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1/21 "They're Awful"

JWaldman Jan 25th, 2020 278 Never
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  1. Nirvei says, "Aha."
  2. Dun says, "Ohohohoho."
  3. Dun says, "So close, but so far."
  4. Nirvei says, "This seems like a place neither of us are supposed to be."
  5. Dun says, "Why, dear stranger, a clown belongs where he desires."
  6. Dun says, "No more, no less."
  7. Dun exclaims, "You though....might need a permit!"
  8. Nirvei just... stares, idly, as any normal person would when confronted with a clown outside of a circus. It's a wonder Esshar is so blasé about them.
  9. (Nirvei)
  10. Nirvei says, "A permit."
  11. Dun would stand balanced on a single black sabaton upon the edge of the tower, seemingly caring not in the slightest how easily it would be to slip and fall far, far down into the frigid ocean and jagged rocks. The clown appeared unphased by such things, hopping from foot to foot upon the icy ledge with ambient cheer as he clapped his calloused palms together.
  12.  
  13. "A permit! Permission to live as you see fit! For a clown does so already, why would he need anymore proof of the matter! Unless, young miss, you too are a clown? Two clowns makes a circus, three makes a murder I'm told."
  14. (Dun)
  15. Young Nirvei, in stark contrast, seemed about ready to slip even though she was standing somewhere most would consider safe; the strong, howling wind this high up on the peak only made matters worse, too. She was, unquestionably, not particularly suited for this - but she'd be fine as long as she didn't look down.
  16.  
  17. Probably.
  18.  
  19. ...No, no, on second thought - why did people say that? Not looking down didn't suddenly make down stop existing. It was always there anyway, and now you'd just be throwing in the fear of the unknown too. "Never seen a clown so large," she said. "Like you could juggle entire elephants."
  20.  
  21. Ever so slowly she started to pace around the wall, tapping her chin in thought as she stared up at the man. "I'm no clown, though. I'm a tavernkeeper. An alchemist."
  22.  
  23. A pause.
  24.  
  25. "...To be, anyway. What makes a man become a clown?"
  26. (Nirvei)
  27. Dun would chuckle to himself at the girl's inquiries, smiling down from his place high up above the tower with that ever present mask of ambiguous emotion. Truly the clown was a performer at heart, as he displayed by bowing to Nirvei with theatric grace before deciding to speak. Appearances were everything after all!
  28.  
  29. "The larger the clown, the larger the audience my dear! In truth, there are plentiful trades my physique could have found. Cold blooded killer, merciless warlord, brutish cutthroat, blood is oft weighed in coin in this world of ours! Though I've never juggled an elephant, I have dreamed of juggling giraffes!"
  30.  
  31. The clown would sigh audibly, shaking his head as with one smooth movement, Dun would widen his arm span before turning his back to the blue haired girl, slowly falling backwards before with an audible clank, the clown would kick off of the icy ledge downwards towards the woman's position, flipping through the air like a comet falling through the sky.
  32.  
  33. Before landing with a strangely deafened clank upon one black boot on the icy ledge beside the blue haired youth, continuing to dance as if he'd not just leaped twenty feet off a precarious ledge without even looking where he was going.
  34.  
  35. "I became a clown because it was the first time in my life I truly felt free of the shackles of civilization, the moment I started seeing the world for the comedy it truly is. I can explain further, but it'd take some time. What makes a young woman a tavern keeper and alchemist in a frigid place like this?"
  36. (Dun)
  37. Nirvei, far less of a joker herself, could only continue staring; Esshar was home to a number of oddities, but - as far as she was concerned - oddities were for other people. She just wanted to make potions, mix drinks, change lives - you know, the stuff non-magi and the incapable generally get up to while the actual heroes and villains are out changing the world. Her crowd were what most people would consider 'normal'; frankly, the eccentricities of magi were something she wasn't wholly used to yet.
  38.  
  39. So she could only conjure one question.
  40.  
  41. "What's a giraffe?"
  42.  
  43. As she quietly asked that, the harlequin spun about and trust fell to the ledge below; though she originally held out her arms as if to catch him - as one does with trust falls, generally - she soon realized that with the armor and his sheer size, the potionmaster child would indeed catch him, but it'd come at the cost of being crushed beneath his weight.
  44.  
  45. ...So she swiftly stepped off to the side - nearly slipping off the wall in the process - and looked away as she waited for the inevitable sound of a fool tumbling down and landing head-first on icy stone. It probably sounded like a squeak or a honk. She heard no such thing, though; no, the first thing she heard was the jingling and jangling of bells. Gods, he was still dancing. He was dancing next to her, even. It was like a horror show.
  46.  
  47. "...You talk like you've lived here your whole life," she said, turning back around to face him. "That's the appeal of Theria - freedom, independence, not caring about all the dumb stuff going on outside of this mountain. Moonfall's summoning creatures from Hel, or whatever; Osrona's cleaning up corpses on its bridge - us, we're just living. But to answer your question," she said, "Alchemy's a big deal up here. Tavernkeeping not so much, but people need a place to go and drink after work instead of going home. As people do."
  48. (Nirvei)
  49.  Dun would offer Nirvei a theatric bow as he turned with a swivel of his one black boot against the edge, the scraping of tone and ice upon metal audibly ringing out as the masked, muscular clown glanced over the blue haired girl with a thoughtful hum. She'd asked a good question after all, it would be rude for the jester not to answer it.
  50.  
  51. Very rude!
  52.  
  53. "Giraffes are the apex predators of the land, my dear. The silent arbiters of the wilds who enforce the natural law stoically and ruthlessly. They are as sinuous as the most well muscled war horses, can grow hundreds of feet tall, and are said to have so much sheer mass in their long necks that a single swing can bisect a man in two. What fun, ohohohoho! However, their greatest ability is their natural mastery of stealth, some say one will not know a giraffe is ambushing them until it is too late..."
  54.  
  55. The trickster would chuckle lightly and mirthfully, clapping his calloused palms together with jolly fervor as he turned his mask to glance over the woman, mulling over her words with a degree of thoughtfulness.
  56.  
  57. "A man is free until the day he decides he isn't, that is when their world grows smaller and colder. A clown goes wherever the winds of comedy take him, no matter how dark, depraved, and frigid those gales might often be. Only in absolute chaos, the thrums of frenetic energy and imbalance, does the whole picture at last all come together. The great, cosmic apathy of alignment, the truth of man."
  58.  
  59. Dun would nod firmly as he continued to whistle a jolly tune, dancing upon the icy edge with the same sort of carefree lack of fear he'd displayed so far. It seemed putting on the mantle of a clown truly did free one from the burdens of expectation.
  60.  
  61. "What is your dream then, if I may ask? What will you do with your potions and hearth, to what aim will these machinations achieve?"
  62. (Dun)
  63. Nirvei had no choice but to take him at his word; it was unlikely a giraffe would ever find its way up to the frozen wastes, and with no frame of reference she had no choice but to imagine them as... well: apex predators; massive; somehow stealthy. Sure, why not. It all made sense to her. The story checked out.
  64.  
  65. "...Winds of comedy," she muttered to herself, and it was at this point that she seemed to realize interpreting Dun literally would prove to be a mistake. "I don't think so, though-" she said quickly, as if spouting out the first words that came to mind, "-Natural law doesn't care, but people invented order. Even if it's not a real thing," she said, "People believe in it anyway. That's how unreal things become real things, in the end. Like any other invention. Nature's truth and man's truth are two different things."
  66.  
  67. But dreams, though; that was amore difficult matter. She could spout philosophy all day - teenagers were weirdly good at that sort of thing, or at least they thought so - but it was all just to deflect from the questions. With nothing else to add for now, her arms rose to cross in front of her - partially a thinking stance, partially an 'it's cold up here and I don't want to freeze to death' stance.
  68.  
  69. "My dream's the same as any Therian," she told him. "Money. The pursuit of wealth is our culture. Oh, and... continued existence free of the rest of Esshar's nonsense," she added at the end. "Any Therian that'd answer something different is hardly a true Therian."
  70. (Nirvei)
  71. Dun appears thoroughly amused by the young woman's efforts to argue his words with him, nodding along as she spoke with a steady tap of his mask's chin. It seemed that their disagreement didn't dismay the clown, only bringing him cheer by the manifestation of disorder in her disagreement!
  72.  
  73. All had fallen into place.
  74.  
  75. "People invented order, and so they invented disorder did they not? For there is not one without the other, much as the shadow cannot subsist without the flame. A world cannot be filled entirely with light, for all beings far and wide cast darkness with their steps."
  76.  
  77. The clown would wave his calloused palm before his masked visage, placing a hand behind the young woman's ear before removing a stalk of alessa with a sleight of hand, setting it down lightly atop their head as he continued to speak.
  78.  
  79. "The greatest trick mankind has ever played is convincing themselves as you say, that there is any difference at all between the natural and civilized world. It is all simply bricks, decorum, and different forms of savagery amongst a man made jungle. A jungle nonetheless, and one filled with as many predators as any other wilderness."
  80.  
  81. Dun would nod with a hop from foot to foot, clapping his calloused palms together as the clown's visage glanced over Nirvei for a time with a steady nod.
  82.  
  83. "Money is the lifeblood of civilization, that which makes animals wear suits and believe themselves men. It is a powerful thing in the right hands, a dangerous thing in the wrong. Yet, freedom and wealth are worthy aspirations, and ones even a clown such as I can respect."
  84.  
  85. The clown would tap his chin once more, mulling over a brief thought that had come to mind.
  86.  
  87. "...If you had all the coin in the world, every last bit of clanking gold, what would you do with it?"
  88. (Dun)
  89. "Disorder must be the natural state of things," she argued, "If there was ever a need for order to be invented. The only reason things come into being is because people see a lack of that thing, right?" she asked, green gaze turning to the mask. She paused, shuddering briefly and pulling her robe around herself just a little bit more.
  90.  
  91. "But it's those inventions, tricks as they are, that separates man from beast. I don't think that's a bad thing - the chaos of the wilds, predators and prey, the savagery of the jungles... it's not a bad thing that light exists." She paused as Dun produced the alessa, as if she'd never seen a trick like that before; her hand swiftly rose to her ear as well, as if to check for more. If her ears were spontaneously producing alchemical reagents, Hel - she wouldn't have to venture out into the woods anymore.
  92.  
  93. ...This was, unfortunately, not the case - but she recovered from the realization well enough. "Freedom, wealth, justice, duty, honor - those are mass delusions that we've all adopted, too. I wouldn't argue against any of them."
  94.  
  95. She turned then, looking out to Theria below; she had never been quite this far up before, and though she had an all too apparent fear of heights she was quickly forgetting the literally precarious position she found herself in.
  96.  
  97. "That's the beauty of money, though," she said, "In any other hobby - say, I don't know, collecting things," she went on, "There's that one, rare thing you'd give your right arm to get your hands on. And then you do, and then... what? There's nothing left to collect. You need to find a new hobby."
  98.  
  99. She shrugged.
  100.  
  101. "Coins, though? There'll always be more coins to get. They circulate. They trickle down," she went on, doubtlessly alluding to the delusions she spoke of earlier, "And as long as coins continue to be the favored price of goods and services, you could never truly own it all."
  102.  
  103. But that wasn't an answer, and she knew it; she gave it a bit more thought before responding slowly, uncertainly: "But the person with the most gold makes the rules, legally or illegally. Better to be a Therian, with their sense of independence and freedom, than someone who'd rule with an iron fist."
  104. (Nirvei)
  105.  
  106. "Must it? Think clearly my dear. We imagine that there was a time when the concept of order was invented, but is this truly the case? Perhaps the definition of order merely shifted over time to what we believe it as now, the dichotomy formed from the great hollow left between the past and the present. That natural state of things....was it not its own form of order before another decided it unpalatable?"
  107.  
  108. Dun would nod sagely as he hopped from foot to foot, humming lightly as he glanced at the chilled form of the young woman. The clown appeared....to pause for a time, mulling over her state before slowly removing his sanguine robe. The heavy set wool of the piece would be wrapped around Nirvei's shoulders tightly, clearly a temporary solution to the local, frigid environs.
  109.  
  110. "That is the trick. That there is a separation between man and beast. It is not so, the same as any other illusion. There are noble animals, like the stag, and savage beasts of men who call them the wild creatures. The wilds appear ruthless to us because the veneer of civility, the great lie and infinite façade of society, guises such truths to us with powdered lies."
  111.  
  112. The clown would nod grimly as he crossed his right, serpentine scarred arm over his left, folding the pair across the matte black plate of his cuirass. How the jester managed such acrobatic feats in what appeared to be the heaviest sort of plate armor around was in itself a magic trick.
  113.  
  114. "Yet, I do not think things such as freedom, justice, honor, duty.....they are not delusions. They are....ideals, beautiful in theory and rare in practice. Those who are sworn to them make the reality they desire where they do no see it, and in doing so are in truth the ultimate performers. It takes great willpower to fool oneself in such a manner."
  115.  
  116. Dun wouldn't appear to shiver in spite of no longer being garbed, a sense of warmth coming from his formin spite of the heavily scarred, brutishly muscled appearance of his bare arms.
  117.  
  118. "...You aspire to make the rules, and to make them right. A fabric untainted by tyranny, the preservation of independence from that which stands against the ideals your home was founded upon. That, in itself, is an aspiration of note. One I'd like to see you achieve, in truth. Cause the people out there, most of them?"
  119.  
  120. The clown would wave his hand outwards towards the whole of the land, to distant Osrona and beyond.
  121.  
  122. "They're awful."
  123. (Dun)
  124. "Not the kind of order anyone found agreeable," she said with a small shake of her head. "Medicine and alchemy wouldn't exist unless this was the case." It wasn't necessarily disagreement, not as such - and it was more nuanced than a simple order/chaos debate to be sure. "Just like anything else, 'order' - or the invention of 'order' - needed to be improved like any other 'thing' created and developed over the years and years, generations upon generations."
  125.  
  126. She paused to mutter a small thanks, pulling the wool robe around her. Red wasn't nearly as good a look as purple, but who cares? It was warm. It was comfy. And she was once again reminded, glancing at his bare arms, that she had never seen a clown so large, or so scarred. There were other stories there, certainly - but an icy tower at the peak of Theria wasn't quite the place to discuss it. Not yet, anyway. That sort of thing was best suited for a warm tavern with cold drinks.
  127.  
  128. "Truth and lies don't actually matter," she reasserted, "Only what's believed. That's how lies become truths. It's such a... flexible thing," she said, reaching for the words as she suddenly realized she had no business knowing the word 'malleable' and thus, of course, did not. "But those ideals are inventions too," she said. "Lies that people invented and kept believing until they became true. That's the point I'm trying to make. Human existence is such an anomaly that we create myths," she told him.
  129.  
  130. "And, in time, they become true."
  131.  
  132. She gave the tiniest smile at that, once again glancing out at everything below as she took a careful step forward. The slippers she wore were ill-suited for the snow and even worse for the ice; it came as no surprise, then, that she slid slightly as she moved. Her arms shot outward, to her sides, as if to balance herself - as one might do on a tightrope.
  133.  
  134. "But freedom, justice, honor, and duty exist," she said. "They exist now, because a bunch of people dreamed them up once. That's why whoever controls those dreams is important," she said, looking back to the jester for but a moment. "It's the only way to make a better world."
  135.  
  136. She shrugged.
  137.  
  138. "Everyone is awful these days. But they don't have to be - not if we were to simply convince ourselves 'awful' doesn't exist. It never had to; it's only so because people came to believe in its existence, once upon a time."
  139. (Nirvei)
  140. "The question is, then, to whom is this progression truly an advancement? Many say society has progressed over time, that the world has become a more civil place. Yet the impoverished still remain, perhaps with less resources than they had in that time of disorder, subsumed as they are by those that make the rules, those with coin. What use is the advancement of medicine and alchemy to those that cannot afford even food? Every form and advancement of order is savagery to one, if not the other."
  141.  
  142. Dun would nod sagely as he leaned upon the icy edge of the tower's scaffolding with an idle hum, masked visage glancing down towards the snowy world below as if this brief time upon the tower was truly separate from all the rest of the goings on in civilization. In this bastion of isolation, the gears briefly ceased turning for this small microcosm of civil interaction amongst the hustle and bustle of industry.
  143.  
  144. "To some people, the truth is all that matters. No matter how bitter it is, no matter how maddening, they will pursue it to the ends of the world until it destroys them. It is a bitter drink, reality, and the illusion is oft a far sweeter beverage. Lies can become the truth, but true truths can never become lies, no matter how dense the façade. These are the absolutes of the world, the ones most important to find."
  145.  
  146. The clown didn't appear to be disagreeing with Nirvei; rather, they were expanding upon the point of conversation like the scholastic chatter between young alchemist and fool this was. There was nothing demeaning in his tone, only a bit of world weariness hidden by cheer.
  147.  
  148. "You understand, however. The one who controls the game, the one that masters the minutias of the performance, it is those who are unbound by those strings of lies that bind. Those dreamed up fallacies become the absolute truths in the right hands, and in doing so they cannot be returned to the depths of fallacy."
  149.  
  150. When Dun heard Nirvei's last statement, he seemed to pause for a moment before barking out in a genuine, hearty bout of jovial laughter, filling the hollowness and empty cacophony of the nearby locale with a bit of ambient chatter.
  151.  
  152. "Everyone is awful, but they don't have to be. Such young, idealistic words....but there's truth in them too. It isn't a matter of convincing ourselves, however, but convincing those who are awful through any means necessary. It is rarely simple, but always a worthy endeavor."
  153. (Dun)
  154. "You're not wrong," she conceded, "But that just means we need more dreams. More inventions. Call me a radical dreamer, maybe," she said with a small tilt of her head, "But I don't think 'grinning and bearing it' should be a thing. Things can always be changed. Things can always be fixed," she went on, tone quickening the more excited she got. "See, I have this idea to solve those issues," she told him, "A new system of... well, everything. But I still have to write the manifesto. It's just an idea, though - something to kick around."
  155.  
  156. But she didn't know, not really. She had a certain intelligence to her, but at the end of the day she was still fairly young. There was lots of thinking to do. There was lots of wisdom to gain, too.
  157.  
  158. ...So it made sense, then, that she more or less hit the limits of her philosophy, and her responses seemed to trail off at that point. She knew drinks, she knew potions, and she had a decent amount of philosophy under her belt too - but probing too far beyond the surface, engaging for longer than it'd take to have a drink and stumble home drunkenly, revealed how there was a lack of depth to it.
  159.  
  160. If only because of her age.
  161.  
  162. "You're wiser than a clown has any right to be," she said after a moment of thought. "An oddity in Esshar. I appreciate it. I-"
  163.  
  164. Wait.
  165.  
  166. "...What's your name, anyway? I'm Nirvei. Just Nirvei, no family name."
  167. (Nirvei)
  168. "You aren't wrong either, I think. Many see the wrongs in the world and accept them as the natural order, but this shouldn't be so. Do you know the classic meaning of the fool, stripped of the matters of entertainment and nonsensicality?"
  169.  
  170. Dun would snap his fingers, a flower formed of pure energy manifested before, as quickly as it arrived, it was swiped away with a gesture of the fool's calloused hand.
  171.  
  172. "It is to question tradition. You might not be a clown, but you share the same aims, and that means you're on the right path. I want to hear this manifesto of yours when you write it, this idea to fix the world. I'd like to see where you go from here, Miss Nirvei."
  173.  
  174. The fool would blink steadily as he realized he'd not stated his name, suddenly occurring to him that this young woman had pretty much stumbled upon a strange, heavily muscled clown standing atop a lonesome, frigid tower and had nod fled.
  175.  
  176. They were courageous, at least.
  177.  
  178. "Never doubt the wisdom of a fool, my dear, they tell truths even as they lie. We exist to question the world as the world exists to question us."
  179.  
  180. Dun would at last offer a dramatic, thoroughly theatric bow to the young idealist, offering a light chuckle as he did so.
  181.  
  182. "I am Dun the Dim, Din the Dunce, of no family name, fortune, or bloodline of note. And yet here I am, as are you. Such is the way of stories, isn't it?"
  183. (Dun)
  184. ] She listened carefully - no sense in saying she didn't know, as silence and a slightly confused look tended to suffice for getting an explanation. She nodded slowly and ventured: "So we all have the capacity to be clowns," she said, nodding almost sagely. "I didn't expect to learn anything from you, Dun, but I think I have. It's been helpful- useful- productive. One of those," she said with a wave of her hand shortly before stuffing it back into her mess of cloaks. "One of those."
  185.  
  186. She wasn't bluffing about the manifesto - she called it 'communityism', as a working title - but it did need time to develop, and she had the feeling she liked money just a little too much to be a true proponent of it. It was just an idea for now, barely even a dream.
  187.  
  188. "Being nobody is okay. I think it's better than being somebody, actually - less danger that way. Being you - with no bloodline, no legacy - isn't a powerful life, but it's a comfortable one. I don't see the issue with it. Were I born a noble I'd have thrown away the title by now, anyway. Gets in the way of freedom."
  189.  
  190. ...But for now, her gaze turned upward to the night sky, and in that moment she realized just how much time she spent out here. Far too long. People were probably looking for her. Waiting for her. Other unpleasant adjectives that'd get her yelled at, too.
  191.  
  192. "...I work at a tavern in the middle of Theria," she said. "If you're here to stay and not just passing through, you'll stop by sometime - won't you, Dun?"
  193. (Nirvei)
  194. "One of those, all of them, none of them, it doesn't truly matter as long as you learned something. Many think clowns exist only to spread nonsense, but comedy requires close analysis of the world we live in, lest you become your own punchline. Nobody wants to be the butt of their own joke."
  195.  
  196. Dun would nod sagely as he rose his mask, just slightly, to reveal the lower half of his face. He'd over Nirvei a clear, missing toothed, warm smile before folding the visage back over his head. Just like that, he was a clown once more, as anonymous as a single snowflake amongst a tundra.
  197.  
  198. "Everybody is nobody until they're somebody, whether to someone else or to something. Your life is what you make of it, how much you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your aims, true relevance has nothing to do with blood. I would know, I've seen all different kinds spilled, and noble blood is just as red and sticky when its spilt as a common man."
  199.  
  200. The fool would at last retrieve his robe as he nodded to Nirvei, dusting his hands together as he black sabatons began to step once more upon the edge of the tower. It seemed he was about to jump, another fool disappearing into the quiet night. Yet, he'd pause at the edge, turning back to the girl with a last, mirthful chuckle.
  201.  
  202. "I go where the winds take me my dear, we've discussed this. But, I suppose I can make an exception for you. I'll stop by, sometime, assuming you want to chat with some fool. The Stalwarts offered me coin, so that at least should turn the winds this direction."
  203. (Dun)
  204. "I suppose it makes sense, though," she said after a moment. "The wisest people are always the ones you don't expect them to be. The drunks, the beggars..." A pause. "The jesters. I suppose it takes a genius to be able to insult a queen and not be executed for it."
  205.  
  206. She smiled back at the clown, albeit through a squint as she tried to make sense of who he really was - she noted from the start that he wasn't like any clown she'd ever seen before, and there were so many stories there to uncover.
  207.  
  208. Assisting in handing back the robe, she - with no theatrics, probably because heights are scary - vaulted over the edge and began her very slow descent down to the ground, grip by grip, brick by brick. "You're more interesting than most anyway, Dun," she said as she did so, "I think everyone would appreciate your presence."
  209.  
  210. Feet hit the snow.
  211.  
  212. "Though I suppose it is taxing, leading a double life."
  213.  
  214. Being a clown and a philosopher! How odd. There were certainly no other meanings beyond that phrase. No layers to it at all.
  215.  
  216. "So long, Dun!"
  217. (Nirvei)
  218.  
  219. As the clown sat thoughtfully upon the tower, he realized that the words he'd usually spoken as a disguise in the depths of enemy territory had felt like the truth here. The mask had only grown easier to wear as time in Theria passed, and his burning ambition had found a new outlet for his dark justice, twisted as his sense was becoming since accepting the necessity of violence. As Task, his hands had been tied by bureaucracy and politics, and the excesses of those he considered false knights amongst the true ones.
  220.  
  221. But as Dun, the tower of the Shield, law and duty did not restrict justice, ruthlessly warped as it had become in the one eyed gaze of the commander that had become a clown.
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