Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chapter 29: New Routines

"Dad, you can't just replace him. He's dead."

Since the big fight in the Goldbeard living room, Izalee has been having flashback dreams. They leave a hollow, sick feeling in her chest, even though nothing particularly traumatic happens in them. They always predate the incident.

Maybe her dreams long for a time before all that stuff happened.

Venessa never came back to the house. Reggie tries again and again and again to call and message her, but all she tells him is "I can't" and "it's over". Finding out that her family, from the in-laws to the husband to even the little kid, was keeping a fatally dangerous secret... it was just too much. Venessa's head can't cope with that.

Reggie should be worried she won't stay quiet about what she's learned, but he isn't. At all. All he's worried about is if she's really, really left him forever.

Reggie goes to Maria and Angelo Giordano-Bianchi's place, where Venessa is staying now, but Maria turns him away at the door.

"I don't know what you did," Maria snarls, "but Nessa doesn't want to see you."

"What's got you so wonked out?" Emily, Maria's teenage daughter, tosses an eggshell into the sink. At first she assumed some horrible abuse happened to her mother's cousin Venessa, but if that's the case, they'll just never know. Venessa is tight-lipped as she watches Reggie disappear into the distance.

Rohane is dead. Gysael ran away. Venessa is sending the legal documents for a divorce.

Petra and Ray try to be of some comfort, but there's not much to say about the situation.

Ray, the middle child between Rohane and Gysael, is finding it particularly surreal.

(Except for the Venessa thing. He never liked her.)

Greta dropped her paranoid idea of moving far away from Monte Vista. If Gysael returns, everyone should still be here, she reasons, just like Gysael left them. Then they can pretend the fight never happened...

Izalee can logic out that her father is heartbroken, withdrawn. The trying-to-get-Venessa-to-come-home stage passed, and then the curl-up-on-the-bed-and-be-miserable stage passed, and now he's absorbed in his scrap metal tinkering. He doesn't show his usual interest in helping her with her homework, and he blanches when she asks for mage lessons.

I lost them too, Izalee musters the strength to telepath.

Reggie bends down to give Izalee a hug. He hasn't meant to shut her out... he just hasn't known how to console her. But, he realizes, that's no excuse to not try.

"Your mother just needs some time," he says, though he doesn't know if it's true. It feels like a lie. He doesn't have to imagine the guilt and anger and pain and abandonment his daughter is feeling; it's right there on her face. She's not hiding it like his mother.

The family falls into new routines.

Routines that do not have Venessa in them.

Gysael left her dog here. Which was... a little weird.

Or maybe not.

List of things to not bring on homicidal revenge quest: weak stomachs, common sense, children, pets.

 Reggie always meant to get a bigger dog, anyway.

Rain finally ages up, giving Izalee someone to play with.

Now that the cousins are older, it's more obvious that Rain's skin is a slightly different shade than Izzy's.

And yes, by now Heather has popped out Rain's younger sibling, and that sibling is now a toddler.

Her name is Layla. She has Ray's coloring, but otherwise looks a lot like her mother.

Reggie knows it isn't long for his mother when she starts rambling about dragons.

She's going to die, he thinks, and leave him to raise his emotionally wounded daughter alone.

 Venessa is not coming back.

Etc.: So I rolled second chance. Who will the lucky second lady be?

Venessa was a fun sim to play with. From the start, I was attached, even though I knew I'd have to boot her out. I guess that's usually how these second chance rolls go.

And poor Reggie, he really did love her. He was always rolling romantic wishes. And Venessa seemed to quarrel with everyone but him! I even caught her yelling at Izalee once... though I swear her favorite target was Ray.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chapter 28: Forget Your Quest

She slipped in in the middle of the night. They found her there in the morning, silent, trying not to look at anything. She was surrounded by her dead father's model boats.

Polka and Vox greet each other with no drama.

"Gysael, won't you tell us what's wrong?" It's the annoying sound of Venessa's concerned voice that finally spurs Gysael to action. Her eldest brother, Reggie, has been trying to get her to talk for what seems like hours with no success...

"Fine," Gysael growls softly. "I'll talk. If you leave first."

Venessa's expression falls. She's wounded. She exchanges glances with her husband, and they shrug at each other. Then she walks out of the room.

Greta and Izalee fidget uncomfortably as Venessa leaves.

"Now you've really got me worried," Reggie says, once his wife is out of earshot. He meant it to sound like a joke, but it's true.

Gysael narrows her eyes, and blinks back tears, and tells them what she saw. She's had time to process it, now. First there was sharp, stabbing sadness - Rohane died. Second there was terror - the desperate escape from Sunlit Tides. Third there was anger. It roiled inside her, and she twisted it around like a puzzle cube, trying to decide what to do with it. How to react. What to do. The world had done something unfair, right in front of her, and what is she going to do about it? The blunt recounting of events now helps her decide.

Reggie and Greta interrupt the story very little. Izalee doesn't interrupt at all. Sunlit Tides? Why Sunlit Tides? Where even is that? One murder, one fairy, two rebellious little secret lives of crime.

"There was a struggle I think." Gysael didn't actually see very much, but in her mind there was some vicious fight. In her mind Rohane defended himself better than in reality. "There was dust all over the place. Fairy dust. I'm going to use it to track down that monster."

"No, no that is a terrible idea. We should all get out of here," Greta says. "She may have let you go just to see where you went..."

"You trained me better than that," Gysael snaps. The anger burns at her; how can the others want to let the universe get away with this, she wonders? How can they want to live in a world where this can happen? "And I heard the way she chattered on to... to Rohane's spirit, before it was taken... and to the reaper..."

"You think she's an agent," Reggie murmurs. "Supernatural control."

"Of course I do. What else would she be?"

"There aren't enough of us to bring a fight to a shadowy government institution."

"There must be enough of us somewhere." Gysael can see he has a point, but she isn't letting him discourage her. "And maybe the purple fairy can lead me right to them."

"This is madness." Greta has her wand in hand. "They'll capture you and find where you're from. You'll bring death on us all."

"Capture me? Interrogate me? Because they did such a great job questioning Rohane?" Gysael stands, charging up her own defensive magic. "What do you think you're doing, Mother?"

Greta's hands shake. "Making you forget about this." It's not the safest of spells. Gysael could come away from it forgetting about the fairy dust... or forgetting what she wants to do with it... but her rage is so great, the spell may deem it necessary to erase more than that. She may forget she ever had another brother. She may forget who she is.

"Mom, Gysael, please!" Reggie's cries come too late. Mother and daughter are already hurling hexes at each other.

Greta casts, Gysael furiously deflects. Izalee, afraid to move, is hit with the remnant of the spell.

"Izzy!" Reggie holds his daughter close. "Izzy, are you alright?"

"My head," she whimpers, clutching at his sleeves. "It burns."

"Just focus on my voice," her father soothes. The fight between Gysael and Greta came to an abrupt halt when the child was caught in the crossfire, but that's little consolation.

"I'm sorry," Izalee chokes. "I couldn't get any kind of dampening shield up in time."

"I should have protected you," Reggie says. A normal person would be angry right now, he thinks. Angry at Greta, angry at Gysael, angry at the government... but if Reggie can still feel that emotion, it's all internalized. Maybe he hadn't tried hard enough to help Rohane. Maybe he hadn't taught his daughter well enough to avoid danger. How could he? He didn't avoid it himself. He just shouted at them, useless, like a moron.

"Dad... I can't feel my magic..."

"Look what your evil mind-altering curse has done now!" Gysael explodes. "Has she forgotten her own-"

"You fragmented that spell," Greta murmurs. "It'll wear off." She raises a hand again, making one last attempt to stop Gysael from something regrettable...

Gysael freezes her mother in her tracks.

And then Reggie sees her. His wife, Venessa. The expression on her face says it all: she's heard too much.

She is terrified.

He opens his mouth to speak to her, but she holds up a hand to silence him.

"No," she says. Just no. Then she turns and flees.

The immobilization spell wears off slowly, leaving Greta in a dreamlike daze. She's fallen to the floor. "Venessa!" someone yells. "Wait!"

Shuffling noises. Doors creaking. Are they going outside? Someone's crying.

"I can't deal with this toxic house of manipulation and liquid crazy," that sounds like Gysael. "And neither should you, Reg."

 "Auntie is so sorry you had to see all that," Gysael tries to apologize to her young niece.

"You don't have to go," Izalee pleads. Her grandmother is on the floor, her mother ran out the door, her father ran after her...

"Yes... I do..." Gysael's got to leave for her sanity. She can't take this place anymore. Coming home was supposed to feel safer, not... worse. "See you later, Izalee."

Etc.: But in most timelines they never saw her again.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chapter 27: The Fairy

Rohane and Gysael collapse comfortably on their couch in the house they own in a distant city called Sunlit Tides. One more successful black market negotiation done and over with.

Stealing items without a trace is one thing. Getting rid of them requires more... finesse.

So they frequently travel here.

It's in a sector with long summers. The air is warm but the wind is cool, and it smells like salt and baked sand. And it sounds like palm leaves blowing against each other.

Sunlit Tides has an active shipping industry, and a very, very active 'underground'.

The siblings spend relatively little time in this place. That isn't unusual in this neighborhood. Plenty of people have extravagant vacation homes here. Those people keep their places looking perfect when they're away by hiring professionals instead of casting magic, though, probably...

Still, Gysael wishes they could move here for good.

Their home in Monte Vista is tiny and unassuming, and a little dreary... and all around nothing like this tropical paradise tourist destination.

The noise of teleporting objects breaks Gysael out of her thoughts. She glances around and spies a grimy old football on the floor, and a big box of cheap instant noodles on the table. "Ugh," she sighs. "Not this today."

"You know I can't help it," Rohane says. His on-purpose teleportation has become quite precise, but the not-on-purpose episodes persist. It bothers him. The things he yoinks for profit are carefully chosen pieces, and their rich owners are no worse for losing them. When items appear randomly, he has no clue where they're from or if they're missed.

Gysael and Rohane own a collie, originally named Riptide. A collie because it seemed funny, growing up with a sheltie and graduating up to a larger doppelganger of the breed. Riptide because it seemed appropriate. A good descriptive word for their adult lives.

The vet thought the name a little disturbing, though, so Riptide's name was quickly changed to Polka.

Annoyed from being cooped up in the house all day, Polka approaches her masters, whining and barking for attention.

"You want a swim in the pool before we go back to boring ol' Monte Vista? Hm? Hm? Swim in the pool?" Gysael's demeanor changes to pure sugary sweetness when she interacts with animals.

Rohane can hardly believe the person babytalking the dog is his little sister.

Gysael takes Polka out in the backyard to enjoy the sunset.

It had been a lovely, clear day - so unlike the weather they'd had lately in Monte Vista, where it rained so much and ruined anyone's plans to go anywhere. Izalee had wanted to go to the park all week. Gysael knew this because the kid was all Reggie talked about. Izalee this, Izalee that.

Being a parent must rewire the brain, Gysael thinks.

Meanwhile, a fairy brazenly searches the island.

These clothes may have been a bad choice... but she always wears them. It's so cold and clinical, where she's kept, most of the time.

Layers over the chest, to keep her icy heart from freezing the life out of the rest of her... shoes, like the humans wear, so she doesn't touch the Earth, even when she's standing on it. Nobody says these things to Foxglove's face. She doesn't understand jokes.

She yawns. A leisurely pace. When she brings in Eris, when she tells her handlers that she ingeniously crafted a spell to track that unstable element's unique (well, assumed-to-be unique) teleportation powers, they will praise her! They will allow her more freedom to hunt down these criminals as she pleases! They will learn that their strict supervision is unnecessary!

And that's why she's come here alone, without backup, off the records. Nobody is stealing her credit for this one. Not her timid father, not that ugly djinni demon... no, this time it is Foxglove who will save the day.

Rohane is just about to get off his butt and clean up the mess he made (unwanted objects usually get thrown in a closet) when the fairy invades.

"YOU aren't Eris," her tinny little voice complains.

Every muscle in Rohane's body screams at him to run, but... the creature before him is so beautiful, and so obviously inhuman, and until this moment he's never seen another supernatural being, like himself...

"Perhaps you know Eris," the fairy theorizes.

Rohane stares, dumbfounded, as she instantly transforms - with a POP! sound - into a tiny ball of light and flies around him a dozen rapid times.

"I sense you're definitely the source of the disturbance!" she squeaks. "You have something to do with her, Spotty, and you will tell me what it is!"

"Lady," Rohane says, "If I can call you a lady, I have no idea who or what you're talking about. Maybe if you'd start from the beginning."

"Eris is a fugitive," the fairy informs him. He's not human; she doesn't have to guard her words or appearance. "Eris is an unstable element. She is using magic in an unauthorized manner. She has escaped our agents many times, in a theatrical manner, but I have devised a way to capture her."

"Of course, when I found YOU," she scoffs, "I thought perhaps I'd made a mistake. But that's unlikely! My spell was flawless. You must have some connection to Eris."

"I'll have the truth from you," she continues her tirade without giving a long enough pause for Rohane to speak. Her hands make deft little movements, and magic lights up the air. Rohane's veins begin to boil with pain. "Give me the truth! I'll go easy on you, I understand, I've never met one of your sort who'd speak without a little persuasion."

Foxglove is disappointed when no secrets burst forth from Rohane's mouth. All he does is scream.

Then he breaks her spell. She makes note of the focusing stick he uses... but it seems very common and ordinary and boring. No clues there. "Ah, so you are trained! Good! What do you think you're doing?"

"Defending myself..."

"Ha. You can't do anything to me."

He does try. If he could contain her magic with a hex, it could buy him some time...

But she powers right through that, and something about the way she looks at him tells him it was the worst tactical mistake he's ever made.

Bam, he's down in one hit, just like that.

The subject totally loses his shit when Foxglove kills him. But as angry as he is, she is even angrier. She had greatly overestimated his durability. "Whine whine whine! It's always about you isn't it!? If you'd been less weak I could have dragged you back to the lab and had something to show for all this effort, but now you're dead and the system has turned your body into energy and you were my only lead and this was all just a waste of time! I don't know where you came from, or your connection to Eris... why did you pick a fight when you couldn't take a beating?! How stupid are you?!"

The reaper comes to collect what's his, as he always does.

"I have an idea," Foxglove tries to bargain. "You can take his soul, but restore the body and let me take it. For science. We both technically serve the same people, don't we? We both fight for order."

"Get out of my sight," Grim growls.

"You don't scare me," Foxglove chirps, before she flits away.

Rohane doesn't resist the conversion to cosmic soup.

He isn't sure what just happened... but at least, in the confusion, the fairy did not notice his sister.

Gysael noticed the intruder too late to help her brother.

She watches helplessly as he's removed from the world.

She's far away from home, no one knows where she is...

She's never felt so alone.

Etc.: It's hard for me to ignore how much the premade collie doesn't look like a collie. I just have to tell myself the sims wouldn't look like people, either, if I weren't used to seeing humans depicted that way.

An alien (or even someone from a culture far removed from ours) looking at humans would probably choose to exaggerate or focus on completely different aspects of our appearance. You see this sometimes with little kids just starting to draw, even... like a kid might try to give the fingernails or nostrils more detail than anything else in the picture.


Disclaimer: a real vet will probably not make a face of displeasure if you name your pet Riptide, or Murder Weapon, or Heroin. It would be bad business. And they are professionals.