Just writing doodles

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Just writing doodles

Post by Jewelcast on Fri Oct 07, 2016 1:45 pm

The fire twitches and writhes, an unsteady column of flame tracing slow spirals in the air. Drenched in sweat, panting from the concentration, a youngster sits cross-legged and stares into the flame. Beside him, an older wych murmurs guidance, sits ready to take over if his control slips. Around the fire, others sit and chatter, unconcerned. Some are trying to toast coarse bread, but the flames keep moving out of the way, and the endeavour quickly devolves into hilarity. Sometimes the fire comes very close to the faces of the gathered heretics. Most do not flinch. Those who do receive friendly derision from their peers. This too is a game of will, given stakes by the fact that the young pyromancer's control is far from perfect.

"Watch it!" someone calls in irritation after being mildly singed. The boy pales, stammers an apology, but the conversation has already moved on. Laval sits quietly, letting the chatter of her friends wash over her, lost in unhappy memories.
"Alright?" Semmel asks. She nods.
"I miss Vex," she confesses. "I miss him so much."
"I know," he acknowledges. On the other side of her, Lackadays puts a comforting hand on her shoulder. The murmur of conversation dies down, and Laval realises that everyone is looking at her. She smiles wanly.
"Talk about it?" Semmel suggests. "Remember him to us?"
"I don't know where to start," she admits. "It's like a part of me got torn out when he died. We were so close always..." Too close, many would say. But they won't say it now. It's not the time for criticism. "It was reckless," she admits, "But it was... it was good. Sometimes I did not know which thoughts were mine and which his. Sometimes we dreamed the same dreams. The link was whole, and complete. A pure thing. An expression of what I am.
"And Vex... Vex was destruction incarnate. A pure thing. Our last stand... he drew more power than I would have dared imagine. The Warp poured forth from him. And he never feared it, you know? He loved the madness and the fury, the good and the bad alike. He was a true wych, and he burned bright. He deserved the Mark. He was never one for laying plans of his own, but... he told me that, for a moment, he felt the hand of our Lord Tzeentch, moving us as playing pieces. And he revelled in that, too, in knowing that we were part of something so large and intricate and beautiful. I am always full of doubt, but Vex was full of certainty. He... he died well.
"And I... I trusted him, more than I trusted myself." Laval's voice chokes with tears, but she speaks on. "I loved him, and he loved me. He loved us, what we do... he didn't just believe in the cause, he believed in us. He was loyal. He died for me, and... and regretted nothing... he tried to, to, to make me leave him behind. And he'd do it again, if he were alive again, I know."
She pauses to catch her breath, to collect herself. Respectful silence reigns. These were Vex's friends too. Even the pyromancers are listening, practice abandoned for now. The fire is quiet and docile.
"He would want me to speak of his deeds. He was always so proud of himself, never ashamed. Never ashamed to let you know that he was proud of himself, to share his successes. He took on pretty much the entire garrison of the Makuu by himself, with trickery and magic and unflinching courage. He lay in the darkness and took las fire without flinching or crying out, so that he could tear at the veil and at their minds. It was clever, and brilliant, and it worked, and he was so proud. He came back to me riddled with holes, but laughing, delighted. He had mad ideas like standing twixt reality and unreality to do magic, and he was... not fearless, not without fear, but utterly unflinching. I... I remember him like that, laughing. Soul filled with power. Exultant."

She is crying now, tears flowing freely. She is not the only one. The war claims friends, and the warp claims friends. But sometimes there is time to grieve. Laval has other memories of him that are too private to share. The way he'd hold her when she cried, not knowing what to do or say to make it better, but just being there for her. The way she knew he desired her, and knew he didn't hold it against her that she didn't know what to do with that feeling. That it was enough for him, just to be with her. The safety that she felt with him and nowhere else, that was ripped away from her when he died. The way she did not sleep for days after his death, terrified of dreaming of him, terrified of dreaming without him. The guilt at how callously she used and manipulated him, and the knowledge that he did not mind. That he trusted her enough to be comfortable as a pawn in her hands, knowing she would not throw him to the furies.

Slowly, when it becomes apparent that she has said all she is going to say, others begin to speak. Some are serious eulogies like her own, extolling the dead wych's virtues. Some just recount anecdotes. Some are needle-sharp digs at his flaws, not malicious but fond, recalling what made him human. Times when entire conversations needed to be repeated for his benefit because he'd got bored and switched off part way through. Lackadays recalls a time when he punched her, and she never did figure out what she'd done to offend him. Something, clearly. Slowly tears turn to laughter, recalling the good times, and the conversation flows naturally away from Vex. Laval leans on Semmel, closes her eyes, and smiles wanly. The pain will recede in time, she tells herself. The wound in her soul is raw still, but it will heal. All things change in time.

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Re: Just writing doodles

Post by Jewelcast on Fri Oct 07, 2016 4:44 pm

Years ago...

Laval sits, frightened, with the others in a loose semi-circle. She is not the youngest student here, but she is the only one who has not publicly abandoned the Creed. The woman at the front of the circle is stern, severe, frightening. She is a heretic too, of course. But where else can Laval go? She is alone and she has nothing. She would die out there.

"Will," the wych tells them, "Is all that stands between you and destruction. Will keeps you from the brink of madness. Will keeps you from the void. Will is your weapon against the enemy. Will is you shield against the daemon. Without will, you are nothing."

Set in front of each student is a tray of pins, the kind that are used by tailors for making clothes.

"What is will?" the teacher continues, "Will is the power to do what you do not want to do. To take the difficult path. The unpleasant path. Will is the ability to hold your intent over your instinct. When you fear, you will want to flee or hide. But the warp is a predator. When it senses weakness, it strikes all the harder. When you are in pain, you will want to escape it. But pain is a distraction. When your mind is assailed by the enemy and your soul aches from exertion, you will want to give in. But if you do, there will be only pain, madness and death.

"Like any muscle, the will can be strengthened with exercise. You will perform many exercises and learn to steel yourselves against many threats and distractions. But today we will use the simplest stimulus: pain."

There is a murmur of shared fear. Laval wonders what horrors the young heretics expect, what horrors they have seen. Her skin is cold, but she resolves to show no fear.

"You will be in control," the teacher assures them. "That is essential. These pins are not dangerous. Do not try anything stupid, such as putting them in your eyes. You will suffer no lasting harm from this exercise. You will face pain of your own volition, and with practice, you will become comfortable doing so. You may find it difficult at first to hurt yourselves. This is natural. Start with easy steps. You may be tempted to begin with the fingertips, but I would not advise it. The backs of the arms are relatively insensitive and will hurt less. The hands are more sensitive, particularly around the nails. Proceed at your own pace. This is a confidence building exercise."

Laval contemplates the tray in front of her. It seems sensible enough. She will not suffer any harm from this. So why is her heart thudding in her chest? Around her, a few students have already confidently begun to prick themselves. She picks up a pin, turns the slender piece of metal over in her hands. She tests the point against her fingertip (exactly as she was advised not to do), not quite hard enough to break the skin. It will not hurt much, she knows. She can imagine the sting, and it will not compare to, for instance, the time when she broke her wrist. It won't even be as bad as stubbing a toe. So why is it so difficult?

Setting her teeth and, she supposes, her will, she pushes the tip of the pin against the back of her arm until it breaks the skin. As predicted, the pain is sharp, but not too severe. When she withdraws it, she can see a tiny red dot, but it does not bleed. The second time is harder, but the third is easier. On the fifth prick, she pushes a little deeper. She has had cuts stitched before, and in theory she knows how to do it on herself. This is similar. Not so bad. A bearable pain. An essential skill. She pushes further, sliding the smooth metal through flesh until only the pinhead protrudes, almost flush with the skin. It is unpleasant, but some part of her is surprised and a little proud that she has done this without flinching. She takes another pin, pushes it carefully in beside the first. Then a third, forming a little line.

Nearby, someone whimpers in pain. She glances up, sees that he has jammed a pin under a nail and seems to be agonising over whether or not he is willing to touch it again to pull it out. Laval ignores him, returns her attention to her own flesh. The embedded pins ache, and if she tries to move the arm, the pain grows sharp and hot again. But she is coping. Emboldened, she turns to the palm of her hand with the next pin. Perhaps she can work her way up to fingernails with time. Slow and steady now.

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