Characters: Mainly Cal and Pellaz, also Astarth [Cal’s POV]
Beta: thrihyrne (Thanks, Luv! <3) Any remaining mistakes are mine.
Rating: PG Aruna is alluded to and mentioned. Nothing explicit.
Spoilers: Enchantments, Bewitchments, Fulfillments
Synopsis: Cal embarks on a quest to rediscover his past and goes to Fallsend.
Disclaimer: All the characters, their world, and all things Wraeththu belong to Storm Constantine, to whom I am very grateful.
A sudden cool and welcome evening breeze blew in from the open balcony, causing the candles on the ornate wooden dining table to flicker and almost go out. It brought me out of my stupor. I’d enjoyed a typical dinner at Phaonica, like I did most nights. There was excellent food, the best drink, pleasant and beautiful company: all the necessary elements to a perfect evening for perfect Gelaming hara. I had my chesnari and soul mate, Pellaz, at my side, giving me his secret smiles and touching me meaningfully and often throughout the evening. I relished all of this to an extent. I’d been through rough times, rougher than most hara I knew and this, I told myself, was my reward for it all. Not that I deserved it– I knew I didn’t. All the more reason to cherish every moment.
Suddenly an unbidden memory assailed me as I regarded Ashmael, our illustrious General, as he sipped his drink and spoke with a tribal leader he was trying to woo over to the Gelaming’s Federation of Tribes. I remembered an unsettling dream I’d had about him after my stint as a kanene. I’d taken aruna with him in the dream, but I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t feel like I was me. I only remembered the dream because it was disturbing. I physically shook the thoughts away with a shiver.
“Cal? Are you okay?” It was my beloved’s voice.
“Yes, my love.”
That night as my one and only and I lay together in post-coital bliss, I pondered. What had brought that memory of my dream creeping back into my psyche? It was years ago. Why now? I remembered I’d been with Panthera when I’d awoken in a cold sweat from my aberrant dream. He’d been the one to comfort me and I’d forced myself to stay awake for a while so the dream wouldn’t continue. After that my thoughts wandered to of all places, Piristil. Thaine, Fallsend, Piristil– the place I’d been a kanene, the place I think of as the rock bottom time in my life. However, my next thought was that if I hadn’t hit bottom, would I ever have risen to the top? I remembered when I was there, I swore I’d leave. I’d vowed to become somehar, that I’d return to the higher status I’d had and wanted back. Notice that I didn’t say the status I deserved.
Well, here I am at Phaonica of all places, and a joint Tigron to boot! How the once mighty have fallen and come back stronger. Although I do for the most part think our “royal” status a joke, I also realize that my position allows me to help hara– for real. Maybe I think I can make up for all the wrong I’ve done, I don’t know. But this position I’m now in sometimes makes me feel like a fake, a poser. I’m not royal material, I know that. Sometimes I’d like to forget that, but then I feel alienated from myself so I have to do something– usually something completely inappropriate– to remind myself of who I really am. Lately I’ve been inundated with just those very thoughts. It’s easy to become complacent in such a place as Immanion, especially when you consider yourself one of the highest-ranking hara in all of Wraeththu society. Sometimes I even get an evil thrill out of lording it over hara. I hate myself for it, but it happens. Lately I’ve been feeling out of myself, like I don’t even know who Calanthe is anymore. Why do I care? I’ve always liked things to be easy. Why do I fight it when things are going well?
I carefully moved out of bed so as not to wake Pell and since I was pretty sure sleep was going to be impossible for me that night, I walked out onto the balcony to let the cool rushing wind blow over me and hopefully clear my head. Maybe I’d hear something in the wind or the trees. Maybe an inner voice would speak to me and give me peace. As I stood letting the wind all but rip my robe off me, I had a revelation: complacency was my enemy. It prevented me from being effective in my position. It kept me from being me, Cal, Calanthe, Tigron Calanthe– at least the Tigron I aspired to be. I was too secure, too comfortable.
I rubbed my hands over my face and raked them into my hair. Shut up! I told myself. Why couldn’t I just relax and enjoy all that I had? Wasn’t I where I was destined to be? Hadn’t I paid my dues? Why all the inner turmoil? I sat staring into the sky, watching the roiling clouds sail overhead until something came into my mind like a flash, a shooting star. To be who I needed to be now, I needed to revisit my past. I needed to go to Thaine, to Fallsend, to Piristil, if it was still standing. I needed to call on my lowest point in order to be at my best in my highest. I didn’t want to go, but I knew I had to.
I put my face in my hands. Why is this happening? What can I tell Pell? How can I leave again when he needs me? I needed to mull this over before doing anything impulsive or stupid. I decided to drink myself to sleep and hope that maybe these insane thoughts would seem like just a bad dream in the morning.
I awoke the next morning (or was it afternoon?) with my head in a fog, the light hurting my eyes. Pellaz was gone and I sat up only to flop back down with a groan. How much had I drunk? I reached over to the bedside water pitcher and poured myself a tall glass. I felt a bit better after downing it. Then I remembered– the reason I was in this state. The thoughts were still there. Even copious amounts of liquor couldn’t eradicate them. This was something I would have to deal with. I sighed resignedly and decided that at least I didn’t need to leave on my quest for self- rediscovery that particular moment. I lay back down and covered my head with my pillow.
Later that day, after I’d bathed and dressed, I went to find Pellaz. He was sitting serenely in the front garden, reading. I sat beside him on the stone bench and leaned over to kiss him. Sweet Pellaz… so fragrant, so willing, so much a part of me, it hurt. Oh, he could still be bratty and bitchy at times, but he was different than he’d been before Thiede’s interference. However, he was still Pellaz– my Pellaz. How could I tell him of my completely daft plan to rediscover myself? He’d be angry and hurt and worried and who knew what else. How could I do this to him– the one har I love more than myself?
“Cal? What’s wrong? And don’t say nothing. I know you’re troubled.”
I sighed heavily and looked into his waiting eyes. “I’ve felt… alienated lately. Like I’m out of touch with who I am.”
Pell smiled tolerantly. “My beautiful Calanthe. Why must you be so brooding and moody? Don’t confuse who you’ve been with who you are now. I know who you are. You’re my love, my soul mate, my life. Can’t you be happy with that?”
I gazed into his dark eyes. “You are the only thing that’s ever made me truly happy. You know that.”
“But–?” he said. “I know there is one.”
“But I feel so… detached, so ineffective. I need to, I don’t know, shake things up in my inner self.”
Pell caressed my cheek gently with his hand. “Please, Cal, just try to be happy. You deserve to be. I don’t think you believe that.”
I took his hand and kissed the palm. “I know. I don’t believe it. But maybe, if I go on the quest I’m considering, maybe then, I will.”
Pell drew his hand away. “Quest? What quest?” He looked uneasy.
“Just a short trip to my past to rediscover myself.”
Pell’s look of hurt and rejection pierced my heart. He stood up and faced me.
“Don’t tell me you’re going away!”
“I’m considering it. It would only be for a very short time. No big deal. I’ll tell you where I’m going. It’s not like I’m going to disappear–”
Pell interrupted me, his dark eyes flashing with anger. “Fine! Great! Go away! Leave me again. It’s not like it would be the first time you’ve abandoned me for your own selfish needs!” He turned away from me. I felt horrible.
“Just go then. Go wherever you want.”
With that, he stalked away, down toward the sea.
I sat there, feeling awful. How could I make him understand? Maybe I couldn’t.
I sat on the stone bench for quite a while, trying to gather my thoughts. Was my self-discovery more important than my relationship with Pell? At first, I thought– no. Pell is more important than anything to me. But then I knew I’d become resentful, bitter and insufferable if I didn’t embark on this quest. I’d be of absolutely no use as joint Tigron. But how could I make Pell understand that I was doing this not only for myself, but for us as well? He wouldn’t believe me because we both knew that I tended to be selfish.
I got up and headed down the path to the beach, hoping I’d find Pellaz there. When I got to the shore, I removed my shoes and relished the feel of the sand on my feet and between my toes, letting the fresh sea breeze revive me. I lived so close to the sea, but so seldom took the time to revel in its beauty and feel. I looked down the shore and saw Pell sitting on the sand, hugging his knees, his face pushed into them. Doubtless, he was pouting. How was I going to make him understand and reconcile with him what I wanted– needed– to do?
I approached him silently and sat on the sand at his side. He lifted his head, gave me a dirty look, and then stared out to sea, his chin on his knees.
“I sometimes forget that the sea is so close. I should come here more often and appreciate it,” I said.
Pell still sat, staring.
“Pell, please understand. I feel I can only be effective as Tigron if I do this. And I’ll be an even more insufferable shit if I don‘t. I know I’m a selfish, self-serving, fucked-up har, but I truly believe if I go and revisit the most disgraceful and miserable part of my past, that I’ll finally be equipped to master my future. Our future.”
“Why do you always seem to have to go away to accomplish anything?”
“I don’t want it to be that way, it just seems like it always is.”
“Well, go then.” He hid his face again.
“Pell…” I moved closer to him and put my arms around him. I spoke into his mind.
Do you have any doubt that I love you more than anything in this realm or any other?
Flowery words, but your actions bespeak other priorities.
After all we’ve both been through in all the years we’ve known each other, don’t you finally believe that you are what I love most in the world? I need to make this trip for many reasons, not the least of which is to confront that lowest part of my life in order to be able to put it behind me for good. If I lose myself, how can I truly be with you? Would you want me if I ceased to be real? Please know my love, that I would never leave you unless I thought it necessary for both of us. I love you, Pell, more than my own life– let me show you.
At first I knew he thought I was trying to butter him up and charm him into forgiving me. After all, that was my usual mode of operation, and it usually worked, but I meant every word this time. Each one came from my heart.
Pell, loving, beautiful har that he could be, lay back and took me into his arms. We took aruna there on the quiet, deserted beach. It was so spontaneous, so real and so natural. After our mutual sharing of minds and bodies, we were close, our intimacy restored. As we pulled on our pants and lay there talking, even though he didn’t seem like he wanted to, he more or less gave me his nonverbal blessing and said he partly understood why I had to go to Fallsend.
We walked back to our room at Phaonica and I suggested a bath together. Pell finally gave me a wan smile and we had a relaxed, soothing soak. Afterwards, we had an early dinner in our room and then got ready to go to sleep.
“Well,” Pell said with a sigh, “when are you leaving on your ‘quest’?”
“I don’t know, but the sooner I leave, the sooner I’ll be back.”
“Then leave soon,” he said, with a rueful smile.
I loved him so much in that moment.
There was nothing pressing on the “royal” agenda the next day so I decided to begin my sojourn to my less than illustrious past. Being able to use the Otherlanes without the help of a sedu, I embarked on my journey by stepping into the ethers at Immanion and stepping out of them at Fallsend.
I had to acclimate myself for a few moments, letting the rush of traveling the Otherlanes subside and then took in my surroundings. My gaze was met with a vision of a lovely town. How could this be? Had I somehow gotten thrown off my mark in the ethers? Looking around, bewildered, my eyes settled on a familiar sight–an old rusted water tower that couldn’t be mistaken. I could still make out some of the letters of the name of the town from human times. It was lying on its side, now even more corroded, but it unmistakably confirmed what I found impossible to believe: I was indeed in Fallsend.
It had been the cesspool of Wraeththudom when I was here last. I could understand how hara can make the best of bad circumstances, but I couldn’t reconcile the change in flora and climate. This made no sense to me. Fallsend looked like a decent thriving community. How could the relentless rain, cold and lack of sunshine change? Was it magic? Magic conjured by whom? Could we hara change even the elements with our minds and powers?
I stood, getting my bearings and walked into town. There were streets with sidewalks, eateries, shops and homes, all seeming to be normal, decent dwellings and businesses. Gone were the stagnant puddles, the occasional dead animal, the stench and sludge I remembered.
Was I in a dream? Where were the musendas? Were they obsolete now? I wondered what had become of all the kanenes I’d known in my sordid past. I thought of Loletea, who’d been my favorite friend here and Flouna, the har I’d found most intriguing. I wondered what became of Astarth, the har that had saved my sorry ass at the time it most needed saving.
I walked and walked, taking my time as I meandered–a long way through nice neighborhoods with parks, boutiques, and normal hara going about their business and leisure. Farther on, the sidewalks ended and I reached a part of town that looked run down. As I continued, the homes became fewer and farther between and I passed by a few taverns, bars and brothels. Fallsend, it seemed, was in the process of improvement, but wasn’t quite there, yet. Strangely, that gave me hope.
I searched for Piristil, wondering if I would even be able to recognize it. I couldn’t remember where it was located. It had been so long. Finally, I saw a familiar porch. I couldn’t believe it–there was the string of lights that had attracted me so many years ago. Would anyhar I knew still be there? Should I even knock on the door? I knew no matter what happened, I wouldn’t tell a soul that I was a Tigron in Immanion. If anyhar recognized me, I would just be Calanthe, a har who had been a kanene and had moved on.
I decided that I had to knock on the door. After all, that’s what I’d come here for. A slight, pale har opened it to me.
“Please, can you tell me who is the proprietor of this establishment?” I inquired.
“Astarth,” the har replied.
“Please tell him Calanthe is here to see him.”
The thin har bowed and bade me enter. “I’ll fetch him, tiahaar.”
I looked over at Jafit’s office. The door was closed. A shiver crept up my spine. I hoped he didn’t haunt the place.
Before long, Astarth came walking toward me, looking a bit bewildered but smiling widely.
“Calanthe? It really is you!” He took me into an embrace.
“Astarth.” I pulled back from him and looked him over. He had the same shorn bright red hair, the same impertinent girl-face, and same lithe body. “You haven’t changed, at least not outwardly.”
He gave me a puzzled look.
“I know. You’re wondering why I’m here,” I said.
“Yes, of course I am. We’ve heard some rather astounding things–”
“Don’t believe everything you hear.”
He gave me a look as I met his gaze that said we both knew that each other knew the truth, but let it go.
“I’m here to revisit my past.”
“Why would you want to? I would think you’d want to carve it out of all possible memory.”
“To ground myself. To remember what made me who I am. To be truthful to myself.”
He shook his head. “Fallsend is changing. It’s no longer the cesspool that it was.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
He chuckled. “Yes, it is. Hara like me however, will soon be obsolete. Not that that’s bad…” He paused, sighing. “But being a kanene is all I know.”
“I’m sure you could find some other employment.”
He smiled. “I will, when I have to. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I know.”
My next thought was that perhaps I could find a place for him in Immanion. Wouldn’t that ruffle some perfectly groomed Gelaming feathers! Astarth could apprentice under Velaxis–literally. I must have snickered aloud because Astarth said, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” I knew Astarth would never want to come to Immanion!
“I admire you’re being true to yourself.”
He gave me a smile, tinged with disbelief at my compliment. “Why, thank you, Calanthe. How about a drink?”
I followed him into the kitchen where he poured us drinks from a bottle of sheh as we sat at a small table in the corner.
After a bit of drinking, reminiscing, and talking together, I asked him about the hara in his employ.
“Well, Lolotea, Flouna, and all the hara you knew when you were here have each gone their own ways. I have only a few new hara working for me now. I took over after Jafit disappeared.”
I felt I should tell him exactly what happened to the rotten fuck, but I really didn’t want to get into it.
“Business isn’t what it used to be,” he said. “A good portent for Fallsend, I suppose. The light is swiftly encroaching on the dark here. It’s sent most of the shadowy creatures scuttling off to find some other rock to crawl under and hide.”
He studied me, his eyes narrowed, his head questioningly tilted to one side. “And what have you been up to, Calanthe?”
“Oh, nothing much.”
He gave me a skeptical look.
“Well, I’ve made a life for myself and reunited with my true love.”
“Really, that’s all?” There was a very pregnant pause. Finally he continued, knowing I wasn’t about to elaborate any further. “Well, I’m happy for you.”
We talked and I skirted the truth here and there. Of course Astarth knew there was more to my story than I related, but he very diplomatically kept his silence.
He asked me to stay to dinner, so consequently we continued our little reunion party until the wee hours and I decided, at his invitation, to stay the night. When he said my old room was unoccupied, I smiled, thinking that was perfect. I fell into bed, so pleasantly tipsy that I didn’t have the capacity for remembering old times, and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke to a vision I’d never seen the whole time I’d last been here: sunlight streaming through the windows. My eyes wandered to every corner of the room. Ghosts, it seemed, couldn’t exist in this shining place.
After a pleasant breakfast, Astarth offered to show me around the new Fallsend. He told me that the hara who ran the town were considering changing it’s name because of the very negative connotations the original name had. They hadn’t chosen one yet, but it was in the works. We strolled through the streets, passing businesses, cafes and shops, all clean, pleasant and appearing to be doing well, as the places were busy.
As we started back to Piristil I had a revelation: the Fallsend I’d known in my past was no more–so, too, the Calanthe of the past. It might have started me on the road to where I am now, but it was no longer a living part of me. I’d excised it and thrown it away. I’d gotten what I’d come here for.
After saying my goodbyes to Astarth, I teasingly said, “Come to visit me sometime. I’ll show you around my place.”
He gave me a wry smile, sarcasm dripping off his words. “Yes, I’ll be sure to do that.”
It was late as I entered our bedroom. Pellaz was asleep, stretched out on his back. I undressed and slid into bed beside him, cuddling close, letting his familiar and much loved fragrance envelop me. And as I took him into my arms, he partially awoke.
“Calanthe…” he murmured, half asleep.
“Yes, my love, I’m here.”
He relaxed into my arms as I closed my eyes, finally able to let go and be myself. I knew who I was, who I’d been and who I could be. The latter was the most important, but impossible without the former two. I’d revisited my past, my former self, and I knew that the Cal of those bygone days could finally be laid to rest. I’d needed to get reacquainted with him, but now it was time to try to at least partially disown him. I knew that I, like Fallsend, would always have a few dark corners, but I wouldn‘t be me without them–ask anyhar. I buried my face into my beloved’s neck and even though I knew he was asleep, murmured, “I do love you, Pell, more than life itself.”