Mansemat Cthonique watched the waves lap the sides of the boat. He frowned to himself. Men often wrote of the ‘black waters of the Murkenmere’, but in truth, the water was more a dismal dark brown. Nisrioch said it had something to do with trees. Whatever caused it, the phenomenon was not exactly comforting to the eyes. You looked at it, and you thought of dead things, hidden below the surface, ready to rise to the surface at a moment's notice...
“Thinking deep thoughts?” said Viviane, quietly, a smile on her face.
“Thinking, at the very least,” replied Mansemat, with a sigh.
“I’m sorry about that scene with Nisrioch…” she began.
“No you’re not,” said Mansemat.
Viviane chuckled. “No, I’m not.” She shook her head. “I know he’s your brother, Manny, but finding out that he was using our kids as--pieces in that damned Esches game he plays with the whole word…”
“He means well,” said Mansemat quietly. “But… sometimes he needs to be reminded that people are not playthings…” He shut his eyes. “And in this case… with all the history that you…” Mansemat shook his head. “No. With all the horror you experienced…”
Viviane looked at her husband for a moment, then stepped towards him and rested her head on his shoulder. “I survived my hell, Manny. Just like you survived yours. And we found each other. And built something beautiful together.”
Mansemat began to idly stroke with Viviane’s hair. “I know. I know. But I also know that… the horror… never completely stops. There are always… scars. And memories.” He looked at the river again. “Fifteen years later… another Cthonique crosses the river.”
Viviane placed a hand on her husband’s right arm, and massaged it gently. “You’re not him. Not in the least.” Mansemat turned to look at her. “Scars and memories are just that, Manny,” she said calmly.
Mansemat nodded dully. “They tell me they even fade sometimes.” He sighed. “I sincerely hope that’s true.”