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Old 06-26-2012, 04:06 AM   #1
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The Sojourn of Cortland (semi-closed, PM if interested)

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course...

Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea...

Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will—sing for our time too.



On Monday, July 9th, 2046, the bombs fell. For some, it was their first day back after a long 4th of July weekend. For others, it was the first full week after a broken one to celebrate the American Independence Day. And for a full 2/3rds of the population, they never had any idea that a new war had started. They simply perished in the blasts, the fires and radiation quickly killing those that didn't die from the initial impact.

Humanity numbered over 9 billion when the hot July day dawned on the United States. After the bombs had been flung, others fired back shortly thereafter in defense and counter-attack, and by the time all fell quiet deep into August, most of the great cities of the world were in ruins, and the total population of the globe had fallen below 4 billion for the first time since the 1970's. Where once stood landmarks, centers of commerce and medicine and technological innovation was now despair and destruction, mass graveyards that may never again be inhabited by humanity.

Economies quickly collapsed, and as summer turned to fall crippled governments were quickly overthrown by the remaining citizens. Some, more than once. In countries that were not quite First World to begin with, the lifespan of a given country's leader could be measured in days, not years. In virtually every country on earth, those that were in power when the bombs fell were soon as dead as those they dropped bombs on, and the true story of who-started-what was quickly lost to the darkness of death and time.

At first, food and water became the biggest problem faced by most. Huge swaths of farm land and significant sources of water had been irradiated, leaving only the desperate or unaware to try and consume anything that came from either. They died, perhaps, the worst death possible since the beginning of the Last Great War. As the winter of 2046 set in, it quickly became apparent that humanity would have another obstacle to overcome: a nuclear winter.

The Last Great War became the gift that kept on giving as the globe was effectively gripped in the freezing fist of a new Ice Age. For most of the US, it was well into June before water flowed freely again. The first winter sent the global population below 3 million for the first time since the 1950's. With electricity relegated to something seen only in the form of lightning, people quickly returned to a frontier-like lifestyle, using wood fires and animal skins to protect against the cold, and raising their own crops and animals as best they could. Water quickly became more scarce as the effects of the nuclear winter ended the vast majority of the rainfall that fell on the land, turning large stretches of land into icy deserts.

Money only had value as paper. Clean, drinkable water was quickly the most valuable thing on the planet, something that could be exchanged in any country, with a person of any language. Edible, unspoiled, nourishing food was a very close second, and often one who had enough of one was quite low on the other, making bartering the new global economy. Gangs of bandits formed quickly in the wake of this new economy, criminals working together (though, often, betraying each other not long after) to steal from those that had anything that would help them survive just a bit longer.

As social creatures tend to do, humanity began to form into groups again, and soon small cities were forming, built entirely by hand. Small societies began to form, often completely isolated from the outside world, and overtime new religions and customs evolved, each with a twist on them unique to their particular region.

By the time the remaining population of the world was on 2048's doorstep, some semblance of order had returned to the world. Bandits still roamed, often unchecked by any form of law enforcement, and coups overthrowing governments were still a common occurrence in many parts of the world. But people still fell in love, had children, and raised families. Life found a way. It resembled the life of those that had lived in the earlier half of the 21st Century in only small ways, but somehow people were able to find tiny slivers of peace and, though more rare, moments of real joy. People still died, quite often in fact, whether by bandits or starvation or dehydration or, in the most tragic cases, of radiation poisoning. The world was still dangerous and ugly.

Humanity persevered.
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Old 06-29-2012, 07:03 PM   #2
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Born three years after the bombs fell, Cortland Deschain was unaware of what the world was like before. As became somewhat common in the years after the Last Great War, Cortland's mother died in childbirth, and outside of rare descriptions given by his father he never had a hint of what his mother looked like.

Raised entirely by his father, they lived on a small piece of land in mid-Georgia, where they did their best to grow and hunt enough food to survive from season to season. Either through pure survival instincts or some luck of genetics, Cort turned out to be a rather skilled hunter and was routinely bringing home more game than his father by the age of 10. This development freed his father to remain home while his son went out hunting, allowing him to tend to their garden and keep watch over their land, though even they were remote enough to successfully avoid most bandits by simple location alone.

The steady influx of protein and a generally well-balanced diet, along with plenty of physical activity, helped Cortland beat the odds and grow to be a strong 6'4", an outlier among others born at the time. By 16 he'd fully taken over the hunting and, when not away obtaining food, kept watch over the land as well. The life was a hard one, despite the surprisingly plentiful nature of their food, leading Cort's father to be an arthritic, increasingly frail old man before he'd even reached the age of 50.

Good fortune had held out for them for, perhaps, far longer than it should've, and like all good things it, too, came to an end. As both men slept in their small, two-room cabin, the land was set upon by a group far larger than one Cort or his father had ever been faced with before. Despite fighting them with all his might, it was quickly apparent that there were simply too many for him to handle. Bloody and battered, he barely escaped into the woods with his life and the few clothes on his back. His father was not so lucky.

His luck perhaps not evaporating entirely, Cort was able to make it to a small grouping of roughly-built log cabins before losing consciousness. He woke three days later, dehydrated, a little undernourished, and with permanent scars across his chest and along his left cheek, but with no apparent life-threatening injuries. A girl, not much younger than him it seemed, was sitting by his bed when he woke, and had apparently been tasked with keeping watch over him while he slept. Perhaps it was the fact that she was the first thing he saw upon waking, perhaps it was simply due to the lack of women in his life up to this point, but she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. He had no idea the concept of love at first sight even existed, had never even heard the term before, but if he had it would've been exactly how he described that moment.

In the days that followed, she spent as much time with him as possible. Through quiet conversations whenever alone, they told each other as much about themselves as they could. How long after the Last Great War they were born - that was how time was measured now, virtually no one was sure of the exact date or year anymore - the various trials and tribulations involved in growing up on a battered, broken continent. Just over a week after he'd arrived in their little village, Cortland laid with a woman for the first time. It was the only chance they'd have to be together for years to come, though neither of them knew it at the time.
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Old 06-29-2012, 08:20 PM   #3
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Upon healing up, Cort tried to repay them as much as possible, bringing in more game than they'd seen in a significant time. It quickly became apparent, however, that their meager source of water could not support another person, and especially a fully grown and active one at that, and the mutual decision was made that he must leave. He didn't want to leave her, but he couldn't possibly bring himself to put her at anymore risk than she already was, so this was the only path he saw. In their last stolen moment together, he promised her that somehow, someway he would return for her.

Cort spend more than six months in the wilderness, hunting for food, filling waterskins whenever he found a source that seemed safe, and occasionally even relying on the kindness of strangers to help him out. By the time he stumbled upon the caravan under attack, he was in the hills of southwestern Tennessee, though he never knew it as such.

The small group of men, there appeared to be five in total, seemed to be wandering traders of some kind. The three horses with them were all loaded with supplies, not a single one wearing a saddle, and by the look of the wear on the men's shoes they did far more walking than riding. Now, however, whether man or beast it was all confused shuffling and urgent steps to and fro, trying desperately to fight off the small band of attackers that had set upon them, all of them armed better than the merchants they had set upon.

Within two minutes, the attack was over. The attackers, all of them starving men with a raving desperation in their eyes, had no idea Cort was in the trees, bow in hand. Even when the first one took an arrow in the neck, severing his jugular and washing the hooves of the stamping horses in his life, none of the attackers realized someone else was nearby. Another arrow sprung from the trees, catching a second bandit in the base of the skull and ending his life before his brain even had time to process the pain signal of the piercing arrow.

The momentary confusion that overcame the remaining two allowed the merchants the opportunity they needed, and they were dispatched with quick stabs of the short knives the merchants carried. Once Cort revealed himself from the trees, the men were only too happy to offer him food and water and, shortly thereafter, a job with them. They clearly needed more protection than they had now, and anything he might need that couldn't be provided by an animal or what little he could forage for they'd almost certainly have. It was a symbiotic relationship that Cort accepted with little hesitation.

He spent more than a year with the group, his imposing presence often enough to stop any skirmishes before they began, but he was not opposed to spilling blood if the situation warranted it. By the time they made their way into what used to be central Wyoming, Cort had left over 30 bodies laying in the path behind them, and killing was now second nature to him. It was not the life he longed for, though, and he'd just begun to discuss turning back, returning to the girl he loved, when they came upon... Her.

The sound of flowing water attracted them to the area, the possibility of filing their skins with water and letting their horses drink freely far too tempting to resist. The area seemed nearly to be an oasis, lush green plant life, clear flowing water, and the tracks of more than a few animals that could provide them with good meat. They each drank deeply from the spring, ate their fill of leftover provisions with the knowledge that they could hunt for more in the morning, and then bedded down for the night.

When he woke the next morning, Cort found himself entirely alone. The men, the horses, the supplies, all was gone virtually without a trace. It didn't seem as if there had been an attack, the tracks in the soft ground were not the confused mess you would expect when coming on the scene of a fight after it had occurred, but there was still no discernible reason for them to be gone. If it weren't for the foot- and hoofprints he still saw, Cort might believe he had dreamed the entire experience.

As he stood near the spot where he'd slept, staring with confusion at the ground where his companions had laid when he last saw them, he felt the strange prickle on the back of his neck that seemed to indicate someone was watching him. He felt entirely naked, his bow and quiver of arrows gone along with everything else he wasn't wearing on his person, and for only the second time in his life Cort felt he might have to run, perhaps leaving yet more people behind to die.

A sound in the tall grass behind him caused him to whir around on his heels, hands balling into fists as he spun, ready to defend himself bare-handed if necessary. Instead, he found himself staring at a woman who seemed too beautiful to be true in this blasted out, broken world, even despite their current lush surroundings. His hands relaxed the instant he saw her, the tension draining from his body despite the quiet objection that sounded itself somewhere deep in his mind, and he pushed his long, unkempt dark hair out of his face, blue-green eyes transfixed on the woman who seemed to have appeared from thin air.

"I..." his voice came out hoarse, his throat suddenly dry, and he licked his lips and swallowed, surprised to find himself nervous before her. "I apologize if I'm trespassing... I can't seem to find my companions."
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:26 AM   #4
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Ethereal. There was no other word that seemed to suit better. She had come into the world at a harsh, angry, ugly time. People were still struggling to survive, let alone rebuild. It had been three years after the bombs fell, creating the worst destruction mankind could have imagined, that Calypso graced the harshness of mankind’s stubbornness and ugliness, with her presence.

She had been a beautiful infant and that beauty was simply enhanced over the years as she grew up. Calypso never outgrew that etherealness that clung to her from the first breath she drew. Her parents, afraid that the harsh ways this new growing world presented, secreted Calypso away, in the hopes of keeping her safe. Her father carved out a home for them in a small valley surrounded by craggy hills.

Calypso had a gift. She could make things grow. Seed had been hard to come by, but somehow, her father managed it. One day, she came to her father and bid him to dig in the places she pointed out. Unable to deny her anything, he did and water gushed to the surface. They harnessed it, guided it, until their small oasis flourished. The bounty of water and green lands brought the weary animals.

Over the years, a few men found their way to the home Calypso and her family shared. Some disappeared. She never knew how or why, only that one day they were there and the next, not. Some, those that caught her eye, she secreted away from her father. Those were glorious times. Those men could not keep their hands to themselves and nor did she wish them too. Calypso found she enjoyed the attentions of men.

The one fact of life that never changed was that mankind lived and mankind died. The natural circle of living. It claimed her father first and not long after, her mother followed. The first few years without them was almost unbearable. Calypso eventually adjusted. The animals of her little oasis became her companions but she longed for more.

One day, she stood outside the home her father had built, staring off toward the far end of the small valley. Her skin tingled. Someone comes. At first, she walked in that general direction, then began to run until she reached the edge of her small valley. The tall grasses rustled with her movements, parted, as she slowed to a walk then completely stopped, staring at the man who had whirled in her direction, hands fisted as if he expected an attack.

She stood there just staring at him, watched as he pushed back his long disheveled hair from his face and was staring back at her. A light humid breeze touched her, blowing back from her shoulders the long flowing dark red mane. Her skin was like fine porcelain. Flawless. Smooth. Her slender body was encased in a royal blue dress. It draped over her shoulders, criss-crossed over her high, full breasts, nipped in at her waist before it simply flowed from there, stopping at mid-thigh. Gray eyes peered back at him, surprise etched in their depths. It was one thing to think someone was in her valley, quite another to actually encounter one.

"I... I apologize if I'm trespassing... I can't seem to find my companions.”

Calypso offered him a gentle smile. Her voice reflected a ribbon of shyness when she spoke.

“Welcome to my home. Come. You probably could use something to drink and eat.”

She turned and took a few steps before pausing to glance over her shoulder at him. Another smile quirked her lips before she turned her head away and began walking again.
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Old 07-06-2012, 07:43 AM   #5
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Cort began to suspect that he had not actually woken up. The creature before him, the one who now welcomed him to her home... this stream? these grasses? this whole valley?... didn't belong. He'd seen women in his time, ones he would even take to call beautiful, but she was out of place. She seemed the moon in a sky full of stars, shining so brightly she blotted out the others from view. From memory. Her breasts were too perfect, her skin too flawless, her dress too clean. It had to be a dream world created by an imagination desperate for more color. It explained her, it explained the mysterious disappearance of his companions, and it explained why the idea that it was all a dream was so hard to hold on to when she turned and smiled back at him. Like a wet fish, trying to get back to the lake he was dragged from.

Strong legs, his feet covered in a dark and dirty leather made from the hide of a deer he'd traded for (they. they'd traded for), carried him through the grass, in the direction this new and enchanting woman had come from and now seemed to return to, and Cort was surprised to find an odd fear creeping into his heart: She might disappear through the tall grass and he'd never be seen again. It became a cold panic, icy fingers curling inside his chest, gripping his thudding heart, and he trotted a couple steps to catch up with her, his steps whispering whips through the long strands of deep green. His eyes never left her, despite the fact that one little hole or rock of significant enough size would mean a twisted ankle or broken foot ("always watch your step," his father had drilled into him, "your feet are what will keep you alive!"), and he blissfully, happily ignored the advice-turned-instinct. If he took his eyes from her, she may vanish before he could look up again.

Catching up with her, Cort fell instep beside her, matching the pace of her walk without being consciously aware he was doing it. He eyes studied her face as he walked with her, brow furrowed, rough fingers absently brushing unkept hair from his face. "I have nothing to trade... for food, or water?" His voice was quiet, instinctively dropping when he was near her, and he realized he was asking her a question. As if he expected she might know whether or not he had anything beyond the clothes he wore, still. It knew it was a preposterous notion the moment the thought crossed his mind, and he cleared his throat, forcing his voice out a bit louder than before.

"I'm Cortland. Please, though.. call me Cort." His lips curved into a smile, the easiest one he'd made in some time (since her... you remember her, don't you?, his mind chided), and he felt himself relaxing, allowing his eyes to drift from her for a moment, catching a glimpse of the path ahead of them before bounding back to her like a puppy to it's mother.

Had this been a simpler time, a more refined time, less violent and harsh, he would've felt the need to apologize for looking as he did.. dirty, tattered cloth trousers, worn leather shoes, his chest bare and tanned and scarred, hair long, unruly, and unwashed for days. In this time, however, it was she who seemed out of place. The world was fully upside down when it seemed you should apologize for looking clean and flawless and beautiful.

To his credit - or, perhaps because of his naivety - none of these thoughts crossed Cort's mind as he walked beside her. Or in any of the moments that followed until he left her.
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Old 07-07-2012, 09:53 AM   #6
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.and five fucking characters
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Old 07-07-2012, 12:07 PM   #7
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She stopped amid the tall grasses as he caught up with her and turned toward him slightly, still smiling. She smelled of sunshine and wind. Her eyes were curious.

“You have no need to trade anything, Cortland. I have plenty of water and food to sustain us.”

Her voice was melodious. A gentle sweet sound and even though he was a stranger, her eyes held a welcome as well as curiosity.

“I am called Calypso. Welcome to my home.”

With those few simple words, she turned again and renewed her walking. Her home came into view shortly thereafter. On the outside, it was a simple cottage but as Cort was going to learn shortly, on the inside it was short of a modern miracle. Her father had been an engineer before the destruction had begun. He never really talked about what he had done before. Calypso had a feeling though, it hadn’t been good. Her father was a good man and he was good with his hands. He traveled outside of their little valley for days, returning with his cart loaded down with all manner of things he had scavenged. These things he would tirelessly turn into functional things for their small home. There were panels of black out back that harnessed the sun. Some days, the lights in the cottage grew dim when the gaseous clouds covered the sun from the rest of the world. On those days, she simply, limited her use of some things. Certainly today these clouds appeared less and less, but still there nonetheless. Everything around them had been a reward of diligent work, born with sacrifice. For three cycles, plants and vegetables were harvested and discarded. To purge the poisons her father claimed. Water had been filtered through a crude device her father created and housed in a small building close to the cottage. It would be unrealistic to believe her father could filter out all the toxins that inhabited the water or their food, but he must have done something. Their little family had lived about as healthily as was possible for the time they found themselves in.

Calypso opened the door to the cottage, stepping inside and moving to one side to allow Cort to enter. The cottage smelled clean, fresh and of lavender. The windows, which were crudely made, were open wide. A pie was cooling on the window sill in the kitchen. The oven, which was battered and had seen better days, but was functional, had the smell of roasting meat emanating from it.
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:25 AM   #8
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Cort had heard little of music in his life. His father only hummed, and only when he was undertaking some mundane task that allowed his mind to wander. There was nothing in their house with which to play music, whether instrument or device for recorded music, and so he was left to the birds to fulfill the music cravings of his soul. Unknown to him, his mother had a beautiful voice. Had she survived and been there to raise Cortland, he may not have felt such a stirring inside when Calypso spoke to him, her voice satisfying a deep craving he wasn't even aware he had until now. When she fell silent, he realized some part of him was screaming out for her voice again. Needing it.

Her words, however, confused him. Plenty? He had encountered exactly one person in his time who could've reasonably said he had plenty of food and water, and he was a ruthless tyrant who killed indiscriminately and often. His "plenty" was only because those under him suffered with much less. She seemed like none of these things, though.

All this was dashed from her mind when her cottage came into view, and for the first time Cort was able to take his eyes from her for more than a fleeting moment. His steps faltered, pace slowing as his brow furrowed. His eyes were sharp, honed by a lifetime of hunting, and he knew the light he saw pouring through the windows was not natural. No smoke seemed to be coming from the stone chimney atop the house, and it did not flicker as smaller flames did. There was an unnatural color to it as well, so close to the pure white of sunlight, and yet still just off enough to be noticeable. There was also a strange hum in the air, one he had no reference for and no ability to place.

Calypso continued to walk, however, and Cort snapped himself out of his momentary haze at the sight of a house that seemed to be filled with magic, quick steps through the tall grass allowing him to catch up with her. For the first time since the cottage had come into view, his eyes returned to her when she stepped in front of him to open the door, his gaze unashamedly sweeping the length of her exposed legs. Her voice sang to his ears again as he stepped into the cottage, feeling impossibly dirty and unkempt in the well-maintained surroundings.

His eyes swept the room quickly, wide with child-like wonder, until the smell of roasting meat hit him like a boulder. His stomach rumbled, a sound so loud he was certain she could hear it, and he turned his wide eyes to her, full of questions.

"Is that... do I smell cooking meat? How do you cook with no fire?" he asked, indicating to her cold fireplace with a gesture of his hand. "And this light," he continued, glancing up to the center where a coiled bit of glass gave off the almost-natural glow that lit the room so fully, "What is this light, and what creates it? And that," he gestured then to the pie cooling in the window, realizing that it was what caused the other smell he didn't recognize, "What is that, and why does it smell so good?"

He hadn't realized he was speaking so rapidly, gesturing not unlike a crazy person as his senses were overwhelmed with things completely new to all of them. Realizing himself, he fell silent and dropped his arms at his sides, a blush of embarrassment burning his bearded cheeks.

"Forgive me, Calypso," he said, his voice much softer and subdued, "I'm just... overwhelmed."
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:56 PM   #9
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After closing the door behind him, Calypso came over to stand beside him, turning a quarter turn toward him so she could watch his face. His bafflement and excitement made her smile. The few men who had come to stay with her family in times past, had almost the same reaction, only Cort was younger than they had been. She reached out and touched his arm with her fingertips.

“Come, you probably would like a shower and some clean clothes. I promise, I will answer all your questions when we sit down to eat. I’m sure I can find something of my father’s for you wear if you have no spare clothing of your own.”

Her fingers lifted from his arm as her hand gestured toward a closed door on one wall. Calypso walked toward it, turning the knob and pushed the door open. The fresh scent of lavender wafted from the room beyond. The bathroom was spotless. The fixtures had seen better days, however.

“Here, I’ll turn the shower on for you. That’s what my father always called it, a shower. Water comes through the pipes from air pressure. One side is cold,” she touched a battered handle on the right, “ the other is hot.” Her fingers moved along to the opposite side, touching a similar handle, “ and this one,” her hand went to a handle in the middle, "is the one that turns on the shower.”

Her wrist turned sharply in one direction and it took a moment, but water finally came squirting out from a nozzle like thing above. Her fingers drifted into the spray for a moment as she tested the temperature of the water. Her father told her that these things that he built for his family were only the ghosts of the way things use to be before the world tore itself apart. There were things, he said, that he had to improvise with. The showerhead was nothing more than a glorified water spout from a gardening can he had found on one of his scavenging trips. The water pipe was what had taken the longest to collect. The small room also held a toilet and she wasn’t sure if he was familiar with one of those either.

“Cortland? Do you know what this is?”

She pointed toward the toilet that was scarred up, the tank at the back had a couple of chipped places. She hoped he didn’t ask her how it worked, because, frankly, she couldn’t explain it. Her father tried, but all Calypso caught was something about the rush of water and that the waste material traveled through the pipes to some far out place where her father had dug a deep hole inserting some sort of tank. From there, she hadn’t quite understood how it all worked.

She stepped back and away from the free standing tub, giving him room to enter. She didn’t even wait to hear his answer to her question. She figured she could answer all his questions at once, later.

“I’ll leave you to get naked and into the tub to wash. There’s soap in the small dish over there,” she pointed to a spot on the wall where a small basket hung, “There’s a towel to dry yourself with in the cabinet right here,” she tapped on a wooden box that had a basin sunk into it, “I’ll go get you some fresh clothes, just in case you need them.”

The fact was, she just needed to get out of there. This was the first time since her parents died that anyone had found their home. It felt odd explaining to a strange man about things she had grown up with and took for granted. Well, maybe not always grown up with. It had taken her father a life time to build this place into some sort of comfort. She paused in the open doorway, her hand on the handle of the door.

“I know this all seems strange to you, Cortland but I promise, I’ll explain it as best as I can once you feel clean. Oh, and close the curtain around you so the water doesn’t splash on the floor please.”

She swiftly left the room and headed for another closed door on the other side of the living space they had first entered. Her mother had called it a livingroom because that was the place the family spent most of their time together. Calypso entered her parents room, letting her eyes drift about. Nothing had changed. She had left this room exactly as they had left it. Crossing the room, she drew back a curtain and started going through her father’s things. Cortland was about the same height and build as her father. The clothes should fit, if he needed them. Come to think of it, she hadn’t seen any kind of a pack on him.

She left the clothes by the bathroom door and hurried back into the kitchen to check on her roasting chicken and to remove the cooled pie from the window sill. She set it on the small dining table her father had built for them then started to retrieve dinnerware and glasses.
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Old 07-14-2012, 12:00 PM   #10
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A shower? He blinked at the word when she spoke it, confused at what she could possibly mean. A shower was what his father had called the light rain they often got in the Georgia woods - although he didn't think of them as such - but he had no idea how she could possibly manifest such a thing on command. It didn't look to him as if it was going to rain when they'd been approaching her cottage, but perhaps she knew the area better than she. Already it felt as if he was surrounded by magic, so rain on command might not seem that absurd on second thought.

So Cort could only nod when she gestured towards a closed door, inquisitive eyes following her as he opened it to reveal a bright and sweet-smelling room beyond. His gaze flicked from the doorway to her and back again in a series of quick blinks, silent footsteps carrying him to watch her from the open door as she entered.

Shower, he quickly learned, had a meaning he was unaware of, and while he was not specifically sure if it meant the place the water came out of or the entire area sunk into the wall where it seemed you stood under the spray, the basic concept was easy enough to grasp. As she began to explain what each of the three battered knobs did, Cort nodded in silent reply, committing it all to memory. He simply assumed the "hot water" was kept in some crude tank on the roof to be warmed each day by the sun, as he and his father had done until...

Until.

And as such, he didn't except to have much need for cold water, given that the sun was not the heating machine it used to be as far as the surface of the earth was concerned. Warm water was the best they got in the summer months, but it was still pleasant enough, and far better than washing in the small, cold stream. Doing all of this inside, in a room, though, would be altogether new.

He was about to thank her for her kindness when she indicated the toilet, and he considered it with a frown. He'd actually seen something like it a time or two, though only one that wasn't broken in at least a few pieces, and never once inside. It seemed like a watering trough for some sort of livestock, or at least it was his best guess when he'd happened upon one in the past. To see one in here, in the same room where the shower was, made him think his guess was quite far off.

He answered with a shake of his head, ignoring the dirty and tangled hair that fell across his face when he did. She seemed to shift gears though, then, and Cort was clever enough to know that she was vastly more educated on the objects in her home and the purpose they served than he. It was the first time in his life he truly felt out of place, and he was suddenly as anxious for her to leave as she seemed to be to leave him.

They exchanged positions in the smallish room, his eyes taking note of the location of the soap and towel, whatever that happened to be. He'd investigate when the door closed. Her pause in the doorway drew his attention once more, and he met her grey eyes, his head nodding in affirmation.

"Calypso?," he said when she'd finished, a slightly embarrassed smile upturning the corners of his mouth. "Thank you for your kindness. I've spent enough time in the world to know there are very few of you out there."

After the door had closed, he still watched it for a moment, processing all that had happened in the last... he had no sense of time, actually. He'd come to this place with companions, but it seemed very long ago, and he couldn't quite remember their names. He was surrounded by things he'd only seen in charred and broken remains, things he'd only heard people speak wistfully of, and things he'd never in his life heard of before. Now that he was confronted with the shower, he had a faint memory of his father mentioning his longing for one in passing as they bathed in the small rocky stream near where they lived.

He remembered then the towels she mentioned and he crouched in front of the sink, opening the wooden cabinet under it and revealing thick, folded cloth to his curious eyes. Frowning slightly, he withdrew one and turned it over in his hands.

A towel to dry yourself...

With a nod, willing to try this since it seemed drying in the sun as he'd grown used to would be harder to do in this room, he closed the cabinet door and stood, facing his reflection in the small mirror on the wall. Calloused fingers pushed tangles of dark, dirty hair from his face, then stroked over the tangled mass of beard that adorned his cheeks, mostly hiding the long scar on the left side of his face.

Turning away from his reflection, and the flood of thoughts that pondering it threatened to unleash, he considered the spray of water. Right cold, left hot. Got it. Rough thumbs hooked into the waist of the tattered cloth he wore on the lower half of his body, pushing it down until it fell and pooled around his ankles. Stepping out of the skins that protected his feet, he pushed the unimpressive pile to the side, fully realizing for perhaps the first time how shabby his clothes looked compared to the fitted, clean dress she wore. He'd not been out of the wastes for even a full hour yet, and he was beginning to feel like the one who didn't belong in this world.

With a sigh, he stepped over the edge of the tub - though, in his mind, he simply thought of all of it as "the shower" - and into the spray of water, blue-green eyes squeezing shut as the spray fell onto his body and splashed into his face. It took a moment to adjust to the sensation, water like this usually came from directly above and in a single thick stream, but he found when he did that the feeling of hot water, of a hot shower, was.. exquisite. He had no idea how she'd managed to heat her water to such a temperature, but whatever the miracle of it may be, he had to learn it. Opening his eyes, he realized he could still see the rest of the room beyond the shower, with a quiet laugh he pulled the curtain closed, hoping he hadn't let too much water escape before he did.

With the miracle of her heated water an unknown, he was worried it might dry up on him at any moment, and so he only allowed himself a few seconds to enjoy the heat and wide spray of water on his body before he snatched the soap up in one large hand and began to wash himself. The water that ran off his body was a dark brown, the dust and dirt of the world covering virtually every inch of him, and he continued soaping and rinsing head to toe until the water ran clear. To his surprise, there still remained a bit of warmth in the water when he finished, and with a satisfied smile he twisted the knobs until the flow stopped, thinking she would be happy that he'd not used up the entirety of her heated water supply.

Pulling back the curtain, his eyes fell upon the folded towel and he prepared for another new experience. Grabbing it from the basin, he unfolded the thick cloth and pressed it to his chest, watching as it darkened with moisture. Fifteen minutes later, he'd dabbed most of the water from his body and run the towel through his hair, clean now for the first time in weeks, before he stepped out of the shower. Standing naked, he'd nearly reached for his dirty and worn clothes to get dressed when he remembered that she said she'd bring him clothes, though it appeared she hadn't returned with any while he bathed.

Holding the unfurled towel in front of his body, he opened the door to go find her and nearly stepped on the clothes she'd left for him in the process. Glancing from just inside the doorway he couldn't catch sight of her, and so he lifted the clothes and closed the door again, making a mental note to thank her again for her kindness. He dressed quickly, the pants fitting well around his waist, and just slightly too short for him, but they were in exponentially better condition than what he'd been wearing. The shirt was a button up, a faded blue, but being accustomed to wearing no shirt at all he left it open. The whiteness of the scar on the upper right side of his chest stood out in contrast to the rest of his darker, tanned skin, but he'd had it long enough that he didn't give the sight of it a second thought.

He left his feet bare, he could easily come back and grab his animal skin shoes if they would be venturing out tonight, and laid the stretched out towel over the edge of the shower so the air would dry it. From the bottom of his tattered pants he stole a length of thread, then folded them and placed them in the corner atop his shoes. With the thread, he tied back his long hair so it would remain out of his face, and then he paused to consider himself in the mirror, wiping away the fog with the back of his hand. He still couldn't compare to her - unmarked and fine skin, clean clothes that were clearly meant for her body, hands that had not taken the lives of others - but he knew he'd feel less out of place next to her, now.

Opening the door, he stepped out and was immediately hit with the small of roasted chicken, tearing another growl from his stomach. Following his nose, he found her setting cups made of clear glass on a small table, the chicken roasted and perfect sitting in the center. Cort couldn't help but to smile broadly, his skin shining with a refreshed glow he hadn't felt in... ever, maybe.

"This is... amazing, Calypso," he said, his voice quiet in the stillness of the room. "Is there... can I help with anything? Please, allow me to assist you. With anything, just tell me what you need."

Watching her, he suddenly felt as if she was a dream, if this whole house of wonders was a dream, and he was eager to rid himself of the feeling and reassure himself that all of this was real. A task she needed, a taste in his mouth, a touch of her skin... he just needed something, a touchstone to show him that he was in fact awake and living this. With bare feet, he entered the room fully and crossed to her, closing large hands over the back of one of the chairs pulled up to the table, his eyes intent on her.
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Old 07-16-2012, 03:48 PM   #11
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Calypso was bent over the open oven door, just reaching inside it when she heard his voice. She paused in her efforts and glanced upwards, at him, giving him a delighted smile. Pulling the pan with the roasted chicken from the heated interior source, she set it on the stove top and removed the gloves she had been wearing.

“Can you cut up a chicken?” Her grin was teasing, “I usually don’t bother. My father did all the cutting when he was alive. I simply tear off a piece.”

As she spoke, she stuck a fork into each end of the bird, lifted it, then set it on a platter that had seen better days. She slid one of the forks onto the platter and reached for a carving knife.

“If you’ll put this on the table for us and cut it up, I’ll get the rest of our meal on the table.”

She moved aside so he could fetch the golden brown chicken while she hunted up a small basket for the bread she was about to cut.

“I’m afraid I don’t make bread as good as my mother use to, but it’s edible.”

Using a serrated knife, she sliced several pieces from the loaf before carrying it to table. Shuffling around Cort, she pulled a small container of churned butter and a pitcher of homemade tea from the refrigerator. These she carted to the table, setting them somewhere close by before she returned to the kitchen area to fetch a bowl that held a salad made from greens and vegetables from her garden and another smaller one that held cut up roasted potatoes.

She straightened, hands resting on the back of a chair as she watched him. It was a good feeling to have the company of another. It had been awhile since her parents passing and no one had come this way. Besides, Cort was pleasant to look upon.

I think I will keep him.
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Old 07-17-2012, 01:19 PM   #12
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Cortland was beginning to suspect that his brain would be tired by the time he drifted to sleep at the end of this day, given the new information and corresponding challenges pouring into it. He'd eaten his fair share of chicken, often when trading goods with other people and often heavily salted to preserve it. He could probably count on one hand the number of freshly roasted ones he'd had the pleasure of eating, and counting was utterly unnecessary when it came to how many he'd had to cut.

Eating, for Cort, had typically been a communal and slightly chaotic affair, fingers pulling meat from bones, tearing away chunks of bread. Individual plates, sliced meats, cups made of fine clear glass, it was all as foreign as the shower he'd just bathed in. But he was never one to back down from a challenge, and certainly not something as simple as this. Had she showed him to the bathing room without a word of explanation it would have been hours before he emerged clean and dry, but cutting a chicken seemed fairly straightforward, at least.

Her grin at him was a natural, pleasant thing, and he echoed it easily, already feeling more relaxed in her presence. With a nod, he took the offered carving knife and turned an appraising eye towards the chicken. Arching an eyebrow, he glanced at her sideways, the playful grin still curving the corner of his mouth.

"I can't promise it will be anything like your father did, but we'll be able to eat it either way," he said with a determined nod. Lifting the platter, he turned and set it on the table, then lifted the serving fork and stabbed it into a breast as a makeshift handle. The knife was just about to pierce the skin of the chicken when she mentioned making bread, and Cort's head turned in her direction suddenly, eyes wide.

"You... made fresh bread? By the stars, I don't even remember the last time I smelled fresh bread." He fell silent, watching as she sliced the bread, his eyes drifting up the length of her arms, ascending slowly until they reached her face, and it was only when she was done slicing that he stopped watching her work and turned back to the task at hand: the chicken.

This time the knife dove in without interruption, and after only a few failed attempts that resulted in odd little chunks of meat, Cort had the breasts sliced and had moved on to the puzzle of the legs as she began setting the rest of the meal on the table. Each new thing made it hard to keep his eyes on the chicken as a veritable banquet was laid out before him.

With a quiet chuckle, he shook his head, speaking in a low voice as he said, "Seems my father was wrong about what heaven is." With one leg removed, and the most tempting display of food he could ever remember assaulting his senses, Cort nodded to himself and set the for and knife down, satisfied with the amount of meat he was able to carve off.

Lifting his eyes to where Calypso stood behind one of the chairs, the easy smile returned to his lips as he considered her across the small table. "Shall we?" he asked, nodding his head towards the inviting curls of steam rising from the table. Pulling out the chair before him, he sank into it and let his eyes sweep over the food, unsure where even to begin. The bread, a delicacy he already knew of, was the easy place, and so he reached for a slice of it, sighing contently as his calloused fingers felt it was still warm. Heaven, indeed.

Tearing off a piece, his eyes returned to Calypso across the table from him, and just before he popped the warm bread in his mouth he asked a question that was being posed to other strangers around fires and over food all over the world at that moment.

"So, fire-haired Calypso... what's your story?"
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Old 07-18-2012, 11:17 AM   #13
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“You don’t have to be perfect at it, Cortland, just smaller pieces off the bones so it’s easy enough to use a fork with, would be nice.”

She set the bread on the table and smiled at him.

“Of course. Bread making was one of the first things my mother taught me. “

She smiled again as she watched him struggle with carving the poor chicken. He butchered it, but that was not important. He had managed to cut away pieces of meat from the bone, easily manageable with a fork now. At his spoken, shall we, Calypso nodded and waited a moment before realizing that Cortland didn’t subscribe to the same mode of manners her father had. Her father had always come around the table and pulled out the chair for her mother and herself, waiting for them to be seated before he, sat down. Small old world courtesies, she supposed. Her hesitation had been brief before she pulled out her own chair and sat down.

Cortland had reached for the bread. She chose the chicken since it was closest. Using her fork, she removed a few small pieces before she held out the serving plate to him across the small table. Her eyes met his across it as he asked his question.

“My story?” Her eyes were quizzical, “What do you mean?”

For her, life was simply, well, life. She had no story or rather never thought about it as so. Calypso could easily be described as a paradox. Seemingly so innocent and yet, there were things in her eyes that belied that.
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Old 07-22-2012, 06:59 AM   #14
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The bread was delicious on his tongue, warm against the inside of his cheek, perfectly soft against his teeth. Everywhere he turned since waking up, his senses were being overwhelmed with something else as amazing as the last. The sight of the red-haired girl before him flowing through the tall grass like she spoke to it. The musical sound of her voice that seemed to resonate with something deep inside him, stirring him in ways he couldn't yet describe much less understand. The smell of the roasting chicken and freshly baked bread. The touch of the water, warm and clean, flowing over his skin. Now, the pure and wholesome taste of fresh bread filled his mouth, completing the almost agonizingly perfect assault on each of his senses.

Her voice, and the look in those deep grey eyes that accompanied it, were perhaps the only thing that could draw him from reveling in the taste that seemed to fill his mouth and nostrils and warm him all the way to his core. The fact that she had fresh meat and clearly fresh vegetables with it was nearly too much to comprehend. His head practically spun with it all, and he found that her bright and beautiful face were the perfect anchor to keep him strapped to his sanity.

After swallowing the first bite of bread, his mouth nearly crying out for another, he frowned slightly, brows furrowing, "I...," he began, pausing for a moment before letting a soft laugh slip from his lips. "No one's asked what that means, I guess. It's just how strangers tend to begin conversations around a fire at night."

The bread was set in the middle of his plate then, and he leaned forward slightly, blue-green eyes intent on grey orbs that seemed as if they could find his every weakness at a glance. His brow still furrowed, the dam that held back an avalanche of questions about her and her surroundings groaning, straining... but holding. For the moment.

"This place doesn't seem real, Calypso. The world, out there," he lifted a hand, indicating in the direction of the door they'd entered in without taking his eyes from hers, "It's a dirty, ugly, harsh place. People kill each other for any small thing that will help them survive. Water, food... when winter fully hits, it's worse. Bandits will kill people for the skins on their back, just to try to stay warm a little longer. Hungry animals, irritated water, lack of food... the ways to die are many, and the comforts are few.

"But here," he paused, fingers closing on a chunk of chicken he'd cut from the bone, lifting the steaming meat between them, "You don't even have to salt your meat to preserve it. And I don't even know what these are," he said with a slightly bewildered shake of the head, indicating towards the bowl of roasted potatoes with the chunk of chicken between his fingers.

"I just don't...," his words trailed off as something he'd said when cutting the chicken returned to his mind like a bright dawn after a cold and dark night. Seems my father was wrong about what heaven is. His brows relaxed as the possibility washed over him, eyes widening slightly as they looked across the table at her. He'd said it as a joke, but suddenly it seemed like a real possibility. His missing companions, the strange unreality of this place, sights and sounds and tastes that seemed too good to be true.

When next his voice floated across the table to the girl in the blue dress, it was nothing but a hollow whisper, a mixture of questioning and pleading swirling within his eyes. The hot chicken between his fingers, the warm bread on his plate, the bowl of greens sitting next to another bowl of he-didn't-know-what, all was forgotten in that moment. All that mattered was her answer.

"Calypso? Am I... dead?"
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Old 07-22-2012, 01:03 PM   #15
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She had been in the process of tearing apart a piece of bread when his words came to her. She looked startled for a moment.

“Dead?” Her voice held a quizzical note, “Now why on earth would you think that, Cortland?”

Setting down her bread on her plate, she rushed from her chair to his side, kneeling beside his chair and slid a hand along the side of his face as if in reassurance. She could understand, sort of, why he would feel that way. She had never gone past these hills with her father before and after his death, she still didn’t feel the need to do so. When she felt like her small world was suffocating her, she would climb the hills and stand upon the rocks looking into the world below her that seemed to stretch for miles and miles. The destruction, the devastation that greeted her eyes, made her heart hurt and made her eternally grateful for what she had, even more so after listening to Cortland describe a bit of how things were out there. Calypso imagined he glossed over a lot. Human beings could get quite ugly when they wanted something. She could remember one time her father got into a fight with a pair of men because after accepting her parents’ hospitality, the pair had tried to steal from them. Her father had little qualm about sharing what little they had forged, but he had not tolerated stealing.

“Does this feel like you are dead, Cortland?” She smiled softly up at him, “Because I assure you, you’re not. I’m not. Both of us are real and alive.”

Her thumb stroked his skin, her eyes were reassuring. Her other hand rested lightly on his thigh. With the smile still on her lips she invited him gently.

“If you don’t believe me, touch me. I promise you, I’m not going to fade away.”
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:07 AM   #16
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Cortland was a bit jarred when she moved from her chair, some distant part of his mind expecting that sudden movement to be sinister. The reveal that he was, in fact, dead, and all of this beauty and tranquility was a ruse to lull him into the demise of his soul. The absurdity of all of this was quickly clear as she came to his side, the piece of bread and chicken falling carelessly to the round plate before him.

He turned as she knelt next to him, his eyes quickly finding hers and holding them even as her hand came up to touch his bearded and scarred cheek. During his relatively long life, he'd faced down wild bears and bloodthirsty bandits and treacherous terrain, and rarely was he scared by it. There was something about the thought that had taken root in his mind that truly scared him, though. Only her voice, and those deep grey eyes could start to wilt the fear inside him.

She had, he realized, quite a good point. Everything felt real. The smells, the tastes, the hot water and the warmth of her hand against his skin, all of it seemed as real as anything else he'd experienced. At her final words, Cort nodded slightly. He hesitated still, however, uncertainty almost a harder thing to shake than fear was. But, as his father used to say, Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Reaching out to her, he curled his fingers inward and brushed the backs of them against her cheek, his touch feather-light. Upon reaching her jaw his fingers paused and a calloused thumb reached out, swiping gently across her lips. His thumb fell down to her chin and stayed there, eyes looking back at eyes, and at last he nodded in earnest.

"Okay. I'm... sorry," he said, his voice a whisper. Little was needed to be heard in the silent room, the small distance separating them making anything louder even less necessary. "I was just... overwhelmed, I guess. This seems close enough to heaven that I thought it might actually be."
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:45 PM   #17
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She watched as thoughts, emotions, rolled through his eyes. Calypso had little idea of what his thoughts were, but emotions she could read. What sort of life had he been living before finding her? The world beyond her small one must be frightening. Her fingertips touched the scars on his cheek, traced them. What or who had given him these? She felt an overwhelming sudden need to set her lips to them.

His touch came, as bidden, soft and gentle as the wind she sometimes experienced in the darkest part of night when she couldn’t sleep and found solace in going outside to look up at the stars. Her eyes closed, turning her cheek slightly into his touch. Her chin lifted slightly as his fingers stopped at her jaw and when his thumb, calloused, brushed across her lips, causing them to part ever so slightly, she opened her eyes, staring straight up into his. She had forgotten what contact with another human being felt like, especially the touch of a man. In that moment, she missed nothing else more. She offered him a small smile as his words came. Reaching up, her fingers slightly curled around his wrist.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to overwhelm you, Cortland. I just realized how long it’s been since I’ve had company other than the animals that come to see me.”

There seemed to be a hint of sadness in her voice. On impulse, she turned her head a bit more and let her lips touch his palm briefly, reassuringly, before she drew back, rising to her feet and going back to her chair. Reaching for her glass of water, she took a long sip. Her throat had suddenly turned dry and there was a hint of an ache deep inside her that she chose not to examine at the moment. Lowering her glass, Calypso again looked across the table at him.

“This place is not heaven, Cortland,” her eyes shifted from him and looked around her, at the interior of her home, “although my father spent his life carving it out of love for my mother and myself, sometimes putting himself in danger to acquire something he desperately wanted. But I guess,” her eyes returned to his face, “considering the love put into it, it’s about the closest thing to heaven on earth.”

She watched him a minute or so longer before her eyes dropped back down to her plate. Cortland was not like the others who had come here before. Those men had been roughened by the world beyond here. Seen things. Done things. She was sure Cortland had too, but…. there seemed to be something so pure about him, something innocent. Young and fresh. It resounded through her being like a crisp, sharp, sweet sound she never wanted to stop experiencing.
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Old 08-15-2012, 09:19 PM   #18
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At her apology, Cort shook his head ever so slightly. His eyes followed the movement of her lips as they touched his palm, the effect much like giving already-swirling waters of emotion a shake to increase the chaos just that much more. He hadn't expected her touch to begin with, and his own actions had been more on impulse than any conscious intent to touch her lips the way he had. The kiss, small and fleeting though it was, injected another emotion into the confusion and sadness and glimmer of hope he felt.

Desire.

This place she had, it seemed nearly perfect. Things were rarely as they seemed, he knew, and he doubted this place was any different. The picture of perfection he felt now came at some kind of price, whether it was hard and unglamorous work to maintain it or a need to keep a distance from the rest of the outside world, which had hints of beauty despite the overall ugliness of it. Or, perhaps it was something else he had no ability to come up with or comprehend at the moment. Whatever it may be, it seemed a price always had to be paid. Safety meant fighting. Food meant the death of another creature just trying to make their own way through the world. What did flowing hot water and vegetables mean? His mind was simply blank when it tried to come up with an answer to this. He didn't even have a place from which to begin to draw answers.

Instead, he turned back to the table and lifted the chunk of chicken that was on his plate, eating it in thoughtful silence. Her voice drew his attention once more, and his eyes lifted to watch her as she spoke again of her father and what he'd provided for her here. He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing under the thicket of facial hair that reached down his throat, nodded in silence.

Heaven on earth. Perhaps that's what this actually was.

"My father," Cort began, then paused to take a drink himself, realizing his own throat had grown dry at some point he couldn't pinpoint. "My father, he taught my almost everything I know. How to hunt, build, create a fire, how to shoot an arrow true and straight. But..."

He paused again, brow furrowing, his eyes darting from hers as he searched for the words he wanted.

"It was just he and I for most of my life. And he was a man of few words. I remember talking to the trees around our house when I was growing up." A faint smile touched on his lips at the memory, his gaze grown distant and unfocused. "He used to snap at me when he was hunting and I'd do it. I think he was worried it would scare away the game. I just... needed to talk, I guess."

Blinking his eyes back into focus, Cort realized he'd drifted away on his thoughts and turned his gaze back to her, a small smile of embarrassment uplifting his lips. "I guess I'm just not used to thinking or talking about anything other than survival, anymore. I think I just need some time to... adjust to all of this."

He tore a piece of bread off and was about to pop it into his mouth when he realized what he'd said, and he looked to her with slightly wide eyes, head shaking a time or two.

"Not that I'm... expecting to stay here. I didn't mean that I assumed I'd be staying here for a long time or... anything..."

Shoulders slumping a bit, Cort laughed quietly and shook his head.

"Perhaps I should just be quiet."
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Old 08-27-2012, 12:51 PM   #19
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They had resumed eating when she had returned to her chair, though Cort seemed to have a great deal on his mind, which she didn’t mind at all. It was nice to listen to another voice, other than her own, again.

"I guess I'm just not used to thinking or talking about anything other than survival, anymore. I think I just need some time to... adjust to all of this. Not that I'm... expecting to stay here. I didn't mean that I assumed I'd be staying here for a long time or... anything... Perhaps I should just be quiet."

Calypso glanced up from her plate, meeting his eyes, laughed delightedly, shaking her head slightly.

“Courtland, you may stay here as long as you wish and I hope you won’t be quiet. I love listening to you. Can’t you tell? I’ve…. I’ve been rather lonely lately. ”

She never realized how lonely until Courtland came to her. At first, it was the simple joy of having another person to talk with, to enjoy their company with but something else had happened to her when she knelt by his side and his thumb had slid across her lips. Hunger. Sharp and sweet, flooded her. It was a feminine hunger for a man. Calypso was not entirely an impulsive person, even if she was a free spirited one. So, she had slipped back to her side of the table and resumed her meal, suppressing the desire to let the tip of her tongue trace his thumb, to draw it into her mouth and close her lips around it. Instead, she had impulsively turned her face and kissed his palm.

They ate their fill and finally, she slipped from her chair, taking up a couple of dishes and carrying them into the kitchen before returning for more. Leftover food was stored in the refrigerator as she had been taught to do when she was younger. They worked together in silence. A companionable one. It was nice and it felt like they had been doing this together for some time. After the dishes had been washed and put away, she turned toward him, a hip resting against the sink, dish towel in her in her hands.

“So, Courtland, is there anything you’d like to do? I mean, I could show you to your room and leave you to your own devices if you wish. You’re probably tired and I’ve kept you from resting with all my babbling.”
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:59 AM   #20
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Conversation was light once they began to eat in earnest, the meal so good it was nearly distracting once he actually tucked into it. A part of his mind kept working, though, his thumb occasionally stroking across the back of his fingertips as he tried to recall the last time he touched someone like that. And it had come so easily. There was a hesitation, but once overcome it had seemed reaching out to her was the most natural thing he could possibly do.

He realized then what it was that kept his mind focused on it for so long: He was craving it again. It was not terribly uncommon in this new time for affection, and sex, to be a quick and singular event between people, sometimes even used as a bargaining chip or celebration of resource trading, but this was... different, somehow. He wanted to simply touch her, smell her again, and let it go where it may from there. She seemed different from his world, outside of it, apart from it, and he craved a perspective where new people were not seen as enemy first, friend last. She had taken him in when she should have done no such thing - he had little doubt he could overpower her easily if he wanted to - but there seemed to be no alternative considered on her part. He'd have felt exactly the opposite, especially with resources such as these to protect, and may have gone as far as to leave her to die out there... of exposure, of hunger or thirst, at the hands of another. He wouldn't have known or cared. The thought didn't even seem to enter her mind, though.

It was a hole in his life he didn't even realize he had until now.

Perhaps because these thoughts had been tumbling through his mind as he ate, perhaps because he ate in great and quick bites, but he quickly felt full. He finished with a last bite of the potato, a name he had to remind himself of every time he took a bite of one, but a thing that turned out to be creamy and delicious all the way through.

He watched her carry the first dishes to the kitchen afterwards, studying her in silence as she undertook each new activity, and then jumping in to help once he grasped what she was doing. The leftover food, instead of being salted and stored as reserves or fed to the animals as he was taught, was put into a large box with a opening front that seemed to be able to chill the air inside it, presumably keeping the things inside fresh for some indeterminate amount of time. It was fascinating, and were there not more things to learn, like her routine for washing up the plates and other items in the basin, he would've peppered her with questions about it. He made a mental note to do so later.

It was only when she broke the silence that he realized one had fallen, his concentration on this new work quieting any words from him. His hands were wet as he leaned against the counter near her, and while she'd dried hers he left his own wet, enjoying the feel of water drying on his skin. Such a simple thing, but still a rare treat.

At her question, his gaze slid to the window, taking in the fading light of the evening and considering for a moment before he shifted it back to her. "Do you think," he said, indicating the window with a nod of his head, "we could walk your land a bit before the light is gone? I'd love to see a little more of your valley before the light is gone, if you'd like to show me around..."
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Old 09-30-2012, 12:57 PM   #21
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His words made her smile from ear to ear. Nothing he could have said to her would have made her happier. She loved this little valley. It was a testament to her family, to the principles and beliefs her parents had instilled in her. For a second, she wished her parents were here to meet Cortland and she wondered what they would have thought of him.

“Of course. I would love to show you around a bit and what we don’t get to, feel free to explore in the morning on your own if you like.”

The dish towel was draped to dry and without thought, she held out her hand to him, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for her to do. As if they had been doing it for ages. It simply was just the way she was. Impulsive at times. Unconscious at others.

Calypso left the front door open in the growing dusk. In this new dawning world emerging from the relics of man’s greed, his self-centeredness, hatred and shortsightedness, the heavens seemed to remain the same for the most part. Even the remnants of mankind’s choice reached that far. Most days a cloud hung over the skies, obscuring its brilliance but for this evening, there was no cloud, no pall to detract from beauty. This evening, the sky was a darken blue. The lingering sun, in its seemingly quick disappearance, left a trail of colors to admire and appreciate, easily seen from their vantage point. Hues of blues and purples, splashed across the azure of the heavens like a comet’s trail. Closer to the sinking orb and the horizon, as if swished across the sky with a careless painter’s brush, were various colors of reds and oranges.

Leaving the confines of the house behind, Calypso stopped suddenly, catching the view that took her breath away. It was a difficult thing to tear her eyes away from the view to cast a glance in Cort’s direction. Her eyes were dove gray as she soaked in his profile. Her voice was hushed, seemingly reverent.

“Look at that sky, Cortland. Glorious, isn’t it? As if painted by a divine hand. Why is man so intent in destroying such beauty?”

Instantly, she was remembering the feel of his thumb across her lip and in that moment, realizing she wanted to feel it again. Wanted to feel his touch on her skin, featherlike, making her skin respond with goosebumps and making her heart pound in her chest with the anticipation of the unknown. The need seemed as natural, in that moment, as breathing.
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Old 11-08-2012, 03:47 PM   #22
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His smile reflected her own, and in part of it was a bit of relief he was perhaps not even aware of. He'd never been truly comfortable inside, the air always felt slightly stale and the lack of sky above seemed somehow wrong. Reaching out to her, he took her hand in his own and followed her out the open door, his chest rising as he filled his lungs with the cool, crisp air. In the Old World, it would not yet even be fall. After the Last Great War, the first cold fingers of winter were already creeping across the land. As the open shirt fluttered in the gentle breeze, Cort knew it would only be a matter of short time before the ground was blanketed with snow.

He stopped a half-second after she did, his mind distracted with thoughts of the approaching long winter, and it brought them unexpectedly close. In that moment he hesitated, unsure if the closeness was welcome or not, but her words soothed his indecision and he met her eyes, nodding once at her words.

"But look," he said, nearly whispered, his other arm lifting around her shoulders and fingertips moving to her chin, turning her attention toward a patch of sky that was nearly full dark. "The star that does not twinkle... they say it is a sign of good fortune. Perhaps the world is changing. Healing..."

He had seen the location of the star the night before - it was not, of course, actually a star but instead the planet Venus that shined so bright and steady, the existence of which he was wholly unaware of - and so he did not take his eyes from her as he turned her to it. His brow furrowed as he watched her, a dozen different and unconnected thoughts flooding his mind.

And then, Cortland Deschain did something he rarely did, and often regretted upon doing: He acted on impulse.

Standing just behind and to her side as he was, he had to move closer as his mouth sought her own, the back of her shoulder against his bared and scarred chest. The fingertips on her chin moved, splayed, his palm against her jaw and pulling her lips to his. Some part of his mind sounded the alarm, certain she would push him away, throw him out, send him back to wandering. He found he cared not. Perhaps the steady star was a sign of good fortune.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:05 PM   #23
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"But look," his fingers found her chin, turning her head gently in the direction he wanted her eyes, "The star that does not twinkle... they say it is a sign of good fortune. Perhaps the world is changing. Healing..."

“Oh, Cortland, a star can’t be a sign. It’s simply a planet in the sky. Men make their own fortunes. For better or worse.”

She stood, looking up at the sky. Then he moved. Closer. His fingertips moved from her chin. His fingers spread across the side of her face, his palm turned her head gently and she felt his lips on her own. There was something about Cort or maybe it was because it had been so long since a man had kissed her. She realized just then, how much she missed it. Her arm slipped around him as she turned into him, not breaking the kiss, but seeking to deepen it instead. The tip of her tongue pressed against his lips, seeking entrance. Her hand found the small of his back and pressed there. He was solid and warm.

There, in the growing darkness of night, under the stars, she felt like the star that didn’t twinkle.

Her fingers found their way under his shirt, ran lightly up his back. So warm. So real.

Make love to me, Cortland. Here. Now. Under the stars. Under this open sky.

She never spoke the words. Oh, in her head she did. She wasn’t sure how he would actually take them had she spoken them aloud. They were strangers. She couldn’t explain why she felt this way. Maybe there wasn’t an explanation. She was simply a creature of nature as was he. The world around them was still an uncertain place. Life was always in jeopardy, from the greed of men. Instead, she simply stood taking and giving a simple kiss.
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:25 AM   #24
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A planet in the sky.

The words remained in his head for a moment, dying embers of a conversation that was only flickering to life, and then she was turning her body to his, slipping her arms around him, and those too were snuffed out, only a bit of light smoke remaining.

Ask her about that... later.

In many ways, they were people from different worlds. She knew about things like showers and planets and po-tay-toes, he knew how to survive a hailstorm in an open field, how to shoot an arrow into a deer so the smallest possible amount of meat and hide were lost, and what it was like to extinguish the light of life in another man's eyes. In her home, he was almost hopelessly lost in a sea of dials and handles and boxes that heated or cooled to an extreme. But, he thought, she would be just as lost in his home - the rest of the world outside of this valley.

Two different people. Two separate worlds.

But as his lips parted, granting the silent request of her seeking tongue and tasting more fully the sweetness that was her mouth, he knew none of that mattered now. Sex out there was a tool, a token, a chip, a weapon, a necessity. Love was rare and harsh and too often trumped by other needs. Here, with his fingers delving into richly reddened strands of her hair, with a shiver snaking up his spine that had nothing to do with the cool that surrounded them, those things seemed like fine luxuries that they could spend time in, learn their way around, discover it's secrets.

He didn't love this woman, hell he barely knew this woman, but as he sank back onto the soft ground at their feet, he knew he was setting foot on a path that could lead to such a thing. He didn't know if he wanted it, had no clue if she wanted it, but with a calm and quiet earth under his back and her sitting astride his hips, he knew he wasn't looking back.

Every path has many forks, many unexpected, and few led to where a person hopes they will. Perhaps this one would be like that. With her scent in his nostrils, her taste in his mouth, the curve of hip and swell of breast against him, Cortland was ready to take the journey and find out.





-----------




Unknown to them both, they were not the only ones aware of the kiss and the descent of their bodies to the grass. Technologically, the world had taken an enormous step back since the end of the Last Great War. But not all technology was gone. Through a pair of night vision goggles, a man in the dark watched the movement of the green-hued figures.

A compass was consulted.

Notes were made.

Silent as a shadow, he slipped away into the night.
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Old 11-15-2012, 10:09 PM   #25
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They were still locked in an embrace of arms, lips and tangling tongues as they sank to the earth, against the cool grasses beneath their feet. Calypso straddled his hips, leaning over him. She hadn’t expected this. His touch. His kiss. Or to be leaning over a man she did not know, her breasts pressed into his chest. Her tongue explored his mouth and teased his. Her hands were braced against the grass on either side of his head. Her arms locked as she pushed away to sit upright on his belly. Her eyes scanned his features. Color flooded her high cheekbones but she leaned over him again, this time, her lips barely brushed over his bottom lip, teasingly.

“Cortland,” she whispered, “I want you.”

Her fingers found his shirt, starting to undo it. She felt no shame in wanting him. The world around them had changed, for the worse. She wasn’t so naïve that she didn’t know what went on beyond her little valley. Women traded sex for survival. It no longer resembled what nature intended it for or what, at one time, long ago, society had defined it as. She didn’t love Cortland. She didn’t know him but her body wanted him. She had no need to use sex as an exchange for something she needed, except in a primal, natural way. Her body craved. She craved. Human touch. Intimacy. She hadn’t realized how much until Cortland had kissed her.

It was quiet in her valley. The darkened sky above them twinkled with a million stars. The animals were starting to settle in for the night. Frogs croaked down by the pond. There was the occasional squawk of a goose or a duck. The doves in the tree branches above, cooed softly. Calypso noticed none of those things. Her focus was entirely on the man beneath her.

Her hands pushed the material of his shirt away from his chest and then went to her own blouse, pulling it free from her skirt and tugging it over her head. It drifted from her fingers on the small breeze that blew across them. She wore nothing under the blouse. Her breasts jutted out, firm and rounded. Pert, hardened nipples stood tall. She reached for his hands, guiding them to those curvy globes, pressing his hands around them.

“Touch me, Cort. “

Her voice was a husky whisper as she looked down at his face.
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