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    Assailant -- Year 226


    "But the dream, the echo, slips from him as quickly as he had found it and as consciousness comes to him (a slap and not the gentle waves of oceanic tides), it dissolves entirely. His muscles relax as the cold claims him again, as the numbness sets in, and when his grey eyes open, there’s nothing but the faint after burn of a dream often trod and never remembered." --Brigade, written by Laura

    [private]  lost in the labyrinth of my mind, kensley
    I was a dreamer before you went and let me down
    She is not sure when she had first let sorrow entirely overcome her.
    She does not remember when it had first sunk its teeth into her bones, seeped like poison into her veins, until she could no longer recall being any other way.
    She does not remember when her world turned ashy and gray, when every light she found seemed dim, every laugh and smile feeling so hollow.

    She had not always been that way; she had been foolishly happy as a girl, with a heart that could not stop loving, with a flame of hope that could not be extinguished. Even when she let a man fracture her heart into pieces, leaving the shards carelessly scattered across the ground, she had not realized yet that she was sinking. 

    It happened so slowly, a gradual decay from sunshine into darkness, and once everyone around her seemed to disappear and the land she had once known devolved into something she no longer recognized she found that there was little  reason to find the light again.

    The newest change happens just as slowly.
    It starts first with noticing how warm the sun feels against her skin, how the sound of birdsong causes her heart to elevate.
    It continues with the sunrises, at being able to marvel at the beauty of it all, in the quiet serenity of watching daylight spread across a sleeping world.
    Flowers begin to blossom and bloom within the tangles of her mane and tail, vibrant splashes of color set against the black strands, and the ghosts that have haunted her eyes seem to finally fade.

    She has heard rumors that old lands have returned, and she cannot deny that her heart had twisted uncomfortably in her chest at the mention of the Chamber. He wouldn’t be back—she knows it is a useless thing to both hope and dread—but that didn’t change the mixed emotions she fought at the idea of seeing it again.

    For now, she chooses to avoid any of the returning lands, and instead finds herself in the meadow. It is largely the same as it has always been, and though a wave of nostalgia washes over her, she does not have time to linger. She is searching for someone, for the face that she would know no matter how much time had passed or how much he might have changed since she last saw him—even if he is cloaked in fog and made up of storms—and when she finds him she smiles a smile that spreads light to her eyes when she calls his name. “Kensley!”

    These are the things he has reckoned with: shame and forgiveness, grief and hope, fear and courage. Most of all he has interrogated the blame that has lived so long at the very root of him. The grudge he has held against his father, the blame he has shouldered for the way the dark son had plunged the world into darkness, chaos. (For shouldn’t he have known, shouldn’t he have done more to stop it? But the child had been so strange, made of shadows as he was. And now he, Kensley, is similarly made of nothing at all. Perhaps this is what has prompted the forgiveness, the understanding that nothing he could have done could have stopped what had been set in motion.)

    He wanders now as he has always done, unwilling to confront the memories in the Chamber, grossly unwilling to venture back there only to find that she was not there. (When had he lost her again?)

    He exhales now, the force of his breath bending the flowers at his feet.

    A familiar voice stays him in his tracks and he swings his head around to search for her. (He is not convinced that he has not imagined it, that he has not wished his sister back into existence, too.) But she is there, she is there, smiling at him in that way that lends new light to the whole meadow and he laughs in disbelief. One long, low sound and the spring showers that had gathered low above the meadow dissolve with his relief. 

    He goes to her. There is no rush because he trusts that she will not disappear before he reaches her.

    “Kennice,” he exhales, smiling placidly still. 

    The last time he’d seen her, he’d been shattered. He’d been reduced to something he’d thought broken beyond repair. And yet he has persisted. He is here, still.

    “Sister,” he murmurs, reaching out to touch her shoulder and then to drape his head over her spine. “You’re alive,” he says, as if this is the most surprising thing of all, that they have both survived, somehow. 

    I was a dreamer before you went and let me down —
    She did not like to think about how broken the roads were they had each traveled.

    For so long her twin had been her breath, her heartbeat, and when she had finally struck off on her own—following what she believed to be love, thinking that she could flush it out of the darkness—she had never dreamed the two of them would find themselves in such desperate states. She had given herself to a man over and over, trying to cultivate love in a blighted garden, letting him wear her down to something brittle and thin and lost. How long had she suffered alone in the heartache that he left her in, letting the world pass her by, letting Kensley and the rest of their family drift away from her?

    Her solace when she had hidden herself away from the world was thinking Kensley was fine. That he had found love, he had a family, and he was on the path that he was meant to be on.

    The realization that this was so far from the truth felt like a blade between her ribs, and she was so certain that the guilt would swallow her whole.

    She finds herself looking at him now, nearly breathless with elation, but unable to keep herself from searching for the broken pieces. He is already different from the last time she had seen him, and she is afraid to ask what these changes meant; what kind of new scars were hiding within the fog? “Yes, I’m alive,” she says with a laugh, pressing into his embrace. “And so are you,” she says, softer now, pulling back just enough to touch her nose to his cheek, and this time there is nothing that she can do to hide the worry that shadows her face and seeps into her voice when she asks, “Are you alright?”

    He smiles something distant.
    ‘Yes, I’m alive, and so are you.’
    Because he hadn’t been the last time he’d seen her. Because he had ached for breath in a way that was purely psychological. He had not needed to draw breath when he’d emerged from the Mountain a dead thing. A dead thing that went on existing. (And for what?) But it had been his punishment and he’d understood that. His punishment for taking a life he had not deserved.

    The smile is warped at its edges, uncertain, but he means it all the same. Because it is such a relief to be standing here with her, his other half, armed with the knowledge that they have both weathered the storms. 

    (He has failed in so many ways, Kensley, but he is still here and he is still her brother and this must count for something. This must mean something. He cannot let it mean nothing.)

    He is not the same brother he’d been all those years ago. He is not the same sharp-eyed boy who’d loved her first of all, his sister, his twin. And she is not the same either, is she? None of them are, not really. But this has not changed: their hearts burn the same, magnetic. This, the love of twin siblings, is perhaps the purest of all and he thinks that maybe it is this force that has brought them back together after all of these years.) 

    “I’m tired, Kennice,” he tells her and exhales a breath that takes on a life of its own after it has left his mouth. A strong gust of wind that bends the grass around them. He is not the same boy, no, not at all. Now he is the storm. “But I’m all right,” he assures her, nodding. “I’m all right,” he says again, as if trying to convince himself.

    “Where have you been?” he asks, afraid to outright ask her what she has endured in all of the time that has passed between them.  


    I was a dreamer before you went and let me down —
    He breaks her in a way that no one else ever could.
    It is different from the way a lover could break her heart; different from the kind of hurt that came from letting someone in only for them to shatter everything you’ve shown them, to cast you aside as if you had been nothing (and perhaps it is easy, because at one point you were nothing).. She had never had to let Kensley in—he’s always been there. He has known her from before the beginning and he will know her after it all ends, and the only thing she could ever wish to be different is that things were not so hard in between.

    Seeing him repeatedly changed, that is what breaks her.

    Every change seems to wear him down a bit more than the last, and she is terrified of the day that he will find he cannot take anymore. If she could shoulder some of his burden she gladly would, even though she knows he would never let her, just as she would never expect him to carry the weight of her own sorrows.

    “I know,” she says softly, sadly, when he says that he is tired, and the worry again ghosts across her face. She watches the way the grass stirs as he exhales, as if he himself is the wind, and she fixes a smile to her face. “But you will persevere, like you always do.”

    He asks her where she has been and she sighs, trying to gather her thoughts into words. “Everywhere. Nowhere. Lost.” She shakes her head, the wildflowers shifting along with her dark forelock, and she does not know how to explain the ache that lives in her chest, or how she had finally come to realize that solitude would not be the way to rid herself of it. “But I think I’m okay with being found again.”

    There is no reason that he should persevere, he knows that. There is nothing about him that makes him any more worthy of life than anyone else. Sometimes he worries that he survives purely out of spite. The heart goes on beating because there are so many others that no longer do. And surely there are hearts that have gone still that were far more deserving of a pulse than his. 

    (He thinks now of how Anaxarete had reached into his chest and frozen that heart in its ribbed cage and he had drawn breath for the first time in so long and it had not hurt. He remembers, too, how she had touched him and brought it back to life, too. How many versions of himself has he been? He has surely lost count by now.

    But it is irrelevant, because he is reduced always to the most basic thing in her company. He has only ever been one thing when she is near and it is this: her brother. This is surely the only thing that matters, that she can count on him always to love her).

    Still, there is a slanted smile because he knows that she’s right. He will go on living regardless. He will labor through life so thoroughly exhausted that sometimes it pains him simply to lift his head, but he will not falter. Not because he is especially strong or resolute, but because he has simply never entertained any other option.

    Lost, she says and he studies her face for a long moment. How familiar the contours of it, so familiar that he could recall it no matter how many years had separated them. Because she is always Kennice, always his other half, always his sister. It has not changed except to take on the lines of worry over so many years, because she has weathered so much herself. 

    “You’re never lost as long as I’m alive,” he tells her, that smile deepening as he reaches out to bump her shoulder. “You could go to the very ends of the earth and I’d find you.” There is no question in it because he believes this completely. 

    ( i swore my days were over of courting empty dreams )
    ( i worshipped at the altar of losing everything )

    I was a dreamer before you went and let me down —
    “I know,” she answers him with a small, appreciative smile. He is one of the only things she could count on to always be there in this world—even more so than their parents, although she loved them dearly. When the twins had been born their parents love had not been the steadfast thing it is now, and while she would never fault her mother for it—because she had learned once she was older what it meant to try to keep existing when your heart is breaking, to have children that relied on you even if their father could not find it in himself to stay—Kensley had been a far more consistent presence.

    “I would do the same for you,” she tells him, because even though she is sure that he must know there is always a fear that he doesn’t; that he thinks he is alone in this world, or that she has forgotten him when he is in places that she cannot reach.

    She is content to stand with him in silence for a few moments, simply enjoying his presence, even though her thoughts have wandered far from where they stood. She is already worried over what will happen once they part ways again—how he will again be changed the next time she sees him, that she will regret not keeping him closer for longer.  “Where are you going to go?” she asks him, and there is a selfish part of her that wants to ask if she can follow. As if by keeping him close she might be able to shield him from all the things that keep happening, even though she knows it will never be true.

    Kensley has never been anything that could be contained, and she knows all that she can do is continue to love every version of himself that he becomes.


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