Offerings to the Dead

A phasmonia dedicated to the dead near Brunnhold.
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 253
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 29
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Notes & Tracker
Writer: Graf
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Thu Aug 01, 2019 12:55 pm

The Ghost Town Brunnhold
Afternoon of the 9th of Bethas, 2719
Why is everything so different?

Tom held the back of the bench tightly, numb fingers aching. He didn’t say anything, though if he had, he wasn’t sure it would’ve helped; he didn’t think the thing was much in the mood for explanations. Relief surged through him when Ezre – in that clumsy, jerky way; gods damn, but Tom didn’t think he’d ever forget it – sat down on the bench, ’cause for a second, when it’d looked out over the frozen water and sighed all sad and longing-like, he’d worried it was planning on drowning the both of them.

If it’d brought Ezre any closer to the water, he didn’t know what he’d’ve done. Gone after them, he reckoned, tried to hold the lad back as best he could. He didn’t know if that would’ve done much good, either. He didn’t know the strength of a confused, half-mad, miserable ghost, but after everything he’d been put through today, he reckoned it’d be a damn sight stronger than him.

Then: a glimmer of silver whizzed through the frosty air, went soaring out over the water. Struck ice, bounced, skidded, skimmed the burnished skin of the water.

A glitter sat in the middle of the pond like a day star, and Tom stared at it.

Sound that came out of the lad’s mouth then could’ve struck him deaf. Eyes widening, Tom tore his gaze away, toward Ezre. He watched the struggles that played out across his face in flinches, in scowls, in expressions he’d never seen the lad make before.

Tsuter, how the thing was crushing the sound of Ezre’s voice in his own throat. Almost unbearable to watch, but he kept his eyes trained on him, and he grit his teeth, and he stood with his boots planted firm in the dirt. His grip on the back of the bench tightened and tightened, white-knuckled, fingernails grinding into the stone. That handful of seconds felt like it could’ve lasted a hundred years, but he wasn’t going to budge an inch ’til he knew what the ghost was going to do next.

Or ’til Ezre told him to get away, such as it was. It was with great reluctance that he let go of the bench and started backing up, crunching in the dead grass and frost. Still tense, despite all his shakiness, still ready to dive back in if he made any sudden moves. “Like hell,” he husked through his teeth at the ghost’s command to take them there, but much longer, and he didn’t think Ezre’d have much of a choice.

When Tom was about even with the tree, he heard a bizarre sound, bell-clear in the frozen silence. The monster’d stopped ranting, he realized, and Ezre was singing, a stream of Monite weaving through the air. Tom paused, holding onto the tree trunk for support, the breath still in his lungs. Warding (or whatever the hell you called it) was all well and good, he supposed, but if a ghost had a hold of your throat, you wouldn’t get halfway through a bit of poetry before –

A garbled howl tore its way out of the lad’s throat, splitting the spell and sending the mona roiling like a storm at sea. The sound needled at his ears long after Ezre’d gone silent, and then the ringing started back up. Try as he might to root himself to his bones, to hold fast to the frame of himself, the mona threatened to carry him off like a scrap of sailcloth on a shrieking gale. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, though he got a glimpse of something before he did, a wisp of something clawing its way out of Ezre.

The nausea that washed over him this time was too much. He felt like his legs’d been reduced to jelly, and he crumpled in the dirt, gagging. He vomited copiously behind the tree.

Felt like ages before the world settled. He shivered into his coat, slumping against the bark. The first thing he noticed was the absence. He’d felt the mona in his field now for so long, buzzing and shifting, that the lack of them was almost eerier than their presence had ever been. Familiar, though, in its way. The air was utterly still. He fumbled in his coat for his kerchief, but his hand was trembling so much that he nearly couldn’t get a hold on it; it took him awhile to wipe his face, catch his breath, get his bearings. He felt like a corpse suddenly given breath. Hollowed out.

The sound of Ezre’s voice, weak and sighing, sent a charge of panic through him. Abandoning the handkerchief in the dirt, he struggled to his feet, scrabbling at the tree. Another wave of nausea nearly bowled him over, but he managed it.

“Lad! Lad? Ezre!” His voice felt odd in his throat, weak and hoarse.

With one hand knotted in his hair, squinting down at the ground – the only thing that wasn’t moving – he picked his way carefully back over to the bench, cursing himself for not getting any further away from the spell. It took him too long to get there, and when he did, he slumped against it, gasping.

“You – what?” Tom struggled to parse what Ezre was saying, struggled to even hear it, given that he was mumbling into the snow. When he did, his lip curled. “Long walk back to – fuck you. Clocking circle. Fuck,” he snarled. He ran a hand through his hair, tangled and cold and wet with dew, shuddering.

Mouth set in a deep frown, he moved around the bench, then crouched beside Ezre. He planted a gloved hand firmly on his shoulder, shaking him.

This time, his voice wasn’t angry; it wasn’t gentle, but it was soft, and it was ragged with thinly-veiled concern. “I don’t care if you failed correctly or succeeded like a godsdamn mung,” he said, “I’m just – glad you’re – can you move? You lay there much longer, you’ll freeze to death. Here, let me – let me help you.” He fought down another gag, another nauseated chill, blinking. “Can you sit up? We got to get back. See if the moa’s still there.”

Gods fucking willing, he thought. If nothing else went wrong today, they’d be some kind of blessed. Since that was what passed for a blessing these days.
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 4
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Writer: Muse
Contact:

Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:48 pm

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
E
verything hurt and Ezre lay against the very cold ground for far longer than he should have, nauseated and exhausted, feeling suddenly exposed and alone without the comforting presence of the mona he'd grown to otherwise take for granted as part of his existence. Despite how terrifying the situation should have been, the dark-haired boy was full of an exhilaration that he'd never felt before, adrenaline coursing through his veins and warming his veins in a way that he'd not quite imagined.

Tom's words elicited more than just a broader smile from the young Hoxian—the strange creature had the nerve to laugh. A real laugh, breathless and childish, but his small, lithe body was trembling from the experience, not shuddering from the cold. He rolled onto his back to stare up at the raen's older galdor face, dark eyes wide, unsteady breaths making little clouds as his heart thrummed against his ribs,

"I think I can move, zjai. Is it—did it—is the ghost gone? Did you see what happened? I counted on that brailing, you know—" The boy reached up to thumb his nose, wiping away blood with a faltering of his giddy, stupid grin. His words became a groan, seemingly full of more physical and spiritual regrets than intellectual ones over his very risky decisions, "—though it is unfortunate that as far as my knowledge goes, whoever that man once was is now gone forever. I hope that theory is wrong."

His body wasn't entirely keen on moving, muscles sore as if he'd been trudging through the thick Hoxian snow in the mountains for days, but he slowly began to sit up. Ezre blinked slowly and ran fingers curiously over the strange, gooey substance left behind—it clung to his temples, it had dribbled over his clothes—and he pinched it in his tattooed fingers and rubbed it against his cold palm, aware that his body was finally shivering, teeth chattering. It was cold and he'd been out in it all too long already.

With the same clear indication of some history of disciplined, martial training, the dark-haired boy carefully got to his feet and then offered his hand once again to the raen, the unsteady pair surely capable of making one steady support system between the two of them. The act of assisting the other man drew his eyes toward the pond, and he stared at the silver watch on the ice, biting a delicate lower lip that was far paler than it had been when they'd so innocently been practicing Clairvoyance just less than half an hour before,

"I am sorry." He whispered more to Tom's shoulder than to anything in particular, tearing his reluctant gaze away from the sparkle of dirty glass on frozen surface to search the raen's ragged face. It was obvious that his apology should have ended in a but because of his facial expression, dark brows drawing together as an indication of inner struggle despite how he somehow managed to maintain control of the rest of his face—at least, the surface of himself but not underneath. Not his own thoughts.

He shouldn't.

It was dangerous.

He didn't need it.

It wasn't necessary.

He should go.

They should both go.

He'd nearly disturbed Tom's attachment to his body with Clairvoyant experiments, awoken a ghost, allowed said ghost to possess him, brailed a Clairvoyant spell with the express purpose of the backlash he knew it would cause in spite of the personal risks. Everything hurt and they were both exhausted and cold. The proper and polite galdor thing to do was make the long trek home and offer the raen some chan and a warm blanket for his troubles, and so Ezre began to lead them both slowly, carefully away from the bench and the trees and the pond.

The pond.

Oh, the watch.

Staggering a little on the path, the boy's dark eyes were drawn to the frozen surface and the timepiece glimmering in the afternoon sun.

He sighed, inner struggle not going so well. his next sentence was one of continued risky behavior, "I cannot leave that watch. It meant something to that man enough to bind him to Vita as a restless spirit. I feel ... responsible for its care."

The delivery of such a statement was deadpan, quiet, but it contained far more emotion than he was at all capable of expressing, honest about his sense of duty as well as the sudden meaning the small, almost fatal object now held in his life. The statement rolled off his lips, and Ezre realized he did not have magic to help him, not in the absence of the mona after his frightening and painful and unorthodox version of an exorcism. He huffed a cloud of breath, mulling over what he'd just said and mulling over his actual options, "It is very cold and has been below freezing for days. The pond should be sufficiently solid to support my small, light weight. It will be quick. Then I promise, we can leave, Tom—"

What a wretched child, this Hexxos acolyte.

He even had the nerve to smile again, ignoring how the fading adrenaline in his system made him more tired, made every bone in his body ache, let the cold numb his each and every one of his extremities.

"—give me a moment. Please." His voice was hoarse, raspy and sore, totally broken by the creature that had borrowed it so roughly, and yet just like that, hopefully before the older man could grasp at any of his clothing to stop him, the dark-haired boy slipped away and half-stumbled, half-slid, and half-fell down the little path and the stairs toward the pond, determined and focused. He was in no condition to take such risks, too weak to swim should he fall into such frigid waters, and yet, as if still compelled by the spirit that he'd allowed to possess him, he simply had to get his hands back on that watch: a keepsake, a memory, a promise, a scar.

"Tell me, Tom Cooke—" The young Hoxian spoke over his shoulder while he tested the ice with one gentle step, then another, slowly and carefully listening for cracks as he took his time, desperate not to fall flat on his face in fear he may not get up again, "—do you remember taking over Incumbent Vauquelin's body? Did it hurt? That was, even compared to my Hexxos initiation tattoos, the most painful experience of my life thus far."

There were no more boundaries between them anymore it seemed, Ezre simply asking whatever came to mind to keep himself from feeling the fear he knew lurked in the shadowy crypts of his mind after such a terrible experience. He was too young, too curious, too insatiable for his own damn good, that much was clear, and yet he was also so currently unrestrained by any of his otherwise well-practiced rhakor, it was if this moment was the most intimate one he'd ever experienced, the giving of his body to some spiritual aberration in the hopes of offering it rest. He'd failed, and he knew it, and it hurt somewhere inside. But he also wasn't sure if there would have been a better solution for the greedy, obsessive ghost.

He could only honor it by remembering now.

It was in the wake of realization that he'd been possessed that a whole new insight into the life of raen had been given to him ... at least in theory. He'd thought of his mother. He'd looked at Anatole's face. He was sliding on ice in the middle of Ghost Town, reaching for some dead galdor's pocket watch.

He heard his pulse. He heard his rough breathing. He heard the ticking of the timepiece as he drew closer. He heard Tom's voice. He heard the ice crackle in warning, but, thank Bash's immovable mercies, the thick surface of the pond didn't swallow the boy like his body had absorbed the ghost's broken spirit.

No.

Thank all the Circle, the ice held and his numb hand curled numb digits around tarnished silver, "Th-that was an inappropriate question. I just—I have never asked my umah." It was not quite an apology. He obviously wasn't sorry for the brash decisions he was making—why should he be sorry for the harsh question?

Cold metal pressed against his palm and he turned basically skid and slip and crawl his way back over creaking, cracking ice toward the most likely very irate raen. He left a broken, disturbed surface behind him, but, thank all of the Circle and then all the unspoken gods beyond Vita, Ezre made it to the shore again without incident.

He tucked the watch away with the strangest of soft smiles and then slipped an arm around Tom's for support, far more exhausted than he knew how to act, guiding them both toward the moa that was still outside Ghost Town's gates, scratching at hard, cold dirt as if it had no possible idea all the strange and wonderful and terrible things that had happened right there among the tiny stone buildings and overgrown cobblestone paths.

It was too stupid, really. Ezre questioned his own ability to reason at this point, too.
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word count: 1638
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 253
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 29
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Notes & Tracker
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:28 pm

The Ghost Town Brunnhold
Afternoon of the 9th of Bethas, 2719
It’s gone, lad,” Tom said, but by the sound of his voice, he wasn’t too sure. When Ezre raised up, his eyes were just as wide as the Hoxian’s; at the grin on the young man’s face, they widened even more. He couldn’t help but let out a little spluttering laugh of his own, half-baffled, half-relieved. He sat back on his heels, shaking his head. “I don’t, uh — I don’t know what I saw. But I saw something. And I don’t feel anything — like that thing — anymore.”

Wasn’t just the ghost he didn’t feel. The air was quiet and still, and for once, he couldn’t feel the fraught buzzing of the mona in his field, those scratching fingernails on the blackboard of his ley lines; it was all just gone. Empty like it used to be. It was almost comfortable. He wanted to ask what Ezre meant, that the poor laoso was just gone — he had to go someplace, didn’t he? He thought of the wispy thing he saw claw its way out of Ezre, twisting, torn up on the brisk breeze. And there’d been so little left of that man, Tom thought; he hadn’t even thought of it as a man. Maybe it’d just fallen apart.

He didn’t have time to ask. Sorry? “What?” he snapped, struggling to his feet against the bench. The lad was already up; Tom reached out, clawing at the back of his coat, but it was too late. He watched helplessly as the young Hoxian, no less shaky than him, picked his way to the edge of the frozen water. Then he took those first careful, heart-stopping steps off the bank. The ice held underneath him.

Tom let out a choked, exasperated noise.

Small and light, my fuckin’ erse, he thought, but there wasn’t nothing he could do. Two of them and he reckoned the ice’d definitely break. His eyes flicked back and forth between the galdor and the little silver glitter in the middle of the pond. Ezre was keeping his balance, one deliberate footfall at a time, but Tom thought he could hear — feel, more like, through the ground, in his bones — the whisper of delicate cracks, strained even under his paltry weight.

When he asked his question, Tom was too flabbergasted to respond. It took him a moment; then, with a flare like anger, he wanted to ask, At a time like this? He kept his eye on Ezre. By now, he’d got to the middle of the pond, and he was bent down to pick up the watch. But then – it was something about the look on his face when he rose and turned, something about the way he’d walked the question back, verbally stumbling in a way Tom’d never heard from him before.

Swallowing dryly, Tom stared at him, making his way back to the bank. “It hurt,” he called. “Ne. It’s, uh, it’s fine. I don’t know if it gets any easier. Or maybe it was different from your umah. But I, uh – I’ve taken a lot of beatings. Fists, sharps. This was worse.” When Ezre planted a boot on the snowy bank, his words seemed to exhale with relief. “Maybe it was like what you were feeling. We were – struggling, I reckon. I was taking something away from him, and I could feel his pain. It was like that, but if you were the ghost instead of you. And if you won.”

Those last three words were quiet, rough. With another painful swallow, Tom looked away from the approaching galdor; he looked down at the frosted, dead grass.

He only looked back at Ezre when the glitter of that pocketwatch drew his eye. There was a funny little smile on his face as he tucked it away, like maybe – Tom didn’t know. His own face was still slack and pallid with frustration, disappointment, fear, but his brows drew together in something like sadness.

Ezre reached his side, looping his arm through his, and Tom sighed raggedly. “It’s laoso,” he said softly as they started down the path away from the pond, slow as if the frozen earth was pulling them down. “I never want to do it again.” He glanced over at Ezre’s face for just a second, then forward again. He stared fixedly at the path, trying not to look at the little houses.

It was a pitiful shamble, and they were both halfway to falling, but there was some kind of strength between them. Pissed as he was, Tom was grateful for his support, and he tried to give Ezre back as much of his own as he could. They’d meander to the right or to the left, or they’d slow down to a snail’s pace, but they were going.

“Turnabout’s fair play. Said so yourself.” Their breaths steamed on the air, two different rhythms, little clouds of white. “Why?”

He let the question hang, then:

“Don’t fuck with me. Don’t say,” and he bit off the words, “don’t say some chroveshit about the Cycle, don’t say – that ghost’s rest’s worth any more than your life, ’cause you know it’s not. Or I hope to the gods you know.” The hard line of his mouth quivered a little. He turned his head to look Ezre hard in the face. “You know how much your life’s worth, don’t you? I’m not talking about your soul, I’m talking about – Ezre Vks. There’s only going to be one of you. One place in the Cycle where you’re you and not somebody else. Why’d you want to do that so bad?”

Not even the familiar scratchings, the feather-rufflings, the little burbling bird-noises of the moa could tear his eyes away from the galdor’s face. Not immediately, anyway. Finally, with a sigh, he did look away. Mung thing, he thought, watching Clary groom her feathers.

He shook his head. “If anybody should’ve been sticking his neck out, there, it was me, not you,” he muttered. “If you don’t at least get on that bird, I’ll – I don’t know what I’ll do. Let me help you up. Please.”
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 4
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Writer: Muse
Contact:

Fri Aug 09, 2019 12:54 pm

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
G
one. The ghost had crawled its way out of his person with just as much uncomfortable, chilling force as it had crawled its way in—invasive and unapologetic, disorienting and desperate, seething with a greed that surpassed the comforts of the Cycle and kept echoes of its existence bound to the material landscape of Vita itself. As a Clairvoyant, Ezre was quite used to making room for the consciousness of others, having been both the scryer and the witness, having exercised his mind in such a way that it could be opened to communication as well as closed.

The restless spirit of the drowned galdor had crashed and shoved its way forcefully past every comfort the dark-haired boy had been trained to create and had ignored every boundary he'd assumed himself capable of maintaining. The Hoxian had been both fascinated and horrified, his attempts to welcome what he saw as someone in need of assistance sullied into a mindless violation that revealed ghosts to be hardly shards of souls at all.

It stung. More than just a little, but the boy was not in any state of mind to fully process just how he felt about anything other than his aching body in the frigid cold. For the first time all day, he was shivering, and the absence of the familiar monic presence he was used to made the air around him feel that much colder.

He shouldn't have gone out on the ice, it was true. He shouldn't have chased after that watch on unsteady feet with an unsteadier mind, nothing moving the way he wanted to while the entire surface of the pond groaned and crackled with every step.

But he did.

The pain prompted his question, and Ezre regretted it the moment it left his lips. Tom answered anyway, staring at the young Hoxian while he slipped and scrambled his way back toward the bank of the pond. His inked fingers curling around that tarnished silver felt far more satisfied with that action than he was sure he understood—just another puzzle piece he couldn't at all fit in the right place at the moment, compelled by a lingering desire that he wasn't capable of comprehending—

"I could have struggled more." He admitted boldly with some boyish sense of inappropriately-timed pride, at the same time revealing that he'd yielded willingly. The raen spoke of his past life, of beatings, and Ezre was reminded that the man before him who'd poured his unexplainable entropic Cycle-less existence so painfully and forcefully into the body of a middle-aged galdor politician had once been a human. A criminal human, from the sounds of things. The dark-haired boy inhaled sharply instead of describing his own experience, Tom's words close enough, the relatively minor discomforts of his possession made acutely distinct by the other man's explanation, made meaningless by the reality of the raen's much more raw and permanent choices.

"I can now say with confidence that all of the accounts I have studied about possession have been highly romanticized. The reality does not match literary renditions." Ezre smirked, unsure of how to smooth over the hint of guilt and disquiet in the raen's tone when he admitted to the desperate suffering he'd caused the one whose body his displaced soul had stolen from another. Had it been different for his umah? Her host had known what they were doing. They had willingly offered themselves. Had there still been a painful, instinctual struggle that his mother had won?

He blinked, that thought smashing into his consciousness as if someone had dropped a gravestone on his chest.

"I—"

Even then he knew he couldn't echo that sentiment.

He would do what he'd just done again in another heartbeat. In spite of everything, there was an underlying current of twisted excitement that coursed through every aching, exhausted part of his body.

"—there will come a time when you will not have a choice. Your currently borrowed physical container is still bound for a mortal end just like my own." Ezre riposted when the other man admitted he was not sure he could take over the body of another, dark eyes meeting the once-Incumbent's paler hues, delicate jaw clenching before he slumped heavily against the older galdor, the two of them just barely managing to support each other as they retraced their steps through the miniature mockery of a cityscape purposefully crafted to feel familiar.

"I did—oh—why?" The boy echoed in a cloudy huff of breath, not at all ready for such a question. He opened his mouth to give his answer right there off-the-cuff without a hint of trepidation at the naked level of honesty he found himself with next to the raen, but Tom's harsh, emotional words dug beneath any shallow semblance of rhakor Ezre barely pretended to have left and felt sharp between his ribs where his lungs still burned from sharing his life with a ghostly interloper. He blinked, the heat of shame and surprise not quite enough to combat the sweaty chill that had settled against his tattooed skin under all of his layers, and made some small, childish noise behind his teeth.

It could have been indignant. It could have been suffering.

There's only going to be one of you.

The young Hoxian sighed but did not retreat beneath the weight of Tom's heavy stare, answering quietly with a defiant sort of confidence that belied the turmoil the man's almost parental, genuinely concerned sounding words stirred up in the adrenaline-filled hollow of his narrow chest, "Curiosity. Jealousy. Ambition. Education. Posterity. It was as much a selfish need to know, Cooke-vumash, as much as it was a selfless desire to help something that could no longer help itself, so far from the Cycle as that restless spirit had become. I can read all the ghost stories I want to in the sacred libraries of Kzecka under the watchful gaze of my home's Rho Tsvat'kyett of the Mhoren Basheva or listen to all the oral traditions of the tattooed Hexx'en who lead my very small, rather insignificant Hexxos order or even consult the abstract Deftung songs of the long-disbanded Oughan, but none of those things can be replaced by the actual experience—"

Ezre smiled, but he did not resist the tears that stung his eyes or the waver in his obviously passionate tone,

"—you would not have survived. I did stick your neck out there with my own, however. For had you not listened to me and backed away, the runoff from my purposefully brailed warding attempt could have severed your connection with that galdor body you are in. It was a calculated risk for both of us, and one I will most likely repeat should I ever be given another chance."

The boy chuckled, breathless, but did not add salt to the wound of such honesty by refusing the older man's offer of allowing him to rest a moment longer by climbing onto the moa, though he was very aware that Tom was hardly in a better physical state of being than himself after their Clairvoyant misadventures. He hesitated briefly, frowning, biting his lip, but then nodded and acquiesced out of well-practiced obedience, teeth chattering now despite his best efforts at self-control,

"Only for part of the way. Then we will trade places. You will let me serve you chan." He insisted, slumping against brown feathers with a sigh,

"Outside of the raen experience, there are no documented cases of possession being fatal. I made my choice first to trust you—to trust that you would make attempts to return me to Brunnhold—and second with the hope of finding one of the Clairvoyant faculty to assist me should my own plans fail. One cannot know their own limitations until they press themselves beyond the familiar, Cooke-vumash. And so I did."

He paused, one inked hand reaching up to brush sluggish moisture from his well-defined cheekbones with a palm scarred with more than one thin, pink line as evidence of his secret interest in sanguimancy,

"I may have some regrets about my methods, but overall I must admit that the experiment was not entirely unsuccessful. The most promising variable to this unusual equation is unfortunately accidental and completely unrepeatable—that is, of course, meeting you."
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 253
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 29
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Notes & Tracker
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:05 pm

The Ghost Town Brunnhold
Afternoon of the 9th of Bethas, 2719
He wanted to say he was still pissed.

First of all, he’d be happy as a clam if he never saw that mung-erse pocketwatch again. Then, Ezre had just admitted he’d do it all over; he’d admitted he’d stuck both of their necks out with that bit of warding, with the whole godsdamn affair, and he’d do it again in a heartbeat. All the while reminding him that his host was hurtling toward death at the usual speed, as if this little outing hadn’t taken a good ten maw off the end of both their lives.

It was a relief, anyway, when Ezre acquiesced to one thing; it was so much of a relief that he couldn’t be ersed to argue with him. But he didn’t particularly want to, now that Ezre’d said his peace so eloquently – said it in that way that made it damned hard to stay mad at him. He’d spoken with one of those full, genuine smiles that Tom was only just getting used to seeing on his face, with tears that Tom’d never get used to budding at the edges of his eyes. He made a good, logical case, too, ’cause of course he did.

Even with the air around them empty of mona, even though they were speaking plain Estuan and not Monite, Tom felt like they might’ve opened up a ley channel between the two of them.

So he let out a ragged, lopsided thing of a laugh, patting Ezre on the back. “I can agree to that, at least,” he murmured. “In a couple miles, we’ll trade places. And – being honest, Vks-vumash, must be a year or more since I’ve had chan. That’d be welcome.”

He didn’t have a lot of strength in his arms, but what he didn’t have, Ezre made up for. He helped the student up onto the moa with a haphazard, wheezing effort, listening to her cluck and ruffle her feathers in confusion. She swiveled her head round, peering at the galdor like she wanted to say, but who are you? – then turned her attention back to preening, her new rider evidently forgotten. Meanwhile, Tom patted her, then slumped against her side, burying his face momentarily in her soft, brown feathers and letting out a groan.

Wasn’t long before he kicked himself into motion again. Couldn’t be. Had to get back to the Stacks. He untied the reins, looping them round a shaky fist. When he’d got back to Clary, he murmured a few encouraging words, smoothing her feathers; then he urged her to motion. Thankfully, she caught his meaning quick, and before too long they were back on the broad main road from the Ghost Town, her claws scratching rhythmically against the stones with each slow step.

Tom walked beside her, steadying his frail steps against her flank. She didn’t seem to mind, he thought; she didn’t seem to mind much of anything, blinking about her at the trees with their trunks and limbs twisting up all around, like she was just happy to be back in motion. Tom was, too. It’d be a hell of a walk back, like Ezre’d said (not in so many words), but at least they were walking.

Ezre’s next words drew his eyes up. Tom shielded his eyes, studying the lad’s face for a moment, then looked away with another laugh. This time it was a sharp, reluctant bark, and he shook his head.

The most promising variable to this unusual equation is unfortunately accidental and completely unrepeatable—that is, of course, meeting you.

He was still pissed, he reminded himself. Fair fucking pissed. He was. He was.

“Choices,” he grunted, sighing. “I reckon it’s…” He shrugged, exasperated, then ran a hand through his hair. “I won’t pretend I can understand, or that – I don’t know. Maybe I do, but I wouldn’t’ve, once. I did a lot of mung shit when I was a lad, but none of it was the selfless kind of mung. Not even a little. I think you’re a good man, Ezre. Better man than me. So I don’t see I can say much, except – just – think whether you want to give your life to all this dead, when you’re so godsdamn alive.”

There were other questions, personal questions, that Tom didn’t think he could bring himself to ask Ezre. Didn’t even know if Ezre’d have an answer. He’d given Tom the immediate why, but that hadn’t exactly been what Tom was asking. Maybe his umah’d connected him to death and the broken cycle with a cord you couldn’t cut, just by virtue of what she was; maybe, in this life, it was Ezre’s fate to feel that need in his soul – to what? To chase ghosts? To help them? To be close to them? Maybe it was just who he was. There was no questioning that.

Tom looked up at Ezre again, offering him a brief, wan – but warm – smile. Maybe it was the walking, or the promise of hot chan at the end of the path, but he felt like his bones had warmed up a little. “I’ll admit, that was some kind of experience. And I got a lot of reading to do.”

Though he’d got the gist, he didn’t know half the words Ezre’d used when he was explaining. Tsv – Bashev – something-or-other Oughan, something deftung; Tom didn’t know, but he reckoned it meant he had a lot to read if he wanted to understand even half of what he needed to. If the accounts were romanticized, like Ezre said, then so be it. The galdor was right about one thing: there was theory, and there was practice, and you couldn’t claim to know much of anything if you had one without the other.

After a pause, meeting Ezre’s eyes seriously, he said, “For what it’s worth, I’m glad I met you, too. Very glad.” Abruptly, looking a little embarrassed, he glanced away. He shivered, plucking at the hem of his coat. “What is this shit, anyway?” he asked. “Stopclocker left some on my coat, and it’s all over your face. Hulali’s –” He broke off, grumbling.
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Last edited by Tom Cooke on Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:41 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1114
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 72
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Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
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Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:15 pm

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
E
zre was not too proud to melt into the moa's saddle and lean against the brown-feathered beast, eyelids fluttering with the hint of a smile as Tom agreed in his own round-about way to the offer of chan. The dark-haired boy was aware they had quite the walk back to Brunnhold proper, but even then, he was unsure if he was entirely ready to be left alone to process everything that had just happened today, unsure if he was entirely ready to be left without the raen's company to mull over their somewhat accidental and dangerous discoveries.

While the Hoxian was not familiar enough with the other man, with the galdor body Tom had occupied, to properly read all of his facial expressions and understand all of his body language, there was enough for the Clairvoyant to recognize anger and frustration. Shame was not an alien feeling, but Ezre in his vulnerable exhaustion, in that aftermath of such strange events, feared he'd made too many mistakes with a friendship before it even started. He felt foolish, the rush of excitement over any reasonable successes drowned by the frigid wash of what he saw as poor choices staring back at him on the not-Incumbent's face.

"Nothing truly has value until you are willing to give it away." He sighed, repeating old lines of Deftung in quiet Estuan, the words slow on his cold tongue, "Better? Would you have said that to me—a galdor—were you still human, Tom? I enjoy living and there is much in life I would like to experience—"

There were the words of an unapologetically teenaged boy, right there, with a flash of teeth and a shy chuckle, his thoughts unabashedly straying to a particular Hessean instead of to his small circle of friends or to travel or to magical excellence with that admission,

"—but if I can help to further understanding of what is happening to cause such anomalies in the Cycle through my life in any way, I am willing to do so. I suppose it is a cultural expectation of my people, but my life is far less significant in comparison to the collective of all who are living. I have also been told more than once that I am very much umah'ot mho—my mother's child—so, I suppose I have always been found somewhere between the living and the dead."

Ezre paused, chewing the inside of his cheek, glancing down at the man poured just so into an older galdor's body, aware that there were fundamental differences between possession by a ghost over the living and inhabitation by a raen into a host body. Why those differences existed, he wasn't sure anyone yet properly understood. Raised near death in a city of austere, abstract spiritualism and born of a borrowed body willingly given, the dark-haired boy had never bothered to question his admittedly unusual curiosities. He was who he was, though perhaps his choices today had made him far more aware of himself than he was quite prepared for.

He smoothed over Clara's feathers, tattooed fingers toying with brown fluff, noting the lingering stickiness on one of his sleeves. It seemed as though whatever it was refused to be frozen despite the biting Bethas chill. He frowned at it, brows drawing together,

"Ectoplasm. If I remember correctly from my research, it is the unfortunate evidence of consumption—some sort of Static warping of my own life force caused by possession. Another strange difference between raen like yourself and ghosts." As emotionless as those words sounded off of the exhausted boy's tongue, his expression was one of obvious concern. Hands reaching up to wipe his temples and curl inked fingers into his hair, he brought his palms back down to stare at the strange goo. Cupping one hand, he collected what he could, fishing in his satchel for the small mug he'd poured tea into not so long ago while he spoke, unsteady and comical about it all,

"I have read it is elusively difficult to preserve and study—a fitting descriptor of the essence of life, really." Ezre interspersed his inadvertent wisdom with the carefree lack of awareness of a child, thoughts flowing from a mind still reeling from it all. He looked back to Tom, unable to help but feel chagrined by the other man's grumbling, by his obvious concern, but also by his honesty.

Alone on the road in the middle of this cold Bethas afternoon, the pair of them were a strange mess. He felt the weight of his choices settle on his sore shoulders, Ezre growing quiet for several moments.

"It was a strange experience, indeed—I can definitely point you in the direction of various authors should you truly desire a course of study. It would only be fair of me to share my observations and notes with you, though I admit I do not know how long you are in Brunnhold. As a politician, you are busy ... I assume. Would you be opposed to keeping in touch with me? I understand if this is all too strange, and yet—"

He shrugged, unable to help the smile that crept across his delicate features.

"—I feel compelled to help you, somehow, in some way, much like I felt compelled to attempt to help that ghost. Zjai, the reasons are perhaps more obvious because of who I am and where I come from, but, I do hope—I don't know—I just—I will endeavor not to fail so miserably for your sake."
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Tom Cooke
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Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
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Location: Vienda, but also hell
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: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
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Wed Aug 14, 2019 1:13 pm

The Ghost Town Brunnhold
Afternoon of the 9th of Bethas, 2719
Nothing truly has value until you are willing to give it away. Slumped against Clary’s flank, one step after another, he had to let that one sink in. Turned it over in his head, tried to make sense of it. Being honest, he wasn’t sure he could. When he was alive, he’d measured the value of things by how much he’d’ve fought to keep them. Hama, mostly. His family, such as it’d been. Maybe not his life, come to think of it, for all his talk of survival, given how he’d treated it. What had it been worth, then?

That thought drew his gaze back up to Ezre, thoughtful.

And then one of his eyebrows perked. He was too tired to be offended by the question, being honest; he’d left his capacity for offense back in the Ghost Town, somewhere in one of those nanabo, creepy little houses. Even if he had been offended, it wouldn’t’ve been for long: there was something about the way Ezre said there is much in life I would like to experience – Tom was getting better at reading his expressions, and he would’ve sworn there was something familiar about that little flash of a grin, that bashful laugh. Tom smiled a little himself, looking away.

“Ezre, I don’t know what I would’ve said to you back then,” he replied, shaking his head. “We’re not all revolutionaries, hey? I worked with gollies.” After a moment, he took a deep breath; his voice got quieter, more serious. “I’ll admit – I’m about as Anaxi as you can get, and I reckon we’re all of us fair selfish. But I… There’ve been things I’d’ve given my life for. People, mostly. Well, mostly just one person.”

He struggled with his words, turning the words umah’ot mho over in his head. He was still concerned, still felt a surprisingly deep worry cutting him to his bones, but this wasn’t just the stuff of mung youth.

It was true he might’ve been angrier if he’d been less tired, if he’d had more energy to argue, but Ezre was making good points. He hadn’t asked him the questions in his heart, but the lad’d answered them anyway: he’d admitted freely that his circumstances had set him walking a path that wove between life and death. The way he posed it, Tom couldn’t dispute that his values, even if they were different from what he was used to, had merit. They’d served his people well. What was more, he didn’t like what he knew of how the Hexxos did things, but was there a better alternative for his own kind?

He sighed. “A lot of things are changing,” he admitted finally – softly. “For me. Don’t be surprised if I get pissed at you for flexing your neck, young as you are. You’re right, though. About a lot of things. And I don’t know how I’m going to feel about all this next year, or in ten maw, or in a hundred.” He swallowed thickly. “I just hope you get the chance to, uh, experience all the living-folk things you want to. Just let this Anaxi human remind you to be selfish sometimes, too.”

For a few moments, he felt himself drift. There was something soothing about the rhythmic scratch of Clary’s claws on the frosty stones. Her fluttering, avian heartbeat underneath her rustling feathers.

Ectoplasm. Elusive to preserve and study. A fitting descriptor of the essence of life. Tom chewed the inside of his gum, uncomfortable. If it was hard to preserve, maybe it’d come off his coat easy. He still didn’t like it, this gelatinous essence-of-life shit, smeared on his hems. The essence of life didn’t seem like a problem for the drycleaners; that just seemed wrong to Tom.

Didn’t much enjoy watching Ezre fish it out of his hair and put it in that little cup for safekeeping, but he couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away. That explained, at least, why he hadn’t seen it when he first possessed Vauquelin. It’d been a struggle, oes, like Ezre’s with that horrible thing, but there’d been no eck – ecto – dze – there’d been none of that, and he hadn’t been a shambling, rambling thing, still sharing a body with his host’s unfortunate soul. Even now, other than whatever’d happened with the mona back there, there wasn’t much sign he was dead: his blood ran and his breath steamed like any living person’s, and it was getting easier to coordinate by the day, just like if he’d been born so.

He perked up suddenly. When Ezre finished speaking, he looked up at him, slumped on the moa and admitting his failure, with an almost sad expression.

“Ne,” he said, laughing, “ne, ne – life can’t get any stranger than this. I’ll make time. Don’t see as I can not keep in touch with you, now.” Tom was tired, bone-tired, but he pulled himself a little straighter. “I want to learn. I have to learn. It’s – hard for me, but I ain’t mung. And…”

His throat was suddenly dry. He paused, struggling with his words again; he’d got himself to the edge of what he wanted to say, and now, just like the lad’d stumbled over his words, he didn’t know how to say it. That, or he was embarrassed to.

He sighed again. “It’s me who’s – I don’t want to fail you again. I got to pull myself together. This was a kick in the erse, Ezre. You should’ve been able to ward around me; hell, I should’ve been able to ward. Gods forbid we ever end up in a situation like this again, but if we do, I want to know what I’m doing. No more being dead weight. I want to help.”
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