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Author: rustydragonfly
Challenge: Pineapple 28 (damned if you do, damned if you don't), Cherry Vanilla 14 (cliffhanger), Soft Serve 28/50 (Champagne 3: bloodstone)
Wordcount: 765
Rating: teen and up (post attempted sex nudity)
Story: Manifestations
Summary: There's something on Jen's back. Turns out, that's the least of his worries.
Notes: Arc 9 and a direct follow on from here. Look who's back!

Jen froze, his chest wrap stretched between his hands. “What d’you mean, on my back?” They’d been through this before! The marks were on his arm, and there was no mistaking them.

“More like your shoulder,” Rosa said. “No, your other shoulder - yes, there, move your hand, you’re on top of it now!” Jen found himself contorted in an effort to look at his own shoulder blade. There was something there, a pinkish mark, as if fresh blood was flowing right under his skin, but at this angle all he could make out were a few faint marks creeping upwards. “That? Looks like I lay down on something.”

“No,” she said. “It’s the coins.”

He looked again, and there it was. Even from this angle, even though it was as pink and faint as a healing wound, he could make out spidery, weblike structures, spanning over his shoulder and back like an elaborate ritual scar.

“Where did you say you got those coins, again?” Rosa went on.

“I told you all I know!” But he remembered sitting in a wagon on a snowy evening, the smile on Numbers’ face and the glint in her eye as she laid them before him. Three coins, one for each guess... and then she’d spoken his name.

Suddenly aware of how little he was wearing and the cold air that wove around his body, he took back his chest wrap from where it had fallen on the floor, and bound the cloth tight around himself. “You should tell Ardea.”

“What? I can’t tell him!”

“It’s what he asked you to do.”

“That’s no reason to do it!” She sprung from the bed, still wearing nothing at all.

Jen pulled on more clothes. “I need to know too,” he said.

“Don’t you think,” Rosa said, picking up her own wrap, “that you’re going to get yourself killed if you keep doing this?”

Jen whirled around. “Don’t you think I know? My father, he... I... I saw what he did to people like me! This is the only place I’ve been where I didn’t think someone was going to stab me on sight for... for that! If I get one chance to be treated close to normal, even if it’s this, I just want to...” He stopped to pull his shirt on. The mark looked as if it should hurt, but he felt nothing when the cloth brushed against it. No wonder he’d missed it all this time, since however long it had been there. How was he supposed to know when he’d gotten it? Even if it was linked to Numbers and her coins, she hadn’t done anything he could think of that would result in such a mark, had she?

He couldn’t think of this. He put it all away, and pulled the shirt over his head.

Rosa looked up at him, and back to the floor. “I hate playing along,” she said, her voice level and quiet.

“So do I.” He held up a hand, unsure if he should brush aside her hair where it had fallen over her face. “I think.”

She took his wrist in her hand, and gently pulled it down. “Then go.”

You don’t want me to, he thought. But his mind was made up, and if he stayed here he’d be thinking of those coins and that mark at all the worst times. He pulled his boots on, stepped back out into the last of the afternoon sun, and made for the door. He’d never even tried it until today.

“I need to talk to Ardea,” he said.

The voice from the other side, much to his surprise (and somewhat to his relief, given what he’d nearly tried just before), was Lakedi’s, not Iktin’s. “Yes,” she said. “I think you do.”

He let her lead, Rosa following on, as she took him down through Kastek’s tunnels, a journey he couldn’t remember from before. He’d been so tired the last time he had no idea where in the city he’d been, though before long he concluded he had to have been near the peak. That was not so important. The way Lakedi had spoken to him, though...

He knew something was not what he’d expected when he entered the chamber with the smashed dais. Ardea looked up at the sound of his approach. “Is that you, Jen?”

“I need to talk to you about something,” he said.

“I rather think you do,” said Ardea. He got to his feet, shaky, but firm. “This would be about the beast sighting by the lake, wouldn’t it?”


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 19th, 2013 01:36 am (UTC)
Uh-oh! Now poor Jen has two things to worry about, (or more, if you count the thing he almost tried). I'm wondering if he'll still speak about the coins now, that they think he's come to talk about the monster. Also wonder how Dhaymin will react when he discovers Jen is gone. Nicely done :)
Mar. 21st, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
Dhaymin is being Dhaymin right now i.e. asleep. But he won't be happy when he wakes. Or when he's woken up, but that might be saying too much right now...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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