05.04.3014: Blackened Snow
Summary: Ashleigh Grantham summons Nitrim Khournas to Ignis…for a little chat.
Date: 02 January 2014
Related: None
Ashleigh Nitrim 

The Ash Basin — The Red Range, Ignis
Just beyond The Pit, is the volcanic stretch of mountains known as The Red Range. Violent peaks sputter lava and ash into the Ignis skies, turning the sun dim and the night a cloudy blot. There are various valleys and plateaus within the Range, both of which are often used in training exercises for the Ash Legion and provides additional defenses for various Ignisian settlements. Stretched out before the entrance into The Pit is a vast valley of ash and igneous rock that runs between two of the largest volcanoes, though these two peaks have been dormant for several generations, allowing the valley to provide safe travel for crawlers to easily travel between the Ignis capital and the various mining colonies.
May 04, 3014

The Ash Basin is by no means any kind of inviting atmosphere which is fine as it fits Ashleigh's mood which is just as unfriendly and potentially violent as the lava-and-ash-spewing volcanoes that dominate the scenery. It is only because she needs to speak with Nitrim that she dared to ask him to come see her although he better tread lightly, otherwise he might find himself removed of the atmosuit he was told to wear and made to walk back.

Dressed in her own protective suit, the red-head watches as a river of lava flows past, some hundred or so feet below the rocky outcropping she is sitting upon, trying her damnedest not to count the minutes that are passing while she's waiting for him. Here's for hoping he doesn't keep her waiting overly-long.

His biometrics confirmed at the Waygate, Lord Nitrim Khournas arrives in the hematite-gray armor lined with engraved hermetic symbols, slight points at the fingers, and a frayed cowl that connects at the shoulderguards. It makes him every bit the appearance of a battlefield sorceror, complete with the wide broadsword connected to his hip. The chain that hangs from the scabbard to his hip taps against his thigh as he turns from the Waygate, avoiding the Grantham's home altogether and turning for the exterior hatches.

The suit protects him from the harsh atmosphere at Ignis, forcing his helmet's internals to provide navigational data that leads him to the meeting place Ashleigh has set. Trudging over the ash and sharp, volcanic rock, Nitrim opens a communication channel as he spies her armor, approaching her from behind.

"Lady Sir Ashleigh…" Nitrim speaks over the comm, addressing her as he approaches. "…I wasn't expecting to receive a summons from you."

Despite why Nitrim was summoned here there is no desire to dote on protocol, Ashleigh rarely being in the mood for titles and shit on a good day. And how she feeling now makes her even less inclined to deal with that crap. "Stow the damn etiquette," she grumbles while looking at the newly-arrived Khournas noble. She eyes him, her face hidden by the mirrored-over visor of her helm, her expression a mystery.

"So," she eventually says, getting back to business. "I know I haven't been around, Nitrim. But still. Didn't you voice wanting to train to be a Legionnaire?"

A gout of molten rock is launched into the air just after the question is asked, sending lava up in a show that'd be awe-inspiring if Ashleigh was in the mood where such is possible. Some of it lands on the ground some ten feet from here - too close for comfort, to be honest - but she ignores it.

The pointed tips of his armor's gauntlet-fingers curl slightly over the pommel of the broadsword at Nitrim's hip. Using the weapon as a handhold as he steps into place, the armor rolls at the shoulders and forms into an impressive, straight-backed display of exactly what Nitrim wanted the armor to be: menace. The cowl brushes over the front of the expressionless face-mask, the connecting cloak catching in the wind and ash to blow to the side, whipping in the wind.

When the lava comes down, Nitrim's head turns to look to it. He's trained in the fields before, and has learned to not flinch at the arrival at the lava, though he's no Grantham, he still checks to make sure that it won't trail down onto his feet.

"Yeah, I did." Nitrim speaks up, a hardened edge forming around his voice. It seems that Ashleigh isn't the only one in a foul mood today. "There was a time where Flint called me the closest thing to a brother he had and a hero, Ashleigh. I had my eyes set on receiving my death-rites. Are you meaning to tell me there are still some who believe I deserve a knighthood some day?"

Ashleigh turns slightly, causing the servos in her armor to whir when she pivots from the waist. There's silence for a good long time before a sigh sounds over the comms, part disappointment and part sadness. "You should go see him. And I do not mean wait until a party to say hello while everyone's drinking and whatnot. I'll make the arrangements, if you'll like."

Looking back over the 'horizon' of the far end of the fiery river, she pauses and considers. Seems like she has a lot to consider thanks to Nitrim, his question pondered. "I don't know," she eventually admits, "can you act like a knight, Nit?" She does believe in him but can't voice such, yet, not when she's uncertain as to where his heart and mind is.

The lava that was vomited up onto the cliff doesn't flow towards them but instead starts to melt the rock, rending little pits into it before it cools.

Ignoring the lava as it forms a new crater, a new wound in the rock, Nitrim's head shakes from side to side. His hand lifts from the pommel of his sword to extend to her, palm-out, and it waves her off. The shake of his head confirms that no, he's not asking her to arrange anything. "If it's going to happen, Ashleigh, it will happen with time. We're not a couple of children, if Flint and I are ever going to bury the hatchet we'll do it on our own without being introduced like dogs in a kennel to re-integrate and sniff at our asses, show dominance…" The hand lowers back to his pommel. "…I feel that I've surpassed him as a person. I was there for him. When the time came, he didn't return."

Stepping forward, closing to within sword-distance, Nitrim's arm crosses in front of his chest to slowly draw his blame. "I never told him that I ended my squiring at my father's request to be his eyes and ears in Landing. I did it not to be flighty, but to protect people." The metal rings over the scabbard as his blade is freed, and Nitrim gets into a fighting stance. "I needed to suffer losses and funerals to become a man, Ashleigh. To bury the child. Things are different now."

"And like that you give up on my uncle," Ash asks, perhaps not understanding what it is Nitrim meant when he said what he did. The urge to yell at him is strong but is controlled, her modulated voice kept level. "Did you know he was finally permitted to have the surgery and he's walking again?" Not quite back to normal, yet, but at least Flint is able to get up and move and by his own power, not because he's in a wheelchair. Shaking her head, she rises, standing, her own sword not present. Foolish, but she isn't here to fight, nor did she feel the need to defend herself. No Hostiles have been reported so she didn't bother.

Listening, she folds her arms in front of her, that made difficult as the thick plating of her armor doesn't exactly give her the room too. Not like she would have if she were wearing normal clothing. "Fine. Then we release you to do that, Nitrim." Her shoulders slump and she lowers her head, a sign of sadness. "I will not get in the way of family obligations." The mention of funerals has her huffing out her nose. "You could have became a man without all that shit."

Nitrim's helmet tilts to one side, dipping and turning, glancing her over as if suddenly realizing she isn't carrying a sword. Over the communication line, a rather audible smack of his tongue against his cheek, an embarassed sound, flows through. The sword turns over in his hands into a back-handed grip and is jabbed into the rock between them. A virtual sword-in-the-stone, should she wish to take it.

"I was there when he stood up from his chair, at Devon's wedding reception." Nitrim replies, trying to fold his own arms as his weight shifts to the other hip, settling in for their conversation. He understands now, this wasn't a time to train, but to talk. A half-pained errrrk rolls off of his tongue, followed by a sigh. "I haven't given up on him. I just felt betrayed, but the thing I've never been good at Ashleigh is making clear what I'm doing, where I'm going. I don't show my hand before I play it and…it's had some disaster wrapped around it. Devon told me once I needed to let go of everything to be ready for the Crone's rite. I think I realize now that I wanted the rite, not the emptiness, and in trying to follow my foolish bullshit I was only digging my own grave."

The chest-plating of his armor rises and falls as he breathes, helmet righting itself properly. "I needed to hurt before I could know the difference. I think I understand now. Things right now are…hard." He pauses a pregnant pause, his tone tilting upwards in question. "Are you okay, Ashleigh?"

The sword isn't moved towards but it is looked at, it stayed away from as if it were a poisonous viper that might bite through her protective shielding of metal and kill her. All it'd take is finding the weakness in it. Her body shifts restlessly, weight moving from one foot to another, her head shaking as if answering a question only she can hear.

Back to the subject of Flint and whatever betrayal Nit feels like he had visited upon him, Ash does the only thing she can think to do, that being to send a punch towards his head. It shouldn't hurt but it should do well to convey the surge of annoyance that causes. "How did he betray you," she almost growls. "By getting hurt? By being unable to see to your desires because he couldn't fucking walk? The fuck, Nit!" The anger leaves almost as fast as it hits and, with a sigh, she sits back down. "Devon's right. Let it go. And while you're fucking at it, get rid of that shitty sense of self-entitlement you seem to have."

The rest is left alone outside of a shake of her head when asked that. No, she really is not okay. Haven't been for quite some time.

The punch sends Nitrim's helmeted head turning violently from left to right, slipping the cowl over the top of it to reveal the simple, faceless dome of the armor. The punch doesn't dent the armor, nor does it hurt anything, but it is a strike that Nitrim feels on more than one level. At its least, it is a smack to the side of his head to wake him up.

As she sits back down, Nitrim quiets, staring off towards the rocks and bubbling lava flows, not yet returning his attention to the forward position as if the punch moved his head and kept it pointing to the right.

"That wasn't unfair." Nitrim finally speaks, moving to sit alongside her, facing in the same direction. The servos in his armor whine as his plating scrapes against the rock beneath him. Knees up, he wraps his arms as best he can around them and leans against them comfortably. His sigh is audible over their networked communication.

"Talk to me." Nitrim murmurs over the line. "I think we're both in the same headspace right now."

It is a good thing that Nitrim said it wasn't unfair, otherwise he just might find himself pummeled something horrible. Or at least he would have if she felt any kind of strength in her arms. Ash is feeling tired and suddenly worn out, emotionally and mentally tired like she used to feel when dealing with the death of her brother.

"Just been kind of back sliding," comes an answer once Ashleigh figures out what has been going on. "When my brother died I had to try and keep my shit together, you know? I had just been knighted, was just named heir, didn't want to fall apart in case my family needed me. And then Flint got hurt and it felt like I was back to how I was when I first was dealing with all that." A hand comes up and is thumped against her chest, causing a dull, hollow, metallic ring. "Just when I feel like I can start to thaw myself out and be happy and actually feel again something happens and I'm back to being shut down. A fucking empty shell, Nit."

As the word backsliding rattles over the channel, Nitrim's helm rises and falls in a slow, understanding nod. The slightly hooked fingers of his gloves rattle in a spider-walked drumming against his armored bracers, ringing out an unspoken agreement. Listening in silence, his shoulders settle into place, and within the dome of his helmet the view-screen adjusts for flare compensation to watch the hypnotic flow of the lava before them.

"Yeah, I was right. We're kind of in the same place." Nitrim sighs over the line, reaching down between his feet to pick up a chip of the igneous rock and turn it over in his fingertips. Slipping down to grab a few more, he offers her one and begins throwing the stones into the lava. "Reena died, it really shocked me. She was a non-com, just a medic and a clothes horse. My father was beside himself. Right after that, I finally got approval to visit Soleil's necropoli slab. I just wanted to shut off, always. I didn't because there was someone." His voice grunts near-inaudibly as his arm jerks, throwing the stone through the air. "But now I'm back to wanting to close up again. Everything makes more sense inside of my head."

"You gonna make it through, Ash?" Nitrim asks, glancing over to her.

The lava is quite a sight to behold, it one of those things Nature has created that is as lovely as it is deadly. The rock she's given is tossed up and down in her palm a few times before Ashleigh tosses it, the rock thrown halfheartedly. Instead of landing in the flow cleanly it bounces its way down instead, barely reaching the edge of the lava where it is quickly engulfed and melted down.

"I am sorry for your losses. Both Soleil's and your sister…" Loss sucks. It especially sucks when it happens suddenly and the one lost is still young, lives snatched from their loved ones without time to say goodbye and 'I love you'. Shaking her head, she turns slightly and eyes Nit. "Was someone, huh? Ah… well, don't use that 'was' as an excuse to shut down. You owe it to yourself and those who love you not to do it."

Pausing, she takes stock of how she's feeling before giving a single bob of her head. "Yeah. I'm a child of Ignis. I was forged in her flame and honed into a warrior, born into House Grantham." In other words? She's too fucking tough not to be okay. "You alright?"

Collecting another handful of rocks, Nitrim's arm jerks again, sending the diamond-shaped rock through the air to land in the lava below. Rocks don't splash in lava, the magma is far too heavy to be affected by a so small a rock, but the sight of an accurate throw is satisfying, as is the act of throwing something. Sensing her eyes on him, he reaches into his palm and plucks free another rock.

"I'm sorry for your losses, too, Ashleigh. We'll see them again. I figure they're just putting the tea on for us and waiting. I've never really understood life, but I can understand loss." The next rock is thrown, landing not far from where hers did, somewhere near the shore. "As for the girl, we'll see. It's still early. She confessed and I breathed fire. She's visiting your uncle at the moment, so it's best neither of them know I came by. Apparently they're close."

The domed, faceless mask of Nitrim's helm turns to look to Ashleigh's, and with a cant of his head sideways a rock flicks up to pelt against her armored shoulder. "Yeah…I'm gonna be fine." Nitrim pauses, one of his shoulders lifting in a blithe shrug. "I spend too much time slithering about and not enough time throwing fire, you know? I think I just need to war, and not push, and let things come and everything will figure itself out in time."

Ash eyes Nit before shaking her head, it finally dawning on her who the someone is now that her brain actually engages. "Cyrielle, right? I won't ask what happened. And don't worry. I won't tell anyone you're here." Her hand closes in a fist and she looks back out over the mountainous terrain, the rocks that jut from the ground here and there, rugged peaks that were created by earthquakes and shifting plates of earth a visual symbol of her mood. Rough. Sharp. Not something one would want to be cut by as the edges would rend and rend deep.

The fist loosens and then she reaches over, patting Nitrim on the nearest shoulder. "You're tough too, Nitrim. You'll get past this. Just don't do any of the stupid shit and you'll do just fine."

Watching her watching him, Nitrim recognizes the body language of someone when the lightbulb goes off. When she mentions Cyrielle's name, his head nods gently, turning his attention back to the direction she is looking. The jagged, less-than-comforting mountains in the distance are something that Nitrim knows well, having had to climb them as part of his training. The memories of having to do so, while fond, send a tingle of fuck that remorse up and down his spine.

"I'm sure if you're creative you'll understand the gist of it. It's not something I blame her entirely for, but maybe it'll go down on record that for eight months I didn't let my cock sign new sins." He laughs, a whistled, bitter sound as his arm twists again, the next rock sailing through the air. "I got used to not being stupid about other human beings and…it was nice, really. I think I'll keep it. There's no such thing as a life without sin, but a free conscience is a luxury."

Brushing his gloved hands clean, as if there was a purpose for it, Nitrim leans back on his hands to stare out across the lava beside her, letting a long, silent passage of time commit the strange peace of horrible Ignis commit to memory.

"Thank you, Ashleigh. For the vote of confidence. It means something." Nitrim finally breaks the silence, looking over to her. "And if it means anything, you're a tough-fucking-human-being and it's admirable. When this shit kills us, let's set up a dart board on the other side and have a pint, aye?"

"You've come a long way. Don't fuck it up, huh?" The patting becomes a swat upside the back of Nitrim's protected skull, Ashleigh chuckling as she does. "And sure. You buy the first round, huh?"

A quiet chirp sounds over Ashleigh's comms, this coming from someone back at the Red House. She listens before uttering a 'be right there', her happy tone of voice now something slightly disgruntled. "That was my mom." How she got this frequency is anyone's guess but if one thing can be said about Marah it's that she'll always find a way to get in touch with her kids if needed. "I've been reminded that I got a shit ton of paperwork I got to finish by this afternoon. How about you and I meet up sometime soon, get a drink and relax?"

While making with her parting suggestion she rises, her motions surprisingly graceful despite the awkward build of her armor.

"Oh you're so confident I'm not going to be broke in the afterlife are you?" Nitrim teases, grunting with the effort as his gloved hand presses into the ash, burrowing a small hole as he rises. The ash from the ground snows off of his armor and the cloak that hangs from his shoulders, surrounding his body like a blackened snow-globe. "Whoever goes first buys the first round. It'll give us something to look forward to." His voice seems to smirk. "The last fucking thing I'll need on a death bed is to have to figure out cash on the other side before I get there."

Playful now, Nitrim turns for the walk back to the airlock, taking a moment to bash the elbow of his armor against the side of her helm. A loud BWANK resounds outside of their armor, followed by a CLANK as he shoulders her in the right direction.

"I'll get a hold if you in about a week. We'll go somewhere not here and not Blackspyre. It'll be a break in the monotony…"

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