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Avenger Assembled

Some Pathetic Fantasy

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April 1, 2015 

Dutemps Castle 

 

"They are not your slaves, Tarva." Furion's rage tempered by the coolness of Earth-Prime, Bluebird fixed a level gaze on Tarva, arms crossed over her chest, a face watching Tarva from the latter's personal computer. "They have a world that is theirs, a city that is theirs, and mighty laws and unions to guard them. If you speak to the cleaning staff like that, they will simply quit, and _you_ will have to explain to Blue Fox why you have driven away her handfast vassals." Her big blue eyes narrowed. "Do you think she will like what you said? Do you think she will laugh?

 

"No. No, she will not." Tarva looked away guiltily, shadows flushing in her cheeks. "I thought it a jest, to play to my-

 

"Would it have been a joke before, daughter of Nihilor?" asked Bluebird, her usual cheerful voice serious. 

 

"...yes," said Tarva, surrounding herself with a protective blanket of shadow. "But a true jest all the same. Please, please message them and tell them my apologies. I try so hard to be of this place, and I fail sometimes, but...I want to. I want to be a daughter of Earth-Prime.

 

Bluebird let out a breath - an affectation for a projected consciousness. "You are a child in the soul, Tarva." It was, despite everything else, a statement of affection. "I will extend apologies. But then it must be _you_ who apologizes, shadow-witch, and takes them back to Blue Fox's bosom." 

 

"You are right. I will go write one." Tarva rose to her feet, a look of determination on her face. "I have procured several books on the subject, and with my vast brain I will surely find some..." The swinging doors closed behind her, cutting off her monologue. Bluebird herself made an appearance a few minutes later, in an immaterial holographic form. She looked around the room for a few moments before her eyes settled on one corner. 

 

"Ghost Girl." She smiled cheerfully. "Oh, was I not supposed to spy you?

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With the unsettling blur of an object sliding from the very edge of peripheral vision into full focus the translucent blue poltergeist appeared in the corner with an expression of surprise and muted guilt as though she'd been caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar. "Jams, Birdie! Don't spook me like that!" Kimber exclaimed, the irony evidently lost on her. She'd affected a barefooted outfit of jeans and an over-sized hoodie, her hair tied back in a loose ponytail that lifted into the air on a phantom wind and looking like anyone planning to spend the day indoors without being seen by anyone else.
 
"I know I mess with your cameras when I'm invisible, I was, um, just kinda avoiding Tarva. ...she sorta messed up again, eh?" the undead girl asked glumly, folding her legs underneath herself so that she was floating cross-legged several feet off of the floor and resting her chin in her palms. "D'you have to call her 'Daughter of Nihilor' every time? I don't think she likes that at all."

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"She despises it," agreed Bluebird, her cheer not fading a bit at the words. "The words are a scourge to her corrupted soul." Eying Ghost Girl, the Furion's projection floated up in the air to match Kimber's altitude. "But fear not, Ghost Girl, I watch her well enough to know how she takes my words," she added, taking a reassuring tone with the Canadian spectre. "She will return to her room and write poetry about the darkness of her Terminus-warped soul in a world of light, but then she will apologize to the cleaning staff for saying the slowest among them would be fed to blood-maddened hunting dogs at the end of the day." She looked at the door Tarva had left through. "The worst is," she admitted, "that _was_ a jest, by the standards of the world she left." Looking back at Ghost Girl, she raised an eyebrow. "You care for her welfare, then?"

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"Just seems kinda prejudiced and stuff is all," Kimber muttered, looking away from the hologram and puffing out one cheek in a stubborn pout. "Dunno how Eve worked out the paperwork and everything but Tarva's probably at least like a Nihilor-American by now." Her own legal status was something of an open question, too, but seeing as she didn't really need to worry about income or lodgings it didn't come up much. She wouldn't have minded being able to vote, at least, but that was vita-centric legislature for you.
 
The ghost drew herself up slightly in response to Bluebird's query, an effect somewhat undercut since she was still in a seated position. "And, y'know, sure I care about her welfare. I'm a superhero, we're supposed to care about everybody's welfare! It's like my job! And she's part of Team Blue Fox Lady Fighters now, too, so... so yeah!" She folded her arms, content that her point had been made.

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"Is that why you watch her?" Bluebird matched Ghost Girl's posture with her own, carefully assuming a seated position suitable to Furion physiology. "I have noticed that you cast yourself into the invisible realm at her approach. As you have since her arrival." Hands folded over her knees, Bluebird went on. "She will misunderstand your attentions if they continue. Yes, she knows. For one such as her it is no hard task to see the dead even when they prefer not to be seen. What are your intentions towards Tarva now-of-DuTemps?

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The colour literally drained from Kimber's face as she processed what Bluebird had said. "What? But-- but-- Oh, marmalade on toooaaast," she wailed, expression mortified as she rotated in the air until she was parallel with the floor, knees curled up to her chest. Tarva had been on Earth for over a year and Kimber had moved into the castle atop the Dutemps build not long after and in that whole time it had never occurred to her that the sorceress almost certainly had the necromantic knowledge to detect her otherwise invisible presence. "I wasn't watching her, I was just avoiding her because it was awkward and then it was awkward because I was avoiding her and-- Oh jams, I was totally reading her terrible poetry over her shoulder last week and she didn't say anything!" The poltergeist ran her fingers across her face in despair, the ectoplasm responding with far more elasticity than actual flesh. "I'm such a creeper and not in a normal ghost way, in a creepy creeper way, aaauuugh! I'm the wooooorst!" Giving up, she retreated entirely into an airborne fetal position.

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Bluebird laughed, then looked guilty for the laugh. "Ohhh, Kimber, no, it is...Tarva will have seen much worse than you." She looked at something only she could see for a moment. "Much worse." She patted the ghost's arm, or rather a space near her arm, reassuringly. "She must have been flattered by your intentions to show you her poetry." Frowning, she drew back. "I have heard many things called awkward this year. It is not a word spoken beneath the Silver Tree. Why are things awkward between you and Tarva?" she asked, in what was evidently a very serious question. "If it is about her many crimes against humanity, there are better ways to handle your warrior's pain.

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Kimber lowered her hand from her face enough to glare at the autonomic intelligence. "I know that, Birdie. I was in the Terminus and I can smell fear and death." If she never had to go back there it would still be too soon and she'd spent the entire time with the more precise scrying Nick Cimitiere had taught her clamped tightly shut. "This is a totally different thing! Muuuh, I don't know if her being flattered is better or worse. I'm just going to die all over again of embarrassment. It's the only way," she bemoaned dramatically but she regained at least enough of her composure to straighten out some.
 
"I don't even know how to explain. Like... Furions care what other Furions think about them, right? They must or they wouldn't wear outrageous armor and calling themselves Whoever the Totally Rad and all that." Nobody had ever accused Kimber of being overly utilitarian but she was pretty sure some of the shoulder pads she'd seen by the Silver Tree had to be mainly ornamental. "And like, if you think other people think you're cool you feel good about yourself but you don't actually say that 'cause it'd be shallow? So imagine two Furions showed up to a fight in the same armor and nobody wanted to say anything and they couldn't really be mad at each other 'cause it shouldn't be a big deal but it so is and they know everybody noticed and they maybe feel a little bad but there's nowhere to direct it so it just hangs there and gets worse? That's 'awkward'. Sort of."

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"Hah! That does happen," said Bluebird with a smile, obviously remembering happy past events. "Quite often. Especially with younger Furions who have not yet found the look they will wear into lifesbattle. Usually we can solve it by warrior's duel, or smith's competition where each shows their craftsmanship and martial talents in a display for the others." She frowned again, looking at Ghost Girl. "But _why_ do you feel this way towards Tarva? She is a corrupted soul drifted up from the pit like a fragment of burnt paper, you are a living phantom of what once was. Do you feel you have things in common?

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"Asdfghjk." Kimber made an unintelligible sound into her palms, any colour that had faded from her face earlier having returned twice over. "No, that was just an example. Lots of things can be awkward. This conversation is super awkward! Nngh, alright. Alright! Fine." The phantom had to wonder how an intelligence so found of metaphor and florid language could be having so much difficulty with the concept and had a brief suspicion that Bluebird was putting her on. Ultimately, though, exasperation won out. Maybe it would help to say things out load.
 
"So back when we met, when we had to-- When Wraith needed to get us out of the way really quickly?" It was a lot easier to focus on the mundane mechanics of that mad dash than think about where they'd been and why they'd had to run. "We asked Tarva to, like, give me a temporary body so Indira had something to grab onto so she used her magic by... Ugh, this is dumb, you were there, you know!"

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"When she infused you with entropic umbral radiation, yes!" said Bluebird, snapping her fingers silently, her eyes lighting up as she finally glommed on to Ghost Girl's mysterious point. "That was unpleasant to watch," she agreed, a scowl crossing her face. "I understand your feelings, then. I would provide better advice," she added, smiling, "if you planned to challenge Tarva to a duel to regain the honor of your lost flesh. But if you don't wish to do that..." She gave Ghost Girl a searching look, then sighed softly. "Then you should talk to her, Kimber. Wounds heal by effort, not by wishing. You and Tarva may be dwelling in this place for a human lifetime or more, assuming she is not destroyed by her many enemies. If you exist side-by-side wounded by each other, you will do nothing but suffer needlessly. And no one should suffer needlessly. Not even Tarva the Terrible.

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"Jams, Birdie, if I challenged somebody to a duel every time I got zapped by something weird, I-- Gosh. My unlife is just a mess." With a sigh, Kimber straightened out her legs until she was floating just a foot or so off of the ground in an upright position, shoving her hands into the pockets of her ethereal hoodie. "You're still not totally getting it, but that's alright. Maybe Eve can explain it better when she gets back? You're right about me needing to just woman up and talk to Tarva though." The ghost's shoulders slumped while she grimaced. "This is gonna stink."

 

Bobbing dejectedly though the air she passed effortlessly through the room's double doors in the direction the sorceress had left, trying to marshal her feelings into coherent sentences in preparation.

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Freedom for Tarva had meant freedom to create - either in the hand-written journals where she recorded her long, over-dramatic poetry, or in her favorite thing of all, voice recording. Ghost Girl found Tarva in a windowed corner of the castle, one that gave the shadow-witch a view of the courtyard full of tourists below. "Dear Helots...no...Dear Vassals, no..." She seemed to be having trouble getting her apology to the household staff in place. Finally, she put on a big smile and said, "Dear FRIENDS! I hoped to use honeyed words to speak to you before but instead they became black, vile, poisonous things that rotted your very souls to hear them!" She was nearly shouting at the end, her shadows growing around her like a bat's wings, but gradually they and her voice faded as she dialed down her tone. "The fault was mine. I ask your forgiveness, so that we might once again work on behalf of our mistress, the Lady Martel." When it was done, she turned off her recorder, an Archetech-brand smartphone, and slipped it into her pocket, leaning forward and pressing her face against the cool glass. 

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Hesitating in the space where the hall opened up into the area overlooking the courtyard, Kimber started to fade out into invisibility before catching herself. She couldn't pass for a living human in the revealing rays of the afternoon sun but whether or not Tarva could detect her presence with sorcery appearing in full view seemed like the first step in her own apology. Still, she turned around and started to head back the way she'd come twice before forcing herself to float into the windowed area, even if she stayed to far away from the far wall to chance anyone in the courtyard catching a good look at her. She opened her mouth with the intention of making some sort of greeting and settled for clearing her throat loudly, a completely artificial gesture for someone who didn't need to breath or swallow.

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Tarva turned slowly to look at Ghost Girl, as usual her pale body outlined by black lines that made her look as though someone had colored in her very reality with a Sharpie. "Was I too loud again?" she asked, worry in her voice. "I upset many people today and I want to make amends for my transgressions before Lady Martel learns of how my tongue tore apart the very souls of her vassals." She stared at Kimber, black pools forming on her pale cheeks. "Metaphorically! Metaphorically! I am sure their souls are completely intact." She smiled, too big, each tooth outlined by that same black sheen around the edges. It wasn't as if she was blackened by her powers, really, she just looked very...defined. "Can I help you, Kimber?" she asked, her voice solicitous. "You have but to speak and I am in your service.

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"Haha, 'phrasing'," Kimber chuckled nervously before covering her eyes with one hand in embarrassment and rubbing the bridge of her ethereal nose. "And no, no that was fine. It sounded good. Maybe less talking about people's 'very souls', uh even metaphorically. I think maybe that's a Terminus thing that doesn't really translate very well... Um." She hunched a little inside her hoodie, letting the over-sized fabric envelop her a little more before she continued. "So, I guess you kinda know that I've been avoiding talking to you one-on-one for a while and I wanted to-- Ohmigoodness, I don't have to explain what 'awkward' means to you, right? 'Cause I was just talking to Birdie and we were getting nowhere with that and I really don't think I can handle having that conversation twice."

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"Bluebird is a daughter of the Silver Tree. She knows no deception, no awkwardness," said Tarva. As much as the cybernetic intelligence and the shadow-witch disliked each other, they understood each other well. "But I do." She looked at Kimber. "I have noticed that you have hidden yourself from me - but you need not trouble yourself with apologies. It is my just fate to walk alone through these halls, paying an eternal lifetime of debts for my sins." She smiled tentatively. "Did you like the, the poetry? When I knew you were watching me, I...I tried to write things I thought you would like." Which, come to think of it, explained the business about the dark and tormented soul, fled from the cold and clutching Forests of Sorrows, wandering the world of the bright and shining living, never able to touch the joy and laughter she had left behind to be burned in the Eternal Fires of Night.

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"I did, actually," Kimber admitted and found she wasn't lying to spare Tarva's feelings, taking one hand out of her pockets to cover the lower half of her face as she felt colour rising there again. The poetry had been objectively pretty awful, she knew, but either the teenage girl or the restless spirit in her found the melodrama oddly endearing. "But you should have said something! I... I didn't think you knew I was there and I shouldn't have been snooping anyway but I-- Because-- You-- Fffft."

 

The poltergeist took the hand away from her face to wave it hurriedly in the air in front of her, needing a moment to form an actual sentence. Finally she blurted, as loudly as Tarva had been shouting into her phone moments before, "You kissed me and it freaked me out, okay?! It shouldn't have been a big deal but it was for me and I couldn't talk to you about it but I know I should have! I should have been helping you adjust to Earth and I didn't and that was pretty crummy so I'm, y'know, I'm really sorry." She seemed a little out of breath by the time she finished, shoulders rising and falling even if no actual air passed through her lungs.

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Tarva blushed, or rather darkened, faintly herself. "It was the only way to infuse you with my umbral-entropic essence," she finally said. "To take some part of myself and put into you, so that you might survive the death that we had brought to ourselves. I tried to make it as pleasant as I knew how." She gave Kimber a worried look. "It should have long since faded from your mind. Are you all right?" she asked, concern growing in her voice even as her voice grew. "Have you been thinking my thoughts? Dreaming my dreams? Have...have I cast you ever into some shadow of the darkness that is my very being?!

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"Mnnh, this is how the Terminus got so messed up," Kimber groaned quietly, running a hand through her bangs in frustration. "An entire dimension dedicated to completely missing the gosh jams point!" Shaking her head vigorously to knock the loosed stands of hair out of her eyes she tried to clarify. "The umbral-entropical stuff was fine, Tarva. Well. No, that was super gross, actually, if I actually ate food I would have totally gagged like for real. But I asked you to do that so it's fine. That part's fine."
 
She looked away, casting her glance out the window and the sunlight from which her instincts told her to retreat. "You know I don't remember anything from when I was alive, right? I guess maybe that's never come up. Probably not." That was the sort of thing that happened when you avoided talking to someone as much as possible for an entire year. "So I don't really know what kind of stuff I, um, did before I-- before. For all the time I do remember I couldn't touch anyone and they couldn't touch me." There'd been technical exceptions; Corbin had been able to make his rings constructs more or less solid to her and Eve could telepathically implant the sensation of physical contact but it was much the same as the trick Nick had taught her for consuming the essence of food she couldn't actually eat: a pale imitation that was far better than nothing but still just a cheat. "What I'm getting at is, I mean, for all intents and purposes, that was the... That was my, um..." She yanked her hood down over her eyes, unable to complete the thought out loud.

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"Oh." Tarva fell silent, processing what Kimber had said. Her shadows growing around her like a spreading blanket, for a moment Kimber thought Tarva was going to disappear entirely. "There were these two boys," she finally said. "Blades and Beanpole, I called them. We were young, and they were madly in love with me, of course, as most of the boys in the village were." She smiled at a long, long, long-gone memory. "The night I debuted at the temple, they both came to court me in my chamber, bringing me gifts, pledging their devotion, promising me their swords, promising me their loves, if I could just choose between them. So I kissed them both, one right after the other, and told them they were my boon companions and I could never bear to part with either of them." She blinked, the shadows fading, as she chased away the memory. "That was no kiss we had, Kimber. If you find a love that waits for you, in this world or another, then that will be your kiss. What we had was just...our fate."

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"I know that!" Kimber snapped with considerably more anger than she'd intended, the whites of her eyes flickering to hollow black briefly. "But maybe that's a lot easier to say when you're so pretty and corporeal you can have any boy you like! Two boys!" Her hands went from raised above her head in exasperated outrage to clamped over her mouth in immediate regret. There was no way Tarva's story had anything resembling a happy ending, not knowing where the sorceress had ended up. She'd shared something deeply personal and Kimber had turned around and slapped her in the face with it. "Oh. Oh, Tarva, I'm sososo sorry, that was awful. I knew I was going to make a mess of this." She sagged in the air, dejectedly dropping to just a few centimeters off of the floor. "I know you don't think anyone likes you and I really am sorry I helped make you feel like that but you don't understand. I doesn't even matter if anybody likes me." Her voice was barely a whisper by the time she finished, her eyes cast downward.

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Tarva held out her hand and a black, curling shadow appeared on her palm. "Desire is a flame, daughter of Canada. Too much of it will burn you alive from the inside." She brought her hands together, snuffing the 'flame' in her palm. "Far better to master that flame and use it as you see fit. When you find what you seek, it will be all the sweeter for the seeking." She locked eyes with Kimber, her eyes black and white pools swimming in a black-lined face. "Others will tell you that love will one day triumph and that you will find the right being to take you in its arms. In my years I have seen little of the triumph of love. You can mourn this loss. Or you can find a way to make your desires happen. You can exist on sorrow. But you cannot live on it."  

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Kimber's wispy eyebrows dropped inward and the corners of her eyes started to sting with the illusion of moistness as she bit back, "Oh sure, it's not like I've been studying magic or going out of my way to meet different types of undead or-- Mnh." She rubbed the back of her sleeve across her face and turned away from Tarva, embarrassed to have made a production out of something everyone else clearly agreed was a non-issue, embarrassed to be on the verge of breaking down as she tried to explain her feelings, embarrassed to be practically shouting at the woman she'd been trying to apologize to just for trying to give her what was probably very good advice. "Just-- just forget it. I didn't think I'd get so worked up, sorry. I'm sorry. Don't worry about it. And you don't have to worry about me hiding when you're around any more either. I don't know why I thought it mattered." She started to float toward the opposite connecting hallway, going slowly not to be dramatic but because she felt drained of the usually bottomless energy that typically propelled her gracefully though the air. Instead she felt thin and brittle and foolish.

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"Kimber." When Kimber looked back, Tarva was sitting on the floor, her back flat against the window she's been looking out of at the end of their conversation. Slowly the shadows crept up, blocking most of the glass, casting the hallway into darkness. "They've been gone a thousand years now. All of them have." She put her hand over her heart. "But they're still here.When she looked at Kimber, her eyes shone with a wet gleam over the dark lining of the sockets. "It matters.

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