Author Topic: Psychosomatic [Setebos]  (Read 950 times)

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Offline Kashmir

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Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« on: February 10, 2017, 03:21:18 PM »
Twilight in Inaria. He ought to have been sleeping, lost in some whispering dream.

That precious reprieve had been stolen away from him by the vindictive ghosts of an old wound. In his unconscious mind had bloomed flowers upon vines that overtook the old-world forest like a womb, swallowing it up so that it all might start over in a generous second chance. Fear might have grasped him in his waking life, but in the dream he'd only felt relief, and... a foreign sense of safety. Something was ending it all. Something was giving them rest. It was all okay and even as the vines started to smother him he knew this meant peace, this meant mercy, it meant that he didn't have to feel dead anymore, and --

the vines squeezed too tight and they started to hurt and stab and he felt betrayed and so confused and --

he woke in panic and agony, clawing at his throat, trying to scratch out the dream and the thorns and the teeth, he couldn't breathe, he was being strangled...

He must have emerged from his den and walked to the healer's garden. He must have plucked the chamomile leaves currently in his mouth. He must have. But the memory of it was not there. Kashmir returned to his body only when the desperate gasping and the awful pain (god had he eaten ground glass had he drank poison what was wrong what was WRONG) began mercifully to fade into rattling, steady breaths and a raw ache that prickled as the inside of his throat where the leaves had rubbed on their way down.

Kashmir didn't have it in him tonight to perch, sphinx-like, with the sort of dignity expected of the queen's right-hand man. He lay instead on his side, exhausted and despondent, his eyes squeezed shut. He was alone, for now. He could allow himself this weakness. Like he had a choice in the matter.

If he'd attracted the resident doctor with his racket, at least the striped back would be turned to him as he approached. Nobody, not even the delicate few he trusted, would ever see his face like that if he could help it.


Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills
Who battled for the True, the Just
Be blown about the desert dust
Or seal’d within the iron hills

Played by Kotake

Offline Setebos

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Re: Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2017, 10:59:31 PM »
Setebos had been asleep, like most of the pack, and for once, he had been sleeping quite soundly. It was not a luxury that he was frequently able to enjoy. But the sounds of a disturbance in the garden reached far enough to perforate the chamomile fog that kept him under, like a rapier's thin silver blade. It made sense that it would rouse him; after spending so long toiling in that space, fathering the plants that were used to heal Inaria's people, he could almost consider the garden an extension of himself. Crushed foliage felt like broken bones. Footprints left bruises on his skin. When the earth crumbled apart, roots unraveling, his flesh sloughed off his body in thick goopy sheets.

Setebos's first impulse when he sensed an intruder wasn't to confront them. Not anymore. At first he gave serious consideration to cowering in his den until whoever was ransacking the garden decided to leave. He turned away from the sliver of moonlight streaming through his den opening, blinding himself to the trees that towered outside like jail cell bars. He thought about the day he had met the Saboran medic within the wreckage of the garden; how their little green paradise had been turned into a post-disaster pastoral scene. He thought about giggling Saboran bandits streaking through the garden like teenage delinquents with paint cans in hand, popping yarrow plants out of the earth and scrambling the neatly delineated rows of flora, sparing not even the tiniest saplings from their rampage.

In that moment, the idea of Nereid and Jette having returned for him was a very real possibility.

He took a few, deep breaths to steel himself, and pawed at the tears that were collecting in his eyes, rubbing them into the back of his skull. He told himself that it was just a prey animal looking to graze, or some stupid punk that was about to face the wrath of God. He got to his feet and charged out of the den before his endlessly looping thoughts looped in the other direction. His characteristic fury was a limp caricature, but in the light of the moon, a touch bedraggled from sleep, and with eyes rimmed in crust and red haze, he was granted a certain presence that he would have otherwise lost.

Even under Inaria's indigo twilight, with their mutual greys and earthy tones viewed through a fairy tale filter, Setebos was able to recognize Kashmir. He was laying on the side, stricken, and were it not for the harsh, irregular gasps issuing through his throat, Setebos would have assumed that he collapsed. That lingering shade of fear dissolved into a vague relief, and then hardened into contempt. Kashmir was no friend of his. The two had never interacted in any lasting way, but during that vicious, terrible war, he had seen enough of the jackal to determine that there was something truly wrong with him. Haven he could forgive - he loathed the circumstances that had forced her into that position, and despised her role in it, but she would have never thought to brazenly assault a noncombatant pleading for his friend's life.

That was because Haven had decency. Kashmir was a barbarian playing pretend.

What would have happened to Anglachel if Setebos hadn't been there? Would Haven have been too distracted by Thresher and Sage to prevent her Marquis from eating Anglachel's heart?

Setebos narrowed his eyes. "Kashmir," Setebos grunted. "The hell're you doing here?"
   




This old warship has wounds
And it won't sail for nothin'
The old sailor said to me
And I was foolish not to listen
And paid such close conscription
All the lies I believed

"But if you lend me some more labor
And put your name on paper
We just might catch a breeze"
I know now he was not a captain
Now because of all my actions
I grow alone with the sea

[ #E42217 ] | played by Sunblink
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Offline Kashmir

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Re: Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2017, 03:02:49 AM »
"Kashmir. The hell're you doing here?"

Inside, he cringed like a beaten dog. It didn't show up on his face, upon which creaked open a fiery sliver of yellow in reflex to the gruff demand, but it was there in the tightening of his guts, the tensing of his muscles that rebelled powerfully against the possibility of company in this moment. Least of all from this man, who had peered beyond the obfuscating veil, who very likely abhorred him. Setebos had seen firsthand the venom of the jackal's teeth, the unhinged vigilante that curled waiting underneath the skin of nobility and passivity. Setebos knew what he looked like with blood smeared all over his face; Setebos knew what he looked like poisoned and weak and so delirious he'd mistaken the doctor with his bright coat for Acheron. Kashmir had in return seen Setebos wailing and thrashing with his belly opened wide and his intestines saying a slimy hello to the open air...

Kashmir had pulled him from certain death.

Kashmir was just like the ones who'd assaulted him.

Unfettered doctor-killer, merciless slayer of unarmed combatants, that cold and terrible darkness in his core...

He could insist until he ran out of breath that he wouldn't have murdered Anglachel. That he was only making a point. Defending their honor. But it would always lack the honesty of someone who knew this for sure. What indeed might have happened that day, had Set not come? They'd never find out. Maybe that was a mercy on par with that which had allowed them both to survive the war in the first place.

Kashmir pulled in a wheezing, laborious breath. Steadied his respiration by some miracle of nature. He turned to look up at Setebos, the skin beneath his eyes bruised with exhaustion.

"Medicine," he croaked softly. Probably the medic would have to lean closer to hear him. The jackal coughed, trying to bring back some of his voice, not really succeeding. "I have -- problems with --" Pause. Wheeze. "-- with my throat."

It hurt to talk. It made him edgy, this hard-eyed other man being here. So you can go now, Kash might have sniffed had he been a coarser animal, but alas...

"I'm sorry if -- I woke you."

Maybe that was even true.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2017, 03:38:11 AM by Kashmir »


Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills
Who battled for the True, the Just
Be blown about the desert dust
Or seal’d within the iron hills

Played by Kotake

Offline Setebos

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Re: Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2017, 04:44:51 PM »
Kashmir creaked around to face him, motions haphazard and jerking like a wind-up toy sputtering along on its last few steps, broken bulb eyes spitting fluorescent cinders. Although Kashmir was wavering and feeble as if he was struggling to stand, part of Setebos recoiled, reflexively; externally, however, he was ever solemn and unaffected. It was the cowardly part of him that flinched. That was the scared-crapless part of him that saw Kashmir and compared what he did to Anglachel to what Jette and Nereid did to him. The part of him that laid awake at night while the rest of him starved for sleep; the brain that held the body hostage.

But Setebos, the self, knew that Kashmir, like all cowards, would never dare to confront him. As long as Setebos looked him in the eye, he would be protected. Men like him lived behind their disguises. He could find reassurance in that. Kashmir had tried to kill Anglachel because he thought that he could get away with it.

Were it not for the things that Setebos witnessed in the war, he would have found Kashmir utterly pitiful. He choked on every polite word. His windpipe had more in common with a car's exhaust pipe than a working esophagus. Might be from trauma, the diagnostic half of Setebos's brain supplied, and if Setebos fought the urge to smile wryly at that instant, it was because the wording was so damned ironic.

Setebos blinked, at last breaking eye contact. He looked at the savaged scraps of chamomile strewn on the ground, and gingerly poked at a severed stem with a toe. "You should've woken me up," he said, not immediately acknowledging Kashmir's apology. "If you were gonna make so much damn noise, 'least then you would've had someone make you something for that throat."

The forced cordiality made him sick. Setebos really wanted to take his crapty apology, fold it up into a paper airplane, and watch it fly into the lake. He was sorry for waking him up? For ruining the one good night's rest he had in ages? You should be, Setebos thought of saying. I could be getting some shut-eye. Instead I'm babying you. But he didn't, because that would be revealing too much.

Setebos's pointed silence said everything he wanted to.

"Your... throat," Setebos said, "You're having trouble breathing? Any chest pains?"

Maybe he just wanted to break the awkward silence; maybe he didn't have the conscience to turn away a beaten, injured creature. Maybe he wanted to prove to Kashmir that he was a better person by healing someone he had so much contempt for. Maybe Setebos had nothing better to do. In the end, it was none of those. It was because he was, after all, a doctor. Was there anything left to say?
« Last Edit: February 15, 2017, 04:47:19 PM by Setebos »
   




This old warship has wounds
And it won't sail for nothin'
The old sailor said to me
And I was foolish not to listen
And paid such close conscription
All the lies I believed

"But if you lend me some more labor
And put your name on paper
We just might catch a breeze"
I know now he was not a captain
Now because of all my actions
I grow alone with the sea

[ #E42217 ] | played by Sunblink
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Offline Kashmir

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Re: Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2017, 09:51:42 PM »
The doctor's hard stare was not met. Had the jackal been less passive, maybe he would have pushed back against that mute disgust and disapproval with the defiance of a direct stare, but as it was... he was looking somewhere off to the side of Setebos' head instead. Staring through him rather than at him. Cowardly? It was a bold epithet to slap onto someone who'd fought a war, who'd once charged into hostile territory and battled monsters to save a beloved friend and queen, but... this was another animal (ha ha) entirely. Kashmir knew what to do with an angry enemy. He didn't know what to do with an angry Inarian, not when those ill feelings were pointed at him like a condemning pike. Or when he knew, an observer might naively guess, that he deserved said ire.

I'm sorry I woke you, he'd wheedled, and it was manipulation even he was unaware of, this little waving white flag. I'm sorry you feel that way, the evasion, the sliding under culpability for his appalling behavior. I'm sorry I was caught, the implication behind it all. If it will smooth this over, maybe I'll even tell you I'm sorry for what I did to that medic.

The exposure spooked him far more than his own brutality. The look, brief but striking, of horror in Haven's eyes. His hackles prickled uncertainly. Coward, indeed.

"Well," he murmured gingerly, a cautious step forward, "all the same. I know it's been -- hard for everyone to rest."

Those eyes, luminous liquid yellow, cast downward at the ruined stems. "Lotus told me, after it happened, that these would help with the pain. I didn't -- have time to do anything with them." He breathed out in a loose, ragged exhalation of breath and moved slowly as if to sit up. Bad idea ahoy. A little pulse of dizziness threatened him and put him right back on his belly. "Sometimes -- it does. My chest. But only when it gets... like this. You know."

He gave Setebos a sidelong look. Watchful. Questioning.

"I guess I'm used to it."


Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills
Who battled for the True, the Just
Be blown about the desert dust
Or seal’d within the iron hills

Played by Kotake

Offline Setebos

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Re: Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2017, 12:15:31 AM »
"I know it's been hard for everyone to rest," Kashmir said, a halted attempt at understanding, and Setebos was once again tempted to reward his empathy with a pointed question asking him what he believed he knew about other people. Again, inexplicably, he refrained, instead settling for a mediocre dismissal without the same disdainful sting.

"Mm," Setebos acknowledged, gruffly, and let that thread fall.

Kashmir groped so desperately for reconciliation - Setebos was content with denying it until the end of his days, if only because it brought him some measure of satisfaction. Wherever did this bottomless spite come from? He had once regarded Kashmir with even neutrality, and now he could barely look at him, even in this pitiful and toothless state, without feeling his skin crawl. He couldn't help but feel like his weakness was a charade, and if he turned his back on Kashmir for a moment, those needlelike teeth would be gnawing at his throat. He had attacked another medic - what was one more doctor slain to protect his dirty little secret?

It was why, of course, Setebos did not turn his back on Kashmir.

Setebos looked at the chamomile again. Lotus was a competent doctor, his professional misgivings aside, and her recommendation was sound. However, he had a more effective way of administering the antidote, and enhancing its latent effects, than Kashmir's maddened fumbling. Ingesting it was a viable method, but he could guarantee the effectiveness of this remedy, and it would be a more soothing process than forcing twigs down an uncooperative esophagus. Setebos scooped the chamomile off the ground and proceeded wordlessly to a nearby fire pit, still heady with the smell of a recently kindled fire. He rooted through the mound of ashes, setting up the makeshift device used to prepare poultices, and with some finagling, reignited the fire.

Setebos allowed Kashmir to prattle on about his symptoms, which he digested with clinical objectivity. He dashed the chamomile into a golden powder and tossed it into the bowl, turning the water inside bronze, its color shifting to a muted saffron as he added some yarrow and coltsfoot, and once it was finished, he removed the steaming hot cup from the fire and presented it at Kashmir's feet. It was too hot to consume immediately, but once he was able to drink it, it would only be a matter of time before Kashmir felt his symptoms begin to abate.

"Try this," Setebos instructed impassively. "Drinking it'll be a bit of a struggle, but once you're able to get it down, you'll start to feel some... improvements."
« Last Edit: March 25, 2017, 06:49:44 PM by Setebos »
   




This old warship has wounds
And it won't sail for nothin'
The old sailor said to me
And I was foolish not to listen
And paid such close conscription
All the lies I believed

"But if you lend me some more labor
And put your name on paper
We just might catch a breeze"
I know now he was not a captain
Now because of all my actions
I grow alone with the sea

[ #E42217 ] | played by Sunblink
   » tracker

Offline Kashmir

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Re: Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2017, 12:07:43 PM »
Setebos was not wrong to be fearful, for he'd been through something horrific that most of his fellows could not claim to have survived with trauma and scarring as fun bonuses, but Kashmir in this moment was vulnerable. Something hateful was dragging its claws down the interior of his throat. He was hardly in an attacking mood or any shape for it at all... not that he would have anyway, despite the buried id-fueled wish that Set conveniently lose all memory of their last encounter.

Instead the marquis just watched, eyes bleary and a little dazed looking, as the chamomile was mashed, stirred, prepared into a sort of tea that steamed in the open air. He regarded it mutely, observing the color and smell.

"Thank you," murmured the jackal, though he took Set's word and waited for the remedy to cool, even bad as the pain was. You've felt worse, haven't you, Kash?

He didn't like the idea of incurring the animosity of someone who could casually poison him if he wanted. He relished even less the idea of being disliked by an Inaria even less. It felt all wrong. They were supposed to be on the same side, as Good People in a foul world.

(Search: how do I make this right?)

(Result: you probably can't.)

"Are you..."

Started and stopped, hesitant, not quite knowing the words.

"... I appreciate this. After -- well. Everything."
« Last Edit: July 20, 2017, 01:00:19 AM by Kashmir »


Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills
Who battled for the True, the Just
Be blown about the desert dust
Or seal’d within the iron hills

Played by Kotake

Offline Setebos

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Re: Psychosomatic [Setebos]
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2017, 11:24:12 PM »
Once the tea was prepared, Setebos sat back on his haunches and nudged the concoction closer to Kashmir's paws. He waited. When Kashmir did not immediately drink it, his eyes hardened in an impatient, admonishing glare, his brow furrowing. Setebos would entertain Kashmir for only so long, and if he tested his hospitality, he had no issue revoking his aid. Better to leave the wretched creature to fend for himself; see how much he enjoyed being helpless.

Or so he told himself. His mercy was rejected and repaid through violence time and time again, and yet, against his better judgment, he persisted. Stupidity. Gluttony. Jette and Nereid had been able to prey on him by staging a trap. Setebos put his life and reputation on the line to defend a Saboran he didn't even know, and immediately following his act of magnanimity, two of the crimson kingdom's warriors mangled him beyond recognition, mutilating him so severely that it reached past his physical body and permeated his very life. No aspect of his existence remained the same. Once before he had been forced to adapt to life without his mate, and after the assault, his universe was again rearranged.

Maybe it would bring Kashmir a cruel sense of gratification to know that Setebos, in some ways, regretted his intervention when Anglachel was being attacked. Though there was no clear correlation between the events, as he pondered his actions on that day, he had to wonder if it was worth it. If he had to continue sacrificing himself for very little payoff.

Part of him, the part of his brain untouched by bitterness, the one that treated Kashmir despite overwhelming contempt, insisted that it wasn't about himself. Even if he knew what he did now, if he traveled backwards through time, he would have still saved Anglachel. He refused to have been complicit in that boy's death. Doing the right thing wasn't meant to be easy or rewarding. By becoming a doctor, Setebos had promised the world that his obligations always came first, above creed or kingdom or loyalty.

(But Setebos had always been a bitter man.)

More silence. Kashmir's lips smacked anxiously, preparing his tongue for another attempt at conversation. "Are you..." he began, trailing off. Are you what? Are you angry? He was livid. Are you alright? Not even remotely. Kashmir never finished that sentence.

"I appreciate this. After -- well. Everything." Setebos's blood ran cold, freezing his heart in his chest and stilling his pulse. He inhaled through his nose to compose himself. Grit his teeth and set his jaw.

"I'm just doing my job," Setebos snapped. Did Kashmir understand? He was proving a point. He was issuing a message that was unequivocal: I am better than you. I haven't forgotten my principles. Unlike you, I can be better than our enemies. "Now drink this and go to bed, Marquis."

Go to bed, and let's pretend that this never happened.
   




This old warship has wounds
And it won't sail for nothin'
The old sailor said to me
And I was foolish not to listen
And paid such close conscription
All the lies I believed

"But if you lend me some more labor
And put your name on paper
We just might catch a breeze"
I know now he was not a captain
Now because of all my actions
I grow alone with the sea

[ #E42217 ] | played by Sunblink
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