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Tiberinus
#1
"The god am I, whose yellow water flows
Around these fields, and fattens as it goes:
Tiber my name; among the rolling floods
Renown’d on earth, esteem’d among the gods.
This is my certain seat. In times to come,
My waves shall wash the walls of mighty Rome.”
-Tiberinus, The Aeneid






Philip stood alongside to a fountain in Rome. The water trickled and sprayed as it had for a thousand years, carving beautiful streams of water along the granite. He was in old Rome, a center open only to pedestrians. However, none were to be seen.

He walked to the fountain, finding his reflection to shimmer in the bright sunlight. A drip of hair fell loose around his eyes as he peered down. His track suit, a cashmere white, seemed to glow. As he looked, movement caught the side of his gaze. Three, small robotics patrolled the cobblestone path. He had the distinct feeling they were searching for him, so he frowned and walked swiftly away.

He came around a corner as a shadow crept from above. He turned to find a black ship, round in the front and square in the back, perhaps ten meters in length. It approached too slow to be jet-propelled, and he gasped when a projectile suddenly burst from below. Philip watched it destroy historic buildings one by one, even as he believed it was doing far less damage than it was capable.

Before it saw him, he hurried away, next coming to the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge crossing the Tiber River. The patrols churned from behind, and without any other way to escape, Philip crossed the bridge. There, standing at its center, he watched the shadow of the ship turn toward the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The projectiles bombed the dome, which exploded in horrifying fires.

As Philip watched, he could feel the heat of it on his face. Before he could depart, the robotic patrols rolled upon the bridge from both directions. Trapped, he looked both directions, then clenched his jaw and jumped over the side, falling feet-first into the murky waters below.
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Man is like God: he never changes. 
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#2
((Post is a dream that ends with the jump into tel'aran'rhiod.))
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Man is like God: he never changes. 
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#3
Nimeda flung herself wide to the dream, but the Grey Lady did not answer the call. When finally the silence grew too much, she let herself tumble backwards from wind-torn cliffs, and plunged into the freezing waters below. Bubbles slid and frothed against her skin as she sank, until the embrace became something of warmer climates. She twisted and floated amongst those waves, spiralling slowly down. Words circled her mind too, though she tried not to dwell on them. The feelings stirred up, though; those were like an anchor.

Now she drifted at the very bottom of the river’s bed, white skirts billowing and tickling against her limbs, dark hair drifting about her pale face in a lethargic cloud of coils and loops. The iridescent glyph on her chest had not resurfaced, once more shored up with smooth skin and hidden to the deepest depths where it ought remain. Better it lie forgotten, and yet the muddied churn of its memory was like some morbid fascination now that she was alone to contemplate it. She had not looked at it at the time, but it seemed she had not needed to. Her fingers traced its shape into the soft silt. Washed it clean with the brush of a palm. Started again.

The swirl of petals, reaching out like spokes. A tumultuous sweep of waves. The symbol at its heart.
[Image: nim-symbol-Edited.jpg]
Idly swiped away.

The last time her finger dug instead the sinuous line of something else, but she wiped that away too.

Then somewhere distant the familiar sound of a weight plummeting beneath the surface finally raised her head, and she pushed upwards from the bottom, letting herself shift to the disturbance. A genuine smile lit what had been an expression of pensive contemplation, for the last face she expected to see in such murky depths was nonetheless one that always gladdened her. 

The arc of her arms propelled her upwards. Her face broke sleek above the water, assuming he would follow, though she would return for him if not. “Noctua?”
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#4
The water caught him, but Philip’s body sliced through the embrace piercing as an arrow straight to the bottom. The Pope did not need air to live, he told himself, as he folded his arms across his chest like the dead poised in their coffins. Only the water was not his grave. 

Above, where the penetrance of fires brightened the liquid ceiling a dappled crimson, he closed his eyes and willed it to dissipate. Moments later, the color snuffed, leaving only the heavy blanket of river overhead.

His knees hit the riverbed, slipping on the slime of ancient algae licking the rocks to his knees. His palms pressed together, and he spoke needs in his mind that no one but God would hear. The stillness was a rapture. Deprivation of the above world was mandatory. Apart from the waking surface, yet buried in its belly, Philip’s demands were laid out before the scope of everything. It was not his grave, but it was a grave as temporary as the tomb of Christ.  

Then a voice spoke back.

His eyes opened quickly, but they found only the green, murky atmosphere of the world's souls dredged with sin. He could feel it leeching into his clothes and tainting his skin. Death swirled the underbed of the Tiber River, but in a stirring of silt, an infusion of life burst upward. Philip found the surface free of robots and burning buildings when he returned. It was disturbingly refreshing, and he wasn’t alone. 

He just looked at her and breathed heavy with the weight of humanity's burdens dripping from his face.
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Man is like God: he never changes. 
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#5
Nimeda bobbed amidst the current, hair slick and coiling across the surface. Waves tickled up against her lips, yet it was clear from eyes alone that she was smiling warmly. The expression faded slowly with the press of his silence though, brows knit instead into a question of concern. She searched his face, slow to absorb, but somehow distressed with what she saw. If she noticed where they were, or the murkiness of the waters he had drawn her to, she did not show it.

She drew closer. Her finger curled beneath his chin, like she might better read his expression. Or perhaps to stop that great weight from dragging him like an anchor straight back to the bottom.

“Did you lose safe ground?” He had sought escape from a flood before, and the glimpse he had shown her of manicured gardens did not suggest such a place was his preference for swimming.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#6
The sudden breech of two worlds wasn’t enough to hold him to the surface. He started to slink beneath, but the taste of turbid water on his lips was repulsive. He wanted to slip away until Nimeda floated effortlessly near. A stillness closed around him like the embrace of a watery hug he did not desire. Only the ripple of his hands and legs keeping him afloat revealed any movement at all. Likewise, Philip did not deflect the reach of her hand as she turned his chin. It pivoted his gaze skyward. The shadow of arches loomed higher than he realized for the jump.

When she first met him, she declared him the danger in the waters. He still could not comprehend the difference, unless per chance it was the serenity beneath the surface that courted danger. Was she in this dream? Or was he in hers? Had she seen the lifeless eyes that chased him to the river?

He could hardly look at her, though he did not retract. She remained oblivious of her scandalous appearance inching closer. While he did not approve, the manner of his stillness did not reflect such opprobrium. The effervescent Thalia swam behind Nimeda’s eyes, and he wondered how much, if anything, transposed the two humans.  

“I jumped,” he said and in doing so, revealed the significance of the bridge above. “Safety is an illusion,” he spoke softly, but the draw of his brow was pliant and accepting of the fact. He breathed by grace, not of his own wise choices. To be left to ruling one’s own life was to concede oneself to tyrannical mayhem. Just a bad idea. There was no fear in jumping because death was the safest activity that existed.
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Man is like God: he never changes. 
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#7
He barely looked at her. Nimeda’s eyes lifted, followed by the upwards tilt of her chin to observe where his own gaze led. A bridge arched above. Such landmarks meant little to her; the world changed and fluctuated its monuments in such a way as they were ill features to navigate by. Whether it was symbolic or significant she could not say, and nor did she ask, for here Noctua claimed to be no one. Like as not he would not answer. Like as not, even if he did, the answer would mean nothing to her.

When her attention lowered, her expression was awash with confusion and concern. Though her memories were vague and slippery things, the emotions invoked were not; moods lingered between dreaming, and she was beholden to their currents. Noctua's face had sparked lightness, yet she had woken with an ache in her chest. As she tried to parse sense from his words it only knotted tighter. He did not jump for the thrill, or the joy, or the exhilaration. Nor for solace, either, as she had done herself, seeking the quiet places dreamers did not usually tread.

“Are you in danger?” she asked. The words bubbled like an echo. He did not seem afraid nor in need of comfort. Perhaps the sour taste of an unhappy dream already faded, and she might hope it was something so simple, yet she also knew he Saw.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#8
Oh, how the tides turned.

No scars marked his hand, and if they did, so often did Philip fold them near that the wound would be obscured. Nimeda suddenly felt like the tide retracting into the sea, but Philip was not one to chase. The question made him sputter a sarcastic laugh, and he pushed toward the river’s edge in response. A small patch of grass lined the sidewalk beyond. When he climbed free, his pristine clothes were tinged to drabber shades that made him grumble. As he brushed his hair to arranged stillness, a pull toward blue serenity yearned to sweep him elsewhere. He could show Nimeda the landscape her counterpart painted, but he somewhat treasured the secret - even from Nimeda.

Rome surrounded them, but it was a city emptied of souls. Awake, the fullness of the city was no different, other than to restrict the Pope's comings and goings. He was not the sovereign of Rome to command vacancy, and so in a prison of hollowed grounds he remained. If there was danger, he did not acknowledge it. Just as once, to the Vicar of Iscariot. he declared himself fearless. The admittance was not a shade of arrogance, humble as Philip was, but it was because he had nothing to lose. He simply did not acknowledge the existence of fear. There was nothing of this world he wanted. The only thing he did desire, was not the world's to give.

“There is only one who can endanger me, Nimeda,” he explained on a turn toward the river, folding his hands as he’d imagined in the water. His eyes brightened next, alluding to a presence he knew more than he knew himself. “And He’s not here.” Wherever here was, they were most certainly alone.

She would find the answer frustrating, which was why the mirth in his eyes twisted his lips into a baiting smile.

After licking his lips, reviling in the continued taste of the waters of Tiberinus, imagined or otherwise, that dampened his tongue, he considered asking for a towel since that seemed to fluff his clothing the last time they met. Instead, his mind went another way. If the clothing dried of its own accord, he may accept it, but he may also opt to bathe in Fontana di Trevi. There was no way to know until it happened.
“Do you happen to have a vanilla coke zero?”
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Man is like God: he never changes. 
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#9
Noctua pulled away like the concern was unnecessary, but it did not lighten its burden from her shoulders. The callous bark of his laughter at least assured her he was feeling himself, though it also felt like deflection. Nimeda’s thoughts churned in an habitually slow way, and though she was sensitive to currents of need spun out in the dream, her instincts were also so deeply intuitive she did not always recognise them as such. She watched him wade towards the shoreline for a while before she finally followed, wondering who had called on whom.

There was no satisfaction in his answer. The obfuscation of his words she tucked away to puzzle over later, should such a prize still linger in her thoughts by then, and for now the frown faded. She was unperturbed by the mysteries he would not share, content instead with the simplicity of his company. Whatever he fled had not followed. Neither would she allow herself to mire in thoughts she could do little about.

It wasn’t until she climbed out that she realised how the water clung slimy. Nimeda was never much preoccupied with the way she looked, nor chose to acknowledge physical discomfort, yet her nose wrinkled as she palmed the scummy film along one arm. “No,” she said distractedly. “I do not know what that is. Why do you need one?”

After a moment she glanced around them, but she felt no great affection for the urban landscape. It explained the filth at least. 

“It is a prison. Where are we, Noctua?” It’s name in the Waking world she did not care much to know, though she would absorb whatever answer he chose to give curiously. Rather, she wanted to know what it meant to him.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#10
Philip grumbled. Why couldn’t he be chased by trucks brimming with cold vanilla coke zero? Why robots that looked like the trash can droid from Star Wars? He shot a glance aside briefly, just to make sure one wasn’t waddling up then. If something was going to spontaneously erupt from his head into this dream, he preferred the aforementioned carbonated beverage.

“I need it because that is the Tiber River, and it tastes like sludge from the bottom of a moat,” he said, pointing back at the water. Even Nimeda swiped the droplets free of her arms. The filth had a way of sticking to the skin that would require a shower when he woke up. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, only to realize the sodden cloth was a poor choice. The frown etched deep, but after a moment, his attire was pristine and dry again. Even the sneakers were quiet as he walked.

When Nimeda joined alongside, he kept his gaze at the level of her eyes. If anything inappropriate lingered beneath her chin, he did not notice it, or else chose to eradicate the instinct to look sheepishly away. His own softened a little as he accepted her presence on the walkway. Inevitably, she mentioned the bedraggled stone around them rising like behemoths of a bad dream.

Rome.

For the penchant toward claustrophobia, the density was nothing like Baltimore. The rich city surrounding them echoed with millennia past. Even now, Philip could sense the toll of time. He longed all his life to come here.

“Don’t you go into cities?” he asked. Her discomfort was palpable, or perhaps it was distaste. She accepted the summer retreat easily enough but rejecting the place he dreamed for the whole of his life stung in a way he did not expect. He was glad to avoid Vatican City, then. He would not be able to bear it if Nimeda found his home repulsive. With a deep breath, any crestfallen glances were stubbornly smothered, but what replaced his countenance was quite turbulent.

“It was a bad dream, is all. This city has existed thousands of years. I have a feeling I will be quite displeased when I wake, and the full meaning is made known to me.”
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Man is like God: he never changes. 
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