[The Vault] iv. d'ogne virtute / e d'ogni pene: ruari

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[The Vault] iv. d'ogne virtute / e d'ogni pene: ruari

Wed Apr 07, 2021 3:56 pm

17th Ashan, 721

Hart let himself remain where he was, in the place in the tent where he'd been when he was speaking to Wren, when he'd sent Wren to Vega. The small silver wren was in his hands, and he looked down at it. He'd cried, before. He didn't know if he'd see Wren again.

But Vega had said that he needed to do all that he could to get through this.

Getting up from where he'd been kneeling, Hart did what he needed to do to get through. Small tasks, he thought, and he got his belongings together.

Most of his belongings had been sent with Wren, but some hadn't. Hart rolled up his bedroll, buckling it neatly so it wouldn't unroll, and placed it on the messenger bag. Any small items needed for travel he placed in the messenger bag, being neat about the placement. There was no domain bag now; he needed to be neat. Then, the messenger bag slung over his shoulder and the bedroll buckled to the bag, he exited the tent.

"Thank you," he said quietly; he said it to the , to the fire and the tent. Hart shut his eyes a moment, thinking about safety and gratitude. When he opened his eyes again, he went about the small tasks that were needed to take down the camp.

Half a break later, the tent was in its canvas bag and the fire was buried and cooled. Hart touched a hand to the fire, gently, but the cooled embers didn't burn; it was safe.

Safe, he thought, looking at the place that had been his camp just half a break before. It wasn't all that cold out, , but his skin prickled, the hair standing on end. The camp taken down, the Safe Camp no longer there, it was difficult not to think about the feeling that he was being watched.

Hart didn't like being trapped, and the feeling was like the feeling he got when he was trapped; it was the feeling of not being able to get away.

But, he reminded himself, he didn't want to get away. He wanted to get to the kidnapper.

Hart walked a brief distance to the river that led from Egilrun west to Scalvtown, to fill his waterskin. He had some water and some rations, knowing that he should eat breakfast. Then he went back to the place he'd camped; it was as good a place as any. There was a group of trees nearby, and Hart sat amongst them. Snow was falling gently, and he leaned against the base of one of the trees. He'd sent his coat with Wren, but Hart had a sweater on, and if he was cold he would layer up.

He shut his eyes.

Sleep was difficult when he was being watched. With his eyes shut, it felt like he was being creeped up on; like he should open his eyes and look. The feeling of being watched,

being trapped,

was getting to him. But he needed to get to the kidnapper, he reminded himself once more, and so he didn't open his eyes. Hart huddled up, against the tree. The messenger bag, bedroll, and the tent were beside him. Eventually, eventually, he fell asleep.



He dreamed of darkness.

Hart had dreamed of darkness before, when he got the ransom note; but this was different. There was the feeling that this was a place; there were details of the place, though it was so dark that he wasn't able to see. There was the grit of stone or sand under his boots; the muffled sound of being inside, not outside; a gentle, damp smell. Hart reached out a hand, fumbling in the dark. It wasn't long before his hand found a wall. The wall was rough, like the wall of a cave or an ancient, crumbling building.

There was the feeling of being watched and Hart said, his hand resting against the wall, "I'm going to exchange myself for Ru. I don't know why you kidnapped her; I don't know why you want me. But I'll do the exchange."

"Please," Hart said, and his hand curled to a fist against the wall. "Please. It's me you want."
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Careful what you wish for.....

Wed Apr 07, 2021 4:54 pm

Image
Drip, drip, drip.....

He dreamed of darkness.

It wrapped around him like a shadow woven from despair, and it swallowed him as he fell down, down, down into the furthest recesses of his mind. Into his dreamscape, except it was not his.

It was a cave - or a cage - made of glass. It was ragged like rocks, but it was glass.

And everywhere, water ran down it. A constant drip - drip - drip.

"This is where I'm kept," the woman said to him. "Caged." Except now, she was a child. "Like an animal." With a blink of an eyes, she was ancient.

And then, she was gone.

She was gone and he was no longer in a cage.

Hart woke up.

And when he did, he was laying on the ground. It was a strange place, where he was. And in front of him, standing in front of a door, was a man.
Image
He looked at Hart with a raised eyebrow and then he smiled. "Good trial, Hart," he spoke calmly, politely. "I am delighted to make your acquaintance. I am, as you may know, the Warden of Slag's Deep. And you, you are someone I have been wanting to meet for a while." Perfectly manicured fingers pressed against each other as he steepled his hands together. "Such a wonderful talent, Edasha's son has."

Gesturing around the room, Hart saw that he was in a large room, with stone walls, ceiling, and floor, all expertly carved into heavy bricks. The wall to the left was covered in inscriptions and runes; he could see clearly in here, but there was no obvious source or direction of light. Straight ahead was a small river, small enough that with a good running jump, he could probably cross it.

"You have come to free your daughter, to exchange yourself for her." He smiled, like he was chatting. "Very good. So, if I told you that the price for her freedom would be that you must wish that every living soul on Scalvoris dies, that this is what I need in order for me to consider freeing her..." Another smile, as though they were old friends. "Would that be acceptable?"

And, should Hart try to see if that truly was what the Warden desired?

Well, his ability didn't work.

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Re: [The Vault] iv. d'ogne virtute / e d'ogni pene: ruari

Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:24 am


The dreamscape wasn't his.

Hart was in darkness, his hand against the wall of what he knew now was a cave. He'd fallen through the darkness, down and down. He removed his hand from the wall the moment he realized it was glass.

It was a cave; it was a cage.

There was a woman in the dreamscape, in the dream, and she said that she was caged.

"Are you the dreamer?" Hart asked, not knowing whose dreamscape it was, just that it wasn't his; not knowing what parts of the dream were dream and what parts were real. The woman in the dream was not a woman... she was a woman; a child; an ancient.

Then she was gone, and Hart



was in a strange room. He was lying on the ground, and there was a man in the room as well. Hart didn't know where the room was, but he knew he was no longer dreaming. Standing, he looked momentarily at the room, the door. It was a strange room, with a river running through it.

Then he looked at the man, and the man smiled.

This was the man who had kidnapped Ru. He spoke like he knew Hart, but Hart didn't know him. Because he didn't know who the man was, Hart didn't know why Ru had been kidnapped.

But then he did know. The man was the Warden of Slags Deep.

Hart knew who the Warden was. He knew Slags Deep; it was the prison north of Egilrun. This man was why Scalvoris was at war.

The Warden inquired whether Hart would Wish to murder every living soul on Scalvoris to save Ru,

and Hart reminded himself to breathe, that this was what he'd wanted. He'd wanted to get to the kidnapper. He just hadn't thought that the kidnapper would be the Warden of Slags Deep; that Ru's kidnapping would be about the war.

That the Warden knew who he was by name, knew that he was Edasha's son, and knew to pose a hypothetical about Wish scared Hart. Hart didn't want to be afraid in front of him,

the man was a kidnapper, and had smiled when he spoke about murdering innumerable people,

but Hart didn't know how not to be afraid.

So he grasped the fear with both hands, and he held it, and he said breathlessly, "I'm afraid of you."

He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, "Hypotheticals are all well and good, but you kidnapped my daughter." Though he was afraid, he looked the Warden in the face.

"The hypothetical was flawed, besides," Hart said quietly. Wishing to murder every living soul in Scalvoris wouldn't have saved Ru; it would have murdered her.

Hart didn't know how much information the Warden had about Wish. The Warden knew to question him about the ability; but the information the Warden had was important. What was also important, was the information Hart had. The Warden had inquired about the ability; Hart guessed he was attempting to get at that information.

Hart looked at the man stonily, though he was afraid. Then he said, "Where is my daughter? I've given into your demands." He was so afraid. "I beg you," he said. "I beg you. Let her go."
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Re: Careful what you wish for.....

Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:48 am

Image
We're all friends here, aren't we?
"Well, that's a sensible reaction to the situation you're in, wouldn't you say?" The Warden smiled, his voice smooth and gentle and almost honest. Nearly amused. Bordering on delighted and so far past sane. "Fear is a sensible response to a most nonsensical situation, after all." He listened to Hart, listened intently. His eyes were sparkling, apparently with mirth.

"You are making some very flawed assumptions," he smiled. "Let me clarify for you. I did not kidnap your daughter. I find that suggestion offensive. I'd say I'm hurt, but I understand why." He smiled at Hart and nodded. "And yes, the hypothetical was flawed. In order to make that exchange, I'd have to really need and want it." He gestured expansively. "And you'd have to grant that wish." Then, he turned and paced a little, thinking and then speaking and gesticulating as he emphasised his points. "And that, my friend .... may I call you my friend? We are friends, aren't we? No?" His face showed his disappointment. "Ah well."

The Warden looked at him, stopping his pacing and pausing to gaze upon Hart.

"I did not kidnap your daughter. My daughter did," he said. "And, you know how it is. Children. She wanted a new friend and I saw an opportunity." He lifted his hands as though to stop Hart from speaking. "I know, I know. You think I want your Wish. You think I brought you here to demand that you use your Wish to change the course of this little war?" He smiled, then, a wide and charming smile.

"I'm not going to demand that. I don't want your Wish. And let me tell you why, Hart." He gestured to 'out there'. "Every conversation. Every bit of intelligence. Every Immortal conversation and each whispered word? They are all going exactly the way I want. This is all going to wonderfully in the way I want it to." His eyes were alight with amusement. "So no, my friend, I don't want you to use your Wish for me."

He chuckled. "I just don't want you to use it for them." He lifted a hand almost apologetically. "That would be no fun at all."

And then, he was not there.

There was just Hart and there sound of water.

Drip... drip... drip.
Off Topic
On the 30th Ashan -- without warning -- Hart is joined by Bao.
Until then, Hart may explore. There are things to discover. Feel free to continue that here and I'll modnote if needed.
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word count: 453
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Re: [The Vault] iv. d'ogne virtute / e d'ogni pene: ruari

Fri Apr 09, 2021 7:04 pm


warning for the depiction of a traumatized child

Something was wrong with the Warden of Slags Deep.

Hart was afraid; he was afraid for himself, and he was afraid for Ruari. He looked at the Warden's expressions, and he listened to what the man said. The more he looked and listened, the more Hart saw whatever it was that was wrong with the Warden.

"Warden," Hart said, but the man wouldn't listen to him. "Warden, I beg you, listen to me."

But the man was gone, and Hart was in the
strange room
by himself. There was the drip- drip- dripping of water, and that was all the sound there was. Hart listened to the dripping water, and he was afraid.

"But there's really nothing for you to rush to," Hart had thought to Vega. "Not because you're pregnant, but because this is something I need to do." "They said to come alone."

Hart laughed quietly. He laughed at himself.

There was the drip- drip- dripping of water, and the ransom note had said to come alone; and so Hart had come alone. The ransom note had said the Warden was watching; and so Hart had given in, and he hadn't informed anyone about the ransom except Vega, who was looking after Wren so that Hart could be here. The ransom note had made him afraid; and so he'd given into the Warden's demands.

But the Warden didn't have Ru, the Warden's daughter did. And Hart laughed at himself.

There was the drip- drip- dripping of water, and Ru was kidnapped. And Hart didn't laugh.

"Warden," he said, and walked to the door. Ru was kidnapped and Hart was in this room. Every moment he was here was a moment his daughter was sad and afraid.

"Warden," Hart said louder. The door didn't seem to be locked; it didn't seem to have a locking mechanism. But the door was stone, and more like a wall than a door. Hart placed both hands on the door and pushed, his boots sliding back against the stone ground. He wouldn't be able to move it.

"Warden!" he screamed, and pushed with all his
strength
. But the door didn't move.

There was drip- drip- dripping of water, and that was all the sound there was. And then, distantly. Maybe because he'd screamed the Warden's name,

there was the sound of a small girl crying.

That wasn't possible, Hart thought. The Warden and the Warden's daughter; they wouldn't have left Ruari here with Hart, would they? But there was a small girl crying, and Hart turned away from the door in the direction of the sound. "Ruari?" Hart said, and the sound of crying became louder.

The crying was not from the other side of the door, and Hart
listened
. He went in the direction of the sound, to the end, lengthwise, of the strange room. There was a river running through the end of the room, or maybe it was a lake, and Hart went to the water. But there was no small girl.

She wasn't in the strange room.

"Ruari?" Hart said, turning, and saw that part of the stone wall this side of the lake was crumbling.

The sound was coming from somewhere on the other side of the wall, and Hart was going to get through the wall. The crumbling part of the wall had collapsed; it was nothing but debris. If Hart was able to climb up, he'd be able to get through.

Hart began to
climb
the collapsed wall.

At first he moved quickly. But debris slid under him, and his boots slipped. Hart slid down to the ground. The debris was stone, all stone. He banged his left knee against a stone block when he slipped, and that hurt. Hart's knee hurting, he dropped to his other knee when he was back on the ground. From that position, he looked up at the debris, wincing. He needed to climb the collapsed wall, but he wouldn't be able to move quickly. The debris would slip, and he'd just slide and hurt himself. Or the blocks would slide and hurt him.

"Just, just a moment, Ru," Hart said.

He looked at the wall for a while from his position on the ground. Then he went to the debris pile and pushed at a number of the stone blocks, testing them. One groaned when he pushed it; smaller bits of crumbled stone moved when it groaned, falling to the ground. But the other stone blocks remained where they were when he pushed them. Hart was only able to test the stones up to a point. He'd need to be very cautious when he climbed higher up.

Again, Hart began to climb the collapsed wall. This time, he moved slowly and cautiously. He climbed the stone blocks he'd tested, and he didn't slide. Above them was untested territory, and Hart moved very slowly, placing a hand or foot on a block and slowly adding weight to it before he placed his full weight on it. If there was any sound, the grinding of stone, he looked for another block.

Like that, Hart climbed.

There was a gap in the debris near the stone ceiling, and Hart slowly began to climb through it. The debris on the other side of the gap moved, and there was the sound of groaning. "Ruari, get back!" Hart said, not knowing where she was, if she was near to the debris. "Get back!" he said again, and the debris began to slip.

Hart began to slide down the debris on the other side of the collapsed wall. He hadn't been able to test the stones on this side, and he grabbed at the stone blocks. One groaned, moving, but he was able to get a foot on it. He pushed up with his leg, and grabbed a second block with a hand. The second block didn't move and Hart got his legs out of the way of the first.

The first block moved, tumbling ponderously down the debris a number of feet before grinding to a halt. More stones tumbled when it did, the debris moving, collapsing. The block Hart had grabbed groaned with the collapse, and he reached for a third block. The third block didn't move, and Hart clung to it, his legs curled up.

Slowly, the debris stopped collapsing. There was dust in the air, getting in his eyes and mouth, and Hart coughed.

The moment the debris stopped moving, Hart slowly began climbing down. He moved like he had on the other side of the collapsed wall, slowly testing his weight block to block. Like that, he managed to get to the ground.

Hart limped away from the pile, his knee hurting. Dust had got in his mouth and throat and he coughed. When he was a safe distance away, he dropped down, slowly, to his knees. Coughing, he said, "Ruari?"

Hart listened, but it was quiet. Distantly, there was the drip- drip- dripping of water. Hart was in a
new, huge room
. It was light in the room, though Hart didn't know where the light was coming from. He didn't see Ruari.

"Ruari," Hart said. Nothing. "Ru, could you say "I'm here," for me?" Hart asked. Nothing. Hart's eyes were gritted with dust, and that hurt as bad as his knee. Tears fell down his face and he rubbed the dust from his eyes. "Please answer," he said.

A small girl's voice answered, distant. " 'm here," Ruari said.

"I'm here," Hart said. "Ruari say, "I'm here." "

" 'm here," Ruari said.

Hart walked, limping, in the direction of his daughter's voice. "I'm here," Hart said.

" 'm here," she answered.

The new room Hart was in was huge. Part of the ground had collapsed in, and Hart remained well back from the collapsed part. He walked, limping, until he got to the end of the room, lengthwise. There was debris here, and it looked like,

it looked like people's belongings.

There were a lot of stone objects here, a set of stone tools that Hart didn't recognize, and then numerous plates and bowls and cups. There was a small wooden carving, masterfully made, and Hart saw it was a wooden woman, maybe as long as Hart's hand. There was debris, collapsed in from the walls or the ceiling; and there were stone bricks against the wall, neatly stacked. And, there; the glint of something mostly covered in dust. A shattered mirror.

There were people here, Hart thought. He looked at the belongings a moment, and then awfully, he understood. People had lived here. But he looked only for a moment; he needed to get to Ru.

" 'm here," Ruari said from the other side of the wall, and Hart looked at the wall, placing most of his weight on his right leg.

The wall at the end of the new room wasn't collapsed, and like the door in the entrance, Hart wouldn't be able to move it no matter how he pushed. But there was one part of the wall, he saw, near the stone bricks, where someone had removed some of the bricks from the wall. The opening in the wall was high up, but not so high that Hart wouldn't be able to get to it.

Limping, Hart climbed up the stone bricks. He got his hands in the opening of the wall and pulled himself up. One boot slipped against the smooth brick of the wall, and he nearly banged his chin on the stone.

From the other side of the wall, Ruari began again to cry.

"It's, it's me, Ru," Hart said, pulling himself up to the small ledge formed in the wall. He looked down into the room and saw that the opening was the only way in. The room wasn't crumbling and it wasn't collapsing; rather, there was a small bed and a couple of old toys.

And hiding near the bed, her eyes squeezed shut and tears falling down her cheeks, was Ruari.

Hart hadn't seen Ruari in a long time. He hadn't held her since she was a small baby; and though she was a baby still, she wasn't small. The image he had of Ru in his mind was of that small baby, of him holding her gently in his arms, singing to her.

He loved her, he knew; loved her because of who she was, without even knowing who she would be.

That image he had of Ru was gone in a moment, when he saw her hiding by the bed.

Two years of his baby's life had gone by without him, and she was crying, and she was afraid. Hart climbed the rest of the way through the opening in the wall, carefully. He carefully lowered himself down the other side, and into
the room
.

When he did, Ru began to cry harder, her little fists by her eyes.

"Ruari," Hart said
gently
. He was covered sweat and grime from climbing the debris, and he hurt. She didn't know him; and he would be more scary to her, grimy and hurt, than he would have been clean and well. Wincing, he kneeled down. "Ru," Hart said gently. "I'm here."

When he said "I'm here," she opened her eyes and looked at him. Tears fell down her face, and Hart saw that her eyes were a bright golden green. She had biqaj eyes, and he wished he knew what the color meant. Fear, maybe. Sadness.

"Ru," Hart said again. She didn't move; she squeezed her eyes shut again. "I'm Hart," he said. "Hart. I'm not going to hurt you, Ru. I'm going to get you home."

"My go home," Ru cried, and she rubbed her fists on her eyes.

"I'm going to get you home," Hart promised her.

Ruari moved, no longer hiding by the bed, and looked at him, though only for a moment. Hart was trying to make eye contact with her, but she wouldn't look him in the eyes. She looked at him, but she always looked away and never at his face. He didn't know why she wouldn't look at his eyes, but he said, "Is it alright if I hold you, Ruari?"

"My go home," Ru said, and Hart gently touched her arm.

The moment he touched her, Ruari's eyes went white. She screamed, and Hart knew that the golden-green eyes he'd seen before didn't mean fear. The white eyes meant fear. She began crying, huge awful sobs. Hart wasn't touching her anymore, but she didn't stop sobbing.

"No," she screamed.

"Ru," Hart said gently. He was scaring her. "Ru, I'm... I'm going to hold you, alright?" he said. He touched her just as gently as before. She didn't scream this time, though her eyes were squeezed shut.

She remained where she was a moment. And then she leaned into him, sobbing, and Hart held her in his arms. "I'm here," he said, and she leaned into him more. Her small hand touched his arm, looking for his hand with her eyes shut, and he put her small hand in his. "I'm here," he said again, gently.

"Hat," she cried, "Hat." She was saying his name. And then, " 'm want mama. My go home."
Notes: Permission for Hart to meet Ru; permission to use plot details about the rooms and Ruari. Details used in this post are

- The sections of the map where the walls are broken need to be climbed over or through.

- Ruari is in the Vault / in Room D.

- There are belongings in some of the rooms in the Vault, that are evidence that people have been in the Vault and possibly lived there.

- Ruari is not able to see Hart. She's able to feel him and hear him.

Edit 4/10/21: Removed the IC date of the post.
 ! Message from: Peg
So - during the time that he is here, Ru can never see him. She will talk about the "Shadow-lady" who was here, and she'll tell him that the Shadow Lady took her from her mother. That the Shadow Lady talks to the Ward Man and that Ru doesn't like the Ward Man. She tells Hat that there's another little girl but that the little girl is a "big scary monster".

There are mushrooms, and the water is clean. Ru has a bed, and a few small toys. But there are sounds like monsters and she's very, very afraid..

None of Harts MB powers work, nor does his magic or any marks.
Last edited by Hart on Sat Apr 10, 2021 9:04 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 2525
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Re: [the vault] iv. d'ogne virtute / e d'ogni pene: ruari

Sat Apr 10, 2021 9:00 pm


warning for the depiction of a traumatized child

Hart held Ruari for a long time. Though she had screamed when he touched her, she let him hold her now. She curled into him, more and more, her eyes squeezed shut. Tears fell down her cheeks, and she sobbed. Hart held her gently, murmuring to her in a low voice.

Ruari didn't want to be lifted up off the ground, it scared her, and so Hart remained where he was. His knee hurt, but he kneeled beside her, his arms around her while she leaned into him and sobbed; and then, when she curled up in his arms, he moved to a sitting position. He was grimy from climbing the debris, he knew, and he didn't want to get her or her clothing grimy.

But he wouldn't have been able to let go of Ruari if he'd wanted to, and he didn't want to; she wouldn't have let him. When he moved to sit, she seemed to think he was going to leave her. She curled up in his arms and sobbed. "No no no," she sobbed, and she grasped his hand with hers.

"I'm not leaving, Ru," Hart murmured to her. "I'm here now. I'm not leaving."

Hart held his daughter in his arms.



Ruari babbled. She was sad and afraid and when they'd kidnapped her, they'd left her here in this room alone. Hart listened quietly, and he responded in a low, gentle voice. Some of what Ru said wasn't words; it was bits of words, things she wanted to get out but wasn't able to, because she was upset or because she wasn't able to properly order the words and feelings in her mind. She cried when she spoke, making it difficult to understand her. But Hart listened to every word she said.

Ru had been kidnapped the day before Hart had given into the Warden's demands, and she babbled about being kidnapped and about her time in this place; the vault. She mentioned a shadow-woman, "Shadow Lady," and Hart guessed the small girl was being literal when she said shadow. Ru was one year old, just now turning two; Hart didn't know if a two year old would be able to be anything but literal.

The shadow-woman had stolen her from her mother's house, and Hart added the shadow-woman to the list of people who were responsible for Ruari's kidnapping. The Warden. The Warden's daughter. The shadow-woman. Hart thought of the glimpse of the woman he'd seen in the dreaming world when he'd come to the vault. The woman in the dream was not a woman... she was a woman; a child; an ancient.

Was the woman from the dream the shadow-woman? The Warden had said his daughter had kidnapped Ru, and that he'd capitalized on the kidnapping with the ransom note. Was the shadow-woman the Warden's daughter?

Hart didn't know. He listened to Ru.

Ru said the "Shadow Lady" and the "Ward Man" spoke to one another, and Hart remembered the Warden saying, You are making some very flawed assumptions. Hart would have assumed, based on the two of them speaking, that the shadow-woman was the Warden's daughter. But now he didn't know.

It was just so difficult to understand. Hart was unable to understand why more than two people might have been involved in Ru's kidnapping. Assuming, for now, that the Warden's daughter and the shadow-woman weren't the same woman, what motivation did the shadow-woman have to be involved in Ru's kidnapping? The Warden's daughter had wanted a friend, or so said the Warden; the Warden had wanted Hart in the vault.

There was just too much Hart didn't know. And then, Ru told him about the little girl who was the big scary monster.

Hart thought again of the woman in the dream. He'd asked, when he'd met her, if the woman was the dreamer; the one who belonged to the dreamscape. She hadn't answered. The woman in the dream wasn't a big scary monster, but there was something strange about her. Why had she been caged down in the darkness, in a cage of glass? Was that part of the dream real? Hart knew better than to assume that information in the dreaming world was real, without confirmation.

But...

Glass, Hart thought, and he thought of the glass in the shackles he and Woe had investigated; of Egilrun glass and its relationship to Slags Deep; of the Warden of Slags Deep; of the woman in the glass cage.

There was information here that Hart didn't understand. Maybe the woman in the glass cage had just been a dream.

Ruari didn't like the "Ward Man," and Hart murmured, brushing a hand at Ruari's hair, "I don't like him, either." She was exhausted, the sobs having subsided into small gasps, and yawns. She rubbed her eyes with her fists; up until this point, her eyes had been squeezed shut. But now she opened her eyes and looked up at Hart.

New tears fell down her face, looking at him, and Hart said, "Shh, Ru, it's okay." Looking down at the small girl in his arms, Hart

saw that something was wrong with her eyes. She wasn't looking at him, when she looked up; her eyes looked up blindly.

Fear knotted Hart's stomach, and he moved his hand. He had been brushing away the strands of hair that had stuck to her tears; now he placed his hand directly before her eyes. Her eyes didn't respond to the movement of his hand.

Hart thought of touching Ruari gently on the arm, and how she'd screamed. He thought of her small hand looking for his, feeling, her eyes shut. He was quiet, his stomach knotted. His mind went back a year, to the man who had lived in Hart's body when he was dead; and the man had been blind. Hart tasted the memory of coffee, and he shut his eyes, tears falling down his face.

"Ruari," he said, and he tried very hard to keep the fear and the grief from his voice. "Your eyes." He was quiet a moment. "Will, will you look at me?"

She was exhausted from crying, and she responded sleepily. " 'm don't look," she said, and yawned. Hart brushed the tears from his eyes with a hand, but more fell. "You don't, you're not able to look at me?" he asked. And then, desperately, "You saw the Shadow Lady. You saw the Ward Man."

" 'm don't want 'a see the Ward Man," Ru cried.

"No, shh, you don't..." He was confusing her. "You don't have to see him."

They had kidnapped Ruari and left her alone, by herself; had they blinded her as well? The small girl slept in his arms, and Hart wept.



Later, Hart questioned her. He pointed to things, questioning what he was pointing to, but she said, her eyes a light brown, "No, Hat!"

He thought he was confusing her again. "Where's the bed, Ru?" She pointed to the bed, and Hart said, "Good. Where's the bunny?"

"Bunny!" Ru said, and she pointed at the stuffed bunny. She wanted to get the bunny, but she was scared. "It's okay," Hart said. She didn't want to let go of him, but he said once more, "It's okay," and she did. Ru got the bunny and turned back to him, but the moment she turned she burst into tears. "Hat," she sobbed, "Hat."

She'd seen the bed and the bunny. But she wasn't able to see Hart.

"I'm, I'm right here, Ru," Hart said. She looked at him when he spoke, and he realized she never looked at him when he wasn't speaking to her. He moved to Ruari's side, wincing at his knee. "I'm right here beside you. I'm, I'm going to touch you, okay?" He touched her, gently, on the shoulder.

Ruari turned and leaned into him, sobbing. "Don't leave!" she screamed, and her eyes flashed gold. She wrapped her arms around him, holding the bunny in one hand, and he knew she wouldn't be letting go for a long time.

"You're not able to see me," Hart murmured, his voice low. The fear in his stomach unknotted, replaced by an awful, low hurting. He could have wept, relieved, that she wasn't blind; he could have wept, though, that she was blinded to him. "Did, did the Shadow Lady do something to your eyes?" Hart asked, but Ru didn't respond.

He didn't understand. Why would they have blinded his daughter to him? To hurt Ruari? To hurt him?

"Ru," he said gently. She was crying now; she'd thought, when she'd turned holding the bunny, that he'd left her. Hart didn't want her to cry. "Ru, what's the bunny's name?" he asked.

"Name," Ruari cried, "No bunny, no bunny don't have name," and Hart said gently, "It's okay, it's okay. We could name them."



Magic, Hart thought some time later. Ruari had been blinded with magic. He'd assumed, and he needed not to do that, that there was no magic in the vault. But if Ru was blinded, then there had to be some magic.

Hart looked at Ru with his mortalborn ability Fulfillment. When he did, his heart thrummed in his chest; if he was able to sense her Needs, he'd be able to sense her truest Need, her Wish. Hart thought it likely that Ru's Wish would be to get her out of the vault; out of her kidnappers' grasp, and into her mother's arms.

But he wasn't able to sense her Needs. He attempted his other abilities and magics, one by one. But none of them worked.

Hart wished that he would have been able to Wish for Ruari. But, without his abilities, he would need to get her, get them, out of the vault some other way. Hart would go over the vault, every inch of every room, if need be.

He'd promised Ruari that he'd get her home.
word count: 1778
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