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 Posted: Jun 15 2016, 12:32 PM

local advice god
Group: Admin
Posts: 1158
Joined: 21-February 11

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« Pay Margaret, 2 »

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"I don't know why you trouble with him so much."

Regus had just put Ariel to bed, and the storm raged on outside. The servants had sulkily retired, and Regus had gone to the library to replace the books that Ariel had left scattered on the table. The library faced the small garden between the house and the street, and the rain pelted the windows.

She came without warning, though Regus expected she would resurface sooner or later. One moment, Regus was gathering books, all alone; the next, there she was, sitting at the table and crossing her arms. Her violet-brown hair was swept back into a bun, and her black eyes glinted like two pieces of onyx set in marble. Her long-sleeved black dress was perfectly dry.

"I wish," Regus sighed, turning his back to her. "You would knock and come in by the door. Now the servants will think I've let a stranger in, if they see you."

Regus was not particularly fond of Margaret. If he was a meddler, she was the meddler's meddler. She only turned up when she disagreed with him on some finer point, on who he should be meddling with and why. She was his 'sister' in the sense that all humans were 'brothers' and 'sisters' of their race; he would have much preferred if Margaret disowned him and left him alone.

"He is very unique." It was vague, and Regus knew it. He opened a book and ran his eyes blankly over the lines. The less Margaret knew, the better. Regus could imagine Ariel curled up in his bed now, sound asleep, warm and dry. His heart sizzled, to imagine Margaret's interference.

"They are all unique." She enunciated her words. Her tongue wrapped around the 'q', then rolled it away. She was not here to make small talk about other things. She was here for information.

"This one especially. There is... a brilliance to him." Once more, vague. Beneath the dust and dirt of the world, all people had their shine. Ariel was an exception in part to the degree of that shine, but mostly because tragedy had scraped away the cake-on grime, leaving that shine more exposed.

"And?" Regus could hear the laughter in her question mark.

How could he explain it? Regus shut the book and put it away. "He is yet unaware of his own brilliance. He gives up everything he has, for what he wants, for what he believes -- and he still cannot see himself. He thinks poorly of himself." He did not like feeling that he was selling an explanation of his commitment. It was enough, to Regus, that he had decided about Ariel. No one else needed to be persuaded. Action would convince them.

She sighed. "You overestimate him." Margaret felt all humans were overestimated, especially any that Regus liked. He went back to the table to pick up more books, and she had propped her head up in her hand.

"Perhaps. But it is unlikely. He will be stronger than ever, soon." In this regard, Regus was not entirely certain. It was just as likely that Ariel could unravel entirely, bowed by his own enormity and potential. He would not be the first person to flee from facing himself. "Don't you have someone else to bother, Margaret?"

"And the girl? The one he is in love with?"

Regus loaded a few more books into the crook of his elbow, and shrugged. Her looked into Margaret's face a moment, trying to glean her thoughts. Her expression was impassive. The thunder rumbled. "It is unlikely we will hear from her again. He asked for too much."

"Which was?"

"That she face herself." Iris was not a bad person - only human, as humans were wont to be. She had been faced with someone not entirely so. In a few years, Regus hoped he would not be human at all. "He did not totally understand what he was compelling her to do."

Margaret laughed. "What a cruel creature you have chosen to favor." She leaned back into her chair, hooking her elbows over the back of it. "Illusion is one of the few comforts accessible to all humans."

He moved back to the shelves to replace the next book. "I have seen what he is capable of, when he is obsessed. To turn that obsession to other ends... He could be extraordinary." His tone lifted at the end.

"You seem very certain," she said, carefully, "that things will go as you plan."

Frustration crept into his voice without his permission. "The more time passes, the more he will forget her. The more he forgets her, the less power she has - because the memories of her are stronger than who she is in the present." Regus remembered Paris, and Ariel's irritation. It had been a startling moment where he held up his memories to the present, and seen how they diverged. In the ensuing months, he had readapted his views, but the principle remained: he remembered the good more than the bad, the exceptional more than the mediocre.

Regus kept his back to Margaret as he continued to arrange the books. Ariel did not always place things in the exactly correct spot, and it was a soothing hobby to perfect the library. He did not want to meet Margaret's eyes again; she could be very tricky, once she made eye contact.

"She may try to match him in her own right."

"That is impossible." His voice gained certainty. He remembered Iris leaning over the bridge, whispering in the snow.


"Because she would have to be honest with herself. She has hinged her own survival on self-deception. Her identity is built on the sand that Ariel criticized her wrongly." Regus pulled his mouth to one side. "He lacked sensitivity, but he never lied to her."

Margaret shifted in her chair, then stood. "You hate her." It appeared she had procured the information she had come for. It left him feeling uneasy.

Regus's hand lingered on the shelf. Did he hate Iris? "I don't know her well enough to feel anything so personal." That was not entirely true either. He felt something very personal for Ariel.

"So little faith in other humans, and so much faith in one."

"Faith is earned."

She headed for the door, then paused with her hand on the threshold. "She sounds like an interesting person, this Iris."

Regus made it halfway through another shrug before freezing. "Why did you come here?" He faced Margaret's back. "Don't you go doing anything stupid, Margaret."

"Like what?"

"Leave her where she is," Regus warned. "Let her feel like she's the victim of a monster." Iris had trapped herself in a way Regus could have never orchestrated: she had walled herself away from Ariel with a fine collection of principles, historical interpretations, and faux-virtues. He could not have invented a finer way to remove her from Ariel. For now it was enough that Ariel believed he was that monster, that antagonist, as long as it kept him away from her.

"Isn't that even crueler?"

"Forcing humans into the truth before they're ready is cruel. You can't call Ariel cruel and then do one worse." But truthfully, that wasn't what made Regus anxious. It was a sound, echoing in his head, purely imaginary: a fist knocking at Ariel's door. A small, soft little fist. The door was not yet locked against that tiny hand, those fragile knuckles.

Margaret hummed. "Let the future surprise you, Regus. You might like it."

"The only surprises I enjoy are my own."

But she was gone. When he looked out into the hall, there was not even a wisp of smoke.

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