Visionary Tales

IC => Fantasy => Topic started by: asterin on May 24, 2019, 05:30:07 PM

Title: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on May 24, 2019, 05:30:07 PM

A young woman strode at a relentless pace through the crowded hallway, packed with other girls hurrying by with carts of equipment and basins. The air buzzed with noise, coughing and feverish babbles, the turn of machinery and the ever-present puffs of steam, but she seemed unaffected by it, following a sound could not be buried by the din. “Alice, Alice--” a girl appeared at her side, struggling to keep up with her as she expertly wove through the gauntlet of a packed corridor. “Could you--”

“Not now,” she answered briskly, barely glancing at the young woman attempting to get her attention with that whiny tone. She was almost there. Unfortunately, a group of nurses wheeling by another patient forced her to halt, allowing the annoyance to catch up to her.

“Please,” she was saying, her wilting fingers folded together in some display meant to be convincing. “I just need you to mind the front for a minute, that’s all.”

“No,” she retorted dismissively as she brushed by, quick enough for it to be clear that she cared not a whit about her puppy dog eyes. Besides, Alice already knew what the blonde wanted to do--flounce off to powder her nose and fix her hair. Lucy was notorious for the painstaking effort she put into her appearance, and it really wasn’t for nothing that she was typically the first face one would see when they entered the hospital; she was rather pretty in that innocent ingenue way. With her doll-like features, spun-gold hair and sky blue eyes, she fit the saintly image the Abbeys so did favor for their establishment.

The blonde, however, proved to be as persistent as she was irritating, scrambling to block her way. As empty-headed as she was, she wasn’t stupid enough to try and catch her by the arm. “Oh, please Alice, just look at me, I’m a mess!” she begged, her lip beginning to wobble. “I promise, it won’t take me more than five minutes!” Indeed, the girl was less put together than usual, no doubt due to the swell of people that had come hobbling in since the wee hours of the morning. Of course, her loosening updo and the slight dewiness that was beginning to show on her forehead were nothing compared to state Alice herself was in.

Knowing she would not give up, the dark-haired girl heaved out a sigh, pressing a sleeve to her damp face. “Five minutes,” she told her sternly. At those two words she beamed back at her, clearly elated.

“Thank you, thank you! You’re an angel!” she cried, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Alice wasn’t paying much attention, already having filched the charts from her side. Even now, the grating noise was digging into her, but she could do nothing but turn away and walk out to the waiting room.

A roomful of haggard faces looked up at her when she swept through the doors, and she muttered curses to herself under her breath before taking Lucy’s place. “I apologize about the wait--please, line up this way,” she called.

The entire Shire had been in a frenzy for the past week. Every detail had to be perfect--not a speck of dust in a corner, not a crease on a span of cloth, not a silver spoon that wasn’t to be glowing bright. After so many years in the grueling war, their little boy was coming home, their pride and joy. From the luxurious estate to the looming monastery, the numerous sick wards in the hospital to the hell hole of an orphanage, the lists were to be checked and double checked. Every one of the numerous staff instructed down to the letter of the rule--and lastly, most importantly, the undesirables were to be kept far, far away from their precious son’s festivities. She remembered a similar parade thrown for the elder son’s return, perhaps five or so years ago. It’d been a farce, of course--it was clear Christopher was no war hero, but the Abbeys were always so careful to maintain a certain image.

As for her and the others not deemed worthy of being put on display, they were relegated to going about their usual duties in the hospital. The sick didn’t stop being sick for some welcome party, after all. In fact, she and the other nurses had their hands overflowing. The cough had been circulating in the area, which meant that the sick wards were jammed with people--particularly children. It was indeed just the perfect time for all their doctors to be away participating in festivities, leaving the fumbling interns and sleep deprived nurses to handle the mess. Serving only to further foul up her mood was that unbearable shrieking she could not block her ears from--it was maddening, absolutely maddening.

She glanced down at her pocket watch, a nail tapping out an impatient little rhythm on the glass face as the other hand obediently wrote down names and ailments. It was, unsurprisingly, past five minutes, teetering on ten. Though she had expected it of Lucy, it didn’t do her rapidly encroaching headache any good. The dark haired girl’s expression tightened, her fingers leaving the watch to touch the width of ribbon tied around her neck. She would have to wait. However, about fifteen minutes into it all that Alice had finally had enough--she couldn’t bear it anymore, she had to make it stop. “I’m so sorry, please give us a moment,” she hastily announced, something dark flashing in her eyes before she disappeared through a set of doors.

Once again, she found herself storming through the hallway--this time, nothing would stop her from putting an end to the sound that was driving knives into her head. She flung open the curtains to walk into the scene of half a dozen nurses flocking around a single child’s bed, trying to soothe the crying girl. “Miss Rosie, we need to give you these shots,” Evangeline was saying, receiving only an increased volume of furious wailing from the young girl.

“I’ve got some peppermints,” another tried, “would you like some, Miss Rosie?” Crying, more crying--screaming, on top of that. Just the sight of it made Alice want to tear her own skin off.

“What’s going on here,” she demanded loudly, striding up to the circle with a glare burning in her eyes.

It was Evangeline who turned to her first, exasperation in her voice. “We’ve been trying to give her these shots, but she won’t calm down,” she explained, gesturing at the two vials laid out on the tray.

The child continued to wail--mercy, did she not even need to breathe? “First Lucy, and now this,” she muttered to herself. “Alright, alright--everyone out!” Alice barked, a hand at her throbbing temple.

The girls looked up to her hesitantly, but Evangeline clapped her hands, motioning them towards the door. “Come on girls, let’s go,” she ushered. One by one, the frazzled nurses filed out of the room, leaving only the little girl’s crying echoing through the space. She let her cry as she prepped the shots, even though her jaw was seizing up at the grating sound. For a child to receive a room of her own, especially when they were so overcrowded was a clear indicator that she was likely the daughter of an influential person--not to mention how all of them had called her ‘miss.’ Well, that made no difference to her. Walking over to the bed, the young woman crouched over the screaming girl, fixing her with a piercing gaze.

“Stop. Crying,” she intoned firmly--to no avail. Of course, Alice knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. “Crying isn’t going to help you. It won’t change a single thing,” she continued sharply over the diminishing wails, her eyes boring into the girl’s watery ones. “Now you can keep sniveling pathetically all alone, or you can use your words. Which is it?”

“Percy,” the girl finally sniffled, her lip quivering. “I want Percy! I want--!” she began to wail again, only for the nurse’s deathly glower to cause her to settle back into soft whimpering.

“Who is Percy?” she asked evenly.

“M-My, my puppy. They, they won’t let m-me see him!” A childish outrage crossed her little face--she was likely used to having her way at home, and this sudden ban was something that turned her world upside down.

“Of course. This is a hospital, not a menagerie,” she replied matter-of-factly. As correct as it was, it was no doubt the same explanation the other adults had given her that had failed to persuade her. The girl’s big eyes filled with tears, her mouth gaping open into a cry. “But,” the nurse began sternly, cutting her off before that terrible dirge could start again. “But, if you are good, and you let me give you your shots, I’ll let you have a prize.”

“Percy?” she whimpered.

Not a chance, she thought. “He can be your Percy until you go back home,” Alice reworded, already rolling up the girl’s sleeve. Before the girl could move or voice her protest, she had emptied the two needled vials into her plump little arm.

“Ouch!” the girl squeaked, but Alice wasn’t about to give her the chance to dissolve into tears again. She pulled out an object from the pocket of her apron, promptly displaying it upon her palm for the girl to see. “What is that?” the girl asked, her blotchy face crinkling up.

“Percy,” the young woman retorted shortly, giving the pin on the miniature a brusque wind. “See? His tail wags.”

“Oh!” the girl seized the dog comprised of metal parts, her eyes glued to it as she turned it about in her hands, fascinated by the simple movement. “Percy does that,” she remarked, looking up from the toy. The nurse, however, was nowhere to be found.

As she escaped to the hallway, the ringing finally out of her head, Alice breathed a sigh equal parts relief and annoyance. “Thanks for that,” Evangeline sang, sidling up to her with a smirk on her pretty face. Like many of the girls who were employed in the Shire, she was a beauty--tall and slender with fair hair, paired with a sharp nose and cheekbones that might hearken back to some proud noble lineage. Alas, that wasn’t the case for either of the girls, or any among them, for the matter.

“It wasn’t for you,” she rolled her eyes, leaning against the wall for a brief respite. A hand wandered back up to her collarbone, unthinkingly fingering the ribbon around her throat. “I couldn’t stand that incessant squealing--I thought I was finally going to go mad.” There was nothing quite like the sound of children crying that tread on every nerve she had within her, but Evangeline already knew that from similar occurrences.

“As long as you’re doing my job, I don’t care,” the girl sniffed, nudging her aside for a span of wall to lean on as well.

“Someone’s got to get things done properly around here,” she jabbed back curtly.

“Ha! You’re one to talk!” Evangeline scoffed, directing a furtive hand towards the door that led back out to the waiting room. “Visitors have been lining up in your absence.”

Alice sucked in a slow breath, begrudgingly pushing herself away from the wall. “Still no Lucy?” she asked, half-heartedly brushing back the tendrils of dark hair plastered to her face. It seemed that she would have to play the part a while longer. Where was that ninny?

“You’re the one who was dimwitted enough to be fooled by her,” the other girl shrugged, smiling cattily. She too stepped away from the wall, having spent what little time either of them could afford.

“You’re a ratbag, Evie,” she offered with a tart smile of her own as they parted, melting back into the bustling stream of nurses and patients.

“Birds of a feather!” she called back with a wink.

Though she had fully expected a room swarming with people as she peered through the door to the lobby, she was surprised to find it almost completely empty except for a withered figure in the corner. Lucy? She thought, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. It only took her another second to realize that Evangeline must have taken care of the remaining people while she was occupied with the crying girl. Smiling faintly to herself, she swept through the doors with a much lighter step than before. While the sound of the doors opening wouldn’t have bothered most, strangely enough the fellow nearly jumped out of his own skin. As he stood and began to make his way to her using a cane, however, she could see that he wasn’t an old man at all--in fact, he was a very young man.

“Good day, sir,” she greeted him cordially, her eyes sweeping over this curious young man. “Are you here with the cough?” Though to be honest, with how scrawny he was she could’ve thought up a long list of ailments he could’ve been suffering from.

“Ah, no, I’m--I’m not a patient,” he told her, a small nervous chuckle escaping him. His bespectacled eyes glanced about the room, finally settling on hers. “My name is Nick, I’m the new doctor on staff here.”

She blinked. Him, a doctor? He looked more like he needed a doctor. “Oh, is that so,” the young woman replied somewhat belatedly, “We weren’t informed…” Where was Lucy? Surely, she would’ve been told to look out for a newly arriving doctor--then again, perhaps she was giving the pretty girl too much credit. Glancing down at her pocket watch, Alice could only think to go find the head nurse instead. “If you could follow me, sir,” she motioned, stepping towards another set of doors and waiting for him to follow. Once the head nurse had this all sorted out, she'd be glad to finally have a doctor on staff. “I suppose you’ve come at a good time, Doctor,” she remarked offhandedly. “We’ve only got nurses and interns here at the moment, so we’re a bit short on hands.”

“Where’re the other doctors?” he asked, frowning.

“The estate. For the parade,” she quirked her brows, her distaste briefly seeping through the mask of bland courtesy.

“I don’t know why they bother with things like that,” he commented unexpectedly as he limped after her.

At that Alice paused, turning to give the young doctor a measuring look. For a moment it seemed as if an amused smile had brushed by her face, an inaudible ‘why indeed?’ in her eyes. “Have you interned here before?” she asked instead with a thoughtful frown, tilting her head to one side. It was difficult to place a finger on it, but he felt oddly familiar. Just as she managed to get the question out, the heavy front doors suddenly flung open behind them. Nick flinched again.

It was none other than the good doctor Abbey himself who strode in, a cold gentlemanly figure in white. He hadn't changed much since she'd first since him as a child, always appearing to be looking down at the likes of her from the heights of an ivory tower or from the other side of a foggy glass. Distant, coolly disinterested. At the sight of the gaunt young man beside her, however, Alice saw something deep and emotional crossing his face before he rushed over. “Nicholas, my boy!” he blurted out breathlessly, instantly engulfing ‘Nick’ in a tight embrace. Alice froze, her head giving a quick spin. Nicholas? “Son, what’re you doing here? We’ve all been waiting for you at the estate!” Son? 

All at once she understood why he had seemed so strangely familiar. He was Nicholas Abbey, the boy all this fuss was for in the first place. He was Nicholas Abbey, the Good Doctor's precious legacy. As the realization soaked into heart and bone, she stepped back demurely with the pretense of giving the father and son privacy, though her gaze never left their form. Unbeknownst to all, her lips parted--then curved into a dazzling smile that would have outshone the sun itself, a smile that spread to her eyes and set them glowing. Within them lay a vicious hope. Within them, a dark promise burned bright.
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 18, 2019, 04:29:31 PM
The villages were quiet, so quiet in fact, that they seemed empty.  From Kenbrooke to the gates of Hardoor, not a soul could be spotted from the Long road.  More specifically, not by the one individual traversing it.  A clunky but efficient motorbike bustled along the dirt road, the dust hovering in the air behind in its wake.  The rider donned a coat made from thick, durable mud-coloured canvas, the crossed maces of the Imperial Forces sewn into the sleeve of the left shoulder, his military rank and number beneath.  Medic, 056417, it read, printed in a uniform, black font.  He wore black leather gloves and a black helmet with scratched brown-strapped goggles.  The motorcyclist moved swiftly through the small villages surrounding the Abbeyshire, preferring the Long road to the Short, nothing in his side-car save a single piece of luggage.   

Entering Abbeyshire by the Long road instead of the Short had many advantages.  By avoiding the Square, the central marketplace of the Shire at the base of the big hill upon which the Abbey Estate sat, a commuter could avoid the thick of the traffic, where both buggy, bike and big-rolling-machine fought for position at the intersections.  Additionally, to pass through the Short road and beyond the Abbeyshire, one had to take the Narrow bridge past the monastery.  Though obviously more lengthy, the Long road carried travellers around the base of the hill that sprouted from the center of the Shire and its surrounding neighbourhoods, continuing through to White Rock harbour and the Mountain road beyond.  While out of the way, avoiding all the main attractions of the Shire, the Long road was also beyond the reach of prying eyes.  For the conduit of the sputtering motorbike, such a road suited just fine.  Luckily, this road brought a weary wanderer to the doors of the Abbeyshire Hospital which, fortunately enough, had been this rider’s exact destination. 

The motorbike was left stilled, leaning against a tree that grew beside two sisters near to the road.  With keys secured inside the pocket of the mossy green vest beneath his coat, he plucked his cane from where it had been secured along the side of his transport, a little modification he’d made himself, and started towards the hospital with his luggage in hand.  It took him a short while to make it up the steps and admittedly, he was a little pained after having competed the feat.  The pain in his leg however, the one that limped along with the metal cane, was a constant and so easily ignored, falling into the background like a white noise or an unpleasant smell.  Upon entering the hospital, the cripple was pleased to see that it looked much the same as it had since his last visit.  Seating himself in the vacant waiting room, he grunted quietly to himself as he tugged off the coat that looked too big for him, his frame much smaller underneath.  The luggage at his feet was small enough that it could be mistaken for a briefcase, so when the attending nurse returned to the front waiting room and assumed him to be seeking treatment, he was not surprised. 

“Ah, no I’m -- I’m not a patient.” He explained, laughing as he allowed the slight to roll off his back as though it never were.  “My name is Nick.  I’m the new doctor on staff here.” He offered helpfully, his tone light.  The nurse however, seemed unaffected by his gentle charm, apparently uninformed of his coming at all.  “I’m sorry.” Nick supplied at once, a wrinkle in his kind brow.  “This must be inconvenient for you.”

“I suppose you’ve come at a good time, Doctor.” She continued, further unmoved by his concern.  “We’ve only got nurses and interns here at the moment, so we’re a bit short on hands.”

“Where are the other doctors?” He asked in return, his coat folded over his free arm, held out to follow her through a set of swinging doors. 

“The estate.  For the parade.” She replied.  The way she said the words told him everything he needed to know regarding her opinion on the matter.  Nick himself, shared a similar ideal on the subject. 

“I don’t know why they bother with things like that…” His tone was more reserved than hers, but that reservation was dripping in thoughts unsaid.  After all, a parade made little sense when the individual for whom the parade had been thrown was uninterested in the affair.  Such a spectacle did little to make up for two years without a single letter or word.  Festivities and folly did nothing to bandage the wounds of wartime. 

“Have you interned here before?” She asked him, turning to gaze upon him with a queer look in her eye.  It was obvious, even at an initial glance, that she was a Grass-Blood.  A pleasant, broad face, black hair that fell straight, almond-shaped eyes and wind-worn olive skin; she had all the typical attributes belonging to those from the Dominion of the Queen.  Of course, the annexed nation would now formally be known as Greenlandia, beneath the heel of the Emperor and the protection of the Archbishop.  To the Grass-Bloods, no matter what the tsaivar mangas wrote in their books, the land would always belong to the Queen.  Nick would know that fact better than most. 

“Well, no, actually…” He started. 

“Nicholas, my boy!” Came a familiar voice, interrupting him.  Though it was a voice he had missed, a voice he had longed to hear for years, a voice that rang in him like the bells of joy, he had to take a moment and recover from the crashing entrance his father had made.  Flinching severely, in spite of himself and the calming breaths he had taken, he recoiled at first beneath his father’s rushing advance before his nervous expression cracked into a smile that seemed at least halfway sincere. 

“Son, what are you doing here?” He asked, peeling his youngest son from where he had flattened him against his chest.  Eyes roamed the sight of him, lingering on his leg, just as Nick had expected they would.  “We’ve all been waiting for you at the estate!”

“All the doctors as well?” He asked in response.  “I understand none of them are here.” His father didn’t answer but instead flicked a quick, venomous glance to the nurse who had stepped beyond Nick’s weak peripheral vision.  “You at least need a surgeon scheduled during an event, what if something should happen while everyone is busy having fun?” The tone he spoke with was light enough that Dr. Abbey Senior softened beneath the warmth of it, an empathetic hand falling against his son’s shoulder. 

“You’re right, of course.” He conceded.  “We’ll send for someone.  Let’s hurry to the party, the parade will be starting shortly and your mother is very excited to see you.”

For a fleeting instant, that same old terror gripped at his belly like when he was a boy.  Stiffening, as though struck by an icy breeze and frozen in place, his eyes stayed tuned onto his father, changing beneath the glass of his lenses.  “Didn’t you hear me?” He asked, the warmth gone from his voice.  “There must be at least one surgeon on staff at all times.” He repeated, this time more sternly.   The two men, practically mirror images of one another, save for the hollowness of Nick’s cheeks and the frailness of his body, starred each other down as though each were confronting a stranger.  Nicholas had once been an obedient little boy.  Dr. Abbey had once been an attentive and passionate physician.  Six years was a long time to be away, to be gone.  Just as he had suspected…

Things had changed. 

“Why don’t I stay for now?” Nick offered, a bit of that same charm sneaking back into his voice now.  “You can send two physicians back to the hospital from the party, and in the meantime if I have any questions I can just ask, Miss…” He had to rock onto his good leg and turn his body to find the corner where the nurse who had initially helped him had sequestered herself.  Brown eyes found hers and raised their brows expectantly, she hadn’t given him her name, so he had no way to politely finish the thought. 

“No, no!” Dr. Abbey insisted, stepping in between the nurse in question and his son.  “I’ll send an intern.” He assured him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder.  “Why don’t I show you around myself, son?” Christopher Abbey Sr. proposed, guiding his son down the main corridor of the facility. 

“Yes, why don’t you.” Nick agreed, a slight edge behind his tongue.  Casting his gaze one final time, over his shoulder to the nurse who had first greeted him, he offered her a polite, “thank you,” before following after his father, feeling again like a boy but this time, different, in far more ways than just one.  Time could make men of boys, but war makes monsters of those same men, just as helpless to the horror as the passing of each second. 
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on June 18, 2019, 05:04:00 PM
The nurse watched the doctor lead his limping son away with a small streak of frustration, cursing Lucy once again in her head. If only she’d been here, doing her actual job, she would’ve been able to do some much needed research for the plot that had begun to rapidly emerge within her. It was then that the very blonde came bursting through the door, sheet white with fear--or was it powder? Apparently, she hadn’t been wishing hard enough. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened, time just flew by--” she babbled, clearly afraid of the backlash she would receive from the prickly girl.

Fortunately for Lucy, Alice was too occupied to give her a tongue lashing. Pushing the charts back into the blonde’s arms, the nurse brushed past the girl with a distracted “It’s fine,” which seemed to stun her. Alice couldn’t care less--there was more important prey afoot, after all.

As father and son wandered down the corridors of Abbeyshire hospital, neither of them seemed to notice the slight figure of the nurse who trailed them at a good distance--unsurprising, since there were many uniformed nurses abound and she was simply a number among them. Had Dr. Abbey been alone she would have dared to follow more closely, for the Good Doctor’s eyes always had a way of sweeping over the undesirables, but his son seemed much more...alert, if not jumpy.

Nicholas Abbey. She eyed the emaciated young man from across the hall, her gaze cool. Now that the two men were together, she felt silly for not having recognized him--he certainly took after his father. While that was to be expected, whenever Alice encountered the second son of the Good Doctor over the years, she’d only ever been able to see that one particularly pathetic memory of him splayed over his face. Of course, she doubted he remembered her; they were all too insignificant for the likes of the Abbeys. 

As they made their slow rounds about the hospital and its wings, Alice strayed close enough at times to be able to catch snatches of the doctor giving a quick summary of each area. The doctor seemed to be in a hurry to get through the tour, judging by the details he was glossing over--but even she could not refrain from laughing scornfully under her breath as Doctor Abbey referred to the Female Trauma wing as some marvelous act of charity, providing their female patients with much needed privacy and respect when it came to ‘sensitive matters.’ Oh, she remembered her own stays in the wing well enough, and to her it was quite clear that the actual reason the male staff was barred from the area was so that the Good Doctor could continue to turn a blind eye to the very real horrors that the girls were put through. Of course, Alice was not surprised by this revision to the cruel truth--what she was surprised by, however, was the flat out lie uttered when they reached the door to the basement stairs.

“That leads to the basement, but stay out of there, son--it’s under construction. There’s a lot of rubble and the floor’s quite torn up,” he told the young man, unable to prevent a meaningful gaze from wandering to the cane he held.

Any one of the girls--including Alice--would have instantly known that to be a lie. There was no such construction going on in the basement of the Abbeyshire hospital. No, it housed the crematorium...and a tunnel. While the crematorium wasn’t used as often anymore, the tunnel was frequented daily by at least a good number of the girls working at the hospital. It only took a brisk walk through the tunnels to reach the richly decorated east wing of the estate, filled with beautiful salons and the grand ballroom. It was no secret what went on in there, so why the lie?

Deep in thought Alice continued follow the duo as they moved on, but once they reached their destination she instantly regretted the decision. It was the pediatrics ward, filled with crying, screaming children. Trying not to feel too ill, she stopped at a corner as the two doctors entered a room filled with fussing, wailing brats. She tended to avoid this very ward when she could, though the sound of crying would more often than not summon her to the bedside of the offender to somehow silence it. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t be able to go bursting into the room this time. Her headache was beginning to return with a vengeance, and she threw a glare towards the roomful of children, a hand beginning to creep up to her neck. The sight of Nicholas Abbey standing there with the sound of their wailing only brought the first memory she had of him rushing back.

It’d been the same summer she’d lost Chryssa, the same summer she’d met him, the summer everything came colliding around her. On a particularly sweltering day she’d escaped the orphanage once again and found her way to the outskirts of the maze-like gardens, hoping the heat would discourage her jailers from searching for her. It hadn’t been to cause mischief, she’d just wanted to be alone--to be free from surveillance, to forget what she was running from. Though she had gone through the pains of secluding herself in the farthest corner of the vast gardens, her hopes of solitude had been dashed when the unmistakable sound of sobbing assaulted her ears through the greenery.

When she’d peered through the wrought iron fence she’d spotted a young boy about her age crying pathetically into his frilly sleeves, dribbling tears onto his polished leather shoes. The moment he looked up and met her dagger-like gaze with his tearful one she’d realized who he was--and never before had she hated someone so instantly. What do you have to cry about? she had wanted to shout, to rage at him. He had a living family. He was so rich he could have been dining from gold plates for all she knew. He had everything he could’ve wanted, he had everything she didn’t--thanks to the misery his family wrought. How dare he cry? How dare he? Before she could give voice to the venom boiling in her veins, however, the ever-familiar sound of her keepers angrily searching for her had echoed across the green labyrinth. She’d fled the wretched scene then, hands balled up into fists and teeth clenched tight. Of course, within a few hours she’d been discovered and dragged back to the orphanage for the usual punishment--but even the blows of the rod could not break her away from the seething thoughts in her head. Even now, the memory caused her nails to press against her palms.

“Doing a little bit of spying, eh?” a voice interrupted from behind her.

Too annoyed with the sound of crying and the memory alike to be fazed at being caught red-handed, Alice glanced over her shoulder to greet Evangeline with a grim quirk of the lips. “And look at you, all dolled up,” she retorted. Indeed, as worn out as the girl had appeared earlier, her hair was now arranged back into perfection, and her cheeks boasted a youthful flush of colour. Though she was dressed like any other nurse, had Evangeline ventured into that room she certainly would not go overlooked by the Good Doctor. Oh, she was a beauty, of course, but it wasn’t so much that she was the most exquisite among the others--rather, it was that her beauty closely resembled a very particular woman.

It was no real secret that Evangeline frequented the bed of Dr. Abbey far more than his actual wife did. There was a certain amount of power that came with such a status, and while most girls deferred to her, she had also become an object of hidden disdain for others. As for Alice--well, she didn’t fall into either category, a fact that both of them were quite aware of. “What can I say? I heard he was here,” Evangeline shrugged, tucking a lock of her strawberry blonde hair behind an ear. A sly smile playing on her lips, she peered around the corner--only to hesitate at the sight of the gaunt young man next to the doctor. “Is that who I think it is?” she asked, not bothering to turn around.

“It is indeed,” Alice answered, just as the father placed a hand on his son’s shoulder.

“Hm,” Evangeline hummed back, her lips curving down the way they always did when she wasn’t too impressed or pleased. She’d been in something of a mood ever since they’d begun preparing for the festivities in earnest--she tried to not let it show, but it was clear enough to Alice that something about this whole reunion rubbed her the wrong way. “I suppose I shouldn’t disturb them,” the fair haired girl concluded primly, turning back with an air of smothered disappointment.

“Suit yourself,” Alice returned lightly. Though she had a few educated guesses to the reason behind the other girl’s darkened mood, she didn’t bother commenting upon it or asking for confirmation. She didn’t stick her nose into Evangeline’s private business, and vice versa; it was most likely why they got along so swimmingly, even when there was no semblance of real personal affection between them. In fact--

A sudden sound made her stop short. “Alice?” Evangeline questioned, her brows quirked at the sight of her stiffening. Instead of answering, the dark haired girl twisted around to look into the room to confirm what she had heard. Indeed, it hadn’t been some strange trick of the mind.

“They’re laughing,” the words slipped from her lips as she stared in disbelief. The children that had been whining and crying were now grinning from ear to ear, some giggling aloud despite their sore throats, their eyes all focused on the scrawny skeleton of a young man. 

“So, they’re laughing,” Evangeline repeated, obviously not seeing what the fuss was about. “Children do that.”

Pulling herself away from the unnatural sight, Alice turned to the other nurse to try and explain. However, her eyes darted to two men hurrying down the corridor behind them, their white coats flapping behind them--the replacements from the estate. “The doctors,” she hissed, and the two young women sprang apart, quickly finding ways to look occupied with some sort of task.

As she wrung out a rag in a basin, she watched discreetly as father and son exchanged a few words with Doctor Bonham and Doctor Westcott. After a round of firm handshakes, the Good Doctor and his son left for the estate, leaving two irritated doctors to run the hospital. Barking out orders and assignments, the doctors sent the weary nurses scurrying to all different corners of the Abbeyshire hospital. The sick don’t stop being sick for a festival, the doctors reminded them, and Alice couldn’t help but roll her eyes.


(https://i.imgur.com/JcTT8LS.png)

The world was quiet. Sprawled carelessly in the grass, the dark haired girl let a slow breath escape her, palming the tendrils of green between her fingers. Above her, the sky was beginning to take on a soft orange glow, the sun beginning to make its descent down towards the valleys. In a few hours her presence would be required, but for now, there was no one to come looking for her--for now, she was neither a nurse nor a whore, and she could close her eyes and let herself pretend she had nothing to do with this accursed place. Not Alice,Yuuka.

She still remembered how at nighttime she and her brothers would lay out on the grass while her mother told them stories about the heros in the stars above, the sound of the crickets crooning along to her lilting words. One night it’d be about the Celestial Maiden and the Cowherd, the lovers who could only meet once a year upon a bridge of birds. Another night it’d be the legend of the Five Sister Queens, who avenged their father by driving back the enemy and lead each of their respective dominions to prosperity and greatness. 

The young woman could almost recall her mother’s voice forming the syllables that had rusted and lost their meaning long ago. As hard as she had tried to grasp at the threads that formed the tapestry of her homeland, it’d all started to unravel the moment she’d been ripped from it. Now she could speak no more of her mother tongue than a toddler could, and she did not even remember the full name her parents had given her. She could despise the reality all she wanted, but there was no denying that the empire had succeeded in doing what they set out to do--civilize the barbarians. A bitter, mocking smirk seized her lips for a brief moment before her senses picked up on the approach of footsteps. Her eyes flew open and she immediately bolted up into a sitting position, tensing up considerably. “Who’s there?” Alice demanded, her voice sharp with the hostility that usually ensured she would be left alone. 
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 19, 2019, 06:34:39 PM
His dress uniform didn’t quite fit him like it used to.  Looking at himself in the mirror, smoothing his parted, greased hair down against the side of his head, he shifted uncomfortably beneath the weight of his garb.  When the war had first started, he had been broader of shoulder and thicker around his middle.  The stiff black fabric of his pristine service dress felt more like a shell than a uniform, oversized and too heavy.  Smoothing out any remaining wrinkles and adjusting the gold-plated buttons of his jacket with his white-gloved hand, he took deep breaths from his nose to steady his beating heart.  Glancing down at the watch on his wrist, the one he never took off, he rubbed a smudge from the scratched glass-covered face.  Though it was late afternoon, early evening now, the watch on his wrist read eleven-thirty-two, and never a second otherwise.  Covering the watch with his sleeve and setting his red and black peaked cap onto his groomed head, the gold stitching of the Imperial Crest dulling the look of his sandy hair, he made for the door that would take him from his rooms.  They remained just the same as when he had first left the Estate.  In truth, it had been much longer than six years since he had been away.  After graduating early from boarding school at a tender age, Nicholas Abbey had immersed himself at once into University, only returning to the Abbeyshire on holidays or specially marked occasions.  While the hallways looked just as they always had, the ornately wallpapered corridors as familiar to him as they had ever been, there was something new lurking in their shadows.  War had sharpened his senses and something about this place he had once called home made the hairs on his arms stand on their ends.  Fortunately, his effects had already been left in a vacant residency room at the hospital, conveniently close to the pediatrics wing and the South doors which led to the orphanage behind.  It had taken some convincing but finally his father had surrendered to the notion of keeping his childhood rooms empty for at least a little while longer. 

The day he returned to the Abbeyshire had been, thus far, just as he had forever hoped it would be.  He had seen his mother and elder brother only briefly during the parade, before wasting the hours into the afternoon with his father.  They strolled through the crop fields like they used to when Nicholas had been merely a boy, though this time son was not skipping or running ahead of his father, stopping next through the carnival that he had initially avoided upon his arrival in the Shire Square.  Both father and son each tried their hand at the various games and attractions that squeezed themselves in between the shops and stalls, before letting a butter beer settle their excitement and fill their bellies enough not to spoil the spread for the formal party later on.  Catching a carriage not long after to the Cathedral of St. Christopher, Dr. Abbey stumbled upon a few of the orphans who would now be beneath Nicholas’ care, introducing him to the pewboys and marvelling at way by which they took to him at once.  When finally the hours had fluttered past for long enough to make them both late to their most important engagement, Lord Abbey had whisked his son back to the Estate, parting from him only to allow for the privacy he needed to change into attire more suitable for the function.  Christopher Abbey seemed, without care for hiding the fact, full of selfish want for his son’s attention and luckily the feeling was exceedingly mutual.  Nicholas had missed the comfort of a warm bed, the fullness of a good meal, the ease of a restful night, while away at war; but most of all, more than anything else, he had missed his father. 

“Look at you.” Came that gentle, coaxing voice Nicholas loved so much.  He stood at the top of the grand staircase, donning a handsomely tailed coat and his formal robes, the ones that hung heavy and red around his shoulders and marked him as a Lord of the Holy Empire.  Yet, when compared to the medals, pins and sashes that clattered and swayed against Nicholas’ chest, the Lord Abbey might have almost looked plain.  “They took my boy and gave me back a man.” He remarked, feeling misting his eyes and making his voice catch in his throat. 

“Most of him, anyway.” Nicholas retorted, his cane moving in tandem with his left leg, ruined beneath the pleated black of his trousers. 

Lord Abbey laughed along with his son, both chuckling in the same throaty fashion.  “Are you ready?” He asked his son compassionately.   

“Not at all, but I don’t imagine that matters very much.” He let his eyes meet those which were an identical shade of warm, honey brown.  “I expect the food has already been paid for, better just to get on with it.”  Again, both men giggled at the jest.  Doctors had a morbid sense of humour, a trait that perhaps Nicholas had inherited from his father or maybe acquired throughout his study of medicine.  No matter the causation, it was a trait they both shared, among countless others. 

“I know this is probably a lot.” Nicholas’ father empathized, his brows coming together at the middle of his forehead in earnest worry.  “Let me know if you need a distraction, I’ll buy you a minute to get some air.” He offered, the smile returning to his lips as he put a hand on his son’s decorated shoulder and guided him towards the staircase. 

“Well, we’re starting the night off with sodding stairs, so I think I’ll be holding you to that.” Once more, both men laughed and father extended a helpful elbow to son, one he was kind enough to pull back once within the sight of the crowded grand ballroom. 

As a child, all things seem larger and grander from behind innocent eyes.  Aging tends to take away the sparkle from places that once seemed magical.  Something that before looked big and beautiful later seems smaller and more boring.  The grand ballroom of the Abbeyshire mansion was not one of these places.  Glistening parquet flooring carried the reflected light from the shimmering crystal chandeliers overhead from one corner to the other.  At the end of the ballroom opposite the grand staircase an orchestra pit was filled to brimming with musicians, a singer bellowing an opera for the enjoyment of guests from the stage above.  While one long wall was filled with windows that stretched from the floor to ceiling, the other was adorned with large gold-framed mirrors that reflected the glow of the setting sun across the scene of revelry.  From the balustrade Nicholas clung to with the hand opposite that of his cane, to the candelabras held by winged saints, all the details of the lavish grand ballroom were gold.  Red banners bearing the Imperial Crest, the crossed maces of the Mace Dynasty, the Sigil of His Excellency, the Holy Emperor, hung upon the walls between mirror and window alike, reminding guests just for whom they were brought together.  With eyes flicking from one piece of artistry to the next, one painted face in the crowd to the next, the ballroom felt just as grandiose and overwhelming as it had when he had been a small boy.  Even before he had descended the final step and entered the throng of the ballroom crowd, the familiar hand of anxiousness had gripped him and begun squeezing at his throat, his chest, his belly.  The panic came in waves, the course of which were a familiar navigation for Nicholas, he could deal with the panic, but the terror…

My darling,” That familiar slithering voice hissed from behind him, striking more fear into his broken heart than all the horrors of war combined. 

The terror he had tried to outrun as a boy, the terror that had haunted his nightmares even in the midst of battle, the terror he had come home to… that which he was far less equipped to deal with. 

“Oh, Nicholas, my baby boy.” The Lady Abbey cooed as she swept her son up into her arms.  Long nails, painted dark purple, scratched against the scruff of his neck, tickling beneath the collar of his jacket.  Her other arm she wrapped around his waist, holding him tight against her full chest, as if she were a great snake from the forests of the Africannis, poisoning her victim into paralysis with her venom, before squeezing from them whatever life might remain.  “I missed you.” She said slowly, the words quiet enough to be for him alone, spoken into the ear against which her lips caressed.  At their utterance, his stomach dropped and his breath caught in his throat.  He tried to will his heart to beat, to make his lungs draw breath, but his was frozen in fear and completely helpless.   

“And look at you, so thin!” She exclaimed, holding him out at arm’s length, sharp eyes roaming over his broken figure.  Her fiery red hair cascaded in smooth waves upon the shoulders of her green, velvet dress, the same colour as her calculating stare.  “We must have a full examination done on the morrow,” she prattled on.  “My son, the hero, but oh, at what cost?” She gushed.  Nicholas moved between the hands that gripped him by the shoulders in the same fashion a rag doll might, his eyes void of feeling, void of presence, voice of Nicholas altogether.  It couldn’t be helped, the terror sunk its claws into him the same way every time, since the very first.  First came the cold, then the blank, then the wait.  The wait was the hardest part.  The wait for it to be over. 

“Is it over…?” The little boy inside of him asked into the darkness.  “Is it over…?”

“But, surely Doctor, there is something you can do?” The Lord of Rockmarch asked. 

“Yes, my good Doctor, with your formidable staff and even your own skilled hands…” The Duke of Bellewood agreed, pressing further. 

Nicholas hadn’t noticed the small crowd that had gathered around him, eager to catch the ear of the renowned Abbey’s or their famous son.  Only when Dr. Abbey Sr. stepped forward, putting himself between mother and son, did Nicholas begin to blink away the frost that kept him from drawing breath.  He put his arm against his son’s back, discreet in the manner by which he held him up beneath one good leg regaining its strength.  The sounds came back to him first, followed quickly by the sights.  While in the beginning both swirled together in a blurry, noisy, chaotic sort of haze, they began to settle until at last he could make out the pieces by which to put together the puzzle of the present conversation.  Dr. Abbey Sr., the Lord of the Abbeyshire, was explaining a new medical procedure, known as a transplant, a procedure that could supposedly correct the ruination of Nicholas’ kneecap and surrounding cartilage.  When the subtle sway of his thin frame found sure footing and a solid distribution of weight upon the cane in his left hand, Nicholas’ father let his hand fall away from his son. 

“Of course, we have much ahead of us before we think on such things.” Dr. Abbey assured the guests he conversed with, casting a proud gaze over to his son.  “Since my son is a certified physician now, he’ll be taking over some of the responsibilities at the hospital and managing the orphanage.”

“How noble!” One gentlewoman chirped in compliment.

“To return from war only to sacrifice even more, you’re too good Dr. Abbey.” That time, the words had been directed at Nicholas. 

“Oh,” he started stupidly.  “It’s no sacrifice.  Actually, I quite like children.”  This was well received, for whatever reason, a few ladies in the crowd even bringing their hands to their bosoms in a theatrical aweing.  He pretended not to notice the way he mother leered from the other side of his father, jealous for the spotlight stolen from she who rightfully deserved it.   

“He does have a way with them.” Abbey Sr. elaborated, his tone dripping with a shining pride that flirted with the borders of arrogance. 

“Even the horse-fuckers?” A man donning his own dress uniform inquired casually.  His chest was as decorated with resplendently polished metal as Nicholas’.  The insignia on his shoulder indicated his rank as a Lieutenant-General.  To most, it meant he was a man of position and title, someone to be respected.  Nicholas, however, knew that it meant he was a yellow-belly with a fat ass; nothing more than an old man who spent the war sitting in a bunker, sipping tea, while ordering young men to the front lines to die.  His duty uniform was probably as crisp and unstained as the day he had been handed the damned thing, along with a pair of boots and the word of the One, the Book of the Many. 

“Yes, Lieutenant-General, sir.” Nicholas offered in a measured tone, the light returning to his eyes but none of the warmth.  “Even the horse-fuckers.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 19, 2019, 06:35:53 PM
Continued...

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“You’re uglier than before.”

Christopher Abbey Junior had found his younger brother sequestered in a quiet corner of the ballroom, a plate of horderves in his hands, many of them already stuffed in his cheeks.  He too wore a dress uniform of the Imperial Forces, the same crossed maces patched against his shoulder like all the others.  While Christopher and his brother both donned the red, braided rope around their right shoulders and matching sash around their waists, Nicholas’ uniform varied from his brother’s in many ways.  While surely the white sash across his chest and the many medals dangling from his left breast pocket drew enough attention, the most notable of all his ceremonial decorations was the rapier sheathed at his hip.  The hilt was encrusted from solid gold, giving momentum to a thrust should the weapon be used in combat, but otherwise only adding weight to an already heavy ensemble.  The leather of the scabbard it was sheathed in was etched with phrases from the Book of the Many, the blade blessed by his Holiness the Archbishop and presented to the receiving officer by the Emperor himself.  It was the highest possible honour within the Imperial Forces, and like a jealous little boy, Christopher couldn’t stop staring at it. 

“You’re fatter.” Nicholas retorted, talking with his mouth half-full and pushing his circular lenses up his nose with fingers armed with further nourishment for his own withering physique. 

“So are you going to tell me what really happened?” Christopher asked, crossing his arms over his chest.  He wasn’t fat at all, Christopher Abbey Jr.  In fact, his was rather strapping, certainly more so than his younger brother.  Standing nearly half a head taller and more than twice as wide, he was built with all the strength and good looks that failed to reach Nicholas in their mother’s womb.  His hair shone like the sun itself, his jaw strong, his lips full and of course his bright green eyes could spot an eagle in the sky from ten miles off on a cloudy day.  Better at Nicholas in everything for all of their lives, constantly overshadowing him in every way, it was curious to see him struggling to get the attention he was typically accustomed to.  For once, the gleaming beam of fame and focus was not on him, but another and moreover, another who wanted it not in the tiniest bit.  How frustrated then, he must be. 

“What do you mean?” Nicholas asked in return. 

“C’mon, Nicky…” He started, stepping towards his little brother and looking at him in the same way he used to look at him before he hit him, or knocked the books from his hands.  “Everyone’s heard the story, the outpost that lost all its commanding officers, the medic who had to take command as Captain, the suicide mission that won the Empire the Eastern Front overnight?” He elaborated, raising his expressive gold-threaded eyebrows at his younger brother expectantly. 

“So what’s your question?” Nicholas asked. 

“My question is, what really happened?” He repeated himself, taking another step forward.  “Because there’s no way, not a chance in all the Many Hells, that a coward like you pulled off something like that.”

Nicholas flicked his gaze up to his brother’s and while there was not cruelty or even prickliness to be found in his brown hues, there was something swimming within them that gave Christopher a momentary pause.  Swallowing what he held in his mouth and finding a surface upon which to set the rest, Nicholas turned his attention to his older brother with a calm indifference.  “You’ve heard the story and that’s what happened, though not as glamorous as singers tell it -- did you know men shit themselves when they die?” His cadence was jarring, his attitude unlike himself.  Visibly, Christopher recoiled in confusion at the sight of it.  Nicholas had always been the type to turn the other cheek.  Their father used to say that compassion made a good doctor, but Christopher had only ever seen it make a useful and readily available punching bag of his brother.  He would take the cut lip, the cut feelings, always bleeding in one way or another.  The last thing Christopher would have ever expected however, would have been that this war would return to him a baby brother who had learned how to cut back. 

“Let me ask you something, brother.” Nicholas started.  This time, it was his turn to make the advance.  As his left foot came to the parquet floors alongside his cane, his brother’s same foot retreated in equal measure.  “If I’m a coward, what does that make you?” He asked, a hauntingly pleasant smile on his unremarkable lips. 

Christopher’s handsome features twisted into an ugly shape.  As his face started going red, he swung a kicking foot hard at Nicholas’ cane, meaning to knock it out from under him.  Instead however, the broad side of his foot struck hard against a seemingly immovable object.  Fortunately, his embarrassing yelp could not be heard above the roar of the party-goers and music as he buckled onto himself and clutched at his polished shoe.  “What’s…? How…?” He stammered, supporting his weight with one arm against the ballroom wall.  From the angle he found himself in, in the midst of his agony, he was able to better see the cane that his brother walked with.  Now he could see, as clearly as if he should have always been able to, that this was no ordinary cane.  His younger brother’s thumb pushed against a tiny notch, making a string of small gears and complex winding mechanisms moving along its length, a ghostly blue flickering at its base.  This was not something that could be bought on the street, or even in the black market, but rather something entirely new that Christopher -- with all his worldly knowledge -- had never seen before.  As the mechanism stopped it’s function, the cane that previously been impossibly rooted to the floor now moved in Nicholas’ hand as effortlessly as if it were a feather. 

“I installed a composite alloy, embedded into a lodestone, into the base which, when activated, connects its component atoms to that of the earth’s crust…” Nicholas explained flippantly.  Upon seeing the confused and bewildered expression on his brother’s face, he leaned forward and spoke slowly saying, “It’s a very strong magnet.”

“You know something, brother?” Nicholas continued, when he was met with only a slack-jawed response.  Righting himself and brushing the crumbs that lingered from the previously devoured horderves, the fought against the headache pressing in against his temples with a clenched jaw.  “You haven’t changed.”  Christopher had underestimated his little brother for their entire lives and would likely continue to for a little while longer still.  Eventually however, Christopher would come to realize, along with everyone else, that while they might not have changed, Nicholas had.  In fact, Nicholas was very, very different. 

“I think I could use that distraction right about now.” Nicholas whispered into his father’s ear, leaning in next to him after braving the crowd for long enough to find him.  Cleverly, the Lord of Abbeyshire made his way to the stage where he commenced a long-winded toast.  With everyone looking in the opposite direction, Nicholas was give the time he needed to make his none-too-hasty escape.  He retreated out the same way he oft had has a boy, through the garden doors behind the grand staircase.  They opened out first onto the terrace, but following the inlain stone path through the garden brought a wanderer to the hedges, wherein he could get lost.  He took his hat from his head, carrying it in his hand as he walked so he could better gaze up at the stars beginning to show through the translucency of the darkening sky.  Orange and pink had given way now to purples and reds, the moon beginning it’s nightly chase across the sky after her unreachable lover, the sun.  Walking soothed him, in spite of the pain.  As he walked he thought about the hospital, the children he had seen today.  The doctors seemed to be rather fond of him, though naturally Nicholas had to assume they were simply trying their best to be agreeable with him.  There had been, of course, that nurse who had initially received him.  She seemed serious, which Nicholas respected in a practitioner of medicine, but she also seemed unaffected by his presence, as though she didn’t care about him.  Nicholas liked that well enough, he didn’t care about him either, after all. 

Suddenly, as if by some weird magic, he spotted her sprawled in the grass in the glades beyond the gardens.  Halting at once in his tracks, he looked at her shape, like a toy dropped and forgotten by a careless child.  She was wearing her nurse uniform, looking just as he had seen her earlier that day, now laying lifeless amidst the green.  Nicholas felt his breathing become ragged as the next wave of panic rolled upon him, setting off his lip to twitching.  He blinked hard against the sight, willing it away.  Usually it wasn’t like this, usually it was…

Dust… Blood… Mixed in together, splashed against the rubble… It’s so quiet… Why is it so quiet…?   What’s missing… ?  Where’s the ticking…?

No.

Can’t think about that. 

Don’t think about that.

His tongue tapped against the roof of his mouth as his lips pursed and flinched, whispering under his breath, “no, no, no, no, no…” The cane beneath his hand whirred to life as the gears moved into action, providing him with the stability that neither his mind nor his body could provide.  He shuffled forward, one step at a time.  There was a voice in his head that told him to look away, to run away, but he never did.  He had to see.  Always, he had to see.  This time was different from the others, though.  It felt off, as if there was something he was missing.  He had never seen someone like this, someone who he didn’t know, who he had just met, but here she was called forth from his thoughts.  The Major who had overseen his transfer after the incident had warned him about this, about how returning home could make things worse.  He had advised him to stay on for a while longer, but he had gotten that letter from his father and been so eager to return to the one place that made everything worse.  Each time he came home, things got worse…

Who’s there?” She demanded suddenly, sitting up. 

“You’re real?” He asked back.  When her head turned at the sound of his voice and her eyes found his, the breath he had been choking on rushed back into his lungs all at once.  Pinching his cap between his fingers and his cane, he pushed the gloved fingers of his free hand across his hair, as though that was what had been out of place and not his ill-functioning psyche or his broken mind.  “I mean, what are you doing out here?”  He tried, finding the words awkward in his mouth, the mask difficult to repair after having already shattered it from the first. 

The heavy, wet beating of his heart against his ribs had begun to settle and he limped his way towards the fence that separated them.  She looked familiar to him, but then again he had seen her face a hundred times, reflected in a hundred of her people.  The beauty of the riders from the Dominion of the Queens, was considered less desirable among the Elite of the Empire of Britannica.  Her face, however, was not a difficult one to look at.  Her features stayed pretty even in her dismay, even as they began to twist, even as they changed, like the colours do on the scales of a chameleon, in the glow of the rising moon.  “Shouldn’t you be out with the rest of the staff?” He asked conversationally.  He needed more words from her.  He needed to see, to be sure this was what it was.  “The lanterns are all still lit in the Square, most of the stalls still open too I think.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on June 19, 2019, 10:20:01 PM
“You’re real?” a voice rang out from the gardens and she twisted towards the sound, disdain flitting across her features.

“What sort of idiotic question is--” she began tartly, all too familiar with talking back at a moment’s notice, but the words lost their edge as the intruder came into view. The intruder was Nicholas Abbey. “...oh,” Alice uttered as her heart leapt. Before she could offer him a sincerely insincere apology, however, he was attempting to amend his clumsy question.

“I mean, what’re you doing out here?” he hastily asked, limping closer. It wasn’t a surprising question; young women had no business traipsing about at dusk alone, and they were certainly not to be rolling around in the grass. Alice, however, who’d been carelessly breaking those rules since she was a child despite her pearl-clutching keepers, was no stranger to letting that question go ignored.

Instead of answering she stood and mirrored his actions, walking up to the fence that divided the two of them and letting her gaze wash over him. He looked much more like an Abbey son now, decked out in an ill-fitting formal suit, and despite the soft light of the rising moon he positively glittered, the medals pinned to his chest polished to a brilliant shine. A decorated war hero. The same twisting, bitter smile began to well up within her. How many of her people had he slaughtered to earn those pretty trinkets, she wondered. On his shoulder was the familiar patch, the symbol of the empire that had torn her home apart, the very same she’d seen on uniforms and flags alike the day she lost her family. However, like many of the people, he would have met that night, her attention could not help but stray to the most decadent of all his accessories--the gleaming rapier at his hip. Like them, she stared, though the thoughts running through her mind were not ones of admiration or even envy. While his was encrusted with gold, she could recall plainer models gracing the sides of the soldiers who had overrun their camp and dragged her from the barrel her mother had hidden her in.

“Fuck! The little bitch bit me!” she could still hear the soldier scream, taste the iron on her tongue, feel the unpleasant chunk of flesh in her mouth. The rapier held high, glittering harshly in the dying light--

“Shouldn’t you be out with the rest of the staff?” he asked, and Alice forced her gaze away from the weapon and back up to his bespectacled eyes. “The lanterns are all still lit in the Square, most of the stalls still open too I think.” After a day of grueling work, some of the nurses and orderlies had still found it within them to try and enjoy themselves in the square. She’d overheard a group or two promising to meet up at such and such an hour, filled with the kind of excitement she believed was better off left to children. No one had invited her, of course, but Alice had no interest in parades or carnivals. It all seemed to her like a paper thin farce to mask all that was rotten with this place--no, she’d rather be buried in the tall grass, making fireflies her lanterns.

“I’m not fond of crowds,” the dark-haired girl answered simply. It was an honest answer--she saw enough of crowds and staff members during work hours anyhow. “Shouldn’t you be inside with the rest of the socialites, doctor?” she then turned the question back on him, tit for tat, arching a brow. “It seems to me we’re both a bit out of place,” she concluded, daring to equate herself to the young master of Abbeyshire. Before any sort of wounded pride could rear its head within him she tilted her head, a spark of mischief coming through in an impish half-smile as she leaned in conspiringly. “I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine.”

In that short exchange alone she’d established common ground and bound them together with an inconsequential promise, a shared secret, an inside joke. This sort of game was child’s play to her by now--turns of phrases, a certain look in the eyes, the curve of a lip. It all began with finding out the kind of woman a man wanted. Some wanted innocent virgins too pure for the earthly world, while others wanted a devilish temptress or a scornful ice queen. She could be any or all of those, a man’s fantasies come alive to flesh and bone once the bedroom doors closed. Had Nicholas Abbey been introduced to her as a customer, she would have perhaps pegged him as the type to respond well to a shy, wholesome maiden, blossoming to attention beneath kind words. Of course, that mask was going to be a difficult one to don since he’d already encountered her as a very different creature indeed, but Alice was not concerned. 

There was a large number of things one learned in her profession, but one of the surprising things she’d come to understand was the very simple key to building a relationship. No matter the kind of relationship, feigned or genuine, platonic or romantic, people wanted to feel special, to be a unique existence to another person unable to be replaced by just another body. Men always seemed to want to forget that they were just another customer to her, even if she was just another whore to most of them. Therein lay her simple but effective ploy; she would have him believe that he alone was able to see through the cracks in her cynical, barbed mask. Real skin turned to a mask, a mask inverted into skin.

Perhaps it was all madness, a delusion of a mind that had started to fester too long ago. There were many reasons why people played the game of seduction, but at the end of the day it was about desire, want. Some wanted a fleeting, torrid distraction from the boredom of their lives, and others chased after a desirable marriage. Many of her fellow girls continued to play the wretched game out of a base desire for survival, while ones like Evangeline thirsted and hungered for every scrap of power that could be wrested from between tangled sheets, climbing higher and higher on the teetering ladder.  As for Alice--well, once as a silly child she had wanted nothing more than a pair of wings so she could fly free from this cage, but now she understood it was an impossible dream. She’d long given up on such folly. As she regarded the young man before her, her piercing stare momentarily took on the starry, pious gaze of a girl kneeling at the altar. Her wants were of a smaller, more humble nature now; she’d learned, she’d repented. A single match would suffice, one little match to have it all go up in flames--oh, just a tiny wish, she thought--won’t you grant it, dearheart?
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 20, 2019, 02:37:43 PM
“Oh, I can keep a secret, alright.” He assured her at once, taking another limping step forward.  Reaching for the iron-wrought fence that separated them, gloved fingers curling around the bars, he winced at his own folly and drew forth a bashful laugh from his shy expression.  “Did that sound too eager?” Nicholas asked, a nervous smirk tickling at his lips, twisting his broad-set mouth.  “You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve been at shoulders with nothing but soldiers for too long, it seems I’ve forgotten how to talk to a woman.” Having stolen a brief reprieve for his good leg, he unfolded his fingers from around the bars of the fence to slip them between, offering his hand to the young lady on the other side.  “I never did get your name, Miss…?” He let the words hang in the air the same fashion they had in the hospital, his eyebrows lifting towards the starry sky in the same expectant way.  Nicholas had always been charming and likable, even as a young boy.  There was a subtle edge to his lighthearted gestures now, a barely recognizable nuance in the darting of his smart brown eyes.  Once the innocent traits of a good heart, now the rag rubbed raw against hands that would never be free from the stain of red. 

“Well met.” Nicholas returned politely before withdrawing his hand from hers.  Alice.  It wasn’t a name often heard amidst her kind, like others that echoed between calling keepers like bells chiming. 

A silence hung in the air between them that was both peacefully mutual and jarringly familiar.  Each had come out to this quiet place for their own reasons, but sought the same ends.  Silence and solitude.  There was safety in the silence, a reassurance born from having only oneself to be aware of and in engagement with.  The chaos of the party, the clatter of jazz music and the dank odor of overdressed bodies pressing in tightly served not in making Nicholas feel at home, but instead just the opposite.  Coincidentally, it was in the moment when people were at their highest point of elation, that they were closest to that teetering edge over which one toppled into the endless abyss.  They all smelled too strongly, made too much noise, and looked surprised to find themselves without footing and falling, the light fading from them.  Rather, in Nicholas’ case the light pushed in too fiercely around him, rapping incessant knuckles against his skull.  Out in the gardens however, where the breeze could touch his skin but the bushes hugged in close enough to brush their leaves against his shoulders, he found the breath he had been searching for. 

“You want to hear the silliest part of all of this?” He asked her, leaning his weight against the hand that gripped his cane.  “I’m not fond of crowds either.” He hissed conspiratorially, letting a giggle ripple the performance.  “Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?” There was a small part of him that was mildly aware that he was allowing the conversation to stray beyond the point that was typically appropriate between members of the Abbey family and their attending staff.  “It’s meant to be a party for me, after all, isn’t it?  But I hate parties.  And I mean, truly, I hate them.”  There was a larger part of him however, a much more broken part, that craved conversation with someone, anyone, who wasn’t hanging onto their last threads, who hadn’t already gone completely around the bend.  This Alice wasn’t a patient babbling nonsense, nor a socialite clucking bullshit.  She was a person and she was talking to him.  For Nicholas, that was more than enough. 

“Really, I always have.  No honestly, there’s no excuse for it.” Smiling along with the melody of her laughter, stifled into the back of a dainty hand, he found himself grateful for her company.  Difficult to approach and heavily guarded, he had been up against fiercer odds and still managed to wrangle a happy moment from tragedy.  It was his greatest talent as a doctor, to pull pleasure from pain.  Though, admittedly, he was less well-versed in the wrassling it took in the instance of some women.  He knew not a thing about them, beyond the anatomy working beneath the flesh, sinew and muscle.  Always however, he’d been called a quick study. 

“I hope I’m not keeping you.” Nicholas added, the laughter still lingering on his lips.  “Will I see you at the hospital tomorrow?”



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Christopher found his father, after the meaningful and tearshedding speech he had given, out on the veranda that overlooked the gardens.  He had heard him coming, turning at the sound, but when his eyes found those of his eldest son he turned away, uncaring smoothing his features.  For an instant, Christopher hesitated.  With a head tilting slightly to one side the way a little boy’s might, he regarded his father and his handsome tailed coat.  The eldest of the Abbey sons did not often speak with his father about matters beyond those of the Estate’s affairs.  They exchanged sums and lists, stoney featured and business-like in their conduct.  “And to my brilliant son, Christopher, my namesake, I could not be more proud…” He’d spoken the words tenderly in the toast he had made to the ballroom.  They toasted to his Excellency the Emperor, the Abbey legacy and sure even Nicholas but they had also toasted to Christopher.  It was more than he’d ever let himself want for.  Not all, as Nicholas so often thought, and not even some but rather, just a piece of his father’s love.  Just one, tiny piece of it. 

“Don’t linger, Christopher.” His father suddenly called, keeping his back to him.  “Either tell me what you want or go away.”

“Of course…” Son started at once, coming to stand beside his father.  “I wanted only to -- oh.” Coming to the edge of the terrace and looking out across the gardens, Christopher could see that their father was watching after the younger of the Abbey sons.  His frail figure, resplendent in the moonlight with all his shining achievements, was at the rear of the garden.  He looked to be talking with a nurse he didn’t recognize at the distance, still donning her uniform. 

“We have to be careful with Nicholas.  He can’t know too much.” Dr. Abbey started, the serious tone he usually carried settling in place of the warm one with which he had conducted the previous monologue to the crowded ballroom.  He had a knack for that, Christopher’s father, to turn your conversation around on you and make it his.

“Why?” Christopher asked, bitterness seeping past his lips in spite of his best efforts. 

“He isn’t ready.  The War took much from him.” Never did Dr. Abbey take his eyes from his youngest son’s figure in the gardens.  One hand he kept tucked neatly in his pocket and the other pinched a long-necked glass of champagne between careful fingers.  He looked the picture perfect image of a Noble-born Lord, doting upon his child.  Except of course, for the fact that another child stood before him, utterly neglected in the eclipse of his adoration for his second-born.  “Once he’s adjusted, I’ll explain things.  I don’t expect he’ll like it but I’m sure he’ll come to understand.”  Pausing, he took a sip from his glass.  “It’s just the way of the new world, after all.”

“But what if he never adjusts?” Christopher tried.  “You know, father, I could…” He started, seeing Lord Abbey’s brown eyes turning to him at last.  He had hoped he might see promise there but instead he saw the all too familiar chill of his usual icy stare. 

“You could what?” He spat back.  “What is it that you could do, Junior?” Christopher always wondered if perhaps his father would say that word with just a drop of pride if it had been Nicholas to whom the name was given.  “You’re a fool, a waste of my time, a waste of a well-paid education.” Dr. Abbey hissed coolly, turning away again.  “I’d have already had you killed if your mother didn’t find you useful.”

“But… But you said…” Christopher tried. 

“What?  That, in there?” The Lord of the Abbeyshire retorted, a cruel sneer on his mouth.  “You think I meant a word of that?  That I’d really be proud of you?  That I’d really be proud of this?” He reached for his son’s wrist.  When Christopher pulled away he grabbed harder, twisting at the joint and bringing his gloved hand into the light of the moon.  Both father and son knew what lay beneath the white of the dress uniform gloves, the ragged scar of the bullet that traveled through the palm of Christopher’s hand.  It was a well known wound, seen often in the Imperial Forces.  A cowards wound.  As Christopher winced at the pain in his wrist, his father smirked with pleasure at his discomfort. 

“But, but I’m your heir.” Christopher whined. 

“You’ll get the title, even the Estate…”  Dr. Abbey started, dropping his grip on his son’s wrist as casually and coldly as when he had first seized it. 

“The hospital?” Christopher asked suddenly. 

“To your brother.” He answered without inflection, simple fact. 

“But everything’s tied up in the hospital, all the investments, all the capital, it’s all…”  Wide, desperate eyes looked to his father, startled somehow to find them looking back. 

“Like I said, Junior,” Lord Abbey began, taking a threatening step to close the space that separated himself and his son.  “You’re a fool.”  As he spoke he tipped his champagne glass forward, letting the remaining sparkling wine drip down the front of Christopher’s uniform.  “And now look, you clumsy thing, you’ve gone and spilled all over yourself.” He took on the mocking cadence of a concerned parent, the closest he’d ever come to actually playing the role of one for his eldest.  “Best to turn in, son.  You seem a bit in your drink.” He offered, patting his son on the shoulder, a gentle gesture turned ingenuine and cruel.  When he lingered an instance too long the theatrics fell away, and with a freezing malice he told his son, “fuck off,” whilst waving a dismissive hand to him.  He didn’t bother to watch him go when he finally did, turning back instead to the gardens and his youngest son in them.  Finally, with his eldest having stormed off someplace else, his beloved likely already in the arms of another, he set his mind to his precious boy instead.  Charming, brave and with enough filling out, perhaps even strapping, Nicholas had become everything that his father had ever wanted for him.  Now, he was home, at last.   Finally, the good doctor could begin to put his plans and pieces into place, setting the board for the game to be played.
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on June 20, 2019, 08:12:27 PM
“Did that sound too eager?” he added with a nervous smile. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve been at shoulders with nothing but soldiers for too long, it seems I’ve forgotten how to talk to a woman,” he admitted, and Alice could not help but utter a little laugh that was more genuine than not. But of course, of course! He had left the nest too young to partake of his family’s own business, then spent six years surrounded by men. He knew nothing about what both hunter and husband could say about the female of the species.

“Forgotten how to talk to a woman?” she echoed, smiling teasingly. “Well, I’m having no trouble understanding you.” She almost felt a pinch of pity for him--the poor boy, she’d swallow him whole. She’d take and take and take until he had no more to give, until she had his soul between her jaws, his future under her nails. Possessed, obsessed with something he’d never attain, she’d watch him wither away to nothing along with the Abbey name. It’d be a fitting retribution for the family who had sucked their victims dry, perhaps even too kind of a comeuppance--but by now Alice knew to take the small victories.

“I never did get your name, Miss…?” he asked.

“Alice,” she supplied, placing her hand within his gloved one. It was a name that slid off her tongue easily enough by now, though her keepers had rarely referred to her as thus when she was a child. It’d mostly been variants of ‘impossible little savage’ or the like--of course, most of the time the monikers had been well earned by her antics. Oh, she’d been a horrid child, wild and spitefully rebellious, completely falling flat of such a pretty name--but now she knew how to say the name with a charming smile, to play the fitting role too.

She leaned closer still to the iron bars as his voice dropped to a secretive hiss, letting out another laugh. It was easy to play along, too easy. “No excuse, indeed. It’s a ghastly secret--a socialite who hates parties--imagine the scandal,” she whispered back, joking with the gaunt young man. Open, trusting, and inexperienced with women to boot. Could it be any more perfect?

“I hope I’m not keeping you,” he said, still smiling. “Will I see you at the hospital tomorrow?” At that innocuous question, she knew she had him.

“Oh, they won’t miss me for a little longer,” she waved her hand dismissively, settling back down in the grass comfortably without a thought for grass stains. Drawing out her pocket watch, she checked to see where the needle was striking before closing it with a crisp click. “After all, it’s not like I’m the guest of honor at a grand party or anything,” the dark-haired girl retorted, shooting him a mirthful look through her lashes. Well, she was safe for the time being, anyway. There’d be hell to pay if she wasn’t there on time.

“But tomorrow? Maybe, if you can find me among the dozens of other nurses,” Alice challenged lightly, her smile impish as she shrugged. “Think of it as a scavenger hunt.”

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As the great clock tower in the heart of Abbeyshire chimed out its song to signal the flow from dusk to night time, many across the shire began their own transitions. Strapping young men and fetching young women each shed their daytime appearances to become flowers of the night, blossoming madly underneath the cold glow of the moon. All handpicked by a certain pair of sharp, appraising eyes, each had their unique allure and charm, and the looks and skills to back it all up. Dressed up to please, to enchant, to arouse, they were placed carefully as any other decoration for private parties or sequestered in a lavish apartment like a wrapped sweet to be ripped open and devoured.

Poised at the center of the massive bed, Alice absentmindedly ran a hand over the luxurious threading that made up the covers. She picked at it with the edge of a nail, prying a thread loose before letting her gaze wander around the room for what had to be the hundredth time. It was a gorgeous sight, richly decorated with furniture of the finest quality, including mahogany, crystal, and ivory. Next to a carved desk and chair a large mirror hung, polished to a brilliant shine. Though her own personal quarters were devoid of such finery, there was not a trace of awe in the dark eyes reflected in the looking glass. Her expression was blank, her delicate features taking on an eerily doll-like quality--empty, lifeless. She hated this part, possibly even more than any other part of these bloody encounters. With no character to play, the several minutes of waiting in an empty room stretched out to eons, leaving her with nothing to do in the silence but see the wretched truth reflected back so callously at her. Here, she could hear all the words rattling around her head. It was sickening. It was maddening.

The sound of footsteps in the hallway shook her out of the swirling miasma, bringing her attention to the door before her. She stared at it as if she could look through the heavy wood if she tried hard enough, every nerve in her body quivering to attention as the door began to creak open. As a face finally came into view, the very air seemed to shift in response as she came alive.  

“You came back!” she gushed, delight in her voice as she leaped up from the bed, jumping hastily to her feet. Though she was standing now, her fingers excitedly fidgeting behind her, she made no move to approach the man. He was a middle-aged gentleman, the slightest hint of silver beginning to mar his well-coiffed chestnut hair. Though his youth was fading, there was a lively spark in his eyes that spoke to his desire to remain buried in those nostalgic days.

“I’m a man of my word,” he winked, carelessly removing his coat and tossing it over the plush chair. “Did you miss me?” he asked, spreading his arms towards her.

“More than you could imagine,” she pouted, loneliness tainting her expression as she crossed her arms, refusing to step into his embrace. “You’ve a cruel heart to leave me for so long.”

“Sweetling, I’m a busy man,” he reminded her, his tone placating. “I promise I won’t be long next time.”

“Promise?” she asked, hope trickling into the question.

“Promise,” he repeated, smiling broadly. “Now come here, love.”

She hung back for a moment longer before she finally gave in, cautiously approaching the man who immediately scooped her up into his arms. Letting out a squeak of protest, her cheeks flushing red, the girl struggled half-heartedly in his arms as he chuckled in amusement. He sat her on the edge of the bed before easing himself onto it as well, reaching out to peel off the layers sheltering her flesh as her fingers shyly unlaced his clothes. His lips and hands roamed over her skin, but when he came to her neck he paused, regarding the accessory ringing it.

“You were wearing this last time too, weren’t you,” he murmured, his hand trailing up to her neck. The girl who had been so obedient in accepting his touches suddenly shied away, blushing furiously.

“I-I, I can’t take it off,” she stammered, her hands pressed against the width of ribbon as if it would fall away.

“Why not? I can’t kiss your pretty little neck like this,” he cajoled. He reached for it once more, only for her slender hands to grasp them and lead them down to her breasts instead.

“It was...it was a custom from my tribe for girls to wear a woven thread around their neck,” she informed him softly, looking thoroughly embarrassed. “The legends would say that a girl who wore it until she married would be blessed by a happy marriage and healthy babes.” He looked at her, amusement tugging at the corner of his lips. “I-I know, I know it’s silly, but… I believe in it.” She averted her gaze. “Please don’t be mad,” she whispered pleadingly.

The gentleman let out a laugh, reaching up to grasp her chin. “Mad? What a delightful little thing you are,” he crooned indulgently, as if he were speaking to a child. “So charming, I might just steal you away to be my bride.”

Of course, he was lying. Promises made in bed held no meaning, and she understood that as well as any of her fellow playthings. It was almost quite hilarious, seeing that Alice had caught on from their very first encounter that he was married. Still, he could utter these meaningless lies effortlessly because, in the end, she was nothing but a toy to him. A commodity, a service, not fully human. He did not have to fear breaking her heart, because girls like her had nothing left to break. Despite knowing it all, despite the black anger in her heart, she never let any of it show. After all, who was she to judge them for lying? She lied better than the lot of them put together, the queen of pretend. So instead of laughing bitterly and spitting in his face, she lied back, letting her eyes grow round, glowing with childlike wonder. “Really? Would you really?” she queried, the very image of sweet naivety, the gentleman’s favored brand of poison.

He chuckled, pressing a kiss to her lips. “I might consider it,” he breathed, his words dripping with meaning. “If you’re a good girl.”

“Oh,” the dark-haired girl murmured innocently against his lips, a stark contrast to the way her hand traipsed downwards. “I can be good. Very, very good.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 21, 2019, 03:22:21 PM
“Six years…” She mused as she walked down the corridors of her grand estate, her arm linked through that of her husband’s.  “Has it really been six years?”

“Longer,” Lord Abbey answered.  “Nicholas was in medical school before the war, so really, it’s been more like ten years.”

The more common people of the Abbeyshire made their leave some time past from the lavish party hosted by the Estate.  They moved their frivolity to the Square, wherein the revelry would continue well into the early hours of the morning.  The younger workers, who were permitted to end their chores early in favour of a good sleep, would be sent out at dawn to clean the mess.  Though the halls of the Abbeyshire Estate, the very same that both Lord and Lady traversed down, were empty the Estate itself was decidedly not so.  Behind doors and curtains, behind screens and luxurious dividers, the boys and girls were being put to work.  It was easy enough to match a client with their companion, easy enough to see through a heart and know its deepest desires.  At least, easy for the Lady Abbey.  Some men were greedy, and wanted more than just one girl.  Some women were bashful, and needed to be told just which boy would have them.  There was a deeper truth to this world, a truth that the Lady Abbey had known since before she became a Lady at all; everyone wants something.  The people of the world, without delicacy or intuition, spent so much time trying to find or even figure out what it is they might want, they failed to understand the power in identifying the same in another.  Lady Abbey understood that power, however.  She understood it better than anyone. 

“Here we are, my love.” Lord Abbey said, opening the large double doors to her chambers.  She stepped inside ahead of him, but he followed after her like an obedient maid.  He would leave when, and only when, she dismissed him.  The honourable and clever Lord Abbey.   Like his father and his father before, and his father’s, father’s father, he lorded over the sacred land as was his birthright.  The Lady Abbey had been little more than a commoner, a banker’s daughter, when she had met her husband.  At once she had known what he wanted and how to use it.  Now, she had him.  Thus, she had the Shire. 

“Christopher left the party rather upset,” she began conversationally as she glided across the lavishly carpeted floor.  Lord Abbey, by contrast, stood with his hands folded behind his back near the doors to her rooms.  Such a good slave, he was.  “I don’t think our boys are getting along.”

“Our boys have never gotten along.” Lord Abbey returned.  “You should send Christopher away.”  Parents often denied having a favourite amidst their children.  The Lord and Lady Abbey were more honest with each other than most. 

“I will,” she began, floating her way into her closets.  “In time.” She called out from within. 

“I know you have designs to see him in Parliament,” Lord Abbey mused from his place by the doors, raising his voice marginally so it could be heard by his wife.  “But he has not the mind for politics.  He will fail at it, as he does all things.”

“I disagree.” She called back.  “He has a mind for finances, which will get him far enough.  Besides, he prefers the city to the country.” Emerging from her closets, she shrugged her satin, purple robes over her flowing nightgown, seating herself at the ornate vanity that occupied the central space of one wall.  “With Christopher in Parliament, he’ll choose of course, to stay in Londinium, and our operation beyond the reach of the law makers, Nicholas will be free to become Lord of the Abbeyshire in all but name.” She dragged a finger over the charcoal that lined her eyes, reaching next for a small jar of rouge that she patted onto her lips and cheeks.  Her husband watched her, knowing she did not freshen up or dress in gorgeous night robes for his sake. 

“Why not in name?” He asked, a bold question from a slave.

“Because names and titles are for sheep, and he is a wolf, like me.” The Lady Abbey answered smoothly.  “He does not belong to the Empire, or the Shire,” pausing, she found her husband’s gaze in the mirror before continuing in that halting voice of hers saying, “or even you.” Pressing her palms flat against the surface of her vanity, she rose from the small, plush stool she had been sitting in.  Turning to Christopher Abbey Senior, her wedded husband, she levelled him with her predatory gaze, smiling at the way he shrunk beneath it.  “He is mine.  And so he will stay, just Nicholas; my Nicholas.” 

“As you say, my love.” Lord Abbey conceded, letting his eyes fall to the carpeted floor beneath his feet.  He traced the patterns with his warm, brown eyes, the same eyes as their youngest son.  Padding her way across the room to him, she slipped a manicured finger beneath his chin, lifting his gaze back to her own. 

“Would you send for him?” She asked, her velvety voice caressing his cheek along with her wandering thumb. 

“What?” The Lord Abbey asked, incredulousness fixing his features into an expression of horror. 

“Like you said,” she started, stepping away from her husband and toying with the golden locket around her neck.  Within the finely crafted jewelry, rested a miniature of each of her children.  “It’s been nearly ten years…” she let her voice trail off as her feet carried her to the grand window of her chambers.  It looked out onto the gardens and the hospital beyond.  He’d be within the endless rooms of the large building, somewhere settling into a tiny cot where he could have instead a lavish and grand bed to rest his weary head.  Not even war could take from him his childish fears, still too afraid to even share a roof with his mother.  He must have known that this would be her first thought upon his return.  Clever boy.  More clever than his father had ever been, or his brother.  Clever like she was.  “Do you think he misses me, misses us?”

“No.” Came the Lord Abbey’s response, a surprise to his wife, as surprising as it surely was to him as well.  “No, I won’t do it.”

“What did you say?” He had never before refused her, not for anything.  Turning on him, her emerald green eyes narrowed into a wolfish stare.  “What did you just say to me?”

“Please, my love.  I’ll send for any boy you might want tonight, I’ll even pull them from their appointments and escort them myself just… Not Nicholas.” She was standing in front of him now, and while he might not have moved an inch, the hopeless and desperate expression he wore on his face meant he might as well have been laying on his back, a tiny forest creature beneath the tooth of the wolf who hunted him.  “I won’t survive it if he leaves again.” He added, attempting to appeal to whatever humanity might still reside within his wife, no matter how small, how microscopic it may be.  After all, there was something within her; something that made her cold heart beat.   

“Please, Lucretia,” he pleaded.  “I’m begging you.”

“Very well.” There was a gentility in her voice as she spoke, but the Lord Abbey knew better than to take it for genuine compassion.  Lucretia Abbey, née Blackmoore, had no compassion.  “You can bring me Dashielle, instead.” She supplied, a velvety delicacy overtaking her stunning features.  Beautiful beyond measure, and utterly terrifying.  The Lord Abbey never stood a chance, even from the first. 

“For now.”


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Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 21, 2019, 03:23:03 PM
Continued...

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“Thank you again, my Lord.” A smartly dressed man praised, shaking the hand of the good Dr. Abbey.  Beneath his arm, he carried his top hat, using both hands to envelope that of their ruling Lordship. 

“Think nothing of it, Rupert, old friend.” The Lord of the Abbeyshire returned. 

“Well, we just want you to know the depths of our gratitude.” Rupert’s wife assured from the other side of her husband.  “You know, we lost our eldest to the cough two summer’s back.”

“I remember, my Lady.” The doctor agreed, nodding woefully to the Baroness of Hornhelm Point.  “I’m just glad this was only a minor case.”

“You must be very proud of your son, my Lord.” Baron Rupert Horn commented, his eyes falling to the limping doctor who walked ahead of them down the hospital corridors.  The hand not occupied with his weight against his cane, held their little girl’s tiny one as she skipped alongside his crooked gait, a smile painted on her face. 

“I am, indeed.” The good doctor replied, feeling bleeding into his professional tone. 

“Can I come back to see you?” She asked, the little girl that clung to Nicholas’ hand.  He gave her a tug, lifting her off her feet slightly as he did.  So distracted, as she was, looking up at him, she hadn’t seen the nurse’s caddy she had nearly hopped herself directly into. 

“Well, that would mean you’d be sick again.” Nicholas pointed out, playfully, shouldering through another set of swinging doors.  “We can’t have that.”

“What if I come back because I’m a doctor, like you?” She asked.  “I should like to be a clever doctor.”

“If you decide to intern after your primary lessons, I’ll put in a good word for you.  How’s that Miss Madison?” He asked back. 

“Can a Lady be a Baroness and and doctor?” An inquisitive finger came to press upon her lip in thought as she spoke her curiosities out loud. 

“I don’t see why not.” Nicholas returned, making the little girl smile even wider. 

“Come, you!” Her father called, coming up behind her to scoop the bundle of squirming child into his arms.  Holding her against his hip, he offered a hand out to Nicholas who took it without hesitation and accepted the grateful gesture of a shake.  “Thank you, doctor.” He offered, a genuine glint in his eye. 

“Wait!” The tiny Lady Madison insisted, fishing something from her pocket.  “For you.” She said, extending a tiny, mechanical dog to Nicholas.  He took it with a smile and even a little laugh.  “His name is Percy.” She explained.  “Now he’ll be your Percy until you get better too.”

“Thank you, Miss Madison.” Nicholas returned sweetly. 

Doctor Abbey came up beside his son, placing a hand on his shoulder and offering the Baron and Baroness of Hornhelm Point a wave and picturesque smile as they disappeared beyond the southern discharge doors of the hospital.  With the doors fallen shut and the patient gone from the premises, he turned to his son and extended a flat palm, eyes coming to the trinket in his hand.  “I’ll toss that for you,” he offered.  “We have many more patients to see to before…” Lord Abbey meant to go on, but his son was interrupting him. 

“Why would I want to throw it away?” Nicholas asked, a wrinkle in his blonde brow.  Regarding his father’s outstretched hand, he pulled the toy away from him and held it against his chest protectively.   

“Well it’s…” Dr. Abbey started, a scoff on his voice.  When his eyes found those of his son’s however, he stopped himself short and softened his expression.  “Forgive me, you’re right of course.”  Nicholas parted his lips, something unkind crawling up his throat, but both father and son were halted in their conversation by a third voice.  It was one that Nicholas recognized. 

“Dr. Abbey?” Alice called from behind the pair.  Both blonde heads turned at the call, but while one offered a passing, scornful gaze, the other met her with a broad smile. 

“You’ve found me.” Nicholas started, turning to the nurse and limping towards her.  “Now you’ve taken all the sport from the game.” He noted, his smile still hanging on his lips.  Had Alice not the attention of the good Dr. Abbey before, she certainly had it now.  He watched her interact with his son, one brow arched high in silent inquisition.  “Is this for me?” Nicholas continued, the pointing finger of the hand that still held onto Percy, gesturing to the files she carried. 

“I expect they’re for me.” Lord Abbey interjected, approaching the pair and snatching the documents from Alice’s hands.  “Come Nicholas, we have other patients.” He took only a few steps before realizing that his son was not following after him, but instead standing still in front of this irrelevant nurse, watching him with a harder look now. 

“Actually,” he began, sharp of tongue and stern in intonation.  “I have need of Miss Alice.” Nicholas explained, smoothly and calmly, in a way that reminded the good Dr. Abbey too much of his wife.  “Besides, we’ll finish our rounds quicker if we work separately.” He added, tapping fingers against the clipboard wedged beneath his cane-hand arm.  “See to the inpatient facility and I’ll be in the pediatrics wing if you have need of me.”


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“Alright…” Dr. Abbey said dumbly, for what else was there to say?  “I’ll speak with you again, tonight.”  His youngest son had already turned his brown eyes away from his father, and so with no where else to look, Dr. Abbey shot his dark gaze to the whore that had stolen his boy’s attentions.  Eventually, she too looked away and so, dejected, Lord Abbey stalked off. 

“I’d like your help with a patient, if you aren’t busy.” Nicholas began, walking shoulder to shoulder down the hospital corridors with Alice.  “She’s one of our own, here at the orphanage.” He explained, trying to balance both the clipboard he pulled out from under his arm and the mechanical toy dog in the same hand.  “Her knee is dislocated, it’s not serious and could be popped back into place, but she screams and fits whenever the male physicians try to touch her.”  Looking back to the nurse he spoke with, he noticed that her eyes were not on him but rather the toy dog he held. 

“Oh,” he started, embarrassed of a sudden.  “It’s from a patient.” He explained.  “His name is Percy.” He added, before mentally chiding himself for doing so.  Wincing at himself, trying to hide the blush crawling up his cheeks, he pocketed the toy quickly and held before himself his clipboard and notes instead.  “Anyway, I thought she might feel safer if someone else was there as well.” Nicholas let his eyes fall to the floor, trying to steer the conversation back towards its desired direction.  “Would you mind?”

The pair walked side by side down the halls of the pediatrics wing in silence.  She seemed not to feel the need to fill each moment with words as some of the other nurses did.  Lucy, for example, was one such young woman who would talk for as long as you very well let her.  Fortunately, his father had been there to drag him away from the conversation he’d been too polite to cut short.  With his back against the wall, Nicholas waited outside the room as Alice entered ahead of him.  It was Nicholas’ idea, for her to go in first and talk with the girl, assure her of her safety, so that she’d feel less scared once Nicholas made his appearance.  Surprisingly however, it didn’t take long before he heard Alice call, “come in!” from within the room.  Stepping inside he found her at the bedside of the Greenlandia born girl who clutched desperately at Alice’s hand as though it were a liferaft and she, lost at sea. 

“Hello,” he began cheerily.  “I’m Dr. Abbey.”

“No you’re not.” The small girl retorted immediately.  Her hair was a matted mess from thrashing in her hospice bed, her cheeks stained by the tears surely brought on by the pain in her knee.  The longer it was left untended, the more it would swell. 

“I’m not?” He asked, cocking his head to the side like a startled toddler.  Tucking his clipboard under his arm, he tugged forward his long, white coat, peering down at the nameplate against his lapel.  “I wonder whose uniform, I’m wearing then?” Her eyes regarded him with the same suspicion, but the corner of her lips twitched slightly at his jest.  The first victory of many for Dr. Abbey, the younger.  “And you’re Helen, right?” He asked, approaching her bedside.  When she nodded in response he prodded at her with gentle words before even coming within arms reach.  “That’s a pretty name.” He offered.

“There are nine other girls in my dormitory wing with the same name.” She snapped back, his grip ever tight on Alice’s hand.  “It’s an ugly name.”

“And as you’ve pointed out, there is more than one Dr. Abbey, though I’m the only one with a sore knee, myself.” Nicholas returned, his disposition light and bright as a summer’s day.  “Seems we have a lot in common, you and I.” He continued, coming to sit himself at the edge of her bed.  She shifted her weight and shied away from him, but her stare had eased, if only the slightest bit.  “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you be Dr. Abbey, instead.” Unpinning his nameplate, he offered it to her.  Though timid, her small hand eventually reached out to snatch it from his, clutching it tightly against her chest like a treasure. 

“So tell me, Dr. Abbey, what seems to be the problem with the patient?” He asked her playfully.  At last, he had teased forth a full smile from the girl, even if just a fleeting one. 

“My knee.” She answered.  “Helen hurt her knee.”

“Do think it would be alright if I took a look at her knee?” Nicholas asked gently.  Her eyes flicked up to Alice before she offered the young man before her a solemn nod.  As Nicholas lifted the sheet that covered the girl, she flinched instinctively.  Yelping at the pain in her leg, she curled herself into Alice, biting down against the knuckles that gripped the Dr. Abbey nameplate in her fingers.  When Nicholas let the blanket rest against her mid thigh, even going so far as to keep her opposite leg entirely beneath the scratchy white fabric, she peaked out from behind Alice’s arm.  “Now, doctor, how did the patient hurt her knee?” He asked her, his voice dripping with honey in spite of the furrow in his brow.  The knee was dislocated, to be sure, sitting off centered and swollen.  Brown eyes did focus on the knee itself, so much as the bruising around her ankle. 

“Helen fell down the stairs.” The girl offered quickly.  As she spoke, Nicholas brought his hand to hovering over her skinny ankle.  Helen could not have been older than twelve, and yet the bruise above her foot looked almost like a handprint.  In fact, if he spread out his fingers, he could almost line the shadows up so that… “Her ankle got caught between the rails on the way down,” she supplied, the muscles in her leg twitching as she resisted the urge to flinch away from his touch.  “But that’s not what hurts.  My knee -- her knee, hurts.”

“Are you ready, doctor?” Nicholas asked.  As he brought his gaze up to meet that of the bedridden orphan before him, naught but sunlight poured from the warm, gooey caramel of his eyes.  “I need you to keep the patient very still for me.” He encouraged, placing his hands against her knee, fingers finding the ball of her joint.  “That’s wonderful, Dr. Abbey, you’re doing great.” She smiled at his words, a brave nod returned to the man who gave her his name.  “Now, count to three.”

“One… two-- Ah!” A quick yelp and a muted pop and her knee was back in it’s socket.  At once she bent it, as was traditional reaction, but a gentle hand on her shin kept her still enough not to overstretch the muscle too soon.  She took a ragged deep breath and then smiled as she regarded her knee, the joint back where it ought be by the One God’s design.  “You did it.” She noted in amazement, her hand falling away from Alice’s. 

“No, you did, doctor.” He reminded her, taking his cane in hand and coming to standing again. 

“Can I leave?” She asked. 

“We have to keep you a little longer, just to ice your knee so the joint doesn’t stiffen.” Nicholas replied, taking his clipboard in hand. 

“And you’ll go?” She asked. 

His eyes found hers then, pained by the sorrow he saw reflected in them.  “Yes, I’m afraid there are other Helens who need treatment and other Dr. Abbeys to report to.”  She gave him a sad smile at that.  “But let me ask you, Helen, what’s your favourite colour?”

“Blue.” She answered, her expression having fallen now that the game was over.  Once more, she was Helen. 

“Well then, Miss Helen Blue,” Nicholas started, drawing forth another smile from her, but this time a much happier one.  He set before her a scrap paper from his notepad, and a blue pencil made from dyed wax.  It was a simple trick, commonly made in the city but less so available along the countryside.  In his inner pocket, Nicholas kept a small collection in a variance of colours, a hobby he’d picked up from idle hours slumped in a trench.  It wasn’t by coincidence that he offered the tiny tool to her, noticing the childlike doodles on the corners of her file, accompanied by notes within the margins to keep pens beyond her short arm’s reach.  “Why don’t you pass the time, drawing me your favourite blue things, and when I come back to check on your knee, you can show me?” He suggested. 

“You’ll come back?” She asked, clutching at the blue pencil he had given her.  “You won’t forget?”

“Of course, not.” He answered.  “I’ll need to come back for the nameplate, won’t I?” He reminded her, inspiring her to tighten her grip around the shiny rectangle, holding it closer to her chest. 

“Thank you, Dr. Abbey.” She returned, her quiet voice nearly a whisper, her cheeks stained red and her eyes full of light. 

“You’re very welcome, Miss Helen Blue.” Before leaving the room, he offered the small girl a smile and even a deeply bent nod of farewell.  Following the nurse who had aided him, Alice, out of the room, a cloud fell across his sunny expression.  “That’s the third patient I’ve seen today who’s fallen down those damned stairs.” Nicholas mused, slumping against the corridor wall so that he might use both his hands to scribble down his notes.  “Oh right, Miss Alice, might I ask another favour of you?” He began, bringing his soft brown gaze to hers. 

“Do you keep a set of keys?” Nicholas’ eyes were kind but his lips were pressed together in a hard line.  “Every time I go by the orphanage, the doors are locked, and no one seems to have a free instant to fetch me a key.”  He explained, warmth in his voice but also more than a drop of serious concern.  “I’d like to see it.  I’d like to see these silly stairs.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on June 21, 2019, 04:47:15 PM

The hospital was abuzz, just as the day before, but it was fortunately not due to being understaffed. By now every nurse and orderly knew that the Good Doctor’s precious son was officially on duty at the Abbeyshire Hospital, and there was no shortage of speculative gossip going around in whispers and undertones. As it was usually the case she was excluded from these groups, but this time she had no need to trade favors for important information--she walked by the secretive little clusters of people without slowing to catch pieces of their conversations. After all, she had a feeling that when it came to the second son of the Abbeys she had far more insight than the gossip mongers and whatever half-truths they’d managed to scrounge up.  

Still, that was only half of the reason there was a faint smile hovering over her normally uncaring face. In her arms she carried a small stack of files, her fingers curled possessively around them as if someone would try and take them from her. These were for Dr. Abbey--senior, of course, but father and son had been seen to be rather inseparable, and thus it was all but guaranteed that she would find the skinny thing there. While these files weren’t enough of an excuse for a prolonged interaction with the young man, Alice didn’t need a long conversation to lure him a bit closer to the edge. A cheeky smile, a knowing look, an amused quirk of the brow--that was enough to insinuate and affirm the thought of a secret little connection. Now she wasn’t quite sure if it was luck or chance or fate that had landed these files into her lap, but whatever it was, it was smiling down upon her and she felt the urge to smile right back at it.

She found the pair at the southern discharge doors, no doubt having seen off some patients of importance. They seemed to be in a conversation, but she did not bother to wait for them to finish. “Dr. Abbey?” she called, her voice a tad more pleasant than it usually was when it addressed the Good Doctor. Father and son turned to her, both reacting as she had anticipated. The older man regarded her with frosty indifference--she would’ve surprised if he even knew her name--and his younger reflection smiled, easy and warm. What she had not expected, however, was for him to limp all the way to her side to speak to her in the presence of his father.

“You found me,” he commented with that smile, referring to her challenge from the night prior. “Now you’ve taken all the sport from the game.”

“I tried my best to stay away,” Alice replied slyly, a curl at the corner of her lips. “But alas, duties.” Letting out a sigh of mock disappointment, the nurse tapped meaningfully at the files she held.

“Is this for me?” the young doctor asked in response, but the sight of something in his hand delayed her response enough for his father to interrupt.

“I expect they’re for me,” the older man announced with the ring of authority in his voice, striding over. He snatched up the files, something sharper in his brown eyes as he shot a look her way. “Come Nicholas, we have other patients.” He began to walk away, but when his son did not follow, the doctor turned in what seemed like surprise or confusion at his boy’s disobedience. Alice watched the way the emotions flickered across his face as his favorite son denied him, choosing to strike out on his own with some no-name nurse instead. It took the young woman every ounce of self-control within her not to give the dumbstruck doctor a gloating smile. She could not give the game away too quickly now, could she? His eyes turned to rest accusingly on her and she lowered her gaze, feigning meekness to veil the light burning within her own eyes. They were the ones who had made her into this, carving her into an object of desire, a captivating snare--oh, they would come to regret it dearly--that, she could promise.

Her soaring mood, however, was somewhat dampened when he began to explain the nature of the help he wanted from her--he wanted help with a child, a child from the orphanage, no less. “Her knee is dislocated, it’s not serious and could be popped back into place, but she screams and fits whenever the male physicians try to touch her.” She glanced away, loathe to let him find any flicker of recognition in her expression, and her eyes fell to the clipboard he fumbled with. There it was again, she hadn’t been mistaken earlier…

“Oh,” he suddenly started, and she realized he had caught onto her stare. “It’s from a patient. His name is Percy,” he explained, even as the memory of the little girl screaming for her dog played in her mind’s eye. Indeed, she knew what it was because she’d crafted it by hand only three days ago, hunched over a light and tiny parts. She suddenly became acutely aware of the tiny mechanical bird nestled away in the depths of her apron pocket. He was blushing, but he wasn’t the only one trying to hide some semblance of embarrassment. It was a useless hobby, making useless trinkets from useless gears and clock parts--really, she didn’t know why she bothered, but she supposed it kept her mind occupied in those empty hours. Besides, it proved to be a good enough tactic to use with stubborn children.

“How sweet,” she remembered to say, offering him a small smile. She wasn’t sure if she was more surprised that the girl had parted with the toy, or that he’d kept it and remembered its name. Well, there was no point in telling him where it's origins lay.

“Anyway, I thought she might feel safer if someone else was there as well. Would you mind?” he asked, quick to get back to the problem at hand.

“Of course I don’t mind, doctor,” Alice responded at once. That was a lie, a bold faced lie. She minded--very much, actually. An unpleasant feeling began to eat away at her with every step that drew them closer and closer to the pediatrics wing, and she rubbed at her neck. No doubt there’d be crying and fussing about the ward, and she could only pray that the patient she would be ‘helping’ with did not also burst into tears--she wasn’t sure she’d be able to keep calm if she was faced with the ordeal.

The blonde young man stopped at a door, gesturing for her to go on ahead, and Alice tried not to let her hesitation show. From what she could tell from outside, she wasn’t crying...yet. Sucking in a breath, she opened the door and let herself through, only to see the girl on the bed flinch hard as the door opened, and she knew--yes, Alice understood that reaction better than anyone else. It was all she really needed to see to know the kind of story behind the injury, and she knew exactly what the girl would say to explain it away.

“Fell down the stairs?” she asked, though the dryness of her tone made it clear it wasn’t really a question. It was that or the floorboards. The girl wordlessly nodded back, and they stared at each other from across the room, eyes filled with a dark mutual understanding. There was little else to be said.


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With that one little shared interaction, the young girl instantly understood that the nurse before her had grown up in the same orphanage she was prisoner to, and seen the same horrors. That was the thing about it: they always managed to recognize one another somehow. Perhaps it was a certain look deep in the eyes, or a certain way of moving--it was like a stench that clung to them, and no matter what they did, it lingered. One only had to find the same despair reflected back at them, a twisted funhouse mirror of all of the nightmares they’d endured. This girl from her own homeland, a girl stolen away from her family just as she had been...well, she was quite the mirror. Her eyes were puffy with tears and the nurse tried not to look at them--the mere of sight made her a bit queasy. Luckily for Alice, the girl seemed old enough to refrain from crying when possible; now assured that the girl would not start crying, she finally stepped closer, her heart in her throat.

She had to see. She had to see if she wore one. She had to see… At her bedside, the dark-haired woman let out a breath of relief--disappointment?--to see she did not. She didn’t. Taking one more moment to calm her nerves, she turned to the door to call the waiting doctor.  “Come in!” she called, but before the words were barely out of her mouth, the girl seized her hand with such speed and force that Alice was the one to flinch this time. She looked down to see the terrified dark brown eyes staring up at her in a desperate, silent plea: please don’t go! The nurse let out a soft exhale and surrendered to the wordless request, sitting down on the edge of the mattress; the girl’s little shoulders relaxed slightly in response, though it didn’t loosen the death grip she had on her hand.

Her fingers only tightened rather painfully at the appearance of the young Doctor Abbey, but Alice did nothing to ease the feeling of her tiny nails digging into her skin. Like all too many of the boys and girls of the Shire, she knew too much about greater pains to complain about such a trivial thing. The young girl was nothing short of hostile to the doctor, but it barely seemed to reach him as he cleverly turned her words into his own charming jokes. He had a way with children, something his father nor the caretakers at the orphanage certainly didn’t have. She watched the girl unwittingly smile and recalled the sound of a roomful of children laughing from the day prior--now that she was witnessing it firsthand, it was easy to see how he’d gotten them giggling.

“Now doctor, how did the patient hurt her knee?” he asked. It was a question that would rarely ever go truthfully answered when a patient was from the Abbeyshire.

“Helen fell down the stairs,” the girl answered promptly, just as Alice had expected. It was one of the classic excuses for injury in the orphanage, one that their caretakers ensured that they used--one that she’d used countless of times. A time old tradition, she thought humorlessly. Just like the young doctor however, she too spotted the telltale bruising at the girl’s ankle, though she was not at all surprised by its odd shape. “Her ankle got caught between the rails on the way down,” Helen added hastily, trying to divert his attention back up to the knee. “But that’s not what hurts. My knee--her knee, hurts.” Clever girl. However, Alice knew better than most that her cleverness wouldn’t make things better for her in the end. After all, a quick wit and the ability to conjure lies were traits most desirable in the Abbeyshire’s nighttime workers.

In a more empathetic person that knowledge would have invoked a burst of pity, but to many of such workers, it was simply a bleak reality they had accepted long ago. With that cleverness and a face pretty enough, Alice knew that this would not be the last time she saw this girl in the hospital--and that in just a few years it would not be the pediatrics wing she’d be placed, but the female trauma wing. She raised her eyes from the ill-fated girl to the young man who beamed at her, coaxing her to count to three. As the girl complied, his hands worked fast, popping the misplaced knee back into place. Helen finally released her hand, smiling back rather sunnily at the doctor. She watched quietly, never missing a smile or a kind word as a question began to form in her mind. If he was so fond of children, how could he reconcile that with the way they were being treated? It circled her thoughts even as they left the room, leaving behind a girl who hardly resembled the wretch she’d first seen.

The blonde young man leaned against the wall, busily scribbling away into his chart, unaware of the way she watched him. “That’s the third patient I’ve seen today who’s fallen down those damned stairs,” he muttered to himself, and Alice could not help but doubt her hearing. He’d believed her? Believed all of them? Was this an act? She knew not whether to scoff or laugh, but of course she did neither, only raising her brows in an accommodating manner as he asked her for another favor. “Do you keep a set of keys?” he asked, looking quite serious as he explained himself. “Every time I go by the orphanage, the doors are locked, and no one seems to have a free instant to fetch me a key. I’d like to see it. I’d like to see those silly stairs.”

Her mind went in several directions at once. She didn’t have keys to the orphanage, because she did everything in her power to avoid that pandora’s box--in fact, she could count the number of times she’d returned to the orphanage after her graduation on one hand. None of those had been very pleasant, and she’d never wanted a key to the orphanage...until now.  “No, I don’t,” she answered regretfully, loathe to see such a golden opportunity slip away. Then she paused, regarding him peculiarly for a moment. “But I’m more surprised you don’t have a set,” the young woman commented carefully. 

It was said that the Good Doctor intended for his son to take care of the pediatrics wing and the adjoining orphanage, or at least, that was the common knowledge. Why would he be denied access to something he was to be in charge of? What did they have to hide? That was a silly question; there were countless malices to hide in that house of horrors, but why would they be hidden from an Abbey? The orphanage was a crucial part of their business, their livelihood. It was a strange mystery indeed--but the nurse abandoned the train of thought to focus on finding a way she could turn this around to work in her favor. “Now, I might not have the keys,” she began, stepping a little closer and lowering her voice in a way that implied the beginnings of a plot forming in her head. There was a lively little gleam dancing in her eyes as she held his gaze, her lips curving into a half-smile. “But I certainly know a few people who do.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 21, 2019, 05:46:31 PM
“No, I don’t.” She answered.  At once his face fell and he turned his attentions back to the clipboard in his hand, the files which yet needed his focus.  “But I’m more surprised you don’t have a set.” Alice added, more careful this time in her tone. 

“That would make two of us, Miss Alice.” Nicholas answered, his gaze still upon the documents in his hands, brown eyes moving behind thick lenses.  The next patient he’d be seeing to had another case of the cough, but was unfortunately allergic to one of the active ingredients in its most common and effective medicine.  With half his brain already running through the options available to him as a physician, he almost forgot himself.  He started, a scoff on his voice as he said, “I mean, you could almost think that they…” when his gaze lifted and met Alice’s however, he hesitated.  “Never mind,” he finished flippantly, pulling his eyes away from hers again.  She brought them right back to her however, when she seized the opportunity to close the space between them just a little more. 

“Now, I might not have the keys,” she started, her voice hovering in the air just a notch above a whisper.  “But I certainly know a few people who do.”  Though her expression was perfectly open and helpful, there was a glimmer in her eyes that spoke to a cleverness from which originated that initial sternness he had seen in her at the first.  He liked that part about her, the rough bit lurking behind a soft and comely face. 

“And do you think one of those people might mind if I were to borrow their keys?” Nicholas returned, his own voice matching her volume.  When she affirmed this as a true possibility, he smiled, and not just because she was close enough now that he could smell her hair.  “Could you get them today?” He asked.  “I won’t be finished my rounds for a while yet, let’s say,” pausing he turned his hand over to check his watch before adding, “six o’clock.  I’ll be in my offices, at the farthest most corridor of the pediatrics wing.”  With the details of their small and quiet plan solidified, she turned from him.  He watched her go for a moment or two, but she had only taken a few strides before he found himself saying her name again.   

“Oh, Miss Alice!” He called to her, as though he had just remembered something.  When she turned to look at him however, he almost forgot it all over again.  “Thank you.” Nicholas said with a smile. 

The rest of the day passed in a busy blur.  The cough had affected not only the orphanage but also the village children as well as those from outlier communities.  There were plenty of doctors on staff, more than enough to tend to the children, but they were all so focused on catching Nicholas’ ear and impressing him, that they failed to realize their neglect of waiting patients had already discreetly graded their paper for them.  A few seemed unaffected by the name that followed his doctoral title, it was those who he took real note of,  Dr. Finnegan and Dr. Tulip among them.  He saw Alice only one other time that afternoon, and only for the briefest of moments.  She had been talking with another nurse in the corridor.  It had not been she who had initially spotted him but instead the young woman with whom she conversed.  She had a sharpness about her, something edged in dread that sat heavy in Nicholas’ stomach as he looked on at her.  When Alice had turned her head to meet his eyes however, he’d forgotten all about the strawberry blond thing who had been glaring at him.  He smiled at her broadly and waved, making to walk over to her but was instead pulled off in another direction by fellow physicians.  Nicholas had resisted at first, until he heard one of the interns shout, “code blue!” from a distant room.  As the afternoon waned into the evening, he found himself looking for her still, even as he walked to his offices, having finished his rounds. 

“Dr. Abbey?” Came a voice from the threshold of his office.  He’d left the door ajar, expecting Alice to come along any minute now, but the voice that greeted him was decidedly male. 

“Yes, come in.” Nicholas called from within.  He sat at a lab table that met his work desk at the corner of his office.  His glasses were next to him, his long white doctor’s smock hung upon a hook against the wall.  He was hunched over a microscope, analyzing a bacteria sample.  The circular brown frames that often occupied the space across the bridge of his nose lay upon a notepad scribbled with elemental formulas.  Having cared for a patient earlier in the day who was unable to be treated in the traditional methods for the cough, he’d stumbled upon curious discovery.  The slap of a heavy file against his lab table however, brought his eyes up from the microscope and the slide he had been studying. 

“These are the results for those tests you asked Doc. Finn to run.  He wanted to hurry home so he had me bring them by for you.”  The young man, dressed in the uniform of an orderly, explained. 

“Finn?  Oh, Doctor Finnegan -- of course, thank you…” Nicholas’ voice trailed off as he looked up from where he was perched upon a wheeled stool to the orderly who had been so helpful.  “Oh, I don’t believe we’ve met, just yet.” He noted, taking his cane in hand and rising from his seat.  “I’m trying to make a point of learning everyone’s name, Da--” As he begun to read the name printed on the identification badge hanging from the orderly’s breast pocket, the young man interrupted him and extended a friendly hand to be shaken. 

“You can call me Dash, Doctor.” He said pleasantly, smiling with a broad mouth.  The warmth coming from his dark brown eyes wasn’t unlike that reflected in Nicholas’ own gaze.  His hair was an earthy brown, the same colour as his eyes, his skin fair and his stature impressive considering how young he looked in both feature and manner.  Low-born, no doubt, but handsome and seemingly kind.  He offered Nicholas a inconspicuous respect without any of the grovelling or arrogance he’d previously played witness to this day.  Dash, he added the name to the little list he’d been forming in his head. 

“Good to meet you.” Nicholas responded sunnily.  As the orderly turned to leave and Nicholas took his seat at the lab table once more, Dash hesitated and sighed before turning back towards Dr. Abbey whilst fishing something from his pocket. 

“One of the children from the orphanage asked me to give this back to you.” He explained, extending a blue wax pencil to the blonde young man.  “I almost forgot.” He added, a shy laugh in his throat. 

“I told her she could keep that.” Nicholas returned quietly, taking the pencil but regarding it with a furrowed brow. 

“She said to tell you that ‘it’s like the name-tag,’ whatever that means…”  The brunette rubbed the back of his neck, his gaze falling to the floor.  While of course, Nicholas understood exactly what the little Helen Blue meant by those words, it was easy to see how Dash would perceive them as nonsense.  Yet, here he was saying them nonetheless, embarrassing himself just to do a kindness for a child.  It was at this precise moment, that Nicholas decided he liked Dash, for there was nothing he respected so much in fellow man as the courage of kindness. 

“Thank you, very much, Dash.” Nicholas said, his eyes on the blue pencil in his hands.  The little girl would mean to come back for it, the same way he had come back for his nametag.  Reaching over to the corner where his work and lab desks met, he set the pencil atop a growing collection of drawings, weighed down by a small mechanical dog.  When he looked back over his shoulder to the orderly standing behind him, he saw that Dash was eyeballing the small collection of trinkets from patients.  “Is there anything else I can help you with?” He asked, startling him from his trance. 

“Oh!  No, that’s everything.” He answered quickly as he backed out of the room.  “I’m glad you’re here, Dr. Abbey.” He added suddenly.  Nicholas turned to face him just long enough to see a sadness overtake his kind, brown eyes before he darted from the youngest Abbey’s offices.  He must have passed Alice in the hallway, because a moment later, with Nicholas still watching the door, she appeared like a vision once more. 

“You found me.” He said again, beaming as before. 


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Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on June 21, 2019, 05:52:44 PM

“Six ‘o'clock, then,” the nurse affirmed, a small smile flitting by on her face as turned to leave. She had barely made it more than metre when he called for her and she stopped in her tracks, glancing back at him over her shoulder.

“Thank you,” he added, a kind smile taking over his features.

A heartbeat later her expression blossomed in turn, mirroring his genial smile, albeit with a cheekier streak. “Don’t thank me yet, doctor,” she answered, giving him one last parting nod before she left him, her mind set on her new task--obtaining the keys to the orphanage. Now that was something she’d never cared to think about having. While she knew a few nurses that held the keys to the orphanage, she didn’t have a particularly high rapport with any of them. That had always been the case, even back in the orphanage. No child had been stupid enough to befriend the incorrigible troublemaker and put their own hides at risk. That had suited her just fine, and even as an adult she did not bother enough with niceties to make herself a gaggle of friends. Besides, one didn’t have to have a multitude of friends in order to get things done--but in cases that required a more complex maneuvering, such as this, she knew exactly who to seek out.

She found Evangeline--unsurprisingly--in the same room as the Good Doctor himself, primped to feminine perfection. Her soft, pale hair framed her face in a way that might have appeared natural and unintentional to the male persuasion, but any girl worth her salt would know that such an appealing cascade would have taken her a good chunk of time and painstaking artistry. That was hardly the end of it--Alice could also tell with once glance that the other nurse had gone through the trouble of lacing her corset even tighter than usual.

Despite her meticulous attempts at turning herself into a stunning, living masterpiece, the doctor barely seemed to offer her more than a passing gaze. It was something of an anomaly and the dark haired nurse could not help but raise a brow; indeed, the Good Doctor’s attentions towards his young mistress had somewhat coolled in the wake of his son’s return. At last it seemed that her attempts had been foiled once too often for her liking, and Evangeline turned and strode out of the room, chin raised and eyes flashing crossly. So immersed was she in her seething thoughts, she didn’t even appear to notice Alice leaning beside the doorway.

“Evie,” she called, pushing herself away from the corner. The girl rounded on her as if to bite, but upon seeing who it was, she fluidly tucked away her open frustration behind the lacy veil of a smile.

“Alice,” the young woman returned, her voice a little too sugary in contrast to the smothered ire in her eyes. Neither of them had to say anything else to know that the dark haired girl had witnessed the farce inside the room. Alice, of course, wasn’t about to make any comment about it--not out of any feigned graciousness or goodness of her heart, but simply because that was not the nature of their relationship. “Up to no good, I presume,” Evangeline started as they began to walk, the smallest hint of an edge to her words.

“You know me so well,” Alice acknowledged easily, a meaningful smirk playing at the corner of her mouth. “Then I expect you also know why I’m here.”

“A favour? Why am I not surprised,” the other girl mocked, though it came out a little more breathlessly than intended--no doubt thanks to her tight laces. Their stroll came to a halt once they were a good distance away from the room the doctor occupied. Evangeline’s stiff body language had loosened more and more as the distance grew, and once they pressed themselves against the wall, now just two nurses blending into the busy swell of carts, white coats, and stained aprons, the young woman seemed more like her usual self. “So? What is it?” she asked casually, though there was no mistaking the spark of interest in her eyes. The two nurses might have spurned the idea of a friendship, but it was simply an undeniable fact that they were an extremely effective pair when they collaborated.

“I need to borrow the keys to the orphanage--a day or two should suffice.”

Evangeline gave her a look filled with disbelief. “Keys to the orphanage?” she repeated skeptically, “You want to go to the orphanage?”

“No, not particularly.” Alice answered honestly, letting out a dry laugh. “But someone else does.”

Evangeline uttered a small laugh of her own, regarding her curiously. “You, doing a favour for someone? You simply must introduce me to this new friend of yours,” she teased.

Before Alice could say anything in response, Evangeline’s gaze seemed to settle on something across the hall, her stance stiffening. As her green gaze turned scornful, Alice too turned to spot Nicholas Abbey himself. He had caught sight of her as well, and a boyish smile seized his features as his hand darted up in a wave. “I don’t think he needs much of an introduction,” she murmured to Evangeline as she smiled back, returning his greeting with a much more subtle flick of the wrist. It appeared he had half a mind to come over and chat, but the sound of a code sent nearly all of the doctors, interns, and nurses rushing off, the thin young man included.

Left in relative privacy once more, Alice turned back to the nurse who was now pinning her under a searing gaze, as if she was attempting to divine the game afoot. “Why would he need the keys?” the strawberry-blonde posed airily, but that wasn’t the real question she was asking. Alice could see it plainly in the disdain she was failing to hide--Why should I ever bother to help him?

“I have a feeling,” she started delicately, “Dr. Abbey doesn’t want him to see the orphanage yet.” I mean, you could almost think that they… He’d stopped himself there, but Alice never had trouble filling in the blanks. “Perhaps there are a few things he fears they will...disagree about,” she fixed the fellow nurse with a meaningful gaze, and watched the revelation sink in. It was only a hunch, but there was clearly something more going on here. Could it be…? Could it possibly be? If things went well, she’d find out soon enough.

Evangeline went quiet, her mind clearly working at a breakneck pace to weigh all the moves on the chessboard, but Alice was quite confident that the clever young woman would see the benefits to her own cause. As she expected, there was a telltale light in her eyes as the fair haired girl settled back against the wall, her movements as languid as a feline in the sun. Her earlier foul mood swept clean away by her new prospects, Evangeline turned to meet her gaze, a conniving smile creeping in over her pretty lips to mirror her own before she spoke. “Well, when do you need them by?”


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As the busy halls slowly began to clear of staff, Alice began to make her way down to the pediatrics wing. Despite the fatigue of the day and the knowledge of the impending night shift weighing on her, her steps were light and eager as she drew closer to the offices at the farthest corner of the ward. It had been an agonizing shift as she waited for word from Evangeline, and it had only been a mere hour ago that another nurse had slipped the ring of keys into her hand with a stern reminder that they were to be returned the next day. Everything was going so smoothly Alice was having a hard time believing it, but there would be time for doubts later. For now, she had to get these keys to him.

She had not expected anyone to be about, so she couldn’t help but be startled when a figure rounded the corner and nearly collided into her. The young man instinctively reached out to steady her, but Alice flinched away from physical contact before she had even thought to do so.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the orderly apologized immediately, whom she recognized as Dashielle, another one of the Abbeyshire’s precious nighttime assets. With that mutual recognition, they nodded wordlessly at each other and hurriedly went their separate ways. Despite their professions--or perhaps, because of it, any dalliances between workers were not tolerated. It wasn’t wise to be seen in the company of a worker of the opposite gender, least misguided suspicion fall upon them. Especially, of course, when the lad was rumored to be a favorite of the Lady Abbey. It was something of a whispered joke amongst the misused youths how Lord and Lady Abbey seemed to favour bedfellows that resembled each other in their prime. With his brown hair and eyes, Alice supposed Dashielle fit the physical description well enough, but his gentle, unassuming countenance wasn’t something she’d ever seen in the Good Doctor. Well, perhaps it was just a rumour after all.

Pushing the irrelevant thoughts from her mind, the dark haired young woman approached the open door at the end of the hall and peeked in. He had apparently been waiting, because she was instantly greeted with the sight of him smiling sunnily in her direction. “You found me,” he said, repeating his first words to her that morning.

“So I did,” Alice answered lightheartedly, playing along as she slipped inside and closed the door behind her. “Though I do have to say, I think you’re letting me win,” she quipped. Her eyes roved about the office as she walked up to him, taking in the way the once abandoned and dusty space had been transformed. It wasn’t to say it was pristine, for already his desk was beginning to clutter with files and papers. She realized upon sighting the familiar metal dog upon his desk that the papers it sat on were not of a medical nature, but drawings scrawled by children. Of course, it made sense that the girl earlier was not the only one to receive a wax pencil from the young doctor, but she was admittedly surprised he did not see the drawings as a waste of space on his crowded desk.

“May I?” she inquired politely, gesturing to the miniature. Once he acquiesced she picked it up carefully, her nimble fingers turning it about on her palm to reveal the turning key at its underbelly. “Oh, there’s...a pin here,” the nurse remarked, as if she had just discovered it instead of knowing it to be there all along. With a quick twist, the rough mechanics jerked into motion, setting the stiff metal tail of the dog wagging. She set it back down to watch it, regarding her creation with a critical eye. It was far too simple of a motion for her to be pleased with, and she knew it would take further tinkering under lamplight for her to develop the kind of fluid and complex movement she wanted--a horse cantering, hooves raised delicately, and then in full gallop, racing through the wide fields as if it could go on running forever.  

As the crank wound down and the tiny dog stilled once more, Alice was reminded that no matter how many little metal horses she produced and no matter how real she made their movements, they wouldn’t be able to recreate that sound of a hundred hooves thundering over the ground or bring back the sensation of flight and freedom she’d felt atop her father’s stallion. Forcing the bitterness down and donning a startled look, she returned her gaze to the young man before her.

“I’m sorry, I’m wasting your time, aren’t I?” she began with an apologetic laugh, as if she had forgotten her purpose for a moment. Fishing out the ring of keys from her apron pocket, her fingers curled around them to muffle any jingling they might produce, she carefully singled out the two keys he would need to get past the gate and the main doors. “They’re all yours--for a day, anyways. I’ll need them back by tomorrow night,” Alice explained in an undertone, pressing the keys into his hand as she met his brown eyes. “I hope that’s enough time.”

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Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 25, 2019, 01:19:01 PM
“How wonderfully charming,” Nicholas observed, smiling down at the mechanical dog that wagged its tail at him in the way a happy, furry companion might.  “Hard to believe that the child who gave it to me was willing to part with it.” He said, more to himself than to Alice.

Until you get better…” That’s what the little Miss Madison had said to him.  Though spoiled and perhaps, at times, neglected, the small young Miss still had the goodness of innocence in her.  She couldn’t possibly know that the kind doctor who had cared for her would, in actuality, never get better. As a matter of fact, it was infinitely more likely that Percy, the mechanical dog, would straighten his stiff legs and walk properly before Nicholas ever did.  Yet, in spite of his sorrow, life had yet to squeeze the goodness from him. Instead he held fast onto it, as though it were a single lifeboat and he adrift in a treacherous sea. Though innocence lost, the goodness remained, reaching out to touch upon its reflection in another, like the little Miss Madison; like Miss Helen Blue. 

I’m sorry.  I’m wasting your time, aren’t I?” Alice asked, interrupting his train of thought.  His fingers, which had previously been reaching for the mechanical pup, itching for closer investigation, were now recoiling in light of a new gift.  His eyes went down to the hand fishing through the pocket of her uniform, fingers reaching now for his glasses instead. Sliding the frames onto the bridge of his nose he took the collection of keys from her, clasping them with careful fingers by the isolated ones he would need.  “They’re all yours -- for a day, anyways. I’ll need them back by tomorrow night. I hope that’s enough time.” He looked at her then, meeting her gaze with a smile that warmed like a mid-July sun.

“That should be more than enough time,” he told her, allowing the gratitude to soften his voice and set his already warm smile aglow.  “I mean only to pop in quickly while the children are in the dining hall, have a little look around.” He paused, looking down at the watch on his wrist.  Eleven thirty-two; like always. “Actually, they should be eating their dinner about now.” He noted pleasantly as he rose from his seat. Straightening the collar of his button down, he allowed his eyes to meet Alice’s once more.  “Thank you.” He said to her. “Thank you, very much, Alice.” She had given him something simple, something that at a surface glance could seem almost meaningless. However, Nicholas was one to find the good in all things. In this gesture he found kindness, something he revered and valued.  Something he cherished. Transferring the keys into the same hand that gripped his cane, he reached for the blue wax pencil left beside the mechanical toy dog, Percy. Discreetly, Nicholas slipped the trinket into his pocket before escorting Alice from his office. Locking the door behind him, he turned to Alice with the same smile still painted across his features.

“I suppose I’ll be seeing you tomorrow,” pausing, he gave the keys in his hands a slight shake.  “For these.” He finished. “Thank you, again!” He called to her over his shoulder as he made his way down the hospital corridors.  Alice had her tricks, but Nicholas had a few of his own. One of his simplest tricks, the one he used most frequently on the patients he treated, was the promise of return.  This childish method of fast acquaintanceship had never failed him before and had, once again, proved effective in this instance. Twirling the keys in his fingers, his mind wandered from this night to the following, already looking forward to the moment that he would see Alice again. 

He passed through the front gates of the orphanage before the main doors themselves.  As expected, the central staircase that spilled onto the front foyer was in a state of dilapidation, much like the rest of the aged building.  Nicholas moved through the orphanage wearing an expression of disdain, fingers tugging at peeling wallpaper here, scratching at chipped paint there.  Lifting his lenses from his face he leaned in close to study what appeared to be mould growing about a bit of exposed plumbing. Beneath his feet, the floorboards creaked and groaned, threatening an impending plummet with each step.  Lord Abbey had warned him that the orphanage had been somewhat neglected since the passing of Father Aurelius, who had been the previous Chairman, but still the state of the place struck as a shock. The doctors had mentioned to Nicholas that Father Aurelius had cared for the children up until even his very final days, an admirable gesture but not one that seemed to garner admiration from the men who told the tale to begin with.  Judging from the state of the square, labyrinth-like, corridor-crowded design and its various rooms on only the first floor, it would have appeared to Nicholas that Father Aurelius’ attentions had not extended to the children’s own residence. Since the hour was that of supper, Nicholas was surprised to hear voices as he assessed the shape that the building had been left to fall into.

“What’s this then?” Spotting a gentleman donning the uniform of a footman, household staff, he followed the sound of voices and footfall as he moved through the halls.  Such an individual would have no cause to be in the orphanage unless accompanying guests or carrying a message. As Nicholas rounded the corner however, and entered the rooms from which the clatter of conversation spilled, he saw that this particular staff was completing neither of the aforementioned duties but instead dragging along a young girl whom Nicholas immediately recognized. 

“No, I won’t! I don’t want to go, again!  You can’t make me!” She was snarling at the man who hauled her along as though she weighed naught but a babe’s few ounces.  The footman paid her no heed but instead slapped a meaty hand over her mouth, muffling any further protest.

“Blue? Helen!” Nicholas exclaimed as he hurried towards the girl and her assailant.  Spotting him, she attempted to shout something at him but her words were stolen by the hand that sealed her lips.  “Get your hands off her this instant!” Nicholas ordered, his skinny arms pulling helplessly at those of the larger man’s. 

“Oie?  What is it, mate?  She your favourite?” The footman asked, regarding Nicholas with a cruel sneer.  “Jog on then, bruv’. You shouldn’t even be in here, go wait like everyone else.  You hear me? I said get outta’ here!” The burly man, without care for the child in his grasp, jerked his elbow into Nicholas’ stomach before giving him a hard shove in the chest.  Instinct forced his hip to carry back his left foot, but the momentum made his useless, ruined knee buckle under him as he fell backwards onto the splintering wood of the floor.

“Dr. Abbey!” Helen Blue called to him, the footman freeing her lips to shove the youngest Abbey son into the floor.  At her words, realizing his mistake, he released her arm and turned to the young man he had assaulted.

“Dr. Abbey… Dr. Nicholas Abb-- oh, bloody Hell… I’m so sorry Dr. Abbey…” The footman prattled as Nicholas began to rise.  Helen went to his side, offering her shoulder and handing the frail young man his cane. As he took it, his fingers prodded along the edges of his grip and a quiet whirring fell into the background of the footman’s pleading.  With his hand upon Helen Blue’s shoulder, he lifted his cane and pressed the base flat against the footman’s chest.  “I didn’t realize it was you, of course, if I had--” he was never given the opportunity to finish the thought as a high voltage shock travelled from the end of Nicholas’ cane, straight into his broad rib cage.  He convulsed and writhed in place as blue beams of current travelled through his body, visible to the naked observing eye before at last crumpling onto the floor as Nicholas gingerly returned his innocent looking cane to the wood beneath his feet. 

A beat of silence passed before the girl at Nicholas’ side said, “that was cool.”

“Yes, it was.  Wasn’t it?” Nicholas conceded in a gentle tone, trying to catch his breath as he stepped further into the rooms, seeing more footman and children staring back at him. 

“Can you do it again?” Blue asked, keeping stride with the young man at whose hip she stayed glued. 

“Let’s find out.”  He started, levelling his warm brown eyes on another footman and lifting the end of his cane.  At his slightest touch the mechanisms were sent a-whirring as the base of his cane began to crackle and hum with a blue spark.  “Hands off the children.” He warned the man who held one boy in the grip of each hand.  At once he obeyed and raised his palms in a surrendering motion. Further still Nicholas moved through the rooms, more footmen left confused and surrendering as more children fell into rank behind Helen Blue.

“Now, gentlemen…” Nicholas started, turning onto the footmen, paralysed in their bafflement.  He meant to go on, but was interrupted by someone who would prove to be a far more useful subject for interrogation. 

“What is the delay?!” Christopher shouted, marching into the rooms.  “We have people waiting and you’re lazing about like a bunch of… Oh, Nicholas.  What are you doing here?”

“The better question, brother, is what are you doing here?” Nicholas returned in a stern voice which lacked his usual warmth. 

“Really, Nicholas, we haven’t time for this.” Christopher started, rolling his eyes and stepping towards the children.  The young Dr. Abbey, broken as he was, had sense enough to notice, to feel the way the children around him all collectively recoiled.  “I’m simply having the children re-assigned to different rooms temporarily while we…” As he spoke, he made to reach for Helen Blue’s arm but was halted in his tracks by the flickering electric current thrust into his face, merely a breath from the tip of his nose. 

“Do not touch her.” Nicholas warned lowly. 

“C’mon now, Nicky, are you really going to hurt me?” Christopher asked and whilst there was a laugh on his breath as he spoke the words, his brother could see the bead of sweat trickling down the side of his face. 

“I might.” His younger brother returned coolly.  Beside him, Helen smirked up at Christopher Abbey Junior with hungry eyes, daring the fool to test his baby brother’s resolve. 

“Now, Nicholas, as Lord of the Abbeyshire, I’m fully entitled to--” Surely he had more in mind to say, but Nicholas was having none of it on this particular evening. 

“Lord is it?  Has father died in the hours since I saw him last?” He returned, bitingly. 

“No…” Christopher replied through his teeth. 

“Right, so that would make you, Christopher Abbey Junior, the son to the true Lord of the Abbeyshire, wouldn’t it?”  His older brother didn’t answer him, but instead looked on with burning malice at the thin young man before him.  That much suited Nicholas just fine, as he had more to say himself. “On the other hand, I am currently the Executive Director of the hospital and Chairman of this institution.” He continued.  “You and you!” He barked, pointing to nearby footmen. “Collect your man, here.” He ordered, gesturing to their peer who lay unconscious on the floor not far from them.  “When he comes to, please inform him that he has until the week is out to vacate the Shire and surrounding counties, or I shall have him hanged.” Pausing, he blinked at the aghast faces of the footmen who regarded him.  “Would you tell him that for me?” He repeated himself, some of the sweetness coming back into his tone but of the sort which tasted more like poison. “As for the rest of you, any household staff still in this residency by the time I have concluded this sentence, shall too find themselves exiled from the Shire and in search of new employment elsewhere within the Empire or without.” With the clambering of feet like a stampede, the last footman was gone from Nicholas’ sight before even the last few words had left his lips. 

“Come then, children.” Nicholas began, turning on his heel and taking Helen Blue by her small hand.  “You’re missing your supper.” As he started back down the corridors, surrounded by the children he had liberated from his brother’s needless cruelty, he paused to address Christopher over his shoulder.  “Oh, and brother? You can tell our parents I’ll be along shortly. I think I should like to dine with the family tonight.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 25, 2019, 01:19:56 PM
Continued...

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Nicholas and the children he escorted were given a stunned and silent reception upon their entry into the dining hall.  It was a plain room, added to the cubic structure three or four generations back, in order to accommodate the newly invented utilities and appliances purchased for the kitchens.  The estate itself had been given a similar makeover, space made to quarter larger but more functional designs in the way of keeping house. At his gentle instruction, the children began to disperse from the cluster in which they had gathered around Nicholas.  A hush of hurried whispers began to clutter the corners of the small hall as children passed gossip across their dinner plates. Willfully ignorant to the cacophony, Nicholas started towards the only other adult in the room, a Sister of the Church of St. Christopher, donning the black and white garb of a Roma nun.  He was given pause however when he realized that Helen Blue still clung to his side, following as though she were his shadow.

“What is it?” He asked her gently. 

“Dr. Abbey, are you going to look after us now?” She asked him.  The last time someone had asked him that question, his answer had turned out to be a lie.  This time, he would be a bit more honest.

“I’m going to try, Blue.” He told her, bending down to meet her eye line as he produced the blue wax pencil he’d collected for her from his pocket. 

“But…” She started, however Nicholas already knew the words that would quell her concerns.  They sat in waiting upon the tip of his tongue.

“When you’ve drawn enough to use up the last of that pencil, I’ll teach you how to make another one.” He assured her as the warmth returned to his smile, the chill of his anger melting away like snow in spring.   

“You will?” She asked, the light from her toothy grin nearly reaching her sad eyes. 

“I will.” He promised.  “But only if you go sit and eat with the others right now, like a good little artist would.” Helen needed no further encouragement, and at once darted off to find her place at one of the tables in the dining all amongst her peers.  “Excuse me, Mother. I wonder if I might have a word?” He began politely, approaching the God-sworn woman.

“Certainly, Dr. Abbey.  In fact, you may have as many words as you like.” The jovial retort was enough to make the blond who approached her laugh, which she seemed pleased by.  An upturned nose littered with freckles scrunched up as she giggled along with her own jest, an immature but innocent gesture. “Although, I must tell you that for now, it is still merely ‘Sister’.” She added, her small features smoothing.  Upon closer inspection, she was indeed younger than he had initially assumed her to be, the hay blonde hair that peaked out from beneath her habit nowhere near the years that would change the colour to gray.

“Forgive me, Sister it is, then.” Nicholas offered, taking a measured step back.  The gesture returned the smile to her face, gratitude painting her features into a pretty contentment.  As a Sister of an Order to the Church of St. Christopher, she would be forbidden from even reaching a close proximity to the opposite sex, for fear of temptation lurring said young woman from the path of righteousness.  After taking her final vows, she would once more be permitted to shake the hands and meet the eyes of the men she encountered.

“What can I help you with?” She asked, her eyes tuned to the floor. 

He responded to her question with one of his own, asking, “who is caring for the children?”

“The Sisters under the Order of the Innocent care for the orphans,” she returned in a way that seemed practiced, perhaps even rehearsed.  When his brow furrowed and his cast his gaze to his feet in disappointment however, she continued saying, “although recently, the Young Master Abbey has employed the aid of household staff in much of the handling of day to day care.”

He could feel her eyes on his face as she spoke, and so he dare not look up for fear of turning her away and breaking the spell.  Instead, he prodded in only the gentlest way, his brow arching slightly as he repeated the word, “handling?”

“Primarily the transport from one room to the next, and…” Her voice carried off then, her feet shuffling beneath her.  “And seeing to the needs of the children much like they do with your good family in your own household, Dr. Abbey.” The carefulness was back in her voice, the rehearsed quality to her speech.  Sensing that the moment had passed, Dr. Abbey lifted his brown eyes to her, seeing that she was looking away herself now, over his shoulder.

“Actually, I’m not staying at the Estate.  I’ve taken a room in the hospital residency.” He explained as he regarded her with a curious stare. 

For the briefest of instants, her eyes flicked to his.  They were dark brown, almost black against her fair skin and round face.  It was completely forbidden for their stare to meet, yet in the darkness of her eyes he saw a flash of recognition, as though he had just revealed some very important information to her.  “Ah, here comes the Abbess of our Order now, Mother Eunice.” Nicholas followed the new direction of the young woman’s glance in order to face the cog that had halted the gears of conversation between himself and the Sister next to him. 

“Dr. Abbey, so good to see you again.”  While Nicholas might have expected someone stern and sourly, he was met instead with a towering, brute of a woman donning a smile so wide as could swallow a man whole.  When he extended his hand to her, she enveloped it completely with two huge paws, her eyes only narrow slits against the weight of the crescent moon and the large gleaming teeth within that eclipsed her face. 

“Again?” He asked, trying to make his inquiry sound polite instead of confused.  Surely Nicholas would remember meeting such a woman; such a woman as had to duck when walking beneath the chandelier in the center of the dining hall. 

“I don’t expect you would remember.  You were but a babe when we met, but we shared many a night alongside candlelight and story book, you and I.” She assured him, her smile still shining so big and so bright, Nicholas couldn’t help but wonder if she could even see him from behind the cleft her cheeks made against her brow. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t remember.” He offered shyly.  There was something intimidating about the woman, something about her grin which set the hairs on the back of his next standing on their ends.  He had only just met her and yet there was something in her cadence that triggered his combat instincts, as if he might have need to take flight at any instant. 

“That’s alright, dear.” Mother Eunice returned sweetly.  “It was many years ago, after all. I was still Sister Eunice then, the Abbess of our Order had been your elder brother’s wet nurse at the time.” She explained. 

“I didn’t know my brother had a wet nurse.” Nicholas said quietly, his mind beginning to drift elsewhere, to places he would rather it not wander. 

“Oh yes, they were quite close, the Young Master and Mother Mary.  Unfortunately, she passed away not long after you were born.” She disclosed accommodatingly.

“Were you my wet nurse, then?” Nicholas asked.

“Certainly not,” Mother Eunice replied, laughing as though Dr. Abbey had made the jest intentionally.  “No, your mother barely let anyone near you. She fed you at her own breast, as a matter of fact. Although, you always did have trouble going down for her, always needed new hands to rock you to sleep.  Such a sweet, fussy thing you were then.” It was hard to say for how long Mother Eunice and Nicholas Abbey stood in silence with one another in the orphanage dining hall, but it was certainly a considerable amount of time.  When finally the broadly built nun uttered a quiet, “Dr. Abbey?” and he started, looking up at her, the smile had fallen from her face, replaced by an altogether more terrifying sight.

Her eyes were larger than he had imagined they would be.  Slanted slightly and almond shaped, they were made visible while her wide mouth sat as flat and straight as the horizon, her lips no fuller when not stretched into a smile.  There was a shockingly blank quality to her features when not pulled back into a beaming grin, a haunting sort of hollowness crawling across her pale, pimpled skin. From beneath her black brow, her gaze fell blue and heavy upon him, but not blue like an ocean or a lake.  Rather, Mother Eunice’s eyes looked on with a cold blue heavy like an iceberg, like the endless void of the Northern Arctic wastes. They were empty and shiveringly icy, and yet they took from Nicholas everything; saw everything there was to see. At once he felt the need to be anywhere but before Mother Eunice, the nun in whom he’d sought refuge from his own mother as an infant. 

“Do you think I might have a look around while the children are eating?  I’d like to prepare a budget for some repairs.” Nicholas pulled his gaze from hers as he spoke, looking instead to the door that his feet might have already carried him out of, were it not for his knotted, mangled knee.  “Namely, the main staircase.” He added, doing his best to disguise his discomfort.

“Of course, Chairman.” Mother Eunice returned, the grin returning, tucking her magic eyes away once more.  “Sister!” She called over her shoulder. “Sister Beatrice will be more than happy to give you a tour of our facilities, won’t you?” She asked, turning to the young woman as she approached.  Nicholas hadn’t noticed that she’d wandered off to see to a pair of misbehaving children. The observation made him wonder how long Mother Eunice had left him to stand there, watching him sway as though he were a mannequin abandoned on a hilltop.

“Yes, Mother.  Right away.” She returned with a respectful nod.  “Shall we?” Sister Beatrice asked, squaring her shoulders to Nicholas but keeping her dark brown eyes from his. 

“Thank you.” He replied quietly.  Though he was tempted, he did not look back over his shoulder as he followed Sister Beatrice from the dining hall.  Nicholas could however, feel the chill of her stare on him as he left, sending shivers down the length of his spine.  It was hard to believe he’d ever known such a woman. Harder still, to believe he ever found any comfort from her. For now, such questions and curiosities could wait.  There was a great relief in caring for others. By setting one’s intentions to the needs of others, the mind becomes too distracted to worry at it’s own self. In this, Nicholas would find a temporary peace, at least until the work was done. 


(https://media.giphy.com/media/JmkYoxPfdIwUw/giphy.gif)


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Nicholas stood at the triage desk when his father approached him.  Having not slept well the night before after the long-winded row he had with his family, his mood was already sour.  The day had been long and not without work, the same cough still spreading throughout the various villages and townships, and sapping the warmth from his already withering self was becoming more exhausting as the afternoon wore on.  He had thought to forego sleep altogether, for fear of dreams pulling memories he’d rather not relive from the depths of his subconscious. Of course, then he hadn’t been able to think of anything else save that one thought, that one memory, and the sleep that he had eventually succumb to had only served to bring it rushing up to the forefront of his messy head.  Even as he leaned his weight on an elbow against the desk before him and focused his attention on the patient-file he flipped through, he could hear the words echoing in the back of his mind.

You’ll look after him, won’t you?” She had asked him. 

Of course, I will.” He had answered.  At the time, he had meant it. 

“Nicholas, I wonder if I might speak with you, my boy?” Lord Abbey began as he approached his youngest son, placing a gentle, paternal hand on his back. 

“Is it about a patient?” He asked coolly, not bothering to take his eyes from the contents of the file.  Perhaps there were a few more drops of nectar to be bled from the young man’s veins, but not for his father, not today. 

“No,” Dr. Abbey, the elder, returned patiently. 

“Have Christopher and mother approved the budget for the orphanage?” He asked next, the same chill in his tone. 

“Well, not just yet, but…” He started. 

“In that case, I don’t want to hear it.” Nicholas returned bitingly, turning from his father and taking his cane in hand as he started away from him.  He tucked the patient file under his arm as he limped along, very much aware of his father trailing after him.

“Please, son, just listen…” Lord Abbey begged as he followed after his youngest boy.  Stopping him in the corridor and wrapping his hands around his arms, those around them parted like the river for a bolder, giving only the most discreet of glances over their shoulders as they passed by.  “I’m sorry. Everything you said last night; you were right. I should have said so then, but I’m saying it now.” He blurted out, careless for the people around him who might hear.

Sighing, Nicholas put a hand against his father’s shoulder saying, “come on, then.” The pair meandered into an empty room, the silence that surrounded them when Nicholas closed the door to the clatter of the triage center outside echoed deafeningly.  “You promised me it wouldn’t be like this if I came back.” The young doctor said, finally breaking the heavy quiet. “Did you lie?”

“No! No, I didn’t lie.” Lord Abbey said, stepping towards his precious child.  “I’ll keep you safe this time, I mean it. You’re my son, I’d never let anything happen to you.”  He meant to continue, but Nicholas was interrupting him.

“But you don’t care about what happens to the children?” He challenged. 

“It was an easy decision at the time, to let your brother take over matters at the orphanage, but only temporarily.” Lord Abbey assured his son, though he looked not in the least bit impressed by the explanation.  “We tried to set everything to order before your arrival, but moving around the money and --”

“There was enough money for all that nonsense over the weekend, but not to fix the plumbing so that the children tending to your garden might bathe?” The grip with which he held his cane was white-knuckled, the file in the grasp of the other crumpling in his frustration.  “Do you know me at all, father? Did you really think this was something I wouldn’t be angry about, something so unimportant to me?”

“Son, we were only moving the children to new rooms so that we might arrange them into more comfortable lodging.  A few rooms became available and so --” Once more, Nicholas was interrupting his father.

“And why is that?  All those empty rooms…” After the first few beats of silence passed, it was clear Lord Abbey hadn’t prepared a lie in the instance of that particular question.  To Nicholas, it seemed that everyone around him thought him a fool, as though he couldn’t tell what was truth and what was fiction. “I care not for whatever excuses you can invent, what I take issue with is the way the children were being treated.  The way the staff was… handling them,” he borrowed the term that Sister Beatrice had given to him the night before.  “It was as if they weren’t children at all.” When his eyes fell on their mirror image in his father, the expression he wore was alarmed and pointed.  The Lord Abbey looked on at his son as if he had just said something unfathomable, but as quickly as the moment arrived it passed. Once more the Lord of the Abbeyshire donned the expression of a parent making desperate attempt to resolve a dispute.

“Your mother thought Junior would be suited to the task, obviously he wasn’t.”  The patriarch of the Abbey clan offered patiently and calmly.

“You’re still under her thumb, aren’t you?” Nicholas asked coldly. 

“No.  No, Nicholas, I promised you that this time --” Lord Abbey was interrupted by the knock on the closed door that separated them from the rest of the hospital. 

“Yes, come in.” Nicholas answered at once, much to his father’s disappointment. 

“Hey, Nick.” Came the familiar voice of the older man who inched into the room.  Upon spotting the Lord Abbey as well, he offered a polite but shallow bow and then said, “oh, Dr. Abbey, always a pleasure.” Turning back to Nicholas he continued saying, “could I borrow you for a minute?  I’d like your opinion on something.”

“Is it the Jackson file?” Nicholas replied.

“It is.” The doctor replied, a small smile curling up the corners of his compactly sculpted mouth. 

“I’ve got it, here.” He returned, pulling the patient file from where it was tucked under his arm.  “I’ll be along in just a minute, Dr. Finnegan.” He offered, accompanied by his own small smirk. Dr. Finnegan was someone for whom Nicholas would summon the tenderness of his warmth on any day, no matter how dreary.  Nodding, the older gentleman stepped out of the room, the curly ends of his shoulder length, salt and pepper locks always the last part of him to pass over a threshold. Turning back to his father, the smile fell from his face.  “If what you’re saying is true, then prove it.” He told his father sternly. When met with a quirked brow and an asking expression, he left him with only two final words before he limped from the room after the children who needed him. 

“Help me.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on June 25, 2019, 05:38:34 PM

Alice regarded the young man as he thanked her over and over again, a sharp curiosity hiding behind her helpful demeanor. It was strange to hear him spout such gratitude when he was an Abbey. He’d been handed the world from the moment he’d been born, raised in luxury without a single want. The result of such an upbringing was quite evident in the likes of the lordlings that she’d encountered, especially the Shire’s own Christopher Abbey Junior--spoiled and endlessly entitled, never satisfied with even the grandest things or gestures, seeing the likes of her as nothing more than trinkets to be possessed and toyed with. Those traits seemed strangely absent in him, and she thought back to the night prior when they had spoken across the fence. A socialite who hated parties. An Abbey with a bleeding heart for children’s wellbeing. A lordling who showed gratitude. He was quite the walking contradiction, this Nicholas Abbey. How very interesting.

“Yes, tomorrow,” the nurse echoed back with a charming smile of her own as they faced each other in the hallway. “For those.” She watched him hurry off eagerly, though he refused to disappear before thanking her one last time. Curious, indeed. “It was nothing!” she called back, making sure to sound like a contented angel wanting nothing more than to aid those in need. Even when he turned the corner, the smile remained--though it was a grim one. It was a pity she would not be there to see the result of this gamble firsthand, but she dared not be present and have it be known that she had a hand in this; it was too soon to be seen as a threat...not to mention the thought of stepping foot back into that hellhole made her feel ill.

Turning from the empty hall, she too scurried off hurriedly in the opposite direction. Night was falling, and she could not spend too much time here; if she wanted to eat anything for the rest of the evening, she would have to do it now, and quickly.


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The young noble struggled hastily into the last few items of clothing, his green eyes expressing some of the panic he was feeling. “I’ve got to go now, or Father will have my head,” he was muttering--whether to her or himself, Alice could not tell. She watched him with an amused expression from the rumpled covers of the bed, not a bit affected by his anxiety. The third son of a Lord and barely old enough to be a man, but he was already somewhat notorious among the nighttime workers as a frequent visitor--much to the displeasure of his father. She had little doubt that he had made it a goal to sleep with all the girls they had to offer, if he hadn’t already.

“I’ll be back, love,” he promised, nodding at her as he threw on his coat.

“One last kiss, then,” she purred, catching him by the shirt and tugging the young man back down against her mouth. Though they were both spent, there was more than enough passion in the heated kiss for the young man to reach for her again. She broke away, lounging back against the bed with a cheeky look in her eyes. “Ah ah ah,” she reminded him, tapping a finger against his mussed shirt. “You have to go, remember?”

“You don’t make it easy,” he murmured ruefully, his hands lingering on her.

“I never make anything easy,” she retorted with a careless shrug, her reddened lips twisting into a sly, feline smile. “It’d be no fun otherwise.”  

“I’ll be back,” he repeated somewhat breathlessly, reluctantly stepping back from her. “Soon.” In a flurry of movement he was gone, slamming the door behind him. Alice let out an exhale, slumping back unceremoniously into the pillows like a marionette with its strings cut. She peered up at the canopy blankly for only a moment, her earlier playful demeanor replaced by the numbness creeping over her. It was over. She was done.

For the night, anyways.

Mechanically, she rose from the bed and began to pull on her clothes. All she wanted was to leave this accursed gilded altar and scrub herself clean until she couldn’t feel their kisses on her flesh or their hands roaming her body. A hopeless task, really. By now the sensations were burned into her nerves, ghostly chills sweeping over her when she least wanted to feel them.

A sudden knock at the door rang out, interrupting her thoughts, but before she could even respond, the door swung open to reveal a slender woman dressed fetchingly, though not as scandalously as the girls. She had not yet quite reached middle age, and she certainly made an elegant and beautiful sight, but there was a certain look hidden behind her pointed grey gaze that made her seem ancient and world weary. Alice didn’t like to let herself meet her eyes for long, lest she see how her own bitterness might appear to others.

“Get yourself freshened up,” Madame Sylvia announced matter-of-factly, scrutinizing her state of undress with nonchalance. Neither of the women were fazed by Alice’s nakedness--such things were just another usual sight to them. “Patrons are waiting for you.”

Alice bristled at the words, raising her chin and levelling a defiant gaze at the older woman. “That was my last for the night, check the books,” she retorted coolly--she wasn’t about to be tricked into taking more customers tonight. The young woman was hardly a newcomer to this, and surely Madame Sylvia knew that Alice was not a naive ninny.

“I’m well aware,” the madame began crisply, “But there’s been a...development, and so we've acquired more patrons.”

“A development?” she repeated, the edge still quite present in her tone.

“That’s none of your concern. Now get to it, Lord Almsworth is waiting in the suite three doors down,” Madame Sylvia instructed. Lord Almsworth--that was one of Evangeline’s regular customers. Strange, she’d seen Evangeline present when the girls had been first gathered… The older woman’s voice returned at her silence, sharper this time. “Unless you feel the need to be escorted?” The threat was delicately worded, but it was a threat all the same. Alice knew she had no real choice in the matter--if she resisted, she’d be dragged away all the same by ‘kindly gentlemen escorts,’ as some liked to call them.

Snatching up the remainder of her clothes, Alice only offered the older woman a frosty silence as she strode out of the room and towards the powder room. Undesirable, yes, and very annoying, but it was only one more man, and one who liked meek and willing women, if she remembered correctly. “Oh, and Alice,” she heard the madame say, and her footfalls slowed to a halt. “There are two more gentlemen waiting for you after you have tended to Lord Almsworth. They’re already a bit frustrated, so do try not to keep them waiting too long.” Her voice was not malicious, or even petty. No, Madame Sylvia did not have such vices; in her tone there was only a detached desire for efficiency, and now that she had delivered the message, she disappeared to no doubt say something similar to another unfortunate girl.

A slow, dark dread began to creep up in her at the thought of the night ahead, but she shook the thought, ignoring the way her body cried out in protest. There was no use in throwing a hissy fit here, was there? It would not get her anywhere. Swallowing, she forced her legs back into motion, numbly dragging herself into the powder room.

Inside, many other girls were ‘freshening up’ before the mirrors, trying to hide their fatigue and misery by adding another dab of rouge to their cheeks or tending to their mussed curls. Every one of them were beautiful creatures, not one lacking in grace, looks, or charm--but none of them were whole.

Squeezing in between the other girls, the dark haired young woman began the process of rebuilding, her movements quick and purposeful, practiced. Though the powder room was often filled with the idle chatter of the other girls, feasting on gossip to distract themselves from the wretched truth, tonight she realized that it was particularly abuzz.

“She said he hit one of the handlers!” the girl nearest to her was saying, a redhead she recognized as a nurse in the pediatrics ward--Ada? Adeline?

“No, that can’t be. He’s skinnier than I am,” her friend, a lithe girl from Africannis called Celeste, interjected. “Him, taking on a handler?” She gestured flippantly, a powder puff in hand. “Now that’s got to be rubbish.”

“I don’t know, would they dare hurt him?” a brunette chimed in, and Alice’s hand paused for a moment before lurching back into movement. Could they be possibly talking about…?

“Well, he had one on the ground, I heard,” Ada-or-Adeline defended, adjusting the laces of her corset to display her ample bosom.

“Did you hear what Flora said?” the dark skinned girl interrupted, her dark eyes gleaming with the idea of scandal.

“Which Flora, nurse Flora or kitchen maid Flora?” the brunette questioned, all while dabbing some perfumed oils into the crook of her neck.

“Kitchen maid Flora,” Celeste clarified, plucking the bottle of perfume from her friend to partake in it as well. “She came in late because of the fuss at dinner.”

“Oooh, what fuss?”

“She said,” Celeste’s voice dropped into a secretive whisper, and Alice had to strain to make out the words. “He came in all furious-like, going on about the children and demanding things be done about the orphanage. She said Dr. Abbey was absolutely beside himself.”

“No…” the red haired girl uttered, a streak of glee in her hushed tones. “Is that why Evangeline got called away?”

“Probably,” Celeste shrugged. “She had patrons tonight, but he takes priority--she gets to traipse off to his bed, while we have to pick up after her.”

“Must be nice,” the brunette sighed enviously, twirling her curls into place. “Y’think I might be able to land me one of the Abbey boys? The older one’s a looker, don’t you think?”

“Oho, you don’t want to get tangled up in his sheets,” Ada-Adeline cautioned, the beginnings of a story in her tone, but Alice wasn’t quite listening anymore. If their gossip was true...No, the anomalies--the ‘development’ Madame Sylvia had spoken of, the extra patrons, Evangeline’s absence--they fit in too well to be a coincidence. The bare bones of their chatter had to be true, and if that was so, that meant that her creeping suspicions had been spot on. The Abbeys were--or at least, had been, keeping their golden child blind to their methods for profit. Was it because of his softness? Because of his affinity for children? She could only speculate for the time being, until she got a chance to prod at his mind in person.

As for Evangeline--Alice had no doubt that she would’ve been over the moon to see that her gambit had worked. Though it came at her own expense tonight, the dark haired girl could be patient for her own reward. She was more than willing to make sacrifices if it meant she could see the Abbeys crumble to ash along with their precious legacy.

Until then… The young woman tightened the laces of her corset, taking one last look in the crowded mirror at her reflection, pulling her lips into a well-practiced smile, sweet and promising. Until then, she could keep going, make the promise of revenge her lifeblood, the air in her lungs.  

Besides, she thought to herself as she toyed with the ribbon around her neck, what could three more men do to her that she hadn’t already suffered through? What more could they take from her? The vultures had stripped her bones clean long ago, after all.

There was a dark, twisted sort of comfort in that, and Alice could not help but smile bitterly to herself as she strode down the hallways to the suite. If this all was indeed a result of her handing the keys to Nicholas Abbey, this was something she had brought upon herself. For once, it almost felt like it was her own choice to walk into the lavish room and let the wolves ravage her--for once, it was not despair she could taste on her tongue, but the heady tang of rebellion.

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As the sun began to rise over the Abbeyshire, Alice woke from her depths of her dreamless sleep. Blinking blearily in the hazy, weak light, she fumbled for her pocket watch, pulling it out from beneath her pillow. She’d woken a full forty-five minutes past her normal waking time. Groaning softly to herself, she closed the watch with a click and forced herself to sit up despite the dull aches pulsating through her. She slid back the sleeve of her nightgown to reveal a familiar sight--a mottled bruise blossomed around her wrist. Blowing out a weary breath, she reached down and prodded gingerly at her hip bones to confirm that they too were bruised, but bruises were often the least painful souvenirs from a particularly long night. She winced as she pushed herself off of the bed, staggering slightly before she could steady herself with a palm against the wall.  

Though she had overslept she was hardly late, for she typically rose an hour earlier than the morning bells rang to spend some time alone--well, as alone as she could be in a room filled with nineteen other girls. Her gaze passed over the tight row of metal frame beds, each housing the prone form of a girl. She didn’t like the look of it--it was all-too-reminiscent of the way the dorm looked at the orphanage. Hardly surprising, seeing that more than half of the girls in the same room as her had also been in the orphanage.

Her gaze fell to the box sitting under her bed, a flicker of longing briefly passing over her features. It housed the few things she owned--mostly broken clock parts she’d salvaged, along with her tools and her creations, but there were a few more other oddities shoved away to the side, untouched. Normally she would sequester herself behind the curtained window with the box, splaying out her tools and spare parts to tinker away in the light of dawn, but today she had slept away that time.

She washed and dressed as quickly as she could with her battered body, replacing the thick collar of her nightgown with a simple ribbon she typically wore for shifts at the hospital. Just as she tied on her apron, the morning bells rang out, rousing the girls around her. Her body wanted nothing more than to stay in bed, but such a thing wouldn’t be tolerated, they all knew that--and all too soon she found herself at the hospital, running around at the beck and call of the doctors.

It too was lively with whispers, much like the powder room the night prior. Everyone loved gossip, and as far as she could pick up, the rumors were all variants of the story she had overheard--a small bright spot for her to cling onto. She was in the process of taking charts back towards the labs when a familiar voice stopped her.

“Alice,” Evangeline sang as she came up to her, clearly in high spirits--but her brows quirked as she gave her a once-over. “You don’t look so good,” she remarked knowingly, eyeing her pale face and strained expression.

“You wound me,” Alice returned with a scoff, shrugging the notion off. It really wasn’t something she ever wanted to discuss, not when they both knew the reason behind her pallor. Besides, it was hardly the worst she’d suffered in her years--not even close. While it was more than a little painful to be working in the hospital, she was much more concerned with how painful it would get once night fell. “I happen to be in perfect health,” the young woman insisted flippantly.

“Right,” the strawberry-blonde said, poking at the other nurse’s hip with a finger. Alice barely held back a flinch, and Evangeline shook her head, a smirk on her lips. “Stubborn. Anyways, Ethel just sent me over to make sure you’ll return what you borrowed yesterday. She won’t stop bothering me about them every other hour.”

“Tell her I’ll have them back soon,” Alice sighed, adjusting the charts in her arms. “After I run these to the lab, I’ll go get them.”

“I’ll tell her,” Evangeline nodded, though there was a gleam of curiosity in her green eyes as she turned away, No doubt she was trying to figure out her reasons for her strange actions, actions that had led to the most recent scandal they gossiped about. What would the ambitious girl think if she realized what her intentions were..?

The raven haired nurse drew in a quiet breath as she continued through the crowded corridors. hoping that the young doctor would be in office. If she had to, she was ready to wander from ward to ward to find him, but it didn’t sound terribly appealing. She glanced at her faint reflection in the windows as she passed by, trying to bring some life back into her face by pinching her cheeks. Just like with any other man she had to seduce, she was going to have to push back the fatigue and pain to put on an act meant to enchant and ensnare. Perform, she reminded herself as she donned a smile that was more his than hers, warm and sunny. Be the queen of pretend.
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 25, 2019, 08:41:32 PM
The quiet, isolated office in the pediatrics ward that the young Dr. Abbey had claimed for himself had been transformed from the morning into the afternoon.  The drawings which had previously cluttered one messy corner of his desk now hung proudly upon the muted walls, made colourful and bright.  His mood, which had been sour and tense in the early hours of the day, had settled into a mild-mannered contentment more suited to the kindly young man.  The whim began in an unassuming way, with Nicholas thumbing through the various works of art his patients had gifted unto him in an effort to lift his dampened spirits.  The practice had proved so effective, that Nicholas decided the only reasonable course of action to take was to paper the walls of his office with the source of his joy.  He had been balancing himself precariously upon a stool, reaching into the high corners of the room when a knock echoed from the threshold of his office.

“Ah, there you are.” Nicholas Abbey said, turning to face the orderly who had knocked gingerly against the open door before inching his way inside.  “Do you mind?” The young doctor asked, gesturing to the parchment he attempted to pin. 
 
At his behest, the orderly stepped forward and placed a steadying hand upon the page so that the curious cripple could secure it in place.  “Thank you, Dash.” Dr. Abbey, the younger, said gratefully as the brunette offered an extended hand in help.  There was no shame in accepting such aid, and the frail young man allowed his body weight to rest on the strong arms that assisted him from his perilous perch. 

“You’re welcome, Dr. Abbey.” Dashielle replied, a polite and rehearsed quality about the words. 

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times…” Nicholas started.  While the words might have sounded threatening coming from any other man, with the youngest Abbey son’s light and airy voice, they were echoed in jest.  “Call me Nick.”

“If you insist Doc -- I mean, Nick.” Dashielle returned pleasantly. 

“Please, sit.”  The blond encouraged politely, gesturing to the chair across from the stool he seated himself upon.  “I’m glad you came, though I’m sorry to take you from Dr. Finnegan.”

“It’s no trouble.  There are plenty of orderlies on staff within Dr. Finn’s unit.”  Dashielle replied, his tone even and measured as he sat himself in the designated place.  There was suspicion lurking in his brown eyes, making his soft face look serious.  Nicholas, true to form, carried on as though he didn’t notice the narrowed quality of the young man’s gaze.  Clearly, Dashielle had yet to make his mind up about Nicholas, even if the young doctor beamed at him as though they were long time friends. 

“I’ve heard very good things about you, you know.” Nicholas continued as he moved a large stack of files around on his desk, questing for one collection of documents in particular.  “Everyone speaks highly of you, especially Doctor Finnegan.”

“Really?” He asked in a sheepish voice. 

“You’re surprised?” Nicholas mused, quirking a brow as he looked over at the orderly who sat in his office, at last finding the file he had been searching for. 

“Honestly, I’m more surprised you were asking after me at all, Dr. Abbey.” With a pointed, playful look from the blond, he was blushing and casting his gaze to the floor.   “Sorry… Nick.” The orderly corrected himself.

“Well, as you know, I’ve taken over as Chairman of the orphanage.” Nicholas Abbey began, paging through the folder before him, the contents of which had captured Dashielle’s attention. “I didn’t realize you were one of our own.” He added thoughtfully, opening the file at an aged intake form, pinned to which was a small, black and white photograph of the scruffy brunette boy who had first arrived to the Abbeyshire, not much different from the man who sat across from Nicholas now.  “I’m afraid I can’t speak for how things ran during your own years at our institution, but I have to say; I’m not very pleased with the current state of affairs.”

“Oh?” Dashielle inquired carefully, doing his very best to keep his expression even. 

“It is my intention to make some changes at the orphanage, Dash.” Nicholas explained.  “I’ll be starting with matters of staffing…” He continued thoughtfully, flipping to a section of the young man’s file devoted to his particular history of employment within the Shire.  Dashielle’s personal file was not unlike others he had looked through, missing what appeared to be many years worth of data scattered between months of poorly kept documentation and several completely blacked out sections.  “I was hoping you might be interested in working with me.”

“Oh.” Dashielle replied flatly. 

“There’s no need to rush things.” The young doctor added quickly, reading the apprehension in the orderly’s changing expression.  “I won’t ask you to make a decision this very moment, but do think about it.” He scribbled something at the bottom of the page in the illegible short-hand he had learned from medical school, a tiny question mark left alongside the scribbles.

“Uh, Nick?” Dashielle started, the informal name fitting awkwardly in his mouth.  “Why me?” He asked once the young Doctor Abbey had lifted his brown hues to meet his gaze. 

“I have a good feeling about you, Dash.” He answered, sunnily.  “I think you might be someone I could trust.” Something flashed across the orderly’s face at those words.  Shame?  Bashfulness?  Humility?  Whatever it was, it pulled Dashielle’s eyes from the doctor who addressed him long enough for Nicholas to gather up the file and return it to the piles of organized chaos that crowded his desks. 

“I’ll have to think about it.” Dashielle answered him distantly. 

“Well, either way…” Pausing, Nicholas Abbey leaned forward onto his cane to bring himself to standing, extending a polite hand to the orderly.  “I hope to see you around, Dash.”  He nodded in subdued gratitude as he shook the young doctor’s hand.  As he turned to leave, he was halted once more by the curious Abbey-born boy who seemed determined to pour a little more sunshine onto the orderly’s cloudy mood.  “Wait, just a moment.” He called.  “Take this.” He said, extending a white napkin wrapped around a square shape that must have been a sandwich.  When Dashielle looked from the offering to the young man who put it forth to him, Dr. Abbey uttered a gentle, “take it,” in encouragement.  “Dr. Finnegan mentioned that you had to skip your lunch break to accommodate our meeting.  My trays are delivered to my office so I ordered a second one for you.  Find a quiet place for a few minutes and I’ll cover for you.”

Dashielle tilted his head to the side like a child and stared blankly at Dr. Nicholas Abbey.  He had been told it would be easy but he didn’t think it would be this easy.  Whenever he encountered a man who behaved as the blond before him did, Dash always asked himself one question: what do they want?  Yet here, for once in his life, he couldn’t fathom an answer.  He had never before met someone like Nicholas Abbey.  Someone who was goodly and kind simply by virtue of being so himself.  How could someone so pure exist within the long suffering nightmare of the Abbeyshire?  How could such a person be birthed from its womb and exalted by the nurture he received at its bosom?  The answer of course, was simple… He couldn’t.  The young doctor, Nicholas Abbey, was either a fool or the best player Dashielle had ever encountered in the great game. 

“Dashielle?” Nick asked gently, pulling the orderly from his thoughts.  “Are you alright?”

But maybe, just maybe…

“I’m fine, Nick.  Thank you, and thank you for this.” He said in a cautious, measured tone as he took the wrapped sandwich from the cripple’s hands. 

“You’re welcome.” The youngest Abbey son said warmly, patting a hand against Dashielle’s shoulder.  “Tell Dr. Finnegan that I’ll have those test results back to him later this afternoon.” He added offhandedly in a conversational tone as he lowered himself back down into the stool before his work and rested his cane against the corner of his desk.  “And leave the door open on your way out, I’m expecting someone.” His gaze lifted to Dashielle’s curious eyes and then drifted past them, over his shoulder.  “As a matter of fact,” he began as a smile broke over his face.  “Here she is.”

“Good afternoon, Dr. Abbey.” Dashielle said quickly as he darted from the room, leaving the young doctor no time to correct him.  He didn’t acknowledge Alice or even spare a glance in her directed as he strode from the small room.  Pausing outside the doorway, the orderly leaned against the wall just a reach away from the open door to Nick’s office.

“Thank you again for letting me borrow these,” his voice said as the sound of jingling keys danced across the threshold and into the hallway.  “I finally managed to find a pair of my own… would you sit?  I wanted to ask you something…” Papers rustled and Dashielle smirked to himself as his gaze fell heavenward.  The next words were expected.  “As you know, I’ve taken over as Chairman of the orphanage…”

“Fool.” Dashielle decided, muttering under his breath as he tucked the sandwich into a fold of his uniform and fell into the stream of nurses and orderlies in his quest for a quiet space to enjoy his lunch. 


Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on July 01, 2019, 06:24:54 PM
As Alice rounded into the hallway, she found herself greeted by another familiar figure standing in the doorway--Dashielle, the orderly she had run into in this very corridor just the day before. It seemed that the younger Abbey son had taken a liking to the brunet young man. There had to be some sort of irony in the fact that the doctor was fond of the orderly that was rumored to be his father’s younger replacement, but Alice had better things to focus on at the moment--like trying to keep her effortless smile intact.

It didn’t take long for the young Abbey doctor to notice her presence, a smile breaking over his face like dawn over a calm lake. She smiled back as Dashielle made himself scarce, brushing past her quickly and stepping out into the hall. He did not give her so much as a nod or a glance, but that was more or less to be expected, the nurse also offering him no such niceties. She stepped into his office, her dark gaze making a cursory sweep of the room. It had changed again in the span of a day, the piles of children’s drawings no longer littering his desk, proudly lining the walls instead. There really were quite a few…

“Thank you again for letting me borrow these,” the sound of his voice regained her attention, and Alice looked back down to see him offering her the ring of keys.

“Oh, it wasn’t any trouble,” she waved off his humble gratitude, casually checking that they were in order before slipping them into the depths of her pockets. “Though, it sounds like you were the one who stirred up some trouble, if the gossip’s to be believed,” she quipped lightly, her brow arching almost teasingly. Though most would have balked from any sort of teasing with an Abbey, gentle or otherwise, Alice had ambitions loftier than to be simply overlooked or deemed a good worker. If she was to pry her way into his head, his heart, such barbed humour was important in moderation; it made it seem like they were chums instead of merely superior and subordinate.

“...Would you sit? I wanted to ask you something,” he remarked. She feigned surprise, though she’d suspected a request of the sort. Pulling out the chair in front of her, she took a seat, graceful despite the pain that came along with the movement. “As you know, I’ve taken over as Chairman of the orphanage,” he began, pulling out a folder that had been sitting next to him. She nodded along with his words, but the moment he opened the file, her focus slipped completely.

There was a photo pinned at the very top of the stack of papers within, a black-and-white rendering of a little girl glaring up at the camera. Her black hair was in tangled braids, a stark contrast to the perfectly starched white pinafore she was dressed in. Though she knew at once that this was a picture of herself, she could barely recognize it to be the truth. Was that really what she’d looked like? She hadn’t seen that face reflected back in the mirror in years and years, a river of time that had surged on so that it seemed like a lifetime ago. If there’d been a mistake and someone had accidentally swapped her photo with one of another girl from her homeland, would she really have known?

It was hard to say, and yet, she remembered that day, the first day she’d come to the Abbeyshire. They’d taken their clothes from them while they were made to bathe, putting them into stiff white dresses and shirts once they’d washed. If she’d known they were going to take her clothes, she would have kicked, screamed, clawed--anything to keep her last trace of home from their eager hands. Her mother had made that dress by hand for her nameday, lined with leather, ivory, and fine cloth her father had hunted and traded for. She’d seen her mother carve out the beads one by one, soaking them to made the engravings stand out. She’d loved that dress, vibrant greens and blues and a spark of red, colors she’d seen every day: the wide plains, the endless sky, the sun setting over it. It had been a little loose, she remembered, the hem doubled up and sewn into itself. She’d meant for her to grow into it…

The young woman struggled to rein herself in as his words slipped in as if from far away. Something about changing things at the orphanage and the way that it was run. Her file had large parts of it blacked out, just as any of the nighttime workers’ files were, but her documents were sparse in general. Even though she’d never seen her records before, she knew why. After all, he might’ve been their most important customer even to date. It wouldn’t do to have such sensitive information at risk. Her hand twitched, instinctively rising to her neck.

“I was hoping you might be interested in working with me,” his voice came, and this time the proposition was enough to snap her out of her jumbled thoughts. 

Swallowing, she looked up to meet his warm brown eyes. “Oh,” Alice found herself remarking, whether in surprise or dismay, she could not tell. Work with him? In the orphanage? In that hellhole? Her gaze was drawn back to the photo, the dark sullen eyes of her old self. Surrounded by children, all with that look in their eyes? Finally realizing that she was fidgeting with the ribbon at her neck, she jerked it away before placing her hand nonchalantly back into her lap. “I don’t know why you’d think of me, but I’m flattered,” she managed to recover, adding in a bit of a laugh. Breathe, she commanded herself. Relax, focus. The pose in which she’d been frozen in loosened and melted, and the nurse cradled her chin in her palm, elbow propped on the armrest, looking thoughtful.

Of course, she didn’t want to work in that dreadful nightmare of a building. The very thought of seeing it again, being in it again--well, it sent unpleasant shivers down her spine. If she never had to see that blasted place again, it’d still wouldn’t be enough. But, that wasn’t the only thing, was it? This wasn’t just about where she’d be working in, but who she’d be working with. What was a little sacrifice for something greater? Hadn’t she already proved willing to pay such a price just the night prior? Yes, what more could that hellish place do to her that it hadn’t already?

“I’m afraid I’m not the most experienced when it comes with children,” she began quietly--which was a severe understatement. “So I may need your guidance.” Meeting his eyes again, her serious expression gave way to a hint of a twinkling smile, as if it were a secret just between the two of them. “As long as you’re alright with that, I’d love to work with you.”

Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on July 16, 2019, 02:20:50 PM
Dashielle lay on his back, his eyes cast to the decorous ceiling above him.  An intricate illustration of the heavens rolled overhead, clouds carrying cherub wings on the wind, surrounded by detailed moulding crowning the room.  He had memorized each sweet smiling face of each perfect angel long ago, counted the clouds and made a personal archive of all the various of colour used by the handsomely paid artist.  Sometimes he even thought of it when he lay in his own bed at night, trying to chase away the memories with a sleep that seemed to elude him in the same way it did all the other broken toys of the Abbeyshire.  When she finished and rolled off him, he reached for the silky smooth sheets of red that surrounded him, pulling them over himself in superfluous modesty.  He kept his gaze heavenward as long pale arms reached across his chest for the rectangular gold case she kept on her night table.  Sitting up in bed, she struck a match and held it against the end of the neatly rolled cigarette she produced from the gold-plated stash and held between her lips.  Dashielle hated the smell and closed his eyes against the smoke that drifted in the air around him.  She always had one afterwards.  “A ritual,” she called it.  “Like praying.”  Doctor Finnegan had told him once that smoking was a disgusting habit afforded to the rich aristocracy so that they may kill themselves slowly in lieu of any real suffering. 

“What are you smiling at?” She asked him. 

“Nothing.  Just a silly joke that I remembered.” He answered.

“Tell me.” She pressed, rolling onto her side and holding her head aloft by the open palm at the end of an elbow crooked upon the pillow.  Red hair fell in messy, loose ringlets around her shoulders.  The moonlight streaming in through the windows cast her pale skin aglow.  Subjectively speaking, she was a beautiful woman.  In fact, she was the most beautiful woman that Dashielle had ever encountered in his entire life.  This did not change the fact that Dashielle would love nothing more than to see the beautiful, sadistic bitch dead. 

“You wouldn’t like it.” He replied sweetly. 

“Fine.” She conceded, pulling on her cigarette.  “Then tell me something else.”  There was a playful smile on her full lips, like a wolf toying with its food. 

Dashielle paused for a moment before letting his eyes turn to the hellish creature whose bed he shared.  “I don’t want to work for your son.” He told her. 

The coy expression she had been wearing iced over as she sat up, sighing heavily.  “We’ve already been over this, Dashielle.  Your position is critical.”  As she elaborated, she slipped to the edge of the bed and found her feet.  Moving to her vanity chair and snatching the satin robe which hung on its back, she covered herself as though to do so would be representative of some kind of punishment for Dashielle.  Nothing however, could be further from the truth.  “If you’re worried that your proximity to my son is going to have some kind of affect on our appointments, I can promise you…”

“It’s not that.” Dashielle interrupted. 

“Then what is the issue?” Lady Abbey asked coolly, putting out her cigarette and crossing her arms over her chest in that purposeful fashion with which she always did. 

Dashielle sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees he looked down at the floor beneath his feet.  “Nicholas is a good person.”

“He is.” Lady Abbey confirmed sternly.

“What you’re asking me to do, to betray the trust of a good man, is that not a sin?  You’re asking me to knowingly do a bad thing, to stain my soul…” Dashielle had meant to go on but his train of thought had been derailed by the sudden sound of Lady Abbey’s laughter.  It chimed like bells and echoed through the lavish room, stunning Dashielle into silence as he stared at her, slack in the jaw. 

“Oh, you sweet, simple boy.” Lucretia Abbey cooed when she caught her breath, moving towards her ravaged prey and coming to stand over the brunette.  “The amount of times you’ve been run through and used up?  The things you’ve done?  The sort of stains on you, sweet boy, cannot be lifted through prayer or penance.  You’re already bound for the pit.” Leaning forward, she stroked her long red-painted nails through his hair and dropped a quick kiss upon his cheek.  “We will not have this conversation again.” She told him firmly.  “Put your clothes on.”

As she stepped away from him and turned her back to the center of the room, busying herself with some other task, his lips fell into a hard line and he looked to her thin neck.  She was looking down at some files spread out upon the plush seating area that surrounded a hearth.  Being in the summer seasons, it remained empty and cold.  Most nights, he would imagine himself pushing her into it.  Tonight, he pictured himself coming up behind her and throwing an arm around that long pale neck of hers.  It wouldn’t take long, even less so if he gave her throat a good jerk in one direction.  Yet, like all other nights, he merely watched her as he slipped back into his utilitarian “play clothes” as they called them.  Just another identifying uniform so he could be picked easily from a crowd in a pinch.  As he tucked the short-sleeved button down into his beltline, there came a knock at the door of the mistress’s rooms.  Without any sense for propriety, she ushered them in at once. 

“Come in.” She beckoned.  She had already lit another cigarette, holding it pinched between her long dainty fingers.  Though unquestionably beautiful, everything about Lady Abbey was elongated and thin, giving her a haunting elegance.  She liked to think of herself as a wolf, but in Dashielle’s nightmares she always appeared to him as a spider. 

It was her son who entered the room, at once halting in his tracks at the sight of what was clearly a post-coital scene.  Had it been her youngest, Dashielle might have very well thrown himself from the moonlit window.  Fortunately, it was her eldest born, who received nothing more than a pointed look and a brow flicked up in quiet challenge from the orphan slut who had just had his mother.  As Christopher Abbey Junior turned as crimson as his mother’s hair, he uttered a restrained, “I’ll come back later,” from behind gritted teeth.  Dashielle maintained eye contact with the heir to the Abbeyshire as he finished tucking in his shirt, smoothed out his pressed pants and then sat himself once more to take his time putting on his black, polished shoes and tying the laces. 

“If it’s about the orphanage, I’ll have it now.”

Biting down against the bile rising in his throat, Christopher Abbey Junior tore his gaze away from the young man who dressed himself at his mother’s bedside.  He crossed the room to the seating area, making himself comfortable on the couch across from the woman who addressed him.  She flicked ashes into the glass tray on the coffee table that separated them, holding out an expectant hand into which Christopher obediently placed the files he had brought with him.  There was no hesitation as she dove into the contents, spreading out the budget plans so that she could review them in their entirety.  As she sucked on the tobacco rolled into a neat length, pinched between her lips, engrossed in her reading material, Christopher cast his gaze back towards Dashielle, only to find him looking right back at him.  They stared one another down for a moment before the orderly broke the quiet. 

“Lady Abbey…” He began. 

“Yes, yes.  You’re dismissed.” The mistress of the house said quickly, waving a dismissive hand at the young man, letting ashes fall on the expensive carpet beneath her slippered feet.  “Show yourself out, Dashielle.”  The boy did as commanded, but not before sliding one more smug expression Christopher’s way. 

When the blond-haired man’s gaze fell back to his mother, her features had hardened into something serious.  “Interesting,” she mused as she perused the documents.  More at ease now that her bedfellow had made his exit, Christopher leaned back onto the plush couch and crossed his arms over his chest.  The Lady Abbey was likely drawing the same conclusion that her first born had when reviewing the proposal.  Lessons, structured schedules, Governesses and Groundskeepers to hire, repairs to make; all of it would interrupt the nighttime goings-on of the Abbeyshire, throwing a wrench into the well-oiled machine of their family enterprise.  It would only make sense for his mother to reject the proposal. 

“I’m going to approve the proposal.” She informed him suddenly. 

“What?” He asked her, an incredulous laugh upon his tone.  His mother however, maintained the same serious expression upon her lovely face. 

“Christopher, what is it that you do here?” Lady Abbey asked of her son, puffing on her cigarette before blowing the smoke across the table and into his face. 

“I keep the books,” he said, closing his eyes against the stinging cloud that wafted towards him.  “I keep things running.”

“Yes, you do.” She told him in a gentle voice.  When Christopher opened his eyes again to look at his mother, her face told a story he didn’t care to hear.  She was smiling at him, but not in the sweet way that he loved.  Her cheeks were full with amusement, but her eyes were angry and hollow.  “Tell me, have you finished with the accounts for this month yet?” She asked, though she already knew the answer. 

“Not just yet.” Christopher admitted, his head bowing before an impending verbal lashing from his family matriarch. 

“And what about the cheque books have you gotten around to those?” She pressed further.

“No.” He confessed hopelessly. 

The cigarette was held aloft by manicured fingers at the end of a crooked elbow, smoke billowing from the orange-glowing tip in thin wisps.  Her other hand came to land upon the detailed proposal laid out before them.   As she fixed her son with her wolf-like stare she elaborated through gritted teeth saying, “Your little brother did this in one night.” She watched the accusation leveled between the lines land hard and heavy upon her first born, her pleasure growing as his heart sank.  “You know how I feel about useless things, Christopher.” She told him as she pressed the end of her cigarette into the ashtray and rose from where she had been perched on an artisanal high-back chair.  “I’m going to approve this proposal, and you are going to keep things running.”  Lady Abbey explained as though the matter was a simple one.  “That’s what you do here after all, isn’t it?  You keep things running.” When she repeated the words back at him, they sounded more like an insult. 

“But… but how am I supposed to…” He stuttered.

“You’ll figure it out.” She snapped, her voice rising before softening again.  “Because you’re useful, aren’t you Christopher?” 

“Yes, mother.” Christopher Abbey Junior returned obediently, pathetically. 


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The Abbeyshire orphanage had already begun much changed in the weeks since Nicholas Abbey had taken over as Chairman.  The plumbing had been fixed, the leaks in the roof and holes in the walls patched and mended.  Even the staircase had been repaired now glistening with smooth clean wooden steps that wouldn’t splinter for a hundred years if the carpenter who made them was to be believed.  The most notable change however, was in the children themselves.  For some within the Shire, it was an inconvenience to daily life.  The happiest children are often the loudest ones, always shrieking and laughing, playing and talking.  For the new Chairman of the Abbeyshire Orphanage, the noisy cacophony sounded like music, the melody of laughing children his most favourite sound. 

“Look!” Said one little boy, whispering as he came up behind his friend.  “She’s right there, it would be so easy!” He pointed a grubby finger at a fellow orphan, the brown-haired girl was leaning over the pond’s edge, trying to reach a sunning frog with her net.  They had been conspiring to push someone into the murky waters all afternoon, and finally their moment had arrived.

“We can’t.” The other boy said simply.

“How come?” His friend retorted, brow furrowed.

“Miss Alice…” The boy warned his friend, reminding him of the presence of the mysterious and intimidating young woman who had become a fixture in their routines.  She sat upon an unstable and perilous looking perch across the small body of water.  She was watching the lily-pads swaying in the wind.  “If you push her in, Miss Alice is just going to send you in there right after her.”

“Shoot.” His comrade hissed.

Miss Alice was part of a select group that had quite suddenly appeared within the orphanage.  Some of them taught special lessons and others had more administrative duties, but mostly they were responsible for watching after them in the way in which they had previously fended for themselves.  They made sure they woke up in time for breakfast in the morning and that they brushed their teeth at night.  They walked with them to their lessons and chores, guiding them by the hand as they familiarize themselves with their new, busy schedule.  They joined them on their outings and supervised them while they played in the yard, separating the children who fought and entertaining the ones too shy to engage with the others.  They were different from the Sisters who taught them their lessons or the Handlers who sometimes still stalked their halls at night.  Chairman Abbey called them, Hands.  When asked why, the gentle-hearted man had answered, “Because I needed a few extra.”  They all had their favourites among the staff who were ever present and predictably returning, rotating shifts between each other as needed.  Few favoured Miss Alice.  She was aloof and unapproachable, but they listened to her and behaved relatively well when she was around.  Perhaps, it was for this reason that she seemed to always be the chosen Hand to accompany Chairman Abbey on his outings with the children.  He would take them in small groups, alternating different groups with days of the week.  It seemed he was making a point of trying to get to know each child individually.  Today their outing had been to the pond at the edge of the meadow beyond the orphanage.   

“Wow!” Someone shouted from nearby. 

“Everyone, come look.” Nicholas Abbey called to the children who played among the wildflowers and quested curiously within the pond.  At the sound of his beckon, the two boys who had been quietly conspiring together abandoned their mission, bounding through the tall grass to the young man who called them forth.  He stood beneath a tree, holding a large leaf over their small heads.  By the way he was handling it, the leaf played host to something delicate that he wanted to show the inquisitive children who swarmed him like moths to a flame.  “Do you remember our lessons last week, when we talked about butterflies?” He asked the group.  When they chorused back their affirmation he lowered the leaf for them to look at the caterpillar who squirmed upon it’s smooth, green surface.  It was blue, with yellow spots and fuzzy hairs all over it. 

“So that thing’s gonna’ be a butterfly?” One child asked. 

“Some day, yes.” Chairman Abbey affirmed.  “Be careful.” He advised them.  “Don’t touch, just look, that’s right… step back, thank you John… Give everyone a chance to see.”

“It doesn’t look like a bucker-fly.” Another child noted bluntly, careless of the finger rooting for the itch in his nostrils. 

“It’s gotta’ go in its coon first, right Chairman?”

“Yes, Helen.” He affirmed before adding quietly, “cocoon.”

“Cocoon.” She repeated.  When he nodded to her, she beamed a smile up at him. 

“Okay, we’re going to let Mr. Caterpillar go back home now.  I think we’ve bothered him quite enough for one day.” As he spoke, Nicholas leaned his weight against his cane and set the leaf against the tree behind him, watching the bug wriggle off and onto the bark of the trunk. “And now, it is time for us to go back home as well.” He told them. 

“Can we race?” One pond-pushing-plotter requested hopefully.

“I don’t know…” Nicholas started, humming to himself and stroking his chin in thought as he turned to Miss Alice.  “What do you think?” He asked her.  The boys then turned their wide-eyed stare to the Hand accompanying the Chairman on this particular outing, looking to garner some type of sympathy from the stern guardian.  At her affirming nod and the Chairman’s passive, “Oh, alright,” the two boys took off running, bumping into each other as they went.  The rest of the children joined them, eager to be a part of the fun.  Nicholas Abbey watched them as they kicked up grass through the fields of white and pink wildflowers.  For a moment he allowed himself to feel that familiar melancholy yearning, wishing he could be a little boy again, running after them.  That feeling fell away however, when Miss Alice stepped up beside him.  Her presence at once pulled him from the trance and he rested his hand on her shoulder, grateful for the soft place to rest some of his weight.  Together they walked through the meadow that separated the orphanage from the village, like they always did; at a gentle pace with his hand upon her shoulder as he hobbled forth each determined step of the way. 

“I think they’re warming to you.” Nicholas remarked of Miss Alice as they strolled through the tall grass and sweet smelling flowers.  “They were standoffish at first, I’ll admit, but I think you’ve quite grown on a few of them.”  Being unfamiliar with children had put the young woman at a disadvantage, but she was a quick study and it didn’t take long for her to figure them out.  Soon enough, they would adore her as they did their new Chairman.  “Have they grown on you?” He asked her. 
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on July 16, 2019, 11:38:27 PM
Alice squinted in the bright daylight as the children went rushing off into the sprawling meadows before them, shrieking and shouting the whole way. Their keepers, on the other hand, began the typical leisurely pace back to the orphanage. This was in part, of course, due to the Chairman’s crippled leg preventing him from moving much faster, but the dark-haired nurse noted that the youngest son Abbey never seemed to mind it much in her company--at least, that was what she dearly hoped. Together, they strolled through the swaying wildflowers, his hand placed at her shoulder as it usually was when the footing became more treacherous. His touch was always careful and nothing but polite, which Alice found a touch of humor in--men had been touching her for years and years now, even as a child, and yet she couldn’t think of a single instance prior where a touch hadn’t turned lewd somewhere along the way.

“I think they’re warming to you,” the young doctor began, distracting her from her thoughts, and she turned her head to glance at him as he spoke. “They were standoffish at first, I’ll admit, but I think you’ve quite grown on a few of them.”

“Oh no, say it isn’t so, Chairman,” she quipped back without missing a beat, a sharp little smile flitting by on her lips. “I have nightmares about the children gazing up at me with adoration, clambering all over me as they do with you.” Her smile grew into a tart grin for a moment, then it loosened back into a comfortable neutral expression as she turned her eyes back to the children ahead of them, highly visible against the foliage in their starched white clothes. Though it was far from being an adequate recreation of the plains she and her family had once roamed, she liked the meadow. It was certainly better than the cramped orphanage she’d once lived in, or the hospital wards with its white, white walls.

“Have they grown on you?” he asked next, a question she should have expected.

“Perhaps,” the nurse answered flippantly, a matching, careless tilt to her head. She paused, her brow creasing slightly. “Maybe.” There was another reluctant beat before the words were finally mumbled. “...Just a bit.” She met his eyes again, her lips twisting ruefully, as if she’d confessed an embarrassing secret. “Don’t you dare tell them,” Alice said to the young lord with mock severity, joking with him as if the vast abyss between their stations did not exist at all.

If there had ever been a clear line of propriety between the two of them, it’d since been crossed. Of course, she was careful when there were others about, but now that she worked directly with him on a regular basis, their time together had increased. With it, she traipsed freely about that line of propriety without even so much as a coy ‘may I?’ whenever she got the chance. Nicholas did not seem to mind it--rather, she had figured that what he wanted was to be seen as a friend to his subordinates, if his warm energy and dogged insistence on being called by his first name was to be proof. Alice knew that the key to any seduction was to find what one most desired, what their ideal was. With the right words she could become anything, everything. Nearly all her life, she’d been a monstrous shapeshifter, catering to each customer’s fantasies. If Nicholas Abbey wished for a friend, so be it. It was all at once the easiest and hardest role to play, she found. Unlike some of the other things she’d been forced to become, there were no drastic behavioral changes required of her, but for Alice, who’d never had much of a friend or been one, ‘friend’ was a fantasy she had limited experience with.

As for the job--she supposed that though she held little enthusiasm for the children, she didn’t hate them or find them unbearable. The first week had been an absolute jaw clenching nightmare, despite the children being quite even-tempered whenever the young doctor was around to charm them. Being in that building had been bad enough, and it had taken every bit of willpower within her not to flee that wretched place like bloodthirsty hounds were on her heels. Even now, with all of the fancy new renovations, Alice didn’t like being stuck in there very much. There were too many ghosts still lurking about, too many things she’d rather not remember still steeped in the walls. She could only be eternally grateful that the children no longer much resembled the faces she’d once been surrounded by, and a crying child was almost uncommon. The young woman might have leapt at the chance to work with the Abbey boy, but she knew better than anyone that she wouldn’t have been able to bear it for long otherwise.

“Y’know, I don’t think I would mind too terribly if they ended up disliking me,” she found herself musing out loud. At his quizzical gaze, she went on to explain, her tone carefree. “Well, somebody has to be the stern, boring adult, no? We’ve all got our parts to play, after all. You can be the hero, of course,” she turned to him, her onyx eyes twinkling with a playful spark. “As for me--I think I’d make a fantastic villain.”

Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on November 17, 2019, 09:44:00 PM
“You can be the hero, of course.” She told him as they strolled through the meadow together.  “As for me -- I think I’d make a fantastic villain.”

“Well, that won’t do.” He told her.  When she looked back at him over her shoulder, he was smiling at her with his usual sunny expression.  “Then who would be my sidekick?” He asked her playfully.  “Every hero needs one.”

That word; hero.  It was a word which twisted awkwardly in the Chairman’s mouth and left a stale taste upon his tongue.  This word in particular had been thrown around many times in the last few years of Nicholas Abbey’s charmed life.  He had been revered as one, acknowledged as such by both the Archbishop and Emperor, honoured before the masses in the Capitol, Londinium.  In spite of this however, the man Nicholas saw staring back at him in the mirror looked no different to him than the little boy he had once been.  He had never seen a hero, or even a brave man in his reflection.  He had never gazed upon a likeness of himself and thought of a personnage who could be a scholar, a doctor, a soldier.  That is, in spite of the fact that he was in actuality all of those things.  Humility was not a choice for Nicholas Abbey, but rather a sentence to which he had been condemned from boyhood. 

The children fussed and squaked amongst each other as the shifts between Hands changed over.  Dashielle was among those trying to sort the children into groups.  Some had chores while others had lessons, but they were rambunctious and difficult to settle down after the thrill of their outing.  As Alice and Nicholas drew closer, one dark haired head broke away from the pack and rushed up to the Chairman she, along with many others, had come to trust.  As she approached, she extended a hand that the Chairman took readily.  She looked up at him with the wide-eyed stare with which most regarded him.  “Hello Helen.” He said to the young thing at his side as he staggered his way towards the clustering children. 

“I think I’ve decided on a name.” She told him.  Ever since the first Helen had begun insisting that everyone refer to her by her new moniker of ‘Blue,’ the others had taken it upon themselves to find their own name by which to stand apart.  “I think I should like to be called Helen Tree.” She told him.  “I like trees.”

“What kind of tree?” He asked in return. 

“There’s different kinds?” Helen inquired thoughtfully, her gaze becoming distant as the possibilities began bouncing around within the head beneath her long brown braids. 

“Oh, sure.” Nicholas informed the little girl.  “There’s spruce and aspens, or oak, or maple…”

“I don’t know…” She mumbled, thinking hard on the subject. 

“You could ask one of the Sister’s for a book from the library and then pick your favourite.” The Chairman suggested. 

“Okay, I will.” Helen affirmed.

“Nick?” Came Dashielle’s asking voice over the tops of the children’s heads.  “There’s someone here to see you.” He informed, a tired quality to his voice. 

“Thank you, Dash.” Nicholas returned sweetly.  “Go on, now.” He urged, giving Helen’s hand a gentle squeeze before she darted forward to join the others.  Turning to the young woman at his side he offered Alice a warm smile.  “I have rounds at the hospital tonight.  Will I see you there?” He asked her.  At her words his smile stretched a little wider.  “Until then.”

The cane at his side hobbled at a gentle pace next to his ruined knee as he moved through the front foyer to an adjacent waiting room.  Within he saw a woman whom he immediately recognized.  “Uma?” He asked.  When the smartly dressed woman lifted her head from the book she had been reading, his smile exploded across his face like the sun at dawn.  “Uma!” He exclaimed as he rushed forward.  He nearly tripped but he was caught by strong ebony hands that instantly pulled him into a firm embrace.  “Uma, it’s so good to see you.  How long has it been?”

Pulling away from their hug, holding him before her at arm’s length, the woman before Nicholas regarded him with kind brown eyes.  She looked just as he remembered her, with full pink lips and doe-like round eyes fitted onto the glistening smooth skin of her dark-complexioned face.  “Too long.” She replied sweetly. 

“Come, come… we’ll speak in my office.” Etiquette would dictate that it was the duty of the gentleman to place a gentle guiding hand onto her back, but instead the roles were reversed.  Unable to help herself, she extended one hand ahead of Nicholas though she carried in it a small case of luggage.  An old habit she hadn’t yet shaken. 

“You’re walking much better these days.” Uma observed. 

“Thanks to you.” Nicholas returned, his smile still beaming.  “Oh, Alice…” He started, noticing that she still lingered in the foyer with Dashielle as he attempted to reign in the children and hand them off to their respective guardians as the shifts changed from one Hand to another.  “This is Lady Uma Dubois.  We met each other in service to the Empire.  She was a medic like myself, though she had been stationed at one of many hospices.  She’s our new governess.”

“Now, now…” Uma tisked in a light-hearted tone.  “I haven’t made any decisions just yet.”

Nicholas didn’t acknowledge her words.  He knew that if she hadn’t been interested in the position, she wouldn’t have bothered to make the trip to the Abbeyshire.  “Uma, this is Miss Alice.  She is a nurse at the hospital but also one of our Hands here at the orphanage.”

“Pleasure.” Uma said in a curt but polite tone as she extended a hand to the young woman who faced her.  She spoke with a slight accent and though her usage of the common-tongue was flawless, it was obvious that she had been raised in the region of Gaul.  Her appearance however, highlighted the distinct features of her Africanni descent.  “My, my, aren’t you a pretty one.” Uma remarked of Alice as she shook her hand.  “You certainly have a type, don’t you, Nicholas?” She inquired playfully, arching one black brow over the other as she slid the young man at her side a queer look.  Nicholas barely had time to flush at the insinuation before his attention was being pulled in yet another direction. 

“Nick!  Could I get some help here?” Dashielle asked, drowning in the cacophony of shrieking children, one of them tugging on his neck as he tried to flag down the Chairman who had hired him for the exhausting role of Hand. 

“Of course,” he answered Dash before turning to the women he stood with.  “If you’ll excuse me just one moment.” The Chairman offered them politely as he limped away. 

“So…” Uma started casually.  Her eyes followed Nicholas as he stepped amidst the thrall of small voices and clamouring hands before turning to the Greenlandian girl who stood before her.  “Do you enjoy your work here?” She asked.  There was something cold about her calculated cadence that didn’t match the warmth with which Nicholas had welcomed his mysterious new guest.  She stood out like a sore thumb, but not because of her distinctive foreign origins, but rather the pride with which she carried them.  The potential governess was dressed in fine, pressed cottons, an expensive hat adorned with a flower completing her smartly tailored ensemble.  She held her luggage case in front of her with both hands, regarding Alice in a manner which was not cruel or unkind, yet unsettling nonetheless.  “He certainly seems to enjoy it.” Uma noted offhandedly, her eyes returning to the cripple who sent off the hoards of tiny noise-makers.

“Get your finger out of your nose, John.” The Chairman scolded one of the stragglers.  “That’s it, now hurry and catch up with the others.” With a pat on the back the boy was on his way. 

“By the One God…” Dashielle swore under his breath, his hands coming to his hips as he released a ragged breath.  “You make that look so easy.”

“Take a break before your next shift.” Nicholas told him, straightening the collar of his uniform maternally.  “My lunch tray is still waiting in the kitchens, take it for yourself.”

“You’re too good to me.” Dash returned with a wry grin. 

“Nonsense.” Nicholas replied at once.  “Now off with you.” He patted the orderly on the back as though he were another orphan to whom he was giving direction.  Dashielle didn’t have to be told twice.  “I’m sorry about that.” The youngest Abbey son said politely as he hobbled back towards the two women he had left in each other’s company.  “Now, where were we?” He asked thoughtfully. 

“Your office… for our meeting…” Uma offered patiently. 

“Right!  I’m sorry, Uma, of course.” Nicholas pushed his glasses up his nose and gave his head a gentle shake, as though he meant to jostle the pieces of his busy mind back into place. 


“You haven’t changed a bit, Nicholas.  You still apologize too much.” The ebony-skinned woman reprimanded playfully as she returned her gentle, guiding hand onto Nicholas’ back. 

“Good afternoon to you, Miss Alice.” The Chairman bid his favoured Hand a sweet farewell as he turned to lead Uma down the corridor that would take them to his offices in the orphanage.  As colourful and bright as Nicholas had made his small space within the pediatrics wing, his office at the institution was even more so.  Drawings papered the walls, lumpy sculptures and other such wondrous art projects lined his shelves.  The room paid respect to all the different little lives that had stolen Nicholas’ gentle heart.  Upon entering, Uma set down her luggage case and pulled a tin from her pocket. 

“Can I smoke in here?” She asked. 

“By all means,” Nicholas returned accommodatingly as he limped his way to the chair that sat on the other side of his desk.  Relieving his crippled leg of the weight it bore as he sat himself in the comfortable leather seat, he fixed Uma with the warm smile she remembered across the years.  “Tell me that you’ve accepted my offer.” He encouraged playfully.

“Let us discuss specifics.” The woman who seated herself across from him began.  She crossed one leg over the other as she pulled on the rolled tobacco she brought to her lips.  “Your childhood home is just as beautiful as you described it.”

“What would you like to know?” Nicholas asked.

“Everything.”


(https://media.giphy.com/media/D82tDtUjtdTvq/giphy.gif)

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Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on March 28, 2020, 04:22:00 PM
Alice regarded the tall, dark-skinned woman before her. So too did the woman, whom Nicholas had referred to so affectionately as ‘Uma’, look back at her, dark gazes meeting as if to see which one would buckle first. “So...Do you enjoy your work here?” she posed the innocent-sounding question, though the look in her eyes seemed far too calculating for it to remain innocuous. “He certainly seems to enjoy it,” she added, glancing at the form of the young man tending to the children.

“He most definitely does,” the young nurse agreed, her own gaze resting on the youngest Abbey son for a moment. When she turned back to the other woman, however, she found her looking back at her once more. “I find it rewarding,” the nurse answered. “I admit there are difficult moments, but it is easy to be long-suffering when one looks to the future.” It was a response that was much closer to the truth than she typically would’ve given to a stranger--if this woman should join their staff, there was no point in trying to pretend that she was one to live and die for the sake of the rambunctious children. One look at the way she behaved with the children would have made it clear that she was stern rather than indulgent, an aloof figure watching over them rather than the type to mingle amongst them like the doctor she worked under.

Before either woman could interrogate the other any further, however, the crippled doctor made his way back to their side. Hurried as he was in his eagerness to escort his old friend to his office, he did not fail to bid her goodbye with a warm smile. She returned a smile in turn, excusing herself, but as the pair turned and began to make their way to the young doctor’s office, Alice paused in her stride. Subtly, she watched the way they walked together, flint eyes narrowing in thought.


(https://i.imgur.com/JcTT8LS.png)


“So, when are you going to tell me what game you’re playing?”

Alice didn’t bother looking up at the question, her brows only quirking up along with a bemused hum as she tucked the white, white sheets into the metal frame. Evangeline clicked her tongue in turn, leaning over the mattress with a teasing look sparkling in her sharp eyes, silently demanding an answer. “I don’t know what you mean,” the dark-haired nurse denied again, though a hint of a smile played on her lips. 

“You know exactly what I mean,” Evie accused with a huff, even as her fingers busily worked away at the hem of sheets on the other side of the bed. “Are you going to make me beg? And here I thought you liked me.”

“Liked you?” Alice echoed, pretending to be aghast. “I think it’s time we checked you into the mental ward, Evie.”

“Ha! As long as you’re right there alongside me, straitjacket and all!” the strawberry-blonde shot back gleefully, her pretty lips twisting into a wicked grin.

“Oh, naturally. Who’ll pick up after you if I don’t?”

The two nurses dissolved into stifled snickers, eyeing each other mischievously--and for a moment they looked like nothing more than two carefree young women sharing a joke. At the sound of the head nurse pointedly clearing her throat, however, they quickly finished up the bed they were working on and moved onto the next. Obediently, they continued to fixate on their mindless task--but the moment the head nurse strode off, Evangeline had returned to her interrogation.

“No, but really,” Evangeline continued, looking as amused as she was mystified, “I never thought I’d see you--of all people--minding children in that orphanage.”

“Why in the world would that come as a surprise?” Alice retorted wryly, though it was hardly meant to be a serious attempt at denial.

“Oh, please,” the pretty young thing immediately scoffed, rolling her eyes. Leaning in conspiringly, she smirked knowingly at her. “So, Nicholas Abbey, eh? I didn’t think you were the type.”

Alice shrugged. “Maybe I finally decided to get ahead by taking a page from your book,” she remarked nonchalantly, unfurling the bundle of sheets in her arms. Evangeline caught the other end of the linens with expert timing, the two working perfectly in time like two cogs in a well-oiled machine even though they paid little attention to their hands.

“Now you’re getting the idea,” the fair-haired nurse said, coy approval in the curl of her lips. “You’ve slept with him, then?” she went on to whisper the brazen question without a hint of hesitation, her pretty eyes glittering at the idea of hearing something scandalous. Evangeline was to be disappointed, however, for just as Alice parted her lips, a cry went out as the main doors down the corridor burst open. “I need help!” came the bellow, and gossip-hunting forgotten, both young women abandoned the pristine white sheets that they had been holding and rushed out to meet the new emergency admission. They were two of the first three nurses to reach the chaos as orderlies laid the slight figure of a teenage boy onto a stretcher, and they hurriedly checked his condition.

“Pulse is weak,” Alice reported to the head nurse, who was trying to find the source of the large amounts of blood soaking his clothes through with little success.

“Pupils are dilated, unresponsive,” Evangeline hissed, drawing back from the boy’s bloodless face. He seemed lost to the world, unconscious. There were all too many possible reasons for that--the loss of blood for one, but it could be trauma to the head, or even things like alcohol or opiates.

But as the boy’s head lolled back, Alice recognized him. Not by name, of course--never by name. He was a fetching young thing, but of course he was; he had to be. Her gaze snapped upwards, away from the fading boy and to the lobby through the glass. Even among the milling crowds, she immediately picked out the figure of a Handler disappearing back outside. Alice met Evangeline’s gaze, the silent conclusion passing first between the two and then to the older nurse with them with lightning speed. The source of bleeding, perhaps, had been obvious from the start.

“Take him to the FT ward,” the head nurse immediately barked, and the flurry of motion began all over again.
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on April 08, 2020, 10:57:54 AM
They stood around the broken young man, who lay sprawled and lifeless on a gurney in a pool of his own blood.  The long, drawn out beep of the monitor registering the poor boy’s heart rate came to a sudden stop as Doctor Tulip reached over and pressed a manicured finger against the command board.  With a sad expression upon her handsome, serious face, she brushed the locks of dark curls from his face and closed his sightless eyes.  This was not the first time the studied woman of medicine had lost a patient.  In her years, working in the Female Trauma Ward of the Abbeyshire hospital, she had seen many beautiful boys and girls come across her table.  Not all of them had been given the reprieve of a painless farewell as this young man had.  The drugs kept him placid and unfeeling.  They had carried him on a cloud into the worlds beyond where he would come face to face with the One God.  She had cared for him in her ward before.  He was stronger than the others like him, braver too.  The sweet-mannered boy had withstood the violence that others could not, until at last, his strength gave out.  A heart full of courage could not keep a soul bound to the earthly confinements of life when it stopped beating.

“Time of death?” Doctor Tulip asked, looking up from the young man before her to the nurses who stood within the white walls of the surgery room.  It was a Greenlandian girl who pulled a pocket watch from the folds of her uniform.   As she parted her lips to answer the Doctor who addressed her, another figure burst into the room.  It was an orderly, someone that Doctor Tulip recognized as Lady Abbey’s favoured prize.  He took a quick look around the room before leaning out the door and shouting down the hallway.

“Nick!” He called out.  “In here!”

Before Doctor Tulip had any time to react, Nicholas Abbey suddenly came stumbling into the room, coming at once to the young man’s side.  “Dash, compressions!” He barked as busy hands came to the cart before the head surgeon of the FT Ward. 

Taking a moment, she permitted an expression of gentility to wash across her pointed features.  “Dr. Abbey…” She began, but the young doctor wasn’t listening. 

“Three milligrams of epinephrine…” Doctor Abbey prattled on, an instinct in the surgery room, despite the fact that none of the assisting nurses were taking note of his medical proceedings. 

“Dr. Abbey… the patient is lost…” Doctor Tulip continued. 

“That is not your call to make.” The young blond answered sternly as he finished filling the syringe in his hand and moved to the patient’s side.  “Not yet.”  With the practice of a battle-trained medical officer, he quickly found a suitable vein within the young man’s pale, limp arm and injected the epinephrine where it would find the most direct route to the heart.  Dashielle stood over him, the orderly pressing his hands against the patient’s chest and applying pressure rhythmically, counting under his breath.   

“Dr. Abbey, this is the Female Trauma Ward, you shouldn’t be here.” She followed him as he moved about the small room, though he wasn’t listening to her.  “Dr. Abbey, this is my patient and--”

“He is a child of the Abbeyshire.” Nicholas snapped, the eyes that peered over the frames of his glasses were harsh and narrowed.  “That makes him my patient.  Now, either help me or get out of my way…”

For a moment, Doctor Tulip stood frozen.  The glimmer shining within his eyes was something she had lost within herself a long time ago.  It was fire, it was passion; the relentlessness of a will set on playing God.  In medical school, they had all shared that same purpose, that same burning flame.  It had been years since she had seen a colleague for whom it had not been smothered by failure, by loss.  Suddenly, she lurched into motion. 

“Evangeline, get the EKG back on.” Doctor Tulip directed, a newfound urgency to her voice and movements.  “Alice, get the defibrillator…”  As the women around them moved, the two individuals who bore the title of Doctor upon their name tags acted as one as they came to the boy before them. 

“Status.” Doctor Abbey requested.

“Patient has gone into shock, haemorrhaging from the rectal artery…”  Doctor Tulip answered, updating her assisting physician and surgeon. 

“Rectal artery…” Doctor Abbey repeated thoughtfully as Alice stepped forward, wheeling the machine that she handed off to the blond haired man before her. 

“Cardiac arrest, two minutes and counting…” Doctor Tulip continued. 

“Charging defib…” Doctor Abbey added, lifting the pads from where they rested within the machine as the sound of the rising charge began to drown out the monitors that echoed around them.   As the flashing light turned green, the young doctor brought the pads to the patient’s chest.  “Clear!”

Dashielle pulled his hands back from the boy’s chest as Doctor Abbey lowered the pads, sending a shock coursing through his limp body.  Bringing his fingers to his neck, the brunette resumed his compressions.  “No pulse!”  He said, the adrenaline coursing through his veins making his voice louder, panic rising.

“Increasing voltage…” Doctor Abbey said, turning to the machine before him as the whirring recommenced. 

“It’s been too long,” Doctor Tulip uttered quietly.

“Clear!” Doctor Abbey called again, once more bringing the pads to the young man’s chest as Dashielle pulled his hands back.  His body arched off the table and when it landed back flat, the electrocardiogram echoed a steady beep, followed by another and another. 

“We have a pulse.” Dashielle said, triumph painting a smile across his lips. 

“Prepare for surgery.” Doctor Abbey continued, never halting in his actions as practiced hands moved to position the patient. 

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It was nearly three hours later when Doctor Nicholas Abbey emerged from the surgery room.  The front of his gown was stained with crimson, gloves soaked to the elbow.  He slumped against the wall, pulling the protective garments from himself.  He blinked against the fog of his mind as blood dripped onto the floor.  Bundling the tools of his practice and discarding them in a nearby bin, he pulled his surgical mask from his face and breathed deeply.  Holding his hand out before him, he watched as with each breath, the tremor returned to his steady fingers. 

“The patient is stable.” Doctor Tulip said as she followed the young doctor out of the room, letting the door swing shut behind her.  “That was… well, frankly what you did was impossible.” There was a laugh on her lips as she spoke the words, but when she turned her smiling face to the young man at her side, there was no victory to be found in his distant gaze.  “He’s lucky you were here.” Doctor Tulip pointed out.  Arterial surgery was no small venture.  Even Doctor Tulip, will all her years of medical training and practice could have never pulled off what Nicholas Abbey had achieved. 

“Lucky?” Nicholas repeated, at last turning to face the Doctor who was responsible for the very private Female Trauma Ward.  “You do realize what happened to that young man, don’t you?”

“You should rest, Doctor Abbey.” Doctor Tulip said, stepping forward to place a hand upon her colleague’s shoulder which was quickly shaken off. 

“He was raped, Doctor Tulip.” The youngest Abbey son snapped, a manic sort of disbelief touching upon his fragile voice.  “Raped to death…”

“No, he wasn’t.” As she spoke, she reached out again to place her hand upon Doctor Abbey’s shoulder.  This time, he allowed her hand to remain where it landed so softly.  “You saved him.” She reminded him. 

“Someone should be held responsible for this…” Nicholas Abbey replied, his gaze once more becoming distant. 

“You should rest.” Doctor Tulip repeated.  “Doctor Abbey…” Her voice carried off as she noticed the young doctor’s eyes flicking back and forth, touching upon room after room, drawn curtains keeping secrets not meant for the faint of heart. 

“What is this place?” He asked quietly.  “Why was that young boy brought to the female trauma ward?”

There was a pause as Doctor Tulip folded her hands in front of herself.  The young man’s blood was still smeared across her front, dripping from her gloved grasp as she interlocked her fingers in a fashion that called to mind images of the scolding Sisters of the Order of the Innocent.  With her lips pursed she spoke the only words she was capable of uttering, “I’m not sure I’m the one to tell you that, Doctor Abbey.”

As she looked away from the young man before her and began her practiced motions, disrobing her medical garb, she added, “perhaps you should speak to your father.”

“I will.” Nicholas Abbey replied. 

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Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on April 09, 2020, 08:46:50 AM
As they had rushed into surgery without much time to prepare, both girls had been attending to the doctors before Doctor Tulip’s favored assistants could come and allow them to take on a more diminished role. It’d been a grueling three-hour battle that they had been witness to, and at last, it was over. The boy, who had died, was once more among the living.

“Alice, Evangeline--would you take care of the equipment?” the female doctor began distractedly. Unlike the overwhelming majority of the doctors at the hospital, Doctor Tulip knew most if not all of the names of the girls and boys that play-acted at being nurses and orderlies. Alice imagined that it was difficult not to when they were as often her patients as they were under her command. The dark-haired nurse nodded curtly, watching the doctor head out of the room to join the young man who had excused himself moments prior. Ignoring Evangeline’s knowing smirk, she crept to the swinging door to catch what was being said between the two doctors.

“--lucky you were there,” Doctor Tulip was saying.

“Lucky?” Nicholas Abbey echoed incredulously. “You do realize what happened to…” His voice faded off into muffled noises as the door closed, and Alice reluctantly turned away, back towards the task at hand. Wordlessly, she joined Evangeline as they went about cleansing the many tools that had been used to wrench the dead boy back from the clutches of death.

She shared the young doctor’s sentiments, if only for a different reason. That pretty young lad would have been better off dead. When he woke, it would hurt worse than when it happened--it was always worse the morning after. And even if he should be pumped full of drugs to fend off the pain, his fate was to eventually suffer the same fate again--or worse. Grimly, Alice gripped the scalpel, keeping her movements controlled as she disinfected the blade. She wanted nothing more than to finish up and leave this room, no, this blasted wing itself. She’d been here often enough as it was.

It was Evangeline who broke the silence, seemingly relatively unaffected by their environment. It was perhaps to be expected. After all, the pretty girl who had been Doctor Abbey’s favored bedmate for most of her career had never been treated in the FT ward except for the mundane check-ups to ensure that she was clean--nothing but the best for the master of the Abbeyshire. “Well, that was quite impressive," she commented. Her expression was a bit sour, her words more begrudging than not.

“So it was,” Alice acknowledged, moving onto a pair of clamps. He had salvaged a life that all the doctors in the hospital would not have been able to save, though whether or not the boy had truly been fortunate would be proven in the coming months.

“I thought you’d be a bit happier,” the fair-haired girl remarked, raising her eyebrow. “The higher he climbs, so do you.”

“Is that how it works?” she returned vaguely. Impressive achievement aside, Alice was chewing on the information that had crept in between cracked doors. She had suspected it, of course, but by now it was rapidly becoming clear that Nicholas Abbey, the precious hero-son of the Abbeys, might be wholly unaware of the disease that festered in the Shire--from the secrets of the orphanage to the true occupations of the fetching young things that seemed to be in ample supply in every corner of the sprawling property.

“Yes,” Evangeline shot back as if in shock, her tone firm as she turned to face her, and at last Alice was forced to turn her thoughts to the matter at hand. “What game are you playing?” she questioned, her sparkling green eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“Yours,” Alice reaffirmed, feeding her the lie without a hitch in her voice. “At least, that’s what I’m trying to do,” she clarified, smiling wryly. “But perhaps I’m not as well-versed in it as I thought.”

To that Evie let out a peal of laughter, her qualms swept out along with it. “I should’ve known! Goodness me, Alice, wee lamb!” she exclaimed teasingly, bumping her hip against hers. “Don’t you worry, I'll take care of you. I’ll make a master player out of you yet!”

Alice smiled back, her lips twisting into a sharp little grin. “I’ll hold you to that.”

 
(https://i.imgur.com/JcTT8LS.png)


(https://i.imgur.com/JZTBHTv.gif)

“I’ve got it.” The words were expelled into the air by the lanky youth lying by her side, and Alice looked up to meet his gaze.

“Got what?” she prompted, though she already knew what was to come. It was a game they played each time he came around. He was young--younger than her, that was for sure. His friends had brought him as some sort of birthday prize several months ago. Despite having been mortified the first time, he had returned of his own volition, again and again. This marked the fourth time he had come to see her, and the fourth time he would hazard a guess at the reason that she would never take off the ribbon at her neck.

“It’s a trick. There’s no real reason for it.” He smiled triumphantly, though his dimples caused the expression to veer more boyish than anything else. “You just want to keep me guessing.”

“Do I look like someone who does something for no reason?”

“Absolutely,” he told her at once, garnering a sharp laugh from her. There was an earnestness in him that she didn’t often see in the likes that frequented their perfumed sheets, something disarming that made it easier to humor him--though the fact that he was only the first customer of the night likely helped as well.

“Ah, but there is a very good reason,” Alice disagreed, the beginnings of a smile in the corner of her lips.

“Is there?”

“Perhaps it’s a trap,” she whispered, a wicked smile on her face as she leaned close. “To keep you coming back for the mystery. A gimmick, so you’ll never figure me out and tire of me.”

He looked at her thoughtfully. “I don’t think I’ll ever figure you out.”

“Good, it’s working,” she remarked, falling back against the silken sheets to stare at the chandelier above. She would have to leave soon to fix herself up for her next appointment, she thought to herself. Her view and thoughts were soon to be obscured, however, as the young man hovered over her, eyes eager.

“Am I right, then?” he asked, gleeful anticipation heavy in his voice.

“Maybe. Maybe not. It’d be silly to tell you, don’t you think?” she teased. With that she roused herself from the luxurious bed, reaching for the clothes that littered the floor to dress.

“Do you have to go?” he posed the forlorn question as he sat up, looking reluctant to send her off. He always stayed to the last minute, often forcing her to be the one to leave first.

“Yes,” she answered simply, “I have more patrons.” It was a truth that was almost always unspoken because it was unnecessary and often ruined the atmosphere. The men who bought them understood how it all worked--and yet this one apparently needed to be reminded.

“Oh.” His blue gaze flicked away, but in that moment he must have found some foolish courage within himself.  “Do you ever...don’t you wish you could leave? It’s just, I could--” he began nervously, and Alice watched him bumble, eyes like flint.  “I don’t have a lot, but it’d be enough. And I’d find a way to make more...” Many years ago, when she had been just as young and hopeful as he, she would have loved him for those words alone and agreed to all his silly plans with breathless ardor. Now all she could muster was a worn-out pity for the poor boy as he spoke his foolish dreams. “We could go far away, just the two of us--”

Reaching over, she kissed him hard, startling him out of his words. When his mouth melted against hers, she pulled away, staring him in the eye grimly. “Sweetling, you should never fall in love with a whore. It’ll be your undoing.” The lad only blinked, stunned, while she continued to speak as she dressed, pulling a stocking over a knee. “Now, no more of this nonsense. You’ll spoil the fun.”

“No, listen,” he began again, reaching for her as he forced himself back into her line of sight. “I can take you away from this horrid place, I could sav--”

“No, you can’t,” she cut him off, her voice now cold as midwinter as she tore herself out of his grasp. The young woman was no stranger to promises of freedom, each and every last pledge of eternal love just as false as the facades she donned. She’d thought that she hated those men for their lies, but now that she was met with those promises without a drop of deceit, with wide innocent eyes that would never understand, she realized that she hated him more. She hated him in his naivete--she hated him for thinking that she could be plucked whole and clean from the clutches of the Abbeyshire, for thinking that she would be free just by stepping outside its boundaries. Alice knew better. She could never be taken away from this place--she could be taken to the farthest place from the Shire, and still, the moment she closed her eyes, she would always be here. “You should go,” she told him, not even bothering to spare him a glance as she finished dressing with a quick and practiced efficiency. “And if you should come back, don’t ask for me.”

“But I can’t do that,” he insisted as he scrambled to his feet to stop her, giving her a shaky smile meant to charm, to cajole. “I have to find out the mystery of the ribbon, remember?”

Stone-faced, she turned to him and snatched the ribbon from her neck, watching as his eyes grew round in shock, horror settling into his youthful face. “There you are,” she announced hollowly. “Satisfied now?” As expected, there was no reply. Wordlessly, she tied the width of cloth back into place, slamming the door shut before heading for the powder room as if hellhounds were nipping at her heels.

The room was a bustle of girls and energy, as usual. Dragging her heavy feet to the mirror, she tried to collect herself even as nausea and panic flooded her. She’d done something stupid, something she shouldn’t have. Numb fingers tightened the fastenings of the ribbon again and again, as if the fancy ornament would suddenly begin to slip now that it had been tugged loose once. It'd been years since a living soul had been privy to her secret; she'd never once let someone come close to it, and yet she'd let her bitterness get the better of her--

“One down?” the voice came from behind her, casual and familiar, but it nearly caused her to jump out of her skin. Whirling around, she came face to face with Evangeline, who seemed equally startled by her reaction. “That bad, eh?” she remarked knowingly, though there was little trace of sympathy there. If they wept and wailed over each others’ unsavory customers, there’d be no end to it, and so the girls did not bother.

“You don’t look so pleased yourself,” Alice managed to toss back as she collected herself, eyeing the way Evangeline plopped herself down before the mirrors, wordlessly forcing the girls on the bench to scoot over without a care for the way they glowered.

“Nonsense,” the fair-haired beauty sniffed, leaning forward to apply a fresh coat of rouge to her pouted lips.

“Mmhm,” Alice acquiesced, not about to press any further in accordance to the silent rules of their relationship. She reached for the comb instead, brushing out her mussed hair so that it would lie slick as a raven’s wing once more. After all, she had a good guess at the cause of her irritability. In this one way, the scheming girl was quite predictable--she was annoyed to be working a regular night instead of being whisked away to the bed of Doctor Abbey.

And then as if on cue, the door to the powder room opened, and in strode Madame Sylvia. Evangeline’s eyes snapped to the figure reflected in the mirror as it approached them, a smug smile passing over her pretty features. “Your appointments have been cleared for the night--you’ve been summoned by Doctor Abbey,” the older woman delivered the news in her typical matter-of-fact, clinical tone, and Evangeline turned to rise from her seat, looking like the cat who got the cream. “Not you.” Madame Sylvia clarified pointedly, her grey gaze moving to the dark-haired young woman instead. “Doctor Nicholas Abbey.”

Both girls wore a similarly stunned expression, though Evangeline’s was tinged with humiliation. Still, she turned to Alice, giving her a smile that did not quite hide the jealousy in her eyes. “Looks like you don’t need my help after all,” she commented, pinching her side as Alice stepped forward.

“Quickly, now. He’s been looking for you,” the madame snapped as they left the powder room, gesturing to where the handler would be waiting. At no response, she turned to find the young woman struggling into clothes that were decidedly not the scandalous clothes befitting her night-time profession, but the soiled plain white nurse’s uniform. She only arched a single eyebrow, refraining from questioning the action. After all, she was a discreet woman when it came to the tastes and fancies of the Abbeys.

It was a short while after that Alice found herself herded into a certain place. It was not his office or the orphanage, as Alice had guessed--nor was it his bedroom, as Evangeline and Madame Sylvia would have assumed. No, of all places, the door that the handler had brought her to was the one that led to the Female Trauma ward. The bulky man ignored the nonverbal question in her eyes, giving her a rough prod as he jerked his chin towards the double doors once more. Knowing he wouldn’t be telling her again, she passed through the doors, reluctantly looking about the ward for a sign of the doctor who had called for her.

Spotting him sequestered in a corner absorbed by what appeared to be charts in his hand, Alice quickly made her way to his side. When she was upon him she cleared her throat to catch his attention. “I don’t think you’re allowed to be here, Doctor,” she began with feigned sternness. It soon fell away as she joined him in his hiding place, leaning against the wall with a teasing smile. “What will you give me if I keep your secret?” she asked with playful ease, as if this scene was one they’d traversed a hundred times over. It didn’t matter that despite being in her typical uniform, her hair was loose and perfumed about her shoulders, her features polished by subtle brushstrokes and powder. It didn’t matter that her fingers itched to make sure the ribbon tired about her neck was secure, and most of all, it didn’t matter that they were in this cursed ward--or at least, that was what she was trying to tell herself.


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Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on April 19, 2020, 12:59:47 AM
“Nicholas,” Dr. Christopher Abbey Senior began patiently as his son fumed, pacing in spite of his cane and limp, the length of his elegantly decorated study.  His son wasn’t listening to him, however, but instead continuing on with his tirade as though his father hadn’t spoken at all.  The behaviour was unbecoming of Nicholas.  Emotionality and fits of rage were his older brother’s area of expertise. 

“We should call the police…” He prattled on.  “They will be able to conduct a most thorough investigation and find the fiend who did this…”

“Nicholas,” Dr. Abbey tried again.  The voice he spoke with was gentle and patient, yet his brown eyes were cold and narrowed into slits of stern indifference. 

“We can’t allow this sort of thing to go unpunished, the Abbeyshire is meant to be home to men of God…” There was a franticness climbing up his throat as he spoke.  It reminded Dr. Abbey of his eldest son.  It reminded him of his wife. 

“Nicholas…”

“He’s only a boy and yet…”

“Nicholas!”

At last, Dr. Abbey had lost his patience, barking sharply at his son.  Both men halted, their shared gaze a mirror image of surprise and horror.  As Dr. Abbey looked on at his precious son, the only thing within this wretched world that he truly loved, the ice melted from his gaze into something warmer, something more paternal in nature.  The expression into which his features twisted could have been mistaken for pity.  He took a breath and then paused, furrowing his brow and casting his line of sight to his son’s shoulder.  When Nicholas failed to notice the pointed way with which he stared, he let the words fall from his lips quietly. 

“Nicholas, you’ve ruined your shirt.” Dr. Abbey observed. 

The youngest Abbey son followed his father’s gaze to his shoulder where a handprint of crimson had turned muddy upon his clothes.  For a moment, Nicholas was left frozen, recounting the most recent events of his day to determine when such an assault was made upon the fine cottons of his blazer.  The realization dawned upon him and painted itself across his face as he muttered, “Dr. Tulip…” beneath his breath.  The doctor had still been wearing the gore of surgery upon her person when she had reached out a comforting hand to the shaken young man.  Was she so accustomed to the blood of innocents that she hadn’t noticed it upon her own hands?  Had Nicholas been so distracted by the circumstance of his practice that he hadn’t noticed the stain left behind by her affectionate touch? 

After a moment of stunned silence, Nicholas grunted in disgust as he moved quickly to peel the offending garment from his person.   Throwing the bloodied blazer onto the floor of his father’s study, Nicholas turned to the man who stood there so casually.  With anger in his voice he asked, “what is the purpose of the Female Trauma Ward?”

“I already told you, Nicholas…” Dr. Abbey began as he stepped around his desk and moved across the room.  “It is a Ward for our female patients, to provide them with privacy and discretion in their treatment.” As he spoke he circled his son, coming to stand before the bar at the rear of his study. 

“Right, that’s what you told me.” Nicholas agreed, turning to his father.  Dr. Abbey kept his back to his son as the bottles he jostled clinked together, selecting an expensive vintage and two glasses.  “So then, why was a male patient brought to that ward?”

“Dr. Tulip was the only surgeon on staff aside from yourself.” Dr. Abbey explained as he poured the aged bourbon into the two glass receptacles he had laid out.  “A simple conclusion would be that he was taken to the nearest doctor who could treat him.” He turned back around with a glass in each hand, offering one to his son.  Nicholas didn’t even bother to look down at the refreshment but instead kept his gaze held hard upon his father’s passive face.  Shrugging, Dr. Abbey placed the glass on the nearest surface before sipping from his own, returning to his desk.  “You’ve had a very trying day, why don’t you stay here tonight?” He suggested. 

“No.” Nicholas answered at once. 

“Nicholas…” Dr. Abbey started patiently, but his favoured son was interrupting him. 

“I don’t know why you’re still lying for her, but whatever it is you’re hiding from me, I’m going to figure it out eventually.”

“I’m sure you will.” Dr. Abbey answered calmly, seating himself once more at his desk.  Leaning back in the comfortable leather of his chair he continued to sip at his drink and watch his son.  “Good luck.” He added nonchalantly, lifting his glass as though the words were a toast made in his war-hero son’s honour. 

“Goodnight, father.” Nicholas said coldly before striding from the room, leaving Dr. Christopher Abbey Senior to his bourbon. 


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“I don’t think you’re allowed to be here, Doctor.”  The voice came from down the hallway and Nicholas turned to see Miss Alice approaching him.  She looked different than how he usually saw her.  Raven locks fell down her back instead of being wound in the tight knot in which she normally wore them.  Her delicate features were emphasized by subtle strokes of rouge, her cheeks dusted with powder.  “What will you give me if I keep your secret?” She asked coyly. 

Nicholas couldn’t help but smile playfully in return.  They had established an amicable repertoire, long hours spent at the orphanage and the pediatrics wing making them fast friends.   He liked her as well as he liked any of his fellow hospital staff or his carefully chosen Hands, but he also liked her a little more than just that.  She made him nervous in an exciting way instead of the dread-filled way to which he had grown so accustomed.  Thus it was with ease that he rose to meet her pleasant demeanor with one of his own.  With an impish grin he replied, “well, that depends on what price your discretion can be bought for.  After all, it was so good of you to offer to cover Dr. Tulip’s rounds tonight.” As he spoke he handed the charts over to Miss Alice.  The realization dawned on her as he watched her look over the amended schedule.  Indeed, he had given Dr. Tulip the night off and replaced her name with that of Miss Alice for the evening hours. 

“I’m sorry, Miss Alice.”  He said quietly, his voice taking a sudden and serious turn.  “I’m afraid I’ve put you in a compromising position, asking you to lie for me like this…” There was remorse upon his face now, the previous playfulness falling away to the wind like leaves in the fall.  “I just have to know what’s really going on.”

When her gaze returned to his, the expression she wore on her face was one he had never seen her display so openly in his presence.  Sure, he had noticed the sidelong glances, the passing twitch of her lips, but never like this.  “You’re surprised?”  He couldn’t help but remark, his own surprise obvious in his hushed tone. 

“Come now, Alice.  You’re a clever woman.  You must have noticed that something isn’t quite right here in the Abbeyshire.”  They held one another’s stare for a beat or two.  Only the distant hums and beeps of monitors throughout the ward filled the silence that stretched out between them.  “I have to know.” He told her, desperation touching upon his voice now.  “Will you help me?”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on May 02, 2020, 01:19:14 PM
She hadn’t known what to think or expect when her destination had revealed itself--or rather, she had stopped herself from extrapolating lest the dread overtake her. She barely managed to hide her feelings as her gaze travelled over the charts the young man handed to her, his words sounding rather far away. “I just have to know what’s really going on,” he insisted, something intense running through his tone. It was enough to make her meet his gaze, too soon to mask the confusion in her eyes. “You’re surprised?” he asked, sounding rather startled himself.

“Yes,” she answered, knowing that she couldn’t deny what he had already assessed. Of course, that wouldn’t prevent her from twisting the truth into something more advantageous. “Mostly that you would seek me out, instead of Doctor Tulip or your father. I don’t have much to do with the FT ward--”

“Come now, Alice. You’re a clever woman. You must have noticed that something isn’t quite right here in the Abbeyshire,” he reasoned seriously.

Had she been a woman with any less control, she would have burst into side-splitting, tear-inducing hysterical laughter. Not quite right with the Abbeyshire? Not quite right? Oh, if only he knew! If only he knew what festered in the heart of this despicable place! However, Alice knew how to hold back such reactions with convincing ease. She met his somber gaze without flinching, without as much as a twitch at the corner of her lips, and she was greeted with the eyes of an earnest man desperately fumbling in the dark for the elusive truth. “I have to know,” he said firmly. “Will you help me?”

For a heartbeat she was silent, wordlessly peering into his pleading eyes. When her lips finally parted, it was to heave a resigned sigh. “Of course I will,” she answered, glancing down to the chart in her hands. When she looked up again, however, the mischievous spark in her almond eyes had briefly returned. “What kind of friend would I be if I said no?” she remarked playfully, shooting him a rueful little smile. It was a precarious gamble to dare to claim that she and the young master of the Abbeyshire could be friends--even more so to presume that they already were--but tonight would be the night for such risks, it seemed. If anything, it would at least distract him from the reluctance with which she had forced herself to accept his plea for help.

Squaring her shoulders, she offered the young man another quirk of the lips, which came off more nervous than she would’ve liked. To him it might’ve seemed innocent enough, what with the amount of grief that might fall upon her if they should be found out, but she couldn’t have cared less about that. No, that wasn’t it at all. “Come on, then,” she breathed, turning and starting off towards the first wall of white, white curtains before he could distinguish anything more from her expression.

She had spent many years doing things that she reviled with a willing face, but that was a horror she had grown exceedingly used to like all of her fellow playthings. At times, a particular customer would require things that would shake even the most seasoned of the night time workers. Nicholas Abbey, as it was turning out, was one of these difficult types. Already she had tossed herself back into the horrid orphanage for a chance to get a little closer, and now, here she was, willingly embarking on a lovely frolic through another place steeped with ghosts.

The Female Trauma was always the same to her. It was the same as it had been the first night, seemingly endless white hallways with endless white curtains. The sounds were always the same. Delirious mutterings of drug-addled souls, the occasional wail or shriek, the cold beeping of the machines, the sobbing. The sobbing was the worst. It was always the worst.

She was going to be sick.

Many of the women were already asleep when they arrived at their bedsides--or at least, pretending to be. She understood the instinct well--the last thing one wanted when in this wretched place was to be asked questions and be treated as if they actually cared. A few were disturbed in their slumber, tossing and turning in the fitful tides of their dreams. “Lock the door...mam, lock the…Don’t let...” a young woman mumbled as they slid the curtain aside. Gretchen, the chart informed the two intruders.

The next woman was awake. She did not flinch when they pushed the curtain aside, didn’t say a thing. She only looked up at them with sullen eyes, hollow and black as the abyss, her gaze enough to burn holes through their heads. She was familiar in the way every one of the workers was to her. She’d seen her about, of course, but the look in those eyes was more than enough. Lyra, she noted silently to herself as they glanced over her chart, though she knew that the name would slip her mind the moment she left this horrid ward.

Despite never having had the medical training or education that the young doctor beside her had, it wasn’t difficult for Alice to put together the list of procedures, medications, and symptoms listed on her chart into a clear picture of what had happened to the poor creature slumped before them. Of course, this came from repeated personal experience and nothing more. That was the case for most of the charts they came across as they flitted solemnly from bed to bed, asking quiet questions to each girl who was awake and could be deigned to answer, which were far and few in between. Many simply stared at their sheets, terrified to raise their gaze to look upon the Abbey son, while others glared.

The tenth bed they approached appeared blissfully silent at first. “Flora,” she started to inform the doctor, “In recovery from--”  But just as they stopped by the foot of the metal cot, the young thing woke with a start, pretty brown eyes unfocused.

“Where..?” she began groggily. As her surroundings settled within her addled mind, however, her confusion drained away, swiftly filling up with pure panic. “Get away from me,” she blurted out frantically, attempting to claw herself up and away towards some escape. “You’re not taking my baby away, you’re not,” she babbled. Unfortunately, the drugs still kept her weak, weak enough for a simple hand at her shoulder to keep her at bay. “I don’t want money. I just want--”

“The procedure is already over,” Alice interrupted, her voice holding little more than a clinical weight.

“What? No, no,” Flora stammered, trying to fight through the fog of drugs. Soon enough it would all fall into place, the dull throbbing of a procedure carried out--and a horrible wail came from her thin frame as she doubled up, pretty fingers clutching at the belly that no longer housed the spark of life she had so treasured. She screamed and screamed, a creature swallowed whole with grief.

“Shut up!” a sharp, gravelly cry came from across the room, joined by a few other complaining voices. Though Alice refrained from joining in, merely standing by with a stony face, her own sentiments weren’t so different from the coarse shout that had gone up. She’d seen a few girls like her before--heard the occasional rumor, too, about how one had foolishly believed that she could escape their prison, only to be hunted down and dragged back to the Shire. She’d been such a fool once, but she would have never done so for the sake of some ill-begotten offspring. It was laughable. It was all laughable. The thought that they could escape, the thought that they could be whole again if only they could leave--the thought that they could be mother to a child and have some storybook ending. It was foolish and idiotic, and she’d accepted that a long time ago. Those who didn’t often had their hearts so thoroughly broken by hope that they didn’t last long, wasting away like overwatered plants.

As the bereaved mother continued in her tirade of loss, she glanced over to the young man. He was the doctor, after all. “Shall I get the sedatives?” she asked, sounding nothing but calm.
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on May 28, 2020, 03:49:24 PM
Dr. Nicholas Abbey watched in horror as revelation landed heavily upon the young woman before him, as it twisted her features along with the knife in her empty belly at which she grasped hopelessly.  The young doctor had seen a man gasping for breath with a hole in his chest so large you could see straight through it.  He had seen villages put to the torch and innocents dragged from their beds to be murdered en masse, left in the dirt.  The Chairman of the Abbeyshire Orphanage had seen bodies piled so high a man could watch the sun set over their stinking horizon.  Yet, in all his time upon the battlefields of war, he had never seen such misery as what lay broken and weeping before him now. 

“Shut up!” A voice barked from a neighbouring bed.

“Shall I get the sedatives?” Miss Alice asked. 

The voices all fell away into the background as he looked upon the young woman before him.  His feet carried him on staggered cane and limping stride as he approached her bedside.  Until now, he had lingered in the doorways and hidden himself behind the shadows of white curtains.  For most of them, his mere presence was nothing short of an insult, nothing less than an open threat.  This particular woman was no exception.  In spite of this, Dr. Nicholas Abbey could not help himself.  He brought himself before her, uttering her name softly upon his careful lips. 

“Flora?” He began solemnly. 

“You…” She muttered as dark eyes fell upon him.  “You!” The grief that had made her delirious sharpened into a sudden focus, as she sprung from her hospice bed and swung an offending hand at the young man before her.  He took the blow, flinching only slightly. 

“It’s alright.” Nick said, extending a halting hand to Alice as she took a step towards him.  “It’s alright…” He repeated, this time he said the words to the girl before him.  Flora.  Breathing heavy, with fire in her eyes, she cast one more nervous glance towards Alice before striking the Abbey-boy again, and then again.  Each swing came harder and faster than the last, growing more confident with each strike.  Her open palm slapped around his face and head before she curled her fingers into a fist and began landing blow after blow into his arms, his shoulder, his back.  The glasses were smacked from his face, a split in his lower lip and bruises lining his thin, fragile frame before at last he caught her hands. 

“Flora…” He repeated again.  As though her name were a magic-spell, the curse was broken and blinking away the fury from her gaze, her lips began to tremble as she brought her hands up to her face in horror. 

“Oh, what have I done?” She asked no one in particular, save for the darkness that surrounded them.  “Dr. Abbey… I’m so sorry…” She started shakily. 

“It’s alright.” The young man said again, as he righted his broken, crooked body to meet the eyes from which tears began falling freely.  “I’m sorry.” He told her.  “Flora, I’m so sorry…”

At last the young woman collapsed beneath the weight of her grief, a sob escaping her as she fell forward limply into Dr. Nicholas Abbey’s arms.  One hand held both their weight upon his cane while the other wrapped around her shoulders and held her head to his chest, her back heaving along with the sorrow that left her in gasps.  As Nick lifted his face from her curls he noticed that Alice no longer stood alone at the end of Flora’s hospice bed.  At the sound of the commotion, some of the other girls had left their white, curtained rooms to investigate.  They had lingered, made curious at the sight of an Abbey-boy willingly accepting a beating from a lowly household servant, then holding that same girl in his arms. 

“I’m sorry,” he told them, for he knew not what else to say.  “I didn’t know.”

“Well,” came the curt, unforgiving voice of one girl amidst the rest.  She was dark-featured like the others yet her malice stood out even among the misused girls who surrounded her, all wearing the same white, white hospital gowns.  “Now you do.” 


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The children of the Abbeyshire Orphanage filed into the Church, standing tall and righteous upon the highest point within the Shire.  The men who had built the cathedral in antiquity had believed that the One God had guided them to the place with divine intention.  They had built their place of worship and the accompanying abbey to house the men and women of God who had made the pilgrimage.  The individual who had given them refuge upon his land had been but a humble farmer in those days, the first Christopher in the long line from which the Chairman of the Abbeyshire Orphanage had been born.

The Chairman followed the children under his care into the Church, always the last to arrive, collecting the stragglers and redirecting them from their wandering distractions.  He helped them find their seats within the congregation, separating the noisier ones from each other and ensuring the quieter ones had all they required to enjoy the Sunday Service.  He had the luxury of taking his time with the little ones, reminding them of the rules and handing out the Holy Word of the One.  Those who could read would follow along and assist those who could not.  The children too young to understand the sermon were given coloured pencils and parchment to keep them busy, preventing them from disrupting those around them.  When he was finally finished settling the children Abbeyshire Orphanage into place, there was a seat waiting for him.  Nicholas Abbey found Miss Alice among the rows of young ones, as with the Sundays that had come before, there was a place at her side waiting for him. 

“Chairman, oh my!” Sister Beatrice exclaimed upon noticing the blemish that marred the young man’s face.  “Are you alright?” She asked in a hushed tone. 

“I am very well, Sister.” He said as he took his seat beside Miss Alice, amongst the rows of Abbeyshire children beneath the care of the Order of the Innocent.

“Oh…” Sister Beatrice muttered demurely, the curt tone coming from the warm-mannered man enough indication that the matter was not one open for discussion.  She handed off a copy of the Word of the One, the Book of the Many to Chairman Abbey who passed it along to Miss Alice beside him before holding his hand out for another expectantly.  “I’m sorry, Chairman…” Sister Beatrice began timidly.  “That is our last copy.”

“That’s alright, Sister.  Miss Alice and I will share.” Nicholas answered easily, lowering his hand into his lap and scooting himself closer to the Greenlandian girl at his side, leaning his shoulder into hers as he looked down at the open text in her lap. 

“You will?” Sister Beatrice asked, one blonde eyebrow quirking higher than the other. 

“Certainly,” the youngest Abbey son answered, his gaze flicking briefly up to the Sister who stood over them.  “After all, we’re friends.” He said the words as his eyes found those of the young woman at his side, sharing a secret smile between them. 

“Of course,” Sister Beatrice answered sweetly.  As she turned away from the pair and strode down the aisle to join her fellow Sisters, she cast one final gaze over her shoulder.  Whilst Chairman Abbey was engrossed in the Word of the One held out before him, the dangerous creature who sat alongside him met her narrowed, curious gaze with an even, knowing look of her own.  At once, Sister Beatrice’s mounting fears were confirmed.  She had him trapped in her snare. 

Silently, Sister Beatrice took her place among the other women wearing the habit of their given Order within the Church of St. Christopher.  Quietly, she uttered a prayer for the young Chairman, Nicholas Abbey. 

“May you see fit to bless him with wisdom and strength…” She whispered. 
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on May 30, 2020, 04:44:39 PM
She’d always disliked the Sunday service. As a child, it had been the experience of it, being made to sit still and pay attention, to keep her mouth shut and be a good little girl; it had been in those moments where she had never more felt like the Abbeyshire was succeeding in civilizing the barbarian. Of course, young Alice had always chafed against rules such as those. She’d been at the mercy of the sisters’ rods week after week, sometimes a mere warning smack on the knuckles for fidgeting, or something much more severe for times such as when she’d dared to shove the Word of the One off her lap to make a break for the door.

Well, she would be doing nothing of the sort anymore, she thought idly as Nicholas Abbey took his seat by her side, exchanging quiet smiles with the young man. The pretty blonde sister who came to pass out the Holy Word would get no such warmth from the girl, however. By now Alice was familiar enough with Sister Beatrice. She was lovely of face, and with her golden blonde hair and large eyes, she might have even rivaled the pure innocent beauty of Lucy, but she’d never been the sort to be taken by things like that. Alice only watched in detached silence as the sister apologized, revealing that the book currently laying neatly in her lap was the last one.

“That’s alright, Sister.  Miss Alice and I will share,” the younger Abbey son assured her.

“You will?” the sister remarked, clearly surprised--and though the words had come unexpectedly to her as well, Alice was not one to expend her attention on the blonde’s reaction and risk missing out on such a choice opportunity. Instead, she turned her body towards him accommodatingly as he leaned closer to her, her own response to Sister Beatrice’s question a nonverbal but defiant one.

“Certainly. After all, we’re friends,” Nicholas Abbey answered, catching her eye as his lips quirked into a smile meant only for her. Alice only smiled back slyly in response, the two sharing their secret smiles like children smuggling sweets.

The young sister only agreed demurely, as her kind was wont to do. She walked off as the sermon began, but Alice followed her slender figure with her eyes. When the pretty thing happened to turn, she was only met with her steady dark gaze, cool and unfaltering. It seemed to unsettle her, and the blonde was the first to look away and hurry off down the aisle.

What did the pious sister see when she looked upon her, Alice wondered. A threat? A black-hearted temptress with an even filthier soul, jaws open wide? Or perhaps she was simply pitying how defiled her soul was, knowing what her true profession was. That would’ve earned a hearty laugh from the raven-haired girl.

After all, it was notable that amongst the many sisters that were part of the order, young Sister Beatrice was a rare beauty--the only beauty, in fact--which was by no means a coincidence. It was known that pretty girls were never allowed to take the cloth, no matter how pious and devout they might be. Beatrice had simply won in a complicated lottery of genetics, saved from nighttime labor by the grace of an unbecoming appearance in childhood. Well, if she thought that she was somehow different from the rest of the working girls in the Abbeyshire, she was wrong. The Abbeyshire ruined everything it touched; nothing within its clutches was whole. Sister Beatrice might be somewhat unsullied, yes, but to what end?

Putting aside her jeering thoughts, Alice turned her gaze obediently down to the text she shared with the young man at her side. Using the action of turning the page in the book as an excuse, she leaned in a bit closer so that their sides brushed together, enough to sense the warm flesh underneath. After a fleeting moment she shifted back away, straightening up and trailing the droning voice reading the Word with a delicate finger. Her dislike of the Sunday service had changed in nature as she had grown older. Oh, the experience was as dull as ever, each sermon as repetitive and filled with needless flourishes as the one that came before it. If young Alice had disliked the sermons because she hadn’t understood what in the world they were trying to get across, as an adult, she disliked them because she did understand.

While she wasn’t unique in her distaste for the teachings that had been instilled in them since their ill-fated arrival to the Shire, it certainly didn’t mean that all the displaced children from the far-off lands that had been conquered by Britannica turned their backs on the One. Far from it, many took solace in His teachings, some becoming so devout as to dedicate their lives to it. Even amongst the youth of her homeland, quite a number had chosen such a path; Chryssa, in fact, would have been happy to live out her days in a sister’s habit if she’d been allowed it. Chryssa had liked Sunday services, actually read the Word, and prayed daily. In one of their talks, whispered in the dark in a tongue forbidden, the older girl had explained to her that she believed that The One was just another name for the Great Sky Tengyr. She had said that even if they were far away from their birthplace, torn from Aesse, Mother Earth, the sky still watched over them. They were not orphans.

Alice had found that daft. Tengyr was the sky above the steppe, the plains of their homeland. Tengyr was home. Tengyr was not a person, Tengyr did not speak or write books. She had told Chryssa as much, spoken witheringly in the mother tongue that had not yet faded from her mind. If the One really was Tengyr, He wouldn’t have let their home be destroyed. He would have left them all alone on the plains, instead of letting the Empire kill their families and bring them to this horrible place. In fact, whether it was Tengyr or the One, Alice had continued furiously, she would rather accept that she was an orphan than to call whatever creature that had allowed her to be orphaned in the first place Father.

Chryssa had only told her that she would understand when she grew older, even though she herself would forever remain frozen on the cusp of womanhood. Alice had grown older, older than when Chryssa had told her so--and what she understood now was still nothing like what the gentle girl had spoken of. Where Chryssa and a number of the doomed souls in the Shire might have found comfort, Alice had found nothing but the void.

Whether creators divine truly existed or not, there was no god she could claim as her own. The Great Sky Tengyr and Mother Earth Aesse, the forces her own parents had taught her about once upon a time, had proven either inept or blind in allowing their people to be butchered and taken away. Perhaps it was to be expected; they were powerful, but without paltry human things like emotions. Nature was powerful, it could be benevolent, but it could be equally cruel. It did not matter either way. Ripped from the plains she called home, she was cut off from Tengyr and Aesse, in a realm far from their reach. Her gaze trailed subtly to the poor boy she had deemed her revenge, the sides of their knees bumping together innocently. As for the One--well, even if he was exactly what all the sister claimed he was, she, a Grassblood whore with nothing left in her but a thirst for revenge, without a single soft or redeeming virtue, was sullied beyond repair.

They reached to flip the page at the same time, hands colliding, and they shared smothered snickers, half-apology, half-inside joke. Perhaps she would have it no other way, she thought as she smiled at the Abbey boy. All the better to drag him down along with her into the pit to which she would be condemned.


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Sitting at the elongated vanity, Evangeline impatiently tapped the powder from the puff, lips pressed together as she applied the fine white to her porcelain skin. It wasn’t difficult for the other girls to note her tense mood, and they naturally gave her as much as a berth as humanly possible on the crowded bench. However, when the door to the powder room opened and a certain Greenlandian girl entered, all obvious signs of impatience were tucked away as quickly as an offending accessory. Still, her impatience couldn’t remain completely hidden as Evangeline’s gaze met Alice’s dark eyes in the mirror with false surprise. “Alice, I almost thought you weren’t joining us tonight,” she smiled coyly, moving over in her seat to offer her space.

“Why Evie, are you confessing to missing me that badly?” the other girl retorted, continuing their usual tradition of verbal sparring. She was still dressed in her nurse’s uniform, having returned to a hospital shift after the Sunday service.

“You? Of course not,” Evangeline laughed. “I just, well...assumed you’d be off spending time with your special friend.”

“Alas, duty calls,” was all the dark-haired girl said in response, seemingly ignorant to the intense green gaze fixed upon her as she seated herself at the mirror to brush her hair out.

“I mean, the two of you made quite the picture at the service this morning,” she insisted. She made a show of nonchalantly dabbing on perfume, forcing herself to keep the sharp sting of jealousy from her voice. Not once had she ever been allowed to sit next to Lord Abbey, up on that balcony. Of course, that was to be expected of a man who already had a wife, and so Evangeline had forced herself to be content with her seat among the masses. That was the rightful place of any Abbey mistress--or at least, that was how it had been until now. “Why, sitting like two peas in a pod surrounded by little ones, you almost looked like a darling family!” she jabbed, keeping her voice light and teasing as if to speak in jest.

Now that seemed to catch her attention. Alice began to laugh, sounding thoroughly amused, but Evangeline was not to be so easily fooled. “Me, a doting mother and wife,” she remarked, rolling her eyes as she continued to snicker. “Can you imagine?”

Evangeline giggled along, but there was not a whit of merriment in her narrowed eyes.

Yes, she thought grimly. Yes, I can.

When the fetching strawberry-blonde had first taken interest in Alice, all the girls who flocked about Evangeline had found it strange. She was a capable nurse, that was to be sure, but she was unfriendly and cold, and had no interest in kowtowing to authority or status, nor did she provide favors to those who attempted to suck up to her. She was left alone by the other women--some feared her sharp tongue, while others ignored her, thinking her to be of no particular use.

Evangeline, however, had not clawed her way to the top by being like most women. She knew to never overlook a potential advantage, was never foolish enough to underestimate someone’s use or threat--and it had become very clear to her soon after encountering the other young woman that Alice was not one to be underestimated. She recognized a razor sharp mind at work, another predator in a flock of silly preening geese when she saw it. Not only that, for being such a keen mind, Alice had a peculiar quality that Evangeline had welcomed, though it was one she could never quite understand--the girl had no hunger, no ambition for power, for status, for anything, it seemed. In that way she had always been an enigma to her. When one knew what another desired, they became easy to predict, to manipulate, and with Alice, well--the closest thing she’d ever figured counted as a desire to the dark-haired girl was to have things running smoothly and to have work done correctly, all so that she could be left alone far away from other people and crying children.

So when Alice had suddenly turned her gaze to Nicholas Abbey, Evangeline hadn’t been concerned. In fact, she’d been ready to help her--after all, it was advantageous for her to have an ally with a modicum of power. Of course, she had never thought that her own power would be undermined by the other nurse. Now, the conniving girl saw that she had made a grave mistake--the very same one that she had known from the beginning to avoid.

She had underestimated Alice.

The door behind them opened, and in that moment, dread crept up her flawless back like a chill. Even before she turned to see Madame Sylvia standing there, even before she heard those horrible words falling from her thin lips, she knew. Somehow, she knew that it wasn’t she who was to be called away, but the dark-haired girl at her side, the girl she had believed held not an ounce of ambition for more.

“Come on now,” the madame was beckoning to Alice, but her gaze seemed to be on Evangeline. It was as if she could smell her fear, her very thoughts. Your time is up. Here is the new mistress to the Shire. With a quick goodbye Alice hurried after Madame Sylvia, her nurse’s white skirts swirling about her legs, and in that moment she looked to Evangeline nothing less than a maiden in bridal regalia, pacing down the aisle.


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Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on June 09, 2020, 03:18:08 PM
“Do you have them?”

Nicholas Abbey sat astride his clunky motorbike.  Once it had been shiny and new.  It wasn’t just frequent use that had aged the means of transport for the young Chairman but also the many modifications he had made throughout the mechanics and functionality of the machine itself.  He had always had a mind for the workings of machines but cared little for flashy aesthetics.  After using a high-powered torch of his own design to secure copper piping, he hadn’t bothered to smooth out the edges.  After bolting the straps for his weak leg into the siding, he hadn’t painted over the rusting fastens.  After modifying the engine, he hadn’t cared to investigate the noisy sputtering.  Nicholas had always believed in function over form.  This much was proven when Alice, standing before him at the steps of the Abbeyshire Hospital, lifted the white skirts of her uniform to reveal the utilitarian boots she now donned in place of the delicate flat laced shoes she typically wore. 

“Good.” He said with a satisfied smile.  “I was worried they wouldn’t fit.”  As he spoke, Nicholas lifted his helmet onto his head and began to fasten the straps under his chin.  Once they were tugged tight, he produced a second helmet from the cache in the rear seat and held it out for Miss Alice.  She looked surprised at first, as though she thought perhaps the young man were teasing her.  He couldn’t help but smile as her asking expression turned into one of delight.

“Well, come on then.” He encouraged, shaking the helmet he held out for her.  “We don’t have all night.” Tucking her hair behind her ears as she descended the stone steps leading to the hospital, she took the helmet from him.  Looking up at her from his seated position upon his motorbike, he reached up to help her with the straps beneath her chin before patting an inviting hand on the rear seat behind him.  Miss Alice gathered her skirts around herself as she swung one leg over the bike and positioned herself upon the passenger seat to his rear.

“Hold on.” Nicholas advised as he prodded at the switches at the front of his motorbike, before kicking up the stand and revving the engine to life.  As he lifted his strong leg from where it held the motorbike upright and tucked it into place, the wheels turned and surged them forward.  Miss Alice’s hands came to his hips, arms wrapping around his middle and Nicholas felt a curious warmth fill him up at her touch.  The smile lingered on his pleasant visage as his motorbike carried them away from the hospital, past the orphanage and the estate, following the Short Road through the Abbeyshire. 

The sun was setting behind the rolling hills of the shire, bathing the summer sky in a glow of oranges and pinks.  Nicholas Abbey had never found his home particularly beautiful.  It was only ever when he was driving away from it that he could find it in his heart to appreciate the spectacle that his ancestors had built.  The trees danced in the evening breeze while the village folk brought in their linens from the clotheslines outside.  The smell of a freshly served dinner wafted from every open window, candles being lit as the sun hid herself behind the horizon.  The dirt kicked up behind them as they traversed the Short Road through the shire, the engine of his motorbike sputtering and jolting with each bump and turn.  Nicholas didn’t mind, and it seemed that Alice didn’t either.  He felt the nurse who sat behind him pulling on his ribs, redistributing the weight as she leaned back.  From behind his brown, strapped goggles he watched her through his small rearview mirror.  Her eyes were closed, her head tilted back and what might have almost been a smile of sweet serenity was painted across her pretty face.  He had never seen her look like that before.  In fact, he was so distracted by the sight that he almost missed their turn past the monastery. 

Miss Alice straightened herself out and held a little tighter onto the Chairman who guided them upon this motorized stallion as he turned the handlebars to veer them off the road and onto the uneven, grassy terrain.  They were a ways into the trees before he finally brought his motorbike to a stop and used his good leg to kick out the stand before pulling the keys from the ignition.  Nicholas waited for Miss Alice to dismount from the rear seat, before pulling the helmet from his head and pocketing his keys into the brown, canvas service jacket from his time in the Imperial Forces that he wore when riding.  Stretching out his good leg, he reached along the side of his motorbike and unlatched his cane from where it rested, letting the piece fall into his waiting hand.  Once he had his cane upon solid ground, his own dismount from the motorbike became an easier task, though not without his usual awkward gait making it more laborious than Miss Alice’s agile swing of the leg.  When he stumbled, she was there to catch him with a gentle hand upon his elbow. 

“Thank you,” he told her, breathless and smiling shyly as he straightened himself.  He took care to tuck their helmets away neatly in the rear cache of the motorbike before giving her an encouraging nod of the head.  “This way,” he offered cryptically.  “Where we’re going is just ahead.” 

As they had done a hundred times before, he placed a hand upon her shoulder as they navigated the root-tangled, rocky ground surrounding the stream that flowed past the monastery.  They walked together in silence for a time, the only sound that echoed this far out from the shire was the rhythmic tolling of the bells from the Church of St. Christopher.  The clergymen and women who served the One God would be making their way, in orderly lines of soft-hued habits, to the abbey that housed them.  There they would pray over their evening meal before retiring while the rest of the shire would be toiling away into the night.  With the ringing of the bells giving melody to the symphony of the wind rustling through the trees, the music of the distant Abbeyshire served as the backdrop to their stroll along the stream. 

“When I was younger, I was a sad, pathetic little thing.” Nicholas said suddenly, interrupting the quiet they had cultivated between them with a story that sounded more like a confession.  “I was always crying.” He continued.  “Day in and day out.  My brother teased me mercilessly about it.  He was always stronger than I was, made of tougher stuff I suppose.”  Nicholas had to look to the ground beneath their feet as he spoke, mindful of each uneven surface upon which he placed his cane to hobble forth.  Miss Alice however, sure of foot and graceful in her stride, watched the man who held her shoulder.  There was both patience and curiosity lurking behind her features as she listened, but also a deeper knowing that Nicholas couldn’t quite place. 

“I used to try to find quiet places where I could cry without anyone around; the kitchens, the servants hall, the gardens…”  He went on, shame touching upon his voice even after so many years.  “I cried almost every day of my life, until trying to find a peaceful place to fit and fuss became a kind of adventure.  I found this place when I had two good legs, but I haven’t been back in years.  I’ve never taken anyone here before, but I can’t make it there anymore… at least, not on my own.”  They reached the edge of the stream, the bridge that connected the Short Road to the Long just past the monastery towering over them.  With his hand upon Alice’s shoulder, Nicholas used his cane to gesture to a collection of stones that differed from the rest.  They were smooth and pale, heavy steel rods jutting out haphazardly in places where reinforcement had given way to rubble.  Carved into the shape of a narrow rectangle that once served as a doorway, they stood hidden yet inviting. 

“That’s where we’re going.” Nicholas explained.  Letting his sunny smile spread across his face he fixed Miss Alice with a playful expression as he told her, “I must inform you that my old hideout has a strict ‘no girls allowed’ policy, but I’ll make an exception just this once.” As they shared a laugh between them like children swapping silly jokes, he stretched his crippled leg beneath him in preparation.

“Would you like to see it?” He asked.  At her affirming nod of the head his smile stretched even wider.  “Then let’s go.”

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The pathway to the opening was dangerous, the footing precarious.  As a young boy Nicholas had skipped his way across the rocks with ease.  Now, as a man without only one good leg to keep himself steady, the journey became a more treacherous affair.  Alice moved with all the agility and efficiency that could be expected from a brave young woman.  She was not the sort to grow faint in the face of heights or fearful each time an uneven boulder slipped out from under her booted feet.  She caught Nicholas by his jacket more than once, steadying him against the jagged wall of the stream.   She cried out only once, when they had nearly reached the opening within the rocks and Nicholas’ leg gave out.  Calling out his name as he slipped down the side of their sharp-stoned perch, her fingers missed the sleeve of his jacket as he fell.  He caught himself, but only just.  The mechanics of his cane hummed to life, a blue light pulsating down the length and fixing him into place by the magnetic pull emanating from the base.  Miss Alice seemed to hesitate for a moment, her attention tuned keenly onto the mysterious cane that sat firmly at an impossible angle, defying the physics of Nicholas’ fall. 

“Miss Alice,” he grunted.  “If you would please…” She moved into action at once, taking his hand and leaning her weight back, pulling him up until he could get his good leg beneath him.  His thin arms held fast onto his cane until at last he was upright and with the press of a button the blue glow faded and the whirring stopped short.   The momentum carried them forward, pitching them into the darkness of the opening as they fell on top of one another on ground that was suddenly smooth and flat. 

“Thank you,” he had said the words countless times as they moved slowly and carefully along the narrow ledge of the stream walls, but this one was spoken in breathless earnestness.  Had it not been for Alice, his strength would have given out and he would have tumbled headfirst into the shallow, rocky waters below.  It was a fall he likely would not have gotten up from.  “Thank you,” he said again as she rose and offered him a hand by which to stand. 

“It will be worth it, I promise.”  He told her as he righted himself and brushed the dirt and dust from his trousers. 

They walked a ways into the darkness, Nicholas now offering the guiding hand to Miss Alice as they moved forth blind into the cavernous passageway.  The Chairman offered her the quiet instruction of “wait here” as he stepped forward alone, navigating by memory to a small room with glass walls wherein he found the familiar handle of a large switch.  Flipping the rusty mechanism upward, having to throw his weight behind both hands, the chamber suddenly became illuminated by long tubes of faintly glowing light that blinked to life and buzzed quietly around them.   With a grin akin to an excited boy on Christmas morning, Nicholas stepped out from the glass booth and encouraged his companion forth eagerly. 

“I found this place in my second last year of elementary, before I went off to boarding school.” He explained in a hurried voice brimming with pride.  “It’s from the time of the Old Ones, before the Great War.”  The world has been naught but rubble and ash before the Empire of Britannica had set to rebuilding the civilization that had been destroyed.  Even the air had been poison in those days, when warring countries rained fire from the heavens down upon one another.  Nothing and no one survived from that time to remember the ways of the Old Ones, so the Empire had started new.  When considering the cathedrals and castles and strongholds that had been built after the Great War, the cities that had sprouted up from the debris of those that had fallen, the structures of the Old Ones seemed almost plain in nature.  Smooth, pale stone surrounded them, only a few sealed lines here and there separating the differing blocks from which this chamber had been carved.  Though some areas had caved in and lost their function, the chamber was still clearly square in shape.  Pillars spaced out in mathematically divided sections held the ceiling from which the tube-shaped lights glowed aloft. 

“I have searched every corner of this place and I’ve never been able to figure out what powers those lights.” Nicholas elaborated as he stepped further into his secret hideout.  “It’s not steam, or coal, but something else entirely.  I suppose that knowledge was lost to us along with everything else when the Great War began.” 

In the years since Nicholas had discovered this particular gem of antiquity, he had turned the hidden chamber into a workshop of sorts.  Tables were cluttered with machinery of every kind.  Blades and gears cluttered one surface while another was crowded with sawed off pipes and wires.  There was a corner where Nicholas had stripped the connecting chords that were wired to the curious lights overhead bare, tapping into the unseen energy source that illuminated the chamber.  Everything was coated in a thin layer of dust.  The last time that Nicholas had been in this chamber had been when both his legs were in perfect working order.  Time had done its work on this place as it had with all other ruins from the Old Ones.  They were their ancestors, yet they were too far beyond reach to understand.  The words painted onto the wall in yellow letters were of the Old Tongue, and though Nicholas understood them individually, they made no sense when strung together. 

Concourse B
No Overnight Parking

“Oh, look!” Nicholas exclaimed excitedly as he moved to one of the rudimentary work stations he had left untouched since having left for war.  “Do you know the pedal-powered shears that the gardeners use to trim the hedges?  This is the first one.” His hands were bigger now than they had been when he had designed the tool, holding aloft the prototype he had created in his youth. 

“And here, this was how I figured out the ventilation system for the new kitchens…” He went on.  “Oh, and this was my first bike…” Nicholas rushed to and fro around the chamber, acting every bit like a little boy showing a new friend all the secret toys within his hidden clubhouse.  As he stopped in front of a small blue bicycle, fixed with an engine and a frontal range lined with rotating blades, his expression became thoughtful.  “I was trying to make a plow that could be powered by steam, instead of pulled by the oxen.”  Gentle fingertips stroked along the jutting gears and bolts, copper fixtures fastened in place by whatever he had lying around at the time.  Though Nicholas Abbey had taken every possible opportunity to flee the Abbeyshire, he had unknowingly written his name into every nook and cranny of this dreaded place, just like the Abbeys who had come before him. 

“Once I found this place, I stopped crying and started building instead.”  Nicholas mused, looking about the chamber and all the projects he had left unfinished when he had left for medical school and then, not long after, war.  “It was always my little secret.”  Turning to Miss Alice he offered her a smile, not quite his usual grin of sunshine and sweetness but something more meaningful. 

“Now it can be ours.”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: asterin on June 12, 2020, 03:05:41 PM
She hadn’t been sure exactly what to expect when she’d been handed a pair of boots by Madame Sylvia on her way out. Indeed, even the Madame had looked as if she didn’t quite know what to make of it--possibly silently remarking to herself on how both the Abbey sons had peculiar tastes. The Greenlandian girl did not fail to find a bit of humor in the thought. Still, perhaps Alice had assumed somewhere in the back of her head that whatever was to be required of her tonight would be something unpleasant, going by the event of the previous night. What had laid in wait for her, however, had been the very opposite.

A thrill streaked through her as the motorbike sprang to life, and as they jerked into motion, her hands found his waist more out of instinct than anything else. Of course, she wasn’t one to be oblivious to the perfect excuse for long, and as the bike picked up speed, she leant forward to sit against him a little more snugly, her arms wrapped tight about his body. She didn’t fail to notice how he did not shy away from her touch, and a smirk flitted by her visage. Soon, however, the young woman found her attention drifting away from her sole purpose in spite of herself.

The Abbeyshire was bathed in the warm glory of a sunset; the sights they passed were as they always were, the estate that was both sprawling and yet nothing short of a cage for its inhabitants. While others might have admired the scenery, the quaint village life, the arching trees, or even the beautifully dyed expanse above, Alice chose to close her eyes to it all, lost to a different sensation. Leaning back, she allowed herself to be buffeted by the wind--it tugged at her, the skirts of her uniform, the tendrils of her hair--it swept over her, a feeling so achingly familiar, the taste of something she’d forgotten long ago. I remember you, the wind seemed to sing, I remember you, Yuuka, and oh, so did she.

She remembered the feeling of being on her father’s stallion, fingers tangled in the mane of the great black beast. The wind would catch in her hair, sweeping through her sleeves, begging to be given into--and she could almost recall the voice of her father scolding her when she'd inevitably let go to spread her arms wide like a bird ready to take flight. There had always been warm laughter seeped in his tone, even though he meant to be stern. As long as she could keep her eyes closed, she could cling a little longer to the stolen memory. A little longer, just a little longer, something within her pleaded, even as she knew that nothing good was ever allowed her for more than a fading moment.

The young woman begrudgingly opened her eyes as she felt them turn onto a different path, correcting her posture as the terrain grew rougher. They were off the main road now, heading into parts that were unknown to the girl who’d never been able to roam much farther than the heart of the Abbeyshire’s operations. It was in these remote woods that the younger Abbey son brought them to a stop, leading her deeper into the wild. She went along without a hint of fear, though had she thought him to be someone of less virtue, she would have half-expected him to be luring her off in order to leave her carcass for the scavengers. As they forged on, the distant toll of the bells reached her, and Alice hid a grimace. The nighttime Shire was open for business.

“When I was younger, I was a sad, pathetic little thing,” the young man she was assisting spoke abruptly, and she turned her gaze accommodatingly his way. “I was always crying, day in and day out.” Alice said nothing, though her demeanor was nothing less than that of a sympathetic listener as he went on to explain that he’d look for places to cry alone and undisturbed. While Nicholas Abbey spoke as if he was revealing an embarrassing secret, to Alice, this was hardly new information. She knew, of course. He’d been crying the first time she’d ever laid eyes on him, sobbing into lacy sleeves. She’d hated him immediately for it, for being so free to cry over what she imagined was the most perfectly privileged life, for being able to cry when she could not.

His expression was boyishly sweet as he gestured to his hideout in the distance, his words playful as he informed her that she’d be exempted from his ‘no girls’ policy, just this once. She laughed, watching the way his eyes crinkled and shone with a carefree light, the way his smile brightened as she indicated that she would very much like to see his secret haven. Yes, years ago, she’d despised him in the very moment she’d laid eyes on him, but regarding him now, Alice found little of the same vitriol she’d felt for him as a young girl. He was a pure soul, that much was clear to her--he was a good person, unlike every Abbey who had come before him, and she would ruin him for it, poor boy.

The climb to this so-called hideout had proved to be much more precarious than appearances would have indicated, and yet by the time the pair entered the darkened structure, her head was abuzz and her pulse was quick--not out of fear, but from the excitement of having flirted with danger. A breathless laugh tumbled out of her as she nodded to his instructions of ‘wait here.’ The rush of breath, however, would soon be retracted in an inhale of awe as the ceiling above flickered to life, bringing the space to a brightness more fit to daylight. The cave, it seemed, hadn’t been a cave at all, but a ruin from the days long gone by--something the young man was eager to explain and speculate about as she turned this way and that, her eyes roving the ancient structure from ceiling to floor in wonder.

She had never seen ruins such as these in the plains her family had roamed. Chryssa, who had been older than her when she’d been torn from her homeland, had told her that the plains and the steppe were free of such traces, though such ancient cities still lay slumbering underneath the earth in the far west and east of their borders. It had never been their way, from the time of the Five Sister Queens and even before them. Their people did not build stone walls and great castles to protect them, instead embracing the elements that had shaped them; their legacies lived through people, not houses. What would happen to that legacy now, it was hard to say.

“Oh, look!” came an elated cry, and Alice’s attention returned to the young man in her company within the fraction of a second. He was holding up a strangely familiar contraption, and her brows furrowed as she tried to figure out where she’d seen it before. Moreover, what were all the dust-covered tables for? “Do you know the pedal-powered shears that the gardeners use to trim the hedges?” he asked, to which she nodded dumbly. “This is the first one.”

The first one..?

She watched, struck uncharacteristically speechless as Nicholas Abbey excitedly rushed about the dusty corners, pointing out what turned out to be his projects, inventions and tools and the like. Drawn in by his indomitable energy, she made her way to his side, her sharp gaze missing not a single detail as he introduced each project.  “..You made all this?” she found herself saying, unable to hide the amazement from her voice as she drifted along with him from desk to desk and invention to invention. Not only that--as a child? There was little wonder now why he was such a gifted doctor. How could he not be?

They stopped in front of another strange machine, one which seemed to pull the young man into muttered contemplation. “I was trying to make a plow that could be powered by steam, instead of pulled by the oxen,” he explained thoughtfully, his touch gentle and almost affectionate as he ran his hands over the dust-covered mechanism. Alice cocked her head as she also regarded the bicycle attached to an engine, trying to picture it in the fields, but a much simpler picture had bubbled up in her imagination.

“Well, what if you just made a steam-powered ox to pull the plow?” she suggested, the words slipping easily out of her as the thought dawned on her. It wouldn’t be so different from her clockwork animals, just bigger and fixed to a proper engine. “It would take some sturdy steel and heavyweight gears, but the walk cycle shouldn’t be too complicated. The steam power would easily pull the load of two oxen, if not three.” So caught up in her theoretical idea was she that Alice didn’t realize her mistake until she turned to meet his gaze. Immediately, the expression that had been nonchalant stiffened with embarrassment, a rush of heat rising to her cheeks as she quickly turned away. “I mean, it’s probably a silly thought,” she hurriedly added, worrying her lip. “Oh, what’s this?” she asked, pointing at another unfinished project in the hopes of distracting him.

It took a good deal of time, but when the whimsical tour of his old workshop had ended, the youngest Abbey son stood at her side, his gaze surveying his beloved space. “Once I found this place, I stopped crying and started building instead,” he confessed to her. “It was always my little secret.” He turned to her and smiled, which she mirrored without missing a single beat--but her expression would soon change to surprise as he uttered his next words. “Now it can be ours.”

“Ours,” she echoed, something pleasant overtaking the surprise in her voice as she gazed up into his warm brown eyes. “I’d like that.”

The hours flew by yet again as they explored the secret hideout, Alice lending an attentive ear to his ideas as he explained what had gone into his finished projects and what had given him his inspiration. She played such a role to many customers in the past, for they could be rather talkative. However, unlike the drivel those men so often spouted, it wasn’t at all difficult to listen to Nicholas go on about his beloved inventions--in fact, if anything, it was perhaps the easiest conversation she’d had. She didn’t need to force herself to follow along, nor did her interest have to be play-acted, as she had swiftly gathered that his tools, while a great deal bigger and fancier, were not so different from the tools she used to craft her little trinkets.

When they finally stepped out of their shared secret, it was clear just how much time they’d spent within. The crescent moon was high in the sky, while the ink-blue sky shimmered with the stars. “Look,” she murmured, pointing at the sight. Eyes still fixed firmly on the celestial display, she sat down in the rubble without a care for her white skirts. How long had it been since she’d last seen the sky like this? Surely, she’d had plenty of occasions. After all, while she might have gone into work at sunset, she left at an hour late enough for the stars to be twinkling. Despite that, the sky here looked different, as if a piece of Tengyr had materialized over this ancient ruin. Here, the sky looked like the sky above their yurts, the same sky she had gazed up at with her brothers. There, she could see the Celestial Maiden and the Cowherd, there--she could make out the stars of the Five Sister Queens. Just like her mother had pointed to…

She swallowed, the child-like wonder that had momentarily washed over her fading quickly as reality filtered back in. This wasn’t time to be caught up in nostalgia for a life that had been ruined--ruined by soldiers, by the Empire, by the Abbeys. She glanced up at the visage of Nicholas Abbey. No, this was not the time for that at all, but something more important.

“Am I really the only person you’ve brought here?” Alice asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over them. At his affirmation, she went on, a mischievous twinkle in her dark eyes. “Does that mean I’m special?” At once, she let out a laugh, waving away her question with a seemingly good-natured hand before he could quite answer. “I’m just teasing,” the young woman assured him, looking back out to the darkened scenery spread before them. “Though...it’d be nice, to be special--I don’t think I’ve ever been special,” she went on, her tone light-hearted and yet all at once as contemplative as a girl knelt for a confessional. “Well, not to anyone who was good to me,” she added belatedly, before she could catch the words from slipping through her teeth. It didn’t matter, she told herself, taking the mistake into stride without a flinch. After all, that was her gambit, wasn’t it? Real skin turned into a mask, a mask inverted into skin, too authentic to separate from a lie.

“Thank you for bringing me here--for everything about tonight,” she told him, her arms looped casually about her knees. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive.” The dark-haired girl turned to the young doctor at her side once more, a rare radiant smile brightening her expression. “In fact, I…” she started, only to trail off into silence as her gaze met his star-lit eyes.

For a moment there was only stillness, but if the Abbey boy thought to ask her what the matter was, he wouldn’t get the chance. Leaning over and bridging the gap between them, she brought her lips against his, catching them in the full softness of her own mouth. Though the kiss was very much unlike the kind she had learned to give, sweet and innocent as a kiss could be, it was still meant to be a deadly snare--a noose about his darling neck. It was over as abruptly as it started, however, when Alice pulled away, her expression that of one who had been jolted back into their right senses. “I’m sorry,” she uttered immediately, her hands coming up before her apologetically. An embarrassed laugh left her as she ran her fingers through her raven tresses. “I’ve clearly forgotten myself. Could we--could you pretend that didn’t just happen right now?” she asked, her eyes flicking up to look up at him through her lashes, a shy smile complimenting her red cheeks. “Keep it a secret--but y’know, from yourself, too?”
Title: Re: Providence of the Broken [m]
Post by: Reigning King on July 05, 2020, 02:09:30 PM
Nicholas Abbey lay awake in his humble bed and stared up at the ceiling.   His glasses were on his night table, along with the book he had been reading, left folded open after he had turned off the light.  Since he was a boy he had always slept with the windows open.  The cool evening air and the silvery light from the crescent moon were his friends in the late hours.  If he closed his eyes, he could imagine he was anywhere.  Tonight however, his usual tricks didn’t work.  Each time he closed his eyes, he went to the same place.  Unlike the sleepless nights that had come before, it wasn’t a scary place or a lonely place that haunted him.  Instead it was a good place.  The only place his mind could think of no matter how hard he tried. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been special,” she had said.  “Well, not to anyone who was good to me.”

“You’re special to me,” he told her and truly, he meant it. 

His hand lifted from his side of its own accord, fingers coming to his lips with a featherlight touch.  It was almost as if he was afraid to wipe away the taste of her kiss, the memory of her lips gently pressed to his.  Closing his eyes, Nicholas returned once again to that moment beneath the stars.  Nothing in his life had ever come sweetly or gently, not without a secret serrated edge.  But Miss Alice, she was different.  Tonight was different.  For the first time in what seemed like ages, Nicholas himself felt different. 

She had asked him to forget her gesture, with bashful breathy laughs and a shyly averted gaze.  He had lied and told her that he would, but he couldn’t.  More than that, he didn’t want to.  The Abbeyshire, his home, had always been naught but strangling vines and stabbing barbs for her youngest son.  Yet, on the rare occasion, Nicholas would find a rose among the thorns.  Those flowers he clung to.  He couldn’t help it, they were always so few and far between.  But Miss Alice, well he would be seeing Miss Alice on the morrow.   

Smiling to himself like a little boy, Nicholas turned on his humble bed, curling into the sheets.  He had been unwilling to surrender to sleep, refusing to be parted with this warm feeling in his chest.  Then again, the sooner he went to sleep, the sooner the morning would come.  Then, the sooner he could see Miss Alice again.  For Nicholas Abbey however, the sleeplessness of his nights had only just begun. 

The sharp knocking at the door alerted the young doctor at once.  Having already been awake he sat upright in his bed, pausing briefly, as everyone does upon being disturbed during a conventionally peaceful hour.  When the knocks came again, this time faster and louder, the young man pulled back the covers and rose from his bed.  Collecting his glasses and securing them onto his face before flicking on the light to save him from groping in the dark for his cane, Nicholas reached for the door as the knocks began for a third time.  Swinging open the door to his simple quarters, the woman on the other side swung a fist into the air before catching herself and casting her gaze downward. 

“Chairman Abbey, I’m sorry to disturb you like this,” her voice came, hushed and panicked. 

“Sister Beatrice, what are you…” Nicholas Abbey wasn’t given the chance to remark upon the fact that the Sister of the Church of Saint Christopher stood before him in naught but her nightdress and a cloak.  He was far too distracted by the sight of the familiar little girl at her side. 

“Helen?” He muttered, reeling to put together the pieces of the present circumstance.  “It’s the middle of the night, Sister.” Nicholas continued, turning his attention back to the pale-haired woman before him.  “Why have you pulled Helen from her bed?”

“I had a nightmare.” Helen Blue supplied quickly. 

“You had a nightmare?” The Chairman of the orphanage repeated, his gaze now turned to one of its children with a raised brow.

“Please don’t be upset with Sister Beatrice.” Helen began, her voice becoming frantic.  “I had a nightmare and I couldn’t sleep, so I begged Sister Beatrice to come see you.”  As she spoke, Nicholas Abbey lowered himself before her onto his good knee, his hand gripping the cane beside him tight.  He put his other hand upon her shoulder and gave the muscle a gentle, comforting squeeze. 

“I’m not upset with Sister Beatrice,” he explained calmly, which made the little girl before him exhale with relief.  “But, why did you want to see me?” He asked. 

“I just…” Pausing she flicked her gaze to the Sister at her side before looking back at the Chairman who crouched in front of her.  “I’m scared and I don’t feel safe when you aren’t around.”

There was a beat of silence, then two before Nicholas’ stern expression gave way to a soft smile.  With a pat upon her shoulder he told her, “alright.”

As he rose from his crouched position, Helen Blue stepped forward to wrap her arms around his middle. The lurch threw his balance but she clung to him tight enough to hold him up straight all on her own.  In a breathless, muffled voice she said, “thank you,” into his stomach.  The way she gasped after getting the words out made it sound like she might be crying. 

“Thank you, Chairman.” Sister Beatrice said, directing the gaze of the young man whose not-sleep she had disturbed back to her. 

“Yes, well let’s not make a habit out of this, alright?” He answered, having a hard time taking a scolding tone when a crying little girl held onto him as fiercely as he had held onto his cane when falling into the river hours ago.  “And we’ll have to speak tomorrow about this,” he added.

“Of course.” Sister Beatrice answered, nodding with humility as she backed away.  “Thank you, Chairman. Truly it is the One God’s work that you do.” The sentiment perplexed the young man who stood in the open doorway, caught in the middle of a situation he didn’t understand.  “Thank you,” she offered one last time before hurrying down the dark hallways of the hospital residence.

The One God’s work? He couldn’t help but wonder.  Over a nightmare? Such contemplations would have to wait until there were less pressing matters to attend to. 

“Alright, come on then.” He said to Helen Blue as he patted her back, ushering her inside his small, quaint apartments.  Nicholas Abbey guided the little girl to his bed and sat her upon the edge as he hobbled his way to the closet on the opposite wall.  She sat in silence as he pulled out the cot from where it was stored along with a few extra blankets to begin setting up an impromptu bed. 

“So,” he began in the quiet of the late hours.  “What was this nightmare you had?” He asked her.

“Well,” she started before stopping, biting at her lip and looking towards the wall.  “I was asleep, and then someone came into my room and pulled me from my bed…”

“Who?” Nicholas asked.  “Was it a monster?”

“Yeah,” she answered, albeit without much conviction.  “It was a monster.”

“And why did this monster pull you from your bed?” Nicholas inquired further as he pressed his weight against the cot to test it before pivoting on his good leg to reach for the spare sheets. 

“He was going to take me somewhere.” Helen replied in a quiet voice, her gaze having turned to the hands that fidgeted in her lap. 

“Where?” Nicholas asked carefully. 

“Somewhere I didn’t want to go.” She whispered. 

“Well,” the Chairman of the Abbeyshire orphanage began, finishing with the cot and lowering himself onto it so that he sat across from the small, scared girl before him.  “You’re safe now.  I’m going to be right here, so no one is going to be able to get to you without going through me first, alright?” His assurances brought a tiny wrinkle to her delicate brow and she lifted her gaze to meet his. 

“I thought I was sleeping there,” she mused quietly, pointing to the cot upon which the Chairman sat. 

“Oh no,” he began as he rose from his seated position, heaving himself up with the help of his cane.  “You’ve had a hard night, you get the big bed.” The blond haired man told her. 

“Really?” She asked, her previously shaken demeanor replaced with one of delighted surprise. 

“Really,” he affirmed as he stepped forward to pull back the sheets.  “Now, go on.  Get yourself tucked in.” She scooted herself beneath the plush covers, wiggling into the soft mattress as the Chairman lowered the covers over her and brought them up to her chin.  “Is that better?” He asked.  The little girl beneath him nodded against the sheets that cradled her face.  “You’re safe now, alright?  It was only a dream.”

She pulled a face at his words but the moment passed as quickly as it came as she settled in, uttering a soft, “goodnight, Doctor Abbey.”

“Goodnight, Helen Blue.” He whispered back. 

(http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_jIOeJAQ2Ycw/TTPnvRbBw_I/AAAAAAAAJtI/KMICyqyLB0U/s1600/Post%2Bdivider%2B1.png)

Almost done.  Any minute now he would be done shelving these stupid, non-sensical children’s books that the airhead doctor who haunted his every waking moment had ordered.  Just a few more, and they would be on the shelves.  The moment they were properly arranged in their neat, alphabetical lines he would be headed straight for the door.  He wouldn’t even bother to return the cart.  Let one of the other Hands do it, one of the fools who saw their new position as a gift and not a burden.  Dashielle carried more than enough weight for all of them on his shoulders. 

The instant that the last book had slid so tidy into place, Dashielle’s quick feet carried him past the stacks and straight for the door.  It was a miracle that he’d made it through the morning without the four-eyed idiot happening upon him and cornering him into some conversation or another about his thoughts and feelings or worst of all his non-existent dreams.  There was truly nothing worse than when the bastard took a sincere interest in him.  It would be so much easier if he could bring himself to hate the man as much as he hated the silver spoon with which he had been handed all that any one person could ever want from life. 

“Ah, Helen Oak,” came the all too familiar voice ringing out like a song and echoing into every corner of the room.  “How are you today?”

Shit.

At the sound of the Chairman’s voice, Dashielle slunk himself behind the nearest shelf.  He was quick, having dived low fast enough that the young doctor must have just missed the sight of the top of his head by a fraction of a second.  Frustration beyond comprehension consumed the handsome orderly as he reigned in his breathing and hid from the kindly doctor like prey from a wolf.  He had to get out of here.  He had to…

“Actually, it’s Helen Banana now, I think.” The little girl answered him matter-of-factly. 

“Helen Banana,” the Chairman repeated, testing the name upon his tongue.  “It does have a certain ring to it.”

“Yeah,” the little girl said quickly, rushing to play what the Hands had begun referring to as the name game with the man who had started the time consuming endeavor.  “And it’s really pretty, in the picture it has leaves that go like this,” she paused, likely making some obscure gesture with her hands and arms to illustrate her thoughts.  “And they come right out of the top.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever had a banana.” Doctor Abbey said back, easily carrying out a silly conversation with a silly little girl like the silly man that he was. 

“Me either.” Helen Banana said back.  “Can we get some?” She asked, hopeful. 

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Nicholas Abbey began, always finding an easy way to explain privilege to the underprivileged children in his care. “They only grow in a few places and those places are very far from here.  They’re very expensive.”

“Oh,” the little girl conceded, disappointment in her small voice.

“What about plantain?” He asked her. 

“Plantain is a pretty name, but Sister Eunice says I have to keep the Helen bit.” Helen Banana-Oak-Whatever explained stupidly in that confident way that children so often did. 

“No, a plantain is a kind of fruit.  It’s like a banana but not a banana.”

“So, it’s a banana?”

“No, it’s a plantain.”

“Like a kind of banana?”

“Well, not really, you see… oh — Dash!” The orderly had been attempting to slip past the Chairman as he discussed fruits with the little girl that had only been able to temporarily occupy his attention.  “There you are, I’ve been… what are you doing on the floor?”

“Oh, I — I thought I dropped something.” The brunette answered offhandedly as he rose to his full height, dragging a hand through his messy locks in anxiousness.  “Did you need something?”

“Yes, I’ve been looking for you.” As he spoke, Nicholas Abbey gestured towards the doors.  It was the universal indication that Dashielle had come to understand meant he wanted to speak beyond the prying ears of children.

Shit.

“I’ll be back in a bit, Helen Banana.” The Chairman said, excusing himself politely from the orphan he had been entertaining. 

“Helen Plantain.” She corrected with a small finger pointed in the air, as matter-of-fact as when she had done it the first time. 

“We’ll talk about it.” Nicholas added sweetly over his shoulder as he followed Dashielle so casually out of the very room he had been attempting to escape. 

Pulling his hands through his hair again, he let out a misplaced sigh followed by an involuntary nervous laugh before clearing his throat and crossing his arms.  Forcing himself to meet Doctor Nicholas Abbey’s gaze he shrugged in what he hoped appeared to be a nonchalant manner as he asked, “so what is it?”

“Have you seen Sister Beatrice?” The Chairman asked. 

Shit.

“Uh, no, not today, no.” He answered quickly.  Perhaps too quickly.  “Why do you ask?” He ventured cautiously. 

“I’ve been looking for her all day and I can’t seem to find her.” Chairman Abbey mused, shifting his weight beneath his cane and pushing his glasses up his nose.  “I had to ask Sister Penelope to lead study because she didn’t show up and she never misses lessons with the children.” There was concern furrowing his blond brow and in spite of himself, Dashielle couldn’t help the urge he felt to quell that pain of worry for the young man standing before him. 

“Well, maybe she’s busy at the Church.” He offered. 

“No, I already checked there.” Nicholas replied, easily batting aside the only excuse Dashielle had in his repertoire as if he hadn’t spent all morning trying to come up with a better one.  “I really need to speak with her,” he went on before lifting his thoughtful gaze to the orderly with whom he spoke.  Pausing, the concern on his face seemed to change not only shape, but also direction.  “Dash, are you okay?” He asked. 

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Dashielle said at once. 

“You’re sweating.” The Chairman pointed out.  “Are you feeling ill?” As he asked the question, he did as all doctors do, reaching out a back-turned hand to press against his forehead.  Dashielle managed to expertly dodge the gentle gesture, ducking out from under his extended arm.

“I’m fine,” he said again.  “I’m fine, I just… I just didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Me either.” Nicholas spoke out of the corner of his mouth with that friendly half-smile that so often tricked Dashielle into an hour spent sitting in shade talking too much about too much.  No, he was not going to ask Nicholas what had kept him up.  No, he was not going to bend a listening ear to the stupid man who had treated him as nothing short of an equal from the first.  He already knew enough.  He already knew too much. 

“I should uh, I’m just going to go rest for a while.” Dashielle stuttered, gesturing awkwardly down the hall towards his intended path of flight.

“Yes, of course.” The Chairman said, nodding and even bringing a kind smile to his face.  “If you see Sister Beatrice, will you let me know?” He asked.

“Sure…” Dashielle uttered, quiet and clipped. 

“I hope you feel better.” The young doctor added tenderly, patting a hand against the orderly’s strong arm.

“Thanks, Nick.” Dashielle offered in return as he watched the blond haired man turn from him and return to the little girl who sat in wait amongst the stacks, a book about trees open before her.  In all his months working at the orphanage and all his years living there, he had never flown so fast from the wretched place as he did now. 

Finding a secluded corner in the shade behind the Abbeyshire Orphanage, Dashielle pressed his hands against the weathered stone and took a moment to catch his breath and collect his thoughts.  The thoughts he collected, unfortunately, were the very thoughts he was struggling to keep himself from thinking of.  With a spin he pressed his back to the wall and slid down its length until he was sat in the dirt.  Lifting his knees and resting his head within his arms he willed away the guilt that ate through his stomach as it rolled.  Dashielle had never been good at lying, not even to himself. 

“Do you have any idea the lengths I had to go to keep my clients happy last night?” She had raged at him from within her red velvet rooms.  “When someone shows up with a very specific request we do our best to accommodate that request as quickly as possible,” as she had spoken she gestured with her hands, making the smoke rising from the end of her cigarette spread around the room. 

“A very young request.” Dashielle had corrected, unable to stopper his insolence even as a boy, even as a man, even knowing the repercussions. 

“Let me remind you how this works,” Lady Abbey had stepped towards him then, pinching her cigarette between her lips as she snatched and stretched out his arm, lifting his shirt sleeve.  “You are my eyes, and you were on the evening shift.” She had explained as she plucked her cigarette between her fingers once more, though still holding his arm with her other hand.  “We know the girl slipped away from the Handlers but we don’t know how she made it to the hospital residence, so let me ask you again…” Pulling the cigarette from her lips after a long drag, she held the burning end over the vulnerable flesh just below the crook of his elbow.  “Who else was there that night?” She had asked and when he had hesitated to answer, she hadn’t hesitated to press the burning cigarette into his arm. 

“Sister Beatrice!” He had cried out.   When she had let him go he flinched away from her, holding his arm to his chest.  “I saw Sister Beatrice there but look, she wouldn’t be stupid enough to…”

“Thank you, Dashielle.” Lady Lucretia Abbey had said quickly and sternly, gesturing to him with a dismissive hand.  “You can go, now.”

Sitting in the shade behind the orphanage, Dashielle turned over his arm and lifted the sleeve of his shirt to inspect the tender, pink burn.  It had already started to heal, as he had expected.  All the burns she had given him healed quicker and quicker over the years.  He had endured her and he had fooled himself into thinking it had made him stronger.  Yet, as he touched at the delicate flesh, he had never felt so weak.  As a lump caught in his throat he pressed down on the burn, digging in his nails and twisting in his own anguish.  He deserved it, after all.  He deserved worse. 

The thing that hurt the most, that twisted worse than his nails and burned worse than cigarettes, was that he actually liked Nick.  It would have been so much easier if Nicholas Abbey had been all, or even any, of the things that Dashielle tried to convince himself that he was.  Yet, he wasn’t.  Not even close.  That hurt worse and made it all so much harder than Dashielle had thought it would be. 

“Shit.” He muttered to himself.