Sat Nov 09, 2019 12:50 pm
Stretches of thoughtful quiet between them, though still echoing with realisation and revelation like thunder rolling back again from distant hills. Once pale curls are deemed sufficiently tamed he settles onto the log at Catch's side, close enough to rest a shoulder against him, pulling the man's hand across so he might continue to hold it and be held by it.
We are equals, now, he says, and that's something for the squire to mull upon as he absently inspects the fresh layer of fallen leaves between his boots.
"We, we've always b-been equals." In the tones of one offering a gentle nudge to memory. "You and, and m-me. H-helping each other and, and l-looking after each other."
Another lapse into silence for a time, lost in thought.
"L-like when I was in th-the, the Rememdium, and, and you s-stayed with me. Even though you h-hate it there." A squeeze to the giant's rough hand. "And I th-thought, if Ser C-catch is being s-so brave, I, I can be t-too."
Years ago - maybe a handful of winters, and yet what feels like a lifetime.
When he speaks again it is quieter, cautious and uncertain of the words.
"I, I w-was very s-sad when, when I. After I went t-to." A pause to swallow, perhaps still remembering bravery. "When I f-found B-bert-tram." Struggling over the name, the memory of red.
"I th-thought he was a, a k-king. A s-secret king who, who had to stay h-hidden. And, and if he w-was kind to m-me, even when I w-was just a miller's b-boy and, and he was a king, m-maybe I." Quieter yet, as if to speak it aloud is to face the ridiculous childish conceit of it. "Maybe I w-was, was special."
Frowning at that, the arrogance and vanity of such a thought, before he continues.
"And then I, I g-got the letter, and I was f-frightened that if, if someone had k-killed him they'd c-come after you. B-because he was a h-hidden king and, and you were a l-lost one."
Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:05 am
Cherny doesn't quite understand.
But that is fine. Catch is used to it. He understands why Cherny doesn't understand. He allows the misunderstanding. Because he is right anyway, is Eater, right in his own, unique, Eater sort of way.
Catch is certain he will never quite like the Rememdium.
"You're not far wrong." Still muffled, because Catch will not, cannot, pull his face from his arm. It is safe in there. Let Eater have the curve of a jaw, or what parts of him cannot be covered. So long as his eyes are safe. "You aren't wrong about him being a King. A rotten King. Like the Wolf.
I'll kill him, next."
Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:21 am
There is a trick a boy learned - perhaps less a trick than a skill, maybe a small and subtle art - over the span of a summer some years ago; a summer spent, in part, in the company of a weapon wrought into a brittle and unhappy ornament, with whom he developed something like a game.
The rules are that there is something that must be discussed, something desperately important, and yet to speak it aloud or even suggest it means the game is lost. To seek it directly is to lose quickly, so one must approach askance, as if intending only to walk past it, and in so doing trace a shrinking circle to the forbidden subject without the other player even realising it.
He has learned, then and since, to be cautious of the direct approach, to instead hop carefully around something strange or changed until he can better gauge the nature of it.
Catch is changed.
Perhaps at first the boy had been too taken with relief to properly notice. Perhaps he'd assumed it to be one of the madman's occasional moments of lucidity. But the longer they speak, the harder it becomes to deny or disregard.
So he circles, until he knows enough.
He still bears scars of teeth and claws on his face, his wrist, enough that he tenses briefly at the mention - but that wolf is dead, slain long since.
The Wolf, though, named with that tone, that weight, has been a figure in the madman's ramblings for as long as Cherny has known him, and not a kind one.
But I'll kill him, next lunges too close for the boy, too close to red too fresh, and it is a long moment before he trusts himself to breathe, and another before he can speak.
"W-what did he d-do?"
Sun Nov 10, 2019 11:01 am
What did he do?
Catch is a very long time in answering. In that time, his grip on the Wolf's pelt is loosened, his own fingers tentative as the seek the coal-black roughness of Eater's mane. Tentative steps, clumsy. He is used to others stroking his hair, but he, himself, is not used to returning the favor. Selfishness, on his part? He had not even thought to reciprocate. He had not been Told to do so. This... this requires intuition, requires a desire that he had not had access to -
He mimics Eater's own strokes, clumsy, the rough pads of his fingers catching.
"Nothing. Nothing as - bad. But he's not good. And - I can put myself together with him. With all of them."
Sun Nov 10, 2019 11:32 am
That gesture reciprocated is a new thing, another one, and the novelty of it - an inexpert touch with clumsy fingers - brings a brief and incongruous grin to the boy's features, a half-breath just shy of a chuckle. He tilts his head into the contact though, accepting it graciously while Catch considers his answer.
Not as damning an answer as he'd expected. As he'd perhaps secretly hoped. It gives him pause, raises qualms the squire cannot easily dismiss.
"Has.. has he h-hurt people? Hurt y-you? M-might he?" That might be grounds enough, if the Wolf is a danger. If he is a threat to others, that they might be protected by his ending.
That Catch could put himself together by so doing complicates it further, introduces a motive beyond answering a past hurt or preventing a future one. The boy vacillates, uncertain, a long and quiet stretch of thinking until he comes to something like a solution.
"If, if he's w-wicked," A breath drawn to gather his resolve, thin features solemn. "I, I'll h-help you."
Sun Nov 10, 2019 11:39 am
"He is -"
This, this, is the easiest answer that he can give Eater; the only hesitance is because Catch much get his breath, because he starts to answer far too quickly.
" - Exceedingly wicked. Horribly wicked. And you won't, Eater. I won't have you help. Because I... don't think that I am wicked enough to ignore it if he hurts you."
Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:05 pm
That first answer, that emphatic confirmation, is enough to settle the squire's doubts, to firm him on his decision. Only for it to be flatly denied an instant later, which has him looking indignantly to the giant's face again, for all that it's still buried in the crook of his arm.
"I've b-been training for, for years. And I've f-fought before. I know w-what I, I'm doing." Boyish stubbornness in tone and features, certainly familiar to Catch. "And wh-what if he, he hurts y-you because I'm not there to, to h-help."
His shoulder presses more firmly against the man's side, as if to demonstrate his strength and sturdiness, to show he's no longer a scrawny child. He relents after a moment, in any case, dark eyes dropping sullenly to the leaf litter once more.
"Y-you're barely wicked at, at all. I'd not've b-been your friend th-this long if, if you w-were."
Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:13 am
"You are very strong," Catch concedes. The boy's hard shoulder meets and equally stone wall. And now, now Catch pulls his head away, though his eyes remain downcast. His fingers trail down, along the boy's strong arms hidden in the confines of the Coat. He still hates that Eater wears it, but.
But. He does not say the but.
"If it helps," he says, because he does not want Eater to to relent. He wants him to trust, wants him to believe.
"If it helps, Eater, then I will tell you that he does not want to hurt me. Not..." And he takes a hand away, to splay the scarred fingers across his own chest, and to draw the fingers across, down to his belly. "... not here. Not the way - Bertram - wanted."
Hesitance. Because that was not the moniker that Catch knew the Red Thing by.
"And if you were there, then I think he could hurt me the way he wants me to hurt." And Catch taps his ruined skull.
Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:49 am
The coat does not yet fit him; it still remembers the Red King's frame, the set of his shoulders and reach of his arms, and hangs loose on a squire whose build tends toward what might generously be called wiry. But he has begun to make it his own with sootblack and tallow, and with time and wear the stained deerskin will mould itself to him.
He is used to wearing dead men's coats.
Catch's explanation, his reasoning, is heard and - grudgingly, reluctantly, after a few thoughtful moments - accepted. He can appreciate the idea of a liability, of being forced to split one's attention between besting a foe and defending a vulnerable ally such that neither purpose is served. It stings, but he can see the sense of it, eventually offering a sigh and a slow nod to show he understands, for all that his frown makes it clear he's by no means happy with it.
"If, if there's anything I c-can do to, to help..." The offer left unfinished, no great expectation that a King might have need of a miller's boy. He knows when he has been rebuffed, however gently.
A long quiet follows as he mulls over what's been said, what's not been said. When he speaks again it is hesitant, fighting against hard-learned caution to ask outright.
"Wh-when you put your, yourself t-together," Careful to echo Catch's own words, not entirely sure what the process might involve. "will you s-still be, be you?"
Fear, for all that he does his best to hide it; the idea of a sudden change in those once known, strangers' eyes in familiar faces.
"W-will we-- will you s-still remember me?"
Fri Nov 15, 2019 8:09 am
"I will let you know." And he cannot lie. He has never lied, not to Eater, not to anyone. There have been sly, little attempts, small things, but never the big things. This offer is not pathetic. Its spirit is accepted with a small squeeze of the fingers.
"It will not be like Her."
He knows. Or, at least, he thinks he does, because it is ever a fright, ever a concern. He will not lie, but he does not know if he will tell Eater of the Dreams. He is not certain of them, himself. He does not know about Dreams. He cannot quantify, qualify. It could be madness. It could be a ruin of brain, misremembered, because he does not sleep, he does not Dream, and he will not Hurt Eater unnecessarily with -
"I'll Remember," he says, with the grim certainty, the confidence of One Who Knows. "I may be a little different, but I'll be Me. And I'll Remember."
Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:51 am
It has been a fraught and difficult span since that day at the woodsman's hut; a stretch of loss and uncertainty and fear and grief mixed with a hollow, numbing fog.
Now, for the first time since, the squire knows something like calm with Catch's answer. A concern - no, a dread which had spurred him into the woods to find his friend before he also might be taken - quelled and soothed by that promise he accepts with a rare trust. Catch will not lie, not to him - perhaps barring the odd attempt at evasion when feeling obtuse - and a promise made in such tones is, to the boy, as good as bound in iron.
"G-good." A firm nod accompanies the word, as if to declare the matter settled, decided, all previous fear dismissed and forgotten. A sidelong look, appraising, before he straightens, putting on a Brave Face.
"When d-did you eat last?" Studiously nonchalant in his tone, perhaps a fraction more enthusiastic than is entirely believable, but likely for his own benefit as much as the young giant's. "I, I th-think there's s-some soup at the, the house. If you'd l-like?"
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