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Author Topic: Heaven's So Far Away  (Read 792 times)

Description: Pamplona District // Tag: Cassandria

Offline Ximo Gutierres

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Heaven's So Far Away
« on: Jul 04, 17, 02:14:15 PM »

Esteban Vega
Rose to Blood Opal Prince
Esteban Vega had been a professor at Salamanca for longer than most could recall. That was saying something, considering the fact that most of its faculty and students were not only Long-Lived, but both the astute sort and the Dhemlanese sort, which is to say that they tended to love being embroiled in everyone else's business. He was a soft-spoken Prince with several millennia behind him, an intensely sharp mind and discerning eye having served him well over his long years. His field of study was History, and as such he was well loved not only by those at the University, but by those at the nearby Chavez Museum as well, as he had been an ardent supporter of both institutions for many, many years.

Esteban happened to be outside of the Museum one fateful night, strolling the gardens there for some quiet conversation with a colleague rather than enjoying the banquet going on inside. He'd excused himself and gone to investigate when he'd spotted Cassandria stumbling across the lawn in a frightful panic, and through hysterical tears she'd relayed her view of what had transpired in the home she shared with her husband. Esteban might've thought her mad or afflicted with some malady of the mind, except for her description of the masks worn by her husband's nightmarish attackers. It chilled the steady Prince, as he was one of the rare few men who had seen one himself, and lived to remember it.

He'd used his Craft to calm the wild, grieving, terrified woman, and he'd whisked her away from her home and from the Museum altogether. He took her back to his own home, where Cassandria revealed everything she'd seen and heard that night in the hours leading up to the attack. Recognizing the terrible danger that the hearth witch was still in, Esteban convinced her that returning to her family only endangered them as well. Over the few days that followed, Esteban set up an elaborate plan to make Cassandria disappear in hopes of saving her life. A Black Widow accomplice helped to Craft an illusion to disguise the Chavez woman's face and scent, so that she seemed a Landen woman of no note. He took her to Trinidad Nava then, an old and dear friend whom he hoped could help to hide the woman for the time-being. As pregnant as Cassandria was, it was important to all involved that she have somewhere safe to carry the babe to term, if nothing else. Trinidad, knowing the Plaza had its own dangers of late, had called on a friend of hers in turn.

So it was that Esteban and Cassandria found themselves in a carriage drawn by horses (the nearest landing pad left some distance yet between itself and their destination) in the middle of a dark night, headed towards the ranch of a man neither of them knew personally. The carriage slowed and turned, their destination reached, and Esteban roused himself from the thoughtful silence into which he'd fallen.

"I have know Trinidad for a very long time, my dear," Esteban assured Cassandria, his grandfatherly nature undoubtedly a balm in this mournful, fearful moment. "She would not steer us wrong. This man will keep you safe until I can find a way to pave a safe path for your return to your family."

Offline Cassandria Chavez

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #1 on: Jul 05, 17, 12:44:01 AM »
191: Fall, A Landen Horse-Drawn Carriage, then Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Cassandria Chavez ran nervous fingers over her swollen belly, trying to massage away the pain. Her soft, off-white dress was loose to accommodate the wobbling walk and swollen curves of a heavily pregnant woman. The odd rocking and sudden jerks of the horse-drawn carriage were hard on her burdened body, so her hands had never ceased moving over her stomach, her thighs. She’d never had the knack for easing pain, that Enrique had had. The thought threatened tears, save that she had none left. Only grief, fear, and guilt. She stared resolutely out the window, refusing to think of the family she’d left behind, nor the husband she’d gotten killed. Yet amongst all the complex threads of her emotions, she was heartbreakingly grateful for Esteban’s comforting presence.

He had somehow sorted through her terror and grief, clever questions teasing out more truth from her than she had thought possible. But he had been adamant that a return either to home, or to join her brother at the Territory Court, was out of the question. She stared at her hands, baffled. What would she do, as a Landen? How would she live? For all that the Blood lived and breathed power, she had had almost a year to accustom herself to its painful absence. But the notion of giving birth without a Healer on hand, with no Craft of her own to ease her in anyway, was absolutely mind numbing.

As if sensing her downward spiral into frantic despair, Esteban’s voice soothed over her. Comforting, safe … she was terrified he’d leave her with these strangers, but while he was here, he as a bulwark against the terrors of the world. Her head tilted towards him, though her gaze remained fastened upon her fisted hands, her hair falling free to conceal her face. She nodded to his reassurance about the Lady she didn’t know,

“Esteban … thank you. Are you sure you should not remain, or go into hiding yourself? What if someone saw you rescue me? Those creatures …”

A violent shudder shook her frame. Desperately she sought for a topic change. “What does he do? Do you know?”

Offline Ximo Gutierres

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #2 on: Jul 06, 17, 12:28:43 PM »
"Shh, my Lady," Esteban tsked, reaching out to touch Cassandria's wrist reassuringly when she let her mind turn back to the assailants she'd escaped. "If they had seen me, we would already know. We are safe for the moment, I assure you. And so long as you stay here quietly, you will remain so while I gather some help for us. We will make this right, dear. Have faith," he said, smiling kindly. The carriage slowed to a gently lurching halt, and Esteban sat back into his seat and sighed. He was tired, bone-deep tired, but he was near to being able to rest. He only had to get Cassandria settled into the impromptu safehouse and then he could return home, and he could rest for a few hours until dawn woke him to continue his work. He would need to formally request a sabbatical from the University, but that should not be terribly problematic. It would be an unusual thing to request without warning, but the time of the year was not prohibitive, he didn't think.

"Wait here, if you please," he advised Cassandria. "Trinidad said he would not know we were coming. I want to explain things to him and secure his agreement to help us before you show your face. I'm sure it will be fine, but it costs us little to be careful."

If Cassandria agreed, Esteban would then climb carefully out of the carriage, taking time to ease his aged body down to the ground before closing the carriage door and moving away. If Cassandria couldn't stand it and pulled back a curtain to look through the carriage's window, she'd see him moving up a graveled walkway that led to a decently-sized ranch house. Wooden fence ran down both sides of the walkway, and sprawled off in both directions, both astride the front walk and in widely partitioned spaces to the sides and rear of the house. There were troughs here and there for water, though from her vantage she could see no animals.

What she could see was a man in a white undershirt and denim pants framed in the doorway of the house, partially obscured by a screened door. He had a bat of some sort in one hand and looked unhappy, though that might've been hard to make out from Cassandria's place. Esteban walked far enough up the walkway that he could converse with the man without raising his voice, and for what likely seemed like a very long few minutes, the two men spoke. Eventually, Esteban produced the piece of paper Trinidad had given him, and the Landen opened the door and stepped out, barefoot, onto the porch to take it from him. He looked down at it for a very long time, and then looked back towards the carriage. Another beat passed, and then he said something to Esteban and nodded. Esteban nodded in return, said a few more words, and his posture bent as though in gratitude. The Landen turned and went back into the house. Esteban returned to the carriage and opened the door to offer a hand to Cassandria. He was smiling.

"He will help us," he told her, as he assisted in her descent to the ground. He sent a thread to the carriage driver, and the Jewelless man got down and unloaded a few bags from the carriage to carry in behind them. "We'll need a name for you to use that isn't your own, dear. What should I have him call you?"

Offline Cassandria Chavez

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #3 on: Jul 06, 17, 02:02:24 PM »
191: Fall, A Landen Horse-Drawn Carriage, then Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Esteban soothed her gently, and she nodded to each of his points in turn. They’d both be safe, but only if she remained hidden. His strength and kindness centered her, more or less. But her emotions had already been friable and extreme, from her pregnancy, and at the moment she despaired of ever being her calm, quiet self again.

At last the lurching movement ended, and Esteban went to see his friend’s friend. If nothing else, no one who knew her would even think to find her in so unlikely a place. The epitome of civilized, she had lived her entire life in the lovely urban sprawl of the University. The beach, visible from the Museum, was considered wilderness; anything outside of the University grounds simply not part of her world.

And here she was at a …

She leaned over, pulled the curtains back a hairsbreadth, looking first for any buildings. Anything habitable …

Slowly it dawned upon her that those were rolling fields, livestock fences. A sprawling ranch house, straight out of one of her Masterpieces at the museum. The brilliant moon light made the colors glow, like something done by Monet, or perhaps Cezanne. But it wasn’t real to her; nothing made it real, until she saw the man standing with a baseball bat.

Cassandria felt a bitter laugh, and a few tears escape.

A baseball bat.

Against the fierce creatures that could block Craft and melt walls. That killed her husband and burnt her home to ashes. What she wouldn’t have given, though, to have had one to hand when it mattered.

Cassandria dropped the curtain and swiped at the unwelcome tears when Esteban turned towards the carriage. He handed her out, to her murmured thanks, and they began the long walk towards the sprawling house. She studied the empty-seeming pastures, searching for what manner of creature this ranch husbanded. For a moment she stared intently at Esteban, not comprehending the question.

The fiercely horrific creatures who hunted her came to mind. Their actions, the very way they looked … even her hopeless desire for vengeance all coalesced into a single answer. One, no doubt, the Professor would very well recognize.

Keres.” She nodded one, slowly, “Keres García.” That was the most common surname to come through the university, as equally found in Court life, or amongst the Landen. She ran the name through her mind several times. They walked up the wide, graceful drive to the ranch house, the screen door catching her eye.

She blinked.

Screened - because they had no other way to keep bugs out of their homes. Almost, right then, she turned and waddled back to the carriage.

Bugs.
Heat.
Cold.
Pain.
Disease.

It all awaited her, in that comfortable-appearing house. Every hardship and fear that the Landen faced, from being unable to clean something easily to dying of exposure. Broken bone never healing, to spoiled food as they could not properly preserve it. And into that desperate state her child would be born.

Yet inexorably, against her will, her body carried her forward. Her mind felt oddly disconnected from her pregnancy-swollen feet and aching back, the weight of her unborn child both unbearable burden and most priceless hope. She forced a small, uncertain smile, and awaited the courtesy and command of her Landen host when he appeared.

“Thank you, for assisting me.”

Offline Ximo Gutierres

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #4 on: Jul 09, 17, 06:05:16 PM »
Ximo -
I would have preferred to have spoken to you about this before now, but there was not time. The need is dire, and I trust you; there is nowhere else I can send them. I have remained behind to cover all evidence that I sent them to you, but I will visit soon to discuss. We still need to address the price of that stallion, anyway.

Thank you, my friend.

Trinidad

Ximo looked down at the note the old man had brought with him. He struggled with it, though he was practiced at not letting it show. It looked to outsiders like he was just heavily considering its contents; really it took that whole pause for him to pick out the words one by one. He smirked at her mention of the stallion. There was nothing left to discuss there, and she knew it. He'd lowered the price as far as he could, but he appreciated her tenacity. Plus, the fact that she'd mentioned it in the note gave him a little peace of mind. It wasn't a matter someone besides Trinidad would've known about, so it lent credence to the note's legitimacy.

He looked from the written plea out to the man who'd handed it to him. He had a patient but mildly worried look about him. Ximo's eyes slid from him to the coach at the end of the walk, where the curtain moved a little, but no one was visible.

"Alright," he said, with a nod. The old man hadn't explained much yet of what their situation was, but Ximo figured there was no harm in letting them in long enough to hear them out. "Go ahead and bring her inside. I'll be right back." He'd gone back into the house, then, and back up the stairs two at a time. He pulled on a light flannel shirt and headed back down, and was still buttoning up when he stepped out to hold the door open for the old man and his charge. He nodded to her thanks as she passed him by, but he was too near to sleep still to be particularly chatty.

That is, until the two of them were corralled into his sitting room, and the man who called himself Esteban helped the woman out of her cloak. Ximo only now realized that the odd shape of her hadn't been a trick of the dark hour or something to do with her coat. She was very pregnant, and Ximo looked from the woman's belly back to Esteban. Before he figured out how to respond to that revelation, though, Esteban swept forward and helped Cassandria to a seat.

"Just rest for a moment, my dear. I'll fill our friend in on what's happened," he told her. Once Cassandria was comfortable, Esteban would gesture Ximo into the next room. The two men would talk quietly for some time, and though Esteban erected a shield to keep their voices from traveling, Cassandria would see Ximo push his hand back through his hair and scrub at the back of his head slowly more than once, a gesture that seemed to denote exasperation or perhaps uncertainty. Eventually, though, the two men would return. Esteban looked tired but hopeful. Ximo looked resolved.

"Alright, we're all set," Esteban said to Cassandria. "This is Ximo Gutierres. Ximo, this is Keres Garcia."

Ximo leaned forward so that could offer 'Keres' a hand to shake without her having to get up. "Nice to meet you. Don't you worry, alright? Nobody's gonna come looking for you here." He paused, winced in an uncertain expression, and then cracked a half-smile as he asked, "How do you feel about horses?" 

Offline Cassandria Chavez

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #5 on: Jul 11, 17, 05:35:50 PM »
191: Fall, A Landen Horse-Drawn Carriage, then Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Cassandria Chavez was so grateful to be on solid ground, that she only smiled and nodded when Esteban eased her into the chair. The Landen had a trustworthy face, both kind and responsible. He’d read the letter carefully, suggesting a meticulous personality, and had equally taken his time in his private conversation with Esteban. The situation itself seemed to distress him, for he’d run his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture more than once.

It made her feel better, to know he was anxious, or even scared. A complacent host who had no notion of the risks involved would be far, far worse than a man aware of the risks.

Ximo Gutierres kindly leaned down to offer his hand, rather than forcing her to stand. It was a small thing, and yet profoundly kind.

“Mr. Gutierres, thank you for offering us shelter.” She offered a weary smile and a nod of agreement; there was no way anyone, not even her frantic family, would trace her to this remote place.

But question surely suppressed her, and a faint look of astonishment registered.

“Horses? I never met one. I’ve only seen them at a distance.” Mostly, looking terribly uncomfortable in a heavy hauling harness or helping to murder poor bulls at the Plaza. But horses would make sense of the vast pasturage and watering trough she’d spied on the long walk here. But Ximo’s half smile was positively charming, and won a baffled smile in response.

“Ummm… do you like them? Is that what all the fences are for?”



Offline Ximo Gutierres

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #6 on: Jul 13, 17, 11:19:01 AM »
Ximo couldn't help but laugh a little at Cassandria's baffled, Do you like them?

"Yeah, you could say I like them," he averred, with a bobbing nod of his head. "I raise them. It's what the majority of this farm is devoted to, so, yeah... that's what the fences are for," he said, moving back towards the front door as he spoke. There was a coat hanging on the wall by the door there, and he picked it up as he spoke. He returned to where Cassandria was sitting, and offered it to her.

"Take a whiff, if you don't mind. It's not too common a thing, but sometimes people are allergic to them, or to the hay we use around them. If you've never been around one, you wouldn't know. But that's not the kind of thing I'd wanna find out after the Prince has gone back to the city. If you can stand it, we'll stay up a few minutes, have some tea or something, and make sure you're not gonna spend your time here covered in hives."

Indeed, the jacket bore its share of horse hair and even traces of hay. It smelled like leather and raw earth, along with the hint of musk that seemed to follow animals around. And of course it smelled like Ximo, though she likely hadn't been near enough to him yet to recognize that.

"Tea? Or coffee?" he offered, as he stood upright again.

Offline Cassandria Chavez

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #7 on: Jul 18, 17, 08:17:04 PM »
191: Fall, Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Cassandria Chavez’s smile and question had won not offense, but a gentle laugh from her host, and she relaxed further. He explained that he raised horses, and that seemed appealing. Baby anythings were usually superior to the adult model. Or maybe that was her pregnancy, talking; either way, her baffled smile slid into warm at the idea of baby horses to care for.

Mr. Gutierres fetched his coat and offered it to her. A faint color stained her cheeks, at his offer of tea. She was settled enough now that her near-constant hunger won out over good manners. “Tea would be lovely, thank you; please thank your wife and family for the hospitality.” Given the conversation, she conscientiously added, “I’ve no food allergies.”

Her gaze dropped to the garment, oddly arrested. It seems strange to accept a jacket or coat from anyone save her husband. Despite the simple practicality of his reasoning, there was a fundamental element of protection in the gesture. Shaking hands carefully examined the coat, automatically smoothing the fabric and folding it neatly. At his gentle suggestion, she lifted the coat and breathed in the scents of this place. It was oddly settling, to have a few moments to examine the spicy musk that was probably horse; to let scents build a picture in her mind of hay and grain fields, oak trees and wildflowers. Sunlight, healthy sweat and a oddly enough a tangy salt also permeated the fabric. The warm familiar tang of the particular oil called saddle soap that was used to care for most fine leathers was deeply comforting. To her relief, her eyes did not redden or tear, nor did a sneeze threaten. She breathed in once more of the reassuringly solid scents the coat held. Though she sought and sought, there was no hint of a Psychic signature on the coat, nothing she could identify as her host. Not yet, anyway. Too many layers, to many alien scents, existed for her to sort them all so swiftly. She could build a museum exhibit, off of the stories told by that coat.

Slowly her eyes opened once more, and she offered a shy smile equally to Esteban, and Ximo, if he were still near by, or had returned with refeshments.

“Thank you.”

Offline Ximo Gutierres

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #8 on: Jul 24, 17, 09:50:03 AM »
Ximo chuckled again softly at Cassandria's offer of thanks to his wife and kids.

"I will do that," he told her, his smile turning sideways. "Just as soon as I acquire some." It was an innocent mistake to make, he thought, considering the family-sized house in which he lived. The Blood woman had no way of knowing it'd just been the existing house when he'd bought the property, and not something he'd built to suit himself. Though really, if he had built something, it likely would've been similarly sized. He wasn't in a hurry to settle down, really, but he did want a family of his own some day. Until then, he had enough extended family, complete with nieces and nephews to look after, that he was satisfied for the moment.

Ximo left to prepare the tea and Esteban took a seat on the couch beside Cassandria. If she allowed, he'd take her hand into both of his.

"This is a temporary solution, Lady," he promised her, quietly. "I know that it will be a trial to be so far removed from everything familiar, but it is that very distance which will keep you safe. I will do what I can to cover our tracks, and then I will wait a few days to make sure no one is the wiser. When I'm sure it is safe, I'll reach out to your family and let them know you're safe. They or I will come to get you once we have a plan in place." He patted her hand gently. "You'll be back with them before too long," he promised.

Ximo returned with tea for his two guests. He left Esteban and Cassandria to consume it and speak amongst themselves, excusing himself with the need to "find sheets" for the guest bed. By the time he returned, it would be clear that the hay and horse hair weren't going to bother the hearth witch. Esteban, looking weary enough to sleep on his feet, would linger long enough to reassure Cassandria one more time. Ximo then walked him back outside and down to the end of the walk where the carriage waited. Esteban passed off a small parcel to Ximo after they finished speaking, and then got into the carriage and left.

Ximo returned to the house, and barring objection from Cassandria, he'd show his new house guest to her room.

"It's not fancy, but the bed's comfy," he told her, opening the bedroom door to allow her to move in and inspect it. The room was furnished fully, but hadn't so much been decorated as it had been appointed. The needs were present, but it was definitely the guest room of a man who had little mind for fashion or design. Still he wasn't wrong about the bed. If Cassandria managed to try and sleep, she'd find it well-made and comfortable. A small mercy, in a day that had otherwise been such an unforgivable nightmare.

Offline Cassandria Chavez

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #9 on: Jul 24, 17, 04:34:55 PM »
191: Fall, Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Cassandria Chavez’s gaze followed the Landen man as he left to prepare tea. He seemed amazingly even tempered, and it reminded her why her best friend was a Landen. Her janitor, Raúl Mata, had that same vast gift for calm in a crisis that Ximo displayed. Her brow wrinkled, as a half memory teased at the edge of her consciousness. But no, she was certain that Mr. Ximo Gutierres had never visited her Museum. He seemed a man well able to tend to his own affairs, and she had no doubt he’d acquire a wife and children when it suited him.

Esteban took the seat next to Cassandria. He clasped her hand in both of his, the gesture profoundly soothing. Cassandria listened intently, her hand tightening for a heartbeat. “Thank you. I …” She shook her head fighting tears. “We’d both be dead, if not for you, thank you.” Right then, she determined to name her child after Enrique and Esteban, both. For her daughter lived, only because of the courage of those two men.

And one Ximo Guiterriez, horse breeder.

Her daughter would likely hate her, for the long, complex name that belonged to three men. Somehow, such a normal thought, of a teenager in angst over her name, warmed that cold spot deep inside. It was a flicker of hope, that she would live to have that fight with her child. And sit in a chair much like this, holding her daughter’s hand, and speak of why and how she came into the world.

Tears fell unbidden, then, yet they were not angry tears, nor ones of guilt and denial. Rather, they cleansed. She managed only a quiet, “Thank you, Esteban. You are smart, and careful; I trust your judgement entirely.”

Cassandria swiped at her tears, when her host reappeared with tea. He rushed upstairs to prepare the guest room, an act as kind as it was practical. The tea was soothing, as was Esteban. By the time Ximo reappeared, Cassandria was all but asleep where she sat. She bid a gentle and warm farewell to Esteban, and forced herself to let go of worries of beyond her control. She had enough to focus on, trying to settle in and being a useful member of a new household. She bid Esteban a quiet and reassuring farewell.

Cassandria was tired, grief-stricken and had recently suffered the brutal shock of a direct and deadly attack upon her own home. Yet she was still a Hearth-witch, and the state of the room to which she’d been assigned briefly stunned her. Nothing matched; the necessities and only the necessities were present. She’d seen just such a room, when her brother had been in the navy and insisted upon attempting to keep his own quarters near Tarragon.

The thought made her smile, quizzically. She studied her host, for a few seconds. “The bed is the important part. I’ll … I’ll be fine until morning. Thank you.” Such a lovely home deserved better than a randomly put together room, as did the owner. She looked around the room again, seeing possibilities.. A nice wall hanging, a few plants, a touch of Craft to match all the stains in the room …

Oh.

No Craft; then, she’d paint it. She could paint, and beautifully, with nearly any medium. And she knew well how to make her own paints, having to match assorted eras and Territories when restoring finds. Her gaze became intense, studying not so much the current expanse, but the beauty in the bones of the building, the shape of the furniture. She had a project, and that comforted and focused her as few other things could.

She thanked Ximo, and gratefully settled her small bag of things into their appointed places in the new room. Each piece of furniture she touched, she examined. It distracted her mind, to think of this ranch as the newest exhibit of the Chavez Museum.

The bed was perfectly made, a comfort in it’s own right, her toes neither exposed to the cold nor tucked so tightly they ached. It was just as soft as it ought to be, and wide enough, with sufficient pillows, to accommodate her pregnancy swollen body. Even so, it was only how bitterly exhausted she was that allowed Cassandria to fall asleep at all..

Cassandria’s bladder woke her with the sun, and she was heavily enough pregnant that getting out of an unfamiliar bed in a strange place made her feel rather like a beached whale. But after that trial was navigated, and she freshened up in the bathroom, it was time to attempt to dress.

In so many small ways, her husband of 1500 years had become a part of her, that this first morning without him was utterly, deeply devastating. From the habit of him always knowing where her slippers were, to how he enjoyed doing up her buttons. The way she always brought him a glass of water while he watched the sunrise, to how she  habitually made certain their socks matched. Small acts of belonging and claiming that were forever beyond her, now. Storms of tears struck at odd moments, and were allowed to flow. There was no one here to feel her heartache and anguish. That was oddly freeing, somehow.

Between Cassandria’s struggles with a morning routine that was no longer routine, her determination not to stir from her room until she’d heard evidence that her host was out and about, and Ximo’s own early hours on the ranch, she smelled the heavenly aroma of warm bacon before she heard him moving around the house.

The aroma was a beacon, drawing the hearthwitch forth from her isolation before she’d figured out how a Landen farmhand ought to style her hair, or how to put shoes on feet she could not even see. Her hair was loose, flowing down her shoulders and she had neither shoes nor slippers on her pregnancy-hidden feet.

Her mother assured her that she’d find her toes again after her baby came.

Making her way carefully down the unfamiliar stairs, Cassandria followed the enticing sound and scent until she found the kitchen. Ximo was fixing bacon and eggs with an ease that belied long practice. She watched carefully, to see how Ximo handled his knives, and organized his kitchen. It was harder than it ought to have been, to not simply step in beside him and begin helping.

“Good morning, Mr. Gutierres. May I help? I am a skilled cook.”


Offline Ximo Gutierres

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #10 on: Sep 06, 17, 12:45:45 PM »
"Heyyyy, perfect timing," Ximo said, when "Keres" greeted him. He shook his head to dismiss her offer of help. "Oh I don't doubt that at all," he said, with a reassuring grin. "But I'm just about done. Have a seat. Hungry?" He turned from the stove as he spoke, and rationed out the scrambled eggs between two plates on the table. He set the pan in the sink and took a plate he'd already filled with bacon to the table as well. He'd push in Keres' chair for her if she allowed, and then he'd take a seat at the table with her.

"Did you sleep alright?" he asked, eyeing her to try and get a sense of her state of mind. He expected her to be distraught, of course; she'd obviously been through an ordeal. Still, he wanted to make her as comfortable as he was able. He offered her water and coffee, taking some of the latter for himself, and then began to put away his breakfast. Between bites, as politely as he could muster, he'd attempt conversation. 

"So it doesn't seem like you're going to be here all that long, but we should probably come up with some kind of story as to who you are and why you're here. We're a pretty tight-knit bunch in these parts, and nosy as all get-out," he explained, with a lopsided grin. "My family's well-known enough that passing you off as a distant cousin who's just visiting gets kind of tricky."

Offline Cassandria Chavez

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #11 on: Sep 11, 17, 04:59:18 PM »
191: Fall, Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Ximo’s careful examination might leave him still unsure as to Keres’ well being. Her hair was loose, but combed; no clue therein as to her deeper emotional state. Her eyes were sharp enough to suggest she’d been up for some time, despite the faint redness that suggested either recent or prolonged tears. There was a complete absence of footwear, but given the challenge managing her own shoes could be to a pregnant lady, once again the answers he sought were ambiguous at best. A smile, faint but genuine, lingered upon her mouth as she met his gaze, and she permitted him to help her get seated without any fuss.

She spent a few minutes content to eat the food at its peak; she was both a fabulous cook and a very skilled devourer of food. She held few upper class airs; her crunchy bacon crunched, the fork danced delightedly through the eggs, and she was more than wiling to offer soft sounds of pleasure as she ate. Her whole body seemed to relax as she let herself enjoy each morsel. The eggs were more than adequate as well, the bacon excellent, though she missed fruit or greenery at the table. After a bit of water, the worst of her hunger was eased - for now … the dual curse of being hungry nearly always but having a squashed stomach was a need to eat quite often. “Your bacon is superb, Mr. Gutierres. Thank you for the fine breakfast. I slept better than I expected. The bed was quite comfortable.” An awkward pause, as she searched for words, before settling on a belated, “And did you have a pleasant night as well?”

Curved eyebrows, flecked with gold, rose at the notion that she’d be of interest to his neighbors, but only until she gave it a few moment’s thought. Of course they’d be fascinated. She clutched her hands together tightly. “Do you have an excellent midwife in the area? Maybe I’m a friend who is a little,” or a lot “afraid of giving birth,” without a Healer “and you have an excellent midwife?”

She loosened her death grip on her own fingers to gently rub her stomach. “Any explanation has to account for how pregnant I am, and why I’m not with family. Unless we go with you giving a grave, ‘it’s a matter of honor!’ … and then refusing to discuss it further?” Her shy smile flared again, and she looked at him thoughtfully. “I don’t even know if you are a man given to thinking or speaking much on honor. I don’t know anything about you, save that you are both kind and brave.”

And given to rescuing damsels in distress.

It occurred to her then, that he didn’t know anything about her, either. “My family …” she paused then, uncertain what truths would put him at risk, and which ones would ward him from unnecessary questions. Her smile fled, and anxiety flared. A tremor rushed through her body, jarring her, rustling the table. Little Endika Estefania Xima kicked in protest, provoking a wince of pain, and an “Eep!” of surprise, the likely inevitable nick name her dear daughter would be saddled with. She closed her eyes and breathed for a few seconds, her hands easing her daughter tenderly. Some of that softness, mixed with grief, lingered in her expression when she focused once more upon her host.

“Umm … I am skilled at domestic tasks. I restore art; I paint, sculpt, carve wood … make toys, even. What sort of a career ought I to have had? I know museums, and libraries; I know schools. I’ve never lived in the country, at all. I have traveled very little; a few trips with the family to see the Matas Toreros family, or to the shipyards in Terragon to pick up new antiques to restore.”


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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #12 on: Dec 22, 17, 05:33:31 PM »
"Oh, yeah," he assured her, easily. "There's not alot that really comes between me and a good night's sleep. I used to be able to fall asleep standing up," he told her, though the grin that surfaced with the words might make her doubt his sincerity. He did seem well rested, though, and quite chipper for someone who'd been awake long enough to have prepared a breakfast solo.

"Hmmm..." he hummed, while chewing on a mouthful of eggs. He narrowed his eyes and looked away, clearly giving some thought to potential stories they could assign to her. Cassandria's suggestion about honor pressed a grin to his mouth again, and after he swallowed, he chuckled.

"Aw, there's nothin' too brave about lettin' someone use an empty bed," he said, with a little shake of his head. She went on to talk about her skills, and though Ximo had taken another bite of his breakfast, his chewing quickly slowed and then stopped. Just for a beat, and then he resumed his mastication and swallowed again.

"Actually..." he said, with a little wince. "Man." He set his fork down and sat back in his chair, sighing as he obviously struggled with a thought. He eyed the witch across from him, and chewed his lip for a beat while he went back and forth on something in his mind.

"Okay, so this might be too awkward for you, but it's kind of perfect, otherwise," he began. "When I was on the circuit I dated this girl who was a sculptor. It went on for quite a while but I never brought her to meet the family. I've talked about her to some people, though. We could say you're her. When we broke it off it was kinda ugly, but if she showed up in trouble I'd help her out, for sure. I think most people would believe I would." He shrugged, uncertain whether she'd object to people thinking she was an ex-lover of his who'd come running back when she needed help. It wasn't a very heroic picture to paint of her, but it was one most people would believe, he thought.

"It'd let me be pretty tight-lipped about what's going on, like you suggested. It's an option, anyway. I couldn't call you Keres, though. I'd have to call you Filomena."

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #13 on: Mar 18, 18, 01:42:38 AM »
191: Fall, Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Ximo Gutierres had a wicked, humorous grin that tugged an answering smile from Cassandria. The ability to maintain a sense of humor under tense circumstances was a gift, and this Landen had it in spades. He teased her easily, naturally, with a grace that dispelled worries.

Sleep standing up, indeed! A small giggle escaped.

Ximo was delightfully alert, and good cheer radiated from his face and body language. Yet it rang oddly to Cassandria, for there was little more than a hint of his emotions in the air. Without a Psychic Scent emanating from Ximo, it felt almost like conversing with a dream.

A warm chuckle, rather than offense or self-righteous defensiveness greeted her delicate query as to his personal honor. The painful wince thereafter, suggested to Cassandria that he was indeed a man of honor and principle. Honor was like a pin cushion; if it didn’t hurt, it wasn’t doing its job. Thus the only people she had ever met who believed their honor spotless were those who had no true notion what honor truly was.

So his following internal debate was watched with some interest, though no attempt to rush him or interrupt was made. Instead she waited, fork suspended, head titled to the side, as if she’d been turned to stone herself.

When he did speak, her brow wrinkled faintly. On circuit? What did that mean? Then a faint blush tinged her cheeks. Her reaction was complex, nonsensical and utterly .... feminine. She’d been married for centuries; had never strayed from her vows, nor had her husband. Somehow, just for a heartbeat, pretending to be an old lover of Mr. Gutierres ... Ximo ... felt wrong.

It left her speechless as she fought through it all.

The waves of grief.

The rage.

The fear.

A shudder wracked her body. Fear won, easily. Cassandria fought to breathe, and nodded slowly.

Those creatures were not going to find her here.

Cassandria would do whatever it took to make sure that remained true. Another deep breath, to find her footing and translate the situation into her own language.

“ ‘Filomena’ ... often cited as meaning Friend of strength.” or lover. Or even beloved.. Cassandria could bear each of those iterations with pride; but how she could pretend to be from Ximo’s past, and yet know so little about him?

“On the circuit? I have no idea what you are referring to; are you a teacher? Do you give lectures on farming? Or ... on horses? May I ask how you met her ... us ...?” She shook her head, bemused.

Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

His assertion that the choice would allow him to be exceedingly tight lipped about it all won a brief laugh. “I think you underestimate your friends’ desire to protect you. But it will most likely keep your friends from asking me questions I can’t answer. Between us, though ... What sort of trouble would send a Landen lady to the only honorable man she knows, instead of to her family? An arranged marriage grown dangerous? A broken heart? A determination that her daughter will not be pressured as she was? Perhaps a touch of each. My friend Mr. Matas always claims there is never just one reason for a thing.”

He was the only Landen she knew well; he helped at the Museum. He was arguably her best friend, and he’d be distraught over this. Practical, wise and funny his soothing presence often helped her calm after an altercation with one of the guests at the Museum. He, too, often felt surreal; a dream or myth. One of her statues come to life.

She studied Ximo.

Yes, she decided. He’d make a good statue.



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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #14 on: Apr 26, 18, 09:00:15 AM »
"That's the one," Ximo confirmed, with a slightly more subdued tone in response to Cassandria's offered minutia about the name. He was quiet for a moment while downing some juice, and internally he checked his own gut-deep reaction to the name. It'd been a good idea, but in his excitement over contriving it he'd failed to stop and think about what it would be like to have that name tossed around all day, every day.

But... eh... maybe it'd lose some of its power that way, he reasoned. His eyes flicked across the table to the woman seated there, and he tried to mentally tie her to that name. To reinvent that name, actually, as the moniker for his troubled guest rather than the name of the woman who had upset his world so severely, once upon a time.

"The touring circuit," he supplied, when she expressed confusion. "I was a torrero for a while." He recalled then that there were some Blood who never involved themselves in Landen things, not even the sport that so many of them found entertaining. "When a torrero has a good year, sometimes their sponsors send them around the Territory on a tour to make appearances at events and parties. There's a regular circuit of cities involved," he said, but waved his hand dismissively rather than extrapolating. She got the idea, he was sure.

"It gets pretty hedonistic," he admitted, with a guilty little smile and a shake of his head. "Alot of money gets thrown around, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you how crazy some Blood parties can get. There was a time after I had a big win that I'd spend months at a time, uh, not-sober. I met 'mena in the middle of that nonsense, one year, completely by accident. She was protesting the event I'd been asked to grace with my presence," he said, his tone shifting to accentuate how silly he found that notion. He scratched his head, wincing again as he thought back over that first meeting.

"She's a spitfire. I'd never met anyone without Jewels who could get that fired up about things. I spent alot of time not feeling much of anything, back then, and here was this woman who seemed to feel so much, all the time. She was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen," he admitted, his smile turning half-cocked. He sighed and shook his head, dragging himself back to the present.

"It took some work to get that girl to give me the time of day, but she did, eventually. I was with her for a few years before I couldn't hang anymore. Most people aren't meant to burn at that level all day every day, I don't think." There was a lull while he ate a few more bites of his breakfast, and then he shook his head at the mention of Filomena's family.

"She was at odds with her family. They were too 'complacent', she used to say. They didn't 'understand' her. Which might've been true, I dunno. In hindsight, though, I think maybe they just slowed her down and she couldn't have that. But I might be biased, having been eventually shoved into that category myself," he admitted, with a half-smile. "I wouldn't expect her to ever come to me for help, but if she went to anyone it wouldn't surprise me if she came here instead of going to her family. I don't think the story here needs to be any more complicated than she needed a quiet place to finish out her pregnancy."

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #15 on: Sep 27, 18, 04:25:27 PM »
191: Fall, Ximo’s home.
This thread follows shortly after Confluence of Consequence.

Cassandria / Keres / Filomena finally, slowly settled her fork onto her plate, and devoured a piece of toast, listening intently. She pictured a passionate youth, lost in victory and out of his depth at the sort of Fraternity and Sorority parties Cassandria knew about but never willingly attended. She imagined his ‘Circuit’ parties were much like the wilder college parties, or the way some Blood celebrated Winsol. A lot of posturing, a lot of being on display. A shudder when through her at the thought. Art deserved to be on display. But people ... they were deeper then that.

More sensitive.

It was like she lived and breathed between them, his Filomena. Her fiery, ardent nature wooing him from his complacency and the numbing drug of victory. Her asking - no, demanding - that he care. How much had it hurt, to grow like that? And yet surely ... a Torero of all men had to understand the price of each victory, or the display itself became merely barbarism and not the sacrifice and lesson it was meant to be.

Thoughtfully, her gaze settled upon Ximo once more, instead of being lost to the ghost whose will and passion lingered between them. Cassandria had only watched the death of the Bulls once, and had never chosen to return. The noise, the crowds, the pain of the display were far too visceral and real for her; some of that grief lingered in her gaze, though it may well be obscured by all the other griefs dwelling therein. She shook her head, baffled. He’d have had to win a lot, to be on the party circuit he described. So he must have been very, very good. Yet it seemed impossible to link this calm, down-to-earth man with the horrors of the arena or the excessive parties he described.

Her smile flared, as he admitted how baffling he’d found the young lady. Filomena’s protest confused his mind to this day, though clearly his heart had understood her, since he wasn’t a Torero now. Cassandria’s smile softened, when he admitted Filomena had been the most amazing thing he’d ever seen. Casandria - Keres - Filomena ... the names seemed to burn their way into her mind, her soul. She found an odd comfort there, in these soul-sisters from other eras, times and places. A strength and purpose beyond her own. Keres for vengeance and truth, Filomena for compassion and the will to act. Both of them to shield her.

“Filomena,” She pronounced the name slowly, carefully. “Fil-o-mena. I suspect she’d have approved, of helping to save my daughter.” Such a lady as Ximo described would not be cowed, even by the threat of the Cathedra. Or maybe she’d have been pushed to even greater rebellion, knowing the enemy she defied was so powerful. A simple nod showed her acceptance, that they keep their story simple. So wild a young lady as he described would surely have set her own terms for how, when and why she brought a child into the world.

But she would never have approved of the sleep-walking through life Ximo was doing now.

Where was his family, his friends? His great cause? Her eyes focused intently upon Ximo. It was ever so much easier, to deal with Ximo’s life and pains, than her own, just now. Surely, he’d forgive her focus? She prayed her words did not provoke rage, for she dared be far more outspoken than she ought to be.

“I had never before considered that the Toreros survived by becoming numb to pain, to all feeling. Usually, in sculpture and painting, the bull is so much more beautifully, painfully depicted than the Torero that it hurts to see it, every time.” She took a deep breath, and dared the more intimate address he had used.

“’Mena,” She all but conjured the spirit of the Lady behind the name. “Breathed life into you, changed you forever, then ... it seems as if she rushed past you. I’m so sorry for your heart break.”

This felt almost like restoring a statue or ancient painting, except the person she needed to help restore was not a lost figment of history, but right before her. Alive and real, not the dream he nearly seemed. His past-pain was clear to her, vivid, though she could not sense a hint of it with her mind, not with her senses dulled both by her pregnancy and his Landen nature. “I am glad you met her. We ... all meet people who stretch our souls. We aren’t always brave enough to learn from them. Still, you needed a time to rest, to rebuild yourself, like a winter of the soul.”

“Now you are not a Torero; now you are free to be ... you. It’s spring for you now, Ximo.”

What will you choose to be?

But she couldn’t ask the question aloud. It was far to intimate a question. She went with the far more mundane, “Can I help you with dishes?”

Offline Ximo Gutierres

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Re: Heaven's So Far Away
« Reply #16 on: Oct 09, 18, 11:09:59 AM »
"I suspect she would have, as well," Ximo agreed. He drank more of his juice and seemed to ponder the matter on his own for a beat, perhaps thinking back over the last time he'd seen the woman in question. Cassandria's following thoughts on torreros and how they coped drew the Landen's attention back to her, though his expression shifted into that mildly doubtful look of someone who disagreed, but felt no compulsion to interrupt.

"Well I dunno that I'd describe it just that way," he started to say, but Cassandria chose then to guess at how 'Mena' had influenced him, and he quieted to listen. That same doubtful look lingered for a moment, but the way she finished by expressing condolences edged him back into a lopsided smile and some genuine amusement.

"There's nothin' to be sorry for," he countered, with a shake of his head. "I'm glad to have known her. Some people are just that way - lightning doesn't belong in a bottle on the shelf. We were just looking for different kinds of happy, she and I. There's nothin' wrong with that."

He nodded faintly at her observation about him not being a torrero anymore. "Haven't been for a while, now," he affirmed. "But truth be told I don't miss it. I've got a good life here." When she asked about helping with the dishes, Ximo took the cue to stand up, and reached for the emptied plates on the table. "Nah, don't be silly. You're a guest. You just relax. Won't take me two shakes to get these cleaned up. I've got animals to feed real quick after that, but then if you want I can take you into town. Esteban left a purse for you to use to pick up what you'll need for the few days you'll be here."

 

 

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