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 ...And found, Dum!
Tweedle Dee
 Posted: Jun 8 2017, 09:13 PM
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There are no strings on me.
Allutheria
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Changeling


D
evon Tweed did not know which way was up half the time, and that suited him just fine. Only scavengers on side roads had the best vials full of alcohol. The sweet, fleeting alcohol of Allutheria, a gleaming jewel in the hell of this Blighted world.

As of late, Devon would go days without touching a drop. He’d be on the straight and narrow. Then, depression would kick in. Like a swift kick to the stomach. Reminding him of everything he lost. Dumas. Hatter. The will to carry on. Often he’d do unspeakable things for a quick chug, but it took away the pain for a little while.

If he found Dum, everything would be fine. He wouldn’t feel like a lost puzzle piece. Stumbling on a dirt road a stone’s throw away from danger, he felt utterly abandoned. Where was Dumas? Possibly with his Queen, or with his fairy girl. Didn’t they all die? No. Everything was a bit jumbled. He took refuge in an abandoned barn, waking up to a harvest’s downpour. After a good vomit in the bushes, Devon realized he could not keep doing this to his body. Sickness overpowered his body half the time. He’d end up crawling to the refugee camp. They’d give him a warm meal or two, then he’d take off. Insistent on finding Dumas. Find a new distraction, in a partner, or alcohol, then forget. It was a giant, ridiculous circle.

The changeling needed to try to regain his strength. His courage. He had to fend for himself, and Dumas from an early age. It was him and Dum, against the world. Now it was just him, and he felt powerless. That’s the thing, Dum was the piece that made sense. Devon without Dumas, just did not add up. Using a mint leaf to freshen his teeth, Devon wrapped in his coat and started down the same dirt path that turned into a blurred image the night before. He probably looked like hell. With no anchor, no home, Devon was a wandering creep. Getting into fights with travelers. Stealing alcohol, or worse. He was a nuisance. The hope that he’d find Dum kept him going.

He kicked some gravel along the way, recalling getting lost as a child with Dum. That was what led to their fate. Changelings. Immortal, in a way. A terrible curse, at times. Devon wasn’t as naive as Dumas, but he had lots to learn. He kept to himself, close to the outskirts of the main villages near Calladahn. Not quite near the gates, but close enough where he could hear people being rejected.

Two guards on horseback were conversing outside one of the gates, Devon skidded past but their glares said it all.

Hey boy, didn’t we just tell you! No one gets in without special permission from the Queen! I don’t care if your brother is missing. Go on, get.

Dee’s head snapped up, and his eyes darkened. Brother? Dumas had been past here? Why had he never bothered to ask the idiots who guarded the city? Pride, perhaps. The fact that he once thought he and Dum had twin telepathy. Clearly, neither had any special powers. Just the power to annoy the living hell out of anyone around them. And so, Devon put his talent to good use.

After a lot of begging he wasn’t proud of, the men pointed in the direction Dumas went in. No promises, because it was a day or two ago they spotted the look alike. Dee took the gamble and started after his twin, hoping to catch up.

He ended up making camp on the side of the road. A fire kept him warm at night. Devon’s voice, hoarse from calling his brother’s name. They’d find one another. Somehow.

He was just about to fall asleep when something snapped in the distance.


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Tweedle Dum
 Posted: Jun 11 2017, 05:32 PM
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My reason to be brave.
Allutheria
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Changeling


After spending most of his life in Allutheria, Dumas had become accustomed to its unchanging nature. True, the paths through the Labyrinth frequently shifted, but the structure itself remained eternal. Despite the growing madness of its monarch, the Court of Hearts had persisted for untold centuries before it finally fell. In a realm without seasons, inhabited by creatures who never visibly aged, it was easy to ignore the procession of time -- to let days slip through your fingers, uncounted and unmourned, like sands through an hourglass.

But Ga’leah. Ga’leah changed.

When he returned to that mortal realm for the second time, Dumas thought he must have been away for years. Everything was so much worse than he remembered. During his first visit, the threat of the Blight hovered over the world like an executioner’s axe. But it hovered no longer. It had swung down, bringing death to several kingdoms, and ruination to others. Corrupted monsters roamed the countryside without fear. And anyone who avoided being killed by supernatural horrors soon succumbed to mundane ones. Illness. Starvation. Insanity. Surely it must have taken a long time for things to get this bad.

Three months. He’d been gone for just three months.

Desperately, Dumas searched for his Queen. Searched for his brother. Searched for anyone he’d ever cared about, even when he couldn’t remember their names or their faces. Often, it seemed impossible to believe that they might still be alive. Terrible dreams showed him their deaths, over and over again, in unending variety. But Dumas refused to give up. If this was a madman’s quest, then he would be a madman. He would be anything at all to save the people he loved.

Night had fallen across the land. However, the moon was partially full, providing just enough light to illuminate the road beneath Dumas’s feet. So he kept going. He always kept going, until darkness or exhaustion forced him to stop. And, when he spotted a campfire ahead, he began walking even faster. Someone else to ask. Someone who might have information about a former fairy queen or a bitter changeling.

A figure lay on the ground beside the crackling flames. For a moment, Dumas hesitated, unsure if he should disturb the traveller or not. Then he recognized the man’s face. Could it possibly be? After all this time and searching? Or was his mind playing tricks on him? Part of Dumas didn’t want to speak, for fear that he might be proved wrong, and this precious fragment of hope would be snatched away from him. But he forced himself to speak anyway. “Dee?”

Even as he asked, Dumas knew. But his joy at being reunited with his beloved brother quickly became became tainted by grief. Dee looked horrible. He was gaunt, his skin displayed a sickly tint, and the scents of bile and alcohol soured the air around him. How could this have happened? Dee had always been the stronger twin, the one who sheltered Dumas from the hardships they faced. How could he have fallen so far? Yet, once again, Dumas knew the answer to his own question. Dee was strong, yes. But inflexible. Dumas bowed to forces that blew against them. Dee insisted on standing tall. He didn’t bend. He broke.

All this raced through Dumas’s mind in a single moment. Then, he was on the ground, hugging Dee in his arms. He didn’t care that his twin was filthy, he didn’t care that he stank like the garbage pile behind a cheap inn. He just wanted to hold him. “Dee! Oh gods, Dee!” Tears rolled down Dumas’s cheeks, just as they had after their last fight. But this time, instead of watering the Queen’s garden, they were caught by Dee’s dirty curls as Dumas buried his face in his brother’s hair. “I was so afraid that I’d never see you again. I was so afraid that you were…”

I was so afraid that you were dead.
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Tweedle Dee
 Posted: Jun 14 2017, 06:40 AM
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There are no strings on me.
Allutheria
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Changeling


D
evon heard his name but it could have just been the wind. He laid next to the fire, staring into it. Trying to figure out what went wrong. He reeked of vomit, alcohol, and a little mint. Devon Tweed needed a good scrub down, and a reality check. Looking up, his twin stood before him. Silence filled the space between them. Dee, lying there, Dum, coming in on a white horse. Where Devon should have been, but their roles seemed to be switched.

Dum should have been down on his luck, but he only seemed bewildered. Still the same Dumas, but wiser. Dee felt stupider. Weakened by alcohol consumption and refusal to eat. He was a lot thinner than Dum. The contrast was clear between the twins. Dee, who never thought of himself as weak, was a weakling. Getting weaker without a support system. Without someone to protect.

Devon protected someone his whole life: Dum. Without his twin, or even a stable lover, he was off kilter. A compass without a direction. He was the equivalent of a wandering Neanderthal. Barely speaking, voice hoarse, body sore. Doing whatever to escape the pains of reality. Ga’Leah, his home as a child, was a decimated hell hole. He was without his twin. What else could he do, but crumble?

Dee! Oh gods, Dee!

Shame and joy wafted over Devon as Dumas flew down to embrace him. Shame that he had fallen so far. Joy that they had finally found one another. He never thought it would be possible. Dumas had great loves in his life. Great memories, painful memories, but he overcame them. He was a phoenix from the ashes. Dee always thought himself stronger, but that was not true. Under pressure, he shattered into a thousand pieces. He no doubt smelled terrible. He hugged Dum anyway, tears rolling down his cheeks.

It was like someone breathed life back into Devon Tweed.

“Dumas? It’s really you.”

Dum smelled like rain and the mountains. He smelled clean. His curls impeccable. Dee’s were a travesty. The second they embraced for longer than a few moments, Dee realized he had to clean up. Everything. Devon put himself through hell the past few months.

I was so afraid that I’d never see you again. I was so afraid that you were…

“Do not even say it.” Dee whispered. “I feel dead without you, brother, but I could never die. I’m too stubborn.” Devon smiled a sad smile.

Despite everything, happiness filled his veins. He felt reborn. Even with the disappearance of Hatter, Dee’s will to live did not diminish. He lost himself along the way. Not all who wander are lost, but Devon knew better. With Dum by his side, he could find his way again.

“I’m so glad you’re okay. You look so much better than me.” Devon laughed a little, embracing his younger brother (by a few minutes) a little longer.

Until he pulled away, he simply smelled too horrible. “There’s a stream nearby, I need to wash up. Come with me. Tell me about your journey.”

Devon pulled himself up with his twin. He rummaged in his knapsack for Hatter’s soap. He had been avoiding using it, because of its scent. He was ready now. Ready to move on, and embrace his future. With Dumas. It all needed to start with a cleansing. In the middle of the night.

Dee grabbed his makeshift torch and held out his hand for Dum.

“Shall we, Dumas?”


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Tweedle Dum
 Posted: Jun 17 2017, 02:46 PM
Quote
My reason to be brave.
Allutheria
Offline
Changeling


Dumas? It’s really you.

“It’s me. It’s me. It’s me.” Dumas repeated the words over and over, like a magical incantation. Maybe if he spoke them often enough, if he held Dee tightly enough, he would never lose his brother again. “It’s us. Together. The way we’re supposed to be.”

Dumas laughed through his tears when Dee insisted that he was too stubborn to die. They were each stubborn in their own individual ways, and that stubbornness had helped them survive a great deal. But Dumas had seen the Blight consume far more powerful people, and he knew that stubbornness was no longer enough. Now, more than ever before, they needed each other. Two sides of the same coin, finally spinning in unison once again. Ready to land on heads or tails as the situation demanded.

A guilty nod acknowledged the fact that he’d coped with their separation considerably better than Dee had. This was all his fault. His twin had suffered horribly, had sunk to this state of sickness and despair, because Dumas chose his Queen over his own brother. At the time, Dumas believed that his Queen needed him more. And maybe she had. Maybe she’d be dead if he hadn’t guided her out of Allutheria. But that still didn’t excuse the terrible price Dee had paid for the decision.

Before allowing Dee to pull away, Dumas cupped his brother’s face in his hands, his touch as gentle and tender as any lover’s. In so many ways, they were closer than lovers could ever be, joined together from the moment of their conception. Dumas didn’t speak, for fear of damaging the pride that had always been so important to Dee. But he silently vowed to make this right. During their time in the Labyrinth, there had been so many times when Dee comforted him, or went hungry so that he could have a little more food, or endured cruel punishments so that he would be spared. Now, it was Dumas’s turn. He would nurse his brother back to health. Whatever it took.

A bath sounded good to Dumas. Getting up, he eagerly took Dee’s hand and began walking alongside his brother. But he hesitated before speaking about his journey. Dumas didn’t want to admit that his memories of the last year remained hazy and conflicting. That would just make Dee worry about him -- and right now, it was clear that Dee needed all his mental energy focused on his own recovery. Under other circumstances, Dumas could simply flip the question around, asking Dee about his own adventures. Unfortunately, Dee’s current condition suggested that his story was not a happy one. It would be better to wait and let Dee tell that tale when he felt truly ready.

“When the Mad Tea Party came, I was hiding in a closet.” Best to start at the very beginning. Dumas’s memories of his last hours in Allutheria remained clearer than the ones which came after. Although, many times, they were the ones that he most wished would vanish. “I know I should have fought. I know I should have tried to do something. But I was too scared. I just curled into a ball and clamped my hands over my ears.”

It was not Dumas’s first moment of weakness. It was not the only regret he wished he could rectify. But it was the one that haunted him the most. The one that drove him to try and do better, to never again let his cowardice prevent him from helping people he cared about. “After the screaming finally stopped, I crept out. Everyone was dead. Everyone except Tsaritsa, who was nearly mad from grief. I stole some jewelry from the corpses and got us the hell out of Allutheria.”
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