12.29.3013: Attacking Your Own
Summary: Klaudea sees the Hostile bit on the infosphere, and decides to talk with Nitrim about it.
Related: None
Klaudea Nitrim 

Bathhouse Volkan, The Crescent
Built down low in the Blackspyre where it can easily access the geothermal heat that powers the entire city of Volkan, this bathhouse is set aside for the use of those sworn to House Khournas and their guests. The room is sheathed in large black tiles, warmed by the magma behind them. A large pool centers the room, surrounded by narrow lines of red and silver tile, while a handful of smaller tubs built for one to four people fill up the remaining space. Each of the tubs is heated blood-warm, leaving wisps of steam in the air. Towels sit alongside tubs of bath-salts on small tables near the separate men's and women's changing rooms.
29 December, 3013

It has been a week or two since the squire has tried to get in touch with her noble contacts. Not wanting to ask too many favors of them while she is kept away from the duties she appointed herself almost a decade ago. But recent leaks on the infosphere have caught her attention.

Unlike many who see them that might have to question the veracity, or who are pointing out various reasons why it /must/ be true, Klaudea already knows. She’s already been told by someone with first hand knowledge of the fact, but she has kept it to herself, and still does. Now with it out, she sends a message to Lord Nitrim the same way as before, without a return address or name, but knowing he’ll read between the lines.

Since she no longer has the advantage of being able to sneak off in disguise to the lesser known regions of Obsidia, she suggests the next best thing for a meeting that you want to have go unnoticed.
A run-in by chance in a public place.

Squires resting in a smaller bathing pool off to the side after a hard training session are a dime a dozen and hardly worth remarking on. A noble who happens to notice said squire and joining, might draw attention if the said noble wasn’t known to be on speaking terms with the squire’s knight, and has already been seen chatting with the squire before.

So it is that Nitrim will find Klaudea, her head back against the edge of a bathing pool near the corner, with her arms along the edges as she lets the bubbling water soothe her aching muscles. With eyes half closed, she hardly appears to be expecting anyone to join her.

Slipping down from his apartments in the Blackspyre are easy, in fact, more than easy as house staff move out of his way to hide Nitrim Khournas the room to travel. The room to travel, today, down into the belly of his family's lands to the bath houses. The changing room is a simple task in itself; everything goes and is replaced by a towel and that which he decides to carry with his own two hands.

…and as Klaudea suspects, Nitrim knows how to read between the lines and knows that she will be there.

The sound of soft, bare footsteps approach the edge of the pool as Nitrim lets his cigarette dangle from his lip. The left of his neck and his chest, a new network of scars still healing over with thick, angered tissue, are things he cannot now hide with high collars. He stops at the edge of her pool, acting as if the meeting is a chance thing.

"Squire Klaudea," He smirks. "Could your reputation stand to handle the company of the young drake of Volkan?"

Hardly paying the padding of bare feet any mind, as dozens have already passed by, the half-dozing squire is startled by the sound of a voice directed at her. Opening her eyes, and lifting a hand, she slides towards the middle of the pool, almost going under. “My lord Nitrim,” she splutters, since trying to nod properly into a splash of water sends a ripple over her lower lip. She pulls herself back to the edge, and straightens, giving the Khournas room to join her if he desires.
Reaching for her water bottle, she takes a long sip before settling herself back to the edge again. “If my reputation takes a hit, I can always play the ‘innocent girl fooled by your lordship’s evil charm’ card,” she informs him with a cheeky little grin that’s a little more disarming for it’s open friendliness.

"Trust me, Klaudea, I would take far more of a hit than you would, and that's not because you're some lacking girl." Nitrim murmurs under his breath. Moving around the edge of the pool, he sets his cigarettes down and removes his towel. Setting it aside as well, he slowly wades into the pool, lest the waters disturb too much. "At some point, my father has come to the point of being willing to throw me off of a tower for being a repeat offender." A half-smirk forms at the corner of his lip as he reclines in the pool. He's joking. Somewhat. In the circular, churning water, he becomes the three-o'clock to her six-thirty; close enough to talk but not too close to share intimate, tactile details.

"I received a strange message, shame I couldn't figure heads or tails of it." He admits to her as his arms frame the edge of the pool. He lowers his voice, making it hard to hear over the water as he visibly relaxes with her.

Of course, the fact that he is here is proof he made heads of the message just fine.

"How are you, Klaudea? We haven't had much time to speak since Obsidia, and the last time you were sharing a rather filled tub, weren't you?"

In the polite way of things in the Khournas bathing culture, Klaudea doesn’t /look/ at Nitrim as he enters the tub, but she doesn’t make a show of averting her gaze, either. She does chuckle at his claim of being eventually thrown off the tower as a repeat offender. “I hope an Awakened can fly, then,” she offers, looking back to him as he settles in, although she does raise an eyebrow. “You aren’t going to lecture me about my lack of confidence in my looks, too, are you?”

"Since Awakened can't fly we have to fall back on lies and charm to keep people from throwing us." Nitrim smirks, a but of dry humor coming to his lips. His eye cracks open to peer over at her, followed by the slow rise of one of his blonde eyebrows. "No. I'm not." He huffs softly, sending a ripple of waves in front of him. Funny. No.

Now that he’s found his comfortably spot, she relaxes a little more. “Those can be tricky. Especially if you don’t know who sent them,” she agrees lightly. Then she shrugs. “I’m all right. I’ve been studying detonators and bombs, and how to deactivate different kinds. Hopefully, if there’s a next time…” she pauses and tips her head. “Well, I don’t /hope/ for another bomb, but I don’t see how it can be avoided… but, hopefully I’ll be able to deactivate rather than just buy time to clear the area.”

She moves to look up to him and asks, “and you, my lord? You are looking better.”

"The longer this war goes on, Klaudea, I lose confidence in my good looks." A bit of turnabout, he rubs the new scars on his neck to explain his response to her, then returns to his recline with closed eyes and a sigh. "Out into the grinder and back out again worse for wear every time. This is going to be a numbers game unless someone finds a new angle. So far that…" He pauses, dramatically. "I think I'm going to pay our Hostile Cantosan prisoner another visit; another chat. I want to find that angle and jab by claws into it."

Klaudea nods slowly, her eyes falling down to the water again, her hands sinking under and flowing around each other in random patterns. “That is something I wanted to ask you about, my lord. I am guessing, judging from how quickly it’s being suppressed when it pops up, that the snippet of interview with the,” she looks up towards him and tilts her head, “Cantosian? Wasn’t supposed to get out. Although, I admit, I’m curious how she gets to blame us for attacking our own kind when they bring the fight to us? Isn’t she attacking her own kind?”

"Cantosan," Nitrim corrects gently as he sits up in the pool enough to display his tattoos and the new, fresh scar on his chest that appears a few inches off as being the one that killed him. He ashes his cigarette in a nearby try and decides to keep his green eyes open, swiveling them back to her face.

"There is a lie that has been told somewhere. I believe it was told in Haven. Either we, as in Haven, caused the deaths of a large number of Cantosans and earned this rage of theirs and then lied to our history books, or someone lied in their history books." He explains, scooting just a little closer so that he may speak in hushed tones with her. His hands come up from the water, running the heated water onto his face. "They believe we have earned their vengeance and are here to kick us off of a number of planets that would sustain them. I think Cantosa is fucked."

"So in that…" Nitrim lifts his painted shoulder. "…Sarah believes they are just and we are murderers. We dissected Cantosans. Now they dissect us."

“Or both,” Klaudea suggests, the timbre and volume of her voice in keeping with his as she studies the motion of her hands underwater again. “I mean, look at the feuds that happen here in Haven. Both sides tell their people what they want to hear to spur them to action. And they aren’t always conscientious with the truth.” She sighs. “But it’s also usually something that has happened in the near past, not something that happened to someone’s grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother.”

Her head dips to the side as she gives a roll of her shoulder to work on a kink that’s made itself known. “Well, we didn’t /know/ what they were. They know what we are. Now that we know, I don’t think there will be any other dissections going on, except for autopsies. And that’s something we do to our own dead at times.” She glances up after another roll of her shoulder. “I know, that’s probably just an excuse to this Sarah.”

"I picture Sarah as a woman who has been told since she was a child that we are something evil," Nitrim replies, his head shaking from side to side as he rubs at the fresh scar on his chest. "Something told for generations and handed down that we murdered and destroyed them thoughtless to their calls for help. She mentioned they called for help. We didn't respond. They were left to suffer at some point."

Like Klaudea, Nitrim winces as the muscles in his neck flare up through the scar tissue. His eyes close as his hand comes to his neck, leaning on his hand for support. His head tilts to face the water, contemplating.

"I'm going to do something dangerous." Nitrim smirks. He shouldn't announce this, as he is always doing something dangerous. Apparently the humor of it isn't lost on him. "I am going to try to broker a friendship with her, an understanding. There are insiders, Klaudea. Part of this war is being fought against Haven from the shadows, by Havenites helping the Cantosans. But this girl is just sitting, rotting away in a cell, and being interrogated, making us appear every bit what they say we are." His blonde hair shifts as he gives a little shake. "Not breaking her out friend, but speaking in her mind where the guards can't hear us. Trying to show her that we aren't all guilty and being willing to communicate as equals."

“Do you think you even can?” Klaudea asks with interest. “I mean, yeah, I kind of get where she’s coming from on the evil. All we’ve ever been taught is that these… /things/ come around every five hundred years and spend forty years trying to kill us all. I’m not sure I ever thought of Hostiles as /evil/ though. Just that I needed to join with my fellow Havenites in order to survive.”

The end of the sentence drops in volume, and her brows come together. Her hazel gaze fires fiercely into the water, and then she she gives a shake to her head, redirecting her attention back to the man nearby.

“I wonder if you can talk to her the way you talked to me,” she offers. “If they have the same basic genetics, even though they’ve been altered. Can you just talk to me? Or can you read my thoughts, too?”

I can see and hear the thoughts you want me to, and feel the emotions you want me to, Nitrim's eyes pale over into white as he reaches out mentally to her, tap-tapping upon her chamber door with his psychic senses. He closes his eyes so the room around him knows none the better, hiding it all with the way he sinks into the water to his neck.

I believe if there is anyone genuine and foolish enough to gain her trust, it is me. Or Ithaca. She has a genetic relative among us, an old, once-close friend of mine. Nitrim shares a memory, a crying dark-haired girl angrily throwing something metallic at him as he slips away from her apartment, accompanied by a pang of guilt. I believe that if we are as evil as she thinks, getting her to agree to this will be a task, but them she can share with me, in private, unmonitored. Though Nitrim has gone silent to the room, he still frowns.

It will unnerve her keepers. It will form new secrets. It will put me in danger and Cyrielle will hate that I am doing it.

The image of the dark haired woman throwing something at Nitrim brings a ping of recognition, and the name Rook to the forefront of Klaudea’s mind, easily seen in her surprise. Then a little frown as she tries to concentrate on Lincoln, and one of his forced calm looks when Nitrim’s name is mentioned, as if the mystery is solved.

“So, I can learn to speak to you, sort of?” There’s a cautiousness, curiosity, and something of the eagerness to learn something new in Klaudea’s voice when she speaks out loud, her eyes shifting to Nitrim again. “I’m not sure if that’s really, really cool, or scary.”

Learn to speak with me? Nitrim's voice resonates inside of her mind, one eyelid cracking open to cast an all-white eye towards her. He slips up, stubbing out his cigarette, and then disappears into the water to his chin once more. Klaudea, right now, what you are hearing is myself as a guest at your mind. You are in charge and if you wished me out I couldn't try to stay. Your mind, your rules.

The water shifts as he lifts his hands free, brushing them over his styled, blonde hair, effectively ruining the hairstyle with the pool's water.

The idea is, just like you now, she would have privacy and the ability to show me her secrets, the source of their pain. The images of Rook I showed you were my thoughts, my memories. He lets out a slow, relaxed smile, and through the ether he shares that it is because the pain in his scar tissue has resolved through the hot water. There's no skill to be learned here, save for knowing how to not over-share. You think to yourself every time you keep private counsel about your so-called lack of attractive confidence, or when you decided to trust me, aye?

So-called? springs to mind immediately when Nitrim mentions it. She gives a little groan and leans back, a tinge of frustration and confusion in the tone and in her brain. But when he speaks of trust, it brings a mental ‘standing to attention’ even if she manages to still lounge in the pool. You trusted me goes back to him, not like an accusation, or a reason, but more of a curiosity that she’s never understood, and has maintained a niche in the upper levels of her mind to be puzzled over.

Yes, so-called, because all women have confidence issues about their looks, and the more men compliment them the more insecure they become. But I've been in too many minds, Klaudea. I know deep inside it all stems from a want to be told that no, they -are- beautiful. Nitrim smirks wryly, with a look on his face that suggests he's comfortable, sly, and far too casual sometimes for his own good. I know your game, woman. He teases, managing a quiet laugh that breaks the silence over their pool.

Klaudea squirms uncomfortably, and rolls her neck, almost pushing him out at the talk of wanting to be told they’re pretty. The war between wanting to be pretty, and not wanting to be superficial when there are more important things than being pretty, and the overall self persepctive of being a tomboy roil around against his claim that she’s fishing for compliments. Not to mention the image of a stunning blonde that is her best friend and would cast most any woman with her in the shadows. Or, at least, Klaudea thinks of her as stunning, but at any rate, Georgiana is undeniably beautiful. But as he tries to tease her, she lets the bond get stronger again.

I like people in masks Nitrim announces quietly in her mind. I like people in masks that wear them while helping other people; teaching kids to defend themselves. It's not entirely suspicious behavior. Perhaps I should have started wearing a mask months ago. A memory flashes of a Necropoli, with Nitrim's first-person perspective looking down at a murdered body stuffed into a slab. He tells someone to leave him where he lays, lest whoever murdered him learn that the body was found. But I am a Paramount noble. I am harder to make disappear than others.

Who is he? she asks reflexively, but then she gives a shake to her head. Never mind. Thoughts flit through her mind as she digests what he’s said. The man he’s just shown her, the children he speaks of, Bertram and the man in the black cloak that was at the warehouse and fought with them. A pair of golden brown eyes from the hood of the cloak, and then Cyrielle, who delivered her messages. Mistress Storm can visit my mind, too?

She has the capability if she wishes to, yes. We've shared minds often. Nitrim replies, a certain deep familiarity of Cyrielle, fond of her and in ways beloved to him as he brings her up. As it stands this is the one form of communication that I know, for a fact, is completely private and incapable of being intercepted. It is the safest, if not most intimate way to communicate, with the benefit of actually being able to share images to save time where words would fail.

Sitting up once more, Nitrim keeps his eyes closed and relies on his other senses to detect danger, which there are few at the bathhouses. Again, he splashes the back of his neck with the hot water and lets the heat sink into his weary bones. Months ago, he was a pale, drug-addled mess. He's found health in pink skin and flushed features only in time to have them chipped away at by the weapons of their enemies.

And for the record, your attractive, blonde friend? Count your graces as she'll draw in all the men who care less for personality. When you meet a man who isn't overcome by her charms and pays attention to you, you'll know he won't betray you when the next pretty face comes along. Nitrim smirks, silent and faint. Answers are always in the cracks.

The mention of the ‘right one’ brings to mind those golden brown eyes again, and the dark cloaked man telling her it doesn’t matter what she looks like, her soul is pretty. She turns beet red before she sits up, disturbing the link as she turns and reaches for her water.

“My reputation will surely suffer, my lord, if I put you to sleep while we’re sitting in a bathing pool,” Klaudea says aloud. “I don’t think you are foolish, my lord. Risky, or impulsive, I would agree. But not foolish.” taking another long sip from her bottle to settle herself. “There are places that have noticed your lack of presence.” The glance that accompanies that statement is a mixture of sly that somehow also shows, perhaps, pride? for him.

She lifts her hands, taking out her ponytail to smooth the smaller bangs back in and then refastens it. “I sometimes wonder if it’s too little, too late. While you are talking to Sarah, thousands of other Cantosans are storming our lands and killing Havenites. And, even with this vidfeed, Havenites don’t really have any reason, yet, to stop killing Cantosans. All because something that someone I never even met did something a thousand years ago to someone that they’ve never even met…”

She sits up straighter. “Wait… /how/ is a descendent of a Cantosan even in Haven?” her hazel eyes go to Nitrim. “Did that Cantosans kidnap a Havenite and take her back to their planet without harming her, for some reason, taking her away from her children? Or did a child of Cantos somehow get separated and left here before their cybernetic tinkering could take place?” She chews her lip. “And how would that even happen, why would a child be on warships or with war landing parties… unless they left a cybernetically un-altered Cantosan here on purpose to have them blend in with Havenites and leave behind a seed for the next war…”

"Best guess? Best educated guess?" Nitrim's eyes pop open, widening as the number of scenarios race through his mind. His hands shoot forward slowly, stretching until the knuckles pop. As they reel back in, he accidentally crashes elbows with Klaudea, forcing him to scowl, laugh, and shove some water her way. He starts to rub at his funnybone. "Best guess is they took genetic material with them, maybe a captive or a body, siphoned what they could, or they were once part of us they probably have entire connected bloodlines."

"OR…" Nitrim trails off as his elbow, feeling much better, comes to rest atop the lip of the pool. He settles in to a lean, getting comfortable. "In one of the last invasions some Cantosan met a Havenite, one thing led to another, birds, bees, or collection. Either way, though, Sarah has a granddaughter."

Klaudea raises her eyebrows to Nitrim as he pushes the water at her as if it’s her fault they bashed elbows. “You’re the one who was moving, Brother Shadow,” she tells him, sending water back with a little more force, almost a splash. She shakes her head, “I’m sorry, I have a hard time thinking any birds and bees just happened between a Cantosan and a Havenite. Not unless a Cantosan crashed somewhere way away from his comrades, and crawled into a hut of a hermit…” She pushes out a long breath, the stare of her eyes towards her hands would boil water with its itensity as she mulls thoughts in her head.

“But doesn’t it make you wonder? These people who are Hostile sympathizers? Why would they even consider Hostiles good in any way? And how do the Hostiles know /which/ factories to attack? I don’t think that out of all the factories in Obsidia they just /happened/ to find one that produces armor. What if they did, somehow, manage to raise some of their children without the extreme cybernetic augmentations, and land them somewhere? Plant a small colony of their own to be able to report to them when they return?” Looking at him, her hand pushes, sending another wave at the lounging lordling.

Nitrim, eyes closed, merely smiles as he is splashed and suffers the wave like the lounging political figure that he is. In response, blindly, he shoves water back towards her, unknowingly sending a high wave towards her face.

"I believe that the answers to those questions are simple. All things in the universe being equal, the simplest answer is always the best. We have traitors. If extinction is the agenda, the obvious motive, Blue Sister, is to secure your survival through being a friend." His eye cracks open, looking in her direction through a haze of protective lashes. "Honestly, if that's their angle, I don't blame them, especially if there is evidence that Haven is in the wrong. Survival makes for longer lives."

Giving nod, Klaudea settles down a little from her state of high thinking, and just lounges. “But sometimes longer lives don’t mean you’re actually living, Brother Shadow,” she muses. This time though, she catches herself. “I mean, Lord Nitrim, sorry,” she blushes. “I do like calling you Brother Shadow, though. It seems more fitting in some ways.”

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