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Mavis Audrapel

Fragments of a Fractured Self

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Any improvement with Lucas’ condition had quickly begun to deteriorate after returning home, causing a reversal of roles where Mavis found himself becoming caretaker to his mostly bedridden father. Despite her grandfather’s failing health, Emily didn’t show the kind of anxiety that she’d had during the incident with trying to clean up her toys. Mavis suspected Emily’s change in mood had something to do with their talk and while he felt guilty for telling her what would likely turn out to be a lie, he didn’t regret it. The lie was justified he reasoned, they both needed one less thing to worry about.

He ducked his head as he moved through the door, shifting to the side in a reactionary move as Emily ran past his legs followed by two other children. He had to give Felonius credit, the poison master had successfully negotiated to have most of the town turn up to help harvest dad’s yield and  the activity had swiftly become an event. Part of the eagerness he suspected had a lot to do with the close relationship Solomon and his father had as well as his father’s own standing in the community. Lucas would have been too stubborn to ask for help on his own but that didn’t mean Lakeshire ignored him when he needed it.

Upon hearing the turn on Lucas’ health Solomon had come by with the crew to check in. After coordinating the logistics and checking in on his friend the Magistrate settled himself in one if the chairs near the hearth, occassionally glancing outside to check on the progress. “I’m actually a little impressed. When I put out the offer I didn’t expect much of a crowd to turn up.”

Mavis shrugged his shoulders, searching the kitchen until he found the stash of Redridge Whiskey. “Dad’s always been pretty likeable, most of the town probably jumped when they heard it was for him.”

Solomon held his cup out as Mavis poured the whiskey. “Well some of these folks are out here for you too.”

Mavis winced at the comment, he had tried his best to stay inside while everyone else was in the field, he liked to tell himself that he was uncomfortable with his appearance to people he’d known for years, in reality he just felt uncomfortable among crowds and wasn’t looking to antagonize his nerves. Solomon seemed to at least realize Mavis’ discomfort and had worked as an in between for him, the volunteers and his sister, who didn’t actually seem to understand it at all despite her best intentions. “No one thinks of you differently Mavis.”

Only their first reactions said otherwise. “You know that’s not true.”

“Well not for everyone, but most folks in this town aren’t going to bust you for being a little hairier than most. We all remember you standing with us against the Iron Horde, people don’t forget that.

Mavis shut his eyes, forcing the memory down again. Realizing he had stirred up the bad with the good Solomon appeared apologetic. “Sorry. You know your mother loved you.”

A small growl escaped his throat in an unconscious reaction of his own discomfort. “Let’s just not talk about this okay?”

Solomon backed down, realizing he had crossed a line somewhere. “That’s fair.”

Mavis whipped his head around to the other end of the house, both men alerted by screaming.  As both men moved towards the source Mavis silently cursed, forced to angle his body and duck his head through the narrow space that was ill suited to his form. By virtue of maneuverability Solomon reached Emily first, pulling her off the other child while the third stood a few feet apart in stunned silence. With Solomon still having a good grip on his daughter Mavis bent down to see to the screaming child’s bloody nose.

“Mommmyy!” The panicked boy moved back from the encroaching paw and clutched his nose, scrambling for the door with the other a step behind. Mavis moved his paw to his face, pulling it down from forehead to muzzle. “That’s going to be fun to deal with.”

Solomon looked equally grim, he released his grip on Emily and stood up, resigning himself to damage control. “I’ll see if I can talk to Shawn and smooth things over.”

Mavis mumbled a thank you to Solomon and looked down at Emily and note she had defaulted to a guilty pout. “Did you hit your friend?”

“He’s not my friend!”

“Okay.” He crouched down so he was at her level, reducing the awkwardness of their size difference.  “Why did you hit the Ashlock boy? “

“I don’t wanna live in a kennel!”

She turned around and flopped on the bed, sinking her face so far into the covers Mavis was worried for a moment she might suffocate herself. Mavis hesitated for a moment, going back and forth between his options and half tempted to make an effort to comfort the child. He had gotten two steps closer before backing off and heading in the other direction, reasoning that the last thing Emily needed was reassurance from the same person who was probably just making her life more difficult. He continued his escape from his daughter and slipped into the safety of his father’s room. On most days his father liked to keep the window open, reasoning that despite the chill the fresh air did him far better good than any of the treatments to his illness thus far, today the windows were shuttered though to give Lucas privacy and prevent anyone from seeing how bad off the old farmer really was.

Lucas had withered dramatically in the last several days and looked paper thin, a condition brought on by the excessive vomiting and diarrhea that had become side effects of his newest treatment, according to the doctor the medication was meant to make him sicker before making him better but Mavis had his doubts, he’d never seen anyone improve by getting worse. His father had been in between another fit of coughing when he had entered and had turned his head downward to the bucket to deposit blood and phlegm in between the gasping choking sounds that had become disturbingly normal over the last few days. Mavis waited until his father had finished before moving in and wiping his mouth clean before tending to the bedpan and making certain he hadn’t soiled himself again. “I heard shouting.”

Mavis winced at the rasping sounds of his father’s voice, relieved as he was for the distraction every reminder of what was happening made the situation difficult. “Emily had a fight…something about kennels.”

Lucas frowned, forcing himself to sit up in an attempt to force dignity back into his condition, it was made less effective by the hair that remained on the pillows even as his head moved away from it. “Is she alright?”

“I don’t know…” Mavis worked to clean up the hair without comment as he tidied up his father’s living space. “She’s not hurt…unless you count emotional. Did you take your medicine?”

“Don’t fuss.”

Mavis’ ears dropped down in concern. “Susan will get after me if I don’t.”

His father snorted and inadvertently turned the derisive gesture into another series of coughs. “She’s too much like her mother…your mother would have fussed too.”

Hearing his father speak so casually dredged up several old memories he’d buried and forced him to pause from his ministrations. “Dad…about mom. I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Lucas shook his head  “Your mistake son, is thinking that you have the market cornered on guilt. You couldn’t have done more than what you did.”

Easier said. “I’m going to see if there’s some broth left.”

“Solid foods son, don’t go jumping on your sister’s wagon because I’m under the weather.”

Despite his efforts not to a small smile cracked on his face. “I’ll see if I can sneak in some chicken.”

“That’s my boy”

Seeing his father in good spirits it was hard not to be more upbeat despite his old man’s illness. Solomon had smoothed over relations with Sean Ashlock over his son’s bloody nose and further improved the mood. Though he felt like he was half faking it with parenting as he waited for Lucas’ condition to improve and clean up the mess, Mavis found himself at least hopeful, even finding confidence to tuck Emily in for the night and try his hand at storytelling.

Mavis knew he must have failed when he felt himself being shook awake by small hands in the early hours of the morning, when the shaking failed to rouse him the hands turned to vocal please, followed by shouting and by the time Emily had resorted to using ‘Daddy’ He was fully awake. Mavis growled, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes as he focused his vision on his daughter, unable to help feeling impressed by her ability to navigate the darkness of the house without a single light. “Emily go back to bed.”

“Grandpa won’t wake up.”  There was a panicked urgency in her voice that was concerning, pushing the Worgen out of bed and outpacing his daughter as he strode directly to his father’s room while fearing the worst. He was relieved when he was able to track the breathing and could at least pick up the faint sounds of a heartbeat coming from  his father’s chest but he could smell something wrong. Emily had climbed onto the bed and began to try pulling at her grandfather’s arm and though there was movement in the fingers the efforts didn’t seem to be of much use. The other hand that was still free seemed to feel out for his paw and as it weakly closed itself around one claw Mavis could see the tears glistening in the corners of Lucas’ eyes. Concern gave way to determination and he withdrew his paw, looking at his daughter. “Emily, you stay here with grandpa, I’m going to get Grandpa’s doctor.

Emily sniffed and nodded weakly, still holding her grandfather’s hand as Mavis sprinted out of the house then broke into a dead run while weighing options on who was the better doctor and who was the closest. In the end he chose the closed, pushing himself into a full run as he headed for Doctor Paulsen’s.

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“You haven’t been sleeping well.”

Mavis looked at his father as he folded over the covers of the bed, it was impossible to make everything look right, the wrinkles always showed up in the wrong places and he ended up having to do it over just so the covers would lay even. He couldn’t remember why his dad had just been standing there, reasoning that he was probably just there in case he needed a hand. “I can’t get this right, it just needs to look like mom’s then I’m done.”

“Okay.” The casual way Lucas accepted his reasoning seemed out of place, but he had been sick, maybe it just didn’t matter anymore. “Do you want a glass of water?”

Mavis stopped turning over the sheets and took the cup that was offered to him, forgetting the bed for a moment to sit down. “You know mom would have never allowed food in the bedroom.”

“Why wouldn’t she do that?”

That was an odd question, he was about to respond when the banging outside started to grow too loud to ignore. “You should get that.”

It felt strange to awaken to something that felt less real than the dream itself, groaning Mavis rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and sat up, pushing the door open and ducking out into the hall. Emily had gotten upset when he had first tried to put away her fortress of blocks and stones but she didn’t seem to have any trouble making the mess herself, Hearth and Kitchen had turned into a disaster zone of thrown blocks and river rocks, each making a pounding sound as they hit their mark on the floor and walls. Mavis looked with some concern at the scuffed and dented wood  before shuffling his concerns aside as an errant rock found its way through the window. “You need to stop.”

His daughter stopped midway through another wind up, though by the look on her face he suspected that this was more due to having a new target rather than any kind of respect.  “I don’t need to.”

“I…I just said you did.”  He already knew in terms of negotiation his hesitation had been a serious error, what made it worse was Emily seemed to know that, her expression turning sour as she started back up again, this time throwing the stones harder out of spite.

“Stop”

“No.”

Mavis flexed his claws, trying to contain the beast despite the growing frustration he felt as a low growl escape into his speech. “Emily.”

Another loud thump as a stone nearly missed hitting the window again, the child now in open rebellion as she resorted to ignoring her father. “Stop it Emily.”

“You can’t make me!”

“I mean it.”  The beast twitched, pulling on his fraying nerves as he stood there, trying to count to ten as Emily committed herself to throwing every single stone and block. If she had responded back maybe he could have tamed the wolf down, but the snarl had already been climbing its way up his vocal chords, turning his outburst more into a bestial roar than a command. “Emilia Margaret Audrapel…go to your room!”

The stone dropped dead from his daughter’s hands as the look of angry defiance turned to abject terror.  Dimly he realized that he was bearing his teeth which in combination with his puffed fur, made him seem larger and far more intimidating than he had meant to be. He could see Emily’s eyes welling up with tears and even as he felt an overwhelming guilt at losing his temper he felt even worse knowing he had won. Mavis did his best to force the beast back down, his voice still exhibiting a growl as he tried to diffuse the situation. “Go to your room.”

Though the request was more muted then before, his daughter ran at full sprint to her room, heavily motivated by fear as she escaped what was now viewed as her sanctuary and slammed the door.

Great job Mavis.

The one good thing to come of the last few days was the overabundance of food delivered by friends and neighbors, it was a tradition that Mavis had never fully appreciated until he realized how much effort it took to complete the most basic tasks while the mind wasn’t operating at full strength.  This made the following visit from the Magistrate exceedingly difficult. The lack of sleep caught up to him in waves, dragging Mavis down in occasional fits of drowsiness as he tried to listen to Solomon explain the details of his father’s debts. “What about the pension. There should be money in that.”

Solomon shrugged his shoulders. “As you know your Father volunteered during the second war, there was no pension.”

He growled. “I know about that, I’m talking about mine. I had paperwork to send it all home.”

“It was suspended after you vanished, unable to verify or some bureaucratic nonsense.  I’m sorry son but there’s nothing   except the debt right now.”

“And the farm?” Mavis asked, causing Solomon to lower his head apologetically.

“At this point your option is to either sell it now and try to make some profit back or let them take it.”

Neither were very good option and despite what solution Mavis chose to resolve the debt he knew that the blame would fall the same way. “I can’t ask Susan to crowd us in, that’s too many bodies for anything long term.”

“Just keep in mind your sister isn’t your only option. “

Mavis mumbled. “could try to make it in the city or the frontier. I know, I’ve thought about it.”

“Maybe.  Look, you might not have a problem toughing it out yourself but Emily is different, you know that. I did discuss with your father before about me and the missus taking Emily in. We have the room, we’ll ensure she’s well provided for and you won’t have to worry about how to take care of her.”

It was the wording that bothered him, he knew that the Magistrate meant well but it all just felt like a backhanded generosity, that somehow he was unfit or was going to take his child away.  He managed to suppress a snarl, avoiding eye contact with Solomon as he forced his words out. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”

“I think you should at least consider it Mavis.”

The snarl was more pronounced, placing verbal emphasis that the Magistrate had overstayed his welcome. “We’re done talking Solomon. Go.”

The Magistrate directed one last look of concern toward Mavis but he knew well enough when it was a good time to step back. “Your sister scheduled the funeral for tomorrow morning.”

 Once Solomon was gone Mavis leaned back and closed his eyes, trying to get in a few brief seconds of rest before resigning himself to confronting the mammoth In the room, or in this case the five year old child in the room. Mavis couldn’t help but be impressed by the resourcefulness of his daughter, not only had she concealed herself inside her room for the last day but she had managed to leave it with such stealth that the usual tactic of guarding the food left outside her door failed to meet with any success. He grudgingly conceded that part of her victory might have had something to do with his own lack of sleep and exhaustion but he was also willing to ignore any logic that disproved she had a knack. Since bribery and patience had failed though Mavis forced himself to resort to being more direct and knocked on the door with an accompaniment of his own apologetic pleas. “Emily?”

When he didn’t get an answer he resorted to violating the code of bedrooms and forced the door open himself, the door had a little less give than he expected and when he looked down he realized that Emily had dragged whatever she could move over to block the door before climbing her way out the window.  There was a strange sense of pride for the resourcefulness of his child before reality sunk in that she had run off and he no longer knew where she was.  Adrenaline kicking in Mavis felt some relief that while she had figured out how to sneak off she hadn’t figured out how to hide her scent, providing an easy trail to follow.  He found her near to the lake curled against an old tree and felt an overwhelming sense of relief, not realizing until then how much he had been worried about finding her. In his mind he ran over a dozen opening lines ranging from anger to sympathy and everything in between until she turned around and he was stricken with a sudden case of temporary amnesia. The look on her face was one of pure guilt, a gaze that suggested she knew she had done wrong and feared retribution.  Left abandoned by his list of openings Mavis opted for the first non-threatening response that entered his mind. “Why did you run away?”

“I don’t know.”

He didn’t know what he had expected  in terms of a conversation but he reasoned that at least it was something, he sat down in the grass next to her and prepared himself for an endless line of questioning that was likely to go nowhere. “Are you still upset with me?”

“I dunno.”

“Did you hear me and Sully talking?”

“I dunno.”

He swallowed. “Do you want to live with Uncle Sully?”

This time he was rewarded with a wordless shrug accompanied by quavering.

“Do you want to live with Aunt Susan?”

No response, instead she appeared to close herself off further.

“It’s okay to be scared.”

Immediately Emily turned over to the side and instantly cocooned, bringing her knees up to her chest and hugging herself as she buried her head in the grass, watching this Mavis realized he was swiftly losing ground on his twenty question engagement with a five year old. “Don’t you want to talk to me?”

“No.”

“Why don’t you want to talk to me?”

“You’re a liar.”

Mavis sighed, taking a breath in as he tried to craft his next response. “Is it because of grandpa?”

Despite the cocoon he could still see the vigorous nod of the head. “You said Grandpa wasn’t gonna die. You said he wasn’t gonna die for a long time.”

“And that’s not what happened was it?”

The muffled voice came barely audible from the cocoon. “It wasn’t a long time and you lied and they’re going to put grandpa away in the ground.”

She wasn’t wrong. “I’m sorry. I was scared.”

The cocoon unfurled as an emboldened Emily stared straight at her father. “You lied.”

“I know.”

“You’re not supposed to lie.”

Mavis lowered his head as he tried to look for a way to repair the damage. “If I promise not to lie to you again can we start over?”

The child looked at Mavis, studying his face as she tried to judge his sincerity. “Not ever?”

“Never.”

Emily pouted a little her lower lip jutting forward as she mulled over the deal. “I don’t want to live with Auntie Susan.”

“Okay.”

She paused then after several more seconds spoke again. “I don’t want to live with Sully either.”

“You don’t have to.”

She looked at Mavis, her eyes welling up with tears. “I want to live with grandpa.”

Mavis extended his arm slowly, wrapping a comforting paw around Emily, ready to withdraw his support at the moment she began to protest. “I want to live with grandpa too.”

She sniffed, turning her face into his fur. “I don’t wanna go to the funeral.”

“It’s okay not to go if you don’t want to.”

“That’s not what everyone else says.”

“You let me worry about everyone else.”

Emily nodded slowly, head still buried into his arm as the tears started to soak his fur.

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It occurred to Mavis that he’d never actually been to a burial before, his brother’s body had been incinerated in Northrend and because he had left Lakeshire so soon after the Iron Horde’s massacre he had missed the services for his mother as well, leaving him with a child’s fantasy of funerals that consisted of dreary colors and bad weather. He felt cheated that even the weather was refusing to cooperate with this image with the mix of everyone’s best clothes making his father’s funeral look more like a fall festival than a morning service.

Unable to focus on the casual appearance of the funeral Mavis lowered his head to the grave, it was amazing how small the cemetery was despite how much hardship Lakeshire had seen over thirty years .

They were just markers  He realized, the real cemetery was Redridge itself with mass graves dug into the hills and sometimes only marked by a few stones. The forsaken would salivate over Redridge.

A shoveling of dirt rained down on the casket and brought Mavis out of his thoughts, he took the shovel when it was offered and lifted his own share of earth into the grave, the finality of the ritual threatening to overwhelm him.  When he had finished he felt his sister place a re-assuring hand on his shoulder and felt some comfort that she was still there.

“He was happy you came home, you know that.”

A growl escaped unbidden from his throat, voicing his discomfort as he went through the motions. “I’m sorry for not coming sooner.”

“I think dad understood Mavis. Where’s Emily?”

“At home.”

A look of surprise crossed his sister’s face that Mavis thought was unusual. “Oh Mavis, you didn’t leave her alone did you?”

“She didn’t want to come Susan, I wasn’t going to make her.”

“You can’t just leave a five year old home by themselves, It’s not safe.”

“and you know dad’s health never left her unsupervised at all.”  He realized only after that he had been baring his teeth but instead of the fear his sister instead looked hurt. “I’m sorry.”

He slipped awa, heading back in the direction of the house. He waited until he was clear from sight before dropping into a run, coming fully around the back of the farm and letting the wolf run, it would have been better had he the chance to hunt but he didn’t want to leave Emily alone any longer than he needed.  He found his daughter sleeping in his father’s old room, face-planted and hugging the pillows in a vaguely human shape that was probably meant to resemble Lucas, he let her be and instead moved to the kitchen to get dinner started.  He hadn’t stopped to think much on how his father’s death was affecting Emily, he’d been there when Mavis had not and as such had likely been the closest thing to a father figure she’d recognized and now he was all that was left.

Emily woke up just as Mavis was plating dinner and as a result was assaulted with the familiar smell of baked yams. The child first looked at her father with some level of confusion but didn’t question it otherwise, dessert for dinner seemed fine for her.  Mavis watched her eat before settling down in the chair opposite and lowering his head so it was eye level to hers. “I was thinking that you might want to come with me.”

Emily paused from eating the sweet potato and stared at Mavis, confused for a moment by his suggestion then she looked worried. “You’re going away? Like grandpa?”

“No.” He shook his head. “Not like grandpa.  My job makes me go to a lot of different places so I can’t always be here but you can come with me if you want?”

The girl looked at Mavis skeptically as she mulled over his response, taking it apart and processing it as best she could. “Can I bring my toys?”

“We’ll get a backpack so you can fit as much as you can carry.”

 

Susan wasn’t happy, though it wasn’t as if Mavis had expected her to be even if a part of him had hoped for her to be more supportive of his decision. It still surprised him to see his little sister as a mother, much less someone who was so much more grounded than she had been in her youth.  “I don’t understand why you have a problem with this Susan, Isn’t this what you and dad wanted? I’m tryint to be a parent.”

“Mavis, she needs stability, not to be uprooted every week or month or however often that caravan moves around.”

It was the same complaint he’d gotten from Solomon.  “I wouldn’t call two months of missed payments away from losing the house a stable environment either Susan. She just lost dad, do you really want to see her watch the house being auctioned away?”

“It’s not safe.”

He forced down a growl. “And what place is Susan? The world isn’t short of hope chests and caves to hide in when trouble comes.” Susan looked taken aback as he referenced the devastation that cost their mother, he knew his dig on the attack hurt her, he didn’t care. “At least this way I can protect her.”

Susan let go a long drawn out breath. “I just don’t think you’re in the best shape to make these decisions Mavis and no I don’t agree with it but I’m also not going to let you burn your bridges. Anytime you decide to come home you have a place with us, no questions asked.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.” He stood there in silence with his sister, trying to think of something else to say that maybe meant something or improved his defense but in the end nothing came to mind and he was left mumbling a goodbye.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LoIvXMs3aM

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