back into her chest. She kneeled on the ground and held him there until whoever wasn't presently occupied with Tallyho could join her.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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As the platforms lowered and the giant black monstrosity grew closer and closer in focus, Harper struggled to keep everything together, including his bladder.

"Welp. I'm not sleeping tonight. Or ever," he quipped in a strained voice, everything tight.

Yet, as terrible and horrific as the scene was, his fear of heights almost won out. He hesitated for a full ten seconds, and only clambered onto the platform with Xabi and the others after Ondine screamed at him "HARPER I SWEAR TO GODDESS IF YOU DON'T GET YOUR ASS UP HERE--"

This is ridiculous he told himself as the platform raised up, With all those cyclopeans down there, you almost wanted to say rather than go up to safety? Even if it is hundreds of feet high. And there's a possibility you might fall off. Or that the pulley might get stuck. Or that he stepped off wrong. Or the wall came crashing down anyways. Or that the cyclopeans got them mid-rise...

"Not helping. Not helping," he mumbled to himself.

When the platform surpassed 6 feet in height, he tried to sit, but was too scared of tilting the platform. So he stood, frozen like a statue, silent as granite, willing his feet to stay superglued to the wood and gripping his trident with one hand and Xabi with the other, tight as death. His were clamped shut, and as silent as he appeared on the outside, internally he was anything but.

When they reached the top, he had blindly stumbled off, still holding onto Xabi. But, for a second, he felt himself mis-step, Xabi slipping out of grasp, foot not landing where it should have. Panic rose from his stomach up to his throat and suddenly he was back to three years prior, when they had thrown him off the cliff and he was falling, falling, fall--

"Harper! Harper!" Shaking. "Snap out of it!"

Falling. He was still falling, right? Mentally he could feel himself plummeting downwards. Externally, he was on the wall, safe, curled up tight, knees to him, hands over his ears and eyes squeezed shut, trident clattered next to him. Ondine was shaking him and trying to get through. He had just fought a dozen or more cyclopeans. It was absolutely ridiculous that he would lose all composure on the retreat up.

She wanted to smack him. To yell at him. To shake him harder, force him to stop. But she didn't...she restrained herself. In their three years, she had never had to deal directly with his fear of heights, particularly in this extreme, but they had discussed it. She knew that he knew what he was feeling was irrational. She knew that he probably wanted himself to stop more than she did. She knew he hated feeling like this, and that it was hard for him to stop once it started.

"How then, do you expect me to deal with this if it ever happens?" Ondine had asked him one night, during his swim, "I only have so much patience for you when you're normal as it is."

"Just...talk to me," Harper had told her with a shrug, "Doesn't have to be anything substantial. As long as you're talking to me, like, non-stop, eventually I'll focus more on that. Just don't talk to me about heights or anything. Like, normal conversation. Rubbing my back or shoulders helps too, if you do it while you're talking." Ondine had scoffed at that.

"I'm serious!" Harper had laughed. He then ducked under briefly, before shooting back up, "Oh. And don't make a big scene. I hate it when that happens."

And so, hesitantly, Ondine reached over and placed a hand on his shoulder, kneading it softly with her fingers, and talked to him as Haru relegated the next orders.

It was a children's tale, a sea-song for the urchins who called both land and sea home. She did not sing it, but did speak with a lighter voice, of the young whale who traveled the waters and fell in love with a princess. The story had two different endings; the original was sadder and ended with the whale's heroic death, as it dragged the attacking pirate ship--which had harpooned the whale-- to the bottom of the ocean. The second was more child-friendly, ending with the pirates having a change of heart for recognizing the power of love, and everyone got married. Ondine decided on the second one. Just as she finished uttering the last word, Haru launched the cannon.

In the second of dead silence between the bang and the crowd, Harper lifted his face, eyes red and watery, but open. And with the way it had timed out, it was almost as if the audience had been cheering his recovery, rather than the destruction of the cyclopean horde and its gargantuan leader.