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Wonderland, Scene III (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)

   
"I know his destination via prophecy," Erin replied. "I know what fate awaits him there, because it was my own. Tell her to go home. The only thing following him will do is save his life, and end her own."

She sighed at the futility of it all. This was Arcadia, the land of Fate. Cinder would just ignore the warnings, and continue on, for any hundreds of justifications - but only for one reason, and that was because it had been foretold. The inevitability of it all settled on Erin like an iron weight. What was the point? Why argue? What would even be accomplished?

"I'll swear I believe what I have said is true. And if she does not accept this, if she does not believe, or still must take revenge with her own hands, then kill me. I'll send my friends away, I'll accept it, so long as she swears her revenge against Othello ends with that. He is my friend. Paint his wagon red with my blood. It will cut him down to the core, it will leave him in misery. Just end this business with him, and go home."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Pleasance
"You're not old."
"Gonna disagree with you, there. No coincidence I keep mentioning things that happened to me in the '40's. And don't you give me any of that 'you're only as old as you feel' line, 'cause if we're going by that standard, I'm maybe 170."

He sighed heavily, realizing that he had derailed the conversation somewhat. This sort of thing was a sore point with him. "Semantics. Anyway. Go on."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Pleasance
"........I never saw him again till today."
Underwood was silent for a few beats, looking down into the middle distance, leaning his chin heavily on his clasped hands.

"…Well, damn."

When not playing a character, Underwood barely ever swore. He did so now because that was a suitable story for it, and because he was distracted -- and he was distracted because he was thinking quite a lot of things simultaneously. For one, he was thinking that Cinder probably didn't have her facts straight, given what little he knew about Othello, changeling biology, and werewolves. He was also thinking how much he wasn't going to say any of that out loud. He was also thinking about the appropriate sympathy response to someone who has just told a story like that, because there is not a shelf for "Sorry You Became a Werewolf and Accidentally Killed Your Mother" cards at CVS.

He was also thinking about how, once he figured out whether that sympathy response involved back-patting of some kind, he would go about proffering that response without exposing himself to emotionally vulnerable werewolf advances. It is not a good idea to make out with your therapist, even if he's a self-appointed one. Unfortunately, thanks to a rather torrid three-month period in early 1939, Underwood knew this from experience.

"Don't think you're a monster," Underwood said, after a few more seconds of silence. "What matters is the decisions we make when we've got our heads right. And making sure we've got our heads right, before we make them."

He looked up, meeting her eyes. "Why d'you think he did it?"

Underwood was by no means certain that he had done it, but this was important to know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
"I'll swear I believe what I have said is true. And if she does not accept this, if she does not believe, or still must take revenge with her own hands, then kill me. I'll send my friends away, I'll accept it, so long as she swears her revenge against Othello ends with that. He is my friend. Paint his wagon red with my blood. It will cut him down to the core, it will leave him in misery. Just end this business with him, and go home."
"No." This was a new voice, but a familiar voice. It was the voice of the fox, Reynarde's voice. The crunching footsteps halted, and the fox-wife in her russet coat looked at Erin through the eternal twilight. She shook her head, the strange thoughts bedeviling her like so-so many angry flies. "She stinks of hate. Hate and sour rage and painful, bloody resentment. Othello's blood douses it. Nothing else."

"What are you?" Reynarde said, and she reached out with her hook-nailed claws, to hover an inch from Erin's wing. "A snack. A distraction. She doesn't want you. You've done nothing to her."

"Why are you helping him?"

"I will tell her." The spirit spoke then. It did not move to go yet.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Underwood
"Don't think you're a monster," Underwood said, after a few more seconds of silence. "What matters is the decisions we make when we've got our heads right. And making sure we've got our heads right, before we make them."
"You're a horrible liar, you know." Cinder said without rancor. As if stating a simple truth. "You really shouldn't try."

"You don't have to believe me. It doesn't change anything." Cinder said, tearing up another blade of grass, and perforating it neatly with her nails. They were nearly claws, sharp and precise. "I don't look anything like him. That's a fair thought. And the Lost can't have children. Almost the first thing I learned. But I'm his all the same, in soul if not in body. Does it matter? My mother loved him, not her husband. Othello accepted me as his own, and gave me my Curse. Perhaps there was magic involved. Perhaps there was only love."

A shrug. "Does it matter?"

"But I'm not like other werewolves. I saw visions, and it all comes too fast. I couldn't control my changes. I still can't bear the touch of wolfsbane." Cinder raised a hand, touching the ruined mass of scar tissue on the side of her face. "This is the price I pay for control. The pain sharpens my mind."

"I hate him. I hate him so much. But it doesn't matter. He killed my mother and used me as the tool, and he turned my life into nothing but pain. And I don't even know why." Cinder said quietly. "I don't care if he suffers... no, I do. I care so much. But I'll put him down, no matter what. I owe it to my mother, and I owe it to myself."

Daphne got up shortly after Erin, and wandered toward the dreaded sight of Cinder. Or Alice. She crossed her arms to examine the self-titled monster, staying far enough away for the werewolf to speak comfortably to Underwood but close enough to eavesdrop.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinder
"Othello accepted me as his own, and gave me my Curse."
And then, when Cinder was done, Daphne stepped toward the two of them--helpfully, perhaps, for Underwood, if he feared some kind of awkward advances.

"Do you know how he did it?" It wasn't accusatory so much as inquisitive.

"But Othello's blood is what she cannot have," Erin replied, turning her blank eyes to Reynarde. "You saw that yourself, miss."

She imagined the fox-wife tearing through her wings, the long talon running smoothly through it. In her mind, it didn't hurt. A curiosity, like a fingernail running through wrapping paper. Like shears running through cloth. Her wing fluttered slightly, the thin split in it stretching. But Reynarde didn't touch her yet, held back by a phantom pledge the fox didn't respect, and that wasn't there.

"I mean nothing to her. But I mean something to him. I'll hurt him, if I die. It may not shed his blood, but it will pierce his heart, all the same. She hates him. How much? Enough to kill someone who's done nothing to her?"

For if Cinder was willing, then the story ended here and now. There would be no other way to save Othello from a hate so implacable, beyond his own daughter's death.

"He begged me. He begged me to get away, to save myself. He would rather face this danger alone, than to have it hurt one of his friends. How much would it hurt him, to see me dead? To know it was his own troubles that called it? To know he couldn't save anyone? To know he has no one to blame but himself? To sit in the pain, and guilt, and the misery, for the rest of his life. Does she want to see him suffer like that? Would she kill someone who's done nothing to her, for it?"

"Why shouldn't I help him, miss? Why not?" Erin said, quietly. "Would you kill to save your husband? Would you stare down death for him?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Espinosa
And then, when Cinder was done, Daphne stepped toward the two of them--helpfully, perhaps, for Underwood, if he feared some kind of awkward advances.

"Do you know how he did it?" It wasn't accusatory so much as inquisitive.
Underwood was thankful, at that, but Daphne's entrance also complicated matters. A woman who would talk freely to one person might clam up at two. The reporter glanced up at her.

"Cool it, Miss. If she wants to tell, she'll tell."

Back to Cinder.

"…Sorry. But you can forgive a guy for keeping mum about his opinions when he gets told a story like that. I want to think that there's been some kind of misunderstanding, somewhere down the line -- 'cause if there is, then maybe nobody has to die. But it's your pain, Miss. Me calling foul on a hunch doesn't help anyone right now."

"I wasn't kidding when I said you weren't a monster, though. I think you're a woman who's making some decisions a lot of people will regret, but now? I think you're okay."

Underwood met her eyes. "Just… When you get the chance, ask him why. Do it for me."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
"I mean nothing to her. But I mean something to him. I'll hurt him, if I die. It may not shed his blood, but it will pierce his heart, all the same. She hates him. How much? Enough to kill someone who's done nothing to her?"
The spirit bobbed, the many lights changing in color too rapidly to follow. It shivered, suddenly, and formed of itself a cloak of pain, jagged and stabbing, and clothed itself about Erin's shoulders, a dull ache spreading through her wings. "No. She will not."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin
"Why shouldn't I help him, miss? Why not?" Erin said, quietly. "Would you kill to save your husband? Would you stare down death for him?"
"I would. I have." Reynarde said, her voice gone quiet. Then she shook her head, as though casting away stray droplets of water. When she looked up again, there was a cruel hunger in her eyes. "You... My love, he respects you. Worse. He likes you. Oh how he laughed, after that wedding. Laughed at the joke, and played one on you in turn. He will hurt you, if it is his business, but he does not want to."

"I? I fear you." Reynarde said, and she held her face very close to Erin's, her mouth opening to reveal a nest of fangs. "Too small. Too clever. Whispery words, you confuse and confound. You are more dangerous than any creature in this glade."

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daphne
"Do you know how he did it?"
"No." Cinder admitted honestly. She wasn't at all surprised by Daphne's presence. But then again, werewolves had excellent senses, and her ears were not quite human.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Underwood
"Just… When you get the chance, ask him why. Do it for me."
"I will." Cinder said, and then fell silent. What was she thinking? The werewolf, so very adept at learning the secrets of others, at understanding every twitch of a cheek or every covert glance, was not so good at hiding her own emotions. Now, she looked confused, and sad, and eternally tired. She looked far older than her years.

"Perhaps you're right." Cinder said, not bothering to make it sound as though she believed it. She shrugged. "We will see tomorrow. Go back to sleep, J. T. I'm sorry I bothered you."

With that, Cinder stood, and with a curt nod to Daphne, began to stalk off.





 

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