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Played by Cherith
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 The beginning is the end is the beginning, Paj'Liara | DATE TBD
played by Cherith
CST    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
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There was a pain in her chest, a thick lump in her throat that barely allowed for a breath to sneak by. It burned like fire, hot and cold at once and choking the life from her lungs. At once she was 15 years old all over again, only this time there weren't thugs beating down her front door as it happened. There was no one to blame, no revenge to be gained, and all she had left in the world was a grieving daughter. That was a pain she knew all too well. In twenty-some years she had no better advice to give on how to move past such pain.

She was soaked through, lungs still hoping for air as if they were still in the water instead of the relative safety of lifeboat. Anger coiled like a serpent in her stomach, stinging with bile at being told to leave the Griffon behind her. Her teeth chattered as she pressed them down, ground them in her frustration. It waxed and waned as she looked from the wreckage in the distance, to Paj'liara, and back again. And again. And again. She'd obeyed for this reason only.

"Paj-" She placed a hand on Paj's arm in an attempt to comfort while shaking herself. Words didn't come though. What could she say when she couldn't claim to be grateful for her own safety, when she knew Paj wouldn't be either. If she could see his daughter at a distance, from the bow of the Griffon while she fought at Ben's side, perhaps then she could feel some gratitude. As it was she had a bottomless pit of anger to draw from and she was afraid to speak too many words for fear some of it would spill out.

Knowing he'd asked for this didn't make it better. She shook her head and tried, somewhat successfully to remember what she'd done before. Work, revenge, had fueled her when she'd lost her own father. If she could not feel gratitude now for her safety, she could at least finish the job she'd promised Ben to do. Distance from the breach and the Griffon was safe -- for now -- but it was not a guarantee of safety for long.

"We'll need another ship," she said. Her voice was low and it scratched her throat to speak but it didn't break. As her mind turned to what needed to be done, she could feel the warmth in her chest giving way to the cold, to chill of an ocean breeze. "Another ship." She nodded. "A crew, and you… Paj." Her hand squeezed the woman's arm. "It's you and me now."


played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GMage
A24
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She was detached.

Clutching the edge of the lifeboat and body twisted nigh uncomfortably to stare, wide-eyed in her silent disbelief, Paj could almost believe this was a bad dream. Disbelieving reality put a foggy lens on every sense. They bobbed, but she didn’t hear the water smacking the wooden boat sides. Water traveled in zig-zag rivulets down the side of her face, crawled south down her back, but it was someone else’s body. Someone else’s skin.

She was looking through the eyes of a dreamt creation. She had to be. Seeing herself in a frozen, helpless state and feeling her emotion like a breath on her ear. It was there, but not quite touching her. If she could remain like this, in this dream form born out of an unwillingness to accept the truth of her vision, then she would be fine.

Kat’s touch reinforced reality, warm and grounding and Paj’s fragile composure shattered. The first blubbering breached her lips, and that was the end of her pseudo-dream state. Paj sobbed, loud and hard and choking on the sound so her throat hurt. Then she couldn’t stop. Couldn’t speak. As her sorrow escaped her in a combination of ugly, horrible weeping and whimpering and stammered vocal noises.

Paj turned, grabbing Kat’s forearm with vicious intensity. She didn’t open her eyes, tears streaming through her lashes, and shook her head in rapid but jerky movements. No. No. There couldn’t be just her. And just Kat. She looked at the woman with blurred eyes. After a hesitation, she collapsed into Kat and trapped the other woman’s arm against her chest as her cheek pressed into her shoulder.

“W-w-why-“ Uncontrolled weeping broke up her words. “I-is he so-o… stupid.” Paj inhaled steeply, her chest spasming, only to have the air escape in hard, gusting cries. “J-just magic. I have… I hav-ve…. I-I-I could-d’ve… Ma-ay-be.” She’d quickly lost the ability to breathe through her nose. Paj clasped and hid half her face against Kat’s upper arm. Through eyes squinted against a moment of open-mouthed but silent grief, she could still see the leftover wreckage. Her voice cracked, and her body continued to alternate between hyperventilation and heavy sobbing.

All the while holding onto Kat, whether the other woman wanted her to or not. Grateful she was here, as convulsions shook her shoulders and her grip maybe too tight. She needed Kat, as she buckled under the weight of vulnerability and helplessness.
played by Cherith
CST    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A32
AOUTLAW
P96 posts
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She wrapped an arm around Paj and squeezed. Her gaze was focused in the distance over the woman's shoulder. Out there, out of sight now but not so far she didn't know where to look, was what remained of the Griffon. Their ship, her home… and Ben. Or the idea of him anyway. It lingered. She tried to focus her senses as if somehow she could find him out there in the ocean, as if the ship still connected them somehow.

In the pocket of her long coat she'd stuff the pouch he'd forced into her hand as he pushed them away. Her fingers fiddled with the strings, a reminder that it was still with her whatever it was. Maybe someday she'd even be willing to look inside. This wouldn't be that day but it was a part of him that was left, so she touched it and stared into the rolling ocean. It quieted her, even as the woman in her arms sobbed.

Focus had steeled her mind. Enough so that when Paj spoke the hitch in her chest released and she laughed. "He's stubborn, that's why." If it hadn't been for Paj, Kat would still be on the Griffon or would've gone down into the belly of the beast at Ben's side. A captain went down with their ship and though she'd only been its captain for a short time, the Griffon was more her home than anywhere else in all of Thedas. She should've been there.

"He told us to leave. He wanted us far away. He wanted you safe." No way did he want to die knowing the child he'd only just gotten to know was going down with his ship. Kat understood that more than she wanted to admit, the tiniest bit of anger creeping in with thought. They'd done what they'd been told to do and they lived. Kat looked down at the soaked head of Paj in her arms. Gently she kissed the top of her head and wrapped her other arm around her. The lifeboat rocked and Kat swayed slightly with it.

"And you've got me. I'm not going anywhere."
played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
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A24
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“I did-n’t want to,” she gasped, ragged and hard. Each breath jolted through her. Paj looked to the water, despair panging her chest, and keened.

She hadn’t wanted to listen to Ben. She wouldn’t have willingly abandoned The Griffin for anything less than Benoit. Kat had forcibly hauled her while Paj screamed Ben’s idiocy. Magic had wafted from her hands in ethereal blues and purples as she cast final hexes, dispelling wards, and the strongest barrier she could provide. Damned if he had hated it, because he’d cornered her into casting as her final, parting action and her only shred of hope. Some of her spells had undoubtedly been useless upon contact with the rift. If she could have just been standing there, seen the magic, she could have reacted so much better.

Creators. Her last words to him had been calling him stupid. In Orlesian.

She felt Kat kiss her head. New tears drifted down from closed eyes. Paj adjusted her hands around Kat’s arm, pressing her face into her. “Go-od. I ca-n’t… lose you, too.” Shuddering another sob and hugging Kat’s arm, Paj lay heavily into her.

Gradually, she quieted to hiccups while occasionally wiping her nose against her coat sleeve. Absentminded, Paj stared at the lip of the lifeboat, lured into a hollow serenity by the sway and Kat’s breathing. “It’s… all gone. They’re all gone.” she whispered, voice hoarse. Paj sat up sluggishly, sniffling, hiccupping, and rubbing her face. One hand stayed on Kat’s forearm as she drew comfort from the connection. Looking at Kat’s almost stone set face with reddened, sticky eyes, Paj sighed as quieter tears continued to fall over her cheeks. “You’re what I’ve got left,” she croaked with a tilt of her head. Her smile was weak and immediately wavered.

Kat was her final connection to the Griffin. To Benoit. Besides the clothes on her body and the jewels on her fingers. Paj looked at the water. She had the sea as well, she supposed. Kat was right. They needed another ship.

She squeezed Kat’s hand. “I don’t want to be here any longer.” Her words were small, as her gaze angled downward back into the boat. Her damp wavy hair fell in her face. Paj didn’t move it as she grasped an oar and dipped it in the water. “Let’s go. Just like he wanted.”

played by Cherith
CST    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A32
AOUTLAW
P96 posts
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"I know. I know. Me either." Her reply was a bit more than a whisper and it got lost somewhere in the shifting of their bodies and their heavy sighs. It didn't need to be said that either of them would've died had they stayed on the ship next to Benoit. Even at his side, there was little that could've been done to keep them all alive, or the ship afloat.

"You've got me. I'm not going anywhere, Paj." Kat held the other woman fiercely, She nodded slightly as Paj seemed to get herself together, They rallied somehow, and Kat centered herself with the silence that followed between fresh gulps of air and quieting sniffles. Her own tears had dried in salt streaks and her cheeks felt tight as she breathed, letting Paj free from her grasp. Her lips twitched in a mirroring smile to Paj's. She was evident Paj was using her to draw her own strength and that was just fine by her.

She slid away from Paj and they both reached for oars. Kat nodded, letting her own oar come up out of the water before she pushed it down and swept it through the water, ready to propel them away from the wreckage of their life. Paj had been wrong about one thing. They weren't all gone. She wasn't leaving this site empty-handed, not as long as she wasn't alone.

A part of her felt very strange to think somewhere out there in the word, Ben wasn't just waiting for her aboard the Griffon. He'd been in the distance for so much of her life, ship looming on the docks of all the cities she'd needed a quick escape from or had become tired of. When the road could no longer contain her, the Griffon had been there. To be headed somewhere, to be looking for a ship that was anything less seemed more like a distant memory than a very real future.

"This won't get us far, but we'll figure it out once we land. I know some places we can start." As they rowed, Kat grew thoughtful, her expression lost on a future horizon and the plans they'd need to make. Somewhere, a fortune awaited them. Likely they'd find it in a dozen places, though it would take awhile to track it all down. Ben had been a thrifty and paranoid man when it came to his gold, but Kat had a few good ideas.

Perhaps there'd even be money in it for them when they found him. Not that Orlais was on her favored list of places to visit but there had to be something there for them. At least there was something there for Paj. She didn't suppose Ben had the foresight to tell her about the place she could go if something happened to him. And not for the first time since she'd brought Paj all the distance from the Free Marches to the deck of the Griffon, she looked at the small, dark woman and wondered where she would've landed had Kat not run into her that night.

It seemed there was always something more to lose.

"I think there's someone you should meet."


played by SQUEE
Mountain (-7)    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GMage
A24
APirates
P17 posts
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Paj leaned into pulling her oar. It took a couple of moments before finding the pace with Kat. She still sniffled, having to dab at her nose every minute or two.

“I know,” Paj said. She wanted to sound more optimistic and upbeat. Even to her ears, she sounded tear-drenched and like the personification of misery. “To start? What do you mean? I was going to find one of Papa’s stashes and go from there.” Paj caught and released her lip with her teeth. “I know where. We’ll have to see where we land first though.”

Kat and Benoit had had an interesting relationship, one that was still quite the puzzle to Paj. There was a strange, twisted, convoluted history there she had explored with caution. Even given that unique relationship, it had been made acutely apparent that Paj was Benoit’s daughter and thus entitled to a number of privileges and behavior reserved only for her. His fortune was hers. He’d left it for her. She was going to claim it as she needed it.

She needed it for a new ship.

The words bubbled into her throat. “I want a new ship,” she said. “I know that. Without a doubt. No matter what, we keep sailing on. Or. Right now, rowing on.” Paj bit her lip again and gave Kat a sheepish look at her pathetic attempt at humor.

Unused to rowing, Paj’s arms tired and she unknowingly slowed pace over time. Her thoughts carried her only to a couple of years back, when she had been a bundle of nerves meeting Benoit’s steely, suspicious face. A masculine mirror of her reflection. Her thought then had been: she had faced wolves, and bandits, and Templars, and so she could face a bloody pirate too. She’s spent four years searching for him, longer dreaming of him, and so Paj figured she could meet his eyes while he either believed her story or denied her presence.

Benoit’s embrace hadn’t been without its rough moments. His hatred of her magic. The short time in the brig. All those Orlesian language lessons. Yet, Paj could say, without stuttering, that Benoit had loved her. She would admit that, in all her life thus far, she had never felt more at home, like she belonged, than when she had stood aboard The Griffon.

She blinked when Kat mentioned meeting someone. Gray eyes, underlined with tears not yet fallen, looked at the other woman. Her brow gathered, a bit confused.

“Who?”
played by Cherith
CST    mature content? Yes    Offline
           
GRogue
A32
AOUTLAW
P96 posts
permalinkQuote
Kat smiled at Paj, almost chuckling a little as she answered so optimistically. "Yes of course, one of his stashes." She nodded. "And you're right, it'll depend on where we land,
how close we are to the nearest port, if we can get a ship from there or have to travel by foot. Chances are, wherever we'll be headed it's going to be faster to travel by ship.
"

Kat hadn't spoken with him of it, but she'd known the man well and long enough to know that whatever Paj knew, wasn't everything. In fact she'd known him long enough to know that no matter how much she'd proved herself, or how much he might've trusted her, that he hadn't even told her everything. Not that it upset her, she'd never told him everything either.

As he was, everyone got something different from Benoit, or found something different in him. And only exactly what he wanted to give them. There was a better than good chance that anyone who had ever meant something to Ben might've been able to find… something… if they looked long enough. It was the quality of the find that would be important in the coming days and weeks. Whatever either of them knew, Kat still doubted either of them knew where his largest score was. People had searched for years when he'd gone missing before and come up empty handed. Even he'd come back poor as a pauper, working for beans basically when she'd found him.

But she had to admire Paj's tenacity. Recognized it too as she felt the same fire in her own belly. "Yes, rowing on." She did grin at that, tapping the waterlogged toes of her boots on one of Paj's. And then she breathed. A deep, cleansing breath that escaped from her in a slow easing feeling. She felt the wind and heard the waves, sitting with the knowledge that they could both continue in his stead.

Rowing wasn't easy work. Her arms would become firm muscles in no time at this rate, the strength of them both flagging for a time and then picking up steam once more. Her eyes steadied on Paj's features as she rowed, using her as a guidepost. There was a reflection of the girl she'd found in that little tavern on the road, drenched to the core by rain and defeat wrinkling the skin around her eyes. She'd grown in her time with Benoit. She'd learned to take on some of her father's steel. It had hardened her in a way Kat recognized. Benoit had a way with the people he cared about that wasn't always soft or patient.

Paj's attention came back to Kat, questioning. The pirate nodded. A moment later she stopped rowing and leaned forward, oars resting in her hands. "What did your father tell you of Orlais? Aside from teaching you the language?" They drifted in the water and Kat scanned the distance for a shoreline. There was something out there, still a ways but perhaps it would be enough to get them through the evening. She was hoping for a chance to dry out, and already desperate to climb up into rigging that didn't exist.

She didn't know what Ben had told Paj about where he'd come from, aside from his overly Orlesian mannerisms and fashion sense, he avoided the whole place as often as possible. It was a long shot, but at the very least Kat thought perhaps someone else should know what had happened.

"Like his name, for example."
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