A sudden, intense agony knifes down the length of your spine. With a muffled series of snaps, your bones break, and your nerves scream as your flesh comes apart in a cloud of fine black dust. Merciful blackness overtakes you, and when it subsides, you are whole again.
The shattered edge of a world.
Blanche is kneeling in place with her eyes boldly upraised.
You see a single exit leading west.
She is a hardy Human that might have been considered pretty had she not been so uncaring about her appearance. Roughly about five feet and some in height with a thin, lithe figure, there is not much about her that would warrant a second glance. A double handful of freckles and mottled scarring dots along the curve of her pale cheeks and continue to spread down the length of her neck to her shoulders, coloring the flesh an angry red. Her waist-length sandy blonde hair has been braided and tied off with a full roll of silk bandages winding halfway up the elaborate tail. Peering out beneath the wispy fringe of her bangs, her dark eyes typically lack any strong force of personality or confidence.
(covering the body) : a heavy, hooded sanguine robe
(worn on the feet) : a pair of delicate sanguine slippers
Oily smoke winds up into the wind-cut air from a crack nearby. It begins to congeal, and after a long moment Ashmer stands a few paces away. The featureless basalt mask swivels to face Blanche fully.
Perhaps a touch too slow, Blanche averts her gaze to stare at the same surroundings she'd been staring at for the last few weeks. There is a tightening to her mouth, particularly the corners, but otherwise she does not make any complaints. What is not audible is felt, though.
As Ashmer steps towards Blanche, the acid-etched stone literally falls away. A raw crackling can be heard, though whether bone or earth is to blame remains in question. Soon, the familiar pale shape is at Blanche's shoulder.
Blanche's expression is deadening as her eyes move to glance at you, the wrinkles wrought from trauma and time digging in deeply against the shiny stretched skin still healing from recent burns. Her skin is mottled. She is not lovely as she once was. A simmering of venom, unspoken of, lies beneath that gaze of hers as it defiantly flicks to look into your own before snapping to stare at your chin. "Nihilus.."
Quietly, Ashmer eases into a crouch beside Blanche. The edge of his longcoat drapes across her lap and a plate of his weaponbelt nips at her elbow. He lifts one too-thin hand and drags a curled finger down the length of her cheek. "Not so long as we thought," the thing whispers, then: "tell us of the pain?"
"No pain, Nihilus.. I feel no pain. Pain is an offering to the Goddess." Blanche is very young and human with her sulk as her shoulders droop. That single touch nearly brings the woman to tears yet she prefers to bite her lip bloody rather then allow that the show. Her voice is as somber and monotonous as it has always been. "I did not anticipate the loneliness. I should have. I worship the art of nothing. It should have embraced it."
Ashmer's hard black nail digs into the scarring before gliding to settle beneath Blanche's chin. "Do you remember our first instruction?" he asks in an almost gentle whisper.
Blanche honestly admits a firm 'no', the word mouth rather then heard. However, there is some quiver that begins along her limbs that she doesn't seem able to contain. The woman's eyes are averted as she looks over to you for instruction or clarification. "I do not remember much before the fire. They prayed a lot for my soul."
Ashmer lifts Blanche's chin with a curled finger. The long face stops a scant inch from her own, and his head tilts to one side in a curious, insectile twitch. "These scars are quite pretty," he muses aloud.
Half of Blanche's face looks as red as a fresh wound laid against an exposed muscle. It is shiny, red, and angry. It is thin and shows its fragility especially against the curve of her cheekbones that have grown to expose a more womanly appearance. Mortality had done its duty in aging her but her eyes still remain decades too old for her. Those age-old eyes stay focused on your chin, rolling to stay in place as her face is tilted up. For one moment, she does look up and fasten her eyes on your own. There is no horror or recognition or triumph. Her gaze is as dead as if she had been looking at a clod of dirt. There is no adoration.
"My mouse," Ashmer begins in a soft, rattling hiss. "You've slain yourself."
Blanche flicks her gaze downward immediately though no other part of her face changes. Her brows to not rise or fall. She might as well be wearing that mask you caught her wearing so many times before. It has been sewn onto her face.
"Oh, child," Ashmer whispers aloud. He hunches further, one long arm encircling Blanche's shoulders. "Come," he says as he moves to gather Blanche into his arms.
Blanche allows herself to be scooped up though her form is as as tight as a bowstring. She trembles in your arms.
Ashmer moves west over the broken ground. A hissing thunderclap sounds, and the wind whips knife-sharp grit and black dust into the air.
Among pools of acid.
This vast tract of the waste's rocky flesh is laid open as if by some ancient scourge. Sickly grey filth bleeds into the wounds, and their edges are scarred and warped with fused earth. The steam that wafts towards the charcoal sky smells sharp and saccharine, thickest where it gathers on the tortured shores of the stagnant pools.
As the ragged edge of the world shrinks into the distance, Ashmer's path takes Blanche onto a narrow track through the waste. Steam hugs close here to the charcoal, storm-clouded sky. Were Blanche to look, she would see where the earth itself has been ripped open to form pools of grey acid. The track winds tortuously to one side, and he follows it down next to a sickly sweet-smelling stream.
Blanche's robes are worn and she has done little to cover herself out of bandaging her scrapes and wounds. Whatever is exposed as the hem rides up is unappealing. Whorls of flesh that look touched by flame set against the natural paleness of her thighs. The further that you walk, the more her eyes squint shut and the more her trembling continues. She knows something unpleasant is around the corner. "..Nihilus..please.." For the first time ever, she speaks in her own defense.
"We remember drowning you," Ashmer muses aloud. The ground at the edge of the stream is warped. Stones have fused together and twisted into shapes whorled and twisted. Here and there, ragged spines jut out over the grey, steaming water.
A dim cast overtakes her gaze, the brown lost beneath a film of tears. Blanche nods. "I was filthy and you took me in, Nihilus."
Here, the wind is silenced by distance and the lee of the ridge, and Ashmer's claws can be heard on the stone underfoot as he carries Blanche to the edge. The creature leans down, gently settling onto a knee and allowing the slight girl to shift from his arms.
"You were filthy and I took you in," Ashmer echoes.
Blanche's cheeks are wet long before even the long tail of her braid has hit the surface of the water she's held over. The liquid sizzles and pops and the unpleasant scent of burnt hair fills the air, a stomach churning aroma. Both of her eyes are wide as that scent fills her nostrils. "..I kept it long for you, Nihilus. If you drop me.. it will be gone." She weeps openly. Those fingers that seemed as if they'd have lose their grip a moment earlier latch on.
Ashmer settles Blanche on the stone that slides into the grey filth. He rises quietly, one hand outstretched. "You did well," he answers as he curls two black-nailed fingertips in a beckoning gesture. The acrid stench of burning hair turns intensely sweet, and for a moment Blanche might here whispering at the very edge of hearing.
As Ashmer undresses, something moves beneath the clinging folds of his clothing. Here and there limbs that should not be there might be seen to move, but are gone as he shrugs out of a black button-down shirt and a heavy, fur-lined black longcoat. His belt thuds heavily into the grit and charcoal grey trousers follow. When the insectoid movement ceases and the clothing is pulled aside, nothing can be seen except his slitted body. Here and there, organs unrecognizeable as human are visible, and the long slits along the inside of either arm slowly discharge his black blood into the still air. Without another word, he steps over Blanche and sades waist-deep into the grey stream.
Blanche glances up at you in disbelief, the woman clearly having thought she was next to follow the tail of her hair that had already been consumed. Slowly.. so slowly.. she sits up and pulls that braid out of the acid and begins to wring it out. The acid brings blisters and turns her palms red but she does it dutifully. There is a mournful moment for the lost inches, a soulful cast of her eyes towards the acid, and then she has stood up to follow you. "..Yes.. Nihil-" Then her shoulders are upraised and those burnt palms looked at in mute horror before those eyes look up at you in disbelief.
Beneath Ashmer's pale skin, tiny black shapes seem to swim over the surface of the taut muscle. The acid hisses to steam at his touch, and the small shapes dip beneath its surface, leaving him a pale, slight silhouette. Only his teeth and the black blood under his arms remain to provide relief. "Disrobe," he commands in soft dual voices. One thin hand lifts and he offers it to Blanche.
Blanche's eyes fixate on the pool of acid and the stones she is standing upon. Her toes curl against the boulder that hangs just above the surface. "N-ni-nihilus.." She pleads, again. Already, the tail of her braid has oozed a line of sores down her back and caused the fabric to melt into her flesh. Without question, she does peel that bit of cloth off of her body with a wince, and sets it down. Her body is completely wracked with the red mottling that had only been hinted at earlier. Both lower limbs, the swell of her stomach, her mark as a woman, and breasts have been made scarred.
With great effort, Blanche reaches out to accept that hand. The first step is agony.
Ashmer only smiles - or what might be a smile had it any semblance of human expression and didn't glisten with black blood and ichor. As Blanche steps into the stream, he gathers her into his arms. Where the acid touches, the pain ranges from a sharp, intense burn to the freezing knife of winter on naked skin. "You were filthy when we took you in," whispers.
The expression on Blanche's face is ever changing. Agony, dry sobs, a scream caught in her throat- everything is visible with the movements of her brows on her face and the widening of her eyes. "I was dead when you took me in. I was dead when you washed me. I am dead now, Nihilus..." Quietly admits, her body wracked with pain that doesn't even begin to touch her voice. It as if some part of her had shut off entirely. The scent above the stream is thick with the scent of flesh. "..my life is your gift. Will you give me a chance to live?" Both eyes are red-rimmed, wide, and half-crazed with the effects of her surroundings.
The whispering at the very edge of hearing intensifies as Ashmer leans a touch closer. He presses a lipless kiss to Blanche's brow. Without another word, he pushes her fully into the stream.
Blanche holds her breath but it ultimately does not matter once the flesh of her cheeks has sloughed away. Those eyes held close are not concealed for longer than a moment as the thin skin sizzles away to expose coagulated orbs that grow milky. Her life slips away far more soon then might have been anticipated but the acid does its work well.
Beneath the slow churn of the stream's surface, Ashmer's features waver. For a moment, it seems as if insectile limbs rip themselves from his pale skin and wave in the air like some old predator questing for a meal. Then, the horrific image fades and the foggy, filth-obscured silhouette pales again. Black hair might be what replaces the segmented claws. The whispering Blanche heard at the stream's edge intensifies - screams of agony and violent death and cries for help ring close and are cut short. Pitiful whimpering, then angry senseless shouting. You hear a child crying, and the pain of the acid drifts into a numb tingling euphoria. For a long moment, Ashmer stands with Blanche's skeleton draped between both hands.
Your pose is now set as:
Ashmer is waist-deep in the acid stream, Blanche's skeleton in his arms.
There is the faintest hissing every so often. Perhaps a pantomime of a breath taken by Blanche but it could just be the wind.
Beyond the murky steam's surface, the sky shifts. It seems to open, turning indigo before erupting in a violent storm. Lightning flashes, and the thunderclap resounds through the thick acid enfolding Blanche's stripped-down body. Ashmer keeps one hand between where Blanche's shoulders had been a moment ago and lifts the other, cradling it beneath her chin. The ceaseless whispering and chattering grows louder, and clods of the grit floating in the stream begin to cling here and there. A voice says something clear but impossible to understand, and the tingling euphoria is slammed aside by violent, ruthless agony. While Ashmer holds her beneath the surface, she begins to heal.
Blanche is little more than bones and half-destroyed tendons holding joints together.
Even in the acid, Blanche begins to reform. Her lips never cease to move as the muscles reform and skin erupts over each limb. The acid grows from clear to blood red and, as if the acid was water, so doe her eyes suddenly form again. It is impossible to know if her eyes are wide because they simply are or because there are no eyelids yet. Still, her lips and lids are slow to reform and the creature within Ashmer's grasp contorts with each new twinge and pull of its muscles. The skin comes last and seems to take the longest, its delicacy clearly affronted by the acid.
The voices fade to a whisper and retreat to the edge of hearing. Ashmer settles deeper into the stream.
Every chance there is a moment where she might, Blanche is heard to respond to nothing in particular. Generally affirmatives such as 'yes', 'I understand', and 'this is right'. What she is responding to is not to be known, The tense pained body of the woman curls inward in your grasp as if she was a newborn and you her mother. So tightly is her fetal position even as the next wave of acid washes over her to cause her words to babble and tongue to wither.
Naked, Ashmer lifts Blanche from the sluggish stream and carries her to the shore. Steam rises where the pair drip on the warped stone and he lays her out on a flat shelf.
Blanche sizzles and pops noisily and yet does not breath. Her hair has been reduced to stubble and everything is pinkish in color. She writhes, nude and exposed, upon the stones that she's been laid. Several sounds make their way out of her mouth but they do not sound coherent. In a flight of panic, she seeks other methods.
"Just from your body, we think," Ashmer says. His voice is quiet and melodic; a far cry from his usual rasping hiss. He reaches into his rumpled longcoat and produces a rough bandage. Slowly, he begins to clean Blanche - the pain is intense, but the scars left by fire peel away, revealing undamaged skin beneath.
Blanche rattles out a hiss of pain but no words, her sweet voice distorted by the lack of tongue to maneuver the sounds. It could have been a soprano sound. It is horrific now. The dead skin is removed with much force to reveal something more pristine and well behind her years. Though the age remains in her gaze, scrapped off are reminders of how old she is as a mortal. Where she'd been bathed in her middling years, so she emerges a more quiet younger person. A person with expressive, blazing eyes that lock onto your own the first chance they get. They speak of needing comfort. They speak of hope. They see you as a savior.
"My mouse," Ashmer whispers. He reaches up, running a hand over Blanche's stubbled head. "Ss, we will have to be patient."
Blanche rolls onto her back with little regard for what is exposed. She has no care for modesty. Not after having melted in your hands.
(Tells): Blanche's voice reaches your mind: "I never stopped."
(Tells): Blanche's voice reaches your mind: "Am I allowed?"
Soundlessly peeking up with her eyes stopping short of your chin, Blanche says, ".."
Large eyes peek up towards you and a sense of peace falls over Blanche. She nods.
Ashmer glides to his feet, leaving Blanche curled on the wet stone. He steps over her and stoops to gather his clothing. "Your knees," he says as he dresses.
Blanche has no clothing worth dressing back into and so she allows her robes to continue to smolder and fume. Completely unclad in anything, including her dignity, she rolls onto her side and struggles to raise her newly formed body onto its knee. Her limbs quiver.
Ashmer glances over his shoulder at Blanche and tucks a lock of his black hair behind one ear. The corner of his mouth quirks, and he steps closer. "What do you pray for?" he asks. He lifts one hand and points a slender finger at the ground between his bare feet.
Blanche was already on all four and finds relief as she sink to place her cheek against your foot.
Blanche's voice reaches your mind: "Nothing."
You say, "No?"
Blanche's voice reaches your mind: "Nothing.. the true meaning of being a child of despair is learning that happiness is a facade. The sooner you learn that, the easier things are learned. A smile is worthless."
Blanche's voice reaches your mind: "I pray to be perfect."
Blanche's voice reaches your mind: "I pray for nothing."
Blanche presses her palms against the ground and moves to slowly stand. She is untouched by age and could be considered pretty had the scarring still not been so mottled and her hair fizzled away. Those are nonexistant concerns of hers, however.
Ashmer gives a soft hiss as he reaches out and slowly peels away the last remnants of clothing. Without a word, he sets to work scrubbing the last of the mottled scarring from Blanche. Only the old marks left by too many fangs remain, smooth and white.
As he turns on a heel, Ashmer says, "Come."
Poster's note: I've deliberately left a few descriptions out and I'm not going to go through and bold/color everything. Enjoy!
the way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine
open hand or closed fist would be fine
blood as rare and sweet as cherry wine