His nights and days were fraternizing again, confusing the order of his endeavors, and the morning Hendrik currently found himself in as he returned to his Lilikoi was cloudless and hot.

Earlier, dipping back into the night, after Lula had pretended to fall asleep and after he had thrown bitter reparations at her swollen-eyed victim, Hendrik had holed himself up with his thoughts in his office. He could feel her loathing through the walls. It wasn't fair to her, nothing ever would be, but Hendrik never claimed his hands were even and fairness was a luxury exclusive to the dead.

He pulled a breath of pipe, held it, let it go. He had to find Hollis.

Lula was prone to softening around her father, and Hendrik needed her soft again. But neither of them had sighted Hollis in months; his lengthy withdrawals unnerved his daughter, but Hendrik liked to think he knew better. Hollis may not have had the mind he once did, but Hendrik banked trust in the survivor in his old friend.

Sleep had slipped away into the dark, and instead of chasing it Hendrik spent that night and morning, right through the tacky dawn, searching every man-sized crevice in Wenfel, and came up painfully empty. He would have to collect Lula and leave, there was no more time, their ferry was leaving just after noon.

Hendrik trudged up to the Lilikoi with lonely sides and scowl that tugged on the corners of his eyes.

The blank-slate morning had winked at the possibility of a dry day, but a downpour intent on sopping the mud had managed to creep in with the noon.

Wenfel's river port was a half moon stretch of sagging awning sunk into the Vas Cus River bed, named for the bronzed corpse erect at it's center: Rau Vas Cus, the River King, who lived, served and died on silt banks, forever embalmed, forever remembered.

Until he isn't, Hendrik deemed.

The port was overwhelmed by the rain and a confused current of bodies. Disorder ruled the crowd, they ebbed in spite of each other; no one was apologetic. Shoulders tossed into other shoulders, tempers flared and voices hurled curses and Hendrik waded through it all toward the call line.

He beat past and between line-abiding passengers, begrudging obscenities drifting in his wake, until he stooped into next-in-line. No one outright objected; Hendrik had discovered, at an impressionable age, that if he walked tall and with purpose the public was apt to respect his unwarranted clout. The lone fellow ahead of Hendrik took his pass from a spotted old port-attendant hunched behind a slatted waist-high counter. He slid it beneath his lapel then paced off toward the boarding line.

Hendrik stepped up. The old man behind the counter, lively only in the sense of his tremors, peered at Hendrik over his thick appointment book. He mouthed words, conversing without a voice. Hendrik tapped his left ear, the rain on the tin above them was strangling any noise the old man had managed and having an ear dead to the world wasn't much help in the matter of conversation.

The attendant nodded and said, brash, toad-like, "Name."

"DeWitte, Hendrik."

"De what-ah?" An old lip curled up over sparse yellowing teeth.

Hendrik donned a smile that fell short of his eyes. "De. Wit."

Understanding roused in old, spectacled eyes. As he watched the attendant comb through his book with licked finger tips, Hendrik remarked on the horde. "Such a fine day for travel."

The old man shook his shoulders without looking up. "With the Drag next week, folk been constipating the wait list for M'onome."

Hendrik sneered at the thought and leaned against the counter with an unimpressed posture. "I never known the enthusiasm to drift so eastward."

"Well, gossip tells they finally plan on running that piece of shit 'til there's nothing left but crumbs. Hard to believe he's still leaching on life's tit, s'been a decade."

"Fourteen years." Hendrik spat. He played with the thought of popping a knuckle on the old man's jaw, but the attendant interrupted. "There you are. With Haldi, Lula; courtesy of-" Hendrik couldn't hide a smirk as the old man held his breath, he could see those aged wits gearing through rumors, "Nabal Avalle?" The old man eyed Hendrik with a worried brow, then sharply shied from his eyes as he took two blank passes, stamped their legitimacy, and offered them to Hendrik between two limp and quaking fingers.

Hendrik seized them with a quick tug and stuffed them into his inner coat pocket, all the while studying the twitchy old man with a smug mien. "You were sayin'?"

"I wasn't sayin'," said the attendant, nose deep in his book again.

Hendrik wagged his head and about-faced, striding with his chin up at the scowling faces that formed the line he had forgone.

His ward poised where he'd left her, pointed boots and elbows sitting proper in that damned chair; fuming beneath the awning. The tent of a dress Esther had procured for her scalloped from her shoulders like a sheet slacked on a line. The excess she had gained kept to her girth, the rest of her was the same as it had always been: gangly arms and legs, a long neck and longer hair. She kept her tresses tucked in a braid most days, she had it plaited and coiled close to her scalp now, keeping it from smothering her nape.

She hadn't acknowledged him all morning, she had been using Esther as a communicative conduit, but Hendrik had sent Esther back to manage the Lilikoi in his absence. They were alone now, no filter; no messenger to run the bridge.

A few paces from Lula, who wouldn't glance his shadow, he stopped and opened his mouth. "We've got t'move toward the boardin' line." Lula remained and Hendrik picked at his beard. "You plan on carryin' yor chair again or are you goin' to cut the pride?"

She threaded her fingers over one another and met his eyes with an armed glower. "I think I'll stay here."

Hendrik felt his better sense snap, but before he could wrench Lula from her seat, her face greyed and she focused on a space above his shoulder, on his deaf side. She collapsed a breath, a defeated relief settled on her sharp features, she sighed, "Hendrik. Look."

He craned over his shoulder and across the crowd.

Under the last efforts of rain and balanced on the bronzed feet of river-hero Rau Vas Cus, stood a man with dark skin, darker hair and bowed legs, shamelessly naked but for the grime of the street. Parts of the crowd were too busy to notice, but others saw and stopped and gawked, murmured and laughed and gasped.

Hendrik gaped then yelled into the noise, "Hollis!"

He heard Lula yelling after him, but he had already thrown himself back into the masses, shoving his way into the heart of the swarm.

Hollis hooked an elbow with Rau Vas Cus, his heavy breast rose up over a breath and he bellowed, "We are all guilty! We are all wont of selfish mutilation from the mouths of babes! We cannot be undone! We cannot be undone! We are the babes! There will be no more of this folly! No more fucking folly!" Spittle flung from his mouth and clung to his beard, his body contracted with every word. "I spread the seeds! I move this dirt! I will not be undone! You cannot undo me you fucking craven husks of meat! I am your only fucking god!"

A/N: Speaking from the grave: I tried writing this in one short go - it's naked, unedited, probably lacking some substance, but it's here and I think somewhat cohesive. Honestly, this entire idea is due for a massive overhaul and re-plotting - I'll probably start that tomorrow.