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 broken mirrors and shattered hearts, tag marten
NORAH FIGGINS
 Posted: Aug 4 2014, 09:49 AM
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She seemed to be more active during the night time now. A rather strange happenstance that occurred once she returned here, to her home, or whatever semblance of home this place could be claimed to be. She wandered the halls here, a ghost like figure that hid at the sound of footsteps. She had perhaps gained a little weight, as much as one woman could gain in the span of a week, or was it over that now? The passage of time slowed and sped up in a myriad of colors that Norah didn’t attempt to understand. There were moments when reality shifted for her. The dreaming world was part of the waking, and then sometimes her dreams would walk into her mind while she was certain that she was awake. There was no way for her to know whether what she was really experiencing was, in fact, real at all. Madness had a way at seeping into the cracks now didn’t it. She had built up such strong walls, such impressive forceful walls that were made of brick and mortar and stone. But still, the darkness soaked into it, devouring her meager defenses until she was left with nothing but memories and pain.

There was some sense of accomplishment to it though. She had a child inside her, a young little thing that at points felt like some kind of twisted vampire leeching upon her very soul. She was weak, she had always been weak. But now there was no choice. She could not become strong if she chose to, the little one inside of her constantly drew energy into itself. The will to stay alive was not a choice given to it, nor to Norah, but they were both wrapped into this twisted curse that forced the entity to stay alive and drew upon Norah in great gasps until… Well she didn’t know what the end was. But she knew she worried. It was sick, it had to be sick if it was pulling so much energy from Norah. Was she forcing this little creature into life, when without this curse it surely would have died long ago? What beast was she bringing into this world?

Tonight she stood at the foot of her bed, a figure wrapped in white. Incoherent at this point, her hands wringing as she paced back and forth. If one listened very closely, you would hear the quiet muttering of a mad woman. She spoke to shadows, to her child, to the nothingness that she could hear. There were no meanings to the words, if they could even be called words. Noises escaped from her mouth, but she did not know if they were even human. In the midst of this fault in the world of reality, she heard a voice from behind her. There, at the corners of her eyes, in the mirror hanging upon the wall, was the face of her captor. Jessamine didn’t speak, she didn’t attempt to make contact, but she hung upon that wall laughing down upon Norah as though her inner turmoil was plan all along.

Norah’s reaction was visceral, violent, and all consuming. Without thought, she rushed across the room. Her hands as outstretched claws, she ripped the mirror off the wall. It was a large mirror, nearly the same size as her. But as it tumbled to the ground, she felt a severe sense of satisfaction. She wanted it to break. She wanted to hear the shattering of glass more than she had realized. As it shattered upon the ground, she felt, for a few moments, complete and utter peace. Seconds later she was stomping upon the glass, still feeling as though Jessamine’s face was looking up at her and smiling that terrible smile. The glass imbedded in her feet, shards tearing and ripping through them. She did not notice the pain. She did not notice the blood that was splattered upon the ground now. All she felt was the satisfaction of breaking something, ruining something that she felt was a tie to the life she had before.

Fear overwhelmed her once more, the carnage of the floor finally registering in her mind. Whether it was fear that Marten or August would be angry with her, or fear that Jessamine would become angry she did not know. Yet it was fear that sent her fleeing through the door to the balcony and slumping upon the edge of it. She could not be seen from the room, yet the door was left open as the sheer curtains fluttered in the wind. She sunk to the ground, her face pressed against the railings as their cool stone eased her mind and soul. It was so cold outside, and yet she felt none of it. Norah was far past awareness of pain, but unable to conquer the pain of fear.


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MARTEN LOUPANGE
 Posted: Aug 8 2014, 01:29 PM
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Marten had been sleeping poorly. For five years, he had made efforts to sleep during the day, particularly through sunrise and sunset so as to sleep through his transformation. August had become semi-nocturnal himself, his day running from around noon to midnight, so as to accommodate Marten. now he found that with Norah in the house, he was barely sleeping at all. He'd spent the better part of the last two days drunk, sparking a vicious argument with his butler. Now he'd been awake for 17 hours and counting, wandering the manor or sitting in the men's parlor reading the same three paragraphs over and over again. The time had gone surprisingly quickly, but it only seemed to make it worse. The speed of time reminded him cruelly of his age, and so of Norah's, and of how young she was, hiding in her room like a frightened little girl. And he wasn't helping her. He wasn't doing a damn thing. He wasn't even trying. Fear of failure was stopping him from doing anything at all. He was furious with himself for cowering from her for this long as it was, and this time, he was determined to fix it. In spite of his worries that Norah had ceased to be the young woman he'd fallen in love with, in spite of his certainty that she didn't want him in the life of herself or her - their - child, he had no right to spurn her because he, himself, was afraid.

August hadn't done anything about dinner that night. In fact, Marten hadn't seen August yet at all. He suspected the old butler was still angry with him. Not having even changed out of his nightclothes, he fashioned his own dinner of bread and some cold meat, more out of a desire to get something in his stomach and sober up than out of a desire to actually eat. The very act of eating it was a chore in itself, like trying to chew and swallow a tasteless gum of wax and ashes. However, enough bread and cold water later, he felt sober enough again to go upstairs to the room he'd placed Norah in a week earlier. A week...had it been so long? And he'd hardly even looked at her.

He was a monster, truly. Delgado and August and Norah had all tried to tell him otherwise, but he knew better. He knew his own mind. He knew his shortcomings, and they were many.

He hesitated outside the door a moment, and in that moment's hesitation, he heard a mighty crash, like a vicious crack of thunder. His blood went cold and when he threw open the door, he saw the huge 6-foot mirror shattered on the floor and a pair of bloody footprints leading out to the balcony. His first thought was a grisly one. He knew what he would do himself on that balcony if he were in Norah's state, the dark corner his mind would trap him in when he saw the long, ugly fall below the stone railing... Without thinking, he darted in and hissed sharply as a shard of glass embedded itself into the ball of his bare foot. He paused and pulled his foot up to slide it out, wincing at the clot of blood that came with it. He took more care stepping down again and looked for the mirror shards glinting in the scant moon-and-candlelight as he proceeded around them to the balcony. To his relief, Norah hadn't thrown herself off. She crouched against the railing, her back to the glass balcony doors. She looked so very, very small. He couldn't tell if she was crying or just breathing deeply.

Marten went cautiously out onto the balcony, approaching like a cat-catcher to a feral half-grown kitten. He crouched silently behind Norah's back, brushing her shoulder so she would know he was there.

"You're safe," he whispered. He didn't know what else to say to her, but this, at least, he knew was true. For the moment. He might not be able to do much for her, but he could keep her from getting hurt again. He placed his hands on her bent waist and pressed a tender kiss to the back of her head. "You're safe, darling. I promise. I'm not going to hurt you. Nothing will, not here, not ever. You're safe here. You're safe here..." He whispered these words like a chant or a lullaby, over and over until they both fell into silence, and he, the Beast, stayed crouched behind the woman he loved, a shield between her and the nightmares she had left in the room that sparkled with broken glass.

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NORAH FIGGINS
 Posted: Aug 12 2014, 08:47 AM
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There was a part of her that wished she had not heard him enter, that she had been startled by his presence. But her time in that camp had heightened her senses and made her so much more aware of her surroundings. Even in a moment of complete and utter loss, she had heard his footsteps coming towards her. She had heard even his breath, knew the gait of his walk as well as she knew her own. She didn’t need him to speak because Norah knew how the weight shifted as his feet hit the floor. She ahd heard him walking by her door many times this past week, she knew the difference between his silent padding and the clipped gait of August. No matter how many times the dear butler had attempted to cajol her towards the dinner table or further, she had stayed in this room and muttered. Always muttering, it was as though the talking would help her think through the terrors and darkness of her own mind. But she didn’t want to remember everything, why couldn’t she just choose to forget?

His hand was warm against her waist, the wide expanse of his palm heating her to her core. Oh she had forgotten that heat, that delicate warmth that a mere touch could bring. It was safety and light and a brightness that seemed never ending. There was something here for her, and though she could remember their time together she looked upon it now with the eyes of a woman changed. It had been a whirlwind of a romance, lead nearly entirely by her if she remembered correctly. But it had been a romance nonetheless. She had fancied herself in love with him just at the sight of his broad shoulders and sardonic grin. As soon as she took the chance upon him, Norah had realized what a gift he was. Now she looked upon that time as a fond memory, but as a passing moment. She still loved him, still felt that heat, but in a different way now. Her entire body had changed, her entire meaning on life, and thus so had that love.

For a moment she wavered towards him, her body leaning against the strength that he provided. She wanted to disappear into that heat, that security as though he could take everything and anything away. She wanted him to. She wanted him to take that weight off of her shoulders and bare the heinous acts and terrible deeds that she had helped commit. She wanted him to wipe away her memory so that she would have nothing but a clean slate and a warm heart to greet him with. And so she leaned, her body allowing the few fleeting moments of peace that could calm her mind. Yet the darkness seeped into her once more, reminding her of the horrors that had been promised for him. The whispered threats in the night as Jessamine had laughed at her proclamation of love. At the markings upon her body that were a reminder that she was, never, entirely safe.

In a burst of energy she erupted from his arms, throwing herself away from him violently. Her back pressed against the cool railing of the balcony once more, her hands clenched at the stone until her knuckles were stark white. ”I will never be safe, Marten. I bring nothing but danger to you and to August the longer I stay here.” She shook her head, eyes wide with fear, and anger, and something similar to guilt. Her hand raised, a shaking hand pointing back at the bedroom. ”I saw her in the mirror. She’s still watching me, still knows that I’m alive. Her entire purpose to letting me go was to let me die in a worse way, alone, starving and cold. She will come for me.” The shaking hand pushed through her tangled blonde hair, getting stuck and tearing through knots. She had not yet noticed the blood leaking from her feet, nor the pain of the glass that was now thoroughly embedded in the soles of her feet. Her head shook once more, the finality in the gesture evident. ”She will not let me go.”


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MARTEN LOUPANGE
 Posted: Aug 15 2014, 02:50 PM
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Marten loathed not being able to know what Norah was thinking. He hated the sick feeling in his stomach that she was going to rip herself away from him any second and curse him for trying to hold her at all, and he hated suspecting that maybe she wasn't really wrong to do it. At first, she sank back into him a bit, leting his hands warm her tiny, frozen form. He looked down at her feet and saw blood, but just as he was wondering how to get her to stay still so he could pull the glass out of her soles, she tore herself away just as he had feared. He stayed where he was a moment, crouched on the ground and looking up at her with hurt written in the widening of his blue eyes. She held out her hands as he stood up, as though she were trying to ward him away. He took a step back in pained surprise. He wanted to look past this, to understand how she was feelnig and who she was now and that he wasn't a real part of her life and hadn't been for months... He was trying. But he couldn't feel his way past the hurt he felt when she looked at him like a creature she was frightened of. That hurt was the darkness keeping him from seeing beyond his own skin.

She backed up against the railing, and he flinched forward as though to catch her from some inevitable fall. ”I will never be safe, Marten. I bring nothing but danger to you and to August the longer I stay here. I saw her in the mirror. She’s still watching me, still knows that I’m alive. Her entire purpose to letting me go was to let me die in a worse way, alone, starving and cold. She will come for me. She will not let me go.”

The hurt in his eyes softened and he did walk toward her, slowly as not to alarm her. He put his hands against her face, feeling cold skin and tense muscles that hadn't relaxed in a single moment of peace for much too long. He kissed her chastely on her forehead and the tip of her nose, stopping short of her mouth but leaning to rest his forehead against her hair. She seemed so cold to him, so cold and breakable, like an abandoned china doll left in a dark cabinet. He wanted to wrap her in his arms until she was whole and warm again. It was the first time since the curse had struck that he could remember wishing he were the Beast at that moment. He could hold her, warm her, protect her...

"Nothing," he said fiercely, still holding her face in his hands as he looked intently into her eyes, "is going to hurt you. If anyone comes for you, they will not touch you. Do you understand me? I don't care who it is, or what they do, I will die before the Coven comes near you again." He stroked her cheek with his thumb. "She won't find you. I promise, darling. I don't know what to do for you, how to make you stop hurting... I don't know how to-" To make you love me again. To make you want to be here at all. He trailed off as the words caught in his throat. "But nobody will find you here. You are safe. You're safe here, with..." With me. "With us."

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NORAH FIGGINS
 Posted: Aug 19 2014, 09:20 AM
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There was still a part of Norah that wanted to shrink away from him. Not in fear of him, but in fear for him. She knew Jessamine more than Marten did, she had seen the way that the woman had looked at her, had endured the lingering touches and the longing looks that were quickly replaced by anger. She had realized early on that what the woman felt for her was some kind of twisted emotional game for the both of them. Jessamine was a broken woman, far too shattered to ever pick up the broken pieces. There were bits of her soul that were scattered around this earth, and Jessamine was trying to find them. It was why she was so volatile, it was why Norah had made her uncomfortable. Once upon a time, Jessamine would have been a woman like Norah. Perhaps there was a chance for her to go back to that point, but Norah thought that nothing short of a miracle could pick the pieces of that woman out of the very depths of hell. At some point, Jessamine would fall. That would be the first chunk out of the great immoveable stone that was the Coven.

His hands were warm. The heat sank through her body in delicate curls. Wisps of light and heat, as though someone had dropped ink into a clear pool of water. Softening, she leaned into his forehead as he pressed his gently against hers. There was nothing else she could do. She was tired of bearing the burden of the past two months on her own. Though she was not willing to tell him all of the things that were done to her there, she was not willing to tell anyone that horrible experience, she was willing to lean on him so that she at least had some sort of support. A deep breath accompanied her body softening, their bodies connected by nothing more that mere link. But it was enough, it was something, and her eyes fluttered shut for a few moments just to breathe.

As he spoke passionate words about her protection, Norah watched him with a measure of fear and amusement. He was a strong man, a good man, but he was no match for those people that she had just come from. She would not tell him such things, if there was anything she had learned it was that the male ego was a delicate thing that took a much longer time to build up than to tear down. She leaned into his touch, her neck arching delicately towards the heat of his palm. It was good to be touched again without fear of pain following quickly. Yet she was still hesitant, more afraid of his reaction of her body now than anything else.

Her own hand raised. Her fingers lightly touch the strands of his hair, no more than a breeze that lifted the strands. ”You are a brave man, my beast.” Her eyes narrowed, but her face was still soft. Finally she touched him, hesitant and unsure of herself. It was nothing more than a mere hint of skin against skin, but she traced the lines of his face, lingering on the crows feet that left grooves in the face she felt she knew so well. ”I would not have you risk your life for me, though. Not in the end. If she wants me, you will let me do what I must to save both you and August.” Her hand trailed down his arm, reaching his hand only to pull it and gently place it against the barely there mound of her stomach. ”You will take care of her for me if the time comes.” A small smile dusted her face. ”Though I hope that it does not.”


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MARTEN LOUPANGE
 Posted: Aug 27 2014, 11:30 PM
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”You are a brave man, my beast. I would not have you risk your life for me, though. Not in the end. If she wants me, you will let me do what I must to save both you and August. You will take care of her for me if the time comes.. Though I hope that it does not.”

Part of Marten almost wished he could tell Norah the great myriad of ways in which he was not brave - ways in which he was, in fact, an outright coward. He wanted to tell her of the despair after his mother's death that forced him the closest to taking his own life. He wanted to tell her of the other occasional, lingering thoughts of suicide that whispered in his ear for the three decades after. He wanted to tell her that hurt and, yes, fear, had once caused him to strike his lover of almost ten years, and that her absence had given him heartache that made him want to scream and vomit and destroy everything he laid his hands on. He wanted to tell her about the fear he'd harbored of his father from childhood, even after the late Duke had died. He wanted to spill out to her every weakness, every flaw, every ugly facet of Marten Loupange, until she took back her words and realized just how little he, a foul, thin-skinned, wretched beast, could be trusted to protect her.

And yet... Another, still larger part of him only ached to tell her that he loved her. That part of him knew beyond a doubt that he'd do anything in his power to keep Norah and her child safe, and it was no burden. This part of him was fully weightless.

"I promise," he said, though of course it was at least half a lie. He'd take care of her child if she asked him, but he would die before allowing Norah to return to the Coven under her own will. It was madness, even in imagining. He looked down at his hand on her belly, then past it to her blood-smeared toes, and he sighed. Without thinking, he kissed forehead, as though they were lovers.

"Come on," he said. He lifted her and held her across his chest with her legs hanging over his arm, like he was toting his bride across the threshold. "We're going downstairs to get the glass out of your feet."

He stepped gingerly across the glass-strewn bedroom and into the hallway, only half-lit by the scant moonlight streaming in from the windows at each end. As he carried Norah down to the kitchen, he marveled again at how light she had become. Never a robustly-sized girl to begin with, it seemed as though she had withered to the weight of a basket of kittens.

Once downstairs, he deposited her into a high-backed wooden chair and shuffled around the kitchen - searching for pots, heating water, opening cabinets until he found a bottle of apple vinegar. The kitchen was August's usual haunt, and evidently the old man had been there already. Marten was glad. Even if he weren't feeling poorly, August was still unhappy with him. Still, he'd been up and about at least enough to start the kitchen fire that was currently crackling away in the hearth. The contrast to the cold, pale room glittering with shards of mirror that they had left was stark, almost comical.

With a pot of lukewarm water spiked with vinegar at the ready, Marten finally knelt at Norah's feet, picked them up and dipped them in. It would sting, he was sure, but he suspected she wouldn't notice much. Not right now. She'd barely even acknowledged the glass. For a few minutes, he sat in silence, gently sliding pieces of glass from the sole of her foot and leaving them in a puddle of watery blood beside him. He was moving on to the other foot before he spoke, his hesitation evident in his voice.

"Do you remember much, the night we spent together?" he asked. He certainly remembered every detail, from the delightful profane memory of his mouth buried between her legs to his chaste kisses to the top of her head as she'd curled against his chest to sleep. "If I had woken up human, instead of that...thing...I would have stayed. I would have held you in that mad tangle of limbs we fell asleep in, and I would have bid every inch of you good morning with kisses. We would have stayed there until noon, and not an hour would have gone by that you wouldn't know how I adored you. But...I didn't wake up human. And I fled. I left you because I was terrified that you would be repulsed, knowing the monster you'd taken to bed." He looked down and pulled the last shard of glass from Norah's heel. For a moment, under the blood he caught a glimpse of one of his own blue eyes. He quickly discarded it. "I wanted to be yours, you know. Your lover, if you would have allowed it. But I didn't act very much like a lover. I was... Well. A beast."

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NORAH FIGGINS
 Posted: Aug 28 2014, 11:09 AM
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He transported her from her room to the kitchen, and though she still shied away from touch, Norah was pleased to have someone to lean on. In the end, she was exhausted. Tired of being afraid, tired of being weak, but most of all angry at the situation and the circumstances that now ruled her life. It wasn’t fair that someone like her had to endure the pain and the horrors that had happened. It wasn’t fair that she now had those memories and these scars that marked her for all eternity. She didn’t think she could get away from it even in death, not putting it past Jessamine to somehow tie her soul to the Coven. But for once, in what felt like a lifetime, Norah could rely on another person if only for a few moments. She was slowly bubbling back to the surface of her own mind, slowly and surely remembering what it meant to feel, to life, to be human.

Discarded into a high backed chair, she stayed still as he puttered around the kitchen. This place was more familiar to her than any other. She used to steal in here when August was cooking, usually to usher him out so that they could actually eat something edible that night. It was as though the phantoms of the memories could be seen before her very eyes. There in the corner was where she would sit watching him until he burned something. She would erupt into a flurry of skirts that would berate the old man until he finally settled himself onto the stool in the other corner. August was a good man, a kind man, and one that had been happy to have a woman ordering him around again. It wasn’t often that there was a soft touch here, not sense the curse at least. And Norah had been more than prepared to run a kitchen. She was supposed to be doing that her entire life after all.

As he worked she lifted a foot, the hem of her nightgown already stained red with blood. Her ankle resting against her knee, she bent to prod at the glass that was still causing a sluggish ooze to drip from her soles. Strange really how pain didn’t bother her as much as it used to. Months ago she would have been screaming if this had happened to her. It was likely she would have fainted. The idea of a foreign object severing into her was a scary one, and Norah had never been good with blood. But now, after repeated pain and blood and gore throughout two months, she realized that there was very little pain that bothered her now. In test, she prodded at the wound harder, watching in fascination as brighter red blood eased out. There was pain there yes, quite a lot of it actually. But it was as though her body simply didn’t register it as bad.

He knelt at her feet, lifting them and slowly setting them into the water. At that she did bare her teeth, the reaction more feral than anything else. That pain was something she recognized, the vinegar sinking into the wounds like sharp biting teeth. But she still did not make a sound. His hands were gentle, easing the glass shards out of her feet as carefully as he could. There were other cuts there she could feel, likely from his own wounds that she had picked up by touching him. She would need to bind them so that they did not get infected, her body was too weak keeping the child alive to attempt to heal too much of its own problems as well.

At his words she nodded, listening to him speak of the past. She had remembered that night, it was one of the only things that had kept her sane in that terrible place. Her hands that rested against her thighs suddenly went rigid, the fingertips digging into the fabric and skin beneath it. ”Of course I remember. I had that to hold on to, to remember what love is meant to be.” Sadly she now knew both sides of what that kind of “love” could be. And what Jessamine and her cronies had done was, in its own way, a sick and twisted kind of love. Forcing her fingers to uncurl, she lifted one hand to trace along a scar tracing the tendon of her long neck. If one looked closer, one could see the individual marks of teeth lingering on the lily white skin there.

”The beast had never frightened me before.” Her words were soft, the crackle of the fire lingering over the tone. ”In fact if I had never met you as human I would have stayed with the beast. I think I may have even preferred him over you.” A humorless laugh erupted from her lips, nothing more than a sound that had yet to be named. ”Thank you for dealing with… that.” She flexed her feet in the water, steam rising from its depths. At her movement another blossom of blood stretched from her wounds, for a moment tying her to the very water there. She was captivated for a moment before she blinked, looked up, and said, ”It feels strange. The pain is there but the recognition of pain is gone, nearly as easily as though it never happened.” Her brows furrowed, looking once again at her feet and the bloodied water. ”There’s poetry in that somewhere.”


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MARTEN LOUPANGE
 Posted: Sep 4 2014, 11:23 PM
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Marten had stripped bare as best he could the tendons and chains which kept him tethered, opened himself to Norah as much as he dared - and that, it seemed, was his mistake. She was in no state or inclination to hold onto him, to reel him back to shore, and so, he was unmoored. At first, when she admitted that she remembered the night they made love, Marten had hope. It was ust possible that underneath all her anguish and confusion, she still had some fondness for the man that loved her, some chink in the armor she'd grown that he could work through and make her feel again. But of course, the man who loved her was an old man, and ugly man, no knight in shining armor. However her next words hurt, they shouldn't have surprised him - maybe they didn't, really. Nonetheless, he was so thrown, he barely noticed August walking into the kitchen while Norah spoke.

”The beast had never frightened me before. In fact if I had never met you as human I would have stayed with the beast. I think I may have even preferred him over you.”

This... This, he couldn't understand, and the words - "I preferred him over you," - drove themselves beneath his skin like tile gouges. August looked sharply at Marten, and Marten could feel his gaze, confirming that August had both heard Norah's words and understood what they meant to him. Marten didn't want to be so fragile. He wanted to brush it off, to move on and pretend as though he had never cared for Norah or thought she cared for him. But August had known him so long. He saw past the mask of the man and into the soul of a boy who had been told he was worthless and unwanted for much too long. August heard Norah say that the Beast, a monster, was preferable to the man, and he saw that boy shatter.

"Master Marten," August said quietly. Marten looked up and shook his head. August hesitated, then backed out of the room.

"I'll fetch some tea from the dry cellar," he said cautiously, and he went.

Norah looked down at her feet. ”Thank you for dealing with…that. It feels strange. The pain is there but the recognition of pain is gone, nearly as easily as though it never happened. There’s poetry in that somewhere.”

"No, there isn't," Marten said sharply. He walked over and took Norah chin in his hand, turning her face lightly to look at him. "There is no poetry in pain, Norah. There's no romance in hurt, no glory in torture. There is no poetry in what was done to you, and don't you think for a second that what happened to you was anything but cruel and unforgivable. There's no poetry in them. They are evil, vicious, not worth the dirt they walk on, and there is nothing there but ugliness. Feeling is being human. You're human, or you were - they aren't."

He let her go, brushing a curl off her neck as he removed his hand. It exposed the scar she had touched, the telltale curve of teeth marks that made his stomach churn. And whose were those, he wondered? The Coven witch's who'd enslaved her? The witch's brother? Some lackey who'd gotten her hands on her?

Marten turned and went to the sink, leaning over it for a moment to take a deep breath. He calmed his heart to an acceptable rate again, swallowed his adrenaline, before he turned around. He crossed his arms over his chest and forced a crooked smile onto his face.

"So," he said, more lightly than he'd spoken before, "you lived for months with the most fabled, handsome, and wealthiest eligible bachelor in the Midnight Kingdom, and you preferred the Beast? Nothing but a tangle of fur and decidedly grumpy social skills? I didn't know you were a cat person."

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NORAH FIGGINS
 Posted: Sep 7 2014, 05:59 PM
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The pain behind her feet became a dull throb as everything was cleaned and the blood slowly eased its fierce flow. Norah was grateful for the numbness, even though the pain had not bothered her as much as it would have long ago. She watched him stand, his expression bothered and slightly clouded. Norah was honest in her words, the beast had been a kind and dedicated friend to her. While Marten, when she had first met him, had always come across as a rather womanizing and arrogant man who had much to learn even though his age should have suggested otherwise. She had enjoyed the beast who had been slightly shy but slowly opened up to her antics. She had been free with the beast who had not intimidated her with his looks and his charm.

August’s entrance was a welcome one, though she hardly noticed the looks that were exchanged between the two men. The sharp tones reached her ears, making her eyes squint and body lower onto itself slowly. It was not a flinch, she refused to allow her body to make that fear filled movement. But it was a definite sign of someone who knew what came after sharp tones. It was not a rare thing for there to be fighting within the Coven. Usually the fighting encouraged nothing more than bloodshed. In fact, the bloodshed had always made things a little bit better. The men or women that had torn into each other frequently leaving for the night in each other’s embrace, if they had even managed to make it that far to one of the tents. Norah had never understood the behavior, but she had always flinched.

But his words, once he took her chin in his hands did make her flinch. To be human was to feel. To be human was to know what emotion felt like, or what it meant to understand the emotion. She knew what it was, she had felt emotions and thoughts her entire life. But now she was numb. There were faint flickers every now and then, a slight burning in her chest of anger or rage at what was done to her. But it was a rare moment, and now she knew little of what it was that she felt other than a strange floating feeling. She wasn’t tethered to this earth anymore, just floating and wandering in the sea of memories that repeatedly dashed her against the rocks. She slowly pulled back against his grip until he let go, not wrenching away for she knew what that kind of behavior would bring. Norah might not have been a warrior, but she was a fast learner, and had discovered that she had what it took to survive.

”Then perhaps I have lost what made me human then.” Her words were quiet, barely echoing in the room that had suddenly become so still.

She watched him turn, lean against the sink and cross his arms. His words made a faint smile cross her face in return, shaking her head and dropping her chin so that her golden tangled curls eased back across the scar that he had revealed. ”Of course I was fascinated with the Beast.” One hand rubbed a damp palm against her nightgown. ”You were intimidating as a human. Too male, too strong, too arrogant. Too attractive.” She rolled her eyes at her own words. ”I was not a young woman that was in any way prepared to deal with a Nobleman who was far too good looking and charming for his own good.”

Her hands trailed down the fabric, lingering in places that had been pulled by her earlier movements. ”The Beast was safer. Sweeter. In a way I suspect that he is what you are if you had been stripped of your title and good looks. I wasn’t held to the social rules that had to be followed. It was easy to just be woman and man with the Beast. At least in the beginning. And even when you and I-“ She gestured between them, her hand failing to truly express what she meant. ”Even then I thought of him as a good friend and confidante. How could I not? He was the man I was in love with. It is not wonder why I was confused by my feelings for the both of you.“


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MARTEN LOUPANGE
 Posted: Sep 10 2014, 11:36 PM
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”Then perhaps I have lost what made me human then.”

Her voice fell and still, somehow, it echoed on the kitchen's hardy stone walls, emphasizing the cold silence of the room broken only by the occasional snap of the fire. He hadn't meant to insult her, if she was insulted, or hurt her, if she was hurt. He certainly hadn't meant to imply that she wasn't human. Of course she was! She was stranger than she had been, but that was to expected in the aftermath of such trauma as she'd experienced. There had to be a way to thaw the frozen parts of her mind and body and bring her back to life. This couldn't be it for her. Selfishly, Marten wanted the Norah he loved back. But besides his own selfishness, he wanted her to be happy. She had been once, or as close as any human could get after reaching adulthood. There had to be a way that she could be again.

Marten took some thin linen cloths that August used for rags off the back of the sink. They were a little stained but laundered recently enough to be basically clean. He made a short mental apology to August as he ripped them into long two-inch wide strips and headed back to where Norah sat, her feet still submerged in the rapidly cooling water.

He knelt by the tub as she continued speaking. ”Of course I was fascinated with the Beast. You were intimidating as a human. Too male, too strong, too arrogant. Too attractive. I was not a young woman that was in any way prepared to deal with a Nobleman who was far too good looking and charming for his own good. The Beast was safer. Sweeter. In a way I suspect that he is what you are if you had been stripped of your title and good looks. I wasn’t held to the social rules that had to be followed. It was easy to just be woman and man with the Beast. At least in the beginning. And even when you and I..." He lifted her eyes to her briefly, raising an eyebrow. She couldn't just say it? Did she regret it that much, or was she merely shy about it? "Even then I thought of him as a good friend and confidante. How could I not? He was the man I was in love with. It is not wonder why I was confused by my feelings for the both of you.“

All the while, Marten was wrapping Norah's damp feet in the linen strips and tucking them so they'd stay tight and secure. It was the longest speech he could recall her making since she'd come home (if "home" was what she called it), and he couldn't help his mouth curving into a pleased half-grin. It was progress, he thought. Or something like it. Their lives were so full of gray areas these days, he felt practically color blind, but he would take what little crumbs of brightness he could.

"Too handsome?" he said. "Not a complaint I've ever gotten before. But of course..." He finished with her second foot and nudged the pot of water away. He fell back on his haunches with a soft groan and dropped onto his backside with his knees upright. Staying in a crouch for so long had his legs screaming from stiffness. "You do know, at least you know now, that I was the same man. Whoever the Beast was to you, I am him as well. Whatever you objected to in my person was present in the Beast. And the both of us, frankly...we just wanted you to look kindly on us. So, I suppose I accomplished that, at least. It certainly could have been worse." He paused, and his grin faded, shrinking in fractal inches. "But if after this long, you have no interest in pursuing either of those relationships - friend, confidante, or lover - again, I do understand. I would like to know whether you do or not, because I'm an impatient prick, but I understand."

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NORAH FIGGINS
 Posted: Sep 16 2014, 01:49 PM
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She shifted as he wrapped her feet, her delicate ankles turning within his hands as she watched his administrations. There was so much gentleness about him, even when he was in the beast form. Perhaps even more so in that form. He was so aware of his claws and the dangers that they held. She could see that now in his human form, in the way that he was so delicate with her. As though she was made of glass. Perhaps she was though. A delicate glass figure that was good for nothing now other than to sit upon a shelf. But she did not want to be that figurine, she wanted to keep going with her life. To be a mother and a wife and have a family that loved her and viewed her as something more than just… Well just a broken doll.

She smiled at his words, the smile slight but still breaking across her face so that the grooves next to her lips were able to be seen. Her smiles were something that had always come easily to her, not so much now. But she had the lines already on her face to prove that the history was there. When she smiled there were little crinkles at the edges of her eyes and the deep lines upon her cheeks were nothing if not laugh lines. There was the potential there, and would always be, of a softer woman underneath. The smile on her face was nothing if not reassuring that she would eventually return to her original state of kindness and laughter.

”Indeed too handsome.” She nudged him in the shoulder with her foot. ”And you know it.”

She watched his fall back, her eyes tracking every movement as she tended to do now. Her eyes didn’t miss much anymore, details never failing to be filed away in her head. But at his first question she nodded. Indeed she knew that they were the same person, had found out in a rather uncomfortable and unhappy way. But that had been the way it truly had to be. There would have been bloodshed eventually at some point. She would have found out by him making a mistake and staying too long for the night, and with her waking up next to the friend and not the lover. ”Yes I do know that now Marten.” But her words weren’t bitter or upset in the slightest. She had trusted him once and could do so again quite easily. If only because she did still love the man.

The smile faded from his face, and in response her brows drew closer. ”Oh, Marten.” Her whisper seemed to echo, the words slightly pitying and the tone quite sad. ”I had forgotten in my own madness that you, too, would be affected by this fate.” Moving slowly, the wounds along her back and ribs stretching and aching with the movement. But she managed, though awkwardly, to no longer be higher above him in the chair and instead settled herself onto the ground across from him. Reaching, she grasped his hands in hers. ”I have always, and will always, be yours. Though I am little more than a fragile broken doll, and I cannot stand to be touched, and loud noises jump me, I am yours. Just as you are mine in whatever form might take you, Beast or man.”


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MARTEN LOUPANGE
 Posted: Sep 17 2014, 01:19 PM
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Although Marten was prepared to accept the possibility that Norah wanted no closer relationship with him than that of refugee and landlord, he was bolstered at least by the scant light beginning to show through the cracks of her shattered facade. She nudged him with his foot, teasing him, and she almost smiled. That was enough for now. If he had to work for her affection again, he was content with that, if it meant that she would heal in the meantime. He still remembered the bright, sunny girl there had been before giving way to the dark, troubled woman. He wasn't naive enough to think the girl would return as she was, but if she could soften, temper, learn to feel joy again...

It was a cruel way, he thought, to be forced to grow up.

When he finally offered to step down and get himself and his feelings out of her way, the temporary brightness that had shone like a glimpse of sun through clouds vanished from Norah's face for a moment. ”Oh, Marten... I had forgotten in my own madness that you, too, would be affected by this fate.”

Marten opened his mouth to say, no, that wasn't his point at all, his pain wasn't the point and he wasn't calling for her pity... But before he said anything, she slid off of the chair, bound feet and all, and sat on the floor in front of him. He stayed where he was, his arms hanging over his upright knees as she took his hands. She looked so small, kneeling before him with his long legs, long arms, a lean and unkempt scarecrow of a man beside a delicate pixie of a woman. All sense imposed itself upon them, saying there was no logic in the world to keep their disparate parts together. Noble and peasant, middle-aged and impossibly young. The maiden and the monster. Beauty and the beast.

Marten met her eyes as she spoke. ”I have always, and will always, be yours. Though I am little more than a fragile broken doll, and I cannot stand to be touched, and loud noises jump me, I am yours. Just as you are mine in whatever form might take you, Beast or man.”

He was silent a moment, as quiet and still as a man in the grave. Inside, though, he was leaping. It didn't matter that she specified not in what way she was his, or he hers. It didn't matter that although every part of him clamored for love, a word he couldn't say without lending it 47 years of baggage and a word he'd laid at her feet before, she had never said it to him. He didn't even think of these things. It would have been an insult to her bravery and care, and, in a way, to his own worth. For one brief and beautiful moment, Norah had looked in his eyes and taken his hands and said those words, and he felt...

And he wasn't sure when the last time was he'd felt it, but years and years, certainly...

He felt worthy.

He lowered one of his knees and inched closer to her, close enough to cup her cheek in his hand. Her skin was so pale now, but it was smooth and warmer than it had been just a few day ago.

"Always," he affirmed, his voice scarcely a whisper. He leaned into her and left a lingering kiss on her forehead. They were in a kitchen that smelled of woodsmoke and vinegar, but they could have been anywhere for all he cared. As far as he was concerned, they were back in the ballroom, bookcase and chandeliers watching over them as they held eachother and danced and shared a kiss neither had guessed was coming. It was several seconds before he made himself pull back again.

"We'll put you in a different room," he said. He combed his fingers through her hair along her temples. "Somewhere with more sunlight. Somewhere brighter. No mirrors, no shadows... Somewhere you'll feel safe."

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NORAH FIGGINS
 Posted: Sep 17 2014, 01:48 PM
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He slid forwards to her, and Norah was pleased to find that the touch of his hands wasn’t as terrible as it had been the few days before. She could see his hands here, that they weren’t covered with the boils or warts or god knows what else that had been in the Coven. His were not slicked with blood or other bodily fluids that she would rather not think about again. His were strong hands, lean hands, the hands of an artist not a warrior. In hers they were strong, capable hands that had seen much of this world and the life in it. She would always remember his hands, the callouses that were there, the soft spots, the way that they had smoothed over bare flesh. Though she would not admit it to him, she remembered every moment with him like a beacon.

That had been the only thing that had gotten her through the Coven’s mistreatment.

He leaned forward, his forehead touching against hers. The support that came from that simple gesture was enough to give life to a spark that grew somewhere within her. And where their foreheads touched she would swear that there was a faint glow that traveled from that pinpoint throughout her entire body. For a moment she stayed there, her eyes drifting shut and her shoulders easing from their tense height. She was constantly tense now, the muscles in her body locking and preparing for whatever moment she might need to flee. Though her mind might be steadily locking away memories to save her sanity, her body remembered all too well what she had gone through. And in the end, it would be her body that was the greatest hurdle to overcome. Someday, she would be able to walk freely without flinching or fear.

She leaned into his hand, the one that drew her hair from her face and smoothed along her jaw. Her hair was in such a terrible state. It had been a long time since she had brushed the mass of curls, so long in fact that it was hard to even look at. Norah could barely remember the last time that she had cared what she looked like physically. Though now there was a slight twinge of concern that Marten might think less of her for it. But he was here now, his touch lingering upon her skin. She would not worry about such foolish things now, it did not help to allow her mind to dwell upon thoughts that would only drag her deeper into the abyss that was her life at the moment. Someday, someday, someday. The words lingered upon her tongue and blossomed within her mouth. If she kept saying the words, then perhaps they would come true.

Her hand drifted down to press against the slight swell of her stomach, the growing creature within her another sign that there were changes to come. ”Another room would be lovely.” She wanted to say with him. Oh how her mind screamed out for the constant companion and support of one that it loved. But her body rebelled at the thought, terrified for even the mere moment of waking and not knowing who it was lying next to her. Pushing the thoughts forcefully from her mind, she leaned into his forehead a little harder, giving one last press of skin to skin before moving back, settling the palms of her hands on the ground next to her.

”I will feel safe again Marten.” She assured him, though her voice trembled slightly on the words. The more she said them, the more chance they had of coming true. ”It has been a long journey, for the both of us.” A humorless laugh caught in the back of her throat, but it was a laugh none the less. ”And you? What did you do while I was gone, my beast?” Her fingers found a piece of glass upon the floor, pulled out of her feet no doubt by the smear of blood across it. She trailed a thumb over the edge, cleaning it as best she could.


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MARTEN LOUPANGE
 Posted: Sep 17 2014, 05:49 PM
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”Another room would be lovely.”

Inviting Norah to room with him was on the tip of Marten's tongue, but he decided that to voice it might be a mistake. His intention was only to give her a refuge where she wouldn't be alone. He worried that sleeping alone, waking alone, generally being alone for too long altogether, would do her more harm than good. The way it would sound, though, was an invitation to his bed. Perhaps he'd find a room closer to his, though. He wouldn't be too near, but at least he wouldn't be far. He did notice the relief in her voice, though, and he was glad he'd done one thing right.

”I will feel safe again Marten. It has been a long journey, for the both of us... And you? What did you do while I was gone, my beast?”

The soft, lazy smile that had crept onto his face when Norah had lowered herself to the floor to be with him dimmed. It was still there, but its warmth had become awkward, its easiness static. He gave her hands a comforting squeeze, but behind his eyes, there was a kind of panic. What was he supposed to say? What could he say that wouldn't make him sound weak and worthless? If she already felt guilty for how her experience affected him - something he never intended - then he couldn't possibly tell her how he'd passed the time she was gone. Should he tell her he drank himself into the ugliest stupor he could manage every evening so he wouldn't have to wake up as the Beast? That he fought with August over anything from trifling details to August's obvious concern for his health? That if he weren't such a coward, so afraid of pain, he would have put himself in the ground long before she'd come home? He didn't want her to know the anguish he'd felt when he'd chased her away, or the endless lashings he assigned himself as punishment thereafter. She didn't need to see the nasty creature perched in the back of his being at all time, waiting for weakness to prey on. Not now, especially.

It might have behooved him to consider that keeping such sides of himself a secret were what chased Norah away in the first place. But he didn't.

"Not very much," he said. "Nothing that I don't do every day. I missed you a great deal. I spent a lot of time missing you. Wondering where you were. Wishing I could have...done something."

August walked in then, bearing a small jar of tea and saving Marten from having to elaborate any further. The elderly butler peered down at the man of the house and the vagabond woman curled up on the floor like children at play, and a small light of amusement flickered in his eyes.

August turned to face Norah, apparently casual, but Marten recognized that measured flick of the butler's neck that indicated he had chosen at this moment not to deal with him. He'd been doing that a lot lately. Marten looked down at his feet and flexed his toes, curling them into the stone floor.

"Are you feeling any better this evening, Miss Figgins?" August asked graciously, handing Norah a fatherly smile.

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